On the street there is a covered table, behind which feast several young men and women. One of the feasting, the young man, addressing the chairman of the feast, recalls their mutual friend, the merry Jackson, whose jokes and witticisms amused everyone, revitalized the feast and dispelled the darkness that now sends the ferocious plague to the city. Jackson is dead, his chair at the table is empty, and the young man offers a drink in his memory. The chairman agrees, but believes that it is necessary to drink in silence, and everyone silently drinks in memory of Jackson.
The chairman of the feast appeals to a young woman named Mary and asks her to sing the dull and lingering song of her native Scotland, then to turn again to merriment. Mary sings about her native side, which flourished in contentment, until disaster struck her and the party of fun and work turned into the land of death and sorrow. The heroine of the song asks her darling not to touch her Jenny and leave her hometown until the contagion blows, and swears not to leave her beloved Edmond even in heaven.
The Chairman thanked Mary for the plaintive song and suggests that once her region was visited by the same plague as the one that now mows all living things here. Mary remembers how she sang in the hut of her parents, how they loved to listen to their daughter… But suddenly Luiz’s sarcastic and insolent words burst into the conversation, saying that now such songs are out of fashion, although there are still simple souls ready to melt from the women’s tears and blindly believe them. Louise screams that she hates the yellowness of these Scottish hair. The chairman intervenes in the dispute, he calls on the feasting party to listen to the knocking of the wheels. A cart loaded with corpses is approaching. The cart is ruled by a Negro. At the sight of this spectacle, Louise becomes ill, and the chairman asks Mary to splash water in her face to bring her to life. With his fainting, the chairman assures, Louise proved that “
The young man explains to Louise that the black cart is allowed to go around everywhere, and asks Walsingham to sing a song, but not a sad Scottish... “but violent, bacchic song,” to stop the controversy and “the effects of female faints,” and the chairman sings a darkly inspired hymn instead of a bacchic song in honor of the plague. In this hymn there is a praise for the plague that can bestow an unparalleled ecstasy, which a strong spirit man can feel in the face of a threatening death, and this pleasure in battle is “immortality, perhaps, a pledge!”. He is happy, the chairman sings, to whom it is given to feel this pleasure.
While Walsingam sings, an old priest enters. He reproaches the feasts for their blasphemous feast, calling them atheists, the priest believes that by their feast they are outraging “the horror of the sacred funerals”, and their delights “confuse the silence of the coffins.” The feasts laugh at the gloomy words of the priest, and he conjures them with the Blood of the Savior to stop the monstrous feast, if they wish to meet the souls of the deceased loved ones in heaven, and go home. The chairman objects to the priest that they are sad at home, and youth loves joy. The priest rebukes Walsingham and reminds him how just three weeks ago he was on his knees embracing the corpse of his mother “and screaming with a scream over her grave.” He claims that now a poor woman is crying in heaven, looking at her feasting son. He tells Walsingham to follow him, but Walsingham refuses to do this, because he is held in despair and terrible memories, as well as his own lawlessness, he is kept here by the horror of the dead emptiness of his home, even the shadow of his mother can not take him away, and he asks the priest to retire. Many admire the bold rebuke of Walsingham to the priest, who conjures the wicked with the pure spirit of Matilda. This name leads the chairman into a mental turmoil, he says that he sees her where his fallen spirit will not reach. A woman notices that Walsingham is mad and “raving about his wife buried.” The priest persuades Walsingham to leave, but Walsingham God’s name begs the priest to leave him and retire. Calling on the Holy Name, the priest leaves, the feast continues, but Walsingham “remains in deep thoughtfulness.”