SCENE—A section of country highway. The road runs diagonally from the left, forward, to the right, rear, and can be seen in the distance winding toward the horizon like a pale ribbon between the low, rolling hills with their freshly plowed fields clearly divided from each other, checkerboard fashion, by the lines of stone walls and rough snake fences.
The forward triangle cut off by the road is a section of a field from the dark earth of which myriad bright-green blades of fall-sown rye are sprouting. A straggling line of piled rocks, too low to be called a wall, separates this field from the road.
To the rear of the road is a ditch with a sloping, grassy bank on the far side. From the center of this an old, gnarled apple tree, just budding into leaf, strains its twisted branches heavenwards, black against the pallor of distance. A snake-fence sidles from left to right along the top of the bank, passing beneath the apple tree.
The hushed twilight of a day in May is just beginning. The horizon hills are still rimmed by a faint line of flame, and the sky above them glows with the crimson flush of the sunset. This fades gradually as the action of the scene progresses.
At the rise of the curtain, ROBERT MAYO is discovered sitting on the fence. He is a tall, slender young man of twenty-three. There is a touch of the poet about him expressed in his high forehead and wide, dark eyes. His features are delicate and refined, leaning to weakness in the mouth and chin. He is dressed in grey corduroy trousers pushed into high laced boots, and a blue flannel shirt with a bright colored tie. He is reading a book by the fading sunset light. He shuts this, keeping a finger in to mark the place, and turns his head toward the horizon, gazing out over the fields and hills. His lips move as if he were reciting something to himself.
His brother ANDREW comes along the road from the right, returning from his work in the fields. He is twenty-seven years old, an opposite type to ROBERT—husky, sun-bronzed, handsome in a large-featured, manly fashion—a son of the soil, intelligent in a shrewd way, but with nothing of the intellectual about him. He wears overalls, leather boots, a grey flannel shirt open at the neck, and a soft, mud-stained hat pushed back on his head. He stops to talk to ROBERT, leaning on the hoe he carries.
ANDREW—[Seeing ROBERT has not noticed his presence—in a loud shout.] Hey there! [ROBERT turns with a start. Seeing who it is, he smiles.] Gosh, you do take the prize for day-dreaming! And I see you've toted one of the old books along with you. Want to bust your eyesight reading in this light?
ROBERT—[Glancing at the book in his hand with a rather shamefaced air.] I wasn't reading—just then, Andy.
ANDREW—No, but you have been. Shucks, you never will get any sense, Rob. [He crosses the ditch and sits on the fence near his brother.] What is it this time—poetry, I'll bet. [He reaches for the book.] Let me see.
ROBERT—[Handing it to him rather reluctantly.] Yes, it's poetry. Look out you don't get it full of dirt.
ANDREW—[Glancing at his hands.] That isn't dirt—it's good clean earth; but I'll be careful of the old thing. I just wanted to take a peep at it. [He turns over the pages.]
ROBERT—[Slyly.] Better look out for your eyesight, Andy.
ANDREW—Huh! If reading this stuff was the only way to get blind, I'd see forever. [His eyes read something and he gives an exclamation of disgust.] Hump! [With a provoking grin at his brother he reads aloud in a doleful, sing-song voice.] "I have loved wind and light and the bright sea. But holy and most sacred night, not as I love and have loved thee." [He hands the book back.] Here! Take it and bury it. Give me a good magazine any time.
ROBERT—[With a trace of irritation.] The Farm Journal?
ANDREW—Sure; anything sensible. I suppose it's that year in college gave you a liking for that kind of stuff. I'm darn glad I stopped with High School, or maybe I'd been crazy too. [He grins and slaps ROBERT on the back affectionately.] Imagine me reading poetry and plowing at the same time. The team'd run away, I'll bet.
ROBERT—[Laughing.] Or picture me plowing. That'd be worse.
ANDREW—[Seriously.] Pa was right never to sick you onto the farm. You surely were never cut out for a farmer, that's a fact,—even if you'd never been took sick. [With concern.] Say, how'd you feel now, anyway? I've lost track of you. Seems as if I never did get a chance to have a talk alone with you these days, 'count of the work. But you're looking fine as silk.
ROBERT—Why, I feel great—never better.
ANDREW—That's bully. You've surely earned it. You certainly had enough sickness in the old days to last you the rest of your life.
ROBERT—A healthy animal like you, you brute, can hardly understand what I went through—althrough you saw it. You remember—sick one day, and well the next—always weak—never able to last through a whole term at school 'til I was years behind everyone my age—not able to get in any games—it was hell! These last few years of comparative health have been heaven to me.
ANDREW—I know; they must have been. [After a pause.] You should have gone back to college last fall, like I know you wanted to. You're fitted for that sort of thing—just as I ain't.
ROBERT—You know why I didn't go back, Andy. Pa didn't like the idea, even if he didn't say so; and I know he wanted the money to use improving the farm. And besides, I had pretty much all I cared for in that one year. I'm not keen on being a student, just because you see me reading books all the time. What I want to do now is keep on moving so that I won't take root in any one place.
ANDREW—Well, the trip you're leaving on tomorrow will keep you moving all right. [At this mention of the trip they both fall silent. There is a pause. Finally ANDREW goes on, awkwardly attempting to speak casually.] Uncle says you'll be gone three years.
ROBERT—About that, he figures.
ANDREW—[Moodily.] That's a long time.
ROBERT—Not so long when you come to consider it. You know the Sunda sails around the Horn for Yokohama first, and that's a long voyage on a sailing ship; and if we go to any of the other places Uncle Dick mentions—India, or Australia, or South Africa, or South America—they'll be long voyages, too.
ANDREW—You can have all those foreign parts for all of me. A trip to the port once in a while, or maybe down to New York a couple of times a year—that's all the travel I'm hankering after. [He looks down the road to the right.] Here comes Pa. [The noise of a team of horses coming slowly down the road is heard, and a man's voice urging them on. A moment later JAMES MAYO enters, driving the two weary horses which have been unhitched from the plow. He is his son ANDREW over again in body and face—an ANDREW sixty-five years old, with a short, square, white beard. He is dressed much the same as ANDREW.]
MAYO—[Checking his horses when he sees his sons.] Whoa there! Hello boys! What are you two doin' there roostin' on the fence like a pair of hens?
ROBERT—[Laughing.] Oh, just talking things over, Pa.
ANDREW—[With a sly wink.] Rob's trying to get me into reading poetry. He thinks my education's been neglected.
MAYO—[Chuckling.] That's good! You kin go out and sing it to the stock at nights to put 'em to sleep. What's that he's got there—'nother book? Good Lord, I thought you'd read every book there was in the world, Robert; and here you go and finds 'nother one!
ROBERT—[With a smile.] There's still a few left, Pa.
ANDREW—He's learning a new poem about the "bright sea" so he'll be all prepared to recite when he gets on the boat tomorrow.
MAYO—[A bit rebukingly.] He'll have plenty of time to be thinkin' 'bout the water in the next years. No need to bother 'bout it yet.
ROBERT—[Gently.] I wasn't. That's just Andy's fooling.
MAYO—[Changing the subject abruptly; turns to ANDREW.] How are things lookin' up to the hill lot, Andy?
ANDREW—[Enthusiastically.] Fine as silk for this early in the year. Those oats seem to be coming along great.
MAYO—I'm most done plowin' up the old medder—figger I ought to have it all up by tomorrow noon; then you kin start in with the harrowin'.
ANDREW—Sure. I expect I'll be through up above by then. There ain't but a little left to do.
MAYO—[To the restive team.] Whoa there! You'll get your supper soon enough, you hungry critters. [Turning again to ANDREW.] It looks like a good year for us, son, with fair luck on the weather—even if it's hard tucker gettin' things started.
ANDREW—[With a grin of satisfaction.] I can stand my share of the hard work, I guess—and then some.
MAYO—That's the way to talk, son. Work never done a man harm yet—leastways, not work done out in the open. [ROBERT has been trying to pretend an interest in their conversation, but he can't help showing that it bores him. ANDREW notices this.]
ANDREW—But farming ain't poetry, is it, Rob? [ROBERT smiles but remains silent.]
MAYO—[Seriously.] There's more satisfaction in the earth than ever was in any book; and Robert'll find it out sooner or later. [A twinkle comes into his eyes.] When he's grown up and got some sense.
ROBERT—[Whimsically.] I'm never going to grow up—if I can help it.
MAYO—Time'll tell. Well, I'll be movin' along home. Don't you two stay gossipin' too long. [He winks at ROBERT.] 'Specially you, Andy. Ruth and her Maw is comin' to supper, and you'd best be hurryin' to wash up and put on your best Sunday-go-to-mettin' clothes. [He laughs. ROBERT'S face contracts as if he were wincing at some pain, but he forces a smile. ANDREW grows confused and casts a quick side glance at his brother.]
ANDREW—I'll be along in a minute, Pa.
MAYO—And you, Robert, don't you stay moonin' at the sky longer'n is needful. You'll get lots o' time for that the next three years you're out on the sea. Remember this is your last night to home, and you've got to make an early start tomorrow, [He hesitates, then finishes earnestly] 'n' your Ma'll be wantin' to see all she kin o' you the little time left.
ROBERT—I'm not forgetting, Pa. I'll be home right away.
MAYO—That's right. I'll tell your Maw you're acomin'. [He chucks to the horses.] Giddap, old bones! Don't you want no supper tonight? [The horses walk off, and he follows them. There is a pause. ANDREW and ROBERT sit silently, without looking at each other.]
ANDREW—[After a while.] Ma's going to miss you a lot, Rob.
ROBERT—Yes—and I'll miss her.
ANDREW—And Pa ain't feeling none too happy to have you go—though he's been trying not to show it.
ROBERT—I can see how he feels.
ANDREW—And you can bet that I'm not giving any cheers about it. [He puts one hand on the fence near ROBERT.]
ROBERT—[Putting one hand on top of ANDREW'S with a gesture almost of shyness.] I know that too, Andy.
ANDREW—I'll miss you as much as anybody, I guess. I know how lonesome the old place was winter before last when you was away to college—and even then you used to come home once in a while; but this time—— [He stops suddenly.]
ROBERT—Let's not think about it—'til afterward. We'll only spoil this last night if we do.
ANDREW—That's good advice. [But after a pause, he returns to the subject again.] You see, you and I ain't like most brothers—always fighting and separated a lot of the time, while we've always been together—just the two of us. It's different with us. That's why it hits so hard, I guess.
ROBERT—[With feeling.] It's just as hard for me, Andy—believe that! I hate to leave you and the old folks—but—I feel I've got to. There's something calling me—— [He points to the horizon] calling to me from over there, beyond—— and I feel as if—— no matter what happens—— Oh, I can't just explain it to you, Andy.
ANDREW—No need to, Rob. [Angry at himself.] You needn't try to explain. It's all just as it ought to be. Hell! You want to go. You feel you ought to, and you got to!—— that's all there is to it; and I wouldn't have you miss this chance for the world.
ROBERT—It's fine of you to feel that way, Andy.
ANDREW—Huh! I'd be a nice son-of-a-gun if I didn't, wouldn't I? When I know how you need this sea trip to make a new man of you—in the body, I mean—and give you your full health back.
ROBERT—[A trifle impatiently.] All of you seem to keep harping on my health. You were so used to seeing me lying around the house in the old days that you never will get over the notion that I'm a chronic invalid, and have to be looked after like a baby all the time, or wheeled round in a chair like Mrs. Atkins. You don't realize how I've bucked up in the past few years. Why, I bet right now I'm just as healthy as you are—I mean just as sound in wind and limb; and if I was staying on at the farm, I'd prove it to you. You're suffering from a fixed idea about my delicateness—and so are Pa and Ma. Every time I've offered to help, Pa has stared at me as if he thought I was contemplating suicide.
ANDREW—[Conciliatingly.] Nobody claimed the undertaker was taking your measurements. All I was saying was the sea trip would be bound to do anybody good.
ROBERT—If I had no other excuse for going on Uncle Dick's ship but just my health, I'd stay right here and start in plowing.
ANDREW—Can't be done. No use in your talking that way, Rob. Farming ain't your nature. There's all the difference shown in just the way us two feel about the farm. I like it, all of it, and you—well, you like the home part of it, I expect; but as a place to work and grow things, you hate it. Ain't that right?
ROBERT—Yes, I suppose it is. I've tried to take an interest but—well, you're the Mayo branch of the family, and I take after Ma and Uncle Dick. It's natural enough when you come to think of it. The Mayos have been farmers from way back, while the Scotts have been mostly sea-faring folks, with a school teacher thrown in now and then on the woman's side—just as Ma was before her marriage.
ANDREW—You do favor Ma. I remember she used always to have her nose in a book when I was a kid; but she seems to have given it up of late years.
ROBERT—[With a trace of bitterness.] The farm has claimed her in spite of herself. That's what I'm afraid it might do to me in time; and that's why I feel I ought to get away. [Fearing he has hurt ANDREW'S feelings.] You musn't misunderstand me, Andy. For you it's a different thing. You're a Mayo through and through. You're wedded to the soil. You're as much a product of it as an ear of corn is, or a tree. Father is the same. This farm is his life-work, and he's happy in knowing that another Mayo, inspired by the same love, will take up the work where he leaves off. I can understand your attitude, and Pa's; and I think it's wonderful and sincere. But I—well, I'm not made that way.
ANDREW—No, you ain't; but when it comes to understanding, I guess I realize that you've got your own angle of looking at things.
ROBERT—[Musingly.] I wonder if you do, really.
ANDREW—[Confidently.] Sure I do. You've seen a bit of the world, enough to make the farm seem small, and you've got the itch to see it all.
ROBERT—It's more than that, Andy.
ANDREW—Oh, of course. I know you're going to learn navigation, and all about a ship, so's you can be an officer. That's natural, too. There's fair pay in it, I expect, when you consider that you've always got a home and grub thrown in; and if you're set on travelling, you can go anywhere you're a mind to, without paying fare.
ROBERT—[With a smile that is half-sad.] It's more than that, Andy.
ANDREW—Sure it is. There's always a chance of a good thing coming your way in some of those foreign ports or other. I've heard there are great opportunities for a young fellow with his eyes open in some of those new countries that are just being opened up. And with your education you ought to pick up the language quick. [Jovially.] I'll bet that's what you've been turning over in your mind under all your quietness! [He slaps his brother on the back with a laugh.] Well, if you get to be a millionaire all of a sudden, call 'round once in a while and I'll pass the plate to you. We could use a lot of money right here on the farm without hurting it any.
ROBERT—[Forced to laugh.] I've never considered that practical side of it for a minute, Andy. [As ANDREW looks incredulous.] That's the truth.
ANDREW—Well, you ought to.
ROBERT—No, I oughtn't. You're trying to wish an eye-for-business on me I don't possess. [Pointing to the horizon—dreamily.] Supposing I was to tell you that it's just Beauty that's calling me, the beauty of the far off and unknown, the mystery and spell of the East, which lures me in the books I've read, the need of the freedom of great wide spaces, the joy of wandering on and on—in quest of the secret which is hidden just over there, beyond the horizon? Suppose I told you that was the one and only reason for my going?
ANDREW—I should say you were nutty.
ROBERT—Then I must be—because it's so.
ANDREW—I don't believe it. You've got that idea out of your poetry books. A good dose of sea-sickness will get that out of your system.
ROBERT—[Frowning.] Don't, Andy. I'm serious.
ANDREW—Then you might as well stay right here, because we've got all you're looking for right on this farm. There's wide space enough, Lord knows; and you can have all the sea you want by walking a mile down to the beach; and there's plenty of horizon to look at, and beauty enough for anyone, except in the winter. [He grins.] As for the mystery and spell, and other things you mentioned, I haven't met 'em yet, but they're probably lying around somewheres. I'll have you understand this is a first class farm with all the fixings. [He laughs.]
ROBERT—[Joining in the laughter in spite of himself.] It's no use talking to you, you chump!
ANDREW—Maybe; but you'll see I'm right before you've gone far. You're not as big a nut as you'd like to make out. You'd better not say anything to Uncle Dick about spells and things when you're on the ship. He'll likely chuck you overboard for a Jonah. [He jumps down from fence.] I'd better run along. I've got to wash up some as long as Ruth's Ma is coming over for supper.
ROBERT—[Pointedly—almost bitterly.] And Ruth.
ANDREW—[Confused—looking everywhere except at ROBERT—trying to appear unconcerned.] Yes, Pa did say she was staying too. Well, I better hustle, I guess, and—— [He steps over the ditch to the road while he is talking.]
ROBERT—[Who appears to be fighting some strong inward emotion—impulsively.] Wait a minute, Andy! [He jumps down from the fence.] There is something I want to—— [He stops abruptly, biting his lips, his face coloring.]
ANDREW—[Facing him; half-defiantly.] Yes?
ROBERT—[Confusedly.] No—— never mind—— it doesn't matter, it was nothing.
ANDREW—[After a pause, during which he stares fixedly at ROBERT'S averted face.] Maybe I can guess—— what you were going to say—— but I guess you're right not to talk about it. [He pulls ROBERT'S hand from his side and grips it tensely; the two brothers stand looking into each other's eyes for a minute.] We can't help those things, Rob. [He turns away, suddenly releasing ROBERT'S hand.] You'll be coming along shortly, won't you?
ANDREW—See you later, then. [He walks off down the road to the left. ROBERT stares after him for a moment; then climbs to the fence rail again, and looks out over the hills, an expression of deep grief on his face. After a moment or so, RUTH enters hurriedly from the left. She is a healthy, blonde, out-of-door girl of twenty, with a graceful, slender figure. Her face, though inclined to roundness, is undeniably pretty, its large eyes of a deep blue set off strikingly by the sun-bronzed complexion. Her small, regular features are marked by a certain strength—an underlying, stubborn fixity of purpose hidden in the frankly-appealing charm of her fresh youthfulness. She wears a simple white dress but no hat.]
RUTH—[Seeing him.] Hello, Rob!
ROBERT—[Startled.] Hello, Ruth!
RUTH—[Jumps the ditch and perches on the fence beside him.] I was looking for you.
ROBERT—[Pointedly.] Andy just left here.
RUTH—I know. I met him on the road a second ago. He told me you were here. [Tenderly playful.] I wasn't looking for Andy, Smarty, if that's what you mean. I was looking for you.
ROBERT—Because I'm going away tomorrow?
RUTH—Because your mother was anxious to have you come home and asked me to look for you. I just wheeled Ma over to your house.
ROBERT—[Perfunctorily.] How is your mother?
RUTH—[A shadow coming over her face.] She's about the same. She never seems to get any better or any worse. Oh, Rob, I do wish she'd pick up a little or—— or try to make the best of things that can't be helped.
ROBERT—Has she been nagging at you again?
RUTH—[Nods her head, and then breaks forth rebelliously.] She never stops nagging. No matter what I do for her she finds fault. She's growing more irritable every day. Oh, Rob, you've no idea how hard it is living there alone with her in that big lonely house. It's enough to drive anyone mad. If only Pa was still living—— [She stops as if ashamed of her outburst.] I suppose I shouldn't complain this way. I wouldn't to any one but you. [She sighs.] Poor Ma, Lord knows it's hard enough for her—having to be wheeled around in a chair ever since I was born. I suppose it's natural to be cross when you're not able ever to walk a step. But why should she be in a temper with me all the time? Oh, I'd like to be going away some place—like you!
ROBERT—It's hard to stay—and equally hard to go, sometimes.
RUTH—There! If I'm not the stupid body! I swore I wasn't going to speak about your trip—until after you'd gone; and there I go, first thing!
ROBERT—Why didn't you want to speak of it?
RUTH—Because I didn't want to spoil this last night you're here. Oh, Rob, I'm going to—we're all going to miss you so awfully. Your mother is going around looking as if she'd burst out crying any minute. You ought to know how I feel. Andy and you and I—why it seems as if we'd always been together.
ROBERT—[With a wry attempt at a smile.] You and Andy will still have each other. It'll be harder for me without anyone.
RUTH—But you'll have new sights and new people to take your mind off; while we'll be here with the old, familiar place to remind us every minute of the day. It's a shame you're going—just at this time, in spring, when everything is getting so nice. [With a sigh.] I oughtn't to talk that way when I know going's the best thing for you—on account of your health. The sea trip's bound to do you so much good, everyone says.
ROBERT—[With a half-resentful grimace.] Don't tell me you think I'm a hopeless invalid, too! I've heard enough of that talk from the folks. Honestly, Ruth, I feel better than I ever did in my life. I'm disgustingly healthy. I wouldn't even consider my health an excuse for this trip.
RUTH—[Vaguely.] Of course you're bound to find all sorts of opportunities to get on, your father says.
ROBERT—[Heatedly.] I don't give a damn about that! I wouldn't take a voyage across the road for the best opportunity in the world of the kind Pa thinks of. I'd run away from it instead. [He smiles at his own irritation.] Excuse me, Ruth, for getting worked up over it; but Andy gave me an overdose of the practical considerations.
RUTH—[Slowly puzzled.] Well, then, if it isn't any of those reasons—— [With sudden intensity.] Oh, Rob, why do you want to go?
ROBERT—[Turning to her quickly, in surprise—slowly.] Why do you ask that, Ruth?
RUTH—[Dropping her eyes before his searching glance.] Because—— [Lamely.] It seems such a shame.
ROBERT—I could hardly back out now, even if I wanted to. And I'll be forgotten before you know it.
RUTH—[Indignantly.] You won't! I'll never forget—— [She stops and turns away to hide her confusion.]
ROBERT—[Softly.] Will you promise me that?
RUTH—[Evasively.] Of course. It's mean of you to think that any of us would forget so easily.
RUTH—[With an attempt at lightness.] But you haven't told me your reason for leaving yet? Aren't you going to?
ROBERT—[Moodily.] I doubt if you'll understand. It's difficult to explain, even to myself. It's more an instinctive longing that won't stand dissection. Either you feel it, or you don't. The cause of it all is in the blood and the bone, I guess, not in the brain, although imagination plays a large part in it. I can remember being conscious of it first when I was only a kid—you haven't forgotten what a sickly specimen I was then, in those days, have you?
RUTH—[With a shudder.] They're past. Let's not think about them.
ROBERT—You'll have to, to understand. Well, in those days, when Ma was fixing meals, she used to get me out of the way by pushing my chair to the west window and telling me to look out and be quiet. That wasn't hard. I guess I was always quiet.
RUTH—[Compassionately.] Yes, you always were—and you suffering so much, too!
ROBERT—[Musingly.] So I used to stare out over the fields to the hills, out there—[He points to the horizon] and somehow after a time I'd forget any pain I was in, and start dreaming. I knew the sea was over beyond those hills,—the folks had told me—and I used to wonder what the sea was like, and try to form a picture of it in my mind. [With a smile.] There was all the mystery in the world to me then about that—far-off sea—and there still is! It called to me then just as it does now. [After a slight pause.] And other times my eyes would follow this road, winding off into the distance, toward the hills, as if it, too, was searching for the sea. And I'd promise myself that when I grew up and was strong, I'd follow that road, and it and I would find the sea together. [With a smile.] You see, my making this trip is only keeping that promise of long ago.
RUTH—[Charmed by his low, musical voice telling the dreams of his childhood.] Yes, I see.
ROBERT—Those were the only happy moments of my life then, dreaming there at the window. I liked to be all alone—those times. I got to know all the different kinds of sunsets by heart—the clear ones and the cloudy ones, and all the color schemes of their countless variations—although I could hardly name more than three or four colors correctly. And all those sunsets took place over there—[He points] beyond the horizon. So gradually I came to believe that all the wonders of the world happened on the other side of those hills. There was the home of the good fairies who performed beautiful miracles. [He smiles.] I believed in fairies then, although I suppose I ought to have been ashamed of it from a boy's standpoint. But you know how contemptuous of all religion Pa's always been—even the mention of it in the house makes him angry.
RUTH—Yes. [Wearily.] It's just the opposite to our house.
ROBERT—He'd bullied Ma into being ashamed of believing in anything and he'd forbidden her to teach Andy or me. There wasn't much about our home but the life on the farm. I didn't like that, so I had to believe in fairies. [With a smile.] Perhaps I still do believe in them. Anyway, in those days they were real enough, and sometimes—I suppose the mental science folks would explain it by self-hypnosis—I could actually hear them calling to me in soft whispers to come out and play with them, dance with them down the road in the dusk in a game of hide-and-seek to find out where the sun was hiding himself. They sang their little songs to me, songs that told of all the wonderful things they had in their home on the other side of the hills; and they promised to show me all of them, if I'd only come, come! But I couldn't come then, and I used to cry sometimes and Ma would think I was in pain. [He breaks off suddenly with a laugh.] That's why I'm going now, I suppose. For I can still hear them calling, although I'm a man and have seen the other side of many hills. But the horizon is as far away and as luring as ever. [He turns to her—softly.] Do you understand now, Ruth?
RUTH—[Spellbound, in a whisper.] Yes.
ROBERT—You feel it then?
RUTH—Yes, yes, I do! [Unconsciously she snuggles close against his side. His arm steals about her as if he were not aware of the action.] Oh, Rob, how could I help feeling it? You tell things so beautifully!
ROBERT—[Suddenly realizing that his arm is around her, and that her head is resting on his shoulder, gently takes his arm away. RUTH, brought back to herself, is overcome with confusion.] So now you know why I'm going. It's for that reason—that and one other.
RUTH—You've another? Then you must tell me that, too.
ROBERT—[Looking at her searchingly. She drops her eyes before his gaze.] I wonder if I ought to. I wonder if you'd really care to hear it—if you knew. You'll promise not to be angry—whatever it is?
RUTH—[Softly, her face still averted.] Yes, I promise.
ROBERT—[Simply.] I love you. That's the other reason.
RUTH—[Hiding her face in her hands.] Oh, Rob!
ROBERT—You must let me finish now I've begun. I wasn't going to tell you, but I feel I have to. It can't matter to you now that I'm going so far away, and for so long—perhaps forever. I've loved you all these years, but the realization of it never came to me 'til I agreed to go away with Uncle Dick. Then I thought of leaving you, and the pain of that thought revealed the truth to me in a flash—that I loved you, had loved you as long as I could remember. [He gently pulls one of RUTH'S hands away from her face.] You musn't mind my telling you this, Ruth. I realize how impossible it all is—and I understand; for the revelation of my own love seemed to open my eyes to the love of others. I saw Andy's love for you—and I knew that you must love him.
RUTH—[Breaking out stormily.] I don't! I don't love Andy! I don't! [ROBERT stares at her in stupid astonishment. RUTH weeps hysterically.] Whatever—put such a fool notion into—into your head? [She suddenly throws her arms about his neck and hides her head on his shoulder.] Oh, Rob! Don't go away! Please! You mustn't, now! You can't! I won't let you! It'd break my—my heart!
ROBERT—[The expression of stupid bewilderment giving way to one of overwhelming joy. He presses her close to him—slowly and tenderly.] Do you mean that—that you love me?
RUTH—[Sobbing.] Yes, yes—of course I do—what d'you s'pose? [She lifts up her head and looks into his eyes with a tremulous smile.] You stupid thing! [He kisses her.] I've loved you right along.
ROBERT—[Mystified.] But you and Andy were always together!
RUTH—Because you never seemed to want to go any place with me. You were always reading an old book, and not paying any attention to me. I was too proud to let you see I cared because I thought the year you had away to college had made you stuck-up, and you thought yourself too educated to waste any time on me.
ROBERT—[Kissing her.] And I was thinking—— [With a laugh.] What fools we've both been!
RUTH—[Overcome by a sudden fear.] You won't go away on the trip, will you, Rob? You'll tell them you can't go on account of me, won't you? You can't go now! You can't!
ROBERT—[Bewildered.] Perhaps—you can come too.
RUTH—Oh, Rob, don't be so foolish. You know I can't. Who'd take care of Ma? She has no one in the world but me. I can't leave her—the way she is. It'd be different if she was well and healthy like other people. Don't you see I couldn't go—on her account?
ROBERT—[Vaguely.] I could go—and then send for you both—when I'd settled some place out there.
RUTH—Ma never could. She'd never leave the farm for anything; and she couldn't make a trip anywhere 'til she got better—if she ever does. And oh, Rob, I wouldn't want to live in any of those outlandish places you were going to. I couldn't stand it there, I know I couldn't—not knowing anyone. It makes me afraid just to think of it. I've never been away from here, hardly and—I'm just a home body, I'm afraid. [She clings to him imploringly.] Please don't go—not now. Tell them you've decided not to. They won't mind. I know your mother and father'll be glad. They'll all be. They don't want you to go so far away from them. Please, Rob! We'll be so happy here together where it's natural and we know things. Please tell me you won't go!
ROBERT—[Face to face with a definite, final decision, betrays the conflict going on within him.] But—Ruth—I—Uncle Dick——
RUTH—He won't mind when he knows it's for your happiness to stay. How could he? [As ROBERT remains silent she bursts into sobs again.] Oh, Rob! And you said—you loved me!
ROBERT—[Conquered by this appeal—an irrevocable decision in his voice.] I won't go, Ruth. I promise you. There! Don't cry! [He presses her to him, stroking her hair tenderly. After a pause he speaks with happy hopefulness.] Perhaps after all Andy was right—righter than he knew—when he said I could find all the things I was seeking for here, at home on the farm. The mystery and the wonder—our love should bring them home to us. I think love must have been the secret—the secret that called to me from over the world's rim—the secret beyond every horizon; and when I did not come, it came to me. [He clasps RUTH to him fiercely.] Oh, Ruth, you are right! Our love is sweeter than any distant dream. It is the meaning of all life, the whole world. The kingdom of heaven is within—us! [He kisses her passionately and steps to the ground, lifting RUTH in his arms and carrying her to the road where he puts her down.]
RUTH—[With a happy laugh.] My, but you're strong!
ROBERT—Come! We'll go and tell them at once.
RUTH—[Dismayed.] Oh, no, don't, Rob, not 'til after I've gone. Then you can tell your folks and I'll tell Ma when I get her home. There'd be bound to be such a scene with them all together.
ROBERT—[Kissing her—gaily.] As you like—little Miss Common Sense!
RUTH—Let's go, then. [She takes his hand, and they start to go off left. ROBERT suddenly stops and turns as though for a last look at the hills and the dying sunset flush.]
ROBERT—[Looking upward and pointing.] See! The first star. [He bends down and kisses her tenderly.] Our star!
RUTH—[In a soft murmur.] Yes. Our very own star. [They stand for a moment looking up at it, their arms around each other. Then RUTH takes his hand again and starts to lead him away.] Come, Rob, let's go. [His eyes are fixed again on the horizon as he half turns to follow her. RUTH urges.] We'll be late for supper, Rob.
ROBERT—[Shakes his head impatiently, as though he were throwing off some disturbing thought—with a laugh.] All right. We'll run then. Come on! [They run off laughing as
[The Curtain Falls]