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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Live Corpse - Act 1 Scene 2
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The Live Corpse - Act 1 Scene 2 Post by :andrewteg Category :Plays Author :Leo Tolstoy Date :May 2012 Read :2460

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The Live Corpse - Act 1 Scene 2

ACT I SCENE II

(A room in the gipsies' house. The choir is singing "Kanavela." Fedya in his shirt-sleeves is lying prone on the sofa. Afremov sits astride a chair in front of the leader of the choir. An officer sits at a table, on which are bottles of champagne and glasses. A musician is taking notes.)

AFREMOV. Fedya, are you asleep?

FEDYA (rising) Don't talk.... Now let's have "Not at Eve."

GIPSY LEADER. That won't do, Theodore Vasilyevich! Let Masha sing a solo now.

FEDYA. All right! And then, "Not at Eve." (Lies down again).

OFFICER. Sing "Fateful Hour."

GIPSY. All agreed?

AFREMOV. Go on!

OFFICER (to musician) Have you taken it down?

MUSICIAN. Quite impossible! It's different every time.... And the scale is somehow different. Look here! (Beckons to a gipsy woman who is looking on) Is this right? (Hums).

GIPSY. That's it, that's splendid!

FEDYA. He'll never get it; and if he does take it down and shoves it into an opera, he'll only spoil it!... Now, Masha, start off! Let's have "Fateful Hour"--take your guitar. (Rises, sits down opposite her, and gazes into her eyes).

(Masha sings.)

FEDYA. That's good too! Masha, you're a brick!... Now then, "Not at Eve"!

AFREMOV. No, wait! First, my burial song....

OFFICER. Why _burial_?

AFREMOV. Because, when I'm dead ... you know, dead and laid in my coffin, the gipsies will come (you know I shall leave instructions with my wife) and they will begin to sing "I Walked a Mile" ... and then I'll jump out of my coffin!... Do you understand? (To the musician) You just write this down. (To the gipsies) Well, rattle along!

(Gipsies sing.)

AFREMOV. What do you think of that?... Now then, "My Brave Lads"!

(Gipsies sing.)

(Afremov gesticulates and dances. The gipsies smile and continue singing, clapping their hands. Afremov sits down and the song ends.)

GIPSIES. Bravo! Michael Andreyevich!(4) He's a real gipsy!

(NOTE 4: The polite way of addressing Mr. Afremov.)

FEDYA. Well, _now "Not at Eve"!

(Gipsies sing.)

FEDYA. That's it! It's wonderful ... And where does it all happen--all that this music expresses? Ah, it's fine!... And how is it man can reach such ecstasy, and cannot keep it?

MUSICIAN (taking notes) Yes, it's most original.

FEDYA. Not original--but the real thing!

AFREMOV (to gipsies) Well, have a rest now. (Takes the guitar and sits down beside Katya, one of the gipsies).

MUSICIAN. It's really simple, except the rhythm....

FEDYA (waves his hand, goes to Masha, and sits down on sofa beside her) Oh, Masha, Masha! How you do turn me inside-out!

MASHA. And how about what I asked you for?

FEDYA. What? Money?... (Takes some out of his trouser-pocket) Here, take it!

(Masha laughs, takes it, and hides it in her bosom.)

FEDYA (to the gipsies) Who can make it out? She opens heaven for me, and then asks for money to buy scents with! (To Masha) Why, you don't in the least understand what you're doing!

MASHA. Not understand indeed! I understand that when I am in love, I try to please my man, and sing all the better.

FEDYA. Do you love me?

MASHA. Looks like it!

FEDYA. Wonderful! (Kisses her).

(Exeunt most of the gipsies. Some couples remain: Fedya with Masha, Afremov with Katya, and the officer with Gasha. The musician writes. A gipsy man strums a valse tune on the guitar.)

 

FEDYA. But I'm married, and your choir won't allow it....

MASHA. The choir is one thing, one's heart's another! I love those I love, and hate those I hate.

FEDYA. Ah! This is good! Isn't it?

MASHA. Of course it's good--we've jolly visitors, and are all merry.

(Enter gipsy man.)

GIPSY (to Fedya) A gentleman is asking for you.

FEDYA. What gentleman?

GIPSY. I don't know.... Well dressed, wears a sable overcoat--

FEDYA. A swell? Well, ask him in. (Exit Gipsy).

AFREMOV. Who has come to see you here?

FEDYA. The devil knows! Who can want me?

(Enter Karenin. Looks round.)

FEDYA. Ah, Victor! I never expected _you_!... Take off your coat!... What wind has blown you here? Come, sit down and listen to "Not at Eve."

KARENIN. _Je voudrais vous parler sans tEmoins._(5)

(NOTE 5: I wanted to speak to you alone.)

FEDYA. What about?

KARENIN. _Je viens de chez vous. Votre femme m'a chargE de cette lettre et puis ..._(6)

(NOTE 6: I have come from your home. Your wife has entrusted me with this letter and besides ...)

FEDYA (takes letter, reads, frowns, then smiles affectionately) I say, Karenin, of course you know what is in this letter?

KARENIN. I know ... and I want to say ...

FEDYA. Wait, wait a bit! Please don't imagine that I am drunk and my words irresponsible.... I mean, that I am irresponsible! I am drunk, but in this matter I see quite clearly.... Well, what were you commissioned to say?

KARENIN. I was commissioned to find you, and to tell you ... that ... she ... is waiting for you. She asks you to forget everything and come back.

FEDYA (listens in silence, gazing into Karenin's eyes) Still, I don't understand why _you ...

KARENIN. Elisabeth Andreyevna sent for me, and asked me ...

FEDYA. So ...

KARENIN. But I ask you, not so much in your wife's name as from myself.... Come home!

FEDYA. You are a better man than I. (What nonsense! It is easy enough to be better than I) ... I am a scoundrel, and you are a good--yes, a good man.... And that is the very reason why I won't alter my decision.... No! Not on that account either--but simply because I can't and won't.... How could I return?

KARENIN. Let us go to my rooms now, and I'll tell her that you will return to-morrow.

FEDYA. And to-morrow, what?... I shall still be I, and she--she. (Goes to the table and drinks) It's best to have the tooth out at one go.... Didn't I say that if I broke my word she was to throw me over? Well, I have broken it, and that's the end of it.

KARENIN. For you, but not for her!

FEDYA. It is extraordinary that _you should take pains to prevent our marriage being broken up!

KARENIN (is about to speak, but Masha comes up) ...

FEDYA (interrupting him) Just hear her sing "The Flax"!... Masha!

(The gipsies re-enter.)

MASHA (whispers) An ovation, eh?

FEDYA (laughs) An ovation!... "Victor, my Lord! Son of Michael!" ...

(Gipsies sing a song of greeting and laudation.)

KARENIN (listens in confusion then asks) How much shall I give them?

FEDYA. Well, give them twenty-five roubles.(7)

(NOTE 7: About £2, 10s.)

(Karenin gives the money.)

FEDYA. Splendid! And now, "The Flax!"

(Gipsies sing.)

FEDYA (looks round) Karenin's bunked!... Well, devil take him!

(Gipsy group breaks up.)

FEDYA (sits down by Masha) Do you know who that was?

MASHA. I heard his name.

FEDYA. He's an excellent fellow! He came to take me home to my wife. She loves a fool like me, and see what I am doing here ...!

MASHA. Well, and it's wrong! You ought to go back to her.... You ought to pity her.

FEDYA. You think I ought to? Well, I think I ought not.

MASHA. Of course, if you don't love her you need not. Only love counts.

FEDYA. And how do you know that?

MASHA. Seems I do!

FEDYA. Well, kiss me then!... Now, let's have "The Flax" once more, and then finish up.

(Gipsies sing.)

FEDYA. Ah, how good it is! If only one hadn't to wake up!... If one could die so!

(Curtain.)

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