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ACT III

(In the house of JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA. The Supper-room in which the Last Supper took place. The windows are at the back. The doors to the right side and the left side. An ancient Judeo-Roman architecture. The lamps are lit. It is the end of the night of the sixth day of April.)

                                                                SCENE I:            
                                                                                                                                    

NICODEMUS. LEVI THE PUBLICAN. SIMON THE LEPER. LAZARUS, THE MAN WHO HAS BEEN RISEN FROM THE DEAD. MARY CLEOPHAS, ZACCHAUS. THE MAN THAT WAS ONCE BORN BLIND. BARTIMEUS, THE BLIND MAN OF JERICHO. THE MAN OF GERASA WHO HAD BEEN ONCE POSSESSED BY A DEVIL. THE IMPOTENT MAN OF BETHESDA. THE MAN WHO WAS HEALED OF A DROPSY. THE MAN WHOSE WAS WITHERED. SIMON PETER'S MOTHER-IN-LAW MARY CLEOPHAS. MARY SALOME, THE WIFE OF ZEBEDEE. SUSANNA. Several nameless MEN AND WOMEN CURED BY MIRACLES. A few HUNCH-BACKED, HALT, BLIND, LEPERS and PALSIED who are waiting to be healed. Some BEGGARS, and two or three HARLOTS, etc. (All these people are struck with consternation and alarm at the arrest of JESUS and at the bad news that is current. They crowd at the back of the room, muttering and whispering. Enter MARTHA, the sister of LAZARUS.)

MARTHA: (Affrighted, looking anxiously around her.) I have seen him!

(Sensation. All the people gathered eagerly around MARTHA.)

NICODEMUS: Where is he? . . .

MARY CLEOPHAS: Has he suffered? . . .

MARY SALOME: What does he say? . . .

MARTHA: Where is my sister? . . .

MARY CLEOPHAS: She is with her mother, in our host's chamber. . . . Her mother was worn out with sorrow. . . .

MARTHA: (Going over to look at one of the windows.) Did no one follow me? . . . No, the street is empty. ... I went a long way around. . . .

NICODEMUS: Where did you see him? . . .

MARTHA: He was coming out of Annas' palace. ... I followed him to Caiaphas'. . . . It seems they are looking for us. . . . They have a special grudge against Lazarus, the man raised from the dead. . . . Where is he? . . .

NICODEMUS: (Pointing to LAZARUS, in the shadow.) Here, among us. . . .

MARTHA: They mean to arrest all those who went with him. . . . They mean to stone us according to the law. . . . They will persecute all those who come from Galilee. . . .

MARY CLEOPHAS: We are all Galileans. . . .

A MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: No, not I. . . .

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: Nor I: I am from Bethany.

BARTIMAEUS: And I from Jericho. . . .

A MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: It is not well that we should be found together. . . .

NICODEMUS: Where will you go? . . .

A MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: No matter where. . . . We shall be safer than here. . . .

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: They do not know us. . . . I have never been seen with him. . . .

A WOMAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: Nor I either: he just simply healed me. ... I was bowed together and he made me straight. . . .

A MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: I saw him only once: it was when he said to me, "Arise and take up thy bed and go thy way into thine house." I am he whom they let down through the roof upon a bed. . . . Now I walk like other men. . . . (He turns to the door and GOES OUT, followed by THOSE PEOPLE WHO WERE CURED BY MIRACLES who spoke before him.) A SICK MAN: They are right. . . . We are not known either. ... I came to be healed of a dysentery. ... I have not had time to touch him. (He also makes for the door.)

MARTHA: Are you not ashamed? . . .

THE SICK MAN: (Stopping on the threshold.) Of what? . . . It serves no purpose that those whom he has healed should perish because of him. . . . (He rises up and GOES OUT.)

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: He can do nothing for us, because he can do nothing for himself; and we can do nothing for him. . . .

A HUNCHBACK: Yes, why does he not protect us? . . . He is constantly speaking of his father. They do not know us. . . . I have never been seen with him and the angels. . . . Where are those angels?

NICODEMUS: It is because his hour has not yet come.

THE HUNCHBACK: When will his hour come? . . . When it is too late. ... I have not the time to wait. . . . (He GOES OUT.)

NICODEMUS: Let those who do not love him go. . . . The Son of Man shall come in such an hour as you think not. . . .

MARY CLEOPHAS: His kingdom is not of this world. . . .

A BLIND MAN: His kingdom is lost. . . .

NICODEMUS: He said, "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings and not one of them is forgotten before God?" . . .

MARY CLEOPHAS: He said, "Live not in careful suspense." . . .

NICODEMUS: He said, "If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." . . .

THE BLIND MAN: But he also said, "Let the dead bury their dead." (He gropes his way to the door and GOES OUT.)

A LAME MAN: I am going away, not that I am afraid, but to go and look for him. . . .

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: I also. ... (They all risen up and then GO OUT.)

A LEPER: Who said that we must wait for him here? . . .

NICODEMUS: Simon Peter.

THE LEPER: Where is Simon Peter? . . . He hardly shows himself.

MARTHA: He was by the fire, in the high-priest's hall. . . .

NICODEMUS: And John? . . .

MARTHA: I heard that he was in Annas' house. . . .

NICODEMUS: And what was the Master doing when you saw him? . . .

MARTHA: I saw him only for a moment, while he passed between the columns of the vestibule. . . . There was a great crowd around him. . . .

MARY CLEOPHAS: Did he see you? ...

MARTHA: Yes. He looked at me. . . .

NICODEMUS: He was not free? . . .

MARTHA: His hands were bound. . . . The Roman soldiers were striking him to make him walk faster. . . .

MARY SALOME: Oh! . . .

MARY CLEOPHAS: And the others, the twelve, where are they? . . .

MARTHA: Nobody knows. . . . They were seized with panic. ... I have heard that Thomas and Jude have fled to Galilee. . . .

NICODEMUS: And Mary Magdalene, did you see her? . . .

MARTHA: No, but James met her. . . . She is mad with grief, it seems. . . . She was crying out, tearing her garments and dashing her head against the walls in Annas' palace. . . . The servants drove her away; and, since then, nobody knows what became of her. ... A poor man told me that she was wandering in the Roman quarter. . . .

NICODEMUS: Does she know that we are here? . . .

MARTHA: Yes, Simon Peter told her. . . .

A SICK MAN: When she comes, do not let her go out again. . . . She will bring misfortune upon us. She is dangerous and does not know what she is doing. . . .

A MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: There are men marching in the street. ... I hear the sound of arms. . . . They are coming to arrest us! . . . Let all of them escape who can! ... (Turning to face NICODEMUS, who is going over to look at a window.) Do not go to the windows, you will be recognized! . . .

BARTIMAEUS: I will go, I am not known, I am from Jericho. . . . (He looks cautiously into the street.) It is a group of twelve soldiers, with a centurion. . . . Hush! . . . Do not speak! . . .

NICODEMUS: Are they stopping? . . .

BARTIMAEUS: No. . . . They are passing. . . „ There is no-one in the street now. . . . Yes! . . . . There is someone coming at the other end. . . . Do not make a noise. . . . It is a woman and four men. . . . Why, I know them! ... It is Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea, James, I believe, and Andrew and Simon Zelotes. . . . They are looking around them. . . . They are knocking. . . . Go down and open the door to them. . .

SCENE II

     THE SAME, MARY MAGDALENE, JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, JAMES, ANDREW and SIMON ZELOTES 

MARY MAGDALENE: (Beside herself, disheveled, and barefoot, with torn garments.) How many are you? . . . Are you ready? . . . What have you been doing while waiting for me? . . . I have come from the Antonia Tower. .. . . The military tribune was not in the Roman quarter. . . . But I have seen his friend Appius . . . . He will send him to us as soon as he returns. . . . Verus said that it might be possible to save him. . . . I do not know how. . . . He will explain it to us. . . . But, if he does not save him, we must. . . . James and Simon have swords under their cloaks. Where is Peter? Where is John? . . .

MARTHA: I saw them in the hall of the high-priest's house. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: They ought to be here. . . . We must be many. . . . He is to pass through this street, under that window, on his way to Pilate. . . .

NICODEMUS: When? . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Tonight, before the second watch. . . . Which of you has arms? Where are they hidden? . . .

NICODEMUS: What do you wish to do? . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: To deliver him, if Verus does not deliver him. . . . It is easy, you shall see. . . . They will let us do as we please, I know they will. The Romans do not want to judge him. . . . Appius told me so, they are perplexed. . . . When they took him to Caiaphas, there were only two soldiers to guard him and two sergeants from the Temple, armed with sticks. ... If only there had been five or six men with me! . . . We would have hidden him, I know where; and he would have been saved! . . . But I was all alone! . . .

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: It is not so easy as you think, Magdalene. . . . All the populace was there, ready to stone him. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE But the populace is on his side and the crowd adores him! . . . You have forgotten his triumphal entry! . . .

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: It is different now. . . . They were all shouting for his death outside Caiaphas' palace. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: It was a few servants of the Pharisees and Sadducees. . . .

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: A few servants would not have been enough to cover a public place to the very roofs. ... It was indeed the same crowd as on the day of the triumph. . . . No, believe me, Mary Magdalene, he knows what he wishes. . . . He is determined to be destroyed. . . . He has confessed everything. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: What can he have confessed, when he has done no wrong? . . .

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: He admitted that he was the Son of God and the King of the Jews.

MARY MAGDALENE: Is it not the truth? . . .

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: No doubt, but it would have been better not to proclaim it tonight. In the eyes of the priests and the Romans, it is a crime punishable by law. . . .

AN INFIRM MAN: He must be guilty, or they would not have arrested him. . . .

NICODEMUS: We cannot do more than he wishes and commands; and he renounces his defense.

MARY MAGDALENE: But you do not see that he does that to try your faith, your strength, your love! . . .

NICODEMUS: He foretold all this many times. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: That was because he knew the cowardice of those who pretended to love him! . . . Ah, men are great and heroic and proud! . . . The only men who have not fled, those who tremble least, the best of you discuss and argue as though they had to do with a measure of wheat; and the women are silent and weep! . . . Well, what do you say, my sisters? . . . Is not this the moment to show your love? . . . And those whom he has healed, where are they, what are they doing? . . . You there, who want to flee, blind Bartimaeus, the other one from Jericho, the other from Siloam: those eyes, which he has opened, you turn from me, because I have the courage to speak to you of him! . . . You, Simon the Leper, you, the other from Samaria, have you forgotten that, before he came, you were more hideous than death? ... I see nothing around me but miracles in hiding! . . . The man whose hand was withered, the man who was healed of a dropsy on the Sabbath and the man of Gerasa possessed by a devil, who dares not lift up his head! . . . And, among the palsied, he of Bethesda who is running to the door, using his legs only to forsake the God who healed him! . . . Even those whom he raised from the dead are afraid! . . . Why, look at Lazarus: he is more pale than any of you are! . . . And yet you saw death, you; you lay touching it for four long days. ... Is it more terrible than men thought? . . . You do not answer? . . .

(A long pause.)

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: Listen, Magdalene. ... I lack neither courage nor loyalty. . . . Notwithstanding the power of the priests, I have thrown open my house to those who followed him. I know the price which I shall have to pay. ... I am prepared to sacrifice everything and life itself to him. But I know his will and I cannot disobey him. . . . Peter wished to defend him and drew his sword. . . . He made him put it up into the sheath. ... I was at Gethsemane. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Since you were there, why did you not help Peter? . . . We save those whom we love; we listen to them afterwards! . . . But what will you do when you have destroyed him? . . . Oh, I am delaying too long with those who are afraid! . . . What am I doing here, among the men who will do nothing? . . . I am wasting his last chances and his last minutes. . . . I will go to meet Verus; after him, we shall see. . . . (She turns to the door. JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA and NICODEMUS block her way.) NICODEMUS: Do not go out, Mary Magdalene: it means destroying him and destroying us with him. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Ah, destroying you with him, that is the trouble! . . . Wait! (She takes another step towards the door. NICODEMUS stops her resolutely.)

NICODEMUS: You shall not go out.

MARY MAGDALENE: I shall not go out? . . . True, you dare fight against a woman. I had not foreseen this great courage born of terror. You all shake your heads like the empty corn-spikes; and the women rejoice in at last discovering the cowardice of the men, showing itself suddenly more signal than their own! . . .

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: Take counsel, Mary Magdalene; think of him and reflect that, if he heard you . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Well, if he heard me, it would be as on the day when that one among you whom you all resemble reproached me with anointing his feet with too costly an ointment! . . . Have you forgotten what he said? . . . Whom did he declare to be right?. . . You have understood nothing! . . . For months and years, you have lived in his light; and not one of you has the least idea of what I saw because I loved him, I who did not come until the eleventh hour, I whom he drew from lower than the lowest slave of the lowest among you all! . . .

NICODEMUS: (Listening to the sounds outside.) Hush! . . . Listen! . . . Someone is walking outside the house. ... (Turing to see BARTIMAEUS.) Go see who it is. . . .

BARTIMAEUS: (Peeking at the window.) It is a man wrapped in a cloak. . . . A Roman. . . . He has stopped. . . . He knocks at the door. . . . He is coming in. . . . The door was not closed. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: (Running to the door of the Supper-room.) It is he, it is Lucius Verus! . . . Open the door to him! Open quickly! ... I hear him! . . . (They unwillingly opened the door of the Supper-room. LUCIUS VERUS appears in the embrasure. At the sight of the strange assembly of the PERSONS CURED BY MIRACLES, CRIPPLES, BEGGARS and SICK, he stops and stands dumb-foundered on the threshold.)

SCENE III:

                                                                    THE SAME, LUCIUS VERUS 

MARY MAGDALENE: (Running to VERUS with her outstretched arms.) It is you, my Verus, it is indeed you! . . An eye that looks me in the face, a sword, shoulders, hands that do not tremble! . . . Come! Come! What are we to do? . . . Have you seen him? . . . Where are we going? . . . How can we help him? . . . How many men do you need? . . . Where are yours? He is not only innocent, as you well know, he is so pure, he stands so high that the thoughts of men cannot reach him ... In his goodness he is bearing everything for the sins of the world; but we will not have him sacrifice himself for us. . . . A single glance from his eyes, and a single word from his mouth, are worth all the lives of all the other men. . . .

VERUS: (Speaking icily.) Is this indeed the place where I was to meet you? . . . Who are these . . . these men . . . . surrounding you? . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: They can be trusted. . . . They love him as well as he loved them; but they want a leader. . . . They were waiting for you. . . . They will follow you everywhere. . . .

VERUS: (Frowning ironically.) I have not come to command this . . . foreign . . . troop. . . . I do not know what you mean. There is some misunderstanding; and we should not, I think, explain it here, before so many witnesses. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: You are right. . . . (Turning to face the others glaring at him with the look of hatred in their suspicious eyes.) Leave us. . . . I will call you when the time comes for action. . . .

                                (ALL GO OUT, except MARY MAGDALENE and LUCIUS VERUS.)
                                                                                                  SCENE IV:

                                              LUCIUS VERUS, MARY MAGDALENE 

VERUS: (Sarcastically.) Who are those extraordinary persons? ... I have never seen so many cripples, vagrants and evil-smelling sick people gathered together. . . . What do they want with you? . . . I was told that you were living in the midst of uncouth creatures, the oldest, the ugliest, the dirtiest and the most pestilential of those Jews whom you mocked so pleasantly in the house of the wise Silanus; but I could not have believed that they were so intimate with you as this. . . . However, that no longer concerns me. But I told you that we should meet again before long Appius informed me that you had been looking for me in the Roman quarter. I left everything to hasten at your first summons. I knew what was happening and I was biding my time. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: How good and generous you are! . . . How reassuring and comforting your presence and your smile! . . . Those others . . . if you only knew! . . . They were trembling like the reeds of which our Master speaks; and I was helpless and dying with shame. . . . But I knew that you would come back to us; and now this is you, your arms, your breast. ... It seems to me that Rome in her entirety is protecting us and that your arms, which can do all things, cannot abandon him. . . .

VERUS: They will not abandon you, Magdalene. The rest depends upon yourself alone. , . . I am good and generous, perhaps, but in my own manner; and we must understand each other. ... So they have arrested him in whom you take so lively an interest, as I told you that they would? . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: They have not only arrested him: all the menials of the Temple, the grooms, the herds, the meanest scullions in the kitchens rushed at him, insulted, flouted and ill-treated him. . . . And, as they were afraid, as they were too cowardly to venture it alone, they made the Roman soldiers help them! . . .

VERUS: I know. . . . But had we not best be brief and to the point? . . ..

MARY MAGDALENE: Yes, we have no time to lose. . . .

VERUS: Even so. It is not now a question of arrest nor of more or less justifiable ill-usage, but of imminent death. I have seen the Procurator Pontius Pilate.

MARY MAGDALENE: Good. What did he say? . . .

VERUS: I found him anxious, perplexed, at a loss. He is a mild, irresolute man, an enemy to quarrels and violence. He had to choose between the inevitably bloody revolt of the priests and their sectaries and the sacrifice of an agitator who was unquestionably troublesome and dangerous, but who has not, perhaps, incurred the death penalty in the eyes of the Roman law and justice. I spoke according to my duty and conscience. He did not hesitate. He chose the more humane and wiser course. And, as I am the armed guardian responsible for the Roman peace, he gave the fate of your Nazarene into my hands. However, I must admit that, before our interview, I had purposely allowed events to take the course they did. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: He is saved! I was sure of it! And how right I was to fear nothing and to hope all things in turning to you! . . .

VERUS: Do not let us go too fast. There are many things to consider. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: What do you say? . . .

VERUS: I say that there are many things to consider. . . . Had I known nothing whatever of your adventure, my choice would not have been in doubt: I should, while more or less pitying him, have sacrificed the wretched man to the public tranquility; it is the sovereign law of the empire; but now . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: But now, it is different, you know him, you know everything. . . . There is no excuse for a moment's hesitation; it would be monstrous. . . .

VERUS: Indeed, there is no excuse for a moment's hesitation; it would be monstrous, as you say. . . . Shall I, to snatch a favored rival from a well-merited death, for the second time lose the only woman whom I love or can love? . . . That certainly is impossible. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: I do not quite understand. . . .

VERUS: Yet it is simple enough: in saving him, I hand you over, without defense, to the fellow who will drag you with him, by fall after fall, to the bottom of none can tell what pit of folly and wretchedness, whence no human and reasoning power will be able to extricate you. Moreover, speaking for myself, I lose you irrevocably by thus giving you, with my own simple, foolish hands, to one who robs me of my happiness by methods against which a man who values the name does not try to struggle. Whereas, if I abandon him to his fate, there remains a chance of seeing you return to the light and for me some prospect of finding you in my path; for our two lives have still, I hope, a long space to cover; and many roads, as you well know, lead to Rome. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: I understand. ... I understand, since I needs must understand. . . . But I do not yet believe. . . . No, it is not possible; and you, the man whom I know, have not come to tell me coldly that you wish to destroy him and thus revenge yourself for an injury which he has not done you. . . . There is, there must be, something else. . . .

VERUS: Yes, there is something else. . . . There remains to us, if you are absolutely bent upon it, one means of saving him. But, at the point to which we have come and to which I have driven the adventure, saving him probably means ruin to myself. Besides, time presses. The sentence is written, I have seen it. He will be put to death at daybreak; for the hours are numbered because of the Passover. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: What must I do? . . . Quick, quick, I will do it. . . .

VERUS: The prisoner is guarded by my men; it is therefore not quite impossible to effect his escape. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Why yes, why yes, it is simple; and that, of course, is what we must do! . . . Once free, he will hide and he will be forgotten. . . . Let us lose no time. . . . But I do not understand why you came to say. . . .

VERUS: You will soon understand. ... I answer for the prisoner, therefore. Do you know what I am doing, and do you know what I risk by restoring him to liberty? . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: You are only doing your duty in freeing an innocent man. . . .

VERUS: It is not for me to enquire into his innocence; that does not concern me. I am not his judge, but his keeper. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Your soldiers will hold their tongues and no-one will know that. . . .

VERUS: My soldiers will not be able to hold their tongues. They will have to choose between silence and their lives. It will therefore be known that they acted only on my orders. Now there is no instance of the high-priests' ever abandoning a prey, a revenge, a hatred. They will go and complain, first, at Antioch, to the Governor of Syria, and, next, to Caesar himself, whose anger is kindled at the very breath of a suspicion. Do you know what Caesar is? The greatest, the most powerful men in Rome tremble before his shadow. . . . For me, it means, if not death, at least exile far from Rome; and death, to us Romans, seems sweet compared with exile. . . . That is what I give; that is my stake; I am waiting for yours.

MARY MAGDALENE: You are waiting for mine? . . . What would you have me give? ... I have nothing left. ... I distributed all to the poor the other evening. . . .

VERUS: I do not ask for what one gives to the poor. . . . And, besides, I have had enough of those evasions which lead to nothing and of those shuffling phrases. . . . Ah, much I care for justice and a vagrant more or less in the world and my own fate and my own exile! . . . Have you not understood that it is you I want, you alone and all of you; that I have wanted you for years; and that this is my hour? . . . It is not beautiful, I know, and it is not as I dreamt it! . . . But it is all I have; and a man takes what he can to make his life! . . . We stand here face to face, with our two madnesses, which are more powerful than ourselves 'and cannot recede; we must come to an understanding! . . . The more you love him, the more I love you, the more you wish to save him and the more I wish to destroy him! We must come to an understanding! . . . You want his life, I want mine; and you shall have his life, but I shall have you, before he escapes his death. ... Is it understood? . . . Are we agreed? . . . Say no, if you dare, and let his blood be upon her who has brought him to this pass and who is destroying him twice over! . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Ah, so that was it! . . . Yes, yes, I know, I see . . . I was not conscious and I no longer thought of it; but it was bound to be. . . . Ah, so it was that which caused me just now, while you were speaking, to have no confidence despite my confidence! . . . It is so strange, so monstrous, and so remote from us! . . . One needs a little time to understand. . . . All one's thoughts become deranged and one's soul falls, falls, like a stone in a well. . . . One grasps the meaning of nothing. . . . One no longer knows where one stands. . . .

VERUS: You and I know quite well; and there is nothing extraordinary in all this. . . . A few days ago, you would not have needed so much urging; and I do not understand that today, when the price of love is something quite different, today, when a life, dear to you among all lives. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Ah, you do not understand! . . . And to think that scarcely any one, not even those who loved him, would understand better! . . . Am I then the only being that has seen into his soul? . . . And yet it is not so very difficult! . . . He has spoken to me only three times in my life, but I know what he thinks. I know all that he wishes, I know all that he is as completely as though I were within him, or as though he were there, near me, fixing upon my brow his glance in which the angels come down from heaven, as on the evening when I kissed his feet and wiped them with my hair. . . .

VERUS: I well knew that I came too late, but I should never have believed that you had gone so far. ... If he has spoken to you only three times, he has not wasted the minutes and has told you enough to remove my doubts. . . . But let us be calm. It is a question other than of love; and your lover himself, were he consulted, would judge that a kiss does not weigh much in the presence of death. . . . Since you love him so well, is his life not worth a slight displeasure, which but lately would not have inspired you with such horror? . . . If there were a looking-glass in this room, I would go and gaze at myself with curiosity, to make out what, in a few days, has made me so repulsive that the torture of the one man whom you adore is preferred to the touch of my lips! . . . But what is the matter? . . . One would think that I was speaking of unimaginable things! . . . What have I said? What have I done? . . . Your face is distorted. . . . There is no need to look at me like that, with thy mad and terrified eyes, as though they beheld the fall of the sun or the violation of a tomb! . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Let me be. . . . You cannot know. . . . I am only beginning to understand. . . .

VERUS: A few days since, you were not so slow in understanding. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: (Speaking in a soft and distant voice.) Yes, yes. . . . For one sees only little by little. . . . (Staring before her.) It is unfolded slowly, like a thing that has no beginning, no end, no name. . . There are two deaths here, I hold two deaths in my hand; and that is too heavy a weight for a poor creature born upon this earth. . . .

VERUS: Two deaths? . . . What do you mean? . . . You do not intend to follow him, surely? . . . Your death, since he loves you, would only add a very useless bitterness to his. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: (Repeating in the same soft and distant voice.) No. ... I am not speaking of mine. ... It is two other deaths. ... I still have my senses. ... I can see clearly in the abyss. . . . Let me look, where you can see nothing. . . .

VERUS: I should not have thought that, when I came to bring you his safety and the great sacrifice which I am making to love. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: (Scolding him with a sudden outburst.) The sacrifice which you are making to love I do not care for it. . . Ah, if you could see the sacrifice which is being accomplished here and which the very angels dare not look upon! . . . But you cannot know what has happened on earth since he descended upon it! . . . It is no longer the same earth; and it is no longer possible! . . . Before he came, the purest would not have hesitated! . . . Before he came! Before he came! . . . And, even then, today, I, who have been born again through him, if it were not he, if it were a question of another, I should not have the strength! ... I should perhaps sin against all | that he loves, to save what I love! . . . But he gives too much strength to love and to suffer! ... I could save him in spite of himself; but no longer in spite of myself! ... If I bought his life at the price which you offer, all that he wished, all that he loved would be dead! ... I cannot plunge the flame into the mire to save the lamp! I cannot give him the only death that could touch him! . . . But look at me with clearer eyes and you shall perhaps see all that I perceive without being able to tell you! . . . Were I to yield but for a moment under the weight of love, all that he has said, all that he has done, all that he has given would sink back into the darkness, the earth would be more deserted than if he had not been born and heaven would be closed to mankind forever! ... I should be destroying him altogether, destroying more than himself, and to gain for him days which would destroy everything. . . .

VERUS: It is not so much a question of gaining days for him as of sparing him tortures, the mere thought of which should make you reflect. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: I know! I know! . . . Because I love him thus, as none has ever loved upon this earth where heaven had not yet poured forth its love, must I not sacrifice to him what no human soul has possessed before me? . . . But you come to ask for all that he has given; and what he has given is much more than his life and lives more in our hearts than it lives in himself! . . . If I destroy him in myself, I destroy him in us! . . . I know no more, I see no more, I understand no more. ... I would do it, perhaps, if my soul were alone; but it is no longer possible and God would not have it! . . .

VERUS: The gods always will what men will. . . . Be sure that, if he whom you are about to deliver to the torture could make his voice heard at this moment, he would not hesitate. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Ah, I know that he would not hesitate! And that is why I am struggling thus, like a blind beast, between two sacrifices! . . . It is my past shame that overwhelms me and prevents me from rising to the level of his will! . . .

VERUS: Man has but one will in the presence of death. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: My God! My God! ... I am nothing, I am defiled with every defilement: what matters this one, which brings thee life? . . . But am I in question? . . . Is it not thou alone whom I defile today in defiling thy salvation, thou, the very source whence the source of all purity and of every happiness and of every life will spring? ... I no longer know where to thrust back my soul! . . . Nothing remains to me, if I lose it; nothing remains to us, if I save it! . . .

VERUS: Nothing is lost so long as life endures. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: Hush, I beseech you! . . . Leave me alone in his silence and his will. . . . Let me contemplate, and let me listen to other things. ... I do not yet love him as he would be loved! . . . In vain I raise my eyes to his heaven of light: I see only his death, his sorrows, and his suffering. . . His steadfast face, his eyes that lit up all he looked upon, and his mouth that spoke unceasingly of happiness. . . . His feet which I have kissed, lifeless and icy cold! . . . Verus, Verus, have pity! . . . I cannot bear it, I cannot bear it! I am falling! ... Do with me what you will! . . .

VERUS: (Catching her in his arms.) Mary Magdalene, Mary Magdalene! ... I knew. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: (Springing back at his touch in anger.) No, you did not know! And it is not that! . . . There is something else! . . . There is another outlet! . . . Verus, Verus, come, you are not without feeling, you are not a monster, you will understand also. ... It depends on you. . . . For me it is impossible. . . . There is a wall there defended by his angels. ... I cannot pass it. . . . I must not think of it. . . . But you, you can do everything! . . . To think that you hold there, in that human hand of yours, the life of the God of Gods descended upon earth! . . . I know, I know, you do not believe it. ... But you must at least believe in his innocence; and you know that he has done no evil. . . . He does not even know what evil is, since he is all goodness. . . . He has done nothing but heal, console and pray. . . . He has done nothing but breathe over men's souls and flood them with happiness. ... If only you knew him, if he had spoken to you, were it but once! . . . Because he is innocent and because you are just, because you have strength and because you are brave, you cannot deliver him defenseless to the executioners. ... It would not be a Roman, it would not even be manly. . . .

VERUS: Enough of this; and, as everything is useless, let him be treated as you have decided. . . . It is not I who am leading him to the torture. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: (Clinging to the garments of VERUS, who takes a step to the door.) Verus! Verus! ... I implore you! . . . That is not all! . . . All is not said! ... It cannot be decided like this! . . . But do not ask the one impossible thing. ... I will be your slave, I will live at your feet, serve you on my knees for the rest of my days; but give me his life without destroying in my soul and throughout the earth that which is the very life of our new life! . . .

VERUS: Enough! . . . Besides, there is no time. My patience in saving a rival whom I hate is as ridiculous as your persistent attempt to save your lover by singing his praises! . . . When you see him dead, in less than three hours hence, do not weep over him, lest your tears should be flung back in your own face! . . . (Perceiving JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, who discreetly opens the door, to the left side, of the Supper-room.) Who goes there? . . . Come in, come in, this is the very thing! . . . We need witnesses. Where are the mountebanks, the monsters, and the lepers? I want to tell them . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: What is it? . . .

VERUS: They shall know who has betrayed their god! . . . We shall then see if you have the heart to despatch him before their eyes and how they will take the news! . . . Repugnant though they be, I want to see their ugly faces again! . . . (He reaches the door and throws it open wide.)

MARY MAGDALENE: (Rises up and hurrying to stop his action.) Verus! Verus! . . . This is not worthy of you! . . .

VERUS: I know! I know! ... I am not worthy of anything, it appears! Not even of you, harlot! . . . (Calling in a loud voice.) Hi! Hi! The rest of you! . . . Where are you? . . . Hasten this way, you halt and lame, you club-feet, you cripples, you beggars, vagrants, lepers, and paralytics! ... I have something of importance to tell you! . . . (Startled faces appear in the embrasures of the two doors.)

                                                  SCENE V
         VERUS, MARY MAGDALENE and nearly ALL THE CHARACTERS of the SCENE III

VERUS: Come in, come in, you have nothing to fear! . . . (They ENTER, timidly.) Are you all there? . . . There seem to be fewer of you. . . . Where are the others gone? . . .

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: Sir, some of them fear lest the night . . .

VERUS: I understand; they were afraid. . . . Their love and their faith do not take any risk of blows. . . . However, these will do. . . . Do you see that woman? . . . I came to offer to save your master. She had only to say yes. She has said no. She orders his death. He will therefore die at sunrise.

                                           (Sensation in the crowd.) 

NICODEMUS: What is he saying, Magdalene? . . .

(MARY MAGDALENE does not reply.)

VERUS: Ask her, you will learn. . . .

NICODEMUS: Mary Magdalene, is it true? . . .

(MARY MAGDALENE remains silent.)

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: But come, answer! . . . What is the matter with you? . . .

VERUS: She is at the same time betraying and destroying all those who followed the tempter. I have spoken. Farewell. Look to yourselves. (He turns to the door.)

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: (Stopping him and beseeching him.) Sir, I beg of you, do not go away like this. . . . She is mistaken, you will see. . . . There is some terrible misunderstanding. . . . Mary Magdalene, come, what is he saying, what do you say? . . . Why, it is impossible! . . . What has happened? . . . SEVERAL SICK MEN and BEGGARS: (surrounding MARY MAGDALENE, who remains motionless, and gazing blindly into the distance.) Mary Magdalene! Mary Magdalene! . . .

A HUNCHBACK: She also has sold him! . . . She was with Judas the Iscariot! . . .

MARTHA: (Putting her arms around MARY MAGDALENE'S neck in tears.) Mary Magdalene! . . . Listen to me! . . . You used to love me. . . . What has come to you? . . . Tell me it is not true. . . . You have not heard. . . .

MARY CLEOPHAS: (Putting her hand on MARY MAGDALENE'S shoulder.) Mary Magdalene, Mary Magdalene! . . . No, it is impossible. . . . You cannot have forgotten. . . .

A POOR MAN: How much did you receive? . . .

A MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: Yes, how much? . . . Where is the money? . . .

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: Give back the gold! Give back the gold! . . . Search her! . . .

MARY SALOME: Mary Magdalene! Mary Magdalene! . . . She is mad! . . .

A VAGRANT: Harlot! . . . Soldiers' wench! . . .

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: Strumpet! Strumpet! Strumpet!

A MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: The seven devils whom he cast out have entered her body again! . . .

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: She has sold us like a herd of oxen! . . .

A SICK MAN: We shall all have to suffer! ...

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: Yes, but not before she does! . . . . .

THE MAN WHOSE HAND WAS WITHERED: She shall not go from here until . . .

A PALSIED MAN: In any case, she shall not go hence alive, take my word for it! . . .

(Almost ALL of them, shouting, gesticulating, threatening, with clenched fists, the crowd gathered around MARY MAGDALENE, who remains motionless and dumb.)

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: (Intervening.) Come, come, do not forget who you are, where you are nor in whose name you are speaking. (Turning angrily to face VERUS.) Sir, I beg of you, a little patience. ... I am a just and reasonable man; and everything will be explained. . . . (Turning happily to see MARY MAGDALENE.) Listen, Mary Magdalene, I am speaking to you in his name. . . . There is still time to say yes. ... I am speaking as a father. . . .

(MARY MAGDALENE maintains her motionless silence.)

THE HUNCHBACK: You see! . . . She has received the price! . . .

(An explosion of hatred. ALL the people surround her more closely. The cries, the threats, the imprecations, the entreaties, and the moans are redoubled. Suddenly, in the street, rises a tumult which drowns that in the Supper-room. It is the shouting of an angry crowd approaching swiftly, the sound of arms and horses. The uproar in the room is at once lulled. ALL listen, anxiously.)

A MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: The Romans! . . . The soldiers! . . . They are coming to arrest us! . . . She has betrayed us! . . . Let us fly! . . . This way, this way! . . .

(ALL of them lose their heads. Some more of them begin to run wildly around the room, seeking for an outlet.)

A VAGRANT: No, no! . . . Do not go out! . . . There is only one door! . . . We cannot escape! . . . They would discover us! . . .

A MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: Be silent! . . . Hide yourselves! . . .

A CRIPPLE: Why do you not put out the lamps? . . . They will see the lights I . . . Quick! Quick! Put out the lamps! . . . (The lamps are put out.)

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: Do not go to the windows! . . . Do not show yourselves at the windows! . . . Lie down along the walls! . . .

VERUS: It is a noble spectacle and I long to see it out. . . .

JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA: (Going up to VERUS.) Sir, do not ruin them. . . . They are weak and poor. . . . Almost all of them are sick. . . . They know not what they do. . . . Have pity on men and do not judge them. . . .

(The shouts—"Crucify him! Crucify him! . . . Tempter! Tempter! . . . Galilean! Nazarene! . . . He would destroy the Temple! . . . He would destroy the Law! . . . Blasphemer! . . . Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!"—are redoubled in the street and are now heard outside the house itself. The red light of the torches is cast into the room. THE BLIND MAN OF JERICHO steals up to approach one of the windows and looks out.)

A PANIC-STRICKEN VOICE: (Gasping shrilly in terror.) Do not go to the windows! . . .

A LAME MAN: (Going to another window.) What is happening? . . .

THE BLIND MAN OF JERICHO: It is he! . . .

(Several PERSONS, irresistibly attracted, climb up to the windows and look into the street, with infinite caution. Occasionally ONE of them turns to those who remain at the back of the room, to tell them what he sees.)

ONE OF THOSE AT THE WINDOWS There are soldiers all around him! ... There is a crowd of them! . . . ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: He is coming! He is coming this way! . . . His hands are bound! . . . They are striking him! . . .

ANOTHER WOMAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: He is weeping! . . . His eyes are bleeding! . . .

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: They are taking him to Pontius Pilate! . . . There are Peter and John, hiding themselves I see . . .

ANOTHER WOMAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: The blood is dripping on his feet! . . .

ANOTHER MAN CURED BY A MIRACLE: He cannot walk any farther! . . . He staggers I He staggers! . . .

VERUS: (Turning to see MARY MAGDALENE, who has not moved and who stands against a column, in the middle of the room, staring before her, without turning towards the windows.) Mary Magdalene! . . .

(In the street, suddenly, the tumult falls, as a huge, heavy object might fall. A wonderful silence.)

A VOICE: (Echoing in the room.) What is it? . . .

THE BLIND MAN OF JERICHO: (Looking down at the window.) He falls! . . . He has fallen! . . . He is looking at the house! . . .

VERUS: Mary Magdalene, I still promise you. . . .

MARY MAGDALENE: (Without stirring, without looking at VERUS, without anger, simply, in a loud voice from another life, full of peace, full of divine clarity and certainty.) Go! . . .

THE BLIND MAN OF JERICHO: (Still gazing at the window.) He rises to his feet! . . . They drag him along! . . .

(The tumult, the shouts of "Crucify him!" are resumed and redoubled in the street. VERUS GOES OUT slowly, with his eyes on MARY MAGDALENE, who remains motionless with a tearful smile, as though in ecstasy and all illumined with the light of the departing torches. Then she leaves the house as she follows the Nazareth to the place of his doom thus leaving VERUS walking away from her, feeling broken-hearted in tears.)

THE CURTAIN CLOSES.