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    Act III

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    Chapter 4
    Previous Chapter
    Evening of the same day. The small drawing-room in LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH'S
    house, where the séances are always held. LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH and the

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Well then, shall we risk a séance with our new

    PROFESSOR. Yes, certainly. He is a powerful medium, there is no doubt
    about it. And it is especially desirable that the séance should take
    place to-day with the same people. Grossman will certainly respond to
    the influence of the mediumistic energy, and then the connection and
    identity of the different phenomena will be still more evident. You
    will see then that, if the medium is as strong as he was just now,
    Grossman will vibrate.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Then I will send for Simon and ask those who wish
    to attend to come in.

    PROFESSOR. Yes, all right! I will just jot down a few notes.

    [Takes out his note-book and writes.

    [Enter SAHÁTOF.

    SAHÁTOF. They have just settled down to whist in Anna Pávlovna's
    drawing-room, and as I am not wanted there--and as I am interested in
    your séance--I have put in an appearance here. But will there be a

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, certainly!

    SAHÁTOF. In spite of the absence of Mr. Kaptchítch's mediumistic

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Vous avez la main heureuse. [10] Fancy, that very
    peasant whom I mentioned to you this morning turns out to be an
    undoubted medium.

    SAHÁTOF. Dear me! Yes, that is peculiarly interesting!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, we tried a few preliminary experiments with
    him just after dinner.

    SAHÁTOF. So you've had time already to experiment, and to convince

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, perfectly! And he turns out to be an
    exceptionally powerful medium.

    SAHÁTOF (incredulously). Dear me!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. It turns out that it has long been noticed in the
    servants' hall. When he sits down to table, the spoon springs into his
    hand of its own accord! (To the PROFESSOR.) Had you heard about it?

    PROFESSOR. No, I had not heard that detail.

    SAHÁTOF (to the PROFESSOR). But still, you admit the possibility of
    such phenomena?

    PROFESSOR. What phenomena?

    SAHÁTOF. Well, spiritualistic, mediumistic, and supernatural phenomena
    in general.

    PROFESSOR. The question is, what do we consider supernatural? When,
    not a living man but a piece of stone attracted a nail to itself, how
    did the phenomena strike the first observers? As something natural? Or

    SAHÁTOF. Well, of course; but phenomena such as the magnet attracting
    iron always repeat themselves.

    PROFESSOR. It is just the same in this case. The phenomenon repeats
    itself and we experiment with it. And not only that, but we apply to
    the phenomena we are investigating the laws common to other phenomena.
    These phenomena seem supernatural only because their causes are
    attributed to the medium himself. But that is where the mistake lies.
    The phenomena are not caused by the medium, but by psychic energy
    acting through a medium, and that is a very different thing. The whole
    matter lies in the law of equivalents.

    SAHÁTOF. Yes, certainly, but....

    [Enter TÁNYA, who hides behind the hangings.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Only remember that we cannot reckon on any results
    with certainty, with this medium any more than with Home or
    Kaptchítch. We may not succeed, but on the other hand we may even have
    perfect materialisation.

    SAHÁTOF. Materialisation even? What do you mean by materialisation?

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Why, I mean that some one who is dead--say, your
    father or your grandfather--may appear, take you by the hand, or give
    you something; or else some one may suddenly rise into the air, as
    happened to Alexéy Vladímiritch last time.

    PROFESSOR. Of course, of course. But the chief thing is the
    explanation of the phenomena, and the application to them of general

    [Enter the FAT LADY.

    FAT LADY. Anna Pávlovna has allowed me to join you.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Very pleased.

    FAT LADY. Oh, how tired Grossman seems! He could scarcely hold his
    cup. Did you notice (to the PROFESSOR) how pale he turned at the
    moment he approached the hiding-place? I noticed it at once, and was
    the first to mention it to Anna Pávlovna.

    PROFESSOR. Undoubtedly,--loss of vital energy.

    FAT LADY. Yes, it's just as I say, one should not abuse that sort of
    thing. You know, a hypnotist once suggested to a friend of mine, Véra
    Kónshin (oh, you know her, of course)--well, he suggested that she
    should leave off smoking,--and her back began to ache!

    PROFESSOR (trying to have his say). The temperature and the pulse
    clearly indicate....

    FAT LADY. One moment! Allow me! Well, I said to her: it's better to
    smoke than to suffer so with one's nerves. Of course, smoking is
    injurious; I should like to give it up myself, but, do what I will, I
    can't! Once I managed not to smoke for a fortnight, but could hold out
    no longer.

    PROFESSOR (again trying to speak). Clearly proves....

    FAT LADY. Yes, no! Allow me, just one word! You say, "loss of
    strength." And I was also going to say that, when I travelled with
    post-horses ... the roads used to be dreadful in those days--you
    don't remember--but I have noticed that all our nervousness comes from
    railways! I, for instance, can't sleep while travelling; I cannot fall
    asleep to save my life!

    PROFESSOR (makes another attempt, which the FAT LADY baffles). The
    loss of strength....

    SAHÁTOF (smiling). Yes; oh yes!


    FAT LADY. I am awake one night, and another, and a third, and still I
    can't sleep!

    [Enter GREGORY.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Please tell Theodore to get everything ready for
    the séance, and send Simon here--Simon, the butler's assistant,--do
    you hear?

    GREGORY. Yes, sir.


    PROFESSOR (to SAHÁTOF). The observation of the temperature and the
    pulse have shown loss of vital energy. The same will happen in
    consequence of the mediumistic phenomena. The law of the conservation
    of energy....

    FAT LADY. Oh yes, yes; I was just going to say that I am very glad
    that a simple peasant turns out to be a medium. That's very good. I
    always did say that the Slavophils....

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Let's go into the drawing-room in the meantime.

    FAT LADY. Allow me, just one word! The Slavophils are right; but I
    always told my husband that one ought never to exaggerate anything!
    "The golden mean," you know. What is the use of maintaining that the
    common people are all perfect, when I have myself seen....

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Won't you come into the drawing-room?

    FAT LADY. A boy--that high--who drank! I gave him a scolding at once.
    And he was grateful to me afterwards. They are children, and, as I
    always say, children need both love and severity!

    [Exeunt all, all talking together.

    [TÁNYA enters from behind the hangings.

    TÁNYA. Oh, if it would only succeed!

    [Begins fastening some threads.

    [Enter BETSY hurriedly.

    BETSY. Isn't papa here? (Looks inquiringly at TÁNYA.) What are you
    doing here?

    TÁNYA. Oh, Miss Elizabeth, I have only just come; I only wished ...
    only came in....


    BETSY. But they are going to have a séance here directly (Notices
    TÁNYA drawing in the threads, looks at her, and suddenly bursts out
    laughing.) Tánya! Why, it's you who do it all? Now don't deny it. And
    last time it was you too? Yes, it was, it was!

    TÁNYA. Miss Elizabeth, dearest!

    BETSY (delighted). Oh, that is a joke! Well, I never. But why do you
    do it?

    TÁNYA. Oh miss, dear miss, don't betray me!

    BETSY. Not for the world! I'm awfully glad. Only tell me how you

    manage it?

    TÁNYA. Well, I just hide, and then, when it's all dark, I come out and
    do it. That's how.

    BETSY (pointing to threads). And what is this for? You needn't tell
    me. I see; you draw....

    TÁNYA. Miss Elizabeth, darling! I will confess it, but only to you. I
    used to do it just for fun, but now I mean business.

    BETSY. What? How? What business?

    TÁNYA. Well, you see, those peasants that came this morning, you saw
    them. They want to buy some land, and your father won't sell it; well,
    and Theodore Ivánitch, he says it's the spirits as forbid him. So I
    have had a thought as....

    BETSY. Oh, I see! Well, you are a clever girl! Do it, do it.... But
    how will you manage it?

    TÁNYA. Well, I thought, when they put out the lights, I'll at once
    begin knocking and shying things about, touching their heads with the
    threads, and at last I'll take the paper about the land and throw it
    on the table. I've got it here.

    BETSY. Well, and then?

    TÁNYA. Why, don't you see? They will be astonished. The peasants had
    the paper, and now it's here. I will teach....

    BETSY. Why, of course! Simon is the medium to-day!

    TÁNYA. Well, I'll teach him.... (Laughs so that she can't continue.)
    I'll tell him to squeeze with his hands any one he can get hold of! Of
    course, not your father--he'd never dare do that--but any one else;
    he'll squeeze till it's signed.

    BETSY (laughing). But that's not the way it is done. Mediums never do
    anything themselves.

    TÁNYA. Oh, never mind. It's all one; I daresay it'll turn out all


    [Exit BETSY, making signs to TÁNYA.

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Why are you here?

    TÁNYA. It's you I want, Theodore Ivánitch, dear....

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Well, what is it?

    TÁNYA. About that affair of mine as I spoke of.

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH (laughs). I've made the match; yes, I've made the
    match. The matter is settled; we have shaken hands on it, only not had
    a drink on it.

    TÁNYA (with a shriek). Never! So it's all right?

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Don't I tell you so? He says, "I shall consult the
    missus, and then, God willing...."

    TÁNYA. Is that what he said? (Shrieks.) Dear Theodore Ivánitch, I'll
    pray for you all the days of my life!

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. All right! All right! Now is not the time. I've
    been ordered to arrange the room for the séance.

    TÁNYA. Let me help you. How's it to be arranged?

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. How? Why, the table in the middle of the room--
    chairs--the guitar--the accordion. The lamp is not wanted, only

    TÁNYA (helps THEODORE IVÁNITCH to place the things). Is that right?
    The guitar here, and here the inkstand. (Places it.) So?

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Can it be true that they'll make Simon sit here?

    TÁNYA. I suppose so; they've done it once.

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Wonderful! (Puts on his pince-nez.) But is he

    TÁNYA. How should I know?

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Then, I'll tell you what....

    TÁNYA. Yes, Theodore Ivánitch?

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Go and take a nail-brush and some Pears' soap; you
    may take mine ... and go and cut his claws and scrub his hands as
    clean as possible.

    TÁNYA. He can do it himself.

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Well then, tell him to. And tell him to put on a
    clean shirt as well.

    TÁNYA. All right, Theodore Ivánitch.


    THEODORE IVÁNITCH (sits down in an easy-chair). They're educated and
    learned--Alexéy Vladímiritch now, he's a professor--and yet sometimes
    one can't help doubting very much. The people's rude superstitions are
    being abolished: hobgoblins, sorcerers, witches.... But if one
    considers it, is not this equally superstitious? How is it possible
    that the souls of the dead should come and talk, and play the guitar?
    No! Some one is fooling them, or they are fooling themselves. And as
    to this business with Simon--it's simply incomprehensible. (Looks at
    an album.) Here's their spiritualistic album. How is it possible to
    photograph a spirit? But here is the likeness of a Turk and Leoníd
    Fyódoritch sitting by.... Extraordinary human weakness!


    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Is it all ready?

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH (rising leisurely). Quite ready. (Smiles.) Only I
    don't know about your new medium. I hope he won't disgrace you, Leoníd

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. No, I and Alexéy Vladímiritch have tested him. He
    is a wonderfully powerful medium!

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Well, I don't know. But is he clean enough? I don't
    suppose you have thought of ordering him to wash his hands? It might
    be rather inconvenient.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. His hands? Oh yes! They're not clean, you think?

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. What can you expect? He's a peasant, and there will
    be ladies present, and Márya Vasílevna.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. It will be all right.

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. And then I have something to report to you.
    Timothy, the coachman, complains that he can't keep things clean
    because of the dogs.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (arranging the things on the table absentmindedly).
    What dogs?

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. The three hounds that came for Vasíly Leoníditch

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (vexed). Tell Anna Pávlovna! She can do as she likes
    about it. I have no time.

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. But you know her weakness....

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. 'Tis just as she likes, let her do as she pleases.
    As for him,--one never gets anything but unpleasantness from him.
    Besides, I am busy.

    [Enter SIMON, smiling; he has a sleeveless peasant's coat on.

    SIMON. I was ordered to come.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, it's all right. Let me see your hands. That
    will do, that will do very well! Well, then, my good fellow, you must
    do just as you did before,--sit down, and give way to your mood. But
    don't think at all.

    SIMON. Why should I think? The more one thinks, the worse it is.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Just so, just so, exactly! The less conscious one
    is, the greater is the power. Don't think, but give in to your mood.
    If you wish to sleep, sleep; if you wish to walk, walk. Do you

    SIMON. How could one help understanding? It's simple enough.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. But above all, don't be frightened. Because you
    might be surprised yourself. You must understand that just as we live
    here, so a whole world of invisible spirits live here also.

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH (improving on what LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH has said).
    Invisible feelings, do you understand?

    SIMON (laughs). How can one help understanding! It's very plain as you
    put it.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. You may rise up in the air, or something of the
    kind, but don't be frightened.

    SIMON. Why should I be frightened? That won't matter at all.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Well then, I'll go and call them all.... Is
    everything ready?

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. I think so.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. But the slates?

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. They are downstairs. I'll bring them.


    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. All right then. So don't be afraid, but be at your

    SIMON. Had I not better take off my coat? One would be more easy like.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Your coat? Oh no. Don't take that off.


    SIMON. She tells me to do the same again, and she will again shy
    things about. How isn't she afraid?

    [Enter TÁNYA in her stockings and in a dress of the color of the
    wall-paper. SIMON laughs.

    TÁNYA. Shsh!... They'll hear! There, stick these matches on your
    fingers as before. (Sticks them on.) Well, do you remember everything?

    SIMON (bending his fingers in, one by one). First of all, wet the
    matches and wave my hands about, that's one. Then make my teeth
    chatter, like this ... that's two. But I've forgotten the third thing.

    TÁNYA. And it's the third as is the chief thing. Don't forget as soon
    as the paper falls on the table--I shall ring the little bell--then
    you do like this.... Spread your arms out far and catch hold of some
    one, whoever it is as sits nearest, and catch hold of him. And then
    squeeze! (Laughs.) Whether it's a gentleman or a lady, it's all one,
    you just squeeze 'em, and don't let 'em go,--as if it were in your
    sleep, and chatter with your teeth, or else howl like this. (Howls
    sotto-voce.) And when I begin to play on the guitar, then stretch
    yourself as if you were waking up, you know.... Will you remember

    SIMON. Yes, I'll remember, but it is too funny.

    TÁNYA. But mind you don't laugh. Still, it won't matter much if you do
    laugh; they'd think it was in your sleep. Only take care you don't
    really fall asleep when they put out the lights.

    SIMON. No fear, I'll pinch my ears.

    TÁNYA. Well, then, Sim, darling, only mind do as I tell you, and don't
    get frightened. He'll sign the paper, see if he don't! They're coming!

    [Gets under the sofa.

    the door.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Please come in, all you doubters! Though we have a
    new and accidentally discovered medium, I expect very important
    phenomena to-night.

    SAHÁTOF. That's very, very interesting.

    FAT LADY (pointing to SIMON). Mais il est très bien! [11]

    ANNA PÁVLOVNA. Yes, as a butler's assistant, but hardly....

    SAHÁTOF. Wives never have any faith in their husbands' work. You don't
    believe in anything of this kind?

    ANNA PÁVLOVNA. Of course not. Kaptchítch, it is true, has something
    exceptional about him, but Heaven knows what all this is about!

    FAT LADY. No, Anna Pávlovna, permit me, you can't decide it in such a
    way. Before I was married, I once had a remarkable dream. Dreams, you
    know, are often such that you don't know where they begin and where
    they end; it was just such a dream that I....


    FAT LADY. And much was revealed to me by that dream. Nowadays the
    young people (points to PETRÍSTCHEF and VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH) deny

    VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. But look here, you know--now I, for instance, never
    deny anything! Eh, what?

    [BETSY and MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA enter, and begin talking to

    FAT LADY. And how can one deny the supernatural? They say it is
    unreasonable. But what if one's reason is stupid; what then? There
    now, on Garden Street, you know ... why, well, it appeared every
    evening! My husband's brother--what do you call him? Not beau-frère--
    what's the other name for it?--I never can remember the names of these
    different relationships--well, he went there three nights running, and
    still he saw nothing; so I said to him....

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Well, who is going to stay here?

    FAT LADY. I! I!


    ANNA PÁVLOVNA (to DOCTOR). Do you mean to say you are going to stay?

    DOCTOR. Yes; I must see, if only once, what it is that Alexéy
    Vladímiritch has discovered in it. How can we deny anything without

    ANNA PÁVLOVNA. Then I am to take it to-night for certain?

    DOCTOR. Take what?... Oh, the powder. Yes, it would perhaps be better.
    Yes, yes, take it.... However, I shall come upstairs again.

    ANNA PÁVLOVNA. Yes, please do. (Loud.) When it is over, mesdames et
    messieurs, I shall expect you to come to me upstairs to rest from your
    emotions, and then we will finish our rubber.

    FAT LADY. Oh, certainly.

    SAHÁTOF. Yes, thanks!


    BETSY (to PETRÍSTCHEF). You must stay, I tell you. I promise you
    something extraordinary. Will you bet?

    MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA. But you don't believe in it?

    BETSY. To-day I do.

    MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA (to PETRÍSTCHEF). And do you believe?

    PETRÍSTCHEF. "I can't believe, I cannot trust a heart for falsehood
    framed." Still, if Elizabeth Leonídovna commands....

    VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Let us stay, Márya Konstantínovna. Eh, what? I
    shall invent something épâtant.

    MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA. No, you mustn't make me laugh. You know I can't
    restrain myself.

    VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (loud). I remain!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (severely). But I beg those who remain not to joke
    about it. It is a serious matter.

    PETRÍSTCHEF. Do you hear? Well then, let's stay. Vovo, sit here, and
    don't be too shy.

    BETSY. Yes, it's all very well for you to laugh; but just wait till
    you see what will happen.

    VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Oh, but supposing it's true? Won't it be a go! Eh,

    PETRÍSTCHEF (trembles). Oh, I'm afraid, I'm afraid! Márya
    Konstantínovna, I'm afraid! My tootsies tremble.

    BETSY (laughing). Not so loud.

    [All sit down.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Take your seats, take your seats. Simon, sit down!

    SIMON. Yes, sir.

    [Sits down on the edge of the chair.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Sit properly.

    PROFESSOR. Sit straight in the middle of the chair, and quite at your

    [Arranges SIMON on his chair.


    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (raising his voice). I beg those who are going to
    remain here not to behave frivolously, but to regard this matter
    seriously, or bad results might follow. Do you hear, Vovo! If you
    can't be quiet, go away!

    VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Quiet, quiet!

    [Hides behind FAT LADY.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Alexéy Vladímiritch, will you mesmerise him?

    PROFESSOR. No; why should I do it when Antón Borísitch is here? He has
    had far more practice and has more power in that department than I ...
    Antón Borísitch!

    GROSSMAN. Ladies and gentlemen, I am not, strictly speaking, a
    spiritualist. I have only studied hypnotism. It is true I have studied
    hypnotism in all its known manifestations; but what is called
    spiritualism, is entirely unknown to me. When a subject is thrown into
    a trance, I may expect the hypnotic phenomena known to me: lethargy,
    abulia, anaesthesia, analgesia, catalepsy, and every kind of
    susceptibility to suggestion. Here it is not these but other phenomena
    we expect to observe. Therefore it would be well to know of what kind
    are the phenomena we expect to witness, and what is their scientific

    SAHÁTOF. I thoroughly agree with Mr. Grossman. Such an explanation
    would be very interesting.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. I think Alexéy Vladímiritch will not refuse to give
    us a short explanation.

    PROFESSOR. Why not? I can give an explanation if it is desired. (To
    the DOCTOR.) Will you kindly note his temperature and pulse? My
    explanation must, of necessity, be cursory and brief.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, please; briefly, quite briefly.

    DOCTOR. All right. (Takes out thermometer.) Now then, my lad....

    [Places the thermometer.

    SIMON. Yes, sir!

    PROFESSOR (rising and addressing the FAT LADY--then reseating
    himself). Ladies and gentlemen! The phenomenon we are investigating
    to-night is regarded, on the one hand, as something new; and, on the
    other, as something transcending the limits of natural conditions.
    Neither view is correct. This phenomenon is not new but is as old as
    the world; and it is not supernatural but is subject to the eternal
    laws that govern all that exists. This phenomenon has been usually
    defined as "intercourse with the spirit world." That definition is
    inexact. Under such a definition the spirit world is contrasted with
    the material world. But this is erroneous; there is no such contrast!
    Both worlds are so closely connected that it is impossible to draw a
    line of demarcation, separating the one from the other. We say matter
    is composed of molecules....

    PETRÍSTCHEF. Prosy matter!

    [Whispering and laughter.

    PROFESSOR (pauses, then continues). Molecules are composed of atoms,
    but the atoms, having no extension, are in reality nothing but the
    points of application of forces. Strictly speaking, not of forces but
    of energy, that same energy which is as much a unity and just as
    indestructible as matter. But matter, though one, has many different
    aspects, and the same is true of energy. Till recently only four forms
    of energy, convertible into one another, have been known to us:
    energies known as the dynamic, the thermal, the electric, and the
    chemic. But these four aspects of energy are far from exhausting all
    the varieties of its manifestation. The forms in which energy may
    manifest itself are very diverse, and it is one of these new and as
    yet but little known phases of energy, that we are investigating
    to-night. I refer to mediumistic energy.

    [Renewed whispering and laughter among the young people.

    PROFESSOR (stops and casts a severe look round). Mediumistic energy
    has been known to mankind for ages: prophecy, presentiments, visions
    and so on, are nothing but manifestations of mediumistic energy. The
    manifestations produced by it have, I say, been known to mankind for
    ages. But the energy itself has not been recognised as such till quite
    recently--not till that medium, the vibrations of which cause the
    manifestations of mediumistic energy, was recognised. In the same way
    that the phenomena of light were inexplicable until the existence of
    an imponderable substance--an ether--was recognised, so mediumistic
    phenomena seemed mysterious until the now fully established fact was
    recognised, that between the particles of ether there exists another
    still more rarefied imponderable substance not subject to the law of
    the three dimensions....

    [Renewed laughter, whispers, and giggling.

    PROFESSOR (again looks round severely). And just as mathematical
    calculations have irrefutably proved the existence of imponderable
    ether which gives rise to the phenomena of light and electricity, so
    the successive investigations of the ingenious Hermann, of Schmidt,
    and of Joseph Schmatzhofen, have confirmed beyond a doubt the
    existence of a substance which fills the universe and may be called
    spiritual ether.

    FAT LADY. Ah, now I understand. I am so grateful....

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, but Alexéy Vladímiritch, could you not ...
    condense it a little?

    PROFESSOR (not heeding the remark). And so, as I have just had the
    honor of mentioning to you, a succession of strictly scientific
    experiments have made plain to us the laws of mediumistic phenomena.
    These experiments have proved that, when certain individuals are
    plunged into a hypnotic state (a state differing from ordinary sleep
    only by the fact that man's physiological activity is not lowered by
    the hypnotic influence but, on the contrary, is always heightened--as
    we have recently witnessed), when, I say, any individual is plunged
    into such a state, this always produces certain perturbations in the
    spiritual ether--perturbations quite similar to those produced by
    plunging a solid body into liquid matter. These perturbations are what
    we call mediumistic phenomena....

    [Laughter and whispers.

    SAHÁTOF. That is quite comprehensible and correct; but if, as you are
    kind enough to inform us, the plunging of the medium into a trance
    produces perturbations of the spiritual ether, allow me to ask why (as
    is usually supposed to be the case in spiritualistic séances) these
    perturbations result in an activity on the part of the souls of dead

    PROFESSOR. It is because the molecules of this spiritual ether are
    nothing but the souls of the living, the dead, and the unborn, and any
    vibration of the spiritual ether must inevitably cause a certain
    vibration of its atoms. These atoms are nothing but human souls, which
    enter into communication with one another by means of these movements.

    FAT LADY (to SAHÁTOF). What is it that puzzles you? It is so
    simple.... Thank you so, so much!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. I think everything has now been explained, and that
    we may commence.

    DOCTOR. The fellow is in a perfectly normal condition: temperature 37
    decimal 2, pulse 74.

    PROFESSOR (takes out his pocket-book and notes this down). What I have
    just had the honor of explaining will be confirmed by the fact, which
    we shall presently have an opportunity of observing, that after the
    medium has been thrown into a trance his temperature and pulse will
    inevitably rise, just as occurs in cases of hypnotism.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, yes. But excuse me a moment. I should like to
    reply to Sergéy Ivánitch's question: How do we know we are in
    communication with the souls of the dead? We know it because the
    spirit that appears, plainly tells us--as simply as I am speaking to
    you--who he is, and why he has come, and whether all is well with him!
    At our last séance a Spaniard, Don Castillos, came to us, and he told
    us everything. He told us who he was, and when he died, and that he
    was suffering for having taken part in the Inquisition. He even told
    us what was happening to him at the very time that he was speaking to
    us, namely, that at the very time he was talking to us he had to be
    born again on earth, and, therefore, could not continue his
    conversation with us.... But you'll see for yourselves....

    FAT LADY (interrupting). Oh, how interesting! Perhaps the Spaniard was
    born in one of our houses and is a baby now!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Quite possibly.

    PROFESSOR. I think it is time we began.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. I was only going to say....

    PROFESSOR. It is getting late.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Very well. Then we will commence. Antón Borísitch,
    be so good as to hypnotize the medium.

    GROSSMAN. What method would you like me to use? There are several
    methods. There is Braid's system, there is the Egyptian symbol, and
    there is Charcot's system.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (to the PROFESSOR). I think it is quite immaterial.

    PROFESSOR. Quite.

    GROSSMAN. Then I will make use of my own method, which I showed in

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. If you please!

    [GROSSMAN waves his arms above SIMON. SIMON closes his eyes and
    stretches himself.

    GROSSMAN (looking closely at him). He is falling asleep! He is asleep!
    A remarkably rapid occurrence of hypnosis. The subject has evidently
    already reached a state of anaesthesia. He is remarkable,--an
    unusually impressionable subject, and might be subjected to
    interesting experiments!... (Sits down, rises, sits down again.) Now
    one might run a needle into his arm. If you like....

    PROFESSOR (to LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH). Do you notice how the medium's
    trance acts on Grossman? He is beginning to vibrate.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, yes ... can the lights be extinguished now?

    SAHÁTOF. But why is darkness necessary?

    PROFESSOR. Darkness? Because it is a condition of the manifestation of
    mediumistic energy, just as a given temperature is a condition
    necessary for certain manifestations of chemical or dynamic energy.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. But not always. Manifestations have been observed
    by me, and by many others, both by candlelight and daylight.

    PROFESSOR (interrupting). May the lights be put out?

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, certainly. (Puts out candles.) Ladies and
    gentlemen! attention, if you please.

    [TÁNYA gets from under the sofa and takes hold of a thread tied
    to a chandelier.

    PETRÍSTCHEF. I like that Spaniard! Just in the midst of a
    conversation--off he goes head downwards ... as the French say: piquer
    une tête. [12]

    BETSY. You just wait a bit, and see what will happen!

    PETRÍSTCHEF. I have only one fear, and that is that Vovo may be moved
    by the spirit to grunt like a pig!

    VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Would you like me to? I will....

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Gentlemen! Silence, if you please!

    [Silence. SIMON licks the matches on his fingers and rubs his
    knuckles with them. Leoníd Fyódoritch. A light! Do you see the

    SAHÁTOF. A light? Yes, yes, I see; but allow me....

    FAT LADY. Where? Where? Oh, dear, I did not see it! Ah, there it is.

    PROFESSOR (whispers to LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH, and points to GROSSMAN, who
    is moving). Do you notice how he vibrates? It is the dual influence.

    [The light appears again.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (to the PROFESSOR). It must be he--you know!

    SAHÁTOF. Who?

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. A Greek, Nicholas. It is his light. Don't you think
    so, Alexéy Vladímiritch?

    SAHÁTOF. Who is this Greek, Nicholas?

    PROFESSOR. A certain Greek, who was a monk at Constantinople under
    Constantine and who has been visiting us lately.

    FAT LADY. Where is he? Where is he? I don't see him.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. He is not yet visible ... Alexéy Vladímiritch, he
    is particularly well disposed towards you. You question him.

    PROFESSOR (in a peculiar voice). Nicholas! Is that you?

    [TÁNYA raps twice on the wall.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (joyfully). It is he! It is he!

    FAT LADY. Oh, dear! Oh! I shall go away!

    SAHÁTOF. Why do you suppose it is he?

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Why, the two knocks. It is an affirmative answer;
    else all would have been silence.

    [Silence. Suppressed giggling in the young people's corner.
    TÁNYA throws a lampshade, pencil and penwiper upon the table.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (whispers). Do you notice, gentlemen, here is a
    lamp-shade, and something else--a pencil!... Alexéy Vladímiritch, it
    is a pencil!

    PROFESSOR. All right, all right! I am watching both him and Grossman!

    [GROSSMAN rises and feels the things that have fallen on the table.

    SAHÁTOF. Excuse me, excuse me! I should like to see whether it is not
    the medium who is doing it all himself?

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Do you think so? Well, sit by him and hold his
    hands. But you may be sure he is asleep.

    SAHÁTOF (approaches, TÁNYA lets a thread touch his head. He is
    frightened, and stoops). Ye ... ye ... yes! Strange, very strange!

    [Takes hold of SIMON'S elbow. SIMON howls.

    PROFESSOR (to LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH). Do you notice the effect of
    Grossman's presence? It is a new phenomenon--I must note it....

    [Runs out to note it down, and returns again.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes.... But we cannot leave Nicholas without an
    answer. We must begin....

    GROSSMAN (rises, approaches Simon and raises and lowers his arm). It
    would be interesting to produce contraction! The subject is in
    profound hypnosis.

    PROFESSOR (to LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH). Do you see? Do you see?

    GROSSMAN. If you like....

    DOCTOR. Now then, my dear sir, leave the management to Alexéy
    Vladímiritch; the affair is turning out serious.

    PROFESSOR. Leave him alone, he (referring to GROSSMAN) is talking in
    his sleep!

    FAT LADY. How glad I now am that I resolved to be present! It is
    frightening, but all the same I am glad, for I always said to my

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Silence, if you please.

    [TÁNYA draws a thread over the FAT LADY'S head.

    FAT LADY. Aie!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. What? What is it?

    FAT LADY. He took hold of my hair!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (whispers). Never mind, don't be afraid, give him
    your hand. His hand will be cold, but I like it.

    FAT LADY (hides her hands). Not for the world!

    SAHÁTOF. Yes, it is strange, very strange!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. He is here and is seeking for intercourse. Who
    wishes to put a question to him?

    SAHÁTOF. I should like to put a question, if I may.

    PROFESSOR. Please do.

    SAHÁTOF. Do I believe or not?

    [TÁNYA knocks twice.

    PROFESSOR. The answer is affirmative.

    SAHÁTOF. Allow me to ask again. Have I a ten rouble note in my pocket?

    [TÁNYA knocks several times and passes a thread over SAHÁTOF'S head.

    SAHÁTOF. Ah!

    [Seizes the thread and breaks it.

    PROFESSOR. I should ask those present not to ask indefinite or trivial
    questions. It is unpleasant to him!

    SAHÁTOF. No, but allow me! Here I have a thread in my hand!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. A thread? Hold it fast; that happens often, and not
    only threads but sometimes even silk cords--very ancient ones!

    SAHÁTOF. No--but where did this thread come from?

    [TÁNYA throws a cushion at him.

    SAHÁTOF. Wait a bit; wait! Something soft has hit me on the head.
    Light a candle--there is something....

    PROFESSOR. We beg of you not to interrupt the manifestations.

    FAT LADY. For goodness' sake, don't interrupt! I should also like to
    ask something. May I?

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, if you like.

    FAT LADY. I should like to ask about my digestion. May I? I want to
    know what to take: aconite or belladonna?

    [Silence, whispers among the young people; suddenly VASÍLY
    LEONÍDITCH begins to cry like a baby: "ou-a, ou-a!" (Laughter.)
    Holding their mouths and noses, the girls and PETRÍSTCHEF run
    away bursting with laughter.

    FAT LADY. Ah, that must be the monk who's been born again!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (beside himself with anger, whispers). One gets
    nothing but tomfoolery from you! If you don't know how to behave
    decently, go away!

    [Exit VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Darkness and silence.

    FAT LADY. Oh, what a pity! Now one can't ask any more! He is born!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Not at all. It is only Vovo's nonsense. But he is
    here. Ask him.

    PROFESSOR. That often happens. These jokes and ridicule are quite
    usual occurrences. I expect he is still here. But we may ask. Leoníd
    Fyódoritch, will you?

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. No, you, if you please. This has upset me. So
    unpleasant! Such want of tact!...

    PROFESSOR. Very well.... Nicholas, are you here?

    [TÁNYA raps twice and rings. SIMON roars, spreads his arms out,
    seizes SAHÁTOF and the PROFESSOR--squeezing them.

    PROFESSOR. What an unexpected phenomenon! The medium himself reacted
    upon! This never happened before! Leoníd Fyódoritch, will you watch?
    It is difficult for me to do so. He squeezes me so! Mind you observe
    GROSSMAN! This needs the very greatest attention!

    [TÁNYA throws the PEASANTS' paper on the table.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Something has fallen upon the table.

    PROFESSOR. See what it is!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Paper! A folded paper!

    [TÁNYA throws a travelling inkstand on the table.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. An inkstand!

    [TÁNYA throws a pen.


    [SIMON roars and squeezes.

    PROFESSOR (crushed). Wait a bit, wait: a totally new manifestation!
    The action proceeding not from the mediumistic energy produced, but
    from the medium himself! However, open the inkstand, and put the pen
    on the table, and he will write!

    [TÁNYA goes behind LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH and strikes him on the head
    with the guitar.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. He has struck me on the head! (Examining table.)
    The pen is not writing yet and the paper remains folded.

    PROFESSOR. See what the paper is, and quickly; evidently the dual
    influence--his and Grossman's--has produced a perturbation!

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (goes out and returns at once). Extraordinary! This
    paper is an agreement with some peasants that I refused to sign this
    morning and returned to the peasants. Probably he wants me to sign it?

    PROFESSOR. Of course! Of course! But ask him.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Nicholas, do you wish....

    [TÁNYA knocks twice.

    PROFESSOR. Do you hear? It is quite evident!

    [LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH takes the paper and pen and goes out. TÁNYA
    knocks, plays on the guitar and the accordion, and then creeps
    under the sofa. LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH returns. SIMON stretches
    himself and coughs.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. He is waking up. We can light the candles.

    PROFESSOR (hurriedly). Doctor, Doctor, please, his pulse and
    temperature! You will see that a rise of both will be apparent.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (lights the candles). Well, what do you gentlemen
    who were sceptical think of it now?

    DOCTOR (goes up to SIMON and places thermometer). Now then my lad.
    Well, have you had a nap? There, put that in there, and give me your

    [Looks at his watch.

    SAHÁTOF (shrugging his shoulders). I must admit that all that has
    occurred cannot have been done by the medium. But the thread?... I
    should like the thread explained.

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. A thread! A thread! We have been witnessing
    manifestations more important than a thread.

    SAHÁTOF. I don't know. At all events, je réserve mon opinion.

    FAT LADY (to SAHÁTOF). Oh, no, how can you say: "je réserve mon
    opinion"? And the infant with the little wings? Didn't you see? At
    first I thought it was only an illusion, but afterwards it became
    clearer and clearer, like a live....

    SAHÁTOF. I can only speak of what I have seen. I did not see that--
    nothing of the kind.

    FAT LADY. You don't mean to say so? Why, it was quite plainly visible!
    And to the left there was a monk clothed in black bending over it....

    SAHÁTOF (moves away. Aside). What exaggeration!

    FAT LADY (addressing the DOCTOR). You must have seen it! It rose up
    from your side.

    [DOCTOR goes on counting the pulse without heeding her.

    FAT LADY (to GROSSMAN). And that light, the light around it,
    especially around its little face! And the expression so mild and
    tender, something so heavenly!

    [Smiles tenderly herself.

    GROSSMAN. I saw phosphorescent light, and objects changed their
    places, but I saw nothing more than that.

    FAT LADY. Don't tell me! You don't mean it! It is simply that you
    scientists of Charcot's school do not believe in a life beyond the
    grave! As for me, no one could now make me disbelieve in a future
    life--no one in the world!

    [GROSSMAN moves away from her.

    FAT LADY. No, no, whatever you may say, this is one of the happiest
    moments of my life! When I heard Sarasate play, and now.... Yes! (No
    one listens to her. She goes up to SIMON.) Now tell me, my friend,
    what did you feel? Was it very trying?

    SIMON (laughs). Yes, ma'm, just so.

    FAT LADY. Still not unendurable?

    SIMON. Just so, ma'm. (To LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH.) Am I to go?

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, you may go.

    DOCTOR (to the PROFESSOR). The pulse is the same, but the temperature
    is lower.

    PROFESSOR. Lower! (Considers awhile, then suddenly divines the
    conclusion.) It had to be so--it had to descend! The dual influence
    crossing had to produce some kind of reflex action. Yes, that's it!

    [Exeunt, all talking at once--

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. I'm only sorry we had no complete
    materialisation. But still.... Come, gentlemen, let us go to the

    FAT LADY. What specially struck me was when he flapped his wings,
    and one saw how he rose!

    GROSSMAN (to SAHÁTOF). If we had kept to hypnotism, we might have
    produced a thorough state of epilepsy. The success might have
    been complete!

    SAHÁTOF. It is very interesting, but not entirely convincing. That
    is all I can say.


    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (with paper in his hand). Ah, Theodore, what a
    remarkable séance we have had! It turns out that the peasants must
    have the land on their own terms.


    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, indeed. (Showing paper.) Fancy, this paper
    that I returned to them, suddenly appeared on the table! I have signed

    THEODORE IVÁNITCH. How did it get there?

    LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Well, it did get there!

    [Exit. THEODORE IVÁNITCH follows him out.

    TÁNYA (gets from under the sofa and laughs). Oh, dear, oh dear! Well,
    I did get a fright when he got hold of the thread! (Shrieks.) Well,
    anyhow, it's all right--he has signed it!

    [Enter GREGORY.

    GREGORY. So it was you that was fooling them?

    TÁNYA. What business is it of yours?

    GREGORY. And do you think the missis will be pleased with you for it?
    No, you bet; you're caught now! I'll tell them what tricks you're up
    to, if you don't let me have my way!

    TÁNYA. And you'll not get your way, and you'll not do me any harm!


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