[In a field. An old, crooked shrine, which has been long abandoned; near it a well and large stones, which apparently are old tombstones, and an old garden seat. The road is seen to GAEV'S estate. On one side rise dark poplars, behind them begins the cherry orchard. In the distance is a row of telegraph poles, and far, far away on the horizon are the indistinct signs of a large town, which can only be seen on the finest and clearest days. It is close on sunset. CHARLOTTA, YASHA, and DUNYASHA are sitting on the seat; EPIKHODOV stands by and plays on a guitar; all seem thoughtful. CHARLOTTA wears a man's old peaked cap; she has unslung a rifle from her shoulders and is putting to rights the buckle on the strap.]
CHARLOTTA. [Thoughtfully] I haven't a real passport. I don't know how old I am, and I think I'm young. When I was a little girl my father and mother used to go round fairs and give very good performances and I used to do the salto mortale and various little things. And when papa and mamma died a German lady took me to her and began to teach me. I liked it. I grew up and became a governess. And where I came from and who I am, I don't know.... Who my parents were—perhaps they weren't married—I don't know. [Takes a cucumber out of her pocket and eats] I don't know anything. [Pause] I do want to talk, but I haven't anybody to talk to... I haven't anybody at all.
EPIKHODOV. [Plays on the guitar and sings]
"What is this noisy earth to me,
What matter friends and foes?"
I do like playing on the mandoline!
DUNYASHA. That's a guitar, not a mandoline. [Looks at herself in a little mirror and powders herself.]
EPIKHODOV. For the enamoured madman, this is a mandoline. [Sings]
"Oh that the heart was warmed,[YASHA sings too.]
By all the flames of love returned!"
CHARLOTTA. These people sing terribly.... Foo! Like jackals.
DUNYASHA. [To YASHA] Still, it must be nice to live abroad.
YASHA. Yes, certainly. I cannot differ from you there. [Yawns and lights a cigar.]
EPIKHODOV. That is perfectly natural. Abroad everything is in full complexity.
YASHA. That goes without saying.
EPIKHODOV. I'm an educated man, I read various remarkable books, but I cannot understand the direction I myself want to go—whether to live or to shoot myself, as it were. So, in case, I always carry a revolver about with me. Here it is. [Shows a revolver.]
CHARLOTTA. I've done. Now I'll go. [Slings the rifle] You, Epikhodov, are a very clever man and very terrible; women must be madly in love with you. Brrr! [Going] These wise ones are all so stupid. I've nobody to talk to. I'm always alone, alone; I've nobody at all... and I don't know who I am or why I live. [Exit slowly.]
EPIKHODOV. As a matter of fact, independently of everything else, I must express my feeling, among other things, that fate has been as pitiless in her dealings with me as a storm is to a small ship. Suppose, let us grant, I am wrong; then why did I wake up this morning, to give an example, and behold an enormous spider on my chest, like that. [Shows with both hands] And if I do drink some kvass, why is it that there is bound to be something of the most indelicate nature in it, such as a beetle? [Pause] Have you read Buckle? [Pause] I should like to trouble you, Avdotya Fedorovna, for two words.
DUNYASHA. Say on.
EPIKHODOV. I should prefer to be alone with you. [Sighs.]
DUNYASHA. [Shy] Very well, only first bring me my little cloak.... It's by the cupboard. It's a little damp here.
EPIKHODOV. Very well... I'll bring it.... Now I know what to do with my revolver. [Takes guitar and exits, strumming.]
YASHA. Two-and-twenty troubles! A silly man, between you and me and the gatepost. [Yawns.]
DUNYASHA. I hope to goodness he won't shoot himself. [Pause] I'm so nervous, I'm worried. I went into service when I was quite a little girl, and now I'm not used to common life, and my hands are white, white as a lady's. I'm so tender and so delicate now; respectable and afraid of everything.... I'm so frightened. And I don't know what will happen to my nerves if you deceive me, Yasha.
YASHA. [Kisses her] Little cucumber! Of course, every girl must respect herself; there's nothing I dislike more than a badly behaved girl.
DUNYASHA. I'm awfully in love with you; you're educated, you can talk about everything. [Pause.]
YASHA. [Yawns] Yes. I think this: if a girl loves anybody, then that means she's immoral. [Pause] It's nice to smoke a cigar out in the open air.... [Listens] Somebody's coming. It's the mistress, and people with her. [DUNYASHA embraces him suddenly] Go to the house, as if you'd been bathing in the river; go by this path, or they'll meet you and will think I've been meeting you. I can't stand that sort of thing.
DUNYASHA. [Coughs quietly] My head's aching because of your cigar.
[Exit. YASHA remains, sitting by the shrine. Enter LUBOV ANDREYEVNA, GAEV, and LOPAKHIN.]
LOPAKHIN. You must make up your mind definitely—there's no time to waste. The question is perfectly plain. Are you willing to let the land for villas or no? Just one word, yes or no? Just one word!
LUBOV. Who's smoking horrible cigars here? [Sits.]
GAEV. They built that railway; that's made this place very handy. [Sits] Went to town and had lunch... red in the middle! I'd like to go in now and have just one game.
LUBOV. You'll have time.
LOPAKHIN. Just one word! [Imploringly] Give me an answer!
GAEV. [Yawns] Really!
LUBOV. [Looks in her purse] I had a lot of money yesterday, but there's very little to-day. My poor Varya feeds everybody on milk soup to save money, in the kitchen the old people only get peas, and I spend recklessly. [Drops the purse, scattering gold coins] There, they are all over the place.
YASHA. Permit me to pick them up. [Collects the coins.]
LUBOV. Please do, Yasha. And why did I go and have lunch there?... A horrid restaurant with band and tablecloths smelling of soap.... Why do you drink so much, Leon? Why do you eat so much? Why do you talk so much? You talked again too much to-day in the restaurant, and it wasn't at all to the point—about the seventies and about decadents. And to whom? Talking to the waiters about decadents!
GAEV. [Waves his hand] I can't be cured, that's obvious.... [Irritably to YASHA] What's the matter? Why do you keep twisting about in front of me?
YASHA. [Laughs] I can't listen to your voice without laughing.
GAEV. [To his sister] Either he or I...
LUBOV. Go away, Yasha; get out of this....
YASHA. [Gives purse to LUBOV ANDREYEVNA] I'll go at once. [Hardly able to keep from laughing] This minute.... [Exit.]
LOPAKHIN. That rich man Deriganov is preparing to buy your estate. They say he'll come to the sale himself.
LUBOV. Where did you hear that?
LOPAKHIN. They say so in town.
GAEV. Our Yaroslav aunt has promised to send something, but I don't know when or how much.
LOPAKHIN. How much will she send? A hundred thousand roubles? Or two, perhaps?
LUBOV. I'd be glad of ten or fifteen thousand.
LOPAKHIN. You must excuse my saying so, but I've never met such frivolous people as you before, or anybody so unbusinesslike and peculiar. Here I am telling you in plain language that your estate will be sold, and you don't seem to understand.
LUBOV. What are we to do? Tell us, what?
LOPAKHIN. I tell you every day. I say the same thing every day. Both the cherry orchard and the land must be leased off for villas and at once, immediately—the auction is staring you in the face: Understand! Once you do definitely make up your minds to the villas, then you'll have as much money as you want and you'll be saved.
LUBOV. Villas and villa residents—it's so vulgar, excuse me.
GAEV. I entirely agree with you.
LOPAKHIN. I must cry or yell or faint. I can't stand it! You're too much for me! [To GAEV] You old woman!
LOPAKHIN. Old woman! [Going out.]
LUBOV. [Frightened] No, don't go away, do stop; be a dear. Please. Perhaps we'll find some way out!
LOPAKHIN. What's the good of trying to think!
LUBOV. Please don't go away. It's nicer when you're here.... [Pause] I keep on waiting for something to happen, as if the house is going to collapse over our heads.
GAEV. [Thinking deeply] Double in the corner... across the middle....
LUBOV. We have been too sinful....
LOPAKHIN. What sins have you committed?
GAEV. [Puts candy into his mouth] They say that I've eaten all my substance in sugar-candies. [Laughs.]
LUBOV. Oh, my sins.... I've always scattered money about without holding myself in, like a madwoman, and I married a man who made nothing but debts. My husband died of champagne—he drank terribly—and to my misfortune, I fell in love with another man and went off with him, and just at that time—it was my first punishment, a blow that hit me right on the head—here, in the river... my boy was drowned, and I went away, quite away, never to return, never to see this river again...I shut my eyes and ran without thinking, but he ran after me... without pity, without respect. I bought a villa near Mentone because he fell ill there, and for three years I knew no rest either by day or night; the sick man wore me out, and my soul dried up. And last year, when they had sold the villa to pay my debts, I went away to Paris, and there he robbed me of all I had and threw me over and went off with another woman. I tried to poison myself.... It was so silly, so shameful.... And suddenly I longed to be back in Russia, my own land, with my little girl.... [Wipes her tears] Lord, Lord be merciful to me, forgive me my sins! Punish me no more! [Takes a telegram out of her pocket] I had this to-day from Paris.... He begs my forgiveness, he implores me to return.... [Tears it up] Don't I hear music? [Listens.]
GAEV. That is our celebrated Jewish band. You remember—four violins, a flute, and a double-bass.
LUBOV So it still exists? It would be nice if they came along some evening.
LOPAKHIN. [Listens] I can't hear.... [Sings quietly] "For money will the Germans make a Frenchman of a Russian." [Laughs] I saw such an awfully funny thing at the theatre last night.
LUBOV. I'm quite sure there wasn't anything at all funny. You oughtn't to go and see plays, you ought to go and look at yourself. What a grey life you lead, what a lot you talk unnecessarily.
LOPAKHIN. It's true. To speak the straight truth, we live a silly life. [Pause] My father was a peasant, an idiot, he understood nothing, he didn't teach me, he was always drunk, and always used a stick on me. In point of fact, I'm a fool and an idiot too. I've never learned anything, my handwriting is bad, I write so that I'm quite ashamed before people, like a pig!
LUBOV. You ought to get married, my friend.
LOPAKHIN. Yes... that's true.
LUBOV. Why not to our Varya? She's a nice girl.
LUBOV. She's quite homely in her ways, works all day, and, what matters most, she's in love with you. And you've liked her for a long time.
LOPAKHIN. Well? I don't mind... she's a nice girl. [Pause.]
GAEV. I'm offered a place in a bank. Six thousand roubles a year.... Did you hear?
LUBOV. What's the matter with you! Stay where you are....
[Enter FIERS with an overcoat.]
FIERS. [To GAEV] Please, sir, put this on, it's damp.
GAEV. [Putting it on] You're a nuisance, old man.
FIERS It's all very well.... You went away this morning without telling me. [Examining GAEV.]
LUBOV. How old you've grown, Fiers!
FIERS. I beg your pardon?
LOPAKHIN. She says you've grown very old!
FIERS. I've been alive a long time. They were already getting ready to marry me before your father was born.... [Laughs] And when the Emancipation came I was already first valet. Only I didn't agree with the Emancipation and remained with my people.... [Pause] I remember everybody was happy, but they didn't know why.
LOPAKHIN. It was very good for them in the old days. At any rate, they used to beat them.
FIERS. [Not hearing] Rather. The peasants kept their distance from the masters and the masters kept their distance from the peasants, but now everything's all anyhow and you can't understand anything.
GAEV. Be quiet, Fiers. I've got to go to town tomorrow. I've been promised an introduction to a General who may lend me money on a bill.
LOPAKHIN. Nothing will come of it. And you won't pay your interest, don't you worry.
LUBOV. He's talking rubbish. There's no General at all.
[Enter TROFIMOV, ANYA, and VARYA.]
GAEV. Here they are.
ANYA. Mother's sitting down here.
LUBOV. [Tenderly] Come, come, my dears.... [Embracing ANYA and VARYA] If you two only knew how much I love you. Sit down next to me, like that. [All sit down.]
LOPAKHIN. Our eternal student is always with the ladies.
TROFIMOV. That's not your business.
LOPAKHIN. He'll soon be fifty, and he's still a student.
TROFIMOV. Leave off your silly jokes!
LOPAKHIN. Getting angry, eh, silly?
TROFIMOV. Shut up, can't you.
LOPAKHIN. [Laughs] I wonder what you think of me?
TROFIMOV. I think, Ermolai Alexeyevitch, that you're a rich man, and you'll soon be a millionaire. Just as the wild beast which eats everything it finds is needed for changes to take place in matter, so you are needed too.
VARYA. Better tell us something about the planets, Peter.
LUBOV ANDREYEVNA. No, let's go on with yesterday's talk!
TROFIMOV. About what?
GAEV. About the proud man.
TROFIMOV. Yesterday we talked for a long time but we didn't come to anything in the end. There's something mystical about the proud man, in your sense. Perhaps you are right from your point of view, but if you take the matter simply, without complicating it, then what pride can there be, what sense can there be in it, if a man is imperfectly made, physiologically speaking, if in the vast majority of cases he is coarse and stupid and deeply unhappy? We must stop admiring one another. We must work, nothing more.
GAEV. You'll die, all the same.
TROFIMOV. Who knows? And what does it mean—you'll die? Perhaps a man has a hundred senses, and when he dies only the five known to us are destroyed and the remaining ninety-five are left alive.
LUBOV. How clever of you, Peter!
LOPAKHIN. [Ironically] Oh, awfully!
TROFIMOV. The human race progresses, perfecting its powers. Everything that is unattainable now will some day be near at hand and comprehensible, but we must work, we must help with all our strength those who seek to know what fate will bring. Meanwhile in Russia only a very few of us work. The vast majority of those intellectuals whom I know seek for nothing, do nothing, and are at present incapable of hard work. They call themselves intellectuals, but they use "thou" and "thee" to their servants, they treat the peasants like animals, they learn badly, they read nothing seriously, they do absolutely nothing, about science they only talk, about art they understand little. They are all serious, they all have severe faces, they all talk about important things. They philosophize, and at the same time, the vast majority of us, ninety-nine out of a hundred, live like savages, fighting and cursing at the slightest opportunity, eating filthily, sleeping in the dirt, in stuffiness, with fleas, stinks, smells, moral filth, and so on... And it's obvious that all our nice talk is only carried on to distract ourselves and others. Tell me, where are those créches we hear so much of? and where are those reading-rooms? People only write novels about them; they don't really exist. Only dirt, vulgarity, and Asiatic plagues really exist.... I'm afraid, and I don't at all like serious faces; I don't like serious conversations. Let's be quiet sooner.
LOPAKHIN. You know, I get up at five every morning, I work from morning till evening, I am always dealing with money—my own and other people's—and I see what people are like. You've only got to begin to do anything to find out how few honest, honourable people there are. Sometimes, when I can't sleep, I think: "Oh Lord, you've given us huge forests, infinite fields, and endless horizons, and we, living here, ought really to be giants."
LUBOV. You want giants, do you?... They're only good in stories, and even there they frighten one. [EPIKHODOV enters at the back of the stage playing his guitar. Thoughtfully:] Epikhodov's there.
ANYA. [Thoughtfully] Epikhodov's there.
GAEV. The sun's set, ladies and gentlemen.
GAEV [Not loudly, as if declaiming] O Nature, thou art wonderful, thou shinest with eternal radiance! Oh, beautiful and indifferent one, thou whom we call mother, thou containest in thyself existence and death, thou livest and destroyest....
VARYA. [Entreatingly] Uncle, dear!
ANYA. Uncle, you're doing it again!
TROFIMOV. You'd better double the red into the middle.
GAEV. I'll be quiet, I'll be quiet.
[They all sit thoughtfully. It is quiet. Only the mumbling of FIERS is heard. Suddenly a distant sound is heard as if from the sky, the sound of a breaking string, which dies away sadly.]
LUBOV. What's that?
LOPAKHIN. I don't know. It may be a bucket fallen down a well somewhere. But it's some way off.
GAEV. Or perhaps it's some bird... like a heron.
TROFIMOV. Or an owl.
LUBOV. [Shudders] It's unpleasant, somehow. [A pause.]
FIERS. Before the misfortune the same thing happened. An owl screamed and the samovar hummed without stopping.
GAEV. Before what misfortune?
FIERS. Before the Emancipation. [A pause.]
LUBOV. You know, my friends, let's go in; it's evening now. [To ANYA] You've tears in your eyes.... What is it, little girl? [Embraces her.]
ANYA. It's nothing, mother.
TROFIMOV. Some one's coming.
[Enter a TRAMP in an old white peaked cap and overcoat. He is a little drunk.]
TRAMP. Excuse me, may I go this way straight through to the station?
GAEV. You may. Go along this path.
TRAMP. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. [Hiccups] Lovely weather.... [Declaims] My brother, my suffering brother.... Come out on the Volga, you whose groans... [To VARYA] Mademoiselle, please give a hungry Russian thirty copecks....
[VARYA screams, frightened.]
LOPAKHIN. [Angrily] There's manners everybody's got to keep!
LUBOV. [With a start] Take this... here you are.... [Feels in her purse] There's no silver.... It doesn't matter, here's gold.
TRAMP. I am deeply grateful to you! [Exit. Laughter.]
VARYA. [Frightened] I'm going, I'm going.... Oh, little mother, at home there's nothing for the servants to eat, and you gave him gold.
LUBOV. What is to be done with such a fool as I am! At home I'll give you everything I've got. Ermolai Alexeyevitch, lend me some more!...
LOPAKHIN. Very well.
LUBOV. Let's go, it's time. And Varya, we've settled your affair; I congratulate you.
VARYA. [Crying] You shouldn't joke about this, mother.
LOPAKHIN. Oh, feel me, get thee to a nunnery.
GAEV. My hands are all trembling; I haven't played billiards for a long time.
LOPAKHIN. Oh, feel me, nymph, remember me in thine orisons.
LUBOV. Come along; it'll soon be supper-time.
VARYA. He did frighten me. My heart is beating hard.
LOPAKHIN. Let me remind you, ladies and gentlemen, on August 22 the cherry orchard will be sold. Think of that!... Think of that!...
[All go out except TROFIMOV and ANYA.]
ANYA. [Laughs] Thanks to the tramp who frightened Barbara, we're alone now.
TROFIMOV. Varya's afraid we may fall in love with each other and won't get away from us for days on end. Her narrow mind won't allow her to understand that we are above love. To escape all the petty and deceptive things which prevent our being happy and free, that is the aim and meaning of our lives. Forward! We go irresistibly on to that bright star which burns there, in the distance! Don't lag behind, friends!
ANYA. [Clapping her hands] How beautifully you talk! [Pause] It is glorious here to-day!
TROFIMOV. Yes, the weather is wonderful.
ANYA. What have you done to me, Peter? I don't love the cherry orchard as I used to. I loved it so tenderly, I thought there was no better place in the world than our orchard.
TROFIMOV. All Russia is our orchard. The land is great and beautiful, there are many marvellous places in it. [Pause] Think, Anya, your grandfather, your great-grandfather, and all your ancestors were serf-owners, they owned living souls; and now, doesn't something human look at you from every cherry in the orchard, every leaf and every stalk? Don't you hear voices...? Oh, it's awful, your orchard is terrible; and when in the evening or at night you walk through the orchard, then the old bark on the trees sheds a dim light and the old cherry-trees seem to be dreaming of all that was a hundred, two hundred years ago, and are oppressed by their heavy visions. Still, at any rate, we've left those two hundred years behind us. So far we've gained nothing at all—we don't yet know what the past is to be to us—we only philosophize, we complain that we are dull, or we drink vodka. For it's so clear that in order to begin to live in the present we must first redeem the past, and that can only be done by suffering, by strenuous, uninterrupted labour. Understand that, Anya.
ANYA. The house in which we live has long ceased to be our house; I shall go away. I give you my word.
TROFIMOV. If you have the housekeeping keys, throw them down the well and go away. Be as free as the wind.
ANYA. [Enthusiastically] How nicely you said that!
TROFIMOV. Believe me, Anya, believe me! I'm not thirty yet, I'm young, I'm still a student, but I have undergone a great deal! I'm as hungry as the winter, I'm ill, I'm shaken. I'm as poor as a beggar, and where haven't I been—fate has tossed me everywhere! But my soul is always my own; every minute of the day and the night it is filled with unspeakable presentiments. I know that happiness is coming, Anya, I see it already....
ANYA. [Thoughtful] The moon is rising.
[EPIKHODOV is heard playing the same sad song on his guitar. The moon rises. Somewhere by the poplars VARYA is looking for ANYA and calling, "Anya, where are you?"]
TROFIMOV. Yes, the moon has risen. [Pause] There is happiness, there it comes; it comes nearer and nearer; I hear its steps already. And if we do not see it we shall not know it, but what does that matter? Others will see it!
THE VOICE OF VARYA. Anya! Where are you?
TROFIMOV. That's Varya again! [Angry] Disgraceful!
ANYA. Never mind. Let's go to the river. It's nice there.
TROFIMOV Let's go. [They go out.]
THE VOICE OF VARYA. Anya! Anya!