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» The First Man

 

The First Man


SCENE-Living-room of CURTIS JAYSON'S house in Bridgetown, Conn. A large, comfortable room. On the left, an arm-chair, a big open fireplace, a writing desk with chair in far left corner. On this side there is also a door leading into CURTIS' study. In the rear, center, a double doorway opening on the hall and the entryway. Bookcases are built into the wall on both sides of this doorway. In the far right corner, a grand piano. Three large windows looking out on the lawn, and another arm-chair, front, are on this right side of the room. Opposite the fireplace is a couch, facing front. Opposite the windows on the right is a long table with magazines, reading lamp, etc. Four chairs are grouped about the table. The walls and ceiling are in a French gray color. A great rug covers most of the hardwood floor.



It is around four o'clock of a fine afternoon in early fall.



As the curtain rises, MARTHA, CURTIS and BIGELOW are discovered. MARTHA is a healthy, fine-looking woman of thirty-eight. She does not appear this age for her strenuous life in the open has kept her young and fresh. She possesses the frank, clear, direct quality of outdoors, outspoken and generous. Her wavy hair is a dark brown, her eyes blue-gray. CURTIS JAYSON is a tall, rangy, broad-shouldered man of thirty-seven. While spare, his figure has an appearance of rugged health, of great nervous strength held in reserve. His square-jawed, large-featured face retains an eager boyish enthusiasm in spite of its prevailing expression of thoughtful, preoccupied aloofness. His crisp dark hair is graying at the temples. EDWARD BIGELOW is a large, handsome man of thirty- nine. His face shows culture and tolerance, a sense of humor, a lazy unambitious contentment. CURTIS is reading an article in some scientific periodical, seated by the table. MARTHA and BIGELOW are sitting nearby, laughing and chatting.



BIGELOW-[Is talking with a comically worried but earnest air.] Do you know, I'm getting so I'm actually afraid to leave them alone with that governess. She's too romantic. I'll wager she's got a whole book full of ghost stories, superstitions, and yellow- journal horrors up her sleeve.



MARTHA-Oh, pooh! Don't go milling around for trouble. When I was a kid I used to get fun out of my horrors.



BIGELOW-But I imagine you were more courageous than most of us.



MARTHA-Why?



BIGELOW-Well, Nevada-the Far West at that time-I should think a child would have grown so accustomed to violent scenes-



MARTHA-[Smiling.]Oh, in the mining camps; but you don't suppose my father lugged me along on his prospecting trips, do you? Why, I never saw any rough scenes until I'd finished with school and went to live with father in Goldfield.



BIGELOW-[Smiling.]And then you met Curt.



MARTHA-Yes-but I didn't mean he was a rough scene. He was very mild even in those days. Do tell me what he was like at Cornell.



BIGELOW-A romanticist-and he still is!



MARTHA-[Pointing at CURTIS with gay mischief.]What! That sedate man! Never!



CURTIS-[Looking up and smiling at them both affectionately- lazily.]Don't mind him, Martha. He always was crazy.



BIGELOW-[To CURT-accusingly.]Why did you elect to take up mining engineering at Cornell instead of a classical degree at the Yale of your fathers and brothers? Because you had been reading Bret Harte in prep. school and mistaken him for a modern realist. You devoted four years to grooming yourself for another outcast of Poker Flat.[MARTHA laughs.]



CURTIS-[Grinning.]It was you who were hypnotized by Harte-so much so that his West of the past is still your blinded New England-movie idea of the West at present. But go on. What next?



BIGELOW-Next? You get a job as engineer in that Goldfield mine- but you are soon disillusioned by a laborious life where six- shooters are as rare as nuggets. You try prospecting. You find nothing but different varieties of pebbles. But it is necessary to your nature to project romance into these stones, so you go in strong for geology. As a geologist, you become a slave to the Romance of the Rocks. It is but a step from that to anthropology- the last romance of all. There you find yourself-because there is no further to go. You win fame as the most proficient of young skull-hunters-and wander over the face of the globe, digging up bones like an old dog.



CURTIS-[With a laugh.]The man is mad, Martha.



BIGELOW-Mad! What an accusation to come from one who is even now considering setting forth on a five-year excavating contest in search of the remains of our gibbering ancestor, the First Man!



CURTIS-[With sudden seriousness.]I'm not considering it any longer. I've decided to go.



MARTHA-[Starting-the hurt showing in her voice.]When did you decide?



CURTIS-I only really came to a decision this morning.[With a seriousness that forces BIGELOW'S interested attention.] It's a case of got to go. It's a tremendous opportunity that it would be a crime for me to neglect.



BIGELOW-And a big honor, too, isn't it, to be picked as a member of such a large affair?



CURTIS-[With a smile.]I guess it's just that they want all the men with considerable practical experience they can get. There are bound to be hardships and they know I'm hardened to them.[Turning to his wife with an affectionate smile.] We haven't roughed it in the queer corners for the last ten years without knowing how it's done, have we, Martha?



MARTHA-[Dully.]No, Curt.



CURTIS-[With an earnest enthusiasm.]And this expedition IS what you call a large affair, Big. It's the largest thing of its kind ever undertaken. The possibilities, from the standpoint of anthropology, are limitless.



BIGELOW-[With a grin.]Aha! Now we come to the Missing Link!



CURTIS-[Frowning.]Darn your Barnum and Bailey circus lingo, Big. This isn't a thing to mock at. I should think the origin of man would be something that would appeal even to your hothouse imagination. Modern science believes-knows-that Asia was the first home of the human race. That's where we're going, to the great Central Asian plateau north of the Himalayas.



BIGELOW-[More soberly.]And there you hope to dig up-our first ancestor?



CURTIS-It's a chance in a million, but I believe we may, myself- at least find authentic traces of him so that we can reconstruct his life and habits. I was up in that country a lot while I was mining advisor to the Chinese government-did some of my own work on the side. The extraordinary results I obtained with the little means at my disposal convinced me of the riches yet to be uncovered. The First Man may be among them.



BIGELOW-[Turning to MARTHA.]And you were with him on that Asian plateau?



MARTHA-Yes, I've always been with him.



CURTIS-You bet she has.[He goes over and puts his hand on his wife's shoulder affectionately.] Martha's more efficient than a whole staff of assistants and secretaries. She knows more about what I'm doing than I do half the time.[He turns toward his study.] Well, I guess I'll go in and work some.



MARTHA-[Quietly.]Do you need me now, Curt?



BIGELOW-[Starting up.]Yes, if you two want to work together, why just shoo me-



CURTIS-[Puts both hands on his shoulders and forces him to his seat again.]No. Sit down, Big. I don't need Martha now.[Coming over to her, bends down and kisses her-rather mockingly.] I couldn't deprive Big of an audience for his confessions of a fond parent.



BIGELOW-Aha! Now it's you who are mocking at something you know nothing about.[An awkward silence follows this remark.]



CURTIS-[Frowning.]I guess you're forgetting, aren't you, Big?[He turns and walks into his study, closing the door gently behind him.]



MARTHA-[After a pause-sadly.]Poor Curt.



BIGELOW-[Ashamed and confused.]I had forgotten-



MARTHA-The years have made me reconciled. They haven't Curt.[She sighs-then turns to BIGELOW with a forced smile.] I suppose it's hard for any of you back here to realize that Curt and I ever had any children.



BIGELOW-[After a pause.]How old were they when-?



MARTHA-Three years and two-both girls.[She goes on sadly.] We had a nice little house in Goldfield.[Forcing a smile.] We were very respectable home folks then. The wandering came later, after- It was a Sunday in winter when Curt and I had gone visiting some friends. The nurse girl fell asleep-or something-and the children sneaked out in their underclothes and played in the snow. Pneumonia set in-and a week later they were both dead.



BIGELOW-[Shocked.]Good heavens!



MARTHA-We were real lunatics for a time. And then when we'd calmed down enough to realize-how things stood with us-we swore we'd never have children again-to steal away their memory. It wasn't what you thought-romanticism-that set Curt wandering- and me with him. It was a longing to lose ourselves-to forget. He flung himself with all his power into every new study that interested him. He couldn't keep still, mentally or bodily-and I followed. He needed me-then-so dreadfully!



BIGELOW-And is it that keeps driving him on now?



MARTHA-Oh, no. He's found himself. His work has taken the place of the children.



BIGELOW-And with you, too?



MARTHA-[With a wan smile.]Well, I've helped-all I could. His work has me in it, I like to think-and I have him.



BIGELOW-[Shaking his head.]I think people are foolish to stand by such an oath as you took-forever.[With a smile.] Children are a great comfort in one's old age, I've tritely found.



MARTHA-[Smiling.]Old age!



BIGELOW-I'm knocking at the door of fatal forty.



MARTHA-[With forced gaiety.]You're not very tactful, I must say. Don't you know I'm thirty-eight?



BIGELOW-[Gallantly.]A woman is as old as she looks. You're not thirty yet.



MARTHA-[Laughing.]After that nice remark I'll have to forgive you everything, won't I?[LILY JAYSON comes in from the rear. She is a slender, rather pretty girl of twenty-five. The stamp of college student is still very much about her. She rather insists on a superior, intellectual air, is full of nervous, thwarted energy. At the sight of them sitting on the couch together, her eyebrows are raised.]



LILY-[Coming into the room-breezily.]Hello, Martha. Hello, Big.[They both get up with answering "Hellos."] I walked right in regardless. Hope I'm not interrupting.



MARTHA-Not at all.



LILY-[Sitting down by the table as MARTHA and BIGELOW resume their seats on the lounge.]I must say it sounded serious. I heard you tell Big you'd forgive him everything, Martha.[Dryly-with a mocking glance at BIGELOW.] You're letting yourself in for a large proposition.



BIGELOW-[Displeased but trying to smile it off.]The past is never past for a dog with a bad name, eh, Lily?[LILY laughs.BIGELOW gets up.] If you want to reward me for my truthfulness, Mrs. Jayson, help me take the kids for an airing in the car. I know it's an imposition but they've grown to expect you.[Glancing at his watch.] By Jove, I'll have to run along. I'll get them and then pick you up here. Is that all right?



MARTHA-Fine.



BIGELOW-I'll run, then. Good-by, Lily.[She nods. BIGELOW goes out rear.]



MARTHA-[Cordially.]Come on over here, Lily.



LILY-[Sits on couch with MARTHA-after a pause-with a smile.]You were forgetting, weren't you?



MARTHA-What?



LILY-That you'd invited all the family over here to tea this afternoon. I'm the advance guard.



MARTHA-[Embarrassed.]So I was! How stupid!



LILY-[With an inquisitive glance at MARTHA'S face but with studied carelessness.]Do you like Bigelow?



MARTHA-Yes, very much. And Curt thinks the world of him.



LILY-Oh, Curt is the last one to be bothered by anyone's morals. Curt and I are the unconventional ones of the family. The trouble with Bigelow, Martha, is that he was too careless to conceal his sins-and that won't go down in this Philistine small town. You have to hide and be a fellow hypocrite or they revenge themselves on you. Bigelow didn't. He flaunted his love-affairs in everyone's face. I used to admire him for it. No one exactly blamed him, in their secret hearts. His wife was a terrible, straitlaced creature. No man could have endured her.[Disgustedly.] After her death he suddenly acquired a bad conscience. He'd never noticed the children before. I'll bet he didn't even know their names. And then, presto, he's about in our midst giving an imitation of a wet hen with a brood of ducks. It's a bore, if you ask me.



MARTHA-[Flushing.]I think it's very fine of him.



LILY-[Shaking her head.]His reform is too sudden. He's joined the hypocrites, I think.



MARTHA-I'm sure he's no hypocrite. When you see him with the children-



LILY-Oh, I know he's a good actor. Lots of women have been in love with him.[Then suddenly.] You won't be furious if I'm very, very frank, will you, Martha?



MARTHA-[Surprised.]No, of course not, Lily.



LILY-Well, I'm the bearer of a message from the Jayson family.



MARTHA-[Astonished.]A message? For me?



LILY-Don't think that I have anything to do with it. I'm only a Victor record of their misgivings. Shall I switch it going? Well, then, father thinks, brother John and wife, sister Esther and husband all think that you are unwisely intimate with this same Bigelow.



MARTHA-[Stunned.]I? Unwisely intimate-?[Suddenly laughing with amusement.] Well, you sure are funny people!



LILY-No, we're not funny. We'd be all right if we were. On the contrary, we're very dull and deadly. Bigelow really has a villainous rep. for philandering. But, of course, you didn't know that.



MARTHA-[Beginning to feel resentful-coldly.]No, I didn't-and I don't care to know it now.



LILY-[Calmly.]I told them you wouldn't relish their silly advice.[In a very confidential, friendly tone.] Oh, I hate their narrow small-town ethics as much as you do, Martha. I sympathize with you, indeed I do. But I have to live with them and so, for comfort's sake, I've had to make compromises. And you're going to live in our midst from now on, aren't you? Well then, you'll have to make compromises, too-if you want any peace.



MARTHA-But-compromises about what?[Forcing a laugh.] I refuse to take it seriously. How anyone could think-it's too absurd.



LILY-What set them going was Big's being around such an awful lot the weeks Curt was in New York, just after you'd settled down here. You must acknowledge he was-very much present then, Martha.



MARTHA-But it was on account of his children. They were always with him.



LILY-The town doesn't trust this sudden fond parenthood, Martha. We've known him too long, you see.



MARTHA-But he's Curt's oldest and best friend.



LILY-We've found they always are.



MARTHA-[Springing to her feet-indignantly.]It's a case of evil minds, it seems to me-and it would be extremely insulting if I didn't have a sense of humor.[Resentfully.] You can tell your family, that as far as I'm concerned, the town may-





Опубликовано: 03 сентября 2010, 12:12     Распечатать
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