Part 3 out of 6
hut, hunt about everywhere, like a dog that's hunting for fleas: look
under everything, and I'll search him.
ANÍSYA (to MATRYÓNA). I feel a bit bolder, somehow, now you're here.
(Goes up to porch. To PETER.) Hadn't I better light the samovár?
Here's Mother Matryóna come to see her son; you'll have a cup of tea
PETER. Well, then, light it.
[ANÍSYA goes into the house. MATRYÓNA comes up to the porch.
PETER. How do you do?
MATRYÓNA (bowing). How d'you do, my benefactor; how d'you do, my
precious ... still ill, I see. And my old man, he's that sorry! "Go,"
says he, "see how he's getting on." He sends his respects to you.
PETER. I'm dying.
MATRYÓNA. Ah, yes, Peter Ignátitch, now I look at you I see, as the
saying has it, "Sickness lives where men live." You've shrivelled,
shrivelled, all to nothing, poor dear, now I come to look at you.
Seems illness does not add to good looks.
PETER. My last hour has come.
MATRYÓNA. Oh well, Peter Ignátitch, it's God's will you know, you've
had communion, and you'll have unction, God willing. Your missus is a
wise woman, the Lord be thanked; she'll give you a good burial, and
have prayers said for your soul, all most respectable! And my son,
he'll look after things meanwhile.
PETER. There'll be no one to manage things! She's not steady. Has her
head full of folly--why, I know all about it, I know. And my girl is
silly and young. I've got the homestead together, and there's no one
to attend to things. One can't help feeling it.
MATRYÓNA. Why, if it's money, or something, you can leave orders?
PETER (to Anísya inside the house). Has Nan gone?
MATRYÓNA (aside). There now, he's remembered!
ANÍSYA (from inside). She went then and there. Come inside, won't you?
I'll help you in.
PETER. Let me sit here a bit for the last time. The air's so stuffy
inside. Oh, how bad I feel! Oh, my heart's burning.... Oh, if death
would only come!
MATRYÓNA. If God don't take a soul, the soul can't go out. Death and
life are in God's will. Peter Ignátitch. You can't be sure of death
either. Maybe you'll recover yet. There was a man in our village just
like that, at the very point of death....
PETER. No, I feel I shall die to-day, I feel it.
[Leans back and shuts his eyes.
ANÍSYA (enters). Well, now, are you coming in or not? You do keep one
waiting. Peter! eh, Peter!
MATRYÓNA (steps aside and beckons to ANÍSYA with her finger). Well?
ANÍSYA (comes down the porch steps). Not there.
MATRYÓNA. But have you searched everywhere? Under the floor?
ANÍSYA. No, it's not there either. In the shed perhaps; he was
rummaging there yesterday.
MATRYÓNA. Go, search, search for all you're worth. Go all over
everywhere, as if you licked with your tongue! But I see he'll die
this very day, his nails are turning blue and his face looks earthy.
Is the samovár ready?
ANÍSYA. Just on the boil.
NIKÍTA (comes from the other side, if possible on horse-back, up to
the gate, and does not see PETER. To MATRYÓNA). How d'you do, mother,
is all well at home?
MATRYÓNA. The Lord be thanked, we're all alive and have a crust to
NIKÍTA. Well and how's master?
MATRYÓNA. Hush, there he sits.
[Points to porch.
NIKÍTA. Well, let him sit. What's it to me?
PETER (opens his eyes). Nikíta, I say, Nikíta, come here!
[NIKÍTA approaches. ANÍSYA and MATRYÓNA whisper together.
PETER. Why have you come back so early?
NIKÍTA. I've finished ploughing.
PETER. Have you done the strip beyond the bridge?
NIKÍTA. It's too far to go there.
PETER. Too far? From here it's still farther. You'll have to go on
purpose now. You might have made one job of it.
[ANÍSYA, without showing herself, stands and listens.
MATRYÓNA (approaches). Oh, sonny, why don't you take more pains for
your master? Your master is ill and depends on you; you should serve
him as you would your own father, straining every muscle just as I
always tell you to.
PETER. Well, then--o--oh!... Get out the seed potatoes, and the women
will go and sort them.
ANÍSYA (aside). No fear, I'm not going. He's again sending every one
away; he must have the money on him now, and wants to hide it
PETER. Else ... o--oh! when the time comes for planting, they'll all
be rotten. Oh, I can't stand it!
MATRYÓNA (runs up into the porch and holds PETER up). Shall I help you
into the hut?
PETER. Help me in. (Stops.) Nikíta!
NIKÍTA (angrily). What now?
PETER. I shan't see you again.... I'll die to-day.... Forgive me,
for Christ's sake, forgive me if I have ever sinned against you.... If
I have sinned in word or deed.... There's been all sorts of things.
NIKÍTA. What's there to forgive? I'm a sinner myself.
MATRYÓNA. Ah, sonny, have some feeling.
PETER. Forgive me, for Christ's sake.
NIKÍTA (snivels). God will forgive you, Daddy Peter. I have no cause
to complain of you. You've never done me any wrong. You forgive me;
maybe I've sinned worse against you. (Weeps.)
[PETER goes in whimpering, MATRYÓNA supporting him.
ANÍSYA. Oh, my poor head! It's not without some reason he's hit on
that. (Approaches NIKÍTA.) Why did you say the money was under the
floor? It's not there.
NIKÍTA (does not answer, but cries). I have never had anything bad
from him, nothing but good, and what have I gone and done!
ANÍSYA. Enough now! Where's the money?
NIKÍTA (angrily). How should I know? Go and look for it yourself!
ANÍSYA. What's made you so tender?
NIKÍTA. I am sorry for him,--that sorry. How he cried! Oh, dear!
ANÍSYA. Look at him,--seized with pity! He has found some one to pity
too! He's been treating you like a dog, and even just now was giving
orders to have you turned out of the house. You'd better show me some
NIKÍTA. What are you to be pitied for?
ANÍSYA. If he dies, and the money's been hidden away....
NIKÍTA. No fear, he'll not hide it....
ANÍSYA. Oh, Nikíta darling! he's sent for his sister, and wants to
give it to her. It will be a bad lookout for us. How are we going to
live, if he gives her the money? They'll turn me out of the house! You
try and manage somehow! You said he went to the shed last night.
NIKÍTA. I saw him coming from there, but where he's shoved it to, who
ANÍSYA. Oh, my poor head! I'll go and have a look there.
[NIKÍTA steps aside.
MATRYÓNA (comes out of the hut and down the steps of the porch to
ANÍSYA and NIKÍTA). Don't go anywhere. He's got the money on him. I
felt it on a string round his neck.
ANÍSYA. Oh my head, my head!
MATRYÓNA. If you don't keep wide awake now, then you may whistle for
it. If his sister comes--then good-bye to it!
ANÍSYA. That's true. She'll come and he'll give it her. What's to be
done? Oh, my poor head!
MATRYÓNA. What is to be done? Why, look here; the samovár is boiling,
go and make the tea and pour him out a cup, and then (whispers) put in
all that's left in the paper. When he's drunk the cup, then just take
it. He'll not tell, no fear.
ANÍSYA. Oh! I'm afeared!
MATRYÓNA. Don't be talking now, but look alive, and I'll keep his
sister off if need be. Mind, don't make a blunder! Get hold of the
money and bring it here, and Nikíta will hide it.
ANÍSYA. Oh my head, my head! I don't know how I'm going to....
MATRYÓNA. Don't talk about it I tell you, do as I bid you. Nikíta!
NIKÍTA. What is it?
MATRYÓNA. You stay here--sit down--in case something is wanted.
NIKÍTA (waves his hand). Oh, these women, what won't they be up to?
Muddle one up completely. Bother them! I'll really go and fetch out
MATRYÓNA (catches him by the arm). Stay here, I tell you.
NAN. She was down in her daughter's vegetable plot--she's coming.
ANÍSYA. Coming! What shall we do?
MATRYÓNA. There's plenty of time if you do as I tell you.
ANÍSYA. I don't know what to do; I know nothing, my brain's all in a
whirl. Nan! Go, daughter, and see to the calves, they'll have run
away, I'm afraid.... Oh dear, I haven't the courage.
MATRYÓNA. Go on! I should think the samovár's boiling over.
ANÍSYA. Oh my head, my poor head!
MATRYÓNA (approaches NIKÍTA). Now then, sonny. (Sits down beside him.)
Your affairs must also be thought about, and not left anyhow.
NIKÍTA. What affairs?
MATRYÓNA. Why, this affair--how you're to live your life.
NIKÍTA. How to live my life? Others live, and I shall live!
MATRYÓNA. The old man will probably die to-day.
NIKÍTA. Well, if he dies, God give him rest! What's that to me?
MATRYÓNA (keeps looking towards the porch while she speaks). Eh,
sonny! Those that are alive have to think about living. One needs
plenty of sense in these matters, honey. What do you think? I've
tramped all over the place after your affairs, I've got quite footsore
bothering about matters. And you must not forget me when the time
NIKÍTA. And what's it you've been bothering about?
MATRYÓNA. About your affairs, about your future. If you don't take
trouble in good time you'll get nothing. You know Iván Mosévitch?
Well, I've been to him too. I went there the other day. I had
something else to settle, you know. Well, so I sat and chatted awhile
and then came to the point. "Tell me, Iván Mosévitch," says I, "how's
one to manage an affair of this kind? Supposing," says I, "a peasant
as is a widower married a second wife, and supposing all the children
he has is a daughter by the first wife, and a daughter by the second.
Then," says I, "when that peasant dies, could an outsider get hold of
the homestead by marrying the widow? Could he," says I, "give both the
daughters in marriage and remain master of the house himself?" "Yes,
he could," says he, "but," says he, "it would mean a deal of trouble;
still the thing could be managed by means of money, but if there's no
money it's no good trying."
NIKÍTA (laughs). That goes without saying, only fork out the money.
Who does not want money?
MATRYÓNA. Well then, honey, so I spoke out plainly about the affair.
And he says, "First and foremost, your son will have to get himself on
the register of that village--that will cost something. The elders
will have to be treated. And they, you see, they'll sign. Everything,"
says he, "must be done sensibly." Look (unwraps her kerchief and takes
out a paper), he's written out this paper; just read it, you're a
scholar, you know.
NIKÍTA. This paper's only a decision for the elders to sign. There's
no great wisdom needed for that.
MATRYÓNA. But you just hear what Iván Mosévitch bids us do. "Above
all," he says, "mind and don't let the money slip away, dame. If she
don't get hold of the money," he says, "they'll not let her do it.
Money's the great thing!" So look out, sonny, things are coming to a
NIKÍTA. What's that to me? The money's hers--so let her look out.
MATRYÓNA. Ah, sonny, how you look at it! How can a woman manage such
affairs? Even if she does get the money, is she capable of arranging
it all? One knows what a woman is! You're a man anyhow. You can hide
it, and all that. You see, you've after all got more sense, in case of
NIKÍTA. Oh, your woman's notions are all so inexpedient!
MATRYÓNA. Why inexpedient? You just collar the money, and the woman's
in your hands. And then should she ever turn snappish you'd be able to
tighten the reins!
NIKÍTA. Bother you all,--I'm going.
ANÍSYA (quite pale, runs out of the hut and round the corner to
MATRYÓNA). So it was, it was on him! Here it is!
[Shows that she has something under her apron.
MATRYÓNA. Give it to Nikíta; he'll hide it. Nikíta, take it and hide
NIKÍTA. All right, give here!
ANÍSYA. O--oh, my poor head! No, I'd better do it myself.
[Goes towards the gate.
MATRYÓNA (seizing her by the arm). Where are you going to? You'll be
missed. There's the sister coming; give it him; he knows what to do.
Eh, you blockhead!
ANÍSYA (stops irresolutely). Oh, my head, my head!
NIKÍTA. Well, give it here. I'll shove it away somewhere.
ANÍSYA. Where will you shove it to?
NIKÍTA (laughing). Why, are you afraid?
[Enter AKOULÍNA, carrying clothes from the wash.
ANÍSYA. O--oh, my poor head! (Gives the money.) Mind, Nikíta.
NIKÍTA. What are you afraid of? I'll hide it so that I'll not be able
to find it myself.
ANÍSYA (stands in terror). Oh dear, and supposing he....
MATRYÓNA. Well, is he dead?
ANÍSYA. Yes, he seems dead. He did not move when I took it.
MATRYÓNA. Go in, there's Akoulína.
ANÍSYA. Well there, I've done the sin and he has the money....
MATRYÓNA. Have done and go in! There's Martha coming!
ANÍSYA. There now, I've trusted him. What's going to happen now?
Martha (enters from one side, AKOULÍNA enters from the other. To
AKOULÍNA). I should have come before, but I was at my daughter's.
Well, how's the old man? Is he dying?
AKOULÍNA (puts down the clothes). Don't know; I've been to the river.
Martha (pointing to MATRYÓNA). Who's that?
MATRYÓNA. I'm from Zoúevo. I'm Nikíta's mother from Zoúevo, my dearie.
Good afternoon to you. He's withering, withering away, poor dear--your
brother, I mean. He came out himself. "Send for my sister," he said,
"because," said he.... Dear me, why, I do believe he's dead!
ANÍSYA (runs out screaming. Clings to a post, and begins wailing).
Oh, oh, ah! who-o-o-o-m have you left me to, why-y-y have you
dese-e-e-e-rted me--a miserable widow ... to live my life alone....
Why have you closed your bright eyes....
[Enter NEIGHBOR. MATRYÓNA and NEIGHBOR catch hold of ANÍSYA under
the arms to support her. AKOULÍNA and MARTHA go into the hut. A
A VOICE IN THE CROWD. Send for the old women to lay out the body.
MATRYÓNA (rolls up her sleeves). Is there any water in the copper? But
I daresay the samovár is still hot. I'll also go and help a bit.
The same hut. Winter. Nine months have passed since Act II. ANÍSYA,
plainly dressed, sits before a loom weaving. NAN is on the oven.
MÍTRITCH (an old laborer, enters and slowly takes off his outdoor
things). Oh Lord, have mercy! Well, hasn't the master come home yet?
MÍTRITCH. Nikíta isn't back from town, is he?
MÍTRITCH. Must have been on the spree. Oh Lord!
ANÍSYA. Have you finished in the stackyard?
MÍTRITCH. What d'you think? Got it all as it should be, and covered
everything with straw! I don't like doing things by halves! Oh Lord!
holy Nicholas! (Picks at the corns on his hands.) But it's time he was
ANÍSYA. What need has he to hurry? He's got money. Merry-making with
that girl, I daresay....
MÍTRITCH. Why shouldn't one make merry if one has the money? And why
did Akoulína go to town?
ANÍSYA. You'd better ask her. How do I know what the devil took her
MÍTRITCH. What! to town? There's all sorts of things to be got in town
if one's got the means. Oh Lord!
NAN. Mother, I heard myself. "I'll get you a little shawl," he says,
blest if he didn't; "you shall choose it yourself," he says. And she
got herself up so fine; she put on her velveteen coat and the French
ANÍSYA. Really, a girl's modesty reaches only to the door. Step over
the threshold and it's forgotten. She is a shameless creature.
MÍTRITCH. Oh my! What's the use of being ashamed? While there's plenty
of money make merry. Oh Lord! It is too soon to have supper, eh?
(ANÍSYA does not answer.) I'll go and get warm meanwhile. (Climbs on
the stove.) Oh, Lord! Blessed Virgin Mother! Holy Nicholas!
NEIGHBOR (enters). Seems your good man's not back yet?
NEIGHBOR. It's time he was. Hasn't he perhaps stopped at our inn? My
sister, Thekla, says there's heaps of sledges standing there as have
come from the town.
ANÍSYA. Nan! Nan, I say!
ANÍSYA. You run to the inn and see! Mayhap, being drunk, he's gone
NAN (jumps down from the oven and dresses). All right.
NEIGHBOR. And he's taken Akoulína with him?
ANÍSYA. Else he'd not have had any need of going. It's because of her
he's unearthed all the business there. "Must go to the bank," he says;
"it's time to receive the payments," he says. But it's all her
NEIGHBOR (shakes her head). It's a bad look-out.
NAN (at the door). And if he's there, what am I to say?
ANÍSYA. You only see if he's there.
NAN. All right. I'll be back in a winking.
MÍTRITCH (roars). Oh Lord! merciful Nicholas!
NEIGHBOR (starting). Oh, how he scared me! Who is it?
ANÍSYA. Why, Mítritch, our laborer.
NEIGHBOR. Oh dear, oh dear, what a fright he did give me! I had quite
forgotten. But tell me, dear, I've heard some one's been wooing
ANÍSYA (gets up from the loom and sits down by the table). There was
some one from Dédlovo; but it seems the affair's got wind there too.
They made a start, and then stopped; so the thing fell through. Of
course, who'd care to?
NEIGHBOR. And the Lizounófs from Zoúevo?
ANÍSYA. They made some steps too, but it didn't come off either. They
won't even see us.
NEIGHBOR. Yet it's time she was married.
ANÍSYA. Time and more than time! Ah, my dear, I'm that impatient to
get her out of the house; but the matter does not come off. He does
not wish it, nor she either. He's not yet had enough of his beauty,
NEIGHBOR. Eh, eh, eh, what doings! Only think of it. Why, he's her
ANÍSYA. Ah, friend, they've taken me in completely. They've done me so
fine it's beyond saying. I, fool that I was, noticed nothing,
suspected nothing, and so I married him. I guessed nothing, but they
already understood one another.
NEIGHBOR. Oh dear, what goings on!
ANÍSYA. So it went on from bad to worse, and I see they begin hiding
from me. Ah, friend, I was that sick--that sick of my life! It's not
as if I didn't love him.
NEIGHBOR. That goes without saying.
ANÍSYA. Ah, how hard it is to bear such treatment from him! Oh, how it
NEIGHBOR. Yes, and I've heard say he's becoming too free with his
ANÍSYA. And that too! There was a time when he was gentle when he'd
had a drop. He used to hit out before, but of me he was always fond!
But now when he's in a temper he goes for me and is ready to trample
me under his feet. The other day he got both my hands entangled in my
hair so that I could hardly get away. And the girl's worse than a
serpent; it's a wonder the earth bears such furies.
NEIGHBOR. Ah, ah, my dear, now I look at you, you are a sufferer! To
suffer like that is no joke. To have given shelter to a beggar, and he
to lead you such a dance! Why don't you pull in the reins?
ANÍSYA. Ah, but, my dear, if it weren't for my heart! Him as is gone
was stern enough, still I could twist him about any way I liked; but
with this one I can do nothing. As soon as I see him all my anger
goes. I haven't a grain of courage before him; I go about like a
NEIGHBOR. Ah, neighbor, you must be under a spell. I've heard that
Matryóna goes in for that sort of thing. It must be her.
ANÍSYA. Yes, dear; I think so myself sometimes. Gracious me, how hurt
I feel at times! I'd like to tear him to pieces. But when I set eyes
on him, my heart won't go against him.
NEIGHBOR. It's plain you're bewitched. It don't take long to blight a
body. There now, when I look at you, what you have dwindled to!
ANÍSYA. Growing a regular spindle-shanks. And just look at that fool
Akoulína. Wasn't the girl a regular untidy slattern, and just look at
her now! Where has it all come from? Yes, he has fitted her out. She's
grown so smart, so puffed up, just like a bubble that's ready to
burst. And, though she's a fool, she's got it into her head. "I'm the
mistress," she says; "the house is mine; it's me father wanted him to
marry." And she's that vicious! Lord help us, when she gets into a
rage she's ready to tear the thatch off the house.
NEIGHBOR. Oh dear, what a life yours is, now I come to look at you.
And yet there's people envying you: "They're rich," they say; but it
seems that gold don't keep tears from falling.
ANÍSYA. Much reason for envy indeed! And the riches, too, will soon be
made ducks and drakes of. Dear me, how he squanders money!
NEIGHBOR. But how's it, dear, you've been so simple to give up the
money? It's yours.
ANÍSYA. Ah, if you knew all! The thing is that I've made one little
NEIGHBOR. Well, if I were you, I'd go straight and have the law of
him. The money's yours; how dare he squander it? There's no such
ANÍSYA. They don't pay heed to that nowadays.
NEIGHBOR. Ah, my dear, now I come to look at you, you've got that
weak. Anísya. Yes, quite weak, dear, quite weak. He's got me into a
regular fix. I don't myself know anything. Oh, my poor head!
NEIGHBOR (listening). There's some one coming, I think.
[The door opens and AKÍM enters.
AKÍM (crosses himself, knocks the snow off his feet, and takes off his
coat). Peace be to this house! How do you do? Are you well, daughter?
ANÍSYA. How d'you do, father? Do you come straight from home?
AKÍM. I've been a-thinking I'll go and see what's name, go to see my
son, I mean,--my son. I didn't start early--had my dinner, I mean; I
went, and it's so what d'you call it--so snowy, hard walking, and so
there I'm what d'you call it--late, I mean. And my son--is he at home?
At home? My son, I mean.
ANÍSYA. No; he's gone to the town.
AKÍM (sits down on a bench). I've some business with him, d'you see,
some business, I mean. I told him t'other day, told him I was in need
--told him, I mean, that our horse was done for, our horse, you see. So
we must what d'ye call it, get a horse, I mean, some kind of a horse,
I mean. So there, I've come, you see.
ANÍSYA. Nikíta told me. When he comes back you'll have a talk. (Goes
to the oven.) Have some supper now, and he'll soon come. Mítritch, eh,
Mítritch, come have your supper.
MÍTRITCH. Oh Lord! merciful Nicholas!
ANÍSYA. Come to supper.
NEIGHBOR. I shall go now. Good-night.
MÍTRITCH (gets down from the oven). I never noticed how I fell asleep.
Oh, Lord! gracious Nicholas! How d'you do, Daddy Akím?
AKÍM. Ah, Mítritch! What are you, what d'ye call it, I mean?...
MÍTRITCH. Why, I'm working for your son, Nikíta.
AKÍM. Dear me! What d'ye call ... working for my son, I mean. Dear me!
MÍTRITCH. I was living with a tradesman in town, but drank all I had
there. Now I've come back to the village. I've no home, so I've gone
into service. (Gapes.) Oh Lord!
AKÍM. But how's that, what d'you call it, or what's name, Nikíta, what
does he do? Has he some business, I mean besides, that he should hire
a laborer, a laborer, I mean, hire a laborer?
ANÍSYA. What business should he have? He used to manage, but now he's
other things on his mind, so he's hired a laborer.
MÍTRITCH. Why shouldn't he, seeing he has money?
AKÍM. Now that's what d'you call it, that's wrong, I mean, quite
wrong, I mean. That's spoiling oneself.
ANÍSYA. Oh, he has got spoilt, that spoilt, it's just awful.
AKÍM. There now, what d'you call it, one thinks how to make things
better, and it gets worse I mean. Riches spoil a man, spoil, I mean.
MÍTRITCH. Fatness makes even a dog go mad; how's one not to get spoilt
by fat living? Myself now; how I went on with fat living. I drank for
three weeks without being sober. I drank my last breeches. When I had
nothing left, I gave it up. Now I've determined not to. Bother it!
AKÍM. And where's what d'you call, your old woman?
MÍTRITCH. My old woman has found her right place, old fellow. She's
hanging about the gin-shops in town. She's a swell too; one eye
knocked out, and the other black, and her muzzle twisted to one side.
And she's never sober; drat her!
AKÍM. Oh, oh, oh, how's that?
MÍTRITCH. And where's a soldier's wife to go? She has found her right
AKÍM (to ANÍSYA). And Nikíta,--has he what d'you call it, taken
anything up to town? I mean, anything to sell?
ANÍSYA (laying the table and serving up). No, he's taken nothing. He's
gone to get money from the bank.
AKÍM (sitting down to supper). Why? D'you wish to put it to another
use, the money I mean?
ANÍSYA. No, we don't touch it. Only some twenty or thirty roubles as
have come due; they must be taken.
AKÍM. Must be taken. Why take it, the money I mean? You'll take some
to-day I mean, and some to-morrow; and so you'll what d'you call it,
take it all, I mean.
ANÍSYA. We get this besides. The money is all safe.
AKÍM. All safe? How's that, safe? You take it, and it what d'you call
it, it's all safe. How's that? You put a heap of meal into a bin, or a
barn, I mean, and go on taking meal, will it remain there, what d'you
call it, all safe, I mean? That's, what d'you call it, it's cheating.
You'd better find out, or else they'll cheat you. Safe indeed! I mean
you what d'ye call ... you take it and it remains all safe there?
ANÍSYA. I know nothing about it. Iván Mosévitch advised us at the
time. "Put the money in the bank," he said, "the money will be safe,
and you'll get interest," he said.
MÍTRITCH (having finished his supper). That's so. I've lived with a
tradesman. They all do like that. Put the money in the bank, then lie
down on the oven and it will keep coming in.
AKÍM. That's queer talk. How's that--what d'ye call, coming in, how's
that coming in, and they, who do they get it from I mean, the money I
ANÍSYA. They take the money out of the bank.
MÍTRITCH. Get along! Tain't a thing a woman can understand! You look
here, I'll make it all clear to you. Mind and remember. You see,
suppose you've got some money, and I, for instance, have spring coming
on, my land's idle, I've got no seeds, or I have to pay taxes. So, you
see, I go to you. "Akím," I say, "give us a ten-rouble note, and when
I've harvested in autumn I'll return it, and till two acres for you
besides, for having obliged me!" And you, seeing I've something to
fall back on--a horse say, or a cow--you say, "No, give two or three
roubles for the obligation," and there's an end of it. I'm stuck in
the mud, and can't do without. So I say, "All right!" and take a
tenner. In the autumn, when I've made my turnover, I bring it back,
and you squeeze the extra three roubles out of me.
AKÍM. Yes, but that's what peasants do when they what d'ye call it,
when they forget God. It's not honest, I mean, it's no good, I mean.
MÍTRITCH. You wait. You'll see it comes just to the same thing. Now
don't forget how you've skinned me. And Anísya, say, has got some
money lying idle. She does not know what to do with it, besides, she's
a woman, and does not know how to use it. She comes to you. "Couldn't
you make some profit with my money too?" she says. "Why not?" say you,
and you wait. Before the summer I come again and say, "Give me another
tenner, and I'll be obliged." Then you find out if my hide isn't all
gone, and if I can be skinned again you give me Anísya's money. But
supposing I'm clean shorn,--have nothing to eat,--then you see I can't
be fleeced any more, and you say, "Go your way, friend," and you look
out for another, and lend him your own and Anísya's money and skin
him. That's what the bank is. So it goes round and round. It's a cute
thing, old fellow!
AKÍM (excitedly). Gracious me, whatever is that like? It's what d'ye
call it, it's filthy! The peasants--what d'ye call it, the peasants do
so I mean, and know it's, what d'ye call it, a sin! It's what d'you
call, not right, not right, I mean. It's filthy! How can people as
have learnt ... what d'ye call it....
MÍTRITCH. That, old fellow, is just what they're fond off And
remember, them that are stupid, or the women folk, as can't put their
money into use themselves, they take it to the bank, and they there,
deuce take 'em, clutch hold of it, and with this money they fleece the
people. It's a cute thing!
AKÍM (sighing). Oh dear, I see, what d'ye call it, without money it's
bad, and with money it's worse! How's that? God told us to work, but
you, what d'you call ... I mean you put money into the bank and go to
sleep, and the money will what d'ye call it, will feed you while you
sleep. It's filthy, that's what I call it; it's not right.
MÍTRITCH. Not right? Eh, old fellow, who cares about that nowadays? And
how clean they pluck you, too! That's the fact of the matter.
AKÍM (sighs). Ah, yes, seems the time's what d'ye call it, the time's
growing ripe. There, I've had a look at the closets in town. What
they've come to! It's all polished and polished I mean, it's fine,
it's what d'ye call it, it's like inside an inn. And what's it all
for? What's the good of it? Oh, they've forgotten God. Forgotten, I
mean. We've forgotten, forgotten God, God, I mean! Thank you, my dear,
I've had enough. I'm quite satisfied.
[Rises. MÍTRITCH climbs on to the oven.
ANÍSYA (eats, and collects the dishes). If his father would only take
him to task! But I'm ashamed to tell him.
AKÍM. What d'you say?
ANÍSYA. Oh! it's nothing.
AKÍM. Here's a good girl, always busy! You're cold, I should think?
NAN. Yes, I am, terribly. How d'you do, grandfather?
ANÍSYA. Well? Is he there?
NAN. No. But Andriyán is there. He's been to town, and he says he saw
them at an inn in town. He says Dad's as drunk as drunk can be!
ANÍSYA. Do you want anything to eat? Here you are.
NAN (goes to the oven). Well, it is cold. My hands are quite numb.
[AKÍM takes off his leg-bands and bast-shoes. ANÍSYA washes up.
AKÍM. Well, what is it?
ANÍSYA. And is Marína living well?
AKÍM. Yes, she's living all right. The little woman is what d'ye call
it, clever and steady; she's living, and what d'ye call it, doing her
best. She's all right; the little woman's of the right sort I mean;
painstaking and what d'ye call it, submissive; the little woman's all
right I mean, all right, you know.
ANÍSYA. And is there no talk in your village that a relative of
Marína's husband thinks of marrying our Akoulína? Have you heard
nothing of it?
AKÍM. Ah; that's Mirónof. Yes, the women did chatter something. But I
didn't pay heed, you know. It don't interest me I mean, I don't know
anything. Yes, the old women did say something, but I've a bad memory,
bad memory, I mean. But the Mirónofs are what d'ye call it, they're
all right, I mean they're all right.
ANÍSYA. I'm that impatient to get her settled.
AKÍM. And why?
NAN (listens). They've come!
ANÍSYA. Well, don't you go bothering them.
[Goes on washing the spoons without turning her head.
NIKÍTA (enters). Anísya! Wife! who has come?
[ANÍSYA looks up and turns away in silence.
NIKÍTA (severely). Who has come? Have you forgotten?
ANÍSYA. Now don't humbug. Come in!
NIKÍTA (still more severely). Who's come?
ANÍSYA (goes up and takes him by the arm). Well, then, husband has
come. Now then, come in!
NIKÍTA (holds back). Ah, that's it! Husband! And what's husband
called? Speak properly.
ANÍSYA. Oh bother you! Nikíta!
NIKÍTA. Where have you learnt manners? The full name.
ANÍSYA. Nikíta Akímitch! Now then!
NIKÍTA. (still in the doorway). Ah, that's it! But now--the surname?
ANÍSYA (laughs and pulls him by the arm). Tchilíkin. Dear me, what
NIKÍTA. Ah, that's it. (Holds on to the door-post.) No, now say with
which foot Tchilíkin steps into this house!
ANÍSYA. That's enough! You're letting the cold in!
NIKÍTA. Say with which foot he steps? You've got to say it,--that's
ANÍSYA (aside). He'll go on worrying. (To NIKÍTA.) Well then, with the
left. Come in!
NIKÍTA. Ah, that's it.
ANÍSYA. You look who's in the hut!
NIKÍTA. Ah, my parent! Well, what of that? I'm not ashamed of my
parent. I can pay my respects to my parent. How d'you do, father?
(Bows and puts out his hand.) My respects to you.
AKÍM (does not answer). Drink, I mean drink, what it does! It's
NIKÍTA. Drink, what's that? I've been drinking? I'm to blame, that's
flat! I've had a glass with a friend, drank his health.
ANÍSYA. Go and lie down, I say.
NIKÍTA. Wife, say where am I standing?
ANÍSYA. Now then, it's all right, lie down!
NIKÍTA. No, I'll first drink a samovár with my parent. Go and light
the samovár. Akoulína, I say, come here!
[Enter AKOULÍNA, smartly dressed and carrying their purchases.
AKOULÍNA. Why have you thrown everything about? Where's the yarn?
NIKÍTA. The yarn? The yarn's there. Hullo, Mítritch, where are you?
Asleep? Asleep? Go and put the horse up.
AKÍM (not seeing AKOULÍNA but looking at his son). Dear me, what is he
doing? The old man's what d'ye call it, quite done up, I mean,--been
thrashing,--and look at him, what d'ye call it, putting on airs! Put
up the horse! Faugh, what filth!
MÍTRITCH (climbs down from the oven, and puts on felt boots). Oh,
merciful Lord! Is the horse in the yard? Done it to death, I dare say.
Just see how he's been swilling, the deuce take him. Up to his very
throat. Oh Lord, Holy Nicholas!
[Puts on sheepskin and exit.
NIKÍTA (sits down). You must forgive me, father. It's true I've had a
drop; well, what of that? Even a hen will drink. Ain't it true? So you
must forgive me. Never mind Mítritch, he doesn't mind, he'll put it
ANÍSYA. Shall I really light the samovár?
NIKÍTA. Light it! My parent has come. I wish to talk to him, and shall
drink tea with him. (To AKOULÍNA.) Have you brought all the parcels?
AKOULÍNA. The parcels? I've brought mine, the rest's in the sledge.
Hi, take this, this isn't mine!
[Throws a parcel on the table and puts the others into her box.
NAN watches her while she puts them away. AKÍM does not look at
his son, but puts his leg-bands and bast-shoes on the oven.
ANÍSYA (going out with the samovár). Her box is full as it is, and
still he's bought more!
NIKÍTA (pretending to be sober). You must not be cross with me,
father. You think I'm drunk? I am all there, that's flat! As they say,
"Drink, but keep your wits about you." I can talk with you at once,
father. I can attend to any business. You told me about the money;
your horse is worn-out,--I remember! That can all be managed. That's
all in our hands. If it was an enormous sum that's wanted, then we
might wait; but as it is I can do everything. That's the case.
AKÍM (goes on fidgeting with the leg-bands). Eh, lad, "It's ill
sledging when the thaw has set in."
NIKÍTA. What do you mean by that? "And it's ill talking with one who
is drunk?" But don't you worry, let's have some tea. And I can do
anything; that's flat! I can put everything to rights.
AKÍM (shakes his head). Eh, eh, eh!
NIKÍTA. The money, here it is. (Puts his hand in his pocket, pulls out
pocket-book, handles the notes in it and takes out a ten-rouble
note.) Take this to get a horse; I can't forget my parent. I shan't
forsake him, that's flat. Because he's my parent! Here you are, take
it! Really now, I don't grudge it. (Comes up and pushes the note
towards AKÍM, who won't take it. NIKÍTA catches hold of his father's
hand.) Take it, I tell you. I don't grudge it.
AKÍM. I can't what d'you call it, I mean, can't take it! And can't
what d'ye call it, talk to you, because you're not yourself, I mean.
NIKÍTA. I'll not let you go! Take it!
[Puts the money into AKÍM'S hand.
ANÍSYA (enters, and stops). You'd better take it, he'll give you no
AKÍM (takes it, and shakes his head). Oh! that liquor. Not like a man,
NIKÍTA. That's better! If you repay it you'll repay it, if not I'll
make no bother. That's what I am! (Sees AKOULÍNA.) Akoulína, show your
NIKÍTA. Show your presents.
AKOULÍNA. The presents, what's the use of showing 'em? I've put 'em
NIKÍTA. Get them, I tell you. Nan will like to see 'em. Undo the
shawl. Give it here.
AKÍM. Oh, oh! It's sickening!
[Climbs on the oven.
AKOULÍNA (gets out the parcels and puts them on the table). Well,
there you are,--what's the good of looking at 'em?
NAN. Oh how lovely! It's as good as Stepanída's.
AKOULÍNA. Stepanída's? What's Stepanída's compared to this?
(Brightening up and undoing the parcels.) Just look here,--see the
quality! It's a French one.
NAN. The print is fine! Mary has a dress like it, only lighter on a
blue ground. This is pretty.
NIKÍTA. Ah, that's it!
[ANÍSYA passes angrily into the closet, returns with a tablecloth
and the chimney of the Samovár, and goes up to the table.
ANÍSYA. Drat you, littering the table!
NIKÍTA. You look here!
ANÍSYA. What am I to look at? Have I never seen anything? Put it away!
[Sweeps the shawl on to the floor with her arm.
AKOULÍNA. What are you pitching things down for? You pitch your own
[Picks up the shawl.
NIKÍTA. Anísya! Look here!
ANÍSYA. Why am I to look?
NIKÍTA. You think I have forgotten you? Look here! (Shows her a parcel
and sits down on it.) It's a present for you. Only you must earn it!
Wife, where am I sitting?
ANÍSYA. Enough of your humbug. I'm not afraid of you. Whose money are
you spreeing on and buying your fat wench presents with? Mine!
AKOULÍNA. Yours indeed? No fear! You wished to steal it, but it did
not come off! Get out of the way!
[Pushes her while trying to pass.
ANÍSYA. What are you shoving for? I'll teach you to shove!
AKOULÍNA. Shove me? You try!
[Presses against ANÍSYA.
NIKÍTA. Now then, now then, you women. Have done now!
[Steps between them.
AKOULÍNA. Comes shoving herself in! You ought to keep quiet and
remember your doings! You think no one knows!
ANÍSYA. Knows what? Out with it, out with it! What do they know?
AKOULÍNA. I know something about you!
ANÍSYA. You're a slut who goes with another's husband!
AKOULÍNA. And you did yours to death!
ANÍSYA (throwing herself on AKOULÍNA). You're raving!
NIKÍTA (holding her back). Anísya, you seem to have forgotten!
ANÍSYA. Want to frighten me! I'm not afraid of you!
NIKÍTA (turns ANÍSYA round and pushes her out). Be off!
ANÍSYA. Where am I to go? I'll not go out of my own house!
NIKÍTA. Be off, I tell you, and don't dare to come in here!
ANÍSYA. I won't go! (NIKÍTA pushes her, ANÍSYA cries and screams and
clings to the door.) What! am I to be turned out of my own house by
the scruff of the neck? What are you doing, you scoundrel? Do you
think there's no law for you? You wait a bit!
NIKÍTA. Now then!
ANÍSYA. I'll go to the Elder! To the policeman!
NIKÍTA. Off, I tell you!
[Pushes her out.
ANÍSYA (behind the door). I'll hang myself!
NIKÍTA. No fear!
NAN. Oh, oh, oh! Mother, dear, darling!
NIKÍTA. Me frightened of her! A likely thing! What are you crying for?
She'll come back, no fear. Go and see to the samovár.
AKOULÍNA (collects and folds her presents). The mean wretch, how she's
messed it up. But wait a bit, I'll cut up her jacket for her! Sure I
NIKÍTA. I've turned her out; what more do you want?
AKOULÍNA. She's dirtied my new shawl. If that bitch hadn't gone away,
I'd have torn her eyes out!
NIKÍTA. That's enough. Why should you be angry? Now if I loved her....
AKOULÍNA. Loved her? She's worth loving, with her fat mug! If you'd
have given her up, then nothing would have happened. You should have
sent her to the devil. And the house was mine all the same, and the
money was mine! Says she is the mistress, but what sort of mistress is
she to her husband? She's a murderess, that's what she is! She'll
serve you the same way!
NIKÍTA. Oh dear, how's one to stop a woman's jaw? You don't yourself
know what you're jabbering about!
AKOULÍNA. Yes, I do. I'll not live with her! I'll turn her out of the
house! She can't live here with me. The mistress indeed! She's not the
NIKÍTA. That's enough! What have you to do with her? Don't mind her.
You look at me! I am the master! I do as I like. I've ceased to love
her, and now I love you. I love who I like! The power is mine, she's
under me. That's where I keep her. (Points to his feet.) A pity we've
"We have loaves on the stoves, We have porridge on the shelf. So we'll
live and be gay, Making merry every day, And when death comes, Then
we'll die! We have loaves on the stoves, We have porridge on the
[Enter MÍTRITCH. He takes off his outdoor things and climbs on
MÍTRITCH. Seems the women have been fighting again! Tearing each
other's hair. Oh Lord, gracious Nicholas!
AKÍM. (sitting on the edge of the oven, takes his leg-bands and shoes
and begins putting them on). Get in, get into the corner.
MÍTRITCH. Seems they can't settle matters between them. Oh Lord!
NIKÍTA. Get out the liquor, we'll have some with our tea.
NAN (to AKOULÍNA). Sister, the samovár is just boiling over.
NIKÍTA. And where's your mother?
NAN. She's standing and crying out there in the passage.
NIKÍTA. Oh, that's it! Call her, and tell her to bring the samovár.
And you, Akoulína, get the tea things.
AKOULÍNA. The tea things? All right.
[Brings the things.
NIKÍTA (unpacks spirits, rusks, and salt herrings). That's for myself.
This is yarn for the wife. The paraffin is out there in the passage,
and here's the money. Wait a bit (takes a counting-frame); I'll add it
up. (Adds.) Wheat-flour, 80 kopeykas, oil ... Father, 10 roubles ...
Father, come let's have some tea!
[Silence. AKÍM sits on the oven and winds the bands round his
legs. Enter ANÍSYA with samovár.
ANÍSYA. Where shall I put it?
NIKÍTA. Here on the table. Well! have you been to the Elder? Ah,
that's it! Have your say and then eat your words. Now then, that's
enough. Don't be cross; sit down and drink this. (Fills a wine-glass
for her.) And here's your present.
[Gives her the parcel he had been sitting on. ANÍSYA takes it
silently and shakes her head.
AKÍM (gets down and puts on his sheepskin, then comes up to the table
and puts down the money). Here, take your money back! Put it away.
NIKÍTA (does not see the money). Why have you put on your things?
AKÍM. I'm going, going, I mean; forgive me, for the Lord's sake.
[Takes up his cap and belt.
NIKÍTA. My gracious! Where are you going to at this time of night?
AKÍM. I can't, I mean what d'ye call 'em, in your house, what d'ye
call 'em, can't stay I mean, stay, can't stay, forgive me.
NIKÍTA. But are you going without having any tea?
AKÍM (fastens his belt). Going because, I mean, it's not right in your
house, I mean, what d'you call it, not right, Nikíta, in the house,
what d'ye call it, not right! I mean, you are living a bad life,
Nikíta, bad,--I'll go.
NIKÍTA. Eh, now! Have done talking! Sit down and drink your tea!
ANÍSYA. Why, father, you'll shame us before the neighbors. What has
AKÍM. Nothing what d'ye call it, nothing has offended me, nothing at
all! I mean only, I see, what d'you call it, I mean, I see my son, to
ruin, I mean, to ruin, I mean my son's on the road to ruin, I mean.
NIKÍTA. What ruin? Just prove it!
AKÍM. Ruin, ruin; you're in the midst of it! What did I tell you that
NIKÍTA. You said all sorts of things! Akím. I told you, what d'ye call
it, I told you about the orphan lass. That you had wronged an orphan--
Marína, I mean, wronged her!
NIKÍTA. Eh! he's at it again. Let bygones be bygones.... All that's
AKÍM (excited). Past! No, lad, it's not past. Sin, I mean, fastens on
to sin--drags sin after it, and you've stuck fast, Nikíta, fast in
sin! Stuck fast in sin! I see you're fast in sin. Stuck fast, sunk in
sin, I mean!
NIKÍTA. Sit down and drink your tea, and have done with it!
AKÍM. I can't, I mean can't what d'ye call it, can't drink tea.
Because of your filth, I mean; I feel what d'ye call it, I feel sick,
very sick! I can't what d'ye call it, I can't drink tea with you.
NIKÍTA. Eh! There he goes rambling! Come to the table.
AKÍM. You're in your riches same as in a net--you're in a net, I mean.
Ah, Nikíta, it's the soul that God needs!
NIKÍTA. Now really, what right have you to reprove me in my own house?
Why do you keep on at me? Am I a child that you can pull by the hair?
Nowadays those things have been dropped!
AKÍM. That's true. I have heard that nowadays, what d'ye call it, that
nowadays children pull their fathers' beards, I mean! But that's ruin,
that's ruin, I mean!
NIKÍTA (angrily). We are living without help from you, and it's you
who came to us with your wants!
AKÍM. The money? There's your money! I'll go begging, begging I mean,
before I'll take it, I mean.
NIKÍTA. That's enough! Why be angry and upset the whole company!
[Holds him by the arm.
AKÍM (shrieks). Let go! I'll not stay. I'd rather sleep under some
fence than in the midst of your filth! Faugh! God forgive me!
NIKÍTA. Here's a go!
AKÍM (reopens the door). Come to your senses, Nikíta! It's the soul
that God wants!
AKOULÍNA (takes cups). Well, shall I pour out the tea?
[Takes a cup. All are silent.
MÍTRITCH (roars). Oh Lord be merciful to me a sinner!
NIKÍTA (lies down on the bench). Oh, it's dull, it's dull! (To
AKOULÍNA.) Where's the concertina?
AKOULÍNA. The concertina? He's bethought himself of it. Why, you took
it to be mended. I've poured out your tea. Drink it!
NIKÍTA. I don't want it! Put out the light.... Oh, how dull I feel,
Autumn. Evening. The moon is shining. The stage represents the
interior of courtyard. The scenery at the back shows, in the middle,
the back porch of the hut. To the right the winter half of the hut and
the gate; to the left the summer half and the cellar. To the right of
the stage is a shed. The sound of tipsy voices and shouts are heard
from the hut. SECOND NEIGHBOR WOMAN comes out of the hut and
beckons to FIRST NEIGHBOR WOMAN.
SECOND NEIGHBOR. How's it Akoulína has not shown herself?
FIRST NEIGHBOR. Why hasn't she shown herself? She'd have been glad to;
but she's too ill, you know. The suitor's relatives have come, and
want to see the girl; and she, my dear, she's lying in the cold hut
and can't come out, poor thing!
SECOND NEIGHBOR. But how's that?
FIRST NEIGHBOR. They say she's been bewitched by an evil eye! She's
got pains in the stomach!
SECOND NEIGHBOR. You don't say so?
FIRST NEIGHBOR. What else could it be?
SECOND NEIGHBOR. Dear me! There's a go! But his relatives will surely
find it out?
FIRST NEIGHBOR. They find it out! They're all drunk! Besides, they are
chiefly after her dowry. Just think what they give with the girl! Two
furs, my dear, six dresses, a French shawl, and I don't know how many
pieces of linen, and money as well,--two hundred roubles, it's said!
SECOND NEIGHBOR. That's all very well, but even money can't give much
pleasure in the face of such a disgrace.
FIRST NEIGHBOR. Hush!... There's his father, I think.
[They cease talking and go into the hut.
[The SUITOR'S FATHER comes out of the hut hiccoughing.
THE FATHER. Oh, I'm all in a sweat. It's awfully hot! Will just cool
myself a bit. (Stands puffing.) The Lord only knows what--something
is not right. I can't feel happy.--Well, it's the old woman's affair.
[Enter MATRYÓNA from hut.
MATRYÓNA. And I was just thinking, where's the father? Where's the
father? And here you are, dear friend.... Well, dear friend, the Lord
be thanked! Everything is as honorable as can be! When one's arranging
a match one should not boast. And I have never learnt to boast. But as
you've come about the right business, so with the Lord's help, you'll
be grateful to me all your life! She's a wonderful girl! There's no
other like her in all the district!
THE FATHER. That's true enough, but how about the money?
MATRYÓNA. Don't you trouble about the money! All she had from her
father goes with her. And it's more than one gets easily, as things
are nowadays. Three times fifty roubles!
THE FATHER. We don't complain, but it's for our own child. Naturally
we want to get the best we can.
MATRYÓNA. I'll tell you straight, friend: if it hadn't been for me,
you'd never have found anything like her! They've had an offer from
the Karmilins, but I stood out against it. And as for the money, I'll
tell you truly: when her father, God be merciful to his soul, was
dying, he gave orders that the widow should take Nikíta into the
homestead--of course I know all about it from my son,--and the money
was to go to Akoulína. Why, another one might have thought of his own
interests, but Nikíta gives everything clean! It's no trifle. Fancy
what a sum it is!
THE FATHER. People are saying that more money was left her? The lad's
MATRYÓNA. Oh, dear soul alive! A slice in another's hand always looks
big; all she had will be handed over. I tell you, throw doubts to the
wind and make all sure! What a girl she is! as fresh as a daisy!
THE FATHER. That's so. But my old woman and I were only wondering
about the girl; why has she not come out? We've been thinking, suppose
MATRYÓNA. Ah, ah.... Who? She? Sickly? Why, there's none to compare
with her in the district. The girl's as sound as a bell; you can't
pinch her. But you saw her the other day! And as for work, she's
wonderful! She's a bit deaf, that's true, but there are spots on the
sun, you know. And her not coming out, you see, it's from an evil eye!
A spell's been cast on her! And I know the bitch who's done the
business! They know of the betrothal and they bewitched her. But I
know a counter-spell. The girl will get up to-morrow. Don't you worry
about the girl!
THE FATHER. Well, of course, the thing's settled.
MATRYÓNA. Yes, of course! Don't you turn back. And don't forget me,
I've had a lot of trouble. Don't forget....
[A woman's voice from the hut.
Voice. If we are to go, let's go. Come along, Iván!
THE FATHER. I'm coming.
[Exeunt. Guests crowd together in the passage and prepare to go
NAN (runs out of the hut and calls to ANÍSYA). Mother!
ANÍSYA (from inside.) What d'you want?
NAN. Mother, come here, or they'll hear.
[ANÍSYA enters and they go together to the shed.
ANÍSYA. Well? What is it? Where's Akoulína?
NAN She's gone into the barn. It's awful what's she's doing there! I'm
blest! "I can't bear it," she says. "I'll scream," she says, "I'll
scream out loud." Blest if she didn't.
ANÍSYA. She'll have to wait. We'll see our visitors off first.
NAN. Oh, mother! She's so bad! And she's angry too. "What's the good
of their drinking my health?" she says. "I shan't marry," she says. "I
shall die," she says. Mother, supposing she does die! It's awful. I'm
ANÍSYA. No fear, she'll not die. But don't you go near her. Come
[Exit ANÍSYA and NAN.
MÍTRITCH (comes in at the gate and begins collecting the scattered
hay). Oh, Lord! Merciful Nicholas! What a lot of liquor they've been
and swilled, and the smell they've made! It smells even out here! But
no, I don't want any, drat it! See how they've scattered the hay
about. They don't eat it, but only trample it under foot. A truss gone
before you know it. Oh, that smell, it seems to be just under my nose!
Drat it! (Yawns.) It's time to go to sleep! But I don't care to go
into the hut. It seems to float just round my nose! It has a strong
scent, the damned stuff! (The guests are heard driving off.) They're
off at last. Oh Lord! Merciful Nicholas! There they go, binding
themselves and gulling one another. And it's all gammon!
NIKÍTA. Mítritch, you get off to sleep and I'll put this straight.
MÍTRITCH. All right, you throw it to the sheep. Well, have you seen
'em all off?
NIKÍTA. Yes, they're off! But things are not right! I don't know what
MÍTRITCH. It's a fine mess. But there's the Foundlings' for that
sort of thing. Whoever likes may drop one there; they'll take 'em all.
Give 'em as many as you like, they ask no questions, and even pay--if
the mother goes in as a wet-nurse. It's easy enough nowadays.
NIKÍTA. But mind, Mítritch, don't go blabbing.
MÍTRITCH. It's no concern of mine. Cover the tracks as you think best.
Dear me, how you smell of liquor! I'll go in. Oh, Lord!
[NIKÍTA is long silent. Sits down on a sledge.
NIKÍTA. Here's a go!
ANÍSYA. Where are you?
ANÍSYA. What are you doing there? There's no time to be lost! We must
take it out directly!
NIKÍTA. What are we to do?
ANÍSYA. I'll tell you what you are to do. And you'll have to do it!
NIKÍTA. You'd better take it to the Foundlings'--if anything.
ANÍSYA. Then you'd better take it there yourself if you like! You've a
hankering for smut, but you're weak when it comes to settling up, I
NIKÍTA. What's to be done?
ANÍSYA. Go down into the cellar, I tell you, and dig a hole!
NIKÍTA. Couldn't you manage, somehow, some other way?
ANÍSYA (imitating him). "Some other way?" Seems we can't "some other
way!" You should have thought about it a year ago. Do what you're told
to! Nikíta. Oh, dear, what a go!
NAN. Mother! Grandmother's calling! I think sister's got a baby! I'm
blest if it didn't scream!
ANÍSYA. What are you babbling about? Plague take you! It's kittens
whining there. Go into the hut and sleep, or I'll give it you!
NAN. Mammy dear, truly, I swear....
ANÍSYA (raising her arm as if to strike). I'll give it you! You be off
and don't let me catch sight of you! (Nan runs into hut. To Nikíta.)
Do as you're told, or else mind!
NIKÍTA (alone. After a long silence). Here's a go! Oh, these women!
What a fix! Says you should have thought of it a year ago. When's one
to think beforehand? When's one to think? Why, last year this Anísya
dangled after me. What was I to do? Am I a monk? The master died; and
I covered my sin as was proper, so I was not to blame there. Aren't
there lots of such cases? And then those powders. Did I put her up to
that? Why, had I known what the bitch was up to, I'd have killed her!
I'm sure I should have killed her! She's made me her partner in these
horrors--that jade! And she became loathsome to me from that day! She
became loathsome, loathsome to me as soon as mother told me about it.
I can't bear the sight of her! Well, then, how could I live with her?
And then it begun.... That wench began hanging round. Well, what was I
to do! If I had not done it, some one else would. And this is what
comes of it! Still I'm not to blame in this either. Oh, what a go!
(Sits thinking.) They are bold, these women! What a plan to think of!
But I won't have a hand in it!
[Enter MATRYÓNA with a lantern and spade, panting.
MATRYÓNA. Why are you sitting there like a hen on a perch? What did
your wife tell you to do? You just get things ready!
NIKÍTA. What do you mean to do?
MATRYÓNA. We know what to do. You do your share!
NIKÍTA. You'll be getting me into a mess!
MATRYÓNA. What? You're not thinking of backing out, are you? Now it's
come to this, and you back out!
NIKÍTA. Think what a thing it would be! It's a living soul.
MATRYÓNA. A living soul indeed! Why, it's more dead than alive. And
what's one to do with it? Go and take it to the Foundlings'--it will
die just the same, and the rumor will get about, and people will talk,
and the girl be left on our hands.
NIKÍTA. And supposing it's found out?
MATRYÓNA. Not manage to do it in one's own house? We'll manage it so
that no one will have an inkling. Only do as I tell you. We women
can't do it without a man. There, take the spade, and get it done
there,--I'll hold the light.
NIKÍTA. What am I to get done?
MATRYÓNA (in a low voice). Dig a hole; then we'll bring it out and get
it out of the way in a trice! There, she's calling again. Now then,
get in, and I'll go.
NIKÍTA. Is it dead then?
MATRYÓNA. Of course it is. Only you must be quick, or else people will
notice! They'll see or they'll hear! The rascals must needs know
everything. And the policeman went by this evening. Well then, you see
(gives him the spade), you get down into the cellar and dig a hole
right in the corner; the earth is soft there, and you'll smooth it
over. Mother earth will not blab to any one; she'll keep it close. Go
then; go, dear.
NIKÍTA. You'll get me into a mess, bother you! I'll go away! You do it
alone as best you can!
ANÍSYA (through the doorway). Well? Has he dug it?
MATRYÓNA. Why have you come away? What have you done with it?
ANÍSYA. I've covered it with rags. No one can hear it. Well, has he
MATRYÓNA. He doesn't want to!
ANÍSYA (springs out enraged). Doesn't want to! How will he like
feeding vermin in prison! I'll go straight away and tell everything to
the police! It's all the same if one must perish. I'll go straight and
NIKÍTA (taken aback). What will you tell?
ANÍSYA. What? Everything! Who took the money? You! (NIKÍTA is silent.)
And who gave the poison? I did! But you knew! You knew! You knew! We
were in agreement!
MATRYÓNA. That's enough now. Nikíta dear, why are you obstinate?
What's to be done now? One must take some trouble. Go, honey.
ANÍSYA. See the fine gentleman! He doesn't like it! You've put upon me
long enough! You've trampled me under foot! Now it's my turn! Go, I
tell you, or else I'll do what I said.... There, take the spade;
there, now go!
NIKÍTA. Drat you! Can't you leave a fellow alone! (Takes the spade,
but shrinks.) If I don't choose to, I'll not go!
ANÍSYA. Not go? (Begins to shout.) Neighbors! Heh! heh!
MATRYÓNA (closes her mouth). What are you about? You're mad! He'll
go.... Go, sonny, go, my own.
ANÍSYA. I'll cry murder!
NIKÍTA. Now stop! Oh, what people! You'd better be quick.... As well
be hung for a sheep as a lamb!
[Goes towards the cellar.
MATRYÓNA. Yes, that's just it, honey. If you know how to amuse
yourself, you must know how to hide the consequences.
ANÍSYA (still excited). He's trampled on me ... he and his slut! But
it's enough! I'm not going to be the only one! Let him also be a
murderer! Then he'll know how it feels!
MATRYÓNA. There, there! How she flares up! Don't you be cross, lass,
but do things quietly little by little, as it's best. You go to the
girl, and he'll do the work.
[Follows NIKÍTA to the cellar with a lantern. He descends into
ANÍSYA. And I'll make him strangle his dirty brat! (Still excited.)
I've worried myself to death all alone, with Peter's bones weighing on
my mind! Let him feel it too! I'll not spare myself; I've said I'll
not spare myself!
NIKÍTA (from the cellar). Show a light!
MATRYÓNA (holds up the lantern to him. To ANÍSYA). He's digging. Go
and bring it.
ANÍSYA. You stay with him, or he'll go away, the wretch! And I'll go
and bring it.
MATRYÓNA. Mind, don't forget to baptize it, or I will if you like.
Have you a cross?
ANÍSYA. I'll find one. Ï know how to do it.
* * * * *
See at end of Act, VARIATION, which may be used instead of the
* * * * *
MATRYÓNA. How the woman bristled up! But one must allow she's been put
upon. Well, but with the Lord's help, when we've covered this
business, there'll be an end of it. We'll shove the girl off without
any trouble. My son will live in comfort. The house, thank God, is as
full as an egg. They'll not forget me either. Where would they have
been without Matryóna? They'd not have known how to contrive things.
(Peering into the cellar.) Is it ready, sonny? Nikíta (puts out his
head). What are you about there? Bring it quick! What are you dawdling
for? If it is to be done, let it be done.
MATRYÓNA (goes towards door of the hut and meets ANÍSYA. ANÍSYA comes
out with a baby wrapped in rags). Well, have you baptized it?
ANÍSYA. Why, of course. It was all I could do to take it away--she
wouldn't give it up!
[Comes forward and hands it to NIKÍTA.
NIKÍTA (does not take it). You bring it yourself!
ANÍSYA. Take it, I tell you!
[Throws the baby to him.
NIKÍTA (catches it). It's alive! Gracious me, it's moving! It's alive!
What am I to....
ANÍSYA (snatches the baby from him and throws it into the cellar). Be
quick and smother it, and then it won't be alive! (Pushes NIKÍTA
down.) It's your doing, and you must finish it.
MATRYÓNA (sits on the doorstep of the hut). He's tender-hearted. It's
hard on him, poor dear. Well, what of that? Isn't it also his sin?
[ANÍSYA stands by the cellar.
MATRYÓNA (sits looking at her and discourses). Oh, oh, oh! How
frightened he was: well, but what of that? If it is hard, it's the
only thing to be done. Where was one to put it? And just think, how
often it happens that people pray to God to have children! But no, God
gives them none; or they are all still-born. Look at our priest's wife
now.... And here, where it's not wanted, here it lives. (Looks towards
the cellar.) I suppose he's finished. (To ANÍSYA.) Well?
ANÍSYA (looking into the cellar). He's put a board on it and is
sitting on it. It must be finished!
MATRYÓNA. Oh, oh! One would be glad not to sin, but what's one to do?
[Re-enter NIKÍTA from cellar, trembling all over.
NIKÍTA. It's still alive! I can't! It's alive!
ANÍSYA. If it's alive, where are you off to?
[Tries to stop him.
NIKÍTA (rushes at her). Go away! I'll kill you! (Catches hold of her
arms; she escapes, he runs after her with the spade. MATRYÓNA runs
towards him and stops him. ANÍSYA runs into the porch. MATRYÓNA tries
to wrench the spade from him. To his mother.) I'll kill you! I'll kill
you! Go away! (MATRYÓNA runs to ANÍSYA in the porch. NIKÍTA stops.)
I'll kill you! I'll kill you all!
MATRYÓNA. That's because he's so frightened! Never mind, it will pass!
NIKÍTA. What have they made me do? What have they made me do? How it
whimpered.... How it crunched under me! What have they done with
me?... And it's really alive, still alive! (Listens in silence.) It's
whimpering... There, it's whimpering.
[Runs to the cellar.
MATRYÓNA (to ANÍSYA). He's going; it seems he means to bury it.
Nikíta, you'd better take the lantern!
NIKÍTA (does not heed her, but listens by the cellar door). I can hear
nothing! I suppose it was fancy! (Moves away, then stops.) How the
little bones crunched under me. Krr ... kr.... What have they made me
do? (Listens again.) Again whimpering! It's really whimpering! What
can it be? Mother! Mother, I say!
[Goes up to her.
MATRYÓNA. What is it, sonny?
NIKÍTA. Mother, my own mother, I can't do any more! Can't do any more!
My own mother, have some pity on me!
MATRYÓNA. Oh dear, how frightened you are, my darling! Come, come,
drink a drop to give you courage!
NIKÍTA. Mother, mother! It seems my time has come! What have you done
with me? How the little bones crunched, and how it whimpered! My own
mother! What have you done with me?
[Steps aside and sits down on the sledge.
MATRYÓNA. Come, my own, have a drink! It certainly does seem uncanny
at night-time. But wait a bit. When the day breaks, you know, and one
day and another passes, you'll forget even to think of it. Wait a bit;
when the girl's married we'll even forget to think of it. But you go
and have a drink; have a drink! I'll go and put things straight in the
NIKÍTA (rouses himself). Is there any drink left? Perhaps I can drink
[ANÍSYA, who has stood all the time by the door, silently makes
way for him.
MATRYÓNA. Go, go, honey, and I'll set to work! I'll go down myself and
dig! Where has he thrown the spade to? (Finds the spade, and goes down
into the cellar.) Anísya, come here! Hold the light, will you?
ANÍSYA. And what of him?
MATRYÓNA. He's so frightened! You've been too hard with him. Leave him
alone, he'll come to his senses. God help him! I'll set to work
myself. Put the lantern down here. I can see.
[MATRYÓNA disappears into the cellar.
ANÍSYA. (looking towards the door by which Nikíta entered the hut).
Well, have you had enough spree? You've been puffing yourself up, but
now you'll know how it feels! You'll lose some of your bluster!
NIKÍTA (rushes out of the hut towards the cellar). Mother! Mother, I
MATRYÓNA (puts out her head). What is it, sonny?
NIKÍTA (listening) Don't bury it, it's alive? Don't you hear? Alive!
There--it's whimpering! There ... quite plain!
MATRYÓNA. How can it whimper? Why, you've flattened it into a pancake!
The whole head is smashed to bits!
NIKÍTA. What is it then? (Stops his ears.) It's still whimpering! I am
lost! Lost! What have they done with me?... Where shall I go?
[Sits down on the step.
* * * * *
Instead of the end of Act IV. (from the words, "ANÍSYA. I'll find one.
I know how to do it. [Exit]") the following variation may be read, and
is the one usually acted.
* * * * *
The interior of the hut as in Act I.
NAN lies on the bench, and is covered with a coat. MÍTRITCH is sitting
on the oven smoking.
MÍTRITCH. Dear me! How they've made the place smell I Drat 'em!
They've been spilling the fine stuff. Even tobacco don't get rid of
the smell! It keeps tickling one's nose so. Oh Lord! But it's bedtime,
[Approaches the lamp to put it out.
NAN (jumps up, and remains sitting up). Daddy dear, don't put it
MÍTRITCH. Not put it out? Why?
NAN. Didn't you hear them making a row in the yard? (Listens.) D'you
hear, there in the barn again now?
MÍTRITCH. What's that to you? I guess no one's asked you to mind! Lie
down and sleep! And I'll turn down the light.
[Turns down lamp.
NAN. Daddy darling! Don't put it right out; leave a little bit if only
as big as a mouse's eye, else it's so frightening!
MÍTRITCH (laughs). All right, all right. (Sits down by her.) What's
there to be afraid of?
NAN. How can one help being frightened, daddy! Sister did go on so!
She was beating her head against the box! (Whispers.) You know, I know
... a little baby is going to be born.... It's already born, I
MÍTRITCH. Eh, what a little busybody it is! May the frogs tick her!
Must needs know everything. Lie down and sleep! (NAN lies down.)
That's right! (Tucks her up.) That's right! There now, if you know too
much you'll grow old too soon.
NAN. And you are going to lie on the oven?
Mitrich. Well, of course! What a little silly you are, now I come to
look at you! Must needs know everything. (Tucks her up again, then
stands up to go.) There now, lie still and sleep!
[Goes up to the oven.
NAN. It gave just one cry, and now there's nothing to be heard.
MÍTRITCH. Oh Lord! Gracious Nicholas! What is it you can't hear?
NAN. The baby.
MÍTRITCH. There is none, that's why you can't hear it.
NAN. But I heard it! Blest if I didn't hear it! Such a thin voice!
MÍTRITCH. Heard indeed! Much you heard! Well, if you know,--why then
it was just such a little girl as you that the bogey popped into his
bag and made off with.
NAN. What bogey?
MÍTRITCH. Why, just his very self! (Climbs up on to the oven.) The
oven is beautifully warm to-night. Quite a treat! Oh Lord! Gracious
NAN. Daddy! are you going to sleep?
MÍTRITCH. What else? Do you think I'm going to sing songs?
NAN. Daddy! Daddy, I say! They are digging! they're digging--don't
you hear? Blest if they're not, they're digging!
MÍTRITCH. What are you dreaming about? Digging! Digging in the night!
Who's digging? The cow's rubbing herself, that's all. Digging indeed!
Go to sleep I tell you, else I'll just put out the light!
NAN. Daddy darling, don't put it out! I won't ... truly, truly, I
won't. It's so frightful!
MÍTRITCH. Frightful? Don't be afraid and then it won't be frightful.
Look at her, she's afraid, and then says it's frightful. How can it
help being frightful if you are afraid? Eh, what a stupid little girl!
[Silence. The cricket chirps.
NAN (whispers). Daddy! I say, daddy! Are you asleep?
MÍTRITCH. Now then, what d'you want?
NAN. What's the bogey like?
MÍTRITCH. Why, like this! When he finds such a one as you, who won't
sleep, he comes with a sack and pops the girl into it, then in he gets
himself, head and all, lifts her dress, and gives her a fine whipping!
NAN. What with?
MÍTRITCH. He takes a birch-broom with him.
NAN. But he can't see there--inside the sack!
MÍTRITCH. He'll see, no fear!
NAN. But I'll bite him.
MÍTRITCH. No, friend, him you can't bite!
NAN. Daddy, there's some one coming! Who is it? Oh gracious goodness!
Who can it be?
MÍTRITCH. Well, if some one's coming, let them come! What's the matter
with you? I suppose it's your mother!
ANÍSYA (NAN pretends to be asleep). Mítritch!
ANÍSYA. What's the lamp burning for? We are going to sleep in the
MÍTRITCH. Why, you see I've only just got straight. I'll put the light
out all right.
ANÍSYA (rummages in her box and grumbles). When a thing's wanted one
never can find it!
MÍTRITCH. Why, what is it you are looking for?
ANÍSYA. I'm looking for a cross. Suppose it were to die unbaptized! It
would be a sin, you know!
MÍTRITCH. Of course it would! Everything in due order.... Have you
ANÍSYA. Yes, I've found it.
MÍTRITCH. That's right, else I'd have lent her mine. Oh Lord!
NAN (jumps up trembling). Oh, oh, daddy! Don't go to sleep; for
goodness' sake, don't! It's so frightful!
MÍTRITCH. What's frightful?
NAN. It will die--the little baby will! At Aunt Irene's the old woman
also baptized the baby, and it died!
MÍTRITCH. If it dies, they'll bury it!
NAN. But maybe it wouldn't have died, only old Granny Matryóna's
there! Didn't I hear what granny was saying? I heard her! Blest if I
MÍTRITCH. What did you hear? Go to sleep, I tell you. Cover yourself
up, head and all, and let's have an end of it!
NAN. If it lived, I'd nurse it!
MÍTRITCH (roars). Oh Lord!
NAN. Where will they put it?
MÍTRITCH. In the right place! It's no business of yours! Go to sleep I