A drawing-room. On Right a card-table and a door into the study; in Centre a door into an outer room; on Left two windows and a round table. Sofas in the corners. At the card-table ANNA SEMYONOVNA, LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA and SCHAAF are playing preference; NATALYA PETROVNA and RAKITIN are sitting at the round table; she is embroidering on canvas; he has a book in his hand. A clock on the wall points to three o'clock.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Again? Why, if you go on like that, my good man, you will beat us every time.
SCHAAF [phlegmatically]. Eight hearts.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [to LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA]. What a man! There's no playing with him. [LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA smiles.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [to RAKITIN]. Why have you left off? Go on.
RAKITIN [raising his head slowly], 'Monte Cristo se redressa haletant . . . .' Does it interest you, Natalya Petrovna?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Not at all.
RAKITIN. Why are we reading it then?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Well, it's like this. The other day a woman said to me: 'You haven't read Monte Cristo? Oh, you must read it--it's charming.' I made her no answer at the time, but now I can say that I've been reading it and found nothing at all charming in it.
RAKITIN. Oh, well, since you have already made up your mind about it. . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. You lazy creature!
RAKITIN. Oh, I don't mind. . .. [Looking for the place at which he stopped.] 'Se redressa haletant et . . . .'
NATALYA PETROVNA [interrupting him]. Have you seen Arkady to-day?
RAKITIN. I met him on the dam. . . . It is being repaired. He was explaining something to the workmen and to make things clearer waded up to his knees in the sand.
NATALYA PETROVNA. He gets too hot over things, he tries to do too much. It's a failing. Don't you think so?
RAKITIN. Yes, I agree with you.
NATALYA PETROVNA. How dull that is! . . . You always agree with me. Go on reading.
RAKITIN. Oh, so you want me to quarrel with you. . . . By all means.
NATALYA PETROVNA. I want . . . I want . . . I want you to want. . . . Go on reading, I tell you.
RAKITIN. I obey, madam. [Takes up the book again.]
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. What? Again? It's insufferable! [To NATALYA PETROVNA.] Natasha . . . Natasha! . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. What is it?
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Only fancy! Schaaf wins every point. He keeps on--if it's not seven, it's eight.
SCHAAF. And now it's seven.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Do you hear? Its awful.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes . . . it is.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Back me up then! [To NATALTA PETROVNA.] Where's Kolya?
NATALYA PETROVNA. He's gone out for a walk with the new tutor.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Oh! Lizaveta Bogdanovna, I call on you.
RAKITIN [to NATALYA PETROVNA.] What tutor?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Ah! I forgot to tell you, while you've been away, we've engaged a new teacher.
RAKITIN. Instead of Dufour?
NATALYA PETROVNA. No . . . a Russian teacher. The princess is going to send us a Frenchman from Moscow.
RAKITIN. What sort of man is he, the Russian? An old man?
NATALYA PETROVNA. No, he's young. . . . But we only have him for the summer.
RAKITIN. Oh, a holiday engagement.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes, that's what they call it, I believe. And I tell you what, Rakitin, you're fond of studying people, analysing them, burrowing into them . . . .
RAKITIN. Oh, come, what makes you . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA, Yes, yes. . . . You study him. I like him. Thin, well made, merry eyes, something spirited in his face. . . . You'll see. It's true he is rather awkward . . . and you think that dreadful.
RAKITIN. You are terribly hard on me to-day, Natalya Petrovna.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Joking apart, do study him. I fancy he may make a very fine man. But there, you never can tell!
RAKITIN. That sounds interesting.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Really? [Dreamily.] Go on reading.
RAKITIN. 'Se redressa haletant et . . . '
NATALYA PETROVNA [suddenly looking round]. Where's Vera? I haven't seen her all day. [With a smile, to RAKITIN.] Put away that book. . . . I see we shan't get any reading done to-day. . . . Better tell me something.
RAKITIN. By all means. . . . What am I to tell you? You know I stayed a few days at the Krinitsyns'. . . . Imagine, the happy pair are bored already.
NATALYA PETROVNA. How could you tell?
RAKITIN. Well, boredom can't be concealed. . . . Anything else may be, but not boredom . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [looking at him]. Anything else can then?
RAKITIN [after a brief pause]. I think so.
NATALYA PETROVNA [dropping her eyes]. Well, what did you do at the Krinitsyns'?
RAKITIN. Nothing. Being bored with friends is an awful thing; you are at ease, you are not constrained, you like them, there's nothing to irritate you, and yet you are bored, and there's a silly ache, like hunger, in your heart.
NATALYA PETROVNA. You must often have been bored with friends.
RAKITIN. As though you don't know what it is to be with a person whom one loves and who bores one!
NATALYA PETROVNA [slowly]. Whom one loves, that's saying a great deal. . . . You are too subtle to-day . . . .
RAKITIN. Subtle. . . . Why subtle?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes, that's a weakness of yours. Do you know, Rakitin, you are very clever, of course, but . . . [Pausing] sometimes we talk as though we were making lace. . . . Have you seen people making lace? In stuffy rooms, never moving from their seats. . . . Lace is a fine thing, but a drink of fresh water on a hot day is much better.
RAKITIN. Natalya Petrovna, you are . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. What?
RAKITIN. You are cross with me about something.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh, you clever people, how blind you are, though you are so subtle! No, I'm not cross with you.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Ah! at last, he has lost the trick! [To NATALYA PETROVNA.] Natasha, our enemy has lost the trick!
SCHAAF [sourly]. It's Lizaveta Bogdanovna's fault.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [angrily]. I beg your pardon--how could I tell Anna Semyonovna had no hearts?
SCHAAF. In future I call not on Lizaveta Bogdanovna.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [to SCHAAF]. Why, how is she, Lizaveta Bogdanovna, to blame?
SCHAAF [repeats in exactly the same tone of voice]. In future I call not on Lizaveta Bogdanovna.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. As though I care! What next! . . .
RAKITIN. You look somehow different, I see that more and more.
NATALYA PETROVNA [with a shade of curiosity]. Do you mean it?
RAKITIN. Yes, really. I find a change in you.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes? . . . If that's so, please. . . . You know me so well--guess what the change is, what has happened to me . . . will you?
RAKITIN. Well. . . . Give me time. . . . [Suddenly KOL YA runs in noisily from the outer room and straight up to ANNA SEMYONOVNA.]
KOLYA. Granny, Granny! Do look what I've got! [Shows her a bow and arrows.] Look!
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Show me, darling. . . . Oh what a splendid bow! Who made it for you?
KOLYA. He did . . . he. . . . [Points to BELIAYEV, who has remained at the door.]
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Oh! but how well it's made . . . .
KOLYA. I shot at a tree with it, Granny, and hit it twice. . . . [Skips about.]
NATALYA PETROVNA. Show me, Kolya.
KOLYA [runs to her and while NATALYA PETROVNA is examining the bow]. Oh, maman, you should see how Alexey Nikolaitch climbs trees! He wants to teach me and he's going to teach me to swim too. He's going to teach me all sorts of things. [Skips about.]
NATALYA PETROVNA. It is very good of you to do so much for Kolya.
KOLYA [interrupting her, warmly]. I do like him, maman, I love him.
NATALYA PETROVNA [stroking KOLYA'S head]. He has been too softly brought up. . . . Make him a sturdy, active boy.
KOLYA. Alexey Nikolaitch, let's go to the stable and take Favourite some bread.
BELIAYEV. Very well.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [to KOLYA]. Come here and give me a kiss first . . . .
KOLYA [running off]. Afterwards, Granny, afterwards! [Runs into the outer room; BELIAYEV goes out after him.]
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [looking after KOLYA]. What a darling boy! [To SCHAAF and LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA.] Isn't he?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. To be sure he is.
SCHAAF [after a brief pause]. Pass.
NATALYA PETROVNA [with some eagerness to RAKITIN]. Well, how does he strike you?
NATALYA PETROVNA [pausing]. That . . . Russian tutor.
RAKITIN. Oh, I beg your pardon--I'd forgotten him. . . . I was so absorbed by the question you asked me. . . . [NATALYA PETROVNA looks at him with a faintly perceptible smile of irony.] But his face . . . certainly. . . . Yes, he has a good face. I like him. Only he seems very shy.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes.
RAKITIN [looking at her]. But anyway I can't quite make out . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. How if we were to look after him a bit, Rakitin? Will you? Let us finish his education. Here is a splendid opportunity for discreet sensible people like you and me! We are very sensible, aren't we?
RAKITIN. This young man interests you. If he knew it . . . he'd be flattered.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh, not a bit, believe me! You can't judge him by what . . . anyone like us would feel in his place. You see he's not at all like us, Rakitin. That's where we go wrong, my dear, we study ourselves very carefully and then imagine we understand human nature.
RAKITIN. The heart of another is a dark forest. But what are you hinting at? . . . Why do you keep on sticking pins into me?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Whom is one to stick pins into if not one's friends? . . . And you are my friend. . . . You know that. [Presses his hand. RAKITIN smiles and beams.] You are my old friend.
RAKITIN. I'm only afraid . . . you may get sick of the old friend.
NATALYA PETROVNA [laughing]. It's only very nice things one takes enough of for that.
RAKITIN. Perhaps. But that doesn't make it any better for them.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Nonsense. . . . [Dropping her voice.] As though you don't know ce que vous etes pour moi.
RAKITIN. Natalya Petrovna, you play with me like a cat with a mouse. . . . But the mouse does not complain.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh! poor little mouse!
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. That's twenty from you, Adam Ivanitch. . . . Aha!
SCHAAF. In future I call not on Lizaveta Bogdanovna.
MATVEY [enters and announces]. Ignaty Ilyitch.
SHPIGELSKY [following him in]. Doctors don't need showing in. [Exit MATVEY.] My humblest respects to all the family. [Kisses ANNA SEMYONOVNA'S hand.] How do you do, gracious lady. Winning, I expect?
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Winning indeed! I've hardly got my own back and I'm thankful for that. It's all this villain. [Indicates SCHAAF.]
SHPIGELSKY [to SCHAAF]. Adam Ivanitch, when you're playing with ladies, it's too bad. . . . I should never have thought it of you.
SCHAAF [muttering through his teeth]. Blaying wif ladies . . . .
SHPIGELSKY [going up to the round table on the left]. Good afternoon, Natalya Petrovna! Good afternoon, Mihail Alexandritch!
NATALYA PETROVNA. Good afternoon, Doctor. How are you?
SHPIGELSKY. I like that inquiry. . . . It shows that you are quite well. What can ail me? A respectable doctor is never ill; at the most he just goes and dies . . . Ha! ha!
NATALYA PETROVNA. Sit down. I'm quite well, certainly. . . . But I'm in a bad humour . . . and that's a sort of illness too, you know.
SHPIGELSKY [sitting down beside NATALYA PETROVNA]. Let me feel your pulse. [Feels her pulse.] Oh, nerves, nerves. . . . You don't walk enough, Natalya Petrovna, you don't laugh enough .. . that's what it is. . . . Why don't you see to it, Mihail Alexandritch? But of course I can prescribe some drops.
NATALYA PETROVNA. I'm ready enough to laugh. . . . [Eagerly.] Now, Doctor, . . . you have a spiteful tongue, I like it so much in you, I respect you for it, really . . . do tell me something amusing. Mihail Alexandritch is so solemn to-day.
SHPIGELSKY [with a sly glance at RAKITIN]. Ah, it seems, it's not only the nerves that are upset, there's just a touch of spleen too . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. There you are, at it, too! Be as critical as you like, Doctor, but not aloud. We all know how sharp-sighted you are. You are both so sharp-sighted.
SHPIGELSKY. I obey, madam.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Tell us something funny.
SHPIGELSKY. I obey, madam. Tell us a story straight away, it's a bit sudden. . . . Allow me a pinch of snuff. [Takes snuff.]
NATALYA PETROVNA. What preparations!
SHPIGELSKY. Well, you see, my dear lady, you must graciously consider there are all sorts of funny stories. One for one person, and one for another. . . . Your neighbour, Mr. Hlopushkin, for instance, roars and laughs till he cries, if I simply hold up my finger . . . while you. . . . But, there, here goes, you know Verenitsyn?
NATALYA PETROVNA. I fancy I've met him. I've heard of him anyway.
SHPIGELSKY. He has a sister who's mad. To my thinking, they are either both mad, or both sane; for really there's nothing to choose between them, but that's neither here nor there. It's the finger of destiny, dear lady, everywhere, and in everything. Verenitsyn has a daughter, a greenish little thing, you know, with little pale eyes, and a little red nose, and little yellow teeth, a charming girl in fact; plays the piano, and talks with a lisp, so everything's as it should be. She has two hundred serfs of her own besides her aunt's hundred and fifty. The aunt's still alive to be sure, and will go on living for years; mad people always live to be old, but one need never despair. She has made a will in her niece's favour anyway, and, the day before she did it, with my own hand I poured cold water on her head--it was a complete waste of time for there's no chance of curing her. Well, so Verenitsyn's daughter is a bit of a catch, you see. He has begun bringing her out, suitors are turning up, and among others Perekuzov, an anaemic young man, timid but of excellent principles. Well, the father liked our Perekuzov; and the daughter liked him, too. . . . There seemed to be no hitch, simply bless them and haste to the wedding! And, as a matter of fact, all was going swimmingly; Mr. Verenitsyn was already beginning to poke the young man in the ribs and slap him on the back, when all of a sudden, a bolt from the blue, an officer, Ardalion Protobekasov! He saw Verenitsyn's daughter at the Marshal's ball, danced three polkas with her, said to her, I suppose, rolling his eyes like this, 'Oh, how unhappy I am!' and our young lady was bowled over at once. Tears, sighs, moans. . . . Not a look, not a word for Perekuzov, hysterics at the mere mention of the wedding. . . . Oh, Lord, there was the deuce of a fuss. Oh well, thinks Verenitsyn, if Protobekasov it is to be, Protobekasov let it be! Luckily he was a man of property too. Protobekasov is invited to give them the honour of his company. He does them the honour, arrives, flirts, falls in love, and finally offers his hand and heart. Verenitsyn's daughter accepts him joyfully on the spot, you'd suppose. Not a bit of it! Mercy on us, no! Tears again, sighs, hysterics! Her father is at his wits' end. What's the meaning of it? What does she want? And what do you suppose she answers? 'I don't know,' she says, 'which of them I love.' 'What!?' 'I really don't know which I love, and so I'd better not marry either, but I am in love!' Verenitsyn, of course, had an attack of cholera at once; the suitors can't make head or tail of it either. But she sticks to it. So you see what queer things happen in these parts.
NATALYA PETROVNA. I don't see anything wonderful in that. . . . Surely it's possible to love two people at once?
RAKITIN. Ah! you think so. . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [slowly], I think so. . . . I don't know, though . . . perhaps it only shows one doesn't love either.
SHPIGELSKY [taking snuff and looking now at NATALYA PETROVNA, now at RAKITIN]. So that's how it is.
NATALYA PETROVNA [eagerly to SHPIGELSKY] Your story is very good, but you haven't made me laugh.
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, my dear lady, who'll make you laugh just now? That's not what you want at the moment.
NATALYA PETROVNA. What is it I want then?
SHPIGELSKY [with an affectedly meek air]. The Lord only knows!
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh, how tiresome you are, as bad as Rakitin.
SHPIGELSKY. You do me too much honour upon my word.. ..
[NATALYA PETROVNA makes an impatient gesture]
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [getting up]. Well, well, at last. . . . [Sighs.] My legs are quite stiff from sitting so long. [LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA and SCHAAF stand up also] O-ooh!
NATALYA PETROVNA [stands up and goes to them]. Why do you sit still so long? [RAKITIN and SHPIGELSKY stand up.]
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. You owe me seventy kopecks, my good sir. [SCHAAF bows frigidly] You can't punish us all the time. [To NATALYA PETROVNA.] You look pale, Natasha? Are you quite well? Shpigelsky, is she quite well?
SHPIGELSKY [who has been whispering something to RAKITIN]. Oh, perfectly!
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. That's right. . . . I'll go and have a little rest before dinner. . . . I'm dreadfully tired! Liza, come along. . . . Oh, my legs, my legs . . . .
[Goes into the outer room with LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. NATALYA PETROVNA walks with her to the door. SHPIGELSKY, RAKITIN and SCHAAF are left in the front of the stage]
SHPIGELSKY [offering SCHAAF his snuff-box]. Well, Adam Ivanitch, wie befinden Sie sich?
SCHAAF [taking a pinch with dignity]. Quite vell. And you?
SHPIGELSKY: Thank you kindly, pretty middling. [Aside to RAKITIN.] So you don't know what's the matter with Natalya Petrovna to-day?
RAKITIN. I don't, really.
SHPIGELSKY. Well, if you don't. .. [Turns round and goes to meet NATALYA PETROVNA who is coming back from the door.] I have a little matter to talk to you about, Natalya Petrovna.
NATALYA PETROVNA [going to the window]. Really! What is it?
SHPIGELSKY. I must speak to you alone. . . . NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh dear! . . . You alarm me. . . . [RAKITIN meanwhile has taken SCHAAF'S arm and walks to and fro with him, murmuring something to him in German. SCHAAF laughs and says in an undertone, 'Ja, ja, ja! ja wohl, ja wohl, sehr gut!']
SHPIGELSKY [dropping his voice]. This business, strictly speaking, does not concern you only . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [looking out into the garden]. What do you mean?
SHPIGELSKY. Well, it's like this. A good friend of mine has asked me to find out . . . that is . . . your intentions in regard to your ward . . . Vera Alexandrovna. NATALYA PETROVNA. My intentions? SHPIGELSKY. That is . . . to speak plainly . . my friend . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. You don't mean to say he wants to marry her?
SHPIGELSKY. Just so. NATALYA PETROVNA. Are you joking? SHPIGELSKY. Certainly not.
NATALYA PETROVNA [laughing]. Good gracious! She's a child; what a strange commission!
SHPIGELSKY. Strange, Natalya Petrovna? How so? My friend . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. You're a great schemer, Shpigel-sky. And who is your friend?
SHPIGELSKY [smiling]. One minute. You haven't said anything definite yet in reply . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Nonsense, Doctor. Vera is a child. You know that yourself, Monsieur le diplomate. [Turning round.] Why, here she is. [VERA and KOLYA run in from the outer room.]
KOLYA [runs up to RAKITIN]. Rakitin, some glue, tell them to give us some glue . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [to VERA]. Where have you been? [Strokes her cheek.] How flushed you are!
VERA. In the garden. . . . [SHPIGELSKY bows to her]. Good afternoon, Ignaty Ilyitch.
RAKITIN [to KOLYA]. What do you want with glue?
KOLYA. We must have it. . . . Alexey Nikolaitch is making us a kite. . . . Ask for it. . . . .
RAKITIN [is about to ring]. Very well. In a minute.
SCHAAF. Erlauben Sie. . . . Master Kolya has not learned his lesson to-day. . . . [Takes KOLYA'S hand.] Kommen Sie.
KOLYA [gloomily]. Morgen, Herr Schaaf, morgen . . . .
SCHAAF [sharply]. Morgen, morgen, nur nicht heute, sagen alle faule Leute. . . . Kommen Sie. [KOLYA resists.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [to VERA]. Whom have you been out with all this time? I've seen nothing of you all day.
VERA. With Alexey Nikolaitch . . . with Kolya . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Ah! [Turning round.] Kolya, what's the meaning of this?
KOLYA [dropping his voice]. Mr. Schaaf . . . Maman. . .
RAKITIN [to NATALYA PETROVNA]. They are making a kite, and you see, it's time for a lesson.
SCHAAF [with a sense of dignity]. Gnädige Frau . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [severely, to KOLYA]. You have been playing about enough to-day, do you hear. Go along with Mr. Schaaf.
SCHAAF [leading KOLYA towards the outer room]. Es ist unerhört!
KOLYA [to RAKITIN in a whisper as he goes out]. Ask for the glue, all the same. . .. [RAKITIN nods.]
SCHAAF [pulling KOLYA]. Kommen sie, mein Herr . . . [Goes out with him. RAKITIN follows them out.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [to VERA]. Sit down . . . you must be tired. . . . [Sits down herself.]
VERA [sitting down]. Not at all, Natalya Petrovna. r
NATALYA PETROVNA [to SHPIGELSKY, with a smile]. Shpigelsky, look at her, she is tired, isn't she?
SHPIGELSKY. But that's good for Vera Alexandrovna, you know.
NATALYA PETROVNA. I don't say it's not. . . . [To VERA.] Well, what have you been doing in the garden?
VERA. Playing, running about. First we looked at the men digging the dam, then Alexey Nikolaitch climbed up a tree after a squirrel, ever so high, and began shaking the tree-top. . . . It really frightened us. . . . The squirrel dropped at last, and Tresor nearly caught it. . . . But it got away.
NATALYA PETROVNA [glancing with a smile at SHPIGELSKY]. And then?
VERA. Then Alexey Nikolaitch made Kolya a bow . . and so quickly . . . and then he stole up to our cow in the meadow and all at once leapt on her back . .. and the cow was scared and set off running and kicking . . . and he laughed [Laughs herself] and then Alexey Nikolaitch wanted to make us a kite and so we came in.
NATALYA PETROVNA [pats her cheek]. Child, child, you are a perfect child. . . . What do you think, Shpigelsky?
SHPIGELSKY [slowly, looking at NATALYA PETROVNA]. I agree with you.
NATALYA PETROVNA. I should think so.
SHPIGELSKY. But that's no hindrance. . . . On the contrary . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. You think so? [To VERA.] And you've been enjoying yourself?
VERA. Yes. . . . Alexey Nikolaitch is so amusing.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh, he is, is he? [.After a brief pause.] And, Vera, how old are you? [VERA looks at her with some surprise.] You're a child . . . a child.
[RAKITIN comes in from the outer room.]
SHPIGELSKY [fussily]. Ah, I was forgetting . . . your coachman is ill . . . and I haven't had a look at him yet . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. What's the matter with him?
SHPIGELSKY. He's feverish, but it's nothing serious.
NATALYA PETROVNA [calling after him]. You are dining with us, Doctor?
SHPIGELSKY. With your kind permission. [Goes out by centre door.]
NATALYA PETROVNA. Mon enfant, vous feriez bien de mettre une autre robe pour le diner. . . . [VERA gets up.] Come to me. . . . [Kisses her on the forehead.] Child. . . . Child. [VERA kisses her hand and goes towards door on right.]
RAKITIN [aside to VERA with a wink]. I've sent Alexey Nikolaitch all you need.
VERA [aside]. Thank you, Mihail Alexandritch. [Goes out.]
RAKITIN [goes up to NATALYA PETROVNA, she holds out her hand to him. He at once presses it]. At last, we are alone. Natalya Petrovna, tell me, what's the matter?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Nothing, Michel, nothing. And if there were, it's all over now. Sit down. [RAKITIN sits down beside her.] That happens to everybody. Clouds pass over the sky. Why do you look at me like that?
RAKITIN. I'm looking at you. . . . I am happy. NATALYA PETROVNA [smiles in answer to him]. Open the window, Michel. How lovely it is in the garden! [RAKITIN gets up and opens the window.] How I welcome the wind! [Laughs.] It seems to have been waiting for a chance to burst in. . . . [Looks round.] How completely it's taken possession of the room. . . . There's no turning it out now . . . .
RAKITIN. You are as soft and sweet yourself now as an evening after a storm.
NATALYA PETROVNA [dreamily repeating the last words]. After a storm? . . . But has there been a storm?
RAKITIN [shaking his head]. It was gathering.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Really? [Gazing at him, after a short silence.] Do you know, Michel, I can't imagine a kinder man than you? [RAKITIN tries to stop her.] No, don't prevent my speaking out. You are sympathetic, affectionate, constant. You never change. I owe you so much.
RAKITIN. Natalya Petrovna, why are you telling me this just now?
NATALYA PETROVNA. I don't know; I feel light-hearted, I'm at rest; don't stop me from chattering, . . .
RAKITIN [pressing her hand]. You are kind as an angel . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [laughing]. You wouldn't have said so this morning. But listen, Michel, you know me, you must make allowances for me. Our relations are so pure, so genuine, . . . and at the same time, not quite natural. .. . You and I have the right to look everybody in the face, not only Arkady. . . . Yes, but . . . [Sinking into thought.] That's what makes me sometimes depressed and ill at ease. I feel spiteful like a child, I'm ready to vent my spite on others, especially on you. . . . You don't resent that privilege?
RAKITIN [earnestly]. Quite the contrary.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes, at times it gives one pleasure to torture the man whom one loves . . . whom one loves. . . . Like Tatyana, I too can say, why not be frank?
RAKITIN. Natalya Petrovna, you . . . NATALYA PETROVNA [interrupting him]. Yes, I love you; but do you know, Rakitin? Do you know what sometimes seems strange to me? I love you . . . and the feeling is so clear, so peaceful. . . . It does not agitate me. . . . I am warmed by it. . . . [Earnestly.] You have never made me cry .. . and it seems as though I ought to have. . . . [Breaking off.] What does that show?
RAKITIN [rather mournfully]. That's a question that needs no answer.
NATALYA PETROVNA [dreamily]. And we have known each other a long while.
RAKITIN. Four years. Yes, we are old friends.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Friends. . . . No, you are more to me than a friend.
RAKITIN. Natalya Petrovna, don't touch on that. . . . I'm afraid for my happiness, I'm afraid it may vanish at your touch.
NATALYA PETROVNA. No . . . no . . . no. The whole point is that you are too good. . . . You give way to me too much. . . . You have spoilt me. . . . You are too good, do you hear?
RAKITIN [with a smile]. I hear, madam.
NATALYA PETROVNA [looking at him]. I don't know what you feel but I desire no other happiness. Many women might envy me. [Holds out both hands to him.] Mightn't they?
RAKITIN. I'm in your hands. . . . Do with me what you will. . . . [The voice of ISLAYEV from the outer room: 'So you've sent for him, have you?']
NATALYA PETROVNA [getting up quickly]. Arkady! I can't see him just now. . . . Good-bye! [Goes out by door on right.]
RAKITIN [looking after her]. What does it mean? The beginning of the end, or the end? [d brief pause.] Or the beginning?
[Enter ISLAYEV looking worried.]
ISLAYEV [taking off his hat]. Good afternoon, Michel. RAKITIN. We've seen each other already to-day. ISLAYEV. Oh! I beg your pardon. . . . I've had so much to see to. . . . [Walks up and down the room.] It's a queer thing! The Russian peasant is very intelligent, very quick of understanding, I've a respect for the Russian peasant . . . and yet sometimes, you may talk to him, and explain away. . . . It's clear enough you'd think, but it's all no use at all. The Russian peasant hasn't that . . . that . . .
RAKITIN. You're still busy with the dam, are you?
ISLAYEV. That . . . so to speak . . . love for work . . . that's just it, he has no love for it. He won't let you tell him what you think properly. 'Yes, Sir.' . . . Yes, indeed, when he hasn't taken in a word. Look at a German now, it's quite a different thing! The Russian has no patience. For all that, I have a respect for him. . . . Where's Natasha? Do you know?
RAKITIN. She was here just now.
ISLAYEV. What time is it? Surely, dinner-time. I've been on my feet all day--such a lot to do. . . . And I haven't been to the building yet. . . . The time goes so fast. It's dreadful! One's simply behindhand with everything------ [RAKITIN smiles.] You're laughing at me, I see. . . . But I can't help it, old man. People are different. I'm a practical man, born to look after my land--and nothing else. There was a time when I dreamed of other things; but I burnt my fingers--I can tell you--came to grief, you know. Why isn't Beliayev here?
RAKITIN. Who's Beliayev?
ISLAYEV. Our new teacher. He's a shy bird, but he'll get used to us. He has a head on his shoulders. I asked him to see how the building was going on to-day. . . . [Enter BELIAYEV.] Oh, here he is! Well, how are they getting on? Doing nothing, I expect?
BELIAYEV. No, Sir, they are working.
ISLAYEV. Have they finished the framing of the second barn?
BELIAYEV. They have begun the third.
ISLAYEV. And did you speak to them about the beams?
ISLAYEV. Well, what did they say?
BELIAYEV. They say that's how they always do it.
ISLAYEV. Hm. . . . Is Yermil the carpenter there?
ISLAYEV. Ah! well, thanks! [Enter NATALYA.] Ah! Natasha! Good afternoon.
RAKITIN. Why twenty greetings to each of us to-day?
ISLAYEV. I tell you, I'm tired out with all I've had to see to. Oh! by the way. I haven't shown you my new winnowing machine, have I? Do come along, it's worth seeing. It's marvellous, a whirlwind, a regular whirlwind. We've time before dinner. . . . What do you say?
RAKITIN. Oh, by all means.
ISLAYEV. Won't you come with us, Natasha?
NATALYA PETROVNA. As though I know anything about your machines! You go by yourselves--and mind you're not late.
ISLAYEV [going out with RAKITIN]. We'll be back immediately.
[BELIAYEV is about to follow them.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [to BELIAYEV]. Where are you going, Alexey Nikolaitch?
BELIAYEV. I . . . I. . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Of course go, if you want a walk . . . .
BELIAYEV. Why no, I've been out of doors all the morning.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Well, then, sit down. . . . Sit here. [Motions him to a chair.] We have not had a proper talk, Alexey Nikolaitch. We have not made friends yet. [BELIAYEV bows and sits down.] I want to get to know you.
BELIAYEV. I'm . . . it's very kind of you.
NATALYA PETROVNA [with a smile]. You are afraid of me, I see . . . but wait a little, you won't be afraid of me, when you know me. Tell me . .. tell me now how old are you?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Are your parents living?
BELIAYEV. My mother is dead, my father is living.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Has your mother been dead long?
BELIAYEV. Yes, a long time.
NATALYA PETROVNA. But you remember her?
BELIAYEV. Oh yes . . . I remember her.
NATALYA PETROVNA. And does your father live in Moscow?
BELIAYEV. Oh no, in the country.
NATALYA PETROVNA. And have you any brothers and sisters?
BELIAYEV. One sister. NATALYA PETROVNA. Are you fond of her? BELIAYEV. Yes. She's much younger than I am. NATALYA PETROVNA. And what's her name? BELIAYEV. Natalya.
NATALYA PETROVNA [eagerly]. Natalya! How odd! I'm Natalya too! . . . [Pauses.] And you are very fond of her?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Tell me what do you think of my Kolya?
BELIAYEV. He is a dear boy.
NATALYA PETROVNA. He is, isn't he? And so affectionate. He's devoted to you already.
BELIAYEV. I'll do my best. . . . I'm glad.
NATALYA PETROVNA. You see, Alexey Nikolaitch, of of course I should like to make him a thoroughly able man--I don't know whether I shall succeed in that, but anyway I want him to look back on his childhood with pleasure. Let him grow up in freedom, that's the great thing. I was brought up very differently, Alexey Nikolaitch; my father was not an unkind man, but he was stern and irritable; everyone in the house, including my mother, was afraid of him. My brother and I used to cross ourselves in terror whenever we were summoned to his room. Sometimes my father would pet me, but even in his arms I was in a panic. My brother grew up, and you may perhaps have heard of his rupture with my father. . . . I shall never forget that awful day. . . . I remained an obedient daughter up to my father's death. . . . He used to call me his consolation, his Antigone (he was blind for some years before his death) . . . but however tender he was he could never make me forget those early impressions. . . . I was afraid of him, a blind old man, and never felt at ease in his presence. The traces of timidity, of those years of repression, haven't perhaps quite disappeared even now. . . . I know that at first sight I seem . . . how shall I say? . . . frigid, perhaps. . . . But I notice I'm talking to you about myself, instead of talking about Kolya. I only meant to say that I know from my own experience how good it is for a child to grow up in freedom. You now, I imagine, have never been repressed as a child, have you?
BELIAYEV. I don't know really. . . . Of course nobody repressed me, nobody bothered about me.
NATALYA PETROVNA [shyly]. Why, didn't your father. . . .
BELIAYEV. He'd no time to spare. He was always going round among the neighbours . . . on business . . . or if not business exactly. . . . He got his living through them, in a way. . . . By his services . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh! So then nobody troubled about bringing you up?
BELIAYEV. As a matter of fact, nobody did. I dare say that's evident though, I'm only too aware of my defects.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Perhaps . . . but on the other hand. . . . [Checks herself and adds in some embarrassment.] Oh, by the way, Alexey Nikolaitch, was that you singing in the garden yesterday?
NATALYA PETROVNA. In the evening . . . by the pond . .. was it you?
BELIAYEV. Yes. [Hurriedly.] I didn't think . . . the pond is such a long way off. . . . I didn't think it could be heard from here.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Are you apologizing? You have a very pleasant musical voice and you sing so well. You have studied music?
BELIAYEV. No, not at all. I only sing by ear . . . only simple songs.
NATALYA PETROVNA. You sing them capitally. . . . I'll ask you some time . . . not just now, but when we know each other better, when we are friends. . . . We are going to be friends, Alexey Nikolaitch, aren't we? I feel confidence in you; the way I've been chattering is a proof of it. . . . [She holds out her hand for him to shake hands. BELIAYEV takes it irresolutely and after some hesitation, not knowing what to do with the hand, kisses it. NATALYA PETROVNA flushes and draws away her hand. At that moment SHPIGELSKY comes in from the outer room, stops short, then takes a step forward, NATALYA PETROVNA gets up quickly, BELIAYEV does the same.] NATALYA PETROVNA [embarrassed]. Oh, it's you, Doctor . . . here Alexey Nikolaitch and I have been having
. . . [Stops.]
SHPIGELSKY [in a loud, free and easy voice]. Really, Natalya Petrovna, the goings on in your house! I walk into the servants' hall and ask for the sick coachman, and my patient is sitting at the table gobbling up pancake and onion. Much good it is being a doctor and relying on illness for getting a living.
NATALYA PETROVNA [with a constrained smile]. Really. [BELIAYEV is about to go away.] Alexey Nikolaitch, I forgot to tell you . . .
VERA [running in from the outer room]. Alexey Nikolaitch! Alexey Nikolaitch! [She stops abruptly at the sight of NATALYA PETROVNA.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [with some surprise]. What is it?
What do you want?
VERA [blushing and dropping her eyes, indicates BELIAYEV].
He is wanted.
NATALYA PETROVNA. By whom?
VERA. Kolya . . . that is Kolya asked me . . . about the kite. . ..
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh! [Aside to VERA.] On n'entre pas comme cela dans une chambre. . . . Cela ne convient pas. [Turning to SHPIGELSKY.] What time is it, Doctor? Your watch is always right. . . . It's time for dinner.
SHPIGELSKY. Allow me. [Takes out his watch.] It is just . . . I beg to inform you . . . just exactly twenty minutes past four.
NATALYA PETROVNA. There, you see, it's dinner-time. [Goes to the looking-glass and tidies her hair. Meanwhile VERA whispers something to BELIAYEV. Both laugh. NATALYA PETROVNA sees them reflected in the looking-glass. SHPIGELSKY gives her a sidelong look.]
BELIAYEV [laughing, in a low voice]. Really?
VERA [nodding and speaking in a low voice too]. Yes, yes, she just went flop.
NATALYA PETROVNA [turning with assumed indifference to VERA]. What? Who went flop?
VERA [in confusion]. Oh no . . . Alexey Nikolaitch made us a swing, and so nurse took it into her head . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [without waiting for her to finish, turns to SHPIGELSKY]. Oh, by the way, Shpigelsky, come here. . . . [She draws him aside and speaks again to VERA.] She wasn't hurt, I hope?
VERA. Oh, no!
NATALYA PETROVNA. But . . . all the same, Alexey Nikolaitch, you shouldn't have done it.
MATVEY [enters from the outer room and announces]. Dinner is served.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Ah! But where is Arkady Sergey-itch? They'll be late again, he and Mihail Alexandritch.
MATVEY. The gentlemen are in the dining-room.
NATALYA PETROVNA. And mother?
MATVEY. Madam is in the dining-room too.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Well, then, come along. [Motioning to BELIAYEV.] Vera, allez en avant avec monsieur.
[MATVEY goes out, followed by VERA and BELIAYEV. SHPIGELSKY [to NATALYA PETROVNA]
You had something to say to me.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh yes! To be sure. . . . You see . . . we'll have another talk about. . . . your proposal. SHPIGELSKY. Concerning . . . Vera Alexandrovna? NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes . . .I will think about it.
I'll think about it. [Both go out.]
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01