An iron sign has been hanging on the gate for ever so long, saying the house is for sale. But no one wants to buy it. The sign’s rusty already, and the rain has worn the letters away. But no one comes to buy the house. No one wants an old house. Yet maybe someone will buy it. Then we’ll be going to look for another place to live in. It’ll be a strange place. My mistress will begin to cry, and I dare say, the old gentleman will too. But I won’t. It’s all the same to me.
You wonder what’s become of all his riches. I don’t know. Maybe it seems strange, but I’ve been living with other people all my life, and many is the time I’ve seen money disappear, quietly running off through some leak or other. That’s the way it has happened to these folks too. They had a lot, then it got to be a little, and then nothing at all. People came and bought things. Then they stopped coming. I once asked my mistress how it came about. She answered: “People have stopped liking what they used to like; they have stopped loving what they used to love.” “How is that possible?” says I. “How can people stop liking what they once liked?” She didn’t answer and fell to crying. But I didn’t. It’s all the same to me. It’s all the same to me.
People say they are surprised at me. It’s terrible, they say, to live in this house; terrible to sit here at night with only the wind whining in the chimney and the rats squeaking and scuffling. Maybe it is terrible, I don’t know; but I don’t think about it. Why should I? There they sit, the two of them, in their room, looking at each other and listening to the whining of the wind; and I sit in the kitchen alone and listen to the whining of the wind. Doesn’t the same wind whine in our ears? Young folks used to come to see their son, and they would all laugh and sing and go through the empty rooms to chase the rats. But nobody comes to me, and I sit alone, all alone. There’s no one to talk to, so I talk to myself, and it’s all the same to me.
I’m sure they had a hard enough time of it—no need of more ill luck. But three days ago another misfortune happened to them. The young gentleman went out walking, his hat cocked, his hair dressed in latest fashion. And a bad man went and threw a stone at him from behind a corner and broke his head like a nut. They brought him home, put him to bed, and now he’s dying in there. Maybe he’ll recover and live—who knows? The old lady and the old gentleman cried, and then they put all the books on a wagon and sold them. With the money they hired a nurse, bought medicines, and even grapes. So the books, too, were of some good. But he doesn’t eat the grapes. He doesn’t even look at them. They just lie there on the dish, just lie there.
DOCTOR (enters through the outer door; his face looks red and his manner is uneasy) Can you tell me if I am in the right place? I’m a doctor. I have many visits to pay, and I often make mistakes. I’m called here and there and everywhere, and all the houses look alike and the people in them are all sad. Have I struck the right place?