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    The Third Act

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    Chapter 4
    Previous Chapter
    A festively decorated room with three windows to the street. One window is open, but the curtain is drawn. An open door, painted dark, leads into the room seen in the first act.

    It is night and dark. Through the windows can be heard the continuous tramp of the pilgrims on their way to the monastery for the next day's celebration. Some are barefoot; some wear boots or bast shoes. Their steps are quick and eager, or slow and weary. They walk singly or in groups of two or three, the majority in silence, though now and then suppressed, indistinct talking may be heard. Starting from somewhere far off to the left, the sound of the footsteps and the talking, muffled at first, approaches and grows louder, until at times it seems to fill the whole room. Then it dies away in the distance again. The impression is that of some tremendous movement, elemental and irrepressible.

    At the table, lighted only by a flickering stump of a tallow candle, sit Speransky and Tony. The latter is very drunk. Cucumbers, herring, and bottles of whiskey are on the table. The rest of the room is entirely dark. Occasionally the wind blows the white curtain at the window and sets the candle flame tossing.

    Tony and Speransky talk in whispers. A prolonged pause follows the rise of the curtain.

    TONY (bending over to Speransky, mysteriously)

    So you say it is possible we do not exist, eh?

    SPERANSKY (in the same manner)

    As I have already stated, it is doubtful, extremely doubtful. There is very good reason to suppose that we really do not exist--that we don't exist at all.

    TONY

    And you are not, and I am not.

    SPERANSKY

    And you are not, and I am not. No one is. (Pause)

    TONY (looking around, mysteriously)

    Where are we then?

    SPERANSKY

    We?

    TONY

    Yes, we.

    SPERANSKY

    That's something no one can tell. No one knows, Anthony.

    TONY

    No one?

    SPERANSKY

    No one.

    TONY (glancing around)

    Doesn't Savva know?

    SPERANSKY

    No, Savva doesn't know either.

    TONY

    Savva knows everything.

    SPERANSKY

    But even he doesn't know that.

    TONY (threatening with his finger)

    Keep still, keep still! (Both look around and are silent)

    TONY (mysteriously)

    Where are they going, eh?

    SPERANSKY

    To the elevation of the ikon. To-morrow is a feast-day--the day of raising the ikon.

    TONY

    No, I mean where are they really going--really--don't you understand?

    SPERANSKY

    I do. It isn't known. No one knows, Anthony.

    TONY

    Hush! (Makes a funny grimace, closes his mouth with his hand and leans on it)

    SPERANSKY (in a whisper)

    What's the matter?

    TONY

    Keep quiet, keep quiet. Listen. (Both are listening)

    TONY (in whisper)

    Those are faces.

    SPERANSKY

    Yes?

    TONY

    It's faces that are going. A lot of faces--can't you see them?

    SPERANSKY (staring)

    No, I can't.

    TONY

    But I can. There they are, laughing. Why aren't you laughing, eh?

    SPERANSKY

    I feel very despondent.

    TONY

    Laugh. You must laugh. Everybody is laughing. Hush, hush! (Pause) Listen, nobody exists, nobody--do you understand? There is no God, there is no man, there are no animals. Here is the table--it doesn't exist. Here is the candle--it doesn't exist. The only things that exist are faces--you understand? Keep quiet, keep quiet. I am very much afraid.

    SPERANSKY

    What are you afraid of?

    TONY (bending near to Speransky)

    That I'll die of laughter.

    SPERANSKY

    Really?

    TONY (shaking his head affirmatively)

    Yes, that I'll die of laughter. I am afraid that some day I'll catch sight of a face which will send me off roaring with laughter; and I'll roar and roar until I die. Keep quiet. I know.

    SPERANSKY

    You never laugh

    TONY

    I am always laughing, but you don't see it. It's nothing. The only thing I am afraid is that I'll die. I'll come across a face one of these days which will start me off in a fit of laughter, and I'll laugh and laugh and laugh and won't be able to stop. Yes, it's coming, it's coming. (Wipes his chest and neck)

    SPERANSKY

    The dead know everything.

    TONY (mysteriously, with awe)

    I am afraid of Savva's face. It's a very funny face. One could die laughing over it. The point is that you can't stop laughing--that's the principal thing. You laugh and laugh and laugh. Is there nobody here?

    SPERANSKY

    Apparently no.

    TONY

    Keep quiet, keep quiet, I know. Keep quiet. (Pause; the tramp of the pilgrim's footsteps grows louder, as if they were walking in the very room itself) Are they going?

    SPERANSKY

    Yes, they are going. (Pause)

    TONY

    I like you. Sing me that song of yours. I'll listen.

    SPERANSKY

    With your permission, Anthony. (Sings in an undertone, almost in a whisper, a dismal, long-drawn-out tune somewhat resembling a litany)

    Life's a sham, 'tis false, untrue, Death alone is true, aye, true.

    (With increasing caution and pedantry, shaking his finger as if imparting a secret)

    All things tumble, vanish, break, Death is sure to overtake Outcast, tramp, and tiniest fly Unperceived by naked eye.

    TONY

    What?

    SPERANSKY

    Unperceived by naked eye, Wheedling, coaxing, courting, wooing, Death weds all to their undoing And the myth of life is ended.

    That's all, Anthony.

    TONY

    Keep still, keep still. You have sung your song--now keep quiet.

    [Lipa enters, opens the window, removes the flowers, and looks out into the street. Then she lights the lamp.

    TONY

    Who is it? Is that you, Lipa? Lipa, eh, Lipa, where are they going?

    LIPA

    They are coming here for the feast-day. You had better go to bed, Tony, or father will see you and scold you.

    SPERANSKY

    Big crowds, aren't they?

    LIPA

    Yes. But it's so dark, you can't see. Why are you so pale, Mr. Speransky? It is positively painful to look at you.

    SPERANSKY

    That's how I feel, Miss Lipa.

    [A cautious knock is heard at the window.

    LIPA (opening the window)

    Who is there?

    TONY (to Speransky)

    Keep quiet, keep quiet.

    KING FRIAR (thrusting his smiling face through the window) Is Savva Yegorovich in? I wanted to ask him to come with me to the woods.

    LIPA

    No. Aren't you ashamed of yourself, Vassya? To-morrow is a big feast-day in your monastery and you--

    YOUNG FRIAR (smiling)

    There are plenty of people in the monastery without me. Please tell Mr. Savva that I have gone to the ravine to catch fireflies. Ask him to call out: "Ho, ho!"

    LIPA

    What do you want fireflies for?

    YOUNG FRIAR

    Why, to scare the monks with. I'll put two fireflies next to each other like eyes, and they'll think it's, the devil. Tell him, please, to call: "Ho, ho, ho!" (He disappears in the darkness)

    LIPA (shouting after him)

    He can't come to-day. (To Speransky) Gone already--ran off.

    SPERANSKY

    They buried three in the cemetery to-day, Miss Olympiada.

    LIPA

    Have you seen Savva?

    SPERANSKY

    No, I am sorry to say I haven't. I say, they buried three people to-day. One old man--perhaps you knew him--Peter Khvorostov?

    LIPA

    Yes, I knew him. So he's dead?

    SPERANSKY

    Yes, and two children. The women wept a great deal.

    LIPA

    What did they die of?

    SPERANSKY

    I am sorry, but I don't know. It didn't interest me. Some children's disease, I suppose. When children die, Miss Olympiada, they turn all blue and look as if they wanted to cry. The faces of grown people are tranquil, but children's faces are not. Why is that so?

    LIPA

    I don't know--I've never noticed it.

    SPERANSKY

    It's a very interesting phenomenon.

    LIPA

    There's father now. I told you to go to bed. Now I've got to listen to your brawling. I'll get out.

    (Exit. Enter Yegor Tropinin)

    YEGOR

    Who lighted the lamp?

    SPERANSKY

    Good evening, Mr. Tropinin.

    YEGOR

    Good evening. Who lighted the lamp?

    SPERANSKY

    Miss Olympiada.

    YEGOR (blowing it out)

    Learned it from Savva. (To Tony) And you, what's the matter with you? How long, how long, for Christ's sake? How long am I to stand all this from you, you good-for-nothing loafers? Eh? Where did you get the whiskey, eh?

    TONY

    At the bar.

    YEGOR

    It wasn't put there for you, was it?

    TONY

    You have a very funny face, father.

    YEGOR

    Give me the whiskey.

    TONY

    I won't.

    YEGOR

    Give here!

    TONY

    I won't.

    YEGOR (slaps his face)

    Give it to me, I say.

    TONY (falls on the sofa, still holding on to the bottle)

    I won't.

    YEGOR (sitting down, calmly)

    All right, swill until you bust, devil. What was I saying? That fool put it out of my head. Oh yes, the pilgrims are going, it strong this time. It's been a bad year for the crops. That's another reason, I suppose. There's no grub, they have nothing to eat, and so they'll pray. If God listened to every fool's prayer, we'd have a fine time of it. If he listened to every fool, what chance would the wise man have? A fool remains a fool. That's why he is called a fool.

    SPERANSKY

    That's correct.

    YEGOR

    I should say it is correct. Father Parfeny is a smart man. He flim-flams them all right. He put up a new coffin--did you hear that? The old one has all been eaten away by the pilgrims, so he put a new one into its place. It was old, so he put a new one instead. They'll eat that one away. No matter what you give them--Tony, are you drinking again?

    TONY

    I am.

    YEGOR

    I am! I am! I'll hand you out another one in a moment and we'll see what you say then.

    [Enter Savva, looking very gay and lively. He stoops less than usual, talks rapidly, and looks sharp and straight, but his gaze does not rest long on the same person or object.

    SAVVA

    Ah, the philosophers! Father! A worthy assemblage. Why do you keep it so dark here, like some hell-hole with a lot of rats in it? A philosopher has to have light. The dark is good only for going through people's pockets. Where is the lamp? Oh, here it is. (He lights the lamp)

    YEGOR (ironically)

    Perhaps you'll open the windows too?

    SAVVA

    Quite right. I'll open the windows also. (Opens them) My, how they keep pouring in!

    SPERANSKY

    A whole army.

    SAVVA

    And all of them will die in time and acquire peace. And then they'll know the truth, for it never comes except in the society of worms. Have I got the essence of your optimistic philosophy down right, my thin, lean friend?

    SPERANSKY (with a sigh)

    You are always joking.

    SAVVA.

    And you are always moping. Look here now. What with the poor, scanty fare the deacon's wife doles out to you and your constant grieving, you will soon die, and then your face will assume an expression of perfect peace. A peaked nose, and all around, stretching in every direction, a vast expanse of peace. Can't you get some comfort out of that? Isn't it a consolation to you? Think of it, a tiny island of nose lapped in an ocean of peace.

    SPERANSKY (dejectedly)

    You are still joking.

    SAVVA

    The idea! Who would joke about death? No, when you die, I'll follow your funeral and proclaim to all: "Behold, here is a man who has come to know the truth." Oh no, I'll rather hang you up as a banner of truth. And, the more your skin and flesh decompose and crumble, the more will the truth come out. It will be a most instructive object lesson, highly educative. Tony, why are you staring at me?

    TONY (sadly)

    You have a very funny face.

    YEGOR

    What are they talking about?

    SAVVA

    Father, what's the matter with your face? Have you sooted it? It looks as black as Satan's.

    YEGOR (quickly putting his hand to his face)

    Where?

    SPERANSKY

    They are just making fun. There is nothing on your face, Mr. Tropinin.

    YEGOR

    The fool! Satan? You are Satan yourself, God forgive me!

    SAVVA (making a terrible face and holding up his fingers in the shape of horns) I am the devil.

    YEGOR

    By God, you are the very devil himself!

    SAVVA (glancing round the room)

    Isn't the devil going to get any dinner to-day? I have had all I want of sinners. I am surfeited with them. I should like to have something more appetizing now.

    YEGOR

    Where were you knocking about at the regular dinner hour? You'll have to do without dinner now.

    SAVVA

    I was with the children, father, with the children. They told me stories. They tell stories splendidly, and they were all about devils, witches, and the dead--your specialty, philosopher. They trembled with fear as they told them. That's why we stayed so long. They were afraid to go home. Misha was the only one who wasn't scared. He is a brick. He's afraid of nothing.

    SPERANSKY (indifferently)

    What of it? He'll die too.

    SAVVA

    My dear sir, don't be so funereal. You are like an undertakers' trust. Don't be forever croaking: "Die, die, die." Here, take my father, for instance. He'll soon die; but look at his face, how pleasant and cheerful it is.

    YEGOR

    Satan! You're the devil incarnate!

    SPERANSKY

    But since we don't know--

    SAVVA

    My good friend, life is such an interesting business. You understand--life. Come, let's have a game of jackstones to-morrow. I'll provide the jacks, first-class jacks. (Enter Lipa, unnoticed) And then you should take gymnastic exercises. I mean it seriously. See how sunken your chest is. You'll choke of consumption in a year or so. The deaconess will be glad, but it will create consternation among the dead. Seriously now. I have taken gymnastic exercises. Look. (He lifts a heavy chair easily by the leg) There, you see!

    LIPA (laughing aloud)

    Ha, ha, ha!

    SAVVA (putting the chair down, with a touch of embarrassment)

    What's the matter? I didn't know you were here.

    LIPA

    You, ought to join the circus as an acrobat.

    SAVVA (glumly)

    Don't talk nonsense.

    LIPA

    Are you offended?

    SAVVA (suddenly bursting into a good-natured, merry laugh) Oh, a trifle! All right, the circus, why not? We'll both join it, Speransky and I. Not as acrobats though, but as clowns. How about it? Can you swallow hot junk? No? Well, I'll teach you. As for you, Lipa, won't you please let me have something to eat? I haven't had anything since this morning.

    YEGOR

    A regular Satan, a regular Satan! Hasn't had anything to eat! Who has ever heard of eating at this hour of the night? Who has ever seen such a thing?

    SAVVA

    I'll give you a chance to see it now. It's very interesting. Wait, I'll teach you also how to swallow hot junk. I'll make you an expert. You'll be a wonder.

    YEGOR

    Me? Fool, you can't teach me anything any more. Tony, give me the whiskey.

    TONY

    I won't.

    YEGOR

    The devil take you all! Brought up and fed a lot of--(Exit)

    LIPA (handing him milk and dark bread)

    You seem to be happy to-night?

    SAVVA

    Yes, I am, and you are happy too.

    LIPA (laughing)

    I am.

    SAVVA

    And I am happy. (He drinks the milk with avidity; the footsteps in the street grow louder, filing the room with their sound, and then die away again) What a treading and a tramping!

    LIPA (looking out of the window)

    The weather will be fine to-morrow. As long as I can remember the sun has always been shining brightly that way.

    SAVVA

    Hm, yes. That's good.

    LIPA

    And when they carry the ikon, it sparkles all over with the precious stones like fire. Only His face remains gloomy. All the gems don't give him any pleasure. He is sad and gloomy like the people's woe.

    SAVVA (coolly)

    Hm, yes. Is that so?

    LIPA

    Just think how many tears have fallen upon Him, how many sighs and groans He has heard! That alone is enough to make the ikon holy for all who love and sympathize with the people and understand their soul. Why, they have nobody except Christ, all those unfortunate, miserable people. When I was a little girl, I was always waiting for a miracle--

    SAVVA

    It would be interesting.

    LIPA

    But now I understand that He Himself is waiting for a miracle from the people. He is waiting for the people to stop fighting, hating, and destroying each other.

    SAVVA

    Well, what of it?

    LIPA (fixing her gaze upon him)

    Nothing. To-morrow you'll see for yourself when they carry Him in the procession. You'll see what effect the mere consciousness that He is there with them has upon them, how it transforms them, what it does to them. The whole year round they live a dog's life, in filth, quarrelling with each other, suffering. On that day all the ugliness seems to vanish. It is an awful and a joyous day when suddenly you cast away from yourself all that is superfluous and when you feel so clearly your nearness to all the unfortunates that are and ever were, and your nearness to God.

    SAVVA (abruptly)

    What time is it?

    SPERANSKY

    The clock has just struck a quarter past eleven, if I am not mistaken.

    LIPA

    It's still early.

    SAVVA

    Early for what?

    LIPA

    Nothing. It's still early, that's all.

    SAVVA (suspiciously)

    What do you mean?

    LIPA (defiantly)

    What I mean.

    SAVVA

    Why did you say it's still early?

    LIPA (paling)

    Because it's only a little after eleven; but when it's twelve--

    SAVVA (jumping up and going to her quickly; fixing her with his stare, he speaks slowly, pronouncing every word separately and distinctly) So? Is that it? When it's twelve--(He turns to Speransky without removing his eyes from Lipa) Listen, you go home.

    LIPA (frightened)

    No, stay, Mr. Speransky. Please stay, I beg you.

    SAVVA

    If you don't go at once, I'll throw you out of the window. Well?

    SPERANSKY

    Excuse me, I never had the faintest idea--I was here with Mr. Anthony Tropinin. I am going instantly. Where is my hat? I put it here somewhere--

    SAVVA

    There's your hat. (Throws it to him)

    LIPA (feebly)

    Stay here awhile longer, Mr. Speransky. Sit down.

    SPERANSKY

    No, it's late. I must go to bed. Good night, Miss Olympiada. Good night, Mr. Tropinin. Your brother is asleep already, I believe. You ought to take him to bed. I'm going, I'm going. (Exit)

    SAVVA (speaking in a quiet, calm tone; his movements are heavy and slow, as if his body had suddenly stiffened) You know it?

    LIPA

    I do.

    SAVVA

    You know all?

    LIPA

    All.

    SAVVA

    Did the monk tell you?

    LIPA

    He did.

    SAVVA

    Well?

    LIPA (drawing back a little, and raising her hand for protection)-Well, nothing will happen. There'll be no blowing up. You understand, Savva, there'll be no explosion.

    [Pause. Footsteps are heard in the street, and indistinct talking. Savva turns around. Stooping more than usually, he takes a turn around the room with peculiar slowness.

    SAVVA

    Well?

    LIPA

    Then you had better believe me, brother. Believe me.

    SAVVA

    Yes?

    LIPA

    Why that was--I don't know what it was--it was a piece of madness. Think it over.

    SAVVA

    Is it really true?

    LIPA

    Yes, it's true. It's all over. You can't help it any more. There is nothing for you to do.

    SAVVA

    Tell me how it happened. (Sits down deliberately, his eyes fixed on Lipa)

    LIPA

    I guessed a little something long ago--that day when you spoke to me--only I didn't know exactly what it was. And I saw the little machine too. I have another key to the trunk.

    SAVVA

    Evidently you have been cut out for a spy. Go on!

    LIPA

    I am not afraid of insults.

    SAVVA

    Never mind, never mind--go on.

    LIPA

    Then I saw that you had frequent talks with that fellow--Kondraty. Yesterday I looked in the trunk again, and the machine wasn't there. So I understood.

    SAVVA

    You say you have another key?

    LIPA

    Yes. The trunk is mine, you know. Well, and to-day--

    SAVVA

    When to-day?

    LIPA

    Toward evening--I couldn't find Kondraty anywhere--I told him that I knew all. He got very much frightened and told me the rest.

    SAVVA

    A worthy pair--spy and traitor.

    LIPA

    If you are going to insult me, I won't say another word.

    SAVVA

    Never mind, never mind--go on.

    LIPA

    He was going to tell the Father Superior, but I didn't let him. I didn't want to ruin you.

    SAVVA

    No?

    LIPA

    When it was, all over, I understood what a crazy scheme it was--so crazy that I simply can't think of it as real. It must have been a nightmare. It's quite impossible. And I began to feel sorry for you--

    SAVVA

    Yes.

    LIPA

    I am sorry for you now too. (With tears) Savva, darling, you are my brother. I have rocked your cradle. My dear angel, what idea is this you have got into your mind? Why, it's terrible--it's madness. I understand how hard it must be for you to see how people live, and so you have resolved on a desperate deed. You have always been good and kind, and so I can understand you. Don't you think it's hard for me to see this life? Don't you think I suffer myself? Give me your hand.

    SAVVA (pushing her hand away)

    He told you he would go to the Superior?

    LIPA

    But I didn't let him.

    SAVVA

    Has he got the machine?

    LIPA

    He'll give it back to you to-morrow. He was afraid to give it to me. Savva dear, don't look at me like that. I know it's unpleasant for you, but you have a lot of common sense. You can't help seeing that what you wanted to do was an absurdity, a piece of lunacy, a vagary that can come to one only in one's dreams at night. Don't I understand that life is hard? Am I not suffering from it myself? I understand even your comrades, the anarchists. It's not right to kill anybody; but still I understand them. They kill the bad.

    SAVVA

    They are not my comrades. I have no comrades.

    LIPA

    Aren't you an anarchist?

    SAVVA

    No.

    LIPA

    What are you then?

    TONY (raising his head)

    They are going, they are going. Do you hear?

    SAVVA (quietly, but ominously)

    They are going.

    LIPA

    There, you see. Who is going? Think of it. It's human misery that's going. And you wanted to take away from them their last hope, their last consolation. And to what purpose? In the name of what? In the name of some wild, ghastly dream about a "naked earth." (Peers with terror into the darkness of the room) A naked earth! It's terrible to think of it. A naked earth! How could a man, a human being, ever conceive such an idea? A naked earth! Nothing, nothing! Everything laid bare, everything annihilated. Everything that people worked for through all the years; everything they have created with so much toil, with so much pain. Unhappy people! There is among you a man who says that all this must be burned, must be consumed with fire.

    SAVVA

    You remember my words to perfection.

    LIPA

    You awakened me, Savva. When you told me all that, my eyes were suddenly opened, and I began to love everything. Do you understand? I began to love it all. These walls--formerly I didn't notice them; now I am sorry for them--so sorry, I could cry. And the books and everything--each brick, each piece of wood to which man has applied his labor. Let's admit that it's poor stuff. Who says it's good? But that's why I love it--for its defects, its imperfections, its crooked lines, its unfulfilled hopes. For the labor and the tears. And all who hear you talking, Savva, will feel as I do, and will begin to love all that is old and dear and human.

    SAVVA

    I have nothing to do with you.

    LIPA

    Nothing to do with us? With whom then have you to do? No, Savva, you don't love anyone. You love only yourself and your dreams. He who loves men will not take away from them all they have. He will not regard his own wishes more than their lives. Destroy everything! Destroy Golgotha! Consider: (with terror) destroy Golgotha! The brightest, the most glorious hope that ever was on earth! All right, you don't believe in Christ. But if you have a single drop of nobility in your nature, you must respect and honor His noble memory. He was also unhappy. He was crucified--crucified, Savva. You are silent? Have you nothing to say?

    SAVVA

    Nothing.

    LIPA

    I thought--I thought--if you succeeded in carrying out your plot--I thought I'd kill you--that I'd poison you like some noxious beast.

    SAVVA

    And if I don't succeed--

    LIPA

    You are still hoping?

    SAVVA

    And if I don't succeed, I'll kill you.

    LIPA (advancing a step toward him)

    Kill me! Kill me! Give me a chance to suffer for the sake of Christ. For the sake of Christ and for the sake of the people.

    SAVVA

    Yes. I'll kill you.

    LIPA

    Do you suppose I didn't think of it? Do you suppose I didn't think of it? Oh, Lord, to suffer for Thee! Is there higher happiness than that?

    SAVVA (with a contemptuous gesture, pointing at Lipa)

    And that's a human being! That's one counted among the best! That's the kind in which they take pride! Ah me, how poor you are in good people!

    LIPA

    Insult! Mock! That's the way it has always been. They have always heaped insults upon us before they killed us.

    SAVVA

    No, I don't mean to insult you. How can I insult you? You are simply a silly woman. There have been many such in the past. There are many such to-day. You are simply a foolish, insignificant creature. You are even innocent, like all insignificant persons. And if I mean to kill you, there is no reason to be proud of it. Don't think you are an object specially worthy of my indignation. No, it would merely make matters a little easier for me. When I was chopping wood, and the axe in my raised arm struck the threshold instead of the log of wood, the jar was not so hard as if someone had arrested the motion of my arm. A raised hand must fall on something.

    LIPA

    And to think that this beast is my brother!

    SAVVA

    Whose cradle you rocked and whose diapers you changed. Yes. But to me it doesn't seem in the least strange that you are my sister, or that this bundle there is my brother. No, Tony! They are going. (Tony turns his head and stares stupidly without making any answer) And it doesn't seem in the least strange to me that any insignificant chit and piece of nothingness calling itself my brother or my sister should go to the chemist's and buy a nickel's worth of arsenic on finding out who I am. You see, they have even attempted to poison me. The girl who left me tried to do it, but she lost her nerve. The point is that my sisters and brothers, among other things, have the characteristic of being cowards.

    LIPA

    I would have done it.

    SAVVA

    I don't doubt it. You are a little hysterical, and hysterical people are determined, unless they happen to burst into tears first.

    LIPA

    I hysterical? All right, have it your way, have it your way. And who are you, Savva?

    SAVVA

    That doesn't interest me.

    LIPA

    They are going, they are going. And they will find what they need. And that is the work of an hysterical woman. Do you hear how many of them there are? And if they found out--if I were to open the window this minute and cry out: "This man here has tried to destroy your Christ"--If you want it, I'll do it this instant. You need only say so. Shall I? (She takes a step toward the window in a frenzy of rage) Shall I?

    SAVVA

    Yes, it's a good way of escaping the crown of thorns. Go ahead, shout. But look out, don't knock Tony down.

    LIPA (turning back)

    I am sorry for you. You are beaten, and one doesn't like to kick a man who is down. But remember, remember, Savva, there are thousands, thousands of them coming in, and each one is your death!

    SAVVA (smiling)

    The tramp of death.

    LIPA

    Remember that each one of these would consider himself happy in killing you, in crushing you like a reptile. Each one of these is your death. Why, they beat a simple thief to death, a horse thief. What would they not do to you! You who wanted to steal their God.

    SAVVA

    Quite true. That's property too.

    LIPA

    You still have the brazenness to joke? Who gave you the right to do such a thing? Who gave you power over people? How dare you meddle with what to them is right? How dare you interfere with their life?

    SAVVA

    Who gave me the right? You gave it to me. Who gave me the power? You gave it to me. And I will cling to it with grim determination. Try to take it from me. You gave it to me--you with your malice, your ignorance, your stupidity! You with your wretched impotence! Right! Power! They have turned the earth into a sewer, an outrage, an abode of slaves. They worry each other, they torture each other, and they ask: "Who dares to take us by the throat?" I! Do you understand? I! (Rises)

    LIPA

    You are a mere man like everybody else.

    SAVVA

    I am the avenger! Behind me follow in pursuit all those whom you stifled and crushed. Ah, they have been pursuing their wicked trade in all quietness, thinking that no one would discover them--thinking that they would get away with it in the end. They have been lying, grovelling, and sneaking. They have been cringing and abusing themselves before their altars and their impotent God, saying: "There is nothing to be afraid of--we are among ourselves." Then comes a man who says: "An accounting--I want an accounting! What have you done? Out with it. Give me an accounting. Go on now! Don't try to cheat, for I know you. I demand an account for each and every single item. I will not condone a single drop of blood, I will not absolve you from a single tear."

    LIPA

    But to destroy all. Think of it!

    SAVVA

    What could you do with them? What would you do? Try to persuade the oxen to turn away from their bovine path? Catch each one by his horns and pull him away? Would you put on a frock-coat and read a lecture? Haven't they had plenty to teach them? As if words and thoughts had any significance to them! Thought--pure, unhappy thought! They have perverted it. They have taught it to cheat and defraud. They have made it a saleable commodity to be bought at auction in the market. No, sister, life is short and I am not going to waste it in arguments with oxen. The way to deal with them is by fire. That's what they require--fire! Let them remember long the day on which Savva Tropinin came to the earth!

    LIPA

    But what do you want? What do you want?

    SAVVA

    What do I want? To free the earth, to free mankind, to sweep the whole two-legged, chattering tribe out of existence. Man--the man of to-day--is wise. He has come to his senses. He is ripe for liberty. But the past eats away his soul like a canker. It imprisons him within the iron circle of things already accomplished, within the iron circle of facts. I want to demolish the facts--that's what I want to do: demolish all facts! To sweep away all the accumulated rubbish--literature, art, God. They have perverted mankind. They have immortalized stupidity. I want to do away with everything behind man, so that there is nothing to see when he looks back. I want to take him by the scruff of his neck and turn his face toward the future.

    LIPA

    Look here, Savva. You are not immortal, and the two-legged animal has arms also.

    SAVVA

    Do you think I don't know that every one of these stupid asses would be glad to kill me? But it won't happen, it won't happen. The time has come for my arrival, and I have arrived. Prepare yourselves. The time has come. You little insignificant thing there--you thought that by stealing one little possibility away from me you could rob me of all? Oh no--I am as rich as ever.

    LIPA

    I am your sister, but oh! how glad I am that you are not immortal.

    SAVVA

    I see that you are a thoroughgoing anarchist. They too think that all is done if one man is killed. But if they kill me, hang me, break me on the wheel, there will come another purer than I. Where there's an itch, there is always somebody to scratch it! Yes, sister! If not I, then someone else, and (clenching his fist) it will fare ill with your world.

    LIPA

    You are a terrible man. I thought you would be crushed by your failure, but you are like Satan. The fall has only made you blacker.

    SAVVA

    Yes, Lipa, only a sparrow can fly straight up from the ground. A large bird must descend to adjust and spread its wings for its upward flight.

    LIPA

    Aren't you sorry for the children? Think of the number of children that will have to perish.

    SAVVA

    What children? Oh yes, Misha. (Tenderly) Misha is a fine boy, that's true. When he grows up, he will show you no mercy. Yes, the children--You are beginning to be afraid of them, and you have good reason for it. Never mind. It's true that I love children. (With pride) And they love me. But they don't care for you.

    LIPA

    I don't play jackstones with them.

    SAVVA

    How silly you are, sister. But I like to play with them.

    LIPA

    Then go ahead and play.

    SAVVA

    Well, I will play.

    LIPA

    When you talk like that I have the feeling once more that it has all been a dream--all that we were saying just now. Is it really true that you want to kill me?

    SAVVA

    Yes, if it must be done. But perhaps it won't be necessary.

    LIPA

    You are joking!

    SAVVA

    Every one of you will have it that I am joking. You keep constantly telling me so. You seem to have utterly lost the sense for what is serious.

    LIPA

    No, it's not a dream. They are going.

    SAVVA

    Yes, they are going. (Both listen)

    LIPA

    You still seem to believe. What do you believe?

    SAVVA

    I believe in my destiny. (The hour begins to strike in the belfry of the monastery) Twelve.

    LIPA (counting)

    Seven--eight--and to think that this is the hour when it should have happened--the very idea of it--(A muffled report as of a powerful explosion is heard) What was that?

    SAVVA

    Yes, what was it?

    [Both rush to the window, waking Tony, who moves his head sleepily. The tread of the footsteps in the street stops momentarily. Then all begin to run. Frightened cries are heard, weeping, loud, abrupt ejaculations of "What's the matter?" "Oh, Lord!" "Fire, fire!" "No, something has fallen down!" "Let's run!" The word "monastery" is frequently heard.

    TONY

    They are running! Where are they running to? Why is nobody here?

    PELAGUEYA (entering the room, half dressed)

    Oh, Lord! Oh, heavens! Is it possible the monastery is on fire! Good gracious! Heavens! And you here, you drunken sot! You monster!

    TONY

    Oho! They are running? Faces, mugs, eh?

    [The bell begins to toll the alarm. Then the strokes follow each other in more rapid succession; hasty, disquieting, uneven, they blend with the noise of the street and seem to creep through the window.

    PELAGUEYA (crying)

    Good God, I don't know where to turn.

    [She runs out. The cries in the street grow louder. Someone yells in one prolonged note "Oh-oh-oh!" until the sound is drowned in the general noise, excitement, and ringing.

    LIPA (moving away from the window, very pale, stupefied) What does it mean? It cannot be. It is impossible. Tony, Tony, get up. Tony, brother, what does it mean? Tony!

    TONY (reassuringly)

    It's nothing. They are all faces.

    SAVVA (leaving the window, calm and stern, but also pale) Well, sister?

    LIPA (flinging herself about the room)

    I want to run with the rest. I'll run. Where is my scarf? Where is my scarf? My God, My God! Where is my scarf?

    SAVVA

    Your scarf? There it is. But I won't give it to you. Sit down; you have nothing to do there.

    LIPA

    Let me have it.

    SAVVA

    No, sit down, sit down. It's too late now anyway.

    LIPA

    Too late?

    SAVVA

    Yes, too late. Don't you hear the noise the crowd is making and the way they are running and pushing?

    LIPA

    I'll run, I'll run.

    SAVVA

    Keep still--sit down. (Forces her to sit down) Tony, did you hear? They've exploded God.

    TONY (looking at Savva's face in terror)

    Savva, don't make me laugh. Turn your face away.

    [Savva smiles and walks around the room with buoyant step, without his usual stoop.

    LIPA (faintly)

    Savva.

    SAVVA

    What is it? Speak louder.

    LIPA

    Is it, really true?

    SAVVA

    It's true.

    LIPA

    And doesn't He really exist?

    SAVVA

    He does not.

    [Lipa begins to cry, at first low, then more and more loudly. The sound of the ringing bells and the noise of the crowd continue to swell. The rolling and clatter of wagons is also heard.

    SAVVA

    They are running. My, how they are running! (Lipa says something, but her words are inaudible) Louder. I can't hear you. My, how they are ringing.

    LIPA (aloud)

    Kill, me, Savva.

    SAVVA

    Why? You'll die anyhow.

    LIPA

    I can't wait. I'll kill myself.

    SAVVA

    Go ahead, kill yourself, kill yourself quick!

    [Lipa cries, burying her head in the armchair Tony, his face distorted with fear, looks at Savva, holding both his hands in readiness at his mouth. Loud peals of the bell. The disquieting sound blends with the loud tone of Savva's speech.

    SAVVA (shouting)

    Ah! They are ringing. Ring on! Ring on! Soon the whole earth will ring. I hear! I hear! I see your cities burning! I see the flames. I hear the crackling. I see the houses tumbling on your heads. There is no place to run to. No refuge! No refuge! Fire everywhere. The churches are burning. The factories are burning. The boilers are bursting. An end to all slavish toil!

    TONY (trembling with fear)

    Savva, shut up, or I am going to laugh.

    SAVVA (unheeding)

    The time has come! The time has come! Do you hear? The earth is casting you out. There is no place for you on earth. No! He is coming! I see him! He is coming, the free man! He is being born in the flames! He himself is fire and resolution! An end to the earth of slaves!

    TONY

    Savva, shut up!

    SAVVA (bending down to Tony)

    Be prepared! He is coming! Do you hear his tread? He is coming! He is coming!

    CURTAIN
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