BLUNTSCHLI. My father's dead. (He looks at the telegram with his lips pursed, musing on the unexpected change in his arrangements.)
RAINA. Oh, how very sad!
BLUNTSCHLI. Yes: I shall have to start for home in an hour. He has left a lot of big hotels behind him to be looked after. (Takes up a heavy letter in a long blue envelope.) Here's a whacking letter from the family solicitor. (He pulls out the enclosures and glances over them.) Great Heavens! Seventy! Two hundred! (In a crescendo of dismay.) Four hundred! Four thousand!! Nine thousand six hundred!!! What on earth shall I do with them all?
RAINA (timidly). Nine thousand hotels?
BLUNTSCHLI. Hotels! Nonsense. If you only knew! — oh, it's too ridiculous! Excuse me: I must give my fellow orders about starting. (He leaves the room hastily, with the documents in his hand.)
LOUKA (tauntingly). He has not much heart, that Swiss, though he is so fond of the Servians. He has not a word of grief for his poor father.
RAINA (bitterly). Grief! — a man who has been doing nothing but killing people for years! What does he care? What does any soldier care? (She goes to the door, evidently restraining her tears with difficulty.)
LOUKA. Major Saranoff has been fighting, too; and he has plenty of heart left. (Raina, at the door, looks haughtily at her and goes out.) Aha! I thought you wouldn't get much feeling out of your soldier. (She is following Raina when Nicola enters with an armful of logs for the fire.)
NICOLA (grinning amorously at her). I've been trying all the afternoon to get a minute alone with you, my girl. (His countenance changes as he notices her arm.) Why, what fashion is that of wearing your sleeve, child?
LOUKA (proudly). My own fashion.
NICOLA. Indeed! If the mistress catches you, she'll talk to you. (He throws the logs down on the ottoman, and sits comfortably beside them.)
LOUKA. Is that any reason why you should take it on yourself to talk to me?
NICOLA. Come: don't be so contrary with me. I've some good news for you. (He takes out some paper money. Louka, with an eager gleam in her eyes, comes close to look at it.) See, a twenty leva bill! Sergius gave me that out of pure swagger. A fool and his money are soon parted. There's ten levas more. The Swiss gave me that for backing up the mistress's and Raina's lies about him. He's no fool, he isn't. You should have heard old Catherine downstairs as polite as you please to me, telling me not to mind the Major being a little impatient; for they knew what a good servant I was — after making a fool and a liar of me before them all! The twenty will go to our savings; and you shall have the ten to spend if you'll only talk to me so as to remind me I'm a human being. I get tired of being a servant occasionally.
LOUKA (scornfully). Yes: sell your manhood for thirty levas, and buy me for ten! Keep your money. You were born to be a servant. I was not. When you set up your shop you will only be everybody's servant instead of somebody's servant.
NICOLA (picking up his logs, and going to the stove). Ah, wait till you see. We shall have our evenings to ourselves; and I shall be master in my own house, I promise you. (He throws the logs down and kneels at the stove.)
LOUKA. You shall never be master in mine. (She sits down on Sergius's chair.)
NICOLA (turning, still on his knees, and squatting down rather forlornly, on his calves, daunted by her implacable disdain). You have a great ambition in you, Louka. Remember: if any luck comes to you, it was I that made a woman of you.
NICOLA (with dogged self-assertion). Yes, me. Who was it made you give up wearing a couple of pounds of false black hair on your head and reddening your lips and cheeks like any other Bulgarian girl? I did. Who taught you to trim your nails, and keep your hands clean, and be dainty about yourself, like a fine Russian lady? Me! do you hear that? me! (She tosses her head defiantly; and he rises, ill-humoredly, adding more coolly) I've often thought that if Raina were out of the way, and you just a little less of a fool and Sergius just a little more of one, you might come to be one of my grandest customers, instead of only being my wife and costing me money.
LOUKA. I believe you would rather be my servant than my husband. You would make more out of me. Oh, I know that soul of yours.
NICOLA (going up close to her for greater emphasis). Never you mind my soul; but just listen to my advice. If you want to be a lady, your present behaviour to me won't do at all, unless when we're alone. It's too sharp and imprudent; and impudence is a sort of familiarity: it shews affection for me. And don't you try being high and mighty with me either. You're like all country girls: you think it's genteel to treat a servant the way I treat a stable-boy. That's only your ignorance; and don't you forget it. And don't be so ready to defy everybody. Act as if you expected to have your own way, not as if you expected to be ordered about. The way to get on as a lady is the same as the way to get on as a servant: you've got to know your place; that's the secret of it. And you may depend on me to know my place if you get promoted. Think over it, my girl. I'll stand by you: one servant should always stand by another.
LOUKA (rising impatiently). Oh, I must behave in my own way. You take all the courage out of me with your cold-blooded wisdom. Go and put those logs on the fire: that's the sort of thing you understand. (Before Nicola can retort, Sergius comes in. He checks himself a moment on seeing Louka; then goes to the stove.)
SERGIUS (to Nicola). I am not in the way of your work, I hope.
NICOLA (in a smooth, elderly manner). Oh, no, sir, thank you kindly. I was only speaking to this foolish girl about her habit of running up here to the library whenever she gets a chance, to look at the books. That's the worst of her education, sir: it gives her habits above her station. (To Louka.) Make that table tidy, Louka, for the Major. (He goes out sedately.)
(Louka, without looking at Sergius, begins to arrange the papers on the table. He crosses slowly to her, and studies the arrangement of her sleeve reflectively.)
SERGIUS. Let me see: is there a mark there? (He turns up the bracelet and sees the bruise made by his grasp. She stands motionless, not looking at him: fascinated, but on her guard.) Ffff! Does it hurt?
SERGIUS. Shall I cure it?
LOUKA (instantly withdrawing herself proudly, but still not looking at him). No. You cannot cure it now.
SERGIUS (masterfully). Quite sure? (He makes a movement as if to take her in his arms.)
LOUKA. Don't trifle with me, please. An officer should not trifle with a servant.
SERGIUS (touching the arm with a merciless stroke of his forefinger). That was no trifle, Louka.
LOUKA. No. (Looking at him for the first time.) Are you sorry?
SERGIUS (with measured emphasis, folding his arms). I am never sorry.
LOUKA (wistfully). I wish I could believe a man could be so unlike a woman as that. I wonder are you really a brave man?
SERGIUS (unaffectedly, relaxing his attitude). Yes: I am a brave man. My heart jumped like a woman's at the first shot; but in the charge I found that I was brave. Yes: that at least is real about me.
LOUKA. Did you find in the charge that the men whose fathers are poor like mine were any less brave than the men who are rich like you?
SERGIUS (with bitter levity.) Not a bit. They all slashed and cursed and yelled like heroes. Psha! the courage to rage and kill is cheap. I have an English bull terrier who has as much of that sort of courage as the whole Bulgarian nation, and the whole Russian nation at its back. But he lets my groom thrash him, all the same. That's your soldier all over! No, Louka, your poor men can cut throats; but they are afraid of their officers; they put up with insults and blows; they stand by and see one another punished like children — -aye, and help to do it when they are ordered. And the officers! — -well (with a short, bitter laugh) I am an officer. Oh, (fervently) give me the man who will defy to the death any power on earth or in heaven that sets itself up against his own will and conscience: he alone is the brave man.
LOUKA. How easy it is to talk! Men never seem to me to grow up: they all have schoolboy's ideas. You don't know what true courage is.
SERGIUS (ironically). Indeed! I am willing to be instructed.
LOUKA. Look at me! how much am I allowed to have my own will? I have to get your room ready for you — to sweep and dust, to fetch and carry. How could that degrade me if it did not degrade you to have it done for you? But (with subdued passion) if I were Empress of Russia, above everyone in the world, then — ah, then, though according to you I could shew no courage at all; you should see, you should see.
SERGIUS. What would you do, most noble Empress?
LOUKA. I would marry the man I loved, which no other queen in Europe has the courage to do. If I loved you, though you would be as far beneath me as I am beneath you, I would dare to be the equal of my inferior. Would you dare as much if you loved me? No: if you felt the beginnings of love for me you would not let it grow. You dare not: you would marry a rich man's daughter because you would be afraid of what other people would say of you.
SERGIUS (carried away). You lie: it is not so, by all the stars! If I loved you, and I were the Czar himself, I would set you on the throne by my side. You know that I love another woman, a woman as high above you as heaven is above earth. And you are jealous of her.