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Pelleas and Melisande by Maurice Maeterlinck

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ABLAMORE.

Come; Palomides is covered with dust, and he must be weary.... We have
too many things to say to each other to talk here.... We will say them
to-morrow.... They claim the morn is wiser than the evening.... I see
the palace gates are open and seem to wait for us....

ALLADINE.

I cannot help being uneasy when I go back into the palace.... It is so
big, and I am so little, and I get lost there still.... And then
all those windows on the sea.... You cannot count them.... And the
corridors that turn without reason, and others that never turn, but
lose themselves between the walls.... And the halls I dare not go
into....

PALOMIDES.

We will go in everywhere....

ALLADINE.

You would think I was not made to dwell there,--that it was not built
for me.... Once I lost my way there.... I pushed open thirty doors,
before I found the light of day again.... And I could not go out;
the last door opened on a pool.... And the vaults that are cold all
summer; and the galleries that bend back on themselves endlessly....
There are stairways that lead nowhere and terraces from which nothing
can be seen....

ABLAMORE.

You who were not wont to talk, how you talk to-night!...
[_Exeunt._

ACT SECOND.

SCENE I.--ALLADINE _discovered, her forehead against one of the
windows that open on the park. Enter_ ABLAMORE.

ABLAMORE.

Alladine....

ALLADINE (_turning abruptly_).

What is it?

ABLAMORE.

Oh, how pale you are!... Are you ill?

ALLADINE.

No.

ABLAMORE.

What is it in the park?--Were you looking at the avenue of fountains
that unfolds before your windows?--They are wonderful and weariless.
They were raised there one by one, at the death of each of my
daughters.... At night I hear them singing in the garden.... They
bring to mind the lives they represent, and I can tell their voices
apart....

ALLADINE.

I know.

ABLAMORE.

You must pardon me; I sometimes repeat the same things and my memory
is less trust-worthy.... It is not age; I am not an old man yet, thank
God! but kings have a thousand cares. Palomides has been telling me
his adventures....

ALLADINE.

Ah!

ABLAMORE.

He has not done what he would; young people have no will any more.--He
astonishes me. I had chosen him among a thousand for my daughter. He
should have had a soul as deep as hers.--He has done nothing which may
not be excusable, but I had hoped more.... What do you say of him?

ALLADINE.

Who?

ABLAMORE.

Palomides?

ALLADINE.

I have only seen him one evening....

ABLAMORE.

He astonishes me.--Everything has succeeded with him till now. He
would undertake a thing and accomplish it without a word.--He would
get out of danger without an effort, while others could not open a
door without finding death behind it.--He was of those whom events
seem to await on their knees. But a little while ago something
snapped. You would say he has no longer the same star, and every
step he takes carries him further from himself.--I don't know what it
is.--He does not seem to be at all aware, but others can remark it....
Let us speak of something else: look! the night comes; I see it rise
along the walls. Would you like to go together to the wood of Astolat,
as we do other evenings?

ALLADINE.

I am not going out to-night.

ABLAMORE.

We will stay here, since you prefer it so. Yet the air is sweet and
the evening very fair. [ALLADINE _starts without his noticing it._] I
have had flowers set along the hedges, and I should like to show them
to you....

ALLADINE.

No, not to-night.... If you wish me to.... I like to go there with you
... the air is pure and the trees ... but not to-night.... [_Cowers,
weeping, against the old man's breast._] I do not feel quite well....

ABLAMORE.

What is the matter? You are going to fall.... I will call....

ALLADINE.

No, no.... It is nothing.... It is over....

ABLAMORE.

Sit down. Wait....

[He runs to the folding-doors at the back and opens both.
Palomides is seen, seated on a bench. He has not had time to
turn away his eyes. Ablamore looks fixedly at him, without a
word, then re-enters the room. Palomides rises and retreats
in the corridor, stifling the sound of his footsteps. The pet
lamb leaves the room, unperceived.]

SCENE II.--_A drawbridge over the moats of the palace_. PALOMIDES
_and_ ALLADINE, _with her pet lamb, appear at the two ends of the
bridge._ KING ABLAMORE _leans out from a window of the tower_.

PALOMIDES.

Were you going out, Alladine?--I was coming in. I am coming back from
the chase.--It rained.

ALLADINE.

I have never passed this bridge.

PALOMIDES.

It leads to the forest. It is seldom passed. People had rather go a
long way around. I think they are afraid because the moats are deeper
at this place than elsewhere, and the black water that comes down from
the mountains boils horribly between the walls before it goes hurling
itself into the sea. It roars there always; but the quays are so high
you hardly notice it. It is the most deserted wing of the palace. But
on this side the forest is more beautiful, more ancient, and greater
than any you have seen. It is full of unusual trees and flowers that
have sprung up of themselves,--Will you come?

ALLADINE.

I do not know.... I am afraid of the roaring water.

PALOMIDES.

Come, come; it roars without reason. Look at your lamb; he looks at me
as if he wished to come.... Come, come....

ALLADINE.

Don't call him.... He will get away.

PALOMIDES.

Come, come.

[The lamb escapes from Alladine's hands, and comes leaping toward
Palomides, but slips on the inclined plane of the drawbridge and
goes rolling into the moat.]

ALLADINE.

What has he done?--Where is he?

PALOMIDES.

He slipped. He is straggling in the heart of the eddy. Do not look at
him; there is nothing to be done....

ALLADINE.

You are going to save him?

PALOMIDES.

Save him? But look! he is already in the tunnel. One moment more,
and he will be under the vaults; and God himself will never see him
more....

ALLADINE.

Go away! Go away!

PALOMIDES.

What is the matter?

ALLADINE.

Go away!--I do not want to see you any more!...

[Ablamore enters precipitately, seizes Alladine, and draws her
away brusquely without speaking.]

SCENE III.--_A room in the palace_. ABLAMORE _and_ ALLADINE
_discovered_.

ABLAMORE.

You see, Alladine, my hands do not tremble, my heart beats like a
sleeping child's, and my voice has not once been stirred with wrath.
I bear no ill-will to Palomides, although what he has done might seem
unpardonable. And as for thee, who could bear thee ill-will? You obey
laws you do not know, and you could not act otherwise, I will not
speak to you of what took place the other day along the palace moats,
nor of all the unforeseen death of the lamb might have revealed to me,
had I believed in omens for an instant. But last night I surprised
the kiss you gave each other under the windows of Astolaine. At that
moment I was with her in her room. She has a soul that fears so much
to trouble, with a tear or with a simple movement of her eyelids, the
happiness of those about her, that I shall never know if she, as I,
surprised that wretched kiss. But I know what she has the power to
suffer. I shall not ask you anything you cannot avow to me, but I
would know if you had any secret design in following Palomides under
the window where you must have seen us. Answer me without fear; you
know beforehand I will pardon everything.

ALLADINE.

I did not kiss him.

ABLAMORE.

What? You did not kiss Palomides, and Palomides did not kiss you?

ALLADINE.

No.

ABLAMORE.

Ah!... Listen: I came here to forgive you everything.... I thought
you had acted as we almost all act, without aught of our soul
intervening.... But now I will know all that passed.... You love
Palomides, and you have kissed him under my eyes....

ALLADINE.

No.

ABLAMORE.

Don't go away. I am only an old man. Do not flee....

ALLADINE.

I am not fleeing.

ABLAMORE.

Ah! ah! You do not flee, because you think my old hands harmless! They
have yet the strength to tear a secret out in spite of all [_He seizes
her arms_.] And they could wrestle with all those you prefer.... [_He
twists her arms behind her head_.] Ah! you will not speak!... There
will yet come a time when all your soul shall spirt out like a clear
spring, for woe....

ALLADINE.

No, no!

ABLAMORE.

Again,... we are not at the end, the journey is very long--and naked
truth is hid among the rocks.... Will she come forth?... I see her
gestures in your eyes already, and her cool breath will lave my visage
soon.... Ah!... Alladine! Alladine!...[_He releases her suddenly_.]
I heard your bones cry out like little children.... I have not hurt
you?... Do not stay thus, upon your knees before me,... It is I who
go down on my knees. [_He does as he says_] I am a wretch.... You must
have pity.... It is not for myself alone I pray.... I have only one
poor daughter.... All the rest are dead.... I had seven of them
about me.... They were fair and full of happiness; and I saw them no
more.... The only one left to me is going to die, too.... She did
not love life.... But one day she encountered something she no longer
looked for, and I saw she had lost the desire to die.... I do not ask
a thing impossible.... [ALLADINE _weeps and makes no answer_.]

SCENE IV.--_The apartment of_ ASTOLAINE. ASTOLAINE _and_ PALOMIDES
_discovered_.

PALOMIDES.

Astolaine, when I met you several months ago by chance, it seemed
to me that I had found at last what I had sought for during many
years.... Till you, I did not know all that the ever tenderer goodness
and complete simplicity of a high soul might be. I was so deeply
stirred by it that it seemed to me the first time I had met a human
being. You would have said that I had lived till then in a closed
chamber which you opened for me; and all at once I knew what must be
the soul of other men and what mine might become.... Since then,
I have known you further. I have seen you act, and others too have
taught me all that you have been.

There have been evenings when I quitted you without a word, and went
to weep for wonder in a corner of the palace, because you had simply
raised your eyes, made a little unconscious gesture, or smiled for no
apparent cause, yet at the moment when all the souls about you asked
it and would be satisfied. There is but you who know these moments,
because you are, it seems, the soul of all, and I do not believe those
who have not drawn near you can know what true life is. To-day I come
to say all this to you, because I feel that I shall never be he whom
I hoped once to become.... A chance has come--or haply I myself have
come; for you can never tell if you have made a movement of yourself,
or if it be chance that has met with you--a chance has come, which has
opened my eyes, just as we were about to make each other unhappy; and
I have recognized there must be something more incomprehensible than
the beauty of the most beautiful soul or the most beautiful face; and
mightier, too, since I must needs obey it.... I do not know if you
have understood me. If you understand, have pity on me.... I have said
to myself all that could be said.... I know what I shall lose, for I
know her soul is a child's soul, a poor strengthless child's, beside
yours, and yet I cannot resist it....

ASTOLAINE.

Do not weep.... I know too that one does not do what one would do ...
nor was I ignorant that you would come.... There must indeed be
laws mightier than those of our souls, of which we always speak....
[_Kissing him abruptly_].--But I love thee the more, my poor
Palomides.

PALOMIDES.

I love thee, too ... more than her I love.... Thou weepest, as I do?

ASTOLAINE.

They are little tears.... Do not be sad for them.... I weep so,
because I am woman, but they say our tears are not painful.... You see
I can dry them already.... I knew well what it was.... I waited for
the wakening.... It has come, and I can breathe with less disquietude,
being no longer happy.... There!... We must see clearly now for you
and her. For I believe my father already has suspicions. [_Exeunt_.

ACT THIRD.

SCENE I.--_A room in the palace_. ABLAMORE _discovered_. ASTOLAINE
_stands on the step of a half-open door at the back of the hall_.

ASTOLAINE.

Father, I have come because a voice that I no longer can resist,
commands me to. I told you all that happened in my soul when I met
Palomides. He was not like other men.... To-day I come to ask your
help ... for I do not know what should be said to him.... I have
become aware I cannot love him.... He has remained the same, and
I alone have changed, or have not understood.... And since it is
impossible for me to love, as I have dreamed of love, him I had chosen
among all, it must be that my heart is shut to these things.... I know
it to-day.... I shall look no more toward love; and you will see me
living on about you without sadness and without unrest.... I feel that
I am going to be happy....

ABLAMORE.

Come hither, Astolaine. It is not so that you were wont to speak in
the old days to your father. You wait there, on the threshold of a
door hardly ajar, as if you were ready to flee; and with your hand
upon the key, as if you would close from me forever the secret of your
heart. You know quite well I have not understood what you have just
said, and that words have no sense when souls are not within reach
of each other. Draw nearer still, and speak no more to me, [ASTOLAINE
_approaches slowly_.] There is a moment when souls touch each
other, and know all without need that one should move the lips. Draw
nearer.... They do not reach each other yet, and their radiance is
so slight about us!... [ASTOLAINE _stops_.] Thou darest not?--Thou
knowest too how far one can go?--It is I who must.... [_He approaches
Astolaine with slow step, then stops and looks long at her_.] I see
thee, Astolaine....

ASTOLAINE.

Father!... [_She sobs as she kisses the old man_.]

ABLAMORE.

You see well it was useless....

SCENE II.--_A chamber in the palace_.

_Enter_ ALLADINE _and_ PALOMIDES.

PALOMIDES.

All will be ready to-morrow. We cannot wait longer. He prowls like
a madman through the corridors of the palace; I met him even now.
He looked at me without a word. I passed; and as I turned, I saw him
slyly laugh, shaking his keys. When he perceived that I was looking
at him, he smiled at me, making signs of friendship. He must have
some secret project, and we are in the hands of a master whose reason
begins to totter.... To-morrow we shall be far away.... Yonder there
are wonderful countries that resemble thine.... Astolaine has already
provided for our flight and for my sisters'....

ALLADINE.

What has she said?

PALOMIDES.

Nothing, nothing.... You will see everything about my father's
castle,--after days of sea and days of forests--you will see lakes and
mountains ... not like these, under a sky that looks like the vault of
a cave, with black trees that the storms destroy ... but a sky beneath
which there is nothing more to fear,--forests that are always awake,
flowers that do not close....

ALLADINE.

She wept?

PALOMIDES.

What are you asking?... There is something there of which we have no
right to speak, do you understand?... There is a life there that does
not belong to our poor life, and which love has no right to approach
except in silence.... We are here, like two beggars in rags, when I
think of it.... Go! go!... I could tell you things....

ALLADINE.

Palomides!... What is the matter?

PALOMIDES.

Go! go!... I have seen tears that came from further than the eyes....
There is something else.... It may be, nevertheless, that we are right
... but how I regret being right so, my God!... Go!... I will tell you
to-morrow ... to-morrow ... to-morrow....
[_Exeunt severally_.

SCENE III.--_A corridor before the apartment of_ ALLADINE. _Enter_
ASTOLAINE _and the_ SISTERS OF PALOMIDES.

ASTOLAINE.

The horses wait in the forest, but Palomides will not flee; and yet
your lives and his are in danger. I do not know my poor father any
longer. He has a fixed idea that troubles his reason. This is the
third day I have followed him step by step, hiding myself behind the
pillars and the walls, for he suffers no one to companion him. To-day,
as the other days, and from the first gleams of the morning he has
gone wandering through the corridors and halls of the palace, and
along the moats and ramparts, shaking the great golden keys he has
had made and singing at the top of his voice the strange song whose
refrain, _Go follow what your eyes have seen_, has perhaps pierced
even to the depths of your chambers. I have concealed from you till
now all that has come to pass, because such things must not be spoken
of without reason. He must have shut up Alladine in this apartment,
but no one knows what he has done with her. I have listened at the
doors every night and whenever he has been away a moment, but I have
never heard any noise in the room.... Do you hear anything?

ONE OF THE SISTERS OF PALOMIDES.

No; I hear only the murmur of the air passing through the little
chinks of the wood....

ANOTHER SISTER.

It seems to me, when I listen hard, that I hear the great pendulum of
the clock.

A THIRD SISTER.

But what is this little Alladine, then, and why does he bear such
ill-will to her?

ASTOLAINE.

It is a little Greek slave that came from the heart of Arcady....
He bears her no ill-will, but ... Do you hear?--It is my father....
[_Singing heard in the distance._] Hide yourselves behind the pillars
... He will have no one pass by this corridor.--[_They hide._]

_Enter_ ABLAMORE, _singing and shaking a bunch of great keys_.

ABLAMORE (_sings_).

Misfortune had three golden keys.
--He has no rescue for the Queen!--
Misfortune had three golden keys.
Go follow what your eyes have seen.

[Sits dejected on a bench, beside the door of Alladine's
apartment, hums a little while longer, and soon goes to sleep, his
arms hanging down and his head fallen.]

ASTOLAINE.

Come, come! make no noise. He has fallen asleep on the bench.--Oh, my
poor old father! How white his hair has grown during these days! He
is so weak, he is so unhappy, that sleep itself no longer brings him
peace. It is three whole days now since I have dared to look upon his
face....

ONE OF THE SISTERS OF PALOMIDES.

He sleeps profoundly....

ASTOLAINE.

He sleeps profoundly, but you can see his soul has no rest.... The
sunlight here will vex his eyelids.... I am going to draw his cloak
over his face....

ANOTHER SISTER.

No, no; do not touch it.... He might wake with a start....

ASTOLAINE.

Some one is coming in the corridor. Come, come! put yourselves before
him.... Hide him.... A stranger must not see him in this state....

A SISTER OF PALOMIDES.

It is Palomides....

ASTOLAINE.

I am going to cover his poor eyes.... [_She covers_ ABLAMORE'S
_face_.]--I would not have Palomides see him thus.... He is too
miserable.

_Enter_ PALOMIDES.

PALOMIDES.

What is the matter?

ONE OF THE SISTERS.

He has fallen asleep on the bench.

PALOMIDES.

I have followed him without his seeing me.... He said nothing?...

ASTOLAINE.

No; but see all he has suffered....

PALOMIDES.

Has he the keys?

ANOTHER SISTER.

He holds them in his hand....

PALOMIDES.

I am going to take them.

ASTOLAINE.

What are you going to do? Oh, do not wake him!... For three nights now
he has wandered through the palace....

PALOMIDES.

I will open his hand a little without his noticing it.... We have no
right to wait any longer.... God knows what he has done.... He will
forgive us when he has his reason back.... Oh! oh! his hand has no
strength any more...

ASTOLAINE.

Take care! Take care!

PALOMIDES.

I have the keys.--Which is it? I am going to open the room.

ONE OF THE SISTERS.

Oh, I am afraid!... Do not open it at once.... Palomides!...

PALOMIDES.

Stay here.... I do not know what I shall find....

[_He goes to the door, opens it, and enters the apartment_.]

ASTOLAINE.

Is she there?

PALOMIDES (_in the apartment_).

I cannot see.... The shutters are closed....

ASTOLAINE.

Have a care, Palomides.... Wilt thou that I go first?... Thy voice is
trembling....

PALOMIDES (_in the apartment_).

No, no.... I see a ray of sunlight falling through the chinks of the
shutters.

ONE OF THE SISTERS.

Yes; it is broad day out of doors.

PALOMIDES.

[_Rushing headlong from the room_.] Come! Come!... I think she ...

ASTOLAINE.

Thou hast seen her?...

PALOMIDES.

She is stretched out on the bed!... She does not stir!... I do not
think she ... Come! Come! [_They all go into the room._

ASTOLAINE AND THE SISTERS OF PALOMIDES.

[_In the room_.] She is here.... No, no, she is not dead.... Alladine!
Alladine!... Oh! oh! The poor child!... Do not cry out so.... She has
fainted.... Her hair is tied across her mouth.... And her hands are
bound behind her back.... They are bound with the help of her hair....
Alladine! Alladine!... Fetch some water....

[ABLAMORE, _who has waked, appears on the step of the door_.]

ASTOLAINE.

There is my father!...

ABLAMORE (_going to_ PALOMIDES).

Was it you who opened the door of the room?

PALOMIDES.

Yes, it was I.... I did it--well, then?--well, then?... I could not
let her die under my eyes.... See what you have done. Alladine!...
Fear nothing.... She opens her eyes a little.... I will not ...

ABLAMORE.

Do not cry out.... Do not cry out so.... Come, we will open the
shutters.... You cannot see here. Alladine!... She is already sitting
up. Alladine, come too.... Do you see, my children, it is dark in
the room. It is as dark here as if we were a thousand feet under the
ground. But I open one of the shutters, and behold! All the light of
the sky and the sun!... It does not need much effort; the light
is full of good-will.... It suffices that one call it; it always
obeys.... Have you seen the river with its little islands between the
meadows in flower?... The sky is a crystal ring to-day.... Alladine!
Palomides, come see.... Draw both of you near Paradise.... You must
kiss each other in the new light.... I bear you no ill-will. You did
what was ordained; and so did I.... Lean out a moment from the open
window, and look once more at the sweet green things....
[_A silence. He closes the shutter without a word_.]

ACT FOURTH.

_Vast subterranean crypts_. ALLADINE _and_ PALOMIDES.

PALOMIDES.

They have bound my eyes with bands; they have tied my hands with
cords.

ALLADINE.

They have tied my hands with cords; they have bound my eyes with
bands.... I think my hands are bleeding....

PALOMIDES.

Wait. To-day I bless my strength.... I feel the knots beginning to
give way.... One struggle more, and let my fists burst! One struggle
more! I have my hands! [_Tearing away the bandage_.] And my eyes!...

ALLADINE.

You see now?

PALOMIDES.

Yes.

ALLADINE.

Where are we?

PALOMIDES.

Where are you?

ALLADINE.

Here; can you not see me?

PALOMIDES.

My eyes weep still where the band has left its trace.... We are not in
darkness.... Is it you I hear toward where I can just see?

ALLADINE.

I am here; come.

PALOMIDES.

You are at the edge of that which gives us light. Do not stir; I
cannot see all that there is about you. My eyes have not forgot the
bandage yet. They bound it tight enough to burst my eyelids.

ALLADINE.

Come; the knots stifle me. I can wait no longer....

PALOMIDES.

I hear only a voice coming out of the light....

ALLADINE.

Where are you?

PALOMIDES.

I have no idea myself. I walk still in darkness.... Speak again, that
I may find you. You seem to be on the edge of an unbounded light....

ALLADINE.

Come! come! I have borne without a word, but I can bear no more....

PALOMIDES (_groping forward_).

You are there? I thought you so far away!... My tears deceived me.
I am here, and I see you. Oh, your hands are wounded! They have bled
upon your gown, and the knots have entered into the flesh. I have no
longer any weapons. They have taken away my poniard. I will tear them
off. Wait! wait! I have the knots.

ALLADINE.

Take off the bandage first that makes me blind....

PALOMIDES.

I cannot.... I do not see.... It seems to be surrounded by a net of
golden threads....

ALLADINE.

My hands, then, my hands!

PALOMIDES.

They have taken silken cords.... Wait, the knots come undone. The cord
has thirty turns.... There, there!--Oh, your hands are all blood!...
You would say they were dead....

ALLADINE.

No, no!... They are alive! they are alive! See!...

[With her hands hardly yet unbound, she clasps Palomides about the
neck and kisses him passionately.]

PALOMIDES.

Alladine!

ALLADINE.

Palomides!

PALOMIDES.

Alladine, Alladine!...

ALLADINE.

I am happy!... I have waited a long while!...

PALOMIDES.

I was afraid to come....

ALLADINE.

I am happy ... and I would that I could see thee....

PALOMIDES.

They have tied down the bandage like a casque....--Do not turn round;
I have found the golden threads....

ALLADINE.

Yes, yes, I will turn round....
[_She turns about, to kiss him again._

PALOMIDES.

Have a care. Do not stir. I am afraid of wounding thee....

ALLADINE.

Tear it away! Fear nothing. I can bear no more!...

PALOMIDES.

I would see thee too....

ALLADINE.

Tear it away! Tear it away! I am no longer within reach of woe!...
Tear it away!... Thou dost not know that one could wish to die....
Where are we?

PALOMIDES.

Thou'lt see, thou'lt see.... It is innumerable crypts ... great blue
halls, gleaming pillars, and deep vaults....

ALLADINE.

Why dost thou answer when I question thee?

PALOMIDES.

What matter where we be, if we be but together?...

ALLADINE.

Thou lovest me less already?

PALOMIDES.

Why, what ails thee?

ALLADINE.

I know well where I am when I am on thy heart.... Oh, tear the bandage
off!... I would not enter blind into thy soul.... What doest thou,
Palomides? Thou dost not laugh when I laugh. Thou dost not weep when
I weep. Thou dost not clap thy hands when I clap mine; and thou
tremblest not when I speak trembling to the bottom of my soul....
The band! The band!... I will see!... There, there, above my hair!...
[_She tears away the bandage_.] Oh!...

PALOMIDES.

Seest thou?

ALLADINE.

Yes.... I see thee only....

PALOMIDES.

What is it, Alladine? Thou kissest me as if thou wert already sad....

ALLADINE.

Where are we?

PALOMIDES.

Why dost thou ask so sadly?

ALLADINE.

No, I am not sad; but my eyes will hardly open....

PALOMIDES.

One would say your joy had fallen on my lips like a child at the
threshold of the house.... Do not turn away.... I fear lest you should
flee, and I fear lest I dream....

ALLADINE.

Where are we?

PALOMIDES.

We are in crypts that I have never seen.... Doth it not seem to thee
the light increases? When I unclosed my eyes, I could distinguish
nothing; now little by little it is all revealed. I have been often
told of wondrous caverns whereon the halls of Ablamore were built. It
must be these. No one descends here ever; and the king only has the
keys. I knew the sea flooded the lowest vaults; and it is probably the
reflex of the sea which thus illumines us.... They thought to bury us
in night. They came down here with torches and flambeaus and saw the
darkness only, while the light came out to meet us, seeing we had
none.... It brightens without ceasing.... I am sure the dawn pierces
the ocean and sends down to us through all its greening waves the
purest of its child-soul....

ALLADINE.

How long have we been here?

PALOMIDES.

I have no idea.... I made no effort till I heard thee speak....

ALLADINE.

I do not know how this took place. I was asleep in the room where thou
didst find me; and when I waked, my eyes were bound across, and both
my hands were pinioned in my girdle....

PALOMIDES.

I too was sleeping. I heard nothing, and I had a band across my eyes
ere I could open them. I struggled in the darkness; but they were
stronger than I.... I must have passed under deep vaults, for I felt
the cold fall on my shoulders; and I went down so far I could not
count the steps.... Did no one speak to thee?

ALLADINE.

No; no one spoke. I heard some one weeping as he walked; and then I
fainted....

PALOMIDES (_kissing her_).

Alladine!

ALLADINE.

How gravely thou dost kiss me!...

PALOMIDES.

Close not thine eyes when I do kiss thee so.... I would see the kisses
trembling in thy heart, and all the dew that rises in thy soul.... We
shall not find such kisses any more....

ALLADINE.

Always, always!

PALOMIDES.

No, no; there is no kissing twice upon the heart of death.... How fair
thou art so!... It is the first time I have seen thee near.... It is
strange, we think that we have seen each other because we have gone by
two steps apart; but everything changes the moment the lips touch....
There, thou must be let to have thy will.... I stretch my arms wide
to admire thee, as if thou wert no longer mine; and then I draw them
nearer till I touch thy kisses and perceive only eternal bliss....
There needed us this supernatural light!... [_He kisses her again_.]
Ah! What hast thou done? Take care! we are upon a crest of rock that
overhangs the water that gives us light. Do not step back. It was
time.... Do not turn too abruptly. I was dazzled....

ALLADINE.

[_Turning and looking at the blue water that illuminates them_.]
Oh!...

PALOMIDES.

It is as if the sky had flowed hither....

ALLADINE.

It is full of moveless flowers....

PALOMIDES.

It is full of moveless flowers and strange.... Hast thou seen the
largest there that blooms beneath the others? It seems to live a
cadenced life.... And the water ... Is it water?... It seems more
beautiful, more pure, more blue than all the water in the world....

ALLADINE.

I dare not look upon it longer....

PALOMIDES.

See how about us all is luminous.... The light dares hesitate no
longer, and we kiss each other in the vestibules of heaven.... Seest
thou the precious stones that gem the vaults, drunken with life, that
seem to smile on us; and the thousands and thousands of glowing blue
roses that climb along the pillars?...

ALLADINE.

Oh!... I heard!...

PALOMIDES.

What?

ALLADINE.

Some one striking the rocks....

PALOMIDES.

No, no; it is the golden gates of a new Paradise, that open in our
souls and sing upon their hinges!...

ALLADINE.

Listen.... again, again!...

PALOMIDES (_with voice suddenly changed_).

Yes; it is there.... It is at the bottom of the bluest vaults....

ALLADINE.

They are coming to....

PALOMIDES.

I hear the sound of iron on the rock.... They have walled up the door
or cannot open it.... It is the picks grating against the stone....
His soul has told him we were happy....

[A silence; then a stone is detached at the very end of the vault,
and a ray of daylight breaks into the cavern.]

ALLADINE.

Oh!...

PALOMIDES.

It is another light....

[Motionless and anxious, they watch other stones detach themselves
slowly in an insufferable light, and fall one by one; while the
light, entering in more and more resistless floods, reveals to
them little by little the gloom of the cavern they had thought
marvellous. The miraculous lake becomes wan and sinister; the
precious stones about them are extinguished, and the glowing roses
appear as the stains and rotten rubbish that they are. At last,
the whole side of rock falls abruptly into the crypt. The sunlight
enters, dazzling. Calls and songs are heard without. Alladine and
Palomides recoil.]

PALOMIDES.

Where are we?

ALLADINE (_embracing him_).

I love thee still, Palomides....

PALOMIDES.

I love thee too, my Alladine....

ALLADINE.

They come....

PALOMIDES.

[_Looking behind him as they still recoil_.] Have a care....

ALLADINE.

No, no; have no more care....

PALOMIDES (_looking at her_).

Alladine?

ALLADINE.

Yes ...

[They still recoil before the invasion of light or peril, until
they lose their footing; and they fall and disappear behind the
rock that overhangs the underground and now gloomy water.--A
silence. Astolaine and the sisters of Palomides enter the crypt.]

ASTOLAINE.

Where are they?

ONE OF THE SISTERS OF PALOMIDES.

Palomides!...

ASTOLAINE.

Alladine! Alladine!...

ANOTHER SISTER.

Palomides!... It is we!...

THIRD SISTER.

Fear nothing; we are alone!...

ASTOLAINE.

Come! come! we have come to rescue you!...

FOURTH SISTER.

Ablamore has fled....

FIFTH SISTER.

He is no longer in the palace....

SIXTH SISTER.

They do not answer....

ASTOLAINE.

I heard the water stirred!... This way, this way!

[_They run to the rock that overlooks the underground_.]

ONE OF THE SISTERS.

They are there!...

ANOTHER SISTER.

Yes, yes; at the very bottom of the black water.... They embrace.

THIRD SISTER.

They are dead.

FOURTH SISTER.

No, no; they are alive! they are alive!... See....

THE OTHER SISTERS.

Help! help!... Call!...

ASTOLAINE.

They make no effort to save themselves!...

ACT FIFTH.

[A corridor, so long that its furthest arches seem to lose
themselves in a kind of indoor horizon. The sisters of Palomides
wait before one of the innumerable closed doors that open into
this corridor. They seem to be guarding it. A little further down,
on the opposite side, Astolaine and the Physician converse before
another door, also closed.]

ASTOLAINE.

[_To the Physician._] Nothing has ever happened until now in this
palace, where all things have seemed to be asleep since my sisters
died; and my poor old father, pursued by a strange restlessness, has
fretted without reason at this calm, which seems, for all that,
the least dangerous form of happiness. Some time ago,--his reason
beginning to totter even then,--he went up to the top of a high tower;
and as he stretched his arms out timidly toward the forests and toward
the sea, he said to me--smiling a little fearfully at his words, as if
to disarm my incredulous smile--that he called about us events which
had long been hidden beneath the horizon. They have come, alas! sooner
and more in number than he expected, and a few days have sufficed for
them to reign in his stead. He has been their first victim. He fled
to the meadows, singing, all in tears, the evening when he had little
Alladine and luckless Palomides taken down into the crypts. He has
not since been seen. I have had search made everywhere throughout the
country and even on the sea. He has not been found. At least, I had
hoped to save those he made suffer unwittingly, for he has always been
the tenderest of men and the best of fathers; but there, too, I think
I came too late. I do not know what happened. They have not spoken
yet. They doubtless must have thought, hearing the sound of the iron
and seeing all at once the light again, that my father had regretted
the kind of surcease he had granted them, and that some one came to
bring them death. Or else they slipped as they drew back, upon
the rock that overhangs the lake; and so must have fallen through
heedlessness. But the water is not deep in that spot, and we succeeded
in saving them without difficulty. To-day it is you alone who can do
the rest.
[THE SISTERS OF PALOMIDES _have drawn nearer._

THE PHYSICIAN.

They are both ailing with the same disease, and it is a disease I do
not know.--But I have little hope left. They were seized perhaps
with the cold of the underground waters; or else those waters may be
poisonous. The decomposed body of Alladine's lamb was found there.--I
will come back to-night.--Meanwhile they must have silence.... The
level of life is very low in their hearts.... Do not go into their
rooms and do not speak to them, for the least word, in the state they
are in, might cause their death.... They must succeed in forgetting
one another. [_Exit._

ONE OF THE SISTERS OF PALOMIDES.

I see that he will die.

ASTOLAINE.

No, no.... Do not weep;... one does not die so, at his age....

ANOTHER SISTER.

But why is your father angry without reason at my poor brother?

THIRD SISTER.

I think your father loved Alladine.

ASTOLAINE.

Do not speak so of it.... He thought I suffered. He thought to have
done good, and he did evil unwittingly.... That often happens to
us.... It is my fault, perhaps.... I recall it to-day.... One night I
was asleep. I was weeping in a dream.... We have little courage when
we dream. I waked.... He was beside my bed, looking at me.... Perhaps
he was deceived....

FOURTH SISTER (_running_).

Alladine has stirred a little in her room....

ASTOLAINE.

Go to the door ... listen.... Perhaps it was the nurse rising....

FIFTH SISTER (_listening at the door_).

No, no; I hear the nurse walking.... There is another noise.

SIXTH SISTER (_also running_).

I think Palomides has moved too; I hear the murmur of a voice
seeking....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

[_Very feebly, within the room._] Palomides!...

ONE OF THE SISTERS.

She is calling him!...

ASTOLAINE.

Let us be careful!... Go, go in front of the door, that Palomides may
not hear....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

Palomides!

ASTOLAINE.

My God! My God! Silence that voice!... Palomides will die of it if he
hear it!...

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

[_Very feebly, within the other room_.] Alladine!...

ONE OF THE SISTERS.

He answers!...

ASTOLAINE.

Three among you remain here,... and we will go to the other door. Come,
come quickly. We will surround them. We will try to defend them....
Lie back against the doors.... Perhaps they will hear no longer....

ONE OF THE SISTERS.

I shall go into Alladine's room....

SECOND SISTER.

Yes, yes; prevent her from crying out again.

THIRD SISTER.

She is already cause of all this evil....

ASTOLAINE.

Do not go in, or I go in to Palomides.... She also had a right to
life; and she has done nought but to live.... But that we cannot
stifle in their passage their deadly words!... We are without help, my
poor sisters, my poor sisters, and hands cannot stop souls!...

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

Palomides, is it thou?

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

Where art thou, Alladine?

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

Is it thou whom I hear far from me making moan?

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

Is it thou whom I hear calling, and see thee not?

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

One would believe thy voice had lost the last of hope....

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

One would believe that thine had crossed the winds of death....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

It goes hard with thy voice to pierce into my room....

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

And I no longer hear thy voice as of old time.

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

I have been woe for thee!...

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

They have divided us, but I do love thee ever....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

I have been woe for thee.... Art then still suffering?

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

No; I no longer suffer, but I =fain= would see thee....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

We shall not see each other more; the doors are shut....

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

Thy voice would make one say thou lovedst me no more....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

Yes, yes; I love thee still, but it is mournful now....

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

Whither is thy face turned? I hardly understand thee....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

We seem to be an hundred leagues from one another....

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

I try to rise in vain; my spirit is too heavy....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

I too would come,--I too--but still my head falls back....

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

Thou seemest almost to speak in tears despite thyself....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

No; I wept long ago; it is no longer tears....

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

There's something in thy thoughts thou dost not tell me of....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

They were not precious stones....

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

And the flowers were not real....

ONE OF THE SISTERS OF PALOMIDES.

They rave....

ASTOLAINE.

No, no; they know what they are saying....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

It was the light that had no pity on us....

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

Where goest thou, Alladine? Thou'rt being borne away....

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

I have no more regret to lose the light o' the sun....

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

Yes, yes; we shall behold the sweet green things again!...

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

I have lost desire to live....

[_A silence; then more and more faintly:_]

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

Alladine!...

THE VOICE OF ALLADINE.

Palomides!...

THE VOICE OF PALOMIDES.

Alla ... dine!...

[A silence.--Astolaine and the sisters of Palomides listen, in
anguish. Then the nurse opens, from the inside, the door of
Palomides' room, appears on the sill, makes a sign, and all enter
the room. The door doses behind them. A new silence. A little
afterwards, the door of Alladine's room opens in its turn; the
other nurse comes out in like manner, looks about in the corridor,
and, seeing no one, re-enters the room, leaving the door wide
open.]

[CURTAIN.]

Home.

_To Mademoiselle Sara de Swart._

Persons.

IN THE GARDEN.

THE OLD MAN.
THE STRANGER.
MARTHA } _granddaughters of the old man._
AND MARY, }
A PEASANT.
THE CROWD.

IN THE HOUSE

THE FATHER, }
THE MOTHER, } _Silent characters._
THE TWO DAUGHTERS,}
THE CHILD, }

Home.

* * * * *

[An old garden, planted with willows. At the back, a house in
which three windows on the ground-floor are lighted. A family,
sitting up under the lamp, is seen rather distinctly. The
father is seated by the fireside. The mother, one elbow on the
table, is staring into space. Two young girls, clad in white,
embroider, dream, and smile in the quiet of the room. A
child lies asleep with his head under the mother's left arm.
Whenever one of them rises, walks, or makes a gesture, his
movements seem to be grave, slow, rare, and, as it were,
spiritualized by the distance, the light, and the vague veil
of the windows. The old man and the stranger enter the garden
cautiously.]

THE OLD MAN.

We are in the part of the garden behind the house. They never come
here. The doors are on the other side.--They are closed, and the
shutters are up. But there are no shutters on this side, and I saw
a light.... Yes; they are sitting up still under the lamp. It is
fortunate they have not heard us; the mother or the young girls would
have come out, perhaps, and then what should we have done?...

THE STRANGER.

What are we going to do?

THE OLD MAN.

I should like to see, first, if they are all in the room. Yes, I see
the father sitting in the chimney-corner. He waits, with his hands on
his knees;... the mother is resting her elbow on the table.

THE STRANGER.

She is looking at us....

THE OLD MAN.

No; she doesn't know where she is looking: her eyes do not wink. She
cannot see us; we are in the shade of great trees. But do not go any
nearer.... The two sisters of the dead girl are in the room too. They
are embroidering slowly; and the little child is asleep. It is nine
by the clock in the corner.... They suspect nothing, and they do not
speak.

THE STRANGER.

If one could draw the father's attention, and make him some sign? He
has turned his head this way. Would you like me to knock at one of the
windows? One of them ought to be told before the others....

THE OLD MAN.

I don't know which one to choose.... We must take great
precautions.... The father is old and ailing.... So is the mother; and
the sisters are too young.... And they all loved her with such love as
will never be again.... I never saw a happier household.... No, no, do
not go near the window; that would be worse than anything else....
It is better to announce it as simply as possible,--as if it were an
ordinary event,--and not to look too sad; for otherwise their grief
will wish to be greater than yours and will know of nothing more that
it can do.... Let us go on the other side of the garden. We will knock
at the door and go in as if nothing had happened. I will go in first:
they will not be surprised to see me; I come sometimes in the evening,
to bring them flowers or fruit, and pass a few hours with them.

THE STRANGER.

Why must I go with you? Go alone; I will wait till I am called....
They have never seen me.... I am only a passer-by; I am a stranger....

THE OLD MAN.

It is better not to be alone. A sorrow that one does not bring alone
is not so unmixed nor so heavy.... I was thinking of that as we were
coming here.... If I go in alone, I shall have to be speaking from the
first minute; in a few words they will know everything, and I shall
have nothing more to say; and I am afraid of the silence following the
last words that announce a woe.... It is then the heart is rent.... If
we go in together, I shall tell them, for example, after going a long
way about, "She was found so.... She was floating in the river, and
her hands were clasped."...

THE STRANGER.

Her hands were not clasped; her arms were hanging down along her body.

THE OLD MAN.

You see, one speaks in spite of oneself.... And the sorrow is lost in
the details;... but otherwise, if I go in alone, at the first words,
knowing them as I do, it would be dreadful, and God knows what might
happen.... But if we speak in turn, they will listen to us and not
think to look the ill news in the face.... Do not forget the mother
will be there, and that her life hangs by a thread.... It is good that
the first wave break on some unnecessary words.... There should be a
little talking around the unhappy, and they should have people about
them.... The most indifferent bear unwittingly a part of the grief....
So, without noise or effort, it divides, like air or light....

THE STRANGER.

Your clothes are wet through; they are dripping on the flagstones.

THE OLD MAN.

It is only the bottom of my cloak that dipped in the water.--You seem
to be cold. Your chest is covered with earth.... I did not notice it
on the road on account of the darkness....

THE STRANGER.

I went into the water up to my waist.

THE OLD MAN.

Was it long after you found her when I came?

THE STRANGER.

A few minutes, barely. I was going toward the village; it was already
late, and the bank was getting dark. I was walking with my eyes
fixed on the river because it was lighter than the road, when I saw
something strange a step or two from a clump of reeds.... I drew near
and made out her hair, which had risen almost in a circle above her
head, and whirled round, so, in the current.

[_In the room, the two young girls turn their heads toward the
window._]

THE OLD MAN.

Did you see the two sisters' hair quiver on their shoulders?

THE STRANGER.

They turned their heads this way.... They simply turned their heads.
Perhaps I spoke too loud. [_The two young girls resume their former
position._] But they are already looking no longer.... I went into the
water up to my waist and I was able to take her by the hand and
pull her without effort to the shore.... She was as beautiful as her
sisters are.

THE OLD MAN.

She was perhaps more beautiful.... I do not know why I have lost all
courage....

THE STRANGER.

What courage are you talking of? We have done all man could do.... She
was dead more than an hour ago....

THE OLD MAN.

She was alive this morning!... I met her coming out of church.... She
told me she was going away; she was going to see her grandmother on
the other side of the river where you found her.... She did not know
when I should see her again.... She must have been on the point of
asking me something; then she dared not and left me abruptly. But I
think of it now.... And I saw nothing!... She smiled as they smile who
choose to be silent, or who are afraid they will not be understood....
She seemed hardly to hope.... Her eyes were not clear and hardly
looked at me....

THE STRANGER.

Some peasants told me they had seen her wandering on the river-bank
until nightfall.... They thought she was looking for flowers.... It
may be that her death....

THE OLD MAN.

We cannot tell.... What is there we can tell?... She was perhaps of
those who do not wish to speak, and every one of us bears in himself
more than one reason for no longer living.... We cannot see in the
soul as we see in that room. They are all like that.... They only say
trite things; and no one suspects aught.... You live for months by
some one who is no longer of this world and whose soul can bend no
longer; you answer without thinking; and you see what happens.... They
look like motionless dolls, and, oh, the events that take place in
their souls!... They do not know themselves what they are.... She
would have lived as the rest live.... She would have said up to her
death: "Monsieur, Madame, we shall have rain this morning," or else,
"We are going to breakfast; we shall be thirteen at table," or else:
"The fruits are not yet ripe." They speak with a smile of the flowers
that have fallen, and weep in the dark.... An angel even would not see
what should be seen; and man only understands when it is too late....
Yesterday evening she was there, under the lamp like her sisters,
and you would not see them as they should be seen, if this had not
occurred.... I seem to see her now for the first time.... Something
must be added to common life before we can understand it.... They are
beside you day and night, and you perceive them only at the moment
when they depart forever.... And yet the strange little soul she must
have had; the poor, naive, exhaustless little soul she had, my son,
if she said what she must have said, if she did what she mast have
done!...

THE STRANGER.

Just now they are smiling in silence in the room....

THE OLD MAN.

They are at peace.... They did not expect her to-night....

THE STRANGER.

They smile without stirring;... and see, the father is putting his
finger on his lips....

THE OLD MAN.

He is calling attention to the child asleep on its mother's heart....

THE STRANGER.

She dares not raise her eyes lest she disturb its sleep....

THE OLD MAN.

They are no longer working.... A great silence reigns....

THE STRANGER.

They have let fell the skein of white silk....

THE OLD MAN.

They are watching the child....

THE STRANGER.

They do not know that others are watching them....

THE OLD MAN.

We are watched too....

THE STRANGER.

They have lifted their eyes....

THE OLD MAN.

And yet they can see nothing....

THE STRANGER.

They seem happy; and yet nobody knows what may be--....

THE OLD MAN.

They think themselves in safety.... They have shut the doors; and
the windows have iron bars.... They have mended the walls of the old
house; they have put bolts upon the oaken doors.... They have foreseen
all that could be foreseen....

THE STRANGER.

We must end by telling them.... Some one might come and let them know
abruptly.... There was a crowd of peasants in the meadow where the
dead girl was found.... If one of them knocked at the door...

THE OLD MAN.

Martha and Mary are beside the poor dead child. The peasants were to
make a litter of leaves; and I told the elder to come warn us in all
haste, the moment they began their march. Let us wait till she comes;
she will go in with me.... We should not have looked on them so.... I
thought it would be only to knock upon the door; to go in simply, find
a phrase or two, and tell.... But I have seen them live too long under
their lamp....

_Enter_ MARY.

MARY.

They are coming, grandfather.

THE OLD MAN.

Is It you?--Where are they?

MARY.

They are at the foot of the last hills.

THE OLD MAN.

They will come in silence?

MARY.

I told them to pray in a low voice. Martha is with them....

THE OLD MAN.

Are they many?

MARY.

The whole village is about the bearers. They had brought lights. I
told them to put them out....

THE OLD MAN.

Which way are they coming?

MARY.

They are coming by the footpaths. They are walking slowly....

THE OLD MAN.

It is time....

MARY.

You have told them, grandfather?

THE OLD MAN.

You see plainly we have told them nothing.... They are waiting still
under the lamp.... Look, my child, look! You will see something of
life....

MARY.

Oh, how at peace they seem!... You would say I saw them in a dream....

THE STRANGER.

Take care, I saw both sisters give a start....

THE OLD MAN.

They are getting up....

THE STRANGER.

I think they are coming to the windows....

[At this moment, one of the two sisters of whom they speak draws
near the first window, the other near the third, and, pressing
their hands at the same time against the panes, look a long while
into the darkness.]

THE OLD MAN.

No one comes to the window in the middle....

MARY.

They are looking.... They are listening....

THE OLD MAN.

The elder smiles at what she does not see.

THE STRANGER.

And the other has eyes full of fearfulness....

THE OLD MAN.

Take care; we do not know how far the soul extends about men....

[_A long silence_, MARY _cowers against the old man's breast and
kisses him._]

MARY.

Grandfather!...

THE OLD MAN.

Do not weep, my child.... We shall have our turn....
[_A silence._

THE STRANGER.

They are looking a long while....

THE OLD MAN.

They might look a hundred thousand years and not perceive anything,
the poor little sisters.... The night is too dark.... They are looking
this way; and it is from that way the misfortune is coming....

THE STRANGER.

It is fortunate they look this way.... I do not know what that is
coming toward us, over by the meadows.

MARY.

I think it is the crowd.... They are so far away you can hardly make
them out....

THE STRANGER.

They follow the undulations of the path.... Now they appear again on a
hillside in the moonlight....

MARY.

Oh, how many they seem!... They had already run up from the suburbs of
the city when I came.... They are going a long way around....

THE OLD MAN.

They will come in spite of all; I see them too.... They are on the
march across the meadow lands.... They seem so small you hardly make
them out among the grasses.... They look like children playing in
the moonlight; and if the girls should see them, they would not
understand.... In vain they turn their backs; those yonder draw near
with every step they take, and the sorrow has been growing these two
hours already. They cannot hinder it from growing; and they that bear
it there no longer can arrest it.... It is their master too, and they
must serve it.... It has its end and follows its own road.... It
is unwearying and has but one idea.... Needs must they lend their
strength. They are sad, but they come.... They have pity, but they
must go forward....

MARY.

The elder smiles no longer, grandfather....

THE STRANGER.

They leave the windows....

MARY.

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