Copyright
Orville Dewey.

The two great commandments: sermons online

. (page 2 of 5)
Online LibraryOrville DeweyThe two great commandments: sermons → online text (page 2 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


him for his cap] Damn it, this is annoying!

SoNYA. Yes, it is too bad, really. You must come
bad: from the factory to dinner.

AsTROFF. No, I shan't be able to do that. It will
be too late. Now where, where — [To the Work-
man] Look here, fellow, get me a glass of vodka, will
you? [The Workman goes out] Where — where —
[Finds his cap] There is a man in one of Ostrovsky 's t t) ^^^ i^<^.
. pla^ with a long mustache and short wits, like me.
Let me bid you good-bye, though, ladies and gentlemen. ^ j<
[To Helena Andreievna] I should be really delighted
if you came to see me some day with Sonya Alexan-
drovna. My place is small, but if you are interested



t cxA - -^^- '



Digitized



by Google



14 UNCLE VANYA

in such things, I'd like to show you a nursery and
seed-bed, the like of which you'll not find within a
thousand miles of here. My estate is surrounded by
government forests. The forester is old and always
ailing, so I oversee almost all of the work myself.

Helena Andreievna. I have always heard that
you were very fond of the woods. Of course you can
do a great deal of good by helping to preserve them,
but doesn't that work interfere with your real voca-
tion ? Why, you're a doctor !

AsTROFF. God alone knows what is a man's real
vocation.

Helena Andreievna. You find it interesting?

AsTROFF. Very.

VoiNrrsKY [sarcastically] Oh, extremely!

Helena Andreievna. You are still young, not
over thirty-six or seven, I should say, and I have an
idea the woods do not interest you as much as you
claim. I should think you would find them monoto-
nous.

SoNYA. No, the work is thrilling. Mikhail
Lvovitch watches over the old woods and sets out
new trees every year, and already he has received a
diploma and a bronze medal. He sees to it that the
old woods are not uprooted. If you'll listen to what
he can tell you, j'ou'll agree with him entirely* He



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



UNCLE VANYA 15

says that forests are the ornaments of the earth, that
they teach man to understand beauty and to attune
his mind to lofty views. Forests modify a stem cli-
mate, and in countries where the climate is milder,
less energy is wasted in the struggle with nature, and
the people are kind and gentle. The inhabitants of
such countries are handsome, docile, sensitive, graceful
in speech and in gesture. Their philosophy is gay, art
and science flourish an:iong them, their treatment of
women is marked by charming kindliness.

VoiNiTSKY [lauffhingl Bravo! Bravo! All that
is very pretty, but it sounds unconvincing. So, my
friend [to A stroff],. you must let me go on burning
firewood in my stoves and building my bams of planks.

AsTROFF. You can bum peat in your stoves and
build your bams of stone. Oh, I don't object, of
course, to cutting wood when you have to, but why
destroy the forests? The woods of Russia arc
trembling under the blows of the ax. Millions of
trees have perished. The homes of the wild animals
and the birds have been laid desolate; the rivers arc
shrinking, and many beautiful landscapes are gone for-
ever. And why? Because men are too lazy and
short-sighted to stoop and pick their fuel from the
ground. [To Helena Andreievna] Am I not right?
Who but a senseless barbarian could bum so much
beauty in his stove and destroy what he cannot create



Digitized



by Google



16 UNCLE VANYA

himself? Man has reason and Cteative energy so that
he may increase his possessions. Until now, though, he
has not created but destroyed. The forests arc dis-
appearing, the rivers are drying up, the game is being
exterminated, the climate is spoiled and the earth be-
comes poorer and uglier every day. [To Voinitsky]
I read irony in your eye; you do not take seriously
what I am saying; and — and — perhaps I am talking
nonsense. But when I cross peasant-forests which I
have saved from the ax, or hear the rustling of the
young trees which I have set out with my own hands,
I feel as if I had had some small share in improving
the climate, and that if mankind is happy a thousand
years from now I shall have been partly responsible
in my small way for their hairiness. When I plant
a young birch tree and see it budding and swaying
in the wind, my heart swells with pride and I —
[Sees the Workman, who is bringinff him a glass of
vodka on a tray] however — [He drinks] I must be
off. Probably it is all nonsense, anyhow. Good-bye.

[He goes toward the house. Sonya takes his arm
and leaves wik him,]

Sonya. When are you coming to see us again?

AsmoFF. I don't know.

Sonya. In a month?



Digitized



by Google



UNCLE VANYA 17

[Jstroff and Sonya go into the house. Helena
Jndreievna and Fomitsiy walk over to the terrace.']

Helena Andreievna. Ivan Pctrovitch, you be-
haved shockingly again. What sense vi^as there in
teasing Maria Vassilievna and talking about per-
petuum mohilef And at breakfast you quarreled with
Alexander again. How petty it all is!

VoiNrrsKY. But suK>ose I hate him?

Helena Andreievna. You hate Alexander with-
out reason; he is like every one else, and no worse
than you.

VoiNirsKY. If you could only see your face, your
gestures ! Oh, how tedious your life must be !

Helena Andreievna. Yes, it is tedious, and
dreary, too! All of you abuse my husband and look
on me with compassion ; you think, "Poor woman, she
is married to an old man." How well I understand
your compassion! As Astroff said just now, see how
thoughtlessly you destroy the forests, so that soon
there will be no trees left. Thus also you destroy
mankind, and soon loyalty and purity and self-sacrifice
will have vanished with the woods. Why can't you
look calmly at a woman unless she belongs to you?
The doctor was right. You are all possessed by a
devil of destructiveness; you pity neither the woods
nor the birds nor women nor one another.



Digitized



by Google



i8 UNCLE VANYA

VoiNiTSKY. I don't like your philosophy.

Helena Andreibvna. That doctor has a sensi-
tive, weary face — an interesting face. Sonya evi-
dently likes him; she is in love with him, and I can
understand it. This is the third time he has been
here since I have come, but I am shy and I have not
had a real talk with him yet or showed him much
attention. He thinks I am disagreeable. Do you
know, Ivan Petrovitch, why you and I are such
friends? I think it is because we are both lonely and
unsympathetic Yes, unsympathetic Don't look at
me that way, I don't like it.

VoiNiTSKY. How can I look at you in any other
way since I love you? You are my joy, my life, my
youth. I know that my chances of your loving me
in return are infinitely small, that there are no chances,
but I ask nothing of you. Only let me look at you,
listen to you —

Helena Andreievna. Hush, some one will over-
hear you.

[They go toward the house.]

VoiNiTSKY [following her] Let me tell you of my
love, do not drive me away. I have no other happi-
ness!

Helena Andreievna. This is agony!



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



UNCLE VANYA 19

[Both go into the house. Te lveain strums th e
strings of his guit ar and plays a polk a. Maria Vassi'
lievna writes something on the leaves of her pamphlet.^

THB CURTAIN FALLS.



Digitized



by Google



ACT TWO.

The dininjfroom of Srrehyakoff*s home. It is
night. The click of the Watchman $ rattle is heard
from the garden. Serebryakoff sits dozing in an arm-
chair by an open window and Helena Andreievna, like -
wise half-asleep, is seated beside him.

Sbrbbryakoff [rousing himself^ Who is diere? Is
It you, Sonya?

Helena Andreibvna. It is I.

Serebryakoff. Oh, it's you, Lenutchka, This
pain is unbearable.

Helena Andreibvna. Your shawl has slipped.
[She wraps the shawl around his legs] Let me shut
the window.

Serebryakoff. No, leave it open; I am suffocat-
ing. Just now I dreamed that my left 1^ beio flgcd
iy^^^^j^^ to some one el se, and it hurt so that I aw(^e. I don't
•5^^*^ id^^''''^^^^ this is gout; it is more like rheumatism. What
^•^'^^ time is it?

Helena Andreievna. Twenty after twelve. [A
pause]



Digitized



by Google



UNCLE VANYA ai

Serbbryak(N?f. I wish you'd look for Batushka's
works in the library to-morrow. I think we have
them.

Hblbna Andreievna. What did you say?

Serebryakoff. Look for Batu^ka to-morrow
morning; we used to have him, I remember. Why do
I find it so hard to breathe?

Helena Andreievna. You are worn out; this
is the second nig^t you've been unable to sleefK

Serebryakoff. They say that Turgenie£E got an-
gina pectoris from gout. I'm afraid I'm getting it,
too. Oh, damn this terrible, accursed old age! Ever
since I've grown old, I have been hateful to myself,
and, I'm sure, hateful t6 all of you, too.

Helena AndiTbibvna. You speak as if we were to
blame for your age.

Serebryakoff. I am more hateful to you than to
all Ae others.

[Helena Andreievna gets up, walks away from him
and sits down at a distance.^

Serebryakoff. You are rig^t, of course. I'm no
idiot; I can understand. You are young and healthy
and beautiful, and long for life, and I am an old do-
tard, almost a corpse. Don't I know it? I see, of
odurse, that it's foplisb for me to live so l(»ig, but wait I



Digitized



by Google



v



22 UNCLE VANYA

I shall soon set you all free. My life can't drag on
much longer.

Helbna Andreievna. You are exhausting me.
For God's sake, be quiet!

Serebryakoff. It seems that everybody is being
exhausted, thanks to me. Everybody is wretched ; only
I am blissfully triumphant. Oh, yes, of course!

Helena Andreievna. Be quiet! You are tortur-
ing me.

Serebryakoff. I torture everybody. Of course.

Helena Andreievna [on the verge of tears'] This
is unendurable I Tell me, what do you wish of me?

Serebryakoff. Nothing.

Helena Andreievna. Then please be quiet.

Serebryakoff. It's funny that everybody listens to
Ivan Petrovitch and his old idiot of a mother, Maria
Vassilievna, but the moment I open my mouth, you
all begin to feel abused. You can't even bear the sound
of my voice. Suppose I am hateful, suppose I am a
selfish tyrant, haven't I the right to be at my age?
Haven't I deserved it? Haven't I, I ask you^ the
) /ju)l^^ r ijrfit to be respec tedt^ooQsidarmgJww ftld I am^ ^



(^0^^ O^^i^*^ Helena Andreievna. No one is disputing your

)\0t^* rights. [The window slams in the wind] The wind is

rising, I must shut the window. [She shuts i/] We



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



UNCLE VANYA 23

shall have rain in a moment. Your rights have never
been questioned by anybody.

[The Watchman in the garden clicks his rattle.]

Sbrebryakoff. I spent my life working for the
cause of learning. I am accustomed to my library and
the lecture hall and to the regard and admiraticm of my
colleagues. Now I suddenly find myself in this wilder-
ness, condemned to see the same stupid people from
morning till night and to listen to their silly futilities.
Fm eager to live ; I long for success and fame and the
stir.lijthe wori3,'and herenPam an exile 1 "t5H7Tt" is
terrible to spend every moment ^eving" for a past
that is lost, to witness the success of others and to sit
here with nothing to do but fear death. I cannot
stand it! It is more than I can endure. And you
won't even forgive me for being old !

Helena Andreievna. Wait; be patient; in four
or five years, I shall be old m3rsclf .

[Sonya comes in.]

SoNYA. Father, you sent for Dr. Astroff, and now
you refuse to see him. It is not fair to trouble a man
needlessly.

Serbbryak;off. What do I care about your As-
troff? He understands medicine about as well a^ I
understand astronomy.



Digitized



by Google



24 UNCLE VANYA

SoNYA. We can't send for the whole medical
faculty, can we, to cure your gout?

Sbrbbryakoff. I refuse to talk to that madman!

SoNYA. Do as you please. It's all one to me.
[She sits down.] .

Serebryakoff. What time is it?

Helena Andreievna. One o'clocL

Serebryakoff. It is stifling here. Sonya, hand
nae that bottle on the table.

SoNYA. Here it is. [She hands him a bottle of
medicine.]

Serebryakoff [cross] No, not that one! Can't
you understand me? Can't I ask you to do a single
thing?

SoNYA. Please don't be moody with me. Some
people may like it, but spare me, if you please, because
I don't care for it. Besides, I haven't the time; we
are cutting the hay to-morrow and I must get up
early.

[Foinitsky enters dressed in a long gown and carry-
ing a candle.]

VoiNiTSKY. A thunderstorm is approaching. [The
lightning flashes] There it is! Go and get some sleep,
Helena and Sonya. I have come to relieve you.

Serebryakoff [frightened] No, no, no! Don't



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



n

UNCLE VANYA 25

leave me alone with him! Oh, don't. He will begin
lecturing me. "■-■

VoiNiTSKY. But you must allow them a little rest.
They haven't slept for two nights.

Serebryakoff. Then let them go to bed, but you
go away, too ! Thank you. I beg you to go. For the
sake of our former friendship, do not argue. We'll
converse some other time —

VoiNrrsKY. Our former friendship! Our former —

SoNYA. HuA, Uncle Vanya!

Serebryakoff [to his wife] Sweetheart, don't
leave me alone with him. He will lecture me.

VoiNiTSKY. This is absurd.

[Marina comes in carrying a candle.']
^ SoNYA. You must go to bed, nurse, it's late.

Marina. I haven't cleared away the tea things. I
can't go to bed yet.

Serebryakoff. Nq^ one can. They arc all worn_
oijt. I alonecnjoy perfect happiness.

Marina [going up to Serebryakoff and speaking
tenderly] What's the matter, little father? Does it
hurt? My own legs ache, too, oh, so badly. [She ar-
ranges the shawl around his legs] You have had this
illness for such a long time. Vera Petrovna, Sonya's
late mother, used to sit up with you, too, and wear



Digitized



by Google



a6 UNCLE VANYA

herself out for you. She loved you dearly. [A pause]
Old people like to be pitied as much as young ones, but
somehow nobody cares about them. [She kisses Serebry-
akof's shoulder] Come to bed, little father, let me
give you some linden-tea and warm your poor feet. I
shall pray to God for you.

Serebryakoff [affected] Let us go, Marina.

Marina. My own feet ache so badly, oh, so badly !
[She and Sonya start leading Serebryakoff out] Vera
Petrovna used to wear herself out with sorrow and
weeping. You were still small and foolish then, Sonya.
Come, come, little father.

[Serebryakoff, Sonya and Marina go out.]
Helena Andreievna. I am absolutely exhausted
by him. I can hardly stand on my feet.

VoiNrrsKY. He exhausted you and I have ex-
hausted myself. I haven't slel>t for three nights.

Helena Andreievna. Thcre'&jsQmet hing wrong
in this hous e. Your mother hates everything but her
pamphlets and the professor; the professor is vexed,
he won't trust me and he fears you; Sonya is angry
with her father and with me and hasn't spoken to me
for two weeks; you hate my husband and openly spcer
at your mother. I have reached the limit of my en-
durance. At least twenty times to-day, I've nearly



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



ly



UNCLE VANYA 27

burst into tiears.- There's something wrong in this V*
house.

VoiNiTSKY. Leave speculati ng alone . $^U^cX/7 w^

Helena Andreievna. You arc cultured and in-
telligent, Ivan Petrovitdi. Surely you understand that
the world is not destroyed by criminals and fires, but
by hate and malice and all this spiteful gossiping. Your
duty is to make peace, and not to growl at everything.

VoiNrrsKY. First, help mc to make peace with my-
self. My darling ! \He seizes he r hand. l

Helena Andreievna. Let go! [She drags her
hand away"] Go away!

VoiNirsKY. The rain will soon be over, and all
nature will awake refreshed. Only I am not refreshea
by the storm. Day and night I am haunted by thd
thought that my life is lost forever. ^My P^ t docsn' tl /

co unty, because I frit tered it away on trifles, and the\
present is so ^otesq ue! What shall 1 do with my lite *
and my love? What is going to become of them?
This glorious feeling in my heart will be lost as a ray
of sunlight is lost in a dark diasm, and my life will be
lost with it.

Helena Andreievna. It's just as if I were be-
numbed when you speak to me of your love, and I don't
know how to answer. Forgive mc, I have noting
to say to you. [She tries t^ leaviyOooA-ni^th



Digitized



by Google



28 UNCLE VANYA

VomrrsKY [bimin^ her awy] If you only knew
how it tortures me to think that beside me in this
house is another life that is being lost forever — yours I
What arc you waiting for? What accursed philosophy
stands in your way? Oh^ understand, understand —

Helena Andreievna [looking at him intently]
Ivan Petrovitch, you are drunk.

VoiNrrsKY. Perhaps. Perhaps.

Helena Andreievna. Where is the doctor?

VoiNiTSKY. In thefc. He is going to pass the
night with me. Perhaps I am drunk, perhaps I am;
nothing is impossible.

Helena Andreievna. Have you been drinking to-
gether? What for?

VoiNiTSKY. Because in that way I get a taste of
life. Let me do it, Helena!

Helena Andreievna. You never used to drink.
You never used to talk so much. Go to bed, I'm tired
of you.

VoiNrrsKY [falli ng on his knees before her] My
sweetheart, my precious —

Helena Andreievna [angrily] Leave me alone!
Really, diis has become too disagreeable. [She leaves*]

VoiNiTSKY [alone] She is gone! [A pause] It was
ten years ago that I met her first, at her late sister's



Digitized by VjOOQ IC



UNCLE VANYA 29

home. She was seventeen and I thirty-seven. Why
didn't I fall in love with h«r thai and propose to her?
It would have been so easy! And if I had, ^e would
now be my wife. Yes, to-night's thunderstorm would
have wakened us both. But I would have held her in
my arms and whispered: "Don't be afraid! I am here."
Oh, bewitching dream, so sweet that I smile when I
think of it. [He laughs] God! My head reels! Why
am I so ol d? Why won't she understand me? I de-
spise all that rhetoric of hers, that indecent morality,
that absurd talk about the destruction of the worfd —
[J p^tuse] Oh, how I have been deceived! For yeaisl
I have worshiped that miserable gout-ridden professor. J
Sonya and I have milked this estate dry for his sake.
We have sold our butter and curds and wheat like
misers, and never kept a bit for ourselves, so that we
could scrape together enough pennies to send to him.
I was proud of him and his learning; I thought all his
words and writings were inspired. And now? Now
he has retired, and what is the grand total of his life?
A blank! He is absolutely unknown, and his fame has
burst like a soap-bubble. I have been deceived; I see
that now, grossly deceived.

IJstroff enters. He if wearing his coat hit is v/itk-
out waistcoat or collar and is slightly drunk. Telfegim
follows kim, carrying a guitar,']



Digitized



by Google



30 UNCLE VANYA

AsTROFF. Play!

Telyegin. But everyone is asleep.
AsTROFF. Play!
[Telyegin begins to pl ay so ftly.]
AsTROFF. Are you alone? No women around?
{.Sings with his arms akimbo]

"The rooip is cold, the fire is out.
Where shall the master find his rest?**

The thunderstorm woke me. It was a regular down-
pour. What time is it?

VoiNiTSKY. The devil only knows.

AsTROFF. I thought I heard Helena Andreicvna*s
voice.

VoiNiTSKY. She was here a moment ago.

AsTROFF. What a beautiful woman! [Looking at
the bottles of medicine on the table] Medicine, is it?
What an assortment of prescriptions we have! From
Moscow, from KharkofF, from Tula! Why, he has
been bothering every city in Russia with his gout I Is
he really ill^ or simply pretending?

VoiNrrsKY. He is reg ^ly ill.

AsTROFF. What's the matter with you to-night?
You seem gloomy. Is it because you feel sofry for the
professor? ^

VoiNiTSKY. Leave me alone.



Digitized



by Google



J



UNCLE VANYA 31

AsTROFF. Or arc you in love with the professor's
wife?

VoiNiTSKY. She is my friend,

AsTROFF. Already ?

VoiNrrsKY. What do you mean by "already"?

AsTROFF. A woman can be a m an's friend onl y^

after having first been his_acguaintance and then Ti isy^ ^""^^

mis tress — then she becomes his friend .

VoiNrrsKY, What coarse philosophy!

AsTROFF. What do you mean ? Yes, FU admit Fm
growing vulgar, but then, you see, Fm drunk. Usually ^ ,
I drink lil^ this only once a month. At such times
my pluck and boldness know no bounds, I feel capable
of anything. I attempt the most difficult operations
and succeed ipagnificently. The most brilliant plans
evolve in my brain. Fm no longer a poor simpleton of
a jiactar^^ut mankind's greatest bCTicfacton^r

niit my nwn y^ y^fimi pf philoSQphv a nd all of the^St

o f you seem t 9 ^^^^l.g^ niy feet Hke so^mgriy^wflJins
or microbes. [To Tetyegin] Play, Waffles!

Telyegin, My dear fellow, I would with all my
hearty but listen to reason; every one in the house is
asleep. . ., ■

AsTROFF. Play!

[Telye^njiiays foftlyA _



Digitized



by Google



32 UNCLE VANYA

AsTROFF. I want a drink. G>me, we still have
some brandy left. Then, as soon as morning oomes,
you'll go home with me.

ISonya enters and he catches sight of herJ]
AsTROFF. I beg your pardon, I haven't any collar
on.

[He departs hurriedly, followed by Telyegin.]
SoNYA. Uncle Vanya, you and the doctor have
been drinking! Good fellows have been getting to*
getherl It's all very well for him, he's accustomed to
doing it. But why follow his example? It's dreadful
at your age.

VoiNrrsKY. Age hasn't anything to do with it.
* / When the realities ^^ l^fr ^r<> misftit^g, y^y musf <*^cat*^
•^ illusions^. That is better than nothing.



SoNYA. All our hay is cut and rotting in these
daily rains and here you waste your time creating illu-
sions! You arc neglecting the farm comi^etely. I've
done all the work by myself until I'm at the end of my
strength — [Frightened'] Uncle ! Your eyes are full
of tears!

VoiNrrsKY. Tears? Nonsense, there are no tears
in my eyes. You looked at me thai just as your dead
mother used to, darling — [He eagerly kisses her face
and hands] My sister, my dearest sister, where are you
now? Ah, if you only knew, if you only knew!



Digitized



by Google I



UNCLE VANYA 33

SoNYA. If she only knew what, Uncle?

VoiNiTSKY. My heart is bursting. It is dreadfuL
Never mind, though. I must go, [He goes out]

SoNYA [knocking at the doo r\ Mikhail Lvovitch!
Are you asleep? Please come here for a minute.

AsTROFF Ibehind the door] In a moment.

[He clears presently, with his collar and umstcoat
onJ]

AsTROFF. What do you wish ?

SoNYA. Drink as much as you please, if you don't
find it disgusting, but I beg you don't let my unde
do it. It's bad for him.

AsntOFF. Allrig^t;wewon't drink any more. I'm
going home at once. That's settled. By the time the
horses are harnessed, it will be dawn.

SoNYA. It's still raining; wait until morning.

AsTROFF. The storm is over. This is only the final
gust. I must go. And please don't ask me to visit
your father any more. I tell him he has gout, and he
insists it is riieumatsim. I tell him to lie down, and he
sits up. To-day he actually refused to see me.

SoNYA. He has been spoiled. [Looking in the side-
board] Won't you have a bite to eat?

AsTROFF. Yes, please, I think I will

SoNYA. I like to eat at ni^t. Fm sure we shall
Bod something here. They say he has made a great



Digitized



by Google



34 UNCLE VANYA

many conquests in' his life suid the women have turned
his head. Here is some cheese.

[They stand eating by the sideboard.]
^ AsTROFF. I haven't eaten a thing all day. Your
father has a very peculiar character. [Taking a bottle
out of the sideboard] May I? [Pouring himself a
glass of vodka] We arc alone here and I can speak
frankly. Do you know, I couldn't bear to live in this'
house for even a month? This atmosphere would
choke me. There is your father, wholly absorbed in
his bodes and his gout ; there is your Uncle Vanya
with his hypochondria, your grandmother, and Anally
your step-mother -r—

SoNYA. What about her?

AsTROFF. A hum an being should fee beautiful in
e verything: in looks, In dress, in soul, in mind. Your
step-mother, of course, is beautiful to gaze upon, but
don't you see? She does nothing but sleep and eat and
walk and charm us. That is all. She refuses all re-
sponsibilities, everything is done for her — arti I not
right? And an idle existence can never be clean.
[A pause] Still, maybe I'm judging her too harshly.
I'm discontented, like your Uncle Vanya, and so both
of us are grumblers. }

SoNYA. Aren't you satisfied with life?.

ASTTtOFF. I like life as life, but I hate and despise


2 4 5

Online LibraryOrville DeweyThe two great commandments: sermons → online text (page 2 of 5)