The Wager, Part 2

Me
How did the poor man feel when the door closed behind him, when he saw the four walls that will be the boundary of his world? What did he think as he heard the door close, when he had sentenced himself, and he had undertaken this fearful confinement? A bet to win two million dollars; two million, what is two million?
Simeon
Where am I? Somehow I must have gone to sleep fully clothed! Yet how can I have so immediately fallen asleep with the terms of this bet, this curse of my own making, fresh upon me? It is daylight, and I shall begin to take an inventory: a strong field mattress, a chair, a table, a bucket of water. And a piano!
Simeon
In any event, I’ve never had time to learn to play piano! I can study it now! I will send for a manual, and I will teach myself. Meantime I will place a note high up on the window ledge and wait and in due time some food and a book will appear there, and I’ll eat and then begin practicing piano chords and scales!
Simeon
But first I must wait, and wait! I am increasingly terrified of the square of sunlight from my window, for it has scarcely moved with all that has happened. Sadly, less than an hour has passed since I awoke, and that patch of sunlight has moved less than six inches. Mansion talk
Me
Incidentally, what do you hear from our guest at the bottom of the gardens? Does he seem contented?
Servant
You be the judge; I’ll read his notes: Oh my dear jailer, please send me coffee and a manual for the study of the piano.  That was his first note two weeks ago.
Me
You saved this?
Servant
Indeed, I’ll Read some more: My dear jailer make me laugh: send me a book that will make me laugh.
Me
Oh, pitiful!
Servant
Yes, and this, he sent it an hour ago. I beg of you dear jailer when the servant brings my coffee tomorrow let him say good morning. I must hear the sound of a human voice!
Servant
Well Stukovich what do we do?
Me
It was determined that the prisoner will be served in silence. After all, those were the terms of the bet. Feeding the prisoner
Simeon
You there, you who just put the tray in my window, say something! Speak to me! Say “here is your breakfast, Simeon Ivana.” Or just say “God be with you!” Is that too much to ask?  Is it yours to judge me? Above all else, let me hear the sound of a human voice!
Simeon
I can hear a human voice. One can hear all the human voices one likes. It only requires that I go to the door, touch the latch, and step outside. Then I’m as free as other men. I shall will my fingers to reach for the latch. It is done. Yet I did not go out the door, something stopped me!  I’ll go back to my piano.
Simeon
For days and months on end I have sat at my piano keyboard until I knew I was master of the instrument.
Simeon
I sent for books till they were stacked to the ceiling and, by myself, read the great writing of all time, and the philosophers: Aristotle, Socrates, Confucius. The second year I read six hundred volumes. In the third year, I approached the realm of the Natural Sciences. I read chemistry, biology, astronomy, and I set about the study of languages: Latin, Greek, French, German, even Sandscrit and Aramaic and early Egyptian. These studies occupied seven years of my confinement so that no season that passed seemed half so long as that first morning in the gardener’s cottage. Someone to talk to
Me
Sergei! I am very glad to see you!
Sergei
I came as quickly as I could. What is wrong?
Me
At a time such as this, a man needs someone to talk with, my friend! Since sunrise this morning I have lost fifty million dollars!
Sergei
Fifty million dollars! How did it happen?
Me
A small loss started it, then I tried to recover that with a larger investment. I lost again, doubled the stakes, and so on.
Sergei
Did you lose everything?
Me
No, no, Sergei. I have a few millions remaining.
Sergei
What about the bet?
Me
I can’t afford to lose it now; I can only hope that my visitor at the foot of the garden will choose to escape before the 15th year — either to escape or to die. Hand across
Simeon
These events were not known to me, only that my books came in cheaper bindings. The food was plainer now. I could see the vines growing wild across my little square of sky. I became terribly depressed.
Simeon
My tenth year in that prison cell was a nightmare as my mind refused to grasp, my eyes refused to read, my tongue to taste. In addition, my legs hated to walk any distance.
Simeon
Then one day I found on my windowsill a book I hadn’t requested, a Holy Bible. For two years I read nothing else. The exchange
Sergei
You’ll still supply whatever he asks?
Me
 I place everything on his windowsill myself!
Sergei
Why not have your servants do it?
Me
I no longer keeping a servant, sir. Things have gone very badly with me. On the exchange there have been still more losses.
Sergei
And if you move, the bet?
Me
I’m still a gentleman, a man.
Sergei
Ivana!
Me
I’ve given my word and I shall keep it by selling all my property, even my clothing.  I shall be able to raise two million dollars.
Me
An hour from now it will be midnight and he will have won the bet. He will have two million dollars at that time, and I will have the coat on my back. That is all there is, nothing left. The man must die, Sergei. The wealthy man
Me
Sergei, my God, he’s gone!
Simeon
No, my friend, I’m here by the piano! Put away your gun; it’s not yet midnight, you haven’t lost the bet.
Me
Not yet, Simeon. But I must tell you, I do not intend to lose it!
Simeon
There is something I must say to you before this business is concluded. What music is appropriate, what shall I play?
Me
“The Dance Macabre.”
Simeon
In a few moments, unless you choose to put a bullet through my head, I shall be a millionaire twice over, and a free man after fifteen years in a solitary cell.  These fifteen years I have studied earthly life in your books. I have spanned continents, sung songs, run after deer in the forests.
Me
Certainly you have had time to study, but what exactly have you found?
Simeon
Through the magic of your poets, beautiful women have whispered wonderful tales to me that made my head spin. I have climbed to the summit of Mont Blanc and seen the sunrise and watched it turn the rim of the ocean red at twilight. It was easy to see from there how lightning cleaves the clouds, and later I witnessed green forests, fields, rivers, lakes, cities in your books. I worked miracles, preached new religions, all in this cell!
Me
Have you gone senseless?
Simeon
Hardly, I have regained my senses and my soul! For, as the total sum of human thought and aspiration is compressed into a little lump in my skull, I have come to despise your way of life. Everything in your existence is a false voyage, a mirage! Indeed, you have taken falsehood for truth, ugliness for beauty! What is more, as I read your books and meditated, I became appalled at how you could have traded heaven. Who wins?
Me
Do you mean what I think you mean?
Simeon
Yes, to show you my contempt for the way you’ve lived, I hereby give up my claim to the two million dollars! I give up this fortune that I once considered paradise by leaving this cell at five minutes before midnight! Isn’t that not the time now?
Me
Yes.
Simeon
Then I shall wish you good night, my dear old friend, and may God be with you!
Me
I wish…
Simeon
I am out here on the path!
Me
But it is not yet midnight. In other words, you’ve lost
Simeon
Therefor I am saved and wealthy, and so are you — in your way. You have won the bet; in other words you can keep your millions!