Tottering House

Act I

(Lea plays with her dolls as if for the very last time. Then she dresses as a bride, pulling a curtain over her head like a veil.)

LEA: When I get married, it’ll be to have a baby. Married. Strange thought. Not even knowing the man I’ll marry. He’s out there somewhere. Doing what? What does he look like? Dark or light? What is he? If I could send him a greeting through the ether, I would. Why can’t I? If I just think hard enough, think. You, to you I send my greetings. Did anyone hear? He must have. Blessed be. I wish him all the best. O stranger out there, you were made for me. You will love me some day. We will raise our children and love them more than all the world.

(Lea gathers the dolls into her arms, there are so many of them that she drops some and has to bend down to pick them up. She takes them to the doll closet and arranges them as if forever. A waltz begins to play, she begins to dance to it. She has forgotten to remove her veil. A man enters, Aulis, he bows, a flustered Lea takes off her veil. It drops to the floor and stays there, where it is gradually trampled and soiled under the dancers’ feet. The stage fills with people; it is Midsummer, a party. Enter Eero, he cuts in and dances with Lea. Aulis begins dancing with Ester.)

EERO: I have always associated Midsummer with love, and avoided it. Until now. When I saw you, I said to myself: now it may come.
LEA: And you believe that you can make it come by telling it to?
EERO: Of course.
LEA: But what if when it comes it’s only a Midsummer night’s dream that makes you scream when you wake?
EERO: It won’t. I can look after myself. I’ve got good eyes. (Lifts Lea’s chin to look into her eyes.) Look into my eyes.
LEA: No, don’t.
(A new man enters and cuts in with Lea, it’s Lea’s father.)
FATHER: You must grow happy and good.
LEA: If you aren’t happy and good, I don’t want to be either.
FATHER: You’re my only friend, sweetie.
LEA: You’re my father.
FATHER: But a pretty bad one.
LEA: Would you get better if I disciplined you?
FATHER: That’s perfect, discipline me.
LEA: (shaking her father) Like this?
FATHER: A person has lots of people inside.
LEA: What did you say?
FATHER: A person has lots of people inside. No one’s free, no one’s himself, don’t you believe it. Reject one and choose another, be someone’s plaything, it’s the only way.
MOTHER: (enters carrying a wooden ladle) Aren’t you ashamed of yourself Evert? It would be a thousand times better not to have a man like that. (Hits Evert with the ladle. Lea defends her father and strikes her mother on the shoulders.)
FATHER: Lea, what are you doing?
LEA: Hitting her.
FATHER: No, Lea, don’t.
MOTHER: If I could find someone to murder him I’d pay him a hundred marks.
(Father exits.)
MOTHER: Where are you off to now?
LEA: Father, don’t go, it’s freezing out there. (But Father exits.)
TOINI: (enters) Gone again, huh? Father acts like one of the children.
MOTHER: Yes. And just as insensitive to others. Like the children.
TOINI: A dreamer, no man should ever be like that.
LEA: Has he ever cheated on you, been with other women? Hit you? Fought? No, just sits there and then finally leaves, just like that. If I were a man I’d do the same.
MOTHER: Nice to hear it.
LEA: Sometimes I feel like hitting someone.
MOTHER: You’re worse than your father.
LEA: I am.
MOTHER: If I’d had a good man, things would have been different.
LEA: If it hadn’t been for father, there’d be no us. Don’t we mean anything to you?
MOTHER: There’s nothing I can say about you. Whether your existing is a good or a bad thing.
TOINI: You can only tell a woman by who she marries. I’ll marry someone who’ll amaze you all.
LEA: How are you going to do your own part? Others still have to do for you.
TOINI: You wouldn’t if you thought it wasn’t to your credit. And you’ll see. I’ll bring home a fiancé and you’ll ask: where’d she find him! Where’d she, maybe from abroad if there was nobody like that here. And Lea, she’ll marry a missionary.
LEA: If I take a husband, and choose him myself, I won’t nag at him all the time. You have to check a man out before you marry him.
MOTHER: Well do it then.
LEA: I will.
MOTHER: And once you’ve checked him out, be satisfied.
LEA: I will. If I take a husband, he can be a drunk and beat me and blight my life and still I won’t make a sound.
MOTHER: You’ll teach him. I just wish you’d find a man who’d show you how bad you are.

(The waltz picks up. Eero dances with Lea.)

EERO: I won’t let you go until you say yes.
LEA: You’re cruel.
(Aulis comes and dances with Lea.)
AULIS: Did he frighten you?
LEA: I’m not easily frightened. It’s beautiful here.
AULIS: You remind me of a painting. A Madonna. Italian cinquecento.
LEA: You mean: humility suits me.
AULIS: As it does all true women.
(Eero comes and dances with Lea again.)
EERO: (to Aulis, who is now dancing with someone else, perhaps Toini) Revenge is sweet. (to Lea) I’m looking for a companion, a faithful and long-suffering companion.
LEA: Why suffering?
EERO: Life is suffering, mainly. Lea, answer me: do you love me?
LEA: Don’t.
EERO: Tell me you love me.
LEA: I feel nothing that would justify saying that. (The clock strikes, the dance breaks off. Ester forces her way up to Lea.)
ESTER: Love, you poor fool, you dreamer. If you fold your hands and wait for love that never comes you’ll regret it bitterly the rest of your life. I made that mistake. Now I’d take any man rather than working in that office. But nobody comes.
LEA: Someone will.
ESTER: There was one. My boss’s brother proposed once. And just imagine, I was stupid enough to say I didn’t love him. Ridiculous. As if you needed love for that. And as if it would last even if you had it. Some other girl realized what a good deal it was and now she’s a lady, cars, servants, the works. You be smarter than I was, Lea. If some man comes along, marry him. Is that Aulis Helio you’re looking at?
LEA: How so?
ESTER: No use dreaming about him, he’s taken, been secretly engaged for years.
LEA: Who is she?
ESTER: You don’t know her, she lives in another town, on the coast, filthy rich, they say. So don’t dream about him. But this Eero Markku, him you could have. Just think: a successful journalist, he’ll go far.
LEA: I’m sure he will.
ESTER: Take him while you can.
(The waltz picks up, Lea dances with Eero again.)
EERO: I won’t let you go until I feel that you’ll be mine.
LEA: We may be dancing the rest of our lives.
EERO: That’s exactly what I have in mind. I won’t let you go until you say yes.
LEA: You’re cruel.
EERO: Tell me you love me.
LEA: People are looking.
EERO: Let them look. I’ll stop the instant you say the word.
LEA: You win. I . . . love you.
(Eero kisses Lea in the middle of the dance floor. Everyone falls silent, the music too, and looks on in astonishment.)
LEA: I feel shy.
EERO: Don’t be childish.
LEA: You do understand that I have no money.
EERO: You don’t understand how happy I am. Just think, a lonely country boy who has dreamed of having a home all his life. And now I’ll have it. Love, a wife, a child. I want a son. Even if it’s just one child, so life wouldn’t feel so meaningless.
LEA: I can’t make a home as beautiful and good as I’d like to.
EERO: We’ll always get along. It feels as if my entire life up to now has been just for this.
LEA: Mine too.
(A waltz begins. Eero picks up the veil Lea had dropped and drapes it over Lea’s head. Aulis takes a picture of them. Then Lea and Eero dance a wedding waltz, watched by the others.)
EERO: You won’t back away from life’s dreariness, will you?
LEA: No. Don’t worry. I’ll try to maintain the right attitude. I just hope you won’t be disappointed in your wife.
EERO: Or you in your husband.
LEA: No.
EERO: For remember that I am but an awkward peasant. I will make many mistakes. But I will be faithful to you. I’ll never cheat, that I swear to you.

(The waltz ends, the wedding guests congratulate the happy couple.)

AULIS: Now there are no demons.
EERO: Look out at nature, friends. Is there room for demons on such a night?
ESTER: They say that Midsummer is a night of magic.
AULIS: Who’s to say no malevolent hand of doom hovers above us as we speak?
LEA: Not over me.
EERO: Nor me. See, magic spells can’t harm me. Touching a sacred object renders witchcraft powerless. You’re my talisman, Lea.
AULIS: You’re radiant, and at peace from your demons. But say “society” to him and he will grow goat’s hooves and go scampering up a mountain.
EERO: And say “individuality” to him and he will go away, and say “the subconscious world” and he will disappear beneath the earth.
ESTER: Let’s not talk of underworlds. Let’s talk of paradise, everyone has such beautiful images of paradise.
LEA: And gradually the world will become a paradise.
EERO: Do you really believe that?
LEA: I do.
EERO: And do you think you can do something to bring it about?
LEA: As long as resisting evil is doing something, yes, I do.
(Lea turns toward Aulis. Grandfather appears behind Aulis.)
LEA: Did God drive them out, people, from paradise, did he?
LEA: Why did God drive them out? They only took one apple.
GRANDFATHER: They came to know good and evil.
LEA: Is it wrong to know good, is it wrong to know evil?
GRANDFATHER: It is wrong to do evil.

(Grandfather moves behind Aulis and in this way becomes invisible.)

EERO: Where is the line between right and wrong?
AULIS: That’s easy. A straight line is a beautiful line.
EERO: An impossible line. Life should teach you. I curse you, and predict for you an unhappy marriage that will end in divorce and smash the holy forms. Or you will do foolish things, the princess of the demons herself will arise from the earth and blind you.
AULIS: Look at this, this is how he always curses me. Give me a happy marriage so I can try it.
(Ester exits. Lea and Eero push the bed stage center. Toini enters with fall flowers or fruits.)
LEA: Well, Toini, what do you say now? You’re surprised he’s not a missionary, of course. But did I know either?
TOINI: You’re not rich, are you.
LEA: Who is, at first?
EERO: (with Aulis, newspaper in hand) You Aulis are a man of the nineteenth century.
AULIS: That doesn’t change the fact that the article is uneven.
LEA: Really? You Eero are like a traveling salesman, you tout all your wares with the same enthusiasm. The world attracts you, even though you criticize it, it dictates almost everything for you. Wasteful.
EERO: I make advertisements for myself. How could you understand what it costs to have a name. Maybe when it’s in the history books it will be good enough for you.
AULIS: That individualism and freedom fetish that you praise so highly is ruinous for contemporary society.
EERO: You’re old-fashioned as a boot.
AULIS: Old-fashioned or modern. You post-liberals, you sell toxic drugs under false labels while having yourselves hailed as caesars.
EERO: That’s insulting.
AULIS: You asked for my opinion, I gave it to you.
EERO: I know you, and don’t lose my temper over trifles like that. But I did get you to read my paper.
AULIS: You did. Take care of yourself, Lea.
(They shake hands. Aulis exits.)
EERO: He’s a zealot, but at least he read it, at least he read it.
LEA: Aulis is right. You flip through one book, flip through another, borrow some of your own old stuff and some of somebody else’s, gather together beautiful thoughts, mold them into your own and then reuse them as needed.
EERO: Don’t think one man can think every thought in the world. We rely on each other, we pundits. Do you want to hold me accountable for the thoughts of an entire era?
TOINI: Was that Aulis Helio?
EERO: I’m sorry, did I forget to introduce you?
TOINI: The catalog says he’ll lecturing to us starting in October. Good-looking man.
EERO: Why not, a fashionable doctor. Rich.
LEA: Lecturing to you?
TOINI: I don’t want to study languages after all.
LEA: What then?
TOINI: Medicine.
LEA: That’s crazy.
TOINI: Then dentistry. But I won’t study languages, I won’t.
LEA: Dear child, it’s an expensive field. What if you can’t finish?
TOINI: Then I’ll get married. My husband will pay off my student loans. And anyway I’m already enrolled, it’s a done deal.
LEA: Now you worry me.
TOINI: Worry about your own affairs, not mine.
LEA: You’re foolish.
TOINI: Please, Lea, I’ve planned my life, and if it’s good enough for me it’s good enough for you. I’m the one who has to live it.
EERO: Attagirl. At least you’ve got a high-spirited sister. It’s nice to see some life in this house. Lea is often downcast and easily hurt.
LEA: I am? I don’t see that in myself.
EERO: But you are.
TOINI: Does Helio visit you often?
LEA: Sometimes. Wait, Eero.
EERO: What is it now? Money again? I just gave you some.
LEA: It’s something else.
EERO: Well spit it out. I don’t have all day to stand around here.
LEA: We’re going to have a baby.

(Eero hugs Lea and lifts her in the air, spins her around off the ground. Then the two of them hug Toini in a three-way embrace.

(Danse macabre: Grandfather comes to Lea. Lea buries herself in Grandfather’s arms.)

GRANDFATHER: Lord, teach me to know that we all must die.
LEA: Death is lying there and turning to dust. That’s death, and it’s much sadder than poverty and hunger and drinking and fighting.
GRANDFATHER: That we die gives us promise of understanding life.
LEA: If we know good and evil, will God drive us out, and from where, Grandfather, from where? Home?
LEA: So that we’d have no home?
GRANDFATHER: So that paradise is lost.
LEA: When I grow up, Grandfather, will I have a home?
GRANDFATHER: I suppose so.
LEA: Will it be a paradise?

(Christmas music begins to play. Lea begins to decorate a Christmas tree with Toini. The tree lights come on. Eero exits (or enters and exits) with a stack of papers under his arm. Lea stands with a flower in hand, not knowing what to do with it. Then she sets it on a stand, looks at it for a moment, makes her decision and strews spruce branches here and there. Eero enters.)

LEA: The first snow has fallen. Christmas Eve. Our first Christmas.
EERO: Every day is always the first and only day of that year and that month. Celebrate them and you’ll have a whole history of them.
LEA: The flower’s from Ester.
EERO: Should we have sent your mother something with Toini? Maybe. But in our situation it would have been impossible.
LEA: It wasn’t necessary.
EERO: She would just get used to getting things from us and always expect it. Better to show her how things are going to be right from the start.
LEA: Yes.
EERO: Christmas is just a useless pagan custom.
LEA: Yes.
EERO: A free, enlightened spirit never stoops to such.
LEA: Thanks for teaching me.
EERO: Nothing will ever issue from our house. This will only be said this once, and for all time.

(Mother becomes visible.)

MOTHER: Just look at you.
LEA: Mother you mustn’t criticize things you don’t understand.
MOTHER: If you hired a servant, the servant would eat differently, and you would have to pay her. And you: butter for Eero, margarine for you. Meat, fish, eggs for Eero, bread and drippings for you.
LEA: Eero has a wonderful future ahead of him. This is all just temporary.

(Mother turns her back.)

EERO: I, I never had Christmases, no Christmas trees, not even a mother. Mother left me — and who needs her. Her gift to me was ten marks, and that only when I asked her for it. So I never give anything either. Not to anyone, period. We all know what love is, sheer illusion.
LEA: What’s illusion?
EERO: Love. No need to cry over it.
LEA: I — guess not. (Turns her back. Eero takes her by the shoulders, turns her to face him and holds out a tiny package.)
LEA: You didn’t need to. Thank you, sweetheart.
EERO: Open your present.
LEA: From the jeweler’s?
EERO: Open it.
LEA: You dear sweet thing, I have nothing for you, and you, you . . .
(Lea removes the paper and finds a small box, opens it. Blank business cards.)

EERO: Ha ha haaaa.
LEA: No, these are good, we need these.
EERO: Ha haa. I didn’t buy them for you. I bought them for myself, I always need them.
LEA: I would have been disappointed if you’d wasted your money. We spend enough as it is. (Walks offstage and returns with two boiled eggs on a plate.) Here.
EERO: Two? You’re so damned wasteful. (Throws the eggs on the floor.) We can’t all afford to eat eggs. (Looks at the eggs on the floor for a moment, then entrenches himself behind his desk. The Christmas music swells. Mother becomes visible.)
MOTHER: You’re letting him develop bad habits by denying yourself so much.
LEA: Mother you don’t understand. We have higher goals. Eero doesn’t trust me yet. It’s because I don’t feel at home with him yet either. But I’ll learn.
MOTHER: Mark my words, he’ll stay that way. He’ll never notice you as a person.
LEA: These are my secret thoughts, you must never interfere in our business.

(Mother exits. Lea bends down to pick up the pieces of egg and absently pops them in her mouth. Eero enters.)

EERO: What an animal.
LEA: Probably because I’m pregnant.
EERO: Let’s boil new eggs. I got angry for no reason.
LEA: Let’s not.
EERO: You just don’t want to. Okay, put on your shoes and let’s go to town. They have a big tree there, let’s go look at it.
LEA: My shoes don’t fit.
EERO: They always did before.
LEA: My feet are swollen from standing up and cleaning all day.
EERO: Forget it then. I just wanted to make you happy. Shall I read you a poem?
LEA: Yes.
EERO: Free we came into this world,
you etched on our foreheads a mark.
You pressed on our chest a criminal cross.
LEA: I’m tired and lonely here. The rooms feel cold. I’m shivering. Eero is stubborn as hard dirt. Could mean security too. He’ll certainly take care of his own. His children will have a safe home.
EERO: Free we came into this world,
you etched on our foreheads a mark.
You pressed on our chest a criminal cross.
LEA: Summer is coming. In the summer I’ll have a baby. Next Christmas I’ll be sitting here with a child in my lap. Our children will be the main thing in our life together. We’ll live for our children.
EERO: You smiled. Did I read it badly?
LEA: No. I’m just so happy. You are the father of my child. I like you.

(Together they put Christmas away. Toini comes and spreads out her things.)

EERO: What a girl that Toini is. If I weren’t married I’d marry her. See, Lea, that’s what a girl should be like.
TOINI: But Lea isn’t a girl, Lea’s a saint.
LEA: You need to watch where you put your things, someone’s going to trip over them.
TOINI: Yes mother.
(Lea exits. Toini snatches a penknife out of Eero’s pocket.)
EERO: Toini, give it back.
TOINI: I won’t. Come and get it.
EERO: I’m warning you.

(They run in circles. Eero finally catches her and pushes her onto the bed.)

EERO: You resisted me, now you’ve got to pay a fine. (Kisses Toini.)
LEA: (entering) Toini! What’s this?
TOINI: What should it be? I was teasing Eero, he paid me back. Horseplay.
LEA: Well it’s not right. And in my bed.
TOINI: What’s so sacred about your bed?
LEA: I’m ashamed of both of you.
TOINI: I’ll spare you the shame, then. I’m leaving.
(Toini exits. Lea sits on the bed.)
EERO: What, are you crying? What, child, over that little thing? It was nothing.
LEA: Tell me straight. Do you like her more than me?
EERO: What a question! I don’t like her like that. She’s funny, all right. And I’ll say this much, if she keeps it up I won’t answer for the consequences.
LEA: What do you mean?
EERO: I might seduce her.
LEA: You don’t like me.
EERO: I do like you. That’s just the way the nervous system works. She irritates me somehow. She should move out.
LEA: I agree. Before anything happens.
EERO: Nothing’ll happen now that I’ve talked about it. Nothing to be afraid of now, but she’s still a little dangerous.
LEA: At least you’re honest. You wouldn’t talk that way if you didn’t like me.
EERO: Now you’re learning. This will give us a good foundation to build on.
(Lea switches on a lamp. Ester is standing in the light.)
ESTER: You’re so perfect, Lea. You’re the best wife in the world.
LEA: What nonsense.
ESTER: Not nonsense. If you weren’t my friend I’d envy you. I languish unmarried, discarded, poor Ester. Lonely tears all the days of my life. Withering away, always dirt-poor. And where will I end up when I’m old and alone? In the poorhouse, and will anyone come see me? Well. Lea sometimes, maybe, but nobody else. At Christmas it’s gloomy as perdition there. Meanwhile you’ve got your own house, a husband, children, servants. And a joyous and carefree old age with your life well lived. O how I suffer to have no one.
LEA: Someone will come.
ESTER: I’d carry him in my arms, I don’t care who he was, if only he’d come. My savior, my joy. (Laughs, Lea laughs with her.)
LEA: Same old Ester.
LEA: This is the thing. We’re so cramped, couldn’t you take Toini in with you for a while?
ESTER: Didn’t I say that newlyweds shouldn’t take in guests? Of course you’re cramped.
LEA: She’s grown careless. Sleeps late every morning, not a good thing. I need the dining room. But she doesn’t understand. Teach her a little.
ESTER: Aha. I’ll shake her up. It’s a deal, she’ll come with me.
TOINI: But I won’t move.
LEA: Of course you’ll move. It’s what Eero wants. I’ve taken care of you since you were small, you’ll do what I say. I take you into my home to help you get ahead, and this is the thanks I get.
TOINI: But I didn’t feel like studying, I had to go somewhere.
LEA: And you think this is the best place to go?
TOINI: I won’t deny it. I can’t get along on my own, but you can. I could have had Eero many times over, believe you me.
LEA: You’re just being spiteful. Now go pack your bags and go with Ester.
TOINI: I thought you were nice.
LEA: Stupid, you mean. I never meant I would give up my home for you. This is your own fault.
TOINI: Where will I get money?
LEA: If you’re a good girl I’ll ask Eero to cosign and you can take out a loan.
EERO: (enters) Of course I’ll cosign.
TOINI: You’re running me out.
EERO: Not at all. Come here to eat, you too, Ester, so Lea will have some company.
TOINI: This is how you always slip out of your obligations, Lea.
LEA: It’s about time you learned to take care of yourself. (Hands Toini a packed suitcase.) Thanks, Ester. (Toini and Ester exit.)
EERO: Well well, my little girl, you handled that niftily. (Kisses her.)
LEA: Eero, you’ve been drinking.
EERO: There’s nothing to say about my drinking.
LEA: You’re a temperance activist.
EERO: So what?
LEA: You’ve begun staying out late.
EERO: Do you suspect something?
LEA: No.
EERO: I’m telling you, if you suspect me, I won’t respect you. That’s the way I am. Reprimands offend me.
LEA: No need to shout.
EERO: If you wouldn’t moralize, I’d feel better around you. That’s how you withhold your support from me. You must trust me, that’s the best way to help me get ahead.
LEA: I do trust you.
EERO: I suppose my personality doesn’t fall within the usual bounds. I want to do bad things. I’ll tell you everything. Sometimes I do bad things on purpose. At work, too. When I should be thanking someone, I change my tone of voice and blame him. Sometimes I decide to be honest and chuck a thing in the dirt, but then I suddenly get mixed up and start finding all kinds of nonexistent good sides to it. What do you say about that?
LEA: It’s dangerous.
EERO: But see, I’m no prophet of truth. I want to do bad things. You don’t understand it. I force others to see things my way. Hellish torment. If I decide to, I’ll shoot myself. I’ve thought about it often, because I’m so evil. About you, too. You don’t like me any more.
LEA: Is this a good time for declarations of love?
EERO: I’m difficult, aren’t I, in my own way. I think probably many geniuses are that way.

(Eero goes and hurls himself into his work, reading, writing, his frenzy showing through.)

LEA: He must have a bit of an artist in him. You have to check a man out before you marry him.
MOTHER: Well do it then.
LEA: I will.
MOTHER: And once you’ve checked him out, be satisfied.
LEA: I will.

(Lea goes to the doll closet. When Eero begins to read a poem, she turns.)

EERO: Like heavy ocean swells I feel my mind begin to pound,
this boat the horror of my life and death will surely drown —
O come, my love, and give your hand to me.
For life’s dark road is long, but longer still to walk alone,
so follow close and to dream’s golden castle we will go,
and half my sorrows I will share with thee.
LEA: A little Don Quixote without the sweetness. Fighting on the wrong side. And following other causes into battle. He too would take on the entire world, though with rather unchivalrous methods. No place of rest, the clash of battle, shocks to the system, the clang of swords.

(When Eero continues with his poem, the light expands: the newlyweds Toini and Aulis and Ester and Iivo are visiting. Iivo is a full-sized mannequin on wheels dressed in a man’s suit, a valet’s livery, for example.)

EERO: My patrimony from the fathers was the gift of sleep.
I doubly feel the law of life so heavy and so deep.
And happiness that others never see.
O come, my love, and live with me, and full will be my heart,
yes, come, for I’ll not fear the dark unless we are apart.
O come, my love, and give your hand to me.

(The guests applaud Eero. Hilja enters and circulates with a tray of champagne.)

EERO: Congratulations to the newlyweds.
LEA: Here’s to Aulis and Toini, Ester and Iivo.
AULIS: Just think, not a year since Midsummer and now we’re all married. But Eero and Lea are still ahead of the rest of us, with a baby soon to be born.
EERO: Next year you’ll have one too.
ESTER: I remember you bewitching Aulis’s marriage, Eero. Do you suppose the magic will hold?
AULIS: I don’t think so.
EERO: But why all this secrecy?
AULIS: Toini made me swear not to say a word.
EERO: What a girl. How like you.
TOINI: What can I do about the way I am. I like to shock people.
LEA: But I thought Aulis was secretly engaged to someone else.
TOINI: Not all young men’s secret engagements are real.

(A Midsummer waltz begins to play. The married couples dance together, but gradually the pairings break up until Lea is standing between her sister and her girlfriend in a kind of quadrille, with the women stationary and the men moving past.)

ESTER: I never would have believed a person could be as happy as I am now. I’m so ashamed. And it feels to me as if I could never be unhappy again. Unhappiness, what would that be, except death, of course. But we live.
LEA: Yes, we live. Not everyone can be this happy.
TOINI: What do you think life is?
LEA: That’s a pretty big question.
TOINI: I think there’s farce in it, and more than a little. Just think, what if Aulis was made for you and Eero for me.
ESTER: I don’t understand people who get divorced. Everybody’s compatible, if they want to be.
TOINI: This is where Aulis first met me. But do you think he noticed me? No. He’s been loving you.
ESTER: I was frivolous before. Unrequited love. That’s what literature will do to you.
TOINI: I worshipped you, Lea. But you’re always in my way.
ESTER: Now I have exactly what I always wanted. Even though I didn’t know it then.
TOINI: But you had married Eero. So it’s thanks to you that I got Aulis.
ESTER: Iivo is honest and true, nothing murky about him.
TOINI: Lea, you’re like one removed from the land of the living, rubbed out, silenced. Are you a person any more, or just an idea?
ESTER: Then we’ll compete to see who has the nicest home.
LEA: I can’t compete.
TOINI: And Aulis admired you.
LEA: I don’t like the two of you talking about me.
TOINI: Are you my sister or not? Do you always have to play Eero’s wife to me, or my guardian, or something, an apostle maybe? Won’t you admit how things are with you? Aulis and I often talk about it.

(The dance stops. The others are gone. Toini and Lea are left on stage.)

LEA: I don’t like you talking about me.
TOINI: Don’t you understand that I know what Eero is like, coarse, conceited, simple? He doesn’t deserve you.
LEA: Toini, I forbid it.
TOINI: Go ahead and forbid it. But there’s something about Eero, something murky and confused. I don’t know. He’s like a beast in a cage. No need for you to tell him this, and you won’t, even if your head was lopped off. Thanks, Lea.
LEA: For what?
TOINI: For Aulis.

(Toini hugs Lea suddenly, then exits. Lea falls to the floor and cries. The crying turns to gasping. Hilja enters.)

HILJA: Ma’am! Ma’am! Can you stand up? Doctor, come quickly.
EERO: What now? (realizing) Quickly. Hilja, call an ambulance.
HILJA: Yes, professor. (Exits.)
EERO: Does it hurt much?
LEA: I’ll never get used to that Hilja.
EERO: She does her work, doesn’t she.
LEA: But why is she so pretentious? Enunciates every word as if in a poetry recital, with precision, with clipped grace.
EERO: Trying to make an impression. (Lea inhales deeply.) Shall I get you some water?
LEA: (waving no with her hand) A person with a heart is less definite, less sure.
EERO: What are you talking about?
LEA: Hilja. She’s cold and calculating. No heart.
EERO: Could be. Hearts are kind of a luxury for servants. Useless talk.
LEA: I must learn to tolerate her. (Sighs deeply.) Eero.
EERO: Maybe I should come with you after all.
LEA: You don’t need to.

(The nurse brings a bed. Lea stretches out on it.)

NURSE: Shall I rub your back?
LEA: Can’t let others care for me, must care for others. I remember that, Grandfather.

(Grandfather has come next to her bed, and after a while Father too.)

GRANDFATHER: Care for others, you’re a smart girl.
LEA: Must not be a child. Must care for others. If you think you can be a child, what happens then, Grandfather?
GRANDFATHER: Who will care for the others then?
NURSE: I have time. It’s a slow night.
GRANDFATHER: A poor man isn’t one who’s missed after he’s dead.
LEA: Maybe there is no death.
GRANDFATHER: Lord, teach us to think that we all must die.
LEA: Death is lying there and turning to dust. That’s death, and it’s much sadder than poverty and hunger and drinking and fighting.
GRANDFATHER: That we die gives us promise of understanding life. Ponder that often when you’re grown.
LEA: I will.
GRANDFATHER: But don’t tell anyone that you’re pondering it, and you’ll become wise.
LEA: There are stars and a moon, and a little girl wanders far in the moonlight alone. Must say everything good that you know. Death, wisdom. And love everybody. So thought the traveler, walking in the night. It hurts.
GRANDFATHER: It’ll be over soon.
NURSE: Breathe this. It’s ether. It’ll be over soon.
LEA: It will be over soon.
GRANDFATHER: But too good a heart is a stupid heart. Remember that.
LEA: Too good a heart is a stupid heart.
GRANDFATHER: But the whole world would fall down if each of us didn’t say, I must not fall down.
LEA: I must not fall down.
NURSE: Breathe. Ether. Soon it will be over.
GRANDFATHER: Do you understand?
LEA: I understand. Quiet. Go. Alone, alone.
FATHER: You’re my only friend, sweetie.
LEA: Yes.
FATHER: And there’s nobody else in the whole wide world like you. You must grow to be happy and good.
LEA: I will if you want me to.
FATHER: Then I do want you to.
GRANDFATHER: Then I do want you to.
EERO: Then I do want you to.
FATHER: Elbow your way out into life without a care in the world.
LEA: Elbow. What a word.
NURSE: Here’s the head.

(Lea’s cry and the baby’s cry mingle.)

NURSE: It’s over, Mrs. Markku. Congratulations. It’s a boy.
LEA: We’re no longer two. Bad things can only happen to three now.
NURSE: Mrs. Markku. It’s a boy.
LEA: We have three generations here.
(Lea tucks the bundle the nurse hands her under her arm like a bird shielding a fledgling under its wing. The nurse pushes the bed, Hilja receives it. Eero comes.)
EERO: (taking the baby in his arms) Do I dare hold him? He hardly weighs anything.
LEA: A body starts off small. I was thinking we might name him Boy.
EERO: Boy he is, then. (Lays down the baby, wraps his arms around Lea.) But you’re trembling.
LEA: I’m weak. It’ll pass.
EERO: Why don’t you rest. I have to run.
LEA: On Sunday?
EERO: I’m a popular speaker. Are you disappointed?
LEA: I would have liked to talk. But my little big world is here.

(Eero kisses Lea, exits. Lea studies her child. Hilja enters with a pile of sheets on her arm.)

LEA: What now?
HILJA: The doctor asked me to make up a bed for him in the study.
LEA: Really?
HILJA: He’s concerned the infant will disturb his rest. Shall I make tea?
LEA: No thanks. I’ll rest.
(Hilja exits. Lea wraps herself around her child, falls asleep. She wakes to the sound of laughing. She sits up, hears the laughter again, a woman’s voice. Lea gets up and moves cautiously toward the sound. She meets Hilja in her nightgown.)
LEA: What are you doing here?
HILJA: Oiling the hinges, so they won’t squeak.
LEA: In the middle of the night? That sort of thing should be done in the daytime.

(Hilja curtsies and exits. Eero enters.)

EERO: What now?
LEA: Who told Hilja to oil the hinges at night?
EERO: What are you talking about?
LEA: That’s what she was just doing, oiling the hinges. I thought you might have told her to.
EERO: Why at night?
LEA: Eero, can’t you be straight with me? What’s going on?
EERO: I’m listening to your crazy talk. Go on.
LEA: Why did the girl cry out in there, why is she wandering about at night?
EERO: What right do you have to ask that, I ask you.
LEA: Stop shouting, Hilja will hear you.
EERO: Let her hear. Let’s go in and you can tell her what you suspect her of.
LEA: I won’t. Who’s she to settle our differences?
(Eero squeezes Lea’s arms and tries to push her toward the study.)
EERO: You’re going.
LEA: She and I have nothing to talk about.
EERO: She’s human the same as you. She’s under my protection.
LEA: Aren’t I under your protection? Or is this how you protect me, trying to humiliate me in front of that girl? And why? To show off how you despise me. To let her feel triumphant. I won’t let her be my judge.
EERO: And are you hers? (Hits Lea.)
LEA: Eero, now you’ve — gone too far.
EERO: You went too far when you came and accused me in the middle of the night.
LEA: Why can’t you just tell me I’m wrong?
EERO: I did already. And now I won’t say another word, you can believe whatever you want.
LEA: You’re cruel.
EERO: If suspicion has arisen, it’s not in my power to make it go away.
LEA: You can’t or you won’t? You’re having an affair. But I’ve got a right to know everything.
EERO: You don’t control my rights. I’ll do whatever I want.

(Chokes Lea.)

LEA: Stop, you’re killing me.
EERO: I’m choking you.
LEA: You have no right to my life. No one has.

(Eero loosens his grip, looks at Lea a moment, then strikes her so she falls.)

EERO: You’re a devil. A devil. (Exits.)

(Eero’s shout has wakened the baby, who begins to cry. Lea goes to the boy and picks him up.)

LEA: Boy, my Boy. Are grownups insensitive? Are they? They’ll learn. When you’ve grown up they’ll be wiser. Grow, grow up, my darling. There is no family here. True poverty. Lifeless props, no more. The actors are gone. The whole piece hasn’t been written yet. Maybe this is as much as will ever be written, it’s such an insignificant play. I’ve been struck down to your level, Boy, we’re equals now.

(Lea walks with the baby, stops in front of Eero at his desk.)

LEA: If you want to be rid of me, Eero, tell me straight out. If I can’t love you as my husband, I’ll give up.
EERO: I don’t want to hear any of that kind of talk. I’m satisfied. You look pale.
LEA: Is it any wonder?
EERO: (taking a few bills from his desk drawer, giving them to Lea) Here, go buy yourself something, some clothes, so you cheer up.
LEA: No.
EERO: Take it, take it, while I’m still in a mood to give it to you. And that servant thing you can handle however you want.
(Lea looks at her husband suspiciously. The money lies on the desk. Eero has returned to his work, sees and hears nothing. Lea takes the money and walks off with the baby.)
LEA: Boy, my Boy. Should I apologize to you? Yes, father, you’ve returned to life, I’ve awakened you to new life. Are you satisfied? Now I love you with all my heart. We have three generations here now.

(Lea goes to the doll closet, unwraps Boy’s swaddling clothes and carefully picks out a place for him. When he is on the shelf next to the dolls she examines her work like an artist her arrangement; it is a success.)

LEA: Did I say it’s dreary here, that there’s no life? That the piece hasn’t been written yet, that the stage is empty?
(Hilja enters, as if to open the blinds; the daylight streams in.)
LEA: I can go on. In fact I’ve been planning for some time to run the house myself. So that Hilja can go and preferably right now.
HILJA: No. What does he say?
LEA: That what I do with the servants is my business.
HILJA: Are you serious? I won’t be toyed with.
LEA: Neither will I.
HILJA: Then I understand. Could the missus be jealous? Some women are so envious of others that they would deny them everything.
LEA: Why should I be?
HILJA: You don’t need to worry about me, I’m no adventuress. I have within me only the surest feelings, mine are a finer class of feelings, that’s the kind of feeling person I am. And very sensitive. No one would need to compare the two of us to know that the difference between us lies in how sensitive we are. And let me give the missus a little piece of advice, it would be wisest to keep me on. You’ll get some tramp and just waste your money. This way it’ll stay in the family so to speak. Please give it some thought.
LEA: I have.
HILJA: But I won’t go without a month’s severance pay. And the missus doesn’t have it to give me, I know she doesn’t.
LEA: Here it is. (Gives her the money she got from Eero.)
HILJA: But where shall I go?
LEA: That’s your business. Let’s go pack your things.
HILJA: Oh, the shame. It almost makes me laugh. I don’t wear rags. They all pretend to be gentlemen and ladies, even the ones on whose steps I’m now supposed to beg. Phew, the reek of poverty.

(Hilja walks away but remains onstage near a wardrobe. She stands with her back to the action. When she is later needed as Siiri, she peels off her outermost layer of clothes, puts on a wig that she takes from the top shelf of the wardrobe, and becomes Siiri. The Hilja-outfit remains lying where it fell. Lea goes to the doll closet, takes the baby from it and begins to feed it. The baby’s lines are played by a glockenspiel or other “child’s instrument.”)

LEA: Mama will feed Boy, yes, mama will feed Boy, Boy’s porridge is almost ready. You want a bottle? No, not yet, patience, patience. Don’t kick. Do you like life, Boy? Do you? Do you like porridge? Ah, you do.
BOY: Atatataa.
LEA: Aha. Atatataa. That means: Boy does like porridge. That’s enough for mama. That’s all that matters to you, just that. Or is it?
BOY: Atatatalagoo.
LEA: Aha, goo, that’s a tough one. Boy, Boy’s no gentleman, or are you? Can a gentleman suck his thumb, little girls do. Boy mustn’t fight, big man like you, must respect the porridge bowl. Goo, mama’s own little goo-man. What is that goo of yours, is it good? Aha, it is mama, say mama.
BOY: Aatatalaa.
LEA: Aha. Goo isn’t mama. Goo means the whole world is good and Boy is happy. The loviest love of all. He doesn’t understand. He senses. Good. Now Boy gets his bottle. My sweet doesn’t understand, he senses.

(Eero has come to watch mother and child together, and watches Lea put Boy in the doll closet.)

EERO: You’re mine, mine. (Takes Lea to bed.)
LEA: Eero.
EERO: Your child is gurgling and babbling over there.
LEA: But tell me, aren’t you really happy?
EERO: I am.
LEA: At Christmas we’ll be four.
EERO: (getting out of bed) Too many. I’m not going to support a big family.
LEA: I knew it.
EERO: I assume a person has a right to decide about his offspring.
LEA: Not when they already are.
EERO: An unborn fetus isn’t yet.
LEA: Is too.
EERO: Nature doesn’t understand anything, not even how to be infertile. Only the human mind is fertile. I hate humanity with all my heart.
LEA: That’s not what you say in public.
EERO: I speak their language. It’s a desperate lie. Humanity, what do you know about it? A human being has wants that your type can’t even imagine. Deep down he wants to murder. Humans are beasts, I mean it, beasts. That’s why they have to be handled with cunning and deceit. And if that doesn’t work, with a gun.
LEA: You’re a pacifist.
EERO: Does that mean I can’t be a student of human nature? I’m a man of the great migrations, a man of chaos. I harbor within me a spirit of formlessness. If a time of anarchy and war would only come, I’d have myself hailed caesar.
LEA: Why do you talk that way?
EERO: They expect a man to be a slave, a house slave, supporter of the herd, but that’s not enough, now they expect him to stop living, to be a machine, a support-machine, dedicated to the home.
LEA: What do you still lack? Freedom?
EERO: Idiot. I’m saying the whole marriage was a mistake.
LEA: Too late for that now. You should have thought of that earlier.
EERO: Maybe I should leave.
LEA: Divorce? When I asked you, you didn’t want to. Do you now?
EERO: No. Are you afraid I’ll cheat on you?
LEA: I trust you.
EERO: If I cheated on you, it would only mean that I have so much respect for you that I couldn’t bear to be judged by you, remember that. If I didn’t bother cheating on you, I would be undervaluing you, remember that. I never should have confessed anything to you.
LEA: You never did.
EERO: When I speak openly, it robs me of my self-confidence. I am humiliated before you.
LEA: I’m not dangerous.
EERO: I give my experiences whatever value I wish. They’re none of your business. If I’ve ever thought they did I made the worst mistake of my life.
LEA: That’s a mistake you’ve never made.
EERO: Stop prying.
LEA: I’m not. Look how sweetly Boy sleeps.
EERO: You’re your children’s fool.
LEA: Mother.
EERO: Fool. You’re raising them to be snakes who’ll bite me one day. Are you raising a great man, maybe?
LEA: It never crossed my mind.
EERO: Aha, so his daddy’s example isn’t good enough! You’ll pay for this. Goddamned woman. I’m defending my honor, I am, I am.
LEA: I honor you as much as I can.
EERO: Lies, lies. (Hits Lea.)
LEA: Eero, don’t.
EERO: Beggar, beggar, I despise you, I despise you. (Hits her again.)
LEA: What hurt have we ever done you, that you have to hurt us?
EERO: Nothing. I just don’t know how to be good, I just wish I knew how to stop being evil. So I wouldn’t have evil thoughts.
LEA: Try. It’s sick.
EERO: I wish I could strive for goodness. (Embraces Lea suddenly.) Don’t take this for love.
LEA: What do we want with love, old folks like us.
EERO: I’ve been wrong about many things, but not about you.

(Suddenly his embrace becomes violent and he squeezes her hard against his chest, until Lea loses consciousness. He picks her up and carries her to bed, where he begins caressing her. Lea comes to.)

LEA: Stop, I’m suffocating.
EERO: What happened?
LEA: You broke my ribs.
EERO: Did you feel them break?
LEA: I felt it and heard it. Didn’t you?
EERO: I thought I did. Hey, me, I’m the rib-breaker! (Lea cries out sharply.) What now?
LEA: The baby. It’s coming.

(Eero goes to the doll closet and opens its door. Lea tries to stop him. He pushes her away, takes a doll and hurls it to the floor. It breaks. Lea screams, then begins picking up the pieces. Around her there appear three men, who form a triangle; maybe a beam of light joins them, makes them a single whole. The men are Eero, Father, and Aulis. Lea doesn’t recognize them, in fact isn’t aware of their existence.)

LEA: You weren’t supposed to start yet, not take a single step, when the path was broken, everything was taken away and you had to return to the emptiness from which you had come and out of which you had been called. Called and then killed. I don’t want to take the easy way, I must make sense of everything. You would have known it, little one, if you had been able to feel and talk. What had you already experienced? You were me, my self as new life. Before my new birth, beaten and maimed, and you went away in disgrace, before you’d even done anything evil. What did your terrified soul feel? And I was a mother and could not protect you.

(Lea sees Father standing a ways off with a doll in his arms; it is the same doll that just broke. Lea walks toward Father, who then exits.)

LEA: It’s your fault, Father, your fault, why did you have to die? Your fault I rushed into marriage. Help me now. It’s your duty to help me.

(But Father goes. Lea tries to reach Father, but then turns and meets Eero.)

LEA: It’s the same man! The same man! Accomplice, accomplice.

(But Eero no longer hears that last word. He exits, as the “Dies Irae” begins to play. Aulis comes and helps Lea to her feet.)

LEA: Aulis.
AULIS: I know everything, more or less. Remember that.
LEA: After this, understand, I don’t want to see you, ever.
AULIS: I knew it. And so it shall be.

(Aulis escorts Lea off.)



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