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Contents   I   II-I   II-II   III


ACT ONE

SCENEStudio apartment. In the rear, a balcony with a stairway at center leading down to the studio floor.

  The room is in darkness. Then a circle of light reveals Eleanor lying back on a chaise longue. She is a woman of thirty. Her figure is tall. Her face, with its high, prominent cheek-bones, lacks harmony. It is dominated by passionate, blue-gray eyes, restrained by a high forehead from which the mass of her dark brown hair is combed straight back. The first impression of her whole personality is one of charm, partly innate, partly imposed by years of self-discipline.

  She picks up a letter from the table, which she opens and reads, an expression of delight and love coming over her face. She kisses the letter impulsively—then gives a gay laugh at herself. She lets the letter fall on her lap and stares straight before her, lost in a sentimental reverie.

  A door underneath the balcony is noiselessly opened and Michael comes in. (A circle of light appears with him, follows him into the room. These two circles of light, like auras of egoism, emphasize and intensify Eleanor and Michael throughout the play. There is no other lighting. The two other people and the rooms are distinguishable only by the light of Eleanor and Michael.)

  Michael is thirty-five, tall and dark. His unusual face is a harrowed battlefield of super-sensitiveness, the features at war with one another—the forehead of a thinker, the eyes of a dreamer, the nose and mouth of a sensualist. One feels a powerful imagination tinged with somber sadness—a driving force which can be sympathetic and cruel at the same time. There is something tortured about him—a passionate tension, a self-protecting, arrogant defiance of life and his own weakness, a deep need for love as a faith in which to relax.

  He has a suitcase, hat, and overcoat which he sets inside on the floor, glancing toward Eleanor, trying not to make the slightest noise. But she suddenly becomes aware of some presence in the room and turns boldly to face it. She gives an exclamation of delighted astonishment when she sees Michael and jumps up to meet him as he strides toward her.

  ELEANORMichael!

  CAPE(with a boyish grin) You've spoiled it, Nelly; I wanted a kiss to announce me. (They are in each other's arms. He kisses her tenderly.)

  ELEANOR(joyously) This is a surprise!

  CAPE(straining her in his arms and kissing her passionately) Own little wife!

  ELEANORDearest! (They look into each other's eyes for a long moment.)

  CAPE(tenderly) Happy?

  ELEANORYes, yes! Why do you always ask? You know. (suddenly pushing him at arms' length—with a happy laugh) It's positively immoral for an old married couple to act this way. (She leads him by the hand to the chaise longue.) And you must explain. You wrote not to expect you till the end of the week. (She sits down.) Get a cushion. Sit down here. (He puts a cushion on the floor beside the chaise longue and sits down.) Tell me all about it.

  CAPE(notices the letter lying on the floor) Were you reading my letter? (She nods. He gives a happy grin.) Do you mean to say you still read them over—after five years of me?

  ELEANOR(with a tender smile) Oh—sometimes.

  CAPESweetheart! (smiling) What were you dreaming about when I intruded?

  ELEANORNever mind. You're enough of an egotist already. (her hand caressing his face and hair) I've been feeling so lonely—and it's only been a few weeks, hasn't it? (She laughs.) How was everything in the country? (suddenly kissing him) Oh, I'm so happy you're back. (with mock severity) But ought I? Have you finished the fourth act? You know you promised not to return until you did.

  CAPEThis afternoon!

  ELEANORYou're sure you didn't force it—(with a tender smile at him)—because you were lonely, too?

  CAPE(with a sudden change in manner that is almost stern) No. I wouldn't. I couldn't. You know that.

  ELEANOR(her face showing a trace of hurt in spite of herself) I was only fooling. (then rousing herself as if conquering a growing depression) I'm terribly anxious to hear what you've done.

  CAPE(enthusiastically) You'll see when I read you—And you're going to be marvelous! It's going to be the finest thing we've ever done!

  ELEANORI love you for saying "we." But the "we" is you. I only—(with a smile of ironical self-pity)—act a part you've created.

  CAPE(impetuously) Nonsense! You're an artist. Each performance of yours has taught me something. Why, my women used to be—death masks. But now they're as alive as you are—(with a sudden grin)—at least, when you play them.

  ELEANOR(her eyes shining with excited pleasure) You don't know how much it means to have you talk like that! Oh, I'm going to work so hard, Michael! (impetuously) You've simply got to read me that last act right now!

  CAPE(jumping to his feet eagerly) All right. (He walks toward his bag—then stops when he is half-way and, hesitating, turns slowly and comes back. He bends down and lifts her face to his—with a smile) No. I won't.

  ELEANOR(disappointed) Oh. Why not, dear?

  CAPEBecause—

  ELEANORPlagiarist!

  CAPEBecause I've been hoping for this night as our own. Let's forget the actress and playwright. Let's just be—us—lovers.

  ELEANOR(with a tender smile—musingly) We have remained lovers, haven't we?

  CAPE(with a grin) Fights and all?

  ELEANOR(with a little frown) We don't fight so much.

  CAPE(frowning himself) Too much.

  ELEANOR(forcing a smile) Perhaps that's the price.

  CAPEDon't grow fatalistic—just when I was about to propose reform.

  ELEANOR(smiling—quickly) Oh, I'll promise to be good—if you will. (gently reproachful) Do you think I enjoy fighting with you?

  CAPE(with sudden passion) It's wrong, Nelly. It's evil!

  ELEANORSsshh! We promised.

  CAPE(hesitatingly) We've been taking each other too much for granted. That may do very well with the common loves of the world—but ours—! (He suddenly pulls her head down and kisses her impulsively.) But you understand! Oh, Nelly, I love you with all my soul!

  ELEANOR(deeply moved) And I love you, Michael—always and forever! (They sit close, she staring dreamily before her, he watching her face.)

  CAPE(after a pause) What are you thinking?

  ELEANOR(with a tender smile) Of the first time we met—at rehearsal, remember? I was thinking of how mistakenly I'd pictured you before that. (She pauses—then frowning a little) I'd heard such a lot of gossip about your love affairs.

  CAPE(with a wry grin) You must have been disappointed if you expected Don Juan. (a pause—then forcing a short laugh) I also had heard a lot of rumors about your previous—(He stops abruptly with an expression of extreme bitterness.)

  ELEANOR(sharply) Don't! (a pause—then she goes on sadly) It was only our past together I wanted to remember. (a pause—then with a trace of scornful resentment) I was forgetting your morbid obsession—

  CAPE(with gloomy irritation) Obsession? Why—? (then determinedly throwing off this mood—reproachfully forcing a joking tone) We're not "starting something" now, are we—after our promise?

  ELEANOR(impulsively pressing his hand) No, no—of course not!

  CAPE(after a pause—a bit awkwardly) But you guessed my desire, at that. I wanted to dream with you in our past—to find there—a new faith—

  ELEANOR(smiling) Another Grand Ideal for our marriage?

  CAPE(frowning) Don't mock.

  ELEANOR(teasingly) But you're such a relentless idealist. You needn't frown. That was exactly what drew me to you in those first days. (earnestly) I'd lost faith in everything. Your love saved me. Your work saved mine. I owe you myself, Michael! (She kisses him.) Do you remember—our first night together?

  CAPEDo you imagine I could've forgotten?

  ELEANOR(continuing as if she hadn't heard) The play was such a marvelous success! I knew I had finally won—through your work! I loved myself! I loved you! You came to me—(more and more intensely) Oh, it was beautiful madness! I lost myself. I began living in you. I wanted to die and become you!

  CAPE(passionately) And I, you!

  ELEANOR(softly) And do you remember the dawn creeping in—and how we began to plan our future? (She exclaims impulsively) Oh, I'd give anything in the world to live those days over again!

  CAPEWhy? Hasn't our marriage kept the spirit of that time—with a growth of something deeper—finer—

  ELEANORYes,—but—Oh, you know what I mean! It was revelation then—a miracle out of the sky!

  CAPE(insistently) But haven't we realized the ideal of our marriage—(smiling but with deep earnestness nevertheless) Not for us the ordinary family rite, you'll remember! We swore to have a true sacrament—or nothing! Our marriage must be a consummation demanding and combining the best in each of us! Hard, difficult, guarded from the commonplace, kept sacred as the outward form of our inner harmony! (With an awkward sense of having become rhetorical he adds self-mockingly) We'd tend our flame on an altar, not in a kitchen range! (He forces a grin—then abruptly changing again, with a sudden fierce pleading) It has been what we dreamed, hasn't it, Nelly?

  ELEANOROur ideal was difficult. (sadly) Sometimes I think we've demanded too much. Now there's nothing left but that something which can't give itself. And I blame you for this—because I can neither take more nor give more—and you blame me! (She smiles tenderly.) And then we fight!

  CAPEThen let's be proud of our fight! It began with the splitting of a cell a hundred million years ago into you and me, leaving an eternal yearning to become one life again.

  ELEANORAt moments—we do.

  CAPEYes! (He kisses her—then intensely) You and I—year after year—together—forms of our bodies merging into one form; rhythm of our lives beating against each other, forming slowly the one rhythm—the life of Us—created by us!—beyond us, above us! (with sudden furious anger) God, what I feel of the truth of this—the beauty!—but how can I express it?

  ELEANOR(kissing him) I understand.

  CAPE(straining her to him with fierce passion) Oh, My Own, My Own—and I your own—to the end of time!

  ELEANORI love you!

  CAPE(with passionate exultance) Why do you regret our first days? Their fire still burns in us—deeper! Don't you feel that? (kissing her again and again) I've become you! You've become me! One heart! One blood! Ours! (He pulls her to her feet.) My wife! Come!

  ELEANOR(almost swooning in his arms) My lover—yes—My lover—

  CAPECome! (With his arms around her he leads her to the stairway. As they get to the foot, there is a noise from the hall. She hears it, starts, seems suddenly brought back to herself. Cape is oblivious and continues up the stairs. She stands swaying, holding on to the banister as if in a daze. At the top, Cape turns in surprise at not finding her, as if he had felt her behind him. He looks down passionately, stretching out his arms, his eyes glowing.) Come!

  ELEANOR(weakly) Ssshh! A moment—Listen!

  CAPE(bewilderedly) What? What is it?

  ELEANORSsshh—Listen—Someone—(She speaks in an unnatural, mechanical tone. A knock comes at the door. She gives a sort of gasp of relief.) There!

  CAPE(still bewilderedly as if something mysterious were happening that he cannot grasp) What—what—? (then as she takes a slow, mechanical step toward the door—with tense pleading) Nelly! Come here! (She turns to look at him and is held by his imploring eyes. She sways irresolutely toward him, again reaching to the banister for support. Then a sharper knock comes at the door. It acts like a galvanic shock on her. Her eyes move in that direction, she takes another jerky step. Cape stammers in a fierce whisper) No! Don't go!

  ELEANOR(without looking at him—mechanically) I must.

  CAPE(frantically) They'll go away. Nelly, don't! Don't! (Again she stops irresolutely like a hypnotized person torn by two conflicting suggestions. The knock is repeated, this time with authority, assurance. Her body reacts as if she were throwing off a load.)

  ELEANOR(with a return to her natural tone—but hysterically) Please—don't be silly, Michael. It might be—something important. (She hurries to the door.)

  CAPE(rushing down the stairs—frantically) No! No! (He just gets to the bottom as she opens the door. He stands there fixed, disorganized, trembling all over.)

  ELEANOR(as she sees who it is—in a relieved tone of surprise) Why, hello, John. Come in! Here's Michael. Michael, it's John. (John steps into the room. He is a man of about fifty, tall, loose-limbed, a bit stoop-shouldered, with iron-gray hair, and a gaunt, shrewd face. He is not handsome but his personality compels affection. His eyes are round and childlike. He has no nerves. His voice is low and calming.)

  JOHN(shaking Eleanor by the hand) Hello, Nelly. I was on my way home from the theater and I thought I'd drop in for a second. Hello, Michael. When'd you get in? Glad to see you back. (He comes to him and shakes his hand which Cape extends jerkily, as if in spite of himself, without a word.)

  ELEANOR(after a glance at her husband—in a forced tone) We're so glad you've come. Sit down.

  JOHN(He becomes aware of the disharmonious atmosphere his appearance has created.) I can't stay a second. (to Cape) I wanted some news. I thought Nelly'd probably have heard from you. (He slaps Cape on the back with jovial familiarity.) Well, how's it coming?

  CAPE(in a frozen tone) Oh,—all right—all right.

  ELEANOR(uneasily) Won't you have a cigarette, John? (She takes the box from the table and holds it out to him.)

  JOHN(taking one) Thanks, Nelly. (He half-sits on the arm of a chair. She holds out a light to him.) Thanks.

  ELEANOR(nervously) Why don't you sit down, Michael? (He doesn't answer. She goes to him with the cigarettes.) Don't you want a cigarette? (Cape stares at her with a hot glance of scorn. She recoils from it, turning quickly away from him, visibly shaken. Without appearing to notice, John scrutinizes their faces keenly, sizing up the situation.)

  JOHN(breaking in matter-of-factly) You look done up, Michael.

  CAPE(with a guilty start) I—I'm tired out.

  ELEANOR(with a forced air) He's been working too hard. He finished the last act only this afternoon.

  JOHN(with a grunt of satisfaction) Glad to hear it. (abruptly) When can I see it?

  CAPEIn a day or so—I want to go over—

  JOHNAll right. (getting to his feet) Well, that's that. I'll run along.

  ELEANOR(almost frightenedly) Do stay. Why don't you read us the last act now, Michael?

  CAPE(fiercely) No! It's rotten! I hate the whole play!

  JOHN(easily) Reaction. This play's the finest thing you've done. (He comes to Cape and slaps him on the back reassuringly.) And it's the biggest chance the lady here has ever had. It'll be a triumph for you both, wait and see. So cheer up—and get a good night's rest. (Cape smiles with bitter irony.) Well, good-night. (Cape nods without speaking, John goes to the door, Eleanor accompanying him.) Good night, Nelly. Better start on your part—only don't you overdo it, too. (He pats her on the back.) Good-night.

  ELEANORGood-night. (She closes the door after him. She remains there for a moment staring at the closed door, afraid to turn and meet Cape's fiercely accusing eyes which she feels fixed upon her. Finally, making an effort of will, she walks back to the table, avoiding his eyes, assuming a careless air.)

  CAPE(suddenly explodes in furious protest) Why did you do that?

  ELEANOR(with an assumed surprise but with a guilty air, turning over the pages of a magazine) Do what?

  CAPE(tensely, clutching her by the arm) You know what I mean! (Unconsciously he grips her tighter, almost shaking her.)

  ELEANOR(coldly) You're hurting me. (A bit shamefacedly, Cape lets go of her arm. She glances quickly at his face, then speaks with a kind of dull remorse.) I suppose I can guess—my going to the door?

  CAPEHe would've gone away—(with anguish) Nelly, why did you?

  ELEANOR(defensively) Wasn't it important you see John?

  CAPE(with helpless anger) Don't evade! (with deep feeling) I should think you'd be ashamed.

  ELEANOR(after a pause—dully) Perhaps—I am. (a pause) I couldn't help myself.

  CAPE(intensely) You should've been oblivious to everything! (miserably) I—I can't understand!

  ELEANORThat's you, Michael. The other is me—or a part of me—I hardly understand myself.

  CAPE(sinking down on a chair, his head in his hands) After all we'd been to each other tonight—! (with bitter despondency) Ruined now—gone—a rare moment of beauty! It seems at times as if some jealous demon of the commonplace were mocking us. (with a violent gesture of loathing) Oh, how intolerably insulting life can be! (then brokenly) Nelly, why, why did you?

  ELEANOR(dully) I—I don't know. (Then after a pause she comes over and puts her hand on his shoulder.) Don't brood, dear. I'm sorry. I hate myself. (A pause. She looks down at him, seeming to make up her mind to something—in a forced tone) But—why is it gone—our beautiful moment? (She strokes his hair.) We have the whole night—(He stares up at her wonderingly. She forces a smile, half turning away.)

  CAPE(in wild protest) Nelly, what are you offering me—a sacrifice? Please!

  ELEANOR(revolted) Michael! (then hysterically) No, forgive me! I'm the disgusting one! Forgive me! (She turns away from him and throws herself on a chair, staring straight before her. Their chairs are side by side, each facing front, so near that by a slight movement each could touch the other, but during the following scene they stare straight ahead and remain motionless. They speak, ostensibly to the other, but showing by their tone it is a thinking aloud to oneself, and neither appears to hear what the other has said.)

  CAPE(after a long pause) More and more frequently. There's always some knock at the door, some reminder of the life outside which calls you away from me.

  ELEANORIt's so beautiful—and then—suddenly I'm being crushed. I feel a cruel presence in you paralyzing me, creeping over my body, possessing it so it's no longer my body—then grasping at some last inmost thing which makes me me—my soul—demanding to have that, too! I have to rebel with all my strength—seize any pretext! Just now at the foot of the stairs—the knock on the door was—liberation. (in anguish) And yet I love you! It's because I love you! If I'm destroyed, what is left to love you, what is left for you to love?

  CAPEI've grown inward into our life. But you keep trying to escape as if it were a prison. You feel the need of what is outside. I'm not enough for you.

  ELEANORWhy is it I can never know you? I try to know you and I can't. I desire to take all of you into my heart, but there's a great alien force—I hate that unknown power in you which would destroy me. (pleadingly) Haven't I a right to myself as you have to yourself?

  CAPEYou fight against me as if I were your enemy. Every word or action of mine which affects you, you resent. At every turn you feel your individuality invaded—while at the same time, you're jealous of any separateness in me. You demand more and more while you give less and less. And I have to acquiesce. Have to? Yes, because I can't live without you! You realize that! You take advantage of it while you despise me for my helplessness! (This seems to goad him to desperation.) But look out! I still have the strength to—! (He turns his head and stares at her challengingly.)

  ELEANOR(as before) You insist that I have no life at all outside you. Even my work must exist only as an echo of yours. You hate my need of easy, casual associations. You think that weakness. You hate my friends. You're jealous of everything and everybody. (resentfully) I have to fight. You're too severe. Your ideal is too inhuman. Why can't you understand and be generous—be just! (She turns to meet his eyes, staring back with resentful accusation. They look at each other in this manner for a long moment.)

  CAPE(averting his eyes and addressing her directly in a cold, sarcastic tone) Strange—that John should pop in on us suddenly like that.

  ELEANOR(resentfully) I don't see anything strange about it.

  CAPEIt's past twelve—

  ELEANORYou're in New York now.

  CAPE(sharply) I'm quite aware of that. Nevertheless—

  ELEANOR(shortly) He explained. Didn't you hear him? He wanted news of the play and thought I might have a letter—

  CAPEThat's just the point. He had no idea he would find me here.

  ELEANOR(about to fly at him, checks herself after a pause, coldly) Why shouldn't he come to see me? He's the oldest friend I've got. He gave me my first chance and he's always helped me since. I owe whatever success I've made to his advice and direction.

  CAPE(stung—sarcastically) Oh, undoubtedly!

  ELEANORI suppose you think I ought to have said it's to you I owe everything?

  CAPE(dryly) I'd prefer to say it was to yourself, and no one else. (after a pause—attempting a casual tone) Has he been in the habit of calling here while I've been gone? (hurriedly) Don't misunderstand me. I'm merely asking a question.

  ELEANOR(scornfully) Oh! (A pause. She bites her lips—then coldly) Yes, he's been here once before. (mockingly) And after the theater, too! Think of that!

  CAPE(sneeringly) The same insatiable curiosity about my play?

  ELEANOR(angrily) Michael! (a pause—then scornfully) Don't tell me you're becoming jealous of John again!

  CAPE(meaningly) Again. That's just it.

  ELEANOR(springing from her chair—excitedly) This is insufferable! (then calming herself with an effort—with a forced laugh) Please don't be so ridiculous, Michael. I'll only lose my temper if you keep on. (Then suddenly she makes up her mind and comes to him.) Please stop, dear. We've made up our minds not to quarrel. Let's drop it. (She pats his head with a friendly smile.)

  CAPE(impulsively takes her hand and kisses it) All right. Forgive me. I'm all unstrung. His breaking in on us like that—(He relapses into frowning brooding again. She sits down, this time facing him, and look at him uneasily.)

  ELEANOR(after a pause—rather irritably) It's too absolutely silly, your being jealous of John.

  CAPEI'm not jealous of him. I'm jealous of you—the something in you that repulses our love—the stranger in you.

  ELEANOR(with a short laugh) I should think after five years—

  CAPE(unheeding) And what makes me hate you at those times is that I know you like to make me jealous, that my suffering pleases you, that it satisfies some craving in you—for revenge!

  ELEANOR(scornfully) Can't you realize how absurd you are? (then with a forced placating laugh) No, really, Michael, it'd be funny—if it weren't so exasperating.

  CAPE(after a pause—somberly) You mentioned our years together as proof. What of the years that preceded?

  ELEANOR(challengingly) Well, what of them?

  CAPEBy their light, I have plausible grounds for jealousy in John's case. Or don't you acknowledge that?

  ELEANORI deny it absolutely!

  CAPEWhy, you've told me yourself he was in love with you for years, and that he once asked you to marry him!

  ELEANORWell, did I marry him?

  CAPEBut he still loves you.

  ELEANORDon't be stupid!

  CAPEHe does, I tell you!

  ELEANORIf you had any sense you'd know that his love has become purely that of an old friend. And I refuse to give up his friendship for your silly whims.

  CAPE(after a pause in which they each brood resentfully—sarcastically) You were a shining exception, it appears. The other women he helped could hardly claim he had remained—merely their friend.

  ELEANOR(vehemently) It's a lie! And even if it were true, you'd find it was they who offered themselves!

  CAPE(significantly) Ah! (then after a pause) Perhaps because they felt it necessary for their careers.

  ELEANOR(dryly) Perhaps. (then after a pause) But they discovered their mistake, then. John isn't that type.

  CAPE(suddenly) Why do you act so jealous—of those others?

  ELEANOR(flushing angrily) I don't. It's your imagination.

  CAPEThen why lose your temper?

  ELEANORBecause I resent your superior attitude that John had to bribe women to love him. Isn't he as worthy of love—as you are?

  CAPE(sarcastically) If I am to believe your story, you didn't think so.

  ELEANOR(irritably) Then let's stop arguing, for heaven's sake! Why do you always have to rake up the past? For the last year or so you've begun to act more and more as you did when we first lived together—jealous and suspicious of everything and everybody! (hysterically) I can't bear it, Michael!

  CAPE(ironically) You used to love me for it then.

  ELEANOR(calming herself) Well, I can't endure it now. It's too degrading. I have a right to your complete faith. (reaching over and grasping his hands—earnestly) You know I have in your heart of hearts. You know that there can never be anyone but you. Forget the past. It wasn't us. For your peace—and mine, Michael!

  CAPE(moved—pressing her hands) All right. Let's stop. It's only that I've thought I've felt you drawing away—! Perhaps it's all my supersensitiveness—(patting her hand and forcing a smile) Let's talk of something else. (cheerfully—after a pause) You can't imagine how wonderful it's been up in the country. There's just enough winter in the air to make one energetic. No summer fools about. Solitude and work. I was happy—that is, as happy as I ever can be without you.

  ELEANOR(withdrawing her hands from his with a quick movement—sarcastically) Thanks for that afterthought—but do you expect me to believe it? When you're working I might die and you'd never know it.

  CAPE(amused but irritated) There you go! You denounce my jealousy, but it seems to me your brand of it is much more ridiculous.

  ELEANOR(sharply) You imagine I'm jealous of your work? You—you flatter yourself!

  CAPE(stung—bitingly) It's an unnatural passion certainly—in your case. And an extremely ungrateful passion, I might add!

  ELEANOR(losing her temper completely) You mean I ought to be grateful for—I suppose you think that without your work I—(springing to her feet) Your egotism is making a fool of you! You're becoming so exaggeratedly conceited no one can stand you! Everyone notices it!

  CAPE(angrily) You know that's untrue. You only say it to be mean. As for my work, you've acknowledged a million times—

  ELEANORIf I have—but please remember there are other playwrights in the world!

  CAPE(bitingly) You were on the stage seven years before I met you. Your appearance in the work of other playwrights—you must admit you were anything but successful!

  ELEANOR(with a sneer of rage) And I suppose you were?

  CAPEYes! Not in your commercial sense, perhaps, but—

  ELEANORYou're contemptible! You know that's the very last thing you can say of me. It was exactly because I wasn't that kind—because I was an artist—that I found it so hard!

  CAPE(unheeding) My plays had been written. The one you played in first was written three years before. The work was done. That's the proof.

  ELEANOR(scathingly) That's absurd! You know very well if it hadn't been for John, you—

  CAPE(violently) Nonsense! There were other managers who—

  ELEANORThey didn't want your work, you know it!

  CAPE(enraged) I see what you're driving at! You'd like to pretend I was as much dependent on John as you were! (trembling all over with the violence of his passion) I should think you'd be ashamed to boast so brazenly—to me!—of what he had done for you!

  ELEANORWhy should I be ashamed of my gratitude?

  CAPETo drag that relationship out of the past and throw it in my face!

  ELEANOR(very pale—tensely) What relationship?

  CAPE(incoherently, strangled by his passion) Ask anyone! (then suddenly with anguished remorse) No, no! I don't mean that! (torturedly) Wounds! Wounds! For God's sake!

  ELEANOR(trembling with rage) I'll never forget you said that!

  CAPE(stung—in a passion again at once) Because I resent that man's being here—late at night—when I was away? Oh, I don't mean I suspect you—now—

  ELEANOR(viciously) What noble faith! Maybe you're going to discover I don't deserve it!

  CAPE(unheeding) But there was scandal enough about you and him, and if you had any respect for me—

  ELEANORI've lost it now!

  CAPEYou wouldn't deliberately open the way—

  ELEANOR(tensely) So you believe—that gutter gossip? You think I—? Then all these years you've really believed—? Oh, you mean hypocrite!

  CAPE(stung—bitingly) Don't act moral indignation! What else could I have thought? When we first fell in love, you confessed frankly you had had lovers—not John but others—

  ELEANOR(brokenly—with mingled grief and rage) I was an idiot! I should have lied to you! But I thought you'd understand—that I'd been searching for something—that I needed love—something I found in you! I tried to make you see—the truth—that those experiences had only made me appreciate you all the more when I found you! I told you how little these men had meant to me, that in the state of mind I had been in they had no significance either one way or the other, and that such an attitude is possible for a woman without her being low. I thought you understood. But you didn't, you're not big enough for that! (with a wild ironical laugh) Now I know why the women in your plays are so wooden! You ought to thank me for breathing life into them!

  CAPE(furiously) Good God, how dare you criticize creative work, you actress!

  ELEANOR(violently) You deny that I create—? Perhaps if I'd have children and a home, take up knitting—! (She laughs wildly.) I'd be safe then, wouldn't I—reliable, guaranteed not to—(Her face seems suddenly to congeal.) So you think that I was John's mistress—that I loved him—or do you believe I just sold myself?

  CAPE(in agony) No, no! For God's sake, not that! I may have thought you once loved—

  ELEANOR(frozenly) Well, it was—that—just that! When he first engaged me—I'd heard the gossip—I thought he expected—and I agreed with myself—it meant nothing to me one way or the other—nothing meant anything then but a chance to do my work—yes, I agreed—but you see he didn't, he didn't agree. He loved me but he saw I didn't love him—that way—and he's a finer man than you think!

  CAPE(hoarsely) You're lying! (bewilderedly) I can't believe—

  ELEANOR(fiercely) Oh yes, you can! You want to! You do! And you're glad! It makes me lower than you thought, but you're glad to know it just the same! You're glad because now you can really believe that—nothing ever happened between us! (She stares into his eyes and seems to read some confirmation of her statement there, for she cries with triumphant bitterness) You can't deny it!

  CAPE(wildly) No! You devil, you, you read thoughts into my mind!

  ELEANOR(with wild hysterical scorn) It's true! How could I ever love you?

  CAPE(clutching her in his arms fiercely) You do! (He kisses her frantically. For a moment she submits, appears even to return his kisses in spite of herself. Cape cries triumphantly) You do! (She suddenly pushes him away and glares at him at arms' length. Her features are working convulsively. Her whole tortured face expresses an abysmal self-loathing, a frightful hatred for him.)

  ELEANOR(as if to herself—in a strangled voice) No! You can't crush—me! (Her face becomes deadly calm. She speaks with intense, cold hatred.) Don't kiss me. I love him. He was—my lover—here—when you were away!

  CAPE(stares dumbly into her eyes for a long moment—hoarsely, in agony) You lie! You only want to torture—

  ELEANOR(deathly calm) It's true! (Cape stares at her another second—then, with a snarl of fury like an animal's he seizes her about the throat with both hands. He chokes her, forcing her down to her knees. She does not struggle but continues to look into his eyes with the same defiant hate. At last he comes to himself with a shudder and steps away from her. She remains where she is, only putting out her hand on the floor to support herself.)

  CAPE(in a terrible state, sobbing with rage and anguish) Gone! All our beauty gone! And you don't love him! You lie! You did this out of hatred for me! You dragged our ideal in the gutter—with delight! (wildly) And you pride yourself you've killed it, do you, you actress, you barren soul? (with savage triumph) But I tell you only a creator can really destroy! (with a climax of frenzy) And I will! I will! I won't give your hatred the satisfaction of seeing our love live on in me—to torture me! I'll drag it lower than you! I'll stamp it into the vilest depths! I'll leave it dead! I'll murder it—and be free! (Again he threatens her, his hands twitching back toward her neck—then he rushes out of the door as if furies were pursuing him, slamming it shut behind him.)

  ELEANOR(with a cry of despair) Michael! (She stops as hatred and rage overpower her again—leaps up and runs to the door—opens it and screams after him violently) Go! Go! I'm glad! I hate you. I'll go, too! I'm free! I'll go—(She turns and runs up the stairs. She disappears for a moment, then comes back with a hat and coat on and, hurrying down the stairs again, rushes out leaving the door open behind her.

(The Curtain Falls)


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