AT THE CHASM
Karel.—No, not the slighest. Why?
Bohdan.—Perhaps I, her brother, have a better insight into her character.
Karel.—Hardly a better one than I—her husband.
Bohdan.—You are an extraordinary man, Karel.
Karel.—Pardon me, an extraordinary man? Is that your latest? I, on the contrary, consider myself a normal, ordinary character—a prototype of the common-sense man—'Comme il faut.' I look upon things without prejudice, and day after day I mind the duties of my business.
Bohdan.—Yes, like a machine. (Karel is moved.) Pardon me, but it is so. You go after your business day after day like clockwork; surround yourself with its cares and duties; look neither to the right nor left, and in the meantime your wife is dying of spiritual starvation.
Karel.—Romanticism, my dear.
Bohdan.—Call it whatever you please, but I am certain that your wife is suffering, yes, suffering extremely. I consider it my fraternal duty to her to tell you so—because (hesitating, then quickly) I can't bear it any longer. I have been looking for this opportunity for a long while.
Karel.—My, my! You are telling me all sorts of news to-day. (Angered.) My wife suffering? And I don't know about it? Anything else, my dear? And why does she not tell me about it? Does she lack anything? Am I not doing everything within my power to secure her well-being? No, no, Bohdan, I think you are mistaken.
Bohdan.—No, I am not, I saw her several times alone, crying. When she saw me she got up quickly, wiped away her tears and either hurried out of the room or laughed,—a laugh that had the falsest ring.
Karel.—Oh, that! She is mourning the loss of our only child. Time will heal that.
Bohdan.—If that were the only reason!
Karel.—And what should be the reason, if you please? You speak as if you knew of something.
Bohdan.—You are one of those fortunate men who judge the happiness of a human being by his external welfare. You remind me of that good parent who, when they told him that his son was dying of melancholia and wanted to commit suicide, exclaimed: 'He has enough to eat and drink, a place to sleep, enough clothes and the rest is all nonsense.'
Karel.—And why does not Cilka complain to me? She knows well that I would do my utmost to satisfy her needs.
Bohdan.—There is not the slightest doubt about that.
Karel.—We have never had a quarrel ——