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Act II

SETTING:

Same as Act I—Night.

On the bunks near the stove Satine, the Baron, Krivoy Zob, and the Tartar play cards. Kleshtch and the Actor watch them. Bubnoff, on his bunk, is playing checkers with Miedviedieff. Luka sits on a stool by Anna’s bedside. The place is lit by two lamps, one on the wall near the card players, the other is on Bubnoff’s bunk.

THE TARTAR. I’ll play one more game—then I’ll stop . . .

BUBNOFF. Zob! Sing! [He sings]

“The sun rises and sets . . .”

ZOB [joining in]

“But my prison is dark, dark . . .”

THE TARTAR [to Satine] Shuffle the cards—and shuffle them well. We know your kind—

ZOB AND BUBNOFF [together]

“Day and night the wardens

Watch beneath my window . . .”

ANNA. Blows—insults—I’ve had nothing but that all my life long . . .

LUKA. Don’t worry, little mother!

MIEDVIEDIEFF. Look where you’re moving!

BUBNOFF. Oh, yes—that’s right . . .

THE TARTAR [threatening Satine with his fist] You’re trying to palm a card? I’ve seen you—you scoundrel . . .

ZOB. Stop it, Hassan! They’ll skin us anyway . . . come on, Bubnoff!

ANNA. I can’t remember a single day when I didn’t go hungry . . . I’ve been afraid, waking, eating, and sleeping . . . all my life I’ve trembled—afraid I wouldn’t get another bite . . . all my life I’ve been in rags—all through my wretched life—and why . . . ?

LUKA. Yes, yes, child—you’re tired—never you mind!

THE ACTOR [to Zob] Play the Jack—the Jack, devil take you!

THE BARON. And we play the King!

KLESHTCH. They always win.

SATINE. Such is our habit.

MIEDVIEDIEFF. I have the Queen!

BUBNOFF. And so have I!

ANNA. I’m dying . . .

KLESHTCH. Look, look! Prince, throw up the game—throw it up, I tell you!

THE ACTOR. Can’t he play without your assistance?

THE BARON. Look out, Andrushka, or I’ll beat the life out of you!

THE TARTAR. Deal once more—the pitcher went after water—and got broke—and so did I!

[Kleshtch shakes his head and crosses to Bubnoff.]

ANNA. I keep on thinking—is it possible that I’ll suffer in the other world as I did in this—is it possible? There, too?

LUKA. Nothing of the sort! Don’t you disturb yourself! You’ll rest there . . . be patient. We all suffer, dear, each in our own way. . . . [Rises and goes quickly into kitchen]

BUBNOFF [sings]

“Watch as long as you please . . .”

ZOB. “I shan’t run away . . .”

BOTH [together]

“I long to be free, free—

Alas! I cannot break my chains. . . .”

THE TARTAR [yells] That card was up his sleeve!

THE BARON [embarrassed] Do you want me to shove it up your nose?

THE ACTOR [emphatically] Prince! You’re mistaken—nobody—ever . . .

THE TARTAR. I saw it! You cheat! I won’t play!

SATINE [gathering up the cards] Leave us alone, Hassan . . . you knew right along that we’re cheats—why did you play with us?

THE BARON. He lost forty kopecks and he yelps as if he had lost a fortune! And a Prince at that!

THE TARTAR [excitedly] Then play honest!

SATINE. What for?

THE TARTAR. What do you mean “what for”?

SATINE. Exactly. What for?

THE TARTAR. Don’t you know?

SATINE. I don’t. Do you?

[The Tartar spits out, furiously; the others laugh at him.]

ZOB [good-naturedly] You’re a funny fellow, Hassan! Try to understand this! If they should begin to live honestly, they’d die of starvation inside of three days.

THE TARTAR. That’s none of my business. You must live honestly!

ZOB. They did you brown! Come and let’s have tea. . . . [Sings]

“O my chains, my heavy chains . . .”

BUBNOFF [sings]

“You’re my steely, clanking wardens . . .”

ZOB. Come on, Hassanka! [Leaves the room, singing]

“I cannot tear you, cannot break you . . .”

[The Tartar shakes his fist threateningly at the Baron, and follows the other out of the room.]

SATINE [to Baron, laughing] Well, Your Imperial Highness, you’ve again sat down magnificently in a mud puddle! You’ve learned a lot—but you’re an ignoramus when it comes to palming a card.

THE BARON [spreading his hands] The Devil knows how it happened. . . .

THE ACTOR. You’re not gifted—you’ve no faith in yourself—and without that you can never accomplish anything . . .

MIEDVIEDIEFF. I’ve one Queen—and you’ve two—oh, well . . .

BUBNOFF. One’s enough if she has brains—play!

KLESHTCH. You lost, Abram Ivanovitch?

MIEDVIEDIEFF. None of your business—see? Shut up!

SATINE. I’ve won fifty-three kopecks.

THE ACTOR. Give me three of them . . . though, what’ll I do with them?

LUKA [coming from kitchen] Well—the Tartar was fleeced all right, eh? Going to have some vodka?

THE BARON. Come with us.

SATINE. I wonder what you’ll be like when you’re drunk.

LUKA. Same as when I’m sober.

THE ACTOR. Come on, old man—I’ll recite verses for you . . .

LUKA. What?

THE ACTOR. Verses. Don’t you understand?

LUKA. Verses? And what do I want with verses?

THE ACTOR. Sometimes they’re funny—sometimes sad.

SATINE. Well, poet, are you coming? [Exit with the Baron]

THE ACTOR. I’m coming. I’ll join you. For instance, old man, here’s a bit of verse—I forget how it begins—I forget . . . [brushes his hand across his forehead]

BUBNOFF. There! Your Queen is lost—go on, play!

MIEDVIEDIEFF. I made the wrong move.

THE ACTOR. Formerly, before my organism was poisoned with alcohol, old man, I had a good memory. But now it’s all over with me, brother. I used to declaim these verses with tremendous success—thunders of applause . . . you have no idea what applause means . . . it goes to your head like vodka! I’d step out on the stage—stand this way—[Strikes a pose]—I’d stand there and . . . [Pause] I can’t remember a word—I can’t remember! My favorite verses—isn’t it ghastly, old man?

LUKA. Yes—is there anything worse than forgetting what you loved? Your very soul is in the thing you love!

THE ACTOR. I’ve drunk my soul away, old man—brother, I’m lost . . . and why? Because I had no faith. . . . I’m done with . . .

LUKA. Well—then—cure yourself! Nowadays they have a cure for drunkards. They treat you free of charge, brother. There’s a hospital for drunkards—where they’re treated for nothing. They’ve owned up, you see, that even a drunkard is a human being, and they’re only too glad to help him get well. Well—then—go to it!

THE ACTOR [thoughtfully] Where? Where is it?

LUKA. Oh—in some town or other . . . what do they call it—? I’ll tell you the name presently—only, in the meanwhile, get ready. Don’t drink so much! Take yourself in hand—and bear up! And then, when you’re cured, you’ll begin life all over again. Sounds good, brother, doesn’t it, to begin all over again? Well—make up your mind!

THE ACTOR [smiling] All over again—from the very beginning—that’s fine . . . yes . . . all over again . . . [Laughs] Well—then—I can, can’t I?

LUKA. Why not? A human being can do anything—if he only makes up his mind.

THE ACTOR [suddenly, as if coming out of a trance] You’re a queer bird! See you anon! [Whistles] Old man—au revoir! [Exit]

ANNA. Grand-dad!

LUKA. Yes, little mother?

ANNA. Talk to me.

LUKA [close to her] Come on—let’s chat . . .

[Kleshtch, glancing around, silently walks over to his wife, looks at her, and makes queer gestures with his hands, as though he wanted to say something.]

LUKA. What is it, brother?

KLESHTCH [quietly] Nothing . . .

[Crosses slowly to hallway door, stands on the threshold for a few seconds, and exit.]

LUKA [looking after him] Hard on your man, isn’t it?

ANNA. He doesn’t concern me much . . .

LUKA. Did he beat you?

ANNA. Worse than that—it’s he who’s killed me—

BUBNOFF. My wife used to have a lover—the scoundrel—how clever he was at checkers!

MIEDVIEDIEFF. Hm-hm—

ANNA. Grand-dad! Talk to me, darling—I feel so sick . . .

LUKA. Never mind—it’s always like this before you die, little dove—never mind, dear! Just have faith! Once you’re dead, you’ll have peace—always. There’s nothing to be afraid of—nothing. Quiet! Peace! Lie quietly! Death wipes out everything. Death is kindly. You die—and you rest—that’s what they say. It is true, dear! Because—where can we find rest on this earth?

[Pepel enters. He is slightly drunk, dishevelled, and sullen. Sits down on bunk near door, and remains silent and motionless.]

ANNA. And how is it—there? More suffering?

LUKA. Nothing of the kind! No suffering! Trust me! Rest—nothing else! They’ll lead you into God’s presence, and they’ll say: “Dear God! Behold! Here is Anna, Thy servant!”

MIEDVIEDIEFF [sternly] How do you know what they’ll say up there? Oh, you . . .

[Pepel, on hearing Miedviedieff’s voice, raises his head and listens.]

LUKA. Apparently I do know, Mr. Sergeant!

MIEDVIEDIEFF [conciliatory] Yes—it’s your own affair—though I’m not exactly a sergeant—yet—

BUBNOFF. I jump two!

MIEDVIEDIEFF. Damn—play!

LUKA. And the Lord will look at you gently and tenderly and He’ll say: “I know this Anna!” Then He’ll say: “Take Anna into Paradise. Let her have peace. I know. Her life on earth was hard. She is very weary. Let Anna rest in peace!”

ANNA [choking] Grandfather—if it were only so—if there were only rest and peace . . .

LUKA. There won’t be anything else! Trust me! Die in joy and not in grief. Death is to us like a mother to small children . . .

ANNA. But—perhaps—perhaps I get well . . . ?

LUKA [laughing] Why—? Just to suffer more?

ANNA. But—just to live a little longer . . . just a little longer! Since there’ll be no suffering hereafter, I could bear it a little longer down here . . .

LUKA. There’ll be nothing in the hereafter . . . but only . . .

PEPEL [rising] Maybe yes—maybe no!

ANNA [frightened] Oh—God!

LUKA. Hey—Adonis!

MIEDVIEDIEFF. Who’s that yelping?

PEPEL [crossing over to him] I! What of it?

MIEDVIEDIEFF. You yelp needlessly—that’s what! People ought to have some dignity!

PEPEL. Block-head! And that’s an uncle for you—ho-ho!

LUKA [to Pepel, in an undertone] Look here—don’t shout—this woman’s dying—her lips are already grey—don’t disturb her!

PEPEL. I’ve respect for you, grand-dad. You’re all right, you are! You lie well, and you spin pleasant yarns. Go on lying, brother—there’s little fun in this world . . .

BUBNOFF. Is the woman really dying?

LUKA. You think I’m joking?

BUBNOFF. That means she’ll stop coughing. Her cough was very disturbing. I jump two!

MIEDVIEDIEFF. I’d like to murder you!

PEPEL. Abramka!

MIEDVIEDIEFF. I’m not Abramka to you!

PEPEL. Abrashka! Is Natasha ill?

MIEDVIEDIEFF. None of your business!

PEPEL. Come—tell me! Did Vassilisa beat her up very badly?

MIEDVIEDIEFF. That’s none of your business, either! It’s a family affair! Who are you anyway?

PEPEL. Whoever I am, you’ll never see Natashka again if I choose!

MIEDVIEDIEFF [throwing up the game] What’s that? Who are you alluding to? My niece by any chance? You thief!

PEPEL. A thief whom you were never able to catch!

MIEDVIEDIEFF. Wait—I’ll catch you yet—you’ll see—sooner than you think!

PEPEL. If you catch me, God help your whole nest! Do you think I’ll keep quiet before the examining magistrate? Every wolf howls! They’ll ask me: “Who made you steal and showed you where?” “Mishka Kostilyoff and his wife!” “Who was your fence?” “Mishka Kostilyoff and his wife!”

MIEDVIEDIEFF. You lie! No one will believe you!

PEPEL. They’ll believe me all right—because it’s the truth! And I’ll drag you into it, too. Ha! I’ll ruin the lot of you—devils—just watch!

MIEDVIEDIEFF [confused] You lie! You lie! And what harm did I do to you, you mad dog?

PEPEL. And what good did you ever do me?

LUKA. That’s right!

MIEDVIEDIEFF [to Luka] Well—what are you croaking about? Is it any of your business? This is a family matter!

BUBNOFF [to Luka] Leave them alone! What do we care if they twist each other’s tails?

LUKA [peacefully] I meant no harm. All I said was that if a man isn’t good to you, then he’s acting wrong . . .

MIEDVIEDIEFF [uncomprehending] Now then—we all of us here know each other—but you—who are you? [Frowns and exit]

LUKA. The cavalier is peeved! Oh-ho, brothers, I see your affairs are a bit tangled up!

PEPEL. He’ll run to complain about us to Vassilisa . . .

BUBNOFF. You’re a fool, Vassily. You’re very bold these days, aren’t you? Watch out! It’s all right to be bold when you go gathering mushrooms, but what good is it here? They’ll break your neck before you know it!

PEPEL. Well—not as fast as all that! You don’t catch us Yaroslavl boys napping! If it’s going to be war, we’ll fight . . .

LUKA. Look here, boy, you really ought to go away from here—

PEPEL. Where? Please tell me!

LUKA. Go to Siberia!

PEPEL. If I go to Siberia, it’ll be at the Tsar’s expense!

LUKA. Listen! You go just the same! You can make your own way there. They need your kind out there . . .

PEPEL. My way is clear. My father spent all his life in prison, and I inherited the trait. Even when I was a small child, they called me thief—thief’s son.

LUKA. But Siberia is a fine country—a land of gold. Any one who has health and strength and brains can live there like a cucumber in a hot-house.

PEPEL. Old man, why do you always tell lies?

LUKA. What?

PEPEL. Are you deaf? I ask—why do you always lie?

LUKA. What do I lie about?

PEPEL. About everything. According to you, life’s wonderful everywhere—but you lie . . . why?

LUKA. Try to believe me. Go and see for yourself. And some day you’ll thank me for it. What are you hanging round here for? And, besides, why is truth so important to you? Just think! Truth may spell death to you!

PEPEL. It’s all one to me! If that—let it be that!

LUKA. Oh—what a madman! Why should you kill yourself?

BUBNOFF. What are you two jawing about, anyway? I don’t understand. What kind of truth do you want, Vaska? And what for? You know the truth about yourself—and so does everybody else . . .

PEPEL. Just a moment! Don’t crow! Let him tell me! Listen, old man! Is there a God?

[Luka smiles silently.]

BUBNOFF. People just drift along—like shavings on a stream. When a house is built—the shavings are thrown away!

PEPEL. Well? Is there a God? Tell me.

LUKA [in a low voice] If you have faith, there is; if you haven’t, there isn’t . . . whatever you believe in, exists . . .

[Pepel looks at Luka in staring surprise.]

BUBNOFF. I’m going to have tea—come on over to the restaurant!

LUKA [to Pepel] What are you staring at?

PEPEL. Oh—just because! Wait now—you mean to say . . .

BUBNOFF. Well—I’m off.

[Goes to door and runs into Vassilisa.]

PEPEL. So—you . . .

VASSILISA [to Bubnoff] Is Nastasya home?

BUBNOFF. No. [Exit]

PEPEL. Oh—you’ve come—?

VASSILISA [crossing to Anna] Is she alive yet?

LUKA. Don’t disturb her!

VASSILISA. What are you loafing around here for?

LUKA. I’ll go—if you want me to . . .

VASSILISA [turning towards Pepel’s room] Vassily! I’ve some business with you . . .

[Luka goes to hallway door, opens it, and shuts it loudly, then warily climbs into a bunk, and from there to the top of the stove.]

VASSILISA [calling from Pepel’s room] Vaska—come here!

PEPEL. I won’t come—I don’t want to . . .

VASSILISA. Why? What are you angry about?

PEPEL. I’m sick of the whole thing . . .

VASSILISA. Sick of me, too?

PEPEL. Yes! Of you, too!

[Vassilisa draws her shawl about her, pressing her hands over her breast. Crosses to Anna, looks carefully through the bed curtains, and returns to Pepel.]

Well—out with it!

VASSILISA. What do you want me to say? I can’t force you to be loving, and I’m not the sort to beg for kindness. Thank you for telling me the truth.

PEPEL. What truth?

VASSILISA. That you’re sick of me—or isn’t it the truth? [Pepel looks at her silently. She turns to him] What are you staring at? Don’t you recognize me?

PEPEL [sighing] You’re beautiful, Vassilisa! [She puts her arm about his neck, but he shakes it off] But I never gave my heart to you. . . . I’ve lived with you and all that—But I never really liked you . . .

VASSILISA [quietly] That so? Well—?

PEPEL. What is there to talk, about? Nothing. Go away from me!

VASSILISA. Taken a fancy to some one else?

PEPEL. None of your business! Suppose I have—I wouldn’t ask you to be my match-maker!

VASSILISA [significantly] That’s too bad . . . perhaps I might arrange a match . . .

PEPEL [suspiciously] Who with?

VASSILISA. You know—why do you pretend? Vassily—let me be frank. [With lower voice] I won’t deny it—you’ve offended me . . . it was like a bolt from the blue . . . you said you loved me—and then all of a sudden . . .

PEPEL. It wasn’t sudden at all. It’s been a long time since I . . . woman, you’ve no soul! A woman must have a soul . . . we men are beasts—we must be taught—and you, what have you taught me—?

VASSILISA. Never mind the past! I know—no man owns his own heart—you don’t love me any longer . . . well and good, it can’t be helped!

PEPEL. So that’s over. We part peaceably, without a row—as it should be!

VASSILISA. Just a moment! All the same, when I lived with you, I hoped you’d help me out of this swamp—I thought you’d free me from my husband and my uncle—from all this life—and perhaps, Vassya, it wasn’t you whom I loved—but my hope—do you understand? I waited for you to drag me out of this mire . . .

PEPEL. You aren’t a nail—and I’m not a pair of pincers! I thought you had brains—you are so clever—so crafty . . .

VASSILISA [leaning closely towards him] Vassa—let’s help each other!

PEPEL. How?

VASSILISA [low and forcibly] My sister—I know you’ve fallen for her. . . .

PEPEL. And that’s why you beat her up, like the beast you are! Look out, Vassilisa! Don’t you touch her!

VASSILISA. Wait. Don’t get excited. We can do everything quietly and pleasantly. You want to marry her. I’ll give you money . . . three hundred rubles—even more than that . . .

PEPEL [moving away from her] Stop! What do you mean?

VASSILISA. Rid me of my husband! Take that noose from around my neck . . .

PEPEL [whistling softly] So that’s the way the land lies! You certainly planned it cleverly . . . in other words, the grave for the husband, the gallows for the lover, and as for yourself . . .

VASSILISA. Vassya! Why the gallows? It doesn’t have to be yourself—but one of your pals! And supposing it were yourself—who’d know? Natalia—just think—and you’ll have money—you go away somewhere . . . you free me forever—and it’ll be very good for my sister to be away from me—the sight of her enrages me. . . . I get furious with her on account of you, and I can’t control myself. I tortured the girl—I beat her up—beat her up so that I myself cried with pity for her—but I’ll beat her—and I’ll go on beating her!

PEPEL. Beast! Bragging about your beastliness?

VASSILISA. I’m not bragging—I speak the truth. Think now, Vassa. You’ve been to prison twice because of my husband—through his greed. He clings to me like a bed-bug—he’s been sucking the life out of me for the last four years—and what sort of a husband is he to me? He’s forever abusing Natasha—calls her a beggar—he’s just poison, plain poison, to every one . . .

PEPEL. You spin your yarn cleverly . . .

VASSILISA. Everything I say is true. Only a fool could be as blind as you. . . .

[Kostilyoff enters stealthily and comes forward noisily.]

PEPEL [to Vassilisa] Oh—go away!

VASSILISA. Think it over! [Sees her husband] What? You? Following me?

[Pepel leaps up and stares at Kostilyoff savagely.]

KOSTILYOFF. It’s I, I! So the two of you were here alone—you were—ah—conversing? [Suddenly stamps his feet and screams] Vassilisa—you bitch! You beggar! You damned hag! [Frightened by his own screams which are met by silence and indifference on the part of the others] Forgive me, O Lord . . . Vassilisa—again you’ve led me into the path of sin. . . . I’ve been looking for you everywhere. It’s time to go to bed. You forgot to fill the lamps—oh, you . . . beggar! Swine! [Shakes his trembling fist at her, while Vassilisa slowly goes to door, glancing at Pepel over her shoulder]

PEPEL [to Kostilyoff] Go away—clear out of here—

KOSTILYOFF [yelling] What? I? The Boss? I get out? You thief!

PEPEL [sullenly] Go away, Mishka!

KOSTILYOFF. Don’t you dare—I—I’ll show you.

[Pepel seizes him by the collar and shakes him. From the stove come loud noises and yawns. Pepel releases Kostilyoff who runs into the hallway, screaming.]

PEPEL [jumping on a bunk] Who is it? Who’s on the stove?

LUKA [raising his head] Eh?

PEPEL. You?

LUKA [undisturbed] I—I myself—oh, dear Jesus!

PEPEL [shuts hallway door, looks for the wooden closing bar, but can’t find it] The devil! Come down, old man!

LUKA. I’m climbing down—all right . . .

PEPEL [roughly] What did you climb on that stove for?

LUKA. Where was I to go?

PEPEL. Why—didn’t you go out into the hall?

LUKA. The hall’s too cold for an old fellow like myself, brother.

PEPEL. You overheard?

LUKA. Yes—I did. How could I help it? Am I deaf? Well, my boy, happiness is coming your way. Real, good fortune I call it!

PEPEL [suspiciously] What good fortune—?

LUKA. In so far as I was lying on the stove . . .

PEPEL. Why did you make all that noise?

LUKA. Because I was getting warm . . . it was your good luck . . . I thought if only the boy wouldn’t make a mistake and choke the old man . . .

PEPEL. Yes—I might have done it . . . how terrible . . .

LUKA. Small wonder! It isn’t difficult to make a mistake of that sort.

PEPEL [smiling] What’s the matter? Did you make the same sort of mistake once upon a time?

LUKA. Boy, listen to me. Send that woman out of your life! Don’t let her near you! Her husband—she’ll get rid of him herself—and in a shrewder way than you could—yes! Don’t you listen to that devil! Look at me! I am bald-headed—know why? Because of all these women. . . . Perhaps I knew more women than I had hair on the top of my head—but this Vassilisa—she’s worse than the plague. . . .

PEPEL. I don’t understand . . . I don’t know whether to thank you—or—well . . .

LUKA. Don’t say a word! You won’t improve on what I said. Listen: take the one you like by the arm, and march out of here—get out of here—clean out . . .

PEPEL [sadly] I can’t understand people. Who is kind and who isn’t? It’s all a mystery to me . . .

LUKA. What’s there to understand? There’s all breeds of men . . . they all live as their hearts tell them . . . good to-day, bad to-morrow! But if you really care for that girl . . . take her away from here and that’s all there is to it. Otherwise go away alone . . . you’re young—you’re in no hurry for a wife . . .

PEPEL [taking him by the shoulder] Tell me! Why do you say all this?

LUKA. Wait. Let me go. I want a look at Anna . . . she was coughing so terribly . . . [Goes to Anna’s bed, pulls the curtains, looks, touches her. Pepel thoughtfully and distraught, follows him with his eyes] Merciful Jesus Christ! Take into Thy keeping the soul of this woman Anna, new-comer amongst the blessed!

PEPEL [softly] Is she dead?

[Without approaching, he stretches himself and looks at the bed.]

LUKA [gently] Her sufferings are over! Where’s her husband?

PEPEL. In the saloon, most likely . . .

LUKA. Well—he’ll have to be told . . .

PEPEL [shuddering] I don’t like corpses!

LUKA [going to door] Why should you like them? It’s the living who demand our love—the living . . .

PEPEL. I’m coming with you . . .

LUKA. Are you afraid?

PEPEL. I don’t like it . . .

[They go out quickly. The stage is empty and silent for a few moments. Behind the door is heard a dull, staccato, incomprehensible noise. Then the Actor enters.]

THE ACTOR [stands at the open door, supporting himself against the jamb, and shouts] Hey, old man—where are you—? I just remembered—listen . . . [Takes two staggering steps forward and, striking a pose, recites]

“Good people! If the world cannot find

A path to holy truth,

Glory be to the madman who will enfold all humanity

In a golden dream . . .”

[Natasha appears in the doorway behind the Actor]

Old man! [recites]

“If to-morrow the sun were to forget

To light our earth,

To-morrow then some madman’s thought

Would bathe the world in sunshine. . . .”

NATASHA [laughing] Scarecrow! You’re drunk!

THE ACTOR [turns to her] Oh—it’s you? Where’s the old man, the dear old man? Not a soul here, seems to me . . . Natasha, farewell—right—farewell!

NATASHA [entering] Don’t wish me farewell, before you’ve wished me how-d’you-do!

THE ACTOR [barring her way] I am going. Spring will come—and I’ll be here no longer—

NATASHA. Wait a moment! Where do you propose going?

THE ACTOR. In search of a town—to be cured—And you, Ophelia, must go away! Take the veil! Just imagine—there’s a hospital to cure—ah—organisms for drunkards—a wonderful hospital—built of marble—with marble floors . . . light—clean—food—and all gratis! And a marble floor—yes! I’ll find it—I’ll get cured—and then I shall start life anew. . . . I’m on my way to regeneration, as King Lear said. Natasha, my stage name is . . . Svertchkoff—Zavoloushski . . . do you realize how painful it is to lose one’s name? Even dogs have their names . . .

[Natasha carefully passes the Actor, stops at Anna’s bed and looks.]

To be nameless—is not to exist!

NATASHA. Look, my dear—why—she’s dead. . . .

THE ACTOR [shakes his head] Impossible . . .

NATASHA [stepping back] So help me God—look . . .

BUBNOFF [appearing in doorway] What is there to look at?

NATASHA. Anna—she’s dead!

BUBNOFF. That means—she’s stopped coughing! [Goes to Anna’s bed, looks, and returns to his bunk] We must tell Kleshtch—it’s his business to know . . .

THE ACTOR. I’ll go—I’ll say to him—she lost her name—[Exit]

NATASHA. [in centre of room] I, too—some day—I’ll be found in the cellar—dead. . . .

BUBNOFF [spreading out some rags on his bunk] What’s that? What are you muttering?

NATASHA. Nothing much . . .

BUBNOFF. Waiting for Vaska, eh? Take care—Vassilisa’ll break your head!

NATASHA. Isn’t it the same who breaks it? I’d much rather he’d do it!

BUBNOFF [lying down] Well—that’s your own affair . . .

NATASHA. It’s best for her to be dead—yet it’s a pity . . . oh, Lord—why do we live?

BUBNOFF. It’s so with all . . . we’re born, live, and die—and I’ll die, too—and so’ll you—what’s there to be gloomy about?

[Enter Luka, the Tartar, Zob, and Kleshtch. The latter comes after the others, slowly, shrunk up.]

NATASHA. Sh-sh! Anna!

ZOB. We’ve heard—God rest her soul . . .

THE TARTAR [to Kleshtch] We must take her out of here. Out into the hall! This is no place for corpses—but for the living . . .

KLESHTCH [quietly] We’ll take her out—

[Everybody goes to the bed, Kleshtch looks at his wife ever the others’ shoulders.]

ZOB [to the Tartar] You think she’ll smell? I don’t think she will—she dried up while she was still alive . . .

NATASHA. God! If they’d only a little pity . . . if only some one would say a kindly word—oh, you . . .

LUKA. Don’t be hurt, girl—never mind! Why and how should we pity the dead? Come, dear! We don’t pity the living—we can’t even pity our own selves—how can we?

BUBNOFF [yawning] And, besides, when you’re dead, no word will help you—when you’re still alive, even sick, it may. . . .

THE TARTAR [stepping aside] The police must be notified . . .

ZOB. The police—must be done! Kleshtch! Did you notify the police?

KLESHTCH. No—she’s got to be buried—and all I have is forty kopecks—

ZOB. Well—you’ll have to borrow then—otherwise we’ll take up a collection . . . one’ll give five kopecks, others as much as they can. But the police must be notified at once—or they’ll think you killed her or God knows what not . . .

[Crosses to the Tartar’s bunk and prepares to lie down by his side.]

NATASHA [going to Bubnoff’s bunk] Now—I’ll dream of her . . . I always dream of the dead . . . I’m afraid to go out into the hall by myself—it’s dark there . . .

LUKA [following her] You better fear the living—I’m telling you . . .

NATASHA. Take me across the hall, grandfather.

LUKA. Come on—come on—I’ll take you across—

[They go away. Pause.]

ZOB [to the Tartar] Oh-ho! Spring will soon be here, little brother, and it’ll be quite warm. In the villages the peasants are already making ready their ploughs and harrows, preparing to till . . . and we . . . Hassan? Snoring already? Damned Mohammedan!

BUBNOFF. Tartars love sleep!

KLESHTCH [in centre of room, staring in front of him] What am I to do now?

ZOB. Lie down and sleep—that’s all . . .

KLESHTCH [softly] But—she . . . how about . . .

[No one answers him. Satine and the Actor enter.]

THE ACTOR [yelling] Old man! Come here, my trusted Duke of Kent!

SATINE. Miklookha-Maklai is coming—ho-ho!

THE ACTOR. It has been decided upon! Old man, where’s the town—where are you?

SATINE. Fata Morgana, the old man bilked you from top to bottom! There’s nothing—no towns—no people—nothing at all!

THE ACTOR. You lie!

THE TARTAR [jumping up] Where’s the boss? I’m going to the boss. If I can’t sleep, I won’t pay! Corpses—drunkards . . . [Exit quickly]

[Satine looks after him and whistles.]

BUBNOFF [in a sleepy voice] Go to bed, boys—be quiet . . . night is for sleep . . .

THE ACTOR. Yes—so—there’s a corpse here. . . . “Our net fished up a corpse. . . .” Verses—by Béranger. . . .

SATINE [screams] The dead can’t hear . . . the dead do not feel—Scream!—Roar! . . . the dead don’t hear!

[In the doorway appears Luka.]


CURTAIN.

Maxim Gorky

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