The Boor by Anton Chekhov
SCENE: A well-furnished reception-room in MRS POPOV'S home
MRS. POPOV is in deep mourning, sitting upon a sofa, gazing steadfastly at a photograph
Her servant LUKA is also present
LUKA: It isn't right, ma'am. You're wearing yourself out! The maid and the cook have
gone looking for berries; everything that breathes is enjoying life; even the cat knows
how to be happy, slipping about the courtyard, catching birds, but you hide yourself
here in the house as though you were in a cloister. Yes, truly, by actual reckoning you
haven't left this house for a whole year.
MRS. POPOV: And I shall never leave it. Why should I? My life is over. He lies in
his grave, and I have buried myself within these four walls. We are both dead.
LUKA: There you are again! It's too awful to listen to, so it is! Nikolai Michailovitch
is dead; it was the will of the Lord, and the Lord has given him eternal peace. You
have grieved over it and that ought to be enough. Now it's time to stop. One can't
weep and wear mourning forever! My wife died a few years ago. I grieved for her. I
wept a whole month—and then it was over. Must one be forever singing lamentations?
That would be more than your husband was worth! [sighs.] You have forgotten all
your neighbors. You don't go out and you receive no one. We live—you'll pardon me—
like the spiders, and the good light of day we never see. All the livery is eaten by
mice—as though there weren't any more nice people in the world! But the whole
neighborhood is full of gentlefolk. The regiment is stationed in Riblov—officers—
simply beautiful! One can't see enough of them! Every Friday a ball, and military
music every day. Oh, my dear, dear ma'am, young and pretty as you are, if you'd only
let your spirits live—! Beauty can't last forever. When ten short years are over, you'll
be glad enough to go out a bit and meet the officers. And then it'll be too late.
MRS. POPOV: [Resolutely.] Please don't speak of these things again. You know very
well that since the death of Nikolai Michailovitch my life is absolutely nothing to me.
You think I live, but it only seems so. Do you understand? Oh, that his departed soul
may see how I love him! I know, it's no secret to you; he was often unjust to me,
cruel, and—he wasn't faithful, but I shall be faithful to the grave and prove to him
how I can love. There, in the Beyond, he'll find me the same as I was until his death.
LUKA: What is the use of all these words, when you'd so much rather go walking in
the garden or order Tobby or Welikan harnessed to the trap, and visit the neighbors?
MRS. POPOV: [Weeping.] Oh!
LUKA: Madam, dear madam, what is it? In Heaven's name!
MRS POPOV: He so loved Tobby so! He always drove him to the Kortschagins or the
Vlassovs. What a wonder he was! How fine he looked when he pulled at the reigns with
all his might! Tobby, dear Tobby. Give him an extra measure of oats today!
LUKA: Yes, ma'am.
[A bell rings loudly.]
MRS POPOV: [Shudders.] What's that? I am at home to no one.
LUKA: Yes, ma'am.
[He goes out, centre.]
MRS. POPOV: [Gazing at the photograph.] You shall see, Nikolai, how I can love
and forgive! My love will die only with me—when my poor heart stops beating. [She
smiles through her tears.] And aren't you ashamed? I have been a good, true wife; I
have imprisoned myself and I shall remain true until death, and you—you—you're not
ashamed of yourself, my dear monster! You quarrelled with me, left me alone for
[LUKA enters in great excitement]
LUKA: Oh, ma'am, someone is asking for you, insists on seeing you—
MRS. POPOV: You told him that since my husband's death I receive no one?
LUKA: I said so, but he won't listen; he says it is a pressing matter.
MRS. POPOV: I receive no one!
LUKA: I told him that, but he's a wild man; he swore and pushed himself into the
room; he's in the dining-room now.
MRS. POPOV: [Excitedly.] Good. Show him in. The impudent—!
[LUKA goes out, centre]
MRS. POPOV: What a bore people are! What can they want with me? Why do they
disturb my peace? [She sighs.] Yes, it is clear I must enter a convent. [Meditatively.]
Yes, a convent.
[SMIRNOV enters, followed by LUKA]
SMIRNOV: [To LUKA.] Fool, you make too much noise! You're an ass!
[Discovering MRS. POPOV—politely]
Madam, I have the honor to introduce myself: Lieutenant in the Artillery, retired,
country gentleman, Grigori Stapanovitch Smirnov! I'm compelled to bother you about an
exceedingly important matter.
MRS. POPOV: [Without offering her hand] What is it you wish?
SMIRNOV: Your deceased husband, with whom I had the honor to be acquainted, left
me two notes amounting to about twelve hundred roubles. Inasmuch as I have to pay
the interest to-morrow on a loan from the Agrarian Bank, I should like to request,
madam, that you pay me the money to-day.
MRS. POPOV: Twelve-hundred—and for what was my husband indebted to you?
SMIRNOV: He bought oats from me.
MRS. POPOV: [With a sigh, to LUKA.] Ah yes, oats ... Don't forget to give Tobby an extra
measure of oats.
[LUKA goes out]
MRS. POPOV: [To SMIRNOV.] If Nikolai Michailovitch is indebted to you, I shall,
of course, pay you, but I am sorry, I haven't the money to-day. To-morrow my
manager will return from the city and I shall notify him to pay you what is due you,
but until then I cannot satisfy your request. Furthermore, today is just seven months
since the death of my husband, and I am not in the mood to discuss money matters.
SMIRNOV: And I am in the mood to fly up the chimney with my feet in the air if I
can't lay hands on that interest to-morrow. They'll seize my estate!
MRS. POPOV: Day after to-morrow you will receive the money.
SMIRNOV: I don't need the money day after to-morrow; I need it to-day.
MRS. POPOV: I'm sorry I can't pay you today.
SMIRNOV: And I can't wait until day after to-morrow.
MRS. POPOV: But what can I do if I haven't it?
SMIRNOV: So you can't pay?
MRS. POPOV: I cannot.
SMIRNOV: Hm! Is that your last word?
MRS. POPOV: My last.
MRS. POPOV: Absolutely.
SMIRNOV: Yesterday morning I left my house in the early dawn and called on all my
debtors. To no avail. If even one of them had paid his debt ... but no, not one! And so
now at last come here, seventy versts from home - seventy, madam - hoping for a little
money. And all you give me is moods!
MRS. POPOV: I thought I made it plain to you that my manager will return from
town, and then you will get your money.
SMIRNOV: I did not come to see the manager; I came to see you. What the devil—
pardon my language—but what the devil do I care for your manager?
MRS. POPOV: Really, sir, I am not accustomed to such vulgarity. I shan't listen no further.[end of extract]