Aleksandr Nicolaevich Ostrovsky.

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If you care to listen to your mother, you'll do as I have told you,
directly you get there.

How could I possibly disobey you, mother!

Young folks show little respect to their elders, nowadays.

VARVARA (_to herself_).
Not respect you, my dear? That's likely!

I think, mamma, I never depart a hairsbreadth from your will.

I might believe you, my son, if I hadn't seen with my own eyes and heard
with my own ears how little reverence parents receive nowadays from
children! They might at least remember all the sufferings a mother has to
put up with for her children.

Mamma, I....

If the mother that bore you does at times say a word that wounds your
pride surely you might put up with it! Hey, what do you think?

But, mamma, when have I not put up with anything from you?

The mother's old, and foolish, to be sure; you young people must not be
too exacting with us old fools.

KABANOV (_sighs, aside_).
Oh, merciful Heavens! (_To his mother_) We should never dare think such a
thing for a moment, mamma!

It's out of love that parents are severe with you, out of love they scold
even - they're always thinking how to train you in the right way. To be
sure, that's not in favour nowadays. And children go about among folks
proclaiming that their mother's a scold, that their mother won't let them
stir, that she's the plague of their life. And if - Lord save us - some word
of hers doesn't please her daughter-in-law, then it's the talk all over
the place, that the mother-in-law worries her to death.

You don't mean that anyone talks about you, mamma?

I haven't heard so, my son, I haven't; I don't want to tell a lie about
it. If I had, indeed, I shouldn't be talking to you like this, my dear.
(_Sighs_) Ah, sin is a heavy burden! Sin is never far off! Something said
goes to the heart, and there, one sins, one gets angry. No, my son, say
what you like about me, there's no forbidding anyone to talk; if they
don't dare before one's face, they'll do it behind one's back.

May my tongue wither up and...

Hush, hush, don't swear! It's a sin! I've seen plain enough for a long
time past that your wife's dearer to you than your mother. Ever since you
were married, I don't see the same love for me that I did in you.

In what way do you see me changed, mamma?

In everything, my son! When a mother doesn't see a thing with her eyes,
her heart's so sensitive she can feel it with her heart. Or maybe it's
your wife sets you against me, I can't say.

Oh no, mamma! how can you say so, really?

I look upon you as I would on my own mother, and indeed Tihon loves you

You might hold your tongue, I should think, till you're asked a question.
You've no need to defend him, young madam, I'm not going to hurt him, no
fear! He's my son too, let me tell you; don't you forget it! What do you
want to fire up and display your feelings before folks for! That we may
see you love your husband? We know that, we know that, you show off before

VARVARA (_to herself_).
A nice place she's pitched on to read us a sermon!

You have no need to say that of me, mamma. I am just the same before
people, as I am by myself. I make no show of anything.

And I'd no intention of speaking about you at all, but it happened to come

Even so, why need you attack me?

My, what a stuck-up thing she is! Here she's in a huff directly!

No one likes to put up with unjust blame.

I know, I know my words are not to your liking, but that can't be helped.
I'm not a stranger to you, it makes my heart grieve to see you. I've seen
for a long time past that you want your own way. Well, well, you've only
to wait a bit, you'll have it all your own way when I'm dead and gone.
Then to be sure you can do as you please, there'll be no elders then to
look after you. And, maybe, you will think of me then.

But we pray God night and day for you, mamma, that God may grant you
health, and every blessing and success in all you do.

Come, give over, please. I daresay you did love your mother, while you
were a bachelor. But you've no thoughts for me now you've a young wife.

The one doesn't hinder the other. A wife is something different, but for
my mother I have a reverence quite apart.

Then would you give up your wife rather than your mother? No, that I'll
never believe.

But why should I give up either? I love both.

Oh, I daresay, I daresay, you may talk away! I see plain enough that I'm a
hindrance to you.

You must think as you please, it's for you to decide in everything. Only I
can't comprehend why I was ever born into the world so unlucky as not to
be able to please you anyhow.

What do you mean by whimpering like a sick child! A pretty husband, upon
my word! You should just see yourself! Do you suppose your wife will fear
you after that?

Why should she fear me? I'm content, if she loves me.

Why should she fear you! Why should she fear you! What do you mean? Why,
you must be crazy! If she doesn't fear you, she's not likely to fear me. A
pretty state of confusion there would be in the house! Why, you're living
with her in lawful wedlock, aren't you? Or does the law count for nothing
to your thinking? If you do harbour such fools' notions in your brain, you
shouldn't talk so before her anyway, nor before your sister, that's a girl
still. She'll have to be married too; and if she catches up your silly
talk it's her husband will thank us afterwards for the lessons we've
taught her. You see how little sense you've got, and yet you want to be
independent and live as you like.

But indeed, mamma, I don't want to be independent. How ever could I be

So, to your thinking then, kindness is all that's needed with a wife?
Mustn't even scold her then, or threaten her?

But, indeed, mamma....

MME. KABANOVA (_hotly_).
Wait till she sets up a lover.... Hey! But I daresay that's no
consequence either, to your thinking? Hey? Come, speak?

But, mercy on us, mamma....

MME. KABANOVA (_perfectly coolly_).
Fool! (_Sighs_) What's the use of talking to a fool! it's simply a sin!
(_Silence_) I'm going home.

We'll come directly too; we'll only take one or two more turns on the

Very well; do as you like, only mind you don't keep me waiting! You know I
don't like that.

Oh no, mamma! God forbid!

Mind you don't then!



The Same, except MME. KABANOVA.

There, you see how I always catch it from mamma on your account! A nice
sort of life I lead!

Is it my fault?

I don't know whose fault it is.

Is it likely you would know?

She used to keep on at me, "You must get a wife, you must get a wife, I'm
longing to see you a married man." And now she worries my life out, and
gives me no peace - all on your account.

Well, it's not her fault! Mother attacks her, and you too. And then you
say you love your wife. It makes me sick to look at you. (_Turns away_.)

Talk away! What am I to do?

Mind your own business - hold your tongue, if you can't do anything better.
Why do you stand there shilly-shallying? I can see by your face what's in
your mind.

Why, what?

What? - Why, that you want to go in and have a drink with Saviol
Prokofitch. Eh? isn't that it?

You've hit it, old girl.

Come back quickly, Tihon dear, or mamma will be scolding again.

Yes, indeed, you must look sharp, or you'll know what to expect.

I should think I do!

We've no great desire to get into a row for your sake either.

I'll fly. Wait for me!




So you are sorry for me, Varia?

VARVARA (_looking away_).
Of course, I am.

Then you love me, don't you? (_Kisses her warmly._)

Love you? Of course.

Thank you! you are so sweet, I love you dearly. (_Silence_) Do you know
what I'm thinking?


What a pity people can't fly!

I don't know what you mean.

What a pity people can't fly like birds. Do you know I sometimes fancy I'm
a bird. When one stands on a high hill, one feels a longing to fly. One
would take a little run, throw up one's arms, and fly away! Couldn't we
try it now? (_Makes as though she would run._)

What will you make up next?

KATERINA (_sighs_).
How I used to love play and frolic! But in your house I'm growing old and

Do you suppose I don't see it?

How different I used to be! I lived without a care in my heart, as free as
a bird. Mother adored me, dressed me up like a doll, and never forced me
to work; I could do just as I liked. Do you know how I passed my days as a
girl? I'll tell you. I used to get up early; if it was summer I used to go
to the spring, and bathe, and bring back water with me, and water all the
flowers in the house, every one of them. Then mother and I used to go to
church, and all the pilgrim women - our house was simply full of pilgrims
and holy women. We used to come back from church, and sit down to some
work, often embroidery in gold on velvet, while the pilgrim women would
tell us where they had been, what they had seen, and the different ways of
living in the world, or else they would sing songs. And so the time would
pass till dinner. Then the older women lay down for a nap, while I would
run about in the garden. Then evensong, and in the evening, stories and
singing again. Ah, those were happy days!

But it's pretty much the same with us, if you come to that.

Yes, but here one feels somehow in a cage. And how passionately I loved
being in church! It was like stepping into Paradise, and I saw no one and
had no thought of time and did not hear when the service was over. It was
just as if it were all in one second. Mother used to say that often
everyone looked at me and wondered what had come over me! And you know, on
a sunny day, such a column of light streamed down from the golden cupola,
and a sort of mist moving in the light, like smoke, and at times I seemed
to see angels flying and singing in that bright light. And sometimes, dear
girl, I would get up at night - we had lamps always burning all over our
house, - and fall down in some corner and pray till morning. Or I would go
out into the garden early in the morning, when the sun was just rising,
fall on my knees and pray and weep, and not know myself what I prayed and
wept for; and so they would find me sometimes. And what I was praying for
then, what I besought God for - I couldn't say. I wanted nothing, I had
enough of everything. And what dreams I used to have, dear Varia, what
lovely dreams! Golden temples or gardens of some wonderful sort, and
voices of unseen spirits singing, and the sweet scent of cypress and
mountains and trees, not such as we always see, but as they are painted in
the holy pictures. And sometimes I seemed to be flying, simply flying in
the air. I dream sometimes now, but not often, and never dreams like

Why, what then?

KATERINA (_after a pause_).
I shall die soon.

What nonsense!

No, I know I shall die. Oh, dear girl, something not good is happening
with me, something strange. It has never been like this with me before.
There is something in me so incomprehensible. As though I were beginning
to live again, or ... I don't know what.

What is the matter with you?

KATERINA (_taking her hand_).
I'll tell you, Varia; some dreadful sin is coming upon me! I have such a
terror in my heart, such terror! As though I am standing on the edge of a
precipice and someone is pushing me in, and I have nothing to cling to.

[_Clutches her head in her hand._]

What's wrong with you? You can't be well.

Yes, I am well.... It would be better if I were ill, it's worse as it is.
A dream keeps creeping into my mind, and I cannot get away from it. I try
to think - I can't collect my thoughts, I try to pray - but I can't get free
by prayer. My lips murmur the words but my heart is far away; as though
the evil one were whispering in my ear, and always of such wicked things.
And such thoughts rise up within me, that I'm ashamed of myself. What is
wrong with me? There's some trouble, something before me! At night I do
not sleep, Varia, a sort of murmur haunts me; someone seems speaking so
tenderly to me, as it were cooing to me like a dove. And now I never
dream, Varia, those old dreams, of trees and mountains in Paradise; but
it's as though someone were clasping me passionately - so passionately and
leading me, and I follow him, I follow.


But what things I am saying to you, a young girl like you.

VARVARA (_looking about her_).
You can tell me! I'm worse than you.

Oh what am I to tell you? I'm ashamed.

You've no need! Tell away.

I am stifling, stifling at home, I should like to run away. And the fancy
comes to me that if I were my own mistress, I would float down the Volga
now, in a boat, to the singing of songs, or I would drive right away
clasped close....

But not with your husband.

How do you know that?

As if I didn't know!

Ah, Varia, there is sin in my heart! Alas, how often I have wept, I have
done everything I can think of! I can't get free from this sin. I can't
escape. Varia, it is wicked, it is a fearful sin - I love someone else!

I'm not likely to be hard upon you! I've sins enough of my own.

What am I to do? I'm at the end of my strength, where can I find help. I'm
so wretched, I shall do something dreadful.

Mercy on us! what is coming to you! Come, wait a bit, brother's going away
to-morrow, we'll think of something; maybe, you'll be able to see each

No, no, that must not be! What are you saying! God forbid!

Why are you frightened?

If I were once to see and speak with him, I should run away from home, I
would not go back home for anything in the world.

Oh well, wait a little, and then we shall see.

No, no, don't talk to me, I don't want to hear!

Why wear yourself out for nothing? You may die of grieving, do you suppose
they'll be sorry for you? Come, wait a bit. Why, what's the good of making
yourself miserable?

[_Enter the Old Lady with a stick and two footmen in three-cornered hats
behind her._


The same and the OLD LADY.

Hey, my pretty charmers? What are you doing here? Waiting for young
fellows, waiting for your beaus? Are your hearts merry? Merry are they?
Are you pleased and proud of your beauty? That's where beauty leads to.
(_Points to the Volga_) Yes, yes, to the bottomless pit! (_Varvara
smiles._) What, laughing? Let not your heart rejoice! (_Knocks with her
stick_) You will burn all of you in a fire unquenchable. You will boil in
the lake of flaming pitch. (_Going_) That is whither beauty leads you!




Ah, how she frightened me! I'm trembling all over, as if she were
foretelling something for me.

Her curse fall on her own head, the old witch!

What was it she said, eh? what did she say?

It was all rubbish. It's silly to listen to her raving. She foretells evil
like that to everyone. She was a sinner all her life from her youth up.
You should hear the stories they tell about her. So now she's afraid of
death. And she must try and frighten others with what she dreads herself.
Why even the little street boys hide away from her; she shakes her stick
at them and growls (_mimicking_) "you'll all burn in fire unquenchable!"

KATERINA (_shrinking_).
Ah, ah, stop! I can't bear it!

There's nothing to be frightened of! An old fool....

I am afraid, terribly afraid! I seem to see her all the while before us.

VARVARA (_looking round_).
I say, brother doesn't come, and yonder there's a storm coming up.

KATERINA (_in terror_).
A storm! Let us run home! Make haste!

Why, are you crazy? How can you show yourself at home without my brother?

No, let us go home! Never mind him!

But why are you so awfully frightened? The storm's a long way off yet.

If it's so far off, we'll wait then a little, if you like; but really it
would be better to go. Yes, we'd better go home.

But if anything were to happen, you know, you'd be no safer at home.

No, but still, it's better there, it's quieter; at home one can turn to
the holy pictures and pray to God!

I didn't know you were so afraid of a thunderstorm. I'm not afraid, you

Don't talk of not being afraid! Everyone must be afraid. What is dreadful
is not it's killing you, but that death may overtake you all of a sudden,
just as you are, with all your sins, with all your erring thoughts. I have
no fear of death, but when I think that I shall be brought all at once
before the face of God just as I am here, with you, after this
talk, - that's what is awful! What I had in my heart! What wickedness!
fearful to think of! (_Thunder._) Ah!

[_Enter Kabanov._

Here comes my brother. (_To Kabanov_) Hurry up!


Ah! Make haste! Make haste!



A room in the house of the Kabanovs.

GLASHA (_packing up clothes in a bundle_).


Dear girl, always at work! What are you doing, my dear?

I'm getting the master's things ready for his journey.

Is he going away then - the light of our eyes?


Is he going to be away long, my dear?

No, not long.

Well, God speed him on his way! And say, will the young mistress do a wail
for his going or not?

That I can't say, really.

But she does wail at times, I suppose?

Never heard of her doing it.

Well now, my dear, if there's one thing I love, it's to hear a wail well
done! (_Silence._) And mind you keep a sharp look out, my girl, on the
beggar woman below, that she don't lay her hands on anything.

Who's to tell the rights and wrongs of it with you begging pilgrims, you
all speak ill of one another. Why can't you live and let live? I should
have thought you wandering women get plenty in our house all of you, and
yet you must always be quarrelling and nagging at each other. Aren't you
afraid of such sin?

One can't be without sin, my good girl; we live in the world. I'll tell
you what, my dear; you, simple folk, are tempted of one devil, but we
pilgrim folk are beset, one with six, another with twelve devils; and here
we have to struggle against all at once. It's a hard fight, my dear, a
hard fight!

Why is it you have such a lot?

Ah, my good girl, that comes of the hatred the evil one has for us,
because we lead a life of such holiness. But I can't say, my dear, that
I'm one to gossip; that's not a sin of mine. One failing I have, truly; I
know myself what it is. I love dainty eating. Well, well, the Lord in His
mercy provides according to my weakness.

And have you travelled far in your wanderings, Feklusha?

No, my dear, owing to my weakness, I've never gone far away; but many a
thing I've heard. They do say, my dear, there are countries where there
are no Tsars of the true faith, but Sultans rule the lands. In one land
there is the Sultan Mahnoot the Turk on the throne - and in another the
Sultan Mahnoot the Persian. And they rule, my good girl, over all men, and
whatever they decree it's always unrighteous. And they cannot, my dear,
judge righteously in any one thing, such is the ban laid upon them. We
have a just law, but they, my dear, an unjust law. Everything that is one
way in our land is the very opposite in theirs. And all the judges with
them, in their countries, are unjust too, so that, do you know, my girl,
they even write in their petitions: "judge me, unjust judge!" And there is
a country too where all the men have the heads of dogs.

How do they come to have dogs' heads?

For their infidelity. I am going off on my rounds among the merchant
gentry, my dear, to see if there won't be some alms for poverty. Good-bye
for the present!

Good-bye! (_Exit Feklusha_.) Only fancy that there are lands like that!
There's no end to the marvels in the world. And here we sit at home and
know nothing. A good thing it is to be sure, that there are pious folk;
from time to time one hears what is being done in the light of day; if it
weren't for them, we should live and die in our foolishness.

_Enter Katerina and Varvara_.



VARVARA (_to Glasha_).
Carry the bundles down to the chaise, the horses are at the door. (_To
Katerina_) You were married off young, and you never had any fun when you
were a girl; and so your heart is restless still.

[_Glasha goes out._

And it always will be.


I have been like that from my birth up, full of fire! I was only six years
old, when do you know what I did? They offended me somehow at home, - it
was in the evening and quite dark - I ran away to the Volga, and got into a
boat, and pushed it off from the bank. They found me next morning, ten
miles down the river.

Really! And were there any men in love with you, as a girl?

Of course there were!

Well? And didn't you care for anyone?

No, I only laughed at them.

And you know, Katia, you don't love Tihon.

Oh, yes, I do! I'm dreadfully sorry for him.

Oh, no, you don't. If you're sorry for him you don't love him. And indeed
you've no great reason to, I must own. And it's no good your being so
close with me! I noticed a long while ago, that you were fond of some one.

KATERINA (_with dismay_).
How did you notice it?

How absurd you are! I'm not a baby! Well, I'll tell you the first sign I
knew by; directly you see him, your whole face is transformed. (_Katerina
drops her eyes._) And that's not all....

KATERINA (_still looking down_).
Well, whom then?

Why, you know, what's the use of telling his name?

No, tell it! Tell his name!

Boris Grigoritch.

Yes, yes, Varia! Only mind, Varia, for pity's sake....

What nonsense! _You'd_ better mind, and not betray yourself in any way.

I can't deceive, I don't know how to conceal anything.

But there's no doing without deceit; think where you're living! Our whole
house rests on it! I wasn't fond of lying either, but I learnt the trick,
when I had to. I was out walking yesterday, and so I saw him and had a few
minutes talk with him.

KATERINA (_after a short silence, looking down_).

He sent greetings to you. He was sorry, he said, that he never meets you.

KATERINA (_her head still more bent down_).
As if we could meet! And what would be the use....

He is so sad and unhappy....

Don't speak to me of him, for goodness' sake, don't speak of him! I don't
want to know him even. I will love my husband: Tisha, my dear one, no one
shall ever take your place! I did not want to think of him, you tempt me.

All right, don't think of him; no one compels you to.

You have no mercy on me! You say: don't think of him, and you mention him
yourself! Do you suppose I want to think of him; but what can I do, when I
can't get him out of my mind? Whatever I try to think, he seems always
standing before my eyes. And I try to be different, and I can't. Do you
know, last night, the evil one tempted me again. I was almost walking

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Online LibraryAleksandr Nicolaevich OstrovskyThe Storm → online text (page 2 of 6)