[The scene is the same as in the 1st and 3rd Acts. Morning. ISLAYEV is sitting at the table looking through papers. He suddenly jumps up.]
ISLAYEV. No! impossible. I can't work to-day. I can't get it out of my mind. [Walks up and down.] I confess I didn't expect this; I didn't expect I should be so upset . . . as I am now. How is one to act? . . . that's the problem. [Ponders and suddenly shouts.'] Matvey!
MATVEY [entering]. Yes, Sir?
ISLAYEV. Send the bailiff to me. . . . And tell the men digging at the dam to wait for me. . . . Run along.
MATVEY. Yes, Sir. [Goes out.]
ISLAYEV [going back to the table and turning over the papers]. Yes . . . it's a problem!
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [comes in and goes up to ISLAYEV]. Arkasha . . . .
ISLAYEV. Ah! it's you, Mamma. How are you this morning?
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [sitting down on the sofa]. I'm quite well, thank God. [Sighs.] I'm quite well. [Sighs still more audibly.] Thank God. [Seeing that ISLAYEV is not attending to her, she sighs very emphatically, with a faint moan.]
ISLAYEV. You're sighing . .. what's the matter?
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [sighs again but less emphatically]. Oh! Arkasha, as though you don't know what makes me sigh!
ISLAYEV. What do you want to say?
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [after a pause]. I'm your mother, Arkasha. Of course you're a man, grown-up and sensible; but still--I'm your mother. It's a great word--mother!
ISLAYEV. Please explain.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. You know what I am hinting at, my dear. Your wife, Natasha . . . of course, she's an excellent woman . . . and her conduct hitherto has been most exemplary . . . but she is still so young, Arkasha! And youth . . . .
ISLAYEV. I see what you want to say. . . . You fancy her relations with Rakitin . . . .
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. God forbid! I never thought of such a thing.
ISLAYEV. You didn't let me finish. . . . You fancy her relations with Rakitin are not altogether . . . clear. These mysterious conversations, these tears--all strike you as strange.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Well, Arkasha, has he told you at last what their talks were about? . . . He has told me nothing.
ISLAYEV. I haven't asked him, Mamma, and he is apparently in no hurry to satisfy my curiosity.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Then what do you intend to do now?
ISLAYEV. Do, Mamma? Why, nothing.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Nothing?
ISLAYEV. Why, certainly, nothing.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [getting up]. I must say, I'm surprised to hear it. Of course you are master in your own house and know better than I do what is for the best. But only think of the consequences . . . .
ISLAYEV. Really, Mamma, there's no need to worry yourself.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. My dear, I'm a mother . . . you know best. [A pause.] I must own I came to see whether I could do anything to help.
ISLAYEV [earnestly]. No, as far as that goes, I must beg you, Mamma, not to trouble yourself. . . . Pray don't!
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. As you wish, Arkasha, as you wish. I won't say another word. I have warned you, I have done my duty, and now I won't open my lips, [A brief silence.]
ISLAYEV. Are you going anywhere to-day?
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Only I must warn you; you are too trustful, my dear boy; you judge everybody by yourself! Believe me, true friends are only too rare nowadays!
ISLAYEV [with impatience]. Mamma . . . .
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Oh, I'll say no more, I'll say no more! And what's the use, an old woman like me! I'm in my dotage, I suppose! But I was brought up on different principles, and have tried to instil them in you . . . there, there, go on with your work, I won't interrupt you. . . . I'm going. [Goes to door and stops.] Well, you know best. [Goes out.]
ISLAYEV [looking after her]. Queer that people who really love you have such a passion for poking their fingers into your wounds. And of course they're convinced it's doing you good . . . that's what's so funny! I don't blame Mother, though; of course she means well, and how could she help giving advice? But that's no matter. . . . [Sitting down.] How am I to act? [After a moment's thought, gets up.] Oh! the more simply, the better! Diplomatic subtleties don't suit me. . . . I should be the first to make a muddle of them. [Rings, MATVEY enters.] Is Mihail Alexandritch at home, do you know?
MATVEY. Yes, Sir. I saw his honour in the billiard-room just now.
ISLAYEV. Ah, well, ask him to come to me.
MATVEY. Yes, Sir. [Goes out.]
ISLAYEV [walking up and down]. I'm not used to these upheavals. . . . I hope they won't happen often . . . strong as I am, I can't stand them. [Puts his hand on his heart.] Ough! . . . [RAKITIN, embarrassed, comes in from the outer room.]
RAKITIN. You sent for me?
ISLAYEV. Yes. . . . [A pause,] Michel, you know you owe me something?
RAKITIN. I owe you?
ISLAYEV. Why, yes. Have you forgotten your promise? About . . . Natasha's tears . . . and altogether . . . When my Mother and I came upon you, you remember--you told me you had a secret which you would explain.
RAKITIN. I said a secret?
ISLAYEV. You said so.
RAKITIN. But what secret could we have? We had had a talk.
ISLAYEV. What about? And why was she crying?
RAKITIN. You know, Arkady . . . there are moments in in the life of a woman . . . even the happiest. . .
ISLAYEV. Rakitin, stop, we can't go on like this. I can't bear to see you in such a position. . . . Your confusion distresses me more than it does yourself. [Takes his hand.] We are old friends--you've known me from a child; I don't know how to pretend and you have always been open with me. Let me put one question to you. . . . I give you my word beforehand that I shall not doubt the sincerity of your answer. You love my wife, don't you? [RAKITIN looks at ISLAYEV.] You understand me, you love her as . . . Well, that is you love her with the sort of love that . . . it's difficult to admit to her husband?
RAKITIN [after a pause, in a toneless voice]. Yes, I love your wife . . . with that sort of love.
ISLAYEV [also after a pause]. Michel, thank you for your frankness. You're an honourable man. But what's to be done now? Sit down, we'll think it over together. [RAKITIN sits down. ISLAYEV walks about the room.] I know Natasha; I know how to appreciate her. But I know how much I'm worth myself too. I'm not your equal. Michel . . . don't interrupt me, please--I'm not your equal. You're cleverer, better, more attractive, in fact. I'm an ordinary person. Natasha loves me--I think, but she has eyes, well, of course, she must find you attractive. And there's another thing I must tell you: I noticed your affection for each other long ago. . . . But I was always so sure of you both--and as long as nothing came to the surface . . . Ough! I don't know how to say things! [Breaks off.] But after the scene yesterday, after your second interview in the evening--what are we to do? And if only I had come upon you alone, but other people are mixed up in it; Mamma, and that sly fox, Shpigelsky. . . . Come, what do you say, Michel?
RAKITIN. You are perfectly right, Arkady.
ISLAYEV. That's not the point . . . what's to be done? I must tell you, Michel, that though I am a simple person--so much I do understand, that it's not the thing to spoil other people's lives--and that there are cases when it's wicked to insist on one's rights. That I've not picked out of books, Michel . . . it's my conscience tells me so. Leave others free. . . . Well, yes, let them be free. Only it wants some thinking over. It's too important.
RAKITIN [getting up]. But I have thought it over already.
ISLAYEV. How so?
RAKITIN. I must go. . . . I'm going away.
ISLAYEV [after a pause]. You think so? . . . Right away from here altogether?
ISLAYEV [begins walking up and down again]. That is . . . that is a hard saying! But perhaps you are right. We shall miss you dreadfully. . . . God knows, perhaps it won't mend matters either. . . . But you can see more clearly, you know best. I expect you are right. You're a danger to me, Michel. . . . [With a mournful smile.] Yes . . . you are. You know what I said just now . . . about freedom. . . . And yet perhaps I couldn't survive it! For me to be without Natasha. . . . [Waving his hand in dismissal of the idea.] And another tiling, Michel: for some time past, and especially these last few days, I've noticed a great change in her. She's all the time in a state of intense agitation and I'm alarmed about it. I'm not mistaken, am I?
RAKITIN [bitterly]. Oh no! you're not mistaken!
ISLAYEV. Well, you see! So you are going away?
ISLAYEV. H'm! And how suddenly this has burst on us! If only you had not been so confused when my Mother and I came upon you . . . .
MATVEY [coming in]. The bailiff is here.
ISLAYEV. Ask him to wait! [MATVEY goes out.] But, Michel, you won't be away for long? That's nonsense.
RAKITIN. I don't know . . . really . . . a good time, I expect.
ISLAYEV. But you don't take me for an Othello, do you? Upon my word, I don't believe there has been such a conversation between two friends since the world began! I can't part from you like this . . . .
RAKITIN [pressing his hand]. You'll let me know when I can come back . . . .
ISLAYEV. There's nobody who can fill your place here! Not Bolshintsov, anyway!
RAKITIN. There are others . . . .
ISLAYEV. Who? Krinitsyn? That conceited fool? Beliayev, of course, is a good-natured lad . . . but you can't speak of him in the same breath.
RAKITIN [ironically]. Do you think so? You don't know him, Arkady. . . . Look at him more attentively. . . . I advise you. . . . Do you hear? He's a very . . . very remarkable fellow!
ISLAYEV. Pooh! To be sure, Natasha and you were always meaning to finish his education! [Glancing towards the door.] Ah! here he is, coming here, I do believe. . . . [Hurriedly.] And so, dear Michel, it's settled . . . you are going away . . . for a short time . . . some days. . . . No need to hurry . . . we must prepare Natasha, . . . I'll soothe my Mother. . . . And God give you happiness! You've lifted a load off my heart. . . . Embrace me, dear boy! [Hastily embraces him and turns to BELIAYEV who is coming in.] Ah! . . . it's you! Well . . . well, how are you?
BELIAYEV. Very well, thank you, Arkady Sergeyitch.
ISLAYEV. And where's Kolya?
BELIAYEV. He's with Herr Schaaf.
ISLAYEV. Ah . . . that's right! [Takes his hat.] Well, I must be off, my friends. I've not been anywhere this morning, neither to the dam nor the building. . . . Here, I've not even looked through my papers. [Gathers them up under his arm.] Good-bye for now! Matvey! Matvey! Come with me! [Goes out. RAKITIN remains in front of stage, plunged in thought.]
BELIAYEV [goes up to him]. How are you feeling this morning, Mihail Alexandritch?
RAKITIN. Thank you. Just as usual. And you?
BELIAYEV. I'm quite well.
RAKITIN. That's obvious!
BELIAYEV. How so?
RAKITIN. Why . . . from your face. . . . And oh! you've put on your new coat this morning. . . . And what do I see? A flower in your buttonhole! [BELIAYEV, blushing, snatches it out.] Oh! why . . . why. . . . It's charming. [A pause.] By the way, Alexey Nikolaitch, if there's anything you want . . . I'm going to the town tomorrow.
RAKITIN. Yes . . . and from there on to Moscow, perhaps.
BELIAYEV [with surprise]. To Moscow? Why, only yesterday you said you meant to be here another month or so. . . .
RAKITIN. Yes . . . but business . . . things have turned up. . . .
BELIAYEV. And shall you be away for long?
RAKITIN. I don't know . . . a long time, perhaps.
BELIAYEV. Do you mind telling me--does Natalya Petrovna know of your intention?
RAKITIN. No. Why do you ask me about her?
BELIAYEV. Why? [_A little embarrassed.'] Oh, nothing.
RAKITIN [pausing and looking round]. Alexey Nikolaitch, there's nobody in the room but ourselves; isn't it queer that we should keep up a farce before each other? Don't you think so?
BELIAYEV. I don't understand you, Mihail Alexandritch.
RAKITIN. Oh, you don't? Do you really not understand why I'm going away?
RAKITIN. That's strange. . . . However, I'm willing to believe you. Perhaps you really don't know the reason . . . would you like me to tell you why I'm going?
BELIAYEV. Please do.
RAKITIN. Well, you see, Alexey Nikolaitch--but I rely on your discretion--you found me just now with Arkady Sergeyitch. . . . We have had a rather important conversation. In consequence of which I have decided to depart. And do you know why? I'm telling you all this because I think you are a really good fellow. . . . He imagined that I . . . oh! well, that I'm in love with Natalya Petrovna. What do you think of that? It's a queer notion, isn't it? But I am grateful to him for speaking to me simply, straight out instead of being underhand, keeping watch on us and all that. Come, tell me now what would you have done in my place? Of course, there are no grounds at all for his suspicions, still he's worried by them. . . . For the peace of mind of his friends, a decent man must be ready at times to sacrifice . . . his own pleasure. So that's why I'm going away. . . . I'm sure you think I'm right, don't you? You too . . . you would certainly do the same in my place, wouldn't you? You would go away too?
BELIAYEV [after a pause]. Perhaps.
RAKITIN. I am very glad to hear that. . . . Of course, I can't deny that my making off has its comic side. It's as though I imagine I'm dangerous; but you see, Alexey Nikolaitch, a woman's honour is such an important thing. . . . And at the same time--of course, I don't say this of Natalya Petrovna--but I have known women pure and innocent at heart, perfect children for all their cleverness, who just through that very purity and innocence, are more apt than others to give way to sudden passion. . . . And so, who knows? One can't be too discreet in such cases, especially as . . . By the way, Alexey Nikolaitch, you may perhaps still imagine that love is the greatest bliss on earth?
BELIAYEV [coldly]. I have had no experience, but imagine that to be loved by a woman one loves is a great happiness.
RAKITIN. God grant you long preserve such pleasant convictions! It's my belief, Alexey Nikolaitch, that love of every kind, happy as much as unhappy, is a real calamity if you give yourself up to it completely.. .. Wait a bit! You may learn yet how those soft little hands can torture you, with what sweet solicitude they can tear your heart to rags. . . . Wait a bit! You will learn what burning hatred lies hidden under the most ardent love! You will think of me when you yearn for peace, for the dullest, most commonplace peace as a sick man yearns for health, when you will envy any man who is free and light-hearted. . . . You wait! You will know what it means to be tied to a petticoat, to be enslaved and poisoned--and how shameful and agonizing that slavery is! . . . You will learn at last how little you get for all your sufferings. . . . But why am I saying all this to you, you won't believe me now. The fact is that I am very glad of your approval . . . yes, yes . . . in such cases one ought to be careful.
BELIAYEV [who has kept his eyes fixed on RAKITIN]. Thanks for the lesson, Mihail Alexandritch, though I didn't need it.
RAKITIN [takes his hand]. Please forgive me, I had no intention . . . it's not for me to give lessons to anyone whatever . . . I was just talking. .. .
BELIAYEV [with slight irony]. Not apropos of anything?
RAKITIN [a little embarrassed]. Just so, not apropos of anything in particular. . . . I only meant. . . . You haven't hitherto had occasion, Alexey Nikolaitch, to study women. Women are peculiar creatures.
BELIAYEV. But of whom are you speaking?
RAKITIN. Oh . . . no one in particular.
BELIAYEV. Of women in general?
RAKITIN [with a constrained smile]. Yes, perhaps. I really don't know what business I have to adopt this lecturing tone, but do let me at parting give you this one piece of advice. [Breaking off with a gesture of dismissal] But there! I'm not the man to give anyone advice! Please forgive my running on like this. . . .
BELIAYEV. Oh, not at all . . . .
RAKITIN. So you don't want anything in the town?
BELIAYEV. Nothing, thank you. But I'm sorry you're going away.
RAKITIN. Thanks very much. . . . So am I, I can assure you. . . . [NATALYA PETROVNA and VERA come in from the study. VERA is very sad and pale] I am very glad to have made your acquaintance. . . . [Presses his hand again]
NATALYA PETROVNA [looks at them and then goes up to them]. Good morning.
RAKITIN [turning quickly]. Good morning, Natalya Petrovna . . . . Good morning Vera Alexandrovna. . . . [BELIAYEV bows to NATALYA PETROVNA and VERA without speaking. He is confused]
NATALYA PETROVNA [to RAKITIN]. What are you doing this morning?
RAKITIN. Oh, nothing . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Vera and I have been walking in the garden. . . . It's a lovely day. . The scent of the lime trees is so delicious. We've been walking under the lime trees. . . . It's delightful to listen to the humming of the bees in the shade overhead. . . . [Timidly to BELIAYEV.] We expected to meet you there. [BELIAYEV is silent]
RAKITIN [to NATALYA PETROVNA]. Ah! You too can admire the beauties of nature to-day. . . . [A pause] Alexey Nikolaitch couldn't go into the garden. . . . He has got his new coat on.
BELIAYEV [reddening]. Of course, it's the only one I have, and I dare say it might get torn in the garden. . . . I suppose that's what you mean?
RAKITIN [blushing]. Oh no . . . I didn't mean that. . . . [VERA goes in silence to sofa on Right, sits down and takes up her work. NATALYA PETROVNA gives BELIAYEV a constrained smile. A brief, rather oppressive silence. RAKITIN goes on with malicious carelessness] Ah, I'd forgotten to tell you, Natalya Petrovna, I'm going away to-day . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [with some agitation]. Going? Where?
RAKITIN. To the town. . . . On business.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Not for long, I hope.
RAKITIN. That's as my business goes.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Mind you come back as soon as you can. [To BELIAYEV without looking at him] Alexey Nikolaitch, was it your sketches Kolya was showing me? Did you draw them?
BELIAYEV. Yes . . . they're nothing much.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Not at all, they are very charming. You have talent.
RAKITIN. I see you are discovering new talents in Mr. Beliayev every day.
NATALYA PETROVNA [coldly]. Perhaps . . . so much the better for him. [To BELIAYEV.] I expect you have some other sketches, you must show them to me. [BELIAYEV bows]
RAKITIN [who stands all this time as though on thorns]. But I remember it's time to pack. . . . Good-bye. [Goes to door of outer room.]
NATALYA PETROVNA. But you'll come to say good-bye to us. . . .
RAKITIN. Of course.
BELIAYEV [after some hesitation]. Mihail Alexandritch, wait a minute, I'm coming with you. I must have a few words with you . . . .
RAKITIN. Ah! [They go out together. NATALYA PETROVNA is left in the middle of the stage; after a little while, she sits down on Left.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [after an interval of silence]. Vera!
VERA [not lifting her head]. What is it?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Vera for goodness sake, don't treat me like this . . . for goodness sake, Vera . . . Verotchka. [VERA says nothing. NATALYA PETROVNA gets up, walks across the stage and slowly sinks on her knees before VERA. VERA tries to make her get up, turns away and hides her face. NATALYA PETROVNA speaks on her knees.] Vera, forgive me; don't cry, Vera. I've behaved badly to you, I'm to blame. Can't you forgive me?
VERA [through her tears]. Get up, get up. . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. I won't get up, Vera, till you forgive me. It's hard for you . . . but think, is it any easier for me . . . think, Vera. . . . You know everything. . . . The only difference between us is that you have done no wrong, while I . . .
VERA [bitterly]. That's all the difference! No, Natalya Petrovna, there's another difference between us. . . . You're so soft, so kind, so warm this morning . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [interrupting her]. Because I feel how wrong I've been . . . .
VERA. Really? Is it only that?
NATALYA PETROVNA [gets up and sits beside her]. What other reason can there be?
VERA. Natalya Petrovna, don't torture me any more, don't ask me questions . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [with a sigh]. Vera, I see you can't forgive me.
VERA. You're so kind and soft to-day because you feel you are loved.
NATALYA PETROVNA [embarrassed], Vera?
VERA [turning to her]. Well, isn't it the truth?
NATALYA PETROVNA [sadly], I assure you we are both equally unhappy.
VERA. He loves you!
NATALYA PETROVNA. Vera, why do we torture each other? It's time for both of us to think what we're doing. Remember the position I'm in, the position we are both in. Remember that our secret, though my fault, of course, is known to two men here already. . . . [Breaks off.] Vera, instead of tormenting each other with suspicions and reproaches, hadn't we better consider together how to get out of this dreadful position . . . how to save ourselves! Do you imagine I can stand these shocks and agitations? Have you forgotten who I am? But you're not listening.
VERA [looking dreamily at the floor]. He loves you . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. Vera, he's going away.
VERA [turning away]. Oh, leave me alone. . . . [NATALYA PETROVNA looks at her irresolutely. At that instant, ISLAYEV'S voice calls from the study: 'Natasha, Natasha, where are you?']
NATALYA PETROVNA [gets up quickly and goes to study-door]. I'm here . . . what is it?
ISLAYEV [from the study]. Come here, I've something to tell you . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. In a minute. [She turns to VERA and holds out her hand. VERA does not stir. NATALYA PETROVNA sighs and goes out into the study.]
VERA [alone; after a silence]. He loves her! . . . And I must stay in her house. . . . Oh! it's too much. . [She hides her face in her hands and sits motionless. SHPIGELSKY puts his head in at the door leading to the outer room. He looks round cautiously and goes on tip-toe up to VERA, who does not notice him.']
SHPIGELSKY [standing before her, his arms crossed and a malicious grin on his face]. Vera Alexandrovna! . . . Vera Alexandrovna!
VERA [raising her head]. Who is it? You, Doctor. . . . SHPIGELSKY. What is it, my young lady, not well, or what? VERA. Oh, nothing.
SHPIGELSKY. Let me feel your pulse. [Feels her pulse.] H'm! Why is it so quick? Ah, young lady, young lady. You won't listen to me. . . . And yet it's your welfare I wish for.
VERA [looking at him resolutely]. Ignaty Ilyitch . . . SHPIGELSKY [alertly], I'm all ears, Vera Alexandrovna. . . . What a look, upon my word. . . . I'm all ears.
VERA. That gentleman . . . Bolshintsov, your friend, is he really a good man?
SHPIGELSKY. My friend Bolshintsov? The most excellent, the best of men . . . a pattern and paragon of all the virtues.
VERA. He's not ill-natured?
SHPIGELSKY. Most kind-hearted, upon my soul. He's not a man, he's made of dough, really. You've only to take him and mould him. You wouldn't find another such good-natured fellow if you searched with a candle by daylight. He's a dove, not a man.
VERA. You answer for him?
SHPIGELSKY [lays one hand on his heart and raises the other upwards]. As I would for myself!
VERA. Then, you can tell him . . . that I am willing to marry him.
SHPIGELSKY [with joyful amazement]. You don't say so! VERA. But as soon as possible--do you hear? . . . As soon as possible . . . .
SHPIGELSKY. To-morrow, if you like. . . . I should rather think so! Bravo, Vera Alexandrovna! You're a young lady of spirit! I'll gallop over to him at once. Won't he be overjoyed. . . . Well, this is an unexpected turn of affairs! Why, he worships the ground you tread on, Vera Alexandrovna . . . .
VERA [with impatience]. I didn't ask you that, Ignaty Ilyitch.
SHPIGELSKY. As you please, Vera Alexandrovna, as you please. Only you'll be happy with him, you'll be grateful to me, you'll see. . . . [VERA makes a gesture of impatience.] There, I'll hold my tongue. . . . So then I can tell him? . . .
VERA. You can, you can.
SHPIGELSKY. Very good. So I'll set off at once. Good-bye. [Listens.]. And here's somebody coming, by the way. [Goes towards study and in the doorway makes a grimace expressing surprise to himself.] Good-bye for the present. [Goes out]
VERA [looking after him]. Anything in the world is better than staying here. [Stands up.] Yes, I have made up my mind. I won't stop in this house . . . not for anything. I can't endure her soft looks, her smiles, I can't bear the sight of her, basking and purring in her happiness. . . . She's happy, however she pretends to be sad and sorrowful. . . . Her caresses are unbearable . . . .
[BELIAYEV appears in the door of the outer room. He looks round and goes up to VERA.]
BELIAYEV [in a low voice]. Vera Alexandrovna, you're alone?
VERA [looks round, starts, and after a moment, brings out], Yes.
BELIAYEV. I'm glad to find you alone. . . . I should not have come in here otherwise. Vera Alexandrovna, I've come to say good-bye to you. VERA. Good-bye?
BELIAYEV. Yes, I'm going away. VERA. You are going away? You too? BELIAYEV. Yes . . . I too. [With intense suppressed feeling.] You see, Vera Alexandrovna, I can't stay here. I've done so much harm here already. Apart from my having--I don't know how--disturbed your peace of mind and Natalya Petrovna's, I've broken up old friendships. Thanks to me, Mr. Rakitin is leaving this house, you have quarrelled with your benefactress. . . . It's time to put a stop to it all. After I am gone, I hope everything will settle down and be right again. . . . Turning rich women's heads and breaking young girls' hearts is not in my line. . . . You will forget about me, and, in time perhaps, will wonder how all this could have happened. . . . I wonder even now. . . . I don't want to deceive you, Vera Alexandrovna; I'm frightened, I'm terrified of staying here. . . . I can't answer for anything. . . . And you know I'm not used to all this. I feel awkward. . . . I feel as though everybody's looking at me. . . . And in fact it would be impossible for me .. . now . . . with you both . . . .
VERA. Oh, don't trouble yourself on my account! I'm not staying here long.
BELIAYEV. What do you mean?
VERA. That's my secret. But I shan't be in your way, I assure you.
BELIAYEV. Well, but, you see, I must go. Think; I seem to have brought a plague into this house, everyone's running away. . . . Isn't it better for me to disappear before more harm's done? I have just had a great talk with Mr. Rakitin. . . . You can't imagine how bitterly he spoke. . . . And he might well jeer at my new coat. . . . He's right. Yes, I must go. Would you believe it, Vera Alexandrovna, I'm longing for the minute when I shall be racing along the high road in a cart. I'm stifling here, I want to get into the open air. I can't tell you how grieved and at the same time light-hearted I feel, like a man setting off on a long journey overseas; he's sad and sick at parting from his friends, yet the sound of the sea is so joyful, the wind is so fresh in his face, that it sets his blood dancing, though his heart may ache. . . . Yes, I'm certainly going. I'll go back to Moscow, to my old companions, I'll set to work . . . .
VERA. You love her, it seems, Alexey Nikolaitch; you love her, yet you are going away.
BELIAYEV. Hush, Vera Alexandrovna, why do you say that? Don't you see that it's all over? It flared up and has gone out like a spark. Let us part friends. It's time. I've come to my senses. Keep well, be happy, we shall see each other again some day. . . . I shall never forget you, Vera Alexandrovna. . . . I'm very fond of you, believe me. . . . [Presses her hand and adds hurriedly.] Give this note to Natalya Petrovna for me . . . .
VERA [glancing at him embarrassed]. A note?
BELIAYEV. Yes . . . I can't say good-bye to her.
VERA. But are you going at once?
BELIAYEV. This minute. . . . I have not said anything to anybody . . . except Mihail Alexandritch. He approves. I'm going to walk from here to Petrovskoe. There I shall wait for Mihail Alexandritch and we shall drive on to the town together. I'll write from there. My things will be sent on after me. You see it's all settled. But you can read the note. There's only a couple of words in it.
VERA [taking the note from him]. And you are really going?
BELIAYEV. Yes, yes. . . . Give her that note and say . . . No, there's no need to say anything. . . . What's the use? [Listening.] Here they come. Good-bye. [Rushes to the door, stops an instant in the doorway, then runs away. VERA is left with the note in her hand. NATALYA PETROVNA comes in.]
NATALYA PETROVNA [going up to VERA]. Verotchka. . . . [Glances at her and breaks off.] What's the matter?
[VERA holds out the note without a word.] A note? From whom?
VERA [in a toneless voice]. Read it.
NATALYA PETROVNA. You frighten me. [Reads the note in silence and suddenly presses both hands to her face and sinks into an armchair. A long silence]
VERA [approaching her]. Natalya Petrovna.
NATALYA PETROVNA [not taking her hands from her face]. He is gone! . . . He wouldn't even say good-bye to me. . . . Oh, to you he said good-bye, anyway!
VERA [sadly]. He doesn't love me . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [taking her hands from her face and standing up]. But he has no right to go off like this. . . . I will . . . He can't do this. . . . Who told him he might break away so stupidly. . . . It's simply contempt. . . . I . . . how does he know I should never have the courage. . . . [Sinks into the armchair.] My God! my God!
VERA. Natalya Petrovna, you told me yourself just now that he must go. . . . Remember.
NATALYA PETROVNA. You are glad now. . . . He is gone. . . . Now we are equal. [Her voice breaks]
VERA. Natalya Petrovna, you said to me just now; these were your very words; instead of tormenting each other hadn't we better think together how to get out of this position, how to save ourselves. . . . We are saved now.
NATALYA PETROVNA [turning away from her almost with hatred]. Ah! . . .
VERA. I understand, Natalya Petrovna; don't worry yourself. . . . I shan't burden you with my company long. We can't live together.
NATALYA PETROVNA [tries to hold out her hand to VERA but lets it fall on her lap]. Why do you say that, Verotchka? . . . Do you too want to leave me? Yes, you are right, we are saved now. All is over . . . everything is settled again . . . .
VERA [coldly]. Don't disturb yourself, Natalya Petrovna. [She looks at NATALYA PETROVNA without speaking. ISLAYEV comes out of the study]
ISLAYEV [after looking for a moment at NATALYA PETROVNA, aside to VERA]. Does she know that he is going?
VERA [puzzled]. Yes . . . she knows.
ISLAYEV [to himself]. But why has he been in such a hurry? . . . [Aloud.] Natasha. . . . [He takes her hand. She raises her head] It's I, Natasha. [She tries to smile] You're not well, my darling? I should advise you to lie down, really . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA. I'm quite well, Arkady; it's nothing.
ISLAYEV But you're pale . . . Come, do as I say . . . Rest a little.
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh! very well. . . . [She tries to get up, and cannot]
ISLAYEV [helping her]. There you see. . . . [She leans on his arm] Shall I help you along?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Oh, I'm not so weak as all that! Come, Vera. [Goes towards the study. RAKITIN comes in from the outer room. NATALYA PETROVNA stops]
RAKITIN. I have come, Natalya Petrovna, to . . .
ISLAYEV [interrupting him]. Ah, Michel, come here! [Draws him aside--in an undertone with vexation.] What made you tell her at once like this? Didn't I beg you not to! Why be in such a hurry? . . . I found her here in such a state.
RAKITIN [perplexed], I don't understand.
ISLAYEV. You've told Natasha you are going . . . .
RAKITIN. So you suppose that is what has upset her?
ISLAYEV. Sh! she is looking at us. [Aloud.] You're not going to lie down, Natasha?
NATALYA PETROVNA. Yes. . . . I'm going . . . .
RAKITIN. Good-bye, Natalya Petrovna! [NATALYA PETROVNA takes hold of the door-handle and makes no reply]
ISLAYEV [laying his hand on RAKITIN'S shoulder]. Natasha, do you know this is one of the best of men . . . .
NATALYA PETROVNA [with sudden vehemence]. Yes, I know he's a splendid man . . . you're all splendid men . . . all of you, all . . . and yet. . . . [She hides her face in her hands, pushes the door open with her knee and goes out hurriedly. VERA goes out after her. ISLAYEV in silence sits down to the table and leans on his elbows.]
RAKITIN [looks at him for some time and with a bitter smile shrugs his shoulder.] Nice position mine! Glorious, it certainly is! Really it's positively refreshing. And what a farewell after four years of love! Excellent, serve the talker right. And thank God, it's all for the best. It was high time to end these sickly, morbid relations. [Aloud to ISLAYEV.] Well, Arkady, good-bye.
ISLAYEV [raises his head. There are tears in his eyes]. Good-bye, my dear, dear boy. It's . . . not quite easy to bear. I didn't expect it. It's like a storm on a clear day. Well, grind the corn and there'll be flour. But anyway, thank you, thank you. You're a true friend.
RAKITIN [aside through his teeth]. This is too much. [Abruptly.] Good-bye. [Is about to go into outer room. SHPIGELSKY runs in, meeting him.]
SHPIGELSKY. What is it? They tell me Natalya Petrovna is ill . . . .
ISLAYEV [getting up]. Who told you so?
SHPIGELSKY. The girl . . . her maid . . . .
ISLAYEV. No, it's nothing, Doctor. I think, better not disturb Natasha just now . . . .
SHPIGELSKY. Ah! well, that's all right. [To RAKITIN.] I hear you're going to town?
RAKITIN. Yes, on business.
SHPIGELSKY. Ah! on business! . . . [At that instant ANNA SEMYONOVNA, LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA, KOLYA and SCHAAF burst in from the outer room, all at once.]
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. What is it? What's the matter? What's wrong with Natasha?
KOLYA. What's the matter with Mamma? What is it?
ISLAYEV. Nothing's the matter with her. . . . I saw her a minute ago. What's the matter with all of you?
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Really, Arkasha, we were told Natasha's been taken ill . . . .
ISLAYEV. Well, you shouldn't have believed it.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. But why are you so cross, Arkasha? Our sympathy's only natural.
ISLAYEV. Of course . . . of course.
RAKITIN. It's time for me to start.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. You are going away?
RAKITIN. Yes. . . . I am going.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [to herself]. Ah! Well, now I understand.
KOLYA [to ISLAYEV]. Papa . ..
ISLAYEV. What do you want?
KOLYA. Why has Alexey Nikolaitch gone out?
ISLAYEV. Where's he gone?
KOLYA. I don't know . . . He kissed me, put on his cap and went out. . . . And it's time for my Russian lesson.
ISLAYEV. I expect he'll be back soon. . . . We can send to look for him, though.
RAKITIN [aside to ISLAYEV]. Don't send after him, Arkady, he won't come back. [ANNA SEMYONOVNA tries to overhear; SHPIGELSKY is whispering with LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA.]
ISLAYEV. What's the meaning of that?
RAKITIN. He's going away, too.
ISLAYEV. Going away . . . where?
RAKITIN. To Moscow.
ISLAYEV. To Moscow? Why, is everybody going mad to-day, or what?
RAKITIN [in a still lower voice]. Well, the fact is . . . Verotchka's fallen in love with him . . . so being an honourable man he decided to go. [ISLAYEV, flinging up his hands, sinks into an arm-chair.] You understand now, why . . . .
ISLAYEV [leaping up]. Understand? I understand nothing. My head's going round. What is one to make of it? All fluttering off in different directions like a lot of partridges, and all because they're honourable men. . . . And all at once on the same day . . . .
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [coming up from one side]. But what's this? Mr. Beliayev, you say . . .
ISLAYEV [shouts hysterically]. Never mind, Mamma, never mind! Herr Schaaf, kindly give Kolya his lesson now instead of Mr. Beliayev. Take him away.
SCHAAF. Yes, Sir. [Takes KOLYA'S hand.]
KOLYA. But, Papa . . .
ISLAYEV [shouting]. Go along, go along! [SCHAAF leads KOLYA away.] I'll come part of the way with you, Rakitin. . . . I'll have my horse saddled, and wait for you at the dam. . . . And you, Mamma, meanwhile, for God's sake, don't disturb Natasha, nor you either, Doctor. . . . Matvey! Matvey! [Goes out hurriedly. ANNA SEMYONOVNA sits down with melancholy dignity. LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA takes her stand behind her. ANNA SEMYONOVNA turns her eyes upwards, as though disclaiming all connexion with what is going on around her.]
SHPIGELSKY [slyly and stealthily to RAKITIN]. Well, Mihail Alexandritch, may I have the honour of driving you along the high road with my three new horses?
RAKITIN. Why? Have you got the horses already?
SHPIGELSKY [discreetly]. I had a little talk with Vera Alexandrovna. . . . So may I?
RAKITIN. By all means! [Bows to ANNA SEMYONOVNA.] Anna Semyonovna, I have the honour to . . .
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [still as majestically, not getting up]. Good-bye, Mihail Alexandritch. . . . I wish you a successful journey . . . .
RAKITIN. I thank you . . . Lizaveta Bogdanovna. . . . [Bows to her. She curtsies in reply. He goes into outer room.]
SHPIGELSKY [going up to kiss ANNA SEMYONOVNA'S hand]. Good-bye, gracious lady. .. .
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [less majestically but still severely], Ah! you are going too, Doctor . . . .
SHPIGELSKY. Yes. My patients, you know, madam. . . . Besides, you see my presence here is not needed. [As he bows himself out, winks slyly at LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA, who replies with a smile.] Good-bye for the present. . . . [Runs off after RAKITIN.]
ANNA SEMYONOVNA [lets him disappear, then folding her arms, turns deliberately to LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA]. And what do you think of all this, my dear, pray?
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [sighing]. I really don't know what to say, Anna Semyonovna.
ANNA SEMYONOVNA. Did you hear, Beliayev too has gone? . . .
LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA [sighing again]. Ah, Anna Semyonovna, perhaps I, too, may not be staying here much longer. . . . I too am going away. [ANNA SEMYONOVNA stares at her in unutterable amazement. LIZAVETA BOGDANOVNA stands before her, without raising her eyes.]
This web edition published by:
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55