SCENE—Same as Act One, Scene One—A
section of country highway. The sky to the east is already alight
with bright color and a thin, quivering line of flame is spreading
slowly along the horizon rim of the dark hills. The roadside,
however, is still steeped in the greyness of the dawn, shadowy and
vague. The field in the foreground has a wild uncultivated
appearance as if it had been allowed to remain fallow the
preceding summer. Parts of the snake-fence in the rear have been
broken down. The apple tree is leafless and seems dead.
ROBERT staggers weakly in
from the left. He stumbles into the ditch and lies there for a
moment; then crawls with a great effort to the top of the bank
where he can see the sun rise, and collapses weakly. RUTH
and ANDREW come hurriedly along
the road from the left.
looking about him.) There he is! I knew it! I knew we'd find
ROBERT—(Trying to raise
himself to a sitting position as they hasten to his side—with a
wan smile.) I thought I'd given you the slip.
bullying.) Well you didn't, you old scoundrel, and we're going
to take you right back where you belong—in bed. (He makes a
motion to lift ROBERT.) What d'you mean
by running away like this, eh?
ROBERT—Don't, Andy. Don't,
I tell you! I can't bear it!
ANDREW—You're in pain?
No. I'm dying. (He falls back weakly. RUTH
sinks down beside him with a sob and pillows his head on her
lap.) Don't try to move me, Andy. It would mean—. I had a
bad hemorrhage—trying to get here. I knew then— it was
only—a few minutes more. (ANDREW stands
looking down at him helplessly. ROBERT moves
his head restlessly on RUTH'S lap.)
There! Just so I can see—the sun. I couldn't stand it back there
in the room. It seemed as if all my life—I'd been cooped in a
room. So I thought I'd try to end as I might have—if I'd had the
courage to live my dream. Alone—in a ditch by the open
road—watching the sun rise.
Don't talk. You're wasting your strength. Rest a while and then
we'll carry you—
hoping, Andy? Don't. I know. (There is a pause during which he breathes
heavily, straining his eyes toward the horizon.) The sun comes
so slowly. I haven't long—to wait. (With an ironical smile.)
The doctor told me to go to the far-off places—and I'd be cured.
He was right. That was always the cure for me. It's too late—for
this world—but in the next I'll not miss—the secret. (He
has a fit of coughing which racks his body.)
ANDREW—(With a hoarse
sob.) Rob! (He clenches his fists in an impotent rage
against fate.) God! God! (RUTH sobs
brokenly and wipes ROBERT'S lips
with her handkerchief.)
ROBERT—(In a voice which
is suddenly ringing with the happiness of hope.) You mustn't
feel sorry for me. It's ridiculous! Don't you see I'm happy at
last—because I'm making a start to the far-off
places—free—free!—freed from the farm—free to wander on and
on—eternally! Even the hills are powerless to shut me in now. (He raises himself on his elbow, his face radiant, and
points to the horizon.) Look! Isn't it beautiful beyond the
hills? I can hear the old voices calling me to come— (Exultantly.)
And this time I'm going—I'm free! It isn't the end. It's a free
beginning—the start of my voyage! Don't you see? I've won to my
trip—the right of release—beyond the horizon! Oh, you ought to be
glad—glad—for my sake! (He collapses weakly.) Andy!
(ANDREW bends down to him.) Remember
ANDREW—I'll take care of
her, I swear to you, Rob!
has suffered—and for your own sake and hers—remember, Andy—only
through sacrifice—the secret beyond there—(He suddenly
raises himself with his last remaining strength and points to the
horizon where the edge of the sun's disc is rising from the rim of
the hills.) The sun! (He remains with his eyes fixed on it
for a moment. A rattling noise throbs from his throat. He mumbles:)
Remember! (And falls back and is still. RUTH
gives a cry of horror and springs to her feet, shuddering, her
hands over her eyes. ANDREW bends on
one knee beside the body, placing a hand over ROBERT'S
heart, then he kisses his brother reverentially on the forehead
and stands up.)
the body between them—in a dead voice.) He's dead. (With
a sudden burst of fury.) God damn you, you never told him!
was so happy without my lying to him.
ANDREW—(Pointing to the
body—trembling with the violence of his rage.) This is your
doing, you damn woman, you coward, you murderess! He's dead
because you've killed him, do you hear?
Don't, Andy! Stop! I couldn't help it—and he knew how I'd
suffered, too. He told you—to remember.
ANDREW—(Stares at her
for a moment, his rage ebbing away, an expression of deep pity
gradually coming over his face. Then he glances down at his
brother and speaks brokenly in a compassionate voice.) Forgive
me, Ruth—for his sake. I know he was right—and I'll remember
what he said. (RUTH lets her hands fall
from her face and looks at him uncomprehendingly. He lifts his
eyes to hers and forces out falteringly:) I—you—we've both
made such a mess of things! We must try to help each other—and—in
time—we'll come to know what's right to do—(Desperately.)
And perhaps we—(But RUTH,
if she is aware of his words, gives no sign. She remains
silent, gazing at him dully with the sad humility of exhaustion,
her mind already sinking back into that spent calm beyond the
further troubling of any hope.)