The stage call-bells ring to warn the company that the play it about to begin
The Step-Daughter comes out
of the Manager's office along with the Child and the boy. As she comes out of the office, she
Nonsense! nonsense! Do it yourselves! I'm not going to mix myself up in this
(Turning to the
Child and coming quickly with her on to the stage): Come on, Rosetta, let's
The Boy follows them slowly, remaining a little behind and seeming perplexed.
The Step-Daughter (stops, bends over the Child and takes the latter's
face between her hands): My little darling!
You're frightened, aren't you? You don't know where we are, do you?
(Pretending to reply to a question of the Child): What is the stage?
It's a place, baby, you know, where people play at being serious, a place where
they act comedies. We've got to act a
comedy now, dead serious, you know; and you're in it also, little one.
(Embraces her, pressing the little head to her breast, and rocking the Child
for a moment): Oh darling, darling, what a horrid comedy you've got to play!
What a wretched part they've found for you!
A garden... a fountain... look... just suppose, kiddie, it's here. Where, you
say? Why, right here in the middle.
It's all pretence you know. That's the trouble, my pet: it's all make-belive
here. It's better to imagine it though,
because if they fix it up for you, it'll only be painted cardboard, painted
cardboard for the rockery, the water, the plants... Ah, but I think a baby like
this one would sooner have a make-believe fountain than a real one, so she could
play with it. What a joke it'll be for the others! But for you, alas! not quite
such a joke: you who are real, baby dear, and really play by a real fountain
that is big and green and beautiful, with ever so many bamboos around it that
are reflected in the water, and a whole lot of little ducks swimming about...
No, Rosetta, no, your mother doesn't bother about you on account of that wretch
of a son there. I'm in the devil of a
temper, and as for that lad...
boy by the arm to force him to take one of his hands out of his pockets):
What have you got there? What are you
(Pulls his hand out of his pocket, looks into it and catches the glint of a
revolver): Ah! where did you get this?
(The Boy, very pale in the face, looks at her, but does not answer):
Idiot! If I'd been in your place,
instead of killing myself, I'd have shot one of those two, or both of them:
father and son.
The Father enters from the office, all excited from his work.
The Manager follows him.
The Father: Come on, come on dear! Come here for a minute! We've arranged
everything. It's all fixed up.
The Manager (also excited): If you please, young lady, there are one
or two points to settle still. Will you
The Step-Daughter (following him towards the office): Ouff! what's
the good, if you've arranged everything.
The Father, Manager and Step-Daughter go back into the office again (off) for
a moment. At the same time, The Son followed by The Mother, comes out.
The Son (looking at the three entering office): Oh this is fine,
fine! And to think I can't even get away!
The Mother attempts to look at him, but lowers her eyes immediately when he
turns away from her. She then sits down. The Boy
and The Child approach her. She
casts a glance again at the Son, and speaks with humble tones, trying to draw
him into conversation.
The Mother: And isn't my punishment the worst of all?
(Then seeing from the Son's manner that he will not bother himself about her):
My God! Why are you so cruel? Isn't it
enough for one person to support all this torment? Must you then insist on
others seeing it also?
The Son (half to himself, meaning the Mother to hear, however): And
they want to put it on the stage! If there was at least a reason for it!
He thinks he has got at the meaning of it all. Just as if each one of us in every
circumstance of life couldn't find his own explanation of it!
(Pauses): He complains he was
discovered in a place where he ought not to have been seen, in a moment of his
life which ought to have remained hidden and kept out of the reach of that
convention which he has to maintain for other people. And what about my case? Haven't I had to reveal what no son
ought ever to reveal: how father and mother live and are man and wife for
themselves quite apart from that idea of father and mother which we give them? When this idea is revealed, our life
is then linked at one point only to that man and that woman; and as such it
should shame them, shouldn't it?
The Mother hides her face in her
hands. From the dressing-rooms and the
little door at the back of the stage the Actors and Stage Manager return,
followed by the Property Man, and the Prompter. At the same moment, The Manager
comes out of his office, accompanied by the Fatherand the Step-Daughter.
The Manager: Come on, come on,
ladies and gentlemen! Heh! you there, machinist!
Machinist. Yes sir?
The Manager: Fix up the white parlor with the floral decorations.
Two wings and a drop with a door will do. Hurry up!
The Machinist runs off at once to prepare the scene, and arranges it while
The Manager talks with the STAGE Manager, the Property Man, and the Prompter on
matters of detail.
The Manager (to Property Man): Just have a look, and see if there
isn't a sofa or divan in the wardrobe...
Property Man: There's the green one.
The Step-Daughter: No no! Green won't do.
It was yellow, ornamented with flowers - very large! arid most comfortable!
Property Man: There isn't one like that.
The Manager: It doesn't matter. Use the one we've got.
The Step-Daughter: Doesn't matter? it's most important!
The Manager: We're only trying it now. Please don't interfere.
(To Property Man): See if we've got a shop window - long and narrowish.
The Step-Daughter: And the little table! The little mahogany table for the
pale blue envelope!
Property Man (to Manager): There's that little gilt one.
The Manager: That'll do fine.
The Father: A mirror.
The Step-Daughter: And the screen! We must have a screen. Otherwise how
can I manage?
Property Man: That's all right, Miss. We've got any amount of them.
The Manager (to the Step-Daughter): We want some clothes pegs too,
The Step-Daughter: Yes, several, several!
The Manager: See how many we've got and bring them all.
Property Man: All right!
The Property Manhurries off to obey his orders.
While he is putting the things in their places, the Manager talks to the
Prompter and then with the Characters and the Actors.
The Manager (to Prompter): Take your seat. Look here: this is the
outline of the scenes, act by act.
(Hands him some sheets of paper): And now I'm going to ask you to do
something out of the ordinary.
Prompter: Take it down in shorthand?
The Manager (pleasantly
surprised): Exactly! Can you do shorthand?
Prompter: Yes, a little.
The Manager: Good!
to a Stage Hand): Go and get some paper from my office, plenty, as much as
you can find.
The Stage Hand goes off, and soon returns with a handful of paper which he
gives to the Prompter.
The Manager (to Prompter): You follow the scenes as we play them, and
try and get the points down, at any rate the most important ones.
(Then addressing the Actors): Clear the stage, ladies and gentlemen!
Come over here (Pointing to the left)
and listen attentively.
Leading Lady: But, excuse me, we...
The Manager (guessing her thought): Don't worry! You won't have to
Leading Man: What have we to do then?
The Manager: Nothing. For the moment you just watch and listen.
Everybody will get his part written out afterwards. At present we're going to
try the thing as best we can. They're
going to act now.
The Father (as if fallen from the clouds into the confusion of the
stage): We? What do you mean, if
you please, by a rehearsal?
The Manager: A rehearsal for them. (Points to the
The Father: But since we are the characters...
The Manager: All right: "characters" then, if you insist on calling
yourselves such. But here, my dear sir,
the characters don't act. Here the actors do the acting.
The characters are there, in the "book" (Pointing towards Prompter'S
box) - when there is a "book"!
The Father: I won't contradict you; but excuse me, the actors aren't the
characters. They want to be, they
pretend to be, don't they? Now if these
gentlemen here are fortunate enough to have us alive before them...
The Manager: Oh this is grand! You want to come before the public
The Father: As we are...
The Manager: I can assure you it would be a magnificent spectacle!
Leading Man: What's the use of us here anyway then?
The Manager: You're not going to pretend that you can act? It makes me
(The Actors laugh):
There, you see, they are laughing at the notion. But, by the way, I must cast
the parts. That won't be difficult.
They cast themselves.
(To the Second Lady Lead): You play the Mother.
(To the Father): We must find her a name.
The Father: Amalia, sir.
The Manager: But that is the real name of your wife. We don't want to call
her by her real name.
The Father: Why ever not, if it is her name?... Still, perhaps, if that lady
(Makes a slight motion of
the hand to indicate the
Second Lady Lead): I see this woman here (Means the Mother) as Amalia.
But do as you like.
(Gets more and more confused): I don't know what to say to you.
Already, I begin to hear my own words ring false, as if they had another
The Manager: Don't you worry about it. It'll be our job to find the right
tones. And as for her name, if you want
her Amalia, Amalia it shall be; and if you don't like it, we'll find another!
For the moment though, we'll call the characters in this way.
(To Juvenile Lead): You are the Son.
(To the Leading Lady): You naturally are the Step-Daughter...
The Step-Daughter (excitedly): What? what? I, that woman there? (Bursts
The Manager (angry): What is there to laugh at?
Leading Lady:(indignant): Nobody has ever dared to laugh at me.
I insist on being treated with respect; otherwise I go away.
The Step-Daughter: No, no, excuse me... I am not laughing at you...
The Manager (to Step-Daughter): You ought to feel honored to be
Leading Lady:(at once, contemptuously): "That woman there"...
The Step-Daughter: But I wasn't speaking of you, you know.
I was speaking of myself - whom I can't see at all in you! That is all. I don't
know... but... you... aren't in the least like me...
The Father: True. Here's the point. Look here, sir, our temperaments, our
The Manager: Temperament, soul, be hanged!
Do you suppose the spirit of the piece is in you? Nothing of the kind!
The Father: What, haven't we our own temperaments, our own souls?
The Manager: Not at all. Your soul or whatever you like to call it takes
shape here. The actors give body and
form to it, voice and gesture. And my
actors - I may tell you - have given expression to much more lofty material than
this little drama of yours, which may or may not hold up on the stage. But if it
does, the merit of it, believe me, will be due to my actors.
The Father: I don't dare contradict you, sir; but, believe me, it is a
terrible suffering for us who are as we are, with these bodies of ours, these
features to see...
The Manager (cutting him short and out of patience): Good heavens!
The make-up will remedy all that, man, the make-up...
The Father: Maybe. But the voice, the gestures...
The Manager: Now, look here! On the stage, you as yourself, cannot exist.
The actor here acts you, and that's an end to it!
The Father: I understand. And now I think I see why our author who
conceived us as we are, all alive, didn't want to put us on the stage after all.
I haven't the least desire to offend your actors. Far from it!
But when I think that I am to be acted by... I don't know by whom...
Leading Man (on his dignity):
By me, if you've no objection!
The Father (humbly, melliflously): Honored, I assure you, sir.
(Bows): Still, I must say that try as this gentleman may, with all his
good will and wonderful art, to absorb me into himself...
Leading Man: Oh chuck it! "Wonderful art!" Withdraw that, please!
The Father: The performance he will give, even doing his best with
make-up to look like me...
Leading Man: It will certainly be a bit difficult! (The
The Father: Exactly! It will be difficult to act me as I really am.
The effect will be rather - apart from the make-up - according as to how he
supposes I am, as he senses me - if he does sense me - and not as I inside of
myself feel myself to be. It seems to
me then that account should be taken of this by everyone whose duty it may
become to criticize us...
The Manager: Heavens! The man's starting to think about the critics now!
Let them say what they like. It's up to
us to put on the play if we can. (Looking around): Come on! come on! Is
the stage set?
(To the Actors and Characters): Stand back - stand back! Let me see, and
don't let's lose any more time!
(To the Step-Daughter): Is it all right as it is now?
The Step-Daughter: Well, to tell the truth, I don't recognize the scene.
The Manager: My dear lady, you can't possibly suppose that we can construct
that shop of Madame Pace piece by piece here?
(To the Father): You said a white room with flowered wall paper, didn't
The Father: Yes.
The Manager: Well then. We've got the furniture right more or less. Bring
that little table a bit further forward.
The Stage Hands obey the order.
The Manager (To Property Man): You go and find an envelope, if
possible, a pale blue one; and give it to that gentleman. (indicates Father)
Property Man: An ordinary envelope?
Manager and Father. Yes, yes, an ordinary envelope.
Property Man: At once, sir.
The Manager: Ready, everyone! First scene - the Young Lady.
(The Leading Lady comes forward): No, no, you must wait.
I meant her (indicating the Step-Daughter) You just watch -
The Step-Daughter (adding at once): How I shall play it, how I shall
(offended): I shall live it also, you may be sure, as soon as I begin!
The Manager (with his hands
to his head): Ladies and gentlemen, if you please! No more useless
discussions! Scene I: the young lady with Madame
(Looks around as if lost): And
this Madame Pace, where is she?
The Father: She isn't with us,
The Manager: Then what the devil's to be done?
The Father: But she is alive too.
The Manager: Yes, but where is she?
The Father: One minute. Let me speak!
(Turning to the Actresses): If these ladies would be so good as to give
me their hats for a moment...
The Actresses (half surprised, half laughing, in chorus): - What?
- Our hats?
- What does he say?
The Manager: What are you going to do with the ladies' hats?
The Actors laugh.
The Father: Oh nothing. I just
want to put them on these pegs for a moment. And one of the ladies will be so kind
as to take off her mantle...
The Actors: - Oh, what d'you
think of that?
- Only the mantle?
- He must be mad.
Some Actresses: - But why?
- Mantles as well?
The Father. To hang them up here for a moment. Please be so kind, will you?
The Actresses (taking off their hats, one or two also their cloaks, and
going to hang them on the racks):
- After all, why not?
- There you are!
- This is really funny.
- We've got to put them on
The Father: Exactly; just like that, on show.
The Manager: May we know why?
The Father: I'll tell you. Who knows if, by arranging the stage for her,
she does not come here herself, attracted by the very articles of her trade?
(Inviting the Actors to look towards the exit at back of stage): Look!
The door at the back of stage opens and Madame Pace enters and takes a few
steps forward. She is a fat, oldish woman with puffy oxygenated hair. She is rouged and powdered, dressed with a comical elegance in black silk.
Round her waist is a long silver chain from which hangs a pair of scissors.
The Step-Daughter runs over to her at once amid the stupor of the actors.
The Step-Daughter (turning towards her): There she is! There she is!
The Father (radiant): It's she! I said so, didn't I? There she is!
The Manager (conquering his surprise, and then becoming indignant):
What sort of a trick is this?
Leading Man (almost at the same time): What's going to happen
Juvenile Lead: Where does she come from?
L'Ingénue: They've been holding her in reserve, I guess.
Leading Lady: A vulgar trick!
The Father (dominating the protests): Excuse me, all of you!
Why are you so anxious to destroy in the name of a vulgar, commonplace sense of
truth, this reality which comes to birth attracted and formed by the magic of
the stage itself, which has indeed more right to live here than you, since it is
much truer than you - if you don't mind my saying so? Which is the actress among
you who is to play Madame Pace? Well,
here is Madame Pace herself. And you will allow, I fancy, that the actress who
acts her will be less true than this woman here, who is herself in person. You
see my daughter recognized her and went over to her at once.
Now you're going to witness the scene!
But the scene between the Step-Daughter and Madame Pace has already begun
despite the protest of the actors and the reply of The Father.
It has begun quietly, naturally, in a manner impossible for the stage. So when the actors, called to attention by The Father, turn round and see
Madame Pace, who has placed one hand under the Step-Daughter's chin to raise her
head, they observe her at first with great attention, but hearing her speak in
an unintelligible manner their interest begins to wane.
The Manager: Well? well?
Leading Man: What does she say?
Leading Lady: One can't hear a word.
Juvenile Lead: Louder! Louder please!
The Step-Daughter (leaving Madame Pace, who smiles a Sphinx-like
smile, and advancing towards the actors): Louder? Louder? What are you
talking about? These aren't matters which can be shouted at the top of one's
voice. If I have spoken them out loud,
it was to shame him and have my revenge.
(indicates Father): But for Madame it's quite a different matter.
The Manager: Indeed? indeed? But here, you know, people have got to make
themselves heard, my dear. Even we who
are on the stage can't hear you. What will it be when the public's in the
theatre? And anyway, you can very well
speak up now among yourselves, since we shan't be present to listen to you as we
are now. You've got to pretend to be alone in a room at the back of a shop where
no one can hear you.
The Step-Daughter coquettishly and with a touch of malice makes a sign of
disagreement two or three times with her finger.
The Manager: What do you mean by no?
The Step-Daughter (sotto voce, mysteriously): There's someone who
will hear us if she (indicating Madame Pace) speaks out loud.
The Manager (in consternation): What? Have you got someone else to
spring on us now?
The Actors burst out laughing.
The Father: No, no sir. She is alluding to me. I've got to be here - there behind
that door, in waiting; and Madame Pace knows it.
In fact, if you will allow me, I'll go
there at once, so I can be quite ready. (Moves away)
The Manager (stopping him): No! Wait! wait! We must observe the
conventions of the theatre. Before you are ready...
The Step-Daughter (interrupting him): No, get on with it at once!
I'm just dying, I tell you, to act this scene.
If he's ready, I'm more than ready.
The Manager (shouting): But, my dear young lady, first of all, we
must have the scene between you and this lady... (indicates Madame Pace)
Do you understand?...
The Step-Daughter: Good Heavens! She's been telling me what you know
already: that mamma's work is badly done again, that the material's ruined; and
that if I want her to continue to help us in our misery I must be patient...
Madame Pace (coming forward with an air of great importance): Yes
indeed, sir, I no wanta take advantage of her, I no wanta be hard...
Note. Madame Pace is supposed to talk in a jargon half Italian, half English.
The Manager (alarmed): What? What? She talks like that?
The Actors burst out laughing again.
The Step-Daughter (also laughing): Yes yes, that's the way she
talks, half English, half Italian! Most comical it is!
Madame Pace. Itta seem not verra polite gentlemen laugha atta me eef I trya
best speaka English.
The Manager: Diamine! Of course! Of course! Let her talk like that!
Just what we want. Talk just like that,
Madame, if you please! The effect will be certain.
Exactly what was wanted to put a little comic relief into the crudity of the
situation. Of course she talks like
The Step-Daughter: Magnificent? Certainly!
When certain suggestions are made to one in language of that kind, the effect is
certain, since it seems almost a joke.
One feels inclined to laugh when one hears her talk about an "old signore" "who
wanta talka nicely with you." Nice old
signore, eh, Madame?
Madame Pace. Not so old my dear, not so old! And even if you no lika him,
he won't make any scandal!
The Mother (jumping up amid the amazement and consternation of the
actors who had not been noticing her. They move to restrain her): You old
devil! You murderess!
The Step-Daughter (running over to calm her Mother): Calm yourself,
Mother, calm yourself! Please don't...
The Father (going to her also at the same time): Calm yourself! Don't
get excited! Sit down now!
The Mother: Well then, take that woman away out of my sight!
The Step-Daughter (to Manager): It is impossible for my mother to
The Father (to Manager): They can't be here together.
And for this reason, you see: that woman there was not with us when we came...
If they are on together, the whole thing is given away inevitably, as you see.
The Manager: It doesn't matter.
This is only a first rough sketch - just to get an idea of the various points of
the scene, even confusedly...
(Turning to the Mother and leading
her to her chair): Come along, my dear lady, sit down now, and let's get on
with the scene...
Meanwhile, the Step-Daughter,
coming forward again, turns to Madame Pace.
The Step-Daughter: Come on,
Madame, come on!
Madame Pace (offended): No, no, grazie. I not do anything witha your
The Step-Daughter: Nonsense! Introduce this "old signore" who wants to
talk nicely to me.
imperiously): We've got to do this scene one way or another, haven't we?
(To Madame Pace): You
Madame Pace. Ah yes! I go'way!
I go'way! Certainly!
The Step-Daughter (to the
Father): Now you make your entry. No, you needn't go over here. Come here.
Let's suppose you've already come in. Like that, yes! I'm here with bowed head,
modest like. Come on! Out with your
voice! Say "Good morning, Miss" in that peculiar tone, that special tone...
The Manager: Excuse me, but are you the Manager, or am I?
(To the Father, who looks undecided and perplexed): Get on with it, man!
Go down there to the back of the stage.
You needn't go off. Then come right forward here.
The Father does as he is told, looking troubled and perplexed at first. But as soon as he begins to move, the reality of the action affects him, and
he begins to smile and to be more natural.
The Actors watch intently.
The Manager (sotto voce, quickly to the Prompter in his box): Ready!
ready? Get ready to write now.
The Father (coming forward and speaking in a different tone): Good
The Step-Daughter (head bowed down slightly, with restrained disgust):
The Father (looks under her hat which partly covers her face.
Perceiving she is very young, he makes an exclamation, partly of surprise,
partly of fear lest he compromise himself in a risky adventure): Ah...
but... ah... I say... this is not the first time that you have come here, is it?
The Step-Daughter (modestly): No sir.
The Father: You've been here before, eh?
(Then seeing her nod agreement): More than once?
(Waits for her to answer, looks under her hat, smiles, and then says):
Well then, there's no need to be so shy, is there?
May I take off your hat?
The Step-Daughter (anticipating him and with veiled disgust): No
sir... I'll do it myself.
The Mother, who watches the progress of the scene with the Son and the other
two children who cling to her, is on thorns; and follows with varying
expressions of sorrow, indignation, anxiety, and horror the words and actions of
the other two. From time to time
she hides her face in her hands and sobs.
The Mother: Oh, my God, my God!
The Father (playing his part with a touch of gallantry): Give it to
me! I'll put it down.
from her hands): But a dear little head like yours ought to have a smarter
hat. Come and help me choose one from
the stock, won't you?
L'Ingénue (interrupting): I say... those are our hats you know.
The Manager (furious): Silence! silence! Don't try and be funny, if
you please... We're playing the scene
now I'd have you notice.
(To the Step-Daughter): Begin again, please!
The Step-Daughter (continuing): No thank you, sir.
The Father: Oh, come now. Don't talk like that. You must take it. I shall be
upset if you don't. There are some
lovely little hats here; and then - Madame will be pleased. She expects it,
anyway, you know.
The Step-Daughter: No, no! I couldn't wear it!
The Father: Oh, you're thinking about what they'd say at home if they saw
you come in with a new hat? My dear
girl, there's always a way round these little matters, you know.
The Step-Daughter (all keyed up): No, it's not that - I couldn't
wear it because I am... as you see... you might have noticed...
Showing her black dress.
The Father:... in mourning! Of course: I beg your pardon: I'm frightfully
The Step-Daughter (forcing herself to conquer her indignation and
nausea): Stop! Stop! It's I who must thank you.
There's no need for you to feel mortified or specially sorry. Don't think any
more of what I've said.
(Tries to smile): I must forget that I am dressed so...
The Manager (interrupting and turning to the Prompter): Stop a
minute! Stop! Don't write that down.
Cut out that last bit.
(Then to the
Father and Step-Daughter): Fine! it's going fine!
(To the Father only): And now you can go on as we arranged.
(To the Actors): Pretty good that scene, where he offers her the hat, eh?
The Step-Daughter: The best's coming now. Why can't we go on?
The Manager: Have a little patience!
(To the Actors): Of course, it must be treated rather lightly.
Leading Man: Still, with a bit of go in it!
Leading Lady: Of course! It's easy enough!
(To Leading Man): Shall you and I try it now?
Leading Man: Why, yes! I'll prepare my entrance.
Exit in order to make his entrance.
The Manager (to Leading Lady): See here! The scene between you and
Madame Pace is finished. I'll have it
written out properly after. You remain here... oh, where are you going?
Leading Lady: One minute. I want to put my hat on again. (Goes over to
hat-rack and puts her hat on her head):
The Manager: Good! You stay here with your head bowed down a bit.
The Step-Daughter: But she isn't dressed in black.
Leading Lady: But I shall be, and much more effectively than you.
The Manager (to Step-Daughter): Be quiet please, and watch! You'll
be able to learn something.
(Clapping his hands): Come on! come on! Entrance, please!
The door at rear of stage opens, and the Leading Man enters with the lively
manner of an old gallant. The
rendering of the scene by the Actors from the very first words is seen to be
quite a different thing, though it has not in any way the air of a parody. Naturally, the Step-Daughter and the Father, not being able to recognize
themselves in the Leading Lady and the Leading Man, who deliver their words in
different tones and with a different psychology, express, sometimes with smiles,
sometimes with gestures, the impression they receive.
Leading Man: Good afternoon, Miss...
The Father (at once unable to contain himself): No! no!
The Step-Daughter noticing the way
the Leading Man enters, bursts out laughing.
The Manager (furious): Silence! And you please just stop that
laughing. If we go on like this, we shall never finish.
The Step-Daughter: Forgive me, sir, but it's natural enough.
This lady (indicating Leading Lady) stands there still; but if she is
supposed to be me, I can assure you that if I heard anyone say "Good afternoon"
in that manner and in that tone, I should burst out laughing as I did.
The Father: Yes, yes, the manner, the tone...
The Manager: Nonsense! Rubbish!
Stand aside and let me see the action.
Leading Man: If I've got to represent an old fellow who's coming into a
house of an equivocal character...
The Manager: Don't listen to them, for Heaven's sake! Do it again! It
(Waiting for the Actors
to begin again): Well?
Leading Man: Good afternoon, Miss.
Leading Lady: Good afternoon.
Leading Man (imitating the gesture of the Fatherwhen he looked under
the hat, and then expressing quite clearly first satisfaction and then fear):
Ah, but... I say... this is not the first time that you have come here, is it?
The Manager: Good, but not quite so heavily. Like this.
(Acts himself): "This isn't the first time that you have come here"...
(To Leading Lady): And you say: "No, sir."
Leading Lady: No, sir.
Leading Man: You've been here before, more than once.
The Manager: No, no, stop! Let her nod "yes" first. "You've been here
The Leading Lady lifts up her head slightly and closes her eyes as though in
disgust. Then she inclines her head twice.
The Step-Daughter (unable to contain herself): Oh my God!
Puts a hand to her mouth to prevent herself from laughing.
The Manager (turning round): What's the matter?
The Step-Daughter: Nothing, nothing!
The Manager (to Leading Man): Go on!
Leading Man: You've been here before, eh? Well then, there's no need to be
so shy, is there? May I take off your hat?
The Leading Man says this last speech in such a tone and with such
gestures that the
Step-Daughter, though she has her hand to her mouth, cannot keep from
Leading Lady: (indignant): I'm not going to stop here to be made a
fool of by that woman there.
Leading Man: Neither am I! l'm through with it!
The Manager (shouting to Step-Daughter): Silence! for once and
all, I tell you!
The Step-Daughter: Forgive me! forgive me!
The Manager: You haven't any manners: that's what it is! You go too far.
The Father (endeavouring to intervene): Yes, it's true, but excuse
The Manager: Excuse what? It's absolutely disgusting.
The Father: Yes, sir, but believe me, it has such a strange effect
The Manager: Strange? Why strange? Where is it strange?
The Father: No, sir; I admire your actors - this gentleman here, this
lady; but they are certainly not us!
The Manager: I should hope not. Evidently they cannot be you, if they are
The Father: Just so: actors! Both of them act our parts exceedingly well.
But, believe me, it produces quite a different effect on us. They want to be us,
but they aren't, all the same.
The Manager: What is it then anyway?
The Father: Something that is... that is theirs - and no longer ours...
The Manager: But naturally, inevitably. I've told you so already.
The Father: Yes, I understand... I understand...
The Manager: Well then, let's have no more of it!
(Turning to the Actors): We'll have the rehearsals by ourselves,
afterwards, in the ordinary way. I
never could stand rehearsing with the author present. He's never satisfied!
(Turning to Fatherand Step-Daughter): Come on! Let's get on with it
again; and try and see if you can't keep from laughing.
The Step-Daughter: Oh, I shan't laugh any more. There's a nice little bit
coming for me now: you'll see.
The Manager: Well then: when she says "Don't think any more of what I've
said. I must forget, etc.," you (Addressing the Father): come in sharp
with "I understand, I understand"; and then you ask her...
The Step-Daughter (interrupting): What?
The Manager: Why she is in mourning.
The Step-Daughter: Not at all! See here: when I told him that it was
useless for me to be thinking about my wearing mourning, do you know how he
answered me? "Ah well," he said, "then let's take off this little frock."
The Manager: Great! Just what
we want, to make a riot in the theatre!
The Step-Daughter: But it's the truth!
The Manager: What does that matter? Acting is our business here. Truth up
to a certain point, but no further.
The Step-Daughter: What do you want to do then?
The Manager: You'll see, you'll see! Leave it to me.
The Step-Daughter: No sir! What you want to do is to piece together a
little romantic sentimental scene out of my disgust, out of all the reasons,
each more cruel and viler than the other, why I am what I am.
He is to ask me why I'm in mourning; and I'm to answer with tears in my eyes,
that it is just two months since papa died. No sir, no!
He's got to say to me; as he did say: "Well, let's take off this little dress at
once." And I; with my two months' mourning in my heart, went there behind that
screen, and with these fingers tingling with shame...
The Manager (running his hands through his hair): For Heaven's sake!
What are you saying?
The Step-Daughter (crying
out excitedly): The truth! The truth!
The Manager: It may be. I don't deny it, and I can understand all your
horror; but you must surely see that you can't have this kind of thing on the
stage. It won't go.
The Step-Daughter: Not possible, eh? Very well! I'm much obliged to you -
but I'm off!
The Manager: Now be reasonable! Don't lose your temper!
The Step-Daughter: I won't stop here! I won't! I can see you've fixed it
all up with him in your office. All
this talk about what is possible for the stage... I understand!
He wants to get at his complicated "cerebral drama," to have his famous remorses
and torments acted; but I want to act my part, my part!
The Manager (annoyed, shaking his shoulders): Ah! Just your part!
But, if you will pardon me, there are other parts than yours: His (indicating
the Father) and hers! (indicating the Mother)
On the stage you can have a character becoming too prominent and overshadowing
all the others. The thing is to pack
them all into a neat little framework and then act what is actable.
I am aware of the fact that everyone has his own interior life which he wants
very much to put forward. But the
difficulty lies in this fact: to set out just so much as is necessary for the
stage, taking the other characters into consideration, and at the same time hint
at the unrevealed interior life of each.
I am willing to admit, my dear young lady, that from your point of view it would
be a fine idea if each character could tell the public all his troubles in a
nice monologue or a regular one hour lecture.
(Good humoredly): You must restrain yourself, my dear, and in your own
interest, too; because this fury of yours, this exaggerated disgust you show,
may make a bad impression, you know.
After you have confessed to me that there were others before him at Madame
Pace's and more than once...
The Step-Daughter (bowing her head, impressed): It's true. But
remember those others mean him for me all the same.
The Manager (not understanding): What? The others? What do you
The Step-Daughter: For one who has gone wrong, sir, he who was
responsible for the first fault is responsible for all that follow. He is
responsible for my faults, was, even before I was born. Look at him, and see if
it isn't true!
The Manager: Well, well! And does the weight of so much responsibility
seem nothing to you? Give him a chance
to act it, to get it over!
The Step-Daughter: How? How can he act all his "noble remorses," all his
"moral torments," if you want to spare him the horror of being discovered one
day - after he had asked her what he did ask her - in the arms of her, that
already fallen woman, that child, sir, that child he used to watch come out of
She is moved.
The Mother at this point is overcome with emotion, and breaks out into a fit
All are touched.
A long pause.
The Step-Daughter (as soon as the Mothe rbecomes a little quieter, adds
resolutely and gravely): At present, we are unknown to the public. Tomorrow,
you will act us as you wish, treating us in your own manner.
But do you really want to see drama, do you want to see it flash out as it
The Manager: Of course! That's just what I do want, so I can use as much
of it as is possible.
The Step-Daughter: Well then, ask that Mother there to leave us.
The Mother (changing her low plaint into a sharp cry): No! No!
Don't permit it, sir, don't permit it!
The Manager: But it's only to try it.
The Mother: I can't bear it. I can't.
The Manager: But since it has happened already... I don't understand!
The Mother: It's taking place now. It happens all the time. My torment
isn't a pretended one. I live and feel
every minute of my torture. Those two children there - have you heard them
speak? They can't speak any more. They
cling to me to keep up my torment actual and vivid for me.
But for themselves, they do not exist, they aren't any more.
And she (indicating the Step-Daughter) has run away, she has left me, and
is lost. If I now see her here before
me, it is only to renew for me the tortures I have suffered for her too.
The Father: The eternal moment! She (indicating the Step-Daughter)
is here to catch me, fix me, and hold me eternally in the stocks for that one
fleeting and shameful moment of my life.
She can't give it up! And you sir, cannot either fairly spare me it.
The Manager: I never said I didn't want to act it.
It will form, as a matter of fact, the nucleus of the whoie first act right up
to her surprise. (indicates the Mother)
The Father: Just so! This is my punishment: the passion in all of us that
must culminate in her final cry.
The Step-Daughter: I can hear it still in my ears. It's driven me mad,
that cry! - You can put me on as you like; it doesn't matter. Fully dressed, if
you like - provided I have at least the arm bare; because, standing like this.
(She goes close to the Fathe rand leans her head on his breast): with my
head so, and my arms round his neck, I saw a vein pulsing in my arm here; and
then, as if that live vein had awakened disgust in me, I closed my eyes like
this, and let my head sink on his breast.
(Turning to the Mother): Cry out mother! Cry out!
(Buries head in Father's breast, and with her shoulders raised as if to
prevent her hearing the cry, adds in tones of intense emotion): Cry out as
you did then!
The Mother (coming forward to separate them): No! My daughter, my
(And after having pulled
her away from him): You brute! you brute! She is my daughter!
Don't you see she's my daughter?
The Manager (walking backwards towards footlights): Fine! fine!
Damned good! And then, of course - curtain!
The Father (going towards him excitedly): Yes, of course, because
that's the way it really happened.
The Manager (convinced and pleased): Oh, yes, no doubt about it.
Curtain here, curtain!
At the reiterated cry of The Manager, The Machinist lets the curtain down,
leaving The Manager and The Father in front of it before the footlights.
The Manager: The darned idiot! I said "curtain" to show the act should
end there, and he goes and lets it down in earnest.
(To the Father, while he pulls the curtain back to go on to the stage again):
Yes, yes, it.'s all right. Effect certain!
That's the right ending. I'll guarantee the first act at any rate.
When the curtain goes up again, it is seen that the stage hands have shifted
the bit of scenery used in the last part, and have rigged up instead at the back
of the stage a drop, with some trees, and one or two wings.
A portion of a fountain basin is visible. The Mother is sitting on the right with the two children by her side. The Son is on the same side, but away from the others. He seems bored, angry, and full of shame. The Father and the Step-Daughter are also seated towards the right front. On the other side (left) are the Actors, much in the positions they occupied
before the curtain was lowered. Only the Manager is standing up in the middle of the stage, with his hand
closed over his mouth in the act of meditating.
The Manager (shaking
his shoulders after a brief pause): Ah yes: the second act!
Leave it to me, leave it all to me as we arranged, and you'll see! It'll go
The Step-Daughter: Our entry into his house (indicates
Father): in spite of him... (indicates the
The Manager (out of patience): Leave it to me, I tell you!
The Step-Daughter: Do let it be clear, at any rate, that it is in spite of
The Mother (from her corner, shaking her head): For all the good
that's come of it...
The Step-Daughter (turning towards her quickly): It doesn't
matter. The more harm done us, the more
remorse for him.
The Manager (impatiently): I understand! Good Heavens! I
understand! I'm taking it into account.
The Mother (supplicatingly): I beg you, sir, to let it appear
quite plain that for conscience' sake I did try in every way...
The Step-Daughter (interrupting indignantly and continuing for the
Mother):... to pacify me, to dissuade me from spiting him.
(To Manager): Do as she wants: satisfy her, because it is true!
I enjoy it immensely.Any how, as you can see, the meeker she is, the more she
tries to get at his heart, the more distant and aloof does he become.
The Manager: Are we going to begin this second act or not?
The Step-Daughter: I'm not going to talk any more now- But I must tell you
this: you can't have the whole action take place in the garden, as you suggest.
It isn't possible!
The Manager:. Why not?
The Step-Daughter: Because he (indicates the Son again)
is always shut up alone in his room.
And then there's all the part of that poor dazed-looking boy there which takes
The Manager: Maybe! On the other hand, you will understand - we can't
change scenes three or four times in one act.
The Leading Man. They used to once.
The Manager: Yes, when the public was up to the level of that child
The Leading Lady. It makes the illusion easier.
The Father (irritated):
The illusion! For Heaven's sake, don't say illusion. Please don't use that word, which is
particularly painful for us..
The Manager (astounded): And why, if you please?
The Father: It's painful, cruel, really cruel; and you ought to
The Manager: But why? What ought we to say then?
The illusion, I tell you, sir, which we've got to create for the audience...
The Leading Man. With our acting.
The Manager: The illusion of a reality.
The Father: I understand; but you, perhaps, do not understand us. Forgive
me! You see... here for you and your
actors, the thing is only - and rightly so... a kind of game...
The Leading Lady (interrupting indignantly): A game! We're not
children here, if you please! We are serious actors.
The Father: I don't deny it. What I mean is the game, or play, of
your art, which has to give, as the gentleman says, a perfect illusion of
The Manager: Precisely - !
The Father: Now, if you consider the fact that we (indicates himself
and the other five Characters), as we are, have no other reality outside of
The Manager (astonished, looking at his Actors, who are also amazed):
And what does that mean?
The Father (after watching them for a moment with a wan smile): As
I say, sir, that which is a game of art for you is our sole reality.
He goes a step
or two nearer the Manager and adds: But not only for us, you know, by the
way. Just you think it over well. (Looks
him in the eyes): Can you tell me who you are?
The Manager (perplexed, half smiling): What? Who am I? I am myself.
The Father: And if I were to tell you that that isn't true, because you
The Manager: I should say you were mad - ! (The
The Father: You're quite right to laugh: because we are all making
(To Manager): And
you can therefore object that it's only for a joke that that gentleman there (indicates
the Leading Man), who naturally is himself, has to be me, who am on the
contrary myself - this thing you see here.
You see I've caught you in a trap! (The Actors laugh):
The Manager (annoyed): But we've had all this over once before. Do
you want to begin again?
The Father: No, no! That wasn't
my meaning! In fact, I should like to request you
to abandon this game of art (looking at the Leading Lady as if anticipating
her) which you are accustomed to play here with your actors, and to ask you
seriously once again: who are you?
The Manager (astonished and irritated, turning to his Actors): If
this fellow here hasn't got a nerve! A
man who calls himself a character comes and asks me who I am!
The Father (with dignity, but not offended): A character, sir, may
always ask a man who he is. Because a
character has really a life of his own, marked with his especial
characteristics; for which reason he is always "somebody." But a man - I'm not
speaking of you now - may very well be "nobody."
The Manager: Yes, but you are asking these questions of me, the boss, the
manager! Do you understand?
The Father: But only in order
to know if you, as you really are now, see yourself as you once were with all
the illusions that were yours then, with all the things both inside and outside
of you as they seemed to you - as they were then indeed for you. Well, sir, if you think of all those
illusions that mean nothing to you now, of all those things which don't even
seem to you to exist any more, while once they were for you, don't you feel that
- I won't say these boards - but the very earth under your feet is sinking away
from you when you reflect that in the same way this you as you feel it today -
all this present reality of yours - is fated to seem a mere illusion to you
The Manager (without having
understood much, but astonished by the specious argument): Well, well!
And where does all this take us anyway?
The Father: Oh, nowhere! It's only to show you that if we (indicating
the Characters): have no other reality beyond the illusion, you too must not
count overmuch on your reality as you feel it today, since, like that of
yesterday, it may prove an illusion for you tomorrow.
The Manager (determining to make fun of him): Ah. excellent! Then
you'll be saying next that you, with this comedy of yours that you brought here
to act, are truer and more real than I am.
The Father (with the greatest seriousness): But of course; without
The Manager: Ah, really?
The Father: Why, I thought
you'd understand that from the beginning.
The Manager: More real than I?
The Father: If your reality can
change from one day to another...
The Manager: But everyone knows it can change. It is always changing, the
same as anyone else's.
The Father (with a cry): No, sir, not ours! Look here! That is the
very difference! Our reality doesn't
change: it can't change! It can't be other than what it is, because it is
already fixed for ever. It's terrible.
Ours is an immutable reality which should make you shudder when you approach us
if you are really conscious of the fact that your reality is a mere transitory
and fleeting illusion, taking this form today and that tomorrow, according to
the conditions, according to your will, your sentiments, which in turn are
controlled by an intellect that shows them to you today in one manner and
tomorrow... who knows how?... Illusions
of reality represented in this fatuous comedy of life that never ends, nor can
ever end! Because if tomorrow it were
to end... then why, all would be finished.
The Manager: Oh for God's sake, will you at least finish with this
philosophizing and let us try and shape this comedy which you yourself have
brought me here? You argue and
philosophize a bit too much, my dear sir... You know you seem to me almost,
(Stops and looks him over
from head to foot): Ah, by the way, I think you introduced yourself to me as
a - what shall... we say - a "character," created by an author who did not
afterward care to make a drama of his own creations.
The Father: It is the simple truth, sir.
The Manager: Nonsense! Cut that out, please!
None of us believes it, because it isn't a thing, as you must recognize
yourself, which one can believe seriously.
If you want to know, it seems to me you are trying to imitate the manner of a
certain author whom I heartily detest - I warn you - although I have
unfortunately bound myself to put on one of his works.
As a matter of fact, I was just starting to rehearse it, when you arrived.
(Turning to the Actors): And this is what we've gained - out of the
frying-pan into the fire!
The Father: I don't know to what author you may be alluding, but believe
me I feel what I think; and I seem to be philosophizing only for those who do
not think what they feel, because they blind themselves with their own
sentiment. I know that for many people this self-blinding seems much more
"human"; but the contrary is really true.
For man never reasons so much and becomes so introspective as when he suffers;
since he is anxious to get at the cause of his sufferings, to learn who has
produced them, and whether it is just or unjust that he should have to bear
them. On the other hand, when he is happy, he takes his happiness as it comes
and doesn't analyze it, just as if happiness were his right.
The animals suffer without reasoning about their sufferings.
But take the case of a man who suffers and begins to reason about it.
Oh no! it can't be allowed! Let him suffer like an animal, and then - ah yet, he
The Manager: Look here! Look here! You're off again, philosophizing worse
The Father:. Because I suffer, sir! I'm not philosophizing: I'm crying aloud
the reason of my sufferings.
The Manager (makes brusque movement as he is taken with a new idea):
I should like to know if anyone has ever heard of a character who gets right out
of his part and perorates and speechifies as you do. Have you ever heard of a
case? I haven't.
The Father: You have never met such a case, sir, because authors, as a
rule, hide the labour of their creations.
When the characters are really alive before their author, the latter does
nothing but follow them in their action, in their words, in the situations which
they suggest to him; and he has to will them the way they will themselves - for
there's trouble if he doesn't. When a character is born, he acquires at once
such an independence, even of his own author, that he can be imagined by
everybody even in many other situations where the author never dreamed of
placing him; and so he acquires for himself a meaning which the author never
thought of giving him..
The Manager: Yes, yes, I know this.
The Father: What is there then to marvel at in us?
Imagine such a misfortune for characters as I have described to you: to be born
of an author's fantasy, and be denied life by him; and then answer me if these
characters left alive, and yet without life, weren't right in doing what they
did do and are doing now, after they have attempted everything in their power to
persuade him to give them their stage life. We've all tried him in turn, I, she
(indicating the Step-Daughter) and she. (indicating the Mother)
The Step-Daughter: It's true. I too have sought to tempt him, many, many
times, when he has been sitting at his writing table, feeling a bit melancholy,
at the twilight hour. He would sit in his armchair too lazy to switch on the
light, and all the shadows that crept into his room were full of our presence
coming to tempt him.
(As if she saw
herself still there by the writing table, and was annoyed by the presence of the
Actors): Oh, if you would only go away, go away and leave us alone - mother
here with that son of hers - I with that Child - that Boy there always alone -
and then I with him (just hints at the Father) - and then I alone,
alone... in those shadows!
sudden movement as if in the vision she has of herself illuminating those
shadows she wanted to seize hold of herself): Ah! my life! my life! Oh, what
scenes we proposed to him - and I tempted him more than any of the others!
The Father: Maybe. But perhaps
it was your fault that he refused to give us life: because you were too
insistent, too troublesome.
The Step-Daughter: . Nonsense! Didn't he make me so himself?
(Goes close to the Manager to tell him. as if in confidence): In my
opinion he abandoned us in a fit of depression, of disgust for the ordinary
theatre as the public knows it and likes it.
The Son: Exactly what it was, sir; exactly that!
The Father: Not at all! Don't believe it for a minute. Listen to me!
You'll be doing quite right to modify, as you suggest, the excesses both of this
girl here, who wants to do too much, and of this young man, who won't do
anything at all.
The Son: No, nothing!
The Manager: You too get over the mark occasionally, my dear sir, if I
may say so.
The Father: I? When? Where?
The Manager: Always! Continuously!
Then there's this insistence of yours in trying to make us believe you are a
character. And then too, you must
really argue and philosophize less, you know, much less.
The Father: Well, if you want to take away from me the possibility of
representing the torment of my spirit which never gives me peace, you will be
suppressing me: that's all. Every true man, sir, who is a little
above the level of the beasts and plants does not live for the sake of living,
without knowing how to live; but he lives so as to give a meaning and a value of
his own to life. For me this is everything.
I cannot give up this, just to represent a mere fact as she (indicating the
Step-Daughter) wants. It's all very
well for her, since her "vendetta" lies in the "fact." I'm not going to do it.
It destroys my raison d'être.
The Manager: Your
raison d'être! Oh, we're going ahead fine! First she starts off, and then
you jump in. At this rate, we'll never
The Father: Now, don't be offended! Have it your own way - provided,
however, that within the limits of the parts you assign us each one's sacrifice
isn't too great.
The Manager: You've got to
understand that you can't go on arguing at your own pleasure. Drama is action, sir, action and not
The Father: All right.
I'll do just as much arguing and philosophizing as everybody does when he is
considering his own torments.
The Manager: If the drama permits! But for Heaven's sake, man, let's get
along and come to the scene.
The Step-Daughter: It seems to me we've got too much action with our
coming into his house.
Father): You said, before, you couldn't change the scene every five minutes.
The Manager: Of course not. What
we've got to do is to combine and group up all the facts in one simultaneous,
close-knit, action. We can't have it as
you want, with your little brother wandering like a ghost from room to room,
hiding behind doors and meditating a project which - what did you say it did to
The Step-Daughter: Consumes him, sir, wastes him away!
The Manager: Well, it may be. And then at the same time, you want the
little girl there to be playing in the garden... one in the house, and the other
in the garden: isn't that it?
The Step-Daughter: Yes, in the
sun, in the sun! That is my only pleasure: to see her happy and careless in the
garden after the misery and squalor of the horrible room where we all four slept
together. And I had to sleep with her - I, do
you understand? - with my vile contaminated body next to hers; with her folding
me fast in her loving little arms. In the garden, whenever she spied me, she
would run to take me by the hand. She didn't care for the big flowers,
only the little ones; and she loved to show me them and pet me.
The Manager: Well then, we'll have it in the garden.
Everything shall happen in the garden; and we'll group the other scenes there.
(Calls a Stage Hand): Here, a backcloth with trees and something to do as
a fountain basin.
(Turning round to
look at the back of the stage): Ah, you've fixed it up. Good!
(To Step-Daughter): This is just to give an idea, of course.
The Boy, instead of hiding behind the doors, will wander about here in the
garden, hiding behind the trees... But
it's going to be rather difficult to find a child to do that scene with you
where she shows you the flowers.
to the Boy): Come forward a little, will you please? Let's try it now! Come
along! come along!
(Then seeing him come shyly forward, full of fear and looking lost): It's
a nice business, this lad here. What's
the matter with him? We'll have to give him a word or two to say.
(Goes close to him, puts a hand on his shoulders, and leads him behind one of
the trees): Come on! come on! Let me see you a little! Hide here... yes,
like that. Try and show your head just a little as if you were looking for
(Goes back to observe the
effect, when the boy at once goes through the action): Excellent!
(Turning to Step-Daughter):
Suppose the little girl there were to surprise him as he looks round, and run
over to him, so we could give him a word or two to say?
The Step-Daughter: It's useless to hope he will speak, as long as that
fellow there is here...
the Son): You must send him away first.
The Son (jumping up): Delighted! Delighted! I don't ask for anything
Begins to move away.
The Manager (at once stopping him): No! No! Where are you going? Wait
The Mother gets up alarmed and terrified at the thought that he is really
about to go away. Instinctively
she lifts her arms to prevent him, without, however, leaving her seat.
The Son (to Manager who stops him): I've got nothing to do with this
affair. Let me go please! Let me go!
The Manager: What do you mean by saying you've got nothing to do with this?
The Step-Daughter (calmly, with irony): Don't bother to stop him: he
won't go away.
The Father: He has to act the terrible scene in the garden with his
The Son (suddenly resolute and with dignity): I shall act nothing
at all. I've said so from the very beginning.
(To the Manager): Let me go!
The Step-Daughter (going over to the
Manager): Allow me?
(Puts down the
Manager's arm which is restraining the Son): Well, go away then, if you want
(The Son looks at her with
contempt and hatred. She laughs and says): You see, he can't, he can't go
away! He is obliged to stay here,
indissolubly bound to the chain. If I,
who fly off when that happens which has to happen, because I can't bear him - if
I am still here and support that face and expression of his, you can well
imagine that he is unable to move. He has to remain here, has to stop with that
nice father of his, and that mother whose only son he is.
(Turning to the Mother): Come on, mother, come along!
(Turning to Manager to indicate her): You see, she was getting up to keep
(To the Mother, beckoning
her with her hand): Come on! come on!
(Then to Manager): You can imagine how little she wants to show these
actors of yours what she really feels; but so eager is she to get near him
that... There, you see? She is willing to act her part.
And in fact, the Mother approaches him; and as soon as the Step-Daughter has
finished speaking, opens her arms to signify that she consents.
The Son (suddenly): No! no! If I can't go away, then I'll stop here;
but I repeat: I act nothing!
The Father (to Manager excitedly): You can force him, sir.
The Son: Nobody can force me.
The Father: I can.
The Step-Daughter: Wait a minute, wait... First of all, the baby has to
go to the fountain...
Runs to take
the Child and leads her to the fountain.
The Manager: Yes, yes of course; that's it. Both at the same time.
The second Lady Lead and the Juvenile Lead at this point separate themselves
from the group of Actors.
watches the Motherattentively; the other moves about studying the movements and
manner of the Son whom he will have to act.
The Son (to Manager): What do you mean by both at the same time? It
isn't right. There was no scene between
me and her. (indicates the Mother) Ask her how it was!
The Mother: Yes, it's true. I had come into his room...
The Son: Into my room, do you understand? Nothing to do with the garden.
The Manager: It doesn't matter. Haven't I told you we've got to group the
The Son (observing the
studying him): What do you want?
The Juvenile Lead: Nothing! I was just looking at you.
The Son (turning towards the second Lady Lead): Ah! she's at it
too: to re-act her part! (indicating the Mother)
The Manager: Exactly! And it seems to me that you ought to be grateful to
them for their interest.
The Son: Yes, but haven't you yet perceived that it isn't possible to live
in front of a mirror which not only freezes us with the image of ourselves, but
throws our likeness back at us with a horrible grimace?
The Father: That is true, absolutely true. You must see that.
The Manager (to second Lady Lead and Juvenile Lead): He's right! Move
away from them!
The Son: Do as you like. I'm out of this!
The Manager: Be quiet, you, will you? And let me hear your mother!
(To Mother): You were saying you had entered...
The Mother: Yes, into his room, because I couldn't stand it any longer.
I went to empty my heart to him of all the anguish that tortures me... But as
soon as he saw me come in...
The Son: Nothing happened! There was no scene. I went away, that's all! I
don't care for scenes!
The Mother: It's true, true. That's how it was.
The Manager: Well now, we've got to do this bit between you and him. It's
The Mother: I'm ready... when you are ready.
If you could only find a chance for me to tell him what I feel here in my heart.
The Father (going to Son in
a great rage): You'll do this for your mother, for your mother, do you
The Son (quite determined):
I do nothing!
The Father (taking hold of him and shaking him): For God's sake,
do as I tell you! Don't you hear your
mother asking you for a favor? Haven't you even got the guts to be a son?
The Son (taking hold of the Father): No! No! And for God's sake
stop it, or else...
General agitation. The
Mother, frightened, tries to separate them.
The Mother (pleading): Please! please!
The Father (not leaving hold of the Son): You've got to obey, do you
The Son (almost crying from rage): What does it mean, this madness
Have you no decency, that you insist on showing everyone our shame? I won't do
it! I won't! And I stand for the will
of our author in this. He didn't want to put us on the stage, after all!
The Manager: Man alive! You came here . .
The Son (indicating Father): He did! I didn't!
The Manager: Arent't you here now?
The Son: It was his wish, and he dragged us along with him.
He's told you not only the things that did happen, but also things that have
never happened at all.
The Manager: Well, tell me then what did happen. You went out of your
room without saying a word?
The Son: Without a word, so as to avoid a scene!
The Manager: And then what did you do?
The Son: Nothing... walking in the garden... (Hesitates for a moment
with expression of gloom):
The Manager (coming closer to him, interested by his extraordinary
reserve): Well, well... walking in the garden...
The Son (exasperated): Why on earth do you insist? It's horrible!
The Mother trembles, sobs, and looks towards the fountain.
The Manager (slowly observing the glance and turning towards the Son
with increasing apprehension): The baby?
The Son: There in the fountain...
The Father (pointing with tender pity to the Mother): She was
following him at the moment...
The Manager (to the Son anxiously): And then you...
The Son: I ran over to her; I was jumping in to drag her out when I saw
something that froze my blood... the boy standing stock still, with eyes like a
madman's, watching his little drowned sister, in the fountain!
The Step-Daughter bends over the
fountain to hide the Child. She sobs.
The Son: Then...
A revolver shot rings out behind
the trees where the boy is hidden.
The Mother (with a cry of terror runs over in that direction together
with several of the Actors amid general confusion): My son! My son!
(Then amid the cries and exclamations one hears her voice): Help! Help!
The Manager (pushing the Actors aside while They lift up the boy and
carry him off): Is he really wounded?
Some Actors. He's dead! dead!
Other Actors: No, no, it's only make believe, it's only pretence!
The Father (with a terrible cry): Pretence? Reality, sir, reality!
The Manager: Pretence? Reality? To hell with it all! Never in my life has
such a thing happened to me. I 've lost
a whole day over these people, a whole day!