“The Waste,” a yard strewn with rubbish and overgrown with weeds. Back, a high brick wall which shuts out the sight of the sky. Near it are elder bushes. Right, the dark, wooden wall of some sort of house, barn or stable. Left, the grey, tumbledown wall of Kostilyoff’s night asylum. It is built at an angle so that the further corner reaches almost to the centre of the yard. Between it and the wall runs a narrow passage. In the grey, plastered wall are two windows, one on a level with the ground, the other about six feet higher up and closer to the brick wall. Near the latter wall is a big sledge turned upside down and a beam about twelve feet long. Right of the wall is a heap of old planks. Evening. The sun is setting, throwing a crimson light on the brick wall. Early spring, the snow having only recently melted. The elder bushes are not yet in bud.
Natasha and Nastya are sitting side by side on the beam. Luka and the Baron are on the sledge. Kleshtch is stretched on the pile of planks to the right. Bubnoff’s face is at the ground floor window.
NASTYA [with closed eyes, nodding her head in rhythm to the tale she is telling in a sing-song voice] So then at night he came into the garden. I had been waiting for him quite a while. I trembled with fear and grief—he trembled, too . . . he was as white as chalk—and he had the pistol in his hand . . .
NATASHA [chewing sun-flower seeds] Oh—are these students really such desperate fellows . . . ?
NASTYA. And he says to me in a dreadful voice: “My precious darling . . .”
BUBNOFF. Ho-ho! Precious—?
THE BARON. Shut up! If you don’t like it, you can lump it! But don’t interrupt her. . . . Go on . . .
NASTYA. “My one and only love,” he says, “my parents,” he says, “refuse to give their consent to our wedding—and threaten to disown me because of my love for you. Therefore,” he says, “I must take my life.” And his pistol was huge—and loaded with ten bullets . . . “Farewell,” he says, “beloved comrade! I have made up my mind for good and all . . . I can’t live without you . . .” and I replied: “My unforgettable friend—my Raoul. . . .”
BUBNOFF [surprised] What? What? Krawl—did you call him—?
THE BARON. Nastka! But last time his name was Gaston. . . .
NASTYA [jumping up] Shut up, you bastards! Ah—you lousy mongrels! You think for a moment that you can understand love—true love? My love was real honest-to-God love! [To the Baron] You good-for-nothing! . . . educated, you call yourself—drinking coffee in bed, did you?
LUKA. Now, now! Wait, people! Don’t interfere! Show a little respect to your neighbors . . . it isn’t the word that matters, but what’s in back of the word. That’s what matters! Go on, girl! It’s all right!
BUBNOFF. Go on, crow! See if you can make your feathers white!
THE BARON. Well—continue!
NATASHA. Pay no attention to them . . . what are they? They’re just jealous . . . they’ve nothing to tell about themselves . . .
NASTYA [sits down again] I’m going to say no more! If they don’t believe me they’ll laugh. [Stops suddenly, is silent for a few seconds, then, shutting her eyes, continues in a loud and intense voice, swaying her hands as if to the rhythm of far music] And then I replied to him: “Joy of my life! My bright moon! And I, too, I can’t live without you—because I love you madly, so madly—and I shall keep on loving you as long as my heart beats in my bosom. But—” I say—“don’t take your young life! Think how necessary it is to your dear parents whose only happiness you are. Leave me! Better that I should perish from longing for you, my life! I alone! I—ah—as such, such! Better that I should die—it doesn’t matter . . . I am of no use to the world—and I have nothing, nothing at all—” [Covers her face with her hand and weeps gently]
NATASHA [in a low voice] Don’t cry—don’t!
[Luka, smiling, strokes Nastya’s head.]
BUBNOFF [laughs] Ah—you limb of Satan!
THE BARON [also laughs] Hey, old man? Do you think it’s true? It’s all from that book “Fatal Love” . . . it’s all nonsense! Let her alone!
NATASHA. And what’s it to you? Shut up—or God’ll punish you!
NASTYA [bitterly] God damn your soul! You worthless pig! Soul—bah!—you haven’t got one!
LUKA [takes Nastya’s hand] Come, dear! It’s nothing! Don’t be angry—I know—I believe you! You’re right, not they! If you believe you had a real love affair, then you did—yes! And as for him—don’t be angry with a fellow-lodger . . . maybe he’s really jealous, and that’s why he’s laughing. Maybe he never had any real love—maybe not—come on—let’s go!
NASTYA [pressing her hand against her breast] Grandfather! So help me God—it happened! It happened! He was a student, a Frenchman—Gastotcha was his name—he had a little black beard—and patent leathers—may God strike me dead if I’m lying! And he loved me so—my God, how he loved me!
LUKA. Yes, yes, it’s all right. I believe you! Patent leathers, you said? Well, well, well—and you loved him, did you? [Disappears with her around the corner]
THE BARON. God—isn’t she a fool, though? She’s good-hearted—but such a fool—it’s past belief!
BUBNOFF. And why are people so fond of lying—just as if they were up before the judge—really!
NATASHA. I guess lying is more fun than speaking the truth—I, too . . .
THE BARON. What—you, too? Go on!
NATASHA. Oh—I imagine things—invent them—and I wait—
THE BARON. For what?
NATASHA [smiling confusedly] Oh—I think that perhaps—well—to-morrow somebody will really appear—some one—oh—out of the ordinary—or something’ll happen—also out of the ordinary. . . . I’ve been waiting for it—oh—always. . . . But, really, what is there to wait for? [Pause]
THE BARON [with a slight smile] Nothing—I expect nothing! What is past, is past! Through! Over with! And then what?
NATASHA. And then—well—to-morrow I imagine suddenly that I’ll die—and I get frightened . . . in summer it’s all right to dream of death—then there are thunder storms—one might get struck by lightning . . .
THE BARON. You’ve a hard life . . . your sister’s a wicked-tempered devil!
NATASHA. Tell me—does anybody live happily? It’s hard for all of us—I can see that . . .
KLESHTCH [who until this moment has sat motionless and indifferent, jumps up suddenly] For all? You lie! Not for all! If it were so—all right! Then it wouldn’t hurt—yes!
BUBNOFF. What in hell’s bit you? Just listen to him yelping!
[Kleshtch lies down again and grunts.]
THE BARON. Well—I’d better go and make my peace with Nastinka—if I don’t, she won’t treat me to vodka . . .
BUBNOFF. Hm—people love to lie . . . with Nastka—I can see the reason why. She’s used to painting that mutt of hers—and now she wants to paint her soul as well . . . put rouge on her soul, eh? But the others—why do they? Take Luka for instance—he lies a lot . . . and what does he get out of it? He’s an old fellow, too—why does he do it?
THE BARON [smiling and walking away] All people have drab-colored souls—and they like to brighten them up a bit . . .
LUKA [appearing from round the corner] You, sir, why do you tease the girl? Leave her alone—let her cry if it amuses her . . . she weeps for her own pleasure—what harm is it to you?
THE BARON. Nonsense, old man! She’s a nuisance. Raoul to-day, Gaston to-morrow—always the same old yarn, though! Still—I’ll go and make up with her. [Leaves]
LUKA. That’s right—go—and be nice to her. Being nice to people never does them any harm . . .
NATASHA. You’re so good, little father—why are you so good?
LUKA. Good, did you say? Well—call it that! [Behind the brick wall is heard soft singing and the sounds of a concertina] Some one has to be kind, girl—some one must pity people! Christ pitied everybody—and he said to us: “Go and do likewise!” I tell you—if you pity a man when he most needs it, good comes of it. Why—I used to be a watchman on the estate of an engineer near Tomsk—all right—the house was right in the middle of a forest—lonely place—winter came—and I remained all by myself. Well—one night I heard a noise—
LUKA. Exactly! Thieves creeping in! I took my gun—I went out. I looked and saw two of them opening a window—and so busy that they didn’t even see me. I yell: “Hey there—get out of here!” And they turn on me with their axes—I warn them to stand back, or I’d shoot—and as I speak, I keep on covering them with my gun, first the one, then the other—they go down on their knees, as if to implore me for mercy. And by that time I was furious—because of those axes, you see—and so I say to them: “I was chasing you, you scoundrels—and you didn’t go. Now you go and break off some stout branches!”—and they did so—and I say: “Now—one of you lie down and let the other one flog him!” So they obey me and flog each other—and then they begin to implore me again. “Grandfather,” they say, “for God’s sake give us some bread! We’re hungry!” There’s thieves for you, my dear! [Laughs] And with an ax, too! Yes—honest peasants, both of them! And I say to them, “You should have asked for bread straight away!” And they say: “We got tired of asking—you beg and beg—and nobody gives you a crumb—it hurts!” So they stayed with me all that winter—one of them, Stepan, would take my gun and go shooting in the forest—and the other, Yakoff, was ill most of the time—he coughed a lot . . . and so the three of us together looked after the house . . . then spring came . . . “Good-bye, grandfather,” they said—and they went away—back home to Russia . . .
NATASHA. Were they escaped convicts?
LUKA. That’s just what they were—escaped convicts—from a Siberian prison camp . . . honest peasants! If I hadn’t felt sorry for them—they might have killed me—or maybe worse—and then there would have been trial and prison and afterwards Siberia—what’s the sense of it? Prison teaches no good—and Siberia doesn’t either—but another human being can . . . yes, a human being can teach another one kindness—very simply! [Pause]
BUBNOFF. Hm—yes—I, for instance, don’t know how to lie . . . why—as far as I’m concerned, I believe in coming out with the whole truth and putting it on thick . . . why fuss about it?
KLESHTCH [again jumps up as if his clothes were on fire, and screams] What truth? Where is there truth? [Tearing at his ragged clothes] Here’s truth for you! No work! No strength! That’s the only truth! Shelter—there’s no shelter! You die—that’s the truth! Hell! What do I want with the truth? Let me breathe! Why should I be blamed? What do I want with truth? To live—Christ Almighty!—they won’t let you live—and that’s another truth!
BUBNOFF. He’s mad!
LUKA. Dear Lord . . . listen to me, brother—
KLESHTCH [trembling with excitement] They say: there’s truth! You, old man, try to console every one . . . I tell you—I hate every one! And there’s your truth—God curse it—understand? I tell you—God curse it!
[Rushes away round the corner, turning as he goes.]
LUKA. Ah—how excited he got! Where did he run off to?
NATASHA. He’s off his head . . .
BUBNOFF. God—didn’t he say a whole lot, though? As if he was playing drama—he gets those fits often . . . he isn’t used to life yet . . .
PEPEL [comes slowly round the corner] Peace on all this honest gathering! Well, Luka, you wily old fellow—still telling them stories?
LUKA. You should have heard how that fellow carried on!
PEPEL. Kleshtch—wasn’t it? What’s wrong with him? He was running like one possessed!
LUKA. You’d do the same if your own heart were breaking!
PEPEL [sitting down] I don’t like him . . . he’s got such a nasty, bad temper—and so proud! [Imitating Kleshtch] “I’m a workman!” And he thinks everyone’s beneath him. Go on working if you feel like it—nothing to be so damned haughty about! If work is the standard—a horse can give us points—pulls like hell and says nothing! Natasha—are your folks at home?
NATASHA. They went to the cemetery—then to night service . . .
PEPEL. So that’s why you’re free for once—quite a novelty!
LUKA [to Bubnoff, thoughtfully] There—you say—truth! Truth doesn’t always heal a wounded soul. For instance, I knew of a man who believed in a land of righteousness . . .
BUBNOFF. In what?
LUKA. In a land of righteousness. He said: “Somewhere on this earth there must be a righteous land—and wonderful people live there—good people! They respect each other, help each other, and everything is peaceful and good!” And so that man—who was always searching for this land of righteousness—he was poor and lived miserably—and when things got to be so bad with him that it seemed there was nothing else for him to do except lie down and die—even then he never lost heart—but he’d just smile and say: “Never mind! I can stand it! A little while longer—and I’ll have done with this life—and I’ll go in search of the righteous land!”—it was his one happiness—the thought of that land . . .
PEPEL. Well? Did he go there?
BUBNOFF. Where? Ho-ho!
LUKA. And then to this place—in Siberia, by the way—there came a convict—a learned man with books and maps—yes, a learned man who knew all sorts of things—and the other man said to him: “Do me a favor—show me where is the land of righteousness and how I can get there.” At once the learned man opened his books, spread out his maps, and looked and looked and he said—no—he couldn’t find this land anywhere . . . everything was correct—all the lands on earth were marked—but not this land of righteousness . . .
PEPEL [in a low voice] Well? Wasn’t there a trace of it?
[Bubnoff roars with laughter.]
NATASHA. Wait . . . well, little father?
LUKA. The man wouldn’t believe it. . . . “It must exist,” he said, “look carefully. Otherwise,” he says, “your books and maps are of no use if there’s no land of righteousness.” The learned man was offended. “My plans,” he said, “are correct. But there exists no land of righteousness anywhere.” Well, then the other man got angry. He’d lived and lived and suffered and suffered, and had believed all the time in the existence of this land—and now, according to the plans, it didn’t exist at all. He felt robbed! And he said to the learned man: “Ah—you scum of the earth! You’re not a learned man at all—but just a damned cheat!”—and he gave him a good wallop in the eye—then another one . . . [After a moment’s silence] And then he went home and hanged himself!
[All are silent. Luka, smiling, looks at Pepel and Natasha.]
PEPEL [low-voiced] To hell with this story—it isn’t very cheerful . . .
NATASHA. He couldn’t stand the disappointment . . .
BUBNOFF [sullen] Ah—it’s nothing but a fairy-tale . . .
PEPEL. Well—there is the righteous land for you—doesn’t exist, it seems . . .
NATASHA. I’m sorry for that man . . .
BUBNOFF. All a story—ho-ho!—land of righteousness—what an idea! [Exit through window]
LUKA [pointing to window] He’s laughing! [Pause] Well, children, God be with you! I’ll leave you soon . . .
PEPEL. Where are you going to?
LUKA. To the Ukraine—I heard they discovered a new religion there—I want to see—yes! People are always seeking—they always want something better—God grant them patience!
PEPEL. You think they’ll find it?
LUKA. The people? They will find it! He who seeks, will find! He who desires strongly, will find!
NATASHA. If only they could find something better—invent something better . . .
LUKA. They’re trying to! But we must help them girl—we must respect them . . .
NATASHA. How can I help them? I am helpless myself!
PEPEL [determined] Again—listen—I’ll speak to you again, Natasha—here—before him—he knows everything . . . run away with me?
NATASHA. Where? From one prison to another?
PEPEL. I told you—I’m through with being a thief, so help me God! I’ll quit! If I say so, I’ll do it! I can read and write—I’ll work—He’s been telling me to go to Siberia on my own hook—let’s go there together, what do you say? Do you think I’m not disgusted with my life? Oh—Natasha—I know . . . I see . . . I console myself with the thought that there are lots of people who are honored and respected—and who are bigger thieves than I! But what good is that to me? It isn’t that I repent . . . I’ve no conscience . . . but I do feel one thing: One must live differently. One must live a better life . . . one must be able to respect one’s own self . . .
LUKA. That’s right, friend! May God help you! It’s true! A man must respect himself!
PEPEL. I’ve been a thief from childhood on. Everybody always called me “Vaska—the thief—the son of a thief!” Oh—very well then—I am a thief— . . . just imagine—now, perhaps, I’m a thief out of spite—perhaps I’m a thief because no one ever called me anything different. . . . Well, Natasha—?
NATASHA [sadly] Somehow I don’t believe in words—and I’m restless to-day—my heart is heavy . . . as if I were expecting something . . . it’s a pity, Vassily, that you talked to me to-day . . .
PEPEL. When should I? It isn’t the first time I speak to you . . .
NATASHA. And why should I go with you? I don’t love you so very much—sometimes I like you—and other times the mere sight of you makes me sick . . . it seems—no—I don’t really love you . . . when one really loves, one sees no fault. . . . But I do see . . .
PEPEL. Never mind—you’ll love me after a while! I’ll make you care for me . . . if you’ll just say yes! For over a year I’ve watched you . . . you’re a decent girl . . . you’re kind—you’re reliable—I’m very much in love with you . . .
[Vassilisa, in her best dress, appears at window and listens.]
NATASHA. Yes—you love me—but how about my sister . . . ?
PEPEL [confused] Well, what of her? There are plenty like her . . .
LUKA. You’ll be all right, girl! If there’s no bread, you have to eat weeds . . .
PEPEL [gloomily] Please—feel a little sorry for me! My life isn’t all roses—it’s a hell of a life . . . little happiness in it . . . I feel as if a swamp were sucking me under . . . and whatever I try to catch and hold on to, is rotten . . . it breaks . . . Your sister—oh—I thought she was different . . . if she weren’t so greedy after money . . . I’d have done anything for her sake, if she were only all mine . . . but she must have someone else . . . and she has to have money—and freedom . . . because she doesn’t like the straight and narrow . . . she can’t help me. But you’re like a young fir-tree . . . you bend, but you don’t break . . .
LUKA. Yes—go with him, girl, go! He’s a good lad—he’s all right! Only tell him every now and then that he’s a good lad so that he won’t forget it—and he’ll believe you. Just you keep on telling him “Vasya, you’re a good man—don’t you forget it!” Just think, dear, where else could you go except with him? Your sister is a savage beast . . . and as for her husband, there’s little to say of him? He’s rotten beyond words . . . and all this life here, where will it get you? But this lad is strong . . .
NATASHA. Nowhere to go—I know—I thought of it. The only thing is—I’ve no faith in anybody—and there’s no place for me to turn to . . .
PEPEL. Yes, there is! But I won’t let you go that way—I’d rather cut your throat!
NATASHA [smiling] There—I’m not his wife yet—and he talks already of killing me!
PEPEL [puts his arms around her] Come, Natasha! Say yes!
NATASHA [holding him close] But I’ll tell you one thing, Vassily—I swear it before God . . . the first time you strike me or hurt me any other way, I’ll have no pity on myself . . . I’ll either hang myself . . . or . . .
PEPEL. May my hand wither if ever I touch you!
LUKA. Don’t doubt him, dear! He needs you more than you need him!
VASSILISA [from the window] So now they’re engaged! Love and advice!
NATASHA. They’ve come back—oh, God—they saw—oh, Vassily . . .
PEPEL. Why are you frightened? Nobody’ll dare touch you now!
VASSILISA. Don’t be afraid, Natalia! He won’t beat you . . . he don’t know how to love or how to beat . . . I know!
LUKA [in a low voice] Rotten old hag—like a snake in the grass . . .
VASSILISA. He dares only with the word!
KOSTILYOFF [enters] Natashka! What are you doing here, you parasite? Gossiping? Kicking about your family? And the samovar not ready? And the table not cleared?
NATASHA [going out] I thought you were going to church . . . ?
KOSTILYOFF. None of your business what we intended doing! Mind your own affairs—and do what you’re told!
PEPEL. Shut up, you! She’s no longer your servant! Don’t go, Natalia—don’t do a thing!
NATASHA. Stop ordering me about—you’re commencing too soon! [Leaves]
PEPEL [to Kostilyoff] That’s enough. You’ve used her long enough—now she’s mine!
KOSTILYOFF. Yours? When did you buy her—and for how much?
[Vassilisa roars with laughter.]
LUKA. Go away, Vasya!
PEPEL. Don’t laugh, you fools—or first thing you know I’ll make you cry!
VASSILISA. Oh, how terrible! Oh—how you frighten me!
LUKA. Vassily—go away! Don’t you see—she’s goading you on . . . ridiculing you, don’t you understand . . . ?
PEPEL. Yes . . . You lie, lie! You won’t get what you want!
VASSILISA. Nor will I get what I don’t want, Vasya!
PEPEL [shaking his fist at her] We’ll see . . . [Exit]
VASSILISA [disappearing through window] I’ll arrange some wedding for you . . .
KOSTILYOFF [crossing to Luka] Well, old man, how’s everything?
LUKA. All right!
KOSTILYOFF. You’re going away, they say—?
KOSTILYOFF. Where to?
LUKA. I’ll follow my nose . . .
KOSTILYOFF. Tramping, eh? Don’t like stopping in one place all the time, do you?
LUKA. Even water won’t pass beneath a stone that’s sunk too firmly in the ground, they say . . .
KOSTILYOFF. That’s true for a stone. But man must settle in one place. Men can’t live like cockroaches, crawling about wherever they want. . . . A man must stick to one place—and not wander about aimlessly . . .
LUKA. But suppose his home is wherever he hangs his hat?
KOSTILYOFF. Why, then—he’s a vagabond,—useless . . . a human being must be of some sort of use—he must work . . .
LUKA. That’s what you think, eh?
KOSTILYOFF. Yes—sure . . . just look! What’s a vagabond? A strange fellow . . . unlike all others. If he’s a real pilgrim then he’s some good in the world . . . perhaps he discovered a new truth. Well—but not every truth is worth while. Let him keep it to himself and shut up about it! Or else—let him speak in a way which no one can understand . . . don’t let him interfere . . . don’t let him stir up people without cause! It’s none of his business how other people live! Let him follow his own righteous path . . . in the woods—or in a monastery—away from everybody! He mustn’t interfere—nor condemn other people—but pray—pray for all of us—for all the world’s sins—for mine—for yours—for everybody’s. To pray—that’s why he forsakes the world’s turmoil! That’s so! [Pause] But you—what sort of a pilgrim are you—? An honest person must have a passport . . . all honest people have passports . . . yes . . . !
LUKA. In this world there are people—and also just plain men . . .
KOSTILYOFF. Don’t coin wise sayings! Don’t give me riddles! I’m as clever as you . . . what’s the difference—people and men?
LUKA. What riddle is there? I say—there’s sterile and there’s fertile ground . . . whatever you sow in it, grows . . . that’s all . . .
KOSTILYOFF. What do you mean?
LUKA. Take yourself for instance . . . if the Lord God himself said to you: “Mikhailo, be a man!”—it would be useless—nothing would come of it—you’re doomed to remain just as you are . . .
KOSTILYOFF. Oh—but do you realize that my wife’s uncle is a policeman, and that if I . . .
VASSILISA [coming in] Mikhail Ivanitch—come and have your tea . . .
KOSTILYOFF [to Luka] You listen! Get out! You leave this place—hear?
VASSILISA. Yes—get out, old man! Your tongue’s too long! And—who knows—you may be an escaped convict . . .
KOSTILYOFF. If I ever see sign of you again after to-day—well—I’ve warned you!
LUKA. You’ll call your uncle, eh? Go on—call him! Tell him you’ve caught an escaped convict—and maybe uncle’ll get a reward—perhaps all of three kopecks . . .
BUBNOFF [in the window] What are you bargaining about? Three kopecks—for what?
LUKA. They’re threatening to sell me . . .
VASSILISA [to her husband] Come . . .
BUBNOFF. For three kopecks? Well—look out, old man—they may even do it for one!
KOSTILYOFF [to Bubnoff] You have a habit of jumping up like a jack-in-the-box!
VASSILISA. The world is full of shady people and crooks—
LUKA. Hope you’ll enjoy your tea!
VASSILISA [turning] Shut up! You rotten toadstool!
[Leaves with her husband.]
LUKA. I’m off to-night.
BUBNOFF. That’s right. Don’t outstay your welcome!
LUKA. True enough.
BUBNOFF. I know. Perhaps I’ve escaped the gallows by getting away in time . . .
BUBNOFF. That’s true. It was this way. My wife took up with my boss. He was great at his trade—could dye a dog’s skin so that it looked like a raccoon’s—could change cat’s skin into kangaroo—muskrats, all sorts of things. Well—my wife took up with him—and they were so mad about each other that I got afraid they might poison me or something like that—so I commenced beating up my wife—and the boss beat me . . . we fought savagely! Once he tore off half my whiskers—and broke one of my ribs . . . well, then I, too, got enraged. . . . I cracked my wife over the head with an iron yard-measure—well—and altogether it was like an honest-to-God war! And then I saw that nothing really could come of it . . . they were planning to get the best of me! So I started planning—how to kill my wife—I thought of it a whole lot . . . but I thought better of it just in time . . . and got away . . .
LUKA. That was best! Let them go on changing dogs into raccoons!
BUBNOFF. Only—the shop was in my wife’s name . . . and so I did myself out of it, you see? Although, to tell the truth, I would have drunk it away . . . I’m a hard drinker, you know . . .
LUKA. A hard drinker—oh . . .
BUBNOFF. The worst you ever met! Once I start drinking, I drink everything in sight, I’ll spend every bit of money I have—everything except my bones and my skin . . . what’s more, I’m lazy . . . it’s terrible how I hate work!
[Enter Satine and the Actor, quarreling.]
SATINE. Nonsense! You’ll go nowhere—it’s all a damned lie! Old man, what did you stuff him with all those fairy-tales for?
THE ACTOR. You lie! Grandfather! Tell him that he lies!—I am going away. I worked to-day—I swept the streets . . . and I didn’t have a drop of vodka. What do you think of that? Here they are—two fifteen kopeck pieces—and I’m sober!
SATINE. Why—that’s absurd! Give it to me—I’ll either drink it up—or lose it at cards . . .
THE ACTOR. Get out—this is for my journey . . .
LUKA [to Satine] And you—why are you trying to lead him astray?
SATINE. Tell me, soothsayer, beloved by the Gods, what’s my future going to be? I’ve gone to pieces, brother—but everything isn’t lost yet, grandfather . . . there are sharks in this world who got more brains than I!
LUKA. You’re cheerful, Constantine—and very agreeable!
BUBNOFF. Actor, come over here! [The Actor crosses to window, sits down on the sill before Bubnoff, and speaks in a low voice with him]
SATINE. You know, brother, I used to be a clever youngster. It’s nice to think of it. I was a devil of a fellow . . . danced splendidly, played on the stage, loved to amuse people . . . it was awfully gay . . .
LUKA. How did you get to be what you are?
SATINE. You’re inquisitive, old man! You want to know everything? What for?
LUKA. I want to understand the ways of men—I look at you, and I don’t understand. You’re a bold lad, Constantine, and you’re no fool . . . yet, all of a sudden . . .
SATINE. It’s prison, grandfather—I spent four years and seven months in prison . . . afterwards—where could I go?
LUKA. Aha! What were you there for?
SATINE. On account of a scoundrel—whom I killed in a fit of rage . . . and despair . . . and in prison I learned to play cards . . .
LUKA. You killed—because of a woman?
SATINE. Because of my own sister. . . . But look here—leave me alone! I don’t care for these cross-examinations—and all this happened a long time ago. It’s already nine years since my sister’s death. . . . Brother, she was a wonderful girl . . .
LUKA. You take life easily! And only a while ago that locksmith was here—and how he did yell!
LUKA. Yes—“There’s no work,” he shouted; “there isn’t anything . . .”
SATINE. He’ll get used to it. What could I do?
LUKA [softly] Look—here he comes!
[Kleshtch walks in slowly, his head bowed low.]
SATINE. Hey, widower! Why are you so down in the mouth? What are you thinking?
KLESHTCH. I’m thinking—what’ll I do? I’ve no food—nothing—the funeral ate up all . . .
SATINE. I’ll give you a bit of advice . . . do nothing! Just be a burden to the world at large!
KLESHTCH. Go on—talk—I’d be ashamed of myself . . .
SATINE. Why—people aren’t ashamed to let you live worse than a dog. Just think . . . you stop work—so do I—so do hundreds, thousands of others—everybody—understand?—everybody’ll quit working . . . nobody’ll do a damned thing—and then what’ll happen?
KLESHTCH. They’ll all starve to death . . .
LUKA [to Satine] If those are your notions, you ought to join the order of Begunes—you know—there’s some such organization . . .
SATINE. I know—grandfather—and they’re no fools . . .
[Natasha is heard screaming behind Kostilyoff’s window: “What for? Stop! What have I done?”]
LUKA [worried] Natasha! That was she crying—oh, God . . .
[From Kostilyoff’s room is heard noise, shuffling, breaking of crockery, and Kostilyoff’s shrill cry: “Ah! Heretic! Bitch!”]
VASSILISA. Wait, wait—I’ll teach her—there, there!
NATASHA. They’re beating me—killing me . . .
SATINE [shouts through the window] Hey—you there—. . .
LUKA [trembling] Where’s Vassily—? Call Vaska—oh, God—listen, brothers . . .
THE ACTOR [running out] I’ll find him at once!
BUBNOFF. They beat her a lot these days . . .
SATINE. Come on, old man—we’ll be witnesses . . .
LUKA [following Satine] Oh—witnesses—what for? Vassily—he should be called at once!
NATASHA. Sister—sister dear! Va-a-a . . .
BUBNOFF. They’ve gagged her—I’ll go and see . . .
[The noise in Kostilyoff’s room dies down gradually as if they had gone into the hallway. The old man’s cry: “Stop!” is heard. A door is slammed noisily, and the latter sound cuts off all the other noises sharply. Quiet on the stage. Twilight.]
KLESHTCH [seated on the sledge, indifferently, rubbing his hands; mutters at first indistinguishably, then:] What then? One must live. [Louder] Must have shelter—well? There’s no shelter, no roof—nothing . . . there’s only man—man alone—no hope . . . no help . . .
[Exit slowly, his head bent. A few moments of ominous silence, then somewhere in the hallway a mass of sounds, which grows in volume and comes nearer. Individual voices are heard.]
VASSILISA. I’m her sister—let go . . .
KOSTILYOFF. What right have you . . . ?
SATINE. Call Vaska—quickly! Zob—hit him!
[A police whistle. The Tartar runs in, his right hand in a sling.]
THE TARTAR. There’s a new law for you—kill only in daytime!
[Enter Zob, followed by Miedviedieff.]
ZOB. I handed him a good one!
MIEDVIEDIEFF. You—how dare you fight?
THE TARTAR. What about yourself? What’s your duty?
MIEDVIEDIEFF [running after] Stop—give back my whistle!
KOSTILYOFF [runs in] Abram! Stop him! Hold him! He’s a murderer—he . . .
[Enter Kvashnya and Nastya supporting Natasha who is disheveled. Satine backs away, pushing away Vassilisa who is trying to attack her sister, while, near her, Alyoshka jumps up and down like a madman, whistles into her ear, shrieking, roaring. Also other ragged men and women.]
SATINE [to Vassilisa] Well—you damned bitch!
VASSILISA. Let go, you jail-bird! I’ll tear you to pieces—if I have to pay for it with my own life!
KVASHNYA [leading Natasha aside] You—Karpovna—that’s enough—stand back—aren’t you ashamed? Or are you crazy?
MIEDVIEDIEFF [seizes Satine] Aha—caught at last!
SATINE. Zob—beat them up! Vaska—Vaska . . .
[They all, in a chaotic mass, struggle near the brick wall. They lead Natasha to the right, and set her on a pile of wood. Pepel rushes in from the hallway and, silently, with powerful movements, pushes the crowd aside.]
PEPEL. Natalia, where are you . . . you . . .
KOSTILYOFF [disappearing behind a corner] Abram! Seize Vaska! Comrades—help us get him! The thief! The robber!
PEPEL. You—you old bastard! [Aiming a terrific blow at Kostilyoff. Kostilyoff falls so that only the upper part of his body is seen. Pepel rushes to Natasha]
VASSILISA. Beat Vaska! Brothers! Beat the thief!
MIEDVIEDIEFF [yells to Satine] Keep out of this—it’s a family affair . . . they’re relatives—and who are you . . .
PEPEL [to Natasha] What did she do to you? She used a knife?
KVASHNYA. God—what beasts! They’ve scalded the child’s feet with boiling water!
NASTYA. They overturned the samovar . . .
THE TARTAR. Maybe an accident—you must make sure—you can’t exactly tell . . .
NATASHA [half fainting] Vassily—take me away—
VASSILISA. Good people! Come! Look! He’s dead! Murdered!
[All crowd into the hallway near Kostilyoff. Bubnoff leaves the crowd and crosses to Pepel.]
BUBNOFF [in a low voice, to Pepel] Vaska—the old man is done for!
PEPEL [looks at him, as though he does not understand] Go—for help—she must be taken to the hospital . . . I’ll settle with them . . .
BUBNOFF. I say—the old man—somebody’s killed him . . .
[The noise on the stage dies out like a fire under water. Distinct, whispered exclamations: “Not really?” “Well—let’s go away, brothers!” “The devil!” “Hold on now!” “Let’s get away before the police comes!” The crowd disappears. Bubnoff, the Tartar, Nastya, and Kvashnya, rush up to Kostilyoff’s body.]
VASSILISA [rises and cries out triumphantly] Killed—my husband’s killed! Vaska killed him! I saw him! Brothers, I saw him! Well—Vasya—the police!
PEPEL [moves away from Natasha] Let me alone. [Looks at Kostilyoff; to Vassilisa] Well—are you glad? [Touches the corpse with his foot] The old bastard is dead! Your wish has been granted! Why not do the same to you? [Throws himself at her]
[Satine and Zob quickly overpower him, and Vassilisa disappears in the passage.]
SATINE. Come to your senses!
ZOB. Hold on! Not so fast!
VASSILISA [appearing] Well, Vaska, dear friend? You can’t escape your fate. . . . Police—Abram—whistle!
MIEDVIEDIEFF. Those devils tore my whistle off!
ALYOSHKA. Here it is! [Whistles, Miedviedieff runs after him]
SATINE [leading Pepel to Natasha] Don’t be afraid, Vaska! Killed in a row! That’s nonsense—only manslaughter—you won’t have to serve a long term . . .
VASSILISA. Hold Vaska—he killed him—I saw it!
SATINE. I, too, gave the old man a couple of blows—he was easily fixed . . . you call me as witness, Vaska!
PEPEL. I don’t need to defend myself . . . I want to drag Vassilisa into this mess—and I’ll do it—she was the one who wanted it . . . she was the one who urged me to kill him—she goaded me on . . .
NATASHA [sudden and loud] Oh—I understand—so that’s it, Vassily? Good people! They’re both guilty—my sister and he—they’re both guilty! They had it all planned! So, Vassily, that’s why you spoke to me a while ago—so that she should overhear everything—? Good people! She’s his mistress—you know it—everybody knows it—they’re both guilty! She—she urged him to kill her husband—he was in their way—and so was I! And now they’ve maimed me . . .
PEPEL. Natalia! What’s the matter with you? What are you saying?
VASSILISA. You lie. She lies. He—Vaska killed him . . .
NATASHA. They’re both guilty! God damn you both!
SATINE. What a mix-up! Hold on, Vassily—or they’ll ruin you between them!
ZOB. I can’t understand it—oh—what a mess!
PEPEL. Natalia! It can’t be true! Surely you don’t believe that I—with her—
SATINE. So help me God, Natasha! Just think . . .
VASSILISA [in the passage] They’ve killed my husband—Your Excellency! Vaska Pepel, the thief, killed him. Captain! I saw it—everybody saw it . . .
NATASHA [tossing about in agony; her mind wandering] Good people—my sister and Vaska killed him! The police—listen—this sister of mine—here—she urged, coaxed her lover—there he stands—the scoundrel! They both killed him! Put them in jail! Bring them before the judge! Take me along, too! To prison! Christ Almighty—take me to prison, too!