This English translation of “The Strike appeared in The Commonweal.
A DRAMA by LOUISE MICHEL.
Characters in the Prologue:
Gertrude. (Secretly married to Vladimir.)
Mache and Rita, Sisters, betrothed to two brothers who have been hanged.
Nemo, Zniriki and Orloffski, Revolutionists.
The People of Warsaw.
The Grand Duke and his suite.
Characters in the Play:
Eleazar, a Financier.
Gertrude, wife to Eleazar.
Marius, Esther and Nicaise, children of Eleazar by a former wife.
Silvester, styled Baron Ulysses.
Madame de Bleuze, a sick woman.
Madame de Roseray.
Blanche and Margerite, daughters of Madame de Roseray.
Fishermen; Miners; Crowds; Soldiers; Foolish Old Women; Maskers; etc.
(The Rose Legend.)
(The Scene is outside a villa near Warsaw. Clumps of trees and statues are disposed about the stage. The villa is sheltered by a hillside which hides the Modlin road from view and which faces a suburb. It is a bright moonlight night and the ground is covered with snow. In the background two gallows are dimly seen, with corpses hanging from them.)
Gertrude, Vladimir, before the villa (Gertrude is in mourning and both characters are in Russian dress).
Vladimir. Are you not cold, Gertrude?
Vladimir. It is brave of you to come (Gertrude smiles). I am proud of you. You yourself will give the signal so soon as the Grand Duke has passed.
Gertrude. ‘Tis what I was looking forward to doing. The situation of this place near the Modlin road along which he is to pass, the solitude in which I live since my father’s death makes it natural that I should be chosen.
Vladimir. Don’t think that; we have chosen the one most to be trusted. This signal means our lives, — nay more than our lives, a people’s freedom, — more than that perhaps. Warsaw this time may be as the spark to fire the world.
Gertrude. Do you believe that mere love of freedom can fire men’s hearts?
Vladimir. Certainly. The slavish mob of men only become free Humanity by means of an ever growing yearning of vast multitudes after truth and a true ideal, — a yearning which is like the attraction of steel to a magnet.
Gertrude. Ah, there are things stronger than the ideal, our desires and lusts. Evil is stronger than good; or rather there is no evil and no good; each one follows his bent.
Vladimir. Gertrude, dearest, the artificial laws of violent men have caused these fatal inclinations of which you speak. True harmony will only be established upon the ruins of the old world.
Gertrude. Dreams! You, for example, follow your own bent, — towards Utopia.
Vladimir. Is not the Utopia of one age ever the reality of the next? Only the ideal is true. What is law but the ideal? What is death for freedom but the ideal? Are we not happy because all depends on you this fearful night? Again an ideal!
Gertrude. Yes, truly!
Vladimir. How oddly you say that! Everything about you is strange; ‘tis the reason I love you. Why are you so cold at this moment, which may be our last?
Gertrude. Why do you wrap yourself up in these misty dreams of yours?
Vladimir. Is it my fault if in your presence my thoughts take too wild flight?
Gertrude. Explain to me the signal.
Vladimir. It is impossible to make a mistake. You see that rock halfway along the hill. From that rock so soon as the Grand Duke and his escort has passed, you must raise the torch in your hand, — the torch which is to be our guiding-star. Ah, why can not I remain near you?
Gertrude. I had rather be alone. Be calm, Vladimir.
Vladimir. How can I be calm when I am about to gain all that I love, — freedom and you. After our victory, will you still refuse to acknowledge yourself my mate before all of them;? Will you not then cease to make a mystery of our union, of our love, of our child?
Gertrude. You speak of victory. Is not victory quite uncertain?
Vladimir. ‘Tis impossible that we should be beaten this time. Do you remember how sad you made your father and me by insisting that our marriage should be kept secret, that the birth of Marpha should be concealed. You are like your own sphinx-like smile; ‘tis your unknown depths which trouble me and attract me to you. I adore you, adore you to death, — as the Hindoos used to worship their gods.
Gertrude (coldly). Here are your friends.
Gertrude, Vladimir, Zniriki, Nemo, Orloffski, and other Revolutionists. (All the new-comers salute Gertrude.)
A Revolutionist. Vladimir has doubtless told you, Gertrude, what we expect of you. You have not thought of refusing.
Gertrude. You were right.
Zniriki (looking at the hillside and the neighbourhood). ‘Tis a foreordained site for what we intend; the whole suburb will see the. light. The Grand Duke will be a prisoner with all his men before he is twenty minutes journey from this plan.
Vladimir. The chances on our side are so great that they astonish me.
Gertrude. What will you do with the Grand Duke and his escort?
Nemo. Make them hostages or corpses as implacable necessity may ordain. Will the crowd be merciful or vengeful? We know nothing of the line they will take and can no way influence it.
Orloffski. Sometimes the crowd amid all its anguish is yet pitiful; sometimes it remembers all the blood which has been shed by its masters and then, forgetful of all else the crowd does justice.
Nemo. Two of our comrades were hanged yesterday.
Gertrude. You speak gloomily. For my part, I care nothing for causes; results are sufficient for me. Will you want neither arms nor fighters? That is the principal thing.
Orloffski. Fear nothing. Boldness will multiply our resources; the whole town is with us.
Zniriki. Everything can be turned into a weapon when we are determined to conquer, — our corpses themselves if need be. Long live death, if death frees us!
Gertrude. How old are you, Zniriki?
Zniriki. Sixteen, Madame. In such fights as ours, age and sex matter nothing; old men, women, lads will all take part.
Gertrude. I am glad to hear that freedom has such warm defenders.
Zniriki. Thank you for that kind word, I will think of you as I think of freedom.
Nemo. The moment is at hand. To our posts, comrades.
All. You are right, Nemo. Good bye, Gertrude.
Zniriki (to Gertrude). You are a brave fighter.
Exeunt all, save Vladimir and Gertrude.
Vladimir. Stay a moment. I am in fear for you — ambushes, darkness, cold, — I fear them all. I care nothing for my life, for our comrades’ life. We sacrificed them long ago; but I cannot tear you from my heart. Do you know that a moment ago I was jealous of Zniriki? I am mad, am I not?
Gertrude. Go with the others, I beg of you.
Vladimir. And our child, — what is she doing?
Gertrude. She is asleep.
Vladimir. Till I see you again, darling!
Gertrude. Good bye, Vladimir.
Vladimir. No, not good bye! Your words seem ice bound.
Gertrude. Is not the night gloomy and ice bound? Did not friends cry, “Long live Death!“ just now? Leave me, I beg.
Vladimir. How many lives depend upon you! (He kisses Gertrude’s hand and goes off, but returns after taking a few steps and gazes at her; he joins his hands and at last really goes away.)
Gertrude. I longed to be alone. One day Nemo said that treachery to some people is like the taste for blood in wild beasts. This dreamer, this Vladimir wonders I should hide my life as I do! Am I not tied enough as it is, without closing all ways of escape against myself? I do not wish to drain my pleasant-cups to the dregs, — rather I would break them while they are yet full, break them after merely tasting them. Once, when I was a child, I dreamt of my reading during the day. I thought Lady Macbeth stood before me as a giant like ghost, big as the world itself. She washed her hands in the sea, and the whole Ocean grew red. Is that, then, what I shall become? (She looks dreamily at the horizon.) My life will be like some horrible story, — yet I let it go on as it will, as if I were only reading in a book. I like chat young Zniriki; but I must cease collecting soul-studies. They tried, “Long live Death!“ Did they feel death coming, I wonder? Warsaw will be a very nest of death to night. Warsaw will have death under her wings! The people who trusted in me, the man who adored me, the child that was born of me — all will vanish in torment. — I shall be free, with the world before me.
(Rita is already touched by age, but still beautiful. She carries some roses in a scarf.)
Rita. I come to embrace you as a sister, Gertrude. What you are doing is well done. I have some roses for you and for those over there. (She points to the gibbets in the background. Gertrude looks at her in silence.) You have heard of the two brothers who were hanged together after the great insurrection twenty years ago and of two sisters who were betrothed to them. One of them is dead. I am alone now.
Gertrude. I have been told the story.
Rita. The gibbets were erected on the very same spot as those they put up yesterday.
Gertrude. How did you manage to get roses at this time of the year?
Rita. I have spent all I had in buying them. I shall want nothing now, since I shall soon be which the others. The flowers are red, — red as the blood which has so often bathed the earth.
Gertrude. Why should not you live?
Rita. How can I explain how I feel sure of death? Much in the way in which birds know night is coming. See, there is your nosegay. (Rita gives Gertrude a nosegay of roses.)
Gertrude. Thanks. Good-bye till I see you again.
(Gertrude moves away and lets her nosegay fall by some trees. As Rita pursues her route, she looks back and notices the red spot on the snow caused by Gertrude’s roses.)
Rita. Already a spot of blood! No, they are Gertrude’s flowers. Why has she thrown her nosegay away? This suggests treason. I will stay and see in what fashion the signal is given. The living must be considered before the dead. Twenty years ago it was a night like this — a night wrapped in snow. The town was on fire at midnight the crowd was like bees in swarm; but the citadel had been warned and troops arrived from all parts. — There are traitors about to night, just as there were twenty years ago. Gertrude is certainly one, — Gertrude! This time treachery shall be detected.
(Rita hides herself behind a statue. Gertrude, also hidden behind a statue, has been listening to Rita’s last words.)
Gertrude (aside). She was watching me as I thought. Happily I come prepared for accidents. (She draws a dagger and feels its point.) Only the dead tell no tales. (She strikes Rita from behind and the latter falls, face downward, to the earth. Gertrude leans over the body.) She is dead. So this is murder, is it? My heart beats no more quickly. ‘Tis cold, though! (She shivers as she looks fit Rita’s roses, which lie scattered around her on the ground.) ‘Tis like my dream, — the dream in which I saw Lady Macbeth washing her hands ‘and making Ocean red. (She breaks off some twigs from the fir-trees and scatters them over Rita’s corpse.)
Gertrude, the Grand Duke and his Escort (on horseback). (Two men also on horseback and with lighted torches precede the Grand Duke.)
Gertrude (seizing the Grand Duke’s horse by the bridle). My lord, Warsaw is in revolt. A signal for the outbreak will be given so soon as you have entered the Modlin road.
(Several officers of the escort dismount and detain Gertrude.)
The Grand Duke. You are dreaming, my girl.
Gertrude. Go on to your death, then.
The Grand Duke. How did you come to know of these things?
Gertrude. ‘Twas I who was to give the signal.
The Grand Duke. How come you to betray your associates?
Gertrude. Betray! The word is harsh, my lord. You will learn my motive later.
An Officer (perceiving Rita’s dead body). My lord, there are corpses here.
Gertrude. The woman was watching me, my lord. I took her life to save yours.
The Grand Duke. What reward would you have?
Gertrude. Have I deserved to be trusted?
The Grand Duke. We shall see presently. Do not give the signal for an hour yet. This delay is all I ask of you.
An Officer. Must we leave this woman at liberty, my lord.
The Grand Duke. Yes, leave her perfectly free. (To Gertrude.) Remember, in an hour’s time. (Aside.) Is this treachery the result of love? The woman is very beautiful.
Gertrude. Trust to me.
(The Grand Duke and his escort disappear behind the hill.)
Gertrude. Rita stretched beneath the fir-twigs.
Gertrude (who speaks in detached phrases). So this is treachery, I feel no more remorse for treason then I did for murder. I follow my way through life as easily as if I were gliding downstream. Vladimir and the others are about to die. My child is pitilessly abandoned. Am I a monster? I am thus. There is no more to wait for. (She enters the villa.)
Rita (who raises herself with difficulty). If I could only drag myself to them, I would warn them. Death nails me to the earth.
Rita again stretched on the ground. Gertrude with a sleeping child wrapped in a cloak in her arms.
Gertrude (placing the child on the ground before a statue). A she-wolf would not leave her cub in such a place. The child sleeps on this winding-sheet of snow as in her cradle — sleeps between the corpse and the hecatomb of corpses that is to come. Perhaps she will sleep for ever now. (Gertrude looks at the cloak.) Her name is embroidered on it, — Marpha. That tells nothing. I am no more of the mother than of the sweetheart. I shall love the Grand Duke no better than I have loved Vladimir, Vladimir whom I sacrifice. The time has come.
(Gertrude takes a torch and lights it, ascending the hillside mean while. At the top she raises the torch above her head, so as to throw the light towards the suburb.)
Gertrude, with the torch. Nemo.
(Upon seeing Nemo, Gertrude throws down the torch and disappears, the half extinguished torch shows up Rita’s body and the sleeping child.)
Nemo (believing Gertrude still present). Gertrude, the Grand Duke was seen to leave the citadel long ago. When did he pass here? Gertrude! Where are you?
Rita (in a feeble voice). Nemo, Nemo, listen.
Nemo (perceiving Rita and the child). Oh!
Rita. Nemo, Gertrude has betrayed the city to the Grand Duke.
Nemo. Is it you, Rita. Come with me; we will fight to the end.
(Rita raises herself from the ground and falls back dead.)
Nemo. Ah, there is no longer time even to warn them. Poor Rita, poor Rita! The child too! We are about to die; I had better leave it here. I won’t leave it. (The noise of the crowd is heard outside. Nemo takes the child in his arms.)
Nemo, with the child in his cloak. The Crowd
Nemo (giving the child to a woman). Save this child. It is mine. It is the child of vengeance.
(The woman takes the child in her arms and disappears in the mob.)
(Trumpets sound and there are distant cries of “Long live Order; Long live the Grand Duke.”)
The Crowd. Long live freedom!
Vladimir (entering, to Nemo). Who has betrayed us?
Vladimir. Oh, it is impossible.
Nemo. Fire shall be our rampart.
(He picks up the torch and sets fire to the villa. The flame shows the crowd surrounded by soldiers.)
End of the Prologue.
Songs of the Waves.
(The scene is a wide beautiful bay of the sea, Sky and water as far as the eye can gaze. On the beach are young barefooted girls with baskets on their heads returning from fishing. On one side are some lauts where nets are drying.)
Chorus of Girls.
Sounding Ocean tumbling moves,
Singing songs of rising waves;
Hasten, men, to wives and loves,—
‘Neath the sounding sea lie graves,
Ever-groaning Ocean’s rhyme
Tells the waters’ raging way:
Water-drops and globes and time
Roll, and roll, and roll alway,
Marpha (simply dressed and now 16) crosses the stage. She goes towards the girls who point out to her a sail in the distance. She leans upon a rock, waiting the boats arrival.
Marius and Esther (towards the footlights).
Marius (pointing out Marpha to Esther). Do you see that flower of the waves? She is a gracious vision indeed to console me for the life we lead with that termagant who has taken our mother’s place.
Esther. This baroness whom our father picked up no-one knows where is a real she-wolf. She has bent him completely to her will. I know the little girl over there! ‘Tis little Marpha, old Nemo’s daughter. Don’t you notice that this innocent dove is wonderfully like the bird of prey who has swooped down on us?
Marius. Many a time the likeness has made me shiver. There are such phenomena in nature.
Esther. Are you in love with this child?
Marius. I love her madly. Not only has she bewitched me, but she has been a very guiding-star to me. Were it not for her, I should not be among those who long to make their lives epical; I should still bound to the past, as though to a corpse; I should not understand my own aspirations.
Esther. Explain yourself.
Marius. Last year I asked Nemo for Marpha at first. Nemo refused. His daughter could not be the companion of such a young man as I was then. I then became what you have seen me to be since your return from visiting grandmother. So did that change come about in me which I have seen in yourself.
Esther. As for me, it was impossible for me to avoid arriving at the truth. You know that at grandmother’s all goes to the poor. I gave as I would. Well, since charity cannot succour all the wretched, I soon concluded that it is merely (what in truth it is) a pleasure to the giver, and no more. It can only reach a limited circle. I then set about seeking for something that would reach Humanity. at large. Reforms seemed to me of little more use than charity. Everything was impotent to save,— power, riches, force, even kindness. At last I was converted to Harmony, to equalising justice; in fact to Anarchy. It was not quite my unassisted thought which brought me to that point; I read much. I was fare as air at grandmother’s. Love grandmother! Were she alive still, I would have sought refuge with her when the Baroness descended upon us.
Marius. What should I do without you? I could no more live without you than without seeing Marpha, without Nemo’s friendship, — Nemo whose disciple I have become. Since this woman has swayed our father’s house, suffering has made my heart more sensitive in all ways. I both love and hate ‘profoundly.
Esther. Poor Marius! What will you do when the cyclone which is brooding shall have swept away one or the other of your objects of affection.
Marius. I believe that I should die if one of you were to fail me, — even if father, despite his madness, were to go.
Esther. Does she love you?
Marius. I have never spoken to her of love; but my feeling for her is so intense that she must be sensible of it. She has been bravely nurtured; she is just the right companion for a rebel. Perhaps now. she will deem me worthy of her.
Esther. Nemo’s daughter may well be brave. In the heroic times which will soon begin there will be some grand and pure figures, — just as there will be monsters.
Marius. Yes this adorable child belongs to the misty times of the new myths which shall be, just as does that other cursed creature. — But you, yourself, Esther, will you never fall in love?
Esther. Love would kill hate. Our hate must be sharp as an axe’s edge. We are only executioners. No, Marius, I will take card not to love. –
Marius. Not Zniriki even!
Esther. Not even Zniriki. Yet it would please me to die with him. The red nuptials of death are the fairest, are they not?
Marius. Perhaps those nuptials are in store for both of us. Who knows?
Marpha still waiting by the rock. Marius. Esther. Zniriki.
Zniriki. Good evening, friends. (He gives them his hand.)
Zniriki. The strike idea is spreading — a General Strike which, will mean the Revolution. The human chrysalis is tearing off its grave clothes, — aye, and bits of its flesh at the same time. Humanity will conquer Death.
Marius. A little ago I learnt good news at Baroness Eleazar’s (to whom I went to have an explanation); I heard of the failure of two banks.
Zniriki. If the letters that I am taking to Nemo agree with our own, the struggle is beginning all over the world. Friends, dear friend, I did not hope for such an awakening. I never dreamt it would be so speedy and so wide spread.
Esther. Surely day must come. But look over there; Nemo is arriving.
(They go near the bank and wait near Marpha. Chorus of sailors on the boat.)
The tempest howls in the shades,
Night fills both land and sea,
The wind roars the sea surges
No flag waves there on the ship.
You sink, sailor, you sink,
Shake, shake in the hurricane,
Shake, shake, harp of the wind,
Play the awful melody
Of the ocean, terrible yet grand.
You sink, etc.
Is not all the ocean which opens
Or else is it the earth which perishes.
Who knows what night covers
Is the sea swallowed up.
You sink, etc.
(Nemo embarks with the sailors, who occupy themselves about their bark. Marpha falls on the neck of Nemo; Esther, Marius, Zniriki, surround him. During this time some young men sing on the bank.)
No it is not the hurricane
Which roars on the beach,
It is the breaking of the sea, the sea.
It is the sea birds
Which come beating their wings,
On the great bitter waves.
(Nemo, Marpha, Zniriki and Marius return towards the shore).
Nemo. Forced labour is finished, they will never go back to it.
Marius (looking at two men, dressed to perfection, who are running, to the mob). There are two sinister individuals.
Esther. The fact is, they don’t come up to their appearances.
Nemo. On the contrary, there are more important than they look.
Marpha. The biggest has already been up at our house.
Sylvester, Nicaire (the two men).
Sylvester. Here my dear Mr. Nicaire are some of our men.
Nicaire (proudly). I am the active and intelligent agent asked for by Baroness to look after the scoundrels who threaten her peace.
Sylvestre. Is it you whom they send?
Nicaire. My self. Without having your forethought, I see to my little details.
Sylvester. That is to you, to have “burnings” every where.
Nicaire. Is not everyone a little “burnt.” Here with the splendid references which I have it would be difficult. He who will guide me is a man of the best society.
Sylvester. Might I be so bold as to ask the name of this honourable guide.
Nicaire. I need not hide facts from you, dear colleague, my letters are for Baron Ulysse — you know this famous baron, the partner of Baroness Eleazar.
Sylvester. Certainly, I know him as this Baron Sylvester is myself. The title is even legally mine and it has cost me enough.
Nicaire (stupefied). I as much as guessed it.
Sylvester. It matters little now. The introduction has been made; allow me to show the work which falls to your share to do. Try and discover, not what he shows, but what a certain suspected man named Nemo hides. This man came here 16 years ago — no one knows whence, with a child in his arms — either his or some one else’s child — to-day a fine slip of a lass. But, no matter. They are under my suspicion — watch them both narrowly. Luckily the shore is their reception place. Those who go in the open air so much must have terribly secret plans. Well, good luck to you Mr. Nicaire. I leave you as I have to go and see the Baroness; her affairs are mine too, it is time that your services are given and for me you really work. So I will be able to judge of your capabilities as well as I have already done so — for I have some ideas about you already. As I said before, I must leave you, to get to the Baroness. It is a betrothal party.
Nicaire. Whose betrothal?
Sylvester. Mine, by God! I am going to be the son in law of the “bank” Eleazar.
Nicaire. I thought as much.
Sylvester. You seem to be quite a good hand at guessing.
(A richly decorated room in Eleazar’s castle. Other rooms upon into this, forming a “star” of rooms. In some are card tables, in others refreshments — a dancing room — a hothouse full of tropical plants, bananas etc.; a few pots of roses. In this room are carved safes, and a balcony opens upon it, which balcony is of stone and gaudily illuminated.)
Marius. You have never seen her?
Marius. She is a sphinx of whom the puzzle must be monstrous.
Zniriki. I have seen more terrible ones than her. I loved her at one time, she was of radiant beauty. I told you all about that once. It was at Warsaw — the night of the hecatomb. I don’t know how it was that any of us escaped the massacre. It was she who betrayed us.
Marius. Yes, so you did, you told me once. And your story seems to me to be bound up with the horrible life we lead here. I feel that there are invisible chains between these events.
Zniriki. Things are connecting themselves in a wonderful manner. They fit in like the notes of a chord.
Marius. You see that she has thrown little piles of riches everywhere to-night. It is an open defiance to the general misery. The safes are crammed with gold. Here you see gold piled up as you see corn elsewhere. Here she is with my father; can’t you hear the rustling of her silk dress? Like the reptile’s scales rattling! Come in here, I have a horror at seeing her. (They enter into the safe room and hide behind the foliage)
Eleazar, Gertrude; Marius, Zniriki hidden. A large wallet is hanging from Gertrude’s belt. She is dressed in dull silk, and her head is dressed with golden coins, in an oriental fashion. She has also diamonds on her neck and arms.
Gertrude. Here alone can we hear each other definitely and without fear of being indiscreet.
Eleazar. It is very cold and damp.
Gertrude. You have a fever Eleazar!
Zniriki (to Marius). Marius, that is the woman of Warsaw!
Gertrude (having heard a murmur turns her head; she sees the roses). I told them not to put any roses here, their odor is disagreeable to me.
Eleazar. Doubtless there has been a mistake, but it is easily rectified.
Gertrude. It is useless to waste time over trifles. We have more to do. Have you prepared Esther and Marius. (Movement behind the foliage.)
Eleazar. My dear Gertrude, you know what great confidence I have in you and how blindly I obey you. Well! This time it was impossible for me to do so.
Gertrude. Impossible! Are you not their father? You should tear them away from the dangers which they themselves seek out.
Eleazar. I could not do it! However, in order that they may avoid the perils which they love so much and condemn them to live in a circle of torture, I can inflict on Marius this dying girl — dying gradually and in agony — and as for Esther, I can give her to this luxurious squanderer of millions.
Gertrude (smiling). You forget, my dear Eleazar, that we are ourselves luxurious squanderers of millions. Baron Ulysses is my partner and I don’t wish the rising tide of his fortune to make him raise kingdom against kingdom. We must make him attached to us. I have given him your word of honor. And besides, also on your word, Madame de Bleuze consents to her union with Marius — we can’t go back now. Eleazar. And you will do that! Gertrude. It is an accomplished fact.
Eleazar. Impossible! You can’t have done that. What have I done to you, Gertrude, for you to thus put despair into my house.
Gertrude. Despair because I attach to the house of Eleazar, of which I have in no small way helped to make the fortune, a great vassal, who without being attached would beat down the house. Because I let fall into its coffers an heritage which in other hands would frustrate my designs.
Eleazar. Oh! My children! My poor children!
Gertrude. Your children haunt you: your mind is troubled with them, and your lips constantly let fall their name. Eleazar. Does not Nemo haunt you still more. Gertrude. Happily yes! But let us cast aside this puerile sentiment. Your children destroying plans; their presence here is ruin — it is the enemy within the gates, and a redoutable enemy — these Anarchists, ceaselessly spying out what they call the crimes of privilege. Try and understand me, Eleazar, our era is the spring of gold: the social furrows are ripe for the sowing, the harvest will be great, we can be the kings of gold. Eleazar, listen to me, in forming the corn, the fuel, the metals — all in fact, food, clothing and light even housing — we famish the world and we have it for ourselves.
Marius (low to Zniriki). That is the enigma of the cursed Sphinx, then!
Zniriki. Silence! We must know all.
Gertrude. This general strike for which your children are working, and many others besides, and which will be, they say, the revolution — it must not be made by the slaves but by the masters. Machinery replaces arms, with infinitely less expense and infinitely greater profits. Hunger will set to work all those who have little ones in the cradle, or old parents in agony. All will be for sale and we will buy all. Toil will be the privilege of our slaves. We will stop their revolt by throwing out to them an 8-hours day and other reforms which leave exploitation unchanged. To die a few hours earlier or later is all the same. (She places her hands on Eleazar’s arms.) Do you understand me now, Eleazar?
Eleazar. You overwhelm me.
Gertrude. Keep your consternation for the surprise which your children are reserving for you. They dream of a brotherhood taking the whole land. I dream of universal repression. They wish to place might at the disposal of right. I wish to place might at the disposal of our privileges. We will see.
Marius (to Zniriki). Yes! We shall see.
Eleazar. You have a super-human character; as for me, I am a father, and I love my children.
Gertrude. Do you love me no longer?
Eleazar. Always, and more than anything in the world.
Gertrude. Have confidence. Have I not turned the small competence of the firm of Eleazar into a fortune, so enormous that it is no longer countable? Does not the Eleazar bank buy up all the failing banks? Bo we not lend money to the whole of Europe? Soon we shall be doing so to the whole world. When the debt of each state will have surpassed the value of its territory, we shall have all. I shall galvanize the old world, and we can retard the final upheaval. On us alone all will crumble, like the pile of stones which mark a decayed statue.
Eleazar. Your dream is to giddy for me. Gertrude, I feel like dying.
Gertrude. We are near to its accomplishment. The hoarding up of riches is begun, it will be finished at the first cry of alarm.
Eleazar. It is the death of whole races. Gertrude, I am not scrupulous, a financier cannot be scrupulous. But what you propose to me now is to horrible.
Gertrude. Have not I told you that these are accomplished facts. Your name is signed, nothing will take it away now. Do you pretend to pity the proletariat which you and your class have starved for so long? Does the lot of the worker free for ever, differ at all from that of the slave? Unless it does so in that the “free” labourer dies of hunger, dreaming of justice. Whilst the negro and the dog die quietly on what is abandoned to them. If we have only to distribute the easy portion of work refused to the machines, it would only be for the most obedient. It is not our fault. But let us end for this evening, Eleazar. Now, mind you, no sentimental weakness! The obedience of your children, or I go!
Eleazar. (Remains silent, he remains sitting in deep study.)
Gertrude (drawing from the wallet, some market paper, and inkstand and a pen). I pity you, Eleazar, business, with the trouble you have would be painful: sign these powers which let me do it in your name.
Eleazar (first hold the pen without signing, being absorbed with his grief and repeating). My children! My children! (Then he signs mechanically.)
Gertrude. (Puts back the papers in the wallet.)
Eleazar (regaining his senses). Oh! I should rather have died than have signed!
Gertrude. How foolish you are!
Eleazar (going out of the room). Yes, I ought rather to have died!
Gertrude. Not yet! (She follows him.)
Marius and Zniriki coming out of the room where they were hidden.
Marius. We must fight her with her own weapons. Let us distribute between wind, fire and water all their stolen powers, all their piled up wealth.
Zniriki. The food stored up to sell at a higher price during the coming famine will do for general stores during the fighting period- — after that, the land cultivated by free and intelligent men will produce a hundred fold.
The first act of the avengers must be the annihilation of the wealth of the firm of Eleazar — for us, war is declared — war without truce or quarter. But will the father stay with this monster if he wishes to follow us.
Marius, Zniriki, Esther, Eleazar.
Esther. Zniriki, Marius, I am happy to meet; help me to convince the father — I would not like to have to run away: but however I must.
Eleazar. My poor children! We were so happy before! Marius, Esther, pardon me, there are immutable fates.
Ring! Ring! in the air! Ring!
Tocsin of the iron age! Ring!
Long live the strike!
Long live the strike!
Eleazar (clasping his children in his arms). What will become of us?
Esther. You must have courage, father. You must be brave.
Eleazar. What do you call “being brave”?
Men and women! Comrades, come
All of you in thousands come!
The world is ours!
The world is ours!
Zniriki. This is what we call being brave: — Separate yourself from a murderess who in your name starves the workers and who forces your children to leave their roof.
Eleazar. You will not go! Esther have pity on me.
Esther. Dear father, when we have gone, there will be on the contrary no further pretext for the odious and ridiculous marriages. They will leave you in peace to bewail our absence, or else you will follow us delivered.
Eleazar. Marius, I pray you, talk to your sister. Surely you, you would not like her to go away.
Marius. Dear father, she must really! Fate has entered this house and she will follow, us until Justice has been done.
Eleazar. Don’t talk like that of the baroness.
Esther. What does it matter about this woman. Come with us, father; throw away your cursed riches before they are torn away from you. Oh! if you only knew how fine it would be — a night of the 10th of August which would hold the destinies of the world.
Eleazar (wiping his eyes). This little woman would like to drag me off with her!
The same and Gertrude, who comes in at first holding her head high, but in perceiving Zniriki she is troubled for an instant. Gertrude after this moment of confusion picks herself together and coldly salutes Zniriki
Gertrude (to Zniriki). Without doubt, you are one of Marius’ friends? (Aside.) Are they then not all buried yet?
Marius. Yes, Madam, a friend of mine.
Gertrude (to Eleazar). My dear Eleazar, you must make known your decisions to Marius and his sister. (Eleazar drops his head.)
Rise, workmen, in the dead of night,
Their palaces we’ll set alight
With freedom’s torch!
With freedom’s torch!
Gertrude. It is one of those songs which have been sung since eternity; and which are even incapable of lifting the dead leaves.
Zniriki. Do you think so, really, Madam?
Gertrude. So you are one of those fine fellows who look forward to a Universal Insurrection.
Zniriki. At least to one bigger than that which took place some time ago at Warsaw. This time it will not be prevented by all the treason in the world, as that at Warsaw was smothered by a woman sixteen years ago.
Gertrude. I suppose they killed that woman?
Zniriki. Not YET, Madam.
Gertrude. Do they know what became of her?
Zniriki. She became the mistress of the Grand Duke, then she disappeared, but they have just found her again at the head of a large firm.
Gertrude. Ah! they have been telling you some impossible stories.
Zniriki. I was at Warsaw sixteen years ago, Madam, and I have recognised her.
Gertrude. You are speaking to me of romantic circumstances.
Zniriki. And above all, of terrible ones.
Marius (to Eleazar). Father, our departure negatives all the promises made for us in your name, let the fates do their decision.
Esther. Ah! we will recapture you (she embraces him).
Gertrude. So it is a declaration of war?
Marius. Yes! and a war without truce or quarter.
(Marius and Esther exeunt with Zniriki.)
Gertrude (to Eleazar who seems to wish to follow them). Stop! Stop! What! Eleazar! You going to let the flight of your children be known? To make a great scandal which would dishonor your daughter above all?
Eleazar. What a horrible story of Warsaw they are whispering around me! It is not true, is it?
Gertrude. Are you mad, Eleazar? These ridiculous things cannot harm me. Have courage! Your children have nothing to fear. Some devoted men will follow them, and will warn me if there be need.
Eleazar. Fancy having them watched like criminals!
Gertrude. You reason as if you belonged to their gang. Perhaps you, too, have thoughts of liberty?
Eleazar. I had once. Who has not in their first youth? Even, since then, I have always recoiled from certain financial enterprises.
Gertrude. So then you have been deceiving me concerning your real views.
Eleazar. I loved you. I have never hesitated to obey you. I have never dreamt of disobeying you either in the past or in the future. Yes, I have love you madly.
Gertrude. And now, for the first time, you are unjust to me.
Tocsin! ring the signal-peal
For the fight implacable.
Ring! Tocsin, ring!
Ring! Tocsin, ring!
Tocsin! ring the funeral knell
Let the old world in ruin reel.
Let it perish!
Let it perish!
Eleazar. The insurrection is howling.
Gertrude. But force will bring the insurgents to reason.
Eleazar. I suppose you know that my children are with them.
(Gertrude shrugs her shoulders.)
The same. A servant brings in sealed despatch which Gertrude opens and reads.
Gertrude (to Eleazar after having read it.) Calm your fears. I receive the news I was telling you of. Esther and Marius are at the bottom of the park with the groups of Anarchists, to whom they are doing the honors of your domains. Be proud of yourself! It is your Esther who is haranguing them. She will go far, this little woman with the fine air of “Diana of the Reds.” She has just thrown her diamonds in the sea. After all Baron Ulysses is rich enough to buy her some more. The word of honor between us cannot be broken for such mad freaks. (Eleazar does not answer; he seems annihilated.) What a lot of paternal folly you have Eleazar! Here come the guests.
The great door opens. A servant announces the guests. smiles. Eleazar does not recover from stupefaction.
Servant. Baron Ulysses (Sylvester under this name enters in a very rich costume.) Madam Proterpin of the Mothers’ Club. (This is an old lady in fall dress.) Madam Leuturlur of the Lady of rifles Club. Madam de Bleuze. Madam de Roseray. The Misses Margaret and Blanche de Roseray. (Mesdames Bleuze and Roseray very pompous; the two girls in short dresses, which are of white muslin, enter boisterously.)
(A group of sinister men is announced rapidly.)
Mr. Fidele of the Spanish perfumes company. His excellency the Marquis of Saint-Ruffian. Count Moonpease. Mesdames de Saint-Pauerale and de Saint-Chloroform. (The men at first get into a group together. A group of little maskers is then announced, also rapidly.)
Servant (still announcing guests). The Duke of Saubespin. My lady his sister. The Marquis Sézé and his sisters. Mr. Judas. (The little maskers are in Paris clothes and their sisters loaded with jewelry. Blanche arid Margaret seem charming in their white dresses, with red roses At the breast. Madam Bleuze is very pale and can hardly hold up. Gertrude and tire guests exchange forced salutes.)
Baron Ulysses (to Eleazar who has not changed his seat). You seem to suffer, Baron.
Eleazar. In fact, I do suffer much, Sir.
Gertrude. The poor baron has just had another bad attack of his colonial fever.
Sylvester (Baron Ulysses). It is above all regrettable on such a fine day. How grateful I am to you, Baron, for having bestowed on me ifmpt charming daughter Esther.
Eleazar (aside to Ulysses). I will not hide from you, Baron, that there are insurmountable difficulties. Esther absolutely refuses to marry.
Gertrude. The poor baron has some imaginary fears. His illness makes him feel sour altogether. (She leads Ulysses a little further off.)
Ulysses (aside to Gertrude). I would regret much, Madam, to have to publish, in case of refusal, that the woman of Warsaw is Baroness Eleazar.
Gertrude. My promises have always been faithfully carried out. (Margaret and Blanche timidly approach Gertrude.)
Margaret. Madam, may we go and find Esther, we will return together.
Gertrude. Esther will be here in a few minutes, my dears.
Madam de Roseray (to Gertrude). They are adore Esther. You have a charming daughter-in-law, Madam.
Gertrude. Really charming. (To Madam de Bleuze who approaches them.) You are deliciously fresh to-night, my dear child.
Madam de Bleuze (leaning on the back of an arm-chair), I also think I am getting stronger.
Gertrude. I am quite certain of it. By-the-bye I expect you to-morrow at the regatta, I bet for you on the “Styx.”
Madam de Bleuze. I thought there would be no regatta in this time of misery.
Gertrude. I have gone to the expense of this one in your honor, my dear; it will distract you.
Madam de Bleuze. How good you are!
(Medames Proterpin and Leuturlur approach Gertrude.)
Madam Proterpin. The card rooms are open, are they not, dear Madam?
Gertrude (showing the rooms). All is already. (Aside) Yes, play, you others, amuse yourselves at “whist,” I play for the world.
Madam Proterpin. I dreamt to-night of the 36 senators. I wager on the president of the council.
Madam Leuturlur. I on the recorder of the fourth commission.
Gertrude (aside). There are bets on the whole state. (They pass.)
Margaret (to Blanche, showing her an album.) Look, Blanche, at his ugly woman, standing up in the middle of a plain covered with snow. There is written below, “Souvenir of Warsaw“ and it is signed “Nemo.” A nice name, “Nemo,” is not it?
(Blanche looks at the picture and then Gertrude, and then shuts the album.)
Blanche. Be quiet; that resembles the baroness. Perhaps she is going to put some drawings in this album.
Margaret. It is quite new; no one had yet opened it.
(Gertrude calling the children, talking to each other so low, moves towards them. Baron Ulysses stops her on the way.)
Ulysses. It is impossible without a scandal that Esther and Marius should remain away from the festivities any longer. I pray you be so kind as to remember it.
Gertrude (to Margaret and Blanche). Whilst we are waiting for your friend please charm us with a melody my darlings.
Blanche. I don’t know any that are good enough.
Margaret. I have rather a sore throat.
Gertrude. In fact you are quite pale.
Madam de Roseray (to her daughters). Who are you making to pray to you—quick Misses.
Blanche (to Margaret). Shall we sing that ‘Song of the Roses’ that Esther taught us?
Margaret. We’ll say so if you like.
(They can sing standing, or sit down to the piano striking several chords.)
Blanche and Margaret (duet).
Bloom, oh Roses,
Bloom for ever
For the tomb flowering,
Bloom on for love.
Flourish! charm us!
In the dewy morn,
Open your petals bleeding
In the day of vengeance.
One little masher (low to another). They make ballads to-day which resemble dead marches. This decaying literature seems to me to be unhealthy.
The other (in the same low tone). It is depressing to the spirits.
(They return to the card room.)
Baron Ulysses (to Gertrude). Madam, it is time to decide something.
Gertrude. Directly I get the message I expect.
(Crash of broken glass! Riot! Scuffling! Howls, yells, in the interior of the house and Revolutionary chorus:—)
Dissolve, dissolve into air
Terrors of the iron age
The Revolution comes!
The Revolution comes!
To the water with the stolen wealth
Sends the axes into the coffers.
(One can hear Marius’ voice.)
Marius. Let us have nothing standing. Let destruction blot out the shame.
(The guests flee in terror, or hide where they can. Ulysses, the little mashers and the sinister men have disappeared. Mesdames de Bleuze and de Roseray do not seem so terrified as the other. Blanche and Margaret still standing up, look at each other, but are not frightened. Eleazar has not left his place.)
Marius (whose voice seems quite near). This way! This way, Comrades.
Eleazar, Gertrude, Marius, Nemo, Zniriki, Mesdames de Bleuze and de Roseray, Margaret and Blanche. (Gertrude with a scowl of defiance.) miners on strike and Fishers armed with their tools and some with axes.
Marius. All this wealth must be destroyed (to those who have remained) fear not we do no personal violence to anyone.
Margaret. We are not afraid.
Marius (to Eleazar). Father, understood me, you can’t leave one stone of your property upon another. The source of your wealth is monstrous.
Eleazar (dreamily). Perhaps you are right.
Marius (taking an axe from a miner breaks open a cabinet and tears up the deeds in it.)
Nemo. Good! Marius! These riches would tempt the revolters.
(Nemo, Zniriki and the others break open the cabinet and throw the gold in handfuls out of the windows. Gertrude rings violently.)
The same and four servants (one old and three young men), during this time the strikers jump from the stone balcony with lighted torches which give the sole light now, the candlesticks being all up set.
Gertrude. Baron Ulysses come here! Let us resist alone if necessary. (To the old servant.) Inform Baron Ulysses that the house is besieged and that he should help me to defend it.
The old flunkey. The baron must be a good way off by now, Madam. He was running away like wildfire.
Gertrude. But kill, kill for goodness sake. Marius is quite near—kill Marius.
Eleazar (waking up suddenly, throws himself before the servants). Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! Don’t kill Marius!
The old Servant. Fear nothing, Sir. We won’t hurt Mr. Marius nor anyone else. We are not armed, he has taken our revolvers. (The Servants stolidly stare at one another.)
The Servant (to another). If it was by good luck the Baroness, we would take great pleasure in killing her slowly.
The other Servant. I would have done it already if I did not fear to disturb this beautiful pillage.
(Mesdames de Roseray and de Bleuze remain immoveable. Gertrude drawn a revolver and aims at Marius who just enters, and shoots.)
Eleazar (rushing towards him). Marius! Marius!
Marius. Fear nothing, father. I am not wounded. Only those with justice on their side succeed.
(Some men surround Gertrude and disarm her.)
An old Man (who has taken Gertrude’s revolver). Keep cool! My fine lady; our principles are to attack to-day, only institutions. Perhaps we shall also be obliged to remove people.—When we crush the vipers take care not to be there. (The invaders spread over the mansion, destroying all the safes they fund).
Gertrude (whom they have forgotten goes out). In a little time! (The servants tear off their livery and join Marius.)
Marius (to the old one). I beg you, who have brought me up from boyhood, not to desert my father.
The Servant. I promise you it! (He goes towards Eleazar but a lot of men, flying guests, coming near him carry him off in the crowd.)
Marius (seeing Eleazar). Father! Come back, you are delivered, the chain which bound you exists no more. We must well destroy everything that cause crime.
Eleazar (at the top of the stairs to Marius who no longer sees him). Is it the end of the world!
Marius. Yes it is that! Come!
(The crowd coming in finally separates them.)
(The rooms empty. Marius stays last and takes a torch and sets fire to the curtains.)
Marius. May the Social Revolution pardon both martyrs and murderers.
A deserted mine which appears like a crypt of the catacombs. Steps are seen roughly hewn in the rock and strewn around are broken ladders, weapons, and implements destined to be used as weapons—picks, boat hooks, heaped together with guns and bombs.
Torches fixed to the sides of the cave throw their light on groups of men, women, and children—some little ones sleep in the arms of their mothers.
Men and women go about in groups or seated on the ground burnish the arms.
In the foreground Wanda is seen carrying a child wrapped in an old shawl. Regina is near her.
Through the galleries which open into the cave other galleries can be seen farther off, and by the glares of torches other groups of men.
Wanda. My child is dying of hunger and not a mouthful of bread, not a drop of water. Nothing to be had for these three days!
Regina. My poor Wanda, how can you expect any provisions to be left? Above all things they try to prevent provisions from reaching us, the country is red with soldiers, but soon it will be red with blood!
The Baroness Eleazar distributes brandy and wine at all the posts enough to drive ten armies mad.
But it is to be to-night, the women will fight like the men and put an end to it all.
Wanda. To-night my child will be dead!
Regina. Provisions will be brought before the fight. You don’t know anything then, about what is going on?
Wanda. For the last three days I have thought of nothing but my child. The provisions will come too late—the she-wolf will kill us all.
Regina. Better she tried that than to make us perish by famine, the fight would soon be over and we should be either free or dead. For my part, I have seen such horrible things that I have no longer any fear.
Though I was still a child I witnessed the Bloody Week, the trees white with flowers, while the sky was red as blood, it was terrible but it was grand.
Here and there clots of blood begrimed the pavements of the squares, the lies of the charnel house darkened the air, the flames appeared unextinguishable. Paris had sworn to engulf herself in a sea of fire.
In the catacombs men were hunted with dogs by the light of torches.
My father ran holding me by the hand, and I fell when the killed him, I don’t know how I escaped being killed also.
I was rescued and brought here—they began work in this mine where we are now and an explosion of fire-damp killed my adopted father and my husband—that was my honey-moon—it is now about eight months ago.
Such has been my life, but no matter, those who come after us will enjoy a happier life, if we only have courage.
(Enter two old men walking together.)
First old man. It is the woman we spared when we destroyed her mansion who has spent millions to bring about our misery, she had immense wealth in stocks all over Europe.
Second old man. It would have been better you see to have crushed the viper at once, now the vile creature bites with venom.
First old man. We were masters, but no one thought it was necessary; after all I don’t regret it, for if these monsters did not commit such crimes the people would bear them for ever.
Second old man. The burthen must become unbearable before they fling it aside.
(They go out.)
(Some young men advance, examining the arms.)
First young Man (showing some bombs). Here are some eggs à la coque for the baroness’ breakfast.
Second young Man. We must not forget the plums for the Baron Ulysses.
First young Man. He, hah! He has gone to hide himself like the reptile he is; she has courage at least. Ah this time we will tear out her heart, we must have no pity, we must not have this thing to begin again every day.
(Singing heard at the end of one of the galleries.)
To the dens accursed,
To the lairs of the bandits.
(Confused sounds heard above the mine.)
A Woman. Hark ‘tis the tocsin.
Another Woman. No, it is the wind, it is the roaring of the storm.
A Woman (addressing the young men who are cleaning the arms.) Don’t forget to have some ready for us too.
The young Man. That is right.
The Same. Marpha appears at the top of one of the flights of stairs. She carries a pitcher on her head; it is smashed by a bullet.
Marpha. Ah the ruffians! The milk which I was bringing for the poor children and for Wanda’s sick baby!
Regina. You are not hurt my little Marpha?
A Man. You are not afraid little one?
Marpha. Do you think I have no courage because I am young?
(The women embrace her.)
Regina. You are a brave child.
Marpha. Are not all of us brave? No one can now draw back, so much the better!
A Woman. How coolly she says that!
Marpha. We will all do the same, won’t we?
Regina. Yes, we shall. Where is your father?
Marpha. He will be here in a few moments, he is bringing provisions with Eurik and Marius. It is not easy to get here but I hope he will have better luck than I had.
Wanda. I hope my poor child may live till he comes.
(Shots heard above the mine.)
Marpha. There they are, they are firing on the men with the provisions. That is the salute they gave my milk.
The same, Eurik, Marius, and Nemo carrying provisions. Nemo’s coat is stained with blood on the breast.
Nemo (placing the provisions he carries on the ground.) You will want these comrades. The night will be a warm one, the troops are rapidly advancing, and they are making them drunk as fast as they can.
Marpha (running to Nemo). Father dear you are wounded.
Nemo. Only a scratch.
A Man (addressing Nemo.) We may be agreeably surprised by some of the soldiers. Alain and Malhren are making good propaganda in the Army.
Nemo. Something of the kind is badly wanted.
Eurik. You are badly wounded, Nemo?
Nemo. It is nothing.
Marius (to Nemo.) Let us see your wound.
Nemo (sitting himself on the stairs.) It is no use, my friends. I am all right.
(Marpha kneeling besides Nemo takes one of his hands in hers, they all surround him.)
Nemo. Do not alarm yourselves, comrades, I beg of you, all I want is a little rest. And you Marpha be sensible and do what you can to my child. And you comrades be firm, the man who yields to any weakness to-night betrays the cause by taking away one of the drops of water, which, joined in a deluge, must sweep the earth.
(All set themselves on the ground around the provisions and divide them.)
An old Man (waving a loaf over his head). Here’s to the deliverance of the world!
All. To the deliverance of the world!
(Firing is heard.)
The Same. Esther descending the stairs with a pitcher on her head.
Esther. They have shot some men near this.
Wanda. Come here Esther, my child is a asleep, perhaps we will save her. (She opens the shawl which is around the child and shrieks out.) She is dead! My child is dead!
Esther. Ah this accursed world, how it deserves to be destroyed!
(All surround her, they examine the child which is in fact quite dead.)
Esther. Poor Wanda! Ah poor mothers, whom they have ever been robbing of their children!
Regina. Now come the end!
All. Freedom or a hecatomb of victims!
Esther. Comrades, we can’t tell if we shall ever meet again, so, if any who should survive should meet my father I hope they will have pity on him; perhaps he is still seeking us, perhaps Gertrude has had him arrested—(after a pause) perhaps he is dead.
(They all give their hands to Esther.)
All. We promise faithfully.
(Nemo, who appeared to be sleeping, opens his eyes and sees Marius and Marpha near him.)
Marpha. Dear father, you are deceiving us. Let us see your wound.
Marius. Yes, you are deceiving us.
(The rest come close to them.)
Nemo (to Marpha and Marius). My poor children, I am nothing more than anyone else, be firm Marius, there are so may that must fall. My dear child, this is no time for tears, there is so much better work to be done.
(Marius and Marpha support Nemo in their arms, the others gather round.)
An old Man. Why have we not seen that he was badly wounded?
Eurik. You must not die yet, Nemo, let us do what we can for you. How have we been so stupid as to believe you!
Nemo. I thought myself I had a longer time to be with you. Don’t be grieved for me, no man is indispensable, and to-day those who have tried to rouse the masses of the disinherited can die in peace, for it is impossible to put a stop to the movement.
Remember for your consolation that it is not without reason we have been compared to the Hydra, each head cut off was replaced by a multitude. My friend, let us salute Death the great mower.
(The tocsin is heard.)
Nemo (raising his head). Hurrah for the liberation of the world. Hurrah for Anarchy, Humanity free. (He falls back.)
(Marpha kneeling beside Nemo embraces him weeping. Esther and Eurik, Marius, Regina, and Wanda with the body of her baby in her arms, all stand round Nemo holding his hands.)
Nemo. Good by to you all. (He dies.)
(The comrades look at him for an instant with profound grief, then Marius take one of the red flags draped with black and lay it over Nemo, first unbuttoning his clothes.)
Marius. What a horrible wound! How has he been able to live an hour with it?
(The tocsin sounds more loudly. Esther waves a black flag and holding a revolver in the other ascends the steps. Marpha after embracing Nemo a second time follow her with Regina. Wanda lays near to Nemo the body of her child upon the shawl that it was wrapped in and follows the others; they all go out.
Eurik. The dead with have fine funerals.
Various different Voices. Hurrah for the martyrs! Humanity for ever!
(A cannon shot is heard.)
Eurik (to Esther). To-night will be the red nuptials.
Marius. And you, Marpha, do you to wish to see the betrothal of the brave and the red nuptials?
(The tocsin redoubles, all rush out.)
(A second cannon shot is heard.)
(All depart—but the dead Nemo, the red flag draped over him, and the child, laid on the shawl, are seen by the pale light of the torches.)
(Above, the cannons resound, musketry and the tocsin.)
The ruins of the mansion of Eleazar of the hall where the festivities were held. There is nothing left but burnt walls unroofed the windows bare, some shreds of tapestry hang fro the walls.
In the balcony where were sculptured the money bags there is a corner intact where still are seen tropical trees in their boxes, and the red rose tree still blooming.
Eleazar aged, bent double, ghastly pale, with his close covered with dust, enters the ruin by the light of the moon.
Eleazar. Why should they come here? Shall I ever see them again? Marius has done well. The shame of it was too great, and ruin had to come to us first. Oh that woman! What a terrible struggle!
They said truly the revolt had spread over the whole world. It has taken my children. The war used to carry off the sons of the proletarians, while we kept our at home. I never thought about the matter.
This accursed world takes everything young, everything beautiful, all that wish to live, only to make ashes of them!
The people were crushed like the grain under the mill stones, like the grapes in the wine press.
Things had been so for so long a time that we had become accustomed to these iniquities.
Here I am like so many other old men complaining of existence.
Yes, it is blood that will cleans the earth.
Ah my children! Marius, Esther, my poor Esther!
(The rattling of musketry is heard, the bullets falling sound like hail.)
(The sound ceases. Silence.)
Eleazar. The battle now has lasted five days. It seems it will never end. Ah, I must still look for my children. Everyone lets me pass as they would a fool or a beast—perhaps I will find them.
(He goes towards the entrance of the ruins.)
(Eurik enters carrying in his arms the dead body of Esther, wrapped in a black flag.)
Eleazar. Oh, Esther, Esther!
(He tears down the tapestry, throws off his over-coat and lays them on the ground to lay Esther on. Eurik lays her down gently.)
(The musketry is no longer heard.)
(Enter Marpha, Regina, Wanda, the two sisters Margaret and Blanche with their short white dresses all soiled with dust.)
Marpha. She will be safe here until the day when the dead will all be buried.
Eleazar (on his knees beside his daughter, holding her head to his breast.) She is not dead! It is impossible she is dead!
Eurik (showing Eleazar the wound in Esther’s breast.) Look, here is the hole of the bullet.
Eleazar. Oh, it is horrible!
Eurik. She died in my arms, saying to me: Look for my father.
Eleazar. You are fortunate, but I was not so happy as to see her once more.
Eurik (holding Eleazar in his arms.) She did not blame you. She knew you were trying to find your children.
Marpha. She spoke to us also about you. She begged us to look after her father.
Eleazar (to Eurik.) Have you seen Marius?
Eurik. If Marius comes alive out of the fight, he will join those of our comrades who have now for some days been going across the frontier to aid in the revolt of neighboring countries. But you will see him before he gors.
Eleazar. I shall follow him.
Eurik. So much the better. You will help him to bear the terrible loss of his sister. He must not know it until we bring him here.
Marpha (to Eleazar.) We will go with you also, all of us who were comrades of Esther.
Eleazar (stretching out his arms to them.) You are worthy friends of Esther. My poor Esther.
Regina. Poor father!
(Margaret and Blanche separate themselves from the rest.)
Marpha. You have not a daughter now, and I have not my father.
(Eleazar perceiving Margaret and Blanche who have gathered the roses that remained on the rose tree.)
Eleazar. My dear little girls, what are you doing in this dreadful hecatomb?
Margaret. We have been looking for Esther.
Eleazar. And you have been more fortunate than I have, my poor heroic children.
Blanche. It was a duty. We are afraid of only one thing, not to die together.
Margaret. My brother Marius has been found also, and when mother saw that the three of us set out together, she followed us and she takes care of the wounded.
(Eurik takes one of the roses which the children have strewn on Esther’s body, then holding Eleazar’s hands.)
Eurik. We will find you again at her side. (He goes out.)
Marpha (to Eleazar.) Esther begged of us to take care of you; don’t you wish us to?
Eleazar. I will follow you and together we will revenge her; but shall I ever see Marius again?
Marpha. Yes we will bring him here. (They go out.)
(Eleazar alone, gazing at the dead body of Esther.)
Eleazar. May all things be destroyed! May nothing be left existing but the grass growing over us all!
Eleazar still standing before the body of Esther. Gertrude at the door of the ruin looking in cautiously. After some hesitation, Gertrude enters.
Gertrude (to Eleazar.) At last I have found you! The death of this unfortunate girl is a dreadful thing—but she sought it herself.
Listen, Eleazar. If you had not run away like a madman to look for your children, I would have been able to save them. Raise your heart above vulgar paternal grief. We can still govern the world that springs into life as well as that which expires.
Eleazar. Leave me! You surely are the woman of Warsaw.
Gertrude. Ah, that’s the way it is with you, is it? very well, let us two settle matters between us, Eleazar. I don’t want your name any longer. I can act on my own. (Aside.) This man must die!
Eleazar. I was a fool, like a stupid brute that allows its young ones to be taken. Ah, yes I shall follow Marius, and I too will be without pity. Esther, my dear Esther, you cannot hear me any longer; you saw the horrible plot while I was stupid, I was a fool but not a scoundrel! They have done well to strike terror by the flames. You have done well my dear ones (he kneels before Esther) it surely cannot be that Marius too will be torn from me, such things do not happen to him.
Perhaps it is all a terrible dream and I will wake up at home surrounded by my children.
(A terrible explosion is heard.)
(The place where Eleazar is standing with the body of Esther is all that is seen with the smoke. He is not injured.)
Eleazar. This is the end, annihilation, so much the better!
Eleazar still near Esther. Nicaise taking refuge in the ruins, looking terrified.
Nicaise (shaking himself.) I have hardly escaped being blown up like a Czar, I am done with it, I shall quit the service of the Baroness.—She knew I was there to watch that old fool Eleazar whom she wanted to get out, and there she goes and changes her mind and fires the train without telling me!
Ah, a nice way to forget me; when the hunters come to fire on their own dogs there is not much fun in the sport.
It is not worth while to be a scoundrel and risk your skin all the more! Everyone hasn’t the same chance as Sylvester here, Millionaire and Baron though it is not such a good bargain after all.
This fellow picks up gold by the handfuls from the mud now, as he used formerly to gather it out of the dung (the word does not stink), behind him and his wealth there are robberies enough and murders enough to make a big pile.
He must have found some strange attraction in the Baroness that she manages him as she does.
Imagine this fool Eleazar, the time he put up with the temper of this woman. Old idiot.
(He perceives Eleazar.)
Oh, lord, excuse me for hiding myself here. I was not the one that prevented you from finding your children.
(He sees Esther’s body.)
The young lady has not been hurt by the explosion.
Eleazar. No sir—(he relapses into silence.)
Nicaire. Ah, what villains we are! If there had not been [illegible word] to carry them out, these crimes would not have been committed.
Voices in the distance. The dead are in the furrow awaiting the great harvest.
A town in the Danube. A picket of soldiers occupies a part of the stage at the back of the picket a curtain partly withdrawn shows a block.
At another part of the stage can e seen the blue waters of the Danube.
The picket is established on the shore. At a distance the bridges can be seen and the town on a high bank.
Inside the guard-room soldiers are playing cards seated on benches with tables before them covered with glasses. Some of them are studying a book on military discipline.
The office of the guard seated at a desk is reading a letter, the envelope of which is open.
A Soldier (throwing down a card on the table.) The seven of spades! This fellow Marius is finished off. He put his head on the block himself with as much coolness as if he were accustomed to doing it all his life! If we had tried to remove the body the people would have captured it and borne it in triumph.
Second Soldier. This young man did not belong to this country. What did he mean by meddling with others’ affairs? (He plays a card.) The light of hearts!
First Soldier. Ace of hearts. I’m game. (Lowering his voice.) It seems that a great many others have come like him for the same reasons. It is hard to say who will win. These fellows fight well, they have no fear of being killed.
Third Soldier. It looks stupid, but it is splendid for all that. They have their ideas. Well, a man is free to die for his idea if he likes. He must have suffered poor fellow when we was writing the letter the captain is reading. I saw anguish in his eyes. It wasn’t misery that made him take the part of those who have nothing. He only wanted to set an example to others. He was the son of the old robber Eleazar whose grasping brought on the revolt. I won’t be surprised if it spreads all over the world.—Eight of diamonds! (Plays a card.)
First Soldier. When the cord is drawn too tight it will break at last. To keep it just from breaking—that is what I call politics.
The Officer. Take care that you say nothing that would infringe on discipline.
Third Soldier (showing his book.) We are reading about it, captain, and we are only talking of the poor young poor fellow of this morning. His letters are beautiful, are they not, captain?
Captain. Very beautiful. He tries to console his father, and his intended bride with such words of tenderness as makes one weep.
Third Soldier. Just as if I were condemned to death and wrote to my Catherine.
First Soldier. Perhaps you could read the letter for us, captain?
The Captain. I cannot for reasons of discipline but some of the papers will publish them tomorrow.
First Soldier. And as they will be prohibited in the barracks we will know which papers they are.
Captain. Silence! That is contrary to discipline.
First Soldier. I must say that this execution had the effect of a crime on me.
Captain. Hold your tongue. It was the Law.
The Same. Eleazar enters more bent than ever, quite pale leaning on Marpha whose black clothes are all torn.
The Sentry (to Eleazar.) Pass on.
Eleazar. I am seeking my son. He was arrested yesterday. My son was called Marius Eleazar.
(All turn moved by astonishment.)
The Officer. Let them forward. (Aside.) I wish those who order these executions would take it on them to receive the relations.
First Soldier (overhearing.) They ought to have to do the whole job themselves. Don’t you think so, Captain.
Captain (to soldier.) Silence! (To Eleazar.) A young man of that name was arrested yesterday, as you say.
Eleazar. Marius Eleazar, 25 years of age. Very dark complexion, was he not?
Officer. Yes, it was he. He was tried this morning.
Eleazar. And no doubt condemned to some severe punishment for he always said plainly what he thought.
(Marpha looks uneasily at the letters which the officer takes off the table and which seem to trouble him.
Marpha (to the officer.) Excuse me, Sir, but are not those letters for us? (To Eleazar.) I fear he has been condemned to death.
The Officer (showing Eleazar and Marpha a bench.) Sit down. Yes, they are for you. (He reads the addresses.) Eleazar senior, Marpha, Nemo, his father, his intended. Yes, you two. But I must prepare you to hear—s
(Eleazar bows his head on his breast. Marpha looks anxiously at the officer.)
Marpha. We understand. Marius is dead!
(The officer hands the letters to them and turns away to hide his emotion. The soldiers are also moved. Eleazar and Marpha read their letter in low voice and then exchange.)
First Soldier (to the Second Soldier.) These are what are called red nuptials. Death signs the contract. It is strange I would like that.
Third Soldier. It terrifies me. Catherine spoke of it at once to me. The women are mad now a day,
First Soldier. You may say all the world. What drives them to fury is the determination to no longer see their little ones suffer.
Third Soldier. But this is that cruel man, that Eleazar who would starve everybody if he could.
Second Soldier. Even the tiger is gentle with his young ones.
(All are silent.)
(All this has been said while Eleazar and Marpha are reading their letters.)
(When they rise to speak to the office Gertrude enters, both of them look at her without changing their places.)
The Same. Gertrude brought forward by soldiers.
A Soldier. Captain, we have arrested this women found roaming round the palace. She seems a suspicious persons. She does not wish to answer questions.
The Officer. Why have you refused, Madam, to tell what you were doing near the palace?
Gertrude (with contempt.) I don’t know what right you have to ask me. my house has often opened its coffers for the benefit of your king, and I can still place in his hands immense capital to help to fight the rebellion, which has triumphed elsewhere. In exchange I have the right to demand aid and protection, and this I wished to propose to your sovereign.
The Officer (aside.) Here’s another who has lost her head from love of wealth. (Aloud.) Allow me to ask you, Madam, to whom our sovereign is indebted for such generous intentions.
Gertrude (proudly.) I am the Baroness Eleazar.
Officer. In that case I can offer you an escort to the palace. (Aside.) All the Eleazars have made this their rendezvous.
First Soldier (to another.) Look at that. Another woman. Don’t I tell you they are all mad in one way or another. No doubt this is the one that managed the affairs of the old fellow, and he was got the credit of all milady’s misdeeds.
Gertrude (to Eleazar.) You here Eleazar.
Eleazar. Marius is dead, Madam.
Third Soldier (to the First Soldier.) These people don’t seem to live in harmony.
First Soldier. It is the way of the rich.
(Cries heard afar off.)
Hurrah for the Revolution. Hurrah for Anarchy!
The Officer (to Gertrude.) Madam, if your intentions are as you say you are no longer safe here. You would be more remarked with an escort. See the crowd approaches. Remain here or else cross the little bridge near the post you will then find a bridge by which you can put the Danube between you and the rebels.
(Gertrude does not answer.)
Eleazar (to Marpha.) Come Marpha, the crowd will make them give us the body of Marius.
The Same. The crowd rush into the post. Many of the people armed with their implements, with torches and bombs, peasants armed with scythes, groups of men and women in different costumes showing the various nations that belong to the International and have come to the frontier to join the revolt.
An old miner with his pick, and some women who escaped the hecatomb. Wanda, little Margaret, with a black shawl over her white dress, she carries a black flag, on which can be seen “International” when one of the men displays it and plants it at the door.
A Man of the People (to the soldiers whom the crowd has disarmed by surprise.) Do not resist. The house of parliament, the palace and the banks are all on fire, the people are victorious everywhere. It is the Social Revolution, the republic of the human race—the true one.
The Officer of the Guard (carried away with the enthusiasm, shouts.) Hurrah for the Republic of the world!
The Soldiers. Hurrah for the republic! Hurrah for the Social Revolution!
First Soldier. Hurrah for Anarchy!
(Gertrude still standing looks amazed. No one notices her.)
(Eleazar and Marpha, Margaret, Wanda and the old man all grouped together at the front of the stage—at the back the soldiers—between the two groups Gertrude stands alone looking at Marpha.)
Gertrude. All the ghosts come back. This child is like Vladimir, she is like me too. It is she. See the dark spot which she had at the corner of her mouth. (Then as if dazed.) Why is she covered with roses—great roses that bleed? They are all here—little Margaret whose sister follows her like a shadow—they killed her sister with arms in her hands like a soldier.
See the old man who disarmed me. how is it that these people do not crush me? They take no notice of me. They have their dream of a free Humanity—mine is all effaced. These are the survivors of the hecatomb. Death has mown all round them—their hearts bleed—still they come.
(She looks around more and more wildly.)
Eleazar (to those near him.) The world is free but the dead will awaken no more.
The old Man. I had seven sons, Eleazar, and now I am alone—three died of want quite young and the others have been swept down in the hecatomb.
(Eleazar grasps his hand.)
Margaret. And my sister and I who could not bear to be separated—she is dead!
Wanda. I had only my daughter—a little baby. I have seen her die of hunger!
Eleazar. Oh, we lived like tigers.—On human blood we prospered. Is it not horrible that none of us thought of it?
(While Eleazar is speaking, Gertrude addresses Marpha.)
Gertrude. My child, answer me—is not your name Marpha? Your name is embroidered on the shawl that covers you.
Marpha. No one ever told me my name was embroidered on a shawl—leave me alone, Madam.
Gertrude. Marpha, you are my daughter. Will you have me for your mother?
Marpha (shrieking with horror.) I am Nemo’s daughter and I cannot be yours.
Gertrude (wildly.) “The voice of Nature” is then another lie like the rest! Remorse also—everything is false. Marpha, why are you covered with roses—why do they bloom on you?
Eleazar (to Marpha.) Come, Marpha, come friends all let us go and claim the body of Marius.
(Another crowd enters the post and passes in behind the scenes.)
(Eleazar and Marpha are followed by Gertrude.)
Gertrude (pulling Marpha’s dress.) Marpha, my child, speak to me.
Marpha (with Eleazar leaning on her.) Let us pass on, Madam.
(She tears herself from Gertrude and passes into the second room.)
Eleazar (with a cry of anguish.) Oh, Marius, Marius, it is too much! This is too much!
(Some soldiers have stayed with the crowd.)
A Soldier. Is it possible that the world is free and that there will be no more of such crimes, if people are not such fools as to let themselves be turned back to it like cattle.
Second soldier. It is all right if we don’t wake up and find ourselves mounting guard before the banks.
Third Soldier. Liberty has been too dearly bought for us ever again to have our sight offended with wretches worked to death in machines to make food for powder.
First Soldier. The freedom of the world! Hurrah! This it is that will keep Europe from being devoured by the human locusts that will come from Asia. We will offer them liberty, work, happiness with the rest. Freedom has a place for all her children in the sunshine.
(The crowd goes out with Eleazar, Marpha, Margaret and the others.)
The old Man. Now we can lay out our dead.
(They bear off the body of Marius in the black flag.)
(Gertrude remains alone.)
(At a distance the shouts are heard of millions of voices. One great shout makes Gertrude tremble.)
Hurrah for Anarchy!
Hurrah for the liberty of the world!
Scene the Last.
Gertrude, alone on the banks of the Danube.
Gertrude (distractedly.) The Earth blossoms with flowers of blood! Why have I done all this? It was Fate.
All come back—there are some I do not know but who pursue like the others. Rita calls them she tears the leaves from her flowers which fall like drops of blood. There are the little girls Blanche and Margaret in their white robes. How tall they are! They sing and the tocsin accompanies them!
See the millions of specters! But it is not I that killed all these. Who is this woman who hides the rest? I have seen her before. It is Lady Macbeth, still more terrible than I my dreams. She washes her hands in the waves and the sea is blood.
These phantoms have strayed from the infinite, they come to take me, their hands grasp me, they drag me down. I am lost! Little Marpha is there, she points to me with her finger. She tells them to take me and that I am not her mother.
Ah, over there! The gibbets of the condemned. How numerous they are! They come down in their black rags. Here are some coming. Vladimir is at the head of them. See the grand duke on the horseback, he send them, all that he has killed, to curse me.
See these others, Nemo, Esther, Marius, the wind carries them along. They look like great birds of black plumage.
The snow falls red like blood, the flowers are red! Ah, this great sea of blood! They have strewn it on the ground to lay me in it, they will take the four corners of it and wrap it round me like a winding sheet.
(Singing heard in the distance like the harmony of the wind or the waves. Gertrude listens in silence.)
(Choir in the distance.)
Vibrate, vibrate in the air,
Harps with strings of steel,
With new legends still resound
Which fly on music’s wings
Harps with cords of steel,
Vibrate, vibrate in the air.
(The music is lost in the distance.)
Gertrude. There they are. Leave me! leave me! I am lost!
(She gives a shriek and rushes into the Danube.)
Gertrude. The air is full of flying specters; they rush upon me like great carrion crows. Leave me! Leave me!
(The splash of the water is heard into which she sinks giving a last cry.)
(The body of Gertrude appears for an instant, carried along by the current.)
(The choir passes by the front of the stage singing.—Words and air well known.)
Arise ye wretched of the earth,
Arise ye slaves of hunger,
Reasons thunders in the crater,
It is the irruption of the end,
Of the past let us make a clean sweep;
Slavish crowd, arise, arise!
The world changes from its base;
Those who were naught will now be all.
Brothers, comrades, ‘tis the final strife,
In freedom let’s group ourselves, and after
Let us have but one aim, the International
To free at last the Human Race.