THE SECOND ACT
Within the enclosure of the monastery. In the rear, at the left, appear the monastery buildings, the refectory, monks’ cells, parts of the church and the steeple, all connected by passageways with arched gates. Board-walks run in different directions in the court. At the right the corner of the steeple wall is seen slightly jutting out. Nestling against it is a small monastic cemetery surrounded by a light, grilled iron fence. Marble monuments and slabs of stone and iron are sunk deep into the earth. All are old and twisted. It is a long time since anyone was buried there. The cemetery contains also some wild rose-bushes and two or three rather small trees.
It is evening, after vespers. Long shadows are falling from the tower and the walls. The monastery and the steeple are bathed in the reddish light of the setting sun. Monks, novices and pilgrims pass along the board-walks. In the beginning of the act may be heard behind the scenes the driving of a village herd, the cracking of a herdsman’s whip, the bleating of sheep, the lowing of cattle, and dull cries. Toward the end of the act it grows much darker, and the movement in the yard ceases almost entirely.
Savva, Speransky, and the Young Friar are seated on a bench by the iron fence. Speransky is holding his hat on his knees, and now and then he strokes his long, straight hair, which is hanging in two mournful strands over his long, pale face. He holds his legs together speaks in a low, sad tone, and gesticulates with extended forefinger. The Friar, young, round-faced, and vigorous, pays no attention to the conversation, but is smiling continually, as if at his own thoughts._
SAVVA (preoccupied, looking aside)
Yes. What kind of work do you do here?
None at all, Mr. Savva. How can a man in my condition do any work? Once a man begins to doubt his own existence, the obligation to work naturally ceases to exist for him. But the deacon’s wife does not understand it. She is a very stupid woman, utterly lacking in education, and, moreover, of an unlovely, cruel disposition. She insists on making me work. But you can imagine the sort of work I do under the circumstances. You see, the situation is this. I have a splendid appetite. That appetite began to develop while I was yet a student in the seminary. Now this deaconess, if you please, makes a fuss about every piece of bread I eat. She doesn’t understand, the ignorant woman, the possibility of the non-existence of this piece of bread. If I had a real existence like the rest of you, I should feel very bad, but in my present condition her attacks don’t affect me in the least. Nothing affects me, Mr. Savva, nothing in the wide world.
SAVVA (smiling at the Friar’s unconscious joy, but still preoccupied) How long have you been in this condition?