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Fruits of Culture
by Leo Tolstoy
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[ Transcriber's Note: This e-book belongs to Tolstoy's Plays (Complete Edition). The front matter, including the table of contents, can be found in e-book#26660; it lists the other plays in the collection.

Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as possible; changes (corrections of spelling and punctuation) made to the original text are listed at the end of this file. ]



FRUITS OF CULTURE

A COMEDY IN FOUR ACTS

(1889)



CHARACTERS

LEOND FYDORITCH ZVEZDNTSEF. A retired Lieutenant of the Horse Guards. Owner of more than 60,000 acres of land in various provinces. A fresh-looking, bland, agreeable gentleman of 60. Believes in Spiritualism, and likes to astonish people with his wonderful stories.

ANNA PVLOVNA ZVEZDNTSEVA. Wife of Leond. Stout; pretends to be young; quite taken up with the conventionalities of life; despises her husband, and blindly believes in her doctor. Very irritable.

BETSY. Their daughter. A young woman of 20, fast, tries to be mannish, wears a pince-nez, flirts and giggles. Speaks very quickly and distinctly.

VASLY LEONDITCH ZVEZDNTSEF. Their son, aged 25; has studied law, but has no definite occupation. Member of the Cycling Club, Jockey Club, and of the Society for Promoting the Breeding of Hounds. Enjoys perfect health, and has imperturbable self-assurance. Speaks loud and abruptly. Is either perfectly serious—almost morose, or is noisily gay and laughs loud. Is nicknamed Vovo.

ALEXY VLADMIRITCH KROUGOSVTLOF. A professor and scientist of about 50, with quiet and pleasantly self-possessed manners, and quiet, deliberate, harmonious speech. Likes to talk. Is mildly disdainful of those who do not agree with him. Smokes much. Is lean and active.

THE DOCTOR. About 40. Healthy, fat, red-faced, loud-voiced, and rough; with a self-satisfied smile constantly on his lips.

MRYA KONSTANTNOVNA. A girl of 20, from the Conservatoire, teacher of music. Wears a fringe, and is super-fashionably dressed. Obsequious, and gets easily confused.

PETRSTCHEF. About 28; has taken his degree in philology, and is looking out for a position. Member of the same clubs as Vasly Leonditch, and also of the Society for the Organisation of Calico Balls.[1] Is bald-headed, quick in movement and speech, and very polite.

[1] Economical balls at which the ladies are bound to appear in dresses made of cotton materials.

THE BARONESS. A pompous lady of about 50, slow in her movements, speaks with monotonous intonation.

THE PRINCESS. A society woman, a visitor.

HER DAUGHTER. An affected young society woman, a visitor.

THE COUNTESS. An ancient dame, with false hair and teeth. Moves with great difficulty.

GROSSMAN. A dark, nervous, lively man of Jewish type. Speaks very loud.

THE FAT LADY: MRYA VASLEVNA TOLBOHINA. A very distinguished, rich, and kindly woman, acquainted with all the notable people of the last and present generations. Very stout. Speaks hurriedly, trying to be heard above every one else. Smokes.

BARON KLNGEN (nicknamed KOKO). A graduate of Petersburg University. Gentleman of the Bedchamber, Attach to an Embassy. Is perfectly correct in his deportment, and therefore enjoys peace of mind and is quietly gay.

TWO SILENT LADIES.

SERGY IVNITCH SAHTOF. About 50, an ex-Assistant Minister of State. An elegant gentleman, of wide European culture, engaged in nothing and interested in everything. His carriage is dignified and at times even severe.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Personal attendant on Zvezdntsef, aged about 60. A man of some education and fond of information. Uses his pince-nez and pocket-handkerchief too much, unfolding the latter very slowly. Takes an interest in politics. Is kindly and sensible.

GREGORY. A footman, about 28, handsome, profligate, envious, and insolent.

JACOB. Butler, about 40, a bustling, kindly man, to whom the interests of his family in the village are all-important.

SIMON. The butler's assistant, about 20, a healthy, fresh, peasant lad, fair, beardless as yet; calm and smiling.

THE COACHMAN. A man of about 35, a dandy. Has moustaches but no beard. Rude and decided.

A DISCHARGED MAN-COOK. About 45, dishevelled, unshaved, bloated, yellow and trembling. Dressed in a ragged, light summer-overcoat and dirty trousers. Speaks hoarsely, ejecting the words abruptly.

THE SERVANTS' COOK. A talkative, dissatisfied woman of 30.

THE DOORKEEPER. A retired soldier.

TNYA (TATYNA MRKOVNA). Lady's-maid, 19, energetic, strong, merry, with quickly-changing moods. At moments, when strongly excited, she shrieks with joy.

FIRST PEASANT. About 60. Has served as village Elder. Imagines that he knows how to treat gentlefolk, and likes to hear himself talk.

SECOND PEASANT. About 45, head of a family. A man of few words. Rough and truthful. The father of Simon.

THIRD PEASANT. About 70. Wears shoes of plaited bast. Is nervous, restless, hurried, and tries to cover his confusion by much talking.

FIRST FOOTMAN (in attendance on the Countess). An old man, with old-fashioned manners, and proud of his place.

SECOND FOOTMAN. Of enormous size, strong, and rude.

A PORTER FROM A FASHIONABLE DRESSMAKER'S SHOP. A fresh-faced man in dark-blue long coat. Speaks firmly, emphatically, and clearly.

The action takes place in Moscow, in Zvezdntsef's house.



FRUITS OF CULTURE



ACT I

The entrance hall of a wealthy house in Moscow. There are three doors: the front door, the door of Leond Fydoritch's study, and the door of Vasly Leonditch's room. A staircase leads up to the other rooms; behind it is another door leading to the servants' quarters.

SCENE 1.

GREGORY [looks at himself in the glass and arranges his hair, &c.] I am sorry about those moustaches of mine! "Moustaches are not becoming to a footman," she says! And why? Why, so that any one might see you're a footman,—else my looks might put her darling son to shame. He's a likely one! There's not much fear of his coming anywhere near me, moustaches or no moustaches! [Smiling into the glass] And what a lot of 'em swarm round me. And yet I don't care for any of them as much as for that Tnya. And she only a lady's-maid! Ah well, she's nicer than any young lady. [Smiles] She is a duck! [Listening] Ah, here she comes. [Smiles] Yes, that's her, clattering with her little heels. Oh!

Enter Tnya, carrying a cloak and boots.

GREGORY. My respects to you, Tatyna Mrkovna.

TNYA. What are you always looking in the glass for? Do you think yourself so good-looking?

GREGORY. Well, and are my looks not agreeable?

TNYA. So, so; neither agreeable nor disagreeable, but just betwixt and between! Why are all those cloaks hanging there?

GREGORY. I am just going to put them away, your ladyship! [Takes down a fur cloak and, wrapping it round her, embraces her] I say, Tnya, I'll tell you something...

TNYA. Oh, get away, do! What do you mean by it? [Pulls herself angrily away] Leave me alone, I tell you!

GREGORY [looks cautiously around] Then give me a kiss!

TNYA. Now, really, what are you bothering for? I'll give you such a kiss! [Raises her hand to strike].

VASLY LEONDITCH [off the scene, rings and then shouts] Gregory!

TNYA. There now, go! Vasly Leonditch is calling you.

GREGORY. He'll wait! He's only just opened his eyes! I say, why don't you love me?

TNYA. What sort of loving have you imagined now? I don't love anybody.

GREGORY. That's a fib. You love Simon! You have found a nice one to love—a common, dirty-pawed peasant, a butler's assistant!

TNYA. Never mind; such as he is, you are jealous of him!

VASLY LEONDITCH [off the scene] Gregory!

GREGORY. All in good time.... Jealous indeed! Of what? Why, you have only just begun to get licked into shape, and who are you tying yourself up with? Now, wouldn't it be altogether a different matter if you loved me?... I say, Tnya...

TNYA [angrily and severely] You'll get nothing from me, I tell you!

VASLY LEONDITCH [off the scene] Gregory!!

GREGORY. You're mighty particular, ain't you?

VASLY LEONDITCH [off the scene, shouts persistently, monotonously, and with all his might] Gregory! Gregory! Gregory! [Tnya and Gregory laugh].

GREGORY. You should have seen the girls that have been sweet on me. [Bell rings].

TNYA. Well then, go to them, and leave me alone!

GREGORY. You are a silly, now I think of it. I'm not Simon!

TNYA. Simon means marriage, and not tomfoolery!

Enter Porter, carrying a large cardboard box.

PORTER. Good morning!

GREGORY. Good morning! Where are you from?

PORTER. From Bourdey's. I've brought a dress, and here's a note for the lady.

TNYA [taking the note] Sit down, and I'll take it in. [Exit].

Vasly Leonditch looks out of the door in shirt-sleeves and slippers.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Gregory!

GREGORY. Yes, sir.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Gregory! Don't you hear me call?

GREGORY. I've only just come, sir.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Hot water, and a cup of tea.

GREGORY. Yes, sir; Simon will bring them directly.

VASLY LEONDITCH. And who is this? Ah, from Bourdier?

PORTER. Yes, sir.

Exeunt Vasly Leonditch and Gregory. Bell rings. Tnya runs in at the sound of the bell and opens the front door.

TNYA [to Porter] Please wait a little.

PORTER. I am waiting.

Sahtof enters at front door.

TNYA. I beg your pardon, but the footman has just gone away. This way, sir. Allow me, please. [Takes his fur cloak].

SAHTOF [adjusting his clothes] Is Leond Fydoritch at home? Is he up? [Bell rings].

TNYA. Oh yes, sir. He's been up a long time.

Doctor enters and looks round for the footman. Sees Sahtof and addresses him in an offhand manner.

DOCTOR. Ah, my respects to you!

SAHTOF [looks fixedly at him] The Doctor, I believe?

DOCTOR. And I thought you were abroad! Dropped in to see Leond Fydoritch?

SAHTOF. Yes. And you? Is any one ill?

DOCTOR [laughing] Not exactly ill, but, you know ... It's awful with these ladies! Sits up at cards till three every morning, and pulls her waist into the shape of a wine-glass. And the lady is flabby and fat, and carries the weight of a good many years on her back.

SAHTOF. Is this the way you state your diagnosis to Anna Pvlovna? I should hardly think it quite pleases her!

DOCTOR [laughing] Well, it's the truth. They do all these tricks—and then come derangements of the digestive organs, pressure on the liver, nerves, and all sorts of things, and one has to come and patch them up. It's just awful! [Laughs] And you? You are also a spiritualist it seems?

SAHTOF. I? No, I am not also a spiritualist.... Good morning! [Is about to go, but is stopped by the Doctor].

DOCTOR. No! But I can't myself, you know, positively deny the possibility of it, when a man like Krougosvtlof is connected with it all. How can one? Is he not a professor,—a European celebrity? There must be something in it. I should like to see for myself, but I never have the time. I have other things to do.

SAHTOF. Yes, yes! Good morning. [Exit, bowing slightly].

DOCTOR [to Tnya] Is Anna Pvlovna up?

TNYA. She's in her bedroom, but please come up.

Doctor goes upstairs.

Theodore Ivnitch enters with a newspaper in his hand.

THEODORE IVNITCH [to Porter] What is it you want?

PORTER. I'm from Bourdey's. I brought a dress and a note, and was told to wait.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Ah, from Bourdey's! [To Tnya] Who came in just now?

TNYA. It was Sergy Ivnitch Sahtof and the Doctor. They stood talking here a bit. It was all about spiritalism.

THEODORE IVNITCH [correcting her] Spiritualism.

TNYA. Yes, that's just what I said—spiritalism. Have you heard how well it went off last time, Theodore Ivnitch? [Laughs] There was knocks, and things flew about!

THEODORE IVNITCH. And how do you know?

TNYA. Miss Elizabeth told me.

Jacob runs in with a tumbler of tea on a tray.

JACOB [to the Porter] Good morning!

PORTER [disconsolately] Good morning!

Jacob knocks at Vasly Leonditch's door.

Gregory enters.

GREGORY. Give it here.

JACOB. You didn't bring back all yesterday's tumblers, nor the tray Vasly Leonditch had. And it's me that have to answer for them!

GREGORY. The tray is full of cigars.

JACOB. Well, put them somewhere else. It's me who's answerable for it.

GREGORY. I'll bring it back! I'll bring it back!

JACOB. Yes, so you say, but it is not where it ought to be. The other day, just as the tea had to be served, it was not to be found.

GREGORY. I'll bring it back, I tell you. What a fuss!

JACOB. It's easy for you to talk. Here am I serving tea for the third time, and now there's the lunch to get ready. One does nothing but rush about the livelong day. Is there any one in the house who has more to do than me? Yet they are never satisfied with me.

GREGORY. Dear me? Who could wish for any one more satisfactory? You're such a fine fellow!

TNYA. Nobody is good enough for you! You alone...

GREGORY [to Tnya] No one asked your opinion! [Exit].

JACOB. Ah well, I don't mind. Tatyna Mrkovna, did the mistress say anything about yesterday?

TNYA. About the lamp, you mean?

JACOB. And how it managed to drop out of my hands, the Lord only knows! Just as I began rubbing it, and was going to take hold of it in another place, out it slips and goes all to pieces. It's just my luck! It's easy for that Gregory Mihylitch to talk—a single man like him! But when one has a family, one has to consider things: they have to be fed. I don't mind work.... So she didn't say anything? The Lord be thanked!... Oh, Theodore Ivnitch, have you one spoon or two?

THEODORE IVNITCH. One. Only one! [Reads newspaper].

Exit Jacob.

Bell rings. Enter Gregory (carrying a tray) and the Doorkeeper.

DOORKEEPER [to Gregory] Tell the master some peasants have come from the village.

GREGORY [pointing to Theodore Ivnitch] Tell the major-domo here, it's his business. I have no time. [Exit].

TNYA. Where are these peasants from?

DOORKEEPER. From Koursk, I think.

TNYA [shrieks with delight] It's them.... It's Simon's father come about the land! I'll go and meet them! [Runs off].

DOORKEEPER. Well, then, what shall I say to them? Shall they come in here? They say they've come about the land—the master knows, they say.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Yes, they want to purchase some land. All right! But he has a visitor now, so you had better tell them to wait.

DOORKEEPER. Where shall they wait?

THEODORE IVNITCH. Let them wait outside. I'll send for them when the time comes. [Exit Doorkeeper]

Enter Tnya, followed by three Peasants.

TNYA. To the right. In here! In here!

THEODORE IVNITCH. I did not want them brought in here!

GREGORY. Forward minx!

TNYA. Oh, Theodore Ivnitch, it won't matter, they'll stand in this corner.

THEODORE IVNITCH. They'll dirty the floor.

TNYA. They've scraped their shoes, and I'll wipe the floor up afterwards. [To Peasants] Here, stand just here.

Peasants come forward carrying presents tied in cotton handkerchiefs: cake, eggs, and embroidered towels. They look around for an icn before which to cross themselves; not finding one, they cross themselves looking at the staircase.

GREGORY [to Theodore Ivnitch]. There now, Theodore Ivnitch, they say Pironnet's boots are an elegant shape. But those there are ever so much better. [Pointing to the third Peasant's bast shoes].

THEODORE IVNITCH. Why will you always be ridiculing people? [Exit Gregory].

THEODORE IVNITCH [rises and goes up to the Peasants] So you are from Koursk? And have come to arrange about buying some land?

FIRST PEASANT. Just so. We might say, it is for the completion of the purchase of the land we have come. How could we announce ourselves to the master?

THEODORE IVNITCH. Yes, yes, I know. You wait a bit and I'll go and inform him. [Exit].

The Peasants look around; they are embarrassed where to put their presents.

FIRST PEASANT. There now, couldn't we have what d'you call it? Something to present these here things on? To do it in a genteel way, like,—a little dish or something.

TNYA. All right, directly; put them down here for the present. [Puts bundles on settle].

FIRST PEASANT. There now,—that respectable gentleman that was here just now,—what might be his station?

TNYA. He's the master's valet.

FIRST PEASANT. I see. So he's also in service. And you, now, are you a servant too?

TNYA. I am lady's-maid. Do you know, I also come from Dmen! I know you, and you, but I don't know him. [Pointing to third Peasant].

THIRD PEASANT. Them two you know, but me you don't know?

TNYA. You are Efm Antnitch.

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it!

TNYA. And you are Simon's father, Zachary Trifnitch.

SECOND PEASANT. Right!

THIRD PEASANT. And let me tell you, I'm Mtry Vlsitch Tchilkin. Now do you know?

TNYA. Now I shall know you too!

SECOND PEASANT. And who may you be?

TNYA. I am Aksnya's, the soldier's wife's, orphan.

FIRST AND THIRD PEASANTS [with surprise] Never!

SECOND PEASANT. The proverb says true:

"Buy a penny pig, put it in the rye, And you'll have a wonderful fat porker by-and-by."

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it! She's got the resemblance of a duchess!

THIRD PEASANT. That be so truly. Oh Lord!

VASLY LEONDITCH. [off the scene, rings, and then shouts] Gregory! Gregory!

FIRST PEASANT. Now who's that, for example, disturbing himself in such a way, if I may say so?

TNYA. That's the young master.

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord! Didn't I say we'd better wait outside until the time comes? [Silence].

SECOND PEASANT. Is it you, Simon wants to marry?

TNYA. Why, has he been writing? [Hides her face in her apron].

SECOND PEASANT. It's evident he's written! But it's a bad business he's imagined here. I see the lad's got spoilt!

TNYA [quickly] No, he's not at all spoilt! Shall I send him to you?

SECOND PEASANT. Why send him? All in good time. Where's the hurry?

VASLY LEONDITCH [desperately, behind scene] Gregory! Where the devil are you?... [Enters from his room in shirt-sleeves, adjusting his pince-nez].

VASLY LEONDITCH. Is every one dead?

TNYA. He's not here, sir.... I'll send him to you at once. [Moves towards the back door].

VASLY LEONDITCH. I could hear you talking, you know. How have these scarecrows sprung up here? Eh? What?

TNYA. They're peasants from the Koursk village, sir. [Peasants bow].

VASLY LEONDITCH. And who is this? Oh yes, from Bourdier.

Vasly Leonditch pays no attention to the Peasants' bow. Tnya meets Gregory at the doorway and remains on the scene.

VASLY LEONDITCH [to Gregory] I told you the other boots... I can't wear these!

GREGORY. Well, the others are also there.

VASLY LEONDITCH. But where is there?

GREGORY. Just in the same place!

VASLY LEONDITCH. They're not!

GREGORY. Well, come and see. [Exeunt Gregory and Vasly Leonditch].

THIRD PEASANT. Say now, might we not in the meantime just go and wait, say, in some lodging-house or somewhere?

TNYA. No, no, wait a little. I'll go and bring you some plates to put the presents on. [Exit].

Enter Sahtof and Leond Fydoritch, followed by Theodore Ivnitch.

The Peasants take up the presents, and pose themselves.

LEOND FYDORITCH [to Peasants] Presently, presently! Wait a bit! [Points to Porter] Who is this?

PORTER. From Bourdey's.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Ah, from Bourdier.

SAHTOF [smiling] Well, I don't deny it: still you understand that, never having seen it, we, the uninitiated, have some difficulty in believing.

LEOND FYDORITCH. You say you find it difficult to believe! We do not ask for faith; all we demand of you is to investigate! How can I help believing in this ring? Yet this ring came from there!

SAHTOF. From there? What do you mean? From where?

LEOND FYDORITCH. From the other world. Yes!

SAHTOF [smiling] That's very interesting—very interesting!

LEOND FYDORITCH. Well, supposing we admit that I'm a man carried away by an idea, as you think, and that I am deluding myself. Well, but what of Alexy Vladmiritch Krougosvtlof—he is not just an ordinary man, but a distinguished professor, and yet he admits it to be a fact. And not he alone. What of Crookes? What of Wallace?

SAHTOF. But I don't deny anything. I only say it is very interesting. It would be interesting to know how Krougosvtlof explains it!

LEOND FYDORITCH. He has a theory of his own. Could you come to-night?—he is sure to be here. First we shall have Grossman—you know, the famous thought-reader?

SAHTOF. Yes, I have heard of him but have never happened to meet him.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Then you must come! We shall first have Grossman, then Kaptchtch, and our mediumistic sance.... [To Theodore Ivnitch] Has the man returned from Kaptchtch?

THEODORE IVNITCH. Not yet, sir.

SAHTOF. Then how am I to know?

LEOND FYDORITCH. Never mind, come in any case! If Kaptchtch can't come we shall find our own medium. Mrya Igntievna is a medium—not such a good one as Kaptchtch, but still...

Tnya enters with plates for the presents, and stands listening.

SAHTOF [smiling] Oh yes, yes. But here is one puzzling point:—how is it that the mediums are always of the, so-called, educated class, such as Kaptchtch and Mrya Igntievna? If there were such a special force, would it not be met with also among the common people—the peasants?

LEOND FYDORITCH. Oh yes, and it is! That is very common. Even here in our own house we have a peasant whom we discovered to be a medium. A few days ago we called him in—a sofa had to be moved, during a sance—and we forgot all about him. In all probability he fell asleep. And, fancy, after our sance was over and Kaptchtch had come to again, we suddenly noticed mediumistic phenomena in another part of the room, near the peasant: the table gave a jerk and moved!

TNYA [aside] That was when I was getting out from under it!

LEOND FYDORITCH. It is quite evident he also is a medium. Especially as he is very like Home in appearance. You remember Home—a fair-haired nave sort of fellow?

SAHTOF [shrugging his shoulders] Dear me, this is very interesting, you know. I think you should try him.

LEOND FYDORITCH. So we will! And he is not alone; there are thousands of mediums, only we do not know them. Why, only a short time ago a bedridden old woman moved a brick wall!

SAHTOF. Moved a brick ... a brick wall?

LEOND FYDORITCH. Yes, yes. She was lying in bed, and did not even know she was a medium. She just leant her arm against the wall, and the wall moved!

SAHTOF. And did not cave in?

LEOND FYDORITCH. And did not cave in.

SAHTOF. Very strange! Well then, I'll come this evening.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Pray do. We shall have a sance in any case. [Sahtof puts on his outdoor things, Leond Fydoritch sees him to the door].

PORTER [to Tnya] Do tell your mistress! Am I to spend the night here?

TNYA. Wait a little; she's going to drive out with the young lady, so she'll soon be coming downstairs. [Exit].

LEOND FYDORITCH [comes up to the Peasants, who bow and offer him their presents] That's not necessary!

FIRST PEASANT [smiling] Oh, but this-here is our first duty, it is! It's also the Commune's orders that we should do it!

SECOND PEASANT. That's always been the proper way.

THIRD PEASANT. Say no more about it! 'Cause as we are much satisfied.... As our parents, let's say, served, let's say, your parents, so we would like the same with all our hearts ... and not just anyhow! [Bows].

LEOND FYDORITCH. But what is it about? What do you want?

FIRST PEASANT. It's to your honour we've come...

Enter Petrstchef briskly, in fur-lined overcoat.

PETRSTCHEF. Is Vasly Leonditch awake yet? [Seeing Leond Fydoritch, bows, moving only his head].

LEOND FYDORITCH. You have come to see my son?

PETRSTCHEF. I? Yes, just to see Vovo for a moment.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Step in, step in.

Petrstchef takes off his overcoat and walks in briskly. Exit.

LEOND FYDORITCH [to Peasants] Well, what is it you want?

SECOND PEASANT. Please accept our presents!

FIRST PEASANT [smiling] That's to say, the peasants' offerings.

THIRD PEASANT. Say no more about it; what's the good? We wish you the same as if you were our own father! Say no more about it!

LEOND FYDORITCH. All right. Here, Theodore, take these.

THEODORE IVNITCH [to Peasants] Give them here. [Takes the presents].

LEOND FYDORITCH. Well, what is the business?

FIRST PEASANT. We've come to your honour...

LEOND FYDORITCH. I see you have; but what do you want?

FIRST PEASANT. It's about making a move towards completing the sale of the land. It comes to this...

LEOND FYDORITCH. Do you mean to buy the land?

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. It comes to this ... I mean the buying of the property of the land. The Commune has given us, let's say, the power of atturning, to enter, let's say, as is lawful, through the Government bank, with a stamp for the lawful amount.

LEOND FYDORITCH. You mean that you want to buy the land through the land-bank.

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. Just as you offered it to us last year. It comes to this, then, the whole sum in full for the buying of the property of the land is 32,864 roubles.

LEOND FYDORITCH. That's all right, but how about paying up?

FIRST PEASANT. As to the payment, the Commune offers just as it was said last year—to pay in 'stalments, and your receipt of the ready money by lawful regulations, 4000 roubles in full.[2]

[2] The present value of the rouble is rather over two shillings and one penny.

SECOND PEASANT. Take 4000 now, and wait for the rest of the money.

THIRD PEASANT [unwrapping a parcel of money] And about this be quite easy. We should pawn our own selves rather than do such a thing just anyhow say, but in this way, let's say, as it ought to be done.

LEOND FYDORITCH. But did I not write and tell you that I should not agree to it unless you brought the whole sum?

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. It would be more agreeable, but it is not in our possibilities, I mean.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Well then, the thing can't be done!

FIRST PEASANT. The Commune, for example, relied its hopes on that, that you made the offer last year to sell it in easy 'stalments...

LEOND FYDORITCH. That was last year. I would have agreed to it then, but now I can't.

SECOND PEASANT. But how's that? We've been depending on your promise—we've got the papers ready and have collected the money!

THIRD PEASANT. Be merciful, master! We're short of land; we'll say nothing about cattle, but even a hen, let's say, we've no room to keep. [Bows] Don't wrong us, master! [Bows].

LEOND FYDORITCH. Of course it's quite true, that I agreed last year to let you have the land for payment by instalments, but now circumstances are such that it would be inconvenient.

SECOND PEASANT. Without this land we cannot live!

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. Without land our lives must grow weaker and come to a decline.

THIRD PEASANT [bowing] Master, we have so little land, let's not talk about the cattle, but even a chicken, let's say, we've no room for. Master, be merciful, accept the money, master!

LEOND FYDORITCH [examining the document] I quite understand, and should like to help you. Wait a little; I will give you an answer in half-an-hour.... Theodore, say I am engaged and am not to be disturbed.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Yes, sir. [Exit Leond Fydoritch].

The Peasants look dejected.

SECOND PEASANT. Here's a go! "Give me the whole sum," he says. And where are we to get it from?

FIRST PEASANT. If he had not given us hopes, for example. As it is we felt quite insured it would be as was said last year.

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord! and I had begun unwrapping the money. [Begins wrapping up the bundle of bank-notes again] What are we to do now?

THEODORE IVNITCH. What is your business, then?

FIRST PEASANT. Our business, respected sir, depends in this. Last year he made us the offer of our buying the land in 'stalments. The Commune entered upon these terms and gave us the powers of atturning, and now d'you see he makes the offering that we should pay the whole in full! And as it turns out, the business is no ways convenient for us.

THEODORE IVNITCH. What is the whole sum?

FIRST PEASANT. The whole sum in readiness is 4000 roubles, you see.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Well, what of that? Make an effort and collect more.

FIRST PEASANT. Such as it is, it was collected with much effort. We have, so to say, in this sense, not got ammunition enough.

SECOND PEASANT. You can't get blood out of a stone.

THIRD PEASANT. We'd be glad with all our hearts, but we have swept even this together, as you might say, with a broom.

Vasly Leonditch and Petrstchef appear in the doorway both smoking cigarettes.

VASLY LEONDITCH. I have told you already I'll do my best, so of course I will do all that is possible! Eh, what?

PETRSTCHEF. You must just understand that if you do not get it, the devil only knows what a mess we shall be in!

VASLY LEONDITCH. But I've already said I'll do my best, and so I will. Eh, what?

PETRSTCHEF. Nothing. I only say, get some at any cost. I will wait.

Exit into Vasly Leonditch's room, closing door.

VASLY LEONDITCH [waving his arm] It's a deuce of a go! [The Peasants bow].

VASLY LEONDITCH [looking at Porter, to Theodore Ivnitch] Why don't you attend to this fellow from Bourdier? He hasn't come to take lodgings with us, has he? Just look, he is asleep! Eh, what?

THEODORE IVNITCH. The note he brought has been sent in, and he has been told to wait until Anna Pvlovna comes down.

VASLY LEONDITCH [looks at Peasants and notices the money] And what is this? Money? For whom? Is it for us? [To Theodore Ivnitch] Who are they?

THEODORE IVNITCH. They are peasants from Koursk. They are buying land.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Has it been sold them?

THEODORE IVNITCH. No, they have not yet come to any agreement. They are too stingy.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Eh? Well, we must try and persuade them. [To the Peasants] Here, I say, are you buying land? Eh?

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. We have made an offering as how we should like to acquire the possession of the land.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Then you should not be so stingy, you know. Just let me tell you how necessary land is to peasants! Eh, what? It's very necessary, isn't it?

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. The land appears as the very first and foremost necessity to a peasant. That's just it.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Then why be so stingy? Just you think what land is! Why, one can sow wheat on it in rows! I tell you, you could get eighty bushels of wheat, at a rouble and a half a bushel—that would be 120 roubles. Eh, what? Or else mint! I tell you, you could collar 400 roubles off an acre by sowing mint!

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. All sorts of producks one could put into action if one had the right understanding.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Mint! Decidedly mint! I have learnt about it, you know. It's all printed in books. I can show them you. Eh, what?

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it, all concerns are clearer to you through your books. That's learnedness, of course.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Then pay up and don't be stingy. [To Theodore Ivnitch] Where's papa?

THEODORE IVNITCH. He gave orders not to be disturbed just now.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Oh, I suppose he's consulting a spirit whether to sell the land or not? Eh, what?

THEODORE IVNITCH. I can't say. All I know is that he went away undecided about it.

VASLY LEONDITCH. What d'you think, Theodore Ivnitch, is he flush of cash? Eh, what?

THEODORE IVNITCH. I don't know. I hardly think so. But what does it matter to you? You drew a good sum not more than a week ago.

VASLY LEONDITCH. But didn't I pay for those dogs? And now, you know, there's our new Society, and Petrstchef has been chosen, and I had borrowed money from Petrstchef and must pay the subscription both for him and for myself. Eh, what?

THEODORE IVNITCH. And what is this new Society? A Cycling Club?

VASLY LEONDITCH. No. Just let me tell you. It is quite a new Society. It is a very serious Society, you know. And who do you think is President? Eh, what?

THEODORE IVNITCH. What's the object of this new Society?

VASLY LEONDITCH. It is a "Society to Promote the Breeding of Pure-bred Russian Hounds." Eh, what? And I'll tell you, they're having the first meeting and a lunch, to-day. And I've no money. I'll go to him and have a try! [Exit through study door].

FIRST PEASANT [to Theodore Ivnitch] And who might he be, respected sir?

THEODORE IVNITCH [smiles] The young master.

THIRD PEASANT. The heir, so to say. Oh Lord! [puts away the money] I'd better hide it meanwhile.

FIRST PEASANT. And we were told he was in military service, in the cav'rely, for example.

THEODORE IVNITCH. No, as an only son he is exempt from military service.

THIRD PEASANT. Left for to keep his parents, so to say! That's right!

SECOND PEASANT [shaking his head] He's the right sort. He'll feed them finely!

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord!

Enter Vasly Leonditch followed by Leond Fydoritch.

VASLY LEONDITCH. That's always the way. It's really surprising! First I'm asked why I have no occupation, and now when I have found a field and am occupied, when a Society with serious and noble aims has been founded, I can't even have 300 roubles to go on with!...

LEOND FYDORITCH. I tell you I can't do it, and I can't! I haven't got it.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Why, you have just sold some land.

LEOND FYDORITCH. In the first place I have not sold it! And above all, do leave me in peace! Weren't you told I was engaged? [Exit, slamming door].

THEODORE IVNITCH. I told you this was not the right moment.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Well, I say! Here's a position to be in! I'll go and see mamma—that's my only hope. He's going crazy over his spiritualism and forgets everything else. [Goes upstairs].

Theodore Ivnitch takes newspaper and is just going to sit down, when Betsy and Mrya Konstantnovna, followed by Gregory, come down the stairs.

BETSY. Is the carriage ready?

GREGORY. Just coming to the door.

BETSY [to Mrya Konstantnovna] Come along, come along, I know it is he.

MRYA KONSTANTNOVNA. Which he?

BETSY. You know very well whom I mean—Petrstchef, of course.

MRYA KONSTANTNOVNA. But where is he?

BETSY. Sitting in Vovo's room. You'll see!

MRYA KONSTANTNOVNA. And suppose it is not he? [The Peasants and Porter bow].

BETSY [to Porter] You brought a dress from Bourdier's?

PORTER. Yes, Miss. May I go?

BETSY. Well, I don't know. Ask my mother.

PORTER. I don't know whose it is, Miss; I was ordered to bring it here and receive the money.

BETSY. Well then, wait.

MRYA KONSTANTNOVNA. Is it still that costume for the charade?

BETSY. Yes, a charming costume. But mamma won't take it or pay for it.

MRYA KONSTANTNOVNA. But why not?

BETSY. You'd better ask mamma. She doesn't grudge Vovo 500 roubles for his dogs, but 100 is too much for a dress. I can't act dressed like a scarecrow. [Pointing to Peasants] And who are these?

GREGORY. Peasants who have come to buy some land or other.

BETSY. And I thought they were the beaters. Are you not beaters?

FIRST PEASANT. No, no, lady. We have come to see Leond Fydoritch about the signing into our possession of the title-deeds to some land.

BETSY. Then how is it? Vovo was expecting some beaters who were to come to-day. Are you sure you are not the beaters? [The Peasants are silent] How stupid they are! [Goes to Vasly Leonditch's door] Vovo? [Laughs].

MRYA KONSTANTNOVNA. But we met him just now upstairs!

BETSY. Why need you remember that? Vovo, are you there?

Petrstchef enters.

PETRSTCHEF. Vovo is not here, but I am prepared to fulfil on his behalf anything that may be required. How do you do? How do you do, Mrya Konstantnovna? [Shakes hands long and violently with Betsy, and then with Mrya Konstantnovna].

SECOND PEASANT. See, it's as if he were pumping water!

BETSY. You can't replace him,—still you're better than nobody. [Laughs] What are these affairs of yours with Vovo?

PETRSTCHEF. What affairs? Our affairs are fie-nancial, that is, our business is fie! It's also nancial, and besides it is financial.

BETSY. What does nancial mean?

PETRSTCHEF. What a question! It means nothing, that's just the point.

BETSY. No, no, you have missed fire. [Laughs].

PETRSTCHEF. One can't always hit the mark, you know. It's something like a lottery. Blanks and blanks again, and at last you win! [Theodore Ivnitch goes into the study].

BETSY. Well, this was blank then; but tell me, were you at the Mergsofs' last night?

PETRSTCHEF. Not exactly at the Mre Gsof's, but rather at the Pre Gsof's, or better still, at the Fils Gsof's.

BETSY. You can't do without puns. It's an illness. And were the Gypsies there?[3] [Laughs].

[3] The Gypsy choirs are very popular in Moscow.

PETRSTCHEF [sings] "On their aprons silken threads, little birds with golden heads!"...

BETSY. Happy mortals! And we were yawning at Fofo's.

PETRSTCHEF [continues to sing] "And she promised and she swore, She would ope' her ... her ... her..." how does it go on, Mrya Konstantnovna?

MRYA KONSTANTNOVNA. "Closet door."

PETRSTCHEF. How? What? How, Mrya Konstantnovna?

BETSY. Cessez, vous devenez impossible![4]

[4] BETSY. Cease! You are becoming quite unbearable!

PETRSTCHEF. J'ai cess, j'ai bb, j'ai dd....[5]

[5] PETRSTCHEF. I have C said (ceased), B said, and D said.

BETSY. I see the only way to rid ourselves of your wit is to make you sing! Let us go into Vovo's room, his guitar is there. Come, Mrya Konstantnovna, come! [Exeunt Betsy, Mrya Konstantnovna, and Petrstchef].

FIRST PEASANT. Who be they?

GREGORY. One is our young lady, the other is a girl who teaches her music.

FIRST PEASANT. Administrates learning, so to say. And ain't she smart? A reg'lar picture!

SECOND PEASANT. Why don't they marry her? She is old enough, I should say.

GREGORY. Do you think it's the same as among you peasants,—marry at fifteen?

FIRST PEASANT. And that man, for example, is he also in the musitional line?

GREGORY [mimicking him] "Musitional" indeed! You don't understand anything!

FIRST PEASANT. That's just so. And stupidity, one might say, is our ignorance.

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord! [Gipsy songs and guitar accompaniment are heard from Vasly Leonditch's room].

Enter Simon, followed by Tnya, who watches the meeting between father and son.

GREGORY [to Simon] What do you want?

SIMON. I have been to Mr. Kaptchtch.

GREGORY. Well, and what's the answer?

SIMON. He sent word he couldn't possibly come to-night.

GREGORY. All right, I'll let them know. [Exit].

SIMON [to his father] How d'you do, father! My respects to Daddy Efm and Daddy Mtry! How are all at home?

SECOND PEASANT. Very well, Simon.

FIRST PEASANT. How d'you do, lad?

THIRD PEASANT. How d'you do, sonny?

SIMON [smiles] Well, come along, father, and have some tea.

SECOND PEASANT. Wait till we've finished our business. Don't you see we are not ready yet?

SIMON. Well, I'll wait for you by the porch. [Wishes to go away].

TNYA [running after him] I say, why didn't you tell him anything?

SIMON. How could I before all those people? Give me time, I'll tell him over our tea. [Exit].

Theodore Ivnitch enters and sits down by the window.

FIRST PEASANT. Respected sir, how's our business proceeding?

THEODORE IVNITCH. Wait a bit, he'll be out presently, he's just finishing.

TNYA [to Theodore Ivnitch] And how do you know, Theodore Ivnitch, he is finishing?

THEODORE IVNITCH. I know that when he has finished questioning, he reads the question and answer aloud.

TNYA. Can one really talk with spirits by means of a saucer?

THEODORE IVNITCH. It seems so.

TNYA. But supposing they tell him to sign, will he sign?

THEODORE IVNITCH. Of course he will.

TNYA. But they do not speak with words?

THEODORE IVNITCH. Oh, yes. By means of the alphabet. He notices at which letter the saucer stops.

TNYA. Yes, but at a si-ance?...

Enter Leond Fydoritch.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Well, friends, I can't do it! I should be very glad to, but it is quite impossible. If it were for ready money it would be a different matter.

FIRST PEASANT. That's just so. What more could any one desire? But the people are so inpennycuous—it is quite impossible!

LEOND FYDORITCH. Well, I can't do it, I really can't. Here is your document; I can't sign it.

THIRD PEASANT. Show some pity, master; be merciful!

SECOND PEASANT. How can you act so? It is doing us a wrong.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Nothing wrong about it, friends. I offered it you in summer, but then you did not agree; and now I can't agree to it.

THIRD PEASANT. Master, be merciful! How are we to get along? We have so little land. We'll say nothing about the cattle; a hen, let's say, there's no room to let a hen run about.

Leond Fydoritch goes up to the door and stops. Enter, descending the staircase, Anna Pvlovna and doctor, followed by Vasly Leonditch, who is in a merry and playful mood and is putting some bank-notes into his purse.

ANNA PVLOVNA [tightly laced, and wearing a bonnet] Then I am to take it?

DOCTOR. If the symptoms recur you must certainly take it, but above all, you must behave better. How can you expect thick syrup to pass through a thin little hair tube, especially when we squeeze the tube? It's impossible; and so it is with the biliary duct. It's simple enough.

ANNA PVLOVNA. All right, all right!

DOCTOR. Yes, "All right, all right," and you go on in the same old way. It won't do, madam—it won't do. Well, good-bye!

ANNA PVLOVNA. No, not good-bye, only au revoir! For I still expect you to-night. I shall not be able to make up my mind without you.

DOCTOR. All right, if I have time I'll pop in. [Exit].

ANNA PVLOVNA [noticing the Peasants] What's this? What? What people are these? [Peasants bow].

THEODORE IVNITCH. These are peasants from Koursk, come to see Leond Fydoritch about the sale of some land.

ANNA PVLOVNA. I see they are peasants, but who let them in?

THEODORE IVNITCH. Leond Fydoritch gave the order. He has just been speaking to them about the sale of the land.

ANNA PVLOVNA. What sale? There is no need to sell any. But above all, how can one let in people from the street into the house? One can't let people in from the street! One can't let people into the house who have spent the night heaven knows where!... [Getting more and more excited] I daresay every fold of their clothes is full of microbes—of scarlet-fever microbes, of smallpox microbes, of diphtheria microbes! Why, they are from Koursk Government, where there is an epidemic of diphtheria ... Doctor! Doctor! Call the doctor back!

Leond Fydoritch goes into his room and shuts the door. Gregory goes to recall the Doctor.

VASLY LEONDITCH [smokes at the Peasants] Never mind, mamma; if you like I'll fumigate them so that all the microbes will go to pot! Eh, what?

Anna Pvlovna remains severely silent, awaiting the Doctor's return.

VASLY LEONDITCH [to Peasants] And do you fatten pigs? There's a first-rate business!

FIRST PEASANT. That's just so. We do go in for the pig-fattening line now and then.

VASLY LEONDITCH. This kind?... [Grunts like a pig].

ANNA PVLOVNA. Vovo, Vovo, leave off!

VASLY LEONDITCH. Isn't it like? Eh, what?

FIRST PEASANT. That's just so. It's very resemblant.

ANNA PVLOVNA. Vovo, leave off, I tell you!

SECOND PEASANT. What's it all about?

THIRD PEASANT. I said, we'd better go to some lodging meanwhile!

Enter Doctor and Gregory.

DOCTOR. What's the matter? What's happened?

ANNA PVLOVNA. Why, you're always saying I must not get excited. Now, how is it possible to keep calm? I do not see my own sister for two months, and am careful about any doubtful visitor—and here are people from Koursk, straight from Koursk, where there is an epidemic of diphtheria, right in my house!

DOCTOR. These good fellows you mean, I suppose?

ANNA PVLOVNA. Of course. Straight from a diphtheric place!

DOCTOR. Well, of course, if they come from an infected place it is rash; but still there is no reason to excite yourself so much about it.

ANNA PVLOVNA. But don't you yourself advise carefulness?

DOCTOR. Of course, of course. Still, why excite yourself?

ANNA PVLOVNA. How can I help it? Now we shall have to have the house completely disinfected.

DOCTOR. Oh no! Why completely? That would cost 300 roubles or more. I'll arrange it cheaply and well for you. Take, to a large bottle of water...

ANNA PVLOVNA. Boiled?

DOCTOR. It's all the same. Boiled would be better. To one bottle of water take a tablespoon of salicylic acid, and have everything they have come in contact with washed with the solution. As to the fellows themselves, they must be off, of course. That's all. Then you're quite safe. And it would do no harm to sprinkle some of the same solution through a spray—two or three tumblers—you'll see how well it will act. No danger whatever!

ANNA PVLOVNA. Tnya! Where is Tnya?

Enter Tnya.

TNYA. Did you call, M'm?

ANNA PVLOVNA. You know that big bottle in my dressing-room?

TNYA. Out of which we sprinkled the laundress yesterday?

ANNA PVLOVNA. Well, of course! What other bottle could I mean? Well then, take that bottle and first wash with soap the place where they have been standing, and then with...

TNYA. Yes, M'm; I know how.

ANNA PVLOVNA. And then take the spray ... However, I had better do that myself when I get back.

DOCTOR. Well then, do so, and don't be afraid! Well, au revoir till this evening. [Exit].

ANNA PVLOVNA. And they must be off! Not a trace of them must remain! Get out, get out! Go—what are you looking at?

FIRST PEASANT. That's just so. It's because of our stupidity, as we were instructed...

GREGORY [pushes the Peasants out] There, there; be off!

SECOND PEASANT. Let me have my handkerchief back! [The handkerchief in which the presents were wrapped].

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord, oh Lord! didn't I say—some lodging-house meanwhile!

Gregory pushes him out. Exeunt Peasants.

PORTER [who has repeatedly tried to say something] Will there be any answer?

ANNA PVLOVNA. Ah, from Bourdier? [Excitedly] None! None! You can take it back. I told her I never ordered such a costume, and I will not allow my daughter to wear it!

PORTER. I know nothing about it. I was sent...

ANNA PVLOVNA. Go, go, take it back! I will call myself about it!

VASLY LEONDITCH [solemnly] Sir Messenger from Bourdier, depart!

PORTER. I might have been told that long ago. I have sat here nearly five hours!

VASLY LEONDITCH. Ambassador from Bourdier, begone!

ANNA PVLOVNA. Cease, please!

Exit Porter.

ANNA PVLOVNA. Betsy! Where is she? I always have to wait for her.

VASLY LEONDITCH [shouting at the top of his voice] Betsy! Petrstchef! Come quick, quick, quick! Eh? What?

Enter Petrstchef, Betsy, and Mrya Konstantnovna.

ANNA PVLOVNA. You always keep one waiting!

BETSY. On the contrary, I was waiting for you!

Petrstchef bows with his head only, then kisses Anna Pvlovna's hand.

ANNA PVLOVNA. How d'you do! [To Betsy] You always have an answer ready!

BETSY. If you are upset, mamma, I had better not go.

ANNA PVLOVNA. Are we going or not?

BETSY. Well, let us go; it can't be helped.

ANNA PVLOVNA. Did you see the man from Bourdier?

BETSY. Yes, and I was very glad. I ordered the costume, and am going to wear it when it is paid for.

ANNA PVLOVNA. I am not going to pay for a costume that is indecent!

BETSY. Why has it become indecent? First it was decent, and now you have a fit of prudery.

ANNA PVLOVNA. Not prudery at all! If the bodice were completely altered, then it would do.

BETSY. Mamma, that is quite impossible.

ANNA PVLOVNA. Well, get dressed. [They sit down. Gregory puts on their over-shoes for them].

VASLY LEONDITCH. Mrya Konstantnovna, do you notice a vacuum in the hall?

MRYA KONSTANTNOVNA. What is it? [Laughs in anticipation].

VASLY LEONDITCH. Bourdier's man has gone! Eh, what? Good, eh? [Laughs loudly].

ANNA PVLOVNA. Well, let us go. [Goes out of the door, but returns at once] Tnya!

TNYA. Yes, M'm?

ANNA PVLOVNA. Don't let Frisk catch cold while I am away. If she wants to be let out, put on her little yellow cloak. She is not quite well to-day.

TNYA. Yes, M'm.

Exeunt Anna Pvlovna, Betsy, and Gregory.

PETRSTCHEF. Well, have you got it?

VASLY LEONDITCH. Not without trouble, I can tell you! First I rushed at the gov'nor; he began to bellow and turned me out. Off to the mater—I got it out of her. It's here! [Slaps his breast pocket] If once I make up my mind, there's no getting away from me. I have a deadly grip! Eh, what? And d'you know, my wolf-hounds are coming to-day.

Petrstchef and Vasly Leonditch put on their outdoor things and go out. Tnya follows.

THEODORE IVNITCH [alone] Yes, nothing but unpleasantness. How is it they can't live in peace? But one must say the new generation are not—the thing. And as to the women's dominion!... Why, Leond Fydoritch just now was going to put in a word, but seeing what a frenzy she was in—slammed the door behind him. He is a wonderfully kind-hearted man. Yes, wonderfully kind. What's this? Here's Tnya bringing them back again!

TNYA. Come in, come in, grand-dads, never mind!

Enter Tnya and the Peasants.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Why have you brought them back?

TNYA. Well, Theodore Ivnitch, we must do something about their business. I shall have to wash the place anyhow.

THEODORE IVNITCH. But the business will not come off, I see that already.

FIRST PEASANT. How could we best put our affair into action, respected sir? Your reverence might take a little trouble over it, and we should give you full thankings from the Commune for your trouble.

THIRD PEASANT. Do try, honey! We can't live! We have so little land. Talk of cattle—why, we have no room to keep a hen! [They bow].

THEODORE IVNITCH. I am sorry for you, friends, but I can't think of any way to help you. I understand your case very well, but he has refused. So what can one do? Besides, the lady is also against it. Well, give me your papers—I'll try and see what I can do, but I hardly hope to succeed. [Exit].

Tnya and the three Peasants sigh.

TNYA. But tell me, grand-dads, what is it that is wanted?

FIRST PEASANT. Why, only that he should put his signature to our document.

TNYA. That the master should sign? Is that all?

FIRST PEASANT. Yes, only lay his signature on the deed and take the money, and there would be an end of the matter.

THIRD PEASANT. He only has to write and sign, as the peasants, let's say, desire, so, let's say, I also desire. That's the whole affair—if he'd only take it and sign it, it's all done.

TNYA [considering] He need only sign the paper and it's done?

FIRST PEASANT. That's just so. The whole matter is in dependence on that, and nothing else. Let him sign, and we ask no more.

TNYA. Just wait and see what Theodore Ivnitch will say. If he cannot persuade the master, I'll try something.

FIRST PEASANT. Get round him, will you?

TNYA. I'll try.

THIRD PEASANT. Ay, the lass is going to bestir herself. Only get the thing settled, and the Commune will bind itself to keep you all your life. See there, now!

FIRST PEASANT. If the affair can be put into action, truly we might put her in a gold frame.

SECOND PEASANT. That goes without saying!

TNYA. I can't promise for certain, but as the saying is: "An attempt is no sin, if you try..."

FIRST PEASANT. "You may win." That's just so.

Enter Theodore Ivnitch.

THEODORE IVNITCH. No, friends, it's no go! He has not done it, and he won't do it. Here, take your document. You may go.

FIRST PEASANT [gives Tnya the paper] Then it's on you we pin all our reliance, for example.

TNYA. Yes, yes! You go into the street, and I'll run out to you in a minute and have a word with you.

Exeunt Peasants.

TNYA. Theodore Ivnitch, dear Theodore Ivnitch, ask the master to come out and speak to me for a moment. I have something to say to him.

THEODORE IVNITCH. What next?

TNYA. I must, Theodore Ivnitch. Ask him, do; there's nothing wrong about it, on my sacred word.

THEODORE IVNITCH. But what do you want with him?

TNYA. That's a little secret. I will tell you later on, only ask him.

THEODORE IVNITCH [smiling] I can't think what you are up to! All right, I'll go and ask him. [Exit].

TNYA. I'll do it! Didn't he say himself that there is that power in Simon? And I know how to manage. No one found me out that time, and now I'll teach Simon what to do. If it doesn't succeed it's no great matter. After all it's not a sin.

Enter Leond Fydoritch followed by Theodore Ivnitch.

LEOND FYDORITCH [smiling] Is this the petitioner? Well, what is your business?

TNYA. It's a little secret, Leond Fydoritch; let me tell it you alone.

LEOND FYDORITCH. What is it? Theodore, leave us for a minute.

Exit Theodore Ivnitch.

TNYA. As I have grown up and lived in your house, Leond Fydoritch, and as I am very grateful to you for everything, I shall open my heart to you as to a father. Simon, who is living in your house, wants to marry me.

LEOND FYDORITCH. So that's it!

TNYA. I open my heart to you as to a father! I have no one to advise me, being an orphan.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Well, and why not? He seems a nice lad.

TNYA. Yes, that's true. He would be all right; there is only one thing I have my doubts about. It's something about him that I have noticed and can't make out ... perhaps it is something bad.

LEOND FYDORITCH. What is it? Does he drink?

TNYA. God forbid! But since I know that there is such a thing as spiritalism...

LEOND FYDORITCH. Ah, you know that?

TNYA. Of course! I understand it very well. Some, of course, through ignorance, don't understand it.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Well, what then?

TNYA. I am very much afraid for Simon. It does happen to him.

LEOND FYDORITCH. What happens to him?

TNYA. Something of a kind like spiritalism. You ask any of the servants. As soon as he gets drowsy at the table, the table begins to tremble, and creak like that: tuke, ... tuke! All the servants have heard it.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Why, it's the very thing I was saying to Sergy Ivnitch this morning! Yes?...

TNYA. Or else ... when was it?... Oh yes, last Wednesday. We sat down to dinner, and the spoon just jumps into his hand of itself!

LEOND FYDORITCH. Ah, that is interesting! Jumps into his hand? When he was drowsing?

TNYA. That I didn't notice. I think he was, though.

LEOND FYDORITCH. Yes?...

TNYA. And that's what I'm afraid of, and what I wanted to ask you about. May not some harm come of it? To live one's life together, and him having such a thing in him!

LEOND FYDORITCH [smiling] No, you need not be afraid, there is nothing bad in that. It only proves him to be a medium—simply a medium. I knew him to be a medium before this.

TNYA. So that's what it is! And I was afraid!

LEOND FYDORITCH. No, there's nothing to be afraid of. [Aside]. That's capital! Kaptchtch can't come, so we will test him to-night.... [To Tnya] No, my dear, don't be afraid, he will be a good husband and ... that is only a kind of special power, and every one has it, only in some it is weaker and in others stronger.

TNYA. Thank you, sir. Now I shan't think any more about it; but I was so frightened.... What a thing it is, our want of education!

LEOND FYDORITCH. No, no, don't be frightened... Theodore!

Enter Theodore Ivnitch.

LEOND FYDORITCH. I am going out now. Get everything ready for to-night's sance.

THEODORE IVNITCH. But Mr. Kaptchtch is not coming.

LEOND FYDORITCH. That does not matter. [Puts on overcoat] We shall have a trial sance with our own medium. [Exit. Theodore Ivnitch goes out with him].

TNYA [alone] He believes it! He believes it! [Shrieks and jumps with joy] He really believes it! Isn't it wonderful! [Shrieks] Now I'll do it, if only Simon has pluck for it!

Theodore Ivnitch returns.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Well, have you told him your secret?

TNYA. I'll tell you too, only later on.... But I have a favour to ask of you too, Theodore Ivnitch.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Yes? What is it?

TNYA [shyly] You have been a second father to me, and I will open my heart before you as before God.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Don't beat about the bush, but come straight to the point.

TNYA. The point is ... well, the point is, that Simon wants to marry me.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Is that it? I thought I noticed...

TNYA. Well, why should I hide it? I am an orphan, and you know yourself how matters are in these town establishments. Every one comes bothering; there's that Gregory Mihylitch, for instance, he gives me no peace. And also that other one ... you know. They think I have no soul, and am only here for their amusement.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Good girl, that's right! Well, what then?

TNYA. Well, Simon wrote to his father; and he, his father, sees me to-day, and says: "He's spoilt"—he means his son. Theodore Ivnitch [bows], take the place of a father to me, speak to the old man,—to Simon's father! I could take them into the kitchen, and you might come in and speak to the old man!

THEODORE IVNITCH [smiling] Then I am to turn match-maker—am I? Well, I can do that.

TNYA. Theodore Ivnitch, dearest, be a father to me, and I'll pray for you all my life long.

THEODORE IVNITCH. All right, all right, I'll come later on. Haven't I promised? [Takes up newspaper].

TNYA. You are a second father to me!

THEODORE IVNITCH. All right, all right.

TNYA. Then I'll rely on you. [Exit].

THEODORE IVNITCH [alone, shaking his head] A good affectionate girl. To think that so many like her perish! Get but once into trouble and she'll go from hand to hand until she sinks into the mire, and can never be found again! There was that dear little Nataly. She, too, was a good girl, reared and cared for by a mother. [Takes up paper] Well, let's see what tricks Ferdinand is up to in Bulgaria.

Curtain.



ACT II

Evening of the same day. The scene represents the interior of the servants' kitchen. The Peasants have taken off their outer garments and sit drinking tea at the table, and perspiring. Theodore Ivnitch is smoking a cigar at the other side of the stage. The discharged Cook is lying on the brick oven, and is unseen during the early part of the scene.

THEODORE IVNITCH. My advice is, don't hinder him! If it's his wish and hers, in Heaven's name let him do it. She is a good, honest girl. Never mind her being a bit dressy; she can't help that, living in town: she is a good girl all the same.

SECOND PEASANT. Well, of course, if it is his wish, let him! He'll have to live with her, not me. But she's certainly uncommon spruce. How's one to take her into one's hut? Why, she'll not let her mother-in-law so much as pat her on the head.

THEODORE IVNITCH. That does not depend on the spruceness, but on character. If her nature is good, she's sure to be docile and respectful.

SECOND PEASANT. Ah, well, we'll have her if the lad's bent on having her. After all, it's a bad job to live with one as one don't care for. I'll consult my missus, and then may Heaven bless them!

THEODORE IVNITCH. Then let's shake hands on it!

SECOND PEASANT. Well, it seems it will have to come off.

FIRST PEASANT. Eh, Zachary! fortune's a-smiling on you! You've come to accomplish a piece of business, and just see what a duchess of a daughter-in-law you've obtained. All that's left to be done is to have a drink on it, and then it will be all in order.

THEODORE IVNITCH. That's not at all necessary. [An awkward silence].

THEODORE IVNITCH. I know something of your way of life too, you know. I am even thinking of purchasing a bit of land, building a cottage, and working on the land myself somewhere: maybe in your neighbourhood.

SECOND PEASANT. A very good thing too.

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. When one has got the money one can get all kinds of pleasure in the country.

THIRD PEASANT. Say no more about it! Country life, let's say, is freer in every way, not like the town!

THEODORE IVNITCH. There now, would you let me join your Commune if I settled among you?

SECOND PEASANT. Why not? If you stand drink for the Elders, they'll accept you soon enough!

FIRST PEASANT. And if you open a public-house, for example, or an inn, why, you'd have such a life you'd never need to die! You might live like a king, and no mistake.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Well, we'll see. I should certainly like to have a few quiet years in my old age. Though my life here is good enough, and I should be sorry to leave. Leond Fydoritch is an exceedingly kind-hearted man.

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. But how about our business? Is it possible that he is going to leave it without any termination?

THEODORE IVNITCH. He'd do it willingly.

SECOND PEASANT. It seems he's afraid of his wife.

THEODORE IVNITCH. It's not that he's afraid, but they don't hit things off together.

THIRD PEASANT. But you should try, father! How are we to live else? We've so little land...

THEODORE IVNITCH. We'll see what comes of Tnya's attempt. She's taken the business into her hands now!

THIRD PEASANT [takes a sip of tea] Father, be merciful. We've so little land. A hen, let's say, we've no room for a hen, let alone the cattle.

THEODORE IVNITCH. If the business depended on me.... [To Second Peasant] Well, friend, so we've done our bit of match-making! It's agreed then about Tnya?

SECOND PEASANT. I've given my word, and I'll not go back on it without a good reason. If only our business succeeds!

Enter Servants' Cook who looks up at the oven, makes a sign, and then begins to speak animatedly to Theodore Ivnitch.

SERVANTS' COOK. Just now Simon was called upstairs from the front kitchen! The master and that other bald-headed one who calls up spirits with him, ordered him to sit down and take the place of Kaptchtch!

THEODORE IVNITCH. You don't say so!

SERVANTS' COOK. Yes, Jacob told Tnya.

THEODORE IVNITCH. Extraordinary!

Enter Coachman.

THEODORE IVNITCH. What do you want?

COACHMAN [to Theodore Ivnitch] You may just tell them I never agreed to live with a lot of dogs! Let any one who likes do it, but I will never agree to live among dogs!

THEODORE IVNITCH. What dogs?

COACHMAN. Three dogs have been sent into our room by Vasly Leonditch! They've messed it all over. They're whining, and if one comes near them they bite—the devils! They'd tear you to pieces if you didn't mind. I've a good mind to take a club and smash their legs for them!

THEODORE IVNITCH. But when did they come?

COACHMAN. Why, to-day, from the Dog Show; the devil knows what kind they are, but they're an expensive sort. Are we or the dogs to live in the coachmen's quarters? You just go and ask!

THEODORE IVNITCH. Yes, that will never do. I'll go and ask about it.

COACHMAN. They'd better be brought here to Loukrya.

SERVANTS' COOK [angrily] People have to eat here, and you'd like to lock dogs in here! As it is...

COACHMAN. And I've got the liveries, and the sledge-covers and the harness there, and they expect things kept clean! Perhaps the porter's lodge might do.

THEODORE IVNITCH. I must ask Vasly Leonditch.

COACHMAN [angrily] He'd better hang the brutes round his neck and lug them about with him! But no fear: he'd rather ride on horseback himself. It's he as spoilt Beauty without rhyme or reason. That was a horse!... Oh dear! what a life! [Exit, slamming door].

THEODORE IVNITCH. That's not right! Certainly not right! [To Peasants] Well then, it's time we were saying good-bye, friends.

PEASANTS. Good-bye!

Exit Theodore Ivnitch.

As soon as he is gone a sound of groaning is heard from the top of the oven.

SECOND PEASANT. He's sleek, that one; looks like a general.

SERVANTS' COOK. Rather! Why, he has a room all to himself; he gets his washing, his tea and sugar, and food from the master's table.

DISCHARGED COOK [on the oven]. Why shouldn't the old beggar live well? He's lined his pockets all right!

SECOND PEASANT. Who's that up there, on the oven?

SERVANTS' COOK. Oh, it's only a man.

Silence.

FIRST PEASANT. Well, and you too, as I noticed a while since when you were supping, have capital food to eat.

SERVANTS' COOK. We can't complain. She's not mean about the food. We have wheat bread every Sunday, and fish when a holiday happens to be a fast-day too, and those who like may eat meat.

SECOND PEASANT. And does any one tuck into flesh on fast-days?

SERVANTS' COOK. Oh, they nearly all do! Only the old coachman—not the one who was here just now but the old one—and Simon, and I and the housekeeper, fast—all the others eat meat.

SECOND PEASANT. And the master himself?

SERVANTS' COOK. Catch him! Why, I bet he's forgotten there is such a thing as fasting!

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord!

FIRST PEASANT. That's the gentlefolks' way: they have got it all out of their books. 'Cos of their intelex!

THIRD PEASANT. Shouldn't wonder if they feed on wheat bread every day!

SERVANTS' COOK. Wheat bread indeed! Much they think of wheat bread! You should see what food they eat. No end of different things!

FIRST PEASANT. In course gentlefolks' food is of an airial kind.

SERVANTS' COOK. Airial, of course, but all the same they're good at stuffing themselves, they are!

FIRST PEASANT. Have healthy appekites, so to say.

SERVANTS' COOK. 'Cos they always rinse it down! All with sweet wines, and spirits, and fizzy liquors. They have a different one to suit every kind of food. They eat and rinse it down, and eat and rinse it down, they do.

FIRST PEASANT. And so the food's floated down in proportion, so to say.

SERVANTS' COOK. Ah yes, they are good at stuffing! It's awful! You see, it's not just sitting down, eating, then saying grace and going away—they're always at it!

SECOND PEASANT. Like pigs with their feet in the trough! [Peasants laugh].

SERVANTS' COOK. As soon as, by God's grace, they have opened their eyes, the samovr is brought in—tea, coffee, chocolate. Hardly is the second samovr emptied, a third has to be set. Then lunch, then dinner, then again coffee. They've hardly left off, then comes tea, and all sorts of tit-bits and sweetmeats—there's never an end to it! They even lie in bed and eat!

THIRD PEASANT. There now; that's good! [Laughs].

FIRST AND SECOND PEASANTS. What are you about?

THIRD PEASANT. If I could only live a single day like that!

SECOND PEASANT. But when do they do their work?

SERVANTS' COOK. Work indeed! What is their work? Cards and piano—that's all their work. The young lady used to sit down to the piano as soon as she opened her eyes, and off she'd go! And that other one who lives here, the teacher, stands and waits. "When will the piano be free?" When one has finished, off rattles the other, and sometimes they'd put two pianos near one another and four of 'em would bust out at once. Bust out in such a manner, you could hear 'em down here!

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord!

SERVANTS' COOK. Well, and that's all the work they do! Piano or cards! As soon as they have met together—cards, wine, smoking, and so on all night long. And as soon as they are up: eating again!

Enter Simon.

SIMON. Hope you're enjoying your tea!

FIRST PEASANT. Come and join us.

SIMON [comes up to the table] Thank you kindly. [First Peasant pours out a cup of tea for him].

SECOND PEASANT. Where have you been?

SIMON. Upstairs.

SECOND PEASANT. Well, and what was being done there?

SIMON. Why, I couldn't make it out at all! I don't know how to explain it.

SECOND PEASANT. But what was it?

SIMON. I can't explain it. They have been trying some kind of strength in me. I can't make it out. Tnya says, "Do it, and we'll get the land for our peasants; he'll sell it them."

SECOND PEASANT. But how is she going to manage it?

SIMON. I can't make it out, and she won't say. She says, "Do as I tell you," and that's all.

SECOND PEASANT. But what is it you have to do?

SIMON. Nothing just now. They made me sit down, put out the lights and told me to sleep. And Tnya had hidden herself there. They didn't see her, but I did.

SECOND PEASANT. Why? What for?

SIMON. The Lord only knows—I can't make it out.

FIRST PEASANT. Naturally it is for the distraction of time.

SECOND PEASANT. Well, it's clear you and I can make nothing of it. You had better tell me whether you have taken all your wages yet.

SIMON. No, I've not drawn any. I have twenty-eight roubles to the good, I think.

SECOND PEASANT. That's all right! Well, if God grants that we get the land, I'll take you home, Simon.

SIMON. With all my heart!

SECOND PEASANT. You've got spoilt, I should say. You'll not want to plough?

SIMON. Plough? Only give me the chance! Plough or mow,—I'm game. Those are things one doesn't forget.

FIRST PEASANT. But it don't seem very desirous after town life, for example? Eh!

SIMON. It's good enough for me. One can live in the country too.

FIRST PEASANT. And Daddy Mtry here, is already on the look-out for your place; he's hankering after a life of luckshury!

SIMON. Eh, Daddy Mtry, you'd soon get sick of it. It seems easy enough when one looks at it, but there's a lot of running about that takes it out of one.

SERVANTS' COOK. You should see one of their balls, Daddy Mtry, then you would be surprised!

THIRD PEASANT. Why, do they eat all the time?

SERVANTS' COOK. My eye! You should have seen what we had here awhile ago. Theodore Ivnitch took me upstairs and I peeped in. The ladies—awful! Dressed up! Dressed up, bless my heart, and all bare down to here, and their arms bare.

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord!

SECOND PEASANT. Faugh! How beastly!

FIRST PEASANT. I take it the climate allows of that sort of thing!

SERVANTS' COOK. Well, daddy, so I peeped in. Dear me, what it was like! All of 'em in their natural skins! Would you believe it: old women—our mistress, only think, she's a grandmother, and even she'd gone and bared her shoulders.

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord!

SERVANTS' COOK. And what next? The music strikes up, and each man of 'em went up to his own, catches hold of her, and off they go twirling round and round!

SECOND PEASANT. The old women too?

SERVANTS' COOK. Yes, the old ones too.

SIMON. No, the old ones sit still.

SERVANTS' COOK. Get along,—I've seen it myself!

SIMON. No they don't.

DISCHARGED COOK [in a hoarse voice, looking down from the oven] That's the Polka-Mazurka. You fools don't understand what dancing is. The way they dance...

SERVANTS' COOK. Shut up, you dancer! And keep quiet—there's some one coming.

Enter Gregory; old Cook hides hurriedly.

GREGORY [to Servants' Cook] Bring some sour cabbage.

SERVANTS' COOK. I am only just up from the cellar, and now I must go down again! Who is it for?

GREGORY. For the young ladies. Be quick, and send it up with Simon. I can't wait!

SERVANTS' COOK. There now, they tuck into sweetmeats till they are full up, and then they crave for sour cabbage!

FIRST PEASANT. That's to make a clearance.

SERVANTS' COOK. Of course, and as soon as there is room inside, they begin again! [Takes basin, and exit].

GREGORY [at Peasants] Look at them, how they've established themselves down here! Mind, if the mistress finds it out she'll give it you hot, like she did this morning! [Exit, laughing].

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it, she did raise a storm that time—awful!

SECOND PEASANT. That time it looked as if the master was going to step in, but seeing that the missus was about to blow the very roof off the house, he slams the door. Have your own way, thinks he.

THIRD PEASANT [waving his arm] It's the same everywhere. My old woman, let's say, she kicks up such a rumpus sometimes—it's just awful! Then I just get out of the hut. Let her go to Jericho! She'll give you one with the poker if you don't mind. Oh Lord!

Jacob enters hurriedly with a prescription.

JACOB. Here, Simon, you run to the chemist's and get these powders for the mistress!

SIMON. But master told me not to go out.

JACOB. You've plenty of time; your business won't begin till after their tea. Hope you are enjoying your tea!

FIRST PEASANT. Thanks, come and join us.

Exit Simon.

JACOB. I haven't time. However, I'll just have one cup for company's sake.

FIRST PEASANT. And we've just been having a conversation as to how your mistress carried on so haughty this morning.

JACOB. Oh, she's a reg'lar fury! So hot-tempered, that she gets quite beside herself. Sometimes she even bursts out crying.

FIRST PEASANT. Now, there's a thing I wanted to ask you about. What, for example, be these mikerots she was illuding to erewhile? "They've infested the house with mikerots, with mikerots," she says. What is one to make of these same mikerots?

JACOB. Mikerogues, you mean! Well, it seems there is such a kind of bugs; all illnesses come from them, they say. So she says there are some of 'em on you. After you were gone, they washed and washed and sprinkled the place where you had stood. There's a kind of physic as kills these same bugs, they say.

SECOND PEASANT. Then where have we got these bugs on us?

JACOB [drinking his tea] Why, they say they're so small that one can't see 'em even through a glass.

SECOND PEASANT. Then how does she know I've got 'em on me? Perhaps there's more of that muck on her than on me!

JACOB. There now, you go and ask her!

SECOND PEASANT. I believe it's humbug.

JACOB. Of course it's bosh. The doctors must invent something, or else what are they paid for? There's one comes to us every day. Comes,—talks a bit,—and pockets ten roubles!

SECOND PEASANT. Nonsense!

JACOB. Why, there's one as takes a hundred!

FIRST PEASANT. A hundred? Humbug!

JACOB. A hundred. Humbug, you say? Why, if he has to go out of town, he'll not do it for less than a thousand! "Give a thousand," he says, "or else you may kick the bucket for what I care!"

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord!

SECOND PEASANT. Then does he know some charm?

JACOB. I suppose he must. I served at a General's outside Moscow once: a cross, terrible proud old fellow he was—just awful. Well, this General's daughter fell ill. They send for that doctor at once. "A thousand roubles, then I'll come." Well, they agreed, and he came. Then they did something or other he didn't like, and he bawled out at the General and says, "Is this the way you show your respect for me? Then I'll not attend her!" And, oh my! The old General forgot all his pride, and starts wheedling him in every way not to chuck up the job!

FIRST PEASANT. And he got the thousand?

JACOB. Of course!

SECOND PEASANT. That's easy got money. What wouldn't a peasant do with such a sum!

THIRD PEASANT. And I think it's all bosh. That time my foot was festering I had it doctored ever so long. I spent nigh on five roubles on it,—then I gave up doctoring, and it got all right!

Discharged Cook on the oven coughs.

JACOB. Ah, the old crony is here again!

FIRST PEASANT. Who might that man be?

JACOB. He used to be our master's cook. He comes to see Loukrya.

FIRST PEASANT. Kitchen-master, as one might say. Then, does he live here?

JACOB. No, they won't allow that. He's here one day, there another. If he's got a copper he goes to a dosshouse; but when he has drunk all, he comes here.

SECOND PEASANT. How did he come to this?

JACOB. Simply grew weak. And what a man he used to be—like a gentleman! Went about with a gold watch; got forty roubles a month wages. And now look at him! He'd have starved to death long ago if it hadn't been for Loukrya.

Enter Servants' Cook with the sour cabbage.

JACOB [to Servants' Cook] I see you've got Paul Petrvitch here again?

SERVANTS' COOK. And where's he to go to? Is he to go and freeze?

THIRD PEASANT. What liquor does.... Liquor, let's say ... [Clicks his tongue sympathetically].

SECOND PEASANT. Of course. A firm man's firm as a rock; a weak man's weaker than water.

DISCHARGED COOK [gets off the oven with trembling hands and legs] Loukrya, I say, give us a drop!

SERVANTS' COOK. What are you up to? I'll give you such a drop!...

DISCHARGED COOK. Have you no conscience? I'm dying! Brothers, a copper...

SERVANTS' COOK. Get back on the oven, I tell you!

DISCHARGED COOK. Half a glass only, cook, for Heaven's sake! I say, do you understand? I ask you in the name of Heaven, now!

SERVANTS' COOK. Come along, here's some tea for you.

DISCHARGED COOK. Tea; what is tea? Weak, sloppy stuff. A little vdka—just one little drop ... Loukrya!

THIRD PEASANT. Poor old soul, what agony it is!

SECOND PEASANT. You'd better give him some.

SERVANTS' COOK [gets out a bottle and fills a wine-glass] Here you are; you'll get no more.

DISCHARGED COOK [clutches hold of it and drinks, trembling all over] Loukrya, Cook! I am drinking, and you must understand...

SERVANTS' COOK. Now then, stop your chatter! Get on to the oven, and let not a breath of you be heard! [The old Cook meekly begins to climb up, muttering something to himself].

SECOND PEASANT. What it is, when a man gives way to his weakness!

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it—human weakness.

THIRD PEASANT. That goes without saying.

The Discharged Cook settles down, muttering all the time. Silence.

SECOND PEASANT. I want to ask you something: that girl of Aksnya's as comes from our village and is living here. How is she? What is she like? How is she living—I mean, does she live honest?

JACOB. She's a nice girl; one can say nothing but good of her.

SERVANTS' COOK. I'll tell you straight, daddy; I know this here establishment out and out, and if you mean to have Tnya for your son's wife—be quick about it, before she comes to grief, or else she'll not escape!

JACOB. Yes, that's true. A while ago we had a girl here, Nataly. She was a good girl too. And she was lost without rhyme or reason. No better than that chap! [Pointing to the old Cook].

SERVANTS' COOK. There's enough to dam a mill-pool, with the likes of us, as perish! 'Cos why, every one is tempted by the easy life and the good food. And see there,—as soon as one has tasted the good food she goes and slips. And once she's slipped, they don't want her, but get a fresh one in her place. So it was with dear little Nataly; she also slipped, and they turned her out. She had a child and fell ill, and died in the hospital last spring. And what a girl she used to be!

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord! People are weak; they ought to be pitied.

DISCHARGED COOK. Those devils pity? No fear! [He hangs his legs down from the oven] I have stood roasting myself by the kitchen range for thirty years, and now that I am not wanted, I may go and die like a dog.... Pity indeed!...

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. It's the old circumstances.

SECOND PEASANT.

While they drank and they fed, you were "curly head." When they'd finished the prog, 'twas "Get out, mangy dog!"

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord!

DISCHARGED COOK. Much you know. What is "Sautey a la Bongmont"? What is "Bavassary"? Oh, the things I could make! Think of it! The Emperor tasted my work, and now the devils want me no longer. But I am not going to stand it!

SERVANTS' COOK. Now then, stop that noise, mind.... Get up right into the corner, so that no one can see you, or else Theodore Ivnitch or some one may come in, and both you and me'll be turned out! [Silence].

JACOB. And do you know my part of the country? I'm from Voznesnsky.

SECOND PEASANT. Not know it? Why, it's no more'n ten miles from our village; not that across the ford! Do you cultivate any land there?

JACOB. My brother does, and I send my wages. Though I live here, I am dying for a sight of home.

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it.

SECOND PEASANT. Then Ansim is your brother?

JACOB. Own brother. He lives at the farther end of the village.

SECOND PEASANT. Of course, I know; his is the third house.

Enter Tnya, running.

TNYA. Jacob, what are you doing, amusing yourself here? She is calling you!

JACOB. I'm coming; but what's up?

TNYA. Frisk is barking; it's hungry. And she's scolding you. "How cruel he is," she says. "He's no feeling," she says. "It's long past Frisk's dinner-time, and he has not brought her food!" [Laughs].

JACOB [rises to go] Oh, she's cross? What's going to happen now, I wonder?

SERVANTS' COOK. Here, take the cabbage with you.

JACOB. All right, give it here. [Takes basin, and exit].

FIRST PEASANT. Who is going to dine now?

TNYA. Why, the dog! It's her dog. [Sits down and takes up the tea-pot] Is there any more tea? I've brought some. [Puts fresh tea into the tea-pot.]

FIRST PEASANT. Dinner for a dog?

TNYA. Yes, of course! They prepare a special cutlet for her; it must not be too fat. And I do the washing—the dog's washing, I mean.

THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord!

TNYA. It's like that gentleman who had a funeral for his dog.

SECOND PEASANT. What's that?

TNYA. Why, some one told me he had a dog—I mean the gentleman had a dog. And it died. It was winter, and he went in his sledge to bury that dog. Well, he buried it, and on the way home he sits and cries—the gentleman does. Well, there was such a bitter frost that the coachman's nose keeps running, and he has to keep wiping it. Let me fill your cup! [Fills it] So he keeps wiping his nose, and the gentleman sees it, and says, "What are you crying about?" And the coachman, he says, "Why, sir, how can I help it; is there another dog like him?" [Laughs].

SECOND PEASANT. And I daresay he thinks to himself, "If your own self was to kick the bucket I'd not cry." [Laughs].

DISCHARGED COOK [from up on the oven] That is true; that's right!

TNYA. Well, the gentleman, he gets home and goes straight to his lady: "What a good-hearted man our coachman is; he was crying all the way home about poor Dash. Have him called.... Here, drink this glass of vdka," he says, "and here's a rouble as a reward for you." That's just like her saying Jacob has no feelings for her dog! [The Peasants laugh].

FIRST PEASANT. That's the style!

SECOND PEASANT. That was a go!

THIRD PEASANT. Ay, lassie, but you've set us a-laughing!

TNYA [pouring out more tea] Have some more! Yes, it only seems that our life is pleasant; but sometimes it is very disgusting,—clearing up all their messes! Faugh! It's better in the country. [Peasants turn their cups upside-down, as a polite sign that they have had enough. Tnya pours out more tea] Have some more, Efm Antnitch. I'll fill your cup, Mtry Vlsitch.

THIRD PEASANT. All right, fill it, fill it.

FIRST PEASANT. Well, dear, and what progression is our business making?

TNYA. It's getting on...



FIRST PEASANT. Simon told us...

TNYA [quickly] Did he?

SECOND PEASANT. But he could not make us understand.

TNYA. I can't tell you now, but I'm doing my best—all I can! And I've got your paper here! [Shows the paper hidden under the bib of her apron] If only one thing succeeds.... [Shrieks] Oh, how nice it would be!

SECOND PEASANT. Don't lose that paper, mind. It has cost money.

TNYA. Never fear. You only want him to sign it? Is that all?

THIRD PEASANT. Why, what else? Let's say he's signed it, and it's done! [Turns his cup upside-down] I've had enough.

TNYA [aside] He'll sign it; you'll see he will... Have some more. [Pours out tea].

FIRST PEASANT. If only you get this business about the sale of the land settled, the Commune would pay your marriage expenses. [Refuses the tea].

TNYA [pouring out tea] Do have another cup.

THIRD PEASANT. You get it done, and we'll arrange your marriage, and I myself, let's say, will dance at the wedding. Though I've never danced in all my born days, I'll dance then!

TNYA [laughing] All right, I'll be in hopes of it. [Silence].

SECOND PEASANT [examines Tnya] That's all very well, but you're not fit for peasant work.

TNYA. Who? I? Why, don't you think me strong enough? You should see me lacing up my mistress. There's many a peasant couldn't tug as hard.

SECOND PEASANT. Where do you tug her to?

TNYA. Well, there's a thing made with bone, like—something like a stiff jacket, only up to here! Well, and I pull the strings just as when you saddle a horse—when you ... what d'ye call it? You know, when you spit on your hands!

SECOND PEASANT. Tighten the girths, you mean.

TNYA. Yes, yes, that's it. And you know I mustn't shove against her with my knee. [Laughs].

SECOND PEASANT. Why do you pull her in?

TNYA. For a reason!

SECOND PEASANT. Why, is she doing penance?

TNYA. No, it's for beauty's sake!

FIRST PEASANT. That's to say, you pull in her paunch for appearance' sake.

TNYA. Sometimes I lace her up so that her eyes are ready to start from her head, and she says, "Tighter," till my hands tingle. And you say I'm not strong! [Peasants laugh and shake their heads].

TNYA. But here, I've been jabbering. [Runs away, laughing].

THIRD PEASANT. Ah, the lassie has made us laugh!

FIRST PEASANT. She's a tidy one!

SECOND PEASANT. She's not bad.

Enter Sahtof and Vasly Leonditch. Sahtof holds a teaspoon in his hand.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Not exactly a dinner, but a djeuner dinatoire. And first-rate it was, I tell you. Ham of sucking-pig, delicious! Roulier feeds one splendidly! I've only just returned. [Sees Peasants] Ah, the peasants are here again!

SAHTOF. Yes, yes, that's all very well, but we came here to hide this article. Where shall we hide it?

VASLY LEONDITCH. Excuse me a moment. [To Servants' Cook] Where are the dogs?

SERVANTS' COOK. In the coachman's quarters. You can't keep dogs in the servants' kitchen!

VASLY LEONDITCH. Ah, in the coachman's quarters? All right.

SAHTOF. I am waiting.

VASLY LEONDITCH. Excuse me, please. Eh, what? Hide it? I'll tell you what. Let's put it into one of the peasants' pockets. That one. I say, where's your pocket? Eh, what?

THIRD PEASANT. What for d'ye want my pocket? You're a good 'un! My pocket! There's money in my pocket!

VASLY LEONDITCH. Where's your bag, then?

THIRD PEASANT. What for?

SERVANTS' COOK. What d'you mean? That's the young master!

VASLY LEONDITCH [laughs. To Sahtof] D'you know why he's so frightened? Shall I tell you? He's got a heap of money. Eh, what?

SAHTOF. Yes, yes, I see. Well, you talk to them a bit, and I'll put it into that bag without being observed, so that they should not notice and could not point it out to him. Talk to them.

VASLY LEONDITCH. All right! [To Peasants] Well then, old fellows, how about the land? Are you buying it? Eh, what?

FIRST PEASANT. We have made an offering, so to say, with our whole heart. But there,—the business don't come into action nohow.

VASLY LEONDITCH. You should not be so stingy! Land is an important matter! I told you about planting mint. Or else tobacco would also do.

FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. Every kind of producks.

THIRD PEASANT. And you help us, master. Ask your father. Or else how are we to live? There's so little land. A fowl, let's say, there's not enough room for a fowl to run about.

SAHTOF [having put the spoon into a bag belonging to the Third Peasant] C'est fait. Ready. Come along. [Exit].

VASLY LEONDITCH. So don't be stingy! Eh? Well, good-bye. [Exit].

THIRD PEASANT. Didn't I say, come to some lodging-house? Well, supposing we'd had to give three-pence each, then at least we'd have been in peace. As to here, the Lord be merciful! "Give us the money," he says. What's that for?

SECOND PEASANT. He's drunk, I daresay.

Peasants turn their cups upside-down, rise, and cross themselves.

FIRST PEASANT. And d'you mind what a saying he threw out? Sowing mint! One must know how to understand them, that one must!

SECOND PEASANT. Sow mint indeed! He'd better bend his own back at that work, and then it's not mint he'll hanker after, no fear! Well, many thanks!... And now, good woman, would you tell us where we could lie down to sleep?

SERVANTS' COOK. One of you can lie on the oven, and the others on these benches.

THIRD PEASANT. Christ save you! [Prays, crossing himself].

FIRST PEASANT. If only by God's help we get our business settled! [Lies down] Then to-morrow, after dinner, we'd be off by the train, and on Tuesday we'd be home again.

SECOND PEASANT. Are you going to put out the light?

SERVANTS' COOK. Put it out? Oh no! They'll keep running down here, first for one thing then another.... You lie down, I'll lower it.

SECOND PEASANT. How is one to live, having so little land? Why, this year, I have had to buy corn since Christmas. And the oat-straw is all used up. I'd like to get hold of ten acres, and then I could take Simon back.

THIRD PEASANT. You're a man with a family. You'd get the land cultivated without trouble. If only the business comes off.

SECOND PEASANT. We must pray to the Holy Virgin, maybe she'll help us out. [Silence, broken by sighs. Then footsteps and voices are heard outside. The door opens. Enter Grossman hurriedly, with his eyes bandaged, holding Sahtof's hand, and followed by the Professor and the Doctor, the Fat Lady and Leond Fydoritch, Betsy and Petrstchef, Vasly Leonditch and Mrya Konstantnovna, Anna Pvlovna and the Baroness, Theodore Ivnitch and Tnya].

Peasants jump up. Grossman comes forward stepping quickly, then stops.

FAT LADY. You need not trouble yourselves; I have undertaken the task of observing, and am strictly fulfilling my duty! Mr. Sahtof, are you not leading him?

SAHTOF. Of course not!

FAT LADY. You must not lead him, but neither must you resist! [To Leond Fydoritch] I know these experiments. I have tried them myself. Sometimes I used to feel a certain effluence, and as soon as I felt it...

LEOND FYDORITCH. May I beg of you to keep perfect silence?

FAT LADY. Oh, I understand so well! I have experienced it myself. As soon as my attention was diverted I could no longer...

LEOND FYDORITCH. Sh...!

Grossman goes about, searches near the First and Second Peasants, then approaches the Third, and stumbles over a bench.

BARONESS. Mais dites-moi, on le paye?[6]

ANNA PVLOVNA. Je ne saurais vous dire.

[6] BARONESS. But tell me, please, is he paid for this?

ANNA PVLOVNA. I really do not know.

BARONESS. Mais c'est un monsieur?[7]

ANNA PVLOVNA. Oh, oui!

BARONESS. a tient du miraculeux. N'est ce pas? Comment est-ce qu'il trouve?

ANNA PVLOVNA. Je ne saurais vous dire. Mon mari vous l'expliquera. [Noticing Peasants, turns round, and sees the Servants' Cook] Pardon ... what is this?

[7] BARONESS. But he is a gentleman?

ANNA PVLOVNA. Oh yes!

BARONESS. It is almost miraculous. Isn't it? How does he manage to find things?

ANNA PVLOVNA. I really can't tell you. My husband will explain it to you.... Excuse me....

Baroness goes up to the group.

ANNA PVLOVNA [to Servants' Cook] Who let the peasants in?

SERVANTS' COOK. Jacob brought them in.

ANNA PVLOVNA. Who gave Jacob the order?

SERVANTS' COOK. I can't say. Theodore Ivnitch has seen them.

ANNA PVLOVNA. Leond!

Leond Fydoritch does not hear, being absorbed in the search, and says, Sh...

ANNA PVLOVNA. Theodore Ivnitch! What is the meaning of this? Did you not see me disinfecting the whole hall, and now the whole kitchen is infected, all the rye bread, the milk...

THEODORE IVNITCH. I thought there would not be any danger if they came here. The men have come on business. They have far to go, and are from our village.

ANNA PVLOVNA. That's the worst of it! They are from the Koursk village, where people are dying of diphtheria like flies! But the chief thing is, I ordered them out of the house!... Did I, or did I not? [Approaches the others that have gathered round the Peasants] Be careful! Don't touch them—they are all infected with diphtheria! [No one heeds her, and she steps aside in a dignified manner and stands quietly waiting].

PETRSTCHEF [sniffs loudly] I don't know if it is diphtheria, but there is some kind of infection in the air. Don't you notice it?

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