THE DEAD CITY ~ ~ ~~ ACT FIFTH, ONLY SCENE

 

A wild and lonely spot in a hollow which forms between the minor horn of the mountain of Euboea and the inaccessible side of the citadel. Myrtles grow luxuriantly between the rough rocks and cyclopic ruins. The water of the fountain of Perseus, gushing forth from between the rocks, gathers in a shell-like cavity, out of which it runs, to lose itself through the stony ground. In the ancient solitude, already wrapped in the mystery of night, is heard the ceaseless gurgling of the springs.

ONLY SCENE

Near the edge of the fountain, at the foot of a bush of myrtle, lies the corpse of BIANCA MARIA, supine, rigid, chaste. Her wet garments cling to the body; her hair, soaked with water, covers her face in broad bands; her arms are stretched by her sides; her feet are joined together like the feet of the statues upon ancient tombs. ALESSANDRO, seated upon a rock, with his elbows on his knees and his temples pressed between his hands, looks fixedly at the dead girl, silent in frightful immobility. Upon the opposite side LEONARDO stands, leaning against a great rock, which he clutches from time to time with his fingers, convulsively and in despair, as the fingers of a shipwrecked sailor clutch the rock emerging out of the abyss. In the deathlike silence is heard the gurgling of the water and the intermittent soughing of the wind in the bending myrtles. Suddenly LEONARDO moves away from the rock, and kneels by the side of the corpse of his sister bending over as if to touch her.

ALESSANDRO, stopping him with a quick gesture and an imperious cry.
Do not touch her! Do not touch her!
LEONARDO, drawing back, without rising.
No, no, I will not touch her.... She is yours, she is yours. . . .

A pause. He looks at the corpse with superhuman intensity of grief and love. A delirium seems to assail him. His voice is by turns hoarse and piercing, almost unrecognizable.

Do you believe, do you believe. . . . I should profane her if I touched her? . . . No, no. . . . Now I am pure: I am wholly pure. . . . If she should rise, she could walk upon my soul as upon the immaculate snow. . . . If she could revive, all my thoughts of her would be like the lilies, like the lilies. . . . Ah, who will be able to tell upon this earth of loving a human creature as I love her? Not even you, not even you love her as I do! No love equals mine, upon this earth. . . . All my soul is a heaven for her departed spirit. . . .

His voice, impetuous and ardent, rises like a delirium that increases, and falls with a thrill of supreme tenderness.

Who, who would have done for her what I did? Would you have had the courage to accomplish this atrocity, to save her soul from the horror which was about to overwhelm it? Ah, you loved her, you loved her with all the strength of your life, because she had to be loved in that way, but you do not know, you do not know what a soul she possessed. . . . All the gifts of the earth and all its beauties-beauties of which you have never even dreamed!-were in her soul. . . .It seemed that every morning when she awoke, all the breezes of spring passed over her soul, and softened it and made it bloom. . . . It seemed every night as if the sweetest things of the day remained in her soul, and she mixed and prepared them for me, offering them to me as one offers a loaf of bread. . . . Ah, thus, thus, for a long time she has nourished me; with this bread she nourished me at the close of my every day. . . . She knew how to change the slightest smile into great felicity. The smallest of my joys expanded infinitely in her soul, infinitely, like a circle in calm water, until it gave me the illusion of a great happiness. . . . Ah, you do not know, you do not know what a soul she possessed. . . . No other creature could be her equal, on this earth. . . . There was not a single bitter drop in all her blood. A while ago. . . .

He interrupts himself, starting like a sick man, whose muscles twisted by intolerable spasms.

. . . . A while ago . . . all her tender life was trembling in her hair under my hand. .

He trembles so violently, lying on the ground, that ALESSANDRO rises and attempts to go to him, but he seems unable to move, and falls back upon his stone.

Ah, when she bent over the water to drink . . . I heard the first draught flow down her throat. . . . It seemed to me that she drank out of my heart, that in that draught passed away all the pain suffered, the whole shameful condition, all knowledge, all memory, my entire being. . . . Empty, empty I was, and blind when I threw myself upon her. . . . Death was riding my shoulders and pressing me with his knees of iron. . . The world was destroyed. . . .
A thousand centuries. . . a second. . . And I was there upon the stones. . . And in the water, still agitated from the plunge, her hair. . . the hair around her head, half immersed. . . . Ah, who, who would have done for her what I did? . . . I raised her, I saw her face again. "All her face encircled by her hair, beat like a violent pulse" -- thus, thus, Anna spoke last night: she who had held it in her hands, who had felt it throb between her fingers; and I saw her face again, which no longer pulsated, her cold face dripping with water. . . . I lowered her eyelids over her eyes. . . . Ah, sweeter than a flower upon a flower. . . . And every stain has disappeared from my soul, I have become pure, all pure. All the holiness of my first love has returned to my soul like a torrent of light. Another gift from her, another gift from her, through death. . . To be able to love her again thus, I killed her. In order that you might love her thus under my eyes, you, no longer separated from me, you, without further cruelty and without further remorse-for this, for this I killed her. . . . O my brother, O my brother in life and in death, reunited to me, forever reunited to me by this sacrifice that I made for you. . . Look at her! Look at her! She is perfect; now she is perfect. Now she may be adored as a being divine. . . . In the deepest of my sepulchres I will place her and around her I will put all my treasures. . . . For you, for you, all that which is resplendent, forever for you all that which is pure. . . . Beloved! Beloved! If we could but relight, for one instant, with all our blood, your pallid face, that you might open, for one instant, your eyes, that you might see-us, that you might hear our cry of love and grief . . . Sister! Sister!

He bends over the dead body, calling ker with a repeated heartrending cry, stretching his trembling hands out toward the pallid face, which rests, motionless, under the wet strands of hair. Unable to resist that cry, ALESSANDRO rises, passes before the feet of the corpse, goes near his friend, stoops and places a hand upon his forehead to feel his fever, to calm the delirium that seems the beginning of madness. LEONARDO, at the contact, shows some relief. His contracted nerves relax a little; his voice falls.

Let me kiss her feet, her little feet.

He drags himself to the feet of the dead girl, bows his head and remains thus for sometime. ALESSANDRO also prostrates himself next to him. During this pause the sighing of the fountain is heard. LEONARDO raises his head and remains with eyes fixed on the motionless feet.

One day she was on the shore of the sea, seated upon the sand, with her knees under her chin; and dreaming her beautiful dreams, she enveloped her supple feet, like two tender leaves, in her flowing tresses. The sea was sleeping before her like an innocent child, lightly breathing. . . .

A pause. He shivers, struck by another remembrance.

Ah, that cursed day, before the fire. . . .

He covers his face with his hands, and bends again to the earth.

Forgive! Forgive!

A pause. ALESSANDRO, disturbed, turns toward the rock in the background, where the path opens.

ALESSANDRO, rising suddenly to his feet.
A step! I seem to hear a step down yonder, upon the path. . . Listen!

LEONARDO also rises to his feet, terrified. Both listen, breathless.

No. . . . Perhaps I was mistaken. . . . May be it was the wind in the myrtles. . . . Some stone may have rolled down. . . .
LEONARDO.
I do not know. . . . My heart beats so, it deafens my ears. . . . I hear nothing more. . . .

ALESSANDRO goes to the rock in the background and spies. Only the faint gurgling of the water is heard.

ALESSANDRO turns to his friend, who is looking fixedly at the corpse, and shakes him.
What shall we do now? We must carry her away from here. . Where shall we take her? Shall we carry her into the house now? And Anna . . . Anna . . .What shall we tell her?
LEONARDO, bewildered, looking around.
Anna . . . Anna. she is waiting for me, at this hour she promised me. . . . she promised last night. . . .
ALESSANDRO.
What did she promise you?
LEONARDO.
To wait for me, to wait for me. . . .
ALESSANDRO.
To wait for you? Where? What for?
LEONARDO.
She thought . . . she wished. . . .
ALESSANDRO.
She wished what?
LEONARDO.
She wished to go away . . . to disappear. . . .
ALESSANDRO.
Ah!

A pause. Both look instinctively toward the path between the the rocks in the background. The murmuring of the fountain is heard.

What shall we tell her? What shall we do, now? . . . Do you wish to remain here? . . . I am going. . . going . . . to get. . . the shroud. . . .
LEONARDO, stricken with unconquerable terror.
No, no, do not go, do not leave me. . . . Let us remain here, let us stay!
ALESSANDRO.
But Anna . . . Anna. . . .

He starts and listens.

Some one is coming, some one is approaching. . . . A step, I heard a step. . Ah, if it were. . . . We must hide her. . . . Let us carry her over there, between the myrtles, in the thicket. . . Leonardo, do you not hear me?

He shakes LEONARDO, who seems, petrified.

Let us carry her over there, between the myrtles. . . . I will take her by the shoulders. . . . Gently! Gently!

He leans over the upper part of the body, while LEONARDO stoops over to raise the lower limbs. At this moment the voice of the blind woman is heard in the path.

ANNA, between the rocks, in the background, still invisible.
Bianca Maria! Bianca Maria!

The two men let go of the corpse; they rise, deadly pale, unable to move, terrified.

Bianca Maria!

The blind woman appears between the rocks, alone, groping her way in the shade. As no one answers, she takes afew steps forward, with despairing anxiety.

Alessandro! Leonardo!

She advances toward the corpse, and almost touches it with her foot. The two men stand, unable to make a gesture or to utter a word.

ALESSANDRO, at the moment in which ANNA'S foot is about to touch the corpse.
Stop! Stop! Anna!

ANNA has, however, already felt the lifeless body against her feet. She stoops over the dead girl, utterly distracted, feeling about until she reaches the face and the hair, still wet with the death-giving water. She shudders from head to foot at the clammy touch, then utters a piercing shriek in which she seems to exhale her soul.

ANNA.
Ah. see! I see!

FINIS


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