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The Chains of an Oath (1913)

Short | Drama

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The life of the Russian peasant means hard work, with little opportunity for education, pleasure or refinement; one continuous grind and scant existence. Donia, a pretty girl, lives in the midst of these surroundings, and when she hears from one of her countrymen who has returned from America of the possibilities and advantages of liberty and advancement in the country across the sea, she asks her father's permission to return to America with their friend. At first he refuses to give his consent, but after some persuasion, however, on the part of the visitor he grants it. She packs up her few belongings and takes leave of her family and friends. Gregory, to whom she is betrothed, more through custom than love, is disturbed and asks her why she is going away when she is engaged to him. Her father assures Gregory that she will return, and she further assures him by making the same promise. In confirmation of this promise her father insists that she take an oath to that effect. Donia arrives in America and secures employment as a servant with a family who take very kindly to her, and to whom she becomes very much attached. She attends night school and soon acquires a knowledge of English. At the school she meets Ivan, a fellow countryman, who has become Americanized and is in every way a very worthy young man. He falls violently in love with her, and she is very much pleased with his attentions. Ivan proposes to her, and Donia cannot hide her love for him. While they are discussing the matter she receives a letter from her father, telling her to remember her oath to marry Gregory and requesting her to return to Russia as soon as possible to fulfill her promise. This sudden reminder of her oath causes her to reel. Ivan catches her in his arms and asks her the cause of her distress. She then tells him about her oath. Ivan is heartbroken and she is very much downcast. He tries to induce her to disregard her obligation and points out its injustice. She, with that stolid and inherent idea of filial duty, refuses and prepares to return to her native land. After Donia's departure Ivan is frantic with grief. Though he tries to withstand his love for her, he finds it impossible, and soon follows her to Russia. Going to her home, he again declares his love for her and tells her he cannot give her up. In this intense scene they are discovered by Gregory, who is already making arrangements for their marriage. He is furious when he sees the manifestations of Ivan's ardent love for her, and for the first time learns that he has a rival in a younger and handsomer man. His auger is not that of love, but of possession and rivalry. Donia pleads with Ivan to leave her, that she cannot and must not break her oath and can never be his. He goes with bowed head as she looks longingly and lovingly after him. Gregory, who has been in hiding, watching, draws a knife and dogs Ivan's footsteps to kill him. Donia suspects Gregory's purpose and she follows them. Ivan enters his lodgings and in the agony of his soul presses Donia's photograph to his heart. Gregory, peering through the door, watches him. Ivan, who has made up his mind that life is not worth living without Donia, takes a small vial of poison from his pocket and is about to drink it when Gregory rushes into the room and dashes the bottle from his hand. Fearing an encounter between the two men, Donia rushes into the room and stands between them. Gregory tells Ivan he realizes that Donia does not love him, confesses he does not love her in the true sense of the word, and that it would be folly for him to hold her to her oath when he knows Ivan's and Donia's love for each other is sincere and undisputed. Then, placing Donia's hand in Ivan's, he revokes the oath and leaves them alone in the ecstasy of their love.
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