Savva and The Life of Man
by Leonid Andreyev
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[He turns in silence, with fiercely uplifted hand. Someone in Gray listens passively to the curses. The flame of the candle flickers as if blown by the wind. Thus they stand for some time in tense silence confronting each other, Man and Someone in Gray. The wailing behind the scenes grows louder and more prolonged, passing into a doleful chant.




_An uncertain, unsteady, blinking light, so dim that at first nothing is distinguishable. When the eye grows accustomed to it, the following scene becomes visible.

A long, wide room with a very low ceiling and windowless. The entrance is down a flight of steps from somewhere above. The walls are bare and dirty and resemble the coarse, stained hide of some huge animal. Along the entire back wall up to the stairs runs a, bar with a top of smooth glass. This is covered with bottles full of differently colored liquors that are arranged in regular rows. Behind a low table sits the Bartender, immobile, with his hands folded across his paunch. His white face is blotched with red. His head is bald, and he has a large, reddish beard. He wears an expression of utter calm and indifference, which he maintains throughout, never changing his seat or his attitude.

Drunkards, both men and women, sit at small tables on wooden stools. Their number seems to be augmented by their shadows dancing on the walls and ceiling.

It is one endless monotony of repulsive ugliness and desolation. The men's faces resemble masks with the various features disproportionately magnified or reduced: big noses, or no noses at all; eyes staring savagely, almost starting from their sockets, or eyes narrowed to scarcely visible slits and points; huge Adam's apples and tiny chins. Their hair is tangled, frowzy, dirty, covering half the face on some of them. Despite their differences, a horrible sameness is stamped upon their faces: a greenish, ghastly tinge of decay and an expression that appears grotesque in some, gloomy and stupidly timid in others.

They are dressed in dull rags, with here a bony arm bared, there a sharp knee, and there again a frightfully sunken chest. Some are almost entirely naked. The women differ little from the men, except that they are even uglier and more uncouth. All have trembling heads and hands and walk with an uncertain step, as if on a slippery, or hilly, or sliding surface. Their voices, too, are all alike, rough and hoarse. They speak as uncertainly as they walk, as if their lips were frozen and refused to obey.

In the centre, at a separate table, sits Man, his gray, unkempt head leaning on his arms. In this position he remains throughout the scene, except during the one moment when he speaks. He is dressed very poorly.

In the corner stands Someone in Gray, with the candle burned nearly to the end. The slender blue flame flickers, now bending, now striving upward with its sharp little tongue. Its blue throws a ghastly glare on His face and chin._


—Oh my! Oh my!

—Look, everything is swaying so strangely. There's nothing to rest your eyes on.

—Everything is shaking as in a fever—the people, the chair, the ceiling.

—Everything is floating and rocking as on waves.

—Do you hear a noise? I hear a kind of noise, as if an iron wheel were rumbling, or stones falling from a mountain, large stones coming down like rain.

—It's the ringing in your ears.

—It's the tingling of your blood. I feel my blood. It flows heavy through my veins, thick, thick, black, smelling of rum. And when it gets to my heart, it all falls down, and it's terrible.

—It seems to me I see flashes of lightning.

—I see huge, red woodpiles and people burning on them. It's disgusting to smell the roasting flesh.

—Dark shadows circle around the piles. They are drunk, the shadows are. Hey, invite me! I'll dance with you.

—Oh my! Oh my!

—I am happy, too. Who will laugh with me? Nobody. So I'll laugh by myself. (He laughs)

—A charming woman is kissing my lips. She smells of musk and her teeth are like a crocodile's. She wants to bite me. Get away, you dirty hussy!

—I am not a dirty hussy. I am an old pregnant snake. I've been watching a whole hour to see little snakes come out of my body below and crawl around. Say, don't step on my little snakes.

—Where are you going?

—Who's walking there? Sit down. You make the whole house shake when you walk.

—I can't. I feel awful sitting down.

—I too. When I am sitting I feel a horror running through my whole body.

—So do I. Let me go.

[Three or four Drunkards reel aimlessly about, getting tangled up In the chairs.

—Look what it's doing. It's been jumping for two hours, trying to get on my knee. It just misses by an inch. I drive it away and it comes back again.

—Black cockroaches are creeping under my skull and buzzing.

—My brain is falling apart. I feel the gray matter separating. My brain is like rotten cheese. It stinks.

—There's some sort of a corpse here. I smell it.

—Oh my! Oh my!

—I'll sneak up to her to-night and cut her throat.

—The blood will flow. It's flowing already. See how red it is.

—I am constantly being followed by three men. They are calling me into a dark corner of the vacant lot, and they want to kill me. They are already at the door.

—Who is walking on the walls and ceiling?

—Good Lord! They have come to take me.



—My tongue is getting paralyzed. I'll cry. (Cries)

—My whole body is coming out. I'll soon be turned inside out, and then I'll be all red.

—Listen, listen. Ho! Somebody! A monster is going for me. He's raising his hand. Help! Ho!

—What is it? Help! A spider!


[For some time they shout "Help!" hoarsely.

—We are all drunkards. Let's call down all the people from above. It's so disgusting up there.

—No, don't. When I leave here and go out on the street, it rampages and tears about like a wild beast and soon throws me off my, feet.

—We've all come here. We drink rum and it gives us joy.

—It gives us fright. I shiver the whole day from fright.

—Fright is better than life. Who wants to return to life?

—I don't.

—I don't. I'd rather croak here. I don't want to live.

—No one!

—Oh my! Oh my!

—Why does Man come here? He drinks little and just sits still. We don't want him.

—Let him go to his own house. He has a house of his own.

—Fifteen rooms.

—Don't touch him. He has no place to go to any more.

—He has fifteen rooms.

—They're empty. Only rats run around and fight in them.

—And his wife.

—He hasn't any. Seems she died.

[During this conversation and the following, Old Women in strange headgear enter quietly and replace unnoticeably the Drunkards, who quietly depart. The women mingle in the conversation, but in such a way that no one notices it.


—He'll soon die, too. He can scarcely drag himself along, he's so weak.

—He has fifteen rooms.

—Listen to the beating of his heart. It's uneven and faint. It'll soon stop beating altogether.

—Hey, Man, give us an invitation to your house. You have fifteen rooms.

—It'll soon stop beating altogether, that old, sick, feeble heart of Man!

—He's asleep, the drunken fool. It's dreadful to sleep, and yet he sleeps. He might die in his sleep.

—Hey, there, wake him up!

—Do you remember how it used to beat when it was young and strong?

[A low laugh is heard.

—Who's laughing? There are some here who have no business to be here.

—It just seems so to you. We are all alone, only we drunkards.

—I'll go out on the street and start a fight. I've been robbed. I'm stark naked, and my skin is green.

—Good evening.

—The wheel is rumbling again. Oh, Lord, they'll crush me! Help!

[No one responds.

—Good evening.

—Do you remember his birth? I believe you were there.

—I must be dying. Good Lord! Good Lord! Who will carry me to the grave? Who will bury me? I'll be lying like a dog on the street. People will step over me, wagons will ride over me. They'll crush me. Oh, my God! Oh, my God! (Cries)

—Permit me to congratulate you, my dear friend, on the birth of your child.

—I am positive there is a mistake here. For a circle to fall out of a straight line is an absurdity. I'll demonstrate it on the spot.

—You're right.

—Oh my! Oh my!

—It's only ignoramuses in mathematics who will permit it. I won't. I won't permit it, do you hear?

—Do you remember the rosy dress and the little bare neck?

—And the flowers? The lilies-of-the-valley on which the dew never dried, and the violets, and the green grass?

—Don't touch, don't touch the flowers, girls.

[They utter a low and suppressed laugh.

—Oh my! Oh my!

[The drunkards have all gone. Their places are taken by the Old Women. The light grows steady and very faint. The figure of the Unknown is sharply outlined, and so is Man's gray head, on which a, faint light falls from above.


—Good evening.

—Good evening. What a splendid night!

—Here we are together again. How are you feeling?

—I cough a little.

[They laugh suppressedly.

—It won't take long now. He'll die soon.

—Look at the candle. The flame is blue and thin and spreading sideways. There's no more wax. It's only the wick that's burning.

—It doesn't want to go out.

—When did you ever see a flame that did want to go out?

—Don't dispute, don't dispute. Whether it wants to go out, or doesn't want to go out, time is flying.

—Do you remember his motor car? He once almost ran me down.

—And his fifteen rooms?

—I was there a little while ago. The rats almost ate me up, and I caught a cold in the draught. Someone had stolen the window frames, and the wind was blowing through the whole house.

—Did you try the bed in which his wife died? Isn't it soft and nice?

—Yes, I went through all the rooms and let my fancy play a little. They have such a pretty nursery. It's a pity the window frames are knocked out there too, and the wind makes a racket with the litter on the floor. And the child's bed too is so dear. Now the rats have made their nest in it and breed their children there.

—Such dear, naked little rats.

[They titter.

—And in his study the toys are lying on the table: a horse without a tail, a soldier's cap, and a red-nosed clown. I played a little with them. I put on the soldier's cap. It was very becoming to me. But there's such a lot of dust on the things. I got all dirty.

—But did you go into the drawing-room where the ball was given? It's so gay there.

—Yes, I did. Fancy what I saw. It was dark, the windows were broken, and the wind was playing with the wall-paper—

—Making a sound as of music.

—And in the darkness the guests were squatting on their knees at the wall—and you should have seen how they looked!

—We know.

—And they barked: "How rich! How magnificent! How brilliant! How rich!"

—You're joking, of course.

—Of course I'm joking. You know I have a funny disposition.

—How rich! How magnificent!

—How gay!

[They titter.

—Let's remind him of it!

—How rich! How magnificent!

—Do you remember how the music played at your ball?

—He's going to die soon.

—The dancers circled about, circled about, and the music played so gently, so beautifully. They played this way.

[They make a semicircle about Man and hum the tune played by the musicians at the ball.

—Let's get up a ball. It's so long since I've danced.

—Imagine that this is a palace, a magnificent, an exquisitely beautiful palace.

—Call the musicians. Why, you can't have a ball without music.


—You remember?

[They sing. At that instant the three musicians who played at the ball come down the stairs. The one with the violin adjusts his handkerchief on his shoulder with great precision, and all three begin to play, making an exaggerated effort. But the notes are soft and gentle as in a dream.

—There you have the ball.

—How rich! How magnificent!

—How brilliant!

—You remember, don't you?

[Singing softly to the music, they begin to circle about Man, imitating in a wild, monstrous fashion the movements of the girls in the white dresses who danced at the ball. At the first musical phrase they circle, at the second they join and part gracefully and quietly, whispering:

—Do you remember?

—You're going to die soon—do you remember?

—Do you remember?

—Do you remember?

—You're going to die soon—do you remember?

—Do you remember?

[The dance grows brisker, the movements sharper. Strange, whining notes mingle into the singing of the Old Women. An equally strange laugh passes around the circle of dancers, suppressed and quiet at first. As each one glides past Man, she flings an abrupt whisper into his ear:

—Do you remember?

—Do you remember?

—How gentle! How exquisite!

—What balm to the soul! Do you remember?

—You're going to die soon, you're going to die soon.

—You're going to die soon—

—Do you remember?

[They circle more quickly, their movements growing still more abrupt. Suddenly there is silence and they halt. The musicians grow rigid with the instruments in their hands. The dancers remain fixed in the game position in which they were when the silence fell. Man rises, straightens himself, throws back his gray, beautiful, terribly majestic head, and calls out in a surprisingly loud voice, full of sorrow and wrath. After each short phrase a brief but profound pause follows.


Where is my squire? Where is my sword? Where is my shield? I am disarmed! Come to me quick! Quick! Be accurs—

[He sinks down on the chair and dies, his head falling backward. At the same moment the candle flares up brightly and goes out. All objects are buried in a dense twilight which seems to be descending the stairs until it gradually covers everything. The face of dead Man alone remains bright. Low, vague conversation, whisperings and derisive mockery are heard from the Old Women.


Silence! Man has died!

[Profound silence. Then the same cold, indifferent voice repeats from a remote depth, like an echo:

Silence! Man has died!

_[Profound silence. The twilight thickens, but the mice-like figures of the Old Women are still seen standing rigid. Presently they begin to circle about the dead body mutely, quietly; then they begin to sing softly, and the musicians begin to play. The gloom thickens, the music and the song grow louder and louder, and the wild dance grows more unrestrained, until finally it ceases to be a dance, the Old Women merely whirling about the dead man arm in arm, stamping their feet, screeching, and laughing a wild, prolonged laugh. Complete darkness descends. Only the face of Man is still lighted up. Then this light too is extinguished. Black impenetrable darkness prevails.

In the darkness are heard the movements of the mad dancers, their screeching and laughter, and the discordant, desperately loud sounds of the music. Just when they have reached their highest pitch, all the sounds and noises withdraw rapidly somewhere and die away. Stillness._



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