The Ocean by Leonid N. Andreyev
"These are your comrades, Haggart? I am so glad to see them. You said, Gart, yes--you said that their faces were entirely different from the faces of our people, and that is true. Oh, how true it is! Our people have handsome faces, too--don't think our fishermen are ugly, but they haven't these deep, terrible sears. I like them very much, I assure you, Gart. I suppose you are a friend of Haggart's-- you have such stern, fine eyes? But you are silent? Why are they silent, Haggart; did you forbid them to speak? And why are you silent yourself, Haggart? Haggart!"
Illuminated by the light of torches, Haggart stands and listens to the rapid, agitated speech. The metal of the guns and the uniforms vibrates and flashes; the light is also playing on the faces of those who have surrounded Haggart in a close circle--these are his nearest, his friends. And in the distance there is a different game--there a large ship is dancing silently, casting its light upon the black waves, and the black water plays with them, pleating them like a braid, extinguishing them and kindling them again.
A noisy conversation and the splashing of the waters--and the dreadful silence of kindred human lips that are sealed.
"I am listening to you, Mariet," says Haggart at last. "What do you want, Mariet? It is impossible that some one should have offended you. I ordered them not to touch your house."
"Oh, no, Haggart, no! No one has offended me!" exclaimed Mariet cheerfully. "But don't you like me to hold little Noni in my arms? Then I will put him down here among the rocks. Here he will be warm and comfortable as in his cradle. That's the way! Don't be afraid of waking him, Gart; he sleeps soundly and will not hear anything. You may shout, sing, fire a pistol--the boy sleeps soundly."
"What do you want, Mariet? I did not call you here, and I am not pleased that you have come."
"Of course, you did not call me here, Haggart; of course, you didn't. But when the fire was started, I thought: 'Now it will light the way for me to walk. Now I will not stumble.' And I went. Your friends will not be offended, Haggart, if I will ask them to step aside for awhile? I have something to tell you, Gart. Of course, I should have done that before, I understand, Gart; but I only just recalled it now. It was so light to walk!"
Haggart says sternly:
"Step aside, Flerio, and you all--step aside with him."
They all step aside.
"What is it that you have recalled, Mariet? Speak! I am going away forever from your mournful land, where one dreams such painful dreams, where even the rocks dream of sorrow. And I have forgotten everything."
Gently and submissively, seeking protection and kindness, the woman presses close to his hand.
"O, Haggart! O, my dear Haggart! They are not offended because I asked them so rudely to step aside, are they? O, my dear Haggart! The galloons of your uniform scratched my cheek, but it is so pleasant. Do you know, I never liked it when you wore the clothes of our fishermen --it was not becoming to you, Haggart. But I am talking nonsense, and you are getting angry, Gart. Forgive me!"
"Don't kneel. Get up."
"It was only for a moment. Here, I got up. You ask me what I want? This is what I want: Take me with you, Haggart! Me and little Noni, Haggart!"
"You say that, Mariet? You say that I should take you along? Perhaps you are laughing, woman? Or am I dreaming again?"
"Yes, I say that: Take me with you. Is this your ship? How large and beautiful it is, and it has black sails, I know it. Take me on your ship, Haggart. I know, you will say: 'We have no women on the ship,' but I will be the woman: I will be your soul. Haggart, I will be your song, your thoughts, Haggart! And if it must be so, let Khorre give gin to little Noni--he is a strong boy."
"Eh, Mariet?" says Haggart sternly. "Do you perhaps want me to believe you again? Eh, Mariet? Don't talk of that which you do not know, woman. Are the rocks perhaps casting a spell over me and turning my head? Do you hear the noise, and something like voices? That is the sea, waiting for me. Don't hold my soul. Let it go, Mariet."
"Don't speak, Haggart! I know everything. It was not as though I came along a fiery road, it was not as though I saw blood to-day. Be silent, Haggart! I have seen something more terrible, Haggart! Oh, if you could only understand me! I have seen cowardly people who ran without defending themselves. I have seen clutching, greedy fingers, crooked like those of birds, like those of birds, Haggart! And out of these fingers, which were forced open, gold was taken. And suddenly I saw a man sobbing. Think of it, Haggart! They were taking gold from him, and he was sobbing."
She laughs bitterly. Haggart advances a step toward her and puts his heavy hand upon her shoulder:
"Yes, yes, Mariet. Speak on, girl, let the sea wait."
Mariet removes his hand and continues:
"'No,' I thought. 'These are not my brethren at all!' I thought and laughed. And father shouted to the cowards: 'Take shafts and strike them.' But they were running. Father is such a splendid man."
"Father is a splendid man," Haggart affirms cheerfully.
"Such a splendid man! And then one sailor bent down close to Noni-- perhaps he did not want to do any harm to him, but he bent down to him too closely, so, I fired at him from your pistol. Is it nothing that I fired at our sailor?"
"He had a comical face! You killed him, Mariet."
"No. I don't know how to shoot. And it was he who told me where you were. O Haggart, O brother!"
She sobs, and then she speaks angrily with a shade of a serpentine hiss in her voice:
"I hate them! They were not tortured enough; I would have tortured them still more, still more. Oh, what cowardly rascals they are! Listen, Haggart, I was always afraid of your power--to me there was always something terrible and incomprehensible in your power. 'Where is his God?' I wondered, and I was terrified. Even this morning I was afraid, but now that this night came, this terror has fled, and I came running to you over the fiery road: I am going with you, Haggart. Take me, Haggart, I will be the soul of your ship!"
"I am the soul of my ship, Mariet. But you will be the song of my liberated soul, Mariet. You shall be the song of my ship, Mariet! Do you know where we are going? We are going to look for the end of the world, for unknown lands, for unknown monsters. And at night Father Ocean will sing to us, Mariet!"
"Embrace me, Haggart. Ah, Haggart, he is not a God who makes cowards of human beings. We shall go to look for a new God."
Haggart whispers stormily:
"I lied when I said that I have forgotten everything--I learned this in your land. I love you, Mariet, as I love fire. Eh, Flerio, comrade!" He shouts cheerfully: "Eh, Flerio, comrade! Have you prepared a salute?"
"I have, Captain. The shores will tremble when our cannons speak."
"Eh, Flerio, comrade! Don't gnash your teeth, without biting--no one will believe you. Did you put in cannon balls--round, east-iron, good cannon balls? Give them wings, comrade--let them fly like blackbirds on land and sea."
"I love to think how the cannon ball flies, Mariet. I love to watch its invisible flight. If some one comes in its way--let him! Fate itself strikes down like that. What is an aim? Only fools need an aim, while the devil, closing his eyes, throws stones--the wise game is merrier this way. But you are silent! What are you thinking of, Mariet?"
"I am thinking of them. I am forever thinking of them."
"Are you sorry for them?" Haggart frowns.
"Yes, I am sorry for them. But my pity is my hatred, Haggart. I hate them, and I would kill them, more and more!"
"I feel like flying faster--my soul is so free. Let us jest, Mariet! Here is a riddle, guess it: For whom will the cannons roar soon? You think, for me? No. For you? no, no, not for you, Mariet! For little Noni, for him--for little Noni who is boarding the ship to-night. Let him wake up from this thunder. How our little Noni will be surprised! And now be quiet, quiet--don't disturb his sleep-- don't spoil little Noni's awakening."
The sound of voices is heard--a crowd is approaching.
"Where is the captain?"
"Here. Halt, the captain is here!"
"It's all done. They can be crammed into a basket like herrings."
"Our boatswain is a brave fellow! A jolly man."
Khorre, intoxicated and jolly, shouts:
"Not so loud, devils! Don't you see that the captain is here? They scream like seagulls over a dead dolphin."
Mariet steps aside a little distance, where little Noni is sleeping.
KHORRE--Here we are, Captain. No losses, Captain. And how we laughed, Noni.
HAGGART--You got drunk rather early. Come to the point.
KHORRE--Very well. The thing is done, Captain. We've picked up all our money--not worse than the imperial tax collectors. I could not tell which was ours, so I picked up all the money. But if they have buried some of the gold, forgive us, Captain--we are not peasants to plough the ground.
Laughter. Haggart also laughs.
"Let them sow, we shall reap."
"Golden words, Noni. Eh, Tommy, listen to what the Captain is saying. And another thing: Whether you will be angry or not--I have broken the music. I have scattered it in small pieces. Show your pipe, Tetyu! Do you see, Noni, I didn't do it at once, no. I told him to play a jig, and he said that he couldn't do it. Then he lost his mind and ran away. They all lost their minds there, Captain. Eh, Tommy, show your beard. An old woman tore half of his beard out, Captain--now he is a disgrace to look upon. Eh, Tommy! He has hidden himself, he's ashamed to show his face, Captain. And there's another thing: The priest is coming here."
Khorre, astonished, asks:
"Are you here? If she came to complain, I must report to you, Captain--the priest almost killed one of our sailors. And she, too. I ordered the men to bind the priest--"
"I don't understand your actions, Noni--"
Haggart, restraining his rage, exclaims:
"I shall have you put in irons! Silence!"
With ever-growing rage:
"You dare talk back to me, riff-raff! You--"
Mariet cautions him:
"Gart! They have brought father here."
Several sailors bring in the abbot, bound. His clothes are in disorder, his face is agitated and pale. He looks at Mariet with some amazement, and lowers his eyes. Then he heaves a sigh.
"Untie him!" says Mariet. Haggart corrects her restrainedly:
"Only I command here, Mariet. Khorre, untie him."
Khorre unfastens the knots. Silence.
"You have arranged a fine night, Haggart!"
Haggart speaks with restraint:
"It is unpleasant for me to see you. Why did you come here? Go home, priest, no one will touch you. Keep on fishing--and what else were you doing? Oh, yes--make your own prayers. We are going out to the ocean; your daughter, you know, is also going with me. Do you see the ship? That is mine. It's a pity that you don't know about ships--you would have laughed for joy at the sight of such a beautiful ship! Why is he silent, Mariet? You had better tell him."
ABBOT--Prayers? In what language? Have you, perhaps, discovered a new language in which prayers reach God? Oh, Haggart, Haggart!
He weeps, covering his face with his hands. Haggart, alarmed, asks:
"You are crying, abbot?"
"Look, Gart, he is crying. Father never cried. I am afraid, Gart."
The abbot stops crying. Heaving a deep sigh, he says:
"I don't know what they call you: Haggart or devil or something else-- I have come to you with a request. Do you hear, robber, with a request? Tell your crew not to gnash their teeth like that--I don't like it."
Haggart replies morosely:
"Go home, priest! Mariet will stay with me."
"Let her stay with you. I don't need her, and if you need her, take her. Take her, Haggart. But--"
He kneels before him. A murmur of astonishment. Mariet, frightened, advances a step to her father.
"Father! You are kneeling?"
ABBOT--Robber! Give us back the money. You will rob more for yourself, but give this money to us. You are young yet, you will rob some more yet--
HAGGART--You are insane! There's a man--he will drive the devil himself to despair! Listen, priest, I am shouting to you: You have simply lost your mind!
The abbot, still kneeling, continues:
"Perhaps, I have--by God, I don't know. Robber, dearest, what is this to you? Give us this money. I feel sorry for them, for the scoundrels! They rejoiced so much, the scoundrels. They blossomed forth like an old blackthorn which has nothing but thorns and a ragged bark. They are sinners. But am I imploring God for their sake? I am imploring you. Robber, dearest--"
Mariet looks now at Haggart, now at the priest. Haggart is hesitating. The abbot keeps muttering:
"Robber, do you want me to call you son? Well, then--son--it makes no difference now--I will never see you again. It's all the same! Like an old blackthorn, they bloomed--oh, Lord, those scoundrels, those old scoundrels!"
"No," Haggart replied sternly.
"Then you are the devil, that's who you are. You are the devil," mutters the abbot, rising heavily from the ground. Haggart shows his teeth, enraged.
"Do you wish to sell your soul to the devil? Yes? Eh, abbot--don't you know yet that the devil always pays with spurious money? Let me have a torch, sailor!"
He seizes a torch and lifts it high over his head--he covers his terrible face with fire and smoke.
"Look, here I am! Do you see? Now ask me, if you dare!"
He flings the torch away. What does the abbot dream in this land full of monstrous dreams? Terrified, his heavy frame trembling, helplessly pushing the people aside with his hands, he retreats. He turns around. Now he sees the glitter of the metal, the dark and terrible faces; he hears the angry splashing of the waters--and he covers his head with his hands and walks off quickly. Then Khorre jumps up and strikes him with a knife in his back.
"Why have you done it?"--the abbot clutches the hand that struck him down.
"Just so--for nothing!"
The abbot falls to the ground and dies.
"Why have you done it?" cries Mariet.
"Why have you done it?" roars Haggart.
And a strange voice, coming from some unknown depths, answers with Khorre's lips:
"You commanded me to do it."
Haggart looks around and sees the stern, dark faces, the quivering glitter of the metal, the motionless body; he hears the mysterious, merry dashing of the waves. And he clasps his head in a fit of terror.
"Who commanded? It was the roaring of the sea. I did not want to kill him--no, no!"
Sombre voices answer:
"You commanded. We heard it. You commanded."
Haggart listens, his head thrown back. Suddenly he bursts into loud laughter:
"Oh, devils, devils! Do you think that I have two ears in order that you may lie in each one? Go down on your knees, rascal!"
He hurls Khorre to the ground.
"String him up with a rope! I would have crushed your venomous head myself--but let them do it. Oh, devils, devils! String him up with a rope."
Khorre whines harshly:
"Me, Captain! I was your nurse, Noni."
"I? Noni! Your nurse? You squealed like a little pig in the cook's room. Have you forgotten it, Noni?" mutters the sailor plaintively.
"Eh," shouts Haggart to the stern crowd. "Take him!"
Several men advance to him. Khorre rises.
"If you do it to me, to your own nurse--then you have recovered, Noni! Eh, obey the captain! Take me! I'll make you cry enough, Tommy! You are always the mischief-maker!"
Grim laughter. Several sailors surround Khorre as Haggart watches them sternly. A dissatisfied voice says:
"There is no place where to hang him here. There isn't a single tree around."
"Let us wait till we get aboard ship! Let him die honestly on the mast."
"I know of a tree around here, but I won't tell you," roars Khorre hoarsely. "Look for it yourself! Well, you have astonished me, Noni. How you shouted, 'String him up with a rope!' Exactly like your father--he almost hanged me, too. Good-bye, Noni, now I understand your actions. Eh, gin! and then--on the rope!"
Khorre goes off. No one dares approach Haggart; still enraged, he paces back and forth with long strides. He pauses, glances at the body and paces again. Then he calls:
"Flerio! Did you hear me give orders to kill this man?"
"You may go."
He paces back and forth again, and then calls:
"Flerio! Have you ever heard the sea lying?"
"If they can't find a tree, order them to choke him with their hands."
He paces back and forth again. Mariet is laughing quietly.
"Who is laughing?" asks Haggart in fury.
"I," answers Mariet. "I am thinking of how they are hanging him and I am laughing. O, Haggart, O, my noble Haggart! Your wrath is the wrath of God, do you know it? No. You are strange, you are dear, you are terrible, Haggart, but I am not afraid of you. Give me your hand, Haggart, press it firmly, firmly. Here is a powerful hand!"
"Flerio, my friend, did you hear what he said? He says the sea never lies."
"You are powerful and you are just--I was insane when I feared your power, Gart. May I shout to the sea: 'Haggart, the Just'?"
"That is not true. Be silent, Mariet, you are intoxicated with blood. I don't know what justice is."
"Who, then, knows it? You, you, Haggart! You are God's justice, Haggart. Is it true that he was your nurse? Oh, I know what it means to be a nurse; a nurse feeds you, teaches you to walk--you love a nurse as your mother. Isn't that true, Gart--you love a nurse as a mother? And yet--'string him up with a rope, Khorre'!"
She laughs quietly.
A loud, ringing laughter resounds from the side where Khorre was led away. Haggart stops, perplexed.
"What is it?"
"The devil is meeting his soul there," says Mariet.
"No. Let go of my hand! Eh, who's there?"
A crowd is coming. They are laughing and grinning, showing their teeth. But noticing the captain, they become serious. The people are repeating one and the same name:
"Khorre! Khorre! Khorre!"
And then Khorre himself appears, dishevelled, crushed, but happy--the rope has broken. Knitting his brow, Haggart is waiting in silence.
"The rope broke, Noni," mutters Khorre hoarsely, modestly, yet with dignity. "There are the ends! Eh, you there, keep quiet! There is nothing to laugh at--they started to hang me, and the rope broke, Noni."
Haggart looks at his old, drunken, frightened, and happy face, and he laughs like a madman. And the sailors respond with roaring laughter. The reflected lights are dancing more merrily upon the waves--as if they are also laughing with the people.
"Just look at him, Mariet, what a face he has," Haggart is almost choking with laughter. "Are you happy? Speak--are you happy? Look, Mariet, what a happy face he has! The rope broke--that's very strong --it is stronger even than what I said: 'String him up with a rope.' Who said it? Don't you know, Khorre? You are out of your wits, and you don't know anything--well, never mind, you needn't know. Eh, give him gin! I am glad, very glad that you are not altogether through with your gin. Drink, Khorre!"
"Eh, the boatswain wants a drink! Gin!"
Khorre drinks it with dignity, amid laughter and shouts of approval. Suddenly all the noise dies down and a sombre silence reigns--a woman's strange voice drowns the noise--so strange and unfamiliar, as if it were not Mariet's voice at all, but another voice speaking with her lips:
"Haggart! You have pardoned him, Haggart?"
Some of the people look at the body; those standing near it step aside. Haggart asks, surprised:
"Whose voice is that? Is that yours, Mariet? How strange! I did not recognise your voice."
"You have pardoned him, Haggart?"
"You have heard--the rope broke--"
"Tell me, did you pardon the murderer? I want to hear your voice, Haggart."
A threatening voice is heard from among the crowd:
"The rope broke. Who is talking there? The rope broke."
"Silence!" exclaims Haggart, but there is no longer the same commanding tone in his voice. "Take them all away! Boatswain! Whistle for everybody to go aboard. The time is up! Flerio! Get the boats ready."
Khorre whistles. The sailors disperse unwillingly, and the same threatening voice sounds somewhere from the darkness:
"I thought at first it was the dead man who started to speak. But I would have answered him too: 'Lie there! The rope broke.'"
Another voice replies:
"Don't grumble. Khorre has stronger defenders than you are."
"What are you prating about, devils?" says Khorre. "Silence! Is that you, Tommy? I know you, you are always the mischief-maker--"
"Come on, Mariet!" says Haggart. "Give me little Noni, I want to carry him to the boat myself. Come on, Mariet."
"Eh, Mariet! The dreams are ended. I don't like your voice, woman-- when did you find time to change it? What a land of jugglers! I have never seen such a land before!"
"Eh, Haggart! The dreams are ended. I don't like your voice, either--little Haggart! But it may be that I am still sleeping--then wake me. Haggart, swear that it was you who said it: 'The rope broke.' Swear that my eyes have not grown blind and that they see Khorre alive. Swear that this is your hand, Haggart!"
Silence. The voice of the sea is growing louder--there is the splash and the call and the promise of a stern caress.
Silence. Khorre and Flerio come up to Haggart.
"All's ready, Captain," says Flerio.
"They are waiting, Noni. Go quicker! They want to feast to-night, Noni! But I must tell you, Noni, that they--"
HAGGART--Did you say something, Flerio? Yes, yes, everything is ready. I am coming. I think I am not quite through yet with land. This is such a remarkable land, Flerio; the dreams here drive their claws into a man like thorns, and they hold him. One has to tear his clothing, and perhaps his body as well. What did you say, Mariet?
MARIET--Don't you want to kiss little Noni? You shall never kiss him again.
"No, I don't want to."
"You will go alone."
"Yes, I will go alone."
"Did you ever cry, Haggart?"
"Who is crying now? I hear some one crying bitterly."
"That is not true--it is the roaring of the sea."
"Oh, Haggart! Of what great sorrow does that voice speak?"
"Be silent, Mariet. It is the roaring of the sea."
"Is everything ended now, Haggart?"
"Everything is ended, Mariet."
Mariet, imploring, says:
"Gart! Only one motion of the hand! Right here--against the heart-- Gart!"
"No. Leave me alone."
"Only one motion of the hand! Here is your knife. Have pity on me, kill me with your hand. Only one motion of your hand, Gart!"
"Let go. Give me my knife."
"Gart, I bless you! One motion of your hand, Gart!"
Haggart tears himself away, pushing the woman aside:
"No! Don't you know that it is just as hard to make one motion of the hand as it is for the sun to come down from the sky? Good-bye, Mariet!"
"You are going away?"
"Yes, I am going away. I am going away, Mariet. That's how it sounds."
"I shall curse you, Haggart. Do you know! I shall curse you, Haggart. And little Noni will curse you, Haggart--Haggart!"
Haggart exclaims cheerfully and harshly:
"Eh, Khorre. You, Flerio, my old friend. Come here, give me your hand--Oh, what a powerful hand it is! Why do you pull me by the sleeve, Khorre? You have such a funny face. I can almost see how the rope snapped, and you came down like a sack. Flerio, old friend, I feel like saying something funny, but I have forgotten how to say it. How do they say it? Remind me, Flerio. What do you want, sailor?"
Khorre whispers to him hoarsely:
"Noni, be on your guard. The rope broke because they used a rotten rope intentionally. They are betraying you! Be on your guard, Noni. Strike them on the head, Noni."
Haggart bursts out laughing.
"Now you have said something funny. And I? Listen, Flerio, old friend. This woman who stands and looks--No, that will not be funny!"
He advances a step.
"Khorre, do you remember how well this man prayed? Why was he killed? He prayed so well. But there is one prayer he did not know-- this one--'To you I bring my great eternal sorrow; I am going to you, Father Ocean!'"
And a distant voice, sad and grave, replies:
"Oh, Haggart, my dear Haggart."
But who knows--perhaps it was the roaring of the waves. Many sad and strange dreams come to man on earth.
"All aboard!" exclaims Haggart cheerily, and goes off without looking around. Below, a gay noise of voices and laughter resounds. The cobblestones are rattling under the firm footsteps--Haggart is going away.
He goes, without turning around.
He has gone away.
Loud shouting is heard--the sailors are greeting Haggart. They drink and go off into the darkness. On the shore, the torches which were cast aside are burning low, illumining the body, and a woman is rushing about. She runs swiftly from one spot to another, bending down over the steep rocks. Insane Dan comes crawling out.
"Is that you, Dan? Do you hear, they are singing, Dan? Haggart has gone away."
"I was waiting for them to go. Here is another one. I am gathering the pipes of my organ. Here is another one."
"Be accursed, Dan!"
"Oho? And you, too, Mariet, be accursed!"
Mariet clasps the child in her arms and lifts him high. Then she calls wildly:
"Haggart, turn around! Turn around, Haggart! Noni is calling you. He wants to curse you, Haggart. Turn around! Look, Noni, look--that is your father. Remember him, Noni. And when you grow up, go out on every sea and find him, Noni. And when you find him--hang your father high on a mast, my little one."
The thundering salute drowns her cry. Haggart has boarded his ship. The night grows darker and the dashing of the waves fainter--the ocean is moving away with the tide. The great desert of the sky is mute and the night grows darker and the dashing of the waves ever fainter.