A PROTEGEE OF THE MISTRESS POVERTY IS NO CRIME SIN AND SORROW ARE COMMON TO ALL IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR—WE'LL SETTLE IT OURSELVES
A TRANSLATION FROM THE RUSSIAN, EDITED BY
GEORGE RAPALL NOYES
The following persons have co-operated in preparing the present volume: Leonard Bacon (verses in "Poverty Is No Crime"), Florence Noyes (suggestions on the style of all the plays), George Rapall Noyes (introduction, revision of the translation, and suggestions on the style of all the plays), Jane W. Robertson ("Poverty Is No Crime"), Minnie Eline Sadicoff ("Sin and Sorrow Are Common to All"), John Laurence Seymour ("It's a Family Affair—We'll Settle It Ourselves" and "A Protegee of the Mistress"). The system of transliteration for Russian names used in the book is with very small variations that recommended for "popular" use by the School of Russian Studies in the University of Liverpool.
A PROTEGEE OF THE MISTRESS
POVERTY IS NO CRIME
SIN AND SORROW ARE COMMON TO ALL
IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR—WE'LL SETTLE IT OURSELVES
ALEXANDER NIKOLAYEVICH Ostrovsky (1823-86) is the great Russian dramatist of the central decades of the nineteenth century, of the years when the realistic school was all-powerful in Russian literature, of the period when Turgenev, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy created a literature of prose fiction that has had no superior in the world's history. His work in the drama takes its place beside theirs in the novel. Obviously inferior as it is in certain ways, it yet sheds light on an important side of Russian life that they left practically untouched. Turgenev and Tolstoy were gentlemen by birth, and wrote of the fortunes of the Russian nobility or of the peasants whose villages bordered on the nobles' estates. Dostoyevsky, though not of this landed-proprietor school, still dealt with the nobility, albeit with its waifs and strays. None of these masters more than touched the Russian merchants, that homespun moneyed class, crude and coarse, grasping and mean, without the idealism of their educated neighbors in the cities or the homely charm of the peasants from whom they themselves sprang, yet gifted with a rough force and determination not often found among the cultivated aristocracy. This was the field that Ostrovsky made peculiarly his own.
With this merchant class Ostrovsky was familiar from his childhood. Born in 1823, he was the son of a lawyer doing business among the Moscow tradesmen. After finishing his course at the gymnasium and spending three years at the University of Moscow, he entered the civil service in 1843 as an employee of the Court of Conscience in Moscow, from which he transferred two years later to the Court of Commerce, where he continued until he was discharged from the service in 1851. Hence both by his home life and by his professional training he was brought into contact with types such as Bolshov and Rizpolozhensky in "It's a Family Affair—We'll Settle It Ourselves."
As a boy of seventeen Ostrovsky had already developed a passion for the theatre. His literary career began in the year 1847, when he read to a group of Moscow men of letters his first experiments in dramatic composition. In this same year he printed one scene of "A Family Affair," which appeared in complete form three years later, in 1850, and established its author's reputation as a dramatist of undoubted talent. Unfortunately, by its mordant but true picture of commercial morals, it aroused against him the most bitter feelings among the Moscow merchants. Discussion of the play in the press was prohibited, and representation of it on the stage was out of the question. It was reprinted only in 1859, and then, at the instance of the censorship, in an altered form, in which a police officer appears at the end of the play as a deus ex machina, arrests Podkhalyuzin, and announces that he will be sent to Siberia. In this mangled version the play was acted in 1861; in its original text it did not appear on the stage until 1881. Besides all this, the drama was the cause of the dismissal of Ostrovsky from the civil service, in 1851. The whole episode illustrates the difficulties under which the great writers of Russia have constantly labored under a despotic government.
Beginning with 1852 Ostrovsky gave his whole strength to literary work. He is exceptional among Russian authors in devoting himself almost exclusively to the theatre. The latest edition of his works contains forty-eight pieces written entirely by him, and six produced in collaboration with other authors. It omits his translations from foreign dramatists, which were of considerable importance, including, for example, a version of Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew."
The plays of Ostrovsky are of varied character, including dramatic chronicles based on early Russian history, and a fairy drama, "Little Snowdrop." His real strength lay, however, in the drama of manners, giving realistic pictures of Russian life among the Russian city classes and the minor nobility. Here he was recognized, from the time of the appearance on the stage of his first pieces, in 1853 and the following years, as without a rival among Russian authors for the theatre. Of this realistic drama the present volume gives four characteristic examples.
The tone of "Poverty Is No Crime" (1854), written only four years after "A Family Affair," is in sharp contrast with that of its predecessor. In the earlier play Ostrovsky had adopted a satiric tone that proved him a worthy disciple of Gogol, the great founder of Russian realism. Not one lovable character appears in that gloomy picture of merchant life in Moscow; even the old mother repels us by her stupidity more than she attracts us by her kindliness. No ray of light penetrates the "realm of darkness"—to borrow a famous phrase from a Russian critic—conjured up before us by the young dramatist. In "Poverty Is No Crime" we see the other side of the medal. Ostrovsky had now been affected by the Slavophile school of writers and thinkers, who found in the traditions of Russian society treasures of kindliness and love that they contrasted with the superficial glitter of Western civilization. Life in Russia is varied as elsewhere, and Ostrovsky could change his tone without doing violence to realistic truth. The tradesmen had not wholly lost the patriarchal charm of their peasant fathers. A poor apprentice is the hero of "Poverty Is No Crime," and a wealthy manufacturer the villain of the piece. Good-heartedness is the touchstone by which Ostrovsky tries character, and this may be hidden beneath even a drunken and degraded exterior. The scapegrace, Lyubim Tortsov, has a sound Russian soul, and at the end of the play rouses his hard, grasping brother, who has been infatuated by a passion for aping foreign fashions, to his native Russian worth.
Just as "Poverty Is No Crime" shows the influence of the Slavophile movement, "A Protegee of the Mistress" (1859) was inspired by the great liberal movement that bore fruit in the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. Ostrovsky here departed from town to a typical country manor, and produced a work kindred in spirit to Turgenev's "Sportsman's Sketches," or "Mumu." In a short play, instinct with simple poetry, he shows the suffering brought about by serfdom: the petty tyranny of the landed proprietor, which is the more galling because it is practised with a full conviction of virtue on the part of the tyrant; and the crushed natures of the human cattle under his charge.
The master grim, the lowly serf that tills his lands; With lordly pride the first sends forth commands, The second cringes like a slave. —Nekrasov.
Despite the unvarying success of his dramas on the stage, Ostrovsky for a long time derived little financial benefit from them. Discouragement and overwork wrecked his health, and were undoubtedly responsible for the gloomy tone of a series of plays written in the years following 1860, of which "Sin and Sorrow Are Common to All" (1863) is a typical example. Here the dramatist sketches a tragic incident arising from the conflict of two social classes, the petty tradesmen and the nobility. From the coarse environment of the first emerge honest, upright natures like Krasnov; from the superficial, dawdling culture of the second come weak-willed triflers like Babayev. The sordid plot sweeps on to its inevitable conclusion with true tragic force.
Towards the end of his life Ostrovsky gained the material prosperity that was his due. "There was no theatre in Russia in which his plays were not acted" (Skabichevsky). From 1874 to his death he was the president of the Society of Russian Dramatic Authors. In 1885 he received the important post of artistic director of the Moscow government theatres; the harassing duties of the position proved too severe for his weak constitution, and he passed away in the next year.
As a dramatist, Ostrovsky is above all else a realist; no more thoroughly natural dramas than his were ever composed. Yet as a master of realistic technique he must not be compared with Ibsen, or even with many less noted men among modern dramatists. His plays have not the neat, concise construction that we prize to-day. Pages of dialogue sometimes serve no purpose except to make a trifle clearer the character of the actors, or perhaps slightly to heighten the impression of commonplace reality. Even in "Sin and Sorrow" and "A Protegee" whole passages merely illustrate the background against which the plot is set rather than help forward the action itself. Many plays, such as "A Family Affair," end with relatively unimportant pieces of dialogue. Of others we are left to guess even the conclusion of the main action: will Nadya in "A Protegee" submit to her degrading fate, or will she seek refuge in the pond?
Ostrovsky rarely uses the drama to treat of great moral or social problems. He is not a revolutionary thinker or an opponent of existing society; his ideal, like that of his predecessor Gogol, is of honesty, kindliness, generosity, and loyalty in a broad, general way to the traditions of the past. He attacks serfdom not as an isolated leader of a forlorn hope, but as an adherent of a great party of moderate reformers.
Thus Ostrovsky's strength lies in a sedate, rather commonplace realism. One of the most national of authors, he loses much in translation. His style is racy, smacking of the street or the counting-house; he is one of the greatest masters of the Russian vernacular. To translate his Moscow slang into the equivalent dialect of New York would be merely to transfer Broadway associations to the Ilyinka. A translator can only strive to be colloquial and familiar, giving up the effort to render the varying atmosphere of the different plays. And Ostrovsky's characters are as natural as his language. Pig-headed merchants; apprentices, knavish or honest as the case may be; young girls with a touch of poetry in their natures, who sober down into kindly housewives; tyrannical serf-owners and weak-willed sons of noble families: such is the material of which he builds his entertaining, wholesome, mildly thoughtful dramas. Men and women live and love, trade and cheat in Ostrovsky as they do in the world around us. Now and then a murder or a suicide appears in his pages as it does in those of the daily papers, but hardly more frequently. In him we can study the life of Russia as he knew it, crude and coarse and at times cruel, yet full of homely virtue and aspiration. Of his complex panorama the present volume gives a brief glimpse.
[Footnote 1: Ostrovsky, it may be remarked, has been singularly neglected by translators from the Russian. The only previous versions of complete plays in English known to the present writer are "The Storm." by Constance Garnett (London and Chicago, 1899, and since reprinted), and "Incompatibility of Temper" and "A Domestic Picture" (in "The Humour of Russia," by E.L. Voynich, London and New York, 1895).]
A PROTEGEE OF THE MISTRESS
SCENES FROM VILLAGE LIFE IN FOUR PICTURES
MADAM ULANBEKOV, an old woman of nearly sixty, tall, thin, with a large nose, and thick, black eyebrows; of an Eastern type of face, with a small mustache. She is powdered and rouged, and dressed richly in black. She is owner of two thousand serfs.
[Footnote 1: The name hints at a Circassian origin and a tyrannical disposition. Ostrovsky frequently gives to the persons in his plays names that suggest their characteristics.]
LEONID, her son, eighteen years old, very handsome, resembling his mother slightly. Wears summer dress. Is studying in Petersburg.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA, a toady of MADAM ULANBEKOV'S, an old maid of forty. Scanty hair, parted slantingly, combed high, and held by a large comb. She is continually smiling with a wily expression, and she suffers from toothache; about her throat is a yellow shawl fastened by a brooch.
POTAPYCH, the old steward. Tie and vest, white; coat black. Has an air of importance.
NADEZHDA (called NADYA), seventeen years old, favorite protegee of MADAM ULANBEKOV; dressed like a young lady.
[Footnote 2: Hope.]
GAVRILOVNA, the housekeeper; an elderly woman, plump, with an open countenance.
GRISHA, a boy of nineteen, a favorite of the mistress, dandified in dress, wearing a watch with a gold chain. He is handsome, curly-headed, with a foolish expression.
NEGLIGENTOV, a clerk in a government office; a very disreputable young man.
LIZA, a housemaid, not bad-looking, but very stout and snub-nosed; in a white dress, of which the bodice is short and ill-fitting. About her neck is a little red kerchief; her hair is very much pomaded.
A peasant girl, a footman, and a housemaid: mute personages.
The action takes place in the springtime, at the suburban estate of MADAM ULANBEKOV
A PROTEGEE OF THE MISTRESS
Part of a densely grown garden; on the right benches; at the back a rail fence, separating the garden from a field.
Enter NADYA and LIZA
NADYA. No, Liza, don't say that: what comparison could there be between country and city life!
LIZA. What is there so specially fine about city life?
NADYA. Well, everything is different there; the people themselves, and even the whole social order are entirely different. [She sits down on a bench.] When I was in Petersburg with the mistress, one had only to take a look at the sort of people who came to see us, and at the way our rooms were decorated; besides, the mistress took me with her everywhere; we even went on the steamer to Peterhof, and to Tsarskoe Selo.
LIZA. That was pretty fine, I suppose.
NADYA. Yes indeed, it was so splendid that words can't describe it! Because, no matter how much I may tell you about it, if you haven't seen it yourself, you'll never understand. And when a young lady, the mistress's niece, was visiting us, I used to chat with her the whole evening, and sometimes we even sat through the night.
LIZA. What in the world did you talk about with her?
NADYA. Well, naturally, for the most part about the ways of high society, about her dancing partners, and about the officers of the guard. And as she was often at balls, she told me what they talked about there, and whom she had liked best. Only how fine those young ladies are!
LIZA. What do you mean?
NADYA. They're very gay. And where did they learn all that? Afterwards we lived a whole winter in Moscow. Seeing all this, my dear, you try to act like a born lady yourself. Your very manners change, and you try to have a way of talking of your own.
LIZA. But why should we try to be fine ladies? Much good it does!
NADYA. Much good, you say? Well, you see the ladies promised to marry me off, so I am trying to educate myself, so that no one'll be ashamed to take me. You know what sort of wives our officials have; well, what a lot they are! And I understand life and society ten times better than they do. Now I have just one hope: to marry a good man, so I may be the mistress of my own household. You just watch then how I'll manage the house; it will be no worse at my house than at any fine lady's.
LIZA. God grant your wish! But do you notice how the young master is running after you?
NADYA. Much good it'll do him! Of course, he's a pretty fellow, you might even say, a beauty; only he has nothing to expect from me; because I am decidedly not of that sort; and on the other hand, I'm trying now in every way that there may be no scandal of any sort about me. I have but one thing in mind: to get married.
LIZA. Even married life is sometimes no joy! You may get such a husband that ... God help you!
NADYA. What a joy it would be to me to marry a really fine man! I, thank God, am able to distinguish between people: who is good, who bad. That's easy to see at once from their manners and conversation. But the mistress is so unreasonable in holding us in so strictly, and in keeping everlasting watch over us! Indeed, it's insulting to me! I'm a girl that knows how to take care of herself without any watching.
LIZA. It looks as if the master were coming.
NADYA. Then let's go. [They rise and go out.
LEONID comes in with a gun.
LEONID and then POTAPYCH
LEONID. Wait a bit! Hey, you, where are you going? Why are they always running away from me? You can't catch them anyhow! [He stands musing. Silence.
A GIRL sings behind the rail fence:
"No man may hope to flee the sting Of cruel affliction's pain; New love within the heart may sing— Regret still in its train."
LEONID. [Running up to the fence] What a pretty girl you are!
GIRL. Pretty, but not yours!
LEONID. Come here!
LEONID. To me in the garden.
GIRL. Why go to you?
LEONID. I'll go to town and buy you earrings.
GIRL. You're only a kid!
She laughs loudly and goes out. LEONID stands with bowed head musing. POTAPYCH enters in hunting-dress, with a gun.
POTAPYCH. One can't keep up with you, sir; you have young legs.
LEONID. [All the while lost in thought] All this, Potapych, will be mine.
POTAPYCH. All yours, sir, and we shall all be yours.... Just as we served the old master, so we must serve you.... Because you're of the same blood.... That's the right way. Of course, may God prolong your dear mamma's days....
LEONID. Then I shan't enter the service, Potapych; I shall come directly to the country, and here I shall live.
POTAPYCH. You must enter the service, sir.
LEONID. What's that you say? Much I must! They'll make me a copying clerk! [He sits down upon a bench.
POTAPYCH. No, sir, why should you work yourself? That's not the way to do things! They'll find a position for you—of the most gentlemanly, delicate sort; your clerks will work, but you'll be their chief, over all of them. And promotions will come to you of themselves.
LEONID. Perhaps they will make me vice-governor, or elect me marshal of the nobility.
POTAPYCH. It's not improbable.
LEONID. Well, and when I'm vice-governor, shall you be afraid of me?
POTAPYCH. Why should I be afraid? Let others cringe, but for us it's all the same. You are our master: that's honor enough for us.
LEONID. [Not hearing] Tell me, Potapych, have we many pretty girls here?
POTAPYCH. Why, really, sir, if you think it over, why shouldn't there be girls? There are some on the estate, and among the house servants; only it must be said that in these matters the household is very strictly run. Our mistress, owing to her strict life and her piety, looks after that very carefully. Now just take this: she herself marries off the protegees and housemaids whom she likes. If a man pleases her, she marries the girl off to him, and even gives her a dowry, not a big one—needless to say. There are always two or three protegees on the place. The mistress takes a little girl from some one or other and brings her up; and when she is seventeen or eighteen years old, then, without any talk, she marries her off to some clerk or townsman, just as she takes a notion, and sometimes even to a nobleman. Ah, yes, sir! Only what an existence for these protegees, sir! Misery!
LEONID. But why?
POTAPYCH. They have a hard time. The lady says: "I have found you a prospective husband, and now," she says, "the wedding will be on such and such a day, and that's an end to it; and don't one of you dare to argue about it!" It's a case of get along with you to the man you're told to. Because, sir, I reason this way: who wants to see disobedience in a person he's brought up? And sometimes it happens that the bride doesn't like the groom, nor the groom the bride: then the lady falls into a great rage. She even goes out of her head. She took a notion to marry one protegee to a petty shopkeeper in town; but he, an unpolished individual, was going to resist. "The bride doesn't please me," he said, "and, besides, I don't want to get married yet." So the mistress complained at once to the town bailiff and to the priest: well, they brought the blockhead round.
LEONID. You don't say.
POTAPYCH. Yes, sir. And even if the mistress sees a girl at one of her acquaintances', she immediately looks up a husband for her. Our mistress reasons this way: that they are stupid; that if she doesn't look after them closely now, they'll just waste their life and never amount to anything. That's the way, sir. Some people, because of their stupidity, hide girls from the mistress, so that she may never set eyes on them; because if she does, it's all up with the girls.
LEONID. And so she treats other people's girls the same way?
POTAPYCH. Other people's, too. She extends her care to everybody. She has such a kind heart that she worries about everybody. She even gets angry if they do anything without her permission. And the way she looks after her protegees is just a wonder. She dresses them as if they were her own daughters. Sometimes she has them eat with her; and she doesn't make them do any work. "Let everybody look," says the mistress, "and see how my protegees live; I want every one to envy them," she says.
LEONID. Well, now, that's fine, Potapych.
POTAPYCH. And what a touching little sermon she reads them when they're married! "You," she says, "have lived with me in wealth and luxury, and have had nothing to do; now you are marrying a poor man, and will live your life in poverty, and will work, and will do your duty. And now forget," she says, "how you lived here, because not for you I did all this; I was merely diverting myself, but you must never even think of such a life; always remember your insignificance, and of what station you are." And all this so feelingly that there are tears in her own eyes.
LEONID. Well, now, that's fine.
POTAPYCH. I don't know how to describe it, sir. Somehow they all get tired of married life later; they mostly pine away.
LEONID. Why do they pine away, Potapych?
POTAPYCH. Must be they don't like it, if they pine away.
LEONID. That's queer.
POTAPYCH. The husbands mostly turn out ruffians.
LEONID. Is that so?
POTAPYCH. Everybody hopes to get one of our protegees, because the mistress right away becomes his patroness. Now in the case of these she marries to government clerks, there's a good living for the husband; because if they want to drive him out of the court, or have done so, he goes at once to our mistress with a complaint, and she's a regular bulwark for him; she'll bother the governor himself. And then the government clerk can get drunk or anything else, and not be afraid of anybody, unless he is insubordinate or steals a lot....
LEONID. But, say, Potapych, why is it that the girls run away from me?
POTAPYCH. How can they help running? They must run, sir!
LEONID. Why must they?
POTAPYCH. Hm! Why? Why, because, as you are still under age, the mistress wants to watch over you as she ought to; well, and she watches over them, too.
LEONID. She watches us, ha, ha, ha!
POTAPYCH. Yes, sir. That's the truth! She was talking about that. You're a child, just like a dove, but, well—the girls are foolish. [Silence] What next, sir? It's your mamma's business to be strict, because she is a lady. But why should you mind her! You ought to act for yourself, as all young gentlemen do. You don't have to suffer because she's strict. Why should you let others get ahead of you? That'd disgrace you.
LEONID. Well, well, but I don't know how to talk to the girls.
POTAPYCH. But what's the use of talking to them a long time? What about? What kind of sciences would you talk about with them? Much they understand such stuff! You're just the master, and that's all.
LEONID. [Glances to one side] Who's this coming? That's NADYA, evidently. Ah, Potapych, how pretty she is!
POTAPYCH. She is related to me, sir, my niece. Her father was set free by the late master; he was employed in a confectioner's in Moscow. When her mother died, her mistress took and brought her up, and is awful fond of her. And because her father is dead, why, now, she's an orphan. She's a good girl.
LEONID. Looks as if they were coming this way.
POTAPYCH. Well, let 'em.
GAVRILOVNA and NADYA enter.
The same, GAVRILOVNA and NADYA
GAVRILOVNA. How do you do, good master?
LEONID. [Bows] How do you do?
GAVRILOVNA. Well, master, I suppose you're bored in the country?
LEONID. No, not at all.
GAVRILOVNA. What, not bored yet! Why, you see it's like a monastery here; they look after you with a hundred eyes. Well, as for you, it goes without saying, you're a young gentleman, you ought to have some amusement; but you can't. It's no great joy to shoot ducks! [She laughs.
LEONID. [Going up to GAVRILOVNA] Yes, yes, Gavrilovna.
NADYA. [To GAVRILOVNA] Let's go.
GAVRILOVNA. Where do you want to go? Now, seeing that the mistress isn't at home, you ought to have a little fun with the young master. That's what young folks need. And what a clever girl she is, master! In talking, and in everything.
NADYA. Come, what's the use!
GAVRILOVNA. Well, there's no harm in it! I was young once. I didn't run away from the gentlemen, and you see they didn't eat me. Perhaps even he won't bite you. Quit playing the prude, and stay here! But I'm going to get the tea ready! Good-by, good master! [She goes out.
LEONID. Why did you not wish to remain with me?
POTAPYCH. What's this, sir! You talk to her as if she were a young lady! Call her Nadya!
LEONID. What are you afraid of, Nadya?
NADYA is silent.
POTAPYCH. Talk! What are you keeping still for? And I'm going, sir; I must get dressed for tea, too. [He goes out.
LEONID, NADYA, and then LIZA
NADYA. Of course I'm a girl of humble position, but, indeed, even we do not want anybody to speak evil of us. Pray consider yourself, after such talk, who would marry me?
LEONID. Are you going to get married?
NADYA. Yes, sir. Every girl hopes to get married some time.
LEONID. But have you a suitor?
NADYA. Not yet, sir.
LEONID. [Timidly] If you have no suitor, then, maybe you're in love with somebody?
NADYA. You want to know a lot! Well, no, I needn't fib about it, I'm not in love with anybody, sir.
LEONID. [With great joy] Then love me!
NADYA. It's impossible to force the heart, sir.
LEONID. Why? Don't you like me?
NADYA. Well, how could I help liking you? But I'm not your equal! What sort of love is that? Clean ruin! Here comes Liza running after me, I suppose. Good-by. Good luck to you! [She goes away.
LIZA comes in.
LIZA. Master, if you please! Your mamma has come.
LIZA. [Approaching] What is it, please?
LEONID. [He embraces LIZA; she trembles with pleasure] Why won't Nadya love me?
LIZA. [Affectedly] What are you talking about, master! Girls of our sort must look out for themselves!
LEONID. Look out for yourselves how?
LIZA. [Looks him in the face and smiles] Why, everybody knows. What are you talking like a child for?
LEONID. [Sadly] What shall I do now? Indeed, I don't know. They all run away from me.
LIZA. But don't lose courage; just make love a little bit. Heavens, our hearts aren't of stone!
LEONID. But see here! I asked her: she said she didn't love me.
LIZA. Well, if you aren't a queer one! Whoever asked girls right out whether they were in love or not! Even if one of us girls was in love, she wouldn't say so.
LIZA. Because she's bashful. Only let me go, sir! [She gets free] There goes the old fury!
LEONID. Come out here into the garden after supper, when mamma goes to bed.
LIZA. You don't lose any time!
LEONID. Please come.
LIZA. Well, we'll see later. [VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA enters] Master, please come to tea, your mamma is waiting.
LEONID. All right, I'm coming.
The same and VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. I saw you, my dear, I saw you.
LIZA. There was nothing to see. [She goes out.
LEONID. Well, what did you see? What are you going to complain about? I shall simply say that you lie. Whom are they going to believe quicker, you or me?
[He makes a grimace and goes out.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. There, that's the way they all treat me. I can't stand it! My heart is just sick. I'm a martyr in this world. [She plucks a flower viciously and pulls off its petals] I believe that if I had the power I'd do this to all of you! I'd do this to all of you! I'd do this to all of you! You just wait, you young scamp! I'll catch you. My heart boils, it boils, it boils over! And now I must smirk before the mistress as if I were a fool. What a life! What a life! The sinners in hell do not suffer as I suffer in this house! [She goes out.
A parlor. Rear centre, a door opening into the garden. Doors at the sides; in the centre a round table.
From a side door there enter a footman with a samovar and a maid with a tea-service; they place both on the table and go out. GAVRILOVNA and POTAPYCH enter after them. GAVRILOVNA prepares the tea. VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA enters from the garden.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. My dear, you always serve me only water.
GAVRILOVNA. It isn't good for you to drink strong tea, madam.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. It's not your business to worry about me!
GAVRILOVNA. It dries up the chest, and you're all dried up as it is.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. What a life! What a life! I am not dried up from tea-drinking, my dear, but from the insults of the world.
GAVRILOVNA. Insults! You insult everybody yourself, as if something were stirring you up!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Don't you dare talk to me like that. Just remember who you are. I once owned serfs myself; at my place, such people as you didn't dare peep, they walked the chalk. I didn't let your sort get high-headed!
GAVRILOVNA. That time's gone by. God gives a vicious cow no horns.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Oh, you monsters, wretches! You want me to die. Soon I shall die, soon; my soul feels its fast approaching end! Raising her eyes heavenward Shelter me from men, O lid of my coffin! Take me to thee, moist earth! Then you'll be happy; then you'll be joyful!
POTAPYCH. We? What's it to us?.... Tend to your own business.
GAVRILOVNA. While God is patient with your sins.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. For my sins I have already been tortured here. I mourn now the sins of others.
GAVRILOVNA. It would be better for you not to bother with other people's sins. Now you're getting ready to die, yet you talk about the sins of others. Aren't you afraid?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Afraid of what? Why should I be afraid?
GAVRILOVNA. Of that little black man with the hook. He's waiting for you now, I guess.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Where am I? Where am I? My God! Just as if I were in a slough; monsters....
From the left side MADAM ULANBEKOV, NADYA, LIZA, and GRISHA come in.
The same and MADAM ULANBEKOV, GRISHA, NADYA, and LIZA.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Did our benefactress deign to attend prayer service?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Yes, I went to vespers in town; to-day is a holiday there.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Did you distribute generous alms among the people present?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. No, I only called in Pustaya Street at old man NEGLIGENTOV's. He asked me to set up his nephew; you see, the nephew is my godson. I'm sorry for these people!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. And you, dear soul, are a benefactress to all. To all alike, to all! You do favors to people who aren't even worth your looking at.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. [Sits down] Never mind, my dear. One must do good to his neighbor.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. But do they feel that good? Can they understand, heartless creatures, how great is your condescension to them?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. It's all the same to me, my dear! One must do good for his own sake, for his own soul. Then I stopped in to see the chief of police, and asked him to make NEGLIGENTOV head-clerk.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. But, my benefactress, is he worthy?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Don't interrupt! A strange man, our chief of police! I ask him, and he says: "There's no job!" I say to him: "You evidently don't understand who's asking you?" "Well!" says he, "do you expect me to drive out a good man for your godson?" Churlish fellow! However, he promised!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. To think of his hesitating! I cannot understand how he could even talk back to you. Here his ill-breeding shows up at once. Maybe NEGLIGENTOV, because of his life, isn't worth saying much about; nevertheless, the chief ought to do everything in the world for him for your sake, no matter how worthless a scamp NEGLIGENTOV might be.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Don't you forget that he's my godson!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. And for that very reason, benefactress, I add: he is your godson; well, and that's all there is to it; the chief of police ought not to listen to any kind of gossip. And, besides, what things they do say! They say that he's utterly worthless, that his uncle got him a court job, but he won't stay with it. He was gone a whole week, they say, somewhere or other about three miles down the highroad, near the tavern, fishing. Yes, and that he is a drunkard beyond his years. But whose business is it? He must be worthy of it, since you ask it.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. I've never heard that. I've never seen him drunk; but I spoke to the chief of police on his behalf, because he's my godson. I take his mother's place.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. I know, benefactress, I know; every one knows that if you take a notion, you, my benefactress, can make a man out of mud; but if you don't take a notion to do so, he'll fall into insignificance no matter how brainy he may be. He's to blame himself, because he didn't deserve it!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. I'm sure I never did any one any harm.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Harm? You, who because of your angelic heart wouldn't hurt even a fly! Of course all we mortals are not without sins; you have done many things; you can't please everybody. Indeed, to tell the truth, my dear benefactress, there are people enough who complain about you.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Who complains about me? What a lie!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. It's impossible for you to know everything, dear benefactress. And it's not worth while for you, in your gentility, to trouble yourself about every low-lived person. And though they do complain, what's the use of paying attention; are they worth your notice? Since you do so many good deeds for others, God will forgive you, our benefactress.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. All the same, I want to know whom I have offended?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Well, there are some persons, benefactress.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. [Forcibly] But who? Speak!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Don't be angry, benefactress! I spoke as I did because you yourself know how touchy people are nowadays—never satisfied.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. You spoke as you did in order to cause me some unpleasantness.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. May my eyes burst if I did.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Well, I know you. You're never at rest in your own soul unless you're about to say something mean. You will please be more careful; otherwise you'll drive me out of patience one of these days; it'll be all the worse for you. [Silence] Serve the tea.
GAVRILOVNA. Right away, mistress.
She pours out two cups. POTAPYCH hands them to MADAM ULANBEKOV and to VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Pour Grisha a cup, too; he went with me to-day, and he's tired out.
GAVRILOVNA. Yes, mistress.
[She pours out a cup and hands it to GRISHA.
GRISHA. Why didn't you put more milk in it? Are you stingy, eh?
GAVRILOVNA. [Adding milk] As it is, you're fattened on milk, like a calf.
GRISHA takes the cup and goes out through the door into the garden.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. I have thought of marrying NADYA to NEGLIGENTOV—with a decent settlement, of course. You say that he leads a bad life; consequently we must hasten the wedding. She is a girl of good principles, she'll hold him back, otherwise he'll ruin himself with his bachelor habits. Bachelor life is very bad for young men.
NADYA. [To LIZA] Do you hear, Liza? What's this? My God!
LIZA. You just have to listen, and you can't say a word.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. It's high time she was married, benefactress; why should she be hanging around here? And now your young son, the angel, has come.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Oh, be still! What are you thinking up now? Why, he's only a child!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. A child, benefactress! Well, there's nothing more to be said; God gave you a son as a joy and a consolation. And we can never feast our eyes enough on him. It's just as if the sunshine had come into our house. So good-natured, so merry, so gentle with every one! But he's already running after the girls so; he never lets one pass; and they, silly things, are tickled to death; they fairly snort with delight.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. You're lying. He never has a chance to see the girls anywhere, I think; all day long they are in their own side of the house, and, besides, they never go anywhere.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Ah, benefactress, there are no locks to keep a girl in, once she takes a notion to do something.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. You hear, Gavrilovna! Look after my girls. You know I won't have any loose conduct. You tell them that so they'll know I mean it. [To VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA] But no, there can't be anything like that. You're merely disturbing me with your silly notions. What a dirty tongue you have! What business had you to chatter? And now I can't get the stuff out of my head! Keep watch, Gavrilovna!
GAVRILOVNA. What's the use of listening to her, mistress?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. But really, benefactress, am I saying anything bad? Would I dare to think any harm about him, that little angel? Of course he's still a child, he wants to frisk a little; but here he hasn't any companions, so he plays with the girls.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. There's poison on your tongue. [She reflects. POTAPYCH takes the cups. GAVRILOVNA fills them and gives them back. GRISHA comes in from the garden, gives GAVRILOVNA a push, and makes a sign with his head that she is to pour him another cup. GAVRILOVNA does so. GRISHA goes out] However, I must marry off Nadya.
NADYA. [Almost weeping] Mistress, you have shown me such kindness that I can't even express it. Forgive me for daring to speak to you now; but, because of your attitude towards me, I expected quite a different favor from you. In what respect have I displeased you now, mistress, that you wish to marry me to a drunkard?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. My dear, it's not for you to argue about that; you're just a girl. You ought to rely in all things upon me, your patroness. I brought you up, and I am even bound to establish you in life. And again, you ought not to forget this: that he is my godson. Rather, you ought to be thankful for the honor. And now I tell you once and for all: I do not like it when my girls argue, I simply do not like it, and that's all there is to it. That's a thing I cannot permit anybody. I've been accustomed, from my youth, to having people obey my every word; it's time you knew that! And it's very strange to me, my dear, that you should presume to oppose me. I see that I have spoiled you; and you at once get conceited. [NADYA weeps.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Benefactress, one must have feeling for his fellow creature, one must have feeling. But what kind of feelings can such as they have, save ingratitude?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. No one's talking to you! What are you mixing into everything for? [To NADYA, sternly] What new tale is this? Still crying! Let's have no more tears! [NADYA weeps] I'm talking to you. [Rising slightly] Your tears mean absolutely nothing to me! When I make up my mind to do a thing, I take a firm stand, and listen to no one on earth! [She sits down] And know, first of all, that your obstinacy will lead to nothing; you will simply anger me.
NADYA. [Weeping] I'm an orphan, mistress! Your will must be obeyed!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Well, I should say! Of course it must; because I brought you up; that's equal to giving you life itself.
The same and LEONID
LEONID. How are you, mamma?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. How are you, my dear? Where have you been?
LEONID. I went hunting with Potapych. I killed two ducks, mamma.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. You don't spare your mother; the idea, going hunting in your state of health! You'll fall sick again, God forbid! and then you'll simply kill me! Ah, my God, how I have suffered with that child! [She muses.
GAVRILOVNA. Some tea, master?
LEONID. No, thanks.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. [To VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA] When he was born, I was ill a very long time. Then he was always sickly, and he grew up puny. How many tears have I shed over him! Sometimes I would just look at him, and my tears would flow; no, it will never be my lot to see him in the uniform of the guardsmen! But it was most distressing of all for me when his father, owing to the boy's poor health, was unable to send him to a military school. How much it cost me to renounce the thought that he might become a soldier! For half a year I was ill. Just imagine to yourself, my dear, when he finishes his course, they will give him some rank or other, such as they give to any priest's son clerking in a government office! Isn't it awful? In the military service, especially in the cavalry, all ranks are aristocratic; one knows at once that even a junker is from the nobility. But what is a provincial secretary, or a titular councillor! Any one can be a titular councillor—even a merchant, a church-school graduate, a low-class townsman, if you please. You have only to study, then serve awhile. Why, one of the petty townsmen who is apt at learning will get a rank higher than his! That's the way of the world! That's the way of the world! Oh, dear! [She turns away with a wave of her hand] I don't like to pass judgment on anything that is instituted by higher authority, and won't permit others to do so, but, nevertheless, I don't approve of this system. I shall always say loudly that it's unjust, unjust.
LEONID. Why are Nadya's eyes red from crying?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. She hasn't been flogged for a long time.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. That's none of your business, my dear. Nadya, go away, you're not needed here.
[NADYA goes out.]
LEONID. Well, I know why: you want to marry her off.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Whether I do or not, my dear, is my own business. Furthermore, I do not like to have any one meddle in my arrangements.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. What a clever young man you are; you know everything, you get into everything!
LEONID. Indeed, mamma dear, I don't mean to meddle in your arrangements. Only he's a drunkard.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. And that, again, is none of your business. Leave that to your mother's judgment.
LEONID. I'm only sorry for her, mamma.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. All very fine, my dear; but I should like to know from whom you heard that I'm going to marry NADYA. If one of the housemaids has....
LEONID. No, mamma, no.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. How could you find out otherwise? How did that get out? [To GAVRILOVNA] Find out without fail!
LEONID. No, indeed, mamma; the man she's going to marry told me.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. What sort of a man?
LEONID. I don't know what sort! He said he was a clerk in a government office.... a peculiar surname: NEGLIGENTOV. What a funny fellow he is! He says he's your godson, and that he's afraid of nobody. He's dancing in the garden now, drunk.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Drunk, in my house!
LEONID. If you want, I'll invite him in. Potapych, call NEGLIGENTOV! He said that you were at his uncle's to-day, and that you promised to give him Nadya. Already he's reckoning, in anticipation, how much income he will get in the court, or "savings," as he says. What a funny fellow! He showed me how they taught him at school. Do you want me to bring him in?
Enter POTAPYCH and NEGLIGENTOV.
The same, NEGLIGENTOV and POTAPYCH
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Oh, oh, how disgusting! Don't come near me!
NEGLIGENTOV. I'm sent from uncle to thank you for your bounty.
LEONID. He says, mamma, that they taught him a good deal, only it was impossible for him to learn anything.
NEGLIGENTOV. Impossible; from my birth I had no aptitude for the sciences. I received from fifty to a hundred birch rods nearly every day, but they didn't quicken my understanding.
LEONID. Oh, mamma, how amusingly he tells about the way he learned! Here, just listen. Well, and how did you learn Latin?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. [Shrugging her shoulders] What in the world is that?
NEGLIGENTOV. Most abominably.
LEONID. No, wait a bit; and what did the teacher do with you?
NEGLIGENTOV. [Bursts out laughing] It made you laugh. Once, after a cruel torture, he commanded two students to fasten me by the neck with a belt, and to lead me through the market-place as a laughing-stock.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. How is it they took you into the civil service if you never learned anything?
NEGLIGENTOV. Through the mediation of influential people.
LEONID. And did they expel you from school?
NEGLIGENTOV. They didn't expel me; but they excluded me because I grew too much.
LEONID. Grew too much?
NEGLIGENTOV. Well, as I, during all this teaching and grilling, remaining in the lower grades, was getting on in years, and grew more than the other fellows of my class, of course I was excluded because I was too big. I suffered all the more from the venality of those at the head. Our rector liked gifts; and a week before the examinations, he sent us all to our parents for presents. According to the number of these presents, we were promoted to the higher classes.
LEONID. What was your conduct like?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. What in the world! Good heavens! Go away, my dear sir, go away!
LEONID. Oh, mamma, he's comical; wait a bit before driving him out. Dance, NEGLIGENTOV!
NEGLIGENTOV. [Dances and sings]
"I shall go, shall go to mow Upon the meadow green."
GRISHA bursts out laughing.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Stop, stop! [NEGLIGENTOV ceases. To GRISHA] What are you laughing at?
GRISHA. The member dances very comically.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. What do you mean, "member"?
GRISHA. Why, he himself tells us all that he is a member in the court, not a copy-clerk. And so they call him the member.
NEGLIGENTOV. I call myself the member, although falsely, but expressly for the respect of the court menials, and in order to escape scoffing and insult.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Be gone, and don't you ever dare to show yourself to me!
NEGLIGENTOV. Uncle says that I fell into loose living because of my bachelor life, and that I may get mired in it unless you show me your favor.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. No, no, never!
NEGLIGENTOV. [On his knees] Uncle told me to beg you with tears, because I am a lost man, subject to many vices, and, without your favor, I shall not be tolerated in the civil service.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Tell your uncle that I shall always be your benefactress; but don't you even think about a wife! Be gone, be gone!
NEGLIGENTOV. I thank you for not deserting me! [To GRISHA] Ask the mistress to let you go to the fair, and catch up with me! [He goes out.
The same, except NEGLIGENTOV
MADAM ULANBEKOV. How easy it is to be mistaken in people! You take pains for them, work your head off, and they don't even feel it. I should have been glad to establish that boy in life, but he crawls into the house drunk. Now, if he's a prey to that weakness, he ought, at least, to try to hide it from me. Let him drink where he will, but don't let me see it! I should know, at least, that he respected me. What clownishness! What impudence! Whom will he be afraid of, pray tell, if not of me?
LEONID. Oh, what a comical fellow! Don't be angry with me, mamma. When I found out that you wanted to marry NADYA to him, I felt sorry for her. And you're so good to everybody! [He kisses her hand] I didn't want you to do anything unjust.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Such people fairly drive you into sin. [Kissing him] You have a beautiful soul, my dear! [To VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA] Indeed, I have always thought that God himself sometimes speaks with the lips of babes. Liza! Go tell Nadezhda not to cry, that I have turned out NEGLIGENTOV.
LIZA. Yes, ma'am. [She goes out.
GRISHA. [Approaches, swaggering, and stops in a free and easy pose] Mistress!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. What's the matter with you?
GRISHA. Let me go down-town; to-day's a holiday there.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. What do you want to go for? To stare at the drunkards?
GRISHA. [Clasping his hands behind him] Please, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. No, most certainly not!
GRISHA. Please do, mistress.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. I tell you, positively, no! One's morals are just spoiled at these fairs. Your greedy ears will take in all kinds of nastiness! You're still a boy; that's no place for you!
GRISHA. No, but please let me, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. You stay right here! Put that nonsense out of your head!
GRISHA. Well, I declare! I slave, and slave, and can't ever go anywhere!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Oh me, oh my! Oh me, oh my! How spoiled you are! How spoiled you are!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. What are you cackling about? Keep still!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. But how can I keep still, benefactress? Such lack of feeling! Such ingratitude! It pierces the heart.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. I command you to keep still, and you must keep still!
GRISHA. Please let me, ma'am!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. As if the mistress didn't love you, as if she didn't fondle you, more, if anything, than her own son!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. [Stamping her foot] Shhh!.... I'll turn you out!
GRISHA. I want awfully to go to the fair; please let me, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Well, go along then! but come back early!
GRISHA. Yes, ma'am.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Kiss the dear lady's hand, you blockhead!
GRISHA. What are you trying to teach me for? I know my own business. [He kisses the mistress's hand and goes out.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. As for you, my dear, if I ever hear anything like this again, I'll have them drive you off the place with brooms.
She goes out. VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA remains standing in a stupor.
The same, except MADAM ULANBEKOV; then LIZA
LEONID. Well, you caught it, didn't you? And you deserved it, too!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. I'll have my turn yet.
LIZA. [Quietly to LEONID] Nadya sent me to say that we'll come to the garden.
LEONID. Give her a kiss from me.
GAVRILOVNA. God give you health, master, for taking our part. Any wretch can insult us; but there's no one to take our part. You'll get a rich reward for that in the next world.
LEONID. I'm always ready to help you. [He goes out to the right, with a caper.
GAVRILOVNA. Thanks, my dear! [She goes out with LIZA, to the left.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA and POTAPYCH
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Why don't you insult me? They all insult me, why don't you? You heard how she herself wanted to flog me; "I'll have them do it with brooms," she said. May her words choke her!
POTAPYCH. What, I!.... I insult anybody! But as to the gentlefolk there ... I don't know, but perhaps they have to.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Do you see what's going on in this house! Do you see? Do you understand it, or don't you? Just now when I began to talk about Grisha, you heard how she began to roar? You heard how she began to hiss?
POTAPYCH. What's that to me? I, by the mistress's kindness, in her employ....I shall carry out all her orders.... What business is it of mine? I don't want to know anything that isn't my business.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. But did you see how Nadya and Liza—the hussies!—looked at me? Did you see how the snakes looked? Ha! I must look after them, I must! [POTAPYCH, with a wave of his hand, goes out] Bah! you! you old blockhead! What people! What people! There's no one to whom I can talk, and relieve my heart. [She goes out.
Part of the garden; to the rear, a pond, on the shore of which is a boat. Starry night. A choral song is heard in the far distance. For a while the stage is empty.
Enter NADYA and LIZA
LIZA. Oh, Nadya, what's this we're doing? When the mistress hears of this, it'll be your last day on earth.
NADYA. If you're afraid, take yourself home.
LIZA. No, I'll wait for you. But all the same, my girl, it's awful, no matter what you say! Lord preserve us when she finds it out.
NADYA. Always singing the same tune! If you fear the wolf, keep out of the woods.
LIZA. But what has happened to you? Before, you didn't talk like this. You used to hide yourself; and now you go to him of your own accord.
NADYA. Yes, before I ran away from him; now I don't want to. [She stands musing] Now I myself don't know what has suddenly happened within me! Just when the mistress said, a short while ago, that I shouldn't dare to argue, but marry the man she said to marry, just then my whole heart revolted. "Oh, Lord, what a life for me!" I thought. [She weeps] What's the use in my living purely, guarding myself not merely from every word, but even from every look? Even so, evil seized upon me. "Why," I thought, "should I guard myself?" I don't want to! I don't want to! It was just as if my heart died within me. It seemed that if she said another word, I should die on the spot.
LIZA. What are you saying! Why, I really thought you were coming to the master as a joke.
NADYA. As a joke! I can't bear an insult! I cannot. [Silence] Oh, Liza, if life were better, I shouldn't have come into the garden at night. You know how it used to be, when I would think about myself—I suppose it must have come into your head, too—that here you are, an honest girl; you live like a bird, suddenly you're fascinated by some man, he makes love to you, comes to see you often, kisses you.... You're abashed before him, yet happy to see him. That's the way it always is. Although you may not be rich; although it may be you have to sit with your lover in the servants' room; yet it is as if you were a queen, just as if every day were a holiday for you. Then they marry you, and all congratulate you. Well, then, no matter how hard married life may be, perhaps there may be lots of work, in spite of that you live as if in paradise; just as if you were proud of something.
LIZA. Naturally, my girl.
NADYA. But when they say to you: "Pack off to this drunkard, and don't you dare argue, and don't you dare cry over yourself!".... Oh, Liza!.... And then you think how that horrid man will make fun of you, will bully you, show his authority, will begin to ruin your life, all for nothing! You grow old by his side without having a chance to live. [She weeps] It breaks your heart even to tell about it! [Waving her hand] And so, indeed, the young master is better.
LIZA. Oh, Nadya; it would be better if you hadn't spoken, and I hadn't listened!
NADYA. Stop, Liza! Why are you playing the prude with me? What would you do yourself if the master fell in love with you?
LIZA. [Stammering] Well, how should I know? Of course, what shall I say.... the old Nick is strong.
NADYA. There you are!.... [Silence] Here is what I wanted to say to you, Liza. What a strange inspiration has come over me! When such thoughts came into my head, and, Liza, when I began to think about the master—then how dear he became to me!.... so dear, that, really, I can't tell.... Before, when he ran after me, I didn't care; but now it's just as if something drew me to him.
LIZA. Oh, my girl! Just think of it; surely this is fate!
NADYA. And such a spirit came into me, I am afraid of nothing! I feel as if you could cut me to pieces, and still I'd not change my mind. And why this is so, I don't know. [Silence] I could hardly wait till night! It seems as if I could fly to him on wings! The one thing that I have in mind is that, at any rate, I am not a pretty girl for nothing; I shall have something by which to remember my youth. [Musingly] I thought to myself: "What a young man, how handsome! Am I, silly girl that I am, worth his loving me?" May I be choked here, in this lonely spot, if he does not.
LIZA. What's this, Nadya? You seem beside yourself.
NADYA. And I really am beside myself. While she spoiled me, caressed me, then I thought that I was a person like other people; and my thoughts about life were entirely different. But when she began to command me, like a doll; when I saw that I was to have no will of my own, and no protection, then, Liza, despair fell upon me. What became of my fear, of my shame—I don't know. "Only one day, but mine!" I thought; "then come what may, I don't care to inquire. Marry me off to a herdsman, lock me in a castle with thirty locks!.... it's all the same to me!"
LIZA. I think the master's coming.
LEONID enters from the opposite side, in a cloak.
NADYA. Well, Liza, isn't he handsome, ha?
LIZA. Oh, stop! You're either sick or half out of your head!
The same and LEONID
LEONID. [Approaching] I was thinking you would deceive me by not coming.
NADYA. Why did you think so?
LEONID. Well, you see, you said you didn't love me.
NADYA. No matter what girls say, don't you believe them. How could one help loving such a handsome fellow?
LEONID. [Surprised] Why, Nadya! He takes her hand, for a short time holds it, then kisses it.
NADYA. [In fright withdrawing her hand] Oh! why did you do that? Dear, kind master! Aren't you ashamed?
LEONID. I love you ever so much, Nadya!
NADYA. You love me? Well, then, you might give me a kiss!
LEONID. May I, Nadya? Will you let me?
NADYA. What's the harm in it?
LEONID. [Turning about] Oh, and you, Liza, here....
LIZA. I'm going, I'm going ... I shan't meddle.
LEONID. [Confused] I didn't mean that. Where did you get that idea?
LIZA. Oh, don't dodge. We know, too....
[She goes out behind the shrubs.
LEONID. And so you will let me kiss you? [He kisses her timidly] No, no, let me kiss your hand.
NADYA. [Hides her hand] No, no, how could you! What do you mean....
LEONID. Why not? I'll tell you what, you are the most precious thing on earth to me.
NADYA. Is that really so?
LEONID. You see, no one ever loved me before.
NADYA. Aren't you fooling?
LEONID. No, truly!.... Truly, no one has ever loved me. Honest to God....
NADYA. Don't swear; I believe you without it.
LEONID. Let's go sit down on the bench.
NADYA. Yes, let's. [They sit down.
LEONID. Why do you tremble so?
NADYA. Am I trembling?
LEONID. You are.
NADYA. Then, it must be that I feel a bit chilly.
LEONID. Just let me wrap you up. He covers her with one side of his cloak, embracing her as he holds it around her. She takes his hand and holds it.
NADYA. And now let's sit this way and talk.
LEONID. What are we going to talk about? I shall say only one thing to you: I love you.
NADYA. You will say it, and I shall listen.
LEONID. You'll get tired of one and the same thing.
NADYA. Maybe you'll get tired of it; I never shall.
LEONID. Then let me speak. I love you, little Nadya. [He rises and kisses her.
NADYA. Why do you do that? Just sit quietly, as we said we would.
LEONID. Shall we sit like this, with our hands folded?
NADYA. [Laughing] Like that. Hear, a nightingale is singing in the thicket. Sit down and listen. How nice it is to listen!
LEONID. Like this?
NADYA. Yes, as we sit together. It seems as if I could sit here all my life and listen. What could be better, what more could one want?....
LEONID. Nadya, dear, that would really be a bore.
NADYA. What fellows you men are! You get sick of things in no time. But I, you see, am ready to sit out the whole night, to look at you, without lowering my eyes. It seems as if I should forget the whole world!
Tears start in her eyes, she bends her head, and then looks at LEONID fixedly and musingly.
LEONID. Now it would be nice to go rowing; it is warm, the moon is shining.
NADYA. [Absently and almost mechanically] What is it, sir?
LEONID. To go rowing; I should row you out to the little island. It is so pleasant there, on the island. Well, let's go. [He takes her by the hand.
NADYA. [In a revery] Where, sir?
LEONID. Where, where? I told you; didn't you hear me?
NADYA. Oh, forgive me, dearest master. I was thinking and didn't hear anything. Dearest master, forgive me!
[She lays her head upon his shoulder.
LEONID. I say, let's go to the island.
NADYA. [Nestling up to him] Oh, wherever you please! Even to the end of the world! If only with you.... Take me wherever you want.
LEONID. Nadya, you are so good, so sweet, that it seems as if I must burst out crying, just to look at you. [They approach the boat] Good-by, Liza.
LIZA. [Coming from the bushes, she makes a warning gesture] Look out, you two! [LEONID and NADYA sit down in the boat and move away] There, they've gone! And I must wait here for them! This is awful, simply awful! At night, in the garden, and all alone, too! What a fix for me—afraid of everything, and.... [She glances about her] Heavens, this is deadly! If there were only somebody here, it would be all right, I'd have somebody to talk to. Holy Saints! Somebody's coming! [She looks] Oh, all right; just our old folks from the fair. [She hides herself.
Enter POTAPYCH in an overcoat and a broad-brimmed hat, and with a cane, somewhat tipsy; GAVRILOVNA in an old-fashioned bonnet. They sit down on the bench.
POTAPYCH. No, Gavrilovna, not that ... don't say that!... Our lady is so ... such a kind mistress!... Here, we asked if we could go to the fair, and she said to go along.... But what they say about her ... that I don't know: it's not my business, and so I don't know anything about it.
GAVRILOVNA. Why not let us go, Potapych? You and I are not youngsters; we shan't be spoiled!
POTAPYCH. You can't let the young folks go, because you must have models for everything, Gavrilovna. Whatever models a person has in front of him, he may, very likely ... most probably....
GAVRILOVNA. Well, why did she let Grisha go? She said she wouldn't; well, and then she ought not to have done it.
POTAPYCH. Vasilisa Peregrinovna stirred me up a lot on Grisha's account a while ago ... she stirred me up a lot, but I don't know. It's not my business, so I don't know anything about it.
GAVRILOVNA. What's this you were saying about models? It would be better for her to show a better example herself! As it is, she only keeps shouting: "Watch, I tell you, watch the girls!" But what's the use of watching them? Are they all babies? Every person has his own brains in his head. Let every one think for himself. All you need to do is to look out for the five-year-olds, that they don't spoil something or other. What a life for a girl! There's nothing worse on earth! But the mistress doesn't want to consider whether a girl gets much fun out of life. Well, does she get much? Say!
POTAPYCH. [Sighs] A dog's life.
GAVRILOVNA. It surely is! Consequently one ought to pity them and not insult them at every step. As it is, it's simply awful! Nobody trusts them at all; it's just as if they weren't human beings. Just let a girl poke her nose out, and the guards are on the job!
POTAPYCH. But you can't.
GAVRILOVNA. Can't what? You can do everything. That'll do, Potapych! You're used to saying over other people's words like a magpie; but just think for yourself.
POTAPYCH. But I don't know ... I don't know anything.
GAVRILOVNA. You won't gain anything through severity. You may tell 'em, if you please, that they'll be hung for such-and-such; they'll go and do it anyway. Where there's the greatest strictness, there's the most sin. You ought to reason like a human being. No matter if our masters pay money for their wits while we have only what we're born with, we have our own way of thinking, all the same. It's all right to lay down the law strictly; but don't always punish a fellow who makes a slip; let him off now and then. Some bad comes from spoiling people; but now and then you can't help going wrong.
POTAPYCH. Now, if you ask me ... what can I answer to that? How can I answer you?
GAVRILOVNA. Well, how?
POTAPYCH. Just this: I don't know anything about it, because it isn't my business ... it's the mistress's business.
GAVRILOVNA. Bah, you old idiot! You've lost your wits in your old age.
POTAPYCH. Why should I ... I, thanks to the lady's kindness, now in her employ ... I carry out all her orders ... but I don't know.
GAVRILOVNA. Well, let's go home. She may have thought up something or other about even you and me.
[They go out.]
LIZA. [Enters] Alone again! Where are those precious darlings of mine? I suppose they've forgotten about me! But, then, why should they remember me? Saints alive, it'll soon be daylight. This night is shorter than a sparrow's beak. How can we go home then? How brave that Nadya is!
Enter VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA.
LIZA and VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. What are you doing there, dearest?
LIZA. Can't you see? I'm taking a stroll.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. I see! How can I help it? But what kind of a night-walk is this?
LIZA. Well, when can we go walking? We work all day and wait on the gentry, and we go walking at night. But I am surprised at you! Don't you walk enough daytimes that you still want to wander around at night and scare people, just like....
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Just like what?... Well, say it, say it!
LIZA. What? Oh, nothing.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. No, you said, "Just like" ... well, say it now; just like who?
LIZA. I said what I said.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. No, don't you dare sneak out of it! Come, speak up!
LIZA. Why did you stick to it? All right, I'll tell you: like a spook.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. What, what! Like a spook!... How do you dare, you dirty hussy, ha? What's this! You want to push me alive into the grave! But I'll find your lover here, and take you to the mistress. Then we'll see what song you'll sing.
LIZA. I haven't any lover! There's no use in your looking. Search the whole garden if you want to! And even if I had, it's none of your business! It's shameful for you even to speak of it. You ought not even to know about it: you're an old maid. You ought to be ashamed of yourself!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Sing on, sing on, my dear; you sing very finely on the wing; but you'll perch pretty soon! You're not going to roam about at night for nothing. I know your tricks. I'll show you all up! I'm so mad now, that even if you bow down to my feet, I'll not forgive you.
LIZA. Just wait! I see myself bowing before you! Don't count on it!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. No, now I'm going to look around every bush.
LIZA. Do it!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA looks about on both sides, then approaches the pond.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Ha, what's this? Do tell, what tricks they're up to! In the boat! Hugging each other! How tender that is! Just like a picture! You ought to have thought to take a guitar along and sing love-songs!... They're kissing each other! Very good! Delightful! Again! Excellent! What could be better? Phew, what an abomination! It's disgusting to look at! Well, my dears, you will remember me. Now I have nothing to say to you. To-morrow I shall! [She goes out.
LIZA. What devil brought her here? You can't clear up the mess now!
LEONID and NADYA reach the shore and disembark from the boat.
LIZA, NADYA, and LEONID
LIZA. What have you done, what have you done!...
NADYA. [Not listening to her, softly to LEONID] You will come to-morrow?
LEONID. I will.
LIZA. What's the matter, don't you hear?
NADYA. If I can't come, I'll send a note somehow or other.
NADYA. Well, good-by. [They kiss.
LIZA. [Loudly] Nadya!
NADYA. [Goes up to LIZA. LEONID sits down upon the bench] What's the matter?
LIZA. Vasilisa Peregrinovna saw you rowing on the pond.
NADYA. Well, deuce take her!
LIZA. My dear girl, don't carry your head too high!
LEONID. Nadya! [NADYA goes to him] Oh, Nadya, what a vile, good-for-nothing fellow I am!
NADYA. What do you mean?
LEONID. Little Nadya! [He whispers in her ear.
NADYA. [Shakes her head] Oh, my precious darling, why did that come into your head? I'm not sorry for this, but you are. How kind you are! Now, good-by! It's high time. I shouldn't leave you, but I can't help it; I'm not my own mistress.
LEONID. Good-by, then!
Slowly, as if unwillingly, they separate. NADYA returns, overtakes LEONID and gazes into his eyes.
NADYA. Do you love me?
LEONID. I do love you, indeed I do!
[They kiss and go out in different directions.
Same room as in second picture
[Footnote 1: The whole scene in a whisper.]
POTAPYCH is leaning against the door-jamb, his hand to his head. VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA enters quietly.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Result of yesterday evening, I suppose, my friend?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Your head aches.
POTAPYCH. Did you put up the money?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. You haven't any money for anything else; but you have for such things.
POTAPYCH. Well, anyhow, it ain't your business.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Of course, Potapych, you're an old man, why shouldn't you take a drink once in a while?
POTAPYCH. Sure, I guess I work for it.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Just so, Potapych!
POTAPYCH. I'm tired of being lectured by you!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. I wish you well, Potapych.
POTAPYCH. No need for it! [Silence] But you keep upsetting the mistress so! If you'd only put in a word for us when she's in a good humor; but you just look for the wrong time, in order to complain of us.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. What do you say, Potapych? God preserve me!
POTAPYCH. What's that! No matter how much you swear, I know you! For instance, why are you coming to the mistress now?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. To wish the benefactress good morning.
POTAPYCH. You'd better not come.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Why so?
POTAPYCH. It must be she got out the wrong side of bed; she's out of sorts. [VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA rubs her hands with pleasure] Here now, I see that you're happy; you're dying for some deviltry or other. Phew! Lord forgive us! What a disposition!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. You are saying insulting words to me, Potapych, insulting to my very heart. When did I ever say anything about you to the mistress?
POTAPYCH. If not about me, then about somebody else.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. But that's my business.
POTAPYCH. Your spite's always getting in its work.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Not spite, not spite, my friend! You're mistaken! I have just been so insulted that it's impossible to live in this world after it. I shall die, but I shall not forget.
MADAM ULANBEKOV enters. POTAPYCH goes out.
MADAM ULANBEKOV and VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. [Kissing both of MADAM ULANBEKOV'S hands] You have risen early, benefactress. You must have an awful lot of things on your mind.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. [Sitting down] I didn't sleep much. I had a bad dream.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. What, a dream, benefactress? The dream may be terrible, but God is merciful. Not the dream, but what is going on in reality, disturbs you, benefactress. I see that; I've seen it a long time.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Bah, what is it to me what's going on?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Why, benefactress, don't we know that your son, dear little soul! is struck with every creature he meets?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. You make me tired.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. I'm so sorry for you, benefactress! Don't look for any consolation in this life! You scatter benefactions upon every one; but how do they repay you? The world is full of lust.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Go away!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. [Weeping] I can't keep back my tears when I look at you! My heart bleeds that they don't respect you, that they don't respect you even in your own house! In your honorable house, in such pious premises as these, to do such things!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. [Frowning] You silly crow! You want to croak about something or other. Well, croak away!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Benefactress, I'm afraid it might upset you.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. You've upset me already. Talk!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. [Glances about in all directions and sits down on a stool at the feet of MADAM ULANBEKOV] Yesterday, benefactress, I was ending my evening prayer to the Heavenly Creator, and went out to stroll in the garden, and to occupy myself for the night with pious meditations.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Well!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. And what did I see there, benefactress! How my legs held me up, I don't know! That Liza of yours was running through the bushes with a depraved look; it must be she was seeking her lovers. Our master, the little angel! was rowing in the boat on the pond, and Nadya, also with a depraved expression, was clinging to him with her arms about his neck, and was kissing him. And it was easy to see that he, because of his purity, was trying to thrust her away; but she kept clasping him about the neck, kissing and tempting him.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Are you lying?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. You may quarter me, benefactress.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. It's enough if there is one grain of truth in your words.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. It's all true, benefactress.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Fiddlesticks! not all—it can't be! You always make up more than half. But where were the servants?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. All of them, benefactress, were more or less drunk. No sooner had you gone to bed, than they all went to the fair and got tipsy. Gavrilovna, Potapych, all were drunk. What an example to the young!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. This must be looked into thoroughly. Of course, I shouldn't have expected the least mischief of Leonid. Quiet lads like him! Well, if he'd been a soldier, it would be pardonable; but as it is.... [She muses.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. And furthermore, benefactress, so far Grisha hasn't come back from the fair.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. How's that? He didn't sleep at home?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. He did not, benefactress!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. You lie, you lie, you lie! I'll drive you off the place!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. May I die in my tracks!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. [Sinking back in her chair] You want to kill me. [Raising herself from the chair] You simply want to kill me. [She rings. Enter POTAPYCH] Where's Grisha?
POTAPYCH. Just came, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Send him here! [POTAPYCH goes out] This certainly beats all!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. You'll not find anybody more devoted than I, benefactress; only I am unhappy in one respect: that my disposition displeases you.
Enter GRISHA, his hair tousled and dishevelled.
The same, and GRISHA
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Where've you been?
GRISHA. [Now opens, now closes his eyes, not sure of his tongue, and unsteady on his legs] At the fair, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Just come from it? [GRISHA is silent] Why don't you talk? [Silence] Am I going to get a word out of you, or not?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Answer the mistress.
GRISHA. What's that to you?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Answer me! Where have you been all this time?
GRISHA. I've done wrong, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. I'm not asking you whether you've done wrong or not; I'm asking you where you were!
GRISHA. [Looks at the ceiling with a vacant stare] Why, where should I be? The idea! The same place as usual!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Well, where's that?
GRISHA. I just informed you that I was there all the time, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. You'll drive me out of patience! Where's there?
GRISHA. But, really, ma'am! Your will in everything, ma'am. What did I, ma'am.... I've done wrong, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Good Lord! You're still drunk, I guess.
GRISHA. Not a bit, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Nonsense! I can see.
GRISHA. But, really, ma'am! One can say anything about a man.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Bah, you disgraceful scamp! He still denies it! This is awful! This is awful! Now, speak up, where've you been?
GRISHA. Why, really, ma'am! I just informed you, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Were you at the fair all night?
GRISHA. I just informed you so, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. How did you dare, when I let you go for only a short time?
GRISHA. Well, really, ma'am! I did want to go home, but they wouldn't let me, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Who wouldn't let you go?
GRISHA. My friends wouldn't, ma'am.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Who are these friends of yours?
GRISHA. Why, really, ma'am! Government office clerks.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Great heavens! Clerks! Do you understand what kind of people they are?
GRISHA. Who, ma'am, clerks? Understand what about them, ma'am?
MADAM ULANBEKOV. And you prowled about with them all night! It would have been better if you hadn't told me, nasty scamp that you are! I know how they act! They'll teach you all sorts of things! What does this mean? Be-gone! And don't you dare show yourself before my eyes!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Ask forgiveness, you blockhead! Kiss the dear lady's hand!
GRISHA waves his hand impatiently and goes out.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. What an affliction! It'll simply make me ill! Already I feel my spasms are beginning. What a worthless scamp! He went out just as if he had no responsibilities! And without a sign of repentance!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Ah, benefactress, you see he's still a child; he did it just out of stupidity.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. No, he needs a good....
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. What do you say, benefactress? He's still a regular booby! What can you expect of him! He'll get wiser, then it will be altogether different.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. What offends me most is ingratitude! It seems to me he ought to feel what I am doing for him. I'm positively sick. Go for the doctor!
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Calm yourself, benefactress; as if that rabble were worth your getting upset over!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Hand me the smelling-salts.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. [Hands her them] Snap your fingers at them, that's all. Now, if only those girls....
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Oh, here's another affliction! Now I certainly can't collect my thoughts; I'm completely distracted, and now she begins on the girls! I shall take to my bed at any moment.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Lust, benefactress, is beyond all endurance.
MADAM ULANBEKOV. No, they needn't expect any mercy from me. As it is, I forgive one, then another, and so the whole crowd is spoiled. [She rings; enter POTAPYCH] Call Nadezhda, and come here yourself! [POTAPYCH goes out] That's what it is to be a woman. If I were a man, would they dare be so willful?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. They don't give a fig for you, benefactress, not a fig. They aren't a little bit afraid of you!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. They're going to find out pretty quick whether I amount to anything.
Enter POTAPYCH and NADYA. GAVRILOVNA and LIZA look through the door.
The same, POTAPYCH and NADYA
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Nadezhda! Vasilisa PEREGRINOVNA says she saw you in the garden last night with the master. Is that so? [NADYA is silent] You're silent, that means it's true. Well, now, you can thank yourself. I'm not a conniver at loose conduct, and I won't endure it in my house. I can't turn you out as a vagabond, that would weigh upon my conscience. I am obliged to marry you off. [To POTAPYCH] Send to town and tell NEGLIGENTOV that I shall marry Nadya to him; and let the wedding be just as soon as possible.
[She rises from her chair and is about to leave].
NADYA. [Falling at her feet] Whatever you wish, only not marriage with him!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Fiddlesticks! What I have once said is sacred. And what do you mean by this scene? Can't you see that I'm not well? To keep on plaguing me! Potapych! She has no father; you be a father to her instead; and impress upon her in fatherly fashion the baseness of her conduct, and the fact that she must obey my commands.
POTAPYCH. You listen, Nadezhda, to what the mistress commands! Because when she intrusts you to me, it means that I must show my authority over you. If you command it, mistress, I can at once, in your presence, give her some moral instruction with my own hand! Here, if you dare to say one tiny word to the contrary, I'll drag you off by the hair, no matter what any one says.
[He raises his hand threateningly.]
NADYA. Oh!... [She crouches.]
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Don't strike her! What disgusting scenes!
POTAPYCH. But, mistress! You can't get results by talking! Besides, if I'm her father, that's the regular thing! That's the law, and according to that, since she is rebelling against you now, I ought to give you that satisfaction.
NADYA. [Weeping] Mistress, don't ruin me!
MADAM ULANBEKOV. Oh, my God! You don't spare me at all. Tears, squabblings! Send for the doctor at once! How many times have I got to say it? It's your own fault, you've nobody to blame for your tears. Potapych! get this business over with! I don't like to repeat the same thing ten times over.
She goes out, GAVRILOVNA after her. Silence. GAVRILOVNA returns.
GAVRILOVNA. She's gone to bed, and banged the door behind her.
POTAPYCH. [At the window] Antoshka! Antoshka! Post boy! Saddle the horse and ride to town for the doctor. Oh, you! Lord!
NADYA. [Rising from her knees] Don't you think it's a sin for you to abuse me, Potapych? What have I ever done to you?
POTAPYCH. What do I care? What do I care about you? When the mistress really wants something, I have to try to please her in every way; because I was born her servant.
NADYA. If she had commanded you to kill me, would you have done it?
POTAPYCH. That's not my affair, I can't argue about that.
GAVRILOVNA. That's enough, Nadya, don't cry! God doesn't abandon orphans.
NADYA falls upon GAVRILOVNA'S bosom.
LIZA. [To VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA] Well, is your heart content now?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Wait, my dear, your turn will come.
The same and LEONID
LEONID. What's this? What has happened?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. You made all the trouble yourself, and then ask what has happened.
LEONID. What trouble did I make? What are you continually thinking up?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Now, don't pretend! The whole truth has come out. You've been having a little fun. What of it? At your age, why shouldn't you have?
LIZA. She's reported the whole thing to the mistress. The mistress got so angry that it was awful! And now, sir, she is going to marry Nadya to that government clerk.
LEONID. Are you sure?
NADYA. The thing's settled, dearest master! I have to answer for last evening's sport.
LEONID. Is mamma very angry?
GAVRILOVNA. No one dares go near her.
LEONID. But how can that be? Isn't it possible to talk her over somehow or other?
GAVRILOVNA. Just go and try. No, she won't come out of her room now for five days; and she won't let any one at all see her there.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Do you want to talk your mamma over?
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Do you want me to tell you how?
LEONID. Please be so kind, Vasilisa Peregrinovna.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Well, permit me. Our benefactress is very much hurt at Grisha, because he didn't spend the night at home: he came in drunk, and didn't even ask forgiveness nor kiss her hand. It was this vexation that made her sick. And then this Nadezhda happened to come her way when she was angry. Now our benefactress won't even come out of her room, and won't allow any one to go to her, so long as that stubborn Grisha doesn't beg forgiveness.
GAVRILOVNA. How contrarily everything happened! Grisha will keep up his character, too. Although he is a blockhead, he has some sense. Now he'll flop down on the hay and he'll lie there on his belly for four days.
POTAPYCH. Somebody ought to take Uncle Gerasim's club and dress him down from top to toe.
VASILISA PEREGRINOVNA. Now, our dear master, wouldn't you like to go present your compliments to him, in order that he might hurry up and ask your mamma's forgiveness?
LEONID. [Upon reflection] That would be too great an honor for him. But see here, Gavrilovna, is mamma actually very angry?
GAVRILOVNA. So angry, sir, that it's terrible!
LEONID. Well, what's to be done now!
NADYA. Why are you bothering? You see, there's nothing you can do: better leave me! Now you'll soon go away to Petersburg; you will be happy: why should you think about such trifles, or disturb yourself?
LEONID. Why, you see, I'm sorry for you!
NADYA. Don't be sorry, if you please! I ran to my own destruction of my own free will, like a mad girl, without once stopping to think.
LEONID. What are you planning to do now?
NADYA. That's my business.
LEONID. But, you see, it's going to be very hard for you.
NADYA. What business is it of yours? It will be all the happier for you.
LEONID. But why do you talk like this?
NADYA. Because you're still a boy!... Leave me!
LEONID. But, you see, he's such a drunken, vile fellow.
NADYA. Oh, my God! It would be better for you to go off somewhere: out of my sight.
LEONID. Yes, really, it would be better for me to spend a week with our neighbors.
NADYA. For God's sake, do!
LEONID. But Nadya, if it should be awfully hard for you to live with your husband, what then?
NADYA. [Weeping] Oh, leave me alone! Be good enough to leave me alone! [Sobbing] I beg only one thing of you: leave me, for God's sake! [She sobs.
GAVRILOVNA and LIZA. [Motioning with their hands] Go away! Go away!
LEONID. Why do you drive me out? I guess I'm sorry enough for her! I keep thinking somehow or other, that it may still be possible to help her in some way.
NADYA. [With desperation] I don't want any helpers or defenders! I don't want them! If my patience fails, that pond of ours isn't far off!
LEONID. [Timidly] Well, I'll go away if you wish.... Only what is she saying? You folks, look after her, please! Good-by! [He goes to the door.
NADYA. [After him in a loud voice] Good-by!
LEONID goes out.
LIZA. And so the old proverb is true: What's fun for the cat is tears for the mouse.
POVERTY IS NO CRIME
A COMEDY IN THREE ACTS
GORDEY KARPYCH TORTSOV, a rich merchant.
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA, his wife.
LYUBOV GORDEYEVNA, his daughter.
LYUBIM KARPYCH TORTSOV, his brother, a man who has squandered his property.
AFRIKAN SAVVICH KORSHUNOV, a manufacturer.
[Footnote 1: Vulture]
MITYA, TORTSOV'S clerk.
YASHA GUSLIN, nephew of TORTSOV.
GRISHA RAZLYULYAYEV, a young merchant, the son of a rich father.
ANNA IVANOVNA, a young widow.
MASHA } } friends of LYUBOV TORTSOV. LIZA }
EGORUSHKA, a boy, distant relative of TORTSOV.
ARINA, nurse of LYUBOV GORDEYEVNA.
GUESTS, SERVANTS, MUMMERS, AND OTHERS.
The action takes place in a district town in the house of the merchant TORTSOV during the Christmas holidays.
POVERTY IS NO CRIME
A small office room; in the rear wall a door; in the corner on the left a bed, on the right a cupboard. In the left wall a window, and beside the window a table. Near the table a chair; near the right wall a desk and a wooden stool. Beside the bed a guitar; on the table and desk are books and papers.
MITYA is walking back and forth in the room. EGORUSHKA is seated on the stool reading "Bova Korolevich."
EGORUSHKA. [Reads] "My sovereign father, glorious and brave king, Kiribit Verzoulovich, I do not possess the courage to marry him now. Because when I was young I was wooed by King Gvidon."
MITYA. Well, Egorushka, is any one at home?
EGORUSHKA. [Putting his finger on the place where he is reading in order not to make a mistake] Nobody; they've all gone driving. There's only Gordey Karpych at home. [Reads] "Whereupon Kiribit Verzoulovich said to his daughter"—[Again marking the place]—only he's in such a rage, it's awful! I cleared out—he keeps on cursing. [Reads] "Then the beautiful Militrisa Kirbityevna called her servant Licharda to her."
MITYA. With whom was he angry?
EGORUSHKA. With my uncle, with Lyubim KARPYCH. On the second day of the holidays Uncle Lyubim KARPYCH dined with us; at dinner he got drunk and began to play the fool; it was awfully funny. I always get the giggles. I couldn't stand it, and then I burst out laughing, and they were all looking at me. Uncle Gordey KARPYCH took it as a great insult to himself and very bad manners, and he was furious with him and turned him out. Uncle Lyubim Karpych made a great row, and out of revenge went and stood with the beggars by the church door. Uncle Gordey Karpych said: "He has put me to shame," he said, "in the eyes of the whole town." And now he gets angry with everybody who comes near him, no matter who they are. [Reads] "With the intention of advancing toward our town."
MITYA. [Looking out of the window] Here they come, I think. Yes, it's so. Pelageya Egorovna, Lyubov Gordeyevna, and guests with them.
EGORUSHKA. [Concealing his story in his pocket] I'll run up-stairs. [Goes out.
MITYA. Oh, Lord, what misery! Everybody in the streets is having a holiday, and everybody in the houses too, and you have to sit between four walls! I am a stranger to all, no relations, no friends!—And then besides!—O well! I'd better get to work; perhaps this wretchedness will pass off. [Seats himself at the desk and muses, then begins to sing.
"Her beauty I cannot describe! Dark eyebrows, with languishing eyes."
Yes, with languishing eyes. And yesterday when she came from mass, in her sable coat, and her little handkerchief on her head, like this—ah!—I really think such beauty was never seen before! [Muses, then sings.
"Where, O where was this beauty born!"
My work all goes out of my head! I'm always thinking of her! My heart is tormented with sorrow. O misery most miserable!
Covers his face with his hands and sits silent. Enter PELAGEYA EGOROVNA, dressed in winter clothes; she stops in the doorway.
MITYA and PELAGEYA EGOROVNA
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. Mitya, Mitya dear!
MITYA. What do you want?
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. Come up to us later on in the evening, my dear, and play with the girls. We're going to sing songs.
MITYA. Thank you exceedingly, I shall make it my first duty.
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. Why are you always sitting alone in the office? It's not very cheerful! You'll come, won't you? Gordey Karpych won't be at home.
MITYA. Good, I shall come without fail.
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. He's going off again, you see; he's going off there to that friend of his—what's his name?
MITYA. To Afrikan Savvich?
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. Yes, yes! He's quite gone on him! Lord forgive him!
MITYA. Take a seat, Pelageya Egorovna. [Fetches a chair.
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. Oh, I have no time. Well, yes, I'll sit down a bit. [Sits down] Now just think, what a misfortune! Really, they've become such friends that it beats everything! Yes, that's what it's come to! And why? What's the use of it all? Tell me that, pray. Isn't Afrikan Savvich a coarse, drunken fellow? Isn't he?
MITYA. Perhaps Gordey Karpych has some business with Afrikan Savvich.
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. What sort of business! He has no business at all. You see Afrikan Savvich is always drinking with that Englishman. He has an Englishman as director of his factory, and they drink together! But he's no fit company for my husband. But can you reason with him? Just think how proud he is! He says to me: "There isn't a soul here to speak to; all," he says, "are rabble, all, you see, are just so many peasants, and they live like peasants. But that man, you see, is from Moscow—lives mostly in Moscow—and he's rich." And whatever has happened to him? Well, you see, it was all of a sudden, my dear boy, all of a sudden! He used to have so much sense. Well, we lived, of course not luxuriously, but all the same pretty fairly decently; and then last year he went for a trip, and he caught it from some one. He caught it, he caught it, they have told me so—caught all these tricks. Now he doesn't care for any of our Russian ways. He keeps harping on this: "I want to be up to date, I want to be in the fashion. Yes, yes! Put on a cap," he says! What an idea to get! Am I going to try to charm any one in my old age and make myself look lovely? Bah! You just try to do anything with him. He never drank before—really he didn't—but now he drinks with this Afrikan. It must be that drink has turned his brain [points to her head] and muddled him.... [Silence] I think now that the devil has got hold of him! Why can't he have some sense! If he were a young fellow! For a young fellow to dress up and all that is all right; but you see he's nearly sixty, my dear, nearly sixty! Really! "Your fashionable up-to-date things," says I, "change every day; our Russian things have lived from time immemorial! The old folks weren't any stupider than we." But can you reason with him, my dear, with his violent character?
MITYA. What is there to say? He's a harsh man.
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. Lyubov is just at the right age now; we ought to be settling her, but he keeps dinning it in: "There's no one her equal, no! no!" But there is! But he says there isn't. How hard all this is for a mother's heart.
MITYA. Perhaps Gordey Karpych wishes to marry Lyubov Gordeyevna in Moscow.
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. Who knows what he has in his mind? He looks like a wild beast, and never says a word, as if I were not a mother. Yes, truly, I never say anything to him; I don't dare; all you can do is to speak with some outsider about your grief, and weep, and relieve your heart; that's all. [Rises] You'll come, Mitya?
MITYA. I'll come, ma'am.
GUSLIN comes in.
The same and GUSLIN
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. Here's another fine lad! Come up-stairs to us, Yasha, and sing songs with the girls; you're good at that; and bring along your guitar.
GUSLIN. Thank you, ma'am: I don't think of that as work; I must say it's a pleasure.
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA. Well, good-by! I'm going to take a nap for half an hour.
GUSLIN and MITYA. Good-by.
PELAGEYA EGOROVNA goes out; MITYA seats himself dejectedly at the table; GUSLIN seats himself on the bed and takes up the guitar.
MITYA and YASHA GUSLIN
GUSLIN. What a crowd there was at the fair! Your people were there. Why weren't you?
MITYA. Because I felt so awfully miserable.
GUSLIN. What's the matter? What are you unhappy about?
MITYA. How can I help being unhappy? Thoughts like these keep coming into my head: what sort of man am I in the world? My mother is old and poor now, and I must keep her—and how? My salary is small; I get nothing but abuse and insults from Gordey Karpych; he keeps reproaching me with my poverty, as if I were to blame—and he doesn't increase my salary. I'd look for another place, but where can one find one without friends? And, yes, I will confess to you that I won't go to another place.
GOSLIN. Why won't you go? There at the Razlyulyayevs' it's very nice—the people are rich and kind.
MITYA. No, Yasha, that doesn't suit me! I'll bear anything from Gordey Karpych, I'll stand poverty, but I won't go away. That's my destiny!
GUSLIN. Why so?
MITYA. [Rises] Well, I have a reason for this. It is, Yasha, because I have another sorrow—but nobody knows about it. I haven't spoken to any one about my sorrow.
GUSLIN. Tell me about it.
MITYA. [Waving his hand] What for?
GUSLIN. Yes, tell me; don't put on airs!
MITYA. Whether I tell you or not, you can't help me!
GUSLIN. How do you know?
MITYA. [Walking toward GUSLIN] Nobody can help me—I am a lost man! I've fallen wildly in love with Lyubov Gordeyevna.