Ivanoff, by Anton Chekhov

ACT III

Library in Ivanoff’S house. On the walls hang maps, pictures, guns, pistols, sickles, whips, etc. A writing-table. On it lie in disorder knick-knacks, papers, books, parcels, and several revolvers. Near the papers stand a lamp, a decanter of vodka, and a plate of salted herrings. Pieces of bread and cucumber are scattered about. Shabelski and Lebedieff are sitting at the writing-table. Borkin is sitting astride a chair in the middle of the room. PETER is standing near the door.

Lebedieff.

The policy of France is clear and definite; the French know what they want: it is to skin those German sausages, but the Germans must sing another song; France is not the only thorn in their flesh.

Shabelski.

Nonsense! In my opinion the Germans are cowards and the French are the same. They are showing their teeth at one another, but you can take my word for it, they will not do more than that; they’ll never fight!

Borkin.

Why should they fight? Why all these congresses, this arming and expense? Do you know what I would do in their place? I would catch all the dogs in the kingdom and inoculate them with Pasteur’s serum, then I would let them loose in the enemy’s country, and the enemies would all go mad in a month.

Lebedieff.

[Laughing] His head is small, but the great ideas are hidden away in it like fish in the sea!

Shabelski.

Oh, he is a genius.

Lebedieff.

Heaven help you, Misha, you are a funny chap. [He stops laughing] But how is this, gentlemen? Here we are talking Germany, Germany, and never a word about vodka! Repetatur! [He fills three glasses] Here’s to you all! [He drinks and eats] This herring is the best of all relishes.

Shabelski.

No, no, these cucumbers are better; every wise man since the creation of the world has been trying to invent something better than a salted cucumber, and not one has succeeded. [To PETER] Peter, go and fetch some more cucumbers. And Peter, tell the cook to make four little onion pasties, and see that we get them hot.

PETER goes out.

Lebedieff.

Caviar is good with vodka, but it must be prepared with skill. Take a quarter of a pound of pressed caviar, two little onions, and a little olive oil; mix them together and put a slice of lemon on top — so! Lord! The very perfume would drive you crazy!

Borkin.

Roast snipe are good too, but they must be cooked right. They should first be cleaned, then sprinkled with bread crumbs, and roasted until they will crackle between the teeth — crunch, crunch!

Shabelski.

We had something good at Martha’s yesterday: white mushrooms.

Lebedieff.

You don’t say so!

Shabelski.

And they were especially well prepared, too, with onions and bay-leaves and spices, you know. When the dish was opened, the odour that floated out was simply intoxicating!

Lebedieff.

What do you say, gentlemen? Repetatur! [He drinks] Good health to you! [He looks at his watch] I must be going. I can’t wait for Nicholas. So you say Martha gave you mushrooms? We haven’t seen one at home. Will you please tell me, Count, what plot you are hatching that takes you to Martha’s so often?

Shabelski.

[Nodding at Borkin] He wants me to marry her.

Lebedieff.

Wants you to marry her! How old are you?

Shabelski.

Sixty-two.

Lebedieff.

Really, you are just the age to marry, aren’t you? And Martha is just suited to you!

Borkin.

This is not a question of Martha, but of Martha’s money.

Lebedieff.

Aren’t you moonstruck, and don’t you want the moon too?

Shabelski.

Borkin here is quite in earnest about it; the clever fellow is sure I shall obey orders, and marry Martha.

Borkin.

What do you mean? Aren’t you sure yourself?

Shabelski.

Are you mad? I never was sure of anything. Bah!

Borkin.

Many thanks! I am much obliged to you for the information. So you are trying to fool me, are you? First you say you will marry Martha and then you say you won’t; the devil only knows which you really mean, but I have given her my word of honour that you will. So you have changed your mind, have you?

Shabelski.

He is actually in earnest; what an extraordinary man!

Borkin.

[losing his temper] If that is how you feel about it, why have you turned an honest woman’s head? Her heart is set on your title, and she can neither eat nor sleep for thinking of it. How can you make a jest of such things? Do you think such behaviour is honourable?

Shabelski.

[Snapping his fingers] Well, why not play her this shabby trick, after all? Eh? Just out of spite? I shall certainly do it, upon my word I shall! What a joke it will be!

Enter Lvoff.

Lebedieff.

We bow before you, Aesculapius! [He shakes hands with Lvoff and sings]

“Doctor, doctor, save, oh, save me,
I am scared to death of dying!”

Lvoff.

Hasn’t Ivanoff come home yet?

Lebedieff.

Not yet. I have been waiting for him myself for over an hour.

Lvoff walks impatiently up and down.

Lebedieff.

How is Anna to-day?

Lvoff.

Very ill.

Lebedieff.

[Sighing] May one go and pay one’s respects to her?

Lvoff.

No, please don’t. She is asleep, I believe.

Lebedieff.

She is a lovely, charming woman. [Sighing] The day she fainted at our house, on Sasha’s birthday, I saw that she had not much longer to live, poor thing. Let me see, why did she faint? When I ran up, she was lying on the floor, ashy white, with Nicholas on his knees beside her, and Sasha was standing by them in tears. Sasha and I went about almost crazy for a week after that.

Shabelski.

[To Lvoff] Tell me, most honoured disciple of science, what scholar discovered that the frequent visits of a young doctor were beneficial to ladies suffering from affections of the chest? It is a remarkable discovery, remarkable! Would you call such treatment Allopathic or Homeopathic?

Lvoff tries to answer, but makes an impatient gesture instead, and walks out of the room.

Shabelski.

What a withering look he gave me!

Lebedieff.

Some fiend must prompt you to say such things! Why did you offend him?

Shabelski.

[Angrily] Why does he tell such lies? Consumption! No hope! She is dying! It is nonsense, I can’t abide him!

Lebedieff.

What makes you think he is lying?

Shabelski.

[Gets up and walks up and down] I can’t bear to think that a living person could die like that, suddenly, without any reason at all. Don’t let us talk about it!

Kosich runs in panting.

Kosich.

Is Ivanoff at home? How do you do? [He shakes hands quickly all round] Is he at home?

Borkin.

No, he isn’t.

Kosich.

[Sits down and jumps up again] In that case I must say goodbye; I must be going. Business, you know. I am absolutely exhausted; run off my feet!

Lebedieff.

Where did you blow in from?

Kosich.

From Barabanoff’s. He and I have been playing cards all night; we have only just stopped. I have been absolutely fleeced; that Barabanoff is a demon at cards. [In a tearful voice] Just listen to this: I had a heart and he [He turns to Borkin, who jumps away from him] led a diamond, and I led a heart, and he led another diamond. Well, he didn’t take the trick. [To Lebedieff] We were playing three in clubs. I had the ace and queen, and the ace and ten of spades —

Lebedieff.

[Stopping up his ears] Spare me, for heaven’s sake, spare me!

Kosich.

[To Shabelski] Do you understand? I had the ace and queen of clubs, the ace and ten of spades

Shabelski.

[Pushes him away] Go away, I don’t want to listen to you!

Kosich.

When suddenly misfortune overtook me. My ace of spades took the first trick —

Shabelski.

[Snatching up a revolver] Leave the room, or I shall shoot!

Kosich.

[Waving his hands] What does this mean? Is this the Australian bush, where no one has any interests in common? Where there is no public spirit, and each man lives for himself alone? However, I must be off. My time is precious. [He shakes hands with Lebedieff] Pass!

General laughter. Kosich goes out. In the doorway he runs into Avdotia.

Avdotia.

[Shrieks] Bad luck to you, you nearly knocked me down.

All.

Oh, she is always everywhere at once!

Avdotia.

So this is where you all are? I have been looking for you all over the house. Good-day to you, boys!

[She shakes hands with everybody.]

Lebedieff.

What brings you here?

Avdotia.

Business, my son. [To Shabelski] Business connected with your highness. She commanded me to bow. [She bows] And to inquire after your health. She told me to say, the little birdie, that if you did not come to see her this evening she would cry her eyes out. Take him aside, she said, and whisper in his ear. But why should I make a secret of her message? We are not stealing chickens, but arranging an affair of lawful love by mutual consent of both parties. And now, although I never drink, I shall take a drop under these circumstances.

Lebedieff.

So shall I. [He pours out the vodka] You must be immortal, you old magpie! You were an old woman when I first knew you, thirty years ago.

Avdotia.

I have lost count of the years. I have buried three husbands, and would have married a fourth if any one had wanted a woman without a dowry. I have had eight children. [She takes up the glass] Well, we have begun a good work, may it come to a good end! They will live happily ever after, and we shall enjoy their happiness. Love and good luck to them both! [She drinks] This is strong vodka!

Shabelski.

[laughing loudly, to Lebedieff] The funny thing is, they actually think I am in earnest. How strange! [He gets up] And yet, Paul, why shouldn’t I play her this shabby trick? Just out of spite? To give the devil something to do, eh, Paul?

Lebedieff.

You are talking nonsense, Count. You and I must fix our thoughts on dying now; we have left Martha’s money far behind us; our day is over.

Shabelski.

No, I shall certainly marry her; upon my word, I shall!

Enter Ivanoff and Lvoff.

Lvoff.

Will you please spare me five minutes of your time?

Lebedieff.

Hallo, Nicholas! [He goes to meet Ivanoff] How are you, old friend? I have been waiting an hour for you.

Avdotia.

[Bows] How do you do, my son?

Ivanoff.

[Bitterly] So you have turned my library into a bar-room again, have you? And yet I have begged you all a thousand times not to do so! [He goes up to the table] There, you see, you have spilt vodka all over my papers and scattered crumbs and cucumbers everywhere! It is disgusting!

Lebedieff.

I beg your pardon, Nicholas. Please forgive me. I have something very important to speak to you about.

Borkin.

So have I.

Lvoff.

May I have a word with you?

Ivanoff.

[Pointing to Lebedieff] He wants to speak to me; wait a minute. [To Lebedieff] Well, what is it?

Lebedieff.

[To the others] Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, I want to speak to him in private.

Shabelski goes out, followed by Avdotia, Borkin, and Lvoff.

Ivanoff.

Paul, you may drink yourself as much as you choose, it is your weakness, but I must ask you not to make my uncle tipsy. He never used to drink at all; it is bad for him.

Lebedieff.

[Startled] My dear boy, I didn’t know that! I wasn’t thinking of him at all.

Ivanoff.

If this old baby should die on my hands the blame would be mine, not yours. Now, what do you want? [A pause.]

Lebedieff.

The fact is, Nicholas — I really don’t know how I can put it to make it seem less brutal — Nicholas, I am ashamed of myself, I am blushing, my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. My dear boy, put yourself in my place; remember that I am not a free man, I am as putty in the hands of my wife, a slave — forgive me!

Ivanoff.

What does this mean?

Lebedieff.

My wife has sent me to you; do me a favour, be a friend to me, pay her the interest on the money you owe her. Believe me, she has been tormenting me and going for me tooth and nail. For heaven’s sake, free yourself from her clutches!

Ivanoff.

You know, Paul, that I have no money now.

Lebedieff.

I know, I know, but what can I do? She won’t wait. If she should sue you for the money, how could Sasha and I ever look you in the face again?

Ivanoff.

I am ready to sink through the floor with shame, Paul, but where, where shall I get the money? Tell me, where? There is nothing I can do but to wait until I sell my wheat in the autumn.

Lebedieff.

[Shrieks] But she won’t wait! [A pause.]

Ivanoff.

Your position is very delicate and unpleasant, but mine is even worse. [He walks up and down in deep thought] I am at my wit’s end, there is nothing I can sell now.

Lebedieff.

You might go to Mulbach and get some money from him; doesn’t he owe you sixty thousand roubles?

Ivanoff makes a despairing gesture.

Lebedieff.

Listen to me, Nicholas, I know you will be angry, but you must forgive an old drunkard like me. This is between friends; remember I am your friend. We were students together, both Liberals; we had the same interests and ideals; we studied together at the University of Moscow. It is our Alma Mater. [He takes out his purse] I have a private fund here; not a soul at home knows of its existence. Let me lend it to you. [He takes out the money and lays it on the table] Forget your pride; this is between friends! I should take it from you, indeed I should! [A pause] There is the money, one hundred thousand roubles. Take it; go to her y ourself and say: “Take the money, Zinaida, and may you choke on it.” Only, for heaven’s sake, don’t let her see by your manner that you got it from me, or she would certainly go for me, with her old jam! [He looks intently into Ivanoff’S face] There, there, no matter. [He quickly takes up the money and stuffs it back into his pocket] Don’t take it, I was only joking. Forgive me! Are you hurt?

Ivanoff waves his hand.

Lebedieff.

Yes, the truth is — [He sighs] This is a time of sorrow and pain for you. A man, brother, is like a samovar; he cannot always stand coolly on a shelf; hot coals will be dropped into him some day, and then — fizz! The comparison is idiotic, but it is the best I can think of. [Sighing] Misfortunes wring the soul, and yet I am not worried about you, brother. Wheat goes through the mill, and comes out as flour, and you will come safely through your troubles; but I am annoyed, Nicholas, and angry with the people around you. The whole countryside is buzzing with gossip; where does it all start? They say you will be soon arrested for your debts, that you are a bloodthirsty murderer, a monster of cruelty, a robber.

Ivanoff.

All that is nothing to me; my head is aching.

Lebedieff.

Because you think so much.

Ivanoff.

I never think.

Lebedieff.

Come, Nicholas, snap your fingers at the whole thing, and drive over to visit us. Sasha loves and understands you. She is a sweet, honest, lovely girl; too good to be the child of her mother and me! Sometimes, when I look at her, I cannot believe that such a treasure could belong to a fat old drunkard like me. Go to her, talk to her, and let her cheer you. She is a good, true-hearted girl.

Ivanoff.

Paul, my dear friend, please go, and leave me alone.

Lebedieff.

I understand, I understand! [He glances at his watch] Yes, I understand. [He kisses Ivanoff] Good-bye, I must go to the blessing of the school now. [He goes as far as the door, then stops] She is so clever! Sasha and I were talking about gossiping yesterday, and she flashed out this epigram: “Father,” she said, “fire-flies shine at night so that the night-birds may make them their prey, and good people are made to be preyed upon by gossips and slanderers.” What do you think of that? She is a genius, another George Sand!

Ivanoff.

[Stopping him as he goes out] Paul, what is the matter with me?

Lebedieff.

I have wanted to ask you that myself, but I must confess I was ashamed to. I don’t know, old chap. Sometimes I think your troubles have been too heavy for you, and yet I know you are not the kind to give in to them; you would not be overcome by misfortune. It must be something else, Nicholas, but what it may be I can’t imagine.

Ivanoff.

I can’t imagine either what the matter is, unless — and yet no — [A pause] Well, do you see, this is what I wanted to say. I used to have a workman called Simon, you remember him. Once, at threshing-time, to show the girls how strong he was, he loaded himself with two sacks of rye, and broke his back. He died soon after. I think I have broken my back also. First I went to school, then to the university, then came the cares of this estate, all my plans — I did not believe what others did; did not marry as others did; I worked passionately, risked everything; no one else, as you know, threw their money away to right and left as I did. So I heaped the burdens on my back, and it broke. We are all heroes at twenty, ready to attack anything, to do everything, and at thirty are worn-out, useless men. How, oh, how do you account for this weariness? However, I may be quite wrong; go away, Paul, I am boring you.

Lebedieff.

I know what is the matter with you, old man: you got out of bed on the wrong side this morning.

Ivanoff.

That is stupid, Paul, and stale. Go away!

Lebedieff.

It is stupid, certainly. I see that myself now. I am going at once. [Lebedieff goes out.

Ivanoff.

[Alone] I am a worthless, miserable, useless man. Only a man equally miserable and suffering, as Paul is, could love or esteem me now. Good God! How I loathe myself! How bitterly I hate my voice, my hands, my thoughts, these clothes, each step I take! How ridiculous it is, how disgusting! Less than a year ago I was healthy and strong, full of pride and energy and enthusiasm. I worked with these hands here, and my words could move the dullest man to tears. I could weep with sorrow, and grow indignant at the sight of wrong. I could feel the glow of inspiration, and understand the beauty and romance of the silent nights which I used to watch through from evening until dawn, sitting at my worktable, and giving up my soul to dreams. I believed in a bright future then, and looked into it as trustfully as a child looks into its mother’s eyes. And now, oh, it is terrible! I am tired and without hope; I spend my days and nights in idleness; I have no control over my feet or brain. My estate is ruined, my woods are falling under the blows of the axe. [He weeps] My neglected land looks up at me as reproachfully as an orphan. I expect nothing, am sorry for nothing; my whole soul trembles at the thought of each new day. And what can I think of my treatment of Sarah? I promised her love and happiness forever; I opened her eyes to the promise of a future such as she had never even dreamed of. She believed me, and though for five years I have seen her sinking under the weight of her sacrifices to me, and losing her strength in her struggles with her conscience, God knows she has never given me one angry look, or uttered one word of reproach. What is the result? That I don’t love her! Why? Is it possible? Can it be true? I can’t understand. She is suffering; her days are numbered; yet I fly like a contemptible coward from her white face, her sunken chest, her pleading eyes. Oh, I am ashamed, ashamed! [A pause] Sasha, a young girl, is sorry for me in my misery. She confesses to me that she loves me; me, almost an old man! Whereupon I lose my head, and exalted as if by music, I yell: “Hurrah for a new life and new happiness!” Next day I believe in this new life and happiness as little as I believe in my happiness at home. What is the matter with me? What is this pit I am wallowing in? What is the cause of this weakness? What does this nervousness come from? If my sick wife wounds my pride, if a servant makes a mistake, if my gun misses fire, I lose my temper and get violent and altogether unlike myself. I can’t, I can’t understand it; the easiest way out would be a bullet through the head!

Enter Lvoff.

Lvoff.

I must have an explanation with you, Ivanoff.

Ivanoff.

If we are going to have an explanation every day, doctor, we shall neither of us have the strength to stand it.

Lvoff.

Will you be good enough to hear me?

Ivanoff.

I have heard all you have told me every day, and have failed to discover yet what you want me to do.

Lvoff.

I have always spoken plainly enough, and only an utterly heartless and cruel man could fail to understand me.

Ivanoff.

I know that my wife is dying; I know that I have sinned irreparably; I know that you are an honest man. What more can you tell me?

Lvoff.

The sight of human cruelty maddens me. The woman is dying and she has a mother and father whom she loves, and longs to see once more before she dies. They know that she is dying and that she loves them still, but with diabolical cruelty, as if to flaunt their religious zeal, they refuse to see her and forgive her. You are the man for whom she has sacrificed her home, her peace of mind, everything. Yet you unblushingly go gadding to the Lebedieffs’ every evening, for reasons that are absolutely unmistakable!

Ivanoff.

Ah me, it is two weeks since I was there!

Lvoff.

[Not listening to him] To men like yourself one must speak plainly, and if you don’t want to hear what I have to say, you need not listen. I always call a spade a spade; the truth is, you want her to die so that the way may be cleared for your other schemes. Be it so; but can’t you wait? If, instead of crushing the life out of your wife by your heartless egoism, you let her die naturally, do you think you would lose Sasha and Sasha’s money? Such an absolute Tartuffe as you are could turn the girl’s head and get her money a year from now as easily as you can to-day. Why are you in such a hurry? Why do you want your wife to die now, instead of in a month’s time, or a year’s?

Ivanoff.

This is torture! You are a very bad doctor if you think a man can control himself forever. It is all I can do not to answer your insults.

Lvoff.

Look here, whom are you trying to deceive? Throw off this disguise!

Ivanoff.

You who are so clever, you think that nothing in the world is easier than to understand me, do you? I married Annie for her money, did I? And when her parents wouldn’t give it to me, I changed my plans, and am now hustling her out of the world so that I may marry another woman, who will bring me what I want? You think so, do you? Oh, how easy and simple it all is! But you are mistaken, doctor; in each one of us there are too many springs, too many wheels and cogs for us to judge each other by first impressions or by two or three external indications. I can not understand you, you cannot understand me, and neither of us can understand himself. A man may be a splendid doctor, and at the same time a very bad judge of human nature; you will admit that, unless you are too self-confident.

Lvoff.

Do you really think that your character is so mysterious, and that I am too stupid to tell vice from virtue?

Ivanoff.

It is clear that we shall never agree, so let me beg you to answer me now without any more preamble: exactly what do you want me to do? [Angrily] What are you after anyway? And with whom have I the honour of speaking? With my lawyer, or with my wife’s doctor?

Lvoff.

I am a doctor, and as such I demand that you change your conduct toward your wife; it is killing her.

Ivanoff.

What shall I do? Tell me! If you understand me so much better than I understand myself, for heaven’s sake tell me exactly what to do!

Lvoff.

In the first place, don’t be so unguarded in your behaviour.

Ivanoff.

Heaven help me, do you mean to say that you understand yourself? [He drinks some water] Now go away; I am guilty a thousand times over; I shall answer for my sins before God; but nothing has given you the right to torture me daily as you do.

Lvoff.

Who has given you the right to insult my sense of honour? You have maddened and poisoned my soul. Before I came to this place I knew that stupid, crazy, deluded people existed, but I never imagined that any one could be so criminal as to turn his mind deliberately in the direction of wickedness. I loved and esteemed humanity then, but since I have known you —

Ivanoff.

I have heard all that before.

Lvoff.

You have, have you?

He goes out, shrugging his shoulders. He sees Sasha, who comes in at this moment dressed for riding.

Lvoff.

Now, however, I hope that we can understand one another!

Ivanoff.

[Startled] Oh, Sasha, is that you?

Sasha.

Yes, it is I. How are you? You didn’t expect me, did you? Why haven’t you been to see us?

Ivanoff.

Sasha, this is really imprudent of you! Your coming will have a terrible effect on my wife!

Sasha.

She won’t see me; I came in by the back entrance; I shall go in a minute. I am so anxious about you. Tell me, are you well? Why haven’t you been to see us for such a long time?

Ivanoff.

My wife is offended already, and almost dying, and now you come here; Sasha, Sasha, this is thoughtless and unkind of you.

Sasha.

How could I help coming? It is two weeks since you were at our house, and you have not answered my letters. I imagined you suffering dreadfully, or ill, or dead. I have not slept for nights. I am going now, but first tell me that you are well.

Ivanoff.

No, I am not well. I am a torment to myself, and every one torments me without end. I can’t stand it! And now you come here. How morbid and unnatural it all is, Sasha. I am terribly guilty.

Sasha.

What dreadful, pitiful speeches you make! So you are guilty, are you? Tell me, then, what is it you have done?

Ivanoff.

I don’t know; I don’t know!

Sasha.

That is no answer. Every sinner should know what he is guilty of. Perhaps you have been forging money?

Ivanoff.

That is stupid.

Sasha.

Or are you guilty because you no longer love your wife? Perhaps you are, but no one is master of his feelings, and you did not mean to stop loving her. Do you feel guilty because she saw me telling you that I love you? No, that cannot be, because you did not want her to see it —

Ivanoff.

[Interrupting her] And so on, and so on! First you say I love, and then you say I don’t; that I am not master of my feelings. All these are commonplace, worn-out sentiments, with which you cannot help me.

Sasha.

It is impossible to talk to you. [She looks at a picture on the wall] How well those dogs are drawn! Were they done from life?

Ivanoff.

Yes, from life. And this whole romance of ours is a tedious old story; a man loses heart and begins to go down in the world; a girl appears, brave and strong of heart, and gives him a hand to help him to rise again. Such situations are pretty, but they are only found in novels and not in real life.

Sasha.

No, they are found in real life too.

Ivanoff.

Now I see how well you understand real life! My sufferings seem noble to you; you imagine you have discovered in me a second Hamlet; but my state of mind in all its phases is only fit to furnish food for contempt and derision. My contortions are ridiculous enough to make any one die of laughter, and you want to play the guardian angel; you want to do a noble deed and save me. Oh, how I hate myself to-day! I feel that this tension must soon be relieved in some way. Either I shall break something, or else —

Sasha.

That is exactly what you need. Let yourself go! Smash something; break it to pieces; give a yell! You are angry with me, it was foolish of me to come here. Very well, then, get excited about it; storm at me; stamp your feet! Well, aren’t you getting angry?

Ivanoff.

You ridiculous girl!

Sasha.

Splendid! So we are smiling at last! Be kind, do me the favour of smiling once more!

Ivanoff.

[Laughing] I have noticed that whenever you start reforming me and saving my soul, and teaching me how to be good, your face grows naive, oh so naive, and your eyes grow as wide as if you were looking at a comet. Wait a moment; your shoulder is covered with dust. [He brushes her shoulder] A naive man is nothing better than a fool, but you women contrive to be naive in such a way that in you it seems sweet, and gentle, and proper, and not as silly as it really is. What a strange way you have, though, of ignoring a man as long as he is well and happy, and fastening yourselves to him as soon as he begins to whine and go down-hill! Do you actually think it is worse to be the wife of a strong man than to nurse some whimpering invalid?

Sasha.

Yes, it is worse.

Ivanoff.

Why do you think so? [Laughing loudly] It is a good thing Darwin can’t hear what you are saying! He would be furious with you for degrading the human race. Soon, thanks to your kindness, only invalids and hypochondriacs will be born into the world.

Sasha.

There are a great many things a man cannot understand. Any girl would rather love an unfortunate man than a fortunate one, because every girl would like to do something by loving. A man has his work to do, and so for him love is kept in the background. To talk to his wife, to walk with her in the garden, to pass the time pleasantly with her, that is all that love means to a man. But for us, love means life. I love you; that means that I dream only of how I shall cure you of your sadness, how I shall go with you to the ends of the earth. If you are in heaven, I am in heaven; if you are in the pit, I am in the pit. For instance, it would be the greatest happiness for me to write all night for you, or to watch all night that no one should wake you. I remember that three years ago, at threshing time, you came to us all dusty and sunburnt and tired, and asked for a drink. When I brought you a glass of water you were already lying on the sofa and sleeping like a dead man. You slept there for half a day, and all that time I watched by the door that no one should disturb you. How happy I was! The more a girl can do, the greater her love will be; that is, I mean, the more she feels it

Ivanoff.

The love that accomplishes things — hm — that is a fairy tale, a girl’s dream; and yet, perhaps it is as it should be. [He shrugs his shoulders] How can I tell? [Gaily] On my honour, Sasha, I really am quite a respectable man. Judge for yourself: I have always liked to discuss things, but I have never in my life said that our women were corrupt, or that such and such a woman was on the down-hill path. I have always been grateful, and nothing more. No, nothing more. Dear child, how comical you are! And what a ridiculous old stupid I am! I shock all good Christian folk, and go about complaining from morning to night. [He laughs and then leaves her suddenly] But you must go, Sasha; we have forgotten ourselves.

Sasha.

Yes, it is time to go. Good-bye. I am afraid that that honest doctor of yours will have told Anna out of a sense of duty that I am here. Take my advice: go at once to your wife and stay with her. Stay, and stay, and stay, and if it should be for a year, you must still stay, or for ten years. It is your duty. You must repent, and ask her forgiveness, and weep. That is what you ought to do, and the great thing is not to forget to do right.

Ivanoff.

Again I feel as if I were going crazy; again!

Sasha.

Well, heaven help you! You must forget me entirely. In two weeks you must send me a line and I shall be content with that. But I shall write to you —

Borkin looks in at the door.

Borkin.

Ivanoff, may I come in? [He sees Sasha] I beg your pardon, I did not see you. Bonjour! [He bows.]

Sasha.

[Embarrassed] How do you do?

Borkin.

You are plumper and prettier than ever.

Sasha.

[To Ivanoff] I must go, Nicholas, I must go. [She goes out.]

Borkin.

What a beautiful apparition! I came expecting prose and found poetry instead. [Sings]

“You showed yourself to the world as a bird —-”

Ivanoff walks excitedly up and down.

Borkin.

[Sits down] There is something in her, Nicholas, that one doesn’t find in other women, isn’t there? An elfin strangeness. [He sighs] Although she is without doubt the richest girl in the country, her mother is so stingy that no one will have her. After her mother’s death Sasha will have the whole fortune, but until then she will only give her ten thousand roubles and an old flat-iron, and to get that she will have to humble herself to the ground. [He feels in his pockets] Will you have a smoke? [He offers Ivanoff his cigarette case] These are very good.

Ivanoff.

[Comes toward Borkin stifled with rage] Leave my house this instant, and don’t you ever dare to set foot in it again! Go this instant!

Borkin gets up and drops his cigarette.

Ivanoff.

Go at once!

Borkin.

Nicholas, what do you mean? Why are you so angry?

Ivanoff.

Why! Where did you get those cigarettes? Where? You think perhaps that I don’t know where you take the old man every day, and for what purpose?

Borkin.

[Shrugs his shoulders] What business is it of yours?

Ivanoff.

You blackguard, you! The disgraceful rumours that you have been spreading about me have made me disreputable in the eyes of the whole countryside. You and I have nothing in common, and I ask you to leave my house this instant.

Borkin.

I know that you are saying all this in a moment of irritation, and so I am not angry with you. Insult me as much as you please. [He picks up his cigarette] It is time though, to shake off this melancholy of yours; you’re not a schoolboy.

Ivanoff.

What did I tell you? [Shuddering] Are you making fun of me?

Enter Anna.

Borkin.

There now, there comes Anna! I shall go.

Ivanoff stops near the table and stands with his head bowed.

Anna.

[After a pause] What did she come here for? What did she come here for, I ask you?

Ivanoff.

Don’t ask me, Annie. [A pause] I am terribly guilty. Think of any punishment you want to inflict on me; I can stand anything, but don’t, oh, don’t ask questions!

Anna.

[Angrily] So that is the sort of man you are? Now I understand you, and can see how degraded, how dishonourable you are! Do you remember that you came to me once and lied to me about your love? I believed you, and left my mother, my father, and my faith to follow you. Yes, you lied to me of goodness and honour, of your noble aspirations and I believed every word —-

Ivanoff.

I have never lied to you, Annie.

Anna.

I have lived with you five years now, and I am tired and ill, but I have always loved you and have never left you for a moment. You have been my idol, and what have you done? All this time you have been deceiving me in the most dastardly way —-

Ivanoff.

Annie, don’t say what isn’t so. I have made mistakes, but I have never told a lie in my life. You dare not accuse me of that!

Anna.

It is all clear to me now. You married me because you expected my mother and father to forgive me and give you my money; that is what you expected.

Ivanoff.

Good Lord, Annie! If I must suffer like this, I must have the patience to bear it. [He begins to weep.]

Anna.

Be quiet! When you found that I wasn’t bringing you any money, you tried another game. Now I remember and understand everything. [She begins to cry] You have never loved me or been faithful to me — never!

Ivanoff.

Sarah! That is a lie! Say what you want, but don’t insult me with a lie!

Anna.

You dishonest, degraded man! You owe money to Lebedieff, and now, to escape paying your debts, you are trying to turn the head of his daughter and betray her as you have betrayed me. Can you deny it?

Ivanoff.

[Stifled with rage] For heaven’s sake, be quiet! I can’t answer for what I may do! I am choking with rage and I— I might insult you!

Anna.

I am not the only one whom you have basely deceived. You have always blamed Borkin for all your dishonest tricks, but now I know whose they are.

Ivanoff.

Sarah, stop at once and go away, or else I shall say something terrible. I long to say a dreadful, cruel thing [He shrieks] Hold your tongue, Jewess!

Anna.

I won’t hold my tongue! You have deceived me too long for me to be silent now.

Ivanoff.

So you won’t be quiet? [He struggles with himself] Go, for heaven’s sake!

Anna.

Go now, and betray Sasha!

Ivanoff.

Know then that you — are dying! The doctor told me that you are dying.

Anna.

[Sits down and speaks in a low voice] When did he

Ivanoff.

[Clutches his head with both hands] Oh, how guilty I am — how guilty! [He sobs.]

The curtain falls.

About a year passes between the third and fourth acts.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/chekhov/anton/c51iv/act3.html

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