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Act IV

Setting:

Same as Act I. But Pepel’s room is no longer there, and the partition has been removed. Furthermore, there is no anvil at the place where Kleshtch used to sit and work. In the corner, where Pepel’s room used to be, the Tartar lies stretched out, rather restless, and groaning from time to time. Kleshtch sits at one end of the table, repairing a concertina and now and then testing the stops. At the other end of the table sit Satine, the Baron, and Nastya. In front of them stand a bottle of vodka, three bottles of beer, and a large loaf of black bread. The Actor lies on top of the stove, shifting about and coughing. It is night. The stage is lit by a lamp in the middle of the table. Outside the wind howls.

KLESHTCH. Yes . . . he disappeared during the confusion and noise . . .

THE BARON. He vanished under the very eyes of the police—just like a puff of smoke . . .

SATINE. That’s how sinners flee from the company of the righteous!

NASTYA. He was a dear old soul! But you—you aren’t men—you’re just—oh—like rust on iron!

THE BARON [drinks] Here’s to you, my lady!

SATINE. He was an inquisitive old fellow—yes! Nastenka here fell in love with him . . .

NASTYA. Yes! I did! Madly! It’s true! He saw everything—understood everything . . .

SATINE [laughing] Yes, generally speaking, I would say that he was—oh—like mush to those who can’t chew. . . .

THE BARON [laughing] Right! Like plaster on a boil!

KLESHTCH. He was merciful—you people don’t know what pity means . . .

SATINE. What good can I do you by pitying you?

KLESHTCH. You needn’t have pity—but you needn’t harm or offend your fellow-beings, either!

THE TARTAR [sits up on his bunk, nursing his wounded hand carefully] He was a fine old man. The law of life was the law of his heart . . . and he who obeys this law, is good, while he who disregards it, perishes . . .

THE BARON. What law, Prince?

THE TARTAR. There are a number—different ones—you know . . .

THE BARON. Proceed!

THE TARTAR. Do not do harm unto others—such is the law!

SATINE. Oh—you mean the Penal Code, criminal and correctional, eh?

THE BARON. And also the Code of Penalties inflicted by Justices of the Peace!

THE TARTAR. No. I mean the Koran. It is the supreme law—and your own soul ought to be the Koran—yes!

KLESHTCH [testing his concertina] It wheezes like all hell! But the Prince speaks the truth—one must live abiding by the law—by the teachings of the Gospels . . .

SATINE. Well—go ahead and do it!

THE BARON. Just try it!

THE TARTAR. The Prophet Mohammed gave to us the law. He said: “Here is the law! Do as it is written therein!” Later on a time will arrive when the Koran will have outlived its purpose—and time will bring forth its own laws—every generation will create its own . . .

SATINE. To be sure! Time passed on—and gave us—the Criminal Code . . . It’s a strong law, brother—it won’t wear off so very soon!

NASTYA [banging her glass on the table] Why—why do I stay here—with you? I’ll go away somewhere—to the ends of the world!

THE BARON. Without any shoes, my lady?

NASTYA. I’ll go—naked, if must be—creeping on all fours!

THE BARON. That’ll be rather picturesque, my lady—on all fours!

NASTYA. Yes—and I’ll crawl if I have to—anything at all—as long as I don’t have to see your faces any longer—oh, I’m so sick of it all—the life—the people—everything!

SATINE. When you go, please take the actor along—he’s preparing to go to the very same place—he has learned that within a half mile’s distance of the end of the world there’s a hospital for diseased organons . . .

THE ACTOR [raising his head over the top of the stove] A hospital for organisms—you fool!

SATINE. For organons—poisoned with vodka!

THE ACTOR. Yes! He will go! He will indeed! You’ll see!

THE BARON. Who is he, sir?

THE ACTOR. I!

THE BARON. Thanks, servant of the goddess—what’s her name—? The goddess of drama—tragedy—whatever is her name—?

THE ACTOR. The muse, idiot! Not the goddess—the muse!

SATINE. Lachesis—Hera—Aphrodite—Atropos—oh! To hell with them all! You see—Baron—it was the old man who stuffed the actor’s head full with this rot . . .

THE BARON. That old man’s a fool . . .

THE ACTOR. Ignoramuses! Beasts! Melpomene—that’s her name! Heartless brutes! Bastards! You’ll see! He’ll go! “On with the orgy, dismal spirits!”—poem—ah—by Béranger! Yes—he’ll find some spot where there’s no—no . . .

THE BARON. Where there’s nothing, sir?

THE ACTOR. Right! Nothing! “This hole shall be my grave—I am dying—ill and exhausted . . .” Why do you exist? Why?

THE BARON. You! God or genius or orgy—or whatever you are—don’t roar so loud!

THE ACTOR. You lie! I’ll roar all I want to!

NASTYA [lifting her head from the table and throwing up her hands] Go on! Yell! Let them listen to you!

THE BARON. Where is the sense, my lady?

SATINE. Leave them alone, Baron! To hell with the lot! Let them yell—let them knock their damned heads off if they feel like it! There’s a method in their madness! Don’t you go and interfere with people as that old fellow did! Yes—it’s he—the damned old fool—he bewitched the whole gang of us!

KLESHTCH. He persuaded them to go away—but failed to show them the road . . .

THE BARON. That old man was a humbug!

NASTYA. Liar! You’re a humbug yourself!

THE BARON. Shut up, my lady!

KLESHTCH. The old man didn’t like truth very much—as a matter of fact he strongly resented it—and wasn’t he right, though? Just look—where is there any truth? And yet, without it, you can’t breathe! For instance, our Tartar Prince over there, crushed his hand at his work—and now he’ll have to have his arm amputated—and there’s the truth for you!

SATINE [striking the table with his clenched fist] Shut up! You sons of bitches! Fools! Not another word about that old fellow! [To the Baron] You, Baron, are the worst of the lot! You don’t understand a thing, and you lie like the devil! The old man’s no humbug! What’s the truth? Man! Man—that’s the truth! He understood man—you don’t! You’re all as dumb as stones! I understand the old man—yes! He lied—but lied out of sheer pity for you . . . God damn you! Lots of people lie out of pity for their fellow-beings! I know! I’ve read about it! They lie—oh—beautifully, inspiringly, stirringly! Some lies bring comfort, and others bring peace—a lie alone can justify the burden which crushed a workman’s hand and condemns those who are starving! I know what lying means! The weakling and the one who is a parasite through his very weakness—they both need lies—lies are their support, their shield, their armor! But the man who is strong, who is his own master, who is free and does not have to suck his neighbors’ blood—he needs no lies! To lie—it’s the creed of slaves and masters of slaves! Truth is the religion of the free man!

THE BARON. Bravo! Well spoken! Hear, hear! I agree! You speak like an honest man!

SATINE. And why can’t a crook at times speak the truth—since honest people at times speak like crooks? Yes—I’ve forgotten a lot—but I still know a thing or two! The old man? Oh—he’s wise! He affected me as acid affects a dirty old silver coin! Let’s drink to his health! Fill the glasses . . . [Nastya fills a glass with beer and hands it to Satine, who laughs] The old man lives within himself . . . he looks upon all the world from his own angle. Once I asked him: “Grand-dad, why do people live?” [Tries to imitate Luka’s voice and gestures] And he replied: “Why, my dear fellow, people live in the hope of something better! For example—let’s say there are carpenters in this world, and all sorts of trash . . . people . . . and they give birth to a carpenter the like of which has never been seen upon the face of the earth . . . he’s way above everybody else, and has no equal among carpenters! The brilliancy of his personality was reflected on all his trade, on all the other carpenters, so that they advanced twenty years in one day! This applies to all other trades—blacksmiths and shoemakers and other workmen—and all the peasants—and even the aristocrats live in the hopes of a higher life! Each individual thinks that he’s living for his own Self, but in reality he lives in the hope of something better. A hundred years—sometimes longer—do we expect, live for the finer, higher life . . .” [Nastya stares intently into Satine’s face. Kleshtch stops working and listens. The Baron bows his head very low, drumming softly on the table with his fingers. The Actor, peering down from the stove, tries to climb noiselessly into the bunk] “Every one, brothers, every one lives in the hope of something better. That’s why we must respect each and every human being! How do we know who he is, why he was born, and what he is capable of accomplishing? Perhaps his coming into the world will prove to be our good fortune . . . Especially must we respect little children! Children—need freedom! Don’t interfere with their lives! Respect children!” [Pause]

THE BARON [thoughtfully] Hm—yes—something better?—That reminds me of my family . . . an old family dating back to the time of Catherine . . . all noblemen, soldiers, originally French . . . they served their country and gradually rose higher and higher. In the days of Nicholas the First my grandfather, Gustave DeBille, held a high post—riches—hundreds of serfs . . . horses—cooks—

NASTYA. You liar! It isn’t true!

THE BARON [jumping up] What? Well—go on—

NASTYA. It isn’t true.

THE BARON [screams] A house in Moscow! A house in Petersburg! Carriages! Carriages with coats of arms!

[Kleshtch takes his concertina and goes to one side, watching the scene with interest.]

NASTYA. You lie!

THE BARON. Shut up!—I say—dozens of footmen . . .

NASTYA [delighted] You lie!

THE BARON. I’ll kill you!

NASTYA [ready to run away] There were no carriages!

SATINE. Stop, Nastenka! Don’t infuriate him!

THE BARON. Wait—you bitch! My grandfather . . .

NASTYA. There was no grandfather! There was nothing!

[Satine roars with laughter.]

THE BARON [worn out with rage, sits down on bench] Satine! Tell that slut—what—? You, too, are laughing? You—don’t believe me either? [Cries out in despair, pounding the table with his fists] It’s true—damn the whole lot of you!

NASTYA [triumphantly] So—you’re crying? Understand now what a human being feels like when nobody believes him?

KLESHTCH [returning to the table] I thought there’d be a fight . . .

THE TARTAR. Oh—people are fools! It’s too bad . . .

THE BARON. I shall not permit any one to ridicule me! I have proofs—documents—damn you!

SATINE. Forget it! Forget about your grandfather’s carriages! You can’t drive anywhere in a carriage of the past!

THE BARON. How dare she—just the same—?

NASTYA. Just imagine! How dare I—?

SATINE. You see—she does dare! How is she any worse than you are? Although, surely, in her past there wasn’t even a father and mother, let alone carriages and a grandfather . . .

THE BARON [quieting down] Devil take you—you do know how to argue dispassionately—and I, it seems—I’ve no will-power . . .

SATINE. Acquire some—it’s useful . . . [Pause] Nastya! Are you going to the hospital?

NASTYA. What for?

SATINE. To see Natashka.

NASTYA. Oh—just woke up, did you? She’s been out of the hospital for some time—and they can’t find a trace of her . . .

SATINE. Oh—that woman’s a goner!

KLESHTCH. It’s interesting to see whether Vaska will get the best of Vassilisa, or the other way around—?

NASTYA. Vassilisa will win out! She’s shrewd! And Vaska will go to the gallows!

SATINE. For manslaughter? No—only to jail . . .

NASTYA. Too bad—the gallows would have been better . . . that’s where all of you should be sent . . . swept off into a hole—like filth . . .

SATINE [astonished] What’s the matter? Are you crazy?

THE BARON. Oh—give her a wallop—that’ll teach her to be less impertinent . . .

NASTYA. Just you try to touch me!

THE BARON. I shall!

SATINE. Stop! Don’t insult her! I can’t get the thought of the old man out of my head! [Roars with laughter] Don’t offend your fellow-beings! Suppose I were offended once in such a way that I’d remember it for the rest of my life? What then? Should I forgive? No, no!

THE BARON [to Nastya] You must understand that I’m not your sort . . . you—ah—you piece of dirt!

NASTYA. You bastard! Why—you live off me like a worm off an apple!

[The men laugh amusedly.]

KLESHTCH. Fool! An apple—?

THE BARON. You can’t be angry with her—she’s just an ass—

NASTYA. You laugh! Liars? Don’t strike you as funny, eh?

THE ACTOR [morosely] Give them a good beating!

NASTYA. If I only could! [Takes a cup from the table and throws it on the floor] That’s what I’d like to do to you all!

THE TARTAR. Why break dishes—eh—silly girl?

THE BARON [rising] That’ll do! I’ll teach her manners in half a second!

NASTYA [running toward door] Go to hell!

SATINE [calling after her] Hey! That’s enough! Whom are you trying to frighten? What’s all the row about, anyway?

NASTYA. Dogs! I hope you’ll croak! Dogs! [Runs out]

THE ACTOR [morosely] Amen!

THE TARTAR. Allah! Mad women, these Russians! They’re bold, wilful; Tartar women aren’t like that! They know the law and abide by it. . . .

KLESHTCH. She ought to be given a sound hiding!

THE BARON. The slut!

KLESHTCH [testing the concertina] It’s ready! But its owner isn’t here yet—that young fellow is burning his life away . . .

SATINE. Care for a drink—now?

KLESHTCH. Thanks . . . it’s time to go to bed . . .

SATINE. Getting used to us?

KLESHTCH [drinks, then goes to his bunk] It’s all right . . . there are people everywhere—at first you don’t notice it . . . but after a while you don’t mind. . . .

[The Tartar spreads some rags over his bunk, then kneels on them and prays.]

THE BARON [to Satine, pointing at the Tartar] Look!

SATINE. Stop! He’s a good fellow! Leave him alone! [Roars with laughter] I feel kindly to-day—the devil alone knows the reason why . . .

THE BARON. You always feel kindly when you’re drunk—you’re even wiser at such times . . .

SATINE. When I’m drunk? Yes—then I like everything—right—He prays? That’s fine! A man may believe or not—that’s his own affair—a man is free—he pays for everything himself—belief or unbelief—love—wisdom . . . a man pays for everything—and that’s just why he’s free! Man is—truth! And what is man? It’s neither you nor I nor they—oh, no—it’s you and they and I and the old man—and Napoleon—Mohammed—all in one! [Outlines vaguely in the air the contour of a human being] Do you understand? It’s tremendous! It contains the beginning and the end of everything—everything is in man—and everything exists for him! Man alone exists—everything else is the creation of his hands and his brain! Man! It is glorious! It sounds—oh—so big! Man must be respected—not degraded with pity—but respected, respected! Let us drink to man, Baron! [Rises] It is good to feel that you are a man! I’m a convict, a murderer, a crook—granted!—When I’m out on the street people stare at me as if I were a scoundrel—they draw away from me—they look after me and often they say: “You dog! You humbug! Work!” Work? And what for? to fill my belly? [Roars with laughter] I’ve always despised people who worry too much about their bellies. It isn’t right, Baron! It isn’t! Man is loftier than that! Man stands above hunger!

THE BARON. You—reason things out. . . . Well and good—it brings you a certain amount of consolation. . . . Personally I’m incapable of it . . . I don’t know how. [Glances around him and then, softly, guardedly] Brother—I am afraid—at times. Do you understand? Afraid!—Because—what next?

SATINE. Rot! What’s a man to be afraid of?

THE BARON [pacing up and down] You know—as far back as I can remember, there’s been a sort of fog in my brain. I was never able to understand anything. Somehow I feel embarrassed—it seems to me that all my life I’ve done nothing but change clothes—and why? I don’t understand! I studied—I wore the uniform of the Institute for the Sons of the Nobility . . . but what have I learned? I don’t remember! I married—I wore a frock-coat—then a dressing-gown . . . but I chose a disagreeable wife . . . and why? I don’t understand. I squandered everything that I possessed—I wore some sort of a grey jacket and brick-colored trousers—but how did I happen to ruin myself? I haven’t the slightest idea. . . . I had a position in the Department of State. . . . I wore a uniform and a cap with insignia of rank. . . . I embezzled government funds . . . so they dressed me in a convict’s garb—and later on I got into these clothes here—and it all happened as in a dream—it’s funny . . .

SATINE. Not very! It’s rather—silly!

THE BARON. Yes—silly! I think so, too. Still—wasn’t I born for some sort of purpose?

SATINE [laughing] Probably—a man is born to conceive a better man. [Shaking his head]—It’s all right!

THE BARON. That she-devil Nastka! Where did she run to? I’ll go and see—after all, she . . . [Exit; pause]

THE ACTOR. Tartar! [Pause] Prince! [The Tartar looks round] Say a prayer for me . . .

THE TARTAR. What?

THE ACTOR [softly] Pray—for me!

THE TARTAR [after a silence] Pray for your own self!

THE ACTOR [quickly crawls off the stove and goes to the table, pours out a drink with shaking hands, drinks, then almost runs to passage] All over!

SATINE. Hey, proud Sicambrian! Where are you going?

[Satine whistles. Miedviedieff enters, dressed in a woman’s flannel shirt-waist; followed by Bubnoff. Both are slightly drunk. Bubnoff carries a bunch of pretzels in one hand, a couple of smoked fish in the other, a bottle of vodka under one arm, another bottle in his coat pocket.]

MIEDVIEDIEFF. A camel is something like a donkey—only it has no ears. . . .

BUBNOFF. Shut up! You’re a variety of donkey yourself!

MIEDVIEDIEFF. A camel has no ears at all, at all—it hears through its nostrils . . .

BUBNOFF [to Satine] Friend! I’ve looked for you in all the saloons and all the cabarets! Take this bottle—my hands are full . . .

SATINE. Put the pretzels on the table—then you’ll have one hand free—

BUBNOFF. Right! Hey—you donkey—look! Isn’t he a clever fellow?

MIEDVIEDIEFF. All crooks are clever—I know! They couldn’t do a thing without brains. An honest man is all right even if he’s an idiot . . . but a crook must have brains. But, speaking about camels, you’re wrong . . . you can ride them—they have no horns . . . and no teeth either . . .

BUBNOFF. Where’s everybody? Why is there no one here? Come on out . . . I treat! Who’s in the corner?

SATINE. How soon will you drink up everything you have? Scarecrow!

BUBNOFF. Very soon! I’ve very little this time. Zob—where’s Zob?

KLESHTCH [crossing to table] He isn’t here . . .

BUBNOFF. Waughrr! Bull-dog! Brr-zz-zz!—Turkey-cock! Don’t bark and don’t growl! Drink—make merry—and don’t be sullen!—I treat everybody—Brother, I love to treat—if I were rich, I’d run a free saloon! So help me God, I would! With an orchestra and a lot of singers! Come, every one! Drink and eat—listen to the music—and rest in peace! Beggars—come, all you beggars—and enter my saloon free of charge! Satine—you can have half my capital—just like that!

SATINE. You better give me all you have straight away!

BUBNOFF. All my capital? Right now? Well—here’s a ruble—here’s twenty kopecks—five kopecks—sun flower seeds—and that’s all!

SATINE. That’s splendid! It’ll be safer with me—I’ll gamble with it . . .

MIEDVIEDIEFF. I’m a witness—the money was given you for safe-keeping. How much is it?

BUBNOFF. You? You’re a camel—we don’t need witnesses . . .

ALYOSHKA [comes in barefoot] Brothers, I got my feet wet!

BUBNOFF. Go on and get your throat wet—and nothing’ll happen—you’re a fine fellow—you sing and you play—that’s all right! But it’s too bad you drink—drink, little brother, is harmful, very harmful . . .

ALYOSHKA. I judge by you! Only when you’re drunk do you resemble a human being . . . Kleshtch! Is my concertina fixed? [Sings and dances]

“If my mug were not so attractive,

My sweetheart wouldn’t love me at all . . .”

Boys, I’m frozen—it’s cold . . .

MIEDVIEDIEFF. Hm—and may I ask who’s this sweetheart?

BUBNOFF. Shut up! From now on, brother, you are neither a policeman nor an uncle!

ALYOSHKA. Just auntie’s husband!

BUBNOFF. One of your nieces is in jail—the other one’s dying . . .

MIEDVIEDIEFF [proudly] You lie! She’s not dying—she disappeared—without trace . . .

[Satine roars.]

BUBNOFF. All the same, brothers—a man without nieces isn’t an uncle!

ALYOSHKA. Your Excellency! Listen to the drummer of the retired billygoats’ brigade! [Sings]

“My sweetheart has money,

I haven’t a cent.

But I’m a cheerful,

Merry lad!”

Oh—isn’t it cold!

[Enter Zob. From now until the final curtain men and women drift in, undress, and stretch out on the bunks, grumbling.]

ZOB. Bubnoff! Why did you run off?

BUBNOFF. Come here—sit down—brother, let’s sing my favorite ditty, eh?

THE TARTAR. Night was made for sleep! Sing your songs in the daytime!

SATINE. Well—never mind, Prince—come here!

THE TARTAR. What do you mean—never mind? There’s going to be a noise—there always is when people sing!

BUBNOFF [crossing to the Tartar] Count—ah—I mean Prince—how’s your hand? Did they cut it off?

THE TARTAR. What for? We’ll wait and see—perhaps it won’t be necessary . . . a hand isn’t made of iron—it won’t take long to cut it off . . .

ZOB. It’s your own affair, Hassanka! You’ll be good for nothing without your hand. We’re judged by our hands and backs—without the pride of your hand, you’re no longer a human being. Tobacco-carting—that’s your business! Come on—have a drink of vodka—and stop worrying!

KVASHNYA [comes in] Ah, my beloved fellow-lodgers! It’s horrible outside—snow and slush . . . is my policeman here?

MIEDVIEDIEFF. Right here!

KVASHNYA. Wearing my blouse again? And drunk, eh? What’s the idea?

MIEDVIEDIEFF. In celebration of Bubnoff’s birthday . . . besides, it’s cold . . .

KVASHNYA. Better look out—stop fooling about and go to sleep!

MIEDVIEDIEFF [goes to kitchen] Sleep? I can—I want to—it’s time—[Exit]

SATINE. What’s the matter? Why are you so strict with him?

KVASHNYA. You can’t be otherwise, friend. You have to be strict with his sort. I took him as a partner. I thought he’d be of some benefit to me—because he’s a military man—and you’re a rough lot . . . and I am a woman—and now he’s turned drunkard—that won’t do at all!

SATINE. You picked a good one for partner!

KVASHNYA. Couldn’t get a better one. You wouldn’t want to live with me . . . you think you’re too fine! And even if you did it wouldn’t last more than a week . . . you gamble me and all I own away at cards!

SATINE [roars with laughter] That’s true, landlady—I’d gamble . . .

KVASHNYA. Yes, yes. Alyoshka!

ALYOSHKA. Here he is—I, myself!

KVASHNYA. What do you mean by gossiping about me?

ALYOSHKA. I? I speak out everything—whatever my conscience tells me. There, I say, is a wonderful woman! Splendid meat, fat, bones—over four hundred pounds! But brains—? Not an ounce!

KVASHNYA. You’re a liar! I’ve lot of brains! What do you mean by saying I beat my policeman?

ALYOSHKA. I thought you did—when you pulled him by the hair!

KVASHNYA [laughs] You fool! You aren’t blind, are you? Why wash dirty linen in public? And—it hurts his feelings—that’s why he took to drink . . .

ALYOSHKA. It’s true, evidently, that even a chicken likes vodka . . .

[Satine and Kleshtch roar with laughter.]

KVASHNYA. Go on—show your teeth! What sort of a man are you anyway, Alyoshka?

ALYOSHKA. Oh—I am first-rate! Master of all trades! I follow my nose!

BUBNOFF [near the Tartar’s bunk] Come on! At all events—we won’t let you sleep! We’ll sing all night. Zob!

ZOB. Sing—? All right . . .

ALYOSHKA. And I’ll play . . .

SATINE. We’ll listen!

THE TARTAR [smiling] Well—Bubnoff—you devil—bring the vodka—we’ll drink—we’ll have a hell of a good time! The end will come soon enough—and then we’ll be dead!

BUBNOFF. Fill his glass, Satine! Zob—sit down! Ah—brothers—what does a man need after all? There, for instance, I’ve had a drink—and I’m happy! Zob! Start my favorite song! I’ll sing—and then I’ll cry. . . .

ZOB [begins to sing]

“The sun rises and sets . . .”

BUBNOFF [joining in]

“But my prison is all dark. . . .”

[Door opens quickly.]

THE BARON [on the threshold; yells] Hey—you—come—come here! Out in the waste—in the yard . . . over there . . . The actor—he’s hanged himself. . . .

[Silence. All stare at the Baron. Behind him appears Nastya, and slowly, her eyes wide with horror, she walks to the table.]

SATINE [in a matter-of-fact voice] Damned fool—he ruined the song . . . !


CURTAIN.

THE END.

Maxim Gorky

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