One-Act Plays
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a farce in one-act

by Wilbur Daniel Steele

The following one-act play is reprinted from The Provincetown Plays. Ed. George Cram Cook & Frank Shay. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1921. It is now in the public domain and may therefore be performed without royalties.


MRS. PAINTER, a Neighbour
MATTIE, the Maid
MR. SNOW, Fisherman


Late Summer


A Cape Cod Village

[The living room of a typical shore cottage--the rented kind; outer door, rear center; door to kitchen, left; writing desk against wall, right; two or three chairs, cheap stand, etc...]

[Curtain discovers Milo stretched on the couch reading a magazine, and Fannie writing at the desk. Milo closes the magazine slowly, holds it away from him over the edge of the couch and, with an expession of exhausted hopelessness, lets it fall to the floor. He groans feebly.]

MILO: What's the use? What's the use?

FANNIE: [turning a face, sympathetic but preoccupied] Something in the magazine, dear?

MILO: [letting his feet hang over, speaks in a wearied, sing-song voice] The strange woman's face in the throng--pale, alluring, baffling--with lips like the poppy--and that sort of thing. The wind carving her figure as in warm and sentient marble. Ankles and so on. Perfectly inflamed, our hero pursues her, careless of the hereafter, reckless of the eyes of the world. Of a sudden, a vision of his beloved one--at home, you know--right in the middle of the street--flaming sword sort of thing--and--and--I didn't read any further. I don't need to. I know he'll turn around and go home, Fannie. Home!

FANNIE: [still busy with her letter] Fancy!

MILO: [starting up with a feverish energy and kicking the magazine across the floor] They're all the same. That's what's the matter with America! [Relapses on the couch, crosses his arms over his head and goes on speaking to the ceiling in a tone of musing.] Thank God--er--that is--the gods--nothing like that can ever happen to us. Isn't it fearful to think of one's spirit cooped up between four narrow walls like that? [Fannie nods, without turning her head.] Now I would have followed that ankle, wouldn't I? I would have followed it till it--till it turned to ashes in my--huh-hum--well, you know. And then, when I came back to you enriched, bringing the spoils of a profound experience, Fannie--you wouldn't mind!

FANNIE: [looking up now] Mind? Why should I mind, Milo? Can a thing of that sort tamper with the essential qualities of our relationship? No, No! We've learned better than that, you and I.

MILO: [sitting up again, with waxing enthusiasm] And you! You'll always feel quite free, too? You'll never let the silly little inhibitions--

FANNIE: [energetically] No, no!

MILO: Some day there may be a nice chap--I'd rather have it a nice chap--

FANNIE: Like Mort, say.

MILO: [with a slight start] Mort Painter? [Fannie's attention has returned to her letter once more. She folds it, puts it in an envelope and addresses it. Milo, studying her with a light of uneasy speculation, goes on after a moment.] I'm afraid it would raise a bit of the devil in the Painter house, Fannie; that's all. You know, Mrs. Painter isn't exactly--our kind. [Fannie, still about her business, rises and places the letter among others on top of the desk. After another moment, Milo breaks out in a tone of obvious relief.] But he isn't home, you know.

FANNIE: [turning suddenly to face him] And why isn't he home? Why is he staying away so long? It's over two months now that he's been away.

MILO: [at a loss] Why--why--I don't know. He probably finds the fishing good down there in Maine, or wherever he is. I--I hadn't thought.

FANNIE: I had. Milo, there's something in the woodpile, I tell you. Mrs. Painter is distinctly evasive. It's all so unnatural. We all came down to this corner of the shore to have a nice, quiet summer. And then, of a sudden, he packs up and is gone over night--and no sign of his coming back. There's something behind it, Milo.

MILO: [rising and pacing the floor--petulantly] Pshaw-pshaw! There's the woman cropping out. Pshaw! Why shouldn't he go off fishing and stay as long as he wants to?

FANNIE: [ignoring the outburst] I've been thinking of nothing for a week but Mort.

MILO: [stopping short and staring at her] You have! [After an instant of confrontation, he sits down weakly on the couch, mops his brow with his handkerchief, and then recovers himself sufficiently to resume in a tone tinctured with venom.] I must say, Fannie, this rather sudden interest in one of my oldest friends--

FANNIE: You don't mind?

MILO: Mind? [He has the grace to blush.] Oh, m-m-mind? Why, good heavens, Fannie, wh-wh-why should I mind?

FANNIE: I knew you wouldn't. And, after all, it's his wife I'm concerned about. Poor thing--stranded here all alone.

MILO: [more than ever ashamed of himself, mopping his brow vigorously] Whew! It's darned hot, I say! I think I'll have a glass of milk, if you'd be so good, Fannie. That's a dear.

FANNIE: [crosses to door at left and calls out.] Mattie! Mattie!


FANNIE: Bring Mr. Tate a glass of milk--right away. And how many times have I told you to say "ma'am" when you speak to me?

MILO: [deprecatingly] Why should she say ma'am? After all, my dear, you know she is--

FANNIE: [turning upon him with some petulance] There are times, Milo, when your theories--

MILO: [quickly] My theories, Frances, are identical with yours; the only point of variance being that I am willing to practice them at home. [Rising, he transfixes his wife with a didactic forefinger.] We all talk so largely of the Brotherhood of Man. And yet here is a young girl, a really splendid sort of creature in a way, living close to the throbbing heart of Mother Earth.

FANNIE: [interrupting] Close to the throbbing heart of the kitchen range, you'd better say. For all your find talk, you don't know any more about her than I do, and that's not a blessed thing--not one single blessed thing, Milo. For all we know, she may be--oh, for heaven's sake, Milo, stop looking that way!

MILO: [resuming with a heavy, ironical patience] Living close to the throbbing heart of Mother Earth, feeling the life-pulse of the Cosmos--well--damn it all--she's precisely the kind of thing we write about and talk and make gestures about, the lot of us--you know. Only she is it. She lives it. She's got something we've lost. Sometimes, you know, my dear, I almost feel--I do feel--in a way--

FANNIE: [coolly] Yes?

MILO: A strange spiritual bond with that creature--something drawing me--irresistibly--like the pull of green things and the damp earth--weird--almost--ah--Pliocene--ugh--by the way, you don't mind?

FANNIE: [with difficulty] Mind?

MILO: [chin in hand] In a way, you know, she's got something or other that we--

[Enter MATTIE, carrying a glass of milk on a server.]


[With an unwonted energy he moves a small stand beside the couch, half reclines, and waves Mattie to deposit the glass on the stand. As she does so he gently captures her hand in his. She endeavors to recover it, profoundly embarrassed, casts a frightened glance at the mistress, then, evidently deciding in her numb and docile brain that this is the accepted thing, remains inert, staring ponderously at her boot-toes.]

MILO: [resumes in a tone of dreaming] I wonder if you've ever thought much about yourself, Mattie? You wouldn't, though. You wouldn't--that's just the matter with _us_. No, of course you wouldn't--[Turning to Fannie] She wouldn't, would she? [Turning back.] We've been wondering if you knew how wonderful you are, Matte? Because you _are_ wonderful. You're out of your age. In a world staggering under a Freud, a Trotsky, a Marconi, the Republic of China, and the Imagist Poets--you've managed somehow to slip back to the great, all-brooding fundamentals--Food--Shelter--Procreation--


MILO: [impatiently, to Fannie] That, I believe, is the order in which they come. [Lights cigarette.] Or--perhaps I'm wrong. Of course, my dear, if you want to get into philosophics and metaphysics--I grant you the old argument--does the hen come first and the egg second, or the egg first and the hen--

FANNIE: Milo! That is a young girl!

[Exit Mattie.]

MILO: [with an air of hopelessness, shaking his head slowly] Frances, Frances, are we to be always like that? Always slipping back into the old fog-bound superstitions of the mid-Victorian home?

FANNIE: Oh, be quiet, please. It isn't that! You ought to know me well enough by this time. But--but she wouldn't understand. If she could understand--if it would do her any good--enlarge her life--in the least, Milo--

MILO: Understand? Of course she doesn't understand. Do we want her to understand, my dear girl? Enlarge her life? Look, here, my dear, I'm serious. That girl has got something or other that neither you nor I--or any of us in the--the group--could come to in a thousand years of self-centered and spiritual crucifixion--She has got--

FANNIE: [ironically] Exactly what? [Rising.]

MILO: [inexpressibly shocked at the Philistine question] Why, Fannie! Why--why, she has got--she's got--see here, Frances, you know what I mean as well as I do. For heaven's sake, after two years of our talks--our trying to find the--the--in our little group, you know--Look here, Fannie, you've talked as primitive as anyone. And now you stand here and ask-- [Glancing out of the window, he speaks with an air of relief at the diversion.] Oh, here comes Mrs. Painter up the steps.

FANNIE: [in confusion, extending the half-smoked cigarette] Oh, quick! Take this! [Milo starts to take it, furtively; then, as if bethinking himself, draws back and confronts her with a grim disapprobation.]

MILO: Fannie!

FANNIE: You idiot!

[A knock is heard at the door. Fannie, wasting no time in further argument, skips about in desperate search for a place to hide the incriminating object.]

MILO: [even more sternly] Frances! Are we to be always that--that--kind? [Fannie faces him defiantly; then, shamed by his superior sense of honor, puts the cigarette between her lips and puffs conscientiously. Knocking resumes.] Come in!

[Enter Mrs. Painter.]

MRS. PAINTER: [with a moderate effusiveness--to Milo] Oh, good afternoon, Mr. Tate. I was just coming up from the beach, you know, and I thought I'd-- [Catching sight of Fannie in a cloud of smoke, she gasps, stares desperately at the floor, the ceiling, the desk; then sinks down in a chair.] --drop in!

MILO: [suavely] Terribly glad. When's Mort coming home?

MRS. PAINTER: [ill at ease] I--I--he hasn't decided. [In haste to change the subject.] Hasn't it been a glorious-- [Suffers another shock as her eyes, turning, come to the pillar of smoke, and relapses.]

FANNIE: [hastily coughing as she inhaled by accident] Per-perfectly glorious, really. Yes, yes-- When's Mort coming home?

MRS. PAINTER: I--I--he hasn't-- [Looks from one to the other with a sudden suspicion; then rises majestically and confronts Fannie with an icy accusation.] Mrs. Tate, your husband asked me that question ten seconds ago, and, if I'm not mistaken, you heard me answer him. [Bursting into tears and stamping her feet.] Oh, oh, oh! I won't stand it! Oh, you're so mean--always pecking at me--

MILO: [aghast] Pecking?

FANNIE: [the same] Pecking at you?

MRS. PAINTER: Yes, pecking at me! [She sinks down in the chair, and burying her face in her hands, gives way to uncontrollable grief. The others exchange inquiring glances, shrug their shoulders, and sign with the helpless bewilderment of the falsely accused. By and by Mrs. Painter begins to speak, her cheeks pressed in her palms, eyes fixed on vacancy.] I suppose you might as well know. You'll have to, some time. Mort--is--never--coming--back!


MILO: Old Mort? Good old Mort? For heaven's sake, why not?

MRS. PAINTER: You remember the maid we engaged down here the first summer--Abbie Small? Well, she got in trouble. Oh yes, Mort denied it--and denied it and denied it. He would, of course. We got her out of the way immediately; sent her up to the Rescued Magdalene's Home in the city. We couldn't do less. I know the place; it's good and clean and wholesome--not at all like an institution. They have their amusements and things. And--and-- [She suffers a momentary relapse into tears. Milo begins to pace the floor, wrapped in thought. She resumes gravely.] And Mort, when he found at last that the wool _would not_ be pulled over my eyes, packed up his things and went away.... Perhaps it is best.

MILO: [wheeling on her] Best! You can say--Best? My God! [Noting her look of alarm, in a gentler tone.] You must forgive me, Mrs. Painter. [Sitting down on the end of the couch, he goes on with the persuasive sweetness of the evangelist.] You say it is best, by your lights. And by my lights, I say it is worse. Worse, because it seems to me you are missing the fundamental significance of life; that you are deliberately shutting the door on life; that you are throwing away an--experience! You three! Think of it! How wonderful a thing! Passing together, hand in hand, through the unfolding hours of a miracle! You three!

MRS. PAINTER: [recovering the faculty of speech at last] Are you crazy? [Appealing to Fannie.] Is--is the man--insane?

FANNIE: [with a smile, half sad, half lifted] No, Mrs. Painter. It seems to me he is precisely--sane. We have been thinking about it a good deal--Milo and I, and we--

MRS. PAINTER: [rising] Mrs. Tate! I can't say how deeply I am--I-- Really, I think I'd better be going.

[She moves away majestically toward the door.]

FANNIE: [intercepting her] Now-now! Don't take on so, my dear. Pshaw! You mustn't go off in a huff like this--must she, Milo? See here; sit down and we'll have a cup of tea.... [Calling.] Mattie! Mattie!

MILO: Yes, yes--do please sit down. [Calling.] Mattie! Mattie! [Aside.] Where is that girl? [To others.] Waid a second; I'll go hurry her up. [Exit.]

MRS. PAINTER: [sobbing gently into her handkerchief] But my dear, my dear. You couldn't talk that way--either of you--if you had been through it yourselves--if you know--if you knew the torment of that day--when the girl came to me and told me she wasn't smart.

FANNIE: [quizically] Not smart?

MRS. PAINTER: Yes. That's the way they put it down here--when they are--expecting.

FANNIE: How quaint! Not smart. Fancy. [Enter Milo.] Oh, Milo, my dear, Mrs. Painter has just been telling me the quaintest thing.

MRS. PAINTER: [drawing up and recovering her dignity] It is a thing I should rather not discuss in--in--mixed company. Especially with Mr. Tate.

MILO: Oh, come now, Mrs. Painter. Don't let's quarrel over--over--abstractions. See here, we'll have some tea and we'll all feel better.... Where's that girl?

[Enter Mattie, a dish in one hand, dish-towel in the other. She stands staring gloomily at her boots.]


FANNIE: [suggestively] Ma'am?


FANNIE: That's better. Now, will you bring the tea things--quickly!

MATTIE: Yeh--mom! [She remains standing there, however.]

FANNIE: [sharply] Well?

[Mattie does not answer. Her lower lip sags; her knees bend a little, and the dish, escaping her nerveless fingers, crashes on the floor.]

FANNIE: Good heavens! What is the matter with you? Speak!

MATTIE: [dully, staring at the floor] I ain't sma't.

MRS. PAINTER: [avidly] Not smart?

FANNIE: [weakly, tottering a little and putting her hand to her throat] Not smart?

MILO: [protesting expansively] Not smart? Dear creature! Oh, you wonderful, simple, primitive creature! Smartness! Pah! [Turning on the others savagely.] Don't sit there looking at me so--aghast--as if I were uttering heresies. Smart? We are smart--you--and you--and I. And look at us. [Turning back to Mattie.] No, no, my dear girl. You are not smart, and heaven send you may never come to be smart--you, hiding in your soul something a thousand times more precious than smartness, an element of wisdom--


MRS. PAINTER: [almost screaming] It isn't that, you fool! It isn't that she means by "not smart." Don't you know what it means down here? Why--it means that one is in a delicate--

MILO: Delicate? You say "delicate!" And I say, don't talk to me of delicacy! No, no; look at me as hard as you want to; there's something more priceless in the world than delicacy! We're immersed in it. Yes, I'll say it--immersed--all the vile little soul-stifling inhibitions of soap and tooth-brush, Chinese potteries. I see that I shock you. Well, I am willing to shock you--you, Mrs. Painter, and you, my dear Frances. But I tell you that if this girl here--this splendid, deep-bosomed, ox-eyed earth-woman, is not delicate, then as for me--

MRS. PAINTER: [desperately] I didn't say _"not delicate!"_ I said in a delicate--

MILO: [putting his hand to his brow with a sudden new suspicion of light--very weakly] In a delicate--what?


MILO: [sitting down abruptly on the couch and staring into vacancy--after a pause--in a wondering whisper] C o n d i t i o n ? [Tableau--Mattie staring at her boots; the two women staring at Milo; Milo staring at nothing. By and by he turns his head, and starts violently as he meets the accusing eyes.] What are you looking at me for? [Seized by a sudden panic, he shakes wild hands at them.] Stop looking at me! Stop it, I say! Stop looking at me! Stop--stop--stop! The--idea!

FANNIE: Milo! Oh--Milo--Milo!

MRS. PAINTER: [with a stately sweep to the door] I am afraid I shall have to say--Good evening! [Exit in a blaze of glory.]

FANNIE: [with great difficulty--to Mattie] You may leave the room.

[Exit Mattie, her eyes still on the floor. Milo gazes after her, blank and helpless. As the door closes, Fannie sinks on her knees beside the desk, and hiding her face in her hands, shakes with the tumult of her woe, sobbing a muffled "Milo, Milo" from time to time. Milo paces back and forth rapidly.]

MILO: Frances! Ten minutes ago I would have called the man a liar who told me that you, my wife, had such a low--suspicious--mind. Do you hear me? Good God, Fannie! [Receiving no reply, he subsides on the couch and mops his face. After a moment he resumes in a harassed soliloquy] The world is full of low minds, I suppose--eternally ready to suspect the worst--licking their lickerish lips for a chance at a man's good name. Pah! [He groans.] ... Of course, the girl must be gotten away from here immediately. Fannie! [Still hearing no answer, he jumps up and moves toward her.] See here! Pull yourself together. There are arrangements to make. This poor creature can't be left here to face the sneers of these damned, narrow-souled provincials. She is, in a sense, a--a--dependent of ours. It seems to me we can't do less than to send her away to some place where she will be looked after--cared for, understood--in the city--Fanny, will you listen to me? [Grasping her shoulder, not too gently, he tries to uncover her face. She uncovers it herself.]

FANNIE: [with suppressed fury] Please don't touch me!

MILO: [snapping] Stop it! Stop it, I say!

FANNIE: Don't--touch--me!

MILO: [retreating weakly] But--but I keep telling you--

FANNIE: Please don't keep telling me anything. I can't comprehend anything now. My brain won't work. I think I--I am going crazy. [She shivers.]

MILO: [desperately] But I tell you--i t--w a s n ' t--M E !

FANNIE: [her shoulders dropping hopelessly] Denials! Denials! I think I might have been spared this.

MILO: But it WASN'T, you know!

FANNIE: [drearily] If you must make a brute of yourself, you might have been a gazelle--not a jackal.

[Milo stares at her a moment, fascinated; then takes a dazed turn about the room. Somewhere in the circuit he discovers a little spirit of his own.]

MILO: But if it had been, Fannie--

FANNIE: [in a sarcastic echo] If it had been--

MILO: You wouldn't mind, would you?

FANNIE: [shrinking back a step, as before an unfair blow] M-m-mind? [And then with a terrible gaiety.] Mind? I? Ha-ha-ha-ha--

MILO: [relieved] Ah, that's better. That's more like my girl. I knew you wouldn't--even if it--if it--had been.

FANNIE: Ha-ha-ha-ha--

MILO: That's right. And now let's think. Have we got a time-table in the house, with connections? And, oh yes, about that address! The what-you-may-call-it Magdalenes' Home. We must get it from Mrs. Painter. The girl mustn't stay here for a moment more than is absolutely necessary.

FANNIE: [sitting down] What are you talking about?

MILO: That place in the city. Mrs. Painter thinks well of it.

FANNIE: What has that got to do with it?

MILO: [blankly] Why--why--

FANNIE: Of course, the young woman is to remain with us.


FANNIE: [blandly] Naturally. Why, Milo, how queer you talk! We--you and I--are not going to miss the fundamental significance of life, are we? We're not deliberately going to shut the door on life? We three? This wonderful thing?

MILO: [terribly] I must say, my dear girl, this is a poor time for facetiousness.

FANNIE: [untouched] We three! Passing together, hand in hand, through the unfolding hours of a miracle--

MILO: [ponderously] Frances, you are very unkind. You will never--understand me.

FANNIE: Understand you?

MILO: Not in the deeper sense. You are a woman, after all. You still cling pathetically to the grammar-school notion that two and two makes four.

FANNIE: [unmoved] Ah! And that theories are to be put in practice at home?

MILO: [haggardly] Theories! My God! Theories! Ideals! Dreams! Ah, if one could but afford to dream! [With a heavy wistfulness.] But that is for the angels, and the young. Happy youth, unencumbered, foot-free--

FANNIE: All of which is to say--

MILO: Hang take it all. My affairs are in a delicate condition-- [Flinches at the word.] --er--it's a confounded precarious period in my career, my dear girl. Another year, who knows, and I may arrive--if nothing happens. After all, we owe a little something to my career.

FANNIE: Ah! Your career!

MILO: And to our own folks--yours and mine. And--and--and to your good--name.

FANNIE: Quite so--my good name. You are beginning to think even of that.

MILO: [in desperation] But I keep telling you-- [A loud knock is heard at the outer door. Milo, stepping to the window, cranes out, then, with a look of consternation, runs and sets his back against the door.] It's that Painter woman. What are we going to do?

FANNIE: Do? What should we do, when everything is so sweet and natural?

MILO: Fannie, are you insane?

FANNIE: No, I am precisely--sane. [Another knock.] Let her in, please.

MILO: [in a pleading whisper] Fannie! Fannie! [A louder knock.]

FANNIE: [calling] Come in!

[The door opens after a brief struggle; Milo accepts sanctuary in its lee, still visible to the audience, but screened from Mrs. Painter, who enters, and after a suspicious glance at the panels, plops down in a chair and folds her hands.]

MRS. PAINTER: Well, here I am. I started to go home, and then I just couldn't. When there's anyone in trouble--when there's a chance of anyone's needing help--well, that's the way I am, Mrs. Tate. I said to myself: now, if there's anything I can do--any arrangements I can help them make--to get that wretched girl out of the way before the town is by the ears. Poor Mr. Tate, I said to myself--when all these rough fishermen learn the news--Oh my dear Mrs. Tate, you don't know them! They're ignorant and uncouth, and you wouldn't think they had a spark of sentiment or honor in them; but when anyone gets one of their women-folks in trouble--especially an outsider, like Mr. Tate--well, I said to myself, weak as I am, if there's to be any harm done--any violence--

MILO: [who has been visibly wilting behind the door, bursts forth with an attempt at bravado] Harm? Violence? What do you mean? See here! Do you imagine for one instant that any man--fisherman or no fisherman--can come around here bulldozing me--a perfectly innocent bystander? Have I no protection under the Constitution of this country? I think I have. [Turning on his heels with a hollow majesty, he paces away from them--falters--speaks in a weaker voice.] But I'm forgetting that poor tragic creature. She can't be left here to face the sneering rabble. [Turning to the others, he speaks in the curt, incisive accents of a man-of-action, a trifle overdone.] I'll get a rig. I'll drive her over to the junction--myself. I'll take her up to the city--myself. I'll make arrangements at the--at the-- Mrs. Painter, where was that place?

MRS. PAINTER: [in attitude of deep concentration] Let me think. Let me think.

MILO: [wildly] For heaven's sake, don't you remember?

MRS. PAINTER: Let me think, I tell you. Please, please, don't keep hopping about that way or I'll never remember. Let me think--was it Ninety-third Street or was it Thirty-ninth Street--or was it Ninety-three some other street--or Thirty-nine--

MILO: But my dear woman!

FANNIE: [who has been watching them with an icy scorn--tapping the floor with one foot, but otherwise calm] I think you are both of you making rather--rather a spectacle of yourselves. You seem to overlook that fact that all this fuss and flurry is quite unnecessary--quite!

MILO: Unnecessary! [Dragging out his watch.] Good Lord, woman, look at the time!

MRS. PAINTER: And this was such a good place--not at all like an institution. They have their amusements and things. If a girl has to go away--

FANNIE: If she has to go away--quite so. I agree with you. But you must remember that this is quite another case, for the girl is not going away. She is remaining here--quietly--with us.

MILO: [going desperately to pieces] Frances, I swear by--by--I swear if you don't drop this pose and come to your senses--

MRS. PAINTER: [with an air of one remembering--a sudden calmness--a cool, Cheshire smile] Why--of course! [To Fannie.] Why, my dear, of course! [To Milo.] Oh, Mr. Tate, how stupid of me--knowing your principles! I was--in the excitement and the--ah--danger of the moment--I was just being hopelessly middle-class. Why, of course!

MILO: [eyeing them with an elemental ferocity] All right! All right! Seeing that I can hope for no ordinary human assistance from either of you, I--I wash my hands of you! Only please keep out of my way! [Becoming ecstatically busy--dragging a hand-bag from under the couch--hopping about and stuffing into it the most absurd and unrelated objects--draperies, match-safe, etc.] Please, I say, keep out of my way. [Looks at watch.] Mattie! Mattie! Where is that girl? Good Lord, she'll have no time to pack her things. And--and they might be here any minute!

FANNIE: Who might be here?

MILO: Please don't speak to me. [Calling.] Mattie! For God's sake, girl, are you deaf? Mattie! [Enter Mattie.]

MATTIE: [toward Fannie] Yeh--mom?

MILO: Not her--me! Mattie, see here, hurry! Don't keep standing there like a chump. Get your things together--just what you need. Throw them together, girl!

MATTIE: [bewildered, glancing uneasily at Fannie] Huh--mom?

FANNIE: You mustn't take any notice of him, Mattie. He's--

MILO: Frances, oblige me by keeping quiet. [To Mattie.] Now hurry! You're going away. I'm going to take you to the city. We'll drive to the junction, understand? Junction! Drive! City! Good God, what a bone-head! Going to city! Get that? It's a nice place--not at all like an institution--they have their amusements and things.... City! Understand?

MATTIE: [still to Fannie] Huh--mom?

FANNIE: I told you not to pay any attention to him. He's not quite himself. Of course you're not going to the city at all. You're going to remain right here with us--right here in the house with us--we three--very quietly--until--until--

MRS. PAINTER: Until your--your--you know--

FANNIE: Is--is--you know--


MILO: Damn it, she can't! I say she can't! [To Mattie.] Tell them you can't!

MATTIE: No--mom. I can't. My--my old man wouldn't like it, mom.

FANNIE: Your father wouldn't like it?

MATTIE: No--mom. That's right; none of 'em wouldn't like it, mom.

MILO: [aghast] Do they--Good God--they don't know, do they?

MATTIE: [sheepishly, eyes on floor] Yep--mom. I--told 'em today. An my old man--

MILO: Not another word. For heaven's sake, don't stand there wasting time! Go! Get a hat on! What the devil did you have to tell them for? They might be here any minute now--the whole pack of them. Hush! My God, what's that? [Grasps Mattie fiercely by shoulder and confronts her accusingly.] GIRL!

MATTIE: I--I guess mebby that's my old man.

[Milo groans, then straightens up and looks about him. Steps hastily to the window and peeps out.]

MILO: No one on this side--yet.

MATTIE: [to Fannie] Should I leave 'im in, mom?

MILO: [darting toward her and grasping her roughly by the wrist] You fool! Come! We'll make a run for it the front way. Come along, I say!

[He starts to drag her by main force toward the front door. Mattie, aroused from her native coma by his violence and the savage expression on his face, struggles frantically, appealing to Fannie.]

MATTIE: Oh, no, mom--no, mom--no, mom--

[As Milo, dragging her, puts out his hand to open the front door, terror overcomes her and she begins to shriek incoherently. From offstage--kitchen-way--comes the sound of a door broken in and deep masculine rumblings. Enter Mr. Snow, a Fisherman, disheveled, wild-eyed, carrying a trawl-tub and armed with a gaff. At sight of tableau by door he draws up in a dramatic attitude of a tiger about to spring.]

SNOW: Leave be with your hands there!

MILO: [letting Mattie go and sinking back against the wall, staring with an appealing fascination at the intruder--weakly] It wasn't me--I swear--I give you my word--it wasn't me.

SNOW: Wasn't you? You stand there and tell me it wasn't you? And me seeing you with my very eyes? Wasn't you, eh? Mattie, come here!

[Mattie runs and takes exhausted shelter beside him.]

MILO: [chattering] It wasn't me. It wasn't--it wasn't. Honestly, Mr.--Mr.--

SNOW: Stow it. I seen you; so stow it before I heave this tub at your head. I don't care who you are; I know what you done; I seen you doing it, and I'm going to give you a lesson to chaw on--I'll be dumned if I ain't. [Advances menacingly.]

MILO: [screeching] I didn't! Don't you touch an innocent man. It was someone else did it--I swear by my honor. Somebody else did it!

SNOW: [showing first signs of puzzlement] Somebody else done--what?


SNOW: It--what?

MRS. PAINTER: He means--got her in--in--trouble.

SNOW: In trouble! Her? HIM? S A Y !

FANNIE: [breathlessly--plucking at her skirts] You didn't know?

MRS. PAINTER: --That your daughter was--

SNOW: My daughter?

FANNIE: But she said you were--

MRS. PAINTER: --You were her--old man.

SNOW: Old man? Of course I'm her old man. And she's my old woman.

FANNIE: Do you mean she is your--

MRS. PAINTER: --Your--your--

MILO: [uncovering, dazed--transfigured eyes] --Wife?

SNOW: Well, for Cripe's sake now--what did you think?

MILO: [tottering to couch and sinking down] We--we simply didn't--think.

FANNIE: We didn't know she was--

MRS. PAINTER: Married.

FANNIE: We all want to beg a thousand pardons, Mr.--Mr.--

MILO: [weakly--mopping his brow] Ten thousand! Ten thousand!

SNOW: Well, I don't know. Don't seem to understand. But I just come up here to tell you I thought best the woman should quit work now. She ain't smart, you know--

MILO: Yes, yes; that's all right. We understand, old chap. Yes, indeed. Good--goodbye.

SNOW: Good-day to you all.... Tell 'em good-day, Mattie, girl.

MATTIE: Good-day to you--mom.

[Exeunt--somehow or other. For a time deep silence reigns. Milo, relapsed on the couch, veils his face with a handkerchief. Mrs. Painter sits down in a chair very quietly, takes her cheeks between her hands, and stares at nothing. After a moment Milo summons strength to arise and stand midstage in an attitude convenient for his wife to cast her arms about him.]

FANNIE: Milo! Milo! I've been such a mean, shallow little ninny. Oh, I can never, never, never forgive myself.

MRS. PAINTER: [to vacancy] I wonder--I wonder--

FANNIE: Milo, Milo darling, look at me. I'll never doubt you again as long as I live.

MRS. PAINTER: I remember now; it was 39 East Ninety--


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