The Road to Damascus
Part 2 out of 6
ON THE ROAD
[A landscape with hills; a chapel, right, in the far distance on a
rise. The road, flanked by fruit trees, winds across the
background. Between the trees hills can be seen on which are
crucifixes, chapels and memorials to the victims of accidents. In
the foreground a sign post with the legend, 'Beggars not allowed in
this parish.' The STRANGER and the LADY.]
LADY. You're tired.
STRANGER. I won't deny it. But it's humiliating to confess I'm
hungry, because the money's gone. I never thought that would happen
LADY. It seems we must be prepared for anything, for I think we've
fallen into disfavour. My shoe's split, and I could weep at our
having to go like this, looking like beggars.
STRANGER (pointing to the signpost). And beggars are not allowed in
this parish. Why must that be stuck up in large letters here?
LADY. It's been there as long as I can remember. Think of it, I've
not been back since I was a child. And In those days I found the
way short and the hills lower. The trees, too, were smaller, and I
think I used to hear birds singing.
STRANGER. Birds sang all the year for you then! Now they only sing
in the spring--and autumn's not far off. But in those days you used
to dance along this endless way of Calvaries, plucking flowers at
the feet of the crosses. (A horn in the distance.) What's that?
LADY. My grandfather coming back from shooting. A good old man.
Let's go on and reach the house by dark.
STRANGER. Is it still far?
LADY. No. Only across the hills and over the river.
STRANGER. Is that the river I hear?
LADY. The river by which I was born and brought up. I was eighteen
before I crossed over to this bank, to see what was in the blue of
the distance. ... Now I've seen.
STRANGER. You're weeping!
LADY. Poor old man! When I got into the boat, he said: My child,
beyond lies the world. When you've seen enough, come back to your
mountains, and they will hide you. Now I've seen enough. Enough!
STRANGER. Let's go. It's beginning to grow dusk already. (They pick
up their travelling capes and go on.)
IN A RAVINE
[Entrance to a ravine between steep cliffs covered with pines. In
the foreground a wooden shanty, a broom by the door with a ramshorn
hanging from its handle. Left, a smithy, a red glow showing through
its open door. Right, a flourmill. In the background the road
through the ravine with mill-stream and footbridge. The rock
formations look like giant profiles.]
[On the rise of the curtain the SMITH is at the smithy door and the
MILLER'S WIFE at the door of the mill. When the LADY enters they
sign to one another and disappear. The clothing of both the LADY
and the STRANGER is torn and shabby.]
STRANGER. They're hiding, from us, probably.
LADY. I don't think so.
STRANGER. What a strange place! Everything seems conspire to arouse
disquiet. What's that broom there? And the horn with ointment?
Probably because it's their usual place, but it makes me think of
witchcraft. Why is the smithy black and the mill white? Because
one's sooty and the other covered with flour; yet when I saw the
blacksmith by the light of his forge and the white miller's wife,
it reminded me of an old poem. Look at those giant faces. ...
There's your werewolf from whom I saved you. There he is, in
LADY. Yes, but it's only the rock.
STRANGER. Only the rock, and yet it's he.
LADY. Shall I tell you why we can see him?
STRANGER. You mean--it's our conscience? Which pricks us when we're
hungry and tired, and is silent when we've eaten and rested. It's
horrible to arrive in rags. Our clothes are torn from climbing
through the brambles. Someone's fighting against me.
LADY. Why did you challenge him?
STRANGER. Because I want to fight in the open; not battle with
unpaid bills and empty purses. Anyhow: here's my last copper. The
devil take it, if there is one! (He throws it into the brook.)
LADY. Oh! We could have paid the ferry with it. Now we'll have to
talk of money when we reach home.
STRANGER. When can we talk of anything else?
LADY. That's because you've despised it.
STRANGER. As I've despised everything. ...
LADY. But not everything's despicable. Some things are good.
STRANGER. I've never seen them.
LADY. Then follow me and you will.
STRANGER. I'll follow you. (He hesitates when passing the smithy.)
LADY (who has gone on ahead). Are you frightened of fire?
STRANGER. No, but ... (The horn is heard in the distance. He
hurries past the smithy after the LADY.)
IN A KITCHEN
[A large kitchen with whitewashed walls. Three windows in the
corner, right, so arranged that two are at the back and one in the
right wall. The windows are small and deeply recessed; in the
recesses there are flower pots. The ceiling is beamed and black
with soot. In the left corner a large range with utensils of
copper, iron and tin, and wooden vessels. In the corner, right, a
crucifix with a lamp. Beneath it a four-cornered table with
benches. Bunches of mistletoe on the walls. A door at the back. The
Poorhouse can be seen outside, and through the window at the back
the church. Near the fire bedding for dogs and a table with food
for the poor.]
[The OLD MAN is sitting at the table beneath the crucifix, with his
hands clasped and a game bag before him. He is a strongly-built man
of over eighty with white hair and along beard, dressed as a
forester. The MOTHER is kneeling on the floor; she is grey-haired
and nearly fifty; her dress is of black-and-white material. The
voices of men, women and children can be clearly heard singing the
last verse of the Angels' Greeting in chorus. 'Holy Mary, Mother of
God, pray for us poor sinners, now and in the hour of death.
OLD MAN and MOTHER. Amen!
MOTHER. Now I'll tell you, Father. They saw two vagabonds by the
river. Their clothing was torn and dirty, for they'd been in the
water. And when it came to paying the ferryman, they'd no money.
Now they're drying their clothes in the ferryman's hut.
OLD MAN. Let them stay there.
MOTHER. Don't forbid a beggar your house. He might be an angel.
OLD MAN. True. Let them come in.
MOTHER. I'll put food for them on the table for the poor. Do you
OLD MAN. No.
MOTHER. Shall I give them cider?
OLD MAN. Yes. And you can light the fire; they'll be cold.
MOTHER. There's hardly time. But I will, if you wish it, Father.
OLD MAN (looking out of the window). I think you'd better.
MOTHER. What are you looking at?
OLD MAN. The river; it's rising. And I'm asking myself, as I've
done for seventy years--when I shall reach the sea.
MOTHER. You're sad to-night, Father.
OLD MAN. ... et introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deum qui laetificat
juventutem meam. Yes. I do feel sad. ... Deus, Deus meus: quare
tristis es anima mea, et quare conturbas me.
MOTHER. Spera in Deo. ...
(The Maid comes in, and signs to the MOTHER, who goes over to her.
They whisper together and the maid goes out again.)
OLD MAN. I heard what you said. O God! Must I bear that too!
MOTHER. You needn't see them. You can go up to your room.
OLD MAN. No. It shall be a penance. But why come like this: as
MOTHER. Perhaps they lost their way and have had much to endure.
OLD MAN. But to bring her husband! Is she lost to shame?
MOTHER. You know Ingeborg's queer nature. She thinks all she does
is fitting, if not right. Have you ever seen her ashamed, or suffer
from a rebuff? I never have. Yet she's not without shame; on the
contrary. And everything she does, however questionable, seems
natural when she does it.
OLD MAN. I've always wondered why one could never be angry with
her. She doesn't feel herself responsible, or think an insult's
directed at her. She seems impersonal; or rather two persons, one
who does nothing but ill whilst the other gives absolution. ... But
this man! There's no one I've hated from afar so much as he. He
sees evil everywhere; and of no one have I heard so much ill.
MOTHER. That's true. But it may be Ingeborg's found some mission in
this man's life; and he in hers. Perhaps they're meant to torture
each other into atonement.
OLD MAN. Perhaps. But I'll have nothing to do with at seems to me
shameful. This man, under my roof! Yet I must accept it, like
everything else. For I've deserved no less.
MOTHER. Very well then. (The LADY and the STRANGER come in.) You're
LADY. Thank you, Mother. (She looks over to the OLD MAN, who rises
and looks at the STRANGER.) Peace, Grandfather. This is my husband.
Give him your hand.
OLD MAN. First let me look at him. (He goes to the STRANGER, puts
his hands on his shoulders and looks him in the eyes.) What motives
brought you here?
STRANGER (simply). None, but to keep my wife company, at her
OLD MAN. If that's true, you're welcome! I've a long and stormy
life behind me, and at last I've found a certain peace in solitude.
I beg you not to trouble it.
STRANGER. I haven't come here to ask favours. I'll take nothing
with me when I go.
OLD MAN. That's not the answer I wanted; for we all need one
another. I perhaps need you. No one can know, young man.
OLD MAN. Yes, my child. I shan't wish you happiness, for there's no
such thing; but I wish you strength to bear your destiny. Now I'll
leave you for a little. Your mother will look after you. (He goes
LADY (to her mother). Did you lay that table for us, Mother?
MOTHER. No, it's a mistake, as you can imagine.
LADY. I know we look wretched. We were lost in the mountains, and
if grandfather hadn't blown his horn...
MOTHER. Your grandfather gave up hunting long ago.
LADY. Then it was someone else. ... Listen, Mother, I'll go up now
to the 'rose' room, and get it straight.
MOTHER. Do. I'll come in a moment.
(The LADY would like to say something, cannot, and goes out.)
STRANGER (to the MOTHER). I've seen this room already.
MOTHER. And I've seen you. I almost expected you.
STRANGER. As one expects a disaster?
MOTHER. Why say that?
STRANGER. Because I sow devastation wherever I go. But as I must go
somewhere, and cannot change my fate, I've lost my scruples.
MOTHER. Then you're like my daughter--she, too, has no scruples and
MOTHER. You think I'm speaking ill of her? I couldn't do that of my
own child. I only draw the comparison, because you know her.
STRANGER. But I've noticed what you speak of in Eve.
MOTHER. Why do you call Ingeborg Eve?
STRANGER. By inventing a name for her I made her mine. I wanted to
change her. ...
MOTHER. And remake her in your image? (Laughing.) I've been told
that country wizards carve images of their victims, and give them
the names of those they'd bewitch. That was your plan: by means of
this Eve, that you yourself had made, you intended to destroy the
STRANGER (looking at the MOTHER in surprise). Those were damnable
words! Forgive me. But you have religious beliefs: how can you
think such things?
MOTHER. The thoughts were yours.
STRANGER. This begins to be interesting. I imagined an idyll in the
forest, but this is a witches' cauldron.
MOTHER. Not quite. You've forgotten, or never knew, that a man
deserted me shamefully, and that you're a man who also shamefully
deserted a woman.
STRANGER. Frank words. Now I know where I am.
MOTHER. I'd like to know where I am. Can you support two families?
STRANGER. If all goes well.
MOTHER. All doesn't--in this life. Money can be lost.
STRANGER. But my talent's capital I can never lose.
MOTHER. Really? The greatest of talents has been known to fail ...
gradually, or suddenly.
STRANGER. I've never met anyone who could so damp one's courage.
MOTHER. Pride should be damped. Your last book was much weaker.
STRANGER. You read it?
MOTHER. Yes. That's why I know all your secrets. So don't try to
deceive me; it won't go well with you. (Pause.) A trifle, but one
that does us no good here: why didn't you pay the ferryman?
STRANGER. My heel of Achilles! I threw my last coin away. Can't we
speak of something else than money in this house?
MOTHER. Oh yes. But in this house we do our duty before we amuse
ourselves. So you came on foot because you had no money?
STRANGER (hesitating). Yes. ...
MOTHER (smiling). Probably nothing to eat?
STRANGER (hesitating). No. ...
MOTHER. You're a fine fellow!
STRANGER. In all my life I've never been in such a predicament.
MOTHER. I can believe it. It's almost a pity. I could laugh at the
figure you cut, if I didn't know it would make you weep, and others
with you. (Pause.) But now you've had your will, hold fast to the
woman who loves you; for if you leave her, you'll never smile
again, and soon forget what happiness was.
STRANGER. Is that a threat?
MOTHER. A warning. Go now, and have your supper.
STRANGER (pointing at the table for the poor). There?
MOTHER. A poor joke; which might become reality. I've seen such
STRANGER. Soon I'll believe anything can happen--this is the worst
MOTHER. Worse yet may come. Wait!
STRANGER (cast down). I'm prepared for anything.
(Exit. A moment later the OLD MAN comes in.)
OLD MAN. It was no angel after all.
MOTHER. No good angel, certainly.
OLD MAN. Really! (Pause.) You know how superstitious people here
are. As I went down to the river I heard this: a farmer said his
horse shied at 'him'; another that the dogs got so fierce he'd had
to tie them up. The ferryman swore his boat drew less water when
'he' got in. Superstition, but. ...
MOTHER. But what?
OLD MAN. It was only a magpie that flew in at her window, though it
was closed. An illusion, perhaps.
MOTHER. Perhaps. But why does one often see such things at the
OLD MAN. This man's presence is intolerable. When he looks at me I
MOTHER. We must try to get rid of him. I'm certain he won't care to
stay for long.
OLD MAN. No. He won't grow old here. (Pause.) Listen, I got a
letter to-night warning me about him. Among other things he's
wanted by the courts.
MOTHER. The courts?
OLD MAN. Yes. Money matters. But, remember, the laws of hospitality
protect beggars and enemies. Let him stay a few days, till he's got
over this fearful journey. You can see how Providence has laid
hands on him, how his soul is being ground in the mill ready for
the sieve. ...
MOTHER. I've felt a call to be a tool in the hands of Providence.
OLD MAN. Don't confuse it with your wish for vengeance.
MOTHER. I'll try not to, if I can.
OLD MAN. Well, good-night.
MOTHER. Do you think Ingeborg has read his last book?
OLD MAN. It's unlikely. If she had she'd never have married a man
who held such views.
MOTHER. No, she's not read it. But now she must.
THE 'ROSE' ROOM
[A simple, pleasantly furnished room in the forester's house. The
walls are colour-washed in red; the curtains are of thin
rose-coloured muslin. In the small latticed windows there are
flowers. On right, a writing-table and bookshelf. Left, a sofa with
rose-coloured curtains above in the form of a baldachino. Tables
and chairs in Old German style. At the back, a door. Outside the
country can be seen and the poorhouse, a dark, unpleasant building
with black, uncurtained windows. Strong sunlight. The LADY is
sitting on the sofa working.]
MOTHER (standing with a book bound in rose-coloured cloth in her
hand.) You won't read your husband's book?
LADY. Not that one. I promised not to.
MOTHER. You don't want to know the man to whom you've entrusted
LADY. What would be the use? We're all right as we are.
MOTHER. You make no great demands on life?
LADY. Why should I? They'd never be fulfilled.
MOTHER. I don't know whether you were born full of worldly wisdom,
LADY. I don't know myself.
MOTHER. If the sun shines and you've enough to eat, you're content.
LADY. Yes. And when it goes in, I make the best of it.
MOTHER. To change the subject: did you know your husband was being
pressed by the courts on account of his debts?
LADY. Yes. It happens to all writers.
MOTHER. Is he mad, or a rascal?
LADY. He's neither. He's no ordinary man; and it's a pity I can
tell him nothing he doesn't know already. That's why we don't speak
much; but he's glad to have me near him; and so am I to be near
MOTHER. You've reached calm water already? Then it can't be far to
the mill-race! But don't you think you'd have more to talk of, if
you read what he has written?
LADY. Perhaps. You can leave me the book, if you like.
MOTHER. Take it and hide it. It'll be a surprise if you can quote
something from his masterpiece.
LADY (hiding the book in her bag). He's coming. If he's spoken of
he seems to feel it from afar.
MOTHER. If he could only feel how he makes others suffer--from
afar. (Exit left.)
(The LADY, alone for an instant, looks at the book and seems taken
aback. She hides it in her bag.)
STRANGER (entering). Your mother was here? You were speaking of me,
of course. I can almost hear her ill-natured words. They cut the
air and darken the sunshine. I can almost divine the impression of
her body in the atmosphere of the room, and she leaves an odour
like that of a dead snake.
LADY. You're irritable to-day.
STRANGER. Fearfully. Some fool has restrung my nerves out of tune,
and plays on them with a horse-hair bow till he sets my teeth on
edge. ... You don't know what that is! There's someone here who's
stronger than I! Someone with a searchlight who shines it at me,
wherever I may be. Do they use the black art in this place?
LADY. Don't turn your back on the sunlight. Look at this lovely
country; you'll feel calmer.
STRANGER. I can't bear that poorhouse. It seems to have been built
there solely for me. And a demented woman always stands there
LADY. Do you think they treat you badly here?
STRANGER. In a way, no. They feed me with tit-bits, as if I were to
be fattened for the butcher. But I can't eat because they grudge it
me, and I feel the cold rays of their hate. To me it seems there's
an icy wind everywhere, although it's still and hot. And I can hear
that accursed mill. ...
LADY. It's not grinding now.
STRANGER. Yes. Grinding ... grinding.
LADY. Listen. There's no hate here. Pity, at most.
STRANGER. Another thing. ... Why do people I meet cross themselves?
LADY. Only because they're used to praying in silence. (Pause.) You
had an unwelcome letter this morning?
STRANGER. Yes. The kind that makes your hair rise from the scalp,
so that you want to curse at fate. I'm owed money, but can't get
paid. Now the law's being set in motion against me by ... the
guardians of my children, because I've not paid alimony. No one has
ever been in such a dishonourable position. I'm blameless. I could
pay my way; I want to, but am prevented! Not my fault; yet my
shame! It's not in nature. The devil's got a hand in it.
STRANGER. Why? Why is one born into this world an ignoramus,
knowing nothing of the laws, customs and usage one inadvertently
breaks? And for which one's punished. Why does one grow into a
youth full of high ambition only to be driven into vile actions one
abhors? Why, why?
LADY (who has secretly been looking at the book: absent-mindedly).
There must be a reason, even if we don't know it.
STRANGER. If it's to humble one, it's a poor method. It only makes
me more arrogant. Eve!
LADY. Don't call me that.
STRANGER (starting). Why not?
LADY. I don't like it. You'd feel as I do, if I called you Caesar.
STRANGER. Have we got back to that?
LADY. To what?
STRANGER. Did you mention that name for any reason?
LADY. Caesar? No. But I'm beginning to find things out.
STRANGER. Very well! Then I may as well fall honourably by my own
hand. I am Caesar, the school-boy, for whose escapade your husband,
the werewolf, was punished. Fate delights in making links for
eternity. A noble sport! (The LADY, uncertain what to do, does not
reply.) Say something!
LADY. I can't.
STRANGER. Say that he became a werewolf because, as a child, he
lost his belief in the justice of heaven, owing to the fact that,
though innocent, he was punished for the misdeeds of another. But
if you say so, I shall reply that I suffered ten times as much from
my conscience, and that the spiritual crisis that followed left me
so strengthened that I've never done such a thing again.
LADY. No. It's not that.
STRANGER. Then what is it? Do you respect me no longer?
LADY. It's not that either.
STRANGER. Then it's to make me feel my shame before you! And it
would be the end of everything between us.
LADY. You rouse evil thoughts.
STRANGER. You've broken your vow: you've been reading my book!
LADY. I have.
STRANGER. Then you've done wrong.
LADY. My intention was good.
STRANGER. The results even of your good intentions are terrible!
You've blown me into the air with my own petard. Why must all our
misdeeds come home to roost--both boyish escapades and really evil
action? It's fair enough to reap evil where one has sown it. But
I've never seen a good action get its reward. Never! It's a
disgrace to Him who records all sins, however black or venial. No
man could do it: men would forgive. The gods ... never!
LADY. Don't say that. Say rather _you_ forgive.
STRANGER. I'm not small-minded. But what have I forgive you?
LADY. More than I can say.
STRANGER. Say it. Perhaps then we'll be quits.
LADY. He and I used to read the curse of Deutertonomy over you ...
for you'd ruined his life.
STRANGER. What curse is that?
LADY. From the fifth book of Moses. The priests chant it in chorus
when the fasts begin.
STRANGER. I don't remember it. What does it matter--a curse more or
LADY. In my family those whom we curse, are struck.
STRANGER. I don't believe it. But I do believe that evil emanates
from this house. May it recoil upon it! That is my prayer! Now,
according to custom, it would be my duty to shoot myself; but I
can't, so long as I have other duties. You see, I can't even die,
and so I've lost my last treasure--what, with reason, I call my
religion. I've heard that man can wrestle with God, and with
success; but not even job could fight against Satan. (Pause.) Let's
speak of you. ...
LADY. Not now. Later perhaps. Since I've got to know your terrible
book--I've only glanced at it, only read a few lines here and
there--I feel as if I'd eaten of the tree of knowledge. My eyes are
opened and I know what's good and what's evil, as I've never known
before. And now I see how evil you are, and why I am to be called
Eve. She was a mother and brought sin into the world: it was
another mother who brought expiation. The curse of mankind was
called down on us by the first, a blessing by the second. In me you
shall not destroy my whole sex. Perhaps I have a different mission
in your life. We shall see!
STRANGER. So you've eaten of the tree of knowledge? Farewell.
LADY. You're going away?
STRANGER. I can't stay here.
LADY. Don't go.
STRANGER. I must. I must clear up everything. I'll take leave of
the old people now. Then I'll come back. I shan't be long. (Exit.)
LADY (remains motionless, then goes to the door and looks out. She
sinks to her knees). No! He won't come back!
[The refectory of an ancient convent, resembling a simple
whitewashed Romanesque church. There are damp patches on the walls,
looking like strange figures. A long table with bowls; at the end a
desk for the Lector. At the back a door leading to the chapel.
There are lighted candles on the tables. On the wall, left, a
painting representing the Archangel Michael killing the Fiend.]
[The STRANGER is sitting left, at a refectory table, dressed in the
white clothing of a patient, with a bowl before him. At the table,
right, are sitting: the brown-clad mourners of Scene I. The BEGGAR.
A woman in mourning with two children. A woman who resembles the
Lady, but who is not her and who is crocheting instead of eating. A
Man very like the Doctor, another like the Madman. Others like the
Father, Mother, Brother. Parents of the 'Prodigal Son,' etc. All
are dressed in white, but over this are wearing costumes of
coloured crepe. Their faces are waxen and corpse-like, their whole
appearance queer, their gestures strange. On the rise of the
curtain all are finishing a Paternoster, except the STRANGER.]
STRANGER (rising and going to the ABBESS, who is standing at a
serving table). Mother. May I speak to you?
ABBESS (in a black-and-white Augustinian habit). Yes, my son. (They
STRANGER. First, where am I?
ABBESS. In a convent called 'St. Saviour.' You were found on the
hills above the ravine, with a cross you'd broken from a calvary
and with which you were threatening someone in the clouds. Indeed,
you thought you could see him. You were feverish and had lost your
foothold. You were picked up, unhurt, beneath a cliff, but in
delirium. You were brought to the hospital and put to bed. Since
then you've spoken wildly, and complained of a pain in your hip,
but no injury could be found.
STRANGER. What did I speak of?
ABBESS. You had the usual feverish dreams. You reproached yourself
with all kinds of things, and thought you could see your victims,
as you called them.
STRANGER. And then?
ABBESS. Your thoughts often turned to money matters. You wanted to
pay for yourself in the hospital. I tried to calm you by telling
you no payment would be asked: all was done out of charity. ...
STRANGER. I want no charity.
ABBESS. It's more blessed to give than to receive; yet a noble
nature can accept and be thankful.
STRANGER. I want no charity.
STRANGER. Tell me, why will none of those people sit at the same
table with me? They're getting up ... going. ...
ABBESS. They seem to fear you.
ABBESS. You look so. ...
STRANGER. I? But what of them? Are they real?
ABBESS. If you mean true, they've a terrible reality. It may be
they look strange to you, because you're still feverish. Or there
may be another reason.
STRANGER. I seem to know them, all of them! I see them as if in a
mirror: they only make as if they were eating. ... Is this some
drama they're performing? Those look like my parents, rather like ...
(Pause.) Hitherto I've feared nothing, because life was useless to
me. ... Now I begin to be afraid.
ABBESS. If you don't believe them real, I'll ask the Confessor to
introduce you. (She signs to the CONFESSOR who approaches.)
CONFESSOR (dressed in a black-and-white habit of Dominicans).
ABBESS. Tell the patient who are at that table.
CONFESSOR. That's soon done.
STRANGER. Permit a question first. Haven't we met already?
CONFESSOR. Yes. I sat by your bedside, when you were delirious. At
your desire, I heard your confession.
STRANGER. What? My confession?
CONFESSOR. Yes. But I couldn't give you absolution; because it
seemed that what you said was spoken in fever.
CONFESSOR. There was hardly a sin or vice you didn't take upon
yourself--things so hateful you'd have had to undergo strict
penitence before demanding absolution. Now you're yourself again I
can ask whether there are grounds for your self-accusations.
(The ABBESS leaves them.)
STRANGER. Have you the right?
CONFESSOR. No. In truth, no right. (Pause.) But you want to know in
whose company you are! The very best. There, for instance, is a
madman, Caesar, who lost his wits through reading the works of a
certain writer whose notoriety is greater than his fame. There's a
beggar, who won't admit he's a beggar, because he's learnt Latin
and is free. There, a doctor, called the werewolf, whose history's
well known. There, two parents, who grieved themselves to death
over a son who raised his hand against theirs. He must be
responsible for refusing to follow his father's bier and
desecrating his mother's grave. There's his unhappy sister, whom he
drove out into the snow, as he himself recounts, with the best
intentions. Over there's a woman who's been abandoned with her two
children, and there's another doing crochet work. ... All are old
acquaintances. Go and greet them!
(The STRANGER has turned his back on the company: he now goes to
the table, left, and sits down with his back to them. He raises his
head, sees the picture of the Archangel Michael and lowers his
eyes. The CONFESSOR stands behind the STRANGER. A Catholic Requiem
can be heard from the chapel. The CONFESSOR speaks to the STRANGER
in a low voice while the music goes on.)
Quantus tremor est futurus
Quando judex est venturus
Cuncta stricte discussurus,
Tuba mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulchra regionum
Coget omnes ante thronum.
Mors stupebit et natura,
Cum resurget creatura
Liber scriptus proferetur
In quo totum continetur
Unde mundus judicetur.
Judex ergo cum sedebit
Quidquid latet apparebit
Nil inultum remanebit.
(He goes to the desk by the table, right, and opens his breviary.
The music ceases.)
We will continue the reading. ... 'But if thou wilt not hearken
unto the voice of the Lord thy God all these curses shall overtake
thee. Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in
the field; cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed
when thou goest out.'
OMNES (in a low voice). Cursed!
CONFESSOR. 'The Lord shall send upon thee vexation and rebuke in
all that thou settest thy hand for to do, until thou be destroyed,
and until thou perish quickly, because of the wickedness of thy
doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.'
OMNES (loudly). Cursed!
CONFESSOR. 'The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine
enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven
ways before them, and shalt be moved into all the kingdoms of the
earth. And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and
unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away. The
Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, the scab and the
itch, with madness and blindness, that thou shalt grope at noonday,
as the blind gropeth in darkness. Thou shalt not prosper in thy
ways, and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no
man shall save thee. Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man
shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not
dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather
the grapes thereof. Thy sons and thy daughters shall be given unto
another people, and thine eyes fail with longing for them; and
there shall be no might in thy hand. And thou shalt find no ease on
earth, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: the Lord shall
give thee a trembling heart, and failing of eyes and sorrow of
mind. And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt
fear day and night. In the morning thou shalt say, would God it
were even! And at even thou shalt say, would God it were morning!
And because thou servedst not the Lord thy God when thou livedst in
security, thou shalt serve him in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness
and in want; and He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until
He have destroyed thee!'
(The CONFESSOR has read the above loudly and rapidly, without
turning to the STRANGER. All those present, except the LADY, who is
working, have been listening and have joined in the curse, though
they have feigned not to notice the STRANGER, who has remained with
his back to them, sunk in himself. The STRANGER now rises as if to
go. The CONFESSOR goes towards him.)
STRANGER. What was that?
CONFESSOR. The Book of Deuteronomy.
STRANGER. Of course. But I seem to remember blessings in it, too.
CONFESSOR. Yes, for those who keep His commandments.
STRANGER. Hm. ... I can't deny that, for a moment, I felt shaken.
Are they temptations to be resisted, or warnings to be obeyed?
(Pause.) Anyhow I'm certain now that I have fever. I must go to a
CONFESSOR. See he _is_ the right one!
STRANGER. Of course!
CONFESSOR. Who can heal 'delightful scruples of conscience'!
ABBESS. Should you need charity again, you now know where to find
STRANGER. No. I do not.
ABBESS (in a low voice). Then I'll tell you. In a 'rose' room, near
a certain running stream.
STRANGER. That's the truth! In a 'rose' room. Wait; how long have I
ABBESS. Three months to-day.
STRANGER. Three months! Have I been sleeping? Or where have I been?
(Looking out of the window.) It's autumn. The trees are bare; the
clouds look cold. Now it's coming back to me! Can you hear a mill
grinding? The sound of a horn? The rushing of a river? A wood
whispering--and a woman weeping? You're right. Only there can
charity be found. Farewell. (Exit.)
CONFESSOR (to the Abbess). The fool! The fool!
THE 'ROSE' ROOM
[The curtains have been taken down. The windows gape into the
darkness outside. The furniture has been covered in brown
loose-covers and pulled forward. The flowers have been taken away,
and the large black stove lit. The MOTHER is standing ironing white
curtains by the light of a single lamp. There is a knock at the
MOTHER. Come in!
STRANGER (doing so). Where's my wife?
MOTHER. Where do you come from?
STRANGER. I think, from hell. But where's my wife?
MOTHER. Which of them do you mean?
STRANGER. The question's justified. Everything is, except to me.
MOTHER. There may be a reason: I'm glad you've seen it. Where have
STRANGER. Whether in a poorhouse, a madhouse or a hospital, I don't
know. I should like to think it all a feverish dream. I've been
ill: I lost my memory and can't believe three months have passed.
But where's my wife?
MOTHER. I ought to ask you that. When you deserted her, she went
away--to look for you. Whether she's tired of looking, I can't say.
STRANGER. Something's amiss here. Where's the Old Man?
MOTHER. Where there's no more suffering.
STRANGER. You mean he's dead?
MOTHER. Yes. He's dead.
STRANGER. You say it as if you wanted to add him to my victims.
MOTHER. Perhaps I'm right to do so.
STRANGER. He didn't look sensitive: he was capable of steady
MOTHER. No. He hated only what was evil, in himself and others.
STRANGER. So I'm wrong there, too! (Pause.)
MOTHER. What do you want here?
MOTHER. At last! How was it at the hospital! Sit down and tell me.
STRANGER (sitting). I don't want to think of it. I don't even know
if it _was_ a hospital.
MOTHER. Strange. Tell me what happened after you left here.
STRANGER. I fell in the mountains, hurt my hip and lost
consciousness. If you'll speak kindly to me you shall know more.
MOTHER. I will.
STRANGER. When I woke I was in a red iron bedstead. Three men were
pulling a cord that ran through two blocks. Every time they pulled
I felt I grew two feet taller. ...
MOTHER. They were putting in your hip.
STRANGER. I hadn't thought of that. Then ... I lay watching my past
life unroll before me like a panorama, through childhood, youth. ...
And when the roll was finished it began again. All the time I heard
a mill grinding. ... I can hear it still. Yes, here too!
MOTHER. Those were not pleasant visions.
STRANGER. No. At last I came to the conclusion ... that I was a
MOTHER. Why call yourself that?
STRANGER. I know you'd like to hear me say I was a scoundrel. But
that would seem to me like boasting. It would imply a certainty
about myself to which I've not attained.
MOTHER. You're still in doubt?
STRANGER. Of a great deal. But I've begun to have an inkling.
MOTHER. That. ...?
STRANGER. That there are forces which, till now, I've not believed in.
MOTHER. You've come to see that neither you, nor any other man,
directs your destiny?
STRANGER. I have.
MOTHER. Then you've already gone part of the way.
STRANGER. But I myself have changed. I'm ruined; for I've lost all
aptitude for writing. And I can't sleep at night.
STRANGER. What are called nightmares stop me. Last and worst: I
daren't die; for I'm no longer sure my miseries will end, with _my_
STRANGER. Even worse: I've grown so to loathe myself that I'd
escape from myself, if I knew how. If I were a Christian, I
couldn't obey the first commandment, to love my neighbour as
myself, for I should have to hate him as I hate myself. It's true
that I'm a scamp. I've always suspected it; and because I never
wanted life to fool me, I've observed 'others' carefully. When I
saw they were no better than I, I resented their trying to browbeat
MOTHER. You've been wrong to think it a matter between you and
others. You have to deal with Him.
STRANGER. With whom?
MOTHER. The Invisible One, who guides your destiny.
STRANGER. Would I could see Him.
MOTHER. It would be your death.
STRANGER. Oh no!
MOTHER. Where do you get this devilish spirit of rebellion? If you
won't bow your neck like the rest, you must be broken like a reed.
STRANGER. I don't know where this fearful stubbornness comes from.
It's true an unpaid bill can make me tremble; but if I were to
climb Mount Sinai and face the Eternal One, I should not cover my
MOTHER. Jesus and Mary! Don't say such things. You'll make me think
you're a child of the Devil.
STRANGER. Here that seems the general opinion. But I've heard that
those who serve the Evil One get honours, goods and gold as their
reward. Gold especially. Do you think me suspect?
MOTHER. You'll bring a curse on my house.
STRANGER. Then I'll leave it.
MOTHER. And go into the night. Where?
STRANGER. To seek the only one that I don't hate.
MOTHER. Are you sure she'll receive you?
STRANGER. Quite sure.
MOTHER. I'm not.
STRANGER. I am.
MOTHER. Then I must raise your doubts.
STRANGER. You can't.
MOTHER. Yes, I can.
STRANGER. It's a lie.
MOTHER. We're no longer speaking kindly. We must stop. Can you
sleep in the attic?
STRANGER. I can't sleep anywhere.
MOTHER. Still, I'll say good-night to you, whether you think I mean
it, or not.
STRANGER. You're sure there are no rats in the attic? I don't fear
ghosts, but rats aren't pleasant.
MOTHER. I'm glad you don't fear ghosts, for no one's slept a whole
night there ... whatever the cause may be.
STRANGER (after a moment's hesitation). Never have I met a more
wicked woman than you. The reason is: you have religion.
IN THE KITCHEN
[It is dark, but the moon outside throws moving shadows of the
window lattices on to the floor, as the storm clouds race by. In
the corner, right, under the crucifix, where the OLD MAN used to
sit, a hunting horn, a gun and a game bag hang on the wall. On the
table a stuffed bird of prey. As the windows are open the curtains
are flapping in the wind; and kitchen cloths, aprons and towels,
that are hung on a line by the hearth, move in the wind, whose
sighing can be heard. In the distance the noise of a waterfall.
There is an occasional tapping on the wooden floor.]
STRANGER (entering, half-dressed, a lamp in his hand). Is anyone
here? No. (He comes forward with a light, which makes the play of
shadow less marked.) What's moving on the floor? Is anyone here?
(He goes to the table, sees the stuffed bird and stands riveted to
the spot.) God!
MOTHER (coming in with a lamp). Still up?
STRANGER. I couldn't sleep.
MOTHER (gently). Why not, my son?
STRANGER. I heard someone above me.
MOTHER. Impossible. There's nothing over the attic.
STRANGER. That's why I was uneasy! What's moving on the floor like
STRANGER. Yes. Moonbeams. That's a stuffed bird. And those are
cloths. Everything's natural; that's what makes me uneasy. Who was
knocking during the night? Was anyone locked out?
MOTHER. It was a horse in the stable.
STRANGER. Why should it make that noise?
MOTHER. Some animals have nightmares.
STRANGER. What are nightmares?
MOTHER. Who knows?
STRANGER. May I sit down?
MOTHER. Do. I want to speak seriously to you. I was malicious last
night; you must forgive me. It's because of that I need religion;
just as I need the penitential garment and the stone floor. To
spare you, I'll tell you what nightmares are to me. My bad
conscience! Whether I punish myself or another punishes me, I don't
know. I don't permit myself to ask. (Pause.) Now tell me what you
saw in your room.
STRANGER. I hardly know. Nothing. When I went in I felt as if
someone were there. Then I went to bed. But someone started pacing
up and down above me with a heavy tread. Do you believe in ghosts?
MOTHER. My religion won't allow me to. But I believe our sense of
right and wrong will find a way to punish us.
STRANGER. Soon I felt cold air on my breast--it reached my heart
and forced me to get up.
MOTHER. And then?
STRANGER. To stand and watch the whole panorama of my life unroll
before me. I saw everything--that was the worst of it.
MOTHER. I know. I've been through it. There's no name for the
malady, and only one cure.
STRANGER. What is it?
MOTHER. You know what children do when they've done wrong?
MOTHER. First ask forgiveness!
STRANGER. And then?
MOTHER. Try to make amends.
STRANGER. Isn't it enough to suffer according to one's deserts?
MOTHER. No. That's revenge.
STRANGER. Then what must one do?
MOTHER. Can you mend a life you've destroyed? Undo a bad action?
STRANGER. Truly, no. But I was forced into it! Forced to take, for
no one gave me the right. Accursed be He who forced me! (Putting
his hand to his heart.) Ah! He's here, in this room. He's plucking
out my heart!
MOTHER. Then bow your head.
STRANGER. I cannot.
MOTHER. Down on your knees.
STRANGER. I will not.
MOTHER. Christ have mercy! Lord have mercy on you! On your knees
before Him who was crucified! Only He can wipe out what's been
STRANGER. Not before Him! If I were forced, I'll recant ...
MOTHER. On your knees, my son!
STRANGER. I cannot bow the knee. I cannot. Help me, God Eternal.
MOTHER (after a hasty prayer). Do you feel better?
STRANGER. Yes. ... It was not death. It was annihilation!
MOTHER. The annihilation of the Divine. We call it spiritual death.
STRANGER. I see. (Without irony.) I begin to understand.
MOTHER. My son! You have left Jerusalem and are on the road to
Damascus. Go back the same way you came. Erect a cross at every
station, and stay at the seventh. For you, there are not fourteen,
as for Him.
STRANGER. You speak in riddles.
MOTHER. Then go your way. Search out those to whom you have
something to say. First, your wife.
STRANGER. Where is she?
MOTHER. You must find her. On your way don't forget to call on him
you named the werewolf.
MOTHER. You'd have said that, as you came here. As you know, I
expected your coming.
MOTHER. For no one reason.
STRANGER. Just as I saw this kitchen ... in a trance. ...
MOTHER. That's why I now regret trying to separate you and
Ingeborg. Go and search for her. If you find her, well and good. If
not, perhaps that too has been ordained. (Pause.) Dawn's now at
hand. Morning has come and the night has passed.
STRANGER. Such a night!
MOTHER. You'll remember it.
STRANGER. Not all of it ... yet something.
MOTHER (looking out of the window, as if to herself). Lovely
morning star--how far from heaven have you fallen!
STRANGER (after a pause). Have you noticed that, before the sun
rises, a feeling of awe takes hold of mankind? Are we children of
darkness, that we tremble before the light?
MOTHER. Will you never be tired of questioning?
STRANGER. Never. Because I yearn for light.
MOTHER. Go then, and search. And peace be with you!
IN THE RAVINE
[The same landscape as before, but in autumn colouring. The trees
have lost their leaves. Work is going on at the smithy and the
mill. The SMITH stands, left, in the doorway; the MILLER'S wife,
right. The LADY dressed in a jacket with a hat of patent leather;
but she is in mourning. The STRANGER is in Bavarian alpine kit:
short jacket of rough material, knickers, heavy boots and
alpenstock, green hat with heath-cock feather. Over this he wears a
brown cloak with a cape and hood.]
LADY (entering tired and dispirited). Did a man pass here in a long
cloak, with a green hat? (The SMITH and the MILLER'S WIFE shake
their heads.) Can I lodge here for the night? (The SMITH and the
MILLER'S WIFE again shake their heads: to the SMITH.) May I stand
in the doorway for a moment and warm myself? (The SMITH pushes her
away.) God reward you according to your deserts!
(Exit. She reappears on the footbridge, and exit once more.)
STRANGER (entering). Has a lady in a coat and skirt crossed the
brook? (The SMITH and MILLER'S WIFE shake their heads.) Will you
give me some bread? I'll pay for it. (The MILLER'S WIFE refuses the
money.) No charity!
ECHO (imitating his voice from afar). Charity.
(The SMITH and the MILLER'S WIFE laugh so loudly and so long that,
at length, ECHO replies.)
STRANGER. Good! An eye for an eye--a tooth for a tooth. It helps to
lighten my conscience! (He enters the ravine.)
ON THE ROAD
[The same landscape as before; but autumn. The BEGGAR is sitting
outside a chapel with a lime twig and a bird cage, in which is a
starling. The STRANGER enters wearing the same clothes as in the
STRANGER. Beggar! Have you seen a lady in a coat and skirt pass
BEGGAR. I've seen five hundred. But, seriously, I must ask you not
to call me beggar now. I've found work!
STRANGER. Oh! So it's you!
BEGGAR. Ille ego qui quondam. ...
STRANGER. What kind of work have you?
BEGGAR. I've a starling, that whistles and sings.
STRANGER. You mean, _he_ does the work?
BEGGAR. Yes. I'm my own master now.
STRANGER. Do you catch birds?
BEGGAR. No. The lime twig's merely for appearances.
STRANGER. So you still cling to such things?
BEGGAR. What else should I cling to? What's within us is nothing
but pure ... nonsense.
STRANGER. Is that the final conclusion of your whole philosophy of
BEGGAR. My complete metaphysic. The view mad be rather out of date,
STRANGER. Can you be serious for a moment? Tell me about your past.
BEGGAR. Why unravel that old skein? Twist it up rather. Twist it
up. Do you think I'm always so merry? Only when I meet you: you're
so damnably funny!
STRANGER. How can you laugh, with a wrecked life behind you?
BEGGAR. Now he's getting personal! (Pause.) If you can't laugh at
adversity, not even that of others, you're begging of life itself.
Listen! If you follow this wheel track you'll come, at last, to the
ocean, and there the path will stop. If you sit down there and
rest, you'll begin to take another view of things. Here there are
so many accidents, religious themes, disagreeable memories that
hinder thought as it flies to the 'rose' room. Only follow the
track! If it's muddy here and there, spread your wings and flutter.
And talking of fluttering: I once heard a bird that sang of
Polycrates and his ring; how he'd become possessed of all the
marvels of this world, but didn't know what to do with them. So he
sent tidings east and west of the great Nothing he'd helped to
fashion from the empty universe. I wouldn't assert you were the
man, unless I believed it so firmly I could take my oath on it.
Once I asked you whether you knew who I was, and you said it didn't
interest you. In return I offered you my friendship, but you
refused it rudely. However, I'm not sensitive or resentful, so I'll
give you good advice on your way. Follow the track!
STRANGER (avoiding him). You don't deceive me.
BEGGAR. You believe nothing but evil. That's why you get nothing
but evil. Try to believe what is good. Try!
STRANGER. I will. But if I'm deceived, I've the right to. ...
BEGGAR. You've no right to do that.
STRANGER (as if to himself ). Who is it reads my secret thoughts,
turns my soul inside out, and pursues me? Why do you persecute me?
BEGGAR. Saul! Saul! Why persecutest thou Me?
(The STRANGER goes out with a gesture of horror. The chord of the
funeral march is heard again. The LADY enters.)
LADY. Have you seen a man pass this way in a long cloak, with a
BEGGAR. There was a poor devil here, who hobbled off. ...
LADY. The man I'm searching for's not lame.
BEGGAR. Nor was he. It seems he'd hurt his hip; and that made him
walk unsteadily. I mustn't be malicious. Look here in the mud.
BEGGAR (pointing). There! At that rut. In it you can see the
impression of a boot, firmly planted. ...
LADY (looking at the impression). It's he! His heavy tread. ... Can
I catch him up?
BEGGAR. Follow the track!
LADY (taking his hand and kissing it). Thank you, my friend. (Exit.)
BY THE SEA
[The same landscape as before, but now winter. The sea is dark
blue, and on the horizon great clouds take on the shapes of huge
heads. In the distance three bare masts of a wrecked ship, that
look like three white crosses. The table and seat are still under
the tree, but the chairs have been removed. There is snow on the
ground. From time to time a bell-buoy can be heard. The STRANGER
comes in from the left, stops a moment and looks out to sea, then
goes out, right, behind the cottage. The LADY enters, left, and
appears to be following the STRANGER'S footsteps on the snow; she
exits in front of the cottage, right. The STRANGER re-enters,
right, notices the footprints of the LADY, pauses, and looks back,
right. The LADY re-enters, throws herself into his arms, but
LADY. You thrust me away.
STRANGER. No. It seems there's someone between us.
LADY. Indeed there is! (Pause.) What a meeting!
STRANGER. Yes. It's winter; as you see.
LADY. I can feel the cold coming from you.
STRANGER. I got frozen in the mountains.
LADY. Do you think the spring will ever come?
STRANGER. Not to us! We've been driven from the garden, and must
wander over stones and thistles. And when our hands and feet are
bruised, we feel we must rub salt in the wounds of the ... other
one. And then the mill starts grinding. It'll never stop; for
there's always water.
LADY. No doubt what you say is true.
STRANGER. But I'll not yield to the inevitable. Rather than that we
should lacerate each other I'll gash myself as a sacrifice to the
gods. I'll take the blame upon me; declare it was I who taught you
to break your chains. I who tempted you! Then you can lay all the
blame on me: for what I did, and what happened after.
LADY. You couldn't bear it.
STRANGER. Yes, I could. There are moments when I feel as if I bore
all the sin and sorrow, all the filth and shame of the whole world.
There are moments when I believe we are condemned to sin and do bad
actions as a punishment! (Pause.) Not long ago I lay sick of a
fever, and amidst all that happened to me, I dreamed that I saw a
crucifix without the Crucified. And when I asked the Dominican--for
there was a Dominican among many others--what it could mean, he
said: 'You will not allow Him to suffer for you. Suffer then
yourself!' That's why mankind have grown so conscious of their own
LADY. And why consciences grow so heavy, if there's no one to help
to bear the burden.
STRANGER. Have you also come to think so?
LADY. Not yet. But I'm on the way.
STRANGER. Put your hand in mine. From here let us go on together.
STRANGER. Back! The same way we came. Are you weary?
LADY. Now no longer.
STRANGER. Several times I sank exhausted. But I met a strange
beggar--perhaps you remember him: he was thought to be like me. And
he begged me, as an experiment, to believe his good intentions. I
did believe--as an experiment--and . ...
STRANGER. It went well with me. And since then I feel I've strength
to go on my way. ...
LADY. Let's go together!
STRANGER (turning to the sea). Yes. It's growing dark and the
clouds are gathering.
LADY. Don't look at the clouds.
STRANGER. And below there? What's that?
LADY. Only a wreck.
STRANGER (whispering). Three crosses! What new Golgotha awaits us?
LADY. They're white ones. That means good fortune.
STRANGER. Can good fortune ever come to us?
LADY. Yes. But not yet.
STRANGER. Let's go!
ROOM IN AN HOTEL
[The room is as before. The LADY is sitting by the side of the
LADY. Do say something.
STRANGER. I've nothing but unpleasant things to say, since we came
LADY. Why were you so anxious to have this terrible room?
STRANGER. I don't know. It was the last one I wanted. I began to
long for it, in order to suffer.
LADY. And are you suffering?
STRANGER. Yes. I can no longer listen to singing, or look at
anything beautiful. During the day I hear the mill and see that
great panorama now expanding to embrace the universe. ... And, at
LADY. Why did you cry out in your sleep?
STRANGER. I was dreaming.
LADY. A real dream?
STRANGER. Terribly real. But you see what a curse is on me. I feel
I must describe it, and to no one else but you. Yet I daren't tell
you, for it would be rattling at the door of the locked chamber. ...
LADY. The past!
LADY (simply). It's foolish to have any such secret place.
STRANGER. Yes. (Pause.)
LADY. And now tell me!
STRANGER. I'm afraid I must. I dreamed your first husband was
married to my first wife.
LADY. Only you could have thought of such a thing!
STRANGER. I wish it were so. (Pause.) I saw how he ill-treated my
children. (Getting up.) I put my hands to his throat. ... I can't
go on. ... But I shall never rest till I know the truth. And to
know it, I must go to him in his own house.
LADY. It's come to that?
STRANGER. It's been coming for some time. Nothing can now prevent
it. I must see him.
LADY. But if he won't receive you?
STRANGER. I'll go as a patient, and tell him of my sickness. ...
LADY (frightened). Don't do that!
STRANGER. You think he might be tempted to shut me up as mad! I
must risk it. I want to risk everything--life, freedom, welfare. I
need an emotional shock, strong enough to bring myself into the
light of day. I demand this torture, that my punishment may be in
just proportion to my sin, so that I shall not be forced to drag
myself along under the burden of my guilt. So down into the snake
pit, as soon as may be!
LADY. Could I come with you?
STRANGER. There's no need. My sufferings will be enough for both.
LADY. Then I'll call you my deliverer. And the curse I once laid on
you will turn into a blessing. Look! It's spring once more.
STRANGER. So I see. The Christmas rose there has begun to wither.
LADY. But don't you feel spring in the air?
STRANGER. The cold within isn't so great.
LADY. Perhaps the werewolf will heal you altogether.
STRANGER. We shall see. Perhaps he's not so dangerous, after all.
LADY. He's not so cruel as you.
STRANGER. But my dream. ...
LADY. Let's hope it was only a dream. Now my wool's finished; and
with it, my useless work. It's grown soiled in the making.
STRANGER. It can be washed.
LADY. Or dyed.
STRANGER. Rose red.
STRANGER. It's like a roll of manuscript.
LADY. With our story on it.
STRANGER. In the filth of the roads, in tears and in blood.
LADY. But the story's nearly done. Go and write the last chapter.
STRANGER. Then we'll meet at the seventh station. Where we began!
THE DOCTOR'S HOUSE
[The scene is more or less as before. But half the wood-pile has
been taken away. On a seat near the verandah surgical instruments,
knives, saws, forceps, etc. The DOCTOR is engaged in cleaning
SISTER (coming from the verandah). A patient to see you.
DOCTOR. Do you know who it is?
SISTER. I've not seen him. Here's his card.
DOCTOR (reading it). This outdoes everything!
SISTER. Is it he?
DOCTOR. Yes. Courage I respect; but this is cynicism. A kind of
challenge. Still, let him come in.
SISTER. Are you serious?
DOCTOR. Perfectly. But, if you care to talk to him a little, in
that straightforward way of yours. ...
SISTER. I'd like to.
DOCTOR. Very well. Do the heavy work, and leave the final polish to
SISTER. You can trust me. I'll tell him everything your kindness
forbids you to say.
DOCTOR. Enough of my kindness! Make haste, or I'll get impatient.
Shut the doors. (His SISTER goes out.) What are you doing at that
dustbin, Caesar? (CAESAR comes in.) Listen, Caesar, if your enemy
were to come and lay his head in your lap, what would you do?
CAESAR. Cut it off!
DOCTOR. That's not what I've taught you.
CAESAR. No; you said, heap coals of fire on it. But I think that's
DOCTOR. I think so, too; it's more cruel and more cunning. (Pause.)
Isn't it better to take some revenge? It heartens the other person,
lifts the burden off him.
CAESAR. As you know more about it than I, why ask?
DOCTOR. Quiet! I'm not speaking to you. (Pause.) Very well. First
cut off his head, and then. ... We'll see.
CAESAR. It all depends on how he behaves.
DOCTOR. Yes. On how he behaves. Quiet. Get along.
(The STRANGER comes from the verandah: he seems excited but his
manner betrays a certain resignation. CAESAR has gone out.)
STRANGER. You're surprised to see me here?
DOCTOR (seriously). I've long given up being surprised. But I see I
must begin again.
STRANGER. Will you permit me to speak to you?
DOCTOR. About anything decent people may discuss. Are you ill?
STRANGER (hesitating). Yes.
DOCTOR. Why did you come to me--of all people?
STRANGER. You must guess!
DOCTOR. I refuse to. (Pause.) What do you complain of?
STRANGER (with uncertainty). Sleeplessness.
DOCTOR. That's not a disease, but a symptom. Have you already seen
STRANGER. I've been lying ill in an ... institution. I was
feverish. I've a strange malady.
DOCTOR. What was so strange about it?
STRANGER. May I ask this? Can one go about as usual; and yet be
DOCTOR. If you're mad; not otherwise. (The STRANGER lets up, but
then sits down again.) What was the hospital called?
STRANGER. St. Saviour.
DOCTOR. That's not a hospital.
STRANGER. A convent, then.
DOCTOR. No. It's an asylum. (The STRANGER gets up, the DOCTOR does
so, too, and calls.) Sister! Shut the front door. And the gate
leading to the road. (To the STRANGER.) Won't you sit down? I have
to keep the doors here locked. There are so many tramps.
STRANGER (calms himself). Be frank with me: do you think me ...
DOCTOR. No one ever gets a frank answer to that question, as you
know. And no one who suffers in that way ever believes what he's
told. So my opinion must be a matter of indifference to you.
(Pause.) But if it's your soul, go to a spiritual healer.
STRANGER. Could you take his place for a moment?
DOCTOR. I haven't the vocation.
STRANGER. But ...
DOCTOR (interrupting). Or the time. We're getting ready for a
STRANGER. I dreamed it!
DOCTOR. It may ease your mind to know that I've consoled myself, as
it's called. You may be pleased, it would be natural ... but I see,
on the contrary, it makes you suffer more. There must be a reason.
Why, should you be upset at my marrying a widow?
STRANGER. With two children?
DOCTOR. Two children! Now we have it! A damnable supposition worthy
of you. If there were a hell, you should be hell's overseer, for
your skill in finding means of punishment exceeds my wildest
inventions. Yet I'm called a werewolf!
STRANGER. It might happen that ...
DOCTOR (cutting him short). For a long time, I hated you, because
by an unforgiveable action you cheated me of my good name. But when
I grew older and wiser I saw that, although the punishment wasn't
earned, I deserved it for other things that had never been
discovered. Besides, you were a boy with enough conscience to be
able to punish yourself. So you need worry no more about the whole
thing. Is that what you wanted to speak of?
DOCTOR. Then you'll be content, if I let you go? (The STRANGER is
about to ask a question.) Did you think I'd shut you up? Or cut you
in pieces with those instruments? Kill you? 'Perhaps such poor
devils ought to be put out of their misery!' (The STRANGER looks at
his watch.) You can still catch the boat.
STRANGER. Will you give me your hand?
DOCTOR. Impossible. And what is the use of my forgiving you, if you
lack the strength to forgive yourself? (Pause.) Some things can
only be cured by making them undone. So this never can be.
STRANGER. St. Saviour ...
DOCTOR. Helped you. You challenged destiny and were broken. There's
no shame in losing such a fight. I did the same; but, as you see,
I've got rid of my woodpile. I want no thunder in my home. And I
shall play no more with the lightning.
STRANGER. One station more, and I shall reach my goal.
DOCTOR. You'll never reach your goal. Farewell!
A STREET CORNER
[The same as Scene I. The STRANGER is sitting on the seat beneath
the tree, drawing in the sand.]
LADY (entering). What are you doing?
STRANGER. Writing in the sand ... still.
LADY. Can you hear singing?
STRANGER (pointing to the church). Yes. But from there! I've been
unjust to someone, unwittingly.
LADY. I think our wanderings must be over, now we've come back here.
STRANGER. Where we began ... at the street corner, between the inn,
the church and the post office. By the way ... isn't there a
registered letter for me there, that I never fetched?
LADY. Yes. Because there was nothing but unpleasantness in it.
STRANGER. Or legal matters. (Striking his forehead.) Then that's
LADY. Fetch it then. In the belief that what it contains is good.
STRANGER (ironically). Good!
LADY. Believe it. Imagine it!
STRANGER (going to the post office). I'll make the attempt.
(The LADY waits on the pavement. The STRANGER comes back with a
STRANGER. I feel ashamed of myself. It's the money.
LADY. You see! All these sufferings, all these tears ... in vain!
STRANGER. Not in vain! It looks like spite, what happens here, but
it's not that. I wronged the Invisible when I mistook ...
LADY. Enough! No accusations.
STRANGER. No. It was my own stupidity or wickedness. I didn't want
to be made a fool of by life. That's why I was! It was the elves ...
LADY. Who made the change in you. Come. Let's go.
STRANGER. And hide ourselves and our misery in the mountains.
LADY. Yes. The mountains will hide us! (Pause.) But first I must go
and light a candle to my good Saint Elizabeth. Come. (The STRANGER
shakes his head.) Come!
STRANGER. Very well. I'll go through that way. But I can't stay.
LADY. How can you tell? Come. In there you shall hear new songs.
(The STRANGER follows her to the door of the church.)
STRANGER. It may be!
less important figures
ANOTHER RAGGED PERSON
ACT I Outside the House
ACT II SCENE I Laboratory
SCENE II The 'Rose' Room
ACT III SCENE I The Banqueting Hall
SCENE II A Prison Cell
SCENE III The 'Rose' Room
ACT IV SCENE I The Banqueting Hall
SCENE II In a Ravine
SCENE III The 'Rose' Room
OUTSIDE THE HOUSE
[On the right a terrace, on which the house stands. Below it a road
runs towards the back, where there is a thick pine wood with
heights beyond, whose outlines intersect. On the left there is a
suggestion of a river bank, but the river itself cannot be seen.
The house is white and has small, mullioned windows with iron bars.
On the wall vines and climbing roses. In front of the house, on the
terrace, a well; at the end of the terrace pumpkin plants, whose
large yellow flowers hang dozen over the edge. Fruit trees are
planted along the road, and a memorial cross can be seen erected at
a spot where an accident occurred. Steps lead down from the terrace
to the road, and there are flower-pots on the balustrade. In front
of the steps there is a seat. The road reaches the foreground from
the right, curving past the terrace, which projects like a
promontory, and then loses itself in the background. Strong
sunlight from the left. The MOTHER is sitting on the seat below the
steps. The DOMINICAN is standing in front of her.]
DOMINICAN [Note: The same character as the CONFESSOR and BEGGAR.].
You called me to discuss a family matter of importance to you. Tell
me what it is.
MOTHER. Father, life has treated me hardly. I don't know what I've
done to be so frowned upon by Providence.
DOMINICAN. It's a mark of favour to be tried by the Eternal One,
Back to Full Books