One-Act Plays
Comedies | Dramas | Playwrights | Cast-Size

a play in one-act

by Alice Brown

The following one-act play is reprinted from One Act Plays. Alice Brown. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1921. It is believed to be in the public domain and may be performed without royalties.


MELIA, a middle-aged New England woman
ENOCH, her husband
ROSIE, Enoch's child
JOSIAH PEASE, Melia's cousin


The early afternoon of a wintry day.

[A farmhouse kitchen comfortably furnished, the kettle boiling on the stove, a plain sofa, a clock on the mantel, etc... MELIA, a handsome, middle-aged woman in print dress and apron, is scouring tins at a table. ENOCH, a gentle-looking middle-aged man, virile, but with the worn appearance of an artisan who has worked too hard, stands before the mantel clock regarding it absorbedly, starting the pendulum, moving the hands, etc... ROSIE is putting her doll to bed on the sofa.]

MELIA: [To Enoch.] What's the matter with it?

ENOCH: Dunno yet. She's balky.

MELIA: When it give up strikin' I lost all patience. Let's cart it off into the attic an' buy us one o' them little nickel ones.

ENOCH: Oh, I guess we'll give her a chance. [Lifts it down carefully.] Should you jest as soon I'd bring in that old shoemaker's bench out o' the shed? It's low, an' I could reach my tools off'n the floor.

MELIA: Law, yes. It's a good day to clutter up. There won't be nobody in.

[Exit Enoch. Rosie runs up to Melia.]

ROSIE: Dolly's asleep.

MELIA: [Fondly.] Somebody's 'most asleep herself. She ain't had no nap today. You cover up with mother's red shawl an' go bylow.

[Enter Enoch, with bench.]

ENOCH: [Having arranged himself on the bench, a clutter of clock and tools on the floor before him.] There! Now, sirree, sir, I'll see 'f I can 'tend to ye.

MELIA: [Proudly.] You can if anybody. Never see sich a hand with tools.

ROSIE: [Who has been wandering about, singing a little song, brings up at Melia's side again.] Dolly's asleep now.

MELIA: Ain't you goin' bylow? I know what little folks want. They want suthin' to do. You go fetch the button box out o' that lower drawer. Then you set down on your cricket an' sort 'em out. The white ones are white cows, an' the black ones are black cows, an' they're all goin' to pastur'. [Rosie runs delightedly to obey.] Enoch, there ain't a soul been in today.

ENOCH: [Speaking absorbedly, as he takes the clock apart with a delicate care.] Well, I can stand it if you can.

MELIA: [Laughing.] Three's company--in this house.

ROSIE: [Seating herself on her cricket and pouring the buttons in her lap.] Black cows. White cows.

MELIA: Yes, black cows an' white cows.

ROSIE: Where's the pastur'?

MELIA: Rosie's apron pockets. The black cows are goin' into one pocket, the white cows into t'other.

ENOCH: I kinder thought Elbridge True'd be over today 'bout them cows.

MELIA: Which you goin' to swap?

ENOCH: Ain't much to choose. He's got a mighty nice Alderney, an' if he's goin' to sell milk next year he'll be glad to get two good milkers instead. I guess we can trade.

MELIA: [Glancing from the window.] I wouldn't go out such a day as this, cows or no cows. My! how them trees rock. Ain't this a wind! Makes me as nervous as a witch. [Laughing.] You know folks say if anything's goin' to happen it's on a day like this when the wind's been blowin' all night an' got everybody's nerves on edge.

ENOCH: [Absorbed in his work and talking half absently.] 'T was a day about like this, a year ago, when Rosie an' me come along the road an' I asked if you didn't want a hired man.

MELIA: So 't was. Don't put the buttons on your mouth, Rosie. Sort 'em out pretty an' drive 'em off to pastur'.

ENOCH: [Going musingly on.] "I want to hire out," I says. "I've got two to feed," says I, "Rosie an' me." [Slyly.] Remember what you says, Melia?

MELIA: [Confused and laughing.] There! Don't call up that old tale. When I think on't in the night my face burns like fire.

ENOCH: [Laughing quietly.] You says, says you, "I don't hire tramps."

MELIA: [Defensively.] Well, what if I did, Enoch? What if I did? You stood there starin' down on Rosie's hood. You didn't once lift your eyes. But minute you give me a look, I says right off, "You come in an' I'll git the little girl some milk."

ENOCH: So ye did, Melia. So you did. An' I sawed wood all that arternoon, an' when I appeared, to git Rosie an' take the road ag'in, she was sound asleep covered over with your red shawl.

ROSIE: [Over her buttons.] Now the white cows' goin' to pastur'. Now the black cows' comin' home.

MELIA: I says to you, "Don't you wake her up. I'll put her to bed byme-by."

ENOCH: An' so't went on from day to day. An' 't wa'n't a month 'fore we found out how we prized one another, an' we was man an' wife.

MELIA: [Dropping her scouring cloth.] There! I dropped my dish cloth.

ENOCH: Sign of a stranger?

MELIA: Sure sign. [She laughs.]

ENOCH: What you laughin' at?

MELIA: I was thinkin' how there hadn't been a soul in today, an' the month after we was married they come from fur an' near.

ENOCH: [With a wild amusement.] Swarmed like bees, didn't they?

MELIA: Flew like blackbirds, an' every one of 'em lighted right down here.

ENOCH: Clattered like 'em, too.

MELIA: Now let's not go back to that, makes me so hot. I'm mad as fire only thinkin' on't. Mebbe I shouldn't be so mad if the wind wa'n't blowin so.

ENOCH: [Indulgently.] There! there! 't was only human natur'. They'd heerd you'd married a tramp, an' 't was meat an' drink to 'em to see how't worked.

MELIA: Didn't find out much, did they?

ENOCH: No, you was as short as pie crust.

ROSIE: [Precipitating herself on him.] Father, here's a white cow rolled away. You come get her for me.

ENOCH: Byme-by. Father's got his clock to pieces now. He can't tend to little girls.

[Melia picks up the button.]

ROSIE: Father, you lemme take your soldier button for a great big ox.

ENOCH: No. Can't have that.

ROSIE: O father, please.

[Enoch shakes his head and goes absorbedly on with his work.]

MELIA: [Surprised.] Why, Enoch, give it to the child. Whatever 't is, you give it to her.

ENOCH: Can't do that, Melia.

MELIA: Can't give her a button? Well, I never. Why not?

ENOCH: I could any other button, but this one I promised to wear as long's I lived.

MELIA: [With interest.] Why, I never see it on ye.

ENOCH: No. I sewed it on inside here. [Throws back his coat and turns out his waistcoat pocket for her to see.]

MELIA: [Amused, but with growing interest.] Why, ye don't sew it into ever weskit you got, do ye?

ENOCH: [Laughing indulgently.] I ain't had many new weskits, for quite a few years.

MELIA: [Walking back and forth at her work, she suddenly feels the significance of the situation. She stops short, and speaks with a quickly growing excitement.] Enoch, I ain't asked you no questions about--'bout anything, have I?


MELIA: Well, now I do. Who'd you make that promise to?

ENOCH: [Looking at Rosie in trouble, and then at Melia. Speaks with hesitation.] A--a woman.

MELIA: Well, she's got a name, ain't she?

ENOCH: [Still indicating Rosie.] I dunno's I want to speak it jest now. There's little pitchers--

MELIA: [Touched.] If it's a name you can't speak afore Rosie--

ENOCH: [Gravely.] It is a name I can't speak afore Rosie.

ROSIE: [Rushing at him in high glee.] Why can't you? Why can't you? [Instantly forgets her interest and returns to her game.]

MELIA: [With decision, trying to control herself.] Yes. Why can't you?

ENOCH: [Laughing, yet in a troubled way and seeking to recall her.] One button ain't no great matter.

MELIA: It ain't the button. It's--it's-- [Stops on the verge of tears.]

ENOCH: You think it's queer I promised to wear it? Well, 'Melia, a promise is a promise, ain't it?

MELIA: [Bitterly.] There's promises you made to--to me--before the minister.

ENOCH: [Gravely.] Well, if I didn't keep all my promises, how'd you be sure I'd keep the ones to you?

[A knock at the door. 'Melia stands transfixed.]

MELIA: My land! Who's that? Rosie, you run to the sidelight an' peek. I hope to my soul 't ain't company, a day like this. [Rosie jumps up, loosens her clutch on her pinafore, and the buttons fall and roll in wild confusion. She stands looking at them, aghast.] Oh, my soul an' body!

ENOCH: [After the brief trouble of his scene with Melia, he has gone back to his work in relief, and now glances up at Rosie in a mild reproach.] See there now, what ye done.

[Rosie relinquishes the problem of the buttons and exits to "peek."]

MELIA: [Listening.] Now, who should you s'pose 't could be? [Knock repeated.]

ENOCH: Mebbe it's Elbridge about them cows.

MELIA: No, 't ain't. He'd walk right in. [Enter Rosie.]

ROSIE: [With importance, as the bearer of news.] It's a man. He's got on a blue coat 'n' a fuzzy hat. He's got a big nose.

MELIA: [In despair.] Enoch, do you know what's happened?

ENOCH: [Absently.] Them buttons? I'll pick 'em up byme-by, when I git this cog trued. Rosie 'n' me'll do it together.

MELIA: Buttons! I ain't talkin' about buttons. You know who that is out there? It's Cousin Josiah Pease.

ENOCH: [Amiably, though without interest.] Is it? Want me to go to the door?

MELIA: Go to the door? No, I don't want nobody to go to the door till this room's cleared up. If 't wa'n't so everlastin' cold, I'd take him right into the front room an' blaze a fire. But ye couldn't keep him there, more'n ye could a hornet.

ENOCH: [Abstractedly.] Oh, you have him right in here where it's good an' warm.

MELIA: [Advancing on him.] You gether up them tools an' things, an' I'll help carry out the bench.

ENOCH: Look out. You'll joggle. No, I guess I won't move. If he's any kind of a man he'll know what 'tis to clean a clock.

MELIA: [Imploringly.] Don't you see, Enoch? This room looks like the Old Boy an' so do you, an' he'll go home an' tell all the folks.

ENOCH: [Absently.] Tell 'em what?

MELIA: He's been livin' with Cousin Sarah, out west, an' minute he gits back, here he is to spy out the land. [In renewed despair.] Enoch, you wake up. He's come to find out.

ENOCH: [At sea, yet absorbed in the clock.] Find out what?

MELIA: You stop mullin' over that clock, an' you hear to me. He's come to find out--about us.

ENOCH: [Bewildered.] What's he want to know? Whatever 'tis, why don't ye tell him an' git rid of him?

MELIA: It's about you, Enoch. Don't you see?

ENOCH: [Indulgently.] Law, there ain't nothin' about me 't would take a man long to find out. I guess you better ask him in. Don't you let him bother ye.

MELIA: [Superbly.] He don't bother me an' I will let him in.

[Exit Melia, walking over buttons with a tragic dignity. Rosie gives a little cry, regards her buttons sorrowfully, picks up a few, relinquishes the enormous task, and kneels to put a forefinger on Enoch's tools.]

ENOCH: [Mildly.] No! no!

[Rosie goes to the sofa and covers her doll with her handkerchief for a quilt. Enter Melia and JOSIAH PEASE--he is a spare lantern-jawed old man, sharp-eyed and hateful. He bustles up to the fire and struggles out of his coat.]

JOSIAH: There! There, Melia! Can't begin to talk till I git he't through. [Rubbing his hands unctuously at the stove.] That your man?

[Melia gets the broom and begins sweeping buttons ruthlessly. Rosie rushes to the rescue and, unafraid of the broom, gets in its way and clutches at buttons as she can as they whirl by.]

MELIA: That's my husband. Enoch, here's Cousin Josiah Pease.

ENOCH: [Looking up mildly and putting out a hand which Josiah does not see.] Pleased to meet you, sir. I'd git up, but you see I'm tinkerin' a clock.

JOSIAH: [Drawing a chair close to the stove and hovering.] You a clock mender by trade?

ENOCH: No, not to say by trade.

JOSIAH: [With a consuming curiosity.] Ain't got no trade, have ye?

ENOCH: [Mildly.] Oh, I've got a kind of an insight into one or two.

JOSIAH: No reg'lar trade, have ye? [Enoch shakes his head.] That's what I thought. [Melia is putting tins together with a clash.] Law, Melia, to think o' your bein' married.

MELIA: [Coldly.] Good many folks marry, fust an' last. There's been quite a few couples since Adam an' Eve.

JOSIAH: [With a toothless laugh.] Adam an' Eve! Adam an' Eve! Yes, yes. Garden of Eden. Got turned out, didn't they. Got turned out.

MELIA: [With a cold acidity.] I b'lieve I've heerd some tales about a snake round there.

JOSIAH: So there was! So there was! Risky business, gittin' married. Well, Melia, I never'd ha' thought it o' you.

ENOCH: [Arriving at a fortunate conclusion with the clock, and bursting out.] There ye be.

JOSIAH: No, I never'd ha' thought o' your marryin'--your time o' life.

MELIA: [Starting nervously and frowning at him.] You never'd ha' thought it o' me? Well, I never'd ha' thought it o' myself. Ye don't know what ye'll do till you've tried.

JOSIAH: [With a hideous joviality.] Love will go where it's sent if it hits the pigpen.

MELIA: What do you mean by that?

JOSIAH: Oh, I's only thinkin' on't over. I do a good deal o' thinkin' fust an' last, an' when I stepped into this door I says to myself: "It's Natur', that's all 'tis, Natur'. Natur' says to folks, 'You up an' marry, an' if there ain't nobody else for 'em to marry they'll pitch upon the most unsignifyin' creatur's that ever stepped."

MELIA: [In a cold rage.] I dunno what there is about this house to start ye off on a tack like that.

JOSIAH: [Speciously.] Law, no. I'm a thoughtful man, that's all. Things come into my head.

MELIA: [Curtly.] You had your dinner?

JOSIAH: [Ingratiatingly.] I ain't had a bite since six o'clock this mornin'.

MELIA: I'll make ye a cup o' tea. [Does it rapidly and grudgingly and sets food on the table.]

JOSIAH: Your hair looks real thick, Melia. I warrant 't ain't all your own.

MELIA: [Stopping suddenly and facing him.] Josiah Pease, I know your tricks. You was always one to hector an' thorn anybody till they flew all to pieces an' didn't care what they said, an' mebbe 't would prove to be what you was itchin' to find out. For all the world like that March wind blowin' outside there.

JOSIAH: Law, Melia, I never had such a thought. I was jest lookin' at your hair. Ain't a grey thread in it. [In a tone mysteriously lowered, pointing to Enoch.] He's a leetle mite gray. Gittin' along in years, ain't he?

MELIA: [Curtly.] I never inquired.

JOSIAH: [Mumbling over the stove.] Well! Well! [Rousing.] Melia, ain't you ever had your teeth out?

MELIA: [Coldly.] My teeth'll last me quite a spell yet. So'll my tongue.

JOSIAH: They looked real white an' firm last time I see 'em, but ye never can tell what's goin' on underneath.

[From without a jovial "Whoa!" Enoch hastily puts his tools aside, rises and peers from the window.]

ENOCH: There's Elbridge True. He's come round to trade for them cows. [Takes out his watch and looks at it.] 'Most time to feed the hens, Melia. You keep the water bilin' so't I can give 'em some warm dough. [Exit Enoch.]

JOSIAH: [Alive with curiosity.] Whose watch was that he took out o' his pocket?

MELIA: [Coldly.] His, I suppose. Whose should it be?

JOSIAH: I could ha' took my oath that was your Gran'ther Baldwin's gold watch. You git a look at it, fust chance you find, an' see 'f you don't think so, too.

MELIA: [Violently.] Do you s'pose if Gran'ther Baldwin's watch is in my husband's pocket, 't is for any reason except I put it there?

JOSIAH: [Soothingly.] I know how ye feel. Stan' by him as long as ye can--but, Melia, you git that watch back.

MELIA: There. You draw up an' I'll give you some tea an' have it over.

JOSIAH: [Obeying, greedily and in haste. Points his fork testingly at a dish.] What do ye call that?

MELIA: Fried pork an' apples. We had it left.

JOSIAH: I dunno when I've tasted pork an' apples. We used to call that livin' pretty nigh the wind.

[Rosie, attracted by food, has slipped up to the table and with difficulty reached over to get a bit of bread.]

MELIA: [Harshly.] You've had your dinner. Go an' se' down.

[Rosie looks at her in amazement, drops the bread and goes quietly off to nurse her doll.]

JOSIAH: [Pointing at her with his fork.] That his gal?

MELIA: [Perversely.] Whose?

JOSIAH: His. Your man's.


JOSIAH: [Eating rapidly.] Mother dead?

MELIA: Josiah Pease, I never thought a poor insignificant creatur' like you could rile me so. Mother dead? Ain't I been an' married her father?

JOSIA: Law, Melia, do se' down. You give me a mite o' that butter whilst I eat. I'll be bound you thought the woman was dead, or ye wouldn't ha' took such a step.

MELIA: Do you think everybody's scamps an' raskils?

JOSIAH: [Soothingly.] Course he told ye t'other woman was dead. Course you b'lieved him. All I meant was, did ye see her death in the paper, or the matter o' that?

MELIA: [Violently.] No.

JOSIAH: Well, there now! I'm dretful sorry. There was a woman down Tiverton way--I heerd on't only yisterdy--she took in a tramp to pick her apples, an' next thing the neighbors knew, there she laid, front o' the fireplace, as it might ha' been there [pointing with his knife] head split open as neat as ever you see.

MELIA: If anybody's head's split open in this house 't won't be mine nor [tenderly] my husband's neither.

JOSIAH: So I say, Melia. Don't ye do nothin' ye could be hauled up for. When ye find ye can't stan' folks no longer, you jest open the door an' tell 'em to cut.

MELIA: [Meaningly.] I will.

JOSIAH: He ain't made no mention of any other woman, has he?

MELIA: [Hysterically.] Another woman! What are you talkin' about another woman for? Seems if you was the snake in the garden, come to put words into my mouth.

JOSIAH: [With greedy satisfaction.] There is another woman, then? He owns to't! What'd he say about her, Melia? What'd he say?

MELIA: [Tortured, yet fascinated.] He didn't say nothin'. Nor I ain't said nothin'. What do you think you're draggin' out o' my lips. It's p'ison, that's what it is--p'ison words--p'ison thoughts.

JOSIAH: [Soothingly.] There, there, Melia, you can talk to me. I'm your own kin.

MELIA: [In horror at herself.] O my God! Have I got to be like you?

JOSIAH: If there's another woman, ye know, Melia, he's said the same things to her 't he has to you. He's made her the same promises--

MELIA: [Wildly.] Promises! Promises! Don't you remind me o' that word!

JOSIAH: Where's he gone?

MELIA: [Getting hold of herself.] He's gone out to look at a cow.

JOSIAH: Find he's sellin' things off pretty fast?

MELIA: More tea?

JOSIAH: You kep' your bank stock in your own name?

MELIA: Here's the sugar.

JOSIAH: Your father left consid'able. I guess he'd turn in his grave if he could know 't was goin' to waste.

MELIA: Butter?

JOSIAH: [Ingratiatingly.] If you had the courage to kinder put things into my hands so't I could manage for ye, I'd do it in a minute.

MELIA: You finished?

JOSIAH: [Leaning back in his chair and looking up at her.] Melia, you do look terribly tried.

MELIA: Ain't you finished?

JOSIAH: No, no. I'll take my time. Got suthin' on your mind, ain't ye, Melia? Kind o' worried?

MELIA: [Going to the window.] Blows harder 'n' harder. It's an awful wind.

JOSIAH: [Following her.] Find he's a drinkin' man?

MELIA: [Controlling herself with difficulty.] You'll have hard work to git home 'fore dark.

JOSIAH: I thought mebbe he'd harness up. [Suddenly attracted by what he sees from the window.] What's that? What's that? I'll be buttered if he ain't been an' traded off both your cows.

MELIA: [Pouncing upon his coat and holding it out for him.] Here's your coat.

JOSIAH: [Still absorbed at the window.] My Lord, Melia! Be you goin' to stan' there an' let them two cows walk off from under your nose? If he's got anything to boot, he's put it into his pocket, an' when it comes out o' there 't'll go onto somebody's back--an' 't won't be yourn.

MELIA: Here's your coat, I tell you. Git into it as quick as ever you can.

JOSIAH: [Recalled to his own plight. Helplessly.] I was in hopes he'd harness up.

MELIA: Here. Put t'other arm in fust.

JOSIAH: I was in hopes--

MELIA: This your neck hankercher? [Summarily ties it.] Here's your hat.

JOSIAH: I was in hopes--

MELIA: Got your mittins? [Snatches them from his pocket and thrusts them on him.] Here they be. This way. [Goes to the door and throws it open.]

JOSIAH: [Feebly.] I ain't finished my dinner.

MELIA: This is the door you come to by your own will, an' this is the door you'll go out of by mine. Come. Come, Josiah Pease, out you go. [Exit Josiah tremblingly. She calls to him.] Josiah Pease, this is the end. I've done with ye, egg an' bird. [Closes the door and goes swiftly back to the window. Rosie comes and lays a hand on her skirt, and Melia stoops and hugs her violently.] You little lamb! You never see mother carry on like that, did ye? Well, I'll warrant you never will ag'in so long as Josiah Pease keeps out o' here. [Kisses Rosie and lets her go. Laughs a little to herself, half crying.] My soul! I'd ruther see a hornet. I feel as if I's stung all over an' if anybody laid a finger on me I'd scream right out! Don't seem as if Josiah Pease could ha' done it all. I guess some on't 's that aggravatin' wind. [Enter Enoch in high feather.]

ENOCH: [Jovially.] Well, I've made us a good trade. Company gone? Se' down whilst I tinker, an' I'll tell ye all about it. Yes, I made us a good trade.

[Melia watches him in growing excitement while, not looking at her, he seats himself on his bench and tenderly takes up his work.]

MELIA: [Suddenly, with shrill violence.] You've made a good trade, have you? You've sold my cows an' had 'em drove off the place without if or but. That's what you call a good trade.

ENOCH: [Rising, aghast.] Melia! Why, Melia!

MELIA: Ever since you set foot in this house it's been the same. Have I had my say once?

ENOCH: Why, Melia, I thought 't was all as smooth as silk.

MELIA: Here we be on my own farm. Be I the mistress of it? No. You took the head o' things an' you've kep' it.

ENOCH: [Dazed.] Don't seem as if I took it--that way. Seems as if you give it to me.

MELIA: [With rising violence.] 'T was all mine. Now what's mine's yourn.

ENOCH: [With a recalling tenderness.] I didn't have anything to bring ye, Melia. If I had, 't would ha' been all yourn.

MELIA: [Bitterly.] If you'd had anything, you wouldn't ha' been a tramp.

ENOCH: [Touching her arm gently and smiling at her.] Then I might never ha' come this way. 'T wa'n't such a bad thing to be a tramp, if it brought me to this door.

MELIA: [Repelling his touch.] A tramp! I'm the laughin' stock of the town. There ain't a man or woman in it that don't know I've married a tramp.

ENOCH: [Looks at her a moment, as if really to understand, and turns to his bench.] I guess I'll move this back where 't was. [Exit with bench. Enters and rapidly picks up his tools, putting them in a drawer. Melia watches him coldly, and then begins clearing away Cousin Josiah's meal. As she works she sings "The Bailiff's Daughter" in a high, angry voice. Enoch sets the clock again on its shelf.] I'll leave the clock as 't is. If any kind of a tinker comes along, he wouldn't find it any the wuss for what I've done. [Takes his hat from the nail.] Goodbye, Melia.

MELIA: [Coldly.] Where you bound for?

ENOCH: [Taking out his watch.] I can ketch the four o'clock down by the crossin'. [Is about to restore the watch to his pocket, but with a sudden thought, lays it on the table.] That's your watch. I like to forgot. Reminds me--[pulling out a roll of bills] This money's yourn too.

MELIA: [In growing trouble.] Mine? What makes it mine?

ENOCH: I got it to boot, tradin' them cows. [Selects some of the money and puts it in his pocket.] Here's two eighty-seven. That's mine. He paid it to me for fixin' his pump. Goodbye, Melia. You've been good to me. Better'n anybody ever was in the world.

MELIA: [Uneasily following him a step to the door.] Where you goin'?

ENOCH: [Reassuringly.] I dunno--yet.

MELIA: [Bitterly.] On the tramp?

ENOCH: I s'pose ye could call it that--till I pick up suthin' to do.

[Exit Enoch. Melia runs to the window and looks after him, to the door, opens it and then shuts it again. Stands motionless, her hands tense at her side. Suddenly relaxes and gives a little scornful laugh.]

MELIA: Well, that's over. [Goes on clearing the table. Stops suddenly.] He's gone. It's over. [Enter Rosie with a red shawl pinned about her, to make a long skirt.] Rosie! Rosie! He's gone. You're father's gone. He's forgot you. Take off that thing. [Snatches off the shawl.] Here's your hood. [Snatches it from a nail.] On with it, quick.

ROSIE: Where's father?

MELIA: He's gone, I tell you, an' he's forgot to take you with him. [Snatches the child's coat from a nail and puts her into it.] Here! In with you. When we git outdoor, I'll carry ye.

ROSIE: Where we goin'?

MELIA: [Bitterly.] Down to the crossin'. Then you're goin' with your father an' I'm comin' home--alone. [Enter Enoch. Wildly.] Enoch! Enoch! In the name of God have you come back? [Rushes to him and throws her arms about him.]

ENOCH: [Gently drawing her arms from his neck.] There! There! Don't take on so.

MELIA: O Enoch, you've come home. If it's only for a minute, you're in this house ag'in.

ENOCH: I jest turned back for Rosie. Mebbe you won't believe it, but I forgot her.

MELIA: [Putting out her hand and touching his sleeve.] I can see you. I can touch your coat. If you should walk out o' that door now, I've had you a minute more.

ENOCH: Rosie, git your mittins.

MELIA: Don't lay up anything ag'inst me. You couldn't if you knew.

ENOCH: [Gently.] Knew what?

MELIA: He talked about you. He said things. I couldn't stand 'em.

ENOCH: [Sternly.] Did you believe 'em?

MELIA: No, as I'm a livin' woman, no! I've been nervous as a witch all day--that wind out there, blowin', set me all on edge--an' then he pitched upon you.

ENOCH: [To Rosie.] You run along an' father'll come. [Rosie hesitates, takes up her doll and lays it down.] Yes, you take that with ye. I guess nobody'd grudge ye that. [Exit Rosie slowly, with the doll.] You see, Melia, I couldn't stan' bein' less'n other men be jest because the woman had the money an' I hadn't.

MELIA: Money! Money! That word betwixt you an' me?

ENOCH: I don't know but 't was kind o' queer about the cows, but somehow you set me at the head o' things, an' if there was a trade to make, seemed kind o' nat'ral for me to make it.

MELIA: So you're goin' to punish me. You're goin' away.

ENOCH: Why, I got to, dear. We couldn't live together nohow, feelin' as you do.

MELIA: We've lived together a whole year.

ENOCH: Yes, an' it's been all springtime, birds singin' an' flowers in bloom. But springtime passes. [Musingly.] I thought mebbe this wouldn't. Mebbe you thought so, too. Or I thought if it did, 't would be summer an' the flowers brighter yet. An' then the leaves fallin', an' we layin' down amongst 'em, an' then the snow to cover us. But together, that's what I thought, together. [Recovering himself.] I'm dreamin', ain't I? Dreamin' out loud. Well, Melia, I got to look at ye once more, so I won't never forgit. I ain't likely to, though. I ain't likely to. [Looks at her long and tenderly, and turns away with a sigh.] Goodbye, Melia. God Almighty bless you.

[He has reached the door and she calls him piercingly.]

MELIA: Enoch! [He halts.] You've made up your mind. You're goin' on the tramp.

ENOCH: Yes. That's what it amounts to.

MELIA: Then you've got to take me with you. Talkin' won't make you see that what I said never meant no more than that wind out there blowin' up trouble an' not meanin' to. The farm's come between us. Let's leave it. If you tramp, I'll tramp. If you work out, so'll I.

ENOCH: [Returning. Incredulously.] Would you go with me?

MELIA: I'm goin'. Here, take your watch. [Thrusts it into his coat pocket.]

ENOCH: Goin' with me? S'pose I say you mustn't?

MELIA: I'll foller on behind. Here's your money. Take it. [Thrusts it into his coat pocket.]

ENOCH: To walk an' walk, to find no work mebbe. 'Most al'ays a little hungry. Sometimes cold.

MELIA: Three's company, you an' me an' Rosie. We'll laugh an' sing.

ENOCH: Don't ye want to pack up some things an' git on a bunnit?


ENOCH: Don't ye want to leave the key with some o' the neighbors?

MELIA: I don't want anything in the world but you.

ENOCH: [Stepping forward, arms outstretched and then dropping them and speaking wistfully.] You sure you think enough o' me? You didn't a minute ago.

MELIA: [Wildly.] 'T was because I thought so much o' you, not because I didn't. Can't you understand that? [Losing control of herself.] O what's the use of excusin' myself! It's that button. It all goes back to that. An' that aggravatin' wind.

ENOCH: [Dazed.] Rosie lose a button? [Light breaking on him.] Why, Melia, you can't mean that old soldier button on my weskit.

MELIA: [In shame and tumultuous emotion.] 'T wa'n't the button. No, no, 't wa'n't that. You might be sewed all over buttons. But you said 't was a woman, an' you said you promised her, an' you said she couldn't be talked about afore Rosie--

ENOCH: [Sternly.] Melia, let's stop right here. She was Rosie's mother an' she can't be talked about afore Rosie, because if I've got any pity in me for that little creatur' I'm goin' to wipe out o' her mind the foul words she's heard an' the blows she's had from the woman that brought her into the world.

MELIA: Enoch! Enoch!

ENOCH: An' if I said I was goin' to keep a promise made to that poor creatur' that's dead, 't was because every promise she made to me she broke--the promise to be faithful, to put by the liquor that turned her into a beast--oh! [in disgust]. An' because my promises to her are broken as hers be to me--I promised to love her an' I don't. I promised to make Rosie love her an' I can't--why, I s'pose I thought if there was some poor miserable little promise I could keep, I'd be the more a man for doin' it.

MELIA: [In a wild compassion.] Oh, if I'd known! If I'd only known! You never'll forgive me. No, you never can.

ENOCH: [In a rapt tenderness.] Why, who is it that's makin' Rosie forgit the mother that's dead? 'T ain't me. It's you.

MELIA: [Timidly.] Me, Enoch?

ENOCH: Now she sees what mothers be. Who is it 's makin' me forgit all them old days when I cursed God for bringin' me into the world?

MELIA: [In an incredulous hope.] Not me, Enoch? It ain't me?

ENOCH: [Laughing tenderly.] Want I should throw away the old soldier button, darlin'?

MELIA: [In growing hope and thankfulness.] No, no, Enoch, no! You keep your promise. We'll have it to remind us, you an' me. 'T ain't yourn. It's ours.

ENOCH: [Taking her in his arms.] Spring an' summer, darlin' an' then the snow.

MELIA: [Happily.] The snow now, if it covers both of us together.

ENOCH: There ain't anything in my life I couldn't tell you. You say the word an' I'll go over every day of it.

MELIA: [Laughing.] There's only one thing you've got to say--jest one.

ENOCH: Name it, darlin' dear.

MELIA: Whose cows were them you sold today?

ENOCH: [Laughing.] That ain't fair. I'll take the money for one of 'em, if you say so, or I'll own it don't make no difference whose they be. But as to lyin'--

MELIA: Say it. Whose were they?

ENOCH: Mine.

[Rosie enters timorously, and each holds out a hand to her. She runs to them delighted.]


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