STUDENT: Do you know what I’m thinking? About you?
DAUGHTER: Don’t tell me. If you do, I shall die.
STUDENT: I must, or I shall die.
DAUGHTER: In madhouses, people say everything they think.
STUDENT: I know. My father died in a madhouse.
DAUGHTER: Was he sick?
STUDENT: No. He was perfectly well; just mad. he only showed it once; I’ll tell you how. He was surrounded, as we all are, by a circle of – associates; he called them friends, the word was shorter and more convenient. They were a gang of scoundrels, of course; most people are. But He had to have someone to talk to, he couldn’t bear to be alone. One doesn’t ordinarily tell people what one thinks of them, and neither did he. he knew they were false and treacherous; but he was a wise man, and had been well brought up, so he was always polite to everyone. But one day he gave a great party. It was in the evening; he was tired after his day’s work, and tried with the strain of listening to his guests and exchanging spiteful gossip with them.
(The daughter shudders.)
STUDENT: I was there, and I shall never forget what happened next. My mother hit him, he hit her, the guests rushed for the door – and Father was taken to the madhouse, where he died. (Pause.) Water which has remained stationary and silent for too long becomes rotten. It’s the same with this house. Something has rotted here, too. And when I saw you walk through the door for the first time, I thought it was Paradise. I stood there one Sunday morning, and gazed in through the windows. I saw a Colonel who was not a Colonel, I found a noble benefactor who turned out to be a crook, and had to hang himself, I saw mummy that was not a mummy, and a maid…Where is virginity to be found? Or beauty? Only in flowers and trees…and in my head when I am dressed in my Sunday clothes. Where are faith and honor to be found? In fairy tales and games that children play. Where can I find anything that will fulfill its promise? Only in my imagination. Your flowers have poisoned me, and I have poisoned you in return. I asked you to be my wife and share my home, we wrote poems, we sang and played. And then the cook came in. Sursum corda! Try once more to strike fire and purple from your golden harp! Try, I beg you! I command you – on my knees. Then I shall do it myself.
(Takes the harp, but no sound comes from the strings.)
It is deaf and dumb. Why should the most beautiful flowers be the most poisonous? it is a curse that hangs over all creation, all life. Why would you not be my bride? Because the source of life is poisoned in you. Now I can feel that vampire in the kitchen beginning to suck my blood – perhaps she’s a Lamia who lives on the blood of children – it’s always in the kitchen that children’s hearts are nipped, if it hasn’t already happened in the bedroom. There are poisons which blind and poisons which open the eyes. I must have been born with the second kind in my veins, because I can’t see beauty in ugliness or call evil good – I can’t! Jesus Christ descended into hell when he wandered through this madhouse, this brothel, this morgue which we call earth. The madmen killed him when he tried to set them free, and released a robber instead; the robber always gets the sympathy. Alas for usall, alas! O Saviour of the World, save us! We are dying.