SCENE—The top of a hill on the farm. It is about eleven o'clock the next morning. The day is hot and cloudless. In the distance the sea can be seen.
The top of the hill slopes downward slightly toward the left. A big boulder stands in the center toward the rear. Further right, a large oak tree. The faint trace of a path leading upward to it from the left foreground can be detected through the bleached, sun-scorched grass.
ROBERT is discovered sitting on the boulder, his chin resting on his hands, staring out toward the horizon seaward. His face is pale and haggard, his expression one of utter despondency. MARY is sitting on the grass near him in the shade, playing with her doll, singing happily to herself. Presently she casts a curious glance at her father, and, propping her doll up against the tree, comes over and clambers to his side.
MARY—[Pulling at his hand—solicitously.] Is Dada sick?
ROBERT—[Looking at her with a forced smile.] No, dear. Why?
MARY—Then why don't he play with Mary?
ROBERT—[Gently.] No, dear, not today. Dada doesn't feel like playing today.
MARY—[Protestingly.] Yes, please, Dada!
ROBERT—No, dear. Dada does feel sick—a little. He's got a bad headache.
MARY—Let Mary see. [He bends his head. She pats his hair.] Bad head.
ROBERT—[Kissing her—with a smile.] There! It's better now, dear, thank you. [She cuddles up close against him. There is a pause during which each of them looks out seaward.]
MARY—[Pointing toward the sea.] Is that all wa-wa, Dada?
MARY—[Amazed by the magnitude of this conception.] Oh-oh! [She points to the horizon.] And it all stops there, over farver?
ROBERT—No, it doesn't stop. That line you see is called the horizon. It's where the sea and sky meet. Just beyond that is where the good fairies live. [Checking himself—with a harsh laugh.] But you mustn't ever believe in fairies. It's bad luck. And besides, there aren't any good fairies. [MARY looks up into his face with a puzzled expression.]
MARY—Then if fairies don't live there, what lives there?
ROBERT—[Bitterly.] God knows! Mocking devils, I've found them. [MARY frowns in puzzlement, turning this over in her mind. There is a pause. Finally ROBERT turns to her tenderly.] Would you miss Dada very much if he went away?
ROBERT—Yes. Far, far away.
MARY—And Mary wouldn't see him, never?
ROBERT—No; but Mary'd forget him very soon, I'm sure.
MARY—[Tearfully.] No! No! Dada mustn't go 'way. No, Dada, no!
ROBERT—Don't you like Uncle Andy—the man that came yesterday—not the old man with the white moustache—the other?
MARY—But Dada mustn't go 'way. Mary loves Dada.
ROBERT—[With fierce determination.] He won't go away, baby. He was only joking. He couldn't leave his little Mary. [He presses the child in his arms.]
MARY—[With an exclamation of pain.] Oh! Dada hurts!
ROBERT—I'm sorry, little girl. [He lifts her down to the grass.] Go play with Dolly, that's a good girl; and be careful to keep in the shade. [She reluctantly leaves him and takes up her doll again. A moment later she points down the hill to the left.]
MARY—Here comes mans, Dada.
ROBERT—[Looking that way.] It's your Uncle Andy.
MARY—Will he play wiv me, Dada?
ROBERT—Not now, dear. You mustn't bother him. After a while he will, maybe. [A moment later ANDREW comes up from the left, whistling cheerfully. He has changed but little in appearance, except for the fact that his face has been deeply bronzed by his years in the tropics; but there is a decided change in his manner. The old easy-going good-nature seems to have been partly lost in a breezy, business-like briskness of voice and gesture. There is an authoritative note in his speech as though he were accustomed to give orders and have them obeyed as a matter of course. He is dressed in the simple blue uniform and cap of a merchant ship's officer.]
ANDREW—Here you are, eh?
ANDREW—[Going over to MARY.] And who's this young lady I find you all alone with, eh? Who's this pretty young lady? [He tickles the laughing, squirming MARY, then lifts her up at arm's length over his head.] Upsy—daisy! [He sets her down on the ground again.] And there you are! [He walks over and sits down on the boulder beside ROBERT who moves to one side to make room for him.] RUTH told me I'd probably find you up top-side here; but I'd have guessed it, anyway. [He digs his brother in the ribs affectionately.] Still up to your old tricks, you old beggar! I can remember how you used to come up here to mope and dream in the old days.
ROBERT—[With a smile.] I come up here now because it's the coolest place on the farm. I've given up dreaming.
ANDREW—[Grinning.] I don't believe it. You can't have changed that much.
ROBERT—[Wearily.] One gets tired of dreaming—when they never come true.
ANDREW—[Scrutinizing his brother's face.] You've changed in looks all right. You look all done up, as if you'd been working too hard. Better let up on yourself for a while.
ROBERT—Oh, I'm all right!
ANDREW—Take a fool's advice and go it easy. You remember—your old trouble. You wouldn't want that coming back on you, eh? It pays to keep top-notch in your case.
ROBERT—[Betraying annoyance.] Oh, that's all a thing of the past, Andy. Forget it!
ANDREW—Well—a word to the wise does no harm? Don't be touchy about it. [Slapping his brother on the back.] You know I mean well, old man, even if I do put my foot in it.
ROBERT—Of course, Andy. I'm not touchy about it. I don't want you to worry about dead things, that's all. I've a headache today, and I expect I do look done up.
ANDREW—Mum's the word, then! [After a pause—with boyish enthusiasm.] Say, it sure brings back old times to be up here with you having a chin all by our lonesomes again. I feel great being back home.
ROBERT—It's great for us to have you back.
ANDREW—[After a pause—meaningly.] I've been looking over the old place with Ruth. Things don't seem to be——
ROBERT—[His face flushing—interrupts his brother shortly.] Never mind the damn farm! There's nothing about it we don't both know by heart. Let's talk about something interesting. This is the first chance I've had to have a word with you alone. To the devil with the farm for the present. They think of nothing else at home. Tell me about your trip. That's what I've been anxious to hear about.
ANDREW—[With a quick glance of concern at ROBERT.] I suppose you do get an overdose of the farm at home. [Indignantly.] Say, I never realized that Ruth's mother was such an old rip 'till she talked to me this morning. [With a grin.] Phew! I pity you, Rob, when she gets on her ear!
ROBERT—She is—difficult sometimes; but one must make allowances. [Again changing the subject abruptly.] But this isn't telling me about the trip.
ANDREW—Why, I thought I told you everything in my letters.
ROBERT—[Smiling.] Your letters were—sketchy, to say the least.
ANDREW—Oh, I know I'm no author. You needn't be afraid of hurting my feelings. I'd rather go through a typhoon again than write a letter.
ROBERT—[With eager interest.] Then you were through a typhoon?
ANDREW—Yes—in the China sea. Had to run before it under bare poles for two days. I thought we were bound down for Davy Jones, sure. Never dreamed waves could get so big or the wind blow so hard. If it hadn't been for Uncle Dick being such a good skipper we'd have gone to the sharks, all of us. As it was we came out minus a main top-mast and had to beat back to Hong-Kong for repairs. But I must have written you all this.
ROBERT—You never mentioned it.
ANDREW—Well, there was so much dirty work getting things ship-shape again I must have forgotten about it.
ROBERT—[Looking at ANDREW—marvelling.] Forget a typhoon? [With a trace of scorn.] You're a strange combination, Andy. And is what you've told me all you remember about it?
ANDREW—Oh, I could give you your bellyful of details if I wanted to turn loose on you; but they're not the kind of things to fit in with your pretty notions of life on the ocean wave, I'll give you that straight.
ROBERT—[Earnestly.] Tell me. I'd like to hear them—honestly!
ANDREW—What's the use? They'd make a man want to live in the middle of America without even a river in a hundred miles of him so he'd feel safe. It was rotten, that's what it was! Talk about work! I was wishin' the ship'd sink and give me a rest, I was so dog tired toward the finish. We didn't get a warm thing to eat for nearly two weeks. There was enough China Sea in the galley to float the stove, and the fo' c's'tle was flooded, too. And you couldn't sleep a wink. No place on the darned old tub stayed still long enough for you to lie on it. And every one was soaked to the skin all the time, with green seas boiling over the deck keeping you busy jumping for the rat-lines to keep from being washed over. Oh, it was all-wool-and-a-yard-wide-Hell, I'll tell you. You ought to have been there. I remember thinking about you at the worst of it when you couldn't force a breath out against the wind, and saying to myself: 'This'd cure Rob of them ideas of his about the beautiful sea, if he could see it.' And it would have too, you bet! [He nods emphatically.]
ROBERT—And you don't see any romance in that?
ANDREW—Romance be blowed! It was hell! [As an afterthought.] Oh, I was forgetting! One of the men was washed overboard—a Norwegian—Ollie we called him. [With a grin of sarcasm.] I suppose that's romance, eh? Well, it might be for a fish, but not for me, old man!
ROBERT [Dryly.] The sea doesn't seem to have impressed you very favorably.
ANDREW—I should say it didn't! It's a dog's life. You work like the devil and put up with all kinds of hardships—for what? For a rotten wage you'd be ashamed to take on shore.
ROBERT—Then you're not going to—follow it up?
ANDREW—Not me! I'm through! I'll never set foot on a ship again if I can help it—except to carry me some place I can't get to by train. No. I've had enough. Dry land is the only place for me.
ROBERT—But you studied to become an officer!
ANDREW—Had to do something or I'd gone mad. The days were like years. Nothing to look at but sea and sky. No place to go. A regular prison. [He laughs.] And as for the East you used to rave about—well, you ought to see it, and smell it! And the Chinks and Japs and Hindus and the rest of them—you can have them! One walk down one of their filthy narrow streets with the tropic sun beating on it would sicken you for life with the "wonder and mystery" you used to dream of. I can say one thing for it though—it certainly has the stink market cornered.
ROBERT—[Shrinking from his brother with a glance of aversion.] So all you found in the East was a stench?
ANDREW—A stench! Ten thousand of them! That and the damned fever! You can have the tropics, old man. I never want to see them again. At that, there's lots of money to be made down there—for a white man. The natives are too lazy to work, that's the only trouble.
ROBERT—But you did like some of the places, judging from your letters—Sydney, Buenos Aires——
ANDREW—Yes, Sydney's a good town. [Enthusiastically.] But Buenos Aires—there's the place for you. Argentine's a country where a fellow has a chance to make good. You're right I liked it. And I'll tell you, Rob, that's right where I'm going just as soon as I've seen you folks a while and can get a ship. I don't intend to pay for my passage now I can get a berth as second officer, and I'll jump the ship when I get there. I'll need every cent of the wages Uncle's paid me to get a start at something in B. A.
ROBERT—[Staring at his brother—slowly.] So you're not going to stay on the farm?
ANDREW—Why sure not! Did you think I was? There wouldn't be any sense. One of us is enough to run this little place.
ROBERT—I suppose it does seem small to you now.
ANDREW—[Not noticing the sarcasm in ROBERT'S tone.] You've no idea, Rob, what a splendid place Argentine is. I went around Buenos Aires quite a lot and got to know people—English speaking people, of course. The town is full of them. It's foreign capital that's developed the country, you know. I had a letter from a marine insurance chap that I'd made friends with in Hong-Kong to his brother, who's in the grain business in Buenos Aires. He took quite a fancy to me, and what's more important, he offered me a job if I'd come back there. I'd have taken it on the spot, only I couldn't leave Uncle Dick in the lurch, and I'd promised you folks to come home. But I'm going back there very soon, you bet, and then you watch me get on! [He slaps ROBERT on the back.] But don't you think it's a big chance, Rob?
ROBERT—It's fine—for you, Andy.
ANDREW—We call this a farm—but you ought to hear about the farms down there—ten square miles where we've got an acre. It's a new country where big things are opening up—and I want to get in on something big before I die. That job I'm offered'll furnish the wedge. I'm no fool when it comes to farming, and I know something about grain. I've been reading up a lot on it, too, lately. [He notices ROBERT'S absent-minded expression and laughs.] Wake up, you old poetry book worm, you! I know my talking about business makes you want to choke me, doesn't it?
ROBERT—[With an embarrassed smile.] No, Andy, I—I just happened to think of something else. [Frowning.] There've been lots of times lately that I've wished I had some of your faculty for business.
ANDREW—[Soberly.] There's something I want to talk about, Rob,—the farm. You don't mind, do you?
ANDREW—I walked over it this morning with Ruth—and she told me about things—— [Evasively.]—the hard luck you'd had and how things stood at present—and about your thinking of raising a mortgage.
ROBERT—[Bitterly.] It's all true I guess, and probably worse than she told you.
ANDREW—I could see the place had run down; but you mustn't blame yourself. When luck's against anyone——
ROBERT—Don't, Andy! It is my fault—my inability. You know it as well as I do. The best I've ever done was to make ends meet, and this year I can't do that without the mortgage.
ANDREW—[After a pause.] You mustn't raise the mortgage, Rob. I've got over a thousand saved, and you can have that.
ROBERT—[Firmly.] No. You need that for your start in Buenos Aires.
ANDREW—I don't. I can——
ROBERT—[Determinedly.] No, Andy! Once and for all, no! I won't hear of it!
ANDREW—[Protestingly.] You obstinate old son of a gun! [There is a pause.] Well, I'll do the best I can while I'm here. I'll get a real man to superintend things for you—if he can be got. That'll relieve you some. If he gets results, you can afford to pay him.
ROBERT—Oh, everything'll be on a sound footing after harvest. Don't worry about it.
ANDREW—[Doubtfully.] Maybe. The prospects don't look so bad.
ROBERT—And then I can pay the mortgage off again. It's just to tide over.
ANDREW—[After a pause.] I wish you'd let me help, Rob.
ROBERT—[With a tone of finality.] No. Please don't suggest it any more. My mind's made up on that point.
ANDREW—[Slapping his brother on the back—with forced joviality.] Well, anyway, you've got to promise to let me step in when I've made my pile; and I'll make it down there, I'm certain; and it won't take me long, either.
ROBERT—I've no doubt you will with your determination.
ANDREW—I'll be able to pay off all the mortgages you can raise! Still, a mortgage isn't such a bad thing at that—it makes a place heaps easier to sell—and you may want to cut loose from this farm some day—come down and join me in Buenos Aires, that's the ticket.
ROBERT—If I had only myself to consider——
ANDREW—Yes, I suppose they wouldn't want to come. [After a pause.] It's too bad Pa couldn't have lived to see things through. [With feeling.] It cut me up a lot—hearing he was dead. Tell me about it. You didn't say much in your letter.
ROBERT—[Evasively.] He's at peace, Andy. It'll only make you feel bad to talk of it.
ANDREW—He never—softened up, did he—about me, I mean?
ROBERT—He never understood, that's a kinder way of putting it. He does now.
ANDREW—[After a pause.] You've forgotten all about what—caused me to go, haven't you Rob? [ROBERT nods but keeps his face averted.] I was a slushier damn fool in those days than you were. But it was an act of Providence I did go. It opened my eyes to how I'd been fooling myself. Why, I'd forgotten all about—that—before I'd been at sea six months.
ROBERT—[Turns and looks into ANDREW'S eyes searchingly.] You're speaking of—Ruth?
ANDREW—[Confused.] Yes. I didn't want you to get false notions in your head, or I wouldn't say anything. [Looking ROBERT squarely in the eyes.] I'm telling you the truth when I say I'd forgotten long ago. It don't sound well for me, getting over things so easy, but I guess it never really amounted to more than a kid idea I was letting rule me. I'm certain now I never was in love—I was getting fun out of thinking I was—and being a hero to myself. [He heaves a great sigh of relief.] There! Gosh, I'm glad that's off my chest. I've been feeling sort of awkward ever since I've been home, thinking of what you two might think. [A trace of appeal in his voice.] You've got it all straight now, haven't you, Rob?
ROBERT—[In a low voice.] Yes, Andy.
ANDREW—And I'll tell Ruth, too, if I can get up the nerve. She must feel kind of funny having me round—after what used to be—and not knowing how I feel about it.
ROBERT—[Slowly.] Perhaps—for her sake—you'd better not tell her.
ANDREW—For her sake? Oh, you mean she wouldn't want to be reminded of my foolishness? Still, I think it'd be worse if——
ROBERT—[Breaking out—in an agonized voice.] Do as you please, Andy; but for God's sake, let's not talk about it! [There is a pause. ANDREW stares at ROBERT in hurt stupefaction. ROBERT continues after a moment in a voice which he vainly attempts to keep calm.] Excuse me, Andy. This rotten headache has my nerves shot to pieces.
ANDREW—[Mumbling.] It's all right, Rob—long as you're not sore at me.
ROBERT—Where did Uncle Dick disappear to this morning?
ANDREW—He went down to the port to see to things on the Sunda. He said he didn't know exactly when he'd be back. I'll have to go down and tend to the ship when he comes. That's why I dressed up in these togs.
MARY—[Pointing down the hill to the left.] See Dada! Mama! Mama! [She jumps to her feet and starts to run down the path.]
ANDREW—[Standing and looking down.] Yes, here comes Ruth. Must be looking for you, I guess. [Jumping forward and stopping MARY.] Hey up! You mustn't run down hill like that, little girl. You'll take a bad fall, don't you know it?
ROBERT—Stay here and wait for your mother, Mary.
MARY—[Struggling to her feet.] No! No! Mama! Dada!
ANDREW—Here she is! [RUTH appears at left. She is dressed in white, shows she has been fixing up. She looks pretty, flushed and full of life.]
MARY—[Running to her mother.] Mama!
RUTH—[Kissing her.] Hello, dear! [She walks toward the rock and addresses ROBERT coldly.] Jake wants to see you about something. He finished working where he was. He's waiting for you at the road.
ROBERT—[Getting up—wearily.] I'll go down right away. [As he looks at RUTH, noting her changed appearance, his face darkens with pain.]
RUTH—And take Mary with you, please. [To MARY.] Go with Dada, that's a good girl. Grandma has your dinner most ready for you.
ROBERT—[Shortly.] Come, Mary!
MARY—[Taking he is hand and dancing happily beside him.] Dada! Dada! [They go down the hill to the left. RUTH looks after them for a moment, frowning—then turns to ANDY with a smile.] I'm going to sit down. Come on, Andy. It'll be like old times. [She jumps lightly to the top of the rock and sits down.] It's so fine and cool up here after the house.
ANDREW—[Half-sitting on the side of the boulder.] Yes. It's great.
RUTH—I've taken a holiday in honor of your arrival—from work in the kitchen. [Laughing excitedly.] I feel so free I'd like to have wings and fly over the sea. You're a man. You can't know how awful and stupid it is—cooking and washing dishes all the time.
ANDREW—[Making a wry face.] I can guess.
RUTH—Besides, your mother just insisted on getting your first dinner to home, she's that happy at having you back. You'd think I was planning to poison you the flurried way she shooed me out of the kitchen.
ANDREW—That's just like Ma, bless her!
RUTH—She's missed you terrible. We all have. And you can't deny the farm has, after what I showed you and told you when we was looking over the place this morning.
ANDREW—[With a frown.] Things are run down, that's a fact! It's too darn hard on poor old Rob.
RUTH—[Scornfully.] It's his own fault. He never takes any interest in things.
ANDREW—[Reprovingly.] You can't blame him. He wasn't born for it; but I know he's done his best for your sake and the old folks and the little girl.
RUTH—[Indifferently.] Yes, I suppose he has. [Gaily.] But thank the Lord, all those days are over now. The "hard luck" Rob's always blaming won't last long when you take hold, Andy. All the farm's ever needed was someone with the knack of looking ahead and preparing for what's going to happen.
ANDREW—Yes, Rob hasn't got that. He's frank to own up to that himself. I'm going to try and hire a good man for him—an experienced farmer—to work the place on a salary and percentage. That'll take it off of Rob's hands, and he needn't be worrying himself to death any more. He looks all worn out, Ruth. He ought to be careful.
RUTH—[Absent-mindedly.] Yes, I s'pose. [Her mind is filled with premonitions by the first part of his statement.]
ANDREW—It would be a good idea if Rob could pull out of here—get a job in town on a newspaper, or something connected with writing—and this plan of mine'd give him a chance.
RUTH—[Vaguely.] He's always wanted to get away. [Suspiciously.] Why do you want to hire a man to oversee things? Seems as if now that you're back it wouldn't be needful.
ANDREW—Oh, of course I'll attend to everything while I'm here. I mean after I'm gone.
RUTH—[As if she couldn't believe her ears.] Gone!
ANDREW—Yes. When I leave for the Argentine again.
RUTH—[Aghast.] You're going away to sea again!
ANDREW—Not to sea, no; I'm through with the sea for good as a job. I'm going down to Buenos Aires to get in the grain business.
RUTH—But—that's way far off—isn't it?
ANDREW—[Easily.] Six thousand miles more or less. It's quite a trip. [With enthusiasm.] I've got a peach of a chance down there, Ruth. Ask Rob if I haven't. I've just been telling him all about it. I won't bother you by repeating. Rob can tell you.
RUTH—[A flush of anger coming over her face.] And didn't he try to stop you from going?
ANDREW—[In surprise.] No, of course not. Why?
RUTH—[Slowly and vindictively.] That's just like him—not to.
ANDREW—[Resentfully.] Rob's too good a chum to try and stop me when he knows I'm set on a thing. And he could see just as soon's I told him what a good chance it was. You ask him about it.
RUTH—[Dazedly.] And you're bound on going?
ANDREW—Sure thing. Oh, I don't mean right off. I'll have to wait for a ship sailing there for quite a while, likely. Anyway, I want to stay to home and visit with you folks a spell before I go.
RUTH—[Dumbly.] I s'pose. [With sudden anguish.] Oh, Andy, you can't go! You can't. Why we've all thought—we've all been hoping and praying you was coming home to stay, to settle down on the farm and see to things. You mustn't go! Think of how your Ma'll take on if you go—and how the farm'll be ruined if you leave it to Rob to look after. You can see that.
ANDREW—[Frowning.] Rob hasn't done so bad. When I get a man to direct things the farm'll be safe enough.
RUTH—[Insistently.] But your Ma—think of her.
ANDREW—She's used to me being away. She won't object when she knows it's best for her and all of us for me to go. You ask Rob. In a couple of years down there I'll make my pile, see if I don't; and then I'll come back and settle down and turn this farm to the crackiest place in the whole state. In the meantime, I can help you both from down there. [Earnestly.] I tell you, Ruth, I'm going to make good right from the minute I land, if working hard and a determination to get on can do it; and I know they can! I'll have money and lots of it before long, and none of you'll have to worry about this pesky little farm any more. [Excitedly—in a rather boastful tone.] I tell you, I feel ripe for bigger things than settling down here. The trip did that for me, anyway. It showed me the world in a larger proposition than ever I thought it was in the old days. I couldn't be content any more stuck here like a fly in molasses. There ain't enough to do. It all seems trifling, somehow. You ought to be able to understand what I feel.
RUTH—[Dully.] Yes—I s'pose I ought.
ANDREW—I felt sure you'd see; and wait till Rob tells you about——
RUTH—[A dim suspicion forming in her mind—interrupting him.] What did he tell you—about me?
ANDREW—Tell? About you? Why, nothing.
RUTH—[Staring at him intensely.] Are you telling me the truth, Andy Mayo? Didn't he say—I——[She stops confusedly.]
ANDREW—[Surprised.] No, he didn't mention you, I can remember. Why? What made you think he did?
RUTH—[Wringing her hands.] Oh, I wish I could tell if you're lying or not!
ANDREW—[Indignantly.] What're you talking about? I didn't used to lie to you, did I? And what in the name of God is there to lie for?
RUTH—[Still unconvinced.] Are you sure—will you swear—it isn't the reason—— [She lowers her eyes and half turns away from him.] The same reason that made you go last time that's driving you away again? 'Cause if it is—I was going to say—you mustn't go—on that account. [Her voice sinks to a tremulous, tender whisper as she finishes.]
ANDREW—[Confused—forces a laugh.] Oh, is that what you're driving at? Well, you needn't worry about that no more—— [Soberly.] I don't blame you, Ruth, feeling embarrassed having me around again, after the way I played the dumb fool about going away last time. You'll have to put it down to me just being young and foolish and not responsible for my actions—and forgive me and forget it. Will you?
RUTH—[In anguish buries her face in her hands.] Oh, Andy!
ANDREW—[Misunderstanding.] I know I oughtn't to talk about such foolishness to you. Still I figure it's better to get it out of my system so's we three can be together same's years ago, and not be worried thinking one of us might have the wrong notion. No, don't you fret about me having any such reason for going this time. I'm not a calf any more. Why honest, Ruth, before the ship got to Hong Kong I'd near forgot all that part of it. All I remembered was the awful scrap I'd had with Pa—and I was darned cut up about that.
RUTH—Andy! Please! Don't!
ANDREW—Let me finish now that I've started. It'll help clear things up. I don't want you to think once a fool always a fool, and be upset all the time I'm here on my fool account. I want you to believe I put all that silly nonsense back of me a long time ago—and now—it seems—well—as if you'd always been my sister, that's what, Ruth.
RUTH—[At the end of her endurance—laughing hysterically.] For God's sake, Andy—won't you please stop talking! [She again hides her face in her hands, her bowed shoulders trembling.]
ANDREW—[Ruefully.] Seem's if I put my foot in it whenever I open my mouth today. Rob shut me up with almost them same words when I tried speaking to him about it.
RUTH—[Fiercely.] You told him—what you've told me?
ANDREW—[Astounded.] Why sure! Why not?
RUTH—[Shuddering.] Oh, my God!
ANDREW—[Alarmed.] Why? Shouldn't I have?
RUTH—[Hysterically.] Oh, I don't care what you do! I don't care! Leave me alone! [ANDREW gets up and walks down the hill to the left, embarrassed, hurt, and greatly puzzled by her behavior.]
ANDREW—[After a pause—pointing down the hill.] Hello! Here they come back—and the Captain's with them. How'd he come to get back so soon, I wonder? That means I've got to hustle down to the port and get on board. Rob's got the baby with him. [He comes back to the boulder. RUTH keeps her face averted from him.] Gosh, I never saw a father so tied up in a kid as Rob is! He just watches every move she makes. And I don't blame him. You both got a right to feel proud of her. She's surely a little winner. [He glances at RUTH to see if this very obvious attempt to get back in her good graces is having any effect.] I can see the likeness to Rob standing out all over her, can't you? But there's no denying she's your young one, either. There's something about her eyes——
RUTH—[Piteously.] Oh, Andy, I've a headache! I don't want to talk! Leave me alone, won't you please?
ANDREW—[Stands staring at her for a moment—then walks away saying in a hurt tone.] Everybody hereabouts seems to be on edge today. I begin to feel as if I'm not wanted around. [He stands near the path, left, kicking at the grass with the toe of his shoe. A moment later CAPTAIN DICK SCOTT enters, followed by ROBERT carrying MARY. The CAPTAIN seems scarcely to have changed at all from the jovial, booming person he was three years before. He wears a uniform similar to ANDREW'S. He is puffing and breathless from his climb and mops wildly at his perspiring countenance. ROBERT casts a quick glance at ANDREW, noticing the latter's discomfited look, and then turns his eyes on RUTH who, at their approach, has moved so her back is toward them, her chin resting on her hands as she stares out seaward.]
MARY—Mama! Mama! [ROBERT puts her down and she runs to her mother. RUTH turns and grabs her up in her arms with a sudden fierce tenderness, quickly turning away again from the others. During the following scene she keeps MARY in her arms.]
SCOTT—[Wheezily.] Phew! I got great news for you, Andy. Let me get my wind first. Phew! God A'mighty, mountin' this damned hill is worser'n goin' aloft to the skys'l yard in a blow. I got to lay to a while. [He sits down on the grass, mopping his face.]
ANDREW—I didn't look for you this soon, Uncle.
SCOTT—I didn't figger it, neither; but I run across a bit o' news down to the Seamen's Home made me 'bout ship and set all sail back here to find you.
ANDREW—[Eagerly.] What is it, Uncle?
SCOTT—Passin' by the Home I thought I'd drop in an' let 'em know I'd be lackin' a mate next trip count o' your leavin'. Their man in charge o' the shippin' asked after you 'special curious. 'Do you think he'd consider a berth as Second on a steamer, Captain?' he asks. I was goin' to say no when I thinks o' you wantin' to get back down south to the Plate agen; so I asks him: 'What is she and where's she bound?' 'She's the El Paso, a brand new tramp,' he says, 'and she's bound for Buenos Aires.'
ANDREW—[His eyes lighting up—excitedly.] Gosh, that is luck! When does she sail?
SCOTT—Tomorrow mornin'. I didn't know if you'd want to ship away agen so quick an' I told him so. 'Tell him I'll hold the berth open for him until late this afternoon,' he says. So I said I'd tell you an' I catches the first car back to town. So there you be, an' you can make your own choice.
ANDREW—I'd like to take it. There may not be another ship for Buenos Aires with a vacancy in months. [His eyes roving from ROBERT to RUTH and back again—uncertainly.] Still—damn it all—tomorrow morning is soon. I wish she wasn't leaving for a week or so. That'd give me a chance—it seems hard to go right away again when I've just got home. And yet it's a chance in a thousand—— [Appealing to ROBERT.] What do you think, Rob? What would you do?
ROBERT—[Forcing a smile.] He who hesitates, you know. [Frowning.] It's a piece of good luck thrown in your way—and—from what you've told me of your plans—I think you owe it to yourself to jump at it. But don't ask me to decide for you.
RUTH—[Turning to look at ANDREW—in a tone of fierce resentment.] Yes go, Andy! [She turns quickly away again. There is a moment of embarrassed silence.]
ANDREW—[Thoughtfully.] Yes, I guess I will. It'll be the best thing for all of us in the end, don't you think so, Rob? [ROBERT nods but remains silent.]
SCOTT—[Getting to his feet.] Then, that's settled.
ANDREW—[Now that he has definitely made a decision his voice rings with hopeful strength and energy.] Yes, I'll take the berth. The sooner I go the sooner I'll be back, that's a certainty; and I won't come back with empty hands next time. You bet I won't!
SCOTT—You ain't got so much time, Andy. To make sure you'd best leave here soon's you kin. You can't put too much trust in them fellers. I got to get right back aboard. You'd best come with me.
ANDREW—I'll go to the house and repack my bag right away.
ROBERT—[Quietly.] You'll both be here for dinner, won't you?
ANDREW—[Worriedly.] I don't know. Will there be time? What time is it now, I wonder?
ROBERT—[Reproachfully.] Ma's been getting dinner especially for you, Andy.
ANDREW—[Flushing—shamefacedly.] Hell! And I was forgetting! I'm a damn fool. Of course I'll stay for dinner if I missed every damned ship in the world. [He turns to the CAPTAIN—briskly.] Come on, Uncle. Walk down with me to the house and you can tell me more about this berth on the way. I've got to pack before dinner. [He and the CAPTAIN start down to the left. ANDREW calls back over his shoulder.] You're coming soon, aren't you, Rob?
ROBERT—Yes. I'll be right down. [ANDREW and the CAPTAIN leave. RUTH puts MARY on the ground and hides her face in her hands. Her shoulders shake as if she were sobbing. ROBERT stares at her with a grim, somber expression. MARY walks backward toward ROBERT, her wondering eyes fixed on her mother.]
MARY—[Her voice vaguely frightened, taking her father's hand.] Dada, Mama's cryin', Dada.
ROBERT—[Bending down and stroking her hair—in a voice he endeavors to keep from being harsh.] No, she isn't, little girl. The sun hurts her eyes, that's all. Aren't you beginning to feel hungry, Mary?
MARY—[Decidedly.] Yes, Dada.
ROBERT—[Meaningly.] It must be your dinner time now.
RUTH—[In a muffled voice.] I'm coming, Mary. [She wipes her eyes quickly and, without looking at ROBERT, comes and takes MARY'S hand—in a dead voice.] Come on and I'll get your dinner for you. [She walks out left, her eyes fixed on the ground, the skipping MARY tugging at her hand. ROBERT waits a moment for them to get ahead and then slowly follows as
[The Curtain Falls]