What are they, then?
There is something equivocal, something cryptic, lurking in and behind these busts—a secret something, that the people themselves cannot see—–
[Decisively.] I alone can see it. And it amuses me unspeakably.—On the surface I give them the “striking likeness,” as they call it, that they all stand and gape at in astonishment—[Lowers his voice]—but at bottom they are all respectable, pompous horse-faces, and self-opinionated donkey-muzzles, and lop-eared, low-browed dog-skulls, and fatted swine-snouts—and sometimes dull, brutal bull-fronts as well—–
[Indifferently.] All the dear domestic animals, in fact.
Simply the dear domestic animals, Maia. All the animals which men have bedevilled in their own image—and which have bedevilled men in return. [Empties his champagne-glass and laughs.] And it is these double-faced works of art that our excellent plutocrats come and order of me. And pay for in all good faith—and in good round figures too—almost their weight in gold, as the saying goes.
[Fills his glass.] Come, Rubek! Drink and be happy.
[Passes his hand several times across his forehead and leans back in his chair.] I am happy, Maia. Really happy—in a way. [Short silence.] For after all there is a certain happiness in feeling oneself free and independent on every hand—in having at ones command everything one can possibly wish for—all outward things, that is to say. Do you not agree with me, Maia?
Oh yes, I agree. All that is well enough in its way. [Looking at him.] But do you remember what you promised me the day we came to an understanding on—on that troublesome point—–
[Nods.] —on the subject of our marriage, yes. It was no easy matter for you, Maia.
[Continuing unruffled.] —and agreed that I was to go abroad with you, and live there for good and all—and enjoy myself.—Do you remember what you promised me that day?
[Shaking his head.] No, I can’t say that I do. Well, what did I promise?