Dramatic Texts >> Gabriel Sundukian >> The Ruined Family

THE RUINED FAMILY by Gabriel Sundukian, Translated by F.B. Collins, B.S.
 
 

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

OSSEP GULABIANZ- a merchant.
SALOME- his wife.
NATO- his daughter.
CHACHO- Ossep's aunt.
GEWO- a merchant, Ossep's friend.
ALEXANDER MARMAROW- a young official
ARSSEGH LEPROINK- a merchant.
KHALI- his wife.
MOSI- Leproink's relative.
MICHO- shop-boy at Leproink's.
DARTSCHO- clerk at Leproink's.
MARTHA- Salome's friend.
GUESTS- an executor, his secretary, creditors, witnesses, and several servants.

The scene is Tiflis. The first and third acts take place in Ossep's house, the second in Barssegh's.

Act I

Well-furnished room with open door in centre and ante-room behind. To the left in foreground a window looking out upon a garden. To the right a sofa, in front of which is a table. To the left a tachta (broad, low sofa) with a ketscha (carpet) and several mutakas (long, round pillows). A side door.

Scene I

Salome. Chacho.

SALOME [from back of stage]
You're welcome. Come, come, I beg of you. Dear aunt, how can I thank you for taking the trouble to come here!


CHACHO [covered by a tschadra[38] enters from the right of the ante-chamber].
Good-morning! [Taking off the tschadra, a long veil, covering the head and upper part of the body] Why did you send for me in such haste?

Gives one end of the tschadra to Salome.


SALOME [taking hold of one end of the tschadra].
Dear aunt, I am in such a desperate mood that if someone were to pierce my heart not a drop of blood would flow. [While she is speaking they fold the tschadra.]


CHACHO
So it seems that it cannot be managed?


SALOME
How could it be managed, dear aunt? They insist upon having 8,000 rubles. Ossep will not give so much. You know what a miser he is!


CHACHO
Yes, he is really odd.


SALOME
But, dear aunt, God would surely not allow an affair like this to come to nothing for the sake of 2,000 rubles. What, am I to let a man of such social position and such brilliancy escape me?


CHACHO
Great heaven, how can anyone be so obstinate!


SALOME
That is just why I begged you to come to us. Speak to Ossep about it, and perhaps your words will soften him.


CHACHO
I will talk with him; yes, indeed, I will talk to him. We cannot neglect a matter of such importance, my child. [Lays the tschadra under the tachta covering the ketscha and sits down on it.] Great heaven, how sore the pavement has made my feet!


SALOME [seating herself on a chair].
May God reward you, dear aunt! May the Holy Mother be a protectress for your children as you are now for my Nato.


CHACHO
Is not Nato my child also? Is she a stranger to me? I am altogether charmed with her beautiful form. But where is the child? Is she not at home?


SALOME
Yes, certainly; she is dressing. You understand, dear aunt, how you are to talk to him? Perhaps you will succeed with him. They expect the final answer to-day; this morning the young man's sister was here, and she may be here again any minute.


CHACHO
Don't be afraid, dear child. Calm yourself. Where is Ossep? What does he think about it?


SALOME
He is busy, but he will be here directly. He says, and insists upon it, that he will allow our daughter to marry no one but a business man.


CHACHO
He is right, my child; a good business man is worth much. Yes; is not one who has money in his pockets the best?


SALOME
Oh, how you talk! What business man is to be compared with Alexander Marmarow! Is there any business man worthy to untie his shoe-strings? His politeness alone is worth more than ten business men. Lately he honored us with a visit, and I was so fascinated with his manners! and beside he is still young; is handsome; is educated; has a good position and a good salary and will advance every day—everybody says so. Perhaps some day he will be governor.


CHACHO
That is all very well, dear Salome; but if the thing cannot be done, what then? One must submit, to some extent, to the head of the family. A good business man never suffers from hunger, and lives without wanting anything. I don't know what has gotten into your heads. Officials! always officials!


SALOME
You speak well, dear aunt, but Nato would not marry a business man at any price. I would thank God if she would. Would I be so stupid as not to be glad of it? The deuce take these times! This comes of too much study: the girls now mind neither father nor mother!


CHACHO
Yes; how the world has changed! The streams and the hills are the same, but the people are different! But, by the way, Salome, do you know what I have heard? They say that Leproink is trying for him also; is that true?


SALOME
Yes, yes, dear aunt, a lot of go-betweens go to his house. But God will surely not let a man like that become his son-in-law while my daughter is left to become the wife of a shopkeeper.


CHACHO
Who would have believed that this Barssegh would have worked himself up like that! Yet God be praised! Perhaps it is the times that bring it about. Yesterday or the day before he was a shop-boy at Basaschoma,[39] and now! I can picture him as he was then! He wore a tschocha[40] of green camelot with a narrow purple belt. The wadding stuck out at his elbows and his boots were mended in four places. Great piles of goods were loaded on the poor devil's shoulders. Many a time, with the yardstick in one hand, he came to our houses with whole pieces of calico and got a few pennies from us for his trouble. And now he is a man of some importance! Many's the time we gave him a cuff and sent him back and forth with his goods. And, Salome, do you know that he lied? God save us from such lies! But what could he do? One would die of hunger, to be sure, if one always told the truth.

[39] A bazaar in Tiflis.
[40] A long overcoat.


SALOME
Yes, yes, dear aunt, it is the same Barssegh—whom they all call “Wassil Matwejitsch” now.


CHACHO
What! have they turned Mathus, his father, into Matjewitsch? Who is good enough for them now? Many a time has the cobbler, Mathus, mended my shoes. His workshop was in the Norasch quarter. O good heavens, the world is upside down!


Scene II


NATO [entering at right].
Mamma! O aunt, are you here, too? [Hugs her and kisses her.]


CHACHO
O my only treasure! [Kisses her.] How fresh and pretty you are! Where are you going? Are you going out when I have just come?


NATO
What are you saying, dear aunt? I will come back again immediately. I am only going to make a few purchases at the bazaar. [ Turning to Salome] Dear mamma——   [They begin to speak together in a low tone.]


CHACHO [aside].
Yes, yes, her father is right! [ Aloud.] I will go and see what the children are doing [trying to rise]. Come here, you pretty rogue, and give me your hand. I feel exhausted.   [Nato helps her].


SALOME[offering her hand].
Let me help you, too.


CHACHO
May God give you health and a life as long as mine! [ To Nato:] O my heart's angel—if only I have my wish and see you wear the bridal wreath!


SALOME
God grant it, dear aunt!


CHACHO
He will, he will, my child! [Going toward the entrance.] Good heaven! how old I have grown! [Goes out at the left.]


SCENE III


NATO
Don't keep me waiting, mamma.


SALOME
And won't a little less satisfy you? Why do you want so much all of a sudden?


NATO
But, dear mamma, please; I want it so much!


SALOME [putting her hand in her pocket].
I can never get away from you. [Takes out her purse and looks for something in it. ]


NATO [holding out her hand].
You have it there, mamma.


SALOME
Have a little patience. [Takes out some money and gives it to her.] Take it! take it! though I know your father will scold about it.


NATO
But what can I do, when I need it so badly?


SALOME
Need it—nonsense! There is no end of your needs. [ Pulling at Nato's hat.] How have you put your hat on again? And the flowers are all pulled apart. [Arranges it.]


NATO
Bah! what difference does that make?


SALOME
You're crazy! [Removes her veil.] How have you put on your veil? I must ever and eternally fix something on you!


NATO
You will make me too beautiful, mamma.


SALOME
Whether I make you beautiful or not, it will make no difference. You will be only the wife of a merchant.


NATO
Yes, yes, I have been expecting that!


SALOME
And you really think that your father will ask you?


NATO
And whom should he ask?


SALOME
Think what you will; he will not let his decision be altered by you. He says, “I will give her only to a business man.”


NATO
Yes, yes, surely.


SALOME
By heaven!


NATO
Mamma, is what you say true?


SALOME
As true as the sun shines above you. He spoke of it again to-day.


NATO
It is decided, then?


SALOME
What am I to do if there is no other way out? You know we have not any too much money.


NATO
And you are going to make a shopkeeper's wife of me, so that everyone will laugh at me [ready to cry]; so that I shall be an object of scorn for all. And why have you had me so well educated? Have I learned Russian and French and piano-playing for a man of that sort? What does a shopkeeper want of a piano? Pickle-jars and butter-tubs are useful to him, but not my French! I am curious as to how he would speak to me: Moi aller, vous joli tu voir.


SALOME
Enough! enough! you wild girl!


NATO [crying].
It is out of the question, mamma. No, not for the world could I marry a business man! I will not have one! I would rather jump into the water than marry one! [Crying, she gives the money back.] Take it back! What do I need it for now? Why should I go out and make purchases? For whom, then? [Takes off her mantle, flings her parasol aside, sits down on the sofa and begins to cry.]


SALOME
O great heaven! is this not torture? I get it on both sides. [Turning to Nato:] Be still, you stupid girl!


NATO
For this I have learned so much; for this you have brought me up so grandly and given yourself so much trouble and care! [Weeping.] Is he, also, to take me walking on the boulevard? Is he to accompany me to the club and to the theatre? [Sobbing.]


SALOME
Be quiet! Enough! Give yourself no unnecessary heartache.


NATO [jumps up and embraces Salome].
Dear, dear mamma! dearest mamma, save me!


SALOME
Oh, rather would your mother be dead than to see this day!


NATO
Dear mamma, save me! save me, or I shall go into consumption! God is my witness!


SALOME [weeping].
The deuce take everything! [Wipes away her tears.]


NATO
Mamma, if you please, I would rather not marry at all. I will serve you here at home like a housemaid. Only make them stop this affair!


SALOME
That has already happened, my child.


NATO
Dear mamma, please do it.


SALOME
But I tell you, truly.


NATO
Is it really true?


SALOME
As true as the sun shines.


NATO [kissing Salome].
O my dear, dear mamma!


SALOME
At last I am rid of you. Your eyes are real tear-fountains. It would not have taken much more to make me cry, too.


NATO [laughing].
Ha! ha! ha!


SALOME
You can laugh now.


NATO
Ha! ha! ha! you gave me such a fright!


SALOME
You are terribly flighty. [Presses the money into her hand.] Here, take it; and do not be too long.[Smoothes Nato's hair.]


NATO [pulling herself away from her mother].
Very well, mamma. [Taking her parasol and mantle.]


SALOME
Wipe your eyes, I pray, or they will laugh at you!


NATO
They are quite dry; and what does anybody care about my eyes? [Going.]


SALOME
Come back soon; don't allow yourself to be delayed.


NATO
I will come back right away, dear mamma. [Goes toward the right into the ante-room.]


SCENE IV


SALOME [alone].
No, there is no other way out. Cost what it will, I shall accomplish what I want. Yes, I must, if I am ruined by it. Mother of God, plead for my Nato!


OSSEP [enters, right].
Where has Nato gone?


SALOME
Just across the way, to the store. She needed some music.


OSSEP
These are fine times for me! And a girl like this is to become a good citizen's wife! [Sits down on the sofa.]


SALOME [coming near].
That is what I say, too, dear Ossep. [Lays hand on his shoulder.] Are you not sorry? Is it not too bad about her?


OSSEP
I am still more to be pitied; but who pities me?


SALOME
Shall we really give her to a business man for a wife?


OSSEP
And what else? Is a merchant such a bad fellow? To judge by your words, I also am good for nothing; I who, day and night, worry myself to get you bread.


SALOME [embracing him].
How can you say such a thing, dear Ossep? Listen to me; are you not sorry for Nato? It would be quite different if she had been educated as I was.


OSSEP [smiling].
Hm! Then she would be the right sort.


SALOME [draws back her hand].
You are very polite, really! You laugh at poor me! Well, talk as you like, but finish this affair with Nato.


OSSEP
I have already finished it. What will you have of me?


SALOME
How, then? You will not give as much as they demand.


OSSEP
How can I give it when I have not so much?


SALOME [embracing him].
Dear Ossep, please do it.


OSSEP
But I cannot do it.


SALOME [still pleading].
If you love me only a little bit, you will do me this favor.


OSSEP
O woman! Can you not understand at all what yes and no mean? I tell you short and plain that I cannot afford to do it. My back is too weak to lift such a burden. A man can stretch out his feet in bed only as far as the covers reach. Isn't that true? Am I stingy? And would I be stingy toward my own child?


SALOME
But in this case no one asks whether we have it or not. Would it not be stupid to have such a lover for your daughter and not sacrifice everything for him? Others, indeed, have no great wealth, and yet give and are not called crazy.


OSSEP
Perhaps they have stolen money, since it is so easy for them to give it up. However, what is the use of so much talk? Take the cotton out of your ears and listen, for, I tell you, I have no money; and I repeat, I have no money. To-day or to-morrow I expect the conclusion of important business. If it is not completed, I am lost, body and soul. And you stand before me and torture me by asking me to do what is impossible!


SALOME
But why do you seem so angry? One cannot even open one's mouth before you. [Seats herself sulking on the tachta.]


OSSEP
Yes, I am angry. You women would exasperate an angel, let alone a man!


SALOME [reproachfully].
Just heaven! with my heart bleeding, I speak to you of our daughter and you are angry! You, then, are her father? Let us suppose I was dead: would it not be your sacred duty to provide for her future?


OSSEP
Am I not providing for her, you wicked woman? Have I not presented three or four young persons to you as sons-in-law? For that matter, they would still be very glad to take her. They are young, clever, and industrious, and, moreover, persons of our condition in life. But who can be reasonable and speak to you? You have got it into your head that Nato's husband shall be an official, and there you stick. It is not your daughter's future that makes your heart bleed, but your own ambition.


SALOME
What more can I say to you? Are they, then, your equals? Who are they, properly speaking? Who are their parents?


OSSEP [springing up].
And who are you, then? Whose daughter, whose wife are you? Perhaps you are descended from King Heraclius; or perhaps you are the wife of a prince!


SALOME
How the man talks! Were your parents of better rank than mine? What? Say!


SCENE V

Chacho.


CHACHO [enters, left].
What's all this noise about?


OSSEP
O aunt, you are here?


CHACHO
Yes, it is I, as I love and live. How are you, my son?


OSSEP
Pretty well, thank God. And how are you, aunt?


CHACHO
My dear son, I am very feeble. But what is going on here? They must have heard your voices in the street.


SALOME
Do you not know that married people often have little quarrels?


CHACHO
That I know a hundred times better than you. And only a blockhead takes a dispute between man and wife seriously. That is true; but that you two have already had time to get used to each other is also true.


OSSEP
Sit down, dear aunt. Tell me, rather, whether a wagon can be moved when one ox pulls to the right and the other to the left.


CHACHO
It will not stir from its place any more than I will now. [Sits down with legs planted firmly.] What can move me away from here?


OSSEP
Now, is it not true? One must help the other, for one alone cannot accomplish much, be he ever so strong and ready to work.


SALOME
Oh, yes! and you are the one ready to work and I am the lazy one, I suppose.


OSSEP
For heaven's sake, do not fly into a passion like that!


CHACHO [to Salome].
That was nothing more than a figure of speech. Who is accusing you of laziness?


OSSEP [sitting down].
Tell me, can we count ourselves among those persons who can give their daughter 10,000 rubles for a dowry? Are we able to do that?


SALOME
Eight thousand is surely not 10,000.


OSSEP
Both are too much for me.


SALOME
Oh, it is all the same to me; it is not for myself; it is for your daughter. [Sits down, ready to cry, upon the sofa.]


OSSEP
It is a beautiful thing, the way you look out for your daughter; but everything has its time and place. We have, remember, two other daughters to provide for.


CHACHO
Dear Ossep, why are you so obstinate?


OSSEP
I am not obstinate; but you two are. Yes, you are obstinate, and will pay no attention at all to what I say.


CHACHO
Since when have you become such a niggard? You should have economized when you gave the sasandars[41] something like ten rubles for a fee.

[41] Musicians.


OSSEP
Those times have passed and won't come back again, dear aunt. At 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 barege 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 mauvais genre! But let us say no more about it. If only God will help us to a good ending!


SALOME
God grant that neither of you may have anything to regret!—[rising] I will come back immediately, dear son-in-law; I am only going to see what is keeping Nato. [Alexander also rises.] Keep your seat, I beg of you. How ceremonious you are! I will come right back.                     [Exit right.


SCENE XII


ALEXANDER [alone.] At last my burning wish is fulfilled! Now I have both a pretty wife and money. Without money a man is not of the least importance. Let him give himself what trouble he may, if he has no money, no one will pay any attention to him. I have made only one mistake in the business. I have been in too much of a hurry. If I had held out a little longer they would have given me 8,000 rubles; now I must be satisfied with 7,000. Still, what was to be done? It would not have gone through otherwise; and for that matter, I may, perhaps, somehow make up for it in other ways. In any case, I stand here on a fat pasture-land where they seem to be pretty rich. The principal thing is that I should make myself popular among them, then I shall have succeeded in getting my fill out of them. Ha, ha, ha! How they worry themselves! Yes, the whole office will be in an uproar to-morrow. [ With affected voice:] “Have you heard the news? Marmarow is engaged, and has received 7,000 rubles dowry. And such a beautiful girl! Such a lovely creature!” [Clucking with his tongue and changing his voice :] “Is it possible!” [In his own voice:] Charming, charming, Marmarow! [Looking at his clothing:] Chic! A true gentleman am I! Yes, I am getting on. I must now think only of to-morrow and the next day, and how to get on further. The principal thing is for a man to know the value of money, for without money nothing can be undertaken. First, I shall have the interest on my capital; then my salary, and last some hundred rubles beside. That makes 3,000 or 4,000 rubles a year. If I lay aside 1,000 rubles every year, I have in seven or eight years 10,000; in fifteen years double that, and so on. Yes, Monsieur Marmarow, you understand it! Be happy, therefore, and let the others burst with envy.

Salome and Nato enter at the right, Salome holding Nato's hand .


ALEXANDER
Miss Natalie, the whole night long I thought only of you! [Kisses her hand.]


SALOME
Kiss her on the cheek and give her the engagement ring.


ALEXANDER
Oh, you are the sun of my existence! [Draws a ring from his finger and gives it to Natalie.] From now on you are mine. Please! [Kisses her.]


SALOME
Be happy and may you reach old age together. [ Kisses Alexander; then Nato.] God bless you, my children. Sit down, I pray you, Alexander [pointing to the sofa on which Alexander and Nato sit down]. Your father will soon be here. [Walks to and fro in joyful excitement.]


ALEXANDER [looking at Nato].
Dear Natalie, why are you so silent? Let me hear your sweet voice, I beg of you.


NATO
I am speechless, Monsieur Marmarow.


ALEXANDER
Monsieur!


NATO
Dear Alexander.


ALEXANDER [seizing her hand].
So! That sounds much sweeter! [Kisses her hand.]

Enter Chacho.


SALOME
Come in, dear aunt.


CHACHO
Such a thing has never happened to me before! Could you not wait till the man of the house arrived?


SALOME
Oh, it is all the same; he will be here soon enough. Give them your blessing, I beg of you.


CHACHO
May God bestow all good things upon you. May heaven grant the prayer of me, a sinner. [Alexander and Nato stand up.] May you have nothing to regret. May you flourish and prosper and grow old together on the same pillow. [Ossep comes to the door and stands astonished.]


CHACHO [continuing].
God grant that your first may be a boy! Love and respect each other! May the eye of the Czar look down on you with mercy! [Sees Ossep.] Let the father now offer you his good wishes.


SALOME
Dear Ossep, congratulate your daughter.


NATO
Dear papa! [Goes up to Ossep and kisses his hand. Ossep stands motionless.]


ALEXANDER [seizing Ossep's hand].
From now on, dear father, count me among your children. [Turning to Nato offended :] What is this?


SALOME
Don't be impolite, Ossep.


CHACHO
What has happened to you, Ossep?


ALEXANDER [to Salome].
I understand nothing of this. [ To Ossep:] My father, you seem dissatisfied.


OSSEP [recovering himself].
I dissatisfied! No—yes—I am dizzy.


ALEXANDER [offering him a chair].
Sit down, I pray, my father.


OSSEP [to Alexander].
Do not trouble yourself. It is already passed.


SALOME
Can one meet his son-in-law like that? And such a son-in-law, beside! Say something, do.


OSSEP
What shall I say, then? You have consummated the betrothal. God grant that all will end well. [To Alexander:] Please be seated.


ALEXANDER
My father, when do you wish the betrothal to be celebrated?


OSSEP
That depends upon you. Do as you wish.


ALEXANDER
I will invite twenty persons and bring them with me. My superiors I must invite also; it would not do to omit them.


OSSEP
Do as you see fit.


ALEXANDER [to Salome].
Perhaps he is angry with me. If there is any reason for it, pray tell me now.


SALOME
What are you saying? That cannot be! [They move away a little and speak softly together.]


OSSEP [on the other side of the stage to Chacho].
You Godforsaken! Could you not wait a moment?


CHACHO
What is the matter now?


OSSEP
Only God in heaven knows how I stand! Think of it! Santurian has failed.


CHACHO
Great heaven!


ALEXANDER [offering Nato his arm].
Something must have happened! [They go off at the left, Salome following.]


OSSEP
Righteous God, why dost thou punish me thus?


SALOME [returning to Ossep].
Do with me as you will, but it could not have been helped. I have promised him 7,000 rubles as dowry, [Turning to Chacho as she leaves the room:] Pray come with me, aunt. You come, too, Ossep.[Exit Salome.]


SCENE XIII


OSSEP [much excited]. What do I hear? Has she spoken the truth? Do you hear? Why do you not answer me? Why are you silent? [ Still more excited.] It is true, then! Yes, yes, I see that it is true! O God, let lightning strike this unlucky house that we may all die together. I have just lost an important sum and come home to prevent further negotiations. And see there!


CHACHO
I am to blame for it. Do not get excited. I will add 1,000 rubles to it, if need be, from the money I have laid by for my burial.


OSSEP
From your burial money? Have I already fallen so low that I must ask alms? Keep your money for yourself! I do not want it. Drop that complaint also, for I am still rich, very rich. How can it injure me that Santurian has failed? I stand here firm and unshakable, and have inexhaustible money resources. [Tearing his hair.] O God! O God! [Walks to and fro excitedly.] Now I will go and wish my son-in-law joy. Yes, I must go so that I shall not make myself ridiculous to him. The man is a government official! [Exit right, laughing bitterly.]


CHACHO
Gracious heaven, be thou our saviour and deliverer.

CURTAIN.

Act II

Scene I

A richly furnished sales-room in Barssegh's house.

MICHO
Two, three, four, five, six and this little piece. It does not measure so much!


BARSSEGH [standing up and giving Micho a rap on the nose ].
You have what is lacking there. Measure again. Now you've got what is lacking. I will tear your soul out of your body if you measure so that in seven arschin[44] it comes out one werschok short.

[44] Russian measure of length.


MICHO [measuring again].
O dear, O dear!


BARSSEGH
Look out, or I will take that “O dear” out of your ear. Be up and at it now!


MICHO
Oh, Mr. Barssegh! [Measuring.] One, two, three—


BARSSEGH
Stretch it, you blockhead.


MICHO [stretching the cotton].
Three, four. [Wipes the perspiration from his brow.]


BARSSEGH
What is the matter with you? You sweat as though you had a mule-pack on your back.


MICHO
Five.


BARSSEGH
Pull it out more.


MICHO
Six and this little piece. It lacks three werschok again.


BARSSEGH [pulling his ears].
It lacks three werschok? There they are!


MICHO
Oh my, oh my!


BARSSEGH
You calf; will you ever develop into a man?


MICHO
O dear mother!


BARSSEGH [pulling him again by the ear].
Doesn't it grow longer?


MICHO [crying].
Dear Mr. Barssegh, dear sir, let me go.


BARSSEGH
I want to teach you how to measure.


MICHO
It reaches, I say; it reaches, indeed; it reaches. Let me measure again.


BARSSEGH
Now take care that you make it seven arschin.


MICHO [aside].
Holy Karapet, help me. [Measuring.] One, two—


BARSSEGH
O you blockhead!


MICHO
Three.


BARSSEGH
Wake up!


MICHO
Four.


BARSSEGH
Haven't you seen how Dartscho measures?


MICHO
Five.


BARSSEGH
Will you ever learn how to do it?


MICHO
Five.


BARSSEGH
If you keep on being so stupid my business will be ruined.


MICHO
Five—five.


BARSSEGH
I give you my word that I will give you the sack.


MICHO
Five—five.


BARSSEGH
Measure further.


MICHO
Five—[aside:]; Holy George, help me! [Aloud :] Six. I cannot stretch it any more or I shall tear it.


BARSSEGH
Measure, now.


MICHO
O dear; I believe it is already torn.


BARSSEGH [looking at the cloth].
I see nothing. God forbid!


MICHO [looking at the measure].
It is short a half werschok of seven arschin every time.

The madman, Mosi, comes in at the middle door and stands in the background.


SCENE II

Mosi.


BARSSEGH [hitting Micho on the head].
What are you good for? Can't you get that half werschok out of it?


MICHO [howling.]
What am I to do when the cloth is too short?


BARSSEGH [pulling his hair].
Are you sure you're not lying?


MICHO [yelling.]
How can you say that? Measure it yourself and we shall see whether there are seven arschin here.


BARSSEGH [angry; taking measure and calico].
You say there are not seven here? Wait, I will show you [measuring.] One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and a quarter left over for a present to you. What do you say about it now? You must learn to measure if you burst doing it. But you think only of your week's pay. Now, hurry up; be lively there!


MICHO
O heaven! How shall I begin? One, two—


BARSSEGH
Be careful and don't tear it.


MICHO [crying.]
What do you want of me? If I pull on the stuff I tear it; and if I don't stretch it, no seven arschin will come out of it.


MOSI [coming near].
Ha! ha! ha! Who is the toper? Who? 'Tis I; the mad Mosi. Ha! ha! ha!


BARSSEGH [aside.]
How comes this crazy fellow here?


MOSI [seizing the measure and calico].
Give it to me, you booby! There are not only seven arschin here, but twenty-seven [ measuring quickly]. One, two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, and here are thirteen and fourteen. Do you want me to make still more out of it? You must shove the stick back in measuring. Can't you understand that? [Throws the stick and calico upon Micho.] Here, take it and be a man at last. You the shop-boy of such a great merchant and not find out a little thing like that. Haven't you learned yet how to steal half a werschok? Ha, ha, ha! [Micho tries to free himself but becomes more entangled in the cloth.]


BARSSEGH [to Mosi],
I forbid such impudent talk in my presence! Be silent, or I'll show you.


MOSI.
That's the way with all mankind. They never appreciate good intentions. [Pointing to Micho.] I only wanted to make something of him. Go, go, my son, be a man! Learn from your master! You surely see how much money he has scraped together! [To Barssegh :] How is it about eating? It's time for dinner! Have the table set; I have come as a guest. What have you to-day? Coal-soup, perhaps, or water-soup? Yes, yes; you will entertain me finely! Ha, ha!


BARSSEGH [aside].
This confounded fellow is drunk again! [To Micho:] Get out of the room![Exit Micho middle door.]


SCENE III


MOSI
From this stuff you can make a shroud for yourself. To-day or to-morrow you must die, that's sure.


BARSSEGH
You'd better be still! [Enter Khali at left.]


KHALI
Do you know the latest?


BARSSEGH
What has happened?


KHALI
What has happened? Marmarow was betrothed yesterday.


BARSSEGH
No!


KHALI
By heaven!


BARSSEGH
To whom?


KHALI
To the daughter of Ossep Gulabianz.


BARSSEGH
Is that really true?


KHALI
Do you think I am lying? They promised him 10,000 rubles dowry. I always said you should have saved something. Now you have it! They have snatched him away from you. And such a man, too! They puff themselves up entirely too much. Where did they get the money, I would like to know?   [Micho appears at the middle door.]


BARSSEGH
Run right off down to the Tapitach.[45] You know where Ossep Gulabianz's store is?

[45] A district of Tiflis.


MICHO
Gulabianz? The one who brought money to-day?


BARSSEGH
Yes, that one. Go and look for him wherever he is likely to be. Tell him he must bring the rest of the money at once. Now, run quickly. What else do I want to say? Oh, yes [pointing to the calico]; take that winding-sheet with you.


MOSI
Ha, ha, ha! Listen to him!


BARSSEGH
By heaven! What am I chattering about? I am crazed! [Angrily, to Micho:] What are you gaping at? Do you hear? Take this calico. Go to the store and tell Dartscho to come here. Lively, now! [Exit Micho with goods.]


BARSSEGH [going on].
I would like to see how he is going to give 10,000 rubles dowry. I would like to know whose money it is?


KHALI
That stuck-up Salome has gotten my son-in-law away from me.


BARSSEGH
Never mind. I will soon put them into a hole.


MOSI
Oh, don't brag about things you can't perform. What has Ossep done to you that you want revenge? How can Ossep help it if your daughter is as dumb as straw and has a mouth three ells long? And what have Micho's ears to do with it? You should simply have given what the man asked.


BARSSEGH [rising].
O you wretch, you!


MOSI
Yes, you should certainly have paid it. Why didn't you? For whom are you saving? To-morrow or the day after you will have to die and leave it here.


BARSSEGH
Stop, or—


KHALI [to Mosi]
Why do you anger him? Haven't we trouble and anxiety enough?


MOSI
Well, I will be still. But I swear that this young man may call himself lucky that he has freed himself from you and closed with Ossep. Both of you together are not worth Ossep's finger-tips.


BARSSEGH
Leave me in peace or I will shake off all my anger on to you.


MOSI
What can you do to me? You cannot put my store under the hammer. What a man you are, indeed!


BARSSEGH
A better man than you any day.


MOSI
In what are you better?


BARSSEGH
In the first place, I am master of my five senses, and you are cracked.


MOSI [laughs].
Ha, ha, ha! If you were rational you would not have said that. Am I crazy because I show up your villanies? You are wise, you say? Perhaps you are as wise as Solomon!


BARSSEGH
I am wealthy.


MOSI
Take your money and—[Whispers something in his ear. ] You have stolen it here and there. You have swindled me out of something, too. Me and this one and that one, and so you became rich! You have provided yourself with a carriage, and go riding in it and make yourself important. Yes, that is the way with your money. Did your father Matus come riding to his store in a carriage, eh? You say you are rich? True, there is scarcely anyone richer than you; but if we reckon together all the money you have gained honorably, we shall see which of us two has most. [Drawing his purse from his pocket and slapping it.] See! I have earned all this by the sweat of my brow. Oh, no, like you I collected it for the church and put it in my own pocket. Are you going to fail again soon?


BARSSEGH
Heaven preserve me from it!


MOSI
It would not be the first time. When you are dead they will shake whole sacks full of money in your grave for you.


BARSSEGH
Will you never stop?


KHALI
Are you not ashamed to make such speeches?


MOSI
Till you die I will not let you rest. As long as you live I will gnaw at you like a worm, for you deserve it for your villany. What! Haven't you committed every crime? You robbed your brother of his inheritance; you cheated your partner; you have repudiated debts, and held others to false debts. Haven't you set your neighbors' stores on fire? If people knew everything they would hang you. But the world is stone-blind, and so you walk God's earth in peace. Good-by! I would like to go to Ossep and warn him against you; for if he falls into your clutches he is lost.


SCENE IV


BARSSEGH
Yes, yes; go and never come back.


KHALI
I wish water lay in front of him and a drawn sword behind.


BARSSEGH
This fellow is a veritable curse!


KHALI
Yes, he is, indeed.


BARSSEGH
The devil take him! If he is going to utter such slanders, I hope he will always do it here, and not do me harm with outsiders.


KHALI
You are to blame for it yourself. Why do you have anything to do with the good-for-nothing fellow?


BARSSEGH
There you go! Do I have anything to do with him? He is always at my heels, like my own shadow.


KHALI
Can't you forbid him to enter your doors?


BARSSEGH
So that he will not let me pass by in the streets? Do you want him to make me the talk of the town?


KHALI
Then don't speak to him any more.


BARSSEGH
As if I took pleasure in it! It is all the same to him whether one speaks to him or not.


KHALI
What are we to do with him, then?


BARSSEGH [angrily].
Why do you fasten yourself on to me like a gadfly? Have I not trouble enough already? [Beating his hands together.] How could you let him escape? You are good for nothing!


KHALI
What could I do, then, if you were stingy about the money? If you had promised the 10,000 rubles, you would have seen how easily and quickly everything would have been arranged.


BARSSEGH
If he insists upon so much he may go to the devil. For 10,000 rubles I will find a better man for my daughter.


KHALI
I know whom you mean. Give me the money and I will arrange the thing to-day.


BARSSEGH [derisively].
Give it! How easily you can say it! Is that a mulberry-tree, then, that one has only to shake and thousands will fall from it? Don't hold my rubles so cheaply; for every one of them I have sold my soul twenty times.


KHALI
If I can only get sight of that insolent Salome, I'll shake a cart-load of dirt over her head. Only let her meet me! [Exit, left.]


SCENE V


BARSSEGH [alone].
And you shall see what I will do! Only wait, my dear Ossep! I am getting a day of joy ready for you and you will shed tears as thick as my thumb. I have been looking for the chance a long time, and now fate has delivered you into my hands. You braggart, you shall see how you will lie at my feet. I am the son of the cobbler Matus. There are certain simpletons who shake their heads over those who had nothing and suddenly amount to something. But I tell you that this world is nothing more than a great honey-cask. He who carries away the best part for himself, without letting the others come near it, he is the man to whom praise and honor are due. But a man who stands aside, like Ossep, and waits till his turn comes is an ass.

Enter Dartscho.


BARSSEGH
Ah, Dartscho! How quickly you have come!


DARTSCHO
I met Micho just now, and he told me that you had sent for me.


BARSSEGH
I have something important to speak with you about. [He sits down.] Where were you just now?


DARTSCHO
At George's, the coal man. He owed us some money, and I have been to see him seven times this week on that account.


BARSSEGH
He is very unpunctual. But how does it stand? Has he paid?


DARTSCHO
Of course! What do you take me for? I stayed in the store as if nailed there, and when a new customer came in I repeated my demand. There was nothing left for him to do but to pay me, for shame's sake.


BARSSEGH
That pleases me in you, my son. Go on like that and you will get on in the world. Look at me! There was a time when they beat me over the head and called me by my given name. Then they called me Barssegh, and finally “Mr.” Barssegh. When I was as old as you are I was nothing, and now I am a man who stands for something. If my father, Matus, were still alive he would be proud of me. I tell you all this so that you will spare no pains to make yourself a master and make people forget that you are the son of a driver. A son can raise up the name of his father; he can also drag it down into the dust.


DARTSCHO
You see best of all what trouble I take, Mr. Barssegh. When I open the store in the morning, I never wait until Micho comes, but I take the broom in my hand and sweep out the store. And how I behave with the customers, you yourself see.


BARSSEGH
Yes, I see it; I see it, my son, and it is on that account I am so good to you. Only wait till next year and you shall be my partner. I will supply the money and you the labor.


DARTSCHO
May God give you a long life for that! I seem to myself like a tree which you have planted. I hope I will still bear fruit and you will have your joy in me. Do you know that I have gotten rid of those damaged goods?


BARSSEGH
Is it possible?


DARTSCHO
It's a fact.


BARSSEGH
To whom have you sold them?


DARTSCHO
To a man from Signach. I laid two good pieces on top so that he did not notice it. Let him groan now.


BARSSEGH
And how? On credit?


DARTSCHO
Am I then crazy? Have I ever sold damaged goods on credit, that you make such a supposition? Of course I took something off for it, but made believe I only did it to please him. He paid me the full sum at once; and if he is now boasting how cheap he bought the goods, I hope he will sing my praises also.


BARSSEGH
Do you know, dear Dartscho, you are a fine fellow? Yes, I have always said that you would amount to something.


DARTSCHO
God grant it! What commands have you, Mr. Barssegh? There is no one in the store.


BARSSEGH
Oh, right! I had almost forgotten. If Ossep Gulabianz comes to borrow money, give him nothing.


DARTSCHO
What has happened?


BARSSEGH
I am terribly angry at him.


DARTSCHO
And I have even more reason to be angry at him; he is altogether too stuck-up. But what has occurred?


BARSSEGH
I will show him now who I am. His whole business is just like a hayrick; a match is enough to set the whole thing ablaze.


DARTSCHO
I would not be sorry for ten matches! Tell me what I can do about it? The rest I know already.


BARSSEGH
Think of it! The fellow has snatched away a fine fat morsel from my very mouth. I had found an excellent husband for my daughter. For a whole week we carried on negotiations with him and everything was near final settlement when this Ossep came in and bid over us. On the very same day he betrothed his daughter to the man.


DARTSCHO
The devil take him for it!


BARSSEGH
And do you know, also, whose money he is going to use? It is my money he is going to give him.


DARTSCHO
That is just it! That is it!


BARSSEGH
Things look bad for his pocket. Now he is going to marry off his daughter and put himself in a tight place. Go, therefore, and get out an execution against him; otherwise nothing can be squeezed out of him.


DARTSCHO
We shall see. I will go at once and demand our money.


BARSSEGH
I have already sent Micho, but I hardly believe he will give it up so easily. On that account I sent for you to find out someone who can help us.


DARTSCHO
I know a lawyer who can manage so that in three hours they will put an attachment on his store.


BARSSEGH
Go on so forever, dear Dartscho! Yes, I have long known that you were going to be the right sort of fellow!


DARTSCHO
The apprentice of a right good master always gets on in the world.


BARSSEGH
Go quickly then; lose no time.


DARTSCHO
I will not waste an hour.


BARSSEGH
Go! May you succeed!  [Exit Dartscho, middle door.]


BARSSEGH [alone].
Yes, yes, friend Ossep, now show what you can do! I would burn ten candles to have you in my power.                     [Exit, right, taking the account book.]


SCENE VI

Khali. Salome.


KHALI [entering from the left].
Such a bold creature I never saw before in my life! [Calling through the window:] Come in! come in! I pray! Do you hear, Salome? I am calling you. Come in here a moment [coming back from the window]. She is coming. Wait, you insolent thing! I will give you a setting-out such as no one has ever given you before!


SALOME [dressed in the latest fashion, with a parasol in her hand; enters at middle door].
Why did you call me? Good-morning! How are you? [They shake hands.]


KHALI
Thank you. Pray sit down. [They both sit down.] So you have betrothed your daughter?


SALOME
Yes, dear Khali. God grant that we soon hear of your Nino's like good-fortune! I betrothed her last evening. I found a good husband for her. He is as handsome as a god. I can scarcely stand for joy!


KHALI
Yes, make yourself important about it!


SALOME [offended].
What is this? What does it mean?


KHALI
You owed us a favor, and you have done it for us.


SALOME
What have I done to you?


KHALI
You could not do more, indeed. You have cheated me out of a son-in-law. Is not that enough?


SALOME
But, my dear Khali, what kind of things are you saying to me? What do you mean by it?


KHALI
Be still! be still! I know well enough how it was.


SALOME
May I go blind if I know what you are talking about!


KHALI
Didn't you know very well that I wished to give my daughter to him?


SALOME
I don't understand you! You said no earthly word to me about it.


KHALI
Even if I have not said anything about it, someone has certainly told you of it.


SALOME
No one has said a word about it.


KHALI
She lies about it, beside! Isn't that shameful?


SALOME
Satan lies. What are you accusing me of?


KHALI
And you really did not know that I wished to give him my daughter?


SALOME
And if I had known it? When a man wants to marry, they always speak of ten, and yet he marries only one.


KHALI
So you knew it very well? Why did you lie, then?


SALOME
You are out of your head! How was I to find it out? Did you send word by anyone that you were going to give your daughter to the man? In what way am I to blame for it? You knew as much as I did. You treated with him just as I did and sent marriage brokers to him.


KHALI
I approached him first.


SALOME
O my dear, the flowers in the meadow belong not to those who see them first, but to those who pluck them.


KHALI
You did not wait. Perhaps I would have plucked them.


SALOME
And why didn't you pluck them?


KHALI
You wouldn't let me. Do you think I do not know that you promised him more than we did?


SALOME
May I go blind! Khali, how can you say that? How much did you promise him?


KHALI
How much did we promise him? Ha! ha! as though you did not know it! Eight thousand rubles.


SALOME
Then you promised more than we did, for we can give him only 7,000.


KHALI
You surely do not think me so stupid as to believe that!


SALOME
As sure as I wish my Nato all good fortune, what I say is true.


KHALI
And you think that I believe you?


SALOME
What? What do you say? Would I swear falsely about my daughter?


KHALI
Of course it is so! Would he let my 8,000 go to take your 7,000?


SALOME
I am not to blame for that. Probably your daughter did not please him, since he did not want her.


KHALI
What fault have you to find with my daughter? As though yours were prettier, you insolent woman, you!


SALOME [standing up].
You are insolent! Is it for this you called me in? Can your daughter be compared to my Nato? Is it my fault that your daughter has a wide mouth?


KHALI
You have a wide mouth yourself; and your forward daughter is not a bit prettier than mine!


SALOME
What! you say she is forward? Everyone knows her as a modest and well-behaved girl, while everybody calls yours stupid. Yes, that is true; and if you want to know the truth, I can tell it to you—it is just on that account that he would not have her.


KHALI
Oh, you witch, you! You have caught the poor young man in your nets and deceived him. I would like to know where you are going to get the 7,000 rubles.


SALOME
That is our affair. I would rather have broken my leg than to have come in here.


KHALI
He is up to the ears in debt and is going to give such a dowry!


SALOME [coming back].
Even if we are in debt, we have robbed nobody, as you have.


KHALI [springing up].
'Tis you who steal; you! You are a thief! Look out for yourself that I do not tear the veil off your head, you wicked witch, you!


SALOME [holding her veil toward her].
Try it once. I would like to see how you begin it. You have altogether too long a tongue, and are only the daughter-in-law of the cobbler Matus.


KHALI
And what better are you? You are a gardener's daughter, you insolent thing!


SALOME
You are insolent, yourself! Do not think so much of yourself—everyone knows that you have robbed the whole world, and only in that way have gotten up in the world.


KHALI
Oh, you good-for-nothing! [Throws herself on Salome and tears her veil off.]


SALOME
Oh! oh! [Gets hold of Khali's hair.]


KHALI
Oh! oh!


SALOME
I'll pull all your hair out! [Astonished, she holds a lock in her hand.]

Enter Ossep.


OSSEP
What do I see?


KHALI [tearing the lock from Salome's hand].
May I be blind! [Exit embarrassed.]


SALOME [arranging her veil].
Oh, you monkey, you!


OSSEP
What is the meaning of this?


SALOME
God only knows how it came to this. I was walking quietly in the street and she called me in and tore the veil from my head because I, as she said, took her daughter's suitor away from her.


OSSEP
It serves you right! That comes from your having secrets from me and promising him 7,000 rubles instead of 6,000.


SALOME
I would rather have broken a leg than come into this horrid house. I did it only out of politeness. I wish these people might lose everything they have got [pinning her veil]. At any rate, I punished her for it by pulling off her false hair. If she tells on herself now, she may also tell about me. She got out of the room quickly, so that no one would find out that her hair was as false as everything else.


OSSEP
It would be best for us if the earth opened and swallowed us up.


SALOME [crying].
Am I, then, so much to blame here?


OSSEP
Really, you look splendid! Go! go! that no one sees you here. It is not the first time that you have put me in a dilemma. Go! and pray God to change noon into midnight and make the streets dark, so that no one sees that you have a torn veil on your head.


SALOME [wiping away her tears].
God only knows everything I have to suffer from you!


OSSEP [alone].
Great heaven! how this world is arranged! When one trouble comes to a man a second comes along, too, and waits at his door. When I am just about ready to cope with the first, in comes the second and caps the climax. I don't know which way to turn with all my debts; and now this women's quarrel will be laid at my door.


SCENE VII


BARSSEGH [coming in, angry].
I will show him that I am a man!


OSSEP
Good-morning!


BARSSEGH
I want neither “good-morning” nor any other wish from you. You have, I suppose, come to help your wife. Give me a blow, too, so the measure will be full. This is surely the interest on the money you owe me.


OSSEP
Calm yourself. What, indeed, do you want?


BARSSEGH
Do you, then, believe that I will overlook my wife's hair being pulled out? That I will not pardon.


OSSEP
What is there to pardon? Your wife tore my wife's veil from her head.


BARSSEGH
A veil is not hair.


OSSEP
For heaven's sake, stop! Is a women's spat our affair?


BARSSEGH
Say what you wish, but I will do what pleases me.


OSSEP
Calm yourself; calm yourself.


BARSSEGH
Yes, yes; I will calm you, too.


OSSEP
Believe me; it is unworthy of you.


BARSSEGH
She has torn her veil, he says. What is a veil, then? A thing that one can buy, and at most costs two rubles.


OSSEP
The hair was also not her own. Why do you worry yourself about it? For a two-ruble veil she tore a two-kopeck band. The band is there, and she can fasten the hair on again.


BARSSEGH
No, you can't get out of it that way. I will not pardon her for this insolence.


OSSEP [aside].
Great heaven!


BARSSEGH
You'll see! you'll see!


OSSEP
Do what you will! I did not come to you on that account. You sent for me by Micho?


BARSSEGH
Yes, you are right. Have you brought me my money? Give it to me, quick!


OSSEP
How you speak to me! Am I your servant, that you speak so roughly? You surely do not know whom you have before you. Look out, for if I go for you, you will sing another tune.


BARSSEGH
That has not happened to me yet! He owes me money, and even here he makes himself important!


OSSEP
Do you think because I owe you money I shall stand your insults? I speak politely to you, and I demand the same from you.


BARSSEGH
Enough of that! Tell me whether you have brought the money or not.


OSSEP
Have I ever kept back from you any of your money? Why should I do it to-day?


BARSSEGH
Then give it to me now.


OSSEP
You said at that time—


BARSSEGH
I know nothing of that time.


OSSEP
What is the matter with you? You speak as if in a dream.


BARSSEGH
Whether I speak as in a dream or not, give me the money, and have done with it.


OSSEP [takes a chair and sits down].
You are mistaken, my dear Mr. Barssegh; you are mistaken. Sit down, pray.


BARSSEGH [ironically].
Thank you very much.


OSSEP
You will surely not take back your word?


BARSSEGH
Hand over the money.


OSSEP
What has happened to you? You speak like a madman.


BARSSEGH
It is all the same to me however I speak.


OSSEP
When I gave you the 5,000 rubles that time, did not you say that I was to pay the rest in a month?


BARSSEGH [sitting down].
And if I did say so, what does it amount to? I need it now.


OSSEP
You should have said so at the time and I would not have paid out my money in other ways. How comes it that you demand it so suddenly? I am no wizard, I am sure, to procure it from the stars for you.


BARSSEGH
You may get it wherever you want to. I need it, and that settles it.


OSSEP
Just heaven! Why did you give me a month's grace and reckon on an additional twelve per cent. for it?


BARSSEGH
What kind of grace? Have you anything to show for it?


OSSEP
Isn't your word enough? Why do we need a paper in addition?


BARSSEGH
I didn't give you my word.


OSSEP
What? You did not give it? You admitted it just a few minutes ago.


BARSSEGH
No, I said nothing about it.


OSSEP [standing].
My God! what do I see and hear? You are a merchant and tread your word under foot. Shame on you! [Takes him by the arm and leads him to the mirror.] Look! look at your face! Why do you turn pale?


BARSSEGH
Let me go!


OSSEP [holding him fast by the sleeve].
How can you be so unscrupulous? Look! How pale your lips are!


BARSSEGH
Let me go! [Freeing himself.] You act exactly as though you were the creditor.


OSSEP
No, you are the creditor. I would rather be swallowed up alive by the earth than be such a creditor as you are. What do you think you will be in my eyes after this?


BARSSEGH
I tell you, hand out my money or I will lay your note before the court immediately! I would only like to know where you are going to get the dowry for your daughter. You will pay over my money to your son-in-law, will you, and give me the go-by?


OSSEP
Give yourself no trouble! Even if you should beg me now, I would not keep your money. To-morrow at this time you shall have it, and then may the faces turn black of those who still look at you.


BARSSEGH
I want it at once.


OSSEP
Then come with me. You shall have it. The sooner a man is rid of a bad thing, the better it is. Give me the note! No, don't give it to me, for you don't trust me. You are not worthy of trusting me. Take it yourself and come with me. We will go at once to the bazaar, sell it, then you can have your money. I may lose something by it. It makes no difference. It is easier to bear this misfortune than to talk to you. Do you hear? Shall we go?


BARSSEGH
What do you mean?


OSSEP
Get the note, I tell you! Don't you hear?


BARSSEGH
What kind of a note?


OSSEP
Rostom's note.


BARSSEGH
Rostom's' note? What is this note to you?


OSSEP
What is it to me? It is no word, indeed, that you can deny. It is a document.


BARSSEGH
What is it to you that I have this document in my hands? That is mine and Rostom's business.


OSSEP
Yours and Rostom's business! [Pauses.] It is, I see, not yet enough that you lie. You are a thief and a robber beside. What people say of you is really true; namely, that you have robbed everybody, and by this means have acquired your wealth. Yes, it is true that you have ruined twenty-five families; that you have put out their candle and lighted yours by it. Now I see, for the first time, that everything that people say about you is true. Now I believe, indeed, that these chairs, this sofa, this mirror, your coat, your cane—in a word, every article that you call yours—represents some person you have robbed. Take my bones and add to them. Make the measure full. You have made your conscience a stone and will hear nothing; but I tell you, one day it will awake, and every object that lies or stands here will begin to speak and hold up to you your villanies. Then you can go and justify yourself before your Maker. Shame upon him who still calls you a human being! [Exit by the middle door.]


BARSSEGH
Ha! ha! ha! [Exit at the right].


CURTAIN.


Act III

Scene I


OSSEP'S HOUSE


NATO [stands before the mirror elegantly dressed, and, while she prinks, hums a European melody. Then she draws out of her pocket a little photograph and speaks to herself while looking in the mirror ].
O my treasure! my treasure! [Presses the photo to her breast and kisses it.] Mon cher! Come; we will dance. [Dances around the table.] Tra-la-la, Tra-la-la. [Sits down at the right.] Alexander; my Alexander; dear Alexander! Yes, you are really an angel. Why are you so handsome? You have black eyes and I also have black. Then arched eyebrows just like me. [Touches her eyebrows.] A pretty little mustache, which I lack. Which of us is more beautiful, I or you? You are handsomest; no, I am handsomest [springing up]. We will see at once.

[Looks at herself in the mirror and then at the photograph. Enter Alexander at the middle door.]


NATO [without noticing Alexander].
No, you are the more beautiful! [Kisses the photograph.

Alexander approaches softly and kisses Nato.


NATO [frightened].
Oh!


ALEXANDER
No, you are the more beautiful, Natalie, dear. Ma chere Nathalie!


NATO
O mon cher Alexandre! How you frightened me!


ALEXANDER [putting his arm around her].
Let me kiss you again, and your fright will pass away. [Kisses her.] Give me a kiss just once!


NATO [kissing him].
There, you have one.


ALEXANDER.
Well, I ought to allow you to kiss me. Am I not worth more than that piece of paper? [Takes her by the hand; they sit down on sofa at the right.]


NATO
They have come to congratulate us.


ALEXANDER
Yes, your grandmother, your aunts, and your cousins. Nato, shall you give evening parties like this?


NATO [smiling].
Ha! ha! ha! No such soirees as this, my dear Alexander. Two evenings every month we will give little dances, either on Tuesdays or Thursdays. Which is better? Do you not think, Alexander, that Thursday will be best?


ALEXANDER [with a grimace].
As you wish, chere Nathalie. If you like, you can give a soiree every week.


NATO
No, twice a month is better. Sophie, who is now Madame Jarinskaja, gives only two soirees in a month.


ALEXANDER
Very well, Nato dear.


NATO
That is agreed, then. And every Thursday we will dance at the Casino. [Alexander makes another grimace.] Mind, now! every Thursday.


ALEXANDER
Do you like to visit the Casino?


NATO [laying her hand on his shoulder].
Who doesn't like to visit it? Is there another place where one can amuse one's self better? The beautiful long salon! the boudoir! the beautiful music and the rich costumes! How beautiful they all are! [ Embracing Alexander.] We will dance together, and when we are tired, we will go into the mirror-room and rest ourselves and talk and laugh.


ALEXANDER
And then we will dance again and rest ourselves, and talk and laugh again.


NATO
It will be splendid! [Kisses him.] I will dress beautifully a la mode, so that everyone will say, “Look! look! what a charming woman Madame Marmarow is!” And then, dear Alexander, we will subscribe for a box at the theatre for Fridays.


ALEXANDER [making another grimace aside].
She's piling it on.


NATO
And do you know where? In the upper tier at the left, near the foyer.


ALEXANDER
Wouldn't it be better to subscribe for two evenings a week?


NATO
Wouldn't it cost too much?


ALEXANDER
What has that to do with it? Do you think I could deny you any pleasure? No! no! you shall have everything.


NATO [embracing him]. Cher Alexandre! do you really love me so much?


ALEXANDER
I cannot tell you at all how much I love you. Right at our first meeting I fell in love with you!


NATO
I don't believe it! I don't believe it! All young men talk so!


ALEXANDER
Ha! ha! ha! Do you think I am like them? With them the tongues have nothing to do with the heart; but my tongue speaks what is here! [Strikes himself on the breast.]


NATO [ironically].
I know! I know! If I had no dowry you would not marry me.


ALEXANDER
Nato dear, you wrong me! ma chere! As if the dowry made any difference! Fi donc!


NATO
Then you really love me so much?


ALEXANDER
Very, very much, Nato dear. You can put me to the test if you will.


NATO
Do you know, my piano is not fit to use!


ALEXANDER [smoothing his hair—aside].
Something new again.


NATO
Buy me a new piano. To-day I saw one at a store; it cost 500 rubles.


ALEXANDER
Five hundred rubles! You cannot buy a decent piano for that!


NATO
Dear Alexander!


ALEXANDER
Be patient awhile, Nato dear. One of my friends brought a piano from abroad that cost 1,000; yes, even 1,500 rubles.


NATO
My sweetheart; my dear sweetheart! [Kissing him.] I will come right back. [Rises.] I must go and prepare for our reception or mamma will be angry. Tra-la-la. [Exit at left. ]


ALEXANDER [alone, springing up].
Ha! ha! ha! soirees, balls at the club, box at the theatre, dresses and ornaments after the latest fashion! Am I a millionaire? I would have nothing against it if I had the money to do it. She acts as though she was going to bring 50,000 rubles dowry into the house. No, Natalie, that will all come later. In ten or twenty years, perhaps, I will set up a carriage; but it is not even to be thought of now. Indeed, I don't know, where it will lead to if she makes such demands on me every day. It will lead to quarrels and unpleasantness, and it will be all up with my economizing. No, indeed, Natalie, it will be no easy thing to satisfy you. Why did I not think of this sooner? Let her talk, and demand what she will. I will do what pleases me.


NATO [enter right; speaks to someone behind the scenes ].
I will come at once. I am coming. Come, Alexander, let us go into the garden. Mamma must go upstairs, and the guests will be all alone in the garden.


ALEXANDER
I am waiting for your father, Nato dear, I have something important to discuss with him.


NATO
Why, we will soon return, and by that time father will be home. Do you want to sit here alone?


ALEXANDER
Well, we will go.


NATO
Come! come! I want to introduce you to my coquettish aunt. [Mimics her while making a courtesy, and makes faces. Alexander, shaking his head, goes out with Nato noisily through middle door.


SCENE II

Salome. Chacho.


CHACHO
No, indeed, Salome. She behaves too boldly. You must give her a warning. Such self-confidence I have I never before seen in a girl.


SALOME
That is all a matter of fashion! What is to be done? [Shuffling the cards.]


CHACHO [seating herself].
When one thinks how the times have changed, one grows dizzy! When I was engaged, my love, I dared not open my mouth; it was as if they had put a lock on it. Indeed, I dared not look anyone in the face, even, and kept my eyes always cast down, as if glued fast to the floor.


SALOME
How could anyone endure all that? The eyes are made to look with, I hope, and the tongue to speak! I wouldn't have borne it. It is well that those times are past. I should die of such a life.


CHACHO
Oh, your present times are the true ones! Isn't this shameful, now, what goes on here? All the money that the husband can make in a week, the wife loses at play in a single evening. Is that widow, the stout one, going to play with you? She is surely more than fifty years old.


SALOME
Of course! we wouldn't play at all without her.


CHACHO
That is the best of all. Why, she has a married daughter as old as you are!


SALOME
What of that? Whoever has money can always play. But what do you say to the wife of blind Gigoli? She hasn't enough to eat, but gives herself airs before us just the same.


CHACHO
Don't talk to me about her! A few weeks ago she pawned a silver pitcher to one of our neighbors for five rubles without her husband's knowledge. God punished her for it, for that same evening she lost it all at cards. I should like to know how she is going to redeem the pitcher.


SALOME [arranging her dress before the mirror].
Yes, yes; no one can take her measure better than I. [Enter Ossep.]


OSSEP [angrily].
And what have you gotten ready for again?


SALOME
What was to be done? Look and see how many guests there are in the garden!


OSSEP
It was very wrong of them to come here. Has no one invited them, then? They should have asked me first.


SALOME
You are a singular being! We have betrothed our daughter and they were obliged to come and congratulate us.


OSSEP
Congratulate! As though my joy went to their hearts! On the contrary, they would enjoy it if I had a misfortune; they could put their heads together and criticise and laugh at me.


CHACHO
What are you so ill-humored about? For the last two days you have been intolerable.


OSSEP
If I could unbosom myself to you and show you my heart, you would comprehend what the cause of it is.


CHACHO
God protect you from all evil!


OSSEP
Am I not right? Tell me yourself! This is not the time for card-playing. Why have they come, then? If they wished to congratulate us, they could come separately. How does it happen that they all thought of us at once? Perhaps each has sent word to the other that Salome has betrothed her daughter and they have all taken advantage of the opportunity to come. Of course only for the sake of those damned cards! This one or that one has probably been invited by her [pointing to Salome]. She sent word to them, “Come to us, I pray! X and Z are already here.” [To Salome:] Say, isn't that so?


SALOME
What nonsense he talks! Ought they not to know at your uncle's house that we have betrothed our daughter? I was obliged to give them some information about it, was I not?


OSSEP
And to whom beside?


SALOME
Whom else? Your cousins. And I have just sent for your sister-in-law.


OSSEP [anxiously].
For what purpose? She could have come another time just as well.


SALOME
How useless it is to talk so! You understand nothing at all about the matter. Your relatives would take offence in every possible way if I did not invite them. They would not speak to me for a year!


OSSEP
Great heaven! I wish they were struck blind! [Sits down and pulls at the end of the table-cloth.] I would take pleasure in throwing them all out!


SALOME
I have no time to dispute with you.[Exit at left, angry.]


OSSEP
Great heaven! have women been created only to bleed the men?


CHACHO
Don't excite yourself so, dear Ossep. What you say is in every way pure facts. But you must overlook something now and then. It can't be helped now; they are all here; you cannot chase them out of the house. The whole city would be stirred up about it.


OSSEP
And what will people say when to-morrow or the day after my creditors come and chase me out of my house?


CHACHO
Oh, don't talk about such things!


OSSEP [sitting down at the card-table].
That's easily said. But let me tell you, I feel as though the house was going to fall down on top of me.


CHACHO
What has happened, Ossep?


OSSEP
They say Barssegh Leproink has brought action against me.


CHACHO
What? Brought action against you?


OSSEP
I owe him money, and on that account he holds the knife at my throat.


CHACHO
God bless me!


OSSEP
The wicked fellow has my note, and another security beside, and yet he will not wait.


CHACHO
His match for wickedness cannot be found in the whole world.


OSSEP
No, not another such miserable scoundrel! I expect every moment to be notified, and have no idea where I can get the money. Everyone I have asked to help me has refused me. I can borrow no more on my note, and I cannot sell my goods at half price. That everyone must understand. They all show their claws as soon as they find out the position I am in. Salome is to blame for all this; the 7,000 rubles she promised is the cause of it all. I would like to know who will pay them to him now.


CHACHO
You talk nonsense! You will make your daughter unhappy forever, Ossep.


OSSEP
I am still more unhappy myself. But let us see what the coming day brings forth. I still have hope of one. Perhaps he will supply me with money.


CHACHO
How could you trust the scamp so blindly? Is such want of thought consistent with reason?


OSSEP
What is the use of reason in this? I have always said I could not stand the expense that now everybody assumes. If a man conducts his business honestly, he makes little profit; and as for a dishonest business, I am not fit for that! So I have suffered one reverse after another; and where I was most vulnerable I have been hit at last.


CHACHO
Heavens! what do I hear? Why don't I sink into the earth?


OSSEP
In our line of trade only a few persons carry on their business with their own money. Most of us have to borrow. When I sell goods to one, I pay my debt to the other. I sell goods to the third and pay to the fourth; and so it goes in a circle, like a wheel drawing water, until one falls in the hands of a man who draws the needle out of the knitting and everything falls in pieces. Who is in a position to fight against such conditions? One must pay the store rent and the clerk's salary, and beside that the interest on the working capital. Then there are the goods that are spoiled or stolen—and here at home! [Striking the cards.] All this rubbish and more beside! [ Striking the table again.] And the women are to blame for all this; if my wife had not promised 7,000 rubles, without my knowledge, the betrothal would not have taken place, and this bad luck would not have come to me. But where does one find among our women insight and forethought? For model women give me some foreign countries. There the women stand by the men in everything: the wife of a cook is a cook; the wife of a writer, a writer; the wife of a merchant is in every case a merchant. They earn jointly and spend jointly. With us the man is here only to make money for them, so that they [striking the table] may kill time with foolish things like this.


CHACHO
Say, rather, that times are changed; for the men also sit at the club all day and play cards.


OSSEP
Ho! ho! As though women did not play cards also! Formerly the cards were solely our diversion; but they have taken them away from us. Don't worry yourself; with God's help they will be learning to play billiards. Why do you dwell upon the fact that the men play cards? One in a thousand plays; while of a thousand women, nine hundred play. Men are always more moderate. They see that the times are hard, and have given up most of their earlier pleasures. Where are the banquets that used to be given, one after another? Where are the drinking-places where the music played? They have given them up; and the women are just like they were, only worse. To-day they arrange a picnic, to-morrow a little party, and so on. The men stand gaping at them, and the children are left to the servants. If I could take the law into my own hands, I'd soon set them right.                     [Paces to and fro in anger.]


CHACHO [rising, aside].
He is right. All that he says is pure truth. [Exit left]


SCENE III

Ossep. Then Alexander.


OSSEP
O dear! O dear! [Stands near fireplace; rests head on hand and remains motionless.]


ALEXANDER
[enter right]. You have come, father? [ Silence—comes near Ossep.] Father.


OSSEP
Ah! Alexander [offering his hand]. Please sit down. Have you just come?


ALEXANDER
No; I have been here a long time. I was in the garden.


OSSEP
What is the news? [Both sit down.]


ALEXANDER
Nothing, except that I wish to have a wedding next week.


OSSEP
So soon?


ALEXANDER
Yes; my chief goes soon to Petersburg, and I want him to be at the wedding.


OSSEP
And can't we wait till he comes back?


ALEXANDER
That would be too long.


OSSEP
Very well. As you wish.


ALEXANDER [stammering].
But—my dear father—


OSSEP
I understand; I understand. You want me to pay over the money at once?


ALEXANDER
Yes, my dear father, if it is possible.


OSSEP
I am sorry to confess that at the present moment I have no money at hand. You must wait a little. If you wish to marry without money, that is your affair.


ALEXANDER
You amaze me!


OSSEP
It is better for me to tell you this than to deceive you. You know the law to some extent. Tell me, if I owe someone money on a note, can my creditor bring action against me and put an execution on me without having me called before the court?


ALEXANDER
Is the note attested by a notary?


OSSEP
Yes.


ALEXANDER
He has the right to come to your house and have everything put under seal.


OSSEP
Without first bringing me into court?


ALEXANDER
Yes, without court proceedings.


OSSEP
But if he has received on account of this debt the note of a third person?


ALEXANDER
That is another thing. Have you a receipt for it?


OSSEP
No; but I can take my oath on it.


ALEXANDER
According to law you must first pay the money and then produce proofs that you gave him the other document.


OSSEP [excited].
Is that true?


ALEXANDER
Yes, it is so.


OSSEP [wringing his hands and springing up].
Then I am ruined. [A silence. Nato's voice is heard outside.] Alexander, they are calling you.


ALEXANDER [approaching Ossep].
What is it? For God's sake tell me the truth.


OSSEP
There, there. Go out first. They are calling you.


ALEXANDER [aside, taking his hat].
So far as I see, I am ruined also. [Exit.]


OSSEP [alone].
What do I not suffer! If they really come here I shall perish through shame. Where can I find so much money in such a hurry? One must have time for it, and that fellow may come to-day even—perhaps this minute. Then I am lost—who will trust me then? My creditors will tie a rope around my neck and prevent me from saying a word in my own behalf. “Pay us,” they will cry; “pay us!” O Salome, Salome!

Enter Gewo.


OSSEP
There he is.


GEWO
Good-evening, Ossep.


OSSEP
You have come, too. You want your money, too? Yes, choke me; double my debt; say that I owe you, not 2,000 rubles, but 4,000. Speak! You are my creditor; speak! Have no pity on me. You want your money—why do you wait, then? Slay me; tear my heart out of my body; hack me in pieces and sell it piece by piece, so that your money shall not be lost. [Gewo wipes his eyes.] Weep, weep, for your money is lost. I am bankrupt—bankrupt!


GEWO [embracing Ossep].
Dear Ossep, dear Ossep!


OSSEP
You say “dear” to me? Yet you are my creditor.


GEWO
Take courage; be a man!


OSSEP
What kind of a man? I am a good-for-nothing; I have lost my good name [weeping]. My good name is gone. [Wipes his eyes.]


GEWO
God is merciful, dear Ossep.


OSSEP
God and heaven have taken their mercy from me. You see now where the marriage of my daughter has led me? If I could at least pay you everything I owe you—that I must do at any price.


GEWO
What are you saying, Ossep? If I had the means I would go on your bond. Why should I be your friend otherwise?


OSSEP
If you had money, dear Gewo, you would not be my friend, nor have such a good heart. Stay poor as you are, so that I shall not lose your friendship. Only your sympathy is left me in this world. I would not like to lose your friendship. In this one day I have suffered everything. No one has shown interest in me; no one has given proof of his sympathy—neither my uncle, nor my brother, nor my nephew. When they saw I was near my last breath, they all forsook me and shut the door in my face.


GEWO
Come with me; perhaps we will find help somewhere.


OSSEP
There can be no more talk of help.


GEWO
Come, come; there is still a way out.


OSSEP
What way out can there be?


GEWO
Come, come; let us not delay.


OSSEP
But tell me how is it to be managed?


GEWO
Come, come! I will tell you on the way.


OSSEP
What you say sounds very strange; tell me what it is. Speak, what has occurred? Don't fear! Don't spare me! Whatever happens cannot be worse than what has happened; they have already sent a bullet into my heart, and what worse can they do to me, except tear open my breast and take my heart out? Speak; what is it? Have they put seals on my store?


GEWO
Come and you will see.


OSSEP
They have put seals on it, then?


GEWO
I tell—


OSSEP
You are ruined, Ossep. [Rushes to the table, seizes the box and scatters the cards; some fall on the floor.] Now you may play; now you may play. [Exit.]


GEWO
Too bad; too bad about him! [Follows him.]


SCENE IV

Enter Salome, Martha, Nino, Pepel, and many well-dressed ladies, followed by two footmen carrying candelabra and lamps, which they put on the table.


SALOME
Take seats, please. The cards are already here.


MARTHA
How pretty it is, isn't it? The cards are already dealt. [The ladies converse smilingly with one another.]


SALOME [stepping forward and noticing the cards on the floor].
What is this? Who can have done it?


MARTHA
Probably the cats ran over the table.


SALOME
I cannot think how it could have happened! Please sit down.

Enter Nato and her friends.


SALOME [collecting the cards].
Who can have done it? Nato, did you do it?


NATO
No, mamma, I did not touch them.


SALOME [to the guests].
Sit down, I beg.

[All the guests sit down at the table, Nato and her friends sit on the other side of the stage. Salome, standing, deals the cards which the guests hand one to the other. Then they pay in the stakes to Salome, which she lays on the table in front of her.

Enter Alexander.


NATO [going to meet Alexander].
Alexander, why were you so long?


ALEXANDER
I was obliged to be [leading Nato aside excitedly, and in a whisper:] I have something to say to you.


NATO [in a whisper].
What makes your hand tremble?


ALEXANDER
They have brought action against your father in the courts.


NATO
What! For what reason?


ALEXANDER
Because of debts.


NATO
Who told you so?


ALEXANDER
Your father himself.


NATO [laughing aloud]
Ha! ha! ha! [Whispering :] My father has no debts.


ALEXANDER
Well, he told me so himself.


NATO
He was joking. Don't believe him. [Goes over to her friends, laughing.]


ALEXANDER
Well, I can't make it out. I am not so stupid, however. Until I have the money in my hands I will not cross this threshold again.


SALOME
Let us begin. [Guests begin to play.]


Scene V

Enter Chacho.


CHACHO [coming from left].
Get this stuff out of the way.


SALOME
What is the matter? What has happened?


CHACHO
What was to happen? We are ruined. [Behind the scenes are heard threatening voices:] “Here! Yes! No.” [Then Ossep's voice:] “Come in, come in.”


CHACHO [to Salome].
Do you not hear them?

Enter Barssegh through middle door.


BARSSEGH
This is really splendid! I work for my daily bread, and you illuminate your house on my money.


CHACHO [to Salome].
Now you have it.


SALOME [rising].
Are you mad? Show him out.


BARSSEGH
I will show you pretty soon who is to be shown out.


SALOME
Alexander, show this man out.


ALEXANDER [to Barssegh].
What do you want, sir? How can you indulge in such insolence?


BARSSEGH
That is not your affair, sir! I demand my money. Demand yours also if you can. You will be obliged to wait a long while for it.


CHACHO [to Barssegh].
Have you no conscience?


BARSSEGH
I want my money, and nothing more.

Enter Ossep, Gewo, a sheriff and his secretary, Dartscho, and several others.


OSSEP [opening the door with both hands as he enters].
Come in! come in! [The others follow him.] Play, play and laugh as much as you will over my misfortunes!


CHACHO [aside].
Now it is all over with us!


SALOME
Tell me, for God's sake, the meaning of this.


OSSEP
God will judge you and me also. [To sheriff and others:] Come, make your inventory, put your seals on everything—the house, the furniture, and on the cards, too.


BARSSEGH
Make an inventory of everything.[The sheriff lists furniture in the background and puts a ticket on each piece. The guests assemble, frightened, on the left side of the table.]


SALOME [beating her head].
Good heavens!


MARTHA
This is a disgrace for us as well.


CHACHO [in a low voice to Martha].
You at least should be silent.


OSSEP [pointing to Barssegh].
He has stripped me of my honor. Now you will honor and esteem him. He will arrange for your parties. Yes, he, the man who takes the shirt from my back and possesses himself of all my property.


ALEXANDER [aside].
I have my sister to thank for all this, who dragged me into this house.


OSSEP [ironically].
Alexander, look for a dowry elsewhere, for I can no longer give my daughter one.


ALEXANDER [angry].
What, you deride me as well! I don't belong to your class, sir!


OSSEP
And has it come to this!


ALEXANDER [taking his hat].
I have not acquired my present dignity to lose it through you.


OSSEP
Ha! ha! ha! His dignity!


ALEXANDER [coming near Nato].
I have loved you truly, Miss Nato, but I must give you up. I am not to blame for it. Farewell.[Goes to the door.]

Barssegh laughs for joy.


OSSEP [approaching Salome, who stands dismayed, takes her by the arm and points to the departing Alexander].
There goes your official!


NATO [standing at the left near the sofa].
Alexander! Alexander! [Exit Alexander.] Dear Alexander.[Sitting down on the sofa, begins to cry.]


SALOME [in a low tone, striking her brow with both hands ].
Why doesn't the earth open and swallow me?


OSSEP [to Salome].
Now you are punished, are you not? [Turning to Barssegh:] Take it all, now! Satisfy yourself! [ Takes off his coat.] Take this also! [Throws it to Barssegh.] Yes, take it! [Takes his cap from the table and throws it to Barssegh.] Make off with this also; I need it no longer. [Runs to and fro as if distracted.]


BARSSEGH [in a low voice].
Keep on giving![Turns to sheriff and speaks softly to him.]


OSSEP [taking up different articles from card table and throwing them on the floor].
Take these also! Take these also! [ Taking a lighted candelabra and smashing it on the floor] Stick that also down your throat!


SEVERAL OF THE GUESTS
The poor fellow is losing his wits. [Nato crying; her friends comfort her. Salome faints.]


CHACHO
Ossep! My dear Ossep!


GEWO [embracing Ossep].
Be calm, dear Ossep. You behave like a madman.


OSSEP [after a pause].
Gewo, I was mad when I settled in this city. This life is too much for me; it was not for me. I am ruined. I am a beggar. He is to be praised who comes off better than I. [Exit.]


SALOME [with her hand on her brow sinks down on the sofa, groaning loudly].
Ah!


GEWO
Poor Ossep!


BARSSEGH [turns from Dartscho, to whom he has been speaking, to the sheriff].
What are you gazing around for, sir? Keep on with your writing. [Sheriff looks at Barssegh in disgust, sits down by card table and writes.]


MARTHA [to the guests].
We have nothing more to look for here. [Aside:] A charming set! [Goes toward middle door; some ladies follow; others stand offended.]


CHACHO [raising her eyes].
Would that I had died long ago, so that I had not lived to see this unfortunate day!


CURTAIN.


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