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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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WELDED

A Play in Three Acts

 

by

 

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953)

 

 

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)

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