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SCENE THREE

  In the forest. The moon has just risen. Its beams, drifting through the canopy of leaves, make a barely perceptible, suffused, eerie glow. A dense low wall of under-brush and creepers is in the nearer foreground, fencing in a small triangular clearing. Beyond this is the massed blackness of the forest like an encompassing barrier. A path is dimly discerned leading down to the clearing from left, rear, and winding away from it again toward the right. As the scene opens nothing can be distinctly made out. Except for the beating of the tom-tom, which is a trifle louder and quicker than in the previous scene, there is silence, broken every few seconds by a queer, clicking sound. Then gradually the figure of the negro, Jeff, can be discerned crouching on his haunches at the rear of the triangle. He is middle-aged, thin, brown in color, is dressed in a Pullman porter's uniform, cap, etc. He is throwing a pair of dice on the ground before him, picking them up, shaking them, casting them out with the regular, rigid, mechanical movements of an automaton. The heavy, plodding footsteps of someone approaching along the trail from the left are heard and Jones' voice, pitched in a slightly higher key and strained in a cheering effort to overcome its own tremors.

  De moon's rizen. Does you heah dat, nigger? You gits more light from dis out. No mo' buttin' yo' fool head agin' de trunks an' scratchin' de hide off yo' legs in de bushes. Now you sees whar yo'se gwine. So cheer up! From now on you has a snap. (He steps just to the rear of the triangular clearing and mops off his face on his sleeve. He has lost his Panama hat. His face is scratched, his brilliant uniform shows several large rents.) what time's it gittin' to be, I wonder? I dassent light no match to find out. Phoo'. It's wa'm an' dats a fac'! (wearily) How long r been makin' tracks in dese woods? Must be hours an' hours. Seems like fo'evah! Yit can't be, when de moon's jes' riz. Dis am a long night fo' yo', yo' Majesty! (with a mournful chuckle) Majesty! Der ain't much majesty 'bout dis baby now. (with attempted cheerfulness) Never min'. It's all part o' de game. Dis night come to an end like everything else. And when you gits dar safe and has dat bankroll in yo' hands you laughs at all dis. (He starts to whistle but checks himself abruptly.) What yo' whistlin' for, you po' dope! Want all de won' to heah you? (He stops talking to listen.) Heah dat ole drum! Sho' gits nearer from de sound. Dey're packin' it along wid 'em. Time fo' me to move. (He takes a step forward, then stops—worriedly.) What's dat odder queer clicketty sound I heah? Den it is! Sound close! Sound like—sound like—Fo' God sake, sound like some nigger was shootin' crap! (frightenedly) I better beat it quick when I gits dem notions. (He walks quickly into the clear space—then stands transfixed as he sees Jeff in a terrified gasp.) Who dar? Who dat? Is dat you, Jeff? (starting toward the other, forgetful for a moment of his surroundings and really believing it is a living man that he sees—in a tone of happy relief) Jeff! I'se sho' mighty glad to see you! Dey tol' me you done died from dat razor cut I gives you. (stopping suddenly, bewilderedly) But how you come to be heah, nigger? (He stares fascinatedly at the other who continues his mechanical play with the dice. Jones' eyes begin to roll wildly. He stutters.) Ain't you gwine—look up—can't you speak to me? Is you—is you—a ha'nt? (He jerks out his revolver in a frenzy of terrified rage.) Nigger, I kills you dead once. Has I got to kill you agin? You take it den. (He fires. When the smoke clears away Jeff has disappeared. Jones stands trembling—then with a certain reassurance.) He's gone, anyway. Ha'nt or no ha'nt, dat shot fix him. (The beat of the far-off tom-tom is perceptibly louder and more rapid. Jones becomes conscious of it—with a start, looking back over his shoulder.) Dey's gittin' near! Dey'se comin' fast! And heah I is shootin' shots to let 'em know jes' whar I is. Oh, Gorry, I'se got to run. (Forgetting the path he plunges wildly into the underbrush in the rear and disappears in the shadow.)


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