Plays by Anton Chekhov
Second Series


Anton Chekhov
translated by Julius West

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Table of Contents

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-deplume “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 today!

[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 today, 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 today 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 today 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 today.

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 today. . . . 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 exnaval 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 receive!

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 tomorrow, I’ve come to ask you, madam, to pay me the money today.

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 today, as I haven’t any spare cash. The day after tomorrow 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 today 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 tomorrow, 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 tomorrow.

Smirnov. I don’t want the money the day after tomorrow, I want it today.

Popova. You must excuse me, I can’t pay you.

Smirnov. And I can’t wait till after tomorrow.

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 today, 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 tomorrow.

Smirnov. And I told you perfectly plainly I don’t want the money the day after tomorrow, but today. If you don’t pay me today, I’ll have to hang myself tomorrow.

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 tomorrow? Very well! I’ll stay here until the day after tomorrow. I’ll sit here all the time. . . . [Jumps up] I ask you: Have I got to pay the interest tomorrow, 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 tomorrow 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 today! 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 today.

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 tomorrow. 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 today as an instance. Let’s take today. 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 today 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 today’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 today, 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 today’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 today?

[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 today? 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 today, 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 today 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 remark-ably 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.

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