Scene 4: Who Is She?

At Varvara’s, all.

(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. Don’t 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.)

Stepan: Here is Dasha.

Maria: Oh! How beautiful she is! Well, Shatoushka, your sister doesn’t look like you at all.

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

Dasha: I’ve never seen her. But I suppose she is Lebyatkin’s sister.

Maria: Yes, he is my brother. But, above all, he is my lackey. I didn’t 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 charming…Yes, 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. That’s 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.)

Lebyatkin (to Varvara): I have com, madame-

Varvara: Sit down in that chair, sir. You can be heard just as well from there. 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 for…I wouldn’t want you to think that I was saying anything bad about my sister, but…. Varvara: Did this misfortune happen long ago?

Lebyatkin: On a certain day, madame, yes, a certain day… I have come to thank you for having taken her in. Here are twenty rubles.

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 that’s the way it is…(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 “Why?” 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.)

Peter: Greetings, madam.

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

Peter: All right. All right. Don’t get excited. (He breaks away.)

Stepan: But I haven’t 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! Oh, dear Varvara!

Stepan: Mon enfant, quelle joie!

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

(Stavrogin re-enters.)

Varvara: Nicholas! 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 smiles, then walks toward her and kisses her hand. With the same calm stare he walks toward Maria.)

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 fiancé or your husband, am I? (Shatov gets up). 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. Shatov sits down. 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, that’s the word. He was bored then, but did not want to fall into despair. 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. That’s all. Yes, that’s 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 didn’t laugh and treated her with respect.

(Stavrogin re-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 happy…. You were chivalrous.

Stepan: Sublime is the word.

Stavrogin: Chivalrous, indeed! So that’s 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. There’s 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.…I was just thinking…. Supposing that I were lame, you would lead me through the streets, you would be chivalrous, wouldn’t 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, we’d make a ridiculous couple.

(Shatov gets up again 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 won’t 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, in tears): Yes, yes, I am sure!