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Project Gutenberg's Plays by Chekhov, Second Series, by Anton Chekhov
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org
Title: Plays by Chekhov, Second Series
On the High Road, The Proposal, The Wedding, The Bear, A
Tragedian In Spite of Himself, The Anniversary, The Three
Sisters, The Cherry Orchard
Author: Anton Chekhov
Release Date: April, 2005 [EBook #7986]
Posting Date: August 8, 2009
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK PLAYS BY CHEKHOV, SECOND SERIES ***
Produced by James Rusk and Nicole Apostola
PLAYS BY ANTON CHEKHOV, SECOND SERIES
By Anton Chekhov
Translated, with an Introduction, by Julius West
[The First Series Plays have been previously published
by Project Gutenberg in etext numbers: 1753 through 1756]
CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION
ON THE HIGH ROAD
THE PROPOSAL
THE WEDDING
THE BEAR
A TRAGEDIAN IN SPITE OF HIMSELF
THE ANNIVERSARY
THE THREE SISTERS
THE CHERRY ORCHARD
INTRODUCTION
The last few years have seen a large and generally unsystematic mass of
translations from the Russian flung at the heads and hearts of English
readers. The ready acceptance of Chekhov has been one of the few
successful features of this irresponsible output. He has been welcomed
by British critics with something like affection. Bernard Shaw has
several times remarked: "Every time I see a play by Chekhov, I want to
chuck all my own stuff into the fire." Others, having no such valuable
property to sacrifice on the altar of Chekhov, have not hesitated
to place him side by side with Ibsen, and the other established
institutions of the new theatre. For these reasons it is pleasant to
be able to chronicle the fact that, by way of contrast with the casual
treatment normally handed out to Russian authors, the publishers are
issuing the complete dramatic works of this author. In 1912 they brought
out a volume containing four Chekhov plays, translated by Marian Fell.
All the dramatic works not included in her volume are to be found in the
present one. With the exception of Chekhov's masterpiece, "The Cherry
Orchard" (translated by the late Mr. George Calderon in 1912), none of
these plays have been previously published in book form in England or
America.
It is not the business of a translator to attempt to outdo all others in
singing the praises of his raw material. This is a dangerous process and
may well lead, as it led Mr. Calderon, to drawing the reader's
attention to points of beauty not to be found in the original. A few
bibliographical details are equally necessary, and permissible, and the
elementary principles of Chekhov criticism will also be found useful.
The very existence of "The High Road" (1884); probably the earliest
of its author's plays, will be unsuspected by English readers. During
Chekhov's lifetime it a sort of family legend, after his death it became
a family mystery. A copy was finally discovered only last year in the
Censor's office, yielded up, and published. It had been sent in 1885
under the nom-de-plume "A. Chekhonte," and it had failed to pass. The
Censor, of the time being had scrawled his opinion on the manuscript,
"a depressing and dirty piece,--cannot be licensed." The name of the
gentleman who held this view--Kaiser von Kugelgen--gives another reason
for the educated Russian's low opinion of German-sounding institutions.
Baron von Tuzenbach, the satisfactory person in "The Three Sisters,"
it will be noted, finds it as well, while he is trying to secure the
favours of Irina, to declare that his German ancestry is fairly remote.
This is by way of parenthesis. "The High Road," found after thirty
years, is a most interesting document to the lover of Chekhov. Every
play he wrote in later years was either a one-act farce or a four-act
drama. [Note: "The Swan Song" may occur as an exception. This, however,
is more of a Shakespeare recitation than anything else, and so neither
here nor there.]
In "The High Road" we see, in an embryonic form, the whole later method
of the plays--the deliberate contrast between two strong characters
(Bortsov and Merik in this case), the careful individualization of each
person in a fairly large group by way of an introduction to the main
theme, the concealment of the catastrophe, germ-wise, in the actual
character of the characters, and the of a distinctive group-atmosphere.
It need scarcely be stated that "The High Road" is not a "dirty" piece
according to Russian or to German standards; Chekhov was incapable of
writing a dirty play or story. For the rest, this piece differs from the
others in its presentation, not of Chekhov's favourite middle-classes,
but of the moujik, nourishing, in a particularly stuffy atmosphere, an
intense mysticism and an equally intense thirst for vodka.
"The Proposal" (1889) and "The Bear" (1890) may be taken as good
examples of the sort of humour admired by the average Russian. The
latter play, in another translation, was put on as a curtain-raiser to a
cinematograph entertainment at a London theatre in 1914; and had quite a
pleasant reception from a thoroughly Philistine audience. The humour is
very nearly of the variety most popular over here, the psychology is a
shade subtler. The Russian novelist or dramatist takes to psychology as
some of his fellow-countrymen take to drink; in doing this he achieves
fame by showing us what we already know, and at the same time he kills
his own creative power. Chekhov just escaped the tragedy of suicide by
introspection, and was only enabled to do this by the possession of
a sense of humour. That is why we should not regard "The Bear," "The
Wedding," or "The Anniversary" as the work of a merely humorous young
man, but as the saving graces which made perfect "The Cherry Orchard."
"The Three Sisters" (1901) is said to act better than any other of
Chekhov's plays, and should surprise an English audience exceedingly. It
and "The Cherry Orchard" are the tragedies of doing nothing. The three
sisters have only one desire in the world, to go to Moscow and live
there. There is no reason on earth, economic, sentimental, or other, why
they should not pack their bags and take the next train to Moscow. But
they will not do it. They cannot do it. And we know perfectly well that
if they were transplanted thither miraculously, they would be extremely
unhappy as soon as ever the excitement of the miracle had worn off. In
the other play Mme. Ranevsky can be saved from ruin if she will only
consent to a perfectly simple step--the sale of an estate. She cannot do
this, is ruined, and thrown out into the unsympathetic world. Chekhov is
the dramatist, not of action, but of inaction. The tragedy of inaction
is as overwhelming, when we understand it, as the tragedy of an Othello,
or a Lear, crushed by the wickedness of others. The former is being
enacted daily, but we do not stage it, we do not know how. But who
shall deny that the base of almost all human unhappiness is just this
inaction, manifesting itself in slovenliness of thought and execution,
education, and ideal?
The Russian, painfully conscious of his own weakness, has accepted this
point of view, and regards "The Cherry Orchard" as its master-study in
dramatic form. They speak of the palpitating hush which fell upon the
audience of the Moscow Art Theatre after the first fall of the curtain
at the first performance--a hush so intense as to make Chekhov's friends
undergo the initial emotions of assisting at a vast theatrical failure.
But the silence ryes almost a sob, to be followed, when overcome, by an
epic applause. And, a few months later, Chekhov died.
This volume and that of Marian Fell--with which it is uniform--contain
all the dramatic works of Chekhov. It considered not worth while to
translate a few fragments published posthumously, or a monologue "On the
Evils of Tobacco"--a half humorous lecture by "the husband of his wife;"
which begins "Ladies, and in some respects, gentlemen," as this is
hardly dramatic work. There is also a very short skit on the efficiency
of provincial fire brigades, which was obviously not intended for the
stage and has therefore been omitted.
Lastly, the scheme of transliteration employed has been that, generally
speaking, recommended by the Liverpool School of Russian Studies. This
is distinctly the best of those in the field, but as it would compel
one, e.g., to write a popular female name, "Marya," I have not treated
it absolute respect. For the sake of uniformity with Fell's volume, the
author's name is spelt Tchekoff on the title-page and cover.
J. W.
RUSSIAN WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
AND MONEY EMPLOYED IN THE PLAYS, WITH ENGLISH EQUIVALENTS
1 verst = 3600 feet = 2/3 mile (almost)
1 arshin = 28 inches
1 dessiatin = 2.7 acres
1 copeck = 1/4 d
1 rouble = 100 copecks = 2s. 1d.
ON THE HIGH ROAD
A DRAMATIC STUDY
CHARACTERS
TIHON EVSTIGNEYEV, the proprietor of a inn on the main road
SEMYON SERGEYEVITCH BORTSOV, a ruined landowner
MARIA EGOROVNA, his wife
SAVVA, an aged pilgrim
NAZAROVNA and EFIMOVNA, women pilgrims
FEDYA, a labourer
EGOR MERIK, a tramp
KUSMA, a driver
POSTMAN
BORTSOV'S WIFE'S COACHMAN
PILGRIMS, CATTLE-DEALERS, ETC.
The action takes place in one of the provinces of Southern Russia
[The scene is laid in TIHON'S bar. On the right is the bar-counter and
shelves with bottles. At the back is a door leading out of the house.
Over it, on the outside, hangs a dirty red lantern. The floor and the
forms, which stand against the wall, are closely occupied by pilgrims
and passers-by. Many of them, for lack of space, are sleeping as they
sit. It is late at night. As the curtain rises thunder is heard, and
lightning is seen through the door.]
[TIHON is behind the counter. FEDYA is half-lying in a heap on one
of the forms, and is quietly playing on a concertina. Next to him
is BORTSOV, wearing a shabby summer overcoat. SAVVA, NAZAROVNA, and
EFIMOVNA are stretched out on the floor by the benches.]
EFIMOVNA. [To NAZAROVNA] Give the old man a nudge dear! Can't get any
answer out of him.
NAZAROVNA. [Lifting the corner of a cloth covering of SAVVA'S face] Are
you alive or are you dead, you holy man?
SAVVA. Why should I be dead? I'm alive, mother! [Raises himself on his
elbow] Cover up my feet, there's a saint! That's it. A bit more on the
right one. That's it, mother. God be good to us.
NAZAROVNA. [Wrapping up SAVVA'S feet] Sleep, little father.
SAVVA. What sleep can I have? If only I had the patience to endure this
pain, mother; sleep's quite another matter. A sinner doesn't deserve to
be given rest. What's that noise, pilgrim-woman?
NAZAROVNA. God is sending a storm. The wind is wailing, and the rain is
pouring down, pouring down. All down the roof and into the windows like
dried peas. Do you hear? The windows of heaven are opened... [Thunder]
Holy, holy, holy...
FEDYA. And it roars and thunders, and rages, sad there's no end to
it! Hoooo... it's like the noise of a forest.... Hoooo.... The wind is
wailing like a dog.... [Shrinking back] It's cold! My clothes are wet,
it's all coming in through the open door... you might put me through a
wringer.... [Plays softly] My concertina's damp, and so there's no music
for you, my Orthodox brethren, or else I'd give you such a concert, my
word!--Something marvellous! You can have a quadrille, or a polka, if
you like, or some Russian dance for two.... I can do them all. In the
town, where I was an attendant at the Grand Hotel, I couldn't make any
money, but I did wonders on my concertina. And, I can play the guitar.
A VOICE FROM THE CORNER. A silly speech from a silly fool.
FEDYA. I can hear another of them. [Pause.]
NAZAROVNA. [To SAVVA] If you'd only lie where it was warm now, old man,
and warm your feet. [Pause.] Old man! Man of God! [Shakes SAVVA] Are you
going to die?
FEDYA. You ought to drink a little vodka, grandfather. Drink, and it'll
burn, burn in your stomach, and warm up your heart. Drink, do!
NAZAROVNA. Don't swank, young man! Perhaps the old man is giving back
his soul to God, or repenting for his sins, and you talk like that, and
play your concertina.... Put it down! You've no shame!
FEDYA. And what are you sticking to him for? He can't do anything and
you... with your old women's talk... He can't say a word in reply, and
you're glad, and happy because he's listening to your nonsense.... You
go on sleeping, grandfather; never mind her! Let her talk, don't you
take any notice of her. A woman's tongue is the devil's broom--it will
sweep the good man and the clever man both out of the house. Don't
you mind.... [Waves his hands] But it's thin you are, brother of mine!
Terrible! Like a dead skeleton! No life in you! Are you really dying?
SAVVA. Why should I die? Save me, O Lord, from dying in vain.... I'll
suffer a little, and then get up with God's help.... The Mother of God
won't let me die in a strange land.... I'll die at home.
FEDYA. Are you from far off?
SAVVA. From Vologda. The town itself.... I live there.
FEDYA. And where is this Vologda?
TIHON. The other side of Moscow....
FEDYA. Well, well, well.... You have come a long way, old man! On foot?
SAVVA. On foot, young man. I've been to Tihon of the Don, and I'm
going to the Holy Hills. [Note: On the Donetz, south-east of Kharkov; a
monastery containing a miraculous ikon.]... From there, if God wills it,
to Odessa.... They say you can get to Jerusalem cheap from there, for
twenty-ones roubles, they say....
FEDYA. And have you been to Moscow?
SAVVA. Rather! Five times....
FEDYA. Is it a good town? [Smokes] Well-standing?
Sews. There are many holy places there, young man.... Where there are
many holy places it's always a good town....
BORTSOV. [Goes up to the counter, to TIHON] Once more, please! For the
sake of Christ, give it to me!
FEDYA. The chief thing about a town is that it should be clean. If it's
dusty, it must be watered; if it's dirty, it must be cleaned. There
ought to be big houses... a theatre... police... cabs, which... I've
lived in a town myself, I understand.
BORTSOV. Just a little glass. I'll pay you for it later.
TIHON. That's enough now.
BORTSOV. I ask you! Do be kind to me!
TIHON. Get away!
BORTSOV. You don't understand me.... Understand me, you fool, if there's
a drop of brain in your peasant's wooden head, that it isn't I who am
asking you, but my inside, using the words you understand, that's what's
asking! My illness is what's asking! Understand!
TIHON. We don't understand anything.... Get back!
BORTSOV. Because if I don't have a drink at once, just you understand
this, if I don't satisfy my needs, I may commit some crime. God only
knows what I might do! In the time you've kept this place, you rascal,
haven't you seen a lot of drunkards, and haven't you yet got to
understand what they're like? They're diseased! You can do anything you
like to them, but you must give them vodka! Well, now, I implore you!
Please! I humbly ask you! God only knows how humbly!
TIHON. You can have the vodka if you pay for it.
BORTSOV. Where am I to get the money? I've drunk it all! Down to the
ground! What can I give you? I've only got this coat, but I can't give
you that. I've nothing on underneath.... Would you like my cap? [Takes
it off and gives it to TIHON]
TIHON. [Looks it over] Hm.... There are all sorts of caps.... It might
be a sieve from the holes in it....
FEDYA. [Laughs] A gentleman's cap! You've got to take it off in front of
the mam'selles. How do you do, good-bye! How are you?
TIHON. [Returns the cap to BORTSOV] I wouldn't give anything for it.
It's muck.
BORTSOV. If you don't like it, then let me owe you for the drink! I'll
bring in your five copecks on my way back from town. You can take it and
choke yourself with it then! Choke yourself! I hope it sticks in your
throat! [Coughs] I hate you!
TIHON. [Banging the bar-counter with his fist] Why do you keep on like
that? What a man! What are you here for, you swindler?
BORTSOV. I want a drink! It's not I, it's my disease! Understand that!
TIHON. Don't you make me lose my temper, or you'll soon find yourself
outside!
BORTSOV. What am I to do? [Retires from the bar-counter] What am I to
do? [Is thoughtful.]
EFIMOVNA. It's the devil tormenting you. Don't you mind him, sir. The
damned one keeps whispering, "Drink! Drink!" And you answer him, "I
shan't drink! I shan't drink!" He'll go then.
FEDYA. It's drumming in his head.... His stomach's leading him on!
[Laughs] Your houour's a happy man. Lie down and go to sleep! What's the
use of standing like a scarecrow in the middle of the inn! This isn't an
orchard!
BORTSOV. [Angrily] Shut up! Nobody spoke to you, you donkey.
FEDYA. Go on, go on! We've seen the like of you before! There's a lot
like you tramping the high road! As to being a donkey, you wait till
I've given you a clout on the ear and you'll howl worse than the wind.
Donkey yourself! Fool! [Pause] Scum!
NAZAROVNA. The old man may be saying a prayer, or giving up his soul
to God, and here are these unclean ones wrangling with one another and
saying all sorts of... Have shame on yourselves!
FEDYA. Here, you cabbage-stalk, you keep quiet, even if you are in a
public-house. Just you behave like everybody else.
BORTSOV. What am I to do? What will become of me? How can I make him
understand? What else can I say to him? [To TIHON] The blood's boiling
in my chest! Uncle Tihon! [Weeps] Uncle Tihon!
SAWA. [Groans] I've got shooting-pains in my leg, like bullets of
fire.... Little mother, pilgrim.
EFIMOVNA. What is it, little father?
SAVVA. Who's that crying?
EFIMOVNA. The gentleman.
SAVVA. Ask him to shed a tear for me, that I might die in Vologda.
Tearful prayers are heard.
BORTSOV. I'm not praying, grandfather! These aren't tears! Just juice!
My soul is crushed; and the juice is running. [Sits by SAVVA] Juice!
But you wouldn't understand! You, with your darkened brain, wouldn't
understand. You people are all in the dark!
SAVVA. Where will you find those who live in the light?
BORTSOV. They do exist, grandfather.... They would understand!
SAVVA. Yes, yes, dear friend.... The saints lived in the light.... They
understood all our griefs.... You needn't even tell them.... and they'll
understand.... Just by looking at your eyes.... And then you'll have
such peace, as if you were never in grief at all--it will all go!
FEDYA. And have you ever seen any saints?
SAVVA. It has happened, young man.... There are many of all sorts on
this earth. Sinners, and servants of God.
BORTSOV. I don't understand all this.... [Gets up quickly] What's the
use of talking when you don't understand, and what sort of a brain have
I now? I've only an instinct, a thirst! [Goes quickly to the counter]
Tihon, take my coat! Understand? [Tries to take it off] My coat...
TIHON. And what is there under your coat? [Looks under it] Your naked
body? Don't take it off, I shan't have it.... I'm not going to burden my
soul with a sin.
[Enter MERIK.]
BORTSOV. Very well, I'll take the sin on myself! Do you agree?
MERIK. [In silence takes of his outer cloak and remains in a sleeveless
jacket. He carries an axe in his belt] A vagrant may sweat where a bear
will freeze. I am hot. [Puts his axe on the floor and takes off his
jacket] You get rid of a pailful of sweat while you drag one leg out of
the mud. And while you are dragging it out, the other one goes farther
in.
EFIMOVNA. Yes, that's true... is the rain stopping, dear?
MERIK. [Glancing at EFIMOVNA] I don't talk to old women. [A pause.]
BORTSOV. [To TIHON] I'll take the sin on myself. Do you hear me or don't
you?
TIHON. I don't want to hear you, get away!
MERIK. It's as dark as if the sky was painted with pitch. You can't
see your own nose. And the rain beats into your face like a snowstorm!
[Picks up his clothes and axe.]
FEDYA. It's a good thing for the likes of us thieves. When the cat's
away the mice will play.
MERIK. Who says that?
FEDYA. Look and see... before you forget.
MERIN. We'll make a note of it.... [Goes up to TIHON] How do you do, you
with the large face! Don't you remember me.
TIHON. If I'm to remember every one of you drunkards that walks the high
road, I reckon I'd need ten holes in my forehead.
MERIK. Just look at me.... [A pause.]
TIHON. Oh, yes; I remember. I knew you by your eyes! [Gives him his
hand] Andrey Polikarpov?
MERIK. I used to be Andrey Polikarpov, but now I am Egor Merik.
TIHON. Why's that?
MERIK. I call myself after whatever passport God gives me. I've been
Merik for two months. [Thunder] Rrrr.... Go on thundering, I'm not
afraid! [Looks round] Any police here?
TIHON. What are you talking about, making mountains out of
mole-hills?... The people here are all right... The police are fast
asleep in their feather beds now.... [Loudly] Orthodox brothers, mind
your pockets and your clothes, or you'll have to regret it. The man's a
rascal! He'll rob you!
MERIK. They can look out for their money, but as to their clothes--I
shan't touch them. I've nowhere to take them.
TIHON. Where's the devil taking you to?
MERIK. To Kuban.
TIHON. My word!
FEDYA. To Kuban? Really? [Sitting up] It's a fine place. You wouldn't
see such a country, brother, if you were to fall asleep and dream for
three years. They say the birds there, and the beasts are--my God! The
grass grows all the year round, the people are good, and they've so much
land they don't know what to do with it! The authorities, they say... a
soldier was telling me the other day... give a hundred dessiatins ahead.
There's happiness, God strike me!
MERIK. Happiness.... Happiness goes behind you.... You don't see it.
It's as near as your elbow is, but you can't bite it. It's all
silly.... [Looking round at the benches and the people] Like a lot of
prisoners.... A poor lot.
EFIMOVNA. [To MERIK] What great, angry, eyes! There's an enemy in you,
young man.... Don't you look at us!
MERIK. Yes, you're a poor lot here.
EFIMOVNA. Turn away! [Nudges SAVVA] Savva, darling, a wicked man is
looking at us. He'll do us harm, dear. [To MERIK] Turn away, I tell you,
you snake!
SAVVA. He won't touch us, mother, he won't touch us.... God won't let
him.
MERIK. All right, Orthodox brothers! [Shrugs his shoulders] Be quiet!
You aren't asleep, you bandy-legged fools! Why don't you say something?
EFIMOVNA. Take your great eyes away! Take away that devil's own pride!
MERIK. Be quiet, you crooked old woman! I didn't come with the devil's
pride, but with kind words, wishing to honour your bitter lot! You're
huddled together like flies because of the cold--I'd be sorry for you,
speak kindly to you, pity your poverty, and here you go grumbling away!
[Goes up to FEDYA] Where are you from?
FEDYA. I live in these parts. I work at the Khamonyevsky brickworks.
MERIK. Get up.
FEDYA. [Raising himself] Well?
MERIK. Get up, right up. I'm going to lie down here.
FEDYA. What's that.... It isn't your place, is it?
MERIK. Yes, mine. Go and lie on the ground!
FEDYA. You get out of this, you tramp. I'm not afraid of you.
MERIK. You're very quick with your tongue.... Get up, and don't talk
about it! You'll be sorry for it, you silly.
TIHON. [To FEDYA] Don't contradict him, young man. Never mind.
FEDYA. What right have you? You stick out your fishy eyes and think
I'm afraid! [Picks up his belongings and stretches himself out on the
ground] You devil! [Lies down and covers himself all over.]
MERIK. [Stretching himself out on the bench] I don't expect you've ever
seen a devil or you wouldn't call me one. Devils aren't like that. [Lies
down, putting his axe next to him.] Lie down, little brother axe... let
me cover you.
TIHON. Where did you get the axe from?
MERIK. Stole it.... Stole it, and now I've got to fuss over it like a
child with a new toy; I don't like to throw it away, and I've nowhere to
put it. Like a beastly wife.... Yes.... [Covering himself over] Devils
aren't like that, brother.
FEDYA. [Uncovering his head] What are they like?
MERIK. Like steam, like air.... Just blow into the air. [Blows] They're
like that, you can't see them.
A VOICE FROM THE CORNER. You can see them if you sit under a harrow.
MERIK. I've tried, but I didn't see any.... Old women's tales, and silly
old men's, too.... You won't see a devil or a ghost or a corpse.... Our
eyes weren't made so that we could see everything.... When I was a boy,
I used to walk in the woods at night on purpose to see the demon of the
woods.... I'd shout and shout, and there might be some spirit, I'd call
for the demon of the woods and not blink my eyes: I'd see all sorts of
little things moving about, but no demon. I used to go and walk about
the churchyards at night, I wanted to see the ghosts--but the women lie.
I saw all sorts of animals, but anything awful--not a sign. Our eyes
weren't...
THE VOICE FROM THE CORNER. Never mind, it does happen that you
do see.... In our village a man was gutting a wild boar... he was
separating the tripe when... something jumped out at him!
SAVVA. [Raising himself] Little children, don't talk about these unclean
things! It's a sin, dears!
MERIK. Aaa... greybeard! You skeleton! [Laughs] You needn't go to the
churchyard to see ghosts, when they get up from under the floor to give
advice to their relations.... A sin!... Don't you teach people your
silly notions! You're an ignorant lot of people living in darkness....
[Lights his pipe] My father was peasant and used to be fond of teaching
people. One night he stole a sack of apples from the village priest, and
he brings them along and tells us, "Look, children, mind you don't eat
any apples before Easter, it's a sin." You're like that.... You don't
know what a devil is, but you go calling people devils.... Take this
crooked old woman, for instance. [Points to EFIMOVNA] She sees an enemy
in me, but is her time, for some woman's nonsense or other, she's given
her soul to the devil five times.
EFIMOVNA. Hoo, hoo, hoo.... Gracious heavens! [Covers her face] Little
Savva!
TIHON. What are you frightening them for? A great pleasure! [The door
slams in the wind] Lord Jesus.... The wind, the wind!
MERIK. [Stretching himself] Eh, to show my strength! [The door slams
again] If I could only measure myself against the wind! Shall I tear the
door down, or suppose I tear up the inn by the roots! [Gets up and lies
down again] How dull!
NAZAROVNA. You'd better pray, you heathen! Why are you so restless?
EFIMOVNA. Don't speak to him, leave him alone! He's looking at us again.
[To MERIK] Don't look at us, evil man! Your eyes are like the eyes of a
devil before cockcrow!
SAVVA. Let him look, pilgrims! You pray, and his eyes won't do you any
harm.
BORTSOV. No, I can't. It's too much for my strength! [Goes up to the
counter] Listen, Tihon, I ask you for the last time.... Just half a
glass!
TIHON. [Shakes his head] The money!
BORTSOV. My God, haven't I told you! I've drunk it all! Where am I to
get it? And you won't go broke even if you do let me have a drop of
vodka on tick. A glass of it only costs you two copecks, and it will
save me from suffering! I am suffering! Understand! I'm in misery, I'm
suffering!
TIHON. Go and tell that to someone else, not to me.... Go and ask the
Orthodox, perhaps they'll give you some for Christ's sake, if they feel
like it, but I'll only give bread for Christ's sake.
BORTSOV. You can rob those wretches yourself, I shan't.... I won't do
it! I won't! Understand? [Hits the bar-counter with his fist] I won't.
[A pause.] Hm... just wait.... [Turns to the pilgrim women] It's an
idea, all the same, Orthodox ones! Spare five copecks! My inside asks
for it. I'm ill!
FEDYA. Oh, you swindler, with your "spare five copecks." Won't you have
some water?
BORTSOV. How I am degrading myself! I don't want it! I don't want
anything! I was joking!
MERIK. You won't get it out of him, sir.... He's a famous skinflint....
Wait, I've got a five-copeck piece somewhere.... We'll have a glass
between us--half each [Searches in his pockets] The devil... it's lost
somewhere.... Thought I heard it tinkling just now in my pocket.... No;
no, it isn't there, brother, it's your luck! [A pause.]
BORTSOV. But if I can't drink, I'll commit a crime or I'll kill
myself.... What shall I do, my God! [Looks through the door] Shall I go
out, then? Out into this darkness, wherever my feet take me....
MERIK. Why don't you give him a sermon, you pilgrims? And you, Tihon,
why don't you drive him out? He hasn't paid you for his night's
accommodation. Chuck him out! Eh, the people are cruel nowadays. There's
no gentleness or kindness in them.... A savage people! A man is drowning
and they shout to him: "Hurry up and drown, we've got no time to look
at you; we've got to go to work." As to throwing him a rope--there's no
worry about that.... A rope would cost money.
SAVVA. Don't talk, kind man!
MERIK. Quiet, old wolf! You're a savage race! Herods! Sellers of your
souls! [To TIHON] Come here, take off my boots! Look sharp now!
TIHON. Eh, he's let himself go I [Laughs] Awful, isn't it.
MERIK. Go on, do as you're told! Quick now! [Pause] Do you hear me, or
don't you? Am I talking to you or the wall? [Stands up]
TIHON. Well... give over.
MERIK. I want you, you fleecer, to take the boots off me, a poor tramp.
TIHON. Well, well... don't get excited. Here have a glass.... Have a
drink, now!
MERIK. People, what do I want? Do I want him to stand me vodka, or to
take off my boots? Didn't I say it properly? [To TIHON] Didn't you hear
me rightly? I'll wait a moment, perhaps you'll hear me then.
[There is excitement among the pilgrims and tramps, who half-raise
themselves in order to look at TIHON and MERIK. They wait in silence.]
TIHON. The devil brought you here! [Comes out from behind the bar] What
a gentleman! Come on now. [Takes off MERIK'S boots] You child of Cain...
MERIK. That's right. Put them side by side.... Like that... you can go
now!
TIHON. [Returns to the bar-counter] You're too fond of being clever. You
do it again and I'll turn you out of the inn! Yes! [To BORTSOV, who is
approaching] You, again?
BORTSOV. Look here, suppose I give you something made of gold.... I will
give it to you.
TIHON. What are you shaking for? Talk sense!
BORTSOV. It may be mean and wicked on my part, but what am I to do? I'm
doing this wicked thing, not reckoning on what's to come.... If I was
tried for it, they'd let me off. Take it, only on condition that you
return it later, when I come back from town. I give it to you in front
of these witnesses. You will be my witnesses! [Takes a gold medallion
out from the breast of his coat] Here it is.... I ought to take the
portrait out, but I've nowhere to put it; I'm wet all over.... Well,
take the portrait, too! Only mind this... don't let your fingers touch
that face.... Please... I was rude to you, my dear fellow, I was a fool,
but forgive me and... don't touch it with your fingers.... Don't look at
that face with your eyes. [Gives TIHON the medallion.]
TIHON. [Examining it] Stolen property.... All right, then, drink....
[Pours out vodka] Confound you.
BORTSOV. Only don't you touch it... with your fingers. [Drinks slowly,
with feverish pauses.]
TIHON. [Opens the medallion] Hm... a lady!... Where did you get hold of
this?
MERIK. Let's have a look. [Goes to the bar] Let's see.
TIHON. [Pushes his hand away] Where are you going to? You look somewhere
else!
FEDYA. [Gets up and comes to TIHON] I want to look too!
[Several of the tramps, etc., approach the bar and form a group. MERIK
grips TIHON's hand firmly with both his, looks at the portrait, in the
medallion in silence. A pause.]
MERIK. A pretty she-devil. A real lady....
FEDYA. A real lady.... Look at her cheeks, her eyes.... Open your hand,
I can't see. Hair coming down to her waist.... It is lifelike! She might
be going to say something.... [Pause.]
MERIK. It's destruction for a weak man. A woman like that gets a hold on
one and... [Waves his hand] you're done for!
[KUSMA'S voice is heard. "Trrr.... Stop, you brutes!" Enter KUSMA.]
KUSMA. There stands an inn upon my way. Shall I drive or walk past it,
say? You can pass your own father and not notice him, but you can see an
inn in the dark a hundred versts away. Make way, if you believe in God!
Hullo, there! [Planks a five-copeck piece down on the counter] A glass
of real Madeira! Quick!
FEDYA. Oh, you devil!
TIHON. Don't wave your arms about, or you'll hit somebody.
KUSMA. God gave us arms to wave about. Poor sugary things, you're
half-melted. You're frightened of the rain, poor delicate things.
[Drinks.]
EFIMOVNA. You may well get frightened, good man, if you're caught on
your way in a night like this. Now, thank God, it's all right, there
are many villages and houses where you can shelter from the weather, but
before that there weren't any. Oh, Lord, it was bad! You walk a hundred
versts, and not only isn't there a village; or a house, but you don't
even see a dry stick. So you sleep on the ground....
KUSMA. Have you been long on this earth, old woman?
EFIMOVNA. Over seventy years, little father.
KUSMA. Over seventy years! You'll soon come to crow's years. [Looks at
BORTSOV] And what sort of a raisin is this? [Staring at BORTSOV] Sir!
[BORTSOV recognizes KUSMA and retires in confusion to a corner of the
room, where he sits on a bench] Semyon Sergeyevitch! Is that you, or
isn't it? Eh? What are you doing in this place? It's not the sort of
place for you, is it?
BORTSOV. Be quiet!
MERIK. [To KUSMA] Who is it?
KUSMA. A miserable sufferer. [Paces irritably by the counter] Eh? In an
inn, my goodness! Tattered! Drunk! I'm upset, brothers... upset....
[To MERIK, in an undertone] It's my master... our landlord. Semyon
Sergeyevitch and Mr. Bortsov.... Have you ever seen such a state? What
does he look like? Just... it's the drink that brought him to this....
Give me some more! [Drinks] I come from his village, Bortsovka; you may
have heard of it, it's 200 versts from here, in the Ergovsky district.
We used to be his father's serfs.... What a shame!
MERIK. Was he rich?
KUSMA. Very.
MERIK. Did he drink it all?
KUSMA. No, my friend, it was something else.... He used to be great and
rich and sober.... [To TIHON] Why you yourself used to see him riding,
as he used to, past this inn, on his way to the town. Such bold and
noble horses! A carriage on springs, of the best quality! He used to
own five troikas, brother.... Five years ago, I remember, he cam here
driving two horses from Mikishinsky, and he paid with a five-rouble
piece.... I haven't the time, he says, to wait for the change.... There!
MERIK. His brain's gone, I suppose.
KUSMA. His brain's all right.... It all happened because of his
cowardice! From too much fat. First of all, children, because of a
woman.... He fell in love with a woman of the town, and it seemed to him
that there wasn't any more beautiful thing in the wide world. A fool may
love as much as a wise man. The girl's people were all right.... But
she wasn't exactly loose, but just... giddy... always changing her mind!
Always winking at one! Always laughing and laughing.... No sense at all.
The gentry like that, they think that's nice, but we moujiks would soon
chuck her out.... Well, he fell in love, and his luck ran out. He began
to keep company with her, one thing led to another... they used to go
out in a boat all night, and play pianos....
BORTSOV. Don't tell them, Kusma! Why should you? What has my life got to
do with them?
KUSMA. Forgive me, your honour, I'm only telling them a little... what
does it matter, anyway.... I'm shaking all over. Pour out some more.
[Drinks.]
MERIK. [In a semitone] And did she love him?
KUSMA. [In a semitone which gradually becomes his ordinary voice] How
shouldn't she? He was a man of means.... Of course you'll fall in love
when the man has a thousand dessiatins and money to burn.... He was a
solid, dignified, sober gentleman... always the same, like this... give
me your hand [Takes MERIK'S hand] "How do you do and good-bye, do me
the favour." Well, I was going one evening past his garden--and what a
garden, brother, versts of it--I was going along quietly, and I look and
see the two of them sitting on a seat and kissing each other. [Imitates
the sound] He kisses her once, and the snake gives him back two.... He
was holding her white, little hand, and she was all fiery and kept on
getting closer and closer, too.... "I love you," she says. And he, like
one of the damned, walks about from one place to another and brags,
the coward, about his happiness.... Gives one man a rouble, and two to
another.... Gives me money for a horse. Let off everybody's debts....
BORTSOV. Oh, why tell them all about it? These people haven't any
sympathy.... It hurts!
KUSMA. It's nothing, sir! They asked me! Why shouldn't I tell them?
But if you are angry I won't... I won't.... What do I care for them....
[Post-bells are heard.]
FEDYA. Don't shout; tell us quietly....
KUSMA. I'll tell you quietly.... He doesn't want me to, but it can't be
helped.... But there's nothing more to tell. They got married, that's
all. There was nothing else. Pour out another drop for Kusma the stony!
[Drinks] I don't like people getting drunk! Why the time the wedding
took place, when the gentlefolk sat down to supper afterwards, she went
off in a carriage... [Whispers] To the town, to her lover, a lawyer....
Eh? What do you think of her now? Just at the very moment! She would be
let off lightly if she were killed for it!
MERIK. [Thoughtfully] Well... what happened then?
KUSMA. He went mad.... As you see, he started with a fly, as they say,
and now it's grown to a bumble-bee. It was a fly then, and now--it's
a bumble-bee.... And he still loves her. Look at him, he loves her! I
expect he's walking now to the town to get a glimpse of her with one
eye.... He'll get a glimpse of her, and go back....
[The post has driven up to the in.. The POSTMAN enters and has a drink.]
TIHON. The post's late to-day!
[The POSTMAN pays in silence and goes out. The post drives off, the
bells ringing.]
A VOICE FROM THE CORNER. One could rob the post in weather like
this--easy as spitting.
MERIK. I've been alive thirty-five years and I haven't robbed the post
once.... [Pause] It's gone now... too late, too late....
KUSMA. Do you want to smell the inside of a prison?
MERIK. People rob and don't go to prison. And if I do go! [Suddenly]
What else?
KUSMA. Do you mean that unfortunate?
MERIK. Who else?
KUSMA. The second reason, brothers, why he was ruined was because of
his brother-in-law, his sister's husband.... He took it into his head to
stand surety at the bank for 30,000 roubles for his brother-in-law. The
brother-in-law's a thief.... The swindler knows which side his bread's
buttered and won't budge an inch.... So he doesn't pay up.... So our man
had to pay up the whole thirty thousand. [Sighs] The fool is suffering
for his folly. His wife's got children now by the lawyer and the
brother-in-law has bought an estate near Poltava, and our man goes
round inns like a fool, and complains to the likes of us: "I've lost all
faith, brothers! I can't believe in anybody now!" It's cowardly! Every
man has his grief, a snake that sucks at his heart, and does that mean
that he must drink? Take our village elder, for example. His wife plays
about with the schoolmaster in broad daylight, and spends his money on
drink, but the elder walks about smiling to himself. He's just a little
thinner...
TIHON. [Sighs] When God gives a man strength....
KUSMA. There's all sorts of strength, that's true.... Well? How much
does it come to? [Pays] Take your pound of flesh! Good-bye, children!
Good-night and pleasant dreams! It's time I hurried off. I'm bringing
my lady a midwife from the hospital.... She must be getting wet with
waiting, poor thing.... [Runs out. A pause.]
TIHON. Oh, you! Unhappy man, come and drink this! [Pours out.]
BORTSOV. [Comes up to the bar hesitatingly and drinks] That means I now
owe you for two glasses.
TIHON. You don't owe me anything? Just drink and drown your sorrows!
FEDYA. Drink mine, too, sir! Oh! [Throws down a five-copeck piece] If
you drink, you die; if you don't drink, you die. It's good not to drink
vodka, but by God you're easier when you've got some! Vodka takes grief
away.... It is hot!
BORTSOV. Boo! The heat!
MERIK. Dive it here! [Takes the medallion from TIHON and examines her
portrait] Hm. Ran off after the wedding. What a woman!
A VOICE FROM THE CORNER. Pour him out another glass, Tihon. Let him
drink mine, too.
MERIK. [Dashes the medallion to the ground] Curse her! [Goes quickly to
his place and lies down, face to the wall. General excitement.]
BORTSOV. Here, what's that? [Picks up the medallion] How dare you, you
beast? What right have you? [Tearfully] Do you want me to kill you? You
moujik! You boor!
TIHON. Don't be angry, sir.... It isn't glass, it isn't broken.... Have
another drink and go to sleep. [Pours out] Here I've been listening to
you all, and when I ought to have locked up long ago. [Goes and looks
door leading out.]
BORTSOV. [Drinks] How dare he? The fool! [to MERIK] Do you understand?
You're a fool, a donkey!
SAVVA. Children! If you please! Stop that talking! What's the good of
making a noise? Let people go to sleep.
TIHON. Lie down, lie down... be quiet! [Goes behind the counter and
locks the till] It's time to sleep.
FEDYA. It's time! [Lies down] Pleasant dreams, brothers!
MERIK. [Gets up and spreads his short fur and coat the bench] Come on,
lie down, sir.
TIHON. And where will you sleep.
MERIK. Oh, anywhere.... The floor will do.... [Spreads a coat on the
floor] It's all one to me [Puts the axe by him] It would be torture for
him to sleep on the floor. He's used to silk and down....
TIHON. [To BORTSOV] Lie down, your honour! You've looked at that
portrait long enough. [Puts out a candle] Throw it away!
BORTSOV. [Swaying about] Where can I lie down?
TIHON. In the tramp's place! Didn't you hear him giving it up to you?
BORTSOV. [Going up to the vacant place] I'm a bit... drunk... after all
that.... Is this it?... Do I lie down here? Eh?
TIHON. Yes, yes, lie down, don't be afraid. [Stretches himself out on
the counter.]
BORTSOV. [Lying down] I'm... drunk.... Everything's going round....
[Opens the medallion] Haven't you a little candle? [Pause] You're
a queer little woman Masha.... Looking at me out of the frame and
laughing.... [Laughs] I'm drunk! And should you laugh at a man because
he's drunk? You look out, as Schastlivtsev says, and... love the
drunkard.
FEDYA. How the wind howls. It's dreary!
BORTSOV. [Laughs] What a woman.... Why do you keep on going round? I
can't catch you!
MERIK. He's wandering. Looked too long at the portrait. [Laughs] What
a business! Educated people go and invent all sorts of machines and
medicines, but there hasn't yet been a man wise enough to invent a
medicine against the female sex.... They try to cure every sort of
disease, and it never occurs to them that more people die of women
than of disease.... Sly, stingy, cruel, brainless.... The mother-in-law
torments the bride and the bride makes things square by swindling the
husband... and there's no end to it....
TIHON. The women have ruffled his hair for him, and so he's bristly.
MERIK. It isn't only I.... From the beginning of the ages, since the
world has been in existence, people have complained.... It's not for
nothing that in the songs and stories, the devil and the woman are put
side by side.... Not for nothing! It's half true, at any rate... [Pause]
Here's the gentleman playing the fool, but I had more sense, didn't I,
when I left my father and mother, and became a tramp?
FEDYA. Because of women?
MERIK. Just like the gentleman... I walked about like one of the damned,
bewitched, blessing my stars... on fire day and night, until at last my
eyes were opened... It wasn't love, but just a fraud....
FEDYA. What did you do to her?
MERIK. Never you mind.... [Pause] Do you think I killed her?... I
wouldn't do it.... If you kill, you are sorry for it.... She can live
and be happy! If only I'd never set eyes on you, or if I could only
forget you, you viper's brood! [A knocking at the door.]
TIHON. Whom have the devils brought.... Who's there? [Knocking] Who
knocks? [Gets up and goes to the door] Who knocks? Go away, we've locked
up!
A VOICE. Please let me in, Tihon. The carriage-spring's broken! Be a
father to me and help me! If I only had a little string to tie it round
with, we'd get there somehow or other.
TIHON. Who are you?
THE VOICE. My lady is going to Varsonofyev from the town.... It's only
five versts farther on.... Do be a good man and help!
TIHON. Go and tell the lady that if she pays ten roubles she can have
her string and we'll mend the spring.
THE VOICE. Have you gone mad, or what? Ten roubles! You mad dog!
Profiting by our misfortunes!
TIHON. Just as you like.... You needn't if you don't want to.
THE VOICE. Very well, wait a bit. [Pause] She says, all right.
TIHON. Pleased to hear it!
[Opens door. The COACHMAN enters.]
COACHMAN. Good evening, Orthodox people! Well, give me the string!
Quick! Who'll go and help us, children? There'll be something left over
for your trouble!
TIHON. There won't be anything left over.... Let them sleep, the two of
us can manage.
COACHMAN. Foo, I am tired! It's cold, and there's not a dry spot in all
the mud.... Another thing, dear.... Have you got a little room in here
for the lady to warm herself in? The carriage is all on one side, she
can't stay in it....
TIHON. What does she want a room for? She can warm herself in here, if
she's cold.... We'll find a place [Clears a space next to BORTSOV] Get
up, get up! Just lie on the floor for an hour, and let the lady get
warm. [To BORTSOV] Get up, your honour! Sit up! [BORTSOV sits up] Here's
a place for you. [Exit COACHMAN.]
FEDYA. Here's a visitor for you, the devil's brought her! Now there'll
be no sleep before daylight.
TIHON. I'm sorry I didn't ask for fifteen.... She'd have given them....
[Stands expectantly before the door] You're a delicate sort of people, I
must say. [Enter MARIA EGOROVNA, followed by the COACHMAN. TIHON bows.]
Please, your highness! Our room is very humble, full of blackbeetles!
But don't disdain it!
MARIA EGOROVNA. I can't see anything.... Which way do I go?
TIHON. This way, your highness! [Leads her to the place next to BORTSOV]
This way, please. [Blows on the place] I haven't any separate rooms,
excuse me, but don't you be afraid, madam, the people here are good and
quiet....
MARIA EGOROVNA. [Sits next to BORTSOV] How awfully stuffy! Open the
door, at any rate!
TIHON. Yes, madam. [Runs and opens the door wide.]
MARIA. We're freezing, and you open the door! [Gets up and slams it] Who
are you to be giving orders? [Lies down]
TIHON. Excuse me, your highness, but we've a little fool here... a bit
cracked.... But don't you be frightened, he won't do you any harm....
Only you must excuse me, madam, I can't do this for ten roubles.... Make
it fifteen.
MARIA EGOROVNA. Very well, only be quick.
TIHON. This minute... this very instant. [Drags some string out from
under the counter] This minute. [A pause.]
BORTSOV. [Looking at MARIA EGOROVNA] Marie... Masha...
MARIA EGOROVNA. [Looks at BORTSOV] What's this?
BORTSOV. Marie... is it you? Where do you come from? [MARIA EGOROVNA
recognizes BORTSOV, screams and runs off into the centre of the floor.
BORTSOV follows] Marie, it is I... I [Laughs loudly] My wife! Marie!
Where am I? People, a light!
MARIA EGOROVNA. Get away from me! You lie, it isn't you! It can't be!
[Covers her face with her hands] It's a lie, it's all nonsense!
BORTSOV. Her voice, her movements.... Marie, it is I! I'll stop in
a moment.... I was drunk.... My head's going round.... My God! Stop,
stop.... I can't understand anything. [Yells] My wife! [Falls at her
feet and sobs. A group collects around the husband and wife.]
MARIA EGOROVNA. Stand back! [To the COACHMAN] Denis, let's go! I can't
stop here any longer!
MERIK. [Jumps up and looks her steadily in the face] The portrait!
[Grasps her hand] It is she! Eh, people, she's the gentleman's wife!
MARIA EGOROVNA. Get away, fellow! [Tries to tear her hand away from him]
Denis, why do you stand there staring? [DENIS and TIHON run up to her
and get hold of MERIK'S arms] This thieves' kitchen! Let go my hand! I'm
not afraid!... Get away from me!
MERIK. [Note: Throughout this speech, in the original, Merik uses the
familiar second person singular.] Wait a bit, and I'll let go.... Just
let me say one word to you.... One word, so that you may understand....
Just wait.... [Turns to TIHON and DENIS] Get away, you rogues, let go! I
shan't let you go till I've had my say! Stop... one moment. [Strikes
his forehead with his fist] No, God hasn't given me the wisdom! I can't
think of the word for you!
MARIA EGOROVNA. [Tears away her hand] Get away! Drunkards... let's go,
Denis!
[She tries to go out, but MERIK blocks the door.]
MERIK. Just throw a glance at him, with only one eye if you like! Or say
only just one kind little word to him! God's own sake!
MARIA EGOROVNA. Take away this... fool.
MERIK. Then the devil take you, you accursed woman!
[He swings his axe. General confusion. Everybody jumps up noisily and
with cries of horror. SAVVA stands between MERIK and MARIA EGOROVNA....
DENIS forces MERIK to one side and carries out his mistress. After this
all stand as if turned to stone. A prolonged pause. BORTSOV suddenly
waves his hands in the air.]
BORTSOV. Marie... where are you, Marie!
NAZAROVNA. My God, my God! You've torn up my your murderers! What an
accursed night!
MERIK. [Lowering his hand; he still holds the axe] Did I kill her or no?
HIGH ROAD
TIHON. Thank God, your head is safe....
MERIK. Then I didn't kill her.... [Totters to his bed] Fate hasn't sent
me to my death because of a stolen axe.... [Falls down and sobs] Woe!
Woe is me! Have pity on me, Orthodox people!
Curtain.
THE PROPOSAL
CHARACTERS
STEPAN STEPANOVITCH CHUBUKOV, a landowner
NATALYA STEPANOVNA, his daughter, twenty-five years old
IVAN VASSILEVITCH LOMOV, a neighbour of Chubukov, a large and
hearty, but very suspicious landowner
The scene is laid at CHUBUKOV's country-house
A drawing-room in CHUBUKOV'S house.
[LOMOV enters, wearing a dress-jacket and white gloves. CHUBUKOV rises
to meet him.]
CHUBUKOV. My dear fellow, whom do I see! Ivan Vassilevitch! I am
extremely glad! [Squeezes his hand] Now this is a surprise, my
darling... How are you?
LOMOV. Thank you. And how may you be getting on?
CHUBUKOV. We just get along somehow, my angel, to your prayers, and
so on. Sit down, please do.... Now, you know, you shouldn't forget all
about your neighbours, my darling. My dear fellow, why are you so formal
in your get-up? Evening dress, gloves, and so on. Can you be going
anywhere, my treasure?
LOMOV. No, I've come only to see you, honoured Stepan Stepanovitch.
CHUBUKOV. Then why are you in evening dress, my precious? As if you're
paying a New Year's Eve visit!
LOMOV. Well, you see, it's like this. [Takes his arm] I've come to you,
honoured Stepan Stepanovitch, to trouble you with a request. Not once or
twice have I already had the privilege of applying to you for help, and
you have always, so to speak... I must ask your pardon, I am getting
excited. I shall drink some water, honoured Stepan Stepanovitch.
[Drinks.]
CHUBUKOV. [Aside] He's come to borrow money! Shan't give him any!
[Aloud] What is it, my beauty?
LOMOV. You see, Honour Stepanitch... I beg pardon, Stepan Honouritch...
I mean, I'm awfully excited, as you will please notice.... In short, you
alone can help me, though I don't deserve it, of course... and haven't
any right to count on your assistance....
CHUBUKOV. Oh, don't go round and round it, darling! Spit it out! Well?
LOMOV. One moment... this very minute. The fact is, I've come to ask the
hand of your daughter, Natalya Stepanovna, in marriage.
CHUBUKOV. [Joyfully] By Jove! Ivan Vassilevitch! Say it again--I didn't
hear it all!
LOMOV. I have the honour to ask...
CHUBUKOV. [Interrupting] My dear fellow... I'm so glad, and so on....
Yes, indeed, and all that sort of thing. [Embraces and kisses LOMOV]
I've been hoping for it for a long time. It's been my continual desire.
[Sheds a tear] And I've always loved you, my angel, as if you were my
own son. May God give you both His help and His love and so on, and I
did so much hope... What am I behaving in this idiotic way for? I'm off
my balance with joy, absolutely off my balance! Oh, with all my soul...
I'll go and call Natasha, and all that.
LOMOV. [Greatly moved] Honoured Stepan Stepanovitch, do you think I may
count on her consent?
CHUBUKOV. Why, of course, my darling, and... as if she won't consent!
She's in love; egad, she's like a love-sick cat, and so on.... Shan't be
long! [Exit.]
LOMOV. It's cold... I'm trembling all over, just as if I'd got an
examination before me. The great thing is, I must have my mind made up.
If I give myself time to think, to hesitate, to talk a lot, to look for
an ideal, or for real love, then I'll never get married.... Brr!... It's
cold! Natalya Stepanovna is an excellent housekeeper, not bad-looking,
well-educated.... What more do I want? But I'm getting a noise in
my ears from excitement. [Drinks] And it's impossible for me not to
marry.... In the first place, I'm already 35--a critical age, so to
speak. In the second place, I ought to lead a quiet and regular life....
I suffer from palpitations, I'm excitable and always getting awfully
upset.... At this very moment my lips are trembling, and there's a
twitch in my right eyebrow.... But the very worst of all is the way
I sleep. I no sooner get into bed and begin to go off when suddenly
something in my left side--gives a pull, and I can feel it in my
shoulder and head.... I jump up like a lunatic, walk about a bit, and
lie down again, but as soon as I begin to get off to sleep there's
another pull! And this may happen twenty times....
[NATALYA STEPANOVNA comes in.]
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Well, there! It's you, and papa said, "Go; there's a
merchant come for his goods." How do you do, Ivan Vassilevitch!
LOMOV. How do you do, honoured Natalya Stepanovna?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. You must excuse my apron and négligé... we're
shelling peas for drying. Why haven't you been here for such a long
time? Sit down. [They seat themselves] Won't you have some lunch?
LOMOV. No, thank you, I've had some already.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Then smoke.... Here are the matches.... The weather
is splendid now, but yesterday it was so wet that the workmen didn't
do anything all day. How much hay have you stacked? Just think, I felt
greedy and had a whole field cut, and now I'm not at all pleased about
it because I'm afraid my hay may rot. I ought to have waited a bit. But
what's this? Why, you're in evening dress! Well, I never! Are you going
to a ball, or what?--though I must say you look better. Tell me, why are
you got up like that?
LOMOV. [Excited] You see, honoured Natalya Stepanovna... the fact is,
I've made up my mind to ask you to hear me out.... Of course you'll be
surprised and perhaps even angry, but a... [Aside] It's awfully cold!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. What's the matter? [Pause] Well?
LOMOV. I shall try to be brief. You must know, honoured Natalya
Stepanovna, that I have long, since my childhood, in fact, had the
privilege of knowing your family. My late aunt and her husband, from
whom, as you know, I inherited my land, always had the greatest respect
for your father and your late mother. The Lomovs and the Chubukovs
have always had the most friendly, and I might almost say the most
affectionate, regard for each other. And, as you know, my land is a near
neighbour of yours. You will remember that my Oxen Meadows touch your
birchwoods.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Excuse my interrupting you. You say, "my Oxen
Meadows...." But are they yours?
LOMOV. Yes, mine.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. What are you talking about? Oxen Meadows are ours,
not yours!
LOMOV. No, mine, honoured Natalya Stepanovna.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Well, I never knew that before. How do you make that
out?
LOMOV. How? I'm speaking of those Oxen Meadows which are wedged in
between your birchwoods and the Burnt Marsh.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Yes, yes.... They're ours.
LOMOV. No, you're mistaken, honoured Natalya Stepanovna, they're mine.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Just think, Ivan Vassilevitch! How long have they
been yours?
LOMOV. How long? As long as I can remember.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Really, you won't get me to believe that!
LOMOV. But you can see from the documents, honoured Natalya Stepanovna.
Oxen Meadows, it's true, were once the subject of dispute, but now
everybody knows that they are mine. There's nothing to argue about.
You see, my aunt's grandmother gave the free use of these Meadows in
perpetuity to the peasants of your father's grandfather, in return for
which they were to make bricks for her. The peasants belonging to your
father's grandfather had the free use of the Meadows for forty years,
and had got into the habit of regarding them as their own, when it
happened that...
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. No, it isn't at all like that! Both my grandfather
and great-grandfather reckoned that their land extended to Burnt
Marsh--which means that Oxen Meadows were ours. I don't see what there
is to argue about. It's simply silly!
LOMOV. I'll show you the documents, Natalya Stepanovna!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. No, you're simply joking, or making fun of me....
What a surprise! We've had the land for nearly three hundred years, and
then we're suddenly told that it isn't ours! Ivan Vassilevitch, I can
hardly believe my own ears.... These Meadows aren't worth much to me.
They only come to five dessiatins [Note: 13.5 acres], and are worth
perhaps 300 roubles [Note: £30.], but I can't stand unfairness. Say what
you will, but I can't stand unfairness.
LOMOV. Hear me out, I implore you! The peasants of your father's
grandfather, as I have already had the honour of explaining to you, used
to bake bricks for my aunt's grandmother. Now my aunt's grandmother,
wishing to make them a pleasant...
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. I can't make head or tail of all this about aunts
and grandfathers and grandmothers! The Meadows are ours, and that's all.
LOMOV. Mine.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Ours! You can go on proving it for two days on end,
you can go and put on fifteen dress-jackets, but I tell you they're
ours, ours, ours! I don't want anything of yours and I don't want to
give up anything of mine. So there!
LOMOV. Natalya Ivanovna, I don't want the Meadows, but I am acting on
principle. If you like, I'll make you a present of them.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. I can make you a present of them myself, because
they're mine! Your behaviour, Ivan Vassilevitch, is strange, to say the
least! Up to this we have always thought of you as a good neighbour, a
friend: last year we lent you our threshing-machine, although on that
account we had to put off our own threshing till November, but you
behave to us as if we were gipsies. Giving me my own land, indeed!
No, really, that's not at all neighbourly! In my opinion, it's even
impudent, if you want to know....
LOMOV. Then you make out that I'm a land-grabber? Madam, never in my
life have I grabbed anybody else's land, and I shan't allow anybody to
accuse me of having done so.... [Quickly steps to the carafe and drinks
more water] Oxen Meadows are mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. It's not true, they're ours!
LOMOV. Mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. It's not true! I'll prove it! I'll send my mowers
out to the Meadows this very day!
LOMOV. What?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. My mowers will be there this very day!
LOMOV. I'll give it to them in the neck!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. You dare!
LOMOV. [Clutches at his heart] Oxen Meadows are mine! You understand?
Mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Please don't shout! You can shout yourself hoarse in
your own house, but here I must ask you to restrain yourself!
LOMOV. If it wasn't, madam, for this awful, excruciating palpitation,
if my whole inside wasn't upset, I'd talk to you in a different way!
[Yells] Oxen Meadows are mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Ours!
LOMOV. Mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Ours!
LOMOV. Mine!
[Enter CHUBUKOV.]
CHUBUKOV. What's the matter? What are you shouting at?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Papa, please tell to this gentleman who owns Oxen
Meadows, we or he?
CHUBUKOV. [To LOMOV] Darling, the Meadows are ours!
LOMOV. But, please, Stepan Stepanitch, how can they be yours? Do be a
reasonable man! My aunt's grandmother gave the Meadows for the temporary
and free use of your grandfather's peasants. The peasants used the land
for forty years and got as accustomed to it as if it was their own, when
it happened that...
CHUBUKOV. Excuse me, my precious.... You forget just this, that the
peasants didn't pay your grandmother and all that, because the Meadows
were in dispute, and so on. And now everybody knows that they're ours.
It means that you haven't seen the plan.
LOMOV. I'll prove to you that they're mine!
CHUBUKOV. You won't prove it, my darling.
LOMOV. I shall!
CHUBUKOV. Dear one, why yell like that? You won't prove anything just
by yelling. I don't want anything of yours, and don't intend to give up
what I have. Why should I? And you know, my beloved, that if you propose
to go on arguing about it, I'd much sooner give up the meadows to the
peasants than to you. There!
LOMOV. I don't understand! How have you the right to give away somebody
else's property?
CHUBUKOV. You may take it that I know whether I have the right or not.
Because, young man, I'm not used to being spoken to in that tone of
voice, and so on: I, young man, am twice your age, and ask you to speak
to me without agitating yourself, and all that.
LOMOV. No, you just think I'm a fool and want to have me on! You call
my land yours, and then you want me to talk to you calmly and politely!
Good neighbours don't behave like that, Stepan Stepanitch! You're not a
neighbour, you're a grabber!
CHUBUKOV. What's that? What did you say?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Papa, send the mowers out to the Meadows at once!
CHUBUKOV. What did you say, sir?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Oxen Meadows are ours, and I shan't give them up,
shan't give them up, shan't give them up!
LOMOV. We'll see! I'll have the matter taken to court, and then I'll
show you!
CHUBUKOV. To court? You can take it to court, and all that! You can! I
know you; you're just on the look-out for a chance to go to court, and
all that.... You pettifogger! All your people were like that! All of
them!
LOMOV. Never mind about my people! The Lomovs have all been honourable
people, and not one has ever been tried for embezzlement, like your
grandfather!
CHUBUKOV. You Lomovs have had lunacy in your family, all of you!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. All, all, all!
CHUBUKOV. Your grandfather was a drunkard, and your younger aunt,
Nastasya Mihailovna, ran away with an architect, and so on.
LOMOV. And your mother was hump-backed. [Clutches at his heart]
Something pulling in my side.... My head.... Help! Water!
CHUBUKOV. Your father was a guzzling gambler!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. And there haven't been many backbiters to equal your
aunt!
LOMOV. My left foot has gone to sleep.... You're an intriguer.... Oh,
my heart!... And it's an open secret that before the last elections you
bri... I can see stars.... Where's my hat?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. It's low! It's dishonest! It's mean!
CHUBUKOV. And you're just a malicious, double-faced intriguer! Yes!
LOMOV. Here's my hat.... My heart!... Which way? Where's the door?
Oh!... I think I'm dying.... My foot's quite numb.... [Goes to the
door.]
CHUBUKOV. [Following him] And don't set foot in my house again!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Take it to court! We'll see!
[LOMOV staggers out.]
CHUBUKOV. Devil take him! [Walks about in excitement.]
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. What a rascal! What trust can one have in one's
neighbours after that!
CHUBUKOV. The villain! The scarecrow!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. The monster! First he takes our land and then he has
the impudence to abuse us.
CHUBUKOV. And that blind hen, yes, that turnip-ghost has the confounded
cheek to make a proposal, and so on! What? A proposal!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. What proposal?
CHUBUKOV. Why, he came here so as to propose to you.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. To propose? To me? Why didn't you tell me so before?
CHUBUKOV. So he dresses up in evening clothes. The stuffed sausage! The
wizen-faced frump!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. To propose to me? Ah! [Falls into an easy-chair and
wails] Bring him back! Back! Ah! Bring him here.
CHUBUKOV. Bring whom here?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Quick, quick! I'm ill! Fetch him! [Hysterics.]
CHUBUKOV. What's that? What's the matter with you? [Clutches at his
head] Oh, unhappy man that I am! I'll shoot myself! I'll hang myself!
We've done for her!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. I'm dying! Fetch him!
CHUBUKOV. Tfoo! At once. Don't yell!
[Runs out. A pause. NATALYA STEPANOVNA wails.]
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. What have they done to me! Fetch him back! Fetch
him! [A pause.]
[CHUBUKOV runs in.]
CHUBUKOV. He's coming, and so on, devil take him! Ouf! Talk to him
yourself; I don't want to....
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. [Wails] Fetch him!
CHUBUKOV. [Yells] He's coming, I tell you. Oh, what a burden, Lord,
to be the father of a grown-up daughter! I'll cut my throat! I will,
indeed! We cursed him, abused him, drove him out, and it's all you...
you!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. No, it was you!
CHUBUKOV. I tell you it's not my fault. [LOMOV appears at the door] Now
you talk to him yourself [Exit.]
[LOMOV enters, exhausted.]
LOMOV. My heart's palpitating awfully.... My foot's gone to sleep....
There's something keeps pulling in my side.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Forgive us, Ivan Vassilevitch, we were all a little
heated.... I remember now: Oxen Meadows really are yours.
LOMOV. My heart's beating awfully.... My Meadows.... My eyebrows are
both twitching....
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. The Meadows are yours, yes, yours.... Do sit
down.... [They sit] We were wrong....
LOMOV. I did it on principle.... My land is worth little to me, but the
principle...
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Yes, the principle, just so.... Now let's talk of
something else.
LOMOV. The more so as I have evidence. My aunt's grandmother gave the
land to your father's grandfather's peasants...
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Yes, yes, let that pass.... [Aside] I wish I knew
how to get him started.... [Aloud] Are you going to start shooting soon?
LOMOV. I'm thinking of having a go at the blackcock, honoured Natalya
Stepanovna, after the harvest. Oh, have you heard? Just think, what a
misfortune I've had! My dog Guess, whom you know, has gone lame.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. What a pity! Why?
LOMOV. I don't know.... Must have got twisted, or bitten by some other
dog.... [Sighs] My very best dog, to say nothing of the expense. I gave
Mironov 125 roubles for him.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. It was too much, Ivan Vassilevitch.
LOMOV. I think it was very cheap. He's a first-rate dog.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Papa gave 85 roubles for his Squeezer, and Squeezer
is heaps better than Guess!
LOMOV. Squeezer better than. Guess? What an idea! [Laughs] Squeezer
better than Guess!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Of course he's better! Of course, Squeezer is
young, he may develop a bit, but on points and pedigree he's better than
anything that even Volchanetsky has got.
LOMOV. Excuse me, Natalya Stepanovna, but you forget that he is
overshot, and an overshot always means the dog is a bad hunter!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Overshot, is he? The first time I hear it!
LOMOV. I assure you that his lower jaw is shorter than the upper.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Have you measured?
LOMOV. Yes. He's all right at following, of course, but if you want him
to get hold of anything...
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. In the first place, our Squeezer is a thoroughbred
animal, the son of Harness and Chisels, while there's no getting at
the pedigree of your dog at all.... He's old and as ugly as a worn-out
cab-horse.
LOMOV. He is old, but I wouldn't take five Squeezers for him.... Why,
how can you?... Guess is a dog; as for Squeezer, well, it's too funny to
argue.... Anybody you like has a dog as good as Squeezer... you may find
them under every bush almost. Twenty-five roubles would be a handsome
price to pay for him.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. There's some demon of contradiction in you to-day,
Ivan Vassilevitch. First you pretend that the Meadows are yours; now,
that Guess is better than Squeezer. I don't like people who don't say
what they mean, because you know perfectly well that Squeezer is a
hundred times better than your silly Guess. Why do you want to say it
isn't?
LOMOV. I see, Natalya Stepanovna, that you consider me either blind or a
fool. You must realize that Squeezer is overshot!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. It's not true.
LOMOV. He is!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. It's not true!
LOMOV. Why shout, madam?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Why talk rot? It's awful! It's time your Guess was
shot, and you compare him with Squeezer!
LOMOV. Excuse me; I cannot continue this discussion: my heart is
palpitating.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. I've noticed that those hunters argue most who know
least.
LOMOV. Madam, please be silent.... My heart is going to pieces....
[Shouts] Shut up!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. I shan't shut up until you acknowledge that Squeezer
is a hundred times better than your Guess!
LOMOV. A hundred times worse! Be hanged to your Squeezer! His head...
eyes... shoulder...
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. There's no need to hang your silly Guess; he's
half-dead already!
LOMOV. [Weeps] Shut up! My heart's bursting!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. I shan't shut up.
[Enter CHUBUKOV.]
CHUBUKOV. What's the matter now?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Papa, tell us truly, which is the better dog, our
Squeezer or his Guess.
LOMOV. Stepan Stepanovitch, I implore you to tell me just one thing: is
your Squeezer overshot or not? Yes or no?
CHUBUKOV. And suppose he is? What does it matter? He's the best dog in
the district for all that, and so on.
LOMOV. But isn't my Guess better? Really, now?
CHUBUKOV. Don't excite yourself, my precious one.... Allow me.... Your
Guess certainly has his good points.... He's pure-bred, firm on his
feet, has well-sprung ribs, and all that. But, my dear man, if you want
to know the truth, that dog has two defects: he's old and he's short in
the muzzle.
LOMOV. Excuse me, my heart.... Let's take the facts.... You will
remember that on the Marusinsky hunt my Guess ran neck-and-neck with the
Count's dog, while your Squeezer was left a whole verst behind.
CHUBUKOV. He got left behind because the Count's whipper-in hit him with
his whip.
LOMOV. And with good reason. The dogs are running after a fox, when
Squeezer goes and starts worrying a sheep!
CHUBUKOV. It's not true!... My dear fellow, I'm very liable to lose my
temper, and so, just because of that, let's stop arguing. You started
because everybody is always jealous of everybody else's dogs. Yes, we're
all like that! You too, sir, aren't blameless! You no sooner notice that
some dog is better than your Guess than you begin with this, that... and
the other... and all that.... I remember everything!
LOMOV. I remember too!
CHUBUKOV. [Teasing him] I remember, too.... What do you remember?
LOMOV. My heart... my foot's gone to sleep.... I can't...
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. [Teasing] My heart.... What sort of a hunter are
you? You ought to go and lie on the kitchen oven and catch blackbeetles,
not go after foxes! My heart!
CHUBUKOV. Yes really, what sort of a hunter are you, anyway? You ought
to sit at home with your palpitations, and not go tracking animals. You
could go hunting, but you only go to argue with people and interfere
with their dogs and so on. Let's change the subject in case I lose my
temper. You're not a hunter at all, anyway!
LOMOV. And are you a hunter? You only go hunting to get in with the
Count and to intrigue.... Oh, my heart!... You're an intriguer!
CHUBUKOV. What? I an intriguer? [Shouts] Shut up!
LOMOV. Intriguer!
CHUBUKOV. Boy! Pup!
LOMOV. Old rat! Jesuit!
CHUBUKOV. Shut up or I'll shoot you like a partridge! You fool!
LOMOV. Everybody knows that--oh my heart!--your late wife used to beat
you.... My feet... temples... sparks.... I fall, I fall!
CHUBUKOV. And you're under the slipper of your housekeeper!
LOMOV. There, there, there... my heart's burst! My shoulder's come
off.... Where is my shoulder? I die. [Falls into an armchair] A doctor!
[Faints.]
CHUBUKOV. Boy! Milksop! Fool! I'm sick! [Drinks water] Sick!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. What sort of a hunter are you? You can't even sit on
a horse! [To her father] Papa, what's the matter with him? Papa! Look,
papa! [Screams] Ivan Vassilevitch! He's dead!
CHUBUKOV. I'm sick!... I can't breathe!... Air!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. He's dead. [Pulls LOMOV'S sleeve] Ivan Vassilevitch!
Ivan Vassilevitch! What have you done to me? He's dead. [Falls into an
armchair] A doctor, a doctor! [Hysterics.]
CHUBUKOV. Oh!... What is it? What's the matter?
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. [Wails] He's dead... dead!
CHUBUKOV. Who's dead? [Looks at LOMOV] So he is! My word! Water! A
doctor! [Lifts a tumbler to LOMOV'S mouth] Drink this!... No, he doesn't
drink.... It means he's dead, and all that.... I'm the most unhappy of
men! Why don't I put a bullet into my brain? Why haven't I cut my throat
yet? What am I waiting for? Give me a knife! Give me a pistol! [LOMOV
moves] He seems to be coming round.... Drink some water! That's
right....
LOMOV. I see stars... mist.... Where am I?
CHUBUKOV. Hurry up and get married and--well, to the devil with you!
She's willing! [He puts LOMOV'S hand into his daughter's] She's willing
and all that. I give you my blessing and so on. Only leave me in peace!
LOMOV. [Getting up] Eh? What? To whom?
CHUBUKOV. She's willing! Well? Kiss and be damned to you!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. [Wails] He's alive... Yes, yes, I'm willing....
CHUBUKOV. Kiss each other!
LOMOV. Eh? Kiss whom? [They kiss] Very nice, too. Excuse me, what's
it all about? Oh, now I understand... my heart... stars... I'm happy.
Natalya Stepanovna.... [Kisses her hand] My foot's gone to sleep....
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. I... I'm happy too....
CHUBUKOV. What a weight off my shoulders.... Ouf!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. But... still you will admit now that Guess is worse
than Squeezer.
LOMOV. Better!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Worse!
CHUBUKOV. Well, that's a way to start your family bliss! Have some
champagne!
LOMOV. He's better!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Worse! worse! worse!
CHUBUKOV. [Trying to shout her down] Champagne! Champagne!
Curtain.
THE WEDDING
CHARACTERS
EVDOKIM ZAHAROVITCH ZHIGALOV, a retired Civil Servant.
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA, his wife
DASHENKA, their daughter
EPAMINOND MAXIMOVITCH APLOMBOV, Dashenka's bridegroom
FYODOR YAKOVLEVITCH REVUNOV-KARAULOV, a retired captain
ANDREY ANDREYEVITCH NUNIN, an insurance agent
ANNA MARTINOVNA ZMEYUKINA, a midwife, aged 30, in a brilliantly red dress
IVAN MIHAILOVITCH YATS, a telegraphist
HARLAMPI SPIRIDONOVITCH DIMBA, a Greek confectioner
DMITRI STEPANOVITCH MOZGOVOY, a sailor of the Imperial Navy (Volunteer
Fleet)
GROOMSMEN, GENTLEMEN, WAITERS, ETC.
The scene is laid in one of the rooms of Andronov's Restaurant
[A brilliantly illuminated room. A large table, laid for supper. Waiters
in dress-jackets are fussing round the table. An orchestra behind the
scene is playing the music of the last figure of a quadrille.]
[ANNA MARTINOVNA ZMEYUKINA, YATS, and a GROOMSMAN cross the stage.]
ZMEYUKINA. No, no, no!
YATS. [Following her] Have pity on us! Have pity!
ZMEYUKINA. No, no, no!
GROOMSMAN. [Chasing them] You can't go on like this! Where are you off
to? What about the _grand ronde? Grand ronde, s'il vous plait_! [They
all go off.]
[Enter NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA and APLOMBOV.]
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. You had much better be dancing than upsetting me
with your speeches.
APLOMBOV. I'm not a Spinosa or anybody of that sort, to go making
figures-of-eight with my legs. I am a serious man, and I have a
character, and I see no amusement in empty pleasures. But it isn't just
a matter of dances. You must excuse me, maman, but there is a good deal
in your behaviour which I am unable to understand. For instance, in
addition to objects of domestic importance, you promised also to give
me, with your daughter, two lottery tickets. Where are they?
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. My head's aching a little... I expect it's on
account of the weather.... If only it thawed!
APLOMBOV. You won't get out of it like that. I only found out to-day
that those tickets are in pawn. You must excuse me, _maman_, but
it's only swindlers who behave like that. I'm not doing this out of
egoisticism [Note: So in the original]--I don't want your tickets--but
on principle; and I don't allow myself to be done by anybody. I have
made your daughter happy, and if you don't give me the tickets to-day
I'll make short work of her. I'm an honourable man!
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. [Looks round the table and counts up the covers]
One, two, three, four, five...
A WAITER. The cook asks if you would like the ices served with rum,
madeira, or by themselves?
APLOMBOV. With rum. And tell the manager that there's not enough wine.
Tell him to prepare some more Haut Sauterne. [To NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA]
You also promised and agreed that a general was to be here to supper.
And where is he?
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. That isn't my fault, my dear.
APLOMBOV. Whose fault, then?
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. It's Andrey Andreyevitch's fault.... Yesterday he
came to see us and promised to bring a perfectly real general. [Sighs] I
suppose he couldn't find one anywhere, or he'd have brought him....
You think we don't mind? We'd begrudge our child nothing. A general, of
course...
APLOMBOV. But there's more.... Everybody, including yourself, _maman_,
is aware of the fact that Yats, that telegraphist, was after Dashenka
before I proposed to her. Why did you invite him? Surely you knew it
would be unpleasant for me?
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. Oh, how can you? Epaminond Maximovitch was married
himself only the other day, and you've already tired me and Dashenka out
with your talk. What will you be like in a year's time? You are horrid,
really horrid.
APLOMBOV. Then you don't like to hear the truth? Aha! Oh, oh! Then
behave honourably. I only want you to do one thing, be honourable!
[Couples dancing the _grand ronde_ come in at one door and out at the
other end. The first couple are DASHENKA with one of the GROOMSMEN. The
last are YATS and ZMEYUKINA. These two remain behind. ZHIGALOV and DIMBA
enter and go up to the table.]
GROOMSMAN. [Shouting] Promenade! Messieurs, promenade! [Behind]
Promenade!
[The dancers have all left the scene.]
YATS. [To ZMEYUKINA] Have pity! Have pity, adorable Anna Martinovna.
ZMEYUKINA. Oh, what a man!... I've already told you that I've no voice
to-day.
YATS. I implore you to sing! Just one note! Have pity! Just one note!
ZMEYUKINA. I'm tired of you.... [Sits and fans herself.]
YATS. No, you're simply heartless! To be so cruel--if I may express
myself--and to have such a beautiful, beautiful voice! With such
a voice, if you will forgive my using the word, you shouldn't be a
midwife, but sing at concerts, at public gatherings! For example, how
divinely you do that _fioritura_... that... [Sings] "I loved you; love
was vain then...." Exquisite!
ZMEYUKINA. [Sings] "I loved you, and may love again." Is that it?
YATS. That's it! Beautiful!
ZMEYUKINA. No, I've no voice to-day.... There, wave this fan for
me... it's hot! [To APLOMBOV] Epaminond Maximovitch, why are you so
melancholy? A bridegroom shouldn't be! Aren't you ashamed of yourself,
you wretch? Well, what are you so thoughtful about?
APLOMBOV. Marriage is a serious step! Everything must be considered from
all sides, thoroughly.
ZMEYUKINA. What beastly sceptics you all are! I feel quite suffocated
with you all around.... Give me atmosphere! Do you hear? Give me
atmosphere! [Sings a few notes.]
YATS. Beautiful! Beautiful!
ZMEYUKINA. Fan me, fan me, or I feel I shall have a heart attack in a
minute. Tell me, please, why do I feel so suffocated?
YATS. It's because you're sweating....
ZMEYUKINA. Foo, how vulgar you are! Don't dare to use such words!
YATS. Beg pardon! Of course, you're used, if I may say so, to
aristocratic society and....
ZMEYUKINA. Oh, leave me alone! Give me poetry, delight! Fan me, fan me!
ZHIGALOV. [To DIMBA] Let's have another, what? [Pours out] One can
always drink. So long only, Harlampi Spiridonovitch, as one doesn't
forget one's business. Drink and be merry.... And if you can drink at
somebody else's expense, then why not drink? You can drink.... Your
health! [They drink] And do you have tigers in Greece?
DIMBA. Yes.
ZHIGALOV. And lions?
DIMBA. And lions too. In Russia zere's nussing, and in Greece zere's
everysing--my fazer and uncle and brozeres--and here zere's nussing.
ZHIGALOV. H'm.... And are there whales in Greece?
DIMBA. Yes, everysing.
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. [To her husband] What are they all eating and
drinking like that for? It's time for everybody to sit down to supper.
Don't keep on shoving your fork into the lobsters.... They're for the
general. He may come yet....
ZHIGALOV. And are there lobsters in Greece?
DIMBA. Yes... zere is everysing.
ZHIGALOV. Hm.... And Civil Servants.
ZMEYUKINA. I can imagine what the atmosphere is like in Greece!
ZHIGALOV. There must be a lot of swindling. The Greeks are just like the
Armenians or gipsies. They sell you a sponge or a goldfish and all the
time they are looking out for a chance of getting something extra out of
you. Let's have another, what?
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. What do you want to go on having another for? It's
time everybody sat down to supper. It's past eleven.
ZHIGALOV. If it's time, then it's time. Ladies and gentlemen, please!
[Shouts] Supper! Young people!
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. Dear visitors, please be seated!
ZMEYUKINA. [Sitting down at the table] Give me poetry.
"And he, the rebel, seeks the storm,
As if the storm can give him peace."
Give me the storm!
YATS. [Aside] Wonderful woman! I'm in love! Up to my ears!
[Enter DASHENKA, MOZGOVOY, GROOMSMEN, various ladies and gentlemen,
etc. They all noisily seat themselves at the table. There is a minute's
pause, while the band plays a march.]
MOZGOVOY. [Rising] Ladies and gentlemen! I must tell you this.... We are
going to have a great many toasts and speeches. Don't let's wait, but
begin at once. Ladies and gentlemen, the newly married!
[The band plays a flourish. Cheers. Glasses are touched. APLOMBOV and
DASHENKA kiss each other.]
YATS. Beautiful! Beautiful! I must say, ladies and gentlemen, giving
honour where it is due, that this room and the accommodation generally
are splendid! Excellent, wonderful! Only you know, there's one thing
we haven't got--electric light, if I may say so! Into every country
electric light has already been introduced, only Russia lags behind.
ZHIGALOV. [Meditatively] Electricity... h'm.... In my opinion electric
lighting is just a swindle.... They put a live coal in and think you
don't see them! No, if you want a light, then you don't take a coal, but
something real, something special, that you can get hold of! You must
have a fire, you understand, which is natural, not just an invention!
YATS. If you'd ever seen an electric battery, and how it's made up,
you'd think differently.
ZHIGALOV. Don't want to see one. It's a swindle, a fraud on the
public.... They want to squeeze our last breath out of us.... We know
then, these... And, young man, instead of defending a swindle, you would
be much better occupied if you had another yourself and poured out some
for other people--yes!
APLOMBOV. I entirely agree with you, papa. Why start a learned
discussion? I myself have no objection to talking about every possible
scientific discovery, but this isn't the time for all that! [To
DASHENKA] What do you think, _ma chère_?
DASHENKA. They want to show how educated they are, and so they always
talk about things we can't understand.
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. Thank God, we've lived our time without being
educated, and here we are marrying off our third daughter to an honest
man. And if you think we're uneducated, then what do you want to come
here for? Go to your educated friends!
YATS. I, Nastasya Timofeyevna, have always held your family in respect,
and if I did start talking about electric lighting it doesn't mean that
I'm proud. I'll drink, to show you. I have always sincerely wished Daria
Evdokimovna a good husband. In these days, Nastasya Timofeyevna, it is
difficult to find a good husband. Nowadays everybody is on the look-out
for a marriage where there is profit, money....
APLOMBOV. That's a hint!
YATS. [His courage failing] I wasn't hinting at anything.... Present
company is always excepted.... I was only in general.... Please!
Everybody knows that you're marrying for love... the dowry is quite
trifling.
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. No, it isn't trifling! You be careful what you
say. Besides a thousand roubles of good money, we're giving three
dresses, the bed, and all the furniture. You won't find another dowry
like that in a hurry!
YATS. I didn't mean... The furniture's splendid, of course, and... and
the dresses, but I never hinted at what they are getting offended at.
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. Don't you go making hints. We respect you on
account of your parents, and we've invited you to the wedding, and here
you go talking. If you knew that Epaminond Maximovitch was marrying for
profit, why didn't you say so before? [Tearfully] I brought her up,
I fed her, I nursed her.... I cared for her more than if she was an
emerald jewel, my little girl....
APLOMBOV. And you go and believe him? Thank you so much! I'm very
grateful to you! [To YATS] And as for you, Mr. Yats, although you are
acquainted with me, I shan't allow you to behave like this in another's
house. Please get out of this!
YATS. What do you mean?
APLOMBOV. I want you to be as straightforward as I am! In short, please
get out! [Band plays a flourish]
THE GENTLEMEN. Leave him alone! Sit down! Is it worth it! Let him be!
Stop it now!
YATS. I never... I... I don't understand.... Please, I'll go.... Only
you first give me the five roubles which you borrowed from me last year
on the strength of a _piqué_ waistcoat, if I may say so. Then I'll just
have another drink and... go, only give me the money first.
VARIOUS GENTLEMEN. Sit down! That's enough! Is it worth it, just for
such trifles?
A GROOMSMAN. [Shouts] The health of the bride's parents, Evdokim
Zaharitch and Nastasya Timofeyevna! [Band plays a flourish. Cheers.]
ZHIGALOV. [Bows in all directions, in great emotion] I thank you! Dear
guests! I am very grateful to you for not having forgotten and for
having conferred this honour upon us without being standoffish And you
must not think that I'm a rascal, or that I'm trying to swindle anybody.
I'm speaking from my heart--from the purity of my soul! I wouldn't deny
anything to good people! We thank you very humbly! [Kisses.]
DASHENKA. [To her mother] Mama, why are you crying? I'm so happy!
APLOMBOV. _Maman_ is disturbed at your coming separation. But I should
advise her rather to remember the last talk we had.
YATS. Don't cry, Nastasya Timofeyevna! Just think what are human tears,
anyway? Just petty psychiatry, and nothing more!
ZMEYUKINA. And are there any red-haired men in Greece?
DIMBA. Yes, everysing is zere.
ZHIGALOV. But you don't have our kinds of mushroom.
DIMBA. Yes, we've got zem and everysing.
MOZGOVOY. Harlampi Spiridonovitch, it's your turn to speak! Ladies and
gentlemen, a speech!
ALL. [To DIMBA] Speech! speech! Your turn!
DIMBA. Why? I don't understand.... What is it!
ZMEYUKINA. No, no! You can't refuse! It's you turn! Get up!
DIMBA. [Gets up, confused] I can't say what... Zere's Russia and zere's
Greece. Zere's people in Russia and people in Greece.... And zere's
people swimming the sea in karavs, which mean sips, and people on
the land in railway trains. I understand. We are Greeks and you are
Russians, and I want nussing.... I can tell you... zere's Russia and
zere's Greece...
[Enter NUNIN.]
NUNIN. Wait, ladies and gentlemen, don't eat now! Wait! Just one minute,
Nastasya Timofeyevna! Just come here, if you don't mind! [Takes NASTASYA
TIMOFEYEVNA aside, puffing] Listen... The General's coming... I
found one at last.... I'm simply worn out.... A real General, a solid
one--old, you know, aged perhaps eighty, or even ninety.
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. When is he coming?
NUNIN. This minute. You'll be grateful to me all your life. [Note: A
few lines have been omitted: they refer to the "General's" rank and
its civil equivalent in words for which the English language has
no corresponding terms. The "General" is an ex-naval officer, a
second-class captain.]
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. You're not deceiving me, Andrey darling?
NUNIN. Well, now, am I a swindler? You needn't worry!
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. [Sighs] One doesn't like to spend money for
nothing, Andrey darling!
NUNIN. Don't you worry! He's not a general, he's a dream! [Raises his
voice] I said to him: "You've quite forgotten us, your Excellency!
It isn't kind of your Excellency to forget your old friends! Nastasya
Timofeyevna," I said to him, "she's very annoyed with you about it!"
[Goes and sits at the table] And he says to me: "But, my friend, how can
I go when I don't know the bridegroom?" "Oh, nonsense, your excellency,
why stand on ceremony? The bridegroom," I said to him, "he's a fine
fellow, very free and easy. He's a valuer," I said, "at the Law courts,
and don't you think, your excellency, that he's some rascal, some knave
of hearts. Nowadays," I said to him, "even decent women are employed at
the Law courts." He slapped me on the shoulder, we smoked a Havana cigar
each, and now he's coming.... Wait a little, ladies and gentlemen, don't
eat....
APLOMBOV. When's he coming?
NUNIN. This minute. When I left him he was already putting on his
goloshes. Wait a little, ladies and gentlemen, don't eat yet.
APLOMBOV. The band should be told to play a march.
NUNIN. [Shouts] Musicians! A march! [The band plays a march for a
minute.]
A WAITER. Mr. Revunov-Karaulov!
[ZHIGALOV, NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA, and NUNIN run to meet him. Enter
REVUNOV-KARAULOV.]
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. [Bowing] Please come in, your excellency! So glad
you've come!
REVUNOV. Awfully!
ZHIGALOV. We, your excellency, aren't celebrities, we aren't important,
but quite ordinary, but don't think on that account that there's any
fraud. We put good people into the best place, we begrudge nothing.
Please!
REVUNOV. Awfully glad!
NUNIN. Let me introduce to you, your excellency, the bridegroom,
Epaminond Maximovitch Aplombov, with his newly born... I mean his newly
married wife! Ivan Mihailovitch Yats, employed on the telegraph! A
foreigner of Greek nationality, a confectioner by trade, Harlampi
Spiridonovitch Dimba! Osip Lukitch Babelmandebsky! And so on, and so
on.... The rest are just trash. Sit down, your excellency!
REVUNOV. Awfully! Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, I just want to say
two words to Andrey. [Takes NUNIN aside] I say, old man, I'm a little
put out.... Why do you call me your excellency? I'm not a general! I
don't rank as the equivalent of a colonel, even.
NUNIN. [Whispers] I know, only, Fyodor Yakovlevitch, be a good man
and let us call you your excellency! The family here, you see, is
patriarchal; it respects the aged, it likes rank.
REVUNOV. Oh, if it's like that, very well.... [Goes to the table]
Awfully!
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. Sit down, your excellency! Be so good as to have
some of this, your excellency! Only forgive us for not being used to
etiquette; we're plain people!
REVUNOV. [Not hearing] What? Hm... yes. [Pause] Yes.... In the old days
everybody used to live simply and was happy. In spite of my rank, I am
a man who lives plainly. To-day Andrey comes to me and asks me to come
here to the wedding. "How shall I go," I said, "when I don't know them?
It's not good manners!" But he says: "They are good, simple, patriarchal
people, glad to see anybody." Well, if that's the case... why not?
Very glad to come. It's very dull for me at home by myself, and if my
presence at a wedding can make anybody happy, then I'm delighted to be
here....
ZHIGALOV. Then that's sincere, is it, your excellency? I respect that!
I'm a plain man myself, without any deception, and I respect others who
are like that. Eat, your excellency!
APLOMBOV. Is it long since you retired, your excellency?
REVUNOV. Eh? Yes, yes.... Quite true.... Yes. But, excuse me, what
is this? The fish is sour... and the bread is sour. I can't eat this!
[APLOMBOV and DASHENKA kiss each other] He, he, he... Your health!
[Pause] Yes.... In the old days everything was simple and everybody was
glad.... I love simplicity.... I'm an old man. I retired in 1865. I'm
72. Yes, of course, in my younger days it was different, but--[Sees
MOZGOVOY] You there... a sailor, are you?
MOZGOVOY. Yes, just so.
REVUNOV. Aha, so... yes. The navy means hard work. There's a lot to
think about and get a headache over. Every insignificant word has, so
to speak, its special meaning! For instance, "Hoist her top-sheets
and mainsail!" What's it mean? A sailor can tell! He, he!--With almost
mathematical precision!
NUNIN. The health of his excellency Fyodor Yakovlevitch
Revunov-Karaulov! [Band plays a flourish. Cheers.]
YATS. You, your excellency, have just expressed yourself on the subject
of the hard work involved in a naval career. But is telegraphy any
easier? Nowadays, your excellency, nobody is appointed to the telegraphs
if he cannot read and write French and German. But the transmission of
telegrams is the most difficult thing of all. Awfully difficult! Just
listen.
[Taps with his fork on the table, like a telegraphic transmitter.]
REVUNOV. What does that mean?
YATS. It means, "I honour you, your excellency, for your virtues." You
think it's easy? Listen now. [Taps.]
REVUNOV. Louder; I can't hear....
YATS. That means, "Madam, how happy I am to hold you in my embraces!"
REVUNOV. What madam are you talking about? Yes.... [To MOZGOVOY] Yes, if
there's a head-wind you must... let's see... you must hoist your foretop
halyards and topsail halyards! The order is: "On the cross-trees to
the foretop halyards and topsail halyards" and at the same time, as
the sails get loose, you take hold underneath of the foresail and
fore-topsail halyards, stays and braces.
A GROOMSMAN. [Rising] Ladies and gentlemen...
REVUNOV. [Cutting him short] Yes... there are a great many orders to
give. "Furl the fore-topsail and the foretop-gallant sail!!" Well,
what does that mean? It's very simple! It means that if the top and
top-gallant sails are lifting the halyards, they must level the foretop
and foretop-gallant halyards on the hoist and at the same time the
top-gallants braces, as needed, are loosened according to the direction
of the wind...
NUNIN. [To REVUNOV] Fyodor Yakovlevitch, Mme. Zhigalov asks you to
talk about something else. It's very dull for the guests, who can't
understand....
REVUNOV. What? Who's dull? [To MOZGOVOY] Young man! Now suppose the ship
is lying by the wind, on the starboard tack, under full sail, and you've
got to bring her before the wind. What's the order? Well, first you
whistle up above! He, he!
NUNIN. Fyodor Yakovlevitch, that's enough. Eat something.
REVUNOV. As soon as the men are on deck you give the order, "To your
places!" What a life! You give orders, and at the same time you've
got to keep your eyes on the sailors, who run about like flashes of
lightning and get the sails and braces right. And at last you can't
restrain yourself, and you shout, "Good children!" [He chokes and
coughs.]
A GROOMSMAN. [Making haste to use the ensuing pause to advantage] On
this occasion, so to speak, on the day on which we have met together to
honour our dear...
REVUNOV. [Interrupting] Yes, you've got to remember all that! For
instance, "Hoist the topsail halyards. Lower the topsail gallants!"
THE GROOMSMAN. [Annoyed] Why does he keep on interrupting? We shan't get
through a single speech like that!
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. We are dull people, your excellency, and don't
understand a word of all that, but if you were to tell us something
appropriate...
REVUNOV. [Not hearing] I've already had supper, thank you. Did you say
there was goose? Thanks... yes. I've remembered the old days.... It's
pleasant, young man! You sail on the sea, you have no worries, and [In
an excited tone of voice] do you remember the joy of tacking? Is there a
sailor who doesn't glow at the memory of that manoeuvre? As soon as the
word is given and the whistle blown and the crew begins to go up--it's
as if an electric spark has run through them all. From the captain to
the cabin-boy, everybody's excited.
ZMEYUKINA. How dull! How dull! [General murmur.]
REVUNOV. [Who has not heard it properly] Thank you, I've had supper.
[With enthusiasm] Everybody's ready, and looks to the senior officer.
He gives the command: "Stand by, gallants and topsail braces on the
starboard side, main and counter-braces to port!" Everything's done in
a twinkling. Top-sheets and jib-sheets are pulled... taken to starboard.
[Stands up] The ship takes the wind and at last the sails fill out. The
senior officer orders, "To the braces," and himself keeps his eye on the
mainsail, and when at last this sail is filling out and the ship begins
to turn, he yells at the top of his voice, "Let go the braces! Loose the
main halyards!" Everything flies about, there's a general confusion for
a moment--and everything is done without an error. The ship has been
tacked!
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. [Exploding] General, your manners.... You ought to
be ashamed of yourself, at your age!
REVUNOV. Did you say sausage? No, I haven't had any... thank you.
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. [Loudly] I say you ought to be ashamed of yourself
at your age! General, your manners are awful!
NUNIN. [Confused] Ladies and gentlemen, is it worth it? Really...
REVUNOV. In the first place, I'm not a general, but a second-class naval
captain, which, according to the table of precedence, corresponds to a
lieutenant-colonel.
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. If you're not a general, then what did you go and
take our money for? We never paid you money to behave like that!
REVUNOV. [Upset] What money?
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. You know what money. You know that you got 25
roubles from Andrey Andreyevitch.... [To NUNIN] And you look out,
Andrey! I never asked you to hire a man like that!
NUNIN. There now... let it drop. Is it worth it?
REVUNOV. Paid... hired.... What is it?
APLOMBOV. Just let me ask you this. Did you receive 25 roubles from
Andrey Andreyevitch?
REVUNOV. What 25 roubles? [Suddenly realizing] That's what it is! Now I
understand it all.... How mean! How mean!
APLOMBOV. Did you take the money?
REVUNOV. I haven't taken any money! Get away from me! [Leaves the table]
How mean! How low! To insult an old man, a sailor, an officer who has
served long and faithfully! If you were decent people I could call
somebody out, but what can I do now? [Absently] Where's the door? Which
way do I go? Waiter, show me the way out! Waiter! [Going] How mean! How
low! [Exit.]
NASTASYA TIMOFEYEVNA. Andrey, where are those 25 roubles?
NUNIN. Is it worth while bothering about such trifles? What does it
matter! Everybody's happy here, and here you go.... [Shouts] The health
of the bride and bridegroom! A march! A march! [The band plays a march]
The health of the bride and bridegroom!
ZMEYUKINA. I'm suffocating! Give me atmosphere! I'm suffocating with you
all round me!
YATS. [In a transport of delight] My beauty! My beauty! [Uproar.]
A GROOMSMAN. [Trying to shout everybody else down] Ladies and gentlemen!
On this occasion, if I may say so...
Curtain.
THE BEAR
CHARACTERS
ELENA IVANOVNA POPOVA, a landowning little widow, with dimples on her
cheeks
GRIGORY STEPANOVITCH SMIRNOV, a middle-aged landowner
LUKA, Popova's aged footman
[A drawing-room in POPOVA'S house.]
[POPOVA is in deep mourning and has her eyes fixed on a photograph. LUKA
is haranguing her.]
LUKA. It isn't right, madam.... You're just destroying yourself. The
maid and the cook have gone off fruit picking, every living being is
rejoicing, even the cat understands how to enjoy herself and walks about
in the yard, catching midges; only you sit in this room all day, as if
this was a convent, and don't take any pleasure. Yes, really! I reckon
it's a whole year that you haven't left the house!
POPOVA. I shall never go out.... Why should I? My life is already at an
end. He is in his grave, and I have buried myself between four walls....
We are both dead.
LUKA. Well, there you are! Nicolai Mihailovitch is dead, well, it's the
will of God, and may his soul rest in peace.... You've mourned him--and
quite right. But you can't go on weeping and wearing mourning for ever.
My old woman died too, when her time came. Well? I grieved over her, I
wept for a month, and that's enough for her, but if I've got to weep
for a whole age, well, the old woman isn't worth it. [Sighs] You've
forgotten all your neighbours. You don't go anywhere, and you see
nobody. We live, so to speak, like spiders, and never see the light.
The mice have eaten my livery. It isn't as if there were no good people
around, for the district's full of them. There's a regiment quartered at
Riblov, and the officers are such beauties--you can never gaze your fill
at them. And, every Friday, there's a ball at the camp, and every day
the soldier's band plays.... Eh, my lady! You're young and beautiful,
with roses in your cheek--if you only took a little pleasure. Beauty
won't last long, you know. In ten years' time you'll want to be a
pea-hen yourself among the officers, but they won't look at you, it will
be too late.
POPOVA. [With determination] I must ask you never to talk to me about
it! You know that when Nicolai Mihailovitch died, life lost all its
meaning for me. I vowed never to the end of my days to cease to wear
mourning, or to see the light.... You hear? Let his ghost see how well I
love him.... Yes, I know it's no secret to you that he was often unfair
to me, cruel, and... and even unfaithful, but I shall be true till
death, and show him how I can love. There, beyond the grave, he will see
me as I was before his death....
LUKA. Instead of talking like that you ought to go and have a walk in
the garden, or else order Toby or Giant to be harnessed, and then drive
out to see some of the neighbours.
POPOVA. Oh! [Weeps.]
LUKA. Madam! Dear madam! What is it? Bless you!
POPOVA. He was so fond of Toby! He always used to ride on him to the
Korchagins and Vlasovs. How well he could ride! What grace there was
in his figure when he pulled at the reins with all his strength! Do you
remember? Toby, Toby! Tell them to give him an extra feed of oats.
LUKA. Yes, madam. [A bell rings noisily.]
POPOVA. [Shaking] Who's that? Tell them that I receive nobody.
LUKA. Yes, madam. [Exit.]
POPOVA. [Looks at the photograph] You will see, Nicolas, how I can love
and forgive.... My love will die out with me, only when this poor heart
will cease to beat. [Laughs through her tears] And aren't you ashamed?
I am a good and virtuous little wife. I've locked myself in, and will
be true to you till the grave, and you... aren't you ashamed, you bad
child? You deceived me, had rows with me, left me alone for weeks on
end....
[LUKA enters in consternation.]
LUKA. Madam, somebody is asking for you. He wants to see you....
POPOVA. But didn't you tell him that since the death of my husband I've
stopped receiving?
LUKA. I did, but he wouldn't even listen; says that it's a very pressing
affair.
POPOVA. I do not re-ceive!
LUKA. I told him so, but the... the devil... curses and pushes himself
right in.... He's in the dining-room now.
POPOVA. [Annoyed] Very well, ask him in.... What manners! [Exit LUKA]
How these people annoy me! What does he want of me? Why should he
disturb my peace? [Sighs] No, I see that I shall have to go into a
convent after all. [Thoughtfully] Yes, into a convent.... [Enter LUKA
with SMIRNOV.]
SMIRNOV. [To LUKA] You fool, you're too fond of talking.... Ass! [Sees
POPOVA and speaks with respect] Madam, I have the honour to present
myself, I am Grigory Stepanovitch Smirnov, landowner and retired
lieutenant of artillery! I am compelled to disturb you on a very
pressing affair.
POPOVA. [Not giving him her hand] What do you want?
SMIRNOV. Your late husband, with whom I had the honour of being
acquainted, died in my debt for one thousand two hundred roubles, on
two bills of exchange. As I've got to pay the interest on a mortgage
to-morrow, I've come to ask you, madam, to pay me the money to-day.
POPOVA. One thousand two hundred.... And what was my husband in debt to
you for?
SMIRNOV. He used to buy oats from me.
POPOVA. [Sighing, to LUKA] So don't you forget, Luka, to give Toby an
extra feed of oats. [Exit LUKA] If Nicolai Mihailovitch died in debt to
you, then I shall certainly pay you, but you must excuse me to-day, as I
haven't any spare cash. The day after to-morrow my steward will be back
from town, and I'll give him instructions to settle your account, but
at the moment I cannot do as you wish.... Moreover, it's exactly seven
months to-day since the death of my husband, and I'm in a state of mind
which absolutely prevents me from giving money matters my attention.
SMIRNOV. And I'm in a state of mind which, if I don't pay the interest
due to-morrow, will force me to make a graceful exit from this life feet
first. They'll take my estate!
POPOVA. You'll have your money the day after to-morrow.
SMIRNOV. I don't want the money the day after tomorrow, I want it
to-day.
POPOVA. You must excuse me, I can't pay you.
SMIRNOV. And I can't wait till after to-morrow.
POPOVA. Well, what can I do, if I haven't the money now!
SMIRNOV. You mean to say, you can't pay me?
POPOVA. I can't.
SMIRNOV. Hm! Is that the last word you've got to say?
POPOVA. Yes, the last word.
SMIRNOV. The last word? Absolutely your last?
POPOVA. Absolutely.
SMIRNOV. Thank you so much. I'll make a note of it. [Shrugs his
shoulders] And then people want me to keep calm! I meet a man on
the road, and he asks me "Why are you always so angry, Grigory
Stepanovitch?" But how on earth am I not to get angry? I want the money
desperately. I rode out yesterday, early in the morning, and called on
all my debtors, and not a single one of them paid up! I was just about
dead-beat after it all, slept, goodness knows where, in some inn, kept
by a Jew, with a vodka-barrel by my head. At last I get here, seventy
versts from home, and hope to get something, and I am received by you
with a "state of mind"! How shouldn't I get angry.
POPOVA. I thought I distinctly said my steward will pay you when he
returns from town.
SMIRNOV. I didn't come to your steward, but to you! What the devil,
excuse my saying so, have I to do with your steward!
POPOVA. Excuse me, sir, I am not accustomed to listen to such
expressions or to such a tone of voice. I want to hear no more. [Makes a
rapid exit.]
SMIRNOV. Well, there! "A state of mind."... "Husband died seven months
ago!" Must I pay the interest, or mustn't I? I ask you: Must I pay,
or must I not? Suppose your husband is dead, and you've got a state
of mind, and nonsense of that sort.... And your steward's gone away
somewhere, devil take him, what do you want me to do? Do you think I can
fly away from my creditors in a balloon, or what? Or do you expect me
to go and run my head into a brick wall? I go to Grusdev and he isn't at
home, Yaroshevitch has hidden himself, I had a violent row with Kuritsin
and nearly threw him out of the window, Mazugo has something the matter
with his bowels, and this woman has "a state of mind." Not one of the
swine wants to pay me! Just because I'm too gentle with them, because
I'm a rag, just weak wax in their hands! I'm much too gentle with them!
Well, just you wait! You'll find out what I'm like! I shan't let you
play about with me, confound it! I shall jolly well stay here until she
pays! Brr!... How angry I am to-day, how angry I am! All my inside is
quivering with anger, and I can't even breathe.... Foo, my word, I even
feel sick! [Yells] Waiter!
[Enter LUKA.]
LUKA. What is it?
SMIRNOV. Get me some kvass or water! [Exit LUKA] What a way to reason! A
man is in desperate need of his money, and she won't pay it because,
you see, she is not disposed to attend to money matters!... That's real
silly feminine logic. That's why I never did like, and don't like now,
to have to talk to women. I'd rather sit on a barrel of gunpowder than
talk to a woman. Brr!... I feel quite chilly--and it's all on account of
that little bit of fluff! I can't even see one of these poetic creatures
from a distance without breaking out into a cold sweat out of sheer
anger. I can't look at them. [Enter LUKA with water.]
LUKA. Madam is ill and will see nobody.
SMIRNOV. Get out! [Exit LUKA] Ill and will see nobody! No, it's all
right, you don't see me.... I'm going to stay and will sit here till you
give me the money. You can be ill for a week, if you like, and I'll stay
here for a week.... If you're ill for a year--I'll stay for a year.
I'm going to get my own, my dear! You don't get at me with your widow's
weeds and your dimpled cheeks! I know those dimples! [Shouts through the
window] Simeon, take them out! We aren't going away at once! I'm staying
here! Tell them in the stable to give the horses some oats! You
fool, you've let the near horse's leg get tied up in the reins again!
[Teasingly] "Never mind...." I'll give it you. "Never mind." [Goes away
from the window] Oh, it's bad.... The heat's frightful, nobody pays up.
I slept badly, and on top of everything else here's a bit of fluff in
mourning with "a state of mind."... My head's aching.... Shall I have
some vodka, what? Yes, I think I will. [Yells] Waiter!
[Enter LUKA.]
LUKA. What is it?
SMIRNOV. A glass of vodka! [Exit LUKA] Ouf! [Sits and inspects himself]
I must say I look well! Dust all over, boots dirty, unwashed, unkempt,
straw on my waistcoat.... The dear lady may well have taken me for a
brigand. [Yawns] It's rather impolite to come into a drawing-room in
this state, but it can't be helped.... I am not here as a visitor,
but as a creditor, and there's no dress specially prescribed for
creditors....
[Enter LUKA with the vodka.]
LUKA. You allow yourself to go very far, sir....
SMIRNOV [Angrily] What?
LUKA. I... er... nothing... I really...
SMIRNOV. Whom are you talking to? Shut up!
LUKA. [Aside] The devil's come to stay.... Bad luck that brought him....
[Exit.]
SMIRNOV. Oh, how angry I am! So angry that I think I could grind the
whole world to dust.... I even feel sick.... [Yells] Waiter!
[Enter POPOVA.]
POPOVA. [Her eyes downcast] Sir, in my solitude I have grown
unaccustomed to the masculine voice, and I can't stand shouting. I must
ask you not to disturb my peace.
SMIRNOV. Pay me the money, and I'll go.
POPOVA. I told you perfectly plainly; I haven't any money to spare; wait
until the day after to-morrow.
SMIRNOV. And I told you perfectly plainly I don't want the money the day
after to-morrow, but to-day. If you don't pay me to-day, I'll have to
hang myself to-morrow.
POPOVA. But what can I do if I haven't got the money? You're so strange!
SMIRNOV. Then you won't pay me now? Eh?
POPOVA. I can't.
SMIRNOV. In that case I stay here and shall wait until I get it. [Sits
down] You're going to pay me the day after to-morrow? Very well! I'll
stay here until the day after to-morrow. I'll sit here all the time....
[Jumps up] I ask you: Have I got to pay the interest to-morrow, or
haven't I? Or do you think I'm doing this for a joke?
POPOVA. Please don't shout! This isn't a stable!
SMIRNOV. I wasn't asking you about a stable, but whether I'd got my
interest to pay to-morrow or not?
POPOVA. You don't know how to behave before women!
SMIRNOV. No, I do know how to behave before women!
POPOVA. No, you don't! You're a rude, ill-bred man! Decent people don't
talk to a woman like that!
SMIRNOV. What a business! How do you want me to talk to you? In French,
or what? [Loses his temper and lisps] _Madame, je vous prie_.... How
happy I am that you don't pay me.... Ah, pardon. I have disturbed you!
Such lovely weather to-day! And how well you look in mourning! [Bows.]
POPOVA. That's silly and rude.
SMIRNOV. [Teasing her] Silly and rude! I don't know how to behave before
women! Madam, in my time I've seen more women than you've seen sparrows!
Three times I've fought duels on account of women. I've refused twelve
women, and nine have refused me! Yes! There was a time when I played the
fool, scented myself, used honeyed words, wore jewellery, made beautiful
bows. I used to love, to suffer, to sigh at the moon, to get sour, to
thaw, to freeze.... I used to love passionately, madly, every blessed
way, devil take me; I used to chatter like a magpie about emancipation,
and wasted half my wealth on tender feelings, but now--you must excuse
me! You won't get round me like that now! I've had enough! Black eyes,
passionate eyes, ruby lips, dimpled cheeks, the moon, whispers, timid
breathing--I wouldn't give a brass farthing for the lot, madam! Present
company always excepted, all women, great or little, are insincere,
crooked, backbiters, envious, liars to the marrow of their bones, vain,
trivial, merciless, unreasonable, and, as far as this is concerned [taps
his forehead] excuse my outspokenness, a sparrow can give ten points to
any philosopher in petticoats you like to name! You look at one of
these poetic creatures: all muslin, an ethereal demi-goddess, you have a
million transports of joy, and you look into her soul--and see a common
crocodile! [He grips the back of a chair; the chair creaks and breaks]
But the most disgusting thing of all is that this crocodile for some
reason or other imagines that its chef d'oeuvre, its privilege and
monopoly, is its tender feelings. Why, confound it, hang me on that nail
feet upwards, if you like, but have you met a woman who can love anybody
except a lapdog? When she's in love, can she do anything but snivel and
slobber? While a man is suffering and making sacrifices all her love
expresses itself in her playing about with her scarf, and trying to hook
him more firmly by the nose. You have the misfortune to be a woman, you
know from yourself what is the nature of woman. Tell me truthfully,
have you ever seen a woman who was sincere, faithful, and constant? You
haven't! Only freaks and old women are faithful and constant! You'll
meet a cat with a horn or a white woodcock sooner than a constant woman!
POPOVA. Then, according to you, who is faithful and constant in love? Is
it the man?
SMIRNOV. Yes, the man!
POPOVA. The man! [Laughs bitterly] Men are faithful and constant in
love! What an idea! [With heat] What right have you to talk like that?
Men are faithful and constant! Since we are talking about it, I'll
tell you that of all the men I knew and know, the best was my late
husband.... I loved him passionately with all my being, as only a young
and imaginative woman can love, I gave him my youth, my happiness, my
life, my fortune, I breathed in him, I worshipped him as if I were a
heathen, and... and what then? This best of men shamelessly deceived me
at every step! After his death I found in his desk a whole drawerful
of love-letters, and when he was alive--it's an awful thing to
remember!--he used to leave me alone for weeks at a time, and make love
to other women and betray me before my very eyes; he wasted my money,
and made fun of my feelings.... And, in spite of all that, I loved him
and was true to him. And not only that, but, now that he is dead, I
am still true and constant to his memory. I have shut myself for ever
within these four walls, and will wear these weeds to the very end....
SMIRNOV. [Laughs contemptuously] Weeds!... I don't understand what you
take me for. As if I don't know why you wear that black domino and bury
yourself between four walls! I should say I did! It's so mysterious, so
poetic! When some junker [Note: So in the original.] or some tame poet
goes past your windows he'll think: "There lives the mysterious Tamara
who, for the love of her husband, buried herself between four walls." We
know these games!
POPOVA. [Exploding] What? How dare you say all that to me?
SMIRNOV. You may have buried yourself alive, but you haven't forgotten
to powder your face!
POPOVA. How dare you speak to me like that?
SMIRNOV. Please don't shout, I'm not your steward! You must allow me to
call things by their real names. I'm not a woman, and I'm used to saying
what I think straight out! Don't you shout, either!
POPOVA. I'm not shouting, it's you! Please leave me alone!
SMIRNOV. Pay me my money and I'll go.
POPOVA. I shan't give you any money!
SMIRNOV. Oh, no, you will.
POPOVA. I shan't give you a farthing, just to spite you. You leave me
alone!
SMIRNOV. I have not the pleasure of being either your husband or your
fiancé, so please don't make scenes. [Sits] I don't like it.
POPOVA. [Choking with rage] So you sit down?
SMIRNOV. I do.
POPOVA. I ask you to go away!
SMIRNOV. Give me my money.... [Aside] Oh, how angry I am! How angry I
am!
POPOVA. I don't want to talk to impudent scoundrels! Get out of this!
[Pause] Aren't you going? No?
SMIRNOV. No.
POPOVA. No?
SMIRNOV. No!
POPOVA. Very well then! [Rings, enter LUKA] Luka, show this gentleman
out!
LUKA. [Approaches SMIRNOV] Would you mind going out, sir, as you're
asked to! You needn't...
SMIRNOV. [Jumps up] Shut up! Who are you talking to? I'll chop you into
pieces!
LUKA. [Clutches at his heart] Little fathers!... What people!... [Falls
into a chair] Oh, I'm ill, I'm ill! I can't breathe!
POPOVA. Where's Dasha? Dasha! [Shouts] Dasha! Pelageya! Dasha! [Rings.]
LUKA. Oh! They've all gone out to pick fruit.... There's nobody at home!
I'm ill! Water!
POPOVA. Get out of this, now.
SMIRNOV. Can't you be more polite?
POPOVA. [Clenches her fists and stamps her foot] You're a boor! A coarse
bear! A Bourbon! A monster!
SMIRNOV. What? What did you say?
POPOVA. I said you are a bear, a monster!
SMIRNOV. [Approaching her] May I ask what right you have to insult me?
POPOVA. And suppose I am insulting you? Do you think I'm afraid of you?
SMIRNOV. And do you think that just because you're a poetic creature you
can insult me with impunity? Eh? We'll fight it out!
LUKA. Little fathers!... What people!... Water!
SMIRNOV. Pistols!
POPOVA. Do you think I'm afraid of you just because you have large fists
and a bull's throat? Eh? You Bourbon!
SMIRNOV. We'll fight it out! I'm not going to be insulted by anybody,
and I don't care if you are a woman, one of the "softer sex," indeed!
POPOVA. [Trying to interrupt him] Bear! Bear! Bear!
SMIRNOV. It's about time we got rid of the prejudice that only men need
pay for their insults. Devil take it, if you want equality of rights you
can have it. We're going to fight it out!
POPOVA. With pistols? Very well!
SMIRNOV. This very minute.
POPOVA. This very minute! My husband had some pistols.... I'll bring
them here. [Is going, but turns back] What pleasure it will give me to
put a bullet into your thick head! Devil take you! [Exit.]
SMIRNOV. I'll bring her down like a chicken! I'm not a little boy or a
sentimental puppy; I don't care about this "softer sex."
LUKA. Gracious little fathers!... [Kneels] Have pity on a poor old man,
and go away from here! You've frightened her to death, and now you want
to shoot her!
SMIRNOV. [Not hearing him] If she fights, well that's equality of
rights, emancipation, and all that! Here the sexes are equal! I'll shoot
her on principle! But what a woman! [Parodying her] "Devil take you!
I'll put a bullet into your thick head." Eh? How she reddened, how her
cheeks shone!... She accepted my challenge! My word, it's the first time
in my life that I've seen....
LUKA. Go away, sir, and I'll always pray to God for you!
SMIRNOV. She is a woman! That's the sort I can understand! A real woman!
Not a sour-faced jellybag, but fire, gunpowder, a rocket! I'm even sorry
to have to kill her!
LUKA. [Weeps] Dear... dear sir, do go away!
SMIRNOV. I absolutely like her! Absolutely! Even though her cheeks are
dimpled, I like her! I'm almost ready to let the debt go... and I'm not
angry any longer.... Wonderful woman!
[Enter POPOVA with pistols.]
POPOVA. Here are the pistols.... But before we fight you must show me
how to fire. I've never held a pistol in my hands before.
LUKA. Oh, Lord, have mercy and save her.... I'll go and find the
coachman and the gardener.... Why has this infliction come on us....
[Exit.]
SMIRNOV. [Examining the pistols] You see, there are several sorts of
pistols.... There are Mortimer pistols, specially made for duels, they
fire a percussion-cap. These are Smith and Wesson revolvers, triple
action, with extractors.... These are excellent pistols. They can't cost
less than ninety roubles the pair.... You must hold the revolver like
this.... [Aside] Her eyes, her eyes! What an inspiring woman!
POPOVA. Like this?
SMIRNOV. Yes, like this.... Then you cock the trigger, and take aim like
this.... Put your head back a little! Hold your arm out properly....
Like that.... Then you press this thing with your finger--and that's
all. The great thing is to keep cool and aim steadily.... Try not to
jerk your arm.
POPOVA. Very well.... It's inconvenient to shoot in a room, let's go
into the garden.
SMIRNOV. Come along then. But I warn you, I'm going to fire in the air.
POPOVA. That's the last straw! Why?
SMIRNOV. Because... because... it's my affair.
POPOVA. Are you afraid? Yes? Ah! No, sir, you don't get out of it! You
come with me! I shan't have any peace until I've made a hole in your
forehead... that forehead which I hate so much! Are you afraid?
SMIRNOV. Yes, I am afraid.
POPOVA. You lie! Why won't you fight?
SMIRNOV. Because... because you... because I like you.
POPOVA. [Laughs] He likes me! He dares to say that he likes me! [Points
to the door] That's the way.
SMIRNOV. [Loads the revolver in silence, takes his cap and goes to the
door. There he stops for half a minute, while they look at each other
in silence, then he hesitatingly approaches POPOVA] Listen.... Are you
still angry? I'm devilishly annoyed, too... but, do you understand...
how can I express myself?... The fact is, you see, it's like this, so to
speak.... [Shouts] Well, is it my fault that I like you? [He snatches at
the back of a chair; the chair creaks and breaks] Devil take it, how I'm
smashing up your furniture! I like you! Do you understand? I... I almost
love you!
POPOVA. Get away from me--I hate you!
SMIRNOV. God, what a woman! I've never in my life seen one like her! I'm
lost! Done for! Fallen into a mousetrap, like a mouse!
POPOVA. Stand back, or I'll fire!
SMIRNOV. Fire, then! You can't understand what happiness it would be to
die before those beautiful eyes, to be shot by a revolver held in that
little, velvet hand.... I'm out of my senses! Think, and make up your
mind at once, because if I go out we shall never see each other again!
Decide now.... I am a landowner, of respectable character, have an
income of ten thousand a year. I can put a bullet through a coin tossed
into the air as it comes down.... I own some fine horses.... Will you be
my wife?
POPOVA. [Indignantly shakes her revolver] Let's fight! Let's go out!
SMIRNOV. I'm mad.... I understand nothing. [Yells] Waiter, water!
POPOVA. [Yells] Let's go out and fight!
SMIRNOV. I'm off my head, I'm in love like a boy, like a fool! [Snatches
her hand, she screams with pain] I love you! [Kneels] I love you as I've
never loved before! I've refused twelve women, nine have refused me,
but I never loved one of them as I love you.... I'm weak, I'm wax, I've
melted.... I'm on my knees like a fool, offering you my hand.... Shame,
shame! I haven't been in love for five years, I'd taken a vow, and now
all of a sudden I'm in love, like a fish out of water! I offer you my
hand. Yes or no? You don't want me? Very well! [Gets up and quickly goes
to the door.]
POPOVA. Stop.
SMIRNOV. [Stops] Well?
POPOVA. Nothing, go away.... No, stop.... No, go away, go away! I hate
you! Or no.... Don't go away! Oh, if you knew how angry I am, how angry
I am! [Throws her revolver on the table] My fingers have swollen because
of all this.... [Tears her handkerchief in temper] What are you waiting
for? Get out!
SMIRNOV. Good-bye.
POPOVA. Yes, yes, go away!... [Yells] Where are you going? Stop.... No,
go away. Oh, how angry I am! Don't come near me, don't come near me!
SMIRNOV. [Approaching her] How angry I am with myself! I'm in love like
a student, I've been on my knees.... [Rudely] I love you! What do I want
to fall in love with you for? To-morrow I've got to pay the interest,
and begin mowing, and here you.... [Puts his arms around her] I shall
never forgive myself for this....
POPOVA. Get away from me! Take your hands away! I hate you! Let's go and
fight!
[A prolonged kiss. Enter LUKA with an axe, the GARDENER with a rake, the
COACHMAN with a pitchfork, and WORKMEN with poles.]
LUKA. [Catches sight of the pair kissing] Little fathers! [Pause.]
POPOVA. [Lowering her eyes] Luka, tell them in the stables that Toby
isn't to have any oats at all to-day.
Curtain.
A TRAGEDIAN IN SPITE OF HIMSELF
CHARACTERS
IVAN IVANOVITCH TOLKACHOV, the father of a family
ALEXEY ALEXEYEVITCH MURASHKIN, his friend
The scene is laid in St. Petersburg, in MURASHKIN'S flat
[MURASHKIN'S study. Comfortable furniture. MURASHKIN is seated at his
desk. Enter TOLKACHOV holding in his hands a glass globe for a lamp,
a toy bicycle, three hat-boxes, a large parcel containing a dress, a
bin-case of beer, and several little parcels. He looks round stupidly
and lets himself down on the sofa in exhaustion.]
MURASHKIN. How do you do, Ivan Ivanovitch? Delighted to see you! What
brings you here?
TOLKACHOV. [Breathing heavily] My dear good fellow... I want to ask
you something.... I implore you lend me a revolver till to-morrow. Be a
friend!
MURASHKIN. What do you want a revolver for?
TOLKACHOV. I must have it.... Oh, little fathers!... give me some
water... water quickly!... I must have it... I've got to go through a
dark wood to-night, so in case of accidents... do, please, lend it to
me.
MURASHKIN. Oh, you liar, Ivan Ivanovitch! What the devil have you got to
do in a dark wood? I expect you are up to something. I can see by your
face that you are up to something. What's the matter with you? Are you
ill?
TOLKACHOV. Wait a moment, let me breathe.... Oh little mothers! I am
dog-tired. I've got a feeling all over me, and in my head as well, as if
I've been roasted on a spit. I can't stand it any longer. Be a friend,
and don't ask me any questions or insist on details; just give me the
revolver! I beseech you!
MURASHKIN. Well, really! Ivan Ivanovitch, what cowardice is this? The
father of a family and a Civil Servant holding a responsible post! For
shame!
TOLKACHOV. What sort of a father of a family am I! I am a martyr. I am
a beast of burden, a nigger, a slave, a rascal who keeps on waiting here
for something to happen instead of starting off for the next world. I am
a rag, a fool, an idiot. Why am I alive? What's the use? [Jumps up] Well
now, tell me why am I alive? What's the purpose of this uninterrupted
series of mental and physical sufferings? I understand being a martyr
to an idea, yes! But to be a martyr to the devil knows what, skirts and
lamp-globes, no! I humbly decline! No, no, no! I've had enough! Enough!
MURASHKIN. Don't shout, the neighbours will hear you!
TOLKACHOV. Let your neighbours hear; it's all the same to me! If you
don't give me a revolver somebody else will, and there will be an end of
me anyway! I've made up my mind!
MURASHKIN. Hold on, you've pulled off a button. Speak calmly. I still
don't understand what's wrong with your life.
TOLKACHOV. What's wrong? You ask me what's wrong? Very well, I'll tell
you! Very well! I'll tell you everything, and then perhaps my soul will
be lighter. Let's sit down. Now listen... Oh, little mothers, I am out
of breath!... Just let's take to-day as an instance. Let's take to-day.
As you know, I've got to work at the Treasury from ten to four. It's
hot, it's stuffy, there are flies, and, my dear fellow, the very dickens
of a chaos. The Secretary is on leave, Khrapov has gone to get married,
and the smaller fry is mostly in the country, making love or occupied
with amateur theatricals. Everybody is so sleepy, tired, and done up
that you can't get any sense out of them. The Secretary's duties are in
the hands of an individual who is deaf in the left ear and in love; the
public has lost its memory; everybody is running about angry and raging,
and there is such a hullabaloo that you can't hear yourself speak.
Confusion and smoke everywhere. And my work is deathly: always the same,
always the same--first a correction, then a reference back, another
correction, another reference back; it's all as monotonous as the waves
of the sea. One's eyes, you understand, simply crawl out of one's head.
Give me some water.... You come out a broken, exhausted man. You would
like to dine and fall asleep, but you don't!--You remember that you live
in the country--that is, you are a slave, a rag, a bit of string, a bit
of limp flesh, and you've got to run round and do errands. Where we live
a pleasant custom has grown up: when a man goes to town every wretched
female inhabitant, not to mention one's own wife, has the power and the
right to give him a crowd of commissions. The wife orders you to run
into the modiste's and curse her for making a bodice too wide across the
chest and too narrow across the shoulders; little Sonya wants a new pair
of shoes; your sister-in-law wants some scarlet silk like the pattern
at twenty copecks and three arshins long.... Just wait; I'll read you.
[Takes a note out of his pocket and reads] A globe for the lamp; one
pound of pork sausages; five copecks' worth of cloves and cinnamon;
castor-oil for Misha; ten pounds of granulated sugar. To bring with you
from home: a copper jar for the sugar; carbolic acid; insect powder, ten
copecks' worth; twenty bottles of beer; vinegar; and corsets for Mlle.
Shanceau at No. 82.... Ouf! And to bring home Misha's winter coat and
goloshes. That is the order of my wife and family. Then there are
the commissions of our dear friends and neighbours--devil take them!
To-morrow is the name-day of Volodia Vlasin; I have to buy a bicycle
for him. The wife of Lieutenant-Colonel Virkhin is in an interesting
condition, and I am therefore bound to call in at the midwife's every
day and invite her to come. And so on, and so on. There are five notes
in my pocket and my handkerchief is all knots. And so, my dear fellow,
you spend the time between your office and your train, running about the
town like a dog with your tongue hanging out, running and running and
cursing life. From the clothier's to the chemist's, from the chemist's
to the modiste's, from the modiste's to the pork butcher's, and then
back again to the chemist's. In one place you stumble, in a second you
lose your money, in a third you forget to pay and they raise a hue and
cry after you, in a fourth you tread on the train of a lady's dress....
Tfoo! You get so shaken up from all this that your bones ache all night
and you dream of crocodiles. Well, you've made all your purchases, but
how are you to pack all these things? For instance, how are you to put a
heavy copper jar together with the lamp-globe or the carbolic acid with
the tea? How are you to make a combination of beer-bottles and this
bicycle? It's the labours of Hercules, a puzzle, a rebus! Whatever
tricks you think of, in the long run you're bound to smash or scatter
something, and at the station and in the train you have to stand with
your arms apart, holding up some parcel or other under your chin, with
parcels, cardboard boxes, and such-like rubbish all over you. The train
starts, the passengers begin to throw your luggage about on all sides:
you've got your things on somebody else's seat. They yell, they call for
the conductor, they threaten to have you put out, but what can I do? I
just stand and blink my eyes like a whacked donkey. Now listen to this.
I get home. You think I'd like to have a nice little drink after my
righteous labours and a good square meal--isn't that so?--but there is
no chance of that. My spouse has been on the look-out for me for some
time. You've hardly started on your soup when she has her claws into
you, wretched slave that you are--and wouldn't you like to go to some
amateur theatricals or to a dance? You can't protest. You are a husband,
and the word husband when translated into the language of summer
residents in the country means a dumb beast which you can load to
any extent without fear of the interference of the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. So you go and blink at "A Family
Scandal" or something, you applaud when your wife tells you to, and you
feel worse and worse and worse until you expect an apoplectic fit to
happen any moment. If you go to a dance you have to find partners
for your wife, and if there is a shortage of them then you dance the
quadrilles yourself. You get back from the theatre or the dance after
midnight, when you are no longer a man but a useless, limp rag. Well,
at last you've got what you want; you unrobe and get into bed. It's
excellent--you can close your eyes and sleep.... Everything is so nice,
poetic, and warm, you understand; there are no children squealing
behind the wall, and you've got rid of your wife, and your conscience is
clear--what more can you want? You fall asleep--and suddenly... you
hear a buzz!... Gnats! [Jumps up] Gnats! Be they triply accursed Gnats!
[Shakes his fist] Gnats! It's one of the plagues of Egypt, one of the
tortures of the Inquisition! Buzz! It sounds so pitiful, so pathetic, as
if it's begging your pardon, but the villain stings so that you have
to scratch yourself for an hour after. You smoke, and go for them, and
cover yourself from head to foot, but it is no good! At last you have
to sacrifice yourself and let the cursed things devour you. You've no
sooner got used to the gnats when another plague begins: downstairs
your wife begins practising sentimental songs with her two friends. They
sleep by day and rehearse for amateur concerts by night. Oh, my God!
Those tenors are a torture with which no gnats on earth can compare.
[He sings] "Oh, tell me not my youth has ruined you." "Before thee do I
stand enchanted." Oh, the beastly things! They've about killed me! So
as to deafen myself a little I do this: I drum on my ears. This goes on
till four o'clock. Oh, give me some more water, brother!... I can't...
Well, not having slept, you get up at six o'clock in the morning and
off you go to the station. You run so as not to be late, and it's muddy,
foggy, cold--brr! Then you get to town and start all over again. So
there, brother. It's a horrible life; I wouldn't wish one like it for my
enemy. You understand--I'm ill! Got asthma, heartburn--I'm always afraid
of something. I've got indigestion, everything is thick before me...
I've become a regular psychopath.... [Looking round] Only, between
ourselves, I want to go down to see Chechotte or Merzheyevsky. There's
some devil in me, brother. In moments of despair and suffering, when the
gnats are stinging or the tenors sing, everything suddenly grows dim;
you jump up and race round the whole house like a lunatic and shout, "I
want blood! Blood!" And really all the time you do want to let a knife
into somebody or hit him over the head with a chair. That's what life
in a summer villa leads to! And nobody has any sympathy for me, and
everybody seems to think it's all as it should be. People even laugh.
But understand, I am a living being and I want to live! This isn't
farce, it's tragedy! I say, if you don't give me your revolver, you
might at any rate sympathize.
MURASHKIN. I do sympathize.
TOLKACHOV. I see how much you sympathize.... Good-bye. I've got to buy
some anchovies and some sausage... and some tooth-powder, and then to
the station.
MURASHKIN. Where are you living?
TOLKACHOV. At Carrion River.
MURASHKIN. [Delighted] Really? Then you'll know Olga Pavlovna Finberg,
who lives there?
TOLKACHOV. I know her. We are even acquainted.
MURASHKIN. How perfectly splendid! That's so convenient, and it would be
so good of you...
TOLKACHOV. What's that?
MURASHKIN. My dear fellow, wouldn't you do one little thing for me? Be a
friend! Promise me now.
TOLKACHOV. What's that?
MURASHKIN. It would be such a friendly action! I implore you, my dear
man. In the first place, give Olga Pavlovna my very kind regards. In the
second place, there's a little thing I'd like you to take down to her.
She asked me to get a sewing-machine but I haven't anybody to send it
down to her by.... You take it, my dear! And you might at the same time
take down this canary in its cage... only be careful, or you'll break
the door.... What are you looking at me like that for?
TOLKACHOV. A sewing-machine... a canary in a cage... siskins,
chaffinches...
MURASHKIN. Ivan Ivanovitch, what's the matter with you? Why are you
turning purple?
TOLKACHOV. [Stamping] Give me the sewing-machine! Where's the bird-cage?
Now get on top yourself! Eat me! Tear me to pieces! Kill me! [Clenching
his fists] I want blood! Blood! Blood!
MURASHKIN. You've gone mad!
TOLKACHOV. [Treading on his feet] I want blood! Blood!
MURASHKIN. [In horror] He's gone mad! [Shouts] Peter! Maria! Where are
you? Help!
TOLKACHOV. [Chasing him round the room] I want blood! Blood!
Curtain.
THE ANNIVERSARY
CHARACTERS
ANDREY ANDREYEVITCH SHIPUCHIN, Chairman of the N---- Joint Stock
Bank, a middle-aged man, with a monocle
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA, his wife, aged 25
KUSMA NICOLAIEVITCH KHIRIN, the bank's aged book-keeper
NASTASYA FYODOROVNA MERCHUTKINA, an old woman wearing an old-fashioned
cloak
DIRECTORS OF THE BANK
EMPLOYEES OF THE BANK
The action takes place at the Bank
[The private office of the Chairman of Directors. On the left is a door,
leading into the public department. There are two desks. The furniture
aims at a deliberately luxurious effect, with armchairs covered in
velvet, flowers, statues, carpets, and a telephone. It is midday. KHIRIN
is alone; he wears long felt boots, and is shouting through the door.]
KHIRIN. Send out to the chemist for 15 copecks' worth of valerian drops,
and tell them to bring some drinking water into the Directors' office!
This is the hundredth time I've asked! [Goes to a desk] I'm absolutely
tired out. This is the fourth day I've been working, without a chance of
shutting my eyes. From morning to evening I work here, from evening to
morning at home. [Coughs] And I've got an inflammation all over me.
I'm hot and cold, and I cough, and my legs ache, and there's something
dancing before my eyes. [Sits] Our scoundrel of a Chairman, the brute,
is going to read a report at a general meeting. "Our Bank, its Present
and Future." You'd think he was a Gambetta.... [At work] Two... one...
one... six... nought... seven.... Next, six... nought... one... six....
He just wants to throw dust into people's eyes, and so I sit here and
work for him like a galley-slave! This report of his is poetic fiction
and nothing more, and here I've got to sit day after day and add
figures, devil take his soul! [Rattles on his counting-frame] I can't
stand it! [Writing] That is, one... three... seven... two... one...
nought.... He promised to reward me for my work. If everything goes well
to-day and the public is properly put into blinkers, he's promised me a
gold charm and 300 roubles bonus.... We'll see. [Works] Yes, but if
my work all goes for nothing, then you'd better look out.... I'm very
excitable.... If I lose my temper I'm capable of committing some crime,
so look out! Yes!
[Noise and applause behind the scenes. SHIPUCHIN'S voice: "Thank
you! Thank you! I am extremely grateful." Enter SHIPUCHIN. He wears
a frockcoat and white tie; he carries an album which has been just
presented to him.]
SHIPUCHIN. [At the door, addresses the outer office] This present, my
dear colleagues, will be preserved to the day of my death, as a memory
of the happiest days of my life! Yes, gentlemen! Once more, I thank you!
[Throws a kiss into the air and turns to KHIRIN] My dear, my respected
Kusma Nicolaievitch!
[All the time that SHIPUCHIN is on the stage, clerks intermittently come
in with papers for his signature and go out.]
KHIRIN. [Standing up] I have the honour to congratulate you, Andrey
Andreyevitch, on the fiftieth anniversary of our Bank, and hope that...
SHIPUCHIN. [Warmly shakes hands] Thank you, my dear sir! Thank you!
I think that in view of the unique character of the day, as it is an
anniversary, we may kiss each other!... [They kiss] I am very, very
glad! Thank you for your service... for everything! If, in the course of
the time during which I have had the honour to be Chairman of this Bank
anything useful has been done, the credit is due, more than to anybody
else, to my colleagues. [Sighs] Yes, fifteen years! Fifteen years as my
name's Shipuchin! [Changes his tone] Where's my report? Is it getting
on?
KHIRIN. Yes; there's only five pages left.
SHIPUCHIN. Excellent. Then it will be ready by three?
KHIRIN. If nothing occurs to disturb me, I'll get it done. Nothing of
any importance is now left.
SHIPUCHIN. Splendid. Splendid, as my name's Shipuchin! The general
meeting will be at four. If you please, my dear fellow. Give me the
first half, I'll peruse it.... Quick.... [Takes the report] I base
enormous hopes on this report. It's my _profession de foi_, or, better
still, my firework. [Note: The actual word employed.] My firework, as my
name's Shipuchin! [Sits and reads the report to himself] I'm hellishly
tired.... My gout kept on giving me trouble last night, all the morning
I was running about, and then these excitements, ovations, agitations...
I'm tired!
KHIRIN. Two... nought... nought... three... nine... two... nought. I
can't see straight after all these figures.... Three... one... six...
four... one... five.... [Uses the counting-frame.]
SHIPUCHIN. Another unpleasantness.... This morning your wife came to
see me and complained about you once again. Said that last night you
threatened her and her sister with a knife. Kusma Nicolaievitch, what do
you mean by that? Oh, oh!
KHIRIN. [Rudely] As it's an anniversary, Andrey Andreyevitch, I'll ask
for a special favour. Please, even if it's only out of respect for my
toil, don't interfere in my family life. Please!
SHIPUCHIN. [Sighs] Yours is an impossible character, Kusma
Nicolaievitch! You're an excellent and respected man, but you behave to
women like some scoundrel. Yes, really. I don't understand why you hate
them so?
KHIRIN. I wish I could understand why you love them so! [Pause.]
SHIPUCHIN. The employees have just presented me with an album; and the
Directors, as I've heard, are going to give me an address and a silver
loving-cup.... [Playing with his monocle] Very nice, as my name's
Shipuchin! It isn't excessive. A certain pomp is essential to the
reputation of the Bank, devil take it! You know everything, of
course.... I composed the address myself, and I bought the cup myself,
too.... Well, then there was 45 roubles for the cover of the address,
but you can't do without that. They'd never have thought of it for
themselves. [Looks round] Look at the furniture! Just look at it! They
say I'm stingy, that all I want is that the locks on the doors should
be polished, that the employees should wear fashionable ties, and that
a fat hall-porter should stand by the door. No, no, sirs. Polished locks
and a fat porter mean a good deal. I can behave as I like at home, eat
and sleep like a pig, get drunk....
KHIRIN. Please don't make hints.
SHIPUCHIN. Nobody's making hints! What an impossible character
yours is.... As I was saying, at home I can live like a tradesman, a
_parvenu_, and be up to any games I like, but here everything must be
_en grand_. This is a Bank! Here every detail must _imponiren_, so to
speak, and have a majestic appearance. [He picks up a paper from the
floor and throws it into the fireplace] My service to the Bank has been
just this--I've raised its reputation. A thing of immense importance is
tone! Immense, as my name's Shipuchin! [Looks over KHIRIN] My dear man,
a deputation of shareholders may come here any moment, and there you are
in felt boots, wearing a scarf... in some absurdly coloured jacket....
You might have put on a frock-coat, or at any rate a dark jacket....
KHIRIN. My health matters more to me than your shareholders. I've an
inflammation all over me.
SHIPUCHIN. [Excitedly] But you will admit that it's untidy! You spoil
the _ensemble_!
KHIRIN. If the deputation comes I can go and hide myself. It won't
matter if... seven... one... seven... two... one... five... nought.
I don't like untidiness myself.... Seven... two... nine... [Uses the
counting-frame] I can't stand untidiness! It would have been wiser of
you not to have invited ladies to to-day's anniversary dinner....
SHIPUCHIN. Oh, that's nothing.
KHIRIN. I know that you're going to have the hall filled with them
to-night to make a good show, but you look out, or they'll spoil
everything. They cause all sorts of mischief and disorder.
SHIPUCHIN. On the contrary, feminine society elevates!
KHIRIN. Yes.... Your wife seems intelligent, but on the Monday of last
week she let something off that upset me for two days. In front of a
lot of people she suddenly asks: "Is it true that at our Bank my husband
bought up a lot of the shares of the Driazhsky-Priazhsky Bank, which
have been falling on exchange? My husband is so annoyed about it!" This
in front of people. Why do you tell them everything, I don't understand.
Do you want them to get you into serious trouble?
SHIPUCHIN. Well, that's enough, enough! All that's too dull for an
anniversary. Which reminds me, by the way. [Looks at the time] My wife
ought to be here soon. I really ought to have gone to the station, to
meet the poor little thing, but there's no time.... and I'm tired. I
must say I'm not glad of her! That is to say, I am glad, but I'd be
gladder if she only stayed another couple of days with her mother.
She'll want me to spend the whole evening with her to-night, whereas
we have arranged a little excursion for ourselves.... [Shivers] Oh, my
nerves have already started dancing me about. They are so strained that
I think the very smallest trifle would be enough to make me break into
tears! No, I must be strong, as my name's Shipuchin!
[Enter TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA SHIPUCHIN in a waterproof, with a little
travelling satchel slung across her shoulder.]
SHIPUCHIN. Ah! In the nick of time!
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. Darling!
[Runs to her husband: a prolonged kiss.]
SHIPUCHIN. We were only speaking of you just now! [Looks at his watch.]
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [Panting] Were you very dull without me? Are you
well? I haven't been home yet, I came here straight from the station.
I've a lot, a lot to tell you.... I couldn't wait.... I shan't take off
my clothes, I'll only stay a minute. [To KHIRIN] Good morning, Kusma
Nicolaievitch! [To her husband] Is everything all right at home?
SHIPUCHIN. Yes, quite. And, you know, you've got to look plumper and
better this week.... Well, what sort of a time did you have?
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. Splendid. Mamma and Katya send their regards.
Vassili Andreitch sends you a kiss. [Kisses him] Aunt sends you a jar
of jam, and is annoyed because you don't write. Zina sends you a kiss.
[Kisses.] Oh, if you knew what's happened. If you only knew! I'm even
frightened to tell you! Oh, if you only knew! But I see by your eyes
that you're sorry I came!
SHIPUCHIN. On the contrary.... Darling.... [Kisses her.]
[KHIRIN coughs angrily.]
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. Oh, poor Katya, poor Katya! I'm so sorry for her, so
sorry for her.
SHIPUCHIN. This is the Bank's anniversary to-day, darling, we may get a
deputation of the shareholders at any moment, and you're not dressed.
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. Oh, yes, the anniversary! I congratulate you,
gentlemen. I wish you.... So it means that to-day's the day of the
meeting, the dinner.... That's good. And do you remember that beautiful
address which you spent such a long time composing for the shareholders?
Will it be read to-day?
[KHIRIN coughs angrily.]
SHIPUCHIN. [Confused] My dear, we don't talk about these things. You'd
really better go home.
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. In a minute, in a minute. I'll tell you everything
in one minute and go. I'll tell you from the very beginning. Well....
When you were seeing me off, you remember I was sitting next to that
stout lady, and I began to read. I don't like to talk in the train. I
read for three stations and didn't say a word to anyone.... Well, then
the evening set in, and I felt so mournful, you know, with such sad
thoughts! A young man was sitting opposite me--not a bad-looking fellow,
a brunette.... Well, we fell into conversation.... A sailor came along
then, then some student or other.... [Laughs] I told them that I wasn't
married... and they did look after me! We chattered till midnight, the
brunette kept on telling the most awfully funny stories, and the sailor
kept on singing. My chest began to ache from laughing. And when the
sailor--oh, those sailors!--when he got to know my name was TATIANA, you
know what he sang? [Sings in a bass voice] "Onegin don't let me conceal
it, I love Tatiana madly!" [Note: From the Opera _Evgeni Onegin_--words
by Pushkin.] [Roars with laughter.]
[KHIRIN coughs angrily.]
SHIPUCHIN. Tania, dear, you're disturbing Kusma Nicolaievitch. Go home,
dear.... Later on....
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. No, no, let him hear if he wants to, it's awfully
interesting. I'll end in a minute. Serezha came to meet me at the
station. Some young man or other turns up, an inspector of taxes, I
think... quite handsome, especially his eyes.... Serezha introduced me,
and the three of us rode off together.... It was lovely weather....
[Voices behind the stage: "You can't, you can't! What do you want?"
Enter MERCHUTKINA, waving her arms about.]
MERCHUTKINA. What are you dragging at me for. What else! I want him
himself! [To SHIPUCHIN] I have the honour, your excellency... I am the
wife of a civil servant, Nastasya Fyodorovna Merchutkina.
SHIPUCHIN. What do you want?
MERCHUTKINA. Well, you see, your excellency, my husband has been ill for
five months, and while he was at home, getting better, he was suddenly
dismissed for no reason, your excellency, and when I went to get his
salary, they, you see, deducted 24 roubles 36 copecks from it. What for?
I ask. They said, "Well, he drew it from the employees' account, and the
others had to make it up." How can that be? How could he draw anything
without my permission? No, your excellency! I'm a poor woman... my
lodgers are all I have to live on.... I'm weak and defenceless....
Everybody does me some harm, and nobody has a kind word for me.
SHIPUCHIN. Excuse me. [Takes a petition from her and reads it standing.]
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [To KHIRIN] Yes, but first we.... Last week I
suddenly received a letter from my mother. She writes that a certain
Grendilevsky has proposed to my sister Katya. A nice, modest, young
man, but with no means of his own, and no assured position. And,
unfortunately, just think of it, Katya is absolutely gone on him.
What's to be done? Mamma writes telling me to come at once and influence
Katya....
KHIRIN. [Angrily] Excuse me, you've made me lose my place! You go
talking about your mamma and Katya, and I understand nothing; and I've
lost my place.
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. What does that matter? You listen when a lady is
talking to you! Why are you so angry to-day? Are you in love? [Laughs.]
SHIPUCHIN. [To MERCHUTKINA] Excuse me, but what is this? I can't make
head or tail of it.
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. Are you in love? Aha! You're blushing!
SHIPUCHIN. [To his wife] Tanya, dear, do go out into the public office
for a moment. I shan't be long.
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. All right. [Goes out.]
SHIPUCHIN. I don't understand anything of this. You've obviously come
to the wrong place, madam. Your petition doesn't concern us at all. You
should go to the department in which your husband was employed.
MERCHUTKINA. I've been there a good many times these five months, and
they wouldn't even look at my petition. I'd given up all hopes, but,
thanks to my son-in-law, Boris Matveyitch, I thought of coming to
you. "You go, mother," he says, "and apply to Mr. Shipuchin, he's an
influential man and can do anything." Help me, your excellency!
SHIPUCHIN. We can't do anything for you, Mrs. Merchutkina. You must
understand that your husband, so far as I can gather, was in the employ
of the Army Medical Department, while this is a private, commercial
concern, a bank. Don't you understand that?
MERCHUTKINA. Your excellency, I can produce a doctor's certificate of my
husband's illness. Here it is, just look at it....
SHIPUCHIN. [Irritated] That's all right; I quite believe you, but it's
not our business. [Behind the scene, TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA'S laughter is
heard, then a man's. SHIPUCHIN glances at the door] She's disturbing
the employees. [To MERCHUTKINA] It's strange and it's even silly. Surely
your husband knows where you ought to apply?
MERCHUTKINA. Your excellency, I don't let him know anything. He just
cried out: "It isn't your business! Get out of this!" And...
SHIPUCHIN. Madam, I repeat, your husband was in the employ of the Army
Medical Department, and this is a bank, a private, commercial concern.
MERCHUTKINA. Yes, yes, yes.... I understand, my dear. In that case, your
excellency, just order them to pay me 15 roubles! I don't mind taking
that to be going on with.
SHIPUCHIN. [Sighs] Ouf!
KHIRIN. Andrey Andreyevitch, I'll never finish the report at this rate!
SHIPUCHIN. One moment. [To MERCHUTKINA] I can't get any sense out of
you. But do understand that your taking this business here is as absurd
as if you took a divorce petition to a chemist's or into a gold assay
office. [Knock at the door. The voice of TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA is heard,
"Can I come in, Andrey?" SHIPUCHIN shouts] Just wait one minute, dear!
[To MERCHUTKINA] What has it got to do with us if you haven't been paid?
As it happens, madam, this is an anniversary to-day, we're busy... and
somebody may be coming here at any moment.... Excuse me....
MERCHUTKINA. Your excellency, have pity on me, an orphan! I'm a weak,
defenceless woman.... I'm tired to death.... I'm having trouble with my
lodgers, and on account of my husband, and I've got the house to look
after, and my son-in-law is out of work....
SHIPUCHIN. Mrs. Merchutkina, I... No, excuse me, I can't talk to you! My
head's even in a whirl.... You are disturbing us and making us waste
our time. [Sighs, aside] What a business, as my name's Shipuchin!
[To KHIRIN] Kusma Nicolaievitch, will you please explain to Mrs.
Merchutkina. [Waves his hand and goes out into public department.]
KHIRIN. [Approaching MERCHUTKINA, angrily] What do you want?
MERCHUTKINA. I'm a weak, defenceless woman.... I may look all right, but
if you were to take me to pieces you wouldn't find a single healthy bit
in me! I can hardly stand on my legs, and I've lost my appetite. I drank
my coffee to-day and got no pleasure out of it.
KHIRIN. I ask you, what do you want?
MERCHUTKINA. Tell them, my dear, to give me 15 roubles, and a month
later will do for the rest.
KHIRIN. But haven't you been told perfectly plainly that this is a bank!
MERCHUTKINA. Yes, yes.... And if you like I can show you the doctor's
certificate.
KHIRIN. Have you got a head on your shoulders, or what?
MERCHUTKINA. My dear, I'm asking for what's mine by law. I don't want
what isn't mine.
KHIRIN. I ask you, madam, have you got a head on your shoulders, or
what? Well, devil take me, I haven't any time to talk to you! I'm
busy.... [Points to the door] That way, please!
MERCHUTKINA. [Surprised] And where's the money?
KHIRIN. You haven't a head, but this [Taps the table and then points to
his forehead.]
MERCHUTKINA. [Offended] What? Well, never mind, never mind.... You can
do that to your own wife, but I'm the wife of a civil servant.... You
can't do that to me!
KHIRIN. [Losing his temper] Get out of this!
MERCHUTKINA. No, no, no... none of that!
KHIRIN. If you don't get out this second, I'll call for the hall-porter!
Get out! [Stamping.]
MERCHUTKINA. Never mind, never mind! I'm not afraid! I've seen the like
of you before! Miser!
KHIRIN. I don't think I've ever seen a more awful woman in my life....
Ouf! It's given me a headache.... [Breathing heavily] I tell you once
more... do you hear me? If you don't get out of this, you old devil,
I'll grind you into powder! I've got such a character that I'm perfectly
capable of laming you for life! I can commit a crime!
MERCHUTKINA. I've heard barking dogs before. I'm not afraid. I've seen
the like of you before.
KHIRIN. [In despair] I can't stand it! I'm ill! I can't! [Sits down at
his desk] They've let the Bank get filled with women, and I can't finish
my report! I can't.
MERCHUTKINA. I don't want anybody else's money, but my own, according to
law. You ought to be ashamed of yourself! Sitting in a government office
in felt boots....
[Enter SHIPUCHIN and TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA.]
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [Following her husband] We spent the evening at the
Berezhnitskys. Katya was wearing a sky-blue frock of foulard silk, cut
low at the neck.... She looks very well with her hair done over her
head, and I did her hair myself.... She was perfectly fascinating....
SHIPUCHIN. [Who has had enough of it already] Yes, yes...
fascinating.... They may be here any moment....
MERCHUTKINA. Your excellency!
SHIPUCHIN. [Dully] What else? What do you want?
MERCHUTKINA. Your excellency! [Points to KHIRIN] This man... this man
tapped the table with his finger, and then his head.... You told him to
look after my affair, but he insults me and says all sorts of things.
I'm a weak, defenceless woman....
SHIPUCHIN. All right, madam, I'll see to it... and take the necessary
steps.... Go away now... later on! [Aside] My gout's coming on!
KHIRIN. [In a low tone to SHIPUCHIN] Andrey Andreyevitch, send for the
hall-porter and have her turned out neck and crop! What else can we do?
SHIPUCHIN. [Frightened] No, no! She'll kick up a row and we aren't the
only people in the building.
MERCHUTKINA. Your excellency.
KHIRIN. [In a tearful voice] But I've got to finish my report! I won't
have time! I won't!
MERCHUTKINA. Your excellency, when shall I have the money? I want it
now.
SHIPUCHIN. [Aside, in dismay] A re-mark-ab-ly beastly woman! [Politely]
Madam, I've already told you, this is a bank, a private, commercial
concern.
MERCHUTKINA. Be a father to me, your excellency.... If the doctor's
certificate isn't enough, I can get you another from the police. Tell
them to give me the money!
SHIPUCHIN. [Panting] Ouf!
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [To MERCHUTKINA] Mother, haven't you already been
told that you're disturbing them? What right have you?
MERCHUTKINA. Mother, beautiful one, nobody will help me. All I do is to
eat and drink, and just now I didn't enjoy my coffee at all.
SHIPUCHIN. [Exhausted] How much do you want?
MERCHUTKINA. 24 roubles 36 copecks.
SHIPUCHIN. All right! [Takes a 25-rouble note out of his pocket-book and
gives it to her] Here are 25 roubles. Take it and... go!
[KHIRIN coughs angrily.]
MERCHUTKINA. I thank you very humbly, your excellency. [Hides the
money.]
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [Sits by her husband] It's time I went home....
[Looks at watch] But I haven't done yet.... I'll finish in one minute
and go away.... What a time we had! Yes, what a time! We went to spend
the evening at the Berezhnitskys.... It was all right, quite fun, but
nothing in particular.... Katya's devoted Grendilevsky was there, of
course.... Well, I talked to Katya, cried, and induced her to talk to
Grendilevsky and refuse him. Well, I thought, everything's, settled
the best possible way; I've quieted mamma down, saved Katya, and can
be quiet myself.... What do you think? Katya and I were going along the
avenue, just before supper, and suddenly... [Excitedly] And suddenly
we heard a shot.... No, I can't talk about it calmly! [Waves her
handkerchief] No, I can't!
SHIPUCHIN. [Sighs] Ouf!
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [Weeps] We ran to the summer-house, and there...
there poor Grendilevsky was lying... with a pistol in his hand....
SHIPUCHIN. No, I can't stand this! I can't stand it! [To MERCHUTKINA]
What else do you want?
MERCHUTKINA. Your excellency, can't my husband go back to his job?
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [Weeping] He'd shot himself right in the heart...
here.... And the poor man had fallen down senseless.... And he was
awfully frightened, as he lay there... and asked for a doctor. A doctor
came soon... and saved the unhappy man....
MERCHUTKINA. Your excellency, can't my husband go back to his job?
SHIPUCHIN. No, I can't stand this! [Weeps] I can't stand it! [Stretches
out both his hands in despair to KHIRIN] Drive her away! Drive her away,
I implore you!
KHIRIN. [Goes up to TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA] Get out of this!
SHIPUCHIN. Not her, but this one... this awful woman.... [Points] That
one!
KHIRIN. [Not understanding, to TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA] Get out of this!
[Stamps] Get out!
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. What? What are you doing? Have you taken leave of
your senses?
SHIPUCHIN. It's awful? I'm a miserable man! Drive her out! Out with her!
KHIRIN. [To TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA] Out of it! I'll cripple you! I'll knock
you out of shape! I'll break the law!
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [Running from him; he chases her] How dare you! You
impudent fellow! [Shouts] Andrey! Help! Andrey! [Screams.]
SHIPUCHIN. [Chasing them] Stop! I implore you! Not such a noise? Have
pity on me!
KHIRIN. [Chasing MERCHUTKINA] Out of this! Catch her! Hit her! Cut her
into pieces!
SHIPUCHIN. [Shouts] Stop! I ask you! I implore you!
MERCHUTKINA. Little fathers... little fathers! [Screams] Little
fathers!...
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [Shouts] Help! Help!... Oh, oh... I'm sick, I'm
sick! [Jumps on to a chair, then falls on to the sofa and groans as if
in a faint.]
KHIRIN. [Chasing MERCHUTKINA] Hit her! Beat her! Cut her to pieces!
MERCHUTKINA. Oh, oh... little fathers, it's all dark before me! Ah!
[Falls senseless into SHIPUCHIN'S arms. There is a knock at the door;
a VOICE announces THE DEPUTATION] The deputation... reputation...
occupation...
KHIRIN. [Stamps] Get out of it, devil take me! [Turns up his sleeves]
Give her to me: I may break the law!
[A deputation of five men enters; they all wear frockcoats. One carries
the velvet-covered address, another, the loving-cup. Employees look in
at the door, from the public department. TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA on the sofa,
and MERCHUTKINA in SHIPUCHIN'S arms are both groaning.]
ONE OF THE DEPUTATION. [Reads aloud] "Deeply respected and dear Andrey
Andreyevitch! Throwing a retrospective glance at the past history of
our financial administration, and reviewing in our minds its gradual
development, we receive an extremely satisfactory impression. It is true
that in the first period of its existence, the inconsiderable amount of
its capital, and the absence of serious operations of any description,
and also the indefinite aims of this bank, made us attach an extreme
importance to the question raised by Hamlet, 'To be or not to be,'
and at one time there were even voices to be heard demanding our
liquidation. But at that moment you become the head of our concern.
Your knowledge, energies, and your native tact were the causes of
extraordinary success and widespread extension. The reputation of the
bank... [Coughs] reputation of the bank..."
MERCHUTKINA. [Groans] Oh! Oh!
TATIANA ALEXEYEVNA. [Groans] Water! Water!
THE MEMBER OF THE DEPUTATION. [Continues] The reputation [Coughs]... the
reputation of the bank has been raised by you to such a height that we
are now the rivals of the best foreign concerns.
SHIPUCHIN. Deputation... reputation... occupation.... Two friends that
had a walk at night, held converse by the pale moonlight.... Oh tell me
not, that youth is vain, that jealousy has turned my brain.
THE MEMBER OF THE DEPUTATION. [Continues in confusion] "Then, throwing
an objective glance at the present condition of things, we, deeply
respected and dear Andrey Andreyevitch... [Lowering his voice] In that
case, we'll do it later on.... Yes, later on...." [DEPUTATION goes out
in confusion.]
Curtain.
THE THREE SISTERS
A DRAMA IN FOUR ACTS
CHARACTERS
ANDREY SERGEYEVITCH PROSOROV
NATALIA IVANOVA (NATASHA), his fiancée, later his wife (28)
His sisters:
OLGA
MASHA
IRINA
FEODOR ILITCH KULIGIN, high school teacher, married to MASHA (20)
ALEXANDER IGNATEYEVITCH VERSHININ, lieutenant-colonel in charge of
a battery (42)
NICOLAI LVOVITCH TUZENBACH, baron, lieutenant in the army (30)
VASSILI VASSILEVITCH SOLENI, captain
IVAN ROMANOVITCH CHEBUTIKIN, army doctor (60)
ALEXEY PETROVITCH FEDOTIK, sub-lieutenant
VLADIMIR CARLOVITCH RODE, sub-lieutenant
FERAPONT, door-keeper at local council offices, an old man
ANFISA, nurse (80)
The action takes place in a provincial town.
[Ages are stated in brackets.]
ACT I
[In PROSOROV'S house. A sitting-room with pillars; behind is seen a
large dining-room. It is midday, the sun is shining brightly outside. In
the dining-room the table is being laid for lunch.]
[OLGA, in the regulation blue dress of a teacher at a girl's high
school, is walking about correcting exercise books; MASHA, in a black
dress, with a hat on her knees, sits and reads a book; IRINA, in white,
stands about, with a thoughtful expression.]
OLGA. It's just a year since father died last May the fifth, on your
name-day, Irina. It was very cold then, and snowing. I thought I would
never survive it, and you were in a dead faint. And now a year has
gone by and we are already thinking about it without pain, and you are
wearing a white dress and your face is happy. [Clock strikes twelve] And
the clock struck just the same way then. [Pause] I remember that there
was music at the funeral, and they fired a volley in the cemetery. He
was a general in command of a brigade but there were few people present.
Of course, it was raining then, raining hard, and snowing.
IRINA. Why think about it!
[BARON TUZENBACH, CHEBUTIKIN and SOLENI appear by the table in the
dining-room, behind the pillars.]
OLGA. It's so warm to-day that we can keep the windows open, though the
birches are not yet in flower. Father was put in command of a brigade,
and he rode out of Moscow with us eleven years ago. I remember perfectly
that it was early in May and that everything in Moscow was flowering
then. It was warm too, everything was bathed in sunshine. Eleven years
have gone, and I remember everything as if we rode out only yesterday.
Oh, God! When I awoke this morning and saw all the light and the spring,
joy entered my heart, and I longed passionately to go home.
CHEBUTIKIN. Will you take a bet on it?
TUZENBACH. Oh, nonsense.
[MASHA, lost in a reverie over her book, whistles softly.]
OLGA. Don't whistle, Masha. How can you! [Pause] I'm always having
headaches from having to go to the High School every day and then teach
till evening. Strange thoughts come to me, as if I were already an old
woman. And really, during these four years that I have been working
here, I have been feeling as if every day my strength and youth have
been squeezed out of me, drop by drop. And only one desire grows and
gains in strength...
IRINA. To go away to Moscow. To sell the house, drop everything here,
and go to Moscow...
OLGA. Yes! To Moscow, and as soon as possible.
[CHEBUTIKIN and TUZENBACH laugh.]
IRINA. I expect Andrey will become a professor, but still, he won't want
to live here. Only poor Masha must go on living here.
OLGA. Masha can come to Moscow every year, for the whole summer.
[MASHA is whistling gently.]
IRINA. Everything will be arranged, please God. [Looks out of the
window] It's nice out to-day. I don't know why I'm so happy: I
remembered this morning that it was my name-day, and I suddenly felt
glad and remembered my childhood, when mother was still with us. What
beautiful thoughts I had, what thoughts!
OLGA. You're all radiance to-day, I've never seen you look so lovely.
And Masha is pretty, too. Andrey wouldn't be bad-looking, if he wasn't
so stout; it does spoil his appearance. But I've grown old and very
thin, I suppose it's because I get angry with the girls at school.
To-day I'm free. I'm at home. I haven't got a headache, and I feel
younger than I was yesterday. I'm only twenty-eight.... All's well, God
is everywhere, but it seems to me that if only I were married and could
stay at home all day, it would be even better. [Pause] I should love my
husband.
TUZENBACH. [To SOLENI] I'm tired of listening to the rot you talk.
[Entering the sitting-room] I forgot to say that Vershinin, our new
lieutenant-colonel of artillery, is coming to see us to-day. [Sits down
to the piano.]
OLGA. That's good. I'm glad.
IRINA. Is he old?
TUZENBACH. Oh, no. Forty or forty-five, at the very outside. [Plays
softly] He seems rather a good sort. He's certainly no fool, only he
likes to hear himself speak.
IRINA. Is he interesting?
TUZENBACH. Oh, he's all right, but there's his wife, his mother-in-law,
and two daughters. This is his second wife. He pays calls and tells
everybody that he's got a wife and two daughters. He'll tell you so
here. The wife isn't all there, she does her hair like a flapper and
gushes extremely. She talks philosophy and tries to commit suicide every
now and again, apparently in order to annoy her husband. I should have
left her long ago, but he bears up patiently, and just grumbles.
SOLENI. [Enters with CHEBUTIKIN from the dining-room] With one hand I
can only lift fifty-four pounds, but with both hands I can lift 180,
or even 200 pounds. From this I conclude that two men are not twice as
strong as one, but three times, perhaps even more....
CHEBUTIKIN. [Reads a newspaper as he walks] If your hair is coming
out... take an ounce of naphthaline and hail a bottle of spirit...
dissolve and use daily.... [Makes a note in his pocket diary] When
found make a note of! Not that I want it though.... [Crosses it out] It
doesn't matter.
IRINA. Ivan Romanovitch, dear Ivan Romanovitch!
CHEBUTIKIN. What does my own little girl want?
IRINA. Ivan Romanovitch, dear Ivan Romanovitch! I feel as if I were
sailing under the broad blue sky with great white birds around me. Why
is that? Why?
CHEBUTIKIN. [Kisses her hands, tenderly] My white bird....
IRINA. When I woke up to-day and got up and dressed myself, I suddenly
began to feel as if everything in this life was open to me, and that I
knew how I must live. Dear Ivan Romanovitch, I know everything. A man
must work, toil in the sweat of his brow, whoever he may be, for that is
the meaning and object of his life, his happiness, his enthusiasm. How
fine it is to be a workman who gets up at daybreak and breaks stones in
the street, or a shepherd, or a schoolmaster, who teaches children, or
an engine-driver on the railway.... My God, let alone a man, it's better
to be an ox, or just a horse, so long as it can work, than a young woman
who wakes up at twelve o'clock, has her coffee in bed, and then spends
two hours dressing.... Oh it's awful! Sometimes when it's hot, your
thirst can be just as tiresome as my need for work. And if I don't get
up early in future and work, Ivan Romanovitch, then you may refuse me
your friendship.
CHEBUTIKIN. [Tenderly] I'll refuse, I'll refuse....
OLGA. Father used to make us get up at seven. Now Irina wakes at seven
and lies and meditates about something till nine at least. And she looks
so serious! [Laughs.]
IRINA. You're so used to seeing me as a little girl that it seems queer
to you when my face is serious. I'm twenty!
TUZENBACH. How well I can understand that craving for work, oh God! I've
never worked once in my life. I was born in Petersburg, a chilly, lazy
place, in a family which never knew what work or worry meant. I remember
that when I used to come home from my regiment, a footman used to
have to pull off my boots while I fidgeted and my mother looked on in
adoration and wondered why other people didn't see me in the same light.
They shielded me from work; but only just in time! A new age is dawning,
the people are marching on us all, a powerful, health-giving storm is
gathering, it is drawing near, soon it will be upon us and it will drive
away laziness, indifference, the prejudice against labour, and rotten
dullness from our society. I shall work, and in twenty-five or thirty
years, every man will have to work. Every one!
CHEBUTIKIN. I shan't work.
TUZENBACH. You don't matter.
SOLENI. In twenty-five years' time, we shall all be dead, thank the
Lord. In two or three years' time apoplexy will carry you off, or else
I'll blow your brains out, my pet. [Takes a scent-bottle out of his
pocket and sprinkles his chest and hands.]
CHEBUTIKIN. [Laughs] It's quite true, I never have worked. After I came
down from the university I never stirred a finger or opened a book, I
just read the papers.... [Takes another newspaper out of his pocket]
Here we are.... I've learnt from the papers that there used to be one,
Dobrolubov [Note: Dobroluboy (1836-81), in spite of the shortness of his
career, established himself as one of the classic literary critics
of Russia], for instance, but what he wrote--I don't know... God only
knows.... [Somebody is heard tapping on the floor from below] There....
They're calling me downstairs, somebody's come to see me. I'll be back
in a minute... won't be long.... [Exit hurriedly, scratching his beard.]
IRINA. He's up to something.
TUZENBACH. Yes, he looked so pleased as he went out that I'm pretty
certain he'll bring you a present in a moment.
IRINA. How unpleasant!
OLGA. Yes, it's awful. He's always doing silly things.
MASHA.
"There stands a green oak by the sea.
And a chain of bright gold is around it...
And a chain of bright gold is around it...."
[Gets up and sings softly.]
OLGA. You're not very bright to-day, Masha. [MASHA sings, putting on her
hat] Where are you off to?
MASHA. Home.
IRINA. That's odd....
TUZENBACH. On a name-day, too!
MASHA. It doesn't matter. I'll come in the evening. Good-bye, dear.
[Kisses MASHA] Many happy returns, though I've said it before. In the
old days when father was alive, every time we had a name-day, thirty or
forty officers used to come, and there was lots of noise and fun, and
to-day there's only a man and a half, and it's as quiet as a desert...
I'm off... I've got the hump to-day, and am not at all cheerful, so
don't you mind me. [Laughs through her tears] We'll have a talk later
on, but good-bye for the present, my dear; I'll go somewhere.
IRINA. [Displeased] You are queer....
OLGA. [Crying] I understand you, Masha.
SOLENI. When a man talks philosophy, well, it is philosophy or at any
rate sophistry; but when a woman, or two women, talk philosophy--it's
all my eye.
MASHA. What do you mean by that, you very awful man?
SOLENI. Oh, nothing. You came down on me before I could say... help!
[Pause.]
MASHA. [Angrily, to OLGA] Don't cry!
[Enter ANFISA and FERAPONT with a cake.]
ANFISA. This way, my dear. Come in, your feet are clean. [To IRINA] From
the District Council, from Mihail Ivanitch Protopopov... a cake.
IRINA. Thank you. Please thank him. [Takes the cake.]
FERAPONT. What?
IRINA. [Louder] Please thank him.
OLGA. Give him a pie, nurse. Ferapont, go, she'll give you a pie.
FERAPONT. What?
ANFISA. Come on, gran'fer, Ferapont Spiridonitch. Come on. [Exeunt.]
MASHA. I don't like this Mihail Potapitch or Ivanitch, Protopopov. We
oughtn't to invite him here.
IRINA. I never asked him.
MASHA. That's all right.
[Enter CHEBUTIKIN followed by a soldier with a silver samovar; there is
a rumble of dissatisfied surprise.]
OLGA. [Covers her face with her hands] A samovar! That's awful! [Exit
into the dining-room, to the table.]
IRINA. My dear Ivan Romanovitch, what are you doing!
TUZENBACH. [Laughs] I told you so!
MASHA. Ivan Romanovitch, you are simply shameless!
CHEBUTIKIN. My dear good girl, you are the only thing, and the dearest
thing I have in the world. I'll soon be sixty. I'm an old man, a lonely
worthless old man. The only good thing in me is my love for you, and if
it hadn't been for that, I would have been dead long ago.... [To IRINA]
My dear little girl, I've known you since the day of your birth, I've
carried you in my arms... I loved your dead mother....
MASHA. But your presents are so expensive!
CHEBUTIKIN. [Angrily, through his tears] Expensive presents.... You
really, are!... [To the orderly] Take the samovar in there.... [Teasing]
Expensive presents!
[The orderly goes into the dining-room with the samovar.]
ANFISA. [Enters and crosses stage] My dear, there's a strange Colonel
come! He's taken off his coat already. Children, he's coming here. Irina
darling, you'll be a nice and polite little girl, won't you.... Should
have lunched a long time ago.... Oh, Lord.... [Exit.]
TUZENBACH. It must be Vershinin. [Enter VERSHININ] Lieutenant-Colonel
Vershinin!
VERSHININ. [To MASHA and IRINA] I have the honour to introduce myself,
my name is Vershinin. I am very glad indeed to be able to come at last.
How you've grown! Oh! oh!
IRINA. Please sit down. We're very glad you've come.
VERSHININ. [Gaily] I am glad, very glad! But there are three sisters,
surely. I remember--three little girls. I forget your faces, but your
father, Colonel Prosorov, used to have three little girls, I remember
that perfectly, I saw them with my own eyes. How time does fly! Oh,
dear, how it flies!
TUZENBACH. Alexander Ignateyevitch comes from Moscow.
IRINA. From Moscow? Are you from Moscow?
VERSHININ. Yes, that's so. Your father used to be in charge of a battery
there, and I was an officer in the same brigade. [To MASHA] I seem to
remember your face a little.
MASHA. I don't remember you.
IRINA. Olga! Olga! [Shouts into the dining-room] Olga! Come along! [OLGA
enters from the dining-room] Lieutenant Colonel Vershinin comes from
Moscow, as it happens.
VERSHININ. I take it that you are Olga Sergeyevna, the eldest, and that
you are Maria... and you are Irina, the youngest....
OLGA. So you come from Moscow?
VERSHININ. Yes. I went to school in Moscow and began my service there; I
was there for a long time until at last I got my battery and moved over
here, as you see. I don't really remember you, I only remember that
there used to be three sisters. I remember your father well; I have only
to shut my eyes to see him as he was. I used to come to your house in
Moscow....
OLGA. I used to think I remembered everybody, but...
VERSHININ. My name is Alexander Ignateyevitch.
IRINA. Alexander Ignateyevitch, you've come from Moscow. That is really
quite a surprise!
OLGA. We are going to live there, you see.
IRINA. We think we may be there this autumn. It's our native town, we
were born there. In Old Basmanni Road.... [They both laugh for joy.]
MASHA. We've unexpectedly met a fellow countryman. [Briskly] I remember:
Do you remember, Olga, they used to speak at home of a "lovelorn Major."
You were only a Lieutenant then, and in love with somebody, but for some
reason they always called you a Major for fun.
VERSHININ. [Laughs] That's it... the lovelorn Major, that's got it!
MASHA. You only wore moustaches then. You have grown older! [Through her
tears] You have grown older!
VERSHININ. Yes, when they used to call me the lovelorn Major, I was
young and in love. I've grown out of both now.
OLGA. But you haven't a single white hair yet. You're older, but you're
not yet old.
VERSHININ. I'm forty-two, anyway. Have you been away from Moscow long?
IRINA. Eleven years. What are you crying for, Masha, you little fool....
[Crying] And I'm crying too.
MASHA. It's all right. And where did you live?
VERSHININ. Old Basmanni Road.
OLGA. Same as we.
VERSHININ. Once I used to live in German Street. That was when the Red
Barracks were my headquarters. There's an ugly bridge in between, where
the water rushes underneath. One gets melancholy when one is alone
there. [Pause] Here the river is so wide and fine! It's a splendid
river!
OLGA. Yes, but it's so cold. It's very cold here, and the midges....
VERSHININ. What are you saying! Here you've got such a fine healthy
Russian climate. You've a forest, a river... and birches. Dear, modest
birches, I like them more than any other tree. It's good to live here.
Only it's odd that the railway station should be thirteen miles away....
Nobody knows why.
SOLENI. I know why. [All look at him] Because if it was near it wouldn't
be far off, and if it's far off, it can't be near. [An awkward pause.]
TUZENBACH. Funny man.
OLGA. Now I know who you are. I remember.
VERSHININ. I used to know your mother.
CHEBUTIKIN. She was a good woman, rest her soul.
IRINA. Mother is buried in Moscow.
OLGA. At the Novo-Devichi Cemetery.
MASHA. Do you know, I'm beginning to forget her face. We'll be forgotten
in just the same way.
VERSHININ. Yes, they'll forget us. It's our fate, it can't be helped. A
time will come when everything that seems serious, significant, or very
important to us will be forgotten, or considered trivial. [Pause] And
the curious thing is that we can't possibly find out what will come to
be regarded as great and important, and what will be feeble, or silly.
Didn't the discoveries of Copernicus, or Columbus, say, seem unnecessary
and ludicrous at first, while wasn't it thought that some rubbish
written by a fool, held all the truth? And it may so happen that our
present existence, with which we are so satisfied, will in time appear
strange, inconvenient, stupid, unclean, perhaps even sinful....
TUZENBACH. Who knows? But on the other hand, they may call our life
noble and honour its memory. We've abolished torture and capital
punishment, we live in security, but how much suffering there is still!
SOLENI. [In a feeble voice] There, there.... The Baron will go without
his dinner if you only let him talk philosophy.
TUZENBACH. Vassili Vassilevitch, kindly leave me alone. [Changes his
chair] You're very dull, you know.
SOLENI. [Feebly] There, there, there.
TUZENBACH. [To VERSHININ] The sufferings we see to-day--there are so
many of them!--still indicate a certain moral improvement in society.
VERSHININ. Yes, yes, of course.
CHEBUTIKIN. You said just now, Baron, that they may call our life noble;
but we are very petty.... [Stands up] See how little I am. [Violin
played behind.]
MASHA. That's Andrey playing--our brother.
IRINA. He's the learned member of the family. I expect he will be a
professor some day. Father was a soldier, but his son chose an academic
career for himself.
MASHA. That was father's wish.
OLGA. We ragged him to-day. We think he's a little in love.
IRINA. To a local lady. She will probably come here to-day.
MASHA. You should see the way she dresses! Quite prettily, quite
fashionably too, but so badly! Some queer bright yellow skirt with a
wretched little fringe and a red bodice. And such a complexion! Andrey
isn't in love. After all he has taste, he's simply making fun of us. I
heard yesterday that she was going to marry Protopopov, the chairman
of the Local Council. That would do her nicely.... [At the side door]
Andrey, come here! Just for a minute, dear! [Enter ANDREY.]
OLGA. My brother, Andrey Sergeyevitch.
VERSHININ. My name is Vershinin.
ANDREY. Mine is Prosorov. [Wipes his perspiring hands] You've come to
take charge of the battery?
OLGA. Just think, Alexander Ignateyevitch comes from Moscow.
ANDREY. That's all right. Now my little sisters won't give you any rest.
VERSHININ. I've already managed to bore your sisters.
IRINA. Just look what a nice little photograph frame Andrey gave me
to-day. [Shows it] He made it himself.
VERSHININ. [Looks at the frame and does not know what to say] Yes....
It's a thing that...
IRINA. And he made that frame there, on the piano as well. [Andrey waves
his hand and walks away.]
OLGA. He's got a degree, and plays the violin, and cuts all sorts of
things out of wood, and is really a domestic Admirable Crichton. Don't
go away, Andrey! He's got into a habit of always going away. Come here!
[MASHA and IRINA take his arms and laughingly lead him back.]
MASHA. Come on, come on!
ANDREY. Please leave me alone.
MASHA. You are funny. Alexander Ignateyevitch used to be called the
lovelorn Major, but he never minded.
VERSHININ. Not the least.
MASHA. I'd like to call you the lovelorn fiddler!
IRINA. Or the lovelorn professor!
OLGA. He's in love! little Andrey is in love!
IRINA. [Applauds] Bravo, Bravo! Encore! Little Andrey is in love.
CHEBUTIKIN. [Goes up behind ANDREY and takes him round the waist with
both arms] Nature only brought us into the world that we should love!
[Roars with laughter, then sits down and reads a newspaper which he
takes out of his pocket.]
ANDREY. That's enough, quite enough.... [Wipes his face] I couldn't
sl