First performed by the Provincetown Players at the Wharf Theatre, Provincetown, Mass., August 8, 1916.
GEORGE HENDERSON (County Attorney)
HENRY PETERS (Sheriff)
LEWIS HALE, A neighboring farmer
SCENE: The kitchen is the now abandoned farmhouse of JOHN WRIGHT, a gloomy kitchen, and left without having been put in order—unwashed pans under the sink, a loaf of bread outside the bread-box, a dish-towel on the table—other signs of incompleted work. At the rear the outer door opens and the SHERIFF comes in followed by the COUNTY ATTORNEY and HALE. The SHERIFF and HALE are men in middle life, the COUNTY ATTORNEY is a young man; all are much bundled up and go at once to the stove. They are followed by the two women—the SHERIFF's wife first; she is a slight wiry woman, a thin nervous face. MRS HALE is larger and would ordinarily be called more comfortable looking, but she is disturbed now and looks fearfully about as she enters. The women have come in slowly, and stand close together near the door.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: (rubbing his hands) This feels good. Come up to the fire, ladies.
MRS PETERS: (after taking a step forward) I'm not—cold.
SHERIFF: (unbuttoning his overcoat and stepping away from the stove as if to mark the beginning of official business) Now, Mr Hale, before we move things about, you explain to Mr Henderson just what you saw when you came here yesterday morning.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: By the way, has anything been moved? Are things just as you left them yesterday?
SHERIFF: (looking about) It's just the same. When it dropped below zero last night I thought I'd better send Frank out this morning to make a fire for us—no use getting pneumonia with a big case on, but I told him not to touch anything except the stove—and you know Frank.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: Somebody should have been left here yesterday.
SHERIFF: Oh—yesterday. When I had to send Frank to Morris Center for that man who went crazy—I want you to know I had my hands full yesterday. I knew you could get back from Omaha by today and as long as I went over everything here myself—
COUNTY ATTORNEY: Well, Mr Hale, tell just what happened when you came here yesterday morning.
HALE: Harry and I had started to town with a load of potatoes. We came along the road from my place and as I got here I said, I'm going to see if I can't get John Wright to go in with me on a party telephone.' I spoke to Wright about it once before and he put me off, saying folks talked too much anyway, and all he asked was peace and quiet—I guess you know about how much he talked himself; but I thought maybe if I went to the house and talked about it before his wife, though I said to Harry that I didn't know as what his wife wanted made much difference to John—
COUNTY ATTORNEY: Let's talk about that later, Mr Hale. I do want to talk about that, but tell now just what happened when you got to the house.
HALE: I didn't hear or see anything; I knocked at the door, and still it was all quiet inside. I knew they must be up, it was past eight o'clock. So I knocked again, and I thought I heard somebody say, 'Come in.' I wasn't sure, I'm not sure yet, but I opened the door—this door (indicating the door by which the two women are still standing) and there in that rocker—(pointing to it) sat Mrs Wright.
(They all look at the rocker.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY: What—was she doing?
HALE: She was rockin' back and forth. She had her apron in her hand and was kind of—pleating it.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: And how did she—look?
HALE: Well, she looked queer.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: How do you mean—queer?
HALE: Well, as if she didn't know what she was going to do next. And kind of done up.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: How did she seem to feel about your coming?
HALE: Why, I don't think she minded—one way or other. She didn't pay much attention. I said, 'How do, Mrs Wright it's cold, ain't it?' And she said, 'Is it?'—and went on kind of pleating at her apron. Well, I was surprised; she didn't ask me to come up to the stove, or to set down, but just sat there, not even looking at me, so I said, 'I want to see John.' And then she—laughed. I guess you would call it a laugh. I thought of Harry and the team outside, so I said a little sharp: 'Can't I see John?' 'No', she says, kind o' dull like. 'Ain't he home?' says I. 'Yes', says she, 'he's home'. 'Then why can't I see him?' I asked her, out of patience. ''Cause he's dead', says she. 'Dead?' says I. She just nodded her head, not getting a bit excited, but rockin' back and forth. 'Why—where is he?' says I, not knowing what to say. She just pointed upstairs—like that (himself pointing to the room above) I got up, with the idea of going up there. I walked from there to here—then I says, 'Why, what did he die of?' 'He died of a rope round his neck', says she, and just went on pleatin' at her apron. Well, I went out and called Harry. I thought I might—need help. We went upstairs and there he was lyin'—
COUNTY ATTORNEY: I think I'd rather have you go into that upstairs, where you can point it all out. Just go on now with the rest of the story.
HALE: Well, my first thought was to get that rope off. It looked ... (stops, his face twitches) ... but Harry, he went up to him, and he said, 'No, he's dead all right, and we'd better not touch anything.' So we went back down stairs. She was still sitting that same way. 'Has anybody been notified?' I asked. 'No', says she unconcerned. 'Who did this, Mrs Wright?' said Harry. He said it business-like—and she stopped pleatin' of her apron. 'I don't know', she says. 'You don't know?' says Harry. 'No', says she. 'Weren't you sleepin' in the bed with him?' says Harry. 'Yes', says she, 'but I was on the inside'. 'Somebody slipped a rope round his neck and strangled him and you didn't wake up?' says Harry. 'I didn't wake up', she said after him. We must 'a looked as if we didn't see how that could be, for after a minute she said, 'I sleep sound'. Harry was going to ask her more questions but I said maybe we ought to let her tell her story first to the coroner, or the sheriff, so Harry went fast as he could to Rivers' place, where there's a telephone.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: And what did Mrs Wright do when she knew that you had gone for the coroner?
HALE: She moved from that chair to this one over here (pointing to a small chair in the corner) and just sat there with her hands held together and looking down. I got a feeling that I ought to make some conversation, so I said I had come in to see if John wanted to put in a telephone, and at that she started to laugh, and then she stopped and looked at me—scared, (the COUNTY ATTORNEY, who has had his notebook out, makes a note) I dunno, maybe it wasn't scared. I wouldn't like to say it was. Soon Harry got back, and then Dr Lloyd came, and you, Mr Peters, and so I guess that's all I know that you don't.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: (looking around) I guess we'll go upstairs first—and then out to the barn and around there, (to the SHERIFF) You're convinced that there was nothing important here—nothing that would point to any motive.
SHERIFF: Nothing here but kitchen things.
(The COUNTY ATTORNEY, after again looking around the kitchen, opens the door of a cupboard closet. He gets up on a chair and looks on a shelf. Pulls his hand away, sticky.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY: Here's a nice mess.
(The women draw nearer.)
MRS PETERS: (to the other woman) Oh, her fruit; it did freeze, (to the LAWYER) She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire'd go out and her jars would break.
SHERIFF: Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin' about her preserves.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: I guess before we're through she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about.
HALE: Well, women are used to worrying over trifles.
(The two women move a little closer together.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY: (with the gallantry of a young politician) And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies? (the women do not unbend. He goes to the sink, takes a dipperful of water from the pail and pouring it into a basin, washes his hands. Starts to wipe them on the roller-towel, turns it for a cleaner place) Dirty towels! (kicks his foot against the pans under the sink) Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?
MRS HALE: (stiffly) There's a great deal of work to be done on a farm.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: To be sure. And yet (with a little bow to her) I know there are some Dickson county farmhouses which do not have such roller towels. (He gives it a pull to expose its length again.)
MRS HALE: Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men's hands aren't always as clean as they might be.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: Ah, loyal to your sex, I see. But you and Mrs Wright were neighbors. I suppose you were friends, too.
MRS HALE: (shaking her head) I've not seen much of her of late years. I've not been in this house—it's more than a year.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: And why was that? You didn't like her?
MRS HALE: I liked her all well enough. Farmers' wives have their hands full, Mr Henderson. And then—
COUNTY ATTORNEY: Yes—?
MRS HALE: (looking about) It never seemed a very cheerful place.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: No—it's not cheerful. I shouldn't say she had the homemaking instinct.
MRS HALE: Well, I don't know as Wright had, either.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: You mean that they didn't get on very well?
MRS HALE: No, I don't mean anything. But I don't think a place'd be any cheerfuller for John Wright's being in it.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: I'd like to talk more of that a little later. I want to get the lay of things upstairs now. (He goes to the left, where three steps lead to a stair door.)
SHERIFF: I suppose anything Mrs Peters does'll be all right. She was to take in some clothes for her, you know, and a few little things. We left in such a hurry yesterday.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: Yes, but I would like to see what you take, Mrs Peters, and keep an eye out for anything that might be of use to us.
MRS PETERS: Yes, Mr Henderson.
(The women listen to the men's steps on the stairs, then look about the kitchen.)
MRS HALE: I'd hate to have men coming into my kitchen, snooping around and criticising.
(She arranges the pans under sink which the LAWYER had shoved out of place.)
MRS PETERS: Of course it's no more than their duty.
MRS HALE: Duty's all right, but I guess that deputy sheriff that came out to make the fire might have got a little of this on. (gives the roller towel a pull) Wish I'd thought of that sooner. Seems mean to talk about her for not having things slicked up when she had to come away in such a hurry.
MRS PETERS: (who has gone to a small table in the left rear corner of the room, and lifted one end of a towel that covers a pan) She had bread set. (Stands still.)
MRS HALE: (eyes fixed on a loaf of bread beside the bread-box, which is on a low shelf at the other side of the room. Moves slowly toward it) She was going to put this in there, (picks up loaf, then abruptly drops it. In a manner of returning to familiar things) It's a shame about her fruit. I wonder if it's all gone. (gets up on the chair and looks) I think there's some here that's all right, Mrs Peters. Yes—here; (holding it toward the window) this is cherries, too. (looking again) I declare I believe that's the only one. (gets down, bottle in her hand. Goes to the sink and wipes it off on the outside) She'll feel awful bad after all her hard work in the hot weather. I remember the afternoon I put up my cherries last summer.
(She puts the bottle on the big kitchen table, center of the room. With a sigh, is about to sit down in the rocking-chair. Before she is seated realizes what chair it is; with a slow look at it, steps back. The chair which she has touched rocks back and forth.)
MRS PETERS: Well, I must get those things from the front room closet, (she goes to the door at the right, but after looking into the other room, steps back) You coming with me, Mrs Hale? You could help me carry them.
(They go in the other room; reappear, MRS PETERS carrying a dress and skirt, MRS HALE following with a pair of shoes.)
MRS PETERS: My, it's cold in there.
(She puts the clothes on the big table, and hurries to the stove.)
MRS HALE: (examining the skirt) Wright was close. I think maybe that's why she kept so much to herself. She didn't even belong to the Ladies Aid. I suppose she felt she couldn't do her part, and then you don't enjoy things when you feel shabby. She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively, when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls singing in the choir. But that—oh, that was thirty years ago. This all you was to take in?
MRS PETERS: She said she wanted an apron. Funny thing to want, for there isn't much to get you dirty in jail, goodness knows. But I suppose just to make her feel more natural. She said they was in the top drawer in this cupboard. Yes, here. And then her little shawl that always hung behind the door. (opens stair door and looks) Yes, here it is.
(Quickly shuts door leading upstairs.)
MRS HALE: (abruptly moving toward her) Mrs Peters?
MRS PETERS: Yes, Mrs Hale?
MRS HALE: Do you think she did it?
MRS PETERS: (in a frightened voice) Oh, I don't know.
MRS HALE: Well, I don't think she did. Asking for an apron and her little shawl. Worrying about her fruit.
MRS PETERS: (starts to speak, glances up, where footsteps are heard in the room above. In a low voice) Mr Peters says it looks bad for her. Mr Henderson is awful sarcastic in a speech and he'll make fun of her sayin' she didn't wake up.
MRS HALE: Well, I guess John Wright didn't wake when they was slipping that rope under his neck.
MRS PETERS: No, it's strange. It must have been done awful crafty and still. They say it was such a—funny way to kill a man, rigging it all up like that.
MRS HALE: That's just what Mr Hale said. There was a gun in the house. He says that's what he can't understand.
MRS PETERS: Mr Henderson said coming out that what was needed for the case was a motive; something to show anger, or—sudden feeling.
MRS HALE: (who is standing by the table) Well, I don't see any signs of anger around here, (she puts her hand on the dish towel which lies on the table, stands looking down at table, one half of which is clean, the other half messy) It's wiped to here, (makes a move as if to finish work, then turns and looks at loaf of bread outside the breadbox. Drops towel. In that voice of coming back to familiar things.) Wonder how they are finding things upstairs. I hope she had it a little more red-up up there. You know, it seems kind of sneaking. Locking her up in town and then coming out here and trying to get her own house to turn against her!
MRS PETERS: But Mrs Hale, the law is the law.
MRS HALE: I s'pose 'tis, (unbuttoning her coat) Better loosen up your things, Mrs Peters. You won't feel them when you go out.
(MRS PETERS takes off her fur tippet, goes to hang it on hook at back of room, stands looking at the under part of the small corner table.)
MRS PETERS: She was piecing a quilt. (She brings the large sewing basket and they look at the bright pieces.)
MRS HALE: It's log cabin pattern. Pretty, isn't it? I wonder if she was goin' to quilt it or just knot it?
(Footsteps have been heard coming down the stairs. The SHERIFF enters followed by HALE and the COUNTY ATTORNEY.)
SHERIFF: They wonder if she was going to quilt it or just knot it! (The men laugh, the women look abashed.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY: (rubbing his hands over the stove) Frank's fire didn't do much up there, did it? Well, let's go out to the barn and get that cleared up. (The men go outside.)
MRS HALE: (resentfully) I don't know as there's anything so strange, our takin' up our time with little things while we're waiting for them to get the evidence. (she sits down at the big table smoothing out a block with decision) I don't see as it's anything to laugh about.
MRS PETERS: (apologetically) Of course they've got awful important things on their minds.
(Pulls up a chair and joins MRS HALE at the table.)
MRS HALE: (examining another block) Mrs Peters, look at this one. Here, this is the one she was working on, and look at the sewing! All the rest of it has been so nice and even. And look at this! It's all over the place! Why, it looks as if she didn't know what she was about!
(After she has said this they look at each other, then start to glance back at the door. After an instant MRS HALE has pulled at a knot and ripped the sewing.)
MRS PETERS: Oh, what are you doing, Mrs Hale?
MRS HALE: (mildly) Just pulling out a stitch or two that's not sewed very good. (threading a needle) Bad sewing always made me fidgety.
MRS PETERS: (nervously) I don't think we ought to touch things.
MRS HALE: I'll just finish up this end. (suddenly stopping and leaning forward) Mrs Peters?
MRS PETERS: Yes, Mrs Hale?
MRS HALE: What do you suppose she was so nervous about?
MRS PETERS: Oh—I don't know. I don't know as she was nervous. I sometimes sew awful queer when I'm just tired. (MRS HALE starts to say something, looks at MRS PETERS, then goes on sewing) Well I must get these things wrapped up. They may be through sooner than we think, (putting apron and other things together) I wonder where I can find a piece of paper, and string.
MRS HALE: In that cupboard, maybe.
MRS PETERS: (looking in cupboard) Why, here's a bird-cage, (holds it up) Did she have a bird, Mrs Hale?
MRS HALE: Why, I don't know whether she did or not—I've not been here for so long. There was a man around last year selling canaries cheap, but I don't know as she took one; maybe she did. She used to sing real pretty herself.
MRS PETERS: (glancing around) Seems funny to think of a bird here. But she must have had one, or why would she have a cage? I wonder what happened to it.
MRS HALE: I s'pose maybe the cat got it.
MRS PETERS: No, she didn't have a cat. She's got that feeling some people have about cats—being afraid of them. My cat got in her room and she was real upset and asked me to take it out.
MRS HALE: My sister Bessie was like that. Queer, ain't it?
MRS PETERS: (examining the cage) Why, look at this door. It's broke. One hinge is pulled apart.
MRS HALE: (looking too) Looks as if someone must have been rough with it.
MRS PETERS: Why, yes.
(She brings the cage forward and puts it on the table.)
MRS HALE: I wish if they're going to find any evidence they'd be about it. I don't like this place.
MRS PETERS: But I'm awful glad you came with me, Mrs Hale. It would be lonesome for me sitting here alone.
MRS HALE: It would, wouldn't it? (dropping her sewing) But I tell you what I do wish, Mrs Peters. I wish I had come over sometimes when she was here. I—(looking around the room)—wish I had.
MRS PETERS: But of course you were awful busy, Mrs Hale—your house and your children.
MRS HALE: I could've come. I stayed away because it weren't cheerful—and that's why I ought to have come. I—I've never liked this place. Maybe because it's down in a hollow and you don't see the road. I dunno what it is, but it's a lonesome place and always was. I wish I had come over to see Minnie Foster sometimes. I can see now—(shakes her head)
MRS PETERS: Well, you mustn't reproach yourself, Mrs Hale. Somehow we just don't see how it is with other folks until—something comes up.
MRS HALE: Not having children makes less work—but it makes a quiet house, and Wright out to work all day, and no company when he did come in. Did you know John Wright, Mrs Peters?
MRS PETERS: Not to know him; I've seen him in town. They say he was a good man.
MRS HALE: Yes—good; he didn't drink, and kept his word as well as most, I guess, and paid his debts. But he was a hard man, Mrs Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him—(shivers) Like a raw wind that gets to the bone, (pauses, her eye falling on the cage) I should think she would 'a wanted a bird. But what do you suppose went with it?
MRS PETERS: I don't know, unless it got sick and died.
(She reaches over and swings the broken door, swings it again, both women watch it.)
MRS HALE: You weren't raised round here, were you? (MRS PETERS shakes her head) You didn't know—her?
MRS PETERS: Not till they brought her yesterday.
MRS HALE: She—come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself—real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and—fluttery. How—she—did—change. (silence; then as if struck by a happy thought and relieved to get back to everyday things) Tell you what, Mrs Peters, why don't you take the quilt in with you? It might take up her mind.
MRS PETERS: Why, I think that's a real nice idea, Mrs Hale. There couldn't possibly be any objection to it, could there? Now, just what would I take? I wonder if her patches are in here—and her things.
(They look in the sewing basket.)
MRS HALE: Here's some red. I expect this has got sewing things in it. (brings out a fancy box) What a pretty box. Looks like something somebody would give you. Maybe her scissors are in here. (Opens box. Suddenly puts her hand to her nose) Why—(MRS PETERS bends nearer, then turns her face away) There's something wrapped up in this piece of silk.
MRS PETERS: Why, this isn't her scissors.
MRS HALE: (lifting the silk) Oh, Mrs Peters—it's—
(MRS PETERS bends closer.)
MRS PETERS: It's the bird.
MRS HALE: (jumping up) But, Mrs Peters—look at it! It's neck! Look at its neck!
It's all—other side to.
MRS PETERS: Somebody—wrung—its—neck.
(Their eyes meet. A look of growing comprehension, of horror. Steps are heard outside. MRS HALE slips box under quilt pieces, and sinks into her chair. Enter SHERIFF and COUNTY ATTORNEY. MRS PETERS rises.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY: (as one turning from serious things to little pleasantries) Well ladies, have you decided whether she was going to quilt it or knot it?
MRS PETERS: We think she was going to—knot it.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: Well, that's interesting, I'm sure. (seeing the birdcage) Has the bird flown?
MRS HALE: (putting more quilt pieces over the box) We think the—cat got it.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: (preoccupied) Is there a cat?
(MRS HALE glances in a quick covert way at MRS PETERS.)
MRS PETERS: Well, not now. They're superstitious, you know. They leave.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: (to SHERIFF PETERS, continuing an interrupted conversation) No sign at all of anyone having come from the outside. Their own rope. Now let's go up again and go over it piece by piece. (they start upstairs) It would have to have been someone who knew just the—
(MRS PETERS sits down. The two women sit there not looking at one another, but as if peering into something and at the same time holding back. When they talk now it is in the manner of feeling their way over strange ground, as if afraid of what they are saying, but as if they can not help saying it.)
MRS HALE: She liked the bird. She was going to bury it in that pretty box.
MRS PETERS: (in a whisper) When I was a girl—my kitten—there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes—and before I could get there—(covers her face an instant) If they hadn't held me back I would have—(catches herself, looks upstairs where steps are heard, falters weakly)—hurt him.
MRS HALE: (with a slow look around her) I wonder how it would seem never to have had any children around, (pause) No, Wright wouldn't like the bird—a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that, too.
MRS PETERS: (moving uneasily) We don't know who killed the bird.
MRS HALE: I knew John Wright.
MRS PETERS: It was an awful thing was done in this house that night, Mrs Hale. Killing a man while he slept, slipping a rope around his neck that choked the life out of him.
MRS HALE: His neck. Choked the life out of him.
(Her hand goes out and rests on the bird-cage.)
MRS PETERS: (with rising voice) We don't know who killed him. We don't know.
MRS HALE: (her own feeling not interrupted) If there'd been years and years of nothing, then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful—still, after the bird was still.
MRS PETERS: (something within her speaking) I know what stillness is. When we homesteaded in Dakota, and my first baby died—after he was two years old, and me with no other then—
MRS HALE: (moving) How soon do you suppose they'll be through, looking for the evidence?
MRS PETERS: I know what stillness is. (pulling herself back) The law has got to punish crime, Mrs Hale.
MRS HALE: (not as if answering that) I wish you'd seen Minnie Foster when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons and stood up there in the choir and sang. (a look around the room) Oh, I wish I'd come over here once in a while! That was a crime! That was a crime! Who's going to punish that?
MRS PETERS: (looking upstairs) We mustn't—take on.
MRS HALE: I might have known she needed help! I know how things can be—for women. I tell you, it's queer, Mrs Peters. We live close together and we live far apart. We all go through the same things—it's all just a different kind of the same thing, (brushes her eyes, noticing the bottle of fruit, reaches out for it) If I was you, I wouldn't tell her her fruit was gone. Tell her it ain't. Tell her it's all right. Take this in to prove it to her. She—she may never know whether it was broke or not.
MRS PETERS: (takes the bottle, looks about for something to wrap it in; takes petticoat from the clothes brought from the other room, very nervously begins winding this around the bottle. In a false voice) My, it's a good thing the men couldn't hear us. Wouldn't they just laugh! Getting all stirred up over a little thing like a—dead canary. As if that could have anything to do with—with—wouldn't they laugh!
(The men are heard coming down stairs.)
MRS HALE: (under her breath) Maybe they would—maybe they wouldn't.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: No, Peters, it's all perfectly clear except a reason for doing it. But you know juries when it comes to women. If there was some definite thing. Something to show—something to make a story about—a thing that would connect up with this strange way of doing it—
(The women's eyes meet for an instant. Enter HALE from outer door.)
HALE: Well, I've got the team around. Pretty cold out there.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: I'm going to stay here a while by myself, (to the SHERIFF) You can send Frank out for me, can't you? I want to go over everything. I'm not satisfied that we can't do better.
SHERIFF: Do you want to see what Mrs Peters is going to take in?
(The LAWYER goes to the table, picks up the apron, laughs.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY: Oh, I guess they're not very dangerous things the ladies have picked out. (Moves a few things about, disturbing the quilt pieces which cover the box. Steps back) No, Mrs Peters doesn't need supervising. For that matter, a sheriff's wife is married to the law. Ever think of it that way, Mrs Peters?
MRS PETERS: Not—just that way.
SHERIFF: (chuckling) Married to the law. (moves toward the other room) I just want you to come in here a minute, George. We ought to take a look at these windows.
COUNTY ATTORNEY: (scoffingly) Oh, windows!
SHERIFF: We'll be right out, Mr Hale.
(HALE goes outside. The SHERIFF follows the COUNTY ATTORNEY into the other room. Then MRS HALE rises, hands tight together, looking intensely at MRS PETERS, whose eyes make a slow turn, finally meeting MRS HALE's. A moment MRS HALE holds her, then her own eyes point the way to where the box is concealed. Suddenly MRS PETERS throws back quilt pieces and tries to put the box in the bag she is wearing. It is too big. She opens box, starts to take bird out, cannot touch it, goes to pieces, stands there helpless. Sound of a knob turning in the other room. MRS HALE snatches the box and puts it in the pocket of her big coat. Enter COUNTY ATTORNEY and SHERIFF.)
COUNTY ATTORNEY: (facetiously) Well, Henry, at least we found out that she was not going to quilt it. She was going to—what is it you call it, ladies?
MRS HALE: (her hand against her pocket) We call it—knot it, Mr Henderson.
First performed by the Provincetown Players at the Playwrights' Theatre, December 28, 1917.
CAPTAIN (of 'The Bars' Life-Saving Station)
BRADFORD (a Life-Saver)
TONY (a Portuguese Life-Saver)
MRS PATRICK (who lives in the abandoned Station)
ALLIE MAYO (who works for her)
SCENE: A room in a house which was once a life-saving station. Since ceasing to be that it has taken on no other character, except that of a place which no one cares either to preserve or change. It is painted the life-saving grey, but has not the life-saving freshness. This is one end of what was the big boat room, and at the ceiling is seen a part of the frame work from which the boat once swung. About two thirds of the back wall is open, because of the big sliding door, of the type of barn door, and through this open door are seen the sand dunes, and beyond them the woods. At one point the line where woods and dunes meet stands out clearly and there are indicated the rude things, vines, bushes, which form the outer uneven rim of the woods—the only things that grow in the sand. At another point a sand-hill is menacing the woods. This old life-saving station is at a point where the sea curves, so through the open door the sea also is seen. (The station is located on the outside shore of Cape Cod, at the point, near the tip of the Cape, where it makes that final curve which forms the Provincetown Harbor.) The dunes are hills and strange forms of sand on which, in places, grows the stiff beach grass—struggle; dogged growing against odds. At right of the big sliding door is a drift of sand and the top of buried beach grass is seen on this. There is a door left, and at right of big sliding door is a slanting wall. Door in this is ajar at rise of curtain, and through this door BRADFORD and TONY, life-savers, are seen bending over a man's body, attempting to restore respiration. The captain of the life-savers comes into view outside the big open door, at left; he appears to have been hurrying, peers in, sees the men, goes quickly to them.
CAPTAIN: I'll take this now, boys.
BRADFORD: No need for anybody to take it, Capt'n. He was dead when we picked him up.
CAPTAIN: Dannie Sears was dead when we picked him up. But we brought him back. I'll go on awhile.
(The two men who have been bending over the body rise, stretch to relax, and come into the room.)
BRADFORD: (pushing back his arms and putting his hands on his chest) Work,—tryin to put life in the dead.
CAPTAIN: Where'd you find him, Joe?
BRADFORD: In front of this house. Not forty feet out.
CAPTAIN: What'd you bring him up here for?
(He speaks in an abstracted way, as if the working part of his mind is on something else, and in the muffled voice of one bending over.)
BRADFORD: (with a sheepish little laugh) Force of habit, I guess. We brought so many of 'em back up here, (looks around the room) And then it was kind of unfriendly down where he was—the wind spittin' the sea onto you till he'd have no way of knowin' he was ashore.
TONY: Lucky I was not sooner or later as I walk by from my watch.
BRADFORD: You have accommodating ways, Tony. No sooner or later. I wouldn't say it of many Portagees. But the sea (calling it in to the CAPTAIN) is friendly as a kitten alongside the women that live here. Allie Mayo—they're both crazy—had that door open (moving his head toward the big sliding door) sweepin' out, and when we come along she backs off and stands lookin' at us, lookin'—Lord, I just wanted to get him somewhere else. So I kicked this door open with my foot (jerking his hand toward the room where the CAPTAIN is seen bending over the man) and got him away. (under his voice) If he did have any notion of comin' back to life, he wouldn't a come if he'd seen her. (more genially) I wouldn't.
CAPTAIN: You know who he is, Joe?
BRADFORD: I never saw him before.
CAPTAIN: Mitchell telephoned from High Head that a dory came ashore there.
BRADFORD: Last night wasn't the best night for a dory. (to TONY, boastfully) Not that I couldn't 'a' stayed in one. Some men can stay in a dory and some can't. (going to the inner door) That boy's dead, Capt'n.
CAPTAIN: Then I'm not doing him any harm.
BRADFORD: (going over and shaking the frame where the boat once swung) This the first time you ever been in this place, ain't it, Tony?
TONY: I never was here before.
BRADFORD: Well, I was here before. (a laugh) And the old man—(nodding toward the CAPTAIN) he lived here for twenty-seven years. Lord, the things that happened here. There've been dead ones carried through that door. (pointing to the outside door) Lord—the ones I've carried. I carried in Bill Collins, and Lou Harvey and—huh! 'sall over now. You ain't seen no wrecks. Don't ever think you have. I was here the night the Jennie Snow was out there. (pointing to the sea) There was a wreck. We got the boat that stood here (again shaking the frame) down that bank. (goes to the door and looks out) Lord, how'd we ever do it? The sand has put his place on the blink all right. And then when it gets too God-for-saken for a life-savin' station, a lady takes it for a summer residence—and then spends the winter. She's a cheerful one.
TONY: A woman—she makes things pretty. This not like a place where a woman live. On the floor there is nothing—on the wall there is nothing. Things—(trying to express it with his hands) do not hang on other things.
BRADFORD: (imitating TONY's gesture) No—things do not hang on other things. In my opinion the woman's crazy—sittin' over there on the sand—(a gesture towards the dunes) what's she lookin' at? There ain't nothin' to see. And I know the woman that works for her's crazy—Allie Mayo. She's a Provincetown girl. She was all right once, but—
(MRS PATRICK comes in from the hall at the right. She is a 'city woman', a sophisticated person who has been caught into something as unlike the old life as the dunes are unlike a meadow. At the moment she is excited and angry.)
MRS PATRICK: You have no right here. This isn't the life-saving station any more. Just because it used to be—I don't see why you should think—This is my house! And—I want my house to myself!
CAPTAIN: (putting his head through the door. One arm of the man he is working with is raised, and the hand reaches through the doorway) Well I must say, lady, I would think that any house could be a life-saving station when the sea had sent a man to it.
MRS PATRICK: (who has turned away so she cannot see the hand) I don't want him here! I—(defiant, yet choking) I must have my house to myself!
CAPTAIN: You'll get your house to yourself when I've made up my mind there's no more life in this man. A good many lives have been saved in this house, Mrs Patrick—I believe that's your name—and if there's any chance of bringing one more back from the dead, the fact that you own the house ain't goin' to make a damn bit of difference to me!
MRS PATRICK: (in a thin wild way) I must have my house to myself.
CAPTAIN: Hell with such a woman!
(Moves the man he is working with and slams the door shut. As the CAPTAIN says, 'And if there's any chance of bringing one more back from the dead', ALLIE MAYO has appeared outside the wide door which gives on to the dunes, a bleak woman, who at first seems little more than a part of the sand before which she stands. But as she listens to this conflict one suspects in her that peculiar intensity of twisted things which grow in unfavoring places.)
MRS PATRICK: I—I don't want them here! I must—
(But suddenly she retreats, and is gone.)
BRADFORD: Well, I couldn't say, Allie Mayo, that you work for any too kind-hearted a lady. What's the matter with the woman? Does she want folks to die? Appears to break her all up to see somebody trying to save a life. What d'you work for such a fish for? A crazy fish—that's what I call the woman. I've seen her—day after day—settin' over there where the dunes meet the woods, just sittin' there, lookin'. (suddenly thinking of it) I believe she likes to see the sand slippin' down on the woods. Pleases her to see somethin' gettin' buried, I guess.
(ALLIE MAYO, who has stepped inside the door and moved half across the room, toward the corridor at the right, is arrested by this last—stands a moment as if seeing through something, then slowly on, and out.)
BRADFORD: Some coffee'd taste good. But coffee, in this house? Oh, no. It might make somebody feel better. (opening the door that was slammed shut) Want me now, Capt'n?
BRADFORD: Oh, that boy's dead, Capt'n.
CAPTAIN: (snarling) Dannie Sears was dead, too. Shut that door. I don't want to hear that woman's voice again, ever.
(Closing the door and sitting on a bench built into that corner between the big sliding door and the room where the CAPTAIN is.)
BRADFORD: They're a cheerful pair of women—livin' in this cheerful place—a place that life savers had to turn over to the sand—huh! This Patrick woman used to be all right. She and her husband was summer folks over in town. They used to picnic over here on the outside. It was Joe Dyer—he's always talkin' to summer folks—told 'em the government was goin' to build the new station and sell this one by sealed bids. I heard them talkin' about it. They was sittin' right down there on the beach, eatin' their supper. They was goin' to put in a fire-place and they was goin' to paint it bright colors, and have parties over here—summer folk notions. Their bid won it—who'd want it?—a buried house you couldn't move.
TONY: I see no bright colors.
BRADFORD: Don't you? How astonishin'! You must be color blind. And I guess we're the first party. (laughs) I was in Bill Joseph's grocery store, one day last November, when in she comes—Mrs Patrick, from New York. 'I've come to take the old life-saving station', says she. 'I'm going to sleep over there tonight!' Huh! Bill is used to queer ways—he deals with summer folks, but that got him. November—an empty house, a buried house, you might say, off here on the outside shore—way across the sand from man or beast. He got it out of her, not by what she said, but by the way she looked at what he said, that her husband had died, and she was runnin' off to hide herself, I guess. A person'd feel sorry for her if she weren't so stand-offish, and so doggon mean. But mean folks have got minds of their own. She slept here that night. Bill had men hauling things till after dark—bed, stove, coal. And then she wanted somebody to work for her. 'Somebody', says she, 'that doesn't say an unnecessary word!' Well, then Bill come to the back of the store, I said, 'Looks to me as if Allie Mayo was the party she's lookin' for.' Allie Mayo has got a prejudice against words. Or maybe she likes 'em so well she's savin' of 'em. She's not spoke an unnecessary word for twenty years. She's got her reasons. Women whose men go to sea ain't always talkative.
(The CAPTAIN comes out. He closes door behind him and stands there beside it. He looks tired and disappointed. Both look at him. Pause.)
CAPTAIN: Wonder who he was.
BRADFORD: Young. Guess he's not been much at sea.
CAPTAIN: I hate to leave even the dead in this house. But we can get right back for him. (a look around) The old place used to be more friendly. (moves to outer door, hesitates, hating to leave like this) Well, Joe, we brought a good many of them back here.
BRADFORD: Dannie Sears is tendin' bar in Boston now.
(The three men go; as they are going around the drift of sand ALLIE MAYO comes in carrying a pot of coffee; sees them leaving, puts down the coffee pot, looks at the door the CAPTAIN has closed, moves toward it, as if drawn. MRS PATRICK follows her in.)
MRS PATRICK: They've gone?
(MRS MAYO nods, facing the closed door.)
MRS PATRICK: And they're leaving—him? (again the other woman nods) Then he's—? (MRS MAYO just stands there) They have no right—just because it used to be their place—! I want my house to myself!
(Snatches her coat and scarf from a hook and starts through the big door toward the dunes.)
ALLIE MAYO: Wait.
(When she has said it she sinks into that corner seat—as if overwhelmed by what she has done. The other woman is held.)
ALLIE MAYO: (to herself.) If I could say that, I can say more. (looking at woman she has arrested, but speaking more to herself) That boy in there—his face—uncovered something—(her open hand on her chest. But she waits, as if she cannot go on; when she speaks it is in labored way—slow, monotonous, as if snowed in by silent years) For twenty years, I did what you are doing. And I can tell you—it's not the way. (her voice has fallen to a whisper; she stops, looking ahead at something remote and veiled) We had been married—two years. (a start, as of sudden pain. Says it again, as if to make herself say it) Married—two years. He had a chance to go north on a whaler. Times hard. He had to go. A year and a half—it was to be. A year and a half. Two years we'd been married.
(She sits silent, moving a little back and forth.)
The day he went away. (not spoken, but breathed from pain) The days after he was gone.
I heard at first. Last letter said farther north—not another chance to write till on the way home. (a wait)
Six months. Another, I did not hear. (long wait) Nobody ever heard. (after it seems she is held there, and will not go on) I used to talk as much as any girl in Provincetown. Jim used to tease me about my talking. But they'd come in to talk to me. They'd say—'You may hear yet.' They'd talk about what must have happened. And one day a woman who'd been my friend all my life said—'Suppose he was to walk in!' I got up and drove her from my kitchen—and from that time till this I've not said a word I didn't have to say. (she has become almost wild in telling this. That passes. In a whisper) The ice that caught Jim—caught me. (a moment as if held in ice. Comes from it. To MRS PATRICK simply) It's not the way. (a sudden change) You're not the only woman in the world whose husband is dead!
MRS PATRICK: (with a cry of the hurt) Dead? My husband's not dead.
ALLIE MAYO: He's not? (slowly understands) Oh.
(The woman in the door is crying. Suddenly picks up her coat which has fallen to the floor and steps outside.)
ALLIE MAYO: (almost failing to do it) Wait.
MRS PATRICK: Wait? Don't you think you've said enough? They told me you didn't say an unnecessary word!
ALLIE MAYO: I don't.
MRS PATRICK: And you can see, I should think, that you've bungled into things you know nothing about!
(As she speaks, and crying under her breath, she pushes the sand by the door down on the half buried grass—though not as if knowing what she is doing.)
ALLIE MAYO: (slowly) When you keep still for twenty years you know—things you didn't know you knew. I know why you're doing that. (she looks up at her, startled) Don't bury the only thing that will grow. Let it grow.
(The woman outside still crying under her breath turns abruptly and starts toward the line where dunes and woods meet.)
ALLIE MAYO: I know where you're going! (MRS PATRICK turns but not as if she wants to) What you'll try to do. Over there. (pointing to the line of woods) Bury it. The life in you. Bury it—watching the sand bury the woods. But I'll tell you something! They fight too. The woods! They fight for life the way that Captain fought for life in there!
(Pointing to the closed door.)
MRS PATRICK: (with a strange exultation) And lose the way he lost in there!
ALLIE MAYO: (sure, sombre) They don't lose.
MRS PATRICK: Don't lose? (triumphant) I have walked on the tops of buried trees!
ALLIE MAYO: (slow, sombre, yet large) And vines will grow over the sand that covers the trees, and hold it. And other trees will grow over the buried trees.
MRS PATRICK: I've watched the sand slip down on the vines that reach out farthest.
ALLIE MAYO: Another vine will reach that spot. (under her breath, tenderly) Strange little things that reach out farthest!
MRS PATRICK: And will be buried soonest!
ALLIE MAYO: And hold the sand for things behind them. They save a wood that guards a town.
MRS PATRICK: I care nothing about a wood to guard a town. This is the outside—these dunes where only beach grass grows, this outer shore where men can't live. The Outside. You who were born here and who die here have named it that.
ALLIE MAYO: Yes, we named it that, and we had reason. He died here (reaches her hand toward the closed door) and many a one before him. But many another reached the harbor! (slowly raises her arm, bends it to make the form of the Cape. Touches the outside of her bent arm) The Outside. But an arm that bends to make a harbor—where men are safe.
MRS PATRICK: I'm outside the harbor—on the dunes, land not life.
ALLIE MAYO: Dunes meet woods and woods hold dunes from a town that's shore to a harbor.
MRS PATRICK: This is the Outside. Sand (picking some of it up in her hand and letting it fall on the beach grass) Sand that covers—hills of sand that move and cover.
ALLIE MAYO: Woods. Woods to hold the moving hills from Provincetown. Provincetown—where they turn when boats can't live at sea. Did you ever see the sails come round here when the sky is dark? A line of them—swift to the harbor—where their children live. Go back! (pointing) Back to your edge of the woods that's the edge of the dunes.
MRS PATRICK: The edge of life. Where life trails off to dwarfed things not worth a name.
(Suddenly sits down in the doorway.)
ALLIE MAYO: Not worth a name. And—meeting the Outside!
(Big with the sense of the wonder of life.)
MRS PATRICK: (lifting sand and letting it drift through her hand.) They're what the sand will let them be. They take strange shapes like shapes of blown sand.
ALLIE MAYO: Meeting the Outside. (moving nearer; speaking more personally) I know why you came here. To this house that had been given up; on this shore where only savers of life try to live. I know what holds you on these dunes, and draws you over there. But other things are true beside the things you want to see.
MRS PATRICK: How do you know they are? Where have you been for twenty years?
ALLIE MAYO: Outside. Twenty years. That's why I know how brave they are (indicating the edge of the woods. Suddenly different) You'll not find peace there again! Go back and watch them fight!
MRS PATRICK: (swiftly rising) You're a cruel woman—a hard, insolent woman! I knew what I was doing! What do you know about it? About me? I didn't go to the Outside. I was left there. I'm only—trying to get along. Everything that can hurt me I want buried—buried deep. Spring is here. This morning I knew it. Spring—coming through the storm—to take me—take me to hurt me. That's why I couldn't bear—(she looks at the closed door) things that made me know I feel. You haven't felt for so long you don't know what it means! But I tell you, Spring is here! And now you'd take that from me—(looking now toward the edge of the woods) the thing that made me know they would be buried in my heart—those things I can't live and know I feel. You're more cruel than the sea! 'But other things are true beside the things you want to see!' Outside. Springs will come when I will not know that it is spring. (as if resentful of not more deeply believing what she says) What would there be for me but the Outside? What was there for you? What did you ever find after you lost the thing you wanted?
ALLIE MAYO: I found—what I find now I know. The edge of life—to hold life behind me—
(A slight gesture toward MRS PATRICK.)
MRS PATRICK: (stepping back) You call what you are life? (laughs) Bleak as those ugly things that grow in the sand!
ALLIE MAYO: (under her breath, as one who speaks tenderly of beauty) Ugly!
MRS PATRICK: (passionately) I have known life. I have known life. You're like this Cape. A line of land way out to sea—land not life.
ALLIE MAYO: A harbor far at sea. (raises her arm, curves it in as if around something she loves) Land that encloses and gives shelter from storm.
MRS PATRICK: (facing the sea, as if affirming what will hold all else out) Outside sea. Outer shore. Dunes—land not life.
ALLIE MAYO: Outside sea—outer shore, dark with the wood that once was ships—dunes, strange land not life—woods, town and harbor. The line! Stunted straggly line that meets the Outside face to face—and fights for what itself can never be. Lonely line. Brave growing.
MRS PATRICK: It loses.
ALLIE MAYO: It wins.
MRS PATRICK: The farthest life is buried.
ALLIE MAYO: And life grows over buried life! (lifted into that; then, as one who states a simple truth with feeling) It will. And Springs will come when you will want to know that it is Spring.
(The CAPTAIN and BRADFORD appear behind the drift of sand. They have a stretcher. To get away from them MRS PATRICK steps farther into the room; ALLIE MAYO shrinks into her corner. The men come in, open the closed door and go in the room where they left the dead man. A moment later they are seen outside the big open door, bearing the man away. MRS PATRICK watches them from sight.)
MRS PATRICK: (bitter, exultant) Savers of life! (to ALLIE MAYO) You savers of life! 'Meeting the Outside!' Meeting—(but she cannot say it mockingly again; in saying it, something of what it means has broken through, rises. Herself lost, feeling her way into the wonder of life) Meeting the Outside!
(It grows in her as CURTAIN lowers slowly.)
First performed at the Provincetown Playhouse on November 14, 1921.
PERSONS OF THE PLAY
HARRY ARCHER, Claire's husband
HATTIE, The maid
DICK, Richard Demming
ELIZABETH, Claire's daughter
ADELAIDE, Claire's sister
The Curtain lifts on a place that is dark, save for a shaft of light from below which comes up through an open trap-door in the floor. This slants up and strikes the long leaves and the huge brilliant blossom of a strange plant whose twisted stem projects from right front. Nothing is seen except this plant and its shadow. A violent wind is heard. A moment later a buzzer. It buzzes once long and three short. Silence. Again the buzzer. Then from below—his shadow blocking the light, comes ANTHONY, a rugged man past middle life;—he emerges from the stairway into the darkness of the room. Is dimly seen taking up a phone.
ANTHONY: Yes, Miss Claire?—I'll see. (he brings a thermometer to the stairway for light, looks sharply, then returns to the phone) It's down to forty-nine. The plants are in danger—(with great relief and approval) Oh, that's fine! (hangs up the receiver) Fine!
(_He goes back down the stairway, closing the trap-door upon himself, and the curtain is drawn upon darkness and wind. It opens a moment later on the greenhouse in the sunshine of a snowy morning. The snow piled outside is at times blown through the air. The frost has made patterns on the glass as if—as Plato would have it—the patterns inherent in abstract nature and behind all life had to come out, not only in the creative heat within, but in the creative cold on the other side of the glass. And the wind makes patterns of sound around the glass house.
The back wall is low; the glass roof slopes sharply up. There is an outside door, a little toward the right. From outside two steps lead down to it. At left a glass partition and a door into the inner room. One sees a little way into this room. At right there is no dividing wall save large plants and vines, a narrow aisle between shelves of plants leads off.
This is not a greenhouse where plants are being displayed, nor the usual workshop for the growing of them, but a place for experiment with plants, a laboratory.
At the back grows a strange vine. It is arresting rather than beautiful. It creeps along the low wall, and one branch gets a little way up the glass. You might see the form of a cross in it, if you happened to think it that way. The leaves of this vine are not the form that leaves have been. They are at once repellent and significant_.
ANTHONY _is at work preparing soil—mixing, sifting. As the wind tries the door he goes anxiously to the thermometer, nods as if reassured and returns to his work. The buzzer sounds. He starts to answer the telephone, remembers something, halts and listens sharply. It does not buzz once long and three short. Then he returns to his work. The buzzer goes on and on in impatient jerks which mount in anger. Several times_ ANTHONY _is almost compelled by this insistence, but the thing that holds him back is stronger. At last, after a particularly mad splutter, to which_ ANTHONY _longs to make retort, the buzzer gives it up_. ANTHONY _goes on preparing soil.
A moment later the glass door swings violently in, snow blowing in, and also_ MR HARRY ARCHER, _wrapped in a rug._)
ANTHONY: Oh, please close the door, sir.
HARRY: Do you think I'm not trying to? (he holds it open to say this)
ANTHONY: But please do. This stormy air is not good for the plants.
HARRY: I suppose it's just the thing for me! Now, what do you mean, Anthony, by not answering the phone when I buzz for you?
ANTHONY: Miss Claire—Mrs Archer told me not to.
HARRY: Told you not to answer me?
ANTHONY: Not you especially—nobody but her.
HARRY: Well, I like her nerve—and yours.
ANTHONY: You see, she thought it took my mind from my work to be interrupted when I'm out here. And so it does. So she buzzes once long and—Well, she buzzes her way, and all other buzzing—
HARRY: May buzz.
ANTHONY: (nodding gravely) She thought it would be better for the flowers.
HARRY: I am not a flower—true, but I too need a little attention—and a little heat. Will you please tell me why the house is frigid?
ANTHONY: Miss Claire ordered all the heat turned out here, (patiently explaining it to MISS CLAIRE's speechless husband) You see the roses need a great deal of heat.
HARRY: (reading the thermometer) The roses have seventy-three I have forty-five.
ANTHONY: Yes, the roses need seventy-three.
HARRY: Anthony, this is an outrage!
ANTHONY: I think it is myself; when you consider what we paid for the heating plant—but as long as it is defective—Why, Miss Claire would never have done what she has if she hadn't looked out for her plants in just such ways as this. Have you forgotten that Breath of Life is about to flower?
HARRY: And where's my breakfast about to flower?—that's what I want to know.
ANTHONY: Why, Miss Claire got up at five o'clock to order the heat turned off from the house.
HARRY: I see you admire her vigilance.
ANTHONY: Oh, I do. (fervently) I do. Harm was near, and that woke her up.
HARRY: And what about the harm to—(tapping his chest) Do roses get pneumonia?
ANTHONY: Oh, yes—yes, indeed they do. Why, Mr Archer, look at Miss Claire herself. Hasn't she given her heat to the roses?
HARRY: (pulling the rug around him, preparing for the blizzard) She has the fire within.
ANTHONY: (delighted) Now isn't that true! How well you said it. (with a glare for this appreciation, HARRY opens the door. It blows away from him) Please do close the door!
HARRY: (furiously) You think it is the aim of my life to hold it open?
ANTHONY: (getting hold of it) Growing things need an even temperature, (while saying this he gets the man out into the snow)
(ANTHONY consults the thermometer, not as pleased this time as he was before. He then looks minutely at two of the plants—one is a rose, the other a flower without a name because it has not long enough been a flower. Peers into the hearts of them. Then from a drawer under a shelf, takes two paper bags, puts one over each of these flowers, closing them down at the bottom. Again the door blows wildly in, also HATTIE, a maid with a basket.)
ANTHONY: What do you mean—blowing in here like this? Mrs Archer has ordered—
HATTIE: Mr Archer has ordered breakfast served here, (she uncovers the basket and takes out an electric toaster)
ANTHONY: Breakfast—here? Eat—here? Where plants grow?
HATTIE: The plants won't poison him, will they? (at a loss to know what to do with things, she puts the toaster under the strange vine at the back, whose leaves lift up against the glass which has frost leaves on the outer side)
ANTHONY: (snatching it away) You—you think you can cook eggs under the Edge Vine?
HATTIE: I guess Mr Archer's eggs are as important as a vine. I guess my work's as important as yours.
ANTHONY: There's a million people like you—and like Mr Archer. In all the world there is only one Edge Vine.
HATTIE: Well, maybe one's enough. It don't look like nothin', anyhow.
ANTHONY: And you've not got the wit to know that that's why it's the Edge Vine.
HATTIE: You want to look out, Anthony. You talk nutty. Everybody says so.
ANTHONY: Miss Claire don't say so.
HATTIE: No, because she's—
ANTHONY: You talk too much!
(Door opens, admitting HARRY; after looking around for the best place to eat breakfast, moves a box of earth from the table.)
HARRY: Just give me a hand, will you, Hattie?
(They bring it to the open space and he and HATTIE arrange breakfast things, HATTIE with triumphant glances at the distressed ANTHONY)
ANTHONY: (deciding he must act) Mr Archer, this is not the place to eat breakfast!
HARRY: Dead wrong, old boy. The place that has heat is the place to eat breakfast. (to HATTIE) Tell the other gentlemen—I heard Mr Demming up, and Mr Edgeworthy, if he appears, that as long as it is such a pleasant morning, we're having breakfast outside. To the conservatory for coffee.
(HATTIE giggles, is leaving.)
And let's see, have we got everything? (takes the one shaker, shakes a little pepper on his hand. Looks in vain for the other shaker) And tell Mr Demming to bring the salt.
ANTHONY: But Miss Claire will be very angry.
HARRY: I am very angry. Did I choose to eat my breakfast at the other end of a blizzard?
ANTHONY: (an exclamation of horror at the thermometer) The temperature is falling. I must report. (he punches the buzzer, takes up the phone) Miss Claire? It is Anthony. A terrible thing has happened. Mr Archer—what? Yes, a terrible thing.—Yes, it is about Mr Archer.—No—no, not dead. But here. He is here. Yes, he is well, he seems well, but he is eating his breakfast. Yes, he is having breakfast served out here—for himself, and the other gentlemen are to come too.—Well, he seemed to be annoyed because the heat had been turned off from the house. But the door keeps opening—this stormy wind blowing right over the plants. The temperature has already fallen.—Yes, yes. I thought you would want to come.
(ANTHONY opens the trap-door and goes below. HARRY looks disapprovingly down into this openness at his feet, returns to his breakfast. ANTHONY comes up, bearing a box.)
HARRY: (turning his face away) Phew! What a smell.
ANTHONY: Yes. Fertilizer has to smell.
HARRY: Well, it doesn't have to smell up my breakfast!
ANTHONY: (with a patient sense of order) The smell belongs here. (he and the smell go to the inner room)
(The outer door opens just enough to admit CLAIRE—is quickly closed. With CLAIRE in a room another kind of aliveness is there.)
CLAIRE: What are you doing here?
HARRY: Getting breakfast. (all the while doing so)
CLAIRE: I'll not have you in my place!
HARRY: If you take all the heat then you have to take me.
CLAIRE: I'll show you how I have to take you. (with her hands begins scooping upon him the soil ANTHONY has prepared)
HARRY: (jumping up, laughing, pinning down her arms, putting his arms around her) Claire—be decent. What harm do I do here?
CLAIRE: You pull down the temperature.
HARRY: Not after I'm in.
CLAIRE: And you told Tom and Dick to come and make it uneven.
HARRY: Tom and Dick are our guests. We can't eat where it's warm and leave them to eat where it's cold.
CLAIRE: I don't see why not.
HARRY: You only see what you want to see.
CLAIRE: That's not true. I wish it were. No; no, I don't either. (she is disturbed—that troubled thing which rises from within, from deep, and takes CLAIRE. She turns to the Edge Vine, examines. Regretfully to ANTHONY, who has come in with a plant) It's turning back, isn't it?
ANTHONY: Can you be sure yet, Miss Claire?
CLAIRE: Oh yes—it's had its chance. It doesn't want to be—what hasn't been.
HARRY: (who has turned at this note in her voice. Speaks kindly) Don't take it so seriously, Claire. (CLAIRE laughs)
CLAIRE: No, I suppose not. But it does matter—and why should I pretend it doesn't, just because I've failed with it?
HARRY: Well, I don't want to see it get you—it's not important enough for that.
CLAIRE: (in her brooding way) Anything is important enough for that—if it's important at all. (to the vine) I thought you were out, but you're—going back home.
ANTHONY: But you're doing it this time, Miss Claire. When Breath of Life opens—and we see its heart—
(CLAIRE looks toward the inner room. Because of intervening plants they do not see what is seen from the front—a plant like caught motion, and of a greater transparency than plants have had. Its leaves, like waves that curl, close around a heart that is not seen. This plant stands by itself in what, because of the arrangement of things about it, is a hidden place. But nothing is between it and the light.)
CLAIRE: Yes, if the heart has (a little laugh) held its own, then Breath of Life is alive in its otherness. But Edge Vine is running back to what it broke out of.
HARRY: Come, have some coffee, Claire.
(ANTHONY returns to the inner room, the outer door opens. DICK is hurled in.)
CLAIRE: (going to the door, as he gasps for breath before closing it) How dare you make my temperature uneven! (she shuts the door and leans against it)
DICK: Is that what I do?
(A laugh, a look between them, which is held into significance.)
HARRY: (who is not facing them) Where's the salt?
DICK: Oh, I fell down in the snow. I must have left the salt where I fell. I'll go back and look for it.
CLAIRE: And change the temperature? We don't need salt.
HARRY: You don't need salt, Claire. But we eat eggs.
CLAIRE: I must tell you I don't like the idea of any food being eaten here, where things have their own way to go. Please eat as little as possible, and as quickly.
HARRY: A hostess calculated to put one at one's ease.
CLAIRE: (with no ill-nature) I care nothing about your ease. Or about Dick's ease.
DICK: And no doubt that's what makes you so fascinating a hostess.
CLAIRE: Was I a fascinating hostess last night, Dick? (softly sings) 'Oh, night of love—' (from the Barcorole of 'Tales of Hoffman')
HARRY: We've got to have salt.
(He starts for the door. CLAIRE slips in ahead of him, locks it, takes the key. He marches off, right.)
CLAIRE: (calling after him) That end's always locked.
DICK: Claire darling, I wish you wouldn't say those startling things. You do get away with it, but I confess it gives me a shock—and really, it's unwise.
CLAIRE: Haven't you learned that the best place to hide is in the truth? (as HARRY returns) Why won't you believe me, Harry, when I tell you the truth—about doors being locked?
HARRY: Claire, it's selfish of you to keep us from eating salt just because you don't eat salt.
CLAIRE: (with one of her swift changes) Oh, Harry! Try your egg without salt. Please—please try it without salt! (an intensity which seems all out of proportion to the subject)
HARRY: An egg demands salt.
CLAIRE: 'An egg demands salt.' Do you know, Harry, why you are such an unseasoned person? 'An egg demands salt.'
HARRY: Well, it doesn't always get it.
CLAIRE: But your spirit gets no lift from the salt withheld.
HARRY: Not an inch of lift. (going back to his breakfast)
CLAIRE: And pleased—so pleased with itself, for getting no lift. Sure, it is just the right kind of spirit—because it gets no lift. (more brightly) But, Dick, you must have tried your egg without salt.
DICK: I'll try it now. (he goes to the breakfast table)
CLAIRE: You must have tried and tried things. Isn't that the way one leaves the normal and gets into the byways of perversion?
DICK: (pushing back his egg) If so, I prefer to wait for the salt.
HARRY: Claire, there is a limit.
CLAIRE: Precisely what I had in mind. To perversion too there is a limit. So—the fortifications are unassailable. If one ever does get out, I suppose it is—quite unexpectedly, and perhaps—a bit terribly.
HARRY: Get out where?
CLAIRE: (with a bright smile) Where you, darling, will never go.
HARRY: And from which you, darling, had better beat it.
CLAIRE: I wish I could. (to herself) No—no I don't either
(Again this troubled thing turns her to the plant. She puts by themselves the two which ANTHONY covered with paper bags. Is about to remove these papers. HARRY strikes a match.)
CLAIRE: (turning sharply) You can't smoke here. The plants are not used to it.
HARRY: Then I should think smoking would be just the thing for them.
CLAIRE: There is design.
HARRY: (to DICK) Am I supposed to be answered? I never can be quite sure at what moment I am answered.
(They both watch CLAIRE, who has uncovered the plants and is looking intently into the flowers. From a drawer she takes some tools. Very carefully gives the rose pollen to an unfamiliar flower—rather wistfully unfamiliar, which stands above on a small shelf near the door of the inner room.)
DICK: What is this you're doing, Claire?
CLAIRE: Pollenizing. Crossing for fragrance.
DICK: It's all rather mysterious, isn't it?
HARRY: And Claire doesn't make it any less so.
CLAIRE: Can I make life any less mysterious?
HARRY: If you know what you are doing, why can't you tell Dick?
DICK: Never mind. After all, why should I be told? (he turns away)
(At that she wants to tell him. Helpless, as one who cannot get across a stream, starts uncertainly.)
CLAIRE: I want to give fragrance to Breath of Life (faces the room beyond the wall of glass)—the flower I have created that is outside what flowers have been. What has gone out should bring fragrance from what it has left. But no definite fragrance, no limiting enclosing thing. I call the fragrance I am trying to create Reminiscence. (her hand on the pot of the wistful little flower she has just given pollen) Reminiscent of the rose, the violet, arbutus—but a new thing—itself. Breath of Life may be lonely out in what hasn't been. Perhaps some day I can give it reminiscence.
DICK: I see, Claire.
CLAIRE: I wonder if you do.
HARRY: Now, Claire, you're going to be gay to-day, aren't you? These are Tom's last couple of days with us.
CLAIRE: That doesn't make me especially gay.
HARRY: Well, you want him to remember you as yourself, don't you?
CLAIRE: I would like him to. Oh—I would like him to!
HARRY: Then be amusing. That's really you, isn't it, Dick?
DICK: Not quite all of her—I should say.
CLAIRE: (gaily) Careful, Dick. Aren't you indiscreet? Harry will be suspecting that I am your latest strumpet.
HARRY: Claire! What language you use! A person knowing you only by certain moments could never be made to believe you are a refined woman.
CLAIRE: True, isn't it, Dick?
HARRY: It would be a good deal of a lark to let them listen in at times—then tell them that here is the flower of New England!
CLAIRE: Well, if this is the flower of New England, then the half has never been told.
DICK: About New England?
CLAIRE: I thought I meant that. Perhaps I meant—about me.
HARRY: (going on with his own entertainment) Explain that this is what came of the men who made the laws that made New England, that here is the flower of those gentlemen of culture who—
DICK: Moulded the American mind!
CLAIRE: Oh! (it is pain)
HARRY: Now what's the matter?
CLAIRE: I want to get away from them!
HARRY: Rest easy, little one—you do.
CLAIRE: I'm not so sure—that I do. But it can be done! We need not be held in forms moulded for us. There is outness—and otherness.
HARRY: Now, Claire—I didn't mean to start anything serious.
CLAIRE: No; you never mean to do that. I want to break it up! I tell you, I want to break it up! If it were all in pieces, we'd be (a little laugh) shocked to aliveness (to DICK)—wouldn't we? There would be strange new comings together—mad new comings together, and we would know what it is to be born, and then we might know—that we are. Smash it. (her hand is near an egg) As you'd smash an egg. (she pushes the egg over the edge of the table and leans over and looks, as over a precipice)
HARRY: (with a sigh) Well, all you've smashed is the egg, and all that amounts to is that now Tom gets no egg. So that's that.
CLAIRE: (with difficulty, drawing herself back from the fascination of the precipice) You think I can't smash anything? You think life can't break up, and go outside what it was? Because you've gone dead in the form in which you found yourself, you think that's all there is to the whole adventure? And that is called sanity. And made a virtue—to lock one in. You never worked with things that grow! Things that take a sporting chance—go mad—that sanity mayn't lock them in—from life untouched—from life—that waits, (she turns toward the inner room) Breath of Life. (she goes in there)
HARRY: Oh, I wish Claire wouldn't be strange like that, (helplessly) What is it? What's the matter?
DICK: It's merely the excess of a particularly rich temperament.
HARRY: But it's growing on her. I sometimes wonder if all this (indicating the place around him) is a good thing. It would be all right if she'd just do what she did in the beginning—make the flowers as good as possible of their kind. That's an awfully nice thing for a woman to do—raise flowers. But there's something about this—changing things into other things—putting things together and making queer new things—this—
HARRY: Give it any name you want it to have—it's unsettling for a woman. They say Claire's a shark at it, but what's the good of it, if it gets her? What is the good of it, anyway? Suppose we can produce new things. Lord—look at the one ones we've got. (looks outside; turns back) Heavens, what a noise the wind does make around this place, (but now it is not all the wind, but TOM EDGEWORTHY, who is trying to let himself in at the locked door, their backs are to him) I want my egg. You can't eat an egg without salt. I must say I don't get Claire lately. I'd like to have Charlie Emmons see her—he's fixed up a lot of people shot to pieces in the war. Claire needs something to tone her nerves up. You think it would irritate her?
DICK: She'd probably get no little entertainment out of it.
HARRY: Yes, dog-gone her, she would. (TOM now takes more heroic measures to make himself heard at the door) Funny—how the wind can fool you. Now by not looking around I could imagine—why, I could imagine anything. Funny, isn't it, about imagination? And Claire says I haven't got any!
DICK: It would make an amusing drawing—what the wind makes you think is there. (first makes forms with his hands, then levelling the soil prepared by ANTHONY, traces lines with his finger) Yes, really—quite jolly.
(TOM, after a moment of peering in at them, smiles, goes away.)
HARRY: You're another one of the queer ducks, aren't you? Come now—give me the dirt. Have you queer ones really got anything—or do you just put it over on us that you have?
DICK: (smiles, draws on) Not saying anything, eh? Well, I guess you're wise there. If you keep mum—how are we going to prove there's nothing there?
DICK: I don't keep mum. I draw.
HARRY: Lines that don't make anything—how can they tell you anything? Well, all I ask is, don't make Claire queer. Claire's a first water good sport—really, so don't encourage her to be queer.
DICK: Trouble is, if you're queer enough to be amusing, it might—open the door to queerness.
HARRY: Now don't say things like that to Claire.
DICK: I don't have to.
HARRY: Then you think she's queer, do you? Queer as you are, you think she's queer. I would like to have Dr Emmons come out. (after a moment of silently watching DICK, who is having a good time with his drawing) You know, frankly, I doubt if you're a good influence for Claire. (DICK lifts his head ever so slightly) Oh, I don't worry a bit about—things a husband might worry about. I suppose an intellectual woman—and for all Claire's hate of her ancestors, she's got the bug herself. Why, she has times of boring into things until she doesn't know you're there. What do you think I caught her doing the other day? Reading Latin. Well—a woman that reads Latin needn't worry a husband much.
DICK: They said a good deal in Latin.
HARRY: But I was saying, I suppose a woman who lives a good deal in her mind never does have much—well, what you might call passion, (uses the word as if it shouldn't be used. Brows knitted, is looking ahead, does not see DICK's face. Turning to him with a laugh) I suppose you know pretty much all there is to know about women?
DICK: Perhaps one or two details have escaped me.
HARRY: Well, for that matter, you might know all there is to know about women and not know much about Claire. But now about (does not want to say passion again)—oh, feeling—Claire has a certain—well, a certain—
HARRY: Which is really more—more—
DICK: More fetching, perhaps.
HARRY: Yes! Than the thing itself. But of course—you wouldn't have much of a thing that you have irony about.
DICK: Oh—wouldn't you! I mean—a man might.
HARRY: I'd like to talk to Edgeworth about Claire. But it's not easy to talk to Tom about Claire—or to Claire about Tom.
DICK: (alert) They're very old friends, aren't they?
HARRY: Why—yes, they are. Though they've not been together much of late years, Edgeworthy always going to the ends of the earth to—meditate about something. I must say I don't get it. If you have a place—that's the place for you to be. And he did have a place—best kind of family connections, and it was a very good business his father left him. Publishing business—in good shape, too, when old Edgeworthy died. I wouldn't call Tom a great success in life—but Claire does listen to what he says.
DICK: Yes, I've noticed that.
HARRY: So, I'd like to get him to tell her to quit this queer business of making things grow that never grew before.
DICK: But are you sure that's what he would tell her? Isn't he in the same business himself?
HARRY: Why, he doesn't raise anything.
(TOM is again at the door.)
DICK: Anyway, I think he might have some idea that we can't very well reach each other.
HARRY: Damn nonsense. What have we got intelligence for?
DICK: To let each other alone, I suppose. Only we haven't enough to do it.
(TOM is now knocking on the door with a revolver. HARRY half turns, decides to be too intelligent to turn.)
HARRY: Don't tell me I'm getting nerves. But the way some of you people talk is enough to make even an aviator jumpy. Can't reach each other! Then we're fools. If I'm here and you're there, why can't we reach each other?
DICK: Because I am I and you are you.
HARRY: No wonder your drawing's queer. A man who can't reach another man—(TOM here reaches them by pointing the revolver in the air and firing it. DICK digs his hand into the dirt. HARRY jumps to one side, fearfully looks around. TOM, with a pleased smile to see he at last has their attention, moves the handle to indicate he would be glad to come in.)
HARRY: Why—it's Tom! What the—? (going to the door) He's locked out. And Claire's got the key. (goes to the inner door, tries it) And she's locked in! (trying to see her in there) Claire! Claire! (returning to the outer door) Claire's got the key—and I can't get to Claire. (makes a futile attempt at getting the door open without a key, goes back to inner door—peers, pounds) Claire! Are you there? Didn't you hear the revolver? Has she gone down the cellar? (tries the trap-door) Bolted! Well, I love the way she keeps people locked out!
DICK: And in.
HARRY: (getting angry, shouting at the trap-door) Didn't you hear the revolver? (going to TOM) Awfully sorry, old man, but—(in astonishment to DICK) He can't hear me. (TOM, knocking with the revolver to get their attention, makes a gesture of inquiry with it) No—no—no! Is he asking if he shall shoot himself? (shaking his head violently) Oh, no—no! Um—um!
DICK: Hardly seems a man would shoot himself because he can't get to his breakfast.
HARRY: I'm coming to believe people would do anything! (TOM is making another inquiry with the revolver) No! not here. Don't shoot yourself. (trying hard to get the word through) Shoot yourself. I mean—don't, (petulantly to DICK) It's ridiculous that you can't make a man understand you when he looks right at you like that. (turning back to TOM) Read my lips. Lips. I'm saying—Oh damn. Where is Claire? All right—I'll explain it with motions. We wanted the salt ... (going over it to himself) and Claire wouldn't let us go out for it on account of the temperature. Salt. Temperature. (takes his egg-cup to the door, violent motion of shaking in salt) But—no (shakes his head) No salt. (he then takes the thermometer, a flower pot, holds them up to TOM) On account of the temperature. Tem-per-a—(TOM is not getting it) Oh—well, what can you do when a man don't get a thing? (TOM seems to be preparing the revolver for action. HARRY pounds on the inner door) Claire! Do you want Tom to shoot himself?
(As he looks in there, the trap-door lifts, and CLAIRE comes half-way up.)
CLAIRE: Why, what is Tom doing out there, with a revolver?
HARRY: He is about to shoot himself because you've locked him out from his breakfast.
CLAIRE: He must know more interesting ways of destroying himself. (bowing to TOM) Good morning. (from his side of the glass TOM bows and smiles back) Isn't it strange—our being in here—and he being out there?
HARRY: Claire, have you no ideas of hospitality? Let him in!
CLAIRE: In? Perhaps that isn't hospitality.
HARRY: Well, whatever hospitality is, what is out there is snow—and wind—and our guest—who was asked to come here for his breakfast. To think a man has to such things.
CLAIRE: I'm going to let him in. Though I like his looks out there. (she takes the key from her pocket)
HARRY: Thank heaven the door's coming open. Somebody can go for salt, and we can have our eggs.
CLAIRE: And open the door again—to let the salt in? No. If you insist on salt, tell Tom now to go back and get it. It's a stormy morning and there'll be just one opening of the door.
HARRY: How can we tell him what we can't make him hear? And why does he think we're holding this conversation instead of letting him in?
CLAIRE: It would be interesting to know. I wonder if he'll tell us?
HARRY: Claire! Is this any time to wonder anything?
CLAIRE: Give up the idea of salt for your egg and I'll let him in. (holds up the key to TOM to indicate that for her part she is quite ready to let him in)
HARRY: I want my egg!
CLAIRE: Then ask him to bring the salt. It's quite simple.
(HARRY goes through another pantomime with the egg-cup and the missing shaker. CLAIRE, still standing half-way down cellar, sneezes. HARRY, growing all the while less amiable, explains with thermometer and flower-pot that there can only be one opening of the door. TOM looks interested, but unenlightened. But suddenly he smiles, nods, vanishes.)
HARRY: Well, thank heaven (exhausted) that's over.
CLAIRE: (sitting on the top step) It was all so queer. He locked out on his side of the door. You locked in on yours. Looking right at each other and—
HARRY: (in mockery) And me trying to tell him to kindly fetch the salt!
HARRY: (to DICK) Well, I didn't do so bad a job, did I? Quite an idea, explaining our situation with the thermometer and the flower-pot. That was really an apology for keeping him out there. Heaven knows—some explanation was in order, (he is watching, and sees TOM coming) Now there he is, Claire. And probably pretty well fed up with the weather.
(CLAIRE goes to the door, stops before it. She and TOM look at each other through the glass. Then she lets him in.)
TOM: And now I am in. For a time it seemed I was not to be in. But after I got the idea that you were keeping me out there to see if I could get the idea—it would be too humiliating for a wall of glass to keep one from understanding. (taking it from his pocket) So there's the other thermometer. Where do you want it? (CLAIRE takes it)
CLAIRE: And where's the pepper?
TOM: (putting it on the table) And here's the pepper.
TOM: When Claire sneezed I knew—
CLAIRE: Yes, I knew if I sneezed you would bring the pepper.
TOM: Funny how one always remembers the salt, but the pepper gets overlooked in preparations. And what is an egg without pepper?
HARRY: (nastily) There's your egg, Edgeworth. (pointing to it on the floor) Claire decided it would be a good idea to smash everything, so she began with your egg.
TOM: (looking at his egg) The idea of smashing everything is really more intriguing than an egg.
HARRY: Nice that you feel that way about it.
CLAIRE: (giving TOM his coffee) You want to hear something amusing? I married Harry because I thought he would smash something.
HARRY: Well, that was an error in judgment.
CLAIRE: I'm such a naive trusting person (HARRY laughs—CLAIRE gives him a surprised look, continues simply). Such a guileless soul that I thought flying would do something to a man. But it didn't take us out. We just took it in.
TOM: It's only our own spirit can take us out.
HARRY: Whatever you mean by out.
CLAIRE: (after looking intently at TOM, and considering it) But our own spirit is not something on the loose. Mine isn't. It has something to do with what I do. To fly. To be free in air. To look from above on the world of all my days. Be where man has never been! Yes—wouldn't you think the spirit could get the idea? The earth grows smaller. I am leaving. What are they—running around down there? Why do they run around down there? Houses? Houses are funny lines and down-going slants—houses are vanishing slants. I am alone. Can I breathe this rarer air? Shall I go higher? Shall I go too high? I am loose. I am out. But no; man flew, and returned to earth the man who left it.
HARRY: And jolly well likely not to have returned at all if he'd had those flighty notions while operating a machine.
CLAIRE: Oh, Harry! (not lightly asked) Can't you see it would be better not to have returned than to return the man who left it?
HARRY: I have some regard for human life.
CLAIRE: Why, no—I am the one who has the regard for human life, (more lightly) That was why I swiftly divorced my stick-in-the-mud artist and married—the man of flight. But I merely passed from a stick-in-the-mud artist to a—
DICK: Stick-in-the-air aviator?
HARRY: Speaking of your stick-in-the-mud artist, as you romantically call your first blunder, isn't his daughter—and yours—due here to-day?
CLAIRE: I knew something was disturbing me. Elizabeth. A daughter is being delivered unto me this morning. I have a feeling it will be more painful than the original delivery. She has been, as they quaintly say, educated; prepared for her place in life.
HARRY: And fortunately Claire has a sister who is willing to give her young niece that place.
CLAIRE: The idea of giving anyone a place in life.
HARRY: Yes! The very idea!
CLAIRE: Yes! (as often, the mocking thing gives true expression to what lies sombrely in her) The war. There was another gorgeous chance.
HARRY: Chance for what? I call you, Claire. I ask you to say what you mean.
CLAIRE: I don't know—precisely. If I did—there'd be no use saying it. (at HARRY's impatient exclamation she turns to TOM)
TOM: (nodding) The only thing left worth saying is the thing we can't say.
CLAIRE: Yes. But the war didn't help. Oh, it was a stunning chance! But fast as we could—scuttled right back to the trim little thing we'd been shocked out of.
HARRY: You bet we did—showing our good sense.
CLAIRE: Showing our incapacity—for madness.
HARRY: Oh, come now, Claire—snap out of it. You're not really trying to say that capacity for madness is a good thing to have?
CLAIRE: (in simple surprise) Why yes, of course.
DICK: But I should say the war did leave enough madness to give you a gleam of hope.
CLAIRE: Not the madness that—breaks through. And it was—a stunning chance! Mankind massed to kill. We have failed. We are through. We will destroy. Break this up—it can't go farther. In the air above—in the sea below—it is to kill! All we had thought we were—we aren't. We were shut in with what wasn't so. Is there one ounce of energy has not gone to this killing? Is there one love not torn in two? Throw it in! Now? Ready? Break up. Push. Harder. Break up. And then—and then—But we didn't say—'And then—' The spirit didn't take the tip.
HARRY: Claire! Come now (looking to the others for help)—let's talk of something else.
CLAIRE: Plants do it. The big leap—it's called. Explode their species—because something in them knows they've gone as far as they can go. Something in them knows they're shut in to just that. So—go mad—that life may not be prisoned. Break themselves up into crazy things—into lesser things, and from the pieces—may come one sliver of life with vitality to find the future. How beautiful. How brave.
TOM: (as if he would call her from too far—or would let her know he has gone with her) Claire!
CLAIRE: (her eyes turning to him) Why should we mind lying under the earth? We who have no such initiative—no proud madness? Why think it death to lie under life so flexible—so ruthless and ever-renewing?
ANTHONY: (from the door of the inner room) Miss Claire?
CLAIRE: (after an instant) Yes? (she goes with him, as they disappear his voice heard,'show me now ... want those violets bedded')
HARRY: Oh, this has got to stop. I've got to—put a stop to it some way. Why, Claire used to be the best sport a man ever played around with. I can't stand it to see her getting hysterical.
TOM: That was not hysterical.
HARRY: What was it then—I want to know?
TOM: It was—a look.
HARRY: Oh, I might have known I'd get no help from either of you. Even you, Edgeworthy—much as she thinks of you—and fine sort as I've no doubt you are, you're doing Claire no good—encouraging her in these queer ways.
TOM: I couldn't change Claire if I would.
HARRY: And wouldn't if you could.
TOM: No. But you don't have to worry about me. I'm going away in a day or two. And I shall not be back.
HARRY: Trouble with you is, it makes little difference whether you're here or away. Just the fact of your existence does encourage Claire in this—this way she's going.
TOM: (with a smile) But you wouldn't ask me to go so far as to stop my existence? Though I would do that for Claire—if it were the way to help her.
HARRY: By Jove, you say that as if you meant it.
TOM: Do you think I would say anything about Claire I didn't mean?
HARRY: You think a lot of her, don't you? (TOM nods) You don't mean (a laugh letting him say it)—that you're—in love with Claire!
TOM: In love? Oh, that's much too easy. Certainly I do love Claire.
HARRY: Well, you're a cool one!
TOM: Let her be herself. Can't you see she's troubled?
HARRY: Well, what is there to trouble Claire? Now I ask you. It seems to me she has everything.
TOM: She's left so—open. Too exposed, (as HARRY moves impatiently) Please don't be annoyed with me. I'm doing my best at saying it. You see Claire isn't hardened into one of those forms she talks about. She's too—aware. Always pulled toward what could be—tormented by the lost adventure.
HARRY: Well, there's danger in all that. Of course there's danger.
TOM: But you can't help that.
HARRY: Claire was the best fun a woman could be. Is yet—at times.
TOM: Let her be—at times. As much as she can and will. She does need that. Don't keep her from it by making her feel you're holding her in it. Above all, don't try to stop what she's doing here. If she can do it with plants, perhaps she won't have to do it with herself.
HARRY: Do what?
TOM: (low, after a pause) Break up what exists. Open the door to destruction in the hope of—a door on the far side of destruction.
HARRY: Well, you give me the willies, (moves around in irritation, troubled. To ANTHONY, who is passing through with a sprayer) Anthony, have any arrangements been made about Miss Claire's daughter?
ANTHONY: I haven't heard of any arrangements.
HARRY: Well, she'll have to have some heat in her room. We can't all live out here.
ANTHONY: Indeed you cannot. It is not good for the plants.
HARRY: I'm going where I can smoke, (goes out)
DICK: (lightly, but fascinated by the idea) You think there is a door on the—hinter side of destruction?
TOM: How can one tell—where a door may be? One thing I want to say to you—for it is about you. (regards DICK and not with his usual impersonal contemplation) I don't think Claire should have—any door closed to her. (pause) You know, I think, what I mean. And perhaps you can guess how it hurts to say it. Whether it's—mere escape within,—rather shameful escape within, or the wild hope of that door through, it's—(suddenly all human) Be good to her! (after a difficult moment, smiles) Going away for ever is like dying, so one can say things.
DICK: Why do you do it—go away for ever?
TOM: I haven't succeeded here.
DICK: But you've tried the going away before.
TOM: Never knowing I would not come back. So that wasn't going away. My hope is that this will be like looking at life from outside life.
DICK: But then you'll not be in it.
TOM: I haven't been able to look at it while in it.
DICK: Isn't it more important to be in it than to look at it?
TOM: Not what I mean by look.
DICK: It's hard for me to conceive of—loving Claire and going away from her for ever.
TOM: Perhaps it's harder to do than to conceive of.
DICK: Then why do it?
TOM: It's my only way of keeping her.
DICK: I'm afraid I'm like Harry now. I don't get you.
TOM: I suppose not. Your way is different, (with calm, with sadness—not with malice) But I shall have her longer. And from deeper.
DICK: I know that.
TOM: Though I miss much. Much, (the buzzer. TOM looks around to see if anyone is coming to answer it, then goes to the phone) Yes?... I'll see if I can get her. (to DICK) Claire's daughter has arrived, (looking in the inner room—returns to phone) I don't see her. (catching a glimpse of ANTHONY off right) Oh, Anthony, where's Miss Claire? Her daughter has arrived.
ANTHONY: She's working at something very important in her experiments.
DICK: But isn't her daughter one of her experiments?
ANTHONY: (after a baffled moment) Her daughter is finished.
TOM: (at the phone) Sorry—but I can't get to Claire. She appears to have gone below. (ANTHONY closes the trap-door) I did speak to Anthony, but he says that Claire is working at one of her experiments and that her daughter is finished. I don't know how to make her hear—I took the revolver back to the house. Anyway you will remember Claire doesn't answer the revolver. I hate to reach Claire when she doesn't want to be reached. Why, of course—a daughter is very important, but oh, that's too bad. (putting down the receiver) He says the girl's feelings are hurt. Isn't that annoying? (gingerly pounds on the trap-door. Then with the other hand. Waits. ANTHONY has a gentle smile for the gentle tapping—nods approval as, TOM returns to the phone) She doesn't come up. Indeed I did—with both fists—Sorry.
ANTHONY: Please, you won't try again to disturb Miss Claire, will you?
DICK: Her daughter is here, Anthony. She hasn't seen her daughter for a year.
ANTHONY: Well, if she got along without a mother for a year—(goes back to his work)
DICK: (smiling after ANTHONY) Plants are queer. Perhaps it's safer to do it with pencil (regards TOM)—or with pure thought. Things that grow in the earth—
TOM: (nodding) I suppose because we grew in the earth.
DICK: I'm always shocked to find myself in agreement with Harry, but I too am worried about Claire—and this, (looking at the plants)
TOM: It's her best chance.
DICK: Don't you hate to go away to India—for ever—leaving Claire's future uncertain?
TOM: You're cruel now. And you knew that you were being cruel.
DICK: Yes, I like the lines of your face when you suffer.
TOM: The lines of yours when you're causing suffering—I don't like them.
DICK: Perhaps that's your limitation.
TOM: I grant you it may be. (They are silent) I had an odd feeling that you and I sat here once before, long ago, and that we were plants. And you were a beautiful plant, and I—I was a very ugly plant. I confess it surprised me—finding myself so ugly a plant.
(A young girl is seen outside. HARRY gets the door open for her and brings ELIZABETH in.)
HARRY: There's heat here. And two of your mother's friends. Mr Demming—Richard Demming—the artist—and I think you and Mr Edgeworthy are old friends.
(ELIZABETH comes forward. She is the creditable young American—well built, poised, 'cultivated', so sound an expression of the usual as to be able to meet the world with assurance—assurance which training has made rather graceful. She is about seventeen—and mature. You feel solid things behind her.)
TOM: I knew you when you were a baby. You used to kick a great deal then.
ELIZABETH: (laughing, with ease) And scream, I haven't a doubt. But I've stopped that. One does, doesn't one? And it was you who gave me the idol.
TOM: Proselytizing, I'm afraid.
ELIZABETH: I beg—? Oh—yes (laughing cordially) I see. (she doesn't) I dressed the idol up in my doll's clothes. They fitted perfectly—the idol was just the size of my doll Ailine. But mother didn't like the idol that way, and tore the clothes getting them off. (to HARRY, after looking around) Is mother here?
HARRY: (crossly) Yes, she's here. Of course she's here. And she must know you're here, (after looking in the inner room he goes to the trap-door and makes a great noise)
ELIZABETH: Oh—please. Really—it doesn't make the least difference.
HARRY: Well, all I can say is, your manners are better than your mother's.
ELIZABETH: But you see I don't do anything interesting, so I have to have good manners. (lightly, but leaving the impression there is a certain superiority in not doing anything interesting. Turning cordially to DICK) My father was an artist.
DICK: Yes, I know.
ELIZABETH: He was a portrait painter. Do you do portraits?
DICK: Well, not the kind people buy.
ELIZABETH: They bought father's.
DICK: Yes, I know he did that kind.
HARRY: (still irritated) Why, you don't do portraits.
DICK: I did one of you the other day. You thought it was a milk-can.
ELIZABETH: (laughing delightedly) No? Not really? Did you think—How could you think—(as HARRY does not join the laugh) Oh, I beg your pardon. I—Does mother grow beautiful roses now?
HARRY: No, she does not.
(The trap-door begins to move. CLAIRE's head appears.)
ELIZABETH: Mother! It's been so long—(she tries to overcome the difficulties and embrace her mother)
CLAIRE: (protecting a box she has) Careful, Elizabeth. We mustn't upset the lice.
ELIZABETH: (retreating) Lice? (but quickly equal even to lice) Oh—yes. You take it—them—off plants, don't you?
CLAIRE: I'm putting them on certain plants.
ELIZABETH: (weakly) Oh, I thought you took them off.
CLAIRE: (calling) Anthony! (he comes) The lice. (he takes them from her) (CLAIRE, who has not fully ascended, looks at ELIZABETH, hesitates, then suddenly starts back down the stairs.)
HARRY: (outraged) Claire! (slowly she re-ascends—sits on the top step. After a long pause in which he has waited for CLAIRE to open a conversation with her daughter.) Well, and what have you been doing at school all this time?
CLAIRE: Studying what?
ELIZABETH: Why—the things one studies, mother.
CLAIRE: Oh! The things one studies. (looks down cellar again)
DICK: (after another wait) And what have you been doing besides studying?
ELIZABETH: Oh—the things one does. Tennis and skating and dancing and—
CLAIRE: The things one does.
ELIZABETH: Yes. All the things. The—the things one does. Though I haven't been in school these last few months, you know. Miss Lane took us to Europe.
TOM: And how did you like Europe?
ELIZABETH: (capably) Oh, I thought it was awfully amusing. All the girls were quite mad about Europe. Of course, I'm glad I'm an American.
ELIZABETH: (laughing) Why—mother! Of course one is glad one is an American. All the girls—
CLAIRE: (turning away) O—h! (a moan under the breath)
ELIZABETH: Why, mother—aren't you well?
HARRY: Your mother has been working pretty hard at all this.
ELIZABETH: Oh, I do so want to know all about it? Perhaps I can help you! I think it's just awfully amusing that you're doing something. One does nowadays, doesn't one?—if you know what I mean. It was the war, wasn't it, made it the thing to do something?
DICK: (slyly) And you thought, Claire, that the war was lost.
ELIZABETH: The war? Lost! (her capable laugh) Fancy our losing a war! Miss Lane says we should give thanks. She says we should each do some expressive thing—you know what I mean? And that this is the keynote of the age. Of course, one's own kind of thing. Like mother—growing flowers.