Menu Bar

Contents   I   II


ACT ONE

SCENEParlor 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 head.

  EMMA(sighing 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 you, Caleb?

  CALEB(with another squeeze—emphatically) Hell, yes! I'd like it, Emmer.

  EMMA(softly) I do wish you wouldn't swear so awful much, Caleb.

  CALEBS'cuse 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.

  EMMA(with 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.

  CALEB(amused by her seriousness) Diff'rent? Ain't I a sea-farin' man, too?

  EMMAYou're 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.

  CALEB(embarrassed) 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 be, neither.

  EMMA(excitedly) But you got to want to be—when I ask it.

  CALEB(surprised) Better'n your Pa?

  EMMA(struggling 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.

  CALEB(puzzled and a bit uneasy) Sailors ain't plaster saints, Emmer,—not a darn one of 'em ain't!

  EMMA(hurt and disappointed) Then you won't promise me to stay diff'rent for my sake?

  CALEB(with rough tenderness) Oh, hell, Emmer, I'll do any cussed thing in the world you want me to, and you know it!

  EMMA(lovingly) 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 hereabouts?

  CALEB'Course you be! Ain't I always said that? You're wo'th the whole pack of 'em put together.

  EMMAOh, 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 way.

  CALEB(puzzleduncertainly) Waal—it's bound to be from your end of it, you bein' like you are. But I ain't so sure o' mine.

  EMMAWell, I am!

  CALEB(with 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.)

  EMMANo, I don't. I want you to be just like yourself, that's all.

  CALEBThat's easy. It ain't hard bein' a plain, ordinary cuss.

  EMMAYou are not!

  CALEB(with 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.

  EMMA(laughing) 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.

  CALEB(squeezing 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.

  EMMABut lots and lots of the others does the same thing without thinking nothing about it.

  CALEB(with a laugh) Yes, but I'm diff'rent, like you says.

  EMMA(laughing) Oh, you're poking fun now.

  CALEB(with 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.

  EMMA(laughing 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.

  CALEBThunder, I know you ain't, Emmer. I was on'y jokin'.

  EMMAAnd I never doubted you them two years; and I won't when you sail away again, neither.

  CALEB(with a twinkle in his eye) No, even a woman'd find it hard to git jealous of a whale!

  EMMA(laughing) 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.

  CALEBWaal, 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.

  EMMA'Cepting me, I hope?

  CALEBO' 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.

  EMMAWhat island? You never told me nothing about that.

  CALEB(growing 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.

  EMMA(rising 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.

  CALEB'Course I did. Every minute.

  EMMA(nestling closer to him—softly) I'm glad of that, Caleb. Well, good-by for a little while.

  CALEBI'll step in again for a spell afore supper—that is, if you want me to.

  EMMAYes, of course I do, Caleb. Good-by. (She lifts her face to his.)

  CALEBGood-by, 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.)

  JACK(peering 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.)

  JACK(laughing at the embarrassed expression on their faces) Caught ye that time, by gum! Go ahead! Kiss her again, Caleb. Don't mind me.

  EMMA(with 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.

  JACK(putting his arm about her waist) There, kitty, don't git to spittin'. (stroking her hair) Puss, puss, puss! Nice kitty! (He laughs.)

  EMMA(forced to smile—pushing him away) Get away! You'll never get sense. Land sakes, what a brother to have!

  JACKOh, I dunno. I ain't so bad, as brothers go—eh, Caleb?

  CALEB(smiling) I reckon you'll do, Jack.

  JACKSee there! Listen to Caleb. You got to take his word—love, honor, and obey, ye know, Emmer.

  EMMA(laughing) Leave it to men folks to stick up for each other, right or wrong.

  JACK(cockily) 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.)

  EMMA(with 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.

  JACK(provokingly) 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.

  EMMA"Pride goeth before a fall." But shucks, what's the good paying any attention to you. (She smiles at him affectionately.)

  JACK(exaggeratedly) 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.

  CALEBDon't see no way but what I got to bear it, Jack.

  EMMACaleb needn't fear. He's different.

  JACK(with a sudden guffaw) Oh, hell, yes! I was forgittin'. Caleb's a Sunday go-to-meetin' Saint, ain't he? Yes, he is!

  EMMA(with real resentment) He's better'n what you are, if that's what you mean.

  JACK(with 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?

  CALEB(soberly—a bit disturbed) I was tellin' Emmer not to take me that high.

  JACKNo 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.)

  CALEB(his face worried and angry) Jack's a durn fool at times, Emmer—even if he is your brother. He needs a good lickin'.

  EMMA(staring at him—uneasily) What'd he mean about Jim Benson, Caleb?

  CALEB(frowning) I don't know—ezactly. Makin' up foolishness for a joke, I reckon.

  EMMAYou don't know—exactly? Then there is—something?

  CALEB(quickly) 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.

  EMMAJim Benson was mate with you this last trip, wasn't he?

  CALEBYes.

  EMMADidn't him and you get along?

  CALEB(a 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.

  EMMA(uneasily) What's it got to wag about? You ain't done nothing wrong, have you?

  CALEBWrong? No, nothin' a man'd rightly call wrong.

  EMMANothing you'd be shamed to tell me?

  CALEB(awkwardly) Why—no, Emmer.

  EMMA(pleadingly) You'd swear that, Caleb?

  CALEB(hesitating 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?

  EMMA(turning away from him—frightenedly) Oh, Caleb!

  CALEB(preoccupied 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.

  EMMA(faintly) 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) Jack! Jack!

  JACK(from the kitchen) What you want?

  EMMACome here a minute, will you?

  JACKJest 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?

  EMMAHe 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.

  JACK(with a chuckle) You got to ask Caleb about that, Emmer.

  EMMAI did. He didn't seem to want to own up it was anything.

  JACK(with a laugh) 'Course he wouldn't. He don't 'preciate a joke when it's on him.

  EMMAHow'd you come to hear of it?

  JACKFrom Jim. Met him this afternoon and me and him had a long talk. He was tellin' me all 'bout their vige.

  EMMAThen it was on the vige this joke happened?

  JACKYes. It was when they put in to git water at them South Sea Islands where the tempest blowed 'em.

  EMMAOh. (suspiciously) Caleb didn't seem willing to tell me much about their touching there.

  JACK(chuckling) '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?

  EMMA(tortured 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.

  JACKThen 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.

  EMMA(taken aback—frowning) So all the town knows about it?

  JACKYes, 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!

  EMMA(in a strained voice) Well, ain't you going to tell me?

  JACKI'm 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.

  EMMA(in anguish) Yes—but Caleb—he ain't like them others. He's diff'rent.

  JACK(with 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.

  EMMA(letting an involuntary exclamation escape her) Oh!

  JACKWaal, 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!

  EMMA(after 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—

  JACKNot me! You got to play this joke on him yourself or it won't work.

  EMMA(tensely) 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.

  JACKWhat!

  EMMAI 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.

  JACK(flabbergasted—peering into her face anxiously) Say—what the hell—? Are you tryin' to josh me, Emmer? Or are you gone crazy all of a sudden?

  EMMAI ain't joking nor crazy neither. You tell him what I said.

  JACK(vehemently) I will like—Say, what's come over you, anyhow?

  EMMAMy eyes are opened, that's all, and I ain't going to marry him.

  JACKIs it—'count of that joke about Caleb I was tellin' you?

  EMMA(her 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.

  JACK(greatly perturbed now) Say, what's the matter? Can't you take a joke? Are you mad at him 'count o' that brown gal?

  EMMAYes, I am—and I ain't going to marry him and that's all there is to it.

  JACK(argumentatively) 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 Christians—nor nothin'!

  EMMAThat ain't it. I don't care what they are.

  JACKAnd 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?

  EMMAI don't care. He'd ought to have acted diff'rent.

  JACKOh 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?

  EMMA(violently) I want you to shet up! You're too dumb stupid and bad yourself to ever know what I'm thinking.

  JACK(resentfully) 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.)

  ROGERSHello, Emmer.

  EMMA(huskily, trying to force a smile) Hello, Harriet. Hello, Alfred. Won't you set?

  HARRIETNo, I jest run over from the house a second to see if—Where's Caleb, Emmer?

  EMMAHe's gone up street.

  HARRIETAnd 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.

  ROGERS(putting 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?

  HARRIETOh, you! You're the worst of 'em all.

  ROGERSYou don't think so. (He tries to kiss her.)

  HARRIETStop it. Ain't you got no manners? What'll Emmer think?

  ROGERSEmmer 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.)

  HARRIET(suddenly 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 friend.

  EMMA(trying to smile) Nothing. It's nothing.

  HARRIETIt is, too! Why, I do believe you've been crying!

  EMMANo, I ain't.

  HARRIETYou 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?

  EMMA(with quick resentful resolution) There ain't going to be any wedding.

  HARRIETWhat!

  ROGERS(pricking up his ears—inquisitively) Huh?

  EMMANot in two days nor no time.

  HARRIET(dumbfounded) Why, Emmer Crosby! Whatever's got into you? You and Caleb must have had an awful spat!

  ROGERS(with 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.

  EMMA(angrily) 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 "up street.")

  MRS. CROSBY(smiling at Harriet and Rogers) Afternoon, Harriet—and Alf.

  HARRIETAfternoon, Ma.

  ROGERSAfternoon.

  JACK(grinning) 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.)

  MRS. CROSBY(good-naturedly) Shet up your foolin', Jack.

  JACK(pretending 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 following scene.)

  MRS. CROSBY(smiling, puts her arms around Emma) Waal, Emmer, what's this foolishness Jack's been tellin' about—

  EMMA(resentfully) It ain't foolishness, Ma. I've made up my mind, I tell you that right here and now.

  MRS. 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 down, Harriet.

  HARRIET(torn between curiosity and a sense of being one too many) Maybe I'd best go to home and leave you two alone?

  MRS. 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?

  EMMAYes.

  MRS. CROSBYHmm. Caleb don't know this yet, does he?

  EMMANo. I asked Jack to tell him when he comes back.

  MRS. CROSBYJack says he won't.

  EMMAThen 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 seems to.

  MRS. 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.

  EMMA(surprised) Did you know about it before Jack—

  MRS. CROSBYMercy, yes. Your Pa heard it from Jim Benson fust thing they landed here, and Pa told me that night.

  EMMA(resentfully) And you never told me!

  MRS. 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 Caleb.

  EMMA(with a shudder) It ain't a joke to me.

  MRS. CROSBYThat's why I kept my mouth shet. I knowed you was touchy and diff'rent from most.

  EMMA(proudly) Yes, I am diff'rent—and that's just what I thought Caleb was, too—and he ain't.

  HARRIET(breaking 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?

  MRS. CROSBY(as Emma remains silent) Yes, Harriet, that's it.

  HARRIET(astonished) 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?

  EMMA(harshly) He might just as well.

  HARRIET(bridling) 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.

  MRS. CROSBY(nodding) That's jest it. Harriet's right, Emmer.

  EMMAMa!

  MRS. CROSBYBesides, you don't know they was nothin' wrong happened. Nobody kin swear that for sartin. Ain't that so, Harriet?

  HARRIET(hesitating—then 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.

  MRS. 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.

  HARRIET(scornfully) 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 too much.

  MRS. CROSBYHarriet's right, Emmer.

  EMMA(resentfully) 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.

  HARRIETWell, 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.

  EMMA(wearily) I know that, Harriet.

  HARRIETThen 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.

  EMMA(vehemently) No, I don't! Can't you see—

  MRS. CROSBYThar, now! Don't you two git to fightin'—to make things worse.

  HARRIET(repentantly, 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.)

  ROGERS(from 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.

  HARRIET(in 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 Christian.

  JACKOho, 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.)

  MRS. 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.

  JACKAw right, Ma. Come on up street, Alf.

  HARRIETWait. 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.)

  EMMA(inaudibly) Good-by.

  MRS. 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 it again.

  EMMA(coldly) I don't care whether he does or not. I ain't going to marry him.

  MRS. CROSBY(uneasy—persuasively) 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—

  EMMA(turning 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?

  MRS. CROSBY(hesitatingly) N-no, 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.

  EMMAI don't love him—what he is now. I loved—what I thought he was.

  MRS. 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.

  EMMAI can't, Ma. It makes him another person—not Caleb, but someone just like all the others.

  MRS. CROSBYWaal, is the others so bad? Men is men the world over, I reckon.

  EMMANo, 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 was.

  MRS. CROSBY(somewhat impatiently) Waal, if he ain't, he's a good man jest the same, as good as any sensible girl'd want to marry.

  EMMA(slowly) I don't want to marry nobody no more. I'll stay single.

  MRS. 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?

  EMMA(slowly) No. I know from what I can guess from his own stories Pa never was no saint.

  MRS. 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.

  EMMA(wringing her hands—desperately) Oh, Ma, why can't you see what I feel? Of course, Pa's good—as good as good can be—

  CAPTAIN CROSBY(from 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.)

  MRS. CROSBY(teasing lovingly) Emmer don't know you like I do.

  CROSBY(turning 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', wa'n't he?

  MRS. 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.)

  CROSBYAn' 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—

  MRS. CROSBY(glancing uneasily at Emma) Ssshh! You come out in the kitchen with me, Pa, and leave Emmer be.

  CROSBYGod 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.)

  MRS. CROSBY(taking his arm) You come with me. I want to talk with you 'bout somethin'.

  CROSBY(going) 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.)

  CALEB(appears outside the screen door. He looks in, coughs—then asks uncertainly) It's me, Emmer. Kin I come in?

  EMMA(coldly) Yes.

  CALEB(comes 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?

  EMMA(in the same cold tone) Yes. (He lowers himself carefully to a wooden posture on the edge of a rocker near hers.)

  CALEB(after 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.

  EMMA(resentfully) 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.)

  CALEB(after a long pause—regretfully) Waal, I guess what he told is true enough.

  EMMA(wounded) Oh!

  CALEBBut 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.)

  EMMA(after a long, tense pause—dully) Then you own up—there really was something happened?

  CALEB(after a pause) I was sorry for it, after. I locked myself in the cabin and left her to sleep out on deck.

  EMMA(after a pause—fixedly) I ain't going to marry you, Caleb.

  CALEBHarriet said you'd said that; but I didn't b'lieve you'd let a slip like that make—such a diff'rence.

  EMMA(with finality) Then you can believe it now, Caleb.

  CALEB(after 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.

  EMMA(after 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.

  CALEB(with a glimmer of eager hope) Then—you'll forgive it, Emmer?

  EMMAYes, 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.

  CALEB(gloomily) 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.)

  EMMAWait. 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.

  CALEBI 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—

  EMMA(shaking 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 diff'rence.

  CALEB(sturdily) 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.

  EMMA(helplessly) But you don't seem bad, Caleb. And two years can't make no change in me—that way.

  CALEB(feeling 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 last.)

  EMMA(with 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—

  CALEBI 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—

  EMMA(helplessly) 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.

  CALEB(made 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

The Curtain Falls)


Copyright © 1999-2012 eOneill.com