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Pelleas and Melisande by Maurice Maeterlinck

Part 4 out of 4

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They kiss their mother....

THE STRANGER.

The elder has caressed the curls of the child without waking him....

MARY.

Oh! the father wants to be kissed too....

THE STRANGER.

And now silence....

MARY.

They come back beside the mother....

THE STRANGER.

And the father follows the great pendulum of the clock with his
eyes....

MARY.

You would say they were praying without knowing what they did....

THE STRANGER.

You would say that they were listening to their souls....
[_A silence._

MARY.

Grandfather, don't tell them to-night!...

THE OLD MAN.

You see, you too lose courage.... I knew well that we must not look. I
am nearly eighty-three years old, and this is the first time the sight
of life has struck me. I do not know why everything they do seems so
strange and grave to me.... They wait for night quite simply, under
their lamp, as we might have been waiting under ours; and yet I seem
to see them from the height of another world, because I know a little
truth which they do not know yet.... Is it that, my children? Tell me,
then, why you are pale, too? Is there something else, perhaps,
that cannot be told and causes us to weep? I did not know there was
anything so sad in life, nor that it frightened those who looked upon
it.... And nothing can have occurred that I should be afraid to see
them so at peace.... They have too much confidence in this world....
There they are, separated from the enemy by a poor window.... They
think nothing will happen because they have shut the door, and do not
know that something is always happening in our souls, and that the
world does not end at the doors of our houses.... They are so sure of
their little life and do not suspect how many others know more of
it than they; and that I, poor old man,--I hold here, two steps from
their door, all their little happiness, like a sick bird, in my old
hands I do not dare to open....

MARY.

Have pity, grandfather....

THE OLD MAN.

We have pity on them, my child, but no one has pity on us....

MARY.

Tell them to-morrow, grandfather; tell them when it is light.... They
will not be so sorrowful....

THE OLD MAN.

Perhaps you are right, my child.... It would be better to leave all
this in the night. And the light is sweet to sorrow.... But what would
they say to us to-morrow? Misfortune renders jealous; they whom it
strikes, wish to be told before strangers; they do not like to have it
left in the hands of those they do not know.... We should look as if
we had stolen something....

THE STRANGER.

There is no more time, besides; I hear the murmur of prayers
already....

MARY.

There they are.... They are passing behind the hedges....

_Enter_ MARTHA.

MARTHA.

Here I am. I have brought them this far. I have told them to wait on
the road. [_Cries of children heard._] Ah! the children are crying
again.... I forbade their coming.... But they wanted to see too, and
the mothers would not obey.... I will go tell them.... No; they are
silent.--Is everything ready?--I have brought the little ring that was
found on her.... I have some fruit, too, for the child.... I laid her
out myself on the litter. She looks as if she were asleep.... I had
a good deal of trouble; her hair would not obey.... I had some
marguerites plucked.... It is sad, there were no other flowers....
What are you doing here? Why are you not by them?... [_She looks at
the windows._] They do not weep?... They ... you have not told them?

THE OLD MAN.

Martha, Martha, there is too much life in your soul; you cannot
understand....

MARTHA.

Why should I not understand?... [_After a silence and in a tone of
very grave reproach._] You cannot have done that, grandfather....

THE OLD MAN.

Martha, you do not know....

MARTHA.

_I_ will tell them.

THE OLD MAN.

Stay here, my child, and look at them a moment.

MARTHA.

Oh, how unhappy they are!... They can wait no longer.

THE OLD MAN.

Why?

MARTHA.

I do not know;... it is no longer possible!...

THE OLD MAN.

Come here, my child....

MARTHA.

How patient they are!

THE OLD MAN.

Come here, my child....

MARTHA.

[_Turning._] Where are you, grandfather? I am so unhappy I cannot see
you any more.... I do not know what to do myself any more....

THE OLD MAN.

Do not look at them any more; till they know all....

MARTHA.

I will go in with you....

THE OLD MAN.

No, Martha, stay here.... Sit beside your sister, on this old stone
bench, against the wall of the house, and do not look.... You are too
young; you never could forget.... You cannot know what a face is like
at the moment when death passes before its eyes.... There will
be cries, perhaps.... Do not turn round.... Perhaps there will be
nothing.... Above all, do not turn if you hear nothing.... One does
not know the course of grief beforehand.... A few little deep-rooted
sobs, and that is all, usually.... I do not know myself what I may
do when I shall hear them.... That belongs no longer to this life....
Kiss me, my child, before I go away....

[The murmur of prayers has gradually drawn nearer. Part of the
crowd invades the garden. Dull steps heard, running, and low
voices speaking.]

THE STRANGER (_to the crowd_).

Stay here;... do not go near the windows.... Where is she?...

A PEASANT.

Who?

THE STRANGER.

The rest ... the bearers?...

THE PEASANT.

They are coming by the walk that leads to the door.

[The old man goes away. Martha and Mary are seated on the bench,
with their backs turned to the windows. Murmurs in the crowd.]

THE STRANGER.

S--t!... Do not speak.

[_The elder of the two sisters rises and goes to bolt the door...._]

MARTHA.

She opens it?

THE STRANGER.

On the contrary, she is shutting it.
[_A silence._

MARTHA.

Grandfather has not entered?

THE STRANGER.

No.... She returns and sits down by her mother.... The others do not
stir, and the child sleeps all the time....
[_A silence._

MARTHA.

Sister, give me your hands....

MARY.

Martha!...
[_They embrace and give each other a kiss._

THE STRANGER.

He must have knocked.... They have all raised their heads at the same
time;... they look at each other....

MARTHA.

Oh! oh! my poor little sister!... I shall cry too!...
[_She stifles her sobs on her sister's shoulder._

THE STRANGER.

He must be knocking again.... The father looks at the clock. He rises.

MARTHA.

Sister, sister, I want to go in too.... They cannot be alone any
longer....

MARY.

Martha! Martha!...
[_She holds her back._

THE STRANGER.

The father is at the door.... He draws the bolts.... He opens the door
prudently....

MARTHA.

Oh!... you do not see the...

THE STRANGER.

What?

MARTHA.

Those who bear....

THE STRANGER.

He hardly opens it.... I can only see a corner of the lawn; and the
fountain.... He does not let go the door;... he steps back.... He
looks as if he were saying: "Ah, it's you!"... He raises his arms....
He shuts the door again carefully.... Your grandfather has come into
the room....

[The crowd has drawn nearer the windows. Martha and Mary half rise
at first, then draw near also, clasping each other tightly. The
old man is seen advancing into the room. The two sisters of the
dead girl rise; the mother rises as well, after laying the child
carefully in the armchair she has just abandoned; in such a way
that from without the little one may be seen asleep, with his head
hanging a little to one side, in the centre of the room. The
mother advances to meet the old man and extends her hand to him,
but draws it back before he has had time to take it. One of the
young girls offers to take off the visitor's cloak and the other
brings forward a chair for him; but the old man makes a slight
gesture of refusal. The father smiles with a surprised look. The
old man looks toward the windows.]

THE STRANGER.

He dares not tell them.... He has looked at us....
[_Rumors in the crowd._

THE STRANGER.

S ... t!...

[The old man, seeing their faces at the windows, has quickly
turned his eyes away. As one of the young girls continues to offer
him the same armchair, he ends by sitting down and passes his
right hand across his forehead several times.]

THE STRANGER.

He sits down....

[The other people in the room sit down also, while the father
talks volubly. At last the old man opens his mouth, and the tone
of his voice seems to attract attention. But the father interrupts
him. The old man begins to speak again, and little by little the
others become motionless. All at once, the mother starts and
rises.]

MARTHA.

Oh! the mother is going to understand!...

[She turns away and hides her face in her hands. New murmurs in
the crowd. They elbow each other. Children cry to be lifted up, so
that they may see too. Most of the mothers obey.]

THE STRANGER.

S ... t!... He has not told them yet....

[The mother is seen to question the old man in anguish. He says a
few words more; then abruptly all the rest rise too and seem to
question him. He makes a slow sign of affirmation with his head.]

THE STRANGER.

He has told them.... He has told them all at once!...

VOICES IN THE CROWD.

He has told them!... He has told them!...

THE STRANGER.

You hear nothing....

[The old man rises too, and, without turning, points with his
finger to the door behind him. The mother, the father, and the two
young girls throw themselves on this door, which the father cannot
at once succeed in opening. The old man tries to prevent the
mother from going out.]

VOICES IN THE CROWD.

They are going out! They are going out!...

[Jostling in the garden. All rush to the other side of the house
and disappear, with the exception of the stranger, who remains at
the windows. In the room, both sides of the folding-door at last
open; all go out at the same time. Beyond can be seen a starry
sky, the lawn and the fountain in the moonlight, while in the
middle of the abandoned room the child continues to sleep
peacefully in the armchair.--Silence.]

THE STRANGER.

The child has not waked!...
[_He goes out also._

[CURTAIN.]

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