The Power of Darkness
PETER IGNÁTITCH. A well-to-do peasant, 42 years old, married for the second time, and sickly.
ANÍSYA. His wife, 32 years old, fond of dress.
AKOULÍNA. Peter's daughter by his first marriage, 16 years old, hard of hearing, mentally undeveloped.
NAN (ANNA PETRÓVNA). His daughter by his second marriage, 10 years old.
NIKÍTA. Their labourer, 26 years old, fond of dress.
AKÍM. Nikíta's father, 50 years old, a plain-looking, God-fearing peasant.
MATRYÓNA. His wife and Nikíta's mother, 50 years old.
MARÍNA. An orphan girl, 22 years old.
MARTHA. Peter's sister.
MÍTRITCH. An old labourer, ex-soldier.
SIMON. Marína's husband.
BRIDEGROOM. Engaged to Akoulína.
IVÁN. His father.
VISITORS, WOMEN, GIRLS, AND PEOPLE come to see the wedding.
N.B.– The ‘oven’ mentioned is the usual large, brick, Russian baking-oven. The top of it outside is flat, so that more than one person can lie on it.
The Act takes place in autumn in a large village. The Scene represents Peter's roomy hut. Peter is sitting on a wooden bench, mending a horse-collar. Anísya and Akoulína are spinning, and singing a part-song.
PETER [looking out of the window] The horses have got loose again. If we don't look out they'll be killing the colt. Nikíta! Hey, Nikíta! Is the fellow deaf? [Listens. To the women] Shut up, one can't hear anything.
NIKÍTA [from outside] What?
PETER. Drive the horses in.
NIKÍTA. We'll drive 'em in. All in good time.
PETER [shaking his head] Ah, these labourers! If I were well, I'd not keep one on no account. There's nothing but bother with 'em. [Rises and sits down again] Nikíta!.. It's no good shouting. One of you'd better go. Go, Akoúl, drive 'em in.
AKOULÍNA. What? The horses?
PETER. What else?
AKOULÍNA. All right. [Exit].
PETER. Ah, but he's a loafer, that lad … no good at all. Won't stir a finger if he can help it.
ANÍSYA. You're so mighty brisk yourself. When you're not sprawling on the top of the oven you're squatting on the bench. To goad others to work is all you're fit for.
PETER. If one weren't to goad you on a bit, one'd have no roof left over one's head before the year's out. Oh what people!
ANÍSYA. You go shoving a dozen jobs on to one's shoulders, and then do nothing but scold. It's easy to lie on the oven and give orders.
PETER [sighing] Oh, if 'twere not for this sickness that's got hold of me, I'd not keep him on another day.
AKOULÍNA [off the scene] Gee up, gee, woo. [A colt neighs, the stamping of horses' feet and the creaking of the gate are heard].
PETER. Bragging, that's what he's good at. I'd like to sack him, I would indeed.
ANÍSYA [mimicking him] “Like to sack him.” You buckle to yourself, and then talk.
AKOULÍNA [enters] It's all I could do to drive 'em in. That piebald always will …
PETER. And where's Nikíta?
AKOULÍNA. Where's Nikíta? Why, standing out there in the street.
PETER. What's he standing there for?
AKOULÍNA. What's he standing there for? He stands there jabbering.
PETER. One can't get any sense out of her! Who's he jabbering with?
AKOULÍNA [does not hear] Eh, what?
Peter waves her off. She sits down to her spinning.
NAN [running in to her mother] Nikíta's father and mother have come. They're going to take him away. It's true!
NAN. Yes. Blest if they're not! [Laughing] I was just going by, and Nikíta, he says, “Good-bye, Anna Petróvna,” he says, “you must come and dance at my wedding. I'm leaving you,” he says, and laughs.
ANÍSYA [to her husband] There now. Much he cares. You see, he wants to leave of himself. “Sack him” indeed!
PETER. Well, let him go. Just as if I couldn't find somebody else.
ANÍSYA. And what about the money he's had in advance?
Nan stands listening at the door for awhile, and then exit.
PETER [frowning] The money? Well, he can work it off in summer, anyhow.
ANÍSYA. Well, of course you'll be glad if he goes and you've not got to feed him. It's only me as'll have to work like a horse all the winter. That lass of yours isn't over fond of work either. And you'll be lying up on the oven. I know you.
PETER. What's the good of wearing out one's tongue before one has the hang of the matter?
ANÍSYA. The yard's full of cattle. You've not sold the cow, and have kept all the sheep for the winter: feeding and watering 'em alone takes all one's time, and you want to sack the labourer. But I tell you straight, I'm not going to do a man's work! I'll go and lie on the top of the oven same as you, and let everything go to pot! You may do what you like.
PETER [to Akoulína] Go and see about the feeding, will you? it's time.
AKOULÍNA. The feeding? All right. [Puts on a coat and takes a rope].
ANÍSYA. I'm not going to work for you. You go and work yourself. I've had enough of it, so there!
PETER. That'll do. What are you raving about? Like a sheep with the staggers!
ANÍSYA. You're a crazy cur, you are! One gets neither work nor pleasure from you. Eating your fill, that's all you do, you palsied cur, you!
PETER [spits and puts on coat] Faugh! The Lord have mercy! I'd better go myself and see what's up. [Exit].
ANÍSYA [after him] Scurvy long-nosed devil!
AKOULÍNA. What are you swearing at dad for?
ANÍSYA. Hold your noise, you idiot!
AKOULÍNA [going to the door] I know why you're swearing at him. You're an idiot yourself, you bitch. I'm not afraid of you.
ANÍSYA. What do you mean? [Jumps up and looks round for something to hit her with] Mind, or I'll give you one with the poker.
AKOULÍNA [opening the door] Bitch! devil! that's what you are! Devil! bitch! bitch! devil! [Runs off].
ANÍSYA [ponders] “Come and dance at my wedding!” What new plan is this? Marry? Mind, Nikíta, if that's your intention, I'll go and … No, I can't live without him. I won't let him go.
NIKÍTA [enters, looks round, and seeing Anísya alone approaches quickly. In a low tone] Here's a go; I'm in a regular fix! That governor of mine wants to take me away, – tells me I'm to come home. Says quite straight I'm to marry and live at home.
ANÍSYA. Well, go and marry! What's that to me?
NIKÍTA. Is that it? Why, here am I reckoning how best to consider matters, and just hear her! She tells me to go and marry. Why's that? [Winking] Has she forgotten?
ANÍSYA. Yes, go and marry! What do I care?
NIKÍTA. What are you spitting for? Just see, she won't even let me stroke her… What's the matter?
ANÍSYA. This! That you want to play me false… If you do, – why, I don't want you either. So now you know!
NIKÍTA. That'll do, Anísya. Do you think I'll forget you? Never while I live! I'll not play you false, that's flat. I've been thinking that supposing they do go and make me marry, I'd still come back to you. If only he don't make me live at home.
ANÍSYA. Much need I'll have of you, once you're married.
NIKÍTA. There's a go now. How is it possible to go against one's father's will?
ANÍSYA. Yes, I daresay, shove it all on your father. You know it's your own doing. You've long been plotting with that slut of yours, Marína. It's she has put you up to it. She didn't come here for nothing t'other day.
NIKÍTA. Marína? What's she to me? Much I care about her!.. Plenty of them buzzing around.
ANÍSYA. Then what has made your father come here? It's you have told him to. You've gone and deceived me. [Cries].
NIKÍTA. Anísya, do you believe in a God or not? I never so much as dreamt of it. I know nothing at all about it. I never even dreamt of it – that's flat! My old dad has got it all out of his own pate.
ANÍSYA. If you don't wish it yourself who can force you? He can't drive you like an ass.
NIKÍTA. Well, I reckon it's not possible to go against one's parent. But it's not by my wish.
ANÍSYA. Don't you budge, that's all about it!
NIKÍTA. There was a fellow wouldn't budge, and the village elder gave him such a hiding… That's what it might come to! I've no great wish for that sort of thing. They say it touches one up…
ANÍSYA. Shut up with your nonsense. Nikíta, listen to me: if you marry that Marína I don't know what I won't do to myself… I shall lay hands on myself! I have sinned, I have gone against the law, but I can't go back now. If you go away I'll …
NIKÍTA. Why should I go? Had I wanted to go – I should have gone long ago. There was Iván Semyónitch t'other day – offered me a place as his coachman… Only fancy what a life that would have been! But I did not go. Because, I reckon, I am good enough for any one. Now if you did not love me it would be a different matter.
ANÍSYA. Yes, and that's what you should remember. My old man will die one of these fine days, I'm thinking; then we could cover our sin, make it all right and lawful, and then you'll be master here.
NIKÍTA. Where's the good of making plans? What do I care? I work as hard as if I were doing it for myself. My master loves me, and his missus loves me. And if the wenches run after me, it's not my fault, that's flat.
ANÍSYA. And you'll love me?
NIKÍTA [embracing her] There, as you have ever been in my heart …
MATRYÓNA [enters, and crosses herself a long time before the icón. Nikíta and Anísya step apart] What I saw I didn't perceive, what I heard I didn't hearken to. Playing with the lass, eh? Well, – even a calf will play. Why shouldn't one have some fun when one's young? But your master is out in the yard a-calling you, sonnie.
NIKÍTA. I only came to get the axe.
MATRYÓNA. I know, sonnie, I know; them sort of axes are mostly to be found where the women are.
NIKÍTA [stooping to pick up axe] I say, mother, is it true you want me to marry? As I reckon, that's quite unnecessary. Besides, I've got no wish that way.
MATRYÓNA. Eh, honey! why should you marry? Go on as you are. It's all the old man. You'd better go, sonnie, we can talk these matters over without you.
NIKÍTA. It's a queer go! One moment I'm to be married, the next, not. I can't make head or tail of it. [Exit].
ANÍSYA. What's it all about then? Do you really wish him to get married?
MATRYÓNA. Eh, why should he marry, my jewel? It's all nonsense, all my old man's drivel. “Marry, marry.” But he's reckoning without his host. You know the saying, “From oats and hay, why should horses stray?” When you've enough and to spare, why look elsewhere? And so in this case. [Winks] Don't I see which way the wind blows?
ANÍSYA. Where's the good of my pretending to you, Mother Matryóna? You know all about it. I have sinned. I love your son.
MATRYÓNA. Dear me, here's news! D'you think Mother Matryóna didn't know? Eh, lassie, – Mother Matryóna's been ground, and ground again, ground fine! This much I can tell you, my jewel: Mother Matryóna can see through a brick wall three feet thick. I know it all, my jewel! I know what young wives need sleeping draughts for, so I've brought some along. [Unties a knot in her handkerchief and brings out paper-packets] As much as is wanted, I see, and what's not wanted I neither see nor perceive! There! Mother Matryóna has also been young. I had to know a thing or two to live with my old fool. I know seventy-and-seven dodges. But I see your old man's quite seedy, quite seedy! How's one to live with such as him? Why, if you pricked him with a hay-fork it wouldn't fetch blood. See if you don't bury him before the spring. Then you'll need some one in the house. Well, what's wrong with my son? He'll do as well as another. Then where's the advantage of my taking him away from a good place? Am I my child's enemy?
ANÍSYA. Oh, if only he does not go away.
MATRYÓNA. He won't go away, birdie. It's all nonsense. You know my old man. His wits are always wool-gathering; yet sometimes he takes a thing into his pate, and it's as if it were wedged in, you can't knock it out with a hammer.
ANÍSYA. And what started this business?
MATRYÓNA. Well, you see, my jewel, you yourself know what a fellow with women the lad is, – and he's handsome too, though I say it as shouldn't. Well, you know, he was living at the railway, and they had an orphan wench there to cook for them. Well, that same wench took to running after him.
MATRYÓNA. Yes, the plague seize her! Whether anything happened or not, anyhow something got to my old man's ears. Maybe he heard from the neighbours, maybe she's been and blabbed …
ANÍSYA. Well, she is a bold hussy!
MATRYÓNA. So my old man – the old blockhead – off he goes: “Marry, marry,” he says, “he must marry her and cover the sin,” he says. “We must take the lad home,” he says, “and he shall marry,” he says. Well, I did my best to make him change his mind, but, dear me, no. So, all right, thinks I, – I'll try another dodge. One always has to entice them fools in this way, just pretend to be of their mind, and when it comes to the point one goes and turns it all one's own way. You know, a woman has time to think seventy-and-seven thoughts while falling off the oven, so how's such as he to see through it? “Well, yes,” says I, “it would be a good job, – only we must consider well beforehand. Why not go and see our son, and talk it over with Peter Ignátitch and hear what he has to say?” So here we are.
ANÍSYA. Oh dear, oh dear, how will it all end? Supposing his father just orders him to marry her?
MATRYÓNA. Orders, indeed. Chuck his orders to the dogs! Don't you worry; that affair will never come off. I'll go to your old man myself, and sift and strain this matter clear – there will be none of it left. I have come here only for the look of the thing. A very likely thing! Here's my son living in happiness and expecting happiness, and I'll go and match him with a slut! No fear, I'm not a fool!
ANÍSYA. And she – this Marína – came dangling after him here! Mother, would you believe, when they said he was going to marry, it was as if a knife had gone right through my heart. I thought he cared for her.
MATRYÓNA. Oh, my jewel! Why, you don't think him such a fool, that he should go and care for a homeless baggage like that? Nikíta is a sensible fellow, you see. He knows whom to love. So don't you go and fret, my jewel. We'll not take him away, and we won't marry him. No, we'll let him stay on, if you'll only oblige us with a little money.
ANÍSYA. All I know is, that I could not live if Nikíta went away.
MATRYÓNA. Naturally, when one's young it's no easy matter! You, a wench in full bloom, to be living with the dregs of a man like that husband of yours.
ANÍSYA. Mother Matryóna, would you believe it? I'm that sick of him, that sick of this long-nosed cur of mine, I can hardly bear to look at him.
MATRYÓNA. Yes, I see, it's one of them cases. Just look here, [looks round and whispers] I've been to see that old man, you know – he's given me simples of two kinds. This, you see, is a sleeping draught. “Just give him one of these powders,” he says, “and he'll sleep so sound you might jump on him!” And this here, “This is that kind of simple,” he says, “that if you give one some of it to drink it has no smell whatever, but its strength is very great. There are seven doses here, a pinch at a time. Give him seven pinches,” he says, “and she won't have far to look for freedom,” he says.
ANÍSYA. O-o-oh! What's that?
MATRYÓNA. “No sign whatever,” he says. He's taken a rouble for it. “Can't sell it for less,” he says. Because it's no easy matter to get 'em, you know. I paid him, dearie, out of my own money. If she takes them, thinks I, it's all right; if she don't, I can let old Michael's daughter have them.
ANÍSYA. O-o-oh! But mayn't some evil come of them? I'm frightened!
MATRYÓNA. What evil, my jewel? If your old man was hale and hearty, 'twould be a different matter, but he's neither alive nor dead as it is. He's not for this world. Such things often happen.
ANÍSYA. O-o-oh, my poor head! I'm afeared, Mother Matryóna, lest some evil come of them. No. That won't do.
MATRYÓNA. Just as you like. I might even return them to him.
ANÍSYA. And are they to be used in the same way as the others? Mixed in water?
MATRYÓNA. Better in tea, he says. “You can't notice anything,” he says, “no smell nor nothing.” He's a cute old fellow too.
ANÍSYA. [taking the powder] O-oh, my poor head! Could I have ever thought of such a thing if my life were not a very hell?
MATRYÓNA. You'll not forget that rouble? I promised to take it to the old man. He's had some trouble, too.
ANÍSYA. Of course? [Goes to her box and hides the powders].
MATRYÓNA. And now, my jewel, keep it as close as you can, so that no one should find it out. Heaven defend that it should happen, but if any one notices it, tell 'em it's for the black-beetles. [Takes the rouble] It's also used for beetles. [Stops short].
Enter Akím, who crosses himself in front of the icón, and then Peter, who sits down.
PETER. Well then, how's it to be, Daddy Akím?
AKÍM. As it's best, Peter Ignátitch, as it's best … I mean – as it's best. 'Cos why? I'm afeared of what d'you call 'ems, some tomfoolery, you know. I'd like to, what d'you call it … to start, you know, start the lad honest, I mean. But supposing you'd rather, what d'you call it, we might, I mean, what's name? As it's best …
PETER. All right. All right. Sit down and let's talk it over. [Akím sits down] Well then, what's it all about? You want him to marry?
MATRYÓNA. As to marrying, he might bide a while, Peter Ignátitch. You know our poverty, Peter Ignátitch. What's he to marry on? We've hardly enough to eat ourselves. How can he marry then?..
PETER. You must consider what will be best.
MATRYÓNA. Where's the hurry for him to get married? Marriage is not that sort of thing, it's not like ripe raspberries that drop off if not picked in time.
PETER. If he were to get married, 'twould be a good thing in a way.
AKÍM. We'd like to … what d'you call it? 'Cos why, you see. I've what d'you call it … a job. I mean, I've found a paying job in town, you know.
MATRYÓNA. And a fine job too – cleaning out cesspools. The other day when he came home, I could do nothing but spew and spew. Faugh!
AKÍM. It's true, at first it does seem what d'you call it … knocks one clean over, you know, – the smell, I mean. But one gets used to it, and then it's nothing, no worse than malt grain, and then it's, what d'you call it, … pays, pays, I mean. And as to the smell being, what d'you call it, it's not for the likes of us to complain. And one changes one's clothes. So we'd like to take what's his name … Nikíta I mean, home. Let him manage things at home while I, what d'you call it, – earn something in town.
PETER. You want to keep your son at home? Yes, that would be well: but how about the money he has had in advance?