I-II II-I II-II
SCENE—Same as Act One, Scene Two. Sitting
room of the farm house about half past twelve in the afternoon of a hot,
sun-baked day in mid-summer, three years later. All the windows are
open, but no breeze stirs the soiled white curtains. A patched screen
door is in the rear. Through it the yard can be seen, its small stretch
of lawn divided by the dirt path leading to the door from the gate in
the white picket fence which borders the road.
The room has changed, not so much in its outward
appearance as in its general atmosphere. Little significant details give
evidence of carelessness, of inefficiency, of an industry gone to seed.
The chairs appear shabby from lack of paint; the table cover is spotted
and askew; holes show in the curtains; a child's doll, with one arm
gone, lies under the table; a hoe stands in a corner; a man's coat is
flung on the couch in the rear; the desk is cluttered up with odds and
ends; a number of books are piled carelessly on the side-board. The noon
enervation of the sultry, scorching day seems to have penetrated
indoors, causing even inanimate objects to wear an aspect of despondent
A place is set at the end of the table, left, for
someone's dinner. Through the open door to the kitchen comes the clatter
of dishes being washed, interrupted at intervals by a woman's irritated
voice and the peevish whining of a child.
At the rise of the curtain MRS.
MAYO and MRS. ATKINS
are discovered sitting facing each other, MRS.
MAYO to the rear, MRS.
ATKINS to the right of the table. MRS.
MAYO'S face has lost all character,
disintegrated, become a weak mask wearing a helpless, doleful expression
of being constantly on the verge of comfortless tears. She speaks in an
uncertain voice, without assertiveness, as if all power of willing had
deserted her. MRS. ATKINS
is in her wheel chair. She is a thin, pale-faced, unintelligent
looking woman of about forty-eight, with hard, bright eyes. A victim of
partial paralysis for many years, condemned to be pushed from day to day
of her life in a wheel chair, she has developed the selfish, irritable
nature of the chronic invalid. Both women are dressed in black. MRS.
ATKINS knits nervously as she talks. A ball of
unused yarn, with needles stuck through it, lies on the table before
a disapproving glance at the place set on the table.) Robert's
late for his dinner again, as usual. I don't see why Ruth puts up
with it, and I've told her so. Many's the time I've said to her
"It's about time you put a stop to his nonsense. Does he
suppose you're runnin' a hotel—with no one to help with
things?" But she don't pay no attention. She's as bad as he
is, a'most—thinks she knows better than an old, sick body like
Robbie's always late for things. He can't help it, Sarah.
a snort.) Can't help it! How you do go on, Kate, findin'
excuses for him! Anybody can help anything they've a mind to—as
long as they've got health, and ain't rendered helpless like me, (She
adds as a pious afterthought)—through the will of God.
It do make me mad, Kate Mayo, to see folks that God gave all the
use of their limbs to potterin' round and wastin' time doin' every
thing the wrong way—and me powerless to help and at their mercy,
you might say. And it ain't that I haven't pointed the right way
to 'em. I've talked to Robert thousands of times and told him how
things ought to be done. You know that, Kate Mayo. But d'you
s'pose he takes any notice of what I say? Or Ruth, either—my own
daughter? No, they think I'm a crazy, cranky old woman, half dead
a'ready, and the sooner I'm in the grave and out o' their way the
better it'd suit them.
mustn't talk that way, Sarah. They're not as wicked as that. Add
you've got years and years before you.
like the rest, Kate. You don't know how near the end I am. Well,
at least I can go to my eternal rest with a clear conscience. I've
done all a body could do to avert ruin from this house. On their
heads be it!
hopeless indifference.) Things might be worse. Robert never
had any experience in farming. You can't expect him to learn in a
He's had three years to learn, and he's gettin' worse 'stead of
better. He hasn't got it in him, that's what; and I do say it to
you, Kate Mayo, even if he is your son. He doesn't want to learn.
Everything I've told him he's that pig-headed he's gone and done
the exact opposite. And now look where things are! They couldn't
be worse, spite o' what you say. Not on'y your place but mine too
is driftin' to rack and ruin, and I can't do nothin' to prevent,
'cause Ruth backs him up in his folly and shiftlessness.
a spark of assertiveness.) You can't say but Robbie works
good's workin' hard if it don't accomplish anythin', I'd like to
had bad luck against him.
what you've a mind to, Kate, the proof of the puddin's in the
eatin'; and you can't deny that things have been goin' from bad to
worse ever since your husband died two years back.
tears from her eyes with her handkerchief.) It was God's will
that he should be taken.
It was God's punishment on James Mayo for the blasphemin' and
denyin' of God he done all his sinful life! (MRS.
MAYO begins to weep softly.) There,
Kate, I shouldn't be remindin' you, I know. He's at peace, poor
man, and forgiven, let's pray.
her eyes—simply.) James was a good man.
this remark.) What I was sayin' was that since Robert's been
in charge things've been goin' down hill steady. You don't know how
bad they are. Robert don't let on to you what's happinin'; and
you'd never see it yourself if 'twas under your nose. But, thank
God, Ruth still comes to me once in a while for advice when she's
worried near out of her senses by his goin's-on. Do you know what
she told me last night? But I forgot, she said not to tell
you—still I think you've got a right to know, and it's my duty
not to let such things go on behind your back.
You can tell me if you want to.
over toward her—in a low voice.) Ruth was almost crazy about
it. Robert told her he'd have to mortgage the farm—said he didn't
know how he'd pull through 'til harvest without it, and he can't
get money any other way. (She straightens
up—indignantly.) Now what do you think of your Robert?
If it has to be—
don't mean to say you're goin' to sign away your farm, Kate
Mayo—after me warnin' you?
do what Robbie says is needful.
up her hands.) Well, of all the foolishness!—well, it's your
farm, not mine, and I've nothin' more to say.
Robbie'll manage till Andy gets back and sees to things. It can't
be long now.
keen interest.) Ruth says Andy ought to turn up any day. When
does Robert figger he'll get here?
says he can't calculate exactly on account o' the Sunda
being a sail boat. Last letter he got was from England, the day
they were sailing for home. That was over a month ago, and Robbie
thinks they're overdue now.
can give praise to God then that he'll be back in the nick o'
time. I've got confidence in Andy and always did have, when it
comes to farmin'; and he ought to be tired of travellin' and
anxious to get home and settle down to work again.
has been working. He's head officer on Dick's boat, he
wrote Robbie. You know that.
foolin' on ships is all right for a spell, but he must be right
sick of it by this. Andy's got to the age where it's time he took
hold of things serious and got this farm workin' as it ought to be
I wonder if he's changed much. He used to be so fine-looking and
strong. (With a sigh.) Three years! It seems more like
three hundred. (Her eyes filling—piteously.) Oh, if James
could only have lived 'til he came back—and forgiven him!
never would have—not James Mayo! Didn't he keep his heart
hardened against him till the last in spite of all you and Robert
did to soften him?
a feeble flash of anger.) Don't you dare say that! (Brokenly.)
Oh, I know deep down in his heart he forgave Andy, though he was
too stubborn ever to own up to it. It was that brought on his
death—breaking his heart just on account of his stubborn pride. (She wipes her eyes with her handkerchief and sobs.)
It was the will of God. (The whining crying of the child sounds
from the kitchen. MRS. ATKINS
frowns irritably.) Drat that young one! Seems as if she
cries all the time on purpose to set a body's nerves on edge.
her eyes.) It's the heat upsets her. Mary doesn't feel any too
well these days, poor little child!
gets it right from her Pa—bein' sickly all the time. You can't
deny Robert was always ailin' as a child. (She sighs heavily.)
It was a crazy mistake for them two to get married. I argyed
against it at the time, but Ruth was so spelled with Robert's wild
poetry notions she wouldn't listen to sense. Andy was the one
would have been the match for her. I always thought so in those
days, same as your James did; and I know she liked Andy. Then
'long comes Robert with his book-learnin' and high-fangled
talk—and off she goes and marries him.
often thought since it might have been better the other way. But
Ruth and Robbie seem happy enough together.
any rate it was God's work—and His will be done. (The two
women sit in silence for a moment. RUTH
enters from the kitchen, carrying in her arms her two year old
daughter, MARY, a pretty but sickly
and aenemic looking child with a tear-stained face. RUTH
has aged appreciably. Her face has lost its youth and
freshness. There is a trace in her expression of something hard
and spiteful. She sits in the rocker in front of the table and
sighs wearily. She wears a gingham dress with a soiled apron tied
around her waist.)
sakes, if this isn't a scorcher! That kitchen's like a furnace.
pushes the damp hair back from her forehead.)
didn't you call me to help with the dishes?
The heat in there'd kill you.
MARY—(Sees the doll
under the table and struggles on her mother's lap.) Mary wants
Dolly, Mama! Give Mary Dolly!
RUTH—(Pulling her back.)
It's time for your nap. You can't play with Dolly now.
MARY—(Commencing to cry
whiningly.) Mary wants Dolly!
Can't you keep that child still? Her racket's enough to split a
body's ears. Put her down and let her play with the doll if it'll
to the floor.) There! I hope you'll be satisfied and keep
still. You're only to play for a minute, remember. Then you've got
to take your nap. (MARY sits down on the
floor before the table and plays with the doll in silence. RUTH
glances at the place set on the table.) It's a wonder Rob
wouldn't try to get to meals on time once in a while. Does he
think I've nothing to do on a hot day like this but stand in that
kitchen washing dishes?
Something must have gone wrong again.
RUTH—(Wearily.) I s'pose so. Something's always going wrong these days, it looks
It wouldn't if you possessed a bit of spunk. The idea of you permittin' him to come in to meals at all hours—and you doin'
the work! You ought to force him to have more consideration. I
never heard of such a thin'. You mind my words and let him go to
the kitchen and get his own once in a while, and see if he don't
toe the mark. You're too easy goin', that's the trouble.
stop your nagging at me, Ma! I'm sick of hearing you. I'll do as I
please about it; and thank you for not interfering. (She wipes her moist
forehead—wearily.) Phew! It's too hot to argue. Let's talk of
something pleasant. (Curiously.) Didn't I hear you
speaking about Andy a while ago?
were wondering when he'd get home.
Rob says any day now he's liable to drop in and surprise us—him
and the Captain. I wonder if he's changed much—what he'll be
like. It'll certainly look natural to see him around the farm
hope the farm'll look more natural, too, when he's had a hand at
it. The way thin's are now!
Will you stop harping on that, Ma? We all know things aren't as
they might be. What's the good of your complaining all the time?
Kate Mayo! Ain't that just what I told you? I can't say a word of
advice to my own daughter even, she's that stubborn and
RUTH—(Putting her hands
over her ears—in exasperation.) For goodness sakes, Ma!
Never mind. Andy'll fix everything when he comes.
Oh, yes, I know he will. He always did know just the right thing
ought to be done. (With weary vexation.) It's a shame for
him to come home and have to start in with things in such a
RUTH—(Sighing.) I s'pose it isn't Rob's fault things go wrong with him.
Hump! (She fans herself nervously.) Land o' Goshen, but
it's bakin' in here! Let's go out in under the trees in back where
there's a breath of fresh air. Come, Kate. (MRS.
MAYO gets up obediently and starts to
wheel the invalid's chair toward the screen door.) You better
come too, Ruth. It'll do you good. Learn him a lesson and let him
get his own dinner. Don't be such a fool.
RUTH—(Going and holding
the screen door open for them—listlessly.) He wouldn't mind.
He tells me never to wait—but he wouldn't know where to find
him go hungry then—and serve him right.
RUTH—He wouldn't mind that,
either. He doesn't eat much. But I can't go anyway. I've got to
put baby to bed.
go, Kate. I'm boilin' in here. (MRS. MAYO
wheels her out and off left. RUTH comes
back and sits down in her chair.)
Come and let me take off your shoes and stockings, Mary, that's a
good girl. You've got to take your nap now. (The child
continues to play as if she hadn't heard, absorbed in her doll. An
eager expression comes over RUTH'S tired
face. She glances toward the door furtively—then gets up and
goes to the desk. Her movements indicate a guilty fear of
discovery. She takes a letter from a pigeon hole and retreats
swiftly to her chair with it. She opens the envelope and reads the
letter with great interest, a flush of excitement coming to her
cheeks. ROBERT walks up the path and
opens the screen door quietly and comes into the room. He, too,
has aged. His shoulders are stooped as if under too great a
burden. His eyes are dull and lifeless, his face burned by the sun
and unshaven for days. Streaks of sweat have smudged the layer of
dust on his cheeks. His lips drawn down at the corners, give him a
hopeless, resigned expression. The three years have accentuated
the weakness of his mouth and chin. He is dressed in overalls,
laced boots, and a flannel shirt open at the neck.)
ROBERT—(Throwing his hat
over on the sofa—with a great sigh of exhaustion.) Phew! The
sun's hot today! (RUTH is startled. At
first she makes an instinctive motion as if to hide the letter in
her bosom. She immediately thinks better of this and sits with the
letter in her hands looking at him with defiant eyes. He bends
down and kisses her.)
RUTH—(Feeling of her
cheek—irritably.) Why don't you shave? You look awful.
I forgot—and it's too much trouble this weather.
MARY—(Throwing aside her
doll, runs to him with a happy cry.) Dada! Dada!
ROBERT—(Swinging her up
above his head—lovingly.) And how's this little girl of mine
this hot day, eh?
happily.) Dada! Dada!
Don't do that to her! You know it's time for her nap and you'll
get her all waked up; then I'll be the one that'll have to sit
beside her till she falls asleep.
ROBERT—(Sitting down in
the chair on the left of table and cuddling MARY
on his lap.) You needn't bother. I'll put her to bed.
You've got to get back to your work, I s'pose.
ROBERT—(With a sigh.)
Yes, I was forgetting. (He glances at the open letter on RUTH'S
lap.) Reading Andy's letter again? I should think you'd
know it by heart by this time.
RUTH—(Coloring as if
she'd been accused of something—defiantly.) I've got a right
to read it, haven't I? He says it's meant for all of us.
ROBERT—(With a trace of
irritation.) Right? Don't be so silly. There's no question of
right. I was only saying that you must know all that's in it after
so many readings.
I don't. (She
puts the letter on the table and gets wearily to her feet.) I s'pose you'll be wanting your dinner now.
I don't care. I'm not hungry. It's almost too hot to eat.
RUTH—And here I been
keeping it hot for you!
Oh, all right then. Bring it in and I'll try to eat.
got to get her to bed first. (She goes to lift MARY off
his lap.) Come, dear. It's after time and you can hardly keep
your eyes open now.
no, I don't wanter sleep! (Appealing to her father.) Dada!
ROBERT.) There! Now see what you've done! I
told you not to—
Let her alone, then. She's all right where she is. She'll fall
asleep on my lap in a minute if you'll stop bothering her.
She'll not do any such thing! She's got to learn to mind me, that
she has! (Shaking her finger at MARY.)
You naughty child! Will you come with Mama when she tells you for
your own good?
MARY—(Clinging to her
father.) No, Dada!
RUTH—(Losing her temper.)
A good spanking's what you need, my young lady—and you'll get
one from me if you don't mind better, d'you hear? (MARY
starts to whimper frightenedly.)
anger.) Leave her alone! How often have I told you not to
threaten her with whipping? It's barbarous, and I won't have it.
That's got to be understood. (Soothing the wailing MARY.)
There! There, little girl! Baby mustn't cry. Dada won't like you
if you do. Dada'll hold you and you must promise to go to sleep
like a good little girl. Will you when Dada asks you?
MARY—(Cuddling up to
him.) Yes, Dada.
RUTH—(Looking at them,
her pale face set and drawn.) I won't be ordered by you! She's
my child as much as yours. A fine one you are to be telling folks
how to do things, you— (She bites her lips. Husband and
wife look into each other's eyes with something akin to hatred in
their expressions; then RUTH turns
away with a shrug of affected indifference.) All right, take
care of her then, if you think it's so easy. You'll be whipping
her yourself inside of a week. (She walks away into the
hair—tenderly.) We'll show Mama you're a good little
girl, won't we?
ROBERT—Let's see: Does your
mother take off your shoes and stockings before your nap?
half-shut eyes.) Yes, Dada.
ROBERT—(Taking off her
shoes and stockings.) We'll show Mama we know how to do those
things, won't we? There's one old shoe off—and there's the other
old shoe—and here's one old stocking—and there's the other old
stocking. There we are, all nice and cool and comfy. (He bends
down and kisses her.) And now will you promise to go right to
sleep if Dada takes you to bed? (MARY nods
sleepily.) That's the good little girl. (He gathers her up
in his arms carefully and carries her into the bedroom. His voice
can be heard faintly as he lulls the child to sleep. RUTH
comes out of the kitchen and gets the plate from the table. She
hears the voice from the room and tiptoes to the door to look in.
Then she starts for the kitchen but stands for a moment thinking,
a look of ill-concealed jealousy on her face. At a noise from
inside she hurriedly disappears into the kitchen. A moment later
ROBERT reenters. He comes forward and
picks up the shoes and stockings which he shoves carelessly under
the table. Then, seeing no one about, he goes to the sideboard and
selects a book. Coming back to his chair, he sits down and
immediately becomes absorbed in reading. RUTH
returns from the kitchen bringing his plate heaped with food,
and a cup of tea. She sets those before him and sits down in her
former place. ROBERT continues to
read, oblivious to the food on the table.)
RUTH—(After watching him
irritably for a moment.) For heaven's sakes, put down that old
book! Don't you see your dinner's getting cold?
book.) Excuse me, Ruth. I didn't notice. (He picks up his
knife and fork and begins to eat gingerly, without appetite.)
RUTH—I should think you
might have some feeling for me, Rob, and not always be late for
meals. If you think it's fun sweltering in that oven of a kitchen
to keep things warm for you, you're mistaken.
ROBERT—I'm sorry, Ruth,
really I am.
RUTH—That's what you always
say; but you keep coming late just the same.
ROBERT—I know; and I can't
seem to help it. Something crops up every day to delay me. I mean
to be here on time.
RUTH—(With a sigh.)
Mean-tos don't count.
conciliating smile.) Then punish me, Ruth. Let the food get
cold and don't bother about me. Just set it to one side. I won't
RUTH—I'd have to wait just
the same to wash up after you.
ROBERT—But I can wash up.
RUTH—A nice mess there'd be
ROBERT—(With an attempt
at lightness.) The food is lucky to be able to get cold this
weather. (As RUTH doesn't answer
or smile he opens his book and resumes his reading, forcing
himself to take a mouthful of food every now and then. RUTH
stares at him in annoyance.)
RUTH—And besides, you've
got your own work that's got to be done.
without taking his eyes from the book.) Yes, of course.
Work you'll never get done by reading books all the time.
book with a snap.) Why do you persist in nagging at me for
getting pleasure out of reading? Is it because— (He checks
Because I'm too stupid to understand them, I s'pose you were going
No—no. (In exasperation.) Oh, Ruth, why do you want to pick
quarrels like this? Why do you goad me into saying things I don't
mean? Haven't I got my share of troubles trying to work this
cursed farm without your adding to them? You know how hard I've
tried to keep things going in spite of bad luck—
ROBERT—And my own very
apparent unfitness for the job, I was going to add; but you can't
deny there's been bad luck to it, too. You know how unsuited I am
to the work and how I hate it; and I've managed to fight along
somehow. Why don't you take things into consideration? Why can't
we pull together? We used to. I know it's hard on you also. Then
why can't we help each other instead of hindering? That's the only
way we can make life bearable for each other.
do the best I know how.
ROBERT—(Gets up and puts
his hand on her shoulder.) I know you do. But let's both of us
try to do better. We can both improve. Say a word of encouragement
once in a while when things go wrong, even if it is my fault. You
know the odds I've been up against since Pa died. I'm not a
farmer. I've never claimed to be one. But there's nothing else I
can do under the circumstances, and I've got to pull things
through somehow. With your help, I can do it. With you against me—
(He shrugs his shoulders. There is a pause. Then he
bends down and kisses her hair—with an attempt at cheerfulness.)
So you promise that; and I'll promise to be here when the clock
strikes—and anything else you tell me to. Is it a bargain?
RUTH—(Dully.) I s'pose so.
ROBERT—The reason I was
late today—it's more bad news, so be prepared.
RUTH—(As if this was
only what she expected.) Oh! (They are interrupted by the
sound of a loud knock at the kitchen door.) There's someone at
the kitchen door. (She hurries out. A moment later she
reappears.) It's Ben. He says he wants to see you.
What's the trouble now, I wonder? (In a loud voice.) Come
on in here, Ben. (Ben slouches in from the kitchen. He is a
hulking, awkward young fellow with a heavy, stupid face and
shifty, cunning eyes. He is dressed in overalls, boots, etc., and
wears a broad-brimmed hat of coarse straw pushed back on his head.)
Well, Ben, what's the matter?
The mowin' machine's bust.
ROBERT—Why, that can't be.
The man fixed it only last week.
BEN—It's bust just the
ROBERT—And can't you fix
BEN—No. Don't know what's
the matter with the goll-darned thing. 'Twon't work, anyhow.
ROBERT—(Getting up and
going for his hat.) Wait a minute and I'll go look it over.
There can't be much the matter with it.
Don't make no diff'rence t'me whether there be or not. I'm quittin'.
You're quitting? You don't mean you're throwing up your job here?
BEN—That's what! My month's
up today and I want what's owin' t'me.
ROBERT—But why are you
quitting now, Ben, when you know I've so much work on hand? I'll
have a hard time getting another man at such short notice.
BEN—That's for you to
figger. I'm quittin'.
ROBERT—But what's your
reason? You haven't any complaint to make about the way you've
been treated, have you?
his finger.) Look-a-here. I'm sick o' bein' made fun at,
that's what; an' I got a job up to Timms' place; an' I'm quittin'
ROBERT—Being made fun of? I
don't understand you. Who's making fun of you?
BEN—They all do. When I
drive down with the milk in the mornin' they all laughs and jokes
at me—that boy up to Harris' and the new feller up to Slocum's,
and Bill Evans down to Meade's, and all the rest on 'em.
ROBERT—That's a queer
reason for leaving me flat. Won't they laugh at you just the same
when you're working for Timms?
BEN—They wouldn't dare to.
Timms is the best farm hereabouts. They was laughin' at me for
workin' for you, that's what! "How're things up to the
Mayo place?" they hollers every mornin'. "What's Robert
doin' now—pasturin' the cattle in the corn-lot? Is he seasonin'
his hay with rain this year, same as last?" they shouts.
"Or is he inventin' some 'lectrical milkin' engine to fool
them dry cows o' his into givin' hard cider?" (Very much
ruffled.) That's like they talks; and I ain't goin' to put up
with it no longer. Everyone's always knowd me as a first-class
hand hereabouts, and I ain't wantin' 'em to get no different
notion. So I'm quittin' you. And I wants what's comin' to me.
if that's the case, you can go to the devil.
BEN—This farm'd take me
there quick 'nuff if I was fool 'nuff to stay.
None of your damned cheek! You'll get your money tomorrow when I
get back from town—not before!
BEN—(Turning to doorway
to kitchen.) That suits me. (As he goes out he speaks back
over his shoulder.) And see that I do get it, or there'll be
trouble. (He disappears and the slamming of the kitchen door is
comes from where she has been standing by the doorway and sits
down dejectedly in her old place.) The stupid damn fool! And
now what about the haying? That's an example of what I'm up
against. No one can say I'm responsible for that.
RUTH—Yes you are! He
wouldn't dare act that way with anyone else. They do like they
please with you, because you don't know how to treat 'em. They
think you're easy—and you are!
I suppose I ought to be a slave driver like the rest of the
farmers—stand right beside them all day watching every move they
make, and work them to their last ounce of strength? Well, I can't
do it, and I won't do it!
RUTH—It's better to do that
than have to ask your Ma to sign a mortgage on the place.
Oh, damn the place! (He walks to the window on left and stands
RUTH—(After a pause,
with a glance at ANDREW'S letter on
the table.) It's lucky Andy's coming back.
ROBERT—(Coming back and
sitting down.) Yes, Andy'll see the right thing to do in a
jiffy. He has the knack of it; and he ought to be home any time
now. The Sunda's overdue. Must have met with head winds all
the way across.
You don't think—anything's happened to the boat?
ROBERT—Trust Uncle Dick to
bring her through all right! He's too good a sailor to be caught
napping. Besies we'll never know the ship's here till Andy steps
in the door. He'll want to surprise us. (With an affectionate
smile.) I wonder if the old chump's changed much? He doesn't
seem to from his letters, does he? Still the same practical
hard-head. (Shaking his head.) But just the same I doubt if
he'll want to settle down to a hum-drum farm life, after all he's
Andy's not like you. He likes the farm.
ROBERT—(Immersed in his
own thoughts—enthusiastically.) Gad, the things he's seen
and experienced! Think of the places he's been! Hong-Kong, Yokohoma,
Batavia, Singapore, Bangkok, Rangoon, Bombay—all the marvelous
East! And Honolulu, Sydney, Buenos Aires! All the wonderful far
places I used to dream about! God, how I envy him! What a trip! (He springs to his feet and instinctively goes to
the window and stares out at the horizon.)
RUTH—(Bitterly.) I s'pose you're sorry now you didn't go?
with his own thoughts to hear her—vindictively.) Oh, those
cursed hills out there that I used to think promised me so much!
How I've grown to hate the sight of them! They're like the walls
of a narrow prison yard shutting me in from all the freedom and
wonder of life! (He turns back to the room with a gesture of
loathing.) Sometimes I think if it wasn't for you, Ruth, and—(his voice softening)—little
Mary, I'd chuck everything up and walk down the road with just one
desire in my heart—to put the whole rim of the world between me
and those hills, and be able to breathe freely once more! (He sinks down
into his chair and smiles with bitter self-scorn.) There I go
dreaming again—my old fool dreams.
RUTH—(In a low,
repressed voice—her eyes smoldering.) You're not the only
ROBERT—(Buried in his
own thoughts—bitterly.) And Andy, who's had the chance—what
has he got out of it? His letters read like the diary of a—of a
farmer! "We're in Singapore now. It's a dirty hole of a place and
hotter than hell. Two of the crew are down with fever and we're
short-handed on the work. I'll be damn glad when we sail again,
although tacking back and forth in these blistering seas is a
rotten job too!" (Scornfully.)
That's about the way he summed up his impressions of the East.
Every port they touched at he found the same silly fault with.
God! The only place he appeared to like was Buenos Aires—and
that only because he saw the business opportunities in a booming
country like Argentine.
voice trembling.) You needn't make fun of Andy.
ROBERT—Perhaps I am too
hard on him; but when I think—but what's the use? You know I
wasn't making fun of Andy personally. No one loves him better than
I do, the old chump! But his attitude toward things is—is rank,
in my estimation.
flashing—bursting into uncontrollable rage.) You was too
making fun of him! And I ain't going to stand for it! You ought to
be ashamed of yourself! A fine one you be! (ROBERT
stares at her in amazement. She continues furiously.) A
fine one to talk about anyone else—after the way you've ruined
everything with your lazy loafing!—and the stupid way you do
Stop that kind of talk, do you hear?
fault—with your own brother who's ten times the man you ever was
or ever will be—a thing like you to be talking. You're jealous,
that's what! Jealous because he's made a man of himself, while
you're nothing but a—but a— (She stutters incoherently,
overcome by rage.)
ROBERT—Ruth! Ruth! Don't
you dare—! You'll be sorry for talking like that.
RUTH—I won't! I won't never
be sorry! I'm only saying what I've been thinking for years.
Ruth! You can't mean that!
RUTH—What do you
think—living with a man like you—having to suffer all the time
because you've never been man enough to work and do things like
other people. But no! You never own up to that. You think you're
so much better than other folks, with your college education,
where you never learned a thing, and always reading your stupid
books instead of working. I s'pose you think I ought to be proud
to be your wife—a poor, ignorant thing like me! (Fiercely.)
But I'm not. I hate it! I hate the sight of you! Oh, if I'd only
known! If I hadn't been such a fool to listen to your cheap,
silly, poetry talk that you learned out of books! If I could have
seen how you were in your true self—like you are now—I'd have
killed myself before I'd have married you! I was sorry for it
before we'd been together a month. I knew what you were really
like—when it was too late.
ROBERT—(His voice raised
loudly.) And now—I'm finding out what you're really like—what
a—a creature I've been living with. (With a harsh
laugh.) God! It wasn't that I haven't guessed how mean and
small you are—but I've kept on telling myself that I must be
wrong—like a fool!—like a damned fool!
RUTH—You were saying you'd
go out on the road if it wasn't for me. Well, you can go, and the
sooner the better! I don't care! I'll be glad to get rid of you!
The farm'll be better off too. There's been a curse on it ever
since you took hold. So go! Go and be a tramp like you've always
wanted. It's all you're good for. I can get along without you,
don't you worry. I'll get some peace. (Exulting fiercely.)
And Andy's coming back, don't forget that! He'll attend to things
like they should be. He'll show what a man can do! I don't need
you. Andy's coming!
ROBERT—(They are both
standing. ROBERT grabs her by the
shoulders and glares into her eyes.) What do you mean? (He
shakes her violently.) What are you thinking of? What's in
your evil mind, you—you—(His voice is a harsh shout.)
RUTH—(In a defiant
scream.) Yes I do mean it! I'd say it if you was to kill me! I
do love Andy. I do! I do! I always loved him. (Exultantly.)
And he loves me! He loves me! I know he does. He always did! And
you know he did, too! So go! Go if you want to!
away from him. She staggers back against the table—thickly.)
You—you slut! (He stands glaring at her as she leans back,
supporting herself by the table, gasping for breath. A loud
frightened whimper sounds from the awakened child in the bedroom.
It continues. The man and woman stand looking at one another in
horror, the extent of their terrible quarrel suddenly brought home
to them. A pause. The noise of a horse and carriage comes from the
road before the house. The two, suddenly struck by the same
premonition, listen to it breathlessly, as to a sound heard in a
dream. It stops. They hear ANDY'S voice
from the road shouting a long hail—"Ahoy there!")
RUTH—(With a strangled
cry of joy.) Andy! Andy! (She rushes and grabs the knob of
the screen door, about to fling it open.)
ROBERT—(In a voice of
command that forces obedience.) Stop! (He goes to the door
and gently pushes the trembling RUTH away
from it. The child's crying rises to a louder pitch.) I'll
meet Andy. You better go in to Mary, Ruth. (She looks at him
defiantly for a moment, but there is something in his eyes that
makes her turn and walk slowly into the bedroom.)
a louder shout.) Ahoy there, Rob!
ROBERT—(In an answering
shout of forced cheeriness.) Hello, Andy! (He opens the
door and walks out as