Savva and The Life of Man
Part 2 out of 6
He isn't telling the truth. There are no devils either. The
devil couldn't have hung up his picture if there's no devil. It's
impossible. He had better ask me.
All right, we'll speak about that later. Send us whiskey.
I won't send you any whiskey either.
What a stupid fellow! I tell you what, father. You go out into the
garden through that door. I'll be, with you in a moment. Don't lose
yourself. _(He goes out after Tony)_
Good-bye, Miss Olympiada.
_[Lipa doesn't answer. When Kondraty has left, she walks around the
room a few times, agitated, waiting for Savva._
Well, what a fool!
LIPA _(barring his way)_
I know why you came here. I know! Don't you dare!
When I heard you talk, I thought it was just words, but now--Come to
your senses! Think! You've gone crazy. What do you mean to do?
Let me go.
I listened to you and laughed! Good Lord! I feel as if I had awakened
from a terrible dream. Or is it all a dream? What was the monk here
for? What for?
Now that will do. You have had your say; that's enough. Let me go.
Don't you see you have gone crazy? Do you understand? You are out of
I'm sick of hearing you repeat that. Let's go.
Savva; dear, darling Savva--No? Very well, you won't listen to me?
Very well. You'll see, Savva, you'll see. You ought to have your hands
and feet tied. And you _will_ be bound, too. There are people who will
do it. Oh, God! What does this mean? Stay! Stay! Savva!
All right, all right.
I'll denounce you. Murderer! Ruffian! I'll denounce you.
SAVVA _(turning round)_
Oho! You had better be more careful. _(Puts his hand on her shoulder
and looks into her eyes)_ You had better be more careful, I say.
You--_(For about three seconds there is a struggle between the two
pairs of eyes, after which Lipa turns aside, biting her lips)_ I am
not afraid of you.
That's better. But don't shout. One should never shout. _(Exit)_
What does this mean? What am I to do? _(The hens cluck)_
YEGOR TROPININ _(in the door)_
What's the matter? What's the row here--hey? I was gone just half an
hour, and everything has gone topsy-turvy. Lipa, why did you let the
chickens get into the raspberry bushes? Go and drive 'em away, damn
you! I am talking to you--yes, to you! Go, or I'll go you, I'll go
THE SECOND ACT
_Within the enclosure of the monastery. In the rear, at the left,
appear the monastery buildings, the refectory, monks' cells, parts of
the church and the steeple, all connected by passageways with arched
gates. Board-walks run in different directions in the court. At the
right the corner of the steeple wall is seen slightly jutting out.
Nestling against it is a small monastic cemetery surrounded by a
light, grilled iron fence. Marble monuments and slabs of stone and
iron are sunk deep into the earth. All are old and twisted. It is a
long time since anyone was buried there. The cemetery contains also
some wild rose-bushes and two or three rather small trees.
It is evening, after vespers. Long shadows are falling from the tower
and the walls. The monastery and the steeple are bathed in the reddish
light of the setting sun. Monks, novices and pilgrims pass along
the board-walks. In the beginning of the act may be heard behind the
scenes the driving of a village herd, the cracking of a herdsman's
whip, the bleating of sheep, the lowing of cattle, and dull cries.
Toward the end of the act it grows much darker, and the movement in
the yard ceases almost entirely.
Savva, Speransky, and the Young Friar are seated on a bench by the
iron fence. Speransky is holding his hat on his knees, and now and
then he strokes his long, straight hair, which is hanging in two
mournful strands over his long, pale face. He holds his legs together
speaks in a low, sad tone, and gesticulates with extended forefinger.
The Friar, young, round-faced, and vigorous, pays no attention to the
conversation, but is smiling continually, as if at his own thoughts._
SAVVA _(preoccupied, looking aside)_
Yes. What kind of work do you do here?
None at all, Mr. Savva. How can a man in my condition do any work?
Once a man begins to doubt his own existence, the obligation to work
naturally ceases to exist for him. But the deacon's wife does
not understand it. She is a very stupid woman, utterly lacking in
education, and, moreover, of an unlovely, cruel disposition. She
insists on making me work. But you can imagine the sort of work I
do under the circumstances. You see, the situation is this. I have a
splendid appetite. That appetite began to develop while I was yet a
student in the seminary. Now this deaconess, if you please, makes a
fuss about every piece of bread I eat. She doesn't understand, the
ignorant woman, the possibility of the non-existence of this piece of
bread. If I had a real existence like the rest of you, I should feel
very bad, but in my present condition her attacks don't affect me in
the least. Nothing affects me, Mr. Savva, nothing in the wide world.
SAVVA _(smiling at the Friar's unconscious joy, but still
preoccupied)_ How long have you been in this condition?
It began in the seminary while I was studying philosophy. It is a
dreadful condition, Mr. Savva. I have grown somewhat accustomed to it
now, but at first it was unendurable. I tried to hang myself once,
and they cut me down. Then I tried a second time, and they cut me down
again. Then they turned me out of the seminary. "Go hang yourself in
some other place, you madman," they said. As if there were any other
place! As if all places were not the same!
Mr. Savva, let's go fishing to-morrow at the mill.
I don't like fishing. It bores me.
I'm sorry. Well then, let's go into the woods and knock down the dry
branches of trees. It's fine sport to walk about in the forest and
knock off the branches with a stick. And when you shout "Ho-ho-ho!"
the echo from the ravine answers back "Ho-ho-ho!" Do you like
Yes, I like it. I am a good swimmer.
I like it too.
SPERANSKY _(with a deep sigh)_
Yes, it's a strange condition.
SAVVA _(smiling at the Friar)_
Eh? Well, how are you now?
When my uncle took me to his house, he made me promise I would never
attempt suicide again. That was the only condition oh which he would
consent to let me live with him. "All right," I said; "if we really
exist, then I won't make any further attempt to hang myself."
Why do you want to know whether you exist or not? There is the
sky. Look, how beautiful it is. There are the swallows and the
sweet-scented grass. It's fine! _(To the Friar)_ Fine, isn't it,
Mr. Savva, do you like to tear up ant-hills?
I don't know. I never tried.
I like it. Do you like to fly kites?
It's a long time since I tried to. I used to like it very much.
SPERANSKY _(patiently awaiting the end of their conversation)_
Swallows! What good is their flying to me? Anyhow, maybe swallows
don't exist either, and it's all a dream.
Suppose it is a dream. Dreams are very beautiful sometimes, you know.
I should like to wake up, but I can't. I wander around and wander
around until I am weary and feeble, and when I rouse myself I find
I am here, in the very same place. There is the monastery and the
belfry, and the clock strikes the hour. And it's all like a dream, a
fantasy. You close your eyes, and it does not exist. You open them,
and it's there again. Sometimes I go out into the fields at night
and close my eyes, and then it seems to me there is nothing at all
existing. Suddenly the quail begin to call, and a wagon rolls down
the road. Again a dream. For if you stopped up your ears, you wouldn't
hear those sounds. When I die, everything will grow silent, and then
it will be true. Only the dead know the truth, Mr. Savva.
FRIAR _(smiling, cautiously waving his hands at a bird; in a whisper)_
It's time to go to bed, time to go to bed.
What dead? Listen, my dear sir. I have a plain, simple, peasant mind,
and I don't understand those subtleties. What dead are you talking
About all the dead, every one without exception. That's why the faces
of the dead are so serene. Whatever agonies a man may have suffered
before his death, the moment he dies his face becomes serene. That's
because he has learned the truth. I always come here to attend the
funerals. It's astonishing. There was a woman buried here. She had
died of grief because her husband was crushed under a locomotive. You
can imagine what must have been going on in her mind before her death.
It's too horrible to think of. Yet she lay there, in the coffin,
absolutely serene and calm. That's because she had come to know that
her grief was nothing but a dream, a mere phantom. I like the dead,
Mr. Savva. I think the dead really exist.
I don't like the dead. _(Impatiently)_ You are a very disagreeable
fellow. Has anybody ever told you that?
Yes, I have, heard it before.
I would never have taken you out of the noose. What damn fool did it
The first time it was the Father Steward, the next time my classmates.
I am very sorry you disapprove of me, Mr. Tropinin. As you are an
educated man, I should have liked to show you a bit of writing I did
while I was in the seminary. It's called "The Tramp of Death." It's a
sort of story.
No, spare me, please. Altogether I wish you'd--
There comes Father Kirill. I had better beat it.
He came across me in the forest the other day when I was-shouting "Ho!
Ho!" "Ah," said he, "you forest sprite with goat's feet!" To-morrow
after dinner, all right? _(Walks away, sedately at first, but then
with a sort of dancing step)_
FAT MONK _(approaches)_
Well, young men, having a pleasant chat? Are you Mr. Tropinin's son?
I am the man.
I have heard about you. A decent, respectable gentleman your father
is. May I sit down? _(He sits down)_ The sun has set, yet it's still
hot. I wonder if we'll have a storm to-night. Well, young man, how do
you like it here? How does this place compare with the metropolis?
It's a rich monastery.
Yes, thank the Lord. It's celebrated all over Russia. There are many
who come here even from Siberia. Its fame reaches far. There'll soon
be a feast-day, and--
You'll work yourself sick, father. Services day and night.
Yes, we must do our best for the monastery.
Not for the people?
Yes, for the people too. For whom else? Last year a large number of
epileptics were cured; quite a lot of them. One blind man had his
eyesight restored, and two paralytics were made to walk. You'll see
for yourself, young man, and then you won't smile. I have heard that
you are an unbeliever.
You have heard correctly. I am an unbeliever.
It's a shame, a shame. Of course, there are many unbelievers nowadays
among the educated classes. But are they any happier on that account?
I doubt it.
No, there are not so many. They think they are unbelievers because
they don't go to church. As a matter of fact, they have greater faith
than you. It's more deep-seated.
Is that so?
Yes, yes. The form of their faith is, of course, more refined. They
are cultured, you see.
Of course, of course. People feel better, feel more confident and
secure, if they believe.
They say the devil is choking the monks here every night.
FAT MONK _(laughing)_
Nonsense. _(To the Gray Monk passing by)_ Father Vissarion, come here
a moment. Sit down. Mr. Tropinin's son here says the devil chokes
us every night. Have you heard about it? _(The two monks laugh
good-naturedly as they look at each other)_
Some of the monks can't sleep well because they have overeaten, so
they think they are being choked. Why, young man, the devil can't
enter within our sacred precincts.
But suppose he does suddenly put in an appearance? What will, you do
We'll get after him with the holy-water sprinkler, that's what we'll
do. "Don't butt in where you have no business to, you black-faced
booby!" _(The monk laughs)_
Here comes King Herod.
Wait a while, Father Vissarion. _(To Savva)_ You talk about faith and
such things. There's a man for you--look at him--see how he walks.
And yet he has chains on him weighing four hundred pounds. He doesn't
walk, he dances. He visits us every summer, and I must say he is a
very valuable guest. His example strengthens others in their faith.
Herod! Ho, Herod!
What do you want?
Come here a minute. This gentleman doubts the existence of God. Talk
What's the matter with yourself? Are you so full of booze that you
can't wag your own tongue?
You heretic! What a heretic! _(Both monks laugh)_
KING HEROD _(approaching)_
KING HEROD _(scrutinizing him)_
He doubts? Let him doubt. It's none of my business.
Why, what did you think?
Sit down, please.
Never mind. I'd rather stand.
FAT MONK _(to Savva, in a loud whisper)_
He is doing that to wear himself out. Until he has reduced himself
to absolute faintness he'll neither sleep nor eat. _(Aloud)_ This
gentleman is wondering at the kind of chains you have on your body.
Chains? Just baby rattles. Put them on a horse and he too would carry
them if he had the strength. I have a sad heart. _(Looks at Savva)_
You know, I killed my own son. Yes, I did. Have they been telling you
about me, these chatterboxes?
Can you understand it?
Why not? Yes, I can.
You lie--you can't. No one can understand it. Go through the whole
world, search round the whole globe, ask everybody--no one will be
able to tell you, no one will understand. And if anyone says he does,
take it from me that he lies, lies just as you do. Why, you can't even
see your own nose properly, yet you have the brazenness to say you
understand. Go. You are a foolish boy, that's what you are.
And you are wise?
I am wise. My sorrow has made me so. It is a great sorrow. There is
none greater on earth. I killed my son with my own hand. Not the hand
you are looking at, but the one which isn't here.
Where is it?
I burnt it. I held it in the stove and let it burn up to my elbow.
Did that relieve you?
No. Fire cannot destroy my grief. It burns with a heat that is greater
Fire, brother, destroys everything.
No, young man, fire is weak. Spit on it and it is quenched.
What fire? It is possible to kindle such a conflagration that an ocean
of water will not quench it.
No, boy. Every fire goes out when its time comes. My grief is great,
so great that when I look around me I say to myself: Good heavens,
what has become of everything else that's large and great? Where has
it all gone to? The forest is small, the house is small, the mountain
is small, the whole earth is small, a mere poppy seed. You have to
walk cautiously and look out, lest you reach the end and drop off.
FAT MONK _(pleased)_
Fine, King Herod, you are going it strong.
Even the sun does not rise for me. For others it rises, but for me
it doesn't. Others don't see the darkness by day, but I see it. It
penetrates the light like dust. At first I seem to see a sort of
light, but then--good heavens, the sky is dark, the earth is dark, all
is like soot. Yonder is something vague and misty. I can't even make
out what it is. Is it a human being, is it a bush? My grief is
great, immense! _(Grows pensive)_ If I cried, who would hear me? If I
shouted, who would respond?
FAT MONK _(to the Gray Monk)_
The dogs in the village might.
KING HEROD _(shaking his head)_
O you people! You are looking at me as at a monstrosity--at my hair,
my chains--because I killed my son and because I am like King Herod;
but my soul you see not, and my grief you know not. You are as blind
as earthworms. You wouldn't know if you were struck with a beam on the
head. Say, you pot-belly, what are you shaking your paunch, for?
Why--the way he talks to you!
FAT MONK _(reassuringly)_
It's nothing. He treats us all like that. He upbraids us all.
Yes, and I will continue to upbraid. Fellows like you are not fit
to serve God. What you ought to do is to sit in a drinkshop amusing
Satan. The devils use your belly to go sleigh-riding on at night.
FAT MONK _(good-naturedly)_
Well, well, God be with you. You had better speak about yourself;
stick to that.
KING HEROD _(to Savva)_
You see? He wants to feast on my agony. Go ahead, feast all you want.
My, what a scold you are. Where do you get your vocabulary? He once
told the Father Superior that if God were not immortal he, the Father
Superior, would long ago have sold him piece by piece. But we tolerate
him. He can do no harm in a monastery.
He attracts people. Many come here for his sake. And what difference
does it make to us? God sees our purity. Isn't that so, King Herod?
Oh, shut up, you old dotard. Look at him; he can scarcely move his
legs, old Harry with the evil eye. Keeps three women in the village;
one is not enough for him. _(The monks laugh good-naturedly)_ You see,
you see? Whew! Look at their brazen, shameless eyes! Might as well
spit on them!
Why do you come here?
Not for them. Listen, young man. Have you a grief?
Perhaps I have. Why?
Then listen to me. When you are in sorrow, when you are suffering,
don't go to people. If you have a friend, don't go to him. It's more
than you'll be able to stand. Better go to the wolves in the forest.
They'll make short work of it, devour you at once, and there will be
the end of it. I have seen many evil things, but I have never seen
anything worse than man. No, never! They say men are created in His
image, in His likeness. Why, you skunks, you have no image. If you had
one, the tiniest excuse for one, you would crawl away on all fours and
hide somewhere from sheer shame. You damned skunks! Laugh at them, cry
before them, shout, at them. It doesn't make any difference. They
go on licking their chops. King Herod--Damned skunks! And when King
Herod--not I, but the real one with a golden crown--killed your
children, where were you--hey?
We weren't even in the world then, man.
Then there were others like you. He killed. You accepted it. That's
all. I have asked many the question: "What would you have done?"
"Nothing," they always reply. "If he killed, what could be done about
it?" Fine creatures! Haven't the manliness to stand up even for their
children. They are worse than dogs, damn them!
And what would you have done?
I? I should have wrung his neck from off his royal gold crown--the
It says in the scripture: "Render unto Caesar the things that are
Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
That is to say, don't interfere with other people's business. Do you
KING HEROD _(to Savva in despair)_
Just listen, listen to what they are saying.
I hear what they are saying.
Just you wait, my precious! You'll get what's coming to you, and
mighty quick. The devil will come and hurl you into the fiery pit. To
hell, to gehenna, with you! How your fat will melt and run! Do you get
the smell, monk?
That's from the refectory.
You are on the run, fast as your feet can carry you! Ah! but where to?
Everywhere is hell, everywhere is fire. You refused to hearken unto
me, my pet; now you shall hearken unto the fire. Won't I be glad,
won't I rejoice! I'll take off my chains so that I can catch them and
present them to the devil--first one, then the other. Here, take him.
And the howl they'll set up, and the weeping and lamentation. "I am
not guilty." Not guilty? Who, then, is--who? To gehenna with you!
Burn, you damned hypocrites, until the second Advent. And then we'll
build a new fire, then we'll build a new fire.
Isn't it time for us to go, Father Kirill?
Yes, we had better be moving along. It's getting dark, and it's time
Aha! You don't like to hear the truth. It isn't pleasant, is it?
Hee-hee, brother, talk is cheap. A barking dog doesn't bite. Scold
away, scold away. We are listening. God in heaven will decide who is
to go to hell and who elsewhere. "The meek, shall inherit the earth,"
says the Gospel. Good-bye, young gentlemen.
GRAY MONK _(to King Herod)_
Let me give you a piece of advice, however. Talk, but don't talk too
much. Don't go too far. We are only tolerating you because you are
a pitiful creature and because you are foolish. But if you give your
tongue too free a rein, we can stop it, you know. Yes, indeed.
All right, try--try to stop me.
What's the use, Father Vissarion? Let him talk. It doesn't do any
harm. Listen, listen, young gentlemen. He is an interesting fellow.
_[They go. The Fat Monk is heard laughing heartily._
KING HEROD _(to Savva)_
Fine specimens. I can't stand them.
I like you, uncle.
Do you? So you don't like their kind either?
No, I don't.
Well, I'll sit down for a while. My legs are swollen. Have you got a
SAVVA _(handing him a cigarette)_
Do you smoke?
Sometimes. Excuse me for having talked to you the way I did before.
You are a good fellow. But why did you lie and say you understood? No
one can understand it. Who is this with you?
Oh, he just happened along.
Well, brother, feeling bad, down in the mouth?
Yes, I feel blue.
Keep still, keep still, I don't want to listen. You are suffering?
Keep still. I am a man too, brother, so I don't understand. I'll
insult you if you don't look out. _(Throws away the cigarette)_ No,
I can't. As long as I keep standing or walking I manage somehow. The
moment I sit down, it's hell. Oh! Ow-w! _(Writhing in agony)_ I simply
can't catch my breath. Oh, God, do you see my torture? Eh? Well, well,
it's nothing. It's gone. Oh! Ow-w!
_[The sky has become overcast with clouds. It turns dark quickly. Now
and then there are flashes of lightning._
One must try to stifle one's grief, old man. Fight it. Say to yourself
firmly and resolutely: "I don't want it." And it will cease to be. You
seem to be a good, strong man.
No, friend, my grief is such that even death won't remove it. What is
death? It is little, insignificant, and my grief is great. No, death
won't end my grief. There was Cain. Even when he died, his sorrow
The dead do not grieve. They are serene. They know the truth.
But they don't tell it to anybody. What's the good of such truth? Here
am I alive, and yet I know the truth. Here am I with my sorrow. You
see what it is--there is no greater on earth. And yet if God spoke to
me and said, "Yeremey, I will give you the whole earth if you give me
your grief," I wouldn't give it away. I will not give it away, friend.
It is sweeter to me than honey; it is stronger than the strongest
drink. Through it I have learned the truth.
Christ--that's the one! He alone can understand the sorrow that is
in me. He sees and understands. "Yes, Yeremey, I see how you suffer."
That's all. "I see." And I answer Him: "Yes, O Lord, behold my
sorrow!" That's all. No more is necessary.
What you value in Christ is His suffering for the people, is that it?
You mean his crucifixion? No, brother, that suffering was a trifle.
They crucified Him--what did that matter? The important point was that
thereby He came to know the truth. As long as He walked the earth, He
was--well--a man, rather a good man--talking here and there about this
and that. When He met someone, He would talk to him about this and
that, teach him, and tell him a few good things to put him on the
right track. But when these same fellows carried Him off to the cross
and went at Him with knouts, whips, and lashes, then His eyes were
opened. "Aha!" He said, "so that's what it is!" And He prayed:
"I cannot endure such suffering. I thought it would be a simple
crucifixion; but, O Father in Heaven, what is this?" And the Father
said to Him: "Never mind, never mind, Son! Know the truth, know what
it is." And from then on, He fell to sorrowing, and has been sorrowing
to this day.
Yes, friend, he is sorrowing. _(Pause. Lightning)_
It looks like rain, and I am without rubbers and umbrella.
And everywhere, wheresoever I go, wheresoever I turn, I see before
me His pure visage. "Do you understand my suffering, O Lord?" "I
understand, Yeremey, I understand everything. Go your way in peace."
I am to Him like a transparent crystal with a tear inside. "You
understand, Lord?" "I understand, Yeremey." "Well, and I understand
you too." So we live together. He with me, I with Him. I am sorry
for Him also. When I die, I will transmit my sorrow to Him. "Take it,
But after all, you are not quite right in running down the people
the way you do. There are some good men also--very few--but there are
some. Otherwise it wouldn't be of any use to live.
No, friend, there are none. I don't want to fool you--there are none.
You know, it was they who christened me with the name of King Herod.
Why, your people. There is no beast more cruel than man. I killed
my boy, so I am King Herod to them. Damn them, it never enters their
minds how terrible it is for me to be burdened with such a nick-name.
Herod! If they only called me so out of spite! But not at all.
What is your real name?
Yeremey. That's my name--Yeremey. But they call me Herod, carefully
adding King, so that there may be no mistake. Look, there comes
another monk, a plague on him. Say, did you ever see His countenance?
And did you see His eyes? No? Then look, try to see them--Where is he
off to, the bat? To the village to his women.
Peace be with you, honest folks. Good evening, Savva. To what lucky
chance do I owe this meeting?
Look, monk, the devil's tail is sticking out of your pocket.
It isn't the devil's tail, it's a radish. You're very clever, but you
didn't hit it right that time.
KING HEROD _(spitting in disgust)_
I can't bear to look at them. They turn my stomach. Good-bye, friend.
Remember what I told you. When you are in sorrow, don't go to people.
All right, uncle, I understand.
Rather go to the forest to the wolves. _(Goes out; his voice is heard
out of the darkness)_ Oh, Lord, do you see?
A narrow-minded fool. Killed his son and puts on airs. You can't get
by him. He won't let you alone. It's something to be proud of, isn't
it, to have killed one's own son? A great thing.
SPERANSKY _(with a sigh)_
No, Father Kondraty, you are mistaken. He is a happy man. If his son
were brought to life this moment, he would instantly kill him. He
wouldn't give him five minutes to live. But of course when he dies,
he'll know the truth.
That's what I said, you fool. If it were a cat he killed, he might
have some reason to be proud--but his own son! What are you thinking
about, Savva Yegorovich?
I am waiting. I should like to know how soon this gentleman will go.
The devil brought him, I think. Now, here comes someone else. _(Peers
into the darkness)_
LIPA _(approaching. She stops and hesitates)_
Is that you, Savva?
Yes, and is that you? What do you want? I don't like people to follow
me everywhere I go, sister.
The gate to this place is open. Everybody has a right to come in. Mr.
Speransky, Tony has been asking for you. He wants the seminarist, he
There, go together--a jolly pair. Good-bye, sir, good-bye.
Good-bye. I hope I'll see you soon again, Mr. Savva, and have another
No, don't try, please. Abandon the hope. Good-bye.
How rude you are, Savva. Come, Mr. Speransky. They have business of
their own to attend to.
Still I haven't given up hope. Good-bye. _(Goes out)_
Just grabbed me and stuck--the devil take him!
Yes, he is a sticker from the word go. If he likes you, you
can't shake him off. He'll follow you everywhere. We call him the
"shadow"--partly, I suppose, because he is so thin. He has taken a
fancy to you, so you'll have a time of it. He'll stick to you like a
I am not in the habit of wasting a lot of words. I'll give him the
slip without much ceremony.
They have, even tried beating him, but it doesn't do any good. He is
known here for miles around. He is a character.
_[A pause. Lightning. Every now and then is heard the roll of distant
Why did you tell me to meet you here in this public place where
everyone may come? They fell on me like a swarm of fleas--monks and
all sorts of imbeciles. I'd rather have spoken to you in the woods,
where we could be let alone.
I did it to escape suspicion. If I went with you to the woods they'd
say: "What has a God-fearing man like Kondraty got to do with such a
fellow?" I hope you pardon! "Why is he so thick with him?" I purposely
timed my coming so that they'd see us together with others.
SAVVA _(looking fixedly at him)_
KONDRATY _(turning away his eyes and shrugging his shoulders)_ I
You are afraid?
To tell the truth, I am.
You're no good, old chap.
Perhaps not. You have a right to draw your own conclusions. _(Pause)_
But what are you afraid of, you booby? The machine is not dangerous.
It won't hurt you. All you have to do is to put it in the right place,
set it off, and then you can go to the village to your mistresses.
That's not the point.
What then? Are you afraid of being caught? But I told you, if anything
should happen, I'll take the guilt on myself. Don't you believe me?
Why, of course I believe you.
What then? Do you fear God?
Yes, I do.
But you don't believe in God--you believe in the devil.
Who knows? Maybe some day I'll suddenly discover that He does exist.
In that case, Mr. Savva, I thank you, but I'd rather not. Why should
I? I live a nice, quiet existence. Of course, it's all a humbug,
an imposition. But what business is it of mine? The people want to
believe--let them. It wasn't I who invented God.
Look here. You know I could have done it myself. All I need have done
was to take a bomb and throw it into the procession. That's all.
But that would mean the killing of many people, which at the present
juncture would serve no useful purpose. I therefore ask you to do it.
If you refuse, then the blood will rest on you. You understand?
Why on me? I am not going to throw the bomb. And then, what have I got
to do with them--I mean the people that get killed? What concern are
they of mine? There are plenty of people in the world. You can't kill
them all, no matter how many bombs you throw.
Aren't you sorry for them?
If I were to be sorry for everybody, I should have no sympathy left
That's right. You are a bright man. You have a good mind. I have
already told you so. And yet you hesitate. You are clever, and yet you
are afraid to smash a piece of wood.
If it is nothing but a piece of wood, then why go to so much trouble
about it? The point is, it is not a piece of wood, it is an image.
For me it is a piece of wood. For the people it is a sacred object.
That is why I want to destroy it. Imagine how they'll open their
mouths and stare. Ah, brother, if you were not a coward, I would tell
you some things.
Go ahead and talk. It's no sin to listen. I am not a coward either. I
am simply careful.
This would only be the beginning, brother.
A good beginning, I won't deny it. And what will be the end?
The earth stripped naked, a _tabula rasa_, do you understand? And on
this naked earth, naked man, naked as his mother bore him. No breeches
on him, no orders, no pockets, nothing. Imagine men without pockets.
Queer, isn't it? Yes indeed, brother, the ikon is only the beginning.
Oh, they'll make new ones.
But they won't be the same as before. And they'll never forget this
much--that dynamite is mightier than their God, and that man is
mightier than dynamite. Look at them; see them yonder praying and
kneeling, not daring to raise their heads and look you straight in the
face, mean slaves that they are! Then comes a real man, and smash goes
the whole humbug. Done for!
And when a dozen of their idols have gone the same way, the slaves
will begin to understand that the kingdom of their God is at an end,
and that the kingdom of man has come. Lots of them will drop from
sheer terror. Some will lose their wits, and others will throw
themselves into the fire. They'll say that Antichrist has come. Think
of it, Kondraty!
And aren't you sorry for them?
Sorry for them? Why, they built a prison for me, and I am to be sorry
for them. They put me in a torture chamber, and I am to be sorry for
Who are you to be above pity?
I? I am a man who have been born. And having been born, I began to
look about. I saw churches and penitentiaries. I saw universities and
houses of prostitution. I saw factories and picture galleries. I saw
palaces and filthy dens. I calculated the number of prisons there are
to each gallery, and I resolved that the whole edifice must go, the
whole of it must be overturned, annihilated. And we are going to do
it. Our day of reckoning has come. It is time.
Who are "we"?
I, you Kondraty, and others.
The people are stupid. They won't understand.
When the conflagration rages all around them, they will understand.
Fire is a good teacher, old boy. Have you ever heard of Raphael?
No, I haven't.
Well, when we are through with God, we'll go for fellows like him.
There are lots of them--Titian, Shakespeare, Byron. We'll make a nice
pile of the whole lot and pour oil over it. Then we'll burn their
Now, now you are joking. How is that possible? How can you burn the
No, why should I be joking? All the cities. Look here, what are their
cities? Graves, stone graves. And if you don't stop those fools, if
you let them go on making more, they will cover the whole earth with
stone, and then all will suffocate--all.
The poor people will have a hard time of it.
All will be poor then. What is it that makes a man rich? His having
a house and money, and the fact that he has surrounded himself with a
fence. But when there are no houses, no money, and no fences--
That's so. And there won't be any legal papers either, no stocks, no
bonds, no title-deeds. They will all have been burnt up.
No, there will be no legal papers. It's work then--you'll have to go
to work even if you are a nobleman.
It's funny. All will be naked as when coming out of a bath.
Are you a peasant, Kondraty?
Yes, I am a peasant, sure enough.
I am a peasant also. We have nothing to lose, brother. We can't fare
worse than we do now.
How could it be worse? But a great many people will perish, Mr.
It makes no difference. There'll be enough left. It is the
good-for-nothings that will perish, the fools to whom this life is
like a shell to a crab. Those who believe will perish, because their
faith will be taken away from them. Those who love the old will
perish, because everything will be taken away from them. The weak,
the sick, those who love quietness. There will be no quietness in the
world, brother. There will remain only the free and the brave, those
with young and eager souls and clear eyes that can embrace the whole
Like yours? I am afraid of your eyes, Savva Yegorovich, especially in
Yes, like mine. And emancipated from everything, naked, armed only
with their reason, they will deliberate; discuss, talk things over,
and build up a new life, a good life, Kondraty, where every man may
It's interesting. But men are sly creatures. Something of the old
will be left over. They'll hide it, or try some other trick, and then
behold! back they slide to the old again, everything just as it was,
just as of old. What then?
Just as of old? _(Gloomily)_ Then they will have to be wiped clean off
the face of the earth. Let there be no living human being on earth.
Enough of it!
KONDRATY _(shaking his head)_
SAVVA _(putting his hand on his shoulder)_
Believe me, monk, I have been in many cities and in many lands,
Nowhere did I see a free man. I saw only slaves. I saw the cages in
which they live, the beds on which they are born and die; I saw their
hatreds and their loves, their sins and their good works. And I saw
also their amusements, their pitiful attempts to bring dead joy back
to life again. And everything that I saw bore the stamp of stupidity
and unreason. He that is born wise turns stupid in their midst; he
that is born cheerful hangs himself from boredom and sticks out his
tongue at them. Amidst the flowers of the beautiful earth--you have
no idea how beautiful the earth is, monk--they have erected insane
asylums. And what are they doing with their children? I have never
yet seen parents that do not deserve capital punishment; first because
they begot children, and secondly because, having begot them, they did
not immediately commit suicide.
Good heavens, how you talk! Hearing you, one hardly knows what to
And how they lie, how they lie, monk! They don't kill the truth--no,
they kick her and bruise her daily, and smear her clean face with
their dirt and filth so that no one may recognize her, so that the
children may not love her, and so that she may have no refuge. In all
the world--yes, monk, in all the world--there is no place for truth.
_(Sinks into meditation. Pause)_
Is there no other way--without fire? It's terrible, Savva Yegorovich.
Consider what it means! It's the end of the world.
No, it can't be helped, partner. It must be. The end of the world must
come too. They were treated with medicine, and it did no good. They
were treated with iron, and it did no good. Now they must be treated
_[Pause. Lightning flashes. The thunder has ceased. Somewhere outside
a watchman can be heard striking his iron rod._
And there'll be no drinkshops either?
They'll start drinkshops again all right. Can't get along without
them, you know. _(A prolonged pause)_ Ye-es. What are you thinking
about, Savva Yegorovich?
Nothing. _(Draws a light breath, cheerfully)_ Well, Kondraty, shall we
KONDRATY _(swaying his head to and fro)_
It's a mighty hard problem you have put up to me. It's a poser.
Never mind, don't get shaky now. You are a sensible man; you know
it can't be helped; there is nothing else to do. Would I be doing it
myself, if it were not necessary? You can see that, can't you?
KONDRATY _(heaving a sigh)_
Ye-es, hm! Why, Mr. Tropinin--why, my dear fellow--don't I know, don't
I understand it all? It's a rotten, cursed life! Ah, Mr. Savva, Mr.
Savva--look here. If I were to tell anyone that I am a good man,
they'd laugh and say: "What are you lying for, you drunkard?" Kondraty
a good man! It sounds like a joke even to myself. And yet I swear to
you, by God, I am a good man! I don't know how it happened the way it
did, why I am what I am now. I lived and lived, and suddenly! How it
came about, what the reason of it is, I don't know.
And you are still afraid?
What am I now? I am neither a candle for God nor a poker for the
devil. Sometimes when I think matters over--ah, Mr. Savva, do
you think I have no conscience? Don't I understand? I understand
everything but--I am not really afraid of the devil either. I am just
playing the fool. The devil--nonsense! If you were in the place of
us in there, you would understand. Not long ago, when I was drunk, I
cried: "Get out, devil--out of my way--am a desperate man!" I don't
care for anything. I don't care if I die. I am ready. You have worked
at me, Mr. Savva, until I have grown quite soft. _(Wipes his eyes with
Why should you die? I don't want to die either. We are going to live
for some time to come, we are. How old are you?
Just the right age.
I am sorry for the ikon. They say it appeared miraculously in the
river, and that's how it came to be here.
Nonsense. Don't waste your feelings. It's supposed to be a
wonder-working ikon and hasn't one miracle to its credit. Why, it
makes one feel like a fool just to say it.
They say it has been replaced by the devil, so that it isn't the real
So much the better. And yet you crack your heads in front of it and
fool the people about it. There is no use wasting words, my friend.
It's agreed then.
You have to go now. The gate will soon be closed. And all of a
What "all of a sudden"?
And all of a sudden I'll be going to the ikon, and it will strike me
down with lightning and thunder. Won't it?
Don't be afraid. It won't strike you. That's what everybody thinks.
They are all afraid they'll be struck by lightning and thunder. But it
won't happen. Believe me, a man may blow up the ikon and no lightning
will strike him. Do you need money?
Have you got any?
Where did you get it?
What business is that of yours? Suppose I killed a rich man, or cut
somebody's throat--are you going to report me to the police?
What are you thinking of, Savva Yegorovich? That's your concern. As to
your offer, of course, money always comes in handy. It will enable me
to leave the monastery. I'll tell you in confidence, I have long been
nursing a scheme--it's my dream--to settle somewhere along the road
and start an inn. I like company. I am a talkative chap myself. I know
I'll succeed. It doesn't hurt a host to have a drink now and then. The
guests like it. With a jolly host you'll spend every penny you have,
and your pants besides, and you won't notice it. I know by personal
Why not? You can start an inn if you want to.
And besides, I am still in the full vigor of manhood. Instead of
sinning here, I'd rather get legally married.
Don't forget to invite me to the wedding. I'll act as your godfather.
You are too young. As to the money--when shall it be, before or after?
Judas got his before.
There now, when you should be doing your best to persuade me, you call
me Judas. It isn't pleasant. The idea of calling a living man Judas!
Judas was a fool. He hanged himself. You are going to start an inn.
Again? If that's what you think of me--
SAVVA _(slapping his shoulders)_
Well, well, uncle, don't you see I'm joking? Judas betrayed a man, and
you are not going to betray anything but lumber. Is that right, old
man? _Speransky and Tony appear, the latter walking very unsteadily._
There--brought by the devil! With us carrying on this kind of
conversation, and they--
It's agreed then?
Oh, you're too much for me.
Good evening once more, Mr. Savva Tropinin. Mr. Anthony and myself
have just been at the other end, in the cemetery. A woman was buried
there to-day, so we wanted to have a look.
To see if she hadn't crawled out of her grave? What are you dragging
him along with you for? Tony, go to bed, you can't stand on your feet.
I won't go.
Tony is very excited to-day. He sees all kinds of faces.
Yes, funny. What else can you expect? _(Sadly)_ Your face, Savva, is
very, very funny.
All right, go along with you! Take him home. What are you dragging him
about with you for?
Good-bye. Come along, Mr. Anthony.
_[Speransky goes out. Tony follows him, looking back at Savva, and
stumbling as he goes along. They disappear in the dark._
It's time for us also to be going. Have you got that money at hand?
Yes, I have. Now listen. Sunday is the feast-day. You are to take the
machine Saturday morning and plant it at night at half past eleven,
four days from now. I'll show you how to do it and everything else
that's necessary. Four days more. I am sick of staying in this place.
And suppose I betray you?
Then I'd kill you.
Now I am going to kill you if you merely try to back out. You know too
You are joking.
Maybe I am joking. I am such a jolly fellow. I like to laugh.
When you first came here, you were gay. Tell me, Mr. Savva _(looking
around cautiously)_, did you ever kill a man, a real live man?
I did. I cut the throat of that rich business man I told you about.
KONDRATY _(waving his hand)_
Now I see that you are joking. Well, good-bye, I am going. Don't you
hang around here either. The gate will soon be closed. Oh, my--I am
never afraid--but just as soon as I begin to think of the hall, it's
awful. There are shadows there now. Good night.
_[Kondraty disappears in the dark. Lightning. Savva remains leaning
on the railing to stare at the white tombstones that are momentarily
revealed by the flashes of lightning._
SAVVA _(to the graves)_
Well, you dead ones, are you going to turn over in your graves or not?
For some reason I don't feel very cheerful--oh, ye dead--I don't feel
the least bit cheerful. _(Lightning)_
THE THIRD ACT
_A festively decorated room with three windows to the street. One
window is open, but the curtain is drawn. An open door, painted dark,
leads into the room seen in the first act.
It is night and dark. Through the windows can be heard the continuous
tramp of the pilgrims on their way to the monastery for the next day's
celebration. Some are barefoot; some wear boots or bast shoes. Their
steps are quick and eager, or slow and weary. They walk singly or in
groups of two or three, the majority in silence, though now and then
suppressed, indistinct talking may be heard. Starting from somewhere
far off to the left, the sound of the footsteps and the talking,
muffled at first, approaches and grows louder, until at times it seems
to fill the whole room. Then it dies away in the distance again.
The impression is that of some tremendous movement, elemental and
At the table, lighted only by a flickering stump of a tallow candle,
sit Speransky and Tony. The latter is very drunk. Cucumbers, herring,
and bottles of whiskey are on the table. The rest of the room is
entirely dark. Occasionally the wind blows the white curtain at the
window and sets the candle flame tossing.
Tony and Speransky talk in whispers. A prolonged pause follows the
rise of the curtain._
TONY _(bending over to Speransky, mysteriously)_
So you say it is possible we do not exist, eh?
SPERANSKY _(in the same manner)_
As I have already stated, it is doubtful, extremely doubtful. There is
very good reason to suppose that we really do not exist--that we don't
exist at all.
And you are not, and I am not.
And you are not, and I am not. No one is. _(Pause)_
TONY _(looking around, mysteriously)_
Where are we then?
That's something no one can tell. No one knows, Anthony.
TONY _(glancing around)_
Doesn't Savva know?
No, Savva doesn't know either.
Savva knows everything.
But even he doesn't know that.
TONY _(threatening with his finger)_
Keep still, keep still! _(Both look around and are silent)_
Where are they going, eh?
To the elevation of the ikon. To-morrow is a feast-day--the day of
raising the ikon.
No, I mean where are they really going--really--don't you understand?
I do. It isn't known. No one knows, Anthony.
Hush! _(Makes a funny grimace, closes his mouth with his hand and
leans on it)_
SPERANSKY _(in a whisper)_
What's the matter?
Keep quiet, keep quiet. Listen. _(Both are listening)_
TONY _(in whisper)_
Those are faces.
It's faces that are going. A lot of faces--can't you see them?
No, I can't.
But I can. There they are, laughing. Why aren't you laughing, eh?
I feel very despondent.
Laugh. You must laugh. Everybody is laughing. Hush, hush! _(Pause)_
Listen, nobody exists, nobody--do you understand? There is no God,
there is no man, there are no animals. Here is the table--it doesn't
exist. Here is the candle--it doesn't exist. The only things that
exist are faces--you understand? Keep quiet, keep quiet. I am very
What are you afraid of?
TONY _(bending near to Speransky)_
That I'll die of laughter.
TONY _(shaking his head affirmatively)_
Yes, that I'll die of laughter. I am afraid that some day I'll catch
sight of a face which will send me off roaring with laughter; and I'll
roar and roar until I die. Keep quiet. I know.
You never laugh
I am always laughing, but you don't see it. It's nothing. The only
thing I am afraid is that I'll die. I'll come across a face one of
these days which will start me off in a fit of laughter, and I'll
laugh and laugh and laugh and won't be able to stop. Yes, it's coming,
it's coming. _(Wipes his chest and neck)_
The dead know everything.
TONY _(mysteriously, with awe)_
I am afraid of Savva's face. It's a very funny face. One could die
laughing over it. The point is that you can't stop laughing--that's
the principal thing. You laugh and laugh and laugh. Is there nobody
Keep quiet, keep quiet, I know. Keep quiet. _(Pause; the tramp of the
pilgrim's footsteps grows louder, as if they were walking in the very
room itself)_ Are they going?
Yes, they are going. _(Pause)_
I like you. Sing me that song of yours. I'll listen.
With your permission, Anthony. _(Sings in an undertone, almost in a
whisper, a dismal, long-drawn-out tune somewhat resembling a litany)_
Life's a sham, 'tis false, untrue,
Death alone is true, aye, true.
_(With increasing caution and pedantry, shaking his finger as if
imparting a secret)_
All things tumble, vanish, break,
Death is sure to overtake
Outcast, tramp, and tiniest fly
Unperceived by naked eye.
Unperceived by naked eye,
Wheedling, coaxing, courting, wooing,
Death weds all to their undoing
And the myth of life is ended.
That's all, Anthony.
Keep still, keep still. You have sung your song--now keep quiet.
_[Lipa enters, opens the window, removes the flowers, and looks out
into the street. Then she lights the lamp._
Who is it? Is that you, Lipa? Lipa, eh, Lipa, where are they going?
They are coming here for the feast-day. You had better go to bed,
Tony, or father will see you and scold you.
Big crowds, aren't they?
Yes. But it's so dark, you can't see. Why are you so pale, Mr.
Speransky? It is positively painful to look at you.
That's how I feel, Miss Lipa.
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