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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Road To Damascus: A Trilogy - Part 1 - Act 1 - Scene 16. The Doctor's House
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The Road To Damascus: A Trilogy - Part 1 - Act 1 - Scene 16. The Doctor's House Post by :merlins Category :Plays Author :August Strindberg Date :May 2012 Read :3363

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The Road To Damascus: A Trilogy - Part 1 - Act 1 - Scene 16. The Doctor's House

PART I ACT I SCENE XVI. THE DOCTOR'S HOUSE

(The scene is more or less as before. But half the wood-pile has been taken away. On a seat near the verandah surgical instruments, knives, saws, forceps, etc. The DOCTOR is engaged in cleaning these.)

SISTER (coming from the verandah). A patient to see you.

DOCTOR. Do you know who it is?

SISTER. I've not seen him. Here's his card.

DOCTOR (reading it). This outdoes everything!

SISTER. Is it he?

DOCTOR. Yes. Courage I respect; but this is cynicism. A kind of challenge. Still, let him come in.

SISTER. Are you serious?

DOCTOR. Perfectly. But, if you care to talk to him a little, in that straightforward way of yours....

SISTER. I'd like to.

DOCTOR. Very well. Do the heavy work, and leave the final polish to me.

SISTER. You can trust me. I'll tell him everything your kindness forbids you to say.

DOCTOR. Enough of my kindness! Make haste, or I'll get impatient. Shut the doors. (His SISTER goes out.) What are you doing at that dustbin, Caesar? (CAESAR comes in.) Listen, Caesar, if your enemy were to come and lay his head in your lap, what would you do?

CAESAR. Cut it off!

DOCTOR. That's not what I've taught you.

CAESAR. No; you said, heap coals of fire on it. But I think that's a shame.

DOCTOR. I think so, too; it's more cruel and more cunning. (Pause.) Isn't it better to take some revenge? It heartens the other person, lifts the burden off him.

CAESAR. As you know more about it than I, why ask?

DOCTOR. Quiet! I'm not speaking to you. (Pause.) Very well. First cut off his head, and then.... We'll see.

CAESAR. It all depends on how he behaves.

DOCTOR. Yes. On how he behaves. Quiet. Get along.

(The STRANGER comes from the verandah: he seems excited but his manner betrays a certain resignation. CAESAR has gone out.)

STRANGER. You're surprised to see me here?

DOCTOR (seriously). I've long given up being surprised. But I see I must begin again.

STRANGER. Will you permit me to speak to you?

DOCTOR. About anything decent people may discuss. Are you ill?

STRANGER (hesitating). Yes.

DOCTOR. Why did you come to me--of all people?

STRANGER. You must guess!

DOCTOR. I refuse to. (Pause.) What do you complain of?

STRANGER (with uncertainty). Sleeplessness.

DOCTOR. That's not a disease, but a symptom. Have you already seen a doctor?

STRANGER. I've been lying ill in an... institution. I was feverish. I've a strange malady.

DOCTOR. What was so strange about it?

STRANGER. May I ask this? Can one go about as usual; and yet be delirious?

DOCTOR. If you're mad; not otherwise. (The STRANGER lets up, but then sits down again.) What was the hospital called?

STRANGER. St. Saviour.

DOCTOR. That's not a hospital.

STRANGER. A convent, then.

DOCTOR. No. It's an asylum. (The STRANGER gets up, the DOCTOR does so, too, and calls.) Sister! Shut the front door. And the gate leading to the road. (To the STRANGER.) Won't you sit down? I have to keep the doors here locked. There are so many tramps.

STRANGER (calms himself). Be frank with me: do you think me... insane?

DOCTOR. No one ever gets a frank answer to that question, as you know. And no one who suffers in that way ever believes what he's told. So my opinion must be a matter of indifference to you. (Pause.) But if it's your soul, go to a spiritual healer.

STRANGER. Could you take his place for a moment?

DOCTOR. I haven't the vocation.

STRANGER. But...

DOCTOR (interrupting). Or the time. We're getting ready for a wedding here!

STRANGER. I dreamed it!

DOCTOR. It may ease your mind to know that I've consoled myself, as it's called. You may be pleased, it would be natural... but I see, on the contrary, it makes you suffer more. There must be a reason. Why, should you be upset at my marrying a widow?

STRANGER. With two children?

DOCTOR. Two children! Now we have it! A damnable supposition worthy of you. If there were a hell, you should be hell's overseer, for your skill in finding means of punishment exceeds my wildest inventions. Yet I'm called a werewolf!

STRANGER. It might happen that...

DOCTOR (cutting him short). For a long time, I hated you, because by an unforgiveable action you cheated me of my good name. But when I grew older and wiser I saw that, although the punishment wasn't earned, I deserved it for other things that had never been discovered. Besides, you were a boy with enough conscience to be able to punish yourself. So you need worry no more about the whole thing. Is that what you wanted to speak of?

STRANGER. Yes.

DOCTOR. Then you'll be content, if I let you go? (The STRANGER is about to ask a question.) Did you think I'd shut you up? Or cut you in pieces with those instruments? Kill you? 'Perhaps such poor devils ought to be put out of their misery!' (The STRANGER looks at his watch.) You can still catch the boat.

STRANGER. Will you give me your hand?

DOCTOR. Impossible. And what is the use of my forgiving you, if you lack the strength to forgive yourself? (Pause.) Some things can only be cured by making them undone. So this never can be.

STRANGER. St. Saviour...

DOCTOR. Helped you. You challenged destiny and were broken. There's no shame in losing such a fight. I did the same; but, as you see, I've got rid of my woodpile. I want no thunder in my home. And I shall play no more with the lightning.

STRANGER. One station more, and I shall reach my goal.

DOCTOR. You'll never reach your goal. Farewell!

STRANGER. Farewell!

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