Act Four

A cell in Pougatchev section of Boutirki Prison. Morning. When the curtain rises, Kaliayev is in his cell and is looking at the door. A guard and a prisoner carrying a bucket enter.

Guard: Clean it. And fast. (He stands by the window. Foka starts cleaning without looking at Kaliayev. Silence.)

Kaliayev: What's your name, brother?

Foka: Foka.

Kaliayev: You're a prisoner?

Foka: Sure seems like it.

Kaliayev: What did you do?

Foka: Murder.

Kaliayev: Were you hungry?

Guard: Not so loud.

Kaliayev: What?

Guard: Not so loud. I'm letting you talk even though there's a rule against it. So don't talk so loud. Like the old guy.

Kaliayev: Were you hungry?

Foka: No, I was thirsty.

Kaliayev: And then?

Foka: There was an ax. I smashed everything. Apparently I killed three people. (Kaliayev looks at him.) Oh, so now I'm not your brother anymore, nobleman? You give me the cold shoulder?

Kaliayev: No. I killed someone too.

Foka: How many?

Kaliayev: I'll tell you if you want, brother. But answer me this, you regret what happened, don't you?

Foka: Of course. Twenty years, that's a lot. You regret.

Kaliayev: Twenty years. I'd come in 23 years old, and I'd leave with gray hair.

Foka: Oh, it might be better for you. Judges have their ups and downs. It depends on if they're married and to who. And you, you're a noble. You won't get the same penalty as us poor guys. You can relax.

Kaliayev: I don't believe it. And I don't want it that way. I couldn't keep up this shame for twenty years.

Foka: Shame? What shame? That's a nobleman's fancy thinking. How many did you kill?

Kaliayev: Just one.

Foka: What do you mean? That's nothing.

Kaliayev: I killed the Grand Duke Serge.

Foka: The Grand Duke? Huh! The way you guys go at it. Look at these nobles! Was it serious, tell me?

Kaliayev: It was serious. But it was necessary.

Foka: Why? You lived at court. It was over a woman, right? Handsome as you are...

Kaliayev: I am a socialist.

Guard: Not so loud.

Kaliayev, louder: I am a revolutionary socialist.

Foka: There's a story there. Why do you need to be like that? You only have to stay where you were and everything would go fine. The world is made for you nobles.

Kaliayev: No, it is made for you. There's too much misery and crime. When there is less misery, there will be fewer crimes. If the world were free, you wouldn't be in here.

Foka: Yes and no. In the end, whether you're free or not, it's never good to drink too much.

Kaliayev: No, it's never good. But people only drink because they're humiliated. A time will come when it will no longer be necessary to drink, when no one will be ashamed, neither noble nor poor guy. We'll all be brothers, and justice will make our hearts crystal clear. Do you know what I mean?

Foka: Yes, that's the Kingdom of Heaven.

Guard: Not so loud.

Kaliayev: You don't need to say that, brother. God can't do anything. Justice is our business! (Silence.) Don't you understand? Do you know the legend of Saint Dmitri?

Foka: No.

Kaliayev: He had a meeting on the steppe with God Himself, and he was hurrying to get there when he met a peasant whose wagon was stuck in the mud. So Saint Dmitri helped him. The mud was really thick; they spent almost an hour working. When they got it out, Saint Dmitri ran to his meeting. But God wasn't there anymore.

Foka: So?

Kaliayev: So there are always people who arrive late at meetings because there were too many wagons stuck in the mud and too many brothers needing help. (Foka steps back.) What?

Guard: Not so loud. And you, old guy, hurry up.

Foka: I don't trust this. All this isn't normal. People don't get the idea to go to prison for these stories about saints and wagons. And then, there is the other thing. (The guard laughs.)

Kaliayev, looking at him: What?

Foka: What do they do to people who kill Grand Dukes?

Kaliayev: They hang them.

Foka: Ah! (He recoils, while the guard laughs harder.)

Kaliayev: Wait. What did I do?

Foka: You didn't do anything. Even though you're a noble, though, I don't want you to get the wrong idea. We can gossip, pass the time like this, but if you're going to be hanged, that's not right.

Kaliayev: Why not?

Guard, laughing: Come on, old guy, tell him...

Foka: Because you shouldn't talk to me like a brother. I'm the hangman for the condemned.

Kaliayev: But aren't you a prisoner too?

Foka: Exactly. They said to me, do this and for every one hanged, they'd take a year off my sentence. It's a good deal.

Kaliayev: They give you a pardon for your crimes by having you commit more?

Foka: Oh, it's not a crime if you're told to do it. And for them it's all the same. If you want my opinion, they aren't good Christians.

Kaliayev: And how many times have you done this?

Foka: Twice. (Kaliayev recoils. The others approach the door, the guard pushing Foka.)

Kaliayev: So then you're an executioner?

Foka, at the door: Well, Mr. High-Class, what about you? (He leaves. Steps and commands are heard outside. Enter Skouratov, very elegant, with the guard.)

Skouratov: Leave us by ourselves. Hello. You don't know who I am? I know you already. (He laughs.) You're already famous, huh? (Looking at him.) Nothing to say. I understand. Solitary, huh? It's hard, eight days in solitary. Today, we took you out of solitary and you're going to have some visitors. I'm here for that, you see. I've already sent you Foka. Remarkable, isn't he? I thought you'd be interested in him. Are you doing all right? It's good to see some human faces after eight days, isn't it?

Kaliayev: It depends on the face.

Skouratov: Good comeback, well said. You know what you want. (A pause.) So if I get you right, my face doesn't please you?

Kaliayev: Yep.

Skouratov: I'm disappointed. But it's just a misunderstanding. The lighting is bad at first. In a basement, no one seems nice. And also, you don't know me. Sometimes the face puts people off at first. But when you know the heart...

Kaliayev: Enough. Who are you?

Skouratov: Skouratov, director of the department of police.

Kaliayev: A lackey.

Skouratov: At your service. But in your place, I wouldn't show so much pride. You may get to that. You start by wanting justice and end up organizing the police. As for the rest, the truth doesn't offend me. I'll be frank with you. You interest me and I want to offer you a way to be pardoned.

Kaliayev: What pardon?

Skouratov: What do you mean, what pardon? I'm offering you your life.

Kaliayev: Who asked you for it?

Skouratov: You don't ask for a pardon; it's given to you. Haven't you ever forgiven someone? (A pause). Think about it.

Kaliayev: I'm rejecting your pardons, now and forever.

Skouratov: At least listen. I'm not your enemy, in spite of how it looks. I admit it, you're right in how you think. Except for the assassination...

Kaliayev: I forbid you to use that word.

Skouratov, looking at him: Ah! Your nerves are sensitive, huh? (A pause.) Sincerely, I want to help you.

Kaliayev: Help me? I'm ready to pay the price. But I won't put up with this chumminess you're trying to have with me. Go away.

Skouratov: The accusation against you...

Kaliayev: Correction.

Skouratov: Excuse me?

Kaliayev: Correction. I am a prisoner of war, not an accused criminal.

Skouratov: If you like. Nevertheless, there was some damage, wasn't there? Leave the Grand Duke and politics aside for now. At the very least, there is the death of a man. And what a death!

Kaliayev: I threw a bomb at your tyranny, not at a man.

Skouratov: Undoubtedly. But it was a man that it hit. And that didn't make him any more organized. You saw, didn't you, that when they found the body, the head was missing? Disappeared, that head! They found all the rest, except for an arm and part of a leg.

Kaliayev: I carried out a verdict.

Skouratov: Maybe, maybe. We are not criticizing you for that. What is a verdict? It's a word you could talk about all night. We are accusing, you don't like that word...let's just say some amateur work, a little disorganized, and the results are disgusting. The whole world got to see them. Ask the Grand Duchess. There was blood, you see, a lot of blood.

Kaliayev: Shut up.

Skouratov: OK. I just mean that if you insist on talking about verdicts, saying it was the party and only the party that made the judgment and performed the execution, then you don't need a pardon. But suppose, instead that we come back to the evidence. Suppose it was you who blew off the Grand Duke's head, then everything changes, doesn't it? You'd need to be pardoned then. I want to help you. Just out of sympathy to you, believe me. (He smiles.) Whatever you want, I myself am interested in people, not ideas.

Kaliayev: My person, my self is above you and your masters. You can keep me here, but you can't judge me. I know where you're trying to go. You're searching for a weak point and you're trying to break me down into shame, tears, and repentance. You won't get anything. What I am doesn't concern you. What concerns you is our hate, mine and all my brothers'. That's at your service.

Skouratov: Hate? That's just another idea. What's not just an idea is murder. And its consequences, of course. I'd like to say repentance and punishment. For that, we're right in the middle. It's for you that I became a policeman. To be at in the middle of things. But you don't like me to tell you these things. (A pause. Skouratov advances slowly toward Kaliayev.) All I mean to say is that you shouldn't pretend to have forgotten about the Grand Duke's head. If you think about that, it won't make you feel good about yourself. You'll be ashamed, for example, instead of being proud of what you've done. And from the moment when you become ashamed, you will want to live and make amends. And the most important thing is that you decide you want to live.

Kaliayev: And if I did decide that?

Skouratov: Pardons for you and your comrades.

Kaliayev: Have you arrested them?

Skouratov: Not yet. But if you decide to live, we'll arrest them.

Kaliayev: Did I hear you right?

Skouratov: Certainly. Don't be angry anymore. Think about it. From the idealistic point of view, you cannot turn them in. From the point of view of the evidence, on the other hand, you would be doing them a favor. You're keeping them out of new trouble and at the same time, saving them from the gallows. Above all else, you get peace of mind. (Kaliayev is silent.) So?

Kaliayev: My brothers will answer you in a little while.

Skouratov: Another crime! Really, it's a career. Oh well, my work is finished. My heart is broken, but I see that you're holding on to your ideas. I can't separate you from them.

Kaliayev: You can't separate me from my brothers.

Skouratov: Goodbye. (He acts as if leaving, but then comes back.) Why, in that case, did you spare the Grand Duchess and her nephew and niece?

Kaliayev: Who told you that?

Skouratov: Your informer works for us too. At least partly... But why did you spare them?

Kaliayev: That's none of your business.

Skouratov: You don't think so? I'll tell you why it does. You've discovered that an idea can lead to the death of a Grand Duke, but it isn't worth killing children for. So the question is left to ask: If the idea isn't worth killing children for, does it really deserve the death of a Grand Duke? (Kaliayev makes a gesture.) Oh, don't answer me at all if you don't want to! You'll have to answer the Grand Duchess.

Kaliayev: The Grand Duchess?

Skouratov: Yes, she wants to see you. And I came most of all to make sure that this conversation would be possible. Which it is. She wants to try to change your mind. The Grand Duchess is a Christian. The soul is her specialty, you see. (He laughs.)

Kaliayev: I don't want to see her.

Skouratov: I'm sorry, but she insists. And after all, you owe her a few explanations. They also say that since the death of her husband she hasn't been quite right in the head. We didn't want to contradict her. (At the door.) If you change your mind, don't forget my offer. I'll be back. (A pause. He listens.) There she is. After the police, a representative of religion! Really, we're spoiling you. But everything follows. Imagine God without the prisons. What solitude! (He leaves. Voices are heard and commands. Enter the Grand Duchess who stays still and quiet. The door remains open.)

Kaliayev: What do you want?

The Grand Duchess, uncovering her face: Look at me. (Kaliayev is silent.) A lot of things die with a man.

Kaliayev: I know.

The Grand Duchess, naturally but with a worn-down tinge to her voice: Murderers don't know that. If they did, how could they commit murder? (Silence.)

Kaliayev: I've seen you. Now I'd like to be alone.

The Grand Duchess: No. I still need to look at you. (He recoils. She sits down as if exhausted.) I can't stay by myself any more. After all, if I must suffer, he should see my pain. It would be all right then., I can't stand being alone anymore, and staying quiet...But who can I talk to? The others don't understand. They pretend they're sad. They were for an hour or two. But then they could eat and sleep. Sleep, especially...I thought you must be like me. You can't sleep, I'm sure. And to whom better to speak of crime than a murderer?

Kaliayev: What crime? All I remember is an act of justice.

The Grand Duchess: That same voice! You talk just like him. All men take that same tone when they talk about justice. He would say, "This is fair!" and everyone else had to be quiet. He lied to himself sometimes, as you're lying to yourself...

Kaliayev: He was the incarnation of the ultimate injustice, the one that's ground down the Russian people for centuries. And he got his privileges for doing it. If I've deluded myself, prison and death are the price I pay.

The Grand Duchess: Yes, you're suffering. But him, you've killed him.

Kaliayev: It was a complete surprise to him. That kind of death is nothing.

The Grand Duchess: Nothing? (More softly.) That's true. They found you right afterward. Apparently you were making speeches in the middle of the crowd of policemen. I understand. That must have helped you. I got there a few seconds later. I saw it all. I put as much of my husband as I could find onto a stretcher. There was so much blood! (A pause.) I had on a white dress...

Kaliayev: Be quiet.

The Grand Duchess: Why? I'm telling you the truth. Do you know what he was doing two hours before his death? He was sleeping. In an armchair, with his feet up on another chair. He was sleeping, and you, you were waiting, in the unyielding evening...(She is crying.) Help me now. (He recoils, stiffening.) You are young, you can't be all bad.

Kaliayev: I've never had time to be young.

The Grand Duchess: Why are you stiff like that? Haven't you had a moment of self-pity?

Kaliayev: No.

The Grand Duchess: You should. It helps things. Me, I don't have any more self-pity. (A pause.) I'm in such pain. You should have killed me with him instead of sparing me.

Kaliayev: It wasn't you I was sparing; it was the children with you.

The Grand Duchess: I know. I don't like them very much. (A pause.) They're the niece and nephew of the Grand Duke. Aren't they as guilty as their uncle?

Kaliayev: No.

The Grand Duchess: Do you know them? My niece has a spiteful heart. She refuses to give her alms to the poor. She doesn't want them to touch her. Is she being fair? My husband at least liked the peasants. He drank with them. And you killed him. Certainly you are unjust too. The earth is a desert.

Kaliayev: It's useles. You're trying to take away my beliefs and make me despair. You'll never get anywhere. Go away.

The Grand Duchess: Won't you pray with me and repent?...We wouldn't be alone anymore.

Kaliayev: Leave me so I can prepare myself to die. If I don't die, then I'll be a murderer.

The Grand Duchess: Die? You want to die? No. (She goes to Kaliayev in great agitation.) You must live and agree that you are a murderer. After all, you did kill him. Only God will justify you.

Kaliayev: Which God, yours or mine?

The Grand Duchess: The one of the church.

Kaliayev: The church has nothing to do around here.

The Grand Duchess: It serves a master who has also known the prisons.

Kaliayev: Times have changed. And the church has chosen the heritage of its master.

The Grand Duchess: Chosen? What do you mean?

Kaliayev: It keeps all the pardons for itself and leaves us the work of performing charity.

The Grand Duchess: Who is "us"?

Kaliayev, crying out: All the people that you hang.

The Grand Duchess, sweetly: I am not your enemy.

Kaliayev, with despair: Yes you are, like all of those of your breed and your clan. There is something even lower than being a criminal, and that is forcing people into crime who aren't meant for it. Look at me. I assure you that I wasn't made to kill.

The Grand Duchess: Don't talk to me like an enemy. Look. (She goes to shut the door.) I'm leaving it up to you. (She cries.) Blood separates us. But you can rejoin me in God with regard to this evil. At least pray with me.

Kaliayev: I must refuse. (He goes to her.) I feel nothing but compassion for you, and you have just touched my heart. Now you can understand me, because I'm not hiding anything. I don't count on any meetings with God. But, when I die, I will be at the same meeting that I've already had with the people I love, my brothers who are thinking of me right now. Praying would be betraying them.

The Grand Duchess: What do you mean?

Kaliayev, with exultation: Nothing, except that I will be happy. I have a long fight to keep up, and I will keep it up. But when the verdict is announced and the execution is close, then, at the foot of the scaffold, I will turn away from you and this hideous world, and I will let myself go toward the love which fills me. Do you understand?

The Grand Duchess: There is no love away from God.

Kaliayev: Yes, there is. The love of living creatures.

The Grand Duchess: Living creatures are low. What can you do except destroy them or forgive them?

Kaliayev: Die with them.

The Grand Duchess: Everyone dies alone. He died alone.

Kaliayev, with despair: Die with them! Those who love today must die together if they want to be reunited. Injustice separates them, and shame, and sorrow, and the evil that's done to others, and crime, they all tear people apart. Living is torture when it's living apart.

The Grand Duchess: God reunites.

Kaliayev: Not on this earth, and my meetings are all on this earth.

The Grand Duchess: Those are meetings like dogs, nose to the ground, always sniffing, and always disappointed.

Kaliayev, turning away to the window: But can't you imagine that two beings might renounce all joy, and love each other in sorrow, without being able to give themselves other meetings than sorrowful ones? (He looks at her.) Can't you imagine that the same rope would then unite these two?

The Grand Duchess: What kind of terrible love is this?

Kaliayev: You and your kind never let us have any other type.

The Grand Duchess: I also loved the man who you have killed.

Kaliayev: I understand that. That is why I forgive you the evil you and your people have done to me. (A pause.) Now, leave me alone. (Silence.)

The Grand Duchess: I will leave now. But I came here to bring you back to God, I know that now. You want to judge yourself and save yourself, all alone. You can't do that, though. God can, you live. I am going to ask for your pardon.

Kaliayev: I beg you, don't do it. Leave me to die or I will hate you with a deadly hate.

The Grand Duchess, at the door: I will ask for your pardon, from men and from God.

Kaliayev: No, no, I forbid you. (He runs to the door and suddenly finds Skouratov. Kaliayev flinches and closes his eyes. Silence. He looks at Skouratov again.) I needed you.

Skouratov: I'm happy to hear that. Why?

Kaliayev: I needed to despise someone again.

Skouratov: Too bad. I came to get your answer.

Kaliayev: You have it already.

Skouratov, changing his tone: No, I don't have it yet. Listen. I arranged this meeting with the Grand Duchess so I could publish it in the paper tomorrow. The transcript will be exact, except on one point. It will say that you did repent. Your comrades will think you have betrayed them.

Kaliayev, calmly: They won't believe it.

Skouratov: I won't stop the article unless you make a confession. You have overnight to decide. (He goes toward the door.)

Kaliayev, more loudly: They won't believe it.

Skouratov, turning back: Why? Have they never done wrong?

Kaliayev: You don't know their love.

Skouratov: No. But I do know that you can't believe in brotherhood all night without a small moment of weakness. I'm waiting for that weakness. (He closes the door, still in the cell.) Don't hurry. I'm patient. (They remain face to face.)

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