Ivanoff, by Anton Chekhov

ACT II

The drawing-room of Lebedieff’S house. In the centre is a door leading into a garden. Doors open out of the room to the right and left. The room is furnished with valuable old furniture, which is carefully protected by linen covers. The walls are hung with pictures. The room is lighted by candelabra. Zinaida is sitting on a sofa; the elderly guests are sitting in arm-chairs on either hand. The young guests are sitting about the room on small chairs. Kosich, Avdotia NAZAROVNA, George, and others are playing cards in the background. GABRIEL is standing near the door on the right. The maid is passing sweetmeats about on a tray. During the entire act guests come and go from the garden, through the room, out of the door on the left, and back again. Enter Martha through the door on the right. She goes toward Zinaida.

Zinaida.

[Gaily] My dearest Martha!

Martha.

How do you do, Zinaida? Let me congratulate you on your daughter’s birthday.

Zinaida.

Thank you, my dear; I am delighted to see you. How are you?

Martha.

Very well indeed, thank you. [She sits down on the sofa] Good evening, young people!

The younger guests get up and bow.

First Guest.

[Laughing] Young people indeed! Do you call yourself an old person?

Martha.

[Sighing] How can I make any pretense to youth now?

First Guest.

What nonsense! The fact that you are a widow means nothing. You could beat any pretty girl you chose at a canter.

GABRIEL brings Martha some tea.

Zinaida.

Why do you bring the tea in like that? Go and fetch some jam to eat with it!

Martha.

No thank you; none for me, don’t trouble yourself. [A pause.]

First Guest.

[To Martha] Did you come through Mushkine on your way here?

Martha.

No, I came by way of Spassk. The road is better that way.

First Guest.

Yes, so it is.

Kosich.

Two in spades.

George.

Pass.

Avdotia.

Pass.

Second Guest.

Pass.

Martha.

The price of lottery tickets has gone up again, my dear. I have never known such a state of affairs. The first issue is already worth two hundred and seventy and the second nearly two hundred and fifty. This has never happened before.

Zinaida.

How fortunate for those who have a great many tickets!

Martha.

Don’t say that, dear; even when the price of tickets is high it does not pay to put one’s capital into them.

Zinaida.

Quite true, and yet, my dear, one never can tell what may happen. Providence is sometimes kind.

Third Guest.

My impression is, ladies, that at present capital is exceedingly unproductive. Shares pay very small dividends, and speculating is exceedingly dangerous. As I understand it, the capitalist now finds himself in a more critical position than the man who —-

Martha.

Quite right.

First Guest yawns.

Martha.

How dare you yawn in the presence of ladies?

First Guest.

I beg your pardon! It was quite an accident.

Zinaida gets up and goes out through the door on the right.

George.

Two in hearts.

Second Guest.

Pass.

Kosich.

Pass.

Martha.

[Aside] Heavens! This is deadly! I shall die of ennui.

Enter Zinaida and Lebedieff through the door on the right.

Zinaida.

Why do you go off by yourself like a prima donna? Come and sit with our guests!

[She sits down in her former place.]

Lebedieff.

[Yawning] Oh, dear, our sins are heavy! [He catches sight of Martha] Why, there is my little sugar-plum! How is your most esteemed highness?

Martha.

Very well, thank you.

Lebedieff.

Splendid, splendid! [He sits down in an armchair] Quite right — Oh, Gabriel!

GABRIEL brings him a glass of vodka and a tumbler of water. He empties the glass of vodka and sips the water.

First Guest.

Good health to you!

Lebedieff.

Good health is too much to ask. I am content to keep death from the door. [To his wife] Where is the heroine of this occasion, Zuzu?

Kosich.

[In a plaintive voice] Look here, why haven’t we taken any tricks yet? [He jumps up] Yes, why have we lost this game entirely, confound it?

Avdotia.

[Jumps up angrily] Because, friend, you don’t know how to play it, and have no right to be sitting here at all. What right had you to lead from another suit? Haven’t you the ace left? [They both leave the table and run forward.]

Kosich.

[In a tearful voice] Ladies and gentlemen, let me explain! I had the ace, king, queen, and eight of diamonds, the ace of spades and one, just one, little heart, do you understand? Well, she, bad luck to her, she couldn’t make a little slam. I said one in no-trumps —— *

The game played is vint, the national card-game of Russia and the direct ancestor of auction bridge, with which it is almost identical. [translator’s note]

Avdotia.

[Interrupting him] No, I said one in no-trumps; you said two in no-trumps —-

Kosich.

This is unbearable! Allow me — you had — I had — you had — [To Lebedieff] But you shall decide it, Paul: I had the ace, king, queen, and eight of diamonds —-

Lebedieff.

[Puts his fingers into his ears] Stop, for heaven’s sake, stop!

Avdotia.

[Yelling] I said no-trumps, and not he!

Kosich.

[Furiously] I’ll be damned if I ever sit down to another game of cards with that old cat!

He rushes into the garden. The Second Guest follows him. George is left alone at the table.

Avdotia.

Whew! He makes my blood boil! Old cat, indeed! You’re an old cat yourself!

Martha.

How angry you are, aunty!

Avdotia.

[Sees Martha and claps her hands] Are you here, my darling? My beauty! And was I blind as a bat, and didn’t see you? Darling child! [She kisses her and sits down beside her] How happy this makes me! Let me feast my eyes on you, my milk-white swan! Oh, oh, you have bewitched me!

Lebedieff.

Why don’t you find her a husband instead of singing her praises?

Avdotia.

He shall be found. I shall not go to my grave before I have found a husband for her, and one for Sasha too. I shall not go to my grave — [She sighs] But where to find these husbands nowadays? There sit some possible bridegrooms now, huddled together like a lot of half-drowned rats!

Third Guest.

A most unfortunate comparison! It is my belief, ladies, that if the young men of our day prefer to remain single, the fault lies not with them, but with the existing, social conditions!

Lebedieff.

Come, enough of that! Don’t give us any mo re philosophy; I don’t like it!

Enter Sasha. She goes up to her father.

Sasha.

How can you endure the stuffy air of this room when the weather is so beautiful?

Zinaida.

My dear Sasha, don’t you see that Martha is here?

Sasha.

I beg your pardon.

[She goes up to Martha and shakes hands.]

Martha.

Yes, here I am, my dear little Sasha, and proud to congratulate you. [They kiss each other] Many happy returns of the day, dear!

Sasha.

Thank you! [She goes and sits down by her father.]

Lebedieff.

As you were saying, Avdotia Nazarovna, husbands are hard to find. I don’t want to be rude, but I must say that the young men of the present are a dull and poky lot, poor fellows! They can’t dance or talk or drink as they should do.

Avdotia.

Oh, as far as drinking goes, they are all experts. Just give them — give them —-

Lebedieff.

Simply to drink is no art. A horse can drink. No, it must be done in the right way. In my young days we used to sit and cudgel our brains all day over our lessons, but as soon as evening came we would fly off on some spree and keep it up till dawn. How we used to dance and flirt, and drink, too! Or sometimes we would sit and chatter and discuss everything under the sun until we almost wagged our tongues off. But now — [He waves his hand] Boys are a puzzle to me. They are not willing either to give a candle to God or a pitchfork to the devil! There is only one young fellow in the country who is worth a penny, and he is married. [Sighs] They say, too, that he is going crazy.

Martha.

Who is he?

Lebedieff.

Nicholas Ivanoff.

Martha.

Yes, he is a fine fellow, only [Makes a face] he is very unhappy.

Zinaida.

How could he be otherwise, poor boy! [She sighs] He made such a bad mistake. When he married that Jewess of his he thought of course that her parents would give away whole mountains of gold with her, but, on the contrary, on the day she became a Christian they disowned her, and Ivanoff has never seen a penny of the money. He has repented of his folly now, but it is too late.

Sasha.

Mother, that is not true!

Martha.

How can you say it is not true, Sasha, when we all know it to be a fact? Why did he have to marry a Jewess? He must have had some reason for doing it. Are Russian girls so scarce? No, he made a mistake, poor fellow, a sad mistake. [Excitedly] And what on earth can he do with her now? Where could she go if he were to come home some day and say: “Your parents have deceived me; leave my house at once!” Her parents wouldn’t take her back. She might find a place as a house-maid if she had ever learned to work, which she hasn’t. He worries and worries her now, but the Count interferes. If it had not been for the Count, he would have worried her to death long ago.

Avdotia.

They say he shuts her up in a cellar and stuffs her with garlic, and she eats and eats until her very soul reeks of it. [Laughter.]

Sasha.

But, father, you know that isn’t true!

Lebedieff.

What if it isn’t, Sasha? Let them spin yarns if it amuses them. [He calls] Gabriel!

GABRIEL brings him another glass of vodka and a glass of water.

Zinaida.

His misfortunes have almost ruined him, poor man. His affairs are in a frightful condition. If Borkin did not take such good charge of his estate he and his Jewess would soon be starving to death. [She sighs] And what anxiety he has caused us! Heaven only knows how we have suffered. Do you realise, my dear, that for three years he has owed us nine thousand roubles?

Martha.

[Horrified] Nine thousand!

Zinaida.

Yes, that is the sum that my dear Paul has undertaken to lend him. He never knows to whom it is safe to lend money and to whom it is not. I don’t worry about the principal, but he ought to pay the interest on his debt.

Sasha.

[Hotly] Mamma, you have already discussed this subject at least a thousand times!

Zinaida.

What difference does it make to you? Why should you interfere?

Sasha.

What is this mania you all have for gossiping about a man who has never done any of you any harm? Tell me, what harm has he done you?

Third Guest.

Let me say two words, Miss Sasha. I esteem Ivanoff, and have always found him an honourable man, but, between ourselves, I also consider him an adventurer.

Sasha.

I congratulate you on your opinion!

Third Guest.

In proof of its truth, permit me to present to you the following facts, as they were communicated to me by his secretary, or shall I say rather, by his factotum, Borkin. Two years ago, at the time of the cattle plague, he bought some cattle and had them insured —

Zinaida.

Yes, I remember hearing’ of that.

Third Guest.

He had them insured, as you understand, and then inoculated them with the disease and claimed the insurance.

Sasha.

Oh, what nonsense, nonsense, nonsense! No one bought or inoculated any cattle! The story was invented by Borkin, who then went about boasting of his clever plan. Ivanoff would not forgive Borkin for two weeks after he heard of it. He is only guilty of a weak character and too great faith in humanity. He can’t make up his mind to get rid of that Borkin, and so all his possessions have been tricked and stolen from him. Every one who has had anything to do with Ivanoff has taken advantage of his generosity to grow rich.

Lebedieff.

Sasha, you little firebrand, that will do!

Sasha.

Why do you all talk like this? This eternal subject of Ivanoff, Ivanoff, and always Ivanoff has grown insufferable, and yet you never speak of anything else. [She goes toward the door, then stops and comes back] I am surprised, [To the young men] and utterly astonished at your patience, young men! How can you sit there like that? Aren’t you bored? Why, the very air is as dull as ditchwater! Do, for heaven’s sake say something; try to amuse the girls a little, move about! Or if you can’t talk of anything except Ivanoff, you might laugh or sing or dance —-

Lebedieff.

[Laughing] That’s right, Sasha! Give them a good scolding.

Sasha.

Look here, will you do me a favour? If you refuse to dance or sing or laugh, if all that is tedious, then let me beg you, implore you, to summon all your powers, if only for this once, and make one witty or clever remark. Let it be as impertinent and malicious as you like, so long as it is funny and original. Won’t you perform this miracle, just once, to surprise us and make us laugh? Or else you might think of some little thing which you could all do together, something to make you stir about. Let the girls admire you for once in their lives! Listen to me! I suppose you want them to like you? Then why don’t try to make them do it? Oh, dear! There is something wrong with you all! You are a lot of sleepy stick-in-the-muds! I have told you so a thousand times and shall always go on repeating it; there is something wrong with every one of you; something wrong, wrong, wrong!

Enter Ivanoff and Shabelski through the door on the right.

Shabelski.

Who is making a speech here? Is it you, Sasha? [He laughs and shakes hands with her] Many happy returns of the day, my dear child. May you live as long as possible in this life, but never be born again!

Zinaida.

[Joyfully] My dear Count!

Lebedieff.

Who can this be? Not you, Count?

Shabelski.

[Sees Zinaida and Martha sitting side by side] Two gold mines side by side! What a pleasant picture it makes! [He shakes hands with Zinaida] Good evening, Zuzu! [Shakes hands with Martha] Good evening, Birdie!

Zinaida.

I am charmed to see you, Count. You are a rare visitor here now. [Calls] Gabriel, bring some tea! Please sit down.

She gets up and goes to the door and back, evidently much preoccupied. Sasha sits down in her former place. Ivanoff silently shakes hands with every one.

Lebedieff.

[To Shabelski] What miracle has brought you here? You have given us a great surprise. Why, Count, you’re a rascal, you haven’t been treating us right at all. [Leads him forward by the hand] Tell me, why don’t you ever come to see us now? Are you offended?

Shabelski.

How can I get here to see you? Astride a broomstick? I have no horses of my own, and Nicholas won’t take me with him when he goes out. He says I must stay at home to amuse Sarah. Send your horses for me and I shall come with pleasure.

Lebedieff.

[With a wave of the hand] Oh, that is easy to say! But Zuzu would rather have a fit than lend the horses to any one. My dear, dear old friend, you are more to me than any one I know! You and I are survivors of those good old days that are gone forever, and you alone bring back to my mind the love and longings of my lost youth. Of course I am only joking, and yet, do you know, I am almost in tears?

Shabelski.

Stop, stop! You smell like the air of a wine cellar.

Lebedieff.

Dear friend, you cannot imagine how lonely I am without my old companions! I could hang myself! [Whispers] Zuzu has frightened all the decent men away with her stingy ways, and now we have only this riff-raff, as you see: Tom, Dick, and Harry. However, drink your tea.

Zinaida.

[Anxiously, to GABRIEL] Don’t bring it in like that! Go fetch some jam to eat with it!

Shabelski.

[Laughing loudly, to Ivanoff] Didn’t I tell you so? [To Lebedieff] I bet him driving over, that as soon as we arrived Zuzu would want to feed us with jam!

Zinaida.

Still joking, Count! [She sits down.]

Lebedieff.

She made twenty jars of it this year, and how else do you expect her to get rid of it?

Shabelski.

[Sits down near the table] Are you still adding to the hoard, Zuzu? You will soon have a million, eh?

Zinaida.

[Sighing] I know it seems as if no one could be richer than we, but where do they think the money comes from? It is all gossip.

Shabelski.

Oh, yes, we all know that! We know how badly you play your cards! Tell me, Paul, honestly, have you saved up a million yet?

Lebedieff.

I don’t know. Ask Zuzu.

Shabelski.

[To Martha] And my plump little Birdie here will soon have a million too! She is getting prettier and plumper not only every day, but every hour. That means she has a nice little fortune.

Martha.

Thank you very much, your highness, but I don’t like such jokes.

Shabelski.

My dear little gold mine, do you call that a joke? It was a wail of the soul, a cry from the heart, that burst through my lips. My love for you and Zuzu is immense. [Gaily] Oh, rapture! Oh, bliss! I cannot look at you two without a madly beating heart!

Zinaida.

You are still the same, Count. [To George] Put out the candles please, George. [George gives a start. He puts out the candles and sits down again] How is your wife, Nicholas?

Ivanoff.

She is very ill. The doctor said to-day that she certainly had consumption.

Zinaida.

Really? Oh, how sad! [She sighs] And we are all so fond of her!

Shabelski.

What trash you all talk! That story was invented by that sham doctor, and is nothing but a trick of his. He wants to masquerade as an Aesculapius, and so has started this consumption theory. Fortunately her husband isn’t jealous. [Ivanoff makes an inpatient gesture] As for Sarah, I wouldn’t trust a word or an action of hers. I have made a point all my life of mistrusting all doctors, lawyers, and women. They are shammers and deceivers.

Lebedieff.

[To Shabelski] You are an extraordinary person, Matthew! You have mounted this misanthropic hobby of yours, and you ride it through thick and thin like a lunatic You are a man like any other, and yet, from the way you talk one would imagine that you had the pip, or a cold in the head.

Shabelski.

Would you have me go about kissing every rascal and scoundrel I meet?

Lebedieff.

Where do you find all these rascals and scoundrels?

Shabelski.

Of course I am not talking of any one here present, nevertheless ——

Lebedieff.

There you are again with your “nevertheless.” All this is simply a fancy of yours.

Shabelski.

A fancy? It is lucky for you that you have no knowledge of the world!

Lebedieff.

My knowledge of the world is this: I must sit here prepared at any moment to have death come knocking at the door. That is my knowledge of the world. At our age, brother, you and I can’t afford to worry about knowledge of the world. So then — [He calls] Oh, Gabriel!

Shabelski.

You have had quite enough already. Look at your nose.

Lebedieff.

No matter, old boy. I am not going to be married to-day.

Zinaida.

Doctor Lvoff has not been here for a long time. He seems to have forgotten us.

Sasha.

That man is one of my aversions. I can’t stand his icy sense of honour. He can’t ask for a glass of water or smoke a cigarette without making a display of his remarkable honesty. Walking and talking, it is written on his brow: “I am an honest man.” He is a great bore.

Shabelski.

He is a narrow-minded, conceited medico. [Angrily] He shrieks like a parrot at every step: “Make way for honest endeavour!” and thinks himself another St. Francis. Everybody is a rascal who doesn’t make as much noise as he does. As for his penetration, it is simply remarkable! If a peasant is well off and lives decently, he sees at once that he must be a thief and a scoundrel. If I wear a velvet coat and am dressed by my valet, I am a rascal and the valet is my slave. There is no place in this world for a man like him. I am actually afraid of him. Yes, indeed, he is likely, out of a sense of duty, to insult a man at any moment and to call him a knave.

Ivanoff.

I am dreadfully tired of him, but I can’t help liking him, too, he is so sincere.

Shabelski.

Oh, yes, his sincerity is beautiful! He came up to me yesterday evening and remarked absolutely apropos of nothing: “Count, I have a deep aversion to you!” It isn’t as if he said such things simply, but they are extremely pointed. His voice trembles, his eyes flash, his veins swell. Confound his infernal honesty! Supposing I am disgusting and odious to him? What is more natural? I know that I am, but I don’t like to be told so to my face. I am a worthless old man, but he might have the decency to respect my grey hairs. Oh, what stupid, heartless honesty!

Lebedieff.

Come, come, you have been young yourself, and should make allowances for him.

Shabelski.

Yes, I have been young and reckless; I have played the fool in my day and have seen plenty of knaves and scamps, but I have never called a thief a thief to his face, or talked of ropes in the house of a man who had been hung. I knew how to behave, but this idiotic doctor of yours would think himself in the seventh heaven of happiness if fate would allow him to pull my nose in public in the name of morality and human ideals.

Lebedieff.

Young men are all stubborn and restive. I had an uncle once who thought himself a philosopher. He would fill his house with guests, and after he had had a drink he would get up on a chair, like this, and begin: “You ignoramuses! You powers of darkness! This is the dawn of a new life!” And so on and so on; he would preach and preach —-

Sasha.

And the guests?

Lebedieff.

They would just sit and listen and go on drinking. Once, though, I challenged him to a duel, challenged my own uncle! It came out of a discussion about Sir Francis Bacon. I was sitting, I remember, where Matthew is, and my uncle and the late Gerasim Nilitch were standing over there, about where Nicholas is now. Well, Gerasim Nilitch propounded this question —-

Enter Borkin. He is dressed like a dandy and carries a parcel under his arm. He comes in singing and skipping through the door on the right. A murmur of approval is heard.

the Girls.

Oh, Michael Borkin!

Lebedieff.

Hallo, Misha!

Shabelski.

The soul of the company!

Borkin.

Here we are! [He runs up to Sasha] Most noble Signorina, let me be so bold as to wish to the whole world many happy returns of the birthday of such an exquisite flower as you! As a token of my enthusiasm let me presume to present you with these fireworks and this Bengal fire of my own manufacture. [He hands her the parcel] May they illuminate the night as brightly as you illuminate the shadows of this dark world. [He spreads them out theatrically before her.]

Sasha.

Thank you.

Lebedieff.

[Laughing loudly, to Ivanoff] Why don’t you send this Judas packing?

Borkin.

[To Lebedieff] My compliments to you, sir. [To Ivanoff] How are you, my patron? [Sings] Nicholas voila, hey ho hey! [He greets everybody in turn] Most highly honoured Zinaida! Oh, glorious Martha! Most ancient Avdotia! Noblest of Counts!

Shabelski.

[Laughing] The life of the company! The moment he comes in the air fe els livelier. Have you noticed it?

Borkin.

Whew! I am tired! I believe I have shaken hands with everybody. Well, ladies and gentlemen, haven’t you some little tidbit to tell me; something spicy? [Speaking quickly to Zinaida] Oh, aunty! I have something to tell you. As I was on my way here — [To GABRIEL] Some tea, please Gabriel, but without jam — as I was on my way here I saw some peasants down on the river-bank pulling the bark off the trees. Why don’t you lease that meadow?

Lebedieff.

[To Ivanoff] Why don’t you send that Judas away?

Zinaida.

[Startled] Why, that is quite true! I never thought of it.

Borkin.

[Swinging his arms] I can’t sit still! What tricks shall we be up to next, aunty? I am all on edge, Martha, absolutely exalted. [He sings]

“Once more I stand before thee!”

Zinaida.

Think of something to amuse us, Misha, we are all bored.

Borkin.

Yes, you look so. What is the matter with you all? Why are you sitting there as solemn as a jury? Come, let us play something; what shall it be? Forfeits? Hide-and-seek? Tag? Shall we dance, or have the fireworks?

the Girls.

[Clapping their hands] The fireworks! The fireworks! [They run into the garden.]

Sasha.

[ To Ivanoff] What makes you so depressed today?

Ivanoff.

My head aches, little Sasha, and then I feel bored.

Sasha.

Come into the sitting-room with me.

They go out through the door on the right. All the guests go into the garden and Zinaida and Lebedieff are left alone.

Zinaida.

That is what I like to see! A young man like Misha comes into the room and in a minute he has everybody laughing. [She puts out the large lamp] There is no reason the candles should burn for nothing so long as they are all in the garden. [She blows out the candles.]

Lebedieff.

[Following her] We really ought to give our guests something to eat, Zuzu!

Zinaida.

What crowds of candles; no wonder we are thought rich.

Lebedieff.

[Still following her] Do let them have something to eat, Zuzu; they are young and must be hungry by now, poor things — Zuzu!

Zinaida.

The Count did not finish his tea, and all that sugar has been wasted. [Goes out through the door on the left.]

Lebedieff.

Bah! [Goes out into the garden.]

Enter Ivanoff and Sasha through the door on the right.

Ivanoff.

This is how it is, Sasha: I used to work hard and think hard, and never tire; now, I neither do anything nor think anything, and I am weary, body and soul. I feel I am terribly to blame, my conscience leaves me no peace day or night, and yet I can’t see clearly exactly what my mistakes are. And now comes my wife’s illness, our poverty, this eternal backbiting, gossiping, chattering, that foolish Borkin — My home has become unendurable to me, and to live there is worse than torture. Frankly, Sasha, the presence of my wife, who loves me, has become unbearable. You are an old friend, little Sasha, you will not be angry with me for speaking so openly. I came to you to be cheered, but I am bored here too, something urges me home again. Forgive me, I shall slip away at once.

Sasha.

I can understand your trouble, Nicholas. You are unhappy because you are lonely. You need some one at your side whom you can love, someone who understands you.

Ivanoff.

What an idea, Sasha! Fancy a crusty old badger like myself starting a love affair! Heaven preserve me from such misfortune! No, my little sage, this is not a case for romance. The fact is, I can endure all I have to suffer: sadness, sickness of mind, ruin, the loss of my wife, and my lonely, broken old age, but I cannot, I will not, endure the contempt I have for myself! I am nearly killed by shame when I think that a strong, healthy man like myself has become — oh, heaven only knows what — by no means a Manfred or a Hamlet! There are some unfortunates who feel flattered when people call them Hamlets and cynics, but to me it is an insult. It wounds my pride and I am tortured by shame and suffer agony.

Sasha.

[Laughing through her tears] Nicholas, let us run away to America together!

Ivanoff.

I haven’t the energy to take such a step as that, and besides, in America you — [They go toward the door into the garden] As a matter of fact, Sasha, this is not a good place for you to live. When I look about at the men who surround you I am terrified for you; whom is there you could marry? Your only chance will be if some passing lieutenant or student steals your heart and carries you away.

Enter Zinaida through the door on the right with a jar of jam.

Ivanoff.

Excuse me, Sasha, I shall join you in a minute.

Sasha goes out into the garden.

Ivanoff.

[To Zinaida] Zinaida, may I ask you a favour?

Zinaida.

What is it?

Ivanoff.

The fact is, you know, that the interest on my note is due day after to-morrow, but I should be more than obliged to you if you will let me postpone the payment of it, or would let me add the interest to the capital. I simply cannot pay it now; I haven’t the money.

Zinaida.

Oh, Ivanoff, how could I do such a thing? Would it be business-like? No, no, don’t ask it, don’t torment an unfortunate old woman.

Ivanoff.

I beg your pardon. [He goes out into the garden.]

Zinaida.

Oh, dear! Oh, dear! What a fright he gave me! I am trembling all over. [Goes out through the door on the right.]

Enter Kosich through the door on the left. He walks across the stage.

Kosich.

I had the ace, king, queen, and eight of diamonds, the ace of spades, and one, just one little heart, and she — may the foul fiend fly away with her — she couldn’t make a little slam!

Goes out through the door on the right. Enter from the garden Avdotia and First Guest.

Avdotia.

Oh, how I should like to get my claws into her, the miserable old miser! How I should like it! Does she think it a joke to leave us sitting here since five o’clock without even offering us a crust to eat? What a house! What management!

First Guest.

I am so bored that I feel like beating my head against the wall. Lord, what a queer lot of people! I shall soon be howling like a wolf and snapping at them from hunger and weariness.

Avdotia.

How I should like to get my claws into her, the old sinner!

First Guest.

I shall get a drink, old lady, and then home I go! I won’t have anything to do with these belles of yours. How the devil can a man think of love who hasn’t had a drop to drink since dinner?

Avdotia.

Come on, we will go and find something.

First Guest.

Sh! Softly! I think the brandy is in the sideboard in the dining-room. We will find George! Sh!

They go out through the door on the left. Enter Anna and Lvoff through the door on the right.

Anna.

No, they will be glad to see us. Is no one here? Then they must be in the garden.

Lvoff.

I should like to know why you have brought me into this den of wolves. This is no place for you and me; honourable people should not be subjected to such influences as these.

Anna.

Listen to me, Mr. Honourable Man. When you are escorting a lady it is very bad manners to talk to her the whole way about nothing but your own honesty. Such behaviour may be perfectly honest, but it is also tedious, to say the least. Never tell a woman how good you are; let her find it out herself. My Nicholas used only to sing and tell stories when he was young as you are, and yet every woman knew at once what kind of a man he was.

Lvoff.

Don’t talk to me of your Nicholas; I know all about him!

Anna.

You are a very worthy man, but you don’t know anything at all. Come into the garden. He never said: “I am an honest man; these surroundings are too narrow for me.” He never spoke of wolves’ dens, called people bears or vultures. He left the animal kingdom alone, and the most I have ever heard him say when he was excited was: “Oh, how unjust I have been to-day!” or “Annie, I am sorry for that man.” That’s what he would say, but you —

Anna and Lvoff go out. Enter Avdotia and First Guest through the door on the left.

First Guest.

There isn’t any in the dining-room, so it must be somewhere in the pantry. We must find George. Come this way, through the sitting-room.

Avdotia.

Oh, how I should like to get my claws into her!

They go out through the door on the right. Martha and Borkin run in laughing from the garden. SHABELSK I comes mincing behind them, laughing and rubbing his hands.

Martha.

Oh, I am so bored! [Laughs loudly] This is deadly! Every one looks as if he had swallowed a poker. I am frozen to the marrow by this icy dullness. [She skips about] Let us do something!

Borkin catches her by the waist and kisses her cheek.

Shabelski.

[Laughing and snapping his fingers] Well, I’ll be hanged! [Cackling] Really, you know!

Martha.

Let go! Let go, you wretch! What will the Count think? Stop, I say!

Borkin.

Angel! Jewel! Lend me twenty-three hundred roubles.

Martha.

Most certainly not! Do what you please, but I’ll thank you to leave my money alone. No, no, no! Oh, let go, will you?

Shabelski.

[Mincing around them] The little birdie has its charms! [Seriously] Come, that will do!

Borkin.

Let us come to the point, and consider my proposition frankly as a business arrangement. Answer me honestly, without tricks and equivocations, do you agree to do it or not? Listen to me; [Pointing to Shabelski] he needs money to the amount of at least three thousand a year; you need a husband. Do you want to be a Countess?

Shabelski.

[Laughing loudly] Oh, the cynic!

Borkin.

Do you want to be a Countess or not?

Martha.

[Excitedly] Wait a minute; really, Misha, these things aren’t done in a second like this. If the Count wants to marry me, let him ask me himself, and — and — I don’t see, I don’t understand — all this is so sudden —-

Borkin.

Come, don’t let us beat about the bush; this is a business arrangement. Do you agree or not?

Shabelski.

[Chuckling and rubbing his hands] Supposing I do marry her, eh? Hang it, why shouldn’t I play her this shabby trick? What do you say, little puss? [He kisses her cheek] Dearest chick-a-biddy!

Martha.

Stop! Stop! I hardly know what I am doing. Go away! No — don’t go!

Borkin.

Answer at once: is it yes or no? We can’t stand here forever.

Martha.

Look here, Count, come and visit me for three or four days. It is gay at my house, not like this place. Come to-morrow. [To Borkin] Or is this all a joke?

Borkin.

[Angrily] How could I joke on such a serious subject?

Martha.

Wait! Stop! Oh, I feel faint! A Countess! I am fainting, I am falling!

Borkin and Shabelski laugh and catch her by the arms. They kiss her cheeks and lead her out through the door on the right. Ivanoff and Sasha run in from the garden.

Ivanoff.

[Desperately clutching his head] It can’t be true! Don’t Sasha, don’t! Oh, I implore you not to!

Sasha.

I love you madly. Without you my life can have no meaning, no happiness, no hope.

Ivanoff.

Why, why do you say that? What do you mean? Little Sasha, don’t say it!

Sasha.

You were the only joy of my childhood; I loved you body and soul then, as myself, but now — Oh, I love you, Nicholas! Take me with you to the ends of the earth, wherever you wish; but for heaven’s sake let us go at once, or I shall die.

Ivanoff.

[Shaking with wild laughter] What is this? Is it the beginning for me of a new life? Is it, Sasha? Oh, my happiness, my joy! [He draws her to him] My freshness, my youth!

Enter Anna from the garden. She sees her husband and Sasha, and stops as if petrified.

Ivanoff.

Oh, then I shall live once more? And work?

Ivanoff and Sasha kiss each other. After the kiss they look around and see Anna.

Ivanoff.

[With horror] Sarah!

The curtain falls.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/chekhov/anton/c51iv/act2.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 13:06