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UNCLE VANYA 35

t o fritter it away in a little Russian village. As far as
my personal existence is concerned — God! there is
absolutely no redeeming feature ! Haven't you noticed
when you cross a dense forest at night and see a little
light shining on ahead, how you forget your fatigue
and the darkness and the sharp branches that lash your
face? I work, you know that — like no one else in the
country. Fate pursues me relentlessly ; at times I suffer
unbearably and I see no light ahead of me. I have no
hope; I do not care for people. It is a long tJF^^ ^^^^
1 have loved ai^y one.

SoNYA. You love no' one?

AsTROFF. Not a soul. I feel only a kind of tender-
ness for your old nurse, for old-times* sake. The peas-
jants are all alike; they are stupid and dirty. And the
^educated people are difficult to get along with. I am
tired of them. All our friends are petty and shallow.
They see no farther than their own noses; in a single
word, they are dull. The ones wha have brains are
hysterical, consumed with a mania for andyzing them-
selves. They whine, they hate, they find fault every-
where. They crawl up to me on the sly, leer at me
and say: "That fellow is crazy," "That man is a bag
of wind." Or, if they don't know what else to call me,
they say I am peculiar. I like the forests; that is
peculiar. I don't eat meat; that is peculiar, too.



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36 UNCLE VANYA

Simple, natural relations between man and man or
between man and nature have no existence in their
eyes.

[He tries to take a drink; Sonya prevents kimJ]

SoNYA. I beg you, I implore you, don't drink any
more!
AsTROFF. Why not?

Sonya. It is so unwordiy of you. You are well-
bred, your voice is tender, you are even — more than
any one I know — handsome. Why do you wish to
be like die conmion people who drink and play cards?
Oh, don't, I beg you! You are always saying that
people never create ansrthing, but only destroy what
nature has given them. Why do you insist on destrc^-
ing yourself? Oh, don't, I implore you! I entreat
you!

AsTROFF [giving her his hand] I won't drink any
more.

Sonya. Promise.

AsTROFF. I give you my word of honor.

Sonya [squeezing his hand] Thanks !

AsTROFF. I'm through with it. You see, I'm per-
fectly sober again, and I shall remain so until the end
of my life. [He looks at his watch] But, as I was
saying, there is nothing for me in life ; my race is over.



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UNCLE VANYA 37

I am old» tired, unimportant ; my feelings are dead. I
could never again have any attachment for any one. I
love no one, and — I never shall ! Be auty alon e still
h as the power to affect me. It moves me deepl y?
He lena Andreievna could turn my head in a day if she
cared_ to^ but that isn*t love, nor affection — [He i
shudders and covers his face with his hands.']

SoNYA. What is the matter?

AsTROFF. Nothing. During Lent one of my pa-
tients died on the operating table.

SoNYA. It is time to forget that. [A pause] Tell
me, Mikhail Lvovitch, if I had a friend or a younger
sister, and if you knew that she, well — that she loved
you, what would you do?

AsTROFF [shrugging his shoulders] I don't know. I
don't suppose I'd do anything. I'd make her under-
stand that I could not return her love — still, my mind
does not bother itself with such affairs now. I must
start at once if I am ever to go. Good-bye, dear girl.
At this rate, we shall stand here talking till morning.
[Shaking hands with her] I shall go out through the
sitting-room, because I'm afraid your uncle might de^
tain me. [He goes out,]

SoNYA [alone] And he really said nothing! His
heart and soul are still hidden from me, and yet for
some reason I'm strangely happy. Why? [Laughing



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38 UNCLE VANYA

unth pleasure] I told him that he was well-bred and
handsome and that his voice was tender. Was that
wrong? I can still feel his voice throbbing in the air;
it caresses me. [Wringing her hands] Qh, how fright-
ful it is to be uglyl I am ugly, I know it. Last Sun-
day as I was coming out of church, I overheard a
woman say, ''She is a dear, noble girl, but what a pity
she is so ugly !" So ugly !

[Helena Andreievna enters and throws open the
window.]

Helena Andreievna. The storm has passed.
What wonderful air! [A pause] Where is the doctor?

SoNYA. He has gone.

H ELENA Andreievna, Sonya !

SoNYA. Yes?

Helena Andreievna. How much longer are you
going to sulk? We have done each other no harm.
Why should we be enemies? We have had enough of
this.

Sonya. I myself — [Embracing Helena Andrei-
evna] Let us make peace.

Helena Andreievna. With all my heart. [They
are both affected.]

SoNYA. Has father gone to bed?

Helena Andreievna. No, he is sitting up in the
drawing-room. Heaven knows why wc haven't been



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UNCLE VANYA 39

on speaking terms with each other for weeks. [Seeing
the open sideboard] Who left the sideboard open?
SoNYA. Mikhail Lvovitch has just had suiH>er.

Helena Andreievna, Here is some wine. Let's
seal our friendship.
SoNYA. Yes, let's.

Helena Andreievna. Out of one glass. [Filling
a unne-fflass] We are friends, aren't we?

SoNYA. Yes. [They drink and kiss each other] I
have wished to make friends for so long, but somehow
I was ashamed to. [She weeps.]

Helena Andreievna. Why do you weep?

•SoNYA. I don't know. Never mind.

Helena Andreievna. There, rfiere, don't cry.
[She weeps] Silly! Now I am crjdng, too. [A pause]
You're angry with me because you think I married
your father for his money, but don't put any trust in
the tales you hear. I swear to you I married him for
love. I was fascinated by his fame and his learning.
I know now that it wasn't real love, but it seemed real
enough at the time. I am innocent, and yet ever since
my marriage your sharp suspicious eyes have been ac-
cusing me of an imaginary crime.

SoNYA. Let's forget the past.



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40 UNCLE VANYA

Helena Andreievna. You mustn't look at people
that way. It isn't right. You must trust people, or
-^ life becomes impossible. [A pause.}

SoNYA. Tell me, truthfully, as a friend, are you
happy?

Helena Andreievna. Truthfully, no.

SoNYA. I knew it. One more question : would you
like your husband to be young?

Helena Andreievna. What a child you are I Of
course I would. Go on, ask me something else.

SoNYA. Do you like the doctor?

Helena Andreievna. Yes, very much, indeed.

SoNYA [laughing} I have a stupid face, haven't I?
He has just left, and his voice still rings in my ears ; I
can hear his step; I can see his face in the window.
Let me speak out all that I have in my heart! But no,
I can^t say it so publicly. I am ashamed. Come to
my room and let me tell you there. I seem silly to
you, don't I ? Tell me about him !

Helena Andreievna. What can I tell you?

SoNYA. He is clever. He can do everything. He
can heal the sick, and plant forests.

Helena Andreievna. It isn*t a question of medi-
cine and trees, my dear. He is a man of genius. Do
you realize what that means? It means he is coura-



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UNCLE VANYA 41

geous, deq> and clear of vision. He plants a tree and
his mind swings a thousand years into the future and J
he sees dreams of the happiness of the human race./
People like him are rare and ought to be loved. What
if he does drink and use rou^ words at times? In
Russia, a man of genius cannot be a saint. There he
lives, cut off from the world by frost and storm and
trackless muddy roads, surrounded by coarse people
who 'are crushed by poverty and disease. His life is one
endless struggle, with never a day's respite. How can
a man live like that for forty years and stay sober and
unspotted ? [Kissing Sonya'] With all my heart, I wish
you happiness; you deserve it. [Getting up] As for
me, I am a worthless, futile woman. Always I have
been futile; in music, in love, in my husband's home —
to be brief, in everything. When you stop to think
of it, Sojjya, I sm reall y venr,^v ery unfaaopv . [Wdk-
ing excitedly back and forth] I can never achieve hap-
piness in this world. Never. Why do you laugh?

SoNYA [laughing and putting her hands over her
face] I amTso happy, so happy !

Helena Andreievna. I wish I could hear some
music. I mi^jLclay-Ajittle.

SoNYA. Oh, do, do! [Embracing her] I couldn't
possibly go to sleep now. Do play!



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42 UNCLE VANYA

Hblbna Andreievna. Yes, I will. Your fadier is
still awake. Music annoys him when he is ill, but if
he says I may, then I shall play a little. Go and ask
him, Sonya.

SoNYA. All right.

[She goes out. The sound of the Watchman' s ratt le
comes from the back yard,]

Helena Andreievna. It's a long time since Fve
heard music. And now, I shall sit and play and cry
like a simi^eton. [Cal(tng out of the unndotu] Yefim,
is that you out there winTyour rattle?

Voice of the Watchman. Yes.

Helena Andreievna. Don't make so much noise.
Your master is ill.

Voice of the Watchman. Fm ofiE right away«
{FTr Tcftuf/nf a tunr ]
Sonya [returning] He says ''No/ *

THE curtain falls.



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ACT THREE.

The drawing-room of Serebryakoff's house. There
are doors right, left and center. It is early afternoon.
Voinitsky and Sonya are sea ted. Helena Andreievfui
walks back and forth, deep in thought.

Voinitsky. The Hcrr Professor has deigned to
express the wish that we all gather in the drawing-
room at one o'clock. [Looking at his watch] It is
now a quarter to one. H e has ^ message to convey to
the world, , — — —

Helena Andreievna. It's probably u question of
business. ^ .y

Voinitsky. He never has any business. He writes
nonsense, grumbles and eats out his hea rty with jea l-
ousy; that's jalL be does.

Sonya [reproachfutly] Uncle!

Voinitsky. Very wdl. I heg your pardon.
[Pointing to Helena Jndrei^na} JLook a.t her. Rpani-
ing up and down out of sheer idleness* A pretty pic-
ture, I must say!

43



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44 UNCLE VANYA

Helena Andreievna. I'm surprised that it doesn't
bore you to strum on the same note from morning
to night. [With despair'] This tedium is killing me.
What shall I do?

SoNYA [shrugging her shoulders] There is i^enty
to do if you wish to.

Helena Andreievna. For instance?

SoNYA. You could help run this estate, teach the
children, look after the sick -r- isn't that enough? Be-
fore you and father came, Unde Vanya and I used to
take the grain to market ourselves.

Helena Andreievna. I know nothing about such
-matters, and, besides, I'm not interested in them. Only
l in sentiment^ novels do women go out and teadi ^n j
yook afterwkpeasants;liow can I start in doi ng it all
pf jl jmddjm

SoNYA. How you can live here and not do it, is
what I fail to understand. Be patient and you'll get
used to it. [Embracing her] Don't be melancholy,
dearest. [Laughing] You feel out-of-sorts and restless
and unable, scnnehow, to fit into this life, and your
restlessness is infectious. Look at Uncle Vanya, he
does nothing now but trail you like a shadow, and I
have given up my work to-day to come here and talk
with you. I'm g^ng lasy and losing interest in my
wo^ Dr. Mikhail Lvovitdi hardly ever came here;



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UNCLE VANYA 45 *\ *

>- ■

it was all we could do to induce him to visit us once
e^ch month, and now he has given up his forestry and
his medicine, and comes every day. You must be a

witch.

■■^%^

VoiNiTSKY. Why should you pii^r.away here?
Come, my darling, my sweetheart, be sensible! A
mermaid's blood runs in your veins. Why don't you
bdiave like one? Give your nature free rein f<^ once
m your life ; fall heels^ over head in love with some
other water sprite, and^ plunge headlong into a deep
pool, so that the Herr Professor and all the rest pf us
may be free again.

Helbna Andreibvna [in anger] Leave me alone I
How brutal you are! [She tries to leave J]

VoiNiTSKY [preventing her] There, there, my darl-
ing, I apologize. Forgive me. [He kisses her hanJ}
Peace!

Helena Andreievna. Admit that you would try
the patience of a saint.

VoiNnsKY. As a peace ofiFering, Fm going to bring
you some flowers I picked for you this morning; some
autumn roses, glori ous, melancholy roses . [He leaves.]

SoNYA. Autumn roses, glorious, melancholy roses!

[She and Helena Andreievna stgnd at the window
looking out.]



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46 UNCLE VANYA

Helena Andrbievna. September already! How
are we going to live through the long winter here?
[A pause] Whcte is the doctor?

SoNYA. He's in Uncle Vanya's writing-room. I'm
ghd Unde Vanya has left. I'd like to talk to you
about something.

Helena Andreievna. About what?

SoNYA. About what? [She puts her ^head on
Helena Andreievna's breast, ]

Helena Andreievna [caressing her hair] There,
there! Don't, Sonya.

SoNYA. Ian ugly!

Helena Andreievna. You have beautiifuLhair.

Sonya. I Jon't say th at ! [Turning to look at her*
self in tht glass] No, when a woman is ugly, they al-
ways say that she has beautiful hair or eyes. Fo r six
v ^rs now I have ^lovcd^hiini^I ha« lovedhim more
t han vou can love Your own m other.^ Every second,
I seem to hear him by my side. I feel his hand press
mine. I watch the door all the time, imagining I can
hear his footsteps. And — don't you see? — I run
to you just to talk about him. Every day now he comes
here, but he never looks at me, he doesn't even notice
my presence. It is heart-breaking. I have absolutely
no hope, no hope. [In despair] God! Give me
strength to endure. All last night I prayed. Often



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UNCLE VANYA 47

I go up to him and speak to him and look into his
eyes. MxjpridcjsjgcMie. I no longer have the strength
to control myself. Yesterday I^ t old Unde Van ya
that I love him. I coutdn^t help ij. And all the
servants know it. Every one knows that I love hinu

Helena Andrbievna. Does he?

SoNYA. No, he never pays any attention to me.

Helena Andreievna [thoughtfully] He is a
strange man. Listen, Sonya, will you permit me to
speak to him? I shall be careful and hint gently* [A
pause] Really, to live in such uncertainty all these
years! Let me do it!

[Sonya nods affirmatively,]

Helena Andreievna. Excellent ! It will be easy
to find out whether or not he loves you. Don't be
ashamed, darling, don't worry. I shall be careful;
he won't have the least suspicion. We only widi to
find out whether it is yes or no, don't we ? [A pause]
And if it is no, then he must stay away from here, isn't
that right?

{Sowytf nods.]

Helena Andreievna. It would be easier not to
see.him iny more. We won't dday this a(h instant. He
said he had a sketch to show me. Go and tell hini at
once that I wish Vb see him. ' ^



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48 UNCLE VANYA

SoNYA [greatly excited] Will you tell me the whole
truth?

Hblbna Andreievna. Of course I wilL I'm sure
that whatever it is, it will be easier to endure than
this uncertainty. Trust me» dearest.

SoNYA. Yes, yes. I shall say that you wish to see
his sketdi. [She starts to go, hut stops near the door
and looks back] No, it is better not to know — and
yet — maybe there's hope.

Hblbna Andrbievna. What are you saying?

SoNYA. Nothing. [She leaves.]

Helena Andreievna [alone] There is nothing \f^
worse than to know the secret of another human being, u
and to realize there's nothing you can do to hd(> them. \ ,
[In deep thought] Obviously, he is not in love with
her. But why shouldn't he marry her? She isn't
pretty, but she is so clever and pure and good that she
would make an excellent wife for a country doctor
of his years. [A pause] I can feel for die poor child.
Here she lives in this desperate loneliness with no one
about her except these gray ^adows who do nothing
but eat, drink, sleep and talk nonsense. Among them
from time to time appears this Dr. Astroff, so different,
so handsome, so entertaining, so fascinating. It is like
seeing the moon rise on a daric night. Oh, to sur-
render yourself, body and aoul, to audi a man! Even



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UNCLE VANYA 49

I am a little in love with him ! Yes» without him I am
lonely; ynhen I think of him, I smile. Uncle Vanya
lays I have the blood of a mermaid in my veins: "For
once in your life, give free rein to your nature!" Per-
haps I should. Oh, to be free as a bird, to fly away
from all those drowsy faces and their monotonous chat-
ter and forget that they have existed at all ! But I am
cowardly ; I am afraid ; my conscience tortures me. He
comes here every day now. I can guess why, and al-
ready I feel guilty; I should like to fall on my knees
at Son3ra's feet and beg her to forgive me and weep.

[Astroff enters carrying a portfolio.']

AsTROFF. Good afternoon! [Shaking hands with
ker"] Do you wish to see my sketch?

Helena Aniweievna. Yes, you promised you'd
show me what you had been doing. Have you time
now?

AsntOFF. Of course!

[He lays the portfolio on the table, takes out a
sketch and attaches it to the table unth thumb-tacks.}

A&TROFF. What was your birthplace?

Helena Andreievna [helping him out] In Peters-
burg.

AsntOFF. And where were you educated?

Helena Andreisvna. At the Cooiemtoiy there*



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50 UNCLE VANYA

AsTROFF. I don't suppose you find this life very in-
teresting.

Helena Andreievna. Oh, why not? It's true I
don't know the country very well, but I've read a
great deal about it.

AsTROFF. I have my own desk there in Ivan's room.
When I'm simply too worn out to go on with my work,
I drop everything and rush over here to forget myself
in this pastime for an hour or two. Ivan Petrovitch
and Sonya Alexandrovna rattle away at their counting
frames, I feel warm and peaceful, the cricket chirps,
and I sit near them at my table and paint. But I
don't indulge in this luxury very often, only about once
a month. [Pointing to the ptctttre] Look ! • This is a
survey map of our country as it was fifty years ago.
The green tints, both light and dark, stand for foiests.
Half the map, you see, is covered with them. Where
the green is striped with red, the forests were stocked
with elk aod wild goats. Here in thi^ lake were great
flocks of swans and geese and ducks; as the old men
say, there was a power of birds of ev^ry kind. Now
they have vanished like a mist. Beside the towns and
villages, you see, I have jotted down here arid there the
various settlements, farms, hermits' caves and wiater-
mills. This country was rich in cattle and horses, as
you can see by did expanse of blue. For instance, see



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uncle; vanya 51

bow it deepens in this part ; there were great herds of
tiicm here, an average of three horses to every house.
[J pause] Now, look lower down. This is the coun-
try as it was twenty-five years ago. Only a third of
the map now is green with forests. There are no goats
remaining and no elk. The green and blue are lighter,
and so on and so forth. Now, we come to the third
diagram, our country as it is to-day. Still we see
spots of green, but very little. The elk, the swans, the
black-cock have disappeared. On the whole, it is the
picture of a continuous and slow decline which will
evidently come to completion in about ten or fifteen
years. Pwhaps you may object that it is the march of
progr ^, that the old order ro y^t givp^wny tp fHe"new,
a n3 jou would be right if roads had been built throu gh
t hese ruined forests, or if factories and schools ha d
taken their place. Then the pfoplp woul^ have be-
rnm<> bfttt cf educated and Jiealthier and richer, b ut as
i t is, we havy nothing of the kind. We have the same
swamps and mosquitoes; the same disease and misery:
typhoid, diphtheria, fires. The degradation of our
country confronts us, brought on l^ the human race's
fierce struggle for existence. It is all the result of the
ignorance and heedlessness of starving, diivering, ill
humanity. To save our children, we snatch instinc-
tively at everything that caa warm us and satisfy our
hunger. Therefore we consume everything on which



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52 UNCLE VANYA

we can lay our hands, without a thought for the future.
And so aknost everything has been destroyed and
nothing created to take its place. [Coldly] B ut I s ee
by your expression that it does not interest you .

Helena Andreievna. I kn ow so little about sudh
things!

AsTROFF. There's nothing to know. It simolv is n't
interesting, that's all.

Helena Andreievna. Frankly, my thoughts were
elsewhere. Forgive me! I must ask you something,
but Fm embarrassed and I don't know how to begin.

AsTROFF. Ask me something ?

Helena Andreievna. Yes, quite an innocent
question. Sit down. [They both sit] It's about a
young girl I know. Let's discuss it like honest people,
like friends, and then forget what will have passed
between us, shall we?

AsTROFF. All right.

Helena Andreievna. It's about my step-daughter,
Sonya. Do you like her?

AsTROFF. Yes, I respect her,

Helena Andreievna. Do you like her — as a
wcMnan ?

Astroff [slowly] No.

Helena Andreievna. One word more and that
will be the last. You have noticed nothing?



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UNCLE VANYA 53

AsTROFF. No, nothing.

Hblena Andreievna [taking his hand in hers] You
don't love her. I see it in your eyes. She is suffering.
You must understand that and not come here any more.

AsTROFF. I am rather too old for — and anyhow,
I haven' t the ti me. {Shrugging his shoulders'] When
could I? [Embarrassed.]

Helena AndreIpvna. Bah I What a disgusting
conversation. I am as breathless as if I had been run-
ning three miles uphilL Thank heaven, that is done
with. Now let us forget everything that has been
said. But you must leave at once. You are sensible.
You understand. [A pause] I am actually blushing.

AsTROFF. If you had spoken a month or two ago,
perhaps I might have considered it, but now — [Shrugs
ging his shoulders] Of course, if she is suffering — but
I can't understand your reasons for putting me through
this examination. [Searching her face with his eyes
and shaking his finger at her] Oho, you are shrewd !

Helena Andreievna. What do you mean?

AsTROFF [laughing] You are a shrewd one ! I ad-
mit that Sonya is suffering, but why do you cross-
question me? [Preventing her from answering and
going on quickly] Please don't look so surprised; you
know perfectly well why I come here every day. Yes,
you know perfectly why and for whose sake I cornel



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54 UNCLE VANYA

Qh, my little bird of prey! don^t look at me in that
way; I am an old sparrow!

Helena Andrbievna [perplexed] Bird of prey? I
don't understand.

AsTROFF, Beautiful, fluffy bird of prey, you must
have your victims ! For an entire month, I have done
nothing but hunt you eagerly. I have cast aside every-
thing for you, and it pleases you to see it. Now then,
I'm sure you knew all this without submitting me to
that cross-examination. [Crossing his arms and hoW'
ing his head] I yield I am yours — now, eat me!

Helena Andrbievna You have gone insane!

AsTROFF [laughing ironically] You are afraid !

Helena Andreievna. I am a better and a stronger
woman than you think me. I swear to you! [She
tries to leave the room.]

AsTROFF [barring her way] I'll go away to-day. I
shan't come here any more. But — [Taking her hand
and glancing about] — for the future — where are we
going to meet? Tell me quickly, where? Some one
may come in. Tell me quickly! — [Passionately] You
arc so gloriously beautiful! — Just one kiss — let me
kiss your fragrant hair!

Hblbna Andreievna. I swear to you !



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UNCLE VANYA 55

AsTROFF. Why swear? You must not! Let us
not waste words! Ah, how lovely you arc — what
hands! [Kissing her hands.'}

Helena Andreievna. Enough! Go away!
[Freeing her hands] You are forgetting yourself !

AsTROFF. Tell me! Tell me! Where will we
meet to-morrow? [Putting his arms around her]
Don't you see ! We must meet ! It is inevitable.

[He kisses her. Foinitsky comes in carrying a bunch
o f roses, and halts in the doorway.]

Helena Andreievna [wi thout seeintr Foinitsky ]
Have pity! Leave me! [She lays her head on Astroff*s
shoulder] Don't ! [She tries to break aivay from him.]

AsTROFF [holding her round the waist] Be in the
forest to-morrow af two. Yes! Will you come?

Helena Andreievna [seeing Foinitsky] Let me
go! [Breaking free and going to the window deeply
embarrassed] This is dreadful!


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