Five Russian plays with one from the Ukrainian/The Wedding, by Anton Chéhov
By Anton Chéhov
(A brightly lit room, with a big table laid for supper. Around the table bustle waiters in frock-coats. The last figure of a quadrille can be heard. Enter Miss Zmewkin—accoucheuse, thirty years old, in a bright scarlet dress—Mr. Yat, and the Master of Ceremonies. They pass across the stage.)
Zmewkin: No! No! No!
Yat (following): Be merciful! Be merciful!
Zmewkin: No! No! No!
Master of Ceremonies (hurrying after them): Please, you mustn’t, you mustn’t! Where are you going? But the grand-chain, silvooplay. (Exeunt. Enter Mrs. Nastasia Jigalov, mother of the bride, and Aplombov, the bridegroom.)
Nastasia: Instead of worrying me with all your talk, you’d do better to go and dance!
Aplombov: I'm not Spinosa anyhow, to make cracknels of my legs. I'm a man of position and character, and I don’t find any distraction in empty pleasures. But this has nothing to do with dancing. Excuse me, Mama, but I don’t understand a lot of your behaviour. For instance, besides all the things for the house, you promised to give me your two lottery-tickets with your daughter. Where are they?
Nastasia: How my head aches!—If this weather keeps on, there ought to be a thaw.
Aplombov: You won’t wear my teeth out with talking! I found out to-day that your tickets were pledged at the bank. Excuse me, Mama, but only exploiters behave like that. Now, I'm not speaking from selfishness—I don’t want your tickets!—but from principle; I don’t let anybody deceive me. I’ve made your daughter happy, and, if you don’t hand me over those tickets to-day, I’ll eat your daughter with pudding! I’m a man of noble feelings.
Nastasia (looking at the table and counting the places): One, two, three, four, five ——
Servant: The cook wants to know how you order the ices to be served, with rum, with madeira, or without anything.
Aplombov: With rum. And tell the proprietor there’s only a little wine. Tell him to send up some Haut-Sauterne. (To Nastasia.) And you promised and we agreed that a general would be at the supper to-night. Where is he, I should like to know.
Nastasia: It’s not my fault, my dear!
Aplombov: Whose, then?
Nastasia: Andrew’s fault. Yesterday he was here and promised to bring a real general. (Sighs.) He can’t have found one or he’d have brought him. You don’t think we begrudge the expense? We grudge our children nothing. But, after all, what’s a general!
Aplombov: Well again, surely you knew, Mama, that this telegraph fellow, Yat, was running after Dashenka until I proposed to her? Why did you invite him? Didn’t you really know that lie’s an enemy of mine?
Nastasia: Oh, Epaminondas, what’s the matter with you? The wedding-day isn’t over yet and already you’re tiring me and Dashenka to death with your talking. What will it be like as time goes on? You’re wearisome, wearisome.
Aplombov: It isn’t nice to hear the truth? Ha, ha. There you are. But act nobly! Only one thing I ask of you—be noble! (Through the room, from one door to the other couples pass, dancing the grand-chain. The first couple is Dashenka and the Master of Ceremonies, behind them Yat and Zmewkin. They stop dancing and stay in the room. Enter Jigalov and Dimba, and go to the table.)
Master of Ceremonies: Promenade! Messieu’s, promenade! (Off.) Promenade! (Exeunt the couples.)
Yat: Be merciful! Be merciful, enchanting Miss Zmewkin!
Zmewkin: Oh! what a man you are! I’ve told you already I'm not in voice.
Yat: I entreat you, sing! Only one note! Be merciful! Only one note!
Zmewkin: I’m tired. (Sits down and fans herself.)
Yat: No, you’re simply pitiless! Such an inhuman creature, permit me to use the expression, and such a wonderful, wonderful voice. With a voice like that, excuse the expression, you ought not to be an accoucheuse, but singing at public concerts. For instance, how divinely the trills emerge from you in that one (sings): “I lovedyou, my love is yet in vain.”—Wonderful!
Zmewkin (sings): “I loved you, perhaps I still may love.”—That one?
Yat: That’s the one! Wonderful!
Zmewkin: No, I’m not in voice to-day. Take my fan, fan me; it’s so hot. (To Aplombov.) Why are you so melancholy? Can a bridegroom really be like that? Aren’t you ashamed, you contrary man? What are you thinking about?
Aplombov : Marriage is a serious step. You have to consider everything from all points of view ——
Zmewkin: How contrary you all are! What sceptics! Beside you I feel stifled! Give me atmosphere! Do you hear? Give me atmosphere! (Sings.)
Yat: Wonderful. Wonderful!
Zmewkin: Fan me, fan me! I feel my heart is just going to break. Tell me, please; why do I feel so hot?
Yat: Because you perspire.
Zmewkin: Pfui! What a vulgar creature you are! Don’t dare speak to me like that!Yat: I beg your pardon. You have been used, I know, to, excuse the expression, aristocratic company, and ——
Zmewkin: Oh! let me be! Give me poetry, ecstasy! Fan me! Fan me!
Jigalov (to Dimba): We’ll have another, eh? I can drink any time. The chief thing, Dimba, is not to forget one’s affairs. Drink, and understand your affairs! And as for drinking, why not drink ? Drinking’s allowed; your health! (Drinks.) Tell me, have you got tigers in Greece?
Jigalov: And lions?
Dimba: Yes, lions too. In Russia there is nothing, but in Greece everything. My father's there and my uncle and my brothers, and here nothing.
Jigalov: But have you got whales in Greece?
Dimba: We've everything there.
Nastasia (to her husband): Why all this random drinking and eating? It’s time we all sat down. Don’t stick a fork in the lobster! It’s for the general. Perhaps he’ll come after all.
Jigalov: Have you got lobsters in Greece?
Dimba: Yes, we've everything there.
Zmewkin: I’m just thinking—what atmosphere in Greece!
Jigalov: And probably a lot of trickery. Greeks are all just the same as Armenians and gypsies. They’ll give you a sponge or a goldfish, but all the time they’re watching their chance to relieve you of your superfluities. We’ll have another, eh?
Nastasia: What are all these anothers? It’s time we all sat down. It’s twelve o’clock.
Jigalov: Sit down, then, sit down! (Calls.) Ladies and gentlemen, I humbly entreat you. Please. Supper! Young people!
Nastasia: Welcome, dear guests. Be seated.
Zmewkin (sits at the table): Give me poetry! “But ah! the rebel, sought the storm, as in the storm were peace.” Give me storm!
Yat (aside): Remarkable woman! I’m in love—up to the ears in love! (Enter the company. They take their seats noisily at the table; a minute’s pause, the band plays a march.)Mozgovy (in the uniform of a naval volunteer, rising): Ladies and gentlemen! I must tell you this; there are many toasts and speeches waiting for us. We won’t wait. We’ll begin at once. Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to drink a toast to the bride and bridegroom. (The band plays a flourish. “Hurrah!” Clinking of glasses.)
Mozgovy: It’s bitter!
All: Bitter! Bitter! (Aplombov and Dashenka kiss.)
Yat: Wonderful, wonderful! I must express to you, ladies and gentlemen, with the utmost veracity, that this room and the place in general are magnificent. Superlatively enchanting.—But do you know why it does not partake of a complete triumph? There’s no electric light, excuse the expression. Electric light has been introduced already in all countries; only Russia is left behind.
Jigalov (thoughtfully): Electric—h’m. But to my idea, electric light is just trickery. They put a little bit of coal there and think they can deceive your eyes with it. No, friend, if you give light, then don’t give coal, but something real, something special, something you can take hold of. Give a light, you understand, a light which is something and not simply an idea.
Yat: If only you were to see what an electric battery is composed of, you’d think differently.
Jigalov: I don’t want to see it. Trickery! They deceive simple folk, and squeeze them to the last drop. We know that sort of people. And you, young man, instead of defending trickery, would have done better to drink and pour out for others. That’s the truth!
Aplombov: I quite agree with you, dear papa. Why introduce scientific discourses? I myself am ready to speak about certain discoveries, but then there’s another time for that. (To Dashenka.) What’s your opinion, ma chère?
Dashenka: They like to show their education and always speak about something one can’t understand.
Nastasia: Heavens! We have lived our time without education, and now we’re marrying our third daughter to a fine husband. If you think we are uneducated, why do you come to us? Be off with your education!
Yat: Madame, I always take your family into consideration, and if I spoke about electric light it does not signify that I did so from pride. Your healths! I always with all my heart wished Dashenka a good husband. It is hard nowadays, Madame, to find a good man. Nowadays everyone watches his chance to marry for interest, for money ——Aplombov: That is an insinuation!
Yat (fearfully): No, there’s no allusion to anybody! I’m not speaking of present company. I was speaking just in general—please! I know well that you married for love and the dowry’s nothing.
Nastasia: No, it isn’t nothing! Don’t forget yourself, sir, when you speak! Beside a thousand roubles in actual coin, we are giving three sets of furs, bedding and all the furniture. Just see if other people give dowries like that.
Yat: I don’t mean anything—the furniture is really beautiful and—and the furs certainly—but I mean they took offence that I made insinuations.
Nastasia: Don’t make insinuations! We respect you for your parents and we invited you to the wedding, but you say all sorts of things. And if you knew that Epaminondas was marrying for interest, why did you say nothing beforehand? (Weeps.) Perhaps—I have nourished her and cared for her and looked after her—I should have guarded better my emerald, my jewel, my daughter ——
Aplombov: You believe him? I most humbly thank you! I’m very grateful indeed to you. (To Yat.) As for you, Mr. Yat, although you are an acquaintance of mine, I don't allow you to behave so badly in a strange house. Have the goodness to go away!
Yat: What's the matter?
Aplombov: I wish you were as honourable as I am! In short, have the goodness to go away!
Gentlemen (to Aplombov): Now, stop! Remember where you are! Never mind! Sit down! Stop!
Yat: I didn't mean anything—You know, I―I don't understand. Excuse me, I'm going. Only give me first the five roubles you owe me from last year for the waistcoat, excuse the expression. Your health again and—and I'm going; only first pay me what you owe.
Gentlemen: Now, let it be, let it be. Enough! Is all this nonsense worth while?
Master of Ceremonies (loudly): To the health of the parents of the bride, Mr. and Mrs. Jigalov! (Band plays a flourish. "Hurrah.")
Jigalov (bows with emotion on all sides): Thank you, dear guests. I am very grateful to you not to have forgotten us and to have been good enough not to ignore us. And don't think I've got crafty in my old age, or that there's any trickery; I say simply my feelings, from the bottom of my heart. I grudge nothing to good people. We humbly thank you. (Kisses all round.)
Dashenka (to her mother): Mama dear, why are you crying? I am so happy.
Aplombov: Mama is upset at the separation. But I would advise her instead to remember our recent conversation!
Yat: Don't cry, Madame! You think that such tears are natural? Not at all, simply a low-spirited nervous system ——
Jigalov: And are there chestnuts in Greece?
Dimba: Yes, there's everything there.
Jigalov: But not mushrooms.
Dimba: Yes, mushrooms too. Everything!
Mozgovy: Mr. Dimba, it’s your turn to make a speech. Ladies and gentlemen, allow Mr. Dimba to make a speech.
All (to Dimba): Speech! Speech! Your turn!
Dimba: What for? I don’t understand what—what’s the matter?
Jigalov: No, no! Don’t dare refuse! It’s your turn! Up you get!
Dimba (rises in confusion): I can say—Russia is one thing and Greece is another. Now the people in Greece are one thing, and the people in Russia are another. And the “karavia” which sail on the sea you call ships, and those that go on land you call railways—I understand well. We are Greeks, you are Russians, and I want nothing—I can say—Russia is one thing and Greece is another. (Enter Newnin.)
Newnin: Stop, ladies and gentlemen, don’t go on eating! Wait a little! Madame, just half a minute! Please come here! (Takes Nastasia aside, breathlessly.) Listen, the general’s just coming. At last I’ve found one. I was simply in agony. A real general, in the flesh, old, eighty, perhaps, or ninety, years old ——
Nastasia: When is he coming?
Newnin: This very moment. You’ll be grateful to me all your life. He’s not a general, he’s a peach! A marvel! Not any foot regiment, not infantry at all, but navy! In rank he’s a secondgrade captain, and with them, in the navy, that’s just the same as a field-marshal or, in civil rank, a privy councillor. Absolutely the same! Even higher!
Nastasia: You’re not deceiving me, Andrew?Newnin: Now, am I a rascal? Don’t you worry.
Nastasia (sighing): I don’t want to waste money, Andrew.
Newnin: Don't you worry. He’s not a general, he's a work of art! (Raises his voice.) And I said to him, “You’ve quite forgotten us, your excellency,” I said. “It’s not right, your excellency, to forget old friends! Mrs. Jigalov is very angry with you,” I said. (Goes to table and sits down.) And he said, “My dear friend, how can I go if I am not a friend of the bridegroom’s?” “Oh, that’s being too much, your excellency,” I said. “What ceremonies! The bridegroom,” I said, “is a most charming, open-hearted man. To be working with an appraiser at the bank, you don’t think, your excellency, this is a young good-for-nothing. Why,” I said, “nowadays even noble ladies work at banks.” He clapped me on the shoulder, I smoked a Havana with him, and now he’s coming. Wait just a moment, ladies and gentlemen, don’t go on eating!
Aplombov: And when is he coming?Newnin: This moment. When I left him, he was already putting on his goloshes. Wait just a moment, ladies and gentlemen, don’t go on eating!
Aplombov: We must tell them to play a march.
Newnin (loudly): Hey, musicians! A march! (Band plays a march.)
Servant (announcing): Mr. Revunov-Karayúlov! (Jigalov, Nastasia, and Newnin run to meet him. Enter Revunov-Karayúlov.)
Nastasia: Welcome, welcome, your excellency. Very kind ——
Jigalov: Your excellency, we are not eminent, not exalted people, but simple folk; but do not think there is any trickery on our side. There is always the first place in our house for good people; we grudge them nothing. Welcome!
Revunov-Karayúlov: Extremely pleased!
Newnin: Allow me to introduce the bridegroom, Mr. Aplombov, your excellency, and his newlyborn—I mean, newly-wed—wife! And this is Mr. Yat, of the telegraph. This is Mr. Dimba, a foreign gentleman of Greek nationality, in the confectionery profession. And so on, and so on—the rest are all—rubbish. Take a seat, your excellency.
Revunov-Karayúlov: Extremely! Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, I just want to say two words to Andrew. (Takes Newnin aside.) I’m a little confused, my friend. Why did you call me “your excellency”? I’m not a general, I’m a second-grade captain, and that’s lower than a colonel.
Newnin (shouts in his ear): Oh, yes, yes, I know, but allow us to call you “your excellency”! The family here, you know, is patriarchal, it respects the aged, it loves respect for rank.
Revunov-Karayúlov: Well, if that’s the case, then by all means ! (They go to the table.) Extremely!
Nastasia: Take a seat, your excellency. Be so kind! Take something to eat, your excellency. Only excuse us, at home you must be used to everything elegant, but with us it’s all simple.
Revunov-Karayúlov (hearing badly): What? H’m—Oh, yes. (Pause.) Oh, yes. In the old times people always lived simply and were satisfied. I am a man with a certain rank and yet I live simply. To-day Andrew came to me and invited me to the wedding. “How can I go,” I said, “if I don’t know them? It’s not the proper thing.” But he said, “These are simple people, patriarchal, pleased to welcome guests.” “Well,” I said, “by all means, if that’s the case! Why not? Very glad. It’s dull for me at home alone, and if my presence at the wedding can cause any pleasure, so do me the favour,” said I.
Jigalov: You really mean it, your excellency? I esteem you for it. I’m a simple man myself, without any trickery, and I esteem such people. Take something to eat, your excellency.
Aplombov: You have been long retired, your excellency?
Revunov-Karayúlov: Eh? Oh, yes, yes, that’s so. True. Yes. But excuse me, what’s all this? Bitter herrings and bitter bread! One can’t eat anything!
All: Bitter! Bitter! (Aplombov and Dashenka kiss.)
Revunov-Karayúlov: Hee, hee, hee. Your healths (Pause.) Yes! In the old days all was simple and everyone was satisfied. I love simplicity. I’m an old man; I retired in ’65; I’m seventy-two years old. (Sees Mozgovy.) You’re a sailor, then?
Mozgovy: Yes, I am.
Revunov-Karayúlov: Aha! So! Yes! Service at sea was always hard. There are things to ponder and split your head about. Every insignificant word has, so to speak, its separate meaning. For instance—the fore-topman in the shrouds on the top-gallant lashings! What does that mean? A sailor understands! Hee, hee. Now where’s your mathematics!
Newnin: The health of his excellency, Captain Revunov-Karayúlov! (Band plays a flourish. “Hurrah.”)
Yat: Your excellency, you were pleased just now to express yourself on the subject of the hardness of naval service. But tell me if the telegraph’s any easier? Nowadays, your excellency, no one can enter the telegraph service unless he can read and write French and German. But the hardest thing we have to do is the transmission of telegrams. Terribly hard. Please listen a moment. (Raps with a fork on the table, imitating a telegraphic apparatus.)
Revunov-Karayúlov: What’s that?
Yat: That’s for: I esteem you, your excellency, for your virtues. You think it’s easy? And again. (Raps.)Revunov-Karayúlov: Louder. I can’t hear you.
Yat: And that’s for: Madame, how happy I am to clasp you in my embraces!
Revunov-Karayúlov: What lady? Yes. (To Mozgovy.) And then, suppose it’s blowing half a gale and you’ve got—you’ve got to hoist the foretop halliards and the tops’l gallants. You must give the order: “Mount the rigging to the foretop halliards and the tops’l gallants,” and at the same time as they loose the sails on the stays, below they are standing to the main lashings and the tops’l gallant halliards ——
Master of Ceremonies (rising): Dear ladies and gentle——
Revunov-Karayúlov (breaking in) : Yes! A few other commands? Yes! To furl the foretop halliards and the tops’l gallants! Good? Now what does that mean, what’s the meaning of it? It’s very simple. To furl, you know, the foretop halliards and the tops’l gallants and hoist the mains’l—all at once! They must level the foretopmains and the tops’l gallant halliards on the hoist; at the same time, there’s the necessity of strengthening the braces of all the sails; and when the stays are taut and the braces raised all round, then the foretop halliards and the tops’l gallants, settling conformably with the direction of the wind——
Newnin: Your excellency, the host begs you to speak of something else. The guests don’t understand all this, and it’s dull.
Revunov-Karayúlov: What? Who’s dull? (To Mozgovy.) Young man, suppose the vessel is lying by the wind, on the starboard course, under full stretch of canvas, and you have to bring her over before the wind? What orders must you give? Why, this: Whistle all hands on deck for a tack across before the wind. Hee, hee!
Newnin: Yes, yes! Take something to eat.
Revunov-Karayúlov: Just as they all come running out, at once you give the command: “Stand to stations for a tack across before the wind!” Ah! That’s life! You give the order and watch how the sailors, like lightning, run to their places and adjust the lashings and the halliards. You finish by shouting out, “Bravo, my fine fellows.” (Shouts and chokes.)Master of Ceremonies (hastens to take advantage of the probable pause): On this day, to-day, so to speak, on which we are collected together here to do honour to our beloved——
Revunov-Karayúlov (breaking in): Yes! Yes! And all this has to be remembered. For instance, halliard-royals, tops’l gallants——
Master of Ceremonies (offended): What’s he interrupting for? We can’t say a single word.
Nastasia: We ignorant people, your excellency, do not understand anything of this. But tell us instead something to please——
Revunov-Karayúlov (misunderstanding): I’ve just eaten some, thank you. You said “cheese,” did you not? Thank you. Yes! I was recalling old times. But certainly it’s fine, young man. “If you sail on the sea, you’ll know no care.” (With a trembling voice.) You recollect the delight of tacking in a gale? What seaman does not light up at the recollection of this manœuvre? The very moment the command resounds, “Pipe all hands aloft,” an electric spark seems to fly over everybody. From the commander to the lowest sailor—all tremble with excitement——
Zmewkin: O, how dull! How dull! (General murmur.)
Revunov-Karayúlov (misunderstanding): Thank you, I have had some. (With rapture.) Everyone gets ready and turns his eyes on the first officer. “Stand to the gallants and starboard tops’l braces, and the port main braces, and port counter-braces,” orders the first officer. All is accomplished in a moment; halliard royals and tops’l lashings heaved. All right on board! (Stands up.) Off flies the vessel in the wind and at last the sails begin to get wet. The first officer cries, “The braces, don’t dawdle at the braces,” and fixes his eyes on the maintop, and when at last the tops’l gets wet, at that moment the vessel begins to tack, and you hear the loud command, “Loose the maintop halliards, let go the braces,” then everything flies off with a crack—like the Tower of Babel—and all is accomplished without a fault. You’ve tacked!
Nastasia (bursting out): But, General, you’re being unpleasant! You ought to know better, at your age! You’re unpleasant!
Revunov-Karayúlov: Pheasant? No, I haven’t had any. Thank you.
Nastasia (loudly): I said, you’re being unpleasant! You ought to know better, at your age, General.
Newnin (agitated): Now, come—there, there. Really——
Revunov-Karayúlov: For the first thing, I’m not a general, but a second-grade captain, which corresponds on the list to a lieutenant-colonel——
Nastasia: Then, if you’re not a general, why did you take the money? And we didn’t pay you money for you to be unpleasant.
Revunov-Karayúlov (perplexed): What money?
Nastasia: You know what money! You received through Mr. Newnin twen—— (To Newnin.) But it’s your fault, Andrew. I didn’t ask you to hire such a man.
Newnin: Now, there—let it be! Is it worth while?
Revunov-Karayúlov: Hired—paid—what’s this?
Aplombov: But excuse me. You received the twenty-five roubles from Mr. Newnin?
Revunov-Karayúlov: What twenty-five roubles? (Ponders.) Ah! I see! Now I understand everything. How disgustin! How disgusting!
Aplombov: Then you did receive the money?
Revunov-Karayúlov: I received no money at all! Off with you! (Leaves the table.) How disgusting! How low! To affront an old man, a sailor, an officer of merit! If this were decent society, I’d challenge you to a duel, but now what can I do? (Muddled.) Where’s the door? Which is the way out? Waiter! Show me out! Waiter! How low! How disgusting! (Exit.)
Nastasia: Andrew, where are those twenty-five roubles?
Newnin: Come, is it worth while to speak of such trifles? Everybody else is gay, but you, Heaven knows why—(Shouts.) To the health of the young people! Musicians, play a march! Musicians! (Band begins to play a march.) To the health of the young people!
Zmewkin: I feel stifled! Give me atmosphere! Beside you I feel stifled!
Yat (in an ecstasy): Wonderful woman! Wonderful woman! (The noise gets louder.)
Master of Ceremonies (stands and shouts): Dear ladies and gentlemen! On this day, to-day, so to speak——