of the Crosby home. The room is small and low-ceilinged. Everything has
an aspect of scrupulous neatness. On the left, forward, a stiff
plush-covered chair. Farther back, in order, a window looking out on a
vegetable garden, a black horsehair sofa, and another window. In the far
left corner, an old mahogany chest of drawers. To the right of it, in
rear, a window looking out on the front yard. To the right of this
window is the front door, reached by a dirt path through the small lawn
which separates the house from the street. To the right of door, another
window. In the far right corner, a diminutive, old-fashioned piano with
a stool in front of it. Near the piano on the right, a door leading to
the next room. On this side of the room are also a small bookcase half
filled with old volumes, a big open fireplace, and another plush-covered
chair. Over the fireplace a mantel with a marble clock and a Rogers
group. The walls are papered a brown color. The floor is covered with a
dark carpet. In the center of the room there is a clumsy, marble-topped
table. On the table, a large china lamp, a bulky Bible with a brass
clasp, and several books that look suspiciously like cheap novels. Near
the table, three plush-covered chairs, two of which are rockers. Several
enlarged photos of strained, stern-looking people in uncomfortable poses
are hung on the walls.
It is mid-afternoon of a
fine day in late spring of the year 1890. Bright sunlight streams
through the windows on the left. Through the window and the screen door
in the rear the fresh green of the lawn and of the elm trees that line
the street can be seen. Stiff, white curtains are at all the windows.
As the curtain rises, Emma Crosby
and Caleb Williams are discovered. Emma is a slender girl of twenty,
rather under the medium height. Her face, in spite of its plain
features, gives an impression of prettiness, due to her large, soft blue
eyes which have an incongruous quality of absent-minded romantic
dreaminess about them. Her mouth and chin are heavy, full of a
self-willed stubbornness. Although her body is slight and thin, there is
a quick, nervous vitality about all her movements that reveals an
underlying constitution of reserve power and health. She has light
brown hair, thick and heavy. She is dressed soberly and neatly in her
black Sunday best, style of the period.
Caleb Williams is tall and
powerfully built, about thirty. Black hair, keen, dark eyes, face rugged
and bronzed, mouth obstinate but good-natured. He, also, is got up in
black Sunday best and is uncomfortably self-conscious and stiff therein.
They are sitting on the horsehair
sofa, side by side. His arm is about her waist. She holds one of his big
hands in both of hers, her head leaning back against his shoulder, her
eyes half closed in a dreamy contentedness. He stares before him
rigidly, his whole attitude wooden and fixed as if he were posing for a
photograph; yet his eyes are expressively tender and protecting when he
glances down at her diffidently out of the corners without moving his
happily) Gosh, I wish we could sit this way forever! (then after
a pause, as he makes no comment except a concurring squeeze) Don't
another squeeze—emphatically) Hell, yes! I'd like it, Emmer.
I do wish you wouldn't swear so awful much, Caleb.
me, Emmer, it jumped out o' my mouth afore I thought. (then with a
grin) You'd ought to be used to that part o' men's wickedness—with
your Pa and Jack cussin' about the house all the time.
a smile) Oh, I haven't no strict religious notions about it. I'm
hardened in sin so far's they're concerned. Goodness me, how would Ma
and me ever have lived in the same house with them two if we wasn't used
to it? I don't even notice their cussing no more. And I don't mind
hearing it from the other men, either. Being sea-faring men, away from
their women folks most of the time, I know it just gets to be part of
their natures and they ain't responsible. (decisively) But you're
diff'rent. You just got to be diff'rent from the rest.
by her seriousness) Diff'rent? Ain't I a sea-farin' man, too?
diff'rent just the same. That's what made me fall in love with you
'stead of any of them. And you've got to stay diff'rent. Promise me,
Caleb, that you'll always stay diff'rent from them—even after we're
married years and years.
Why—I promise to do my best by you, Emmer. You know that, don't ye? On'y
don't git the notion in your head I'm any better'n the rest. They're all
good men—most of 'em, anyway. Don't tell me, for instance, you think I'm
better'n your Pa or Jack—'cause I ain't. And I don't know as I'd want to
But you got to want to be—when I ask it.
Better'n your Pa?
to convey her meaning) Why, Pa's all right. He's a fine man—and
Jack's all right, too. I wouldn't hear a bad word about them for
anything. And the others are all right in their way, too, I s'pose.
Only—don't you see what I mean?—I look on you as diff'rent from all of
them. I mean there's things that's all right for them to do that
wouldn't be for you—in my mind, anyway.
and a bit uneasy) Sailors ain't plaster saints, Emmer,—not a darn
one of 'em ain't!
and disappointed) Then you won't promise me to stay diff'rent for my
rough tenderness) Oh, hell, Emmer, I'll do any cussed thing in the
world you want me to, and you know it!
Thank you, Caleb. It means a lot to me—more'n you think. And don't you
think I'm diff'rent, too—not just the same as all the other girls
you be! Ain't I always said that? You're wo'th the whole pack of 'em put
I don't mean I'm any better. I mean I just look at things diff'rent from
what they do—getting married, for example, and other things, too. And so
I've got it fixed in my head that you and me ought to make a married
couple—diff'rent from the rest—not that they ain't all right in their
Waal—it's bound to be from your end of it, you bein' like you are. But I
ain't so sure o' mine.
a grin) You got me scared, Emmer. I'm scared you'll want me to live
up to one of them high-fangled heroes you been readin' about in them
books. (He indicates the novels on the table.)
I don't. I want you to be just like yourself, that's all.
easy. It ain't hard bein' a plain, ordinary cuss.
a laugh) Remember, I'm warnin' you, Emmer; and after we're married
and you find me out, you can't say I got you under no false pretenses.
I won't. I won't ever need to. (then after a pause) Just think,
it's only two days more before you and me'll be man and wife.
her) Waal, it's about time, ain't it?—after waitin' three years for
me to git enough money saved—and us not seein' hide or hair of each
other the last two of 'em. (with a laugh) Shows ye what trust I
put in you, Emmer, when I kin go off on a two year whalin' vige and
leave you all 'lone for all the young fellers in town to make eyes at.
lots and lots of the others does the same thing without thinking nothing
a laugh) Yes, but I'm diff'rent, like you says.
Oh, you're poking fun now.
a wink) And you know as well's me that some o' the others finds out
some funny things that's been done when they was away.
at first) Yes, but you know I'm diff'rent, too. (then frowning)
But don't let's talk about that sort o' ructions. I hate to think of
such things—even joking. I ain't like that sort.
I know you ain't, Emmer. I was on'y jokin'.
I never doubted you them two years; and I won't when you sail away
a twinkle in his eye) No, even a woman'd find it hard to git jealous
of a whale!
I wasn't thinking of whales, silly! But there's plenty of diversion
going on in the ports you touched, if you'd a mind for it.
I didn't have no mind for it, that's sartin. My fust vige as skipper,
you don't s'pose I had time for no monkey-shinin', do ye? Why, I was
that anxious to bring back your Pa's ship with a fine vige that'd make
him piles o' money, I didn't even think of nothin' else.
me, I hope?
course! What was my big aim in doin' it if it wasn't so's we'd git
married when I come to home? And then, s'far as ports go, we didn't tech
at one the last year—'ceptin' when that durn tempest blowed us south and
we put in at one o' the Islands for water.
island? You never told me nothing about that.
suddenly very embarrassed as if some memory occurred to him) Ain't
nothin' to tell, that's why. Just an island near the Line, that's all.
O'ny naked heathen livin' there—brown colored savages that ain't even
Christians. (He gets to his feet abruptly and pulls out his watch.)
Gittin' late, must be. I got to go down to the store and git some things
for Harriet afore I forgets 'em.
also and putting her hands on his shoulders) But you did think of me
and miss me all the time you was gone, didn't you?—same as I did you.
I did. Every minute.
closer to him—softly) I'm glad of that, Caleb. Well, good-by for a
step in again for a spell afore supper—that is, if you want me to.
of course I do, Caleb. Good-by. (She lifts her face to his.)
Emmer. (He kisses her and holds her in his arms for a moment. Jack
comes up the walk to the screen door. They do not notice his approach.)
in and seeing them—in a joking bellow) Belay, there! (They
separate with startled exclamations. Jack comes in grinning. He is a
hulking, stocky-built young fellow of 25. His heavy face is sunburned,
handsome in a coarse, good-natured animal fashion. His small blue
eyes twinkle with the unconsciously malicious humor of the born
practical joker. He wears high seaboots turned down from the knee, dirty
cotton shirt and pants, and a yellow sou'wester pushed jauntily on the
back of his head, revealing his disheveled, curly blond hair. He carries
a string of cod heads.)
at the embarrassed expression on their faces) Caught ye that time,
by gum! Go ahead! Kiss her again, Caleb. Don't mind me.
flurried annoyance) You got a head on you just like one of them cod
heads you're carrying—that stupid! I should think you'd be ashamed at
your age—shouting to scare folks as if you was a little boy.
his arm about her waist) There, kitty, don't git to spittin'. (stroking
her hair) Puss, puss, puss! Nice kitty! (He laughs.)
to smile—pushing him away) Get away! You'll never get sense. Land
sakes, what a brother to have!
I dunno. I ain't so bad, as brothers go—eh, Caleb?
I reckon you'll do, Jack.
there! Listen to Caleb. You got to take his word—love, honor, and
obey, ye know, Emmer.
Leave it to men folks to stick up for each other, right or wrong.
Waal, I'm willin' to leave it to the girls, too. Ask any of 'em you
knows if I ain't a jim-dandy to have for a brother. (He winks at
Caleb who grins back at him.)
a sniff) I reckon you don't play much brother with them—the kind you
knows. You may fool 'em into believing you're some pumpkins but they'd
change their minds if they had to live in the same house with you
playing silly jokes all the time.
A good lot on 'em 'd be on'y too damn glad to git me in the same
house—if I was fool enough to git married.
goeth before a fall." But shucks, what's the good paying any attention
to you. (She smiles at him affectionately.)
You see, Caleb? See how she misuses me—her lovin' brother. Now you know
what you'll be up against for the rest o' your natural days.
see no way but what I got to bear it, Jack.
needn't fear. He's different.
a sudden guffaw) Oh, hell, yes! I was forgittin'. Caleb's a Sunday
go-to-meetin' Saint, ain't he? Yes, he is!
real resentment) He's better'n what you are, if that's what you
a still louder laugh) Ho-ho! Caleb's one o' them goody-goody heroes
out o' them story books you're always readin', ain't he?
bit disturbed) I was tellin' Emmer not to take me that high.
use, Caleb. She won't hear of it. She's got her head sot t'other way.
You'd ought to heard her argyin' when you was gone about what a parson's
pet you was. Butter won't melt in your mouth, no siree! Waal, love is
blind—and deaf, too, as the feller says—and I can't argy no more 'cause
I got to give Ma these heads. (He goes to the door on right—then
glances back at his sister maliciously and says meaningly) You ought
to have a talk with Jim Benson, Emmer. Oughtn't she, Caleb? (He winks
ponderously and goes off laughing uproariously.)
face worried and angry) Jack's a durn fool at times, Emmer—even if
he is your brother. He needs a good lickin'.
at him—uneasily) What'd he mean about Jim Benson, Caleb?
I don't know—ezactly. Makin' up foolishness for a joke, I reckon.
don't know—exactly? Then there is—something?
Not as I know on. On'y Jim Benson's one o' them slick jokers, same's
Jack; can't keep their mouths shet or mind their own business.
Benson was mate with you this last trip, wasn't he?
him and you get along?
trifle impatiently) 'Course we did. Jim's all right. We got along
fust rate. He just can't keep his tongue from waggin', that's all's the
matter with him.
What's it got to wag about? You ain't done nothing wrong, have you?
No, nothin' a man'd rightly call wrong.
you'd be shamed to tell me?
You'd swear that, Caleb?
for a second—then firmly) Yes, I'd swear. I'd own up to everything
fair and square I'd ever done, if it comes to that p'int. I ain't shamed
o' anything I ever done, Emmer. On'y—women folks ain't got to know
everything, have they?
away from him—frightenedly) Oh, Caleb!
with his own thoughts—going to the door in rear) I'll see you later,
Emmer. I got to go up street now more'n ever. I want to give that Jim
Benson a talkin' to he won't forgit in a hurry—that is, if he's been
tellin' tales. Good-by, Emmer.
Good-by, Caleb. (He goes out. She sits in one of the rockers by the
table, her face greatly troubled, her manner nervous and uneasy. Finally
she makes a decision, goes quickly to the door on the right and calls)
the kitchen) What you want?
here a minute, will you?
a second. (She comes back by the table, fighting to conceal her
agitation. After a moment, Jack comes in from the right. He has
evidently been washing up, for his face is red and shiny, his hair wet
and slicked in a part. He looks around for Caleb.) Where's Caleb?
had to go up street. (then coming to the point abruptly—with feigned
indifference) What's that joke about Jim Benson, Jack? It seemed to
get Caleb all riled up.
a chuckle) You got to ask Caleb about that, Emmer.
did. He didn't seem to want to own up it was anything.
a laugh) 'Course he wouldn't. He don't 'preciate a joke when it's on
you come to hear of it?
Jim. Met him this afternoon and me and him had a long talk. He was
tellin' me all 'bout their vige.
it was on the vige this joke happened?
It was when they put in to git water at them South Sea Islands where the
tempest blowed 'em.
(suspiciously) Caleb didn't seem willing to tell me much about
their touching there.
'Course he didn't. Wasn't I sayin' the joke's on him? (coming closer
to her—in a low, confidential tone, chucklingly) We'll fix up a joke
on Caleb, Emmer, what d'ye say?
by foreboding—resolved to find out what is back of all this by hook or
crook—forcing a smile) All right, Jack. I'm willing.
I'll tell you what Jim told me. And you put it up to Caleb, see, and
pertend you're madder'n hell. (unable to restrain his mirth)
Ho-ho! It'll git him wild if you do that. On'y I didn't tell ye, mind.
You heard it from someone else. I don't want to git Caleb down on me.
And you'd hear about it from someone sooner or later 'cause Jim and the
rest o' the boys has been tellin' the hull town.
aback—frowning) So all the town knows about it?
and they're all laffin' at Caleb. Oh, it ain't nothin' so out o' the
ordinary. Most o' the whalin' men hereabout have run up against it in
their time. I've heard Pa and all the others tellin' stories like it out
o' their experience. On'y with Caleb it ended up so damn funny! (He
laughs.) Ho-ho! Jimminy!
a strained voice) Well, ain't you going to tell me?
comin' to it. Waal, seems like they all went ashore on them islands to
git water and the native brown women, all naked a'most, come round to
meet 'em same as they always does—wantin' to swap for terbaccer and
other tradin' stuff with straw mats and whatever other junk they got.
Them brown gals was purty as the devil, Jim says—that is, in their
heathen, outlandish way—and the boys got makin' up to 'em; and then, o'
course, everything happened like it always does, and even after they'd
got all the water they needed aboard, it took 'em a week to round up all
hands from where they was foolin' about with them nigger women.
anguish) Yes—but Caleb—he ain't like them others. He's diff'rent.
a sly wink) Oho, is he? I'm comin' to Caleb. Waal, seems 's if he
kept aboard mindin' his own business and winkin' at what the boys was
doin'. And one o' them gals—the purtiest on 'em, Jim says—she kept askin',
where's the captain? She wouldn't have nothin' to do with any o' the
others. She thought on'y the skipper was good enough for her, I reckon.
So one night jest afore they sailed some o' the boys, bein' drunk on
native rum they'd stole, planned to put up a joke on Caleb and on that
brown gal, too. So they tells her the captain had sent for her and she
was to swim right out and git aboard the ship where he was waitin' for
her alone. That part of it was true enough 'cause Caleb was alone, all
hands havin' deserted, you might say.
an involuntary exclamation escape her) Oh!
that fool brown gal b'lieved 'em and she swum right off, tickled to
death. What happened between 'em when she got aboard, nobody knows. Some
thinks one thing and some another. And I ain't sayin' nothin' 'bout it—(with
a wink) but I know damn well what I'd 'a done in Caleb's boots, and
I guess he ain't the cussed old woman you makes him out. But that part
of it's got nothin' to do with the joke nohow. The joke's this: that
brown gal took an awful shine to Caleb and when she saw the ship was
gittin' ready to sail she raised ructions, standin' on the beach howlin'
and screamin', and beatin' her chest with her fists. And when they ups
anchors, she dives in the water and swims out after 'em. There's no wind
hardly and she kin swim like a fish and catches up to 'em and tries to
climb aboard. At fust, Caleb tries to treat her gentle and argy with her
to go back. But she won't listen, she gits wilder and wilder, and
finally he gits sick of it and has the boys push her off with oars while
he goes and hides in the cabin. Even this don't work. She keeps swimmin'
round and yellin' for Caleb. And finally they has to p'int a gun at her
and shoot in the water near her afore the crazy cuss gives up and swims
back to home, howlin' all the time. (with a, chuckle) And Caleb
lyin' low in the cabin skeered to move out, and all hands splittin'
their sides! Gosh, I wish I'd been there! It must have been funnier'n
hell! (He laughs loudly—then noticing his sister's stony expression,
stops abruptly.) What're you pullin' that long face for, Emmer? (offendedly)
Hell, you're a nice one to tell a joke to!
a pause—forcing the words out slowly) Caleb's comin' back here,
Jack. I want you to see him for me. I want you to tell him—
me! You got to play this joke on him yourself or it won't work.
This ain't a joke, Jack—what I mean. I want you to tell him I've changed
my mind and I ain't going to marry him.
been thinking things over, tell him—and I take back my promise—and he
can have back his ring—and I ain't going to marry him.
into her face anxiously) Say—what the hell—? Are you tryin' to josh
me, Emmer? Or are you gone crazy all of a sudden?
ain't joking nor crazy neither. You tell him what I said.
I will like—Say, what's come over you, anyhow?
eyes are opened, that's all, and I ain't going to marry him.
it—'count of that joke about Caleb I was tellin' you?
voice trembling) It's 'count of something I got in my own head. What
you told only goes to prove I was wrong about it.
perturbed now) Say, what's the matter? Can't you take a joke? Are
you mad at him 'count o' that brown gal?
I am—and I ain't going to marry him and that's all there is to it.
Jealous of a brown, heathen woman that ain't no better'n a nigger? God
sakes, Emmer, I didn't think you was that big a fool. Why, them kind o'
women ain't women like you. They don't count like folks. They ain't
ain't it. I don't care what they are.
it wasn't Caleb anyhow. It was all her fixin'. And how'd you know he had
anything to do with her—like that? I ain't said he did. Jim couldn't
swear he did neither. And even if he did—what difference does it make?
It ain't rightly none o' your business what he does on a vige. He didn't
ask her to marry him, did he?
don't care. He'd ought to have acted diff'rent.
golly, there you go agen makin' a durned creepin'-Jesus out of him! What
d'you want to marry, anyhow—a man or a sky-pilot? Caleb's a man, ain't
he?—and a damn good man and as smart a skipper as there be in these
parts! What more d'you want, anyhow?
I want you to shet up! You're too dumb stupid and bad yourself to ever
know what I'm thinking.
Go to the devil, then! I'm goin' to tell Ma and sic her onto you. You'll
maybe listen to her and git some sense. (He stamps out, right, while
he is speaking. Emma bursts into sobs and throws herself on a chair,
covering her face with her hands. Harriet Williams and Alfred Rogers
come up the path to the door in rear. Peering through the screen and
catching sight of Emma, Harriet calls Emmer! Emma leaps to her
feet and dabs at her eyes with a handkerchief in a vain effort to
conceal traces of her tears. Harriet has come in, followed by Rogers.
Caleb's sister is a tall, dark girl of twenty. Her face is plainly
homely and yet attracts the eye by a certain boldly-appealing vitality
of self-confident youth. She wears an apron and has evidently just come
out of the kitchen. Rogers is a husky young fisherman of twenty-four,
washed and slicked up in his ill-fitting best.)
trying to force a smile) Hello, Harriet. Hello, Alfred. Won't you
I jest run over from the house a second to see if—Where's Caleb, Emmer?
gone up street.
here I be waitin' in the kitchen for him to bring back the things so's I
can start his supper. (with a laugh and a roguish look at
Rogers) Dearie me, it ain't no use dependin' on a man to remember
nothin' when he's in love.
his arm about her waist and giving her a squeeze—grinning) How 'bout
me? Ain't I in love and ain't I as reliable as an old hoss?
you! You're the worst of 'em all.
don't think so. (He tries to kiss her.)
it. Ain't you got no manners? What'll Emmer think?
can't throw stones. Her and Caleb is worser at spoonin' than what we
are. (Harriet breaks away from him laughingly and goes to Emma.)
noticing the expression of misery on Emma's face—astonished) Why,
Emmer Crosby, what's the matter? You look as if you'd lost your last
to smile) Nothing. It's nothing.
is, too! Why, I do believe you've been crying!
have, too! (putting her arms about Emma) Goodness, what's
happened? You and Caleb ain't had a spat, have you, with your weddin'
only two days off?
quick resentful resolution) There ain't going to be any wedding.
up his ears—inquisitively) Huh?
in two days nor no time.
Why, Emmer Crosby! Whatever's got into you? You and Caleb must have had
an awful spat!
a man-of-the-world attitude of cynicism) Don't take her so dead
serious, Harriet. Emmer'll git over it like you all does.
You shet up, Alf Rogers! (Mrs. Crosby enters bustlingly from the
right. She is a large, fat, florid woman of fifty. In spite of her two
hundred and more pounds she is surprisingly active, and the passive,
lazy expression of her round moon face is belied by her quick, efficient
movements. She exudes an atmosphere of motherly good nature. She wears
an apron on which she is drying her hands as she enters. Jack
follows her into the room. He has changed to a dark suit, is ready for
CROSBY(smiling at Harriet and
Rogers) Afternoon, Harriet—and Alf.
There she be, Ma. (points to Emma) Don't she look like she'd
scratch a feller's eyes out! Phew! Look at her back curve! Meow?
Sptt-sptt! Nice puss! (He gives a vivid imitation of a cat fight at
this last. Then he and Rogers roar with laughter and Harriet cannot
restrain a giggle and Mrs. Crosby smiles. Emma stares stonily before her
as if she didn't hear.)
CROSBY(good-naturedly) Shet up
your foolin', Jack.
to be hurt) Nobody in this house kin take a joke. (He grins and
beckons to Rogers.) Come along, Alf. You kin 'preciate a joke. Come
on in here till I tell you. (The grinning Rogers follows him into the
next room where they can be heard talking and laughing during the
CROSBY(smiling, puts her arms
around Emma) Waal, Emmer, what's this foolishness Jack's been tellin'
It ain't foolishness, Ma. I've made up my mind, I tell you that right
here and now.
CROSBY(after a quick glance at her
face—soothingly) There, there! Let's set down and be comfortable.
Me, I don't relish roostin' on my feet. (She pushes Emma gently into
a rocker—then points to a chair on the other side of the table.) Set
between curiosity and a sense of being one too many) Maybe I'd best
go to home and leave you two alone?
CROSBYShucks! Ain't you like one o'
the family—Caleb's sister and livin' right next door ever since you was
all children playin' together. We ain't got no secrets from you. Set
down. (Harriet does so with an uncertain glance at the frozen Emma.
Mrs. Crosby has efficiently bustled another rocker beside her daughter's
and sits down with a comfortable sigh.) There. (She reaches over
and takes one of her daughter's hands in hers.) And now, Emmer,
what's all this fuss over? (as Emma makes no reply) Jack says as
you've sworn you was breakin' with Caleb. Is that true?
CROSBYHmm. Caleb don't know this yet,
I asked Jack to tell him when he comes back.
CROSBYJack says he won't.
I'll tell him myself. Maybe that's better, anyhow. Caleb'll know what
I'm driving at and see my reason—(bitterly)—which nobody else
CROSBYHmm. You ain't tried me yet. (after
a pause) Jack was a dumb fool to tell you 'bout them goin's-on at
them islands they teched. Ain't no good repeatin' sech things.
Did you know about it before Jack—
CROSBYMercy, yes. Your Pa heard it
from Jim Benson fust thing they landed here, and Pa told me that night.
And you never told me!
CROSBYMercy, no. 'Course I didn't.
They's trouble enough in the world without makin' more. If you was like
most folks I'd told it to you. Me, I thought it was a good joke on
a shudder) It ain't a joke to me.
CROSBYThat's why I kept my mouth shet.
I knowed you was touchy and diff'rent from most.
Yes, I am diff'rent—and that's just what I thought Caleb was, too—and he
in excitedly) Is it that story about Caleb and that heathen brown
woman you're talking about? Is that what you're mad at Caleb for, Emmer?
CROSBY(as Emma remains silent)
Yes, Harriet, that's it.
Why, Emmer Crosby, how can you be so silly? You don't s'pose Caleb took
it serious, do you, and him makin' them fire shots round her to scare
her back to land and get rid of her? Good gracious! (a bit
resentfully) I hope you ain't got it in your head my brother Caleb
would sink so low as to fall in love serious with one of them critters?
He might just as well.
How can you say sech a thing! (sarcastically) I ain't heard that
Caleb offered to marry her, have you? Then you might have some cause—But
d'you s'pose he's ever give her another thought? Not Caleb! I know him
better'n that. He'd forgot all about the hull thing before they was out
o' sight of land, I'll bet, and if them fools hadn't started this story
going, he'd never remembered it again.
CROSBY(nodding) That's jest
it. Harriet's right, Emmer.
CROSBYBesides, you don't know they
was nothin' wrong happened. Nobody kin swear that for sartin. Ain't that
frankly) I don't know. Caleb ain't no plaster saint and I reckon
he's as likely to sin that way as any other man. He wasn't married then
and I s'pose he thought he was free to do as he'd a mind to 'til he was
hitched up. Goodness sakes, Emmer, all the men thinks that—and a lot of
'em after they're married, too.
CROSBYHarriet's right, Emmer. If
you've been wide awake to all that's happened in this town since you was
old enough to know, you'd ought to realize what men be.
Emma'd ought to have fallen in love with a minister, not a sailor. As
for me, I wouldn't give a durn about a man that was too goody-goody to
raise Cain once in a while—before he married me, I mean. Why, look at
Alf Rogers, Emmer. I'm going to marry him some day, ain't I? But I know
right well all the foolin' he's done—and still is doing, I expect. I
ain't sayin' I like it but I do like him and I got to take him the way
he is, that's all. If you're looking for saints, you got to die first
and go to heaven. A girl'd never git married hereabouts if she expected
CROSBYHarriet's right, Emmer.
Maybe she is, Ma, from her side. I ain't claiming she's wrong. Her and
me just looks at things diff'rent, that's all. And she can't understand
the way I feel about Caleb.
there's one thing certain, Emmer. You won't find a man in a day's walk
is any better'n Caleb—or as good.
I know that, Harriet.
it's all right. You'll make up with him, and I s'pose I'm a fool to be
takin' it so serious. (as Emma shakes her head) Oh, yes, you
will. You wouldn't want to get him all broke up, would you? (as Emma
keeps silent—irritably) Story book notions, that's the trouble with
you, Emmer. You're gettin' to think you're better'n the rest of us.
No, I don't! Can't you see—
CROSBYThar, now! Don't you two git to
fightin'—to make things worse.
coming and putting her arms around Emma and kissing her) I'm sorry,
Emmer. You know I wouldn't fall out with you for nothing or nobody,
don't you? Only it gits me riled to think of how awful broke up Caleb'd
be if—But you'll make it all up with him when he comes, won't you? (Emma
stares stubbornly before her. Before she has a chance to reply a roar of
laughter comes from the next room as Jack winds up his tale.)
the next room) Gosh, I wished I'd been there! (He follows Jack
into the room. Both are grinning broadly. Rogers says teasingly)
Reckon I'll take to whalin' 'stead o' fishin' after this. You won't
mind, Harriet? From what I hears o' them brown women, I'm missin' a hull
lot by stayin' to home.
a joking tone—with a meaning glance at Emma) Go on, then! There's
plenty of fish in the sea. Anyhow, I'd never git jealous of your foolin'
with one o' them heathen critters. They ain't worth notice from a
ain't they! They're purty as pictures, Benson says. (with a wink)
And mighty accommodatin' in their ways. (He and Rogers roar
delightedly. Emma shudders with revulsion.)
CROSBY(aware of her daughter's
feeling—smilingly but firmly) Get out o' this, Jack. You, too, Alf.
Go on up street if you want to joke. You're in my way.
right, Ma. Come on up street, Alf.
I'll go with you a step. I got to see if Caleb's got back with them
supper things. (They all go to the door in rear. Jack and Rogers pass
out, talking and laughing. Harriet turns in the doorway—sympathetically)
I'll give Caleb a talking-to before he comes over. Then it'll be easy
for you to finish him. Treat him firm but gentle and you'll see he won't
never do it again in a hurry. After all, he wasn't married, Emmer—and
he's a man—and what can you expect? Good-by. (She goes.)
CROSBY(after a pause in which she
rocks back and forth studying her daughter's face—placidly)
Harriet's right, Emmer. You give him a good talkin'-to and he won't do
I don't care whether he does or not. I ain't going to marry him.
Mercy, you can't act like that, Emmer. Here's the weddin' on'y two days
off, and everythin' fixed up with the minister, and your Pa and Jack has
bought new clothes speshul for it, and I got a new dress—
to her mother—pleadingly) You wouldn't want me to keep my promise to
Caleb if you knew I'd be unhappy, would you, Ma?
Emmer. (then decisively) 'Course I wouldn't. It's because I know
he'll make you happy. (as Emma shakes her head) Pshaw, Emmer, you
can't tell me you've got over all likin' for him jest 'count o' this one
foolishness o' hisn.
don't love him—what he is now. I loved—what I thought he was.
CROSBY(more and more uneasy)
That's all your queer notions, and I don't know where you gits them
from. Caleb ain't changed, neither have you. Why, Emmer, it'd be jest
like goin' agen an act of Nature for you not to marry him. Ever since
you was children you been livin' side by side, goin' round together, and
neither you nor him ever did seem to care for no one else. Shucks,
Emmer, you'll git me to lose patience with you if you act that stubborn.
You'd ought to remember all he's been to you and forget this one little
wrong he's done.
can't, Ma. It makes him another person—not Caleb, but someone just like
all the others.
CROSBYWaal, is the others so bad? Men
is men the world over, I reckon.
they ain't bad. I ain't saying that. Don't I like 'em all? If it was one
of the rest—like Jim Benson or Jack, even—had done this I'd thought it
was a joke, too. I ain't strict in judging 'em and you know it.
But—can't you see, Ma?—Caleb always seemed diff'rent—and I thought he
Waal, if he ain't, he's a good man jest the same, as good as any
sensible girl'd want to marry.
I don't want to marry nobody no more. I'll stay single.
CROSBY(tauntingly) An old
maid! (then resentfully) Emmer, d'you s'pose if I'd had your
high-fangled notions o' what men ought to be when I was your age, d'you
s'pose you'd ever be settin' there now?
No. I know from what I can guess from his own stories Pa never was no
CROSBY(in a tone of finality as if
this settled the matter) There, now! And ain't he been as good a
husband to me as ever lived, and a good father to you and Jack? You'll
find out Caleb'll turn out the same. You think it over. (She gets
up—bustlingly) And now I got to git back in the kitchen.
her hands—desperately) Oh, Ma, why can't you see what I feel? Of
course, Pa's good—as good as good can be—
outside the door which he has approached without their noticing him—in a
jovial bellow) What's that 'bout Pa bein' good? (He comes in
laughing. He is a squat, bow-legged, powerful man, almost as broad as he
is long—sixty years old but still in the prime of health and strength,
with a great, red, weather-beaten face seamed by sun wrinkles. His sandy
hair is thick and disheveled. He is dressed in an old baggy suit much
the worse for wear—striped cotton shirt open at the neck. He pats Emma
on the back with a playful touch that almost jars her off her feet.)
Thunderin' Moses, that's the fust time ever I heerd good o' myself by
listenin'! Most times it's: "Crosby? D'you mean that drunken, good-for-nothin',
mangy old cuss?" That's what I hears usual. Thank ye, Emmer. (turning
to his wife) What ye got to say now, Ma? Here's Emmer tellin' you
the truth after you hair-pullin' me all these years 'cause you thought
it wa'n't. I always told ye I was good, ain't I—good as hell I be! (He
shakes with laughter and kisses his wife a resounding smack.)
CROSBY(teasing lovingly) Emmer
don't know you like I do.
back to Emma again) Look-a-here, Emmer, I jest seen Jack. He told me
some fool story 'bout you fallin' out with Caleb. Reckon he was joshin',
CROSBY(quickly) Oh, that's all
settled, John. Don't you go stirrin' it up again. (Emma seems about
to speak but stops helplessly after one glance at her father.)
all 'count o' that joke they're tellin' 'bout him and that brown female
critter, Jack says. Hell, Emmer, you ain't a real Crosby if you takes a
joke like that serious. Thunderin' Moses, what the hell d'you want Caleb
to be—a durned, he-virgin, sky-pilot? Caleb's a man wo'th ten o' most
and, spite o' his bein' on'y a boy yit, he's the smartest skipper out o'
this port and you'd ought to be proud you'd got him. And as for them
islands, all whalin' men knows 'em. I've teched thar for water more'n
once myself, and I know them brown females like a book. And I tells you,
after a year or more aboard ship, a man'd have to be a goll-durned
geldin' if he don't—
CROSBY(glancing uneasily at Emma)
Ssshh! You come out in the kitchen with me, Pa, and leave Emmer be.
A'mighty, Ma, I ain't sayin' nothin' agen Emmer, be I? I knows Emmer
ain't that crazy. If she ever got religion that bad, I'd ship her off as
female missionary to the damned yellow Chinks. (He laughs.)
CROSBY(taking his arm) You
come with me. I want to talk with you 'bout somethin'.
Aye-aye, skipper! You're boss aboard here. (He goes out right with
her, laughing. Emma stands for a while, staring stonily before her. She
sighs hopelessly, clasping and unclasping her hands, looking around the
room as if she longed to escape from it. Finally she sits down
helplessly and remains fixed in a strained attitude, her face betraying
the conflict that is tormenting her. Slow steps sound from the path in
front of the house. Emma recognizes them and her face freezes into an
expression of obstinate intolerance.)
outside the screen door. He looks in, coughs—then asks uncertainly)
It's me, Emmer. Kin I come in?
in and walks down beside her chair. His face is set emotionlessly but
his eyes cannot conceal a worried bewilderment, a look of
uncomprehending hurt. He stands uncomfortably, fumbling with his hat,
waiting for her to speak or look up. As she does neither, he finally
blurts out) Kin I set a spell?
the same cold tone) Yes. (He lowers himself carefully to a wooden
posture on the edge of a rocker near hers.)
a pause) I seen Jim Benson. I give him hell. He won't tell no more
tales, I reckon. (another pause) I stopped to home on the way
back from the store. I seen Harriet. She says Jack'd told you that story
they're all tellin' as a joke on me. (clenching his fists—angrily)
Jack's a durn fool. He needs a good lickin' from someone.
Don't try to put the blame on Jack. He only told me the truth, didn't
he? (Her voice shows that she hopes against hope for a denial.)
a long pause—regretfully) Waal, I guess what he told is true enough.
that ain't no good reason for tellin' it. Them sort o' things ought to
be kept among men. (after a pause—gropingly) I didn't want nothin'
like that to happen, Emmer. I didn't mean it to. I was thinkin' o' how
you might feel—even down there. That's why I stayed aboard all the time
when the boys was ashore. I wouldn't have b'lieved it could happen—not
to me. (a pause) I wish you could see them Islands, Emmer, and be
there for a time. Then you might see—It's hard 's hell to explain, and
you havin' never seen 'em. Everything is diff'rent down there—the
weather—and the trees and water. You git lookin' at it all, and you git
to feel diff'rent from what you do to home here. It's purty hereabouts
sometimes—like now, in spring—but it's purty there all the time—and down
there you notice it and you git feelin'—diff'rent. And them native
women—they're diff'rent. A man don't think of 'em as women—like you. But
they're putty—in their fashion—and at night they sings—and it's all
diff'rent like something you'd see in a painted picture. (a pause)
That night when she swum out and got aboard when I was alone, she caught
me by s'prise. I wasn't expectin' nothin' o' that sort. I tried to make
her git back to land at fust—but she wouldn't go. She couldn't
understand enough English for me to tell her how I felt—and I reckon she
wouldn't have seed my p'int anyhow, her bein' a native. (a pause)
And then I was afeerd she'd catch cold goin' round all naked and wet in
the moonlight—though it was warm—and I wanted to wrap a blanket round
her. (He stops as if he had finished.)
a long, tense pause—dully) Then you own up—there really was
a pause) I was sorry for it, after. I locked myself in the cabin and
left her to sleep out on deck.
a pause—fixedly) I ain't going to marry you, Caleb.
said you'd said that; but I didn't b'lieve you'd let a slip like that
make—such a diff'rence.
finality) Then you can believe it now, Caleb.
a pause) You got queer, strict notions, Emmer. A man'll never live
up to 'em—with never one slip. But you got to act accordin' to your
lights, I expect. It sort o' busts everythin' to bits for me—(His
voice betrays his anguish for a second but he instantly regains his iron
control.) But o' course, if you ain't willin' to take me the way I
be, there's nothin' to do. And whatever you think is best, suits me.
a pause—gropingly) I wish I could explain my side of it—so's you'd
understand. I ain't got any hard feelings against you, Caleb—not now. It
ain't plain jealousy—what I feel. It ain't even that I think you've done
nothing terrible wrong. I think I can understand—how it happened—and
make allowances. I know that most any man would do the same, and I guess
all of 'em I ever met has done it.
a glimmer of eager hope) Then—you'll forgive it, Emmer?
I forgive it. But don't think that my forgiving is going to make any
diff'rence—'cause I ain't going to marry you, Caleb. That's final. (after
a pause—intensely) Oh, I wish I could make you see—my reason. You
don't. You never will, I expect. What you done is just what any other
man would have done—and being like them is exactly what'll keep you from
ever seeing my meaning. (after a pause—in a last effort to make him
understand) Maybe it's my fault more'n your'n. It's like this,
Caleb. Ever since we was little I guess I've always had the idea that
you was—diff'rent. And when we growed up and got engaged I thought that
more and more. And you was diff'rent, too! And that was why I loved you.
And now you've proved you ain't. And so how can I love you any more? I
don't, Caleb, and that's all there is to it. You've busted something way
down inside me—and I can't love you no more.
I've warned you often, ain't I, you was settin' me up where I'd no
business to be. I'm human like the rest and always was. I ain't
diff'rent. (after a pause—uncertainly) I reckon there ain't no
use sayin' nothin' more. I'll go to home. (He starts to rise.)
I don't want you to go out of here with no hard feelings. You 'n' me,
Caleb, we've been too close all our lives to ever get to be enemies. I
like you, Caleb, same's I always did. I want us to stay friends. I want
you to be like one of the family same's you've always been. There's no
reason you can't. I don't blame you—as a man—for what I wouldn't hold
against any other man. If I find I can't love you—that way—no more or be
your wife, it's just that I've decided—things being what they be and me
being what I am—I won't marry no man. I'll stay single. (forcing a
smile) I guess there's worse things than being an old maid.
can't picture you that, Emmer. It's natural in some but it ain't in you.
(then with a renewal of hope) And o' course I want to stay
friends with you, Emmer. There's no hard feelin's on my side. You got a
right to your own way—even if—(hopefully) And maybe if I show you
what I done wasn't natural to me—by never doin' it again—maybe the
time'll come when you'll be willin' to forget—
her head—slowly) It ain't a question of time, Caleb. It's a question
of something being dead. And when a thing's died, time can't make no
You don't know that for sure, Emmer. You're human, too, and as liable to
make mistakes as any other. Maybe you on'y think it's dead, and when I
come back from the next vige and you've had two years to think it over,
you'll see diff'rent and know I ain't as bad as I seem to ye now.
But you don't seem bad, Caleb. And two years can't make no change in
himself somehow more and more heartened by hope) I ain't givin' up
hope, Emmer, and you can't make me. Not by a hell of a sight. (with
emphasis) I ain't never goin' to marry no woman but you, Emmer. You
can trust my word for that. And I'll wait for ye to change your mind, I
don't give a durn how long it'll take—till I'm sixty years old—thirty
years if it's needful! (He rises to his feet as he is speaking this
a mournful smile) You might just as well say for life, Caleb. In
thirty years we'll both be dead and gone, probably. And I don't want you
to think it's needful for you to stay single 'cause I—
ain't goin' to stay single. I'm goin' to wait for you. And some day when
you realize men was never cut out for angels you'll—
Me 'n' you'll never understand each other, Caleb, so long as we live. (getting
up and holding out her hand) Good-by, Caleb. I'm going up and lie
down for a spell.
hopeless again by her tone—clasps her hand mechanically—dully)
Good-by, Emmer. (He goes to the door in the rear, opens it, then
hesitates and looks back at her as she goes out the door on the right
without turning around. Suddenly he blurts out despairingly) You'll
remember what I told ye 'bout waitin', Emmer? (She is gone, makes no
reply. His face sets in its concealment mask of emotionlessness and he
turns slowly and goes out the door as