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CHARACTERS ABRAHAM BENTLEY
ANNIE, his daughter
PAT SWEENEY, her husband
MARY, their child
LUKE BENTLEY, Abe's son by a second marriage

 
SCENEThe interior of an old barn situated on top of a high headland of the seacoast. In the rear, to the left, a stall in which lumber is stacked up. To the right of it, an open double doorway looking out over the ocean. Outside the doorway, the faint trace of what was once a road leading to the barn. Beyond the road, the edge of a cliff which rises sheer from the sea below. On the right of the doorway, three stalls with mangers and hay-rocks. The first of these is used as a woodbin and is half full of piled-up cordwood. Near this bin, a chopping block with an ax driven into the top of it.

  The left section of the barn contains the hay loft, which extends at a height of about twelve feet from the floor as far to the right as the middle of the doorway. The loft is bare except for a few scattered mounds of dank-looking hay. From the edge of the loft, halfway from the door, a rope about five feet long with an open running noose at the end is hanging. A rusty plow and various other farming implements, all giving evidence of long disuse, are lying on the floor near the left wall. Farther forward an old cane-bottomed chair is set back against the wall.

  In front of the stalls on the right stands a long, roughly constructed carpenter's table, evidently home-made. Saws, a lathe, a hammer, chisel, a keg containing nails and other tools of the carpentry trade are on the table. Two benches are placed, one in front, one to the left of it.

  The right side of the barn is a bare wall.

  It is between six and half-past in the evening of a day in early spring. At the rising of the curtain some trailing clouds near the horizon, seen through the open doorway, are faintly tinged with gold by the first glow of the sunset. As the action progresses this reflected light gradually becomes brighter, and then slowly fades into a smoky crimson. The sea is a dark slate color. From the rocks below the headland sounds the muffled monotone of breaking waves.

  As the curtain rises Mary is discovered squatting cross-legged on the floor, her back propped against the right side of the doorway, her face in profile. She is a skinny, overgrown girl of ten with thin, carroty hair worn in a pig-tail. She wears a shabby gingham dress. Her face is stupidly expressionless. Her hands flutter about aimlessly in relaxed, flabby gestures.

  She is staring fixedly at a rag doll which she has propped up against the doorway opposite her. She hums shrilly to herself.

  At a sudden noise from outside she jumps to her feet, peeks out, and quickly snatches up the doll, which she hugs fiercely to her breast. Then, after a second's fearful hesitation, she runs to the carpenter's table and crawls under it.

  As she does so Abraham Bentley appears in the doorway and stands, blinking into the shadowy barn. He is a tall, lean stoop-shouldered old man of sixty-five. His thin legs, twisted by rheumatism, totter feebly under him as he shuffles slowly along by the aid of a thick cane. His face is gaunt, chalky-white, furrowed with wrinkles, surmounted by a shiny bald scalp fringed with scanty wisps of white hair. His eyes peer weakly from beneath bushy, black brows. His mouth is a sunken line drawn in under his large, beak-like nose. A two weeks' growth of stubby patches of beard covers his jaws and chin. He has on a threadbare brown overcoat but wears no hat.

  BENTLEY—(comes slowly into the barn, peering around him suspiciously. As he reaches the table and leans one hand on it for support, Mary darts from underneath and dashes out through the doorway. Bentley is startled; then shakes his cane after her.) Out o' my sight, you Papist brat! Spawn o' Satan! Spyin' on me! They set her to it. Spyin' to watch me! (He limps to the door and looks out cautiously. Satisfied, he turns back into the barn.) Spyin' to see—what they'll never know. (He stands staring up at the rope and taps it testingly several times with his stick, talking to himself as he does so.) It's tied strong—strong as death—(He cackles with satisfaction.) They'll see, then! They'll see! (He laboriously creeps over to the bench and sits down wearily. He looks toward the sea and his voice quavers in a doleful chant.) "Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out." (He mumbles to himself for a moment—then speaks clearly.) Spyin' on me! Spawn o' the Pit! (He renews his chant.) "They hunt our steps that we cannot go in our streets; our end is near, our days are fulfilled; for our end is come."

  (As he finishes Annie enters. She is a thin, slovenly, worn-out looking woman of about forty with a drawn, pasty face. Her habitual expression is one of a dulled irritation. She talks in a high-pitched, sing-song whine. She wears a faded gingham dress and a torn sunbonnet.)

  ANNIE—(comes over to her father but warily keeps out of range of his stick. He doesn't answer or appear to see her.) Paw! Paw! You ain't fergittin' what the doctor told you when he was here last, be you? He said you was to keep still and not go a-walkin' round. Come on back to the house, Paw. It's gittin' near supper time and you got to take your medicine b'fore it, like he says.

  BENTLEY—(his eyes fixed in front of him) "The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion: he will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins."

  ANNIE—(waiting resignedly until he has finished—wearily) You better take watch on your health, Paw, and not be sneakin' up to this barn no more. Lord sakes, soon 's ever my back is turned you goes sneakin' off agen. It's enough to drive a body outa their right mind.

  BENTLEY—"Behold, everyone that useth proverbs shall use this proverb against thee, saying, As is the mother, so is her daughter!" (He cackles to himself.) So is her daughter!

  ANNIE—(her face flushing with anger) And if I am, I'm glad I take after her and not you, y'old wizard! (scornfully) A fine one you be to be shoutin' Scripture in a body's ears all the live-long day—you that druv Maw to her death with your naggin', and pinchin', and miser stinginess. If you've a mind to pray, it's down in the medder you ought to go, and kneel down by her grave, and ask God to forgive you for the meanness you done to her all her life.

  BENTLEY—(mumbling) "As is the mother, so is her daughter."

  ANNIE—(enraged by the repetition of this quotation) You quotin' Scripture! Why, Maw wasn't cold in the earth b'fore you was down in the port courtin' agen—courtin' that harlot that was the talk o' the whole town. And then you disgraces yourself and me by marryin' her—her—and bringin' her back home with you; and me still goin' every day to put flowers on Maw's grave that you'd fergotten. (She glares at him vindictively, pausing for breath.) And between you you'd have druv me into the grave like you done Maw if I hadn't married Pat Sweeney so's I could git away and live in peace. Then you took on so high and mighty 'cause he was a Cath'lic—you gittin' religion all of a moment just for spite on me 'cause I'd left—and b'cause she egged you on against me; you sayin' it was a sin to marry a Papist, after not bein' at Sunday meetin' yourself for more'n twenty years!

  BENTLEY—(loudly) "He will visit thine iniquity—"

  ANNIE—(interrupting) And the carryin's-on you had the six years at home after I'd left you—the shame of the whole county! Your wife, indeed, with a child she claimed was yourn, and her goin' with this farmer and that, and even men off the ships in the port, and you blind to it! And then when she got sick of you and ran away—only to meet her end at the hands of God a year after—she leaves you alone with that—your son, Luke, she called him—and him only five years old!

  BENTLEY—(babbling) Luke? Luke?

  ANNIE—(tauntingly) Yes, Luke! "As is the mother, so is her son"—that's what you ought to preach 'stead of puttin' curses on me. You was glad enough to git me back home agen, and Pat with me, to tend the place, and help bring up that brat of hers. (jealously) You was fond enough of him all them years—and how did he pay you back? Stole your money and ran off and left you just when he was sixteen and old enough to help. Told you to your face he'd stolen and was leavin'. He only laughed when you was took crazy and cursed him; and he only laughed harder when you hung up that silly rope there (she points) and told him to hang himself on it when he ever came home agen.

  BENTLEY—(mumbling) You'll see, then. You'll see!

  ANNIE—(wearily—her face becoming dull and emotionless again) I s'pose I'm a bigger fool than you be to argy with a half-witted body. But I tell you agen that Luke of yours ain't comin' back; and if he does he ain't the kind to hang himself, more's the pity. He's like her. He'd hang you more likely if he s'pected you had any money. So you might's well take down that ugly rope you've had tied there since he run off. He's probably dead anyway by this.

  BENTLEY— (frightened) No! No!

  ANNIE—Them as bad as him comes to a sudden end. (irritably) Land sakes, Paw, here I am argyin' with your lunatic notions and the supper not ready. Come on and git your medicine. You can see no one ain't touched your old rope. Come on! You can sit 'n' read your Bible. (He makes no movement. She comes closer to him and peers into his face—uncertainly) Don't you hear me? I do hope you ain't off in one of your fits when you don't know nobody. D'you know who's talkin'? This is Annie—your Annie, Paw.

  BENTLEY—(bursting into senile rage) None o' mine! Spawn o' the Pit! (With a quick movement he hits her viciously over the arm with his stick. She gives a cry of pain and backs away from him, holding her arm.)

  ANNIE—(weeping angrily) That's what I git for tryin' to be kind to you, you ugly old devil! (The sound of a man's footsteps is heard from outside, and Sweeney enters. He is a stocky, muscular, sandy-haired Irishman dressed in patched corduroy trousers shoved down into high laced boots, and a blue flannel shirt. The bony face of his bullet head has a pressed-in appearance except for his heavy jaw, which sticks out pugnaciously. There is an expression of mean cunning and cupidity about his mouth and his small, round, blue eyes. He has evidently been drinking and his face is flushed and set in an angry scowl.)

  SWEENEY—Have ye no supper at all made, ye lazy slut? (seeing that she has been crying) What're you blubberin' about?

  ANNIE—It's all his fault. I was tryin' to git him home but he's that set I couldn't budge him; and he hit me on the arm with his cane when I went near him.

  SWEENEY—He did, did he? I'll soon learn him better. (He advances toward Bentley threateningly.)

  ANNIE—(grasping his arm) Don't touch him, Pat. He's in one of his fits and you might kill him.

  SWEENEY—An' good riddance!

  BENTLEY—(hissing) Papist! (chants) "Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that knows thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name: for they have eaten up Jacob, and devoured him, and consumed him, and made his habitation desolate."

  SWEENEY—(instinctively crosses himself—then scornfully) Spit curses on me till ye choke. It's not likely the Lord God'll be listenin' to a wicked auld sinner the like of you. (to Annie) What's got into him to be roamin' up here? When I left for the town he looked too weak to lift a foot.

  ANNIE—Oh, it's the same crazy notion he's had ever since Luke left. He wanted to make sure the rope was still here.

  BENTLEY—(pointing to the rope with his stick) He—he! Luke'll come back. Then you'll see. You'll see!

  SWEENEY—(nervously) Stop that mad cacklin' for the love of heaven! (with a forced laugh) It's great laughter I should be havin' at you, mad as you are, for thinkin' that thief of a son of yours would come back to hang himself on account of your curses. It's five years he's been gone, and not a sight of him; an' you cursin' an' callin' down the wrath o' God on him by day an' by night. That shows you what God thinks of your curses—an' Him deaf to you!

  ANNIE—It's no use talkin' to him, Pat.

  SWEENEY—I've small doubt but that Luke is hung long since—by the police. He's come to no good end, that lad. (his eyes on the rope) I'll be pullin' that thing down, so I will; an' the auld loon'll stay in the house, where he belongs, then, maybe. (He reaches up for the rope as if to try and yank it down. Bentley waves his stick frantically in the air, and groans with rage—)

  ANNIE—(frightened) Leave it alone, Pat. Look at him. He's liable to hurt himself. Leave his rope be. It don't do no harm.

  SWEENEY—(reluctantly moves away) It looks ugly hangin' there open like a mouth. (The old man sinks back into a relieved immobility. Sweeney speaks to his wife in a low tone.) Where's the child? Get her to take him out o' this. I want a word with you he'll not be hearin'. (She goes to the door and calls out: Ma-ry! Ma-ry! A faint, answering cry is heard and a moment later Mary rushes breathlessly into the barn. Sweeney grabs her roughly by the arm. She shrinks away, looking at him with terrified eyes.) You're to take your grandfather back to the house—an' see to it he stays there.

  ANNIE—And give him his medicine.

  SWEENEY—(As the child continues to stare at him silently with eyes stupid from fear, he shakes her impatiently.) D'you hear me, now? (to his wife) It's soft-minded she is, like I've always told you, an' stupid; and you're not too firm in the head yourself at times, God help you! An' look at him! It's the curse is in the wits of your family, not mine.

  ANNIE—You've been drinkin' in town or you wouldn't talk that way.

  MARY—(whining) Maw! I'm skeered!

  SWEENEY—(lets go of her arm and approaches Bentley) Get up out o' this, ye auld loon, an' go with Mary. She'll take you to the house. (Bentley tries to hit him with the cane.) Oho, ye would, would ye? (He wrests the cane from the old man's hands.) Bad cess to ye, you're the treach'rous one! Get up, now! (He jerks the old man to his feet.) Here, Mary, take his hand. Quick now! (She does so tremblingly.) Lead him to the house.

  ANNIE—Go on, Paw. I'll come and git your supper in a minute.

  BENTLEY—(stands stubbornly and begins to intone) "O Lord, thou hast seen my wrong; judge thou my cause. Thou hast seen all their vengeance and all their imaginations against me—"

  SWEENEY—(pushing him toward the door. Bentley tries to resist. Mary pulls at his hand in a sudden fit of impish glee, and laughs shrilly.) Get on now an' stop your cursin'.

  BENTLEY—"Render unto them a recompense, O Lord, according to the work of their hands."

  SWEENEY—Shut your loud quackin'! Here's your cane. (He gives it to the old man as they come to the doorway and quickly steps back out of reach.) An' mind you don't touch the child with it or I'll beat you to a jelly, old as ye are.

  BENTLEY—(resisting Mary's efforts to pull him out, stands shaking his stick at Sweeney and his wife) "Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them. Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the Lord."

  MARY—(tugging at his hand and bursting again into shrill laughter) Come on, gran'paw. (He allows himself to be led off, right.)

  SWEENEY—(making the sign of the cross furtively—with a sigh of relief) He's gone, thank God! What a snake's tongue he has in him! (He sits down on the bench to the left of table.) Come here, Annie, till I speak to you. (She sits down on the bench in front of table. Sweeney winks mysteriously.) Well, I saw him, sure enough.

  ANNIE—(stupidly) Who?

  SWEENEY—(sharply) Who? Who but Dick Waller, the lawyer, that I went to see. (lowering his voice) An' I found out what we was wishin' to know. (with a laugh) Ye said I'd been drinkin'—which is true; but 'twas all in the plan I'd made. I've a head for strong drink, as ye know, but he hasn't. (He winks cunningly.) An' the whisky loosened his tongue till he'd told all he knew.

  ANNIE—He told you—about Paw's will?

  SWEENEY—He did. (disappointedly) But for all the good it does us we might as well be no wiser than we was before. (He broods for a moment in silence—then hits the table furiously with his fist.) God's curse on the auld miser!

  ANNIE—What did he tell you?

  SWEENEY—Not much at the first. He's a cute one, an' he'd be askin' a fee to tell you your own name, if he could get it. His practice is all dribbled away from him lately on account of the drink. So I let on I was only payin' a friendly call, havin' known him for years. Then I asked him out to have a drop o' drink, known' his weakness; an' we had rashers of them, an' I payin' for it. Then I come out with it straight and asked him about the will—because the auld man was crazy an' on his last legs, I told him, an' he was the lawyer made out the will when Luke was gone. So he winked at me an' grinned—he was drunk by this—an' said: "It's no use, Pat. He left the farm to the boy." "To hell with the farm," I spoke back. "It's mortgaged to the teeth; but how about the money?" "The money?" an' he looks at me in surprise, "What money?" "The cash he has," I says. "You're crazy," he says. "There wasn't any cash—only the farm." "D'you mean to say he made no mention of money in his will?" I asked. You could have knocked me down with a feather. "He did not—on my oath," he says. (Sweeney leans over to his wife—indignantly) Now what d'you make o' that? The auld divil!

  ANNIE—Maybe Waller was lyin'.

  SWEENEY—He was not. I could tell by his face. He was surprised to hear me talkin' of money.

  ANNIE—But the thousand dollars Paw got for the mortgage just before that woman ran away—

  SWEENEY—An' that I've been slavin' me hands off to pay the in'trist on!

  ANNIE—What could he have done with that? He ain't spent it. It was in twenty dollar gold pieces he got it, I remember Mr. Keller of the bank tellin' me once.

  SWEENEY—Divil a penny he's spent. Ye know as well as I do if it wasn't for my hammerin', an' sawin', an' nailin', he'd be in the poor house this minute—or the mad house, more likely.

  ANNIE—D'you suppose that harlot ran off with it?

  SWEENEY—I do not; I know better—an' so do you. D'you not remember the letter she wrote tellin' him he could support Luke on the money he'd got on the mortgage she'd signed with him; for he'd made the farm over to her when he married her. An' where d'you suppose Luke got the hundred dollars he stole? The auld loon must have had cash with him then, an' it's only five years back.

  ANNIE—He's got it hid some place in the house most likely.

  SWEENEY—Maybe you're right. I'll dig in the cellar this night when he's sleepin'. He used to be down there a lot recitin' Scripture in his fits.

  ANNIE—What else did Walter say?

  SWEENEY—Nothin' much; except that we should put notices in the papers for Luke, an' if he didn't come back by sivin years from when he'd left—two years from now, that'd be—the courts would say he was dead an' give us the farm. Divil a lot of use it is to us now with no money to fix it up; an' himself ruinin' it years ago by sellin' everythin' to buy that slut new clothes.

  ANNIE—Don't folks break wills like his'n in the courts?

  SWEENEY—Waller said 'twas no use. The auld divil was plain in his full senses when he made it; an' the courts cost money.

  ANNIE—(resignedly) There ain't nothin' we can do then.

  SWEENEY—No—except wait an' pray that young thief is dead an' won't come back; an' try an' find where it is the auld man has the gold hid, if he has it yet. I'd take him by the neck an' choke him till he told it, if he wasn't your father. (He takes a full quart flask of whisky from the pocket of his coat and has a big drink.) Aahh! If we'd on'y the thousand we'd stock the farm good an' I'd give up this dog's game (he indicates the carpentry outfit scornfully) an' we'd both work hard with a man or two to help, an' in a few years we'd be rich; for 'twas always a payin' place in the auld days.

  ANNIE—Yes, yes, it was always a good farm then.

  SWEENEY—He'll not last long in his senses, the doctor told me. His next attack will be very soon an' after it he'll be a real lunatic with no legal claims to anythin'. If we on'y had the money— 'Twould be the divil an' all if the auld fool should forget where he put it, an' him takin' leave of his senses altogether. (He takes another nip at the bottle and puts it back in his pocket—with a sigh) Ah, well, I'll save what I can an' at the end of two years, with good luck in the trade, maybe we'll have enough. (They are both startled by the heavy footfalls of someone approaching outside. A shrill burst of Mary's laughter can be heard and the deep voice of a man talking to her.)

  SWEENEY—(uneasily) It's Mary; but who could that be with her? It's not himself. (As he finishes speaking Luke appears in the doorway, holding the dancing Mary by the hand. He is a tall, strapping young fellow about twenty-one with a coarse-featured, rather handsome face bronzed by the sun. What his face lacks in intelligence is partly forgiven for his good-natured, half-foolish grin, his hearty laugh, his curly dark hair, a certain devil-may-care recklessness and irresponsible youth in voice and gesture. But his mouth is weak and characterless; his brown eyes are large but shifty and acquisitive. He wears a dark blue jersey, patched blue pants, rough sailor shoes, and a gray cap. He advances into the stable with a mocking smile on his lips until he stands directly under the rope. The man and woman stare at him in petrified amazement.)

  ANNIE—Luke!

  SWEENEY—(crossing himself) Glory be to God—it's him!

  MARY—(hopping up and down wildly) It's Uncle Luke, Uncle Luke, Uncle Luke! (She runs to her mother, who pushes her away angrily.)

  LUKE—(regarding them both with an amused grin) Sure, it's Luke—back after five years of bummin' round the rotten old earth in ships and things. Paid off a week ago—had a bust-up—and then took a notion to come out here—bummed my way—and here I am. And you're both of you tickled to death to see me, ain't yuh?—like hell! (He laughs and walks over to Annie.) Don't yuh even want to shake flippers with your dear, long-lost brother, Annie? I remember you and me used to git on so fine together—like hell!

  ANNIE—(giving him a venomous look of hatred) Keep your hands to yourself.

  LUKE—(grinning) You ain't changed, that's sure—on'y you're homlier'n ever. (He turns to the scowling Sweeney.) How about you, brother Pat?

  SWEENEY—I'd not lower myself to take the hand of a—

  LUKE—(with a threat in his voice) Easy goes with that talk! I'm not so soft to lick as I was when I was a kid; and don't forget it.

  ANNIE—(to Mary, who is playing catch with a silver dollar which she has had clutched in her hand—sharply) Mary! What have you got there? Where did you get it? Bring it here to me this minute! (Mary presses the dollar to her breast and remains standing by the doorway in stubborn silence.)

  LUKE—Aw, let her alone! What's bitin' yuh? That's on'y a silver dollar I give her when I met her in front of the house. She told me you was up here; and I give her that as a present to buy candy with. I got it in Frisco—cart-wheels, they call 'em. There ain't none of them in these parts I ever seen, so I brung it along on the voyage.

  ANNIE—(angrily) I don't know or care where you got it—but I know you ain't come by it honest. Mary! Give that back to him this instant! (As the child hesitates, she stamps her foot furiously.) D'you hear me? (Mary starts to cry softly, but comes to Luke and hands him the dollar.)

  LUKE—(taking it—with a look of disgust at his half-sister) I was right when I said you ain't changed, Annie. You're as stinkin' mean as ever. (to Mary, consolingly) Quit bawlin', kid. You 'n' me'll go out on the edge of the cliff here and chuck some stones in the ocean same's we useter, remember? (Mary's tears immediately cease. She looks up at him with shining eyes, and claps her bands.)

  MARY—(pointing to the dollar he has in his hand) Throw that! It's flat 'n' it'll skip.

  LUKE—(with a grin) That's the talk, kid. That's all it's good for—to throw away; not buryin' it like your miser folks'd tell you. Here! You take it and chuck it away. It's yourn. (He gives her the dollar and she hops to the doorway. He turns to Pat with a grin.) I'm learnin' your kid to be a sport, Tight-Wad. I hope you ain't got no objections.

  MARY—(impatiently) Come on, Uncle Luke. Watch me throw it.

  LUKE—Aw right. (to Pat) I'll step outside a second and give you two a chanct to git all the dirty things yuh're thinkin' about me off your chest. (threateningly) And then I'm goin' ter come and talk turkey to you, see? I didn't come back here for fun, and the sooner you gets that in your beans, the better.

  MARY—Come on and watch me!

  LUKE—Aw right, I'm comin'. (He walks out and stands, leaning his back against the doorway, left. Mary is about six feet beyond him on the other side of the road. She is leaning down, peering over the edge of the cliff and laughing excitedly.)

  MARY—Can I throw it now? Can I?

  LUKE—Don't git too near the edge, kid. The water's deep down there, and you'd be a drowned rat if you slipped. (She shrinks back a step.) You chuck it when I say three. Ready now. (She draws back her arm.) One! Two! Three! (She throws the dollar away and bends down to see it hit the water.)

  MARY—(clapping her hands and laughing) I seen it! I seen it! I seen it splash! It's deep down now, ain't it?

  LUKE—Yuh betcher it is! Now watch how far I kin chuck rocks. (He picks up a couple and goes to where she is standing. During the following conversation between Sweeney and his wife he continues to play this way with Mary. Their voices can be heard but the words are indistinguishable.)

  SWEENEY—(glancing apprehensively toward the door—with a great sigh) Speak of the divil an' here he is! (furiously) Flingin' away dollars, the dirty thief, an' us without—

  ANNIE—(interrupting him) Did you hear what he said? A thief like him ain't come back for no good. (lowering her voice) D'you s'pose he knows about the farm bein' left to him?

  SWEENEY—(uneasily) How could he? An' yet—I dunno—(with sudden decision) You'd best lave him to me to watch out for. It's small sense you have to hide your hate from him. You're as looney as the rist of your breed. An' he needs to be blarneyed round to fool him an' find out what he's wantin'. I'll pritind to make friends with him, God roast his soul! An' do you run to the house an' break the news to the auld man; for if he seen him suddin its likely the little wits he has left would leave him; an' the thief could take the farm from us tomorrow if himself turned a lunatic.

  ANNIE—(getting up) I'll tell him a little at a time till he knows.

  SWEENEY—Be careful, now, or we'll lose the farm this night. (She starts towards the doorway. Sweeney speaks suddenly in a strange, awed voice.) Did you see Luke when he first came in to us? He stood there with the noose of the rope almost touchin' his head. I was almost wishin'— (He hesitates.)

  ANNIE—(viciously) I was wishin' it was round his neck chokin' him, that's what I was—hangin' him just as Paw says.

  SWEENEY—Ssshh! He might hear ye. Go along, now. He's comin' back.

  MARY—(pulling at Luke's arm as he comes back to the doorway) Lemme throw 'nother! Lemme throw 'nother!

  LUKE—(enters just as Annie is going out and stops her) Goin' to the house? Do we get any supper? I'm hungry.

  ANNIE—(glaring at him but restraining her rage) Yes.

  LUKE—(jovially) Good work! And tell the old man I'm here and I'll see him in a while. He'll be glad to see me, too—like hell! (He comes forward. Annie goes off, right.)

  MARY—(in an angry whine, tugging at his hand) Lemme throw 'nother. Lemme—

  LUKE—(shaking her away) There's lots of rocks, kid. Throw them. Dollars ain't so plentiful.

  MARY—(screaming) No! No! I don' wanter throw rocks. Lemme throw 'nother o' them.

  SWEENEY—(severely) Let your uncle in peace, ye brat! (She commences to cry.) Run help your mother now or I'll give ye a good hidin'. (Mary runs out of the door, whimpering. Pat turns to Luke and holds out his hand.)

  LUKE—(looking at it in amazement) Ahoy, there! What's this?

  SWEENEY—(with an ingratiating smile) Let's let by-gones be by-gones. I'm harborin' no grudge agen you these past years. Ye was only a lad when ye ran away an' not to be blamed for it. I'd have taken your hand a while back, an' glad to, but for her bein' with us. She has the divil's own tongue, as ye know, an' she can't forget the rowin' you an' her used to be havin'.

  LUKE—(still looking at Sweeney's hand) So that's how the wind blows! (with a grin) Well, I'll take a chanct. (They shake hands and sit down by the table, Sweeney on the front bench and Luke on the left one.)

  SWEENEY—(pulls the bottle from his coat pocket—with a wink) Will ye have a taste? It's real stuff.

  LUKE—Yuh betcher I will! (He takes a big gulp and hands the bottle back.)

  SWEENEY—(after taking a drink himself, puts bottle on table) I wasn't wishin' herself to see it or I'd have asked ye sooner. (There is a pause, during which each measures the other with his eyes.)

  LUKE—Say, how's the old man now?

  SWEENEY—(cautiously) Oh, the same as ivir—older an' uglier, maybe.

  LUKE—I thought he might be in the bug-house by this time.

  SWEENEY—(hastily) Indeed not; he's foxy to pritind he's looney but he's his wits with him all the time.

  LUKE—(insinuatingly) Is he as stingy with his coin as he used to be?

  SWEENEY—If he owned the ocean he wouldn't give a fish a drink; but I doubt if he's any money left at all. Your mother got rid of it all, I'm thinkin'. (Luke smiles a superior, knowing smile.) He has on'y the farm, an' that mortgaged. I've been payin' the in'trist an' supportin' himself an' his doctor's bills by the carpentryin' these five years past.

  LUKE—(with a grin) Huh! Yuh're slow. Yuh oughter get wise to yourself.

  SWEENEY—(inquisitively) What d'ye mean by that?

  LUKE—(aggravatingly) Aw, nothin'. (He turns around and his eyes fix themselves on the rope.) What the hell— (He is suddenly convulsed with laughter and slaps his thigh.) Hahaha! If that don't beat the Dutch! The old nut!

  SWEENEY—What?

  LUKE—That rope. Say, has he had that hangin' there ever since I skipped?

  SWEENEY—(smiling) Sure; an' he thinks you'll be comin' home to hang yourself.

  LUKE—Hahaha! Not this chicken! And you say he ain't crazy! Gee, that's too good to keep. I got to have a drink on that. (Sweeney pushes the bottle toward him. He raises it toward the rope.) Here's how, old chum! (He drinks. Sweeney does likewise.) Say, I'd a'most forgotten about that. Remember how hot he was that day when he hung that rope up and cussed me for pinchin' the hundred? He was standin' there shakin' his stick at me, and I was laughin' 'cause he looked so funny with the spit dribblin' outa his mouth like he was a mad dog. And when I turned round and beat it he shouted after me: "Remember, when you come home again there's a rope waitin' for yuh to hang yourself on, yuh bastard!" (He spits contemptuously.) What a swell chanct. (His manner changes and he frowns.) The old slave driver! That's a hell of a fine old man for a guy to have!

  SWEENEY—(pushing the bottle toward him) Take a sup an' forgit it. 'Twas a long time past.

  LUKE—But the rope's there yet, ain't it? And he keeps it there. (He takes a large swallow. Sweeney also drinks.) But I'll git back at him aw right, yuh wait 'n' see. I'll git every cent he's got this time.

  SWEENEY—(slyly) If he has a cent. I'm not wishful to discourage ye, but— (He shakes his head doubtfully, at the same time fixing Luke with a keen glance out of the corner of his eye.)

  LUKE—(with a cunning wink) Aw, he's got it aw right. You watch me! (He is beginning to show the effects of the drink he has had. He pulls out tobacco and a paper and rolls a cigarette and lights it. As he puffs he continues boastfully.) You country jays oughter wake up and see what's goin' on. Look at me. I was green as grass when I left here, but bummin' round the world, and bein' in cities, and meetin' all kinds, and keepin' your two eyes open—that's what'll learn yuh a cute trick or two.

  SWEENEY—No doubt but you're right. Us country folks is stupid in most ways. We've no chance to learn the things a travelin' lad like you'd be knowin'.

  LUKE—(complacently) Well, you watch me and I'll learn yuh. (He snickers.) So yuh think the old man's flat broke, do yuh?

  SWEENEY—1 do so.

  LUKE—Then yuh're simple; that's what—simple! You're lettin' him kid yuh.

  SWEENEY—If he has any, it's well hid, I know that. He's a sly old bird.

  LUKE—And I'm a slyer bird. D'yuh hear that? I c'n beat his game any time. You watch me! (He reaches out his hand for the bottle. They both drink again. Sweeney begins to show signs of getting drunk. He hiccoughs every now and then and his voice grows uncertain and husky.)

  SWEENEY—It'd be a crafty one who'd find where he'd hidden it, sure enough.

  LUKE—You watch me! I'll find it. I betcher anything yuh like I find it. You watch me! Just wait till he's asleep and I'll show yuh—ternight. (There is a noise of shuffling footsteps outside and Annie's whining voice raised in angry protest.)

  SWEENEY—Ssshh! It's himself comin' now. (Luke rises to his feet and stands„ waiting in a defensive attitude, a surly expression on his face. A moment later Bentley appears in the doorway, followed by Annie. He leans against the wall, in an extraordinary state of excitement, shaking all over, gasping for breath, his eyes devouring Luke from head to foot.)

  ANNIE—1 couldn't do nothin' with him. When I told him he'd come back there was no holdin' him. He was a'most frothin' at the mouth till I let him out. (whiningly) You got to see after him, Pat, if you want any supper. I can't—

  SWEENEY—Shut your mouth! We'll look after him.

  ANNIE—See that you do. I'm goin' back. (She goes off, right. Luke and his father stand looking at each other. The surly expression disappears from Luke's face, which gradually expands in a broad grin.)

  LUKE—(jovially) Hello, old sport! I s'pose yuh're tickled to pieces to see me—like hell! (The old man stutters and stammers incoherently as if the very intensity of his desire for speech had paralyzed all power of articulation. Luke turns to Pat.) I see he ain't lost the old stick. Many a crack on the nut I used to get with that.

  BENTLEY—(suddenly finding his voice—and chants) "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." (He ends up with a convulsive sob.)

  LUKE—(disapprovingly) Yuh're still spoutin' the rotten old Word o' God same's ever, eh? Say, give us a rest on that stuff, will yuh? Come on and shake hands like a good sport. (He holds out his hand. The old man totters over to him, stretching out a trembling hand. Luke seizes it and pumps it up and down.) That's the boy!

  SWEENEY—(genuinely amazed) Look at that, would ye—the two faced auld liar. (Bentley passes his trembling hand all over Luke, feeling of his arms, his chest, his back. An expression of overwhelming joy suffuses his worn features.)

  LUKE—(grinning at Sweeney) Say, watch this. (with tolerant good-humor) On the level I b'lieve the old boy's glad to see me at that. He looks like he was tryin' to grin; and I never seen him grin in my life, I c'n remember. (as Bentley attempts to feel of his face) Hey, cut it out! (He pushes his hand away, but not roughly.) I'm all here, yuh needn't worry. Yuh needn't be scared I'm a ghost. Come on and sit down before yuh fall down. Yuh ain't got your sea-legs workin' right. (He guides the old man to the bench at left of table.) Squat here for a spell and git your wind. (Bentley sinks down on the bench. Luke reaches for the bottle.) Have a drink to my makin' port. It'll buck yuh up.

  SWEENEY—(alarmed) Be careful, Luke. It might likely end him.

  LUKE—(holds the bottle up to the old man's mouth, supporting his head with the other hand. Bentley gulps, the whisky drips over his chin, and he goes into a fit of convulsive coughing. Luke laughs.) Hahaha! Went down the wrong way, did it? I'll show yuh the way to do it. (He drinks.) There yuh are—smooth as silk. (He hands the bottle to Sweeney, who drinks and puts it back on the table.)

  SWEENEY—He must be glad to see ye or he'd not drink. 'Tis dead against it he's been these five years past. (shaking his head) An' him cursin' you day an' night! I can't put head or tail to it. Look out he ain't meanin' some bad to ye underneath. He's crafty at pritindin'.

  LUKE—(as the old man makes signs to him with his hand) What's he after now? He's lettin' on he's lost his voice again. What d'yuh want? (Bentley points with his stick to the rope. His lips move convulsively as he makes a tremendous effort to utter words.)

  BENTLEY—(mumbling incoherently) Luke—Luke—rope—Luke—hang.

  SWEENEY—(appalled) There ye are! What did I tell you? It's to see you hang yourself he's wishin', the auld fiend!

  BENTLEY—(nodding) Yes—Luke—hang.

  LUKE—(taking it as a joke—with a loud guffaw) Hahaha! If that don't beat the Dutch! The old nanny-goat! Aw right, old sport. Anything to oblige. Hahaha! (He takes the chair from left and places it under the rope. The old man watches him with eager eyes and seems to be trying to smile. Luke stands on the chair.)

  SWEENEY—Have a care, now! I'd not be foolin' with it in your place.

  LUKE—All out for the big hangin' of Luke Bentley by his-self. (He puts the noose about his neck with an air of drunken bravado and grins at his father. The latter makes violent motions for him to go on.) Look at him, Pat. By God, he's in a hurry. Hahaha! Well, old sport, here goes nothin'. (He makes a movement as if he were going to jump and kick the chair from under him.)

  SWEENEY—(half starts to his feet—horrified) Luke! Are ye gone mad?

  LUKE—(stands staring at his father, who is still making gestures for him to jump. A scowl slowly replaces his good-natured grin.) D'yuh really mean it—that yuh want to see me hangin' myself? (Bentley nods vigorously in the affirmative. Luke glares at him for a moment in silence.) Well, I'll be damned! (to Pat) An' I thought he was only kiddin'. (He removes the rope gingerly from his neck. The old man stamps his foot and gesticulates wildly, groaning with disappointment. Luke jumps to the floor and looks at his father for a second. Then his face grows white with a vicious fury.) I'll fix your hash, you stinkin' old murderer. (He grabs the chair by its back and swings it over his head as if he were going to crush Bentley's skull with it. The old man cowers on the bench in abject terror.)

  SWEENEY—(jumping to his feet with a cry of alarm) Luke! For the love of God! (Luke hesitates; then hurls the chair in back of him under the loft, and stands menacingly in front of his father, his hands on his hips.)

  LUKE—(grabbing Bentley's shoulder and shaking him—hoarsely) Yuh wanted to see me hangin' there in real earnest, didn't yuh? You'd hang me yourself if yuh could, wouldn't yuh? And you my own father! Yuh damned son of a gun! Yuh would, would yuh? I'd smash your brains out for a nickel! (He shakes the old man more and more furiously.)

  SWEENEY—Luke! Look out! You'll be killin' him next.

  LUKE—(giving his father one more shake, which sends him sprawling on the floor) Git outa here! Git outa this b'fore I kill yuh dead! (Sweeney rushes over and picks the terrified old man up.) Take him outa here, Pat! (His voice rises to a threatening roar.) Take him outa here or I'll break every bone in his body! (He raises his clenched fists over his head in a frenzy of rage.)

  SWEENEY—Ssshh! Don't be roarin'! I've got him. (He steers the whimpering, hysterical Bentley to the doorway.) Come out o' this, now. Get down to the house! Hurry now! Ye've made enough trouble for one night. (They disappear off right. Luke flings himself on a bench, breathing heavily. He picks up the bottle and takes a long swallow. Sweeney re-enters from rear. He comes over and sits down in his old place.) Thank God he's off down to the house, scurryin' like a frightened hare as if he'd never a kink in his legs in his life. He was moanin' out loud so you could hear him a long ways. (with a sigh) It's a murd'rous auld loon he is, sure enough.

  LUKE—(thickly) The damned son of a gun!

  SWEENEY—I thought you'd be killin' him that time with the chair.

  LUKE—(violently) Serve him damn right if I done it.

  SWEENEY—An' you laughin' at him a moment sooner! I thought 'twas jokin' ye was.

  LUKE—(sullenly) So I was kiddin'; but I thought he was tryin' to kid me, too. And then I seen by the way he acted he really meant it. (banging the table with his fist) Ain't that a hell of a fine old man for yuh!

  SWEENEY—He's a mean auld swine.

  LUKE—He meant it aw right, too. Yuh shoudda seen him lookin' at me. (with sudden lugubriousness) Ain't he a hell of a nice old man for a guy to have? Ain't he?

  SWEENEY—(soothingly) Hush! It's all over now. Don't be thinkin' about it.

  LUKE—(on the verge of drunken tears) How kin I help thinkin'—and him my own father? After me bummin' and starvin' round the rotten earth, and workin' myself to death on ships and things—and when I come home he tries to make me bump off—wants to see me a corpse—my own father, too! Ain't he a hell of an old man to have? The rotten son of a gun!

  SWEENEY—It's past an' done. Forgit it. (He slaps Luke on the shoulder and pushes the bottle toward him.) Let's take a drop more. We'll be goin' to supper soon.

  LUKE—(takes a big drink—huskily) Thanks. (He wipes his mouth on his sleeve with a snuffle.) But I'll tell yuh something you can put in your pipe and smoke. It ain't past and done, and it ain't goin' to be! (more and more aggressively) And I ain't goin' to ferget it, either! Yuh kin betcher life on that, pal. And he ain't goin' to ferget it—not if he lives a million—not by a damned sight! (with sudden fury) I'll fix his hash! I'll git even with him, the old skunk! You watch me! And this very night, too!

  SWEENEY—How d'you mean?

  LUKE—You just watch me, I tell yuh! (banging the table) I said I'd git even and I will git even—this same night, with no long waits, either! (frowning) Say, you don't stand up for him, do yuh?

  SWEENEY—(spitting—vehemently) That's child's talk. There's not a day passed I've not wished him in his grave.

  LUKE—(excitedly) Then we'll both git even on him—you 'n' me. We're pals, ain't we?

  SWEENEY—Sure.

  LUKE—And yuh kin have half what we gits. That's the kinda feller I am! That's fair enough, ain't it?

  SWEENEY—Surely.

  LUKE—I don't want no truck with this rotten farm. You kin have my share of that. I ain't made to be no damned dirt puncher—not me! And I ain't goin' to loaf round here more'n I got to, and when I goes this time I ain't never comin' back. Not me! Not to punch dirt and milk cows. You kin have the rotten farm for all of me. What I wants is cash—regular coin yuh kin spend—not dirt. I want to show the gang a real time, and then ship away to sea agen or go bummin' agen. I want coin yuh kin throw away—same's your kid chucked that dollar of mine overboard, remember? A real dollar, too! She's a sport, aw right!

  SWEENEY—(anxious to bring him back to the subject) But where d'you think to find his money?

  LUKE—(confidently) Don't yuh fret. I'll show yuh. You watch me! I know his hidin' places. I useter spy on him when I was a kid—Maw used to make me—and I seen him many a time at his sneakin'. (indignantly) He used to hide stuff from the old lady. What d'yuh know about him—the mean skunk!

  SWEENEY—That was a long time back. You don't know—

  LUKE—(assertively) But I do know, see! He's got two places. One was where I swiped the hundred.

  SWEENEY—It'll not be there, then.

  LUKE—No; but there's the other place; and he never knew I was wise to that. I'd have left him clean on'y I was a kid and scared to pinch more. So you watch me! We'll git even on him, you 'n' me, and go halfs, and yuh kin start the rotten farm goin' agen and I'll beat it where there's some life.

  SWEENEY—But if there's no money in that place, what'll you be doin' to find out where it is, then?

  LUKE—Then you 'n' me 'ull make him tell!

  SWEENEY—Oho, don't think it! 'Tis not him'd be tellin'.

  LUKE—Aw, say, you're simple! You watch me! I know a trick or two about makin' people tell what they don't wanter. (He picks up the chisel from the table.) Yuh see this? Well, if he don't answer up nice and easy we'll show him! (A ferocious grin settles over his face.) We'll git even on him, you 'n' me—and he'll tell where it's hid. We'll just shove this into the stove till it's red hot and take off his shoes and socks and warm the bottoms of his feet for him. (savagely) He'll tell then—anything we wants him to tell.

  SWEENEY—But Annie?

  LUKE—We'll shove a rag in her mouth so's she can't yell. That's easy.

  SWEENEY—(his head lolling drunkenly—with a cruel leer) 'Twill serve him right to heat up his hoofs for him, the limpin', auld miser!—if ye don't hurt him too much.

  LUKE—(with a savage scowl) We won't hurt him—more'n enough. (suddenly raging) I'll pay him back aw right! He won't want no more people to hang themselves when I git through with him. I'll fix his hash! (He sways to his feet, the chisel in his hand.) Come on! Let's git to work. Sooner we starts the sooner we're rich. (Sweeney rises. He is steadier on his feet than Luke. At this moment Mary appears in the doorway—)

  MARY—Maw says supper's ready. I had mine. (She comes into the room and jumps up, trying to grab hold of the rope.) Lift me, Uncle Luke. I wanter swing.

  LUKE—(severely) Don't yuh dare touch that rope, d'yuh hear?

  MARY—(whining) I wanter swing.

  LUKE—(with a shiver) It's bad, kid. Yuh leave it alone, take it from me.

  SWEENEY—She'll get a good whalin' if I catch her jumpin' at it.

  LUKE—Come on, pal. T'hell with supper. We got work to do first. (They go to the doorway.)

  SWEENEY—(turning back to the sulking Mary) And you stay here, d'you hear, ye brat, till we call ye—or I'll skin ye alive.

  LUKE—And termorrer mornin', kid, I'll give yuh a whole handful of them shiny, bright things yuh chucked in the ocean—and yuh kin be a real sport.

  MARY—(eagerly) Gimme 'em now! Gimme 'em now, Uncle Luke. (as he shakes his head—whiningly) Gimme one! Gimme one!

  LUKE—Can't be done, kid. Termorrer. Me W your old man is goin' to git even now—goin' to make him pay for—

  SWEENEY—(interrupting—harshly) Hist with your noise! D'you think she's no ears? Don't be talkin' so much. Come on, now.

  LUKE—(permitting himself to be pulled out the doorway) Aw right! I'm with yuh. We'll git even—you 'n' me. The damned son of a gun! (They lurch off to the right.)

(Mary skips to the doorway and peeps after them for a moment. Then she comes back to the center of the floor and looks around her with an air of decision. She sees the chair in under the loft and runs over to it, pulling it back and setting it on its legs directly underneath the noose of the rope. She climbs and stands on the top of the chair and grasps the noose with both her upstretched hands. Then with a shriek of delight she kicks the chair from under her and launches herself for a swing. The rope seems to part where it is fixed to the beam. A dirty gray bag tied to the end of the rope falls to the floor with a muffled, metallic thud. Mary sprawls forward on her hands and knees, whimpering. Straggly wisps from the pile of rank hay fall silently to the floor in a mist of dust. Mary, discovering she is unhurt, glances quickly around and sees the bag. She pushes herself along the floor and, untying the string at the top, puts in her hand. She gives an exclamation of joy at what she feels and, turning the bag upside down, pours its contents in her lap. Giggling to herself, she gets to her feet and goes to the doorway, where she dumps what she has in her lap in a heap on the floor just inside the barn. They lie there in a little glittering pile, shimmering in the faint sunset glow fifty twenty-dollar gold pieces. Mary claps her hands and sings to herself. "Skip—skip—skip." Then she quickly picks up four or five of them and runs out to the edge of the cliff. She throws them one after another into the ocean as fast as she can and bends over to see them hit the water. Against the background of horizon clouds still tinted with blurred crimson she hops up and down in a sort of grotesque dance, clapping her hands and laughing shrilly. After the last one is thrown she rushes back into the barn to get more.)

  MARY—(picking up a handful—giggling ecstastically) Skip! Skip! Skip! (She turns and runs out to throw them as

The Curtain Falls)


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