from The Proposal
by Anton Chekhov
LOMOV. It’s cold . . . I’m trembling all over, just as if I’d got an examination before me. The great thing is, I must have my mind made up. If I give myself time to think, to hesitate, to talk a lot, to look for an ideal, or for real love, then I’ll never get married… Brr! . . . It’s cold! Natalya Stepanovna is an excellent housekeeper, not bad-looking, well-educated. . . . What more do I want? But I’m getting a noise in my ears from excitement. [Drinks] And it’s impossible for me not to marry. . . .In the first place, I’m already 35-a critical age, so to speak. In the second place, I ought to lead a quiet and regular life. . . . I suffer from palpitations, I’m excitable and always getting awfully upset. . . . At this very moment my lips are trembling, and there’s a twitch in my right eyebrow. . . . But the very worst of all is the way I sleep. I no sooner get into bed and begin to go off when suddenly something in my left side-gives a pull, and I can feel it in my shoulder and head. . . . I jump up like a lunatic, walk about a bit, and lie down again, but as soon as I begin to get off to sleep there’s another pull! And this may happen twenty times. . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA comes in.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Well, there! It’s you, and Papa said, “Go; there’s a merchant come for his goods.” How do you do, Ivan Vassilevitch!
LOMOV. How do you do, honoured Natalya Stepanovna.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. You must excuse my apron and négligée . . . we’re shelling peas for drying. Why haven’t you been here for such a long time? Sit down. . . . [They seat themselves] Won’t you have some lunch?
LOMOV. No, thank you, I’ve had some already.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Then smoke. . . . Here are the matches. . . . The weather is splendid now, but yesterday it was so wet that the workmen didn’t do anything all day. How much hay have you stacked? Just think, I felt greedy and had the whole field cut, and now I’m not at all pleased about it because I’m afraid my hay may rot. I ought to have waited a bit. But what’s this? Why, you’re in evening dress! Well, I never! Are you going to a ball, or what?-though I must say you look better. . . . Tell me, why are you got up like that?
LOMOV. [Excited] You see, honoured Natalya Stepanovna . . . the fact is, I’ve made up my mind to ask you to hear me out . . . Of course you’ll be surprised and perhaps even angry, but a …[Aside] It’s awfully cold!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. What’s the matter? [Pause] Well?
LOMOV. I shall try to be brief. You must know, honoured Natalya Stepanovna, that I have long, since my childhood, in fact, had the privilege of knowing your family. My late aunt and her husband, from whom, as you know, I inherited my land, always had the greatest respect for your father and your late mother. The Lomovs and the Chubukovs have always had the most friendly, and I might almost say the most affectionate, regard for each other. And, as you know, my land is a near neighbor of yours. You will remember that my Oxen Meadows touch your birchwoods.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Excuse my interrupting you. You say, “my Oxen Meadows…” But are they yours?
LOMOV. Yes, mine.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. What are you talking about! Oxen Meadows are ours, not yours!
LOMOV. No, mine, honoured Natalya Stepanovna.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Well, I never knew that before. How do you make that out?
LOMOV. How? I’m speaking of those Oxen Meadows which are wedged in between your birchwoods and the Burnt Marsh.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Yes, yes. . . . They’re ours.
LOMOV. No, you’re mistaken, honoured Natalya Stepanovna, they’re mine.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Just think, Ivan Vassilevitch! How long have they been yours?
LOMOV. How long? As long as I can remember.
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Really, you won’t get me to believe that!
LOMOV. But you can see from the documents, honoured Natalya Stepanovna. Oxen Meadows, it’s true, were once the subject of dispute, but now everybody knows that they are mine. There’s nothing to argue about. You see, my aunt’s grandmother gave the free use of these Meadows in perpetuity to the peasants of your father’s grandfather, in return for which they were to make bricks for her. The peasants belonging to your father’s grandfather had the free use of the Meadows for forty years, and had got into the habit of regarding them as their own, when it happened that . . .
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. No, it isn’t at all like that! Both my grandfather and great-grandfather reckoned that their land extended to Burnt Marsh-which means that Oxen Meadows were ours. I don’t see what there is to argue about. It’s simply silly.
LOMOV. I’ll show you the documents, Natalya Stepanovna!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. No, you’re simply joking, or making fun of me. . . . What a surprise! We’ve had the land for nearly three hundred years, and then we’re suddenly told that it isn’t ours! Ivan Vassilevitch, I can hardly believe my own ears. . . . These Meadows aren’t worth much to me. They only come to five dessiatins [13H acres], and are worth perhaps 300 roubles, but I can’t stand unfairness. Say what you will, but I can’t stand unfairness. . . .
LOMOV. Then you make out that I’m a land-grabber, Madam. Never in my life have I grabbed anybody else’s land, and I shan’t allow anybody to accuse me of having done so. . . . [Quickly steps to the carafe and drinks more water] Oxen Meadows are mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. It’s not true, they’re ours!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. It’s not true! I’ll prove it! I’ll send my mowers out to the Meadows this very day!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. My mowers will be there this very day!
LOMOV. I’ll give it to them in the neck!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. You dare!
LOMOV. [Clutches at his heart] Oxen Meadows are mine! You understand? Mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Please don’t shout! You can shout yourself hoarse in your own house, but here I must ask you to restrain yourself!
LOMOV. If it wasn’t, madam, for this awful, excruciating palpitation, if my whole inside wasn’t upset, I’d talk to you in a different way! [Yells] Oxen Meadows are mine!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Ours!
NATALYA STEPANOVNA. Ours!
Which reason does Lomov not give for wanting to marry Natalya?