Page 6 of 7
In the library after lunch. It is not much of a
library, its literary equipment consisting of a
single fixed shelf stocked with old paper-covered
novels, broken backed, coffee stained, torn and
thumbed, and a couple of little hanging shelves
with a few gift books on them, the rest of the
wall space being occupied by trophies of war and
the chase. But it is a most comfortable
sitting-room. A row of three large windows in the
front of the house shew a mountain panorama, which
is just now seen in one of its softest aspects in
the mellowing afternoon light. In the left hand
corner, a square earthenware stove, a perfect
tower of colored pottery, rises nearly to the
ceiling and guarantees plenty of warmth. The
ottoman in the middle is a circular bank of
decorated cushions, and the window seats are well
upholstered divans. Little Turkish tables, one of
them with an elaborate hookah on it, and a screen
to match them, complete the handsome effect of the
furnishing. There is one object, however, which is
hopelessly out of keeping with its surroundings.
This is a small kitchen table, much the worse for
wear, fitted as a writing table with an old
canister full of pens, an eggcup filled with ink,
and a deplorable scrap of severely used pink
At the side of this table, which stands on the
right, Bluntschli is hard at work, with a couple
of maps before him, writing orders. At the head of
it sits Sergius, who is also supposed to be at
work, but who is actually gnawing the feather of a
pen, and contemplating Bluntschli's quick, sure,
businesslike progress with a mixture of envious
irritation at his own incapacity, and awestruck
wonder at an ability which seems to him almost
miraculous, though its prosaic character forbids
him to esteem it. The major is comfortably
established on the ottoman, with a newspaper in
his hand and the tube of the hookah within his
reach. Catherine sits at the stove, with her back
to them, embroidering. Raina, reclining on the
divan under the left hand window, is gazing in a
daydream out at the Balkan landscape, with a
neglected novel in her lap.
The door is on the left. The button of the
electric bell is between the door and the
PETKOFF (looking up from his paper to watch how they are
getting on at the table). Are you sure I can't help you in any
BLUNTSCHLI (without interrupting his writing or looking up).
Quite sure, thank you. Saranoff and I will manage it.
SERGIUS (grimly). Yes: we'll manage it. He finds out what to
do; draws up the orders; and I sign 'em. Division of labour,
Major. (Bluntschli passes him a paper.) Another one? Thank you.
(He plants the papers squarely before him; sets his chair
carefully parallel to them; and signs with the air of a man
resolutely performing a difficult and dangerous feat.) This hand
is more accustomed to the sword than to the pen.
PETKOFF. It's very good of you, Bluntschli, it is indeed, to let
yourself be put upon in this way. Now are you quite sure I can
CATHERINE (in a low, warning tone). You can stop interrupting,
PETKOFF (starting and looking round at her). Eh? Oh! Quite
right, my love, quite right. (He takes his newspaper up, but
lets it drop again.) Ah, you haven't been campaigning,
Catherine: you don't know how pleasant it is for us to sit here,
after a good lunch, with nothing to do but enjoy ourselves.
There's only one thing I want to make me thoroughly comfortable.
CATHERINE. What is that?
PETKOFF. My old coat. I'm not at home in this one: I feel as if
I were on parade.
CATHERINE. My dear Paul, how absurd you are about that old coat!
It must be hanging in the blue closet where you left it.
PETKOFF. My dear Catherine, I tell you I've looked there. Am I
to believe my own eyes or not? (Catherine quietly rises and
presses the button of the electric bell by the fireplace.) What
are you shewing off that bell for? (She looks at him majestically,
and silently resumes her chair and her needlework.) My dear: if
you think the obstinacy of your sex can make a coat out of two
old dressing gowns of Raina's, your waterproof, and my
mackintosh, you're mistaken. That's exactly what the blue closet
contains at present. (Nicola presents himself.)
CATHERINE (unmoved by Petkoff's sally). Nicola: go to the blue
closet and bring your master's old coat here - the braided one he
usually wears in the house.
NICOLA. Yes, madam. (Nicola goes out.)
CATHERINE. Yes, Paul?
PETKOFF. I bet you any piece of jewellery you like to order from
Sophia against a week's housekeeping money, that the coat isn't
CATHERINE. Done, Paul.
PETKOFF (excited by the prospect of a gamble). Come: here's an
opportunity for some sport. Who'll bet on it? Bluntschli: I'll
give you six to one.
BLUNTSCHLI (imperturbably). It would be robbing you, Major.
Madame is sure to be right. (Without looking up, he passes
another batch of papers to Sergius.)
SERGIUS (also excited). Bravo, Switzerland! Major: I bet my
best charger against an Arab mare for Raina that Nicola finds
the coat in the blue closet.
PETKOFF (eagerly). Your best char -
CATHERINE (hastily interrupting him). Don't be foolish, Paul.
An Arabian mare will cost you 50,000 levas.
RAINA (suddenly coming out of her picturesque revery). Really,
mother, if you are going to take the jewellery, I don't see why
you should grudge me my Arab.
(Nicola comes back with the coat and brings it
to Petkoff, who can hardly believe his eyes.)
CATHERINE. Where was it, Nicola?
NICOLA. Hanging in the blue closet, madam.
PETKOFF. Well, I am d -
CATHERINE (stopping him). Paul!
PETKOFF. I could have sworn it wasn't there. Age is beginning to
tell on me. I'm getting hallucinations. (To Nicola.) Here: help
me to change. Excuse me, Bluntschli. (He begins changing coats,
Nicola acting as valet.) Remember: I didn't take that bet of
yours, Sergius. You'd better give Raina that Arab steed
yourself, since you've roused her expectations. Eh, Raina? (He
looks round at her; but she is again rapt in the landscape. With
a little gush of paternal affection and pride, he points her out
to them and says) She's dreaming, as usual.
SERGIUS. Assuredly she shall not be the loser.
PETKOFF. So much the better for her. I shan't come off so cheap,
I expect. (The change is now complete. Nicola goes out with the
discarded coat.) Ah, now I feel at home at last. (He sits down
and takes his newspaper with a grunt of relief.)
BLUNTSCHLI (to Sergius, handing a paper). That's the last
PETKOFF (jumping up). What! finished?
BLUNTSCHLI. Finished. (Petkoff goes beside Sergius; looks
curiously over his left shoulder as he signs; and says with
childlike envy) Haven't you anything for me to sign?
BLUNTSCHLI. Not necessary. His signature will do.
PETKOFF. Ah, well, I think we've done a thundering good day's
work. (He goes away from the table.) Can I do anything more?
BLUNTSCHLI. You had better both see the fellows that are to take
these. (To Sergius.) Pack them off at once; and shew them that
I've marked on the orders the time they should hand them in by.
Tell them that if they stop to drink or tell stories - if they're
five minutes late, they'll have the skin taken off their backs.
SERGIUS (rising indignantly). I'll say so. And if one of them
is man enough to spit in my face for insulting him, I'll buy his
discharge and give him a pension. (He strides out, his humanity
BLUNTSCHLI (confidentially). Just see that he talks to them
properly, Major, will you?
PETKOFF (officiously). Quite right, Bluntschli, quite right.
I'll see to it. (He goes to the door importantly, but hesitates
on the threshold.) By the bye, Catherine, you may as well come,
too. They'll be far more frightened of you than of me.
CATHERINE (putting down her embroidery). I daresay I had
better. You will only splutter at them. (She goes out, Petkoff
holding the door for her and following her.)
BLUNTSCHLI. What a country! They make cannons out of cherry
trees; and the officers send for their wives to keep discipline!
(He begins to fold and docket the papers. Raina, who has risen
from the divan, strolls down the room with her hands clasped
behind her, and looks mischievously at him.)
RAINA. You look ever so much nicer than when we last met. (He
looks up, surprised.) What have you done to yourself?
BLUNTSCHLI. Washed; brushed; good night's sleep and breakfast.
RAINA. Did you get back safely that morning?
BLUNTSCHLI. Quite, thanks.
RAINA. Were they angry with you for running away from Sergius's
BLUNTSCHLI. No, they were glad; because they'd all just run away
RAINA (going to the table, and leaning over it towards him). It
must have made a lovely story for them - all that about me and my
BLUNTSCHLI. Capital story. But I only told it to one of them - a
RAINA. On whose discretion you could absolutely rely?
RAINA. Hm! He told it all to my father and Sergius the day you
exchanged the prisoners. (She turns away and strolls carelessly
across to the other side of the room.)
BLUNTSCHLI (deeply concerned and half incredulous). No! you
don't mean that, do you?
RAINA (turning, with sudden earnestness). I do indeed. But they
don't know that it was in this house that you hid. If Sergius
knew, he would challenge you and kill you in a duel.
BLUNTSCHLI. Bless me! then don't tell him.
RAINA (full of reproach for his levity). Can you realize what
it is to me to deceive him? I want to be quite perfect with
Sergius - no meanness, no smallness, no deceit. My relation to
him is the one really beautiful and noble part of my life. I
hope you can understand that.
BLUNTSCHLI (sceptically). You mean that you wouldn't like him
to find out that the story about the ice pudding was
a - a - a - You know.
RAINA (wincing). Ah, don't talk of it in that flippant way. I
lied: I know it. But I did it to save your life. He would have
killed you. That was the second time I ever uttered a falsehood.
(Bluntschli rises quickly and looks doubtfully and somewhat
severely at her.) Do you remember the first time?
BLUNTSCHLI. I! No. Was I present?
RAINA. Yes; and I told the officer who was searching for you
that you were not present.
BLUNTSCHLI. True. I should have remembered it.
RAINA (greatly encouraged). Ah, it is natural that you should
forget it first. It cost you nothing: it cost me a lie! - a lie!!
(She sits down on the ottoman, looking straight before her with
her hands clasped on her knee. Bluntschli, quite touched, goes
to the ottoman with a particularly reassuring and considerate
air, and sits down beside her.)
BLUNTSCHLI. My dear young lady, don't let this worry you.
Remember: I'm a soldier. Now what are the two things that happen
to a soldier so often that he comes to think nothing of them?
One is hearing people tell lies (Raina recoils): the other is
getting his life saved in all sorts of ways by all sorts of
RAINA (rising in indignant protest). And so he becomes a
creature incapable of faith and of gratitude.
BLUNTSCHLI (making a wry face). Do you like gratitude? I don't.
If pity is akin to love, gratitude is akin to the other thing.
RAINA. Gratitude! (Turning on him.) If you are incapable of
gratitude you are incapable of any noble sentiment. Even animals
are grateful. Oh, I see now exactly what you think of me! You
were not surprised to hear me lie. To you it was something I
probably did every day - every hour. That is how men think of
women. (She walks up the room melodramatically.)
BLUNTSCHLI (dubiously). There's reason in everything. You said
you'd told only two lies in your whole life. Dear young lady:
isn't that rather a short allowance? I'm quite a straightforward
man myself; but it wouldn't last me a whole morning.
RAINA (staring haughtily at him). Do you know, sir, that you
are insulting me?
BLUNTSCHLI. I can't help it. When you get into that noble
attitude and speak in that thrilling voice, I admire you; but I
find it impossible to believe a single word you say.
RAINA (superbly). Captain Bluntschli!
BLUNTSCHLI (unmoved). Yes?
RAINA (coming a little towards him, as if she could not believe
her senses). Do you mean what you said just now? Do you know
what you said just now?
BLUNTSCHLI. I do.
RAINA (gasping). I! I!!! (She points to herself incredulously,
meaning "I, Raina Petkoff, tell lies!" He meets her gaze
unflinchingly. She suddenly sits down beside him, and adds, with
a complete change of manner from the heroic to the familiar) How
did you find me out?
BLUNTSCHLI (promptly). Instinct, dear young lady. Instinct, and
experience of the world.
RAINA (wonderingly). Do you know, you are the first man I ever
met who did not take me seriously?
BLUNTSCHLI. You mean, don't you, that I am the first man that
has ever taken you quite seriously?
RAINA. Yes, I suppose I do mean that. (Cosily, quite at her ease
with him.) How strange it is to be talked to in such a way! You
know, I've always gone on like that - I mean the noble attitude
and the thrilling voice. I did it when I was a tiny child to my
nurse. She believed in it. I do it before my parents. They
believe in it. I do it before Sergius. He believes in it.
BLUNTSCHLI. Yes: he's a little in that line himself, isn't he?
RAINA (startled). Do you think so?
BLUNTSCHLI. You know him better than I do.
RAINA. I wonder - I wonder is he? If I thought that - !
(Discouraged.) Ah, well, what does it matter? I suppose, now
that you've found me out, you despise me.
BLUNTSCHLI (warmly, rising). No, my dear young lady, no, no, no
a thousand times. It's part of your youth - part of your charm.
I'm like all the rest of them - the nurse - your
parents - Sergius: I'm your infatuated admirer.
RAINA (pleased). Really?
BLUNTSCHLI (slapping his breast smartly with his hand, German
fashion). Hand aufs Herz! Really and truly.
RAINA (very happy). But what did you think of me for giving you
BLUNTSCHLI (astonished). Your portrait! You never gave me your
RAINA (quickly). Do you mean to say you never got it?
BLUNTSCHLI. No. (He sits down beside her, with renewed interest,
and says, with some complacency.) When did you send it to me?
RAINA (indignantly). I did not send it to you. (She turns her
head away, and adds, reluctantly.) It was in the pocket of that
BLUNTSCHLI (pursing his lips and rounding his eyes). Oh-o-oh! I
never found it. It must be there still.
RAINA (springing up). There still! - for my father to find the
first time he puts his hand in his pocket! Oh, how could you be
BLUNTSCHLI (rising also). It doesn't matter: it's only a
photograph: how can he tell who it was intended for? Tell him he
put it there himself.
RAINA (impatiently). Yes, that is so clever - so clever! What
shall I do?
BLUNTSCHLI. Ah, I see. You wrote something on it. That was rash!
RAINA (annoyed almost to tears). Oh, to have done such a thing
for you, who care no more - except to laugh at me - oh! Are you
sure nobody has touched it?
BLUNTSCHLI. Well, I can't be quite sure. You see I couldn't
carry it about with me all the time: one can't take much luggage
on active service.
RAINA. What did you do with it?
BLUNTSCHLI. When I got through to Peerot I had to put it in safe
keeping somehow. I thought of the railway cloak room; but that's
the surest place to get looted in modern warfare. So I pawned
RAINA. Pawned it!!!
BLUNTSCHLI. I know it doesn't sound nice; but it was much the
safest plan. I redeemed it the day before yesterday. Heaven only
knows whether the pawnbroker cleared out the pockets or not.
RAINA (furious - throwing the words right into his face). You
have a low, shopkeeping mind. You think of things that would
never come into a gentleman's head.
BLUNTSCHLI (phlegmatically). That's the Swiss national
character, dear lady.
RAINA. Oh, I wish I had never met you. (She flounces away and
sits at the window fuming.)
(Louka comes in with a heap of letters and
telegrams on her salver, and crosses, with her
bold, free gait, to the table. Her left sleeve is
looped up to the shoulder with a brooch, shewing
her naked arm, with a broad gilt bracelet covering
LOUKA (to Bluntschli). For you. (She empties the salver
recklessly on the table.) The messenger is waiting. (She is
determined not to be civil to a Servian, even if she must bring
him his letters.)
BLUNTSCHLI (to Raina). Will you excuse me: the last postal
delivery that reached me was three weeks ago. These are the
subsequent accumulations. Four telegrams - a week old. (He opens
one.) Oho! Bad news!
RAINA (rising and advancing a little remorsefully). Bad news?
BLUNTSCHLI. My father's dead. (He looks at the telegram with his
lips pursed, musing on the unexpected change in his
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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