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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Road To Damascus: A Trilogy - Part 1 - Act 1 - Scene 7. In A Kitchen
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The Road To Damascus: A Trilogy - Part 1 - Act 1 - Scene 7. In A Kitchen Post by :merlins Category :Plays Author :August Strindberg Date :May 2012 Read :2029

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The Road To Damascus: A Trilogy - Part 1 - Act 1 - Scene 7. In A Kitchen


(A large kitchen with whitewashed walls. Three windows in the corner, right, so arranged that two are at the back and one in the right wall. The windows are small and deeply recessed; in the recesses there are flower pots. The ceiling is beamed and black with soot. In the left corner a large range with utensils of copper, iron and tin, and wooden vessels. In the corner, right, a crucifix with a lamp. Beneath it a four-cornered table with benches. Bunches of mistletoe on the walls. A door at the back. The Poorhouse can be seen outside, and through the window at the back the church. Near the fire bedding for dogs and a table with food for the poor.)

(The OLD MAN is sitting at the table beneath the crucifix, with his hands clasped and a game bag before him. He is a strongly-built man of over eighty with white hair and along beard, dressed as a forester. The MOTHER is kneeling on the floor; she is grey-haired and nearly fifty; her dress is of black-and-white material. The voices of men, women and children can be clearly heard singing the last verse of the Angels' Greeting in chorus. 'Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us poor sinners, now and in the hour of death. Amen.')


MOTHER. Now I'll tell you, Father. They saw two vagabonds by the river. Their clothing was torn and dirty, for they'd been in the water. And when it came to paying the ferryman, they'd no money. Now they're drying their clothes in the ferryman's hut.

OLD MAN. Let them stay there.

MOTHER. Don't forbid a beggar your house. He might be an angel.

OLD MAN. True. Let them come in.

MOTHER. I'll put food for them on the table for the poor. Do you mind that?


MOTHER. Shall I give them cider?

OLD MAN. Yes. And you can light the fire; they'll be cold.

MOTHER. There's hardly time. But I will, if you wish it, Father.

OLD MAN (looking out of the window). I think you'd better.

MOTHER. What are you looking at?

OLD MAN. The river; it's rising. And I'm asking myself, as I've done for seventy years--when I shall reach the sea.

MOTHER. You're sad to-night, Father.

OLD MAN. ... et introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. Yes. I do feel sad.... Deus, Deus meus: quare tristis es anima mea, et quare conturbas me.

MOTHER. Spera in Deo....

(The Maid comes in, and signs to the MOTHER, who goes over to her. They whisper together and the maid goes out again.)

OLD MAN. I heard what you said. O God! Must I bear that too!

MOTHER. You needn't see them. You can go up to your room.

OLD MAN. No. It shall be a penance. But why come like this: as vagabonds?

MOTHER. Perhaps they lost their way and have had much to endure.

OLD MAN. But to bring her husband! Is she lost to shame?

MOTHER. You know Ingeborg's queer nature. She thinks all she does is fitting, if not right. Have you ever seen her ashamed, or suffer from a rebuff? I never have. Yet she's not without shame; on the contrary. And everything she does, however questionable, seems natural when she does it.

OLD MAN. I've always wondered why one could never be angry with her. She doesn't feel herself responsible, or think an insult's directed at her. She seems impersonal; or rather two persons, one who does nothing but ill whilst the other gives absolution.... But this man! There's no one I've hated from afar so much as he. He sees evil everywhere; and of no one have I heard so much ill.

MOTHER. That's true. But it may be Ingeborg's found some mission in this man's life; and he in hers. Perhaps they're meant to torture each other into atonement.

OLD MAN. Perhaps. But I'll have nothing to do with at seems to me shameful. This man, under my roof! Yet I must accept it, like everything else. For I've deserved no less.

MOTHER. Very well then. (The LADY and the STRANGER come in.) You're welcome.

LADY. Thank you, Mother. (She looks over to the OLD MAN, who rises and looks at the STRANGER.) Peace, Grandfather. This is my husband. Give him your hand.

OLD MAN. First let me look at him. (He goes to the STRANGER, puts his hands on his shoulders and looks him in the eyes.) What motives brought you here?

STRANGER (simply). None, but to keep my wife company, at her earnest desire.

OLD MAN. If that's true, you're welcome! I've a long and stormy life behind me, and at last I've found a certain peace in solitude. I beg you not to trouble it.

STRANGER. I haven't come here to ask favours. I'll take nothing with me when I go.

OLD MAN. That's not the answer I wanted; for we all need one another. I perhaps need you. No one can know, young man.

LADY. Grandfather!

OLD MAN. Yes, my child. I shan't wish you happiness, for there's no such thing; but I wish you strength to bear your destiny. Now I'll leave you for a little. Your mother will look after you. (He goes out.)

LADY (to her mother). Did you lay that table for us, Mother?

MOTHER. No, it's a mistake, as you can imagine.

LADY. I know we look wretched. We were lost in the mountains, and if grandfather hadn't blown his horn...

MOTHER. Your grandfather gave up hunting long ago.

LADY. Then it was someone else.... Listen, Mother, I'll go up now to the 'rose' room, and get it straight.

MOTHER. Do. I'll come in a moment.

(The LADY would like to say something, cannot, and goes out.)

STRANGER (to the MOTHER). I've seen this room already.

MOTHER. And I've seen you. I almost expected you.

STRANGER. As one expects a disaster?

MOTHER. Why say that?

STRANGER. Because I sow devastation wherever I go. But as I must go somewhere, and cannot change my fate, I've lost my scruples.

MOTHER. Then you're like my daughter--she, too, has no scruples and no conscience.


MOTHER. You think I'm speaking ill of her? I couldn't do that of my own child. I only draw the comparison, because you know her.

STRANGER. But I've noticed what you speak of in Eve.

MOTHER. Why do you call Ingeborg Eve?

STRANGER. By inventing a name for her I made her mine. I wanted to change her....

MOTHER. And remake her in your image? (Laughing.) I've been told that country wizards carve images of their victims, and give them the names of those they'd bewitch. That was your plan: by means of this Eve, that you yourself had made, you intended to destroy the whole Sex!

STRANGER (looking at the MOTHER in surprise). Those were damnable words! Forgive me. But you have religious beliefs: how can you think such things?

MOTHER. The thoughts were yours.

STRANGER. This begins to be interesting. I imagined an idyll in the forest, but this is a witches' cauldron.

MOTHER. Not quite. You've forgotten, or never knew, that a man deserted me shamefully, and that you're a man who also shamefully deserted a woman.

STRANGER. Frank words. Now I know where I am.

MOTHER. I'd like to know where I am. Can you support two families?

STRANGER. If all goes well.

MOTHER. All doesn't--in this life. Money can be lost.

STRANGER. But my talent's capital I can never lose.

MOTHER. Really? The greatest of talents has been known to fail... gradually, or suddenly.

STRANGER. I've never met anyone who could so damp one's courage.

MOTHER. Pride should be damped. Your last book was much weaker.

STRANGER. You read it?

MOTHER. Yes. That's why I know all your secrets. So don't try to deceive me; it won't go well with you. (Pause.) A trifle, but one that does us no good here: why didn't you pay the ferryman?

STRANGER. My heel of Achilles! I threw my last coin away. Can't we speak of something else than money in this house?

MOTHER. Oh yes. But in this house we do our duty before we amuse ourselves. So you came on foot because you had no money?

STRANGER (hesitating). Yes....

MOTHER (smiling). Probably nothing to eat?

STRANGER (hesitating). No....

MOTHER. You're a fine fellow!

STRANGER. In all my life I've never been in such a predicament.

MOTHER. I can believe it. It's almost a pity. I could laugh at the figure you cut, if I didn't know it would make you weep, and others with you. (Pause.) But now you've had your will, hold fast to the woman who loves you; for if you leave her, you'll never smile again, and soon forget what happiness was.

STRANGER. Is that a threat?

MOTHER. A warning. Go now, and have your supper.

STRANGER (pointing at the table for the poor). There?

MOTHER. A poor joke; which might become reality. I've seen such things.

STRANGER. Soon I'll believe anything can happen--this is the worst I've known.

MOTHER. Worse yet may come. Wait!

STRANGER (cast down). I'm prepared for anything.

(Exit. A moment later the OLD MAN comes in.)

OLD MAN. It was no angel after all.

MOTHER. No good angel, certainly.

OLD MAN. Really! (Pause.) You know how superstitious people here are. As I went down to the river I heard this: a farmer said his horse shied at 'him'; another that the dogs got so fierce he'd had to tie them up. The ferryman swore his boat drew less water when 'he' got in. Superstition, but....

MOTHER. But what?

OLD MAN. It was only a magpie that flew in at her window, though it was closed. An illusion, perhaps.

MOTHER. Perhaps. But why does one often see such things at the right time?

OLD MAN. This man's presence is intolerable. When he looks at me I can't breathe.

MOTHER. We must try to get rid of him. I'm certain he won't care to stay for long.

OLD MAN. No. He won't grow old here. (Pause.) Listen, I got a letter to-night warning me about him. Among other things he's wanted by the courts.

MOTHER. The courts?

OLD MAN. Yes. Money matters. But, remember, the laws of hospitality protect beggars and enemies. Let him stay a few days, till he's got over this fearful journey. You can see how Providence has laid hands on him, how his soul is being ground in the mill ready for the sieve....

MOTHER. I've felt a call to be a tool in the hands of Providence.

OLD MAN. Don't confuse it with your wish for vengeance.

MOTHER. I'll try not to, if I can.

OLD MAN. Well, good-night.

MOTHER. Do you think Ingeborg has read his last book?

OLD MAN. It's unlikely. If she had she'd never have married a man who held such views.

MOTHER. No, she's not read it. But now she must.

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