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THE BEAR A Joke in One Act. (Dedicated to N. N. Solovtsov) CHARACTERS YELENA IVANOVNA POPOVA, a young widow with dimples in her cheeks, a landowner. GRIGORY STEPANOVICH SMIRNOV, a middle aged landowner LUKA, Popova's man-servant, an old fellow A drawing room in Popova's manor house. SCENE I POPOVA is in deep mourning, her eyes fixed on a portrait photograph. Also there is LUKA. LUKA This won't do, mistress... You're running yourself down is all... The housemaid and the cook are out picking berries, every living thing rejoices, even the tabby cat, she knows how to have fun, running around outside, tracking dicky birds, while you sit inside the livelong day, like in a nunnery, and don't have no fun. Honest to goodness! Just figure, a years' gone by now, and you ain't set foot outside the house! POPOVA And I never shall... What for? My life is already over. He lies in the grave, I've buried myself within these four walls... We're both dead. LUKA Yes, ma'am! The doorbell rings insistently. POPOVA (Startled) Who's that? Tell them I am in to nobody! LUKA Yes indeed, ma'am! LUKA EXITS. SCENE II POPOVA alone. POPOVA (Looking at the photograph) You see, Nicolas, how I know how to love adn forgive... My love will flicker out when I do, when my poor heart ceases to beat. (Laughs, through tears) And aren't you ashamed? I'm a good girl, a faithful little wife, I've locked myself up in a fortress and will be true to you to the day I die, while you... aren't you ashamed, you chubby thing? You cheated on me, made scenes, left me on my own for weeks at a time... SCENE III POPOVA and LUKA. LUKA (Enters, anxiously) Mistress, there's somebody asking for you. Wants to see you... POPOVA But didn't you tell him that I am in to nobody since the death of my husband? LUKA I told 'im, but he don't want to listen, he says it's very urgent business. POPOVA I am in--to--no--bo--dy! LUKA I told 'im, but... some kind o'maniac... he cusses and shoves right into the room... he's there in the dining room right now... POPOVA (Irritated) All right, show him in... How uncouth! LUKA EXITS. POPOVA (CONT'D) How tiresome these people are! What do they want from me? Why do they disturb my serenity? (Sighs) No, it's obvious, I really shall have to get me to a nunnery... (Musing) Yes, a nunnery... SCENE IV POPOVA, LUKA, and SMIRNOV. SMIRNOV (Entering, to Luka) Numbskull, you're too fond of hearing yourself talk... Jackass! (On seeing Popova, with dignity) Madam, may I introduce myself: retired lieutenant of artillery, landowner Grigory Stepanovich Smirnov! Forced to disturb you on the most urgent business... POPOVA (CONT'D) (Not offering her hand) What can I do for you? SMIRNOV Your late husband, whom I had the honor to know, left two I.O.U.s owing me twelve hundred rubles. Because tomorrow my interest payment to the bank falls due, I would ask you, madam, to repay me the money today. POPOVA Twelve hundred... But what was my husband in debt to you for? SMIRNOV He bought oats from me. POPOVA (Sighing, to Luka) Now don't you forget, Luka, to tell them to give Toby an extra portion of oats. LUKA EXITS. POPOVA (CONT'D) (To Smirnov) If Nikolay Mikhailovich still owes you money, why, it stands to reason, I shall pay; but, please forgive me, I have no cash on hand today. The day after tomorrow my foreman will be back from town, and I'll ask him to pay you what's owing, but in the meantime I cannot comply with your request... Besides, today is exactly seven months since my husband dies, and the way I'm feeling now I am completely indisposed to deal with financial matters. SMIRNOV And the way I'm feeling now if I don't pay the interest tomorrow, I'll be up the creek good and proper. They'll foreclose on my estate! POPOVA The day after tomorrow you'll get your money. SMIRNOV I don't need the money the day after tomorrow, I need it now. POPOVA Excuse me, I cannot pay you today. SMIRNOV And I cannot wait until the day after tomorrow. POPOVA What's to be done, if I don't have it at the moment! SMIRNOV In other words, you can't pay up? POPOVA I cannot... SMIRNOV Hmmm!... Is that your last word? POPOVA Yes, my very last. SMIRNOV Your last! Positively? POPOVA Positively. SMIRNOV Thank you very much indeed. We'll just make a memo of that shall we? (Shrugs his shoulders) And people expect me to be cool, calm, and collected! Just now on the road I ran into the tax collector and he asks: "Why are you always losing your temper, Grigory Stepanovic?" Well, for pity's sake, how can I keep from losing my temper? I need money like crazy... I rode out yesterday morning almost at dawn, dropped in on everyone who owes me money, and not a single one of them paid me! I'm dog-tired, spent the night in some godforsaken hole -- in a kike tavern next to a keg of vodka... Finally I show up here, forty miles from home, I hope to get something, and they greet me with "the way I'm feeling now!" How can I keep from losing my temper? POPOVA I believe my words were clear: when the foreman returns from town, you'll get it. SMIRNOV I didn't come to the foreman, but to you! What the blue blazes, pardon the expression, do I need with your foreman!? POPOVA Forgive me, my dear sir, I am not accustomed to that peculiar expression and that tone of voice. I will not listen to you anymore. POPOVA EXITS quickly. SCENE V SMIRNOV alone. SMIRNOV Say pretty please! "The way I'm feeling now..." Seven months ago her husband died! But do I have to pay the interest or don't I? I ask you: do I have to pay the interest or don't I? So, you had a husband die on you, there's some way you're feeling now, and the rest of the double-talk... the foreman's gone off somewhere, damn him to hell, but what do you expect me to do? Fly away from my creditors on a hot-air balloon or what? Or run off and bash my skull against the wall? I rode over to Gruzdyov's -- he's not at home. Yaroshevich is in hiding, I have a fatal falling-out with Kuritsyn and almost throw him out a window, Mazutov has got the trots, and this one has a way she's feeling. Not one of the lousy deadbeats will pay up! And all because I've been too indulgent to them, I'm a soft touch, a pushover, a sissy! I'm too delicate with them! Well, just you wait! You'll learn who I am! I won't let you pull anything over on me, damn it! I'll stay here, I'll stick around until she pays up! Brr!... I'm really angry today, really angry! Anger is making the thews in my thighs quiver, I have to catch my breath... Fooey, my God, I'm even coming over faint! (Shouts) You there!... SCENE VI SMIRNOV and LUKA. LUKA (Enters) What's wrong? SMIRNOV Get me some kvas or water! LUKA EXITS. SMIRNOV (CONT'D) No, what kind of logic is that! A man needs money like crazy, he's on the verge of hanging himself, and she won't pay because, don't you see, she's indisposed to deal with financial matters!... Honest-to-God weaker-sex logic, all her brains are in her bustle! That's why I never liked, still do not like to talk to women. For me it's easier to sit on a keg of gunpowder than talk to a woman. Brr!... I've got goosebumps crawling up and down my skin -- that's how much that petticoat has enraged me! All I need is to see in the distance some "weaker vessel" and my calves start to cramp with anger. It makes you want to call for help. SCENE VII SMIRNOV and LUKA. LUKA (Enters and serves water) The mistress is sick and won't see anyone. SMIRNOV Get out! LUKA EXITS. SMIRNOV (CONT'D) Sick and won't see anyone! Then don't, don't see me... I'll sit in this spot here until you hand over the money. You can be sick for a week, and I'll sit here for a week... You can be sick for a year -- and I'll stay a year... I'll have what's due me, my fair lady! You don't get to me with your mourning weeds and dimples on your cheeks... We know the meaning of those dimples! (Shouts out the window) Semyon, unhitch the horses! We'll be here for a while! I'm sticking around! Tell 'em in the stable to give the horses oats! Again, you swine, you've left the trace-horse tangled up in the reins! (Mimics him) "It makes no never mind..." I'll give you no never mind! (Walks aways from the window) Disgusting... the heat's unbearable, nobody pays me what they owe, I got no sleep last night, and now this petticoat in mourning with the way she's feeling now... My head aches... Should I have some vodka or what? I suppose a drink'll be all right!... (Shouts) You there! LUKA (Enters) What d'you want? SMIRNOV Get me a glass of vodka! LUKA EXITS. SMIRNOV (CONT'D) Oof! (Sits and looks around) Got to admit, I'm a pretty picture! Covered with dust, boots muddy, haven't washed, or combed my hair, straw on my vest... I'll be the little lady took me for a highway robber. (Yawns) It is a bit uncouth to show up in a drawing-room looking like this, well, never mind... I'm not here as a guest, but as a bill collector, there's no rules of etiquette for bill collectors... LUKA (Enters and serves vodka) You're taking a lot of liberties, sir... SMIRNOV (Angrily) What? LUKA I... I didn't mean... I strictly... SMIRNOV Who do you think you're talking to? Hold your tongue! LUKA (Aside) Jumped right down my throat, the monster... Why the hell did he have to show up? LUKA EXITS. SMIRNOV Oh, I really am angry. So angry that, I think I could grind the whole world into dust... I'm even feeling faint... (Shouts) You there! SCENE VIII POPOVA and SMIRNOV. POPOVA (Enters, averting her eyes) Dear sir, during my lengthy isolation I have grown unaccustomed to the human voice and I cannot bear shouting. I earnestly beg you not to disturb my peace! SMIRNOV Pay me my money and I'll go. POPOVA I told you in plain Russian: I don't have any loose cash at the moment, wait until the day after tomorrow. SMIRNOV I also had the honor of telling you in plain Russian: I don't need the money the day after tomorrow, but today. If you don't pay me today, then tomorrow I shall have to hang myself. POPOVA But what am I supposed to do, if I haven't got any money? How very peculiar! SMIRNOV So you won't pay me right this minute? No? POPOVA I can't... SMIRNOV In that case I shal stay sitting here until I get it... (Sits) The day after tomorrow you'll pay up? Wonderful! I shall sit until the day after tomorrow just like this. Look, see how I'm sitting... (Jumps up) I ask you: do I have to pay the interest tomorrow or not?... Or do you think I'm joking? POPOVA Dear sir, I ask you not to shout! This isn't a stable! SMIRNOV My question was not is this a stable, but do I need to pay the interest tomorrow or not? POPOVA You don't know how to behave in the presence of a lady! SMIRNOV Yes, ma'am, I do know how to behave in the presence of a lady! POPOVA No, you don't! You are an ill-mannered, boorish fellow! Respectable people don't talk to ladies this way! SMIRNOV Ah, this is wonderful! How would you like me to talk to you? In French or something? (Maliciously, lisping) Madame, shay voo pree... (Mispronunciation of 'je vous prie', meaning; I beg you.) I'm absolutely delighted that you won't pay me my money... Ah, pardon, that I'm disturbing you! Isn't the weather lovely today! And how that mourning becomes you! (Bowing and scraping) POPOVA That's not witty, it's rude. SMIRNOV (Mimics her) That's not witty, it's rude! I don't know how to behave in the presence of a lady! Madam, in my lifetime I've seen more women than you've had hot dinners! Three times I fought a duel with firearms over a woman, I've walked out on a dozen women and ten have walked out on me! Yes, ma'am! There was a time when I played the fool, got all sticky- sentimental, talked the sweet-talk, laid on the soft-soap, clicked my heels... I loved, suffered, bayed at the moon, went spineless, melted, turned hot and cold... I loved passionately, madly, you-name-it-ly, damn it, squawked like a parrot about women's rights, spent half my fortune on hearts and flowers, but now -- thanks but no thanks! You won't lead me down the garden path again! Enough is enough! Black eyes, flashing eyes, crimson lips, dimpled cheeks, the moon, low whispers, heavy breathing --- for all this, madam, I now don't give a tinker's dam! Present company excepted, but all women, great and small, are phonies, show- offs, gossips, trouble-makers, liars to the marrow of their bones, vain, fussy, ruthless, their reasoning is a disgrace, and as for what's in here, (Slaps his forehead) forgive my frankness, a sparrow could give ten points to any thinker in petticoats! You gaze at some romantic creature: muslin, moonshine, a demi-goddess, a million raptures, but take a peep into her soul -- a common - or garden-variety crocodile! (Grabs the back of a chair, the chair creaks and breaks) But the most outrageous thing of all is that this crocodile for some reason imagines that its masterpiece, its prerogative and monopoly is the tender passion! Damn it all to hell, hang me upside-down on this nail -- does a woman really know how to love anyone other than a lapdog? In love she only knows how to whimper and snivel! While a man suffers and sacrifices, all of her love is expressed only in swishing the train on her dress and trying to lead him more firmly by the nose. You have the misfortune to be a woman, you probably know what a woman's like from your own nature. Tell me on your honor: have you every in your life seen a woman be sincere, faithful and constant? You have not! Faithfulness, constancy, -- that's only for old bags and freaks! You'll sooner run into a cat with horns or a white blackbird than a constant woman! POPOVA I beg your pardon, but, in your opinion, just who is faithful and constant in love? Not the man? SMIRNOV Yes, ma'am, the man! POPOVA The man! (Malicious laugh) The man is faithful and constant in love! Do tell, now there's news! (Heatedly) What right have you to say that! Men faithful and constant! If it comes to that, let me tell you that of all the men I've known and still know, the very best was my late husband... I loved him passionately, with every fiber of my being, as only a young, intelligent woman can love: I gave him my youth, happiness, life, my fortune, breathed through him, worshiped him like an idolator, and... and -- then what? This best of men cheated me in the most shameless manner on every occasion! After his death I found in his desk a whole drawer full of love letter, and during his lifetime -- horrible to remember! --he would leave me alone for weeks at a time, make advances to other women before my very eyes and betrayed me, squandered my money, ridiculed my feelings... And, despite all that, I loved him and was faithful to him... What's more, now that he's dead, I am still faithful and constant to him. I have buried myself for ever within these four walls, and until my dying day I shall not remove this mourning... SMIRNOV (A spiteful laugh) Mourning!... I don't understand who you take me for? Don't I know perfectly well why you wear that black masquerade outfit and have buried yourself within these four walls? Of course I do! It's so mysterious, so romantic! Some young cadet or bob-tailed poet will be walking by the estate, he'll peer into the window and think: "Here lives the mysterious Tamara, who for love of her husband has buried herself within four walls." We know these tricks! POPOVA (Flaring up) What? How dare you say such things to me! SMIRNOV You've buried yourself alive, but look, you haven't forgot to powder your face! POPOVA How dare you talk to me that way? SMIRNOV Please don't raise your voice to me, I'm not your foreman! Allow me to call things by their rightful names. I'm not a woman and I'm used to expressing opinions straight out! So be so kind as not to raise your voice! POPOVA I'm not raising my voice, you're raising your voice! Be so kind as to leave me in peace! SMIRNOV Pay me the money and I'll go. POPOVA I haven't got any money! SMIRNOV No, ma'am, hand it over! POPOVA Just out of spite, you won't get a kopek! You can leave me in peace! SMIRNOV I don't have the pleasure of being either your spouse or your fiance, so please don't make scenes for my benefit. (Sits) I don't care for it. POPOVA (Panting with anger) You sat down! SMIRNOV I sat down. POPOVA I insist that you leave! SMIRNOV Hand over the money... (Aside) Ah, I am really angry! Really angry! POPOVA I do not choose to have a conversation with smart-alecks! Please clear out of here! (Longer pause) You aren't going? No? SMIRNOV No. POPOVA No? SMIRNOV No! POPOVA Very well then! (Rings) SCENE IX The SAME and LUKA. POPOVA (CONT'D) Luka, escort this gentlemen out! LUKA (Walks over to Smirnov) Sir, please leave when you're asked! There's nothing doing here... SMIRNOV (Leaping up) Shut up! Who do you think you're talking to? I'll toss you like a salad! LUKA (Grabs his heart) Heavenly fathers!... Saints alive!... (Falls into an armchair) Oh, I feel faint, faint! I can't catch my breath! POPOVA Where's Dasha? Dasha! (Shouts) Dasha! Pelageya! Dasha! (Rings) LUKA Ugh! They've all gone out to pick berries... There's no one in the house... Faint! Water! POPOVA Will you please clear out of here! SMIRNOV Would you care to be a little more polite? POPOVA (Clenching her fists and stomping her feet) You peasant! You unlicked bear! Upstart! Monster! SMIRNOV What? What did you say? POPOVA I said that you're a bear, a monster!... SMIRNOV (Taking a step) Excuse me, what right have you got to insult me? POPOVA Yes, I am insulting you... well, so what? You think I'm afraid of you? SMIRNOV And do you think because you're a member of the weaker sex, you have the right to insult people with impunity? Really? I challenge you to a duel! LUKA Saints in heaven!... Holy saints!... Water! SMIRNOV We'll settle this with firearms! POPOVA Just because you've got fists like hams and bellow like a bull, you think I'm afraid of you? Huh? You're such an upstart! SMIRNOV I challenge you to a duel! I brook no insults and therefore I'll overlook the fact that you are a woman, a foul creature! POPOVA (Trying to shout over him) You bear! You bear! You bear! SMIRNOV It's high time we rid ourselves of the prejudice that only men have to pay for insults! Equal rights are equal right, damn it all! I challenge you to a duel! POPOVA You want to settle it with firearms? As you like! SMIRNOV This very minute! POPOVA This very minute! My husband left some pistols behind... I'll bring them here at once... (Hurriedly goes and returns) I shall take great pleasure in pumping a bullet into your thick skull! You can go to hell! (Exits) SMIRNOV I'll smoke her like a side of bacon! I'm no snotnose kid, no sentimental puppy, female frailty has no effect on me! LUKA Dear, kind master!... (Gets on his knees) Do me the favor, pity me, an old man, clear out of here! You've skeered me to death, and now you're fixing to shoot up the place! SMIRNOV (Not listening to him) Shooting at one's fellow human, that's what I call equality, women's rights! That puts both sexes on an equal footing! I will plug her on principle! But can you call her a woman? (Mimics) "Damn you to hell... I'll pump a bullet into your thick skull"? What's that all about? She got flushed, her eyes blazed... She accepted my challenge! Honest to God, it's the first time in my life I've ever seen... LUKA For heaven's sake, go away! I'll have prayers said for you forever! SMIRNOV Now that's a woman! That's something I can understand! An honest-to- God woman! Not a sourpuss, not a limp rag, but flames, gunpowder, a rocket! I'm almost sorry I'll have to kill her! LUKA (Weeps) Master... my dear sir, go away! SMIRNOV I actually like her! I really do. Even if she didn't have dimples in her cheeks, I'd like her! Even willing to forgive her the debt... and my anger's gone... Wonderful woman! SCENE X The SAME and POPOVA. POPOVA (Enters with pistols) Here they are, the pistols... But, before we fight, you will be so kind as to show me how to shoot... Never in my life have i held a pistol in my hands. LUKA Save us, Lord, and be merciful... I'll go see if I can find the gardener and the coachman... How did this disaster land on our head... LUKA EXITS. SMIRNOV (Glancing at the pistols) You see, there are different types of pistol... There are special dueling pistols, the Mortimer, with percussion caps. What you've got here are revolvers of the Smith and Wesson make, triple action with an extractor, battlefield accuracy... Splendid pistols... Cost at least ninety rubles the brace... You have to hold a pistol like this... (Aside) Her eyes, her eyes! An incendiary woman! POPOVA This way? SMIRNOV Yes, that way... Whereupon you raise the cocking piece... then take aim like so... Head back a bit! Extend your arm, in the appropriate manner... That's it!... Then with this finger squeeze this doodad here --- and that's all there is to it... Only rule number one is: keep a cool head and take your time aiming... Try not to let your hand shake. POPOVA Fine... It's not convenient to shoot inside, let's go into the garden. SMIRNOV Let's go. Only I warn you that I shall fire into the air. POPOVA Of all the nerve! Why? SMIRNOV Because... because... It's my business, that's why! POPOVA You're chickening out? Are you? Ah-ah-ah-ah! No, sir, no worming out of it! Please follow me! I won't rest until I've blown a hole in your head... that very head I hate so much! Are you chickening out? SMIRNOV Yes, I am. POPOVA That's a lie! Why don't you want to fight? SMIRNOV Because... because I... like you. POPOVA (Malicious laugh) He likes me! he dares to say that he likes me! (Points to the door) You may go. SMIRNOV (Silently puts down the revolver, takes his cape, and goes; near the door he stops, for half a minute both look silently at one another; then he says, irresolutely crossing to Popova) Listen here... Are you still angry?... I'm damnably infuriated as well, but, you don't understand... How can I put this... The fact is, you see, the way the story goes, speaking for myself... (Shouts) Well, is it really my fault that I like you! (Grabs the back of a chair, the chair creaks and breaks) What the hell sort of breakaway furniture have you got! I like you! Understand? I... I am practically in love! POPOVA Get away from me -- I hate you! SMIRNOV Go ahead and shoot! You cannot understand what bliss it would be to die beneath the gaze of those wonder eyes, to die from a gunshot fired by that small, velvety, dainty hand... I've gone out of my mind! Think it over, come to a decision right now, because once I leave this place, we shall never meet again! Come to a decision... I'm a gentlemen, a respectable fellow, I have an income of ten thousand a year... if you toss a coin in the air, I can shoot a bullet through it... My horses are superb... Will you be my wife? POPOVA (Outraged, brandishes the revolver) Shoot! Twenty paces! SMIRNOV I've gone out of my mind... I don't understand a thing... (Shouts) You there, water! POPOVA (Shouts) Twenty paces! SMIRNOV I've gone out of my mind, I've fallen in love like a little kid, like a fool! (Grasps her by the arm, she shrieks in pain.) I love you! (Gets on his knees) I love you as I have never loved before! Twenty women I've walked out on, ten have walked out on me, but not one of them did I love the way I love you... I've gone all touchy-feely, I've turned to sugar, I'm limp as a dishrag... I'm kneeling like a fool and offering you my hand... It's a shame, a disgrace! It's five years since I've been in love, I swore never again, and all of a sudden I'm head over heels, out of character like a long peg in a short hole! I offer you my hand. Yes or no? You don't want to? You don't have to! (Gets up and quickly goes to the door) POPOVA Hold on... SMIRNOV (Stops) Well? POPOVA Never mind, you can go... Although, hold on... No, go, go away! I hate you! Or no... Don't go! Ah, if you'd had any idea how really angry I am, really angry! (Throws the revolver on the table) My fingers are swollen from that awful thing... (Tears her handkerchief in rage) Why are you standing there? Clear out of here! SMIRNOV Good-bye. POPOVA Yes, yes, go away!... (Shouts) Where are you off to? Hold on... Go on, though. Oh, I'm really angry! Don't come over here, don't come over here! SMIRNOV (Crossing to her) I'm really angry at myself! I fell in love like a schoolboy, got on my knees... Goosebumps are creeping up and down my skin... (Rudely) I love you! I need to fall in love with you like I need a hole in the head! Tomorrow I've got to pay the interest, haymaking's begun, while you're here... (Takes her round the waist) I'll never forgive myself... POPOVA Get away! Hands off! I... hate you! Twenty pa-paces! A protracted KISS. SCENE XI The SAME, LUKA with an axe, the GARDENER with a rake, the COACHMAN with a pitchfork, and WORKMEN with staves. LUKA (On seeing the kissing couple) Saints preserve us! Pause. POPOVA (with downcast eyes) Luka, tell the stable boys that Toby gets no oats today.
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