Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

That would last till dinner-time. Afterwards the old women would lie down to sleep, and I would stroll in the garden. Then we used to go to vespers, and in the evening have stories and songs again.

“How dearly I loved going to church. I used to feel just as if I were in Paradise, and I saw no one, and didn't know how time passed or when the service was ended. It was just as if it had all lasted only for a minute. My mother often said that every-one had been staring at me to find out what I was thinking about. For, you know, on a bright day, what a sunny shaft comes down from the cupola, and through it goes up the smoke of the incense like a cloud, and about that shaft I seemed to see angels flying and singing. And at night too, I used often to get up, and, after wandering about the house where the lamps were burning before the holy pictures, in some corner or other I would pray till dawn. Or perhaps, early in the morning, I would go out into the garden, just as the sun was rising, and there, falling on my knees, I would weep and pray, without knowing what I was weeping or praying for. And there they would find me. What it was I prayed about then, or what I asked for, I know not. For there was nothing I wanted then, I had all I wished. And what dreams I used to dream then! Golden temples and enchanted gardens, ringing with the voices of invisible singers and fragrant with the odour of cypresses, and hills and trees unlike what one sees in reality, but just like those there are in sacred pictures—and there I seemed to fly with wings and float upon the air.'

Varvara suggests that there is not much difference between her present and her past life, but Katerina says that there is all the difference in the world. In those days she did just as she liked, but now she is under restraint, and never can do what she wishes. Her life has become wearisome to her, she says, and she gladly thinks that she is going to die soon.

For she has strange dreams at night which warn her of her fate. Strange thoughts, too, haunt her, such as it is wrong for a wife to have, and at times she feels a longing for which she cannot account, a feeling as though she would gladly be gliding down the Volga in a boat, or skimming in a troika across the steppe, with one who is not her husband by her side. Varvara, who is a thorough nihilist, a selfish voluptuary, who cares for nothing but material pleasures, and believes neither in God nor man, laughs at the scruples and fears of her sister-in-law, and urges her to enjoy her life while she can.

She is aware that the young Boris Grigorevich, the nephew of the rich merchant Dikoi, is in love with Katerina, and she advises her to reward his devotion, saying, 'If you let the apportunity slip, 'will any one pity you?' This conversation takes place in one of the public walks, and at this point of it an old lady coming from vespers, attended by her two footmen, meets the girls and addresses them in the following strain :

Well beauties! What are you doing here? Are you waiting for your lovers? Are you happy, happy? Does your beauty please you? That's where beauty leads (pointing to the Volga). There, there-right into the whirlpool! (Varvara laughs). What are you laughing at? You needn't he so merry. You'll all burn in unquenchable fire. You'll all be burnt with everlasting brimstone. There, there! that's where beauty leads!'

Katerina is terribly frightened. Varvara tries to console her, saying that all the little boys in the town laugh at the old lady and her unquenchable fire. But just at this moment a peal of thunder is heard, and Katerina's fears return apace, and she cries

How can you help being frightened ? Everyone must be afraid. It's not being killed that's so terrible; but this, that death may carry you off just as you are, with all your sins, with all your evil thoughts. I am not afraid of dying, but when I think that I may have to appear suddenly before God, just as I am here with you, after this very talk--that's

what frightens me. For what was I thinking about just now! what sort of sin was it! terrible to mention!'

In a somewhat similar frame of mind we find her on another occasion some time afterwards. In the interval she has seen her lover, and allowed him to perceive that he is not indifferent to her. He has told her that he is sure she does not love her husband. “Yes I do,' she has replied; and pity him.' “Pity "and love never go together, has been his remark. But now she is very anxious to perform her duty towards her husband, and when he comes to tell her that he is going away on a long journey, she first entreats him not to go, and then, finding he will not consent, she implores him, before going, to bind her by some terrible oath not to yield to any temptation to do wrong. Her nature is so weak that she requires help to enable her to resist even what she well knows to be evil, and so she begs him to defend her against herself. The following scene ensues:

Katerina. Bind me by some terrible oath.
Kabanof. What sort of oath do you mean?

Katerina. Why this sort: that in your absence, I shouldn't dare to talk with any stranger, under any pretence—that I shouldn't dare even to think of anyone

Kabanof. Why, what's all this about?

Katerina. Give my soul peace; do me this little kindness!

Kabanof. Why, no one can answer for his thoughtssuch ideas come into one's head

Katerina (falling on her knees). May I never see father or mother more! May I die without repentance, if I

Kabanof (raising her up). What ever are you saying? What sin is this? I don't wish to hear about it.'

He goes away without paying any further attention to her entreaties, and she is left alone.

[ocr errors]

but you.

6

a

with song

Her good resolutions last but a short time. Varvara brings about a meeting in the garden between Katerina and Boris. It is on a lovely night, when all is still, and the air is fresh and pure, and from beyond the Volga comes the scent of the flowers in the meadows. Varvara leaves the two together and keeps watch with her lover, who whiles away the time with music and

At first Katerina repulses Boris, and seems to wish him to go away, but suddenly she flings her arms round his neck, and hides her face upon

his breast. All her good intentions have vanished, all recollections of duty and honour disappear, and she yields herself to her lover with that thorough abandonment, that total abnegation of self, which characterises a Russian girl's passionate impulsive love.

In the next scene Katerina, who, Varvara tells Boris, has been going about the house like a ghost' ever since that night in the garden, is walking on the boulevard with her husband and his mother when a storm comes on. The whole party take refuge in a long and narrow gallery, the roof of which, supported by pillars, affords them shelter from the rain. Katerina is in a painful state of nervous excitement, which increases as the storm approaches. The people outside describe its appearance; how the sky grows black, the thick vapour whirls, the clouds writhe as if they were alive, a strange colour comes over the landscape. Katerina grows more and more frightened. Her husband tries to comfort her, laughing at what the people, who are watching the progress of the storm, say; but his mother rebukes him, declaring that their words are perfectly true. Katerina cries out that she knows she shall be killed, and calls upon her friends to pray for her. Just then in comes the pious old lady with the two footmen as before, and tells her she can see now where beauty leads. 'It's no use trying to hide from God. You'll all burn with unquenchable fire. At this moment the storm breaks over the town. The lightning flashes, the thunder peals overhead. Katerina loses all command over herself, rushes forward and falling on her knees, screams

"Ah, Hell! Hell! Burning Hell! My heart is torn in two! I can't bear it any longer. Mother! Tichon! I have sinned before God and before you. Didn't I swear to you that I would not even look at anyone during your absence? Do you remember? But do you know what I, the shameless one, did while you were away? The very first night I went out of the house

Kabanof. Hush, hush! Don't speak! What are you doing? The mother' is here.

Kabanova. No; go on, now that you've begun.

Katerina. And every night I used to go- (Bursts into tears. Kabanof tries to soothe her.)

Kabanova. Let her go on. Whom did you go with?

'Boris. She is talking nonsense: she doesn't know what she is saying.

'Kabanova. Be quiet! So that's what you did. And with whom did you go?

Katerina. With Boris Grigorevich. (Thunder.) Ah! (Faints away in her husband's arms.)

Kabanova. Well, son! That's where freedom leads. I told you so; only you wouldn't listen to me. Now you're in for it.'

In the next scene Kabanof tells one of his friends all that has passed. His wife, he says, has used him very ill, but he cannot help feeling sorry for her. He hss scolded her well, and even beaten her a little, at his mother's particular request. But he is ready to forgive her now. She is always either weeping or moving about silently like a shadow. He pities her

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »