Basics

Show Type
Genders
  • : 2
  • : 0
Age Ranges
  • Adult
  • Young Adult
Style
Period
Time/Place
Russia, 1901
Act/Scene
Act 3

Scene Context

Natasha is speaking with one of her sisters in law, Olga. Natasha is slowly taking over more and

Scene Text

NATASHA. They are saying that a committee to assist the sufferers from the fire must be formed at once. What do you think of that? It’s a beautiful idea. Of course the poor ought to be helped, it’s the duty of the rich. Bobby and little Sophy are sleeping, sleeping as if nothing at all was the matter. There’s such a lot of people here, the place is full of them, wherever you go. There’s influenza in the town now. I’m afraid the children may catch it.

OLGA. [Not attending] In this room we can’t see the fire, it’s quiet here.

NATASHA. Yes... I suppose I’m all untidy. [Before the looking-glass] They say I’m growing stout... it isn’t true! Certainly it isn’t! Masha’s asleep; the poor thing is tired out.... [Coldly, to ANFISA] Don’t dare to be seated in my presence! Get up! Out of this! [Exit ANFISA; a pause] I don’t understand what makes you keep on that old woman!

OLGA. [Confusedly] Excuse me, I don’t understand either...

NATASHA. She’s no good here. She comes from the country, she ought to live there.... Spoiling her, I call it! I like order in the house! We don’t want any unnecessary people here. [Strokes her cheek] You’re tired, poor thing! Our head mistress is tired! And when my little Sophie grows up and goes to school I shall be so afraid of you.

OLGA. I shan’t be head mistress.

NATASHA. They’ll appoint you, Olga. It’s settled.

OLGA. I’ll refuse the post. I can’t... I’m not strong enough.... [Drinks water] You were so rude to nurse just now... I’m sorry. I can’t stand it... everything seems dark in front of me....

NATASHA. [Excited] Forgive me, Olga, forgive me... I didn’t want to annoy you.

[MASHA gets up, takes a pillow and goes out angrily.]

OLGA. Remember, dear... we have been brought up, in an unusual way, perhaps, but I can’t bear this. Such behaviour has a bad effect on me, I get ill... I simply lose heart!

NATASHA. Forgive me, forgive me.... [Kisses her.]

OLGA. Even the least bit of rudeness, the slightest impoliteness, upsets me.

NATASHA. I often say too much, it’s true, but you must agree, dear, that she could just as well live in the country.

OLGA. She has been with us for thirty years.

NATASHA. But she can’t do any work now. Either I don’t understand, or you don’t want to understand me. She’s no good for work, she can only sleep or sit about.

OLGA. And let her sit about.

NATASHA. [Surprised] What do you mean? She’s only a servant. [Crying] I don’t understand you, Olga. I’ve got a nurse, a wet-nurse, we’ve a cook, a housemaid... what do we want that old woman for as well? What good is she? [Fire-alarm behind the stage.]

OLGA. I’ve grown ten years older to-night.

NATASHA. We must come to an agreement, Olga. Your place is the school, mine—the home. You devote yourself to teaching, I, to the household. And if I talk about servants, then I do know what I am talking about; I do know what I am talking about... And to-morrow there’s to be no more of that old thief, that old hag... [Stamping] that witch! And don’t you dare to annoy me! Don’t you dare! [Stopping short] Really, if you don’t move downstairs, we shall always be quarrelling. This is awful.