EBEN is twenty-five, tall and sinewy. His face is well-formed, good-looking, but its expression is resentful and defensive. He has black hair, mustache, a thin curly trace of beard. He is dressed in rough farm clothes.
SIMEON is thirty-nine
Ephraim CABOT - is seventy-five, tall and gaunt, with great, wiry, concentrated power, but stoop-shouldered from toil. His face is as hard as if it were hewn out of a boulder, yet there is a weakness in it, a petty pride in its own narrow strength. His eyes are small, close together, and extremely near-sighted, blinking continually in the effort to focus on objects, their stare having a straining, ingrowing quality.
Abbie is thirty-five, buxom, full of vitality. Her round face is pretty but marred by its rather gross sensuality. There is strength and obstinacy in her jaw, a hard determination in her eyes, and about her whole personality the same unsettled, untamed, desperate quality which is so apparent in Eben
PETER--He's slaved himself t' death. He's slaved Sim 'n' me 'n' yew t' death--on'y none o' us hain't died--yit.
EBEN--Waal--thar's a star, an' somewhar's they's him, an' here's me, an' thar's Min up the road--in the same night. What if I does kiss her? She's like t'night, she's soft 'n' wa'm, her eyes kin wink like a star, her mouth's wa'm, her arms're wa'm, she smells like a wa'm plowed field, she's purty . . . Ay-eh! By God A'mighty she's purty, an' I don't give a damn how many sins she's sinned afore mine or who she's sinned 'em with, my sin's as purty as any one on 'em! (He strides off down the road to the left.)
EBEN--(defiantly) Up t' Min's. (then slowly) Walkin' thar, fust I felt 's if I'd kiss her; then I got a-thinkin' o' what ye'd said o' him an' her an' I says, I'll bust her nose fur that! Then I got t' the village an' heerd the news an' I got madder'n hell an' run all the way t' Min's not knowin' what I'd do--(He pauses--then sheepishly but more defiantly) Waal--when I seen her, I didn't hit her--nor I didn't kiss her nuther--I begun t' beller like a calf an' cuss at the same time, I was so durn mad--an' she got scared--an' I jest grabbed holt an' tuk her! (proudly) Yes, siree! I tuk her. She may've been his'n--an' your'n, too--but she's mine now!
EBEN--What do I care fur her--'ceptin' she's round an' wa'm? The p'int is she was his'n--an' now she b'longs t' me! (He goes to the door--then turns--rebelliously) An' Min hain't sech a bad un. They's worse'n Min in the world, I'll bet ye! Wait'll we see this cow the Old Man's hitched t'! She'll beat Min, I got a notion! (He starts to go out.
SIMEON--Nor till we've tested it's good money! (then with a grin) But if Paw's hitched we'd be sellin' Eben somethin' we'd never git nohow!
SIMEON--(imitating his father's voice) "I'm ridin' out t' learn God's message t' me in the spring like the prophets done," he says. I'll bet right then an' thar he knew plumb well he was goin' whorin', the stinkin' old hypocrite!
SIMEON--Waal--let dog eat dog! (Eben comes out of front door and around the corner of the house. The sky is beginning to grow flushed with sunrise. Eben stops by the gate and stares around him with glowing, possessive eyes. He takes in the whole farm with his embracing glance of desire.)
PETER--They's gold in the West--an' freedom, mebbe. We been slaves t' stone walls here.
ABBIE--(her voice taking possession) A woman's got t' hev a hum!
SIMEON--(with his sardonic burst of laughter) Ha! Eben's a chip o' yew--spit 'n' image--hard 'n' bitter's a hickory tree! Dog'll eat dog. He'll eat ye yet, old man!
SIMEON--We're free, old man--free o' yew an' the hull damned farm! (They grow more and more hilarious and excited.)
CABOT--(grimly--without looking up) Our'n! (She cannot control a grimace of aversion and pulls back her head slowly and shuts the window. A sudden horrible thought seems to enter Cabot's head.) They been up to somethin'! Mebbe--mebbe they've pizened the stock--'r somethin'! (He almost runs off down toward the barn. A moment later the kitchen door is slowly pushed open and Abbie enters. For a moment she stands looking at Eben. He does not notice her at first. Her eyes take him in penetratingly with a calculating appraisal of his strength as against hers. But under this her desire is dimly awakened by his youth and good looks. Suddenly he becomes conscious of her presence and looks up. Their eyes meet. He leaps to his feet, glowering at her speechlessly.)
EBEN--(with bitter scorn) Ha! (They stare again, Eben obscurely moved, physically attracted to her--in forced stilted tones) Yew kin go t' the devil!
ABBIE--(calmly) If cussin' me does ye good, cuss all ye've a mind t'. I'm all prepared t' have ye agin me--at fust. I don't blame ye nuther. I'd feel the same at any stranger comin' t' take my Maw's place. (He shudders. She is watching him carefully.) Yew must've cared a lot fur yewr Maw, didn't ye? My Maw died afore I'd growed. I don't remember her none. (a pause) But yew won't hate me long, Eben. I'm not the wust in the world--an' yew an' me've got a lot in common. I kin tell that by lookin' at ye. Waal--I've had a hard life, too--oceans o' trouble an' nuthin' but wuk fur reward. I was a orphan early an' had t' wuk fur others in other folks' hums. Then I married an' he turned out a drunken spreer an' so he had to wuk fur others an' me too agen in other folks' hums, an' the baby died, an' my husband got sick an' died too, an' I was glad sayin' now I'm free fur once, on'y I diskivered right away all I was free fur was t' wuk agen in other folks' hums, doin' other folks' wuk till I'd most give up hope o' ever doin' my own wuk in my own hum, an' then your Paw come. . . .
ABBIE--(with a cool laugh of confidence) Yewr'n? We'll see 'bout that! (then strongly) Waal--what if I did need a hum? What else'd I marry an old man like him fur?
ABBIE--(walks up to him--a queer coarse expression of desire in her face and body--slowly) An' upstairs--that be my bedroom--an' my bed! (He stares into her eyes, terribly confused and torn. She adds softly) I hain't bad nor mean--'ceptin' fur an enemy--but I got t' fight fur what's due me out o' life, if I ever 'spect t' git it. (then putting her hand on his arm--seductively) Let's yew 'n' me be frens, Eben.
CABOT--(raising his arms to heaven in the fury he can no longer control) Lord God o' Hosts, smite the undutiful sons with Thy wust cuss!
EBEN--(breaking in violently) Yew 'n' yewr God! Allus cussin' folks--allus naggin' em!
CABOT--(oblivious to him--summoningly) God o' the old! God o' the lonesome!
EBEN--(mockingly) Naggin' His sheep t' sin! T' hell with yewr God! (Cabot turns. He and Eben glower at each other.)
CABOT--(thinks a moment--then reluctantly) No, I calc'late not. (after a pause--with a strange passion) But if I could, I would, by the Etarnal! 'R if I could, in my dyin' hour, I'd set it afire an' watch it burn--this house an' every ear o' corn an' every tree down t' the last blade o' hay! I'd sit an' know it was all a-dying with me an' no one else'd ever own what was mine, what I'd made out o' nothin' with my own sweat 'n' blood! (a pause--then he adds with a queer affection) 'Ceptin' the cows. Them I'd turn free.
But har's the p'int. What son o' mine'll keep on here t' the farm--when the Lord does call me? Simeon an' Peter air gone t' hell--an Eben's follerin' 'em.
CABOT--Ye're on'y a woman.
ABBIE--I'm yewr wife.
CABOT--That hain't me. A son is me--my blood--mine. Mine ought t' git mine. An' then it's still mine--even though I be six foot under. D'ye see?
CABOT--(suddenly raises his head and looks at her--scornfully) Will ye ever know me--'r will any man 'r woman? (shaking his head) No. I calc'late 'twa'n't t' be. (He turns away. Abbie look at the wall. Then, evidently unable to keep silent about his thoughts, without looking at his wife, he puts out his hand and clutches her knee. She starts violently, looks at him, sees he is not watching her, concentrates again on the wall and pays no attention to what he says.) Listen, Abbie. When I come here fifty odd year ago--I was jest twenty an' the strongest an' hardest ye ever seen--ten times as strong an' fifty times as hard as Eben. Waal--this place was nothin' but fields o' stones. Folks laughed when I tuk it. They couldn't know what I knowed. When ye kin make corn sprout out o' stones, God's livin' in yew! They wa'n't strong enuf fur that! They reckoned God was easy. They laughed. They don't laugh no more. Some died hereabouts. Some went West an' died. They're all under ground--fur follerin' arter an easy God. God hain't easy. (He shakes his head slowly.) An' I growed hard. Folks kept allus sayin' he's a hard man like 'twas sinful t' be hard, so's at last I said back at 'em: Waal then, by thunder, ye'll git me hard an' see how ye like it! (then suddenly) But I give in t' weakness once. 'Twas arter I'd been here two year. I got weak--despairful--they was so many stones. They was a party leavin', givin' up, goin' West. I jined 'em. We tracked on 'n' on. We come t' broad medders, plains, whar the soil was black an' rich as gold. Nary a stone. Easy. Ye'd on'y to plow an' sow an' then set an' smoke yer pipe an' watch thin's grow. I could o' been a rich man--but somethin' in me fit me an' fit me--the voice o' God sayin': "This hain't wuth nothin' t' Me. Git ye back t' hum!" I got afeerd o' that voice an' I lit out back t' hum here, leavin' my claim an' crops t' whoever'd a mind t' take em. Ay-eh. I actooly give up what was rightful mine! God's hard, not easy! God's in the stones! Build my church on a rock--out o' stones an' I'll be in them! That's what He meant t' Peter! (He sighs heavily--a pause.) Stones. I picked 'em up an' piled 'em into walls. Ye kin read the years o' my life in them walls, every day a hefted stone, climbin' over the hills up and down, fencin' in the fields that was mine, whar I'd made thin's grow out o' nothin'--like the will o' God, like the servant o' His hand. It wa'n't easy. It was hard an' He made me hard fur it. (He pauses.) All the time I kept gittin' lonesomer. I tuk a wife. She bore Simeon an' Peter. She was a good woman. She wuked hard. We was married twenty year. She never knowed me. She helped but she never knowed what she was helpin'. I was allus lonesome. She died. After that it wa'n't so lonesome fur a spell. (a pause) I lost count o' the years. I had no time t' fool away countin' 'em. Sim an' Peter helped. The farm growed. It was all mine! When I thought o' that I didn't feel lonesome. (a pause) But ye can't hitch yer mind t' one thin' day an' night. I tuk another wife--Eben's Maw. Her folks was contestin' me at law over my deeds t' the farm--my farm! That's why Eben keeps a-talkin' his fool talk o' this bein' his Maw's farm. She bore Eben. She was purty--but soft. She tried t' be hard. She couldn't. She never knowed me nor nothin'. It was lonesomer 'n hell with her. After a matter o' sixteen odd years, she died. (a pause) I lived with the boys. They hated me 'cause I was hard. I hated them 'cause they was soft. They coveted the farm without knowin' what it meant. It made me bitter 'n wormwood. It aged me--them coveting what I'd made fur mine. Then this spring the call come--the voice o' God cryin' in my wilderness, in my lonesomeness--t' go out an' seek an' find! (turning to her with strange passion) I sought ye an' I found ye! Yew air my Rose o' Sharon! Yer eyes air like. . . . (She has turned a blank face, resentful eyes to his. He stares at her for a moment--then harshly) Air ye any the wiser fur all I've told ye?
CABOT--(pushing her away from him--angrily) Ye don't know nothin'--nor never will. If ye don't hev a son t' redeem ye . . . ! (This in a tone of cold threat.)
CABOT--(queerly) Down whar it's restful--whar it's warm--down t' the barn. (bitterly) I kin talk t' the cows. They know. They know the farm an' me. They'll give me peace. (He turns to go out the door.)
ABBIE--(with a shrill laugh) Can't I? Did ye think I was in love with ye--a weak thin' like yew! Not much! I on'y wanted ye fur a purpose o' my own--an' I'll hev ye fur it yet 'cause I'm stronger'n yew be!
CABOT--(confusedly) I rested. I slept good--down with the cows. They know how t' sleep. They're teachin' me.
CABOT--(with a fierce exultation) T' hell with Eben! Eben's done fur now! I got a new son! (his mood switching with drunken suddenness) But ye needn't t' laugh at Eben, none o' ye! He's my blood, if he be a dumb fool. He's better nor any o' yew! He kin do a day's work a'most up t' what I kin--an' that'd put any o' yew pore critters t' shame!
FIDDLER--An' he kin do a good night's work, too! (a roar of laughter)
EBEN--(frowningly) I don't like this. I don't like lettin' on what's mine's his'n. I been doin' that all my life. I'm gittin' t' the end o' b'arin' it!
ABBIE--(with a shudder--humbly) He's yewr son, too, Eben.
EBEN--(torturedly) I wish he never was born! I wish he'd die this minit! I wish I'd never sot eyes on him! It's him--yew havin' him--a-purpose t' steal--that's changed everythin'!
ABBIE--(gently) Did ye believe I loved ye--afore he come?
EBEN--Ay-eh--like a dumb ox!
ABBIE--An' ye don't believe no more?
EBEN--B'lieve a lyin' thief! Ha!
ABBIE--(shudders--then humbly) An' did ye r'ally love me afore?
EBEN--(brokenly) Ay-eh--an' ye was trickin' me!
ABBIE--An' ye don't love me now!
EBEN--(violently) I hate ye, I tell ye!
ABBIE--An' ye're truly goin' West--goin't' leave me--all account o' him being born?
EBEN--I'm a-goin' in the mornin'--or may God strike me t' hell!
ABBIE--(after a pause--with a dreadful cold intensity--slowly) If that's what his comin's done t' me--killin' yewr love--takin' yew away--my on'y joy--the on'y joy I ever knowed--like heaven t' me--purtier'n heaven--then I hate him, too, even if I be his Maw!
EBEN--(his mood suddenly changing to horror, shrinks away from her) Don't ye tech me! Ye're pizen! How could ye--t' murder a pore little critter--Ye must've swapped yer soul t' hell! (suddenly raging) Ha! I kin see why ye done it! Not the lies ye jest told--but 'cause ye wanted t' steal agen--steal the last thin' ye'd left me--my part o' him--no, the hull o' him--ye saw he looked like me--ye knowed he was all mine--an' ye couldn't b'ar it--I know ye! Ye killed him fur bein' mine!
ABBIE--(shaking her head) I got t' take my punishment--t' pay fur my sin.
EBEN--Then I want t' share it with ye.
ABBIE--Ye didn't do nothin'.
EBEN--I put it in yer head. I wisht he was dead! I as much as urged ye t' do it!
ABBIE--No. It was me alone!
EBEN--I'm as guilty as yew be! He was the child o' our sin.
ABBIE--(lifting her head as if defying God) I don't repent that sin! I hain't askin' God t' fergive that!
EBEN--Nor me--but it led up t' the other--an' the murder ye did, ye did 'count o' me--an' it's my murder, too, I'll tell the Sheriff--an' if ye deny it, I'll say we planned it t'gether--an' they'll all b'lieve me, fur they suspicion everythin' we've done, an' it'll seem likely an' true to 'em. An' it is true--way down. I did help ye--somehow.
ABBIE--(laying her head on his--sobbing) No! I don't want yew t' suffer!
EBEN--I got t' pay fur my part o' the sin! An' I'd suffer wuss leavin' ye, goin' West, thinkin' o' ye day an' night, bein' out when yew was in--(lowering his voice) 'R bein' alive when yew was dead. (a pause) I want t' share with ye, Abbie--prison 'r death 'r hell 'r anythin'! (He looks into her eyes and forces a trembling smile.) If I'm sharin' with ye, I won't feel lonesome, leastways.
CABOT--(stares at them, his face hard. A long pause--vindictively) Ye make a slick pair o' murderin' turtle doves! Ye'd ought t' be both hung on the same limb an' left thar t' swing in the breeze an' rot--a warnin' t' old fools like me t' b'ar their lonesomeness alone--an' fur young fools like ye t' hobble their lust. (A pause. The excitement returns to his face, his eyes snap, he looks a bit crazy.) I couldn't work today. I couldn't take no interest. T' hell with the farm. I'm leavin' it! I've turned the cows an' other stock loose. I've druv 'em into the woods whar they kin be free! By freein' 'em, I'm freein' myself! I'm quittin' here today! I'll set fire t' house an' barn an' watch 'em burn, an' I'll leave yer Maw t' haunt the ashes, an' I'll will the fields back t' God, so that nothin' human kin never touch 'em! I'll be a-goin' to Californi-a--t' jine Simeon an' Peter--true sons o' mine if they be dumb fools--an' the Cabots'll find Solomon's Mines t'gether!
EBEN--I love ye, Abbie. (They kiss. The three men grin and shuffle embarrassedly. Eben takes Abbie's hand. They go out the door in rear, the men following, and come from the house, walking hand in hand to the gate. Eben stops there and points to the sunrise sky.) Sun's a-rizin'. Purty, hain't it?
ABBIE--Ay-eh. (They both stand for a moment looking up raptly in attitudes strangely aloof and devout.)
SHERIFF--(looking around at the farm enviously--to his companion) It's a jim-dandy farm, no denyin'. Wished I owned it!