The garden. Seats to Right and to Left under trees; in the foreground raspberry bushes. KATYA and MATVEY come in on Right. KATYA has a basket in her hand.
MATVEY. So how is it to be, Katerina Vassilyevna? Kindly explain yourself, I beg you earnestly.
KATYA. Matvey Yegoritch, I really can't.
MATVEY. You are very well aware, Katerina Vassilyevna, what my feelings, I may say, are for you. To be sure, I'm older than you in years, there's no denying that, certainly; but I can still hold my own, I'm still in my prime. I'm of mild disposition, as you are aware; I should like to know what more you want?
KATYA. Matvey Yegoritch, believe me, I feel it very much, I'm very grateful, Matvey Yegoritch. . . . But you see . . . Better wait a bit, I think.
MATVEY. But, dear me, what is there to wait for, Katerina Vassilyevna? You used not to say that, allow me to tell you. And as for consideration, I can answer for that, I believe I may say------ You couldn't ask for more consideration than you will get from me, Katerina Vassilyevna. And I'm not given to drink, and I never hear a word of blame from the master and mistress either.
KATYA. Really, Matvey Yegoritch, I don't know what to say . . . .
MATVEY. Ah, Katerina Vassilyeina, something's come over you lately . . . .
KATYA [blushing a little]. Lately? Why lately?
MATVEY. I don't know . . . but there was a time when you didn't treat me like this.
KATYA [glancing hurriedly behind the scene]. Mind. . . . The German's coming.
MATVEY [with annoyance]. Bother him, the long-nosed crane! . . . I must talk to you again. [He goes out to Right. KATYA is moving towards the raspberries. Enter SCHAAF from the Left with a fishing-rod on his shoulder.]
SCHAAF [calling after KATYA]. Vere you go, vere you go,
KATYA [stopping]. We've been told to pick raspberries, Adam Ivanitch.
SCHAAF. Raspberries? . . . The raspberry is a pleasant fruit. You love raspberries?
KATYA. Yes, I like them.
SCHAAF. He . . . he! And I do too! I love all that you love. [Seeing that she is going.] Oh, Katerin, vait a leetle.
KATYA. I've no time to spare. The housekeeper will scold me.
SCHAAF. Oh! That's nothing. You see I'm going . . . [Points to the rod] how do you say . . . to feesh, you understand, to feesh, that is, to catch feesh. You love feesh?
SCHAAF. He, he, I do too, I do too. Do you know vhat I vill tell you, Katerin. There's a song in German: [Sings] Katrinchen, Katrinchen, wie lieb ich dich so sehr! that is, in Russian, O Katrinushka, Katrinushka, you are so pretty I love you! [Tries to put one arm round her.]
KATYA. Give over, give over, for shame. . . . Here's the mistress coming! [Escapes into the raspberry patch.]
SCHAAF [assuming a glum expression, aside]. Das ist dumm . . . .
[Enter on Right NATALYA PETROVNA, arm in arm with RAKITIN.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [to SCHAAF]. Ah! Adam Ivanitch! Are you going fishing? SCHAAF. Yes, madam. NATALYA PETROVNA. Where's Kolya?
SCHAAF. With Lizaveta Bogdanovna . . . the music lesson.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Ah! [Looking round.] You are alone here?
NATALYA PETROVNA. You haven't seen Alexey Nikolai then?
SCHAAF. No, madam.
NATALYA PETROVNA [after a pause]. We'll go with you, Adam Ivanitch, shall we? We'll look on while you fish.
SCHAAF. I am very glad.
RAKITIN [aside to NATALYA PETROVNA]. What possesses you?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Come along, come along, beau ténébreux.
[All three go out on Right.]
KATYA [cautiously raising her head above the raspberries]. They've gone. . . . [Comes out, stops for a little and ponders.] That German! . . . [Sighs and begins picking raspberrits again, singing in a low voice.]
'No fire is burning, no ember is glowing, But the wild heart is glowing, is burning.'
Yes, Matvey Yegoritch is right! [Goes on singing.]
'But the wild heart is glowing, is burning, Not for father dear, not for mother dear . . . .'
What big raspberries! . . . [Goes on singing.]
'Not for father dear, not for mother dear.' How hot it is! Stifling. . . . [Goes on singing.]
'Not for father dear, not for mother dear, It glows and it burns for . . . .'
[Suddenly turns round; is quiet and half hides behind the bushes. From Left BELIAYEV and VERA come in; BELIAYEV has a kite in his hand.]
BELIAYEV [as he passes the raspberries, to KATYA]. Why have you stopped, Katya? [Sings.]
'It glows and it burns for a maiden so fair.'
KATYA [blushing]. That's not how we sing it.
BELIAYEV. How then? [KATYA laughs and does not answer.'] What are you doing? Picking raspberries? Let
us taste them.
KATYA [giving him the basket]. Take them all.
BELIAYEV. Why all? . . . Vera Alexandrovna, won't you have some? [VERA takes some from the basket, and he does so too.] Well, that's enough. [Is giving back the basket
KATYA [putting back his hand]. Take them, take them
BELIAYEV. No, thanks, Katya. [Gives her the basket.] Thank you. [To VERA.] Vera Alexandrovna, let's sit down on this seat. You see [Showing the kite] we must fasten the tail on. You'll help me. [They go and sit down on the seat. BELIAYEV puts the kite in her hands.] That's it. Mind now, hold it straight. [Begins to tie on the tail.] What's the matter?
VERA. I can't see you. BELIAYEV. Why must you see me? VERA. I mean I want to see how you fix the tail on. BELIAYEV. Oh--wait a minute. [Arranges the kite so that she can see him.] Katya, why aren't you singing? Sing. [After a brief interval KATYA begins singing in a low voice.] VERA. Tell me, Alexey Nikolaitch, do you sometimes fly kites in Moscow too?
BELIAYEV. I've no time for kites in Moscow! Hold the string, that's right. Do you suppose we've nothing else to do in Moscow?
VERA. What do you do in Moscow?
BELIAYEV. What do we do? We study, listen to the professors.
VERA. What do they teach you?
VERA. I expect you're a very good student. Better than all the rest.
BELIAYEV. No, I'm not very good. Better than all the rest, indeed! I'm lazy.
VERA. Why are you lazy?
BELIAYEV. Goodness knows! I was born so, apparently.
VERA [after a pause]. Have you any friends in Moscow?
BELIAYEV. Of course. . . . I say, this string isn't strong enough.
VERA. And are you fond of them?
BELIAYEV. I should think so. Aren't you fond of your friends?
VERA. I haven't any.
BELIAYEV. I meant the girls you know.
VERA [slowly]. Yes.
BELIAYEV. I suppose you have some girl-friends?
VERA. Yes . . . only I don't know why . . . for some time past I've not thought much about them. . . . I haven't even answered Lisa Moshnin, though she begged me to in her letter.
BELIAYEV. How can you say you have no friends . . . what am I?
VERA [with a smile]. Oh, you . . . that's a different thing. [After a pause], Alexey Nikolaitch.
VERA. Do you write poetry?
BELIAYEV. No. . . . Why?
VERA. Oh, nothing. [After a pause] A girl in our school used to write poetry.
BELIAYEV [pulling the knot with his teeth]. Did she? Was it good?
VERA. I don't know. She used to read it to us, and we cried.
BELIAYEV. What did you cry for?
VERA. Pity. We were all so sorry for her.
BELIAYEV. Were you educated in Moscow?
VERA. Yes, at Madame Beauluce's school in Moscow. Natalya Petrovna took me away last year.
BELIAYEV. Are you fond of Natalya Petrovna?
VERA. Yes, she's so kind. I'm very fond of her.
BELIAYEV [with a smile]. And you're afraid of her, I bet.
VERA [also with a smile]. A little.
BELIAYEV [after a pause]. And who sent you to school?
VERA. Natalya Petrovna's mother. I grew up in her house. I'm an orphan.
BELIAYEV [letting his hands fall]. You're an orphan? And you don't remember your father or your mother?
BELIAYEV, My mother is dead too. We are both motherless. Well we must put up with it! We mustn't be down-hearted for all that.
VERA. They say orphans quickly make friends with one another.
BELIAYEV [looking into her eyes]. Do they? And do you think so?
VERA [looks into his eyes with a smile]. I think they do.
BELIAYEV [laughs and sets to work on the kite again]. I should like to know how long I've been in these parts.
VERA. This is the twenty-eighth day.
BELIAYEV. What a memory you have! Well, here's the kite finished. Look what a tail! We must go and fetch Kolya.
KATYA [Coming up to him with the basket]. Won't you have some more raspberries?
BELIAYEV. No, thanks, Katya. [KATYA goes off without speaking.]
VERA. Kolya's with Lizaveta Bogdanovna.
BELIAYEV. How absurd to keep a child indoors in this weather!
VERA. Lizaveta Bogdanovna would only be in our way. . .
BELIAYEV. But I'm not talking about her . . . .
VERA [hurriedly]. Kolya couldn't come with us without her. . . . She was praising you ever so yesterday, though.
VERA. Don't you like her?
BELIAYEV. Oh, I don't mind her. Let her enjoy her snuff, bless the woman. Why do you sigh?
VERA [after a pause]. I don't know. How clear the sky is!
BELIAYEV. Does that make you sigh? [A silence.] Perhaps you are depressed?
VERA. Depressed? No! I never know myself why I sigh. . . . I'm not depressed at all. On the contrary . . . [A pause.] I don't know. . . . I think I can't be quite well. Yesterday I went upstairs to fetch a book--and all at once, fancy, on the staircase, I sat down and began to cry. Goodness knows why, and my tears kept on coming into my eyes for a long while afterwards. . . . What's the meaning of it? And yet I am quite happy.
BELIAYEV. It's because you're growing. It's growing up. It does happen so. . . . Of course, I noticed your eyes looked swollen yesterday evening.
VERA. You noticed it?
VERA. You notice everything.
BELIAYEV. Oh no, not everything.
VERA [dreamily]. Alexey Nikolaitch . . .
BELIAYEV. What is it?
VERA [after a pause]. What was it I was going to ask you? I've forgotten what I was going to say.
BELIAYEV. You are absent-minded! VERA. No . . . but . . . oh yes! This is what I meant to ask. I think you told me--you have a sister?
VERA. Tell me, am I like her?
BELIAYEV. Oh no. You're much better looking.
VERA. How can that be? Your sister . . . I should like to be in her place.
BELIAYEV. What? You'd like to be in our poor little house at this moment?
VERA. I didn't mean that. . . . Is your home so small?
BELIAYEV. Tiny. Very different from this house.
VERA. Well, what's the use of so many rooms?
BELIAYEV. What's the use? You'll find out one day how useful rooms are.
VERA. One day. . . . When?
BELIAYEV. When you're the mistress of a house yourself . . . .
VERA [dreamily]. Do you think so?
BELIAYEV. Yes, you will see. [A pause.] Hadn't we better go and fetch Kolya, Vera Alexandrovna?
VERA. Why don't you call me Verotchka?
BEHAYEV. You can't call me Alexey, can you?
VERA. Why not? . . . [Suddenly starting.] Oh!
BELIAYEV. What's the matter?
VERA [in a low voice]. There's Natalya Petrovna coming this way.
BELIAYEV [also in a low voice]. Where? VERA [nodding towards the Right]. Over there . . . along the path, with Mihail Alexandritch.
BELIAYEV [getting up]. Let's go to Kolya. . . . He must have finished his lesson by now.
VERA. Let's go . . . or I'm afraid she'll scold me. . . . [They get up and walk away quickly to the Left. KATYA hides again in the raspberry bushes. NATALYA PETROVNA and RAKITIN come in on Right.] NATALYA PETROVNA [standing still]. I believe that's Mr. Beliayev with Vera. RAKITIN. Yes, it is. . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. It looks as though they were running away from us.
RAKITIN. Perhaps they are.
NATALYA PETROVNA [after a pause]. But I don't think Verotchka ought . . . to be alone like this with a young man in the garden. . . . Of course, she's only a child, still, it's not the proper thing. . . . I'll tell her.
RAKITIN. How old is she?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Seventeen! She's actually seventeen. . . . It is hot to-day. I'm tired. Let's sit down. [They sit down on the seat on which VERA and BELIAYEV have been sitting.] Has Shpigelsky gone home?
RAKITIN. Yes, he's gone.
NATALYA PETROVNA. It's a pity you didn't keep him. I can't imagine what induced that man to become a district doctor. . . . He's very amusing. He makes me laugh.
RAKITIN. Well, I thought you were not in a very laughing humour to-day.
NATALYA PETROVNA. What made you think that?
RAKITIN. Oh, I don't know.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Because nothing sentimental appeals to me to-day? Oh, certainly, I must warn you there's absolutely nothing that could touch me to-day. . . . But that doesn't prevent me from laughing; on the contrary. Besides, there's something I had to discuss with Shpigelsky to-day.
RAKITIN. May I ask what?
NATALYA PETROVNA. No, you mayn't. As it is, you know everything I think, everything I do. That's boring.
RAKITIN. I beg your pardon. . . . I had no idea . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. I want to have some secrets from you.
RAKITIN. What next! From what you say, one might suppose I know everything . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [interrupting]. And don't you?
RAKITIN. You are pleased to make fun of me.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Why don't you know everything that goes on in me? If you don't I can't congratulate you on your insight. When a man watches me from morning to night . . . .
RAKITIN. What do you mean? Is that a reproach . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. A reproach? [A pause.] No, I see; you certainly have not much insight.
RAKITIN. Perhaps not . . . but since I watch you from morning to night, allow me to tell you one thing I have noticed . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. About me? Please do.
RAKITIN. You won't be angry with me?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh no! I should like to be, but I shan't.
RAKITIN. For some time past, Natalya Petrovna, you have been in a state of permanent irritability, and that irritability is something unconscious, involuntary: you seem to be in a state of inward conflict, as though you were perplexed. I had never observed anything of the sort in you before my visit to the Krinitsyns'; it has only come on lately. [NATALYA PETROVNA draws lines in the sand before her with her parasol.] At times you sigh--such deep, deep sighs --like a man who's very tired, so tired that he can't find rest.
NATALYA PETROVNA. And what do you deduce from that, you observant person?
RAKITIN. I deduce? Nothing.. .. But it worries me.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Humbly grateful for your sympathy.
RAKITIN. And besides . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [with some impatience]. Please, change the subject.
RAKITIN. You have no plans for going out anywhere to-day?
NATALYA PETROVNA. No. RAKITIN. Why not? It's so fine.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Too lazy. [A pause.] Tell me . . . you know Bolshintsov, of course?
RAKITIN. Our neighbour, Afanasy Ivanitch?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes.
RAKITIN. What a question! Only the day before yesterday we were playing preference with him in your house.
NATALYA PETROVNA. I want to know what sort of man he is.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes, yes, Bolshintsov.
RAKITIN. Well, I must say, that I never expected that!
NATALYA PETROVNA [impatiently]. What didn't you expect?
RAKITIN. That you would ever be making inquiries about Bolshintsov! A foolish, fat, tedious man--though of course there's no harm in the man.
NATALYA PETROVNA. He's by no means so foolish or tedious as you think.
RAKITIN. Perhaps not. I must own, I haven't studied the gentleman very carefully.
NATALYA PETROVNA [ironically]. You haven't been watching him.
RAKITIN [with a constrained smile]. And what has induced you? . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh, nothing!
[Again a pause.]
RAKITIN. Look, Natalya Petrovna, how lovely that dark green oak is against the dark blue sky. It's all bathed in the sunlight and what rich colours. . . . What inexhaustible life and strength in it especially when you compare it with that young birch tree. . . . She looks as though she might pass away in radiance, her tiny leaves gleam with a liquid brilliance, as though melting, yet she is lovely too . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Do you know, Rakitin, I noticed it ages ago. You have a very delicate feeling for the so-called beauties of nature, and talk very elegantly and cleverly about them . . . so elegantly and cleverly that I imagine nature ought to be unutterably grateful for your choice and happy phrases; you dance attendance on her like a perfumed marquis on high red heels dallying with a pretty peasant girl. . . . Only I'll tell you what's wrong, it sometimes seems to me that she could never understand or appreciate your subtle observations, just as the peasant girl wouldn't understand the courtly compliments of the marquis; nature is far simpler, even coarser, than you suppose, because, thank God, she's healthy. . . . Birch trees don't melt or fall into swoons like nervous ladies.
RAKITIN. Quelle tirade! Nature is healthy . . . that is, in other words, I'm a sickly creature.
NATALYA PETROVNA. You're not the only sickly creature, we are neither of us too healthy.
RAKITIN. Oh, I know that way of telling a person the most unpleasant things in the most inoffensive way. . . . Instead of telling him to his face, for instance, you're a fool, my friend, you need only tell him with a good-natured smile, we are both fools, you know.
NATALYA PETROVNA. You're offended? What nonsense! I only meant to say that we are both . . . since you don't like the word sickly .. . we are both old, very old.
RAKITIN. In what way are we old? I don't think so of myself.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Well, listen; here we are sitting . . . on this very seat a quarter of an hour ago two really young creatures have been sitting, perhaps.
RAKITIN. Beliayev and Verotchka? Of course they are younger than we are . . . there's a few years' difference between us, that's all. . . . But that doesn't make us old yet.
NATALYA PETROVNA. The difference between us is not only in years.
RAKITIN. Ah! I understand. . . . You envy them . . . their naïveté; their freshness and innocence . . their foolishness, in fact.
NATALYA PETROVNA. You think so? Oh, you think that they are foolish? You think everybody foolish to-day, I see. No, you don't understand me. And besides . . . foolish? What does that matter? What's the good of being clever, if you're not amusing. Nothing is more depressing than that sort of gloomy cleverness.
RAKITIN. Hm. . . . Why don't you say it straight out, without these hints? I don't amuse you . . . that's what you mean. Why find fault with cleverness in general on account of one miserable sinner like me?
NATALYA PETROVNA. No, that's not what I mean. . . . [KATYA comes out from among the bushes.] Have you been picking raspberries, Katya?
KATYA. Yes, madam.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Show me. [KATYA goes up to her.] What splendid raspberries! What a colour . . . though your cheeks are redder still. [KATYA smiles and looks down.] Well, run along----
[KATYA goes out]
RAKITIN. There's a young creature after your taste.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Of course. [Gets up]
RAKITIN. Where are you going?
NATALYA PETROVNA. First, I want to see what Verotchka's doing . . . it's time she was indoors . . . and secondly I must own I don't like our conversation. We had better drop our disscussions of nature and youth for a time.
RAKITIN. Perhaps you would rather walk alone?
NATALYA PETROVNA. To tell the truth, I should. We shall see each other again soon. . . . But we are parting friends? [Holds out her hand to him]
RAKITIN [getting up]. Yes indeed! [Presses her hand]
NATALYA PETROVNA. Good-bye for the present. [She opens her parasol and goes off at Left]
RAKITIN [walks up and down for some time]. What is the matter with her? [A pause.] Simply caprice. But is it? I have never seen that in her before. On the contrary, I know no woman less moody. What is the reason? [Walks to and fro again and suddenly stands still.] Ah, how absurd a man is who has only one idea in his head, one object, one interest in life. . . . Like me, for instance. It was true what she said: one keeps watching trifling things from morning to night, and one grows trivial oneself. . . . That's so; but without her I can't live, in her presence I am more than happy; the feeling can't be called happiness, I belong to her entirely, parting from her would . . . without exaggeration . . . be exactly like parting with life. What is wrong with her? What's the meaning of her agitation, the involuntary bitterness of her words? Is she beginning to be weary of me? Hm? [Sits down.] I have never deceived myself, I know very well how she loves me; but I hoped that with time that quiet feeling . . . I hoped? Have I the right to hope, dare I hope? I confess my position is pretty absurd . . . almost contemptible. . . . [A pause.] What's the use of talking like that? She's an honest woman, and I'm not a Lovelace. [With a bitter smile.] More's the pity! [Getting up quickly.] Well, that's enough! I must put this nonsense out of my head! [Walking up and down.] What a glorious day! [A pause.] How skilfully she stung me! . . . My choice and happy expressions. . . . She's very clever, especially when she's in a bad humour. And what's this sudden adoration of youth and innocence? . . . This tutor. . . . She often talks about him. I must say I see nothing very striking in him. He's simply a student, like all students. Can she .. . impossible! She's out of humour . . . she doesn't know what she wants and so she snaps at me, as children beat their nurse. . . . A flattering comparison! But she must go her own way. When this fit of depression and uneasiness is over, she will be the first to laugh at that lanky boy, that raw youth. . . . Your explanation is not bad, Mihail Alex-andritch, but is it true? God knows! Well, we shall see. It's not the first time, my dear fellow, that after endless fretting and pondering you have had suddenly to give up all your subtle conjectures, fold you hands and wait meekly for what is to come. And meanwhile you must recognize it's pretty awkward and bitter for you. . . . But that's what I'm for, it seems. . . . [Looking round.] Ah, here he is, our unsophisticated young man! . . . Just when he's wanted. . . . I haven't once had a real talk with him. Let's see what he's like. [BELIAYEV comes in on Left.] Ah! Alexey Nikolaitch! So you have come out for a turn in the fresh air too?
RAKITIN. Though I must say the air is not so very fresh to-day: the heat's terrific, but in the shade here under these lime trees it's endurable. [A pause.] Did you see Natalya Petrovna?
BELIAYEV. I met her just now. . . . She's gone indoors with Vera Alexandrovna.
RAKITIN. Wasn't it you I saw here half an hour ago with Vera Alexandrovna?
BELIAYEV. Yes. .. . We were having a walk.
RAKITIN. Ah! [Takes his arm.] Well, how do you like living in the country?
BELIAYEV. I like the country. The only thing is, the shooting is not good here.
RAKITIN. You're fond of shooting then?
BELIAYEV. Yes. . . . Aren't you?
RAKITIN. I? No; I'm a poor shot. I'm too lazy.
BELIAYEV. I'm lazy too . . . but not in that way.
RAKITIN. Oh! Are you lazy about reading then?
BELIAYEV. No, I love reading. But I'm too lazy to work long at a time, especially too lazy to go on doing the same thing.
RAKITIN [Smiling.] Talking to ladies, for instance?
BELIAYEV. Ah, you're laughing at me. . . . I'm frightened of ladies.
RAKITIN [Slightly embarrassed]. What an idea! Why should I laugh at you?
BELIAYEV. Oh, that's all right. . . . I don't mind!
[A pause.] Tell me where can I get gunpowder about here?
RAKITIN. You can get it no doubt in the town; it is sold there. But do you want good powder?
BELIAYEV. No, it's not for shooting, it's for making fireworks.
RAKITIN. Oh, can you make them?
BELIAYEV. Yes; I've picked out the right place already, the other side of the pond. I heard it's Natalya Petrovna's name-day next week, so they will come in for that.
RAKITIN. Natalya Petrovna will be pleased at such an attention from you. She likes you, Alexey Nikolaitch, I may tell you.
BELIAYEV. I'm very much flattered. . . . Ah, by the way, Mihail Alexandritch, I believe you take a magazine. Could you let me have it to read?
RAKITIN. Certainly, with pleasure. . . . There's good poetry in it.
BELIAYEV. I'm not fond of poetry.
RAKITIN. How's that?
BELIAYEV. I don't know. Comic verses strike me as far-fetched, besides there aren't many; and sentimental ones. . . . I don't know. There's something unreal in them somehow.
RAKITIN. You prefer novels?
BELIAYEV. Yes. I like good novels; but critical articles--they appeal to me------
RAKITIN. Oh, why?
BELIAYEV. It's a fine man that writes them.
RAKITIN. And you don't go in for authorship yourself?
BELIAYEV. Oh no! It's silly to write if you've no talent. It only makes people laugh at you. Besides, it's a queer thing, I wish you would explain it to me, sometimes a man seems sensible enough, but when he takes up a pen he's perfectly hopeless. No, writing's not for us, we must thank God if we understand what's written.
RAKITIN. Do you know, Alexey Nikolaitch, not many young men have as much common sense as you have.
BELIAYEV. Thank you for the compliment. [A pause.] I'm going to let off the fireworks the other side of the pond, because I can make Roman candles, and they will be reflected in the water. . . .
RAKITIN. That will be beautiful. ., . Excuse me, Alexey Nikolaitch, by the way, do you know French?
BELIAYEV. No, I translated a novel of Paul de Kock's, 'La Laitiere de Montfermeil,' perhaps you've heard of it, for fifty roubles; but I didn't know a word of French. For instance: quatre-vingt-dix I translated four-twenty-ten. . . . Being hard-up drove me to it, you know. But it's a pity. I should like to know French. It's my cursed laziness. I should like to read Georges Sand in French. But the accent . . . how is one to get over the accent? An, on, en, in, isn't it awful?
RAKITIN. Well, that's a difficulty that can be got over . . . .
BELIAYEV. Please tell me, what's the time?
RAKITIN [looking at his watch]. Half-past one.
BELIAYEV. Lizaveta Bogdanovna is keeping Kolya a long time at the piano. . . . I bet he's dying to be running about.
RAKITIN [cordially]. But one has to study too, you know, Alexey Nikolaitch . . . .
BELIAYEV [with a sigh]. You oughtn't to have to say that, Mihail Alexandritch, and I oughtn't to have to hear it. . . . Of course, it would never do for everyone to be a loafer like me.
RAKITIN. Oh, nonsense . . . .
BELIAYEV. But I know that only too well.
RAKITIN. Well, I know too, on the contrary, that just what you regard as a defect, your impulsiveness, your freedom from constraint is what's attractive.
BELIAYEV. To whom, for instance?
RAKITIN. Well, to Natalya Petrovna, for example.
BELIAYEV. Natalya Petrovna? With her I don't feel that I am free, as you call it.
RAKITIN. Ah! Is that really so?
BELIAYEV. And after all, Mihail Alexandritch, isn't education the thing that matters most in a man? It's easy for you to talk. . . . I can't make you out, really. [Suddenly looking round.] What's that? I thought I heard a corncrake calling in the garden. [Is about to go]
RAKITIN. Perhaps. . . . But where are you off to?
BELIAYEV. To fetch my gun. . . . [Goes to Left; NATALYA PETROVNA comes in, meeting him.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [seeing him, suddenly smiles]. Where are you going, Alexey Nikolaitch? BELIAYEV. I was . . . RAKITIN. To fetch his gun. . .. He heard a corncrake in the garden . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. No, please don't shoot in the garden. . . . Let the poor bird live. . . . Besides, you may startle Granny.
BELIAYEV. I obey, madam.
NATALYA PETROVNA [laughing]. Oh, Alexey Nikolaitch, aren't you ashamed? 'I obey, madam,' what a way to speak! How can you . . . talk like that? But wait, you see Mihail Alexandritch and I will see to your education. . . . Yes, yes . . . we have talked together about you more than once already. . . . There's a plot against you, I warn you. . . . You will let me have a hand in your education, won't you?
BELIAYEV. Why, of course. . . . I shall be only too . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. To begin with, don't be shy, it doesn't suit you at all. Yes, we will look after you. [Indicating RAKITIN.] We are old people, you know, he and I, while you are young. You are, aren't you? You will see how good it will be. You will look after Kolya and I .. . we . ., will look after you.
BELIAYEV. I shall be very grateful.
NATALYA PETROVNA. That's right. What have Mihail Alexandritch and you been talking about?
RAKITIN [smiling]. He has been telling me how he translated a French book without knowing a word of French.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Ah! Now there, we will teach you French. What have you done with your kite, by the way?
BELIAYEV. I've taken it indoors. I thought you didn't like it.
NATALYA PETROVNA [with some embarrassment]. What made you think that? Was it because of Vera . . . because I took Vera indoors? No, that . . No, you were mistaken. [Eagerly.] I tell you what . . . Kolya must have finished his lesson by now. Let us take him and Vera and the kite, shall we? . . . and all of us together fly it in the meadow? Yes?
BELIAYEV. With pleasure, Natalya Petrovna.
NATALYA PETROVNA. That's right then. Come, let us go, let us go. [Ho/ding out her arm to him.] But take my arm, how awkward you are! Come along . . . make haste. [They go off quickly to Left.]
RAKITIN [looking after them]. What eagerness . . . what gaiety. . . . I have never seen a look like that on her face. And what a sudden transformation! [A pause.] Souvent femme varie. . . . But . . . I am certainly not in her good books to-day. That's clear. [A pause.] Well, we shall see what will come later. [Slowly] Is it possible? . . . [With a gesture of dismissal] It can't be! . . . But that smile, that warm, soft, bright look in her eyes. . . . O God spare me from knowing the tortures of jealousy, especially a senseless jealousy! [Suddenly looking round.] Hullo, what do I see? [SHPIGELSKY and BOLSHINTSOV enter from Left. RAKITIN goes to meet them] Good day, gentlemen. . . . I confess I didn't expect to see you to-day, Shpigelsky. . . . [Shakes hands.]
SHPIGELSKY. Well, I didn't expect it myself. . . . I never imagined. . . . But you see I called in on him [Indicating BOLSHINTSOV] and he was already sitting in his carriage, coming here. So I turned round and came back with him.
RAKITIN. Well, you are very welcome.
BOLSHINTSOV. I certainly was intending . . .
SHPIGELSKY [cutting him short]. The servants told us you were all in the garden. . . . Anyway there was nobody in the drawing-room. . .
RAKITIN. But didn't you meet Natalya Petrovna?
RAKITIN. Why, just now.
SHPIGELSKY. No. We didn't come here straight from the house. Afanasy Ivanovitch wanted to see whether there were any mushrooms in the copse.
BOLSHINTSOV [surprised]. I really . . .
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, there, we know how fond you are of mushrooms. So Natalya Petrovna has gone in? Well then, we can go back again.
BOLSHINTSOV. Of course.
RAKITIN. Yes, she has gone in to fetch them all out for a walk. . . . They are going to fly a kite, I believe.
SHPIGELSKY. Ah! That's capital. It's just the weather for a walk.
RAKITIN. You can stay here . . . I'll go in and tell her you have come.
SHPIGELSKY. Why should you trouble. . . . Really, Mihail Alexandritch . . .
RAKITIN. No trouble. . . . I'm going in anyway . . . .
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, well, in that case we won't keep you . . . No ceremony, you know . . . .
RAKITIN. Good-bye for the present. . . . [Goes out to Left.]
SHPIGELSKY. Good-bye. [To BOLSHINTSOV.] Well, Afanasy Ivanovitch . . . .
BOLSHINTSOV [interrupting him]. What did you mean about mushrooms, Ignaty Ilyitch? . . . I'm amazed, what mushrooms?
SHPIGELSKY. Upon my soul, would you have had me say my Afanasy Ivanovitch was overcome with shyness; he wouldn't go straight in, and insisted on taking another turn?
BOLSHINTSOV. That's so . . . but all the same, mushrooms. . . . I don't know, may be I'm mistaken. . . .
SHPIGELSKY. You certainly are, my dear fellow. I'll tell you what you'd better be thinking about. You see we've come here . . . done as you wished. Look out now and don't make a mess of it.
BOLSHINTSOV. But, Ignaty Ilyitch, you know you. . . . You told me, I mean . . . I should like to know for certain what answer . . .
SHPIGELSKY. My honoured friend! It's reckoned over fifteen miles from your place here; at least three times every mile you put that very question to me. . . . Isn't that enough for you? Now listen; but this is the last time I give way to you. This is what Natalya Petrovna said to me: 'I . . .'
BOLSHINTSOV [nodding]. Yes.
SHPIGELSKY [with annoyance]. Yes! Why, what do you mean by 'yes'? I've told you nothing yet. . . . 'I don't know,' says she, 'Mr. Bolshintsov very well, but he seems to me a good man; on the other hand, I don't intend to force Vera's inclinations; and so, let him visit us, and if he wins . . .'
BOLSHINTSOV. Wins? She said 'wins'?
SHPIGELSKY. 'If he wins her affections, Anna Semyon-ovna and I will not oppose . ..'
BOLSHINTSOV. Will not oppose? Is that what she said? Will not oppose?
SHPIGELSKY. Yes, yes, yes. What a queer fellow you are! 'We will not oppose their happiness.'
SHPIGELSKY. 'Their happiness.' . . . Yes, but observe, Afanasy Ivanitch, what your task is now. . . . You have now to persuade Vera Alexandrovna herself that marrying you really will be happiness for her; you have to win her affection.
BOLSHINTSOV [blinking]. Yes, yes, win . . . exactly so. I agree with you.
SHPIGELSKY. You insisted on my bringing you here. .. . Well, let's see how you will act.
BOLSHINTSOV. Act? Yes, yes, we must act, we must win . . . exactly so. Only you see, Ignaty Ilyitch . . . May I confess, admit to you, as to my best friend, one of my weaknesses: I did, as you truly say, wish you to bring me here to-day . . . .
SHPIGELSKY. You didn't wish it, you insisted, absolutely insisted on it. . . .
BOLSHINTSOV. Oh, well, we'll grant that. . . . I agree with you. But you see . . . at home . . . I certainly .,. at home I felt I was ready for anything; but now you know I feel overcome with fears.
SHPIGELSKY. But what are you afraid of?
BOLSHINTSOV [glancing at him from under his brows]. The risk, sir.
BOLSHINTSOV. The risk. There's a great risk. I must, Ignaty Ilyitch, I must confess to you that. . .
SHPIGELSKY [interrupting him]. As to 'your best friend.' We know all about it. . . . Get on. . . .
BOLSHINTSOV. Exactly so. . . . I agree with you. I must confess to you, Ignaty Ilyitch, that I have had very little to do with ladies, with the female sex, in general, if I may say so; I will confess frankly, Ignaty Ilyitch, that I simply can't imagine what one can talk about to a person of the female sex--and alone with her too . . . and especially a young lady.
SHPIGELSKY. You surprise me. I really don't know what one can't talk about to a person of the female sex, especially a young lady, and particularly alone with her.
BOLSHINTSOV. Oh . .. you . .. Good gracious, but I'm not you. So you see it's just in this case I want to appeal to you, Ignaty Ilyitch. They say that in these affairs it's the first step that counts, so couldn't you just . . . to give me a start in the conversation . . . tell me of something to say, something agreeable in the way, for instance, of an observation . . . and then I can get along. After that I could manage somehow by myself.
SHPIGELSKY. I won't tell you anything to say, Afanasy Ivanovitch, because nothing I could tell you would be of any use to you . . . but I will give you some advice if you like.
BOLSHINTSOV. My dear sir, pray do. . . . And as to my gratitude . . . you know . . .
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, come, come, I'm not bargaining with you, am I?
BOLSHINTSOV [dropping his voice]. You can reckon on the three horses.
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, that will do. . . . You see, Afanasy Ivanovitch . . . You are unquestionably a capital fellow in every respect . . . [BOLSHINTSOV makes a slight bow] a man of excellent qualities . . . .
BOLSHINTSOV. Oh dear!
SHPIGELSKY. You are, besides, the owner, I believe, of three hundred serfs.
BOLSHINTSOV. Three hundred and twenty, sir.
SHPIGELSKY. Not mortgaged?
BOLSHINTSOV. I owe nobody a farthing.
SHPIGELSKY. There you are. I've been telling you, you're an excellent man and the most eligible of suitors. But you say yourself you've had very little to do with ladies. . . .
BOLSHINTSOV [with a sigh]. That's just so. I may say, Ignaty Ilyitch, I've avoided the female sex from a child.
SHPIGELSKY [with a sigh]. Quite so. That's not a vice in a husband; quite the contrary; but still in certain circumstances, at the first declaration of love, for instance, it is essential to be able to say something. . . isn't it?
BOLSHINTSOV. I quite agree with you.
SHPIGELSKY. Or else, you know, Vera Alexandrovna may simply suppose that you feel unwell--and nothing more. Besides, though your exterior figure is also perfectly presentable in all respects, it does not offer any feature very striking at first sight . . . not at first sight, you know, and that's what's wanted in this case.
BOLSHINTSOV [with a sigh]. That's what's wanted in this case.
SHPIGELSKY. Young ladies are attracted by it, anyway. And then, your age too . . . in fact, it's not for you and me to try to please. And so it's no good for you to think of agreeable remarks. That's a poor thing to depend on. But you have something else to count upon, far firmer and more reliable, and that's virtues, my dear Afanasy Ivanovitch, and your three hundred and twenty serfs. In your place I should simply say to Vera Alexandrovna . . .
BOLSHINTSOV. Alone with her?
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, of course, alone with her! 'Vera Alexandrovna!' [From the movement of BOLSHINTSOV'S lips it is evident that he is repeating in a whisper every word after SHPIGELSKY.] 'I love you and ask your hand in marriage. I'm a kind-hearted, good-natured, harmless man and I'm not poor. You will be perfectly free with me; I will do my best to please you in every way. And I beg you to find out about me, to take a little more notice of me than you have done hitherto, and to give me an answer as you please and when you please. I am ready to wait and shall consider it a pleasure to do so.'
BOLSHINTSOV [uttering the last words aloud]. To do so! Yes, yes, yes. . . . I quite agree with you. Only I tell you what, Ignaty Ilyitch; I believe you used the word 'harmless.' . . . You said a harmless man . . . .
SHPIGELSKY. Well, aren't you a harmless man?
BOLSHINTSOV. Ye-e-es . . . but still I fancy. . . . Will it be the right thing, Ignaty Ilyitch? Wouldn't it be better to say, for instance? . . .
SHPIGELSKY. For instance?
BOLSHINTSOV. For instance . . . for instance. . . . [A pause.] But maybe 'harmless' will do.
SHPIGELSKY. Now, Afanasy Ivanovitch, you listen to me; the more simply you express yourself, the plainer your words, the better it will go, trust me. And above all, don't be too pressing, Afanasy Ivanovitch. Vera Alexandrovna is very young; you may scare her. . . . Give her time to think over your offer. Avoid fine words and I guarantee your success. [Looking round] Why, here they are all coming too------ [BOLSHINTSOV wants to make off] Where are you going? To pick mushrooms again? [BOLSHINTSOV smiles, turns red and remains] The great thing is not to be scared!
BOLSHINTSOV [hurriedly], Vera Alexandrovna knows nothing about it yet, does she?
SHPIGELSKY. I should think not!
BOLSHINTSOV. Well, I rely on you. . . . [Blows his nose. Enter from Left NATALYA PETROVNA, VERA, BELIAYEV with the kite, and KOLYA, followed by RAKITIN and LlZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. NATALYA PETROVNA is in a very good humour]
NATALYA PETROVNA [to BOLSHINTSOV and SHPIGELSKY]. How do you do; how are you, Shpigelsky; I didn't expect you to-day, but I am very glad to see you. How are you, Afanasy Ivanitch. [He bows with some embarrassment]
SHPIGELSKY [to NATALYA PETROVNA, indicating BOLSHINTSOV]. This gentleman here insisted on bringing me . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [laughing] I'm very much obliged to him. . . . But do you need forcing to come to see us?
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, good heavens! but . . . I was only here . . . this morning . . . dear me . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Ah! our diplomat's caught!
SHPIGELSKY. I'm delighted, Natalya Petrovna, to see that you are in a very good humour.
NATALYA PETROVNA. You think it necessary to remark it--is it so rare then with me?
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, good gracious--no . . . but . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Monsieur le Diplomate, you're getting more and more in a tangle.
KOLYA [who has been all this time impatiently fidgeting about VERA and BELIAYEV]. But, Maman, when are we going to fly the kite?
NATALYA PETROVNA. When you like. . . . Alexey Nikolaitch, and you Vera, let us go to the meadow. [Turning to the others.] You won't care about it, I expect. Lizaveta Bogdanovna, and you, Rakitin, I leave our good friend Afanasy Ivanovitch with you.
RAKITIN. But what makes you think we shan't care about it, Natalya Petrovna?
NATALYA PETROVNA. You are sensible people . . . it must seem childish to you. . . . But as you like. We don't want to prevent your following us. [To BELIAYEV and VERA.] Come along. [NATALYA PETROVNA, VERA, BELIAYEV and KOLYA go off to Right.']
SHPIGELSKY [glancing with some surprise at RAKITIN, says to BOLSHINTSOV]. Our good friend Afanasy Ivanovitch, give your arm to Lizaveta Bogdanovna.
BOLSHINTSOV [nervously]. With the greatest pleasure.
[Gives LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA his arm.]
SHPIGELSKY. And we'll go along together, if you'll allow me, Mihail Alexandritch. [Takes his arm.] My word! How they're racing along the avenue. Let's go and see them fly the kite, though we are sensible people.
Afanasy Ivanovitch, will you lead the way?
BOLSHINTSOV [as they walk, to LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA]. The weather is certainly very agreeable to-day, one may say.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [mincing]. Yes, indeed, very agreeable!
SHPIGELSKY [to RAKITIN]. I've something I want to talk to you about, Mihail Alexandritch. . . . [RAKITIN suddenly laughs.] What is it?
RAKITIN. Oh . . . nothing. . . . I was amused at our following in the rear like this.
SHPIGELSKY. The front rank easily turns into the rearguard, you know. . . . It all depends which way you are going.
[All go out to Right.]
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14