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ANTON CHEKHOV The Three Sisters
OLGA. (Takes some dresses from the wardrobe.) Take this grey one… and this one… And this jacket also… And take this skirt nanny… My God, can you imagine it. The whole of the Kirsanovsky suburb has burnt down, it seems… Take this… And take this as well… (Heaps up dresses into her arms.) The Vershinin's are terrified, poor things… their house almost burnt down. They must spend the night with us… it's impossible to let them go home… Poor Fyedotik has lost everything, nothing is left…
ANFISA. You'd better call Ferapont, Olya darling, I can't carry all this.
OLGA. (Rings the bell.) No one will answer this… (Through the door.) Is anyone there, please come here!
FERAPONT. Yes Madam. In eighteen hundred and twelve Moscow was burning. Good Lord above! The French were struck with horror.
OLGA. Go on. Take them away.
FERAPONT. Yes Madam. (He goes.)
OLGA. Nanny, my dear, give them everything. We don't need anything, so give them the lot nanny… I'm tired out, I can hardly stand… We cannot let the Vershinin's go home… The girls can sleep in the drawing room, and Vershinin himself can go down with the baron… Fyedotik also had better go with the baron, or perhaps with us in the dining room… The doctor is drunk, absolutely drunk, as if on purpose, and no one can be put with him. Vershinin's wife also must go in the drawing room.
ANFISA. (Exhausted.) Dear Olya, my dearest one, don't get rid of me, please don't get rid of me!
OLGA. What nonsense you are talking, nanny. Nobody is going to get rid of you.
ANFISA. (Puts her head on Olga's breast.) My dear child, my darling one, I toil away, I keep working… But I'm getting weak, and everyone is saying 'She should go'! But where would I go to? Where? I'm eighty years old. I'm in my eighty second year.
OLGA. Sit down nanny. You're tired, you poor thing. (Makes her sit down.) Rest awhile, nanny dear. How pale you are!
OLGA. (Not hearing her.) The fire is not visible from this room. It's quiet here.
NATASHA. Yes… I think I must be rather dishevelled. (In front of the mirror.) I'm told that I'm getting fatter. It's not true! Not in the slightest! Masha's asleep, she's worn out, poor girl… (Coldly, addressing Anfisa.) How dare you sit down when I am here! Stand up! Leave this room!
OLGA. (Horrified.) Pardon me, but I also do not understand…
NATASHA. She's absolutely no use here. She's a peasant and she ought to go and live back in the country… Why all this cosseting? I like to see order in the house. (Strokes Olga's cheek.) You, my poor dear, you are so tired. Our headmistress is tired! When my little Sophie grows up and goes to school, then I will be afraid of you.
OLGA. I am not going to be headmistress.
NATASHA. They will choose you, darling Olga. It's decided.
OLGA. Then I will refuse. I can't do it. It's more than I can manage. (She drinks some water.) You behaved so rudely just now with nanny… Excuse me, I can't cope with it just now… my eyes are swimming…
NATASHA. (Worried.) Forgive me, dear Olga, forgive me… I didn't want to offend you.
NATASHA. Forgive me, forgive me…(Kisses her.)
OLGA. Every time there is rudeness, even the slightest, or an indelicately spoken word, I become agitated…
NATASHA. I know I often say what is unnecessary, but do agree, my dearest, she could easily live at home in the country.
OLGA. She's been with us for thirty years.
NATASHA. But look, now she's incapable of work! Either I do not understand you, or you deliberately choose not to understand me. She's not fit to do any work, she only sleeps and sits around the place.
OLGA. Then let her sit
NATASHA. (In astonishment.) What do you mean 'Let her sit'? She is after all a servant. (Tearfully.) I do not understand you, dear Olga. I already have a nanny, there is a wet nurse, we have maidservants, we have a cook… Why should we need this old woman? Why? Why?
NATASHA. Dear Olga, we need to talk this thing over. You are in the schoolroom, and I am here, at home; you have your teaching, and I have the running of this house. So if I say something about the servants, then I know what I am saying; I know what I am say-ing… I want that old thief out of the house by tomorrow, that old witch… (She stamps her foot.) that old broomstick!… How dare you cross me! How dare you! (Pulls herself up.) Really now, if you don't move downstairs, then we'll always be quarrelling. This is terrible.
OLGA. What is it?
KULYGIN. The doctor, as if on purpose, he went on a binge, he's dreadfully drunk. (He stands up.) He's coming this way, it seems… Can you hear? Yes, he's coming this way… I'm going to hide…
OLGA. For two years he's had nothing, now suddenly he's gone well over the top…(She and Natasha retreat to the back of the room.)
VERSHININ. If it had not been for the soldiers the whole town would have burned. Fine young men. (Rubs his hands with pleasure.) A wonderful team! Such a fine bunch of men!
KULYGIN. (Approaching them.) What time is it, good folks?
TUZENBACH. It's already four. It's getting light.
IRINA. Everyone is in the drawing room, no one is leaving. That Solyony of yours is there as well… (To Chebutykin.) Doctor, you should go and have a sleep.
CHEBUTYKIN. It's nothing Madam. My grateful thanks, Madam. (He strokes his beard.)
KULYGIN. (Laughs.) You've had a good drop, Ivan Romanich! (Pats him on the shoulder.) A fine fellow. In vino veritas, - as the Romans used to say.
TUZENBACH. Everyone says that I should arrange a concert to help the victims of the fire.
IRINA. Well, if anyone can…
TUZENBACH. It could be arranged, if it is worthwhile. Marya Sergeyevna, in my view, is a superb pianist…
KULYGIN. A superb pianist, Masha!
IRINA. She's already forgotten how to play. She hasn't played for three years… or four.
TUZENBACH. In this town absolutely nobody understands music, not a single soul, except me, I understand it, and I give you my word of honour that Marya Sergeyevna plays superbly, I would even say with inspiration.
KULYGIN. You are correct baron. I love Masha very, very much. She is wonderful.
TUZENBACH. To be able to play with such abundant richness and at the same time to realise that no one, no one understands!
KULYGIN. (Sighs.) Yes… But would it be appropriate for her to take part in a concert?
TUZENBACH. I heard it also. What then? The town will be completely deserted.
IRINA. And we will go to!
CHEBUTYKIN. (Drops the clock, which smashes.) Smashed to smithereens!
IRINA. That was a clock belonging to our late mother.
CHEBUTYKIN. It may be so… Mothers and others. It may be that I didn't in fact break it, but it only seems as if I broke it. It may be that we only appear to ourselves to exist, but in reality we are not here. I don't know anything, nobody knows anything. (Standing at the door.) Why are you looking at me? Natasha is having a little affair with Protopopov, and you can't see it. You are sitting here and you see nothing, and yet Natasha is having a little affair with Protopopov… (He sings.) Do me the honour of accepting this date… (He leaves.)
VERSHININ. Yes… (He laughs.) Indeed how strange it all is.
For love all ages shall be dancing,
Her flights of fancy are entrancing… (He laughs.)
MASHA. Lah, la-la-la,
VERSHININ. Lah, la-la-la…
VERSHININ. La-la-la-la. (He laughs.)
FYEDOTIK. (He laughs.) All to the last tiny piece. There's nothing left. My guitar has burned, my photographs are burned, and all my letters… I wanted to give you a little letter knife - but that's burned too.
SOLYONY. Why is the baron allowed in here, and I am not?
VERSHININ. We must go, really and truly. How is the fire?
SOLYONY. They say that it's abated. No. To me its decidedly strange. Why is the baron allowed here, and I am not. (He takes out a flask of perfume and sprinkles his hands.)
VERSHININ. Lah la-la-la?
MASHA. Lah la-la-la.
VERSHININ. (He laughs. To Solyony.) Let's go into the dining room.
SOLYONY. Yes indeed sir. We will make a note of it. The meaning though is all too clear, but the geese might be annoyed, I fear. (Looking at Tuzenbach.) Cheep, cheep, cheep… (Leaves with Vershinin and Fyedotik.)
IRINA. That Solyony has smoked the place out… (Taken aback.) The baron's asleep! Baron! Baron!
TUZENBACH. (Comes to.) Well I must say, I'm tired… The brick works… Please don't think I'm rambling, for indeed, in actual fact I'm soon going to the brick factory, I'm going to work… I've discussed it. (Tenderly to Irina.) You're so pale, so beautiful, so entrancing… It seems to me as if your paleness brightens the dark air, like a glowing light… You're sad, you're dissatisfied with life… Why not come with me, we will go together and work together!..
MASHA. Nikolay Lyvovich, please leave.
TUZENBACH. (He laughs.) Are you here Masha? I can't see. (Kisses Irina's hand.) Goodnight, I'm going… I look at you now and I remember how, some time ago, at your name day party, you were bright and cheerful and spoke about the joy of working… And what a happy vision of life flashed in front of my eyes! Where is it now? (Kisses her hand.) there are tears in your eyes. Go to bed, it's already getting light… the morning is here… If only it were possible for me to give my life for you!
MASHA. Nikolay Lyvovich, please leave! Really, that's enough…
TUZENBACH. I'm going… (He leaves.)
MASHA. (Lying down.) Are you asleep, Fyodor?
KULYGIN. What's that?
MASHA. You ought to go home.
KULYGIN. Darling Masha, my dearest, dearest Masha…
IRINA. She's tired. You should let her rest, Fedya.
KULYGIN. I'm going right away… My wife is lovely, wonderful. I love you, my dear incomparable Masha.
MASHA. (Angrily.) Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant.
KULYGIN. (He laughs.) No, it's true, she is absolutely amazing. I married you seven years ago and it seems as if we only went to the altar yesterday. My word of honour. No, it's true, you are an amazing woman. I am happy, I am happy, I am happy.
MASHA. You are boring, you are boring, you are boring… (She rises and speaks from a sitting position.) But this is what will not go out of my head… It's simply excruciating. It's like a nail driven into my head, and I can't keep silent. It's about Andrey… He's mortgaged this house with the bank and his wife has taken all the money, but the house doesn't belong only to him, but to all four of us! He must know that, if he's at all a decent sort of man.
KULYGIN. There's no point, Masha. What use can it be? Andrey owes money all round, so, God help him, that's all we can say.
MASHA. It's still, whatever you say, unforgivable. (She lies down again.)
KULYGIN. You and I are not poor. I work, I teach at the grammar school, and then I give lessons… I'm a respectable man. Straightforward… Omnia mea mecum porto, as they say.
MASHA. I don't need anything, but injustice torments me.
KULYGIN. (Kisses her.) You're tired, just rest for half an hour, and I'll sit here, I'll wait. Sleep awhile… (Sings.) I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy. (Exit.)
IRINA. It's true, how small minded our Andrey has become. How he's wasted himself and grown old, living with that woman! There was a time when he was aiming to be a professor, but now, only yesterday he was boasting that he's at last managed to be elected as a member of the local district council. He's a member of the council, and Protopopov is chairman… the whole town is talking about it and laughing at him, but he is the only one who knows nothing and sees nothing… Just now everyone ran to help to fight the fire, but he sat alone in his study and did not give it a thought. He just plays on the violin. (Distraught.) It's terrible, terrible, terrible! (She cries.) It's too much for me, I can't bear it any longer!… I can't, I can't!… (Sobs bitterly.) Don't have anything more to do with me, don't, don't, I can't bear it any longer!…
IRINA. (Sobbing.) Where? Where has it all gone? Where is it? Oh my God, my God! I have forgotten everything, forgotten everything… Everything is confused in my head… I can't remember what is the word for window in Italian, or for ceiling… I am forgetting everything, I forget more every day, and life flies past and never returns, never, and we will never go to Moscow… I see now that we will never go…
OLGA. Darling, my darling…
IRINA. (Controlling herself.) Oh, I'm so unhappy… I can't work, I won't work. That's enough! That's enough! I worked in the Telegraph Office, now I am employed by the Town Council, and I hate and despise everything that they give me to do… I'm already twenty four, I have been working already for ages, my brain is drying up, I'm growing ugly and old, and nothing I do, nothing at all gives me any joy, and time goes flying by and all the time it seems as if you are abandoning real life, life that is beautiful, you are going farther and farther away from it, over some sort of precipice. I am in total despair, and how I am alive, why I have not killed myself before now I do not understand…
OLGA. Don't cry, my little girl, don't cry… I'm suffering too.
IRINA. I won't cry, I won't cry… That's enough!… Look, I've already stopped crying. That's enough… that's enough!
OLGA. My darling girl, I will talk to you like a sister, like a friend; take my advice, if you like, marry the baron!
IRINA. I kept on waiting, thinking we would settle in Moscow, and there my ideal man would meet me, I dreamed about him, I love him… But it turns out it was all nonsense, all nonsense…
OLGA. (Embraces her.) My darling, my beautiful sister, I understand everything. When the baron retired from the military and first came to us dressed in a suit, he seemed to me to be so ugly that I almost burst out crying… He asked me 'Why are you crying?' As if I could tell him! But if it were God's will that you were to marry him, then I would be so happy.
OLGA. Masha, you are utterly stupid. The most stupid one in our family, it is you. Pardon me for saying so, if you don't mind.
OLGA. (Goes behind her screen.) Don't say any more. In any case I am not listening.
MASHA. There is nothing to be done. (Takes her head in her hands.) At first he seemed to me to be so odd, and then I pitied him… and then I fell in love with him… I fell in love with his voice, with what he said, with his two unhappy daughters…
OLGA. (Behind the screen.) I am not listening, whatever you say. Whatever nonsense you talk, I have no intention of listening.
MASHA. You're just mad, Olga. I'm in love, that means, it's my fate. It is my destiny to love him… And he loves me… This is all terrible. Isn't it? Or is it wonderful? (Grasps Irina's hand and pulls her towards herself.) My darling Irina… How will we go on living our lives? What will become of us?… When you read a novel, any novel, then it seems that everything is so old hat and everything is easily understood, but when you fall in love yourself then it becomes obvious to you that nobody knows anything and each person must make their own decisions… My dearest sisters, my own dearest ones… I have made my confession, now I will be silent… I will now be silent, like the madman in Gogol's story… silence, silence…
FERAPONT. (Impatiently, standing in the doorway.) Andrey Sergeyevich, I have already told you ten times.
ANDREY. In the first place I will not be spoken to as Andrey Sergeyevich. I am your excellency.
FERAPONT. The firemen, your excellency, request permission to cross the garden to reach the river. As it is, they are going round, going round all the time - it's a nightmare for them.
ANDREY. Alright. Tell them it's alright.
OLGA. Andrey dear, just say no more. Tomorrow we will talk it over. (Getting alarmed.) What an excruciating night!
ANDREY. (He is very embarrassed.) Don't agitate yourself.. I am asking you in an entirely disinterested way: What is it that you have against me? Just tell me straight.
OLGA. She's absolutely right, Andrey dear, put it off till tomorrow… (Goes behind her own screen.) It's time for bed.
ANDREY. I'll just say this and then leave you. It won't take a minute… In the first place, you have something against Natasha, my wife, and I noticed that from the very first day of my marriage. Natasha is an excellent and honourable woman, straightforward and decent - that is my opinion. I love and respect my wife, you must understand that, I respect her, and I demand that others should respect her in the same way. I repeat, she's an honourable, decent woman, and all your complaints, pardon me for saying so, are just capricious nonsense.
KULYGIN. (Through the doorway.) Is Masha here? (Alarmed.) Where can she be? This is very strange… (Exit.)
ANDREY. They're not listening. Natasha is a fine, excellent, honourable woman. (Paces the stage silently, then stops.) When I married, I thought we would be happy… I thought we would all be happy… But God above… (He sobs.) My dearest sisters, my sweetest sisters, please don't believe me, don't believe me… (He leaves.)
KULYGIN. (Anxiously, in the doorway.) Where's Masha? Is Masha not here? This is most extraordinary. (He leaves.)
OLGA. That's the doctor, Ivan Romanich. He's drunk.
IRINA. What a terrible night!
OLGA. That's only a rumour.
IRINA. We'll be left completely alone then… Olga dear!
OLGA. What now?
IRINA. Dear Olga, my dear sister, I do respect and value the baron, he's a very fine man, I will marry him, I agree, I will, only let's move to Moscow! Please, please let's go. There is nothing more wonderful on this earth than Moscow. Let's go there, dear Olga! Please! Please!
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