THE DEAD CITY ~ ~ ~ACT FOURTH

The same room as in the first act. The large loggia is open in the twilight.

SCENE I

LEONARDO appears on the loggia, looking, at the Dead Ciiy, over which falls the shadow of evening. His manner is that of a man who marshals all his forces in an extreme resolution. His eyes burn in the earthy pallor of his face as if inflammed by fever. He speaks and moves convulsively, as if in a sort of lucid delirium.

LEONARDO.
The sepulchres. . . . She might fall into one of them, the deepest one. . . . No, no. . . . Even if she should remain alive, she might suffer. . . . Ah horrible, horrible!

He presses his temples with his hands, with a gestuire of horror and madness. He descends the steps, into the room, moves about uncertain, vacillating, obeying the fluctuations of his morbid fancy.

It is necessary then; it is necessary. . . . It is necessary that she be no more, that she be no more! . . . Ah, if she could only flee, if she could only disappear, if she were only far away, if her room were empty. . . . Empty! It will be empty, it shall be empty to-night. . . .Her breath, her breath. . . .

He drops upon a chair, passes his hands over his face as if to dispel a cloud, as if to see more clearly.

There is no escape; there is no other way out. I have thought of everything --have I? Everything has been well considered. He loves her. . . . And she thinks of dying. It is the indelible stain upon my soul. An abyss has suddenly opened. Everything has been broken, everything has been rent asunder at one blow, through her, through her! She is there, so sweet, so sweet, and through her all this evil. . . . None of us can live any longer. We have ceased to understand each other. The abyss yawns between us, who were, before, one single life, one single soul! There is no escape; there is no other way.

A pause. He rises, spurred by his tormenting thoughts.

How accomplish it? How accomplish it? She will be here in a little while. . . . Ah, I shall see her, I shall speak to her, I shall hear her voice. . . . If at least I could see in her the saintly sister once more in the last moment! If, looking at her for the last time, my eyes could become pure once more! If I could clasp her in my arms once more without this trembling . . . this horrible trembling! . . . He loves her, he loves her! Since when? How? What has happened between them? . . . Ah, my God, my God, everything in me is infected, everything is contaminated . . . and this thirst which destroys me!

He feels of his burning throat. He looks for water, approaches the table, fills a glass and drinks with avidity. He trembles, as if struck by a sudden thought.

Ah, the fountain!

A pause. He trembles, leaning upon the table under the oppression of the new thought, with his eyes wide open and staring.

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THE DEAD CITY~ ~ ~ACT FOURTH, SCENE II

BIANCA MARIA enters from the second right hand door. Her manner reveals discouragement and gloomy weariness.

BIANCA MARIA.
You here, Leonardo? I did not know that you had returned. .
LEONARDO, controlling his excitement.
Yes, I returned a short time ago. . . . I was thinking of going to see you, but I thought . . . you were asleep. . . . Were you?
BIANCA MARIA.
No, I have not been able to sleep.
LEONARDO.
How tired you must be!
BIANCA MARIA.
And you?
LEONARDO.
Oh, I am accustomed to be awake. But you! To wait for me until dawn, there, seated upon a step! Why did you do that? When I returned, when I saw you, your face looked so wan, so ashy. . . .

In his voice thrills an unexpected tenderness..

BIANCA MARIA.
You have been weeping!
LEONARDO.
I did not suspect that you were here, and you suddenly rose like a phantom. . .
BIANCA MARIA.
I am always like a phantom to you. I frighten you.
LEONARDO, bewildered.
No, no. . . .
BIANCA MARIA, taking his hand.
Why did you run away last night? I know that you ran away. .
LEONARDO.
I, run away?
BIANCA MARIA.
Anna called after you, and in a strangely altered voice.
LEONARDO.
She called me? I did not hear. . . .
BIANCA MARIA.
And you staid out all night, until dawn!
LEONARDO.
The night was so beautiful; and on my way, the hours passed so rapidly. The night of the solstice is short. I wished to hear the song of the larks at dawn. . . . Still, could I have known you were waiting for me. . . .
BIANCA MARIA.
I was waiting for you, weeping.
LEONARDO.
Weeping?
BIANCA MARIA, unable to contain herself.
Yes, yes, pouring out all my tears for you, for you. . . . Do you think that I can live another day like this? Do you think it possible for me to stand this torture any longer? Tell me at least what I shall do. Take me away, take me away; or arrange for us to be here alone. I am ready to obey you in everything. I wish to be alone with you, as before, here or anywhere. Anywhere I will follow you without a murmur. But quick! But quick! To-morrow! If you are not willing, if you delay, you will be responsible for all that may happen. . . . Yours will be the fault, Leonardo. Think of it well!
LEONARDO, deadly pale, looking into her face, in a choking voice.
Then you love him? Tell me, tell me how much do you love him? Desperately?
BIANCA MARIA, covering her face.
Oh! Oh!
LEONARDO, almost beside himself.
And he. . . . Has he told you that he loves, you? When? When did he tell you? Answer! Do you believe that he cannot be cured of his love for you?
BIANCA MARIA, still covering her face with her hands.
Oh! Oh! What a question to ask of me!
LEONARDO is about to speak again, but restrains himself. He moves away with irresolute steps, looks at the doors, looks at the loggia, then turns to his sister.
Forgive me! I am not angry with you. You are blameless. . . . A cruel destiny hangs over us; and we must submit to its iron law. You are without fault. You are pure; are you not, sister? And you will remain pure; you will know no shame.
BIANCA MARIA, taking courage and throwing her arms around his neck.
Yes, yes, brother. Tell me what we shall do. I devoted my life to you when we were left alone in the world; I ought to live for you alone, in the future. Tell me what we shall do! I am ready.
LEONARDO.
I shall tell you. . . . But not here. . . . Shall we go out? Shall we go and sit down there . . . by the fountain of Perseus?
BIANCA MARIA.
Let us go out. . . . But down there the fragrance of the myrtle is so strong that it made me ill last night.
LEONARDO.
To-night it will not be too powerful, for there is a wind blowing that will disperse it.
BIANCA MARIA.
Let us go.
LEONARDO seems unable to move, overcome by, excessive anguish. He glances around despairingly, gazing at every object as if he, too, were looking at it for the last time.
Do you not need . . . to take something . . . from your room? . . . Do you not wish to cover your head?
BIANCA MARIA.
No, the evening is warm. It is lightening over toward the bay.
LEONARDO, irresolute.
Perhaps . . . it may rain. . . .
BIANCA MARIA.
May God grant it! But there was not cloud in the sky a moment ago.
LEONARDO.
And to-day, do you know? a procession started from Fichtia for the chapel of the prophet Elijah.
BIANCA MARIA.
I heard the chanting in the distance. . . . Why do you look at me so?
LEONARDO, trembling.
I am looking at your weary eyes. . . .They worry me. . . . Are you sleepy?
BIANCA MARIA.
No, I am not sleepy any longer. . . . I will sleep later when everything is settled. Let us go. You must tell me. . . . But what are you thinking of?
LEONARDO.
Of what am I thinking? Oh, a strange reminiscence. . . .
BIANCA MARIA.
What reminiscence?
LEONARDO.
Oh, nothing . . . something childish. . . . I was thinking of that snake-skin we found on the road, ascending to MycenŠ the first time . . . a childish idea. . . . I do not know why it came back to my mind. . . .
BIANCA MARIA.
I kept it, you know! I put it between the pages of a book, like a bookmark. . .
LEONARDO.
Ah, you preserved it. . . .

He draws still nearer to his sister, lowering his voice.

Tell me, tell me, how long since you saw Anna?
BIANCA MARIA.
Several hours.
LEONARDO.
Is she there, in her rooms?
BIANCA MARIA.
I believe she is there.
LEONARDO.
Has she never spoken to you . . . has she never spoken to you about these things?
BIANCA MARIA, bowing her head in pain.
Yes, yes. . . . She knows; she suffers. . . .
LEONARDO.
How so? How did she speak to you?
BIANCA MARIA.
Like a sister, with the kindness of a sister. . . .
LEONARDO.
Did she forgive you? Did she kiss you?
BIANCA MARIA.
Yes. . . .
LEONARDO, trembling, hesitating.
And he . . . have you seen him . . .since last night?
BIANCA MARIA.
No. . . . He is not here. . . .
LEONARDO.
Did Anna tell you . . . where he went?
BIANCA MARIA.
To Nauplia.
LEONARDO.
When will he return?
BIANCA MARIA.
To-night, perhaps presently. . . .

A pause.

What are you looking at behind me?

She looks around, frightened, as if to see if there is someone behind her.

LEONARDO.
Nothing, nothing. . . . It seemed to me that someone was about to enter through that door.

He points to the door leading to ANNA's rooms. BIANCA MARIA listens.

BIANCA MARIA.
May be Anna is coming now. . . . Let us go.

She takes her brother's hand and begins to pull him toward the door leading to the stairs.

LEONARDO.
Is Anna coming?

He follows his sister, turning his head around and looking at the second door to the left, which opens.

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THE DEAD CITY ~ ~ ~ ACT FOURTH, SCENE III

ANNA appears at the threshold, followed by THE NURSE.

ANNA.
Who is going out through the staircase door?

LEONARDO and BIANCA MARIA disappear without answering.

Who is it, nurse?
THE NURSE.
The brother and sister.
ANNA.
Ah, they are going down the stairs. . . .Where are they going?

She advances toward the door. THE NURSE accompanying her. When she arrives at the threshold, she bends forward and calls to them.

Bianca Maria! Leonardo! Where are you going?

No one answers.

Bianca Maria! Where are you going? Where are you going?

No one answers.

Go, nurse, run, overtake them. . . .

THE NURSE goes out. The blind woman, seized by a vague anxiety, remains, listening, near the door.

Where are they going? They did not answer. Yet they must have heard my voice; they had but just descended. . . . It looks as if they were fleeing. . . . Where to? . . . How my heart beats!

She places her hand over her heart and listens for THE NURSE's return.

He is to speak to me, to-night . . . at this very hour. What will he say to me? It seems something important has been resolved upon. . .

She hears the step of THE NURSE upon the stairs

Nurse! You return alone?
THE NURSE re-enters, breathless.
I overtook them. . . . They told me they were going to the fountain they would return in a little while.
ANNA.
Did they not hear me call them?
THE NURSE.
They walked rapidly, as if in haste.
ANNA.
Is it late? Is it night yet?
THE NURSE.
One can hardly see. There is a warm wind blowing, which raises the dust. It is lightening toward the sea.
ANNA.
Is it going to storm?
THE NURSE.
It is a mackerel-sky. It is lightening from a serene sky.
ANNA.
When will Alessandro return?
THE NURSE.
This is the hour.
ANNA.
Let us wait.

THE NURSE takes her to a seat and sits near her upon a low stool. They both remain silent for a long time. ANNA is very alert and stirs at every little noise.

Do you hear? Do you hear that noise? Who is playing? it sounds like a flute.
THE NURSE.
'Tis a shepherd passing by.
ANNA.
How sweet it sounds. it sounds like a flute.
THE NURSE.
It is a flute made of a reed.

The blind woman listens for some time.

ANNA.
It is an old melody which it seems I have heard, but I know not when.
THE NURSE.
He has passed by here at other times, this shepherd.
ANNA.
No, it seems to me I heard it at a time of which I have no memory. . . . It is as if you were telling me now one of those old fables of yours, nurse. How many things, how many things there are in the sound of a little reed! My heart is full to bursting, nurse, as heavy as a stone. . . . Do you think that they met the shepherd? I mean Bianca Maria and her brother.
THE NURSE.
May be they did.
ANNA, anxiously.
How did they look? Did you look at them closely? Did you look into their faces? How did they look?
THE NURSE.
I hardly know. . . . How should they have looked?
ANNA.
Were they excited? Were they sad?
THE NURSE.
They looked as if they were in haste.
ANNA.
But he, her brother. . . . Did you not look him in the face?
THE NURSE.
I did not get near to them. They kept on walking.
ANNA.
Which one of the two was walking ahead?
THE NURSE.
They were holding each other's hands, I believe.
ANNA.
Ah, they held each other's hands. . . .And their steps were firm?
THE NURSE.
They walked rapidly.

A pause. ANNA is thoughtful and vigilant.

ANNA.
And Alessandro does not return!
THE NURSE.
This is the hour. He must be nearly here.
ANNA, rising impatiently.
Go out upon the loggia, nurse, and look.

THE NURSE obeys.

THE NURSE.
What a hot wind! It is as if it came from a furnace. . . . I think I see a man on horseback on the road. . . .
ANNA, with a start.
Is it Alessandro?
THE NURSE.
Yes, yes, it is the master. Here he comes.

She descends the steps.

ANNA.
Go, nurse. Make sure that everything is ready in his room. Do not come until I call you. Is there still a little light here?
THE NURSE.
One can scarcely see any longer.
ANNA.
Bring a lamp.

THE NURSE goes out at the left. ANNA listens anxiously for the sound of ALESSANDRO'S steps on the stairs.

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THE DEAD CITY ~ ~ ~ ~ ACT FOURTH, SCENE IV

ALESSANDRO enters. He is so absorbed in his painful thoughts that he does not notice ANNA'S presence. He goes toward his rooms without speaking.

ANNA.
Alessandro!
ALESSANDRO, startled, stops.
You here, Anna? I did not see you. It is almost dark.
ANNA.
I was waiting for you.
ALESSANDRO.
I tarried a little. Upon the road the wind raised such a thick dust that it was difficult to advance. It is the hot breath of the desert. Night seems to descend like a fiery cinder. . . . Where is Leonardo?
ANNA.
He went out a while ago with his sister.
ALESSANDRO, in an unsteady voice.
Do you not know where he went?
ANNA.
He descended to the fountain of Perseus.

THE NURSE enters, carrying a lighted lamp, but when she is about to place it on the table, a gust of wind blows it out. The door behind her closes violently.

THE NURSE.
Ah, it went out! I must close the stairway door. The wind is rising.

She goes to close the door, then returns to the table to light the lamp again. ANNA'S manner expresses an undefined terror. She listens in the direction of the open loggia as if to discover distant cries. THE NURSE goes out on the left, closing the door behind her.

ANNA.
Alessandro! Come nearer, listen. . . .
ALESSANDRO appreaches her, uneasy.
Do you hear nothing? Do you not seem to hear . . .
ALESSANDRO.
What?

ANNA does not answer.

It is the wind whistling through the openings in the walls and beneath the Gate of Lions.
ANNA.
Is a storm brewing?
ALESSANDRO, ascending rapidly to the loggia.
No. The sky is entirely clear. The stars are beginning to appear. The sickle of the moon rests on the crest of the Acropolis. The wind roars strangely in the Dead City, engulfing itself, maybe, in the cavities of the tombs, It sounds like the roll of drums. Do you not hear it?

He descends the steps. ANNA grasps his arm, the prey of an unconquerable terror.

ALESSANDRO.
What is the matter, Anna?
ANNA.
I am restless. . . . I cannot overcome the anxiety that chokes my throat. . . . I think of those two down there. . . .

ALESSANDRO, in extreme excitement misunderstanding her.

What? You know. . . . You know about it? . . . About that terrible thing?

. . .Who, who could have told you. . . .Leonardo, perhaps? Has Leonardo spoken to you? How could he . . . to you. . . .
ANNA, bewildered.
Why, what do you mean? What are you thinking of? . . . No, no; he has not spoken to me; he has told me nothing. . . . I . . . . I spoke to him last night, here. . . . I who knew, I who knew already . . . oh, but without complaint, without rancor, Alessandro. . . .
ALESSANDRO.
You spoke to him, of that horrible thing! You had the courage to speak to him about it, Anna! But how? How did you know, tell me, how did you know? How have you been able to penetrate his secret, while even I, up to last night, entertained not a shadow of suspicion! Tell me, how did you know?
ANNA, more and more confused.
His secret! What do you mean? What secret? Of what horrible thing are you speaking, Alessandro?
ALESSANDRO, realizing his mistake, confounded.
I meant . . .
ANNA.
Is there something else? Is there something else?
ALESSANDRO, grasping her hands and conquering with an effort the emotion that suffocates him.
Listen to me, Anna, you who know how to bear any burden of grief, you who never have been afraid of suffering, and who know all the bitterness of life. We have reached a grave moment, very grave. A tearing whirlwind is carrying us to I do not know what destination. We are the prey of mysterious and invincible powers. You feel it, Anna, you feel that a horrible knot has been tied about us, and that we must cut it. We have avoided speaking of it, up to this moment, because to me, as well as to you, the only way, worthy of us and of what we have been, was to accept the inevitable in silence. But now the catastrlophe has come. For each one of us the moment has come to look Destiny in the face. . . . Closing the eyes avails nothing. Everything that is, is necessary. I demand, therefore, of you, Anna, the truth. What happened last night? I demand the truth.
ANNA.
The truth. . . . Ah, it will not profit, it will not profit! There are moments in life when no one knows which words it is better to utter, and which it is better to bury. . . . Yesterday I asked Leonardo's forgiveness for having spoken, now I ask your forgiveness, Alessandro. You said well, you said well, silence alone is worthy. To harm no one, silence should not have been broken. But he was there. . . . So many times, so many times I have felt that he was suffering, suffering cruelly. . . . I alone seemed to be the cause of such great agony, I alone the encumbrance! And I felt a sisterly desire to comfort him, to do him some good, to show him that everything was understood and settled. And last night, I do not know what desperation there was in him when he came near me: I do not know what need of confldence. . . . It seemed that he had been weeping, that something in his heart had melted away. . . . The stars seemed beautiful to him once more. . . . Then I felt the need of doing him some good; and I spoke to him. . . . I spoke to him of that poor creature and of you. . . . I wished to drive out of his soul all bitterness, and all the unjust rancor against that dear girl, who possesses no other fault save that of loving and being loved. . . . And I spoke to him of her, and I spoke to him of you, without complaining, without humiliating myself, but giving him some hope. . . .
ALESSANDRO, entirely disconcerted.
Some hope! And he . . . do you believe that he already knew? Did it seem to you, Anna, that he already knew? . . . It is impossible! Impossible! Only a little while before, he had spoken to me. . . .
ANNA, bewildered.
He did not know? . . . He did not know? . . .

Thinking over his conversation she seems to discover some clues she had not noticed before, and to grasp the truth all of a sudden. Her exclamation is like a pent up cry.

Ah, possibly! He spoke of not understanding. . . . Yes, yes. . . . He said, "Are you sure? Are you sure?" And then. . . .Ah, but now? There is something else then, there is something else?

ALESSANDRO moves about the room uncertain, as one who seeks a loophole, but does not find it.

ALESSANDRO, in a low voice, speaking to himself.
After what he had revealed to me! . . .
ANNA.
Tell me the truth now, Alessandro! I demand the truth of you.
ALESSANDRO, re-approaching her.
And what did he do? What did he do then? Where did he go?
ANNA.
He ran out, he fled. . . . I know from his sister that he came back this morning at dawn. She had waited for him until then.
ALESSANDRO.
Flight, flight. . . . It seems there is no other way but flight. . . .

He moves about uncertain, not knowing what decision to make.

Ah, when will we look into each other's eyes again. . . .
ANNA, pressing.
But tell me the truth now!
ALESSANDRO.
And they have gone out together. . . . They went down to the fountain. . . . How long ago?
ANNA.
A few moments before you came back.
ALESSANDRO.
Together . . . together . . . down yonder. . . .

His excitement increases from moment to moment.

And they were here with you before going? . . . What did they say?
ANNA.
No, I entered as they were descending the stairs. . . . I called after them, they did not answer. . . . I sent nurse to overtake them. . . .
ALESSANDRO.
And then? . . .
ANNA.
They told her they were going down to the fountain for a while, to return presently. . . . But tell me, tell me! . . .

She grasps ALESSANDRO by the arm as he is about to ascend to the loggia. They ascend thus together and separate in the shade, toward the balustrade. After a few moments ALESSANDRO comes back alone. Obeying an instinctive impulse, he runs to the door, opens it and descends the stairs precipitately. The blind woman appears between the columns, seized with terror when she starts to follow her husband.

Alessandro! Alessandro!

No one answers. She gropes about in the air and encounters one of the columns; supporting herself by that, she descends the first step, then the others.

Alessandro! He is no longer here. . . . I am alone. . . . Ah, Lord! Give me light!

Following the hot current of the wind, which enters through the the wide-open door, she reaches the threshold; holding to one of the doorjambs she makes one step toward the stairway, and disappears in the dark.

 


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