LUKA: Some one has to be kind, girl — some one has to pity people! Christ pitied everybody — and he said to us: “Go and do likewise!” I tell you — if you pity a man when he most needs it, good comes of it. Why — I used to be a watchman on the estate of an engineer near Tomsk — all right — the house was right in the middle of a forest — lonely place — winter came — and I remained all by myself. Well — one night I heard a noise — thieves creeping in! I took my gun — I went out. I looked and saw two of them opening a window — and so busy that they didn’t even see me. I yell: “Hey there — get out of here!” And they turn on me with their axes — I warn them to stand back, or I’d shoot — and as I speak, I keep on covering them with my gun, first on the one, then the other — they go down on their knees, as if to implore me for mercy. And by that time I was furious — because of those axes, you see — and so I say to them: “I was chasing you, you scoundrels — and you didn’t go. Now you go and break off some stout branches!” — and they did so — and I say: “Now — one of you lie down and let the other one flog him!” So they obey me and flog each other — and then they began to implore me again. “Grandfather,” they say, “for God’s sake give us some bread! We’re hungry!” There’s thieves for you, my dear! [Laughs.] And with an ax, too! Yes — honest peasants, both of them! And I say to them, “You should have asked for bread straight away!” And they say: “We got tired of asking — you beg and beg — and nobody gives you a crumb — it hurts!” So they stayed with me all that winter — one of them, Stepan, would take my gun and go shooting in the forest — and the other, Yakoff, was ill most of the time — he coughed a lot . . . and so the three of us together looked after the house . . . then spring came . . . “Good-bye, grandfather,” they said — and they went away — back home to Russia . . . escaped convicts — from a Siberian prison camp . . . honest peasants! If I hadn’t felt sorry for them — they might have killed me — or maybe worse — and then there would have been a trial and prison and afterwards Siberia — what’s the sense of it? Prison teaches no good — and Siberia doesn’t either — but another human being can . . . yes, a human being can teach another one kindness — very simply!
Credits: Reprinted from The Moscow Art Theatre Series of Plays. Ed. Oliver M. Sayler. New York: Brantanos, 1922.