HotFreeBooks.com
Theft - A Play In Four Acts
by Jack London
Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse

{Knox}

But it is a great social and cosmic process. It does not depend on one man. Kill off, at this instant, every leader of the people, and the process will go on just the same. The people will come into their own. Theft will be unseated. It is destiny. It is the process. Nothing can stop it.

{Margaret}

But it can be retarded.

{Knox}

You and I are no more than straws in relation to it. We cannot stop it any more than straws can stop an ocean tide. We mean nothing—except to each other, and to each other we mean all the world.

{Margaret}

(Sadly and tenderly.) All the world and immortality thrown in.

{Chalmers}

(Breaking in.) Nice situation, sitting here and listening to a strange man woo my wife in terms of sociology and scientific slang.

(Both Margaret and Knox ignore him.)

{Knox}

Dear, I want you so.

{Margaret}

(Despairingly.) Oh! It is so hard to do right!

{Knox}

(Eagerly.) He wants the letters very badly. Give them up for Tommy. He will give Tommy for them.

{Chalmers}

No; emphatically no. If she wants Tommy she can stay on; but she must give up the letters. If she wants you she may go; but she must give up the letters.

{Knox}

(Pleading for a decision.) Margaret.

{Margaret}

Howard. Don't tempt me and press me. It is hard enough as it is.

{Chalmers}

(Standing up.) I've had enough of this. The thing must be settled, and I leave it to you, Knox. Go on with your love-making. But I won't be a witness to it. Perhaps I—er—retard the—er—the flame process. You two must make up your minds, and you can do it better without me. I am going to get a drink and settle my nerves. I'll be back in a minute.

(He moves toward exit to right.) She will yield, Knox. Be warm, be warm.

(Pausing in doorway.) Ah, you flame! Flame to some purpose. (Exit Chalmers.)

(Knox rests his head despairingly on his hand, and Margaret, pausing and looking at him sadly for a moment, crosses to him, stands beside him, and caresses his hair.)

{Margaret}

It is hard, I know, dear. And it is hard for me as well.

{Knox}

It is so unnecessary.

{Margaret}

No, it is necessary. What you said last night, when I was weak, was wise. We cannot steal from my child—

{Knox}

But if he gives you Tommy? Margaret

(Shaking her head.) Nor can we steal from any other woman's child—from all the children of all the women. And other things I heard you say, and you were right. We cannot live by ourselves alone. We are social animals. Our good and our ill—all is tied up with all humanity.

{Knox}

(Catching her hand and caressing it.) I do not follow you. I hear your voice, but I do not know a word you say. Because I am loving your voice—and you. I am so filled with love that there is no room for anything else. And you, who yesterday were so remote and unattainable, are so near and possible, so immediately possible. All you have to do is to say the word, one little word. Say it.—Say it.

(He carries her hand to his lips and holds it there.)

{Margaret}

(Wistfully.) I should like to. I should like to. But I can't.

{Knox}

You must.

{Margaret}

There are other and greater things that say must to me. Oh, my dear, have you forgotten them? Things you yourself have spoken to me—the great stinging things of the spirit, that are greater than you and I, greater even than our love.

{Knox}

I exhaust my arguments—but still I love you.

{Margaret}

And I love you for it.

(Chalmers enters from right, and sees Margaret still caressing Knox's hair.)

{Chalmers}

(With mild elation, touched with sarcasm.) Ah, I see you have taken my advice, and reached a decision.

(They do not answer. Margaret moves slowly away and seats herself.) (Knox remains with head bowed on hand.) No?

(Margaret shakes her head.) Well, I've thought it over, and I've changed my terms. Madge, go with Knox, take Tommy with you.

(Margaret wavers, but Knox, head bowed on hand, does not see her.) There will be no scandal. I'll give you a proper divorce. And you can have Tommy.

{Knox}

(Suddenly raising his head, joyfully, pleadingly.) Margaret!

(Margaret is swayed, but does not speak.)

{Chalmers}

You and I never hit it off together any too extraordinarily well, Madge; but I'm not altogether a bad sort. I am easy-going. I always have been easy-going. I'll make everything easy for you now. But you see the fix I am in. You love another man, and I simply must regain those letters. It is more important than you realize.

{Margaret}

(Incisively.) You make me realize how important those letters are.

{Knox}

Give him the letters, Margaret

{Chalmers}

So she hasn't turned them over to you yet?

{Margaret}

No; I still have them.

{Knox}

Give them to him.

{Chalmers}

Selling out for a petticoat. A pretty reformer.

{Knox} (Proudly.)

A better lover.

{Margaret}

(To Chalmers.)

He is weak to-day. What of it? He was strong last night. He will win back his strength again. It is human to be weak. And in his very weakness now, I have my pride, for it is the weakness of love. God knows I have been weak, and I am not ashamed of it. It was the weakness of love. It is hard to stifle one's womanhood always with morality. (Quickly.)

But do not mistake, Tom. This of mine is no conventional morality. I do not care about nasty gossipy tongues and sensation-mongering sheets; nor do I care what any persons of all the persons I know, would say if I went away with Mr. Knox this instant. I would go, and go gladly and proudly with him, divorce or no divorce, scandal or scandal triple-fold—if—if no one else were hurt by what I did. (To Knox.)

Howard, I tell you that I would go with you now, in all willingness and joy, with May-time and the songs of all singing birds in my heart—were it not for the others. But there is a higher morality. We must not hurt those others. We dare not steal our happiness from them. The future belongs to them, and we must not, dare not, sacrifice that future nor give it in pledge for our own happiness. Last night I came to you. I was weak—yes; more than that—I was ignorant. I did not know, even as late as last night, the monstrous vileness, the consummate wickedness of present-day conditions. I learned that today, this morning, and now. I learned that the morality of the Church was a pretense. Far deeper than it, and vastly more powerful, was the morality of the dollar. My father, my family, my husband, were willing to condone what they believed was my adultery. And for what? For a few scraps of paper that to them represented only the privilege to plunder, the privilege to steal from the people.

(To Chalmers.) Here are you, Tom, not only willing and eager to give me into the arms of the man you believe my lover, but you throw in your boy—your child and mine—to make it good measure and acceptable. And for what? Love of some woman?—any woman? No. Love of humanity? No. Love of God? No. Then for what? For the privilege of perpetuating your stealing from the people—money, bread and butter, hats, shoes, and stockings—for stealing all these things from the people.

(To Knox.) Now, and at last, do I realize how stern and awful is the fight that must be waged—the fight in which you and I, Howard, must play our parts and play them bravely and uncomplainingly—you as well as I, but I even more than you. This is the den of thieves. I am a child of thieves. All my family is composed of thieves. I have been fed and reared on the fruits of thievery. I have been a party to it all my life. Somebody must cease from this theft, and it is I. And you must help me, Howard.

{Chalmers}

(Emitting a low long whistle.) Strange that you never went into the suffragette business. With such speech-making ability you would have been a shining light.

{Knox}

(Sadly.) The worst of it is, Margaret, you are right. But it is hard that we cannot be happy save by stealing from the happiness of others. Yet it hurts, deep down and terribly, to forego you. (Margaret thanks him with her eyes.)

{Chalmers}

(Sarcastically.) Oh, believe me, I am not too anxious to give up my wife. Look at her. She's a pretty good woman for any man to possess.

{Margaret}

Tom, I'll accept a quiet divorce, marry Mr. Knox, and take Tommy with me—on one consideration.

{Chalmers}

And what is that?

{Margaret}

That I retain the letters. They are to be used in his speech this afternoon.

{Chalmers}

No they're not.

{Margaret}

Whatever happens, do whatever worst you can possibly do, that speech will be given this afternoon. Your worst to me will be none too great a price for me to pay.

{Chalmers}

No letters, no divorce, no Tommy, nothing.

{Margaret}

Then will you compel me to remain here. I have done nothing wrong, and I don't imagine you will make a scandal.

(Enter Linda at right rear, pausing and looking inquiringly.) There they are now.

(To Linda.) Yes; give them to me.

(Linda, advancing, draws package of documents from her breast. As she is handing them to Margaret, Chalmers attempts to seise them.)

{Knox}

(Springing forward and thrusting Chalmers back.) That you shall not!

(Chalmers is afflicted with heart-seizure, and staggers.)

{Margaret}

(Maternally, solicitously.) Tom, don't! Your heart! Be careful!

(Chalmers starts to stagger toward bell) Howard! Stop him! Don't let him ring, or the servants will get the letters away from us. (Knox starts to interpose, but Chalmers, growing weaker, sinks into a chair, head thrown back and legs out straight before him.) Linda, a glass of water.

(Linda gives documents to Margaret, and makes running exit to right rear.) (Margaret bends anxiously over Chalmers.) (A pause.)

{Knox}

(Touching her hand.) Give them to me.

(Margaret gives him the documents, which he holds in his hand, at the same time she thanks him with her eyes.) (Enter Linda with glass of water, which she hands to Margaret.) (Margaret tries to place the glass to Chalmer's lips.)

{Chalmers}

(Dashing the glass violently from her hand to the floor and speaking in smothered voice.) Bring me a whiskey and soda.

(Linda looks at Margaret interrogatively. Margaret is undecided what to say, shrugs her shoulders in helplessness, and nods her head.)

(Linda makes hurried exit to right.)

{Margaret}

(To Knox.) You will go now and you will give the speech.

{Knox}

(Placing documents in inside coat pocket.) I will give the speech.

{Margaret}

And all the forces making for the good time coming will be quickened by your words. Let the voices of the millions be in it.

(Chalmers, legs still stretched out, laughs cynically.)

You know where my heart lies. Some day, in all pride and honor, stealing from no one, hurting no one, we shall come together—to be together always.

{Knox}

(Drearily.) And in the meantime?

{Margaret}

We must wait

{Knox}

(Decidedly.) We will wait.

{Chalmers}

(Straightening up.) For me to die? eh?

(During the following speech Linda enters from right with whiskey and soda and gives it to Chalmers, who thirstily drinks half of it. Margaret dismisses Linda with her eyes, and Linda makes exit to right rear.)

{Knox}

I hadn't that in mind, but now that you mention it, it seems to the point. That heart of yours isn't going to carry you much farther. You have played fast and loose with it as with everything else. You are like the carter who steals hay from his horse that he may gamble. You have stolen from your heart. Some day, soon, like the horse, it will quit We can afford to wait. It won't be long.

{Chalmers}

(After laughing incredulously and sipping his whiskey.) Well, Knox, neither of us wins. You don't get the woman. Neither do I. She remains under my roof, and I fancy that is about all. I won't divorce her. What's the good? But I've got her tied hard and fast by Tommy. You won't get her.

(Knox, ignoring hint, goes to right rear and pauses in doorway.)

{Margaret}

Work. Bravely work. You are my knight. Go.

(Knox makes exit.)

(Margaret stands quietly, face averted from audience and turned toward where Knox was last to be seen.)

{Chalmers}

Madge.

(Margaret neither moves nor answers.) I say, Madge.

(He stands up and moves toward her, holding whiskey glass in one hand.) That speech is going to make a devil of a row. But I don't think it will be so bad as your father says. It looks pretty dark, but such things blow over. They always do blow over. And so with you and me. Maybe we can manage to forget all this and patch it up somehow.

(She gives no sign that she is aware of his existence.) Why don't you speak? (Pause.)

(He touches her arm.) Madge.

{Margaret}

(Turning upon him in a blase of wrath and with unutterable loathing.)

Don't touch me!

(Chalmers recoils.)

Curtain

THE END

Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse