IRINA. Yes, reall...
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Masha and Irina are both in despair and it is up to the eldest sister, Olga, to comfort and placate
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IRINA. Yes, really, our Andrey has grown smaller; how he’s snuffed out and aged with that woman! He used to want to be a professor, and yesterday he was boasting that at last he had been made a member of the district council. He is a member, and Protopopov is chairman.... The whole town talks and laughs about it, and he alone knows and sees nothing.... And now everybody’s gone to look at the fire, but he sits alone in his room and pays no attention, only just plays on his fiddle. [Nervily] Oh, it’s awful, awful, awful. [Weeps] I can’t, I can’t bear it any longer!... I can’t, I can’t!... [OLGA comes in and clears up at her little table. IRINA is sobbing loudly] Throw me out, throw me out, I can’t bear any more!
OLGA. [Alarmed] What is it, what is it? Dear!
IRINA. [Sobbing] Where? Where has everything gone? Where is it all? Oh my God, my God! I’ve forgotten everything, everything... I don’t remember what is the Italian for window or, well, for ceiling... I forget everything, every day I forget it, and life passes and will never return, and we’ll never go away to Moscow... I see that we’ll never go....
OLGA. Dear, dear....
IRINA. [Controlling herself] Oh, I am unhappy... I can’t work, I shan’t work. Enough, enough! I used to be a telegraphist, now I work at the town council offices, and I have nothing but hate and contempt for all they give me to do... I am already twenty-three, I have already been at work for a long while, and my brain has dried up, and I’ve grown thinner, plainer, older, and there is no relief of any sort, and time goes and it seems all the while as if I am going away from the real, the beautiful life, farther and farther away, down some precipice. I’m in despair and I can’t understand how it is that I am still alive, that I haven’t killed myself.
OLGA. Don’t cry, dear girl, don’t cry... I suffer, too.
IRINA. I’m not crying, not crying.... Enough.... Look, I’m not crying any more. Enough... enough!
OLGA. Dear, I tell you as a sister and a friend if you want my advice, marry the Baron. [IRINA cries softly] You respect him, you think highly of him.... It is true that he is not handsome, but he is so honourable and clean... people don’t marry from love, but in order to do one’s duty. I think so, at any rate, and I’d marry without being in love. Whoever he was, I should marry him, so long as he was a decent man. Even if he was old....
IRINA. I was always waiting until we should be settled in Moscow, there I should meet my true love; I used to think about him, and love him.... But it’s all turned out to be nonsense, all nonsense....
OLGA. [Embraces her sister] My dear, beautiful sister, I understand everything; when Baron Nicolai Lvovitch left the army and came to us in evening dress, [Note: I.e. in the correct dress for making a proposal of marriage.] he seemed so bad-looking to me that I even started crying.... He asked, “What are you crying for?” How could I tell him! But if God brought him to marry you, I should be happy. That would be different, quite different.
[NATASHA with a candle walks across the stage from right to left without saying anything.]
MASHA. [Sitting up] She walks as if she’s set something on fire.
OLGA. Masha, you’re silly, you’re the silliest of the family. Please forgive me for saying so. [Pause.]
MASHA. I want to make a confession, dear sisters. My soul is in pain. I will confess to you, and never again to anybody... I’ll tell you this minute. [Softly] It’s my secret but you must know everything... I can’t be silent.... [Pause] I love, I love... I love that man.... You saw him only just now.... Why don’t I say it... in one word. I love Vershinin.
OLGA. [Goes behind her screen] Stop that, I don’t hear you in any case.
MASHA. What am I to do? [Takes her head in her hands] First he seemed queer to me, then I was sorry for him... then I fell in love with him... fell in love with his voice, his words, his misfortunes, his two daughters.
OLGA. [Behind the screen] I’m not listening. You may talk any nonsense you like, it will be all the same, I shan’t hear.
MASHA. Oh, Olga, you are foolish. I am in love—that means that is to be my fate. It means that is to be my lot.... And he loves me.... It is all awful. Yes; it isn’t good, is it? [Takes IRINA’S hand and draws her to her] Oh, my dear.... How are we going to live through our lives, what is to become of us.... When you read a novel it all seems so old and easy, but when you fall in love yourself, then you learn that nobody knows anything, and each must decide for himself.... My dear ones, my sisters... I’ve confessed, now I shall keep silence.... Like the lunatics in Gogol’s story, I’m going to be silent... silent...
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