Aleksandr Nicolaevich Ostrovsky.

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woman's married here she might as well be buried, - it's all the same.
_(Silence.)_ If only I had never seen her; it would have been better for
me! I can only see her by snatches, and before people, - who are all eyes,
staring at one. It's simply heartrending. And yet there's no mastering
oneself. If I go out for a walk, I always find myself here at the gate.
And what use is there in coming here? There's never any chance of seeing
her, and what's more, it may give rise to gossip and do her harm. Well,
it's a fine town, certainly!

[_He is going, Kuligin comes, meeting him._

Well, sir? out for a walk?

Yes, it's very pleasant out now.

Very pleasant it is, sir, walking now. The stillness, the sweet air, the
scent of flowers from the far side of the Volga, the clear sky -

The space aloft, filled full of stars,
Stars numberless, space limitless.

Shall we go to the parade, there's not a soul there.

Yes, come along.

That's our town all over, sir! Here they've made a parade, but they don't
walk there. They only walk out on fête days, and then they only make a
show of being out for a walk. They really come out to show off their best
clothes. You never meet anyone but maybe a drunken attorney's clerk
reeling home from the tavern. The poor have no time, sir, to walk out;
they must work and worry day and night. Three hours' sleep is all they get
out of the twenty-four. But what are the rich about? You'd wonder why they
shouldn't walk about and enjoy the fresh air. But not a bit of it! They've
all had their gates, sir, locked up long ago, and their dogs let loose.
... Do you suppose they are at work at their business, or praying to God?
No, sir! And it's not for fear of thieves they lock themselves up; it's
that folks shouldn't see the way they ill-treat their household, and bully
their families. And the tears that flow behind those bolts, unseen,
unheard of! But there's no need to tell you that, sir! You can judge of it
for yourself. And the sordid sodden vice within those barred gates, sir!
And all hidden and buried - no one sees or knows anything of it, God alone
beholds it! Stare at me as you like, say they, in the street and among
folk, but you've nothing to do with my family; that's what I have locks
for, and bolts and bars and savage dogs. The family's something apart,
secret! We know all about such secrets! - secrets, sir, that make one man
merry, perhaps, while the rest are weeping and wailing. Much secrecy about
it! Everyone knows! Robbing their orphans, kinsfolk, nephews, beating
their dependents till they're too cowed to hint at what goes on within
doors, - there's no great secret in that! But that's enough of them! Do you
know, sir, who do go for walks here? The young fellows and girls. They
steal an hour or two from sleep and walk out in couples. There's a couple
over there!

[_Kudriash and Varvara are seen. They kiss._

They are kissing.

We don't think much of that.

[_Kudriash goes off, and Varvara goes towards her own gate and beckons
Boris, he goes up to her._



I'll go to the parade, sir. I'm in your way. I'll wait for you there.

Very well, I'll come directly.

VARVARA (_hiding her face in her kerchief_).
Do you know the hollow behind the Kabanovs' garden?


You come there a little later on.

What for?

How stupid you are! Come; then you'll see what for. Well, you'd better
make haste now, since that person's waiting for you. (_Boris goes_.)
There, he didn't know me! Well, now let him wonder, I know very well that
Katerina won't hold out, she'll run out to see him. [_Goes in at the gate.


The scene changes.

A hollow dell covered with bushes; at the top of it the Kabanovs' garden
and a gate; a path leading down from it.

(_Kudriash enters with a, guitar_.)

No one. What is she up to? Well, I'll sit and wait for her. (_Seats
himself on a stone_) This is slow; I'll sing a song (_sings_).

As the Don Cossack, the Cossack, leads his horse to drink,
The brave young man, he stands at the gate,
At the gate he stands, and ponders in his heart,
In his heart he ponders, how he will slay his wife.
And the wife, the wife besought him,
Falling down at his swift feet;
Master, friend of my heart, I pray thee,
Strike me not, slay me not in the evening!
But kill me, slay me after midnight!
Let my little children be asleep,
My little children, and all my good neighbours. [_Enter Boris_.



KUDRIASH (_stops singing_). Hullo! Such a sober, staid person as you, out
on the spree too?

Kudriash, is that you?

It is, Boris Grigoritch.

What are you here for?

What for? I suppose because I want to be here, Boris Grigoritch, since I
am here. I shouldn't have come if I hadn't wanted to. Where is fortune
taking you?

BORIS (_looking carefully at the scene around him_).
Look here, Kudriash, I've got to stop here, and I've no doubt it's all the
same to you, so you might go and sit in some other place.

No, Boris Grigoritch, you're here, I perceive, for the first time, but
this is a place where I have often sat, and this little path has been
trodden by my feet. I like you, sir, and am ready to do you any service;
but you'll kindly refrain from meeting me in this path at night, lest evil
come of it. Fair words are better than gold.

What is the matter with you, Vania?

Vania, indeed! I know my name's Vania. But you go on your way, that's all
about it. Find a girl to your liking, and walk out with her to your
heart's content, and no one will say a word to you. But don't meddle with
other fellows' girls! That's not the way we do things here, or the fellows
will break your legs for you. For my girl ... Well, I don't know what I
wouldn't do! I'd cut your throat!

You're angry for no reason; I've not the slightest idea of robbing you of
her. I shouldn't have come here if I hadn't been told to.

Who told you to?

I couldn't make out, it was dark. A girl stopped me in the street and said
I was to come just here, behind the Kabanovs' garden, where there is a
little path.

Who could that be?

Listen, Kudriash. Could I speak to you openly, you wouldn't gossip?

You needn't be afraid of that! I'm as safe as the grave.

I know nothing of your habits and ways of doing things here; but the fact
is ...

You're in love.

Yes, Kudriash.

Oh, well, that's all right. We're free enough in that way. The girls amuse
themselves as they like, and the father and mother have nothing to say to
it. It's only the wives are kept shut up.

That's just what's so sad.

You don't mean to say you're in love with a married woman?

She is married, Kudriash.

Ah, Boris Grigoritch, you must drop that!

It's easy to say drop it! I daresay it's all the same to you, you'll throw
up one and pick up another easily enough! But I can't do like that! If
once I love ...

That's as much as to say you're ready to ruin the poor thing completely,
Boris Grigoritch!

God forbid! God forbid! No, Kudriash, how can you! I ready to ruin her! I
only want to see her, to speak to her, I ask for nothing more.

You can't answer for yourself like that, sir! And just think what sort of
people you have to deal with here. You know them yourself. They'd be the
death of her, they'd torment her into the grave.

Ah, don't say that, Kudriash, please don't frighten me!

But does she care for you?

I don't know.

Have you ever met then?

I have only once been in their house with my uncle. And I see her in
church, and pass her sometimes on the parade. Ah, Kudriash, how she prays,
if you could see her! the angelic smile on her face! her face seems to
shed light.

Oh, then it's the young wife of Kabanov.

Yes, Kudriash.

Oh, so that's it! Well, I humbly congratulate you!

What for?

Well, things look promising for you, since she's sent you word to come

Can it be she sent word?

Why, who else could it be?

No, you're making fun of me! It can't be so. (_Clutches his head_.)

What's the matter?

I shall go mad with joy.

What next! I can't see anything to go mad about! You look out that you
don't make a mess of things and get her into trouble! Her husband's a
fool, we all know, but her mother-in-law is terrible.

[_Varvara comes out of the gate._


The Same and VARVARA, afterwards KATERINA.

VARVARA (_at the gate, sings_).
"Beyond the river, the swift river,
My Vania's walking, dear Vania's walking" ...

KUDRIASH (_going on with the song_).
"Going to the fair." (_Whistles._)

VARVARA (_comes down the path and, hiding her face in her kerchief, goes
up to Boris_).
You wait a bit, lad. You've something to wait for. (_To Kudriash_) Let's
go to the Volga.

Why have you been so long? Kept me waiting again! You know I don't like
it! (_Varvara puts one arm round him and they walk away._)

It's like a dream! This night, and singing and trysts! They're walking,
their arms round each other. It is so new for me, so sweet! Here I am
waiting for something. And what I am waiting for - I know not and cannot
picture to myself; only my heart is throbbing and every nerve is
quivering. I cannot think even what to say to her, I can hardly breathe,
my knees are shaking! My stupid heart is in my mouth, I can't quiet it.
Here she comes. (_Katerina slowly comes down the path, wrapt in a large
white kerchief, her eyes fixed on the ground. Silence._) Is it you?
Katerina Petrovna? (_Silence._) How can I ever thank you, - I don't know.
(_Silence._) If you only knew, Katerina Petrovna, how I love you!

[_Tries to take her hand._

KATERINA (_with terror, but not raising her eyes_).
Do not touch me, do not touch me! Alas, alas!

Do not be angry!

Go away from me, go away, unhappy man! Do you know that never by any
prayer can I be free of this sin, never again! Like a stone it will lie on
my soul, like a stone.

Do not send me away!

Why did you come? Why did you come for my undoing? I am a wife, you know,
I must live with my husband, till I lie in the grave....

You told me yourself to come ...

Till the grave; do you understand?

Better if I had never seen you.

KATERINA (_with great emotion_).
You see what I am preparing for myself? What is the only place left for

Calm yourself. (_Takes her hand_) Sit down!

Why do you wish for my ruin?

How can I wish to injure you, when I love you more than anything in the
world, more than myself?

No, no! You have been the undoing of me.

Am I such a wicked wretch?

KATERINA (_shaking her head_).
I am lost, lost, lost!

God forbid! I'd rather perish myself!

Have I not forsaken my home, and come out to you in the night?

You came of your own free will.

I have no will. If I had had any will left of my own, I would not have
come to you. (_Lifts her eyes and looks at Boris. A short silence_.) Your
will is upon me now, don't you see that? [_Sinks on his neck_.

BORIS (_puts his arms about Katerina_).
My life!

Ah, if death would come quickly now!

Why die when life is so sweet for us?

No, life is not for me! I know it is not for me!

Don't say such things, please, don't torture me.

Yes, you are happy, you are free as the air, but I! ...

No one shall know of our love. Do you think I have no feeling for you?

Ah! Why feel for me, it's no one's fault. I have come to this of myself.
Don't think of me! Anyone may know, anyone may see what I do! (_Takes
Boris in her arms_.) Since I have not feared to do wrong for you, am I
likely to fear the judgment of men? They do say, it will be better for
one, if one has to suffer here on earth for any sin.

Come, why think of that, when we are happy now!

Why, truly! I shall have long years to weep enough hereafter.

And I was so frightened, I thought you would send me away.

KATERINA (_smiling_).
Send you away! How could I? Not with my heart. If you had not come, think
I should have gone to you myself.

I never even guessed you loved me.

I have loved you for so long. It's as though, for my sins, you came here
to torment me. Directly I saw you I ceased to belong to myself. From the
first moment, I believe, if you had beckoned to me, I would have followed
you; to the ends of the earth I would have followed you, and never looked

Has your husband gone away for long?

For a fortnight.

O, then we will be happy! that is a long time.

We will be happy. And then ... (_sinks into dreamy musing_). If they lock
me up, that will be my death! And if they don't lock me up, I will find
some way to see you again! [_Enter Kudriash and Varvara_.


The Same, with KUDRIASH and VARVARA.

Well, have you made friends? (_Katerina hides her face on Boris's


You might go and walk about a bit and let us rest. When it's time to go
in, Vania will shout. (_Boris and Katerina go away, Kudriash and Varvara
sit down on the stone_.)

This is a first-rate plan, getting out at the garden gate. It's fine and
convenient for us.

It's all my doing.

There's no one like you for such things. But what if your mother catches

Oh! How could she? It would never enter her head!

But if by ill luck, it were to?

Her first sleep is sound; in the early morning now, there is more chance
of her being awake.

But there's never any knowing! Some evil spirit might rouse her up.

Well, even then! Our gate into the yard is locked on the inside, the
garden side; she would knock and knock and then go away. And in the
morning we'd declare we'd been sound asleep and heard nothing. Besides,
Glasha's on the lookout; the faintest sound, she'd let us know in a
minute. One can't do anything without some risk! No, indeed! the only
thing is to mind what one's about and not get into a scrape. (_Kudriash
strikes a few cords on the guitar. Varvara leans on the shoulder of
Kudriash who plays softly, paying no attention to her. Varvara yawning_)
How could we find out what time it is?

It's one o'clock.

How do you know?

A watchman struck one blow on his board just now.

VARVARA (_yawning_).
It's late. Shout to them! We'll get out earlier tomorrow, so as to have

KUDRIASH (_gives a whistle and then sings loudly_)

They're all going home!
They're all going home!
But I won't go home!

BORIS (_behind the scenes_).
I hear!

VARVARA (_gets up_).
Well, good-bye! (_yawns, then gives a cool kiss to Kudriash, as if he were
an old and very intimate friend_). To-morrow mind you come earlier!
(_Looks in the direction in which Boris and Katerina went away_) You've
said good-bye enough, you're not parting for ever, you'll see each other
to-morrow (_yawns and stretches, Katerina hurries in, followed by Boris_).



Come, let us go now, let us go! (_They go up the path, Katerina turns
round_). Good-bye!

Till to-morrow.

Yes, to-morrow! Tell me what you dream to-night!

[_The girls reach the gate_.

Yes, yes.

KUDRIASH (_sings and plays guitar_)
Come out, lassie, while you may
Till the glow of setting day!
Ai-lalee, while you may,
Till the glow of setting day!

VARVARA (_at the gate_).
Aye, my laddie, while I may,
Till the glow of break of day!
Ai-lalee, while I may,
Till the glow of break of day!

When the sun has risen fair
And I may not linger mair.
[_Exit singing._



In the foreground a narrow arcade running round an old building which has
begun to fall into decay; bushes and grass about it; in the background the
banks of the Volga and view beyond it.

(_Several Persons of both Sexes approach the Arcade._)

It's spotting with rain, seems as though it might be a storm coming on.

Look, it's gathering yonder.

A good thing we've somewhere to take shelter.

[_They all go under the arches._

What a lot of folks out on the parade, too! To-day being a holiday,
everyone's out walking. The merchants' ladies all pranked out in their

They'll stand up somewhere out of the rain.

Look, at the people hurrying this way now!

FIRST (_staring round at the walls_).
I say, old fellow, it must have been covered with paintings once, do you
know. One can make them out even now, here and there.

To be sure! Of course the walls were covered with paintings. Now it's all
been let go to rack and ruin, and the old place is falling to pieces.
There's been nothing done to it since the fire. But to be sure you don't
remember that fire, it will be forty years ago.

Whatever's this picture here, old fellow? It's not easy to make out what
it's about.

That's a picture of the torments of hell.

Oh! so that's what it is!

And there's folks of all sorts and conditions going down into the fire,

To be sure, yes, I understand it now.

Of every sort and rank.

And niggers too?

Yes, niggers too.

And I say, old fellow, what's this?

That's the Lithuanian invasion. A battle, d'ye see? Our men fighting with
the men of Lithuania.

Who were these Lithuanians?

Can't say. Lithuanians, to be sure.

But they do say, you know, they fell down on us from heaven.

I can't tell about that, I daresay they did.

What ignorance! Why, everyone knows the Lithuanians fell from heaven. Well
to be sure! and it was in memory of the battle with them that these mounds
were made.

There, old fellow! That's so, you see!

[_Enter Dikoy and Kuligin, his head bare. All the bystanders bow and
assume a respectful air on seeing Dikoy._


The Same, DIKOY and KULIGIN.

Ugh, I'm wet through. (_To Kuligin_) Get away from me! Let me alone!
(_Angrily_) Fool of a man!

Saviol Prokofitch, it would be conferring a benefit, your worship, on all
the residents in the town.

Go along! A mighty benefit! Who wants such a benefit?

And on you, indeed, your worship, Saviol Prokofitch. To be set up, for
instance, on the parade in the open space. And as for expense, - the
expense would be trifling: a stone column (_indicates the size of each
thing by gestures_), a copper disc, round like this, and a pivot, an
upright pivot (_shows, gesticulating_) of the simplest description. I will
put it all up and carve the figures on the face myself too. And, your
worship, when you are pleased to take a walk, or any other people are out
walking, you will go up to it, and see at once what o'clock it is. As it
is, it's a fine position and a fine view and all, but, as it were, it
wants something. And we have visitors too, your worship, who come here to
see our views, and it will always be an ornament, - a pleasant object for
the eye to rest on.

But why on earth do you come pestering me with every sort of idiocy? It's
possible, don't you see, that I don't want to talk to you. You ought first
to ascertain whether I am disposed to listen to you or not, you dolt. What
am I to you? ... am I your equal, eh? Damn the fellow! A mighty clever
idea he's hit upon! And then up he must come and straightway start holding
forth upon it.

If I were about my own business, I should be to blame certainly. But I am
speaking in the public interest, your worship. And it's no great matter
spending about a pound on a public object! More than that would not be
needed, sir.

I daresay you'd like to pocket the money; who knows anything of you?

Seeing that I want to give my services for nothing, your worship, how
could I pocket anything? And everyone knows me here; no one can say any
harm of me.

They may know you, for all I care, but I don't want to know you.

Why insult an honest man, sir?

Am I to account to you for what I say or do? Let me tell you I allow no
one to criticise my actions - no, not folks of far more consequence than
you. I shall think of you as I choose to think of you. Others may say
you're an honest man, but I look upon you as a brigand, and that's all
about it. You seem anxious to hear my opinion, so here it is! I say you're
a brigand, and nothing else! Do you want to have the law of me, hey? Very
well then, let me tell you you're a worm. If I choose, I spare you; if I
choose, I can trample you under foot!

So be it, Saviol Prokofitch! I am only a poor man, sir, it costs little to
be rude to me. But let me remind you, your honour, virtue is honourable
even in rags!

None of your insolence now! Mind that!

I am not being insolent to you in any way, sir, and I merely addressed you
because I thought you might have a mind to do something for the town
sometime. You have a great deal of power, your worship, if only you had
the wish to do some good. Now, for instance, we've storms so often, and
yet we don't put up lightning conductors.

DIKOY (_haughtily_).
It's all vanity!

How can it be vanity when experiments have been made.

What sort of lightning conductors are you talking about?

Steel ones.

DIKOY (_wrathfully_).
Well, and what then?

Steel rods.

DIKOY (_getting more and more furious_).
I hear they're steel rods, you viper, but what of it? Granted they're
steel rods! Well, what of it?


And what is the cause of a storm to your notions, hey? Come, speak up!


DIKOY (_stamping_).
'Lectricity he says! Ah, a brigand you are and no mistake! a storm is sent
as a chastisement to make us feel our sins, and you want with rods and
tackle of one sort and another, God forgive you, to ward it off! What, are
you a Tartar or what? Are you a Tartar? Speak up! A Tartar, hey?

Saviol Prokofitch, your honour, Derzhavin said:

In body, I languish in the dust,
In mind, I command the tempest.

For such words you ought to be led off to the police captain, he'd give it
to you! Just listen, worthy citizens, what the fellow is saying!

There's no help for it, I must submit! But when I have made my fortune,
then you'll see how I'll talk!

[_With a wave of his hand goes out._

What! are you going to steal a fortune? Stop him! The false scoundrel! How
ever is one to treat such people! I don't know. (_Turning to the crowd_)
And you, damned rascals, you're enough to make anyone swear! Here I'd no
wish to lose my temper, and he must needs go and put me out, as if it were
on purpose. Curse the fellow! (_angrily_) Has the rain given over, eh?

I fancy it has.

You fancy! go and see, you fool. Tell me, you fancy, indeed!

FIRST (_going outside the arches_).
It has left off!

[_Dikoy goes out and all follow him. The scene is empty for a little
while. Varvara runs quickly in under the arcade and, hiding herself, peeps


VARVARA and later BORIS.

I believe it's he! (_Boris advances from the background of the scene_.)
Sss-sss! (_Boris looks round_.) Come here. (_She beckons, Boris goes up to
her_.) What are we to do with Katerina? For mercy's sake tell me!

Why, what is it?

It's terrible, that's all. Her husband has come back, do you know that? We
didn't expect him, but he's here.

No, I didn't know it.

She's simply beside herself.

It seems as if I had only lived for these ten short days that he has been
away. And now not to see her!

Oh, I've no patience with you! I've something to tell you! She's shaking

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Online LibraryAleksandr Nicolaevich OstrovskyThe Storm → online text (page 4 of 6)