A large unfurnished outer room. The walls are bare, the stone floor is uneven; the ceiling is supported by six brick columns, three each side, covered with whitewash which is peeling off. On Left two open windows and a door into the garden. On Right a door into the corridor leading to the main building; in Centre an iron door opening into the storeroom. Near first column on Right a green garden seat; in a corner spades, watering-cans and flower-pots. Evening. The red rays of the sun fall through the windows on the floor.
KATYA [comes in from door on Right, goes briskly to the window and stands for some time looking into the garden]. No, he's not to be seen. They told me he'd gone into the conservatory. I suppose he hasn't come out yet. Well, I'll wait till he comes by. There's no other way he can go. . . . [Sighs and leans against the window.] They say he's going away. [Sighs again.] However shall we get on without him. . . . Poor young lady! How she did beseech me. . . . And why shouldn't I oblige her? Let him have a last talk with her. How warm it is to-day. And I do believe it's beginning to spot with rain. . . . [Again glances out of window and at once draws back.] Surely they're not coming in here? They are. My gracious. . . . [Tries to run off, but has not time to reach the door before SHPIGELSKY and LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA come in from the garden. KATYA hides behind a column.]
SHPIGELSKY [shaking his hat]. We can shelter here from the rain . . . . it will soon be over.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. If you like.
SHPIGELSKY [looking round]. What is this building? A storehouse or what?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [pointing to the iron door]. No, the storeroom's there. This room, I'm told, Arkady Sergeyitch's father built when he came back from abroad.
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, I see the idea, Venice, if you please. [Sits down on the seat.] Let's sit down. [LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA sits down.] You must confess, Lizaveta Bogdanovna, the rain has come in an unlucky moment. It has interrupted our talk at the most touching point.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [casting down her eyes]. Ignaty Ilyitch . . . .
SHPIGELSKY. But there's nobody to hinder our beginning again. . . . You say, by the way, that Anna Semyonovna is out of humour to-day?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. Yes, she's put out. She actually did not come down to dinner, but had it in her room.
SHPIGELSKY. You don't say so! What a calamity, upon my word!
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. She came upon Natalya Petrovna in tears this morning . . . with Mihail Alexandritch. . . . Of course he's almost like one of the family, but still. . . . However, Mihail Alexandritch has promised to explain it.
SHPIGELSKY. Ah! well, she need not worry herself. Mihail Alexandritch has never, to my thinking, been a dangerous person, and now he's less so than ever.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. Why?
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, he talks a bit too cleverly. Where other people would come out in a rash, they work it all off in talk. Don't be afraid of chatterers in future, Lizaveta Bogdanovna; they're not dangerous; it's these silent men, slow in the uptake, with no end of temperament and thick necks, who are dangerous.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [after a pause]. Tell me, is Natalya Petrovna really ill?
SHPIGELSKY. She's no more ill than you or I.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. She ate nothing at dinner.
SHPIGELSKY. Illness isn't the only thing that spoils the appetite.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. Did you dine at Bolshintsov's?
SHPIGELSKY. Yes. . . . I went to see him. And it's only on your account I came back here, upon my soul.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. Oh, nonsense. And do you know, Ignaty Ilyitch, Natalya Petrovna is cross with you. . . . She said something not very complimentary about you at dinner.
SHPIGELSKY. Really? Ladies don't like us poor fellows to have sharp eyes, it seems. You must do what they want, you must help them, and you must pretend not to know what they're up to. A pretty set! But we shall see. And Rakitin, I dare say, looked rather in the dumps, too?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. Yes, he, too, seemed, as it were, out of sorts . . . .
SHPIGELSKY. Hm. And Vera Alexandrovna? And Beliayev?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. Everyone, absolutely everyone seemed depressed. I really can't imagine what's the matter with them all to-day.
SHPIGELSKY. If you know too much, you'll grow old before your time, Lizaveta Bogdanovna. . . . But never mind them. We had better talk about our affairs. The rain hasn't left off. . . . Shall we?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [casting down her eyes primly]. What are you asking me, Ignaty Ilyitch?
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, Lizaveta Bogdanovna, if you'll allow me to say so, there's no need to put on airs, and to drop your eyes like that! We're not young people, you know! These performances, these sighs and soft nothings--they don't suit us. Let us talk calmly, practically, as is proper for people of our years. And so--this is the question: we like each other . . . at least, I presume that you like me.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [a little affectedly], Ignaty Ilyitch, really . . . .
SHPIGELSKY. Oh, all right, very well. After all, perhaps, airs and graces are . . . only proper in a lady. So then, we like each other. And in other respects too we are well matched. Of course, I am bound to say about myself that I am not a man of good family: well, you're not of illustrious birth either. I'm not a rich man; if I were, I shouldn't be where I am------ [Laughs.] But I've a decent practice, not all my patients die; you have, as you say, fifteen thousand roubles of your own, all that's not at all bad, you see. At the same time, you're tired, I imagine, of living for ever as a governess, and then fussing round an old lady, backing her up at preference, and falling in with her whims isn't much fun, I should say. On my side, it's not so much that I'm weary of bachelor-life, but I'm growing old, and then, my cooks rob me; so you see, it all fits in nicely. But here's the difficulty, Lizaveta Bogdanovna; we don't know each other at all, that is, to be exact, you don't know me . . . I know you well enough. I understand your character. I don't say you have no faults. Being a spinster, you're little old-maidish, but that's no harm. In the hands of a good husband, a wife is soft as wax. But I should like you to know me before marriage; or else you'll, maybe, blame me afterwards. . . . I don't want to deceive you.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [with dignity]. But, Ignaty Ilyitch, I believe I too have had opportunities of discovering your character.
SHPIGELSKY. You? Oh! nonsense. . . . That's not a woman's job. Why, I dare say you imagine I'm a man of cheerful disposition, an amusing fellow, don't you?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. I have always thought you a very amiable man . . . .
SHPIGELSKY. There you are. You see how easily one may be mistaken. Because I play the fool before outsiders, tell them anecdotes and humour them, you imagine that I'm really a light-hearted man. If I didn't need these people, I shouldn't even look at them. . . . As it is, whenever I can, without much danger, you know, I turn them into ridicule. . . . I don't deceive myself, though: I'm well aware that certain gentry, who can't take a step without me and are bored when I'm not there, consider themselves entitled to look down on me; but I pay them out, you may be sure. Natalya Petrovna, for instance. . . . Do you suppose I don't see through her? [Mimics NATALYA PETROVNA.] 'Dear Doctor, I really like you so much . . . you have such a wicked tongue,' ha, ha, coo away, my dove, coo away. Ugh! these ladies! And they smile and make eyes at you, while disdain is written on their faces. . . . They despise us, do what you will! I quite understand why she is saying harsh things of me to-day. Upon my soul, these ladies are wonderful people! Because they sprinkle themselves with eau-de-Cologne every day and speak so carelessly--as though they were just dropping their words for you to pick them up--they fancy there's no catching them by the tail. Oh, isn't there, though! They're just mortals the same as all of us poor sinners!
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. Ignaty Ilyitch . . . you surprise me.
SHPIGELSKY. I knew I should surprise you. So you see I'm not a light-hearted man at all, and not too good-natured even. . . . But at the same time, I don't want to make myself out what I never have been. Though I may put it on a bit before the gentry, no one's ever seen me play the fool in a low way, no one's ever dared to take insulting liberties with me. Indeed, I think they're a bit afraid of me; in fact, they know I bite. On one occasion, three years ago, a gentleman --a regular son of the soil--by way of fun at the dinner-table, stuck a radish in my hair. What do you think I did? Why, on the spot, without any show of anger, you know, in the most courteous manner, I challenged him to a duel. The son of the soil almost had a stroke, he was so terrified; our host made him apologize--it made a great sensation. As a matter of fact, I knew beforehand that he wouldn't fight. So you see, Lizaveta Bogdanovna, my vanity's immense; but my life's not been much. My talents are not great either. . . . I got through my studies somehow. I'm not much good as a doctor, it's no use my pretending to you, and if you're ever taken ill, I shan't prescribe for you myself. If I'd had talent and a good education, I should have bolted to the capital. For the aborigines here, no better doctor is wanted, to be sure. As regards my personal character, Lizaveta Bogdanovna, I ought to warn you: at home I'm ill-humoured, silent and exacting, I'm not cross as long as everything's done for me to my satisfaction; I like to be well fed and to have my habits respected; however, I'm not jealous and I'm not mean, and in my absence, you can do just as you like. Of romantic love and all that between us, you understand it's needless to speak; and yet I imagine one might live under the same roof with me . . . so long as you try to please me, and don't shed tears in my presence, that I can't endure! But I'm not given to fault-finding. There you have my confession. Well, what do you say now?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. What am I to say to you, Ignaty Ilyitch? . . . If you have not been blackening your character on purpose to . . .
SHPIGELSKY. But how have I blackened my character? Don't forget that another man in my place would, with perfect complacency, have kept quiet about his faults, as you've not noticed them, and after the wedding, it's all up then, it's too late. But I'm too proud to do that. [LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA glances at him.] Yes, yes, too proud . . . you needn't look at me like that. I don't mean to pose and lie before my future wife, not if it were for a hundred thousand instead of fifteen thousand, though to a stranger I'm ready to humble myself for a sack of flour. I'm like that. . . . I'll smirk to a stranger while inwardly I'm thinking, you're a blockhead, my friend, you'll be caught by my bait; but with you, I say what I think. That is, let me explain; I don't say everything I think, even to you; but at any rate, I'm not deceiving you. I must strike you as a very queer fish certainly, but there, wait a bit, one day I'll tell you the story of my life and you'll wonder that I've come through as well as I have. You weren't born with a silver spoon in your mouth, I expect, either, but yet, my dear, you can't conceive what real hopeless poverty is like. . . . I'll tell you all about that, though, some other time. But now you had better think over the proposition I have had the honour of laying before you. . . . Consider this little matter well, in solitude, and let me know your decision. So far as I can judge, you're a sensible woman. And by the way, how old are you?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. I . . . I . . . I'm thirty.
SHPIGELSKY [calmly]. And that's not true, you're quite forty.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [firing up], I'm not forty, only thirty-six.
SHPIGELSKY. That's not thirty, anyway. Well, Lizaveta Bogdanovna, that's a habit you must get out of . . . especially as thirty-six isn't old for a married woman. And you shouldn't take snuff either. [Getting up.] I fancy the rain has stopped.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [getting up also]. Yes, it has.
SHPIGELSKY. And so you'll give me an answer in a day or two?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. I will tell you my decision to-morrow.
SHPIGELSKY. Now, I like that! That's really sensible! Bravo! Lizaveta Bogdanovna! Come, give me your arm. Let us go indoors.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [taking his arm]. Let us go.
SHPIGELSKY. And by the way, I haven't kissed your hand . . . and I believe it's what's done. Well, for once, here goes! [Kisses her hand. LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA blushes.] That's right. [Moves towards door into garden.]
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [stopping]. So you think, Ignaty Ilyitch, that Mihail Alexandritch is really not a dangerous man?
SHPIGELSKY. I think not.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. Do you know what, Ignaty Ilyitch? I fancy that for some time past Natalya Petrovna . . . I fancy that Mr. Beliayev. . . . She takes a good deal of I notice of him . .. doesn't she! And Verotchka too, what do you think? Isn't that why to-day? . . .
SHPIGELSKY [interrupting her]. There's one other thing I've forgotten to tell you, Lizaveta Bogdanovna. I'm awfully inquisitive myself, but I can't endure inquisitive women. That is, I'll explain. To my thinking, a wife ought to be inquisitive and observant only with other people (indeed it's an advantage to her husband). . . . You under-stand me--with others only. However, if you really want to know my opinion concerning Natalya Petrovna, Vera Alexandrovna, Mr. Beliayev, and the folks here generally, listen and I'll sing you a little song. I've a horrible voice but you mustn't mind that.
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [with surprise]. A song! SHPIGELSKY. Listen! The first verse:
'Granny had a little kid,
Granny had a little kid,
A little grey kid!
Yes, she did, yes, she did!'
The second verse:
'The kid would in the forest play,
The kid would in the forest play,
Yes, I say, yes, I say,
He would in the forest play.'
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA. But I don't understand. . . . SHPIGELSKY. Listen then! The third verse:
'The grey wolves ate that little kid [skipping about]
The grey wolves ate that little kid,
They ate him up, they ate him up,
Yes, I say, they ate him up.'
And now let us go. I must have a talk with Natalya Petrovna, by the way. Let us hope she won't bite me. If I'm not mistaken, she still has need of me. Come along.
[They go out into the garden]
KATYA [cautiously coming out from behind the column], They've gone at last! What a spiteful man that doctor is . . . talked and talked and what didn't he say? And what a way to sing! I'm afraid Alexey Nikolaitch may have gone back indoors meanwhile . . . . Why on earth need they have come in here! [Goes to the window] So Lizaveta Bog-danovna is to be the doctor's wife. . . . [Laughs] So that's it! . . . Well, I don't envy her. . . . [Keeps looking out of window] The grass looks as though it had been washed. . . . What a nice smell . . . it's the wild cherry. . . . Oh! here he comes! [After waiting a moment.] Alexey Nikolaitch! . . . Alexey Nikolaitch!
BELIAYEV [behind the scenes]. Who's calling me? Oh! is it you, Katya? [Comes up to window.] What do you want?
KATYA. Come in here. . . . I've something to say to you.
BELIAYEV. Oh! very well. [Moves away from window and a moment later comes in at door.] Here I am.
KATYA. Aren't you wet?
BELIAYEV. No . . . I've been sitting in the greenhouse with Potap . .. he's your uncle, isn't he?
KATYA. Yes, he's my uncle.
BELIAYEV. How pretty you are to-day! [KATYA smiles and looks down. He takes a peach out of his pocket] Would you like it?
KATYA [refusing]. Thank you very much . . . eat it yourself.
BELIAYEV. I didn't refuse your raspberries when you gave me some yesterday. Take it, I picked it for you . . . really.
KATYA. Oh! thank you very much. [Takes the peach.]
BELIAYEV. That's right. What did you want to tell me?
KATYA. My young lady . . . Vera Alexandrovna, asked me . . . she wants to see you.
BELIAYEV. Ah! well, I'll go to her at once.
KATYA. No . . . she'll come here. She wants to have a talk with you.
BELIAYEV [with some surprise]. She wants to come here?
KATYA. Yes. . . . Here, you see. . . . Nobody comes in here. You won't be interrupted here. . . . [Sighs.] She likes you very much, Alexey Nikolaitch. . . . She's so kind. I'll go and fetch her. And you'll wait, won't you?
BELIAYEV. Of course, of course.
KATYA. In a minute. . . . [Is going and stops.] Alexey Nikolaitch, is it true what they are saying, that you are leaving us?
BELIAYEV. I? No. . . . Who told you so?
KATYA. So you're not going away? Thank goodness! [In confusion.] We'll be back in a minute. [Goes out by door leading to the house.]
BELIAYEV [remains for some time without moving]. How strange it all is! Strange things are happening to me. I must say I never expected all this. . . . Vera loves me. . . . Natalya Petrovna knows it. . . . Vera has confessed it herself. .. extraordinary! Vera .. . such a sweet, dear child; but . . . what's the meaning of this note? [Takes a scrap of paper out of his pocket.] From Natalya Petrovna . . . in pencil. 'Don't go away, don't decide on anything till I have had a talk with you.' What does she want to talk about? [A pause.] Such idiotic ideas come into my head! I must say all this is very embarrassing. If anybody had told me a month ago that I . . .I . . . I simply can't get over that conversation with Natalya Petrovna, Why is my heart throbbing like this? And now Vera wants to see me. . . . What am I going to say to her? Anyway, I shall find out what's the matter. . . . Perhaps Natalya Petrovna's angry with me. . .. But whatever for? [Looks at the note again.] It's all queer, very queer.
[The door is opened softly. He quickly hides the note. VERA and KATYA appear in the doorway. He goes up to them. VERA is very pale, she does not raise her eyes, nor move from the spot.]
KATYA. Don't be afraid, miss, go up to him; I'll be on the look-out. Don't be afraid. [To BELIAYEV.] Oh! Alexey Nikolaitch! [She shuts the windows, goes out into the garden and closes the door behind her.]
BELIAYEV. Vera Alexandrovna . . . you wanted to see me. Come here, sit down here. [Takes her by the hand and leads her to the seat. VERA sits down.] That's it. [Looking at her with surprise.] You've been crying?
VERA [without looking up]. That doesn't matter. . . . I've come to beg you to forgive me, Alexey Nikolaitch.
BELIAYEV. What for?
VERA. I heard . . . you have had an unpleasant interview with Natalya Petrovna . . . you are going . . . you're being sent away.
BELIAYEV. Who told you that?
VERA. Natalya Petrovna herself. . . . I met her just after you had been with her. . . . She told me you yourself are unwilling to stay. But I believe you are being sent away.
BELIAYEV. Tell me, do they know this in the house?
VERA. No . . . only Katya knows. . . . I had to tell her. . . . I wanted to see you, to beg you to forgive me. Imagine now how wretched I must be. . . . I'm the cause of it, Alexey Nikolaitch, it's all my fault,
BELIAYEV. Your fault, Vera Alexandrovna?
VERA. I never could have thought . . . Natalya Petrovna. . . . But I don't blame her. Don't you blame me either. . . . This morning I was a silly child, but now. . . . [Breaks off.]
BELIAYEV. Nothing's settled yet, Vera Alexandrovna. . . . I may be staying.
VERA [sadly]. You say nothing's settled yet, Alexey Nikolaitch. . . . No, everything's settled, everything's over. See how you are with me now, and remember only yesterday, in the garden. . . . [A pause.] Ah! I see Natalya Petrovna has told you everything.
BELIAYEV [embarrassed]. Vera Alexandrovna . . . VERA. She has told you, I see it. . . . She tried to catch me, and I, like a silly, fell into her trap. But she betrayed herself too., . . I'm not such a child. [Dropping her voice.] Oh no!
BELIAYEV. What do you mean?
VERA [glancing at him]. Alexey Nikolaitch, did you really want to leave us yourself? BELIAYEV. Yes.
VERA. Why? [BELIAYEV is silent.] You don't answer? BELIAYEV. Vera Alexandrovna, you are not mistaken. . . . Natalya Petrovna told me everything. VERA [faintly]. What, for instance? BELIAYEV. Vera Alexandrovna . . . I really can't. . . . You understand.
VERA. She told you perhaps that I love you? BELIAYEV [hesitating]. Yes. VERA [quickly]. But it's untrue. . . . BELIAYEV [in confusion]. What! . . . VERA [hides her face in her hands and whispers in a toneless voice through her fingers]. Anyway, I didn't tell her that, I don't remember. . . . [Lifting her head.] Oh! how cruelly she has treated me! And you . . . you meant to go away because of that?
BELIAYEV. Vera Alexandrovna, only consider. . . . VERA [glancing at him]. He does not love me! [Hides her face again.]
BELIAYEV [sits down beside her and takes her hands]. Vera Alexandrovna, give me your hand. . . . Listen, there must not be misunderstandings between us. I love you as a sister; I love you because no one could help loving you. Forgive me if I . . . I've never in my life been in such a position. . . . I can't bear to wound you. . . . [She hides her face again.] I'm not going to pretend with you, I know that you like me, that you've grown fond of me. . . . But think, what can come of it? I'm only twenty, I haven't a farthing. Please don't be angry with me. I really don't know what to say.
VERA [taking her hands from her face and looking at him]. And as though I expected anything, my God! But why so cruelly, so heartlessly. . . . [She breaks off.]
BELIAYEV. Vera Alexandrovna, I didn't mean to hurt you.
VERA. I'm not blaming you, Alexey Nikolaitch. How are you to blame? It's all my fault. . . . And how I am punished! I don't blame her either, I know she's a kind-hearted woman but she couldn't help herself. .. . She didn't know what she was doing.
BELIAYEV [in amazement]. Didn't know what she was doing?
VERA [turning to him]. Natalya Petrovna loves you, Beliayev.
VERA. She's in love with you.
BELIAYEV. What are you saying?
VERA. I know what I'm saying. To-day has made me years older. . . . I'm not a child now, believe me. She was actually jealous . . . of me! [With a bitter smile..] What do you think of that?
BELIAYEV. But it's impossible!
VERA. Impossible. . . . Then why has she suddenly taken it into her head to marry me to that gentleman, what's his name, Bolshintsov? Why did she send the doctor to me, why did she try to persuade me to it herself? Oh! I know what I am saying! If you could have seen, Beliayev, how her whole face changed when I told her. . . . Oh! you can't imagine how cunningly, how treacherously she trapped me into admitting it. Yes, she's in love with you; it's only too evident . . . .
BELIAYEV. Vera Alexandrovna, you're mistaken, I assure you.
VERA. No, I'm not mistaken. I tell you I'm not mistaken. If she doesn't love you, why has she tortured me like this? What have I done to her? [Bitterly.] Jealousy is an excuse for anything. But what's the good of talking! And now why is she sending you away? She imagines that you . . . that we . . . Oh! she need not worry herself! You can stay! [Hides her face in her hands.]
BELIAYEV. She hasn't sent me away so far, Vera Alexandrovna. . . . As I've told you already, nothing is decided yet . . . .
VERA [suddenly lifting her head and looking at him], Really?
BELIAYEV. Yes . . . but why do you look at me like that?
VERA [as though to herself]. Ah! I see. . . . Yes, yes. . . . She is still hoping. . . . [The door into the corridor is quickly opened and NATALYA PETROVNA appears in the doorway. She stops short on seeing VERA and BELIAYEV.]
BELIAYEV. What did you say?
VERA. Yes, now it's all clear to me. . . . She has thought better of it. She sees I'm no danger to her, and indeed what am I? A silly girl, while she! . . .
BELIAYEV. Vera Alexandrovna, how can you imagine.. .
VERA. But who knows? Perhaps she's right . . . perhaps you love her . . . .
VERA [standing up]. Yes, you. Why are you blushing?
BELIAYEV. Me blushing? . . .
VERA. You like her, you may come to love her? . . . You don't answer my question.
BELIAYEV. But, good Lord, what do you want me to say? Vera Alexandrovna, you're so excited. . . . Do be calm for goodness sake . . . .
VERA [turning away from him]. Oh! you treat me as a child. . . . You don't deign to give me a serious answer. . . . You simply want to get rid of me. You try to comfort me! [Turns to go out but but stops short at sight of NATALYA PETROVNA.] Natalya Petrovna! . . . [BELIAYEV looks round instantly.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [taking a few steps forward]. Yes, I'm here. [She speaks with some effort.] I came for you, Verotchka.
VERA [coldly and deliberately]. What made you come here? So you've been looking for me?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes, I've been looking for you. You're indiscreet, Verotchka. . . . I've spoken of it more than once. . . . And you, Alexey Nikolaitch, you've forgotten your promise . . . you've deceived me.
VERA. Oh! stop that, Natalya Petrovna, leave off, do! [NATALYA PETROVNA looks at her in amazement.] Give up speaking to me as though I were a child. . . . [Dropping her voice.] From to-day I'm a woman. . . . I'm as much a woman as you are.
NATALYA PETROVNA [embarrassed]. Vera . . . .
VERA [almost in a whisper]. He hasn't deceived you. . . . Our meeting here is not his doing. He doesn't care for me, you know that, you've no need to be jealous.
NATALYA PETROVNA [with rising amazement]. Vera!
VERA. It's the truth . . . don't go on pretending. These pretences are no use now. . . . I see through them now, I can assure you. To you I'm not the ward you are watching over [Ironically] like an elder sister. . . . [Moves closer to her] I'm your rival.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Vera, you forget yourself . . . .
VERA. Perhaps . . . but who has driven me to it? I don't understand what has given me courage to speak to you like this. . . . Perhaps it's because I have nothing to hope for, because it has pleased you to trample upon me. . . . And you have succeeded . . . completely. But let me tell you, I don't mean to be as underhand with you as you have been with me. . . . I'll let you know I've told him everything. [Indicating BELIAYEV.]
NATALYA PETROVNA. What could you tell him?
VERA. What? [With irony.'] Why, everything I have noticed. You hoped to worm everything out of me without betraying yourself. You made a mistake, Natalya Petrovna, you overrated your self-control.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Vera, think what you're saying . . .
VERA [in a whisper and coming still closer to her]. Tell me that I'm wrong. . . . Tell me that you're not in love with him. . . . He has told me that he doesn't love me! [NATALYA PETROVNA, overwhelmed with confusion, is silent. VERA remains for some time motionless, then suddenly presses her hand to her forehead.] Natalya Petrovna . . . forgive me . . . I . . . don't know . . . what's come over me . . . forgive me, don't be hard on me. . . . [Bursts into tears and goes out rapidly by door into corridor. A silenced]
BELIAYEV [going up to NATALYA PETROVNA]. I can assure you, Natalya Petrovna . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [looking fixedly at the floor, holds out her hand in his direction]. Stop, Alexey Nikolaitch. The truth is . . . Vera is right. . . . It's time I . . . time I laid aside deceit. I have wronged her, and you--you have a right to despise me. [BELIAYEV makes an involuntary gesture.] I am degraded in my own eyes. The only way left me to regain your respect is openness, complete openness, whatever the consequences. Besides, I am seeing you for the last time, for the last time I am speaking with you. I love you. [She does not look at him.]
BELIAYEV. You, Natalya Petrovna! . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes, yes, I love you. Vera was not deceived and has not deceived you. I have loved you from the very day you arrived here, but I only recognized it yesterday. I don't mean to justify my conduct. It has been unworthy of me . . . but anyway you can understand now, you can make allowance for me. Yes, I was jealous of Vera; yes, I was planning to marry her to Bolshintsov, so as to get her away from you and from myself; yes, I took advantage of my position, of my being older, to find out her secret and--of course I didn't reckon on that--I betrayed myself. I love you, Beliayev; but let me say, it's only pride that forces me to confess it . . . the farce I have been playing revolts me at last. You cannot stay here. . . . Indeed, after what I have just told you, you will no doubt feel very awkward in my company, and you will want to get away as quickly as possible. I am certain of that. It is that certainty has given me courage. I confess I shouldn't like you to think badly of me. Now you know everything. . . . Perhaps I have spoilt things for you . . . perhaps, if all this had not happened, you might have cared for Verotchka. . . . I have only one plea to urge, Alexey Nikolaitch. . . . It has all been beyond my control. [She pauses. She has said all this in a rather calm and measured voice, not looking at BELIAYEV. He is silent. She goes on with some agitation, still not looking at him.] You don't answer me? But I understand that. There's nothing for you to say to me. The position of a man receiving a declaration of love when he feels no love is too painful. I thank you for your silence. Believe me, when I told you . . . I love you, I was not pretending . . . as before; I was not counting on anything; on the contrary, I wanted at last to throw off the mask, which I can assure you I'm not used to wearing. . . . And indeed, what's the use of affectation and duplicity, when everything's known; why pretend when there's no one to deceive? Everything is over between us now. I will not keep you. You can go away without saying another word to me, without taking leave of me. I shall not think it discourteous, I shall be grateful to you. There are circumstances in which delicacy is out of place . . . worse than rudeness. It seems we were not destined to know each other better. Good-bye! Yes, we were not destined to know each other . . . but at least I hope that now you no longer look on me as an oppressor, a furtive and deceitful creature. . . . Good-bye for ever. [BELIAYEV in distress tries to say something, but cannot.] You are not going?
BELIAYEV [bows, is about to go, and after a struggle with himself turns back]. No, I can't go. . . . [NATALYA PETROVNA for the first time looks at him] I can't go away like this! Natalya Petrovna, you said just now . . . you didn't want me to carry away unpleasant memories of you, and I don't want you to think of me as a man who . . . Oh dear! I don't know how to say it. . . . Natalya Petrovna, I'm sorry. . . . I don't know how to talk to women like you. . . . Up to now I've only known . . . quite ordinary women. You said that we were not destined to be friends, but, good God, how could an ordinary almost uneducated fellow like me ever dream of being anything to you? Think what you are and what I am! Think, could I dare to dream? . . . With your bringing up. . . . But why talk of that. . . . Just look at me . . . this old coat and your sweet-scented clothes. . . . My God! Oh yes, I was afraid of you and I'm afraid of you still. . . . I thought of you, without any exaggeration, as a being of higher order, and now . . . you, you tell me that you love me . . . you, Natalya Petrovna! Me! . . . I feel my heart beating as it never has in my life; it's not beating merely from amazement, it's not that my vanity's flattered. . . . No, indeed . . . vanity doesn't come in now. . . . But I . . . I can't go away like this, say what you like!
NATALYA PETROVNA [after a pause, as though to herself]. What have I done?
BELIAYEV. Natalya Petrovna, for God's sake, I assure you . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [in a changed voice]. Alexey Nikolaitch. If I did not know you are an honest man, and incapable of deceit, God knows what I should think. I might regret having spoken. But I trust you. I don't want to hide my feelings from you; I am grateful for what you have just said. Now I know why we have not been friends. . . . So it was nothing in me myself that repelled you. . . . Only my position. . . . [Breaks off.] It's all for the best, of course . . . but now it will be easier for me to part from you. . . . Good-bye. [Is about to go out.]
BELIAYEV [after a pause]. Natalya Petrovna, I know that it's impossible for me to stay here . . . but I can't tell you what's going on in me. You love me. . . . I'm positively terrified to utter those words . . . it's all so new to me . . . it seems as though I'm seeing you for the first time, hearing you for the first time, but I feel one thing, I must go. . . . I feel I can't answer for anything . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [in a faint voice]. Yes, Beliayev, you must go. . . . Now after what you have said, you can go. . . . And can it be really, in spite of all I have done. . . . Oh, believe me, if I had had the remotest suspicion of all you have just told me, that confession would have died in me, Beliayev. . . . I only meant to put an end to all misunderstandings, I meant to expiate, to punish myself, I meant to cut the last thread. If I could have imagined. . . . [Hides her face.]
BELIAYEV. I do believe you, Natalya Petrovna, I do. And I, too . . . a quarter of an hour ago . . . could I have imagined. . . . It's only to-day, during our interview before dinner that I felt for the first time something extraordinary, incredible, as though a hand had squeezed my heart, and such a burning ache. . . . It is true that before then I had, more or less, avoided you and even not liked you particularly, but when you told me to-day that Vera Alexandrovna fancied . . . [Breaks off.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [with an involuntary smile of happiness on her lips]. Hush, hush, Beliayev; we mustn't think of that. We must not forget that we are speaking to each other for the last time . . . that you are going to-morrow . . . .
BELIAYEV. Oh yes! I'll go to-morrow! Now I can go. . . . All this will pass. . . . You see I don't want to exaggerate. . . . I'm going . . . to take what God gives! I shall take with me a memory, I shall never forget that you cared for me. . . . But how was it I didn't know you till now? Here you are looking at me now. . . . Can I have ever tried to avoid your eyes? . . . Can I ever have felt shy with you?
NATALYA PETROVNA [with a smile]. You said just now that you're afraid of me.
BELIAYEV. Did I? [A pause.] Really. . . . I wonder at myself. . . . Is it I, I talking so boldly to you? I don't know myself.
NATALYA PETROVNA. And you're not deceiving yourself?
NATALYA PETROVNA. In thinking that you . . . [Shuddering.] Oh? good God, what am I doing? . . . Beliayev. . . . Help me. . . . No woman has ever been in such a position. It's more than I can bear indeed. . . . Perhaps it's for the best, everything is ended at once; but anyway, we have come to know each other. . . . Give me your hand and good-bye for ever.
BELIAYEV [takes her hand], Natalya Petrovna . . . I don't know what to say at parting . . . my heart is so full. God give you. . . . [Breaks off and presses her hand to his lips.] Good-bye. [Is about to go out by door into garden.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [looking after him]. Beliayev.. ..
BELIAYEV [turning]. Natalya Petrovna . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [pausingfor some time, then in a weak voice]. Stay . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Stay, and may God be our judge! [She hides her head in her hands.]
BELIAYEV [goes swiftly to her and holds out his hands to her]. Natalya Petrovna. . . . [At that instant the garden door opens and RAKITIN appears in the doorway. He gazes at them for some time, then goes suddenly up to them.]
RAKITIN [in a loud voice']. They are looking for you everywhere, Natalya Petrovna. . . . [NATALYA PETROVNA and BELIAYEV look round.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [taking her hands from her face and seeming to come to herself]. Ah, it's you. . . . Who is looking for me? [BELIAYEV in confusion bows to NATALYA PETROVNA and is going out.] Are you going, Alexey Nikolaitch? . . . Don't forget, you know what. . . . [He bows to her a second time and goes out into the garden.]
RAKITIN. Arkady is looking for you. . . . I must say I didn't expect to find you here . . . but as I passed by . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [with a smile']. You heard our voices. . . . I met Alexey Nikolaitch here and have had a complete explanation with him. . . . To-day seems a day of explanations; but now we can go into the house. . . . [Goes towards door into corridor.,]
RAKITIN [with some emotion]. May I ask . . . what decision?
NATALYA PETROVNA [affecting surprise]. Decision? . . . I don't understand you.
RAKITIN [after a long pause, sadly]. If that's so, I understand.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Well, there it is. . . . Mysterious hints again! Oh, well, I have spoken to him and now everything is set right. . . . It was all nonsense, exaggeration. . . . All you and I talked about was childish. It must be forgotten now.
RAKITIN. I am not asking you for explanations, Natalya Petrovna.
NATALYA PETROVNA [with forced ease]. What on earth was it I wanted to say to you. . . . I don't remember. Never mind. Let us go. It's all at an end . . . it's over.
RAKITIN [looking at her intently]. Yes, it's all at an end. How vexed you must be with yourself now . . . for your openness this morning. [She turns away.]
NATALYA PETROVNA. Rakitin. . . . [He glances at her again; she obviously does not know what to say.] You've not spoken to Arkady yet?
RAKITIN. No . . . I haven't thought of anything yet. . . . You see I must make up some story. ., .
NATALYA PETROVNA. How insufferable it is! What do they want of me? I'm followed about at every step I take. Rakitin, I'm really conscience-stricken you should have . . .
RAKITIN. Oh, Natalya Petrovna, pray don't distress yourself. . . . Why, it's all in the natural order of things. But how obviously this is Mr. Beliayev's first experience! Why was he so embarrassed, why did he take to flight? . . . But with time . . . [In an undertone] you will both learn to keep up appearances. . . . [Aloud.] Let us go.
[NATALYA PETROVNA is about to go up to him but stops short. At that instant ISLAYEV'S voice is heard in the garden: 'He went in here, you say?' and then ISLAYEV and SHPIGELSKY come in.]
ISLAYEV. To be sure . . . here he is. Well, well, well! And Natalya Petrovna too! [Going up to her.] How's this? The continuation of this morning's talk? It's evidently an important matter.
RAKITIN. I met Natalya Petrovna here as I walked.
ISLAYEV. Met her? [Looking round.] A queer place for a walk!
NATALYA PETROVNA. Well, you've walked in, too. . .
ISLAYEV. I came in because . . . [Breaks off.]
NATALYA PETROVNA. You were looking for me?
ISLAYEV [after a pause]. Yes--I was looking for you. Won't you come into the house? Tea's ready. It will soon be dark.
NATALYA PETROVNA [taking his arm]. Come along.
ISLAYEV [looking round]. This place might be turned into two good rooms for the gardeners--or another servants' hall--don't you think, Shpigelsky?
SHPIGELSKY. To be sure it could.
ISLAYEV. Let us go by the garden, Natasha. [Goes towards the garden door. Throughout the scene he has not once looked at RAKITIN. In the doorway he turns half round.'] Well, gentlemen. Let us go in to tea.
[Goes out with NATALYA PETROVNA.]
SHPIGELSKY [to RAKITIN]. Well, Mihail Alexandritch, come along. . . . Give me your arm. . . . It's clear we are destined to follow in the rear . . . .
RAKITIN [wrathfully]. Oh, Doctor, I'm sick of you.
SHPIGELSKY [with affected good-humour]. Ah, Mihail Alexandritch, if only you know how sick I am of myself! [RAKITIN cannot help smiling.] Come along, come along. [They go out into the garden.]
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14