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Full Online Book HomePlaysWin Or Lose - Act 1: Scene 1 To Scene 8
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Win Or Lose - Act 1: Scene 1 To Scene 8 Post by :vatek1 Category :Plays Author :Henryk Sienkiewicz Date :May 2012 Read :1710

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Win Or Lose - Act 1: Scene 1 To Scene 8

ACT I: SCENE I TO SCENE VIII

(The stage represents a drawing-room with the principal door leading to the garden. There are also side doors to the other rooms.)

SCENE I

(Princess Stella. Mrs. Czeska.)

CZESKA. Why do you tell me this only now? Really, my dear Stella, I should be angry with you. I live only a mile from here; I was your teacher before you were put into the hands of English and French governesses. I see you almost every day. I love my darling with all my soul, and still you did not tell me that for several weeks you have been engaged. At least do not torture me any longer, but tell me, who is he?

STELLA. You must guess, my dear mother.

CZESKA. As long as you call me mother, you must not make me wait.

STELLA. But I wish you to guess and tell me. Naturally it is he and not another. Believe me, it will flatter and please me.

CZESKA. Count Drahomir, then.

STELLA. Ah!

CZESKA. You are blushing. It is true. He has not been here for a long time, but how sympathetic, how gay he is. Well, my old eyes would be gladdened by seeing you both together. I should at once think what a splendid couple. Perhaps there will be something in it.

STELLA. There will be nothing in it, because Count Drahomir, although very sympathetic, is not my fiance. I am betrothed to Mr. Pretwic.

CZESKA. Mr. George Pretwic?

STELLA. Yes. Are you surprised?

CZESKA. No, my dear child. May God bless you. Why should I be surprised? But I am so fond of Count Drahomir, so I thought it was he. Mr. George Pretwic!--Oh, I am not surprised at all that he should love you. But it came a little too soon. How long have you known each other? Living at my Berwinek I do not know anything that goes on in the neighborhood.

STELLA. Since three months. My fiance has inherited an estate in this neighborhood from the Jazlowieckis, and came, as you know, from far off. He was a near relation of the Jazlowieckis, and he himself comes of a very good family. Dear madam, have you not heard of the Pretwics?

CZESKA. Nothing at all, my dear Stella. What do I care for heraldry!

STELLA. In former times, centuries ago, the Pretwics were related to our family. It is a very good family. Otherwise papa would not have consented. Well then, Mr. Pretwic came here, took possession of the Jazlowieckis estate, became acquainted with us, and--

CZESKA. And fell in love with you. I should have done the same if I were in his place. It gives him more value in my eyes.

STELLA. Has he needed it?

CZESKA. No, my little kitten--rest easy. You know I am laughed at for seeing everything in a rosy hue. He belongs to a good family, he is young, rich, good-looking, well-bred, but--

STELLA. But what?

CZESKA. A bird must have sung it, because I cannot remember who told me that he is a little bit like a storm.

STELLA. Yes, his life has been stormy, but he was not broken by it.

CZESKA. So much the better. Listen! Such people are the best--they are true men. The more I think of it, the more sincerely I congratulate you.

STELLA. Thank you. I am glad I spoke to you frankly. The fact is that I am very lonesome here: papa is always ailing and our doctor has been away for three months.

CZESKA. Let that doctor of yours alone.

STELLA. You never liked him.

CZESKA. You know that I am not easily prejudiced against any one, but I do not like him.

STELLA. And do you know that he has been offered a professorship at the university, and that he is anxious to be elected a member of parliament? Mother, you are really unjust. You know that he sacrificed himself for us.

He is famous, rich, and a great student, but notwithstanding all that he remains with us when the whole world is open to him. I would surely have asked his advice.

CZESKA. Love is not an illness--but no matter about him. May God help him! You had better tell me, dear kitten--are you very much in love?

STELLA. Do you not see how quickly everything has been done? It is true that Countess Miliszewska came here with her son. I know it was a question about me, and I feared, although in vain, that papa might have the same idea.

CZESKA. You have not answered my question.

STELLA. Because it is a hard matter to speak about. Mother, Mr. Pretwic's life is full of heroic deeds, sacrifices, and dangers. Once he was in great peril, and he owes his life to Count Drahomir. But how dearly he loves him for it. Well, my fiance bears the marks of distant deserts, long solitudes, and deep sufferings. But when he begins to tell me of his life, it seems that I truly love that stalwart man. If you only knew how timidly, and at the same time how earnestly he told me of his love, and then he added that he knows his hands are too rough--

CZESKA. Not too rough--for they are honest. After what you have told me, I am in his favor with all my soul.

STELLA. But in spite of all that, sometimes I feel very unhappy.

CZESKA. What is the matter? Why?

STELLA. Because sometimes we cannot understand each other. There are two kinds of love--one is strong as the rocks, and the other is like a brook in which one can see one's self. When I look at George's love, I see its might, but my soul is not reflected in it like a face in a limpid brook. I love him, it is true, but sometimes it seems to me that I could love still more--that all my heart is not in that love, and then I am unhappy.

CZESKA. But I cannot understand that. I take life simply. I love, or I do not love. Well Stella, the world is so cleverly constructed, and God is so good that there is nothing more easy than to be happy. But one must not make a tangle of God's affairs. Be calm. You are very much in love indeed. No matter!

STELLA. That confidence in the future is exactly what I need--some of your optimism. I knew that you would frown and say: No matter! I am now more happy. Only I am afraid of our doctor. Well (looking through the window), our gentlemen are coming. Mr. Pretwic and Count Drahomir.

CZESKA (looking through the window.)--Your future husband is looking very well, but so is Count Drahomir. Since when is he with Mr. Pretwic?

STELLA (looking through the window).--For the past two weeks. Mr. Pretwic has invited him. They are coming.

CZESKA. And your little heart is throbbing--

STELLA. Do not tease me again.

 

 

SCENE II

(Mrs. Czeska. Stella. George Pretwic. Count Drahomir. The count has his left arm in a sling.--A servant.)

 

SERVANT (opening the door).--The princess is in the drawing-room.

STELLA. How late you are to-day!

GEORGE. It is true. The sun is already setting. But we could not come earlier. Do you not know that there has been a fire in the neighboring village? We went there.

CZESKA. We have heard of it. It seems that several houses were burned.

GEORGE. The fire began in the morning, and it was extinguished only now. Some twenty families are without a roof and bread. We are also late because Karol had an accident.

STELLA (with animation).--It is true. Your arm is in a sling!

DRAHOMIR. Oh, it is a mere trifle. If there were no more serious wounds in the world, courage would be sold in all the markets. Only a slight scratch--

STELLA. Mr. Pretwic, how did it happen?

GEORGE. When it happened I was at the other end of the village, and I could not see anything on account of the smoke. I was only told that Karol had jumped into a burning house.

STELLA. Oh, Lord!

DRAHOMIR (laughing).--I see that my deed gains with distance.

CZESKA. You must tell us about it yourself.

DRAHOMIR. They told me that there was a woman in a house of which the roof had begun to burn. Thinking that this salamander who was not afraid of fire was some enchanted beauty, I entered the house out of pure curiosity. It was quite dark owing to the smoke. I looked and saw that I had no luck, because the salamander was only an old Jewish woman packing some feathers in a bag. Amidst the cloud of down she looked like anything you please but an enchantress. I shouted that there was a fire, and she shouted too, evidently taking me for a thief--so we both screamed. Finally I seized hold of my salamander, fainting with fear, and carried her out, not even through a window, but through the door.

GEORGE. But you omitted to say that the roof fell in and that a spar struck your hand.

DRAHOMIR. True--and I destroyed the dam of my modesty, and will add that one of the selectmen of the village made a speech in my honor. It seems to me that he made some mention of a monument which they would erect for me. But pray believe that the fire was quenched by George and his people. I think they ought to erect two monuments.

CZESKA. I know that you are worthy of each other.

STELLA. Thank God that you have not met with some more serious accident.

DRAHOMIR. I have met with something very pleasant--your sympathy.

CZESKA. You have mine also--as for Mr. Pretwic, I have a bone to pick with him.

GEORGE. Why, dear madam?

CZESKA. Because you are a bad boy. (To Stella and Drahomir.) You had better go to the Prince, and let us talk for a while.

STELLA. Mother, I see you wish to flirt with Mr. Pretwic.

CZESKA. Be quiet, you giddy thing. May I not compete with you? But you must remember, you Mayflower, that before every autumn there is a spring. Well, be off!

STELLA (to Drahomir).--Let us go; Papa is in the garden and I am afraid that he is feeling worse. What a pity it is that the doctor is not here.

 

 

SCENE III

(Mrs. Czeska, George, then Stella.)


CZESKA. I should scold you, as I have my dear girl, for keeping the secret. But she has already told me everything, so I only say, may God bless you both.

GEORGE (kissing her hand).--Thank you, madam.

CZESKA. I have reared that child. I was ten years with her, so I know what a treasure you take, sir. You have said that your hands are too rough. I have answered her--not too rough, for they are honest. But Stella is a very delicate flower. She must be loved much, and have good care taken of her. But you will be able to do it--will you not?

GEORGE. What can I tell you? As far as it is in human power to make happy that dearest to me girl, so far I wish to assure her happiness with me.

CZESKA. With all my soul, I say: God bless you!

GEORGE. The Princess Stella loves you like her own mother, so I will be as frank with you as with a mother. My life has been a very hard one. There was a moment when my life was suspended by one thread--Karol rescued me then, and for that I love him as a brother; and then--

CZESKA. Stella told me. You lived far from here?

GEORGE. I was in the empty steppe, half wild myself, among strangers, therefore very sad and longing for the country. Sometimes there was not a living soul around me.

CZESKA. God was over the stars.

GEORGE. That is quite different. But a heart thrown on earth must love some one. Therefore, with all this capacity for love, I prayed to God that he permit me to love some one. He has granted my prayer, and has given her to me. Do you understand me now?

CZESKA. Yes, I do understand you!

GEORGE. How quickly everything has changed. I inherited here an estate and am able to settle--then I met the princess, and now I love her--she is everything in this world to me.

CZESKA. My dear Mr. Pretwic, you are worthy of Stella and she will be happy with you. My dear Stelunia--

STELLA (appearing in the doorway leading to the garden. She claps her hands).--What good news! The doctor is coming. He is already in the village. Papa will at once be more quiet and is in better humor.

CZESKA. You must not rush. She is already tired. Where is the prince?

STELLA. In the garden. He wishes you to come here.

GEORGE. We will go.

STELLA (steps forward--then stops).--But you must not tell the doctor anything of our affair. I wish to tell him first. I have asked papa also to keep the secret. (They go out.)

 


SCENE IV

(Jozwowicz (enters through the principal door).--Jan, carry my trunk up-stairs and have the package I left in the antechamber sent at once to Mr. Anton Zuk, the secretary of the county.)


SERVANT (bows).--Very well, doctor.

JOZWOWICZ (advances).--At last (servant goes out). After three months of absence, how quiet this house is always! In a moment I will greet them as a future member of the parliament. I have thrown six years of hard work, sleepless nights, fame, and learning into the chasm which separates us--and now we shall see! (He goes toward the door leading to the garden.) They are coming--she has not changed at all.

 


SCENE V

(Through the door enter Stella, Mrs. Czeska, George, followed by Drahomir, arm and arm with the Prince Starogrodzki.)


STELLA. Here is our doctor! Our dear doctor! How do you do? We were looking for you!

CZESKA (bows ceremoniously).--Especially the prince.

JOZWOWICZ (kissing Stella's hand).--Good evening, princess. I have also been anxious to return. I have come to stay for a longer time--to rest. Ah, the prince! How is Your Highness's health?

PRINCE (shaking hands).--Dear boy. I am not well. You did well to come. You must see at once what is the matter with me.

JOZWOWICZ. But now Your Highness will introduce me to these gentlemen.

PRINCE. It is true. Doctor Jozwowicz, the minister of my interior affairs--I said it well, did I not? For you do look after my health. Count Karol Drahomir.

DRAHOMIR. Your name is familiar to me, therefore, strictly speaking, I alone ought to introduce myself.

DOCTOR. Sir.

PRINCE (introducing).--Mr. George Pretwic, our neighbor, and--(Stella makes a sign) and--I wish to say--

GEORGE. If I am not mistaken, your schoolmate.

DOCTOR. I did not wish to be the first to recollect.

GEORGE. I am glad to see you. It is quite a long time since then, but we were good comrades. Truly, I am very glad, especially after what I have heard here about you.

DRAHOMIR. You are the good spirit of this house.

STELLA. Oh, yes!

PRINCE. Let me tell you my opinion of him.

GEORGE. How often the best student, Jozwowicz, helped Pretwic with his exercises.

DOCTOR. You have a good memory, sir.

GEORGE. Very good, indeed, for then we did not call each other "sir." Once more, Stanislaw, I welcome you.

DOCTOR. And I return the welcome.

GEORGE. But do I not remember that after you went through college you studied law?

DOCTOR. And afterward I became a doctor of medicine.

PRINCE. Be seated. Jan, bring the lights.

STELLA. How charming that you are acquainted!

DOCTOR. The school-bench, like misery, unites people. But then, social standing separates them. George's future was assured. I was obliged to search for mine.

PRINCE. He has searched also, and found adventures.

DRAHOMIR. In two parts of the world.

CZESKA. That is splendid.

DOCTOR. Well, he followed his instinct. Even in school he broke the horses, went shooting and fenced.

GEORGE. Better than I studied.

DOCTOR (laughing).--Yes--we used to call him the general, because he commanded us in our student fights.

DRAHOMIR. George, I recognized you there.

CZESKA. But now, I think, he will stop fighting.

STELLA. Who knows?

GEORGE. I am sure of it.

DOCTOR. As for me, I was his worst soldier. I never was fond of playing that way.

PRINCE. Because those are the distractions of the nobility and not of a doctor.

DOCTOR. We begin to quarrel already. You are all proud of the fact that your ancestors, the knights, killed so many people. But if the prince knew how many people I have killed with my prescriptions! I can guarantee you that none of Your Highness's ancestors can be proud of such great number.

DRAHOMIR. Bravo. Very good!

PRINCE. And he is my doctor!

STELLA. Papa! The doctor is joking.

PRINCE. Thanks for such jokes. But it is sure that the world is now upside-down.

DOCTOR. Your Highness, we will live a hundred years more. (To George.) Come, tell me, what became of you? (They go out.)

PRINCE. You would not believe how unhappy I am because I cannot get along with that man. He is the son of a blacksmith from Stanislawow. I sent him to school because I wished to make an overseer of him. But afterwards he went to study at the University.

DRAHOMIR. He is twice a doctor--he is an intelligent man. One can see that by merely looking at him.

STELLA. Very much so.

CZESKA. So intelligent that I am afraid of him.

DRAHOMIR. But the prince must be satisfied.

PRINCE. Satisfied, satisfied! He has lost his common sense. He became a democrat--a _sans culotte_. But he is a good doctor, and I am sick. I have some stomach trouble. (To Drahomir.) Have you heard of it?

DRAHOMIR. The prince complained already some time ago.

CZESKA. For twenty years.

PRINCE. Sorrow and public service have ruined my health.

CZESKA. But Your Highness is healthy.

PRINCE (angrily).--I tell you that I am sick. Stella, I am sick--am I not?

STELLA. But now you will feel better.

PRINCE. Because he alone keeps me alive. Stella would have died also with heart trouble if it had not been for him.

DRAHOMIR. If that is so, he is a very precious man.

STELLA. We owe him eternal gratitude.

PRINCE (looking at George).--He will also be necessary to Pretwic. What, Stella, will he not?

STELLA (laughing).--Papa, how can I know that?

DRAHOMIR. Truly, I sometimes envy those stalwart men. During the battle they strengthen in themselves the force which lessens and disappears in us, because nothing nourishes it. Perhaps we are also made of noble metal, but we are eaten up with rust while they are hardened in the battle of life. It is a sad necessity.

CZESKA. How about Mr. Pretwic?

DRAHOMIR. George endured much, it is true, and one feels this although it is difficult to describe it. Look at those two men. When the wind blows George resists like a century-old tree, and men like the doctor subdue it and order it to propel his boat. There is in that some greater capacity for life, therefore the result is more easy to be foreseen. The tree is older, and although still strong, the more it is bitten by the storms, the sooner it will die.

PRINCE. I have said many times that we die like old trees. Some other thicket grows, but it is composed only of bushes.

STELLA. The one who is good has the right to live--we must not doubt about ourselves.

DRAHOMIR. I do not doubt, even for the reason that the poet says: "Saintly is the one who knows how to be a friend" (bows to Stella) "with saints."

STELLA. If he has not secured their friendship by flattery.

DRAHOMIR. But I must be permitted not to envy the doctor anything.

STELLA. The friendship is not exclusive, although I look upon the doctor as a brother.

PRINCE. Stella, what are you talking about? He is your brother as I am a republican. I cannot suffer him, but I cannot get along without him.

CZESKA. Prince, you are joking--

DRAHOMIR (smiling).--Why should you hate him?

PRINCE. Why? Have I not told you? He does with us what he pleases. He does as he likes in the house, he does not believe anything, and he is ambitious as the deuce. He is already a professor in the University, and now he wishes to be a member of parliament. Do you hear?--he will be a member of parliament! But I would not be a Starogrodzki if I had permitted it. (Aloud.) Jozwowicz!

DOCTOR (he is near a window).--Your Highness, what do you order?

PRINCE. Is it true that you are trying to become a member of parliament.

DOCTOR. At your service, Your Highness?

PRINCE. MRS. CZESKA. Have you heard--the world is upside down, Jozwowicz!

DOCTOR. What is it, Your Highness?

PRINCE. And perhaps you will also become a minister.

DOCTOR. It may be.

PRINCE. Did you hear? And do you think that I will call you "Your Excellency"?

DOCTOR. It would be proper.

PRINCE. Jozwowicz, do you wish to give me a stroke of apoplexy?

DOCTOR. Be calm, Your Highness. My Excellency will always take care of your Grace's bile.

PRINCE. It is true. The irritation hurts me. What, Jozwowicz--does it hurt me?

DOCTOR. Yes, it excites the bile, but it gives you an appetite. (He approaches with George.)

STELLA. What were you talking about?

DOCTOR. I have been listening to George. Horrible! Dreadful! George made a mistake by coming into the world two hundred years too late. Bayards are not appreciated nowadays.

CZESKA. Providence is above all.

DRAHOMIR. I believe it also.

DOCTOR. Were I a mathematician, without contradicting you I would say that, as in many cases we do not know what X equals, we must take care of ourselves.

PRINCE. What are you saying?

STELLA. Doctor, pray do not talk so sceptically, or there will be a war--not with papa, but with me.

DOCTOR. My scepticism is ended where your words begin, therefore I surrender.

STELLA. How gallant--the member of parliament.

 

 

SCENE VI

(The same Servant.)


SERVANT. Tea is served.

GEORGE. I must bid you good-bye.

STELLA. Why, why are you going so early to-night?

DOCTOR (aside).--My old schoolmate is at home here.

GEORGE. You must excuse me. I am very happy with you, but to-night I must be going home. I will leave Drahomir--he will replace me.

STELLA. To be angry with you would be to make you conceited. But you must tell me why you are going.

GEORGE. The people who have lost their homes by fire are in my house. I must give some orders and provide for their necessities.

CZESKA (aside).--He is sacrificing pleasure to duty. (Aloud.) Stella!

STELLA. What is it?

CZESKA. To-morrow we must make some collections for them, and provide them with clothing.

DOCTOR. I will go with you, ladies. It will be the first case in which misery did not search for the doctor, but the doctor searched for misery.

CZESKA. Very clever.

PRINCE (rapping with the stick).--Pretwic!

GEORGE. Your Highness, what do you order?

PRINCE. You say that this rabble is very poor?

GEORGE. Very poor, indeed.

PRINCE. You say that they have nothing to eat?

GEORGE. Almost nothing, my prince.

PRINCE. God punishes them for voting for such a man (he points to Jozwowicz) as that one.

DOCTOR (bows).--They have not elected me yet.

STELLA. Papa.

PRINCE. What did I want to say? Aha! Pretwic!

GEORGE. I listen to you, my prince.

PRINCE. You said that they were starving?

GEORGE. I said--almost.

PRINCE. Very well, then. Go to my cashier, Horkiewicz, and tell him to give that rabble a thousand florins. (He raps with the stick.) They must know that I will not permit any one to be hungry.

STELLA. Dear father!

DRAHOMIR. I knew it would end that way.

PRINCE. Yes, Mr. Jozwowicz! _Noblesse oblige! Do you understand, your Excellency, Mr. Jozwowicz?

DOCTOR. I understand, Your Highness.

PRINCE (giving his arm to Mrs. Czeska).--And now let us take some tea. (George takes leave and goes out.)

DOCTOR. I must also be going. I am tired and I have some letters to write.

PRINCE. Upon my honor, one might think that he was already a minister. But come to see us--I cannot sleep without you.

DOCTOR. I will be at the service of Your Highness.

PRINCE (muttering).--As soon as this Robespierre arrived, I immediately felt better.

STELLA. Doctor, wait a moment. I do not take any tea. I will only put papa in his place, and then I will be back immediately. I must have a talk with you.

 

 

SCENE VII

(Jozwowicz alone--then Stella.)


DOCTOR. What are these people doing here, and what does she wish to tell me? Is it possible--But no, it is impossible. I am uneasy, but in a moment everything will be cleared up. What an ass I am! She simply wishes to talk to me about the prince's health. It is this moonlight that makes me so dreamy--I ought to have a guitar.

STELLA (entering).--Mr. Jozwowicz?

DOCTOR. I am here, princess.

STELLA. I did my best not to make you wait too long. Let us be seated and have a talk, as formerly, when I was small and not well and you took care of my health. I remember sometimes I used to fall asleep, and you carried me in your arms to my room.

DOCTOR. The darling of every one in the house was very weak then.

STELLA. And to-day, if she is well, it is thanks to you. If she has any knowledge, it is also thanks to you. I am a plant of which you have taken good care.

DOCTOR. And my greatest pride. There were few calm, genial moments in my life--and peace I found only in that house.

STELLA. You were always good, and for that reason I look upon you as an older brother.

DOCTOR. Your words form the only smile in my life. I not only respect you, but I also love you dearly--like a sister, like my own child.

STELLA. Thank you. I have not the same confidence in any one else's judgment and honesty as I have in yours, so I wished to speak to you about an important matter. I hope even that what I am going to tell you will please you as much as it pleases me. Is it true that you are going to become a member of parliament?

DOCTOR (with uneasiness).--No, it is only probable. But speak of what concerns you.

STELLA. Well, then--ah, Lord! But you will not leave papa, will you?

DOCTOR (breathing heavily).--Oh, you wish to speak of the prince's health?

STELLA. No, I know that papa is getting better. I did not expect that it would be difficult--I am afraid of the severe opinion that you have of people.

DOCTOR (with simulated ease).--Pray, do not torture my curiosity.

STELLA. Then I will close my eyes and tell you, although it is not easy for any young girl. You know Mr. George Pretwic well, do you not?

DOCTOR (uneasily).--I know him.

STELLA. How do you like him? He is my fiance.

DOCTOR (rising).--Your fiance?

STELLA. Good gracious!--then you do not approve of my choice? (A moment of silence.)

DOCTOR. Only one moment. Your choice, princess, if it is of your heart and will, must be good--only--it was unexpected news to me; therefore, perhaps, I received it a little too seriously. But I could not hear it with indifference owing to the affection I have for--your family. And then, my opinion does not amount to anything in such a matter. Princess, I congratulate you and wish you all happiness.

STELLA. Thank you. Now I shall be more easy.

DOCTOR. You must return to your father. Your news has been so sudden that it has shocked me a little. I must collect my wits--I must familiarize myself with the thought. But in any event, I congratulate you.

STELLA. Good night. (She stops in the door, looks at the Doctor and goes in.)

 


SCENE VIII

JOZWOWICZ (alone).--Too late!

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