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SCENE FOUR





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Same as Scene Two--shows the interior of the kitchen with a lighted candle on table. It is gray dawn outside. Simeon and Peter are just finishing their breakfast. Eben sits before his plate of untouched food, brooding frowningly.

 

PETER--(glancing at him rather irritably) Lookin' glum don't help none.

SIMEON--(sarcastically) Sorrowin' over his lust o' the flesh!

PETER--(with a grin) Was she yer fust?

EBEN--(angrily) None o' yer business. (a pause) I was thinkin' o' him. I got a notion he's gittin' near--I kin feel him comin' on like yew kin feel malaria chill afore it takes ye.

PETER--It's too early yet.

SIMEON--Dunno. He'd like t' catch us nappin'--jest t' have somethin' t' hoss us 'round over.

PETER--(mechanically gets to his feet. Simeon does the same.) Waal--let's git t' wuk. (They both plod mechanically toward the door before they realize. Then they stop short.)

SIMEON--(grinning) Ye're a cussed fool, Pete--and I be wuss! Let him see we hain't wukin'! We don't give a durn!

PETER--(as they go back to the table) Not a damned durn! It'll serve t' show him we're done with him. (They sit down again. Eben stares from one to the other with surprise.)

SIMEON--(grins at him) We're aimin' t' start bein' lilies o' the field.

PETER--Nary a toil 'r spin 'r lick o' wuk do we put in!

SIMEON--Ye're sole owner--till he comes--that's what ye wanted. Waal, ye got t' be sole hand, too.

PETER--The cows air bellerin'. Ye better hustle at the milkin'.

EBEN--(with excited joy) Ye mean ye'll sign the paper?

SIMEON--(dryly) Mebbe.

PETER--Mebbe.

SIMEON--We're considerin'. (peremptorily) Ye better git t' wuk.

EBEN--(with queer excitement) It's Maw's farm agen! It's my farm! Them's my cows! I'll milk my durn fingers off fur cows o' mine! (He goes out door in rear, they stare after him indifferently.)

SIMEON--Like his Paw.

PETER--Dead spit 'n' image!

SIMEON--Waal--let dog eat dog! (Eben comes out of front door and around the corner of the house. The sky is beginning to grow flushed with sunrise. Eben stops by the gate and stares around him with glowing, possessive eyes. He takes in the whole farm with his embracing glance of desire.)

EBEN--It's purty! It's damned purty! It's mine! (He suddenly throws his head back boldly and glares with hard, defiant eyes at the sky.) Mine, d'ye hear? Mine! (He turns and walks quickly off left, rear, toward the barn. The two brothers light their pipes.)

SIMEON--(putting his muddy boots up on the table, tilting back his chair, and puffing defiantly) Waal--this air solid comfort--fur once.

PETER--Ay-eh. (He follows suit. A pause. Unconsciously they both sigh.)

SIMEON--(suddenly) He never was much o' a hand at milkin', Eben wa'n't.

PETER--(with a snort) His hands air like hoofs! (a pause)

SIMEON--Reach down the jug thar! Let's take a swaller. I'm feelin' kind o' low.

PETER--Good idee! (He does so--gets two glasses--they pour out drinks of whisky.) Here's t' the gold in Californi-a!

SIMEON--An' luck t' find it! (They drink--puff resolutely--sigh--take their feet down from the table.)

PETER--Likker don't 'pear t' sot right.

SIMEON--We hain't used t' it this early. (A pause. They become very restless.)

PETER--Gittin' close in this kitchen.

SIMEON--(with immense relief) Let's git a breath o' air. (They arise briskly and go out rear--appear around house and stop by the gate. They stare up at the sky with a numbed appreciation.)

PETER--Purty!

SIMEON--Ay-eh. Gold's t' the East now.

PETER--Sun's startin' with us fur the Golden West.

SIMEON--(staring around the farm, his compressed face tightened, unable to conceal his emotion) Waal--it's our last mornin'--mebbe.

PETER--(the same) Ay-eh.

SIMEON--(stamps his foot on the earth and addresses it desperately) Waal--ye've thirty year o' me buried in ye--spread out over ye--blood an' bone an' sweat--rotted away--fertilizin' ye--richin' yer soul--prime manure, by God, that's what I been t' ye!

PETER--Ay-eh! An' me!

SIMEON--An' yew, Peter. (He sighs--then spits.) Waal--no use'n cryin' over spilt milk.

PETER--They's gold in the West--an' freedom, mebbe. We been slaves t' stone walls here.

SIMEON--(defiantly) We hain't nobody's slaves from this out--nor no thin's slaves nuther. (a pause--restlessly) Speakin' o' milk, wonder how Eben's managin'?

PETER--I s'pose he's managin'.

SIMEON--Mebbe we'd ought t' help--this once.

PETER--Mebbe. The cows knows us.

SIMEON--An' likes us. They don't know him much.

PETER--An' the hosses, an' pigs, an' chickens. They don't know him much.

SIMEON--They knows us like brothers--an' likes us! (proudly) Hain't we raised 'em t' be fust-rate, number one prize stock?

PETER--We hain't--not no more.

SIMEON--(dully) I was fergittin'. (then resignedly) Waal, let's go help Eben a spell an' git waked up.

PETER--Suits me. (They are starting off down left, rear, for the barn when Eben appears from there hurrying toward them, his face excited.)

EBEN--(breathlessly) Waal--har they be! The old mule an' the bride! I seen 'em from the barn down below at the turnin'.

PETER--How could ye tell that far?

EBEN--Hain't I as far-sight as he's near-sight? Don't I know the mare 'n' buggy, an' two people settin' in it? Who else . . . ? An' I tell ye I kin feel 'em a-comin', too! (He squirms as if he had the itch.)

PETER--(beginning to be angry) Waal--let him do his own unhitchin'!

SIMEON--(angry in his turn) Let's hustle in an' git our bundles an' be a-goin' as he's a-comin'. I don't want never t' step inside the door agen arter he's back. (They both start back around the corner of the house. Eben follows them.)

EBEN--(anxiously) Will ye sign it afore ye go?

PETER--Let's see the color o' the old skinflint's money an' we'll sign. (They disappear left. The two brothers clump upstairs to get their bundles. Eben appears in the kitchen, runs to window, peers out, comes back and pulls up a strip of flooring in under stove, takes out a canvas bag and puts it on table, then sets the floorboard back in place. The two brothers appear a moment after. They carry old carpet bags.)

EBEN--(puts his hand on bag guardingly) Have ye signed?

SIMEON--(shows paper in his hand) Ay-eh. (greedily) Be that the money?

EBEN--(opens bag and pours out pile of twenty-dollar gold pieces) Twenty-dollar pieces--thirty on 'em. Count 'em. (Peter does so, arranging them in stacks of five, biting one or two to test them.)

PETER--Six hundred. (He puts them in bag and puts it inside his shirt carefully.)

SIMEON--(handing paper to Eben) Har ye be.

EBEN--(after a glance, folds it carefully and hides it under his shirt--gratefully) Thank yew.

PETER--Thank yew fur the ride.

SIMEON--We'll send ye a lump o' gold fur Christmas. (A pause. Eben stares at them and they at him.)

PETER--(awkwardly) Waal--we're a-goin'.

SIMEON--Comin' out t' the yard?

EBEN--No. I'm waitin' in here a spell. (Another silence. The brothers edge awkwardly to door in rear--then turn and stand.)

SIMEON--Waal--good-by.

PETER--Good-by.

EBEN--Good-by. (They go out. He sits down at the table, faces the stove and pulls out the paper. He looks from it to the stove. His face, lighted up by the shaft of sunlight from the window, has an expression of trance. His lips move. The two brothers come out to the gate.)

PETER--(looking off toward barn) Thar he be--unhitchin'.

SIMEON--(with a chuckle) I'll bet ye he's riled!

PETER--An' thar she be.

SIMEON--Let's wait 'n' see what our new Maw looks like.

PETER--(with a grin) An' give him our partin' cuss!

SIMEON--(grinning) I feel like raisin' fun. I feel light in my head an' feet.

PETER--Me, too. I feel like laffin' till I'd split up the middle.

SIMEON--Reckon it's the likker?

PETER--No. My feet feel itchin' t' walk an' walk--an' jump high over thin's--an'. . . .

SIMEON--Dance? (a pause)

PETER--(puzzled) It's plumb onnateral.

SIMEON--(a light coming over his face) I calc'late it's 'cause school's out. It's holiday. Fur once we're free!

PETER--(dazedly) Free?

SIMEON--The halter's broke--the harness is busted--the fence bars is down--the stone walls air crumblin' an' tumblin'! We'll be kickin' up an' tearin' away down the road!

PETER--(drawing a deep breath--oratorically) Anybody that wants this stinkin' old rock-pile of a farm kin hev it. T'ain't our'n, no sirree!

SIMEON--(takes the gate off its hinges and puts it under his arm) We harby 'bolishes shet gates, an' open gates, an' all gates, by thunder!

PETER--We'll take it with us fur luck an' let 'er sail free down some river.

SIMEON--(as a sound of voices comes from left, rear) Har they comes! (The two brothers congeal into two stiff, grim-visaged statues. Ephraim Cabot and Abbie Putnam come in. Cabot is seventy-five, tall and gaunt, with great, wiry, concentrated power, but stoop-shouldered from toil. His face is as hard as if it were hewn out of a boulder, yet there is a weakness in it, a petty pride in its own narrow strength. His eyes are small, close together, and extremely near-sighted, blinking continually in the effort to focus on objects, their stare having a straining, ingrowing quality. He is dressed in his dismal black Sunday suit. Abbie is thirty-five, buxom, full of vitality. Her round face is pretty but marred by its rather gross sensuality. There is strength and obstinacy in her jaw, a hard determination in her eyes, and about her whole personality the same unsettled, untamed, desperate quality which is so apparent in Eben.)

CABOT--(as they enter--a queer strangled emotion in his dry cracking voice) Har we be t' hum, Abbie.

ABBIE--(with lust for the word) Hum! (her eyes gloating on the house without seeming to see the two stiff figures at the gate) It's purty--purty! I can't b'lieve it's r'ally mine.

CABOT--(sharply) Yewr'n? Mine! (He stares at her penetratingly. She stares back. He adds relentingly) Our'n--mebbe! It was lonesome too long. I was growin' old in the spring. A hum's got t' hev a woman.

ABBIE--(her voice taking possession) A woman's got t' hev a hum!

CABOT--(nodding uncertainly) Ay-eh. (then irritably) Whar be they? Ain't thar nobody about--'r wukin'--'r nothin'?

ABBIE--(sees the brothers. She returns their stare of cold appraising contempt with interest--slowly) Thar's two men loafin' at the gate an' starin' at me like a couple o' strayed hogs.

CABOT--(straining his eyes) I kin see 'em--but I can't make out. . . .

SIMEON--It's Simeon.

PETER--It's Peter.

CABOT--(exploding) Why hain't ye wukin'?

SIMEON--(dryly) We're waitin' t' welcome ye hum--yew an' the bride!

CABOT--(confusedly) Huh? Waal--this be yer new Maw, boys. (She stares at them and they at her.)

SIMEON--(turns away and spits contemptuously) I see her!

PETER--(spits also) An' I see her!

ABBIE--(with the conqueror's conscious superiority) I'll go in an' look at my house. (She goes slowly around to porch.)

SIMEON--(with a snort) Her house!

PETER--(calls after her) Ye'll find Eben inside. Ye better not tell him it's yewr house.

ABBIE--(mouthing the name) Eben. (then quietly) I'll tell Eben.

CABOT--(with a contemptuous sneer) Ye needn't heed Eben. Eben's a dumb fool--like his Maw--soft an' simple!

SIMEON--(with his sardonic burst of laughter) Ha! Eben's a chip o' yew--spit 'n' image--hard 'n' bitter's a hickory tree! Dog'll eat dog. He'll eat ye yet, old man!

CABOT--(commandingly) Ye git t' wuk!

SIMEON--(as Abbie disappears in house--winks at Peter and says tauntingly) So that thar's our new Maw, be it? Whar in hell did ye dig her up? (He and Peter laugh.)

PETER--Ha! Ye'd better turn her in the pen with the other sows. (They laugh uproariously, slapping their thighs.)

CABOT--(so amazed at their effrontery that he stutters in confusion) Simeon! Peter! What's come over ye? Air ye drunk?

SIMEON--We're free, old man--free o' yew an' the hull damned farm! (They grow more and more hilarious and excited.)

PETER--An' we're startin' out fur the gold fields o' Californi-a!

SIMEON--Ye kin take this place an' burn it!

PETER--An' bury it--fur all we cares!

SIMEON--We're free, old man! (He cuts a caper.)

PETER--Free! (He gives a kick in the air.)

SIMEON--(in a frenzy) Whoop.

PETER--Whoop! (They do an absurd Indian war dance about the old man, who is petrified between rage and the fear that they are insane.)

SIMEON--We're free as Injuns! Lucky we don't skulp ye!

PETER--An' burn yer barn an' kill the stock!

SIMEON--An' rape yer new woman! Whoop! (He and Peter stop their dance, holding their sides, rocking with wild laughter.)

CABOT--(edging away) Lust fur gold--fur the sinful, easy gold o' Californi-a! It's made ye mad!

SIMEON--(tauntingly) Wouldn't ye like us to send ye back some sinful gold, ye old sinner?

PETER--They's gold besides what's in Californi-a! (He retreats back beyond the vision of the old man and takes the bag of money and flaunts it in the air above his head, laughing.)

SIMEON--And sinfuller, too!

PETER--We'll be voyagin' on the sea! Whoop! (He leaps up and down.)

SIMEON--Livin' free! Whoop! (He leaps in turn.)

CABOT--(suddenly roaring with rage) My cuss on ye!

SIMEON--Take our'n in trade fur it! Whoop!

CABOT--I'll hev ye both chained up in the asylum!

PETER--Ye old skinflint! Good-by!

SIMEON--Ye old blood sucker! Good-by!

CABOT--Go afore I . . . !

PETER--Whoop! (He picks a stone from the road. Simeon does the same.)

SIMEON--Maw'll be in the parlor.

PETER--Ay-eh! One! Two!

CABOT--(frightened) What air ye . . . ?

PETER--Three! (They both throw, the stones hitting the parlor window with a crash of glass, tearing the shade.)

SIMEON--Whoop!

PETER--Whoop!

CABOT--(in a fury now, rushing toward them) If I kin lay hands on ye--I'll break yer bones fur ye! (But they beat a capering retreat before him, Simeon with the gate still under his arm. Cabot comes back, panting with impotent rage. Their voices as they go off take up the song of the gold-seekers to the old tune of "Oh, Susannah!"

 

"I jumped aboard the Liza ship,
And traveled on the sea,
And every time I thought of home
I wished it wasn't me!
Oh! Californi-a,
That's the land fur me!
I'm off to Californi-a!
With my wash bowl on my knee."

 

(In the meantime, the window of the upper bedroom on right is raised and Abbie sticks her head out. She looks down at Cabot--with a sigh of relief)

ABBIE--Waal--that's the last o' them two, hain't it? (He doesn't answer. Then in possessive tones) This here's a nice bedroom, Ephraim. It's a r'al nice bed. Is it my room, Ephraim?

CABOT--(grimly--without looking up) Our'n! (She cannot control a grimace of aversion and pulls back her head slowly and shuts the window. A sudden horrible thought seems to enter Cabot's head.) They been up to somethin'! Mebbe--mebbe they've pizened the stock--'r somethin'! (He almost runs off down toward the barn. A moment later the kitchen door is slowly pushed open and Abbie enters. For a moment she stands looking at Eben. He does not notice her at first. Her eyes take him in penetratingly with a calculating appraisal of his strength as against hers. But under this her desire is dimly awakened by his youth and good looks. Suddenly he becomes conscious of her presence and looks up. Their eyes meet. He leaps to his feet, glowering at her speechlessly.)

ABBIE--(in her most seductive tones which she uses all through this scene) Be you--Eben? I'm Abbie--(She laughs.) I mean, I'm yer new Maw.

EBEN--(viciously) No, damn ye!

ABBIE--(as if she hadn't heard--with a queer smile) Yer Paw's spoke a lot o' yew. . . .

EBEN--Ha!

ABBIE--Ye mustn't mind him. He's an old man. (A long pause. They stare at each other.) I don't want t' pretend playin' Maw t' ye, Eben. (admiringly) Ye're too big an' too strong fur that. I want t' be frens with ye. Mebbe with me fur a fren ye'd find ye'd like livin' here better. I kin make it easy fur ye with him, mebbe. (with a scornful sense of power) I calc'late I kin git him t' do most anythin' fur me.

EBEN--(with bitter scorn) Ha! (They stare again, Eben obscurely moved, physically attracted to her--in forced stilted tones) Yew kin go t' the devil!

ABBIE--(calmly) If cussin' me does ye good, cuss all ye've a mind t'. I'm all prepared t' have ye agin me--at fust. I don't blame ye nuther. I'd feel the same at any stranger comin' t' take my Maw's place. (He shudders. She is watching him carefully.) Yew must've cared a lot fur yewr Maw, didn't ye? My Maw died afore I'd growed. I don't remember her none. (a pause) But yew won't hate me long, Eben. I'm not the wust in the world--an' yew an' me've got a lot in common. I kin tell that by lookin' at ye. Waal--I've had a hard life, too--oceans o' trouble an' nuthin' but wuk fur reward. I was a orphan early an' had t' wuk fur others in other folks' hums. Then I married an' he turned out a drunken spreer an' so he had to wuk fur others an' me too agen in other folks' hums, an' the baby died, an' my husband got sick an' died too, an' I was glad sayin' now I'm free fur once, on'y I diskivered right away all I was free fur was t' wuk agen in other folks' hums, doin' other folks' wuk till I'd most give up hope o' ever doin' my own wuk in my own hum, an' then your Paw come. . . . (Cabot appears returning from the barn. He comes to the gate and looks down the road the brothers have gone. A faint strain of their retreating voices is heard: "Oh, Californi-a! That's the place for me." He stands glowering, his fist clenched, his face grim with rage.)

EBEN--(fighting against his growing attraction and sympathy--harshly) An' bought yew--like a harlot! (She is stung and flushes angrily. She has been sincerely moved by the recital of her troubles. He adds furiously) An' the price he's payin' ye--this farm--was my Maw's, damn ye!--an' mine now!

ABBIE--(with a cool laugh of confidence) Yewr'n? We'll see 'bout that! (then strongly) Waal--what if I did need a hum? What else'd I marry an old man like him fur?

EBEN--(maliciously) I'll tell him ye said that!

ABBIE--(smiling) I'll say ye're lyin' a-purpose--an' he'll drive ye off the place!

EBEN--Ye devil!

ABBIE--(defying him) This be my farm--this be my hum--this be my kitchen!

EBEN--(furiously, as if he were going to attack her) Shut up, damn ye!

ABBIE--(walks up to him--a queer coarse expression of desire in her face and body--slowly) An' upstairs--that be my bedroom--an' my bed! (He stares into her eyes, terribly confused and torn. She adds softly) I hain't bad nor mean--'ceptin' fur an enemy--but I got t' fight fur what's due me out o' life, if I ever 'spect t' git it. (then putting her hand on his arm--seductively) Let's yew 'n' me be frens, Eben.

EBEN--(stupidly--as if hypnotized) Ay-eh. (then furiously flinging off her arm) No, ye durned old witch! I hate ye! (He rushes out the door.)

ABBIE--(looks after him smiling satisfiedly--then half to herself, mouthing the word) Eben's nice. (She looks at the table, proudly.) I'll wash up my dishes now. (Eben appears outside, slamming the door behind him. He comes around corner, stops on seeing his father, and stands staring at him with hate.)

CABOT--(raising his arms to heaven in the fury he can no longer control) Lord God o' Hosts, smite the undutiful sons with Thy wust cuss!

EBEN--(breaking in violently) Yew 'n' yewr God! Allus cussin' folks--allus naggin' em!

CABOT--(oblivious to him--summoningly) God o' the old! God o' the lonesome!

EBEN--(mockingly) Naggin' His sheep t' sin! T' hell with yewr God! (Cabot turns. He and Eben glower at each other.)

CABOT--(harshly) So it's yew. I might've knowed it. (shaking his finger threateningly at him) Blasphemin' fool! (then quickly) Why hain't ye t' wuk?

EBEN--Why hain't yew? They've went. I can't wuk it all alone.

CABOT--(contemptuously) Nor noways! I'm wuth ten o' ye yit, old's I be! Ye'll never be more'n half a man! (then, matter-of-factly) Waal--let's git t' the barn. (They go. A last faint note of the "Californi-a" song is heard from the distance. Abbie is washing her dishes.)

 

(The Curtain Falls)

 

 

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