Leo Tolstoy Archive

The Power of Darkness
Act 5

Written: 1886
Source: Original Text from Gutenberg.org
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source: RevoltLib.com; 2021

Leo Tolstoy

Scene 1.

In front of scene a stack-stand, to the left a thrashing ground, to the right a barn. The barn doors are open. Straw is strewn about in the doorway. The hut with yard and out-buildings is seen in the background, whence proceed sounds of singing and of a tambourine. Two Girls are walking past the barn towards the hut.

FIRST GIRL. There, you see we've managed to pass without so much as getting our boots dirty! But to come by the street is terribly muddy! [Stop and wipe their boots on the straw. First Girl looks at the straw and sees something] What's that?

SECOND GIRL [looks where the straw lies and sees some one] It's Mítritch, their laborer. Just look how drunk he is!

FIRST GIRL. Why, I thought he didn't drink.

SECOND GIRL. It seems he didn't, until it was going around.

FIRST GIRL. Just see! He must have come to fetch some straw. Look! he's got a rope in his hand, and he's fallen asleep.

SECOND GIRL [listening] They're still singing the praises.[9] So I s'pose the bride and bridegroom have not yet been blessed! They say Akoulína didn't even lament![10]

FIRST GIRL. Mammie says she is marrying against her will. Her stepfather threatened her, or else she'd not have done it for the world! Why, you know what they've been saying about her?

MARÍNA [catching up the Girls] How d'you do, lassies?

GIRLS. How d'you do?

MARÍNA. Going to the wedding, my dears?

FIRST GIRL. It's nearly over! We've come just to have a look.

MARÍNA. Would you call my old man for me? Simon, from Zoúevo; but surely you know him?

FIRST GIRL. To be sure we do; he's a relative of the bridegroom's, I think?

MARÍNA. Of course; he's my old man's nephew, the bridegroom is.

SECOND GIRL. Why don't you go yourself? Fancy not going to a wedding!

MARÍNA. I have no mind for it, and no time either. It's time for us to be going home. We didn't mean to come to the wedding. We were taking oats to town. We only stopped to feed the horse, and they made my old man go in.

FIRST GIRL. Where did you put up then? At Fyódoritch's?

MARÍNA. Yes. Well then, I'll stay here and you go and call him, my dear—my old man. Call him, my pet, and say “Your missus, Marína, says you must go now!” His mates are harnessing.

FIRST GIRL. Well, all right—if you won't go in yourself.

The Girls go away towards the house along a footpath. Sounds of songs and tambourine.

MARÍNA [alone, stands thinking] I might go in, but I don't like to, because I have not met him since that day he threw me over. It's more than a year now. But I'd have liked to have a peep and see how he lives with his Anísya. People say they don't get on. She's a coarse woman, and with a character of her own. I should think he's remembered me more than once. He's been caught by the idea of a comfortable life and has changed me for it. But, God help him, I don't cherish ill-will! Then it hurt! Oh dear, it was pain! But now it's worn away and been forgotten. But I'd like to have seen him. [Looks towards hut and sees Nikíta] Look there! Why, he is coming here! Have the girls told him? How's it he has left his guests? I'll go away! [Nikíta approaches, hanging his head down, swinging his arms, and muttering] And how sullen he looks!

NIKÍTA [sees and recognizes Marína] Marína, dearest friend, little Marína, what do you want?

MARÍNA. I have come for my old man.

NIKÍTA. Why didn't you come to the wedding? You might have had a look round, and a laugh at my expense!

MARÍNA. What have I to laugh at? I've come for my husband.

NIKÍTA. Ah, Marína dear! [Tries to embrace her].

MARÍNA [steps angrily aside] You'd better drop that sort of thing, Nikíta! What has been, is past! I've come for my husband. Is he in your house?

NIKÍTA. So I must not remember the past? You won't let me?

MARÍNA. It's no use recalling the past! What used to be is over now!

NIKÍTA. And can never come back, you mean?

MARÍNA. And will never come back! But why have you gone away? You, the master,—and to go away from the feast!

NIKÍTA [sits down on the straw] Why have I gone away? Eh, if you knew, if you had any idea … I'm dull, Marína, so dull that I wish my eyes would not see! I rose from the table and left them, to get away from the people. If I could only avoid seeing any one!

MARÍNA [coming nearer to him] How's that?

NIKÍTA. This is how it is: when I eat, it's there! When I drink, it's there! When I sleep, it's there! I'm so sick of it—so sick! But it's chiefly because I'm all alone that I'm so sick, little Marína. I have no one to share my trouble.

MARÍNA. You can't live your life without trouble, Nikíta. However, I've wept over mine and wept it away.

NIKÍTA. The former, the old trouble! Ah, dear friend, you've wept yours away, and I've got mine up to there! [Puts his hand to his throat].

MARÍNA. But why?

NIKÍTA. Why, I'm sick of my whole life! I am sick of myself! Ah, Marína, why did you not know how to keep me? You've ruined me, and yourself too! Is this life?

MARÍNA [stands by the barn crying, but restrains herself] I do not complain of my life, Nikíta! God grant every one a life like mine. I do not complain. I confessed to my old man at the time, and he forgave me. And he does not reproach me. I'm not discontented with my life. The old man is quiet, and is fond of me, and I keep his children clothed and washed! He is really kind to me. Why should I complain? It seems God willed it so. And what's the matter with your life? You are rich …

NIKÍTA. My life!… It's only that I don't wish to disturb the wedding feast, or I'd take this rope here [takes hold of the rope on the straw] and throw it across that rafter there. Then I'd make a noose and stretch it out, and I'd climb on to that rafter and jump down with my head in the noose! That's what my life is!

MARÍNA. That's enough! Lord help you!

NIKÍTA. You think I'm joking? You think I'm drunk? I'm not drunk! To-day even drink takes no hold on me! I'm devoured by misery! Misery is eating me up completely, so that I care for nothing! Oh, little Marína, it's only with you I ever lived! Do you remember how we used to while away the nights together at the railway?

MARÍNA. Don't you rub the sores, Nikíta! I'm bound legally now, and you too. My sin has been forgiven, don't disturb …

NIKÍTA. What shall I do with my heart? Where am I to turn to?

MARÍNA. What's there to be done? You've got a wife. Don't go looking at others, but keep to your own! You loved Anísya, then go on loving her!

NIKÍTA. Oh, that Anísya, she's gall and wormwood to me, but she's round my feet like rank weeds!

MARÍNA. Whatever she is, still she's your wife.… But what's the use of talking; you'd better go to your visitors, and send my husband to me.

NIKÍTA. Oh dear, if you knew the whole business … but there's no good talking!

Enter Marína's husband, red and tipsy, and Naan.

MARÍNA'S HUSBAND. Marína! Missus! My old woman! are you here?

NIKÍTA. There's your husband calling you. Go!

MARÍNA. And you?

NIKÍTA. I? I'll lie down here for a bit! [Lies down on the straw].

HUSBAND. Where is she then?

NAAN. There she is, near the barn.

HUSBAND. What are you standing there for? Come to the feast! The hosts want you to come and do them honor! The wedding party is just going to start, and then we can go too.

MARÍNA [going towards her husband] I didn't want to go in.

HUSBAND. Come on, I tell you! You'll drink a glass to our nephew Peter's health, the rascal! Else the hosts might take offense! There's plenty of time for our business. [Marína's husband puts his arm around her, and goes reeling out with her].

NIKÍTA [rises and sits down on the straw] Ah, now that I've seen her, life seems more sickening than ever! It was only with her that I ever really lived! I've ruined my life for nothing! I've done for myself! [Lies down] Where can I go? If mother earth would but open and swallow me!

NAAN [sees Nikíta, and runs towards him] Daddy, I say, daddy! They're looking for you! Her godfather and all of them have already blessed her. Truly they have, they're getting cross!

NIKÍTA [aside] Where can I go to?

NAAN. What? What are you saying?

NIKÍTA. I'm not saying anything! Don't bother!

NAAN. Daddy! Come, I say! [Nikíta is silent, Naan pulls him by the hand] Dad, go and bless them! My word, they're angry, they're grumbling!

NIKÍTA [drags away his hand] Leave me alone!

NAAN. Now then!

NIKÍTA [threatens her with the rope] Go, I say! I'll give it you!

NAAN. Then I'll send mother! [Runs away].

NIKÍTA [rises] How can I go? How can I take the holy icón in my hands? How am I to look her in the face! [Lies down again] Oh, if there were a hole in the ground, I'd jump in! No one should see me, and I should see no one! [Rises again] No, I shan't go … May they all go to the devil, I shan't go! [Takes the rope and makes a noose, and tries it on his neck] That's the way!

Enter Matryóna. Nikíta sees his mother, takes the rope off his neck, and again lies down in the straw.

MATRYÓNA [comes in hurriedly] Nikíta! Nikíta, I say! He don't even answer! Nikíta, what's the matter? Have you had a drop too much? Come, Nikíta dear; come, honey! The people are tired of waiting.

NIKÍTA. Oh dear, what have you done with me? I'm a lost man!

MATRYÓNA. But what is the matter then? Come, my own; come, give them your blessing, as is proper and honorable, and then it'll all be over! Why, the people are waiting!

NIKÍTA. How can I give blessings?

MATRYÓNA. Why, in the usual way! Don't you know?

NIKÍTA. I know, I know! But who is it I am to bless? What have I done to her?

MATRYÓNA. What have you done? Eh, now he's going to remember it! Why, who knows anything about it? Not a soul! And the girl is going of her own accord.

NIKÍTA. Yes, but how?

MATRYÓNA. Because she's afraid, of course. But still she's going. Besides, what's to be done now? She should have thought sooner! Now she can't refuse. And his kinsfolk can't take offense either. They saw the girl twice, and get money with her too! It's all safe and sound!

NIKÍTA. Yes, but what's in the cellar?

MATRYÓNA [laughs] In the cellar? Why, cabbages, mushrooms, potatoes, I suppose! Why remember the past?

NIKÍTA. I'd be only too glad to forget it; but I can't! When I let my mind go, it's just as if I heard.… Oh, what have you done with me?

MATRYÓNA. Now, what are you humbugging for?

NIKÍTA [turns face downward] Mother! Don't torment me! I've got it up to there! [Puts his hand to his throat].

MATRYÓNA. Still it has to be done! As it is, people are talking. “The master's gone away and won't come; he can't make up his mind to give his blessing.” They'll be putting two and two together. As soon as they see you're frightened they'll begin guessing. “The thief none suspect who walks bold and erect!” But you'll be getting out of the frying-pan into the fire! Above all, lad, don't show it; don't lose courage, else they'll find out all the more!

NIKÍTA. Oh dear! You have snared me into a trap!

MATRYÓNA. That'll do, I tell you; come along! Come in and give your blessing, as is right and honorable;—and there's an end of the matter!

NIKÍTA [lies face down] I can't!

MATRYÓNA [aside] What has come over him? He seemed all right, and suddenly this comes over him! It seems he's bewitched! Get up, Nikíta! See! There's Anísya coming; she's left her guests!

Anísya enters, dressed up, red and tipsy.

ANÍSYA. Oh, how nice it is, mother! So nice, so respectable! And how the people are pleased.… But where is he?

MATRYÓNA. Here, honey, he's here; he's laid down on the straw and there he lies! He won't come!

NIKÍTA [looking at his wife] Just see, she's tipsy too! When I look at her my heart seems to turn! How can one live with her? [Turns on his face] I'll kill her some day! It'll be worse then!

ANÍSYA. Only look, how he's got all among the straw! Is it the drink? [Laughs] I'd not mind lying down there with you, but I've no time! Come, I'll lead you! It is so nice in the house! It's a treat to look on! A concertina! And the women singing so well! All tipsy! Everything so respectable, so nice!

NIKÍTA. What's nice?

ANÍSYA. The wedding—such a jolly wedding! They all say it's quite an uncommon fine wedding! All so respectable, so nice! Come along! We'll go together! I have had a drop, but I can give you a hand yet! [Takes his hand].

NIKÍTA [pulls it back with disgust] Go alone! I'll come!

ANÍSYA. What are you humbugging for? We've got rid of all the bother, we've got rid of her as came between us; now we have nothing to do but to live and be merry! And all so respectable, and quite legal! I'm so pleased! I have no words for it! It's just as if I were going to marry you over again! And oh, the people, they are pleased! They're all thanking us! And the guests are all of the best: Iván Moséitch is there, and the Police Officer; they've also been singing songs of praise!

NIKÍTA. Then you should have stayed with them! What have you come for?

ANÍSYA. True enough, I must go back! Else what does it look like! The hosts both go and leave the visitors! And the guests are all of the best!

NIKÍTA [gets up and brushes the straw off himself] Go, and I'll come at once!

MATRYÓNA. Just see! He listens to the young bird, but wouldn't listen to the old one! He would not hear me, but he follows his wife at once! [Matryóna and Anísya turn to go] Well, are you coming?

NIKÍTA. I'll come directly! You go and I'll follow! I'll come and give my blessing! [The women stop] Go on! I'll follow! Now then, go! [Exit women. Sits down and takes his boots off] Yes, I'm going! A likely thing! No, you'd better look at the rafter for me! I'll fix the noose and jump with it from the rafter, then you can look for me! And the rope is here just handy. [Ponders] I'd have got over it, over any sorrow—I'd have got over that. But this now—here it is, deep in my heart, and I can't get over it! [Looks towards the yard] Surely she's not coming back? [Imitates Anísya] “So nice, so nice. I'd lie down here with you.” Oh, the baggage! Well then, here I am! Come and cuddle when they've taken me down from the rafter! There's only one way! [Takes the rope and pulls it].

Mítritch, who is tipsy, sits up and won't let go of the rope.

MÍTRITCH. Shan't give it up! Shan't give it to no one! I'll bring it myself! I said I'd bring the straw—and so I will! Nikíta, is that you? [Laughs] Oh, the devil! Have you come to get the straw?

NIKÍTA. Give me the rope!

MÍTRITCH. No, you wait a bit! The peasants sent me! I'll bring it … [Rises to his feet and begins getting the straw together, but reels for a time, then falls] It has beaten me. It's stronger …

NIKÍTA. Give me the rope!

MÍTRITCH. Didn't I say I won't! Oh, Nikíta, you're as stupid as a hog! [Laughs] I love you, but you're a fool! You see that I'm drunk … devil take you! You think I need you?… You just look at me; I'm a Non … fool, can't say it—Noncommissioned Officer of Her Majesty's very First Regiment of Grenadier Guards! I've served Czar and country, loyal and true! But who am I? You think I'm a warrior? No, I'm not a warrior; I'm the very least of men, a poor lost orphan! I swore not to drink, and now I had a smoke, and … Well then, do you think I'm afraid of you? No fear; I'm afraid of no man! I've taken to drink, and I'll drink! Now I'll go it for a fortnight; I'll go it hard! I'll drink my last shirt; I'll drink my cap; I'll pawn my passport; and I'm afraid of no one! They flogged me in the army to stop me drinking! They switched and switched! “Well,” they say, “will you leave off?” “No,” says I! Why should I be afraid of them? Here I am! Such as I am, God made me! I swore off drinking, and didn't drink. Now I've took to drink, and I'll drink! And I fear no man! 'Cos I don't lie; but just as … Why should one mind them—such muck as they are! “Here you are,” I say; that's me. A priest told me, the devil's the biggest bragger! “As soon,” says he, “as you begin to brag, you get frightened; and as soon as you fear men, then the hoofed one just collars you and pushes you where he likes!” But as I don't fear men, I'm easy! I can spit in the devil's beard, and at the sow his mother! He can't do me no harm! There, put that in your pipe!

NIKÍTA [crossing himself] True enough! What was I about? [Throws down the rope].


NIKÍTA [rises] You tell me not to fear men?

MÍTRITCH. Why fear such muck as they are? You look at 'em in the bath-house! All made of one paste! One has a bigger belly, another a smaller; that's all the difference there is! Fancy being afraid of 'em! Deuce take 'em!

Nikíta. True enough! What was I about?
Mítritch. What?
Nikíta. You tell me not to fear men?
Mítritch. Why fear such muck as they are? You look at 'em in the bath-house!

MATRYÓNA [from the yard] Well, are you coming?

NIKÍTA. Ah! Better so! I'm coming! [Ges towards yard].


Scene 2.

Interior of hut, full of people, some sitting round tables and others standing. In the front corner Akoulína and the Bridegroom. On one of the tables an Icón and a loaf of rye-bread. Among the visitors are Marína, her husband, and a Police Officer, also a Hired Driver, the Matchmaker, and the Best Man. The women are singing. Anísya carries round the drink. The singing stops.

THE DRIVER. If we are to go, let's go! The church ain't so near.

THE BEST MAN. All right; you wait a bit till the step-father has given his blessing. But where is he?

ANÍSYA. He is coming—coming at once, dear friends! Have another glass all of you; don't refuse!

THE MATCHMAKER. Why is he so long? We've been waiting such a time!

ANÍSYA. He's coming; coming directly, coming in no time! He'll be here before one could plait a girl's hair who's had her hair cropped! Drink, friends! [Offers the drink] Coming at once! Sing again, my pets, meanwhile!

THE DRIVER. They've sung all their songs, waiting here!

The women sing. Nikíta and Akím enter during the singing.

NIKÍTA [holds his father's arm and pushes him in before him] Go, father; I can't do without you!

AKÍM. I don't like—I mean what d'ye call it …

NIKÍTA [to the women] Enough! Be quiet! [Looks round the hut] Marína, are you there?

THE MATCHMAKER. Go, take the icón, and give them your blessing!

NIKÍTA. Wait a while! [Looks round] Akoulína, are you there?

MATCHMAKER. What are you calling everybody for? Where should she be? How queer he seems!

ANÍSYA. Gracious goodness! Why, he's barefoot!

NIKÍTA. Father, you are here! Look at me! Christian Commune, you are all here, and I am here! I am … [Falls on his knees].

ANÍSYA. Nikíta darling, what's the matter with you? Oh my head, my head!

MATCHMAKER. Here's a go!

MATRYÓNA. I did say he was taking too much of that French wine! Come to your senses; what are you about?

They try to lift him; he takes no heed of them, but looks in front of him.

NIKÍTA. Christian Commune! I have sinned, and I wish to confess!

MATRYÓNA [shakes him by the shoulder] Are you mad? Dear friends, he's gone crazy! He must be taken away!

NIKÍTA [shakes her off] Leave me alone! And you, father, hear me! And first, Marína, look here! [Bows to the ground to her and rises] I have sinned towards you! I promised to marry you, I tempted you, and forsook you! Forgive me, in Christ's name! [Again bows to the ground before her].

ANÍSYA. And what are you driveling about? It's not becoming! No one wants to know! Get up! It's like your impudence!

MATRYÓNA. Oh, oh, he's bewitched! And however did it happen? It's a spell! Get up! what nonsense are you jabbering? [Pulls him].

NIKÍTA [shakes his head] Don't touch me! Forgive me my sin towards you, Marína! Forgive me, for Christ's sake!

Marína covers her face with her hands in silence.

ANÍSYA. Get up, I tell you! Don't be so impudent! What are you thinking about—to recall it? Enough humbug! It's shameful! Oh my poor head! He's quite crazy!

NIKÍTA [pushes his wife away and turns to Akoulína] Akoulína, now I'll speak to you! Listen, Christian Commune! I'm a fiend, Akoulína! I have sinned against you! Your father died no natural death! He was poisoned!

ANÍSYA [screams] Oh my head! What's he about?

MATRYÓNA. The man's beside himself! Lead him away!

The folk come up and try to seize him.

AKÍM [motions them back with his arms] Wait! You lads, what d'ye call it, wait, I mean!

NIKÍTA. Akoulína, I poisoned him! Forgive me, in Christ's name!

AKOULÍNA [jumps up] He's telling lies! I know who did it!

MATCHMAKER. What are you about? You sit still!

AKÍM. Oh Lord, what sins, what sins!

POLICE OFFICER. Seize him, and send for the Elder! We must draw up an indictment and have witnesses to it! Get up and come here!

AKÍM [to Police Officer] Now you—with the bright buttons—I mean, you wait! Let him, what d'ye call it, speak out, I mean!

POLICE OFFICER. Mind, old man, and don't interfere! I have to draw up an indictment!

AKÍM. Eh, what a fellow you are; wait, I say! Don't talk, I mean, about, what d'ye call it, 'ditements! Here God's work is being done.… A man is confessing, I mean! And you, what d'ye call it … 'ditements!


AKÍM. Let God's work be done, I mean, and then you, I mean, you do your business!

NIKÍTA. And, Akoulína, my sin is great towards you; I seduced you; forgive me in Christ's name! [Bows to the ground before her].

AKOULÍNA [leaves the table] Let me go! I shan't be married! He told me to, but I shan't now!

POLICE OFFICER. Repeat what you have said.

NIKÍTA. Wait, sir, let me finish!

AKÍM [with rapture] Speak, my son! Tell everything—you'll feel better! Confess to God, don't fear men! God—God! It is He!

NIKÍTA. I poisoned the father, dog that I am, and I ruined the daughter! She was in my power, and I ruined her, and her baby!

AKOULÍNA. True, that's true!

NIKÍTA. I smothered the baby in the cellar with a board! I sat on it and smothered it—and its bones crunched! [Weeps] And I buried it! I did it, all alone!

AKOULÍNA. He raves! I told him to!

NIKÍTA. Don't shield me! I fear no one now! Forgive me, Christian Commune! [Bows to the ground].


POLICE OFFICER. Bind him! The marriage is evidently off!

Men come up with their belts.

NIKÍTA. Wait, there's plenty of time! [Bows to the ground before his father] Father, dear father, forgive me too,—fiend that I am! You told me from the first, when I took to bad ways, you said then, “If a claw is caught, the bird is lost!” I would not listen to your words, dog that I was, and it has turned out as you said! Forgive me, for Christ's sake!

AKÍM [rapturously] God will forgive you, my own son! [Embraces him] You have had no mercy on yourself, He will show mercy on you! God—God! It is He!

Enter Elder.

ELDER. There are witnesses enough here.

POLICE OFFICER. We will have the examination at once.

Nikíta is bound.

AKOULÍNA [goes and stands by his side] I shall tell the truth! Ask me!

NIKÍTA [bound] No need to ask! I did it all myself. The design was mine, and the deed was mine. Take me where you like. I will say no more!