The Road to Damascus
Part 3 out of 6
and triumph awaits the steadfast.
MOTHER. That's what I've often said to myself; but there are limits
to the suffering one can bear. ...
DOMINICAN. There are no limits. Suff'ering's as boundless as grace.
MOTHER. First my husband leaves me for another woman.
DOMINICAN. Then let him go. He'll come crawling back again on his
MOTHER. And as you know, Father, my only daughter was married to a
doctor. But she left him and came home with a stranger, whom she
presented to me as her new husband.
DOMINICAN. That's not easy to understand. Divorce isn't recognised
by our religion.
MOTHER. No. But they'd crossed the frontier, to a land where there
are other laws. He's an Old Catholic, and he found a priest to
DOMINICAN. That's no real marriage, and can't be dissolved because
it never existed. But it can be nullified. Who is your present
MOTHER. Truly, I wish I knew! One thing I do know, and that's
enough to fill my cup of sorrow. He's been divorced and his wife
and children live in wretched circumstances.
DOMINICAN. A difficult case. But we'll find a way to put it right.
What does he do?
MOTHER. He's a writer; said to be famous at home.
DOMINICAN. Godless, too, I suppose?
MOTHER. Yes. At least he used to be; but since his second marriage
he's not known a happy hour. Fate, as he calls it, seized him with
an iron hand and drove him here in the shape of a ragged beggar.
Ill-fortune struck him blow after blow, so that I pitied him at the
very moment he fled from here. Then he wandered in the woods and,
later, lay out in the fields where he fell, till he was found by
merciful folk and taken to a convent. There he lay ill for three
months, without our knowing where he was.
DOMINICAN. Wait! Last year a man was brought to the Convent of St.
Saviour, where I'm Confessor, under the circumstances you describe.
Whilst he was feverish he opened his heart to me, and there was
scarcely a sin of which he didn't confess his guilt. But when he
came to himself again, he said he remembered nothing. So to prove
him in heart and reins I used the secret apostolic powers that are
given us; and, as a trial, employed the lesser curse. For when a
crime's been done in secret, the curse of Deuteronomy is read over
the suspected man. If he's innocent, he goes his way unscathed. But
if he's struck by it, then, as Paul relates, 'he is delivered unto
Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be
MOTHER. O God! It must be he!
DOMINICAN. Yes, it is he. Your son-in-law! The ways of Providence
are inscrutable. Was he heavily struck by the curse?
MOTHER. Yes. That night he slept here, and was torn from his sleep
by an unexplained power that, as he told me, turned his heart to
DOMINICAN. Did he have fearful visions?
DOMINICAN. And was he harried by those terrible thoughts, of which
Job says, 'When I say, my bed shall comfort me, then Thou scarest
me with dreams and terrifiest me with visions; so that my soul
chooseth strangling, and death rather than life.' That's as it
should be. Did it open his eyes?
MOTHER. Yes. But only so that his sight was blinded. For his
sufferings grew so great that he could no longer find a natural
explanation for them, and as no doctor could cure him, he began to
see that he was fighting higher conscious powers.
DOMINICAN. Powers that meant him ill, and were therefore themselves
evil. That's the usual course of things. And then?
MOTHER. He came upon books that taught him that such evil powers
could be fought.
DOMINICAN. Oh! So he looked for what's hidden, and should remain
so! Did he succeed in exorcising the spirits that chastised him?
MOTHER. He says he did. And it seems now that he can sleep again.
DOMINICAN. Yes, and he believes what he says. Yet, since he hasn't
truly accepted the love of truth, God will trouble him with great
delusion, so that he'll believe what is false.
MOTHER. The fault's his own. But he's changed my daughter: in other
days she was neither hot nor cold; but now she's on the way to
DOMINICAN. How do the two of them get on?
MOTHER. Half the time, happily; the other half they plague one
another like devils.
DOMINICAN. That's the way they must go. Plague one another till
they come to the Cross.
MOTHER. If they don't part again.
DOMINICAN. What? Have they done so?
MOTHER. They've left one another four times, but have always come
back. It seems as if they're chained together. It would be a good
thing if they were, for a child's on the way.
DOMINICAN. Let the child come. Children bring gifts that are
refreshing to tired souls.
MOTHER. I hope it may be so. But it looks as if this one will be an
apple of discord. They're already quarrelling over its name;
they're quarrelling over its baptism; and the mother's already
jealous of her husband's children by his first wife. He can't
promise to love this child as much as the others, and the mother
absolutely insists that he shall! So there's no end to their
DOMINICAN. Oh yes, there is. Wait! He's had dealings with higher
powers, so that we've gained a hold on him; and our prayers will be
more, powerful than his resistance. Their effect is as extraordinary
as it is mysterious. (The STRANGER appears on the terrace. He is
in hunting costume and wears a tropical helmet. In his hand he has
an alpenstock.) Is that him, up there?
MOTHER. Yes. That's my present son-in-law.
DOMINICAN. Singularly like the first! But watch how he's behaving.
He hasn't seen me yet, but he feels I'm here. (He makes the sign of
the cross in the air.) Look how troubled he grows. ... Now he
stiffens like an icicle. See! In a moment he'll cry out.
STRANGER (who has suddenly stopped, grown rigid, and clutched his
heart). Who's down there?
MOTHER. I am.
STRANGER. You're not alone.
MOTHER. No. I've someone with me.
DOMINICAN (making the sign of the cross). Now he'll say nothing;
but fall like a felled tree. (The STRANGER crumples up and falls to
the ground.) Now I shall go. It would be too much for him if he
were to see me, But I'll come back soon. You'll see, he's in good
hands! Farewell and peace be with you. (He goes out.)
STRANGER (raising himself and coming down the steps). Who was that?
MOTHER. A traveller. Sit down; you look so pale.
STRANGER. It was a fainting fit.
MOTHER. You've always new names for it; but they mean nothing
fresh. Sit down here, on the seat.
STRANGER. No; I don't like sitting there. People are always
MOTHER. Yet I've been sitting here since I was a child, watching
life glide past as the river does below. Here, on the road, I've
watched the children of men go by, playing, haggling, begging,
cursing and dancing. I love this seat and I love the river below,
though it does much damage every year and washes away the property
we inherited. Last spring it carried our whole hay crop off, so
that we had to sell our beasts. The property's lost half its value
in the last few years, and when the lake in the mountains has
reached its new level and the swamp's been drained into the river,
the water will rise till it washes the house away. We've been at
law about it for ten years, and we've lost every appeal; so we
shall be destroyed. It's as inevitable as fate.
STRANGER. Fate's not inevitable.
MOTHER. Beware, if you think to fight it.
STRANGER. I've done so already.
MOTHER. There you go again! You learn nothing from the chastisement
STRANGER. Oh yes. I've learned to hate. Can one love what does evil?
MOTHER. I've little learning, as you know; but I read yesterday
in an encyclopaedia that the Eumenides are not evilly disposed.
STRANGER. That's true; but it's a lie they're friendly. I only
know one friendly fury. My own!
MOTHER. Can you call Ingeborg a fury?
STRANGER. Yes. She is one; and as a fury, she's remarkable. Her
talent for making me suffer excels my most infernal inventions; and
if I escape from her hands with my life, I'll come out of the fire
as pure as gold.
MOTHER. You've got what you deserve. You wanted to mould her as you
wished, and you've succeeded.
STRANGER. Completely. But where is this fury?
MOTHER. She went down the road a few minutes ago.
STRANGER. Down there? Then I'll go to meet my own destruction. (He
goes towards the back.)
MOTHER. So you can still joke about it? Wait! (The MOTHER is left
alone for a moment, until the STRANGER has disappeared. The LADY
then enters from the right. She is wearing a summer frock, and is
carrying a post bag and some opened letters in her hand.)
LADY. Are you alone, Mother?
MOTHER. I've just been left alone.
LADY. Here's the post. This is for job.
MOTHER. What? Do you open his letters?
LADY. All of them, because I want to know who it is I've linked my
life to. And I want to suppress everything that might minister to
his pride. In a word, I isolate him, so that he has to keep his own
electricity and run the danger of being broken to pieces.
MOTHER. How learned you've grown?
LADY. Yes. If he's unwise enough to confide almost everything to
me, I'll soon hold his fate in my hand. Now, if you please, he's
making electrical experiments and claims he'll be able to harness
the lightning, so that it'll give him light, warmth and power.
Well, let him do as he likes! From a letter that came to-day I see
he's even corresponding with alchemists.
MOTHER. Does he want to make gold? Is the man sane?
LADY. That's the important question. Whether he's a charlatan
doesn't matter so much.
MOTHER. Do you suspect it?
LADY. I'd believe any evil of him, and any good, on the same day.
MOTHER. Is there any other news?
LADY. The plans my divorced husband made for a new marriage have
gone wrong; he's grown melancholic, abandoned his practice and is
tramping the roads.
MOTHER. Oh! He was always my son-in-law. He had a kind heart under
his rough manner.
LADY. Yes. I only called him a werewolf in his role as my husband
and master. As long as I knew he was at peace, and on the way to
find consolation, I was content. But now he'll torment me like a
MOTHER. Have you a conscience?
LADY. I never used to have one. But my eyes have been opened since
I read my husband's works, and I know the difference between good
MOTHER. But he forbade you to read them, and never foresaw you
wouldn't obey him.
LADY. Who can foresee all the results of any action?
MOTHER. Have you more bad news in your pocket, Pandora?
LADY. The worst of all! Think of it, Mother, his divorced wife's
going to marry again.
MOTHER. That ought to be reassuring, to you and to him.
LADY. Didn't you know it was his worst nightmare? That his wife
would marry again and his children have a stepfather?
MOTHER. If he can bear that alone, I shall think him a strange man.
LADY. You believe he's too sensitive? But didn't he say himself
that an educated man of the world at the end of the nineteenth
century never lets himself be put out of countenance!
MOTHER. It's easy to say so; but when things really happen. ...
LADY. Yet there was a gift at the bottom of Pandora's box that was
no misfortune. Look, Mother! A portrait of his six-year-old son.
MOTHER (looking at the picture). A lovely child.
LADY. It does one good to see such a charming and expressive
picture. Tell me, do you think my child will be as beautiful? Well,
what do you say? Answer, or I'll be unhappy! I love this boy
already, but I feel I'd hate him if my child's not as lovely as he.
Yes, I'm jealous already.
MOTHER. When you came here after your unlucky honeymoon, I'd hoped
you'd have got over the worst. But now I see it was only a
foretaste of what was to come.
LADY. I'm ready for anything; and I don't think this knot can ever
be undone. It must be cut!
MOTHER. But you're only making more difficulties for yourself by
suppressing his letters.
LADY. In days gone by, when I went through life like a sleep-walker,
everything seemed easy to me, but I begin to be uncertain now he's
started to waken thoughts in me. (She puts the letters into the
post-bag.) Here he is. 'Sh!
MOTHER. One thing more. Why do you let him wear that suit of your
LADY. I like torturing and humiliating him. I've persuaded him it
fits him and belonged to my father. Now, when I see him in the
werewolf's things, I feel I've got both of them in my clutches.
MOTHER. Heaven defend us! How spiteful you've grown!
LADY. Perhaps that was my role, if I have one in this man's life!
MOTHER. I sometimes wish the river would rise and carry us all away
whilst we're asleep at night. If it were to flow here for a
thousand years perhaps it would wash out the sin on which this
house is built.
LADY. Then it's true that my grandfather, the notary, illegally
seized property not his own? It's said this place was built with
the heritage of widows and orphans, the funds of ruined men, the
property of dead ones and the bribes of litigants.
MOTHER. Don't speak of it any more. The tears of those still living
have run together and formed a lake. And it's that lake, people
say, that's being drained now, and that'll cause the river to wash
LADY. Can't it be stopped by taking legal action? Is there no
justice on earth?
MOTHER. Not on earth. But there is in heaven. And heaven will drown
us, for we're the children of evildoers. (She goes up the steps.)
LADY. Isn't it enough to put up with one's own tears? Must one
inherit other people's?
(The STRANGER comes back.)
STRANGER. Did you call me?
LADY. No. I only tried to draw you to me, without really wanting
STRANGER. I felt you meddling with my destiny in a way that made me
uneasy. Soon you'll have learnt all I know.
LADY. And more.
STRANGER. But I must ask you not to lay rough hands on my fate. I
am Cain, you see, and am under the ban of mysterious powers, who
permit no mortals to interfere with their work of vengeance. You
see this mark on my brow? (He removes his hat.) It means: Revenge
is mine, saith the Lord.
LADY. Does your hat press. ...
STRANGER. No. It chafes me. And so does the coat. If it weren't
that I wanted to please you, I'd have thrown them all into the
river. When I walk here in the neighbourhood, do you know that
people call me the doctor? They must take me for your husband, the
werewolf. And I'm unlucky. If I ask who planted some tree: they
say, the doctor. If I ask to whom the green fish basket belongs:
they say, the doctor. And if it isn't his then it belongs to the
doctor's wife. That is, to you! This confusion between him and me
makes my visit unbearable. I'd like to go away. ...
LADY. Haven't you tried in vain to leave this place six times?
STRANGER. Yes. But the seventh, I'll succeed.
LADY. Then try!
STRANGER. You say that as if you were convinced I'd fail.
LADY. I am.
STRANGER. Plague me in some other way, dear fury.
LADY. Well, I can.
STRANGER. A new way! Try to say something ill-natured that 'the
other one's' not said already.
LADY. Your first wife's 'the other one.' How tactful to remind me
STRANGER. Everything that lives and moves, everything that's dead
and cold, reminds me of what's gone. ...
LADY. Until the being comes, who can wipe out the darkness of the
past and bring light.
STRANGER. You mean the child we're expecting!
LADY. Our child!
STRANGER. Do you love it?
LADY. I began to to-day.
STRANGER. To-day? Why, what's happened? Five months ago you wanted
to run off to the lawyers and divorce me; because I wouldn't take
you to a quack who'd kill your unborn child.
LADY. That was some time ago. Things have changed now.
STRANGER. Why now? (He looks round as if expecting something.) Now?
Has the post come?
LADY. You're still more cunning than I am. But the pupil will
outstrip the master.
STRANGER. Were there any letters for me?
STRANGER. Then give me the wrapper?
LADY. What made you guess?
STRANGER. Give the wrapper, if your conscience can make such fine
distinctions between it and the letter.
LADY (picking up the letter-bag, which she has hidden behind the
seat). Look at this! (The STRANGER takes the photograph, looks at
it carefully, and puts it in his breast-pocket.) What was it?
STRANGER. The past.
LADY. Was it beautiful?
STRANGER. Yes. More beautiful than the future can ever be.
LADY (darkly). You shouldn't have said that.
STRANGER. No, I admit it. And I'm sorry. ...
LADY. Tell me, are you capable of suffering?
STRANGER. Now, I suffer twice; because I feel when you're
suffering. And if I wound you in self-defence, it's I who gets
fever from the wound.
LADY. That means you're at my mercy?
STRANGER. No. Less now than ever, because you're protected by the
innocent being you carry beneath your heart.
LADY. He shall be my avenger.
STRANGER. Or mine!
LADY (tearfully). Poor little thing. Conceived in sin and shame,
and born to avenge by hate.
STRANGER. It's a long time since I've heard you speak like that.
LADY. I dare say.
STRANGER. That was the voice that first drew me to you; it was like
that of a mother speaking to her child.
LADY. When you say 'mother' I feel I can only believe good of you;
but a moment after I say to myself: it's only one more of your ways
of deceiving me.
STRANGER. What ill have I ever really done you? (The LADY is
uncertain what to reply.) Answer me. What ill have I done you?
LADY. I don't know.
STRANGER. Then invent something. Say to me: I hate you, because I
can't deceive you.
LADY. Can't I? Oh, I'm sorry for you.
STRANGER. You must have poison in the pocket of your dress.
LADY. Well, I have!
STRANGER. What can it be? (Pause.) Who's that coming down the road?
LADY. A harbinger.
STRANGER. Is it a man, or a spectre?
LADY. A spectre from the past.
STRANGER. He's wearing a black coat and a laurel crown. But his
feet are bare.
LADY. It's Caesar.
STRANGER (confused). Caesar? That was my nickname at school.
LADY. Yes. But it's also the name of the madman whom my ... first
husband used to look after. Forgive me speaking of him like that.
STRANGER. Has this madman got away?
LADY. It looks like it, doesn't it?
(CAESAR comes in from the back; he wears a black frock coat and is
without a collar; he has a laurel crown on his head and his feet
are bare. His general appearance is bizarre.)
CAESAR. Why don't you greet me? You ought to say: Ave, Caesar! For
now I'm the master. The werewolf, you must know, has gone out of
his mind since the Great Man went off with his wife, whom he
himself snatched from her first lover, or bridegroom, or whatever
you call him.
STRANGER (to the LADY). That was strychnine for two adults! (To
CAESAR) Where's your master now--or your slave, or doctor, or
CAESAR. He'll be here soon. But you needn't be frightened of him.
He won't use daggers or poison. He only has to show himself, for
all living things to fly from him; for trees to drop their leaves,
and the very dust of the highway to run before him in a whirlwind
like the pillar of cloud before the Children of Israel. ...
STRANGER. Listen. ...
CAESAR. Quiet, whilst I'm speaking. ... Sometimes he believes
himself to be a werewolf, and says he'd like to eat a little child
that's not yet born, and that's really his according to the right
of priority. ... (He goes on his way.)
LADY (to the STRANGER). Can you exorcise this demon?
STRANGER. I can do nothing against devils who brave the sunshine.
LADY. Yesterday you made an arrogant remark, and now you shall have
it back. You said it wasn't fair for invisible ones to creep in by
night and strike in the darkness, they should come by day when the
sun's shining. Now they've come!
STRANGER. And that pleases you!
LADY. Yes. Almost.
STRANGER. What a pity it gives me no pleasure when it's you who's
struck! Let's sit down on the seat--the bench for the accused. For
more are coming.
LADY. I'd rather we went.
STRANGER. No, I want to see how much I can bear. You see, at every
stroke of the lash I feel as if a debit entry had been erased from
LADY. But I can stand no more. Look, there he comes himself.
Heavens! This man, whom I once thought I loved!
STRANGER. Thought? Yes, because everything's merely delusion. And
that means a great deal. You go! I'll take the duty on myself of
confronting him alone.
(The LADY goes up the steps, but does not reach the toy before the
DOCTOR becomes visible at the back of the stage. The DOCTOR comes
in, his grey hair long and unkempt. He is wearing a tropical helmet
and a hunting coat, which are exactly similar to the clothes of the
STRANGER. He behaves as though he doesn't notice the STRANGER'S
presence, and sits down on a stone on the other side of the road,
opposite the STRANGER, who is sitting on the seat. He takes of his
hat and mops the sweat from his brow. The STRANGER grows
impatient.) What do you want?
DOCTOR. Only to see this house again, where my happiness once dwelt
and my roses blossomed. ...
STRANGER. An intelligent man of the world would have chosen a time
when the present inhabitants of the house were away for a short
while; even on his own account, so as not to make himself ridiculous.
DOCTOR. Ridiculous? I'd like to know which of us two's the more
STRANGER. For the moment, I suppose I am.
DOCTOR. Yes. But I don't think you know the whole extent of your
STRANGER. What do you mean?
DOCTOR. That you want to possess what I used to possess.
STRANGER. Well, go on.
DOCTOR. Have you noticed that we're wearing similar clothes? Good!
Do you know the reason? It's this: you're wearing the things I
forgot to fetch when the catastrophe took place. No intelligent man
of the world at the end of the nineteenth century would ever put
himself into such a position.
STRANGER (throwing down his hat and coat). Curse the woman!
DOCTOR. You needn't complain. Cast-off male attire has always been
fatal ever since the celebrated shirt of Nessus. Go in now and
change. I'll sit out here and watch, and listen, how you settle the
matter alone with that accursed woman. Don't forget your stick!
(The LADY, who is hurrying towards the house, trips in front of the
steps. The STRANGER stays where he is in embarrassment.) The stick!
STRANGER. I don't ask mercy for the woman's sake, but for the child's.
DOCTOR (wildly). So there's a child, too. Our house, our roses, our
clothes, the bed-clothes not forgotten, and now our child! I'm
within your doors, I sit at your table, I lie in your bed; I exist
in your blood; in your lungs, in your brain; I am everywhere and
yet you can't get hold of me. When the pendulum strikes the hour of
midnight, I'll blow cold, on your heart, so that it stops like a
clock that's run down. When you sit at your work, I shall come with
a poppy, invisible to you, that will put your thoughts to sleep,
and confuse your mind, so that you'll see visions you can't
distinguish from reality. I shall lie like a stone in your path, so
that you stumble; I shall be the thorn that pricks your hand when
you go to pluck the rose. My soul shall spin itself about you like
a spider's web; and I shall guide you like an ox by means of the
woman you stole from me. Your child shall be mine and I shall speak
through its mouth; you shall see my look in its eyes, so that
you'll thrust it from you like a foe. And now, beloved house,
farewell; farewell, 'rose' room--where no happiness shall dwell
that I could envy. (He goes out. The STRANGER has been sitting on
the seat all this time, without being able to answer, and has been
listening as if he were the accused.)
[A Garden Pavilion in rococo style with high windows. In the middle
of the room there is a large writing desk on which are various
pieces of chemical and physical apparatus. Two copper wires are
suspended from the ceiling to an electroscope that is standing on
the middle of the table and which is provided with a number of
bells, intended to record the tension of atmospheric electricity.]
[On the table to the left a large old-fashioned frictional electric
generating machine, with glass plates, brass conductors, and Leyden
battery. The stands are lacquered red and white. On the right a
large old-fashioned open fireplace with tripods, crucibles,
pincers, bellows, etc.]
[In the background a door with a view of the country beyond; it is
dark and cloudy weather, but the red rays of the sun occasionally
shine into the room. A brown cloak with a cape and hood is hanging
up by the fireplace; nearby a travelling bag and an alpenstock. The
STRANGER and the MOTHER are discovered together.]
STRANGER. Where is ... Ingeborg?
MOTHER. You know that better than I.
STRANGER. With the lawyer, arranging a divorce. ...
STRANGER. I told you. No, it's so far-fetched, you'll think I'm
lying to you.
MOTHER. Well, tell me!
STRANGER. She wants a divorce, because I've refused to turn this
man out, although he's deranged. She says it's cowardly of me. ...
MOTHER. I don't believe it.
STRANGER. You see! You only believe what you wish; all the rest is
lies. Well, can you find it in accordance with your interests to
believe that she's been stealing my letters?
MOTHER. I know nothing of that.
STRANGER. I'm not asking you whether you know of it, but whether
you believe it.
MOTHER (changing the subject). What are you trying to do here?
STRANGER. I'm making experiments concerning atmospheric electricity.
MOTHER. And that's the lighting conductor, that you've connected to
STRANGER. Yes. But there's no danger; for the bells would ring if
there were an atmospheric disturbance.
MOTHER. That's blasphemy and black magic. Take care! And what are
you doing there, in the fireplace?
STRANGER. Making gold.
MOTHER. You think it possible?
STRANGER. You take it for granted I'm a charlatan? I shan't blame
you for that; but don't judge too quickly. At any moment I expect
to get a sworn statement of analysis.
MOTHER. I dare say. But what are you going to do if Ingeborg
doesn't come back?
STRANGER. She will, this time. Later, perhaps, when the child's
here, she'll cut herself adrift.
MOTHER. You seem very sure.
STRANGER. Yes. As I said, I still am. So long as the bond's not
broken you can feel it. When it is, you'll feel that unpleasantly
MOTHER. But when you've parted from one another, you may yet both
be bound to the child. You can't tell in advance.
STRANGER. I've been providing against that by a great interest,
that I hope will fill my empty life.
MOTHER. You mean gold. And honour!
STRANGER. Precisely! For a man the most enduring of all illusions.
MOTHER. So you'd build on illusions?
STRANGER. On what else should I build, when everything's illusion?
MOTHER. If you ever awake from your dream, you'll find a reality of
which you've never been able to dream.
STRANGER. Then I'll wait till that happens.
MOTHER. Wait then. Now I'll go and shut the window, before the
STRANGER (going towards the back of the stage). That's going to be
interesting. (A hunting horn is heard in the distance.) Who's
sounding that horn?
MOTHER. No one knows; and it means nothing good. (She goes out.)
STRANGER (busying himself with the electroscope, and turning his
back on the open window as he does so; then taking up a book and
reading aloud.) 'When Adam's race of giants had increased enough
for them to consider their number sufficient to risk an attack on
those above, they began to build a tower that was to reach up to
Heaven. Those above were then seized with fear and, in order to
protect themselves, broke up the assembled multitude by so
confusing their tongues and their minds that two people who met
could not understand one another, even if they spoke the same
language Since then, those above rule by discord: divide and rule.
And the discord is upheld by the belief that the truth has been
found; but when one of the prophets is believed, he is a lying
prophet. If on the other hand a mortal succeeds in penetrating the
secret of those above, no one believes him, and he is struck with
madness so that no one ever shall. Since then mortals have been
more or less demented, particularly those who are held to be wise,
but madmen are in reality the only wise men; for they can see, hear
and feel the invisible, the inaudible and the intangible, though
they cannot relate their experiences to others.' Thus Zohar, the
wisest of all the books of wisdom, and therefore one that no one
believes. I shall build no tower of Babel, but I shall tempt the
Powers into my mousetrap, and send them to the Powers below, the
subterranean ones, so that they can be neutralised. It is the
higher Schedim, who have come between mortal men and the Lord
Zabaoth; and that is why joy, peace and happiness have vanished
from the earth.
LADY (coming back in despair, throwing herself down in front of the
STRANGER and putting her arms round his feet and her head on the
ground.) Help me! Help me! And forgive me.
STRANGER. Get up. In God's name! Get up. Don't do that. What's
LADY. In my anger I've behaved foolishly. I've been caught in my
STRANGER (lifting her up). Stand up, foolish child; and tell me
LADY. I went to the public prosecutor.
STRANGER. ... and asked for a divorce. ...
LADY. ... that was my intention; but when I got there, I laid
information against the werewolf for a breach of the peace and
STRANGER. But he's guilty of neither!
LADY. No, but I laid the information all the same. ... And when I
was there, he came himself to lay information against me for
bearing false witness. Then I went to the lawyer and he told me
that I could expect a sentence of at least a month. Think of it, my
child will be born in prison! How can I escape from that? Help me.
You can. Speak!
STRANGER. Yes, I can help you. But, if I do, don't revenge yourself
on me afterwards.
LADY. How little you know me. But tell me quickly.
STRANGER. I must take the blame on myself, and say I sent you.
LADY. How generous you are! Am I rid of the whole business now?
STRANGER. Dry your eyes, my child, and take comfort. But tell me
about something else, that's nothing to do with this. Did you leave
this purse here? (The LADY is embarrassed.) Tell me!
LADY. Has such a thing ever happened before?
STRANGER. Yes. The 'other one' wanted to discover, in this way,
whether I stole. The first time it happened I wept, because I was
still young and innocent.
LADY. Oh no!
STRANGER. Now you seem to me the most wretched creature on earth.
LADY. Is that why you love me?
STRANGER. No. You've been stealing my letters, too! Answer, yes!
And that's why you wanted to prove me a thief with this purse.
LADY. What have you got there, on the table.
(There is a flash of lightning, but no thunder.)
LADY. Aren't you afraid?
STRANGER. Yes, sometimes; but not of what you fear.
(The contorted face of the DOCTOR appears outside the window.)
LADY. Is there a cat in the room? I feel uneasy.
STRANGER. I don't think so. Yet I too have a feeling that there's
LADY (turning and seeing the DOCTOR's face; then screaming and
hurrying to the STRANGER for protection.) Oh! There he is!
STRANGER. Where? Who?
(The DOCTOR'S face disappears.)
LADY. There, at the window. It's he!
STRANGER. I can see no one. You must be wrong.
LADY. No, I saw him. The werewolf! Can't we be rid of him?
STRANGER. Yes, we could. But it'd be useless, because he has an
immortal soul, which is bound to yours.
LADY. If I'd only known that before!
STRANGER. It's surely in the Catechism.
LADY. Then let us die!
STRANGER. That was once my religion; but as I no longer believe
that death's the end, nothing remains but to bear everything--to
fight, and to suffer!
LADY. For how long must we suffer?
STRANGER. As long as he suffers and our consciences plague us.
LADY. Then we must try and justify ourselves to our consciences;
find excuses for our frivolous actions, and discover his weaknesses.
STRANGER. Well, you can try!
LADY. You say that! Since I've known he's unhappy I can see nothing
but his qualities, and you lose when I compare you with him.
STRANGER. See how well it's arranged! His sufferings sanctify him,
but mine make me abhorrent and laughable! We must face the
immutable. We've destroyed a soul, so we are murderers.
LADY. Who is to blame?
STRANGER. He who's so mismanaged the fate of men.
(There is a flash of lightning; the electric bells begin to ring.)
LADY. O God! What's that?
STRANGER. The answer.
LADY. Is there a lightning conductor here?
STRANGER. The priest of Baal wishes to coax the lightning from
LADY. Now I'm frightened, frightened of you. You're terrifying.
STRANGER. You see!
LADY. Who are you to defy Heaven, and to dare to play with the
destinies of men?
STRANGER. Get up and collect your thoughts. Listen to me, believe
me, and pay me the respect that's my due; and I'll lift both of us
high above this frog pond, to which we've both descended. I'll
breathe on your sick conscience so that it heals like a wound. Who
am I? A man who has done what no one else has ever done; who will
overthrow the Golden Calf and upset the tables of the money-changers.
I hold the fate of the world in my crucible; and in a week I can
make the richest of the rich a poor man. Gold, the most false of
all standards, has ceased to rule; every man will now be as poor as
his neighbour, and the children of men will hurry about like ants
whose heap has been disturbed.
LADY. What good will that be to us?
STRANGER. Do you think I'll make gold in order to enrich ourselves
and others? No. I'll do it to paralyse the present order, to
disrupt it, as you'll see! I am the destroyer, the dissolver, the
world incendiary; and when all lies in ashes, I shall wander
hungrily through the heaps of ruins, rejoicing at the thought that
it is all my work: that I have written the last page of world
history, which can then be held to be ended.
(The face of the DOMINICAN appears at the open window, without
being seen by those on the stage.)
LADY. Then that was the real meaning of your last book! It was no
STRANGER. No. But in order to write it, I had to link myself with
the self of another, who could take everything from me that
fettered my soul. So that my spirit could once more find a fiery
blast, on which to mount to the ether, elude the Powers, and reach
the Throne, in order to lay the lamentations of mankind at the feet
of the Eternal One. ... (The DOMINICAN makes the sign of the cross
in the air and disappears.) Who's here? Who is the Terrible One who
follows me and cripples my thoughts? Did you see no one?
LADY. No. No one.
STRANGER. But I can feel his presence. (He puts his hand to his
heart.) Can't you hear, far, far away, someone saying a rosary?
LADY. Yes, I can hear it. But it's not the Angels' Greeting. It's
the Curse of Deuteronomy! Woe unto us!
STRANGER. Then it must be in the convent of St. Saviour.
LADY. Woe! Woe!
STRANGER. Beloved. What is it?
LADY. Beloved! Say that word again.
STRANGER. Are you ill?
LADY. No, but I'm in pain, and yet glad at the same time. Go and
ask my mother to make up my bed. But first give me your blessing.
STRANGER. Shall I ...?
LADY. Say you forgive me; I may die, if the child takes my life.
Say that you love me.
STRANGER. Strange: I can't get the word to cross my lips.
LADY. Then you don't love me?
STRANGER. When you say so, it seems so to me. It's terrible, but I
fear I hate you.
LADY. Then at least give me your hand; as you'd give it to someone
STRANGER. I'd like to, but I can't. Someone in me takes pleasure in
your agony; but it's not I. I'd like to carry you in my arms and
bear your suffering for you. But I may not. I cannot!
LADY. You're as hard as stone.
STRANGER (with restrained emotion). Perhaps not. Perhaps not.
LADY. Come to me!
STRANGER. I can't stir from here. It's as if someone had taken
possession of my soul; and I'd like to kill myself so as to take
the life of the other.
LADY. Think of your child with joy. ...
STRANGER. I can't even do that, for it'll bind me to earth.
LADY. If we've sinned, we've been punished! Haven't we suffered
STRANGER. Not yet. But one day we shall have.
LADY (sinking down). Help me. Mercy! I shall faint!
(The STRANGER extends his hand, as if he had recovered from a
cramp. The LADY kisses it. The STRANGER lifts her up and leads her
to the door of the house.)
THE 'ROSE' ROOM
[A room with rose-coloured walls; it has small windows with iron
lattices and plants in pots. The curtains are rose red; the
furniture is white and red. In the background a door leading to a
white bed-chamber; when this door is opened, a large bed can be
seen with a canopy and white hangings. On the right the door
leading out of the house. On the left a fireplace with a coal
fire. In front of it a bath tub, covered with a white towel. A cradle
covered with white, rose-coloured and light-blue stuff. Baby
clothes are spread out here and there. A green dress hangs on the
right-hand wall. Four Sisters of Mercy are on their knees, facing
the door at the back, dressed in the black and white of Augustinian
nuns. The midwife, who is in black, is by the fireplace. The
child's nurse wears a peasant's dress, of black and white, from
Brittany. The MOTHER is standing listening by the door at the back.
The STRANGER is sitting on a chair right and is trying to read a
book. A hat and a brown cloak with a cape and hood hang nearby, and
on the floor there is a small travelling bag. The Sisters of Mercy
are singing a psalm. The others join in from time to time, but not
SISTERS. Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae;
Vita, dulcedo, et spes nostra, salve.
Ad to clamamus, exules filii Evae;
Ad to suspiramus gementes et flentes
In hac lacrymarum valle.
(The STRANGER rises and goes to the MOTHER.)
MOTHER. Stay where you are! A human being's coming into the world;
another's dying. It's all the same to you.
STRANGER. I'm not so sure! If I want to go in, I'm not allowed to.
And when I don't want to, you wish it. I'd like to now.
MOTHER. She doesn't want to see you. Besides, presence here's no
longer needed. The child matters most now.
STRANGER. For you, yes; but I'm still of most importance to myself.
MOTHER. The doctor's forbidden anyone to go in, whoever they may
be, because she's in danger.
STRANGER. What doctor?
MOTHER. So your thoughts are there again!
STRANGER. Yes. And it's you who led them! An hour ago you gave me
to understand that the child couldn't be mine. With that you
branded your daughter a whore; but that means nothing to you, if
you can only strike me to the heart! You are almost the most
contemptible creature I know!
MOTHER (to the SISTERS). Sisters! Pray for this unhappy man.
STRANGER. Make way for me to go in. For the last time--out of the
MOTHER. Leave this room, and this house too.
STRANGER. If I were to do as you ask, in ten minutes you'd send the
police after me, for abandoning my wife and child!
MOTHER. I'd only do that to have you taken to a convent you know of.
MAID (entering at the back). The Lady's asking you to do something
STRANGER. What is it?
MAID. There's supposed to be a letter in the dress she left hanging
STRANGER (looks round and notices the green dress; he goes over to
it and takes a letter from the pocket). This is addressed to me,
and was opened two days ago. Broken open! That's good!
MOTHER. You must forgive someone who's as ill as your wife.
STRANGER. She wasn't ill two days ago.
MOTHER. No. But she is now.
STRANGER. But not two days ago! (Reading the letter.) Well, I'll
forgive her now, with the magnanimity of the victor.
MOTHER. Of the victor?
STRANGER. Yes. For I've done something no one's ever done before.
MOTHER. You mean the gold. ...?
STRANGER. Here's a certificate from the greatest living authority.
Now I'll go and see him myself.
STRANGER. At your request.
MAID (to the STRANGER). The Lady asks you to come in.
MOTHER. You hear?
STRANGER. No, now I don't want to! You've made your own daughter,
my wife, into a whore; and branded my unborn child a bastard. You
can keep them both. You've murdered my honour. There's nothing for
me to do but to revive it elsewhere.
MOTHER. You can never forgive!
STRANGER. I can. I forgive you--and I shall leave you. (He puts on
the brown cloak and hat, picks up his stick and travelling bag.)
For if I were to stay, I'd soon grow worse than I am now. The
innocent child, whose mission was to ennoble our warped
relationship, has been defiled by you in his mother's womb and made
an apple of discord and a source of punishment a revenge. Why
should I stay here to be torn to pieces?
MOTHER. For you, duties don't exist.
STRANGER. Oh yes, they do! And the first of them's this: To protect
myself from total destruction. Farewell!
THE BANQUETING HALL
[Room in a hotel prepared for a banquet. There are long tables
laden with flowers and candelabra. Dishes with peacocks, pheasants
in full plumage, boars' heads, entire lobsters, oysters, salmon,
bundles of asparagus, melons and grapes. There is a musicians'
gallery with eight players in the right-hand corner at the back.]
[At the high table: the STRANGER in a frock coat; next to him a
Civil Uniform with orders; a professorial Frock Coat with an order;
and other black Frock Coats with orders of a more or less striking
kind. At the second table a few Frock Coats between black Morning
Coats. At the third table clean every-day costumes. At the fourth
table dirty and ragged figures of strange appearance.]
[The tables are so arranged that the first is furthest to the left
and the fourth furthest to the right, so that the people sitting at
the fourth table cannot be seen by the STRANGER. At the fourth
table CAESAR and the DOCTOR are seated, in shabby clothes. They are
the farthest down stage. Dessert has just been handed round and the
guests have golden goblets in front of them. The band is playing a
passage in the middle of Mendelssohn's Dead March pianissimo. The
guests are talking to one another quietly.]
DOCTOR (to CAESAR). The company seems rather depressed and the
dessert came too soon!
CAESAR. By the way, the whole thing look's like a swindle! He
hasn't made any gold, that's merely a lie, like everything else.
DOCTOR. I don't know, but that's what's being said. But in our
enlightened age anything whatever may be expected.
CAESAR. There's a professor at the high table, who's supposed to be
an authority. But what subject is he professor of?
DOCTOR: I've no idea. It must be metallurgy and applied chemistry.
CAESAR. Can you see what order he's wearing?
DOCTOR. I don't know it. I expect it's some tenth rate foreign order.
CAESAR. Well, at a subscription dinner like this the company's
always rather mixed.
CAESAR. You mean, that we ... hm. ... I admit we're not well
dressed, but as far as intelligence goes. ...
DOCTOR. Listen, Caesar, you're a lunatic in my charge, and you must
avoid speaking about intelligence as much as you can.
CAESAR. That's the greatest impertinence I've heard for a long
time. Don't you realise, idiot, that I've been engaged to look
after you, since you lost your wits?
PROFESSOR (taping his goblet). Gentlemen!
CAESAR. Hear, hear!
PROFESSOR. Gentlemen! Our small society is to-day honoured by the
presence of the great man, who is our guest of honour, and when the
CAESAR (to the DOCTOR). That's the government, you know!
PROFESSOR. ... and when the committee asked me to act as
interpreter and to explain the motives that prompted them I was at
first doubtful whether I could accept the honour. But when I
compared my own incapacity with that of others, I discovered that
neither lost in the comparison.
PROFESSOR. Gentlemen! A century of discovery is ending with the
greatest of all discoveries--foreseen by Pythagoras, prepared for
by Albertus and Paracelsus and first carried out by our guest of
honour. You will permit me to give this feeble expression of our
admiration for the greatest man of a great century. A laurel crown
from the society! (He places a laurel frown on the STRANGER'S
head.) And from the committee: this! (He hangs a shining order
round the STRANGER'S neck.) Gentlemen! Three cheers for the Great
Man who has made gold!
ALL (with the exception of the STRANGER). Hurrah!
(The band plays chords from Mendelssohn's Dead March. During the
last part of the foregoing speech servants have exchanged the
golden goblets for dull tin ones, and they now begin to take away
the pheasants, peacocks, etc. The music plays softly. General
CAESAR. Oughtn't we to taste these things before they take them
DOCTOR. It all seems humbug, except that about making gold.
STRANGER (knocking on the table). Gentlemen! I've always been
proud of the fact that I'm not easy to deceive ...
CAESAR. Hear, hear!
STRANGER. ... that I'm not easily carried away, but I am touched at
the sincerity so obvious in the great tribute you've just paid me;
and when I say touched, I mean it.
STRANGER. There are always sceptics; and moments in the life of
every man, when doubts creep into the hearts of even the strongest.
I'll confess that I myself have doubted; but after finding myself
the object this sincere and hearty demonstration, and after taking
part in this royal feast, for it is royal; and seeing that,
finally, the government itself ...
VOICE. The committee!
STRANGER. ... the committee, if you like, has so signally
recognised my modest merits, I doubt no longer, but believe! (The
Civil Uniform creeps out.) Yes, gentlemen, this is the greatest and
most satisfying moment of my life, because it has given me back
the greatest thing any man can possess, the belief in himself.
CAESAR. Splendid! Bravo!
STRANGER. I thank you. Your health!
(The PROFESSOR gets up. Everyone rises and the company begins to
mix. Most of the musicians go out, but two remain.)
GUEST (to the STRANGER). A delightful evening!
(All the Frock Coats creep away.)
FATHER (an elderly, overdressed man with an eye-glass and military
bearing crosses to the doctor). What? Are you here?
DOCTOR. Yes, Father-in-law. I'm here. I go everywhere he goes.
FATHER. It's too late in the day to call me father-in-law. Besides,
I'm _his_ father-in-law now.
DOCTOR. Does he know you?
FATHER. No. He's not had that honour; and I must ask you to
preserve my incognito. Is it true he's made gold?
DOCTOR. So it's said. But it's certain he left his wife while she
was in childbed.
FATHER. Does that mean I can expect a third son-in-law soon? I
don't like the idea! The uncertainty of my position makes me hate
being a father-in-law at all. Of course, I've nothing to say
against it, since. ...
(The tables have now been cleared; the cloths and the candelabra
have been removed, so that the tables themselves, which are merely
boards supported on trestles, are all that remain. A big stoneware
jug has been brought in and small jugs of simple form have been put
on the high table. The people in rags sit down next to the STRANGER
at the high table; and the FATHER sits astride a chair and stares
CAESAR (knocking on the table). Gentlemen! This feast has been
called royal, not on account of the excellence of the service
which, on the contrary, has been wretched; but because the man,
whom we have honoured, is a king, a king in the realm of the
Intellect. Only I am able to judge of that. (One of the people in
rags laughs.) Quiet. Wretch! But he's more than a king, he's a man
of the people, of the humblest. A friend of the oppressed, the
guardian of fools, the bringer of happiness to idiots. I don't know
whether he's succeeded in making gold. I don't worry about that,
and I hardly believe it ... (There is a murmur. Two policemen come
in and sit by the door; the musicians come down and take seats at
the tables.) ... but supposing he has, he has answered all the
questions that the daily press has been trying to solve for the
last fifty years. ... It's only an assumption--
RAGGED PERSON. No. Don't interrupt him.
CAESAR. A mere assumption without real foundation, and the analysis
may be wrong!
ANOTHER RAGGED PERSON. Don't talk nonsense!
STRANGER. Speaking in my capacity as guest of honour at this
gathering I should say that it would be of interest to those taking
part to hear the grounds on which I've based my proof. ...
CAESAR. We don't want to hear that. No, no.
FATHER. Wait! I think justice demands that the accused should be
allowed to explain himself. Couldn't our guest of honour tell the
company his secret in a few words?
STRANGER. As the discoverer I can't give away my secret. But that's
not necessary, because I've submitted my results to an authority
CAESAR. Then the whole thing's nonsense, the whole thing! We don't
believe authorities--we're free-thinkers. Did you ever hear
anything so impudent? That we should honour a mystery man, an
arch-swindler, a charlatan, in good faith.
FATHER. Wait a little, my good people!
(During this scene a wall screen, charmingly decorated with palm
trees and birds of paradise, has been taken away, disclosing a
wretched serving-counter and stand for beer mugs, behind which a
waitress is seen dispensing tots of spirits. Scavengers and
dirty-looking women go over to the counter and start drinking.)
STRANGER. Was I asked here to be insulted?
FATHER. Not at all. My friend's rather loquacious, but he's not
said anything insulting yet.
STRANGER. Isn't it insulting to be called a charlatan?
FATHER. He didn't mean it seriously.
STRANGER. Even as a joke I think the word arch-swindler slanderous.
FATHER. He didn't use _that_ word.
STRANGER. What? I appeal to the company: wasn't the word he used
ALL. No. He never said that!
STRANGER. Then I don't know where I am--or what company I've got
RAGGED PERSON. Is there anything wrong with it?
(The people murmur.)
BEGGAR (comes forward, supporting himself on crutches; he strikes
the table so hard with his crutch, that some mugs are broken.) Mr.
Chairman! May I speak? (He breaks some more crockery.) Gentlemen,
in this life I've not allowed thyself to be easily deceived, but
this time I have been. My friend in the chair there has convinced
me that I've been completely deceived on the question of his power
of judgment and sound understanding, and I feel touched. There are
limits to pity and limits also to cruelty. I don't like to see real
merit being dragged into the dust, and this man's worth a better
fate than his folly's leading him to.
STRANGER. What does this mean?
(The FATHER and the DOCTOR have gone out during this scene without
attracting attention. Only beggars remain at the high table. Those
who are drinking gather into groups and stare at the STRANGER.)
BEGGAR. You take yourself to be the man of the century, and accept
the invitation of the Drunkards' Society, in order to have yourself
feted as a man of science. ...
STRANGER (rising). But the government. ...
BEGGAR. Oh yes, the Committee of the Drunkards' Society have given
you their highest distinction--that order you've had to pay for
STRANGER. What about the professor?
BEGGAR. He only calls himself that; he's no professor really,
though he does give lessons. And the uniform that must have
impressed you most was that of a lackey in a chancellery.
STRANGER (tearing of the wreath and the ribbon of the order). Very
well! But who was the elderly man with the eyeglass?
BEGGAR. Your father-in-law!
STRANGER. Who got up this hoax?
BEGGAR. It's no hoax, it's quite serious. The professor came on
behalf of the Society, for so they call themselves, and asked you
whether you'd accept the fete. You accepted it; so it became
(Two dirty-looking women carry in a dust-bin suspended from a stick
and set it down on the high table.)
FIRST WOMAN. If you're the man who makes gold, you might buy two
brandies for us.
STRANGER. What's this mean?
BEGGAR. It's the last part of the reception; and it's supposed to
mean that gold's mere rubbish.
STRANGER. If only that were true, rubbish could be exchanged for
BEGGAR. Well, it's only the philosophy of the Society of Drunkards.
And you've got to take your philosophy where you find it.
SECOND WOMAN (sitting down next to the STRANGER). Do you recognise
SECOND WOMAN. Oh, you needn't be embarrassed so late in the evening
STRANGER. You believe you're one of my victims? That I was amongst
the first hundred who seduced you?
SECOND WOMAN. No. It's not what you think. But I once came across a
printed paper, when I was about to be confirmed, which said that it
was a duty to oneself to give way to all desires of the flesh.
Well, I grew free and blossomed; and this is the fruit of my highly
STRANGER (rising). Perhaps I may go now?
WAITRESS (coming over with a bill). Yes. But the bill must be paid
STRANGER. What? By me? I haven't ordered anything.
WAITRESS. I know nothing of that; but you're the last of the
company to have had anything.
STRANGER (to the BEGGAR). Is this all a part of the reception?
BEGGAR. Yes, certainly. And, as you know, everything costs money,
even honour. ...
STRANGER (taking a visiting card and handing it to the waitress).
There's my card. You'll be paid to-morrow.
WAITRESS (putting the card in the dust-bin). Hm! I don't know the
name; and I've put a lot of such cards into the dust-bin. I want
BEGGAR. Listen, madam, I'll guarantee this man will pay.
WAITRESS. So you'd like to play tricks on me too! Officer! One
POLICEMAN. What's all this about? Payment, I suppose. Come to the
station; we'll arrange things there. (He writes something in his
STRANGER. I'd rather do that than stay here and quarrel. ... (To
the BEGGAR.) I don't mind a joke, but I never expected such cruel
reality as this.
BEGGAR. Anything's to be expected, once you challenge persons as
powerful as you have! Let me tell you this in confidence. You'd
better be prepared for worse, for the very worst!
STRANGER. To think I've been so duped ... so ...
BEGGAR. Feasts of Belshazzar always end in one way a hand's
stretched out--and writes a bill. And another hand's laid on the
guest's shoulder and leads him to the police station! But it must
be done royally!
POLICEMAN (laying his hand on the STRANGER). Have you talked
THE WOMEN and RAGGED ONES. The alchemist can't pay. Hurrah! He's
going to gaol. He's going to gaol!
SECOND WOMAN. Yes, but it's a shame.
STRANGER. You're sorry for me? I thank you for that, even if I
don't quite deserve it! _You_ felt pity for me!
SECOND WOMAN. Yes. That's also something I learnt from you.
(The scene is changed without lowering the curtain. The stage is
darkened, and a medley of scenes, representing landscapes, palaces,
rooms, is lowered and brought forward; so that characters and
furniture are no longer seen, but the STRANGER alone remains
visible and seems to be standing stiffly as though unconscious. At
last even he disappears, and from the confusion a prison cell
[On the right a door; and above it a barred opening, through which
a ray of sunlight is shining, throwing a patch of light on the
left-hand wall, where a large crucifix hangs.]
[The STRANGER, dressed in a brown cloak and wearing a hat, is
sitting at the table looking at the patch of sunlight. The door is
opened and the BEGGAR is let in.]
BEGGAR. What are you brooding over?
STRANGER. I'm asking myself why I'm here; and then: where I was
BEGGAR. Where do you think?
STRANGER. It seems in hell; unless I dreamed everything.
BEGGAR. Then wake up now, for this is going to be reality.
STRANGER. Let it come. I'm only afraid of ghosts.
BEGGAR (taking out a newspaper). Firstly, the great authority has
withdrawn the certificate he gave you for making gold. He says, in
this paper, that you deceived him. The result is that the paper
calls you a charlatan!
STRANGER. O God! What is it I'm fighting?
BEGGAR. Difficulties, like other men.
STRANGER. No, this is something else. ...
BEGGAR. Your own credulity, then.
STRANGER. No, I'm not credulous, and I know I'm right.
BEGGAR. What's the good of that, if no one else does,
STRANGER. Shall I ever get out of this prison? If I do, I'll settle
BEGGAR. The matter's arranged; everything's paid for.
STRANGER. Oh? Who paid, then?
BEGGAR. The Society, I suppose; or the Drunkard's Government.
STRANGER. Then I can go?
BEGGAR. Yes. But there's one thing. ...
STRANGER. Well, what is it?
BEGGAR. Remember, an enlightened man of the world mustn't let
himself be taken by surprise.
STRANGER. I begin to divine. ...
BEGGAR. The announcement's on the front page.
STRANGER. That means: she's already married again, and my children
have a stepfather. Who is he?
BEGGAR. Whoever he is, don't murder him; for he's not to blame for
taking in a forsaken woman.
STRANGER. My children! O God, my children!
BEGGAR. I notice you didn't foresee what's happened; but why not
look ahead, if you're so old and such an enlightened man of the
STRANGER (beside himself). O God! My children!
BEGGAR. Enlightened men of the world don't weep! Stop it, my son.
When such disasters happen men of the world ... either ... well,
tell me. ...
STRANGER. Shoot themselves!
STRANGER. No, not that!
BEGGAR. Yes, my son, precisely that! He's throwing out a
sheet-anchor as an experiment.
STRANGER. This is irrevocable. Irrevocable!
BEGGAR. Yes, it is. Quite irrevocable. And you can live another
lifetime, in order to contemplate your own rascality in peace.
STRANGER. You should be ashamed to talk like that.
BEGGAR. And you?
STRANGER. Have you ever seen a human destiny like mine?
BEGGAR. Well, look at mine!
STRANGER. I know nothing of yours.
BEGGAR. It's never occurred to you, in all our long acquaintance,
to ask about my affairs. You once scorned the friendship I offered
you, and fell straightway into the arms of boon companions. I hope
it'll do you good. And so farewell, till the next time.
STRANGER. Don't go.
BEGGAR. Perhaps you'd like company when you get out of prison?
STRANGER. Why not?
BEGGAR. It hasn't occurred to you I mightn't want to show myself in
STRANGER. It certainly hasn't.
BEGGAR. But it's true. Do you think I want to be suspected of
having been at that immortal banquet in the alchemist's honour, of
which there's an account in the morning paper?
STRANGER. He doesn't want to be seen with me!
BEGGAR. Even a beggar has his pride and fears ridicule.
STRANGER. He doesn't want to be seen with me. Am I then sunk to
BEGGAR. You must ask yourself that, and answer it, too.
(A mournful cradle song is heard in the distance.)
STRANGER. What's that?
BEGGAR. A song sung by a mother at her baby's cradle.
STRANGER. Why must I be reminded of it just now?
BEGGAR. Probably so that you can feel really keenly what you've
left for a chimera.
STRANGER. Is it possible I could have been wrong? If so it's the
devil's work, and I'll lay down my arms.
BEGGAR. You'd better do that as soon as you can. ...
STRANGER. Not yet! (A rosary can be heard being repeated in the
distance.) What's that? (A sustained note of a horn is heard.)
That's the unknown huntsman! (The chord from the Dead March is
heard.) Where am I? (He remains where he is as if hypnotised.)
BEGGAR. Bow yourself or break!
STRANGER. I cannot bow!
BEGGAR. Then break.
(The STRANGER falls to the ground. The same confused medley of
scenes as before.)
THE 'ROSE' ROOM
[The same scene as Act I. The kneeling Sisters of Mercy are now
reading their prayer books, '... exules filii Evae; Ad to
suspiramus et flentes In hac lacrymarum aalle.' The MOTHER is by
the door at the back; the FATHER by the door on the right.]
MOTHER (going towards him). So you've come back again?
FATHER (humbly). Yes.
MOTHER. Your lady-love's left you?
RATHER. Don't be more cruel than you need!
MOTHER. You say that to me, you who gave my wedding presents to
your mistress. You, who were so dishonourable as to expect me, your
wife, to choose presents for her. You, who wanted my advice about
colour and cut, in order to educate her taste in dress! What do you
FATHER. I heard that my daughter ...
MOTHER. Your daughter's lying there, between life and death; and
you know that her feelings for you have grown hostile. That's why I
ask you to go; before she suspects your presence.
FATHER. You're right, and I can't answer you. But let me sit in the
kitchen, for I'm tired. Very tired.
MOTHER. Where were you last night?
FATHER. At the club. But I wanted to ask you if the husband weren't
MOTHER. Am I to lay bare all this misery? Don't you know your
daughter's tragic fate?
FATHER. Yes ... I do. And what a husband!
MOTHER. What men! Go downstairs now and sleep off your liquor.
FATHER. The sins of the fathers. ...
MOTHER. You're talking nonsense.
FATHER. Of course I don't mean my sins ... but those of our
parents. And now they say the lake up there's to be drained, so
that the river will rise. ...
MOTHER (pushing him out of the door). Silence. Misfortune will
overtake us soon enough, without you calling it up.
MAID (from the bedroom at the back). The lady's asking for the
MOTHER. She means her husband.
MAID. Yes. The master of the house, her husband.
MOTHER. He went out a little while ago.
(The STRANGER comes in.)
STRANGER. Has the child been born?
MOTHER. No. Not yet.
STRANGER (putting his hand to his forehead). What? Can it take so
MOTHER. Long? What do you mean?
STRANGER (looking about him). I don't know what I mean. How is it
with the mother?
MOTHER. She's just the same.
STRANGER. The same?
MOTHER. Don't you want to get back to your gold making?
STRANGER. I can't make head or tail of it! But there's still hope
my worst dream was nothing but a dream.
MOTHER. You really look as if you were walking in your sleep.
STRANGER. Do I? Oh, I wish I were! The one thing I fear I'd fear no
MOTHER. He who guides your destiny seems to know your weakest
STRANGER. And when there was only one left, he found that too;
happily for me only in a dream! Blind Powers! Powerless Ones!
MAID (coming in again). The lady asks you to do her a service.
STRANGER. There she lies like an electric eel, giving shocks from a
distance. What kind of service is it to be now?
MAID. There's a letter in the pocket of her green coat.
STRANGER. No good will come of that! (He takes the letter out of
the green coat, which is hanging near the dress by fireplace.) I
must be dead. I dreamed this, and now it's happening. My children
have a stepfather!
MOTHER. Who are you going to blame?
STRANGER. Myself! I'd rather blame no one. I've lost my children.
MOTHER. You'll get a new one here.
STRANGER. He might be cruel to them. ...
MOTHER. Then their sufferings will burden your conscience, if you
STRANGER. Supposing he were to beat them?
MOTHER. Do you know what I'd do in your place?
STRANGER. Yes, I know what you'd do; but I don't know what I'll do.
MOTHER (to the Sisters of Mercy). Pray for this man!
STRANGER. No, no. Not that! It'll do no good, and I don't believe
MOTHER. But you believe in your gold?
STRANGER. Not even in that. It's over. All over!
(The MIDWIFE comes out of the bedroom.)
MIDWIFE. A child's born. Praise the Lord!
MOTHER. Let the Lord be praised!
SISTERS. Let the Lord be praised!
MIDWIFE (to the STRANGER). Your wife's given you daughter.
MOTHER (to the STRANGER). Don't you want to see your child?
STRANGER. No. I no longer want to tie myself anything on earth. I'm
afraid I'd get to love her, and then you'd tear the heart from my
body. Let me get out of this atmosphere, which is too pure for me.
Don' t let that innocent child come near me, for I'm a man already
damned, already sentenced, and for me there's no joy, no peace, and
no ... forgiveness!
MOTHER. My son, now you're speaking words of wisdom! Truthfully and
without malice: I welcome your decision. There's no place for you
here, and amongst us women you'd be plagued to death. So go in
STRANGER. There'll be no more peace, but I'll go. Farewell!
MOTHER. Exules filii Evae; on earth you shall be a fugitive and a
STRANGER. Because I have slain my brother.
[The room in which the banquet took place in Act III. It is dirty,
and furnished with unpainted wooden tables. Beggars, scavengers and
loose women. Cripples are seated here and there drinking by the
light of tallow dips.]
[The STRANGER and the SECOND WOMAN are sitting together drinking
brandy, which stands on the table in front of them in a carafe. The
STRANGER is drinking heavily.]
WOMAN. Don't drink so much!
STRANGER. You see. You've scruples, too!
WOMAN. No. But I don't like to see a man I respect lowering himself
STRANGER. But I came here specially to do so; to take a mud-bath
that would harden my skin against the pricks of life. To find
immoral support about me. And I chose your company, because you're
the most despicable, though you've still retained a spark of
humanity. You were sorry for me, when no one else was. Not even
WOMAN. Really, I don't know.
STRANGER. But you must know that there are moments when you look
WOMAN. Oh, listen to him!
STRANGER. Yes. And then you resemble a woman who was dear to me.
WOMAN. Thank you!
WAITRESS. Don't talk so loud, there's a sick man here.
STRANGER. Tell me, have you ever been in love?
WOMAN. We don't use that word, but I know what you mean. Yes. I had
a lover once and we had a child.
STRANGER. That was foolish!
WOMAN. I thought so, too, but he said the days liberation were at
hand, when all chains would he struck off, all barriers thrown
down, and ...
STRANGER (tortured). And then ...?
WOMAN. Then he left me.
STRANGER. He was a scoundrel. (He drinks.)
WOMAN (looking at him.) You think so?
STRANGER. Yes. He must have been.
WOMAN. Now you're so intolerant.
STRANGER (drinking). Am I?
WOMAN. Don't drink so much; I want to see you far above me,
otherwise you can't raise me up.
STRANGER. What illusions you must have! Childish! I lift you up! I
who am down below. Yet I'm not; it's not I who sit here, for I'm
dead. I know that my soul's far away, far, far away. ... (He stares
in front of him with an absent-minded air) ... where a great lake
lies in the sunshine like molten gold; where roses blossom on the
wall amongst the vines; where a white cot stands under the acacias.
But the child's asleep and the mother's sitting beside the cot
doing crochet work. There's a long, long strip coming from her
mouth and on the strip is written ... wait ... 'Blessed are the
sorrowful, for they shall be comforted.' But that's not so, really.
I shall never be comforted. Tell me, isn't there thunder in the
air, it's so close, so hot?
WOMAN (looking out of the window). No. I can see no clouds out
STRANGER. Strange ... that's lightning.
WOMAN. No. You're wrong.
STRANGER. One, two, three, four, five ... now the thunder must
come! But it doesn't. I've never been frightened of a thunderstorm
until to-day--I mean, until to-night. But is it day or night?
WOMAN. My dear, it's night.
STRANGER. Yes. It _is_ night.
(The DOCTOR has come in during this scene and has sat down behind
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