as Act One.
Eleanor is standing by the table,
leaning her back against it, facing the door, her whole attitude
strained, expectant but frightened, tremblingly uncertain whether to run
and hide from, or run forward and greet Cape, who is standing in the
doorway. For a long, tense moment they remain fixed, staring into each
other's eyes with an apprehensive questioning. Then, as if
unconsciously, falteringly, with trembling smiles, they come toward each
other. Their lips move as if they were trying to speak. When they come
close, they instinctively reach out their hands in a strange conflicting
gesture of a protective warding off and at the same time a seeking
possession. Their hands clasp and they again stop, searching each
other's eyes. Finally their lips force out words.
Nelly! (They smile with a queer understanding, their arms move about
each other, their lips meet. They seem in a forgetful, happy trance at
finding each other again. They touch each other testingly as if each
cannot believe the other is really there. They act for the moment like
two persons of different races, deeply in love but separated by a
barrier of language.)
tenderly) Michael—I—I was afraid—
Nelly—it's no good!—I thought—(They stare at each other—a pause.)
to be aware—a bit bewilderedly, breaking away from him with a little
shiver—stupidly) I feel—there's a draught, isn't there?
aware in his turn—heavily) I'll shut the door. (He goes and does
so. She walks to her chair and sits down. He comes and sits beside her.
They are now side by side as in Act One. A pause. They stare ahead, each
frowningly abstracted. Then each, at the same moment, steals a
questioning side glance at the other. Their eyes meet, they look away,
then back, they stare at each other with a peculiar dull amazement,
recognition yet non-recognition. They seem about to speak, then turn
away again. Their faces grow sad, their eyes begin to suffer, their
bodies become nervous and purposeless. Finally Cape exclaims with a dull
resentment directed not at her but at life) What is—it? (He makes
a gesture of repulsing something before him.)
his tone) I don't know.
A moment ago—there—(He indicates where they had stood in an embrace)
We knew everything. We understood!
Now—we must begin to think—to continue going on, getting lost—
It was happy to forget. Let's not think—yet.
We've begun. (then with a harsh laugh) Thinking explains. It
eliminates the unexplainable—by which we live.
By which we love. Sssh! (a pause)
looking at her) You have learned that, too?
a certain exultance) Oh, yes, Michael—yes! (She clasps his hand.
A pause. Then she murmurs) Now—we know peace. (Their hands drop
apart. She sighs.)
Peace isn't our meaning.
turns and addresses him directly in a sad, sympathetic tone) You've
something you want to ask me, Michael?
to her with an immediate affirmative on his lips, checks it as he meets
her eyes, turns away—a pause—then he turns back humbly) No.
head has been averted since he turned away—without looking at him)
No, Nelly. (She still keeps her head averted. After a pause he asks
simply) Why? Is there something you want to ask me?
(after a pause—with a trace of bitter humor) I can't be less
magnanimous than you, can I?
there is something—?
you something you want to tell?
at her. Their eyes meet again.) Yes—the truth—if I can. And you?
I wish to tell you the truth. (They look into each other's eyes.
Suddenly she laughs with a sad self-mockery.) Well, we've both been
noble. I haven't asked you; you haven't asked me; and yet—(She makes
a helpless gesture with her hands. A pause. Then abruptly and
mechanically) I'll begin at the beginning. I left here right after
an involuntary start) Oh! (He checks himself.)
eyes reading his—after a pause—a bit dryly) You thought I'd stayed
here all the time? (mockingly) Waiting for you?
Don't! (after a pause—painfully) When I found you—perhaps I
I had only been back a few minutes. (after a pause) Was that why
you seemed so happy—there—? (She points to the spot where they had
No, no! Don't think that! I'm not like that—not any more! (Without
looking at her he reaches out and clasps her hand.)
at him—after a pause, understandingly) I'm sorry—
Of course, I knew you must have gone, you'd have been a fool to stay. (excitedly)
And it doesn't matter—not a damn! I've gotten beyond that.
I'm glad. (A pause. She asks coldly) Shall I begin again?
with himself—disjointedly) No—not unless—I don't need—I've changed.
That doesn't matter. I—(with a sudden twisted grin) I'm learning
to like it, you see.
at him, strangely impressed—a pause—slowly) I think I know what you
mean. We're both learning.
You—? (She has turned away from him. He turns to stare at her.)
a pause, taking up her story matter-of-factly) I went to John.
with agony to take this stoically—mumbling stupidly) Yes—of course—I
the same mechanical tone) He drove me back here in his car. He
predicted you'd be back any moment, so he went right home again.
wild, ironical laugh escapes his control.) Shrewd—Ha!
a pause—rebukingly) John is a good man.
turns and stares at her averted face—then miserably humble, stammers)
Yes, yes—I know—I acknowledge—good—(He breaks down, cursing pitiably
at himself.) God damn you!
you! Me! (Then he turns to her—with fierce defiance) I love John!
without looking at him, reaches and clasps his hand) That—is fine,
Michael. (a pause)
to frown somberly—lets go of her hand) It's hard—after what you
Ssshh! (then calmly) That was a lie. I lied to make you suffer
more than you were making me suffer. (A pause—then she turns to him.)
Can you believe this?
I want to believe—
turning away—significantly) Oh!
as if to himself) I will believe! But what difference does it
make—believing or not believing? I've changed, I tell you! I accept!
can't be a lie you live with!
to her resentfully) Well, then—(as if she were goading him to
something against his will—threateningly) Shall I tell you what
happened to me?
him defiantly) Yes. (He turns away. Immediately her brave
attitude crumbles. She seems about to implore him not to speak.)
a pause—hesitatingly) You said that years ago you had offered
yourself—to him—(He turns suddenly—hopefully) Was that a
away with a start of pain) Ah. (A pause. Suddenly his face grows
convulsed. He turns back to her, overcome by a craving for
revenge—viciously) Then I may as well tell you I—(He checks
himself and turns away.)
feigned indifference) I don't doubt—you kept your threat.
at her wildly) Oho, you don't doubt that, do you? You saw I'd
bitter irony) God! (a pause)
on him doggedly as if she were impersonally impelled to make the
statement) I want to tell you that tonight—John and I—nothing you
may ever suspect—(She falters, turns away with a bitter smile.) I
only tell you this for my own satisfaction. I don't expect you to
a wry grin) No. How could you? (then turning to
her—determinedly—after a pause) But it doesn't matter.
wanted revenge as much as you. I wanted to destroy—and be free of you
forever! (after a pause—simply) I couldn't.
and stares at her—a pause—then he asks wonderingly, eagerly) Why
couldn't you? Tell me that.
a passionate triumph) Love! (with intense pleading) Nelly!
Will you believe that I, too—? (He tries to force her eyes to return
a pause—looking before her—sadly) You should have been generous
the truth, Nelly! (desperately) I swear to you—!
a pause—wearily) We've sworn to so much.
is changed, I tell you! Something extraordinary happened to me—a
bitter cynicism) A woman?
turns away from her) Don't. (then after a pause—with deep feeling)
Yes—she was a woman. And I had thought of her only as revenge—the lowest
of the low!
a shudder) Ah!
judge, Nelly. She was—good!
I tell you I—! (He checks himself helplessly. She gives no sign. Then
he asks sadly) If you can think that, how could you come back?
hysterically) How? How! (bursting into tears) Because I love
up from his chair and trying to take her in his arms—exultantly)
him away—violently) No! I didn't come back to you! It conquered me,
not you! Something in me—mine—not you! (She stares him in the eyes
It doesn't matter. (after a pause) Did I come back to you?
aback, turning away) No, I suppose—(Cape stares at her
uncertainly, then sits down in his chair again.)
a pause, looking before him—assertively, as if taking a pledge) But
I have faith!
Now—for a moment.
We'll believe—and disbelieve. We are—that.
Nelly! (For a time they both sit staring bleakly before them.
Suddenly he turns to her—desperately) If there's nothing left
but—resignation!—what use is there? How can we endure having our dream
perish in this?
we any choice?
seems to collect all his forces and turns on her with a fierce challenge)
We can choose—an end!
instinctively as she reads his meaning) Michael! (a pause—then
looking into his eyes—as a calm counter-challenge) Yes—if you
passionate self-scorn) We! We have become ignoble.
you wish. (She again accents the you.)
accept. (a pause—gently) You must not suffer too much. (She
reaches out her hand and clasps his comfortingly.) It's I who have
changed most, Michael. (Then she speaks sadly but firmly as if she
had come to a decision.) There's only one way we can give life to
releasing each other.
a harsh laugh) Are you forgetting we tried that once tonight?
hate. This would be because we loved.
Don't be a fool! (controlling himself—forcing a smile) Forgive
me. (excitedly) But, my God, what solution—?
will give you peace for your work—freedom—
still love you. I'll work for you! We'll no longer stand between one
another. Then I can really give you my soul—
himself with difficulty) You're talking rot!
glaring at her suspiciously) Why did you come back? Why do you want
to go? What are you hiding behind all this?
Your faith? You see?
I—I didn't mean—(then after a struggle—with desperate bitterness)
Well—I accept! Go—if you want to!
Michael! It isn't—(then determinedly) But even if you
misunderstand, I must be strong for you!
tauntingly) Then go now—if you're strong enough. (harshly)
Let me see you act nobility! (then suddenly remorseful, catching her
hand and covering it with kisses) No! Go now before—Be strong! Be
free! I—I can't!
We can try—(She bends down swiftly and kisses his head, turns away
a strangled voice) Good-by. (He sits in anguish, in a tortured
restraint. She grabs her cloak from the chair, goes quickly to the door,
puts her hand on the knob—then stops as tense as he. Suddenly he can
stand it no longer, he leaps to his feet and jumps toward the door with
a pleading cry.) Nelly! (He stands fixed as he sees her before
the door as if he had expected to find her gone. She does not turn but
remains staring at the door in front of her. Finally she raises her hand
and knocks on the door softly—then stops to listen.)
a queer far-away voice) No. Never again "come out." (She opens
the door and turns to Cape with a strange smile.) It opens inward,
Michael. (She closes it again, smiles to herself and walks back to
the foot of the stairway. Then she turns to face Cape. She looks full of
some happy certitude. She smiles at him and speaks with a tender
weariness.) It must be nearly dawn. I'll say good-night instead of
good-by. (They stare into each other's eyes. It is as if now
by a sudden flash from within they recognized themselves, shorn of all
the ideas, attitudes, cheating gestures which constitute the vanity of
personality. Everything, for this second, becomes simple for
them—serenely unquestionable. It becomes impossible that they should
ever deny life, through each other, again.)
a low tender cry as if she were awakening to maternity) Michael!
sure of her now—in a low voice) Nelly! (then unable to restrain
his triumphant exultance) You've failed!
dimly at herself) My acting—didn't convince me.
we weak? (dreamily) I'm happy.
We can live again! (exultantly—but as if testing her, warningly)
But we'll hate!
her same tone) Yes!
we'll torture and tear, and clutch for each other's souls!—fight—fail
and hate again—(he raises his voice in aggressive triumph)—but!—fail
with pride—with joy!
by his exultation rather than by his words) Yes!
life is to bear together our burden which is our goal—on and up! Above
the world, beyond its vision—our meaning!
eyes fixed on him—dreamily) Your dream!
as the intensity of his passion breaks the spell of his exultation)
Oh, Nelly, Nelly, I want to say so much what I feel but I can only
stutter like an idiot! (He has fallen on his knees before her.)
moved—passionately) I know! (She bends over and kisses him.)
passionately for expression) Listen! Often I wake up in the night—in
a black world, alone in a hundred million years of darkness. I feel like
crying out to God for mercy because life lives! Then instinctively I
seek you—my hand touches you! You are there—beside me—alive—with you I
become a whole, a truth! Life guides me back through the hundred million
years to you. It reveals a beginning in unity that I may have faith in
the unity of the end! (He bows his head and kisses her feet
ecstatically.) I love you! Forgive me all I've ever done, all I'll
No. Forgive me—my child, you! (She begins to sob softly.)
at her—gently) Why do you cry?
I'm happy. (then with a sudden tearful gayety) You be happy! You
ought to be! Isn't our future as hard as you could wish? Haven't we your
old dreams back again?
and more beautiful!
Deeper and more beautiful! (She ascends the stairs slowly.) Come!
(She reaches the top of the stairway and stands there looking down at
him—then stretches out her arms with a passionate, tender gesture.)
to his feet—intensely) My Own!
deep, passionate tenderness) My lover!
wife! (His eyes fixed on her he ascends. As he does so her arms move
back until they are stretched out straight to right and left, forming a
cross. Cape stops two steps below her—in a low, wondering tone) Why
do you stand like that?
head thrown back, her eyes shut—slowly, dreamily) Perhaps I'm
praying. I don't know. I love.
moved) I love you!
if from a great distance) We love! (He moves close to her and his
hands reach out for hers. For a moment as their hands touch they form
together one cross. Then their arms go about each other and their lips
(The Curtain Falls)