SCENE—Same as Act One, Scene One—A section of country highway. The sky to the east is already alight with bright color and a thin, quivering line of flame is spreading slowly along the horizon rim of the dark hills. The roadside, however, is still steeped in the greyness of the dawn, shadowy and vague. The field in the foreground has a wild uncultivated appearance as if it had been allowed to remain fallow the preceding summer. Parts of the snake-fence in the rear have been broken down. The apple tree is leafless and seems dead.
ROBERT staggers weakly in from the left. He stumbles into the ditch and lies there for a moment; then crawls with a great effort to the top of the bank where he can see the sun rise, and collapses weakly. RUTH and ANDREW come hurriedly along the road from the left.
ANDREW—[Stopping and looking about him.] There he is! I knew it! I knew we'd find him here.
ROBERT—[Trying to raise himself to a sitting position as they hasten to his side—with a wan smile.] I thought I'd given you the slip.
ANDREW—[With kindly bullying.] Well you didn't, you old scoundrel, and we're going to take you right back where you belong—in bed. [He makes a motion to lift ROBERT.] What d'you mean by running away like this, eh?
ROBERT—Don't, Andy. Don't, I tell you! I can't bear it!
ANDREW—You're in pain?
ROBERT—[Simply.] No. I'm dying. [He falls back weakly. RUTH sinks down beside him with a sob and pillows his head on her lap.] Don't try to move me, Andy. It would mean——. I had a bad hemorrhage—trying to get here. I knew then— it was only—a few minutes more. [ANDREW stands looking down at him helplessly. ROBERT moves his head restlessly on RUTH'S lap.] There! Just so I can see—the sun. I couldn't stand it back there in the room. It seemed as if all my life—I'd been cooped in a room. So I thought I'd try to end as I might have—if I'd had the courage to live my dream. Alone—in a ditch by the open road—watching the sun rise.
ANDREW—Rob! Don't talk. You're wasting your strength. Rest a while and then we'll carry you——
ROBERT—Still hoping, Andy? Don't. I know. [There is a pause during which he breathes heavily, straining his eyes toward the horizon.] The sun comes so slowly. I haven't long—to wait. [With an ironical smile.] The doctor told me to go to the far-off places—and I'd be cured. He was right. That was always the cure for me. It's too late—for this world—but in the next I'll not miss—the secret. [He has a fit of coughing which racks his body.]
ANDREW—[With a hoarse sob.] Rob! [He clenches his fists in an impotent rage against fate.] God! God! [RUTH sobs brokenly and wipes ROBERT'S lips with her handkerchief.]
ROBERT—[In a voice which is suddenly ringing with the happiness of hope.] You mustn't feel sorry for me. It's ridiculous! Don't you see I'm happy at last—because I'm making a start to the far-off places—free—free!—freed from the farm—free to wander on and on—eternally! Even the hills are powerless to shut me in now. [He raises himself on his elbow, his face radiant, and points to the horizon.] Look! Isn't it beautiful beyond the hills? I can hear the old voices calling me to come—— [Exultantly.] And this time I'm going—I'm free! It isn't the end. It's a free beginning—the start of my voyage! Don't you see? I've won to my trip—the right of release—beyond the horizon! Oh, you ought to be glad—glad—for my sake! [He collapses weakly.] Andy! [ANDREW bends down to him.] Remember RUTH——
ANDREW—I'll take care of her, I swear to you, Rob!
ROBERT—Ruth has suffered—and for your own sake and hers—remember, Andy—only through sacrifice—the secret beyond there—— [He suddenly raises himself with his last remaining strength and points to the horizon where the edge of the sun's disc is rising from the rim of the hills.] The sun! [He remains with his eyes fixed on it for a moment. A rattling noise throbs from his throat. He mumbles:] Remember! [And falls back and is still. RUTH gives a cry of horror and springs to her feet, shuddering, her hands over her eyes. ANDREW bends on one knee beside the body, placing a hand over ROBERT'S heart, then he kisses his brother reverentially on the forehead and stands up.]
ANDREW—[Facing RUTH, the body between them—in a dead voice.] He's dead. [With a sudden burst of fury.] God damn you, you never told him!
RUTH—[Piteously.] He was so happy without my lying to him.
ANDREW—[Pointing to the body—trembling with the violence of his rage.] This is your doing, you damn woman, you coward, you murderess! He's dead because you've killed him, do you hear?
RUTH—[Sobbing.] Don't, Andy! Stop! I couldn't help it—and he knew how I'd suffered, too. He told you—to remember.
ANDREW—[Stares at her for a moment, his rage ebbing away, an expression of deep pity gradually coming over his face. Then he glances down at his brother and speaks brokenly in a compassionate voice.] Forgive me, Ruth—for his sake. I know he was right—and I'll remember what he said. [RUTH lets her hands fall from her face and looks at him uncomprehendingly. He lifts his eyes to hers and forces out falteringly:] I—you—we've both made such a mess of things! We must try to help each other—and—in time—we'll come to know what's right to do—— [Desperately.] And perhaps we—— [But RUTH, if she is aware of his words, gives no sign. She remains silent, gazing at him dully with the sad humility of exhaustion, her mind already sinking back into that spent calm beyond the further troubling of any hope.]
[The Curtain Falls]