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Title: Icebound - A Play
Author: Davis, Owen
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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ICEBOUND



By Owen Davis

  THE DETOUR
  ICEBOUND



  ICEBOUND

  _A Play_

  BY
  OWEN DAVIS

  [Illustration]

  BOSTON
  LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
  1923

  _Copyright, 1922, 1923_,
  BY OWEN DAVIS.

  _All rights reserved_

  Published July, 1923


No performance of this play, professional or amateur,--or public
reading of it--may be given without the written permission of the
author and the payment of royalty. Application for the rights of
performing “Icebound” must be made to Sam H. Harris, Sam H. Harris
Theatre, New York City.


PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



FOREWORD


With the production of “The Detour,” about a year ago, I managed to
secure some measure of success in drawing a simple picture of life
as it is lived on a Long Island farm; encouraged by this, I am now
turning toward my own people, the people of northern New England,
whose folklore, up to the present time, has been quite neglected in
our theatre. I mean, of course, that few serious attempts have been
made in the direction of a genre comedy of this locality. Here I
have at least tried to draw a true picture of these people, and I am
of their blood, born of generations of Northern Maine, small-town
folk, and brought up among them. In my memory of them is little of
the “Rube” caricature of the conventional theatre; they are neither
buffoons nor sentimentalists, and at least neither their faults nor
their virtues are borrowed from the melting pot but are the direct
result of their own heritage and environment.

                                                             OWEN DAVIS.

1923.



ICEBOUND


“Icebound” was originally produced in New York, February 10, 1923,
with the following cast:

  HENRY JORDAN                                            _John Westley_

  EMMA, his wife                                       _Lotta Linthicum_

  NETTIE, her daughter by a former marriage              _Boots Wooster_

  SADIE FELLOWS, once Sadie Jordan, a widow                 _Eva Condon_

  ORIN, her son                                  _Andrew J. Lawlor, Jr._

  ELLA JORDAN, the unmarried sister                    _Frances Neilson_

  DOCTOR CURTIS                                      _Lawrence Eddinger_

  JANE CROSBY, a second cousin of the Jordans            _Phyllis Povah_

  JUDGE BRADFORD                                     _Willard Robertson_

  BEN JORDAN                                               _Robert Ames_

  HANNAH                                               _Edna May Oliver_

  JIM JAY                                            _Charles Henderson_


ACT ONE.

  THE PARLOR OF THE JORDAN HOMESTEAD, 4 P.M., October, 1922.

ACT TWO.

  THE SITTING ROOM OF THE JORDAN HOMESTEAD, Two months later. Afternoon.

ACT THREE.

  SAME AS ACT I, Late in the following March.



ICEBOUND



ACT ONE


_Scene: The parlor of the Jordan Homestead at Venzie, Maine._

_It is late October, and through the two windows at the back one may
see a bleak countryside, the grass brown and lifeless, and the bare
limbs of the trees silhouetted against a gray sky. Here, in the room
that for a hundred years has been the rallying point of the Jordan
family, a group of relatives are gathered to await the death of the
old woman who is the head of their clan. The room in which they wait
is as dull and as drab as the lives of those who have lived within
its walls. Here we have the cleanliness that is next to godliness,
but no sign of either comfort or beauty, both of which are looked
upon with suspicion as being signposts on the road to perdition._

_In this group are the following characters: Henry Jordan, a heavy
set man of fifty, worn by his business cares into a dull sort of
hopeless resignation. Emma, his wife, a stout and rather formidable
woman of forty, with a look of chronic displeasure; Nettie, her
daughter by a former marriage, a vain and shallow little rustic
beauty; Sadie, a thin, tight-lipped woman of forty, a widow and
a gossip; Orin, her son, a pasty-faced boy of ten with large
spectacles; Ella, a “Maiden lady” of thirty-six, restless and
dissatisfied._

_Ella and Sadie, true Jordans by birth, are a degree above Emma
in social standing, at least they were until Henry’s marriage to
Emma made her a somewhat resentful member of the family. In Emma’s
dialogue and in her reactions, I have attempted a rather nice
distinction between the two grades of rural middle-class folk; the
younger characters here, as in most other communities, have advanced
one step._

_Rise: At rise there is a long silence; the occupants of the room are
ill at ease. Emma is grim and frowning. Nettie sits with a simper of
youthful vanity, looking stealthily at herself from time to time in a
small mirror set in the top of her cheap vanity case. Ella and Sadie
have been crying and dab at their eyes a bit ostentatiously. Henry
makes a thoughtful note with a pencil, then returns his notebook to
his pocket and warms his hands at the stove._

_There is a low whistle of a cold autumn wind as some dead leaves
are blown past the window. Orin, who has a cold in his head, sniffs
viciously; the others, with the exception of his mother, look at him
in remonstrance. An eight-day clock in sight, through the door to the
hall, strikes four._

EMMA (_sternly_)

  Four o’clock.

HENRY (_looks at watch_)

  Five minutes of. That clock’s been fast for more’n thirty years.

NETTIE (_looks at wrist watch_)

  My watch says two minutes after.

HENRY

  Well, it’s wrong!

EMMA (_acidly_)

  You gave it to her yourself, didn’t you?

SADIE (_sighs_)

  Good Land! What does it matter?

NETTIE (_offended_)

  Oh! Doesn’t it? Oh!

ELLA

  Maybe it does to you. She ain’t your blood relation.

EMMA

  Nettie loves her grandma, don’t you dear?

NETTIE

  Some folks not so far off may get fooled before long about how much
  grandma and I was to each other.

EMMA (_sternly_)

  You hush!

  [_Again there is a pause, and again it is broken by a loud sniff from
  Orin, as the women look at him in disgust. Sadie speaks up in his
  defense._

SADIE

  He’s got kind of a cold in his head.

HENRY

  The question is, ain’t he got a handkerchief?

SADIE

  Here, Orin!

  [_She hands him her handkerchief._

ELLA

  The idea! No handkerchief when you’ve come expectin’ some one to die!

ORIN

  I had one, but I used it up.

  [_He blows his nose._

HENRY

  After four. Well, I expect they’ll have to close the store without me.

ELLA

  I left everything just as soon as Jane sent me word!

SADIE

  Why should Jane be with her instead of you or me, her own daughters?

HENRY

  You girls always made her nervous, and I guess she’s pretty low. (_He
  looks at his watch again_) I said I’d be back before closin’ time. I
  don’t know as I dare to trust those boys.

EMMA

  You can’t tell about things, when Sadie’s husband died we sat there
  most all night.

SADIE (_angrily_)

  Yes, and you grudged it to him, I knew it then and it isn’t likely
  I’m going to forget it.

ELLA

  Will was a good man, but even you can’t say he was ever very
  dependable.

EMMA

  My first husband died sudden--(_she turns to Nettie_)--you can’t
  remember it, dear.

ELLA

  _You_ didn’t remember it very long, it wa’n’t much more’n a year
  before you married Henry.

HENRY (_sighs_)

  Well, he was as dead then as he’s ever got to be. (_He turns and
  glances nervously out window_) I don’t know but what I could just run
  down to the store for a minute, then hurry right back.

SADIE

  You’re the oldest of her children, a body would think you’d be
  ashamed.

HENRY

  Oh, I’ll stay.

  [_There is a silence. Orin sniffs. Ella glares at him._

ELLA

  Of course he _could_ sit somewheres else.

  [_Sadie puts her arm about Orin and looks spitefully at Ella. Doctor
  Curtis, an elderly country physician, comes down the stairs and
  enters the room, all turn to look at him._

DOCTOR

  No change at all. I’m sendin’ Jane to the drug store.

ELLA (_rises eagerly_)

  I’ll just run up and sit with mother.

  [_Sadie jumps up and starts for door._

SADIE

  It might be better if I went.

ELLA

  Why might it?

  [_They stand glaring at each other before either attempts to pass the
  Doctor, whose ample form almost blocks the doorway._

SADIE

  _I’ve_ been a wife and a mother.

DOCTOR

  Hannah’s with her, you know. I told you I didn’t want anybody up
  there but Jane and Hannah.

ELLA

  But we’re her own daughters.

DOCTOR

  You don’t have to tell me, I brought both of you into the world. The
  right nursing might pull her through, even now; nothing else can, and
  I’ve got the two women I want. (_He crosses to Henry at stove_) Why
  don’t you put a little wood on the fire?

HENRY

  Why--I thought ’twas warm enough.

ELLA

  Because you was standin’ in front of it gettin’ all the heat.

  [_Henry fills the stove from wood basket._

  _Jane Crosby enters on stairs and crosses into the room. Jane is
  twenty-four, a plainly dressed girl of quiet manner. She has been
  “driven into herself” as one of our characters would describe it, by
  her lack of sympathy and affection and as a natural result she is not
  especially articulate; she speaks, as a rule, in short sentences, and
  has cultivated an outward coldness that in the course of time has
  become almost aggressive._

JANE

  I’ll go now, Doctor; you’d better go back to her. Hannah’s frightened.

DOCTOR

  Get it as quick as you can, Jane; I don’t know as it’s any use, but
  we’ve got to keep on tryin’.

JANE

  Yes.

  [_She exits; Doctor warms his hands._

DOCTOR

  Jane’s been up with her three nights. I don’t know when I’ve seen a
  more dependable girl.

ELLA

  She ought to be.

HENRY

  If there’s any gratitude in the world.

DOCTOR

  Oh, I guess there is; maybe there’d be more if there was more reason
  for it. It’s awful cold up there, but I guess I’ll be gettin’ back.

  [_He crosses toward door._

HENRY

  Doctor!

  [_He looks at his watch._

DOCTOR (_stops in doorway_)

  Well?

HENRY

  It’s quite a bit past four, I don’t suppose--I don’t suppose you can
  tell----

DOCTOR

  No, I can’t tell.

  [_He turns and exits up the stairs._

ELLA

  There’s no fool like an old fool.

SADIE

  Did you hear him? “Didn’t know when he’d seen a more dependable girl
  than her!”

EMMA

  Makes a lot of difference who’s goin’ to depend on her. I ain’t, for
  one.

NETTIE

  If I set out to tell how she’s treated me lots of times, when I’ve
  come over here to see grandma, nobody would believe a word of it.

SADIE

  Mother took her in out of charity.

ELLA

  And kept her out of spite.

HENRY

  I don’t know as you ought to say that, Ella.

ELLA

  It’s my place she took, in my own mother’s house. I’d been here now,
  but for her. I ain’t goin’ to forget that. No! Me, all these years
  payin’ board and slavin’ my life out, makin’ hats, like a nigger.

NETTIE (_smartly_)

  Oh! So _that’s_ what they’re like. I’ve often wondered!

ELLA (_rises_)

  You’ll keep that common little thing of your wife’s from insultin’
  me, Henry Jordan, or I won’t stay here another minute.

EMMA (_angry_)

  Common!

NETTIE

  Mother!

HENRY (_sternly_)

  Hush up! All of yer!

SADIE

  It’s Jane we ought to be talkin’ about.

EMMA

  Just as soon as you’re the head of the family, Henry, you’ve got to
  tell her she ain’t wanted here!

HENRY

  Well--I don’t know as I’d want to do anything that wasn’t right.
  She’s been here quite a spell.

SADIE

  Eight years!

ELLA

  And just a step-cousin, once removed.

HENRY

  I guess mother’s made her earn her keep. I don’t know as ever there
  was much love lost between ’em.

EMMA

  As soon as your mother’s dead, you’ll send her packing.

HENRY

  We’ll see. I don’t like countin’ on mother’s going; that way.

SADIE (_hopefully_)

  Grandmother lived to eighty-four.

HENRY

  All our folks was long lived; nothin’ lasts like it used to,--Poor
  mother!

ELLA

  Of course she’ll divide equal, between us three?

HENRY (_doubtfully_)

  Well, I don’t know!

SADIE

  Orin is her only grandchild; she won’t forget that.

HENRY

  Nettie, there, is just the same as my own. I adopted her legal, when
  I married Emma.

EMMA

  Of course you did. Your mother’s too--just a woman to make
  distinctions!

NETTIE

  Yes, and the funny part of it is grandma may leave me a whole lot,
  for all any of _you_ know.

ELLA

  Nonsense! She’ll divide equally between us three; won’t she, Henry?

HENRY (_sadly_)

  She’ll do as she pleases, I guess we all know that.

ELLA

  She’s a religious woman, she’s _got_ to be fair!

HENRY

  Well, I guess it would be fair enough if she was to remember the
  trouble I’ve had with my business. I don’t know what she’s worth,
  she’s as tight-mouthed as a bear trap, but I could use more’n a third
  of quite a little sum.

ELLA

  Well, you won’t get it. Not if I go to law.

EMMA

  It’s disgusting. Talking about money at a time like this.

HENRY

  I like to see folks reasonable. I don’t know what you’d want of a
  third of all mother’s got, Ella.

SADIE (_to Ella_)

  You, all alone in the world!

ELLA

  Maybe I won’t be, when I get that money.

SADIE

  You don’t mean you’d get married?

EMMA

  At your age!

ELLA

  I mean I never had anything in all my life; now I’m going to. I’m the
  youngest of all of you, except Ben, and he never was a real Jordan.
  I’ve never had a chance; I’ve been stuck here till I’m most forty,
  worse than if I was dead, fifty times worse! Now I’m going to buy
  things--everything I want--I don’t care what--I’ll buy it, even if
  it’s a man! Anything I want!

NETTIE

  A man!

  [_Nettie looks at Ella in cruel amazement and all but Orin burst into
  a laugh--Ella turns up and hides her face against the window as Orin
  pulls at his mother’s skirt._

ORIN

  Mum! Mum! I thought you told me not to laugh, not once, while we was
  here!

HENRY

  You’re right, nephew, and we’re wrong, all of us. I’m sorry, Ella,
  we’re all sorry.

ELLA (_wipes her eyes_)

  Laugh if you want to--maybe it won’t be so long before I do some of
  it myself.

HENRY (_thoughtfully_)

  Equally between us three? Well, poor mother knows best of course.

  [_He sighs._

SADIE

  She wouldn’t leave _him_ any, would she,--Ben?

ELLA (_shocked_)

  Ben!

HENRY (_in cold anger_)

  She’s a woman of her word; no!

SADIE

  If he was here he’d get around her; he always did!

HENRY

  Not again!

SADIE

  If she ever spoiled anybody it was him, and she’s had to pay for it.
  Sometimes it looks like it was a sort of a judgment.

HENRY

  There hasn’t been a Jordan, before Ben, who’s disgraced the name in
  more’n a hundred years; he stands indicted before the Grand Jury
  for some of his drunken devilment. If he hadn’t run away, like the
  criminal he is, he’d be in the State’s Prison now, down to Thomaston.
  Don’t talk _Ben_ to me, after the way he broke mother’s heart, and
  hurt my credit!

NETTIE

  I don’t remember him very well. Mother thought it better I shouldn’t
  come around last time he was here; but he looked real nice in his
  uniform.

SADIE

  It was his bein’ born so long after us that made him seem like an
  outsider; father and mother hadn’t had any children for years and
  years! Of course I never want to sit in judgment on my own parents,
  but I never approved of it; it never seemed quite--what I call proper.

NETTIE (_to Emma_)

  Mother, don’t you think I’d better leave the room?

SADIE (_angrily_)

  Not if half the stories I’ve heard about you are true, I don’t.

HENRY

  Come, come, no rows! Is this a time or place for spite? We’ve always
  been a united family, we’ve always got to be,--leavin’ Ben out, of
  course. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

ORIN

  Mum! Say Mum! (_He pulls at Sadie’s dress_) Why should anybody want
  to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?

ELLA

  Can’t you stop that boy askin’ such fool questions?

SADIE

  Well, as far as that goes, why should they? It never sounded
  reasonable to me.

HENRY (_sternly_)

  Decent folks don’t reason about religion; they just accept it.

ORIN

  You could make a skin purse out of a sow’s ear, but I’ll be darned if
  you could make a silk purse out of one. I’ll bet God couldn’t.

HENRY

  Are you going to let him talk about God like that, like he was a real
  person?

ELLA

  I don’t know as a body could expect any better; his father was a
  Baptist!

SADIE (_angrily_)

  His father was a good man, and if he talked about God different from
  what you do, it was because he knew more about him. And as for my
  being here at all--(_she rises with her arms about Orin_)--I wouldn’t
  do it, not for anything less than my own mother’s deathbed.

HENRY

  This family don’t ever agree on nothin’ but just to differ.

EMMA

  As far as I see, the only time you ever get together is when one of
  you is dead.

ELLA

  Maybe that’s the reason I got such a feelin’ against funerals.

  [_The outside door opens and Jane enters, a druggist’s bottle in her
  hand; she is followed by John Bradford, a man of about thirty-five.
  He is better dressed than any of the others and is a man of a more
  cosmopolitan type,--a New Englander, but a university man, the local
  judge and the leading lawyer of the town._

JANE

  I met Judge Bradford on the way.

JUDGE (_John Bradford_)

  Court set late. I couldn’t get here before. Jane tells me that she’s
  very low.

HENRY

  Yes.

JUDGE

  I can’t realize it; she has always been so strong, so dominant.

ELLA

  In the midst of life we are in death.

ORIN

  Say, Mum, that’s in the Bible too!

SADIE

  Hush!

ORIN

  Well, ain’t it?

SADIE

  Will you hush?

HENRY

  It’s our duty to hope so long as we can.

JUDGE

  Yes, of course.

JANE

  I’ll take this right up.

  [_She exits up the stairs._

JUDGE (_removes his coat_)

  I’ll wait.

SADIE

  She can’t see you; she ain’t really what a body could call in her
  right mind.

JUDGE

  So Jane said.

  [_He crosses to stove and warms his hands._

ELLA (_sighs_)

  It’s a sad time for us, Judge!

JUDGE

  She was always such a wonderful woman.

HENRY

  An awful time for us. Did you come up Main Street, Judge?

JUDGE

  Yes.

HENRY

  Did you happen to notice if my store was open?

JUDGE

  No.

HENRY

  Not that it matters----

SADIE

  Nothing matters now.

HENRY

  No--Mother wasn’t ever the kind to neglect things; if the worst does
  come she’ll find herself prepared. Won’t she? Won’t she, Judge?

JUDGE

  Her affairs are, as usual, in perfect order.

HENRY

  In every way?

JUDGE (_looks at him coldly_)

  Her will is drawn and is on deposit in my office, if that is what you
  mean.

HENRY

  Well--that _is_ what I mean--I’m no hypocrite.

EMMA

  He’s the oldest of the family. He’s got a right to ask, hasn’t he?

JUDGE

  Yes.

HENRY (_honestly_)

  If I could make her well by givin’ up everything I’ve got in the
  world, or ever expect to git, I’d do it!

SADIE

  All of us would.

HENRY

  If it’s in my mind at all, as I stand here, that she’s a rich woman,
  it’s because my mind’s so worried, the way business has been, that
  I’m drove most frantic; it’s because, well--because I’m human;
  because I can’t help it.

ELLA (_bitterly_)

  You’re a man! What do you think it’s been for me!

SADIE (_with arm about Orin_)

  His father didn’t leave much, you all know that, and it’s been scrimp
  and save till I’m all worn to skin and bone.

ELLA

  Just to the three of us, that would be fair.

HENRY

  Judge! My brother’s name ain’t in her will, is it? Tell me that?
  Ben’s name ain’t there!

JUDGE

  I’d rather not talk about it, Henry.

ELLA

  She’d cut him off, she said, the last time he disgraced us, and she’s
  a woman of her word.

SADIE (_eagerly, to Judge_)

  And the very next day she sent for you because I was here when she
  telephoned; and you came to her that very afternoon because I saw you
  from my front window cross right up to this door.

JUDGE

  Possibly. I frequently drop in to discuss business matters with your
  mother for a moment on my way home.

SADIE

  It was five minutes to four when you went in that day, and six
  minutes to five when you came out, by the clock on my mantel.

JUDGE

  Your brother has been gone for almost two years; Your memory is very
  clear.

ELLA

  So’s her window.

NETTIE

  I know folks in this town that are scared to go past it.

SADIE (_to her_)

  I know others that ought to be.

HENRY (_discouraged_)

  Every time you folks meet there’s trouble.

  [_Jane enters down the stairs and into the room._

JUDGE (_looks at her_)

  Well, Jane?

JANE

  No change. It’s--it’s pitiful, to see her like that.

  [_Sadie sobs and covers her face._

HENRY

  It’s best we should try to bear this without any fuss, she’d ’a’
  wanted it that way.

SADIE

  She didn’t even want me to cry when poor Will died, but I did; and
  somehow I don’t know but it made things easier.

HENRY

  When father died she didn’t shed a tear; she’s been a strong woman,
  always.

  [_The early fall twilight has come on and the stage is rather dim,
  the hall at R. is in deep shadow, at the end of Henry’s speech
  the outside door supposedly out at R. is open, then shut rather
  violently._

ELLA (_startled_)

  Someone’s come in.

SADIE

  Nobody’s got any right----

  [_She rises as some one is heard coming along the hall._

HENRY (_sternly_)

  Who’s that out there? Who is it?

ORIN

  Mum! Who is it!

  [_He clings to his mother afraid, as all turn to the door, and Ben
  Jordan steps into the room and faces them with a smile of reckless
  contempt. Ben is the black sheep of the Jordan family, years younger
  than any of the others, a wild, selfish, arrogant fellow, handsome
  but sulky and defiant. His clothes are cheap and dirty and he is
  rather pale and looks dissipated. He doesn’t speak but stands openly
  sneering at their look of astonishment._

JANE (_quietly_)

  I’m glad you’ve come, Ben.

BEN (_contemptuously_)

  _You_ are?

JANE

  Yes, your mother’s awful sick.

BEN

  She’s alive?

JANE

  Yes.

BEN

  Well--(_He looks contemptuously about_)

  Nobody missin’. The Jordans are gathered again, handkerchiefs and all.

HENRY

  You’ll be arrested soon as folks know you’ve come.

BEN (_scornfully_)

  And I suppose you wouldn’t bail me out, would you, Henry?

HENRY (_simply_)

  No, I wouldn’t.

BEN

  God! You’re still the same, all of you. You stink of the Ark, the
  whole tribe. It takes more than a few Edisons to change the Jordans!

ELLA

  How’d you get here? How’d you know about mother?

BEN (_nods at Jane_)

  She sent me word, to Bangor.

SADIE (_to Jane_)

  How’d you get to know where he was?

JANE (_quietly_)

  I knew.

HENRY

  How’d you come; you don’t look like you had much money?

BEN

  She sent it. (_He nods toward Jane_) God knows, it wasn’t much.

ELLA (_to Jane_)

  Did mother tell you to----?

BEN

  Of course she did!

JANE (_quietly_)

  No, she didn’t.

HENRY

  You sent your own money?

JANE

  Yes, as he said it wasn’t much, but I didn’t have much.

BEN (_astonished_)

  Why did you do it?

JANE

  I knew she was going to die; twice I asked her if she wanted to see
  you, and she said no----

HENRY

  And yet you sent for him?

JANE

  Yes.

HENRY

  Why?

JANE

  He was the one she really wanted. I thought she’d die happier seeing
  him.

ELLA

  You took a lot on yourself, didn’t you?

JANE

  Yes, she’s been a lonely old woman. I hated to think of her there, in
  the churchyard, hungry for him.

BEN

  I’ll go to her.

JANE

  It’s too late; she wouldn’t know you.

BEN

  I’ll go.

JANE

  The doctor will call us when he thinks we ought to come.

BEN (_fiercely_)

  I’m going now.

HENRY (_steps forward_)

  No, you ain’t.

BEN

  Do you think I came here, standin’ a chance of bein’ sent to jail, to
  let _you_ tell me what to do?

HENRY

  If she’s dyin’ up there, it’s more’n half from what you’ve made her
  suffer; you’ll wait here till we go to her together.

EMMA

  Henry’s right.

SADIE

  Of course he is.

ELLA

  Nobody but Ben would have the impudence to show his face here, after
  what he’s done.

BEN

  I’m going just the same!

HENRY

  No, you ain’t.

  [_Their voices become loud._

EMMA

  Henry! Don’t let him go!

SADIE

  Stop him.

ELLA (_grows shrill_)

  He’s a disgrace to us. He always was.

HENRY

  You’ll stay right where you are.

  [_He puts his hand heavily on Ben’s shoulder--Ben throws him off
  fiercely._

BEN

  Damn you! Keep your hands off me!

  [_Henry staggers back and strikes against a table that falls to the
  floor with a crash. Nettie screams._

JANE

  Stop it--stop! You must!

JUDGE

  Are you crazy? Have you no sense of decency?

  [_Doctor Curtis comes quickly downstairs._

DOCTOR

  What’s this noise? I forbid it. Your mother has heard you.

HENRY (_ashamed_)

  I’m sorry.

BEN (_sulkily_)

  I didn’t mean to make a row.

HENRY

  It’s him. (_He looks bitterly at Ben_) He brings out all the worst in
  us. He brought trouble into the world with him when he came, and ever
  since.

  [_Hannah, a middle-aged servant, comes hastily half-way downstairs
  and calls out sharply._

HANNAH

  Doctor! Come, Doctor!

  [_She exits up the stairs, as the Doctor crosses through the hall and
  follows her._

ORIN (_afraid_)

  Is she dead, Mum? Does Hannah mean she’s dead!

  [_Sadie hides her head on his shoulder and weeps._

JANE

  I’ll go to her.

  [_She exits._

ELLA (_violently_)

  She’ll go. There ain’t scarcely a drop of Jordan blood in her veins,
  and _she’s_ the one that goes to mother.

EMMA (_coldly_)

  Light the lamp, Nettie; it’s gettin’ dark.

NETTIE

  Yes, mother.

  [_She starts to light lamp._

HENRY

  I’m ashamed of my part of it, makin’ a row, with her on her deathbed.

BEN

  You had it right, I guess. I’ve made trouble ever since I came into
  the world.

NETTIE

  There!

  [_She lights lamp; footlights go up._

JUDGE (_sternly_)

  You shouldn’t have come here; you know that, Ben.

BEN

  I’ve always known that, any place I’ve been, exceptin’ only those two
  years in the Army. That’s the only time I ever was in right.

JUDGE (_sternly_)

  I would find it easier to pity you if you had any one to blame
  besides yourself.

BEN

  Pity? Do you think I want your pity?

  [_There is a pause._

  _Jane is seen on stairs, they all turn to her nervously as she comes
  down and crosses into room. She stops at the door looking at them._

HENRY (_slowly_)

  Mother--mother’s--gone!

JANE

  Yes.

  [_There is a moment’s silence broken by the low sobs of the women who
  for a moment forget their selfishness in the presence of death._

HENRY

  The Jordans won’t ever be the same; she was the last of the old
  stock, mother was--No, the Jordans won’t ever be the same.

  [_Doctor Curtis comes downstairs and into the room._

DOCTOR

  It’s no use tryin’ to tell you what I feel. I’ve known her since I
  was a boy. I did the best I could.

HENRY

  The best anybody could, Doctor, we know that.

DOCTOR

  I’ve got a call I’d better make--(_He looks at watch_)--should have
  been there hours ago, but I hadn’t the heart to leave her. Who’s in
  charge here?

HENRY

  I am, of course.

DOCTOR

  I’ve made arrangements with Hannah; she’ll tell you.

  I’ll say good night now.

HENRY

  Good night, Doctor.

JANE

  And thank you.

DOCTOR

  We did our best, Jane.

  [_He exits._

SADIE

  He’s gettin’ old. When Orin had the stomach trouble a month ago, I
  sent for Doctor Morris. I felt sort of guilty doin’ it, but I thought
  it was my duty.

JUDGE

  You will let me help you, Jane?

JANE

  Hannah and I can attend to everything. Henry! (_She turns to him_)
  You might come over for a minute this evening and we can talk things
  over. I’ll make the bed up in your old room, Ben, if you want to stay.

EMMA (_rises and looks at Jane coldly_)

  Now, Henry Jordan, if she’s all through givin’ orders, maybe you’ll
  begin.

ELLA

  Well, I should say so. Let’s have an understandin’.

SADIE

  You tell her the truth, Henry, or else one of us will do it for you.

HENRY (_hesitates_)

  Maybe it might be best if I should wait until after the funeral.

ELLA

  You tell her now, or I will.

JANE

  Tell me what?

HENRY

  We was thinkin’ now that mother’s dead, that there wasn’t much use in
  your stayin’ on here.

JANE

  Yes?

  [_She looks at him intently._

HENRY

  We don’t aim to be hard, and we don’t want it said we was mean about
  it; you can stay on here, if you want to, until after the funeral,
  maybe a little longer, and I don’t know but what between us, we’d be
  willing to help you till you found a place somewheres.

JANE

  You can’t help me, any of you. Of course now she’s dead, I’ll go.
  I’ll be glad to go.

ELLA

  Glad!

JANE (_turns on them_)

  I hate you, the whole raft of you. I’ll be glad to get away from you.
  She was the only one of you worth loving, and she didn’t want it.

EMMA

  If that’s how you feel, I say the sooner you went the better.

HENRY

  Not till after the funeral. I don’t want it said we was hard to her.

JUDGE (_quietly_)

  Jane isn’t going at all, Henry.

HENRY

  What’s that?

ELLA

  Of course she’s going.

JUDGE

  No, she belongs here in this house.

HENRY

  Not after I say she don’t.

JUDGE

  Even then, because it’s hers.

SADIE

  Hers?

JUDGE

  From the moment of your mother’s death, everything here belonged to
  Jane.

HENRY

  Not everything.

JUDGE

  Yes, everything--your mother’s whole estate.

BEN

  Ha! Ha! Ha!

  [_He sits at right laughing bitterly._

JANE

  That can’t be, Judge, you must be wrong. It’s a mistake.

JUDGE

  No.

HENRY

  My mother did this?

JUDGE

  Yes.

HENRY

  Why? You’ve got to tell me why!

JUDGE

  That isn’t a part of my duties.

HENRY

  She couldn’t have done a thing like that without sayin’ why. She said
  something, didn’t she?

JUDGE

  I don’t know that I care to repeat it.

HENRY (_fiercely_)

  You must repeat it!

JUDGE

  Very well. The day that will was drawn she said to me, “The Jordans
  are all waiting for me to die, like carrion crows around a sick cow
  in a pasture, watchin’ till the last twitch of life is out of me
  before they pounce. I’m going to fool them,” she said, “I’m going to
  surprise them; they are all fools but Jane--Jane’s no fool.”

BEN (_bitterly_)

  No--Ha! Ha! Ha! Jane’s no fool!

JUDGE

  And she went on--(_He turns to Jane_) You’ll forgive me Jane; she
  said, “Jane is stubborn, and set, and wilful, but she’s no fool.
  She’ll do better by the Jordan money than any of them.”

ELLA

  We’ll go to law, that’s what we’ll do!

SADIE

  That’s it, we’ll go to law.

HENRY (_to Judge_)

  We can break that will; you know we can!

JUDGE

  It’s possible.

HENRY

  Possible! You _know_, don’t yer! You’re supposed to be a good lawyer.

JUDGE

  Of course if I _am_ a good lawyer you can’t break that will, because
  you see I drew it.

ELLA

  And we get nothing, not a dollar, after waitin’ all these years?

JUDGE

  There are small bequests left to each of you.

SADIE

  How much?

JUDGE

  One hundred dollars each.

ELLA (_shrilly_)

  One hundred dollars.

JUDGE

  I said that they were small.

BEN

  You said a mouthful!

ELLA

  Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

  [_She laughs wildly._

HENRY (_sternly_)

  Stop your noise, Ella.

ELLA

  I----Ha! Ha! Ha!----I told you I was going to have my laugh, didn’t
  I? Ha! Ha! Ha!

ORIN (_pulls Sadie’s dress_)

  Mum! What’s she laughin’ for?

SADIE

  You hush!

EMMA (_faces them all in evil triumph_)

  If anybody asked me, I’d say it was a judgment on all of yer. You
  Jordans was always stuck up, always thought you was better’n anybody
  else. I guess I ought to know, I married into yer!--You a rich
  family?--You the salt of the Earth--You Jordans! You paupers--Ha! Ha!
  Ha!

ORIN (_pulls Sadie’s skirt_)

  Ain’t she still dead, Mum! Ain’t grandma still dead?

SADIE (_angrily_)

  Of course she is.

ORIN

  But I thought we was all goin’ to cry!

SADIE

  Cry then, you awful little brat.

  [_She slaps his face and he roars loudly; she takes him by the arm
  and yanks him out of the room, followed by Henry, Emma, Nettie and
  Ella--through his roars, they all speak together as they go._

EMMA (_to Henry_)

  One hundred dollars! After all your blowin’.

HENRY

  It’s you, and that child of your’n; you turned her against me.

NETTIE

  Well, I just won’t spend my hundred dollars for mournin’. I’ll wear
  my old black dress!

ELLA

  And me makin’ hats all the rest of my life--just makin’ hats!

  [_The front door is heard to shut behind them. Jane, Ben and Judge
  are alone. Judge stands by stove. Jane is up by window, looking out
  at the deepening twilight. Ben sits at right._

BEN

  Ha! Ha! Ha! “Crow buzzards” mother called us--the last of the
  Jordans--crow buzzards--and that’s what we are.

JUDGE

  You can’t stay here, Ben; you know that as well as I do. I signed the
  warrant for your arrest myself. It’s been over a year since the Grand
  Jury indicted you for arson.

BEN

  You mean you’ll give me up?

JANE

  You won’t do that, Judge; you’re here as her friend.

JUDGE

  No, but if it’s known he’s here, I couldn’t save him, and it’s bound
  to be known.

JANE (_to Ben_)

  Were you careful coming?

BEN

  Yes.

JUDGE

  It’s bound to be known.

BEN

  He means they’ll tell on me. (_He nods his head toward door_) My
  brother, or my sisters.

JUDGE

  No, I don’t think they’d do that.

BEN

  Let ’em! What do I care. I’m sick of hiding out, half starved! Let
  ’em do what they please. All I know is one thing,--when they put her
  into her grave her sons and daughters are goin’ to be standin’ there,
  like the Jordans always do.

JANE (_quietly_)

  Hannah will have your room ready by now. There are some clean shirts
  and things that was your father’s; I’ll bring them to you.

BEN (_uneasily_)

  Can I go up there, just a minute?

JANE

  To your mother?

BEN

  Yes.

JANE

  If you want to.

BEN

  I do.

JANE

  Yes, you can go.

  [_Ben turns and exits up the stairs. Jane crosses and sits by stove,
  sinking wearily into the chair._

JUDGE

  And she left him nothing, just that hundred dollars, and only that
  because I told her it was the safest way to do it. I thought he was
  her one weakness, but it seems she didn’t have any.

JANE

  No.

JUDGE

  She was a grim old woman, Jane.

JANE

  I think I could have loved her, but she didn’t want it.

JUDGE

  And yet she left you everything.

JANE

  I don’t understand.

JUDGE

  She left a sealed letter for you. It’s in my strong box; you may
  learn from it that she cared more about you than you think.

JANE

  No.

JUDGE

  There was more kindness in her heart than most people gave her credit
  for.

JANE

  For her own, for Uncle Ned, who never did for her, for Ned, for the
  Jordan name. I don’t understand, and I don’t think I care so very
  much; it’s been a hard week, Judge.

  [_She rests her head against the back of the chair._

JUDGE

  I know, and you’re all worn out.

JANE

  Yes.

JUDGE

  It’s a lot of money, Jane.

JANE

  I suppose so.

JUDGE

  And so you’re a rich woman. I am curious to know how you feel?

JANE

  Just tired.

  [_She shuts her eyes. For a moment he looks at her with a smile,
  then turns and quietly fills the stove with wood as Ben comes slowly
  downstairs and into the room._

BEN

  If there was only something I could do for her.

JUDGE

  Jane’s asleep, Ben.

BEN

  Did she look like that, unhappy, all the time?

JUDGE

  Yes.

BEN

  Crow buzzards! God damn the Jordans!

  [_Front door bell rings sharply, Ben is startled._

JUDGE

  Steady there! It’s just one of the neighbors, I guess. (_Bell rings
  again as Hannah crosses downstairs and to hall_) Hannah knows enough
  not to let any one in.

BEN (_slowly_)

  When I got back, time before this, from France, I tried to go
  straight, but it wasn’t any good, I just don’t belong----

  [_Hannah enters frightened._

HANNAH

  It’s Jim Jay!

BEN (_to Judge_)

  And you didn’t think my own blood would sell me?

  [_Jim Jay, a large, kindly man of middle age, enters._

JIM

  I’m sorry, Ben, I’ve come for you!

  [_Jane wakes, startled, and springs up._

JANE

  What is it?

JIM

  I got to take him, Jane.

BEN (_turns fiercely_)

  Have you!

JIM (_quietly_)

  I’m armed, Ben--better not be foolish!

JANE

  He’ll go with you, Mr. Jay. He won’t resist.

JIM (_quietly_)

  He mustn’t. You got a bad name, Ben, and I ain’t a-goin’ to take any
  chances.

BEN

  I thought I’d get to go to her funeral, anyway, before they got me.

JIM

  Well, you could, maybe, if you was to fix a bail bond. You’d take
  bail for him, wouldn’t you, Judge?

JUDGE

  It’s a felony; I’d have to have good security.

JANE

  I’m a rich woman, you said just now. Could I give bail for him?

JUDGE

  Yes.

BEN (_to her_)

  So the money ain’t enough. You want all us Jordans fawnin’ on you for
  favors. Well, all of ’em but me will; by mornin’ the buzzards will be
  flocking round you thick! You’re going to hear a lot about how much
  folks love you, but you ain’t goin’ to hear it from me.

JANE (_turns to him quietly_)

  Why did you come here, Ben, when I wrote you she was dying?

BEN

  Why did I come?

JANE

  Was it because you loved her, because you wanted to ask her to
  forgive you, before she died--or was it because you wanted to get
  something for yourself?

BEN (_hesitates_)

  How does a feller know why he does what he does?

JANE

  I’m just curious. You’ve got so much contempt for the rest, I
  was just wondering? You were wild, Ben, and hard, but you were
  honest--what brought you here?

BEN (_sulkily_)

  The money.

JANE

  I thought so. Then when you saw her you were sorry, but even then the
  money was in your mind--well--it’s mine now. And you’ve got to take
  your choice,--you can do what I tell you, or you’ll go with Mr. Jay.

BEN

  Is that so? Well I guess there ain’t much doubt about what I’ll do.
  Come on, Jim?

JIM

  All right. (_He takes a pair of handcuffs from his pocket_) You’ll
  have to slip these on, Ben.

BEN (_steps back_)

  No--wait--(_He turns desperately to Jane_) What is it you want?

JANE

  I want you to do as I say.

BEN (_after a look at Jim and the handcuffs_)

  I’ll do it.

JANE

  I thought so. (_She turns to Judge_) Can you fix the bond up here?

JUDGE

  Yes. (_He sits at table and takes pen, ink and paper from a drawer_)
  I can hold court right here long enough for that.

JIM

  This is my prisoner, Judge, and here’s the warrant.

  [_He puts warrant on table._

JANE

  First he’s got to swear, before you, to my conditions.

BEN

  What conditions?

JANE

  When will his trial be, Judge?

JUDGE

  Not before the spring term, I should think--say early April.

JANE

  You’ll stay here till then, Ben; you won’t leave town! You’ll work
  the farm,--there’s plenty to be done.

BEN (_sulkily_)

  I don’t know how to work a farm.

JANE

  I do. You’ll just do what I tell you.

BEN

  Be your slave? That’s what you mean, ain’t it?

JANE

  I’ve been about that here for eight years.

BEN

  And now it’s your turn to get square on a Jordan!

JANE

  You’ll work for once, and work every day. The first day you don’t
  I’ll surrender you to the judge, and he’ll jail you. The rest of the
  Jordans will live as I tell them to live, or for the first time in
  any of their lives, they’ll live on what they earn. Don’t forget,
  Ben, that right now I’m the head of the family.

JUDGE (_to Ben_)

  You heard the conditions? Shall I make out the bond?

BEN (_reluctantly_)

  Yes.

  [_He sits moodily at right, looking down at the floor. Jane looks at
  him for a moment, then turns up to window._

JANE

  It’s snowing!

JIM

  Thought I smelled it. (_He buttons his coat_) Well, nothin’ to keep
  me, is there, Judge?

JUDGE

  No. (_He starts to write out the bond with a rusty pen_) This pen is
  rusty!

JIM

  I was sorry to hear about the old lady. It’s too bad, but that’s the
  way of things.

JUDGE (_writes_)

  Yes.

JIM

  Well--It’s early for snow, not but what it’s a good thing for the
  winter wheat.

  [_He exits._


  CURTAIN



  ACT TWO


  _Scene: Sitting room of the Jordan homestead some two months later._

  _This room also shows some traces of a family’s daily life, and to
  that extent is less desolate than the “parlor” of the first act,
  although the stern faith of the Puritan makes no concession to
  the thing we have learned to call “good taste.” The old-fashioned
  simplicity seen in such a room as this has resulted from poverty,
  both of mind and of purse, and has nothing akin to the simplicity of
  the artist; as a matter of fact, your true descendant of the settlers
  of 1605 would be the first to resent such an implication; to them the
  arts are directly connected with heathen practices, and any incense
  burned before the altars of the Graces still smells to them of
  brimstone._

  _At back center folding doors, now partly open, lead to dining room.
  In this room may be seen the dining table, back of the table a window
  looking out on to the farm yard, now deep in midwinter snow. At right
  is an open fireplace with a log fire. Below fireplace a door to hall.
  Up left door to small vestibule in which is the outside door. Down
  left a window overlooking a snowbound countryside. The clock above
  the fireplace is set for quarter past four. Several straight-backed
  chairs and a woodbox by fireplaces. A sewing table and lamp at
  center. A sewing machine near window at left. A wall cupboard on the
  wall right of the doors to the dining room. An old sofa down left,
  two chairs at right. When the door at left, in vestibule, is opened,
  one may see a path up to the door, between two walls of snow._

  _Discovered: Ella sits right at sewing machine, hemming some rough
  towels. Orin and Nettie are by fireplace. Sadie sits right of center.
  Sadie and Orin are dressed for outdoors. Nettie’s coat, hat and
  overshoes are on a hat-rack by door at left. Orin, as the curtain
  goes up, is putting a log on the fire._

SADIE (_acidly to Ella_)

  Why shouldn’t he put wood on the fire if he wants to?

ELLA (_at sewing machine_)

  Because it ain’t your wood.

SADIE

  No, it’s _hers_! Everything is hers!

ELLA

  And maybe she just don’t know it.

NETTIE (_at fireplace_)

  Ah! (_She bends closer to the fire as the log blazes up_) I do love a
  good fire! Oh it’s nice to be warm!

SADIE

  There’s somethin’ sensual about it.

NETTIE

  Mother told me that the next time you started talkin’ indecent I was
  to leave the room.

SADIE

  Tell your mother I don’t wonder she’s sort of worried about you. I’d
  be if you was _my_ daughter.

ELLA

  I don’t see why you can’t let Nettie alone!

NETTIE

  She’s always picking on me, Aunt Ella! To hear her talk anybody would
  think I was terrible.

SADIE

  I know more about what’s going on than some folks think I do.

NETTIE

  Then you know a lot. I heard Horace Bevins say a week ago that he
  didn’t know as it was any use tryin’ to have a Masonic Lodge in the
  same town as you.

SADIE

  They never was a Bevins yet didn’t have his tongue hung from the
  middle; the day his mother was married she answered both the
  responses.

ORIN

  Mum! Mum! Shall I take my coat off; are we going to stay, Mum?

SADIE

  No, we ain’t going to stay. I just want to see Cousin Jane for a
  minute.

ELLA

  She’s in the kitchen with Hannah.

SADIE

  Watchin’ her, I bet! I wonder Hannah puts up with it.

ELLA

  If you was to live with Jane for a spell, I guess you’d find you had
  a plenty to put up with.

SADIE

  It’s enough to make the Jordans turn in their graves, all of ’em at
  once.

ELLA

  I guess all she’d say would be, “Let ’em if it seemed to make ’em any
  more comfortable.”

  [_Jane enters. She has apron on and some towels over her arm._

JANE

  Are those towels finished?

ELLA

  Some is! Maybe I’d done all of ’em if I’d been a centipede.

JANE

  Oh! I didn’t see you, Sadie.

SADIE

  Oh! Ha, ha! Well, I ain’t surprised.

JANE (_with Ella, selecting finished towels_) Well, Orin, does the
  tooth still hurt you?

ORIN

  Naw, it don’t hurt me none now. I got it in a bottle.

  [_He takes small bottle from pocket._

NETTIE

  Oh you nasty thing. You get away!

SADIE (_angrily_)

  What did I tell you about showin’ that tooth to folks!

JANE

  Never mind, Orin, just run out to the barn and tell your Uncle Ben
  we’ve got to have a path cleared under the clothes-lines.

ORIN

  All right.

  [_He crosses toward door._

JANE

  Hannah’s going to wash to-morrow, tell him. I’ll expect a good wide
  path.

ORIN

  I’ll tell him.

  [_He exits._

SADIE

  I must say you keep Ben right at it, don’t you?

JANE

  Yes. (_She takes the last finished towel and speaks to Ella_) I’ll
  come back for more.

SADIE (_as Jane crosses_)

  First I thought he’d go to jail before he’d work, but he didn’t, did
  he?

JANE

  No.

  [_She exits right._

SADIE

  Yes. No! Yes. No! Folks that ain’t got no more gift of gab ain’t got
  much gift of intellect. I s’pose Hannah’s out there.

ELLA

  Yes, she keeps all of us just everlastingly at it.

SADIE

  When Jane comes back, I wish you and Nettie would leave me alone with
  her, just for a minute.

ELLA (_as she works over sewing machine_)

  It won’t do you much good; she won’t lend any more money.

SADIE

  Mother always helped me. I’ve got a right to expect it.

ELLA (_as she bites off a thread_)

  Expectin’ ain’t gettin’.

SADIE

  I don’t know what I’ll do.

ELLA

  You had money out of her; so has Henry.

SADIE (_shocked, to Nettie_)

  You don’t mean to say your father’s been borrowin’ from her.

  [_This to Nettie._

NETTIE

  He’s always borrowin’. Didn’t he borrow the hundred dollars grandma
  left me? I’m not going to stand it much longer.

ELLA

  Henry’s havin’ trouble with his business.

SADIE

  We’re fools to put up with it. Everybody says so. We ought to contest
  the will.

ELLA

  Everybody says so but the lawyers; they won’t none of ’em touch the
  case without they get money in advance.

SADIE

  How much money? Didn’t your father find out, Nettie?

NETTIE

  The least was five hundred dollars.

ELLA

  Can you see us raisin’ that?

SADIE

  If we was short, we might borrow it from Jane.

ELLA

  We’d have to be smarter’n I see any signs of; she’s through lendin’.

SADIE

  How do you know?

ELLA

  I tried it myself.

SADIE

  What do you want money for. Ain’t she takin’ you in to live with her?

ELLA

  I don’t call myself beholden for that. She had to have some one, with
  Ben here, and her unmarried, and next to no relation to him.

NETTIE

  Everybody’s callin’ you the chaperon! (_She laughs_) Not but what
  they ought to be one with _him_ around; he’s awful good lookin’.

SADIE

  You keep away from him. He’s no blood kin of yours, and he’s a bad
  man, if he is a Jordan. Always makes up to everything he sees in
  petticoats, and always did.

NETTIE

  Thanks for the compliment, but I’m not looking for any jailbirds.

ELLA

  It will be awful, Ben in State’s Prison,--and I guess he’ll have to
  go, soon as he stands his trial.

SADIE

  He got drunk and had a fight with the two Kimbal boys, and they
  licked him, and that night he burned down their barn; everybody knows
  it.

ELLA

  He’s bad, all through, Ben is.

NETTIE

  He’ll get about five years, father says. I guess that will take some
  of the spunk out of him.

  [_A sound in the hall at right._

ELLA

  Hush! I think he’s coming.

  [_Ben enters at right with a big armful of firewood and crosses
  and drops it heavily into woodbox, then turns and looks at them in
  silence._

SADIE

  Seems kind of funny, your luggin’ in the wood.

BEN (_bitterly_)

  Does it?

SADIE

  Did you see Orin out there?

BEN

  Yes, he went along home.

SADIE

  How do you like workin’?

BEN

  How do you think I like it? Workin’ a big farm in winter, tendin’ the
  stock and milking ten cows. How do I like it?

  [_As he stands by fire Nettie looks up at him._

NETTIE

  I think it’s just a shame!

SADIE (_turns to Ella_)

  Are you going to make towels all the afternoon?

ELLA

  I am ’til they’re done, then I expect she’ll find somethin’ else for
  me to do.

NETTIE (_to Ben_)

  Do you know I’m sorry for you, awful sorry.

  [_She speaks low. Ella and Sadie are at the other side of room._

BEN

  Then you’re the only one.

NETTIE

  Maybe I am, but I’m like that.

BEN

  Another month of it, then State’s Prison, I guess. I don’t know as
  I’ll be sorry when the time comes.

NETTIE

  Oh, Uncle Ben! No, I’m not goin’ to call you _that_. After all,
  you’re not really any relation, are you? I mean to me?

BEN

  No.

NETTIE (_softly_)

  I’m just going to call you Ben!

BEN

  You’re a good kid, Nettie.

NETTIE

  Oh, it isn’t that, Ben, but it does just seem too awful.

  [_As she looks up at him, the outside door opens and Henry and Emma
  enter. They see Nettie and Ben together by the fire._

EMMA (_sternly_)

  Nettie!

NETTIE (_sweetly_)

  Yes, mother?

EMMA

  You come away from him.

BEN (_angrily_)

  What do you mean by that?

EMMA

  You tell him, Henry.

HENRY

  I don’t know as it’s any use to----

EMMA (_sternly_)

  Tell him what I mean.

HENRY (_to Ben_)

  Emma thinks, considerin’ everything, that it’s best Nettie shouldn’t
  talk to you.

BEN

  Why don’t you keep her at home then? You don’t suppose I want to talk
  to her.

EMMA

  Oh, we ain’t wanted here, I guess. We know that, not by you, or by
  _her_;--and Henry’s the oldest of the Jordans. All this would be his,
  if there was any justice in the world.

NETTIE

  Father wouldn’t have taken that hundred dollars grandma left me if
  there had been any justice in the world. That’s what I came here for,
  not to talk to him. To tell Cousin Jane what father did, and to tell
  her about Nellie Namlin’s Christmas party, and that I’ve got to have
  a new dress. I’ve just got to!

SADIE

  A new dress, and my rent ain’t paid. She’s got to pay it. My Orin’s
  got to have a roof over his head.

HENRY

  I don’t know as you’ve got any call to be pestering Jane all the time.

ELLA

  She’s always wantin’ something.

SADIE

  What about you? Didn’t you tell me yourself you tried to borrow from
  her?

ELLA

  I got a chance to set up in business, so as I can be independent. I
  can go in with Mary Stanton, dressmakin’. I can do it for two hundred
  dollars, and she’s got to give it to me.

HENRY

  You ought to be ashamed, all three of you, worryin’ Jane all day
  long. It’s more’n flesh and blood can stand!

NETTIE (_to him_)

  Didn’t you say at breakfast you was coming here to-day to make Cousin
  Jane endorse a note for you? Didn’t you?

EMMA (_fiercely_)

  You hush!

BEN (_at back by window_)

  Ha! Ha! Ha! Crow buzzards.

HENRY

  Endorsing a note ain’t lending money, is it? It’s a matter of
  business. I guess my note’s good.

BEN

  Take it to the bank without her name on it and see how good it is.

EMMA

  You don’t think we want to ask her favors, but Henry’s in bad trouble
  and she’ll just have to help us this time.

BEN

  There’s one way out of your troubles. One thing you could all do, for
  a change, instead of making Jane pay all your bills. I wonder you
  haven’t any of you thought of it.

HENRY

  What could we do?

BEN

  Go to work and earn something for yourselves.

SADIE

  Like you do, I suppose.

EMMA

  The laughing-stock of all Veazie!

ELLA

  Everybody’s talkin’ about it, anywhere you go.

NETTIE

  Jane Crosby’s White Slave, that’s what they call you. Jane Crosby’s
  White Slave.

BEN (_fiercely_)

  They call me that, do they?

ELLA (_to Nettie_)

  Why can’t you ever hold your tongue?

BEN (_in cold anger_)

  I’ve been a damned fool. I’m through.

  [_Hannah enters._

HANNAH

  She wants you.

BEN

  Jane?

HANNAH

  Yes.

BEN

  I won’t come.

HANNAH

  There’ll be another row.

BEN

  Tell her I said I wouldn’t come.

  [_He sits._

HANNAH

  She’s awful set, you know, when she wants anything.

BEN

  You tell her I won’t come.

HANNAH

  Well, I don’t say I hanker none to tell her, but I’d rather be in my
  shoes than your’n.

  [_She exits._

SADIE

  Well, I must say I don’t blame you a mite.

EMMA

  If the Jordans is a lot of slaves, I guess it’s pretty near time we
  knew it.

HENRY (_worried_)

  She’ll turn you over to Judge Bradford, Ben; he’ll lock you up. It
  ain’t goin’ to help me none with the bank, a brother of mine bein’ in
  jail.

BEN

  So they’re laughing at me, are they, damn them.

NETTIE (_at door right_)

  She’s coming!

  [_There is a moment’s pause and Jane enters door right. Hannah
  follows to door and looks on eagerly._

JANE

  I sent for you, Ben.

BEN

  I won’t budge.

JANE (_wearily_)

  Must we go through all this again?

BEN

  I ain’t going to move out of this chair to-day. You do what you
  damned please.

JANE

  I am sorry, but you must.

BEN

  Send for Jim Jay, have me locked up, do as you please. Oh, I’ve said
  it before, but this time I mean it.

JANE

  And you won’t come?

BEN

  No.

JANE

  Then I’ll do the best I can alone.

  [_She crosses up to wall closet and opens it and selects a large
  bottle, and turns. Ben rises quickly._

BEN

  What do you want of that?

JANE

  It’s one of the horses. I don’t know what’s the matter with her.
  She’s down in her stall, just breathing. She won’t pay any attention
  to me.

BEN

  Old Nellie?

JANE

  Yes.

BEN

  What you got? (_He steps to her and takes the bottle from her and
  looks at it_) That stuff’s no good. Here! (_He steps to cabinet and
  selects another bottle_) If you hadn’t spent five minutes stalling
  around, I might have had a better chance.

  [_He exits quickly at left._

HANNAH

  I allers said ’twas easier to catch flies with honey than ’twas with
  vinegar.

HENRY

  What’s Ben know about horses?

JANE

  A lot.

HENRY

  I didn’t know that.

JANE

  Neither did Ben, six weeks ago.

  [_She exits._

HENRY

  Mother was like that, about animals. I guess Ben sort of takes after
  her.

EMMA (_shocked_)

  Ben! Like your mother!

HANNAH

  Of course he is. He’s the “spit and image of her.”

  [_She exits._

NETTIE

  She made him go! It wouldn’t surprise me a mite if she’d pushed that
  old horse over herself.

  [_Jane enters._

JANE

  He wouldn’t let me in the barn. (_For the first time in the play,
  she laughs lightly_) Well--(_She looks about at them_) we have quite
  a family gathering here this afternoon. I am wondering if there is
  any--special reason for it?

HENRY

  I wanted to talk with yer for just a minute, Jane.

SADIE

  So do I.

JANE

  Anybody else?

  [_She looks about._

ELLA

  I do.

NETTIE

  So do I.

JANE

  I’ve a lot to do; suppose I answer you all at once. I’m sorry, but I
  won’t lend you any money.

HENRY

  Of course, I didn’t think they’d call that note of mine; it’s only
  five hundred, and you could just endorse it.

JANE

  No!

SADIE

  I was going to ask you----

JANE

  No!

ELLA

  I got a chance to be independent, Jane, and----No. I haven’t any
  money. I won’t have before the first of the month.

EMMA

  No money!

HENRY

  I bet you’re worth as much to-day as you was the day mother died.

JANE

  To a penny. I’ve lived, and run this house, and half supported all
  of you on what I’ve made the place earn. Yesterday I spent the first
  dollar that I didn’t have to spend. I mean, on myself. But that’s no
  business of yours. I _am_ worth just as much as the day I took the
  property, and I’m not going to run behind, so you see, after all, I’m
  a real Jordan.

EMMA

  Seems so. I never knew one of ’em yet who didn’t seem to think he
  could take it with him.

HENRY

  Well, Jane, I don’t know as it’s any use tryin’ to get you to change
  your mind?

JANE

  I’m sorry.

EMMA

  You can leave that for us to be. I guess it’s about the only thing
  we’ve got a right to. Get your things on, Nettie!

NETTIE

  I’m going to stay a while with Aunt Ella; I won’t be late.

HENRY

  I don’t know what I’m goin’ to do about that note. I s’pose I’ll find
  some way out of it.

JANE

  I hope so.

EMMA

  Thank yer. Of course we know there’s always the poorhouse. Come,
  Henry.

  [_She exits at left, leaving the outside door open._

HENRY

  Emma is a little upset. I hope you won’t mind her talk. I guess her
  part of it ain’t any too easy.

  [_He exits, shutting the door._

ELLA (_to Jane_)

  Poor Henry! Of course I s’pose you’re right not to lend it to him.
  But I don’t know as _I_ could do it, but I’m sensitive.

JANE

  Perhaps it’s harder to say no than you think.

  [_Hannah enters._

HANNAH

  I got everything ready for to-morrow’s wash, but the sheets off your
  bed, Miss Ella.

ELLA

  Good Land! I forgot ’em. Nettie will bring ’em right down.

NETTIE (_to Jane_)

  After that, I’m going to stay and help Aunt Ella. I was wondering if
  you’d be here all the afternoon.

JANE

  Yes.

NETTIE (_charmingly_)

  Nothing special, you know. I’d just like to have a little visit with
  you.

  [_She exits at left with Ella._

HANNAH (_looks after her_)

  Every time I listen to that girl I get fur on my tongue.

JANE

  Fur?

HANNAH

  Like when my dyspepsia’s coming. There’s two things I can’t abide,
  her and cucumbers.

  [_She crosses to door left._

JANE

  Hannah!

HANNAH (_stops_)

  Well?

JANE (_rather shyly_)

  We are going to have rather a special supper to-night.

HANNAH (_doubtfully_)

  We are?

JANE

  Yes. That’s why I had you roast that turkey yesterday.

HANNAH (_firmly_)

  That’s for Sunday!

JANE

  No, it’s for to-night.

HANNAH (_angrily_)

  Why is it?

JANE

  It’s my birthday.

HANNAH

  I didn’t know that.

JANE

  No, it isn’t exactly a national holiday, but we’ll have the turkey,
  and I’ll get some preserves up, and I want you to bake a cake, a
  round one. We’ll have candles on it. I got some at the store this
  morning.

HANNAH (_shocked_)

  Candles?

JANE

  Yes.

HANNAH

  Who’s going to be to this party?

JANE (_a little self-conscious_)

  Why--just--just ourselves.

HANNAH

  Just you and Mr. Ben and Miss Ella?

JANE

  Yes.

HANNAH

  You don’t want candles on that cake, you want crape on it.

  [_She exits door left._

  [_Jane crosses up and starts to clear the dining-room table of its
  red table cover, as Ben enters door left._

BEN (_cheerfully_)

  Well, I fixed Old Nellie up. (_He puts his bottle back in its place
  in the wall cabinet_) Just got her in time. Thought she was gone for
  a minute, but she’s going to be all right.

JANE

  That’s good.

  [_She folds the tablecloth up and puts it away._

BEN (_in front of fire_)

  She knew what I was doin’ for her too; you could tell by the way she
  looked at me! She’ll be all right, poor old critter. I remember her
  when she was a colt, year before I went to high school.

  [_Jane crosses into room, shutting the dining-room door after her._

JANE

  You like animals, don’t you, Ben?

BEN (_surprised_)

  I don’t know. I don’t like to see ’em suffer.

JANE

  Why?

BEN

  I guess it’s mostly because they ain’t to blame for it. I mean what
  comes to ’em ain’t their fault. If a woman thinks she’s sick, ’til
  she gets sick, that’s her business. If a man gets drunk, or eats like
  a hog, he’s got to pay for it, and he ought to. Animals live cleaner
  than we do anyhow--and when you do anything for ’em they’ve got
  gratitude. Folks haven’t.

JANE

  Hand me that sewing basket, Ben.

  [_She has seated herself at left center by table. Ben at left of
  table, hands her the basket as she picks up some sewing._

BEN

  It’s funny, but except for a dog or two, I don’t remember carin’
  nothin’ for any of the live things, when I lived here I mean.

JANE

  I guess that’s because you didn’t do much for them.

BEN

  I guess so--Sometimes I kind of think I’d like to be here when spring
  comes--and see all the young critters coming into the world--I should
  think there’d be a lot a feller could do, to make it easier for ’em.

JANE

  Yes.

BEN

  Everybody’s always makin’ a fuss over women and their babies. I guess
  animals have got some feelings, too.

JANE (_sewing_)

  Yes.

BEN

  I _know_ it--Yes, sometimes I sort of wish I could be here, in the
  spring.

JANE

  You’ll be a big help.

BEN

  I’ll be in prison. (_He looks at her. She drops her head and goes on
  sewing_) You forgot that, didn’t yer?

JANE

  Yes.

BEN

  What’s the difference? A prison ain’t just a place; it’s bein’
  somewheres you don’t want to be, and that’s where I’ve always been.

JANE

  You liked the army?

BEN

  I s’pose so.

JANE

  Why?

BEN

  I don’t know, there was things to do, and you did ’em.

JANE

  And some one to tell you what to do?

BEN

  Maybe that’s it, somebody that knew better’n I did. It galled me at
  first, but pretty soon we got over in France, an’ I saw we was really
  doin’ something, then I didn’t mind. I just got to doin’ what I was
  told, and it worked out all right.

JANE

  You liked France, too?

BEN

  Yes.

JANE

  I’d like to hear you tell about it.

BEN

  Maybe I’ll go back there some time. I don’t know as I’d mind farming
  a place over there. Most of their farms are awful little, but I don’t
  know but what I’d like it.

JANE

  Farming is farming. Why not try it here?

BEN

  Look out there! (_He points out of the window at the drifted snow_)
  It’s like that half the year, froze up, everything, most of all the
  people. Just a family by itself, maybe. Just a few folks, good an’
  bad, month after month, with nothin’ to think about but just the mean
  little things, that really don’t amount to nothin’, but get to be
  bigger than all the world outside.

JANE (_sewing_)

  Somebody must do the farming, Ben.

BEN

  Somebody like the Jordans, that’s been doin’ it generation after
  generation. Well, look at us. I heard a feller, in a Y.M.C.A. hut,
  tellin’ how nature brought animals into the world, able to face what
  they had to face----

JANE

  Yes, Ben?

BEN

  That’s what nature’s done for us Jordans,--brought us into the world
  half froze before we was born. Brought us into the world mean, and
  hard, so’s we could live the hard, mean life we have to live.

JANE

  I don’t know, Ben, but what you could live it different.

BEN

  They _laugh_ over there, and sing, and God knows when I was there
  they didn’t have much to sing about. I was at a rest camp, near
  Nancy, after I got wounded. I told you about the French lady with all
  those children that I got billeted with.

JANE

  Yes.

BEN

  They used to _sing_, right at the table, and laugh! God! It brought a
  lump into my throat mor’n once, lookin’ at them, and rememberin’ the
  Jordans!

JANE

  I guess there wasn’t much laughing at your family table.

BEN

  Summers nobody had much time for it, and winters,--well, I guess you
  know.

JANE

  Yes.

BEN

  Just a few folks together, day after day, and every little thing you
  don’t like about the other raspin’ on your nerves ’til it almost
  drives you crazy! Most folks quiet, because they’ve said all the
  things they’ve got to say a hundred times; other folks talkin’,
  talkin’, talkin’ about nothing. Sometimes somebody sort of laughs,
  and it scares you; seems like laughter needs the sun, same as flowers
  do. Icebound, that’s what we are all of us, inside and out.

  [_He stands looking grimly out window._

JANE

  Not all. I laughed a lot before I came here to live.

BEN (_turns and looks at her_)

  I remember, you were just a little girl.

JANE

  I was fourteen. See if there’s a spool of black sewing cotton in that
  drawer.

BEN (_looking in drawer_)

  You mean thread?

JANE

  Yes.

BEN

  This it?

  [_He holds up a spool of white thread._

JANE

  Would you call that black?

BEN (_looks it over_)

  No--it ain’t black. (_He searches and finds black thread_) Maybe this
  is it!

JANE

  Maybe it is! (_She takes it_) You were with that French family quite
  a while, weren’t you?

BEN

  Most a month; they was well off, you know; I mean, they was, before
  the war. It was a nice house.

JANE (_sewing_)

  How nice?

BEN (_hesitates_)

  I don’t know, things--well--useful, you know, but nice, not like this.

  [_He looks about._

JANE (_looks around with a sigh_)

  It’s not very pretty, but it could be. I could make it.

BEN

  If you did, folks would be sayin’ you wasn’t respectable.

JANE

  Tell me about the dinner they gave you the night before you went back
  to your company.

BEN

  I told you.

JANE

  Tell me again.

BEN (_smiles to himself at the remembrance_)

  They was all dressed up, the whole family, and there I was with just
  my dirty old uniform.

JANE

  Yes.

BEN (_lost in his recollections_)

  It was a fine dinner, but it wasn’t that. It was their doin’ so much
  for me, folks like that--I’ve sort of pictured ’em lots of times
  since then.

JANE

  Go on.

BEN

  All of the young ones laughing and happy, and the mother too,
  laughing and tryin’ to talk to me, and neither one of us knowing much
  about what the other one was sayin’.

  [_He and Jane both laugh._

JANE

  And the oldest daughter? The one that was most grown up?

BEN

  She was scared of me somehow, but I don’t know as ever I’ve seen a
  girl like her, before or since.

JANE

  Maybe ’twas that dress you told me about; seems to me you don’t
  remember much else about her; not so much as what color her hair was,
  only just that that dress was blue.

BEN (_thoughtfully_)

  Yes.

JANE (_sewing_)

  Sometimes you say dark blue!

  [_She is watching him closely through half-shut eyes._

BEN (_absently_)

  I guess so.

JANE

  And then I say, dark as something I point out to you, that isn’t dark
  at all, and you say, “No, lighter than that!”

BEN (_absently_)

  Just--sort of blue.

JANE

  Yes, sort of blue. It had lace on it, too, didn’t it?

BEN

  Lace? Maybe--yes, lace.

JANE

  There’s more than one blue dress in the world.

BEN

  Like enough. Maybe there’s mor’n one family like that lady’s, but
  I’ll be damned if they live in Veazie. (_He crosses and opens
  cupboard and selects a bottle_) I might as well run out and see how
  the old mare is getting on.

  [_He selects bottle from shelf._

JANE

  And you’ve got to shovel those paths for the clothes lines yet.

BEN

  I know.

JANE

  Well, don’t forget.

BEN

  It ain’t likely you’ll let me.

  [_He exits at door right. Jane laughs softly to herself, and runs
  to closet and takes out a large cardboard box and putting it on the
  table, she cuts the string and removes the wrapping paper, then
  lifts the cover of the box and draws out a dainty light-blue gown
  with soft lace on the neck and sleeves. She holds it up joyfully,
  then covering her own dress with it, she looks at herself in a mirror
  on wall. As she stands smiling at her reflection, there is a sharp
  knock on the outside door. Jane hastily returns dress to box and as
  the knock is repeated, she puts the box under the sofa at left and
  crosses and opens the outside door._

  _Judge Bradford enters._

JANE

  Oh, it’s you, Judge! Come in.

JUDGE

  I thought I’d stop on my way home and see how you were getting on,
  Jane.

JANE

  I’ll take your coat.

JUDGE

  I’ll just put it here. (_He puts coat on chair_) Have you time to sit
  down a minute?

JANE

  Of course.

  [_They sit._

JUDGE (_looks at her_)

  That isn’t a smile on your lips, is it, Jane?

JANE

  Maybe----

JUDGE (_laughingly_)

  I’m glad I came!

JANE

  It’s my birthday.

JUDGE

  Why, Jane! (_He crosses to her and holds out his hand. She takes it_)
  Many happy returns!

JANE (_thoughtfully_)

  Many--happy returns--that’s a lot to ask for.

JUDGE

  You’re about twenty-two, or twenty-three, aren’t you?

JANE

  Twenty-three.

JUDGE

  Time enough ahead of you. (_His eye falls on the box, imperfectly
  hidden under the sofa; out of it a bit of the blue dress is
  sticking_) Hello! What’s all that?

JANE

  My birthday present.

JUDGE

  Who gave it to you?

JANE

  I did.

JUDGE

  Good! It’s about time you started to blossom out.

JANE

  I ordered a lot of things from Boston; they’ll be here to-morrow.

JUDGE

  I suppose that one’s a dress?

JANE

  Yes.

JUDGE (_bends over to look_)

  Light blue, isn’t it?

JANE (_smiles_)

  Just sort of blue--with lace on it.

JUDGE

  Oh, you’re going to wear it, I suppose, in honor of your birthday?

JANE (_startled_)

  To-night--oh, no--soon maybe, but not to-night.

JUDGE (_smiles_)

  How soon?

JANE

  Soon as I dare to; not just yet.

JUDGE

  You have plenty of money; you ought to have every comfort in the
  world, and some of the luxuries.

JANE (_gravely_)

  Judge! I want you to do something for me.

JUDGE

  And of course I’ll do it.

JANE

  I want you to get Ben off. I want you to fix it so he won’t go to
  State’s Prison.

JUDGE

  But if he’s guilty, Jane?

JANE

  I want you to go to old Mr. Kimbal for me and offer to pay him for
  that barn of his that Ben burned down. Then I want you to fix it so
  he won’t push the case, so’s Ben gets off.

JUDGE

  Do you know what you are asking of me?

JANE

  To get Ben off.

JUDGE

  To compound a felony.

JANE

  Those are just words, Judge, and words don’t matter much to me. I
  might say I wasn’t asking you to compound a felony. I was askin’ you
  to save a sinner, but those would be just words too. There’s nobody
  else; you’ve _got_ to help me.

JUDGE (_thoughtfully_)

  I’ve always thought a lot could be done for Ben, by a good lawyer.

JANE

  It doesn’t matter how, so long as it’s done.

JUDGE

  He was drinking, with a crowd of young men; the two Kimbal boys
  jumped on him and beat him up rather badly. That’s about all we know,
  aside from the fact that Ben was drunk, and that that night the
  Kimbals’ barn was set on fire.

JANE

  Just so long as you can get him off, Judge.

JUDGE

  I think a case of assault could be made against the Kimbal boys, and
  I think it would stand.

JANE

  What of it?

JUDGE

  It is quite possible that the old man, if he knew that action was
  to be taken against his sons, and if he could be tactfully assured
  of payment for his barn, say by Ben, in a year’s time, might be
  persuaded to petition to have the indictment against Ben withdrawn.
  In that event, I think the chances would be very much in Ben’s favor.

JANE

  I don’t care what names you call it, so long as it’s done. Will you
  fix it?

JUDGE

  Well, it’s not exactly a proper proceeding for a Judge of the Circuit
  Court.

JANE

  I knew you’d do it.

JUDGE

  Yes, and I think you knew why, didn’t you?

JANE

  Ever since she’s died, you’ve helped me about everything. Before she
  died you were just as good to me, and nobody else was.

JUDGE

  I am glad you said that, because it clears me from the charge of
  being what poor Ben calls “one of the crow buzzards,” and I don’t
  want you to think me that.

JANE

  No, you’re not that.

JUDGE

  I love you, Jane.

JANE

  No!

JUDGE

  Yes--I’ve done that for a long while. Don’t you think you could get
  used to the thought of being my wife?

JANE (_gently_)

  No.

JUDGE

  I think I could make you happy.

JANE

  No.

JUDGE

  I am afraid being happy is something you don’t know very much about.

JANE

  No.

JUDGE

  It isn’t a thing that I am going to hurry you over, my dear, but
  neither is it a thing that I am going to give up hoping for.

JANE

  When you told me, that day, that Mrs. Jordan had left me all her
  money, I couldn’t understand; then, afterwards, you gave me the
  letter she left for me. I want you to read it.

JUDGE

  What has her letter to do with us?

JANE

  Maybe, reading it, you’ll get to know something you’ve got a right to
  know, better than I could tell it to you.

JUDGE

  Very well.

JANE

  It’s here. (_She opens drawer, and selects a letter in a woman’s
  old-fashioned handwriting, from a large envelope of papers_) She was
  a cold woman, Judge. She never let me get close to her, although I
  tried. She didn’t love me. I was as sure of it then as I am now.
  (_She holds out the letter_) Read it.

JUDGE

  If it’s about the thing I’ve been speaking of, I’d rather hear it in
  your voice.

JANE (_reads_)

  “My dear Jane, the doctor tells me I haven’t long to live, and so
  I’m doing this, the meanest thing I think I’ve ever done to you. I’m
  leaving you the Jordan money. Since my husband died, there has been
  just one person I could get to care about; that’s Ben, who was my
  baby so long after all the others had forgotten how to love me. And
  Ben’s a bad son, and a bad man. I can’t leave him the money; he’d
  squander it, and the Jordans’ money came hard.”

JUDGE

  Poor woman! It was a bitter thing for her to have to write like that.

JANE (_reads on_)

  “If squandering the money would bring him happiness, I’d face all the
  Jordans in the other world and laugh at them, but I know there’s only
  just one chance to save my boy,--through a woman who will hold out
  her heart to him and let him trample on it, as he has on mine.”

JUDGE (_in sudden fear_)

  Jane!

JANE (_reads on_)

  “Who’d work, and pray, and live for him, until as age comes on, and
  maybe he gets a little tired, he’ll turn to her. And you’re that
  woman, Jane; you’ve loved him ever since you came to us. Although he
  doesn’t even know it. The Jordan name is his, the money’s yours, and
  maybe there’ll be another life for you to guard. God knows it isn’t
  much I’m leaving you, but you can’t refuse it, because you love him,
  and when he knows the money is yours, he will want to marry you. I’m
  a wicked old woman. Maybe you’ll learn to forgive me as time goes
  on--It takes a long time to make a Jordan.” (_Jane drops her hand to
  her side_) Then she just signed her name.

JUDGE

  Is the damnable thing she says there true?

JANE

  Yes, Judge.

JUDGE

  And you’re going to do this thing for her?

JANE

  No, for him.

JUDGE (_bitterly_)

  He isn’t worth it.

JANE

  I guess you don’t understand.

JUDGE

  No.

  [_He crosses and picks up his coat._

JANE

  You can’t go like that, angry. You have to pay a price for being a
  good man, Judge--I need your help.

JUDGE

  You mean _he_ needs my help?

JANE

  Yes, and you’ll have to give it to him, if what you said a little
  while ago was true.

JUDGE (_after a pause_)

  It _was_ true, Jane. I’ll help him.

  [_He picks up his hat._

JANE

  I’ve an errand at the store. I’ll go with you.

  [_She takes hat and coat from rack and puts them on._

JUDGE

  Is it anything I could have sent up for you?

JANE (_putting on coat_)

  I guess not. You see, I’ve got to match a color.

JUDGE

  Another new dress?

JANE (_they start toward door_)

  Just a ribbon, for my hair.

JUDGE

  I didn’t know women still wore ribbons in their hair.

JANE

  It seems they do--in France.

  [_They exit together at left to the outside door and off._

  _Nettie and Ella enter quickly, after a slight pause, Nettie running
  in from right, followed more sedately by Ella._

NETTIE

  You see! I was right! She went with him.

  [_She has run to window left and is looking out._

ELLA

  That’s what money does. If mother hadn’t left her everything, he
  wouldn’t have touched her with a ten-foot pole.

NETTIE

  Well, if she’s fool enough to stay in this place, I guess he’s about
  the best there is.

ELLA

  Then trust her for gettin’ him; by the time she gets through in
  Veazie, this town will be barer than Mother Hubbard’s cupboard by the
  time the dog got there. (_Her eye falls on Jane’s box, partly under
  sofa._) What’s that?

  [_She bends over, looking at it._

NETTIE

  What?

ELLA

  I never saw it before. (_She draws it out_) Looks like a dress. See!
  Blue silk!

NETTIE

  Open it.

ELLA (_hesitates_)

  Must be hers! Maybe she wouldn’t like it.

NETTIE

  Maybe she wouldn’t know it.

ELLA

  A cat can look at a king!

  [_She opens the box and holds up the blue dress._

NETTIE

  Oh! Oh!

ELLA (_really moved_)

  Some folks would say a dress like that wasn’t decent, but I wouldn’t
  care, not if it was mine, and it might have been mine--but for her.

NETTIE

  Yours! Grandma wouldn’t have left her money to you. She hated old
  people. Everybody does. She’d have left it to me, but for Jane
  Crosby!

ELLA (_looks at dress_)

  I always wanted a dress like this; when I was young, I used to dream
  about one, but mother only laughed. For years I counted on gettin’ me
  what I wanted, when she died; now I never will.

NETTIE (_fiercely_)

  I will--somehow!

ELLA

  Maybe but not me. Oh, if I could have the feelin’ of a dress like
  that on me, if I could wear it once, where folks could see me--Just
  once! Oh, I know how they’d laugh--I wouldn’t care----

NETTIE (_almost in tears_)

  I can’t stand it if she’s going to wear things like that.

ELLA

  I’ll put it back.

  [_She starts to do so._

NETTIE (_catches her hand_)

  Not yet.

ELLA

  I guess the less we look at it, the better off we’ll be.

  [_There is a ring at the front door._

NETTIE

  Who’s that?

ELLA

  Here! (_She hands the box to Nettie_) Shove it back under the sofa.
  I’ll go and see. (_She turns and crosses to door left and out to the
  vestibule. Nettie, with the box in her arms, hesitates for a moment
  then turns and exits at right, taking the box with her. Ella opens
  the outside door at left, showing Orin on the doorstep. Ella looks at
  him angrily_) For time’s sake, what are _you_ ringing the bell for?

ORIN

  Mum says for me not to act like I belonged here.

ELLA

  Well, I’m goin’ to shut the door. Git in or git out!

ORIN

  I got a note. (_He enters room as Ella shuts door_) It’s for her.

ELLA (_holds out hand_)

  Let me see it.

ORIN

  Mum said not to let on I had nothin’ if you came nosin’ around.

  [_Jane enters from left._

JANE

  I just ran across to the store. I haven’t been five minutes.

  [_She takes coat off._

ELLA

  He’s got a note for you, from Sadie.

JANE

  Oh, let me see it, Orin.

ORIN (_gives her note_)

  She said, if you said is they an answer, I was to say yes, they is.

JANE

  Just a minute.

  [_She opens note and reads it._

ELLA

  I must say she didn’t lose much time.

JANE (_after reading note_) Poor Sadie! Wait, Orin! (_She sits at
  table and takes checkbook from the drawer and writes_) Just take this
  to your mother.

ELLA

  You don’t mean you’re goin’ to----

JANE

  Be quiet, Ella. Here, Orin. (_She hands him check_) Don’t lose it,
  and run along.

ORIN

  All right. Mum said we was goin’ to have dinner early, and go to a
  movie! Good night.

JANE (_again writing in checkbook_)

  Good night.

  [_Orin exits._

ELLA

  So you sent her her rent money, after all?

JANE

  Here!

  [_She rises and hands a check to Ella._

ELLA

  What’s that?

JANE

  Two hundred dollars. You can try that dressmaking business if you
  want to, Ella.

ELLA

  [_Looks at check._

  Two hundred dollars!

JANE

  You needn’t thank me.

ELLA

  That ain’t it. I was just wonderin’ what’s come over you all of a
  sudden.

  [_Ben enters._

JANE

  It’s my birthday, that’s all. Did you know it was my birthday, Ben?

BEN (_carelessly_)

  Is it? I shoveled them damned paths!

  [_He crosses and sits by fire._

JANE

  Ella’s going into the dressmaking business, Ben.

BEN (_moodily_)

  What of it?

ELLA

  That’s what I say. It ain’t much of a business.

  [_She exits at right; outside it grows to dusk._

JANE

  Are you tired?

BEN

  Maybe.

  [_He stretches his feet out toward fire._

JANE

  You’ve done a lot of work to-day.

BEN

  And every day.

JANE

  I don’t suppose you know how much good it’s done you, how well you
  look!

BEN

  Beauty’s only skin deep.

JANE

  Folks change, even in a few weeks, outside and in. Hard work don’t
  hurt anybody.

BEN

  I got chilblains on my feet. The damned shoes are stiffer than they
  ever was.

JANE

  Icebound, you said. Maybe it don’t have to be like that. Sometimes,
  just lately, it’s seemed to me that if folks would try, things
  needn’t be so bad. All of ’em try, I mean, for themselves, and for
  everybody else.

BEN

  If I was you, I’d go out somewheres and hire a hall.

JANE

  If you’d put some pork fat on those shoes to-night, your feet
  wouldn’t hurt so bad.

BEN

  Maybe.

  [_He sits looking moodily into the fire. After a moment’s hesitation,
  Jane crosses and sits in the chair beside his, the evening shadows
  deepen around them but the glow from the fire lights their faces._

JANE

  I’m lonesome to-night. We always made a lot of birthdays when I was a
  girl.

BEN

  Some do.

JANE

  Your mother didn’t. She found me once trying, the day I was fifteen.
  I remember how she laughed at me.

BEN

  All the Jordans have got a sense of humor.

JANE

  She wasn’t a Jordan, not until she married your father.

BEN

  When a woman marries into a family, she mostly shuts her eyes and
  jumps in all over.

JANE

  Your mother was the best of the whole lot of you. Anyway, I think so.

BEN

  I _know_ it. I always thought a lot of her, in spite of our being
  relations.

JANE

  She loved you, Ben.

BEN

  She left me without a dollar, knowin’ I was going to State’s Prison,
  and what I’d be by the time I get out.

JANE

  Maybe some day you’ll understand why she did it.

BEN

  Because she thought you’d take better care of the money than any of
  the rest of us.

JANE

  And you hate me because of that, the way all the rest of the Jordans
  do?

BEN

  Sometimes.

JANE (_sadly_)

  I suppose it’s natural.

BEN

  But I ain’t such a fool as Henry, and the women folks. They think
  you took advantage and fooled her into what she did. I thought so at
  first, now I don’t.

JANE

  What do you think now, Ben?

BEN

  She’d watched you; she knew you were worth mor’n all of us in a lump.
  I know it, too, but some way it riles me worse than if you wasn’t.

JANE

  That’s silly!

BEN (_with growing resentment_)

  Don’t you suppose I know what you’ve been doin’ to me. Tryin’ to make
  a man of me. Tryin’ to help me. Standing up to me and fightin’ me
  every day, tryin’ to teach me to be decent. Workin’ over me like I
  was a baby, or somethin’, and you was tryin’ to teach me how to walk.
  Gettin’ me so upset that every time I don’t do what I ought to do, I
  get all het up inside; I never was so damned uncomfortable in all my
  life.

JANE

  And I never was so happy.

BEN

  I s’pose God knew what he was about when he made women.

JANE

  Of course he did.

BEN

  Anyhow, he gave ’em the best of it, all right.

JANE

  You don’t mean that! You _can’t_!

BEN

  I do. Let a man get miserable, and he is miserable. A woman ain’t
  really happy no other way.

JANE

  Maybe you think I’m having an easier time right now than you are.

BEN

  I know it.

JANE

  They all hate me, and they all want something, all the time. I can’t
  say yes, and it’s hard to always say no. Then there’s the farm, big,
  and poor, and all worked out. The Jordans have been taking their
  living out of this soil for more than a hundred years, and never
  putting anything back.

BEN

  Just themselves, that’s all.

JANE

  Worked right, like they do out West, this place could be what it
  ought to be. How can I do that; it needs a man.

BEN

  I been thinkin’ lately things could be done a whole lot different.

JANE

  By a man, if he loved the old place-- You Jordans robbed this soil
  always. Suppose one of you tried to pay it back--it would mean work
  and money, for a couple of years maybe, then I guess you’d see what
  gratitude meant.

BEN

  It could be done; it ought to be.

JANE

  By you, Ben!

BEN

  No--I guess I ain’t got the judgment.

JANE

  You’ve got it, if you’d learn to use it.

BEN

  Anyhow, I’ve got just a month, that’s all.

JANE

  Maybe you’ll have more.

BEN

  I’m as good as convicted as I sit here. I’ve only got a month.

JANE

  Then help me for that month. We could plan how to start out in the
  spring. I’ve got books that will help us, and I can get more. We
  could do a lot!

BEN

  I don’t know but what we could!

JANE (_bends toward him_)

  Will you shake hands on it?

  [_She offers her hand._

BEN (_surprised_)

  What for?

JANE

  Oh, just because we never have.

BEN

  We ain’t goin’ to change _everything_, are we?

JANE

  One thing. We’re going to be friends.

BEN (_takes her hand awkwardly_)

  You’re a good sport, game as a man, gamer maybe.

JANE

  And now for the surprise.

BEN

  The what!

JANE (_draws her hand away and rises_)

  You’ll see. I want you to sit right here, until I open those doors.

  [_She points to doors to dining room._

BEN

  I wasn’t thinkin’ of movin’.

JANE

  Just sit right there.

BEN

  And do what?

JANE

  Think.

BEN

  What of?

JANE

  Oh, anything--so long as it’s pleasant--of the spring that’s
  coming----

BEN

  In the prison down at Thomaston.

JANE

  Of France then, of the family that was so good to you--of the
  beautiful lady--of the daughter, if you want to, the one that was
  most grown up--and of the wonderful blue dress. Just shut your eyes
  and think, ’til I come back!

  [_She exits through doors to dining room and closes the doors after
  her. Ben sits in glow from the fire, his eyes closed. In a moment the
  door at right is thrown open and Nettie stands in the doorway, the
  light from the hall falling on her. She has on Jane’s blue dress and
  is radiant with youth and excitement._

NETTIE

  Ben! Look at me! Look, Ben!

BEN

  What?

NETTIE

  Look Ben!

  [_He looks at her and for a moment sits in stupid wonder, then rises
  slowly to his feet._

BEN

  It’s--It’s Nettie!

NETTIE

  Did you ever see anything so lovely, did you?

BEN

  You’re--you’re a woman, Nettie!

NETTIE

  Of course I am, you stupid!

BEN (_crosses down to her_)

  God! How I’ve starved for somethin’ pretty to look at! God! How I’ve
  starved for it!

NETTIE

  That’s why I came down, I wanted you to see! I waited there in the
  hall till she went out.

BEN

  And you’ve been here all the time, and I haven’t so much as looked at
  you!

NETTIE (_softly_)

  You’ve been in trouble, Ben!

BEN

  I’ll get out of that somehow! I’m going to make a fight. I ain’t
  goin’ to let ’em take me now.

NETTIE

  Honest, Ben?

BEN

  Not now. Oh, you pretty kid! You pretty little thing!

  [_He catches her fiercely in his arms._

NETTIE

  You mustn’t, Ben!

BEN (_triumphant_)

  Mustn’t! You don’t know me!

NETTIE

  Just one then! (_She holds up her lips, and as he kisses her
  ardently, the dining-room doors back of them open and Jane stands
  in the doorway, looking at them. She has removed her apron and has
  made some poor attempt at dressing up. Back of her we see the table
  bravely spread for the festive birthday party. There is a large
  turkey and other special dishes, and a round cake on which blaze
  twenty-two tiny candles. They turn their heads, startled, as Jane
  looks at them, and Ben tightens his arms defiantly about Nettie_) Let
  me go!

BEN (_holding her and looking past her to Jane_) No! (_Then to Jane_)
  Why are you looking at me like that?

NETTIE

  Let me go.

BEN (_to Jane_)

  To hell with your dream of grubbing in the dirt. Now I know what I
  want, and I’m going to get it.

NETTIE

  Let go, dear. (_She draws away_) I’m ashamed about wearin’ your
  dress, Cousin Jane. I’ll take it right off.

JANE

  You needn’t. I guess I don’t want it any more. (_For the first time
  her eyes leave Ben’s face. She turns and steps past them to the door
  at right and calls_) Supper’s ready, Ella!

  [_Hannah enters at back in dining room with a plate of hot biscuits._


  CURTAIN



  ACT III


  _Scene: Same as Act One. Parlor at the Jordans’, two months later._

  _At rise the characters are grouped exactly as they were at the
  opening of the play. The white slip covers, however, have been
  removed from the chairs, and the backing through the window shows
  partly melted snow drifts. Henry sighs; the clock strikes two. Henry
  looks at his watch._

  _There is a pause. The outside door slams and Ben enters and looks
  about._

BEN

  Well--here we all are again.

SADIE (_sadly_)

  Yes.

HENRY

  I ain’t been in this room before since the funeral.

SADIE

  And I ain’t, and the last time before that was when father died.

EMMA

  I sat right here, in the same chair I’m settin’ in now, but to your
  grandfather’s funeral, right after I married Henry, I was treated
  like one of the poor relations! I had to stand up.

HENRY

  I remember; it made considerable trouble.

ELLA

  I don’t know as it was ever what I called a cheerful room.

HENRY (_severely_)

  A parlor’s where a person’s supposed to sit and think of God, and you
  couldn’t expect it to be cheerful!

ELLA (_looks about_)

  Seems like we’d had trouble and disgrace enough in this family
  without her takin’ all the slip covers off of the chairs and sofa!

EMMA

  It ain’t _right_!

SADIE

  That Boston woman that’s building the house over on Elm Street ain’t
  so much as goin’ to have a parlor. I stopped her right on the street
  and asked her what she was plannin’ to do soon as the first of ’em
  died.

EMMA

  What did she say?

SADIE

  Said she tried not to think about such things.

HENRY (_sternly_)

  We got Atheists enough in this town right now.

BEN

  Well, if Jane’s coming I wish she’d come; this ain’t exactly my idea
  of pleasant company.

ELLA

  She says we’re all to wait in here for Judge Bradford.

SADIE

  What did she send for us for?

ELLA

  I don’t know.

EMMA

  Why didn’t you ask her?

ELLA

  I did, and she most bit my head off.

BEN

  She most bites mine off every time I see her. I must say she’s
  changed, Jane has; she ain’t the same girl at all she was a few weeks
  ago.

NETTIE

  She’s actin’ just awful, especially to me!

SADIE

  Of course, I’d be the last one to say anything against her, but----

BEN

  But nothin’! There ain’t one of you here fit to tie her shoes!

SADIE

  _We_ ain’t?

BEN

  And I ain’t! The only difference between us is I ain’t worth much and
  I know it, and you ain’t worth nothin’ and you don’t.

EMMA

  I guess you’d better be careful how you talk!

NETTIE

  If anybody says anything about Jane lately, that’s the way he always
  talks! The worse she treats him the better he seems to like it.

SADIE

  Well, I don’t know as I’m surprised more about his insultin’ the
  rest of us, but it’s sort of comical his talkin’ that way about you,
  Nettie.

EMMA

  Nettie! What’s Nettie got to do with him?

SADIE

  Oh! Excuse me! I didn’t know ’twas supposed to be a secret.

EMMA

  What is?

SADIE

  About the way those two have been carryin’ on together!

HENRY

  What!

ELLA

  Ben and Nettie!

NETTIE (_afraid_)

  Stop her, Ben, can’t you?

BEN

  If I knew a way to stop women like her I’d patent it and get rich!

EMMA (_sternly_)

  Him and Nettie?

SADIE

  They passed my house together _once_ a week ago Wednesday, _once_ the
  Tuesday before that, and _twice_ the Sunday after New Year’s.

HENRY

  Together!

SADIE

  And Eben Tilden’s boy told Abbie Palsey that Tilly Hickson heard
  Aaron Hamlin say he’d seen ’em together at the picture show!

HENRY (_to Ben_)

  Is it true?

EMMA

  You’ve been with him after all I told you!

BEN

  It ain’t going to hurt her none just to talk to me, is it?

EMMA

  Them that touches pitch gets defiled!

HENRY (_to Nettie_)

  I want you to tell me everything that’s took place between you two.

SADIE

  Wait!

HENRY

  What?

SADIE

  Orin! Leave the room!

NETTIE

  He don’t have to leave the room. I don’t care who knows what happened!

HENRY

  Go on then.

NETTIE

  Well--Ben and I--We--Just for a few days--anyway, it was all his
  fault.

BEN

  She threw me down because I was going to prison.

NETTIE

  He said he’d get out of it somehow, but he can’t, and I just won’t
  have folks laughing at me!

BEN

  It’s all right, it never meant nothin’ to her, and I guess it didn’t
  mean much to me. It’s just as well it’s over.

NETTIE

  It’s a whole lot better.

HENRY

  Well--what’s passed is passed. Folks that plant the wind reap the
  whirlwind! There’s no use cryin’ over spilled milk.

ORIN

  Say, Mum! What do you s’pose Uncle Henry thinks he means when he says
  things?

HENRY

  Somehow I can’t help wishin’ you was my son for just about five
  minutes.

  [_Hannah and Judge Bradford enter._

HANNAH

  They’re all in here, Judge.

JUDGE

  Good afternoon.

HENRY

  How are you, Judge?

SADIE

  It’s a mild day; winter’s most over. Stop scratching yourself.

  [_This last to Orin who seems to be uneasy and frequently scratches
  himself._

HANNAH (_at door_)

  I’ll tell her you’re here, Judge. She’ll be right down.

  [_Hannah exits._

ELLA

  Won’t you sit?

JUDGE

  Thanks.

  [_He sits by table._

HENRY

  What’s it about? Why did she say we was to all be here at two o’clock?

JUDGE

  She will probably be able to answer that question herself, Ben.

SADIE (_to Orin_)

  Don’t.

ORIN

  What?

SADIE

  Scratch!

ORIN

  Oh.

  [_Jane enters. The Judge rises._

JUDGE

  Well, Jane?

JANE

  Don’t get up, Judge.

JUDGE

  Will you sit here?

  [_Judge turns to get a chair for Jane. Orin scratches himself. Ella
  rises._

ELLA

  What is the matter with this brat?

ORIN

  I itch!

SADIE

  It’s warm, and he’s got on his heavy flannels! He’s as clean as you
  are!

  [_Jane and Judge sit._

BEN

  You said to heat this room up and wait here for you and the Judge.
  Why? I got my stock to tend.

HENRY

  It’s a bad time for me to get away from the store; What was it you
  wanted of us?

JANE

  I’m afraid it isn’t going to be easy to tell you.

JUDGE

  Won’t you let me do it, Jane?

JANE

  No. I’ve come to know that your mother didn’t really want that I
  should have the Jordan money.

SADIE

  What’s that?

JANE

  I put it as simply as I could.

BEN

  You mean a later will’s been found?

JUDGE

  No.

JANE

  In a way, Judge, it’s like there had. Your mother left me a letter
  dated later than the will.

ELLA

  Leavin’ the money different?

JANE

  Tellin’ what she really wanted.

BEN

  Well, what did she want?

JANE

  It was like she left me all her money in trust, so I could keep it
  safe until the time she was hopin’ for come, and in a way it did
  come, not quite like she wanted it, but near enough so I can give up
  a burden I haven’t strength enough to carry any more.

  [_She stops._

JUDGE

  Let me finish, Jane. Jane has asked me to draw a deed of gift, making
  the Jordan property over to Ben.

BEN

  Why?

JANE

  She wanted you to have it.

BEN

  Why didn’t she will it to me, then?

JANE

  She was afraid to trust you.

BEN

  Well?

JANE

  You’ve learned to work; you’ll keep on working.

HENRY

  You mean to say my mother wanted him to have it all?

JANE

  Yes.

HENRY

  I am a religious man, but there was a time when even Job gave up!
  So--all our money goes to Ben--and he can’t even buy himself out of
  prison!

JANE (_after a pause_)

  Ben isn’t going to prison.

BEN

  Why? Who’s to stop it?

JUDGE (_after a look from Jane_)

  Kimbal agreed not to press the charge against you. It seems that
  there were certain extenuating circumstances. A motion has been made
  for the dismissal of the indictment, and it won’t be opposed.

BEN

  Why did he? Who fixed this thing.

JANE

  Judge Bradford did.

  [_She looks at Judge._

BEN (_slowly_)

  It means a lot to me. There’s things I’d like to do. I haven’t dared
  to think about ’em lately--now I’ll do ’em.

  [_There is a pause._

HENRY

  Well, Ben, so you’ve got the money! I guess maybe it’s better than
  her havin’ it; after all blood’s thicker than water! We’ll help you
  any way we can and--er--of course you’ll help us.

BEN

  Why will I?

HENRY

  We’re brothers, Ben! We’re old Jordans!

BEN

  What was we when I got back from France? There was a band met us boys
  at the station. I was your brother all right that day, only somehow,
  in just a little while you forgot about it. I was a Jordan when I was
  hidin’ out from the police, and all that kept me from starvin’ was
  the money Jane sent me! I was your brother the night mother died, and
  you said you wouldn’t go my bail.

ELLA

  You ain’t going to be hard, Ben!

BEN

  I’m the head of the family now, ain’t I, and you can bet all you’ve
  got I’m going to be a real Jordan.

HENRY

  I think, Ben----

BEN

  From now on, there ain’t nobody got any right to think in this house
  but just me! So run along home, the whole pack of you, and after
  this, when you feel like you must come here--come separate.

ELLA

  Turn us out, Ben?

BEN

  Sure, why not?

NETTIE (_crosses to him. Sweetly_)

  There ain’t any reason why _we_ can’t be friends, is there?

BEN

  Well, I don’t know. There’s only one way I could ever get to trust
  you.

NETTIE

  What way, Ben?

BEN

  I’d have to go to jail for five years and see if you’d wait for me!

EMMA

  It’s an awful thing for a mother to have a fool for a child.

ELLA (_goes upstage with Nettie_)

  Well, I must say you made a nice mess of things!

NETTIE (_exits with Ella_)

  Well, I don’t care! I don’t see how anybody would expect me to be a
  mind reader!

SADIE

  Come, Orin--say good-by to your Uncle Ben.

ORIN

  What will I do that for?

SADIE

  Because I tell you to!

ORIN

  Yesterday you told me he wasn’t worth speakin’ to!

SADIE

  Are you going to move, you stupid little idiot.

  [_She drags him out._

ORIN (_as they go_)

  What did I say? You let me alone!

HENRY

  I was wonderin’, Ben, how you’d feel about endorsing that note of
  mine.

BEN

  You was?

HENRY

  Yes, I don’t know what I’m going to do about it.

BEN

  As far as I care, you can go nail it on a door. (_Henry and Emma
  start to exit_) No, hold on, I’ll pay it.

HENRY

  You will!

BEN

  Yes, I don’t know as it would do me much good at the bank, havin’ a
  brother of mine in the poorhouse.

  [_Ben laughs as Henry and Emma exit._

JUDGE

  Well, Ben? “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

BEN (_down to stove_)

  Depends on the head. Mine’s thick, I guess. Anyhow, none of them is
  going to bother it. I’m boss here now.

JUDGE

  You’ll find a copy here of the inventory of the estate, and other
  legal papers. Everything is in order.

JANE

  And my accounts, Ben; you’ll find the exact amount your mother left.
  I spent some money about six weeks ago, on myself, but I’ve been
  careful ever since and I’ve made up for it.

BEN

  You said, Judge, she didn’t have to go by that letter of my mother’s,
  if she didn’t want to? She didn’t have to give anything back at all?

JUDGE

  No, she didn’t.

BEN

  Then if I was you--(_to Jane_) I wouldn’t talk so much about the
  little you spent on yourself. I guess to look at you it wasn’t much.

JANE

  Yes, it was.

BEN

  Well, we’ll fix things so you can keep on spendin’. Only let’s see
  somethin’ come of it. I never was so damned sick of anything in my
  life as I am of that old black dress of yours!

  [_Crosses stage up and over right._

JANE

  I’ve got plenty of clothes upstairs. I’m sorry now I ever bought
  them, but I’ll take them with me when I go.

BEN

  Go? Go where?

JANE

  To Old Town. I’ve got a place there, clerking in the Pulp Mill.

BEN

  You!

JANE

  Yes.

BEN

  But what about me?

JUDGE

  Don’t you think Jane has done about enough for you?

BEN

  She’s done a lot, she’s given up the money. I don’t know as I like
  that; ’course I like gettin’ it, but not if she’s going away.

JANE

  I couldn’t stay now, and I wouldn’t want to.

BEN

  I don’t suppose you remember about plannin’ what you and me was to do
  with this old farm?

JANE

  I remember.

BEN

  Well--then what are you going away for?

JANE

  Because I couldn’t be happy here, Ben--It’s been harder than anything
  I ever thought could come to anybody, the last few weeks here--and so
  I’m going. (_She turns to Judge_) I’ll go upstairs and get my things.
  I’ll stop at your office, Judge, on the way to the station.

JUDGE

  Thank you, Jane.

BEN

  You’re goin’ to-day? Before I order my new farm machinery or
  anything? You’re goin’ to leave me with all this work on my hands?

JANE

  Yes, Ben.

  [_She exits._

BEN

  Well--that’s a lesson to me! Oh, she’s a good woman! I ain’t denyin’
  that--but she’s fickle!

JUDGE

  You’re a fool, Ben!

BEN

  I been doin’ kitchen police around this town for quite a spell now,
  Judge, but from this day on I ain’t goin’ to take that sort of talk
  from anybody.

JUDGE

  I assure you that you won’t have to take any sort of talk at all from
  me.

  [_He starts for the door._

BEN

  I didn’t mean that. I don’t want you to think I ain’t grateful for
  all you’ve done for me.

JUDGE (_coldly_)

  I have done nothing for you.

BEN

  If it wasn’t for you, I’d want to die; that’s what I did want. I was
  afraid of that prison, just a coward about it. Now I’m a free man,
  with a big life openin’ out ahead of me--I got everything in the
  world right here in my two hands, everything--and I owe it to you!

JUDGE

  I am very glad to say that you don’t owe me anything. I don’t like
  you, I haven’t forgiven you for what you did to your mother’s life.
  Nor for a worse thing, one you haven’t brains enough to even know
  you’ve done. Don’t be grateful to me, Ben, please. I think nothing
  could distress me more than that.

BEN

  You’ve been a good friend to me.

JUDGE

  I haven’t meant to be, as I said I don’t like you. I haven’t any
  faith in you. I don’t believe in this new life of yours. You made a
  mess of the old one, and I think you will of the new.

BEN

  No matter what you say, you can’t get away from me. I’ll be grateful
  till I die. But for you I’d have gone to that damned prison!

JUDGE

  But for Jane.

BEN

  How Jane?

JUDGE

  How Jane? Jane went your bond the day your mother died. Jane took
  you in and taught you how to work, made you work, taught you
  through the one decent spot in you something of a thing you’d never
  know, self-respect. Worked over you, petted you, coaxed you--held
  you up--Then you hurt her--but she kept on--She went herself to
  Kimbal, after he had refused me, and got his help to keep you out
  of prison--then, against my will, against the best that I could
  do to stop her, she turns over all this to you--and goes out with
  nothing--and you ask “How Jane?”

BEN

  Why? Why has she done this, all this, for me?

  [_The Judge looks at Ben with contempt and turns and exits. Ben is
  left in deep thought. Jane comes downstairs dressed for a journey
  with a hand bag, etc. She enters._

JANE

  Good-by, Ben. (_She crosses to him, her hand out_) Good-by. Won’t you
  say good-by?

BEN

  First, there’s some things I got to know about.

JANE (_smiles_)

  I guess there’s not much left for us to say, Ben.

BEN (_she crosses to door, but he gets ahead of her_)

  There’s things I got to know. (_She looks at him but does not speak_)
  The Judge tells me ’twas you got Kimbal to let me go free. (_He looks
  at her--she half turns away_) Answer me. (_Pause_) The Judge tells
  me you gave up what was yours--to me--without no other reason than
  because you wanted me to have it. That’s true, ain’t it? (_Pause_)
  You sent me every cent you had, when you knew mother was dying, then
  you went bail for me, like he said--and did all them other things. I
  don’t know as any woman ever did any more--. I want to know why!

JANE

  Why do you think?

BEN

  I don’t know--I sort of thought--sort of hoped----

JANE (_bravely_)

  It was because I loved her, Ben----

BEN

  Oh.

  [_He turns away disappointed._

JANE

  You’re forgetting, I guess, how long we was alone here--when you was
  in France--then the months we didn’t know where you was, when the
  police was looking for you--She used to make me promise if ever I
  could I’d help you.

BEN

  Well--all I’ve got to say is you’re no liar.

JANE

  Good-by.

  [_She turns to go._

BEN

  Wait. (_Closes door_) Let’s see that letter you said she left for you.

JANE

  No. I won’t do that. I’ve done enough; you’re free, you’ve got the
  money and the farm.

BEN (_crosses in front of table and sits left of table_) They ain’t
  worth a damn with you gone--I didn’t know that till just now, but
  they ain’t.

JANE

  It’s sort of sudden, the way you found that out.

BEN

  Oh, it don’t take long for a man to get hungry--it only takes just a
  minute for a man to die; you can burn down a barn quick enough, or
  do a murder; it’s just living and getting old that takes a lot of
  time--Can’t you stay here, Jane?

JANE

  There’s Nettie.

BEN

  Nettie--that couldn’t stand the gaff--that run out on me when I was
  in trouble.

JANE

  It doesn’t matter what folks do, if you love ’em enough.

BEN

  What do you know about it? I suppose you’ve been in love a lot of
  times?

JANE

  No.

BEN

  Then you be quiet and let an expert talk. I was lonesome and I wanted
  a woman; she was pretty and I wanted to kiss her--that ain’t what I
  call love.

JANE

  You. You don’t even know the meaning of the word.

BEN

  That don’t worry me none--I guess the feller that wrote the
  dictionary was a whole lot older’n I am before he got down to the L’s.

JANE

  You’ve got good in you, Ben, deep down, if you’d only try. (_Ben
  turns_) I know, it’s always been that way! You’ve never tried for
  long; you’ve never had a real ambition.

BEN

  When I was a kid I wanted to spit farther than anybody.

JANE

  Good-by.

  [_She starts up to door._

BEN

  And so you’re going to break your word?

JANE (_hurt--turns_)

BEN

  I don’t know what ’twas you promised mother, but you’ve broke your
  word. No man ever needed a woman more’n I need you, and you’re
  leaving me.

JANE

  That isn’t fair.

BEN

  It’s true, ain’t it; truth ain’t always fair--You ain’t helped me
  none, you’ve hurt me--worse than being broke, worse than bein’ in
  jail.

JANE

  It don’t seem like I could stand to have you talk like that.

BEN

  What you done you done for her. I didn’t count, I never have, not
  with you.

JANE

  When you’ve been trying to do a thing as long as I have, it gets to
  be a part of you.

BEN

  You done it all for her--well--she’s dead--you’d better go.

JANE

  Maybe I had, but if I do it will be with the truth between us. Here’s
  the letter she left for me, Ben--I got a feeling somehow like she
  was here with us now, like she wanted you to read it. (_She holds it
  out_) It’s like she was guiding us from the grave--Read it.

  [_Crosses up to window._

BEN (_reads_)

  “My dear Jane: The doctor tells me I haven’t long to live and so I
  am doing this, the meanest thing I think I’ve ever done to you. I’m
  leaving you the Jordan money. Since my husband died there has been
  just one person I could get to care about, that’s Ben, who was my
  baby so long after all the others had forgotten how to love me.” (_He
  mumbles the letter to himself, then brings out the words_) “Hold out
  her heart and let him trample on it, as he has on mine.”

  [_Slowly he breaks down, sobbing bitterly._

JANE

  Don’t, Ben----

BEN

  Look what I done to her. Look what I done.

JANE (_hand on his shoulder_)

  Oh, my dear--my dear!

BEN

  I did love her, mor’n she thought, mor’n I ever knew how to tell her!

JANE (_kneels beside him_)

  It wasn’t all your fault--you were a lonely boy--she never said
  much--she was like you, Ben, ashamed to show the best that’s in you.

BEN (_bitterly_)

  The best in me. I ain’t fit that you should touch me Jane--you’d
  better go.

JANE

  Not if you need me, Ben, and I think you do.

BEN

  I love you--mor’n I ever thought I could--tenderer--truer--but I’m no
  good--You couldn’t trust me--I couldn’t trust myself.

JANE

  Spring’s coming, Ben, everywhere, to you and me, if you would only
  try.

BEN

  Can a feller change--Just ’cause he wants to?

JANE

  I don’t want you changed. I want you what you are, the best of
  you--just a man that loves me--if you do love me, Ben.

BEN

  Can’t you help me to be fit?

JANE

  I’m going to do the thing I always meant to do--Good times and bad,
  Ben, I’m going to share with you.

BEN

  God knows I----

JANE

  Hush, Ben--I don’t want another promise.

BEN

  What do you want?

JANE

  You said I was a good sport once--You shook hands on what we’d do to
  bring this old place back--there’s plenty to be done. I’ll stay and
  help you if you want me.

BEN

  A good sport? (_He takes her hand_) I’ll say you’re all of that.

  [_Hannah enters._

HANNAH

  If you ain’t careful you’ll miss that train.

JANE

  That’s just what I want to do.

HANNAH

  You ain’t going?

JANE

  I’m never going, Hannah.

HANNAH

  You going to marry him?

BEN

  You bet your life she is!

HANNAH

  I guess you’ll be mighty happy--marriage changes folks--and any
  change in him will be a big improvement.

  [_She picks up Jane’s bag and exits--Jane and Ben laugh._



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:


  Italicized text is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.





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