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CHARACTERS MAMMY SAUNDERS
ABE, her grandson, "The Dreamy Kid"
CEELY ANN
IRENE

 
SCENEMammy Saunders' bedroom in a house just off of Carmine Street, New York City. The left of the room, forward, is taken up by a heavy, old-fashioned wooden bedstead with a feather mattress. A gaudy red-and-yellow quilt covers the other bedclothes. In back of the bed, a chest of drawers placed against the left wall. On top of the chest, a small lamp. A rocking-chair stands beside the head of the bed on the right. In the rear wall, toward the right, a low window with ragged white curtains. In the right corner, a washstand with bowl and pitcher. Bottles of medicine, a spoon, a glass, etc., are also on the stand. Farther forward, a door opening on the hall and stairway.

  It is soon after nightfall of a day in early winter. The room is in shadowy half darkness, the only light being a pale glow that seeps through the window from the arc lamp on the nearby corner, and by which the objects in the room can be dimly discerned. The vague outlines of Mammy Sounders' figure lying in the bed can be seen, and her black face stands out in sharp contrast from the pillows that support her head.

  MAMMY SAUNDERS—(weakly) Ceely Ann! (with faint querulousness) Light de lamp, will you? Hits mighty dark in yere. (after a slight pause) Ain't you dar, Ceely Ann? (Receiving no reply she sighs deeply and her limbs move uneasily under the bed­clothes. The door is opened and shut and the stooping form of another colored woman appears in the semi-darkness. She goes to the foot of the bed sobbing softly, and stands there evidently making an effort to control her emotion.)

  MAMMY SAUNDERS—Dot you, Ceely Ann?

  CEELY—(huskily) Hit ain't no yuther, Mammy.

  MAMMY—Light de lamp, den. I can't see no whars.

  CEELY—Des one second till I finds a match. (She wipes her eyes with her handkerchief—then goes to the chest of drawers and feels around on the top of it pretending to grumble) Hit beat all how dem pesky little sticks done hide umse'fs. Shoo! Yere dey is. (She fumbles with the lamp.)

  MAMMY—(suspiciously) You ain't been cryin', is you?

  CEELY—(with feigned astonishment) Cryin'? I clar' ter goodness you does git the mos' fool notions lyin' dar.

  MAMMY—(in a tone of relief) I mos' thought I yeard you.

  CEELY—(lighting the lamp) 'Deed you ain't. (The two women are revealed by the light. Mammy Saunders is an old, white-haired negress about ninety with a weazened face furrowed by wrinkles and withered by old age and sickness. Ceely is a stout woman of fifty or so with grey hair and a round fat face. She wears a loose-fitting gingham dress and a shawl thrown over her head.)

  CEELY—(with attempted cheeriness) Bless yo' soul, I ain't got nothin' to cry 'bout. Yere. Lemme fix you so you'll rest mo' easy. (She lifts the old woman gently and fixes the pillows.) Dere. Now ain't you feelin' better?

  MAMMY—(dully) My strenk don' all went. I can't lift a hand.

  CEELY—(hurriedly) Dat'll all come back ter you de doctor tole me des now when I goes down to de door with him. (glibly) He say you is de mos' strongest 'oman fo' yo' years ever he sees in de worl'; and he tell me you gwine ter be up and walkin' agin fo' de week's out. (As she finds the old woman's eyes fixed on her she turns away confusedly and abruptly changes the subject.) Hit ain't too wo'm in dis room, dat's a fac'.

  MAMMY—(shaking her head—in a half whisper) No, Ceely Ann. Hit ain't no use'n you tellin' me nothin' but de trufe. I feels mighty poo'ly. En I knows hit's on'y wid de blessin' er God I kin las' de night out.

  CEELY—(distractedly) Ain't no sich a thing! Hush yo' noise Mammy!

  MAMMY—(as if she hadn't heard—in a crooning sing-song) I'se gwine soon fum dis wicked yearth—and may de Lawd have mercy on dis po' ole sinner. (after a pause—anxiously) All I'se prayin' fer is dat God don' take me befo' I sees Dreamy agin. What's Dreamy, Ceely Ann? Why ain't he come yere? Ain't you done sent him word I'se sick like I tole you?

  CEELY—I tole dem boys ter tell him speshul, and dey swat dey would soon's dey find him. I s'pose dey ain't kotch him yit. Don' you pester yo'se'f worryin'. Dreamy 'ull come fo' ve'y long.

  MAMMY—(after a pause—weakly) Dere's a feelin' in my haid like I was a-floatin' yander what I can't see nothin', or 'member nothin', or know de sight er any pusson I knows; en I wants ter see Dreamy agin befo'—

  CEELY—(quickly) Don' waste yo strenk talkin'. You git a wink er sleep en I wake you when he comes, you heah me?

  MAMMY—(faintly) I does feel mighty drowsy. (She closes her eyes. Ceely goes over to the window and pulling the curtains aside stands looking down into the street as if she were watching for someone coming. A moment later there is a noise of footfalls from the stairs in the hall, followed by a sharp rap on the door.)

  CEELY—(turning quickly from the window) Ssshh! Ssshh! (She hurries to the door, glancing anxiously toward Mammy. The old woman appears to have fallen asleep. Ceely cautiously opens the door a bare inch or so and peeks out. When she sees who it is she immediately tries to slam it shut again but a vigorous shove from the outside forces her back and Irene pushes her way defiantly into the room. She is a young, good-looking negress, highly rouged and powdered, dressed in gaudy, cheap finery.)

  IRENE—(in a harsh voice—evidently worked up to a great state of nervous excitement) No you don't, Ceely Ann! I said I was cumin' here and it'll take mo'n you to stop me!

  CEELY—(almost speechless with horrified indignation—breathing heavily) Yo' bad 'oman! Git back ter yo' bad-house what yo' b'longs!

  IRENE—(raising her clenched hand furiously) Stop dat talkin' to me, nigger, or I'll split yo' fool head! (As Ceely shrinks away Irene lowers her hand and glances quickly around the room.) What's Dreamy?

  CEELY—(scornfully) Yo' axe me dat! What's Dreamy? Axe yo'se'f. Yo's de one ought ter know whar he is.

  IRENE—Den he ain't come here?

  CEELY—I ain't tellin' de likes er you wedder he is or not.

  IRENE—(pleadingly) Tell me, Ceely Ann, ain't he been here? He'd be sure to come here 'count of Mammy dyin', dey said.

  CEELY—(pointing to Mammy—apprehensively) Ssshh! (then lowering her voice to a whisper—suspiciously) Dey said? Who said?

  IRENE—(equally suspicious) None o' your business who said. (then pleading again) Ceely Ann, I jest got ter see him dis minute, dis secon'! He's in bad, Dreamy is, and I knows somep'n I gotter tell him, somep'n I jest heard—

  CEELY—(uncomprehendingly) In bad? What you jest heah?

  IRENE—I ain't tellin' no one but him. (desperately) For Gawd's sake, tell me what he is, Ceely!

  CEELY—I don' know no mo'n you.

  IRENE—(fiercely) You's lyin', Ceely! You's lyin' ter me jest 'cause I'se bad.

  CEELY—De good Lawd bar witness I'se tellin' you de trufe!

  IRENE—(hopelessly) Den I gotter go find him, high and low, somewheres. (proudly) You ain't got de right not ter trust me, Ceely, where de Dreamy's mixed in it. I'd go ter hell for Dreamy!

  CEELY—(indignantly) Hush yo' wicked cussin'! (then anxiously) Is Dreamy in trouble?

  IRENE—(with a scornful laugh) Trouble? Good Lawd, it's worser'n dat! (then in surprise) Ain't you heard what de Dreamy done last night, Ceely?

  CEELY—(apprehensively) What de Dreamy do? Tell me, gal. Somep'n bad?

  IRENE—(with the same scornful laugh) Bad? Worser'n bad, what he done!

  CEELY—(lamenting querulously) Oh good Lawd, I knowed it! I knowed with all his carryin's-on wid dat passel er tough young niggers—him so uppity 'cause he's de boss er de gang—sleepin' all de day 'stead er workin' an' Lawd knows what he does in de nights—fightin' wid white folks, an' totin' a pistol in his pocket—(with a glance of angry resentment at Irene)—an' as fo' de udder company he's been keepin'—

  IRENE—(fiercely) Shut your mouth, Ceely! Dat ain't your business.

  CEELY—Oh, I knowed Dreamy'd be gittin' in trouble fo' long! De lowflung young trash! An' here's his ole Mammy don' know no dif'frunt but he's de mos' innercent young lamb in de worl'. (in a strained whisper) What he do? Is he been stealin' somep'n?

  IRENE—(angrily) You go ter hell, Ceely Ann! You ain't no fren' of de Dreamy's, you talk dat way, and I ain't got no time ter waste argyin' wid your fool notions. (She goes to the door.) Dreamy'll go ter his death sho's yo' born, if I don't find him an' tell him quick!

  CEELY—(terrified) Oh Lawd!

  IRENE—(anxiously) He'll sho'ly try ter come here and see his ole Mammy befo' she dies, don't you think, Ceely?

  CEELY—Fo' Gawd I hopes so! She's been a-prayin' all de day—

  IRENE—(opening the door) You hopes so, you fool nigger! I tells you it's good-bye to de Dreamy, he come here! I knows! I gotter find an' stop him. If he come here, Ceely, you tell him git out quick and hide, he don't wanter git pinched. You hear? You tell him dat, Ceely, for Gawd's sake! I'se got ter go—find him—high an' low—(She goes out leaving Ceely staring at her in speechless indignation.)

  CEELY—(drawing a deep breath) Yo' street gal! I don' b'lieve one word you says—stuffin' me wid yo' bad lies so's you kin keep de Dreamy frum leavin' you! (Mammy Saunders awakes and groans faintly. Ceely hurries over to her bedside.) Is de pain hurtin' agin, Mammy?

  MAMMY—(vaguely) Dat you, Dreamy?

  CEELY—No, Mammy, dis is Ceely. Dreamy's cumin' soon. Is you restin' easy?

  MAMMY—(as if she hadn't heard) Dat you, Dreamy?

  CEELY—(sitting down in the rocker by the bed and taking one of the old woman's hands in hers) No. Dreamy's cumin'.

  MAMMY—(after a pause—suddenly) Does you 'member yo' dead Mammy, chile?

  CEELY—(mystified) My dead Mammy?

  MAMMY—Didn' I heah yo' talkin' jest now, Dreamy?

  CEELY—(very worried) I clar ter goodness, she don' know me ary bit. Dis is Ceely Ann talkin' ter yo', Mammy.

  MAMMY—Who was yo' talkin' wid, Dreamy?

  CEELY—(shaking her head—in a trembling voice) Hit can't be long befo' de en'. (in a louder tone) Hit was me talkin' wid a pusson f um ovah de way. She say tell you Dreamy cumin' heah ter see yo' right away. You heah dat, Mammy? (The old woman sighs but does not answer. There is a pause.)

  MAMMY—(suddenly) Does yo' 'member yo' dead Mammy, chile? (then with a burst of religious exaltation) De Lawd have mercy!

  CEELY—(like an echo) Bless de Lawd! (then in a frightened half-whisper to herself) Po' thing! Her min's done leavin' her jest like de doctor said. (She looks down at the old woman helplessly. The door on the right is opened stealthily and the Dreamy Kid slinks in on tiptoe.)

  CEELY—(hearing a board creak, turns quickly toward the door and gives a frightened start) Dreamy!

  DREAMY—(puts his fingers to his lips—commandingly) Ssshh! (He bends down to a crouching position and holding the door about an inch open, peers out into the hallway in an attitude of tense waiting, one hand evidently clutching some weapon in the side pocket of his coat. After a moment he is satisfied of not being followed, and, after closing the door carefully and locking it, he stands up and walks to the center of the room casting a look of awed curiosity at the figure in the bed. He is a well-built, good looking young negro, light in color. His eyes are shifty and hard, their expression one of tough, scornful defiance. His mouth is cruel and perpetually drawn back at the corner into a snarl. He is dressed in well-fitting clothes of a flashy pattern. A light cap is pulled down on the side of his bead.)

  CEELY—(coming from the bed to meet him) Bless de Lawd, here you is at las'!

  DREAMY—(with a warning gesture) Nix on de loud talk! Talk low, can't yuh! (He glances back at the door furtively—then continues with a sneer) Yuh're a fine nut, Ceely Ann! What for you sendin' out all ober de town for me like you was crazy! D'yuh want ter git me in de cooler? Don' you know dey're after me for what I done last night?

  CEELY—(fearfully) I heerd somep'n—but—what you done, Dreamy?

  DREAMY—(with an attempt at a careless bravado) I croaked a guy, dat's what! A white man.

  CEELY—(in a frightened whisper) What you mean—croaked?

  DREAMY—(boastfully) I shot him dead, dat's what! (as Ceely shrinks away from him in horror—resentfully) Aw say, don' gimme none o'dem looks o'yourn. 'T'warn't my doin' nohow. He was de one lookin' for trouble. I wasn't seekin' for no mess wid him dat I would help. But he tole folks he was gwine ter git me for a fac', and dat fo'ced my hand. I had ter git him ter pertect my own life. (with cruel satisfaction) And I got him right, you b'lieve me!

  CEELY—(putting her hands over her face with a low moan of terror) May de good Lawd pardon yo' wickedness! Oh Lawd! What yo' po' ole Mammy gwine say if she hear tell—an' she never knowin' how bad you's got.

  DREAMY—(fiercely) Hell! You ain't tole her, is you?

  CEELY—Think I want ter kill her on the instant? An' I didn' know myse'f—what you done—till you tells me. (frightenedly) Oh, Dreamy, what you gwine do now? How you gwine git away? (almost wailing) Good Lawd, de perlice gun' kotch you suah!

  DREAMY—(savagely) Shut yo' loud mouth, damn yo'! (He stands tensely listening for some sound from the hall. After a moment he points to the bed.) Is Mammy sleepin'?

  CEELY—(tiptoes to the bed) Seems like she is. (She comes back to him.) Dat's de way wid her—sleep fo' a few minutes, den she wake, den sleep agin.

  DREAMY—(scornfully) Aw, dere ain't nothin' wrong wid her 'ceptin' she's ole. What yuh wanter send de word tellin' me she's croakin', and git me cumin' here at de risk o' my life, and den find her sleepin'. (clenching his fist threateningly) I gutter mind ter smash yo' face for playin' de damn fool and makin' me de goat. (He turns toward the door.) Ain't no us'en me stayin' here when dey'll likely come lookin' for me. I'm gwine out where I gotta chance ter make my git-away. De boys is all fixin' it up for me. (his hand on the doorknob) When Mammy wakes, you tell her I couldn't wait, you hear?

  CEELY—(hurrying to him and grabbing his arm pleadingly) Don' yo' go now, Dreamy—not jest yit. Fo' de good Lawd's sake, don' yo' go befo' you speaks wid her! If yo' knew how she's been a-callin' an' a-playin' for yo' all de day—

  DREAMY—(scornfully but a bit uncertainly) Aw, she don' need none o' me. What good kin I do watchin' her do a kip? It'd be dif £runt if she was croakin' on de level.

  CEELY—(in an anguished whisper) She's gwine wake up in a secon' an' den she call: "Dreamy. What's Dreamy?"—an' what I gwine tell her den? An' yo' Mammy is dyin', Dreamy, sho's fate! Her min' been wanderin' an' she don' even recernize me no mo', an' de doctor say when dat come it ain't but a sho't time befo' de en'. Yo' gotter stay wid yo' Mammy long 'nuff ter speak wid her, Dreamy. Yo' jest gotter stay wid her in her las' secon's on dis yearth when she's callin' ter yo'. (with conviction as he hesitates) Listen heah, yo' Dreamy! Yo' don' never git no bit er luck in dis worril ary agin, yo' leaves her now. De perlice gon' kotch yo' suah.

  DREAMY—(with superstitious fear) Ssshh! Can dat bull, Ceely! (then boastfully) I wasn't pinin' to beat it up here, git me? De boys was all persuadin' me not ter take de chance. It's takin' my life in my hands, dat's what. But when I heerd it was ole Mammy croakin' and axin' ter see me, I says ter myse'f: "Dreamy, you gotter make good wid ole Mammy no matter what come—or you don' never git a bit of luck in yo' life no more." And I was game and come, wasn't I? Nary body in dis worril kin say de Dreamy ain't game ter de core, n'matter what. (With sudden decision walks to the foot of the bed and stands looking down at Mammy. A note of fear creeps into his voice.) Gawd, she's quiet 'nuff. Maybe she done passed away in her sleep like de ole ones does. You go see, Ceely; an' if she's on'y sleepin', you wake her up. I wanter speak wid her quick—an' den I'll make a break outa here. You make it fast, Ceely Ann, I tells yo'.

  CEELY—(bends down beside the bed) Mammy! Mammy! Here's de Dreamy.

  MAMMY—(opens her eyes—drowsily and vaguely, in a weak voice) Dreamy?

  DREAMY—(shuffling his feet and moving around the bed) Here I is, Mammy.

  MAMMY—(fastening her eyes on him with fascinated jay) Dreamy! Hits yo'! (then uncertainly) I ain't dreamin' nor seein' ha'nts, is I?

  DREAMY—(coming forward and taking her hand) 'Deed I ain't no ghost. Here I is, sho' 'nuff.

  MAMMY—(clutching his hand tight and pulling it down on her breast—in an ecstasy of happiness) Didn' I know you'd come! Didn' I say: "Dreamy ain't gwine let his ole Mammy die all lone by he'se'f an' him not dere wid her." I knows yo'd come. (She starts to laugh joyously, but coughs and sinks back weakly.)

  DREAMY—(shudders in spite of himself as he realizes for the first time how far gone the old woman is—forcing a tone of joking reassurance) What's dat foolishness I hears you talkin', Mammy? Wha' d'yuh mean pullin' dat bull 'bout croakin' on me? Shoo! Tryin' ter kid me, ain't yo'? Shoo! You live ter plant de flowers on my grave, see if you don'.

  MAMMY—(sadly and very weakly) I knows! I knows! Hit ain't long now. (bursting into a sudden weak hysteria) Yo' stay heah, Dreamy! Yo' stay heah by me, yo' stay heah—till de good Lawd take me home. Yo' promise me dat! Yo' do dat fo' po' ode Mammy, won't yo'?

  DREAMY—(uneasily) 'Deed I will, Mammy, 'deed I will.

  MAMMY—(closing her eyes with a sigh of relief—calmly) Bless de Lawd for dat. Den I ain't skeered no mo'. (She settles herself comfortably in the bed as if preparing for sleep.)

  CEELY—(in a low voice) I gotter go home fo' a minute, Dreamy. I ain't been dere all de day and Lawd knows what happen. I'll be back yere befo' ve'y long.

  DREAMY—(his eyes fixed on Mammy) Aw right, beat it if yuh wanter. (turning to her—in a fierce whisper) On'y don' be long. I can't stay here an' take dis risk, you hear?

  CEELY—(frightenedly) I knows, chide. I come back, I swat! (She goes out quietly. Dreamy goes quickly to the window and cautiously searches the street below with his eyes.)

  MAMMY—(uneasily) Dreamy. (He hurries back and takes her hand again.) I got de mos' 'culiar feelin' in my head. Seems like de years done all roll away an' I'm back down home in de ode place whar yo' was bo'n. (after a short pause) Does yo' 'member yo' own mammy, chide?

  DREAMY—No.

  MAMMY—Yo' was too young, I spec'. Yo' was on'y a baby w'en she tuck 'n' die. My Sal was a mighty fine 'oman, if I does say hit my se'f.

  DREAMY—(fidgeting nervously) Don' you talk, Mammy. Better you'd close yo' eyes an' rest.

  MAMMY—(with a trembling smile—weakly) Shoo! W'at is I done come ter wid my own gran' chide bossin' me 'bout. I wants ter talk. You knows you ain't give me much chance ter talk wid yo' dese las' years.

  DREAMY—(sullenly) I ain't had de time, Mammy; but you knows I was always game ter give you anything I got. (a note of appeal in his voice) You knows dat, don' you, Mammy?

  MAMMY—Sho'ly I does. Yo' been a good boy, Dreamy; an' if dere's one thing more'n nother makes me feel like I mighter done good in de sight er de Lawd, hits dat I raised yo' fum a baby.

  DREAMY—(clearing his throat gruffly) Don' you talk so much, Mammy.

  MAMMY—(querulously) I gotter talk, chile. Come times—w'en I git thinkin' yere in de bed—w'at's gwine ter come ter me a'mos' b'fore I knows hit—like de thief in de night—en den I gits skeered. But w'en I talks wid yo' I ain't skeered a bit.

  DREAMY—(defiantly) You ain't got nothin' to be skeered of—not when de Dreamy's here.

  MAMMY—(after a slight pause, faintly) Dere's a singin' in my ears all de time. (seized by a sudden religious ecstasy) Maybe hits de singin' hymns o' de blessed angels I done heah fum above. (wildly) Bless Gawd! Bless Gawd! Pity dis po' ole sinner!

  DREAMY—(with an uneasy glance at the door) Ssshh, Mammy! Don' shout so loud.

  MAMMY—De pictures keep a whizzin' fo' my eyes like de thread in a sewing machine. Seems s'if all my life done fly back ter me all ter once. (with a flickering smile—weakly) Does you know how yo' come by dat nickname dey alls call yo'—de Dreamy? Is I ever tole yo' dat?

  DREAMY—(evidently lying) No, Mammy.

  MAMMY—Hit was one mawnin' b'fo' we come No'th. Me an' yo' mammy—yo' was des a baby in arms den—

  DREAMY—(hears a noise from the hall) Ssshh, Mammy! For God's sake, don't speak for a minute. I hears somep'n. (He stares at the door, his face hardening savagely, and listens intently.)

  MAMMY—(in a frightened tone) War's de matter, chile?

  DREAMY—Ssshh! Somebody comin'. (A noise of footsteps comes from the hall stairway. Dreamy springs to his feet.) Leggo my hand, Mammy—jest for a secon'. I come right back to you. (He pulls his hand from the old woman's grip. She falls back on the pillows moaning. Dreamy pulls a large automatic revolver from his coat pocket and tiptoes quickly to the door. As he does so there is a sharp rap. He stands listening at the crack for a moment, then noiselessly turns the key, unlocking the door. Then he crouches low down by the wall so that the door, when opened, will hide him from the sight of anyone entering. There is another and louder rap on the door.)

  MAMMY—(groaning) War's dot, Dreamy? What is yo'?

  DREAMY—Ssshh! (Then muffling his voice he calls) Come in. (He raises the revolver in his hand. The door is pushed open and Irene enters, her eyes peering wildly about the room. Her bosom is heaving as if she had been running and she is trembling all over with terrified excitement.)

  IRENE—(not seeing him calls out questioningly) Dreamy?

  DREAMY—(lowering his revolver and rising to his feet roughly) Close dot door!

  IRENE—(whirling about with a startled cry) Dreamy!

  DREAMY—(shutting the door and locking it—aggressively) Shut yo' big mouth, gal, or I'll bang it shut for you! You wanter let de whole block know where I is?

  IRENE—(hysterical with joy—trying to put her arms around him) Bless God, I foun' you at last!

  DREAMY—(pushing her away roughly) Leggo o' me! Why you come here follerin' me? Ain't yo' got 'nuff sense in yo' fool head ter know de bulls is liable ter shadow you when dey knows you's my gal? Is you pinin' ter git me kotched an' sent to de chair?

  IRENE—(terrified) No, no!

  DREAMY—(savagely) I gotter mind ter hand you one you won't ferget! (He draws back his fist.)

  IRENE—(shrinking away) Don' you hit me, Dreamy! Don' you beat me up now! Jest lemme 'xplain, dat's all.

  MAMMY—(in a frightened whimper) Dreamy! Come yere to me. Whar is yo'? I'se skeered!

  DREAMY—(in a fierce whisper to Irene) Can dot bull or I'll fix you. (He hurries to the old woman and pats her hand.) Here I is, Mammy.

  MAMMY—Who dot yo's a-talkin' wid?

  DREAMY—On'y a fren' o' Ceely Ann's, Mammy, askin' where she is. I gotter talk wid her some mo' yit. You sleep, Mammy? (He goes to Irene.)

  MAMMY—(feebly) Don' yo' leave me, Dreamy.

  DREAMY—I'se right here wid you. (fiercely to Irene) You git the hell outa here, you Reeny, you heah—quick! Dis ain't no place for de likes o' you wid ole Mammy dyin'.

  IRENE—(with a horrified glance at the bed) Is she dyin'—honest?

  DREAMY—Ssshh! She's croakin', I tells yo'—an' I gotter stay wid her fo' a while—an' I ain't got no time ter be pesterin' wid you. Beat it, now! Beat it outa here befo' I knocks yo' cold, git me?

  IRENE—Jest wait a secon' for de love o' Gawd. I got somep'n ter tell you—

  DREAMY—I don' wanter hear yo' fool talk. (He gives her a push toward the door.) Git outa dis, you hear me?

  IRENE—I'll go. I'm going soon—soon's ever I've had my say. Lissen Dreamy! It's about de coppers I come ter tell you.

  DREAMY—(quickly) Why don' you say dat befo'? What you know, gal?

  IRENE—Just befo' I come here to find you de first time, de Madam sends me out to Murphy's ter git her a bottle o' gin. I goes in de side door but I ain't rung de bell yet. I hear yo' name spoken an' I stops ter lissen. Dey was three or four men in de back room. Dey don't hear me open de outside door, an' dey can't see me, course. It was Big Sullivan from de Central Office talkin'. He was talkin' 'bout de killin' you done last night and he tells dem odders he's heerd 'bout de ole woman gittin' so sick, and dat if dey don't fin' you none of de udder places dey's lookin', dey's goin' wait for you here. Dey specs you come here say good-bye to Mammy befo' you make yo' get-away.

  DREAMY—It's aw right den. Dey ain't come yit. Twister Smith done tole me de coast was clear befo' I come here.

  IRENE—Dat was den. It ain't now.

  DREAMY—(excitedly) What you mean, gal?

  IRENE—I was comin' in by de front way when I sees some pusson hidin' in de doorway 'cross de street. I gits a good peek at him and when I does—it's a copper, Dreamy, suah's yo' born, in his plain clo'se, and he's a watchin' de door o' dis house like a cat.

  DREAMY—(goes to the window and stealthily crouching by the dark side peeks out. One glance is enough. He comes quickly back to Irene.) You got de right dope, gal. It's dat Mickey. I knows him even in de dark. Dey're waitin'—so dey ain't wise I'm here yit, dat's suah.

  IRENE—But dey'll git wise befo' long.

  DREAMY—He don't pipe you comin' in here?

  IRENE—I skulked roun' and sneaked in by de back way froo de yard. Dey ain't none o' dem dar yit. (raising her voice—excitedly) But dere will be soon. Dey're boun' to git wise to dat back door. You ain't got no time to lose, Dreamy. Come on wid me now. Git back where yo' safe. It's de cooler for you certain if you stays here. Dey'll git you like a rat in de trap. (as Dreamy hesitates) For de love of Gawd, Dreamy, wake up to youse'f!

  DREAMY—(uncertainly) I can't beat it—wid Mammy here alone. My luck done turn bad all my life, if I does.

  IRENE—(fiercely) What good's you gittin' pinched and sent to de chair gwine do her? Is you crazy mad? Come away wid me, I tells you!

  DREAMY—(half-persuaded—hesitatingly) I gotter speak wid her. You wait a secon'.

  IRENE—(wringing her hands) Dis ain't no time now for fussin' wid her.

  DREAMY—(gruffly) Shut up! (He makes a motion for her to remain where she is and goes over to the bed—in a low voice) Mammy.

  MAMMY—(hazily) Dat you, Dreamy? (She tries to reach out her hand and touch him.)

  DREAMY—I'm gwine leave you—jest for a moment, Mammy. I'll send de word for Ceely Ann—

  MAMMY—(wide awake in an instant—with intense alarm) Don' yo' do dat! Don' yo' move one step out er yere or yo'll be sorry, Dreamy.

  DREAMY—(apprehensively) I gotter go, I tells you. I'll come back.

  MAMMY—(with wild grief) O good Lawd! Wen I's drawin' de las' bre'fs in dis po' ole body—(frenziedly) De Lawd have mercy! Good Lawd have mercy!

  DREAMY—(fearfully) Stop dat racket, Mammy! You bring all o' dem down on my head! (He rushes over and crouches by the window again to peer out—in relieved tones) He ain't heerd nothin'. He's dar yit.

  IRENE—(imploringly) Come on, Dreamy! (Mammy groans with pain.)

  DREAMY—(hurrying to the bed) What's de matter, Mammy?

  IRENE—(stamping her foot) Dreamy! Fo' Gawd's sake!

  MAMMY—Lawd have mercy! (She groans.) Gimme yo' han', chile. Yo' ain't gwine leave me now, Dreamy? Yo' ain't, is yo'? Yo' ole Mammy won't bodder yo' long. Yo' know w'at yo' promise me, Dreamy! Yo' promise yo' sacred word yo' stay wid me till de en'. (with an air of somber prophecy—slowly) If yo' leave me now, yo' ain't gwine git no bit er luck s'long's yo' live, I tells yo' dat!

  DREAMY—(frightened pleadingly) Don' you say dat, M my!

  IRENE—Come on, Dreamy!

  DREAMY—(slowly) I can't. (in awed tones) Don' you hear de curse she puts on me if I does?

  MAMMY—(her voice trembling with weak tears) Don' go, chile!

  DREAMY—(hastily) I won't leave dis room, I swar ter you! (Relieved by the finality in his tones, the old woman sighs and closes her eyes. Dreamy frees his hand from her's and goes to Irene. He speaks with a strange calm.) De game's up, gal. You better beat it while de goin's good.

  IRENE—(aghast) You gwine stay?

  DREAMY—I gotter, gal. I ain't gwine agin her dyin' curse. No, suh!

  IRENE—(pitifully) But dey'll git you suah!

  DREAMY—(slapping the gun in his pocket significantly) Dey'll have some gittin'. I git some o' dem fust. (with gloomy determination) Dey don' git dis chicken alive! Lawd Jesus, no suh. Not de Dreamy!

  IRENE—(helplessly) Oh Lawdy, Lawdy! (She goes to the window—with a short cry) He's talkin' wid someone. Dere's two o' dem. (Dreamy hurries to her side.)

  DREAMY—I knows him—de udder. It's Big Sullivan. (pulling her away roughly) Come out o' dat! Dey'll see you. (He pushes her toward the door.) Dey won't wait down dere much longer. Dey'll be comin' up here soon. (prayerfully, with a glance at the bed) I hopes she's croaked by den', fo' Christ I does!

  IRENE—(as if she couldn't believe it) Den you ain't gwine save youse'f while dere's time? (pleadingly) Oh Dreamy, you can make it yet!

  DREAMY—De game's up, I tole you. (with gloomy fatalism) I s'pect it hatter be. Yes, suh. Dey'd git me in de long run anyway—and wid her curse de luck'd be agin me. (with sudden anger) Git outa here, you Reeny! You ain't aimin' ter get shot up too, is you? Ain't no sense in dat.

  IRENE—(fiercely) I'se stayin' too, here wid you!

  DREAMY—No you isn't! None o' dat bull! You ain't got no mix in dis jamb.

  IRENE—Yes, I is! Ain't you my man?

  DREAMY—Don' make no dif. I don' wanter git you in Dutch more'n you is. It's bad 'nuff fo' me. (He pushes her toward the door.) Blow while you kin, I tells you!

  IRENE—(resisting him) No, Dreamy! What I care if dey kills me? I'se gwine stick wid you.

  DREAMY—(gives her another push) No, you isn't, gal. (unlocking the door—relentlessly) Out wid you!

  IRENE—(hysterically) You can't gimme no bum's rush. I'm gwine stay.

  DREAMY—(gloomily) On'y one thing fo' me ter do den. (He hits her on the side of the face with all his might knocking her back against the wall where she sways as if about to fall. Then he opens the door and grabs her two arms from behind.) Out wid you, gal!

  IRENE—(moaning) Dreamy! Dreamy! Lemme stay wid you! (He pushes her into the hallway and holds her there at arm's length.) Fo' Gawd's sake, Dreamy!

  MAMMY—(whimperingly) Dreamy! I'se skeered!

  IRENE—(from the hall) I'se gwine stay right here at de door. You might s'well lemme in.

  DREAMY—(frowning) Don' do dot, Reeny. (then with a sudden idea) You run roun' and tell de gang what's up. Maybe dey git me outa dis, you hear?

  IRENE—(with eager hope) You think dey kin?

  DREAMY—Never kin tell. You hurry—through de back yard, 'member—an' don' git pinched, now.

  IRENE—(eagerly) I'm gwine! I'll bring dem back!

  DREAMY—(stands listening to her retreating footsteps—then shuts and locks the door gloomily to himself) Ain't no good. Dey dassent do nothin'—but I hatter git her outa dis somehow.

  MAMMY—(groaning) Dreamy!

  DREAMY—Here I is. Jest a secon'. (He goes to the window.)

  MAMMY—(weakly) I feels—like—de en's comet'. Oh Lawd, Lawd!

  DREAMY—(absent-mindedly) Yes, Mammy. (aloud to himself) Dey're sneakin' cross de street. Dere's anudder of 'em. Dat's tree. (He glances around the room quickly—then hurries over and takes hold of the chest of drawers. As he does so the old woman commences to croon shrilly to herself.)

  DREAMY—Stop dot noise, Mammy! Stop dot noise!

  MAMMY—(wonderingly) Dat's how come yo' got dot—dot nickname—Dreamy.

  DREAMY—Yes, Mammy. (He puts the lamp on the floor to the rear of the door, turning it down low. Then he carries the chest of drawers over and places it against the door as a barricade.)

  MAMMY—(rambling as he does this—very feebly) Does yo' know—I gives you dot name—w'en yo's des a baby—lyin' in my arms—

  DREAMY—Yes, Mammy.

  MAMMY—Down by de crik—under de ole willow—whar I uster take yo'—wid yo' big eyes a-chasin'—de sun flitterin' froo de grass—an' out on de water—

  DREAMY—(takes the revolver from his pocket and puts it on top of the chest of drawers) Dey don' git de Dreamy alive—not for de chair! Lawd Jesus, no suh!

  MAMMY—An' yo' was always—a-lookin'—an' a-thinkin' ter yo'se'f—an' yo' big eyes jest a-dreamin' an' a-dreamin'—an' dat's w'en I gives yo' dot nickname—Dreamy—Dreamy—

  DREAMY—Yes, Mammy. (He listens at the crack of the door—in a tense whisper) I don' hear dem—but dey're comin' sneakin' up de stairs, I knows it.

  MAMMY—(faintly) Whar is yo', Dreamy? I can't—ha'dly—breathe—no mo'. Oh Lawd have mercy!

  DREAMY—(goes over to the bed) Here I is, Mammy.

  MAMMY—(speaking with difficulty) Yo'—kneel down—chile—say a pray'r—Oh Lawd!

  DREAMY—Jest a secon', Mammy. (He goes over and gets his revolver and comes back.)

  MAMMY—Gimme—yo' hand—chile. (Dreamy gives her his left hand. The revolver is in his right. He stares nervously at the door.) An' yo' kneel down—pray fo' me. (Dreamy gets on one knee beside the bed. There is a sound from the hallway as if someone had made a misstep on the stairs—then silence. Dreamy starts and half aims his gun in the direction of the door. Mammy groans weakly.) I'm dyin', chile. Hit's de en'. You pray for me—out loud—so's I can heah. Oh Lawd! (She gasps to catch her breath.)

  DREAMY—(abstractedly, not having heard a word she has said) Yes, Mammy. (aloud to himself with an air of grim determination as if he were making a pledge) Dey don't git de Dreamy! Not while he's 'live! Lawd Jesus, no suh!

  MAMMY—(falteringly) Dat's right—yo' pray—Lawd Jesus—Lawd Jesus—(There is another slight sound of movement from the hallway.)

(The Curtain Falls)


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