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Scene 4

At Varvaraís, Stepan and Shatov.

Shatov: I have been summoned by Varvara Stavrogin for a matter in which I am involved. That is the way, I believe, that the police word it when they issue a summons.

Stepan: No, she meant just what she said, although I donít know what the business is, nor whether you are involved. In any case, our very dear Varvara is at Mass. As for Dasha, she is in her room. Do you want me to send for her?

Shatov: No.

Stepan: All right. That is probably better, after all. The later, the better. You probably know Varvaraís plans for her?

Shatov: Yes.

Stepan: Good, good! In that case, letís say no more about it., letís say no more about it. Of course I can imagine that you were surprised. I was myself. So suddenlyÖ

Shatov: Shut up.

Stepan: All right. Be polite, my dear Shatov, at least today. Yes, be patient with me. My heart is heavy.

(Varvara enters escorted by Maurice)

Varvara: That poor girl has lost her reason.

(Lisa enters, holding Maria by the hand.)

Lisa: No, I changed my mind. I thought that you would all be pleased to know Maria better.

Maria: How beautiful it is! (She perceives Shatov.) What, you are her, Shatoushka! What are you doing in high society?

Varvara (to Shatov): Do you know this woman?

Shatov: Yes.

Varvara: Who is she?

Shatov: See for yourself.

(She looks with anguish at Maria)

Varvara (to Maria): You were cold a moment ago, my dear. Drink this coffee---it will warm you up.

Maria: Yes. Oh, I had forgotten to give you back the shawl you lent me.

Varvara: Keep it. It is yours. Sit down and drink your coffee. Donít be afraid.

Stepan: Chere amie---

Varvara: Oh, you, be quiet. The situation is bad enough without your making it any worse!

(Maria giggles and fidgets. Varvara stands up, white in the face, and mutters something that is not heard. Dasha enters upstage.)

Stepan: Here is Dasha.

Maria: Oh! How beautiful she is! Well, Shatoushka, your sister doesnít look like you at all.

Varvara (to Dasha): Do you know this person?

Dasha: Iíve never seen her. But I suppose she is Lebyatkinís sister.

Maria: Yes, he is my brother. But, above all, he is my lackey. I didnít know you either, dearie. And yet I wanted very much to meet you, especially after my lackey told me that you had given him money. Now I am happy-you are charmingÖYes, charming, I tell you.

Varvara: What money is she talking about?

Dasha: Nicholas Stavrogin had asked me in Switzerland to hand over a certain sum to Maria Lebyatkin.

Varvara: Nicholas?

Dasha: Nicholas himself.

Varvara (after a silence): All right. Since he did so without mentioning it to me, he must have had reasons for doing so. But in the future I shall ask you to be more careful. That Lebyatkin does not have a good reputation.

Maria: Oh, no! And if he comes, you must send him to the kitchen. Thatís his place. You can give him coffee if you wish. But I hold him in utter contempt.

(Lebyatkin comes in, titillated without being quite drunk. He goes toward Varvara.)

Lebyatkin: I have com, madame-

Varvara: Sit down in that chair, sir. You can be heard just as well from there. (He wheels about and goes and sits down.) Now, will you introduce yourself?

Lebyatkin (rising): Captain Lebyatkin. I have come, madame-

Varvara: Is this person your sister?

Lebyatkin: Yes, madame. She eluded my vigilance forÖI wouldnít want you to think that I was saying anything bad about my sister, butÖ. Varvara: Did this misfortune happen long ago?

Lebyatkin: On a certain day, madame, yes, a certain dayÖ I have come to thank you for having taken her in. Here are twenty rubles. (He goes toward her as the others all bestir themselves as if to protect Varvara)

Varvara: Why, you must be mad, my man.

Lebyatkin: No, madame. Rich is your dwelling and poor is the dwelling of the Lebyatkins, but Maria my sister, nee Lebyatkin, the nameless Maria would not have accepted from anyone but you the ten rubles you gave her. From you madame, and from you alone she well accept anything. But while she accepts with one hand, she gives with the other to one of your charities.

Varvara: That is done through my porter, sir, and you may do so as you leave. I beg you therefore to put your money away and not to wave it in my face. I shall thank you also to sit down again. Now explain yourself and tell me why your sister can accept anything from me.

Lebyatkin: Madame, that is a secret that I shall carry to the grave with me.

Varvara: Why?

Lebyatkin: May I ask you a question openly, in the Russian manner, from the depths of my heart?

Varvara: I am listening.

Lebyatkin: Is it possible to die just because of too noble a soul?

Varvara: That is a question I have never asked myself.

Lebyatkin: Really never? Well, if thatís the way it isÖ(He strikes his chest vigorously.) Be silent, heart; there is no hope!

(Maria bursts out laughing.)

Varvara: Stop talking in conundrums, sir, and answer my question. Why can she accept anything from me?

Lebyatkin: Why? Oh, madame, every day for millennia the whole of nature has been asking the Creator ďWhy?Ē and we are still awaiting the reply. Is Captain Lebyatkin to be the only one to answer? Would that be fair? I should like to be named Paul and yet I am named Ignatius. Why? I am a poet, with the soul of a poet, and yet I live in a pigsty. Why?

Varvara: You are expressing yourself bombastically, and I look upon that as insolent.

Lebyatkin: No, madame, not insolent. I am just an infinitesimal insect, but the insect does not complain. I man is sometimes forced to put up with the dishonor of family rather than to speak the truth. So Lebyatkin will not complain; he will not say one word too many. You must, madame, admit his greatness of soul!

(Peter enters.)

Stepan: ButÖ

Peter: Greetings, Varvara.

Stepan: Peter! Why, itís Peter, my son! (He rushes up and embraces Peter.)

Peter: All right. All right. Donít get excited. (He breaks away.) Just imagine, I rush in expecting to find Nicholas Stavrogin. He left me a half-hour ago at Kirilovís and asked me to meet him here. He will be here any minute, and I am happy to announce this good news.

Stepan: But I havenít seen you in ten years.

Peter (moving from one person to another in the room): All the more reason for not going all to pieces. Behave yourself! Oh, Lisa, how happy I am! And your esteemed mother hasnít forgotten me? How are your legs? Dear Varvara, I had told my father, but naturally he forgotÖ

Stepan: Mon enfant, quelle joie!

Peter: Yes, you love me. But leave me alone. Ah! Here is Nicholas!

(Stavrogin enters.)

Varvara: Nicholas! (At the tone of her voice, Stavrogin stops dead.) I beg you to tell me at once, before you take even one step, whether it is true that this woman here is your legitimate wife.

(Stavrogin stares at her, smiles, then walks toward her and kisses her hand. With the same calm stare he walks toward Maria. Maria gets up with an expression of painful delight on her face.)

Stavrogin: You must not stay here.

Maria: May I, right here and now, kneel down before you?

Stavrogin: No, you may not. I am not your brother or your fiancť or your husband, am I? Take my arm. With your permission, I shall take you home to your brother. (She casts a frightened look toward Lebyatkin.) Fear nothing. Now that I am here, he will not touch you.

Maria: Oh, I fear nothing. At last you have come. Lebyatkin, call for the carriage.

(Lebyatkin leaves. Stavrogin gives his arm to Maria, who takes it with a radiant expression on her face. But as she walks she stumbles and would fall but for Stavrogin holding her. He leads her toward the exit, showing her great consideration, amid an absolute silence. Lisa, who has risen from her chair, sits down again with a shudder of disgust. As soon as they have left, everyone stirs.)

Peter: You see, we were together in St. Petersburg five years ago and Nicholas was leading-how shall I put it?-an ironic life. Yes, thatís the word. He was bored then, but did not want to fall into despair. Hence he did nothing and went out with anyone at all. Through nobility of soul, you might say, like a man above all that sort of thing. In short, he spent his time with knaves. Thus it is that he knew that Lebyatkin, a fool and parasite. He and his sister were living in abject poverty. One day in a cabaret someone insulted that lame girl. Nicholas got up, seized the insulter by the collar, and with a single blow threw him out. Thatís all.
Yes, thatís where it all started. The lame girl fell in love with her Knight, who nevertheless never spoke two sentences to her. People made fun of her. Nicholas was the only one who didnít laugh and treated her with respect.

(Stavrogin enters. Varvara rises and goes rapidly toward him.)

Varvara: Oh, Nicholas. Will you forgive me?

Stavrogin: I am the one to be forgiven, Mother. I should have explained to you. But I was sure that Peter would inform you.

Varvara: Yes, he did. And I am happyÖ. You were chivalrous.

Stepan: Sublime is the word.

Stavrogin: Chivalrous, indeed! So thatís how you see it? I suppose I owe this compliment to Peter. And you must believe him, Mother. He lies only in exceptional circumstances. (Peter and Stavrogin look at each other and smile.) Good, but I beg your forgiveness once more for my attitude. In any case, the subject is closed now. Thereís no point in bringing it up again.

(Lisa bursts in with a hysterical laugh.)

Stavrogin: Good day, Lisa. I hope you are well.

Lisa: Please forgive me. I believe you know Maurice. Good Lord, Maurice, how is it possible to be so tall?

Maurice: I donít understand.

Lisa: Oh, nothingÖI was just thinkingÖ.Supposing that I were lame, you would lead me through the streets, you would be chivalrous, wouldnít you? You would be devoted to me?

Maurice: Most certainly, Lisa. But why talk of such a misfortune?

Lisa: Most certainly you would be chivalrous. Well, you so tall and I crippled and deformed, weíd make a ridiculous couple.

Stavrogin: Iíve heard of your marriage, Dasha, and I want to congratulate you. (Dasha turns her head away.) My congratulations are sincere.

Dasha: I know it.

Peter: Why these congratulations? Am I to assume that there is some good news? Dasha getting married? Itís wonderful! Accept my congratulations too. But you have lost your bet. You told me in Switzerland that you would never get married. Decidedly, itís an epidemic. Do you know that my father is getting married too?

Stepan: Peter!

Peter: Well, didnít you write me so? To be sure, you werenít very clear. First you declare yourself to be delighted and then you ask me to save you; you tell me that the girl is a pure diamond, but that you must get married to cover sins committed in Switzerland; you ask my consent-what a topsy-turvy world this is!-and you beg me to save you from this marriage. (To the others, laughing) What on earth could he mean? But thatís the way his generation is-big words and vague ideas! (He seems suddenly to become aware of the effect of his words.) Well, whatís the matter?...It looks as if Iíve pulled a bonerÖ

Varvara: Did Stepan write you that in so many words?

Peter: Yes, here is his letter. It is long, like all of his letters. I never read them all the way through, I must confess. Besides, he doesnít care, for he writes them especially for posterity. But thereís no harm in what he says.

Varvara: Nicholas, was it Stepan who informed you of this marriage? In the same manner, I suppose?

Stavrogin: He did write me, in fact, but a very noble letter.

Varvara: Thatís enough! (She turns toward Stepan.) Stepan, I expect a great service of you. I expect you to leave this house and never appear in my presence again. (Stepan steps toward her and bows with great dignity, then goes over to Dasha.)

Stepan: Dasha, forgive me for all this. I thank you for having accepted.

Dasha: I forgive you, Stepan. I feel nothing but affection and esteem for you. You at least, continue to respect me.

Peter: Now I understand! Why, he meant with Dasha! Forgive me, Dasha. I didnít know. If only my father had had the sense to tell me instead of indulging in innuendo!

Stepan: Is it possible that you knew nothing! Is it possible that you are not putting on an act?

Peter: Well, you see, Varvara, heís not only an aged child, heís also an aged naughty child. How could I have understood? A sin committed in Switzerland! Just try to make out what he means!

Stavrogin: Be quiet, Peter, your father acted nobly. And you have insulted Dasha, whom all of us here respect.

(Shatov gets up and walks toward Stavrogin, who smiles at him but ceases to smile when Shatov is close to him. Everyone stares at them. Silence. Then Shatov slaps him as hard as he can. Varvara screams. Stavrogin seizes Shatov by the shoulders, then lets him go and puts his hands behind his back. Shatov backs up as Stavrogin stares at him. Stavrogin smiles, bows, and leaves.)

Lisa: Maurice, come here. Give me your hand! (Pointing to Stavrogin) You see that man? You wonít see any better. Maurice, before all let me declare that I have agreed to be your wife!

Maurice: Are you sure, Lisa, are you sure?

Lisa (staring at the door through which Stavrogin has gone out, her face bathed in tears): Yes, yes, I am sure!

CURTAIN