THE FIRST MAN EUGENE O'NEILL



THE FIRST MAN



EUGENE O'NEILL





CHARACTERS


  CURTIS JAYSON
  MARTHA, his wife
  JOHN JAYSON, his father, a banker
  JOHN, JR., his brother
  RICHARD, his brother
  ESTHEE (MRS. MARK SHEFFIELD), his sister
  LILY, his sister
  MRS. DAVIDSON, his father's aunt
  MARK SHEFFIELD, a lawyer
  EMILY, JOHN JR.'S wife
  RICHARD BIGELOW
  A MAID
  A TRAINED NURSE

TIME--The Present



SCENES


ACT I

Living-room in the house of CURTIS JAYSON, Bridgetown, Conn.--an
afternoon in early Fall.

ACT II

CURTIS' study--morning of the following day.

ACT III

The same--three o'clock in the morning of a day in early spring of the
next year.

ACT IV

Same as Act I--three days later.





ACT I


SCENE--Living-room of CURTIS JAYSON'S house in Bridgetown, Conn. A
large, comfortable room. On the left, an arm-chair, a big open
fireplace, a writing desk with chair in far left corner. On this side
there is also a door leading into CURTIS' study. In the rear, center, a
double doorway opening on the hall and the entryway. Bookcases are
built into the wall on both sides of this doorway. In the far right
corner, a grand piano. Three large windows looking out on the lawn, and
another arm-chair, front, are on this right side of the room. Opposite
the fireplace is a couch, facing front. Opposite the windows on the
right is a long table with magazines, reading lamp, etc. Four chairs
are grouped about the table. The walls and ceiling are in a French gray
color. A great rug covers most of the hardwood floor.

It is around four o'clock of a fine afternoon in early fall.

As the curtain rises, MARTHA, CURTIS and BIGELOW are discovered. MARTHA
is a healthy, fine-looking woman of thirty-eight. She does not appear
this age for her strenuous life in the open has kept her young and
fresh. She possesses the frank, clear, direct quality of outdoors,
outspoken and generous. Her wavy hair is a dark brown, her eyes
blue-gray. CURTIS JAYSON is a tall, rangy, broad-shouldered man of
thirty-seven. While spare, his figure has an appearance of rugged
health, of great nervous strength held in reserve. His square-jawed,
large-featured face retains an eager boyish enthusiasm in spite of its
prevailing expression of thoughtful, preoccupied aloofness. His crisp
dark hair is graying at the temples. EDWARD BIGELOW is a large,
handsome man of thirty-nine. His face shows culture and tolerance, a
sense of humor, a lazy unambitious contentment. CURTIS is reading an
article in some scientific periodical, seated by the table. MARTHA and
BIGELOW are sitting nearby, laughing and chatting.

BIGELOW--[Is talking with a comically worried but earnest air.] Do you
know, I'm getting so I'm actually afraid to leave them alone with that
governess. She's too romantic. I'll wager she's got a whole book full
of ghost stories, superstitions, and yellow-journal horrors up her
sleeve.

MARTHA--Oh, pooh! Don't go milling around for trouble. When I was a kid
I used to get fun out of my horrors.

BIGELOW--But I imagine you were more courageous than most of us.

MARTHA--Why?

BIGELOW--Well, Nevada--the Far West at that time--I should think a
child would have grown so accustomed to violent scenes--

MARTHA--[Smiling.] Oh, in the mining camps; but you don't suppose my
father lugged me along on his prospecting trips, do you? Why, I never
saw any rough scenes until I'd finished with school and went to live
with father in Goldfield.

BIGELOW--[Smiling.] And then you met Curt.

MARTHA--Yes--but I didn't mean he was a rough scene. He was very mild
even in those days. Do tell me what he was like at Cornell.

BIGELOW--A romanticist--and he still is!

MARTHA--[Pointing at CURTIS with gay mischief.] What! That sedate man!
Never!

CURTIS--[Looking up and smiling at them both affectionately--lazily.]
Don't mind him, Martha. He always was crazy.

BIGELOW--[To CURT--accusingly.] Why did you elect to take up mining
engineering at Cornell instead of a classical degree at the Yale of
your fathers and brothers? Because you had been reading Bret Harte in
prep. school and mistaken him for a modern realist. You devoted four
years to grooming yourself for another outcast of Poker Flat. [MARTHA
laughs.]

CURTIS--[Grinning.] It was you who were hypnotized by Harte--so much so
that his West of the past is still your blinded New England-movie idea
of the West at present. But go on. What next?

BIGELOW--Next? You get a job as engineer in that Goldfield mine--but
you are soon disillusioned by a laborious life where six-shooters are
as rare as nuggets. You try prospecting. You find nothing but different
varieties of pebbles. But it is necessary to your nature to project
romance into these stones, so you go in strong for geology. As a
geologist, you become a slave to the Romance of the Rocks. It is but a
step from that to anthropology--the last romance of all. There you find
yourself--because there is no further to go. You win fame as the most
proficient of young skull-hunters--and wander over the face of the
globe, digging up bones like an old dog.

CURTIS--[With a laugh.] The man is mad, Martha.

BIGELOW--Mad! What an accusation to come from one who is even now
considering setting forth on a five-year excavating contest in search
of the remains of our gibbering ancestor, the First Man!

CURTIS--[With sudden seriousness.] I'm not considering it any longer.
I've decided to go.

MARTHA--[Starting--the hurt showing in her voice.] When did you decide?

CURTIS--I only really came to a decision this morning. [With a
seriousness that forces BIGELOW'S interested attention.] It's a case of
got to go. It's a tremendous opportunity that it would be a crime for
me to neglect.

BIGELOW--And a big honor, too, isn't it, to be picked as a member of
such a large affair?

CURTIS--[With a smile.] I guess it's just that they want all the men
with considerable practical experience they can get. There are bound to
be hardships and they know I'm hardened to them. [Turning to his wife
with an affectionate smile.] We haven't roughed it in the queer corners
for the last ten years without knowing how it's done, have we, Martha?

MARTHA--[Dully.] No, Curt.

CURTIS--[With an earnest enthusiasm.] And this expedition IS what you
call a large affair, Big. It's the largest thing of its kind ever
undertaken. The possibilities, from the standpoint of anthropology, are
limitless.

BIGELOW--[With a grin.] Aha! Now we come to the Missing Link!

CURTIS--[Frowning.] Darn your Barnum and Bailey circus lingo, Big. This
isn't a thing to mock at. I should think the origin of man would be
something that would appeal even to your hothouse imagination. Modern
science believes--knows--that Asia was the first home of the human
race. That's where we're going, to the great Central Asian plateau
north of the Himalayas.

BIGELOW--[More soberly.] And there you hope to dig up--our first
ancestor?

CURTIS--It's a chance in a million, but I believe we may, myself--at
least find authentic traces of him so that we can reconstruct his life
and habits. I was up in that country a lot while I was mining advisor
to the Chinese government--did some of my own work on the side. The
extraordinary results I obtained with the little means at my disposal
convinced me of the riches yet to be uncovered. The First Man may be
among them.

BIGELOW--[Turning to MARTHA.] And you were with him on that Asian
plateau?

MARTHA--Yes, I've always been with him.

CURTIS--You bet she has. [He goes over and puts his hand on his wife's
shoulder affectionately.] Martha's more efficient than a whole staff of
assistants and secretaries. She knows more about what I'm doing than I
do half the time. [He turns toward his study.] Well, I guess I'll go in
and work some.

MARTHA--[Quietly.] Do you need me now, Curt?

BIGELOW--[Starting up.] Yes, if you two want to work together, why just
shoo me--

CURTIS--[Puts both hands on his shoulders and forces him to his seat
again.] No. Sit down, Big. I don't need Martha now. [Coming over to
her, bends down and kisses her--rather mockingly.] I couldn't deprive
Big of an audience for his confessions of a fond parent.

BIGELOW--Aha! Now it's you who are mocking at something you know
nothing about. [An awkward silence follows this remark.]

CURTIS--[Frowning.] I guess you're forgetting, aren't you, Big? [He
turns and walks into his study, closing the door gently behind him.]

MARTHA--[After a pause--sadly.] Poor Curt.

BIGELOW--[Ashamed and confused.] I had forgotten--

MARTHA--The years have made me reconciled. They haven't Curt. [She
sighs--then turns to BIGELOW with a forced smile.] I suppose it's hard
for any of you back here to realize that Curt and I ever had any
children.

BIGELOW--[After a pause.] How old were they when--?

MARTHA--Three years and two--both girls. [She goes on sadly.] We had a
nice little house in Goldfield. [Forcing a smile.] We were very
respectable home folks then. The wandering came later, after--It was a
Sunday in winter when Curt and I had gone visiting some friends. The
nurse girl fell asleep--or something--and the children sneaked out in
their underclothes and played in the snow. Pneumonia set in--and a week
later they were both dead.

BIGELOW--[Shocked.] Good heavens!

MARTHA--We were real lunatics for a time. And then when we'd calmed
down enough to realize--how things stood with us--we swore we'd never
have children again--to steal away their memory. It wasn't what you
thought--romanticism--that set Curt wandering--and me with him. It was
a longing to lose ourselves--to forget. He flung himself with all his
power into every new study that interested him. He couldn't keep still,
mentally or bodily--and I followed. He needed me--then--so dreadfully!

BIGELOW--And is it that keeps driving him on now?

MARTHA--Oh, no. He's found himself. His work has taken the place of the
children.

BIGELOW--And with you, too?

MARTHA--[With a wan smile.] Well, I've helped--all I could. His work
has me in it, I like to think--and I have him.

BIGELOW--[Shaking his head.] I think people are foolish to stand by
such an oath as you took--forever. [With a smile.] Children are a great
comfort in one's old age, I've tritely found.

MARTHA--[Smiling.] Old age!

BIGELOW--I'm knocking at the door of fatal forty.

MARTHA--[With forced gaiety.] You're not very tactful, I must say.
Don't you know I'm thirty-eight?

BIGELOW--[Gallantly.] A woman is as old as she looks. You're not thirty
yet.

MARTHA--[Laughing.] After that nice remark I'll have to forgive you
everything, won't I? [LILY JAYSON comes in from the rear. She is a
slender, rather pretty girl of twenty-five. The stamp of college
student is still very much about her. She rather insists on a superior,
intellectual air, is full of nervous, thwarted energy. At the sight of
them sitting on the couch together, her eyebrows are raised.]

LILY--[Coming into the room--breezily.] Hello, Martha. Hello, Big.
[They both get up with answering "Hellos."] I walked right in
regardless. Hope I'm not interrupting.

MARTHA--Not at all.

LILY--[Sitting down by the table as MARTHA and BIGELOW resume their
seats on the lounge.] I must say it sounded serious. I heard you tell
Big you'd forgive him everything, Martha. [Dryly--with a mocking glance
at BIGELOW.] You're letting yourself in for a large proposition.

BIGELOW--[Displeased but trying to smile it off.] The past is never
past for a dog with a bad name, eh, Lily? [LILY laughs. BIGELOW gets
up.] If you want to reward me for my truthfulness, Mrs. Jayson, help me
take the kids for an airing in the car. I know it's an imposition but
they've grown to expect you. [Glancing at his watch.] By Jove, I'll
have to run along. I'll get them and then pick you up here. Is that all
right?

MARTHA--Fine.

BIGELOW--I'll run, then. Good-by, Lily. [She nods. BIGELOW goes out
rear.]

MARTHA--[Cordially.] Come on over here, Lily.

LILY--[Sits on couch with MARTHA--after a pause--with a smile.] You
were forgetting, weren't you?

MARTHA--What?

LILY--That you'd invited all the family over here to tea this
afternoon. I'm the advance guard.

MARTHA--[Embarrassed.] So I was! How stupid!

LILY--[With an inquisitive glance at MARTHA'S face but with studied
carelessness.] Do you like Bigelow?

MARTHA--Yes, very much. And Curt thinks the world of him.

LILY--Oh, Curt is the last one to be bothered by anyone's morals. Curt
and I are the unconventional ones of the family. The trouble with
Bigelow, Martha, is that he was too careless to conceal his sins--and
that won't go down in this Philistine small town. You have to hide and
be a fellow hypocrite or they revenge themselves on you. Bigelow
didn't. He flaunted his love-affairs in everyone's face. I used to
admire him for it. No one exactly blamed him, in their secret hearts.
His wife was a terrible, straitlaced creature. No man could have
endured her. [Disgustedly.] After her death he suddenly acquired a bad
conscience. He'd never noticed the children before. I'll bet he didn't
even know their names. And then, presto, he's about in our midst giving
an imitation of a wet hen with a brood of ducks. It's a bore, if you
ask me.

MARTHA--[Flushing.] I think it's very fine of him.

LILY--[Shaking her head.] His reform is too sudden. He's joined the
hypocrites, I think.

MARTHA--I'm sure he's no hypocrite. When you see him with the children--

LILY--Oh, I know he's a good actor. Lots of women have been in love
with him. [Then suddenly.] You won't be furious if I'm very, very
frank, will you, Martha?

MARTHA--[Surprised.] No, of course not, Lily.

LILY--Well, I'm the bearer of a message from the Jayson family.

MARTHA--[Astonished.] A message? For me?

LILY--Don't think that I have anything to do with it. I'm only a Victor
record of their misgivings. Shall I switch it going? Well, then, father
thinks, brother John and wife, sister Esther and husband all think that
you are unwisely intimate with this same Bigelow.

MARTHA--[Stunned.] I? Unwisely intimate--? [Suddenly laughing with
amusement.] Well, you sure are funny people!

LILY--No, we're not funny. We'd be all right if we were. On the
contrary, we're very dull and deadly. Bigelow really has a villainous
rep. for philandering. But, of course, you didn't know that.

MARTHA--[Beginning to feel resentful--coldly.] No, I didn't--and I
don't care to know it now.

LILY--[Calmly.] I told them you wouldn't relish their silly advice. [In
a very confidential, friendly tone.] Oh, I hate their narrow small-town
ethics as much as you do, Martha. I sympathize with you, indeed I do.
But I have to live with them and so, for comfort's sake, I've had to
make compromises. And you're going to live in our midst from now on,
aren't you? Well then, you'll have to make compromises, too--if you
want any peace.

MARTHA--But-compromises about what? [Forcing a laugh.] I refuse to take
it seriously. How anyone could think--it's too absurd.

LILY--What set them going was Big's being around such an awful lot the
weeks Curt was in New York, just after you'd settled down here. You
must acknowledge he was-very much present then, Martha.

MARTHA--But it was on account of his children. They were always with
him.

LILY--The town doesn't trust this sudden fond parenthood, Martha. We've
known him too long, you see.

MARTHA--But he's Curt's oldest and best friend.

LILY--We've found they always are.

MARTHA--[Springing to her feet--indignantly.] It's a case of evil
minds, it seems to me--and it would be extremely insulting if I didn't
have a sense of humor. [Resentfully.] You can tell your family, that as
far as I'm concerned, the town may--

LILY--Go to the devil. I knew you'd say that. Well, fight the good
fight. You have all my best wishes. [With a sigh.] I wish I had
something worth fighting for. Now that I'm through with college, my
occupation's gone. All I do is read book after book. The only live
people are the ones in books, I find, and the only live life.

MARTHA--[Immediately sympathetic.] You're lonely, that's what, Lily.

LILY--[Drily.] Don't pity me, Martha--or I'll join the enemy.

MARTHA--I'm not. But I'd like to help you if I could. [After a pause.]
Have you ever thought of marrying?

LILY--[With a laugh.] Martha! How banal! The men I see are enough to
banish that thought if I ever had it.

MARTHA--Marriage isn't only the man. It's children. Wouldn't you like
to have children?

LILY--[Turning to her bluntly.] Wouldn't you?

MARTHA--[ Confused. ] But--Lily--

LILY--Oh, I know it wasn't practicable as long as you elected to wander
with Curt--but why not now when you've definitely settled down here? I
think that would solve things all round. If you could present Father
with a grandson, I'm sure he'd fall on your neck. He feels piqued at
the John and Esther families because they've had a run of girls. A male
Jayson! Aunt Davidson would weep with joy. [Suddenly.] You're
thirty-eight, aren't you, Martha?

MARTHA--Yes. LILY--Then why don't you--before it's too late? [MARTHA,
struggling with herself, does not answer. LILY goes on slowly.] You
won't want to tag along with Curt to the ends of the earth forever,
will you? [Curiously.] Wasn't that queer life like any other? I mean,
didn't it get to pall on you?

MARTHA--[As if confessing it reluctantly.] Yes--perhaps--in the last
two years.

LILY--[Decisively.] It's time for both of you to rest on your laurels.
Why can't Curt keep on with what he's doing now--stay home and write
his books?

MARTHA--Curt isn't that kind. The actual work--the romance of
it--that's his life.

LILY--But if he goes and you have to stay, you'll be lonesome--
[meaningly] alone.

MARTHA--Horribly. I don't know what I'll do.

LILY--Then why--why? Think, Martha. If Curt knew--that was to
happen--he'd want to stay here with you. I'm sure he would.

MARTHA--[Shaking her head sadly.] No. Curt has grown to dislike
children. They remind him of--ours that were taken. He adored them
so--he's never become reconciled.

LILY--If you confronted Curt with the actual fact, he'd be reconciled
soon enough, and happy in the bargain.

MARTHA--[Eagerly.] Do you really think so?

LILY--And you, Martha--I can tell from the way you've talked that you'd
like to.

MARTHA--[Excitedly.] Yes, I--I never thought I'd ever want to again.
For many years after they died I never once dreamed of it-- But
lately--the last years--I've felt--and when we came to live here--and I
saw all around me--homes--and children, I--[She hesitates as if ashamed
at having confessed so much.]

LILY--[Putting an arm around her--affectionately.] I know.
[Vigorously.] You must, that's all there is to it! If you want my
advice, you go right ahead and don't tell Curt until it's a fact he'll
have to learn to like, willy-nilly. You'll find, in his inmost heart,
he'll be tickled to death.

MARTHA--[Forcing a smile.] Yes, I--I'll confess I thought of that. In
spite of my fear, I--I've--I mean--I--[She flushes in a shamed
confusion.]

LILY--[Looking at her searchingly.] Why, Martha, what--[Then suddenly
understanding--with excited pleasure.] Martha! I know! It is so, isn't
it? It is!

MARTHA--[In a whisper.] Yes.

LILY--[Kissing her affectionately.] You dear, you! [Then after a
pause.] How long have you known?

MARTHA--For over two months. [There is a ring from the front door bell
in the hall.]

LILY--[Jumping up.] I'll bet that's we Jaysons now. [She runs to the
door in the rear and looks down the hall to the right.] Yes, it's
Esther and husband and Aunt Davidson. [She comes back to MARTHA
laughing excitedly. The MAID is seen going to the door.] The first wave
of attack, Martha! Be brave! The Young Guard dies but never surrenders!

MARTHA--[Displeased but forcing a smile.] You make me feel terribly ill
at ease when you put it that way, Lily. [She rises now and goes to
greet the visitors, who enter. MRS. DAVIDSON is seventy-five years
old--a thin, sinewy old lady, old-fashioned, unbending and rigorous in
manner. She is dressed aggressively in the fashion of a bygone age.
ESTHER is a stout, middle-aged woman with the round, unmarked,
sentimentally--contented face of one who lives unthinkingly from day to
day, sheltered in an assured position in her little world. MARK, her
husband, is a lean, tall, stooping man of about forty-five. His long
face is alert, shrewd, cautious, full of the superficial craftiness of
the lawyer mind. MARTHA kisses the two women, shakes hands with MARK,
uttering the usual meaningless greetings in a forced tone. They reply
in much the same spirit. There is the buzz of this empty chatter while
MARTHA gets them seated. LILY stands looking on with a cynical smile of
amusement. MRS. DAVIDSON is in the chair at the end of table, left,
ESTHER sits by MARTHA on couch, MARK in chair at front of table.] Will
you have tea now or shall we wait for the others?

ESTHER--Let's wait. They ought to be here any moment.

LILY--[Maliciously.] Just think, Martha had forgotten you were coming.
She was going motoring with Bigelow. [There is a dead silence at
this--broken diplomatically by SHEFFIELD.]

SHEFFIELD--Where is Curt, Martha?

MARTHA--Hard at work in his study. I'm afraid he's there for the day.
SHEFFIELD--[Condescendingly.] Still plugging away at his book, I
suppose. Well, I hope it will be a big success.

LILY--[Irritated by his smugness.] As big a success as the brief you're
writing to restrain the citizens from preventing the Traction Company
robbing them, eh Mark? [Before anyone can reply, she turns suddenly on
her aunt who is sitting rigidly on her chair, staring before her
stonily like some old lady in a daguerreotype--in a loud challenging
tone.] You don't mind if I smoke, Aunt? [She takes a cigarette out of
case and lights it.]

ESTHER--[Smiling.] Lily!

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Fixes LILY with her stare--in a tone of irrevocable
decision.] We'll get you married, young lady, and that very soon. What
you need to bring you down to earth is a husband and the responsibility
of children. [Turning her glance to MARTHA, a challenge in her
question.] Every woman who is able should have children. Don't you
believe that, Martha Jayson? [She accentuates the full name.]

MARTHA--[Taken aback for a moment but restraining her
resentment--gently.] Yes, I do, Mrs. Davidson.

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Seemingly placated by this reply--in a milder tone.]
You must call me aunt, my dear. [Meaningly.] All the Jaysons do.

MARTHA--[Simply.] Thank you, aunt.

LILY--[As if all of this aroused her irritation--in a nervous fuming.]
Why don't the others come, darn 'em? I'm dying for my tea. [The door
from the study is opened and CURT appears. They all greet him.]

CURTIS--[Absent-mindedly.] Hello, everybody. [Then with a preoccupied
air to MARTHA.] Martha, I don't want to interrupt you--but--

MARTHA--[Getting up briskly.] You want my help?

CURTIS--[With the same absent-minded air.] Yes--not for long--just a
few notes before I forget them. [He goes back into the study.]

MARTHA--[Seemingly relieved by this interruption and glad of the chance
it gives to show them her importance to CURT.] You'll excuse me for a
few moments, all of you, won't you? [They all nod.]

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Rather harshly.] Why doesn't Curt hire a secretary?
That is no work for his wife.

MARTHA--[Quietly.] A paid secretary could hardly give the sympathy and
understanding Curt needs, Mrs. Davidson. [Proudly.] And she would have
to study for years, as I have done, in order to take my place. [To
LILY.] If I am not here by the time the others arrive, will you see
about the tea, Lily--?

LILY--[Eagerly.] Sure. I love to serve drinks. If I were a man, I'd be
a bartender--in Mexico or Canada.

MARTHA--[Going toward the study.] I'll be with you again in a minute, I
hope. [She goes in and shuts the door behind her.]

ESTHER--[Pettishly.] Even people touched by a smattering of science
seem to get rude, don't they?

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Harshly.] I have heard much silly talk of this being an
age of free women, and I have always said it was tommyrot. [Pointing to
the study.] She is an example. She is more of a slave to Curt's hobbies
than any of my generation were to anything but their children. [Still
more harshly.] Where are her children?

LILY--They died, Aunt, as children have a bad habit of doing. [Then
meaningly.] However, I wouldn't despair if I were you. [MRS. DAVIDSON
stares at her fixedly.]

ESTHER--[Betraying a sudden frightened jealousy.] What do you mean,
Lily? What are you so mysterious about? What did she say? What--?

LILY--[Mockingly.] Mark, your frau seems to have me on the stand. Can I
refuse to answer? [There is a ring at the bell. LILY jumps to her feet
excitedly.] Here comes the rest of our Grand Fleet. Now I'll have my
tea. [She darts out to the hallway.]

ESTHER--[Shaking her head.] Goodness, Lily is trying on the nerves.
[JAYSON, his two sons, JOHN and DICK, and JOHN's wife, EMILY, enter
from hallway in rear. JAYSON, the father, is a short, stout,
bald-headed man of sixty. A typical, small-town, New England
best-family banker, reserved in pose, unobtrusively important--a placid
exterior hiding querulousness and a fussy temper. JOHN JUNIOR is his
father over again in appearance, but pompous, obtrusive,
purse-and-family-proud, extremely irritating in his self-complacent air
of authority, emptily assertive and loud. He is about forty. RICHARD,
the other brother, is a typical young Casino and country club member,
college-bred, good looking, not unlikable. He has been an officer in
the war and has not forgotten it. EMILY, JOHN JR.'s wife, is one of
those small, mouse-like women who conceal beneath an outward aspect of
gentle, unprotected innocence a very active envy, a silly pride, and a
mean malice. The people in the room with the exception of MRS. DAVIDSON
rise to greet them. All exchange familiar, perfunctory greetings.
SHEFFIELD relinquishes his seat in front of the table to JAYSON, going
to the chair, right front, himself. JOHN and DICK take the two chairs
to the rear of table. EMILY joins ESTHER on the couch and they whisper
together excitedly, ESTHER doing most of the talking. The men remain in
uncomfortable silence for a moment.]

DICK--[With gay mockery.] Well, the gang's all here. Looks like the
League of Nations. [Then with impatience.] Let's get down to cases,
folks. I want to know why I've been summoned here. I'm due for
tournament mixed-doubles at the Casino at five. Where's the tea--and
has Curt a stick in the cellar to put in it?

LILY--[Appearing in the doorway.] Here's tea--but no stick for you,
sot. [The MAID brings in tray with tea things.]

JOHN--[Heavily.] It seems it would be more to the point to inquire
where our hostess--

JAYSON--[Rousing himself again.] Yes. And where is Curt?

LILY--Working at his book. He called Martha to take notes on something.

ESTHER--[With a trace of resentment.] She left us as if she were glad
of the excuse.

LILY--Stuff, Esther! She knows how much Curt depends on her--and we
don't.

EMILY--[In her quiet, lisping voice--with the most innocent air.]
Martha seems to be a model wife. [But there is some quality to the way
she says it that makes them all stare at her uneasily.]

LILY--[Insultingly.] How well you say what you don't mean, Emily!
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! But I'm forgetting to do the honors. Tea,
everybody? [Without waiting for any answer.] Tea, everybody! [The tea
is served.]

JAYSON--[Impatiently.] Stop fooling, Lily. Let's get to our muttons.
Did you talk with Martha?

LILY--[Briskly.] I did, sir.

JAYSON--[In a lowered voice.] What did she say?

LILY--She said you could all go to the devil! [They all look shocked
and insulted. LILY enjoys this, then adds quietly.] Oh, not in those
words. Martha is a perfect lady. But she made it plain she will thank
you to mind your own business.

ESTHER--[Volubly.] And just imagine, she'd even forgotten she'd asked
us here this afternoon and was going motoring with Bigelow.

LILY--With his three children, too, don't forget.

EMILY--[Softly.] They have become such well-behaved and intelligent
children, they say. [Again all the others hesitate, staring at her
suspiciously.]

LILY--[Sharply.] You'd better let Martha train yours for a while,
Emily. I'm sure she'd improve their manners--though, of course, she
couldn't give them any intelligence.

EMILY--[With the pathos of outraged innocence.] Oh!

DICK--[Interrupting.] So it's Bigelow you're up in the air about? [He
gives a low whistle--then frowns angrily.] The deuce you say!

LILY--[Mockingly.] Look at our soldier boy home from the wars getting
serious about the family honor! It's too bad this is a rough, untutored
country where they don't permit dueling, isn't it, Dick?

DICK--[His pose crumbling--angrily.] Go to the devil!

SHEFFIELD--[With a calm, judicious air.] This wrangling is getting us
nowhere. You say she was resentful about our well-meant word to the
wise? JAYSON--[Testily.] Surely she must realize that some
consideration is due the position she occupies in Bridgetown as Curt's
wife.

LILY--Martha is properly unimpressed by big frogs in tiny puddles. And
there you are.

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Outraged.] The idea! She takes a lot upon herself--the
daughter of a Wild Western coal-miner.

LILY--[Mockingly.] Gold miner, Aunt.

MRS. DAVIDSON--It makes no difference--a common miner! SHEFFIELD--
[Keenly inquisitive.] Just before the others came, Lily, you gave out
some hints--very definite hints, I should say--

ESTHER--[Excitedly.] Yes, you did, Lily. What did you mean?

LILY--[Uncertainly.] Perhaps I shouldn't have. It's not my secret.
[Enjoying herself immensely now that she holds the spotlight--after a
pause, in a stage whisper.] Shall I tell you? Yes, I can't help
telling. Well, Martha is going to have a son. [They are all stunned and
flabbergasted and stare at her speechlessly.]

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Her face lighting up--joyously.] A son! Curt's son!

JAYSON--[Pleased by the idea but bewildered.] A son?

DICK--[Smartly.] Lily's kidding you. How can she know it's a
son--unless she's a clairvoyant.

ESTHER--[With glad relief.] Yes, how stupid!

LILY--I am clairvoyant in this case. Allah is great and it will be a
son--if only to make you and Emily burst with envy among your daughters.

ESTHER--Lily!

EMILY--Oh!

JAYSON--[Testily.] Keep still for a moment, Lily, for God's sake. This
is no subject to joke about, remember.

LILY--Martha told me. I know that.

JAYSON--And does Curt know this?

LILY--No, not yet. Martha has been afraid to tell him.

JAYSON--Ah, that explains matters. You know I asked Curt some time
ago--and he said it was impossible.

EMILY--[With a lift of her eyebrows.] Impossible? Why, what a funny
thing to say.

SHEFFIELD--[Keenly lawyer-like.] And why is Martha afraid to tell him,
Lily?

LILY--It's all very simple. When the two died years ago, they said they
would never have one again. Martha thinks Curt is still haunted by
their memory and is afraid he will resent another as an intruder. I
told her that was all foolishness--that a child was the one thing to
make Curt settle down for good at home here and write his books.

JAYSON--[Eagerly.] Yes, I believe that myself. [Pleased.] Well, this is
fine news.

EMILY--Still it was her duty to tell Curt, don't you think? I don't see
how she could be afraid of Curt--for those reasons. [They all stare at
her.]

ESTHER--[Resentfully.] I don't, either. Why, Curt's the biggest-hearted
and kindest--

EMILY--I wonder how long she's known--this?

LILY--[Sharply.] Two months, she said.

EMILY--Two months? [She lets this sink in.]

JOHN--[Quickly scenting something--eagerly.] What do you mean, Emily?
[Then as if he read her mind.] Two months? But before that--Curt was
away in New York almost a month!

LILY--[Turning on EMILY fiercely.] So! You got someone to say it for
you as you always do, Poison Mind! Oh, I wish the ducking stool had
never been abolished!

EMILY--[Growing crimson--falteringly.] I--I didn't mean--

JOHN--[Furiously.] Where the honor of the family is at stake--

LILY--[Fiercely.] Ssshh, you empty barrel! I think I hear-- [The door
from the study is opened and MARTHA comes in in the midst of a heavy
silence. All the gentlemen rise stiffly. MARTHA is made immediately
self-conscious and resentful by the feeling that they have been
discussing her unfavorably.]

MARTHA--[Coming forward--with a forced cordiality.] How do you do,
everybody? So sorry I wasn't here when you came. I hope Lily made
proper excuses for me. [She goes from one to the other of the four
latest comers with "So glad you came," etc. They reply formally and
perfunctorily. MARTHA finally finds a seat on the couch between EMILY
and ESTHER.] I hope Lily--but I see you've all had tea.

LILY--[Trying to save the situation--gayly.] Yes. You can trust me as
understudy for the part of hostess any time.

MARTHA--[Forcing a smile.] Well, I'm glad to know I wasn't missed.

EMILY--[Sweetly.] We were talking about you--at least, we were
listening to Lily talk about you.

MARTHA--[Stiffening defensively.] About me?

EMILY--Yes--about how devoted you were to Curt's work. [LILY gives her
a venomous glance of scorn.]

MARTHA--[Pleased but inwardly uneasy.] Oh, but you see I consider it my
work, too, I've helped him with it so long now.

JAYSON--[In a forced tone.] And how is Curt's book coming, Martha?

MARTHA--[More and more stung by their strained attitudes and
inquisitive glances. Coldly and cuttingly.] Finely, thank you. The book
will cause quite a stir, I believe. It will make the name of Jayson
famous in the big world outside of Bridgetown.

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Indignantly.] The name of Jayson has been--

JAYSON--[Pleadingly.] Aunt Elizabeth!

LILY--Aunt means it's world famous already, Martha. [Pointing to the
sullen JOHN.] John was once a substitute on the Yale Freshman soccer
team, you know. If it wasn't for his weak shins he would have made the
team, fancy!

DICK--[This tickles his sense of humor and he bursts into laughter.]
Lily wins! [As his brother glares at him--looking at his watch.]
Heavens, I'll have to hustle! [Gets to his feet.] I'm due at the
Casino. [Comes and shakes MARTHA's hand formally.] I'm sorry I can't
stay.

MARTHA--So glad you came. Do come in again any time. We keep open
house, you know--Western fashion. [She accentuates this.]

DICK--[Hurriedly.] Delighted to. [He starts for the door in rear.]

LILY--[As if suddenly making up her mind.] Wait a second! I'm coming
with you--

DICK--Sure thing--only hurry, darn you! [He goes out.]

LILY--[Stops at the door in rear and catching MARTHA's eye, looks
meaningly at the others.] Phew! I need fresh air! [She makes an
encouraging motion as if pummeling someone to MARTHA, indicating her
assembled family as the victim--then goes out laughing. A motor is
heard starting--running off.]

ESTHER--[With a huge sigh of relief.] Thank goodness, she's gone. What
a vixen! What would you do if you had a sister like that, Martha?

MARTHA--I'd love her--and try to understand her.

SHEFFIELD--[Meaningly.] She's a bad ally to rely on--this side of the
fence one day, and that the next.

MARTHA--Is that why you advised her to become a lawyer, Mr. Sheffield?

SHEFFIELD--[Stung, but maintaining an unruffled front.] Now, now, that
remark must be catalogued as catty.

MARTHA--[Defiantly.] It seems to be in the Bridgetown atmosphere. I
never was--not the least bit--in the open air.

JAYSON--[Conciliatingly.] Oh, Bridgetown isn't so bad, Martha, once you
get used to us.

JOHN--It's one of the most prosperous and wealthy towns in the
U.S.--and that means in the world, nowadays.

EMILY--[With her sugary smile.] That isn't what Martha means, you
silly. I know what she's thinking about us, and I'm not sure that I
don't agree with her--partly. She feels that we're so awfully
strict--about certain things. It must be so different in the Far
West--I suppose--so much freer.

MARTHA--[Acidly.] Then you believe broad-mindedness and clean thinking
are a question of locality? I can't agree with you. I know nothing of
the present Far West, not having lived there for ten years, but Curt
and I have lived in the Far East and I'm sure he'd agree with me in
saying that Chinese ancestor worship is far more dignified than ours.
After all, you know, theirs is religion, not snobbery. [There is a loud
honking of an auto horn before the house. MARTHA starts, seems to come
to a quick decision, and announces with studied carelessness.] That
must be Mr. Bigelow. I suppose Lily told you I had an engagement to go
motoring with him. So sorry I must leave. But I'm like Lily. I need
fresh air. [She walks to the study door as she is talking.] I'll call
Curt. [She raps loudly on the door and calls.] Curt! Come out! It's
important. [She turns and goes to the door, smiling fixedly.] He'll be
out when he's through swearing. [She goes out, rear.]

JOHN--[Exploding.] Well, of all the damned cheek!

ESTHER--She shows her breeding, I must say.

EMILY--[With horror.] Oh, how rude--and insulting.

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Rising rigidly to her feet.] I will never set foot in
this house again! JAYSON--[Jumping up to restrain her--worriedly.] Now,
Aunt Elizabeth, do keep your head! We must have no scandal of any sort.
Remember there are servants about. Do sit down. [The old lady refuses
in stubborn silence.]

SHEFFIELD--[Judiciously.] One must make allowances for one in her
condition, Aunt.

JAYSON--[Snatching at this.] Exactly. Remember her condition. Aunt
[testily] and do sit down. [The old lady plumps herself down again
angrily.]

EMILY--[In her lisp of hidden meanings.] Yes, the family mustn't
forget--her condition. [The door from the study is opened and CURT
appears. His face shows his annoyance at being interrupted, his eyes
are preoccupied. They all turn and greet him embarrassedly. He nods
silently and comes slowly down front.]

CURTIS--[Looking around.] Where's Martha? What's the important thing
she called me out for?

ESTHER--[Forcing gaiety.] To play host, you big bear, you! Don't you
think we came to see you, too? Sit down here and be good. [He sits on
sofa.]

EMILY--[Softly.] Martha had to leave us to go motoring with Mr. Bigelow.

ESTHER--[Hastily.] And the three children.

CURTIS--[Frowning grumpily.] Hm! Big and his eternal kids. [He sighs.
They exchange meaning glances. CURT seems to feel ashamed of his
grumpiness and tries to fling it off--with a cheerful smile.] But what
the deuce! I must be getting selfish to grudge Martha her bit of fresh
air. You don't know what it means to outdoor animals like us to be pent
up. [He springs to his feet and paces back and forth nervously.] We're
used to living with the sky for a roof--[Then interestedly.] Did Martha
tell you I'd definitely decided to go on the five year Asian expedition?

ESTHER--Curt! You're not!

EMILY--And leave Martha here--all alone--for five years?

JAYSON--Yes, you can't take Martha with you this time, you know.

CURTIS--[With a laugh.] No? What makes you so sure of that? [As they
look mystified, he continues confidentially.] I'll let you in on the
secret--only you must all promise not to breathe a word to
Martha--until to-morrow. To-morrow is her birthday, you know, and this
is a surprise I've saved for her. [They all nod.] I've been intriguing
my damnedest for the past month to get permission for Martha to go with
me. It was difficult because women are supposed to be barred.
[Happily.] But I've succeeded. The letter came this morning. How
tickled to death she'll be when she hears! I know she's given up hope.
[Thoughtfully.] I suppose it's that has been making her act so
out-of-sorts lately.

JAYSON--[Worriedly.] Hmm! But would you persist in going--alone--if you
knew it was impossible for her--?

CURTIS--[Frowning.] I can't imagine it without her. You people can't
have any idea what a help--a chum--she's been. You can't believe that a
woman could be--so much that--in a life of that kind--how I've grown to
depend on her. The thousand details--she attends to them all. She
remembers everything. Why, I'd be lost. I wouldn't know how to start.
[With a laugh.] I know this sounds like a confession of weakness but
it's true just the same. [Frowning again.] However, naturally my work
must always be the first consideration. Yes, absolutely! [Then with
glad relief.] But what's the use of rambling on this way? We can both
go, thank heaven!

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Sternly.] No. SHE cannot go. And it is YOUR duty--

CURTIS--[Interrupting her with a trace of impatience.] Oh, come! That's
all nonsense, Aunt. You don't understand the kind of woman Martha is.

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Harshly.] The women I understand prefer rearing their
children to selfish gallivanting over the world.

CURTIS--[Impatiently.] But we have no children now, Aunt.

MRS. DAVIDSON--I know that, more's the pity. But later--

CURTIS--[Emphatically.] No, I tell you! It's impossible!

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Grimly.] I have said my last word. Go your own road and
work your own ruin.

CURTIS--[Brusquely.] I think I'll change my togs and go for a walk.
Excuse me for a second. I'll be right down again. [He goes out, rear.]

EMILY--[With her false air of innocence.] Curt acts so funny, doesn't
he? Did you notice how emphatic he was about its being impossible? And
he said Martha seemed to him to be acting queer lately--with him, I
suppose he meant.

ESTHER--He certainly appeared put out when he heard she'd gone motoring
with Big.

JAYSON--[Moodily.] This dislike of the very mention of children. It
isn't like Curt, not a bit.

JOHN--There's something rotten in Denmark somewhere. This family will
yet live to regret having accepted a stranger--

SHEFFIELD--[Mollifyingly--with a judicial air.] Come now! This is all
only suspicion. There is no evidence; you have no case; and the
defendant is innocent until you have proved her guilty, remember.
[Getting to his feet.] Well, let's break up. Esther, you and I ought to
be getting home. [They all rise.]

JAYSON--[Testily.] Well, if I were sure it would all blow over without
any open scandal, I'd offer up a prayer of thanks. [The Curtain Falls]





ACT II


SCENE--CURTIS JAYSON'S 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 hunter's trophies, animal heads of
all kinds. The floor is covered with animal skins--tiger, 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. MARTHA's voice joins in with theirs.

BIGELOW--Listen to that rumpus, will you! The kids are having the time
of their lives. [He goes to the window and looks out--delightedly.]
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 outside--excitedly.] Ah, Eddy discovered
her behind the tree. Isn't he tickled now! [He turns back from the
window and lights a cigarette--enthusiastically.] 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 again--with a sceptical smile.] You think
so? With everyone?

CURTIS--[Surprised.] Yes--with everyone we've ever come in contact
with--even aboriginal natives.

BIGELOW--With the aboriginal natives of Bridgetown? With the well-known
Jayson family, for example?

CURTIS--[Getting to his feet--frowning.] Why, everything's all right
between Martha and them, isn't it? What do you mean, Big? I certainly
imagined--but I'll confess this damn book has had me so preoccupied--

BIGELOW--Too darn preoccupied, if you'll pardon my saying so. It's not
fair to leave her to fight it alone.

CURTIS--[Impatiently.] Fight what? Martha has a sense of humor. I'm
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 you'll find a
bite. This, my native town, did me the honor of devoting its entire
leisure attention for years to stinging me to death.

CURTIS--Well, 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.

BIGELOW--Oh, I'll play fair. I'll admit they did--then. But it's
exasperating to know they never give you credit for changing--I almost
said, reforming, One ought to be above the gossip of a town like
this--but say what you like, it does get under your skin.

CURTIS--[With an indulgent smile.] So you'd 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 we're the
best of pals, and I've commenced to appreciate life from a different
angle. I've found a career at last--the children--the finest career a
man could have, I believe.

CURTIS--[Indifferently.] Yes, I suppose so--if you're made that way.

BIGELOW--Meaning you're not?

CURTIS--Not any more. [Frowning.] I tried that once.

BIGELOW--[After a pause--with a smile.] But we're 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, I'll have her out of this stagnant
hole before so very long--six months, to be exact.

BIGELOW--Where do you think of settling her then?

CURTIS--No settling about it. I'm going to take her with me.

BIGELOW--[Surprised.] On the Asian expedition?

CURTIS--Yes. I haven't told her yet but I'm going to to-day. It's her
birthday--and I've been saving the news to surprise her with.

BIGELOW--Her birthday? I wish the children and I had known--but it's
not too late yet.

CURTIS--[With a grin.] Thirty-nine candles, if you're thinking of
baking a cake!

BIGELOW--[Meaningly.] That's not old--but it's not young either, Curt.

CURTIS--[Disgustedly.] 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 MARTHA's 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.]

MARTHA--[Laughing.] 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! I'm 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.]
He--prevaricates, Mrs. Jayson.

MARTHA--There now, Curt! I'm sure it was you who said it. It sounds
just like one of your horrid facts.

BIGELOW--And how can I offer my felicitations now? But I do, despite
your husband's calumny. May your shadow never grow less!

MARTHA--Thank you. [She shakes his proffered hand heartily.]

BIGELOW--And now I'll collect my flock and go home.

CURTIS--So long, Big. Be sure you don't mislay one of your heirs!

BIGELOW--No fear--but they might mislay me. [He goes. CURT sits down on
couch. MARTHA goes to the window right, and looks out--after a pause,
waving her hand.]

MARTHA--There they go. What darlings they are! [CURTIS grunts
perfunctorily. MARTHA comes back and sits beside CURT on the
couch--with 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! You're 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. I'll have to dye it when you're asleep some
time--and then nobody'll know.

CURTIS--[Looking at her.] You haven't any silver threads. [Jokingly.]
Am I to suspect--?

MARTHA--No, I don't. Honest, cross my heart, I wouldn't even conceal
that from you, if I did. But gray hairs prove nothing. I am actually
older than you, don't forget.

CURTIS--One whole year! That's frightful, isn't it?

MARTHA--I'm a woman, remember; so that one means at least six. Ugh!
Let's 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 me--even when
I'm old and ugly and feeble and you're still young and strong and
handsome?

CURTIS--[Kisses her--tenderly.] Martha! What a foolish question,
sweetheart. If we ever have to grow old, we'll do it together just as
we've always done everything.

MARTHA--[With a happy sigh.] That's my dream of happiness, Curt.
[Enthusiastically.] Oh, it has been a wonderful, strange life we've
lived together, Curt, hasn't it? You're sure you've never
regretted--never had the weest doubt that it might have been better
with--someone else?

CURTIS--[Kisses her again--tenderly reproachful.] Martha!

MARTHA--And I have helped--really helped you, haven't I?

CURTIS--[Much moved.] 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, it's been a wonderful, glorious life.
I'd live it over again if I could, every single second of it--even the
terrible suffering--the children.

CURTIS--[Wincing.] 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 mean--together--Curt.

CURTIS--So do I!

MARTHA--But you're going away--and I can't go with you this time.

CURTIS--[Smiling to himself over her head.] Yes, that does complicate
matters, doesn't it?

MARTHA--[Hurt--looking up at him.] Curt! How indifferently you say
that--as if you didn't care!

CURTIS--[Avoiding her eyes--teasingly.] What do you think you'll do all
the time I'm gone?

MARTHA--Oh, 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 shoulder--passionately.] Oh, Curt, I
love you so! Swear that you'll always love me no matter what I do--no
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 moment--entreatingly.]
Then don't go!

CURTIS--[Astonished.] Why, I've got to go. You know that.

MARTHA--Yes, I suppose you have. [Vigorously, as if flinging off a
weakness.] Of course you have!

CURTIS--But, Martha--you said you'd be lonely unless--unless 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 that's impossible, Martha!

MARTHA--[Pleadingly.] Now don't be angry with me, Curt--not till you've
heard everything. [With a trace of defiance.] It isn't impossible,
Curt. It's so! It's happened! I was saving it as a secret--to tell you
to-day--on my birthday.

CURTIS--[Stunned.] You mean it--is a fact?

MARTHA--Yes. [Then pitifully.] Oh, Curt, don't look that way! You seem
so cold--so far away from me. [Straining her arms about him.] Why don't
you hold me close to you? Why don't you say you're glad--for my sake?

CURTIS--[Agitatedly.] But Martha--you don't understand. How can I
pretend gladness when--[Vehemently.] Why, it would spoil all our plans!

MARTHA--Plans? OUR plans? What do you mean?

CURTIS--[Excitedly.] Why, you're going with me, of course! I've
obtained official permission. I've been working for it for months. The
letter came yesterday morning.

MARTHA--[Stunned.] Permission--to go with you--

CURTIS--[Excitedly.] Yes. I couldn't conceive going without you. And I
knew how you must be wishing--

MARTHA--[In pain.] Oh!

CURTIS--[Distractedly--jumping to his feet and staring at her
bewilderedly.] Martha! You don't mean to tell me you weren't!

MARTHA--[In a crushed voice.] I was wishing you would finally decide
not to go--to stay at home.

CURTIS--[Betraying exasperation.] But you must realize that's
impossible. Martha, are you sure you've clearly understood what I've
told you? You can go with me, do you hear? Everything is arranged. And
I've had to fight so hard--I was running the risk of losing my own
chance by my insistence that I couldn't go without you.

MARTHA--[Weakly and helplessly.] I understand all that, Curt.

CURTIS--[Indignantly.] And yet--you 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 up--the
very origin of Man himself! And you will be the only woman--

MARTHA--I realize all that, Curt.

CURTIS--You can't--and hesitate! And then--think, Martha!--it will mean
that you and I won't have to be separated. We can go on living the old,
free life together.

MARTHA--[Growing calm now.] You are forgetting--what I told you, Curt.
You must face the fact. I cannot go.

CURTIS--[Overwhelmed by the finality of her tone--after a pause.] How
long have you known--this?

MARTHA--Two months, about.

CURTIS--But why didn't you tell me before?

MARTHA--I was afraid you wouldn't understand--and you haven't, Curt.
But why didn't you tell me before--what you were planning?

CURTIS--[Eagerly.] You mean--then--you would have been glad to
go--before this had happened?

MARTHA--I would have accepted it.

CURTIS--[Despairingly.] Martha, how could you ever have allowed this to
happen? Oh, I suppose I'm talking foolishness. It wasn't your seeking,
I know.

MARTHA--Yes it was, Curt. I wished it. I sought it.

CURTIS--[Indignantly.] 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 always--our only children.

MARTHA--[Gently.] They forgive me, Curt. And you will forgive me,
too--when you see him--and love him.

CURTIS--Him?

MARTHA--I know it will be a boy.

CURTIS--[Sinking down on the couch beside her--dully.] Martha! You have
blown my world to bits.

MARTHA--[Taking one of his hands in hers--gently.] 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.] That's unfair, Martha. I think of it as OUR
work--and I have always believed you did, too.

MARTHA--[Quickly.] I did, Curt! I do! All in the past is our work. It's
my greatest pride to think so. But, Curt, I'll have to confess
frankly--during the past two years I've felt myself--feeling as if I
wasn't complete--with that alone.

CURTIS--Martha! [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.] I'm 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 back--and rest--in our own home! You
know--you said that was your plan--to stay here and write your
books--and I was hoping--

CURTIS--[With a gesture of aversion.] I loathe this book-writing. It
isn't my part, I realize now. But when I made the plans you speak of,
how could I know that then?

MARTHA--[Decisively.] 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 don't. I wouldn't have you
changed one bit! I love you! And I love the things you love--your
work--because it's a part of you. And that's what I want you to do--to
reciprocate--to love the creator in me--to desire that I, too, should
complete myself with the thing nearest my heart!

CURTIS--[Intensely preoccupied with his own struggle--vaguely.] But I
thought--

MARTHA--I know; but, after all, your work is yours, not mine. I have
been only a helper, a good comrade, too, I hope, but--somehow--outside
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 pauses--then 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 can't
understand, Martha.

MARTHA--[In a gasp of unbearable hurt.] Curt! I don't 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 can't understand. I cannot,
cannot! It seems like treachery to me.

MARTHA--Curt!

CURTIS--I've depended on you. This is the crucial point--the biggest
thing of my life--and you desert me!

MARTHA--[Resentment gathering in her eyes.] If you had listened to
me--if you had even tried to feel--

CURTIS--I feel that you are deliberately ruining my highest hope. How
can I go on without you? I've been trying to imagine myself alone. I
can't! Even with my work--who 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? Haven't we been sufficient, you and I together? Isn't that a more
difficult, beautiful happiness to achieve than--children? Everyone has
children. Don't I love you as much as any man could love a woman? Isn't
that enough for you? Doesn't it mean anything to you that I need you so
terribly--for myself, for my work--for 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 interest--who
will separate us and deprive me of you! No, no, I cannot! It's asking
the impossible. I am only human.

MARTHA--If you were human you would think of my life as well as yours.

CURTIS--I do! It is OUR life I am fighting for, not mine--OUR life that
you want to destroy.

MARTHA--Our life seems to mean your life to you, Curt--and only your
life. I have devoted fifteen years to that. Now I must fight for my own.

CURTIS--[Aghast.] 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 sincerity--weakening.] Curt! Curt! [Pitiably.] It won't
separate us, dear. Can't you see he will be a link between us--even
when we are away from each other--that he will bring us together all
the closer?

CURTIS--But I can't be away from you!

MARTHA--[Miserably.] Oh, Curt, why won't you look the fact in the
face--and learn to accept it with joy? Why can't you for my sake? I
would do that for you.

CURTIS--[Breaking away from her--passionately.] 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 eyes--as 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!

CURTIS--[Shamefacedly.] Martha, I--[Distractedly.] I don't know what
I'm saying! This whole situation is so unbearable! Why, why does it
have to happen now?

MARTHA--[Gently.] It must be now--or not at all--at my age, dear. [Then
after a pause--staring at him frightenedly--sadly.] You have changed,
Curt. I remember it used to be your happiness to sacrifice yourself for
me.

CURTIS--I had no work then--no purpose beyond myself. To sacrifice
oneself is easy. But when your only meaning becomes as a searcher for
knowledge--you cannot sacrifice that, Martha. You must sacrifice
everything for that--or lose all sincerity.

MARTHA--I wonder where your work leaves off and you begin. Hasn't your
work become you?

CURTIS--Yes and no. [Helplessly.] You can't understand, Martha! ...

MARTHA--Nor you.

CURTIS--[With a trace of bitter irony.] And you and your work? Aren't
they one and the same?

MARTHA--So you think mine is selfish, too? [After a pause--sadly.] I
can't blame you, Curt. It's all my fault. I've spoiled you by giving up
my life so completely to yours. You've forgotten I have one. Oh, I
don't mean that I was a martyr. I know that in you alone lay my
happiness and fulfillment in those years--after the children died. But
we are no longer what we were then. We must, both of us, relearn to
love and respect--what we have become.

CURTIS--[Violently.] Nonsense! You talk as if love were an intellectual
process--[Taking her into his arms--passionately.] 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 other's eyes for a
second--then 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 don't know.

CURTIS--[Frightenedly.] Martha! Stop! This is terrible! [They continue
to be held by each other's fearfully questioning eyes.]

[The Curtain Falls]





ACT III

SCENE--Same as Act II. As the curtain rises, JAYSON is discovered
sitting in an armchair by the fireplace, in which a log fire is burning
fitfully. He is staring into the flames, a strained, expectant
expression on his face. It is about three o'clock in the morning. There
is no light but that furnished by the fire which fills the room with
shifting shadows. The door in the rear is opened and RICHARD appears,
his face harried by the stress of unusual emotion. Through the opened
doorway, a low, muffled moan of anguish sounds from the upper part of
the house. JAYSON and RICHARD both shudder. The latter closes the door
behind him quickly as if anxious to shut out the noise.

JAYSON--[Looking up anxiously.] Well?

RICHARD--[Involuntarily straightening up as if about to salute and
report to a superior officer.] No change, sir. [Then, as if remembering
himself, comes to the fireplace and slumps down in a
chair--agitatedly.] God, Dad, I can't stand her moaning and screaming!
It's got my nerves shot to pieces. I thought I was hardened. I've heard
them out in No Man's Land--dying by inches--when you couldn't get to
them or help--but this is worse--a million times! After all, that was
war--and they were men--

JAYSON--Martha is having an exceptionally hard ordeal.

RICHARD--Since three o'clock this morning--yesterday morning, I should
say. It's a wonder she isn't dead.

JAYSON--[After a pause.] Where is Curt?

RICHARD--[Harshly.] Still out in the garden, walking around bareheaded
in the cold like a lunatic.

JAYSON--Why didn't you make him come in?

RICHARD--Make him! It's easy to say. He's in a queer state, Dad, I can
tell you! There's something torturing him besides her pain--

JAYSON--[After a pause.] Yes, there's a lot in all this we don't know
about.

RICHARD--I suppose the reason he's so down on the family is because
we've rather cut her since that tea affair.

JAYSON--He shouldn't blame us. She acted abominably and has certainly
caused enough talk since then--always about with Bigelow--

RICHARD--[With a sardonic laugh.] And yet he keeps asking everyone to
send for Bigelow--says he wants to talk to him--not us. WE can't
understand! [He laughs bitterly.]

JAYSON--I'm afraid Curt knows we understand too much. [Agitatedly.] But
why does he want Bigelow, in God's name? In his present state--with the
suspicions he must have--there's liable to be a frightful scene.

RICHARD--Don't be afraid of a scene. [With pitying scorn.] The hell of
it is he seems to regard Bigelow as his best friend. Damned if I can
make it out.

JAYSON--I gave orders that they were always to tell Curt Bigelow was
out of town and couldn't be reached. [With a sigh.] What a frightful
situation for all of us! [After a pause.] It may sound cruel of
me--but--I can't help wishing for all our sakes that this child will
never--

RICHARD--Yes, Dad, I know what you're thinking. It would be the best
thing for it, too--although I hate myself for saying it. [There is a
pause. Then the door in rear is opened and LILY appears. She is pale
and agitated. Leaving the door open behind her she comes forward and
flings herself on the lounge.]

JAYSON--[Anxiously.] Well?

LILY--[Irritably, getting up and switching on the lights.] Isn't
everything gloomy enough? [Sits down.] I couldn't bear it upstairs one
second longer. Esther and Emily are coming down, too. It's too much for
them--and they've had personal experience. [Trying to mask her
agitation by a pretense at flippancy.] I hereby become a life-member of
the birth-control league. Let's let humanity cease--if God can't manage
its continuance any better than that!

RICHARD--[Seriously.] Second the motion.

JAYSON--[Peevishly.] You're young idiots. Keep your blasphemous
nonsense to yourself, Lily!

LILY--[Jumping up and stamping her foot--hysterically.] I can't stand
it. Take me home, Dick, won't you? We're doing no good waiting here.
I'll have a fit--or something--if I stay.

RICHARD--[Glad of the excuse to go himself--briskly.] That's how I
feel. I'll drive you home. Come along. [ESTHER and EMILY enter,
followed by JOHN.]

LILY--[Excitedly.] I'll never marry or have a child! Never, never! I'll
go into Mark's office to-morrow and make myself independent of marriage.

ESTHER--Sssh! Lily! Don't you know you're shouting? And what silly talk!

LILY--I'll show you whether it's silly! I'll--

RICHARD--[Impatiently.] Are you coming or not?

LILY--[Quickly.] Yes--wait--here I am. [She pushes past the others and
follows RICHARD out rear. ESTHER and EMILY sit on couch--JOHN on chair,
right rear.]

ESTHER--[With a sigh.] I thought I went through something when mine
were born--but this is too awful.

EMILY--And, according to John, Curt actually says he hates it! Isn't
that terrible? [After a pause--meaningly.] It's almost as if her
suffering was a punishment, don't you think?

ESTHER--If it is, she's being punished enough, Heaven knows. It can't
go on this way much longer or something dreadful will happen.

EMILY--Do you think the baby--

ESTHER--I don't know. I shouldn't say it but perhaps it would be better
if--

EMILY--That's what I think.

ESTHER--Oh, I wish I didn't have such evil suspicions--but the way Curt
goes on--how can you help feeling there's something wrong?

JAYSON--[Suddenly.] How is Curt?

EMILY--John just came in from the garden. [Turning around to where JOHN
is dozing in his chair--sharply.] John! Well I never! If he isn't
falling asleep! John! [He jerks up his head and stares at her, blinking
stupidly. She continues irritably.] A nice time to pick out for a nap,
I must say.

JOHN--[Surlily.] Don't forget I have to be at the bank in the morning.

JAYSON--[Testily.] I have to be at the bank, too--and you don't notice
me sleeping. Tell me about Curt. You just left him, didn't you?

JOHN--[Irritably.] Yes, and I've been walking around that damned garden
half the night watching over him. Isn't that enough to wear anyone out?
I can feel I've got a terrible cold coming on--

ESTHER--[Impatiently.] For goodness sake, don't you start to pity
yourself!

JOHN--[Indignantly.] I'm not. I think I've showed my willingness to do
everything I could. If Curt was only the least bit grateful! He isn't.
He hates us all and wishes we were out of his home. I would have left
long ago if I didn't want to do my part in saving the family name from
disgrace.

JAYSON--[Impatiently.] Has he quieted down, that's what I want to know?

JOHN--[Harshly.] Not the least bit. He's out of his head--and I'd be
out of mine if a child was being born to my wife that--

JAYSON--[Angrily.] Keep that to yourself! Remember you have no proof.
[Morosely.] Think all you want--but don't talk.

EMILY--[Pettishly.] The whole town knows it, anyway; I'm sure they must.

JAYSON--There's only been gossip--no real scandal. Let's do our united
best to keep it at that. [After a pause.] Where's Aunt Elizabeth? We'll
have to keep an eye on her, too, or she's quite liable to blurt out the
whole business before all comers.

ESTHER--You needn't be afraid. She's forgotten all about the scandalous
part. No word of it has come to her out in the country and she hasn't
set foot in town since that unfortunate tea, remember. And at present
she's so busy wishing the child will be a boy, that she hasn't a
thought for another thing. [The door in the rear is opened and MARK
SHEFFIELD enters. He comes up to the fire to warm himself. The others
watch him in silence for a moment.]

JAYSON--[Impatiently.] Well, Mark? Where's Curt?

SHEFFIELD--[Frowning.] Inside. I think he'll be with us in a minute.
[With a scornful smile.] Just now he's 'phoning to Bigelow. [The others
gasp.]

JAYSON--[Furiously.] For God's sake, couldn't you stop him?

SHEFFIELD--Not without a scene. Your Aunt persuaded him to come into
the house--and he rushed for the 'phone. I think he guessed we had been
lying to him--

JAYSON--[After a pause.] Then he--Bigelow will be here soon?

SHEFFIELD--[Drily.] It depends on his sense of decency. As he seems
lacking in that quality, I've no doubt he'll come.

JOHN--[Rising to his feet--pompously.] Then I, for one, will go. Come,
Emily. Since Curt seems bound to disgrace everyone concerned, I want it
thoroughly understood that we wash our hands of the whole disgraceful
affair.

EMILY--[Snappishly.] Go if you want to! I won't! [Then with a
sacrificing air.] I think it is our duty to stay.

JAYSON--[Exasperated.] Sit down. Wash your hands indeed! Aren't you as
much concerned as any of us?

SHEFFIELD--[Sharply.] Sshh! I think I hear Curt now. [JOHN sits down
abruptly. All stiffen into stony attitudes. The door is opened and CURT
enters. He is incredibly drawn and haggard, a tortured, bewildered
expression in his eyes. His hair is dishevelled, his boots caked with
mud. He stands at the door staring from one to the other of his family
with a wild, contemptuous scorn and mutters.]

CURTIS--Liars! Well, he's coming now. [Then bewilderedly.] Why didn't
you want him to come, eh? He's my oldest friend. I've got to talk to
someone--and I can't to you. [Wildly.] What do you want here, anyway?
Why don't you go? [A scream of MARTHA's is heard through the doorway.
CURT shudders violently, slams the door to with a crash, putting his
shoulders against it as if to bar out the sound inexorably--in
anguish.] God, why must she go through such agony? Why? Why? [He goes
to the fireplace as MARK makes way for him, flings himself exhaustedly
on a chair, his shoulders bowed, his face hidden in his hands. The
others stare at him pityingly. There is a long silence. Then the two
women whisper together, get up and tiptoe out of the room, motioning
for the others to follow them. JOHN does so. SHEFFIELD starts to go,
then notices the preoccupied JAYSON who is staring moodily into the
fire.]

SHEFFIELD--Sstt! [As JAYSON looks up--in a whisper.] Let's go out and
leave him alone. Perhaps he'll sleep.

JAYSON--[Starting to follow SHEFFIELD, hesitates and puts a hand on his
son's shoulder.] Curt. Remember I'm your father. Can't you confide in
me? I'll do anything to help.

CURTIS--[Harshly.] No, Dad. Leave me alone.

JAYSON--[Piqued.] As you wish. [He starts to go.]

CURTIS--And send Big in to me as soon as he comes.

JAYSON--[Stops, appears about to object--then remarks coldly.] Very
well--if you insist. [He switches off the lights. He hesitates at the
door uncertainly, then opens it and goes out. There is a pause. Then
CURT lifts his head and peers about the room. Seeing he is alone he
springs to his feet and begins to pace back and forth, his teeth
clenched, his features working convulsively. Then, as if attracted by
an irresistible impulse, he goes to the closed door and puts his ear to
the crack. He evidently hears his wife's moans for he starts away--in
agony.]

CURTIS--Oh, Martha, Martha! Martha, darling! [He flings himself in the
chair by the fireplace--hides his face in his hands and sobs bitterly.
There is a ring from somewhere in the house. Soon after there is a
knock at the door. CURTIS doesn't hear at first but when it is repeated
he mutters huskily.] Come in. [BIGELOW enters. CURT looks up at him.]
Close that door, Big, for God's sake!

BIGELOW--[Does so--then taking off his overcoat, hat, and throwing them
on the lounge comes quickly over to CURT.] I got over as soon as I
could. [As he sees CURT's face he starts and says sympathetically.] By
Jove, old man, you look as though you'd been through hell!

CURTIS--[Grimly.] I have. I am.

BIGELOW--[Slapping his back.] Buck up! [Then anxiously.] How's Martha?

CURTIS--She's in hell, too--

BIGELOW--[Attempting consolation.] You're surely not worrying, are you?
Martha is so strong and healthy there's no doubt of her pulling through
in fine shape.

CURTIS--She should never have attempted this. [After a pause.] I've a
grudge against you, Big. It was you bringing your children over here
that first planted this in her mind.

BIGELOW--[After a pause.] I've guessed you thought that. That's why you
haven't noticed me--or them--over here so much lately. I'll confess
that I felt you--[Angrily.] And the infernal gossip--I'll admit I
thought that you--oh, damn this rotten town, anyway!

CURTIS--[Impatiently.] Oh, for God's sake! [Bitterly.] I didn't want
you here to discuss Bridgetown gossip.

BIGELOW--I know, old man, forgive me. [In spite of the closed door one
of MARTHA's agonized moans is heard. They both shudder.]

CURTIS--[In a dead, monotonous tone.] She has been moaning like that
hour after hour. I shall have those sounds in my ears until the day I
die. Nothing can ever make me forget--nothing.

BIGELOW--[Trying to distract him.] Deuce take it, Curt, what's the
matter with you? I never thought you'd turn morbid.

CURTIS--[Darkly.] I've changed, Big--I hardly know myself any more.

BIGELOW--Once you're back on the job again, you'll be all right. You're
still determined to go on this expedition, aren't you?

CURTIS--Yes. I was supposed to join them this week in New York but I've
arranged to catch up with them in China--as soon as it's possible for
us to go.

BIGELOW--Us? You mean you still plan to take--

CURTIS--[Angrily aggressive.] Yes, certainly! Why not? Martha ought to
be able to travel in a month or so.

BIGELOW--Yes, but--do you think it would be safe to take the child?

CURTIS--[With a bitter laugh.] Yes--I was forgetting the child, wasn't
I? [Viciously.] But perhaps--[Then catching himself with a groan.] Oh,
damn all children, Big!

BIGELOW--[Astonished.] Curt!

CURTIS--[In anguish.] I can't help it--I've fought against it. But it's
there--deep down in me--and I can't drive it out. I can't!

BIGELOW--[Bewildered.] What, Curt?

CURTIS--Hatred! Yes, hatred! What's the use of denying it? I must tell
someone and you're the only one who might understand. [With a wild
laugh.] For you--hated your wife, didn't you?

BIGELOW--[Stunned.] Good God, you don't mean you hate--Martha?

CURTIS--[Raging.] Hate Martha? How dare you, you fool! I love
Martha--love her with every miserable drop of blood in me--with all my
life--all my soul! She is my whole world--everything! Hate Martha! God,
man, have you gone crazy to say such a mad thing? [Savagely.] No. I
hate it. It!

BIGELOW--[Shocked.] Curt! Don't you know you can't talk like
that--now--when--CURTIS-- [Harshly.] It has made us both suffer
torments--not only now--every day, every hour, for months and months.
Why shouldn't I hate it, eh?

BIGELOW--[Staring at his friend's wild, distorted face with growing
horror.] Curt! Can't you realize how horrible--

CURTIS--Yes, it's horrible. I've told myself that a million times.
[With emphasis.] But it's true!

BIGELOW--[Severely.] Shut up! You're not yourself. Come, think for a
moment. What would Martha feel if she heard you going on this way?
Why--it would kill her!

CURTIS--[With a sobbing groan.] Oh, I know, I know! [After a pause.]
She read it in my eyes. Yes, it's horrible, but when I saw her there
suffering so frightfully--I couldn't keep it out of my eyes. I tried to
force it back--for her sake--but I couldn't. I was holding her hands
and her eyes searched mine with such a longing question in them--and
she read only my hatred there, not my love for her. And she screamed
and seemed to try to push me away. I wanted to kneel down and pray for
forgiveness--to tell her it was only my love for her--that I couldn't
help it. And then the doctors told me to leave--and now the door is
locked against me--[He sobs.]

BIGELOW--[Greatly moved.] This is only your damned imagination. They
put you out because you were in their way, that's all. And as for
Martha, she was probably suffering so much--

CURTIS--No. She read it in my eyes. I saw that look in hers--of
horror--horror of me!

BIGELOW--[Gruffly.] You're raving, damn it!

CURTIS--[Unheeding.] It came home to her then--the undeniable truth.
[With a groan.] Isn't it fiendish that I should be the one to add to
her torture--in spite of myself--in spite of all my will to conceal it!
She will never forgive me, never! And how can I forgive myself?

BIGELOW--[Distractedly.] For God's sake, don't think about it! It's
absurd--ridiculous!

CURTIS--[Growing more calm--in a tone of obsession.] She's guessed it
ever since that day when we quarreled--her birthday. Oh, you can have
no idea of the misery there has been in our lives since then. You
haven't seen or guessed the reason. No one has. It has been--the
thought of IT.

BIGELOW--Curt!

CURTIS--[Unheeding.] For years we had welded our lives together so that
we two were sufficient, each to each. There was no room for a third.
And it was a fine, free life we had made--a life of new worlds, of
discovery, of knowledge invaluable to mankind. Isn't such a life worth
all the sacrifice it must entail?

BIGELOW--But that life was your life, Curt--

CURTIS--[Vehemently.] No, it was her life, too--her work as well as
mine. She had made the life, our life--the work, our work. Had she the
right to repudiate what she had built because she suddenly has a fancy
for a home, children, a miserable ease! I had thought I was her home,
her children. I had tried to make my life worthy of being that to her.
And I had failed. I was not enough.

BIGELOW--Curt!

CURTIS--Oh, I tried to become reconciled. I tried my damnedest. I tried
to love this child as I had loved those that died. But I couldn't. And
so, this being estranged us. We loved as intensely as ever but IT
pushed us apart. I grew to dread the idea of this intruder. She saw
this in me. I denied it--but she knew. There was something in each of
us the other grew to hate. And still we loved as never before, perhaps,
for we grew to pity each other's helplessness.

BIGELOW--Curt! Are you sure you ought to tell anyone this?

CURTIS--[Waving his remark aside.] One day, when I was trying to
imagine myself without her, and finding nothing but hopelessness--yet
knowing I must go--a thought suddenly struck me--a horrible but
fascinating possibility that had never occurred to me before. [With
feverish intensity.] Can you guess what it was?

BIGELOW--No. And I think you've done enough morbid raving, if you ask
me.

CURTIS--The thought that came to me was that if a certain thing
happened, Martha could still go with me. And I knew, if it did happen,
that she would want to go, that she would fling herself into the spirit
of our work to forget, that she would be mine more than ever.

BIGELOW--[Afraid to believe the obvious answer.] Curt!

CURTIS--Yes. My thought was that the child might be born dead.

BIGELOW--[Repelled--sternly.] Damn it, man, do you know what you're
saying? [Relentingly.] No, Curt, old boy, do stop talking. If you don't
I'll send for a doctor, damned if I won't. That talk belongs in an
asylum. God, man, can't you realize this is your child--yours as well
as hers?

CURTIS--I've tried. I cannot. There is some inexorable force in me--

BIGELOW--[Coldly.] Do you realize how contemptible this confession
makes you out? [Angrily.] Why, if you had one trace of human kindness
in you--one bit of unselfish love for your wife--one particle of pity
for her suffering--

CURTIS--[Anguished.] I have--all the love and pity in the world for
her! That's why I can't help hating--the cause of her suffering.

BIGELOW--Have you never thought that you might repay Martha for giving
up all her life to you by devoting the rest of yours to her?

CURTIS--[Bitterly.] She can be happy without me. She will have this
child--to take my place. [Intensely.] You think I would not give up my
work for her? But I would! I will stay here--do anything she wishes--if
only we can make a new beginning again--together--ALONE!

BIGELOW--[Agitated.] Curt, for God's sake, don't return to that! Why,
good God, man--even now--while you're speaking--don't you realize what
may be happening? And you can talk as if you were wishing--

CURTIS--[Fiercely.] I can't help but wish it!

BIGELOW--[Distractedly.] For the love of God, if you have such
thoughts, keep them to yourself. I won't listen! You make me despise
life!

CURTIS--And would you have me love life? [The door in the rear is
opened and JAYSON enters, pale and unnerved. A succession of quick,
piercing shrieks is heard before he can close the door behind him.
Shuddering.] My God! My God! [With a fierce cry.]
Will--this--never--end!

JAYSON--[Tremblingly.] Sh-h-h, they say this is the crisis. [Puts his
arm around CURT.] Bear up, my boy, it will soon be over now. [He sits
down in the chair BIGELOW has vacated, pointedly ignoring the latter.
The door is opened again and EMILY, ESTHER, JOHN and SHEFFIELD file in
quickly as if escaping from the cries of the woman upstairs. They are
all greatly agitated. CURT groans, pressing his clenched fists against
his ears. The two women sit on the lounge. MARK comes forward and
stands by JAYSON'S chair, JOHN sits by the door as before. BIGELOW
retreats behind CURT's chair, aware of their hostility. There is a long
pause.]

ESTHER--[Suddenly.] She has stopped--[They all listen.]

JAYSON--[Huskily.] Thank God, it's over at last. [The door is opened
and MRS. DAVIDSON enters. The old lady is radiant, weeping tears of
joy.]

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Calls out exultantly between sobs.] A son, Curt--a son.
[With rapt fervor--falling on her knees.] Let us all give thanks to God!

CURTIS--[In a horrible cry of rage and anguish.] No! No! You lie! [They
all cry out in fright and amazement: "CURT!" The door is opened and the
NURSE appears.]

NURSE--[Looking at CURTIS, in a low voice.] Mr. Jayson, your wife is
asking for you.

BIGELOW--[Promptly slapping CURT on the back.] There! What did I tell
you? Run, you chump!

CURTIS--[With a gasp of joy.] Martha! Darling, I'm coming--[He rushes
out after the NURSE.]

BIGELOW--[Comes forward to get his hat and coat from the sofa--coldly.]
Pardon me, please. [They shrink away from him.]

EMILY--[As he goes to the door--cuttingly.] Some people seem to have no
sense of decency!

BIGELOW--[Stung, stops at the door and looks from one to the other of
them--bitingly.] No, I quite agree with you. [He goes out, shutting the
door. They all gasp angrily.]

JOHN--Scoundrel!

JAYSON--[Testily--going to MRS. D., who is still on her knees praying.]
Do get up, Aunt Elizabeth! How ridiculous! What a scene if anyone
should see you like that. [He raises her to her feet and leads her to a
chair by the fire. She obeys unresistingly, seemingly unaware of what
she is doing.]

ESTHER--[Unable to restrain her jealousy.] So it's a boy.

EMILY--Did you hear Curt--how he yelled out "No"? It's plain as the
nose on your face he didn't want--

ESTHER--How awful!

JOHN--Well, can you blame him?

EMILY--And the awful cheek of that Bigelow person--coming here--

ESTHER--They appeared as friendly as ever when we came in.

JOHN--[Scornfully.] Curt is a blind simpleton--and that man is a
dyed-in-the-wool scoundrel.

JAYSON--[Frightenedly.] Shhh! Suppose we were overheard!

EMILY--When Curt leaves we can put her in her proper place. I'll soon
let her know she hasn't fooled me, for one. [While she is speaking MRS.
D. has gotten up and is going silently toward the door.]

JAYSON--[Testily.] Aunt Elizabeth, where are you going?

MRS. D.--[Tenderly.] I must see him again, the dear! [She goes out.]

ESTHER--[Devoured by curiosity--hesitatingly.] I think I--come on,
Emily. Let's go up and see--

EMILY--Not I! I never want to lay eyes on it.

JOHN--Nor I.

ESTHER--I was only thinking--everyone will think it funny if we don't.

JAYSON--[Hastily.] Yes, yes. We must keep up appearances. [Getting to
his feet.] Yes, I think we had better all go up--make some sort of
inquiry about Martha, you know. It's expected of us and--[They are all
standing, hesitating, when the door in the rear is opened and the NURSE
appears, supporting CURT. The latter is like a corpse. His face is
petrified with grief, his body seems limp and half-paralyzed.]

NURSE--[Her eyes flashing, indignantly.] It's a wonder some of you
wouldn't come up--here, help me! Take him, can't you? I've got to run
back!

[JAYSON and SHEFFIELD spring forward and lead CURT to a chair by the
fire.]

JAYSON--[Anxious.] Curt! Curt, my boy! What is it, son?

EMILY--[Catching the NURSE as she tries to go.] Nurse! What is the
matter?

NURSE--[Slowly.] His wife is dead. [They are all still, stunned.] She
lived just long enough to recognize him.

EMILY--And--the baby?

NURSE--[With a professional air.] Oh, it's a fine, healthy baby--eleven
pounds--that's what made it so difficult. [She goes. The others all
stand in silence.]

ESTHER--[Suddenly sinking on the couch and bursting into tears.] Oh,
I'm so sorry I said--or thought--anything wrong about her. Forgive me,
Martha!

SHEFFIELD--[Honestly moved but unable to resist this opportunity for
Latin--solemnly.] De mortuis nil nisi bonum.

JAYSON--[Who has been giving all his attention to his son.] Curt! Curt!
EMILY--Hadn't the doctor better--

JAYSON--Shhh! He begins to recognize me. Curt!

CURTIS--[Looking around him bewilderedly.] Yes. [Suddenly remembrance
comes and a spasm of intolerable pain contracts his features. He
presses his hands to the side of his head and groans brokenly.] Martha!
Gone! Dead! Oh! [He appeals wildly to the others.] Her eyes--she knew
me--she smiled--she whispered--forgive me, Curt,--forgive her--when it
was I who should have said forgive me--but before I could--she--[He
falters brokenly.]

EMILY--[Looking from one to the other meaningly as if this justified
all their suspicions.] Oh!

CURTIS--[A sudden triumph in his voice.] But she loved me again--only
me--I saw it in her eyes! She had forgotten--IT. [Raging.] Never let me
see it! Never let it come near me! It has murdered her! [Springing to
his feet.] I hate it from the bottom of my soul--I will never see
it--never--never--I take my oath! [As his father takes his arm--shaking
him off.] Let me go! I am going back to her! [He strides out of the
door in a frenzy of grief and rage. They all stand transfixed, looking
at each other bewilderedly.]

EMILY--[Putting all her venomous gratification into one word.] Well!

[The Curtain Falls]





ACT IV


SCENE--Same as Act I. It is afternoon of a fine day three days later.
Motors are heard coming up the drive in front of the house. There is
the muffled sound of voices. The MAID is seen going along the hall to
the front door. Then the family enter from the rear. First come JAYSON
and ESTHER with MRS. DAVIDSON--then LILY, DICK and SHEFFIELD--then JOHN
and his wife. All are dressed in mourning. The only one who betrays any
signs of sincere grief is MRS. DAVIDSON. The others all have a strained
look, irritated, worried, or merely gloomy. They seem to be thinking
"The worst is yet to come."

JAYSON--[Leading MRS. D., who is weeping softly, to the chair at left
of table--fretfully.] Please do sit down, Aunt. [She does so
mechanically.] And do stop crying. [He sits down in front of table.
ESTHER goes to couch where she is joined by EMILY. MARK goes over and
stands in back of them. DICK and JOHN sit at rear of table. LILY comes
down front and walks about nervously. She seems in a particularly
fretful, upset mood.]

LILY--[Trying to conceal her feelings under a forced flippancy.] What
ridiculous things funerals are, anyway! That stupid minister--whining
away through his nose! Why does the Lord show such a partiality for men
with adenoids, I wonder.

JAYSON--[Testily.] Sshhh! Have you no respect for anything?

LILY--[Resentfully.] If I had, I'd have lost it when I saw all of you
pulling such long faces in the church where you knew you were under
observation. Pah! Such hypocrisy! And then, to cap it all, Emily has to
force out a few crocodile tears at the grave!

EMILY--[Indignantly.] When I saw Curt--that's why I cried--not for her!

JAYSON--What a scene Curt made! I actually believe he wanted to throw
himself into the grave!

DICK--You BELIEVE he wanted to! Why, it was all Mark and I could do to
hold him, wasn't it, Mark? [SHEFFIELD nods.]

JAYSON--Intolerable! I never expected he'd turn violent like that. He's
seemed calm enough the past three days.

LILY--Calm! Yes, just like a corpse is calm!

JAYSON--[Distractedly.] And now this perfectly mad idea of going away
to-day to join that infernal expedition--leaving that child on our
hands--the child he has never even looked at! Why, it's too monstrously
flagrant! He's deliberately flaunting this scandal in everyone's face!

JOHN--[Firmly.] He must be brought to time.

SHEFFIELD--Yes, we must talk to him--quite openly, if we're forced to.
After all, I guess he realizes the situation more keenly than any of us.

LILY--[Who has wandered to window on right.] You mean you think he
believes--Well, I don't. And you had better be careful not to let him
guess what you think. [Pointing outside.] There's my proof. There he is
walking about with Bigelow. Can you imagine Curt doing that--if he
thought for a moment--

DICK--Oh, I guess Curt isn't all fool. He knows that's the very best
way to keep people from suspecting.

ESTHER--[Indignantly.] But wouldn't you think that Bigelow person--It's
disgusting, his sticking to Curt like this.

SHEFFIELD--Well, for one, I'm becoming quite resigned to Bigelow's
presence. In the first place, he seems to be the only one who can bring
Curt to reason. Then again, I feel that it is to Bigelow's own interest
to convince Curt that he mustn't provoke an open scandal by running
away without acknowledging this child.

LILY--[Suddenly bursting forth hysterically.] Oh, I hate you, all of
you! I loathe your suspicions--and I loathe myself because I'm
beginning to be poisoned by them, too.

EMILY--Really, Lily, at this late hour--after the way Curt has
acted--and her last words when she was dying--

LILY--[Distractedly.] I know! Shut up! Haven't you told it a million
times already? [MRS. DAVIDSON gets up and walks to the door, rear. She
has been crying softly during this scene, oblivious to the talk around
her.]

JAYSON--[Testily.] Aunt Elizabeth! Where are you going? [As she doesn't
answer but goes out into the hall.] Esther, go with her and see that
she doesn't--

ESTHER--[Gets up with a jealous irritation.] She's only going up to see
the baby. She's simply forgotten everything else in the world!

LILY--[Indignantly.] She probably realizes what we are too mean to
remember--that the baby, at least, is innocent. Wait, Esther. I'll come
with you.

JAYSON--Yes, hurry, she shouldn't be left alone. [ESTHER and LILY
follow the old lady out, rear.]

DICK--[After a pause--impatiently.] Well, what next? I don't see what
good we are accomplishing. May I run along? [He gets up restlessly as
he is speaking and goes to the window.]

JAYSON--[Severely.] You will stay, if you please. There's to be no
shirking on anyone's part. It may take all of us to induce Curt--

SHEFFIELD--I wouldn't worry. Bigelow is taking that job off our hands,
I imagine.

DICK--[Looking out of the window.] He certainly seems to be doing his
damnedest. [With a sneer.] The stage missed a great actor in him.

JAYSON--[Worriedly.] But, if Bigelow should fail--

SHEFFIELD--Then we'll succeed. [With a grim smile.] By God, we'll have
to.

JAYSON--Curt has already packed his trunks and had them taken down to
the station--told me he was leaving on the five o'clock train.

SHEFFIELD--But didn't you hint to him there was now this matter of the
child to be considered in making his plans?

JAYSON--[Lamely.] I started to. He simply flared up at me with insane
rage.

DICK--[Looking out the window.] Say, I believe they're coming in.

JAYSON--Bigelow?

DICK--Yes, they're both making for the front door.

SHEFFIELD--I suggest we beat a retreat to Curt's study and wait there.

JAYSON--Yes, let's do that--come on, all of you. [They all retire
grumblingly but precipitately to the study, closing the door behind
them. The front door is heard opening and a moment later CURT and
BIGELOW enter the room. CURT's face is set in an expression of stony
grief. BIGELOW is flushed, excited, indignant.]

BIGELOW--[As CURT sinks down on the couch--pleading indignantly.] Curt,
damn it, wake up! Are you made of stone? Has everything I've said gone
in one ear and out the other? I know it's hell for me to torment you at
this particular time but it's your own incredibly unreasonable actions
that force me to. I know how terribly you must feel but--damn it, man,
postpone this going away! Face this situation like a man! Be reconciled
to your child, stay with him at least until you can make suitable
arrangements--

CURTIS--[Fixedly.] I will never see it! Never!

BIGELOW--How can you keep repeating that--with Martha hardly cold in
her grave! I ask you again, what would she think, how would she
feel--If you would only consent to see this baby, I know you'd realize
how damnably mad and cruel you are. Won't you--just for a second?

CURTIS--No. [Then raging.] If I saw it I'd be tempted to--[Then
brokenly.] No more of that talk, Big. I've heard enough. I've reached
the limit.

BIGELOW--[Restraining his anger with difficulty--coldly.] That's your
final answer, eh? Well, I'm through. I've done all I could. If you want
to play the brute--to forget all that was most dear in the world to
Martha--to go your own damn selfish way--well, there's nothing more to
be said. You will be punished for it, believe me! [He takes a step
toward the door.] And I--I want you to understand that all friendship
ceases between us from this day. You are not the Curt I thought I
knew--and I have nothing but a feeling of repulsion--good-by. [He
starts for the door.]

CURTIS--[Dully.] Good-by, Big.

BIGELOW--[Stops, his features working with grief and looks back at his
friend--then suddenly goes back to him--penitently.] Curt! Forgive me!
I ought to know better. This isn't you. You'll come to yourself when
you've had time to think it over. The memory of Martha--she'll tell you
what you must do. [He wrings CURT's hand.] Good-by, old scout!

CURTIS--[Dully.] Good-by. [BIGELOW hurries out, rear. CURT sits in a
dumb apathy for a while--then groans heart-brokenly.] Martha! Martha!
[He springs to his feet distractedly. The door of the study is slowly
opened and SHEFFIELD peers out cautiously--then comes into the room,
followed by the others. They all take seats as before. CURT ignores
them.]

SHEFFIELD--[Clearing his throat.] Curt--

CURTIS--[Suddenly.] What time is it, do you know!

SHEFFIELD--[Looking at his watch.] Two minutes to four.

CURTIS--[Impatiently.] Still an hour more of this!

JAYSON--[Clearing his throat.] Curt--[Before he starts what he intends
to say, there is the sound of voices from the hall. ESTHER and LILY
help in MRS. DAVIDSON to her former chair. The old lady's face is again
transformed with joy. ESTHER joins EMILY on the couch. LILY sits in
chair--front right. There is a long, uncomfortable pause during which
CURT paces up and down.]

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Suddenly murmuring aloud to herself--happily.] He's
such a dear! I could stay watching him forever.

JAYSON--[Testily.] Sshhh! Aunt! [Then clearing his throat again.]
Surely you're not still thinking of going on the five o'clock train,
are you, Curt?

CURTIS--Yes.

SHEFFIELD--[Drily.] Then Mr. Bigelow didn't persuade you--

CURTIS--[Coldly and impatiently.] I'm not to be persuaded by Big or
anyone else. And I'll thank you not to talk any more about it. [They
all stiffen resentfully at his tone.]

JAYSON--[To CURT--in a pleading tone.] You mustn't be unreasonable,
Curt. After all we are your family--your best friends in the world--and
we are only trying to help you--

CURTIS--[With nervous vehemence.] I don't want your help. You will help
me most by keeping silent.

EMILY--[ With a meaning look at the others--sneeringly.] Yes, no doubt.

ESTHER--Sshhh, Emily!

JAYSON--[Helplessly.] But, you see, Curt--

SHEFFIELD--[With his best judicial air.] If you'll all allow me to be
the spokesman, I think perhaps that I--[They all nod and signify their
acquiescence. ] Well, then, will you listen to me, Curt? [This last
somewhat impatiently as CURT continues to pace, eyes on the floor.]

CURTIS--[Without looking at him--harshly.] Yes, I'm listening. What
else can I do when you've got me cornered? Say what you like and let's
get this over.

SHEFFIELD--First of all, Curt, I hope it is needless for me to express
how very deeply we all feel for you in your sorrow. But we sincerely
trust that you are aware of our heartfelt sympathy. [They all nod. A
bitter, cynical smile comes over LILY's face.]

ESTHER--[Suddenly breaking down and beginning to weep.] Poor Martha!
[SHEFFIELD glances at his wife, impatient at this interruption. The
others also show their irritation.]

EMILY--[Pettishly.] Esther! For goodness sake! [CURT hesitates, stares
at his sister frowningly as if judging her sincerity--then bends down
over her and kisses the top of her bowed head impulsively--seems about
to break down himself--grits his teeth and forces it back--glances
around at the others defiantly and resumes his pacing. ESTHER dries her
eyes, forcing a trembling smile. The cry has done her good.]

SHEFFIELD--[Clearing his throat.] I may truthfully say we all feel--as
Esther does--even if we do not give vent--[With an air of sincere
sympathy.] I know how terrible a day this must be for you, Curt. We all
do. And we feel guilty in breaking in upon the sanctity of your sorrow
in any way. But, if you will pardon my saying so, your own course of
action--the suddenness of your plans--have made it imperative that we
come to an understanding about certain things--about one thing in
particular, I might say. [He pauses. CURT goes on pacing back and forth
as if he hadn't heard.]

JAYSON--[Placatingly.] Yes, it is for the best, Curt.

ESTHER--Yes, Curt dear, you mustn't be unreasonable.

DICK--[Feeling called upon to say something.] Yes, old man, you've got
to face things like a regular. Facts are facts. [This makes everybody
uneasy.]

LILY--[Springing to her feet.] Phew! it's close in here. I'm going out
in the garden. You can call me when these--orations--are finished. [She
sweeps out scornfully.]

JAYSON--[Calling after her imperiously.] Lily! [But she doesn't answer
and he gives it up with a hopeless sigh.]

CURTIS--[Harshly.] What time is it?

SHEFFIELD--You have plenty of time to listen to what I--I should rather
say we--have to ask you, Curt. I promise to be brief. But first let me
again impress upon you that I am talking in a spirit of the deepest
friendliness and sympathy with you--as a fellow-member of the same
family, I may say--and with the highest ideals and the honor of that
family always in view. [CURT makes no comment. SHEFFIELD unconsciously
begins to adopt the alert keenness of the cross-examiner.] First, let
me ask you, is it your intention to take that five o'clock train to-day?

CURTIS--[Harshly.] I've told you that.

SHEFFIELD--And then you'll join this expedition to Asia?

CURTIS--You know that.

SHEFFIELD--To be gone five years?

CURTIS--[Shrugging his shoulders.] More or less.

SHEFFIELD--Is it your intention to return here at any time before you
leave for Asia?

CURTIS--No!

SHEFFIELD--And your determination on these plans is irrevocable?

CURTIS--Irrevocable! Exactly. Please remember that.

SHEFFIELD--[Sharply.] That being your attitude, I will come bluntly to
the core of the whole matter--the child whose coming into the world
cost Martha her life.

CURTIS--[Savagely.] Her murderer! You are right! [They all look
shocked, suspicious.]

SHEFFIELD--[Remonstratingly but suspiciously.] You can hardly hold the
child responsible for the terrible outcome. Women die every day from
the same cause. [Keenly.] Why do you attribute guilt to the child in
this case, Curt?

CURTIS--It lives and Martha is gone--But, enough! I've said I never
wanted it mentioned to me. Will you please remember that?

SHEFFIELD--[Sharply.] Its name is Jayson. Curt--in the eyes of the law.
Will YOU please remember that?

CURTIS--[Distractedly.] I don't want to remember anything! [Wildly.]
Please, for God's sake, leave me alone!

SHEFFIELD--[Coldly.] I am sorry, Curt, but you cannot act as if you
were alone in this affair.

CURTIS--Why not? Am I not alone--more alone this minute than any
creature on God's earth?

SHEFFIELD--[Soothingly.] In your great grief. Yes, yes, of course. We
all appreciate--and we hate to--[Persuasively.] Yes, it would be much
wiser to postpone these practical considerations until you are in a
calmer mood. And if you will only give us the chance--why not put off
this precipitate departure--for a month, say--and in the meantime--

CURTIS--[Harshly.] I am going when I said I was. I must get away from
this horrible hole--as far away as I can. I must get back to my work
for only in it will I find Martha again. But you--you can't understand
that. What is the good of all this talking which leads nowhere?

SHEFFIELD--[Coldly.] You're mistaken. It leads to this: Do you
understand that your running away from this child--on the very day of
its mother's funeral!--will have a very queer appearance in the eyes of
the world?

EMILY--And what are you going to do with the baby, Curt? Do you think
you can run off regardless and leave it here--on our hands?

CURTIS--[Distractedly.] I'll give it this home. And
someone--anyone--Esther, Lily--can appoint a nurse to live here and--
[Breaking down.] Oh, don't bother me!

SHEFFIELD--[Sharply.] In the world's eyes, it will appear precious like
a desertion on your part.

CURTIS--Oh, arrange it to suit yourselves--anything you wish--

SHEFFIELD--[Quickly. ] I'll take you at your word. Then let us arrange
it this way. You will remain here a month longer at least--

CURTIS--No!

SHEFFIELD--[Ignoring the interruption.] You can make plans for the
child's future in that time, become reconciled to it--

CURTIS--No!

JAYSON--[Pleadingly.] Curt--please--for all our sakes--when the honor
of the family is at stake.

DICK--Yes, old man, there's that about it, you know.

CURTIS--No!

EMILY--Oh, he's impossible!

SHEFFIELD--Perhaps Curt misunderstood me. [Meaningly.] Be reconciled to
it in the eyes of the public, Curt. That's what I meant. Your own
private feelings in the matter--are no one's business but your own, of
course.

CURTIS--[Bewilderedly.] But--I don't see--Oh, damn your eyes of the
public!

EMILY--[Breaking in.] It's all very well for you to ignore what people
in town think--you'll be in China or heaven knows where. The scandal
won't touch you--but we've got to live here and have our position to
consider.

CURTIS--[Mystified.] Scandal? What scandal? [Then with a harsh laugh.]
Oh, you mean the imbecile busy-bodies will call me an unnatural father.
Well, let them! I suppose I am. But they don't know--

EMILY--[Spitefully.] Perhaps they know more than you think they do.

CURTIS--[Turning on her--sharply.] Just what do you mean by that, eh?

ESTHER--Emily! Shhh!

JAYSON--[Flurriedly.] Be still, Emily. Let Mark do the talking.

SHEFFIELD--[Interposing placatingly.] What Emily means is simply this,
Curt: You haven't even been to look at this child since it has been
born--not once, have you?

CURTIS--No, and I never intend--

SHEFFIELD--[Insinuatingly.] And don't you suppose the doctors and
nurses--and the servants--have noticed this? It is not the usual
procedure, you must acknowledge, and they wouldn't be human if they
didn't think your action--or lack of action--peculiar and comment on it
outside.

CURTIS--Well, let them! Do you think I care a fiddler's curse how
people judge me?

SHEFFIELD--It is hardly a case of their judging--you. [Breaking off as
he catches CURT'S tortured eyes fixed on him wildly.] This is a small
town, Curt, and you know as well as I do, gossip is not the least of
its faults. It doesn't take long for such things to get started.
[Persuasively.] Now I ask you frankly, is it wise to provoke
deliberately what may easily be set at rest by a little--I'll be
frank--a little pretense on your part?

JAYSON--Yes, my boy. As a Jayson, I know you don't wish--

ESTHEE--[With a sigh.] Yes, you really must think of us, Curt.

CURTIS--[In an acute state of muddled confusion.] But--I--you--how are
you concerned? Pretense? You mean you want me to stay and pretend--in
order that you won't be disturbed by any silly tales they tell about
me? [With a wild laugh.] Good God, this is too much! Why does a man
have to be maddened by fools at such a time! [Raging.] Leave me alone!
You're like a swarm of poisonous flies.

JAYSON--Curt! This is--really--when we've tried to be so considerate--

JOHN--[Bursting with rage.] It's an outrage to allow such insults!

DICK--You're not playing the game, Curt.

EMILY--[Spitefully.] It seems to me it's much more for Martha's sake,
we're urging you than for our own. After all, the town can't say
anything against us.

CURTIS--[Turning on her.] Martha's sake? [Brokenly.] Martha is gone.
Leave her out of this.

SHEFFIELD--[Sharply.] But unfortunately, Curt, others will not leave
her out of this. They will pry and pry--you know what they are--and--

EMILY--Curt couldn't act the way he is doing if he ever really cared
for her.

CURTIS--You dare to say that! [Then controlling himself a bit--with
scathing scorn.] What do know of love--women like you! You call your
little rabbit-hutch emotions love--your bread-and-butter passions--and
you have the effrontery to judge--

EMILY--[Shrinking from him frightenedly.] Oh! John!

JOHN--[Getting to his feet.] I protest! I cannot allow even my own
brother--

DICK--[Grabbing his arm.] Keep your head, old boy.

SHEFFIELD--[Peremptorily.] You are making a fool of yourself, Curt--and
you are damned insulting in the bargain. I think I may say that we've
all about reached the end of our patience. What Emily said is for your
own best interest, if you had the sense to see it. And I put it to you
once and for all: Are you or are you not willing to act like a man of
honor to protect your own good name, the family name, the name of this
child, and your wife's memory? Let me tell you, your wife's good name
is more endangered by your stubbornness than anything else.

CURTIS--[Trembling with rage.] I--I begin to think--you--all of
you--are aiming at something against Martha in this. Yes--in back of
your words--your actions--I begin to feel--[Raging.] Go away! Get out
of this house--all of you! Oh, I know your meanness! I've seen how
you've tried to hurt her ever since we came--because you resented in
your small minds her evident superiority--

EMILY--[Scornfully.] Superiority, indeed!

CURTIS--Her breadth, of mind and greatness of soul that you couldn't
understand. I've guessed all this, and if I haven't interfered it's
only because I knew she was too far above you to notice your sickening
malice--

EMILY--[Furiously.] You're only acting--acting for our benefit because
you think we don't--

CURTIS--[Turning on her--with annihilating contempt.] Why, you--you
poor little nonentity! [John struggles to get forward but Dick holds
him back.]

EMILY--[Insane with rage--shrilly.] But we know--and the whole town
knows--and you needn't pretend you've been blind. You've given the
whole thing away yourself--the silly way you've acted--telling everyone
how you hated that baby--letting everyone see--

JAYSON--Emily! [The others are all frightened, try to interrupt her.
CURT stares at her in a stunned bewilderment]

EMILY--[Pouring forth all her venom regardless.] But you might as well
leave off your idiotic pretending. It doesn't fool us--or anyone
else--your sending for Bigelow that night--your hobnobbing with him
ever since--your pretending he's as much your friend as ever. They're
all afraid of you--but I'm not! I tell you to your face--it's all
acting you're doing--just cheap acting to try and pull the wool over
our eyes until you've run away like a coward--and left us to face the
disgrace for you with this child on our hands!

ESTHER--[Trying to silence her--excitedly.] Emily! Keep still, for
Heaven's sake! [The others all utter exclamations of caution, with
fearful glances at CURT.]

EMILY--[Becoming exhausted by her outburst--more faintly.] Well,
someone had to show him his place. He thinks he's so superior to us
just because--telling us how much better she was than--But I won't
stand for that. I've always had a clean name--and always will--and my
children, too, thank God! [She sinks down on the couch exhausted,
panting but still glaring defiantly at CURT.]

CURTIS--[An awareness of her meaning gradually forcing itself on his
mind.] Bigelow! Big? Pretending he's as much my friend--[With a sudden
gasp of sickened understanding.] Oh! [He sways as if he were about to
fall, shrinking away from EMILY, all horror.] Oh, you--you--you-filth!

JOHN--[His fists clenched, tries to advance on his brother.] How dare
you insult my wife! [He is restrained, held bake by his remonstrating
father and DICK.]

MRS. DAVIDSON--[As if suddenly coming out of a dream--frightenedly.]
What is the matter? Why is John mad at Curt?

CURTIS--[His hands over his eyes, acting like a person stricken with a
sudden attack of nausea, weakly.] So--that's--what has been in your
minds. Oh, this is bestial--disgusting! And there is nothing to be
done. I feel defenseless. One would have to be as low as you are--She
would have been defenseless, too. It is better she is dead. [He stares
about him--wildly.] And you think--you all think--

ESTHER--[Pityingly.] Curt, dear, we don't think anything except what
you've made us think with your crazy carrying-on.

CURTIS--[Looking from one to the other of them.] Yes--all of you--it's
on your faces. [His eyes fix themselves on his aunt.] No, you
don't--you don't--

MRS. DAVIDSON--I? Don't what, Curtis? My, how sick you look, poor boy!

CURTIS--You--don't believe--this child--

MRS. DAVIDSON--He's the sweetest baby I ever saw [proudly] and Jayson
right to the tips of his toes.

CURTIS--Ah, I know you--[Looking around at the others with loathing and
hatred.] But look at them--[With a burst of fierce determination.]
Wait! I'll give you the only answer--[He dashes for the door in rear,
shakes off his father and DICK, who try to stop him, and then is heard
bounding up the stairs in hall. DICK runs after him, JAYSON as far as
the doorway. ESTHER gives a stifled scream. There is a tense pause.
Then DICK reappears.]

DICK--It's all right. I saw him go in.

JAYSON--[Frightenedly.] But--good God--he's liable--why didn't you
follow him?

DICK--The doctor and nurse are there. They would have called out,
wouldn't they, if--

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Getting angrier and angrier as her puzzlement has grown
greater--in a stern tone.] I understand less and less of this. Where
has Curtis gone? Why did he act so sick? What is the matter with all of
you?

ESTHER--Nothing, Aunt dear, nothing!

MRS. DAVIDSON--No, you'll not hush me up! [Accusingly.] You all look
guilty. Have you been saying anything against Curtis' baby? That was
what Curtis seemed to think. A fine time you've picked out--with his
wife not cold in her grave!

JAYSON--Aunt!

MRS. DAVIDSON--I never liked that woman. I never understood her. But
now--now I love her and beg her forgiveness. She died like a true woman
in the performance of her duty. She died gloriously--and I will always
respect her memory. [Suddenly flying into a passion.] I feel that you
are all hostile to her baby--poor, little, defenseless creature! Yes,
you'd hate the idea of Curtis' having a son--you and your girls! Well,
I'll make you bitterly regret the day you--[She plumps herself down in
her chair again, staring stubbornly and angrily before her.]

EMILY--[Spitefully.] I fear it will be necessary to tell Aunt--

JAYSON--Sshh! You have made enough trouble with your telling already!
[Miserably.] It should never have come to this pass. Curt will never
forgive us, never!

ESTHER--[Resentfully to EMILY.] See what not holding your tongue has
done--and my children will have to suffer for it, too!

SHEFFIELD--[Severely.] If Emily had permitted me to conduct this
business uninterruptedly, this would never have occurred.

EMILY--That's right! All pick on me! Cowards! [She breaks down and
sobs.]

DICK--[From the doorway. Coming back into the room.] Sstt! Here he
comes!

CURTIS--[Reenters. There is a look of strange exultation on his face.
He looks from one to the other of them. He stammers.] Well--my answer
to you--your rotten world--I kissed him--he is mine! He looked at
me--it was as if Martha looked at me--through his eyes.

ESTHER--[Voicing the general relief. Joyfully.] Oh, Curt! You won't go
now? You'll stay?

CURTIS--[Staring at her, then from one to another of the rest with a
withering scorn.] Ha! Now you think you have conquered, do you? No, I'm
not going to stay! Do you think your vile slander could influence me to
give up my work? And neither shall you influence the life of my son. I
leave him here. I must. But not to your tender mercies. No, no! Thank
God, there still remains one Jayson with unmuddled integrity to whom I
can appeal. [He goes to MRS. DAVIDSON.] I will leave him in your care,
Aunt--while I am gone.

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Delighted.] It will be a great happiness. He will
be--the one God never granted me. [Her lips trembling.] God has
answered my prayer at last.

CURTIS--I thank you, Aunt. [Kisses her reverentially.]

MRS. DAVIDSON--[Pleased but morally bound to grumble at him] But I
cannot approve of your running away like this. It isn't natural. [Then
with selfish haste, fearing her words may change his mind and she will
lose the baby.] But you always were a queer person--and a man must do
faithfully the work ordained for him.

CURTIS--[Gladly.] Yes, I must go! What would I be for him--or
anyone--if I stayed? Thank God, you understand. But I will come back.
[The light of an ideal beginning to shine in his eyes.] When he is old
enough, I will teach him to know and love a big, free life. Martha used
to say that he would take her part in time. My goal shall be his goal,
too. Martha shall live again for me in him. And you, Aunt, swear to
keep him with you--out there in the country--never to let him know this
obscene little world. [He indicates his relatives.]

MRS. DAVIDSON--Yes, I promise, Curtis. Let anyone dare--! [She glares
about her. The noise of a motor is heard from the drive. It stops in
front of the house.]

CURTIS--I must go. [He kisses his aunt.] Teach him his mother was the
most beautiful soul that ever lived. Good-by, Aunt.

MRS. DAVIDSON--Good-by, Curtis! [Without looking at the others, he
starts for the door, rear. They all break out into conscience-stricken
protestations.]

JAYSON--[Miserably.] Curt! You're not leaving us that way?

ESTHER--Curt--you're going--without a word! [They all say this
practically together and crowd toward him. JOHN and EMILY remain
sullenly apart. CURT turns to face them.]

LILY--[Enters from the rear.] You're not going, Curt?

CURTIS--[Turning to her.] Yes. Good-by, Lily. [He kisses her.] You
loved her, didn't you? You are not like--Take my advice and get away
before you become--[He has been staring into her face. Suddenly he
pushes her brusquely away from him--coldly.] But I see in your face
it's too late.

LILY--[Miserably.] No, Curt--I swear--

CURTIS--[Facing them all defiantly.] Yes, I am going without a
word--because I cannot find the fitting one. Be thankful I can't. It
would shrivel up your souls like flame, [He again turns and strides to
the door.]

JAYSON--[His grief overcoming him.] My boy! We are wrong--we
know--but--at least say you forgive us.

CURTIS--[Wavers with his back towards them--then turns and forces the
words out.] Ask forgiveness of her. She--yes--she was so fine--I feel
she--so you are forgiven. Good-by. [He goes. The motor is heard driving
off. There is a tense pause.]

LILY--Then he did find out? Oh, a fine mess you've made of everything!
But no--I should say "we," shouldn't I? Curt guessed that. Oh, I hate
you--and myself! [She breaks down.]

[There is a strained pause during which they are all silent, their eyes
avoiding each other, fixed in dull, stupid stares. Finally, DICK
fidgets uncomfortably, heaves a noisy sigh, and blurts out with an
attempt at comforting reassurance:]

DICK--Well, it isn't as bad as it might have been, anyway. He did
acknowledge the kid--before witnesses, too.

JAYSON--[Testily.] Keep your remarks to yourself, if you please! [But
most of his family are already beginning to look relieved.]

[The Curtain Falls]

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