PAT SWEENEY, her husband
MARY, their child
LUKE BENTLEY, Abe's son
by a second marriage
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
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
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.
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,
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
SWEENEY—He did, did he? I'll soon learn him better. (He advances toward
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
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
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
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
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.
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.)
SWEENEY—(crossing himself) Glory be to God—it's him!
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
MARY—(in an angry whine, tugging at his hand) Lemme throw 'nother.
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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.
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'
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
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
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?
LUKE—And yuh kin have half what we gits. That's the kinda feller I am!
That's fair enough, ain't it?
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
SWEENEY—That was a long time back. You don't
But I do know, see! He's got two places. One was where I swiped the
SWEENEY—It'll not be there, then.
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.
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.
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.
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)