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Savva and The Life of Man
by Leonid Andreyev
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THE MODERN DRAMA SERIES

EDITED BY EDWIN BJOeRKMAN

SAVVA

THE LIFE OF MAN

BY LEONID ANDREYEV



SAVVA

THE LIFE OF MAN

TWO PLAYS BY

LEONID ANDREYEV



TRANSLATED FROM THE RUSSIAN WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

THOMAS SELTZER

BOSTON LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY

1920

1914, BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

This edition is authorized by Leonid Andreyev, who has selected the plays included in it.

All Dramatic rights reserved by Edwin Bjoerkman



CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF PLAYS BY LEONID ANDREYEV

SAVVA

THE LIFE OF MAN



INTRODUCTION

For the last twenty years Leonid Andreyev and Maxim Gorky have by turns occupied the centre of the stage of Russian literature. Prophetic vision is no longer required for an estimate of their permanent contribution to the intellectual and literary development of Russia. It represents the highest ideal expression of a period in Russian history that was pregnant with stirring and far-reaching events—the period of revolution and counter-revolution. It was a period when Russian society passed from mood to mood at an extremely rapid tempo: from energetic aggressiveness, exultation, high hope, and confident trust in the triumph of the people's cause to apathetic inaction, gloom, despair, frivolity, and religious mysticism. This important dramatic epoch in the national life of Russia Andreyev and Gorky wrote down with such force and passion that they became recognized at once as the leading exponents of their time.

Despite this close external association, their work differs essentially in character. In fact, it is scarcely possible to conceive of greater artistic contrasts. Gorky is plain, direct, broad, realistic, elemental. His art is native, not acquired. Civilization and what learning he obtained later through the reading of books have influenced, not the manner or method of his writing, but only its purpose and occasionally its subject matter. It is significant to watch the dismal failure Gorky makes of it whenever, in concession to the modern literary fashion, he attempts the mystical. Symbolism is foreign to him except in its broadest aspects. His characters, though hailing from a world but little known, and often extreme and extremely peculiar, are on the whole normal.

Andreyev, on the other hand, is a child of civilization, steeped in its culture, and while as rebellious against some of the things of civilization as Gorky, he reacts to them in quite a different way. He is wondrously sensitive to every development, quickly appropriates what is new, and always keeps in the vanguard. His art is the resultant of all that the past ages have given us, of the things that we have learned in our own day, and of what we are just now learning. With this art Andreyev succeeds in communicating ideas, thoughts, and feelings so fine, so tenuous, so indefinite as to appear to transcend human expression. He does not care whether the things he writes about are true, whether his characters are real. What he aims to give is a true impression. And to convey this impression he does not scorn to use mysticism, symbolism, or even plain realism. His favorite characters are degenerates, psychopaths, abnormal eccentrics, or just creatures of fancy corresponding to no reality. Frequently, however, the characters, whether real or unreal, are as such of merely secondary importance, the chief aim being the interpretation of an idea or set of ideas, and the characters functioning primarily only as a medium for the embodiment of those ideas.

In one respect Gorky and Andreyev are completely at one—in their bold aggressiveness. The emphatic tone, the attitude of attack, first introduced into Russian literature by Gorky, was soon adopted by most of his young contemporaries, and became the characteristic mark of the literature of the Revolution. By that token the literature of Young Russia of that day is as easily recognized as is the English literature of the Dryden and Pope epoch by its sententiousness. It contrasts sharply with the tone of passive resignation and hopelessness of the preceding period. Even Chekhov, the greatest representative of what may be called the period of despondence, was caught by the new spirit of optimism and activism, so that he reflected clearly the new influence in his later works. But while in Gorky the revolt is chiefly social—manifesting itself through the world of the submerged tenth, the disinherited masses, les miserables, who, becoming conscious of their wrongs, hurl defiance at their oppressors, make mock of their civilization, and threaten the very foundations of the old order—Andreyev transfers his rebellion to the higher regions of thought and philosophy, to problems that go beyond the merely better or worse social existence, and asks the larger, much more difficult questions concerning the general destiny of man, the meaning of life and the reason for death.

Social problems, it is true, also interest Andreyev. "The Red Laugh" is an attack on war through a portrayal of the ghastly horrors of the Russo-Japanese War; "Savva," one of the plays of this volume, is taken bodily (with a poet's license, of course) from the actual revolutionary life of Russia; "King Hunger" is the tragedy of the uprising of the hungry masses and the underworld. Indeed, of the works written during the conflict and for some time afterward, all centre more or less upon the social problems which then agitated Russia. But with Andreyev the treatment of all questions tends to assume a universal aspect. He envisages phenomena from a broad, cosmic point of view; he beholds things sub specie aeternitatis. The philosophical tendency of his mind, though amply displayed even in works like "Savva"—which is purely a character and social drama—manifests itself chiefly by his strong propensity for such subjects as those treated in "To the Stars," "The Life of Man," and "Anathema." In these plays Andreyev plunges into the deepest problems of existence, and seeks to posit once more and, if possible, to solve in accordance with the modern spirit and modern knowledge those questions over which the mightiest brains of man have labored for centuries: Whence? Whither? What is the significance of man's life? Why is death?

If Spinoza's dictum be true, that "a wise man's meditation is not of death but of life," then Andreyev is surely not a wise man. Some philosophers might have written their works even without a guarantee against immortality, though Schopenhauer, who exercised a influence on the young Andreyev, was of the opinion that "without death there would hardly be any philosophy"; but of Andreyev it is certain that the bulk of his works would not have been written, and could not be what they are, were it not for the fact of death. If there is one idea that can be said to dominate the author of "The Life of Man," it is the idea of death. Constantly he keeps asking: Why all this struggling, all this pain, all this misery in the world, if it must end in nothing? The suffering of the great mass of mankind makes life meaningless while it lasts, and death puts an end even to this life. Again and again Andreyev harks back to the one thought from which all his other thoughts seem to flow as from their fountain-head. Lazarus, in the story by that name, is but the embodiment of death. All who behold him, who look into his eyes, are never again the same as they were; indeed, most of them are utterly ruined. "The Seven Who Were Hanged" tells how differently different persons take death. Grim death lurks in the background of almost every work, casting a fearful gloom, mocking the life of man, laughing to scorn his joys and his sorrows, propounding, sphinx-like, the big riddle that no Oedipus will ever be able to solve.

For it is not merely the destructive power of death, not merely its negation of life, that terrifies our author. The pitchy darkness that stretches beyond, the impossibility of penetrating the veil that separates existence from non-existence—in a word, the riddle of the universe—is, to a mind constituted like Andreyev's, a source of perhaps even greater disquiet. Never was a man hungrier than he with "the insatiable hunger for Eternity"; never was a man more eager to pierce the mystery of life and catch a glimpse of the beyond while yet alive.

Combined with the perplexing darkness that so pitifully limits man's vision is the indifference of the forces that govern his destiny. The wrongs he suffers may cry aloud to heaven, but heaven does not hear him. Whether he writhe in agony or be prostrated in the dust (against all reason and justice), he has no appeal, societies, the bulk of mankind, may be plunged in misery—who or what cares? Man is surrounded by indifference as well as by darkness.

Often, when an idea has gained a powerful hold on Andreyev, he pursues it a long time, presenting it under various aspects, until at last it assumes its final form, rounded and completed, as it were, in some figure or symbol. As such it appears either as the leading theme of an entire story or drama, or as an important subordinate theme. Thus we have seen that the idea of death finds concrete expression in the character of Lazarus. The idea of loneliness, of the isolation of the individual from all other human beings, even though he be physically surrounded by large numbers, is embodied in the story of "The City." Similarly the conception of the mystery and the indifference by which man finds himself confronted is definitely set forth in the figure of Someone in Gray in "The Life of Man."

The riddle, the indifference—these are the two characteristics of human destiny that loom large in Andreyev's conception of it as set forth in that figure. Someone in Gray—who is he? No one knows. No definite name can be given him, for no one knows. He is mysterious in "The Life of Man," where he is Man's constant companion; he is mysterious in "Anathema," where he guards the gate leading from this finite world to eternity. And as Man's companion he looks on indifferently, apparently unconcerned whether Man meets with good or bad fortune. Man's prayers do not move him. Man's curses leave him calm.

It is Andreyev's gloomy philosophy, no doubt, that so often causes him to make his heroes lonely, so that loneliness is developed into a principle of human existence, in some cases, as in "The City," becoming the dominant influence over a man's life. Particularly the men whom life has treated senselessly and cruelly, whom it has dealt blow after blow until their spirits are crushed out—it is such men in particular who become lonely, seek isolation and retirement, and slink away into some hole to die alone. This is the significance of the saloon scene in "The Life of Man." The environment of the drunkards who are withdrawn from life, and therefore lonely themselves, accentuates the loneliness of Man in the last scene. It is his loneliness that Andreyev desired to bring into relief. His frequenting the saloon is but an immaterial detail, one of the means of emphasizing this idea. To remove all possible misunderstanding on this point, Andreyev wrote a variant of the last scene, "The Death of Man," in which, instead of dying in a saloon surrounded by drunkards, Man dies in his own house surrounded by his heirs. "The loneliness of the dying and unhappy man," Andreyev wrote in a prefatory note to this variant, "may just as fully be characterized by the presence of the Heirs."

However, for all the gloom of his works, Andreyev is not a pessimist. Under one of his pictures he has written: "Though it destroys individuals, the truth saves mankind." The misery in the world may be ever so great; the problems that force themselves upon man's mind may seem unanswerable; the happenings in the external world may fill his soul with utter darkness, so that he despairs of finding any meaning, any justification in life. And yet, though his reason deny it, his soul tells him: "The truth saves mankind." After all, Man is not a failure. For though misfortunes crowd upon him, he remains intact in soul, unbroken in spirit. He carries off the victory because he does not surrender. He dies as a superman, big in his defiance of destiny. This must be the meaning Andreyev attached to Man's life. We find an interpretation of it, as it were, in "Anathema," in which Someone sums up the fate of David—who lived an even sadder life than Man and died a more horrible death—in these words: "David has achieved immortality, and he lives immortal in the deathlessness of fire. David has achieved immortality, and he lives immortal in the deathlessness of light which is life."

Andreyev was born at Orel in 1871 and was graduated from the gymnasium there. According to his own testimony, he never seems to have been a promising student. "In the seventh form," he tells us, "I was always at the bottom of my class." He lost his father early, and often went hungry while studying law at the University of St. Petersburg. In the University of Moscow, to which he went next, he fared better. One of the means that he used to eke out a livelihood was portrait painting to order, and in this work he finally attained such proficiency that his price rose from $1.50 apiece to $6.00.

In 1897 he began to practise law, but he gave most of his time to reporting court cases for the "Courier," a Moscow newspaper, and later to writing feuilletons and stories. He tried only one civil case, and that one he lost. His work in the "Courier" attracted Gorky's attention, and the older writer zealously interested himself in Andreyev's behalf.

In 1902 his story named "The Abyss" appeared and created a sensation immediately. Even Countess Tolstoy joined in the dispute which raged over this story, attacking it as matter unfit for literature. But the verdict of Andreyev's generation was in his favor. Since then nearly every new work of his has been received as an important event in Russia and has sent the critics scurrying to his attack or defence. His first drama, "To the Stars," appeared while the Russians were engaged in fighting for liberty (1905), and, naturally enough, it reflects that struggle. "Savva" was published early the next year, and "The Life of Man" later in the same year. The production of "Savva" is prohibited in Russia. It has been played in Vienna and Berlin, and recently it was staged again in Berlin by "Die Freie Buehne," meeting with signal success.



A CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF PLAYS

By LEONID ANDREYEV

TO THE STARS (K Zviezdam), 1905; SAVVA (Savva), 1906; THE LIFE OF MAN (Zhizn Chelovieka), 1906; KING HUNGER (Tzar Golod), 1907; THE BLACK MASKS (Chiorniya Maski), 1908; THE DAYS OF OUR LIFE (Dni Nashey Zhizni), 1908; ANATHEMA (Anatema), 1909; ANFISSA (Anfissa), 1909; GAUDEAMUS (Gaudeamus), 1910; THE OCEAN (Okean), 1911; "HONOR" ("Chest"), 1911 (?); THE PRETTY SABINE WOMEN (Prekrasniya Sabinianki), 1911; PROFESSOR STORITZYN (Professor Storitzyn), 1912; CATHERINE (Yekaterina Ivanovna), 1913; THOU SHALT NOT KILL (Ne Ubi), 1914.



SAVVA or IGNIS SANAT

(SAVVA)

A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS

1906



PERSONS

YEGOR IVANOVICH TROPININ, innkeeper in a monastic suburb. An elderly man of about fifty, with an important manner and a item, dignified way of speaking.

ANTON (Tony), anywhere from thirty-five to thirty-eight, bloated from drinking and always under the influence of alcohol. His face is bloodless, sad, and sleepy. He has a sparse beard, speaks slowly and painfully, and never laughs.

OLYMPIADA (Lipa), twenty-eight years old. She is fair and rather good-looking. There is a touch of monastic severity in her dress.

SAVVA, twenty-three, large, broad-shouldered, with a suggestion of the peasant in his looks. He walks with a slight stoop, elbows out, feet in. The motions of his hands are rounded and graceful, his palms being turned up as if he were carrying something. His features are large and rough-hewn, and his cheeks and chin are covered with a soft light down. When agitated or angry, he turns gray as dust, his movements become quick and agile, and his stoop disappears. He wears the blouse and boots of a workingman.

PELAGUEYA, a freckled, colorless woman, of about thirty, wearing the ordinary dress of her class. She is dirty and untidy.

SPERANSKY GRIGORY PETROVICH, an ex-seminarist; tall, very lean, with a pale, long face, and a tuft of dark hair on his chin. He has long, smooth hair parted in the middle and falling on each side of his face. He is dressed either in a long, dark overcoat or in a dark frock-coat.

FATHER KONDRATY, a friar, forty-two years old, ugly, narrow-chested, with swollen, animated eyes.

VASSYA, a novice, a strong and athletic youth of nineteen. He has a round, cheerful, smiling face, and curly, lustrous hair.

KING HEROD, a pilgrim, about fifty. He has a dry, emaciated face, black from sunburn and road dust. His gray, dishevelled hair and beard give him a savage appearance. He has only one arm, the left. He is as tall as Savva.

A FAT MONK.

A GRAY MONK.

A MAN IN PEASANT OVERCOAT. Monks, pilgrims, cripples, beggars, blind men and women, monstrosities.

The action takes place at the beginning of the twentieth century in a rich monastery celebrated for its wonder-working ikon of the Saviour. There is an interval of about two weeks between the first and the last act.



SAVVA

THE FIRST ACT

_The interior of a house in a monastic suburb. Two rooms, with a third seen back of them. They are old, ramshackle, and filthy. The first one is a sort of dining-room, large, with dirty, low ceiling and smeared wall-paper that in places has come loose from the wall. There are three little windows; the one giving on the yard reveals a shed, a wagon, and some household utensils. Cheap wooden furniture; a large, bare table. On the walls, which are dotted with flies, appear pictures of monks and views of the monastery. The second room, a parlor, is somewhat cleaner. It has window curtains of muslin, two flower-pots with dried geraniums, a sofa, a round table covered with a tablecloth, and shelves with dishes. The door to the left in the first room leads to the tavern. When open, it admits the sound of a man's doleful, monotonous singing.

It is noon of a hot and perfectly still summer's day. Now and then the clucking of hens is heard under the windows. The clock in the belfry of the monastery strikes every half-hour, a long, indistinct wheeze preceding the first stroke.

Pelagueya, who is pregnant, is scrubbing the floor. Seized with giddiness, she staggers to her feet and leans against the wall, staring before her with a vacant gaze._

PELAGUEYA

Oh, God! (She starts to scrub the floor again)

LIPA (enters, faint from heat)

How stifling! I don't know what to do with myself. My head seems full of pins and needles. (She sits down) Polya, say, Polya.

PELAGUEYA

What is it?

LIPA

Where's father?

PELAGUEYA

He's sleeping.

LIPA

Oh, I can't stand it. (She opens the window, then takes a turn round the room, moving aimlessly and, glancing into the tavern) Tony's sleeping too—behind the counter. It would be nice to go in, bathing, but it's too hot to walk to the river. Polya, why don't you speak? Say something.

PELAGUEYA

What?

LIPA

Scrubbing, scrubbing, all the time.

PELAGUEYA

Yes.

LIPA

And in a day from now the floors will be dirty again. I don't see what pleasure you get from working the way you do.

PELAGUEYA.

I have to.

LIPA

I just took a peep at the street. It's awful. Not a human being in sight, not even a dog. All is dead. And the monastery has such a queer look. It seems to be hanging in the air. You have the feeling that if you were to blow on it, it would begin to swing and fly away. Why are you so silent, Polya? Where is Savva? Have you seen him?

PELAGUEYA

He's in the pasture playing jackstones with the children.

LIPA

He's a funny fellow.

PELAGUEYA

I don't see anything funny about it. He ought to be working, that's what he ought to be doing, not playing like a baby. I don't like your Savva.

LIPA (lazily)

No, Polya, he is good.

PELAGUEYA

Good? I spoke to him and told him how hard the work was for me. "Well," he says, "if you want to be a horse, pull." What did he come here for? I wish he'd stayed where he was.

LIPA

He came home to see his folks. Why, it's ten years since he left. He was a mere boy then.

PELAGUEYA

A lot he cares for his folks. Yegor Ivanovich is just dying to get rid of him. The neighbors don't know what to make of him either. He dresses like a workingman and carries himself like a lord, doesn't speak to anybody and just rolls his eyes like a saint. I am afraid of his eyes.

LIPA

Nonsense. He has beautiful eyes.

PELAGUEYA

Can't he see that it's hard for me to be doing all the housework myself? A while ago he saw me carrying a pail full of water. I was straining with all my might. He didn't even say good morning; just, passed on. I have met a lot of people in my life, but never anybody whom I disliked so much.

LIPA

I'm so hot, everything seems to be turning round like wheels. Listen, Polya, if you don't want to work, don't. No one compels you to.

PELAGUEYA

If I won't work, who will? Will you?

LIPA

No, I won't. We'll hire a servant.

PELAGUEYA

Yes, of course, you have plenty of money.

LIPA

And what's the use of keeping it?

PELAGUEYA

I'll die soon and then you'll get a servant. I won't last much longer. I have had one miscarriage, and I guess a second child will be the end of me. I don't care. It's better than to live the way I do. Oh! (She clasps her waist)

LIPA

But for God's sake, who is asking you to? Stop working. Don't scrub.

PELAGUEYA

Yes, stop it, and all of you will be going about saying: "How dirty the house is!"

LIPA (weary from the heat and Pelagueya's talk)

Oh, I'm so tired of it!

PELAGUEYA

Don't you think I feel tired too? What are you complaining about anyhow? You are a lady. All you have to do is pray and read. I don't even get time to pray. Some day I'll drop into the next world all of a sudden just as I am, with my skirt tucked up under my belt: "Good morning! How d'you do!"

LIPA

You'll be scrubbing floors in the next world too.

PELAGUEYA

No, in the next world it's you who'll be scrubbing floors, and I'll sit with folded hands like a lady. In heaven we'll be the first ones, while you and your Savva, for your pride and your hard hearts—

LIPA

Now, Polya, am I not sorry for you?

YEGOR IVANOVICH TROPININ (enters, still sleepy, his beard turned to one side, the collar of his shirt unbuttoned; breathing heavily) Whew! Say, Polya, bring me some cider. Quick! (Pause) Who opened the window?

LIPA

I did.

YEGOR

What for?

LIPA

It's hot. The stove in the restaurant makes it so close here you can't breathe.

YEGOR

Shut it, shut it, I say. If it's too hot for you, you can go down into the cellar.

LIPA

But what do you want to have the window shut for?

YEGOR

Because. Shut it! You have been told to shut the window—then shut it! What are you waiting for? (Lipa, shrugging her shoulders, closes the window and is about to leave) Where are you going? The moment your father appears, you run away. Sit down!

LIPA

But you don't want me.

YEGOR

Never mind whether I want you or not—sit down! Oh, my! (He yawns and crosses himself) Where is Savva?

LIPA

I don't know.

YEGOR

Tell him I'll turn him out.

LIPA

Tell him so yourself.

YEGOR

Fool! (He yawns and crosses himself) Oh, Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us sinners! What was it I was dreaming about just now?

LIPA

I don't know.

YEGOR

Who asked you? You stupid, how could you tell what I was dreaming? You've got brains, haven't you?

PELAGUEYA (handing him cider)

There.

YEGOR

There. Put it down and don't "there" me. (Takes the jug and drinks) What was I talking about? (Pelagueya finishes scrubbing the floor) Oh yes, about the Father Superior. A smart fellow he is. You'll have to go a long way to find another like him. He had the old coffin exchanged for a new one. The pilgrims chewed the old one to pieces, so he put a new one in its place. He put a new one in place of the old one. They'll chew this, one to pieces too, the fools! Anything you give them, the fools! Do you hear or don't you?

LIPA

I hear. What's so remarkable about it? A swindle, that's all.

YEGOR

What's remarkable about it is that, he didn't ask your advice. They chewed the old one to pieces, so he put a new one in its place exactly like it; Yes, just exactly like the one in which the saint lay before. Remember us in heaven where thou dwellest, O Saint! (He crosses himself and yawns) You can lose your teeth on this one too. They chewed the old one to pieces completely. Where are you off to? Sit down!

LIPA

I can't, it's so hot in here.

YEGOR

But I can. Sit down, you won't melt. (Pause) They chewed up the old one, so he put up a new one. Where is Savva?

PELAGUEYA

He's playing; jackstones with the children.

YEGOR

I'm not asking you. What time is it?

PELAGUEYA

It just struck two.

YEGOR

Tell him I'll turn him out. I won't stand it.

LIPA

Stand what? Be reasonable.

YEGOR

I won't stand it. Who is he anyway? Never at home in time for dinner. He comes and feeds like a dog by himself—knocks about at night and doesn't lock the gate. I went out yesterday and found the gate wide open. If we are robbed, who'll pay for it?

LIPA

There are no thieves here. What thieves have you ever seen in this place?

YEGOR

What thieves? A lot. When all people are asleep, he is knocking about. Who ever heard of such a thing?

LIPA

But if he doesn't want to sleep, what is he to do?

YEGOR

What, you too? He doesn't want to? Let him go to bed, and he'll sleep. No one wants to sleep, but once you lie down you fall asleep. He doesn't want to? I know him. Who asked him to come? He was making bank-notes over there—then why didn't he stay where he was and do what he pleased? What business has he here?

LIPA

What bank-notes?

YEGOR

What bank-notes? Not real ones. Nothing is done to you for making real bank-notes. Counterfeit bank-notes, that's what. Not the sort of thing you get patted on the head for, when you are caught, no sirree! It's very strict now. I'll go to the police captain and tell him: "It's like this—just search him."

LIPA

Oh, nonsense.

PELAGUEYA

You are the only, one who doesn't know it. Everybody else knows it.

LIPA

Oh, Lord!

YEGOR

Well, about the Lord we know better than you. You needn't appeal to Him. I want you to tell Savva that I am not afraid of him. He didn't strike the right person. I'll just make him skip. I'll turn him out. Let him go where he came from. The idea of my having to be responsible for his robberies. Who's ever heard of such a thing?

LIPA

You are not quite wide awake, father, that's what's the matter with you.

YEGOR

I am wide awake all right, and have been for a long time. What I'd like to know is, are you wide awake? Look out, Lipa, don't let it happen to you too.

LIPA

What?

YEGOR

It. (He yawns and crosses himself) If mother were to rise from her grave now and see her children, she would be delighted. Fine children, she would say. I have nursed you, and brought you up, and what's the result? Regular good-for-nothing scamps. Tony'll soon begin to drink again. I can see it on his face. Who's ever heard of such a thing? People will soon be coming here for the feast-day, and I'll have to work alone for the whole bunch. Polya, hand me that match from the floor—there. No, not there, you blind goose. There, you stupid.

PELAGUEYA (hunting for the match)

I don't see it.

YEGOR

I'll take you by the back of your neck and give you such a shaking that you'll see mighty quick. There it is, damn you!

LIPA (faint)

Oh, God, what a blistering heat!

YEGOR

There it is. Where are you crawling? Under the chair. There, damn you!

SAVVA (enters gayly, the pocket of his blouse full of jackstones) I won six pair.

YEGOR

Well, the idea!

SAVVA

I finished that rascal Misha, cleared him all up. What are you mumbling about there?

YEGOR

Nothing. Only I wish you'd address me a little more politely.

SAVVA (paying no attention to him)

Lipa, I won six pair.

LIPA

How can you play in such heat?

SAVVA

Wait, I am going to put the jackstones away. I have eighteen pair now. Misha, the little rascal, plays well. (He goes out)

YEGOR (rising)

I don't want to see him any more. Tell him to get out of here at once.

LIPA

All right, I will.

YEGOR

Don't say "all right," but do what your father tells you. A fine lot of brats—that's a sure thing! Yes, yes. (Goes) If mother saw them—

PELAGUEYA

He speaks of mother as if he weren't the one that drove her to an early grave. He talked her to death, the old scold! He just talks and talks, and nags and nags, and he doesn't know himself what he wants.

LIPA

To be with you is like being caught in the wheel of a machine. My head is spinning round and round.

PELAGUEYA

Then why don't you go away with your Savva? What are you waiting for?

LIPA

Look here, why are you angry with me?

PELAGUEYA

I am not angry. I am telling the truth. You don't want to marry. You are disgusted with all your beaux. Why don't you go into a convent?

LIPA

I won't go into a convent, but I will go away from here, soon enough, I think.

PELAGUEYA

Well, go! No one is keeping you. The road is wide open.

LIPA

Ah, Polya, you are angry and sulky with me. You don't know how I spend my nights thinking about you. At night I lie awake and think and think about you, and about all the people that are unhappy—all of them.

PELAGUEYA

What do you want to think about me for? You had better think about yourself.

LIPA

And no one knows it. Well, what's the use of talking? You couldn't understand anyhow. I am sorry for you, Polya. (Pelagueya laughs) What's the matter?

PELAGUEYA

If you are sorry for me, why don't you carry out that pail? The way I am, I shouldn't be lifting heavy things. Why don't you help me, if you are so sorry for me?

LIPA (her face darkening, then brightening again) Give it to me. (She picks up the pail and starts to carry it away)

PELAGUEYA (spitefully)

Hypocrite! Let go! Where are you going? (She carries out the pail and returns for the other things)

SAVVA (entering; to his sister)

Why is your face so red?

LIPA

It's hot.

[Pelagueya laughs.

SAVVA

Say, Pelagueya, has Kondraty inquired for me?

PELAGUEYA

Kondraty! What Kondraty?

SAVVA

Kondraty, the friar; he looks something like a sparrow.

PELAGUEYA

I didn't see any Kondraty. Like a sparrow! That's a funny way of putting it.

SAVVA

Tell Tony to come here, won't you?

PELAGUEYA

Tell him yourself.

SAVVA

Well, well!

PELAGUEYA (calls through the door before she goes out into the tavern) Anthony, Savva wants you.

LIPA

What do you want him for?

SAVVA

What a queer habit you have here of plying a person with questions all the time. Where, who, why, what for?

LIPA (slightly offended)

You needn't answer if you don't want to.

TONY (enters, speaking slowly and with difficulty)

Who wants me?

SAVVA

I am expecting Kondraty here—you know Kondraty, don't you? Send him in when he comes.

TONY

Who are you?

SAVVA

And send in two bottles of whiskey too, do you hear?

TONY

Maybe I do and maybe I don't. Maybe I'll send the whiskey and maybe I won't.

SAVVA

What a sceptic. You've grown silly, Tony.

LIPA

Leave him alone, Savva. He has got that from the seminary student, from Speransky. Anyhow, he is full of—

TONY (sitting down)

I didn't get it from anybody. I can understand everything myself. The blood has congealed in my heart.

SAVVA

That's from drink, Tony. Stop drinking.

TONY

The blood has congealed in my heart. You think I don't know what's what. A while ago you weren't here with us, and all of a sudden you came. Yes, I understand everything. I have visions.

SAVVA

What do you see? God?

TONY

There is no God.

SAVVA

How's that?

TONY

And no devil either. There's nothing, no people, no animals, nothing.

SAVVA

What is there then?

TONY

There are only faces, a whole lot of faces. It's faces, faces, faces. They are very funny, and I keep laughing all the time. I just sit still, and the faces come jumping and gliding past me, jumping and gliding. You've got a very funny face too, Savva. (Sadly) It's enough to make one die of laughter.

SAVVA (laughing gayly)

What kind of a face have I?

TONY

That's the kind of face you have. (Pointing his finger at him) She also has a face, and she. And father too. And then there are other faces. There are a lot of faces. I sit in the tavern and see everything. Nothing escapes me. You can't fool me. Some faces are small and some are large, and all of them glide and glide—Some are far away, and some are as close to me as if they wanted to kiss me or bite my nose. They have teeth.

SAVVA

All right, Tony, now you can go. We'll talk about the faces later. Your own face is funny enough.

TONY

Yes, of course. I, too, have a face.

SAVVA

All right, all right. Go now. Don't forget to send in the whiskey.

TONY

As in the daytime so at night. A lot of faces. (From the door) And in regards to whiskey, maybe I'll send it and maybe I won't. I can't tell yet.

SAVVA (to Lipa)

Has he been that way a long time?

LIPA

I don't know. I think so. He drinks an awful lot.

PELAGUEYA (going)

No wonder. You're enough to drive a man to drink. Cranks. (Exit)

LIPA

My, how stifling! I don't know what to do with myself. Say, Savva, why aren't you nicer to Polya? She is such a wretched creature.

SAVVA

A slavish soul.

LIPA

It isn't her fault if she's that way.

SAVVA (coldly)

Nor mine either.

LIPA

Oh, Savva, if you only knew the terrible life people lead here. The men drink, and beat their wives, and the women—

SAVVA

I know.

LIPA

You say it so calmly. I have been waiting very much to have a talk with you.

SAVVA

Go ahead.

LIPA

You'll soon be leaving us, I suppose.

SAVVA

Yes.

LIPA

Then I won't have any chance to talk to you. You are scarcely ever at home. This is the first time, pretty nearly. It seems so strange that you should enjoy playing with the children, you a grown man, big as a bear.

SAVVA (merrily)

No, Lipa, they play very well. Misha is very good at the game, and I have a hard time holding up my end of it. I lost him three pairs yesterday.

LIPA

Why, he is only ten years old.—

SAVVA

Well, what of it? The children are the only human beings here. They are the wisest part of the—

LIPA (with a smile)

And I? How about me?

SAVVA (looking at her)

You? Why, you are like the rest.

[A pause. Being offended, Lipa's languor disappears to some extent.

LIPA

Maybe I bore you.

SAVVA

No, you make no difference to me one way or another. I am never bored.

LIPA (with a constrained smile)

Thank you, I am glad of that at least. Were you in the monastery to-day? You go there often, don't you?

SAVVA

Yes, I was there. Why?

LIPA

I suppose you don't remember—I love our monastery. It is so beautiful. At times it looks so pensive. I like it because it's so old. Its age gives it a solemnity, a stern serenity and detachment.

SAVVA

Do you read many books?

LIPA (blushing)

I used to read a lot. You know I spent four winters in Moscow with Aunt Glasha. Why do you ask?

SAVVA

Never mind. Go on.

LIPA

Does what I say sound ridiculous?

SAVVA

No, go on.

LIPA

The monastery is really a remarkable place. There are nice spots there which no one ever visits, somewhere between the mute walls, where there is nothing but grass and fallen stones and a lot of old, old litter. I love to linger there, especially at twilight, or on hot sunny days like to-day. I close my eyes, and I seem to look far, far into the distant past—at those who built it and those who first prayed in it. There they walk along the path carrying bricks and singing something, so softly, so far away. (Closing her eyes) So softly, so softly.

SAVVA

I don't like the old. As to the building of the monastery, it was done by serfs, of course; and when they carried bricks they didn't sing, but quarrelled and cursed one another. That's more like it.

LIPA (opening her eyes)

Those are my dreams. You see, Savva, I am all alone here. I have nobody to talk to. Tell me—You won't be angry, will you?—Tell me, just me alone, why did you come here to us? It wasn't to pray. It wasn't for the feast-day. You don't look like a pilgrim.

SAVVA (frowning)

I don't like you to be so curious.

LIPA

How can you think I am? Do I look as if I were curious? You have been here for two weeks, and you ought to see that I am lonely. I am lonely, Savva. Your coming was to me like manna fallen from the sky. You are the first living human being that has come here from over there, from real life. In Moscow I lived very quietly, just reading my books; and here—you see the sort of people we have here.

SAVVA

Do you think it's different in other places?

LIPA

I don't know. That's what I should like to find out from you. You have seen so much. You have even been abroad.

SAVVA

Only for a short time.

LIPA

That makes no difference. You have met many cultured, wise, interesting people. You have lived with them. How do they live? What kind of people are they? Tell me all about it.

SAVVA

A mean, contemptible lot.

LIPA

Is that so? You don't say so!

SAVVA

They live just as you do here—a stupid, senseless existence. The only difference is in the language they speak. But that makes it still worse. The justification for cattle is that, they are without speech. But when the cattle become articulate, begin to speak, defend themselves and express ideas then the situation becomes intolerable, unmitigatedly repulsive. Their dwelling-places are different too—yes—but that's a small thing. I was in a city inhabited by a hundred thousand people. The windows in the house of that city are all small. Those living in them are all fond of light, but it never occurs to anyone that the windows might be made larger. And when a new house is built, they put in the same kind of windows, just as small, just as they have always been.

LIPA

The idea! I never would have thought it. But they can't all be like that. You must have met good people who knew how to live.

SAVVA

I don't know how to make you understand. Yes, I did meet, if not altogether good people, yet—The last people with whom I lived were a pretty good sort. They didn't accept life ready-made, but tried to make it over to suit themselves. But—

LIPA

Who were they—students?

SAVVA

No. Look here—how about your tongue—is it of the loose kind?

LIPA

Savva, you ought to be ashamed!

SAVVA

All right. Now then. You've read of people who make bombs—little bombs, you understand? Now if they see anybody who interferes with life, they take him off. They're called anarchists. But that isn't quite correct. (Contemptuously) Nice anarchists they are!

LIPA (starting back, awestruck)

What are you talking about? You can't possibly be in earnest. It isn't true. And you in it, too? Why, you look so simple and talk so simply, and suddenly—I was hot a moment ago, but now I am cold, (The rooster crows-under the window, calling the chickens to share some seed he has found)

SAVVA

There now—you're frightened. First you want me to tell you, and then—

LIPA

Don't mind me, Savva, it's nothing. It was so unexpected. I thought such people didn't really exist—that they were just a fiction of the imagination. And then, all of a sudden, to find you, my brother—You are not joking, Savva? Look me straight in the eye.

SAVVA

But why did you get frightened? They are not so terrible after all. In fact, they are very quiet, orderly people, and very deliberate. They meet and meet, and weigh and consider a long time, and then—bang!—a sparrow drops dead. The next minute there is another sparrow in its place, hopping about on the very same branch. Why are you looking at my hands?

LIPA

Oh, nothing. Give me your hand—no, your right hand.

SAVVA

Here.

LIPA

How heavy it is. Feel how cold mine are. Go on, tell me all about it. It's so interesting.

SAVVA

What's there to tell? They are a brave set of people, I must admit; but it is a bravery of the head, not of the hands. And their heads are partitioned off into little chambers; they are always careful not to do anything which is unnecessary or harmful. Now you can't clear a dense forest by cutting down one tree at a time, can you? That's what they do. While they chop at one end, it grows up at the other. You can't accomplish anything that way; it's labor lost. I proposed a scheme to them, something on a larger scale. They got frightened, wouldn't hear of it. A little weak-kneed they are. So I left them. Let them practise virtue. A narrow-minded bunch. They lack breadth of vision.

LIPA

You say it as calmly as if you were joking.

SAVVA

No, I am not joking.

LIPA

Aren't you afraid?

SAVVA

I? So far I haven't been, and I don't ever expect to be. What worse can happen to a man than to have been born? It's like asking a man who is drowning whether he is not afraid of getting wet. (Laughs)

LIPA

So that's the kind you are.

SAVVA

One thing I learned from them: respect for dynamite. It's a powerful instrument, dynamite is—nothing like it for a convincing argument.

LIPA

You are only twenty-three years old. You have no beard yet, not even a moustache.

SAVVA (feeling his face)

Yes, a measly growth; but what conclusions do you draw from that?

LIPA

Fear will come to you yet.

SAVVA

No. If I haven't been frightened so far by watching life, there's nothing else to fear. Life, yes. I embrace the earth with my eyes, the whole of it, the entire little planetoid, and I can find nothing more terrible on it than man and human life. And I am not afraid of man.

LIPA (scarcely listening to him; ecstatically)

Yes, that's the word. That's it. Savva, dear, I am not afraid of bodily suffering either. Burn me on a slow fire. Cut me to pieces. I won't cry. I'll laugh. I know I will. But there is another thing I am afraid of. I am afraid of people's suffering, of the misery from which they cannot escape. When in the stillness of the night, broken only by the striking of the hours, I think of how much suffering there is all around us—aimless, needless suffering; suffering one doesn't even know of—when I think of that, I am chilled with terror. I go down on my knees and pray. I pray to God, saying to Him: "Oh, Lord, if there has to be a victim, take me, but give the people joy, give them peace, give them forgetfulness. Oh, Lord, all powerful as Thou art—"

SAVVA

Yes.

LIPA

I have read about a man who was eaten by an eagle, and his flesh grew again overnight. If my body could turn into bread and joy for the people, I would consent to live in eternal torture in order to feed the unfortunate. There'll soon be a holiday here in the monastery—

SAVVA

I know.

LIPA

There is an ikon of the Saviour there with the touching inscription: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden—

SAVVA

And I will give you rest." I know.

LIPA

It is regarded as a wonder-working ikon. Go there on the feast-day. It's like a torrent pouring into the monastery, an ocean rolling toward its walls; and this whole ocean is made up entirely of human tears, of human sorrow and misery. Such monstrosities, such cripples. After witnessing one of those scenes, I walk about as in a dream. There are faces with such a depth of misery in them that one can never forget them as long as one lives. Why, Savva, I was a gay young thing before I saw all that. There is one man who comes here every year—they have nicknamed him King Herod—

SAVVA

He is here already. I've seen him.

LIPA

Have you?

SAVVA

Yes, he has got a tragic face.

LIPA

Long ago, when still a young man, he killed his son by accident, and from that day he keeps coming here. He has an awful face. And all of them are waiting for a miracle.

SAVVA

Yes. There is something worse than inescapable human suffering, however.

LIPA

What?

SAVVA (lightly)

Inescapable human stupidity.

LIPA

I don't know.

SAVVA

I do. Here you see only a small fragment of life, but if you could see and hear all of it—When I first read their newspapers, I laughed and thought it was a joke. I thought they were published in some asylum for the insane. But I found it was no joke. It was really serious, Lipa, really serious. And then my head began to ache with an intolerable pain. (He presses his hand to his forehead)

LIPA

Your head began to ache?

SAVVA

Yes. It's a peculiar pain. You don't know what it is like. Few people know what it is. And the pain continued until I resolved—

LIPA

What?

SAVVA

To annihilate everything.

LIPA

What are you saying?

SAVVA

Yes, yes, everything. All that's old.

LIPA (in amazement)

And man?

SAVVA

Man is to remain, of course. What is in his way is the stupidity that, piling up for thousands of years, has grown into a mountain. The modern sages want to build on this mountain, but that, of course, will lead to nothing but making the mountain still higher. It is the mountain itself that must be removed. It must be levelled to its foundation, down to the bare earth. Do you understand?

LIPA

No, I don't understand you. You talk so strangely.

SAVVA

Annihilate everything! The old houses, the old cities, the old literature, the old art. Do you know what art is?

LIPA

Yes, of course I know—pictures, statues. I went to the Tretyakov art gallery.

SAVVA

That's it—the Tretyakov, and other galleries that are bigger still. There are some good things in them, but it will be still better to have the old stuff out of the way. All the old dress must go. Man must be stripped bare and left naked on a naked earth! Then he will build up a new life. The earth must be denuded, Lipa; it must be stripped of its hideous old rags. It deserves to be arrayed in a king's mantle; but what have they done with it? They have dressed it in coarse fustian, in convict clothes. They've built cities, the idiots!

LIPA

But who will do it? Who's going to destroy everything?

SAVVA

I.

LIPA

You?

SAVVA

Yes, I. I'll begin, and then, when people get to understand what I am after, others will join in. The work will proceed merrily, Lipa. The sky will be hot. Yes. The only thing not worth destroying is science. That would be useless. Science is unchangeable, and if, you destroyed it to-day, it would rise up again the same as before.

LIPA

How much blood will have to be shed? Why, it's horrible!

SAVVA

No more than has been shed already—and there'll be rhyme and reason to it, at least. (Pause; the hens cluck in the yard; from the same direction comes Tony's sleepy voice: "Polya, father wants you. Where did you put his cap?")

LIPA

What a scheme! Are you not joking, Savva?

SAVVA

You make me sick with your "you are joking, you are joking."

LIPA

I am afraid of you, Savva. You are so serious about it.

SAVVA

Yes, there are many people who are afraid of me.

LIPA

If you would only smile a little.

SAVVA (looking at her with wide-open eyes and a frank face, and breaking abruptly into a clear, ringing laugh) Oh, you funny girl, what should I be smiling for? I'd rather laugh. (Both laugh) Are you afraid of tickling?

LIPA

Stop it! What a boy you are still!

SAVVA

All right. And Kondraty, isn't here yet. I wonder why. Do you think the devil has taken him? The devil is fond of monks, you know.

LIPA

What strange fancies you have. Why, now you are joking—

SAVVA (somewhat surprised)

They are not fancies.

LIPA

My fancies are different. You are a dear now, because you talk to me. In the evening I'll tell you all about myself. We'll take a walk together, and I'll tell you everything.

SAVVA

Very well, I'll listen. Why shouldn't I?

LIPA

Tell me, Savva, if I may ask—are you in love with a woman?

SAVVA

Ah, switched around to the subject of love after all—just like a woman! I hardly know what to say. I did love a girl, in a way, but she didn't stick it out.

LIPA

Stick out what?

SAVVA

My love, or perhaps myself. All I know is that one fine day she went away and left me.

LIPA (laughing)

And you?

SAVVA

Nothing. I remained alone.

LIPA

Have you any friends, comrades?

SAVVA

No.

LIPA

Any enemies? I mean is there anyone whom you particularly dislike, whom you hate?

SAVVA

Yes—God.

LIPA (incredulously)

What?

SAVVA

God, I say—the one whom you call your Saviour.

LIPA (shouting)

Don't dare speak that way! You've gone out of your mind!

SAVVA

Ah! I touched your sensitive spot, did I?

LIPA

Don't you dare!

SAVVA

I thought you were a gentle dove, but you have a tongue like a snake's. (He imitates the movements of a snake's tongue with his finger)

LIPA

Good Lord! How dare you, how can you speak like that of the Saviour? Why, one dares not look at him. Why have you come here?

[Kondraty appears at the door of the tavern, looks around, and enters quietly.

KONDRATY

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost!

SAVVA

Amen! You're very late, my gracious lord!

KONDRATY

I did the will of him who sent me. I was picking young little cucumbers for the Father Superior. He has them made into a dainty dish which he loves dearly for an appetizer. My, what infernal heat! I was in pools of perspiration before I got through.

SAVVA (to Lipa)

You see, here is a monk. He likes a drink. His cussing vocabulary isn't bad. He is no fool, and as to women—

KONDRATY

Don't embarrass the young lady, Mr. Tropinin. In the presence of a lady—

SAVVA

And furthermore, he doesn't believe in God.

KONDRATY

He is joking.

LIPA

I don't like such jokes. What have you come here for?

KONDRATY

I am here by invitation.

SAVVA

I have some business with him.

LIPA (without looking at Savva)

What have you come here for?

SAVVA

For nothing that concerns you. You had better have a talk with him. He is a chap that possesses a great deal of curiosity. He's not a fool, either, but knows what's what.

LIPA (looking searchingly at Savva)

I know him well, I know him very well.

KONDRATY

To my regret I must admit it's true. I have the unenviable fortune of being known as a man who does not observe the outer forms of conduct. It is on account of that characteristic I was fired from my position as government clerk, and it's on that account I am now frequently condemned to live for weeks on nothing but bread and water. I cannot act in secret. I am open and above-board. In fact, I fairly cry aloud whatever I do. For example, the circumstances under which I met you, Mr. Tropinin, are such that I am ashamed to recall them.

SAVVA

Don't recall them then.

KONDRATY (to Lipa)

I was lying in a mud puddle in all my dignity, like a regular hog.

LIPA (disgusted)

All right.

KONDRATY

But I am not ashamed to speak of it; first, because many people saw it, and of course nobody took the trouble to get me out of it except Savva Yegorovich, and secondly, because I regard this as my cross.

LIPA

A fine cross!

KONDRATY

Every man, Miss Olympiada, has his cross. It isn't so very nice to be lying in a mud puddle. Dry ground is pleasanter every time. And do you know, I think half of the water in that puddle was my own tears, and my woeful lamentations made ripples on it—

SAVVA

That's not quite so, Kondraty. You were singing a song: "And we're baptized of him in Jordan"—to a very jolly tune at that.

KONDRATY

You don't say! What of it? So much the worse. It shows to what depths a man will descend.

SAVVA

Don't assume a melancholy air, father. You're quite a jovial fellow by nature, and the assumption of grief doesn't go well with your face, I assure you.

KONDRATY

True, Savva Yegorovich, I was a jolly fellow; but that was before I entered the monastery. As soon as I came here I took a tumble, so to speak; I lost my joviality and serenity and learned to know what real sorrow is.

[Tony enters and remains standing in the doorway gazing ecstatically at the monk.

SAVVA

Why so?

KONDRATY (stepping nearer and speaking in a lowered voice) There is no God here—there's only the devil. This is a terrible place to live in, on my word it is, Mr. Savva. I am a man with a large experience. It's no easy thing to frighten me. But I am afraid to walk in the hall at night.

SAVVA

What devil?

KONDRATY

The ordinary one. To you, educated people, he appears in a nobler aspect of course; but to us plain, simple people, he reveals himself as he really is.

SAVVA

With horns?

KONDRATY

How can I tell? I never saw the horns; but that's not the point, although I may say that his shadow clearly shows the horns. The thing is that we have no peace in our monastery; there is always such a noise and clatter there. Everything is quiet outside; but inside there are groans and gnashing of teeth. Some groan, some whine, and some complain about something, you can't tell what. When you pass the doors, you feel as if your soul were taking leave of the world behind every door. Suddenly something glides from around the corner.—and there's a shadow on the wall. Nothing at all—and yet there's a shadow on the wall. In other places it makes no difference. You pay no attention to such a trifle as a shadow; but here, Savva Yegorovich, they are alive, and you can almost hear them speak. On my word of honor! Our hall, you know, is so long that it seems never to end. You enter—nothing! You see a sort of black object moving in front of you, something like the figure of a man. Then it stretches out, grows larger and larger and wider and wider until it reaches across the ceiling, and then it's behind you! You keep on walking. Your senses become paralyzed. You lose all consciousness.

SAVVA (to Tony)

What are you staring at?

TONY

What a face!

KONDRATY

And God too is impotent here. Of course we have sacred relics and a wonder-working ikon; but, if you'll excuse me for saying so, they have no efficacy.

LIPA

What are you saying?

KONDRATY

None whatever. If you don't believe me, ask the other monks. They'll bear me out. We pray and pray, and beat our foreheads, and the result is nothing, absolutely nothing. If the image did nothing else than drive away the impure power! But it can't do even that. It hangs there as if it were none of its business, and as soon as night comes, the stir and the gliding and the flitting around the corners begin again. The abbot says we are cowards, poor in spirit, and that we ought to be ashamed. But why are the images ineffective? The monks in the monastery say—

LIPA

Well?

KONDRATY

But it's hard to believe it. It's impossible. They say that the devil stole the real image long ago—the one that could perform miracles—and hung up his own picture instead.

LIPA

Oh, God, what blasphemy! Why aren't you ashamed to believe such vile, horrid stuff? You who are wearing a monk's robe at that! You really ought to be lying in a puddle—it's the proper place for you.

SAVVA

Now, now, don't get mad. Don't mind her, Father Kondraty, she doesn't mean it. She is a good girl. But really, why don't you leave the monastery? Why do you want to be fooling about here with shadows and devils?

KONDRATY (shrugging his shoulders)

I would like to leave; but where am I to go? I dropped work long ago. I am not used to it any more. Here at least I don't have to worry about how to get a piece of bread. And as for the devil (cautiously winking to Savva as he turns to the window and fillips his neck with his fingers) I have a means against him.

SAVVA

Well, let's go out and have a talk. You, face, will you send us some whiskey?

TONY (gloomily)

He isn't telling the truth. There are no devils either. The devil couldn't have hung up his picture if there's no devil. It's impossible. He had better ask me.

SAVVA

All right, we'll speak about that later. Send us whiskey.

TONY (goes)

I won't send you any whiskey either.

SAVVA

What a stupid fellow! I tell you what, father. You go out into the garden through that door. I'll be, with you in a moment. Don't lose yourself. (He goes out after Tony)

KONDRATY

Good-bye, Miss Olympiada.

[Lipa doesn't answer. When Kondraty has left, she walks around the room a few times, agitated, waiting for Savva.

SAVVA (entering)

Well, what a fool!

LIPA (barring his way)

I know why you came here. I know! Don't you dare!

SAVVA

What's that?

LIPA

When I heard you talk, I thought it was just words, but now—Come to your senses! Think! You've gone crazy. What do you mean to do?

SAVVA

Let me go.

LIPA

I listened to you and laughed! Good Lord! I feel as if I had awakened from a terrible dream. Or is it all a dream? What was the monk here for? What for?

SAVVA

Now that will do. You have had your say; that's enough. Let me go.

LIPA

Don't you see you have gone crazy? Do you understand? You are out of your mind.

SAVVA

I'm sick of hearing you repeat that. Let's go.

LIPA

Savva; dear, darling Savva—No? Very well, you won't listen to me? Very well. You'll see, Savva, you'll see. You ought to have your hands and feet tied. And you will be bound, too. There are people who will do it. Oh, God! What does this mean? Stay! Stay! Savva!

SAVVA (going)

All right, all right.

LIPA (shouting)

I'll denounce you. Murderer! Ruffian! I'll denounce you.

SAVVA (turning round)

Oho! You had better be more careful. (Puts his hand on her shoulder and looks into her eyes) You had better be more careful, I say.

LIPA

You—(For about three seconds there is a struggle between the two pairs of eyes, after which Lipa turns aside, biting her lips) I am not afraid of you.

SAVVA

That's better. But don't shout. One should never shout. (Exit)

LIPA (alone)

What does this mean? What am I to do? (The hens cluck)

YEGOR TROPININ (in the door)

What's the matter? What's the row here—hey? I was gone just half an hour, and everything has gone topsy-turvy. Lipa, why did you let the chickens get into the raspberry bushes? Go and drive 'em away, damn you! I am talking to you—yes, to you! Go, or I'll go you, I'll go you, I'll—

CURTAIN



THE SECOND ACT

_Within the enclosure of the monastery. In the rear, at the left, appear the monastery buildings, the refectory, monks' cells, parts of the church and the steeple, all connected by passageways with arched gates. Board-walks run in different directions in the court. At the right the corner of the steeple wall is seen slightly jutting out. Nestling against it is a small monastic cemetery surrounded by a light, grilled iron fence. Marble monuments and slabs of stone and iron are sunk deep into the earth. All are old and twisted. It is a long time since anyone was buried there. The cemetery contains also some wild rose-bushes and two or three rather small trees.

It is evening, after vespers. Long shadows are falling from the tower and the walls. The monastery and the steeple are bathed in the reddish light of the setting sun. Monks, novices and pilgrims pass along the board-walks. In the beginning of the act may be heard behind the scenes the driving of a village herd, the cracking of a herdsman's whip, the bleating of sheep, the lowing of cattle, and dull cries. Toward the end of the act it grows much darker, and the movement in the yard ceases almost entirely.

Savva, Speransky, and the Young Friar are seated on a bench by the iron fence. Speransky is holding his hat on his knees, and now and then he strokes his long, straight hair, which is hanging in two mournful strands over his long, pale face. He holds his legs together speaks in a low, sad tone, and gesticulates with extended forefinger. The Friar, young, round-faced, and vigorous, pays no attention to the conversation, but is smiling continually, as if at his own thoughts._

SAVVA (preoccupied, looking aside)

Yes. What kind of work do you do here?

SPERANSKY

None at all, Mr. Savva. How can a man in my condition do any work? Once a man begins to doubt his own existence, the obligation to work naturally ceases to exist for him. But the deacon's wife does not understand it. She is a very stupid woman, utterly lacking in education, and, moreover, of an unlovely, cruel disposition. She insists on making me work. But you can imagine the sort of work I do under the circumstances. You see, the situation is this. I have a splendid appetite. That appetite began to develop while I was yet a student in the seminary. Now this deaconess, if you please, makes a fuss about every piece of bread I eat. She doesn't understand, the ignorant woman, the possibility of the non-existence of this piece of bread. If I had a real existence like the rest of you, I should feel very bad, but in my present condition her attacks don't affect me in the least. Nothing affects me, Mr. Savva, nothing in the wide world.

SAVVA (smiling at the Friar's unconscious joy, but still preoccupied) How long have you been in this condition?

SPERANSKY

It began in the seminary while I was studying philosophy. It is a dreadful condition, Mr. Savva. I have grown somewhat accustomed to it now, but at first it was unendurable. I tried to hang myself once, and they cut me down. Then I tried a second time, and they cut me down again. Then they turned me out of the seminary. "Go hang yourself in some other place, you madman," they said. As if there were any other place! As if all places were not the same!

THE FRIAR

Mr. Savva, let's go fishing to-morrow at the mill.

SAVVA

I don't like fishing. It bores me.

FRIAR

I'm sorry. Well then, let's go into the woods and knock down the dry branches of trees. It's fine sport to walk about in the forest and knock off the branches with a stick. And when you shout "Ho-ho-ho!" the echo from the ravine answers back "Ho-ho-ho!" Do you like swimming?

SAVVA

Yes, I like it. I am a good swimmer.

FRIAR

I like it too.

SPERANSKY (with a deep sigh)

Yes, it's a strange condition.

SAVVA (smiling at the Friar)

Eh? Well, how are you now?

SPERANSKY

When my uncle took me to his house, he made me promise I would never attempt suicide again. That was the only condition oh which he would consent to let me live with him. "All right," I said; "if we really exist, then I won't make any further attempt to hang myself."

SAVVA

Why do you want to know whether you exist or not? There is the sky. Look, how beautiful it is. There are the swallows and the sweet-scented grass. It's fine! (To the Friar) Fine, isn't it, Vassya?

FRIAR

Mr. Savva, do you like to tear up ant-hills?

SAVVA

I don't know. I never tried.

FRIAR

I like it. Do you like to fly kites?

SAVVA

It's a long time since I tried to. I used to like it very much.

SPERANSKY (patiently awaiting the end of their conversation)

Swallows! What good is their flying to me? Anyhow, maybe swallows don't exist either, and it's all a dream.

SAVVA

Suppose it is a dream. Dreams are very beautiful sometimes, you know.

SPERANSKY

I should like to wake up, but I can't. I wander around and wander around until I am weary and feeble, and when I rouse myself I find I am here, in the very same place. There is the monastery and the belfry, and the clock strikes the hour. And it's all like a dream, a fantasy. You close your eyes, and it does not exist. You open them, and it's there again. Sometimes I go out into the fields at night and close my eyes, and then it seems to me there is nothing at all existing. Suddenly the quail begin to call, and a wagon rolls down the road. Again a dream. For if you stopped up your ears, you wouldn't hear those sounds. When I die, everything will grow silent, and then it will be true. Only the dead know the truth, Mr. Savva.

FRIAR (smiling, cautiously waving his hands at a bird; in a whisper) It's time to go to bed, time to go to bed.

SAVVA (impatiently)

What dead? Listen, my dear sir. I have a plain, simple, peasant mind, and I don't understand those subtleties. What dead are you talking about?

SPERANSKY

About all the dead, every one without exception. That's why the faces of the dead are so serene. Whatever agonies a man may have suffered before his death, the moment he dies his face becomes serene. That's because he has learned the truth. I always come here to attend the funerals. It's astonishing. There was a woman buried here. She had died of grief because her husband was crushed under a locomotive. You can imagine what must have been going on in her mind before her death. It's too horrible to think of. Yet she lay there, in the coffin, absolutely serene and calm. That's because she had come to know that her grief was nothing but a dream, a mere phantom. I like the dead, Mr. Savva. I think the dead really exist.

SAVVA

I don't like the dead. (Impatiently) You are a very disagreeable fellow. Has anybody ever told you that?

SPERANSKY

Yes, I have, heard it before.

SAVVA

I would never have taken you out of the noose. What damn fool did it anyway?

SPERANSKY

The first time it was the Father Steward, the next time my classmates. I am very sorry you disapprove of me, Mr. Tropinin. As you are an educated man, I should have liked to show you a bit of writing I did while I was in the seminary. It's called "The Tramp of Death." It's a sort of story.

SAVVA

No, spare me, please. Altogether I wish you'd—

FRIAR. (rising)

There comes Father Kirill. I had better beat it.

SAVVA

Why?

FRIAR

He came across me in the forest the other day when I was-shouting "Ho! Ho!" "Ah," said he, "you forest sprite with goat's feet!" To-morrow after dinner, all right? (Walks away, sedately at first, but then with a sort of dancing step)

FAT MONK (approaches)

Well, young men, having a pleasant chat? Are you Mr. Tropinin's son?

SAVVA

I am the man.

FAT MONK

I have heard about you. A decent, respectable gentleman your father is. May I sit down? (He sits down) The sun has set, yet it's still hot. I wonder if we'll have a storm to-night. Well, young man, how do you like it here? How does this place compare with the metropolis?

SAVVA

It's a rich monastery.

FAT MONK

Yes, thank the Lord. It's celebrated all over Russia. There are many who come here even from Siberia. Its fame reaches far. There'll soon be a feast-day, and—

SPERANSKY

You'll work yourself sick, father. Services day and night.

FAT MONK

Yes, we must do our best for the monastery.

SAVVA

Not for the people?

FAT MONK

Yes, for the people too. For whom else? Last year a large number of epileptics were cured; quite a lot of them. One blind man had his eyesight restored, and two paralytics were made to walk. You'll see for yourself, young man, and then you won't smile. I have heard that you are an unbeliever.

SAVVA

You have heard correctly. I am an unbeliever.

FAT MONK

It's a shame, a shame. Of course, there are many unbelievers nowadays among the educated classes. But are they any happier on that account? I doubt it.

SAVVA

No, there are not so many. They think they are unbelievers because they don't go to church. As a matter of fact, they have greater faith than you. It's more deep-seated.

FAT MONK

Is that so?

SAVVA

Yes, yes. The form of their faith is, of course, more refined. They are cultured, you see.

FAT MONK

Of course, of course. People feel better, feel more confident and secure, if they believe.

SAVVA

They say the devil is choking the monks here every night.

FAT MONK (laughing)

Nonsense. (To the Gray Monk passing by) Father Vissarion, come here a moment. Sit down. Mr. Tropinin's son here says the devil chokes us every night. Have you heard about it? (The two monks laugh good-naturedly as they look at each other)

GRAY MONK

Some of the monks can't sleep well because they have overeaten, so they think they are being choked. Why, young man, the devil can't enter within our sacred precincts.

SAVVA

But suppose he does suddenly put in an appearance? What will, you do then?

FAT MONK

We'll get after him with the holy-water sprinkler, that's what we'll do. "Don't butt in where you have no business to, you black-faced booby!" (The monk laughs)

GRAY MONK

Here comes King Herod.

FAT MONK

Wait a while, Father Vissarion. (To Savva) You talk about faith and such things. There's a man for you—look at him—see how he walks. And yet he has chains on him weighing four hundred pounds. He doesn't walk, he dances. He visits us every summer, and I must say he is a very valuable guest. His example strengthens others in their faith. Herod! Ho, Herod!

KING HEROD

What do you want?

FAT MONK

Come here a minute. This gentleman doubts the existence of God. Talk to him.

KING HEROD

What's the matter with yourself? Are you so full of booze that you can't wag your own tongue?

FAT MONK

You heretic! What a heretic! (Both monks laugh)

KING HEROD (approaching)

What gentleman?

FAT MONK

This one.

KING HEROD (scrutinizing him)

He doubts? Let him doubt. It's none of my business.

SAVVA

Oh!

KING HEROD

Why, what did you think?

FAT MONK

Sit down, please.

KING HEROD

Never mind. I'd rather stand.

FAT MONK (to Savva, in a loud whisper)

He is doing that to wear himself out. Until he has reduced himself to absolute faintness he'll neither sleep nor eat. (Aloud) This gentleman is wondering at the kind of chains you have on your body.

KING HEROD

Chains? Just baby rattles. Put them on a horse and he too would carry them if he had the strength. I have a sad heart. (Looks at Savva) You know, I killed my own son. Yes, I did. Have they been telling you about me, these chatterboxes?

SAVVA

They have.

KING HEROD

Can you understand it?

SAVVA

Why not? Yes, I can.

KING HEROD

You lie—you can't. No one can understand it. Go through the whole world, search round the whole globe, ask everybody—no one will be able to tell you, no one will understand. And if anyone says he does, take it from me that he lies, lies just as you do. Why, you can't even see your own nose properly, yet you have the brazenness to say you understand. Go. You are a foolish boy, that's what you are.

SAVVA

And you are wise?

KING HEROD

I am wise. My sorrow has made me so. It is a great sorrow. There is none greater on earth. I killed my son with my own hand. Not the hand you are looking at, but the one which isn't here.

SAVVA

Where is it?

KING HEROD

I burnt it. I held it in the stove and let it burn up to my elbow.

SAVVA

Did that relieve you?

KING HEROD

No. Fire cannot destroy my grief. It burns with a heat that is greater than fire.

SAVVA

Fire, brother, destroys everything.

KING HEROD

No, young man, fire is weak. Spit on it and it is quenched.

SAVVA

What fire? It is possible to kindle such a conflagration that an ocean of water will not quench it.

KING HEROD

No, boy. Every fire goes out when its time comes. My grief is great, so great that when I look around me I say to myself: Good heavens, what has become of everything else that's large and great? Where has it all gone to? The forest is small, the house is small, the mountain is small, the whole earth is small, a mere poppy seed. You have to walk cautiously and look out, lest you reach the end and drop off.

FAT MONK (pleased)

Fine, King Herod, you are going it strong.

KING HEROD

Even the sun does not rise for me. For others it rises, but for me it doesn't. Others don't see the darkness by day, but I see it. It penetrates the light like dust. At first I seem to see a sort of light, but then—good heavens, the sky is dark, the earth is dark, all is like soot. Yonder is something vague and misty. I can't even make out what it is. Is it a human being, is it a bush? My grief is great, immense! (Grows pensive) If I cried, who would hear me? If I shouted, who would respond?

FAT MONK (to the Gray Monk)

The dogs in the village might.

KING HEROD (shaking his head)

O you people! You are looking at me as at a monstrosity—at my hair, my chains—because I killed my son and because I am like King Herod; but my soul you see not, and my grief you know not. You are as blind as earthworms. You wouldn't know if you were struck with a beam on the head. Say, you pot-belly, what are you shaking your paunch, for?

SAVVA

Why—the way he talks to you!

FAT MONK (reassuringly)

It's nothing. He treats us all like that. He upbraids us all.

KING HEROD

Yes, and I will continue to upbraid. Fellows like you are not fit to serve God. What you ought to do is to sit in a drinkshop amusing Satan. The devils use your belly to go sleigh-riding on at night.

FAT MONK (good-naturedly)

Well, well, God be with you. You had better speak about yourself; stick to that.

KING HEROD (to Savva)

You see? He wants to feast on my agony. Go ahead, feast all you want.

GRAY MONK

My, what a scold you are. Where do you get your vocabulary? He once told the Father Superior that if God were not immortal he, the Father Superior, would long ago have sold him piece by piece. But we tolerate him. He can do no harm in a monastery.

FAT MONK

He attracts people. Many come here for his sake. And what difference does it make to us? God sees our purity. Isn't that so, King Herod?

KING HEROD

Oh, shut up, you old dotard. Look at him; he can scarcely move his legs, old Harry with the evil eye. Keeps three women in the village; one is not enough for him. (The monks laugh good-naturedly) You see, you see? Whew! Look at their brazen, shameless eyes! Might as well spit on them!

SAVVA

Why do you come here?

KING HEROD

Not for them. Listen, young man. Have you a grief?

SAVVA

Perhaps I have. Why?

KING HEROD

Then listen to me. When you are in sorrow, when you are suffering, don't go to people. If you have a friend, don't go to him. It's more than you'll be able to stand. Better go to the wolves in the forest. They'll make short work of it, devour you at once, and there will be the end of it. I have seen many evil things, but I have never seen anything worse than man. No, never! They say men are created in His image, in His likeness. Why, you skunks, you have no image. If you had one, the tiniest excuse for one, you would crawl away on all fours and hide somewhere from sheer shame. You damned skunks! Laugh at them, cry before them, shout, at them. It doesn't make any difference. They go on licking their chops. King Herod—Damned skunks! And when King Herod—not I, but the real one with a golden crown—killed your children, where were you—hey?

FAT MONK

We weren't even in the world then, man.

KING HEROD

Then there were others like you. He killed. You accepted it. That's all. I have asked many the question: "What would you have done?" "Nothing," they always reply. "If he killed, what could be done about it?" Fine creatures! Haven't the manliness to stand up even for their children. They are worse than dogs, damn them!

FAT MONK

And what would you have done?

KING HEROD

I? I should have wrung his neck from off his royal gold crown—the confounded brute!

GRAY MONK

It says in the scripture: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."

FAT MONK

That is to say, don't interfere with other people's business. Do you understand?

KING HEROD (to Savva in despair)

Just listen, listen to what they are saying.

SAVVA

I hear what they are saying.

KING HEROD

Just you wait, my precious! You'll get what's coming to you, and mighty quick. The devil will come and hurl you into the fiery pit. To hell, to gehenna, with you! How your fat will melt and run! Do you get the smell, monk?

FAT MONK

That's from the refectory.

KING HEROD

You are on the run, fast as your feet can carry you! Ah! but where to? Everywhere is hell, everywhere is fire. You refused to hearken unto me, my pet; now you shall hearken unto the fire. Won't I be glad, won't I rejoice! I'll take off my chains so that I can catch them and present them to the devil—first one, then the other. Here, take him. And the howl they'll set up, and the weeping and lamentation. "I am not guilty." Not guilty? Who, then, is—who? To gehenna with you! Burn, you damned hypocrites, until the second Advent. And then we'll build a new fire, then we'll build a new fire.

GRAY MONK

Isn't it time for us to go, Father Kirill?

FAT MONK

Yes, we had better be moving along. It's getting dark, and it's time to retire.

KING HEROD

Aha! You don't like to hear the truth. It isn't pleasant, is it?

FAT MONK

Hee-hee, brother, talk is cheap. A barking dog doesn't bite. Scold away, scold away. We are listening. God in heaven will decide who is to go to hell and who elsewhere. "The meek, shall inherit the earth," says the Gospel. Good-bye, young gentlemen.

GRAY MONK (to King Herod)

Let me give you a piece of advice, however. Talk, but don't talk too much. Don't go too far. We are only tolerating you because you are a pitiful creature and because you are foolish. But if you give your tongue too free a rein, we can stop it, you know. Yes, indeed.

KING HEROD

All right, try—try to stop me.

FAT MONK

What's the use, Father Vissarion? Let him talk. It doesn't do any harm. Listen, listen, young gentlemen. He is an interesting fellow. Good night.

[They go. The Fat Monk is heard laughing heartily.

KING HEROD (to Savva)

Fine specimens. I can't stand them.

SAVVA

I like you, uncle.

KING HEROD

Do you? So you don't like their kind either?

SAVVA

No, I don't.

KING HEROD

Well, I'll sit down for a while. My legs are swollen. Have you got a cigarette?

SAVVA (handing him a cigarette)

Do you smoke?

KING HEROD

Sometimes. Excuse me for having talked to you the way I did before. You are a good fellow. But why did you lie and say you understood? No one can understand it. Who is this with you?

SAVVA

Oh, he just happened along.

KING HEROD

Well, brother, feeling bad, down in the mouth?

SPERANSKY

Yes, I feel blue.

KING HEROD

Keep still, keep still, I don't want to listen. You are suffering? Keep still. I am a man too, brother, so I don't understand. I'll insult you if you don't look out. (Throws away the cigarette) No, I can't. As long as I keep standing or walking I manage somehow. The moment I sit down, it's hell. Oh! Ow-w! (Writhing in agony) I simply can't catch my breath. Oh, God, do you see my torture? Eh? Well, well, it's nothing. It's gone. Oh! Ow-w!

[The sky has become overcast with clouds. It turns dark quickly. Now and then there are flashes of lightning.

SAVVA (quietly)

One must try to stifle one's grief, old man. Fight it. Say to yourself firmly and resolutely: "I don't want it." And it will cease to be. You seem to be a good, strong man.

KING HEROD

No, friend, my grief is such that even death won't remove it. What is death? It is little, insignificant, and my grief is great. No, death won't end my grief. There was Cain. Even when he died, his sorrow remained.

SPERANSKY

The dead do not grieve. They are serene. They know the truth.

KING HEROD

But they don't tell it to anybody. What's the good of such truth? Here am I alive, and yet I know the truth. Here am I with my sorrow. You see what it is—there is no greater on earth. And yet if God spoke to me and said, "Yeremey, I will give you the whole earth if you give me your grief," I wouldn't give it away. I will not give it away, friend. It is sweeter to me than honey; it is stronger than the strongest drink. Through it I have learned the truth.

SAVVA

God?

KING HEROD

Christ—that's the one! He alone can understand the sorrow that is in me. He sees and understands. "Yes, Yeremey, I see how you suffer." That's all. "I see." And I answer Him: "Yes, O Lord, behold my sorrow!" That's all. No more is necessary.

SAVVA

What you value in Christ is His suffering for the people, is that it?

KING HEROD

You mean his crucifixion? No, brother, that suffering was a trifle. They crucified Him—what did that matter? The important point was that thereby He came to know the truth. As long as He walked the earth, He was—well—a man, rather a good man—talking here and there about this and that. When He met someone, He would talk to him about this and that, teach him, and tell him a few good things to put him on the right track. But when these same fellows carried Him off to the cross and went at Him with knouts, whips, and lashes, then His eyes were opened. "Aha!" He said, "so that's what it is!" And He prayed: "I cannot endure such suffering. I thought it would be a simple crucifixion; but, O Father in Heaven, what is this?" And the Father said to Him: "Never mind, never mind, Son! Know the truth, know what it is." And from then on, He fell to sorrowing, and has been sorrowing to this day.

SAVVA

Sorrowing?

KING HEROD

Yes, friend, he is sorrowing. (Pause. Lightning)

SPERANSKY

It looks like rain, and I am without rubbers and umbrella.

KING HEROD

And everywhere, wheresoever I go, wheresoever I turn, I see before me His pure visage. "Do you understand my suffering, O Lord?" "I understand, Yeremey, I understand everything. Go your way in peace." I am to Him like a transparent crystal with a tear inside. "You understand, Lord?" "I understand, Yeremey." "Well, and I understand you too." So we live together. He with me, I with Him. I am sorry for Him also. When I die, I will transmit my sorrow to Him. "Take it, Lord."

SAVVA

But after all, you are not quite right in running down the people the way you do. There are some good men also—very few—but there are some. Otherwise it wouldn't be of any use to live.

KING HEROD

No, friend, there are none. I don't want to fool you—there are none. You know, it was they who christened me with the name of King Herod.

SAVVA

Who?

KING HEROD

Why, your people. There is no beast more cruel than man. I killed my boy, so I am King Herod to them. Damn them, it never enters their minds how terrible it is for me to be burdened with such a nick-name. Herod! If they only called me so out of spite! But not at all.

SAVVA

What is your real name?

KING HEROD

Yeremey. That's my name—Yeremey. But they call me Herod, carefully adding King, so that there may be no mistake. Look, there comes another monk, a plague on him. Say, did you ever see His countenance?

SAVVA

I did.

KING HEROD

And did you see His eyes? No? Then look, try to see them—Where is he off to, the bat? To the village to his women.

KONDRATY (enters)

Peace be with you, honest folks. Good evening, Savva. To what lucky chance do I owe this meeting?

KING HEROD

Look, monk, the devil's tail is sticking out of your pocket.

KONDRATY

It isn't the devil's tail, it's a radish. You're very clever, but you didn't hit it right that time.

KING HEROD (spitting in disgust)

I can't bear to look at them. They turn my stomach. Good-bye, friend. Remember what I told you. When you are in sorrow, don't go to people.

SAVVA

All right, uncle, I understand.

KING HEROD

Rather go to the forest to the wolves. (Goes out; his voice is heard out of the darkness) Oh, Lord, do you see?

KONDRATY

A narrow-minded fool. Killed his son and puts on airs. You can't get by him. He won't let you alone. It's something to be proud of, isn't it, to have killed one's own son? A great thing.

SPERANSKY (with a sigh)

No, Father Kondraty, you are mistaken. He is a happy man. If his son were brought to life this moment, he would instantly kill him. He wouldn't give him five minutes to live. But of course when he dies, he'll know the truth.

KONDRATY

That's what I said, you fool. If it were a cat he killed, he might have some reason to be proud—but his own son! What are you thinking about, Savva Yegorovich?

SAVVA

I am waiting. I should like to know how soon this gentleman will go. The devil brought him, I think. Now, here comes someone else. (Peers into the darkness)

LIPA (approaching. She stops and hesitates)

Is that you, Savva?

SAVVA

Yes, and is that you? What do you want? I don't like people to follow me everywhere I go, sister.

LIPA

The gate to this place is open. Everybody has a right to come in. Mr. Speransky, Tony has been asking for you. He wants the seminarist, he says.

SAVVA

There, go together—a jolly pair. Good-bye, sir, good-bye.

SPERANSKY

Good-bye. I hope I'll see you soon again, Mr. Savva, and have another talk.

SAVVA

No, don't try, please. Abandon the hope. Good-bye.

LIPA

How rude you are, Savva. Come, Mr. Speransky. They have business of their own to attend to.

SPERANSKY

Still I haven't given up hope. Good-bye. (Goes out)

SAVVA

Just grabbed me and stuck—the devil take him!

KONDRATY (laughing)

Yes, he is a sticker from the word go. If he likes you, you can't shake him off. He'll follow you everywhere. We call him the "shadow"—partly, I suppose, because he is so thin. He has taken a fancy to you, so you'll have a time of it. He'll stick to you like a leech.

SAVVA

I am not in the habit of wasting a lot of words. I'll give him the slip without much ceremony.

KONDRATY

They have, even tried beating him, but it doesn't do any good. He is known here for miles around. He is a character.

[A pause. Lightning. Every now and then is heard the roll of distant thunder.

SAVVA

Why did you tell me to meet you here in this public place where everyone may come? They fell on me like a swarm of fleas—monks and all sorts of imbeciles. I'd rather have spoken to you in the woods, where we could be let alone.

KONDRATY

I did it to escape suspicion. If I went with you to the woods they'd say: "What has a God-fearing man like Kondraty got to do with such a fellow?" I hope you pardon! "Why is he so thick with him?" I purposely timed my coming so that they'd see us together with others.

SAVVA (looking fixedly at him)

Well?

KONDRATY (turning away his eyes and shrugging his shoulders) I can't.

SAVVA

You are afraid?

KONDRATY

To tell the truth, I am.

SAVVA

You're no good, old chap.

KONDRATY

Perhaps not. You have a right to draw your own conclusions. (Pause)

SAVVA

But what are you afraid of, you booby? The machine is not dangerous. It won't hurt you. All you have to do is to put it in the right place, set it off, and then you can go to the village to your mistresses.

KONDRATY

That's not the point.

SAVVA

What then? Are you afraid of being caught? But I told you, if anything should happen, I'll take the guilt on myself. Don't you believe me?

KONDRATY

Why, of course I believe you.

SAVVA

What then? Do you fear God?

KONDRATY

Yes, I do.

SAVVA

But you don't believe in God—you believe in the devil.

KONDRATY

Who knows? Maybe some day I'll suddenly discover that He does exist. In that case, Mr. Savva, I thank you, but I'd rather not. Why should I? I live a nice, quiet existence. Of course, it's all a humbug, an imposition. But what business is it of mine? The people want to believe—let them. It wasn't I who invented God.

SAVVA

Look here. You know I could have done it myself. All I need have done was to take a bomb and throw it into the procession. That's all. But that would mean the killing of many people, which at the present juncture would serve no useful purpose. I therefore ask you to do it. If you refuse, then the blood will rest on you. You understand?

KONDRATY

Why on me? I am not going to throw the bomb. And then, what have I got to do with them—I mean the people that get killed? What concern are they of mine? There are plenty of people in the world. You can't kill them all, no matter how many bombs you throw.

SAVVA

Aren't you sorry for them?

KONDRATY

If I were to be sorry for everybody, I should have no sympathy left for myself.

SAVVA

That's right. You are a bright man. You have a good mind. I have already told you so. And yet you hesitate. You are clever, and yet you are afraid to smash a piece of wood.

KONDRATY

If it is nothing but a piece of wood, then why go to so much trouble about it? The point is, it is not a piece of wood, it is an image.

SAVVA

For me it is a piece of wood. For the people it is a sacred object. That is why I want to destroy it. Imagine how they'll open their mouths and stare. Ah, brother, if you were not a coward, I would tell you some things.

KONDRATY

Go ahead and talk. It's no sin to listen. I am not a coward either. I am simply careful.

SAVVA

This would only be the beginning, brother.

KONDRATY

A good beginning, I won't deny it. And what will be the end?

SAVVA

The earth stripped naked, a tabula rasa, do you understand? And on this naked earth, naked man, naked as his mother bore him. No breeches on him, no orders, no pockets, nothing. Imagine men without pockets. Queer, isn't it? Yes indeed, brother, the ikon is only the beginning.

KONDRATY

Oh, they'll make new ones.

SAVVA

But they won't be the same as before. And they'll never forget this much—that dynamite is mightier than their God, and that man is mightier than dynamite. Look at them; see them yonder praying and kneeling, not daring to raise their heads and look you straight in the face, mean slaves that they are! Then comes a real man, and smash goes the whole humbug. Done for!

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