Contents I II
SCENECURTIS JAYSONS study.
On the left, forward, a gun rack in which are displayed several varieties of rifles and shotguns. Farther back, three windows looking out on the garden. In the rear wall, an open fireplace with two leather arm-chairs in front of it. To right of fireplace, a door leading into the living-room. In the far right corner, another chair. In the right wall, three windows looking out on the lawn and garden. On this side, front, a typewriting table with machine and chair. Opposite the windows on the right, a bulky leather couch, facing front. In front of the windows on the left, a long table with stacks of paper piled here and there on it, reference books, etc. On the left of table, a swivel chair. Gray oak bookcases are built into the cream rough plaster walls which are otherwise almost hidden from view by a collection of all sorts of hunters trophies, animal heads of all kinds. The floor is covered with animal skinstiger, polar bear, leopard, lion, etc. Skins are also thrown over the backs of the chairs. The sections of the bookcase not occupied by scientific volumes have been turned into a specimen case for all sorts of zoological, geological, anthropological oddities.
It is mid-morning, sunny and bright, of the following day.
CURTIS and BIGELOW are discovered. CURTIS is half-sitting on the corner of the table, left, smoking a pipe. BIGELOW is lying sprawled on the couch. Through the open windows on the right come the shouts of children playing. MARTHAS voice joins in with theirs.
to that rumpus, will you! The kids are having the time of their lives. (He goes to the window and looks outdelightedly.) Your wife is playing hide and seek with them. Come and look.
CURTIS—(With a trace of annoyance.) Oh, I can see well enough from here.
BIGELOW—(With a laugh.)
She seems to get as much fun out of it as they do. (As a shriek comes from outsideexcitedly.)
Ah, Eddy discovered her behind the tree. Isn’t he tickled now! (He turns back from the window and lights a cigaretteenthusiastically.) Jove, what a hand she is with children!
CURTIS—(As if the subject bored him.) Oh, Martha gets along well with anyone.
BIGELOW—(Sits on the couch againwith a sceptical smile.) You think so? With everyone?
CURTIS—(Surprised.) Yeswith everyone weve ever come in contact witheven aboriginal natives.
BIGELOWWith the aboriginal natives of Bridge-town? With the well-known Jayson family, for example?
CURTIS—(Getting to his feetfrowning.) Why, everythings all right between Martha and them, isnt it? What do you mean, Big? I certainly imaginedbut Ill confess this damn book has had me so preoccupied
BIGELOWToo darn preoccupied, if youll pardon my saying so. Its not fair to leave her to fight it alone.
CURTIS—(Impatiently.) Fight what? Martha has a sense of humor. Im sure their petty prejudices merely amuse her.
BIGELOW—(Sententiously.) A mosquito is a ridiculous, amusing creature, seen under a microscope; but when a swarm has been stinging you all night
CURTIS—(A broad grin coming over his face.) You speak from experience, eh?
BIGELOW—(Smiling.) You bet I do. Touch me anywhere and youll find a bite. This, my native town, did me the honor of devoting its entire leisure attention for years to stinging me to death.
CURTISWell, if I am to believe one-tenth of the family letters I used to receive on the subject of my old friend, Bigelow, they sure had just cause.
BIGELOWOh, Ill play fair. Ill admit they didthen. But its exasperating to know they never give you credit for changingI almost said, reforming. One ought to be above the gossip of a town like thisbut say what you like, it does get under your skin.
CURTIS—(With an indulgent smile.) So youd like to be known as a reformed character, eh?
BIGELOW—(Rather ruefully.) Et tu! Your tone is sceptical.
But I swear to you, Curt, I’m an absolutely new man since my wife’s
death, since I’ve grown to love the children. Before that I hardly knew
them. They were hers, not mine, it seemed. (His face lighting up.) Now were the best of pals, and Ive commenced to appreciate life from a different angle. Ive found a career at lastthe childrenthe finest career a man could have, I believe.
CURTIS—(Indifferently.) Yes, I suppose soif youre made that way.
BIGELOWMeaning youre not?
any more. (Frowning.) I tried that once.
BIGELOW—(After a pausewith a smile.) But were wandering from the subject of Martha versus the mosquitoes.
CURTIS—(With a short laugh.) Oh, to the deuce with that! Trust Martha to take care of herself. Besides, Ill have her out of this stagnant hole before so very longsix months, to be exact.
BIGELOWWhere do you think of settling her then?
CURTISNo settling about it. Im going to take her with me.
BIGELOW—(Surprised.) On the Asian expedition?
CURTISYes. I havent told her yet but Im going to to-day. Its her birthdayand Ive been saving the news to surprise her with.
BIGELOWHer birthday? I wish the children and I had knownbut its not too late yet.
CURTIS—(With a grin.) Thirty-nine candles, if youre thinking of baking a cake!
BIGELOW—(Meaningly.) Thats not oldbut its not young either, Curt.
You talk like an old woman, Big. What have years to do with it? Martha
is young in spirit and always will be. (There is a knock at the door and MARTHAS voice calling: May I come in, people?) Sure thing!
(BIGELOW jumps to open the door and MARTHA enters. She is flushed, excited, full of the joy of life, panting from her exertions.)
I’ve had to run away and leave them with the governess. They’re too
active for me. (She throws herself on the couch.) Phew! Im all tired out. I must be getting old.
CURTIS—(With a grin.) Big was just this minute remarking that, Martha.
(BIGELOW looks embarrassed.)
MARTHA—(Laughing at him.) Well, I declare! Of all the horrid things to hear
BIGELOW—(Still embarrassed but forcing a joking tone.) Heprevaricates, Mrs. Jayson.
MARTHAThere now, Curt! Im sure it was you who said it. It sounds just like one of your horrid facts.
BIGELOWAnd how can I offer my felicitations now? But I do, despite your husbands calumny. May your shadow never grow less!
you. (She shakes his proffered hand heartily.)
BIGELOWAnd now Ill collect my flock and go home.
CURTISSo long, Big. Be sure you dont mislay one of your heirs!
fear—but they might mislay me. (He goes. CURT sits down on couch. MARTHA goes to the window right, and looks outafter a pause, waving her hand.)
MARTHAThere they go. What darlings they are!
(CURTIS grunts perfunctorily. MARTHA comes back and sits beside CURT on the couchwith a sigh.) Whoever did say it was right, Curt. I am getting old.
CURTIS—(Taking one of her hands and patting it.) Nonsense!
MARTHA—(Shaking her head and smiling with a touch of sadness.) No. I feel it.
CURTIS—(Puts his arms around her protectingly.) Nonsense! Youre not the sort that ever grows old.
MARTHA—(Nestling up to him.)
I’m afraid we’re all that sort, dear. Even you. (She touches the white hair about his temples playfully.) Circumstantial evidence. Ill have to dye it when youre asleep some timeand then nobodyll know.
CURTIS—(Looking at her.)
You haven’t any silver threads. (Jokingly.) Am I to suspect?
MARTHANo, I dont. Honest, cross my heart, I wouldnt even conceal that from you, if I did. But gray hairs prove nothing. I am actually older than you, dont forget.
CURTISOne whole year! Thats frightful, isnt it?
MARTHAIm a woman, remember; so that one means at least six. Ugh! Lets not talk about it. Do you know, it really fills me with a queer panic sometimes?
CURTIS—(Squeezing her.) Silly girl!
MARTHA—(Snuggling close to him.) Will you always love meeven when Im old and ugly and feeble and youre still young and strong and handsome?
CURTIS—(Kisses hertenderly.) Martha! What a foolish question, sweetheart. If we ever have to grow old, well do it together just as weve always done everything.
MARTHA—(With a happy sigh.)
That’s my dream of happiness, Curt. (Enthusiastically.) Oh, it has been a wonderful, strange life weve lived together, Curt, hasnt it? Youre sure youve never regrettednever had the weest doubt that it might have been better withsomeone else?
CURTIS—(Kisses her againtenderly reproachful.) Martha!
MARTHAAnd I have helpedreally helped you, havent I?
You’ve been the best wife a man could ever wish for, Martha. You’ve
been—you are wonderful. I owe everything to you—your sympathy and
encouragement. Don’t you know I realize that? (She kisses him gratefully.)
MARTHA—(Musing happily.) Yes, its been a wonderful, glorious life. Id live it over again if I could, every single second of iteven the terrible sufferingthe children.
Don’t. I wouldn’t want that over again. (Then changing the subject abruptly.) But why have you been putting all our life into the past tense? It seems to me the most interesting part is still ahead of us.
MARTHA—(Softly.) I meantogetherCurt.
CURTISSo do I!
MARTHABut youre going awayand I cant go with you this time.
CURTIS—(Smiling to himself over her head.) Yes, that does complicate matters, doesnt it?
MARTHA—(Hurtlooking up at him.) Curt! How indifferently you say thatas if you didnt care!
CURTIS—(Avoiding her eyesteasingly.) What do you think youll do all the time Im gone?
I’ll be lost—dead—I won’t know what to do. I’ll die of loneliness—(yearning creeping into her voice) unless
CURTIS—(Inquisitively.) Unless what?
MARTHA—(Burying her face on his shoulderpassionately.) Oh, Curt, I love you so! Swear that youll always love me no matter what I dono matter what I ask
CURTIS—(Vaguely uneasy now, trying to peer into her face.) But, sweetheart
MARTHA—(Giving way weakly to her feelings for a momententreatingly.) Then dont go!
CURTIS—(Astonished.) Why, Ive got to go. You know that.
I suppose you have. (Vigorously, as if flinging off a weakness.) Of course you have!
CURTISBut, Marthayou said youd be lonely unlessunless what?
Martha—Unless I— (She hesitates, blushing and confused.)
I mean we—oh, I’m so afraid of what you’ll—hold me close, very close to
you and I’ll whisper it. (She pulls his head down and whispers in his ear. A look of disappointment and aversion forces itself on his face.)
CURTIS—(Almost indignantly.) But thats impossible, Martha!
Now don’t be angry with me, Curt—not till you’ve heard everything. (With a trace of defiance.) It isnt impossible, Curt. Its so! Its happened! I was saving it as a secretto tell you to-dayon my birthday.
CURTIS—(Stunned.) You mean itis a fact?
(Then pitifully.) Oh, Curt, don’t look that way! You seem so
cold—so far away from me. (Straining her arms about him.) Why dont you hold me close to you? Why dont you say youre gladfor my sake?
But Martha—you don’t understand. How can I pretend gladness when— (Vehemently.) Why, it would spoil all our plans!
MARTHAPlans? Our plans? What do you mean?
CURTIS—(Excitedly.) Why, youre going with me, of course! Ive obtained official permission. Ive been working for it for months. The letter came yesterday morning.
MARTHA—(Stunned.) Permissionto go with you
CURTIS—(Excitedly.) Yes. I couldnt conceive going without you. And I knew how you must be wishing
MARTHA—(In pain.) Oh!
CURTIS—(Distractedlyjumping to his feet and staring at her bewilderedly.) Martha! You dont mean to tell me you werent!
MARTHA—(In a crushed voice.) I was wishing you would finally decide not to goto stay at home.
CURTIS—(Betraying exasperation.) But you must realize thats impossible. Martha, are you sure youve clearly understood what Ive told you? You can go with me, do you hear? Everything is arranged. And Ive had to fight so hardI was running the risk of losing my own chance by my insistence that I couldnt go without you.
MARTHA—(Weakly and helplessly.) I understand all that, Curt.
CURTIS—(Indignantly.) And yetyou hesitate! Why, this is the greatest thing of its kind ever attempted! There are unprecedented possibilities! A whole new world of knowledge may be opened upthe very origin of Man himself! And you will be the only woman
MARTHAI realize all that, Curt.
CURTISYou cantand hesitate! And thenthink, Martha!it will mean that you and I wont have to be separated. We can go on living the old, free life together.
MARTHA—(Growing calm now.) You are forgettingwhat I told you, Curt. You must face the fact. I cannot go.
CURTIS—(Overwhelmed by the finality of her toneafter a pause.) How long have you knownthis?
MARTHATwo months, about.
CURTISBut why didnt you tell me before?
MARTHAI was afraid you wouldnt understandand you havent, Curt. But why didnt you tell me beforewhat you were planning?
CURTIS—(Eagerly.) You meanthenyou would have been glad to gobefore this had happened?
MARTHAI would have accepted it.
CURTIS—(Despairingly.) Martha, how could you ever have allowed this to happen? Oh, I suppose Im talking foolishness. It wasnt your seeking, I know.
MARTHAYes it was, Curt. I wished it. I sought it.
Martha! (Then in a hurt tone.) You have broken the promise we made when they died. We were to keep their memories inviolate. They were to be alwaysour only children.
MARTHA—(Gently.) They forgive me, Curt. And you will forgive me, toowhen you see himand love him.
MARTHAI know it will be a boy.
CURTIS—(Sinking down on the couch beside herdully.) Martha! You have blown my world to bits.
MARTHA—(Taking one of his hands in hersgently.) You must make allowances for me, Curt, and forgive me. I am
getting old. No, it’s the truth. I’ve reached the turning point. Will
you listen to my side of it, Curt, and try to see it—with sympathy—with
true understanding— (With a trace of bitterness.)forgetting your work for the moment?
CURTIS—(Miserably.) Thats unfair, Martha. I think of it as our workand I have always believed you did, too.
MARTHA—(Quickly.) I did, Curt! I do! All in the past is our work. Its my greatest pride to think so. But, Curt, Ill have to confess franklyduring the past two years Ive felt myselffeeling as if I wasnt completewith that alone.
(Bitterly.) And all the time I believed that more and more it was becoming the aim of your life, too.
MARTHA—(With a sad smile.) Im glad of that, dear. I tried my best to conceal it from you. It would have been so unfair to let you guess while we were still in harness. But oh, how I kept looking forward to the time when we would come backand restin our own home! You knowyou said that was your planto stay here and write your booksand I was hoping
CURTIS—(With a gesture of aversion.) I loathe this book-writing. It isnt my part, I realize now. But when I made the plans you speak of, how could I know that then?
You’ve got to go. I won’t try to stop you. I’ll help all in my power—as
I’ve always done. Only—I can’t go with you any more. And you must help
me—to do my work—by understanding it. (He is silent, frowning, his face agitated, preoccupied. She goes on intensely.)
Oh, Curt, I wish I could tell you what I feel, make you feel with me the
longing for a child. If you had just the tiniest bit of feminine in
you—! (Forcing a smile.) But you’re so utterly masculine, dear!
That’s what has made me love you, I suppose—so I’ve no right to complain
of it. (Intensely.) I dont. I wouldnt have you changed one bit! I love you! And I love the things you loveyour workbecause its a part of you. And thats what I want you to doto reciprocateto love the creator in meto desire that I, too, should complete myself with the thing nearest my heart!
CURTIS—(Intensely preoccupied with his own strugglevaguely.) But I thought
MARTHAI know; but, after all, your work is yours, not mine. I have been only a helper, a good comrade, too, I hope, butsomehowoutside of it all. Do you remember two years ago when we were camped in
Yunnan, among the aboriginal tribes? It was one night there when we were
lying out in our sleeping-bags up in the mountains along the Tibetan
frontier. I couldn’t sleep. Suddenly I felt oh, so tired—utterly
alone—out of harmony with you—with the earth under me. I became horribly
despondent—like an outcast who suddenly realizes the whole world is
alien. And all the wandering about the world, and all the romance and
excitement I’d enjoyed in it, appeared an aimless, futile business,
chasing around in a circle in an effort to avoid touching reality.
Forgive me, Curt. I meant myself, not you, of course. Oh, it was
horrible, I tell you, to feel that way. I tried to laugh at myself, to
fight it off, but it stayed and grew worse. It seemed as if I were the
only creature alive—who was not alive. And all at once the picture came
of a tribeswoman who stood looking at us in a little mountain village as
we rode by. She was nursing her child. Her eyes were so curiously sure
of herself. She was horribly ugly, poor woman, and yet—as the picture
came back to me—I appeared to myself the ugly one while she was
beautiful. And I thought of our children who had died—and such a longing
for another child came to me that I began sobbing. You were asleep. You
didn’t hear. (She pausesthen proceeds slowly.) And when we
came back here—to have a home at last, I was so happy because I saw my
chance of fulfillment—before it was too late. (In a gentle, pleading voice.)
Now can you understand, dear? (She puts her hand on his arm.)
CURTIS—(Starting as if awaking from a sleep.) Understand? No, I cant understand, Martha.
MARTHA—(In a gasp of unbearable hurt.) Curt! I dont believe you heard a word I was saying.
CURTIS—(Bursting forth as if releasing all the pent-up struggle that has been gathering within him.) No, I cant understand. I cannot, cannot! It seems like treachery to me.
CURTISIve depended on you. This is the crucial pointthe biggest thing of my lifeand you desert me!
MARTHA—(Resentment gathering in her eyes.) If you had listened to meif you had even tried to feel
CURTISI feel that you are deliberately ruining my highest hope. How can I go on without you? Ive been trying to imagine myself alone. I cant! Even with my workwho can I get to take your place? Oh, Martha, why do you have to bring this new element into our lives at this late day? Havent we been sufficient, you and I together? Isnt that a more difficult, beautiful happiness to achieve thanchildren? Everyone has children. Dont I love you as much as any man could love a woman? Isnt that enough for you? Doesnt it mean anything to you that I need you so terriblyfor myself, for my workfor everything that is best and worthiest in me? Can you expect me to be glad when you propose to introduce a stranger who will steal away your love, your interestwho will separate us and deprive me of you! No, no, I cannot! Its asking the impossible. I am only human.
MARTHAIf you were human you would think of my life as well as yours.
CURTISI do! It is our life I am fighting for, not mineour life that you want to destroy.
MARTHAOur life seems to mean your life to you, Curtand only your life. I have devoted fifteen years to that. Now I must fight for my own.
You talk as if we were enemies, Martha! (Striding forward and seizing her in his arms.)
No, you don’t mean it! I love you so, Martha! You’ve made yourself part
of my life, my work—I need you so! I can’t share you with anyone! I
won’t! Martha, my own! Say that you won’t, dear? (He kisses her passionately again and again.)
MARTHA—(All her love and tenderness aroused by his kisses and passionate sincerityweakening.)
Curt! Curt! (Pitiably.) It wont separate us, dear. Cant you see he will be a link between useven when we are away from each otherthat he will bring us together all the closer?
CURTISBut I cant be away from you!
MARTHA—(Miserably.) Oh, Curt, why wont you look the fact in the faceand learn to accept it with joy? Why cant you for my sake? I would do that for you.
CURTIS—(Breaking away from herpassionately.)
You will not do what I have implored you—for me! And I am looking the
fact in the face—the fact that there must be no fact! (Avoiding her eyesas if defying his own finer feelings.)
There are doctors who—
MARTHA—(Shrinking back from him.)
Curt! You propose that—to me! (With overwhelming sorrow.) Oh,
Curt! When I feel him—his life within me—like a budding of my deepest
soul—to flower and continue me—you say what you have just said! (Grief-stricken.) Oh, you never, never, never will understand!
Martha, I— (Distractedly.) I dont know what Im saying! This whole situation is so unbearable! Why, why does it have to happen now?
It must be now—or not at all—at my age, dear. (Then after a pausestaring at him frightenedlysadly.) You have changed, Curt. I remember it used to be your happiness to sacrifice yourself for me.
CURTISI had no work thenno purpose beyond myself. To sacrifice oneself is easy. But when your only meaning becomes as a searcher for knowledgeyou cannot sacrifice that, Martha. You must sacrifice everything for thator lose all sincerity.
MARTHAI wonder where your work leaves off and you begin. Hasnt your work become you?
and no. (Helplessly.) You cant understand, Martha!
CURTIS—(With a trace of bitter irony.) And you and your work? Arent they one and the same?
you think mine is selfish, too? (After a pausesadly.) I cant blame you, Curt. Its all my fault. Ive spoiled you by giving up my life so completely to yours. Youve forgotten I have one. Oh, I dont mean that I was a martyr. I know that in you alone lay my happiness and fulfillment in those yearsafter the children died. But we are no longer what we were then. We must, both of us, relearn to love and respectwhat we have become.
Nonsense! You talk as if love were an intellectual process— (Taking her into his armspassionately.)
I love you—always and forever! You are me and I am you. What use is all
this vivisecting? (He kisses her fiercely. They look into each others eyes for a secondthen instinctively fall back from one another.)
MARTHA—(In a whisper.) Yes, you love me. But who am I? There is no recognition in your eyes. You dont know.
Martha! Stop! This is terrible! (They continue to be held by each others fearfully questioning eyes.)
(The Curtain Falls)