SCENE—Same as Act Two, Scene One—The sitting room of the farm house about six o'clock in the morning of a day toward the end of October five years later. It is not yet dawn, but as the action progresses the darkness outside the windows gradually fades to grey.
The room, seen by the light of the shadeless oil lamp with a smoky chimney which stands on the table, presents an appearance of decay, of dissolution. The curtains at the windows are torn and dirty and one of them is missing. The closed desk is grey with accumulated dust as if it had not been used in years. Blotches of dampness disfigure the wall paper. Threadbare trails, leading to the kitchen and outer doors, show in the faded carpet. The top of the coverless table is stained with the imprints of hot dishes and spilt food. The rung of one rocker has been clumsily mended with a piece of plain board. A brown coating of rust covers the unblacked stove. A pile of wood is stacked up carelessly against the wall by the stove.
The whole atmosphere of the room, contrasted with that of former years, is one of an habitual poverty too hopelessly resigned to be any longer ashamed or even conscious of itself.
At the rise of the curtain RUTH is discovered sitting by the stove, with hands outstretched to the warmth as if the air in the room were damp and cold. A heavy shawl is wrapped about her shoulders, half-concealing her dress of deep mourning. She has aged horribly. Her pale, deeply lined face has the stony lack of expression of one to whom nothing more can ever happen, whose capacity for emotion has been exhausted. When she speaks her voice is without timbre, low and monotonous. The negligent disorder of her dress, the slovenly arrangement of her hair, now streaked with grey, her muddied shoes run down at the heel, give full evidence of the apathy in which she lives.
Her mother is asleep in her wheel chair beside the stove toward the rear, wrapped up in a blanket.
There is a sound from the open bedroom door in the rear as if someone were getting out of bed. RUTH turns in that direction with a look of dull annoyance. A moment later ROBERT appears in the doorway, leaning weakly against it for support. His hair is long and unkempt, his face and body emaciated. There are bright patches of crimson over his cheek bones and his eyes are burning with fever. He is dressed in corduroy pants, a flannel shirt, and wears worn carpet slippers on his bare feet.
RUTH—[Dully.] S-s-s-h-h! Ma's asleep.
ROBERT—[Speaking with an effort.] I won't wake her. [He walks weakly to a rocker by the side of the table and sinks down in it exhausted.]
RUTH—[Staring at the stove.] You better come near the fire where it's warm.
ROBERT—No. I'm burning up now.
RUTH—That's the fever. You know the doctor told you not to get up and move round.
ROBERT—[Irritably.] That old fossil! He doesn't know anything. Go to bed and stay there—that's his only prescription.
RUTH—[Indifferently.] How are you feeling now?
ROBERT—[Buoyantly.] Better! Much better than I've felt in ages. Really I'm quite healthy now—only very weak. It's the turning point, I guess. From now on I'll pick up so quick I'll surprise you—and no thanks to that old fool of a country quack, either.
RUTH—He's always tended to us.
ROBERT—Always helped us to die, you mean! He "tended" to Pa and Ma and—(his voice breaks)—and to—Mary.
RUTH—[Dully.] He did the best he knew, I s'pose. [After a pause.] Well, Andy's bringing a specialist with him when he comes. That ought to suit you.
ROBERT—[Bitterly.] Is that why you're waiting up all night?
RUTH—[Without a trace of feeling.] Somebody had got to, when he's bringing that doctor with him. You can't tell when he might get here if he's coming from the port in an auto like he telegraphed us. And besides it's only right for someone to meet him after he's been gone five years.
ROBERT—[With bitter mockery.] Five years! It's a long time.
ROBERT—[Meaningly.] To wait!
RUTH—[Indifferently.] It's past now.
ROBERT—Yes, it's past. [After a pause.] Have you got his two telegrams with you? [RUTH nods.] Let me see them, will you? My head was so full of fever when they came I couldn't make head or tail to them. [Hastily.] But I'm feeling fine now. Let me read them again. [RUTH takes them from the bosom of her dress and hands them to him.]
RUTH—Here. The first one's on top.
ROBERT—[Opening it.] New York. "Just landed from steamer. Have important business to wind up here. Will be home as soon as deal is completed." [He smiles bitterly.] Business first was always Andy's motto. [He reads.] "Hope you are all well. Andy." [He repeats ironically.] "Hope you are all well!"
RUTH—[Dully.] He couldn't know you'd been took sick till I answered that and told him.
ROBERT—[Contritely.] Of course he couldn't. You're right. I'm a fool. I'm touchy about nothing lately. Just what did you say in your reply? I forget.
RUTH—[Inconsequentially.] I had to send it collect. [ROBERT frowns.] I wrote you were pretty low and for him to hurry up here.
ROBERT—[Irritably.] He'll think I'm dying or some such foolishness. What an idiotic exaggeration! What did you say was the matter with me? Did you mention that?
RUTH—I wrote you had lung trouble—just those two words. [Dully.] The boy said it wouldn't cost any more for two words.
ROBERT—[Flying into a petty temper.] You are a fool! How often have I explained to you that it's pleurisy is the matter with me. You can't seem to get it in your head that the pleura is outside the lungs, not in them!
RUTH—[Callously.] I only wrote what Doctor Smith told me.
ROBERT—[Angrily.] He's a damned ignoramus!
RUTH—[Dully.] Makes no difference. I had to tell Andy something, didn't I?
ROBERT—[After a pause, opening the other telegram.] He sent this last evening. Let's see. [He reads.] "Leave for home on midnight train. Just received your wire. Am bringing specialist to see Rob. Will motor to farm from Port." [He calculates.] The midnight gets in the Port about four-thirty, I think, or five. It should take a car an hour or more to get here. What time is it now?
RUTH—Round six, must be.
ROBERT—He ought to be here soon. I'm glad he's bringing a doctor who knows something. I'm tired of being at the mercy of that cheap old quack. A specialist will tell you in a second that there's nothing the matter with my lungs.
RUTH—[Stolidly.] You've been coughing an awful lot lately.
ROBERT—[Irritably.] What nonsense! For God's sake, haven't you ever had a bad cold yourself? [RUTH stares at the stove in silence. ROBERT fidgets in his chair. There is a pause. Finally ROBERT'S eyes are fixed on the sleeping MRS. ATKINS.] Your mother is lucky to be able to sleep so soundly.
RUTH—Ma's tired. She's been sitting up with me most of the night.
ROBERT—[Mockingly.] Is she waiting for Andy, too? [There is a pause. ROBERT sighs.] I couldn't get to sleep to save my soul. I counted ten million sheep if I counted one. No use! My brain kept pounding out thoughts as if its life depended on it. I gave up trying finally and just laid there in the dark thinking. [He pauses, then continues in a tone of tender sympathy.] I was thinking about you, Ruth—of how hard these last years must have been for you. [Appealingly.] I'm sorry, Ruth.
RUTH—[In a dead voice.] I don't know. They're past now. They were hard on all of us.
ROBERT—Yes; on all of us but Andy. [With a flash of sick jealousy.] Andy's made a big success of himself—the kind he wanted. He's got lots of money and, I suppose, a reputation for being a sharp business man. [Mockingly.] What else is there in life to wish for, eh, Ruth? And now he's coming home to let us admire his greatness. [Frowning—irritably.] What does it matter? What am I talking about? My brain must be sick, too. [After a pause.] Yes, these years have been terrible for both of us. [His voice is lowered to a trembling whisper.] Especially the last eight months since Mary—died. [He forces back a sob with a convulsive shudder—then breaks out in a passionate agony.] Our last hope of happiness! I could curse God from the bottom of my soul—if there was a God! [He is racked by a violent fit of coughing and hurriedly puts his handkerchief to his lips.]
RUTH—[Without looking at him.] Mary's better off—being dead.
ROBERT—[Gloomily.] We'd all be better off for that matter. [With sudden exasperation.] You tell that mother of yours she's got to stop saying that Mary's death was due to a weak constitution inherited from me. [On the verge of tears of weakness.] It's got to stop, I tell you!
RUTH—[Sullenly.] She's only saying what Doctor Smith said.
ROBERT—[Fiercely.] He's an old ass, and I'll tell him if——
RUTH—[Sharply.] S-h-h! You'll wake her; and then she'll nag at me—not you.
ROBERT—[Coughs and lies back in his chair weakly—a pause.] It's all because your mother's down on me for not begging Andy for help when things got worse here.
RUTH—[Resentfully.] You might have. He's got plenty, if what he says is true.
ROBERT—How can you of all people think of taking money from him?
RUTH—[Dully.] I don't see the harm. He's your own brother.
ROBERT—[Shrugging his shoulders.] What's the use of talking to you? Well, I couldn't. [Proudly.] And I've managed to keep things going, thank God. You can't deny that without help I've succeeded in—— [He breaks off with a bitter laugh.] My God, what am I boasting of? Debts to this one and that, taxes, interest unpaid! I'm a fool! [He lies back in his chair closing his eyes for a moment, then speaks in a low voice.] I'll be frank, Ruth. I've been an utter failure, and I've dragged you with me. I couldn't blame you in all justice—for hating me.
RUTH—[Without feeling.] I don't hate you. It's been my fault too, I s'pose.
ROBERT—No. You couldn't help loving—Andy.
RUTH—[Dully.] I don't love anyone.
ROBERT—[Waving her remark aside.] You needn't deny it. It doesn't matter. [After a pause—with a tender smile.] Do you know Ruth, what I've been dreaming back there in the dark? [With a short laugh.] It may sound silly of me but—I was planning our future when I get well. [He looks at her with appealing eyes as if afraid she will sneer at him. Her expression does not change. She stares at the stove. His voice takes on a note of eagerness.] After all, why shouldn't we have a future? We're young yet. If we can only shake off the curse of this farm! It's the farm that's ruined our lives, damn it! And now that Andy's coming back—I'm going to sink my foolish pride, Ruth! I'll borrow the money from him to give us a good start in the city. We'll go where people live instead of stagnating, and start all over again. [Confidently.] I won't be the failure there that I've been here, Ruth. You won't need to be ashamed of me there. I'll prove to you the reading I've done can be put to some use. [Vaguely.] I'll write, or something of that sort. I've always wanted to write. [Pleadingly.] You'll want to do that, won't you, Ruth?
RUTH—[Dully.] There's Ma.
ROBERT—She can come with us.
ROBERT—[Angrily.] So that's your answer! [He trembles with violent passion. His voice is so strange that RUTH turns to look at him in alarm.] You're lying, Ruth! Your mother's just an excuse. You want to stay here. You think that because Andy's coming back that—— [He chokes and has an attack of coughing.]
RUTH—[Getting up—in a frightened voice.] What's the matter? [She goes to him.] I'll go with you, Rob. I don't care for Andy like you think. Stop that coughing for goodness sake! It's awful bad for you. [She soothes him in dull tones.] I'll go with you to the city—soon's you're well again. Honest I will, Rob, I promise! [ROB lies back and closes his eyes. She stands looking down at him anxiously.] Do you feel better now?
ROBERT—Yes. [RUTH goes back to her chair. After a pause he opens his eyes and sits up in his chair. His face is flushed and happy.] Then you will go, Ruth?
ROBERT—[Excitedly.] We'll make a new start, Ruth—just you and I. Life owes us some happiness after what we've been through. [Vehemently.] It must! Otherwise our suffering would be meaningless—and that is unthinkable.
RUTH—[Worried by his excitement.] Yes, yes, of course, Rob, but you mustn't——
ROBERT—Oh, don't be afraid. I feel completely well, really I do—now that I can hope again. Oh if you knew how glorious it feels to have something to look forward to—not just a dream, but something tangible, something already within our grasp! Can't you feel the thrill of it, too—the vision of a new life opening up after all the horrible years?
RUTH—Yes, yes, but do be——
ROBERT—Nonsense! I won't be careful. I'm getting back all my strength. [He gets lightly to his feet.] See! I feel light as a feather. [He walks to her chair and bends down to kiss her smilingly.] One kiss—the first in years, isn't it?—to greet the dawn of a new life together.
RUTH—[Submitting to his kiss—worriedly.] Sit down, Rob, for goodness' sake!
ROBERT—[With tender obstinacy—stroking her hair] I won't sit down. You're silly to worry. [He rests one hand on the back of her chair.] Listen. All our suffering has been a test through which we had to pass to prove ourselves worthy of a finer realization. [Exultingly.] And we did pass through it! It hasn't broken us! And now the dream is to come true! Don't you see?
RUTH—[Looking at him with frightened eyes as if she thought he had gone mad.] Yes, Rob, I see; but won't you go back to bed now and rest?
ROBERT—No. I'm going to see the sun rise. It's an augury of good fortune. [He goes quickly to the window in the rear, left, and pushing the curtains aside, stands looking out. RUTH springs to her feet and comes quickly to the table, left, where she remains watching ROBERT in a tense, expectant attitude. As he peers out his body seems gradually to sag, to grow limp and tired. His voice is mournful as he speaks.] No sun yet. It isn't time. All I can see is the black rim of the damned hills outlined against a creeping greyness. [He turns around; letting the curtains fall back, stretching a hand out to the wall to support himself. His false strength of a moment has evaporated leaving his face drawn and hollow eyed. He makes a pitiful attempt to smile.] That's not a very happy augury, is it? But the sun'll come—soon. [He sways weakly.]
RUTH—[Hurrying to his side and supporting him.] Please go to bed, won't you, Rob? You don't want to be all wore out when the specialist comes, do you?
ROBERT—[Quickly.] No. That's right. He mustn't think I'm sicker than I am. And I feel as if I could sleep now—[Cheerfully.]—a good, sound, restful sleep.
RUTH—[Helping him to the bedroom door.] That's what you need most. [They go inside. A moment later she reappears calling back.] I'll shut this door so's you'll be quiet. [She closes the door and goes quickly to her mother and shakes her by the shoulder.] Ma! Ma! Wake up!
MRS. ATKINS—[Coming out of her sleep with a start.] Glory be! What's the matter with you?
RUTH—It was Rob. He's just been talking to me out here. I put him back to bed. [Now that she is sure her mother is awake her fear passes and she relapses into dull indifference. She sits down in her chair and stares at the stove—dully.] He acted—funny; and his eyes looked so—so wild like.
MRS. ATKINS—[With asperity.] And is that all you woke me out of a sound sleep for, and scared me near out of my wits?
RUTH—I was afraid. He talked so crazy—staring out of the window as if he saw—something—and speaking about the hills, and wanting to see the sun rise—and all such notions. I couldn't quiet him. It was like he used to talk—only mad, kind of. I didn't want to be alone with him that way. Lord knows what he might do.
MRS. ATKINS—[Scornfully.] Humph! A poor help I'd be to you and me not able to move a step! Why didn't you run and get Jake?
RUTH—[Dully.] Jake isn't here. I thought I'd told you. He quit last night. He hasn't been paid in three months. You can't blame him.
MRS. ATKINS—[Indignantly.] No, I can't blame him when I come to think of it. What decent person'd want to work on a place like this? [With sudden exasperation.] Oh, I wish you'd never married that man!
RUTH—[Wearily.] You oughtn't to talk about him now when he's sick in his bed.
MRS. ATKINS—[Working herself into a fit of rage.] It's lucky for me and you, too, I took my part of the place out of his hands years ago. You know very well, Ruth Mayo, if it wasn't for me helpin' you on the sly out of my savin's, you'd both been in the poor house—and all 'count of his pig-headed pride in not lettin' Andy know the state thin's were in. A nice thing for me to have to support him out of what I'd saved for my last days—and me an invalid with no one to look to!
RUTH—Andy'll pay you back, Ma. I can tell him so's Rob'll never know.
MRS. ATKINS—[With a snort.] What'd Rob think you and him was livin' on, I'd like to know?
RUTH—[Dully.] He didn't think about it, I s'pose [After a slight pause.] He said he'd made up his mind to ask Andy for help when he comes. [As a clock in the kitchen strikes six.] Six o'clock. Andy ought to get here directly.
MRS. ATKINS—D'you think this special doctor'll do Rob any good?
RUTH—[Hopelessly.] I don't know. [The two women remain silent for a time staring dejectedly at the stove.]
MRS. ATKINS—[Shivering irritably.] For goodness' sake put some wood on that fire. I'm most freezin'!
RUTH—[Pointing to the door in the rear.] Don't talk so loud. Let him sleep if he can. [She gets wearily from the chair and puts a few pieces of wood in the stove. Then she tiptoes to the bedroom door and listens.]
MRS. ATKINS—[In a sharp whisper.] Is he sleepin'?
RUTH—[Coming back.] I couldn't hear him move. I s'pose he is. [She puts another stick in the stove.] This is the last of the wood in the pile. I don't know who'll cut more now that Jake's left. [She sighs and walks to the window in the rear, left, pulls the curtains aside, and looks out.] It's getting grey out. It'll be light soon and we can put out that lamp. [She comes back to the stove.] Looks like it'd be a nice day. [She stretches out her hands to warm them.] Must've been a heavy frost last night. We're paying for the spell of warm weather we've been having. [The throbbing whine of a motor sounds from the distance outside.]
MRS. ATKINS—[Sharply.] S-h-h! Listen! Ain't that an auto I hear?
RUTH—[Without interest.] Yes. It's Andy, I s'pose.
MRS. ATKINS—[With nervous irritation.] Don't sit there like a silly goose. Look at the state of this room! What'll this strange doctor think of us? Look at that lamp chimney all smoke! Gracious sakes, Ruth——
RUTH—[Indifferently.] I've got a lamp all cleaned up in the kitchen.
MRS. ATKINS—[Peremptorily.] Wheel me in there this minute. I don't want him to see me looking a sight. I'll lay down in the room the other side. You don't need me now and I'm dead for sleep. I'll have plenty of time to see Andy. [RUTH wheels her mother off right. The noise of the motor grows louder and finally ceases as the car stops on the road before the farmhouse. RUTH returns from the kitchen with a lighted lamp in her hand which she sets on the table beside the other. The sound of footsteps on the path is heard—then a sharp rap on the door. RUTH goes and opens it. ANDREW enters, followed by DOCTOR FAWCETT carrying a small black bag. ANDREW has changed greatly. His face seems to have grown high-strung, hardened by the look of decisiveness which comes from being constantly under a strain where judgments on the spur of the moment are compelled to be accurate. His eyes are keener and more alert. There is even a suggestion of ruthless cunning about them. At present, however, his expression is one of tense anxiety. DOCTOR FAWCETT is a short, dark, middle-aged man with a Vandyke beard. He wears glasses.]
RUTH—Hello, Andy! I've been waiting——
ANDREW—[Kissing her hastily.] I know. I got here as soon as I could. [He throws off his cap and heavy overcoat on the table, introducing RUTH and the DOCTOR as he does so. He is dressed in an expensive business suit and appears stouter.] My sister-in-law, Mrs. Mayo—Doctor Fawcett. [They bow to each other silently. ANDREW casts a quick glance about the room.] Where's Rob?
RUTH—[Pointing.] In there.
ANDREW—I'll take your coat and hat, Doctor. [As he helps the DOCTOR with his things.] Is he very bad, Ruth?
RUTH—[Dully.] He's been getting weaker.
ANDREW—Damn! This way, Doctor. Bring the lamp, Ruth. [He goes into the bedroom, followed by the DOCTOR and RUTH carrying the clean lamp. RUTH reappears almost immediately closing the door behind her, and goes slowly to the outside door, which she opens, and stands in the doorway looking out. The sound of ANDREW'S and ROBERT'S voices comes from the bedroom. A moment later ANDREW re-enters, closing the door softly. He comes forward and sinks down on the rocker on the right of table, leaning his head on his hand. His face is drawn in a shocked expression of great grief. He sighs heavily, staring mournfully in front of him. RUTH turns and stands watching him. Then she shuts the door and returns to her chair by the stove, turning it so she can face him.]
ANDREW—[Glancing up quickly—in a harsh voice.] How long has this been going on?
RUTH—You mean—how long has he been sick?
ANDREW—[Shortly.] Of course! What else?
RUTH—It was last summer he had a bad spell first, but he's been ailin' ever since Mary died—eight months ago.
ANDREW—[Harshly.] Why didn't you let me know—cable me? Do you want him to die, all of you? I'm damned if it doesn't look that way! [His voice breaking.] Poor old chap! To be sick in this out-of-the-way hole without anyone to attend to him but a country quack! It's a damned shame!
RUTH—[Dully.] I wanted to send you word once, but he only got mad when I told him. He was too proud to ask anything, he said.
ANDREW—Proud? To ask me? [He jumps to his feet and paces nervously back and forth.] I can't understand the way you've acted. Didn't you see how sick he was getting? Couldn't you realize—why, I nearly dropped in my tracks when I saw him! He looks—[He shudders.]—terrible! [With fierce scorn.] I suppose you're so used to the idea of his being delicate that you took his sickness as a matter of course. God, if I'd only known!
RUTH—[Without emotion.] A letter takes so long to get where you were—and we couldn't afford to telegraph. We owed everyone already, and I couldn't ask Ma. She'd been giving me money out of her savings for the last two years till she hadn't much left. Don't say anything to Rob about it. I never told him. He'd only be mad at me if he knew. But I had to, because—God knows how we'd have got on if I hadn't.
ANDREW—You mean to say—— [His eyes seem to take in the poverty-stricken appearance of the room for the first time.] You sent that telegram to me collect. Was it because—— [RUTH nods silently. ANDREW pounds on the table with his fist.] Good God! And all this time I've been—why I've had everything! [He sits down in his chair and pulls it close to RUTH'S—impulsively.] But—I can't get it through my head. Why? Why? What has happened? How did it ever come about? Tell me!
RUTH—[Dully.] There's nothing much to tell. Things kept getting worse, that's all—and Rob didn't seem to care.
ANDREW—But hasn't he been working the farm?
RUTH—He never took any interest since way back when your Ma died. After that he got men to take charge, and they nearly all cheated him—he couldn't tell—and left one after another. And then there'd be times when there was no one to see to it, when he'd be looking to hire someone new. And the hands wouldn't stay. It was hard to get them. They didn't want to work here, and as soon as they'd get a chance to work some other place they'd leave. Then after Mary died he didn't pay no heed to anything any more—just stayed indoors and took to reading books again. So I had to ask Ma if she wouldn't help us some.
ANDREW—[Surprised and horrified.] Why, damn it, this is frightful! Rob must be mad not to have let me know. Too proud to ask help of me! It's an insane idea! It's crazy! And for Rob, of all people, to feel that way! What's the matter with him in God's name? He didn't appear to have changed when I was talking to him a second ago. He seemed same old Rob—only very sick physically. [A sudden, horrible suspicion, entering his mind.] Ruth! Tell me the truth. His mind hasn't gone back on him, has it?
RUTH—[Dully.] I don't know. Mary's dying broke him up terrible—but he's used to her being gone by this, I s'pose.
ANDREW—[Looking at her queerly.] Do you mean to say you're used to it?
RUTH—[In a dead tone.] There's a time comes—when you don't mind any more—anything.
ANDREW—[Looks at her fixedly for a moment—with great pity.] I'm sorry I talked the way I did just now, Ruth—if I seemed to blame you. I didn't realize—— The sight of Rob lying in bed there, so gone to pieces—it made me furious at everyone. Forgive me, Ruth.
RUTH—There's nothing to forgive. It doesn't matter.
ANDREW—[Springing to his feet again and pacing up and down.] Thank God I came back before it was too late. This doctor will know exactly what to do to bring him back to health. That's the first thing to think of. When Rob's on his feet again we can get the farm working on a sound basis once more. I'll see to it so that you'll never have any more trouble—before I leave.
RUTH—You're going away again?
ANDREW—Yes. Back to Argentine. I've got to.
RUTH—You wrote Rob you was coming back to stay this time.
ANDREW—I expected to—until I got to New York. Then I learned certain facts that make it necessary. [With a short laugh.] To be candid, Ruth, I'm not the rich man you've probably been led to believe by my letters—not now. I was when I wrote them. I made money hand over fist as long as I stuck to legitimate trading; but I wasn't content with that. I wanted it to come easier, so like all the rest of the idiots, I tried speculation. It was funny, too. I'd always been dead set against that form of gambling before. I guess there's still enough of the farmer in me to make me feel squeemish about Wheat Pits. But I got into it just the same, and it seemed as if I never had a chance to get out. Oh, I won all right! Several times I've been almost a millionaire—on paper—and then come down to earth again with a bump. Finally the strain was too much. I got disgusted with myself and made up my mind to get out and come home and forget it and really live again. I got out—with just a quarter of a million dollars more than I'd had when I landed there five years before. [He gives a harsh laugh.] And now comes the funny part. The day before the steamer sailed I saw what I thought was a chance to become a millionaire again. [He snaps his fingers.] That easy! I plunged. Then, before things broke, I left—I was so confident I couldn't be wrong—and I left explicit orders to friends. [Bitterly.] Friends! Well, maybe it wasn't their fault. A fool deserves what he gets. Anyway, when I landed in New York—I wired you I had business to wind up, didn't I? Well, it was the business that wound me up! [He smiles grimly, pacing up and down, his hands in his pockets.]
RUTH—[Dully.] You found—you'd lost everything?
ANDREW—[Sitting down again.] Practically. [He takes a cigar from his pocket, bites the end off, and lights it.] Oh, I don't mean I'm dead broke. I've saved ten thousand from the wreckage, maybe twenty. But that's a poor showing for five years' hard work. That's why I'll have to go back. [Confidently.] I can make it up in a year or so down there—and I don't need but a shoestring to start with. [A weary expression comes over his face and he sighs heavily.] I wish I didn't have to. I'm sick of it all. And I'd made so many plans about converting this place into a real home for all of us, and a working proposition that'd pay big at the same time. [With another sigh.] It'll have to wait.
RUTH—It's too bad—things seem to go wrong so.
ANDREW—[Shaking of his depression—briskly.] They might be much worse. There's enough left to fix the farm O. K. before I go. I won't leave 'til Rob's on his feet again. In the meantime I'll make things fly around here. [With satisfaction.] I need a rest, and the kind of rest I need is hard work in the open—just like I used to do in the old days. I'll organize things on a working basis and get a real man to carry out my plans while I'm away—what I intended to do the last time. [Stopping abruptly and lowering his voice cautiously.] Not a word to Rob about my losing money! Remember that, Ruth! You can see why. If he's grown so touchy he'd never accept a cent if he thought I was hard up; see?
RUTH—Yes, Andy. [After a pause, during which ANDREW puffs at his cigar abstractedly, his mind evidently busy with plans for the future, the bedroom door is opened and DOCTOR FAWCETT enters, carrying a bag. He closes the door quietly behind him and comes forward, a grave expression on his face. ANDREW springs out of his chair.]
ANDREW—Ah, Doctor! [He pushes a chair between his own and RUTH'S.] Won't you have a chair?
FAWCETT—[Glancing at his watch.] I must catch the nine o'clock back to the city. It's imperative. I have only a moment. [Sitting down and clearing his throat—in a perfunctory, impersonal voice.] The case of your brother, Mr. Mayo, is—— [He stops and glances at RUTH and says meaningly to ANDREW.] Perhaps it would be better if you and I——
RUTH—[With dogged resentment.] I know what you mean, Doctor; but I'm not going. I'm his wife, and I've got a right to hear what you're going to say. [Dully.] Don't be afraid I can't stand it. I'm used to bearing trouble by this; and I can guess what you've found out. Don't you s'pose I could see it staring out of his eyes at me these last days? [She hesitates for a moment—then continues in a monotonous voice.] Rob's going to die.
FAWCETT—[Raising his hand as if to command silence.] In view of what you have said, Mrs. Mayo, I see no reason to withhold the facts from you. [He turns to ANDREW.] I am afraid my diagnosis of your brother's condition forces me to the same conclusion as Mrs. Mayo's.
ANDREW—[Groaning.] But Doctor, surely——
FAWCETT—[Calmly.] I am concerned only with facts, my dear sir, and this is one of them. Your brother has not long to live—perhaps a few days, perhaps only a few hours. I would not dare to venture a prediction on that score. It is a marvel that he is alive at this moment. My examination revealed that both of his lungs are terribly affected. A hemorrhage, resulting from any exertion or merely through the unaided progress of the disease itself, will undoubtedly prove fatal.
ANDREW—[Brokenly.] Good God! [RUTH keeps her eyes fixed on her lap in a trance-like stare.]
FAWCETT—I am sorry I have to tell you this, sorry my trip should prove to be of such little avail. If there was anything that could be done——
ANDREW—There isn't anything?
FAWCETT—[Shaking his head.] I am afraid not. It is too late. Six months ago there might have——
ANDREW—[In anguish.] But if we were to take him to the mountains—or to Arizona—or——
FAWCETT—That might have prolonged his life six months ago. [ANDREW groans.] But now—— [He shrugs his shoulders significantly.] I would only be raising a hope in you foredoomed to disappointment if I encouraged any belief that a change of air could accomplish the impossible. He could not make a journey. The excitement, the effort required, would inevitably bring on the end.
ANDREW—[Appalled by a sudden thought.] Good heavens, you haven't told him this, have you, Doctor?
FAWCETT—No. I lied to him. I said a change of climate to the mountains, the desert would bring about a cure. [Perplexedly.] He laughed at that. He seemed to find it amusing for some reason or other. I am sure he knew I was lying. A clear foresight seems to come to people as near death as he is. [He sighs.] One feels foolish lying to them; and yet one feels one ought to do it, I don't know why. [He looks at his watch again nervously.] I must take my leave of you. It is really imperative that I take no risk of missing—— [He gets up.]
ANDREW—[Getting to his feet—insistently.] But there must still be a chance for him, isn't there, Doctor?
FAWCETT—[As if he were reassuring a child.] There is always that last chance—the miracle. We doctors see it happen too often to disbelieve in it. [He puts on his hat and coat—bowing to RUTH.] Goodby, Mrs. Mayo.
RUTH—[Without raising her eyes—dully.] Goodby.
ANDREW—[Mechanically.] I'll walk to the car with you, Doctor. [They go out the door. RUTH sits motionlessly. The motor is heard starting and the noise gradually recedes into the distance. ANDREW re-enters and sits down in his chair, holding his head in his hands.] Ruth! [She lifts her eyes to his.] Hadn't we better go in and see him? God! I'm afraid to! I know he'll read it in my face. [The bedroom door is noiselessly opened and ROBERT appears in the doorway. His cheeks are flushed with fever, and his eyes appear unusually large and brilliant. ANDREW continues with a groan.] It can't be, Ruth. It can't be as hopeless as he said. There's always a fighting chance. We'll take Rob to Arizona. He's got to get well. There must be a chance!
ROBERT—[In a gentle tone.] Why must there, Andy? [RUTH turns and stares at him with terrified eyes.]
ANDREW—[Whirling around.] Rob! [Scoldingly.] What are you doing out of bed? [He gets up and goes to him.] Get right back now and obey the Doc, or you're going to get a licking from me!
ROBERT—[Ignoring these remarks.] Help me over to the chair, please, Andy.
ANDREW—Like hell I will! You're going right back to bed, that's where you're going, and stay there! [He takes hold of ROBERT'S arm.]
ROBERT—[Mockingly.] Stay there 'til I die, eh, Andy? [Coldly.] Don't behave like a child. I'm sick of lying down. I'll be more rested sitting up. [As ANDREW hesitates—violently.] I swear I'll get out of bed every time you put me there. You'll have to sit on my chest, and that wouldn't help my health any. Come on, Andy. Don't play the fool. I want to talk to you, and I'm going to. [With a grim smile.] A dying man has some rights, hasn't he?
ANDREW—[With a shudder.] Don't talk that way, for God's sake! Remember. [He helps ROB to the chair between his own and RUTH'S.] Easy now! There you are! Wait, and I'll get a pillow for you. [He goes into the bedroom. ROBERT looks at RUTH who shrinks away from him in terror. ROBERT smiles bitterly. ANDREW comes back with the pillow which he places behind ROBERT'S back.] How's that?
ROBERT—[With an affectionate smile.] Fine! Thank you! [As ANDREW sits down.] Listen, Andy. You've asked me not to talk—and I won't after I've made my position clear. [Slowly.] In the first place I know I'm dying. [RUTH bows her head and covers her face with her hands. She remains like this all during the scene between the two brothers.]
ANDREW—Rob! That isn't so!
ROBERT—[Wearily.] It is so! Don't lie to me. It's useless and it irritates me. After Ruth put me to bed before you came, I saw it clearly for the first time. [Bitterly.] I'd been making plans for our future—Ruth's and mine—so it came hard at first—the realization. Then when the doctor examined me, I knew—although he tried to lie about it. And then to make sure I listened at the door to what he told you. So, for my sake, don't mock me with fairy tales about Arizona, or any such rot as that. Because I'm dying is no reason you should treat me as an imbecile or a coward. Now that I'm sure what's happening I can say Kismet to it with all my heart. It was only the silly uncertainty that hurt. [There is a pause. ANDREW looks around in impotent anguish, not knowing what to say. ROBERT regards him with an affectionate smile.]
ANDREW—[Finally blurts out.] It isn't foolish. You have got a chance. If you heard all the Doctor said that ought to prove it to you.
ROBERT—Oh, you mean when he spoke of the possibility of a miracle? [Dryly.] The Doctor and I disagree on that point. I don't believe in miracles—in my case. Beside I know more than any doctor in earth could know—because I feel what's coming. [Dismissing the subject.] But we've agreed not to talk of it. Tell me about yourself, Andy, and what you've done all these years. That's what I'm interested in. Your letters were too brief and far apart to be illuminating.
ANDREW—I meant to write oftener.
ROBERT—[With a faint trace of irony.] I judge from them you've accomplished all you set out to do five years ago?
ANDREW—That isn't much to boast of.
ROBERT—[Surprised.] Have you really, honestly reached that conclusion?
ANDREW—Well, it doesn't seem to amount to much now.
ROBERT—But you're rich, aren't you?
ANDREW—[With a quick glance at RUTH.] Yes I s'pose so.
ROBERT—I'm glad. You can do to the farm all I've undone. [With a smile.] Do you know I was too proud to ask you for money when things went bad here? You'll have to forgive me for that, Andy.
ANDREW—I knew it wasn't like you to feel that way.
ROBERT—But what did you do down there? Tell me. You went in the grain business with that friend of yours?
ANDREW—Yes. After two years I had a share in it. I sold out last year. [He is answering ROB'S questions with great reluctance.]
ANDREW—I went in on my own.
ROBERT—Your own business?
ANDREW—I s'pose you'd call it that.
ROBERT—Still in grain?
ROBERT—What's the matter? What's there to be ashamed of? You look as if I was accusing you of crimes.
ANDREW—I'm proud enough of the first four years. It's after that I'm not boasting of. You see, I couldn't make money easy enough that way, so I took to speculating.
ROBERT—And you made money—gambling?
ROBERT—I can't imagine you as the easy-come, easy-go kind.
ANDREW—I'm not. I'm sick of it.
ROBERT—[Thoughtfully.] I've been wondering what the great change was in you. I can see now. It's your eyes. There's an expression about them as if you were constantly waiting to hear a cannon go off, and wincing at the bang beforehand.
ANDREW—[Grimly.] I've felt just that way all the past year.
ROBERT—[After a pause during which his eyes search ANDREW'S face.] Why haven't you ever married?
ANDREW—Never wanted to. Didn't have time to think of it, I guess.
ROBERT—[After a pause.] You—a farmer—to gamble in a wheat pit with scraps of paper. There's a spiritual significance in that picture, Andy. [He smiles bitterly.] I'm a failure, and Ruth's another—but we can both justly lay some of the blame for our stumbling on God. But you're the deepest-dyed failure of the three, Andy. You've spent eight years running away from yourself. Do you see what I mean? You used to be a creator when you loved the farm. You and life were in harmonious partnership. And now—— [He stops as if seeking vainly for words.] My brain is muddled. But part of what I mean is that your gambling with the thing you used to love to create proves how far astray you've gotten from the truth. So you'll be punished. You'll have to suffer to win back—— [His voice grows weaker and he sighs wearily.] It's no use. I can't say it. [He lies back and closes his eyes, breathing pantingly.]
ANDREW—[Slowly.] I think I know what you're driving at, Rob—and it's true, I guess. [ROBERT smiles gratefully and stretches out his hand, which ANDREW takes in his.]
ROBERT—I want you to promise me to do one thing, Andy, after—
ANDREW—I'll promise anything, as God is my Judge!
ROBERT—Remember, Andy, Ruth has suffered double her share, and you haven't suffered at all. [His voice faltering with weakness.] Only through contact with suffering, Andy, will you—awaken. Listen. You must marry Ruth—afterwards.
RUTH—[With a cry.] Rob! [ROBERT lies back, his eyes closed, gasping heavily for breath.]
ANDREW—[Making signs to her to humor him—gently.] You're tired out, Rob. You shouldn't have talked so much. You better lie down and rest a while, don't you think? We can talk later on.
ROBERT—[With a mocking smile.] Later on! You always were an optimist, Andy! [He sighs with exhaustion.] Yes, I'll go and rest a while. [As ANDREW comes to help him.] It must be near sunrise, isn't it? It's getting grey out.
ANDREW—Yes—pretty near. It's after six.
ROBERT—[As ANDREW helps him to the bedroom.] Pull the bed around so it'll face the window, will you, Andy? I can't sleep, but I'll rest and forget if I can watch the rim of the hills and dream of what is waiting beyond. [They go into the bedroom.] And shut the door, Andy. I want to be alone. [ANDREW reappears and shuts the door softly. He comes and sits down on his chair again, supporting his head on his hands. His face is drawn with the intensity of his dry-eyed anguish.]
RUTH—[Glancing at him—fearfully.] He's out of his mind now, isn't he?
ANDREW—He may be a little delirious. The fever would do that. [With impotent rage.] God, what a shame! And there's nothing we can do but sit and—wait! [He springs from his chair and walks to the stove.]
RUTH—[Dully.] He was talking—wild—like he used to—only this time it sounded—unnatural, don't you think?
ANDREW—I don't know. The things he said to me had truth in them—even if he did talk them way up in the air, like he always sees things. Still—— [He glances down at RUTH keenly.] Why do you suppose he wanted us to promise we'd—— [Confusedly.] You know what he said.
RUTH—[Dully.] His mind was wandering, I s'pose.
ANDREW—[With conviction.] No— there was something back of it.
RUTH—He wanted to make sure I'd be all right—after he'd gone, I expect.
ANDREW—No, it wasn't that. He knows very well I'd naturally look after you without—anything like that.
RUTH—He might be thinking of—something happened five years back, the time you came home from the trip.
ANDREW—What happened? What do you mean?
RUTH—[Dully.] It was the day you came. We had a fight.
ANDREW—A fight? What has that to do with me?
RUTH—It was about you—in a way.
ANDREW—[Amazed.] About me?
RUTH—Yes, mostly. You see I'd found out I'd made a mistake about Rob soon after we were married—when it was too late.
ANDREW—Mistake? [Slowly.] You mean—you found out you didn't love Rob?
RUTH—And then I thought that when Mary came it'd be different, and I'd love him; but it didn't happen that way. And I couldn't bear with his blundering and book-reading—and I grew to hate him, almost.
RUTH—I couldn't help it. No woman could. It had to be because I loved someone else, I'd found out. [She sighs wearily.] It can't do no harm to tell you now—when it's all past and gone—and dead. You were the one I really loved—only I didn't come to the knowledge of it 'til too late.
ANDREW—[Stunned.] Ruth! Do you know what you're saying?
RUTH—It was true—then. [With sudden fierceness.] How could I help it? No woman could.
ANDREW—Then—you loved me—that time I came home?
ANDREW—But—couldn't you see—I didn't love you—that way?
RUTH—[Doggedly.] Yes—I saw then; but I'd known your real reason for leaving home the first time—everybody knew it—and for three years I'd been thinking—— 232/I>
ANDREW—That I loved you?
RUTH—Yes. Then that day on the hill you laughed about what a fool you'd been for loving me once—and I knew it was all over.
ANDREW—Good God, but I never thought—— [He stops, shuddering at his remembrance.] And did Rob——
RUTH—That was what I'd started to tell. We'd had a fight just before you came and I got crazy mad—and I told him all I've told you.
ANDREW—[Gaping at her speechlessly for a moment.] You told Rob—you loved me?
ANDREW—[Shrinking away from her in horror.] You—you—you mad fool, you! How could you do such a thing?
RUTH—I couldn't help it. I'd got to the end of bearing things—without talking.
ANDREW—And the thought of the child—his child and yours—couldn't keep your mouth shut?
RUTH—I was crazy mad at him—when I told.
ANDREW—Then Rob must have known every moment I stayed here! And yet he never said or showed—God, how he must have suffered! Didn't you know how much he loved you?
RUTH—[Dully.] Yes. I knew he liked me.
ANDREW—Liked you! How can you talk in that cold tone—now—when he's dying! What kind of a woman are you? I'd never believe it was in you to be so—— Couldn't you have kept silent—no matter what you felt or thought? Did you have to torture him? No wonder he's dying. I don't see how he's lived through it as long as he has. I couldn't. No. I'd have killed myself—or killed you.
RUTH—[Dully.] I wish he had—killed me.
ANDREW—And you've lived together for five years with this horrible secret between you?
RUTH—We've lived in the same house—not as man and wife.
ANDREW—But what does he feel about it now? Tell me! Does he still think——
RUTH—I don't know. We've never spoke a word about it since that day. Maybe, from the way he went on, he s'poses I care for you yet. Maybe that's one reason he said what he did.
ANDREW—But you don't. You can't. It's outrageous. It's stupid! You don't love me!
RUTH—[Slowly.] I wouldn't know how to feel love, even if I tried, any more.
ANDREW—[Brutally.] And I don't love you, that's sure! [He sinks into his chair, his head between his hands.] It's damnable such a thing should be between Rob and me—we that have been pals ever since we were born, almost. Why, I love Rob better'n anybody in the world and always did. There isn't a thing on God's green earth I wouldn't have done to keep trouble away from him. And now I have to be the very one—it's damnable! How am I going to face him again? What can I say to him now? [He groans with anguished rage. After a pause.] He asked me to promise—what am I going to do?
RUTH—You can promise—so's it'll ease his mind—and not mean anything.
ANDREW—What? Lie to him now—when he's dying? Can you believe I'd descend as low as that? And there's no sense in my lying. He knows I don't love you. [Determinedly.] No! It's you who'll have to do the lying, since it must be done. You're the cause of all this. You've got to! You've got a chance now to undo some of all the suffering you've brought on Rob. Go in to him! Tell him you never loved me—it was all a mistake. Tell him you only said so because you were mad and didn't know what you were saying, and you've been ashamed to own up to the truth before this. Tell him something, anything, that'll bring him peace and make him believe you've loved him all the time.
RUTH—[Dully.] It's no good. He wouldn't believe me.
ANDREW—[Furiously.] You've got to make him believe you, do you hear? You've got to—now—hurry—you never know when it may be too late. [As she hesitates—imploringly.] For God's sake, Ruth! Don't you see you owe it to him? You'll never forgive yourself if you don't.
RUTH—[Dully.] I'll go. [She gets wearily to her feet and walks slowly toward the bedroom.] But it won't do any good. [ANDREW'S eyes are fixed on her anxiously. She opens the door and steps inside the room. She remains standing there for a minute. Then she calls in a frightened voice.] Rob! Where are you? [Then she hurries back, trembling with fright.] Andy! Andy! He's gone!
ANDREW—[Misunderstanding her—his face pale with dread.] He's not——
RUTH—[Interrupting him—hysterically.] He's gone! He isn't in there. The bed's empty. The window's wide open. He must have crawled out into the yard!
ANDREW—[Springing to his feet. He rushes into the bedroom and returns immediately with an expression of alarmed amazement on his face.] Come! He can't have gone far! We've got to find him! [Grabbing his hat he takes RUTH'S arm and shoves her toward the door.] Come on! [Opening the door.] Let's hope to God—— [The door closes behind them, cutting off his words as
[The Curtain Falls]