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Armenian Literature by Anonymous

Part 3 out of 4

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sake of 500 or 1,000 more?

OSSEP. Do you know what, aunt? Even if a voice from heaven were to
demand it of me, that is my last word. Even if you flayed me alive, I
would not give another shilling.

CHACHO. Do not excite yourself, dear son. Let us first see. Perhaps it
can be settled with 6,000 rubles.

OSSEP. Yes, to that even I say yes.

SALOME. If a man can give 6,000, he can surely give 1,000 or 2,000 more.
Why do you fret yourself unnecessarily?

OSSEP [_aroused_]. God deliver me from the hands of these women! They
say that one woman can get the best of two men; and here I am alone and
fallen into the hands of two of you. Where, then, have you discovered
this confounded fellow of a son-in-law? That comes of his visits. What
has he to do with us? We are entirely different kind of people. [_To
Salome_:] He is neither your brother nor your cousin; why, then, does he
come running into our house? I believe he has been here as many as three
times. I decline once and for all his visits. May his foot never cross
my threshold!

CHACHO. Do not get excited, my son. Do not be vexed.

OSSEP. Now, aunt, you come so seldom to our house, and just to-day you
happen in: how does that come?

CHACHO. If you are so vexed about my visit, go down in the cellar and
cool yourself off a little.

OSSEP. I am a man; do you understand me? If I tell you that I can give
no more, you should believe me.

CHACHO. We believe it, truly; we believe it, but we must say to you,
nevertheless, that the dowry that a man gives his daughter means a great
deal. It does not mean buying a house, when it is laudable to be
economical. No; where the dowry is concerned, a man must think neither
of his pocket nor of his money-box. You were acquainted with Jegor? Did
he not sell his last house and afterward lived like a beggar to give
his daughter a proper dowry? When he died, was there not money for his
burial? That you know yourself very well. Are you any poorer than he,
that you grumble like a bear about 2,000 rubles?

OSSEP. O great Heavens! they will bring me to despair yet. Isn't this a
punishment of Providence, to bring up a daughter, spend a lot of money
on her education, and when you have done everything, then hang a bag of
gold around her neck, so that she may find someone who is kind enough to
take her home with him? A pretty custom!

SALOME. Against the manners and customs of the world you can do nothing,
however.

OSSEP. The devil take your manners and customs! If you hold so fast to
old ways, then stick to all of them. Is it an old custom to wear,
instead of Georgian shoes, little boots--and with men's heels, too? And
that a girl should be ashamed to go with her own people and should walk
around on the arm of a strange young man: is that also one of the good
old customs? Where can we find anything of the good old manners and
customs of our fathers, in the living or eating or housekeeping, or in
the clothing, or in balls and society? What! was it so in old times? Do
you still talk about old manners and customs? If once we begin to live
after the new fashion, let us follow it in all things. Why do we still
need to have bedclothes for twenty-four beds for guests? Why do we use
the old cupboard and cake-oven and sofa-cover? Why does one not visit a
mother with a young baby and stay whole months with them? Why does one
invite 100 persons to a wedding and give funeral feasts and let eighty
women mourners come and howl like so many dervishes? And what is that
yonder [_points to the furniture_]? That one is old-fashioned and the
others new-fashioned. If we can have one kind, why do we use the
other? [_Silent awhile_.

SALOME. Well, well! don't be angry! So you will give 6,000 rubles--you
have promised it. What is lacking I will procure.

OSSEP. You will procure it? Where, then, will you get it? Not some of
your own dowry, I hope.

SALOME. I had no dowry. Why do you tease me with that? No, everything I
have I will sell or pawn. The pearls, my gold ornaments, I will take off
of my _katiba_. The gold buttons can be melted. My brooch and my
necklace, with twelve strings of pearls, I will also sell; and, if it is
necessary, even the gold pins from my velvet cap must go. Let it all go!
I will sacrifice everything for my Nato. I would give my head to keep
the young man from slipping through my hands.
[_Exit hastily at left_.

SCENE VI

_Ossep. Chacho_.

OSSEP. Have you ever seen anything like it, aunt? I ask you, aunt, does
that seem right?

CHACHO. My son, who takes a thing like that to heart?

OSSEP. She is obstinate as a mule. Say, does she not deserve to be
soundly beaten, now?

CHACHO. It only needed this--that you should say such a thing! As many
years as you have lived together you have never harmed a hair of her
head; then all of a sudden you begin to talk like this. Is that
generous?

OSSEP. O aunt! I have had enough of it all. Were another man in my
place, he would have had a separation long ago. [_Sits down_.] If she
sees on anyone a new dress that pleases her, I must buy one like it for
her; if a thing pleases her anywhere in a house, she wants one in her
house; and if I don't get it for her she loses her senses. It is, for
all the world, as though she belonged to the monkey tribe. Can a man
endure it any longer?

CHACHO. The women are all so, my son. Why do you fret yourself so much
on that account?

OSSEP. Yes, yes; you have the habit of making out that all women are
alike--all! all! If other people break their heads against a stone,
shall I do the same? No; I do what pleases myself, and not what pleases
others.

CHACHO. Ossep, what nonsense are you talking? As I was coming here,
even, I saw a laborer's wife so dressed up that a princess could hardly
be compared with her. She had on a lilac silk dress and a splendid shawl
on her head, fine, well-fitting gloves, and in her hand she held a satin
parasol. I stood staring, open-mouthed, as she passed. Moreover, she
trailed behind her a train three yards long. I tell you my heart was sad
when I saw how she swept the street with that beautiful dress and
dragged along all sorts of rubbish with it. I really do not see why they
still have street-sweepers. It was a long time before I could turn my
eyes from her, and thought to myself, Lord, one can't tell the high from
the low nowadays! And what can one say to the others if a laborer's wife
puts on so much style?

OSSEP. I said that very thing. I have just spoken of it. A new public
official has just arrived. She sees that others want to marry their
daughters to him, and she runs, head first, against the wall to get
ahead of them.

CHACHO. You are really peculiar. You have, you say, not enough money to
provide a dowry for your daughter, and yet you brought her up and
educated her in the fashion. For what has she learned to play the piano,
then? Consider everything carefully.

OSSEP. Devil take this education! Of what good is this education if it
ruins me? Is that sort of an education for the like of us? Ought we not
to live as our fathers lived and stay in our own sphere, so that we
could eat our bread with a good appetite? What kind of a life is that of
the present day? Where is the appetizing bread of earlier times?
Everything that one eats is smeared with gall! For what do I need a
_salon_ and a parlor, a cook and a footman? If a man stretches himself
too much in his coat the seams must burst!

CHACHO. If you don't want to have all those things can't you manage the
house another way? Who is to blame for it?

OSSEP. Have I managed it so? I wish he may break his neck who brought it
all to pass! I haven't done it; it came of itself, and how it happened I
don't know Oftentimes when I look back over my early days I see that
things were very different twenty years ago. It seems to me I have to
live like an ambassador! [_Stands up_.] We are all the same, yes, we all
go the same pace. Wherever you go you find the same conditions, and no
one questions whether his means permit it. If a man who has 10,000
rubles lives so, I say nothing; but if one with an income of 1,000
rubles imitates him, then my good-nature stops. What are the poorer
people to learn from us if we give them such an example? Weren't the old
times much better? In a single _darbas_[42] we all lived together; three
or four brothers and their families. We saved in light and heat, and the
blessing of God was with us. Now in that respect it is wholly different.
If one brother spends fifty rubles, the other spends double the sum, so
as not to be behind him. And what kind of brothers are there now, as a
rule? And what kind of sisters and fathers and mothers? If you were to
chain them together you could not hold them together a week at a time.
If it is not a punishment from God, I don't know what is.

[42] Hall.

CHACHO. My dear Ossep, why do you revive those old memories? It gives me
the heartache to recall those old times. I remember very well how it
was. In the room stood a long broad sofa that was covered with a carpet.
When evening came there would be a fire-pan lighted in the middle of the
room and we children would sit around it That was our chandelier. Then a
blue table-cloth was spread on the sofa and something to eat, and
everything that tasted good in those days was placed on it. Then we sat
around it, happy as could be: grandfather, father, uncle, aunt,
brothers, and sisters. The wine pitcher poured out sparkling wine into
the glasses, and it wandered from one end of the table to the other.
Many times there were twenty of us. Now if for any reason five persons
come together in a room one is likely to be suffocated. [_Points to the
ceiling_.] With us there was an opening for smoke in the ceiling that
was worth twenty windows. When it became bright in the morning the
daylight pressed in on us, and when it grew dark the twilight came in
there, and the stars glimmered through. Then we spread our bed-things
out, and we went to sleep together with play and frolic. We had a kettle
and a roasting-spit in the house, and also a pot-ladle and strainer, and
the men brought in the stock of provisions in bags. Of the things they
brought, one thing was as appetizing as the other. Now, it seems the
cooks and servants eat all the best bits. God preserve me from them! Our
homes are ruined by the new ways!

OSSEP. Do you know what, aunt? I wager it will not be long before the
whole city is bankrupt. On one side extravagance and the new mode of
life will be to blame, and on the other our stupidity. Can we go on
living so? It is God's punishment, and nothing more. You will scarcely
believe it when I tell you that I pay out ten rubles every month for
pastry for the children alone.

CHACHO. No! Reduce your expenses a little, my son. Retrench!

OSSEP. That is easily said. Retrench, is it? Well, come over here and do
it. I would like to see once how you would begin. Listen, now! Lately I
bought a pair of children's shoes at the bazaar for three abaces.[43] The
lad threw them to the ceiling. "I want boots at two and a half rubles,"
said the six-year-old rascal. He was ready to burst out crying. What
could I do but buy new ones? If others would do the same I could let the
youngster run in cheap boots. How can one retrench here? Twenty years,
already, I have struggled and see no way out. To-day or to-morrow my
head will burst, or I may beat it to pieces against a stone wall. Isn't
it an effort at retrenchment when I say that I cannot afford it? but
with whom am I to speak here? Does anyone understand me? Yes, reduce
your expenses!
[_Goes toward the ante-room to the right and meets Nato
with four sheets of music in her hand_.

[43] Abace--20 kopecks.

Scene VII

_Nato, Ossep, Chacho_.

OSSEP. Yes, yes, reduce your expenses!

CHACHO. Little girl, how quickly you have come back!

NATO. I did not go far, aunt.

CHACHO. What have you in your hand, sweetheart?

NATO. I have bought some new music.

OSSEP [_stepping up to them_]. Yes, yes, retrench! [_Taking a sheet of
music out of her hand_.] What did you pay for this?

NATO. Four abaces.

OSSEP. And for this [_taking another_]?

NATO [_looking at it_]. Six abaces.

OSSEP [_taking a third_]. And for this?

NATO [_fretfully_]. One ruble and a half.

OSSEP [_taking the last_]. And certainly as much for this?

NATO. No, papa; I paid two rubles and a half for that.

OSSEP [_angrily_]. And one is to economize! Am I to blame for this? What
have you bought four pieces for? Was not one or two enough?

NATO [_frightened_]. I need them.

OSSEP [_still more angrily_]. Tell me one thing--is this to be endured?
If she could play properly at least, but she only drums two or three
pieces and says she can play. I cannot play myself, but I have heard
persons who played well. They could use these things, but not we. I wish
the devil had the man who introduced this! [_Throws the music on the
floor_.] I'll cut off my hand if she can play properly.

CHACHO. There, there, stop, now!

OSSEP. Whatever she tries to do is only half done: music, languages--she
has only half learned. Tell me, what can she do? Is she able to sew
anything? or to cut out a dress for herself? Yes, that one seems like a
European girl! Ha! ha! Five times I have been in Leipsic, and the
daughter of the merest pauper there can do more than she can. What have
I not seen in the way of needlework! I gaped with admiration. And she
cannot even speak Armenian properly, and that is her mother tongue! Can
she write a page without mistakes? Can she pronounce ten French words
fluently? Yes, tell me, what can she do? What does she understand? She
will make a fine housekeeper for you! The man who takes her for his wife
is to be pitied. She be able to share with him the troubles of life!
Some day or other she will be a mother and must bring up children. Ha,
ha! they will have a fine bringing-up! She is here to make a show; but
for nothing beside! She is an adept at spending money. Yes, give her
money, money, so that she can rig herself out and go to balls and
parties! [_Nato cries._] Can I stand this any longer? Can I go on with
these doings? Retrench, you say. What is this [_taking a corner of
Nato's tunic in his hand_]? How is this for a twelve-story building?
Does it warm the back? How am I to reduce expenses here? And if I do it,
will others do it also? I'd like to see the man who could do it!
[_Nato still crying._

CHACHO.
Do all these things you have said in my presence amount to anything? You
yourself said that you troubled yourself little about what others did.
What do you want, then? Why should you poison the heart of this innocent
girl?
[_All are silent awhile._

OSSEP [_lays his hand on his forehead and recovers himself._] O just
heaven, what am I doing? I am beside myself. [_Goes up to Nato._] Not to
you, not to you, my Nato, should I say all this! [_Embraces her._] No,
you do not deserve it; you are innocent. We are to blame for all. I am
to blame, I! because I imitated the others and brought you up as others
brought up their daughters. Don't cry! I did not wish to hurt you. I was
in bad humor, for everything has vexed me to-day, and unfortunately you
came in at the wrong moment. [_Picks up the music and gives it to her._]
Here, take the music, my child. [_Embraces her again._] Go and buy some
more. Do what you wish everywhere, and be behind no one. Until to-day
you have wanted nothing, and, with God's help, you shall want nothing in
the future.
[_Kisses her and turns to go._

CHACHO. Now, Ossep, think it over; come to some decision in the matter.

OSSEP. I should like to, indeed; but what I cannot do I cannot do.
[_Goes off at the right._

SCENE VIII

_Nato, Chacho, then Salome_.

NATO [_falling sobbing in Chacho's arms_]. O dear, dear aunt.

CHACHO. Stop; don't cry, my dear, my precious child. It is indeed your
father. Stop; stop, Salome.

SALOME [_coming in smiling_]. Dear aunt, I have arranged everything.
[_Stops._] What is this now? Why are you crying?
[_Nato wipes away her tears and goes toward the divan_.

CHACHO. You know her father, don't you? He has been scolding her, and
has made her cry.

SALOME. If her father has been troubling her, then I will make her happy
again. Nato, dear, I have betrothed you. [_Nato looks at her in
wonderment._] Yes, my love, be happy--what have you to say about it? Mr.
Alexander Marmarow is now your betrothed.

NATO. Is it really true, mamma dear?

CHACHO [_at the same time_]. Is it true?

SALOME. It is true, be assured.

NATO [_embracing Salome_]. O my dear, dear mother.

SALOME [_seizing her daughter and kissing her_]. Now I am rid of my
worries about you. I hope it will bring you joy. Go and put on another
dress, for your betrothed is coming.

NATO. Now?

SALOME. Certainly, at once. You know, I presume, that you must make
yourself pretty.

NATO [_happy and speaking quickly_]. Certainly. I will wear the white
barege with blue ribbons, the little cross on black velvet ribbon, and a
blue ribbon in my hair. [_Hugs Chacho_.] O my precious auntie!

CHACHO [_embracing and kissing her_]. May this hour bring you
good-fortune! I wish it for you with all my heart.

NATO [_hugging and kissing Salome again_]. O you dear, you dearest
mamma. [_Runs out of the room_.

SCENE IX

_Salome. Chacho_.

CHACHO. What does all this mean? Am I dreaming or am I still awake?

SALOME. What are you saying about dreams? His sister Champera was here,
and about five minutes later he himself came. They live very near here.

CHACHO. If it was arranged so easily, why have you wrangled and
quarrelled so much?

SALOME [_in a whisper_]. But what do you think, aunt? I have arranged
the affair for 7,000 rubles, and I have had to promise his sister 200
rubles beside.

CHACHO. May I be struck blind! And you have done this without Ossep's
knowing it?

SALOME [_whispering_]. He will not kill me for it, and let him talk as
much as he will. It could not go through otherwise. Get up and let us go
into that room where Ossep will not hear us. [_Helps her to rise_.

CHACHO. O just heaven! What women we have in these days!

SCENE X

OSSEP [_alone, buckling his belt and holding his cap in his hand, comes
in through the right-hand door, stands awhile in deep thought while he
wrings his hands several times_]. Give me money! Give me money! I would
like to know where I am to get it. It is hard for me to give what I have
promised. And what if it cannot be arranged for that sum? Am I, then, to
make a mess of this!--I who have always been willing to make any
sacrifice for my children? It must, indeed, lie in this--that the suitor
does not please; for I could not find 2,000 to add to the 6,000 that I
have promised. Yes, that's it! The man is not the one I want for her. If
he were an ordinary fellow, he would not treat with me. At any rate,
what he is after will show itself now; yes, we shall soon see what kind
of man he is! Up to this day I have always kept my word, and the best
thing I can do is to keep it now.

_Enter Gewo_.

OSSEP [_meeting him as he enters from the right_]. Oh, it is you, dear
Gewo! What brings you to our house? [_Offering him his hand_.] I love
you; come again, and often!

GEWO. You know well that if I had not need of you, I would not come.

OSSEP. How can I serve you? Pray, sit down.

GEWO [_seating himself_]. What are you saying about serving? Do you
think that this confounded Santurian has--

OSSEP [_interrupting him anxiously_]. What has happened?

GEWO. The dear God knows what has happened to the fellow!

OSSEP. But go on, what has happened?

GEWO. What could happen? The fellow has cleared out everything.

OSSEP [_disturbed and speaking softly_]. What did you say, Gewo? Then I
am lost, body and soul; then I am ruined!

GEWO. I hope he will go to the bottom. How is one to trust any human
being nowadays? Everyone who saw his way of living must have taken him
for an honest man.

OSSEP [_softly_]. You kill me, man!

GEWO. God in heaven should have destroyed him long ago, so that this
could not have happened. But who could have foreseen it? When one went
into his store everything was always in the best order. He kept his
word, paid promptly when the money was due; but what lay behind that, no
one knew.

OSSEP. I have depended on him so much. What do you say, Gewo? He owes me
10,000 rubles! I was going to satisfy my creditors with this sum.
To-morrow his payment was due, and the next day mine. How can I satisfy
them now? Can I say that I cannot pay them because Santurian has given
me nothing? Am I to be a bankrupt as well as he? May the earth swallow
me rather!

GEWO. I wish the earth would swallow him, or rather that he had never
come into the world! I have just 2,000 rubles on hand; if you wish I
will give them to you to-morrow.

OSSEP. Good; I will be very thankful for them. But what do you say to
that shameless fellow? Have you seen him? Have you spoken with him?

GEWO. Of course. I have just come from him.

OSSEP. What did he say? Will he really give nothing?

GEWO. If he does not lie, he will settle with you alone. Let the others
kick, he said. Go to him right off, dear Ossep. Before the thing becomes
known perhaps you can still get something out of him.

OSSEP. Come with me, Gewo. Yes, we must do something, or else I am lost.

GEWO. The devil take the scoundrel!

SCENE XI

SALOME [_coming in from the left_]. May I lose my sight if he is not
coming already. He is already on the walk. [_Looking out of the window
and then walking toward the entry_.] How my heart beats!

[_Goes into the ante-room. Alexander appears at the window and then at
the door of the ante-room_.]

_Alexander enters_.

SALOME [_at the door_]. Come; pray come in. [_Offers her hand_.] May
your coming into our house bring blessings!

ALEXANDER [_making a bow_]. Madame Salome [_kisses her hand_], I am
happy that from now on I dare call myself your son.

SALOME [_kissing him on the brow_]. May God make you as happy as your
mother wishes. Please, please sit down! Nato will be here immediately.
[_They sit down_.

ALEXANDER. How are you, Madame Salome? What is Miss Natalie doing? Since
that evening I have not had the pleasure of seeing her.

SALOME. Thank you, she is very well. The concert that evening pleased me
exceedingly. Thank heaven that so good a fashion has found entrance
among us. In this way we have a perfect bazaar for the marriageable
girls, for had not this concert taken place where would you two have
found an opportunity to make each other's acquaintance? Where else
could you have caught sight of each other?

ALEXANDER. Dear lady, Miss Natalie must please everybody without
concerts, and awaken love in them. Oh, how I bless my fate that it is my
happy lot to win her love!

SALOME. And my Nato pleases you, dear son-in-law?

ALEXANDER. Oh, I love her with all my heart, dear madame!

SALOME. If you love her so much, dear son, why did you exact so much
money? For the sake of 1,000 rubles this affair almost went to pieces.
Your sister Champera swore to me that if we did not give 1,000 rubles
more you would this very day betroth yourself to the daughter of
Barssegh Leproink.

ALEXANDER. I wonder, Madame Salome, that you should credit such things.
I marry Leproink's daughter! I refuse Miss Natalie on her account!
forget her beautiful black eyes and her good heart, and run after money!
Would not that be shameful in me! I must confess to you freely, dear
madame, that my sister's way of doing things is hateful to me. _Fi
mauvais genre!_ But let us say no more about it. If only God will help
us to a good ending!

SALOME. God grant that neither of you may have anything to
regret!--[_rising_] I will come back immediately, dear son-in-law; I am
only going to see what is keeping Nato. [_Alexander also rises_.] Keep
your seat, I beg of you. How ceremonious you are! I will come right
back.
[_Exit right_.

SCENE XII

ALEXANDER [_alone._] At last my burning wish is fulfilled! Now I have
both a pretty wife and money. Without money a man is not of the least
importance. Let him give himself what trouble he may, if he has no
money, no one will pay any attention to him. I have made only one
mistake in the business. I have been in too much of a hurry. If I had
held out a little longer they would have given me 8,000 rubles; now I
must be satisfied with 7,000. Still, what was to be done? It would not
have gone through otherwise; and for that matter, I may, perhaps,
somehow make up for it in other ways. In any case, I stand here on a fat
pasture-land where they seem to be pretty rich. The principal thing is
that I should make myself popular among them, then I shall have
succeeded in getting my fill out of them. Ha, ha, ha! How they worry
themselves! Yes, the whole office will be in an uproar to-morrow. [_With
affected voice_:] "Have you heard the news? Marmarow is engaged, and has
received 7,000 rubles dowry. And such a beautiful girl! Such a lovely
creature!" [_Clucking with his tongue and changing his voice_:] "Is it
possible!" [_In his own voice_:] Charming, charming, Marmarow! [_Looking
at his clothing:_] Chic! A true gentleman am I! Yes, I am getting on. I
must now think only of to-morrow and the next day, and how to get on
further. The principal thing is for a man to know the value of money,
for without money nothing can be undertaken. First, I shall have the
interest on my capital; then my salary, and last some hundred rubles
beside. That makes 3,000 or 4,000 rubles a year. If I lay aside 1,000
rubles every year, I have in seven or eight years 10,000; in fifteen
years double that, and so on. Yes, Monsieur Marmarow, you understand it!
Be happy, therefore, and let the others burst with envy.

_Salome and Nato enter at the right, Salome holding Nato's hand_.

ALEXANDER. Miss Natalie, the whole night long I thought only of you!
[_Kisses her hand_.]

SALOME. Kiss her on the cheek and give her the engagement ring.

ALEXANDER. Oh, you are the sun of my existence! [_Draws a ring from his
finger and gives it to Natalie_.] From now on you are mine. Please!
[_Kisses her_.]

SALOME. Be happy and may you reach old age together. [_Kisses Alexander;
then Nato_.] God bless you, my children. Sit down, I pray you, Alexander
[_pointing to the sofa on which Alexander and Nato sit down_]. Your
father will soon be here. [_Walks to and fro in joyful excitement_.]

ALEXANDER [_looking at Nato_]. Dear Natalie, why are you so silent? Let
me hear your sweet voice, I beg of you.

NATO. I am speechless, Monsieur Marmarow.

ALEXANDER. Monsieur!

NATO. Dear Alexander.

ALEXANDER [_seizing her hand_]. So! That sounds much sweeter! [_Kisses
her hand_.]

_Enter Chacho_.

SALOME. Come in, dear aunt.

CHACHO. Such a thing has never happened to me before! Could you not wait
till the man of the house arrived?

SALOME. Oh, it is all the same; he will be here soon enough. Give them
your blessing, I beg of you.

CHACHO. May God bestow all good things upon you. May heaven grant the
prayer of me, a sinner. [_Alexander and Nato stand up_.] May you have
nothing to regret. May you flourish and prosper and grow old together on
the same pillow. [_Ossep comes to the door and stands astonished_.]

CHACHO [_continuing_]. God grant that your first may be a boy! Love and
respect each other! May the eye of the Czar look down on you with mercy!
[_Sees Ossep_.] Let the father now offer you his good wishes.

SALOME. Dear Ossep, congratulate your daughter.

NATO. Dear papa!
[_Goes up to Ossep and kisses his hand. Ossep stands
motionless_.

ALEXANDER [_seizing Ossep's hand_]. From now on, dear father, count me
among your children. [_Turning to Nato offended_:] What is this?

SALOME. Don't be impolite, Ossep.

CHACHO. What has happened to you, Ossep?

ALEXANDER [_to Salome_]. I understand nothing of this. [_To Ossep_:] My
father, you seem dissatisfied.

OSSEP [_recovering himself_]. I dissatisfied! No--yes--I am dizzy.

ALEXANDER [_offering him a chair_]. Sit down, I pray, my father.

OSSEP [_to Alexander_]. Do not trouble yourself. It is already passed.

SALOME. Can one meet his son-in-law like that? And such a son-in-law,
beside! Say something, do.

OSSEP. What shall I say, then? You have consummated the betrothal. God
grant that all will end well. [_To Alexander_:] Please be seated.

ALEXANDER. My father, when do you wish the betrothal to be celebrated?

OSSEP. That depends upon you. Do as you wish.

ALEXANDER. I will invite twenty persons and bring them with me. My
superiors I must invite also; it would not do to omit them.

OSSEP. Do as you see fit.

ALEXANDER [_to Salome_]. Perhaps he is angry with me. If there is any
reason for it, pray tell me now.

SALOME. What are you saying? That cannot be!
[_They move away a little and speak softly together_.

OSSEP [_on the other side of the stage to Chacho_]. You Godforsaken!
Could you not wait a moment?

CHACHO. What is the matter now?

OSSEP. Only God in heaven knows how I stand! Think of it! Santurian has
failed.

CHACHO. Great heaven!

ALEXANDER [_offering Nato his arm_]. Something must have happened!
[_They go off at the left, Salome following_.

OSSEP. Righteous God, why dost thou punish me thus?

SALOME [_returning to Ossep_]. Do with me as you will, but it could not
have been helped. I have promised him 7,000 rubles as dowry, [_Turning
to Chacho as she leaves the room_:] Pray come with me, aunt. You come,
too, Ossep.
[_Exit Salome_.

SCENE XIII

OSSEP [_much excited_]. What do I hear? Has she spoken the truth? Do you
hear? Why do you not answer me? Why are you silent? [_Still more
excited_.] It is true, then! Yes, yes, I see that it is true! O God, let
lightning strike this unlucky house that we may all die together. I
have just lost an important sum and come home to prevent further
negotiations. And see there!

CHACHO. I am to blame for it. Do not get excited. I will add 1,000
rubles to it, if need be, from the money I have laid by for my burial.

OSSEP. From your burial money? Have I already fallen so low that I must
ask alms? Keep your money for yourself! I do not want it. Drop that
complaint also, for I am still rich, very rich. How can it injure me
that Santurian has failed? I stand here firm and unshakable, and have
inexhaustible money resources. [_Tearing his hair_.] O God! O God!
[_Walks to and fro excitedly_.] Now I will go and wish my son-in-law
joy. Yes, I must go so that I shall not make myself ridiculous to him.
The man is a government official!
[_Exit right, laughing bitterly_.

CHACHO. Gracious heaven, be thou our saviour and deliverer.

CURTAIN.

ACT SECOND

SCENE I

_A richly furnished sales-room in Barssegh's house_.

MICHO. Two, three, four, five, six and this little piece. It does not
measure so much!

BARSSEGH [_standing up and giving Micho a rap on the nose_]. You have
what is lacking there. Measure again. Now you've got what is lacking. I
will tear your soul out of your body if you measure so that in seven
arschin[44] it comes out one werschok short.

[44] Russian measure of length.

MICHO [_measuring again_]. O dear, O dear!

BARSSEGH. Look out, or I will take that "O dear" out of your ear. Be up
and at it now!

MICHO. Oh, Mr. Barssegh! [_Measuring._] One, two, three--

BARSSEGH. Stretch it, you blockhead.

MICHO [_stretching the cotton_]. Three, four. [_Wipes the perspiration
from his brow_.]

BARSSEGH. What is the matter with you? You sweat as though you had a
mule-pack on your back.

MICHO. Five.

BARSSEGH. Pull it out more.

MICHO. Six and this little piece. It lacks three werschok again.

BARSSEGH [_pulling his ears_]. It lacks three werschok? There they are!

MICHO. Oh my, oh my!

BARSSEGH. You calf; will you ever develop into a man?

MICHO. O dear mother!

BARSSEGH [_pulling him again by the ear_]. Doesn't it grow longer?

MICHO [_crying_]. Dear Mr. Barssegh, dear sir, let me go.

BARSSEGH. I want to teach you how to measure.

MICHO. It reaches, I say; it reaches, indeed; it reaches. Let me
measure again.

BARSSEGH. Now take care that you make it seven arschin.

MICHO [_aside_]. Holy Karapet, help me. [_Measuring_.] One, two--

BARSSEGH. O you blockhead!

MICHO. Three.

BARSSEGH Wake up!

MICHO. Four.

BARSSEGH. Haven't you seen how Dartscho measures?

MICHO. Five.

BARSSEGH. Will you ever learn how to do it?

MICHO. Five.

BARSSEGH. If you keep on being so stupid my business will be ruined.

MICHO. Five--five.

BARSSEGH. I give you my word that I will give you the sack.

MICHO. Five--five.

BARSSEGH. Measure further.

MICHO. Five--[_aside_:]; Holy George, help me! [_Aloud_:] Six. I cannot
stretch it any more or I shall tear it.

BARSSEGH. Measure, now.

MICHO. O dear; I believe it is already torn.

BARSSEGH [_looking at the cloth_]. I see nothing. God forbid!

MICHO [_looking at the measure_]. It is short a half werschok of seven
arschin every time.

_The madman, Mosi, comes in at the middle door and stands in the
background_.

SCENE II

_Mosi_.

BARSSEGH [_hitting Micho on the head_]. What are you good for? Can't you
get that half werschok out of it?

MICHO [_howling_.] What am I to do when the cloth is too short?

BARSSEGH [_pulling his hair_]. Are you sure you're not lying?

MICHO [_yelling_.] How can you say that? Measure it yourself and we
shall see whether there are seven arschin here.

BARSSEGH [_angry; taking measure and calico_]. You say there are not
seven here? Wait, I will show you [_measuring._] One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, and a quarter left over for a present to you. What do
you say about it now? You must learn to measure if you burst doing it.
But you think only of your week's pay. Now, hurry up; be lively there!

MICHO. O heaven! How shall I begin? One, two--

BARSSEGH. Be careful and don't tear it.

MICHO [_crying._] What do you want of me? If I pull on the stuff I tear
it; and if I don't stretch it, no seven arschin will come out of it.

MOSI [_coming near_]. Ha! ha! ha! Who is the toper? Who? 'Tis I; the mad
Mosi. Ha! ha! ha!

BARSSEGH [_aside._] How comes this crazy fellow here?

MOSI [_seizing the measure and calico_]. Give it to me, you booby! There
are not only seven arschin here, but twenty-seven [_measuring quickly_].
One, two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, and here are thirteen and
fourteen. Do you want me to make still more out of it? You must shove
the stick back in measuring. Can't you understand that? [_Throws the
stick and calico upon Micho_.] Here, take it and be a man at last. You
the shop-boy of such a great merchant and not find out a little thing
like that. Haven't you learned yet how to steal half a werschok? Ha, ha,
ha!
[_Micho tries to free himself but becomes more
entangled in the cloth_.

BARSSEGH [_to Mosi_], I forbid such impudent talk in my presence! Be
silent, or I'll show you.

MOSI. That's the way with all mankind. They never appreciate good
intentions. [_Pointing to Micho_.] I only wanted to make something of
him. Go, go, my son, be a man! Learn from your master! You surely see
how much money he has scraped together! [_To Barssegh_:] How is it about
eating? It's time for dinner! Have the table set; I have come as a
guest. What have you to-day? Coal-soup, perhaps, or water-soup? Yes,
yes; you will entertain me finely! Ha, ha!

BARSSEGH [_aside_]. This confounded fellow is drunk again! [_To Micho_:]
Get out of the room!
[_Exit Micho middle door._

SCENE III

MOSI. From this stuff you can make a shroud for yourself. To-day or
to-morrow you must die, that's sure.

BARSSEGH. You'd better be still!
[_Enter Khali at left_.

KHALI. Do you know the latest?

BARSSEGH. What has happened?

KHALI. What has happened? Marmarow was betrothed yesterday.

BARSSEGH. No!

KHALI. By heaven!

BARSSEGH. To whom?

KHALI. To the daughter of Ossep Gulabianz.

BARSSEGH. Is that really true?

KHALI. Do you think I am lying? They promised him 10,000 rubles dowry. I
always said you should have saved something. Now you have it! They have
snatched him away from you. And such a man, too! They puff themselves up
entirely too much. Where did they get the money, I would like to know?
[_Micho appears at the middle door_.

BARSSEGH. Run right off down to the Tapitach.[45] You know where Ossep
Gulabianz's store is?

[45] A district of Tiflis.

MICHO. Gulabianz? The one who brought money to-day?

BARSSEGH. Yes, that one. Go and look for him wherever he is likely to
be. Tell him he must bring the rest of the money at once. Now, run
quickly. What else do I want to say? Oh, yes [_pointing to the calico_];
take that winding-sheet with you.

MOSI. Ha, ha, ha! Listen to him!

BARSSEGH. By heaven! What am I chattering about? I am crazed! [_Angrily,
to Micho_:] What are you gaping at? Do you hear? Take this calico. Go to
the store and tell Dartscho to come here. Lively, now!
[_Exit Micho with goods_.

BARSSEGH [_going on_]. I would like to see how he is going to give
10,000 rubles dowry. I would like to know whose money it is?

KHALI. That stuck-up Salome has gotten my son-in-law away from me.

BARSSEGH. Never mind. I will soon put them into a hole.

MOSI. Oh, don't brag about things you can't perform. What has Ossep done
to you that you want revenge? How can Ossep help it if your daughter is
as dumb as straw and has a mouth three ells long? And what have Micho's
ears to do with it? You should simply have given what the man asked.

BARSSEGH [_rising_]. O you wretch, you!

MOSI. Yes, you should certainly have paid it. Why didn't you? For whom
are you saving? To-morrow or the day after you will have to die and
leave it here.

BARSSEGH. Stop, or--

KHALI [_to Mosi_]. Why do you anger him? Haven't we trouble and anxiety
enough?

MOSI. Well, I will be still. But I swear that this young man may call
himself lucky that he has freed himself from you and closed with Ossep.
Both of you together are not worth Ossep's finger-tips.

BARSSEGH. Leave me in peace or I will shake off all my anger on to you.

MOSI. What can you do to me? You cannot put my store under the hammer.
What a man you are, indeed!

BARSSEGH. A better man than you any day.

MOSI. In what are you better?

BARSSEGH. In the first place, I am master of my five senses, and you are
cracked.

MOSI [_laughs_]. Ha, ha, ha! If you were rational you would not have
said that. Am I crazy because I show up your villanies? You are wise,
you say? Perhaps you are as wise as Solomon!

BARSSEGH. I am wealthy.

MOSI. Take your money and--[_Whispers something in his ear._] You have
stolen it here and there. You have swindled me out of something, too. Me
and this one and that one, and so you became rich! You have provided
yourself with a carriage, and go riding in it and make yourself
important. Yes, that is the way with your money. Did your father Matus
come riding to his store in a carriage, eh? You say you are rich? True,
there is scarcely anyone richer than you; but if we reckon together all
the money you have gained honorably, we shall see which of us two has
most. [_Drawing his purse from his pocket and slapping it_.] See! I have
earned all this by the sweat of my brow. Oh, no, like you I collected it
for the church and put it in my own pocket. Are you going to fail again
soon?

BARSSEGH. Heaven preserve me from it!

MOSI. It would not be the first time. When you are dead they will shake
whole sacks full of money in your grave for you.

BARSSEGH. Will you never stop?

KHALI. Are you not ashamed to make such speeches?

MOSI. Till you die I will not let you rest. As long as you live I will
gnaw at you like a worm, for you deserve it for your villany. What!
Haven't you committed every crime? You robbed your brother of his
inheritance; you cheated your partner; you have repudiated debts, and
held others to false debts. Haven't you set your neighbors' stores on
fire? If people knew everything they would hang you. But the world is
stone-blind, and so you walk God's earth in peace. Good-by! I would like
to go to Ossep and warn him against you; for if he falls into your
clutches he is lost.

SCENE IV

BARSSEGH. Yes, yes; go and never come back.

KHALI. I wish water lay in front of him and a drawn sword behind.

BARSSEGH. This fellow is a veritable curse!

KHALI. Yes, he is, indeed.

BARSSEGH. The devil take him! If he is going to utter such slanders, I
hope he will always do it here, and not do me harm with outsiders.

KHALI. You are to blame for it yourself. Why do you have anything to do
with the good-for-nothing fellow?

BARSSEGH. There you go! Do I have anything to do with him? He is always
at my heels, like my own shadow.

KHALI. Can't you forbid him to enter your doors?

BARSSEGH. So that he will not let me pass by in the streets? Do you
want him to make me the talk of the town?

KHALI. Then don't speak to him any more.

BARSSEGH. As if I took pleasure in it! It is all the same to him whether
one speaks to him or not.

KHALI. What are we to do with him, then?

BARSSEGH [_angrily_]. Why do you fasten yourself on to me like a gadfly?
Have I not trouble enough already? [_Beating his hands together_.] How
could you let him escape? You are good for nothing!

KHALI. What could I do, then, if you were stingy about the money? If you
had promised the 10,000 rubles, you would have seen how easily and
quickly everything would have been arranged.

BARSSEGH. If he insists upon so much he may go to the devil. For 10,000
rubles I will find a better man for my daughter.

KHALI. I know whom you mean. Give me the money and I will arrange the
thing to-day.

BARSSEGH [_derisively_]. Give it! How easily you can say it! Is that a
mulberry-tree, then, that one has only to shake and thousands will fall
from it? Don't hold my rubles so cheaply; for every one of them I have
sold my soul twenty times.

KHALI. If I can only get sight of that insolent Salome, I'll shake a
cart-load of dirt over her head. Only let her meet me!
[_Exit, left_.

SCENE V

BARSSEGH [_alone_]. And you shall see what I will do! Only wait, my dear
Ossep! I am getting a day of joy ready for you and you will shed tears
as thick as my thumb. I have been looking for the chance a long time,
and now fate has delivered you into my hands. You braggart, you shall
see how you will lie at my feet. I am the son of the cobbler Matus.
There are certain simpletons who shake their heads over those who had
nothing and suddenly amount to something. But I tell you that this world
is nothing more than a great honey-cask. He who carries away the best
part for himself, without letting the others come near it, he is the
man to whom praise and honor are due. But a man who stands aside, like
Ossep, and waits till his turn comes is an ass.

_Enter Dartscho_.

BARSSEGH. Ah, Dartscho! How quickly you have come!

DARTSCHO. I met Micho just now, and he told me that you had sent for me.

BARSSEGH. I have something important to speak with you about. [_He sits
down_.] Where were you just now?

DARTSCHO. At George's, the coal man. He owed us some money, and I have
been to see him seven times this week on that account.

BARSSEGH. He is very unpunctual. But how does it stand? Has he paid?

DARTSCHO. Of course! What do you take me for? I stayed in the store as
if nailed there, and when a new customer came in I repeated my demand.
There was nothing left for him to do but to pay me, for shame's sake.

BARSSEGH. That pleases me in you, my son. Go on like that and you will
get on in the world. Look at me! There was a time when they beat me over
the head and called me by my given name. Then they called me Barssegh,
and finally "Mr." Barssegh. When I was as old as you are I was nothing,
and now I am a man who stands for something. If my father, Matus, were
still alive he would be proud of me. I tell you all this so that you
will spare no pains to make yourself a master and make people forget
that you are the son of a driver. A son can raise up the name of his
father; he can also drag it down into the dust.

DARTSCHO. You see best of all what trouble I take, Mr. Barssegh. When I
open the store in the morning, I never wait until Micho comes, but I
take the broom in my hand and sweep out the store. And how I behave with
the customers, you yourself see.

BARSSEGH. Yes, I see it; I see it, my son, and it is on that account I
am so good to you. Only wait till next year and you shall be my partner.
I will supply the money and you the labor.

DARTSCHO. May God give you a long life for that! I seem to myself like
a tree which you have planted. I hope I will still bear fruit and you
will have your joy in me. Do you know that I have gotten rid of those
damaged goods?

BARSSEGH. Is it possible?

DARTSCHO. It's a fact.

BARSSEGH. To whom have you sold them?

DARTSCHO. To a man from Signach. I laid two good pieces on top so that
he did not notice it. Let him groan now.

BARSSEGH. And how? On credit?

DARTSCHO. Am I then crazy? Have I ever sold damaged goods on credit,
that you make such a supposition? Of course I took something off for it,
but made believe I only did it to please him. He paid me the full sum at
once; and if he is now boasting how cheap he bought the goods, I hope he
will sing my praises also.

BARSSEGH. Do you know, dear Dartscho, you are a fine fellow? Yes, I have
always said that you would amount to something.

DARTSCHO. God grant it! What commands have you, Mr. Barssegh? There is
no one in the store.

BARSSEGH. Oh, right! I had almost forgotten. If Ossep Gulabianz comes to
borrow money, give him nothing.

DARTSCHO. What has happened?

BARSSEGH. I am terribly angry at him.

DARTSCHO. And I have even more reason to be angry at him; he is
altogether too stuck-up. But what has occurred?

BARSSEGH. I will show him now who I am. His whole business is just like
a hayrick; a match is enough to set the whole thing ablaze.

DARTSCHO. I would not be sorry for ten matches! Tell me what I can do
about it? The rest I know already.

BARSSEGH. Think of it! The fellow has snatched away a fine fat morsel
from my very mouth. I had found an excellent husband for my daughter.
For a whole week we carried on negotiations with him and everything was
near final settlement when this Ossep came in and bid over us. On the
very same day he betrothed his daughter to the man.

DARTSCHO. The devil take him for it!

BARSSEGH. And do you know, also, whose money he is going to use? It is
my money he is going to give him.

DARTSCHO. That is just it! That is it!

BARSSEGH. Things look bad for his pocket. Now he is going to marry off
his daughter and put himself in a tight place. Go, therefore, and get
out an execution against him; otherwise nothing can be squeezed out of
him.

DARTSCHO. We shall see. I will go at once and demand our money.

BARSSEGH. I have already sent Micho, but I hardly believe he will give
it up so easily. On that account I sent for you to find out someone who
can help us.

DARTSCHO. I know a lawyer who can manage so that in three hours they
will put an attachment on his store.

BARSSEGH. Go on so forever, dear Dartscho! Yes, I have long known that
you were going to be the right sort of fellow!

DARTSCHO. The apprentice of a right good master always gets on in the
world.

BARSSEGH. Go quickly then; lose no time.

DARTSCHO. I will not waste an hour.

BARSSEGH. Go! May you succeed!
[_Exit Dartscho, middle door_.

BARSSEGH [_alone_]. Yes, yes, friend Ossep, now show what you can do! I
would burn ten candles to have you in my power.
[_Exit, right, taking the account book_.

SCENE VI

_Khali. Salome_.

KHALI [_entering from the left_]. Such a bold creature I never saw
before in my life! [_Calling through the window_:] Come in! come in! I
pray! Do you hear, Salome? I am calling you. Come in here a moment
[_coming back from the window_]. She is coming. Wait, you insolent
thing! I will give you a setting-out such as no one has ever given you
before!

SALOME [_dressed in the latest fashion, with a parasol in her hand;
enters at middle door_]. Why did you call me? Good-morning! How are you?
[_They shake hands_.

KHALI. Thank you. Pray sit down. [_They both sit down_.] So you have
betrothed your daughter?

SALOME. Yes, dear Khali. God grant that we soon hear of your Nino's like
good-fortune! I betrothed her last evening. I found a good husband for
her. He is as handsome as a god. I can scarcely stand for joy!

KHALI. Yes, make yourself important about it!

SALOME [_offended_]. What is this? What does it mean?

KHALI. You owed us a favor, and you have done it for us.

SALOME. What have I done to you?

KHALI. You could not do more, indeed. You have cheated me out of a
son-in-law. Is not that enough?

SALOME. But, my dear Khali, what kind of things are you saying to me?
What do you mean by it?

KHALI. Be still! be still! I know well enough how it was.

SALOME. May I go blind if I know what you are talking about!

KHALI. Didn't you know very well that I wished to give my daughter to
him?

SALOME. I don't understand you! You said no earthly word to me about it.

KHALI. Even if I have not said anything about it, someone has certainly
told you of it.

SALOME. No one has said a word about it.

KHALI. She lies about it, beside! Isn't that shameful?

SALOME. Satan lies. What are you accusing me of?

KHALI. And you really did not know that I wished to give him my
daughter?

SALOME. And if I had known it? When a man wants to marry, they always
speak of ten, and yet he marries only one.

KHALI. So you knew it very well? Why did you lie, then?

SALOME. You are out of your head! How was I to find it out? Did you send
word by anyone that you were going to give your daughter to the man? In
what way am I to blame for it? You knew as much as I did. You treated
with him just as I did and sent marriage brokers to him.

KHALI. I approached him first.

SALOME. O my dear, the flowers in the meadow belong not to those who
see them first, but to those who pluck them.

KHALI. You did not wait. Perhaps I would have plucked them.

SALOME. And why didn't you pluck them?

KHALI. You wouldn't let me. Do you think I do not know that you promised
him more than we did?

SALOME. May I go blind! Khali, how can you say that? How much did you
promise him?

KHALI. How much did we promise him? Ha! ha! as though you did not know
it! Eight thousand rubles.

SALOME. Then you promised more than we did, for we can give him only
7,000.

KHALI. You surely do not think me so stupid as to believe that!

SALOME. As sure as I wish my Nato all good fortune, what I say is true.

KHALI. And you think that I believe you?

SALOME. What? What do you say? Would I swear falsely about my daughter?

KHALI. Of course it is so! Would he let my 8,000 go to take your 7,000?

SALOME. I am not to blame for that. Probably your daughter did not
please him, since he did not want her.

KHALI. What fault have you to find with my daughter? As though yours
were prettier, you insolent woman, you!

SALOME [_standing up_]. You are insolent! Is it for this you called me
in? Can your daughter be compared to my Nato? Is it my fault that your
daughter has a wide mouth?

KHALI. You have a wide mouth yourself; and your forward daughter is not
a bit prettier than mine!

SALOME. What! you say she is forward? Everyone knows her as a modest and
well-behaved girl, while everybody calls yours stupid. Yes, that is
true; and if you want to know the truth, I can tell it to you--it is
just on that account that he would not have her.

KHALI. Oh, you witch, you! You have caught the poor young man in your
nets and deceived him. I would like to know where you are going to get
the 7,000 rubles.

SALOME. That is our affair. I would rather have broken my leg than to
have come in here.

KHALI. He is up to the ears in debt and is going to give such a dowry!

SALOME [_coming back_]. Even if we are in debt, we have robbed nobody,
as you have.

KHALI [_springing up_]. 'Tis you who steal; you! You are a thief! Look
out for yourself that I do not tear the veil off your head, you wicked
witch, you!

SALOME [_holding her veil toward her_]. Try it once. I would like to see
how you begin it. You have altogether too long a tongue, and are only
the daughter-in-law of the cobbler Matus.

KHALI. And what better are you? You are a gardener's daughter, you
insolent thing!

SALOME. You are insolent, yourself! Do not think so much of
yourself--everyone knows that you have robbed the whole world, and only
in that way have gotten up in the world.

KHALI. Oh, you good-for-nothing!
[_Throws herself on Salome and tears her veil off_.

SALOME. Oh! oh! [_Gets hold of Khali's hair_.

KHALI. Oh! oh!

SALOME. I'll pull all your hair out!
[_Astonished, she holds a lock in her hand_.

_Enter Ossep_.

OSSEP. What do I see?

KHALI [_tearing the lock from Salome's hand_]. May I be blind!
[_Exit embarrassed_.

SALOME [_arranging her veil_]. Oh, you monkey, you!

OSSEP. What is the meaning of this?

SALOME. God only knows how it came to this. I was walking quietly in the
street and she called me in and tore the veil from my head because I, as
she said, took her daughter's suitor away from her.

OSSEP. It serves you right! That comes from your having secrets from me
and promising him 7,000 rubles instead of 6,000.

SALOME. I would rather have broken a leg than come into this horrid
house. I did it only out of politeness. I wish these people might lose
everything they have got [_pinning her veil_]. At any rate, I punished
her for it by pulling off her false hair. If she tells on herself now,
she may also tell about me. She got out of the room quickly, so that no
one would find out that her hair was as false as everything else.

OSSEP. It would be best for us if the earth opened and swallowed us up.

SALOME [_crying_]. Am I, then, so much to blame here?

OSSEP. Really, you look splendid! Go! go! that no one sees you here. It
is not the first time that you have put me in a dilemma. Go! and pray
God to change noon into midnight and make the streets dark, so that no
one sees that you have a torn veil on your head.

SALOME [_wiping away her tears_]. God only knows everything I have to
suffer from you!

OSSEP [_alone_]. Great heaven! how this world is arranged! When one
trouble comes to a man a second comes along, too, and waits at his door.
When I am just about ready to cope with the first, in comes the second
and caps the climax. I don't know which way to turn with all my debts;
and now this women's quarrel will be laid at my door.

SCENE VII

BARSSEGH [_coming in, angry_]. I will show him that I am a man!

OSSEP. Good-morning!

BARSSEGH. I want neither "good-morning" nor any other wish from you. You
have, I suppose, come to help your wife. Give me a blow, too, so the
measure will be full. This is surely the interest on the money you owe
me.

OSSEP. Calm yourself. What, indeed, do you want?

BARSSEGH. Do you, then, believe that I will overlook my wife's hair
being pulled out? That I will not pardon.

OSSEP. What is there to pardon? Your wife tore my wife's veil from her
head.

BARSSEGH. A veil is not hair.

OSSEP. For heaven's sake, stop! Is a women's spat our affair?

BARSSEGH. Say what you wish, but I will do what pleases me.

OSSEP. Calm yourself; calm yourself.

BARSSEGH. Yes, yes; I will calm you, too.

OSSEP. Believe me; it is unworthy of you.

BARSSEGH. She has torn her veil, he says. What is a veil, then? A thing
that one can buy, and at most costs two rubles.

OSSEP. The hair was also not her own. Why do you worry yourself about
it? For a two-ruble veil she tore a two-kopeck band. The band is there,
and she can fasten the hair on again.

BARSSEGH. No, you can't get out of it that way. I will not pardon her
for this insolence.

OSSEP [_aside_]. Great heaven!

BARSSEGH. You'll see! you'll see!

OSSEP. Do what you will! I did not come to you on that account. You sent
for me by Micho?

BARSSEGH. Yes, you are right. Have you brought me my money? Give it to
me, quick!

OSSEP. How you speak to me! Am I your servant, that you speak so
roughly? You surely do not know whom you have before you. Look out, for
if I go for you, you will sing another tune.

BARSSEGH. That has not happened to me yet! He owes me money, and even
here he makes himself important!

OSSEP. Do you think because I owe you money I shall stand your insults?
I speak politely to you, and I demand the same from you.

BARSSEGH. Enough of that! Tell me whether you have brought the money or
not.

OSSEP. Have I ever kept back from you any of your money? Why should I do
it to-day?

BARSSEGH. Then give it to me now.

OSSEP. You said at that time--

BARSSEGH. I know nothing of that time.

OSSEP. What is the matter with you? You speak as if in a dream.

BARSSEGH. Whether I speak as in a dream or not, give me the money, and
have done with it.

OSSEP [_takes a chair and sits down_]. You are mistaken, my dear Mr.
Barssegh; you are mistaken. Sit down, pray.

BARSSEGH [_ironically_]. Thank you very much.

OSSEP. You will surely not take back your word?

BARSSEGH. Hand over the money.

OSSEP. What has happened to you? You speak like a madman.

BARSSEGH. It is all the same to me however I speak.

OSSEP. When I gave you the 5,000 rubles that time, did not you say that
I was to pay the rest in a month?

BARSSEGH [_sitting down_]. And if I did say so, what does it amount to?
I need it now.

OSSEP. You should have said so at the time and I would not have paid out
my money in other ways. How comes it that you demand it so suddenly? I
am no wizard, I am sure, to procure it from the stars for you.

BARSSEGH. You may get it wherever you want to. I need it, and that
settles it.

OSSEP. Just heaven! Why did you give me a month's grace and reckon on an
additional twelve per cent. for it?

BARSSEGH. What kind of grace? Have you anything to show for it?

OSSEP. Isn't your word enough? Why do we need a paper in addition?

BARSSEGH. I didn't give you my word.

OSSEP. What? You did not give it? You admitted it just a few minutes
ago.

BARSSEGH. No, I said nothing about it.

OSSEP [_standing_]. My God! what do I see and hear? You are a merchant
and tread your word under foot. Shame on you! [_Takes him by the arm and
leads him to the mirror_.] Look! look at your face! Why do you turn
pale?

BARSSEGH. Let me go!

OSSEP [_holding him fast by the sleeve_]. How can you be so
unscrupulous? Look! How pale your lips are!

BARSSEGH. Let me go! [_Freeing himself_.] You act exactly as though you
were the creditor.

OSSEP. No, you are the creditor. I would rather be swallowed up alive
by the earth than be such a creditor as you are. What do you think you
will be in my eyes after this?

BARSSEGH. I tell you, hand out my money or I will lay your note before
the court immediately! I would only like to know where you are going to
get the dowry for your daughter. You will pay over my money to your
son-in-law, will you, and give me the go-by?

OSSEP. Give yourself no trouble! Even if you should beg me now, I would
not keep your money. To-morrow at this time you shall have it, and then
may the faces turn black of those who still look at you.

BARSSEGH. I want it at once.

OSSEP. Then come with me. You shall have it. The sooner a man is rid of
a bad thing, the better it is. Give me the note! No, don't give it to
me, for you don't trust me. You are not worthy of trusting me. Take it
yourself and come with me. We will go at once to the bazaar, sell it,
then you can have your money. I may lose something by it. It makes no
difference. It is easier to bear this misfortune than to talk to you. Do
you hear? Shall we go?

BARSSEGH. What do you mean?

OSSEP. Get the note, I tell you! Don't you hear?

BARSSEGH. What kind of a note?

OSSEP. Rostom's note.

BARSSEGH. Rostom's' note? What is this note to you?

OSSEP. What is it to me? It is no word, indeed, that you can deny. It is
a document.

BARSSEGH. What is it to you that I have this document in my hands? That
is mine and Rostom's business.

OSSEP. Yours and Rostom's business! [_Pauses_.] It is, I see, not yet
enough that you lie. You are a thief and a robber beside. What people
say of you is really true; namely, that you have robbed everybody, and
by this means have acquired your wealth. Yes, it is true that you have
ruined twenty-five families; that you have put out their candle and
lighted yours by it. Now I see, for the first time, that everything that
people say about you is true. Now I believe, indeed, that these chairs,
this sofa, this mirror, your coat, your cane--in a word, every article
that you call yours--represents some person you have robbed. Take my
bones and add to them. Make the measure full. You have made your
conscience a stone and will hear nothing; but I tell you, one day it
will awake, and every object that lies or stands here will begin to
speak and hold up to you your villanies. Then you can go and justify
yourself before your Maker. Shame upon him who still calls you a human
being! [_Exit by the middle door_.

BARSSEGH. Ha! ha! ha! [_Exit at the right_.

CURTAIN.

ACT THIRD

SCENE I--OSSEP'S HOUSE

NATO [_stands before the mirror elegantly dressed, and, while she
prinks, hums a European melody. Then she draws out of her pocket a
little photograph and speaks to herself while looking in the mirror_]. O
my treasure! my treasure! [_Presses the photo to her breast and kisses
it._] _Mon cher!_ Come; we will dance. [_Dances around the table_.]
Tra-la-la, Tra-la-la. [_Sits down at the right_.] Alexander; my
Alexander; dear Alexander! Yes, you are really an angel. Why are you so
handsome? You have black eyes and I also have black. Then arched
eyebrows just like me. [_Touches her eyebrows_.] A pretty little
mustache, which I lack. Which of us is more beautiful, I or you? You are
handsomest; no, I am handsomest [_springing up_]. We will see at once.

[_Looks at herself in the mirror and then at the photograph. Enter
Alexander at the middle door_.

NATO [_without noticing Alexander_]. No, you are the more beautiful!
[_Kisses the photograph_.

[_Alexander approaches softly and kisses Nato_.

NATO [_frightened_]. Oh!

ALEXANDER. No, you are the more beautiful, Natalie, dear. _Ma chere
Nathalie!_

NATO. _O mon cher Alexandre!_ How you frightened me!

ALEXANDER [_putting his arm around her_]. Let me kiss you again, and
your fright will pass away. [_Kisses her_.] Give me a kiss just once!

NATO [_kissing him_]. There, you have one.

ALEXANDER. Well, I ought to allow you to kiss me. Am I not worth more
than that piece of paper?
[_Takes her by the hand; they sit down on sofa at the
right_.

NATO. They have come to congratulate us.

ALEXANDER. Yes, your grandmother, your aunts, and your cousins. Nato,
shall you give evening parties like this?

NATO [_smiling_]. Ha! ha! ha! No such _soirees_ as this, my dear
Alexander. Two evenings every month we will give little dances, either
on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Which is better? Do you not think, Alexander,
that Thursday will be best?

ALEXANDER [_with a grimace_]. As you wish, _chere Nathalie_. If you
like, you can give a _soiree_ every week.

NATO. No, twice a month is better. Sophie, who is now Madame Jarinskaja,
gives only two _soirees_ in a month.

ALEXANDER. Very well, Nato dear.

NATO. That is agreed, then. And every Thursday we will dance at the
Casino. [_Alexander makes another grimace_.] Mind, now! every Thursday.

ALEXANDER. Do you like to visit the Casino?

NATO [_laying her hand on his shoulder_]. Who doesn't like to visit it?
Is there another place where one can amuse one's self better? The
beautiful long _salon_! the _boudoir_! the beautiful music and the rich
costumes! How beautiful they all are! [_Embracing Alexander_.] We will
dance together, and when we are tired, we will go into the mirror-room
and rest ourselves and talk and laugh.

ALEXANDER. And then we will dance again and rest ourselves, and talk and
laugh again.

NATO. It will be splendid! [_Kisses him_.] I will dress beautifully _a
la mode_, so that everyone will say, "Look! look! what a charming woman
Madame Marmarow is!" And then, dear Alexander, we will subscribe for a
box at the theatre for Fridays.

ALEXANDER [_making another grimace aside_]. She's piling it on.

NATO. And do you know where? In the upper tier at the left, near the
foyer.

ALEXANDER. Wouldn't it be better to subscribe for two evenings a week?

NATO. Wouldn't it cost too much?

ALEXANDER. What has that to do with it? Do you think I could deny you
any pleasure? No! no! you shall have everything.

NATO [_embracing him_]. _Cher Alexandre_! do you really love me so
much?

ALEXANDER. I cannot tell you at all how much I love you. Right at our
first meeting I fell in love with you!

NATO. I don't believe it! I don't believe it! All young men talk so!

ALEXANDER. Ha! ha! ha! Do you think I am like them? With them the
tongues have nothing to do with the heart; but my tongue speaks what is
here!
[_Strikes himself on the breast_.

NATO [_ironically_]. I know! I know! If I had no dowry you would not
marry me.

ALEXANDER. Nato dear, you wrong me! _ma chere_! As if the dowry made any
difference! _Fi donc_!

NATO. Then you really love me so much?

ALEXANDER. Very, very much, Nato dear. You can put me to the test if you
will.

NATO. Do you know, my piano is not fit to use!

ALEXANDER [_smoothing his hair_--_aside_]. Something new again.

NATO. Buy me a new piano. To-day I saw one at a store; it cost 500
rubles.

ALEXANDER. Five hundred rubles! You cannot buy a decent piano for that!

NATO. Dear Alexander!

ALEXANDER. Be patient awhile, Nato dear. One of my friends brought a
piano from abroad that cost 1,000; yes, even 1,500 rubles.

NATO. My sweetheart; my dear sweetheart! [_Kissing him_.] I will come
right back. [_Rises_.] I must go and prepare for our reception or mamma
will be angry. Tra-la-la.
[_Exit at left_.

ALEXANDER [_alone, springing up_]. Ha! ha! ha! _soirees_, balls at the
club, box at the theatre, dresses and ornaments after the latest
fashion! Am I a millionaire? I would have nothing against it if I had
the money to do it. She acts as though she was going to bring 50,000
rubles dowry into the house. No, Natalie, that will all come later. In
ten or twenty years, perhaps, I will set up a carriage; but it is not
even to be thought of now. Indeed, I don't know, where it will lead to
if she makes such demands on me every day. It will lead to quarrels and
unpleasantness, and it will be all up with my economizing. No, indeed,
Natalie, it will be no easy thing to satisfy you. Why did I not think of
this sooner? Let her talk, and demand what she will. I will do what
pleases me.

NATO [_enter right; speaks to someone behind the scenes_]. I will come
at once. I am coming. Come, Alexander, let us go into the garden. Mamma
must go upstairs, and the guests will be all alone in the garden.

ALEXANDER. I am waiting for your father, Nato dear, I have something
important to discuss with him.

NATO. Why, we will soon return, and by that time father will be home. Do
you want to sit here alone?

ALEXANDER. Well, we will go.

NATO. Come! come! I want to introduce you to my coquettish aunt.
[_Mimics her while making a courtesy, and makes
faces. Alexander, shaking his head, goes out with
Nato noisily through middle door_.

SCENE II

_Salome. Chacho_.

CHACHO. No, indeed, Salome. She behaves too boldly. You must give her a
warning. Such self-confidence I have I never before seen in a girl.

SALOME. That is all a matter of fashion! What is to be done?
[_Shuffling the cards_.

CHACHO [_seating herself_]. When one thinks how the times have changed,
one grows dizzy! When I was engaged, my love, I dared not open my mouth;
it was as if they had put a lock on it. Indeed, I dared not look anyone
in the face, even, and kept my eyes always cast down, as if glued fast
to the floor.

SALOME. How could anyone endure all that? The eyes are made to look
with, I hope, and the tongue to speak! I wouldn't have borne it. It is
well that those times are past. I should die of such a life.

CHACHO. Oh, your present times are the true ones! Isn't this shameful,
now, what goes on here? All the money that the husband can make in a
week, the wife loses at play in a single evening. Is that widow, the
stout one, going to play with you? She is surely more than fifty years
old.

SALOME. Of course! we wouldn't play at all without her.

CHACHO. That is the best of all. Why, she has a married daughter as old
as you are!

SALOME. What of that? Whoever has money can always play. But what do you
say to the wife of blind Gigoli? She hasn't enough to eat, but gives
herself airs before us just the same.

CHACHO. Don't talk to me about her! A few weeks ago she pawned a silver
pitcher to one of our neighbors for five rubles without her husband's
knowledge. God punished her for it, for that same evening she lost it
all at cards. I should like to know how she is going to redeem the
pitcher.

SALOME [_arranging her dress before the mirror_]. Yes, yes; no one can
take her measure better than I.
[_Enter Ossep_.

OSSEP [_angrily_]. And what have you gotten ready for again?

SALOME. What was to be done? Look and see how many guests there are in
the garden!

OSSEP. It was very wrong of them to come here. Has no one invited them,
then? They should have asked me first.

SALOME. You are a singular being! We have betrothed our daughter and
they were obliged to come and congratulate us.

OSSEP. Congratulate! As though my joy went to their hearts! On the
contrary, they would enjoy it if I had a misfortune; they could put
their heads together and criticise and laugh at me.

CHACHO. What are you so ill-humored about? For the last two days you
have been intolerable.

OSSEP. If I could unbosom myself to you and show you my heart, you would
comprehend what the cause of it is.

CHACHO. God protect you from all evil!

OSSEP. Am I not right? Tell me yourself! This is not the time for
card-playing. Why have they come, then? If they wished to congratulate
us, they could come separately. How does it happen that they all
thought of us at once? Perhaps each has sent word to the other that
Salome has betrothed her daughter and they have all taken advantage of
the opportunity to come. Of course only for the sake of those damned
cards! This one or that one has probably been invited by her [_pointing
to Salome_]. She sent word to them, "Come to us, I pray! X and Z are
already here." [_To Salome_:] Say, isn't that so?

SALOME. What nonsense he talks! Ought they not to know at your uncle's
house that we have betrothed our daughter? I was obliged to give them
some information about it, was I not?

OSSEP. And to whom beside?

SALOME. Whom else? Your cousins. And I have just sent for your
sister-in-law.

OSSEP [_anxiously_]. For what purpose? She could have come another time
just as well.

SALOME. How useless it is to talk so! You understand nothing at all
about the matter. Your relatives would take offence in every possible
way if I did not invite them. They would not speak to me for a year!

OSSEP. Great heaven! I wish they were struck blind! [_Sits down and
pulls at the end of the table-cloth_.] I would take pleasure in throwing
them all out!

SALOME. I have no time to dispute with you.
[_Exit at left, angry_.

OSSEP. Great heaven! have women been created only to bleed the men?

CHACHO. Don't excite yourself so, dear Ossep. What you say is in every
way pure facts. But you must overlook something now and then. It can't
be helped now; they are all here; you cannot chase them out of the
house. The whole city would be stirred up about it.

OSSEP. And what will people say when to-morrow or the day after my
creditors come and chase me out of my house?

CHACHO. Oh, don't talk about such things!

OSSEP [_sitting down at the card-table_]. That's easily said. But let me
tell you, I feel as though the house was going to fall down on top of
me.

CHACHO. What has happened, Ossep?

OSSEP. They say Barssegh Leproink has brought action against me.

CHACHO. What? Brought action against you?

OSSEP. I owe him money, and on that account he holds the knife at my
throat.

CHACHO. God bless me!

OSSEP. The wicked fellow has my note, and another security beside, and
yet he will not wait.

CHACHO. His match for wickedness cannot be found in the whole world.

OSSEP. No, not another such miserable scoundrel! I expect every moment
to be notified, and have no idea where I can get the money. Everyone I
have asked to help me has refused me. I can borrow no more on my note,
and I cannot sell my goods at half price. That everyone must understand.
They all show their claws as soon as they find out the position I am in.
Salome is to blame for all this; the 7,000 rubles she promised is the
cause of it all. I would like to know who will pay them to him now.

CHACHO. You talk nonsense! You will make your daughter unhappy forever,
Ossep.

OSSEP. I am still more unhappy myself. But let us see what the coming
day brings forth. I still have hope of one. Perhaps he will supply me
with money.

CHACHO. How could you trust the scamp so blindly? Is such want of
thought consistent with reason?

OSSEP. What is the use of reason in this? I have always said I could not
stand the expense that now everybody assumes. If a man conducts his
business honestly, he makes little profit; and as for a dishonest
business, I am not fit for that! So I have suffered one reverse after
another; and where I was most vulnerable I have been hit at last.

CHACHO. Heavens! what do I hear? Why don't I sink into the earth?

OSSEP. In our line of trade only a few persons carry on their business
with their own money. Most of us have to borrow. When I sell goods to
one, I pay my debt to the other. I sell goods to the third and pay to
the fourth; and so it goes in a circle, like a wheel drawing water,
until one falls in the hands of a man who draws the needle out of the
knitting and everything falls in pieces. Who is in a position to fight
against such conditions? One must pay the store rent and the clerk's
salary, and beside that the interest on the working capital. Then there
are the goods that are spoiled or stolen--and here at home! [_Striking
the cards_.] All this rubbish and more beside! [_Striking the table
again._] And the women are to blame for all this; if my wife had not
promised 7,000 rubles, without my knowledge, the betrothal would not
have taken place, and this bad luck would not have come to me. But where
does one find among our women insight and forethought? For model women
give me some foreign countries. There the women stand by the men in
everything: the wife of a cook is a cook; the wife of a writer, a
writer; the wife of a merchant is in every case a merchant. They earn
jointly and spend jointly. With us the man is here only to make money
for them, so that they [_striking the table_] may kill time with foolish
things like this.

CHACHO. Say, rather, that times are changed; for the men also sit at the
club all day and play cards.

OSSEP. Ho! ho! As though women did not play cards also! Formerly the
cards were solely our diversion; but they have taken them away from us.
Don't worry yourself; with God's help they will be learning to play
billiards. Why do you dwell upon the fact that the men play cards? One
in a thousand plays; while of a thousand women, nine hundred play. Men
are always more moderate. They see that the times are hard, and have
given up most of their earlier pleasures. Where are the banquets that
used to be given, one after another? Where are the drinking-places where
the music played? They have given them up; and the women are just like
they were, only worse. To-day they arrange a picnic, to-morrow a little
party, and so on. The men stand gaping at them, and the children are
left to the servants. If I could take the law into my own hands, I'd
soon set them right.
[_Paces to and fro in anger_.

CHACHO [_rising, aside_]. He is right. All that he says is pure truth.
[_Exit left_

SCENE III

_Ossep. Then Alexander_.

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