It is noon of a hot and perfectly still summer’s day. Now and then the clucking of hens is heard under the windows. The clock in the belfry of the monastery strikes every half-hour, a long, indistinct wheeze preceding the first stroke.
Pelagueya, who is pregnant, is scrubbing the floor. Seized with giddiness, she staggers to her feet and leans against the wall, staring before her with a vacant gaze._
Oh, God! (She starts to scrub the floor again)
LIPA (enters, faint from heat)
How stifling! I don’t know what to do with myself. My head seems full of pins and needles. (She sits down) Polya, say, Polya.
What is it?
Oh, I can’t stand it. (She opens the window, then takes a turn round the room, moving aimlessly and, glancing into the tavern) Tony’s sleeping too—behind the counter. It would be nice to go in, bathing, but it’s too hot to walk to the river. Polya, why don’t you speak? Say something.
Scrubbing, scrubbing, all the time.
And in a day from now the floors will be dirty again. I don’t see what pleasure you get from working the way you do.
I have to.
I just took a peep at the street. It’s awful. Not a human being in sight, not even a dog. All is dead. And the monastery has such a queer look. It seems to be hanging in the air. You have the feeling that if you were to blow on it, it would begin to swing and fly away. Why are you so silent, Polya? Where is Savva? Have you seen him?
He’s in the pasture playing jackstones with the children.
He’s a funny fellow.
I don’t see anything funny about it. He ought to be working, that’s what he ought to be doing, not playing like a baby. I don’t like your Savva.
No, Polya, he is good.
Good? I spoke to him and told him how hard the work was for me. “Well,” he says, “if you want to be a horse, pull.” What did he come here for? I wish he’d stayed where he was.