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Savva and The Life of Man
by Leonid Andreyev
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CROWD

Get at him from that side! Yes, go yourself! You have a stick! Oh, hang it, there isn't a single stone around! Hold him, hold him, he'll escape!

MAN IN OVERCOAT (getting to his feet again and assuming the leadership) Surround him, boys, surround him! Block the way to the river! Don't let him run away! Well, now, get a move on you!

CROWD

Go yourself—I've tried once! Push that way! Get hold of him! Grab him! Aha!

KONDRATY (shouting at the top of his voice)

Beat him! Beat the Antichrist! Beat him!

SAVVA (the danger brings him back to his senses. He looks around, takes in the path to the river with a quick glance, and gray as dust with rage, he makes for it with a single abrupt movement) Get out of the way, you monsters!

CROWD

He is getting away! He is getting away! Hold him! Boys, he is getting away! He is getting away!

[As Savva advances, the crowd falls back in a semicircle, tumbling against one another. Kondraty begins to make the sign of the cross at Savva and continues to do so throughout the remaining scene.

SAVVA (advancing)

Get out of the way! Get out of the way! So you're scared now, you dogs? You've pulled in your tails? Get out of the way! Go on!

CROWD

He is getting away.

[King Herod issues from the crowd, and plants himself in front of Savva so as to obstruct his way. There is a terrible look on his face. Savva comes up close to him and stops.

SAVVA

Well?

[A brief pause. The conversation is carried on in a sort of undertone, almost calmly.

KING HEROD

Is that you?

SAVVA

Is that you? Let me go.

KING HEROD

A man?

SAVVA

Yes, let me go.

KING HEROD

Did you want the Saviour? Christ?

SAVVA

They fooled you.

KING HEROD

People may fool, Christ never. What's your name?

SAVVA

Savva. Get out of my way, I tell you.

KING HEROD

Surrender Thy servant Savva. Hold!

[He strikes a heavy, swinging blow with his left fist whence Savva did not expect an attack. Savva sinks on one knee. The crowd rushes at him and tramples him down.

CROWD

Beat him! Aha! So! He is turning back! Beat him!

FRIAR

What does this mean? Oh! Oh! Oh! (He clutches his head with both hands, cries, and runs away)

SAVVA (fighting desperately, he appears for a moment looking fierce and terrible) Let go—Ho-o-o! (He sinks back again)

CROWD

That's the way. One, two—Ah! Strike! Got him? Not yet! Got him? What are you waiting for? Strike! Done!

A VOICE

He's still moving.

CROWD

Strike!

MAN IN OVERCOAT

Peter, got a knife? Finish him with your knife. Cut his throat.

PETER

No, I'd rather do it with my heel. One! Two!

KONDRATY (cursing him)

Lord Jesus Christ! Lord Jesus Christ!

[Loud cries are heard from the background: "They are carrying Him! They are carrying Him!" The mob begins to disperse and thins out quickly.

CROWD

They are carrying Him! Yes, it's enough. It's done. No, let me at him—once more. There! I gave him one good one in his face. They are carrying Him! They are carrying Him!

KING HEROD

Enough, enough. A grand feast for you, you accursed beasts!

CROWD

I tell you, they are carrying Him! Lie there, you! Oh my, am I going to be late? Enough now. Are you sorry for him, eh? Is it your head? One more! Come on!

[They run away so that Savva's mangled body becomes visible.

MAN IN OVERCOAT

It ought to be taken away from here. It isn't right to leave it here on the road. It's dirty. Boys! Say, boys!

[He goes off following the rest, but is met by the procession pouring in upon the stage. There is a great din and humming of talk. Speransky and Tony approach the body cautiously, bend over it on their knees, one on each side, and stare at it eagerly.

SPERANSKY

Dead! His eyes are gone.

TONY

Shut up! (He bursts into a groaning laugh, pressing his hands hard to his mouth)

SPERANSKY

But his face is calm. Look, Mr. Anthony. It's because now he knows the truth.

TONY

Shut up! (Bursts out laughing) What a funny face he has!

[He laughs behind his hand. Then his laugh bursts through his fingers, so to speak, grows in intensity, becomes irresistible, and passes into a whine. The crowd begins to fill the stage, concealing the body, Speransky, and Tony. The bells are rung in the monastery as at Easter, and at the same time the singing of thousands of voices is heard.

CROWD

"Christ is risen from the dead. He has conquered death with death and given life to those lain in their graves. Christ—"

LIPA (flinging herself into the crowd)

"Christ is risen!"

[The crowd continues to pour in, filling the entire stage. Gaping mouths and round, wide-open eyes are seen everywhere. Shrill shrieks are uttered by the crazed epileptics. A momentary outcry is heard: "Somebody crushed!" Tony's laughter dies away somewhere. The triumphant hymn rises, spreads, passes into a titanic roar that drowns every other sound. The bells continue to ring.

CROWD (shouting at their utmost power)

"Christ is risen from the dead. He has conquered death with death and given life to those lain in their graves. Christ is risen—"

CURTAIN



THE LIFE OF MAN

(ZHIZN CHELOVIEKA)

A PLAY IN FIVE SCENES WITH A PROLOGUE

1906

TO THE BRIGHT MEMORY OF MY FRIEND, MY WIFE

I DEDICATE THIS COMPOSITION

THE LAST

ON WHICH WE WORKED TOGETHER



PERSONS

Someone in Gray called He

Man

His Wife

Man's Father Relatives Neighbors Friends Enemies Guests

Servants

Musicians

Physicians

A Bartender

Drunkards

Old Women



PROLOGUE—Someone in Gray called He, speaking of the Life of Man

SCENE I—The Birth of Man and the Mother's Travail

SCENE II—Love and Poverty

SCENE III—Wealth. Man's Ball

SCENE IV—Man's Misfortune

SCENE V—The Death of Man



THE LIFE OF MAN

PROLOGUE

SOMEONE IN GRAY CALLED HE, SPEAKING OF THE LIFE OF MAN

_A large, rectangular space resembling a room without doors or windows and quite empty. Everything is gray, monocolored, drab—the watts gray, and the ceiling, and the floor. A feeble, even light enters from some invisible source. It too is gray, monotonous, spectral, producing neither lights nor shadows.

Someone in Gray moves noiselessly away from the wall, close against which He has been standing. He wears a broad, gray, formless smock, vaguely outlining the contours of His body; and a hat of the same gray throws the upper part of His face into heavy shadow. His eyes are invisible. All that is seen are His cheekbones, His nose, and His chin, which is massive, heavy, and blunt, as if hewn out of rock. His lips are pressed tight together. Raising His head slightly, He begins to speak in a firm, cold, unemotional, unimpassioned voice, like a reader hired by the hour reading the Book of Fate with brutal indifference._

SOMEONE IN GRAY

Look and listen, you who have come here to laugh and be amused. There will pass before you the whole life of Man, from his dark beginning to his dark ending. Previously non-existant, mysteriously hidden in the infiniteness of time, neither feeling nor thinking and known to no one, he will mysteriously break through the prison of non-being and with a cry announce the beginning of his brief life. In the night of non-existence a light will go up, kindled by an unseen hand. It is the life of Man. Behold the flame—it is the life of Man.

Being born, he will take the form and the name of Man, and in all things will become like other men already living. And their hard lot will be his lot, and his hard lot will be the lot of all human beings. Inexorably impelled by time, he will, with inavertible necessity, pass through all the stages of human life, from the bottom to the top, from the top to the bottom. Limited in vision, he will never see the next step which his unsteady foot, poised in the air, is in the very act of taking. Limited in knowledge, he will never know what the coming day will bring, or the coming hour, or the coming minute. In his unseeing blindness, troubled by premonitions, agitated by hope and fear, he will submissively complete the iron-traced circle foreordained.

Behold him a happy youth. See how brightly the candle burns. From boundless stretches of space the icy wind blows, circling, careering, and tossing the flame. In vain. Bright and clear the candle burns. Yet the wax is dwindling, consumed by the fire. Yet the wax is dwindling.

Behold him a happy husband and father. But see how strangely dim and faint the candle burns, as if the yellowing flame were wrinkling, as if it were shivering with cold and were creeping into concealment. The wax is melting, consumed by the fire. The wax is melting.

Behold him, an old man, ill and feeble. The stages of life are already ended. In their stead nothing but a black void. Yet he drags on with palsied limbs. The flame, now turned blue, bends to the ground and crawls along, trembling and falling, trembling and falling. Then it goes out quietly.

Thus Man will die. Coming from the night, he will return to the night and go out, leaving no trace behind. He will pass into the infinity of time, neither thinking nor feeling, and known to no one. And I, whom all call He, shall remain the faithful companion of Man throughout his life, on all his pathways. Unseen by him, I shall be constantly at hand when he wakes and when he sleeps, when he prays and when he curses. In his hours of joy, when his spirit, free and bold, rises aloft; in his hours of grief and despair, when his soul clouds over with mortal pain and sorrow, and the blood congeals in his heart; in the hours of victory and defeat; in the hours of great strife with the immutable, I shall be with him—I shall be with him.

And you who have come here to be amused, you who are consecrated to death, look and listen. There will pass before you, like a distant phantom echo, the fleet-moving life of Man with its sorrows and its joys.

[Someone in Gray turns silent. The light goes out, and He and the gray, empty room are enveloped in darkness.



THE FIRST SCENE

THE BIRTH OF MAN AND THE MOTHER'S TRAVAIL

Profound darkness; not a stir. Like a swarm of mice in hiding, the gray silhouettes of Old Women in strange headgear are dimly discerned; also vaguely the outline of a large, lofty room. The Old Women carry on a conversation in low, mocking voices.

OLD WOMEN'S CONVERSATIONS

—I wonder whether it'll be a boy or a girl.

—What difference does it make to you?

—I like boys.

—I like girls. They always sit at home waiting till you call on them.

—Do you like to go visiting?

[The Old Women titter.

—He knows.

—He knows. (Silence)

—Our friend would like to have a girl. She says boys are so restless and venturesome and are always seeking danger. Even when they are little, they like to climb tall trees and bathe in deep water. They often fall, and they drown. And when they get to be men, they make wars and kill one another.

—She thinks girls don't drown. I have seen many girls drowned. They look like all drowned people, wet and green.

—She thinks girls don't get killed by stones thrown at them.

—Poor woman, she has such a hard time giving birth to her child. We have been sitting here sixteen hours, and she is still crying. At first she cried out loud. Her screams pierced our ears. Then she cried more quietly, and now she is only moaning.

—The doctor says she'll die.

—No, the doctor says the child will die and she will live.

—Why do they bear children? It is so painful.

—And why do they die? It is still more painful.

[The Old Women laugh suppressedly.

—Yes, they bear children and die.

—And bear children again.

[They laugh. A subdued cry of the suffering woman is heard.

—Beginning again.

—She's recovered her voice. That's good.

—That's good.

—Poor husband. He's lost his head completely. You ought to see him. He's a sight. At first he was glad his wife was pregnant and said he wanted a boy. He thinks his son will be a cabinet minister or a general. Now he doesn't want anything, neither a boy nor a girl. He just goes about grieving and crying.

—Every time she is seized with pain he begins to labor, too, and gets red in the face.

—He was sent to the chemist's shop for medicine, and he hung about there for two hours without being able to remember what he was sent for. He returned without it.

[The Old Women titter. The cries grow louder and die away. Silence.

—What's the matter with her? Maybe she has died already.

—No. If she had, we'd hear crying, and the doctor would come running and begin to talk nonsense. They'd bring her husband out in a faint, and we'd have to work over him. No, she's not dead.

—Then what are we sitting here for?

—Ask Him. What do we know?

—He won't tell.

—He won't tell. He never tells anything.

—He orders us about as he pleases, gets us out of bed, and makes us watch; and then it turns out that our coming wasn't even needed.

—We came of our own accord, didn't we? We must tell the truth. There, she's screaming again.

—Haven't you had as much of it as you want?

—Are you satisfied?

—I keep my mouth shut and wait.

—You're an angel.

[They laugh. The cries grow louder.

—Listen to her. What fearful pain she must be suffering. Have you any idea of what the pain is like? It's as if your insides were being torn to pieces.

—We all have borne children.

—It's just as if she were not herself. I don't recognize our friend's voice. It's naturally so soft and gentle.

—Her screaming is more like the roar of a wild beast.

—You feel the night in it.

—You feel the boundless black forest and hopelessness and terror.

—You feel solitude and grief. There are other people with her. Why can't you hear other voices beside that savage, dismal wail?

—They are talking, but you can't hear them. Have you ever noticed how solitary man's cries are? Any number of men will talk, and you won't hear them. But let one human being cry, and it seems as if the others were all silent, listening.

—I once heard a man scream who had been run over by a Carriage and had his leg crushed. The street was full of people. Yet he seemed to be the only one there.

—But this is more terrible.

—Say rather it is louder.

—I should say it is more prolonged.

—No, it's more terrible. You feel death in it.

—You had a feeling of death then, too. In fact, the man did die.

—Don't dispute. It's all the same to you.

[Silence. Cries.

—How strange man's crying is! When you yourself are ill and cry, you don't notice how strange it is. I can't imagine the mouth that produces such sounds. Can it be a woman's mouth? I can't imagine it.

—It's as if it got twisted and crooked.

—As if the sound issued from some depth. Now it's like the cry of someone drowning. Listen, she's choking.

—A heavy person is sitting on her chest.

—Someone is choking her.

[The crying ceases.

—At last she has quieted down. You get tired of crying. It's monotonous and not beautiful.

—You're looking for beauty here too, are you?

[The Old Women titter.

—Hush! Is He here?

—I don't know.

—He seems to be.

—He doesn't like laughing.

—They say He laughs Himself.

—Whoever heard Him laugh? You are simply repeating hearsay. So many lies are told about Him.

—He hears us. Let us be serious.

[They laugh quietly.

—After all, I'd like to know whether it'll be a boy or a girl.

—I admit, it's interesting to know whom you'll have to deal with.

—I wish it died before it was born.

—What a kind creature you are.

—No better than you.

—I hope it turns out to be a general.

[They laugh.

—You are too merry. I don't like it.

—And you are too sad. I don't like that.

—Don't wrangle. Don't wrangle. We are all both sad and merry. Let each be what she pleases. (Silence)

—When they are born, they are so funny. Babies are very funny.

—And self-satisfied.

—And very exacting, I don't like them. They begin to cry at once and make demands, as if they expected everything to be ready for them. Even before looking, they know there is a breast and milk, and demand them. Then they demand to be put to sleep and rocked and dandled and patted on their red backs. I like them better when they die. Then they're less exacting. They stretch out of themselves and don't ask to be rocked.

—No, they are very funny. I like to wash them when they are born.

—I like to wash them when they are dead.

—Don't dispute. Don't dispute. Each will have her way. One will wash the child when it is born, another when it dies.

—But why do they think they have a right to make demands the moment they are born? I don't like it. They don't think they have. It's their stomachs that make the demands.

—They're forever demanding.

—But their demands are never granted.

[The Old Women laugh. The cries begin again.

—She is screaming again.

—Animals give birth to their offspring more easily.

—And they die more easily, and live more easily; I have a cat. You ought to see how fat and happy she is.

—I have a dog, and I tell him every day: "You are going to die." His only reply is to show his teeth and to wag his tail gayly.

—But they are animals.

—And these are human beings.

[They laugh.

—Now she'll either die or be delivered. I feel that the whole remnant of her strength is in that wail.

—Eyes wide open.

—Cold perspiration on her forehead.

[They listen.

—She is giving birth to the child.

—No, she is dying.

[The cries cease.

—I tell you—

SOMEONE IN GRAY (speaks in a resonant, powerful voice)

Silence! Man is born.

_[Almost simultaneously with His announcement the crying of an infant is heard and the candle in His hand lights. A tall candle. It burns hesitatingly and feebly. Gradually the flame grows stronger. The corner in which Someone in Gray stands motionless is always darker than the other corners, and the yellow flame illumines His blunt chin, His tightly closed lips, and His massive, bony face. The upper part of His face is concealed by His cap. He is somewhat taller than an ordinary man.

He puts the long, thick candle in an antique candlestick. His hand comes into relief against the green bronze. It is gray, firm, with long, thin fingers.

Gradually the room grows brighter. The figures of five hunch-backed Old Women emerge from the gloom, and the room becomes visible. It is rectangular, with high, smooth, monotonously colored walls. Two curtainless windows in the background and two on the right. The night glooms through them. Straight, high-backed chairs against the walls._

THE OLD WOMEN (talking rapidly)

—Hear them running about. They're coming here.

—How bright it is! Let's go.

—Look, the candle is tall and bright.

—Let's go, let's go. Quick!

—But we'll come back. We'll come back.

_[They laugh quietly, mockingly, and disappear into the dusk with odd, zigzagging movements. As they leave, the light grows brighter, but still it remains dim, lifeless, and cold. The corner in which Someone in Gray stands motionless with the burning candle is darker than the others.

Enter the Doctor in a white uniform, and Man's Father, whose face wears an expression of extreme exhaustion and joy. There are lines under his eyes; his cheeks are sunken and his hair is dishevelled; he is very negligently dressed. The Doctor looks very learned._

DOCTOR

Up to the very last moment I didn't know whether your wife would pull through or not. I used all the means at the disposal of medical skill and science. But science can do very little unless nature helps too; I was really excited. My pulse is still going hard. Though I have assisted at so many births, yet I can't rid myself of a sense of uneasiness. But you are not listening to me, sir.

MAN'S FATHER

I'm listening, but I can't hear. Her screams are still ringing in my ears, and it's hard for me to pull myself together. Poor woman, how she suffered! I was a fool, I was stupid and wanted to have children. But hereafter I will renounce. It is criminal.

DOCTOR

You will call me again when your next child comes.

FATHER

No, never. I'm ashamed to admit it, but just now I hate the child for which she suffered so. I didn't even see him. What sort of a boy is he?

DOCTOR

He's a well-fed, strong little youngster, and if I'm not mistaken he resembles you.

FATHER

Me? Fine! Now I'm beginning to love him. I always wanted a boy to look like me. Did you see—his nose is like mine, isn't it?

DOCTOR

Yes, his nose and eyes.

FATHER

His eyes too? Ah, that's good. I'll raise your fee.

DOCTOR

You'll have to pay me for using the instruments also.

FATHER (turning to the corner where He stands motionless)

God, I thank Thee for having granted my wish and given me a son who resembles me. I thank Thee for preserving my wife from death, and bringing my child into the world alive. I pray Thee that he may grow up big, healthy, and strong; that he may be wise and honest, and that he may never cause us grief, but be a constant joy to his mother and me. If Thou wilt do this, I will always believe in Thee and go to church.

[Enter Relatives, six in number. An elderly woman, uncommonly stout, with a double chin and small, proud eyes and an air of extreme haughtiness and self-importance. An elderly man, her husband, very tall and uncommonly thin, so that his coat hangs loosely on his body; a short goatee, long, smooth hair, as if wet, reaching to his shoulders; eye-glasses; has a frightened; yet pedantic expression; a low black silk hat in his hand. A young girl, their daughter, with naively upturned nose, blinking eyes, and open mouth. A weazened woman, with contracted features and a sour expression, in her hand a handkerchief, with which she frequently wipes her mouth; Two young men, looking absolutely alike, with extremely high collars that stretch their necks; glossy hair; a hesitating, embarrassed expression. The characteristics of each of the Relatives is exaggerated in the extreme.

ELDERLY LADY

Let me congratulate you on the birth of your son, dear brother. (Kisses him)

ELDERLY MAN

My dear brother, I heartily congratulate you on the birth of your son, to which you have been looking forward so long. (Kisses him)

THE REST

We congratulate you, dear uncle, on the birth of your son.

[They kiss him. Exit the Doctor.

MAN'S FATHER (greatly moved)

Thank you! Thank you! You are all very good, very nice, dear people, and I love you very much. I had my doubts beforehand thought that you, dear sister, were a little too much rapt up in yourself and your own worth and importance; and that you, dear brother, were somewhat too pedantic. The rest of you I thought were too cold to me, and came here only for the sake of the dinners. Now I see I was mistaken. I'm very happy. I get a son who resembles me, and then all at once I see myself surrounded by so many good people who love me. (They kiss)

GIRL

Uncle dear, what are you going to call your son? I hope you'll give him a lovely, poetic name. So much depends on a man's name.

ELDERLY LADY

I should advise a simple, solid name. Men with nice names are usually frivolous and rarely successful.

ELDERLY MAN

It seems to me, brother, you should name your son after some older relative. Keeping the same names in the family tends to preserve and strengthen the line.

FATHER

Yes, my wife and I have already discussed the subject, but have not been able to reach a decision. You see, there are so many new things to think of when a child comes, so many new problems to solve which never arose before.

ELDERLY LADY

It fills up your life.

ELDERLY MAN

It gives life a beautiful purpose. By properly educating a child, preventing it from making the mistakes which we had to pay for so dearly, and strengthening its mind with our own rich experiences, we produce a better man and advance slowly but surely toward the final goal of existence, which is perfection.

FATHER

You are quite right, brother. When I was little I loved to torture animals. That developed cruelty in me. I won't allow my son to torture animals. Even after I had grown up I often made mistakes in my friendships and love. I chose friends who were unworthy and women who were faithless. I'll explain to my son—

DOCTOR (enters and says aloud)

Your wife is feeling very bad. She wants to see you.

FATHER

Oh, my God! (He and the Doctor leave)

[The Relatives seat themselves in a semicircle. Solemn silence for a time. Someone in Gray stands motionless in the corner, His stony face turned toward them.

RELATIVES' CONVERSATION

—Do you think, dear, she may die?

—No, I don't think so. She is a very impatient woman and makes too much of her pains. All women bear children and none of them die. I have borne six children.

—But the way she screamed, mamma?

—Yes, her face was purple from screaming. I noticed it.

—Not from screaming, but from laboring. You don't understand about these things. My face got purple too, but I didn't scream.

—Not long ago an acquaintance of mine, the civil engineer's wife, gave birth to a child, and she scarcely made a sound.

—I know. There's no need for my brother to be so upset. One must be firm and take things calmly. And I'm afraid, too, he'll introduce a lot of his fantastic notions in the bringing up of his children and indulge their every whim.

—He's a very weak character. He has little enough money, and yet he lends it to people who don't deserve to be trusted.

—Do you know how much the child's layette cost?

—Don't talk to me of it! It gets on my nerves, my brother's extravagance does. I often quarrel with him because he's so improvident.

—They say a stork brings babies. What sort of a stork is it?

[The young men burst out laughing.

—Don't talk nonsense. I gave birth to five children right in your presence, and I'm no stork, thank the Lord.

[The young men burst our laughing again. The Elderly Woman eyes them long and sternly.

—It's only a superstition. Children are born in an absolutely natural way, firmly established by science. They've moved to new quarters now.

—Who?

—The engineer and his wife. Their old place was chilly and damp. They complained to the landlord several times, but he paid no attention.

—I think it's better to live in a small place that's warm than in a large place that's damp. You are liable to catch your death of cold and rheumatism if you live in a damp house.

—I have a friend, too, who lives in a very damp house. And I too. Very damp.

—There are so many damp places nowadays.

—Tell me, please—I've been wanting to ask you a long time—how do you remove a grease stain from light-colored material?

—Woollen?

—No, silk.

[The child's crying is heard behind the scene.

—Take a piece of ice and rub it on the spot hard. Then take a hot iron and press the spot.

—No? Fancy, how simple! I heard benzine was better.

—No, benzine is good for dark material. For light goods ice is better.

—I wonder whether smoking is allowed here. Somehow at never occurred to me before whether one may or may not smoke where there is a new-born baby.

—It never occurred to me either. How strange! I know it isn't proper to smoke at funerals, but here—

—Nonsense! Of course you may smoke.

—Smoking is a bad habit just the same. You are still a very young man and ought to take good care of your health. There are many occasions in life when good health is highly essential.

—But smoking stimulates.

—Believe me, it's a very unhealthy stimulant. When I was young and reckless, I was also guilty of using, or rather abusing, tobacco—

—Mamma, listen to him crying. My, how he's crying! Does he want milk, mamma?

[The young men burst out laughing. The Elderly Woman looks at them sternly.

CURTAIN



THE SECOND SCENE

LOVE AND POVERTY

_The entire place is filled with a warm, bright light. A large, very poor room, high walls, the color of old rose, covered here and there with beautiful, fantastic, roughly drawn designs. To the right are two lofty windows, eight panes in each, with the darkness of night glooming through them. Two poor beds, two chairs, and a bare table, on which stands a half-broken pitcher of water and a pretty bunch of flowers.

In the darkest corner stands Someone in Gray, the candle in His hand now reduced by a third, but the flame still very bright, high, and white. It throws a powerful light on His face and chin.

Enter the Neighbors, dressed in light, gay dresses, their hands full of flowers, grasses, and fresh branches of oak and birch. They run about the room, scattering them. Their faces are merry, simple, and good-natured._

NEIGHBORS' CONVERSATION

—How poor they are! Look, they haven't even a single spare chair.

—And no curtains in the windows.

—And no pictures on the walls.

—How poor they are! All they eat is hard bread.

—And all they drink is water, cold water from the spring.

—They don't own any clothes at all except what they have on. She always goes about in her rosy dress with her neck bare, which makes her look like a young girl.

—And he wears his blouse and loose necktie, which makes him look like an artist, and makes the dogs bark at him.

—And makes all the respectable people disapprove of him.

—Dogs hate the poor. I saw three dogs attack him yesterday. He beat them off with a stick and shouted: "Don't you dare to touch my trousers; they're my last pair!" And he laughed, and the dogs flung themselves at him and showed their teeth and barked viciously.

—I saw two respectable people, a lady and a gentleman, meet him on the street to-day. They were terribly frightened and crossed to the other side. "He'll ask for money," said the gentleman. "He'll kill us," piped the lady. From the other side of the street they looked back at him and held on to their pockets. He shook his head and laughed.

—He's such a jolly good fellow.

—They're always laughing.

—And singing.

—It's he who sings. She dances.

—In her rosy dress, with her little bare neck.

—It does one good to look at them. They are so young and wholesome.

—I am sorry for them. They're starving. Do you understand? They're actually going without food.

—Yes, it's true. They had more clothes and furniture, but they sold every bit, and now they've nothing more to sell.

—I know. She had such pretty earrings, and she sold them to buy bread.

—He had a beautiful black frock-coat, the one in which he was married, and he sold that too.

—The only thing they'll have left is their engagement rings. How poor they are!

—That's nothing. I was once young myself, and I know what it is.

—What did you say, grandpa?

—I said it's nothing, nothing at all.

—Look, the mere thought of them makes grandpa want to sing.

—And dance.

[They laugh.

—He is so kind. He made my boy a bow and arrow.

—She cried with me when my daughter was ill.

—He helped me mend the rickety fence. He's strong.

—It's nice to have such good neighbors. Their youth warms our cold old age. Their jolliness drives away our cares.

—But their room is like a prison, it's so empty.

—No, it's like a temple. It's so bright.

—Look, they have flowers on the table, the flowers she picked on her walk in the country in her rosy dress with her little bare neck. Here are lilies-of-the-valley. The dew hasn't dried on them yet.

—There is the burning campion.

—And violets.

—Don't touch; don't touch the flowers, girls. Her kisses are upon them. Don't throw them on the floor, girls. Her breath is upon them. Don't blow them away with your breath. Don't touch, don't touch the flowers, girls.

—He'll come and he'll see the flowers.

—He'll take the kisses.

—He'll drink her breath.

—How poor they are! How happy they are!

—Come, let's leave.

—Haven't we brought our dear neighbors anything?

—What a shame!

—I brought a bottle of milk and a piece of white, sweet-smelling bread. (Puts them on the table)

—I brought flowers. (Scatters them)

—We brought branches of oak and birch with green leaves. Let's put them up around the walls. The room will look like cheerful green woods.

[They decorate the room with the branches, concealing the dark windows and covering the pinkish nakedness of the walls with leaves.

—I, brought a good cigar. It is a cheap one, but it's strong and fragrant and will give pleasant dreams.

—And I brought a ribbon, a red ribbon. It makes a very pretty fancy bow for the hair. It's a present my sweetheart gave me; but I have so many ribbons and she hasn't even one.

—What did you bring, grandpa? Did you bring anything?

—Nothing, nothing, except my cough. They don't want that, do they, neighbor?

—No more than they want my crutches. Hey, girls, who wants my crutches?

—Do you remember, neighbor?

—Do you remember, neighbor?

—Come, let's go to sleep, neighbor. It's late already. (They sigh and leave, one coughing, the other knocking the floor with his crutches)

—Come, come!

—May God give them happiness. They are such good neighbors.

—God grant that they may always be healthy and merry and always love each other. And may the hideous black cat never pass between them.

—And may the good man find work. It's bad when a man is out of work. (They leave)

[Enter immediately the Wife of Man, very pretty, graceful, and delicate, wearing flowers in her luxuriant hair which is hanging loose. The expression on her face is very sad. She seats herself on a chair, folds her hands in her lap, and speaks in a sad tone, turned toward the audience.

MAN'S WIFE

I've just returned from the city, where I went looking for I don't know what. We are so poor, we have nothing, and it's very hard for us to live. We need money, and I don't know how in the world to get it. People won't give it to you for the asking, and I haven't the strength to take it away from them. I was looking for work, but I can't get work either. There are lots of people and little work, they say. I looked on the ground as I walked to see if some rich person hadn't lost his purse, but either nobody had lost one or somebody luckier than I had already picked it up. I feel so sad. My husband will soon come from his search for work, tired and hungry. What am I to give him except my kisses? But you can't satisfy your hunger on kisses. I feel so sad I could cry.

I can go without eating for a long time and not feel it, but he can't. He has a large body which demands food, and when he's gone a long time without it, he gets pale, sick, and excited. He scolds me and then begs me not to be angry at him. I never am angry at him, because I love him dearly. It only makes me feel so sad.

My husband is a very talented architect. I even think he's a genius. He was left an orphan when a mere boy, and after his parents' death his relatives supported him for some time; but as he was always of an independent nature, sharp in his talk and prone to make unpleasant remarks, and as he showed them no gratitude, they dropped him. He continued to study, nevertheless, supporting himself by giving lessons, and so made his way through college. He often went hungry, my poor husband. Now he is art architect and draws plans of beautiful buildings, but no one wants to buy them, and many stupid persons make fun of them even. To make one's way in the world one must have either patrons or luck. He has neither. So he goes about looking for a chance, and maybe with his eyes on the ground looking for money like me. He is still very young and simple. Of course, some day fortune will come to us, too. But when will it be? In the meantime it's very hard to live. When we were married we had a little property, but we soon spent it. We went to the theatre and ate candy. He still has hopes, but I sometimes lose all hope and cry to myself. My heart breaks when I think he'll be here soon and I have nothing to give him again except my poor kisses.

O God, be a kind, merciful Father to us. You have so much of everything, bread and work and money. Your earth is so rich. She grows corn and fruit in her fields, covers the meadows with flowers, and yields gold and beautiful precious stones from her bowels. And your sun has so much warmth, and your pensive stars have so much quiet joy. Give us, I pray you, a little from your abundance, just a little, as much as you give your birds. A little bread, so that my dear good husband may not be hungry; a little warmth, so that he may not be cold; and a little work, so that he may carry his beautiful head erect. And please do not be angry with my husband because he swears so and laughs, and even sings and makes me dance. He is so young and not a bit staid or serious.

Now, after I have prayed, I feel relieved and hopeful again. Why, indeed, should God not grant one's request when one asks Him for it so earnestly? I'll go and hunt a little to see if somebody hasn't dropped a purse or a diamond. (Exit)

SOMEONE IN GRAY

She knows not that her wish has already been fulfilled. She knows not that this morning two men in a rich house were bending eagerly over a sketch by Man and were delighted with it. They searched for Man the whole day; wealth was looking for him as he was looking for wealth. And to-morrow morning, after the neighbors have gone to work, an automobile will stop in front of this house, and two men bending low will enter the poor room and bring wealth and fame. But neither he nor she knows it. Thus fortune will come to Man, and thus also it will go.

[Enter Man and his Wife. He has, a beautiful proud head, bright eyes, a high forehead, dark eyebrows parting at the root of the nose like two bold wrings, and wavy black hair carelessly tossed back. A low, white, turndown collar reveals a well-formed neck and part of his chest. He is light and quick in his movements, like a young animal.

MAN

Nothing again. I'll lie down and remain in bed the whole day. Anyone wanting me will have to come here. I can't go to him. I'll stay in bed the whole of to-morrow too.

WIFE

Are you tired?

MAN

Yes, I'm tired and hungry. I could eat a whole ox, like the Homeric hero, but I shall have to content myself with a piece of hard bread. Don't you know that a man can't live all the time on bread alone? I want to tear, bite, chew!

WIFE

I'm sorry for you, dear.

MAN

I'm sorry for myself, but that doesn't satisfy my hunger. I stood a whole hour in front of a restaurant to-day, looking at the chickens, pastry, and sausages, as people look at works of art. And then the signs. They describe ham so well that you could eat sign and all.

WIFE

I like ham too.

MAN

Who doesn't like ham? How about lobster? Do you like lobster?

WIFE

Yes.

MAN

You should have seen the lobster I saw. It was a painted one, but it was even more beautiful than a live one. Red like a cardinal, majestic, stern. You could kneel down and do homage to it. I think I could eat two such cardinals and a priest of a carp besides.

WIFE (sadly)

You didn't see my flowers, did you?

MAN

Flowers? You can't eat flowers, can you?

WIFE

You don't love me.

MAN (kisses her)

Excuse me, but really I'm so hungry. Look, my hands are trembling and I haven't even the strength to throw a stone at a dog.

WIFE (kisses his hand)

My poor husband!

MAN

Where do those leaves, on the floor come from? They smell so good. Is that your work too?

WIFE

No, the neighbors must have done it.

MAN

Fine people our neighbors are. It's strange, there are so many good people in the world, and yet a man can die of hunger. Why is it?

WIFE

You've turned so sad. Your face is growing pale. What is the matter? Do you see anything?

MAN

Yes, as I was joking, the terrible image of poverty glided in front of me and stopped there, in the corner. Do you see it? Arms stretched out in complaint, a child abandoned in the woods, a praying voice, and the stillness of a human desert. Help! No one hears. Help, I'm dying! No one hears. Look, wife, look! See the dark, gloomy shadows there, quivering and rising like black smoke from a long, terrible chimney leading into hell. Look! And I'm in the midst of them!

WIFE

I'm afraid. I can't look in that dark corner. Did you see all that in the street?

MAN Yes, I saw it in the street, and soon it'll be that way with us.

WIFE

No, God will not permit it.

MAN

Then why does He permit it to happen to others?

WIFE

We're better than others. We are good people. We never offend Him.

MAN

You think so? I do a lot of swearing.

WIFE

You're not bad.

MAN

Yes, I am bad. When I walk along the street and see all the things that don't belong to us, I feel as if I had tusks like a boar. Oh, how much money I haven't got! Listen, my dear wife. I was walking in the park to-day, that lovely park, where the paths are straight as arrows and the beech-trees like kings wearing crowns—

WIFE

And I was walking in the city streets. Shops everywhere, such beautiful shops!

MAN

I saw men, beautifully dressed, carrying canes, and I thought: "I haven't anything like that."

WIFE

I saw elegantly dressed women, wearing dainty shoes that make your feet beautiful, and pretty hats from under which your eyes shine impenetrably, and silk skirts that make such a mysterious rustle; and I thought: "I haven't a good hat or a silk skirt."

MAN

A ruffian jostled me. I showed him my tusks, and he fled in disgrace to hide himself in the crowd.

WIFE

A well-dressed lady jostled me, but I didn't even look at her, I felt so embarrassed.

MAN

Men rode by on proud, fiery horses. And I have nothing like that.

WIFE

She had diamonds in her ears. You felt like kissing them.

MAN

Red and green automobiles glided past noiselessly like phantoms with burning eyes, and people sat in them and laughed and looked lazily from one side to the other. And I have nothing like it.

And I have no diamonds, no emeralds, no pure white pearls.

MAN

I saw a fine restaurant on the Island. It was brightly illuminated, like heaven, and they were eating there. Black-coated monsters carried around butter and bread and wine and beer, and people ate and drank. My little wife, I'm hungry! I want something to eat!

WIFE

Dearie, you're running around all the time, and that makes you still hungrier. You'd better sit down. I'll kneel beside you, and you can take a piece of paper and draw a beautiful, beautiful building.

MAN

My inspiration is also hungry. It draws nothing but edible landscapes. My palaces are like portly cakes with fat stuffing, and my churches like sausages. But I see tears in your eyes. What is it, my dear wife?

WIFE

I feel so miserable not to be able to help you.

MAN

You make me ashamed of myself. I am a strong man with a good mind; I am able, talented, and healthy, and yet I can't do a thing. My dear wife, my little fairy is crying, and I am not able to help her. A woman's tears are her husband's disgrace, I am ashamed.

WIFE

But it isn't your fault that people don't appreciate you.

MAN

My ears are burning just as they used to when I was a boy and had had them boxed. Why, you are hungry too, and I, egoist that I am, haven't noticed it. It's mean of me.

WIFE

My dear, I don't feel hungry.

MAN

It's unfair, it's contemptible. That ruffian who jostled me was right. He saw I was a fat pig and that's all, a boar with sharp tusks but a stupid head.

WIFE.

If you are going to keep on reproaching yourself, I'll cry again.

MAN

Don't, don't. No tears! Tears in your eyes frighten me. I am afraid of those shining crystal drops, as if some other, some terrible person were shedding them, not you. I won't let you cry. We have nothing, we are poor. But I'll tell you of what we are going to have. I will charm you with a bright fairy tale, my queen. I will array you in dazzling dreams as in roses!

WIFE

You mustn't be afraid. You are strong, you are a genius, you will conquer. Your momentary despair will pass away, and divine inspiration will again quicken your proud head.

MAN (assumes a challenging attitude and throws an oak leaf into the corner where the Unknown stands, saying) Ho, you, whatever your name, Fate, Devil, or Life, I fling my glove down before you, I challenge you to combat! The poor in spirit bow before your enigmatic power. Your stony face inspires them with fear; in your silence they hear the approaching tread of misery and terrible ruin. But I am strong and bold, and I challenge you to combat! Come on! Let the swords glitter, the shields clang! Deal and receive blows so that the earth trembles! Ho, come forth to battle!

WIFE (nestling up at his left, somewhat behind, speaking solemnly) Bolder, my husband, still bolder!

MAN

To your evil-boding inaction I oppose my living, daring strength; to your gloom my clear, resonant laugh! Ho, repel the blows! You have a stone brow, devoid of reason. I will throw the glowing balls of my sparkling thought at it. You have a stone heart, devoid of pity. Take care, I will pour into it the poison of my rebellious outcries. The dark cloud of your grim wrath overshadows the sun. We will light the darkness with our swords. Ho, repel the blows!

WIFE

Bolder, still bolder, my proud knight! Your squire is behind you.

MAN

Victorious, I will sing songs which the whole world will reecho; fallen under your blows, my only thought shall be to rise again and rush into battle. There are weak spots in my armor, but when my red blood is flowing, I will gather my last strength and cry: "You have not conquered, evil Enemy of Man!"

WIFE

Bolder, my knight! I will wash your wounds with my tears. I will stop the flow of your red blood with my kisses.

MAN

And dying on the field of battle as the brave die, with one cry I will destroy your blind joy: "I have conquered!" I have conquered, O cruel Enemy. Unto my last breath I did not recognize your power!

WIFE

Bolder, my knight, bolder! I will die beside you.

MAN

Ho, come forth to battle! Let the swords glitter, the shields clang! Deal and receive blows to make the earth tremble! Ho, come forth!

[For some time Man and his Wife remain in the same posture; then they turn around, facing each other, and kiss.

MAN

That's the way we'll deal with life, my dear, won't we? Let it frown like a blind owl in the sun—we'll compel it to smile.

WIFE

And to dance to our songs—so we will, we two.

MAN

We two. You're a good wife, you're my true friend, you're a brave little woman, and as long as you are with me I fear nothing. Poverty, what does it amount to? To-day we're poor, to-morrow rich.

WIFE

And what is hunger? To-day we are hungry, to-morrow satisfied.

MAN

Do you think so? It's quite possible. But I'll eat a lot. I shall need so much to satisfy my hunger. Tell me, do you think this will prove enough? In the, morning, tea or coffee or chocolate. You can have your choice. It's free. Then a breakfast of three courses, then lunch, then dinner, then—

WIFE

More fruit. I like fruit.

MAN

Very well. I'll buy fruit by the barrel, direct from the wholesale market. It's cheaper and fresher. Besides, we'll have our own garden.

WIFE

But we have no land.

MAN

I'll buy land. I've always wanted to have my own piece of land. By the way, I'll build a house for us and design it too. Let the rascals see what sort of an architect I am.

WIFE

I should like to live in Italy, close by the sea; in a white marble villa in a grove of lemons and cypresses, with marble steps leading straight down to the blue water.

MAN

I understand. That's all right. But I intend, besides, to build a castle in the mountains of Norway. Below, the fjord; and above, on the steep mountain, the castle. We have no paper. But look, I'll show it to you on the wall here. Here is the fjord, you see?

WIFE

Yes, beautiful.

MAN

Here, sparkling blue water gently beating against the green grass; here, beautiful cinnamon-colored stone; and there, in the recess, where this spot is, a bit of blue sky and serene white clouds.

WIFE

Look, there is a white boat floating on the water—it looks like two swans swimming side by side.

MAN

And up there rises the mountain. Bright and green below, it turns gloomier and sterner as it ascends—rugged crags, dark shadows, fallen boulders, and patches of clouds.

WIFE

Like a ruined castle.

MAN

And there, on that spot—the middle one—I'll build my royal castle.

WIFE

It's cold up there, and windy.

MAN

I'll have thick stone walls and large windows with all the panes made out of a single piece of glass. At night, when the winter snowstorms begin to rage and the fjord below to roar, we'll draw the curtains and make a fire in the huge fireplace. It is such a tremendous fireplace that it will hold a whole log. It will burn up a whole forest of pines.

WIFE

How nice and warm.

MAN

And how quiet too, if you will please notice. Carpets covering the whole, floor and lots of books will make it cosy and quietly lively. And we'll be there, the two of us. The wind howling outside and we two sitting before the fireplace on a white bear-skin rug. "Wouldn't you like to have a look at what's doing outside?" you'll say. "All right!" And we'll go to the largest window and draw aside the curtain. Good heavens! What a sight!

WIFE

See the snow whirling.

MAN

Galloping like white horses, like myriads of frightened little spirits, pale with fear and seeking safety in the night. And what a howling and roaring!

WIFE

Oh, it's cold. I'm shivering.

MAN

Go back to the fireplace, quick! Hey there, fetch me grandfather's goblet—not that one, the golden one from which the vikings drank. Fill it up with sparkling wine—not that way—fill it to the brim with the burning draught. Venison is roasting on the spit. Bring it here. I'll eat some. Quick, or I'll eat you. I'm hungry as the devil.

WIFE

There, they have brought it. Now, go on.

MAN

Go on? I'll eat some, of course. What else do you expect? What are you doing to my head, little wife?

WIFE

I am the goddess of fame. I have woven a crown of the oak leaves that our neighbors scattered here, and I'm crowning you. It's Fame that has come to you, the beautiful goddess Fame. (Puts the wreath on his head)

MAN

Yes, fame; loud, noisy fame. Look at the wall. Do you see this? It's I, walking. And who is this next to me? Do you see?

WIFE

I.

MAN

Look, they are bowing to us; they are whispering about us; they are pointing their fingers at us. There is a venerable old gentleman saying with tears in his eyes: "Happy the land that has such children!" See how pale this youth here has turned. Fame looked at him and gave him a smile. That's after I built the People's House, which is the pride of the whole country.

WIFE

You are my famous husband. The oak wreath suits you so well. A laurel wreath would become you still better.

MAN

Look, look, there come the representatives of the city where I was born. They bow to me and say: "Our city is proud of the honor—"

WIFE

Oh!

MAN

What is it?

WIFE

I found a bottle of milk.

MAN

Impossible!

WIFE

And bread, soft, sweet-smelling bread. And a cigar.

MAN

Impossible! You are mistaken. It's the dampness from that damned wall, that's what it is. It isn't milk.

WIFE

But it is.

MAN

A cigar? Cigars don't grow on windows. They are sold for fortunes in tobacco stores. It's a black stick, a piece of a branch, I'm sure.

WIFE

Look and see. I suppose our neighbors brought it.

MAN

Our neighbors? I tell you they're people—they're not human—they're divine. But even if the devil himself brought it—quick, give it here, my sweet little wife.

[Man's Wife seats herself on his knees, and so they eat. She breaks off pieces of bread and puts them in his mouth. He feeds her the milk from the bottle.

MAN

Seems to be cream.

WIFE

No, it's milk. Chew better. You'll choke.

MAN.

Give me the crust. It's so brown.

WIFE

I told you, you'd choke.

MAN

No, it went down. I swallowed it.

WIFE

The milk is running down my chin and neck. Oh, it's tickling me.

MAN.

Lean over. I'll lick it off. We mustn't let a drop go to waste.

WIFE

You're a cunning one.

MAN

There! Quick work. All good things soon come to an end. This bottle seems to have a double bottom. It looks so large. The glass manufacturers are terrible cheats.

[He lights the cigar with the air of a man relaxing into beatific repose. His Wife ties the red ribbon in her hair, looking at herself in the dark pane of the window.

WIFE

Don't you see?

MAN

I see everything. I see your ribbon, and I see, you want me to kiss you on your dear little bare neck.

WIFE.

No, sir, I won't permit that. You've grown too forward of late anyway. You take such liberties. Please go on smoking your cigar and leave my neck—

MAN

What, isn't your neck mine? I'll be jiggered! Why, it's an attack on the sacred rights of property (She runs away; he catches her and kisses her) So, the property rights have been restored. Now, my dear, we'll dance. Imagine that this is a magnificent, a luxurious, a wonderful, a supernatural, ah exquisitely beautiful palace.

WIFE

Very well. I'm imagining it.

MAN

Imagine you're the queen of the ball.

WIFE

All right. It is imagined.

MAN

And that counts, marquises, and dukes come up and ask you to dance. But you refuse. You choose that one—What's his name?—the one in uniform—the prince. What's the matter?

WIFE

I don't like princes.

MAN

Indeed? Then whom do you like?

WIFE

Talented artists.

MAN

Very well. Here's one for you. Why, girl, what are you doing? Are you flirting with the air?

WIFE

I am imagining.

MAN

All right. Imagine a wonderful orchestra. Here is the Turkish drum—boom, boom, boom! (He strikes his fist on the table as on a drum)

WIFE

Why, dear, it's only in the circus that they attract crowds by beating drums, but in a palace—

MAN

Oh, hang it! Stop imagining that, then. Now imagine something else. The violins are playing a melodious plaint; the flutes are singing gently; the double bass drones like a beetle.

[Man sits down, still wearing his oak wreath, and strikes up a dance tune, clapping his hands in accompaniment. The melody is the same as in the next scene at Man's ball. The Wife dances. She is well-formed and graceful.

MAN

Oh, you darling!

WIFE

I am the queen of the ball.

[The song and dance grow ever jollier. Man rises slowly and begins to dance lightly on the spot where he is standing; then he seizes his Wife and dances with her. The oak wreath slips to one side. Someone in Gray looks on indifferently, the candle burning brightly in his petrified hand.

CURTAIN



THE THIRD SCENE

A BALL AT MAN'S HOUSE

_The ball is in the drawing-room of Man's large mansion. It is a very lofty, spacious, perfectly rectangular room. The floor is bright and smooth. There is a certain irregularity about the room due to the disproportionate size of the parts. Thus, the doors are very small in proportion to the windows. This produces a strange, irritating impression, as of something disharmonious, something lacking, and also of something superfluous and adventitious. The whole is pervaded by a chilly white, the monotony of which is broken only by a row of windows in the rear wall. They are very high, reaching almost to the ceiling, and dense with the blackness of night. Not one gleam, not a bright spot shows in the blank spaces between the window frames. Man's wealth shows in the abundance of gildings. There are gilded chairs, and very wide gold frames enclose the pictures. These constitute the only furniture as well as the only ornamentation. The lighting is from three chandeliers shaped like tings, with a few electric lights placed at a great distance apart. At the ceiling the light is bright, but considerably less so below, so that the walls seem grayish.

The ball is in full swing. The music is furnished by an orchestra of three pieces. The musicians resemble closely their respective instruments; the violinist, a violin—lean neck, small head, a shock of hair brushed to one side, back somewhat bent, a handkerchief correctly adjusted on his shoulder under the violin; the flute-player, a flute—very, tall, with a thin, elongated face, and stiff, thin legs, the bass-violinist, a double-bass—stumpy, round-shouldered, lower part of his body very stout, wide trousers. The uncommon effort with which the musicians play is painfully evident. They beat time, swing their heads, and shake their bodies. The tune is the same throughout the ball, a short polka in two musical phrases, producing a jolly, hopping, extremely insipid effect. The three instruments do not quite keep time with one another, producing a sort of queer detachment, a vacant space, as it were, between them and the sounds which they produce.

Young men and girls are dancing dreamily. All are handsome, distinguished-looking, with good figures. In contrast to the piercing notes of the music, their dancing is smooth, noiseless, light. At the first musical phrase, they circle around; at the second, they gracefully part and join again. There is a slight mannerism in their dancing.

Along the walls, on the gilded chairs, sit the Guests, stiff and constrained. They scarcely venture to move their heads. Their conversation is also constrained. They do not whisper to one another; they do not laugh, and they scarcely look at one another. They speak abruptly, as if chopping out the words of a text. Their hands hanging superciliously over their laps make their arms look as if they had been broken at the wrists. The monotony of their faces is strongly emphasized. Every face bears the same expression of self-satisfaction, haughtiness, and inane respect for the wealth of Man.

The dancing girls are all in white, the men in black. Some of the Guests wear black, white, and brightly yellow? flowers.

In the near corner, which is darker than the rest, Someone in Gray called He stands motionless. The candle in his hand is reduced two-thirds and burns with a strong, yellow light, casting a yellow sheen on His stony face and chin._

THE GUESTS' CONVERSATION

—It is a very great honor to be a guest at Man's ball.

—You may add, it is an honor of which very few have been deemed worthy. The whole city tried to get themselves invited, but only a very few succeeded. My husband, my children, and I are quite proud of the honor Man has showed us.

—I am really sorry for those who were not able to get here. They won't sleep the whole night from sheer envy, and to-morrow they'll say nasty things about the ball and call it a bore.

—They never saw such magnificence.

—Or such wonderful wealth and luxury.

—Or, I dare say, such charming, free and easy gayety.

—If this isn't gay, I should like to know what is.

—Oh, what's the use of talking? You can't convince people consumed by jealousy. They'll tell us we didn't sit on gilded chairs, absolutely not.

—They'll say that the chairs were of the commonest sort, bought at second hand.

—That the illumination was not by electricity, but just by tallow candles.

—Say candle stumps.

—Or dirty lamps.

—They'll have the impudence to maintain that the mouldings in Man's house are not gilded.

—And that the broad picture frames are not made of gold. It seems to me I can hear the very ring of it.

—You can see its glitter. That's quite sufficient, I should think.

—I have rarely had the pleasure of hearing such music.

—It is divine harmony. It transports the soul to higher spheres.

—I should think the music good enough, considering the money paid for it. It is the best trio in the city. They play on the most important and solemn occasions.

—If you listen awhile, it compels your absolute attention. After a ball at Man's, my children keep singing the tune a long time.

—I sometimes think I hear it in the street. I look around—no musicians, no music.

—What I like especially in these musicians is the great effort they make when they play. They know the price they're paid and don't want to get the money for nothing. That's very decent of them.

—It seems as if they became a part of their instruments, their efforts are so great.

—Or as if the instruments became part of them.

—How rich!

—How magnificent!

—How brilliant!

—How rich!

[For some time the two expressions, "How rich! How magnificent!" are repeated from different parts of the room, uttered abruptly, like a bark.

—Beside this ballroom there are fourteen other magnificent rooms in Man's house. I have seen them all. The dining-room has such a huge fireplace that you can put a whole log into it. There are magnificent guest-rooms and a beautiful boudoir. A large bedroom, and over the pillows on the beds—just fancy!—canopies!

—Why, how wonderful! Canopies!

—Did you hear? Canopies!

—Permit me to continue. For their son, the little boy, they have a beautiful bright room of golden yellow wood. It looks as if the sun were shining into it all the time.

—He is such a fine boy. He has curly hair that looks like the rays of the sun.

—That's true. When you look at him you wonder whether the sun has risen.

—And when you look at his eyes you think: "Autumn is, gone, and the blue sky is here again."

—Man loves his son madly. He bought him a pony for horseback riding, a nice snow-white pony. My children—

—Pray, let me continue. Have I told you yet about the swimming-pool?

—No. No.

—A swimming-pool, a perfect marvel.

—What, a swimming-pool!

—Yes. And further on is Man's study, full of books, books, books. They say he's a very learned man.

—You can see it by the books.

—I have seen his garden.

—I haven't.

—It was entrancing, I must say. Imagine an emerald-green lawn kept beautifully mowed and trimmed at the edges. In the middle a path of fine red sand.

—Flowers—even palms.

—Yes, even palms. And all the trees trimmed as carefully and precisely as the lawn, some cut in the shape of pyramids, others in the shape of green columns. There's a lovely fountain and little plaster elves and deer scattered all around in the grass.

—How rich!

—How magnificent!

—How brilliant!

—How rich!

—Man did me the honor of showing me his stables and barns. I had to tell him how much I admired his horses and carriages. I was particularly impressed by his motor car.

—Think of it, he has seven servants; seven—a chef, a woman-cook, two maids, gardeners—

—You forget the coachman and the chauffeur.

—Yes, of course, the coachman and the chauffeur.

—And they themselves do nothing at all. They are too fine.

—You must admit, it is a great honor to have been invited to Man's ball.

—Don't you find the music somewhat monotonous?

—No, I don't, and I'm surprised you do. Don't you see what kind of musicians they are?

—I should like to hear such music all my life. That's what I say. There's something, in that music that stirs me.

—Me too.

—Me too.

—It is a delicious sensation to abandon oneself to dreams of happiness under the influence of this music!

—To transport oneself in fancy to the astral spheres!

—How fine!

—How rich!

—How magnificent!

[These phrases are repeated.

—I notice a stir at that door. Man and his Wife will soon pass through the hall.

—The musicians are working away for dear life.

—There they are!

—They're coming! Look, they're coming!

_[Man, his Wife, his Friends, and his Enemies appear in the door on the right, cross the room diagonally to the door on the left. The dancers go on dancing, but part to make way for them. The musicians play desperately loud and out of tune. Man has aged greatly. His long hair and long beard are beginning to turn gray. But his face is manly and handsome, and he walks with calm dignity and an air of coldness. He looks straight ahead of him, as if not noticing those around him. His Wife has also aged, but she is still beautiful and walks leaning on his arm. She too seems not to notice the people around her, but looks straight ahead, with a rather strange, almost fixed expression. Both are richly dressed.

His Friends follow directly behind Man. They resemble one another very much—noble faces, high and candid foreheads, honest eyes. They walk proudly, throwing out their chests, stepping firmly and confidently, and looking, now to this side, now to that, with condescension and slight disdain. They wear white roses in their buttonholes.

Following them at a slight distance come Man's Enemies, also very much resembling one another—mean, cunning faces; low, heavy foreheads; long, ape-like arms. They walk uneasily, pushing, bending, and hiding behind one another, and casting sharp, mean, envious, sidelong glances from beneath lowered lids. Yellow roses appear in their buttonholes. Thus they pass through the room, slowly and in perfect silence. The sounds of the steps, the music, and the exclamations of the Guests produce a sharply discordant noise._

GUESTS' CONVERSATION

—There they are. There they are. What an honor!

—How handsome he is!

—What a manly face!

—Look! Look!

—He isn't looking at us!

—He doesn't see us!

—We are his guests!

—What an honor! What an honor!

—And his wife! Look! Look!

—How beautiful she is!

—How proud!

—I tell you, just look at her diamonds!

—Her pearls! Her pearls!

—And her rubies!

—How rich! What an honor!

—Honor! Honor! Honor!

[The same phrases are repeated again.

—Here are Man's Friends!

—Look, look, there are Man's Friends.

—Noble faces!

—Proud gait!

—They shine with the reflected splendor of his fame.

—How they love him!

—How faithful they are to him!

—What an honor to be one of Man's Friends!

—They regard everything here as their own!

—They're at home here!

—What an honor!

—Honor! Honor! Honor!

[Same phrases are repeated.

—And there are Man's Enemies!

—Look, look, Man's Enemies!

—They walk like whipped curs!

—Man has subdued them!

—He's put a muzzle on them!

—They're wagging their tails!

—They're sneaking behind one another.

—They're pushing one another.

—Ha-ha! Ha-ha!

[Everybody laughs.

—What mean faces!

—What greedy looks!

—Cowardly!

—Malevolent!

—They're afraid to look at us!

—They feel we're at home!

—Let's frighten them.

—Man'll be thankful to us for it.

—Ho-ho!

[They shout at Man's Enemies, mingling their shouts with laughter. The Enemies huddle closer together and cast sharp, timid, sideward glances.

—They're going! They're going!

—What an honor!

—They're going!

—Ho-ho! Ha-ha!

—They're gone! They're gone! They're gone!

[The procession disappears through the door on the left. A pause of silence. The music plays less loudly, and the dancers begin gradually to fill the hall.

—Where did they go?

—I believe they went to the dining-room, where supper is being served.

—I suppose they'll soon invite us in. Do you see anybody looking for us?

—Yes, it's time for supper. If you eat too late, you can't sleep well.

—I always serve supper early.

—A late supper lies heavy on your stomach.

—And the music is still playing.

—And they're still dancing.

—I wonder they don't get tired.

—How rich!

—How magnificent!

—Do you know for how many guests they have prepared the supper?

—I didn't get a chance to count all the covers. The caterer came in, and I had to get out.

—Could they possibly have forgotten us?

—Man is so proud, and we are so unimportant.

—Don't say that. My husband says we do him an honor by accepting his invitation. We are rich, too.

—When you consider the reputation of his wife—

—Do you see anyone looking for us? Maybe he's looking for us in the other rooms.

—How rich!

—If you are not careful with other people's money, it's easy to get rich, I think.

—Oh, now, it's only his enemies who say that.

—Well, after all, there are some very respectable people among them. I must admit that my husband—

—It is late, though.

—It's clear there must be a mistake somewhere. I can't believe we've simply been forgotten.

—Evidently you know people and life very little if you think so.

—I am surprised. We are rich enough ourselves.

—It seems to me someone called us.

—You're mistaken, no one called us. I don't understand it. To be quite frank—why did we come to a house like this, with such a reputation? One should be very careful of the friends one chooses.

A LIVERIED LACKEY (appears at the door)

Man and his Wife beg the honored guests to step into the dining-room.

GUESTS (rising quickly)

—What a livery!

—He asked us to come in!

—I said there must be a mistake somewhere.

—Man is so good. I'm sure he hasn't had a chance to sit down at table himself.

—Didn't I say someone was looking for us?

—What a livery!

—They say the supper is grand.

—Everything at Man's is done in a grand style.

—What music! What an honor to be at Man's ball!

—Let those envy us who—

—How grand!

—How magnificent!

—What an honor!

[They go out one after the other, repeating the last phrases. One couple after the other stop dancing and follow the Guests in silence. For some time a single couple remain circling on the floor, but they too join the others at last. The musicians, however, continue to play, making the same desperate effort. The lackey turns out the electric lights, leaving only one light in the farthest chandelier. The figures of the musicians are vaguely seen in the dim light, swaying to and fro with their instruments. The outline of Someone in Gray is sharply visible. The flame of the candle flickers, illuminating His stony face and chin with a garish, yellow light. He turns around without raising his head, walks slowly and calmly through the whole length of the room, and disappears through the door through which Man passed out.

CURTAIN



THE FOURTH SCENE

MAN'S MISFORTUNE

_A large, gloomy, quadrangular room, with dark watts, dark floor, and dark ceiling. There are two high, curtainless windows with eight panes in the rear watt, and between them a small, low door. Two similar windows appear in the right wall. Night glooms through the windows, and when the door opens, the same deep blackness of night stares into the room. In general, however bright Man's rooms may be, the vast darkness of the windows engulfs the light.

On the left wall there is nothing but a small, low door leading to the rest of the house. At the window on the right stands a broad sofa covered with dark oilcloth. Man's desk is very simple and poor. On it are seen a dimly burning, shaded lamp, a sheet of yellow paper with a sketch drawn on it, and a lot of toys—little peaked cap, a wooden horse without a tail, and a red, long-nosed clown with bells. Between the windows there is an old dilapidated bookcase entirely empty. The visible lines of dust left by the books show that they must have been removed recently. The room has only one chair.

In the darkest corner stands Someone in Gray called He. The candle in his hand is now no longer than it is thick. The wax is running over a little. The stump burns with a reddish, flickering light, and casts a red sheen on His stony face and chin.

The only remaining servant of Man, an Old Woman, is sitting on the chair. She speaks in an even voice, addressing an imaginary companion._

OLD WOMAN

There! Man has slipped back into poverty. He had a lot of valuable things, horses and carriages, and even an automobile. Now he has nothing. Of all his servants I am the only one left. There are still some good things in here and in two other rooms. There's the sofa and the bookcase. But in the other twelve rooms there's not a thing. They are dark and empty. Rats run around in them day and night and fight and squeak. People are afraid, but I'm not. It's all the same to me.

An iron sign has been hanging on the gate for ever so long, saying the house is for sale. But no one wants to buy it. The sign's rusty already, and the rain has worn the letters away. But no one comes to buy the house. No one wants an old house. Yet maybe someone will buy it. Then we'll be going to look for another place to live in. It'll be a strange place. My mistress will begin to cry, and I dare say, the old gentleman will too. But I won't. It's all the same to me.

You wonder what's become of all his riches. I don't know. Maybe it seems strange, but I've been living with other people all my life, and many is the time I've seen money disappear, quietly running off through some leak or other. That's the way it has happened to these folks too. They had a lot, then it got to be a little, and then nothing at all. People came and bought things. Then they stopped coming. I once asked my mistress how it came about. She answered: "People have stopped liking what they used to like; they have stopped loving what they used to love." "How is that possible?" says I. "How can people stop liking what they once liked?" She didn't answer and fell to crying. But I didn't. It's all the same to me. It's all the same to me.

People say they are surprised at me. It's terrible, they say, to live in this house; terrible to sit here at night with only the wind whining in the chimney and the rats squeaking and scuffling. Maybe it is terrible, I don't know; but I don't think about it. Why should I? There they sit, the two of them, in their room, looking at each other and listening to the whining of the wind; and I sit in the kitchen alone and listen to the whining of the wind. Doesn't the same wind whine in our ears? Young folks used to come to see their son, and they would all laugh and sing and go through the empty rooms to chase the rats. But nobody comes to me, and I sit alone, all alone. There's no one to talk to, so I talk to myself, and it's all the same to me.

I'm sure they had a hard enough time of it—no need of more ill luck. But three days ago another misfortune happened to them. The young gentleman went out walking, his hat cocked, his hair dressed in latest fashion. And a bad man went and threw a stone at him from behind a corner and broke his head like a nut. They brought him home, put him to bed, and now he's dying in there. Maybe he'll recover and live—who knows? The old lady and the old gentleman cried, and then they put all the books on a wagon and sold them. With the money they hired a nurse, bought medicines, and even grapes. So the books, too, were of some good. But he doesn't eat the grapes. He doesn't even look at them. They just lie there on the dish, just lie there.

DOCTOR (enters through the outer door; his face looks red and his manner is uneasy) Can you tell me if I am in the right place? I'm a doctor. I have many visits to pay, and I often make mistakes. I'm called here and there and everywhere, and all the houses look alike and the people in them are all sad. Have I struck the right place?

OLD WOMAN

I don't know.

DOCTOR

I'll consult my note-book. Is there a child here choking with a sore throat?

OLD WOMAN

No.

DOCTOR

Is there a man here who suddenly went insane from poverty and attacked his wife and two children with a hatchet? Four patients in all, I suppose.

OLD WOMAN

No.

DOCTOR

Is there a girl here whose heart stopped beating? Don't lie, old woman, I think she is here.

OLD WOMAN

No.

DOCTOR

Well, I believe you. You seem to speak the truth. Is there a young man here whose head was broken by a stone and who is dying?

OLD WOMAN

Yes. Go through that door on the left, but don't go any farther. The rats will eat you up!

DOCTOR

Very well. They keep ringing, ringing all the time, day and night. Here it is, late at night. All the lights in the street are out, and I am still on the run. Often I make a mistake and enter the wrong house. Yes, old woman, I do. (Exit through the door leading inside)

OLD WOMAN

One doctor has already treated him, but didn't cure him. Now there's another, and I guess he won't cure him either. Well! Then their son will die, and we'll remain alone in the house. I'll sit in the kitchen and talk to myself, and they'll sit in there keeping quiet and thinking. Another room vacated, another room for the rats to scuffle in. Let them squeak and scuffle. It's all the same to me. It's all the same to me. You ask me why that bad fellow threw the stone at our young gentleman. I don't know—how could I know why people want to kill each other? One threw a stone from behind a corner and ran away; the other one fell in a heap and is now dying—that's all I know. They say that our young gentleman was a fine chap, very brave, and very kind to poor people. I don't know anything about it—it is all the same to me. Whether they are good or bad, young or old, quick or dead, it is all the same to me. It is all the same to me.

As long as they pay, I'll stay with them; and when they stop paying, I'll go to other people to do their housework, and finally I shall stop altogether—when I get old, and my eyesight gets poor, so that I can't tell salt from sugar. Then they'll turn me out and say: "Go where you please. We'll hire another one." What of it? I'll go. It's all the same to me. Here, there, or nowhere, it's all the same to me. It's all the same to me.

[Enter Doctor, Man and his Wife. Both have aged greatly and are completely gray. Man's long bristling hair and beard give his face a leonine appearance. He walks slightly stooping, but holds his head erect and looks sternly and resolutely from beneath his gray eyebrows. When he looks at anything closely, he puts on large, silver-framed eye-glasses.

DOCTOR

Your son has fallen into a deep sleep. Don't wake him. It may bring on a turn for the better. You go to sleep too. When one has a chance to sleep one should grab it and not stay up talking.

WIFE

Thank you, doctor, it's been such a relief. Will you call to-morrow again?

DOCTOR

Yes, to-morrow and the day after to-morrow. Old woman, you go to bed too. It's late, it's time for all to go to bed. Is that the door to leave by? I often make mistakes.

[He goes out. The Old Woman goes also. Man and his Wife are left alone.

MAN

Look, wife, I began to draw this while our son was still well. I stopped at this line and thought I'd rest and resume the work later. See what a simple, placid line it is, yet horrible to look at. It may be the last line I shall have drawn in our boy's lifetime. What malicious ignorance there is graven in its simplicity and placidity.

WIFE

Don't get excited, my dear. Don't think those evil thoughts. I believe the doctor told the truth and our son will recover.

MAN

Aren't you excited too? Look at yourself in the mirror. You're as white as your hair, my old friend.

WIFE

Of course, I am a little excited, but I'm convinced there's no danger.

MAN

Now, as always, you encourage me and fool me so sincerely, so guilelessly. My poor squire, true guardian of my dulled sword, your knight is a poor, broken-down man. He cannot hold a weapon in his feeble hand. What do I see? Our son's toys. Who put them there?

WIFE

My dear, you put them there yourself long ago. Have you forgotten? You said you found it easier to work with the child's innocent toys beside you.

MAN

Yes, I had forgotten. But now it's terrible to look at them, as terrible as it is for a convict to look at instruments of torture. If the child dies, his toys will remain as a curse to the living. Wife, wife, the sight of them is terrible to me!

WIFE

It was when we were still poor that we bought them. How touching it is to look at them, those poor, dear toys!

MAN

I can't help it, I must take them in my hands. Here's the horse with the tail torn off. Hop, hop, horsie! Where are you galloping off to? I'm going far, far away, papa, to where the fields are and the green woods. Take me along, horsie. Hop, hop, hop! Sit down, dear papa. And there's the soldier's cap, the cheap cap I tried on myself in fun when I bought it. Who are you? I'm a knight, papa. I'm the bravest, the strongest knight. Where are you going, my little knight? I'm going to kill the dragon, dear papa. I'm going to free the captives, papa. Go, go, my little knight. (The Wife cries) And there's our everlasting clown, with his kind, stupid face. But how ragged he is, as if he had come out of a hundred frays. Tinkle, friend, the way you used to tinkle. What, you can't? Only one bell left, you say? Well, I'll throw you on the floor. (Throws down the toy)

WIFE

What are you doing? Remember how often our boy kissed his funny face.

MAN

Yes, that was wrong of me. Forgive me, friend, forgive me. (He bends down with difficulty and picks up the clown) Still laughing? Don't. I'll put you away, out of sight. Don't be angry, I can't bear your smile now. Go and laugh in a place where I can't see you.

WIFE

It breaks my heart to hear you speak like that. Believe me, our son will get well. It wouldn't be just if the young were to die before the old, would it?

MAN

Just? Where have you ever seen justice, wife?

WIFE

Please, dear husband, I beg you, kneel down beside me, and let us both pray to God.

MAN

It's hard for an old man to bend his old knees.

WIFE

Bend them. You should—you must.

MAN

He will not hear me, He whose ear I've never troubled with either praise or entreaty. You pray. You are the mother.

WIFE

You pray—you are the father. If a father is not to pray for his son, who is? To whom are you leaving him? Can one person tell the same things in the same way as the two of us together?

MAN

Very well. Maybe eternal justice will answer the prayers of an old man who bends his old knees.

[Both go down on their knees, their faces turned to the corner where the Unknown stands motionless; their arms are folded over their breasts while they pray.

THE MOTHER'S PRAYER

God, I beg you, let my son live. I can understand only one thing, I can say only one thing, only one thing—God, let my son live. I have no other words, all is dark around me, everything is falling. I understand nothing, and there's such a terror in my heart, O Lord, that I can say only this one thing—God, let my son live! Let him live! Forgive me for praying so poorly. But I cannot pray in any other way. You understand, O Lord, I can't. Look at me! Just look at me! Do you see? Do you see how my head shakes, do you see how my hands shake? But what are my hands, O Lord! Have pity on him. He is so young—he has a birthmark on his right hand. Let him live, even if only a little while, a little while. He is so young, such a mere foolish child—he's still fond of sweets. I bought him grapes. Pity—have pity!

[She weeps in a subdued way, covering her face with her hands. Man speaks without looking at her.

THE FATHER'S PRAYER

Here I am praying, you see. I've bent my old knees. I've prostrated myself in the dust before you. I'm kissing the ground, do you see? Maybe I have sometimes offended you. If so, forgive me, forgive me. It is true, I was haughty, arrogant. I demanded and did not beg. Often I condemned—forgive me. And if you wish, if this be your will, punish me, but spare my son. Spare him, I beg you. Not for mercy, not for pity do I pray you. I pray for justice. You are old, and I am old too. You will understand more easily than I. Bad people wanted to kill him, people who insult you by their deeds and defile your earth—bad, heartless people, who throw stones from behind corners. From behind corners, the scoundrels! Do not then, I pray you, permit the fulfilment of this evil deed. Stay the blood, give back the life—give back the life to my noble son! You took everything away from me, but did I ever ask you like a beggar: "Give me back my wealth, give me back my friends, give me back my talent"? No, never. I did not even ask you for my talent, and you know what his talent means to a man. It is more than life. I thought perhaps that's the way it ought to be, and I bore everything, bore everything with pride. But now I ask you on my knees, in the dust, kissing the earth: "Give back my son's life." I kiss your earth!

[He rises. Someone called He listens indifferently to the father's and mother's prayers.

WIFE

I'm afraid your prayer was not humble enough. There was a certain tone of pride in it.

MAN

No, no, my wife, I spoke well to Him, the way a man should speak. He cannot love cringing flatterers better than brave, proud men who speak the truth. No, wife, you cannot understand. Now I believe also and feel reassured—in fact, I am happy. I feel that I too still signify something to my boy, and it makes me glad. Go and see if he's asleep. He needs a lot of good, hard sleep.

[The Wife goes out. Man, with a friendly look to the corner where Someone in Gray stands, picks up the toy clown, plays with it, and gives its red nose a quick kiss. At that instant his Wife enters and Man speaks shamefacedly.

MAN

I was begging his pardon. I insulted this fool. Well, how is our dear boy?

WIFE

He is so pale.

MAN

That's nothing. It'll pass away. He lost a lot of blood.

WIFE

It makes me so sad to look at his poor shorn head. He had such beautiful golden curls.

MAN

They had to be cut so that the wound could be washed. Never mind, wife, his hair will grow again and be still finer. Did you keep what was cut off? Be sure to keep it. His precious, blood is on it.

WIFE

Yes, I put it away in the chest, the last one left of all our wealth.

MAN

Don't worry about wealth. Just wait until our son begins to work. He'll restore all we've lost. I feel well again, wife, and I firmly believe in our future. Do you remember our poor little rosy room? The good neighbors scattered oak leaves in it, and you made a wreath of them and put it on my head and said I was a genius.

WIFE

I say so still. Other people have ceased to appreciate you, but not I.

MAN

No, my dear little wife, you're wrong. What genius creates outlives the old dirty bundle of rags known as the body, whereas I am still living, and my productions—

WIFE

No, they're not dead and they never will die. Do you remember that corner house you built ten years ago? Every evening at sunset you go to look at it. Is there a more beautiful building in the whole city, is there any with more depth to it?

MAN

Yes, I purposely built it so that the last rays of the setting sun should fall upon it and set its windows aglow. When the whole city is in darkness, my house is still taking leave of the sun. It was well done, and perhaps it will survive me a little while at least. What do you think?

WIFE

Of course, my friend.

MAN

The only thing that hurts, wife, is that the people have forgotten me so soon. They might have remembered me a little longer, just a little longer.

WIFE

They have forgotten what they knew, and ceased to love what they loved.

MAN

They might have remembered me a little longer, a little longer.

WIFE

I saw a young artist near that house. He studied it carefully and made a sketch of it in his sketchbook.

MAN

Ah, why didn't you tell me that before? It's highly significant, highly significant. It means that my ideas are accepted and handed down by others, and even if I am forgotten, my ideas will live. It is tremendously significant.

WIFE

Yes, my dear, you are not forgotten. Do you remember the young man who bowed so reverently to you on the street?

MAN

Yes, that's so, wife. He was a fine, very fine youth. He had such a nice young face. It's good you reminded me of his bow. It has sent a ray of brightness into my heart. But I feel sleepy. I must be tired. I am old too, my dear little gray wife. Have you noticed it?

WIFE

You're just as handsome as ever.

MAN

And my eyes are bright?

WIFE

Yes, your eyes are bright.

MAN

And my hair is black as pitch?

WIFE

It's so white, so like snow that it's even more beautiful.

MAN

And no wrinkles?

WIFE

Yes, there are little wrinkles on your face, but—

MAN

Of course, I know I'm a beauty. To-morrow I'll buy myself a uniform and enter the light cavalry. Yes? (His Wife laughs)

WIFE

There, you're joking too, as in olden times. But lie down here and sleep a little. I'll go to look after our boy. Don't worry, I won't leave him. I'll call you when he wakes. You don't care to kiss an old wrinkled hand, do you?

MAN (kissing her hand)

Go, you're the most beautiful woman I've ever known.

WIFE

And the wrinkles?

MAN

What wrinkles? I only see a dear, kind, good, sensible face. Nothing else. Don't take offence at my stern tone. Go to the boy, watch him, stay with him like a quiet shadow of gentleness and love. And if he is disturbed in his sleep, sing him a song as you used to do. And put the grapes nearer, so that he can reach them.

[The Wife goes out. Man lies down on the sofa, his head toward the spot where Someone in Gray stands immobile, so that His hand almost touches Man's gray, dishevelled hair. Man falls asleep quickly.

SOMEONE IN GRAY

Man has fallen into a sound, sweet sleep, deceived by hope. His breath is soft as a child's, his heart beats calmly and evenly, bringing him relief. He knows not that in a few moments his son will die. In mysterious dream-fancies a picture of impossible happiness arises before him.

It seems to him that he and his son are drifting in a white boat along a beautiful, quiet stream. It seems to him that it is a glorious day, and he sees the deep sky and the transparent crystal water. He hears the rustling of the reeds as they part before the boat. It seems to him that he is happy and glad. All his feelings betray him.

Suddenly he is disturbed. The terrible truth has entered through the thick veil of sleep and stung his thoughts.

"Why is your golden hair cut so short, my boy? Why?"

"I had a headache, papa, that's why."

And deceived once more, he feels happy again, sees the deep sky, and hears the rustling of the parting reeds.

He knows not that his son is already dying. He hears not how, in a last senseless hope, with a child's faith in the power of adults, his son is calling him without words, with his heart: "Papa, papa, I am dying! Hold me!" Man sleeps soundly and sweetly, and in the deceptive, mysterious fancies there arises before him the picture of impossible happiness. Awake, Man! Your son is dead.

[Man lifts his head, frightened, and rises.

MAN

Ha! What is it? I thought I heard someone call me.

[At that moment many women behind the scenes burst into a wail—the loud, long-drawn wail over the dead. The Wife enters, frightfully pale.

MAN

Dead?

WIFE

Yes, he is dead.

MAN

Did he call me?

WIFE

No, he never awoke. He didn't call anyone. He is dead—my son, my dear, darling boy!

[She falls on her knees before Man and sobs, clasping his knees. Man puts his hand on her hand and, turning to the corner where Someone in Gray stands indifferently, speaks in a sobbing, but terrible voice.

MAN

You insulted a woman, scoundrel! You killed a boy! (His Wife sobs. Man softly strokes her hair with his trembling hand) Don't cry, my dear, don't cry. He will scoff at our tears, just as He scoffed at our prayers. And you—I don't know who you are—God, Devil, Fate, or Life—I curse you!

[Man speaks the following in a loud, powerful voice, one arm about his wife as if to protect her, the other arm fiercely extended toward the Unknown.

MAN'S CURSE

I curse everything that you have given. I curse the day on which I was born. I curse the day on which I shall die. I curse the whole of my life, its joys and its sorrows. I curse myself. I curse my eyes, my ears, my tongue. I curse my heart and my head, and I fling everything back at your cruel face, a senseless Fate! Be accursed, be forever accursed! With my curses I conquer you. What else can you do to me? Hurl me to the ground, I will laugh and shout in your face: "Be accursed!" Seal my mouth with the clamps of death, with my last thought I will shout into your stupid ears: "Be accursed, be accursed!" Take my body, tear at it like a dog, drag it into the darkness—I am not in it. I have disappeared, but disappearing I shall repeat: "Be accursed, be accursed!" Through the woman whom you have insulted, through the boy whom you have killed, I convey to you the curses of Man!

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