Savva and The Life of Man
Part 4 out of 6
Aren't you frightened yet?
Why should I be frightened? At your tricks and jugglery? I am used to
the lies and frauds, Lipa. You can't frighten me with them. I still
have a lot of stupid confidence left. It will help. It will come in
handy the next time.
FRIAR _(bringing the jug of water)_
I had the hardest time getting it from her. She was like flint. She
said she needed it herself. She was a hard case.
Thank you, boy. _(Drinks with avidity)_ Fine! _(Drinks the last drop)_
That was fine water. Take it back and tell the woman her water was
fine and that there is none like it in all the world.
All right, I'll tell her. _(Goes off)_
LIPA _(in a whisper)_
You are the enemy of the human race.
SAVVA _(smacking his lips)_
Very well, very well. Just wait. We'll hear what Kondraty has to say.
The blackguard! I'll give it to him!
LIPA _(with emphasis, but still in a whisper as before)_
You are the enemy of the human race! You are the enemy of the human
Louder! No one hears you. It's a spicy bit of information.
Go away from here.
_[The Friar returns._
SAVVA _(looking into the distance with narrowed eyes)_
It's nice out there, isn't it, Vassya? Whose woods are they?
Vazykin's? Have I ever been there with you?
Yes, they're Vazykin's. I was there yesterday, Mr. Savva. I caught a
whole handful of fireflies, but as I ran--_(He grows sorrowful at the
memory)_ My, how they are shouting! What are they up to anyway? Did
you say they killed three, Mr. Tropinin? Was that what you said?
What are they pushing and jostling for anyhow? He'll be carried in the
procession and they can all see Him.
When will they carry Him?
FRIAR _(looking up)_
It won't be long now.
They'll sing "Christ is Arisen" to-day.
Is that so? Didn't I arrange a feast-day for them though?
_[Tony and Speransky appear._
Are these fellows here too? For goodness' sake, what do they want?
What are they looking for? I don't like it. Mr. Tropinin, come; let's
go away from here.
They are coming this way, Speransky--
Aha! The "Tramp of Death" is approaching.
_[Lipa looks at him in astonishment. The Friar presses his hand to his
bosom in a state of agitation._
What are you saying? Oh, God! Why did you say that? You mustn't do it.
This is no tramp of death, nothing of the kind.
It's a kind of story he has written--Good morning, good morning. What
can I do for you?
Mr. Anthony Tropinin is looking for you, Mr. Savva.
What do you want?
TONY _(very sadly, hiding a little behind Speransky)_
FRIAR _(listening attentively and then speaking with passion)_ What
are you running around for then, and whom are you hunting? If you want
nothing, do nothing. But you are running around and hunting, hunting.
It isn't nice, I tell you!
TONY _(after a passing glance at the Friar he fixes his gaze on
What do you want?
_[Tony makes no answer, but hides behind Speransky, looking over his
shoulder. In the course of what follows he keeps steadily looking at
Savva. His lips and eyebrows twitch, and at times he presses both his
hands hard against his mouth._
The crowd is in a state of great agitation, Miss Olympiada. They broke
the old gate opening on the other side of the woods and rushed in. The
Father Superior came out and asked them to behave. They shout so
you can't hear anything at all. Many are rolling on the ground in
convulsions. I suppose they are sick. It's very strange, quite unusual
Will they carry Him out soon? I must go. _(Rises)_
They say it'll be soon now. One wagon with cripples in it was
upset--cripples without hands or feet. They are lying on the ground
crying. It's all so strange.
What? Did you see it yourself?
_[Kondraty appears on the road coming from the monastery. He is
walking in the company of two pilgrims, who are listening attentively
to him. Catching sight of Savva, Kondraty says something to his
companions, who remain standing where they are while he goes up to
KONDRATY _(clean, spruce, beaming)_
Good morning, Miss Olympiada. Good morning to you too, Mr. Savva
Good morning, good morning. You have come after all? You were not
Why should I be afraid? You won't kill me, I suppose, and if you
should, it would be sweet to die at your hands.
What bravery! And how clean you are! You are positively painful to
look at. You didn't make quite so smart an appearance when you lay
wallowing in the puddle. You were a little the worse for the mud, and
KONDRATY _(shrugging his shoulders and speaking with dignity)_ It's
no use recalling that incident now. It's quite out of place. Mr.
Tropinin, it's time for you to have done with your spite and malice,
That's all. There is no "well" about it. You have had your shot. Be
Are congratulations upon the miracle in order?
Yes, Mr. Tropinin, upon the miracle--the miracle, indeed. _(He weeps
with a bland air, wiping his face with his handkerchief)_ God granted
that I should live to see the day.
SAVVA _(rising and advancing a step toward the monk; peremptorily)_
Enough now! Stop your hocus-pocus. You have played your trick. Now
stop, or I'll knock all that jugglery out of you. Do you hear?
Mr. Savva, good Mr. Savva, please don't.
KONDRATY _(drawing back a little)_
Not so loud, not so loud. We are not in the forest where you can kill
rich merchants and get away with it. There are people here.
SAVVA _(lowering his voice)_
Well, tell me all about it. Come on.
What's the use of going away? I can tell you everything right here. I
have no secrets. It's you who have secrets. I am all here.
You'll lie if you tell it here.
KONDRATY _(heatedly, with tears)_
Shame, Mr. Tropinin! Shame! Shame! Why do you insult me? Is it because
you saw me lying in the puddle? It's a sin, a shame!
What's the matter with you?
Do you think I am going to lie on a day like this? Miss Olympiada,
you at least ought to know--Good God! Good God! Why, Christ has just
arisen! Do you understand?
_[The crowd increases. Some cast glances at the group with the two
monks before they pass on._
KONDRATY _(beating his breast)_
Do you understand? I have lived all my life like a scoundrel, so why,
why did God do this with me? Do you understand, Miss Olympiada? Do you
Talk sense. Stop blubbering.
KONDRATY _(waving his hand)_
I am not angry with you. I bear you no grudge. Who are you that I
should bear any resentment against you?
I'll tell Miss Olympiada. I won't speak to you. You knew me as a
drunkard, Miss Olympiada, a mean, worthless creature. Now listen. _(To
Speransky)_ And you, young man, may listen also. It will teach you a
lesson. It will show you how God works His will unseen.
I see, Father Kondraty. Forgive me.
God will forgive you. Who am I to forgive you? So that's the way it
was, Miss Olympiada. I followed your advice and went to the Father
Superior with the infernal machine. It was indeed an infernal machine!
And I told him everything, just the way I felt, with a perfect candor
and purity of heart.
Is that how it happened? What a remarkable event!
Keep quiet. What are you butting in for?
Ye-es. The Father Superior turned pale. "You scamp," he said, "do you
know with whom you have had dealings?" "I do," I said, trembling all
over. Well, they called together the whole brotherhood and discussed
the matter in secret. And then the Father Superior said to me: "It's
this way, Kondraty," he said. "God has chosen you as the instrument
of His sacred will. Yes. _(Weeps)_ God has chosen you as the
Well? Go on.
Ye-es, hm. "Go," he said, "and put down the machine as you were told
to do, and set it going according to the directions. Carry out the
devil's plot in full. I and the other brothers will sing a hymn
quietly as we carry the ikon away. Yes, that's what we'll do. We'll
carry the ikon away. And thus the devil will be made a fool of."
But, Father Kondraty, how can that be?
_[Savva laughs heartily._
Patience, patience, Miss Olympiada. "And when," said the Father
Superior, "the devil's plot shall have been carried out, then we'll
put the ikon--the dear, precious ikon--back in His place." Well, I
won't attempt to describe the scene that took place when we carried
the ikon away. It's beyond my power. The brothers sobbed and wept.
Not one of them was able to sing. The little candles burned with tiny
little flames. And then when we carried Him out to the gate, and when
we began to think and remembered--who is now in His sacred place--we
lay around the ikon, our faces on the ground, and cried and wept
bitter, bitter tears, tears of pity and contrition. "O Thou, our own,
our precious idol, have mercy on us, return to Thy place." _(Lipa
cries; the Friar wipes his eyes with his fist)_ And then--bang! went
the machine, and the sulphurous smoke spread all around so that it was
impossible to breathe. _(In a whisper)_ And then many beheld the devil
in the smoke, and they were so terrified that they lost consciousness.
It was horrible! And then, as we carried Him back, all of one accord,
as though we had agreed beforehand, began to sing "Christ is arisen."
That's how it happened.
You hear, Lipa? But what's the matter with you? Why are you all
It makes one feel so sorry, Mr. Savva.
Why, they fooled you, they played a trick on you. Or else you are all
lying, lying with your tears.
_[Kondraty makes a gesture of indifference._
LIPA _(shaking her head, weeping)_
No, Savva, you don't understand. Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord!
You have no God, that's the reason you don't understand; You have only
reason, and pride, and malice. That's why you don't understand.
Ah, Mr. Savva, you wanted to ruin me too. And I tell you as a
Christian--it would have been better if you had never been born.
Oh, fiddlesticks! Whom do you think you can hoodwink? Do you think I
have turned blind?
KONDRATY _(turning away with a wave of his hand)_
You can shout as much as you like.
Mr. Savva, you mustn't shout, you mustn't. We have already attracted
the attention of the crowd. They are looking at us.
SAVVA _(laying his hand on Kondraty's shoulder and speaking in a
low voice)_ Look here, I understand. Of course, in the presence of
people--but you understand, don't you, Kondraty? You are a clever
man, a very bright man. You understand that all this is nonsense. Just
consider, brother, consider a moment. Didn't they carry the ikon away?
Then where is the miracle?
KONDRATY _(twisting himself free from Savva's grasp, shaking his
head and speaking aloud)_ Then you don't understand? No, you don't
understand. What of it?
SAVVA _(in a whisper)_
Listen, remember our talk.
Don't whisper to me. I have nothing to hide from anybody. How do you
think miracles happen anyhow? Say, you are a smart man too, and yet
you can't comprehend a simple matter like this. Why, it's all your
work, all your doing, isn't it? You gave me the machine. You planned
the explosion. Your orders have been carried out. And yet the ikon
is untouched; it's whole. That's all I have to say. It's the plain,
simple statement of fact. Yet you come here with your arguments and
try to get away from those facts by mere reasoning.
LIPA _(looking around in a paroxysm of excitement)_
How simple it is! And how terrible! O Lord, O Lord! And to think that
it was I who did it, I, with my own hands! O my God! _(She falls on
her knees, turning her eyes toward heaven)_
SAVVA _(looking at her savagely, then at Kondraty)_
KONDRATY _(drawing back in fright)_
Why are you staying here? Why haven't you left already?
What a ---- fool you are!
Lower, lower, I say. Don't talk like that, or I'll shout.
SAVVA _(turning quickly toward Speransky)_
What are you staring at with your mouth wide open? You are a
philosopher. You, you are a philosopher. Can you understand the
stupidity of these people? They think it's a miracle. _(Laughs)_ They
think it's a miracle.
SPERANSKY _(stepping back)_
Excuse me, Mr. Tropinin, but from their point of view--I don't know.
You don't know?
Who does know? _(Cries out, in despair)_ The dead alone, Mr. Savva,
the dead alone.
Ah! You are cornered--Antichrist!
LIPA _(in terror)_
_[Hearing the cry, the two pilgrims who were with Kondraty approach.
They are gradually joined by others, among whom is the Man in Peasant
What is it, father? Has he revealed himself?
Look at him, look at him!
Vassya, you dear, fine boy--Vassya, what is the matter with them? Hear
what they are saying. Hear the nonsense they are talking. You good,
FRIAR _(drawing back)_
Mr. Savva, don't, don't. Go away from here. Leave this place.
Vassya, Vassya, you, you--
But I don't know. I don't know anything. I am afraid.
Ah! You are cornered. Here is your money--take it! It has burned holes
in my pockets, your accursed money. Here, take it, take it, you brood
of Antichrist! _(Throws the money at him)_
SAVVA _(raising his fist as if to deal a blow)_ I'll teach you--
Boys, don't be afraid. Here boys, here!
SAVVA _(pressing his head between his hands)_
Oh, it hurts, it hurts! Darkness is closing in.
It's beginning to get you, is it? That's right, that's right.
SAVVA _(sinking for a moment into profound, terrible meditation; then
he straightens himself suddenly and seems to grow in stature; he cries
out with a wild joy as if speaking above the heads of all to reach
somebody far off)_ I am right! Therefore I am right! It was all
necessary! All! All! _(He stands as if petrified in an upward-striving
Boys, it's he who did it. That's the fellow.
MAN IN OVERCOAT _(pushing himself forward, officiously)_
What's the matter, boys? Aha! He is caught! Which one? This one? Come
on with you! _(Takes hold of Savva by the sleeve)_
SAVVA _(shaking him off with such violence that the man falls down)_
Get away from me!
Don't let him go!
Run, Mr. Savva, run.
_[During the following scene Lipa prays. Speransky looks on with keen
curiosity, while Tony stares over his shoulder. All the voices become
blended into one raging, frightened, savage roar._
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
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!
Go yourself--I've tried once! Push that way! Get hold of him! Grab
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!
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._
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!
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._
_[A brief pause. The conversation is carried on in a sort of
undertone, almost calmly._
Is that you?
Is that you? Let me go.
Yes, let me go.
Did you want the Saviour? Christ?
They fooled you.
People may fool, Christ never. What's your name?
Savva. Get out of my way, I tell you.
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._
Beat him! Aha! So! He is turning back! Beat him!
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)_
That's the way. One, two--Ah! Strike! Got him? Not yet! Got him? What
are you waiting for? Strike! Done!
He's still moving.
MAN IN OVERCOAT
Peter, got a knife? Finish him with your knife. Cut his throat.
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
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!
Enough, enough. A grand feast for you, you accursed beasts!
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._
Dead! His eyes are gone.
Shut up! _(He bursts into a groaning laugh, pressing his hands hard to
But his face is calm. Look, Mr. Anthony. It's because now he knows the
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
"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--"
THE LIFE OF MAN
A PLAY IN FIVE SCENES WITH A PROLOGUE
TO THE BRIGHT
MEMORY OF MY FRIEND, MY WIFE
I DEDICATE THIS COMPOSITION
ON WHICH WE WORKED TOGETHER
Someone in Gray called He
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
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
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
_[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. _(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._
--She's recovered her voice. 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
--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.
--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.
--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 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
--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.
--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.
--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
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
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._
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.
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.
You will call me again when your next child comes.
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's a well-fed, strong little youngster, and if I'm not mistaken he
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?
Yes, his nose and eyes.
His eyes too? Ah, that's good. I'll raise your fee.
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
_[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._
Let me congratulate you on the birth of your son, dear brother.
My dear brother, I heartily congratulate you on the birth of your son,
to which you have been looking forward so long. _(Kisses him)_
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)_
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.
I should advise a simple, solid name. Men with nice names are usually
frivolous and rarely successful.
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.
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.
It fills up your life.
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.
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.
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._
--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
--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.
--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.
--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?
_[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
--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
--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,
_[The young men burst out laughing. The Elderly Woman looks at them
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
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
--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
--He's such a jolly good fellow.
--They're always laughing.
--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
--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
--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.
--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.
--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
--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
_[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,
--No more than they want my crutches. Hey, girls, who wants my
--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
--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.
_[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._
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._
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.
Are you tired?
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!
I'm sorry for you, dear.
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.
I like ham too.
Who doesn't like ham? How about lobster? Do you like lobster?
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.
You didn't see my flowers, did you?
Flowers? You can't eat flowers, can you?
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!
Where do those leaves, on the floor come from? They smell so good. Is
that your work too?
No, the neighbors must have done it.
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?
You've turned so sad. Your face is growing pale. What is the matter?
Do you see anything?
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!
I'm afraid. I can't look in that dark corner. Did you see all that in
MAN Yes, I saw it in the street, and soon it'll be that way with us.
No, God will not permit it.
Then why does He permit it to happen to others?
We're better than others. We are good people. We never offend Him.
You think so? I do a lot of swearing.
You're not bad.
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--
And I was walking in the city streets. Shops everywhere, such
I saw men, beautifully dressed, carrying canes, and I thought: "I
haven't anything like that."
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."
A ruffian jostled me. I showed him my tusks, and he fled in disgrace
to hide himself in the crowd.
A well-dressed lady jostled me, but I didn't even look at her, I felt
Men rode by on proud, fiery horses. And I have nothing like that.
She had diamonds in her ears. You felt like kissing them.
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.
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!
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.
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?
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