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SCENE TWO





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A half hour later--Exterior--Eben is standing by the gate looking up at the sky, an expression of dumb pain bewildered by itself on his face. Cabot appears, returning from the barn, walking wearily, his eyes on the ground. He sees Eben and his whole mood immediately changes. He becomes excited, a cruel, triumphant grin comes to his lips, he strides up and slaps Eben on the back. From within comes the whining of the fiddle and the noise of stamping feet and laughing voices.

 

CABOT--So har ye be!

EBEN--(startled, stares at him with hatred for a moment--then dully) Ay-eh.

CABOT--(surveying him jeeringly) Why hain't ye been in t' dance? They was all axin' fur ye.

EBEN--Let 'em ax!

CABOT--They's a hull passel o' purty gals.

EBEN--T' hell with 'em!

CABOT--Ye'd ought t' be marryin' one o' 'em soon.

EBEN--I hain't marryin' no one.

CABOT--Ye might 'arn a share o' a farm that way.

EBEN--(with a sneer) Like yew did, ye mean? I hain't that kind.

CABOT--(stung) Ye lie! 'Twas yer Maw's folks aimed t' steal my farm from me.

EBEN--Other folks don't say so. (after a pause--defiantly) An' I got a farm, anyways!

CABOT--(derisively) Whar?

EBEN--(stamps a foot on the ground) Har!

CABOT--(throws his head back and laughs coarsely) Ho-ho! Ye hev, hev ye? Waal, that's a good un!

EBEN--(controlling himself--grimly) Ye'll see!

CABOT--(stares at him suspiciously, trying to make him out--a pause--then with scornful confidence) Ay-eh. I'll see. So'll ye. It's ye that's blind--blind as a mole underground. (Eben suddenly laughs, one short sardonic bark: Ha. A pause. Cabot peers at him with renewed suspicion.) What air ye hawin' 'bout? (Eben turns away without answering. Cabot grows angry.) God A'mighty, yew air a dumb dunce! They's nothin' in that thick skull o' your'n but noise--like a empty keg it be! (Eben doesn't seem to hear. Cabot's rage grows.) Yewr farm! God A'mighty! If ye wa'n't a born donkey ye'd know ye'll never own stick nor stone on it, specially now arter him bein' born. It's his'n, I tell ye--his'n arter I die--but I'll live a hundred jest t' fool ye all--an' he'll be growed then--yewr age a'most! (Eben laughs again his sardonic Ha. This drives Cabot into a fury.) Ha? Ye think ye kin git 'round that someways, do ye? Waal, it'll be her'n, too--Abbie's--ye won't git 'round her--she knows yer tricks--she'll be too much fur ye--she wants the farm her'n--she was afeerd o' ye--she told me ye was sneakin' 'round tryin' t' make love t' her t' git her on yer side . . . ye . . . ye mad fool, ye! (He raises his clenched fists threateningly.)

EBEN--(is confronting him, choking with rage) Ye lie, ye old skunk! Abbie never said no sech thing!

CABOT--(suddenly triumphant when he sees how shaken Eben is) She did. An' I says, I'll blow his brains t' the top o' them elums--an' she says no, that hain't sense, who'll ye git t' help ye on the farm in his place--an' then she says yew'n me ought t' have a son--I know we kin, she says--an' I says, if we do, ye kin have anythin' I've got ye've a mind t'. An' she says, I wants Eben cut off so's this farm'll be mine when ye die! (with terrible gloating) An' that's what's happened, hain't it? An' the farm's her'n! An' the dust o' the road--that's your'n! Ha! Now who's hawin'?

EBEN--(has been listening, petrified with grief and rage--suddenly laughs wildly and brokenly) Ha-ha-ha! So that's her sneakin' game--all along!--like I suspicioned at fust--t' swaller it all--an' me, too . . . ! (madly) I'll murder her! (He springs toward the porch, but Cabot is quicker and gets in between.)

CABOT--No, ye don't!

EBEN--Git out o' my road! (He tries to throw Cabot aside. They grapple in what becomes immediately a murderous struggle. The old man's concentrated strength is too much for Eben. Cabot gets one hand on his throat and presses him back across the stone wall. At the same moment, Abbie comes out on the porch. With a stifled cry she runs toward them.)

ABBIE--Eben! Ephraim! (She tugs at the hand on Eben's throat.) Let go, Ephraim! Ye're chokin' him!

CABOT--(removes his hand and flings Eben sideways full length on the grass, gasping and choking. With a cry, Abbie kneels beside him, trying to take his head on her lap, but he pushes her away. Cabot stands looking down with fierce triumph.) Ye needn't t've fret, Abbie, I wa'n't aimin' t' kill him. He hain't wuth hangin' fur--not by a hell of a sight! (more and more triumphantly) Seventy-six an' him not thirty yit--an' look whar he be fur thinkin' his Paw was easy! No, by God, I hain't easy! An' him upstairs, I'll raise him t' be like me! (He turns to leave them.) I'm goin' in an' dance!--sing an' celebrate! (He walks to the porch--then turns with a great grin.) I don't calc'late it's left in him, but if he gits pesky, Abbie, ye jest sing out. I'll come a-runnin' an' by the Etarnal, I'll put him across my knee an' birch him! Ha-ha-ha! (He goes into the house laughing. A moment later his loud "whoop" is heard.)

ABBIE--(tenderly) Eben. Air ye hurt? (She tries to kiss him, but he pushes her violently away and struggles to a sitting position.)

EBEN--(gaspingly) T' hell--with ye.

ABBIE--(not believing her ears) It's me, Eben--Abbie--don't ye know me?

EBEN--(glowering at her with hatred) Ay-eh--I know ye--now! (He suddenly breaks down, sobbing weakly.)

ABBIE--(fearfully) Eben--what's happened t' ye--why did ye look at me 's if ye hated me?

EBEN--(violently, between sobs and gasps) I do hate ye! Ye're a whore--a damn trickin' whore!

ABBIE--(shrinking back horrified) Eben! Ye don't know what ye're sayin'!

EBEN--(scrambling to his feet and following her--accusingly) Ye're nothin' but a stinkin' passel o' lies! Ye've been lyin' t' me every word ye spoke, day an' night, since we fust--done it. Ye've kept sayin' ye loved me. . . .

ABBIE--(frantically) I do love ye! (She takes his hand, but he flings hers away.)

EBEN--(unheeding) Ye've made a fool o' me--a sick, dumb fool--a-purpose! Ye've been on'y playin' yer sneakin', stealin' game all along--gittin' me t' lie with ye so's ye'd hev a son he'd think was his'n, an' makin' him promise he'd give ye the farm and let me eat dust, if ye did git him a son! (staring at her with anguished, bewildered eyes) They must be a devil livin' in ye! T'ain't human t' be as bad as that be!

ABBIE--(stunned--dully) He told yew . . . ?

EBEN--Hain't it true? It hain't no good in yew lyin'.

ABBIE--(pleadingly) Eben, listen--ye must listen--it was long ago--afore we done nothin'--yew was scornin' me--goin' t' see Min--when I was lovin' ye--an' I said it t' him t' git vengeance on ye!

EBEN--(unheedingly--with tortured passion) I wish ye was dead! I wish I was dead along with ye afore this come! (ragingly) But I'll git my vengeance too! I'll pray Maw t' come back t' help me--t' put her cuss on yew an' him!

ABBIE--(brokenly) Don't ye, Eben! Don't ye! (She throws herself on her knees before him, weeping.) I didn't mean t' do bad t' ye! Fergive me, won't ye?

EBEN--(not seeming to hear her--fiercely) I'll git squar' with the old skunk--an' yew! I'll tell him the truth 'bout the son he's so proud o'! Then I'll leave ye here t' pizen each other--with Maw comin' out o' her grave at nights--an' I'll go t' the gold fields o' Californi-a whar Sim an' Peter be!

ABBIE--(terrified) Ye won't--leave me? Ye can't!

EBEN--(with fierce determination) I'm a-goin', I tell ye! I'll git rich thar an' come back an' fight him fur the farm he stole--an' I'll kick ye both out in the road--t' beg an' sleep in the woods--an' yer son along with ye--t' starve an' die! (He is hysterical at the end.)

ABBIE--(with a shudder--humbly) He's yewr son, too, Eben.

EBEN--(torturedly) I wish he never was born! I wish he'd die this minit! I wish I'd never sot eyes on him! It's him--yew havin' him--a-purpose t' steal--that's changed everythin'!

ABBIE--(gently) Did ye believe I loved ye--afore he come?

EBEN--Ay-eh--like a dumb ox!

ABBIE--An' ye don't believe no more?

EBEN--B'lieve a lyin' thief! Ha!

ABBIE--(shudders--then humbly) An' did ye r'ally love me afore?

EBEN--(brokenly) Ay-eh--an' ye was trickin' me!

ABBIE--An' ye don't love me now!

EBEN--(violently) I hate ye, I tell ye!

ABBIE--An' ye're truly goin' West--goin't' leave me--all account o' him being born?

EBEN--I'm a-goin' in the mornin'--or may God strike me t' hell!

ABBIE--(after a pause--with a dreadful cold intensity--slowly) If that's what his comin's done t' me--killin' yewr love--takin' yew away--my on'y joy--the on'y joy I ever knowed--like heaven t' me--purtier'n heaven--then I hate him, too, even if I be his Maw!

EBEN--(brokenly) Lies! Ye love him! He'll steal the farm fur ye! (brokenly) But t'ain't the farm so much--not no more--it's yew foolin' me--gittin' me t' love ye--lyin' yew loved me--jest t' git a son t' steal!

ABBIE--(distractedly) He won't steal! I'd kill him fust! I do love ye! I'll prove t' ye . . . !

EBEN--(harshly) T'ain't no use lyin' no more. I'm deaf t' ye! (He turns away.) I hain't seein' ye agen. Good-by!

ABBIE--(pale with anguish) Hain't ye even goin' t' kiss me--not once--arter all we loved?

EBEN--(in a hard voice) I hain't wantin' t' kiss ye never agen! I'm wantin' t' forgit I ever sot eyes on ye!

ABBIE--Eben!--ye mustn't--wait a spell--I want t' tell ye . . .

EBEN--I'm a-goin' in t' git drunk. I'm a-goin' t' dance.

ABBIE--(clinging to his arm--with passionate earnestness) If I could make it--'s if he'd never come up between us--if I could prove t' ye I wa'n't schemin' t' steal from ye--so's everythin' could be jest the same with us, lovin' each other jest the same, kissin' an' happy the same's we've been happy afore he come--if I could do it--ye'd love me agen, wouldn't ye? Ye'd kiss me agen? Ye wouldn't never leave me, would ye?

EBEN--(moved) I calc'late not. (then shaking her hand off his arm--with a bitter smile) But ye hain't God, be ye?

ABBIE--(exultantly) Remember ye've promised! (then with strange intensity) Mebbe I kin take back one thin' God does!

EBEN--(peering at her) Ye're gittin' cracked, hain't ye? (then going towards door) I'm a-goin' t' dance.

ABBIE--(calls after him intensely) I'll prove t' ye! I'll prove I love ye better'n. . . . (He goes in the door, not seeming to hear. She remains standing where she is, looking after him--then she finishes desperately) Better'n everythin' else in the world!

 

 

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