|C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the Worlds Best Literature.|
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.
|Lorenzos Duel with Himself|
|By Leonid Andreyev (18711919)|
From The Black Maskers, translated by Clarence Linton Meader and Fred Newton Scott
| From somewhere in the distance come sounds of music, which, mingling with the howling and whistling of the wind that rages about the castle, fill the air with a wild, tremulous melody.|
| An ancient library in the castle tower. A low, massive oak door, partly open, through which steps are seen leading down, and, a little beyond, other steps leading upward. The heavy ceiling is vaulted and there are small windows in deep stone recesses. Here and there on the walls and hanging from the ceiling are spider-webs. Everywhere are large old bookson the floor, in heavy, iron-bound chests, and on small wooden stands. A portion of the wall, hollowed out in niches, is also used to hold books. Some of the niches are draped with heavy curtains.|
| Beside one of the open chests, which is full of papers yellowed with age, Lorenzo is seated on a low stool. Near him, on a support, stands a wrought-iron lantern which, by reason of its cross-bars, throws here dark shadows and there bright lines of light. For some time there is profound silence. All that can be heard is the far-off music and the rustling of the sheets of paper as Lorenzo turns them over. Lorenzo is dressed as at the ball.|
Lorenzo [raising his head]What a frightful wind there is to-day! For three nights now it has been raging and grows steadily more violent. How horribly like the music of my thoughts! These poor thoughts of mine! How like frightened creatures they beat about within this tight box of bone! Once Lorenzo was young, but now, though only a little time has passedthough the sun has encircled the earth but twicelo, he is old, and the weight of terrible experience, the horrible truth of things human and divine, has bowed his youthful back. Poor Lorenzo! Poor Lorenzo! [He reads. Breaking off for a moment.] If all that is in these yellowed papers is true, who then is ruler of the world, God or Satan? And who am I that call myself Lorenzo, Duke of Spadaro? Oh, the horrible reality of human life! My young soul is smitten with sorrow. [He reads, then carefully lays aside the sheets and speaks.] So it is true, mother; it is true. I thought, my mother, that you were a saint. I swore by your memory, and my oath was as solemn as if I had sworn upon my knightly sword; and yet you, my saintly mother, were the paramour of a drunken, thieving groom. And my noble father, returning from Palestine to die in his ancestral home, learned of this and pardoned you, and bore the terrible secret with him to his grave. Whose son am I, O my saintly mother, the son of a knight, who gave his lifes blood to the Lord, or the son of a filthy groom, an abominable traitor and thief, who robbed his master at his orisons? Poor Lorenzo! Poor Lorenzo!
He falls into deep thought. Swift footsteps are heard along the staircase, and Lorenzo rushes into the room, his head between his hands, in the same attitude in which he left the hall. He takes his hands from his face, sees the Lorenzo who is seated, and cries out in a frightened voice.
The Second LorenzoWho is this?
| The First Lorenzo [rising in alarm]Who is this?|| 3|
The second Lorenzo throws himself upon the other and hurls the lantern to the floor. The room is now faintly illuminated by the light from the open door. There is a brief, muffled struggle and then the two figures separate.
The Second LorenzoYour jest is overbold, sir. Remove your mask, I command you, else I will remove it for you by force. I gave you my castle but not myself, and by assuming my mask you insult me. There is but one Lorenzo, but one Duke of Spadaro, and that is I. Off with your mask, sir! [He advances toward the other.]
| The First Lorenzo [in a trembling voice]If you are only a frightful apparition, I conjure you, in the name of God, vanish. There is but one Lorenzo, but one Duke of Spadaro, and that is I.|| 5|
| The Second Lorenzo [wildly]Off with your mask, sir! I have borne too long with your unseemly jests. My patience is at an end. Either remove your mask or draw your sword. Duke Lorenzo knows how to punish insolence.|| 6|
| The First LorenzoIn Gods name!|| 7|
| The Second LorenzoIn the devils name, you mean, unhappy man. Your sword, sir, your sword, else I shall run you through on the spot like a guilty dog.|| 8|
| The First LorenzoIn Gods name!|| 9|
| The Second Lorenzo [furiously]Your sword, sir, your sword!|| 10|
From the dimly lighted stage comes the whistling and the clash of meeting rapiers. The two Lorenzos engage each other savagely though the First Lorenzo is obviously the inferior. There are brief, muffled exclamations.
In Gods name!
| Off with your mask!|| 12|
| You have killed me, Lorenzo.|| 13|
He falls and dies. Lorenzo sets his foot upon the corpse and, wiping his sword, speaks with unexpected sadness and tenderness.
LorenzoI am sorry for you, Sir Impostor. Your strength of wrist, your deep breathing, showed me that you were young like myself. But your misfortune, unhappy sir, lay in this, that Duke Lorenzo wearied of laughing at the amiable quips of his guests. You went to a obscure death, young man, the hapless victim of a masquerading joke; but still I pity you, and if I knew where your mother is I would bear to her your parting words. Farewell, Signer.
He goes out. For some time there is silence. Then all is veiled in darkness, and the sounds of wild music grow louder and draw nearer.