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Title:      Welded (1924)
Author:     Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)
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Language:   English
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Date first posted:          January 2004
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Welded (1924)
Author:     Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)


A Play in Three Acts


Text as published in The Complete Works (1924)




Characters

MICHAEL CAPE

ELEANOR

JOHN

A WOMAN



Scenes

ACT I

SCENE:  Studio apartment.

ACT II

SCENE I:  Library.

SCENE II:  Bedroom.

ACT III

SCENE:  Same as Act I.




Welded


ACT ONE


SCENE--Studio apartment.  In the rear, a balcony with a stairway at
center leading down to the studio floor.

The room is in darkness.  Then a circle of light reveals Eleanor
lying back on a chaise longue.  She is a woman of thirty.  Her
figure is tall.  Her face, with its high, prominent cheek-bones,
lacks harmony.  It is dominated by passionate, blue-gray eyes,
restrained by a high forehead from which the mass of her dark brown
hair is combed straight back.  The first impression of her whole
personality is one of charm, partly innate, partly imposed by years
of self-discipline.

She picks up a letter from the table, which she opens and reads, an
expression of delight and love coming over her face.  She kisses
the letter impulsively--then gives a gay laugh at herself.  She
lets the letter fall on her lap and stares straight before her,
lost in a sentimental reverie.

A door underneath the balcony is noiselessly opened and Michael
comes in.  (A circle of light appears with him, follows him into
the room.  These two circles of light, like auras of egoism,
emphasize and intensify Eleanor and Michael throughout the play.
There is no other lighting.  The two other people and the rooms are
distinguishable only by the light of Eleanor and Michael.)

Michael is thirty-five, tall and dark.  His unusual face is a
harrowed battlefield of super-sensitiveness, the features at war
with one another--the forehead of a thinker, the eyes of a dreamer,
the nose and mouth of a sensualist.  One feels a powerful
imagination tinged with somber sadness--a driving force which can
be sympathetic and cruel at the same time.  There is something
tortured about him--a passionate tension, a self-protecting,
arrogant defiance of life and his own weakness, a deep need for
love as a faith in which to relax.

He has a suitcase, hat, and overcoat which he sets inside on the
floor, glancing toward Eleanor, trying not to make the slightest
noise.  But she suddenly becomes aware of some presence in the room
and turns boldly to face it.  She gives an exclamation of delighted
astonishment when she sees Michael and jumps up to meet him as he
strides toward her.


ELEANOR--Michael!

CAPE--(with a boyish grin)  You've spoiled it, Nelly; I wanted a
kiss to announce me.  (They are in each other's arms.  He kisses
her tenderly.)

ELEANOR--(joyously)  This IS a surprise!

CAPE--(straining her in his arms and kissing her passionately)  Own
little wife!

ELEANOR--Dearest!  (They look into each other's eyes for a long
moment.)

CAPE--(tenderly)  Happy?

ELEANOR--Yes, yes!  Why do you always ask?  You know.  (suddenly
pushing him at arms' length--with a happy laugh)  It's positively
immoral for an old married couple to act this way.  (She leads him
by the hand to the chaise longue.)  And you must explain.  You
wrote not to expect you till the end of the week.  (She sits down.)
Get a cushion.  Sit down here.  (He puts a cushion on the floor
beside the chaise longue and sits down.)  Tell me all about it.

CAPE--(notices the letter lying on the floor)  Were you reading my
letter?  (She nods.  He gives a happy grin.)  Do you mean to say
you still read them over--after five years of me?

ELEANOR--(with a tender smile)  Oh--sometimes.

CAPE--Sweetheart!  (smiling)  What were you dreaming about when I
intruded?

ELEANOR--Never mind.  You're enough of an egotist already.  (her
hand caressing his face and hair)  I've been feeling so lonely--and
it's only been a few weeks, hasn't it?  (She laughs.)  How was
everything in the country?  (suddenly kissing him)  Oh, I'm so
happy you're back.  (with mock severity)  But ought I?  Have you
finished the fourth act?  You know you promised not to return until
you did.

CAPE--This afternoon!

ELEANOR--You're sure you didn't force it--(with a tender smile at
him)--because you were lonely, too?

CAPE--(with a sudden change in manner that is almost stern)  No.  I
wouldn't.  I couldn't.  You know that.

ELEANOR--(her face showing a trace of hurt in spite of herself)  I
was only fooling.  (then rousing herself as if conquering a growing
depression)  I'm terribly anxious to hear what you've done.

CAPE--(enthusiastically)  You'll see when I read you--And you're
going to be marvelous!  It's going to be the finest thing we've
ever done!

ELEANOR--I love you for saying "we."  But the "we" is you.  I only--
(with a smile of ironical self-pity)--act a part you've created.

CAPE--(impetuously)  Nonsense!  You're an artist.  Each performance
of yours has taught me something.  Why, my women used to be--death
masks.  But now they're as alive as you are--(with a sudden grin)--
at least, when you play them.

ELEANOR--(her eyes shining with excited pleasure)  You don't know
how much it means to have you talk like that!  Oh, I'm going to
work so hard, Michael!  (impetuously)  You've simply got to read me
that last act right now!

CAPE--(jumping to his feet eagerly)  All right.  (He walks toward
his bag--then stops when he is half-way and, hesitating, turns
slowly and comes back.  He bends down and lifts her face to his--
with a smile)  No.  I won't.

ELEANOR--(disappointed)  Oh.  Why not, dear?

CAPE--Because--

ELEANOR--Plagiarist!

CAPE--Because I've been hoping for this night as our own.  Let's
forget the actress and playwright.  Let's just be--us--lovers.

ELEANOR--(with a tender smile--musingly)  We HAVE remained lovers,
haven't we?

CAPE--(with a grin)  Fights and all?

ELEANOR--(with a little frown)  We don't fight so much.

CAPE--(frowning himself)  Too much.

ELEANOR--(forcing a smile)  Perhaps that's the price.

CAPE--Don't grow fatalistic--just when I was about to propose
reform.

ELEANOR--(smiling--quickly)  Oh, I'll promise to be good--if you
will.  (gently reproachful)  Do you think I enjoy fighting with
you?

CAPE--(with sudden passion)  It's wrong, Nelly.  It's evil!

ELEANOR--Ssshh!  We promised.

CAPE--(hesitatingly)  We've been taking each other too much for
granted.  That may do very well with the common loves of the world--
but ours--!  (He suddenly pulls her head down and kisses her
impulsively.)  But you understand!  Oh, Nelly, I love you with all
my soul!

ELEANOR--(deeply moved)  And I love you, Michael--always and
forever!  (They sit close, she staring dreamily before her, he
watching her face.)

CAPE--(after a pause)  What are you thinking?

ELEANOR--(with a tender smile)  Of the first time we met--at
rehearsal, remember?  I was thinking of how mistakenly I'd pictured
you before that.  (She pauses--then frowning a little)  I'd heard
such a lot of gossip about your love affairs.

CAPE--(with a wry grin)  You must have been disappointed if you
expected Don Juan.  (a pause--then forcing a short laugh)  I also
had heard a lot of rumors about your previous--(He stops abruptly
with an expression of extreme bitterness.)

ELEANOR--(sharply)  Don't!  (a pause--then she goes on sadly)  It
was only our past together I wanted to remember.  (a pause--then
with a trace of scornful resentment)  I was forgetting your morbid
obsession--

CAPE--(with gloomy irritation)  Obsession?  Why--?  (then
determinedly throwing off this mood--reproachfully forcing a joking
tone)  We're not "starting something" now, are we--after our
promise?

ELEANOR--(impulsively pressing his hand)  No, no--of course not!

CAPE--(after a pause--a bit awkwardly)  But you guessed my desire,
at that.  I wanted to dream with you in our past--to find there--a
new faith--

ELEANOR--(smiling)  Another Grand Ideal for our marriage?

CAPE--(frowning)  Don't mock.

ELEANOR--(teasingly)  But you're such a relentless idealist.  You
needn't frown.  That was exactly what drew me to you in those first
days.  (earnestly)  I'd lost faith in everything.  Your love saved
me.  Your work saved mine.  I owe you myself, Michael!  (She kisses
him.)  Do you remember--our first night together?

CAPE--Do you imagine I could've forgotten?

ELEANOR--(continuing as if she hadn't heard)  The play was such a
marvelous success!  I knew I had finally won--through your work!  I
loved myself!  I loved you!  You came to me--(more and more
intensely)  Oh, it was beautiful madness!  I lost myself.  I began
living in you.  I wanted to die and become you!

CAPE--(passionately)  And I, you!

ELEANOR--(softly)  And do you remember the dawn creeping in--and
how we began to plan our future?  (She exclaims impulsively)  Oh,
I'd give anything in the world to live those days over again!

CAPE--Why?  Hasn't our marriage kept the spirit of that time--with
a growth of something deeper--finer--

ELEANOR--Yes,--but--Oh, you know what I mean!  It was revelation
then--a miracle out of the sky!

CAPE--(insistently)  But haven't we realized the ideal of our
marriage--(smiling but with deep earnestness nevertheless)  Not for
us the ordinary family rite, you'll remember!  We swore to have a
true sacrament--or nothing!  Our marriage must be a consummation
demanding and combining the best in each of us!  Hard, difficult,
guarded from the commonplace, kept sacred as the outward form of
our inner harmony!  (With an awkward sense of having become
rhetorical he adds self-mockingly)  We'd tend our flame on an
altar, not in a kitchen range!  (He forces a grin--then abruptly
changing again, with a sudden fierce pleading)  It has been what we
dreamed, hasn't it, Nelly?

ELEANOR--Our ideal was difficult.  (sadly)  Sometimes I think we've
demanded too much.  Now there's nothing left but that something
which can't give itself.  And I blame you for this--because I can
neither take more nor give more--and you blame me!  (She smiles
tenderly.)  And then we fight!

CAPE--Then let's be proud of our fight!  It began with the
splitting of a cell a hundred million years ago into you and me,
leaving an eternal yearning to become one life again.

ELEANOR--At moments--we do.

CAPE--Yes!  (He kisses her--then intensely)  You and I--year after
year--together--forms of our bodies merging into one form; rhythm
of our lives beating against each other, forming slowly the one
rhythm--the life of Us--created by us!--beyond us, above us!  (with
sudden furious anger)  God, what I feel of the truth of this--the
beauty!--but how can I express it?

ELEANOR--(kissing him)  I understand.

CAPE--(straining her to him with fierce passion)  Oh, My Own, My
Own--and I your own--to the end of time!

ELEANOR--I love you!

CAPE--(with passionate exultance)  Why do you regret our first
days?  Their fire still burns in us--deeper!  Don't you feel that?
(kissing her again and again)  I've become you!  You've become me!
One heart!  One blood!  Ours!  (He pulls her to her feet.)  My
wife!  Come!

ELEANOR--(almost swooning in his arms)  My lover--yes--My lover--

CAPE--Come!  (With his arms around her he leads her to the
stairway.  As they get to the foot, there is a noise from the hall.
She hears it, starts, seems suddenly brought back to herself.  Cape
is oblivious and continues up the stairs.  She stands swaying,
holding on to the banister as if in a daze.  At the top, Cape turns
in surprise at not finding her, as if he had felt her behind him.
He looks down passionately, stretching out his arms, his eyes
glowing.)  Come!

ELEANOR--(weakly)  Ssshh!  A moment--Listen!

CAPE--(bewilderedly)  What?  What is it?

ELEANOR--Ssshh--Listen--Someone--(She speaks in an unnatural,
mechanical tone.  A knock comes at the door.  She gives a sort of
gasp of relief.)  There!

CAPE--(still bewilderedly as if something mysterious were happening
that he cannot grasp)  What--what--?  (then as she takes a slow,
mechanical step toward the door--with tense pleading)  Nelly!  Come
here!  (She turns to look at him and is held by his imploring eyes.
She sways irresolutely toward him, again reaching to the banister
for support.  Then a sharper knock comes at the door.  It acts like
a galvanic shock on her.  Her eyes move in that direction, she
takes another jerky step.  Cape stammers in a fierce whisper)  No!
Don't go!

ELEANOR--(without looking at him--mechanically)  I must.

CAPE--(frantically)  They'll go away.  Nelly, don't!  Don't!
(Again she stops irresolutely like a hypnotized person torn by two
conflicting suggestions.  The knock is repeated, this time with
authority, assurance.  Her body reacts as if she were throwing off
a load.)

ELEANOR--(with a return to her natural tone--but hysterically)
Please--don't be silly, Michael.  It might be--something important.
(She hurries to the door.)

CAPE--(rushing down the stairs--frantically)  No!  No!  (He just
gets to the bottom as she opens the door.  He stands there fixed,
disorganized, trembling all over.)

ELEANOR--(as she sees who it is--in a relieved tone of surprise)
Why, hello, John.  Come in!  Here's Michael.  Michael, it's John.
(John steps into the room.  He is a man of about fifty, tall,
loose-limbed, a bit stoop-shouldered, with iron-gray hair, and a
gaunt, shrewd face.  He is not handsome but his personality compels
affection.  His eyes are round and childlike.  He has no nerves.
His voice is low and calming.)

JOHN--(shaking Eleanor by the hand)  Hello, Nelly.  I was on my way
home from the theater and I thought I'd drop in for a second.
Hello, Michael.  When'd you get in?  Glad to see you back.  (He
comes to him and shakes his hand which Cape extends jerkily, as if
in spite of himself, without a word.)

ELEANOR--(after a glance at her husband--in a forced tone)  We're
so glad you've come.  Sit down.

JOHN--(He becomes aware of the disharmonious atmosphere his
appearance has created.)  I can't stay a second.  (to Cape)  I
wanted some news.  I thought Nelly'd probably have heard from you.
(He slaps Cape on the back with jovial familiarity.)  Well, how's
it coming?

CAPE--(in a frozen tone)  Oh,--all right--all right.

ELEANOR--(uneasily)  Won't you have a cigarette, John?  (She takes
the box from the table and holds it out to him.)

JOHN--(taking one)  Thanks, Nelly.  (He half-sits on the arm of a
chair.  She holds out a light to him.)  Thanks.

ELEANOR--(nervously)  Why don't you sit down, Michael?  (He doesn't
answer.  She goes to him with the cigarettes.)  Don't you want a
cigarette?  (Cape stares at her with a hot glance of scorn.  She
recoils from it, turning quickly away from him, visibly shaken.
Without appearing to notice, John scrutinizes their faces keenly,
sizing up the situation.)

JOHN--(breaking in matter-of-factly)  You look done up, Michael.

CAPE--(with a guilty start)  I--I'm tired out.

ELEANOR--(with a forced air)  He's been working too hard.  He
finished the last act only this afternoon.

JOHN--(with a grunt of satisfaction)  Glad to hear it.  (abruptly)
When can I see it?

CAPE--In a day or so--I want to go over--

JOHN--All right.  (getting to his feet)  Well, that's that.  I'll
run along.

ELEANOR--(almost frightenedly)  Do stay.  Why don't you read us the
last act now, Michael?

CAPE--(fiercely)  No!  It's rotten!  I hate the whole play!

JOHN--(easily)  Reaction.  This play's the finest thing you've
done.  (He comes to Cape and slaps him on the back reassuringly.)
And it's the biggest chance the lady here has ever had.  It'll be a
triumph for you both, wait and see.  So cheer up--and get a good
night's rest.  (Cape smiles with bitter irony.)  Well, good-night.
(Cape nods without speaking, John goes to the door, Eleanor
accompanying him.)  Good night, Nelly.  Better start on your part--
only don't you overdo it, too.  (He pats her on the back.)  Good-
night.

ELEANOR--Good-night.  (She closes the door after him.  She remains
there for a moment staring at the closed door, afraid to turn and
meet Cape's fiercely accusing eyes which she feels fixed upon her.
Finally, making an effort of will, she walks back to the table,
avoiding his eyes, assuming a careless air.)

CAPE--(suddenly explodes in furious protest)  Why did you do that?

ELEANOR--(with an assumed surprise but with a guilty air, turning
over the pages of a magazine)  Do what?

CAPE--(tensely, clutching her by the arm)  You know what I mean!
(Unconsciously he grips her tighter, almost shaking her.)

ELEANOR--(coldly)  You're hurting me.  (A bit shamefacedly, Cape
lets go of her arm.  She glances quickly at his face, then speaks
with a kind of dull remorse.)  I suppose I can guess--my going to
the door?

CAPE--He would've gone away--(with anguish)  Nelly, why did you?

ELEANOR--(defensively)  Wasn't it important you see John?

CAPE--(with helpless anger)  Don't evade!  (with deep feeling)  I
should think you'd be ashamed.

ELEANOR--(after a pause--dully)  Perhaps--I am.  (a pause)  I
couldn't help myself.

CAPE--(intensely)  You should've been oblivious to everything!
(miserably)  I--I can't understand!

ELEANOR--That's you, Michael.  The other is me--or a part of me--I
hardly understand myself.

CAPE--(sinking down on a chair, his head in his hands)  After all
we'd been to each other tonight--!  (with bitter despondency)
Ruined now--gone--a rare moment of beauty!  It seems at times as if
some jealous demon of the commonplace were mocking us.  (with a
violent gesture of loathing)  Oh, how intolerably insulting life
can be!  (then brokenly)  Nelly, why, why did you?

ELEANOR--(dully)  I--I don't know.  (Then after a pause she comes
over and puts her hand on his shoulder.)  Don't brood, dear.  I'm
sorry.  I hate myself.  (A pause.  She looks down at him, seeming
to make up her mind to something--in a forced tone)  But--why is it
gone--our beautiful moment?  (She strokes his hair.)  We have the
whole night--(He stares up at her wonderingly.  She forces a smile,
half turning away.)

CAPE--(in wild protest)  Nelly, what are you offering me--a
sacrifice?  Please!

ELEANOR--(revolted)  Michael!  (then hysterically)  No, forgive me!
I'm the disgusting one!  Forgive me!  (She turns away from him and
throws herself on a chair, staring straight before her.  Their
chairs are side by side, each facing front, so near that by a
slight movement each could touch the other, but during the
following scene they stare straight ahead and remain motionless.
They speak, ostensibly to the other, but showing by their tone it
is a thinking aloud to oneself, and neither appears to hear what
the other has said.)

CAPE--(after a long pause)  More and more frequently.  There's
always some knock at the door, some reminder of the life outside
which calls you away from me.

ELEANOR--It's so beautiful--and then--suddenly I'm being crushed.
I feel a cruel presence in you paralyzing me, creeping over my
body, possessing it so it's no longer my body--then grasping at
some last inmost thing which makes me me--my soul--demanding to
have that, too!  I have to rebel with all my strength--seize any
pretext!  Just now at the foot of the stairs--the knock on the door
was--liberation.  (in anguish)  And yet I love you!  It's because I
love you!  If I'm destroyed, what is left to love you, what is left
for you to love?

CAPE--I've grown inward into our life.  But you keep trying to
escape as if it were a prison.  You feel the need of what is
outside.  I'm not enough for you.

ELEANOR--Why is it I can never know you?  I try to know you and I
can't.  I desire to take all of you into my heart, but there's a
great alien force--I hate that unknown power in you which would
destroy me.  (pleadingly)  Haven't I a right to myself as you have
to yourself?

CAPE--You fight against me as if I were your enemy.  Every word or
action of mine which affects you, you resent.  At every turn you
feel your individuality invaded--while at the same time, you're
jealous of any separateness in me.  You demand more and more while
you give less and less.  And I have to acquiesce.  Have to?  Yes,
because I can't live without you!  You realize that!  You take
advantage of it while you despise me for my helplessness!  (This
seems to goad him to desperation.)  But look out!  I still have the
strength to--!  (He turns his head and stares at her challengingly.)

ELEANOR--(as before)  You insist that I have no life at all outside
you.  Even my work must exist only as an echo of yours.  You hate
my need of easy, casual associations.  You think that weakness.
You hate my friends.  You're jealous of everything and everybody.
(resentfully)  I have to fight.  You're too severe.  Your ideal is
too inhuman.  Why can't you understand and be generous--be just!
(She turns to meet his eyes, staring back with resentful accusation.
They look at each other in this manner for a long moment.)

CAPE--(averting his eyes and addressing her directly in a cold,
sarcastic tone)  Strange--that John should pop in on us suddenly
like that.

ELEANOR--(resentfully)  I don't see anything strange about it.

CAPE--It's past twelve--

ELEANOR--You're in New York now.

CAPE--(sharply)  I'm quite aware of that.  Nevertheless--

ELEANOR--(shortly)  He explained.  Didn't you hear him?  He wanted
news of the play and thought I might have a letter--

CAPE--That's just the point.  He had no idea he would find me here.

ELEANOR--(about to fly at him, checks herself after a pause,
coldly)  Why shouldn't he come to see me?  He's the oldest friend
I've got.  He gave me my first chance and he's always helped me
since.  I owe whatever success I've made to his advice and
direction.

CAPE--(stung--sarcastically)  Oh, undoubtedly!

ELEANOR--I suppose you think I ought to have said it's to you I owe
everything?

CAPE--(dryly)  I'd prefer to say it was to yourself, and no one
else.  (after a pause--attempting a casual tone)  Has he been in
the habit of calling here while I've been gone?  (hurriedly)  Don't
misunderstand me.  I'm merely asking a question.

ELEANOR--(scornfully)  Oh!  (A pause.  She bites her lips--then
coldly)  Yes, he's been here once before.  (mockingly)  And after
the theater, too!  Think of that!

CAPE--(sneeringly)  The same insatiable curiosity about my play?

ELEANOR--(angrily)  Michael!  (a pause--then scornfully)  Don't
tell me you're becoming jealous of John again!

CAPE--(meaningly)  Again.  That's just it.

ELEANOR--(springing from her chair--excitedly)  This is
insufferable!  (then calming herself with an effort--with a forced
laugh)  Please don't be so ridiculous, Michael.  I'll only lose my
temper if you keep on.  (Then suddenly she makes up her mind and
comes to him.)  Please stop, dear.  We've made up our minds not to
quarrel.  Let's drop it.  (She pats his head with a friendly smile.)

CAPE--(impulsively takes her hand and kisses it)  All right.
Forgive me.  I'm all unstrung.  His breaking in on us like that--
(He relapses into frowning brooding again.  She sits down, this
time facing him, and look at him uneasily.)

ELEANOR--(after a pause--rather irritably)  It's too absolutely
silly, your being jealous of John.

CAPE--I'm not jealous of him.  I'm jealous of you--the something in
you that repulses our love--the stranger in you.

ELEANOR--(with a short laugh)  I should think after five years--

CAPE--(unheeding)  And what makes me hate you at those times is
that I know you like to make me jealous, that my suffering pleases
you, that it satisfies some craving in you--for revenge!

ELEANOR--(scornfully)  Can't you realize how absurd you are?  (then
with a forced placating laugh)  No, really, Michael, it'd be funny--
if it weren't so exasperating.

CAPE--(after a pause--somberly)  You mentioned our years together
as proof.  What of the years that preceded?

ELEANOR--(challengingly)  Well, what of them?

CAPE--By their light, I have plausible grounds for jealousy in
John's case.  Or don't you acknowledge that?

ELEANOR--I deny it absolutely!

CAPE--Why, you've told me yourself he was in love with you for
years, and that he once asked you to marry him!

ELEANOR--Well, did I marry him?

CAPE--But he still loves you.

ELEANOR--Don't be stupid!

CAPE--He does, I tell you!

ELEANOR--If you had any sense you'd know that his love has become
purely that of an old friend.  And I refuse to give up his
friendship for your silly whims.

CAPE--(after a pause in which they each brood resentfully--
sarcastically)  You were a shining exception, it appears.  The
other women he helped could hardly claim he had remained--merely
their friend.

ELEANOR--(vehemently)  It's a lie!  And even if it were true, you'd
find it was they who offered themselves!

CAPE--(significantly)  Ah!  (then after a pause)  Perhaps because
they felt it necessary for their careers.

ELEANOR--(dryly)  Perhaps.  (then after a pause)  But they
discovered their mistake, then.  John isn't that type.

CAPE--(suddenly)  Why do you act so jealous--of those others?

ELEANOR--(flushing angrily)  I don't.  It's your imagination.

CAPE--Then why lose your temper?

ELEANOR--Because I resent your superior attitude that John had to
bribe women to love him.  Isn't he as worthy of love--as you are?

CAPE--(sarcastically)  If I am to believe your story, you didn't
think so.

ELEANOR--(irritably)  Then let's stop arguing, for heaven's sake!
Why do you always have to rake up the past?  For the last year or
so you've begun to act more and more as you did when we first lived
together--jealous and suspicious of everything and everybody!
(hysterically)  I can't bear it, Michael!

CAPE--(ironically)  You used to love me for it then.

ELEANOR--(calming herself)  Well, I can't endure it now.  It's too
degrading.  I have a right to your complete faith.  (reaching over
and grasping his hands--earnestly)  You know I have in your heart
of hearts.  You know that there can never be anyone but you.
Forget the past.  It wasn't us.  For your peace--and mine, Michael!

CAPE--(moved--pressing her hands)  All right.  Let's stop.  It's
only that I've thought I've felt you drawing away--!  Perhaps it's
all my supersensitiveness--(patting her hand and forcing a smile)
Let's talk of something else.  (cheerfully--after a pause)  You
can't imagine how wonderful it's been up in the country.  There's
just enough winter in the air to make one energetic.  No summer
fools about.  Solitude and work.  I was happy--that is, as happy as
I ever can be without you.

ELEANOR--(withdrawing her hands from his with a quick movement--
sarcastically)  Thanks for that afterthought--but do you expect me
to believe it?  When you're working I might die and you'd never
know it.

CAPE--(amused but irritated)  There you go!  You denounce my
jealousy, but it seems to me your brand of it is much more
ridiculous.

ELEANOR--(sharply)  You imagine I'm jealous of your work?  You--you
flatter yourself!

CAPE--(stung--bitingly)  It's an unnatural passion certainly--in
your case.  And an extremely ungrateful passion, I might add!

ELEANOR--(losing her temper completely)  You mean I ought to be
grateful for--I suppose you think that without your work I--
(springing to her feet)  Your egotism is making a fool of you!
You're becoming so exaggeratedly conceited no one can stand you!
Everyone notices it!

CAPE--(angrily)  You know that's untrue.  You only say it to be
mean.  As for my work, you've acknowledged a million times--

ELEANOR--If I have--but please remember there are other playwrights
in the world!

CAPE--(bitingly)  You were on the stage seven years before I met
you.  Your appearance in the work of other playwrights--you must
admit you were anything but successful!

ELEANOR--(with a sneer of rage)  And I suppose you were?

CAPE--Yes!  Not in your commercial sense, perhaps, but--

ELEANOR--You're contemptible!  You know that's the very last thing
you can say of me.  It was exactly because I wasn't that kind--
because I was an artist--that I found it so hard!

CAPE--(unheeding)  My plays had been written.  The one you played
in first was written three years before.  The work was done.
That's the proof.

ELEANOR--(scathingly)  That's absurd!  You know very well if it
hadn't been for John, you--

CAPE--(violently)  Nonsense!  There were other managers who--

ELEANOR--They didn't want your work, you know it!

CAPE--(enraged)  I see what you're driving at!  You'd like to
pretend I was as much dependent on John as you were!  (trembling
all over with the violence of his passion)  I should think you'd be
ashamed to boast so brazenly--to me!--of what he had done for you!

ELEANOR--Why should I be ashamed of my gratitude?

CAPE--To drag that relationship out of the past and throw it in my
face!

ELEANOR--(very pale--tensely)  What relationship?

CAPE--(incoherently, strangled by his passion)  Ask anyone!  (then
suddenly with anguished remorse)  No, no!  I don't mean that!
(torturedly)  Wounds!  Wounds!  For God's sake!

ELEANOR--(trembling with rage)  I'll never forget you said that!

CAPE--(stung--in a passion again at once)  Because I resent that
man's being here--late at night--when I was away?  Oh, I don't mean
I suspect you--now--

ELEANOR--(viciously)  What noble faith!  Maybe you're going to
discover I don't deserve it!

CAPE--(unheeding)  But there was scandal enough about you and him,
and if you had any respect for me--

ELEANOR--I've lost it now!

CAPE--You wouldn't deliberately open the way--

ELEANOR--(tensely)  So you believe--that gutter gossip?  You think
I--?  Then all these years you've really believed--?  Oh, you mean
hypocrite!

CAPE--(stung--bitingly)  Don't act moral indignation!  What else
could I have thought?  When we first fell in love, you confessed
frankly you had had lovers--not John but others--

ELEANOR--(brokenly--with mingled grief and rage)  I was an idiot!
I should have lied to you!  But I thought you'd understand--that
I'd been searching for something--that I needed love--something I
found in you!  I tried to make you see--the truth--that those
experiences had only made me appreciate you all the more when I
found you!  I told you how little these men had meant to me, that
in the state of mind I had been in they had no significance either
one way or the other, and that such an attitude is possible for a
woman without her being low.  I thought you understood.  But you
didn't, you're not big enough for that!  (with a wild ironical
laugh)  Now I know why the women in your plays are so wooden!  You
ought to thank me for breathing life into them!

CAPE--(furiously)  Good God, how dare you criticize creative work,
you actress!

ELEANOR--(violently)  You deny that I create--?  Perhaps if I'd
have children and a home, take up knitting--!  (She laughs wildly.)
I'd be safe then, wouldn't I--reliable, guaranteed not to--(Her
face seems suddenly to congeal.)  So you think that I was John's
mistress--that I loved him--or do you believe I just sold myself?

CAPE--(in agony)  No, no!  For God's sake, not that!  I may have
thought you once loved--

ELEANOR--(frozenly)  Well, it was--that--just that!  When he first
engaged me--I'd heard the gossip--I thought he expected--and I
agreed with myself--it meant nothing to me one way or the other--
nothing meant anything then but a chance to do my work--yes, I
agreed--but you see he didn't, he didn't agree.  He loved me but he
saw I didn't love him--that way--and he's a finer man than you
think!

CAPE--(hoarsely)  You're lying!  (bewilderedly)  I can't believe--

ELEANOR--(fiercely)  Oh yes, you can!  You want to!  You do!  And
you're glad!  It makes me lower than you thought, but you're glad
to know it just the same!  You're glad because now you can really
believe that--nothing ever happened between us!  (She stares into
his eyes and seems to read some confirmation of her statement
there, for she cries with triumphant bitterness)  You can't deny
it!

CAPE--(wildly)  No!  You devil, you, you read thoughts into my
mind!

ELEANOR--(with wild hysterical scorn)  It's true!  How could I ever
love you?

CAPE--(clutching her in his arms fiercely)  You do!  (He kisses her
frantically.  For a moment she submits, appears even to return his
kisses in spite of herself.  Cape cries triumphantly)  You do!
(She suddenly pushes him away and glares at him at arms' length.
Her features are working convulsively.  Her whole tortured face
expresses an abysmal self-loathing, a frightful hatred for him.)

ELEANOR--(as if to herself--in a strangled voice)  No!  You can't
crush--me!  (Her face becomes deadly calm.  She speaks with
intense, cold hatred.)  Don't kiss me.  I love him.  He was--my
lover--here--when you were away!

CAPE--(stares dumbly into her eyes for a long moment--hoarsely, in
agony)  You lie!  You only want to torture--

ELEANOR--(deathly calm)  It's true!  (Cape stares at her another
second--then, with a snarl of fury like an animal's he seizes her
about the throat with both hands.  He chokes her, forcing her down
to her knees.  She does not struggle but continues to look into his
eyes with the same defiant hate.  At last he comes to himself with
a shudder and steps away from her.  She remains where she is, only
putting out her hand on the floor to support herself.)

CAPE--(in a terrible state, sobbing with rage and anguish)  Gone!
All our beauty gone!  And you don't love him!  You lie!  You did
this out of hatred for me!  You dragged our ideal in the gutter--
with delight!  (wildly)  And you pride yourself you've killed it,
do you, you actress, you barren soul?  (with savage triumph)  But I
tell you only a creator can really destroy!  (with a climax of
frenzy)  And I will!  I will!  I won't give your hatred the
satisfaction of seeing our love live on in me--to torture me!  I'll
drag it lower than you!  I'll stamp it into the vilest depths!
I'll leave it dead!  I'll murder it--and be free!  (Again he
threatens her, his hands twitching back toward her neck--then he
rushes out of the door as if furies were pursuing him, slamming it
shut behind him.)

ELEANOR--(with a cry of despair)  Michael!  (She stops as hatred
and rage overpower her again--leaps up and runs to the door--opens
it and screams after him violently)  Go!  Go!  I'm glad!  I hate
you.  I'll go, too!  I'm free!  I'll go--(She turns and runs up the
stairs.  She disappears for a moment, then comes back with a hat
and coat on and, hurrying down the stairs again, rushes out leaving
the door open behind her.)


(The Curtain Falls)



ACT TWO


SCENE ONE


Library.  A door is in the rear, toward right.  A large couch
facing front.  On the wall, a framed portrait study of Eleanor.

At first the room is in darkness.  As the curtain rises, John can
be dimly distinguished sitting, bent over wearily, his shoulders
bowed, his long arms resting on his knees, his hands dangling.  He
sits on the extreme edge in the exact middle of the big couch, and
this heightens the sense of loneliness about him.

Suddenly he starts as the sound of a motor comes from the driveway.
The car is heard driving up; it stops before the front door; its
door is slammed, it drives off; a ringing of the doorbell sounds
from somewhere back in the house.  John has gotten up, gone toward
the door in the rear, exclaiming irritably as the bell continues to
ring--All right, damn it!  Who the devil--?  (He is heard opening
the front door--in blank amazement)  Nelly!  (Then her voice in a
strained, hysterical pitch)  John!  I--(The rest is lost
incoherently.  Then his voice soothingly)  Come in!  Come in.  (He
follows her into the room.  Her face is pale, distraught,
desperate.  She comes quickly to the couch and flings herself down
in one corner.  He stands nearby uncertainly, watching her.  His
face holds a confused mixture of alarm, tenderness, perplexity,
passionate hope.)


JOHN--You're trembling.

ELEANOR--(with a startled movement)  No--I--I'm--(A pause.  He
waits for her to speak, not knowing what to think.  She gradually
collects herself.  Memory crowds back on her and her face twitches
with pain which turns to hatred and rage.  She becomes conscious of
John's eyes, forces this back, her face growing mask-like and
determined.  She looks up at John and forces the words out slowly.)
John--you said, if ever--You once said I might always come--

JOHN--(His face lights up for a second with a joy that is
incongruously savage--at once controlling this--simply)  Yes,
Nelly.

ELEANOR--(a bit brokenly now)  I hope--you meant that.

JOHN--(simply)  Yes, I meant it.

ELEANOR--I mean--that you still mean it--?

JOHN--(forcing an awkward smile)  Then--now--forever after, amen--
any old time at all, Nelly.  (then overcome by a rush of bewildered
joy--stammering)  Why--you ought to know--!

ELEANOR--(smiling tensely)  Would I still be welcome if I'd come--
to stay?

JOHN--(his voice quivering)  Nelly!  (He starts toward her, then
stops--in a low, uncertain voice)  And Michael?

ELEANOR--(with an exclamation of pain)  Don't!  (quickly recovering
herself--in a cold, hard voice)  That's--dead!  (John lets a held-
back breath of suspense escape him.  Eleanor stammers a bit
hysterically)  Don't talk of him!  I've forgotten--as if he'd never
lived!  Do you still love me?  Do you?  Then tell me!  I must know
someone--

JOHN--(still uncertain, but coming nearer to her--simply)  You knew
once.  Since then--My God, you've guessed, haven't you?

ELEANOR--I need to hear.  You've never spoken--for years--

JOHN--There was--Michael.

ELEANOR--(wildly, putting her hands up to her ears as if to shut
out the name)  Don't!  (then, driven by a desperate determination,
forces a twisted smile)  Why do you stand there?  Are you afraid?
I'm beginning to suspect--perhaps, you've only imagined--

JOHN--Nelly!  (He seizes one of her hands awkwardly and covers it
with kisses--confusedly, with deep emotion)  I--You know--You know--

ELEANOR--(with the same fixed smile)  You must put your arms around
me--and kiss me--on the lips--

JOHN--(takes her in his arms awkwardly and kisses her on the lips--
with passionate incoherence)  Nelly!  I'd given up hoping--I--I
can't believe--(She submits to his kisses with closed eyes, her
face like a mask, her body trembling with revulsion.  Suddenly he
seems to sense something disharmonious--confusedly)  But you--you
don't care for me.

ELEANOR--(still with closed eyes--dully)  Yes.  (With a spurt of
desperate energy she kisses him wildly several times, then sinks
back again closing her eyes.)  I'm so tired, John--so tired!

JOHN--(immediately all concern)  You're trembling all over.  I'm an
idiot not to have seen--Forgive me.  (He puts his hand on her
forehead.)  You're feverish.  You'd better go to bed, young lady,
right away.  Come.  (He raises her to her feet.)

ELEANOR--(wearily)  Yes, I'm tired.  (bitterly)  Oh, it's good to
be loved by someone who is unselfish and kind--

JOHN--Ssshh!  (forcing a joking tone)  I'm cast for the Doctor now.
Doctor's orders: don't talk, don't think, sleep.  Come, I'll show
you your room.

ELEANOR--(dully)  Yes.  (As if she were not aware of what she is
doing, she allows him to lead her to the door at right, rear.
There she suddenly starts as if awakening--frightenedly)  Where are
we going?

JOHN--(with gentle bullying)  You're going upstairs to bed.

ELEANOR--(with a shudder--incoherently)  No, no!  Not now--no--
wait--you must wait--(then calming herself and trying to speak
matter-of-factly)  I'd rather stay up and sit with you.

JOHN--(worriedly, but giving in to her at once)  All right.
Whatever suits you.  (They go back.  She sits in a chair.  He puts
a cushion in back of her.)  How's that?

ELEANOR--(with a wan, grateful smile)  You're so kind, John.
You've always been kind.  You're so different--(She checks herself,
her face growing hard.  John watches her.  There is a long pause.)

JOHN--(finally--in a gentle tone)  Nelly, don't you think it'd help
if you told me--everything that's happened?

ELEANOR--(with a shudder)  No!  It was all horror--and disgust!
(wildly resentful)  Why do you make me remember?  I've come to you.
Why do you ask for reasons?  (with a harsh laugh)  Are you jealous--
of him?

JOHN--(quietly)  I've always envied Michael.

ELEANOR--If you'd seen him tonight, you wouldn't envy him.  He's
mean and contemptible!  He makes everything as low as he is!  He
went away threatening, boasting he'd--(hysterically)  Why do you
make me think of him?  I want to be yours!  (She throws herself
into his arms.)

JOHN--(straining her to him--with awkward passion)  Nelly!  (Under
his kisses her face again becomes mask-like, her body rigid, her
eyes closed.  John suddenly grows aware of this.  He stares down at
her face, his own growing bewildered and afraid.  He stammers)
Nelly!  What is it?

ELEANOR--(opening her eyes--in alarm)  What--?

JOHN--(with a sigh of relief)  You gave me a scare.  You were like
a corpse.

ELEANOR--(breaks away from him)  I--I believe I do feel ill.  I'll
go to bed.  (She moves toward the door.)

JOHN--(uneasily--with a forced heartiness)  Now you're talking
sense.  Come on.  (He leads the way into the hall.  She goes as far
as the doorway--then stops.  A queer struggle is apparent in her
face, her whole body, as if she were fighting with all her will to
overcome some invisible barrier which bars her way.  John is
watching her keenly now, a sad foreboding coming into his eyes.  He
steps past her back into the room, saying kindly but with a faint
trace of bitterness)  It's the first door upstairs on your right--
if you'd rather go alone.  (He walk still further away, then turns
to watch her, his face growing more and more aware and melancholy.)

ELEANOR--(vaguely)  No--you don't understand--(She stands swaying,
reaching out her hand to the side of the doorway for support--
dully)  The first door to the right--upstairs?

JOHN--Yes.

ELEANOR--(struggles with herself, confused and impotent, trying to
will--finally turns to John like a forlorn child.)  John.  Can't
you help me?

JOHN--(gravely)  No--not now when I do understand.  You must do it
alone.

ELEANOR--(with a desperate cry)  I can!  I'm as strong as he!
(This breaks the spell which has chained her.  She grows erect and
strong.  She walks through the doorway.)

JOHN--(with a triumphant exclamation of joy)  Ah!  (He strides
toward the doorway--then stops as he notices that she also has
stopped at the bottom of the stairs, one foot on the first stair,
looking up at the top.  Then she wavers and suddenly bolts back
into the room, gropingly, her face strained and frightened.  John
questions her with fierce disappointment.)  What is it?  Why did
you stop?

ELEANOR--(forcing a twisted smile--wildly)  You're right.  I must
be feverish.  (trying to control herself--self-mockingly)  Seeing
spooks, that's pretty far gone, isn't it?  (laughing hysterically)
Yes--I swear I saw him--standing at the head of the stairs waiting
for me--just as he was standing when you knocked at our door,
remember?  (She laughs.)  Really, it was too ridiculous--so plain--

JOHN--Ssshh!  (glancing at her worriedly)  Won't you lie down here?
Try and rest.

ELEANOR--(allowing him to make her comfortable on the couch before
the fire)  Yes.  (Her eyes glance up into his bewilderedly.)

JOHN--(after a long pause--slowly)  You don't love me, Nelly.

ELEANOR--(pitifully protesting)  But I do, John!  I do!  You're
kind!  You're unselfish and fine!

JOHN--(with a wry smile)  That isn't me.

ELEANOR--(desperately defiant, leaps to her feet)  I do!  (She
takes his face between her hands and bringing her own close to it
stares into his eyes.  He looks back into hers.  She mutters
fiercely between her clenched teeth)  I do!  (For a long moment
they remain there, as she brings her face nearer and nearer
striving with all her will to kiss him on the lips.  Finally, her
eyes falter, her body grows limp, she turns away and throws herself
on the couch in a fit of abandoned sobbing.)

JOHN--(with a sad smile)  You see?

ELEANOR--(her voice muffled--between sobs)  But I--want to!  And I
will--I know--some day--I promise!

JOHN--(forcing a light tone)  Well, I'll be resigned to wait and
hope then--and trust in your good intentions.  (after a pause--in a
calming, serious tone)  You're calmer now?  Tell me what happened
between you and Michael.

ELEANOR--No!  Please!

JOHN--(smiling but earnestly)  It'll relieve your mind, Nelly--and
besides, how can I help you otherwise?

ELEANOR--(after a pause--with resigned dullness)  We've quarreled,
but never like this before.  This was final.  (She shudders--then
suddenly bursts out wildly)  Oh, John, for God's sake don't ask me!
I want to forget!  We tore each other to pieces.  I realized I
hated him!  I couldn't restrain my hate!  I had to crush him as he
was crushing me!  (after a pause--dully again)  And so that was the
end.

JOHN--(tensely, hoping again now--pleadingly)  You're sure, Nelly?

ELEANOR--(fiercely)  I hate him!

JOHN--(after a pause--earnestly)  Then stay here.  I think I can
help you forget.  Never mind what people say.  Make this your home--
and maybe--in time--(He forces a smile.)  You see, I'm already
starting to nurse along that crumb of hope you gave.  (She is
looking down, preoccupied with her own thoughts.  He looks at her
embarrassedly, then goes on gently, timidly persuasive.)  I don't
mind waiting.  I'm used to it.  And I've been hoping ever since I
first met you.  (forcing a half laugh)  I'll admit when you married
him the waiting and hoping seemed excess labor.  I tried to fire
them--thought I had--but when you came tonight--they were right
onto the job again!  (He laughs--then catching himself awkwardly)
But hell!  I don't want to bother you now.  Forget me.

ELEANOR--(in a bland, absent-minded tone which wounds him)  You're
so kind, John.  (Then following her own line of thought, she breaks
out savagely)  I told him I'd been your mistress while he was away!

JOHN--(amazed)  Nelly!

ELEANOR--I had to tell that lie!  He was degrading me!  I had to
revenge myself!

JOHN--But certainly he could never believe--

ELEANOR--(with fierce triumph)  Oh, I made him believe!  (then
dully)  He went away.  He said he'd kill our love as I had--worse--
(with a twisted smile)  That's what he's doing now.  He's gone to
one of those women he lived with before--(laughing harshly)  No!
They wouldn't be vile enough--for his beautiful revenge on me!  He
has a wonderful imagination.  Everyone acknowledges that!  (She
laughs with wild bitterness.)  My God, why do I think--?  Help me,
John!  Help me to forget.

JOHN--(after a pause--with a sad, bitter helplessness)  You mean--
help you--to revenge yourself!  But don't you realize I can't--you
can't--because you still love him!

ELEANOR--(fiercely)  No!  (after a pause--brokenly)  Don't!  I
know!  (She sobs heartbrokenly.)

JOHN--(after a pause, as her sobbing grows quieter--sadly)  Go
home.

ELEANOR--No!  (after a pause, brokenly)  He'll never come back now.

JOHN--(with a bitter humor)  Oh, yes he will; take my word for it.
I know--because I happen to love you, too.

ELEANOR--(faintly)  And do you--hate me?

JOHN--(after a pause--with melancholy self-disgust)  No.  I'm too
soft.  (bitterly)  I ought to hate you!  Twice now you've treated
my love with the most humiliating contempt--Once when you were
willing to endure it as the price of a career--again tonight, when
you try to give yourself to me out of hate for him!  (in sudden
furious revolt)  Christ!  What am I, eh?  (then checking his anger
and forcing a wry smile)  I think your treatment has been rather
hard to take, Nelly--and even now I'm not cured, at that!  (He
laughs harshly and turns away to conceal his real hurt.)

ELEANOR--(with a deep grief)  Forgive me.

JOHN--(as if to himself--reassuringly)  Still--I'd have been the
poorest slave.  I couldn't have fought you like Michael.  Perhaps,
deep down, I'm glad--(then bluntly)  You'd better go home right
away.

ELEANOR--(dully)  Even if he--

JOHN--(brusquely)  No matter what!  Face the truth in yourself.
Must you--or mustn't you?

ELEANOR--(after a moment's defiant struggle with herself--
forlornly)  Yes.  (after a pause, with a gesture toward the door
and a weary, beaten smile)  Upstairs--if I could have gone--I might
have been free.  But he's trained me too well in his ideal.  (then
shrugging her shoulders, fatalistically)  It's broken me.  I'm no
longer anything.  So what does it matter how weak I am?  (a slight
pause)  I begin to know--something.  (with a sudden queer, exultant
pride)  My love for him is my own, not his!  That he can never
possess!  It's MY own.  It's MY life!  (She turns to John
determinedly.)  I must go home now.

JOHN--(wonderingly)  Good.  I'll drive you back.  (He starts for
the door.)

ELEANOR--(suddenly grasping his arm)  Wait.  (affectionately)  I
was forgetting you--as usual.  What can I do--?

JOHN--(with a wry smile)  Study your part; help Michael; and we'll
all three be enormously successful!  (He laughs mockingly.)

ELEANOR--(tenderly)  I'll always believe Fate should have let me
love you, instead.

JOHN--(with the same wry smile)  While I begin to suspect that in a
way I'm lucky--to be heartbroken.  (with a laugh)  Curtain!  You'll
want to go upstairs and powder your nose.  There's no angel with a
flaming sword there now, is there?  (He points to the doorway.)

ELEANOR--(with a tired smile)  No.  (She goes to the doorway.  He
follows her.  They both stop there for a moment instinctively and
smile forlornly at each other.)

JOHN--(impulsively)  That time you stood here and called to me for
help--if I could have given you a push, mental, moral, physical--?

ELEANOR--It wouldn't have helped.  The angel was here.  (She
touches her breast.)

JOHN--(with a sigh)  Thanks.  That saves me a life-long regret.

ELEANOR--(earnestly--gripping his right hand in hers and holding
his eyes)  There must be no regrets--between old friends.

JOHN--(gripping her hand in turn)  No, I promise, Nelly.  (then
letting her hand drop and turning away to conceal his emotion--
forcing a joking tone)  After all, friendship is sounder, saner--
more in the picture for my type, eh?

ELEANOR--(absent-mindedly again now--vaguely)  I don't know.  (then
briskly)  We must hurry.  I'll be right down.  (She goes out and up
the stairway in the hall.)

JOHN--(stares up after her for a second, then smiling grimly)
Well, business of living on as usual.  (He walks out, calling up
the stairs)  I'm going to get the car, Nelly.


(The Curtain Falls)



SCENE TWO


A bedroom.  In the rear, center, a door.  A chair to left of door.
In the left corner, a washstand.  In the left wall, center, a small
window with a torn dark shade pulled down.  On the right, a bed.
Ugly wall paper, dirty, stained, criss-crossed with match-strokes.

When the curtain rises, the room is in darkness except for a faint
glow on the window shade from some street lamp.  Then the door is
opened and a woman's figure is silhouetted against the dim, yellow
light of a hall.  She turns and speaks to someone who is following
her.  Her voice is heavy and slow with the strong trace of a
foreign intonation, although the words are clearly enough defined.
A man's figure appears behind hers.  The woman is fairly young.
Her face, rouged, powdered, penciled, is broad and stupid.  Her
small eyes have a glazed look.  Yet she is not ugly--rather pretty
for her bovine, stolid type--and her figure is still attractive
although its movements just now are those of a tired scrubwoman's.
She takes off her coat, hangs it on a hook, and removes her hat.

The man is Michael.  He is bare-headed, his hair disheveled, his
eyes wild, his face has a feverish, mad expression.  He stands in
the doorway watching each movement of the woman's with an unnatural
preoccupied concentration.


WOMAN--(having removed her hat and put it on the washstand, turns
to him impatiently)  Ain't you comin' in?  (He starts and nods
stupidly, moving his lips as if answering but not making a sound.)
Come in!  Shut the door.  (He does so and locks it mechanically--
then looks from her around the room with a frightened, puzzled
glance as if he were aware of his surroundings for the first time.)

WOMAN--(forcing a trade smile--with an attempt at lightness)  Well,
here we are, dearie.  (then with a sigh of physical weariness as
she sits on the side of the bed)  Gawd, I'm tired!  My feet hurt
fierce!  I been walkin' miles.  I got corns, too.  (She sighs
again, this time with a sort of restful content.)  It's good 'n'
warm in this dump, I'll hand it that.  (a pause)  I'd gave up hope
and was beatin' it home when you come along.  (a pause during which
she takes him in calculatingly)  How 'd you lose your hat?  (He
starts, passes a trembling hand through his hair bewilderedly but
does not answer.  A pause--then the woman sighs and yawns wearily--
bored)  Can't you say nothin'?  You was full enough of bull when
you met me.  Gawd, I thought you'd get us both pinched.  You acted
like you was crazy.  Remember kissing me on the corner with a whole
mob pipin' us off?

CAPE--(with a start--evidently answering some train of thought in
his mind--with a wild laugh)  Remember?  (He sinks on the chair
with his head in his hands.  There is a pause.)

WOMAN--(insinuatingly)  Goin' to stay all night?  (He glances up at
her stupidly but doesn't answer.  The woman insists dully)  Say,
you got ear-muffs on?  I ast you, d'you wanta stay all night?

CAPE--(after a moment's groping, nods emphatically again and again,
swallowing hard several times as if he were striving to get control
of his voice--finally blurts out in a tone of desperation)  Yes--
yes--of course!--Where else would I go?

WOMAN--Home.  (indifferently)  That's where most of 'em goes--
afterwards.

CAPE--(with a sudden burst of wild laughter)  Ha-ha-ha.  Home!  Is
that your private brand of revenge--to go with men with homes?  I
congratulate you!  (He laughs to himself with bitter irony--then
suddenly deadly calm)  Yes, I have a home, come to think of it--
from now on Hell is my home!  I suspect we're fellow-citizens.  (He
laughs.)

WOMAN--(superstitiously)  You oughtn't to say them things.

CAPE--(with dull surprise)  Why?

WOMAN--Somep'n might happen.  (a pause)  Don't you believe in no
God?

CAPE--I believe in the devil!

WOMAN--(frightened)  Say!  (then after a pause, forcing a smile)
I'm wise to what's wrong with you.  You been lappin' up some bum
hooch.

CAPE--(jerkily)  No.  I'm not drunk.  I thought of that--but it's
evasion.  (wildly)  And I must be conscious--fully conscious, do
you understand?  I will this as a symbol of release--of the end of
all things!  (He stops, shuddering.  She looks at him stolidly.  A
pause.  He presses his hands to his forehead.)  Stop thinking, damn
you!  (then after a pause--dully)  How long--?  What time is it?

WOMAN--Little after two, I guess.

CAPE--(amazed)  Only that?  (She nods.)  Only two hours--?  (a
pause)  I remember streets--lights--dead faces--Then you--your face
alone was alive for me, alive with my deliverance!  That was why I
kissed you.

WOMAN--(looking up at him queerly)  Say, you talk nutty.  Been
dopin' up on coke, I bet you.

CAPE--(with an abrupt exclamation)  Ha!  (He stares at her with
unnatural intensity.)  You seem to take it quite casually that men
must be either drunk or doped--otherwise--!  Marvelous!  You,--
you're the last depth--(with a strange, wild exultance, leaps to
his feet)  You're my salvation!  You have the power--and the right--
to murder love!  You can satisfy hate!  Will you let me kiss you
again?  (He strides over to her.)

WOMAN--(in a stupid state of bewilderment, feeling she has been
insulted but not exactly knowing by what or how to resent it--
angrily, pushing him away)  No!  Get away from me!  (then afraid
she may lose his trade by this rebuff)  Aw, all right.  Sure you
can.  (Making a tremendous visible effort he kisses her on the
lips, then shrinks back with a shudder and forces a harsh laugh.
She stares at him and mutters resentfully)  O'ny don't get so
fresh, see?  I don't like your line of talk.  (He slumps down on
the chair again, sunk in a somber stupor.  She watches him.  She
yawns.  Finally she asks insinuatingly)  Ain't you gettin' sleepy?

CAPE--(starting--with wild scorn)  Do you think I--!  (staring at
her)  Oh--I see--you mean, what did I come here for?

WOMAN--(in same tone)  It's gettin' late.

CAPE--(dully, with no meaning to his question--like an automaton)
A little after two?

WOMAN--Yes.  (She yawns.)  You better let me go to bed and come
yourself.

CAPE--(again staring at her with strange intensity--suddenly with a
queer laugh)  How long have you and I been united in the unholy
bonds of--bedlock?  (He chuckles sardonically at his own play on
words.)

WOMAN--(with a puzzled grin)  Say!

CAPE--Ten thousand years--about--isn't it?  Or twenty?  Don't you
remember?

WOMAN--(keeping her forced grin)  Tryin' to kid me, ain't you?

CAPE--Don't lie about your age!  You were beside the cradle of
love, and you'll dance dead drunk on its grave!

WOMAN--I'm only twenty-six, honest.

CAPE--(with a wild laugh)  A fact!  You're right.  Thoughts keep
alive.  Only facts kill--deeds!  (He starts to his feet.)  Then
hate will let me alone.  Love will be dead.  I'll be as ugly as the
world.  My dreams will be low dreams.  I'll "lay me down among the
swine."  Will you promise me this, you?

WOMAN--(vaguely offended--impatiently)  Sure, I'll promise
anything.  (She gets up to start undressing.  She has been pulling
the pins out of her hair and, as she rises, it falls over her
shoulders in a peroxided flood.  She turns to him, smiling with
childish pride.)  D'you like my hair, kid?  I got a lot of it,
ain't I?

CAPE--(laughing sardonically)  "O love of mine, let down your hair
and I will make my shroud of it."

WOMAN--(coquettishly pleased)  What's that--po'try?  (Then suddenly
reminded of something she regards him calculatingly--after a pause,
coldly)  Say, you ain't broke, are you?  Is that what's troubling
you?

CAPE--(startled--then with bitter mockery)  Ha!  I see you're a
practical person.  (He takes a bill from his pocket and holds it
out to her--contemptuously)  Here!

WOMAN--(stares from the bill to him, flushing beneath her rouge)
Say!  I don't like the way you act.  (proudly)  I don't take
nothin' for nothin'--not from you, see!

CAPE--(surprised and ashamed)  I'll leave it here, then.  (He puts
it on top of the washstand and turns to her--embarrassedly)  I
didn't mean--to offend you.

WOMAN--(her face clearing immediately)  Aw, never mind.  It's all
right.

CAPE--(staring at her intently--suddenly deeply moved)  Poor woman!

WOMAN--(stung--excitedly)  Hey, none of that!  Nix!  Cut it out!  I
don't stand for that from nobody!  (She sits down on the bed
angrily.)

CAPE--(with unnatural intensity)  Do you know what you are?  You're
a symbol.  You're all the tortures man inflicts on woman--and
you're the revenge of woman!  You're love revenging itself upon
itself!  You're the suicide of love--of my love--of all love since
the world began!  (wildly)  Listen to me!  Two hours ago--(Then he
beats his head with both clenched hands--distractedly)  Leave me
alone!  Leave me alone, damn you!  (He flings himself on the chair
in a violent outburst of dry sobbing.)

WOMAN--(bewilderedly)  Say!  Say!  (Then touched, she comes to him
and puts her arms around his shoulders, on the verge of tears
herself.)  Aw, come on, kid.  Quit it.  It's all right.  Everything's
all right, see.  (as his sobbing grows quieter--helpfully)  Say,
maybe you ain't ate nothin', huh?  Maybe soup'd fix you.  S'posin' I
go round the corner, huh?  Sure, all I got to do is put up my hair--

CAPE--(controlling hysterical laughter--huskily)  No--thanks.
(Then his bitter memories rush back agonizingly.  He stammers
wildly)  She confessed!  She was proud of her hate!  She was proud
of my torture.  She screamed:  "I'll go too."  Go where?  Did she
go?  Yes, she must--!  Oh, my God!  Stop!  Stop!  (He springs up,
his face distorted, and clutches the woman fiercely in his arms.)
Save me, you!  Help me to kill!  Help me to gain peace!  (He kisses
her again and again frenziedly.  She submits stolidly.  Finally
with a groan he pushes her away, shuddering with loathing, and
sinks back on the chair.)  No!  I can't--I can't!

WOMAN--(wiping her lips with the back of her hand--a vague
comprehension coming into her face--scornfully)  Huh!  I got a
hunch now what's eatin' you.  (then with a queer sort of savage
triumph)  Well, I'm glad one of youse guys got paid back like you
oughter!

CAPE--(with dull impotent rage)  I can't!  I can't.  I'm the
weaker.  Our love must live on in me.  There's no death for it.
There's no freedom--while I live.  (struck by a sudden thought)
Then, why--?  (a pause)  An end of loathing--no wounds, no
memories--sleep!

WOMAN--(with a shudder)  Say, you're beginning to give me the
creeps.

CAPE--(startled--with a forced laugh)  Am I?  (He shakes his head
as if to drive some thought from his mind and forces a trembling,
mocking smile.)  That's over.  The great temptation, isn't it?  I
suppose you've known it.  But also the great evasion.  Too simple
for the complicated,--too weak for the strong, too strong for the
weak.  One must go on, eh?--even wounded, on one's knees--if only
out of curiosity to see what will happen--to oneself.  (He laughs
harshly and turns with a quick movement toward the door.)  Well,
good-by, and forgive me.  It isn't you, you know.  You're the
perfect death--but I'm too strong, or weak--and I can't, you
understand--can't!  So, good-by.  (He goes to the door.)

WOMAN--(frightenedly)  Say!  What're you goin' to do?

CAPE--Go on in the dark.

WOMAN--You better beat it home, that's what.

CAPE--(violently)  No!

WOMAN--(wearily)  Aw, forget it.  She's your wife, ain't she?

CAPE--How do you know?  (He comes back to her, curiously
attracted.)

WOMAN--(cynically)  Aw, I'm wise.  Stick to her, see?  You'll get
over it.  You can get used to anything, take it from me!

CAPE--(in anguish)  Don't!  But it's true--it's the insult we all
swallow as the price of life.  (rebelliously)  But I--!

WOMAN--(with a sort of forlorn chuckle)  Oh, you'll go back aw
right!  Don't kid yourself.  You'll go back no matter what, and
you'll loin to like it.  Don't I know?  You love her, don't you?
Well, then!  There's no use buckin' that game.  Go home.  Kiss and
make up.  Ferget it.  It's easy to ferget--when you got to!  (She
finishes up with a cynical, weary scorn.)

CAPE--(very pale--stammering)  You--you make life despicable.

WOMAN--(angrily)  Say!  (then with groping, growing resentment)  I
don't like your talk!  You've pulled a lot of bum cracks about--
about--never mind, I got you, anyhow!  You ain't got no right--
What'd you wanter pick me up for, anyway?  Wanter just get me up
here to say rotten things?  Wanter use me to pay her back?  Say!
Where do I come in?  Guys go with me 'cause they like my looks,
see?--what I am, understand?--but you, you don't want nothin'.  You
ain't drunk, neither!  You just don't like me.  And you was beatin'
it leavin' your money there--without nothin'.  I was goin' to let
you then.  I ain't now.  (She suddenly gives him a furious push
which sends him reeling back against the wall.)  G'wan!  Take your
lousy coin and beat it!  I wouldn't take nothin', nor have nothin'
to do with you if you was to get down on your knees!

CAPE--(stares at her--an expression comes as if he were seeing her
for the first time--with great pity)  So--it still survives in you.
They haven't killed it--that lonely life of one's own which suffers
in solitude.  (shame-facedly)  I should have known.  Can you
forgive me?

WOMAN--(defensively)  No!

CAPE--Through separate ways love has brought us both to this room.
As one lonely human being to another, won't you--?

WOMAN--(struggling with herself--harshly)  No!

CAPE--(gently)  Not even if I ask it on my knees?  (He kneels
before her, looking up into her face.)

WOMAN--(bewildered, with hysterical fierceness)  No!  Git up, you--!
Don't do that, I tell you!  Git up or I'll brain yuh!  (She raises
her fist threateningly over his head.)

CAPE--(gently)  Not until you--

WOMAN--(exhaustedly)  Aw right--aw right--I forgive--

CAPE--(gets up and takes her face between his hands and stares into
her eyes--then he kisses her on the forehead.)  Sister.

WOMAN--(with a half sob)  Nix!  Lay off of me, can't you?

CAPE--But I learned that from you.

WOMAN--(stammering)  What?--loined what?  (She goes away from him
and sinks on the bed exhaustedly.)  Say, you better beat it.

CAPE--I'm going.  (He points to the bill on the washstand.)  You
need this money.  You'll accept it from me now, won't you?

WOMAN--(dully)  Sure.  Leave it there.

CAPE--(in the same gentle tone)  You'll have to give it to him in
the morning?

WOMAN--(dully)  Sure.

CAPE--All of it?

WOMAN--Sure.

CAPE--Or he'd beat you?

WOMAN--Sure.  (then suddenly grinning)  Maybe he'll beat me up,
anyway--just for the fun of it.

CAPE--But you love him, don't you?

WOMAN--Sure.  I'm lonesome.

CAPE--Yes.  (after a slight pause)  Why did you smile when you said
he'd beat you, anyway?

WOMAN--I was thinkin' of the whole game.  It's funny, ain't it?

CAPE--(slowly)  You mean--life?

WOMAN--Sure.  You got to laugh, ain't you?  You got to loin to like
it!

CAPE--(This makes an intense impression on him.  He nods his head
several times.)  Yes!  That's it!  That's exactly it!  That goes
deeper than wisdom.  To learn to love life--to accept it and be
exalted--that's the one faith left to us!  (then with a tremulous
smile)  Good-by.  I've joined your church.  I'm going home.

WOMAN--(with a grin that is queerly affectionate)  Sure.  That's
the stuff.  Close your eyes and your feet'll take you there.

CAPE--(impressed again)  Yes!  Yes!  Of course they would!  They've
been walking there for thousands of years--blindly.  However, now,
I'll keep my eyes open--(he smiles back at her affectionately)--and
learn to like it!

WOMAN--(grinning)  Sure.  Good luck.

CAPE--Good-by.  (He goes out, closing the door after him.  She
stares at the door listening to his footsteps as they die out down
the stairs.)

WOMAN--(confusedly)  Say--?


(The Curtain Falls)



ACT THREE


SCENE--Same as Act One.


Eleanor is standing by the table, leaning her back against it,
facing the door, her whole attitude strained, expectant but
frightened, tremblingly uncertain whether to run and hide from, or
run forward and greet Cape, who is standing in the doorway.  For a
long, tense moment they remain fixed, staring into each other's
eyes with an apprehensive questioning.  Then, as if unconsciously,
falteringly, with trembling smiles, they come toward each other.
Their lips move as if they were trying to speak.  When they come
close, they instinctively reach out their hands in a strange
conflicting gesture of a protective warding off and at the same
time a seeking possession.  Their hands clasp and they again stop,
searching each other's eyes.  Finally their lips force out words.


ELEANOR--(penitently)  Michael!

CAPE--(humbly)  Nelly!  (They smile with a queer understanding,
their arms move about each other, their lips meet.  They seem in a
forgetful, happy trance at finding each other again.  They touch
each other testingly as if each cannot believe the other is really
there.  They act for the moment like two persons of different
races, deeply in love but separated by a barrier of language.)

ELEANOR--(rambling tenderly)  Michael--I--I was afraid--

CAPE--(stammeringly)  Nelly--it's no good!--I thought--(They stare
at each other--a pause.)

ELEANOR--(beginning to be aware--a bit bewilderedly, breaking away
from him with a little shiver--stupidly)  I feel--there's a
draught, isn't there?

CAPE--(becoming aware in his turn--heavily)  I'll shut the door.
(He goes and does so.  She walks to her chair and sits down.  He
comes and sits beside her.  They are now side by side as in Act
One.  A pause.  They stare ahead, each frowningly abstracted.  Then
each, at the same moment, steals a questioning side glance at the
other.  Their eyes meet, they look away, then back, they stare at
each other with a peculiar dull amazement, recognition yet non-
recognition.  They seem about to speak, then turn away again.
Their faces grow sad, their eyes begin to suffer, their bodies
become nervous and purposeless.  Finally Cape exclaims with a dull
resentment directed not at her but at life)  What is--it?  (He
makes a gesture of repulsing something before him.)

ELEANOR--(in his tone)  I don't know.

CAPE--(harshly)  A moment ago--there--(He indicates where they had
stood in an embrace)  We knew everything.  We understood!

ELEANOR--(eagerly)  Oh, yes!

CAPE--(bitterly)  Now--we must begin to think--to continue going
on, getting lost--

ELEANOR--(sadly)  It was happy to forget.  Let's not think--yet.

CAPE--(grimly)  We've begun.  (then with a harsh laugh)  Thinking
explains.  It eliminates the unexplainable--by which we live.

ELEANOR--(warningly)  By which we love.  Sssh!  (a pause)

CAPE--(wonderingly--not looking at her)  You have learned that,
too?

ELEANOR--(with a certain exultance)  Oh, yes, Michael--yes!  (She
clasps his hand.  A pause.  Then she murmurs)  Now--we know peace.
(Their hands drop apart.  She sighs.)

CAPE--(slowly)  Peace isn't our meaning.

ELEANOR--(suddenly turns and addresses him directly in a sad,
sympathetic tone)  You've something you want to ask me, Michael?

CAPE--(turns to her with an immediate affirmative on his lips,
checks it as he meets her eyes, turns away--a pause--then he turns
back humbly)  No.

ELEANOR--(Her head has been averted since he turned away--without
looking at him)  Yes.

CAPE--(decisively)  No, Nelly.  (She still keeps her head averted.
After a pause he asks simply)  Why?  Is there something you want to
ask me?

ELEANOR--No.  (after a pause--with a trace of bitter humor)  I
can't be less magnanimous than you, can I?

CAPE--Then there is something--?

ELEANOR--Haven't you something you want to tell?

CAPE--(looks at her.  Their eyes meet again.)  Yes--the truth--if I
can.  And you?

ELEANOR--Yes, I wish to tell you the truth.  (They look into each
other's eyes.  Suddenly she laughs with a sad self-mockery.)  Well,
we've both been noble.  I haven't asked you; you haven't asked me;
and yet--(She makes a helpless gesture with her hands.  A pause.
Then abruptly and mechanically)  I'll begin at the beginning.  I
left here right after you did.

CAPE--(with an involuntary start)  Oh!  (He checks himself.)

ELEANOR--(her eyes reading his--after a pause--a bit dryly)  You
thought I'd stayed here all the time?  (mockingly)  Waiting for
you?

CAPE--(wounded)  Don't!  (after a pause--painfully)  When I found
you--perhaps I hoped--

ELEANOR--(dully)  I had only been back a few minutes.  (after a
pause)  Was that why you seemed so happy--there--?  (She points to
the spot where they had stood embraced.)

CAPE--(indignantly)  No, no!  Don't think that!  I'm not like that--
not any more!  (Without looking at her he reaches out and clasps
her hand.)

ELEANOR--(looks at him--after a pause, understandingly)  I'm sorry--

CAPE--(self-defensively)  Of course, I knew you must have gone,
you'd have been a fool to stay.  (excitedly)  And it doesn't
matter--not a damn!  I've gotten beyond that.

ELEANOR--(misunderstanding--coldly)  I'm glad.  (A pause.  She asks
coldly)  Shall I begin again?

CAPE--(struggling with himself--disjointedly)  No--not unless--I
don't need--I've changed.  That doesn't matter.  I--(with a sudden
twisted grin)  I'm learning to like it, you see.

ELEANOR--(looks at him, strangely impressed--a pause--slowly)  I
think I know what you mean.  We're both learning.

CAPE--(wonderingly)  You--?  (She has turned away from him.  He
turns to stare at her.)

ELEANOR--(after a pause, taking up her story matter-of-factly)  I
went to John.

CAPE--(trying with agony to take this stoically--mumbling stupidly)
Yes--of course--I supposed--

ELEANOR--(in the same mechanical tone)  He drove me back here in
his car.  He predicted you'd be back any moment, so he went right
home again.

CAPE--(A wild, ironical laugh escapes his control.)  Shrewd--Ha!

ELEANOR--(after a pause--rebukingly)  John is a good man.

CAPE--(startled, turns and stares at her averted face--then
miserably humble, stammers)  Yes, yes--I know--I acknowledge--good--
(He breaks down, cursing pitiably at himself.)  God damn you!

ELEANOR--Oh!

CAPE--Not you!  Me!  (Then he turns to her--with fierce defiance)
I love John!

ELEANOR--(moved, without looking at him, reaches and clasps his
hand)  That--is fine, Michael.  (a pause)

CAPE--(begins to frown somberly--lets go of her hand)  It's hard--
after what you confessed--

ELEANOR--(frightenedly)  Ssshh!  (then calmly)  That was a lie.  I
lied to make you suffer more than you were making me suffer.  (A
pause--then she turns to him.)  Can you believe this?

CAPE--(humbly)  I want to believe--

ELEANOR--(immediately turning away--significantly)  Oh!

CAPE--(fiercely as if to himself)  I will believe!  But what
difference does it make--believing or not believing?  I've changed,
I tell you!  I accept!

ELEANOR--I can't be a lie you live with!

CAPE--(turning to her resentfully)  Well, then--(as if she were
goading him to something against his will--threateningly)  Shall I
tell you what happened to me?

ELEANOR--(facing him defiantly)  Yes.  (He turns away.  Immediately
her brave attitude crumbles.  She seems about to implore him not to
speak.)

CAPE--(after a pause--hesitatingly)  You said that years ago you
had offered yourself--to him--(He turns suddenly--hopefully)  Was
that a lie, too?

ELEANOR--No.

CAPE--(turns away with a start of pain)  Ah.  (A pause.  Suddenly
his face grows convulsed.  He turns back to her, overcome by a
craving for revenge--viciously)  Then I may as well tell you I--(He
checks himself and turns away.)

ELEANOR--(defensively--with feigned indifference)  I don't doubt--
you kept your threat.

CAPE--(glares at her wildly)  Oho, you don't doubt that, do you?
You saw I'd changed, eh?

ELEANOR--I saw--something.

CAPE--(with bitter irony)  God!  (a pause)

ELEANOR--(turning on him doggedly as if she were impersonally
impelled to make the statement)  I want to tell you that tonight--
John and I--nothing you may ever suspect--(She falters, turns away
with a bitter smile.)  I only tell you this for my own satisfaction.
I don't expect you to believe it.

CAPE--(with a wry grin)  No.  How could you?  (then turning to her--
determinedly--after a pause)  But it doesn't matter.

ELEANOR--I wanted revenge as much as you.  I wanted to destroy--and
be free of you forever!  (after a pause--simply)  I couldn't.

CAPE--(turns and stares at her--a pause--then he asks wonderingly,
eagerly)  Why couldn't you?  Tell me that.

ELEANOR--(simply)  Something stronger.

CAPE--(with a passionate triumph)  Love!  (with intense pleading)
Nelly!  Will you believe that I, too--?  (He tries to force her
eyes to return to his.)

ELEANOR--(after a pause--looking before her--sadly)  You should
have been generous sooner.

CAPE--It's the truth, Nelly!  (desperately)  I swear to you--!

ELEANOR--(after a pause--wearily)  We've sworn to so much.

CAPE--Everything is changed, I tell you!  Something extraordinary
happened to me--a revelation!

ELEANOR--(with bitter cynicism)  A woman?

CAPE--(wounded, turns away from her)  Don't.  (then after a pause--
with deep feeling)  Yes--she was a woman.  And I had thought of her
only as revenge--the lowest of the low!

ELEANOR--(with a shudder)  Ah!

CAPE--Don't judge, Nelly.  She was--good!

ELEANOR--Not her!  You!

CAPE--(desperately)  I tell you I--!  (He checks himself helplessly.
She gives no sign.  Then he asks sadly)  If you can think that, how
could you come back?

ELEANOR--(stammering hysterically)  How?  How!  (bursting into
tears)  Because I love you!

CAPE--(starting up from his chair and trying to take her in his
arms--exultantly)  Nelly!

ELEANOR--(pushing him away--violently)  No!  I didn't come back to
you!  It conquered me, not you!  Something in me--mine--not you!
(She stares him in the eyes defiantly, triumphantly.)

CAPE--(gently)  It doesn't matter.  (after a pause)  Did I come
back to you?

ELEANOR--(taken aback, turning away)  No, I suppose--(Cape stares
at her uncertainly, then sits down in his chair again.)

CAPE--(after a pause, looking before him--assertively, as if taking
a pledge)  But I have faith!

ELEANOR--(wearily)  Now--for a moment.

CAPE--No!

ELEANOR--Yes.  We'll believe--and disbelieve.  We are--that.

CAPE--(protesting)  Nelly!  (For a time they both sit staring
bleakly before them.  Suddenly he turns to her--desperately)  If
there's nothing left but--resignation!--what use is there?  How can
we endure having our dream perish in this?

ELEANOR--Have we any choice?

CAPE--(intensely--he seems to collect all his forces and turns on
her with a fierce challenge)  We can choose--an end!

ELEANOR--(shudders instinctively as she reads his meaning)
Michael!  (a pause--then looking into his eyes--as a calm counter-
challenge)  Yes--if YOU wish.

CAPE--(with passionate self-scorn)  We!  We have become ignoble.

ELEANOR--As YOU wish.  (She again accents the you.)

CAPE--I?

ELEANOR--I accept.  (a pause--gently)  You must not suffer too
much.  (She reaches out her hand and clasps his comfortingly.)
It's I who have changed most, Michael.  (Then she speaks sadly but
firmly as if she had come to a decision.)  There's only one way we
can give life to each other.

CAPE--(sharply)  How?

ELEANOR--By releasing each other.

CAPE--(with a harsh laugh)  Are you forgetting we tried that once
tonight?

ELEANOR--With hate.  This would be because we loved.

CAPE--(violently)  Don't be a fool!  (controlling himself--forcing
a smile)  Forgive me.  (excitedly)  But, my God, what solution--?

ELEANOR--It will give you peace for your work--freedom--

CAPE--Nonsense!

ELEANOR--I'll still love you.  I'll work for you!  We'll no longer
stand between one another.  Then I can really give you my soul--

CAPE--(controlling himself with difficulty)  You're talking rot!

ELEANOR--(hurt)  Michael!

CAPE--(suddenly glaring at her suspiciously)  Why did you come
back?  Why do you want to go?  What are you hiding behind all this?

ELEANOR--(wounded)  Your faith?  You see?

CAPE--(brokenly)  I--I didn't mean--(then after a struggle--with
desperate bitterness)  Well--I accept!  Go--if you want to!

ELEANOR--(hurt)  Michael!  It isn't--(then determinedly)  But even
if you misunderstand, I must be strong for you!

CAPE--(almost tauntingly)  Then go now--if you're strong enough.
(harshly)  Let me see you act nobility!  (then suddenly remorseful,
catching her hand and covering it with kisses)  No!  Go now before--
Be strong!  Be free!  I--I can't!

ELEANOR--(brokenly)  We can try--(She bends down swiftly and kisses
his head, turns away quickly.)  Good-by.

CAPE--(in a strangled voice)  Good-by.  (He sits in anguish, in a
tortured restraint.  She grabs her cloak from the chair, goes
quickly to the door, puts her hand on the knob--then stops as tense
as he.  Suddenly he can stand it no longer, he leaps to his feet
and jumps toward the door with a pleading cry.)  Nelly!  (He stands
fixed as he sees her before the door as if he had expected to find
her gone.  She does not turn but remains staring at the door in
front of her.  Finally she raises her hand and knocks on the door
softly--then stops to listen.)

ELEANOR--(in a queer far-away voice)  No.  Never again "come out."
(She opens the door and turns to Cape with a strange smile.)  It
opens inward, Michael.  (She closes it again, smiles to herself and
walks back to the foot of the stairway.  Then she turns to face
Cape.  She looks full of some happy certitude.  She smiles at him
and speaks with a tender weariness.)  It must be nearly dawn.  I'll
say good-night instead of good-by.  (They stare into each other's
eyes.  It is as if now by a sudden flash from within they
recognized themselves, shorn of all the ideas, attitudes, cheating
gestures which constitute the vanity of personality.  Everything,
for this second, becomes simple for them--serenely unquestionable.
It becomes impossible that they should ever deny life, through each
other, again.)

ELEANOR--(with a low tender cry as if she were awakening to
maternity)  Michael!

CAPE--(passionately sure of her now--in a low voice)  Nelly!  (then
unable to restrain his triumphant exultance)  You've failed!

ELEANOR--(smiling dimly at herself)  My acting--didn't convince me.

CAPE--We've failed!

ELEANOR--Are we weak?  (dreamily)  I'm happy.

CAPE--Strong!  We can live again!  (exultantly--but as if testing
her, warningly)  But we'll hate!

ELEANOR--(in her same tone)  Yes!

CAPE--And we'll torture and tear, and clutch for each other's
souls!--fight--fail and hate again--(he raises his voice in
aggressive triumph)--but!--fail WITH PRIDE--with joy!

ELEANOR--(exalted by his exultation rather than by his words)  Yes!

CAPE--OUR life is to bear together our burden which is our goal--on
and up!  Above the world, beyond its vision--our meaning!

ELEANOR--(her eyes fixed on him--dreamily)  Your dream!

CAPE--(half-sobbing as the intensity of his passion breaks the
spell of his exultation)  Oh, Nelly, Nelly, I want to say so much
what I feel but I can only stutter like an idiot!  (He has fallen
on his knees before her.)

ELEANOR--(intensely moved--passionately)  I know!  (She bends over
and kisses him.)

CAPE--(straining passionately for expression)  Listen!  Often I
wake up in the night--in a black world, alone in a hundred million
years of darkness.  I feel like crying out to God for mercy because
life lives!  Then instinctively I seek you--my hand touches you!
You are there--beside me--alive--with you I become a whole, a
truth!  Life guides me back through the hundred million years to
you.  It reveals a beginning in unity that I may have faith in the
unity of the end!  (He bows his head and kisses her feet
ecstatically.)  I love you!  Forgive me all I've ever done, all
I'll ever do.

ELEANOR--(brokenly)  No.  Forgive me--my child, you!  (She begins
to sob softly.)

CAPE--(looking at her--gently)  Why do you cry?

ELEANOR--Because I'm happy.  (then with a sudden tearful gayety)
You be happy!  You ought to be!  Isn't our future as hard as you
could wish?  Haven't we your old dreams back again?

CAPE--Deeper and more beautiful!

ELEANOR--(smiling)  Deeper and more beautiful!  (She ascends the
stairs slowly.)  Come!  (She reaches the top of the stairway and
stands there looking down at him--then stretches out her arms with
a passionate, tender gesture.)  Come!

CAPE--(leaping to his feet--intensely)  My Own!

ELEANOR--(with deep, passionate tenderness)  My lover!

CAPE--My wife!  (His eyes fixed on her he ascends.  As he does so
her arms move back until they are stretched out straight to right
and left, forming a cross.  Cape stops two steps below her--in a
low, wondering tone)  Why do you stand like that?

ELEANOR--(her head thrown back, her eyes shut--slowly, dreamily)
Perhaps I'm praying.  I don't know.  I love.

CAPE--(deeply moved)  I love you!

ELEANOR--(as if from a great distance)  We love!  (He moves close
to her and his hands reach out for hers.  For a moment as their
hands touch they form together one cross.  Then their arms go about
each other and their lips meet.)


(The Curtain Falls)



THE END




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