(Abel is standing on a raised platform, and is speaking to an audience that is not seen, but the applause and various other noises provide the basis for the perception that it is there. The audience is presumed to consist of officials, functionaries, reporters and so forth. As Abel speaks various items related to his office are being brought on stage…all of the furniture can be recognized as from his room at home…including the coffin. Eulalia is in the background trying to direct the movers, but she loses the battle-fought in pantomime-to Lilith, the Assistant Executioner)

ABEL: (Speaking to the invisible audience, and he is clutching in his right hand the rolled up Scroll, flourishing it as if it were a sceptre as he speaks)

…and in accepting the post of Chief Executioner and taking the solemn oath of loyalty to the Chamber of Degrees, I know that I am taking on a task that none or very few of you would be willing to undertake. Yes, it is an honor, but one unsought by me, and even one I have tried to refuse. I tried to let the cup pass me by because I recognize the responsibility involved is a heavy and grave one. As Chief Executioner I will be performing in public, and full light of day, hat which most of you would only be willing to do under cover of full concealment.
(ABEL IS INTERRUPTED BY APPLAUSE WHICH GOES ON FOR A WHILE UNTIL HE GESTURES PERSISTANTLY FOR IT TO STOP BY RAISING HIS HAND HIGH IN THE AIR) And please think of this…many of you might be willing to do once or twice what I will be doing repeatedly (AGAIN HIS INTERRUPTED BY APPLAUSE, THIS TIME NOT FOR QUITE SO LONG A TIME AND AGAIN HE RAISES HIS HAND IN A GESTURE FOR IT TO STOP) May I add that others might have no reluctance in doing for particular subjects that which I will be glad to do for anyone, (MORE APPLAUSE} As a professional, I understand gthat it is not myself you are applauding, but rather the role I am fulfilling whose demands I must obey (PAUSES AND BECOMES VERY SOLEMN) I hope I may be allowed a more personal statement than is usual on occasions such as this. In assuming this office, my life is taking a turn I never expected it to have. Always before I thought only of killing myself. Now I hope to achieve my aim of Greatness by killing others. I may take longer, it may take much more work, but I refuse to shirk. (LONG AND LOUD APPLAUSE) In doing this, I am trying to carry out a dream of my mother' she dreamt for me. She is the one who has spurred me on to try to achieve greatness, and it is her dream that one day I will rise to very height of human accomplishment in this most onerous of offices. It is therefore only appropriate that as you honor me, that I ask you to honor her-perhaps even more since she is wholly selfless in her dreams for me. (TURNS TO EULALIA AND WITH DIFFICULTY GETS HER ATTENTION) Mother, please come and stand beside me and say a few words.

EULALIA: (Smiling and looking to all sides of the invisible audience) I am not a public person, so my words will have a private sound to them. All I hope for is that Abel becomes great. That is all I need or want to say. Thank you all (SHE STOPS AND THERE IS APPLAUSE)

ABEL: Thank you mother. And thank you all for your support and good wishes. (APPLAUSE AND THE SOUNDS OF THE 'AUDIENCE' LEAVING)

(As Abel bows and gestures to the departing audience, Lilith brings him the official garments of the Chief Executioner,and he is 'encircled' with a special ceremonial ritualized formality. With the help of Lilith he puts on the doublet, the belt and the hood of the Headsman and he hands the Scroll to Lilith who unrolls it and places it over the desk at stage center)

EULALIA; What a lot of fine new clothes you have, Abel

ABEL: It goes with the position.

EULALIA: And such a fine, home-like office.

ABEL: The Chamber wants me to be comfortable.

EULALIA: You said something that bothered me…that the route man is not coming to the house any more--after thirty years, are you replacing him?

ABEL: I don't need the service any more.

EULALIA: I see what's happening. A new job and you're going to change everything. I knew it would happen. You'll be replacing me soon, too. And giving up any hope of achieving greatness at the same time.

ABEL: That's not true. I'm still seeking greatness. Don't you see, this is the best chance I'll ever have.

EULALIA: Through holding down a job.

LILITH: (Standing nearby and visibly angry) It isn't a job. Abel has an official post…with the power over life and death.

EULALIA: A new country heard from! Abel, are you going to let this snippet talk to me that way.

ABEL: That snippet, mother, is no snippet. Lilith is a fully qualified executioner in her own right, highly trained and with advanced degrees in the field. And I'm honored that she's willing to serve as my assistant when she could have tried for the position as Chief Executioner in her own right.

LILITH: (To Abel) As I've said to you before, that while I may have the formal training, you're the one with the drive and inborn talent to be a great Chief Executioner.

ABEL: You should realize, mother, that when you deprecate Lilith, you not only do her an injustice, you also dishonor my calling.

EULALIA: (Taken aback) I didn't mean to do that. I'm only trying to keep you from straying from the path to greatness.

ABEL: But you should know that Lilith wants me to achieve greatness as much as you do.

LILITH: It's true. From the very first, I was immediately aware that he was outstanding. I was amazed that anyone could have such an ideal background for the position of Chief Executioner…he has it all: inborn talent, knowledge and determination. I was mystified as to how that could have been possible, until he told me about you and your outlook, and I understood. It is you who made it all possible.

EULALIA: (Completely disarmed) That's so very generous of you. (Pause) …but, but I still can't approve of Abel's working at a…job. Yes, I know you both call it a position but that's only playing with words.

LILITH; You haven't taken in the full impact of the place the Chief Executioner occupies. They have to talk about him with enormous respect.They only dare speak his name in a whisper.

EULALIA: In a whisper?

LILITH: Yes, and that's because they can't help but fear him and his power.

EULALIA: Oh, my dear, I'm beginning to understand. And I can see that you really are sincere, and perhaps I tend to be a bit foolish in my stubbornness. (Extending her cheek for a kiss…which they do with the traditional "air kiss" of reconciliation.) Please call me Eulalia, Lilith.

LILITH: With pleasure, Eulalia.

EULALIA: I see it all now. So worried and fearful a moment ago, but now I'm more certain than ever of Abel's becoming great than I've ever been. (Looks around office) And now it's time I got busy. I think that Malachi and I will use that part over there (points to a corner) It's not much room, but we'll make the best of it.We'll try to move in tomorrow.

LILITH: Eulalia, no.

EULALIA: What do you mean, no. And how is it your place to say no to me.

LILITH: It just wouldn't be right. You must not move in here.

EULALIA: I'm his mother. Doesn't that mean anything?

LILITH: Yes it does. It means everything. First of all, Abel has a huge responsibility and should be independent of the influence of a parent-especially one like yourself who has such an enormous power over his inner spirit. That all by itself should be strong enough a reason for you not moving in. But in addition you should bear in mind the effect it would have on Abel's image in the world. The Chief Executioner isn't supposed to have a mother influencing his every action…and if word got around that not only does he have such a mother, but that she is standing over him every minute of the day, living with him…the people would stop whispering his name and instead would be laughing at the very sound of his name. There would be no dread. And I know you don't want to have him lose his chance for greatness. Really, as a mother, don't you see that giving up the privilege of moving in here, is one of the heroic sacrifices a mother must make on behalf of her child?

EULALIA: Easy for you to ask me to be a heroine.

LILITH: I know it's hard. I know how you feel because I share your hopes for Abel. He is not just a man to us both…but a presence. An occasion for something extraordinary to take place. Right now he is of quite remarkable importance, but soon his power will loom larger and larger in the world. You and I can sense that even now. But soon others less perceptive will see it too. Then at last he will be at the center of everything. He will be living our dreams…both our dreams…the ones you had first, and we both share now.

EULALIA: (Moved despite herself) You say just what I feel.

LILITH: From now on, as he does his demanding work, he will doing what our dream has foretold. As he readies a noose he will be living out what we hope for him. When he sharpens a blade he will see your image and mine reflected in the gleam of the metal. As he measures out the cyanide capsules, our warmth will be in his heart.

EULALIA: I see now that through your help, it will now be possible for Abel to make my dreams for him to come true. I, Eulalia, his mother, give over to you to have and to hold forever the dreams I had for him.

LILITH: Your dreams and mine will always be the same.

ABEL: (He has been standing off to one side) I see you've made up.

EULALIA: Yes, we've made up.

ABEL: That's nice. .

LILITH: And to show you how we feel about you I want to present to you this permanent pass to all of the Executions Abel will conduct. (She goes over to the Scroll and tears off a small corner and hands it to Eulalia)

EULALIA: I can't control my tears any longer (Cries into handkerchief)

LILITH: Of course, but you've been so brave and strong, I know you'll be there to help us by being brave in another way, now…now that the goal is in sight.

EULALIA: Take good care of our dreams.

LILITH: You can be sure of that. And we won't be forever apart. We'll see each other often. And I promise that we'll have a reception at the first execution, and you'll be guest of honor. Goodbye and good luck.

EULALIA: And to both of you, my dears.

LILITH AND ABEL: (Holding up the unrolled scroll) On to greatness.


Scene 6 - World of Work




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