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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Incapables
By Anton Chekhov (1860–1904)
 
From ‘The Cherry Orchard’: Translation of George Calderon

LOPAKHIN—Derigánof, the millionaire, wants to buy your property. They say he’ll come to the auction himself.  1
  Madame Ranevsky—How did you hear?  2
  Lopakhin—I was told so in town.  3
  Gayef—Our aunt at Yaroslav has promised to send something; but I don’t know when, or how much.  4
  Lopakhin—How much will she send? Ten thousand pounds? Twenty thousand pounds?  5
  Madame Ranevsky—Oh, come…. A thousand or fifteen hundred at the most.  6
  Lopakhin—Excuse me, but in all my life I never met anybody so frivolous as you two, so crazy and unbusiness-like! I tell you in plain Russian your property is going to be sold, and you don’t seem to understand what I say.  7
  Madame Ranevsky—Well, what are we to do? Tell us what you want us to do.  8
  Lopakhin—Don’t I tell you every day? Every day I say the same thing over and over again. You must lease off the cherry orchard and the rest of the estate for villas; you must do it at once, this very moment; the auction will be on you in two twos! Try and understand. Once you make up your mind there are to be villas, you can get all the money you want, and you’re saved.  9
  Madame Ranevsky—Villas and villa residents, oh, please,… it’s so vulgar!  10
  Gayef—I quite agree with you.  11
  Lopakhin—I shall either cry, or scream, or faint. I can’t stand it! You’ll be the death of me.  [To Gayef.]  You’re an old woman!  12
  Gayef—Who’s that?  13
  Lopakhin—-You’re an old woman!  [Going.]  14
  Madame Ranevsky  [frightened]—No, don’t go. Stay here, there’s a dear! Perhaps we shall think of some way.  15
  Lopakhin—What’s the good of thinking!  16
  Madame Ranevsky—Please don’t go; I want you. At any rate it’s gayer when you’re here.  [A pause.]  I keep expecting something to happen, as if the house were going to tumble down about our ears.  17
  Gayef  [in deep abstraction]—Off the cushion on the corner; double into the middle pocket….  18
  Madame Ranevsky—We have been very, very sinful!  19
  Lopakhin—You! What sins have you committed?  20
  Gayef  [eating candy]—They say I’ve devoured all my substance in sugar candy.  [Laughing.]  21
  Madame Ranevsky—Oh, the sins that I have committed…. I’ve always squandered money at random like a madwoman; I married a man who made nothing but debts. My husband drank himself to death on champagne; he was a fearful drinker. Then for my sins I fell in love and went off with another man; and immediately—that was my first punishment—a blow full on the head … here, in this very river … my little boy was drowned; and I went abroad, right, right away, never to come back any more, never to see this river again … I shut my eyes and ran, like a mad thing, and he came after me, pitiless and cruel. I bought a villa at Mentone, because he fell ill there, and for three years I knew no rest day or night; the sick man tormented and wore down my soul. Then, last year, when my villa was sold to pay my debts, I went off to Paris, and he came and robbed me of everything, left me and took up with another woman, and I tried to poison myself…. It was all so stupid, so humiliating…. Then suddenly I longed to be back in Russia, in my own country, with my little girl….  [Wiping away her tears.]  Lord, Lord, be merciful to me; forgive my sins! Do not punish me any more!  [Taking a telegram from her pocket.]  I got this to-day from Paris…. He asks to be forgiven, begs me to go back….  [Tearing up the telegram.]  Isn’t that music that I hear?  [Listening.]  22
  Gayef—That’s our famous Jewish band. You remember? Four fiddles, a flute, and a double bass.  23
  Madame Ranevsky—Does it still exist? We must make them come up some time; we’ll have a dance.  24
  Lopakhin  [listening]—I don’t hear anything.  [Singing softly:]
  “The Germans for a fee will turn
A Russ into a Frenchman.”
[Laughing.]  I saw a very funny piece at the theatre last night; awfully funny!
  25
  Madame Ranevsky—It probably wasn’t a bit funny. You people oughtn’t to go and see plays; you ought to try to see yourselves; to see what a dull life you lead, and how much too much you talk.  26
  Lopakhin—Quite right. To tell the honest truth, our life’s an imbecile affair.  [A pause.]  My papa was a peasant, an idiot; he understood nothing; he taught me nothing; all he did was to beat me, when he was drunk, with a walking-stick. As a matter of fact I’m just as big a blockhead and idiot as he was. I never did any lessons; my handwriting’s abominable; I write so badly I’m ashamed before people; like a pig.  27
  Madame Ranevsky—You ought to get married.  28
  Lopakhin—Yes, that’s true.  29
  Madame Ranevsky—Why not marry Barbara? She’s a nice girl.  30
  Lopakhin—Yes.  31
  Madame Ranevsky—She’s a nice straightforward creature; works all day; and what’s most important, she loves you. You’ve been fond of her for a long time.  32
  Lopakhin—Well, why not? I’m quite willing. She’s a very nice girl.  [A pause.]  33
  Gayef—I’ve been offered a place in a bank. Six hundred pounds a year. Do you hear?  34
  Madame Ranevsky—You in a bank! Stay where you are.  35
Enter Firs, carrying an overcoat.
  Firs  [to Gayef]—Put this on, please, master; it’s getting damp.
  36
  Gayef  [putting on the coat]—What a plague you are, Firs!  37
  Firs—What’s the use…. You went off and never told me.  [Examining his clothes.]  38
  Madame Ranevsky—How old you’ve got, Firs!  39
  Firs—I beg your pardon?  40
  Lopakhin—She says how old you’ve got!  41
  Firs—I’ve been alive a long time. When they found me a wife, your father wasn’t even born yet.  [Laughing.]  And when the Liberation came I was already chief valet. But I wouldn’t have any Liberation then; I stayed with the master.  [A pause.]  I remember how happy everybody was, but why they were happy they didn’t know themselves.  42
  Lopakhin—It was fine before then. Anyway they used to flog ’em.  43
  Firs  [mishearing him]—I should think so! The peasants minded the masters, and the masters minded the peasants, but now it’s all higgledy piggledy; you can’t make head or tail of it.  44
  Gayef—Shut up, Firs. I must go into town again to-morrow. I’ve been promised an introduction to a general who’ll lend money on a bill.  45
  Lopakhin—You’ll do no good. You won’t even pay the interest; set your mind at ease about that.  46
  Madame Ranevsky  [to Lopakhin]—He’s only talking nonsense. There’s no such general at all.  47
Enter Trophimof, Anya, and Barbara.
  Gayef—Here come the others.
  48
  Anya—Here’s mamma.  49
  Madame Ranevsky  [tenderly]—Come along, come along,… my little ones….  [Embracing Anya and Barbara.]  If only you knew how much I love you both! Sit beside me … there, like that.  [Everyone sits.]  50
  Lopakhin—The Perpetual Student’s always among the girls.  51
  Trophimof—It’s no affair of yours.  52
  Lopakhin—He’s nearly fifty and still a student.  53
  Trophimof—Stop your idiotic jokes!  54
  Lopakhin  [laughing]—I should like to know what your opinion is of me?  55
  Trophimof—My opinion of you, Yermolái Alexéyitch, is this. You’re a rich man; you’ll soon be a millionaire. Just as a beast of prey which devours everything that comes in its way is necessary for the conversion of matter, so you are necessary too.  [All laugh.]  56
  Barbara—Tell us something about the planets, Peter, instead.  57
  Madame Ranevsky—No. Let’s go on with the conversation we were having yesterday.  58
  Trophimof—What about?  59
  Gayef—About the proud man.  60
  Trophimof—We had a long talk yesterday, but we didn’t come to any conclusion. There is something mystical in the proud man in the sense in which you use the words. You may be right from your point of view, but, if we look at it simple mindedly, what room is there for pride? Is there any sense in it, when man is so poorly constructed from the physiological point of view, when the vast majority of us are so gross and stupid and profoundly unhappy? We must give up admiring ourselves. The only thing to do is to work.  61
  Gayef—We shall die all the same.  62
  Trophimof—Who knows? And what does it mean, to die? Perhaps man has a hundred senses, and when he dies only the five senses that we know perish with him, and the other ninety-five remain alive.  63
  Madame Ranevsky—How clever you are, Peter.  64
  Lopakhin  [ironically]—Oh, extraordinary!  65
  Trophimof—Mankind marches forward, perfecting its strength. Everything that is unattainable for us now will one day be near and clear; but we must work; we must help with all our force those who seek for truth. At present only a few men work in Russia. The vast majority of the educated people that I know seek after nothing, do nothing, and are as yet incapable of work. They call themselves “Intelligentsia,” they say “thou” and “thee” to the servants, they treat the peasants like animals, learn nothing, read nothing serious, do absolutely nothing, only talk about science, and understand little or nothing about art. They are all serious; they all have solemn faces; they only discuss important subjects; they philosophize; but meanwhile the vast majority of us, ninety-nine per cent., live like savages; at the least thing they curse and punch people’s heads; they eat like beasts and sleep in dirt and bad air; there are bugs everywhere, evil smells, damp and moral degradation…. It’s plain that all our clever conversations are only meant to distract our own attention and other people’s. Show me where those crèches are, that they’re always talking so much about; or those reading-rooms. They are only things people write about in novels; they don’t really exist at all. Nothing exists but dirt, vulgarity, and Asiatic ways. I am afraid of solemn faces; I dislike them; I am afraid of solemn conversations. Let us rather hold our tongues.  66
  Lopakhin—Do you know, I get up at five every morning; I work from morning till night; I am always handling my own money or other people’s, and I see the sort of men there are about me. One only has to begin to do anything to see how few honest and decent people there are. Sometimes, as I lie awake in bed, I think: “O Lord, you have given us mighty forests, boundless fields, and immeasurable horizons, and, we living in their midst, ought really to be giants.”  67
  Madame Ranevsky—Oh dear, you want giants! They are all very well in fairy stories; but in real life they are rather alarming.  [Ephikhódof passes at the back of the scene, playing on his guitar.]  [Pensively.]  There goes Ephikhódof.  68
  Anya  [pensively]—There goes Ephikhódof.  69
  Gayef—The sun has set.  70
  Trophimof—Yes.  71
  Gayef  [as if declaiming, but not loud]—O Nature, wonderful Nature you glow with eternal light; beautiful and indifferent, you whom we call our mother, uniting in yourself both life and death, you animate and you destroy….  72
  Barbara  [entreatingly]—Uncle!  73
  Anya—-You’re at it again, uncle!  74
  Trophimof—You’d far better double the red into the middle pocket.  75
  Gayef—I’ll hold my tongue! I’ll hold my tongue!  76
 
 
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