The scene is laid in the park on SORIN'S estate. A broad avenue of trees leads away from
the audience toward a lake which lies lost in the depths of the park. The avenue is
obstructed by a rough stage, temporarily erected for the performance of amateur
theatricals, and which screens the lake from view. There is a dense growth of bushes to
the left and right of the stage. A few chairs and a little table are placed in front of the
stage. The sun has just set. JACOB and some other workmen are heard hammering and
coughing on the stage behind the lowered curtain.
MASHA and MEDVIEDENKO come in from the left, returning from a walk.
MEDVIEDENKO. Why do you always wear mourning?
MASHA. I dress in black to match my life. I am unhappy.
MEDVIEDENKO. Why should you be unhappy? [Thinking it over] I don't understand
it. You are healthy, and though your father is not rich, he has a good competency. My life
is far harder than yours. I only have twenty-three roubles a month to live on, but I don't
wear mourning. [They sit down].
MASHA. Happiness does not depend on riches; poor men are often happy.
MEDVIEDENKO. In theory, yes, but not in reality. Take my case, for instance; my
mother, my two sisters, my little brother and I must all live somehow on my salary of
twenty-three roubles a month. We have to eat and drink, I take it. You wouldn't have us
go without tea and sugar, would you? Or tobacco? Answer me that, if you can.
MASHA. [Looking in the direction of the stage] The play will soon begin.
MEDVIEDENKO. Yes, Nina Zarietchnaya is going to act in Treplieff's play. They love
one another, and their two souls will unite to-night in the effort to interpret the same idea
by different means. There is no ground on which your soul and mine can meet. I love
you. Too restless and sad to stay at home, I tramp here every day, six miles and back, to
be met only by your indifference. I am poor, my family is large, you can have no
inducement to marry a man who cannot even find sufficient food for his own mouth.
MASHA. It is not that. [She takes snuff] I am touched by your affection, but I cannot
return it, that is all. [She offers him the snuff-box] Will you take some?
MEDVIEDENKO. No, thank you. [A pause.]
MASHA. The air is sultry; a storm is brewing for to-night. You do nothing but moralise
or else talk about money. To you, poverty is the greatest misfortune that can befall a man,