Arms and the Man
Night. A lady's bedchamber in Bulgaria, in a small town near the Dragoman
Pass. It is late in November in the year 1885, and through an open window with a
little balcony on the left can be seen a peak of the Balkans, wonderfully white and
beautiful in the starlit snow. The interior of the room is not like anything to be
seen in the east of Europe. It is half rich Bulgarian, half cheap Viennese. The
counterpane and hangings of the bed, the window curtains, the little carpet, and
all the ornamental textile fabrics in the room are oriental and gorgeous: the paper
on the walls is occidental and paltry. Above the head of the bed, which stands
against a little wall cutting off the right hand corner of the room diagonally, is a
painted wooden shrine, blue and gold, with an ivory image of Christ, and a light
hanging before it in a pierced metal ball suspended by three chains. On the left,
further forward, is an ottoman. The washstand, against the wall on the left,
consists of an enamelled iron basin with a pail beneath it in a painted metal
frame, and a single towel on the rail at the side. A chair near it is Austrian bent
wood, with cane seat. The dressing table, between the bed and the window, is an
ordinary pine table, covered with a cloth of many colors, but with an expensive
toilet mirror on it. The door is on the right; and there is a chest of drawers
between the door and the bed. This chest of drawers is also covered by a
variegated native cloth, and on it there is a pile of paper backed novels, a box of
chocolate creams, and a miniature easel, on which is a large photograph of an
extremely handsome officer, whose lofty bearing and magnetic glance can be felt
even from the portrait. The room is lighted by a candle on the chest of drawers,
and another on the dressing table, with a box of matches beside it.
The window is hinged doorwise and stands wide open, folding back to the left.
Outside a pair of wooden shutters, opening outwards, also stand open. On the
balcony, a young lady, intensely conscious of the romantic beauty of the night,
and of the fact that her own youth and beauty is a part of it, is on the balcony,
gazing at the snowy Balkans. She is covered by a long mantle of furs, worth, on
a moderate estimate, about three times the furniture of her room.
Her reverie is interrupted by her mother, Catherine Petkoff, a woman over forty,
imperiously energetic, with magnificent black hair and eyes, who might be a very
splendid specimen of the wife of a mountain farmer, but is determined to be a
Viennese lady, and to that end wears a fashionable tea gown on all occasions.
CATHERINE (entering hastily, full of good news). Raina--(she pronounces it
Rah-eena, with the stress on the ee) Raina--(she goes to the bed, expecting to
find Raina there.) Why, where--(Raina looks into the room.) Heavens! child, are
you out in the night air instead of in your bed? You'll catch your death. Louka told
me you were asleep.