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Projekat RastkoDrama and theater
TIA Janus

Branislav Pipovic

Paris Commune


Colonel Venois
Kigny, Commander of the Gendarmerie
Monsieur Valmeau, a member of the Chambre des Deputes
Monsieur Jules, a member of the Chambre des Deputes
Bouvier, an arms salesman
Alexandre Dumas-fils, a writer
Dejories, a reporter for the "Le Figaro"
Agnes Dejories, his wife
The Priest
The Pope (1864)
De Crick
Naymhervon, an Impresario (Dr.Byellogorshev)
Jacques Bregnack
First Human Lantern
Second Human Lantern
Third Human Lantern
The boy


(Darkness and silence. A single candle is burns in the Papal residence. All at once, a storm breaks out in full fury: thunder rolls, lightning, flashes, a gale howls. The windows bang in their casements... Enter the Pope.)

THE POPE: (at the top of his voice to drown out the storm.) ...No! No, it cannot be! I will not allow it! The impious are advancing! Devils, all of them, are drawing nigh! Christians, let us stand by our God! Only He can deliver us from the rising Satan! Let us close ranks! Only united can we overcome this dreadful, growing power!... Forward, forward, for the evil is at our very doors! Little separates us from drowing in his poisoned wells! Christians, let us not spare ourselves! Destroy the beast before it destroys us, we, the most chaste of all God's sons! In God we trust! He is with us! We do not fear, we shall overcome!... (kneels and folds his trembling hands.) Oh, Lord! ...Save us from the spectre! Save us from the unclean! Hearest thou me, O Lord! Here I am, Lord, here, here!... (almost in tears from despair.) ...The heretics are coming! Like rats they multiply in their dens and swarm all over us, increasing, Lord, by leaps and bounds!... Dear God, it is our death they desire! Destroy them by Thy divine hand! Cast Thou the most dreadful of all evils on their hiding places! Kill them with disease, send us plague that we may be rid of them yea, the plague! Cover them with ulcers! May their bastards rot! May their wives be barren! Do not permit them to breed, do not, do not, do not!... (Overcome by exhaustion, he collapses. Pause.)

(As abruptly as it began, the storm ends. Total silence descends. A pause... The Pope gazes in wonder around him. A door squeaks.)

THE POPE: Who?... Who is it?... Who is it?... (opening his eyes wide, the Pope points his crucifix towards the door.) ...Who is it?... (the door opens wide, banging against the wall. Terrified by the unknown, the Pope whispers.) ...Satana... Satana... Vade retro Satana... Vade retro Satana... (screaming, with all remaining strength.) ...Vade retro Satana!... Vade retro Satana!... Vade retro Satana!...

(The Pope trembles. Finally, the stranger appears: a small boy of modest mien, neatly combed, dressed in a vestment and clutching a broom, enters cautiously, looking timidly around him.)

BOY: I beg your pardon, I thought there was no one here... They sent me to clean up... (There is a silence. The Pope stares at him, unmoving. The boy bows, turns and leaves.)

(Suddenly the storm breaks out again. Out of the whirlwind of shadows, the Impresario appears, swirling his cape above his head. With him is Jacques Bregnack, a shovel over his shoulder. In a trice, everything changes: a sunny street in Paris, August 1871... The Pope and his residence vanish – an illusion created by the Impresario. A bunch of trembling, frightened passers-by stare at the Impresario and his companion. Among them are Anne-Marie and the Lieutenant-with-the-watch.)

IMPRESARIO: (All in black, tall and thin. He stops whirling his cape about, ties it around his neck and approaches the frightened group with a theatrical smile.) ...But gentleman! Why are you all huddled together like this? Was it not a marvellous performance?... Why then this pallor on your cheeks and the occasional concealed tremor? Is it possible that something akin to fear beats beneath your fine shirts? What means this deceptive feeling?... Of course, you surely will not refuse a little, tiny assistance to these two magnificent artists!... Jacques! (gesturing.) The gentleman are perhaps willing to reward us for our little spectacle!...

(Jacques Bregnack takes off his hat and goes toward the frightened bunch. He too is dressed in black, but is shorter and more squat, a contrast in build to the Impresario. He thrusts his hands roughly into the pocket of the first passerby and puts the contents into his hat. He repeats the action with the others who continue to stare at the Impresario.)

IMPRESARIO: ...We, of cours, live for the Beauty and Purity on which we nourish ourselves, but still, a modest donation, a donation-let, so to speak, would mean a lot to our imperfect bodies whose central cavity cries out to be filled with bread and watered with drops of cheap wine!... That's it, sir, bravo!... Oh, how wonderful it is to be an artist among such noble people who know how to appreciate the most sublime of all skills! We would, it is true, perform for you gratis, even if they were to forbid us, even under threat! So why, therefore, the good people of Paris may well ask, should we give them anything at all if that is the case!? But then again, look at us!...
(He stands beside Jacques.) Look at us and say – what do you see?! (He spreads his arms, holding the ends of his cape. Anne-Marie squeals and clings to the Lieutenant-with-the-watch. The Impresario reaches her in one leap and kisses the hem of her gown.) ...But you are so delightful, Mademoiselle! Allow me to inhale your fragrance! Just one little, tiny sniff which I will steal from your misty glance! You are one of the seven heads on the body of this world! Jacques, this beautiful lady wishes to contribute in praise of the most divine of all inebriations! (Jacques makes no move.) Ah, milady, grant me but one glance! Throw it to me with scorn, as to a dog, and I shall be content! Can you imagine how it is to live knowing that ninety out of a hundred good people would do away with you if only they could?! Wipe you out quite simply with just a wave of their hand?... Have you any idea of what it is like to live all alone, from day to day, always and ever, ALWAYS AND EVER!, knowing that there is no one before you, nor behind you, although you would wish them to be, oh how you would wish it!, and knowing too that things can be no different, dare be no different, for your own sake, for the world's sake!, continuing to walk along the same road, which the more you give of yourself to the more it squeezes you, fighting with flowers against cannons and with a song against death!
O, divine lady! How many of you would trade your life for one such as this, salted with tears?... (suddenly collapses from exhaustion; a pause.)

ANNE-MARIE: I don't understand a word he says...

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: Be off with you! Who are you, anyway?... What language do you speak?... Circassian? Ancient Indian? Indo-Chinese?... Go back to where you came from! There are too many foreigners in this city as it is! (the Impresario stays where he is.) ...Do you hear me?! Why are you standing there? I'm speaking to you, you know!... Do you understand French?!... Did you hear what I asked you?... Do you understand French?!... (pause.)

(Jacques Bregnack takes the exhausted Impresario by the arm, helps him to his feet and slowly leads him away.)

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: Unheard of!... What riff-raff!

+ + + +

(A luxurious appointed room at Versailles. August 1871. Heavy curtains are drawn across the windows. Many candles are burning. There are the remains of food and drink, a prevailing stuffiness. In the corner, a string quartet is playing waltzes. Those present are:

– M. Valmeau and M. Jules, deputies in the Parliament of M. Thiers
– M. Kigny, commander of the gendarmerie
– M. Bouvier, a plump arms salesman
– Agnes Dejories, the wife of "Le Figaro" journalist Dejories
– Anne Marie, a young woman
– Dr.Petruss, a psychiatrist
– the Priest.)

BOUVIER: Well, M. Le Depute Valmeau, I must formally present my congratulations: you have an exellent cook, a true master of his craft! The duck was superb! My compliments.

VALMEAU: That goes for the parfait, too.

BOUVIER: The parfait too, of course. This has already become a real little tradition. Valmeau, you must lend him to me just for a few days, he might teach a thing or two to that incapable scoundrel of mine. (Taking out a cigar.) Has anyone got a light?

JULES: Our "thunderer" without fire? How could The Great Bouvier come to such a pass?

BOUVIER: Tchah! A trifle, M. Jules. I have had so many orders this Spring, that I simply haven't a spark left. Apart from a few cannons, I've sold everything! My dear Valmeau, I shall not change my mind about borrowing your cook. Just for a short course of tuition.

AGNES: And whom is he to teach? Your "incapable scoundrel"? You do exaggerate sometimes, Bouvier. Looking at your stomach, one would not imagine that your cook needed any advice. It would seem indeed that you are too well off.

BOUVIER: My dear Agnes, this is not a stomach in the common sense of the word. It rather represents... authority.

AGNES: If that is so, then my husband is even more authoritative than you. Your good health! (drinks.)

BOUVIER: Oh,no! By no means! There is only one Bouvier!

AGNES: "Bouvier and son"! "Bouvier" rifles! "Bouvier" cannons! "Bouvier" bullets! "Bouvier" primers!

JULES: Bravo, madam! So you know what a primer is?

AGNES: Unfortunately, yes, Jules dear. If only I didn't. I should have been spared all those "unpleasantries".

BOUVIER: Now, now, no sarcasm please. Indeed, if it were not for what you call "primers", I do not think you would have enjoyed this evening's duck as much as you did.

ANNE-MARIE: Is it still evening? (They all stop for a second. The music stops, too. There is a pause.) Strange... I thought dawn had broken long ago... (pause.)

KIGNY: (quickly trying to overcome an awkward moment.) Cannons, Bouvier! We blasted them with cannons!

BOUVIER: That's right! Fire!

AGNES: But gentleman, let's not start that dreadful subject again. It gives me heartburn!... (they all relax.)

VALMEAU: Ha, ha... Doctor Petruss, this is a perfect case for you: the effect of primers on the occurrence of heartburn!

KIGNY: A little wine, ladies and gentlemen? I found an excellent vintage: 'sixty-four! The best in the past thirty years. This is worth trying!

THE PRIEST: (sitting stiffly in his chair.) "Syllabus".

AGNES: Pour, Kigny! Up to the top!

KIGNY: That's the way! Let us reward our stomachs! Your good health!

BOUVIER: Whose stomachs?

JULES: Not the communards, surely!

AGNES: There you go again! And I got heartburn again, the same instant!

VALMEAU: What did I tell you, Doctor Petruss! Ha, ha, ha...

Dr.PETRUSS: Please, please, I know my duty. Each new patient is always a new challenge for every true doctor. If the knife is what is needed – well then, the knife it is!

ANNE-MARIE: Oh, horrible...

VALMEAU: But Anne-Marie, that was not meant for you. Besides, Doctor Petruss does not deal in knives but in words only.

KIGNY: Where the cannon cannot reach, the scalpel will.

JULES: From the outside or the inside: the essential is to effect an entry. That's how we won.

Dr.PETRUSS: Yes, but psychiatry also uses knives and blades of a sort. There are various methods of reaching the patient's ailing marrow. Anne-Marie, as far as you're concerned, I can confirm in writing if necessary that you are psychologically as sound sa a bell. There is no need to worry.

KIGNY: (drinking.) 'Sixty four!

Dr.PETRUSS: Does anyone know the exact time? My watch seems to have stopped.

BOUVIER: Our good doctor seems to be in a hurry.

AGNES: Surely you are not going to leave us just at the height of this charming summer evening? Or perhaps the reason is a pretty patient?

Dr.PETRUSS: I wish it were, Madam! To be fair, beautiful women carry their madness in their bodies, not in their heads, and there, I confess, I am helpless. I am not an internist, I treat only the soul.

KIGNY: Don't miss such a beautiful evening, Doctor Petruss. There's nowhere to go outside: it's pitch dark. (he pushes the curtain aside and peeps out.) Strange... (pause.) It is clear, but there are no stars.

BOUVIER: What is so strange about that? They have been none since the last week in May.

VALMEAU: (waving this away.) That's for the astronomers! It's not our business to wrack our brains about it... Kigny, let's not be silly!

KIGNY: (sharply pulling the curtain to and coming back.) Nonsense! Good health! (drinks.)

Dr.PETRUSS: Will nobody tell me what time is it?

JULES: It wants a little of midnight.

Dr.PETRUSS: (winding his watch.) So... This time the Russian trains are really running late. Actually, it seems to be rather the rule than the exception. What's to be done? Large country, large delays.

KIGNY: Did I understand you to say "a Russian train..."?

ANNE-MARIE: "A Russian train"?...

AGNES: That's the gendarmerie for you: always asking questions.

Dr.PETRUSS: Precisely. I am expecting a colleague of mine. He should have arrived long ago. Perhaps something has happened to him on the journey.

BOUVIER: They're always late! I remember being snowed in once for two nights, somewhere near Kiev. The snowdrifts were as big as the train engine. If it weren't for the vodka...

KIGNY: Where is your colleague arriving from, Doctor Petruss? From Moscow or...

Dr.PETRUSS: From St.Petersburg. He teaches at the University there.

AGNES: I don't like St.Petersburg. It gives me heartburn, too.

Dr.PETRUSS: Doctor Byellogorshev. One of the best-known linguists in the world.

JULES: Is he not a psychiatrist, like you?

Dr.PETRUSS: And, naturally, he's a psychiatrist too. He is here because of a very interesting case.

ANNE-MARIE: Ssh!, Father... Listen... There's something scratching down below... (pause; all look at Anne-Marie.) Father, can't you hear it?... Somebody is scraping...

KIGNY: (suddenly, trying to revert to the previous mood.) Music! Why this silence?! Louder! Louder! Forte! (The quartet begins a new waltz.) That's it! Bravo!...

(The door is flung open and two men enter, out of breath: the Colonel of the Versailles' army, Venois, and the young Lieutenant-with-the-watch, the chain visible on his uniform. There is a general sigh of relief.)

VALMEAU: Here they are – the defenders of Paris!

AGNES: A toast to the victors! Your health, messieurs!

COL.VENOIS: I can see the party is at its height.

KIGNY: We are doing our best, Colonel Venois.

COL.VENOIS: And it is stuffy in here. (he moves towards the curtain but is prevented by Kigny.)

KIGNY: It doesn't matter! We are drinking! Good health!

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: This wine is superb.

KIGNY: A real find: 'sixty four!

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: But Anne-Marie, what's the matter? There is nothing to be afraid of...

COL.VENOIS: Everything has taken a turn for the better! We have just concluded negotiations with the Prussians. It's a pity they couldn't have come with us...

AGNES: No thank you, Colonel! We should very quickly all have perished of heartburn! (drinks.)

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: Madame Agnes, the Prussians liberated Paris alongside us. If they had not guarded the eastern approaches to the city...

VALMEAU: We in the Parliament had assumed that all that "unpleasantnesses" would be finished with quickly and cleanly ever since they burst into the City Council.

COL.VENOIS: Both we and the Prussians knew at once that that was the end of our needless warfare and the beginning of the sacred struggle for Europe.

JULES: Our government will never forget what you did for us.

COL.VENOIS: Let us not exaggerate, gentlemen! Our direct aid was still not as important as your courage and morale!

VALMEAU: You are too modest, Colonel! If you had not struck when you did, we should never have routed them. And I assure you, gentlemen, that M. Thiers will appreciate that fact.

KIGNY: A toast to the liberators of Paris! To those who saved our city, France and all of Europe from the forces of Evil! Long live the Franco-Prussian alliance! What emperors failed to achieve has been achieved by the barbarians!

COL.VENOIS: To our renewed friendship! When civilization is at issue, all else is forgotten!

OTHERS: Good health! Hear, hear!...

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: Anne-Marie, you are trembling...

ANNE-MARIE: That sound... It's as if I've heard it somewhere before... Father...

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: It is close in here... Gentlemen, why do we need candles when it is a beautiful summer day outside? Sunshine! (rushes to a window and pulls back the curtain: outside is total opaque darkness. The music stops. Pause.) ...But how?... How is it possible?... Why, only a little while ago... We were driving along and I... From the carriage we could see quite clearly... Colonel, it was so sunny!... This is unreal... Completely dark... As if someone had covered the whole sky with a black cloth...

(Everybody stares at the darkness outside. Kigny loses patience, steps over to the window, closes the curtains and sticks a glass into the Lieutenant's hand.)

KIGNY: Music! What's this? Are you going to play or not?! What kind of celebration is this if those who are most supposed to contribute to the atmosphere are silent?... Maestro, begin! (timidly, the quartet strikes up again.) ...Louder! Louder! (turning back to the rest.) ...And you? Why are you standing like statues? (pouring out wine.) So ingenious, a wonderful trick! To take black paint and cover the glass! A practical joke, a childish prank!... (The others do not move. Kigny starts to shout in desperation.) ...But gentlemen! Surely we will not allow a trifle like this to spoil the evening! This is our evening! I beg you, gentlemen! I beg you!... (pause.)

AGNES: (rousing herself at last.) Go on, Kigny! More of that 'sixty four!

(As though in response to an order, the others relax and the party continues as if nothing had happened.)

THE PRIEST: "Syllabus".

COL.VENOIS: I hear, Father, that repairs to the roof of your church have begun.

THE PRIEST: Yes. Work on the renovation of God's holy house has begun. It will be finished by winter.

AGNES: Did they tear down the churches, too?

VALMEAU: Well, not exactly intentionally, but this one was burnt.

BOUVIER: (angrily.) Not intentionally! They set the whole city afire!

THE PRIEST: It does not matter, gentleman. Everything will be again as it should be. What is important is that our faith in God is still alive. There will be more roofs where this one came from.

BOUVIER: But who is to pay for it all? Who? These vermin destroyed even the monuments! The very first day, some dauber called Courbet took Napoleon's statue off its pillar! What are we to do now with the empty pillar, I ask you? What are we to do now with the empty pillar?... Even if they toil as slaves for the next twenty years, they can never repay for the damage they did!

JULES: They will, Bouvier. And if they die toiling, we will harness their wives and children in their stead.

BOUVIER: They, to topple Napoleon's statue! That bunch of illiterate thieves disgracing the good name of France, and we still allow them to breed like rats!

THE PRIEST: The Lord Himself is on our side. What therefore shall we fear?

COL.VENOIS: The future is before us, the one we are creating. To our new life! (drinks.)

VALMEAU: You mean the old life, Colonel. The life before March.

KIGNY: And it will be as if nothing has happened. Indeed, did anything happen?...

AGNES: Lieutenant, I heard how you made the acquaintance of the good father...

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: (uncertainly.) We've know each other ever since the capturing of that bandit, Varlin.

BOUVIER: Varlin? The one from their..."Committee of the Central"?

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: From the "Central Committee" – that's how it was called. Or quite simply: from that "Commune" of theirs. (looks at the window.) ...One of their leaders. I was passing by, quite by chance, when the good father called me in. "Are you an officer of the Versailles army and M. Thiers?" he asked me and then said that he had recognized Varlin. The service he rendered is greater than mine. (goes to the window and stares at the curtain, makes as if to drow it back, but suddenly changes his mind and goes back to Anne-Marie.)

JULES: Louis Eugene Varlin! He attempted to escape during those fateful days of May, but the Reverend Father here recognized him and called our Lieutenant, who then came him with his platoon and took him prisoner.

COL.VENOIS: Bravo, Lieutenant!

JULES: What shook me most at the time was the atavistic hatred of all the good bourgeois of Paris who came out on to the streets to see that unspeakable scum being led in. If you had only seen how they beat him, in every street he passed through, every last street! The rage for justice turned that "fine young face" into a lump of bleedeng meat in a matter of minutes, with one eyeball hanging out of its socket!... Oh, it was horrible... Finally, they had to tie him to a chair so that they could execute him. Our Lieutenant here personally commanded the firing squad until the last bullet was spent. And then the soldiers, entirely on their own initiative, fell on the pulverized thing and hacked at it with their bayonets. (goes over to the Lieutenant and pulls the watch out of his pocket.) ...See, this was the watch our Lieutenant removed from that loathsome body... (pause.)

ANNE-MARIE: May I call you "The Lieutenant-with-the-Watch" from now on?... (pause.)

Dr.PETRUSS: (rising from the armchair where he has been catnapping.) No sign of the train. These Russians really go too far sometimes.

BOUVIER: Some of this is really worth writing about. What a name for a novel or something similar: "The Lieutenant with the Watch".

VALMEAU: In fact I've been talking to Dumas about that very thing. He is in agreement.

COL.VENOIS: Alexandre Dumas? I've heard he is talented.

AGNES: Very talented. We call him Dumas-fils. You know, his father had the same name.

Dr.PETRUSS: I'm afraid I must leave you, ladies and gentlemen. I have enjoyed your company, but another half-hour would be too much for me.

KIGNY: So you did not manage to meet your Doctor Byellogorshev, after all. Well, good night.

Dr.PETRUSS: Great empire, great trains, great delays. Good night. (exit.)

THE PRIEST: Our Pope is a great man. We are fortunate to live at a time when he is the Lord's emissary. Seven years ago, in 'sixty four, and that year is holy today, (Kigny raises his glass.) he had a vision one dreadful, stormy night. The entire garden in front of his residence was full of fallen trees and broken flowers and they found some torn black rags as well. Only the wrath of God could have such power, showing him the coming of the Terrible Evil which was born then. That's why our Holy Father the very next morning pronounced all socialism, communism and other religious fallacies to be anathema: The "Syllabus".

JULES: Never fear, Father. Those scoundrels will never again be able to abolish the budget of the Ministry of Faith.

VALMEAU: And to do it the very day they after they broke into the City Council! That in itself is enough to send them all to the guillotine.

JULES: But only after a fair trial. We must not be like them.

COL.VENOIS: What trial? Rubbish! Would they give us one?... To the wall with them!

BOUVIER: I agree! To the wall with them!

COL.VENOIS: If you have to kill a thousand people to save Paris from a loathsome disease – then kill them! If ten thousand are needed, then let it be ten thousand! If a million – a million!

BOUVIER: No point in sparing ammunition. If you need a million – make it two!

KIGNY: I ran into Dejories from the "Figaro", yesterday.

AGNES: Ah. And what says my dear husband?

KIGNY: He says that his paper will support a proposal that all forty thousand prisoners should be publicly shot on the Champs de Mars, as an example to others.

BOUVIER: More! There are many more than that.

KIGNY: It doesn't matter how many of them are. I meant them all, anyway.

(Enter Alexandre Dumas-fils and Dejories, a writer for "Le Figaro".)

VALMEAU: Speak of the devil! Dejories, we were just talking about you.

DUMAS-FILS: Good day, ladies and gentlemen. But why are you all cooped up in here when it is such a warm sunny day outside? (pause.) Draw back the curtains...

KIGNY: (intercepting him.) No, no, no! It doesn't bother us... not at all. Isn't that so, gentlemen? You see, it's more... intimate like this! Ha! More intimate, that'e it! We pay no attention to any silly children! (helping him to wine.) We're drinking. Your good health!

DUMAS-FILS: I do not understand...

DEJORIES: What children?

KIGNY: Of course, of course, gentlemen! We neither: we do not intend to prattle on about this nonsense, these... trifles! So talk to us, tell us something – anything. Your health!

AGNES: Dumas, what have you prepared for us today?

DUMAS-FILS: They have probably already wearied you with boring stories of politics and war.

AGNES: Only Jules here, M. le Depute, managed to make something interesting out of it. Dumas, have you been to Satories?

DEJORIES: It's right here, just opposite, on the river.

AGNES: We both go every Saturday, even when it rains!

DEJORIES: The last time we saw women's section. What sights!

DUMAS-FILS: M. Jules, I must go to see this at the first opportunity. I have begun a new novel, and is there anything more interesting than life itself?

DEJORIES: Have you read this morning's "Figaro"? (searching for the article.) A splendid article... Ah, here it is: "The end of the internationalist vermin. The reign of evil is over. The refinements of atrocity and savagery with which they ended their orgy of crime and barbarity will never be known".

DUMAS-FILS: These past few days I've been wandering round the city, studying the zoology of these "revolutionaries". It's quite unimaginable: even their women look like dead women!

DEJORIES: And then there's this: "...We should rejoice that we did not have the misfortune to be as ugly as Delescluze or Vermorel"!

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: Delescluze, that old fool. Killed, if you can imagine it, by a single bullet when he climbed on to a barricade in the twentieth arrondissement and started to shout.

DEJORIES: Dumas, do read us your your editorial from the "Figaro" – it's quite brilliant!

AGNES: As long as it's amusing. And with your famous pose, please, Dumas.

DUMAS-FILS: I was supposed to write something on one of their ringleaders. He gave out that he was a painter while in fact he was just a simple worker. His name was Gustave Courbet.

BOUVIER: And this is what wants to overthrow Napoleon!

DUMAS-FILS: (striking an attitude.) "What mythological mating of slug and spider, what genetic antithesis, what slimy discharge could have conceived the thing known as Gustave Courbet? Under what glass bell, with the help of what manure, which mixture of ale, hot mucous and swelling full of gases could have given birth to this hirsute, contorted contraption, this swollen belly, this miserable, impotent incarnation of the most nauseating crime?"

AGNES: Enough, Dumas, I shan't be able to sleep.

DUMAS-FILS: (kisses her hand.) My dear, that is not the tenth part of what their women look like.

JULES: In just a few days from now we shall breathe pure oxygen. Paris will blossom. A few weeks and...

(There is a knock at the door. The music stops. Everyone stiffens. Pause.)

KIGNY: Are you expecting more guests, M. Valmeau?... (There is a silence. Nobody moves. The knocking is repeated; silence.) Are there more guests this evening, M. le Depute?...

(Valmeau pulls himself together, goes to the door and opens it: Dr.Byellogorshev comes on. He is wearing a black fur hat and a thick black fur coat down to his heels. He drags his right leg audibly along the ground as he walks. Pause.)

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: Good day, gentlemen. I was told that I would find Doctor Petruss here. (Pause. The others all stare silently at him.)

VALMEAU: Doctor Petruss?... Ah, yes, of course! He was here up to a short while ago. He left to have a rest. (pause.)

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: Then goodbye, gentlemen.

VALMEAU: Wait, please, Monsieur!... He is here, at Versailles, in his room. He won't run away. Please, do join us. His friends are our friends, too. (Dr.Byellogorshev makes no move. Pause.)

BOUVIER: You must be his colleague from Russia.

JULES: The one Doctor Petruss was expecting.

KIGNY: The one from the "slow Russian railway".

ANNE-MARIE: Are you a Russian? (pause.)

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: Yes. I am Russian. Doctor Byellogorshev.

VALMEAU: Why are you standing, Sir? Please, join us. Doctor Petruss has told us about you, but as you see, he has succumbed to fatigue.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: (makes to sit down but on realizing that his coat will open, quickly straightens up.) The train was late.

VALMEAU: But why stand, Sir? Please, be seated.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: It is not necessary. I am accustomed to standing. (pause.)

JULES: Doctor Petruss has told us you are a linguist.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: Yes. (he looks round at them, holding his fur coat with one hand to prevent it from opening.) I was barely allowed into Versailles. I had to explain to them several times who I am. I do speak your language, but it was as if they did not want to understand me.

JULES: Versailles is still heavily guarded, Monsieur. The arrests are still continuing. M. Thiers and the Parliament must be given full security.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: First I was told that he was perhaps in Satories, but I didn't find him there.

KIGNY: Who? Doctor Petruss? (pause.)

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: (to Kigny.) No. (pause.)

DEJORIES: Satories, as the Porte de Versailles, is a very suitable place.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: (to Dejories.) Ships packed with people. And the towers. I had to explain to them several times who I was. He was not there either.

VALMEAU: The situation is still rather unsettled, so we had to pack them into the ships and into those – as you say – towers.

JULES: Here, under our very feet, in the cellars of the palace, there are several thousand of them. Can you imagine it, Monsieur? We were forced to use even Versailles.

DUMAS-FILS: Tell us, Doctor Byellogorshev, as a linguist, how many languages do you speak?

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: (to Dumas.) I speak them all.

DUMAS-FILS: All? How can that be?... You know absolutely all the languages?

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: Yes. All of them.

DUMAS-FILS: But that's impossible! Quite impossible. Why, no man alive has ever managed to learn all the existing languages.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: No man has succeeded, that is true. But I had, I assure you, a good teacher. (pause.) I must go, I am here on business.

VALMEAU: But sir, at least a little wine, some refreshment?

BOUVIER: When I was in Russia, there was a great deal of snow. I had the impression that it would never melt. The people seemed to me to feed on snow.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: It melted early this year, in the middle of March.

AGNES: If the spring there was as hot as it was here... I doubt that the North Pole could withstand so many fires.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: I really must hurry.

JULES: Valmeau, do we still have some empty rooms?

VALMEAU: But of course. This way, Sir, I shall escort you. (exeunt.)

KIGNY: A strange Russian. How can he stand that outrageous fur coat? I'm parboiled with the heat.

DUMAS-FILS: I doubt very much that he can speak all languages. He went a bit too far there.

DEJORIES: A Russian without beard or moustache? And so thin and skinny.

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: It's all an act. All these scientists have to look more important than they actually are. Anne-Marie, what's the matter with you, for heaven's sake? Look, you've got a little wrinkle already.

ANNE-MARIE: ...That sound... that sawing... It's as if I've heard it somewhere before... at the riding school, like at the riding school...

(The curtains on the window move, as if by a wind from outside. Kigny leaps to the window to prevent the curtains from opening.)

KIGNY: (struggling with the curtains, shouting in desperation.) Gentlemen, let's drink!... Let's drink!... Why are you all standing there like that?... This is nothing but childish foolery, gentlemen!... It is of no importance!... Let's drink!... Let's have music – why aren't you playing!... Louder, louder!...

ANNE-MARIE: Like at the riding school... That sound... I've heard it somewhere before...

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: Anne-Marie, what's the matter with you?...

KIGNY: (still trying to keep the curtains closed.) ...Let's drink!... Music!... Louder, louder!... 'Sixty four – the best in the past thirty years!... Let's drink, gentlemen!... A waltz!... Gentlemen, let's drink!... Maestro, louder!... Louder, louder still!...

+ + + +

(A room in a small apartment, near the Pere-Lachaise cemetary. It is a sunny August day in 1871. Those present: the plump widow Marthe and her very young, beautiful and long-haired daughter, Bibiana. Every now and then a wisp of smoke wanders into the apartment. Silence. Time stands still.)

MARTHE: (busy with tapestry work.) Will those damned stakes never stop burning? They've been smouldering for days now. (pause.) Yesterday they threw fuel on them but even that didn't help. They just won't burn. (pause.) There are rumors that the Devil himself is involved. I heard in the street this morning that a special edition of the "Church Herald" has been devoted to it. (pause.) He seemed cheerful today. It was as if he greeted me. As if he said "hello" to me, or something like that.

BIBIANA: (looking at the sunshine outside the window.) When? This morning? You should have told me at once. (pause.)

MARTHE: Not this morning. A few moment ago, when I took him his lunch.

BIBIANA: And he actually said "hallo" to you, just like this?

MARTHE: What's wrong with you, girl? How could he say anything of the kind? Have you forgotten the condition he's in? Who could understand him?... The Lord Himself can't tell what's going on in his mind. Maybe I only imagined it. (pause.) Did you say something, Bibiana? (pause.)

BIBIANA: No. Nothing. (pause.) Did he not say something like "zren"?


BIBIANA: "Zren"... He usually greets one like that.

MARTHE: Yes, something like that... (pause.) You've lost weight lately. I think I should ask Doctor Petruss to have a look at you. These headaches of yours are not just trifles.

BIBIANA: It's only because of the change in the weather. I always lose weight in the summer.

MARTHE: That's not true. You've been losing weight all this year. I will ask Doctor Petruss just the same. Perhaps it is a little forward of me, but why shouldn't we be pushy once in a while? And after all, we're only asking for a little examination. (pause.)

BIBIANA: (still looking out of the window.) I've already learned several new words. I learn one or two more every day. (pause.) I'll soon be able to talk to him.

MARTHE: Ah, Bibiana, Bibiana, if only your father were alive... (sighs.) If he were, you certainly wouldn't be wasting your time on things like that. You'd have learned to cook and sew. Perhaps one day that's all you'll have to live on. When did you last take a needle in your hand? It won't do, child, it won't do...

BIBIANA: But I do know how to cook and sew – as much as I need. (pause.) They still haven't taken away the paving stones they tore up. People are tripping over and swearing. They all seem to be in a great hurry, all holding handkerchieves over their mouths.

MARTHE: It's the smoke, it's getting unbearable. I'm sure I coughed for a quarter of an hour the other day. I though I should die.

BIBIANA: I don't mind it. I never have. (pause.) He hasn't moved out of his room today. (pause.)

MARTHE: No, not even to go to the privy. I do hope he doesn't make the room filthy – heaven knows we don't need that.

BIBIANA: That has never happened, Mother, even when he didn't leave his room for several days.

MARTHE: I know nothing and I trust no one. There is a first time for everything. We can only pray God that nothing of the kind will happen.

BIBIANA: We have had no problems at all with him up to now. (pause.)

MARTHE: (still embroidering.) He's started his scribbling again, all day long, as if he'd got a sudden lease of life. He keeps it up at night, too, I saw him last night. Does he ever sleep? Before he used to at least lie down and stare at the wall. Who knows? Perhaps his illness is progressing.

BIBIANA: I've never seen him sleep either. Perhaps he doesn't need to.

MARTHE: He never allows me to open his window. The whole room smells. It hasn't been aired since he came. Whenever I try, he seizes my hand and mumbles something I don't understand. He simply won't let me! It's so untidy, papers thrown about everywhere... He's even started scribbling on the walls, like a little child. (pause.)

BIBIANA: It seems to me that he looks at me... you know... in quite an ordinary, healthy way... but then again, he knits his eyebrows as if he had remembered something... and everything is as it usually is. (pause.)

MARTHE: If he keeps on like this, we soon won't be able to get into his room for paper. He's scattered it all over the place. Although mind you, he does seem to be sorting some of it on to the shelf – the ones he wants to keep, I suppose. He just growls if I go near them. (pause.) We'll soon have to take them down to the cellar, if he goes on writing at this rate. (pause.)

BIBIANA: (still looking out of the window.) Still, I am sure that he understands us all the same... (pause.)

MARTHE: (sighing.) It's a terrible thing, child.

BIBIANA: What is?

MARTHE: (finally stopping her work to raise her head and look at Bibiana.) Well, that... When a man loses his mind. (pause.)

BIBIANA: You don't understand... Every day I learn a new word... Soon, I'll be able to talk to him...

MARTHE: But he no longer recognizes you, child... He recognizes no one any more...

(Bibiana is silent for a while, then crouches down, grasping her aching head in her hands. She whines, goes over to the bed, lies down facing the wall and falls asleep. Pause.)

(Almost total darkness. The dungeons of Versailles. Wisps of smoke and the drip of underground water. Several wounded communards, only half alive, are lying in the mud. They are all in the last stages of exhaustion, raving and moaning. The skin of the uncovered parts of their bodies has a ghastly gleam – they are the human lanterns, most of whom have already turned into phantoms and spectres.)

FIRST HUMAN LANTERN: ...Here... take this... (he offers a piece of mouldy potato to the man beside him.) ...Take it, eat... They can't do any more to us... Go on, take it... If you die, you only make things easy for them...

SECOND HUMAN LANTERN: (who has a red scarf over his eyes and he is blind.) ...It stinks... It's stinking again...

FIRST HUMAN LANTERN: ...It's the excrement...

SECOND HUMAN LANTERN: ...No, it's not that... I know what it is... My wound is rotting... crawling... I can't feel my leg any more, it seems to have gone to sleep... When I touch it, it's like touching a stone... (Pause. Dripping of water. Smoke.) ...Just a moment ago, I touched it by accident and something started crawling under my fingers... fooh!, I pulled out a worm as big as my finger!... (Pause. Dripping.) ...How many more of us are there... How many... (pause.) ...How many of us are left... (pause.) ... When they brought me here, you couldn't breathe for the bodies, there was someone beside me all the time, and now... look... look... (he waves his arms around.) ...Look!... Look!... Look!... (He collapses in tears. The spectres weep, too.)

(Pause. Water dripping.)

FIRST HUMAN LANTERN: ...Take it... (offering the same piece of potato.) ...Go on...

SECOND HUMAN LANTERN: (whining and rocking, holding his head.) ...Eat...eat... Who doesn't want to eat?... Who is he?... Show him to me...

FIRST HUMAN LANTERN: (whispering.) De Crick.

SECOND HUMAN LANTERN: (whirling round furiously.) ...Who?... Who?...


SECOND HUMAN LANTERN: (shouting.) De Crick?... He's here too?...Where is he?... (flailing his arms about.) ...Where is he?... Take me to him!... To De Crick of the 1O1st. Battalion, who hasn't slept once since the third of April!... Where is he?... Where is De Crick?...

(The First Human Lantern comes over to him and leads him to the one who was offering the potato. The blind man, in great excitement, feels him and then sits down besides him. He begins to feel his face and hands and finally favouring him with a horrible grin, almost leaps for joy, then locks him in an embrace and starts to rock backwards and forwards with him, singing their only lullaby: "...Debout les damnes de la terre...", while rocking in wider and wider swings. When he finishes, he starts the song again louder, and again, each time louder and louder.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the dungeon, the Third Human Lantern has started his death rattle just after the opening bars of the song.)

THIRD HUMAN LANTERN: (kneeling facing, and very close to, the wall; he yells, head thrown back, mouth drooling.) ...Lest freedom come!... Lest freedom come!... And at the first murmur the royal phalanx gathered up their skirts and fled down the back staircase! The great dignitaries, the nobs, the generals with their moustaches – slunk off like a gang of players hissed off the stage!... And in came the Prussians!... They said that the army should be pulled back from the front and brought here!... Lest freedom come!... Fear!... Fear of us was greater then fear of Bismarck!... LEST FREEDOM SHOULD COME!... (drools.) ... Wounds open themselves before these dreadful, unnatural crimes!... One day the Emperor, the next day Wilhelm and today M. Thiers with his Assembly which when it's not kneeling is begging!... "France will not permit itself to be overrun by wretches", hissed M. Thiers!... Next day, two hundred thousands wretches came to salute their Committee and sing "The Marseillaise"! ..."Paris is the gathering point for all the scum and thieves of Europe!", growled M. Thiers, but the only thing those thieves stole was the guillotine, which they set on fire in the eleventh arrondissement!... Believe me, you will not be able to hold out long!... Your women are bathed in tears, ours stopped crying a long time ago!... And the rest... the rest is slaughter!... Wounds open themselves before these dreadful, unnatural crimes!... The Prussians on the one hand, M. Thiers on the other!... The greatest of all funeral bells rang out seven times after that, on each successive night: the city of rebellion rose!... On the evening of the last day, Dombrowsky came up to us and shook our hands, one by one: he was leaving to die!... "Let us swear", someone shouted at his funeral, "Let us swear that we shall leave this place only to die"!... There were few who did not weep!... Facing the firing squad, a boy begged the Versailles officer to let him go for three minutes to that he might give his watch to his mother "so that she would not lose everything", and then returned!... The gendarme where shouting over our barricades to the Prussians to shoot us!... On Sunday, at noon, the last round from the double-loaded cannon was the Commune"s last breath!... And then, the purge began!... Thousands of them gunned down in courtyards and houses, the army transformed into a giant firing squad!... People were hacked to pieces!... Drunk from death, some scattered the intestines from the bodies with their bayonets, and then stuffed the neck of bottles into the dead mouths!... People swarmed out into the streets to spit on the carts full of bodies!... Elegant ladies raised the clothes of the dead with the tips of their parasols!... And the bodies had already begun to rot!... Swarms of flies buzzed over the torn bellies and brought the plague!... Wagons carried away hundreds of bodies in the spasm of their last agony: THEY WERE BURIED ALIVE!... The huge trenches of Pere Lachaise were filled to the brim, some were buried in ditches!... Women searched for hours their sons and husbands through shapeless, bloody piles!... But there were more!... More of these scoundrels' bodies!... More stinking, disease-ridden bodies of those robbers!... And as they couldn't bury them, they began to destroy them!... Dungeons full of these monsters were drenched in fuel and set on fire!... At But-Chaumont a huge stake was set up and for days, the dense, disgusting smoke covered the hills of Paris!... Some were thrown alive into bottomless pits!... In the prisons, torture was brought in by decree!... Some managed to freeze to death and save themselves!... And every day, delegations of respectable Parisians came to Satories to see the sights, while the officers showed them their subjects who crawled thorough the mud, drinking water from the pools in which the guards had urinated!... Lest freedom come!... Lest freedom come!... (He rattles once more and falls dead. Pause....)

(Meanwhile, The Second Human Lantern has not stopped singing. De Crick tries to get up stumbles, falls and crawls through the mud. He goes into an ague, feet and hands shaking more and more. He cannot stop them. His whole body begins to convulse. A dreadful rattling is heard. He tears his shirt in an attempt to get air but the suffocation increases. He begins to bend and twist, his mouth extended, uttering in his delirium totally incomprehensible words which finally turn into a death rattle. A half scream escapes from his face, distorted by spasm. The scream fades slowly until after one final convulsion he becomes completely calm. All that remains is uneven breathing, a shaking belly and a stream of meaningless words which he murmurs quietly to himself. Pause...

Quite suddenly, emerging from these gentle convulsions like a butterfly from its coocoon, out of De Crick's body slowly arises a tall personage, dressed in black – The Impresario. He shakes his cape to rid it of any shreds and ties it around his neck, slowly puts on his black leather gloves while taking a good look round at those present. Finally he bows, turns round and leaves.)

BIBIANA: (there is a full moon outside.) ...Who is it... Who is it... (Pause. Marthe is asleep on the next bed.) ...Who is it... What a dream... (Something rustles by the door. She jerks awake and looks over at Marthe. Something flutters by.) ...Who...

(She gets up and walks fearfully towards the door. The Impresario steps suddenly out of the darkness. Bibiana goes rigid with fear. Pause. The Impresario smiles at her and gently strokes her hair, then turns round and moves toward the exit, but trips and falls. He quickly pulls himself together, adjusts his cape and hat, then sees his right shoe which has fallen off on to the floor. He picks it up and stretches out his foot to put it on. Bibiana is horrorstruck – the stranger has a hoof instead of a foot! Above it stretches the leg of a beast, covered in bristly hair. The wind which lightly wafts the stranger's cape catches her hair. In a moment she loses consciousness and falls to the ground. The Impresario uses the opportunity to quickly tidy himself up, caress her hair once more and disappear.)

End of Part One

Part Two

(A sunny day, Marthe and Bibiana's room. Marthe is at her tapestry work, Bibiana looking out of the window. Pause. There is a knock at the door.)

MARTHE: Bibiana, do you hear that? (jumping up.) It must be Doctor Petruss! (She opens the door. It is Dejories and Dumas-fils.) Yes?... Can I help you, gentlemen?...

DUMAS-FILS: Good day, Madam. We are the advance party for Doctor Petruss.

MARTHE: I beg your pardon?

DEJORIES: We came in connection with the – er – case. Doctor Petruss must have been delayed.

MARTHE: Doctor Petruss? Oh, of course! Please come in, gentlemen. (They enter, looking round the room. Bibiana stays where she is.) I must apologize, it's not very... comfortable in here. Would you care for some tea?...

DUMAS-FILS: We owe you an apology, Madame. We have come unannounced.

DEJORIES: We had arranged with Doctor Petruss to meet here. We find this case very interesting.

MARTHE: Oh, we are so indebted to that good man. He has done so much for us. There are not many people of his sort about these days, isn't that right, Bibiana?... (Bibiana remains motionless.) Thit is my daughter...

DUMAS-FILS: Delighted, Mademoiselle... (Bibiana continues to stare out of the window.) ...Forgive the intrusion.

MARTHE: ...But won't you have some tea?...

DEJORIES: Thank you, but we have just lunched.

MARTHE: What a pity, it's so nice... (pause.) The gentlemen have come a distance?

DUMAS-FILS: Not exactly. We were nearby, not far from the "Club Cordelier" – the house of my friend Dejories, a journalist from "Le Figaro".

MARTHE: I see... I've never met a journalist before.

(A little smoke comes in at Bibiana's window.)

DEJORIES: (waving the smoke.) We had rather a problem with the paving stones which have been torn up around your house. Those barricades should come down once and for all.

DUMAS-FILS: Perhaps a fire has broken out in the neighbourhood?

MARTHE: It's from the stakes. (Pause. Dumas-fils and Dejories wave the smoke away.) They've been smouldering for weeks now. It seems as if they'll never burn out. There are various rumours going around the city.

DUMAS-FILS: (chokes and starts to cough.) ...Cough, cough!... But, Madame... cough, cough!... You surely do not believe that rubbish... cough, cough!... (Dejories takes him by arm and leads him to the other end of the room.)

MARTHE: Ah, I am so sorry, Sir. Bibiana, close the window, for heaven's sake. (Bibiana does not move.)

DUMAS-FILS: (calming down.) ...Cough, cough!... (wipes his eyes with his handkerchief.) Dare me, what a coughing fit...

DEJORIES: Ten past two. Doctor Petruss is rather late.

MARTHE: Ten past two. Is it really? Just a moment, gentlemen... (she exits and returns with a bowl on a tray.) ...Bibiana, take him in this, it's time... (Bibiana turns and takes the tray.) And if he says something "oyar, oyar", give him an apple. He was happy with that last time... And comb your hair. You are so untidy these last few days.

(Bibiana opens the door to the next room. Inside, it is total darkness. Dumas-fils and Dejories crane their necks to see inside, but the door closes.)

DUMAS-FILS: Interesting. Tell us, Madame...

MARTHE: Marthe.

DUMAS-FILS: I am Alexandre Dumas, the younger. Perhaps you have heard?

MARTHE: I'm afraid I haven't. I'm sorry.

DUMAS-FILS: It doesn't matter, there's plenty of time... Tell us, Marthe, how long have you been taking care of him?

MARTHE: Doctor Petruss brought him here at the beginning of June.

DEJORIES: Just a moment, until I write that down...

MARTHE: We take care of him, feed him and so on... Doctor Petruss is so generous, he gives enough for him and for us. If it weren't for the doctor, Monsieur, we would go hungry...

DUMAS: Last night one of his colleagues arrived, all the way from Russia – a well-known linguist.

MARTHE: A linvist?

DUMAS-FILS: A linguist, Marthe, with a "g". Those are people who study languages.

MARTHE: Oh?... So people study languages too, do they? (pause.)

(Bibiana comes in and goes to stand by her window. Pause.)

DUMAS-FILS: Pardon me, Mademoiselle... (going over to her.) You are very young... Are you not afraid to – er – how shall I put it – enter the room of that... "person" all on your own? (Pause. Bibiana is motionless.)

DEJORIES: What sometimes occurs in real life, the most creative minds cannot even begin to imagine.

DUMAS-FILS: I also find this case extraordinarily interesting.

BIBIANA: (without moving.) Interesting.

DUMAS-FILS: (animatedly.) Just so, Mademoiselle! You see, I am presently engaged upon a novel and must hand it to my publisher by mid-September... Writers too have to pick their way sometimes. After all that has happened in this city, I find cases of this nature truly refreshing.

BIBIANA: Refreshing.

DUMAS-FILS: But of course, Mademoiselle! Such things represent an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the true writer. Social cases can prove to be a most fruitful theme.

DEJORIES: Our readers are begging us to stop giving them descriptions of trials and deportations to New Caledonia, and are demanding novels in instalments instead.

DUMAS: For me, this is a real challenge! It was getting boring, writing about ships, towers and dungeons.

BIBIANA: Dungeons.

DUMAS: Bravo, Mademoiselle! Life goes on, and I would...

(There is a knock at the door. Marthe goes to open it. Enter Doctor Petruss.)

DEJORIES: At last, Doctor Petruss! Where is your colleague?

Dr.PETRUSS: Good day, gentlemen. He is coming. He stopped to study the paving stones. He says they do not have such things in Russia yet.

MARTHE: A little tea, Doctor Petruss?

Dr.PETRUSS: No, thank you, Marthe, we are in a hurry. What is that great black cloth doing on your fence? (Bibiana turns round.)

MARTHE: A cloth?

Dr.PETRUSS: Yes, of some rough black stuff. Someone must have caught their coat on a nail while hurrying by.

DUMAS-FILS: We are ready, Doctor Petruss.

Dr.PETRUSS: How is my protege, Marthe?

MARTHE: We feed and care for him, just as you instructed. It seems as if his condition has suddenly improved since yesterday. He doesn't seem to be suffocating any longer. He just writes all the time, even at night.

DUMAS-FILS: He writes?

Dr.PETRUSS: And it does not fatigue him?

MARTHE: On the contrary, he is full of a strange sort of animation. He even refuses to eat, he is in such a hurry.

Dr.PETRUSS: In any case, food does not mean the same to them as it does to us.

DUMAS-FILS: He writes?...

DEJORIES: There you are, Dumas – a rival for us.

Dr.PETRUSS: Gentlemen, please be serious! I barely managed to save him and I will not allow him be ruined. When I found him, he was a hopeless case, his mind gone. He rolled in the mud like an animal. I think that he suffered a severe epileptic attack at the time: his body rigid, breathing interrupted – complete blockade of the system. I examined him at once, and... well, I'm not sure, but I think that once, long ago, he had been in much better health.

MARTHE: Some tea, Doctor Petruss?

Dr.PETRUSS: I was speaking to Doctor Byellogorshev just now. We didn't qiute see eye to eye on some questions.

(Enter Doctor Byellogorshev, still in his warm, black suit, his right leg dragging along the ground. When Bibiana sees him, she does not take her eyes off him. Pause.)

Dr.PETRUSS: Come along, my dear Sir.

MARTHE: Would you like some tea, Sir?...


Dr.PETRUSS: Of course, my dear colleague. But enough talking. Degories, memorize every detail.

DEJORIES: I have already set aside two pages of tomorrow's edition.

Dr.PETRUSS: Marthe, I hope there everything will now be all right. I am preparing a very important lecture at the Sorbonne.

MARTHE: Oh, certainly, Doctor Petruss.

Dr.PETRUSS: Please, draw the curtains. (Marthe does so and the room sinks into half-darkness. Dr. Byellogorshev scrapes his foot under his fur-coat.) ...He is afraid of light, he was so many weeks in total darkness. That's why his skin is so whitish, almost luminous. (He goes towards the room, opens the door and disappears into the dark. Pause.)

DUMAS-FILS: How does he write in the dark? (pause.)

(Bibiana moves slowly towards the table in the corner, opens a drawer and takes out a notebook. She comes over to Dr. Byellogorshev and offers it to him.)

BIBIANA: (quietly.) Soon I shall have learned my two-hundredth word... (She goes back to the window. Dr. Byellogorshev opens the notebook and stares at it.)

DUMAS-FILS: How does he write in the dark? (pause.)

(Some smoke comes in at Bibiana's window. The door of the room opens and Dr.Petruss re-enters, leading some kind of creature by the hand. Dumas-fils and Dejories get up slowly. Bibiana turns to face the wall. Dr.Byellogorshev continues to stare at the notebook. Dr.Petruss places his protege in the very centre of the room and stands to one side, beside Dumas-fils, Dejories and Marthe.)

(Dr.Petruss' monstrous protege, unkempt and dirty, covered in several weeks' growth of hair and beard, with dangling hands and bowed head, stands there like a forgotten puppet. Traces of long-dried mud and food stain his torn and crumpled clothes. His hair is stuck to his face and collar by thick coatings of dirt and grease, full of crumbs and splinters. There are traces of slime on his beard. The uncovered parts of his skin glow with the spectral light of the Human Lanterns. Unused to standing, he sways slightly backward and forward, clumsily shifting the weight onto his right leg to prevent himself from falling. He does not blink, but convulsively opens and closes his eyes, nodding his head at the same time. His breathing is noisy and uneven, hissing from his half-open mouth. He drools. Pause....)

(He sways and drools, drools and sways, and they look at him.)

DUMAS-FILS: (with a moan.) ...Heavens, what horror... (he is aghast.)

(He sways and drools, drools and sways, and they look at him.)

MARTHE: (quietly.) ...He writes most of the time... just sits there scribbling... all the time... he's even started on the walls...

(Bibiana rushes out. There is a pause. Dr.Byellogorshev continues staring at the notebook.)

DEJORIES: What is the matter with her?...

MARTHE: (quietly.) Ah, Monsieur – a headache... She has been complaining of not sleeping well...

Dr.PETRUSS: (quietly.) Dr.Byellogorshev, I don't believe that you could have come up against a case like this anywhere else.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: (looking at the notebook.) The attitude, the posture... I know it, I know it so well...

Dr.PETRUSS: But that is impossible, dear colleague. The case is simply exceptional: a definite transformation of the speech center as a result of epilepsy. I have never seen such a thing in my entire career, and I have traveled half around the world. I intend to present this at my lecture. You will hear it.

DEJORIES: Well, is he going to show us what he knows or stand there till the cows come home?...

Dr.PETRUSS: (going over to his protege and patting him with obvious revulsion.) ...Come along now, say something... Come on, anything... Just like the last time... Come on, say something... Speak...

MARTHE: (quietly.) He'll usually talk to Bibiana...

Dr.PETRUSS: Where is she? Marthe, please, we need your daughter immediately!

MARTHE: I... I don't know... You saw yourselves... She goes off like that and often doesn't come back before morning...

Dr.PETRUSS: Until morning? But that is scandalous, Madame! How can you permit her to wander round Paris at the dead of night!? Why, she's not even eighteen!

MARTHE: But what am I to do?... I've scolded, threatened, begged... She never tells me where she goes or what she does... If her poor father were alive...

Dr.PETRUSS: There, there, don't cry, it won't help matters now. (He turns to the creature as if to touch it, but recoils in disgust.) Ugh, Marthe, you try. (He steps aside while Marthe takes his place and starts to wispper to the creature.) ...The ape will disgrace me yet.

DEJORIES: What is your protege called?...

Dr.PETRUSS: De Crick.

DEJORIES: De Crick?... A strange name. With a big or a small "d"?

Dr.PETRUSS: For heaven's sake, Dejories, with a capital "d", of course. He's hardly an aristocrat!... (Pause. Marthe whispers something to De Crick and touches him gently.) ...There he is, there! ...He moved his lips!... He's moving them!...

(Marthe steps aside. Pause. Dumas-fils continues to stand in astonishment. Dr.Byellogorshev goes on staring at the note-book.)

DE CRICK: (in a rusty rattle.) ..."NAY"... "NAYMHERVON"... "ZREN"... "NEPIKUM ZREN OSMOR"... "NIDOPSOGOR"... "STULI OSMOR"... "TEMERON"...

Dr.PETRUSS: Listen!...



Dr.PETRUSS: Marthe, quick! Take him to his room, quickly, quickly!...

(Marthe quickly leads away the howling creature – now choking and gurgling. De Crick falls silent only when Marthe leaves the room, leaving him alone. Silence. Pause. Marthe gently draws back the curtains and light pours in. The curtains remain drawn on Bibiana's window. Dejories and Dumas-fils are recovering from their shock. Dr.Byellogorshev continues to stare at the notebook. Pause.)

Dr.PETRUSS: (sighing.) Well, what do you say now, gentlemen?...

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: "...gija trapsut naymhervon"...

Dr.PETRUSS: I hope, Doctor Byellogorshev, that you are not regretting having undertaken such a long journey. He is exactly as I described him to you.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: I must see him again. Do you understand? I simply must see him again.

Dr.PETRUSS: A little patience, my dear colleague, you have just arrived. We must not rush these sessions. There is plenty of time.

DEJORIES: Odd. Truly odd.

DUMAS-FILS: (confused.) I didn't understand a single word...

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: "...gija trapsut naymhervon"... As if...

DEJORIES: Is it possible, Doctor Byellogorshev, that you have already committed some of his nonsense to memory? You really are an outstanding polyglot! Anne-Marie was right.

DUMAS-FILS: What do you mean?...

DEJORIES: She said it was enough for him to peep into a country and immediately knows its language.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: I seem to have heard it somewhere before, many years ago...

Dr.PETRUSS: Mon Dieu, my dear colleague, calm yourself! If we were all to get so excited about every patient, where would we all be? Marthe, I think that now is the right time for some of your tea. A little tranquillity would do us all no harm.

MARTHE: But of course, Sir, at once... (exit.)

(Dr.Byellogorshev looks at the notebook and mumbles softly to himself. Dr.Petruss smiles and whispers something to Dumas-fils, who is still rather confused. Dejories puts his notebook away in his pocket and moves towards Bibiana's window, to draw back the curtains. As he does so, he is thunderstruck. His cigar falls from his mouth. Outside, riding a broomhandle, her unkempt hair floating around her, Bibiana flies past!.)

+ + + +

(Dejories's apartment. Present are Dejories, his wife Agnes, the writer Dumas-fils, the plump arms salesman Bouvier and the same Priest from Versailles. Afternoon.)

BOUVIER: It's a pity I wasn't there. Stupid to let an opportunity like that slip.

DUMAS-FILS: (annoyed.) That you have to ask Doctor Petruss. He hoards him like a precious gem, gives a few miserable pence to an old woman and her hysterical daughter to keep him in that dark and stinking hole. Very simple. Common, actually.

AGNES: I don't think Doctor Petruss would have anything against lending him to us on Sunday. I can only imagine how interesting he must be.

DUMAS-FILS: Interesting? Agnes, you said "interesting"?... Him?... What rubbish! He's a common idiot! (He gets up and starts to pace up and down.) A drivelling, drooling idiot! I don't know why these psychiatrists waste their time on such cases! Why, this is not a man!

AGNES: But Dumas, why are you so bitter? Nothing's on fire, is it? We are just chatting about this and that. It's all the same.

PRIEST: Can he be cured?

DUMAS-FILS: Nonsense! Such cases are incurable!... If you had only heard him "speak" – and what!... It's all just colossal stupidity! Unheard off! A mixture of Tartar, Gypsy and Mongolian dialects, and what-have-you from the north of China! I couldn't understood a word. Absolutely nothing!

AGNES: Dumas, why are you shouting? What's come over you?

DUMAS-FILS: (still pacing furiously.) It's not just him – it's all of them, all those primitive people! As if they lived ten thousand kilometers away, as if they weren't in Paris, in Europe!... And then the behavior of that hysterical girl! Bibiana! If you had only seen how she flung out of the room, all at once, for no reason!... It is contagious, I tell you, contagious!

DEJORIES: (upset at the mention of Bibiana, get up and looks around.) ...Agnes, do we have a broomstick?...

AGNES: I beg your pardon?

DUMAS-FILS: All of them in that damn den are mad, all of them! Anyone who had to live with that... that monster would go mad! You can feel it in the air, it spreads through the ether like a disease, like the plague, like a real live plague!

(smoke gushes in through one of the windows.)

PRIEST: "Syllabus".

DUMAS-FILS: Where can all this stink come from? It's as though someone had forgotten to pour quicklime into an enormous septic tank! (He comes to the window which is letting in smoke and bangs it shut.)

BOUVIER: Dejories, why are you standing?... Let's leave all that to science and Doctor Petruss. Even he won't keep him for ever at his own expense.

DEJORIES: That De Crick should be stuffed with straw and placed on a stool for all to see... (sits down.)

DUMAS-FILS: Bravo, Dejories!

AGNES: You've really gone too far this time!

DUMAS-FILS: (stops walking about and opens his eyes wide.) Gone too far?.. Why?... (continues his furious pacing.) If you had only seen him, all that dark world would have risen before your eyes too, all that eerie vapour which places their tiny brains in the service of the powers of darkness!... It's as if they were from another planet, popped out of some pit or other!... Hah! And then you say he's not really mad! Hah!

AGNES: Dumas, calm yourself once and for all. You cannot have slept well last night. Come, have a little cognac...

DUMAS-FILS: (clenching his fist in an effort to express the right idea.) Haa! That's it!... He's not mad, oh no, he's just a common deserter, a prisoner pretending to be someone else, a fake, that's what he is! A typical specimen of their species!... Oh, why can I not kill them by hatred!...

DEJORIES: (sweating profusely.) ...Easy now, Dumas... You speak as a man who has suffered much over the past months...

DUMAS-FILS: If only I were in charge, even for an hour, an afternoon!... For three of the bloodiest months you can imagine we have had to spill our guts because of things such as this! They set Paris afire, they took money from the City treasury! If it hadn't been for M. Thiers!... And here's Doctor Petruss bringing in linguists from Russia to show them his tender plant! Oh, what a wonder!... (He halts and turns towards the others.) Is this the way to behave? And what does the idiot want anyway? Babbling that nonsense of his, speaking a language NO ONE understands, A LANGUAGE NO ONE EVER WILL UNDERSTAND!... (pause.)

BOUVIER: (calmly.) It's so warm today. (pause.) It's been a long time since we had such a warm, pleasant August. (pause.)

AGNES: Let us have some good wine and drop these silly topics.

BOUVIER: But in a restaurant.

AGNES: Why not? It's so warm outside. Let's be merry.

DEJORIES: (gets up wiping away perspiration.) Agnes... Have we got a broom?...

AGNES: What?

BOUVIER: And let's have something to eat, too. My "authority" requires fresh sacrifices.

AGNES: Let's go to the "Royale" then. They serve a marvellous venison.

BOUVIER: And Dumas will tell us about his new novel and then tell us some good jokes. (He takes him by the arm, but Dumas shakes him off.)

AGNES: Come Dumas, don't be childish.

BOUVIER: Come on Dumas, it will be enjoyable, as it usually is.

AGNES: Of course, Bouvier. A glass or two and Dumas will be his old self. (she takes Dumas and Dejories by the arm.)

BOUVIER: I'm sure the deputies, the officers and all the others are already there.

(They leave. The priest dozes in the armchair. Bouvier come back.)

BOUVIER: Father! Look, we set off and I'm afraid we forgot about you (the Priest does not move.) ...Do you hear me, Father?... (shaking him.) ...Father, Father, wake up... we're leaving... Do you hear me?... (He shakes him more forcefully. The Priest rocks and falls stiffly to the floor. Bouvier is stunned.) Father!... Father!... (He loses control of himself, wants to say something but cannot. He shakes the corpse a few more times in desperation, stuffs his fist into his mouth to supress a scream, looks about him wildly. A cloth flutters in a corner of the room which begins to darken. A wind rises. Bouvier takes leave of his senses.) ...Help!... Help!... (Smoke gushes in through the window. It is almost dark. A squat figure comes in through the same window – it is Jacques Bregnack, with a broom over his shoulder. He passes by the raving Bouvier, grazing his arm. Bouvier falls to the ground, still shrieking. Terrified, he rolls around the floor like a maddened child.) ...Help!... Help!...

(Jacques Bregnack goes over to the corpse, raises it violently by the collar and starts to strangle it with both hands, shaking with rage. Pause. Finally, he throws it down, take the broom and exits through the same window. Bouvier goes on screaming and rolling around.)

(The outer door opens and at the same moment the darkness, wind and fluttering vanish. Everything is as it was before, except that the Priest's body has disappeared and in its place, a piece of coarse black cloth is lying on the floor. Enter Dumas-fils, Dejories and Agnes.)

BOUVIER: ...Help!... Help!... (Agnes kneels down and calms him. He gets a fit of coughing.)

AGNES: What is it, Bouvier? What happened?

DEJORIES: We're here, don't be afraid...

AGNES: How did you fall, Bouvier?... Here we are... Everything is all right now.

DUMAS-FILS: (trying to raise him.) ...I can't. Dejories... (Dejories helps him to somehow get Bouvier to his feet.) ...Are you all right, Bouvier?...

BOUVIER: What?... What happened?...

AGNES: Ha, ha, ha, ha... Well, Bouvier, you really gave us a surprise, ha, ha, ha, ha... You fell and we, as you see, picked you up...

BOUVIER: (delighted the nightmare is over.) I fell?...

AGNES: (lifting the cloth.) There you are! You tripped over this and fell.

BOUVIER: Let me see, let me see!... (his face lights up.) Ah, so that was it!

DEJORIES: I didn't notice it before... Agnes, our servants are not doing their job.

DUMAS-FILS: To come to grief because of some old rag!

BOUVIER: What?! Ah, yes! (suddenly bursts into unnatural laughter.) Ha, ha, ha, ha...

AGNES: Let's go...

BOUVIER:...Ha, ha, ha, ha... Wait, ladies and gentlemen, ha,ha... just until I get my breath, ha, ha, ha, ha... Well, who would have thought it, ha, ha...

DEJORIES: Where is the reverend?

BOUVIER: (whose laughter is suddenly checked.) What?... The reverend?... (starts to wander again.) He was here!... Here!...

AGNES: We must have just missed him.

BOUVIER: Yes, yes, that's it!... That's it, ha, ha, ha, ha!... I really am clumsy, ha, ha... He left, ha, ha, ha, ha... And I lost my breath and began to cough!... Ha, ha, ha, ha... We missed each other... Everything is all right, ha, ha, ha, ha...

DUMAS-FILS: And why wouldn't it be all right? Why are you holding that dirty rag?

BOUVIER: (throwing down the cloth as if it had burnt him and suddenly becoming serious.) Enough to make a man break his neck in his own house... He's gone, gone...

DEJORIES: The deputies should really do something in Parliament about this smoke. It's becoming unbearable.

BOUVIER: Yes, because of the smoke, because of the smoke... It's this east wind, carrying it around the city... cough!, cough!... No where a man can get away from it, cough!, cough!... It was all because of his weak heart...

DUMAS-FILS: Whose heart?

AGNES: Oh, let's go, for heaven's sake. They've probably started without us. I'll wager the Lieutenant-with-the-Watch is there – he never leaves Anne-Marie's side.

BOUVIER: And with a medical student? Would you wager some well-known medical student?... Here, I give my right arm that he had a weak heart! A weak heart and there's an end of it! Aagh, you can't play games with Bouvier! To catch me napping, creep up on me from behind? To spring a surprise like that and – snap! ...It was his heart, that's all.

DEJORIES: Whose heart, Bouvier? What are you talking about?

BOUVIER: I wasn't born yesterday, gentlemen! I have built up a reputation over the years – for years!... As if I were some green youngster, a child perhaps! A wide-eyed fool, blinking at every change in the breeze! Pooh, and again: pooh! Certainly, if necessary, I'll sign my name to it: it was his heart and that's that!...

(He turns sharply and goes out, followed by Agnes and Dumas-fils. Dejories stops, looks around once more, stiffens at the sight of the black cloth, pulls himself together and goes out.)

+ + + +

(A lecture hall at the Sorbonne. Dr.Petruss is about to give a lecture. Marthe and Bibiana, the latter's hair in disarray, are setting in the gallery. Dr.Byellogorshev sits sombrely beside them.)

MARTHE: It was very kind of Doctor Petruss to invite us to his lecture. You know, Sir, we so rarely go out, isn't that so, Bibiana?... (pause.) I really don't think we shall ever be able to repay that kind man. I sometimes think we take too much for granted, don't I, Bibiana?... (pause.)

BYELLOGORSHEV: (softly.) "...gija trapsut naymhervon"... I didn't know that here it was so... I would have come earlier... (Bibiana takes his hand, turns the palm to her face and leans her head on it, as if sleeping. Pause.)

(Thunderous applause breaks out in the hall. Dr.Petruss, dignified, hair slicked back, comes in and walks to the podium, waits for the noise to die down and begins. Dr.Byellogorshev watches him unblinkingly.)

Dr.PETRUSS: Gentlemen! Today I shall speak to you of a disease about which we all know so much and so little at the same time, a disease which lies deep and well hidden, waiting for a suitable moment to make its appearance when least expected and in the most unexpected form. You all know the efforts being made by ten or so of our colleagues throughout the world to at least approach this enigmatic disease, wich respects neither age, nor psychological state. Up to the present moment, medical science has not succeeded in discovering the cause, or even the mechanism of its origins, which explains the great interest existing in this phenomenon, a very interesting one from the psychiatric point of view. We are, moreover, convinced that a closer acquaintance with it would permit medicine to advance much faster and with greater precision towards its sublime goal.

Gentlemen, I shall today present some important observations and facts which I have come across during my research in recent months. They are the outcome both of careful observation and chance circumstances. (a little smoke drifts into the hall.) The theme of my lecture today, then is... (his voice rises suddenly to a frightened squeal.) ..."On the transplantion of animal parts to a human body!"...

(Astonishment in the hall. Dr.Petruss completely loses his grip.)

Dr.PETRUSS: (He pulls himself together and tries again.) ..."On the transplantion of animal parts to a human body!"... (terrified, not recognizing his own voice, he summons up his strength.) ..."On the latest discoveries of potential causes of epilepsy, with particular reference to its linguistic component and the speech centre!"... (delighted, he clenches his fists in joy.) ..."On the latest discoveries of potential causes of epilepsy, with particular reference to its linguistic component and the speech centre!"... That's it! That's it! That's the subject of my lecture! That! Precisely that, gentlemen!... cough, cough, cough!... Would someone for heaven's sake please shut that window?... Have you gone mad?... Gentlemen, I beg you for some silence, I beg you in order to continue my remarks!... Please, I beg you!... Bring in the patient!... (pause.) Bring in the patient, do you hear?... Do you hear me?...

(Instead of the patient, however, the same Priest comes out in front of the podium, but this time, hunched, trembling, all in rags, an old man. Instead of pupils , all that can be seen are the whites of his eyes. Wrinkled and drained, he is shaking and stabbing himself with a knife in the chest, holding the knife with both hands whenever he finishes his only sentence. Blood spouts from him, with every thrust he becomes weaker.)

THE PRIEST: (howling.) An attempt to stop life because of the existence of death!... (He stabs himself violently with both hands. At the same moment from somewhere is hear a terrifying squealing of pigs, as if in a slaughter house.) ...An attempt to stop life because of the existence of death!... (stabs, squealing.) ...An attempt to stop life because of the existence of death!... (stabs, squealing.) ...An attempt to stop life because of the existence of death!... (and so on until he collapses into the pool of blood in front of him and remains motionless, as if stuck to the floor.)

(Pandemonium breaks out. Everything goes dark. Smoke pours in from all sides. All scatter, including Marthe and Dr.Petruss. Pause. Soon the situation becomes completely calm: peace, quiet. Through the gloom, Dr.Byellogorshev limps down from the balcony with Bibiana hanging on his arm, leaning her head on his shoulder. They reach the body. Dr.Byellogorshev gently separates himself from Bibiana, bends down slowly and measure's the corpse's right shin between his thumb and little finger, repeats the action, takes out the notebook from under his fur coat, writes down the measurement in it, returns it to his bosom, caresses the Priest's head, takes Bibiana's arm and leads her away with him.)

+ + + +

(The restaurant "Royale". Bright lights, the crowd already slightly in their cups and inclined to be merry. Colonel Venois, Kigny, the Deputies Valmeau and Jules, the Lieutenant-with-the-watch and Anne-Marie are all seated at the same table.

At the bottom of the restaurant in the lefthand corner, a tall and a short figure sit together: the Impresario and Jacques Bregnack. Heads bowed, silent and sad, they stare at an empty bottle and one empty glass beside it.)

COL.VENOIS: Ha, ha, ha, ha... A good joke, M. le Gendarme...

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: Ha,ha... Kigny, you really know the French mentality...

ANNE-MARIE: What is it? Tell me...

KIGNY: Anne-Marie, this kind of joke can only be told once, ha, ha... They're not so funny the second time.

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: Either you tell Anne-Marie the joke, or we strike your head off with one blow, so choose, ha, ha...

COL.VENOIS: Oooh, young man, for an achievement of that nature you would be awarded a large gold alarm clock and not just a simple pocket watch, ha, ha... And how would you carry it? Ha, ha, ha... You would need an enormous, enormous pocket, ha, ha...

KIGNY: Or a batman running along behind you with a wheel-barrow, ha, ha...

VALMEAU: We have a case like that. Take Kigny here, he carries that great clock about to wake him every half hour in order to look through the window in case some rascal is stealing his old boots or breaking up his fence for kindling, ha, ha...

ANNE-MARIE: Is that true, Kigny?

KIGNY: Nonsense, Anne-Marie! Why, I don't even have a fence.

COL.VENOIS: But you do have a batman ha, ha...

VALMEAU: Every morning, on the way to the police station, the Commandant is followed by his batman pushing a wheelbarrow, ha, ha...

JULES: It's hot in here...

VALMEAU: That's because you stood the whole day yesterday in a draught at Satories!

COL.VENOIS: It really is pretty windy out there. M. Jules, you should have that entrance door seen to, or your customers will catch cold.

ANNE-MARIE: Take some almonds. They're good for a cold.

KIGNY: That's impossible – they've eaten them all.

ANNE-MARIE: Oh, but really! Eaten all the almonds?

KIGNY: But didn't you know? There isn't an almond left in all of Paris. They've eaten all the reserves, down to the last grain. (pause.)


COL.VENOIS: Like rats.

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: Like disgusting, slimy centipedes.

VALMEAU: Come, let's not discuss that now! We started off so well... (He drinks. Pause.)

JULES: (calmly.) Is that why they set Paris ablaze?... To stuff themselves with almonds? (pause.)

(Enter Dumas-fils, Dejories, Agnes and Bouvier.)

AGNES: What did I say? They're all here!

KIGNY: At last! (He sets chairs for them. The couple in the corner remain motionless.)

COL.VENOIS: Your health! As a penalty for being late, you pay for the wine.

BOUVIER: Of course, gentlemen, heart and that's all there is to it!

ANNE-MARIE: What heart, Bouvier?

DEJORIES: M. Jules, I see, is a little out of sorts.

VENOIS: He's a little... (he makes a gesture indicating that Jules has drunk too much.)

KIGNY: And you will soon be out of sorts, too. (hands him a glass.)

COL.VENOIS: And your sight will deteriorate even more, ha, ha... You will see the most amazing things...

KIGNY: And phantoms... Good health!

BOUVIER: In that case I had better hasten to join M. Jules! (drinks.)

COL.VENOIS: To the creature from the vapours! (drinks.)

DEJORIES: Colonel, I've already written it.

AGNES: The gentlemen are a little tipsy after all, so – let us join them!

VALMEAU: That's the spirit, gentlemen, that's the spirit...

AGNES: Valmeau, as a Parliamentary deputy, you really ought't drink so much. You might give away some state secret.

VALMEAU: Why not, Agnes?... I'm sorry, but this is our little celebration. After so many weeks of fasting and torment, this evening is merely symbolic.

BOUVIER: Ah no, gentlemen! This cannot be! To creep up on me, attack me from behind? Ah no, never! There is only one Bouvier! It was his heart, no doubt about it!

DEJORIES: Whose heart, Bouvier? What are you talking about?

KIGNY: (rising.) I am happy to see you in such good spirits, and happy that we have gathered here to celebrate three months of Paris's newfound freedom!

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: (roars.) Vive la France!

KIGNY: I wish you all many more such days, dear friends. I thank M. Jules, M. le Depute for an unforgettable outing to Satories! It seldom happens that in this short life of ours, a man has the opportunity to see all that we saw gathered together in one place. From now on, we shall appreciate our own lives better. There is no more reaction, no more oppression! Paris has saved France, and France has saved Europe! To a free Europe, to the freedom of humanity!

THE REST: (except Anne-Marie, Dumas-fils and Jules.) To humanity!...

COL.VENOIS: I say, Dejories, is Doctor Petruss' man really so unusual? Half the city is abuzz with him.

DEJORIES: I've already written an article for tomorrow's edition.

DUMAS-FILS: (darkly.) The height of stupidity! A halfwit babbling nonsense! That Russian was just delighted with him... (drinks.)

ANNE-MARIE: Russian? So he is a Russian after all...

VALMEAU: And now... We must shut down all the valves... prevent the pestilence... and start afresh: return people's faith in life and hope for the future... (pause.) Although at this particular time, the best thing that could happen would be a war. A little, teensy-weensy war...

AGNES: Really Valmeau!...

VALMEAU: It would be in the interest of the whole of society! We would have a couple of unpleasant moments, get rid of fifty thousand or so people who have in any case been abandoned... Business would pick up by itself... In the presents situation, it would save us... War is the best social filter and the corner stone of every industry, Madame... As well as being the only means of drawing people together... Your health, Agnes. (drinks.)

KIGNY: As it is, we don't know what to do with so many of them in fortresses and ships. Tell me, where are we to bury them? We should have to dig a ditch from here to Lyons! The situation in the provinces is even worse.

VALMEAU: Or to start exporting people again...

(The situation calms down completely. Pause.)

JULES: (quietly.) Is that why they set Paris ablaze?... To stuff themselves with almonds?... (pause.)

DUMAS-FILS: Greed! They never saw them before, let alone tasted them! They would give all the years of their worthless lives for only two days of ours!... (pause.)

JULES: (louder.) Is that why they set Paris ablaze?... To stuff themselves with almonds?... (pause.)

VALMEAU: That would be reason enough for them... (pause.)

JULES: The day when the wretched wished to play the principal roles, to "make history". Not content with the primitiveness of their own dens, they wanted to spread throughout the entire world, on all sides, to the last most secret corner, to the last remaining man – that the rabble should lord it over all... To feed on it, to bathe in it, to force their poverty of spirit down the necks of all about them so all should become like them, and their misery the ideal of every man. The thoughts of a stable boy, who apart from his own dirty stable, has seen nothing else and claims to have seen everything!

KIGNY: Calm yourself M. Jules, that's all over now...

JULES: (louder.) For how else to kill the envy in themselves?... Who are they anyway? And what do they want?... Power?... Power? ... Unheard of! Such a thing has never existed – the rule of the primitive and the petit bourgeois! The power of the petit bourgeois at the service of the petit bourgeois!... But they are illiterate! The byblows of History! Even History doesn't want them! And whose fault is it? Whose?... No one's!... They say they live in material want and poverty! O, Lord, what must be their intellectual poverty!... (pause.)

VALMEAU: Well said, Jules: the power of the petit bourgeois at the service of the petit bourgeois.

DUMAS-FILS: (swiftly.) Why take that Blanqui of theirs, for example! An aged criminal, condemned to death twice already, twice to life imprisonment, thirtysix years in the dungeons and it's still not enough for him! Thirtysix!... How old are you, Lieutenant? Now there's is a case for Doctor Petruss, not this suburban epileptic!

DEJORIES: I would like to publish this in the "Figaro". I took some notes.

DUMAS-FILS: Do as your conscience dictates, Dejories. (drinks.)

COL.VENOIS: We must go to Satories again. When I told my wife, she didn't believe me. "You're lying", she said. "No such place could possibly exist".

KIGNY: A colleague suggested to me that we should charge an entrance fee to the spectacle and that the profits should go towards renovating the city.

AGNES: And every ticket should cost ten francs!

KIGNY: If a thousand people come every day, we should have an entire million in three months!

BOUVIER: "Our Pope is a great man", he says, but I say it was the heart and that's that!

DEJORIES: What Pope, Bouvier?

COL.VENOIS: I propose cages painted in red for the leaders!

KIGNY: Impossible, I'm afraid: there's no red paint left in the whole of Paris – they've used that up, too.

COL.VENOIS: Then we shall let a little blood and paint them with that!

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: And no one will ever guess how we arrived at that particular shade of cherry red a la Satories!

COL.VENOIS: It's only when you're there that can see how right Dumas was when he said that their women look like women when they are dead!

KIGNY: Half a million should be invested in constructing a better road to Satories.

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: And the other half in advertising and printing programmes.

AGNES: A real theatre.

DUMAS-FILS: The programme should be velvet to the touch, with golden letters on a red background. (drinks.)

COL.VENOIS: On red, of course.

AGNES: To keep as a sort of souvenir.

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: Will there be an entre'acte?

DUMAS-FILS: No need. There will be only one act: short and fierce.

ANNE-MARIE: He is a Russian after all... It's so hot in here...

COL.VENOIS: A name! We have to give the place a name!

KIGNY: That's it, Colonel, a name! Let's give it a name!

AGNES: "The Garden of Exotic Beings"! (general approval, except from Dumas-fils, M. Jules and Anne-Marie.)

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: "The Garden of Victory"! (approval....)

COL.VENOIS: "The Garden of Rare Plants"! (applause, approval.)

DUMAS-FILS: "The Garden of New zoology"! (applause, approval.)

LIEUTENANT-WITH-THE-WATCH: I know! "Park of the Paris Commune"! (general delight.) ..."Park of the Paris Commune" or the P.P.C for short!... (more delight.) ...P.P.C!... P.P.C!... P.P.C!...

(All the others, except Dumas-fils, M. Jules and Anne-Marie take up the chant in turn, tapping out the rhythm with their cutlery on the plates and stamping their feet.)

OTHERS: P.P.C!... P.P.C!... P.P.C!... P.P.C!...........

COL.VENOIS: These are great times, ladies and gentlemen! Times of recognizing good and evil! Let us call the other guests of the "Royale" to our table – let it be their day, too!

KIGNY: Bravo, colonel! (he turns to look round the restaurant, but sees only the couple in the corner, sitting very still.) ...Gentlemen!... Gentlemen, do you hear me?... (Pause. Perfect quiet, the entire crowd turns towards them.) ...I say, please join us, gentlemen! This great day should also be yours!... Do come, we have wine enough for all!... (pause.)

(The Impresario stands up slowly and turns round, to observe the situation. Anne-Marie stifles a shriek. Pause.)

IMPRESARIO: (calmly.) With pleasure. (He looks at them. Pause.) My comrade and I accept your generous invitation with particular pleasure. Jacques!

(The squat thickset little man, all in black, his shovel over his right shoulder, follows the Impresario. Kigny places chairs for them. The Impresario sits down, his right leg showing. Jacques Bregnack remains standing behind his comrade.)

ANNE-MARIE: (eyes wide.) Would you care for some wine, Sir?...

IMPRESARIO: (with a smile.) Of course, Mademoiselle, but not presently. Later... We must first thank you for your hospitality. (to Kigny.) We sit here very often, but so far only you have invited us to your table.

KIGNY: A mere trifle, Sir. We are having a little celebration, why should you not enjoy it with us?

IMPRESARIO: Naturally. It is wonderful to celebrate, is it not, Jacques? (but his comrade just stares mournfully ahead.) ...Ah, you know, this silence of his actually signifies approval. You do not know him yet, but when you do, I swear to you you will love him! Oh, how you will love him! And therefore, ladies and gentlemen, all you good people of Paris, I am obliged to introduce him! (he gets up and flaps his cape.) ...Allow me, therefore, to present my friend, my relative, as it were, a close relative, very close!...

ANNE-MARIE: ...A priest...

IMPRESARIO: Ah no, mademoiselle, you are wrong! (gently stroking her hair.) You are wrong, because he is not a priest, even if he is dressed in black. He is something else, something similar and at the same time so different, close and yet so far away, although their clothes proclaim them brothers in color. So you do not know, then?... (moving away.) His trade is the most secure, the most profitable, the finest, and still – people do not love him! And so few of them do this wonderful work!... And he does them good, oh, so much good! You do not know?... He is my brother in work, my soul's kinsman, my father by origin, my son by consequence!... (indicating him ceremoniously with both hands.) Jacques Bregnack – chief grave digger of the Twentieth arrondissement! (Pause. Silence.)

Just so, gentlemen, Jacques Bregnack – the grave digger!... Good, expert, the best! The most sought after at this moment! Service: fast, punctual and well worth it. Capacity: no graves prepared – two per hour; with prepared graves – six per hour. Record: one hundred and fourteen, reached on the twenty-eighth of May this year!... Exceptional predisposition! Arms: strong, short, good muscles. Palms: broad, fingers fleshy, inevitable traces of earth under the nails, removal of same impossible. Back: slightly bent as a result of adjustment to digging. Legs: short, firm. They lower the centre of gravity during work, thus improving the technique and reducing the consumption of energy per unit of excavation. Feet: flat, with long toes and flexible ankles for work on soft and hard soil, from city streets to ditches full of underground stones. Head: small, shaved, face with bushy eyebrows which prevent the penetration of dust into the eyes. The jaw speaks of the purity of the race. Pedigree: father twice champion of France, once European champion! (He looks at them. They continue to stare at him.)

If you please, surprises are always possible! (with a smile.) And now, it is my duty to introduce myself. (takes off his hat.) Poet, painter, artist in a word, but for you and only for you: Impresario!... My name is – Naymhervon! (bows.)

DUMAS-FILS: ...Naymhervon?... I've heard that somewhere...

IMPRESARIO NAYMHERVON: (cynically.) Possible, quite possible, Monsieur in the check suit, but at the same time quite impossible! For I am an only son and my father was the last to bear that name. Jacques Bregnack dealt with him on that same amazing twenty-eighth of May, when he himself lost the power of speech, after the firing from the double-loaded cannon!... Nobody ever heard him speak after that!... And those days were really so unusual! Everyone got their parts mixed up. Even my comrade here had to use fire instead of earth, there were so many customers! They smouldered for days, and the stink carried as far as the sea!... Look at him again, gentlemen: he has survived the plague! I hope you now realize in whose company you have the honour to be: with a man of rare race, resistant to everything! An indestructible man, of endless energy! (shouting.) Not all the earthquakes of Atlantis, nor all the fires of Rome, the eruptions of Vesuvius, no Circes, Cerberus, Cyclops, Medusas, nor all the Procrustes of this world can do him any harm! He is indestructible!... Alone and firm he stands, for thousands of years, unchanged, the same!... All earthly forces, all the storms of heaven, all the accumulated despair are powerless to pierce that armor, more durable than marble, harder than a diamond, mightier than the see and older than the sun! Wine! Give me wine!...

(He leaps suddenly on to the table grabbing the first bottle that comes to hand and drains it greedily in a few draughts, then suddenly collapses on to a chair and remains there, head hanging and arms dangling. Jacques Bregnack does not move. All gaze at them astounded.)

ANNE-MARIE: ...He's dying... (the Lieutenant draws her to him.)

DUMAS-FILS: ...That word, Naymhervon... I've heard it somewhere...

ANNE-MARIE: (breaking free of the Lieutenant's embrace.) ...Maybe his friend would like some wine, too?... Here, take some... Try it...

IMPRESARIO NAYMHERVON: (hissing, still in the same position.) ...No... He doesn't drink those things which trick you into a good mood... (grabbing another bottle, he drinks it down convulsively, spilling wine on himself, then collapses again.)

KIGNY: Shall we call a doctor?...

IMPRESARIO NAYMHERVON: (locked in an inward struggle.) ...There is no need... no need, gentlemen politicians, tradesmen and other artists... All will be well... Soon... I shall do my best... I shall do my best, I promise... Just another moment... A little patience... I will be quick... Just a little longer... It's coming... coming... (he throws his head back, eyes wide open.)

ANNE-MARIE: He's dying!... He's dying, do you hear?... Why do you stand there, do something! Don't let him die! Don't let him die! (shakes him.) It is me, me, Anne-Marie! (she kisses his hands; he does not move.) Caress me!... How gentle your hand is, it smells of that wonderful tar... that ancient coating for hooves... To breathe... To spread out, absorb all that beauty... Caress me, caress... It is hot... Are you thirsty?... Don't worry, I am here... The stable uncleaned for centuries, the thin black threads which write our names on silk... the nobbly knees of a stableman... When you are well shod you can go far, far... For the smith is a master of his craft, the material is free and the sample is the finest!... To ride... to the most wonderful of all forests... Caress me!... (shakes him.) Do you hear me? ... Wine, give him wine! Quick, he's dying, can't you see?... (she rushes off for a bottle of wine and returns quickly.) ...It's still not too late! Here I am! Drink, my dearest, drink!... (She tilts the bottle against his closed mouth. The wine spills over his neck. He starts and pushes her roughly on to the floor.) ...He's dying...

IMPRESARIO NAYMHERVON: (calmly and seriously.) ...Oh no, mademoiselle... It is not I who am dying... We are all dying... For we do not live, we only think we do... We are dying, torn apart by that endlessly short moment of beauty which appears like a flash in that black from which we came, too... (louder.) Believe me, gentlemen!... All the hundred and ten billion human lives which have passed up to now, and we are still at the Down of History!... And you have tried so far, exercising your movements and your thoughts, your eyes and hands, the very essence of your lives... But in vain! In vain!... We just die, helpless and alone, having only one possibility: to kneel and weep... To die from weeping, to weep from dying, unfulfilled, over and gone, living on in others!... (He gets up suddenly, fully recovered and shouts.)

Long live Death, we shout! Long live the Down of History!... But maybe setting ourselves on fire will be remembered longer!... Perhaps Jacques Bregnack will remain the sole attempt to drill through the impenetrable rock, a futile attempt to lift the sky off the earth in order to get out somehow – out of the melting pot!... For believe me, gentlemen, this is not even for blind old men!... We are a mere grain of the millennia, an accidental pebble rolling along, whose sound was absorbed even before it was made, laughter with a gunbarrel in the mouth, a song with a bullet in the temple!...

(jumps.) Here I am, here! Sleep is finished! Take me, I'm yours, all yours!... Before you is the greatest Impresario in the world, the winner over diviners and kings, the key of the kingdom of this world, the sickest of all sick children, the descendent of the destructive matter from which you die, gentlemen, oh, of which you die! And the least quantity of this substance is sufficient for the death of an entire generation! For the death of thousands, millions of people! Before you is the brother of the most terrible of all plagues, the creator of the leprous matter from which the heart stops and the brain withers! Oh, believe me, gentlemen! The centuries have sped by me!...

(Takes off his hat and undergoes an abrupt change of mood. With a smile.) ...And for a small, the least possible little contribution, you will experience an act which you could only have seen in your dreams, an experience you will talk about long after, the ultimate performance of a being of rare intellectual and spiritual power!... Come, do not be shy! Shame on those who are not here! Give your donations to my friend! (Jacques Bregnack finally moves, takes the Impresario's hat and walks around, taking money from the pockets of the terrified crowd.)

...That's it, Madam, thank you... Do not hesitate to help the famous Impresario Naymhervon! You will not often have the opportunity to see him again...

DEJORIES: It always ends in the same way... They ask for money...

IMPRESARIO NAYMHERVON: Ooo, don't blaspheme, Sir! Why, you are so well dressed! Just contribute a small coin, for you will receive much, more than you could ever have expected! (he moves among them.) ...You have a beautiful hat, Madame, please lend it to me for two minutes! (he takes her hat.) What a magnificent specimen of a watch, Lieutenant, surely a cherished souvenir! (takes his watch.) What a decoration, Deputy, as if you had removed a very star from the sky! (removing his decoration.) ...Oh, do not be alarmed, you are in good hands!...

(He walks away from them and in one movement, takes off his black cape, shouts and waves it around his head: one, two, three... a few more whirls and he throws it at the stunned crowd, which has drawn together into a frightened huddle. In a moment, all goes black. The silence lasts only a moment or two, and then, as at the beginning of the play, a fierce storm begins: thunder, lightning, wind... Only occasional flashes illuminate the huddled, terrified bunch. Smoke, strange nightmare shadows. Another mighty roll and out of the smoke ghosts of communards appear, each with a name plate around his neck: Delescluze, Varlin, Dombrowski, Vermorel, Rigault, Frankel, Malon, Jourde, Moreau, Wroblewski, Courbet, Ferre... The dreadful sight moves toward the trembling crowd who have now all crushed into one space, shaking and drooling, their mouths open. The ghosts dance around the group, glowing with spectral light, forming a ring around them. The dance gets faster and faster and the circles smaller and smaller... until all disappears in a mighty maelstrom, and only smoke and silence remain.)

+ + + +

(The waiting room of a Paris railway station. August 1871. Night. Three candles illuminate those present, throwing their shadows on to the walls. It is peaceful and quiet. Those present are: Dr.Byellogorshev, Dr.Petruss, Kigny, De Crick, who is wearing a white canvas hood over his head with two thin slits for his eyes; he is breathing noisily and with difficulty. Bibiana, torn and dishevelled, is leaning on his shoulder, holding on to his arm. They speak quietly and slowly. Time stands still.)

Dr.PETRUSS: Ones more, please accept my apologies, Doctor Byellogorshev. I really could not have supposed that this silly breakdown would occur on the gas main. (pause.)

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: (still in his thick fur coat and hat.) It doesn't matter. The candles are quite sufficient. (pause.)

KIGNY: (quietly and seriously.) Half past two... Late again... I thought we wouldn't be able to get on for the crowd and now... You are the only passengers from Paris...

Dr.PETRUSS: Yes... Strange that there's nobody.

KIGNY: It's as if they were all asleep... And it's still summer, the traveling season... (pause.)

Dr.PETRUSS: Maybe unrest has broken out in Lyons.

KIGNY: I don't think so. Here, the provinces follow the fashion of the capital... Are you all right, Doctor Byellogorshev? (In the pause which follows, De Crick's breathing can be heard.)

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: (he puts his hand on his right leg with a grimace of pain.) Yes... My leg aches me a little... Thank you for keeping us company. Although you are only losing your precious sleep... It is not long now till dawn.

Dr.PETRUSS: Nonsense, my dear colleague. Why you were our guest... We whall catch up on our sleep tomorrow. Everything is calm and peaceful here now... (pause.)

KIGNY: It's lucky you don't have too much luggage, Doctor Byellogorshev.

Dr.PETRUSS: Indeed, where is it?...

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: It is here... For De Crick.

KIGNY: (looking.) Yes. (pause.)

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: Thank you for the travel documents for these two. If it were not for you, who knows how I would have taken him with me... (his leg starts to hurt him again.)

Dr.PETRUSS: Does it still hurt?...

KIGNY: It was nothing, just a few seals stamped here and there... Although I still don't quite see what use he will be to you in Russia...

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: (quietly.) We will need him... We'll need him... (Pause: De Crick's breathing.)

KIGNY: (looking at his watch.) It might have been better if you had taken the morning one, Paris-Berlin-Petersburg direct.

Dr.PETRUSS: Yes.. It's a pity you were in such a hurry.

KIGNY: Although indeed, it will be easier for you now than for us. We still have so much work: trials, court cases, deportations... (pause.)

Dr.PETRUSS: Doctor Byellogorshev, don't you think you should have had a bigger hood made? I think he's having difficulty breathing.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: There is no need.

Dr.PETRUSS: But he's breathing so hard, can't you hear? (pause.)

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: It's not because of the cloth... I encountered a similar case once before... a long time ago... A monastic game.

Dr.PETRUSS: A monastic game?

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: Yes, Doctor Petruss: "taedium vitae".

Dr.PETRUSS: I beg your pardon?

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: "Taedium vitae" – a disgust with life. (pause.)

(A boy enters noisily, a newspaper vendor with a bag over his shoulder.)

BOY: (walking around the waiting room.) "Figaro", morning "Figaro"! This morning's first edition! Buy the "Figaro"!... "Witch doctors don't cure people any more!" Latest "Figaro"! Only five centimes! For every taste, for every pocket! The best daily in the whole of France! (comes up to Dr.Petruss and says calmly.) Take one, Sir, witch doctors no longer cure people.

Dr.PETRUSS: Out, dog!... (he chases him, but the boy disappears hastily.) ...What impertinence! Did you see that?

KIGNY: Calm yourself, Doctor Petruss. It's of no significance – a mere street urchin.

Dr.PETRUSS: The street brought them all up! Scum!... A whelp is a whelp from the time he's a pup!

KIGNY: (calmly.) Just a little brat, Doctor, that's all.

Dr.PETRUSS: (cooling fast.) Yes... Excuse me, gentlemen... I am a little tired.

KIGNY: All over and forgotten...

Dr.PETRUSS: What's the matter with you, Bibiana? (she does not move.) How is your migraine?... Why are you huddled up like that?... You should have dressed more warmly for the journey.

KIGNY: (looking upwards.) This has never happened before. It's as if we were in a cemetery, in some dreadful tomb.

(Dr.Byellogorshev grasps his leg and groans. Pause. De Crick's breathing can be heard. Dr.Petruss goes over to Dr.Byellogorshev.)

Dr.PETRUSS: You know, Doctor... Bibiana... That child has latched on to him as if... You understand what I am trying to say... This should be stopped... Our conscience as psysicians and as human beings will not permit us to... (Dr.Byellogorshev holds on to his leg.) ...What I mean is, this – er – "love" should be prohibited.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: All history is an anthology of forbidden love...

(A train whistle is heard.)

KIGNY: Was that the whistle?... I'm going to have a look. (exit.)

Dr.PETRUSS: Your train arrived, Doctor Byellogorshev. (Pause. Exit.)

(Dr.Byellogorshev continues to grasp his aching leg. He looks at Bibiana and De Crick. Nothing moves. Pause. Kigny comes back.)

KIGNY: It's here at last. Allow me, I'll take the bag.

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: That's for De Crick...

KIGNY: It's all the same, Sir. It's the least I can do for you. We've found you a completely empty carriage. It's strange there are no crowds. (he lifts the bag.) ...It's heavy... Papers... I wish you a pleasant journey, Doctor Byellogorshev. My greetings to your friends. (exit.)

(Dr.Byellogorshev, with a pronounced limp, completely crushed, follows on slowly. Then comes Bibiana leading De Crick by the arm, the latter's breathing heavier then ever. They go out. Pause. A train whistle is heard. Enter Kigny and Dr.Petruss.)

KIGNY: (calmly.) Almost daybreak.

Dr.PETRUSS: I don't feel like sleeping.

KIGNY: Nor do I.

Dr.PETRUSS: So they've gone... My old colleague has changed a great deal. I probably wouldn't have recognized him if we had met somewhere by accident.

KIGNY: Let us leave. It's getting cold.

Dr.PETRUSS: I have one more addition to that lecture of mine. I must finish it by Sunday...

KIGNY: Is there any news on the Reverend Father?

Dr.PETRUSS: Perhaps he took a trip somewhere. They have their own meetings and arrangements, you know...

KIGNY: (grasping his head.) ...I mustn't drink so much...

Dr.PETRUSS: Let us go... (they leave.)

(Pause. Enter Jacques Bregnack and Dr.Byellogorshev, limping. He throws his fur coat open, grasps his ailing leg and groans.)

Dr.BYELLOGORSHEV: ...Thank you for being here, my good old Jacques... We have to hold out until sunrise... Take the candles, we shall need them... (Jacques Bregnack goes over to the candles, extinguishes the first with his fingers and puts it under his coat. He then does the same with the second and moves on to the third....) Wait, leave that one be for the moment... I must change my clothes...

(He whines in pain. Pause. He straightens up with difficulty, takes off his fur hat, takes out his Impresario's hat and puts it on his head. From the pockets of the fur coat he pulls out his shoes and sits down to put them on. He whines, holding on to his sore leg.)

My good Jacques... And now we have seen to this... Don't worry... They will be waiting for them... She knows where to take him... They'll be waiting for them... And now we've finished this... (weeps.) And this,too... And who knows if we shall ever be able to rest... There's so much more to do...

To be a grain of the millennia... an accidentally rolled pebble whose sound is absorbed even before it was made... Laughter with a gunbarrel in the mouth, a poem with a bullet in the temple... And to be alone... always and forever... having no one before you nor behind you... walking along the road that squeezes you the more you give in to it... fighting with flowers against cannons and with a song against death... Oh, my good Jacques... (weeps.) ...How many of these would trade their lives for one like this, salted with tears... To die from weeping, to weep from dying, unfulfilled, past, living on in others...

(He sinks his head in his hands. Pause. Finally he calms down, wipes his eyes and nose, puts on his shoes and gets up slowly. Out of his fur coat he pulls the black cape and ties it around his neck. He walks towards the exit, limping painfully. He stops by the door, turns round and looks at Jacques.)

Imagine a huge river tumbling into an endless chasm – thus people die... Take that one, too... (he turns and leaves.)

(Jacques Bregnack stretches out his hand to the one remaining candle and puts it out. Darkness.)





The End

Branislav Pipovic

Born 1959 in Kumanovo, nowdays FYR of Macedonia. Main vocations: music, literature, playwriting. Thetarical plays: "Paris Commune" (directed by Paolo Maggieli, theater Atellier 212, Belgrade, 1988) and "The Pagans", 1993. Collection of short fiction "Winter suite" (Prosveta, Belgrade, 1998). Lives in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

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