steamer’s life raft rising and
falling slowly on the long ground-swell of a glassy tropic sea. The sky
above is pitilessly clear, of a steel blue color merging into black shadow
on the horizon’s rim. The sun glares down from straight overhead like
a great angry eye of God. The heat is terrific. Writhing, fantastic
heat-waves rise from the white deck of the raft. Here and there on the
still surface of the sea the fins of sharks may be seen slowly cutting the
surface of the water in lazy circles.
men and a woman are on the raft. Seated at one end is a West Indian
mulatto dressed in the blue uniform of a sailor. Across his jersey may be
seen the words “Union Mail Line” in red letters. He has on rough
sailor shoes. His head is bare. When he speaks it is in drawling sing-song
tones as if he were troubled by some strange impediment of speech. He
croons a monotonous negro song to himself as his round eyes follow the
shark fins in their everlasting circles.
the other end of the raft sits a middle-aged white man in what wads once
an evening dress; but sun and salt water have reduced it to the mere
caricature of such a garment. His white shirt is stained and rumpled; his
collar a formless pulp about his neck; his black tie a withered ribbon.
Evidently he had been a firstclass passenger. Just now he cuts a sorry
and pitiful figure as he sits staring stupidly at the water with unseeing
eyes. His scanty black hair is disheveled, revealing a bald spot burnt
crimson by the sun. A mustache droops over his lips, and some of the dye
has run off it making a black line down the side of his lean face,
blistered with sunburn, haggard with hunger and thirst. From time to time
he licks his swollen lips with his blackened tongue.
the eyes of all three the light of a dawning madness is shining.
Between the two men a young
woman lies with arms outstretched, face downward on the raft. She is
even a more bizarre figure than the man in evening clothes, for she is
dressed in a complete short-skirted dancer’s costume of black velvet
covered with spangles. Her long blond hair streams down over her bare,
unprotected shoulders. Her silk stockings are baggy and wrinkled and
her dancing shoes swollen and misshapen. When she lifts her head a
diamond necklace can be seen glittering coldly on the protruding
collar-bones of her emaciated shoulders. Continuous weeping has
a blurred smudge of her rouge and the black make-up of her eyes but one
can still see that she must have been very beautiful before hunger and
thirst had transformed her into a mocking spectre of a dancer. She is
sobbing endlessly, hopelessly.
DANCER—(raising herself to a
sitting posture and turning piteously to the Gentleman)
My God! My God! This silence is driving me mad! Why do you not speak
to me? Is there no ship in sight yet?
No. I do not think so. At least I cannot see any. (He
tries to rise to his fret but finds himself too weak and sits down again
with a groan.) If I could only stand
up I could tell better. I cannot see far from this position. I am so near
the water. And then my eyes are like two balls of fire. They burn and burn
until they feel as if they were
boring into my brain.
know! I know! Everywhere I look I see great crimson spots. It is as if the
sky were raining drops of blood. Do you see them too?
I did—or some day—I no longer remember days. But today everything is
red. The very sea itself seems changed to blood. (He
licks his swollen, cracked lips—then laughs—the shrill cackle of
Perhaps it is the blood of all those who were drowned that night
rising to the surface.
not say such things. You are horrible. I do not care to listen to you. (She turns away from him
with a shudder.)
Very well. I will not speak. (He
covers his face with his hands.)
God! God! How my eyes ache! How my throat burns! (He sobs heavily—there is
a pause—suddenly he turns to the Dancer angrily.) Why did you ask me to
speak if you do not care to
listen to me?
did not ask you to speak of blood. I did not ask you to mention that
I will say no more then. You may talk to him if
you wish. (He
points to the Sailor with a sneer. The negro does not hear. He is crooning
to himself and watching the sharks. There is a long pause. The raft slowly
rises and falls on the long swells. The sun blazes down.)
Oh, this silence! I cannot bear this silence. Talk to me about
anything you please but, for God sake, talk to me! I must not think! I
must not think!
Your pardon, dear lady! I am afraid I spoke harshly. I am not myself. I
think I am a little out of my head. There is so much sun and so much sea.
Everything gets vague at times. I am very weak. We have not eaten in so
long—we have not even had a drink of water in so long. (then
in tones of great anguish)
Oh, if we only had some
(flinging herself on the
raft and beating it with clenched fists) Please do not speak
his song abruptly and turning
Water? Who’s got water? (His
swollen tongue shows between his thy lips.)
to the Sailor) You know no one here
has any water. You stole the last drop we had yourself (irritably)
Why do you ask such questions? (The
Sailor turns his back again and watches the shark fins. He does not answer
nor does he sing any longer. There is a silence, profound and breathless.)
over to the Gentleman and seizing his arm) Do you not notice how
deep the silence is? The world seems emptier than ever. I am afraid. Tell
me why it is.
too, notice it. But I do not know why it is.
I know now. He is silent. Do you not remember he was singing? A queer
monotonous song it was—more of a dirge than a song. I have heard many
songs in many languages in the places I have played, but never a song like
that before. Why did he stop, do you think? Maybe something frightened
do not know. But I will ask him. (to the Sailor)
Why have you stopped singing? (The
Sailor looks at him with a strange expression in his eyes. He does not
answer but turns to the circling fins again and takes up his song, dully,
droningly, as if from some place he had left off The Dancer and the
Gentleman listen in attitudes of strained attention for a long time.)
song! There is no tune to it and I can understand no words. I wonder
what it means.
knows? It is doubtless some folk song of his people which he is singing.
I wish to find out. Sailor! Will you tell me what it means—that song you
are singing? (The negro stares at her
uneasily for a moment.)
It is a song of my people.
But what do the words mean?
SAILOR—(pointing to the shark fins) I am singing to them. It is a charm. I have been told it is very
strong. If I sing long enough they will not eat us.
Eat us? What will eat us?
GENTLEMAN—(pointing to the moving
fins in the still water)
He means the sharks. Those pointed black things you see moving through
the water are their fins. Have you not noticed them before?
yes. I have seen them. But I did not know they were sharks. (sobbing) Oh it is horrible,
GENTLEMAN—(to the negro, harshly) Why do you tell her such things? Do you not
know you will frighten her?
She asked me what I was singing.
GENTLEMAN—(trying to comfort the
Dancer who is still sobbing)
At least tell her the truth about the sharks. That is all a
children’s tale about them eating people. (raising
his voice) You know they never
eat anyone. And I know it. (The
negro looks at him and his lips contract grotesquely. Perhaps he is trying
her head and drying her eyes)
You are sure of what you say?
GENTLEMAN—(confused by the negro’s
stare) Of course I am sure. Everyone knows that sharks are afraid to touch
a person. They are all cowards. (to
the negro) You were just trying
to frighten the lady, were you not? (The
negro turns away from them and stares at the sea. He commences to sing
no longer like his song. It makes me dream of horrible things. Tell him to
You are nervous. Anything is better than dead silence.
Anything is better than silence—even a song like that.
is strange—that sailor. I do not know what to think of him.
is a strange song he sings.
does not seem to want to speak to us.
have noticed that, too. When I asked him about the song he did not want to
answer at all.
he speaks good English. It cannot be that he does not understand us.
he does speak it is as if he had some impediment in his throat.
he has. If so, he is much to be pitied and we are wrong to speak of him
do not pity him. I am afraid of him.
is foolish. It is the sun which beats down so fiercely which makes you
have such thoughts. I, also, have been afraid of him at times, but I know
now that I had been gazing at the sea too long and listening to the great
silence. Such things distort your brain.
you no longer fear him?
no longer fear him now that I am quite sane. It clears my brain to talk to
you. We must talk to each other all the time.
we must talk to each other. I do not dream when I talk to you.
think at one time I was going mad. I dreamed he had a knife in his hand
and looked at me. But it was all madness; I can see that now. He is only a
poor negro sailor—our companion in misfortune. God knows we are all in
the same pitiful plight. We should not grow suspicious of one another.
the same, I am afraid of him. There is something in his eyes when he looks
at me, which makes me tremble.
is nothing I tell you. It is all your imagination. (There
is a long pause.)
God! Is there no ship in sight yet?
to rise but falling back weakly)
I can see none. And I cannot stand to get a wider view.
to the negro)
Ask him. He is stronger than we are. He may be able to see one.
negro ceases his chant and turns to him with expressionless eyes.)
You are stronger than we are and can see farther. Stand up and tell
me if there is any ship in sight.
slowly to his feet and looking at all points of the horizon)
No. There is none. (He
sits down again and croons his dreary melody.)
My God, this is horrible. To wait and wait for something that never
is indeed horrible. But it is to be expected.
do you say it is to be expected? Have you no hopes, then, of being
I have hoped for many things in my life. Always I have hoped in vain.
We are far out of the beaten track of steamers. I know little of
navigation, yet I heard those on board say that we were following a course
but little used. Why we did so, I do not know. I suppose the Captain
wished to make a quicker passage. He alone knows what was in his mind and
he will probably never tell.
he will never tell.
do you speak so decidedly? He might have been among those who escaped in
did not escape. He is dead!
He was on the bridge. I can remember seeing his face as he stood in
under a lamp. It was pale and drawn like the face of a dead man. His eyes,
too, seemed dead. He shouted some orders in a thin trembling voice. No one
paid any attention to him. And then he shot himself. I saw the flash, and
heard the report above all the screams of the drowning. Some one grasped
me by the arm and I heard a hoarse voice shouting in my ear. Then I
Captain! It is evident, then, that he felt himself guilty—since he
killed himself. It must be terrible to hear the screams of the dying and
know oneself to blame. I do not wonder that he killed himself.
was so kind and good-natured—the Captain. It was only that afternoon on
the promenade deck that he stopped beside my chair. “I hear you are to
entertain us this evening” he said. “That will be delightful, and it
is very kind of you. I had promised myself the pleasure of seeing you in
New York, but you have forestalled me.” (after a pause)
How handsome and broad-shouldered he was—the Captain.
would have liked to have seen his soul.
would have found it no better and no worse than the souls of other men. If
he was guilty he has paid with his life.
He has avoided payment by taking his life. The dead do not pay.
the dead cannot answer when we speak evil of them. All we can know is that
he is dead. Let us talk of other things. (There
is a pause.)
in the inside pocket of his dress coat and pulls out a black object that
looks like a large card case. He opens it and stares at it with perplexed
eyes. Then, giving a hollow laugh, he holds it over for the Dancer to see.)
Oh, the damned irony of it!
is it? I cannot read very well. My eyes ache so.
Bend closer! Bend closer! It is worth while understanding—the joke
that has been played on me.
slowly, her face almost touching the case) United States Club of
Buenos Aires! I do not understand what the joke is.
snatching the case from her hand)
I will explain the joke to you then. Listen! M-e-n-u—menu. That is
the joke. This is a souvenir menu of a banquet given in my honor by this
“Martini cocktails, soup, sherry, fish, Burgundy, chicken,
champagne”—and here we arc dying for a crust of bread, for a drink of
mad laughter suddenly ceases and in a frenzy of rage he shakes his fist at
the sky and screams)
God! God! What a joke to play on us! (After
this outburst he sinks back dejectedly, his trembling hand still clutching
DANCER—(sobbing) This is too horrible.
What have we done that we should suffer so? It is as if one misfortune
after another happened to make our agony more terrible. Throw that thing
away! The very sight of it is a mockery. (The Gentleman throws the
menu into the sea where it floats, a black spot on the glassy water.)
How do you happen to have that thing with you? It is ghastly for
you to torment me by reading it.
am sorry to have hurt you. The jest was so grotesque I could not keep it
to myself You ask how I happen to have it with me? I will tell you. It
gives the joke an even bitterer flavor. You remember when the crash came?
We were all in the salon. You were singing—a Cockney song I think?
It is one I first sang at the Palace in London.
was in the salon. You were singing. You were very beautiful. I remember a
woman on my right saying: “How pretty she is! I wonder if she is
married?” Strange how some idiotic remark like that will stick in
one’s brain when all else is vague and confused. A tragedy happens—we
are in the midst of it—and one of our clearest remembrances afterwards
is a remark that might have been overheard in any subway train.
is so with me. There was a fat, bald-headed, little man. It was on deck
after the crash. Everywhere they were fighting to get into the boats. This
poor little man stood by himself. His moon face was convulsed with rage.
He kept repeating in loud angry tones: “I shall be late. I must cable! I
can never make it!” He was still bewailing his broken appointment when a
rush of the crowd swept him off his feet and into the sea. I can see him
now. He is the only person besides the Captain I remember clearly.
his story in a dead voice)
the crash came I also rushed to my stateroom. I took this, (pointing
to the diamond necklace)
clasped it round my neck and ran on deck; the rest I have told you.
You were very beautiful. I was looking at you and wondering what kind
of a woman you were. You know I had never met you personally—only seen
you in my walks around the deck. Then came the crash—that horrible dull
crash. We were all thrown forward on the floor of the salon; then screams,
oaths, fainting women, the hollow boom of a bulkhead giving way. I vaguely
remember rushing to my stateroom and picking up my wallet. It must have
been that menu that I took instead. Then I was on deck fighting in the
midst of the crowd. Somehow I got into a boat—but it was overloaded and
was swamped immediately. I swam to another boat. They beat me off with the
oars. That boat too was swamped a moment later. And then the gurgling,
choking cries of the drowning! Something huge rushed by me in the water
leaving a gleaming trail of phosphorescence. A woman near me with a life
belt around her gave a cry of agony and disappeared—then I
realized—sharks! I became frenzied with terror. I swam. I beat the water
with my hands. The ship had gone down. I swam and swam with but one
idea—to put all that horror behind me. I saw something white on the
water before me. I clutched it—climbed on it. It was this raft. You and
he were on it. I fainted. The whole thing is a horrible nightmare in my
brain—but I remember clearly that idiotic remark of the woman in the
salon. What pitiful creatures we are!
you not remember how you came on this raft? It is strange that you and he
should be on a raft alone when so many died for lack of a place. Were
there ever any others on the raft with you?
I am sure there were not. Everything in my memory is blurred. But I feel
sure we were always the only ones—until you came. I was afraid of
you—your face was livid with fear. You were moaning to yourself.
was the sharks. Until they came I kept a half-control over myself. But
when I saw them even my soul quivered with terror.
looking at the circling fins)
Sharks! Why they are all around us now. (frenziedly) You lied to me. You
said they would not touch us. Oh, I am afraid, I am afraid! (She
covers her face with her hands.)
I lied to you it was because I wished to spare you. Be brave! We are safe
from them as long as we stay on the raft. These things must be faced. (then
in tones of utter despondency)
Besides, what does it matter?—sharks or no sharks—the end is the
her hands away from her eyes and looking dully at the water)
You are right. What does it matter?
How still the sea is! How still the sky is! One would say the world was
dead. I think the accursed humming of that nigger only makes one feel the
silence more keenly. There is nothing—but the sharks—that seems to
the sun burns into me! (piteously)
My poor skin that I was once so proud of!
himself with an effort)
Come! Let us not think about it. It is madness to think about it so.
How do you account for your being on the raft alone with this nigger? You
have not yet told me.
can I tell? The last thing I remember was that harsh voice in my ear
shouting something—what, I cannot recollect.
was nothing else?
(pause) Stop! Yes, there was
something I had forgotten. I think that someone kissed me. Yes, I am sure
that someone kissed me. But no, I am not sure. It may have all been a
dream I dreamed. I have had so many dreams during these awful days and
nights—so many mad, mad dreams. (Her
eyes begin to glaze, her lips to twitch. She murmurs to herself)
Mad, mad dreams.
over and shaking her by the shoulder)
Come! You said someone kissed you. You must be mistaken. I surely did
not, and it could hardly have been that sailor.
I am sure someone did. It was not since I have been on this raft. It was
on the deck of the ship just as I was fainting.
could it have been, do you think?
hardly dare to say what I think. I might be wrong. You remember the Second
Officer—the young Englishman with the great dark eyes who was so tall
and handsome? All the women loved him. I, too, I loved him—a little bit.
He loved me—very much—so he said. Yes, I know he loved me very much. I
think it was he who kissed me. I am almost sure it was he.
he must have been the one. That would explain it all. He must have sent away
the raft when only you and this sailor were on it. He probably did not let
the others know of the existence of this raft. Indeed he must have loved you
to disregard his duty so. I will ask the sailor about it. Maybe he can clear
away our doubts. (to the negro)
negro stops singing and looks at them with wide, bloodshot eyes.)
Did the Second Officer order you to take this lady away from the ship?
SAILOR—(sullenly) I do not know.
he tell you to take no one else with you but this lady—and perhaps himself
I do not know. (He
turns away again and commences to sing.)
not speak to him any more. He is angry at something. He will not answer.
is going mad I think. However it seems certain that it was the Second
Officer who kissed you and saved your life.
was kind and brave to me. He meant well. Yet I wish now he had let me die. I
would have been way down in the cold green water. I would have been
coldly sleeping. While now my brain is scorched with sun-fire and
dream-fire. And I am going mad. We are all going mad. Your eyes shine with a
wild flame at times—and that Sailor’s are horrible with
strangeness—and mine see great drops of blood that dance upon the sea. Yes
we are all mad. (pause) God! Oh God’ Must
this be the end of all? I was coming home, home after years of struggling,
home to success and fame and money. And I must die out here on a raft like a
mad dog. (She weeps despairingly.)
still! You must not despair so. I, too, might whine a prayer of protest:
“Oh God, God! After twenty years of incessant grind, day after weary day,
I started on my first vacation. I was going home. And here I sit dying by
slow degrees, desolate and forsaken. Is this the meaning of all my years of
labor? Is this the end, oh God?” So I might wail with equal justice. But
the blind sky will not answer your appeals or mine. Nor will the cruel sea
grow merciful for any prayer of ours.
you no hope that one of the ship’s boats may have reached land and
reported the disaster. They would surely send steamers out to search for the
have drifted far, very far, in these long weary days. I am afraid no steamer
would find us.
are lost then! (She falls face downward on
the raft. A great sob shakes her thin bare shoulders.)
have not given up hope. These seas, I have heard, are full of coral islands
and we surely ought to drift near one of them soon. It was probably an
uncharted coral reef that our steamer hit. I heard someone say
“derelict” but I saw no sign of one in the water. With us it is only a
question of whether we can hold out until we sight land. (His
voice quivers; he licks his blackened lips. His eyes have grown very mad and
he is shaking spasmodically from head to foot.) Water would save
us—just a little water—even a few drops would be enough. (intensely)
God, if we only had a little water!
there will be water on the island. Look; look hard! An island or a ship may
have come in sight while we were talking. (There
is a pause. Suddenly she rises to her knees and pointing straight in front
of her shouts)
See! An island!
his eyes with a trembling hand and peering wildly around him)
I see nothing—nothing but a red sea and a red sky.
looking at some point far out over the water, speaks in disappointed tones)
It is gone. Yet I am quite sure I saw one. It was right out there quite
near to us. It was all green and clean looking with a clear stream that ran
into the sea. I could hear the water running over the stones. You do not
believe me. You, Sailor, you must have seen it too, did you not? (The
negro does not answer.)
I cannot see it any more. Yet I must see it. I will see it!
her by the shoulder)
What you say is nonsense. There is no island there I tell you. There is
nothing but sun and sky and sea around us. There are no green trees. There
is no water. (The Sailor has stopped singing and turns and looks at them.)
Do you mean to tell me I lie? Can I not believe my own eyes, then? I tell
you I saw it— cool clear water. I heard it bubbling over the stones. But
now I hear nothing, nothing at all. (turning
suddenly to the Sailor)
Why have you stopped singing? Is not everything awful enough already
that you should make it worse?
out his swollen tongue and pointing to it with a long, brown finger)
Water! I want water! Give me some water and I will sing.
GENTLEMAN—(furiously) We have no water,
fool! It is your fault we have none. Why did you drink all that was left in
the cask when you thought we were asleep? I would not give you any even if
we had some. You deserve to suffer, you pig! If anyone of the three of us
has any water it is you who have hidden some out of what you stole. (with
a laugh of mad cunning)
But you will get no chance to drink it, I promise you that. I am
watching you. (The
negro sullenly turns away from them.)
hold of the Gentleman’s arm and almost hissing into his ear. She is
terribly excited and he is still chuckling crazily to himself) Do you really think
he has some?
GENTLEMAN—(chuckling) He may have. He may
do you say that?
has been acting strangely. He has looked as if he wished to hide something.
I was wondering what it could be. Then suddenly I thought to myself: “What
if it should be some of the water?” Then I knew I had found him out. I
will not let him get the best of me. I will watch him. He will not drink
while I am watching him. I will watch him as long as I can see.
could he have put the water in? He has nothing that I can discover. (She is rapidly falling in
with this mad fixed idea of his.)
knows? He may have a flask hidden in under his jersey. But he has
something, that I am sure of. Why is it he is so much stronger than we are?
He can stand up without effort and we can scarcely move. Why is that, I ask
is true. He stood up and looked for a ship as easily as if he had never
known hunger and thirst. You are right. He must have something hidden—food
mad eagerness to prove his fixed idea)
No, he has no food. There has never been any food. But there has been
water. There was a whole small cask full of it on the raft when I came. On
the second or third night, I do not remember which, I awoke and saw him
draining the cask. When I reached it, it was empty. (furiously shaking his fist
at the negro’s back)
Oh you pig! You rotten pig! (The
negro does not seem to hear.)
water would have saved our lives. He is no better than a murderer.
Listen. I think he must have poured some of the water into his flask.
There was quite a little there. He could not have drunk it all. Oh, he is a
cunning one! That song of his—it was only a blind. He drinks when we are
not looking. But he will drink no more for I will watch him. I will watch
will watch him? And what good will that do either of us? Will we die any the
less soon for your watching? No! Let us get the water away from him in some
way. That is the only thing to do.
will not give it to us.
will steal it while he sleeps.
do not think he sleeps. I have never seen him sleep. Besides we should wake
DANCER—(violently) We will kill him
then. He deserves to be killed.
is stronger than we are—and he has a knife. No, we cannot do that. I would
willingly kill him. As you say, he deserves it. But I cannot even stand. I
have no strength left. I have no weapons. He would laugh at me.
must be some way. You would think even the most heartless savage would share
at a time like this. We must get that water. it is horrible to be dying of
thirst with water so near. Think! Think! Is there no way?
might buy it from him with that necklace of yours. I have heard his people
are very fond of such things.
necklace? It is worth a thousand pounds. An English duke gave it to me. I
will not part with it. Do you think I am a fool?
of a drink of water! (They
both lick their dry lips feverishly.)
If we do not drink soon we will die. (laughing
You will take your necklace to the sharks with you? Very well then, I
will say no more. For my part, I would sell my soul for a drop of water.
with horror she glances instinctively at the moving shark fins.)
You are horrible. I had almost forgotten those monsters. It is not kind
of you to be always bringing them back to my memory.
is well that you should not forget them. You will value your Duke’s
present less when you look at them. (impatiently
pounding the deck with one boney hand) Come, come, we shall both die of
thirst while you are dreaming. Offer it to him! Offer it to him!
takes off the necklace and, musing vacantly, turns it over in her hands
watching it sparkle in the sun.)
It is beautiful, is it not? I hate to part with it. He was very much in
love with me—the old Duke. I think he would even have married me in the
end. I did not like him. He was old, very old. Something came up—I forget
what. I never saw him again. This is the only gift of his that I have left.
a frenzy of impatience—the vision of the water clear before his glaring
Damn it, why are you chattering so? Think of the water he has got. Offer
it to him! Offer it to him!
yes, my throat is burning up; my eyes are on fire. I must have the water. (She
drags herself on hands and knees across the raft to where the negro is
sitting. He does not notice her approach. She reaches out a trembling hand
and touches him on the back. He turns slowly and looks at her, his round,
animal eyes dull and lusterless.
She holds the necklace out in her right hand before his face and speaks
hurriedly in a husky voice.)
Look, you have stolen our water. You deserve to be killed. We will
forget all that. Look at this necklace. It was given to me by an English
Duke—a nobleman. It is worth a thousand pounds—five thousand dollars. It
will provide for you for the rest of your life. You need not be a sailor any
more. You need never work at all any more. Do you understand what that
negro does not answer. The Dancer hurries on however, her words pouring
out in a sing-song jumble.)
That water that you stole—well, I will give you this necklace—they
are all real diamonds, you know—five thousand dollars—for that water.
You need not give me all of it. I am not unreasonable. You may keep some for
yourself. I would not have you die. I want just enough for myself and my
friend—to keep us alive until we reach some island. My lips are cracked
with heat! My head is bursting! Here, take the necklace. It is yours. (She
tries to force it into his hand. He pushes her hand away and the necklace
falls to the deck of the raft where it lies glittering among the heat waves.)
voice raised stridently)
Give me the water! I have given you the necklace. Give me the water!
has been watching her with anxious eyes, also cries)
Yes. Give her the water!
voice drawling and without expression) I have no water.
you are cruel! Why do you lie? You see me suffering so and yet you lie to
me. I have given you the necklace. It is worth five thousand dollars, do you
understand? Surely for five thousand dollars you will give me a drink of
have no water, I tell you. (He
turns his back to her. She crawls over to the Gentleman and lies beside him,
face convulsed with rage, shaking both fists in the air)
The pig! The pig! The black dog!
up and wiping her eyes)
Well, you have heard him. He will not give it to us. Maybe he only has a
little and is afraid to share it. What shall we do now? What can we do?
Nothing. He is stronger than we are. There is no wind. We will never
reach an island. We can die, that is all. (He
sinks back and buries his head in his hands. A great dry sob shakes his
eyes flaming with a sudden resolution)
Ah, who is the coward now? You have given up hope, it seems. Well, I
have not. I have still one chance. It has never failed me yet.
his head and looking at her in amazement) You are going to
offer him more money?
a strange smile) No. Not that.
I will offer more than money. We shall get our water. (She tears a piece of crumpled lace off the front of her costume and
carefully wipes her face with it as if she were using a powder-puff)
I do not understand.
pulls up her stockings—tries to smooth the wrinkles out of her dress—then takes her long hair and having braided it, winds it into a coil
around her head. She pinches her cheeks, already crimson with sunburn. Then
turning coquettishly to the Gentleman, she says)
There! Do I not look better? How do I look?
into a mad guffaw)
You look terrible! You are hideous!
lie! I am beautiful. Everyone knows I am beautiful. You yourself have said
so. It is you who are hideous. You are jealous of me. I will not give you
will get no water. You are frightful. What is it you would do—dance for
him? (mockingly) Dance! Dance Salome!
I will be the orchestra. He will be the gallery. We will both applaud you
madly. (He leans on one elbow and watches her, chuckling to himself)
from him furiously and crawling on her knees over to the Sailor, calls in
her most seductive voice)
Sailor! Sailor! (He does not seem to
hear—she takes his arm and shakes it gently—he turns around and stares
wonderingly at her.)
Listen to me, Sailor. What is your name—your first name? (She
smiles enticingly at him. He does not answer.)
You will not tell me then? You are angry at me, are you not? I cannot
blame you. I have called you bad names. I am sorry, very sorry. (indicating
the Gentleman who has ceased to notice them and is staring at the horizon
with blinking eyes)
It was he who put such ideas into my head. He does not like you. Neither
did I, but I see now that you are the better of the two. I hate him! He has
said dreadful things which I cannot forgive. (Putting her hand on his
shoulder she bends forward with her golden hair almost in his lap and smiles
up into his face.)
I like you, Sailor. You are big and strong. We are going to be great
friends, are we not? (The negro is hardly
looking at her. He is watching the sharks.)
Surely you will not refuse me a little sip of your water?
have no water.
why will you keep up this subterfuge? Am I not offering you price enough? (putting
her arm around his neck and half whispering in his ear)
Do you not understand? I will love you, Sailor! Noblemen and
millionaires and all degrees of gentleman have loved me, have fought for
me. I have never loved any of them as I will love you. Look in my eyes,
Sailor, look in my eyes! (Compelled
in spite of himself by something in her voice, the negro gazes deep into
her eyes. For a second his nostrils dilate—he draws in his breath with a
hissing sound—his body grows tense
and it seems as if he is about to
sweep her into his arms. Then his expression grows apathetic again. He turns
to the sharks.)
will you never understand? Are you so stupid that you do not know what I
mean? Look! I am offering myself to you! I am kneeling before you—I who
had men kneel to me! I am offering my body to you— my body that men have
called so beautiful. I have promised to love you—a
negro sailor—if you will give me one small drink of water. Is that not
humiliation enough that you must keep me waiting so? (raising
her voice) Answer me! Answer me!
Will you give me that water?
even turning to look at her)
I have no water.
with fury) Great God, have I
abased myself for this? Have I humbled myself before this black animal only
to be spurned like a wench of the streets. It is too much! You lie, you
dirty slave! You have water. You have stolen my share of the water. (In
a frenzy she clutches the
Sailor about the throat with both
Give it to me! Give it to me!
her hands from his neck and pushes her roughly away. She falls face downward
in the middle of the raft.)
Let me alone! I have no water.
from the stupor he has been in)
What is it? I was dreaming I was sitting before great tumblers of
ice-water. They were just beyond my reach. I tried and tried to get one of
them. It was horrible. But what has happened here? What is the matter? (No
one answers him. The negro is watching the sharks again. The Dancer is lying
in a huddled heap, moaning to herself Suddenly she jumps to her fret. All
her former weakness seems quite gone. She stands swaying a little with the
roll of the raft. Her eyes have a terrible glare in them. They seem bursting
out of her head. She mutters incoherently to herself The last string has
snapped. She is mad.)
her dress over her hips and looking before her as if in a mirror)
Quick, Marie! You are so slow tonight. I will be late. Did you not
hear the bell? I am the next on. Did he send any flowers tonight, Marie?
Good, he will be in a stage box. I will smile at him, the poor old fool. He
will marry me some day and I will be a Duchess. Think of that Marie—a real
Duchess! Yes, yes I am coming! You need not hold the curtain. (She drops her head on her breast and mutters to herself The Gentleman
has been watching her, at first in astonishment, then in a sort of crazy
appreciation. When she stops talking he claps his hands.)
on! Go on! It is as good as a play. (He
bursts into cackling laughter.)
are laughing. It cannot be at me. How hot it is! How the footlights glare! I
shall be glad to get away tonight. I am very thirsty. (passing her hand across her eyes) There he is in the
box—the poor, old duke. I will wave to him. (She waves her hand in the
air.) He is kind to me. It is a pity he is so old. What song is it I am
to sing? Oh yes. (She
sings the last few lines of some music hall ballad in a harsh cracked voice.
The negro turns and looks at her wonderingly. The Gentleman daps his hands.) They are applauding.
I must dance for them! (She
commences to dance on the swaying surface of the raft, half-stumbling every
now and then. Her hair falls down. She is like
some ghastly marionette jerked by invisible wires. She dances faster and
faster. Her arms and legs fly grotesquely around as if beyond control.)
Oh, how hot it is! (She
grasps the front of her bodice in both hands and rips it over her shoulders.
It hangs down in back. She is almost naked to
the waist. Her breasts are withered and shrunken by starvation. She kicks
first one foot and then the other frenziedly in the air.) Oh it is hot! I am
stifling. Bring me a drink of water! I am choking! (She falls back on the
raft. A shudder runs over her whole body. A little crimson foam appears on
her lips. Her eyes glaze. The wild stare leaves them. She is dead.)
insanely and clapping his hands)
Bravo! Bravo! Give us some more! (There
is no answer. A great stillness hangs over everything. The heat waves rising
from the raft near the woman’s body seem like her soul departing into the
great unknown. A look of fear appears on the Gentleman’s face. The negro
wears a strange expression. One might say he looked relieved, even glad, as
if some perplexing problem has been solved for him.)
does not answer me. She must be sick. (He
crawls over to her.) She
has fainted. (He
puts his hand on her left breast—then bends and rests his ear over her
heart. His face grows livid in spite of the sunburn.)
My God! She is dead! Poor girl! Poor Girl! (He whimpers weakly to himself mechanically running her long golden hair
through his fingers with a caressing gesture. He is startled when he hears the negro’s voice.)
She is dead, poor girl. Her heart no longer beats.
is better off. She does not suffer now. One of us had to die. (after
a pause) It is lucky for us
she is dead.
do you mean? What good can her death do us?
will live now. (He takes his sailor’s
knife from its sheath and sharpens it on the sole of his shoe. While he is
doing this he sings—a happy negro
melody that mocks the great silence.)
hushed, frightened tones)
I do not understand.
swollen lips parting in a grin as he points with his knife to the body of
the Dancer) We shall eat. We
a moment struck dumb with loathing—then in tones of anguished horror)
No! No! No! Good God, not that! (With
a swift movement he grasps the Dancer’s body with both hands and making a
tremendous effort, pushes it into the water. There is a
swift rush of waiting fins. The sea near the raft is churned into foam. The
Dancer’s body disappears in a swirling eddy; then all is quiet
again. A black stain appears on the surface of the water.)
Sailor, who has jumped forward to save the body, gives a harsh cry of
disappointed rage and, knife in hand, springs on the Gentleman and drives
the knife in his breast. The Gentleman rises to his fret with a shriek of
agony. As he falls backward into the sea, one of his clutching hands fastens
itself in the neck of the Sailor’s jersey. The Sailor tries to force the
hand away, stumbles, loses his balance, and plunges headlong after him.
There is a great splash. The waiting fins rush in. The water is lashed into foam.
The Sailor’s black head appears for a moment, his features distorted
with terror, his lips torn with a howl of despair. Then he is drawn under.
The black stain on the water
widens. The fins circle no longer. The raft floats in the midst of a vast
silence. The sun glares down like a great angry eye of God. The eerie heat
waves float upward in the still air like the souls of the drowned. On the
raft a diamond necklace lies glittering in the blazing sunshine.