Paphnutius

Scene III

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais! Thais!

THAIS. Who is there? I do not know that voice.

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais! Your lover speaks! Thais!

THAIS. Stranger, who are you?

PAPHNUTIUS. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come!

THAIS. Who are you?

PAPHNUTIUS. A man who loves you!

THAIS. And what do you want with me?

PAPHNUTIUS. I will show you.

THAIS. You would be my lover?

PAPHNUTIUS. I am your lover, Thais, flame of the world!

THAIS. Whoever loves me is well paid. He receives as much as he gives.

PAPHNUTIUS. Oh, Thais, Thais! If you knew what a long and troublesome journey I have come to speak to you—to see your face!

THAIS. Well? Have I refused to speak to you, or to show you my face?

PAPHNUTIUS. I cannot speak to you here. I must be with you alone. What I have to say is secret. The room must be secret too.

THAIS. How would you like a bedchamber, fragrant with perfumes, adorned as for a marriage? I have such a room. Look!

PAPHNUTIUS. Is there no room still more secret—a room that your lovers do not know? Some room where you and I might hide from all the world?

THAIS. Yes, there is a room like that in this house. No one even knows that it exists except myself, and God.

PAPHNUTIUS. God! What God?

THAIS. The true God.

PAPHNUTIUS. You believe that He exists?

THAIS. I am a Christian.

PAPHNUTIUS. And you believe that He knows what we do?

THAIS. I believe He knows everything.

PAPHNUTIUS. What do you think, then? That He is indifferent to the actions of the sinner, or that He reserves judgment?

THAIS. I suppose that the merits of each man are weighed in the balance, and that we shall be punished or rewarded according to our deeds.

PAPHJNUTIUS. O Christ! How wondrous is Thy patience! How wondrous is Thy love! Even when those who believe in Thee sin deliberately, Thou dost delay their destruction!

THAIS. Why do you tremble? Why do you turn pale? Why do you weep?

PAPHNUTIUS. I shudder at your presumption. I weep for your damnation. How, knowing what you know, can you destroy men in this manner and ruin so many souls, all precious and immortal?

THAIS. Your voice pierces my heart! Strange lover—you are cruel. Pity me!

PAPHNUTIUS. Let us pity rather those souls whom you have deprived of the sight of God—of the God Whom you confess! Oh, Thais, you have wilfully offended the divine Majesty. That condemns you.

THAIS. What do you mean? Why do you threaten me like this?

PAPHNUTIUS. Because the punishment of hell-fire ta you if you remain in sin.

THAIS. Who are you, who rebuke me so sternly? Oh, you have shaken me to the depths of my terrified heart!

PAPHNUTIUS. I would that you could be shaken with fear to your very bowels! I would like to see your delicate body impregnated with terror in every vein, and every fibre, if that would keep you from yielding to the dangerous delights of the flesh.

THAIS. And what zest for pleasure do you think is left now in a heart suddenly awakened to a consciousness of guilt! Remorse has killed everything.

PAPHNUTIUS. I long to see the thorns of vice cut away, and the choked-up fountain of your tears flowing once more. Tears of repentance are precious in the sight of God.

THAIS. Oh, voice that promises mercy! Do you believe, can you hope that one so vile as I, soiled by thousands and thousands of impurities, can make reparation, can ever by any manner of penance obtain pardon?

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais, no sin is so great, no crime so black, that it cannot be expiated by tears and penitence, provided they are followed up by deeds.

THAIS. Show me, I beg you, my father, what I can do to be reconciled with Him I have offended.

PAPHNUTIUS. Despise the world. Leave your dissolute lovers.

THAIS. And afterwards? What then?

PAPHNUTIUS. You must retire to some solitary place, where you may learn to know yourself and realize the enormity of your sins.

THAIS. If you think this will save me, I will not delay a moment.

PAPHNUTIUS. I have no doubt it will.

THAIS. Yet give me a little time. I must collect the wealth that I have gained through the sins of my body—all the treasures I have kept too long.

PAPHNUTIUS. Do not give them a moment’s thought. There will be no lack of people to find them and make use of them.

THAIS. I have another idea in my mind. I did not think of keeping this wealth or of giving it to my friends. Nor would I distribute it among the poor. The wages of sin are no material for good works.

PAPHNUTIUS. You are right. What then do you propose to do with your possessions?

THAIS. Give them to the flames! Burn them to ashes!

PAPHNUTIUS. For what reason?

THAIS. That they may no longer exist in the world. Each one was acquired at the cost of an injury to the goodness and beauty of the Creator. Let them burn.

PAPHNUTIUS. How you are changed! Grace is on your lips! Your eyes are calm, and impure passions no longer burn in them. Oh, miracle! Is this Thais who was once so greedy for gold? Is this Thais, who seeks so humbly the feet of God?

THAIS. God give me grace to change still more. My heart is changed, but this mortal substance—how shall it be changed?

PAPHNUTIUS. It is not difficult for the unchangeable substance to transform us.

THAIS. Now I am going to carry out my plan. Fire shall destroy everything I have.

PAPHNUTIUS. Go in peace. Then return to me here quickly. Do not delay! I trust your resolution, and yet———

THAIS. You need not be afraid.

PAPHNUTIUS. Thais, come back quickly! God be with you!

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