Five Russian plays with one from the Ukrainian/The Jubilee, by Anton Chéhov
By Anton Chéhov
(Scene: The managing director’s study at a bank; furnished with affected sumptuousness. Velvet-covered furniture, flowers, statues, rugs, telephone. Midday. Hirin, the bookkeeper, is alone.)
Hirin (shouts at the door): Go to the chemist’s and get three ha’penny worth of nerve tonic, and tell them to bring some fresh water to the director’s study. I’ve got to tell you a hundred times! (Goes to table.) I’m tired out. I’ve been writing for four days without closing my eyes; from morning to evening I’m writing here, and from evening to morning, at home. (Coughs.) My whole body’s inflamed. Shivering, fever, coughing; I’ve got rheumatism in my legs, things keep coming in front of my eyes. (Sits down.) Our old joker, this brute, this managing director, is going to read the report to-day at the general meeting: “Our bank at the present moment and in time to come”—you’d think he was Gambetta. (Writes.) Two, one, one, six, nought, seven, add six, nought, one, six—He wants to throw dust in their eyes; so I’ve got to sit here and work for him like a nigger. He just puts the poetry into the report; but I must tap away on the counting machine all day long, hell take him. (Taps the machine.) I can’t stand it. (Writes.) One to carry, three, seven, two, one, nought. He promised to pay me for my trouble. If everything goes off well to-day and he takes in the public, he’s promised me a gold pendant and three hundred roubles. We’ll see. (Writes.) Well, and if all my trouble goes for nothing, well, my friend, I’m sorry—I’m a passionate man! Yes, my friend, in a fit of temper I can even commit a crime. Yes! (Off, noise and applause. Shipuchin’s voice, “Thank you! Thank you! I am moved!” Enter Shipuchin, middle-aged, in a frock-coat and white tie, with a monocle. He carries an album which has just been presented to him. All the while he is on the stage, employees bring him papers to sign.)
Shipuchin (standing at the door): This gift of yours, dear colleagues, I shall preserve to my death, as a remembrance of the happiest days of my life! Yes, my dear, dear sirs! Once again I thank you. (Throws them a kiss, and goes up to Hirin.) My dear fellow, my esteemed Hirin!
Hirin (rising): I have the honour to congratulate you, Mr. Shipuchin, on your fifteenth year at the head of the bank and I hope that ——
Shipuchin (squeezing his hand): Thank you, my dear fellow. Thank you! This notable day, this jubilee—Very, very glad! Thank you for your services, for everything; for everything I thank you. If, while I have had the honour to be managing director of this bank, if anything useful has been done, then I am indebted for it before all else to my colleagues. (Sighs.) Yes, my dear fellow, fifteen years! Fifteen years, or I’m not Shipuchin! (Briskly.) Well, what about my report? Is it coming along?
Hirin: Yes. There are about five pages left.
Shipuchin: Excellent. That means, it will be ready at three?
Hirin: If nobody disturbs me, it’ll be finished. There’s just rubbish left.
Shipuchin: Magnificent. Magnificent, or I’m not Shipuchin! The general meeting will be at four. Please, dear old chap; give me the first half, and I’ll study it. Give it me quick. (Takes the report.) I base gigantic hopes on this report. It’s my “profession de foi,” or, to put it better, my firework—my firework, or I’m not Shipuchin! (Sits down and reads the report to himself.) But I’m devilish tired. Last night I had an attack of gout, all the morning I’ve been busy with little affairs and running about, then these commotions and ovations and agitations—I’m tired.
Hirin: Two, nought, nought, three, nine, two, nought—It’s all green before my eyes with figures. Three, one, six, four, one, five. (Taps the machine.)
Shipuchin: And another bother—This morning your wife called on me and complained about you again. She said, last night you ran after her and your sister-in-law with a knife. What does that look like, Hirin? Come, come!
Hirin (roughly): I take the liberty, Mr. Shipuchin, on the occasion of the jubilee, to make a request to you. I beg you, if only out of consideration for my working like a nigger, not to interfere with my family life. Please don’t!
Shipuchin (sighs): You’ve got an impossible character, Hirin. You’re an excellent fellow and respectable, but when it comes to women you behave like Jack the Ripper. Really, I can’t understand why you dislike them so!
Hirin: And I can’t understand why you like them so. (Pause.)Shipuchin: The employees have just presented me with an album and the managers, so I hear, want to present me with an address and a silver bowl. (Plays with his monocle.) Good, or I’m not Shipuchin! That’s not without its use. For the reputation of the bank, some pomp is necessary, damn it all. You’re a good fellow; after all, you know all about it. I wrote the address myself and bought the silver bowl as well. The binding for the address cost a lot, but it wouldn’t do without it. By themselves they wouldn’t have been good for anything. (Looks round.) What an establishment! What an establishment! They may say I am trivial, because I want the brass on the doors polished and the people on my staff to wear fashionable ties and a fat porter to stand at the door. Not at all, gentlemen. The brass on the doors and the fat porter are not trifles. At my own home I can be an ordinary person, eat and sleep like a pig, and drink and drink ——
Hirin: No allusions, if you please!
Shipuchin: Oh, nobody’s making allusions. What an impossible character you’ve got! This is what I’m saying—at home I can be an ordinary person, a parvenu, a slave to habits, but here everything must be “en grand!” This is the bank! Here every detail must, so to speak, be imposing and have a dignified appearance. (Picks up a piece of paper and throws it in the grate.) It is my particular pride that I have raised high the reputation of the bank. It’s a big thing, tone, a big thing, or I’m not Shipuchin! (Looks at Hirin.) My dear fellow, at any moment the deputation of the managers may arrive, and you’re in felt slippers, in that scarf, in that wild-coloured jacket; you might have put on a frock-coat, well, anyhow, a black coat ——
Hirin: My health is more to me than your bank-managers. My whole body’s inflamed.
Shipuchin (disturbed) : But agree with me that it’s untidy! You spoil the ensemble.
Hirin: When the deputation comes, I can hide—that’s not a great misfortune. (Writes.) Seven, one, seven, two, one, five, nought. I too don’t like untidiness. Seven, two, nine. (Taps the machine.) I can’t bear untidiness! You’d have done well to-day not to invite ladies to the jubilee dinner.
Shipuchin: What nonsense!
Hirin: I know you are letting them in to-day so as to be elegant. But, you see, they’ll spoil everything for you. From them comes all untidiness.
Shipuchin: On the contrary, women’s society elevates.
Hirin: Yes! Now, you’d call your wife an educated woman; and last Monday she said a thing that made me gasp for a couple of days. Suddenly she asked me before strangers, “Is it true that at our bank my husband bought those shares in the Drage-Prage bank which dropped on the Exchange? Oh, my husband is so uneasy!” And that before strangers! And why you’re so open with them, I can’t understand. Do you want them to lead you into the courts?
Shipuchin: All right, enough, enough. This is all too gloomy for a jubilee. But you do well to remind me. (Looks at his watch.) My wife should be here immediately. In the ordinary way I should have driven to the station to meet the poor girl, but there’s not time and—and I’m tired. To tell the truth, I’m not glad she’s coming. I’m glad, but it would have been better for me if she had stayed just another two days with her mother. She wants me to spend the whole evening with her to-day, and all the time there’s a little excursion arranged for after dinner. (Shudders.) That nervous shivering’s starting already. My nerves are so strained that I think the slightest little thing would start me crying. No, I must be strong; or I’m not Shipuchin! (Enter Tatiana Shipuchin, twenty-five years old, in a waterproof, carrying an expensive bag.)
Shipuchin: Bah! Talk of the devil!
Tatiana: Darling! (Runs to her husband. A long kiss.)
Shipuchin: Why, we were just talking about you. (Looks at his watch.)Tatiana (breathlessly): Lonely? Quite well? I haven’t been home yet—came straight here from the station. I must tell you, lots and lots—I can’t keep it—I won’t take off my waterproof—I shall only be a minute. (To Hirin.) Good morning, Mr. Hirin. (To Shipuchin.) Everything all right at home?
Shipuchin: Everything. Why, you’ve grown stouter in the last week and prettier. Well, how did it go off?
Tatiana: Excellently. Mama and Kate send you their love. Basil sends you a kiss. (Kisses him.) Aunt sends you a pot of jam, and they’re all angry that you don’t write. Zena sends you a kiss. (Kisses him.) Oh, if you only knew what happened! What do you think? It’s all strange to me, even to tell it. What do you think happened?—But I can see from your eyes that you’re not glad to see me.
Shipuchin: Just the contrary, darling! (Kisses her. Hirin coughs angrily.)
Tatiana (sighs): Oh, poor Kate, poor Kate! I’m so sorry, so sorry for her!
Shipuchin: Darling, we have a jubilee to-day, and at any moment a deputation may come from the managers, and you’re not dressed.Tatiana: Really, a jubilee! I congratulate you, gentlemen, I wish you—then there’ll be a meeting to-day and a dinner. I love that! Do you remember that fine address you wrote so long ago for the managers? Will they read it to you to-day? (Hirin coughs angrily.)
Shipuchin (confused): Darling, one doesn’t speak of that—Really, you’re going home, eh?
Tatiana: Immediately, immediately. I can tell you in an instant, and then go. I’ll tell you all about it, right from the beginning. Well, when you saw me off, I was sitting, you remember, side by side with that big woman. I began to read; I don’t like conversations in a railway-carriage. For three stations I read and didn’t speak to her or anybody. Well, evening came on and you know gloomy thoughts like that always disappear. Opposite me sat a young man, nothing particular to look at, not ugly, dark—Well, we commenced to talk. Then a sailor arrived and some student or other. (Smiles.) I told them I wasn’t married. How they looked after me! We chatted right up to midnight, the dark young man told awfully funny stories and the sailor sang all the time. My sides ached with laughing. And when the sailor—oh! those sailors—when the sailor found out by accident that my name was Tatiana, what do you think he sang? (Sings bass.) “Onegin, conceal it I cannot, how madly I love fair Tatiana!” (Giggles. Hirin coughs angrily.)Shipuchin : But, Tanyusha, we’re disturbing Mr. Hirin. Go home, darling, and afterwards ——
Tatiana: Never mind, never mind, let him listen too. It’s very interesting; I’m just finishing. At the station, Sereja came to meet me. She had brought some young man, an inspector of taxes, I think, nothing particular to look at, very nice, especially the eyes—Sereja introduced him and we all three went off together. The weather was wonderful—— (Voices off: “You mustn’t! You mustn’t! What do you want?” Enter Mrs. Merchutkin, old, in a cloak.)
Merchutkin (at the door, fanning herself): What are you stopping me for? I must go myself! (Enters; to Shipuchin.) Allow me to introduce myself, your excellency, I am the wife of Mr.Merchutkin.
Shipuchin: What can I do for you?Merchutkin: Please listen, your excellency; my husband was ill for five months and while he was lying at home getting better, they dismissed him without any reason, your excellency, and when I went for his salary, please listen, they had taken a quarter off his salary. “Why?” I asked them. “He’s been borrowing from the fund,” they told me, “and other people guaranteed him.” How can that be? He can’t take anything without my consent! They mustn’t do it, your excellency! I’m a poor woman, and live by lodgers. I’m a weak, defenceless womaneverybody insults me, and I never hear a kind word from anybody.
Shipuchin: Permit me. (Takes her application and reads it, standing.)
Tatiana (to Hirin): But I must begin at the beginning. Suddenly last week I got a letter from Mama. She wrote that a certain Grendelevski had proposed to my sister Kate. An excellent, modest young man, but without any means and with no particular position. And apparently, just imagine, Kate was attracted by him. What was to be done? Mama wrote to me to come at once and use my influence over my sister.
Hirin (roughly): Excuse me, you’re disturbing me! You and Mama and Kate—here am I disturbed and I don’t understand anything.
Tatiana: There’s seriousness! Why are you so bad-tempered to-day? You’re in love? (Smiles.)
Shipuchin (to Merchutkin): Excuse me, what is all this about? I don’t understand.Tatiana: In love? Aha! He blushed!
Shipuchin (to his wife): Tanyusha darling, just go into the office for half a minute. I’ll come immediately.
Tatiana: Very well, dear. (Exit.)
Shipuchin: I don’t understand. You’ve evidently made a mistake, Madame. Your application does not concern us at all. Just give yourself the trouble to apply to the government department in which your husband worked.
Merchutkin: Kind sir, I have been there already five months, and they won’t take in the application. I nearly went out of my head, but luckily my son-in-law Boris advised me to come to you. “Mama,” he said, “apply to Mr. Shipuchin; he’s an influential man and can do anything.” Help me, your excellency!
Shipuchin: We can’t do anything for you, Mrs. Merchutkin. Do you understand—your husband, as far as I can judge, served in the Army Medical Department, but this is a perfectly private commercial establishment; this is a bank. Surely you understand?Merchutkin: Your excellency, I have a doctor’s certificate about my husband’s illness. Here it is, please look at it——
Shipuchin (irritably): Certainly; I believe you; but, once again, this does not concern us. (Off, Tatiana’s laugh, followed by male laughter.)
Shipuchin (looking through the door): She’s disturbing the clerks out there. (To Merchutkin.) It’s curious; it’s quite ridiculous. Does your husband really not know where you should apply?
Merchutkin: Your excellency, I must tell you, he knows nothing! He keeps on saying, “It’s not your business; go away!” That’s all!
Shipuchin: Once again, Madame—Your husband served in the Army Medical Department, and this is a bank, a private commercial establishment.
Merchutkin: Oh, yes, yes, yes, I understand, kind sir. In that case, your excellency, tell them to give me just a little. I’m quite willing not to take it all at once.
Shipuchin (sighs): Ugh!
Hirin: Mr. Shipuchin, I shall never finish the report like this.
Shipuchin: One moment! (To Merchutkin.) I can’t explain it to you, you see. Now please understand that to come to us with an application like this is as strange as to apply for a divorce, say, at a chemist’s or an assay-office. (A knock at the door, and Tatiana’s voice : “Andrew, may I come in?”)
Shipuchin (calls out): Wait a second, darling; one second! (To Merchutkin.) They didn’t pay you, but what have we got to do with it? Besides, Madame, we have a jubilee to-day and we’re busy—and at any moment someone might come—Excuse me.
Merchutkin: Your excellency, take pity on me, an orphan. I am a weak, defenceless woman. I'm worried to death. What with law-cases with the lodgers and trouble on account of my husband and running about with the housework, and then my son-in-law still without a position——
Shipuchin: Mrs. Merchutkin, I—no, excuse me, I can’t talk to you! My head’s quite dizzy. You’re disturbing us, and wasting our time for nothing. (Sighs; aside.) I know what’ll stop her, or I’m not Shipuchin! (To Hirin.) Mr. Hirin! Please explain to Mrs. Merchutkin. (Waves his hand, and goes out.)
Hirin (approaches her roughly): What can I do for you?
Merchutkin: I am a weak, defenceless woman. Perhaps I look strong, but if you come to examine me I've not got a single healthy vein in me! I can hardly stand on my legs, and my appetite's quite gone. This morning I drank my coffee without any pleasure.
Hirin: I ask you, what can I do for you?
Merchutkin: Kind sir, tell them to give me just a little, and let the rest wait a few months.
Hirin: It seems to me, you were told in plain language—this is a bank!
Merchutkin: Yes, yes; and if it’s needed I can produce a medical certificate.
Hirin: What have you got on your shoulders, a head, or what?
Merchutkin: Dear gentleman, I’m only asking for my legal rights. I don’t want anything of anybody else’s.
Hirin: I ask you, Madame, what have you got on your shoulders, a head, or what? Oh, Lord! I’ve no time to talk to you. I'm busy. (Points to the door.) Please!
Merchutkin (surprised): And the money?Hirin: What it comes to is this—you haven't got a head on your shoulders, but—— (Raps his finger on the table, and then on his forehead.)
Merchutkin (watching him): What! Oh, that won’t do! That won’t do! Do that to your own wife! You don’t do that to me!
Hirin (angrily; shouting): Get out of it!
Merchutkin: That won’t do! That won’t do! I’m not afraid of you! We’ve seen your sort before! Creature!
Hirin (shouting): I don’t think in all my life I ever saw anything so repugnant. Ugh! It’s going to my head! (Breathes with difficulty.) I’ll tell you again! Are you listening? If you don’t go away from here, you old witch, I’ll grind you to powder! I’ve got such a character, that I could make a cripple of you for life! I can commit a crime!
Merchutkin: “The dog barks, the wind blows it away.” I’m not frightened. We’ve seen your sort before.
Hirin (in despair): I can’t look at her! I feel ill! I can’t! (Goes to table and sits down.) They fill the bank with women—I can’t write the report. I can’t!Merchutkin: I don’t want anything of anybody else’s, I only want my legal rights. Oh, you shameless man! To sit here in slippers! You yokel! (Enter Shipuchin, followed by Tatiana.)
Tatiana: In the evening we went to Berejnitski’s. Kate was wearing a blue foulard frock, a little decolleté, and she had her hair done very high. I combed her myself. And the way she was dressed and had her hair done, well, it was simply enchanting——
Shipuchin (with a headache): Yes, yes, enchanting—They might be here at any moment.
Merchutkin: Your excellency!
Shipuchin (dejected): What is it? What do you want?
Merchutkin (pointing to Hirin): Your excellency, that man, that man there, he tapped his finger on his forehead and then on the table! You told him to look after my business, and he makes fun of every word. I’m a weak, defenceless woman——
Shipuchin: Very well, Madame, I’m considering it. I will take measures. Go away now. Afterwards—— (Aside.) My gout’s beginning.
Hirin (quietly to Shipuchin): Mr. Shipuchin, tell them to send for the porter, and let her be thrown out by the scruff of the neck.Shipuchin (frightened): No, no! She’d start to scream, and there are a lot of people in the house.
Merchutkin: Your excellency!
Hirin (in a mournful voice): And I’ve got to write the report! I haven’t time! (Returns to the table.) I can’t!
Merchutkin: Your excellency, when can I have it? I need the money to-day.
Shipuchin (aside, angrily): Re—mark—ab—ly horrible woman! (Softly, to her.) Madame, I’ve told you already. This is a bank, a private, commercial establishment.
Merchutkin: Be kind to me, your excellency; be a father to me! If the medical certificate isn’t enough, I can produce a certificate from the police. Tell them to give me the money.
Shipuchin (sighs heavily): Ugh!
Tatiana (to Merchutkin): My dear lady, you’ve been told that you have made a mistake. What a woman you are, to be sure!
Merchutkin: Beautiful lady, nobody cares about me. I’ve only one thing left, to eat and drink, and to-day I drank my coffee without any pleasure.
Shipuchin (feebly): How much do you want?Merchutkin: Twenty-four roubles, thirty-six kopecks.
Shipuchin: Very well. (Takes twenty-five roubles from his pocket-book and gives them to her.) There’s twenty-five roubles for you. Take them and—go away! (Hirin coughs angrily.)
Merchutkin: I most humbly thank you, your excellency.
Tatiana (sits beside her husband): It’s time for me to go home. (Looks at her watch.) But I haven’t finished yet; I’ll finish in a moment and go. What do you think happened? What do you think? Well, in the evening we went to Berejnitski’s. It wasn’t anything particular; it was jolly, but not specially. Of course, Kate’s admirer, Grendelevski, was there. I spoke to Kate, and cried, and persuaded her, and in the evening she had an explanation with Grendelevski and refused him. Well, I thought, everything is in order, things couldn’t be better; I had quieted Mama, saved Kate, and now I could be easy. What do you think ? Just before supper we were walking with Kate in the avenue, and suddenly—(Rises)—suddenly we heard a shot! No I can’t speak about it in cold blood! (Fans herself with her handkerchief.) No, I can’t!Shipuchin (sighs): Ugh!
Tatiana (weeps): We ran to the summer-house, and there, there lay poor Grendelevski with a pistol in his hand.
Shipuchin: No, I can’t stand it! I can’t stand it! (To Merchutkin.) What do you want now?
Merchutkin: Your excellency, couldn’t my husband take up his old post again?
Tatiana (weeps): He had shot himself right by the heart—just there—Kate fainted, poor girl, and he himself was terribly frightened. He lay there and—and asked us to send for a doctor. The doctor soon came—and saved the unlucky fellow.
Merchutkin: Your excellency, couldn’t my husband take up his old post again?
Shipuchin: No, I can’t stand it. (Weeps.) I can’t stand it. (Stretches out his hands to Hirin in despair.) Drive her out! Drive her out! Please!
Hirin (advances on Tatiana): Get out of it!
Shipuchin: Not her—that one—that awful one—(Points to Merchutkin)—that one——
Hirin (misunderstands; to Tatiana): Get out of it! (Stamps his feet.) Go away!Tatiana: What? What’s the matter with you? Have you gone mad?
Shipuchin: This is awful! I’m a miserable man! Drive her out! Drive her out!
Hirin (to Tatiana): Out of it! I’ll cripple you! I’ll smash you! I’ll commit a crime!
Tatiana (chased by Hirin): How dare you! You impudent man! Andrew! Help! Andrew! (Begins to scream.)
Shipuchin (running after them): Stop! Please! Be quiet! Have mercy on me!
Hirin (chasing Merchutkin): Get out of it! Catch her! Hit her! Cut her up!
Shipuchin: Stop! Please! I beg you!
Merchutkin: Dear lady; oh, dear lady! (Begins to scream.) Dear lady!
Tatiana: Help! Help! Oh, Oh! I feel ill! I feel ill! (Jumps on a chair, then drops on the sofa and moans.)
Hirin (chasing Merchutkin): Catch her! Hit her! Cut her up!
Merchutkin: Oh, oh, dear lady! It’s all going dark. Oh! (Falls senseless in Shipuchin’s arms. A knock at the door and a voice: “The Deputation.”)Shipuchin: Deputation—reputation—occupation——
Hirin (stamping his feet): Out of it! Oh, hell! (Tucking up his sleeves.) Give me her! I can commit a crime. (Enter deputation of five persons, all in frock-coats. One carries a velvet-bound address and another the cup. The rest of the staff stand at the door of the office. Tatiana on the sofa, and Merchutkin in Shipuchin’s arms, both groan softly.)
A Manager (reads loudly): Esteemed and beloved Mr. Shipuchin, casting a retrospective regard upon the past of our financial establishment and turning an abstract glance upon the history of its gradual development, we receive in the highest degree a pleasurable sensation. It is true that in the earliest period of its existence, the small dimensions of its original capital, the absence of any important operations and the general indefiniteness of its position furnished a cause for Hamlet’s question, “To be or not to be,” and at one moment there were even voices which advocated the advantage of the entire closure of the bank. Then you were placed at the head of the establishment! Your knowledge, energy, and innate tact have been the cause of its extraordinary success and its present remarkably flourishing condition. The reputation of the bank—(Coughs)—the reputation of the bank——
Merchutkin (groans): Oh! Oh!
Tatiana: Water, water!
Manager (continues): The reputation—(Coughs)—the reputation of the bank has been brought by you to such a height that our establishment may to-day well rival the very best foreign establishments——
Manager (continues in confusion): Casting then an objective glance upon the present, we, esteemed and beloved Mr. Shipuchin—Perhaps afterwards—Better afterwards. (Exit, with staff.)