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that time I was able to do it; but not now. Trade is dull and my
business is going badly.

CHACHO. Possibly with your enemies, dear son; but there is nothing the
matter with your business.

OSSEP [_aside_]. There you have it! They insist that I let them inspect
my books. [_Aloud_.] Do you know, what, aunt? What I say I first
consider, for I do not like to speak to no purpose. If that young man
pleases you and my daughter, and you will have him at all hazards, I
have nothing against it. So therefore go to him; and if you can settle
the affair with 6,000 rubles, do it. I will gladly make the best of it;
but mind, this is my last word, and if you hang me up by the feet, I
will not add a single shilling.

CHACHO. What has come over you, Ossep? If you are willing to give 6,000
rubles, you will surely not let the whole thing go to pieces for the
sake of 500 or 1,000 more?

OSSEP. Do you know what, aunt? Even if a voice from heaven were to
demand it of me, that is my last word. Even if you flayed me alive, I
would not give another shilling.

CHACHO. Do not excite yourself, dear son. Let us first see. Perhaps it
can be settled with 6,000 rubles.

OSSEP. Yes, to that even I say yes.

SALOME. If a man can give 6,000, he can surely give 1,000 or 2,000 more.
Why do you fret yourself unnecessarily?

OSSEP [_aroused_]. God deliver me from the hands of these women! They
say that one woman can get the best of two men; and here I am alone and
fallen into the hands of two of you. Where, then, have you discovered
this confounded fellow of a son-in-law? That comes of his visits. What
has he to do with us? We are entirely different kind of people. [_To
Salome_:] He is neither your brother nor your cousin; why, then, does he
come running into our house? I believe he has been here as many as three
times. I decline once and for all his visits. May his foot never cross
my threshold!

CHACHO. Do not get excited, my son. Do not be vexed.

OSSEP. Now, aunt, you come so seldom to our house, and just to-day you
happen in: how does that come?

CHACHO. If you are so vexed about my visit, go down in the cellar and
cool yourself off a little.

OSSEP. I am a man; do you understand me? If I tell you that I can give
no more, you should believe me.

CHACHO. We believe it, truly; we believe it, but we must say to you,
nevertheless, that the dowry that a man gives his daughter means a great
deal. It does not mean buying a house, when it is laudable to be
economical. No; where the dowry is concerned, a man must think neither
of his pocket nor of his money-box. You were acquainted with Jegor? Did
he not sell his last house and afterward lived like a beggar to give
his daughter a proper dowry? When he died, was there not money for his
burial? That you know yourself very well. Are you any poorer than he,
that you grumble like a bear about 2,000 rubles?

OSSEP. O great Heavens! they will bring me to despair yet. Isn't this a
punishment of Providence, to bring up a daughter, spend a lot of money
on her education, and when you have done everything, then hang a bag of
gold around her neck, so that she may find someone who is kind enough to
take her home with him? A pretty custom!

SALOME. Against the manners and customs of the world you can do nothing,
however.

OSSEP. The devil take your manners and customs! If you hold so fast to
old ways, then stick to all of them. Is it an old custom to wear,
instead of Georgian shoes, little boots - and with men's heels, too? And
that a girl should be ashamed to go with her own people and should walk
around on the arm of a strange young man: is that also one of the good
old customs? Where can we find anything of the good old manners and
customs of our fathers, in the living or eating or housekeeping, or in
the clothing, or in balls and society? What! was it so in old times? Do
you still talk about old manners and customs? If once we begin to live
after the new fashion, let us follow it in all things. Why do we still
need to have bedclothes for twenty-four beds for guests? Why do we use
the old cupboard and cake-oven and sofa-cover? Why does one not visit a
mother with a young baby and stay whole months with them? Why does one
invite 100 persons to a wedding and give funeral feasts and let eighty
women mourners come and howl like so many dervishes? And what is that
yonder [_points to the furniture_]? That one is old-fashioned and the
others new-fashioned. If we can have one kind, why do we use the
other? [_Silent awhile_.

SALOME. Well, well! don't be angry! So you will give 6,000 rubles - you
have promised it. What is lacking I will procure.

OSSEP. You will procure it? Where, then, will you get it? Not some of
your own dowry, I hope.

SALOME. I had no dowry. Why do you tease me with that? No, everything I
have I will sell or pawn. The pearls, my gold ornaments, I will take off
of my _katiba_. The gold buttons can be melted. My brooch and my
necklace, with twelve strings of pearls, I will also sell; and, if it is
necessary, even the gold pins from my velvet cap must go. Let it all go!
I will sacrifice everything for my Nato. I would give my head to keep
the young man from slipping through my hands.
[_Exit hastily at left_.




SCENE VI

_Ossep. Chacho_.


OSSEP. Have you ever seen anything like it, aunt? I ask you, aunt, does
that seem right?

CHACHO. My son, who takes a thing like that to heart?

OSSEP. She is obstinate as a mule. Say, does she not deserve to be
soundly beaten, now?

CHACHO. It only needed this - that you should say such a thing! As many
years as you have lived together you have never harmed a hair of her
head; then all of a sudden you begin to talk like this. Is that
generous?

OSSEP. O aunt! I have had enough of it all. Were another man in my
place, he would have had a separation long ago. [_Sits down_.] If she
sees on anyone a new dress that pleases her, I must buy one like it for
her; if a thing pleases her anywhere in a house, she wants one in her
house; and if I don't get it for her she loses her senses. It is, for
all the world, as though she belonged to the monkey tribe. Can a man
endure it any longer?

CHACHO. The women are all so, my son. Why do you fret yourself so much
on that account?

OSSEP. Yes, yes; you have the habit of making out that all women are
alike - all! all! If other people break their heads against a stone,
shall I do the same? No; I do what pleases myself, and not what pleases
others.

CHACHO. Ossep, what nonsense are you talking? As I was coming here,
even, I saw a laborer's wife so dressed up that a princess could hardly
be compared with her. She had on a lilac silk dress and a splendid shawl
on her head, fine, well-fitting gloves, and in her hand she held a satin
parasol. I stood staring, open-mouthed, as she passed. Moreover, she
trailed behind her a train three yards long. I tell you my heart was sad
when I saw how she swept the street with that beautiful dress and
dragged along all sorts of rubbish with it. I really do not see why they
still have street-sweepers. It was a long time before I could turn my
eyes from her, and thought to myself, Lord, one can't tell the high from
the low nowadays! And what can one say to the others if a laborer's wife
puts on so much style?

OSSEP. I said that very thing. I have just spoken of it. A new public
official has just arrived. She sees that others want to marry their
daughters to him, and she runs, head first, against the wall to get
ahead of them.

CHACHO. You are really peculiar. You have, you say, not enough money to
provide a dowry for your daughter, and yet you brought her up and
educated her in the fashion. For what has she learned to play the piano,
then? Consider everything carefully.

OSSEP. Devil take this education! Of what good is this education if it
ruins me? Is that sort of an education for the like of us? Ought we not
to live as our fathers lived and stay in our own sphere, so that we
could eat our bread with a good appetite? What kind of a life is that of
the present day? Where is the appetizing bread of earlier times?
Everything that one eats is smeared with gall! For what do I need a
_salon_ and a parlor, a cook and a footman? If a man stretches himself
too much in his coat the seams must burst!

CHACHO. If you don't want to have all those things can't you manage the
house another way? Who is to blame for it?

OSSEP. Have I managed it so? I wish he may break his neck who brought it
all to pass! I haven't done it; it came of itself, and how it happened I
don't know Oftentimes when I look back over my early days I see that
things were very different twenty years ago. It seems to me I have to
live like an ambassador! [_Stands up_.] We are all the same, yes, we all
go the same pace. Wherever you go you find the same conditions, and no
one questions whether his means permit it. If a man who has 10,000
rubles lives so, I say nothing; but if one with an income of 1,000
rubles imitates him, then my good-nature stops. What are the poorer
people to learn from us if we give them such an example? Weren't the old
times much better? In a single _darbas_[42] we all lived together; three
or four brothers and their families. We saved in light and heat, and the
blessing of God was with us. Now in that respect it is wholly different.
If one brother spends fifty rubles, the other spends double the sum, so
as not to be behind him. And what kind of brothers are there now, as a
rule? And what kind of sisters and fathers and mothers? If you were to
chain them together you could not hold them together a week at a time.
If it is not a punishment from God, I don't know what is.

[42] Hall.

CHACHO. My dear Ossep, why do you revive those old memories? It gives me
the heartache to recall those old times. I remember very well how it
was. In the room stood a long broad sofa that was covered with a carpet.
When evening came there would be a fire-pan lighted in the middle of the
room and we children would sit around it That was our chandelier. Then a
blue table-cloth was spread on the sofa and something to eat, and
everything that tasted good in those days was placed on it. Then we sat
around it, happy as could be: grandfather, father, uncle, aunt,
brothers, and sisters. The wine pitcher poured out sparkling wine into
the glasses, and it wandered from one end of the table to the other.
Many times there were twenty of us. Now if for any reason five persons
come together in a room one is likely to be suffocated. [_Points to the
ceiling_.] With us there was an opening for smoke in the ceiling that
was worth twenty windows. When it became bright in the morning the
daylight pressed in on us, and when it grew dark the twilight came in
there, and the stars glimmered through. Then we spread our bed-things
out, and we went to sleep together with play and frolic. We had a kettle
and a roasting-spit in the house, and also a pot-ladle and strainer, and
the men brought in the stock of provisions in bags. Of the things they
brought, one thing was as appetizing as the other. Now, it seems the
cooks and servants eat all the best bits. God preserve me from them! Our
homes are ruined by the new ways!

OSSEP. Do you know what, aunt? I wager it will not be long before the
whole city is bankrupt. On one side extravagance and the new mode of
life will be to blame, and on the other our stupidity. Can we go on
living so? It is God's punishment, and nothing more. You will scarcely
believe it when I tell you that I pay out ten rubles every month for
pastry for the children alone.

CHACHO. No! Reduce your expenses a little, my son. Retrench!

OSSEP. That is easily said. Retrench, is it? Well, come over here and do
it. I would like to see once how you would begin. Listen, now! Lately I
bought a pair of children's shoes at the bazaar for three abaces.[43] The
lad threw them to the ceiling. "I want boots at two and a half rubles,"
said the six-year-old rascal. He was ready to burst out crying. What
could I do but buy new ones? If others would do the same I could let the
youngster run in cheap boots. How can one retrench here? Twenty years,
already, I have struggled and see no way out. To-day or to-morrow my
head will burst, or I may beat it to pieces against a stone wall. Isn't
it an effort at retrenchment when I say that I cannot afford it? but
with whom am I to speak here? Does anyone understand me? Yes, reduce
your expenses!
[_Goes toward the ante-room to the right and meets Nato
with four sheets of music in her hand_.

[43] Abace - 20 kopecks.




Scene VII

_Nato, Ossep, Chacho_.


OSSEP. Yes, yes, reduce your expenses!

CHACHO. Little girl, how quickly you have come back!

NATO. I did not go far, aunt.

CHACHO. What have you in your hand, sweetheart?

NATO. I have bought some new music.

OSSEP [_stepping up to them_]. Yes, yes, retrench! [_Taking a sheet of
music out of her hand_.] What did you pay for this?

NATO. Four abaces.

OSSEP. And for this [_taking another_]?

NATO [_looking at it_]. Six abaces.

OSSEP [_taking a third_]. And for this?

NATO [_fretfully_]. One ruble and a half.

OSSEP [_taking the last_]. And certainly as much for this?

NATO. No, papa; I paid two rubles and a half for that.

OSSEP [_angrily_]. And one is to economize! Am I to blame for this? What
have you bought four pieces for? Was not one or two enough?

NATO [_frightened_]. I need them.

OSSEP [_still more angrily_]. Tell me one thing - is this to be endured?
If she could play properly at least, but she only drums two or three
pieces and says she can play. I cannot play myself, but I have heard
persons who played well. They could use these things, but not we. I wish
the devil had the man who introduced this! [_Throws the music on the
floor_.] I'll cut off my hand if she can play properly.

CHACHO. There, there, stop, now!

OSSEP. Whatever she tries to do is only half done: music, languages - she
has only half learned. Tell me, what can she do? Is she able to sew
anything? or to cut out a dress for herself? Yes, that one seems like a
European girl! Ha! ha! Five times I have been in Leipsic, and the
daughter of the merest pauper there can do more than she can. What have
I not seen in the way of needlework! I gaped with admiration. And she
cannot even speak Armenian properly, and that is her mother tongue! Can
she write a page without mistakes? Can she pronounce ten French words
fluently? Yes, tell me, what can she do? What does she understand? She
will make a fine housekeeper for you! The man who takes her for his wife
is to be pitied. She be able to share with him the troubles of life!
Some day or other she will be a mother and must bring up children. Ha,
ha! they will have a fine bringing-up! She is here to make a show; but
for nothing beside! She is an adept at spending money. Yes, give her
money, money, so that she can rig herself out and go to balls and
parties! [_Nato cries._] Can I stand this any longer? Can I go on with
these doings? Retrench, you say. What is this [_taking a corner of
Nato's tunic in his hand_]? How is this for a twelve-story building?
Does it warm the back? How am I to reduce expenses here? And if I do it,
will others do it also? I'd like to see the man who could do it!
[_Nato still crying._

CHACHO.
Do all these things you have said in my presence amount to anything? You
yourself said that you troubled yourself little about what others did.
What do you want, then? Why should you poison the heart of this innocent
girl?
[_All are silent awhile._

OSSEP [_lays his hand on his forehead and recovers himself._] O just
heaven, what am I doing? I am beside myself. [_Goes up to Nato._] Not to
you, not to you, my Nato, should I say all this! [_Embraces her._] No,
you do not deserve it; you are innocent. We are to blame for all. I am
to blame, I! because I imitated the others and brought you up as others
brought up their daughters. Don't cry! I did not wish to hurt you. I was
in bad humor, for everything has vexed me to-day, and unfortunately you
came in at the wrong moment. [_Picks up the music and gives it to her._]
Here, take the music, my child. [_Embraces her again._] Go and buy some
more. Do what you wish everywhere, and be behind no one. Until to-day
you have wanted nothing, and, with God's help, you shall want nothing in
the future.
[_Kisses her and turns to go._

CHACHO. Now, Ossep, think it over; come to some decision in the matter.

OSSEP. I should like to, indeed; but what I cannot do I cannot do.
[_Goes off at the right._




SCENE VIII

_Nato, Chacho, then Salome_.


NATO [_falling sobbing in Chacho's arms_]. O dear, dear aunt.

CHACHO. Stop; don't cry, my dear, my precious child. It is indeed your
father. Stop; stop, Salome.

SALOME [_coming in smiling_]. Dear aunt, I have arranged everything.
[_Stops._] What is this now? Why are you crying?
[_Nato wipes away her tears and goes toward the divan_.

CHACHO. You know her father, don't you? He has been scolding her, and
has made her cry.

SALOME. If her father has been troubling her, then I will make her happy
again. Nato, dear, I have betrothed you. [_Nato looks at her in
wonderment._] Yes, my love, be happy - what have you to say about it? Mr.
Alexander Marmarow is now your betrothed.

NATO. Is it really true, mamma dear?

CHACHO [_at the same time_]. Is it true?

SALOME. It is true, be assured.

NATO [_embracing Salome_]. O my dear, dear mother.

SALOME [_seizing her daughter and kissing her_]. Now I am rid of my
worries about you. I hope it will bring you joy. Go and put on another
dress, for your betrothed is coming.

NATO. Now?

SALOME. Certainly, at once. You know, I presume, that you must make
yourself pretty.

NATO [_happy and speaking quickly_]. Certainly. I will wear the white
barège with blue ribbons, the little cross on black velvet ribbon, and a
blue ribbon in my hair. [_Hugs Chacho_.] O my precious auntie!

CHACHO [_embracing and kissing her_]. May this hour bring you
good-fortune! I wish it for you with all my heart.

NATO [_hugging and kissing Salome again_]. O you dear, you dearest
mamma. [_Runs out of the room_.




SCENE IX

_Salome. Chacho_.


CHACHO. What does all this mean? Am I dreaming or am I still awake?

SALOME. What are you saying about dreams? His sister Champera was here,
and about five minutes later he himself came. They live very near here.

CHACHO. If it was arranged so easily, why have you wrangled and
quarrelled so much?

SALOME [_in a whisper_]. But what do you think, aunt? I have arranged
the affair for 7,000 rubles, and I have had to promise his sister 200
rubles beside.

CHACHO. May I be struck blind! And you have done this without Ossep's
knowing it?

SALOME [_whispering_]. He will not kill me for it, and let him talk as
much as he will. It could not go through otherwise. Get up and let us go
into that room where Ossep will not hear us. [_Helps her to rise_.

CHACHO. O just heaven! What women we have in these days!




SCENE X


OSSEP [_alone, buckling his belt and holding his cap in his hand, comes
in through the right-hand door, stands awhile in deep thought while he
wrings his hands several times_]. Give me money! Give me money! I would
like to know where I am to get it. It is hard for me to give what I have
promised. And what if it cannot be arranged for that sum? Am I, then, to
make a mess of this! - I who have always been willing to make any
sacrifice for my children? It must, indeed, lie in this - that the suitor
does not please; for I could not find 2,000 to add to the 6,000 that I
have promised. Yes, that's it! The man is not the one I want for her. If
he were an ordinary fellow, he would not treat with me. At any rate,
what he is after will show itself now; yes, we shall soon see what kind
of man he is! Up to this day I have always kept my word, and the best
thing I can do is to keep it now.

_Enter Gewo_.

OSSEP [_meeting him as he enters from the right_]. Oh, it is you, dear
Gewo! What brings you to our house? [_Offering him his hand_.] I love
you; come again, and often!

GEWO. You know well that if I had not need of you, I would not come.

OSSEP. How can I serve you? Pray, sit down.

GEWO [_seating himself_]. What are you saying about serving? Do you
think that this confounded Santurian has -

OSSEP [_interrupting him anxiously_]. What has happened?

GEWO. The dear God knows what has happened to the fellow!

OSSEP. But go on, what has happened?

GEWO. What could happen? The fellow has cleared out everything.

OSSEP [_disturbed and speaking softly_]. What did you say, Gewo? Then I
am lost, body and soul; then I am ruined!

GEWO. I hope he will go to the bottom. How is one to trust any human
being nowadays? Everyone who saw his way of living must have taken him
for an honest man.

OSSEP [_softly_]. You kill me, man!

GEWO. God in heaven should have destroyed him long ago, so that this
could not have happened. But who could have foreseen it? When one went
into his store everything was always in the best order. He kept his
word, paid promptly when the money was due; but what lay behind that, no
one knew.

OSSEP. I have depended on him so much. What do you say, Gewo? He owes me
10,000 rubles! I was going to satisfy my creditors with this sum.
To-morrow his payment was due, and the next day mine. How can I satisfy
them now? Can I say that I cannot pay them because Santurian has given
me nothing? Am I to be a bankrupt as well as he? May the earth swallow
me rather!

GEWO. I wish the earth would swallow him, or rather that he had never
come into the world! I have just 2,000 rubles on hand; if you wish I
will give them to you to-morrow.

OSSEP. Good; I will be very thankful for them. But what do you say to
that shameless fellow? Have you seen him? Have you spoken with him?

GEWO. Of course. I have just come from him.

OSSEP. What did he say? Will he really give nothing?

GEWO. If he does not lie, he will settle with you alone. Let the others
kick, he said. Go to him right off, dear Ossep. Before the thing becomes
known perhaps you can still get something out of him.

OSSEP. Come with me, Gewo. Yes, we must do something, or else I am lost.

GEWO. The devil take the scoundrel!




SCENE XI


SALOME [_coming in from the left_]. May I lose my sight if he is not
coming already. He is already on the walk. [_Looking out of the window
and then walking toward the entry_.] How my heart beats!

[_Goes into the ante-room. Alexander appears at the window and then at
the door of the ante-room_.]

_Alexander enters_.

SALOME [_at the door_]. Come; pray come in. [_Offers her hand_.] May
your coming into our house bring blessings!

ALEXANDER [_making a bow_]. Madame Salome [_kisses her hand_], I am
happy that from now on I dare call myself your son.

SALOME [_kissing him on the brow_]. May God make you as happy as your
mother wishes. Please, please sit down! Nato will be here immediately.
[_They sit down_.

ALEXANDER. How are you, Madame Salome? What is Miss Natalie doing? Since
that evening I have not had the pleasure of seeing her.

SALOME. Thank you, she is very well. The concert that evening pleased me
exceedingly. Thank heaven that so good a fashion has found entrance
among us. In this way we have a perfect bazaar for the marriageable
girls, for had not this concert taken place where would you two have
found an opportunity to make each other's acquaintance? Where else
could you have caught sight of each other?

ALEXANDER. Dear lady, Miss Natalie must please everybody without
concerts, and awaken love in them. Oh, how I bless my fate that it is my
happy lot to win her love!

SALOME. And my Nato pleases you, dear son-in-law?

ALEXANDER. Oh, I love her with all my heart, dear madame!

SALOME. If you love her so much, dear son, why did you exact so much
money? For the sake of 1,000 rubles this affair almost went to pieces.
Your sister Champera swore to me that if we did not give 1,000 rubles
more you would this very day betroth yourself to the daughter of
Barssegh Leproink.

ALEXANDER. I wonder, Madame Salome, that you should credit such things.
I marry Leproink's daughter! I refuse Miss Natalie on her account!
forget her beautiful black eyes and her good heart, and run after money!
Would not that be shameful in me! I must confess to you freely, dear
madame, that my sister's way of doing things is hateful to me. _Fi


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