Part 2 out of 6
[ARTIMIEV leans towards them and listens intently.
Funny, I seem to be able to say anything to you. And it's so long ago,
so long ago. And what is it after all to you but a story? Well, when I
got to the climax of torturing my wife, when I'd squandered everything
I had or could get, and become utterly rotten, then, there appeared a
PETUSHKÓV. The usual thing, I suppose?
FÉDYA. Don't think anything filthy about it. He was just her friend,
mine too, a very good, decent fellow; in fact the opposite of myself.
He'd known my wife since she was a child, and I suppose he'd loved her
since then. He used to come to our house a lot. First I was very glad
he did, then I began to see they were falling in love with each other,
and then--an odd thing began to happen to me at night. Do you know
when she lay there asleep beside me (he laughs shrilly) I would hear
him, pushing open the door, crawling into the room, coming to me on
his hands and knees, grovelling, whining, begging me (he is almost
shouting) for her, for her, imagine it! And I, I had to get up and
give my place to him. (He covers his eyes with his hands in a.
convulsive moment.) Phew! Then I'd come to myself.
PETUSHKÓV. God! It must have been horrible.
FÉDYA (wearily). Well, later on I left her--and after a while, they
asked me for a divorce. I couldn't bear all the lying there was to be
got through. Believe me it was easier to think of killing myself. And
so I tried to commit suicide, and I tried and I couldn't. Then a kind
friend came along and said, "Now, don't be foolish!" And she arranged
the whole business for me. I sent my wife a farewell letter--and the
next day my clothes and pocketbook were found on the bank of the
river. Everybody knew I couldn't swim. (Pause.) You understand, don't
PETUSHKÓV. Yes, but what about the body? They didn't find that?
FÉDYA (smiling drunkenly). Oh yes, they did! You just listen! About a
week afterwards some horror was dragged out of the water. My wife was
called in to identify it. It was in pretty bad shape, you know. She
took one glance. "Is that your husband?" they asked her. And she said,
"Yes." Well, that settled it! I was buried, they were married, and
they're living very happily right here in this city. I'm living here,
too! We're all living here together! Yesterday I walked right by their
house. The windows were lit and somebody's shadow went across the
blind. (A pause.) Of course there're times when I feel like hell about
it, but they don't last. The worst is when there's no money to buy
ARTIMIEV. (rising and approaching them). Excuse me, but you know I've
been listening to that story of yours? It's a very good story, and
what's more a very useful one. You say you don't like being without
money, but really there's no need of your ever finding yourself in
FÉDYA. (interrupting). Look here, I wasn't talking to you and I don't
need your advice!
ARTIMIEV. But I'm going to give it to you just the same. Now you're a
corpse. Well, suppose you come to life again!
ARTIMIEV. Then your wife and that fellow she's so happy with--they'd
be arrested for bigamy. The best they'd get would be ten years in
Siberia. Now you see where you can have a steady income, don't you?
FÉDYA. (furiously). Stop talking and get out of here!
ARTIMIEV. The best way is to write them a letter. If you don't know
how I'll do it for you. Just give me their address and afterwards when
the ruble notes commence to drop in, how grateful you'll be!
FÉDYA. Get out! Get out, I say! I haven't told you anything!
ARTIMIEV. Oh, yes, you have! Here's my witness! This waiter heard you
saying you were a corpse!
FÉDYA. (beside himself). You damn blackmailing beast----
ARTIMIEV. Oh, I'm a beast, am I? We'll see about that! (FÉDYA rises to
go, ARTIMIEV seizes him.) Police! Police! (FÉDYA struggles frantically
[The POLICE enter and drag him away.
In the country. A veranda covered by a gay awning; sunlight; flowers;
SOPHIA KARÉNINA, LISA, her little boy and nurse.
LISA (standing C. in door. To the little boy, smiling), Who do you
think is on his way from the station?
MISHA (excitedly). Who? Who?
MISHA (rapturously). Papa's coming! Papa's coming!
[Exits L. through C. door.
LISA (contentedly, to SOPHIA KARÉNINA). How much he loves Victor! As
if he were his real father!
SOPHIA KARÉNINA (on sofa L. knitting--back to audience). Tant mieux.
Do you think he ever remembers his father?
LISA (sighing). I can't tell. Of course I've never said anything to
him. What's the use of confusing his little head? Yet sometimes I feel
as though I ought. What do you think, Mamma?
SOPHIA KARÉNINA. I think it's a matter of feeling. If you can trust
your heart, let it guide you. What extraordinary adjustments death
brings about! I confess I used to think very unkindly of Fédya, when
he seemed a barrier to all this. (She makes a gesture with her hand.)
But now I think of him as that nice boy who was my son's friend, and a
man who was capable of sacrificing himself for those he loved. (She
knits.) I hope Victor hasn't forgotten to bring me some wool.
LISA. Here he comes. (LISA runs to the edge of the veranda.) There's
some one with him--a lady in a bonnet! Oh, it's mother! How splendid!
I haven't seen her for an age!
[Enter ANNA PÁVLOVNA up C.
ANNA PÁVLOVNA (kissing LISA). My darling. (To SOPHIA KARÉNINA.) How do
you do? Victor met me and insisted on my coming down.
[Sits bench L. C. beside SOPHIA.
SOPHIA KARÉNINA. This is perfectly charming!
[Enter VICTOR and MÍSHA.
ANNA PÁVLOVNA. I did want to see Lisa and the boy. So now, if you
don't turn me out, I'll stay till the evening train.
KARÉNIN. (L. C., kissing his wife, his mother and the boy).
Congratulate me--everybody--I've a bit of luck, I don't have to go to
town again for two days. Isn't that wonderful?
LISA. (R. C.). Two days! That's glorious! We'll drive over to the
Hermitage to-morrow and show it to mother.
ANNA PÁVLOVNA. (holding the boy). He's so like his father, isn't he? I
do hope he hasn't inherited his father's disposition.
SOPHIA KARÉNINA. After all, Fédya's heart was in the right place.
LISA. Victor thinks if he'd only been brought up more carefully
everything would have been different.
ANNA PÁVLOVNA. Well, I'm not so sure about that, but I do feel sorry
for him. I can't think of him without wanting to cry.
LISA. I know. That's how Victor and I feel. All the bitterness is
gone. There's nothing left but a very tender memory.
ANNA PÁVLOVNA. (sighing). I'm sure of it. Lisa. Isn't it funny? It all
seemed so hopeless back there, and now see how beautifully
everything's come out!
SOPHIA KARÉNINA. Oh, by the way, Victor, did you get my wool?
KARÉNIN. I certainly did. (Brings a bag and takes out parcels.) Here's
the wool, here's the eau-de-cologne, here are the letters--one on
"Government Service" for you, Lisa---- (Hands her the letter. LISA
opens letter, then strolls R, reading it, suddenly stops.) Well, Anna
Pávlovna, I know you want to make yourself beautiful! I must tidy up,
too. It's almost dinner time. Lisa, you've put your another in the
Blue Room, haven't you?
[LISA is pale. She holds the letter with trembling hands and
reads it, KARÉNIN seeing her.
What's the matter, Lisa? What is it?
LISA. He's alive. He's alive. My God! I shall never be free from him.
(VICTOR crosses to LISA.) What does this mean? What's going to happen
KARÉNIN (taking the letter and reading). I don't believe it.
SOPHIA KARÉNINA. What is it? (Rising.) What's the matter? Why don't
you tell us?
KARÉNIN. He's alive! They're accusing us of bigamy! It's a summons for
Lisa to go before the Examining Magistrate.
ANNA PÁVLOVNA. No--no! It can't be!
SOPHIA KARÉNINA. Oh, that horrible man!
KARÉNIN. So it was all a lie!
LISA (with a cry of rage). Oh! I hate him so! Victor!--Fédya!--My God!
I don't know what I'm saying. I don't know what I'm saying.
[Sinks in chair down R.
ANNA PÁVLOVNA (rising). He's not really alive?
[Lights dim and out.
The room of the examining magistrate, who sits at a table talking to
MÉLNIKOV, a smartly dressed, languid, man-about-town.
At a side-table a CLERK is sorting papers.
MAGISTRATE. (sitting R. of table R. C.). Oh, I never said so. It's her
own notion. And now she is reproaching me with it.
MÉLNIKOV. (sitting C. back to audience). She's not reproaching you,
only her feelings are awfully hurt.
MAGISTRATE. Are they? Oh, well, tell her I'll come to supper after the
performance. But you'd better wait on. I've rather an interesting
case. (To the CLERK.) Here, you, show them in.
Clerk. (sitting C. facing audience). Both? Excellency. Magistrate. No,
only Madame Karénina.
[CLERK exits L. I.
CLERK (calling off stage). Madame Protosova, Madame Protosova.
MAGISTRATE. Or, to dot my i's, Madame Protosova.
MÉLNIKOV (starting to go out). Ah, it's the Karénin case.
MAGISTRATE. Yes, and an ugly one. I'm just beginning the
investigation. But I assure you it's a first-rate scandal already.
Must you go? Well, see you at supper. Good-bye.
[Exit MÉLNIKOV, R.
[The CLERK shows in LISA; she wears a black dress and veil.
MAGISTRATE. Please sit down, won't you? (He points to a chair L. C.
LISA sits down.) I am extremely sorry that it's necessary to ask you
[LISA appears very much agitated. MAGISTRATE appears unconcerned
and is reading a newspaper as he speaks.
But please be calm. You needn't answer them unless you wish. Only in
the interest of every one concerned, I advise you to help me reach the
LISA. I've nothing to conceal.
MAGISTRATE (looking at papers). Let's see. Your name, station,
religion. I've got all that. You are accused of contracting a marriage
with another man, knowing your first husband to be alive.
LISA. But I did not know it.
MAGISTRATE (continuing). And also you are accused of having persuaded
with bribes your first husband to commit a fraud, a pretended suicide,
in order to rid yourself of him.
LISA. All that's not true.
MAGISTRATE. Then permit me to ask you these questions: Did you or did
you not send him 1200 rubles in July of last year?
LISA. That was his own money obtained from selling his things, which I
sent to him during our separation, while I was waiting for my divorce.
MAGISTRATE. Just so. Very well. When the police asked you to identify
the corpse, how were you sure it was your husband's?
LISA. Oh, I was so terribly distressed that I couldn't bear to look at
the body. Besides, I felt so sure it was he, and when they asked me, I
just said yes.
MAGISTRATE. Very good indeed. I can well understand your distraction,
and permit me to observe, Madame, that although servants of the law,
we remain human beings, and I beg you to be assured that I sympathize
with your situation. You were bound to a spendthrift, a drunkard, a
man whose dissipation caused you infinite misery.
LISA (interrupting). Please, I loved him.
MAGISTRATE (tolerantly). Of course. Yet naturally you desired to be
free, and you took this simple course without counting the
consequence, which is considered a crime, or bigamy. I understand you,
and so will both judges and jury. And it's for this reason, Madam, I
urge you to disclose the entire truth.
LISA. I've nothing to disclose. I never have lied. (She begins to
cry.) Do you want me any longer?
MAGISTRATE. Yes. I must ask you to remain a few minutes longer. No
more questions, however. (To the CLERK.) Show in Victor Karénin. (To
LISA.) I think you'll find that a comfortable chair. (Sits L. C.)
[Enter KARÉNIN, stern and solemn.
Please, sit down.
KARÉNIN. Thank you. (He remains standing L. U.) What do you want from
MAGISTRATE. I have to take your deposition.
KARÉNIN. In what capacity?
MAGISTRATE (smiling). In my capacity of investigating magistrate. You
are here, you know, because you are charged with a crime.
KARÉNIN. Really? What crime?
MAGISTRATE. Bigamy, since you've married a woman already married. But
I'll put the questions to you in their proper order. Sure you'll not
KARÉNIN. Quite sure.
MAGISTRATE (writing). Your name?
KARÉNIN. Victor Karénin.
KARÉNIN. Chamberlain of the Imperial Court.
MAGISTRATE. Your age?
KARÉNIN. Orthodox, and I've never been tried before of any charge.
(Pause.) What else?
MAGISTRATE. Did you know that Fedor Protosov was alive when you
married his wife?
KARÉNIN. No, we were both convinced that he was drowned.
MAGISTRATE. All right. And why did you send 1200 rubles to him a few
days before he simulated death on July 17th?
KARÉNIN. That money was given me by my wife.
MAGISTRATE (interrupting him). Excuse me, you mean by Madame
KARÉNIN. By my wife to send to her husband. She considered this money
his property, and having broken off all relations with him, felt it
unjust to withhold it. What else do you want?
MAGISTRATE. I don't want anything, except to do my official duty, and
to aid you in doing yours, through causing you to tell me the whole
truth, in order that your innocence be proved. You'd certainly better
not conceal things which are sure to be found out, since Protosov is
in such a weakened condition, physically and mentally, that he is
certain to come out with the entire truth as soon as he gets into
court, so from your point of view I advise....
KARÉNIN. Please don't advise me, but remain within the limits of your
official capacity. Are we at liberty to leave?
[He goes to LISA who takes his arm.
MAGISTRATE. Sorry, but it's necessary to detain you. (KARÉNIN looks
around in astonishment.) No, I've no intention of arresting you,
although it might be a quicker way of reaching the truth. I merely
want to take Protosov's deposition in your presence, to confront him
with you, that you may facilitate your chances by proving his
statements to be false. Kindly sit down. (To CLERK.) Show in Fedor
[There is a pause. The CLERK shows in FÉDYA in rags, a total
wreck. He enters slowly, dragging his feet. He catches sight of
his wife, who is bowed in grief. For a moment he is about to
take her in his arms--he hesitates--then stands before the
MAGISTRATE. I shall ask you to answer some questions.
FÉDYA. (rises, confronting the MAGISTRATE). Ask them.
MAGISTRATE. Your name?
FÉDYA. You know it.
MAGISTRATE. Answer my questions exactly, please.
[Rapping on his desk.
FÉDYA (shrugs). Fedor Protosov.
MAGISTRATE. Your rank, age, religion?
FÉDYA. (silent for a moment). Aren't you ashamed to ask me these
absurd questions? Ask me what you need to know, only that.
MAGISTRATE. I shall ask you to take care how you express yourself.
FÉDYA. Well, since you're not ashamed. My rank, graduate of the
University of Moscow; age 40; religion orthodox. What else?
MAGISTRATE. Did Victor Karénin and Elizaveta Andreyevna know you were
alive when you left your clothes on the bank of the river and
FÉDYA. Of course not. I really wished to commit suicide. But--
however, why should I tell you? The fact's enough. They knew nothing
MAGISTRATE. You gave a somewhat different account to the police
officer. How do you explain that?
FÉDYA. Which police officer? Oh yes, the one who arrested me in that
dive. I was drunk, and I lied to him--about what, I don't remember.
But I'm not drunk now and I'm telling you the whole truth. They knew
nothing; they thought I was dead, and I was glad of it. Everything
would have stayed all right except for that damned beast Artimiev. So
if any one's guilty, it's I.
MAGISTRATE. I perceive you wish to be generous. Unfortunately the law
demands the truth. Come, why did you receive money from them?
[FÉDYA is silent.
Why don't you answer me? Do you realize that it will be stated in your
deposition that the accused refused to answer these questions, and
that will harm (he includes LISA and VICTOR in a gesture) all of you?
[FÉDYA remains silent.
Aren't you ashamed of your stubborn refusal to aid these others and
yourself by telling the entire truth?
FÉDYA (breaking out passionately). The truth--Oh, God! what do you
know about the truth? Your business is crawling up into a little
power, that you may use it by tantalizing, morally and physically,
people a thousand times better than you.... You sit there in your smug
authority torturing people.
MAGISTRATE. I must ask you----
FÉDYA (interrupts him). Don't ask me for I'll speak as I feel.
(Turning to CLERK.) And you write it down. So for once some human
words will get into a deposition.
[Raising his voice, which ascends to a climax during this speech.
There were three human beings alive: I, he, and she.
[He turns to his wife with a gesture indicating his love for her.
He pauses, then proceeds.
We all bore towards one another a most complex relation. We were all
engaged in a spiritual struggle beyond your comprehension: the
struggle between anguish and peace; between falsehood and truth.
Suddenly this struggle ended in a way that set us free. Everybody was
at peace. They loved my memory, and I was happy even in my downfall,
because I'd done what should have been done, and cleared away my weak
life from interfering with their strong good lives. And yet we're all
alive. When suddenly a bastard adventurer appears, who demands that I
abet his filthy scheme. I drive him off as I would a diseased dog, but
he finds you, the defender of public justice, the appointed guardian
of morality, to listen to him. And you, who receive on the 20th of
each month a few kopeks' gratuity for your wretched business, you get
into your uniform, and in good spirits proceed to torture--bully
people whose threshold you're not clean enough to pass. Then when
you've had your fill of showing off your wretched power, oh, then you
are satisfied, and sit and smile there in your damned complacent
MAGISTRATE (raising his voice. Rising excitedly). Be silent or I'll
have you turned out.
FÉDYA. God! Who should I be afraid of! I'm dead, dead, and away out of
your power. (Suddenly overcome with the horror of the situation.) What
can you do to me? How can you punish me--a corpse?
[Beating his breast.
MAGISTRATE. Be silent! (To CLERK, who is down L.) Take him out!
[FÉDYA turns, seeing his wife, he falls on his knees before
her ... kisses the hem of her dress, crying bitterly.
[Slowly he rises, pulls himself together with a great effort,
then exits L.
[The lights dim and out.
A corridor at the lower courts; in the background a door opposite
which stands a GUARD; to the right is another door through which the
PRISONERS are conducted to the court. IVÁN PETROVICH in rags enters
L., goes to this last door, trying to pass through it.
GUARD (at door R. C.). Where do you think you're going, shoving in
IVÁN PETROVICH. Why shouldn't I? The law says these sessions are
GUARD. You can't get by and that's enough.
IVÁN PETROVICH (in pity). Wretched peasant, you have no idea to whom
you are speaking.
GUARD. Be silent!
[Enter a YOUNG LAWYER from R. I.
LAWYER (to Petrovich). Are you here on business?
IVÁN PETROVICH. No. I'm the public. But this wretched peasant won't
let me pass.
LAWYER. There's no room for the public at this trial.
IVÁN PETROVICH. Perhaps, but I am above the general rule.
LAWYER. Well, you wait outside; they'll adjourn presently.
[He is just going into courtroom through door R. C. when PRINCE
SERGIUS enters L. and stops him.
PRINCE SERGIUS. How does the case stand?
LAWYER. The defense has just begun. Petrúshin is speaking now.
PRINCE SERGIUS. Are the Karénins bearing up well?
LAWYER. Yes, with extraordinary dignity. They look as if they were the
judges instead of the accused. That's felt all the way through, and
PETRÚSHIN is taking advantage of it.
PRINCE SERGIUS. What of Protosov?
LAWYER. He's frightfully unnerved, trembling all over, but that's
natural considering the sort of life he's led. Yes, he's all on edge,
and he's interrupted, both judge and jury several times already.
PRINCE SERGIUS. How do you think it will end?
LAWYER. Hard to say. The jury are mixed. At any rate I don't think
they'll find the Karénins guilty of premeditation. Do you want to go
PRINCE SERGIUS. I should very much like to.
LAWYER. Excuse me, you're Prince Sergius Abréskov, aren't you? (To the
Prince.) There's an empty chair just at the left.
[The guard lets PRINCE SERGIUS pass.
IVÁN PETROVICH. Prince! Bah! I am an aristocrat of the soul, and
that's a higher title.
LAWYER. Excuse me.
[And exits down R. C. into courtroom.
[PETUSHKÓV, FÉDYA'S companion in the dive, enters approaching
PETUSHKÓV (R.). Oh, there you are. Well, how're things going?
IVÁN PETROVICH (L.). The speeches for the defense have begun, but this
ignorant rascal won't let us in. Curse his damned petty soul.
GUARD (C.) Silence! Where do you think you are?
[Further applause is heard; door of the court opens, and there is
a rush of lawyers and the general public into the corridor.
A LADY. Oh, it's simply wonderful! When he spoke I felt as if my heart
AN OFFICER. It's all far better than a novel. But I don't see how she
could ever have loved him. Such a sinister, horrible figure.
[The other door opens over L.; the accused comes out.
THE LADY (this group is down R.). Hush! There he is. See how wild he
FÉDYA (seeing IVÁN PETROVICH). Did you bring it?
[Goes to PETROVICH.
[He hands FÉDYA something; FÉDYA hides it in his pocket.
FÉDYA (seeing PETUSHKÓV). How foolish! How vulgar and how boring all
this is, isn't it?
[Men and women enter door L. and stand down L. watching.
[Enter PETRÚSHIN, from R. C., FÉDYA'S counsel, a stout man with
red cheeks; very animated.
PETRÚSHIN (rubbing his hands). Well, well, my friend. It's going along
splendidly. Only remember, don't go and spoil things for me in your
FÉDYA (takes him by the arm). Tell me, what'll the worst be?
PETRÚSHIN. I've already told you. Exile to Siberia.
FÉDYA. Who'll be exiled to Siberia?
PETRÚSHIN. You and your wife, naturally.
FÉDYA. And at the best?
PETRÚSHIN. Religious pardon and the annulment of the second marriage.
FÉDYA. You mean--that we should be bound again--to one another----
PETRÚSHIN. Yes. Only try to collect yourself. Keep up your courage.
After all, there's no occasion for alarm.
FÉDYA. There couldn't be any other sentence, you're sure?
PETRÚSHIN. None other. None other.
[Exits R. I. FÉDYA stands motionless.
GUARD (crosses and exits L. I. Calling). Pass on. Pass on. No
loitering in the corridor.
[VICTOR and LISA enter from door L. Start to go off L. when pistol
shot stops them.
FÉDYA (He turns his back to the audience, and from beneath his ragged
coat shoots himself in the heart. There is a muffled explosion, smoke.
He crumples up in a heap on the floor. All the people in the passage
rush to him.) (In a very low voice.) This time--it's well done...
[People are crowding in from all the doors, judges, etc. LISA
rushes to FÉDYA, KARÉNIN, IVÁN PETROVICH and PRINCE SERGIUS
LISA. Fédya!... Fédya!... What have you done? Oh why!... why!...
FÉDYA. Forgive me---- No other way---- Not for you--but for myself----
LISA. You will live. You must live.
FÉDYA. No--no---- Good-bye---- (He seems to smile, then he mutters
just under his breath.) Masha.
[In the distance the gypsies are heard singing "No More at
Evening." They sing until the curtain.
You're too late----
[Suddenly he raises his head from LISA'S knees, and barely utters
as if he saw something in front of him.
[His head falls from LISA'S knees to the ground. She still clings
to it, in grief and horror. He dies.
[The lights dim and out.
END OF _REDEMPTION_
* * * * *
THE POWER OF DARKNESS
IF A CLAW IS CAUGHT THE BIRD IS LOST
PETER IGNÁTITCH. A well-to-do peasant, 42 years old, married for the
second time, and sickly.
ANÍSYA. His wife, 32 years old, fond of dress.
AKOULÍNA. Peter's daughter by his first marriage, 16 years old, hard
of hearing, mentally undeveloped.
NAN (ANNA PETRÓVNA). His daughter by his second marriage, 10 years old
NIKÍTA. Their laborer, 25 years old, fond of dress.
AKÍM. Nikíta's father, 50 years old, a plain-looking, God-fearing
MATRYÓNA. His wife and Nikíta's mother, 50 years old.
MARÍNA An orphan girl, 22 years old.
MARTHA. Peter's sister.
MÍTRITCH An old laborer, ex-soldier.
SIMON. Marína's husband.
BRIDEGROOM. Engaged to Akoulína.
IVÁN. His father.
VISITORS, WOMEN, GIRLS, AND PEOPLE come to see the wedding
N.B.--The "oven" mentioned is the usual large, brick, Russian
baking-oven. The top of it outside is flat, so that more than one
person can lie on it.
The Act takes place in autumn in a large village. The Scene represents
PETER'S roomy hut. PETER is sitting on a wooden bench, mending a
horse-collar. ANÍSYA and AKOULÍNA are spinning, and singing a
PETER (looking out of the window). The horses have got loose again. If
we don't look out they'll be killing the colt. Nikíta! Hey, Nikíta! Is
the fellow deaf? (Listens. To the women.) Shut up, one can't hear
NIKÍTA (from outside). What?
PETER. Drive the horses in.
NIKÍTA. We'll drive 'em in. All in good time.
PETER (shaking his head). Ah, these laborers! If I were well, I'd not
keep one on no account. There's nothing but bother with 'em. (Rises
and sits down again.) Nikíta!.... It's no good shouting. One of you'd
better go. Go, Akoúl, drive 'em in.
AKOULÍNA. What? The horses?
PETER. What else?
AKOULÍNA. All right.
PETER. Ah, but he's a loafer, that lad ... no good at all. Won't stir
a finger if he can help it.
ANÍSYA. You're so mighty brisk yourself. When you're not sprawling on
the top of the oven you're squatting on the bench. To goad others to
work is all you're fit for.
PETER. If one weren't to goad you on a bit, one'd have no roof left
over one's head before the year's out. Oh, what people!
ANÍSYA. You go shoving a dozen jobs on to one's shoulders, and then do
nothing but scold. It's easy to lie on the oven and give orders.
PETER (sighing). Oh, if 'twere not for this sickness that's got hold
of me, I'd not keep him on another day.
AKOULÍNA (off the scene). Gee up, gee, woo.
[A colt neighs, the stamping of horses' feet and the creaking of
the gate are heard.
PETER. Bragging, that's what he's good at. I'd like to sack him, I
ANÍSYA (mimicking him). "Like to sack him." You buckle to yourself,
and then talk.
AKOULÍNA (enters). It's all I could do to drive 'em in. That piebald
PETER. And where's Nikíta?
AKOULÍNA. Where's Nikíta? Why, standing out there in the street.
PETER. What's he standing there for?
AKOULÍNA. What's he standing there for? He stands there jabbering.
PETER. One can't get any sense out of her! Who's he jabbering with?
AKOULÍNA (does not hear). Eh, what?
[PETER waves her off. She sits down to her spinning.
NAN (running in to her mother). Nikíta's father and mother have come.
They're going to take him away. It's true!
NAN. Yes. Blest if they're not! (Laughing.) I was just going by, and
Nikíta, he says, "Good-bye, Anna Petróvna," he says, "you must come
and dance at my wedding. I'm leaving you," he says, and laughs.
ANÍSYA (to her husband). There now. Much he cares. You see, he wants
to leave of himself. "Sack him" indeed!
PETER. Well, let him go. Just as if I couldn't find somebody else.
ANÍSYA. And what about the money he's had in advance?
[NAN stands listening at the door for awhile, and then exit.
PETER (frowning). The money? Well, he can work it off in summer,
ANÍSYA. Well, of course you'll be glad if he goes and you've not got
to feed him. It's only me as'll have to work like a horse all the
winter. That lass of yours isn't over fond of work either. And you'll
be lying up on the oven. I know you.
PETER. What's the good of wearing out one's tongue before one has the
hang of the matter?
ANÍSYA. The yard's full of cattle. You've not sold the cow, and have
kept all the sheep for the winter: feeding and watering 'em alone
takes all one's time, and you want to sack the laborer. But I tell you
straight, I'm not going to do a man's work! I'll go and lie on the top
of the oven same as you, and let everything go to pot! You may do what
PETER (to Akoulína). Go and see about the feeding, will you? it's
AKOULÍNA. The feeding? All right.
[Puts on a coat and takes a rope.
ANÍSYA. I'm not going to work for you. You go and work yourself. I've
had enough of it, so there!
PETER. That'll do. What are you raving about? Like a sheep with the
ANÍSYA. You're a crazy cur, you are! One gets neither work nor
pleasure from you. Eating your fill, that's all you do; you palsied
PETER (spits and puts on coat). Faugh! The Lord have mercy! I'd better
go myself and see what's up.
ANÍSYA (after him). Scurvy long-nosed devil!
AKOULÍNA. What are you swearing at dad for?
ANÍSYA. Hold your noise, you idiot!
AKOULÍNA (going to the door). I know why you're swearing at him.
You're an idiot yourself, you bitch. I'm not afraid of you.
ANÍSYA. What do you mean? (Jumps up and looks round for something to
hit her with.) Mind, or I'll give you one with the poker.
AKOULÍNA (opening the door). Bitch! devil! that's what you are! Devil!
bitch! bitch! devil!
ANÍSYA (ponders). "Come and dance at my wedding!" What new plan is
this? Marry? Mind. Nikíta, if that's your intention, I'll go and....
No, I can't live without him. I won't let him go.
NIKÍTA (enters, looks round, and, seeing Anísya alone, approaches
quickly. In a low tone). Here's a go; I'm in a regular fix! That
governor of mine wants to take me away,--tells me I'm to come home.
Says quite straight I'm to marry and live at home.
ANÍSYA. Well, go and marry! What's that to me?
NIKÍTA. Is that it? Why, here am I reckoning how best to consider
matters, and just hear her! She tells me to go and marry. Why's that?
(Winking.) Has she forgotten?
ANÍSYA. Yes, go and marry! What do I care?
NIKÍTA. What are you spitting for? Just see, she won't even let me
stroke her.... What's the matter?
ANÍSYA. This! That you want to play me false.... If you do,--why, I
don't want you either. So now you know!
NIKÍTA. That'll do, Anísya. Do you think I'll forget you? Never while
I live! I'll not play you false, that's flat. I've been thinking that
supposing they do go and make me marry, I'd still come back to you. If
only he don't make me live at home.
ANÍSYA. Much need I'll have of you, once you're married.
NIKÍTA. There's a go now. How is it possible to go against one's
ANÍSYA. Yes, I daresay, shove it all on your father. You know it's
your own doing. You've long been plotting with that slut of yours,
MARÍNA. It's she has put you up to it. She didn't come here for
nothing t'other day.
NIKÍTA. Marína? What's she to me? Much I care about her!... Plenty of
them buzzing around.
ANÍSYA. Then what has made your father come here? It's you have told
him to. You've gone and deceived me.
NIKÍTA. Anísya, do you believe in a God or not? I never so much as
dreamt of it. I know nothing at all about it. I never even dreamt of
it--that's flat. My old dad has got it all out of his own pate.
ANÍSYA. If you don't wish it yourself who can force you? He can't
drive you like an ass.
NIKÍTA. Well, I reckon it's not possible to go against one's parent.
But it's not by my wish.
ANÍSYA. Don't you budge, that's all about it!
NIKÍTA. There was a fellow wouldn't budge, and the village elder gave
him such a hiding.... That's what it might come to! I've no great wish
for that sort of thing. They say it touches one up....
ANÍSYA. Shut up with your nonsense. Nikíta, listen to me: if you marry
that Marína I don't know what I won't do to myself.... I shall lay
hands on myself! I have sinned, I have gone against the law, but I
can't go back now. If you go away I'll....
NIKÍTA. Why should I go? Had I wanted to go--I should have gone long
ago. There was Iván Semyónitch t'other day--offered me a place as his
coachman.... Only fancy what a life that would have been! But I did
not go. Because, I reckon, I am good enough for any one. Now if you
did not love me it would be a different matter.
ANÍSYA. Yes, and that's what you should remember. My old man will die
one of these fine days, I'm thinking; then we could cover our sin,
make it all right and lawful, and then you'll be master here.
NIKÍTA. Where's the good of making plans? What do I care? I work as
hard as if I were doing it for myself. My master loves me, and his
missus loves me. And if the wenches run after me, it's not my fault,
ANÍSYA. And you'll love me?
NIKÍTA (embracing her). There, as you have ever been in my heart....
MATRYÓNA (enters and crosses herself a long time before the icón.
NIKÍTA and ANÍSYA step apart). What I saw I didn't perceive, what I
heard, I didn't hearken to. Playing with the lass, eh? Well,--even a
calf will play. Why shouldn't one have some fun when one's young? But
your master is out in the yard a-calling you, sonny.
NIKÍTA. I only came to get the axe.
MATRYÓNA. I know, sonny, I know; them sort of axes are mostly to be
found where the women are.
NIKÍTA (stooping to pick up axe). I say, mother, is it true you want
me to marry? As I reckon, that's quite unnecessary. Besides, I've got
no wish that way.
MATRYÓNA. Eh, honey! why should you marry? Go on as you are. It's all
the old man. You'd better go, sonny; we can talk these matters over
NIKÍTA. It's a queer go! One moment I'm to be married, the next, not.
I can't make head or tail of it.
ANÍSYA. What's it all about, then? Do you really wish him to get
MATRYÓNA. Eh, why should he marry, my jewel? It's all nonsense, all my
old man's drivel. "Marry, marry." But he's reckoning without his host.
You know the saying, "From oats and hay, why should horses stray?"
When you've enough to spare, why look elsewhere? And so in this case.
(Winks.) Don't I see which way the wind blows?
ANÍSYA. Where's the good of my pretending to you, Mother Matryóna? You
know all about it. I have sinned. I love your son.
MATRYÓNA. Dear me, here's news! D'you think Mother Matryóna didn't
know? Eh, lassie,--Mother Matryóna's been ground, and ground again,
ground fine! This much I can tell you, my jewel: Mother Matryóna can
see through a brick wall three feet thick. I know it all, my jewel! I
know what young wives need sleeping draughts for, so I've brought some
[Unties a knot in her handkerchief and brings out paper-packets.
As much as is wanted, I see, and what's not wanted I neither see nor
perceive! There! Mother Matryóna has also been young. I had to know a
thing or two to live with my old fool. I know seventy-and-seven
dodges. But I see your old man's quite seedy, quite seedy! How's one
to live with such as him? Why, if you pricked him with a hayfork it
wouldn't fetch blood. See if you don't bury him before the spring.
Then you'll need some one in the house. Well, what's wrong with my
son? He'll do as well as another. Then where's the advantage of my
taking him away from a good place? Am I my child's enemy?
ANÍSYA. Oh, if only he does not go away!
MATRYÓNA. He won't go away, birdie. It's all nonsense. You know my old
man. His wits are always wool-gathering; yet sometimes he takes a
thing into his pate, and it's as if it were wedged in, you can't knock
it out with a hammer.
ANÍSYA. And what started this business?
MATRYÓNA. Well, you see, my jewel, you yourself know what a fellow
with women the lad is,--and he's handsome too, though I say it as
shouldn't. Well, you know, he was living at the railway, and they had
an orphan wench there to cook for them. Well, that same wench took to
running after him.
MATRYÓNA. Yes, the plague seize her! Whether anything happened or not,
anyhow something got to my old man's ears. Maybe he heard from the
neighbors, maybe she's been and blabbed....
ANÍSYA. Well, she is a bold hussy!
MATRYÓNA. So my old man--the old blockhead--off he goes: "Marry,
marry," he says, "he must marry her and cover the sin," he says. "We
must take the lad home," he says, "and he shall marry," he says. Well,
I did my best to make him change his mind, but, dear me, no. So, all
right, thinks I,--I'll try another dodge. One always has to entice
them fools in this way, just pretend to be of their mind, and when it
comes to the point one goes and turns it all one's own way. You know,
a woman has time to think seventy-and-seven thoughts while falling off
the oven, so how's such as he to see through it? "Well, yes," says I,
"it would be a good job,--only we must consider well beforehand. Why
not go and see our son, and talk it over with Peter Ignátitch and hear
what he has to say?" So here we are.
ANÍSYA. Oh dear, oh dear, how will it all end? Supposing his father
just orders him to marry her?
MATRYÓNA. Orders, indeed! Chuck his orders to the dogs! Don't you
worry; that affair will never come off. I'll go to your old man
myself, and sift and strain this matter clear--there will be none of
it left. I have come here only for the look of the thing. A very
likely thing! Here's my son living in happiness and expecting
happiness, and I'll go and match him with a slut! No fear, I'm not a
ANÍSYA. And she--this Marína--came dangling after him here! Mother,
would you believe, when they said he was going to marry, it was as if
a knife had gone right through my heart. I thought he cared for her.
MATRYÓNA. Oh, my jewel! Why, you don't think him such a fool, that he
should go and care for a homeless baggage like that? Nikíta is a
sensible fellow, you see. He knows whom to love. So don't you go and
fret, my jewel. We'll not take him away, and we won't marry him. No,
we'll let him stay on, if you'll only oblige us with a little money.
ANÍSYA. All I know is, that I could not live if Nikíta went away.
MATRYÓNA. Naturally, when one's young it's no easy matter! You, a
wench in full bloom, to be living with the dregs of a man like that
husband of yours.
ANÍSYA. Mother Matryóna, would you believe it? I'm that sick of him,
that sick of this long-nosed cur of mine, I can hardly bear to look at
MATRYÓNA. Yes, I see, it's one of them cases. Just look here. (Looks
round and whispers.) I've been to see that old man, you know he's
given me simples of two kinds. This, you see, is a sleeping draught.
"Just give him one of these powders," he says, "and he'll sleep so
sound you might jump on him!" And this here, "This is that kind of
simple," he says, "that if you give one some of it to drink it has no
smell whatever, but its strength is very great. There are seven doses
here, a pinch at a time. Give him seven pinches," he says, "and she
won't have far to look for freedom," he says.
ANÍSYA. O-o-oh! What's that?
MATRYÓNA. "No sign whatever," he says. He's taken a rouble for it.
"Can't sell it for less," he says. Because it's no easy matter to get
'em, you know. I paid him, dearie, out of my own money. If she takes
them, thinks I, it's all right; if she don't, I can let old Michael's
daughter have them.
ANÍSYA. O-o-oh! But mayn't some evil come of them? I'm frightened!
MATRYÓNA. What evil, my jewel? If your old man was hale and hearty,
'twould be a different matter, but he's neither alive nor dead as it
is. He's not for this world. Such things often happen.
ANÍSYA. O-o-oh, my poor head! I'm afeared, Mother Matryóna, lest some
evil come of them. No. That won't do.
MATRYÓNA. Just as you like. I might even return them to him.
ANÍSYA. And are they to be used in the same way as the others? Mixed
MATRYÓNA. Better in tea, he says. "You can't notice anything," he says,
"no smell nor nothing." He's a cute old fellow, too.
ANÍSYA (taking the powder). O-oh, my poor head! Could I have ever
thought of such a thing if my life were not a very hell?
MATRYÓNA. You'll not forget that rouble? I promised to take it to the
old man. He's had some trouble, too.
ANÍSYA. Of course?
[Goes to her box and hides the powders.
MATRYÓNA. And now, my jewel, keep it as close as you can, so that no
one should find it out. Heaven defend that it should happen, but if
any one notices it, tell 'em it's for the black-beetles. (Takes the
rouble.) It's also used for beetles. (Stops short.)
[Enter AKÍM, who crosses himself in front of the icon, and then
PETER, who sits down.
PETER. Well, then, how's it to be, Daddy Akím?
AKÍM. As it's best, Peter Ignátitch, as it's best.... I mean--as it's
best. 'Cos why? I'm afeared of what d'you call 'ems, some tomfoolery,
you know. I'd like to, what d'you call it.... to start, you know,
start the lad honest, I mean. But supposing you'd rather, what d'you
call it, we might, I mean, what's name? As it's best....
PETER. All right. All right. Sit down and let's talk it over. (Akím
sits down.) Well, then, what's it all about? You want him to marry?
MATRYÓNA. As to marrying, he might bide a while, Peter Ignátitch. You
know our poverty, Peter Ignátitch. What's he to marry on? We've hardly
enough to eat ourselves. How can he marry then?...
PETER. You must consider what will be best.
MATRYÓNA. Where's the hurry for him to get married? Marriage is not
that sort of thing, it's not like ripe raspberries that drop off if
not picked in time.
PETER. If he were to get married, 'twould be a good thing in a way.
AKÍM. We'd like to ... what d'you call it? 'Cos why, you see. I've
what d'you call it ... a job. I mean, I've found a paying job in town,
MATRYÓNA. And a fine job too--cleaning out cesspools. The other day
when he came home, I could do nothing but spew and spew. Faugh!
AKÍM. It's true, at first it does seem what d'you call it ... "knocks
one clean over," you know,--the smell, I mean. But one gets used to
it, and then it's nothing, no worse than malt grain, and then it's,
what d'you call it, ... pays, pays, I mean. And as to the smell being,
what d'you call it, it's not for the likes of us to complain. And one
changes one's clothes. So we'd like to take what's his name ...
NIKÍTA, I mean, home. Let him manage things at home while I, what
d'you call it,--earn something in town.
PETER. You want to keep your son at home? Yes, that would be well: but
how about the money he has had in advance?
AKÍM. That's it, that's it! It's just as you Say, Ignátitch, it's just
what d'you call it. 'Cos why? If you go into service, it's as good as
if you had sold yourself, they say. That will be all right. I mean he
may stay and serve his time, only he must, what d'you call it, get
married. I mean--so: you let him off for a little while, that he may,
what d'you call it?
PETER. Yes, we could manage that.
MATRYÓNA. Ah, but it's not yet settled between ourselves, Peter
Ignátitch. I'll speak to you as I would before God, and you may judge
between my old man and me. He goes on harping on that marriage. But
just ask--who it is he wants him to marry. If it were a girl of the
right sort now--I am not my child's enemy, but the wench is not
AKÍM. No, that's wrong! Wrong, I say. 'Cos why? She, that same girl--
it's my son as has offended, offended the girl I mean.
PETER. How offended?
AKÍM. That's how. She's what d'you call it, with him, with my son,
NIKÍTA. With Nikíta, what d'you call it, mean.
MATRYÓNA. You wait a bit, my tongue runs smoother--let me tell it. You
know, this lad of ours lived at the railway before he came to you.
There was a girl there as kept dangling after him. A girl of no
account, you know; her name's Marína. She used to cook for the men. So
now this same girl accuses our son, Nikíta, that he, so to say,
PETER. Well, there's nothing good in that.
MATRYÓNA. But she's no honest girl herself; she runs after the fellows
like a common slut.
AKÍM. There you are again, old woman, and it's not at all what d'you
call it, it's all not what d'you call it, I mean....
MATRYÓNA. There now, that's all the sense one gets from my old owl--
"what d'you call it, what d'you call it," and he doesn't know himself
what he means. Peter Ignátitch, don't listen to me, but go yourself
and ask any one you like about the girl, everybody will say the same.
She's just a homeless good-for-nothing.
PETER. You know, Daddy Akím, if that's how things are, there's no
reason for him to marry her. A daughter-in-law's not like a shoe, you
can't kick her off.
AKÍM (excitedly). It's false, old woman, it's what d'you call it,
false; I mean, about the girl; false! 'Cos why? The lass is a good
lass, a very good lass, you know. I'm sorry, sorry for the lassie, I
MATRYÓNA. It's an old saying: "For the wide world old Miriam grieves,
and at home without bread her children she leaves." He's sorry for the
girl, but not sorry for his own son! Sling her round your neck and
carry her about with you! That's enough of such empty cackle!
AKÍM. No, it's not empty.
MATRYÓNA. There, don't interrupt, let me have my say.
AKÍM (interrupts). No, not empty! I mean, you twist things your own
way, about the lass or about yourself. Twist them, I mean, to make it
better for yourself; but God, what d'you call it, turns them His way.
That's how it is.
MATRYÓNA. Eh! One only wears out one's tongue with you.
AKÍM. The lass is hard-working and spruce, and keeps everything round
herself ... what d'you call it. And in our poverty, you know, it's a
pair of hands, I mean; and the wedding needn't cost much. But the
chief thing's the offence, the offence to the lass, and she's a what
d'you call it, an orphan, you know; that's what she is, and there's
MATRYÓNA. Eh! they'll all tell you a tale of that sort....
ANÍSYA. Daddy Akím, you'd better listen to us women; we can tell you a
thing or two.
AKÍM. And God, how about God? Isn't she a human being, the lass? A
what d'you call it,--also a human being I mean, before God. And how do
you look at it?
MATRYÓNA. Eh! ... started off again?...
PETER. Wait a bit, Daddy Akím. One can't believe all these girls say,
either. The lad's alive, and not far away; send for him, and find out
straight from him if it's true. He won't wish to lose his soul. Go and
call the fellow, (Anísya rises) and tell him his father wants him.
MATRYÓNA. That's right, dear friend; you've cleared the way clean, as
with water. Yes, let the lad speak for himself. Nowadays, you know,
they'll not let you force a son to marry; one must first of all ask
the lad. He'll never consent to marry her and disgrace himself, not
for all the world. To my thinking, it's best he should go on living
with you and serving you as his master. And we need not take him home
for the summer either; we can hire a help. If you would only give us
ten roubles now, we'll let him stay on. Peter. All in good time. First
let us settle one thing before we start another. Akím. You see, Peter
Ignátitch, I speak. 'Cos why? you know how it happens. We try to fix
things up as seems best for ourselves, you know; and as to God, we
what d'you call it, we forget Him. We think it's best so, turn it our
own way, and lo! we've got into a fix, you know. We think it will be
best, I mean; and lo! it turns out much worse--without God, I mean.
PETER. Of course one must not forget God.
AKÍM. It turns out worse! But when it's the right way--God's way--it
what d'you call it, it gives one joy; seems pleasant, I mean. So I
reckon, you see, get him, the lad, I mean, get him to marry her, to
keep him from sin, I mean, and let him what d'you call it at home, as
it's lawful, I mean, while I go and get the job in town. The work is
of the right sort--it's payin', I mean. And in God's sight it's what
d'you call it--it's best, I mean. Ain't she an orphan? Here, for
example, a year ago some fellows went and took timber from the
steward,--thought they'd do the steward, you know. Yes, they did the
steward, but they couldn't what d'you call it--do God, I mean. Well,
[Enter NIKÍTA and NAN.
NIKÍTA. You called me?
[Sits down and takes out his tobacco-pouch.
PETER (in a low, reproachful voice). What are you thinking about--have
you no manners? Your father is going to speak to you, and you sit down
and fool about with tobacco. Come, get up!
[NIKÍTA rises, leans carelessly with his elbow on the table, and
AKÍM. It seems there's a complaint, you know, about you, Nikíta--a
complaint, I mean, a complaint.
NIKÍTA. Who's been complaining?
AKÍM. Complaining? It's a maid, an orphan maid, complaining, I mean.
It's her, you know--a complaint against you, from Marína, I mean.
NIKÍTA (laughs). Well, that's a good one. What's the complaint? And
who's told you--she herself?
AKÍM. It's I am asking you, and you must now, what d'you call it, give
me an answer. Have you got mixed up with the lass, I mean--mixed up,
NIKÍTA. I don't know what you mean. What's up?
AKÍM. Foolin', I mean, what d'you call it? foolin'. Have you been
foolin' with her, I mean?
NIKÍTA. Never mind what's been! Of course one does have some fun with
a cook now and then to while away the time. One plays the concertina
and gets her to dance. What of that?
PETER. Don't shuffle, Nikíta, but answer your father straight out.
AKÍM (solemnly). You can hide it from men but not from God, Nikíta.
You, what d'you call it--think, I mean, and don't tell lies. She's an
orphan; so, you see, any one is free to insult her. An orphan, you
see. So you should say what's rightest.
NIKÍTA. But what if I have nothing to say? I have told you everything
--because there isn't anything to tell, that's flat! (Getting excited.)
She can go and say anything about me, same as if she was speaking of
one as is dead. Why don't she say anything about Fédka Mikíshin?
Besides, how's this, that one mayn't even have a bit of fun nowadays?
And as for her, well, she's free to say anything she likes.
AKÍM. Ah, Nikíta, mind! A lie will out. Did anything happen?
NIKÍTA (aside). How he sticks to it; it's too bad. (To Akím.) I tell
you, I know nothing more. There's been nothing between us. (Angrily.)
By God! and may I never leave this spot (crosses himself) if I know
anything about it. (Silence. Then still more excitedly.) Why! have you
been thinking of getting me to marry her? What do you mean by it?--
it's a confounded shame. Besides, nowadays you've got no such rights
as to force a fellow to marry. That's plain enough. Besides, haven't I
sworn I know nothing about it?
MATRYÓNA (to her husband). There now, that's just like your silly
pate, to believe all they tell you. He's gone and put the lad to shame
all for nothing. The best thing is to let him live as he is living,
with his master. His master will help us in our present need, and give
us ten roubles, and when the time comes....
PETER. Well, Daddy Akím, how's it to be?
AKÍM (looks at his son, clicking his tongue disapprovingly). Mind,
Nikíta, the tears of one that's been wronged never, what d'you call
it--never fall beside the mark but always on, what's name--the head of
the man as did the wrong. So mind, don't what d'you call it.
NIKÍTA (sits down). What's there to mind? mind yourself.
NAN (aside). I must run and tell mother.
MATRYÓNA (to Peter). That's always the way with this old mumbler of
mine, Peter Ignátitch. Once he's got anything wedged in his pate
there's no knocking it out. We've gone and troubled you all for
nothing. The lad can go on living as he has been. Keep him; he's your
PETER. Well, Daddy Akím, what do you say?
AKÍM. Why, the lad's his own master, if only he what d'you call it....
I only wish that, what d'you call it, I mean.
MATRYÓNA. You don't know yourself what you're jawing about. The lad
himself has no wish to leave. Besides, what do we want with him at
home? We can manage without him.
PETER. Only one thing, Daddy Akím--if you are thinking of taking him
back in summer, I don't want him here for the winter. If he is to stay
at all, it must be for the whole year.
MATRYÓNA. And it's for a year he'll bind himself. If we want help when
the press of work comes, we can hire help, and the lad shall remain
with you. Only give us ten roubles now....
PETER. Well then, is it to be for another year?
AKÍM (sighing). Yes, it seems, it what d'you call it ... if it's so, I
mean, it seems that it must be what d'you call it.
MATRYÓNA. For a year, counting from St. Dimítry's day. We know you'll
pay him fair wages. But give us ten roubles now. Help us out of our
difficulties. (Gets up and bows to Peter.)
[Enter NAN and ANÍSYA. The latter sits down at one side.
PETER. Well, if that's settled we might step across to the inn and
have a drink. Come, Daddy Akím, what do you say to a glass of vódka?
AKÍM. No, I never drink that sort of thing.
PETER. Well, you'll have some tea?
AKÍM. Ah, tea! yes, I do sin that way. Yes, tea's the thing.
PETER. And the women will also have some tea. Come. And you, Nikíta,
go and drive the sheep in and clear away the straw.
NIKÍTA. All right. (Exeunt all but NIKÍTA. NIKÍTA lights a cigarette.
It grows darker.) Just see how they bother one. Want a fellow to tell
'em how he larks about with the wenches! It would take long to tell
'em all those stories--"Marry her," he says. Marry them all! One would
have a good lot of wives! And what need have I to marry? Am as good as
married now! There's many a chap as envies me. Yet how strange it felt
when I crossed myself before the icón. It was just as if some one
shoved me. The whole web fell to pieces at once. They say it's
frightening to swear what's not true. That's all humbug. It's all
talk, that is. It's simple enough.
AKOULÍNA (enters with a rope, which she puts down. She takes off her
outdoor things and goes into closet). You might at least have got a
NIKÍTA. What, to look at you? I can see you well enough without.
AKOULÍNA. Oh, bother you!
[NAN enters and whispers to NIKÍTA.
NAN. Nikíta, there's a person wants you. There is!
NIKÍTA. What person?
NAN. Marína from the railway; she's out there, round the corner.
NAN. Blest if she isn't! Nikíta. What does she want?
NAN. She wants you to come out. She says, "I only want to say a word
to Nikíta." I began asking, but she won't tell, but only says, "Is it
true he's leaving you?" And I say, "No, only his father wanted to take
him away and get him to marry, but he won't, and is going to stay with
us another year." And she says, "For goodness' sake send him out to
me. I must see him," she says, "I must say a word to him somehow."
She's been waiting a long time. Why don't you go?
NIKÍTA. Bother her! What should I go for?
NAN. She says, "If he don't come, I'll go into the hut to him." Blest
if she didn't say she'd come in!
NIKÍTA. Not likely. She'll wait a bit and then go away.
NAN. "Or is it," she says, "that they want him to marry Akoulína?"
[Re-enter AKOULÍNA, passing near NIKÍTA to take her distaff.
AKOULÍNA. Marry whom to Akoulína?
NAN. Why, Nikíta. Akoulína. A likely thing! Who says it?
NIKÍTA (looks at her and laughs). It seems people do say it. Would you
marry me, Akoulína?
AKOULÍNA. Who, you? Perhaps I might have afore, but I won't now.
NIKÍTA. And why not now? Akoulína. 'Cos you wouldn't love me.
NIKÍTA. Why not? Akoulína. 'Cos you'd be forbidden to.
NIKÍTA. Who'd forbid it?
AKOULÍNA. Who? My step-mother. She does nothing but grumble, and is
always staring at you.
NIKÍTA (laughing). Just hear her! Ain't she cute?
AKOULÍNA. Who? Me? What's there to be cute about? Am I blind? She's
been rowing and rowing at dad all day. The fat-muzzled witch!
[Goes into closet.
NAN (looking out of the window). Look, Nikíta, she's coming! I'm blest
if she isn't! I'll go away.
MARÍNA (enters). What are you doing with me?
NIKÍTA. Doing? I'm not doing anything.
MARÍNA. You mean to desert me.
NIKÍTA (gets up angrily). What does this look like, your coming here?
MARÍNA. Oh, Nikíta!
NIKÍTA. Well, you are strange! What have you come for?
NIKÍTA. That's my name. What do you want with Nikíta? Well, what next?
Go away, I tell you!
MARÍNA. I see, you do want to throw me over.
NIKÍTA. Well, and what's there to remember? You yourself don't know.
When you stood out there round the corner and sent Nan for me, and I
didn't come, wasn't it plain enough that you're not wanted? It seems
pretty simple. So there--go!
MARÍNA. Not wanted! So now I'm not wanted! I believed you when you
said you would love me. And now that you've ruined me, I'm not wanted.
NIKÍTA. Where's the good of talking? This is quite improper. You've
been telling tales to father. Now, do go away, will you?
MARÍNA. You know yourself I never loved any one but you. Whether you
married me or not, I'd not have been angry. I've done you no wrong,
then why have you left off caring for me? Why?
NIKÍTA. Where's the use of baying at the moon? You go away. Goodness
me! what a duffer!
MARÍNA. It's not that you deceived me when you promised to marry me
that hurts, but that you've left off loving. No, it's not that you've
stopped loving me either, but that you've changed me for another,
that's what hurts. I know who it is!
NIKÍTA (comes up to her viciously). Eh! what's the good of talking to
the likes of you, that won't listen to reason? Be off, or you'll drive
me to do something you'll be sorry for.
MARÍNA. What, will you strike me, then? Well then, strike me! What are
you turning away for? Ah, Nikíta!
NIKÍTA. Supposing some one came in. Of course, it's quite improper.
And what's the good of talking?
MARÍNA. So this is the end of it! What has been has flown. You want me
to forget it? Well then, Nikíta, listen. I kept my maiden honor as the
apple of my eye. You have ruined me for nothing, you have deceived me.
You have no pity on a fatherless and motherless girl! (Weeping.) You
have deserted, you have killed me, but I bear you no malice. God
forgive you! If you find a better one you'll forget me, if a worse one
you'll remember me. Yes, you will remember, Nikíta! Good-bye, then, if
it is to be. Oh, how I loved you! Good-bye for the last time.
[Takes his head in her hands and tries to kiss him.
NIKÍTA (tossing his head back). I'm not going to talk with the likes
of you. If you won't go away I will, and you may stay here by
MARÍNA (screams). You are a brute. (In the doorway.) God will give you
AKOULÍNA (comes out of closet). You're a dog, Nikíta!
NIKÍTA. What's up?
AKOULÍNA. What a cry she gave!
NIKÍTA. What's up with you?
AKOULÍNA. What's up? You've hurt her, ... That's the way you'll hurt
me also. You're a dog.
[Exit into closet.
NIKÍTA. Here's a fine muddle. I'm as sweet as honey on the lasses, but
when a fellow's sinned with 'em it's a bad look-out!
The scene represents the village street. To the left the outside of
PETER'S hut, built of logs, with a porch in the middle; to the right
of the hut the gates and a corner of the yard buildings. ANÍSYA is
beating hemp in the street near the corner of the yard. Six months
have elapsed since the First Act.
ANÍSYA (stops and listens). Mumbling something again. He's probably
got off the stove.
[AKOULÍNA enters, carrying two pails on a yoke.
ANÍSYA. He's calling. You go and see what he wants, kicking up such a
AKOULÍNA. Why don't you go?
ANÍSYA. Go, I tell you!
[Exit AKOULÍNA into hut.
He's bothering me to death. Won't let out where the money is, and
that's all about it. He was out in the passage the other day. He must
have been hiding it there. Now, I don't know myself where it is. Thank
goodness he's afraid of parting with it, so that at least it will stay
in the house. If only I could manage to find it. He hadn't it on him
yesterday. Now I don't know where it can be. He has quite worn the
life out of me.
[Enter AKOULÍNA, tying her kerchief over her head.
ANÍSYA. Where are you off to?
AKOULÍNA. Where? Why, he's told me to go for Aunt Martha. "Fetch my
sister," he says. "I am going to die," he says. "I have a word to say
ANÍSYA (aside). Asking for his sister? Oh, my poor head! Sure he wants
to give it her. What shall I do? Oh! (To AKOULÍNA.) Don't go! Where
are you off to?
AKOULÍNA. To call Aunt.
ANÍSYA. Don't go I tell you, I'll go myself. You go and take the
clothes to the river to rinse. Else you'll not have finished by the
AKOULÍNA. But he told me to go.
ANÍSYA. You go and do as you're bid. I tell you I'll fetch Martha
myself. Take the shirts off the fence.
AKOULÍNA. The shirts? But maybe you'll not go. He's given the order.
ANÍSYA. Didn't I say I'd go? Where's Nan?
AKOULÍNA. Nan? Minding the calves.
ANÍSYA. Send her here. I dare say they'll not run away.
[AKOULÍNA collects the clothes, and exit.
ANÍSYA. If one doesn't go he'll scold. If one goes he'll give the
money to his sister. All my trouble will be wasted. I don't myself
know what I'm to do. My poor head's splitting.
[Continues to work.
[Enter MATRYÓNA, with a stick and a bundle, in outdoor clothes.
MATRYÓNA. May the Lord help you, honey.
ANÍSYA (looks round, stops working, and claps her hands with joy).
Well, I never expected this! Mother Matryóna, God has sent the right
guest at the right time.
MATRYÓNA. Well, how are things?
ANÍSYA. Ah, I'm driven well-nigh crazy. It's awful!
MATRYÓNA. Well, still alive, I hear?
ANÍSYA. Oh, don't talk about it. He doesn't live and doesn't die!
MATRYÓNA. But the money--has he given it to anybody?
ANÍSYA. He's just sending for his sister Martha--probably about the
MATRYÓNA. Well, naturally! But hasn't he given it to any one else?
ANÍSYA. To no one. I watch like a hawk.
MATRYÓNA. And where is it?
ANÍSYA. He doesn't let out. And I can't find out in any way. He hides
it now here, now there, and I can't do anything because of Akoulína.
Idiot though she is, she keeps watch, and is always about. Oh my poor
head! I'm bothered to death.
MATRYÓNA. Oh, my jewel, if he gives the money to any one but you,
you'll never cease regretting it as long as you live! They'll turn you
out of house and home without anything. You've been worriting, and
worriting all your life with one you don't love, and will have to go
a-begging when you are a widow.
ANÍSYA. No need to tell me, mother. My heart's that weary, and I don't
know what to do. No one to get a bit of advice from. I told Nikíta,
but he's frightened of the job. The only thing he did was to tell me
yesterday it was hidden under the floor.
MATRYÓNA. Well, and did you look there?
ANÍSYA. I couldn't. The old man himself was in the room. I notice that
sometimes he carries it about on him, and sometimes he hides it.
MATRYÓNA. But you, my lass, must remember that if once he gives you
the slip there's no getting it right again! (Whispering.) Well, and
did you give him the strong tea?
ANÍSYA. Oh! oh!...
[About to answer, but sees neighbor and stops.
[The NEIGHBOR (a woman) passes the hut, and listens to a call from
NEIGHBOR (to Anísya). I say, Anísya! Oh, Anísya! There's your old man
calling, I think.
ANÍSYA. That's the way he always coughs,--just as if he were screaming.
He's getting very bad.
NEIGHBOR (approaches MATRYÓNA). How do you do, granny? Have you come
MATRYÓNA. Straight from home, dear. Come to see my son. Brought him
some shirts--can't help thinking of these things, you see, when it's
one's own child.
NEIGHBOR. Yes, that's always so. (To Anísya.) And I was thinking of
beginning to bleach the linen, but it is a bit early, no one has begun
ANÍSYA. Where's the hurry?
MATRYÓNA. Well, and has he had communion?
ANÍSYA. Oh, dear, yes, the priest was here yesterday.
NEIGHBOR. I had a look at him yesterday. Dearie me! one wonders his
body and soul keep together. And, O Lord, the other day he seemed just
at his last gasp, so that they laid him under the holy icóns. They
started lamenting and got ready to lay him out.
ANÍSYA. He came to, and creeps about again.
MATRYÓNA. Well, and is he to have extreme unction?
ANÍSYA. The neighbors advise it. If he lives till to-morrow we'll send
for the priest.
NEIGHBOR. Oh, Anísya dear, I should think your heart must be heavy. As
the saying goes, "Not he is sick that's ill in bed, but he that sits
and waits in dread."
ANÍSYA. Yes, if it were only over one way or other!
NEIGHBOR. Yes, that's true, dying for a year, it's no joke. You're
bound hand and foot like that.
MATRYÓNA. Ah, but a widow's lot is also bitter. It's all right as long
as one's young, but who'll care for you when you're old? Oh yes, old
age is not pleasure. Just look at me. I've not walked very far, and
yet am so footsore I don't know how to stand. Where's my son?
ANÍSYA. Ploughing. But you come in and we'll get the samovár ready;
the tea'll set you up again.
MATRYÓNA (sitting down). Yes, it's true, I'm quite done up, my dears.
As to extreme unction, that's absolutely necessary. Besides, they say
it's good for the soul.
ANÍSYA. Yes, we'll send to-morrow.
MATRYÓNA. Yes, you had better. And we've had a wedding down in our
NEIGHBOR. What, in spring?
MATRYÓNA. Ah, now if it were a poor man, then, as the saying is, it's
always unseasonable for a poor man to marry. But it's Simon
Matvéyitch, he's married that Marína.
ANÍSYA. What luck for her!
NEIGHBOR. He's a widower. I suppose there are children?
MATRYÓNA. Four of 'em. What decent girl would have him! Well, so he's
taken her, and she's glad. You see, the vessel was not sound, so the
wine trickled out.
NEIGHBOR. Oh, my! And what do people say to it? And he, a rich
MATRYÓNA. They are living well enough so far.
NEIGHBOR. Yes, it's true enough. Who wants to marry where there are
children? There now, there's our Michael. He's such a fellow, dear
PEASANT'S VOICE. Hullo, Mávra. Where the devil are you? Go and drive
the cow in.
MATRYÓNA (while the NEIGHBOR is within hearing speaks in her ordinary
voice). Yes, lass, thank goodness, she's married. At any rate my old
fool won't go bothering about Nikíta. Now (suddenly changing her
tone), she's gone! (Whispers.) I say, did you give him the tea?
ANÍSYA. Don't speak about it. He'd better die of himself. It's no use
--he doesn't die, and I have only taken a sin on my soul. O-oh, my
head, my head! Oh, why did you give me those powders?
MATRYÓNA. What of the powders? The sleeping powders, lass,--why not
give them? No evil can come of them.
ANÍSYA. I am not talking of the sleeping ones, but the others, the
MATRYÓNA. Well, honey, those powders are medicinal.
ANÍSYA (sighs). I know, yet it's frightening. Though he's worried me
MATRYÓNA. Well, and did you use many?
ANÍSYA. I gave two doses.
MATRYÓNA. Was anything noticeable?
ANÍSYA. I had a taste of the tea myself--just a little bitter. And he
drank them with the tea and says, "Even tea disgusts me," and I say,
"Everything tastes bitter when one's sick." But I felt that scared,
MATRYÓNA. Don't go thinking about it. The more one thinks the worse it
ANÍSYA. I wish you'd never given them to me and led me into sin. When
I think of it something seems to tear my heart. Oh, dear, why did you
give them to me?
MATRYÓNA. What do you mean, honey? Lord help you! Why are you turning
it on to me? Mind, lass, don't go twisting matters from the sick on to
the healthy. If anything were to happen, I stand aside! I know
nothing! I'm aware of nothing! I'll kiss the cross on it; I never gave
you any kind of powders, never saw any, never heard of any, and never
knew there were such powders. You think about yourself, lass. Why, we
were talking about you the other day. "Poor thing, what torture she
endures. The step-daughter an idiot; the old man rotten, sucking her
lifeblood. What wouldn't one be ready to do in such a case!"
ANÍSYA. I'm not going to deny it. A life such as mine could make one
do worse than that. It could make you hang yourself or throttle him.
Is this a life?
MATRYÓNA. That's just it. There's no time to stand gaping; the money
must be found one way or other, and then he must have his tea.
ANÍSYA. O-oh, my head, my head! I can't think what to do. I am so
frightened; he'd better die of himself. I don't want to have it on my
MATRYÓNA (viciously). And why doesn't he show the money? Does he mean
to take it along with him? Is no one to have it? Is that right? God
forbid such a sum should be lost all for nothing. Isn't that a sin?
What's he doing? Is he worth considering?
ANÍSYA. I don't know anything. He's worried me to death.
MATRYÓNA. What is it you don't know? The business is clear. If you
make a slip now, you'll repent it all your life. He'll give the money
to his sister and you'll be left without.
ANÍSYA. O--oh dear! Yes, and he did send for her--I must go.
MATRYÓNA. You wait a bit and light the samovár first. We'll give him
some tea and search him together--we'll find it, no fear.
ANÍSYA. Oh dear, oh dear; supposing something were to happen.
MATRYÓNA. What now? What's the good of waiting? Do you want the money
to slip from your hand when it's just in sight? You go and do as I
ANÍSYA. Well, I'll go and light the samovár.
MATRYÓNA. Go, honey, do the business so as not to regret it
afterwards. That's right!
[ANÍSYA turns to go. MATRYÓNA calls her back.
MATRYÓNA. Just a word. Don't tell Nikíta about the business. He's
silly. God forbid he should find out about the powders. The Lord only
knows what he would do. He's so tender-hearted. D'you know, he usen't
to be able to kill a chicken. Don't tell him. 'Twould be a fine go, he
wouldn't understand things.
[Stops horror-struck as PETER appears in the doorway.
PETER (holding on to the wall, creeps out into the porch and calls
with a faint voice). How's it one can't make you hear? Oh, oh, Anísya!
[Drops on the bench.
ANÍSYA (steps from behind the corner). Why have you come out? You
should have stayed where you were lying.
PETER. Has the girl gone for Martha? It's very hard.... Oh, if only
death would come quicker!
ANÍSYA. She had no time. I sent her to the river. Wait a bit, I'll go
myself when I'm ready.
PETER. Send Nan. Where's she? Oh, I'm that bad! Oh, death's at hand!
ANÍSYA. I've sent for her already. Peter. Oh, dear! Then where is she?
ANÍSYA. Where's she got to, the plague seize her!
PETER. Oh, dear! I can't bear it. All my inside's on fire. It's as if
a gimlet were boring me. Why have you left me as if I were a dog? ...
no one to give me a drink.... Oh ... send Nan to me.
ANÍSYA. Here she is. Nan, go to father.
[NAN runs in. ANÍSYA goes behind the corner of the house.
PETER. Go you. Oh ... to Aunt Martha, tell her father wants her; say
she's to come, I want her.
NAN. All right.
PETER. Wait a bit. Tell her she's to come quick. Tell her I'm dying.
NAN. I'll just get my shawl and be off.
MATRYÓNA (winking). Now, then, mind and look sharp, lass. Go into the