Part 4 out of 6
tell you, else mother will come; she'll give it you!
NAN. Daddy! Eh, daddy! That girl, you know, you were telling about
--they didn't kill her?
MÍTRITCH. That girl? Oh yes. That girl turned out all right!
NAN. How was it? You were saying you found her?
MÍTRITCH. Well, we just found her!
NAN. But where did you find her? Do tell!
MÍTRITCH. Why, in their own house; that's where! We came to a village,
the soldiers began hunting about in the house, when suddenly there's
that same little girl lying on the floor, flat on her stomach. We were
going to give her a knock on the head, but all at once I felt that
sorry, that I took her up in my arms; but no, she wouldn't let me!
Made herself so heavy, quite a hundredweight, and caught hold where
she could with her hands, so that one couldn't get them off! Well, so
I began stroking her head. It was so bristly,--just like a hedgehog! So
I stroked and stroked, and she quieted down at last. I soaked a bit of
rusk and gave it her. She understood that, and began nibbling. What
were we to do with her? We took her; took her, and began feeding and
feeding her, and she got so used to us that we took her with us on the
march, and so she went about with us. Ah, she was a fine girl!
NAN. Yes, and not baptized?
MÍTRITCH. Who can tell! They used to say, not altogether. 'Cos why,
those people weren't our own.
MÍTRITCH. What an idea! Germans! Not Germans, but Asiatics. They are
just the same as Jews, but still not Jews. Polish, yet Asiatics. Curls
... or, Curdlys is their name.... I've forgotten what it is! We
called the girl Sáshka. She was a fine girl, Sáshka was! There now,
I've forgotten everything I used to know! But that girl--the deuce
take her--seems to be before my eyes now! Out of all my time of
service, I remember how they flogged me, and I remember that girl.
That's all I remember! She'd hang round one's neck, and one 'ud carry
her so. That was a girl,--if you wanted a better you'd not find one!
We gave her away afterwards. The captain's wife took her to bring up
as her daughter. So--she was all right! How sorry the soldiers were to
let her go!
NAN. There now, daddy, and I remember when father was dying,--you
were not living with us then. Well, he called Nikíta and says,
"Forgive me, Nikíta!" he says, and begins to cry. (Sighs.) That also
felt very sad!
MÍTRITCH. Yes; there now, so it is....
NAN. Daddy! Daddy, I say! There they are again, making a noise in the
cellar! Oh gracious heavens! Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh, daddy! They'll do
something to it! They'll make away with it, and it's so little! Oh,
[Covers up her head and cries.
MÍTRITCH (listening). Really they're up to some villainy, blow them to
shivers! Oh, these women are vile creatures! One can't say much for
men either; but women!... They are like wild beasts, and stick at
NAN (rising). Daddy; I say, daddy!
MÍTRITCH. Well, what now?
NAN. The other day a traveller stayed the night; he said that when an
infant died its soul goes up straight to heaven. Is that true?
MÍTRITCH. Who can tell? I suppose so. Well?
NAN. Oh, it would be best if I died too.
MÍTRITCH. Then you'd be off the list!
NAN. Up to ten one's an infant, and maybe one's soul would go to God.
Else one's sure to go to the bad!
MÍTRITCH. And how to the bad? How should the likes of you not go to
the bad? Who teaches you? What do you see? What do you hear? Only
vileness! I, though I've not been taught much, still know a thing or
two. I'm not quite like a peasant woman. A peasant woman, what is she?
Just mud! There are many millions of the likes of you in Russia, and
all as blind as moles--knowing nothing! All sorts of spells: how to
stop the cattle-plague with a plough, and how to cure children by
putting them under the perches in the hen-house! That's what they
NAN. Yes, mother also did that!
MÍTRITCH. Yes,--there it is,--just so! So many millions of girls and
women, and all like beasts in a forest! As she grows up, so she dies!
Never sees anything; never hears anything. A peasant,--he may learn
something at the pub, or maybe in prison, or in the army,--as I did.
But a woman? Let alone about God, she doesn't even know rightly what
Friday it is! Friday! Friday! But ask her what's Friday? She don't
know! They're like blind puppies, creeping about and poking their
noses into the dungheap.... All they know are their silly songs. Ho,
ho, ho, ho! But what they mean by ho-ho, they don't know themselves!
NAN. But I, daddy, I do know half the Lord's Prayer!
MÍTRITCH. A lot you know! But what Can one expect of you? Who teaches
you? Only a tipsy peasant--with the strap perhaps! That's all the
teaching you get! I don't know who'll have to answer for you. For a
recruit, the drill-sergeant or the corporal has to answer; but for the
likes of you there's no one responsible! Just as the cattle that have
no herdsman are the most mischievous, so with you women--you are the
stupidest class! The most foolish class is yours!
NAN. Then what's one to do?
MÍTRITCH. That's what one has to do.... You just cover up your head
and sleep! Oh Lord!
[Silence. The cricket chirps.
NAN (jumps up). Daddy! Some one's screaming awfully! Blest if some one
isn't screaming! Daddy darling, it's coming here!
MÍTRITCH. Cover up your head, I tell you!
[Enter NIKÍTA, followed by MATRYÓNA.
NIKÍTA. What have they done with me? What have they done with me?
MATRYÓNA. Have a drop, honey; have a drop of drink! What's the matter?
[Fetches the spirits and sets the bottle before him.
NIKÍTA. Give it here! Perhaps the drink will help me!
MATRYÓNA. Mind! They're not asleep! Here you are, have a drop!
NIKÍTA. What does it all mean? Why did you plan it? You might have
taken it somewhere!
MATRYÓNA (whispers). Sit still a bit and drink a little more, or have
a smoke. It will ease your thoughts!
NIKÍTA. My own mother! My turn seems to have come! How it began to
whimper, and how the little bones crunched ... krr.... I'm not a man
MATRYÓNA. Eh, now, what's the use of talking so silly! Of course it
does seem fearsome at night, but wait till the daylight comes, and a
day or two passes, and you'll forget to think of it!
[Goes up to NIKÍTA and puts her hand on his shoulder.
NIKÍTA. Go away from me! What have you done with me?
MATRYÓNA. Come, come, sonny! Now, really, what's the matter with you?
[Takes his hand.
NIKÍTA. Go away from me! I'll kill you! It's all one to me now! I'll
MATRYÓNA. Oh, oh, how frightened he's got! You should go and have a
NIKÍTA. I have nowhere to go; I'm lost!
MATRYÓNA (shaking her head). Oh, oh, I'd better go and tidy things up.
He'll sit and rest a bit, and it will pass!
[NIKÍTA sits with his face in his hands. MÍTRITCH and NAN seem
NIKÍTA. It's whining! It's whining! It is really--there, there, quite
plain! She'll bury it, really she will! (Runs to the door.) Mother,
don't bury it, it's alive....
MATRYÓNA (whispers). Now then, what is it? Heaven help you! Why won't
you get to rest? How can it be alive? All its bones are crushed!
NIKÍTA. Give me more drink.
MATRYÓNA. Now go, sonny. You'll fall asleep now all right.
NIKÍTA (stands listening). Still alive ... there ... it's whining!
Don't you hear?... There!
MATRYÓNA (whispers). No! I tell you!
NIKÍTA. Mother! My own mother! I've ruined my life! What have you done
with me? Where am I to go?
[Runs out of the hut; MATRYÓNA follows him.
NAN. Daddy dear, darling, they've smothered it!
MÍTRITCH (angrily). Go to sleep, I tell you! Oh dear, may the frogs
kick you! I'll give it to you with the broom! Go to sleep, I tell you!
NAN. Daddy, my treasure! Something is catching hold of my shoulders,
something is catching hold with its paws! Daddy dear ... really,
really ... I must go! Daddy, darling! let me get up on the oven with
you! Let me, for Heaven's sake! Catching hold ... catching hold! Oh!
[Runs to the stove.
MÍTRITCH. See how they've frightened the girl.... What vile creatures
they are! May the frogs kick them! Well then, climb up. Nan (climbs on
oven). But don't you go away! Mítritch. Where should I go to? Climb
up, climb up! Oh Lord! Gracious Nicholas! Holy Mother!... How they
have frightened the girl. (Covers her up.) There's a little fool--
really a little fool! How they've frightened her; really, they are
vile creatures! The deuce take 'em!
In front of scene a stack-stand, to the left a thrashing ground, to
the right a barn. The barn doors are open. Straw is strewn about in
the doorway. The hut with yard and out-buildings is seen in the
background, whence proceed sounds of singing and of a tambourine. Two
GIRLS are walking past the barn towards the hut.
FIRST GIRL. There, you see we've managed to pass without so much as
getting our boots dirty! But to come by the street is terribly muddy!
(Stop and wipe their boots on the straw. FIRST GIRL looks at the straw
and sees something .) What's that?
SECOND GIRL (looks where the straw lies and sees some one). It's
MÍTRITCH, their laborer. Just look how drunk he is!
FIRST GIRL. Why, I thought be didn't drink.
SECOND GIRL. It seems he didn't, until it was going around. First
Girl. Just see! He must have come to fetch some straw. Look! he's got
a rope in his hand, and he's fallen asleep.
SECOND GIRL (listening). They're still singing the praises. So I
s'pose the bride and bridegroom have not yet been blessed! They say
Akoulína didn't even lament!
FIRST GIRL. Mammie says she is marrying against her will. Her
stepfather threatened her, or else she'd not have done it for the
world! Why, you know what they've been saying about her?
MARÍNA (catching up the GIRLS). How d'you you do, lassies?
GIRLS. How d'you do?
MARÍNA. Going to the wedding, my dears?
FIRST GIRL. It's nearly over! We've come just to have a look.
MARÍNA. Would you call my old man for me? Simon, from Zoúevo; but
surely you know him?
FIRST GIRL. To be sure we do; he's a relative of the bridegroom's, I
MARÍNA. Of course; he's my old man's nephew, the bridegroom is.
SECOND GIRL. Why don't you go yourself? Fancy not going to a wedding!
MARÍNA. I have no mind for it, and no time either. It's time for us to
be going home. We didn't mean to come to the wedding. We were taking
oats to town. We only stopped to feed the horse, and they made my old
man go in.
FIRST GIRL. Where did you put up then? At Fyódoritch's?
MARÍNA. Yes. Well then, I'll stay here and you go and call him, my
dear--my old man. Call him, my pet, and say "Your missis, Marína, says
you must go now!" His mates are harnessing.
FIRST GIRL. Well, all right--if you won't go in yourself.
[The GIRLS go away towards the house along a footpath. Sounds of
songs and tambourine.
MARÍNA (alone, stands thinking). I might go in, but I don't like to,
because I have not met him since that day he threw me over. It's more
than a year now. But I'd have liked to have a peep and see how he
lives with his Anísya. People say they don't get on. She's a coarse
woman, and with a character of her own. I should think he's remembered
me more than once. He's been caught by the idea of a comfortable life
and has changed me for it. But, God help him, I don't cherish
ill-will! Then it hurt! Oh dear, it was pain! But now it's worn away
and been forgotten. But I'd like to have seen him. (Looks towards hut
and sees NIKÍTA.) Look there! Why, he is coming here! Have the girls
told him? How's it he has left his guests? I'll go away! (NIKÍTA
approaches, hanging his head down, swinging his arms, and muttering.)
And how sullen he looks!
NIKÍTA (sees and recognises MARÍNA). Marína, dearest friend, little
MARÍNA, what do you want?
MARÍNA. I have come for my old man.
NIKÍTA. Why didn't you come to the wedding? You might have had a look
round, and a laugh at my expense!
MARÍNA. What have I to laugh at? I've come for my husband.
NIKÍTA. Ah, Marína dear!
[Tries to embrace her.
MARÍNA (steps angrily aside). You'd better drop that sort of thing,
Nikíta! What has been is past! I've come for my husband. Is he in your
NIKÍTA. So I must not remember the past? You won't let me?
MARÍNA. It's no use recalling the past! What used to be is over now!
NIKÍTA. And can never come back, you mean?
MARÍNA. And will never come back! But why have you gone away? You, the
master,--and to go away from the feast!
NIKÍTA (sits down on the straw). Why have I gone away? Eh, if you
knew, if you had any idea.... I'm dull, Marína, so dull that I wish my
eyes would not see! I rose from the table and left them, to get away
from the people. If I could only avoid seeing any one!
MARÍNA (coming nearer to him). How's that?
NIKÍTA. This is how it is: when I eat, it's there! When I drink, it's
there! When I sleep, it's there! I'm so sick of it--so sick! But it's
chiefly because I'm all alone that I'm so sick, Marína. I have no one
to share my trouble.
MARÍNA. You can't live your life without trouble, Nikíta. However,
I've wept over mine and wept it away.
NIKÍTA. The former, the old trouble! Ah, dear friend, you've wept
yours away, and I've got mine up to there!
[Puts his hand to his throat.
MARÍNA. But why?
NIKÍTA. Why, I'm sick of my whole life! I am sick of myself! Ah,
MARÍNA, why did you not know how to keep me? You've ruined me, and
yourself too! Is this life?
MARÍNA (stands by the barn crying, but restrains herself). I do not
complain of my life, Nikíta! God grant every one a life like mine. I
do not complain. I confessed to my old man at the time, and he forgave
me. And he does not reproach me. I'm not discontented with my life.
The old man is quiet, and is fond of me, and I keep his children
clothed and washed! He is really kind to me. Why should I complain? It
seems God willed it so. And what's the matter with your life? You are
NIKÍTA. My life!... It's only that I don't wish to disturb the wedding
feast, or I'd take this rope here (takes hold of the rope on the
straw) and throw it across that rafter there. Then I'd make a noose
and stretch it out, and I'd climb on to that rafter and jump down with
my head in the noose! That's what my life is!
MARÍNA. That's enough! Lord help you!
NIKÍTA. You think I'm joking? You think I'm drunk? I'm not drunk!
To-day even drink takes no hold on me! I'm devoured by misery! Misery
is eating me up completely, so that I care for nothing! Oh little
Marína, it's only with you I ever lived! Do you remember how we used
to while away the nights together at the railway?
MARÍNA. Don't you rub the sores, Nikíta! I'm bound legally now, and
you too. My sin has been forgiven, don't disturb...
NIKÍTA. What shall I do with my heart? Where am I to turn to?
MARÍNA. What's there to be done? You've got a wife. Don't go looking
at others, but keep to your own! You loved Anísya, then go on loving
NIKÍTA. Oh, that Anísya, she's gall and wormwood to me, but she's
round my feet like rank weeds!
MARÍNA. Whatever she is, still she's your wife.... But what's the use
of talking; you'd better go to your visitors, and send my husband to
NIKÍTA. Oh dear, if you knew the whole business... but there's no good
[Enter MARÍNA'S husband, red and tipsy, and NAN.
MARÍNA'S HUSBAND. Marína! Missis! My old woman! are you here?
NIKÍTA. There's your husband calling you. Go!
MARÍNA. And you?
NIKÍTA. I? I'll lie down here for a bit!
[Lies down on the straw.
Husband. Where is she then?
NAN. There she is, near the barn.
HUSBAND. What are you standing there for? Come to the feast! The hosts
want you to come and do them honor! The wedding party is just going to
start, and then we can go too.
MARÍNA (going towards her husband). I didn't want to go in.
HUSBAND. Come on, I tell you! You'll drink a glass to our nephew
Peter's health, the rascal! Else the hosts might take offense! There's
plenty of time for our business.
[MARÍNA'S husband puts his arm around her, and goes reeling out
NIKÍTA (rises and sits down on the straw). Ah, now that I've seen her,
life seems more sickening than ever! It was only with her that I ever
really lived! I've ruined my life for nothing! I've done for myself!
(Lies down.) Where can I go? If mother earth would but open and
NAN (sees NIKÍTA, and runs towards him). Daddy, I say, daddy! They're
looking for you! Her godfather and all of them have already blessed
her. Truly they have, they're getting cross!
NIKÍTA (aside). Where can I go to?
NAN. What? What are you saying?
NIKÍTA. I'm not saying anything! Don't bother!
NAN. Daddy! Come, I say! (NIKÍTA is silent, NAN pulls him by the
hand.) Dad, go and bless them! My word, they're angry, they're
NIKÍTA (drags away his hand). Leave me alone!
NAN. Now then!
NIKÍTA (threatens her with the rope). Go, I say! I'll give it you!
NAN. Then I'll send mother!
NIKÍTA (rises). How can I go? How can I take the holy icón in my
hands? How am I to look her in the face! (Lies down again.) Oh, if
there were a hole in the ground, I'd jump in! No one should see me,
and I should see no one! (Rises again.) No, I shan't go.... May they
all go to the devil, I shan't go! (Takes the rope and makes a noose,
and tries it on his neck.) That's the way!
[Enter MATRYÓNA. NIKÍTA sees his mother, takes the rope off his
neck, and again lies down in the straw.
MATRYÓNA (comes in hurriedly). Nikíta! Nikíta, I say! He don't even
answer! Nikíta, what's the matter? Have you had a drop too much? Come,
Nikíta dear; come, honey! The people are tired of waiting.
NIKÍTA. Oh dear, what have you done with me? I'm a lost man!
MATRYÓNA. But what is the matter then? Come, my own; come, give them
your blessing, as is proper and honorable, and then it'll all be over!
Why, the people are waiting!
NIKÍTA. How can I give blessings?
MATRYÓNA. Why, in the usual way! Don't you know?
NIKÍTA. I know, I know! But who is it I am to bless? What have I done
MATRYÓNA. What have you done? Eh, now he's going to remember it! Why,
who knows anything about it? Not a soul! And the girl is going of her
NIKÍTA. Yes, but how?
MATRYÓNA. Because she's afraid, of course. But still she's going.
Besides, what's to be done now? She should have thought sooner! Now
she can't refuse. And his kinsfolks can't take offense either. They
saw the girl twice, and get money with her too! It's all safe and
NIKÍTA. Yes, but what's in the cellar?
MATRYÓNA (laughs). In the cellar? Why, cabbages, mushrooms, potatoes,
I suppose! Why remember the past?
NIKÍTA. I'd be only too glad to forget it; but I can't! When I let my
mind go, it's just as if I heard.... Oh, what have you done with me?
MATRYÓNA. Now, what are you humbugging for?
NIKÍTA (turns face downward). Mother! Don't torment me! I've got it up
[Puts his hand to his throat.
MATRYÓNA. Still it has to be done! As it is, people are talking. "The
master's gone away and won't come; he can't make up his mind to give
his blessing." They'll be putting two and two together. As soon as
they see you're frightened they'll begin guessing. "The thief none
suspect who walks bold and erect!" But you'll be getting out of the
frying-pan into the fire! Above all, lad, don't show it; don't lose
courage, else they'll find out all the more!
NIKÍTA. Oh dear! You have snared me into a trap!
MATRYÓNA. That'll do, I tell you; come along! Come in and give your
blessing, as is right and honorable;--and there's an end of the
NIKÍTA (lies face down). I can't!
MATRYÓNA (aside). What has come over him? He seemed all right, and
suddenly this comes over him! It seems he's bewitched! Get up, Nikíta!
See! There's Anísya coming; she's left her guests!
[ANÍSYA enters, dressed up, red and tipsy.
ANÍSYA. Oh, how nice it is, mother! So nice, so respectable! And how
the people are pleased.... But where is he?
MATRYÓNA. Here, honey, he's here; he's laid down on the straw and
there he lies! He won't come!
NIKÍTA (looking at his wife). Just see, she's tipsy too! When I look
at her my heart seems to turn! How can one live with her? (Turns on
his face.) I'll kill her some day! It'll be worse then!
ANÍSYA. Only look, how he's got all among the straw! Is it the drink?
(Laughs.) I'd not mind lying down there with you, but I've no time!
Come, I'll lead you! It is so nice in the house! It's a treat to look
on! A concertina! And the women singing so well! All tipsy! Everything
so respectable, so nice!
NIKÍTA. What's nice?
ANÍSYA. The wedding--such a jolly wedding! They all say it's quite an
uncommon fine wedding. All so respectable, so nice! Come along! We'll
go together! I have had a drop, but I can give you a hand yet!
[Takes his hand.
NIKÍTA. (pulls it back with disgust). Go alone! I'll come!
ANÍSYA. What, are you humbugging for? We've got rid of all the bother,
we've got rid of her as came between us; now we have nothing to do but
to live and be merry! And all so respectable, and quite legal! I'm so
pleased! I have no words for it! It's just as if I were going to marry
you over again! And oh, the people, they are pleased! They're all
thanking us! And the guests are all of the best: Iván Mosévitch is
there, and the Police Officer; they've also been singing songs of
NIKÍTA. Then you should have stayed with them! What have you come for?
ANÍSYA. True enough, I must go back! Else what does it look like! The
hosts both go and leave the visitors! And the guests are all of the
NIKÍTA (gets up and brushes the straw off himself). Go, and I'll come
MATRYÓNA. Just see! He listens to the young bird, but wouldn't listen
to the old one! He would not hear me, but he follows his wife at once!
(MATRYÓNA and ANÍSYA turn to go.) Well, are you coming?
NIKÍTA. I'll come directly! You go and I'll follow! I'll come and give
my blessing! (The women stop.) Go on! I'll follow! Now then, go! (Exit
women. Sits down and takes his boots off.) Yes, I'm going! A likely
thing! No, you'd better look at the rafter for me! I'll fix the noose
and jump with it from the rafter, then you can look for me! And the
rope is here just handy. (Ponders.) I'd have got over it, over any
sorrow--I'd have got over that. But this now--here it is, deep in my
heart, and I can't get over it! (Looks towards the yard.) Surely she's
not coming back? (Imitates ANÍSYA.) "So nice, so nice. I'd lie down
here with you." Oh, the baggage! Well, then, here I am! Come and
cuddle when they've taken me down from the rafter! There's only one
[Takes the rope and pulls it.
[MÍTRITCH, who is tipsy, sits up and won't let go of the rope.
MÍTRITCH. Shan't give it up! Shan't give it to no one! I'll bring it
myself! I said I'd bring the straw--and so I will! Nikíta, is that
you? (Laughs.) Oh, the devil! Have you come to get the straw?
NIKÍTA. Give me the rope!
Mítrich. No, you wait a bit! The peasants sent me! I'll bring it....
(Rises to his feet and begins getting the straw together, but reels
for a time, then falls.) It has beaten me. It's stronger....
NIKÍTA. Give me the rope!
MÍTRITCH. Didn't I say I won't! Oh, Nikíta, you're as stupid as a hog!
(Laughs.) I love you, but you're a fool! You see that I'm drunk ...
devil take you! You think I need you?... You just look at me; I'm a
Non ... fool, can't say it--Non-commissioned Officer of Her Majesty's
very First Regiment of Grenadier Guards! I've served Tsar and country,
loyal and true! But who am I? You think I'm a warrior? No, I'm not a
warrior; I'm the very least of men, a poor lost orphan! I swore not to
drink, and now I had a smoke, and.... Well then, do you think I'm
afraid of you? No fear; I'm afraid of no man! I've taken to drink, and
I'll drink! Now I'll go it for a fortnight; I'll go it hard! I'll
drink my last shirt; I'll drink my cap; I'll pawn my passport; and I'm
afraid of no one! They flogged me in the army to stop me drinking!
They switched and switched! "Well," they say, "will you leave off?"
"No," says I! Why should I be afraid of them? Here I am! Such as I am,
God made me! I swore off drinking, and didn't drink. Now I've took to
drink, and I'll drink! And I fear no man! 'Cos I don't lie; but just
as.... Why should one mind them--such muck as they are! "Here you
are," I say; that's me. A priest told me, the devil's the biggest
bragger! "As soon," says he, "as you begin to brag, you get
frightened; and as soon as you fear men then the hoofed one just
collars you and pushes you where he likes!" But as I don't fear men,
I'm easy! I can spit in the devil's beard, and at the sow his mother!
He can't do me no harm! There, put that in your pipe!
NIKÍTA (crossing himself). True enough! What was I about?
[Throws down the rope.
NIKÍTA (rises). You tell me not to fear men?
MÍTRITCH. Why fear such muck as they are? You look at 'em in the
bath-house! All made of one paste! One has a bigger belly, another a
smaller; that's all the difference there is! Fancy being afraid of
'em! Deuce take 'em!
MATRYÓNA (from the yard). Well, are you coming?
NIKÍTA. Ah! Better so! I'm coming!
[Goes towards yard.
Interior of hut, full of people, some sitting round tables and others
standing. In the front corner AKOULÍNA and the BRIDEGROOM. On one of
the tables an Icon and a loaf of rye-bread. Among the visitors are
MARÍNA, her husband, and a POLICE OFFICER, also a HIRED DRIVER, the
MATCHMAKER, and the BEST MAN. The women are singing. ANÍSYA carries
round the drink. The singing stops.
THE DRIVER. If we are to go, let's go! The church ain't so near.
THE BEST MAN. All right; you wait a bit till the step-father has given
his blessing. But where is he?
ANÍSYA. He is coming--coming at once, dear friends! Have another
glass, all of you; don't refuse!
THE MATCHMAKER. Why is he so long? We've been waiting such a time!
ANÍSYA. He's coming; coming directly, coming in no time! He'll be here
before one could plait a girl's hair who's had her hair cropped!
Drink, friends! (Offers the drink.) Coming at once! Sing again, my
THE DRIVER. They've sung all their songs, waiting here!
[The women sing. NIKÍTA and AKÍM enter during the singing.
NIKÍTA (holds his father's arm and pushes him in before him). Go,
father; I can't do without you!
AKÍM. I don't like--I mean what d'ye call it....
NIKÍTA (to the women). Enough! Be quiet! (Looks round the hut.)
Marína, are you there?
THE MATCHMAKER. Go, take the icón, and give them your blessing!
NIKÍTA. Wait a while! (Looks round.) Akoulína, are you there?
MATCHMAKER. What are you calling everybody for? Where should she be?
How queer he seems!
ANÍSYA. Gracious goodness! Why, he's barefoot!
NIKÍTA. Father, you are here! Look at me! Christian Commune, you are
all here, and I am here! I am....
[Falls on his knees.
ANÍSYA. Nikíta, darling, what's the matter with you? Oh, my head, my
MATCHMAKER. Here's a go!
MATRYÓNA. I did say he was taking too much of that French wine! Come
to your senses; what are you about?
[They try to lift him; he takes no heed of them, but looks in
front of him.
NIKÍTA. Christian Commune! I have sinned, and I wish to confess!
MATRYÓNA (shakes him by the shoulder). Are you mad? Dear friends, he's
gone crazy! He must be taken away!
NIKÍTA (shakes her off). Leave me alone! And you, father, hear me! And
first, Marína, look here! (Bows to the ground to her and rises.) I
have sinned towards you! I promised to marry you, I tempted you, and
forsook you! Forgive me, in Christ's name!
[Again bows to the ground before her.
ANÍSYA. And what are you drivelling about? It's not becoming! No one
wants to know! Get up! It's like your impudence!
MATRYÓNA. Oh, oh, he's bewitched! And however did it happen? It's a
spell! Get up! what nonsense are you jabbering?
NIKÍTA (shakes his head). Don't touch me! Forgive me my sin towards
you, Marína! Forgive me, for Christ's sake!
[MARÍNA covers her face with her hands in silence.
ANÍSYA. Get up, I tell you! Don't be so impudent! What are you
thinking about--to recall it? Enough humbug! It's shameful! Oh my poor
head! He's quite crazy!
NIKÍTA (pushes his wife away and turns to AKOULÍNA). Akoulína, now
I'll speak to you! Listen, Christian Commune! I'm a fiend, Akoulína! I
have sinned against you! Your father died no natural death! He was
ANÍSYA (screams). Oh my head! What's he about?
MATRYÓNA. The man's beside himself! Lead him away!
[The folk come up and try to seize him.
AKÍM (motions them back with his arms). Wait! You lads, what d'ye call
it, wait, I mean!
NIKÍTA. Akoulína, I poisoned him! Forgive me, in Christ's name!
AKOULÍNA (jumps up). He's telling lies! I know who did it!
MATCHMAKER. What are you about? You sit still!
AKÍM. Oh Lord, what sins, what sins!
POLICE OFFICER. Seize him, and send for the Elder! We must draw up an
indictment and have witnesses to it! Get up and come here!
AKÍM (to POLICE OFFICER). Now you--with the bright buttons--I mean,
you wait! Let him, what d'ye call it, speak out, I mean!
POLICE OFFICER. Mind, old man, and don't interfere! I have to draw up
AKÍM. Eh, what a fellow you are; wait, I say! Don't talk, I mean,
about, what d'ye call it, 'ditements' Here God's work is being
done.... A man is confessing, I mean! And you, what d'ye call it ...
POLICE OFFICER. The Elder!
AKÍM. Let God's work be done, I mean, and then you. I mean you, do
NIKÍTA. And, Akoulína, my sin is great towards you; I seduced you;
forgive me in Christ's name!
[Bows to the ground before her.
AKOULÍNA (leaves the table). Let me go! I shan't be married! He told
me to, but I shan't now!
POLICE OFFICER. Repeat what you have said.
NIKÍTA. Wait, sir, let me finish!
AKÍM (with rapture). Speak, my son! Tell everything--you'll feel
better! Confess to God, don't fear men! God--God! It is He!
NIKÍTA. I poisoned the father, dog that I am, and I ruined the
daughter! She was in my power, and I ruined her, and her baby!
AKOULÍNA. True, that's true!
NIKÍTA. I smothered the baby in the cellar with a board! I sat on it
and smothered it--and its bones crunched! (Weeps.) And I buried it! I
did it, all alone!
AKOULÍNA. He raves! I told him to!
NIKÍTA. Don't shield me! I fear no one now! Forgive me, Christian
[Bows to the ground.
POLICE OFFICER. Bind him! The marriage is evidently off!
[Men come up with their belts.
NIKÍTA. Wait, there's plenty of time! (Bows to the ground before his
father.) Father, dear father, forgive me too,--fiend that I am! You
told me from the first, when I took to bad ways, you said then, "If a
claw is caught, the bird is lost!" I would not listen to your words,
dog that I was, and it has turned out as you said! Forgive me, for
AKÍM (rapturously). God will forgive you, my own son! (Embraces him.)
You have had no mercy on yourself; He will show mercy on you! God--
God! It is He!
ELDER. There are witnesses enough here.
POLICE OFFICER. We will have the examination at once.
[NIKÍTA is bound.
AKOULÍNA. (goes and stands by his side). I shall tell the truth! Ask
NIKÍTA (bound). No need to ask! I did it all myself. The design was
mine, and the deed was mine. Take me where you like. I will say no
FOOTNOTES FOR THE POWER OF DARKNESS
1. It is customary to place a dying person under the icón. One or
more icóns hang in the hut of each Orthodox peasant.
2. Peasant weddings are usually in autumn. They are forbidden in
Lent, and soon after Easter the peasants become too busy to marry
till harvest is over.
3. A formal request for forgiveness is customary among Russians, but
it is often no mere formality. Nikíta's first reply is evasive;
his second reply, "God will forgive you," is the correct one
sanctioned by custom.
4. Loud public wailing of this kind is customary, and considered
indispensable, among the peasants.
5. Where not otherwise mentioned in the stage directions, it is
always the winter half of the hut that is referred to as "the
hut." The summer half is not heated, and not used in winter
under ordinary circumstances.
6. The Foundlings' Hospital in Moscow, where 80 to 90 percent of the
7. Nan calls Mítritch "daddy" merely as a term of endearment.
8. Probably Kurds
9. This refers to the songs customary at the wedding of Russian
peasants, praising the bride and bridegroom.
10. It is etiquette for a bride to bewail the approaching loss of her
END OF _THE POWER OF DARKNESS_
* * * * *
FRUITS OF CULTURE
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH ZVEZDÍNTSEF. A retired Lieutenant of the Horse
Guards. Owner of more than 60,000 acres of land in various provinces.
A fresh-looking, bland, agreeable gentleman of 60. Believes in
Spiritualism, and likes to astonish people with his wonderful stories.
ANNA PÁVLOVNA ZVEZDÍNTSEVA. Wife of Leoníd. Stout; pretends to be
young; quite taken up with the conventionalities of life; despises her
husband, and blindly believes in her doctor. Very irritable.
BETSY. Their daughter. A young woman of 20, fast, tries to be mannish,
wears a pince-nez, flirts and giggles. Speaks very quickly and
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH ZVEZDÍNTSEF. Their son, aged 25; has studied law,
but has no definite occupation. Member of the Cycling Club, Jockey
Club, and of the Society for Promoting the Breeding of Hounds. Enjoys
perfect health, and has imperturbable self-assurance. Speaks loud and
abruptly. Is either perfectly serious--almost morose, or is noisily
gay and laughs loud. Is nicknamed Vovo.
ALEXÉY VLADÍMIROVITCH KROUGOSVÉTLOF. A professor and scientist of
about 50, with quiet and pleasantly self-possessed manners, and quiet,
deliberate, harmonious speech. Likes to talk. Is mildly disdainful of
those who do not agree with him. Smokes much. Is lean and active.
THE DOCTOR. About 40. Healthy, fat, red-faced, loud-voiced, and rough;
with a self-satisfied smile constantly on his lips.
MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA. A girl of 20, from the Conservatoire, teacher of
music. Wears a fringe, and is super-fashionably dressed. Obsequious,
and gets easily confused.
PETRÍSTCHEF. About 28; has taken his degree in philology, and is
looking out for a position. Member of the same clubs as Vasíly
Leoníditch, and also of the Society for the Organisation of Calico
Balls.  Is bald-headed, quick in movement and speech, and very
THE BARONESS. A pompous lady of about 50, slow in her movements,
speaks with monotonous intonation.
THE PRINCESS. A society woman, a visitor.
HER DAUGHTER. An affected young society woman, a visitor.
THE COUNTESS. An ancient dame, with false hair and teeth. Moves with
GROSSMAN. A dark, nervous, lively man of Jewish type. Speaks very
THE FAT LADY: MÁRYA VASÍLYEVNA TOLBOÚHINA. A very distinguished, rich,
and kindly woman, acquainted with all the notable people of the last
and present generations. Very stout. Speaks hurriedly, trying to be
heard above every one else. Smokes.
BARON KLÍNGEN (nicknamed KOKO). A graduate of Petersburg University.
Gentleman of the Bedchamber, Attaché to an Embassy. Is perfectly
correct in his deportment, and therefore enjoys peace of mind and is
TWO SILENT LADIES.
SERGÉY IVÁNITCH SAHÁTOF. About 50, an ex-Assistant Minister of State.
An elegant gentleman, of wide European culture, engaged in nothing and
interested in everything. His carriage is dignified and at times even
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Personal attendant on Zvezdíntsef, aged about 60. A
man of some education and fond of information. Uses his pince-nez and
pocket-handkerchief too much, unfolding the latter very slowly. Takes
an interest in politics. Is kindly and sensible.
GREGORY. A footman, about 28, handsome, profligate, envious, and
JACOB. Butler, about 40, a bustling, kindly man, to whom the interests
of his family in the village are all-important.
SIMON. The butler's assistant, about 20, a healthy, fresh, peasant
lad, fair, beardless as yet; calm and smiling.
THE COACHMAN. A man of about 35, a dandy. Has moustaches but no beard.
Rude and decided.
A DISCHARGED MAN-COOK. About 45, dishevelled, unshaved, bloated,
yellow and trembling. Dressed in a ragged, light summer-overcoat and
dirty trousers. Speaks hoarsely, ejecting the words abruptly.
THE SERVANTS' COOK. A talkative, dissatisfied woman of 30.
THE DOORKEEPER. A retired soldier.
TÁNYA (TATYÁNA MÁRKOVNA). LADY's-maid, 19, energetic, strong, merry,
with quickly-changing moods. At moments, when strongly excited, she
shrieks with joy.
FIRST PEASANT. About 60. Has served as village Elder. Imagines that he
knows how to treat gentlefolk, and likes to hear himself talk.
SECOND PEASANT. About 45, head of a family. A man of few words. Rough
and truthful. The father of Simon.
THIRD PEASANT. About 70. Wears shoes of plaited bast. Is nervous,
restless, hurried, and tries to cover his confusion by much talking.
FIRST FOOTMAN (in attendance on the Countess). An old man, with
old-fashioned manners, and proud of his place.
SECOND FOOTMAN. Of enormous size, strong, and rude.
A PORTER FROM A FASHIONABLE DRESSMAKER'S SHOP. A fresh-faced man in
dark-blue long coat. Speaks firmly, emphatically, and clearly.
The action takes place in Moscow, in Zvesdíntsef's house.
The entrance hall of a wealthy house in Moscow. There are three doors:
the front door, the door of LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH'S study, and the door of
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH'S room. A staircase leads up to the other rooms;
behind it is another door leading to the servants' quarters.
GREGORY (looks at himself in the glass and arranges his hair, etc.). I
am sorry about those moustaches of mine! "Moustaches are not becoming
to a footman," she says! And why? Why, so that any one might see
you're a footman,--else my looks might put her darling son to shame.
He's a likely one! There's not much fear of his coming anywhere near
me, moustaches or no moustaches! (Smiling into the glass.) And what a
lot of 'em swarm round me. And yet I don't care for any of them as
much as for that Tánya. And she only a lady's-maid! Ah well, she's
nicer than any young lady. (Smiles.) She's a duck! (Listening.) Ah,
here she comes. (Smiles.) Yes, that's her, clattering with her little
[Enter TÁNYA, carrying a cloak and boots.
GREGORY. My respects to you, Tatyána Márkovna.
TÁNYA. What are you always looking in the glass for? Do you think
yourself so good-looking?
GREGORY. Well, and are my looks not agreeable?
TÁNYA. So, so; neither agreeable nor disagreeable, but just betwixt
and between! Why are all those cloaks hanging there?
GREGORY. I am just going to put them away, your lady-ship! (Takes down
a fur cloak and, wrapping it round her, embraces her.) I say, Tánya,
I'll tell you something....
TÁNYA. Oh, get away, do! What do you mean by it? (Pulls herself
angrily away.) Leave me alone, I tell you!
GREGORY (looks cautiously around). Then give me a kiss!
TÁNYA. Now, really, what are you bothering for? I'll give you such a
[Raises her hand to strike.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (off the scene, rings and then shouts). Gregory!
TÁNYA. There now, go! Vasíly Leoníditch is calling you.
GREGORY. He'll wait! He's only just opened his eyes! I say, why don't
you love me?
TÁNYA. What sort of loving have you imagined now? I don't love
GREGORY. That's a fib. You love Simon! You have found a nice one to
love--a common, dirty-pawed peasant, a butler's assistant!
TÁNYA. Never mind; such as he is, you are jealous of him!
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (off the scene). Gregory!
GREGORY. All in good time.... Jealous indeed! Of what? Why, you have
only just begun to get licked into shape, and who are you tying
yourself up with? Now, wouldn't it be altogether a different matter if
you loved me?.... I say, Tánya....
TÁNYA (angrily and severely). You'll get nothing from me, I tell you!
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (off the scene). Gregory!
GREGORY. You're mighty particular, ain't you?
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (off the scene, shouts persistently, monotonously,
and with all his might) Gregory! Greg--ory! Gregory!
[TÁNYA and GREGORY laugh.
GREGORY. You should have seen the girls that have been sweet on me.
TÁNYA. Well then, go to them, and leave me alone!
GREGORY. You are a silly, now I think of it. I'm not Simon!
TÁNYA. Simon means marriage, and not tomfoolery!
[Enter PORTER, carrying a large cardboard box.
PORTER. Good morning!
GREGORY. Good morning! Where are you from?
PORTER. From Bourdey's. I've brought a dress, and here's a note for
TÁNYA (taking the note). Sit down, and I'll take it in.
[VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH looks out of the door in shirt-sleeves and
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Gregory!
GREGORY. Yes, sir.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Gregory! Don't you hear me call?
GREGORY. I've only just come, sir.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Hot water, and a cup of tea.
GREGORY. Yes, sir; Simon will bring them directly.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. And who is this? Ah, from Bourdier?
PORTER. Yes, sir.
[Exeunt VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH and GREGORY. Bell rings. TÁNYA runs in
at the sound of the bell and opens the front door.
TÁNYA (to PORTER). Please wait a little. Porter. I am waiting.
[SAHÁTOF enters at front door.
TÁNYA. I beg your pardon, but the footman has just gone away. This
way, sir. Allow me, please.
[Takes his fur cloak.
SAHÁTOF (adjusting his clothes). Is Leoníd Fyódoritch at home? Is he
TÁNYA. Oh yes, sir. He's been up a long time.
[DOCTOR enters and looks around for the footman. Sees SAHÁTOF and
addresses him in an offhand manner.
DOCTOR. Ah, my respects to you!
SAHÁTOF (looks fixedly at him). The Doctor, I believe?
DOCTOR. And I thought you were abroad! Dropped in to see Leoníd
SAHÁTOF. Yes. And you? Is any one ill?
DOCTOR (laughing). Not exactly ill but, you know.... It's awful with
these ladies! Sits up at cards till three every morning, and pulls her
waist into the shape of a wine-glass. And the lady is flabby and fat,
and carries the weight of a good many years on her back.
SAHÁTOF. Is this the way you state your diagnosis to Anna Pávlovna? I
should hardly think it quite pleases her!
DOCTOR (laughing). Well, it's the truth. They do all these tricks--and
then come derangements of the digestive organs, pressure on the liver,
nerves, and all sorts of things, and one has to come and patch them
up. It's just awful! (Laughs.) And you? You are also a spiritualist,
SAHÁTOF. I? No, I am not also a spiritualist.... Good morning!
[Is about to go, but is stopped by the DOCTOR.
DOCTOR. No! But I can't myself, you know, positively deny the
possibility of it, when a man like Krougosvétlof is connected with it
all. How can one? Is he not a professor,--a European celebrity? There
must be something in it. I should like to see for myself, but I never
have the time. I have other things to do.
SAHÁTOF. Yes, yes! Good morning.
[Exit, bowing slightly.
DOCTOR (to Tánya). Is Anna Pávlovna up?
TÁNYA. She's in her bedroom, but please come up.
[DOCTOR goes upstairs.
[THEODORE IVÁNITCH enters with a newspaper In his hand.
THEODORE IVÁNITCH (to PORTER). What is it you want?
PORTER. I'm from Bourdey's. I brought a dress and a note, and was told
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Ah, from Bourdey's! (To Tánya.) Who came in just
TÁNYA. It was Sergéy Ivánitch Sahátof and the Doctor. They stood
talking here a bit. It was all about spiritalism.
THEODORE IVÁNITCH (correcting her). Spiritualism.
TÁNYA. Yes, that's just what I said--spiritalism. Have you heard how
well it went off last time, Theodore Ivánitch? (Laughs). There was
knocks, and things flew about!
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. And how do you know?
TÁNYA. Miss Elizabeth told me.
[JACOB runs in with a tumbler of tea on a tray.
JACOB (to the PORTER). Good morning!
PORTER (disconsolately). Good morning!
[JACOB knocks at VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH'S door.
GREGORY. Give it here.
JACOB. You didn't bring back all yesterday's tumblers, nor the tray
Vasíly Leoníditch had. And it's me that have to answer for them!
GREGORY. The tray is full of cigars.
JACOB. Well, put them somewhere else. It's me who's answerable for it.
GREGORY. I'll bring it back! I'll bring it back!
JACOB. Yes, so you say, but it is not where it ought to be. The other
day, just as the tea had to be served, it was not to be found.
GREGORY. I'll bring it back, I tell you. What a fuss!
JACOB. It's easy for you to talk. Here am I serving tea for the third
time, and now there's the lunch to get ready. One does nothing but
rush about the livelong day. Is there any one in the house who has
more to do than me? Yet they are never satisfied with me.
GREGORY. Dear me! Who could wish for any one more satisfactory? You're
such a fine fellow!
TÁNYA. Nobody is good enough for you! You alone....
GREGORY (to TÁNYA). No one asked your opinion!
JACOB. Ah, well, I don't mind. Tatyána Márkovna, did the mistress say
anything about yesterday?
TÁNYA. About the lamp, you mean?
JACOB. And how it managed to drop out of my hands, the Lord only
knows! Just as I began rubbing it, and was going to take hold of it in
another place, out it slips and goes all to pieces. It's just my luck!
It's easy for that Gregory Miháylitch to talk--a single man like him!
But when one has a family, one has to consider things: they have to be
fed. I don't mind work.... So she didn't say anything? The Lord be
thanked!... Oh, Theodore Ivánitch, have you one spoon or two?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. One. Only one!
[Bell rings. Enter GREGORY carrying a tray and the DOORKEEPER.
DOORKEEPER (to GREGORY). Tell the master some peasants have come from
GREGORY (pointing to THEODORE IVÁNITCH). Tell the major-domo here,
it's his business. I have no time.
TÁNYA. Where are these peasants from?
DOORKEEPER. From Koursk, I think.
TÁNYA. (shrieks with delight). It's them.... It's Simon's father come
about the land! I'll go and meet them!
DOORKEEPER. Well, then what shall I say to them? Shall they come in
here? They say they've come about the land--the master knows, they
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Yes, they want to purchase some land. All right!
But he has a visitor now, so you had better tell them to wait.
DOORKEEPER. Where shall they wait?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Let them wait outside. I'll send for them when the
[Enter TÁNYA, followed by three PEASANTS.
TÁNYA. To the right. In here! In here!
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. I did not want them brought in here!
GREGORY. Forward minx!
TÁNYA. Oh, Theodore Ivánitch, it won't matter, they'll stand in this
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. They'll dirty the floor.
TÁNYA. They've scraped their shoes, and I'll wipe the floor up
afterwards. (To PEASANTS.) Here, stand just here.
[PEASANTS come forward, carrying presents tied in cotton
handkerchiefs: cake, eggs and embroidered towels. They look
around for an icón before which to cross themselves; not finding
one, they cross themselves, looking at the staircase.
GREGORY (to THEODORE IVÁNITCH). There now, Theodore Ivánitch, they say
Pironnet's boots are an elegant shape. But those there are ever so
[Pointing to the third PEASANT'S bast shoes.
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Why will you always be ridiculing people?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH (rises and goes up to the PEASANTS). So you are from
Koursk? And have come to arrange about buying some land?
FIRST PEASANT. Just so. We might say, it is for the completion of the
purchase of the land we have come. How could we announce ourselves to
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Yes, yes, I know. You wait a bit and I'll go and
[The PEASANTS look around; they are embarrassed where to put their
FIRST PEASANT. There now, couldn't we have what d'you call it?
Something to present these here things on? To do it in a genteel way,
like,--a little dish or something.
TÁNYA. All right, directly; put them down here for the present.
[Puts bundles on settle.
FIRST PEASANT. There now,--that respectable gentleman that was here
just now,--what might be his station?
TÁNYA. He's the master's valet.
FIRST PEASANT. I see. So he's also in service. And you, now, are you a
TÁNYA. I am lady's-maid. Do you know, I also come from Démen! I know
you, and you, but I don't know him.
[Pointing to THIRD PEASANT.
THIRD PEASANT. Them two you know, but me you don't know?
TÁNYA. You are Efím Antónitch.
FIRST PEASANT. That's just it!
TÁNYA. And you are Simon's father, Zachary Trifánitch.
SECOND PEASANT. Right!
THIRD PEASANT. And let me tell you, I'm Mitry Vlásitch Tchilikin. Now
do you know?
TÁNYA. Now I shall know you too!
SECOND PEASANT. And who may you be?
TÁNYA. I am Aksínya's, the soldier's wife's, orphan.
FIRST AND THIRD PEASANTS (with surprise). Never!
SECOND PEASANT. The proverb says true: "Buy a penny pig, put it in the
rye, And you'll have a wonderful fat porker by-and-by."
FIRST PEASANT. That's just it! She's got the resemblance of a duchess!
THIRD PEASANT. That be so truly. Oh Lord!
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (off the scene, rings, and then shouts). Gregory!
FIRST PEASANT. Now who's that, for example, disturbing himself in such
a way, if I may say so?
TÁNYA. That's the young master.
THIRD PEASANT. Oh Lord! Didn't I say we'd better wait outside until
the time comes?
SECOND PEASANT. Is it you, Simon wants to marry?
TÁNYA. Why, has he been writing?
[Hides her face in her apron.
SECOND PEASANT. It's evident he's written! But it's a bad business
he's imagined here. I see the lad's got spoilt!
TÁNYA (quickly). No, he's not at all spoilt! Shall I send him to you?
SECOND PEASANT. Why send him? All in good time. Where's the hurry?
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (desperately, behind scene). Gregory! Where the
devil are you?...
[Enters from his room in shirt-sleeves, adjusting his pince-nez.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Is every one dead?
TÁNYA. He's not here, sir.... I'll send him to you at once.
[Moves towards the back door.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. I could hear you talking, you know. How have these
scarecrows sprung up here? Eh? What?
TÁNYA. They're peasants from the Koursk village, sir.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. And who is this? Oh yes, from Bourdier.
[VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH pays no attention to the PEASANTS' bow. TÁNYA
meets GREGORY at the doorway and remains on the scene.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (to GREGORY). I told you the other boots.... I can't
GREGORY. Well, the others are also there.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. But where is there?
GREGORY. Just in the same place!
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. They're not!
GREGORY. Well, come and see.
[Exeunt GREGORY and VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH.
THIRD PEASANT. Say, now, might we not in the meantime just go and
wait, say, in some lodging-house or somewhere?
TÁNYA. No, no, wait a little. I'll go and bring you some plates to put
the presents on.
[Enter SAHÁTOF and LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH, followed by THEODORE IVÁNITCH.
[The PEASANTS take up the presents, and pose themselves.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (to PEASANTS). Presently, presently! Wait a bit!
(Points to PORTER.) Who is this?
PORTER. From Bourdey's.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Ah, from Bourdier.
SAHÁTOF (smiling). Well, I don't deny it: still you understand that,
never having seen it, we, the uninitiated, have some difficulty in
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. You say you find it difficult to believe! We do not
ask for faith; all we demand of you is to investigate! How can I help
believing in this ring? Yet this ring came from there!
SAHÁTOF. From there? What do you mean? From where?
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. From the other world. Yes!
SAHÁTOF (smiling). That's very interesting--very interesting!
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Well, supposing we admit that I'm a man carried
away by an idea, as you think, and that I am deluding myself. Well,
but what of Alexéy Vladímiritch Krougosvétlof--he is not just an
ordinary man, but a distinguished professor, and yet he admits it to
be a fact. And not he alone. What of Crookes? What of Wallace?
SAHÁTOF. But I don't deny anything. I only say it is very interesting.
It would be interesting to know how Krougosvétlof explains it!
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. He has a theory of his own. Could you come
to-night?--he is sure to be here. First we shall have Grossman--you
know, the famous thought-reader?
SAHÁTOF. Yes, I have heard of him but have never happened to meet him.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Then you must come! We shall first have Grossman,
then Kaptchítch, and our mediumistic séance.... (To THEODORE
IVÁNITCH.) Has the man returned from Kaptchítch?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Not yet, sir.
SAHÁTOF. Then how am I to know?
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Never mind, come in any case! If Kaptchítch can't
come we shall find our own medium. Márya Ignátievna is a medium--not
such a good one as Kaptchítch, but still....
[TÁNYA enters with plates for the presents, and stands listening.
SAHÁTOF (smiling). Oh, yes, yes. But here is one puzzling point:--how
is it that the mediums are always of the, so-called, educated class,
such as Kaptchítch and Márya Ignátievna? If there were such a special
force, would it not be met with also among the common people--the
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Oh yes, and it is! That is very common. Even here
in our own house we have a peasant whom we discovered to be a medium.
A few days ago we called him in--a sofa had to be moved, during a
séance--and we forgot all about him. In all probability he fell
asleep. And, fancy, after our séance was over and Kaptchítch had come
to again, we suddenly noticed mediumistic phenomena in another part of
the room, near the peasant: the table gave a jerk and moved!
TÁNYA (aside). That was when I was getting out from under it!
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. It is quite evident he also is a medium. Especially
as he is very like Home in appearance. You remember Home--a
fair-haired naïf sort of fellow?
SAHÁTOF (shrugging his shoulders). Dear me, this is very interesting,
you know. I think you should try him.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. So we will! And he is not alone; there are
thousands of mediums, only we do not know them. Why, only a short time
ago a bedridden old woman moved a brick wall!
SAHÁTOF. Moved a brick ... a brick wall?
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Yes, yes. She was lying in bed, and did not even
know she was a medium. She just leant her arm against the wall, and
the wall moved!
SAHÁTOF. And did not cave in?
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. And did not cave in.
SAHÁTOF. Very strange! Well, then, I'll come this evening.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Pray, do. We shall have a séance in any case.
[SAHATOF puts on his outdoor things; LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH sees him
to the door.
PORTER (to TÁNYA). Do tell your mistress! Am I to spend the night
TÁNYA. Wait a little; she's going to drive out with the young lady, so
she'll soon be coming downstairs.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (comes up to the PEASANTS, who bow and offer him
their presents). That's not necessary!
FIRST PEASANT (smiling). Oh, but this-here is our first duty, it is!
It's also the Commune's orders that we should do it!
SECOND PEASANT. That's always been the proper way.
THIRD PEASANT. Say no more about it! 'Cause as we are much
satisfied.... As our parents, let's say, served, let's say, your
parents, so we would like the same with all our hearts ... and not
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. But what is it about? What do you want?
FIRST PEASANT. It's to your honor we've come....
[Enter PETRÍSTCHEF briskly, in fur-lined overcoat.
PETRÍSTCHEF. Is Vasíly Leoníditch awake yet?
[Seeing LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH, bows, moving only his head.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. You have come to see my son?
PETRÍSTCHEF. I? Yes, just to see Vovo for a moment.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Step in, step in.
[PETRÍSTCHEF takes off his overcoat and walks in briskly. Exit.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (to PEASANTS). Well, what is it you want?
SECOND PEASANT. Please accept our presents!
FIRST PEASANT (smiling). That's to say, the peasants' offerings.
THIRD PEASANT. Say no more about it; what's the good? We wish you the
same as if you were our own father! Say no more about it!
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. All right. Here, Theodore, take these.
THEODORE IVÁNITCH (to PEASANTS). Give them here.
[Takes the presents.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Well, what is the business?
FIRST PEASANT. We've come to your honor....
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. I see you have; but what do you want?
FIRST PEASANT. It's about making a move towards completing the sale of
the land. It comes to this....
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Do you mean to buy the land?
FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. It comes to this.... I mean the buying
of the property of the land. The Commune has given us, let's say, the
power of atturning, to enter, let's say, as is lawful, through the
Government bank, with a stamp for the lawful amount.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. You mean that you want to buy the land through the
FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. Just as you offered it to us last year.
It comes to this, then, the whole sum in full for the buying of the
property of the land is 32,864 roubles.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. That's all right, but how about paying up?
FIRST PEASANT. As to the payment, the Commune offers just as it was
said last year--to pay in 'stalments, and your receipt of the ready
money by lawful regulations, 4000 roubles in full. 
SECOND PEASANT. Take 4000 now, and wait for the rest of the money.
THIRD PEASANT (unwrapping a parcel of money). And about this be quite
easy. We should pawn our own selves rather than do such a thing just
anyhow say, but in this way, let's say, as it ought to be done.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. But did I not write and tell you that I should not
agree to it unless you brought the whole sum?
FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. It would be more agreeable, but it is
not in our possibilities, I mean.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Well then, the thing can't be done!
FIRST PEASANT. The Commune, for example, relied its hopes on that,
that you made the offer last year to sell it in easy 'stalments....
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. That was last year. I would have agreed to it then,
but now I can't.
SECOND PEASANT. But how's that? We've been depending on your promise--
we've got the papers ready and have collected the money!
THIRD PEASANT. Be merciful, master! We're short of land; we'll say
nothing about cattle, but even a hen, let's say, we've no room to
keep. (Bows.) Don't wrong us, master!
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. Of course it's quite true, that I agreed last year
to let you have the land for payment by instalments, but now
circumstances are such that it would be inconvenient.
SECOND PEASANT. Without this land we cannot live!
FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. Without land our lives must grow weaker
and come to a decline.
THIRD PEASANT (bowing). Master, we have so little land, let's not talk
about the cattle, but even a chicken, let's say, we've no room for.
Master, be merciful, accept the money, master!
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH (examining the document). I quite understand, and
should like to help you. Wait a little; I will give you an answer in
half-an-hour.... Theodore, say I am engaged and am not to be
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Yes, sir.
[Exit LEONÍD FYODORITCH.
[The PEASANTS look dejected.
SECOND PEASANT. Here's a go! "Give me the whole sum," he says. And
where are we to get it from?
FIRST PEASANT. If he had not given us hopes, for example. As it is we
felt quite insured it would be as was said last year.
THIRD PEASANT. Oh, Lord! and I had begun unwrapping the money. (Begins
wrapping up the bundle of bank-notes again.) What are we to do now?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. What is your business, then?
FIRST PEASANT. Our business, respected sir, depends in this. Last year
he made us the offer of our buying the land in 'stalments. The Commune
entered upon these terms and gave us the powers of atturning, and now
d'you see he makes the offering that we should pay the whole in full!
And as it turns out, the business is no ways convenient for us.
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. What is the whole sum?
FIRST PEASANT. The whole sum in readiness is 4000 roubles, you see.
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. Well, what of that? Make an effort and collect
FIRST PEASANT. Such as it is, it was collected with much effort. We
have, so to say, in this sense, not got ammunition enough.
SECOND PEASANT. You can't get blood out of a stone.
THIRD PEASANT. We'd be glad with all our hearts, but we have swept
even this together, as you might say, with a broom.
[VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH and PETRÍSTCHEF appear in the doorway both
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. I have told you already I'll do my best, so, of
course, I will do all that is possible! Eh, what?
PETRÍSTCHEF. You must just understand that if you do not get it, the
devil only knows what a mess we shall be in!
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. But I've already said I'll do my best, and so I
will. Eh, what?
PETRÍSTCHEF. Nothing. I only say, get some at any cost; I will wait.
[Exit into VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH'S room, closing door.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (waving his arm). It's a deuce of a go!
[The PEASANTS bow.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (looking at PORTER, to THEODORE IVÁNITCH). Why don't
you attend to this fellow from Bourdier? He hasn't come to take
lodgings with us, has he? Just look, he is asleep! Eh, what?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. The note he brought has been sent in, and he has
been told to wait until Anna Pávlovna comes down.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH (looks at PEASANTS and notices the money). And what
is this? Money? For whom? Is it for us? (To THEODORE IVÁNITCH.) Who
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. They are peasants from Koursk. They are buying
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Has it been sold them?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. No, they have not yet come to any agreement. They
are too stingy?
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Eh? Well, we must try and persuade them. (To the
PEASANTS.) Here, I say, are you buying land? Eh?
FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. We have made an offering as how we
should like to acquire the possession of the land.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Then you should not be so stingy, you know. Just
let me tell you how necessary land is to peasants! Eh, what? It's very
necessary, isn't it?
FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. The land appears as the very first and
foremost necessity to a peasant. That's just it.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Then why be so stingy? Just you think what land is!
Why, one can sow wheat on it in rows! I tell you, you could get eighty
bushels of wheat, at a rouble and a half a bushel--that would be 120
roubles. Eh, what? Or else mint! I tell you, you could collar 400
roubles off an acre by sowing mint!
FIRST PEASANT. That's just it. All sorts of products one could put
into action if one had the right understanding.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Mint! Decidedly mint! I have learnt about it, you
know. It's all printed in books. I can show them you. Eh, what?
FIRST PEASANT. That's just it, all concerns are clearer to you through
your books. That's learnedness, of course.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Then pay up and don't be stingy! (To THEODORE
IVÁNITCH.) Where's papa?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. He gave orders not to be disturbed just now.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Oh, I suppose he's consulting a spirit whether to
sell the land or not? Eh, what?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. I can't say. All I know is that be went away
undecided about it.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. What d'you think, Theodore Ivánitch, is he flush of
cash? Eh, what?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. I don't know. I hardly think so. But what does it
matter to you? You drew a good sum not more than a week ago.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. But didn't I pay for those dogs? And now, you know,
there's our new Society, and Petrístchef has been chosen, and I had
borrowed money from Petrístchef and must pay the subscription both for
him and for myself. Eh, what?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. And what is this new Society? A Cycling Club?
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. No. Just let me tell you. It is quite a new
Society. It is a very serious Society, you know. And who do you think
is President? Eh, what?
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. What's the object of this new Society?
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. It is a "Society to Promote the Breeding of
Pure-Bred Russian Hounds." Eh, what? And I'll tell you, they're
having the first meeting and a lunch, to-day. And I've no money. I'll
go to him and have a try!
[Exit through study door.
FIRST PEASANT (to THEODORE IVÁNITCH). And who might he be, respected
THEODORE IVÁNITCH (smiles). The young master.
THIRD PEASANT. The heir, so to say. Oh, Lord! (Puts away the money.)
I'd better hide it meanwhile.
FIRST PEASANT. And we were told he was in military service, in the
cav'rely, for example.
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. No, as an only son he is exempt from military
THIRD PEASANT. Left for to keep his parents, so to say! That's right!
SECOND PEASANT (shaking his head). He's the right sort. He'll feed
THIRD PEASANT. Oh, Lord!
[Enter VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH, followed by LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. That's always the way. It's really surprising!
First I'm asked why I have no occupation, and now when I have found a
field and am occupied, when a Society with serious and noble aims has
been founded, I can't even have 300 roubles to go on with!...
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. I tell you I can't do it, and I can't! I haven't
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Why, you have just sold some land.
LEONÍD FYÓDORITCH. In the first place I have not sold it! And above
all, do leave me in peace! Weren't you told I was engaged?
[Exit, slamming door.
THEODORE IVÁNITCH. I told you this was not the right moment.
VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH. Well, I say! Here's a position to be in! I'll go
and see mamma--that's my only hope. He's going crazy over his
spiritualism and forgets everything else.
[THEODORE IVÁNITCH takes newspaper and is just going to sit down,
when BETSY and MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA, followed by GREGORY, come
down the stairs.
BETSY. Is the carriage ready?
GREGORY. Just coming to the door.
BETSY (to MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA). Come along, come along, I know it is
MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA. Which he?
BETSY. You know very well whom I mean--Petrístchef, of course.
MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA. But where is he?
BETSY. Sitting in Vovo's room. You'll see!
MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA. And suppose it is not he?
[The PEASANTS and PORTER bow.
BETSY (to PORTER). You brought a dress from Bourdier's?
PORTER. Yes, Miss. May I go?
BETSY. Well, I don't know. Ask my mother.
PORTER. I don't know whose it is, Miss; I was ordered to bring it here
and receive the money.
BETSY. Well, then, wait.
MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA. Is it still that costume for the charade?
BETSY. Yes, a charming costume. But mamma won't take it or pay for it.
MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA. But why not?
BETSY. You'd better ask mamma. She doesn't grudge Vovo 500 roubles for
his dogs, but 100 is too much for a dress. I can't act dressed like a
scarecrow. (Pointing to PEASANTS.) And who are these?
GREGORY. Peasants who have come to buy some land or other.
BETSY. And I thought they were the beaters. Are you not beaters?
FIRST PEASANT. No, no, lady. We have come to see Leoníd Fyódoritch
about the signing into our possession of the title-deeds to some land.
BETSY. Then how is it? Vovo was expecting some beaters who were to
come to-day. Are you sure you are not the beaters? (The PEASANTS are
silent.) How stupid they are! (Goes to VASÍLY LEONÍDITCH'S door.)
MÁRYA KONSTANTÍNOVNA. But we met him just now upstairs!
BETSY. Why need you remember that? Vovo, are you there?
PETRÍSTCHEF. Vovo is not here, but I am prepared to fulfil on his
behalf anything that may be required. How do you do? How do you do,
[Shakes hands long and violently with BETSY, and then with MÁRYA
SECOND PEASANT. See, it's as if he were pumping water!
BETSY. You can't replace him,--still you're better than nobody.
(Laughs.) What are these affairs of yours with Vovo?
PETRÍSTCHEF. What affairs? Our affairs are fie-nancial that is, our
business is fie! It's also nancial, and besides it is financial.
BETSY. What does nancial mean?
PETRÍSTCHEF. What a question! It means nothing, that's just the point.
BETSY. No, no, you have missed fire.