CSUS PLAYWRIGHT THEATRE presents
World Premiere directed by Gerard Larson, February 19, 1987
FYODOR MIKHAILOVICH DOSTOEVSKY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mark Manske
ANYA GRIGORYEVNA SNITKIN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Carma Muir Berglund
POLINA SUSLOVA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nicole Azimi
MARIA DIMITRIYEVNA DOSTOEVSKY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ronelle Hough
APOLLON NIKOLAYOVICH MAIKOV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Edward Trafton
EMILYA FYODOROVNA DOSTOEVSKAYA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Leslie Suzanne Brott
FEDOSYA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Robin Southworth
PASHA/ PRISONER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . David Aaron Boroditsky
NICHOLAS VERGUNOV/PRISONER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bradley S. Moates
OFFICER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Antonio Juarez Bogarde
PRIEST . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jerry Pride Jr.
PRISONER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chrille Fritz
The action takes place in the study of Dostoevsky's flat in St. Petersburg, Russia, in the fall of l866.
SCENE 1 - October 4, 1866. Evening.
SCENE 2 - Three weeks later. Late afternoon.
SCENE 1 - A week later. Afternoon.
SCENE 2 - The dark hours of the following morning.
SCENE 3 - The next day. Afternoon.
All stage directions are from the point of view of the audience.
October 4, l866. Evening.
DRUM ROLL. The curtain rises on a dark, silent stage. Cold blue reverie lights slowly begin to illuminate the apron revealing three shrouded PRISONERS, a military OFFICER in the uniform of the period, and an Orthodox priest. Two of the prisoners are dressed in long white shrouds and eyeless death hoods. The third prisoner, DOSTOEVSKY, wears a long afghan over his head like a shroud, but it is obvious that he wears every day business clothes and shoes under it.
DRUM ROLLS, as the priest approaches each of three prisoners offering a silver cross to kiss. As the priest approaches DOSTOEVSKY, quiet KNOCKING is heard offstage, and as DOSTOEVSKY kisses the cross and falls to his knees, the KNOCKING increases in intensity and the EXECUTION PARTY silently scatters and drifts off into the wings like a dream.
The reverie lights fade and lights come up slowly on DOSTOEVSKY kneeling in his own Petersburg study.
The study is generally gloomy and dimly lighted. Curtained French doors lead out to a vestibule and the rest of the second floor flat off stage. A second door right leads to a water closet. A large porcelain stove, armchairs, bookcases, a table with a lamp, cigarette box, two or three albums furnish a sitting area. A writing desk with a rosewood writing box on it, a soft divan draped in a shabby brown fabric, bookcases, and a trunk covered with a rug furnish a working/sleeping area. Oriental carpets on the floor; ikons, woodcuts, a large mirror decorate faded, papered walls. Two large, beautifully shaped Chinese vases adorn the sills of the darkened windows. And above the couch, hangs a framed picture which is turned to the wall, its raw canvas underside facing into the room.
The rosewood writing box is open on the desk and next to it a book lies open. Crumpled manuscript is scattered around amid ashtrays full of cigarette butts, broken pencils, empty tea glasses. As the knocking continues, D leaps to his feet and throws the afghan on to the divan. He wears a short, scraggly beard and mustache; his thinning hair is disheveled. He looks exhausted and ill, older than his forty-six years. He is in shirtsleeves, a tie loosened at the collar, a scarlet kerchief draped loosely around his neck.
D: (very agitated, confused) Come in! Come in!
(ENTER FEDOSYA, the maid, a middle aged, motherly woman wearing a shawl over her shoulders)
FEDOSYA: (concerned) Are you all right, sir? I've been knocking and knocking.
D: (impatiently) Yes, yes Fedosya! I'm fine.
F: I was afraid you had another attack.
D: No, no! I'm fine. What is it?
F: Professor Olkhin's student is here.
(The clock begins striking off stage)
D: Olkhin's student? (looking at his pocket watch) Eight thirty already?
F: Yes, you've written right through dinner again. This novel will be the death of you.
D: Never mind! Never mind! Send the fellow away. I'll write it myself if it kills me.
F: But sir . . .
D: It's hopeless anyway. (crumpling some manuscript paper and tossing it to the floor, shouting as he finds a cigarette and searches his desk for matches) Matches for god's sake! Matches!
F: (throwing up her hands, muttering) Cigarettes! Matches! Writing all day and night, skipping meals, smoking like a furnace! Phew! How can he bear the stench in here?"
(EXIT FEDOSYA muttering under her breath)
(D fumbles around looking for matches as ENTER ANYA, a young woman of twenty in a hooded black coat and carrying a thin black portfolio. Despite her youth, her bearing is serious, business-like, mature for her age. ENTER FEDOSYA behind her trying to dissuade her from entering)
FEDOSYA: You mustn't my dear! He's not civilized!
ANYA: (moving toward D) If you would at least do me the courtesy of speaking to me, sir . . .
[Realizing his visitor is a woman and catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror, D guiltily removes the scarlet kerchief hanging round his neck and, closing it into the opened book lying on the table, deposits both in the rosewood box and smoothes his pomaded hair]
D: (to A) Olkhin didn't tell me. I wasn't expecting a . . . (shouting) Matches, Fedosya! Matches, for God's sake!
(EXIT FEDOSYA at a run, shaking her head and crossing herself, muttering) Please Lord, not another one.
D: I'm sorry, my dear. I can't use you. I will of course compensate you for any inconvenience.
A: It is not compensation I came for. I would gladly work for Dostoevsky without compensation .
D: Without compensation? You can't be serious.
A: Yes, to help Dostoevsky . . . to lighten the existence of the author whose work I so admire.
D: (finding a single match and lighting up, suddenly, extremely polite) Excuse me! My manners . . . I . . I'm not myself this evening. Naturally, I would never consider your working without compensation Miss . . . er . . . a . . .
A: (removing her hood, revealing light brown hair braided and bunned in the manner of the period) Snitkin. Anya Grigoryevna.
(D helps A remove her coat under which she wears a plain dark cotton dress and black armband]
D: (placing A's coat carefully over the arm of a chair and noticing her armband) Oh, I see you are in mourning.
A: Yes, my father . . .
D: (putting on a worn velvet smoking jacket hanging over his desk chair) I'm sorry. (offering a cigarette from the box on the table) Cigarette?
A: (shaking her head politely) Thank you.
D: Please sit down.
(A gazes about for a place to sit and finally begins to sit at the table, as D rushes to seat her, too late.)
D: (shouting) Fedosya! Tea! And some sweets! (very agitated, pacing about as if not knowing where to begin) Well, and just how long have you been studying this a . . . this . . .
D: How do you pronounce it?
D: Narrow writing? What does that mean--narrow writing?
A: Narrow writing?
D: Yes. Steno in Greek means "close" or "narrow," doesn't it? And graphy means "writing. Narrow writing.
A: (amused) No, not narrow writing. Shorthand!
D: Shorthand, eh? And you can take down in this shorthand anything anyone says to you?
A: Yes, sir, anything you dictate at normal conversational speed.
D: Saving time, eh?
A: A great deal. Yes.
D: Well, it's worth a try, by God! Anything's worth a try.
[ENTER FEDOSYA, carrying matches, two glasses of black tea and some sweets on a tray]
FEDOSYA: (annoyed) Your tea and sweets. (placing them on the table and sizing up A again suspiciously) (to D) I thought you said a man . . .
D: That's all, Fedosya! (taking the sugar bowl from her hands) I'll do it. (to A) Sugar?
A: No! Thank you.
D: (impatiently) That's all Fedosya. (spooning four great heaps of sugar into both cups)
[EXIT FEDOSYA scrutinizing A over her shoulder]
D: (carrying a glass of tea to A) Interruptions! Please forgive me if I seem impatient. I have to finish this novel by the first of November. And the truth is, I've barely worked out a plan for it. All I know is it has to be at least two hundred pages long and . . .
A: (placing the glass down beside her notebook) I beg your pardon, did you say the first of November? Next month?
D: Twenty-eight days from today.
A: You hope to write a two hundred page novel in twenty-eight days?
D: I must or lose the rights to all my works.
A: The rights to all your works? But how could you agree to such a thing?
D: Money, my dear! My creditors were threatening me with debtor's prison. And when the publisher Stellovsky offered me an advance of three thousand rubles . . . Well . . . it was a gamble, and I'm a gambler.
A: But a full-length novel in less than a month? You can't . . .
D: I must! Or lose the rights to all my works for the next nine years. (pounding the table) And that jackal Stellovsky's counting on that very eventuality! (making an heroic effort to calm down) However, perhaps with the help of a stenographer, dictating this new novel in the afternoon and working on the other one only at night . . .
A: The other one?
D: Crime and Punishment. It's being serialized in The Russian Messenger.
A: You can't be serious. One novel in twenty-eight days is impossible enough?
D: You're probably right. I've never . . . a . . "dictated?" before. Perhaps it won't be possible.
A: (opening her notebook on her lap) Shall we try?
[D begins pacing in swift strides diagonally from the door to the porcelain stove across the room. Every time he reaches the stove he invariably knocks against it twice. On top of this, he smokes one cigarette after another.]
D: All right then. (thinking, his fingers pressed to his eyes) All right, are you ready? (shouting) The Gambler . . . Chapter One. (haltingly at first, as he peers over her shoulder) "At last I was back . . . after my two weeks' absence . . . She had been in . ." No! "Polina had been in . . . a . . . Roulettenburg!" Yes, that's good. "Polina had been in Roulettenburg for three days already, (very rapidly) and when she saw me she asked why I had been away so long and then walked off without waiting for an answer. Obviously she did so deliberately. Nevertheless, I . . ."
A: [without looking up) Please! No faster than the speed of normal conversation.
D: Ah, yes. Where was I?
A: [reading] "Obviously she did so deliberately. Nevertheless, I ."
D: (proceeding at a ridiculously slow speed) "Nevertheless, . . . I feel we must . . . have it out . . . Too many things . . . have accumulated." You have that?
A: (amused, looking heavenward) Oh yes.
D: New paragraph. (dictating at normal conversational speed) "In the evening, I managed to have a fifteen minute talk with Polina during a stroll in the park near the Casino. She sat down on a bench facing the fountain, and I started questioning her about what happened when I was away. `That's not what matters most now,' she said. `Listen and remember well: take the money you got for pawning my jewels and go and play roulette. Win as much as you can for me--I must get the money now at all costs.'" (to A) All right! Enough! Show me what you have.
[Without looking up, A begins immediately to transcribe her shorthand notes as D lights up another cigarette and paces, his hands behind his back, several times peering impatiently over A's shoulder to check her progress]
D: No, no! This will never do. It takes too long.
A: But I'll be transcribing your dictation at home, not here. So what difference does it make how long it takes?
D: (irritated) Well, then let me see what you have! (reading A's transcription.) But you've omitted a period, and . (reading on, his face lighting up) Why this is amazing! Absolutely amazing! (very excited) Please, please, over here, my dear. (placing A's notebook on his desk and holding the chair for her) It will be more comfortable for you to write.
A: At your desk?
D: Yes, yes! Amazing, absolutely amazing!
A: (in awe) But isn't this where you . . . where you write your novels?
D: Yes, yes. Please sit down. Where were we?
[A sits at the desk as though it were the sanctum sanctorum.]
A: "Win as much as you can. I must have the money at all costs."
D: All right, new paragraph. "Polina was furious when I handed her only seven hundred gulden, expecting me to get at least two thousand for pawning her jewels . . ."
[From the vestibule, bell-ringing, knocking, commotion and shouting]
MAIKOV: (offstage) Hello, anybody home?
D: (excitedly) It's Maikov! It's Maikov!
MAIKOV: Well, and what a democratic style of life you lead, Fyodor Mikhailovich. The door to the staircase is wide open; there's no servant in sight--I could carry off your whole house.
D: Welcome my friend. My house is yours to carry off if you please. (embracing warmly)
MAIKOV: (noticing A at D's desk) Oh ho! Another little protégé, I see. You old convict. You didn't tell me. I leave town for few days, and . . .
D: No, no! this marvelous young woman is my new . . . a . . . narrow writer!
MAIKOV: Narrow writer is it? Well, well, well! Not so shapely as Polina perhaps, but very lovely indeed. (slapping D on the back)lYou old convict you!
D: (flustered) No, no you don't understand . . . (to A) My dear, this is my famous friend Apollon Nikolayovich Maikov, companion of my youth and the finest poet in all of Russia.
MAIKOV: (kissing her hand) At your service, mademoiselle!
D: And this marvelous young woman is Anna Grigoryevna . . . er . . a . . . [looking to A for help]
MAIKOV: Ah, a relative of the deceased writer?
A: No. I'm afraid not.
MAIKOV: But a writer in your own right. And what do you write, my dear, poems, stories? (to D) And I suppose our famous author is helping the budding young writer with her work as usual (winking to D)?
D: You don't understand. She's a . . . (snapping his fingers, to A) . . . narrow writer?
A: (amused) Stenographer?
D: (to MAIKOV) Stenographer!
D: Yes Olkhin's student, remember?
MAIKOV: Olkhin's student, of course. A female stenographer. Well, well, what a lucky chance, you old convict. (to A) So you're the stenographer we arranged for?
D: But what news from Moscow?
MAIKOV: (ignoring the question deliberately) Stenography is such a novelty; everyone is interested in it, it seems. All those . . . squiggles.
D: It was Maikov and some of my other friends who suggested I use a stenographer. I had reached a peak of desperation when they proposed to write the novel for me themselves.
MAIKOV: Yes, we all agreed to write part of it to finish before the deadline. But can you believe it? Our prima donna turned us down flat. (mimicking D's characteristic gestures) "I would rather go to debtor's prison than sign the name of Dostoevsky to the work of other people!" It was then that we began urging him to turn to a stenographer for help. And so here you are.
D: Yes, and now I'll show you just how wonderful she is. (handing Maikov A's notebook)
MAIKOV: (perusing A's notebook) Amazing! I can't make it out at all. Not at all. What a clever young woman. What an amazing skill. But I'm keeping you from your work. (to A) And when you're finished here, my dear, you can come to my flat and I'll dictate love poems to you.
A: Oh, I love your poetry, Apollon Nikolayovich. I . . .
D: [jealously] Never mind that! Never mind that! What about Katov?
MAIKOV: (uncomfortably) Well . . .
D: Out with it. The news is bad, I know! Otherwise you couldn't keep it from me this long. You'd have shouted it in the streets.
MAIKOV: You're working; I didn't know Miss Snitkin would be here.
D: Out with it. I have no secrets from my . . . stenographer.
MAIKOV: That's the point exactly. Now that Miss Snitkin is here, my news is irrelevant. You don't need Katov now. You have Anna Grigoryevna!
D: (to A) Katov is our editor at The Russian Messenger. He wants to publish Maikov's new poems and take an option on my next novel.
MAIKOV: The problem is money, convincing the publishers to do my book and advance Fyodor Mikhailovich enough to pay off Stellovsky. They refused even to talk about an advance on a new novel with Crime and Punsihment still uncompleted.
A: How unfortunate.
MAIKOV: Yes, Katov promised to keep trying, but offered little hope.
D: I told him it was useless. But he insisted on making the trip anyway, all the way to Moscow and back at his own expense just to try to talk them into giving me an advance they had already flatly refused.
MAIKOV: Nonsense! I went to present my poems.
D: (to A) Nonsense, he could have mailed them.
MAIKOV: Don't listen to him, Anna Grigoryevna. He's so inflated with his own importance, he imagines the rest of us have nothing better to do than make trips to Moscow on his behalf. Anyway, now that I've met his new collaborator, what's there to worry about? The advance is unnecessary now. And so I must go. I must not interfere with your work. You have found a gem here in this young woman my morose friend, a jewel. Don't let her out of your sight. (shaking hands all around and kissing D on the cheek) She will save your life, mark my word! (histrionically) She will save your worthless, good-for-nothing life!
D: (to A) Excuse me a minute, my dear. (calling after MAIKOV) But what about your poems?
[ANYA stands looking at the portrait turned to the wall as ENTER PASHA, a young man of nineteen, in his bedroom slippers, his shirt open at the chest, his hair disheveled. He has a sallow, slovenly appearance, an almost yellow face, and teeth yellowed with tobacco stains, an unlighted cigarette in his fingers]
PASHA: Turned Mother's picture to the wall again, has he?--the old goat! (going to D's desk and stuffing his pocket with matches and lighting up)So you're the steno grapher, eh? (placing the accent on the first syllable as though it were two words; then to A, confidentially behind his hand) The old goat doesn't like me in here when he's . . . (clearing his throat sarcastically) . . . working. Yes, indeed! (looking A up and down, suggestively) Paying a royal ruble for your services I'll wager--the old goat!
A: (dumbfounded) I beg your pardon?
[PASHA steals all the cigarettes and matches from D's desk drawer and hides them in his pocket as ENTER D smiling happily]
D: Is there a better man alive anywhere? Thank God, there's still hope for his poems if not my advance . . . (noticing PASHA, annoyed) What are you doing in here, Pasha? We're working!
PASHA: (leering) I'm curious about this stenography. (blowing smoke directly into A's face) Pays well, does it, Missy? Can't get a ruble out of the old go . . . er, gent, myself.
D: (flustered) Pasha! For God's sake . . . (reaching into his pocket
and coming up with a rubel note. Here! Here! Take it and
get out. And don't trouble us again!
PASHA: One of these days I'm going to get myself a stenographerto sit on my knee. (slapping his thigh, and guffawing) Yes sireee!
D: My stepson, Pasha. Forgive me for not introducing you.
A: Forgive me, Fyodor Mikhailovich, if I confess I was sure he was no
son of your own.
D: (laughing at her boldness) I like your spirit! Anyway, he costs me like a son. I made a solemn promise to look after him . At his mother's deathbed. That's her portrait. (noticing that the portrait is turned to the wall) Oh excuse me. (turning it right side round, embarrassed) Another of Pasha's pranks, he . .
A: (saving him from compounding his lie) She's very beautiful.
D: Yes. And she was already hopelessly ill when it was done. When she finally passed away three years ago, she was . . . (a long pause as he gazes at the portrait) But never mind! More tea? (shouting into the vestibule. More tea, Fedosya, and a clean shirt! (to ANYA, seating her in a soft chair) Since we'll be working together, tell me something about yourself, my dear. . . your family, your schooling.
A: Well, my father, rest his soul, (crossing herself) died just last spring. He served in one of the departments of the civil service. And my mother? (proudly) My mother comes from a family of Bishops and scholars.
D: And did you inherit your interest in literature from her?
A: From her, and from Papa too; he loved to read. And when Professor Olkhin said it was Dostoevsky I was to work for . . .
D: Tell me . . . What do you think of my Sonia?
A: Sonia? (surprised) In Crime and Punishment! (with emotion) Oh, is it possible such a saint can exist in our time? When she gave Roskolnikov her cypress cross, I wept.
D: (very pleased with her answer) Yes, my Sonia is a saint, no question! No typical woman of the sixties, that's certain. Still (musing) . . . perhaps there are still one or two like her left.
[ENTER FEDOSYA with tea and a clean shirt]
FEDOSYA: Your shirt, sir.
D: Thank you, Fedosya. And what do you think of my new stenographer. Can you believe she offered to work without compensation? Certainly no typical woman of the sixties, eh?
FEDOSYA: Pray God, not. (crossing herself)
D: (to A) Excuse me my dear. I won't be a minute.
FEDOSYA: (serving A tea) Sugar, my dear?
A: No thank you.
FEDOSYA: (warming to A) Oh he's a marvelous man to work for. A bit difficult at times; it's his illness.
FEDOSYA: But he's the kindest, most generous man in the world. My children love him.
A: I've seen you together at Sunday liturgy.
FEDOSYA: (serving A tea) Yes, my little Kashenka and Mitya. When my husband died, Fyodor Mikhailovich took us in out of the goodness of his heart, bless him. So you go to Liturgy at St. Michael's do you?
A: Yes, my mother and I.
FEDOSYA: I go every morning at dawn. And do you know, he looks in on my darlings at night so I can sleep. He goes to them when they cry and covers them and tells them stories to make them laugh and brings them a drink of water and . . .
[ENTER D in a clean shirt, his hair freshly pomaded, looking quite refreshed]
D: The truth is her little angels are a blessing to this house; they saved my life last night. [to FEDOSYA] I never would have made it through to morning if little Kashenka hadn't called. Poor darling; she was so frightened, I had to bring in my pillow and blanket and promise . . .
FEDOSYA: But your poor old bones! On the hard floor?
D: Never slept better. You know what your darling Kashenka said? If we move the divan in uncle, I'll never have a nightmare again. [laughing] Nor I a seizure perhaps, eh?
A: [frightened] Seizure?
FEDOSYA: If only you would speak to Pasha, sir? He's been tormenting the children again.
D: (angrily) Will the lout never grow up? (tenderly to FEDOSYA) I'll speak to him again of course, my dear.
FEDOSYA: (happily excited, as she empties some of the ash-trays into the stove and gathers up some tea glasses) You'll never guess who goes to Liturgy at St. Michael's. [confidentially to A] Sunday morning we'll all light votive candles for him.
D: Votive candles? For me? But why, I'm not dead am I?
FEDOSYA: But we worry about you. The children . . .
D: Worry about me? What on earth for?
FEDOSYA: Your illness, your smoking, your . . .
D: [laughing] Nonsense! I'll survive the lot of you. [to ANYA] On the other hand, a candle or two for the success of our "collaboration" now . . .
FEDOSYA: [all aflutter] Yes, indeed, time is growing short--only twenty-eight more days. [to ANYA] You'll be perfect for him, my dear--not like the others.
[EXIT FEDOSYA carrying empty tea glasses etc. smiling warmly at ANYA]
D:(scrutinizing ANYA as he offers her a cigarette) Cigarette?
A: I don't like to see women smoke.
D: Good! Good! (lighting up himself) Yes, Olkhin has made a good choice. So many young women these days lack seriousness and any real knowledge of correct behavior. These so-called "women of the sixties." Nihilists, all of them!
A: All of them?
D: Yes! Just because they admired me as a victim of autocracy, they expect me to sympathize with their nihilistic nonsense. I'm therefore more than pleased to find in you Miss . er . Miss . .
D: Yes. Thank God you're not one them. (hovering over the sweet tray)
A: But I am, Fyodor Mikhailovich!
D: (absorbed in lustfully surveying the sweet tray) What's that?
A: (proudly) I too am a woman of the sixties!
D: Nonsense. You? You're a sweet old-fashioned girl, if I ever saw one. Sweet and . . . (swooping a confection into his mouth)
A: (offended) I beg your pardon, Fyodor Mikhailovich. I'm . . . I'm . . .
D: (smacking his lips) . . . delicious.
A: (quietly but firmly) . . . I'm certainly no nihilist--God forbid! But neither am I sweet or old fashioned. I'm a woman of the sixties and agree with my nihilist sisters that your sentence to Siberia was out of all proportion to the seriousness of your crime.
D: (indifferently, still savoring the sweet and licking his fingers) Nonsense! Omsk was hell. But I deserved it. And when you consider the alternative . . .
D: Yes. It was better than being shot!
A: (frightened) Shot? (crossing herself)
[DRUM ROLL off stage, and ENTER EXECUTION PARTY from the wings to the dead-march beat of an offstage drum, accompanied by cold blue reverie lights. As D speaks, the scene is dramatized on the apron of the stage as it was in the first scene of the act, but another actor now plays D as a young man standing among his condemned comrades dressed like the others in a long white shroud, an eyeless hood covering his face. ANYA, of course, is oblivious of the presence of the EXECUTION PARTY, since they exist only in D's mind]
D: Yes, right here in Petersburg, in Semyonevsky square not far from St. Michael's. I'll never forget that morning, standing there among my condemned comrades. I was so young then. Death, Anya, to come in just one minute!
[DRUM ROLL. As the OFFICER reads, all save the reverie lights focused on the EXECUTION PARTY and a special on D and ANYA are extinguished)
OFFICER: Dostoevsky, Fyodor Mikhailovich, for participation in criminal designs and for the promulgation of a letter filled with scurrilities against the Orthodox Church and the reigning Power, and for the attempt, in collusion with others, to disseminate by means of a lithographic process certain writings against the government, you are condemned to be shot to death.
[The priest offers his silver cross to each of the prisoners to kiss]
D: My God, my God, how I wanted to live! How precious my life seemed to me. "Ready" . .
D: "Aim" . . .
D: But just as the command to fire was about to be given, the drum sounded retreat. (DRUM ROLL) Grigoryev was swaying; he had gone insane during those few minutes waiting for the end. Mombelli's hair turned white.
(DRUM ROLL. As the OFFICER reads the lights begin to come up fore stage)
OFFICER: Dostoevsky, Fyodor Mikhailovich, through the Czar's grace, the death sentence has been commuted to four years hard labor and another four years of military servitude, both terms to be served in Siberia.
[DRUM ROLL as EXIT EXECUTION PARTY, marching off into the wings to the beat of the dead march, accompanied by reverie lights as D paces the lighted stage]
D: That was the happiest day of my life. I walked back and forth in my cell in the fortress and kept singing, singing out loud--so glad was I for the gift of life. I suddenly understood that life itself is the greatest of all goods and blessings, and it was that which I would impart someday to the whole world through my books. (long pause) Two days later on Christmas eve . . . I could hear the caroling from St. Michael's drifting across the fortress square eight pound irons were welded onto my legs, and I was sent off in an open sleigh on the long two thousand mile journey to Siberia.
A: When I think of Dostoevsky buried alive in Siberia for eight years . . .
D: Buried alive is right. When the prison gate slammed behind me at Omsk, it was like closing the lid on my coffin. But I was alive. Alive! Oh, my child, life is a gift, life is happiness. Every minute can be an eternity of happiness, even buried alive at Omnsk. Everyday, I thanked the Lord for my life and promised to become a good man. (suddenly depressed) But no sooner was I released from my coffin than I broke my vow--hammered it, demolished it and crushed it into the earth. (DRUM ROLL off stage) Oh, Anyechka, human happiness is not for me. I had my chance and threw it away. Human happiness is not for me!
A: But you were saved! And after all you've suffered, my God, how can you say human happiness is not for you, of all people? (kneeling beside his chair)
D: (sadly) Why, I could tell you such things . . . But I would not pour such poison into your innocent ears. I . . . I . . .
[They gaze into each others' eyes for a moment and D moves to touch her face, but instead abruptly stands and turns his back to her as she rises from her knees embarrassed]
D: [in a business-like manner] Now then, tell me more about yourself!
A: There's nothing more to tell. Besides, we should be working. We only have twenty-eight days.
D: [turning back to her solicitously] But you haven't finished your tea.
A: [sitting at his desk and opening her notebook] I did not come here to drink tea, Fyodor Mikhailovich.
D: Yes, yes! Good! Keep after me! All right, where were we?
A: "Polina was furious when I handed her only seven hundred gulden, expecting me to get at least two thousand from pawning her jewels."
D: (pacing, dictating) "Just the tone of her voice enraged me, and I immediately told her so. `It amuses me to see you in a rage,' she sneered. `And would amuse me even more to see you jump off an Austrian cliff.'" (pause)
A: (without looking up from her notebook] What kind of woman would say such a thing?
D: (startled) What?
A: (embarrassed) Sorry, I was only thinking aloud.
D: I heard you! I heard you! What sort of woman would say such a thing?
A: Pardon me, Fyodor Mikhailovich, but as a woman myself . . .
D: Woman? Why you're only a child! I thought Olkhin sent me a stenographer not a critic!
A: (amazed, and cowed by his anger) Forgive me, Fyodor Mikhailovich. I certainly am no critic.
D: (defensively) And what would you say if I told you Polina is a real woman? That all this happened. That Polina and I traveled through Europe together, gambling, and . . .
(Long pause as D, looking past A, watches POLINA ENTER from the wings bathed in reverie light and accompanied by POLINA'S theme music. POLINA is dressed in black like a nihilist student, wearing boots and a hooded black coat very much like the one ANYA wears. Outwardly she is slow-moving, constrained as she paces the apron of the stage. Only the wringing of her scarlet kerchief betrays her inner turmoil)
D: (anguished) Polina!
A: (confused at the long pause and D's trance-like observation of POLINA, for POLINA is only a figment of D's imagination and of course A does not see her. As she speaks, the reverie music ceases. Tentatively) Then you knew such a woman?
D: (distracted) What? What?
A: I just wondered . . .
D: Knew such a woman? Of course I knew Polina. We traveled through Europe together gambling and . . .
[long pause as D continues to gaze past A at POLINA]
A: And you've kept her name for the novel?
D: (suddenly irritated again] Yes, I'll write her out of my soul once and for all!
[POLINA's theme is heard again increasing in intensity as the scene continues]
POLINA: I'm afraid you've arrived a trifle too late.
D: (addressing POLINA directly, very agitated) Too late? Too late?
POLINA: A trifle too late.
D: (panicked) Why late? What's wrong?
A: (watching in amazement as D converses with the air) Pardon me, Fyodor Mikhailovich, but should I be recording this? Is this part of your novel?
D: (very agitated, turning away from POLINA to A) Please excuse me. I'm in no condition . . . My epilepsy . . .
A: (shocked) Epilepsy!
D: Yes! A severe attack only a few days ago and I'm still . . . I'm still too wrapped up in my thoughts. We'll continue tomorrow. At noon, all right?
A: Noon? Tomorrow at noon.
[The clock is striking ten as A packs her note book and pencils into her portfolio and gets ready to leave]
POLINA: A trifle too late.
D: (to ANYA, obviously very bewildered) Too late? Noon is too late?
A: Noon will be fine. Will you be all right? (tentatively) Epilepsy, you said?
D: Yes, yes! Don't be frightened. It's nothing really. I'll be fine. Excuse me. Please . . . (seeing her to the door, he calls out in the vestibule) Fedosya? Fedosya! The lady's leaving.
[EXIT D and ANYA into the vestibule and POLINA into the wings as the intensity of the music climaxes and continues softly as ENTER D relieved to find POLINA gone. Sitting down at his desk and finding no cigarettes or matches in his desk drawer, he shouts]
D: Cigarettes, Fedosya! Matches! [rushing to the door] And a Samovar, damn you! [to himself] Damn all women!
[D paces about a bit and as POLINA'S theme continues, he is drawn to the rosewood box and removes the novel and the scarlet bookmark, and as he does so, POLINA appears again from the wings behind his back wringing her scarlet kerchief as he removes the kerchief from the book. A sudden knock at the door and the music ceases as POLINA, still bathed in reverie light, freezes where she stands)
D: (guiltily tossing the book and kerchief back into the box) Come in! Come in!
[ENTER FEDOSYA, carrying a small samovar and some sandwiches on a tray and a package of cigarettes and kitchen matches]
FEDOSYA: If there won't be anything else, sir, I'll be turning in. But about the young woman . . .
D: (frightened) You see her? (looking toward POLINA)
FEDOSYA: See who? Are you all right, sir?
D: Yes, fine! Fine! Leave me; I'm writing.
FEDOSYA: But the young stenographer . . .
D: (relieved) Ah, yes. She'll return tomorrow . . . at noon.
FEDOSYA: Such a lovely innocent child; you're not going to . . . to . . .
D: To what?
FEDOSYA: You're not going to . . . to let yourself be hurt again?
D: That will be all, Fedosya! Don't forget to wake me at ten, not a . . .
FEDOSYA: . . . minute earlier or later. I know, I know! And don't forget your sandwich; a body can't live on tea and sweets.
[EXIT FEDOSYA muttering under her breath, and immediately the stage lights dim, the reverie music begins again, and POLINA continues pacing silently as D reaches into the rosewood box and begins to fondle the scarlet kerchief]
POLINA: (pacing and wringing her scarlet kerchief) Too late! Too late!
D: Go away! I won't listen!
POLINA: A trifle too late!
[D clutches the scarlet kerchief as POLINA'S music intensifies]
D: (looking up at the ceiling) Please, Lord, not again. Another seizure so soon will kill me.
POLINA: A trifle too late. Too late.
[The stage lights slowly begin to fade as D falls to his knees, clutching the scarlet kerchief, as from offstage a child's voice is heard]
OFFSTAGE: Uncle Fedya! Uncle Fedya! I'm frightened! I'm frightened!
[EXIT POLINA into the wings as D, throwing down the kerchief and grabbing the pillow and afghan off the divan, EXITS hurriedly]
D: [shouting as quietly as possible offstage] Coming children! Coming! Uncle's coming!
[And BLACKOUT as POLINA'S theme gives way to ANYA'S]
Several weeks later. Late afternoon. D and A are engrossed in their work. A sits at the desk while D characteristically paces the floor.
D: And how many pages did we do yesterday?
A: (shuffling papers) Yesterday? Twenty pages.
D: And how many do we have altogether?
A: Altogether, one hundred and twenty-five pages.
D: (pleased) So many? In less than three weeks? (suddenly a barrel organ is heard outside the window playing La donna e mobile from Verdi's Rigoletto) Ah, he's late today. (sings accompanying the music) La donna e mobile. La donna e mobile.
A: (at the window, looking out between the curtains) Does he come everyday?
D: Yes, just before noon, usually. He knows I hate that tune and plays it over and over till I toss him a coin. [good-naturedly] It's extortion, by God! (singing to the tune of the barrel organ) "An ya Gri Gor yevna. An ya Gri Gor yevna".
A: (embarrassed) Fyodor Mikhailovich! How dare you! La donna e mobile? Women are fickle?
D: (teasing) Well, aren't they?
A: There are just as many of us that are quite the contrary. And for you to associate my name with . . .
D: (cavalierly) Pah! Nonsense. There isn't a woman alive who isn't fickle.
A: (annoyed) Fyodor Mikhailovich. I beg to differ.
D: (laughing) What do you know? You're only a child.
A: A child? I beg your pardon, Fyodor Mikhailovich, but .
D: Yes, women swear they will always be faithful. Then when things don't suit them exactly . . . My wife and Polina were prime
[A rises from her chair, gathering up her stenographic materials]
D: (alarmed) Where are you going? What's wrong?
A: I am not your wife, Fyodor Mikhailovich. Nor am I that horrible woman in your novel.
D: Of course not. (very conciliatory) I was only teasing. I tell you what! From now on there will be no more La donna e mobile. As of today, the words are permanently changed to Anya Grigoryevna. (as A's irritation increases) A hymn to fidelity. You must admit, forgetting the lyric, it's a delightful little tune.
A: (unimpressed with D's rationalizing) All the same, it's distracting.
[D rushes to the window and tosses down a coin and the barrel organ abruptly ceases]
D: Pity! With my new lyric I was actually beginning to enjoy it. When I think how I once hated that tune . . . Ever since Paris, when Polina . . . You're all right now eh? You won't hold it against me?
A: (deliberately changing the subject) What happened to the other vase? (one of the Chinese vases formerly decorating the study is missing) Has it been broken?
D: No, not broken. Pawned. . . . You won't hold it against me .
A: (interrupting deliberately) Pawned? That beautiful vase?
D: Yes, it was a matter of shoes for my sister-in-law's children. Please . . .
A: Your sister-in- law?
D: My brother Mikhail's widow. You'll no doubt meet one of these days--when she needs more money. Am I forgiven?
A: [deliberately avoiding the subject] And what of this lovely rosewood box . . . (answering his question reluctantly) Yes . . will you pawn it too someday?
D: Never, I'd part with my life first.
A: As valuable as that?
D: It was given me by a dying friend. He carried his charts and writing tools in it on his explorations for the Russian army. On his deathbed, he pulled me close to him and said, "My maps chart the Russian tundra, my friend; your novels chart the Russian soul." He exaggerated, of course.
A: And now you keep your manuscripts in it.
D: And his letters. And certain other mementos precious to me.
[ANYA reaches into the box and removing the book, opens it to POLINA's scarlet kerchief]
A: My, what an interesting book mark. (leafing through the pages of the book, surprised) Goodness! A French novel?
D: (snatching the book out of A's hand) This is not for your eyes.
A: (startled) Why not? I'm familiar with the language.
D: (flustered taking the kerchief gently from ANYA and laying it in the book places the book back into the box] Certain books dealing with certain subjects are necessary for my work. A writer must know everything about the human soul, both good and bad, and experience much of it himself.
A: (teasing) An erotic novel with a perfumed kerchief pressed between its covers like a flower?
D: It's for my work; I assure you I don't relish books that choke the spirit with empty sensuality. Your favorite writer, your Turgenev, accuses me of cynicism and calls me the Russian Marquis de Sade, but . . .
A: (offended) MY Turgenev? My favorite writer? Dostoevsky is my favorite writer; I've been in love with you ever since . . .
D: (amazed) In love with me?
A: (embarrassed) Not with you, of course! With the author, Dostoevsky.
D: (teasing) In love with me?
A: (retreating to the divan, taking some manuscript with her) My father, rest his soul, loved to read your work.
D: (amused, laughing) But you said Dickens was his favorite. When he was ill, you said you read Dickens to him for hours on end, not Dostoevsky.
A: (frustrated) Oh, Fyodor Mikhailovich, you . . . Yes, Dickens
was his favorite, as he is yours. But he loved you too.
D: (drawing up a chair directly in front of the divan and looking
directly into her eyes, teasing) And you love me too!
A: (rising and retreating) Your novels! I adore your novels. But please, sir, do not think this is the flattery of a young woman intent on keeping her job.
D: (laughing) Just another woman of the sixties, after all, eh?
A: Well, if I weren't a woman of the sixties, I wouldn't be here now, would I? If not for the "woman question" and our throwing off of old stereotypes and pursuing independent careers as doctors and lawyers and . . . stenographers . . .
D: Well, well. And what has become of that shy frightened, little Anya Grigoryevna who used to come to my house to take dictation?
A: Well, I'm no longer afraid of the famous writer Dostoevsky if that's what you mean. (turning her back on him, shuffling the papers in her hand) And now, unless we talk less and work more .
D: (leaping up on the chair and making a face and lifting his hands like a play monster terrifying a child) Grrrrrrrrrraaaaah!!!
[Taken completely by surprise, ANYA screams, dropping the manuscript pages, and covering her face she cringes as before a real monster. She is truly afraid of him, her self-reliant attitude suddenly changing to that of a frightened child)]
D: (delighted) So you are still afraid of me after all, my little Anyechka.
[On her knees among the scattered pages, peeking through her fingers and seeing that D is himself again, A begins to laugh, her voice ringing out like a bell]
A: Oh what a fright you gave me. How exiting! It's like when Papa used to play monster for me as a child. Even though I knew it was only pretend, he would become a real monster before my very eyes. And only when I would hide my eyes and scream would he turn back into Papa again. And he would kneel, and I would rush into his arms and. . .
D: (on his knees with open arms) And what is a father to do with such a child, pray tell?
A: (laughing uproariously) Papa! Papa! Oh do get up, silly man. You look so foolish when you pretend to be older than you are.
D: (in an old sickly voice) Old enough to be your father.
A: (picking up pages) Why not my grandfather? The truth is, despite your illness . . . and your smoking . . . you're still the youngest forty-six year old I've ever seen. There's no need for you to play the role of the old man trying to hang on to his youth, even in jest.
[D's and ANYA's hands meet while picking up pages. Also their eyes meet, and they gaze at each other very seriously for a silent very meaningful moment.]
A: (flustered, rises) . . . even in jest. Pardon me, Fyodor Mikhailovich, if I speak out of turn. But we must be more aggressive toward our work. You play too much. Forgive me. We shouldn't talk so much .
D: But my dear Anna Grigoryevna, the talking is the best part. I would rather go to debtors' prison than give up our talks.
A: You must be practical; conversation gets in the way.
D: But these conversations are my only happiness.
A: Fyodor Mikhailovich how you exaggerate everything. Only happiness . . .
D: But it's true. Just recently, for instance, I was happily engaged to a marvelous young woman no older than yourself. Her name too was Anna.
A: (very surprised) You were engaged to a woman my age?
D: Yes, but not for long. She insisted I needed an entirely different wife from her. That any woman married to me would have to dedicate herself utterly to me and my ideas. She couldn't do that;she had a life of her own, she said. And that was the end of my happiness. At least until you came along. But I suppose once the novel's finished I'll never see you again.
A: (laughing) Nonsense! People can meet, Fyodor Mikhailovich, without difficulty.
D: But where precisely?
A: Well . . . in society . . . at the theater, at concerts.
D: But you know I rarely go out in society. (eagerly) Why don't you invite me to your home to meet your family?
A: We'll be very happy to see you.
D: Then when may I come?
A: We'll set the date after we finish our work. That's the main thing now--the completion of your novel.
D: Yes, to work! The sooner to visit you at home. Here, I have to revise something in chapter one. At the very beginning where Polina orders me to the roulette table and I analyze my feelings for her.
A: (reading silently for awhile, as D looks on admiringly) Ah here it is. (reading) ". . . but instead I plunged into an analysis of my feelings for her."
D: All right! Right there! (dictating) "And once again I asked myself the question: Do I love her? And once again, I was unable to answer it, that is, I said to myself for the hundredth time: I hate her! Yes, she is loathsome to me."
[A, who has been taking all this down at the desk, looks up and watches D with the pencil to her lips, in awe.]
D: (dictating) "I swear that if it had been possible to press a sharp knife slowly into her breast," (plunging a blade into an imaginary breast) "I think I would have done it with delight. But at the same time, I swear by everything that is sacred in me that if, on some Austrian cliff, she had really asked me to jump, I'd have done so without the least hesitation, even joyfully."
A: I don't believe it?
D: What? Believe what?
A: That you would kill yourself over such a woman. Or any woman!
D: What do you know of such things? You're just a child. Passion isn't warm tea. You should have seen her. That rare eastern beauty. Languid, almost indolent, with eyes of a lynx. In every move of her body, in every gesture, there was that elusive, exciting force the French call promesse de volupte--expectant ecstasy.
A: (annoyed) If you were so passionate about her, why didn't you marry her?
D: She rejected all my proposals. After three years of love, infidelities, quarrels and reconciliations, it was time for us to separate entirely she announced one day: there was no future for us. I left her on a smoky railway platform last spring and . . .
A: Pardon me, but this woman is ruining your novel.
D: (amazed) What?
A: Introducing your own unhappy love affair into the novel has distorted your original plan.
A: (firmly) I have nothing but contempt for your cruel and merciless heroine. And as for your hero . . . (raising her eyebrows and shaking her head)
D: Be careful!
A: . . . you're not dictating a fiction, you're reliving your own suffering at the hands of this . . . this terrible woman.
D: That was a very painful period in my life. To write it, is to exorcise it once and for all-- fiction saving a life so to speak.
A: (passionately) Exorcise her, yes! Erase her for God's sake! But not at the expense of ruining our novel!
D: (incredulously) Our novel?
[ANYA suddenly bursts into tears but very quietly, just standing there with her hands clenched at her sides and tears running down her cheeks]
D: (scrutinizing her) Amazing! (very concerned, but also smiling, pleased that he has such an effect on her) Here, let me dry your tears. (removing the handkerchief tucked in the breast pocket of his smoking jacket) Oh what a fool I am. Can you ever forgive me?
A: (taking D's handkerchief and wiping her eyes) Forgive me. I'm too bold, expressing my views. I have no right. I'm no critic.
D: (excitedly) Not at all. You're clever. You have a gift for sensing what truth is and what is merely melodrama. Oh God why am I such a maniac? If I keep this up, I'll frighten you off for certain. What a madman I am. It's my illness, my . . .
A: (alarmed) Are you all right, Fyodor Mikhailovich?
D: (shaking his head and pressing his fingers to his eyes) Yes, yes! Of course I'm all right. I feel fine, fine. I told you . . Will you please stop this foolish worrying.
A: But you've been acting strangely these past few days. Fedosya's worried too. She said she found you sleeping on the floor in the children's room this morning, and that she hears you talking to yourself and shouting and even weeping . . .
D: (guiltily) I'm just writing aloud. Acting out the parts.
A: . . . and kneeling in prayer at the oddest hours? And turning Maria's portrait to the wall?
D: (defensively) You don't think I . . . Pasha . . . (recanting) The truth is, it gets on my nerves, interferes with my concentration.
A: Then why have it in your study? Wouldn't the parlor do just as well?
D: (frustrated) You don't understand. You're just a child . these things . . . these . . . you don't understand.
MARIA: (offstage echo) Never! Never would I have married you! Never! Never!
A: I understand that these delays . . . these wasted hours . Time is growing short . . . another week and . . .
D: It's no use! We'll never finish in time. The truth is, aside from the revision of the first chapter, I wrote nothing at all last night . . I couldn't . . . the visions . . . . . (looking at Maria's portrait) She comes right down out of it, and . . .
MARIA: (offstage echo) Never! Never would I have married you!
D: (to the offstage echo, plaintively) But on our wedding night.
A: Your wedding night?
D: (not quite back to reality) Yes! On our wedding night! I had a seizure . . . on our wedding night. Put yourself in Maria's place. You're a bride of only a few hours, and the very moment you find yourself alone with your new husband, he crashes to the floor of the bridal chamber writhing and frothing at the mouth . . . Not a very promising way to begin a marriage , eh?
A: But she was your wife, wasn't she? She married you for better and for worse, in sickness and in health.
D: Marriage is a trial at best. (shaking his head and sighing) And a happy marriage?
A: Then why did you marry?
D: It was shortly after my release from Omsk. Maria was only twenty-eight at the time. Thin and fair and very beautiful. And I, well I had just risen out of a coffin. She was . . . the first woman in four years.
[MARIA'S theme music is heard]
D: There was nothing in Siberia--a military outpost. No concerts, no theater. Maria was charming, kind-hearted, intelligent--a diamond in the Siberian wasteland. I fell in love with her (snapping his fingers) like that. And when she became a widow . . .
D: A drunken sot for a husband . . . he encouraged me to court
her. The child saw everything.
A: I'm so sorry. I . . . (seeing him looking at her portrait) I can see you loved her.
D: With all my heart and soul. On her deathbed I kissed her wasted blue-veined hands and swore on my mother's grave never to desert her little Pasha as long as I live. I can't tell you the pain that came into my life when they strewed the earth over her casket.
[ENTER the young MARIA from the wings, accompanied by her reverie lights and theme music. She is a blonde woman in her late twenties dressed in the Siberian manner--a warm coat, mukluks on her feet. Her head and the shawl over her shoulders are lightly sprinkled with snowflakes. She paces the apron of the stage with her fingers pressed to her temples in her characteristic manner, another figment of D's overactive, indeed hallucinatory imagination]
MARIA: Never! Never would I have married you! Never!
D: (directly to Maria) Go away! Go away! I won't listen. I won't!
A: Yes, we've worked much too long as it is. It's not good for your health to . . .
D: [frightened] No! not you! Not you! Not now! You mustn't leave me now! [falling to his knees before her, he embraces her waist and hides his face from MARIA]
[Suddenly the door to the study is thrown open and ENTER EMILYA, a fashionable middle aged woman of histrionic demeanor in street clothes and hat and gloves. MARIA'S theme ceases and EXIT MARIA into the wings]
EMILYA: (contemptuously) So, it's true, is it? Another adolescent protégé, just as Pasha said.
D: (leaping guiltily to his feet) I didn't hear the doorbell.
EMILYA: I don't need some insufferable maidservant showing me into my own brother's home.
D: (to A, thoroughly embarrassed) May I present my sister-in-law Emilya Fyodorovna. (to EMILYA) And this is my new stenographer, Anya Grigor . . .
EMILYA: (at A, but talking to D) Stenographer is it? And is it your habit to dictate on your knees. Send her away immediately. We've had enough of your philandering; there are some financial matters I have to discuss with you. (moving toward the exit] I shall return . . . (stopping at the door, contemptuously) . . . when the study is cleared.
[EXIT EMILYA, as A and D stand looking at each other in shock.]
D: (very apologetically) Please! Please forgive my sister-in-law. I can't tell you how displeased I am with her.
A: (obviously wounded, but stoically) Not at all. (gathering up her writing materials as the clock begins striking six] She's perfectly right. We've already worked much too long-- or rather talked.
D: (sheepishly) Ah, where does the time go? Yes, yes. I'd invite you to dine with us, but Emilya . . .
[A does not respond, taking her coat. D rushes to help her with it, but she puts it on herself]
D: Please forgive Emilya. She does not understand that . . . She does not think servants are human beings.
A: (insulted, with tears in her voice but proudly) Servant? I beg your pardon, Fyodor Mikhailovich, but I am no servant. And will permit no one, neither you nor your sister to treat me as such. And therefore I will leave you now! (rushing out into the vestibule, and EXIT ANYA)
D: (rushing after her) Of course not! Of course not. I meant the way she treats Fedosya.
D: (from offstage) You are my invaluable stenographer.
[The front door slams off stage, and ENTER EMILYA no longer in hat and outdoor clothing, followed by an irate D.]
EMILYA: Good, she's gone.
D: Yes, but she'll be back. She's of invaluable assistance to me.
EMILYA: And what do you pay her for this invaluable assistance?
D: What business is it of yours what I pay her?
EMILYA: What business? What business? Why, that hussy's taking food out of my children's mouth and you ask what business is it of mine? My poor dead husband, your beloved brother who sent you money to Siberia to get married, who paid your debts . . . Oh, I'm thankful he's not here to see this.
D: But I . . .
EMILYA: Fedya, when are you going to grow up and assume your responsibilities. Are you going to continue chasing after adolescent trollops all your life? You killed your wife chasing that harlot Polina all over Europe, gambling away every cent. Do you care that Pasha needs a new winter coat?
D: Emilya Fyodorovna, I . . .
EMILYA: Of course not! Let the poor orphan freeze for all you care. All you think about is yourself and your dissolute pleasures. Feeding and housing a worthless maid-servant and her snot-nosed little brats. And now a stenographer of all things. What does a man on his way to the poor house need with a maid-servant and a stenographer?
D: (quietly) Stop Emilya! Please stop!
EMILYA: Who do you think you're fooling, Fedya? Not that adolescent gold-digger that's certain! She knows what she's here for, I'll wager. This pretext of employing a stenographer isn't fooling anyone. You've never needed a stenographer before, and how many books have you written?
D: Please! Please!
EMILYA: What other services is this little trollop providing to be paid so royally? Eh?
[Through this entire harangue D has simply held his head in his hands and waited. Now he throws them up, taking EMILYA roughly by the shoulders.]
D: (shouting) Stop! Stop!.
EMILYA: (breaking way from him) You must be mad! Attacking the widow of your beloved dead brother? Scandalous! Scandalous!
D: (apologetically) But I only . . .
EMILYA: (in tears) This adolescent harlot will be your downfall. Polina killed your wife, and this hussy will be the death of me and your beloved dead brother's poor orphans. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. (the lights fade slowly with Emilya still talking. She'll be just like the others. Like Polina and Anna Krukovskaya. She'll use you and leave you just the way they did. Oh, you should be ashamed of yourself, you terrible man. Ashamed of yourself.
[EXIT EMILYA with great indignation, and DRUM ROLL offstage as her voice amplified as in an echo chamber continues to accuse D as he falls to his knees covering his ear.]
EMILYA' offstage echo: You killed your poor wife with your dissolute pleasures, and now this! You should be ashamed of yourself! Ashamed of yourself! Ashamed of yourself!
[ENTER MARIA from the wings accompanied by her theme music]
MARIA: You should be ashamed of yourself. The least you could have dome was told told me! I never would have married you!
D: (shouting up at her) But on our wedding night?
M: First a drunkard for a husband, and now an epileptic. Oh, God! How monstrous to let me marry you!
D: Not on our wedding night! It can't be true.
M: Yes, Yes! I went to him while you slept away your fit. I should have married him. A school teacher's salary is better than nothing. I'll not be left penniless and alone when you swallow your tongue.
D: (rising and going to her) It was one thing before we were married; you were infatuated with him; you had to make up your mind between us, but now that we're married, on our wedding night .
M: (unable to look at him) When the doctor's told me it was epilepsy, I was frightened, disgusted; I didn't know what to do.
D: For God's sake, say you didn't . . . that you only went to be comforted!
M: (hesitating, unable to look him in the eye. After a long silence) He's too noble for that. Now that we're married, he would never . . .
D: (embracing her from behind) Oh my darling, how I love you! So you went to your former lover on our wedding night to be comforted. Who can blame you? Where else did you have to go, here in this wilderness? I even thank him for taking care of you while I slept away my fit. (suddenly his tone changes to one of cynical irony) Yes, why not? We'll have him in for dinner one night. I can lie on the couch asleep like your drunken husband used to do, and you and your Former lover can . . .
M: Fyodor Mikhailovich! One minute you're a kind, honest man, thinking only of my happiness, not saying a word against my going to Nicholas, and the next moment . . .
D: (falling to his knees and embracing hers) Forgive me, darling (kissing her hands). It's my illness; I'm not myself. I don't want to be jealous! (sobbing, he buries his head in her lap)
M: (patting D's head, calmly now like a mother reassuring a child) He's like a brother to me now, nothing more. I went to him out of fright in desperation, not to . . . not to . . . only to be comforted, to be told that if something should happen to you he would look after Pasha and me. (stroking his head) Who else do I have, Fedya? He brought me back to you and is waiting outside in the snow to pay his respects. (lifting D's head out of her lap, she smiles down at him) You look terrible, my darling. Perhaps you should sleep more. I can send him away in a moment.
D: (getting to his feet excitedly) No! No, ask him to come in. By all means. He will be my brother too. At least till we get back to civilization and my real brother can look after you and Pasha should anything happen to me.
M: (rushing off into the wings) Oh Fedya, you are a saint, nothing less.
D: (to himself, smoothing his hair and looking into the mirror) Saint is it? Cuckold's more like it! Still, how can I bear to lose her?
[Enter MARIA from the wings, leading VERGUNOV by the hand, a handsome twenty-four year old dressed like a provincial primary school teacher of the day, a long muffler wrapped around his neck over a suit coat. He obviously owns no overcoat or hat since there is snow on his shoulders and in his hair. He and D stand facing each other for a moment as MARIA looks on. VERGUNOV looks to her and she nods.]
VERGUNOV: (stiffly formal, as though removing a hat which he does not own and bowing from the waist) Fyodor Mikhailovich, your honor. If I may be permitted, I wish to congratulate you on your marriage and wish you and your bride. . . (suddenly falling to his knees at D's feet, sobbing)
D: (to MARIA, after looking down at VERGUNOV in a disgusted manner) Is this a man to look after you if something should happen to me? And you expect me to believe you actually thought to marry this . this boy, instead of me?
M: stroking VERGUNOV's head) Don't be cruel, Fedya. You promised.
D: Dry your tears my boy. We'll be one big happy family, the three of us and Pasha. Perhaps we should have him move in with us, Maria? What do you think?
M: Fedya, you promised. No cruelty.
D: (very cynically) Of course not; it's our honeymoon. We were married yesterday. No cruelty. No cynicism. Only love and understanding. (taking MARIA roughly by the arm as VERGUNOV rises quickly to his feet) First you love him; then you love me.
(kisses MARIA roughly as VERGUNOV looks on dumbfounded)
D: Then you love him (separating himself from MARIA and tossing her scornfully into VERGUNOV's arms) Kiss him, Maria. It's all right. It's all right Vergunov, you may kiss my wife--like brother and sister of course.
[MARIA and VERGUNOV look at each other dumbfounded for a moment and kiss tenderly at first and then passionately]
D: Ah, ah, ah, not too long now! Good bye, my boy. Thank you for taking care of my bride while I was indisposed and for bringing her back to me and coming to pay your respects.
VERGUNOV: (drying his eyes with his muffler, stiffly formal, bowing at the waist) Fyodor Mikhailovich, if you will permit me,
I would like say how honored I am to be a quest in the home of such a noble personage as yourself. Even though as a former convict you still do not have all your rights back, I am confident that in the near future . . .
D: (ironically) Good-bye, my boy. You are always welcome in the home of this former convict and of course Maria will visit you at your flat as often as possible since she's of course much too noble
to entertain the idea of a menage a trois! And now I will show you out!
[EXIT D and VERGUNOV into the wings as MARIA heaves a great sigh of relief and, after removing her shawl and coat, stands with her fingers to her temples as ENTER D]
M: Would it be too soon to have Nicholas to dinner this week? Or shall we wait till next?
[D embraces MARIA roughly, and she reluctantly submits to his passionate kisses--eyes, ears, cheeks, neck]
D: Come my little bride! (lifting MARIA roughly in his arms) To bed! (carrying her off into the wings) To bed!
[EXIT D and MARIA into the wings)
M: (offstage) Never! Never should I have married you! Never! Never!
[Momentary BLACKOUT, and ENTER D very angry, carrying official papers. He goes to his desk finds a pen and begins turning pages of the document and hurriedly signing and reading and signing again]
[ENTER MARIA transformed into the woman in the portrait, coughing painfully into her handkerchief and looking morbidly at the blood-stained linen.]
MARIA: Never should I have married you! Never! Seven years! Seven years of marriage and it's always the same. Either your writing,
or some other woman. (pause) Don't think I don't know about your latest little nihilist protégé . . .
D: I'm not writing; I'm signing papers for your transfer to the country.
M: That's right, send me off to the country to die and then rush to your mistress in Paris. I should have died this winter. The Lord was merciless to save me for this final humiliation. Here I am, dying, and all the time that whore is in your heart, in the very depths of your flesh. I'm coughing up blood in the bedroom and you're on your knees in your study praying for a letter with a French stamp.
D: (without looking up, disdainfully) You had your Vergunov, I have my Polina.
M: (coughing consumptively) You could have stopped me; I went to him openly, with your blessings even. What kind of man are you? I was your wife; a real man would never have stood for it.
D: (still not looking at her, cynically) What could I do, beat you?
M: Still lying to yourself after all these years. The truth is you encouraged me. You enjoyed my visits to Nicholas. When I came back to your bed, you loved me like a man possessed.
D: The country climate will improve your health.
M: The profound author. Deliberately experimenting with his feelings. Lust for Art's sake, eh? And how many lovers does your latest whore have? Surely she's not sleeping alone in Paris. Well go to her then. What do I care? Experiment all you want. (clenching her fists like a crazed woman and pounding on his turned back) Convict! Vile convict! (collapsing on the floor coughing violently ) Oh God, how I despise you. How I've despised you ever since our wedding night.
[D helps her to the divan and tosses the rug over her.]
MARIA: You had her on this divan, didn't you? I can feel her vile flesh under the rug with me. (throwing off the rug) I don't want to die here! Not in this room, not on this whore-smelling divan! (leaping up and tearing her hair) Death and madness are in the air all about me. Death and madness! Death and madness!
D: You're not dying. A few months in the country and . . . Come, I'll help you back to your room.
MARIA: (disgusted at his touch) Don't touch me! Go to your whore in Paris! What do I care? I've been corresponding with Nicholas regularly behind your back. And what would you say if I told you he's coming to the country? To be with me while you run off to Paris to conduct your experiments in debauchery?
D: (stunned) Vergunov? To join you?
M: Vergunov! Nicholas!
D: So be it! So be it!
[EXIT MARIA laughing hysterically, like a mad woman, the laughter ending abruptly in painful coughing as her reverie lights fade and POLINA's reverie lights come up along with her theme.]
[ENTER POLINA in her hooded black coat. Outwardly, she is slow moving, constrained; her gestures are few, almost indolent. She appears apathetic, even listless. Only the wringing of her kerchief betrays her inner turmoil.]
D: (removing the French novel from the rosewood box and putting it into his jacket pocket and approaching POLINA) Aren't you happy to see me?
P: (turning her back on D) I was just going out.
D: (surprised) What? When I've only just arrived?
P: (coldly) You've arrived a trifle too late.
D: Too late? (taking her by the shoulders from behind)
P: (without turning to face him) Yes. It's too late.
D: (fearfully) Why, late? What's wrong?
P: I thought you wouldn't come, after my letter.
D: What letter?
P: Telling you not to come.
D: But why, for God's sake?
P: Because it's too late. (turning) Too late.
D: (falling at her feet and clasping her knees) I've lost you! I knew it! What sort of man is he? An Adonis? A good talker? Have you given yourself to him completely?
P: (withdrawing from D's grasp) We don't speak of such things.
D: Who is he? A Russian, a Frenchmen?
P: (throwing off her coat under which she wears a long-sleeved, black, silk peasant blouse belted at the waist over a long skirt and boots) He's a Spaniard--a medical student. Oh God, why does everyone who loves me make me suffer?
D: But how can that be? In love and unhappy?
P: He doesn't love me. In his anxiety to get rid of me, he asked a friend to tell me he had typhus. Can you believe it? I want to murder him. To torture him first and then . . .
D: Nonsense! He's just a Lothario, a Don Juan, nobody you should trouble yourself over. The young stallion needed a mare and--well, you were lonely. You didn't know what you were doing.
P: Perhaps I should send him a letter? What would I say? I'm a Russian, a complete barbarian, so beware! Oh Go, if only you had come to Paris immediately, if you hadn't stopped in Wiesbaden to gamble. . . If you hadn't cared more for your dying wife than for me . . .
D: But how could I leave her? How could I leave all the unpaid debts?
P: You should have come sooner. You knew from my letters how much I needed you.
D: I was coming; I was on my way when Maria's doctor decided she should be sent to the country. How could I suspect that my delay . . .
P: I've given my heart to Salvador in a week, at the first call, without a struggle . . .
D: But why? Why?
P: You were my first lover. I was only twenty-three. Your attraction was for me intellectual not physical. My love for you made me blind . . . blind!
D: But I love you. I love you!
P: Everything about our affair was ugly and vile. I came to you for help with my writing and you took me in your study . . . with your wife coughing up blood in the next room. Torturing me with your adventures, dominating me like a master and his slave, so that after one of those adulterous assignations in furnished rooms I could feel nothing but horror and shame. What was important to the great author was to debauch once a month for his health.
D: (plaintively) But we were in love.
P: No, I never really loved you, and the longer our intimacy continued, the more anxious I was to put an end to it. I came abroad alone hoping that a long separation would make the break I wished for easier for both of us.
D: You were mistaken. Separation only made me realize how much I needed you. And now, now when I have it within my grasp to make my fortune at roulette . . .
P: Oh my God! At roulette? You can't be serious!
D: I've invented an infallible system for breaking the bank. All one has to do is not get excited and keep oneself under control whatever turn the game might take.
P: Not get excited, keep oneself under control? You? (scornful laughter).
D: (ruefully) He who is favored at the tables, is not favored in love. I won 10,000 francs in Wiesbaden, and at that very moment you were in Salvador's arms. I never should have left Russia.
P: (nostalgically) Russia. Ah, how I miss Russia. How I hate this brothel of a city and loathe the French. I was so lonely, all I could think of was you. But you arrived a trifle too late, and now I wish I had never set eyes on you.
D: But I love you. I want to marry you. You'll never find anyone to love you as I do. And if you should ever marry this man, this Salvador, you'll come to hate and abandon him no later than the third day. Come to Italy with me despite everything.
P: Forget me! Go to Italy! Write your novel! Forget me!
D: Forget you? Why never before have I been so conscious of you as a woman. All right, so we cannot be lovers anymore. So be it! We'll travel the continent together like brother and sister if you wish. Only say you'll come!
P: (mockingly) Like brother and sister? The two of us, two betrayed lovers, traveling through Italy together like brother and sister? Impossible! (scornful laughter) On the other hand, perhaps I'm just as mad as you. All right, like brother and sister. But only on one condition. And that is that you understand that I despise everything about you now!
D: Polina . . .
POLINA: Yes, everything! Your hypocritical Christianity, your vile experiments in debauchery on the theory that your supposed genius vindicates all your sins. Your excessively pomaded hair, your cloying fondness for sweets, your pathetic dandyism--ordering suits from expensive tailors when everything hangs on you like a sack. And what will you do when I flirt with some Italian Adonis across a hotel dining room, challenge him to a duel? A sickly old man defending my honor; how ridiculous. And as for marriage, don't make me laugh. (holding out her hand to him so as to shake on it) All right? Agreed?
D: (trembling, biting his lip and plucking his small, scanty beard, a tic distorting his face. Hoarsely) But what about your Salvador?
P: I won't deny that your mentioning his name makes a thrill of painful expectation run through me.
D: But you don't love him like a slave, do you? I must know that!
P: (laughing) What a fool you are, Fedya.
D: You're waiting for him. Hurt you or not, you're waiting for him, aren't you?
P: No, Fedya, I'm going to Italy with my Russian brother. It's madness I know. Sheer madness. What wild nonsense there is in everything between us. What an abyss of contradictions. But the truth is, I feel better for being with you.
D: Then there is still hope for us?
P: (tossing her kerchief around his neck and drawing him toward her) Tenderness toward you has overcome me again. (choking him with the kerchief and then tying it round his neck, laughing) Come, help me undress. (standing and mater-of-factly removing her clothing with D's help) Like brother and sister? You've exhausted me, Fyodor Mikhailovich. I feel I could sleep forever.
(P throws a white silk wrapper over her chemise and begins undoing her braids)
P: (singing quietly) La donna e mobile, La donna e mobile . . .
D: Women are fickle? (with a sardonic smile) You heartless slut?
[POLINA continues to hum, and sitting on the divan lifts her leg for D to remove her boots, which he does with his back turned to her, her foot against his backside.]
P: Come here you silly man.
D: Apolonaria, (removing the book from his pocket) I . . . I brought you a present.
P: (examining the book) (digustedly) Not another erotic novel? Oh Fedya . . . (tossing the book on to the night table)
D: (dropping to his knees beside the divan and taking her hand and kissing it, a strange look on his face) You don't know what's happening to me.
D: I just want to . . .
(P looks on imperiously, saying nothing as D slowly, tentatively takes her bare foot reverently between his palms, his eyes never leaving hers)
P: But why do you look at me so . . . It makes me uncomfortable.
D: (with a strange smile) I, too, feel uncomfortable.
P: Well then perhaps you'd better go now.
(D suddenly begins kissing P's foot passionately)
P: (pulling away and standing up) The maid will be back for the tea things. Behave yourself!
D: At this hour? That's ridiculous.
P: Nevertheless, Good night!
D: But Polia, it's been so long!
P: Like brother and sister remember? You promised. The two of us--two betrayed lovers--traveling Europe together like brother and sister.
D: Why do you torture me? Only two weeks ago you were still writing that you loved me desperately. All right, don't love me, but don't torture me!
P: Thousands of men find themselves in your position and don't howl--men are not dogs. Just go; I'm indifferent to you.
D: And if I were Spanish?
(D moves behind P quietly and embraces her from behind. His hands wander freely over her body as she continues to brush her hair)
P: There you see! It will be just like this in Italy; you can't keep your hands off me.
D: Ah, mi guapa. Mi Russia pequena guapa. Descanse!
P: Oh you are vile, Fyodor Mikhailovich.
D: Descanse! Relax! Descanse. (undoing the tie on her robe)
P: ( no longer brushing her hair) Have you no pride? How can you, when you know I'm dreaming of him? When he touches me like this, I tremble all over.
D: Just as you're trembling now? And when he caressed you here?
P: (just standing there, her arms at her sides) I despise you,
Fyodor Mikhailovich . . . I . . .
D: And here? (silence for some time) Ah, los rios fluir a la mar abajo.
A: (after a long silence, at the mercy of his caresses now, allowing him to have his way with her despite her self-disgust) Oh God, how vile we are! How I detest what you've made of me!
D: (as P begins to moan quietly under the spell of his caresses) Shhhh! Shhhhh! (suddenly tossing P roughly aside and kneeling, looking under the divan, clowning sardonically) No, no Spaniard here! (leaping up, and walking to the door) Brother and sister is it? So be it! So be it!
[EXIT D, laughing sardonically, slamming the door behind him. P, rushing after him and bolting the door, leans her back against it, looking to heaven, her eyes closed.]
P: So be it? So be it!
[P pacing the room for a while, blows out the lamp, tosses off her wrapper and slips into bed. The reverie lights fade and D's special comes up as ENTER D. There is stillness for awhile; then P's voice can be heard in the darkness surrounding the divan.]
P: (sighing) Salvador . . . oh Salvador . . .
D: (as though speaking through a locked door) Polia? . . . Darling? . . Let me in. I know you're still awake.
P: (passionately) Salvador . . .
D: Polia, I love you. I want to marry you.
P: (sighing) Ohhhh . . .
D: Please let me in. I`ll sleep in a chair. I promise not to touch you. (slipping to his knees) I'm your slave. Your chattel.
P: Salvador. Oooh!
D: Polia, I'm a sick man. My epilepsy. I feel an attack coming on. Have pity on a sick old fool who loves you. (crouching on the floor like a fetus)
P: (in a passionate voice, hoarsely) Salvador. Salvador. (a long groan of auto-erotic ecstasy)
[D in his special undergoes the beginnings of an epileptic attack as A rushes in and kneeling lifts his head into her lap. EXIT POLINA in the darkness around the divan.]
D: (as though waking out of a dream) Anyechka? My little one. Is it you? Thank God! If not for you . . . I'd have . . . I'd have swallowed my tongue.
ANYA: Thank God, I came back. I couldn't bear the way we parted. I Are you all right?
[STAGE LIGHTS UP]
D: Oh, Anyechka, they won't let me go. Maria! Polina! They sweep past me as if in a dream or delirium, haunting me . . . Oh Anyechka, I'm not the man you think I am. I'm guilty of such vileness . . .
ANYA: You're Dostoevsky, a great and respected writer.
D: If only I could confess all to you . . . my frightful sins against my wife against Polina . . . But forgive me, little one. I should not submit you, a child to such morbidity.
A: (very passionately, looking into the kneeling D's eyes with tear-stained face) Fyodor Mikhailovich, I'm young, God knows! But no child. Can't you see! I'm a woman!
D: I'm a sinner. I broke my promise to God!
A: We're all sinners. We all break promises to God!
D: I'm vile. I'm evil!
A: Forgive yourself, Fyodor Mikhailovich. Forgive yourself once and for all as God forgave you in Semyonevsky square!
D: (much moved, looking at her as though at a holy ikon) Do you remember our first meeting, Anyechka? You confessed how you wept when Sonia gave Roskolnikov her cypress cross? Do you remember what I said? "My Sonia is no typical woman of the sixties, but perhaps there are still one or two . . ."
[A suddenly begins unbuttoning her dress at the neck, as D looks on unbelieving, thinking she is undressing for him]
D: What . . . My little one, you mustn't . . .
[A removes from around her neck a small cross on a chain and offers to place it around D's neck]
A: I want you to wear this. For when I'm not with you . . .
D: Your cross?
A: (desperately) Please take it. Please! It will save your life.
[D bows his head to receive the cross, and BLACKOUT]
(END ACT I)
A week later. October 30, l866. Just before noon.
Outside the windows the barrel organ gaily plays "La donna e mobile." The French doors to the vestibule are wide open and paper streamers can be seen decorating the vestibule ceiling. The portrait of Maria is conspicuously missing from the wall, and the faded wallpaper frames its absence. ENTER D dressed rather smartly in a dark vested suit and tie, but carrying the jacket)
D: (Singing) AN ya Gri GOR yevna! AN ya Gri GOR yevna! (going to the window) Play on! Play on! My good fellow! Do you know what day this is? (D sings) AN ya Gri GOR yevna! AN ya Gri GOR yevna! (moving away from the window and waltzing clumsily about the room using his suit jacket as a partner before putting it on) Ah, what a fine fellow. Extortionist or no, a fine fellow all the same. (smoothes his hair before the looking glass, straightens his tie. Breaks a flower off the table bouquet and fixes it to his lapel, humming and whistling. At the window again) Play on! Play on! She's coming! She's here!
[The DOORBELL rings, and EXIT D hurriedly]
D: (offstage) I'll get it, Fedosya! I have it!
A: (offstage) It's only me.
D: Only YOU?
[ENTER A and D. Instead of her usual black cotton, A is wearing a long lilac silk dress under her hooded coat. And instead of her black portfolio, she carries a fancily wrapped package tied with a lilac silk ribbon]
D: Only YOU? Only YOU? You are my entire hope.
A: How you exaggerate everything! (holding the package out to D) Happy Birthday, Fyodor Mikhailovich and many happy returns.
D: (taking the package, but not even looking at it. He just stands there gazing into A's eyes) Only YOU? (placing the package on the table, he removes A's coat, places it carefully over the arm of a chair and taking both of A's hands admires her at arm's length) Let me look at you. I've never seen you in anything but black before. (twirling her around, so that her gown billows) And the color . . . how it becomes you. I'm flattered, my little dove, that on the occasion of my birthday you should put away your mourning clothes.
A: Not only YOUR birthday, Fyodor Mikhailovich. The package, the package. Will you never open it?
D: (noticing the package for the first time) What's this? A birthday present? (opening the package delightedly) Yesterday's dictation! It's finished? It's all here?
A: Happy birthday to you, Fyodor Mikhailovich. And to your marvelous new novel.
D: (counting pages) So many pages? So many more than we anticipated.
A: Yes, Fyodor Mikhailovich. In twenty-six days you've produced a full length novel over two hundred pages long.
D: It's a miracle. A miracle. I'll reread the entire novel this evening, make some corrections and take it to Stellovsky in the morning. I can't believe it. It's like a dream.
A: It's no dream! It's true, and it's done!
D: (suddenly depressed) Yet, I know Stellovsky; that jackal is contriving some kind of trick to get his penalty paid. I'd bet my life on it.
A: Will you please cheer up? On your birthday and the birthday of your new novel?
D: All right! And after the successful delivery of our manuscript, I'll pawn something and give a dinner in a restaurant for you and all my friends. (going to the desk) And now a present for my dearest collaborator. The fifty rubles we agreed upon as payment for your services--and also a little something to thank you. (handing her a tiny package and shaking her hand vigorously) Thank you, dearest Anna Grigoryevna, for your invaluable collaboration. No, don't open it now. Don't you trust me? It's all there--fifty rubles and a little something else.
A: It's not the fifty rubles--it's "the little something else" I'm curious about.
EMILYA: (offstage, officiously) Never mind! Never mind, Fedosya; I know my way.
[ENTER EMILYA, in a flurry, dressed very fashionably in hat and gloves.]
EMILYA: Happy birthday, Fedya. (kissing and embracing D) And many happy returns. Where's Pasha, the dear boy? Isn't he here?
D: (to EMILYA) Is Anya invisible to you? It's because of her that I finished the novel in time
EMILYA: (drily and haughtily, while removing her wraps) Really! We have already met. But why must you work on your birthday, Fedya? Send her away immediately. There will be time to work tomorrow. Today we must celebrate. Besides, there are some financial matters I have to discuss with you. (looking disdainfully at A) PRIVATELY!
[Precisely at this moment, the barrel organ ceases.]
D: (as A turns to leave the room, obviously wounded) No, Anya, don't go.
EMILYA: Well, since you're still occupied. (calling out into the vestibule) Pasha! Pasha, where are you, dear boy? Remember it's your dear father's birthday!
D: Please, don't leave. Put the package away in your purse. Emilya Fyodorovna can smell rubles even through cardboard.
[ENTER FEDOSYA with tea and sweets.]
FEDOSYA: (slamming the tray on the table disgustedly) Your sister in law is here.
D: I know Fedosya. (to ANYA) Ah, tea!
FEDOSYA: And sweets.
D: (to ANYA) A sweet for the sweet?
[A refuses and D devours the sweet lasciviously, licking his fingers as the doorbell is heard again offstage]
MAIKOV: (offstage) Emilya darling, where is he? Where's the aging convict?
FEDOSYA: You have another visitor.
MAIKOV: (offstage) Where's the aging convict?
[ENTER MAIKOV and EMILYA]
MAIKOV: Happy birthday to the famous author!
EMILYA: But where is Anna Ivanovna?
MAIKOV: My good wife sends her regrets. One of the children is ailing. (giving D a bear hug) And how is the novel progressing?
D: Tell him, Anya! Tell him!
A: (somewhat surprised and flustered) Why, how do you do, Apollon Nikolayovich . . . I . . .
D: Tell him! Tell him!
MAIKOV: Tell me, my dear, before he collapses.
A: Well, yesterday I took the final dictation. And here's the final chapter.
MAIKOV: Marvelous. (taking A's hand, warmly) But how lovely you look in your new dress, my dear. Tonight, I'll compose a sonnet to your beauty, without question.
EMILYA: Bring me a sweet, dear Apollon Nikolayovich.
MAIKOV: (sarcastically) I am your obedient servant. (under his breath) You old cow!
D: Any news from Katov about your poems?
MAIKOV: (handing EMILYA the sweet tray) No, but at least they haven't flatly turned them down.
D: The way they did my advance, eh? But who needs them and their advances when I have my collaborator?
MAIKOV: What did I tell you, Fedya? Did I not say, this woman would save your worthless good-for-nothing life? (to ANYA) And what plans do you have for this worthless life you've saved, my darling?
EMILYA: (surprised, even a bit shocked at M's attention to A) Well, I see the gentlemen are still preoccupied with . . . stenographic matters? And so I shall retire to the sitting room until you are quite finished. (disdainfully) Good day, Miss . . whatever your name is.
D and MAIKOV: (in unison) Snitkin!
D: (rapidly, as if by rote) Anna Grigoryevna Snitkin like the author that died! (looking to A for approval, quite pleased with himself for having remembered her surname)
EMILYA: Well, it makes no difference. Now that the novel is completed her services are no longer required.
D: On the contrary, Emilya Fyodorovna. You'll be seeing much more of Miss Snitkin in the days to come. Now that I've found this new method of working so congenial, I'm looking forward to my invaluable collaborator's assistance with CRIME AND PUNISHMENT also.
EMILYA: (haughtily) Well, excuse me then. Remember, Fedya, there are some financial matters we must discuss. I don't suppose that worthless maidservant of yours found time to bake a cake.
EMILYA (offstage in a saccharine voice) Pasha? Where are you, darling boy?
[D and M look at each other and burst out laughing}
MAIKOV: (to A) Forgive my friend for not choosing his relatives more carefully.
D: I think she understands. Emilya's here to celebrate my little money. And, just the other day, I pawned the last Chinese vase for her and, before that, the silverware.
MAIKOV: What's next? Be careful, Anna Grigoryevna, he'll be pawning your jewelry if you let him.
A: I don't own any jewelry. However, (reaching into her purse) if Fyodor Mikhailovich will accept, I would be more than happy to . .
D: (placing his hand on ANYA's purse) No, no my dear. If the parasites don't get me, Stellovsky will!
[D and M laugh out loud]
A: It's not funny!
MAIKOV: You're right. It's not funny at all, it's tragic. They're squeezing the life out of him, not only Emilya and Pasha but his drunkard brother too. And he accepts it as his sacred duty.
A: It's outrageous.
D: Since it's my birthday, am I allowed to change the subject perhaps?
MAIKOV: Yes, of course. It's hopeless anyway. Besides, I want to hear more of how this miracle was accomplished.
A: (proudly) Over two hundred pages. In twenty-six days.
MAIKOV: I knew it. The first day I met you, I knew you would save his worthless life.
A: Well, I had my doubts. Especially after his seizure.
D: Yes, if it were not for my dear collaborator and the cross she gave me . . .
MAIKOV: (pleasantly cynical) A talisman? I don't believe it!
D: Yes, whenever my demons came to haunt me, I simply held Anya's cross next to my heart, and . . .
MAIKOV: Exorcism? In the sixties?
D: Precisely! My cross in one hand and my pencil in the other.
A: Yes, with God's help, THE GAMBLER is finished.
MAIKOV: (laughing, teasing) God's help? Or Love's, perhaps?
A: (blushing) But God IS Love!
D: (coming to A's rescue) Yes, with GOD's help THE GAMBLER is finished. And after a week or two of rest, I'll be ready to tackle CRIME AND PUNISHMENT again. With your help, of course, kind Anya Grigoryevna.
A: I'd do it gladly, Fyodor Mikhailovich. But Professor Olkhin may have another pupil in mind for this new job of yours.
MAIKOV: Oh my!
D: (obviously chagrined) But I'm used to your way of working. No one else will do. (angrily) Unless perhaps you don't want to work with me any longer? In that case, of course I won't insist. My relatives are not hospitable! For that I apologize!
MAIKOV: (laughing) But it's not that at all. Why should such a lovely and talented young woman want to work for such a morose, morbid, tetchy, and irascible old fool? Hurry, hurry, Anya! Reassure him before he breaks into tears!
A: Of course I want to work with you, Fyodor Mikhailovich. How can you think otherwise?
MAIKOV: No fool like an old fool.
D: (smiling sheepishly) Well, In that case, remember your promise to invite me to your home the minute the novel was finished? Well then, when can I come? Tomorrow!
A: No, I won't be at home tomorrow; I'm invited to my grandmother's name day celebration.
D: Day after tomorrow!
A: I have a stenography lecture.
D: Then shall we say the second of November?
A: On the second of November I'm going to the theater.
D: (mortally wounded) My Lord! All your time is taken up! I have a suspicion that you're saying all this on purpose. You simply don't want me to come. Tell the truth!
A: (surprised) Not in the least, Fyodor Mikhailovich--I assure you.
MAIKOV: (laughing) Wounded again! Reassure him, Anya Grigoryevna, or he will surely expire.
A: Come on November third, on Thursday, at about seven in the evening.
D: Not till Thursday? How far off that is! (recovering his composure, winking at M. Cavalierly in a mocking tone) But perhaps I won't be able to make it. After all, she is just a stenographer.
A: (offended) Well, then. In that case, I think it's time to go. Your sister-in-law's waiting in the sitting room, and. . .
D: No, no, my dear, don't go! I'm joking. I'll miss you too much.
MAIKOV: (laughing) You can count on that, my dear.
D: Please stay! (pointing to the vestibule) Don't go on her account.
A: (refusing to be consoled) I really must go now. I only came to deliver the transcription and wish you happy birthday. (deliberately turning her back on D, she takes her coat and hands it to M to help her with it) Good day Apollon Nikolayovich. Such a pleasure to see YOU again. And I'll look forward to reading the poem you promised me.
MAIKOV: Yes, my dear. Good-bye. (winking to her out of D's view)
I'll bring your poem with me tomorrow night. At the usual time, eh? At your home.
D: (infuriated) Tomorrow night? At your home? But you said you were invited to your grandmother's . . . You turn ME down, and you. . . (realizing that they are pulling his leg, M and A smiling at each other trying to keep straight faces) Pah! You're joking me! I don't know why I love this man so; he taunts me at every turn.
MAIKOV: (Singing) La donna e mobile. La donna e mobile.
D: Forgive me. I'm such a fool. To think that my best friend would try to steal my . . . stenographer.
MAIKOV: (winking at A) He thought I was trying to steal his . . stenographer. WE believe him, don't we?
A: (wounded) Of course! What else? I'm just a STENOGRAPHER. Oh, never mind! Good-bye!
D: (teasing) Won't you stay? Even if I get down on my knees?
A: (alarmed) You wouldn't! I'm embarrassed enough as it is.
D: (down on his knees, winking cavalierly at Maikov who also gets down on his knees) Just ten minutes more. A quarter of an hour? Fedosya baked a cake--candles and all. Stay at least for a piece of cake?
A: (mortified) Fyodor Mikhailovich, I . . . I'll show myself out.
D: (suddenly very angry) All right! Good bye then! If stubbornness is more important to you than my birthday celebration. (suddenly furious, out of control) You look for every excuse! Name-day celebrations, stenography lectures, theater dates, . . .
[ENTER EMILYA, PASHA, and FEDOSYA. FEDOSYA is carrying a birthday cake with candles. PASHA is dressed in his sunday best but still looks slovenly and unkempt, a cigarette behind each ear and one smoking in his mouth. He is a bit tipsy. They stop in the open doorway to the vestibule gazing in amazement at D's sudden rant.]
EMILYA: Happy Bir . . . Are we interrupting something?
MAIKOV: Please Fedya, enough joking.
D: I'm not joking! Why don't you just come out and say it? If you don't want to work for me, just say so. I've gotten along without a stenographer all these years . . .
FEDOSYA: Fyodor Dostoevsky!
D: (maniacally) And what are you all doing, bothering me now?
PASHA: Hasn't HE got a wild hair!
EMILYA: (happily) We HAVE interrupted something!
D: (to Anya at the top of his voice) Flirting! And with my best friend!
MAIKOV: Fedya! Enough of that you old convict!
A: I do not flirt!
D: And never mind my visiting you on thursday! I have better things to do!
A: I will not argue before your relatives!
PASHA: Go on! We're enjoying this!
A: And I am leaving.
D: Good! I'll see you to the door--my last duty to you!
[EXIT D and A]
MAIKOV: My God! They half mean it.
FEDOSYA: But my cake; I went to all this trouble--three eggs!
PASHA: Hell, let's go ahead and cut the cake!
MAIKOV: (at the window) Look at them still arguing in the street.
EMILYA: Good riddance
MAIKOV: (at the window) And yet he cannot bear to lose sight of her, reaching out even as she walks off. (turning away from the window) Can he really think she would flirt with the likes of me?
EMILYA: Oh, where is the old fool? It time to cut the cake.
MAIKOV: Walking UNDER a cloud he should be walking ON, I imagine.
PASHA: What'd he do down there? DIE? (slapping his thigh and guffawing ludicrously) Hope he took his HARP!
MAIKOV: (chuckling) Why, the little turd's been drinking!
EMILYA: Shame on you, naughty boy. Oh well it's a happy occasion, after all--now that the intruder's gone.
PASHA: (to MAIKOV in a ridiculously confidential manner) Notice anything different in here do you?
MAIKOV: Since you arrived?
PASHA: I mean Ma's picture. (pointing to the bare spot over the couch where MARIA's portrait once hung)
MAIKOV: (delighted) Don't tell me the wake is finally over?
EMILYA: When the poor child told me how our aging Casanova turns his beloved dead mother's portrait to the wall . . . Well, I made Fedosya hang it in my little darling's room.
MAIKOV: What a thoughtful birthday present.
PASHA: My birthday ain't till summer.
MAIKOV: (contemptuously) If you live! (a door slams) Do I hear the birthday boy on the stair?
PASHA: Boy? Ha! The old goat won't have enough wind left in him to blow out the candles. (thigh slapping and guffawing)
EMILYA: Sush! He'll hear you.
[ENTER D very morose and very silent]
MAIKOV: Here's our aging convict now.
EMILYA: Fedosya, matches?
PASHA: (licking cake off his fingers) Oh here, I've got some.
EMILYA: (as PASHA tipsily lights the candles) Hurry! Hurry, darling, or we'll be here all afternoon!
[D stands by silently, like a statue, lost in thought as the candles are lighted and general clapping ensues.]
EMILYA: Make a wish before you blow them out!
PASHA: Bet I know what he'll wish for?
EMILYA: A substantial advance on the next book, what else? But we have to sing first!
[D is led before the cake like a sleeping man and stands before it dumbly]
MAIKOV: (starting the singing) Happy Birthday to yoooou . . .
ALL: Happy Birthday to yoooou. Happy Birthday dear Fedya. Happy Bir . . .
[Suddenly, his hands over his eyes, D walks between the singers out into the vestibule, followed immediately by MAIKOV]
MAIKOV: Fedya, my friend . . .
[EXIT D and MAIKOV]
EMILYA: Well, I never!
[PASHA goes over to the birthday cake as others look after exiting D and M and the stage lights begin to fade]
PASHA: (singing, cake knife poised) Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday
to you. (blowing out the candles and BLACKOUT followed by PASHa's idiotic
The dark hours of the following morning. Stage lights dimmed.
D sits at his desk in shirtsleeves and suspenders, his tie loosened, his collar open at the neck as he reads by the light of the desk lamp the last few pages of the completed manuscript of THE GAMBLER, penciling in some minor corrections. There is a new portrait over the couch--a print of Raphael's Madonna, the one that appears in the photos of D's study at the time of his death.
A card tucked into a corner of the frame is covered with childish crayon drawings of a tree and a house, etc. The remains of the afternoon's birthday celebration are still scattered about--a crumb-filled cake dish, cups, the festive wrapper of the final section of the manuscript. As the clock strikes three off stage, D turns over the last page of the manuscript)
D: (triumphantly) Stellovsky! I've beaten you!
[Kissing the completed manuscript, he places it in the rosewood box but in so doing removes the French novel with POLINA's scarlet kerchief folded in it. As he opens the book and looks at the folded kerchief, reverie lights come up and DRUM ROLLS are heard and accusing, echoing OFFSTAGE VOICES out of the past.]
VOICES: Too late! Too late! . . . Never would I have married you! NEVER! . . . A trifle too late! Too late! . . . I wish to congratulate you sir on your marriage and wish you and your bride . . .. I came to you for help with my writing and you took me in your study with your wife coughing up blood in the next room! . . Here I am dying, and that whore is in your blood, in the very depths of your soul! . . .Congratulations sir! Congratulations! . If you hadn't cared more for your dying wife than for me! . I'm in my bedroom coughing up blood . . . Salvador. Salvador . . . And your on your knees in your study praying for a letter with a French stamp . . . Congratulations sir! Congratulations . . . You're vile, vile. Oh how I loathe what you've made of me . . . Go to your whore in Paris, what do I care! . . . Salvador . . . Salvador . . . Congratulations . . Never! Never! Too late! Too late! . . . Readddddy! Aiiiiimmm . . . Salvador. Oh Salvador . . . (auto erotic moan)
[D tosses the book and kerchief into the stove, slams it shut and the
DRUM ROLLS and OFFSTAGE VOICES immediately cease as the reverie lights
fade and ANYA'S THEME is heard. He sits on the divan and kissing Anya's
cross, lies down exhausted, pulling the rug over himself and BLACKOUT]
One day later. Afternoon.
The lights come up on ANYA in her black coat and hood and portfolio standing in front of the portrait of the Madonna with her back to the audience and WC. ENTER D from the WC.
D: (delighted) Anya!
A: (turning, coldly) Your stenographer is here.
D: (rushing to her. Fervidly, almost ecstatically) My guide! My hope! My right hand! How happy I am you've come. I haven't done a thing all morning but think of you. I was afraid you wouldn't come.
A: (in her mourning clothes again, rather coldly) And what on earth
made you think such a thing? I told Fedosya I'd come this
afternoon as you requested, and once I give my word I always keep it. (warming her hands at the stove)
D: (shoveling some coal into the stove out of a bucket) I was such a boor at my birthday celebration. I didn't mean any of it of course; I hope Fedosya explained that to you. I would have come myself, but I was afraid you were still angry. You are still angry aren't you? And still you came out of the goodness of your heart, knowing how much I need you.
A: I came because I need the work. (ironically) Besides I haven't thanked you for that "little something else" you put in my pay envelope.
D: Nor I YOU, for the Madonna. Isn't she beautiful? You didn't pose for it by any chance?
A: (embarrassed) I? How silly! But where did it come from? (She moves to look at it more closely)
D: Why, it's a birthday present of course--from you.
A: From me? But I had nothing to do with it.
D: Oh but you did. Read the card!
A: (taking the card from the frame and smiling at the cover) Oh, how darling! The children . . .
D: Read the inscription. (as she opens the card and begins to read) Aloud, please!
A: Happy Birthday to Uncle Fedya, from Kashenka, Mitya, Mama and . Oh, the angels!
D: And? Read it! Read it!
A: Kashenka, Mitya, Mama and . . . Aunty Anya. But I had nothing to do with it, I . . .
D: And the postscript?
A: P.S. It's the lady Aunty Anya prays to for you at church, Uncle . . . (replacing the card in the corner of the frame and admiring the framed print) She's beautiful, isn't she?
D: Look in a mirror, you'll see the same face.
A: (crossing herself) That's sacrilege!
D: With any other woman, perhaps. But you? (very warmly) No, it's not sacrilege.
A: (angrily) About that "little something else!" Why did you return my cross?
D: But I didn't. I had another made for you, an exact replica.
A: (surprised) Exact replica?
D: Yes. Are you wearing it?
A: (embarrassed) Of course, and you?
D: I never take it off. But you won't give it away to some other man someday?
A: Fyodor Mikhailovich!
D: Even if . . . When we're no longer together?
A: (fearfully) Why, what do you mean, no longer together? Professor Olkhin says it's all right. We can continue working together. That IS why you sent for me isn't it? To resume work on CRIME AND PUNISHMENT?
D: Of course! Of course! Oh, Anyechka, If only you knew how very happy I am to see you again!
A: (Relieved, warming up somewhat, but reluctant to reveal her true emotions) And I suppose I'm also glad to see you, Fyodor Mikhailovich, and in such a cheerful mood at that. Why, you actually look younger than when I last saw you.
D: Yes, it's the dream. Last night I had a marvelous dream.
A: (laughing) Is that all?
D: (taken aback) Please don't laugh. I attribute great meanings to dreams. My dreams are always prophetic. Last night I dreamed that I found a diamond in my rosewood writing box, a tiny one, but sparkling and very brilliant.
A: Really? And what did you do with it?
D: (throwing up his hands) I can't remember. All I know is, it was a good dream. And despite the trouble with that jackal Stellovsky . . .
A: (horrified) Oh my God, don't tell me . . .
D: Yes, just as we feared! The jackal left town and ordered his servant to refuse my manuscript.
A: What did you do? Why didn't you send for me?
D: (teasing) But I thought you were angry with me. I . . .
A: (furious, almost in tears) Oh, you foolish man. Now I'm thoroughly angry with you . . .
D: It's all right! All right! I got a receipt from the police chief where Stellovsky lives.
A: (still uncertain) Then it's all settled--all legal?
D: (taking A's hands and looking fondly into her eyes) Yes! Thanks to you, Anya Grigoryevna. You've saved my life, Anyechka.
A (angrily) Oh what a fright you gave me!
D: (trying to make up to her) Well tell me then, did you have a nice time at your grandmother's name day?
A: It's all settled--all legal? (as D nods sheepishly, grinning from ear to ear, relieved, crossing herself) Yes, my grandmother's was very nice. After dinner the older people sat down to play cards, and we younger ones got together in the study and chattered away all evening. There were two very nice, amusing students there . .
D: (annoyed) Male students, I suppose?
A: (hastily) No, no! A girl from Moscow and a niece of my grandmother's
nurse. Are you all right, --you've been working so
D: (cheerful again) Ah, Anya, I feel wonderful. Never felt better in my life. In fact I feel so good, I think I'll get right back to work this afternoon on the new novel I promised Katov.
A: New novel? But we haven't finished CRIME AND PUNISHMENT.
D: I know, I know! But if I can just sketch out the plot for Katov, he might send that advance I asked for, after all. The problem is that I just can't seem to work out the ending. The psychology of a young girl is involved. If I were in Moscow, I'd ask my niece, Sonyechka. But as it is, I have to turn to you for help.
A: (indignant) And why not? I'm your collaborator aren't I?
D: (amused, teasing) Oh, indeed you are, Anna Grigoryevna!
A: (very business-like) Well then. This heroine of yours, is she the protagonist of your novel?
D: No, the protagonist is an artist, a man no longer young--well, in a word--a man about my own age.
A: (suspiciously) An artist about your own age?
D: Yes, a man whose inner state is one of confusion. He's lonely, disenchanted with the people close to him. He hungers for a new life. He needs love. His passionate desire to find happiness again conflicts ridiculously with his condition in life. For he's a man grown old before his time, sick with an incurable disease--a paralyzed hand let's say.
A: Paralyzed hand? (giggling) Oh, Fyodor Mikhailovich, of all the nonsense! Well, I see that this will be still another autobiographical novel. And will the young woman perhaps be named Polina, by any chance?
D: (laughing) No, no, I've written that vixen completely out of my soul. But our heroine does happen to be a young girl close to your age, let's say. Let's call her Anya so as not to have to call her "the heroine." It's a nice name, Anya . . .
A: (quietly, masking her hurt) Anya Korvin-Krukoskaya, your former fiancee?
D: (sensing her feelings) No, no! My Anna is gentle, wise, kind, bubbling with life, and possessed of great tact in personal relationships.
A: And is this Anna pretty?
D: She isn't a real beauty, of course, but she is very nice looking. I love her face.
A: (unenthusiastically) Fyodor Mikhailovich, surely you're over idealizing this heroine of yours. Can she really be all you say she is?
D: She is just precisely all that! I've studied her through and through!
But if you keep interrupting, Anna Grigoryevna . . . The
question is would it be possible for a young girl so different in age and personality to fall in love with my artist? Wouldn't that be psychologically false? That's what I wanted to ask your opinion about, Anya Grigoryevna.
A: But why should it be impossible? Why couldn't she fall in love with
your artist? What if he is poor and sick? Where's the
sacrifice on her part anyway? If she really loves him she'll be happy, and she'll never have to regret anything!
D: (falling silent for a moment) Then put yourself in her place for a moment. Imagine that this artist is . . . me . . . (falling to his knees, his voice trembling) . . . that I have confessed my love to you . . . and asked you to marry me. Tell me . . . what would you answer?
A: Is this fiction? . . . If it is, I would answer that any woman should be honored to be married to the great writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. . . . But if it isn't . . .
D: (rising and turning away in despair) But if it isn't?
A: Then I would add . . . that I love you, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky and will always love you--all my life.
D: (ecstatically, tearfully)) Can it be? Can it be? Maikov was right!
He said that yours was a wisdom of the heart, that despite
everything, despite our age difference, despite my illness, my ugliness, my sour disposition, despite everything you would listen to your heart.
A: You told Apollon Nikolayovich? You asked him if you should propose to me?
D: Yes, on the afternoon of my birthday anniversary. When he saw how upset I was at losing you, he began shouting at me like a madman, "Do you know what a treasure you've found, you old convict? Do you know it?"
A: And that was the first time you realized you were in love with me?
D: No, no. I've been in love with you since . . .
A: (eagerly) Since the first day?
D: (laughing) Hardly! No, nothing like that. Why, at first I . (thinking back, tapping his lips with his fingers in his characteristic fashion) I must confess that during the first week of our acquaintance I wasn't even aware of what your face was like.
A: Well, I shouldn't wonder, since it took you till the end of the month finally to remember my name.
D: (ecstatically) I love you! And I feel like a new man! (embracing A and twirling her around)
A: (breaking away, breathlessly) In that case, I suggest you close your
doors Fyodor Mikhailovich . . . (as D misinterpreting
her suggestion begins toward her amorously) . . . to all visitors and work from two to five in the afternoon, and then come to visit me at my home in the evening and dictate from your manuscript. But be sure to wear your fur greatcoat; the thaw is over and we're in for some absolutely frigid weather.
D: Nonsense! (standing histrionically on the divan) The sun is shining. It's a glorious day. Besides, with your love in my heart it's springtime all year round.
A: That's all very nice, but promise or you can't come. And that's that!
D: The truth is, I no longer own a greatcoat.
A: (astonished) How is that? Was it stolen?
D: (getting down from the divan) Pawned; my relatives had needs.
A: (heatedly) I'm outraged by the heartlessness of your relatives. I know you're a good, generous soul and understand your desire to help, but for them to ask you to sacrifice your health--and even, perhaps, your life . . . What about us? Me? Have you no obligation to your future wife? How will I survive if you let them slowly kill you? (weeping hysterically, sobs shaking her body, out of all proportion to the gravity of the situation)
D: (astonished, all thumbs, handing her his handkerchief) Calm yourself, darling! Calm yourself! (shouting) Fedosya! Fedosya, tea! Quickly! (to A) It's nothing. Last winter I pawned my great coat at least half a dozen times and went about in only my fall coat. I didn't die! I'm still alive, you see. Why, I never even caught cold, and we haven't had such a winter in twenty years.
FEDOSYA: (hurrying in with a glass of tea, fearfully) Is something wrong? Oh the saints in heaven. The poor darling. Is she all right. (handing ANYA the tea, solicitously and angrily to D) Have you been arguing with her again?
D: No, you foolish woman! We're in love!
FEDOSYA: In love?
D: Yes! Now please leave us!
FEDOSYA: (delighted) In love? In love! Oh I must tell someone!
D: (extremely solicitous of A's well-being) The truth is, I'm so used
to this pawning business that I didn't pay any special
attention to it this time any more than any other. If I'd known you'd take it so tragically, my dear, I wouldn't have allowed Pasha
to pawn it for anything!
A: (recovering her composure somewhat) Forgive me, darling! I so ashamed of putting myself before your family. It's not just the coat. It's everything. I'm outrageously happy and sad at the same time. I don't know what's wrong with me. Just promise such a thing will never happen again. Here! (searching in her purse) Here's the fifty rubles from my stenography services, take them to the pawnbroker . . .
D: (amazed) You're not serious? I, take money from YOU . . . Never, suggest such a thing again! Never! Never! Never!
A: But if I'm to be your wife . . . You took money from Polina--you used to pawn her jewels to gamble.
D: Don't mention Polina. That's the past. YOU are the future. The future will be different. It MUST be different.
A: All right then! Promise you'll stay indoors until the weathe improves.
D: House arrest, eh? All right, on one condition. That you'll come to me everyday at one and remain until dinner. Agreed?
A: (throwing her arms around him) Oh you're such a good man, and I'm so selfish and spoiled. You won't fall out of love with me now that you've seen how I'm capable of carrying on?
D: There's no cloud without a silver lining, my little dove. Now I'm really convinced of how much you love me. You couldn't have cried like that if I weren't dear to you. (A, looking tearfully into his eyes, kisses him. D is surprised and embarrassed) Our first kiss!
A: Yes! And about time, don't you think? Why, is it possible you're blushing! If I'd waited for you, I'd probably have gone to the altar unkissed.
[They kiss again, and the doors to the vestibule suddenly fly open and ENTER EMILYA and PASHA dressed in outdoor clothing, PASHA in his new winter coat. EMILYA is in a rage]
EMILYA: Just as I thought! The two love birds in their nest, eh? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Fyodor Mikhailovich, asking a child to marry you. And you, you little hussy. No wonder you were paid so royally. And exactly what services do you perform in addition to your . . . stenography, eh?
D: (outraged) Emilya Fyodorovna!
PASHA: I bet I know what services!
EMILYA: (slapping Pasha's face) Hush, child! Know your place!
D: (irritated and confused) You ARE a witch! How else could you know already? I only this minute proposed?
PASHA: I was standing behind the door like Aunty Emilya told me to and . . .
EMILYA: Will you please, shut up, you insufferable child! (to D) The fact is you are not marrying this . . . this . . . stenographer, and that's that!
D: (pounding his fist on the table) Enough! Enough!
A: (stepping between D and E, and facing E with her hands on her hips) Do not excite yourself, Fyodor Mikhailovich. It is not necessary to come to my defense or the defense of our proposed marriage.
PASHA: (amused by the whole scene) Yeah, you'll take a fit old gent
and dump yourself on the floor. (slapping his thigh
A: And you, you vulgar, insolent, boorish lout, you've been dipping into Fedosya's cooking sherry again. She's told me--though why she hasn't told her master I cannot fathom--except that she's cowed by you, by both of you, the poor good soul. She's told me with tears in her eyes how you torment her children if she doesn't cater to your every whim, and how you use up all the matches in the house with your smoking and steal all of Fyodor Mikhailovich's pencils just to get her in trouble. It has never been my place to mention these things, but before any wedding takes place or even any arrangements are made, I want to make it perfectly clear that things will change around here when I become mistress of the house . . . (unsure of herself for a moment) . . . if I become mistress of this house . . . Pardon me Fyodor Mikhailovich, but I will say my piece and if you wish to retract your proposal, well and good.
D: (amazed) Go on, my dear! Go on!
A: I may not know all that much about practical affairs, but it's plain to see that the moment you get hold of any money, all your relatives instantly put forward their sudden but urgent needs.
D: (amused) And when you become mistress of the house?
A: First of all, the money paid out to relatives will be regulated. Each will be provided a fixed sum per year--no more nor less. Emilya Fyodorovna, you have grown sons of your own to support you. Your brother Nikolai, Fyodor Mikhailovich, could work if only he stopped drinking. And as for you, Pasha, being only a few months younger than myself, it's high time you settle down to some kind of serious work and stop relying entirely on the labor of a sick and debt-ridden stepfather.
PASHA: I could become a STENOgrapher.
EMILYA: (to PASHA) Hush, stupid! Fyodor Mikhailovich are you going to let this upstart child talk to me like this, the widow of your beloved dead brother?
D: (pause, grinning) Yes.
PASHA: If she could become a STENOgrapher, so can I.
EMILYA: Oh shut up you imbecile. You can't even learn to wipe your nose!
[P wipes his nose with the sleeve of his new coat and looks at it perplexed]
A: Fyodor Mikhailovich, the thought of all these idle people outrages me. When I see how your financial worries are ruining your disposition and damaging your health . . . it's only a miracle your epileptic attacks aren't coming much more frequently than they are.
D: (amused) It's your doing, my love. It's your sweet, calming presence.
A: Oh, Fedya, pray God that's so. The first thing we'll do is settle your debts. Tomorrow we'll make a visit to Mother's barrister and make you my trustee. Then we wont have to wait till I come of age to sell the house on Yaroslavskya street.
D: What's this? Sell your mother's home?
A: No, no! The one next door. My father willed it to me for a dowry. Selling it should bring as much as ten to twelve thousand rubles. And there's another two thousand I've put away in savings
PASHA; Two thousand?
EMILYA: (intensely interested) Hush, child!
D: Well now, what do you think Emilya Fyodorovna? Do you still think I'm marrying a child?
EMILYA: (her tone moderating considerably) Well, you can't blame me for being concerned for the welfare of the brother of my beloved dead husband. Anyway, I see you've made up your mind and there's nothing to be done but make the best of it. (to PASHA) Come, you young scoundrel. What's this about teasing poor Fedosya's infants? (taking him by the ear and leading him out the door) We're going to have a long talk. (sweetly) Fedosya? Fedosya, my dear? (just before exit) Anyechka, my precious, the house on Yaroslavskya street? Ask for at least fifteen thousand! At LEAST fifteen thousand!
[Exit EMILYA leading PASHA by the ear]
D: (excitedly) My darling, you were exquisite.
A: (too caught up in her woman-of-the-house roll to stop now) Emilya's right. I`ll ask for fifteen anyway, and if I get thirteen or fourteen . . . Why, we'll be able to marry before lent.
D: Hold on. Just a minute. All this is very nice. And I of course wish to marry as soon as possible. But the house on Yaroslavskya street belongs to you and will become yours when you turn twenty-one. I don't want to meddle in your financial affairs.
A: But if we love each other, then all we own should be held in common.
D: Of course, that's the way it will be after we're married. But until then . . .
A: Even if it means delaying our wedding as much as a year?
D: Even so! I understand very well how fantastic the requirements of my relatives are; but lacking the strength of character to refuse them myself, I don't plan to satisfy them with YOUR money.
A: Not even the two thousand I've set aside?
D: Not a ruble. That's for you! To buy whatever you need to set up housekeeping . . . or perhaps a pretty new dress or two.
A: (embracing D) I'm so lucky to have a man like you to love me. Oh, how can I make decisions about anything today? I'm too horribly happy.
A: Anyway, I must go now and tell mother.
D: But when will I see you again? Will your mother approve?
A: Come tomorrow evening after my stenography class. I want Mother to meet you as soon as possible. She loves you already just from what I've told her about you. She's even hinted . . . Never mind!
D: Ten more minutes, one quarter of an hour more. Just think, Anya, I won't be seeing you again for another whole day.
[ENTER MAIKOV breathless, forgetting even to remove his fur hat in the house. He has a yellow envelope in his hand]
MAIKOV: Congratulations! When's the happy day? (embracing and kissing all around) I ran all the way.
D: How did you know? I only just . . .
MAIKOV: Fedosya told me in the hall. Poor darling's weeping with joy.
D: (puzzled) But you said you ran all the way. Why . . .
MAIKOV: To show you my telegram. It's from Katov!
D: (overjoyed) He want's your poems! Your trip to Moscow wasn't a total loss after all! (embracing M with a great bear hug and lifting him off the ground) I told you Katov would convince them; they're the finest most beautiful poems since Pushkin, by God! Anyechka give my friend a kiss--on the cheek!
MAIKOV: Not yet! Not yet! It's true I'm the finest poet in all Russia.
Katov agrees with us whole heartedly. And they are
putting my book on the fall list and . . . but let me read you the best part (reads quickly with his finger and then) . . . and congratulate that convict friend of yours, not only on his successful defeat of Stellovsky but also on his coming marriage .
D: Marriage? But how did he know I even proposed.
MAIKOV: I wired him yesterday about the Stellovsky thing and . . well I told him you were planning to propose to Anya today.
D: What a man that Katov is. How lucky for us to have him as our publisher.
MAIKOV: But wait. You haven't heard the best part.
D: There's more? This must be the longest telegram of all time. The RUSSIAN MESSENGER must be doing better financially than we thought.
MAIKOV: Yes, especially since CRIME AND PUNISHMENT hit the news stands. But listen! Congratulate that convict friend of yours not only on his defeat of Stellovsky but also on his coming marriage . Are you ready? Both of you? . . . and tell him we want the next installment of C & P within a month, his new novel in a year, and that . . . Are you ready? . . . that the contracts and his wedding present are in the mail.
D and A: Wedding present?
MAIKOV: An advance of ten thousand rubles.
D: (unbelieving) Ten thousand rubles? Ten thousand rubles?
A: (rushing into D's arms) We can marry before lent. God bless you, Apollon Nikolayovich! It's all your doing.
MAIKOV: No, my dear, it's all yours!
D: (bursting into laughter, embraces and kisses A furiously, then MAIKOV, and leads them in ring around the roses, singing) An ya Gri GOR yevna! An ya Gri GOR yevna!
EMILYA: (joyously) Congratulations. The house on Yaroslavkya street, and ten thousand rubles too?
PASHA: Congratulations. It pays to be a STENOgrapher!
FEDOSYA: Congratulations. (passing D's open arms and embracing Anya) I've saved a piece of birthday cake for you, my dear.
A: (embracing FEDOSYA) And you'll bake our wedding cake won't you, darling?
FEDOSYA: I'll use six eggs!
D: (begins sushing the group out into the vestibule) You're all invited
to a celebration dinner tonight at the restaurant down the street. And
now, leave us, please! Our minutes are precious together (closing the doors
behind them and poking his head out shouting happily) And Pasha! No listening
at key holes! (slapping of thighs and guffawing off stage) (to A) Now that
I have you
alone, I'll never let you go. (embracing her tenderly)
A: (coyly, but loving it) Fedya, you mustn't! Besides, I promised Mother I would stay only long enough to take dictation.
D: Ten minutes more? One quarter of an hour?
A: Besides, I'm bursting to tell her the news.
D: All right! In that case, I'll go with you.
A: No, you have guests. Besides it's much too cold outdoors for you.
D: (helping her with her coat) And not for you?
A: We women of the sixties are a sturdy lot. Besides, I have a winter coat. Remember your promise? No greatcoat, no outdoors!
D: You're not going to hold me to that silly promise?
A: And when I promise at the altar of God to love, honor, and cherish you till death do us part, will you hold me to my promise?
[At that moment, the barrel organ is heard outside the window playing, as usual, "La donna e mobile." A and D pause for a moment, and holding both of each others hands and looking directly into each others eyes, break into laughter]
D: (joking) Is it an omen, do you think?
A: No, Fyodor Mikhailovich, other women may be fickle, but your Anya Grigoryevna is yours and ONLY yours into all eternity.
D: (solicitously buttoning her coat) Now I know what became of the little diamond.
A: Little diamond?
D: Yes, in my dream, remember? In the rosewood box among my papers. I didn't know what happened to it because I couldn't remember the rest of the dream?
A: And do you remember it now?
D: No, not the dream. But the diamond, I've found it. I've found it at last and am determined to keep it all my life.
A: (laughing) You're mistaken, Fyodor Mikhailovich. It's no diamond you've found, but just an ordinary little pebble.
D: (with great seriousness) No, Anya Grigoryevna! I'm convinced that this time I've made no mistake!
[They stand holding hands and looking deeply into each others eyes for a long time. Then D removes ANYA's coat and drops it to the floor behind her. And taking her in his arms begins to dance to the music of the barrel organ, at first a bit tentatively and clumsily. But soon they are waltzing like one body gracefully about the stage]
[The barrel organ grinds away loudly, and final CURTAIN]
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