THE RIGHTS OF THE SOUL

A Play

By Giuseppe Giacosa
Translated by Theodora Marcone.


Copyright, 1920, by Stewart & Kidd Company.
All rights reserved.

 

CHARACTERS
Paolo.
Mario.
Anna.
Maddalena.

Place: A villa at Brianza.

Time: The Present.

 

Applications for the right of performing The Rights of the Soul must be made to
Frank Shay, who may be addressed in care of Stewart & Kidd Company.


THE RIGHTS OF THE SOUL

One Act

By Giuseppe Giacosa

 

[Scene: A living-room well furnished in an old fashioned style but not shabbily. An open fire-place which is practical. A sofa. A writing desk. A closet at the back. Door leading into Anna's room at the left. Window at the right.

Paolo discovered seated at the writing desk upon which there is a confusion of papers.]

 

[Servant—Maddalena enters.]

Paolo. Well, has he returned yet?

Maddalena. Not yet.

Paolo. He has taken a lot of time!

Maddalena. I have been to look for him at the post-office café.

Paolo. I told you to look in his room or in the garden. Was it necessary to run all over the country?

Maddalena. Well, he wasn't there. I thought—he wasn't at the café either, but they told me where he was. He'll be back shortly. He went to the station at Poggio to meet the engineer of the water-works. The tax collector saw him walking in that direction. He always walks. But he will return by the stage for the engineer's sake. The stage should be here at any moment. It is sure though—but are you listening?

Paolo. No, you may go.

Maddalena. Yes, sir. But it is sure that if the engineer of the water-works really has arrived, your brother will not go away to-morrow. You and the Madame intend leaving to-morrow, don't you?

Paolo. Yes, no. I don't know—yes, we will go to-morrow. Leave me alone.

Maddalena. All right, but see if I'm wrong; I say that your brother will not go to-morrow, nor the day after to-morrow. Here he is.

Mario. Were you looking for me?

Paolo. Yes, for the last hour.

Maddalena. Mr. Paolo—here asked me—

Paolo. I did not ask you anything. Go away. [He takes her by the arm and pushes her out.]

Mario. What has happened?

Paolo. She is insufferable. She isn't listening at the door, is she?

Mario. No, be calm. I hear her in the garden. What has happened. You look worried.

Paolo. [After a pause.] Do you know why Luciano killed himself?

Mario. No.

Paolo. He killed himself for love. For the love of Anna. I have the proofs—they are there. I just found it out to-day, a moment ago. He has killed himself for the love of my wife. You and I were his relatives; he was a companion of my youth, my dearest friend. He tried to force her to love him. Anna repulsed him. He insisted; Anna responded firmly. Highly strung as he was, he killed himself.

Mario. How did you find out?

Paolo. I have the proofs, I tell you. I have been reading them for an hour. I am still stunned! They have been there for a month. You know that as soon as I received the telegram in Milan which announced his suicide in London, I ran to Luciano's room and gathered all his papers, made a packet of them, sealed it and brought them here.

Mario. I told you to burn them.

Paolo. I wanted to in fact, but afterward I thought it better to await until the authorities of the hospital, to whom he left the estate, had verified the accounts. The Syndic came here an hour ago, at the order of the sub-Prefect, to give me the wallet which was found on the body and which our Consul at London had sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I was just putting them away into the desk, when I felt the desire, I don't know why, to look for the reason of his suicide which no one seemed able to explain. [Mario starts.] You know? You suspect the reason?

Mario. I suspected—

Paolo. Suspected! You knew of this love?

Mario. There, there—I will tell you, don't excite yourself!

Paolo. No—answer me! You knew?

Mario. I felt it—yes, that Luciano had lost his head.

Paolo. And you never told me anything?

Mario. What had I to tell you? Seen by others these things appear greater and more offensive than they are. And then I might have been wrong; I only see you and Anna during your short visits to the country. If you, who are with her all the year, did not see anything—On the other hand, Anna was always on her guard, she knew perfectly how to defend herself.

Paolo. Oh, Anna! Anna is a saint! I have always thought of her as one. But now—

Mario. GO on—tell me.

Paolo. In the wallet I found a letter and noticed it was in Anna's handwriting.

Mario. It was perfectly natural that your wife should write to our cousin.

Paolo. Naturally. In fact I have read it. Here it is. [Mario starts to take the letter.] No, listen. [Paolo reads.] "You write me—" [Speaking.] There is no heading. [Reads.] "You write me that if I do not respond you will return immediately. I love my husband, that is my reply. This and only this forever. I beg you not to torment me. Anna."

Mario. Of course.

Paolo. The scoundrel.

Mario. What date is that letter?

Paolo. Luciano himself has noted the hour and date when he received it. He has written here in pencil: "Received to-day, June 26th, 11 A.M." He killed himself before noon.

Mario. Poor devil! One can see it was a stroke of insanity; the writing demonstrates that.

Paolo. You understand of course, that I did not stop there. I opened the wallet. I found four other letters from Anna all on the same subject and in the same tone. The first is of three years ago. There are few words; returning a letter Luciano had written. I looked for this letter of Luciano—it is not here. He must have destroyed it. He kept only hers. Then there is a little note from Rome; you know Anna visited her mother in Rome for a month last winter. It is evident that our friend followed her. Anna would not see him. Then there is a long one which must have been written when he was recovering from that fall he had from his horse. It is the only long one among the five—written in affectionate terms, reasoning and begging; a wonderful letter, good, noble; read—read.

Mario [turning away]. No, no, no.

Paolo. Listen, just a moment.

Mario. I don't like to.

Paolo. She does nothing but speak of me, of our brotherly youth. She also speaks of you. She says—

Mario. No, I beg of you. It is useless. I know what kind of a woman my sister-in-law is and I do not need proofs of her virtue. Why do you bother with those poor letters? Is it so painful that you have found them?

Paolo. Painful? It is painful that I am not able to weep for a false relative who wished to rob—

Mario. Let him alone. He is dead and he has not robbed you of anything. If he had lived he would not have robbed you of anything, the same. Anna knew how—

Paolo. And this? And this? You count as little? Is this painful? I never had the shadow of a doubt about Anna, but—nor has the thought even passed through my mind—but it is different not to have doubted and not to have thought, than to possess the palpable proof of her faith and love. "I love my husband." It is the refrain of all her letters.

Mario. Was it necessary that she tell you this?

Paolo. She did not tell it to me, she told it to him. She told it to him—do you understand? Luciano had all the qualities which attract a woman. He was younger, better looking than I, well spoken, full of fire and courage.

Mario. How it pleases you, eh? To praise him now!

Paolo. Painful? If I had burned, as you wished, those papers and then one day I should have discovered this love, who could then have lifted this suspicion from my mind?

Mario. The certainty makes you suspicious!

Paolo. What do you mean?

Mario. If you had feared this a year ago, that which has happened would not have occurred. I was wrong not to have opened your eyes. A long way off, perhaps Luciano would not have killed himself.

Paolo. But I would have lacked the proof.

Mario. Your tranquility costs much—to the others.

Paolo. You can't pretend that I should feel badly about the fate of Luciano?

Mario. I am not speaking of him.

Paolo. Of whom?

Mario. Of your wife. Think what she must be suffering!

Paolo. Do you think she blames herself?

Mario. Of course.

Paolo. I have noticed that she was distressed but not agitated.

Mario. You do not see the continuous things, you only see the unexpected. Besides, Anna is mistress of herself.

Paolo. And she has done her duty.

Mario. It is a long time that she has done her duty.

Paolo. I shall know how to comfort her, there, I shall know how to cheer her. You shall see, Mario. I feel that we have returned to the first days of our marriage, that I possess her only from to-day.

Mario. Leave it to time. You have read—you have known. It is enough. It is useless that Anna knows you know.

Paolo. She was here when the Syndic gave me the wallet. But she went out immediately.

Mario. She does not know, then, that you have read?

Paolo. She will have imagined it.

Mario. No. And in any case she would be grateful if you pretended to ignore....

Paolo. Let us be frank. Don't let's argue. Nothing is more dreadful than to plan out a line of conduct in these matters. What she has done, Anna has done for me. I must think how to repay her. She has done this for me, for me, do you understand?

Mario. And who says the contrary? See how you excite yourself.

Paolo. Excite myself! Certainly, I will not go and say: "I have read your letters and I thank you very much!" One understands that when I speak of comforting her and of cheering her I intend to do it with the utmost tenderness, with the utmost confidence. I have always been like that. That was why she loved me. There is no need to change even to please you.

Mario. How you take it!

Paolo. It is you who take it badly. You have not said a just word to me. I thought better of you. One would say, to hear you, that this discovery was a disgrace. What has happened new from this discovery? Luciano is dead a month ago, the first grief is passed. If I did continue to ignore everything he would not return to life! He did not arrive to do me the harm he wanted to; so peace be to his soul. There remains the certainty of my wife's love and for this, think as you wish, I rejoice for the best fortune which could befall me.

Mario. Come here. [He places an arm around Paolo's shoulders.] Are you persuaded that I love you?

Paolo. Yes.

Mario. Well then, if you are content, so am I. Is it all right?

Paolo. Yes. Now go and pack your bag.

Mario. Ah, that reminds me, I cannot go to-morrow.

Paolo. No!

Mario. The engineer Falchi has arrived. The day after to-morrow there is the meeting of the water-company.

Paolo. Send it to the devil.

Mario. I cannot, I am the president.

Paolo. It was arranged that we were to leave to-day. We put it off on your account.

Mario. How could it be helped? I had to sell the hay. It is now a question of three days, four at the most.

Paolo. Suppose Anna and I go meanwhile? The rent of the chalet started fifteen days ago. You can join us as soon as you are free.

Mario. If you think so—

Paolo. I'll tell you. The day after to-morrow is Anna's birthday. Until the business kept me in Milan all of July, we always passed that day together—just Anna and I. We did not do this on purpose, but things turned out so. Last year I was able to be free early in July and we came here to stay until September. Well, three days before her birthday, Anna begged me to take her for a trip to Switzerland. She did not tell me, you understand, the reason for her desire, but insisted upon leaving immediately. We went to Interlaken and from there we went up to Murren. The day of Saint Anna we were at Murren. The place was so lovely, Anna liked it so much, that then and there I arranged for a chalet for this year. Fifteen days ago you—who never go anywhere, proposed to accompany us—

Mario. Did you find it indiscreet of me?

Paolo. No. You saw that Anna was pleased. She is very fond of you.

Mario. I know.

Paolo. When you had to postpone your leaving it was the same as to propose that we wait for you. But the first delay would still have allowed us to arrive in time; this second one will not and I, for my part, now especially desire to be there at the date arranged. It is childish if you wish—

Mario. No. All right. I will join you there.

Paolo. We postponed leaving until to-morrow to await you; but now that you cannot come immediately we could leave this evening. [Jumping up.] I must go—to get out of here. Those letters—

Mario. Burn them. Give them to me.

Paolo. Ah, no. Not yet.

Mario. Go. Go to-night; it is better. But will Anna be ready?

Anna. [Who has entered.] To do what?

Mario. I was telling Paolo that I could not leave to-morrow; nor for three or four days. It is useless that you two remain here in the heat to wait for me. Paolo must be back in Milan at the beginning of September; every day shortens his vacation. I am old enough to travel alone; as soon as I am free I will join you. What do you say?

Anna. As you wish.

Mario. I also desire to thoroughly clean the house and garden. Your presence would disturb me, and mine is necessary.

Paolo. And as Mario cannot accompany us, we may as well leave this evening.

Anna. So soon?

Paolo. Your luggage is almost finished.

Mario. You will gain a day. At this season of the year it is better to travel by night than by day. It is full moon now and the Gottard road is charming.

Anna [distractedly]. Yes. Yes.

Mario [to Paolo]. Then you had better go immediately to the stable in the piazza and tell them to hold a carriage in readiness. At what time does the train leave from Poggio?

Paolo. At seven-thirty.

Mario. Tell him to be here at six. I would send Battista to order it, but the engineer has taken him with him. On the other hand, it is better that you see the carriage, they have some antediluvian arks!

Paolo. And why don't you go? He knows you and you know his arsenal—you could choose better.

Mario. You are right. Anna, I will send Maddalena to help you with your luggage?

Anna. Yes, thank you, Mario. Send Maddalena to help me.

Mario [going off]. And dinner is at five.

Paolo. Yes.

[Mario exits. Silence. Anna takes a few steps toward the desk. Paolo goes impetuously to Anna and takes her in his arms and kisses her. She breaks away violently.]

Anna. Oh—horrors! [The words escape from her lips involuntarily.]

Paolo [drawing back]. Anna!

Anna. There was one of my letters in that wallet, wasn't there?

Paolo. Yes, there was.

Anna. You have read it?

Paolo. Yes.

Anna. I have killed a man and you embrace me for that?

Paolo. I did not want to. I was tempted not to tell you. Mario advised me not to. Then when I saw you—you filled me with tenderness! But what did you say, Anna?

Anna. Pardon me. And promise me that you will never speak of all this again, either here or hereafter, directly or indirectly—never.

Paolo. I promise.

Anna. You will not keep your promise.

Paolo. Oh!

Anna. You will not keep it. I know you. What a misfortune that you should have known it! I saw it in your eyes when I came in, that you knew. I had hoped that you would always have ignored it. I prayed so. But as soon as I entered I saw immediately. [With imperceptible accent of mocking pity.] You had a modest and embarrassed air. I know you so well. Do you want to hear how well? When Mario proposed you go for the carriage, I thought—he will not go. When you sent him instead, I smiled.

Paolo. I noticed it, but I did not understand.

Paolo. That's nothing. That you should read me is natural.

Anna. In exchange, eh? And listen—when Mario was leaving, I also thought—now the minute we are alone—he will come to me and embrace me.

Paolo. You imagine very well....

Anna. This was also natural, wasn't it?

Paolo. I love you so much, Anna. [A long pause.] It is strange that in your presence I have a sense of restraint. I tell you something and immediately I think should I tell her? Was it better I kept silent? It is the first time I have had this feeling toward you. We both need distraction.

Anna. Yes, but to-day I do not leave.

Paolo. No? But you said—

Anna. I have thought better. There is not the time to get ready.

Paolo. Your luggage is ready.

Anna. Oh, there is a lot to do.

Paolo. We have eight hours yet.

Anna. I am tired.

Paolo. Mario has just gone to order the carriage.

Anna. It can be for another day.

Paolo. Perhaps to-morrow—

Anna. Not to-day, certainly.

Paolo. I do not know how to tell Mario. It looks like a whim.

Anna. Oh, Mario will understand.

Paolo. More than I do.

Anna. I did not wish to say—

Paolo. Anna, you do not pardon me for having read those letters.

Anna. You see, you have already begun to speak of them again! Well, no, no, no, poor Paolo, it is not that. I have nothing to pardon. Believe me. I feel no wrath or bitterness. I would have given, I don't know what, if you had ignored them; for you, for your own good, for your peace, not for me. But I felt that some time or other—[Pause.] It has been a useless tragedy—you will see.

Paolo. What do you mean?

Anna. I don't know, don't mind me—excuse me—[Moves up.]

Paolo. Are you going?

Anna. Yes.

Paolo. So you won't tell me if we go to-morrow?

Anna. We have time to decide.

Paolo. Oh, rather. [Anna exits. Silence.] A useless tragedy! [Sits with his elbows upon his knees and his head in his hands.]

Mario [coming in]. There, that is done. And Anna?

Paolo. She's there. [Points off.]

Mario. Maddalena will be here immediately, she was still at the wash-house. Well? Come, come, shake yourself, throw off that fixed idea. One knows that at the first opportunity—You do well to leave immediately, the trip will distract you.

Paolo. We do not go.

Mario. What?

Paolo. Anna does not want to.

Mario. Why?

Paolo [shrugs his shoulders].

Mario. She said so?

Paolo. She understood, she asked me.... I could not deny it.

Mario. She asked of her own accord, without you saying anything?

Paolo. Do me the favor of not judging me now. If you knew what I am thinking!

Mario. Do you wish that I speak to her? I am convinced that to remain here is the worse thing to do.

Paolo. Try it. Who knows? You understand her so well! She said so herself.

Mario. And you promise me not to worry meanwhile?

Paolo. What is the use of promising? I wouldn't keep it. She said that also. She knows me. Don't you know me?

Mario. Is she in her room?

Paolo. I think so.

Mario. Leave it to me.

Paolo. Look out. If—no, no, go—go—we shall see afterwards. [Mario exits. Paolo takes a letter from the wallet, reads it attentively, accentuating the words.] "You write me that if I do not respond you will return immediately." [Speaks.] You write me! Where is that letter? [Reads.] "I love my husband, that is my response. This and only this forever. I beg you not to torment me." [Speaks.] I beg you not to torment me. Ummm!

Maddalena. Here I am.

Paolo. I do not want you. It is not necessary now. If I need you I will call you.

Maddalena. Excuse me, Mr. Paolo, is it true what they say in the village?

Paolo. What?

Maddalena. That the Syndic brought the wallet of Mr. Luciano this morning with a lot of money in it for the poor!

Paolo. Why—no.

Maddalena. The servant of the Syndic said so just now at the wash-house.

Paolo. There was nothing in it, the Syndic also knows that.

Maddalena. Oh, it would not have been a surprise. Mr. Luciano came here rarely, but when he did he spent.

Paolo. I am glad to hear it.

Maddalena. Last year, to Liberata, the widow of the miner who went to America to join his son and to whom you gave fifty lire, well, Mr. Luciano gave her a hundred.

Paolo. What a story! He wasn't even here at that time.

Maddalena. Wasn't even here? I saw him—

Paolo. Nonsense. That woman received word that her husband was killed in the mine and that the son wanted her to come to America, the day I left for Switzerland, a year ago yesterday or to-day; I remember it because I gave her a little money in gold which I had been able to procure. She was to leave two days later....

Maddalena. There you are.

Paolo. There you are nothing. Luciano was not there. I know.

Maddalena. He arrived the day Liberata started on the trip.

Paolo. Oh, two days after we left.

Maddalena. Yes it was. He arrived in the morning.

Paolo. At his villa.

Maddalena. No, no, here; but he found only Mr. Mario; he was annoyed, poor man, and left immediately.

Paolo. Ah, I did not know that.... Then you are right. Ah, so he came? You are right. Oh, he was generous! He left all to the hospital.

Maddalena. Yes, yes. But what hospital?

Mario [off stage calls]. Maddalena!

Maddalena. Here I am.

Mario [entering]. Go to Madame, she needs you. [Maddalena exits.] [To Paolo.] I have persuaded her.

Paolo. How fortunate to have a good lawyer.

Mario. And as you see, it did not take long.

Paolo. Want to bet I know how you convinced her?

Mario. Oh, it was very easy—I said....

Paolo. No, let me tell you. I want my little triumph. You gave up the business which held you here and decided to leave with us.

Mario. Even that.

Paolo. Eh? Didn't I know it? When you went away I was just about to tell you and then I wanted to wait and see. So now Anna is disposed to go?

Mario. Are you sorry?

Paolo. I should say not! All the more as we are—are we not going to amuse ourselves? The place, the trip, the hotels,—yes, it is better. But the company! To run away there should be few of us.

Mario. What are you saying?

Paolo [putting his two hands on Mario's shoulders and facing him.] To run away—do you understand? We must be a few. To run away as Anna and I did last year.

Mario. I do not understand.

Paolo. You did not tell me that Luciano had been here last year, nor the day that he was here.

Mario. I don't know. I do not remember....

Paolo. There you are—there—there—I knew it! And you knew that Anna went away from here to avoid him. And I went with her all unconscious. You saw the husband take a train and run away before the other could arrive!

Mario. And if it is true. It does not tell you more or less than the letters did.

Paolo. No, a little more. Everything tells a little more. One grain of sand piles up upon another, then another until it makes the mill-stone which crushes you. It tells a little more. It is one thing to keep away and another to run away. One can keep away a trouble without begging it to keep its distance. But one runs away for fear.

Mario. Uh-h!

Paolo. And look here—look—look, let us examine the case. Let us see. It is improbable that he wrote her he was coming. It is sure he did not or she would have responded: "You write me that you are coming.... I love my husband—I beg you to remain away."

Mario. Oh!

Paolo. So she, foreseeing his intentions, felt that he would come ... by that divination....

Mario. You are the first husband to get angry because a wife did her duty.

Paolo. Uhm! Duty—the ugly word!

Mario. If there ever was a virtuous woman!

Paolo. Woman or wife?

Mario. It is the same.

Paolo. No, no. A woman is for all; a wife for myself alone. Do you believe one marries a woman because she is virtuous? Never! I marry her because I love her and because I believe she loves me. There are a thousand virtuous women, there is one that I love, one alone who loves me ... if there is one....

Mario. Paolo!

Paolo. And if she loved him? Tell me—and if she loved him? And if she repulsed him for virtue's sake, for duty's sake? Tell me. What remains for me? If he was alive I could fight, I might win out. But he is dead—and has killed himself for love of her. If she loved him no force can tear him from her heart.

Mario. You think—?

Paolo. I do not know. It is that—I do not know. And I want to—I want to hear her shout it to my face. And she shall tell me.... Oh, I had the feeling the minute I had read the first letter. I did not then understand anything, indeed, I believed; "I love my husband." But I immediately felt a blow here—and it hurt me so! And I did not know what it was. Oh, before some fears assume shape, it takes time. First they gnaw, they gnaw and one does not know what they are. I was content.... I told you I was content, I wanted to persuade myself, but you have seen that fear gnaws at my heart. And if she loved him? Oh, surely! The more admirable eh? All the world would admire her. I, myself, would admire her upon my knees if she were the wife of another. But she is mine. I am not the judge of my wife. I am too intimately concerned, I cannot judge, I am the owner—she is mine—a thing of mine own. I must admire her because, while she could have cheated me altogether, she has only cheated me a little. I see that which she has robbed me of, not that which remains.

Mario. You are crazy!

Paolo. Do you not see that I am odious to her?

Mario. Oh, God!

Paolo. Odious! You were not here a moment ago. Don't you see that it is necessary that she have your help in order to support my presence?

Mario. To-day. Because she knows that you have read—did I not tell you? Because it is embarrassing.

Paolo. Not only to-day. You never move from this place. For fifteen years that you have played at being a farmer, you have not been away for a week. And fifteen days ago you suddenly decided to make a tour of the world. She begged you to.

Mario. I swear—

Paolo. I do not believe you. Anna shall have to tell me. [Paolo starts to exit.]

Mario. What are you doing?

Paolo. I am going to ask her.

Mario. No, Paolo.

Paolo. Let me go.

Mario. No. Maddalena is also there.

Paolo. Oh, as far as that's concerned—[Calls.] Anna—Anna!

Mario. You are very ungrateful.

Paolo. If she loved me it did not come hard for her to repulse him. If she loved him, I owe her no gratitude.

Anna [entering]. Did you call me?

[Mario starts to exit.]

Paolo. No, no. Remain. Yes, Anna. I wanted to ask you something. Whatever you say, I shall believe you.

Anna. Of that I am certain.

Paolo. Was it you who begged Mario to come with us? Not to-day I don't mean.

Anna. Neither to-day nor before.

Mario. You see!

Anna. I did not beg him nor did I propose it to him. But I must say that if Mario had not come I would not have gone either.

Paolo. To-day. But fifteen days ago?

Mario. Listen, this is ridiculous.

Anna. It is natural that Paolo desires to know and he has the right to question me.

Paolo. I do not wish to impose my rights.

Anna. There you are wrong. We must value our own and respect those of the others. Fifteen days ago I would have gone with you alone.

Mario. Oh, blessed God!

Paolo. You were afraid that she would say no?

Anna. But his consent to accompany us greatly relieved me.

Paolo. Which is to say that my company would have weighed upon you.

Anna. Not weighed. It would have annoyed me.

Paolo. May one ask why?

Anna. You may as well. Because I was shadowed by an unhappiness which you ignored at the time, whereas now you know the reasons. Knowing them, you will understand that I must be very worried, but for the sake of your peace I must hide my unhappiness, seeing that I had nothing to reproach myself with in relation to you. You understand that for two to be together, always together, it would be more difficult to pretend all the time—all the time! While the presence of a third person—

Mario. But listen—listen—

Anna. Mario had the good idea to accompany us.

Paolo. Mario, who knew him!

Anna. I ignore that.

Paolo. Did he ever speak of it?

Mario. Do not reply, Anna, do not answer, come away—he is ill, he does not reason—poor devil—it will pass and he will understand then—

Anna. No, it is useless.

Paolo. A useless tragedy, isn't it, Anna?

Anna. Do you require anything more of me?

Paolo [imperiously]. Yes. I want the letters which you wrote to Luciano.

Anna. That is just. I will go and get them. [Exits.]

Paolo. All!

[Anna returns and hands Paolo a key.]

Anna. They're in my desk, in the first drawer at the right. They are tied with a black ribbon.

Paolo. Very well. [Exits.]

Mario. Pardon him, Anna, he does not know what he is doing. He loves you so much? He is rather weak.

Anna. Oh, without pity!

Mario. As are the weak. He loves you—he loves you.

Anna. Worse for him that he loves me. He will lose.

Mario. No, it is for you to help him.

Anna. As long as I can.

[Paolo returns with the letters in his hand, goes to the desk and takes out the others, throws them all into the fire-place and lights them.]

Mario. What are you doing? Look, Anna!

[Anna stands rigid, erect and watches the letters burn, and murmurs as though to herself.]

Anna. Gone! Gone! Gone!

[Paolo comes to Anna with hands clinched as though in prayer, bursts into tears and kneels before her. Mario goes off half in contempt and half in despair.]

Paolo [on his knees]. And now—can you pardon me?

[Anna reluctantly rests a hand upon his head, then indulgently and discouragingly.]

Anna. Rise—rise.

Paolo. Tell me that you pardon me. I swear that I want to die here and now.

Anna. Yes, yes. Arise; do not remain so. It hurts me.

Paolo [getting up]. I do not know what got into my head—but I have suffered a great deal.

Anna. Yes, I see. Yes ... calm yourself.

Paolo. Mario has no tact ... it was he who irritated me from the first. [Anna starts to go.] Do not go. Stay here a moment. [Anna sits upon the sofa.] You see the stroke of madness has passed. It was only because Mario was here. Mario is good, judicious, but his presence irritated me. Yes, yes, you were right. But you should also understand the state of my mind. [He walks up and down.] After all, what does all this disturbance mean? It means that I love you—and it seems to me that is the essential thing! One must consider the source of things. It is five years that we are husband and wife and you cannot say I have ever given you the slightest reason for regret. I do not believe so. Five years are five years. I have worked up to a good position, you have always figured in society; a pastime which I would never have enjoyed alone. I had friends, the club, the other husbands after the first year of marriage, in the evenings, I renounced everything. I do not wish to praise myself, but—

Anna. Please don't walk up and down so much!

Paolo. Excuse me. Will you allow me to sit here next to you? [Long silence.] When shall I see you smile, Anna? No, do not get up. Then it is not true that you have pardoned me!

Anna. What do you wish, Paolo? What do you wish of me? Say it quickly!

Paolo. You made me promise never to speak of it.

Anna. Oh, but I said that you would break your promise immediately. You are wrong though, believe me. Do not ask me anything. When there is no more danger I promise you, and I will keep my promise. I promise that I will tell you everything without your asking me. And it will be good for both of us. But I wish to choose the moment.

Paolo. All right then. Do not tell me anything, but come away with me, with me alone. I will attend to Mario. He was coming to please you and he will be much happier to see us leave together, as a sign of peace. I understand that it is repulsive to you to re-awaken those memories; all right, instead of awakening them I will make you forget them—I swear it—I swear that I will never speak of them again, but come away with me and you shall see how much love....

Anna. Do not insist, Paolo. If you insist I shall come—but—

Paolo. No, no, I do not insist. You see me here begging. I do not want you by force. But listen once more, listen. I am grateful, you must understand, for that which you have done. Oh, I shall recompense you for it all my life. I realize there is not a more saintly woman in all the world, but you must enter into my soul and feel a little pity also for me.

Anna. Ah, ah! [Laughs bitterly.]

Paolo. Why do you prolong this torment? You said when there is no more danger! What danger is there? Upon whom depends this danger—from you or from me? What can time change for us? I have always loved you, I love you now, and in this moment I love you as I have never loved you! Give me your hand—only your hand. God, Anna! You are beautiful! And you are my wife—you are my wife and the oath which you took when we were married, is not only one of faithfulness, but of love. Come away—come away.

Anna. No, no, no.

Paolo. No? Are you afraid? Afraid of being unfaithful to him?

Anna. Paolo—Paolo!

Paolo. And if I wish it?

Anna. You cannot wish it.

Paolo. And if I want?

Anna. Paolo!—

Paolo. And if I command?

Anna. You will, in one moment, destroy all my plan. Think—your violence is a liberation for me.

Paolo. Oh, come—or speak!

Anna. Do you wish it so? We have come to that? I have done all that I could.

Paolo. Yes, go on. Speak!

Anna. I loved Luciano and I love him still.

Paolo. Oh!

Anna. I loved him. I loved him—do you hear? I loved him and I feel an immense joy to say it here and you did not see that I was dying to say it—and when I saw you nearly stifling me with your ferocious curiosity, I said to myself: "It will out—it will out"... And it has come. I loved him, I love him and I have never loved any one in the world but him and I feel only remorse for my virtue. Now do you know?

Paolo. Very well! [Starts to go.]

Anna. Ah, no. Remain here—now you hear me. You wished that I speak, now I do.... It is I now who command you to stay. You must understand very well that after a scene such as this, everything is finished between us, so I must tell you everything. I listened to you and will listen to you again if you wish, but you also must listen to me. What have you ever done for me? What help have you given me? Have you known how to see when it was right that you should see? Have you known even how to suspect? Was it necessary that a man die.... Not even that! When you were not suffering, as you are suffering now, did you know how to see the way I suffered? You thought that my sorrow was for a dead relative! You did not understand that I was crazed; you slept next to me and yet you did not realize that the first few nights I bit the covers so as not to cry out. In a moment you realize all the facts. And what are these facts? That I, your wife for many years, have defended your peace in silence. I have fulfilled that which people call my duty. Then your curiosity is awakened and to make up for lost time you wish to violate my soul and penetrate down to its very depths. Ah—Paolo, no, no; one cannot do this. No, it will not help to know everything. One does not enter into the soul by the front door; one enters by stealth. You have tried to force an entrance; now you see there is nothing more inside for you.

Paolo. No? You think you are right, eh? You are right—it is true—I admit that you are right. So I have never had your love, eh? You have said so; that I never had your love! Then what? You are right. Still—do you know what I shall do? I throw you out of my house!

Anna [happily]. I go, I go, I go and I shall never come back! And do not beg me and do not come after me. I have no more strength to have pity, when I say good-by, I shall be as dead to you! [Runs off into her room. Paolo stunned, stares after her awaiting for her return. Anna returns with her hat and cloak, crosses to exit.]

Paolo. No, Anna, no, no, no. Anna, no. For pity's sake wait! We are both mad. What will become of us? I need you. [Paolo tries to get in her way to stop her.] Do not go. I do not want you to—remain here. I was crazy—do not go, you will see that—for all my life—[Anna tries to break away.] No, for pity's sake—if you go—if you break from me—if you speak—I feel that this will be the end of everything! Remain! Remain, Anna! [She breaks away.]

Anna. Good-by! [Exits.]

 

[Curtain.]