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Without a dowry / Бесприданница. Книга для чтения на английском языке

Александр Островский
Without a dowry / Бесприданница. Книга для чтения на английском языке




© КАРО, 2020

Without a dowry
A Drama in Four Acts

Cast of characters

Kharita Ignátyevna Ogudálov (Mme Ogudalov), a middle-aged widow. Dressed elegantly but daringly, not in keeping with her age.

Larísa Dmítriyevna Ogudálov, mme Ogudalov’s unmarried daughter. Dressed richly but modestly.

Móky Parménych Knúrov, one of the entrepreneurs of the time. Elderly, rich.

Vasíly Danílych Vozhevátov (Vásya), a very young man. One of the representatives of a rich trading firm. Dressed in Western European style.

Yúly Kapitónych Karandyshóv (pronounced Karandyshóff), young official of modest means.

Sergéy Sergéyich Parátov, an imposing gentleman shipowner. Over thirty.


Gavrílo, club bartender and owner of a coffee house on the boulevard.

Iván, waiter in the coffee house.

Ilyá, a gypsy.

Manservant of Mme Ogudalov.

Yefrosinya Potápovna, aunt of Karandyshov.

Gypsy men and women.

Meanings which probably or possibly would be suggested to Ostrovsky’s contemporaries: Ogudalov – swindler; Knurov – boar; Vozhevatov – pleasant, polite; Karandyshov – short stature; Paratov – strong and fast (in connection with dogs and horses).

Robinson would certainly suggest Robinson Crusoe, especially in the play’s context. Near the end of Act One Paratov says that Robinson’s real name is Arkady Shchastlivtsev and that he is an actor from the provinces. Ostrovsky’s contemporaries would have recognized him immediately as a character in Ostrovsky’s earlier play The Forest (1871), where he was a vagabond ex-actor who had played comic roles. Shchastlivtsev suggests “happy,” and Arkady is derived from the Greek place name Arcadia, traditionally symbolizing rustic bliss. Neputôvy (Robinson’s friend, who is merely mentioned) suggests “dissolute”. Neputovy was also the name of a character in an earlier Ostrovsky play, namely At the Jolly Spot (1865).

Especially significant is the fact that Mme Ogudalov’s first name Kharita as well as her father’s first name Ignat (as is evident from her patronymic Ignatyevna) were often names of gypsies.

Act one

The action takes place in the present [1878], in the large town of Bryakhimov[1] on the Volga.

A boulevard on the high bank of the Volga, with an open area in front of a coffee house. On the right of the actors is an entrance to the coffee house. On their left are trees. In the background is a low iron railing, beyond it a sweeping view of the Volga with its forests, villages, etc. In front of the coffee house are tables and chairs: one table on the right, close to the coffee house, another on the left.

Gavrilo is standing in the doorway of the coffee house. Ivan is tidying up the furniture.

Ivan. Not a soul on the boulevard.

Gavrilo. It’s always like that on holidays. We keep to the old ways here. After late mass everybody puts away meat pie and cabbage soup, then they treat their guests with hospitality, and after that it’s seven hours of rest.

Ivan. What do you mean, seven! More like three or four. Anyway, it’s a good custom.

Gavrilo. And then about vesper time they wake up and drink tea till they’re bored stiff.

Ivan. Bored stiff! What’s there to be bored about?

Gavrilo. You just sit down by the samovar and drink boiling hot tea a couple of hours, then you’ll find out. A man gets all covered over with sweat, and he starts to get bored… So that’s when he says good-bye to his tea and drags himself out on the boulevard for some fresh air and a walk. This is the time when the high-class folk take their walk; look, over there you can see Moky Parmenych Knurov, stretching his legs.

Ivan. Every morning he paces back and forth on the boulevard, as if he’d made a vow. Why does he go to so much trouble?

Gavrilo. For the exercise.

Ivan. But what’s the exercise for?

Gavrilo. To work up an appetite. He needs the appetite for dinner. You should see the dinners he has! Do you think he could eat dinners like that without exercise?

Ivan. Why is he so quiet all the time?

Gavrilo. “Quiet”! You’re really something. How can you expect him to go on carrying conversations when he has all those millions! Who’s he supposed to talk with? There’s only two or three people in town he can talk with, so he keeps quiet. And that’s why he doesn’t stay here very long, wouldn’t stay at all if he didn’t have business. For talking he goes to Moscow, to St. Petersburg, and abroad too; he has more elbow room there.

Ivan. There comes Vasily Danilych from over the hill. He’s rich too, but he talks a lot.

Gavrilo. Vasily Danilych is still young, still on the timid side, but when he gets older he’ll act like God too.

Knurov enters from the left and, not paying any attention to the bows of Gavrilo and Ivan, sits down at a table, takes out a French newspaper from his pocket, and reads it. Vozhevatov enters from the right.

Vozhevatov (bowing respectfully). Moky Parmenych, I have the honor of greeting you!

Knurov. Ah, Vasily Danilych! (He holds out a hand.) Where did you come from?

Vozhevatov. From the dock. (He sits down.)

Gavrilo comes closer.

Knurov. Were you meeting somebody?

Vozhevatov. I was supposed to but didn’t. I had a telegram yesterday from Sergey Sergeyich Paratov. I’m buying a steamboat from him.

Gavrilo. It’s not the Swallow, Vasily Danilych?

Vozhevatov. Yes, it’s the Swallow. What about it?

Gavrilo. It goes fast, it’s a strong boat.

Vozhevatov. But Sergey Sergeyich let me down, he didn’t come.

Gavrilo. You were expecting him to come on the Flier, but maybe he’ll come on his own boat, the Swallow.

Ivan. Vasily Danilych, there’s another boat coming down the river.

Vozhevatov. A lot of boats sail the Volga.

Ivan. That’s Sergey Sergeyich coming.

Vozhevatov. You think so?

Ivan. It looks like him, sir. The paddle boxes on the Swallow stand out a lot.

Vozhevatov. That means you’d be making out paddle boxes at five miles.

Ivan. I can make them out at seven miles, sir… And it’s coming fast, it’s clear the owner’s with it.

Vozhevatov. And how far is it?

Ivan. It’s come out from behind the island. It’s making a lot of headway, a lot.

Gavrilo. You say it’s making a lot of headway?

Ivan. A lot. An awful lot! It runs faster than the Flier, they’ve timed it.

Gavrilo. It’s him, sir.

Vozhevatov (to Ivan). You tell us when they start coming aside.

Ivan. Yes, sir. I suppose they’ll shoot from the cannon.

Gavrilo. They’re sure to.

Vozhevatov. What cannon?

Gavrilo. He has his own barges anchored in the middle of the Volga.

Vozhevatov. I know.

Gavrilo. One barge has a cannon. Whenever somebody meets Sergey Sergeyich or sees him off they always fire a salute. (Looking beyond the coffee house.) There’s one of Chirkov’s carriages going for him now, sir. They must have let Chirkov know he’d be coming, for Chirkov himself is on the box. That’s him they’re going for, sir.

Vozhevatov. But how do you know it’s for him?

Gavrilo. They’ve got four pacers lined up, it’s really for him. Who else would Chirkov make up four horses for? It’s even scary to look at them… they’re like lions… all four with snaffle bits! And the harness, the harness! They’re going for him, sir.

Ivan. And there’s a gypsy sitting on the box with Chirkov, he has a fancy Cossack coat on, and his belt’s so tight he could snap in two.

Gavrilo. They’re going after him, sir. It couldn’t be anyone else with four horses like those. It’s him, sir.

Knurov. Paratov lives in style.

Vozhevatov. Whatever else, he has plenty of style.

Knurov. Are you buying the boat cheap?

Vozhevatov. Cheap, Moky Parmenych.

Knurov. Yes, of course; otherwise, what’s the advantage of buying? Why is he selling it?

Vozhevatov. I suppose he doesn’t find any profit in it.

Knurov. Of course, how could he! That’s no business for a gentleman. But you’ll make a profit, especially if you buy it cheap.

Vozhevatov. It suits our purpose; we have a lot of cargo down the river.

Knurov. Maybe he needs the money… he’s a great spender, you know.

Vozhevatov. That’s his business. We have the money ready.

Knurov. Yes, with money a man can do business. (With a smile.) A man who has a lot of money, Vasily Danilych, that man’s in good shape.

Vozhevatov. How could he be in bad shape! You yourself know that better than any one, Moky Parmenych.


Knurov. I know it, I know it.

Vozhevatov. Moky Parmenych, couldn’t we have a cool drink?

Knurov. What do you mean, it’s still morning! I haven’t eaten yet.

Vozhevatov. That doesn’t matter, sir. There was an Englishman, a factory director, and he told me that if a man has a cold it’s a good idea to drink champagne on an empty stomach. And yesterday I caught a little cold.

Knurov. How could you do that? We’re having such warm weather now.

Vozhevatov. I caught cold from the drink itself; they served it up very cold.

Knurov. No, what’s the good of that? People will see us, and they’ll say: it’s hardly morning yet, and they’re drinking champagne.

Vozhevatov. But so people won’t say something bad, we’ll drink tea.

Knurov. Tea, that’s another matter.

Vozhevatov (to Gavrilo). Gavrilo, bring us some of my tea, you understand?… Mine!

Gavrilo. Yes, sir. (He goes off.)

Knurov. Do you drink a special kind?

Vozhevatov. It’s really champagne, but he’ll pour it into teapots and serve it in tea glasses with saucers.

Knurov. That’s smart.

Vozhevatov. Necessity is the mother of invention, Moky Parmenych.

Knurov. Are you going to Paris, to the exposition?

Vozhevatov. After I’ve bought the boat and sent it down the river for cargo, then I’ll go.

Knurov. Me too one of these days. I already have somebody waiting for me there.

Gavrilo brings a tray with two teapots containing champagne and two glasses.

Vozhevatov (pouring). Have you heard the news, Moky Parmenych? Larisa Dmitriyevna is getting married.

Knurov. Getting married! You can’t mean it! Who to?

Vozhevatov. Karandyshov.

Knurov. What kind of nonsense is that! It’s insanity! What’s Karandyshov! You know he’s no match for her, Vasily Danilych.

Vozhevatov. Of course he’s no match! But what can they do, where can they find a husband for her? After all, she doesn’t have any dowry.

Knurov. Even girls without a dowry can find good husbands.

Vozhevatov. Times have changed. There used to be enough eligible bachelors, even for girls without a dowry. But now there’s just enough for girls with a dowry, no extras for those without. Do you think Kharita Ignatyevna would marry her daughter off to Karandyshov if she could find anyone better?

Knurov. She’s a resourceful woman.

Vozhevatov. She can’t be Russian.

Knurov. Why not?

Vozhevatov. She’s so energetic.

Knurov. How could she make such a mistake? The Ogudalovs have a respectable family name, and just like that a marriage to the likes of Karandyshov!.. And with all her cleverness… their house is always full of bachelors!.

Vozhevatov. The men all go to her house because it’s so much fun there. Her daughter’s pretty, plays different instruments, sings, has a free and easy manner, all that attracts them. But getting married to her is something to think about.

Knurov. The other two daughters got married off.

Vozhevatov. They got married off all right, but you should ask them how sweet their life is. The oldest girl was taken away by some mountaineer, a young prince from the Caucasus. What fun that was! When he first saw her, he started to shake all over, he even began to cry. He stayed near her for a couple of weeks, he’d hold on to his dagger, and his eyes flashed so that nobody else came close. So they got married and went off, but they say he didn’t even get her to the Caucasus, that he killed her on the way from jealousy. The other girl got married too, to some sort of foreigner, only later it turned out that he was no foreigner at all but a card shark.

Knurov. Madame Ogudalov wasn’t dumb the way she figured it out. She doesn’t have any money and can’t give a dowry, so she keeps open house and receives everybody.

Vozhevatov. She likes to have fun herself, but she just doesn’t have the means for such a life.

Knurov. Then where does she get the money?

Vozhevatov. The suitors pay. If a man likes the daughter, than he shells out. Later on the mother will want money from the groom to pay for the dowry, only he shouldn’t ask for the dowry.

Knurov. Well, I don’t think it’s just the suitors who pay for it. Take you, for example. It must cost you a pretty penny to visit the family so often.

Vozhevatov. It won’t ruin me, Moky Parmenych. What’s a man to do? He has to pay for his pleasures, they don’t come free. And being in their home is a great pleasure.

Knurov. It really is a pleasure, you’re right there.

Vozhevatov. And yet you yourself are almost never there.

Knurov. It’s awkward; there’s so much riffraff there. You run into them later and they exchange greetings, then worm their way into a conversation. Karandyshov is one of them. What kind of an acquaintance is he for me!

Vozhevatov. Yes, their home is like a bazaar.

Knurov. So what’s the good of it? One fellow goes up to Larisa Dmitriyevna with his compliments, another with tender remarks, and they buzz away so you can’t get in a single word with her. I’d like to see her more often when she’s alone, without any interference.

Vozhevatov. Somebody ought to marry her.

Knurov. Marry her! Not everybody can, and not everybody even wants to. Me, for example, I’m a married man.

Vozhevatov. Then there’s nothing to be done. The grapes are pretty but not for picking,[2] Moky Parmenych.

Knurov. You think so?

Vozhevatov. That’s the way it seems. They don’t follow those procedures. There were a few times when they could have, but they weren’t tempted. It’s got to be marriage even if that means Karandyshov.

Knurov. But it would be nice to make a trip to the Paris exposition with a girl like that.

Vozhevatov. Yes, that wouldn’t be boring, a pleasant trip that. What plans you have, Moky Parmenych!

Knurov. And you’ve never had any plans like that?

Vozhevatov. How could I! I’m green at such things.

I just don’t have any boldness with women. You know, I was brought up in a terribly moral, old-fashioned way.

Knurov. Oh come now! Your chances are better than mine; you have youth, a big thing. And you won’t begrudge the money; you’re buying the boat cheap, so you can take it out of the profits. Still, you must realize it would cost you as much as the Swallow.

Vozhevatov. Every piece of goods has its price, Moky Parmenych. I may be young, but I won’t overdo it. I won’t give any more than I have to.

Knurov. Don’t guarantee it! At your age it wouldn’t take much to fall in love, and then we’d see what calculations you’d make!

Vozhevatov. No, Moky Parmenych, somehow or other I don’t notice that sort of thing in myself.

Knurov. What sort of thing?

Vozhevatov. What they call love.

Knurov. That’s commendable, you’ll make a good merchant. All the same, you’re a lot closer to her than the others.

Vozhevatov. But what does my being close to her amount to? Sometimes I’ll pour her an extra glass of champagne when her mother’s not looking, learn a song from her, bring her novels, the kind they don’t give girls to read.

Knurov. In other words, you’re corrupting her a little.

Vozhevatov. What’s that to me! After all, I’m not forcing myself on her. Why should I worry about her morals? I’m not her guardian.

Knurov. I just can’t get over it. Does Larisa Dmitriyevna really have no other suitors besides Karandyshov?

Vozhevatov. She had some, but she’s terribly naive.

Knurov. Naive, how? You mean she’s stupid?

Vozhevatov. She’s not stupid, but she’s not shrewd at all, she doesn’t take after her mother in that. Her mother’s always shrewd and full of flattering, but she for no reason at all will suddenly come out with something she doesn’t have to.

Knurov. You mean the truth?

Vozhevatov. Yes, the truth. But that’s something that young women without a dowry just can’t do. If she likes somebody, she doesn’t hide it at all. Last year Sergey Sergeyich Paratov showed up, and she couldn’t see enough of him. He kept coming for a couple of months, beat away all the other suitors, and then he flew the coop. Nobody knew where he disappeared to.

Knurov. Whatever possessed him to do that?

Vozhevatov. Who knows? He’s a hard one to figure out. But you should have seen how she loved him, she almost died from grief. How sentimental she was! (He laughs.) She set out to try and catch up with him, but her mother got her at the second stop and brought her back.

Knurov. And were there any suitors after Paratov?

Vozhevatov. Two came from somewhere. One was an old man with the gout. Then there was a manager for some prince or other; that manager had gotten rich, but he was always drunk. Larisa didn’t want to have anything to do with them, but she had to be nice to them, Mama’s orders.

Knurov. Her lot is not a happy one.

Vozhevatov. No, it’s even absurd. Sometimes there were a few tears in her eyes, and you could see she was about to cry, but Mama told her to smile. And then a cashier turned up. He threw his money all about, enough to cover Kharita Ignatyevna with it. He won the field over everybody, but he didn’t strut for long, they arrested him at his home. What a great scandal that was! (He laughs.) For about a month the Ogudalovs couldn’t go anywhere. It was then that Larisa told her mother point-blank, “We’ve put up with enough of this shame. I’ll marry the first one who comes along, whether he’s rich or poor. I’m not going to be choosy.” And up pops Karandyshov with his proposal.

Knurov. Where did this Karandyshov come from?

Vozhevatov. He’s been hanging around their house a long time, about three years. They didn’t chase him away, but they didn’t show him much respect either. When the lull set in and there weren’t any rich suitors in sight they held onto Karandyshov and gave him some invitations so the house wouldn’t be empty. But when some rich guy dropped in, it was simply pitiful to look at Karandyshov. They didn’t even talk to him or even look at him. And there he sat in his corner, playing his different roles, throwing out savage looks, pretending to be in despair. Once he wanted to shoot himself, but nothing came of that, he just made everybody laugh. And here’s the funny part. Once they had a costume party, and Paratov was there. So Karandyshov dressed himself up as a highway robber, took an axe in his hands, and threw wild looks at everybody, especially Sergey Sergeyich.

Knurov. Then what?

Vozhevatov. They took his axe away from him and told him to change his clothes or else he’d have to leave!

Knurov. What it all means is, he’s being rewarded for being faithful. He’s happy, I’m sure.

Vozhevatov. Happy and then some, glowing like an orange. It’s so funny! He’s really a nut. What he ought to do is marry her as soon as he can and take her away to his little estate till the talk dies down. The Ogudalovs would like that. But instead he drags Larisa along the boulevard on his arm with his head raised so high he’d run right into you if you didn’t watch out. And then for some reason he’s taken to wearing glasses, but he never used to wear them. When he bows he hardly nods his head, and he’s taken on a certain air. Before you’d hardly hear a word out of him, but now it’s always, “I this, I that, I want, I wish.”

Knurov. He’s like the Russian peasant. It’s not enough fun just getting drunk. He has to act high and mighty so everybody takes notice. So he gets up on his high horse, and they give him a thrashing or two. Then he’s satisfied and goes off to sleep.


Vozhevatov. Yes, I suppose that’s the sort of thing Karandyshov has to go through.

Knurov. Poor girl! She must suffer just looking at him.

Vozhevatov. He got the idea of decorating his apartment, and here’s what he dreamed up. In his study he put up a cheap tapestry on the wall, and he hung up daggers and pistols from Tula. That would be no surprise if he were a hunter, but he’s never held a gun in his life. So he drags you to his place and shows it all off to you, and you have to praise him for it or he’ll take offense. He’s a proud man, envious too. He ordered a horse from the country, some nag or other with different colors, and he has a little coachman who wears a coat handed down from a big coachman. And with that camel he takes Larisa Dmitriyevna driving; he sits there so proudly, as if he were driving with a thousand trotters. He walks up from the boulevard and shouts to the constable, “Have them bring my carriage!” So that carriage of his comes driving up with all its music, the screws and nuts all jangling out of tune, and the springs shaking as if they’re alive.

Knurov. I’m sorry for poor Larisa Dmitriyevna. I’m sorry for her.

Vozhevatov. Why are you so sorry for her?

Knurov. Don’t you see? Here’s a woman made for luxury. A precious jewel demands a costly setting.

Vozhevatov. And a good jeweler.

Knurov. That’s the whole truth. A jeweler and not just an ordinary workman; he has to be an artist. If she’s surrounded by poverty and married to a fool besides, she’ll either perish or become common.

Vozhevatov. But I think she’ll throw him over pretty soon. She’s like a dead woman now, but when she recovers and takes a closer look at her husband, sees what he’s like… (Quietly.) There they are now, speak of the devil.

Karandyshov, Madame Ogudalov, and Larisa enter. Vozhevatov stands up and bows. Knurov takes out a newspaper. Larisa sits down on a bench by the railing and looks through binoculars at the Volga.

Mme Ogudalov (walking over to the table). Greetings, gentlemen!

Karandyshov follows her over. Vozhevatov gives his hand to both of them. Knurov silently and not rising from his place gives his hand to Mme Ogudalov, nods slightly to Karandyshov, and buries himself in his newspaper.

Vozhevatov. Kharita Ignatyenva, please sit down. (He moves a chair forward.)

Mme Ogudalov sits down.

Wouldn’t you like some tea?

Karandyshov sits down some distance away.

Mme Ogudalov. All right, I’ll take a cup.

Vozhevatov. Ivan, bring a cup and add some boiling water.

Ivan takes the teapot and goes off.

Karandyshov. What a crazy idea to drink tea at this time of day? It amazes me.

Vozhevatov. It’s a question of thirst, Yuly Kapitonych, but just what I should drink I don’t know. Give me your advice, I’d appreciate it.

Karandyshov (looks at his watch). At the present moment it’s noon, so you could have a small glass of vodka, a chop, and then a small glass of good wine. That’s how I always lunch.

Vozhevatov (to Mme Ogudalov). Now that’s what I call living, Kharita Ignatyenva, it makes a man jealous. (To Karandyshov.) If I could only live one little day in your shoes. A bit of vodka, a bit of wine! But we can’t do that, sir, we might lose our powers of reasoning. You can do what you want, you’re not running through your capital because you don’t have any, but we poor devils were born into the world with a lot of big deals to attend to, so we’re not allowed to lose our reason.

Ivan brings the teapot and a cup.

Kharita Ignatyenva, please! (He pours out a cup and hands it to her.) I drink my tea cold so people won’t say I use hot drinks.

Mme Ogudalov. The tea’s cold all right. Only, Vasya, you poured mine too strong.

Vozhevatov. That doesn’t matter, ma’am. Drink it, for my sake! It won’t do you any harm in the open air.

Karandyshov (to Ivan). Come to my house tonight to serve dinner.

Ivan. Yes, sir, Yuly Kapitonych.

Karandyshov. And listen, my friend, dress up for it.

Ivan. Of course, a frock coat. As if we didn’t understand that, sir.

Karandyshov. Vasily Danilych, tell you what! You come and have dinner with me tonight!

Vozhevatov. Thank you so much. And are you going to order me to come in a frock coat too?

Karandyshov. As you wish, don’t stand on ceremony. Still, there’ll be ladies.

Vozhevatov (bowing). Yes, sir. I hope I won’t disgrace myself.

Karandyshov (walks over to Knurov). Moky Parmenych, wouldn’t you like to come and have dinner with me tonight?

Knurov (looks at him in astonishment). With you?

Mme Ogudalov. Moky Parmenych, it’s the same as with us; this is a dinner for Larisa.

Knurov. I see, so it’s you who’s inviting me? Fine, I’ll come.

Karandyshov. I’ll look forward to seeing you, then.

Knurov. I already said I’d come. (He reads his newspaper.)

Mme Ogudalov. Yuly Kapitonych is my future son-inlaw; I’m letting him marry Larisa.

Knurov (continuing to read). That’s your affair.

Karandyshov. Yes, sir, Moky Parmenych, I took the risk. In general I’ve always been above prejudices.

Knurov hides behind the newspaper.

Vozhevatov (to Mme Ogudalov). Moky Parmenych is stern.

Karandyshov (moving from Knurov to Vozhevatov). I wish that Larisa Dmitriyevna be surrounded only by choice people.

Vozhevatov. Which means I’m one of the elect? Thank you, that’s something I wasn’t expecting. (To Gavrilo.) Gavrilo, how much do I owe you for the tea?

Gavrilo. You had two orders?

Vozhevatov. Yes, two orders.

Gavrilo. Then you should know yourself, Vasily Danilych, it’s not the first time… Thirteen rubles, sir.

Vozhevatov. I just thought it might have gotten cheaper.

Gavrilo. How could it have gotten cheaper! With the rate of exchange and the customs tax, really!

Vozhevatov. But I’m not arguing with you, why talk about it! Take your money and forget it! (He gives him the money.)

Karandyshov. But why is it so expensive? I don’t understand.

Gavrilo. It’s expensive for some but not for others. You don’t drink that kind of tea.

Mme Ogudalov (to Karandyshov). Stop it, don’t meddle in other people’s affairs.

Ivan. Vasily Danilych, the Swallow is coming in.

Vozhevatov. Moky Parmenych, the Swallow is coming in, wouldn’t you like to take a look? We won’t go down, we can look from the hill.

Knurov. Let’s go. I’m curious. (He gets up.)

Mme Ogudalov. Vasya, I’m going home in your carriage.

Vozhevatov. Take it, only send it back soon. (He goes over to Larisa and speaks quietly with her.)

Mme Ogudalov (goes over to Knurov). Moky Parmenych, we’ve embarked on a wedding, you just can’t believe how many troubles there are.

Knurov. Yes.

Mme Ogudalov. And suddenly there are unexpected expenses… And tomorrow’s Larisa’s birthday, I’d like to give her a present.

Knurov. Good, I’ll drop in on you.

Mme Ogudalov goes off.

Larisa (to Vozhevatov). Good-bye, Vasya!

Vozhevatov and Knurov leave. Larisa approaches Karandyshov.

Larisa. Just now I was looking across the Volga. How nice it is on the other side! Let’s go to the country as soon as we can!

Karandyshov. You were looking across the Volga? And what was Vozhevatov talking with you about?

Larisa. Nothing really, just little things. I want so much to go to the other side of the Volga, into the woods… (Thoughtfully.) Let’s go, let’s leave here!

Karandyshov. But it’s so strange! What could he have to talk with you about?

Larisa. Well, whatever he talked about, what business is it of yours?

Karandyshov. You call him Vasya. Why so familiar with a young man?

Larisa. We’ve known each other since childhood. When we were little we played together. So I’ve gotten used to calling him that.

Karandyshov. You’ll have to throw off your old habits. There’s no reason to be friends with a shallow and stupid boy. It’s not possible to tolerate the sort of life you’ve had so far.

Larisa (offended). There hasn’t been anything bad in our life.

Karandyshov. It’s been a gypsy camp, miss, that’s what it’s been. (Larisa wipes away some tears.) But why are you so offended!

Larisa. So maybe it has been a gypsy camp, but at least it’s been fun. Will you be able to give me something better than this camp?

Karandyshov. Of course.

Larisa. Why do you keep on reproaching me with it? Do you really think I’ve liked our kind of life? Mama told me how she wanted things, and so, whether I wanted to or not, I had to lead that kind of life. Throwing this gypsy life at me all the time is either stupid or heartless. If I weren’t looking for quiet and solitude, I wouldn’t be wanting to run away from people, and would I really be marrying you? So try to understand that and don’t go assigning my choice to your virtues, I don’t see them yet. I still only want to fall in love with you; I’m drawn to the quiet family life, it looks like some kind of heaven. You can see I’m standing at the crossroads, so give me support, I need encouragement and sympathy. Deal with me tenderly, with affection. Seize these moments, don’t let them pass.

Karandyshov. Larisa Dmitriyevna, I didn’t mean to offend you at all, somehow the words just came to my tongue…

Larisa. What is that “somehow”? You mean you weren’t thinking, that you didn’t understand your words might be offensive?

Karandyshov. Exactly, I did it without any intent.

Larisa. That makes it even worse. You should think about what you say. Chatter away with others if you like, but with me speak more carefully. Can’t you see my position is very serious! I feel every word I say and hear. I’ve become very sensitive and impressionable.

Karandyshov. In that case please forgive me.

Larisa. All right, only in the future be more careful. (Thoughtfully.) Gypsy camp… Yes, that’s true… but in that camp have been some good and noble people.

Karandyshov. What noble people? You don’t perhaps mean Sergey Sergeyich Paratov?

Larisa. No, please, don’t speak of him.

Karandyshov. And why not?

Larisa. You don’t know him, and even if you did know him, well… forgive me, but it’s not for you to pass judgment on him.

Karandyshov. People are judged by their actions. Do you think he acted well with you?

Larisa. That’s my affair. If I’m afraid to, if I don’t dare to pass judgment on him, then I’m not going to let you do it.

Karandyshov. Larisa Dmitriyevna, tell me something. Only please, speak frankly.

Larisa. What is it?

Karandyshov. How am I any worse than Paratov?

Larisa. Oh no, don’t ask that!

Karandyshov. But why not?

Larisa. Better not, better not! How can there be any comparison!

Karandyshov. That’s what I’d like to hear from you.

Larisa. Don’t ask, there’s no need!

Karandyshov. But why not?

Larisa. Because the comparison will not be to your advantage. By yourself you have value, you’re a good and honest man. But in comparison with Sergey Sergeyich you lose everything.

1Name of a town on the Volga which existed in the seventeenth century.
2Altered quotation from the fable “The Fox and the Grapes” (Lisitsa i vinograd) by I. Krylov based on Aesop’s fable with the same title.

Книги этой серии:
  • Without a dowry / Бесприданница. Книга для чтения на английском языке