The dining-room of SORIN'S house. Doors open out of it to the right and left. A table stands in the centre of the room. Trunks and boxes encumber the floor, and preparations for departure are evident. TRIGORIN is sitting at a table eating his breakfast, and MASHA is standing beside him.
MASHA. I am telling you all these things because you write books and they may be useful to you. I tell you honestly, I should not have lived another day if he had wounded himself fatally. Yet I am courageous; I have decided to tear this love of mine out of my heart by the roots.
TRIGORIN. How will you do it?
MASHA. By marrying Medviedenko.
TRIGORIN. The school-teacher?
TRIGORIN. I don't see the necessity for that.
MASHA. Oh, if you knew what it is to love without hope for years and years, to wait for ever for something that will never come! I shall not marry for love, but marriage will at least be a change, and will bring new cares to deaden the memories of the past. Shall we have another drink?
TRIGORIN. Haven't you had enough?
MASHA. Fiddlesticks! [She fills a glass] Don't look at me with that expression on your face. Women drink oftener than you imagine, but most of them do it in secret, and not openly, as I do. They do indeed, and it is always either vodka or brandy. [They touch glasses] To your good health! You are so easy to get on with that I am sorry to see you go. [They drink.]
TRIGORIN. And I am sorry to leave.
MASHA. You should ask her to stay.
TRIGORIN. She would not do that now. Her son has been behaving outrageously. First he attempted suicide, and now I hear he is going to challenge me to a duel, though what his provocation may be I can't imagine. He is always sulking and sneering and preaching about a new form of art, as if the field of art were not large enough to accommodate both old and new without the necessity of jostling.
MASHA. It is jealousy. However, that is none of my business. [A pause. JACOB walks through the room carrying a trunk; NINA comes in and stands by the window] That schoolteacher of mine is none too clever, but he is very good, poor man, and he loves me dearly, and I am sorry for him. However, let me say good-bye and wish you a pleasant journey. Remember me kindly in your thoughts. [She shakes hands with him] Thanks for your goodwill. Send me your books, and be sure to write something in them; nothing formal, but simply this: "To Masha, who, forgetful of her origin, for some unknown reason is living in this world." Good-bye. [She goes out.]
NINA. [Holding out her closed hand to TRIGORIN] Is it odd or even?
NINA. [With a sigh] No, it is odd. I had only one pea in my hand. I wanted to see whether I was to become an actress or not. If only some one would advise me what to do!
TRIGORIN. One cannot give advice in a case like this. [A pause.]
NINA. We shall soon part, perhaps never to meet again. I should like you to accept this little medallion as a remembrance of me. I have had your initials engraved on it, and on this side is the name of one of your books: "Days and Nights."
TRIGORIN. How sweet of you! [He kisses the medallion] It is a lovely present.
NINA. Think of me sometimes.
TRIGORIN. I shall never forget you. I shall always remember you as I saw you that bright day—do you recall it?—a week ago, when you wore your light dress, and we talked together, and the white seagull lay on the bench beside us.
NINA. [Lost in thought] Yes, the sea-gull. [A pause] I beg you to let me see you alone for two minutes before you go.
She goes out to the left. At the same moment ARKADINA comes in from the right, followed by SORIN in a long coat, with his orders on his breast, and by JACOB, who is busy packing.
ARKADINA. Stay here at home, you poor old man. How could you pay visits with that rheumatism of yours? [To TRIGORIN] Who left the room just now, was it Nina?
ARKADINA. I beg your pardon; I am afraid we interrupted you. [She sits down] I think everything is packed. I am absolutely exhausted.
TRIGORIN. [Reading the inscription on the medallion] "Days and Nights, page 121, lines 11 and 12."
JACOB. [Clearing the table] Shall I pack your fishing-rods, too, sir?
TRIGORIN. Yes, I shall need them, but you can give my books away.
JACOB. Very well, sir.
TRIGORIN. [To himself] Page 121, lines 11 and 12. [To ARKADINA] Have we my books here in the house?
ARKADINA. Yes, they are in my brother's library, in the corner cupboard.
TRIGORIN. Page 121—[He goes out.]
SORIN. You are going away, and I shall be lonely without you.
ARKADINA. What would you do in town?
SORIN. Oh, nothing in particular, but somehow—[He laughs] They are soon to lay the corner-stone of the new court-house here. How I should like to leap out of this minnow-pond, if but for an hour or two! I am tired of lying here like an old cigarette stump. I have ordered the carriage for one o'clock. We can go away together.
ARKADINA. [After a pause] No, you must stay here. Don't be lonely, and don't catch cold. Keep an eye on my boy. Take good care of him; guide him along the proper paths. [A pause] I am going away, and so shall never find out why Constantine shot himself, but I think the chief reason was jealousy, and the sooner I take Trigorin away, the better.
SORIN. There were—how shall I explain it to you?—other reasons besides jealousy for his act. Here is a clever young chap living in the depths of the country, without money or position, with no future ahead of him, and with nothing to do. He is ashamed and afraid of being so idle. I am devoted to him and he is fond of me, but nevertheless he feels that he is useless here, that he is little more than a dependent in this house. It is the pride in him.
ARKADINA. He is a misery to me! [Thoughtfully] He might possibly enter the army.
SORIN. [Gives a whistle, and then speaks with hesitation] It seems to me that the best thing for him would be if you were to let him have a little money. For one thing, he ought to be allowed to dress like a human being. See how he looks! Wearing the same little old coat that he has had for three years, and he doesn't even possess an overcoat! [Laughing] And it wouldn't hurt the youngster to sow a few wild oats; let him go abroad, say, for a time. It wouldn't cost much.
ARKADINA. Yes, but—However, I think I might manage about his clothes, but I couldn't let him go abroad. And no, I don't think I can let him have his clothes even, now. [Decidedly] I have no money at present.
ARKADINA. I haven't indeed.
SORIN. [Whistles] Very well. Forgive me, darling; don't be angry. You are a noble, generous woman!
ARKADINA. [Weeping] I really haven't the money.
SORIN. If I had any money of course I should let him have some myself, but I haven't even a penny. The farm manager takes my pension from me and puts it all into the farm or into cattle or bees, and in that way it is always lost for ever. The bees die, the cows die, they never let me have a horse.
ARKADINA. Of course I have some money, but I am an actress and my expenses for dress alone are enough to bankrupt me.
SORIN. You are a dear, and I am very fond of you, indeed I am. But something is the matter with me again. [He staggers] I feel giddy. [He leans against the table] I feel faint, and all.
ARKADINA. [Frightened ] Peter! [She tries to support him] Peter! dearest! [She calls] Help! Help!
TREPLIEFF and MEDVIEDENKO come in; TREPLIEFF has a bandage around his head.
ARKADINA. He is fainting!
SORIN. I am all right. [He smiles and drinks some water] It is all over now.
TREPLIEFF. [To his mother] Don't be frightened, mother, these attacks are not dangerous; my uncle often has them now. [To his uncle] You must go and lie down, Uncle.
SORIN. Yes, I think I shall, for a few minutes. I am going to Moscow all the same, but I shall lie down a bit before I start. [He goes out leaning on his cane.]
MEDVIEDENKO. [Giving him his arm] Do you know this riddle? On four legs in the morning; on two legs at noon; and on three legs in the evening?
SORIN. [Laughing] Yes, exactly, and on one's back at night. Thank you, I can walk alone.
MEDVIEDENKO. Dear me, what formality! [He and SORIN go out.]
ARKADINA. He gave me a dreadful fright.
TREPLIEFF. It is not good for him to live in the country. Mother, if you would only untie your purse-strings for once, and lend him a thousand roubles! He could then spend a whole year in town.
ARKADINA. I have no money. I am an actress and not a banker. [A pause.]
TREPLIEFF. Please change my bandage for me, mother, you do it so gently.
ARKADINA goes to the cupboard and takes out a box of bandages and a bottle of iodoform.
ARKADINA. The doctor is late.
TREPLIEFF. Yes, he promised to be here at nine, and now it is noon already.
ARKADINA. Sit down. [She takes the bandage off his head] You look as if you had a turban on. A stranger that was in the kitchen yesterday asked to what nationality you belonged. Your wound is almost healed. [She kisses his head] You won't be up to any more of these silly tricks again, will you, when I am gone?
TREPLIEFF. No, mother. I did that in a moment of insane despair, when I had lost all control over myself. It will never happen again. [He kisses her hand] Your touch is golden. I remember when you were still acting at the State Theatre, long ago, when I was still a little chap, there was a fight one day in our court, and a poor washerwoman was almost beaten to death. She was picked up unconscious, and you nursed her till she was well, and bathed her children in the washtubs. Have you forgotten it?
ARKADINA. Yes, entirely. [She puts on a new bandage.]
TREPLIEFF. Two ballet dancers lived in the same house, and they used to come and drink coffee with you.
ARKADINA. I remember that.
TREPLIEFF. They were very pious. [A pause] I love you again, these last few days, as tenderly and trustingly as I did as a child. I have no one left me now but you. Why, why do you let yourself be controlled by that man?
ARKADINA. You don't understand him, Constantine. He has a wonderfully noble personality.
TREPLIEFF. Nevertheless, when he has been told that I wish to challenge him to a duel his nobility does not prevent him from playing the coward. He is about to beat an ignominious retreat.
ARKADINA. What nonsense! I have asked him myself to go.
TREPLIEFF. A noble personality indeed! Here we are almost quarrelling over him, and he is probably in the garden laughing at us at this very moment, or else enlightening Nina's mind and trying to persuade her into thinking him a man of genius.
ARKADINA. You enjoy saying unpleasant things to me. I have the greatest respect for that man, and I must ask you not to speak ill of him in my presence.
TREPLIEFF. I have no respect for him at all. You want me to think him a genius, as you do, but I refuse to lie: his books make me sick.
ARKADINA. You envy him. There is nothing left for people with no talent and mighty pretensions to do but to criticise those who are really gifted. I hope you enjoy the consolation it brings.
TREPLIEFF. [With irony] Those who are really gifted, indeed! [Angrily] I am cleverer than any of you, if it comes to that! [He tears the bandage off his head] You are the slaves of convention, you have seized the upper hand and now lay down as law everything that you do; all else you strangle and trample on. I refuse to accept your point of view, yours and his, I refuse!
ARKADINA. That is the talk of a decadent.
TREPLIEFF. Go back to your beloved stage and act the miserable ditch-water plays you so much admire!
ARKADINA. I never acted in a play like that in my life. You couldn't write even the trashiest music-hall farce, you idle good-for-nothing!
TREPLIEFF sits down and begins to cry softly.
ARKADINA. [Walking up and down in great excitement] Don't cry! You mustn't cry! [She bursts into tears] You really mustn't. [She kisses his forehead, his cheeks, his head] My darling child, forgive me. Forgive your wicked mother.
TREPLIEFF. [Embracing her] Oh, if you could only know what it is to have lost everything under heaven! She does not love me. I see I shall never be able to write. Every hope has deserted me.
ARKADINA. Don't despair. This will all pass. He is going away to-day, and she will love you once more. [She wipes away his tears] Stop crying. We have made peace again.
TREPLIEFF. [Kissing her hand] Yes, mother.
ARKADINA. [Tenderly] Make your peace with him, too. Don't fight with him. You surely won't fight?
TREPLIEFF. I won't, but you must not insist on my seeing him again, mother, I couldn't stand it. [TRIGORIN comes in] There he is; I am going. [He quickly puts the medicines away in the cupboard] The doctor will attend to my head.
TRIGORIN. [Looking through the pages of a book] Page 121, lines 11 and 12; here it is. [He reads] "If at any time you should have need of my life, come and take it."
TREPLIEFF picks up the bandage off the floor and goes out.
ARKADINA. [Looking at her watch] The carriage will soon be here.
TRIGORIN. [To himself] If at any time you should have need of my life, come and take it.
ARKADINA. I hope your things are all packed.
TRIGORIN. [Impatiently] Yes, yes. [In deep thought] Why do I hear a note of sadness that wrings my heart in this cry of a pure soul? If at any time you should have need of my life, come and take it. [To ARKADINA] Let us stay here one more day!
ARKADINA shakes her head.
TRIGORIN. Do let us stay!
ARKADINA. I know, dearest, what keeps you here, but you must control yourself. Be sober; your emotions have intoxicated you a little.
TRIGORIN. You must be sober, too. Be sensible; look upon what has happened as a true friend would. [Taking her hand] You are capable of self-sacrifice. Be a friend to me and release me!
ARKADINA. [In deep excitement] Are you so much in love?
TRIGORIN. I am irresistibly impelled toward her. It may be that this is just what I need.
ARKADINA. What, the love of a country girl? Oh, how little you know yourself!
TRIGORIN. People sometimes walk in their sleep, and so I feel as if I were asleep, and dreaming of her as I stand here talking to you. My imagination is shaken by the sweetest and most glorious visions. Release me!
ARKADINA. [Shuddering] No, no! I am only an ordinary woman; you must not say such things to me. Do not torment me, Boris; you frighten me.
TRIGORIN. You could be an extraordinary woman if you only would. Love alone can bring happiness on earth, love the enchanting, the poetical love of youth, that sweeps away the sorrows of the world. I had no time for it when I was young and struggling with want and laying siege to the literary fortress, but now at last this love has come to me. I see it beckoning; why should I fly?
ARKADINA. [With anger] You are mad!
TRIGORIN. Release me.
ARKADINA. You have all conspired together to torture me to-day. [She weeps.]
TRIGORIN. [Clutching his head desperately] She doesn't understand me! She won't understand me!
ARKADINA. Am I then so old and ugly already that you can talk to me like this without any shame about another woman? [She embraces and kisses him] Oh, you have lost your senses! My splendid, my glorious friend, my love for you is the last chapter of my life. [She falls on her knees] You are my pride, my joy, my light. [She embraces his knees] I could never endure it should you desert me, if only for an hour; I should go mad. Oh, my wonder, my marvel, my king!
TRIGORIN. Some one might come in. [He helps her to rise.]
ARKADINA. Let them come! I am not ashamed of my love. [She kisses his hands] My jewel! My despair! You want to do a foolish thing, but I don't want you to do it. I shan't let you do it! [She laughs] You are mine, you are mine! This forehead is mine, these eyes are mine, this silky hair is mine. All your being is mine. You are so clever, so wise, the first of all living writers; you are the only hope of your country. You are so fresh, so simple, so deeply humourous. You can bring out every feature of a man or of a landscape in a single line, and your characters live and breathe. Do you think that these words are but the incense of flattery? Do you think I am not speaking the truth? Come, look into my eyes; look deep; do you find lies there? No, you see that I alone know how to treasure you. I alone tell you the truth. Oh, my very dear, you will go with me? You will? You will not forsake me?
TRIGORIN. I have no will of my own; I never had. I am too indolent, too submissive, too phlegmatic, to have any. Is it possible that women like that? Take me. Take me away with you, but do not let me stir a step from your side.
ARKADINA. [To herself] Now he is mine! [Carelessly, as if nothing unusual had happened] Of course you must stay here if you really want to. I shall go, and you can follow in a week's time. Yes, really, why should you hurry away?
TRIGORIN. Let us go together.
ARKADINA. As you like. Let us go together then. [A pause. TRIGORIN writes something in his note-book] What are you writing?
TRIGORIN. A happy expression I heard this morning: "A grove of maiden pines." It may be useful. [He yawns] So we are really off again, condemned once more to railway carriages, to stations and restaurants, to Hamburger steaks and endless arguments!
SHAMRAEFF comes in.
SHAMRAEFF. I am sorry to have to inform you that your carriage is at the door. It is time to start, honoured madam, the train leaves at two-five. Would you be kind enough, madam, to remember to inquire for me where Suzdaltzeff the actor is now? Is he still alive, I wonder? Is he well? He and I have had many a jolly time together. He was inimitable in "The Stolen Mail." A tragedian called Izmailoff was in the same company, I remember, who was also quite remarkable. Don't hurry, madam, you still have five minutes. They were both of them conspirators once, in the same melodrama, and one night when in the course of the play they were suddenly discovered, instead of saying "We have been trapped!" Izmailoff cried out: "We have been rapped!" [He laughs] Rapped!
While he has been talking JACOB has been busy with the trunks, and the maid has brought ARKADINA her hat, coat, parasol, and gloves. The cook looks hesitatingly through the door on the right, and finally comes into the room. PAULINA comes in. MEDVIEDENKO comes in.
PAULINA. [Presenting ARKADINA with a little basket] Here are some plums for the journey. They are very sweet ones. You may want to nibble something good on the way.
ARKADINA. You are very kind, Paulina.
PAULINA. Good-bye, my dearie. If things have not been quite as you could have wished, please forgive us. [She weeps.]
ARKADINA. It has been delightful, delightful. You mustn't cry.
SORIN comes in through the door on the left, dressed in a long coat with a cape, and carrying his hat and cane. He crosses the room.
SORIN. Come, sister, it is time to start, unless you want to miss the train. I am going to get into the carriage. [He goes out.]
MEDVIEDENKO. I shall walk quickly to the station and see you off there. [He goes out.]
ARKADINA. Good-bye, all! We shall meet again next summer if we live. [The maid servant, JACOB, and the cook kiss her hand] Don't forget me. [She gives the cook a rouble] There is a rouble for all three of you.
THE COOK. Thank you, mistress; a pleasant journey to you.
JACOB. God bless you, mistress.
SHAMRAEFF. Send us a line to cheer us up. [TO TRIGORIN] Good-bye, sir.
ARKADINA. Where is Constantine? Tell him I am starting. I must say good-bye to him. [To JACOB] I gave the cook a rouble for all three of you.
All go out through the door on the right. The stage remains empty. Sounds of farewell are heard. The maid comes running back to fetch the basket of plums which has been forgotten. TRIGORIN comes back.
TRIGORIN. I had forgotten my cane. I think I left it on the terrace. [He goes toward the door on the right and meets NINA, who comes in at that moment] Is that you? We are off.
NINA. I knew we should meet again. [With emotion] I have come to an irrevocable decision, the die is cast: I am going on the stage. I am deserting my father and abandoning everything. I am beginning life anew. I am going, as you are, to Moscow. We shall meet there.
TRIGORIN. [Glancing about him] Go to the Hotel Slavianski Bazar. Let me know as soon as you get there. I shall be at the Grosholski House in Moltchanofka Street. I must go now. [A pause.]
NINA. Just one more minute!
TRIGORIN. [In a low voice] You are so beautiful! What bliss to think that I shall see you again so soon! [She sinks on his breast] I shall see those glorious eyes again, that wonderful, ineffably tender smile, those gentle features with their expression of angelic purity! My darling! [A prolonged kiss.]
The curtain falls.
Two years elapse between the third and fourth acts.