First performed at the Provincetown Playhouse on November 14,
PERSONS OF THE PLAY
HARRY ARCHER, Claire's husband
HATTIE, The maid
DICK, Richard Demming
ELIZABETH, Claire's daughter
ADELAIDE, Claire's sister
The Curtain lifts on a place that is dark, save
for a shaft of light from below which comes up through an open
trap-door in the floor. This slants up and strikes the long leaves
and the huge brilliant blossom of a strange plant whose twisted
stem projects from right front. Nothing is seen except this plant
and its shadow. A violent wind is heard. A moment later a buzzer.
It buzzes once long and three short. Silence. Again the buzzer.
Then from below—his shadow blocking the light, comes
ANTHONY, a rugged man past middle life;—he emerges from
the stairway into the darkness of the room. Is dimly seen taking up
ANTHONY: Yes, Miss Claire?—I'll see. (he brings a
thermometer to the stairway for light, looks sharply, then returns
to the phone) It's down to forty-nine. The plants are in
danger—(with great relief and approval) Oh, that's
fine! (hangs up the receiver) Fine!
(He goes back down the stairway, closing the
trap-door upon himself, and the curtain is drawn upon darkness and
wind. It opens a moment later on the greenhouse in the sunshine of
a snowy morning. The snow piled outside is at times blown through
the air. The frost has made patterns on the glass as if—as
Plato would have it—the patterns inherent in abstract nature
and behind all life had to come out, not only in the creative heat
within, but in the creative cold on the other side of the glass.
And the wind makes patterns of sound around the glass
The back wall is low; the glass roof slopes sharply up. There is
an outside door, a little toward the right. From outside two steps
lead down to it. At left a glass partition and a door into the
inner room. One sees a little way into this room. At right there is
no dividing wall save large plants and vines, a narrow aisle
between shelves of plants leads off.
This is not a greenhouse where plants are being displayed, nor
the usual workshop for the growing of them, but a place for
experiment with plants, a laboratory.
At the back grows a strange vine. It is arresting rather than
beautiful. It creeps along the low wall, and one branch gets a
little way up the glass. You might see the form of a cross in it,
if you happened to think it that way. The leaves of this vine are
not the form that leaves have been. They are at once repellent and
ANTHONY is at work preparing soil—mixing, sifting. As
the wind tries the door he goes anxiously to the thermometer, nods
as if reassured and returns to his work. The buzzer sounds. He
starts to answer the telephone, remembers something, halts and
listens sharply. It does not buzz once long and three short. Then
he returns to his work. The buzzer goes on and on in impatient
jerks which mount in anger. Several times ANTHONY is almost
compelled by this insistence, but the thing that holds him back is
stronger. At last, after a particularly mad splutter, to which
ANTHONY longs to make retort, the buzzer gives it up.
ANTHONY goes on preparing soil.
A moment later the glass door swings violently in, snow blowing
in, and also MR HARRY ARCHER, wrapped in a rug.)
ANTHONY: Oh, please close the door, sir.
HARRY: Do you think I'm not trying to? (he holds it open to
ANTHONY: But please do. This stormy air is not good for
HARRY: I suppose it's just the thing for me! Now, what do you
mean, Anthony, by not answering the phone when I buzz for you?
ANTHONY: Miss Claire—Mrs Archer told me not to.
HARRY: Told you not to answer me?
ANTHONY: Not you especially—nobody but her.
HARRY: Well, I like her nerve—and yours.
ANTHONY: You see, she thought it took my mind from my work to be
interrupted when I'm out here. And so it does. So she buzzes once
long and—Well, she buzzes her way, and all other
HARRY: May buzz.
ANTHONY: (nodding gravely) She thought it would be better
for the flowers.
HARRY: I am not a flower—true, but I too need a little
attention—and a little heat. Will you please tell me why the
house is frigid?
ANTHONY: Miss Claire ordered all the heat turned out here,
(patiently explaining it to MISS CLAIRE's speechless
husband) You see the roses need a great deal of heat.
HARRY: (reading the thermometer) The roses have
seventy-three I have forty-five.
ANTHONY: Yes, the roses need seventy-three.
HARRY: Anthony, this is an outrage!
ANTHONY: I think it is myself; when you consider what we paid
for the heating plant—but as long as it is
defective—Why, Miss Claire would never have done what she has
if she hadn't looked out for her plants in just such ways as this.
Have you forgotten that Breath of Life is about to flower?
HARRY: And where's my breakfast about to flower?—that's
what I want to know.
ANTHONY: Why, Miss Claire got up at five o'clock to order the
heat turned off from the house.
HARRY: I see you admire her vigilance.
ANTHONY: Oh, I do. (fervently) I do. Harm was near, and
that woke her up.
HARRY: And what about the harm to—(tapping his
chest) Do roses get pneumonia?
ANTHONY: Oh, yes—yes, indeed they do. Why, Mr Archer, look
at Miss Claire herself. Hasn't she given her heat to the roses?
HARRY: (pulling the rug around him, preparing for the
blizzard) She has the fire within.
ANTHONY: (delighted) Now isn't that true! How well you
said it. (with a glare for this appreciation, HARRY opens
the door. It blows away from him) Please do close the door!
HARRY: (furiously) You think it is the aim of my life to
hold it open?
ANTHONY: (getting hold of it) Growing things need an even
temperature, (while saying this he gets the man out into the
(ANTHONY consults the thermometer, not as pleased
this time as he was before. He then looks minutely at two of the
plants—one is a rose, the other a flower without a name
because it has not long enough been a flower. Peers into the hearts
of them. Then from a drawer under a shelf, takes two paper bags,
puts one over each of these flowers, closing them down at the
bottom. Again the door blows wildly in, also HATTIE, a maid
with a basket.)
ANTHONY: What do you mean—blowing in here like this? Mrs
Archer has ordered—
HATTIE: Mr Archer has ordered breakfast served here, (she
uncovers the basket and takes out an electric toaster)
ANTHONY: Breakfast—here? Eat—here?
Where plants grow?
HATTIE: The plants won't poison him, will they? (at a loss to
know what to do with things, she puts the toaster under the strange
vine at the back, whose leaves lift up against the glass which has
frost leaves on the outer side)
ANTHONY: (snatching it away) You—you think you can
cook eggs under the Edge Vine?
HATTIE: I guess Mr Archer's eggs are as important as a vine. I
guess my work's as important as yours.
ANTHONY: There's a million people like you—and like Mr
Archer. In all the world there is only one Edge Vine.
HATTIE: Well, maybe one's enough. It don't look like nothin',
ANTHONY: And you've not got the wit to know that that's why it's
the Edge Vine.
HATTIE: You want to look out, Anthony. You talk nutty. Everybody
ANTHONY: Miss Claire don't say so.
HATTIE: No, because she's—
ANTHONY: You talk too much!
(Door opens, admitting HARRY; after
looking around for the best place to eat breakfast, moves a box of
earth from the table.)
HARRY: Just give me a hand, will you, Hattie?
(They bring it to the open space and he and
HATTIE arrange breakfast things, HATTIE with triumphant
glances at the distressed ANTHONY)
ANTHONY: (deciding he must act) Mr Archer, this is not
the place to eat breakfast!
HARRY: Dead wrong, old boy. The place that has heat is the place
to eat breakfast. (to HATTIE) Tell the other
gentlemen—I heard Mr Demming up, and Mr Edgeworthy, if he
appears, that as long as it is such a pleasant morning, we're
having breakfast outside. To the conservatory for coffee.
(HATTIE giggles, is leaving.)
And let's see, have we got everything? (takes the one shaker,
shakes a little pepper on his hand. Looks in vain for the other
shaker) And tell Mr Demming to bring the salt.
ANTHONY: But Miss Claire will be very angry.
HARRY: I am very angry. Did I choose to eat my breakfast at the
other end of a blizzard?
ANTHONY: (an exclamation of horror at the thermometer)
The temperature is falling. I must report. (he punches the
buzzer, takes up the phone) Miss Claire? It is Anthony. A
terrible thing has happened. Mr Archer—what? Yes, a terrible
thing.—Yes, it is about Mr Archer.—No—no, not
dead. But here. He is here. Yes, he is well, he seems well, but he
is eating his breakfast. Yes, he is having breakfast served out
here—for himself, and the other gentlemen are to come
too.—Well, he seemed to be annoyed because the heat had been
turned off from the house. But the door keeps opening—this
stormy wind blowing right over the plants. The temperature has
already fallen.—Yes, yes. I thought you would want to
(ANTHONY opens the trap-door and goes below.
HARRY looks disapprovingly down into this openness at his feet,
returns to his breakfast. ANTHONY comes up, bearing a
HARRY: (turning his face away) Phew! What a smell.
ANTHONY: Yes. Fertilizer has to smell.
HARRY: Well, it doesn't have to smell up my breakfast!
ANTHONY: (with a patient sense of order) The smell
belongs here. (he and the smell go to the inner room)
(The outer door opens just enough to admit
CLAIRE—is quickly closed. With CLAIRE in a room
another kind of aliveness is there.)
CLAIRE: What are you doing here?
HARRY: Getting breakfast. (all the while doing so)
CLAIRE: I'll not have you in my place!
HARRY: If you take all the heat then you have to take me.
CLAIRE: I'll show you how I have to take you. (with her hands
begins scooping upon him the soil ANTHONY has
HARRY: (jumping up, laughing, pinning down her arms, putting
his arms around her) Claire—be decent. What harm do I do
CLAIRE: You pull down the temperature.
HARRY: Not after I'm in.
CLAIRE: And you told Tom and Dick to come and make it
HARRY: Tom and Dick are our guests. We can't eat where it's warm
and leave them to eat where it's cold.
CLAIRE: I don't see why not.
HARRY: You only see what you want to see.
CLAIRE: That's not true. I wish it were. No; no, I don't either.
(she is disturbed—that troubled thing which rises from
within, from deep, and takes CLAIRE. She turns to the Edge
Vine, examines. Regretfully to ANTHONY, who has come in with
a plant) It's turning back, isn't it?
ANTHONY: Can you be sure yet, Miss Claire?
CLAIRE: Oh yes—it's had its chance. It doesn't want to
be—what hasn't been.
HARRY: (who has turned at this note in her voice. Speaks
kindly) Don't take it so seriously, Claire. (CLAIRE
CLAIRE: No, I suppose not. But it does matter—and
why should I pretend it doesn't, just because I've failed with
HARRY: Well, I don't want to see it get you—it's not
important enough for that.
CLAIRE: (in her brooding way) Anything is important
enough for that—if it's important at all. (to the
vine) I thought you were out, but you're—going back
ANTHONY: But you're doing it this time, Miss Claire. When Breath
of Life opens—and we see its heart—
(CLAIRE looks toward the inner room. Because of
intervening plants they do not see what is seen from the
front—a plant like caught motion, and of a greater
transparency than plants have had. Its leaves, like waves that
curl, close around a heart that is not seen. This plant stands by
itself in what, because of the arrangement of things about it, is a
hidden place. But nothing is between it and the light.)
CLAIRE: Yes, if the heart has (a little laugh) held its
own, then Breath of Life is alive in its otherness. But Edge Vine
is running back to what it broke out of.
HARRY: Come, have some coffee, Claire.
(ANTHONY returns to the inner room, the outer
door opens. DICK is hurled in.)
CLAIRE: (going to the door, as he gasps for breath before
closing it) How dare you make my temperature uneven! (she
shuts the door and leans against it)
DICK: Is that what I do?
(A laugh, a look between them, which is held into
HARRY: (who is not facing them) Where's the salt?
DICK: Oh, I fell down in the snow. I must have left the salt
where I fell. I'll go back and look for it.
CLAIRE: And change the temperature? We don't need salt.
HARRY: You don't need salt, Claire. But we eat eggs.
CLAIRE: I must tell you I don't like the idea of any food being
eaten here, where things have their own way to go. Please eat as
little as possible, and as quickly.
HARRY: A hostess calculated to put one at one's ease.
CLAIRE: (with no ill-nature) I care nothing about your
ease. Or about Dick's ease.
DICK: And no doubt that's what makes you so fascinating a
CLAIRE: Was I a fascinating hostess last night, Dick? (softly
sings) 'Oh, night of love—' (from the Barcorole of
'Tales of Hoffman')
HARRY: We've got to have salt.
(He starts for the door. CLAIRE slips in
ahead of him, locks it, takes the key. He marches off,
CLAIRE: (calling after him) That end's always locked.
DICK: Claire darling, I wish you wouldn't say those startling
things. You do get away with it, but I confess it gives me a
shock—and really, it's unwise.
CLAIRE: Haven't you learned that the best place to hide is in
the truth? (as HARRY returns) Why won't you believe
me, Harry, when I tell you the truth—about doors being
HARRY: Claire, it's selfish of you to keep us from eating salt
just because you don't eat salt.
CLAIRE: (with one of her swift changes) Oh, Harry! Try
your egg without salt. Please—please try it without salt!
(an intensity which seems all out of proportion to the
HARRY: An egg demands salt.
CLAIRE: 'An egg demands salt.' Do you know, Harry, why you are
such an unseasoned person? 'An egg demands salt.'
HARRY: Well, it doesn't always get it.
CLAIRE: But your spirit gets no lift from the salt withheld.
HARRY: Not an inch of lift. (going back to his
CLAIRE: And pleased—so pleased with itself, for getting no
lift. Sure, it is just the right kind of spirit—because it
gets no lift. (more brightly) But, Dick, you must have tried
your egg without salt.
DICK: I'll try it now. (he goes to the breakfast
CLAIRE: You must have tried and tried things. Isn't that the way
one leaves the normal and gets into the byways of perversion?
DICK: (pushing back his egg) If so, I prefer to wait for
HARRY: Claire, there is a limit.
CLAIRE: Precisely what I had in mind. To perversion too there is
a limit. So—the fortifications are unassailable. If one ever
does get out, I suppose it is—quite unexpectedly, and
perhaps—a bit terribly.
HARRY: Get out where?
CLAIRE: (with a bright smile) Where you, darling, will
HARRY: And from which you, darling, had better beat it.
CLAIRE: I wish I could. (to herself) No—no I don't
(Again this troubled thing turns her to the
plant. She puts by themselves the two which ANTHONY covered
with paper bags. Is about to remove these papers. HARRY
strikes a match.)
CLAIRE: (turning sharply) You can't smoke here. The
plants are not used to it.
HARRY: Then I should think smoking would be just the thing for
CLAIRE: There is design.
HARRY: (to DICK) Am I supposed to be answered? I never
can be quite sure at what moment I am answered.
(They both watch CLAIRE, who has uncovered
the plants and is looking intently into the flowers. From a drawer
she takes some tools. Very carefully gives the rose pollen to an
unfamiliar flower—rather wistfully unfamiliar, which stands
above on a small shelf near the door of the inner room.)
DICK: What is this you're doing, Claire?
CLAIRE: Pollenizing. Crossing for fragrance.
DICK: It's all rather mysterious, isn't it?
HARRY: And Claire doesn't make it any less so.
CLAIRE: Can I make life any less mysterious?
HARRY: If you know what you are doing, why can't you tell
DICK: Never mind. After all, why should I be told? (he turns
(At that she wants to tell him. Helpless, as one
who cannot get across a stream, starts uncertainly.)
CLAIRE: I want to give fragrance to Breath of Life (faces the
room beyond the wall of glass)—the flower I have created
that is outside what flowers have been. What has gone out should
bring fragrance from what it has left. But no definite fragrance,
no limiting enclosing thing. I call the fragrance I am trying to
create Reminiscence. (her hand on the pot of the wistful little
flower she has just given pollen) Reminiscent of the rose, the
violet, arbutus—but a new thing—itself. Breath of Life
may be lonely out in what hasn't been. Perhaps some day I can give
DICK: I see, Claire.
CLAIRE: I wonder if you do.
HARRY: Now, Claire, you're going to be gay to-day, aren't you?
These are Tom's last couple of days with us.
CLAIRE: That doesn't make me especially gay.
HARRY: Well, you want him to remember you as yourself, don't
CLAIRE: I would like him to. Oh—I would like him to!
HARRY: Then be amusing. That's really you, isn't it, Dick?
DICK: Not quite all of her—I should say.
CLAIRE: (gaily) Careful, Dick. Aren't you indiscreet?
Harry will be suspecting that I am your latest strumpet.
HARRY: Claire! What language you use! A person knowing you only
by certain moments could never be made to believe you are a refined
CLAIRE: True, isn't it, Dick?
HARRY: It would be a good deal of a lark to let them listen in
at times—then tell them that here is the flower of New
CLAIRE: Well, if this is the flower of New England, then the
half has never been told.
DICK: About New England?
CLAIRE: I thought I meant that. Perhaps I meant—about
HARRY: (going on with his own entertainment) Explain that
this is what came of the men who made the laws that made New
England, that here is the flower of those gentlemen of culture
DICK: Moulded the American mind!
CLAIRE: Oh! (it is pain)
HARRY: Now what's the matter?
CLAIRE: I want to get away from them!
HARRY: Rest easy, little one—you do.
CLAIRE: I'm not so sure—that I do. But it can be done! We
need not be held in forms moulded for us. There is
HARRY: Now, Claire—I didn't mean to start anything
CLAIRE: No; you never mean to do that. I want to break it up! I
tell you, I want to break it up! If it were all in pieces, we'd be
(a little laugh) shocked to aliveness (to
DICK)—wouldn't we? There would be strange new comings
together—mad new comings together, and we would know what it
is to be born, and then we might know—that we are. Smash it.
(her hand is near an egg) As you'd smash an egg. (she
pushes the egg over the edge of the table and leans over and looks,
as over a precipice)
HARRY: (with a sigh) Well, all you've smashed is the egg,
and all that amounts to is that now Tom gets no egg. So that's
CLAIRE: (with difficulty, drawing herself back from the
fascination of the precipice) You think I can't smash anything?
You think life can't break up, and go outside what it was? Because
you've gone dead in the form in which you found yourself, you think
that's all there is to the whole adventure? And that is called
sanity. And made a virtue—to lock one in. You never worked
with things that grow! Things that take a sporting chance—go
mad—that sanity mayn't lock them in—from life
untouched—from life—that waits, (she turns toward
the inner room) Breath of Life. (she goes in there)
HARRY: Oh, I wish Claire wouldn't be strange like that,
(helplessly) What is it? What's the matter?
DICK: It's merely the excess of a particularly rich
HARRY: But it's growing on her. I sometimes wonder if all this
(indicating the place around him) is a good thing. It would
be all right if she'd just do what she did in the
beginning—make the flowers as good as possible of their kind.
That's an awfully nice thing for a woman to do—raise flowers.
But there's something about this—changing things into other
things—putting things together and making queer new
HARRY: Give it any name you want it to have—it's
unsettling for a woman. They say Claire's a shark at it, but what's
the good of it, if it gets her? What is the good of it, anyway?
Suppose we can produce new things. Lord—look at the one ones
we've got. (looks outside; turns back) Heavens, what a noise
the wind does make around this place, (but now it is not all the
wind, but TOM EDGEWORTHY, who is trying to let himself in at
the locked door, their backs are to him) I want my egg.
You can't eat an egg without salt. I must say I don't get Claire
lately. I'd like to have Charlie Emmons see her—he's fixed up
a lot of people shot to pieces in the war. Claire needs something
to tone her nerves up. You think it would irritate her?
DICK: She'd probably get no little entertainment out of it.
HARRY: Yes, dog-gone her, she would. (TOM now takes more
heroic measures to make himself heard at the door)
Funny—how the wind can fool you. Now by not looking around I
could imagine—why, I could imagine anything. Funny, isn't it,
about imagination? And Claire says I haven't got any!
DICK: It would make an amusing drawing—what the wind makes
you think is there. (first makes forms with his hands, then
levelling the soil prepared by ANTHONY, traces lines with
his finger) Yes, really—quite jolly.
(TOM, after a moment of peering in at them,
smiles, goes away.)
HARRY: You're another one of the queer ducks, aren't you? Come
now—give me the dirt. Have you queer ones really got
anything—or do you just put it over on us that you have?
DICK: (smiles, draws on) Not saying anything, eh? Well, I
guess you're wise there. If you keep mum—how are we going to
prove there's nothing there?
DICK: I don't keep mum. I draw.
HARRY: Lines that don't make anything—how can they tell
you anything? Well, all I ask is, don't make Claire queer. Claire's
a first water good sport—really, so don't encourage her to be
DICK: Trouble is, if you're queer enough to be amusing, it
might—open the door to queerness.
HARRY: Now don't say things like that to Claire.
DICK: I don't have to.
HARRY: Then you think she's queer, do you? Queer as you
are, you think she's queer. I would like to have Dr Emmons come
out. (after a moment of silently watching DICK, who is
having a good time with his drawing) You know, frankly, I doubt
if you're a good influence for Claire. (DICK lifts his head ever
so slightly) Oh, I don't worry a bit about—things a
husband might worry about. I suppose an intellectual
woman—and for all Claire's hate of her ancestors, she's got
the bug herself. Why, she has times of boring into things until she
doesn't know you're there. What do you think I caught her doing the
other day? Reading Latin. Well—a woman that reads Latin
needn't worry a husband much.
DICK: They said a good deal in Latin.
HARRY: But I was saying, I suppose a woman who lives a good deal
in her mind never does have much—well, what you might call
passion, (uses the word as if it shouldn't be used. Brows
knitted, is looking ahead, does not see DICK's face. Turning
to him with a laugh) I suppose you know pretty much all there
is to know about women?
DICK: Perhaps one or two details have escaped me.
HARRY: Well, for that matter, you might know all there is to
know about women and not know much about Claire. But now about
(does not want to say passion again)—oh,
feeling—Claire has a certain—well, a certain—
HARRY: Which is really more—more—
DICK: More fetching, perhaps.
HARRY: Yes! Than the thing itself. But of course—you
wouldn't have much of a thing that you have irony about.
DICK: Oh—wouldn't you! I mean—a man might.
HARRY: I'd like to talk to Edgeworth about Claire. But it's not
easy to talk to Tom about Claire—or to Claire about Tom.
DICK: (alert) They're very old friends, aren't they?
HARRY: Why—yes, they are. Though they've not been together
much of late years, Edgeworthy always going to the ends of the
earth to—meditate about something. I must say I don't get it.
If you have a place—that's the place for you to be. And he
did have a place—best kind of family connections, and it was
a very good business his father left him. Publishing
business—in good shape, too, when old Edgeworthy died. I
wouldn't call Tom a great success in life—but Claire does
listen to what he says.
DICK: Yes, I've noticed that.
HARRY: So, I'd like to get him to tell her to quit this queer
business of making things grow that never grew before.
DICK: But are you sure that's what he would tell her? Isn't he
in the same business himself?
HARRY: Why, he doesn't raise anything.
(TOM is again at the door.)
DICK: Anyway, I think he might have some idea that we can't very
well reach each other.
HARRY: Damn nonsense. What have we got intelligence for?
DICK: To let each other alone, I suppose. Only we haven't enough
to do it.
(TOM is now knocking on the door with a
revolver. HARRY half turns, decides to be too intelligent to
HARRY: Don't tell me I'm getting nerves. But the way some of you
people talk is enough to make even an aviator jumpy. Can't reach
each other! Then we're fools. If I'm here and you're there, why
can't we reach each other?
DICK: Because I am I and you are you.
HARRY: No wonder your drawing's queer. A man who can't reach
another man—(TOM here reaches them by pointing the
revolver in the air and firing it. DICK digs his hand into
the dirt. HARRY jumps to one side, fearfully looks
around. TOM, with a pleased smile to see he at last has
their attention, moves the handle to indicate he would be glad to
HARRY: Why—it's Tom! What the—? (going to the
door) He's locked out. And Claire's got the key. (goes to
the inner door, tries it) And she's locked in! (trying to
see her in there) Claire! Claire! (returning to the outer
door) Claire's got the key—and I can't get to Claire.
(makes a futile attempt at getting the door open without a key,
goes back to inner door—peers, pounds) Claire! Are you
there? Didn't you hear the revolver? Has she gone down the cellar?
(tries the trap-door) Bolted! Well, I love the way she keeps
people locked out!
DICK: And in.
HARRY: (getting angry, shouting at the trap-door) Didn't
you hear the revolver? (going to TOM) Awfully sorry, old
man, but—(in astonishment to DICK) He can't hear me.
(TOM, knocking with the revolver to get their attention, makes a
gesture of inquiry with it) No—no—no! Is he asking
if he shall shoot himself? (shaking his head violently) Oh,
DICK: Hardly seems a man would shoot himself because he can't
get to his breakfast.
HARRY: I'm coming to believe people would do anything! (TOM
is making another inquiry with the revolver) No! not here.
Don't shoot yourself. (trying hard to get the word through)
Shoot yourself. I mean—don't, (petulantly to
DICK) It's ridiculous that you can't make a man understand you when
he looks right at you like that. (turning back to TOM) Read
my lips. Lips. I'm saying—Oh damn. Where is Claire? All
right—I'll explain it with motions. We wanted the salt ...
(going over it to himself) and Claire wouldn't let us go out
for it on account of the temperature. Salt. Temperature. (takes
his egg-cup to the door, violent motion of shaking in salt)
But—no (shakes his head) No salt. (he then takes
the thermometer, a flower pot, holds them up to TOM) On account
of the temperature. Tem-per-a—(TOM is not getting it)
Oh—well, what can you do when a man don't get a thing?
(TOM seems to be preparing the revolver for action. HARRY
pounds on the inner door) Claire! Do you want Tom to shoot
(As he looks in there, the trap-door lifts, and
CLAIRE comes half-way up.)
CLAIRE: Why, what is Tom doing out there, with a revolver?
HARRY: He is about to shoot himself because you've locked him
out from his breakfast.
CLAIRE: He must know more interesting ways of destroying
himself. (bowing to TOM) Good morning. (from his side of
the glass TOM bows and smiles back) Isn't it
strange—our being in here—and he being out there?
HARRY: Claire, have you no ideas of hospitality? Let him in!
CLAIRE: In? Perhaps that isn't hospitality.
HARRY: Well, whatever hospitality is, what is out there is
snow—and wind—and our guest—who was asked to come
here for his breakfast. To think a man has to such
CLAIRE: I'm going to let him in. Though I like his looks out
there. (she takes the key from her pocket)
HARRY: Thank heaven the door's coming open. Somebody can go for
salt, and we can have our eggs.
CLAIRE: And open the door again—to let the salt in? No. If
you insist on salt, tell Tom now to go back and get it. It's a
stormy morning and there'll be just one opening of the door.
HARRY: How can we tell him what we can't make him hear? And why
does he think we're holding this conversation instead of letting
CLAIRE: It would be interesting to know. I wonder if he'll tell
HARRY: Claire! Is this any time to wonder anything?
CLAIRE: Give up the idea of salt for your egg and I'll let him
in. (holds up the key to TOM to indicate that for her part
she is quite ready to let him in)
HARRY: I want my egg!
CLAIRE: Then ask him to bring the salt. It's quite simple.
(HARRY goes through another pantomime with the
egg-cup and the missing shaker. CLAIRE, still standing
half-way down cellar, sneezes. HARRY, growing all the while
less amiable, explains with thermometer and flower-pot that there
can only be one opening of the door. TOM looks interested,
but unenlightened. But suddenly he smiles, nods, vanishes.)
CLAIRE: (sitting on the top step) It was all so queer. He
locked out on his side of the door. You locked in on yours. Looking
right at each other and—
HARRY: (in mockery) And me trying to tell him to kindly
fetch the salt!
HARRY: (to DICK) Well, I didn't do so bad a job, did I?
Quite an idea, explaining our situation with the thermometer and
the flower-pot. That was really an apology for keeping him out
there. Heaven knows—some explanation was in order, (he is
watching, and sees TOM coming) Now there he is, Claire.
And probably pretty well fed up with the weather.
(CLAIRE goes to the door, stops before it. She
and TOM look at each other through the glass. Then she lets
TOM: And now I am in. For a time it seemed I was not to be in.
But after I got the idea that you were keeping me out there to see
if I could get the idea—it would be too humiliating for a
wall of glass to keep one from understanding. (taking it from
his pocket) So there's the other thermometer. Where do you want
it? (CLAIRE takes it)
CLAIRE: And where's the pepper?
TOM: (putting it on the table) And here's the pepper.
TOM: When Claire sneezed I knew—
CLAIRE: Yes, I knew if I sneezed you would bring the pepper.
TOM: Funny how one always remembers the salt, but the pepper
gets overlooked in preparations. And what is an egg without
HARRY: (nastily) There's your egg, Edgeworth.
(pointing to it on the floor) Claire decided it would be a
good idea to smash everything, so she began with your egg.
TOM: (looking at his egg) The idea of smashing everything
is really more intriguing than an egg.
HARRY: Nice that you feel that way about it.
CLAIRE: (giving TOM his coffee) You want to hear
something amusing? I married Harry because I thought he would smash
HARRY: Well, that was an error in judgment.
CLAIRE: I'm such a naive trusting person (HARRY
laughs—CLAIRE gives him a surprised look, continues
simply). Such a guileless soul that I thought flying would do
something to a man. But it didn't take us out. We just took it
TOM: It's only our own spirit can take us out.
HARRY: Whatever you mean by out.
CLAIRE: (after looking intently at TOM, and
considering it) But our own spirit is not something on the
loose. Mine isn't. It has something to do with what I do. To fly.
To be free in air. To look from above on the world of all my days.
Be where man has never been! Yes—wouldn't you think the
spirit could get the idea? The earth grows smaller. I am leaving.
What are they—running around down there? Why do they run
around down there? Houses? Houses are funny lines and down-going
slants—houses are vanishing slants. I am alone. Can I breathe
this rarer air? Shall I go higher? Shall I go too high? I am loose.
I am out. But no; man flew, and returned to earth the man who left
HARRY: And jolly well likely not to have returned at all if he'd
had those flighty notions while operating a machine.
CLAIRE: Oh, Harry! (not lightly asked) Can't you see it
would be better not to have returned than to return the man who
HARRY: I have some regard for human life.
CLAIRE: Why, no—I am the one who has the regard for human
life, (more lightly) That was why I swiftly divorced my
stick-in-the-mud artist and married—the man of flight. But I
merely passed from a stick-in-the-mud artist to a—
DICK: Stick-in-the-air aviator?
HARRY: Speaking of your stick-in-the-mud artist, as you
romantically call your first blunder, isn't his daughter—and
yours—due here to-day?
CLAIRE: I knew something was disturbing me. Elizabeth. A
daughter is being delivered unto me this morning. I have a feeling
it will be more painful than the original delivery. She has been,
as they quaintly say, educated; prepared for her place in life.
HARRY: And fortunately Claire has a sister who is willing to
give her young niece that place.
CLAIRE: The idea of giving anyone a place in life.
HARRY: Yes! The very idea!
CLAIRE: Yes! (as often, the mocking thing gives true
expression to what lies sombrely in her) The war. There was
another gorgeous chance.
HARRY: Chance for what? I call you, Claire. I ask you to say
what you mean.
CLAIRE: I don't know—precisely. If I did—there'd be
no use saying it. (at HARRY's impatient exclamation she
turns to TOM)
TOM: (nodding) The only thing left worth saying is the
thing we can't say.
CLAIRE: Yes. But the war didn't help. Oh, it was a stunning
chance! But fast as we could—scuttled right back to the trim
little thing we'd been shocked out of.
HARRY: You bet we did—showing our good sense.
CLAIRE: Showing our incapacity—for madness.
HARRY: Oh, come now, Claire—snap out of it. You're not
really trying to say that capacity for madness is a good thing to
CLAIRE: (in simple surprise) Why yes, of course.
DICK: But I should say the war did leave enough madness to give
you a gleam of hope.
CLAIRE: Not the madness that—breaks through. And it
was—a stunning chance! Mankind massed to kill. We have
failed. We are through. We will destroy. Break this up—it
can't go farther. In the air above—in the sea below—it
is to kill! All we had thought we were—we aren't. We were
shut in with what wasn't so. Is there one ounce of energy has not
gone to this killing? Is there one love not torn in two? Throw it
in! Now? Ready? Break up. Push. Harder. Break up. And
then—and then—But we didn't say—'And then—'
The spirit didn't take the tip.
HARRY: Claire! Come now (looking to the others for
help)—let's talk of something else.
CLAIRE: Plants do it. The big leap—it's called. Explode
their species—because something in them knows they've gone as
far as they can go. Something in them knows they're shut in to just
that. So—go mad—that life may not be prisoned. Break
themselves up into crazy things—into lesser things, and from
the pieces—may come one sliver of life with vitality to find
the future. How beautiful. How brave.
TOM: (as if he would call her from too far—or would let
her know he has gone with her) Claire!
CLAIRE: (her eyes turning to him) Why should we mind
lying under the earth? We who have no such initiative—no
proud madness? Why think it death to lie under life so
flexible—so ruthless and ever-renewing?
ANTHONY: (from the door of the inner room) Miss
CLAIRE: (after an instant) Yes? (she goes with him, as
they disappear his voice heard,'show me now ... want those
HARRY: Oh, this has got to stop. I've got to—put a
stop to it some way. Why, Claire used to be the best sport a man
ever played around with. I can't stand it to see her getting
TOM: That was not hysterical.
HARRY: What was it then—I want to know?
TOM: It was—a look.
HARRY: Oh, I might have known I'd get no help from either of
you. Even you, Edgeworthy—much as she thinks of you—and
fine sort as I've no doubt you are, you're doing Claire no
good—encouraging her in these queer ways.
TOM: I couldn't change Claire if I would.
HARRY: And wouldn't if you could.
TOM: No. But you don't have to worry about me. I'm going away in
a day or two. And I shall not be back.
HARRY: Trouble with you is, it makes little difference whether
you're here or away. Just the fact of your existence does encourage
Claire in this—this way she's going.
TOM: (with a smile) But you wouldn't ask me to go so far
as to stop my existence? Though I would do that for Claire—if
it were the way to help her.
HARRY: By Jove, you say that as if you meant it.
TOM: Do you think I would say anything about Claire I didn't
HARRY: You think a lot of her, don't you? (TOM nods) You
don't mean (a laugh letting him say it)—that
you're—in love with Claire!
TOM: In love? Oh, that's much too easy. Certainly I do love
HARRY: Well, you're a cool one!
TOM: Let her be herself. Can't you see she's troubled?
HARRY: Well, what is there to trouble Claire? Now I ask you. It
seems to me she has everything.
TOM: She's left so—open. Too exposed, (as HARRY
moves impatiently) Please don't be annoyed with me. I'm
doing my best at saying it. You see Claire isn't hardened into one
of those forms she talks about. She's too—aware. Always
pulled toward what could be—tormented by the lost
HARRY: Well, there's danger in all that. Of course there's
TOM: But you can't help that.
HARRY: Claire was the best fun a woman could be. Is yet—at
TOM: Let her be—at times. As much as she can and will. She
does need that. Don't keep her from it by making her feel you're
holding her in it. Above all, don't try to stop what she's doing
here. If she can do it with plants, perhaps she won't have to do it
HARRY: Do what?
TOM: (low, after a pause) Break up what exists. Open the
door to destruction in the hope of—a door on the far side of
HARRY: Well, you give me the willies, (moves around in
irritation, troubled. To ANTHONY, who is passing through
with a sprayer) Anthony, have any arrangements been made about
Miss Claire's daughter?
ANTHONY: I haven't heard of any arrangements.
HARRY: Well, she'll have to have some heat in her room. We can't
all live out here.
ANTHONY: Indeed you cannot. It is not good for the plants.
HARRY: I'm going where I can smoke, (goes out)
DICK: (lightly, but fascinated by the idea) You think
there is a door on the—hinter side of destruction?
TOM: How can one tell—where a door may be? One thing I
want to say to you—for it is about you. (regards DICK
and not with his usual impersonal contemplation) I don't
think Claire should have—any door closed to her.
(pause) You know, I think, what I mean. And perhaps you can
guess how it hurts to say it. Whether it's—mere escape
within,—rather shameful escape within, or the wild hope of
that door through, it's—(suddenly all human) Be good
to her! (after a difficult moment, smiles) Going away for
ever is like dying, so one can say things.
DICK: Why do you do it—go away for ever?
TOM: I haven't succeeded here.
DICK: But you've tried the going away before.
TOM: Never knowing I would not come back. So that wasn't going
away. My hope is that this will be like looking at life from
DICK: But then you'll not be in it.
TOM: I haven't been able to look at it while in it.
DICK: Isn't it more important to be in it than to look at
TOM: Not what I mean by look.
DICK: It's hard for me to conceive of—loving Claire and
going away from her for ever.
TOM: Perhaps it's harder to do than to conceive of.
DICK: Then why do it?
TOM: It's my only way of keeping her.
DICK: I'm afraid I'm like Harry now. I don't get you.
TOM: I suppose not. Your way is different, (with calm, with
sadness—not with malice) But I shall have her longer. And
DICK: I know that.
TOM: Though I miss much. Much, (the buzzer. TOM looks
around to see if anyone is coming to answer it, then goes to the
phone) Yes?... I'll see if I can get her. (to DICK)
Claire's daughter has arrived, (looking in the inner
room—returns to phone) I don't see her. (catching a
glimpse of ANTHONY off right) Oh, Anthony, where's Miss Claire?
Her daughter has arrived.
ANTHONY: She's working at something very important in her
DICK: But isn't her daughter one of her experiments?
ANTHONY: (after a baffled moment) Her daughter is
TOM: (at the phone) Sorry—but I can't get to
Claire. She appears to have gone below. (ANTHONY closes the
trap-door) I did speak to Anthony, but he says that Claire is
working at one of her experiments and that her daughter is
finished. I don't know how to make her hear—I took the
revolver back to the house. Anyway you will remember Claire doesn't
answer the revolver. I hate to reach Claire when she doesn't want
to be reached. Why, of course—a daughter is very important,
but oh, that's too bad. (putting down the receiver) He says
the girl's feelings are hurt. Isn't that annoying? (gingerly
pounds on the trap-door. Then with the other hand. Waits.
ANTHONY has a gentle smile for the gentle tapping—nods
approval as, TOM returns to the phone) She doesn't come
up. Indeed I did—with both fists—Sorry.
ANTHONY: Please, you won't try again to disturb Miss Claire,
DICK: Her daughter is here, Anthony. She hasn't seen her
daughter for a year.
ANTHONY: Well, if she got along without a mother for a
year—(goes back to his work)
DICK: (smiling after ANTHONY) Plants are queer. Perhaps
it's safer to do it with pencil (regards
TOM)—or with pure thought. Things that grow in the
TOM: (nodding) I suppose because we grew in the
DICK: I'm always shocked to find myself in agreement with Harry,
but I too am worried about Claire—and this, (looking at
TOM: It's her best chance.
DICK: Don't you hate to go away to India—for
ever—leaving Claire's future uncertain?
TOM: You're cruel now. And you knew that you were being
DICK: Yes, I like the lines of your face when you suffer.
TOM: The lines of yours when you're causing suffering—I
don't like them.
DICK: Perhaps that's your limitation.
TOM: I grant you it may be. (They are silent) I had an
odd feeling that you and I sat here once before, long ago, and that
we were plants. And you were a beautiful plant, and I—I was a
very ugly plant. I confess it surprised me—finding myself so
ugly a plant.
(A young girl is seen outside. HARRY gets
the door open for her and brings ELIZABETH in.)
HARRY: There's heat here. And two of your mother's friends. Mr
Demming—Richard Demming—the artist—and I think
you and Mr Edgeworthy are old friends.
(ELIZABETH comes forward. She is the creditable
young American—well built, poised, 'cultivated', so sound an
expression of the usual as to be able to meet the world with
assurance—assurance which training has made rather graceful.
She is about seventeen—and mature. You feel solid things
TOM: I knew you when you were a baby. You used to kick a great
ELIZABETH: (laughing, with ease) And scream, I haven't a
doubt. But I've stopped that. One does, doesn't one? And it was you
who gave me the idol.
TOM: Proselytizing, I'm afraid.
ELIZABETH: I beg—? Oh—yes (laughing
cordially) I see. (she doesn't) I dressed the idol up in
my doll's clothes. They fitted perfectly—the idol was just
the size of my doll Ailine. But mother didn't like the idol that
way, and tore the clothes getting them off. (to HARRY,
after looking around) Is mother here?
HARRY: (crossly) Yes, she's here. Of course she's here.
And she must know you're here, (after looking in the inner room
he goes to the trap-door and makes a great noise)
ELIZABETH: Oh—please. Really—it doesn't make
the least difference.
HARRY: Well, all I can say is, your manners are better than your
ELIZABETH: But you see I don't do anything interesting, so I
have to have good manners. (lightly, but leaving the impression
there is a certain superiority in not doing anything interesting.
Turning cordially to DICK) My father was an artist.
DICK: Yes, I know.
ELIZABETH: He was a portrait painter. Do you do portraits?
DICK: Well, not the kind people buy.
ELIZABETH: They bought father's.
DICK: Yes, I know he did that kind.
HARRY: (still irritated) Why, you don't do portraits.
DICK: I did one of you the other day. You thought it was a
ELIZABETH: (laughing delightedly) No? Not really? Did you
think—How could you think—(as HARRY does not
join the laugh) Oh, I beg your pardon. I—Does mother grow
beautiful roses now?
HARRY: No, she does not.
(The trap-door begins to move. CLAIRE's
ELIZABETH: Mother! It's been so long—(she tries to
overcome the difficulties and embrace her mother)
CLAIRE: (protecting a box she has) Careful, Elizabeth. We
mustn't upset the lice.
ELIZABETH: (retreating) Lice? (but quickly equal even
to lice) Oh—yes. You take it—them—off plants,
CLAIRE: I'm putting them on certain plants.
ELIZABETH: (weakly) Oh, I thought you took them off.
CLAIRE: (calling) Anthony! (he comes) The lice.
(he takes them from her) (CLAIRE, who has not fully
ascended, looks at ELIZABETH, hesitates, then suddenly
starts back down the stairs.)
HARRY: (outraged) Claire! (slowly she
re-ascends—sits on the top step. After a long pause in which
he has waited for CLAIRE to open a conversation with her
daughter.) Well, and what have you been doing at school all
CLAIRE: Studying what?
ELIZABETH: Why—the things one studies, mother.
CLAIRE: Oh! The things one studies. (looks down cellar
DICK: (after another wait) And what have you been doing
ELIZABETH: Oh—the things one does. Tennis and skating and
CLAIRE: The things one does.
ELIZABETH: Yes. All the things. The—the things one does.
Though I haven't been in school these last few months, you know.
Miss Lane took us to Europe.
TOM: And how did you like Europe?
ELIZABETH: (capably) Oh, I thought it was awfully
amusing. All the girls were quite mad about Europe. Of course, I'm
glad I'm an American.
ELIZABETH: (laughing) Why—mother! Of course one is
glad one is an American. All the girls—
CLAIRE: (turning away) O—h! (a moan under the
ELIZABETH: Why, mother—aren't you well?
HARRY: Your mother has been working pretty hard at all this.
ELIZABETH: Oh, I do so want to know all about it? Perhaps I can
help you! I think it's just awfully amusing that you're doing
something. One does nowadays, doesn't one?—if you know what I
mean. It was the war, wasn't it, made it the thing to do
DICK: (slyly) And you thought, Claire, that the war was
ELIZABETH: The war? Lost! (her capable laugh)
Fancy our losing a war! Miss Lane says we should give
thanks. She says we should each do some expressive
thing—you know what I mean? And that this is the
keynote of the age. Of course, one's own kind of thing. Like
CLAIRE: You think that is one's own kind of thing?
ELIZABETH: Why, of course I do, mother. And so does Miss Lane.
All the girls—
CLAIRE: (shaking her head as if to get something out)
ELIZABETH: What is it, mother?
CLAIRE: A fly shut up in my ear—'All the girls!'
ELIZABETH: (laughing) Mother was always so amusing. So
different—if you know what I mean. Vacations I've
lived mostly with Aunt Adelaide, you know.
CLAIRE: My sister who is fitted to rear children.
HARRY: Well, somebody has to do it.
ELIZABETH: And I do love Aunt Adelaide, but I think its going to
be awfully amusing to be around with mother now—and help her
with her work. Help do some useful beautiful thing.
CLAIRE: I am not doing any useful beautiful thing.
ELIZABETH: Oh, but you are, mother. Of course you are. Miss Lane
says so. She says it is your splendid heritage gives you this
impulse to do a beautiful thing for the race. She says you are
doing in your way what the great teachers and preachers behind you
did in theirs.
CLAIRE: (who is good for little more) Well, all I can say
is, Miss Lane is stung.
ELIZABETH: Mother! What a thing to say of Miss Lane. (from
this slipping into more of a little girl manner) Oh, she gave
me a spiel one day about living up to the men I come from.
(CLAIRE turns and regards her daughter.)
CLAIRE: You'll do it, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH: Well, I don't know. Quite a job, I'll say. Of course,
I'd have to do it in my way. I'm not going to teach or preach or be
a stuffy person. But now that—(she here becomes the
product of a superior school) values have shifted and such
sensitive new things have been liberated in the world—
CLAIRE: (low) Don't use those words.
ELIZABETH: Why—why not?
CLAIRE: Because you don't know what they mean.
ELIZABETH: Why, of course I know what they mean!
CLAIRE: (turning away) You're—stepping on the
HARRY: (hastily) Your mother has been working awfully
hard at all this.
ELIZABETH: Well, now that I'm here you'll let me help you, won't
CLAIRE: (trying for control) You
ELIZABETH: But I want to. Help add to the wealth of the
CLAIRE: Will you please get it out of your head that I am adding
to the wealth of the world!
ELIZABETH: But, mother—of course you are. To produce a new
and better kind of plant—
CLAIRE: They may be new. I don't give a damn whether they're
ELIZABETH: But—but what are they then?
CLAIRE: (as if choked out of her) They're different.
ELIZABETH: (thinks a minute, then laughs triumphantly)
But what's the use of making them different if they aren't
HARRY: A good square question, Claire. Why don't you answer
CLAIRE: I don't have to answer it.
HARRY: Why not give the girl a fair show? You never have, you
know. Since she's interested, why not tell her what it is you're
CLAIRE: She is not interested.
ELIZABETH: But I am, mother. Indeed I am. I do want awfully to
understand what you are doing, and help you.
CLAIRE: You can't help me, Elizabeth.
HARRY: Why not let her try?
CLAIRE: Why do you ask me to do that? This is my own thing. Why
do you make me feel I should—(goes to ELIZABETH) I
will be good to you, Elizabeth. We'll go around together. I haven't
done it, but—you'll see. We'll do gay things. I'll have a lot
of beaus around for you. Anything else. Not—this is—Not
ELIZABETH: As you like, mother, of course. I just would have
been so glad to—to share the thing that interests you.
(hurt borne with good breeding and a smile)
HARRY: Claire! (which says, 'How can you?')
CLAIRE: (who is looking at ELIZABETH) Yes, I will
TOM: I don't think so. As Claire says—anything else.
ELIZABETH: Why, of course—I don't at all want to
HARRY: It'll do Claire good to take someone in. To get down to
brass tacks and actually say what she's driving at.
CLAIRE: Oh—Harry. But yes—I will try.
(does try, but no words come. Laughs) When you come to say
it it's not—One would rather not nail it to a cross of
words—(laughs again) with brass tacks.
HARRY: (affectionately) But I want to see you put things
into words, Claire, and realize just where you are.
CLAIRE: (oddly) You think that's a—good idea?
ELIZABETH: (in her manner of holding the world capably in her
hands) Now let's talk of something else. I hadn't the least
idea of making mother feel badly.
CLAIRE: (desperately) No, we'll go on. Though I don't
know—where we'll end. I can't answer for that. These
plants—(beginning flounderingly) Perhaps they are less
beautiful—less sound—than the plants from which they
diverged. But they have found—otherness, (laughs a little
shrilly) If you know—what I mean.
TOM: Claire—stop this! (To HARRY) This is
CLAIRE: (excitedly) No; I'm going on. They have been
shocked out of what they were—into something they were not;
they've broken from the forms in which they found themselves. They
are alien. Outside. That's it, outside; if you—know what I
ELIZABETH: (not shocked from what she is) But of course,
the object of it all is to make them better plants. Otherwise, what
would be the sense of doing it?
CLAIRE: (not reached by ELIZABETH) Out
there—(giving it with her hands) lies all that's not
been touched—lies life that waits. Back here—the old
pattern, done again, again and again. So long done it doesn't even
know itself for a pattern—in immensity. But this—has
invaded. Crept a little way into—what wasn't. Strange lines
in life unused. And when you make a pattern new you know a
pattern's made with life. And then you know that anything may
be—if only you know how to reach it. (this has taken form,
not easily, but with great struggle between feeling and
HARRY: (cordially) Now I begin to get you, Claire. I
never knew before why you called it the Edge Vine.
CLAIRE: I should destroy the Edge Vine. It isn't—over the
edge. It's running, back to—'all the girls'. It's a little
afraid of Miss Lane, (looking sombrely at it) You are out,
but you are not alive.
ELIZABETH: Why, it looks all right, mother.
CLAIRE: Didn't carry life with it from the life it left.
Dick—you know what I mean. At least you ought to. (her
ruthless way of not letting anyone's feelings stand in the way of
truth) Then destroy it for me! It's hard to do it—with
the hands that made it.
DICK: But what's the point in destroying it, Claire?
CLAIRE: (impatiently) I've told you. It cannot
DICK: But you say you can go on producing it, and it's
interesting in form.
CLAIRE: And you think I'll stop with that? Be shut in—with
different life—that can't creep on? (after trying to put
destroying hands upon it) It's hard to—get past what
we've done. Our own dead things—block the way.
TOM: But you're doing it this next time, Claire, (nodding to
the inner room.) In there!
CLAIRE: (turning to that room) I'm not sure.
TOM: But you told me Breath of Life has already produced itself.
Doesn't that show it has brought life from the life it left?
CLAIRE: But timidly, rather—wistfully. A little homesick.
If it is less sure this time, then it is going back to—Miss
Lane. But if the pattern's clearer now, then it has made friends of
life that waits. I'll know to-morrow.
ELIZABETH: You know, something tells me this is
CLAIRE: The hymn-singing ancestors are tuning up.
ELIZABETH: I don't know what you mean by that, mother
CLAIRE: But we will now sing, 'Nearer, my God, to Thee: Nearer
ELIZABETH: (laughingly breaking in) Well, I don't care.
Of course you can make fun at me, but something does tell me this
is wrong. To do what—what—
DICK: What God did?
ELIZABETH: Well—yes. Unless you do it to make them
better—to do it just to do it—that doesn't seem
right to me.
CLAIRE: (roughly) 'Right to you!' And that's all you know
of adventure—and of anguish. Do you know it is
you—world of which you're so true a flower—makes me
have to leave? You're there to hold the door shut! Because you're
young and of a gayer world, you think I can't see
them—those old men? Do you know why you're so sure of
yourself? Because you can't feel. Can't feel—the
limitless—out there—a sea just over the hill. I will
not stay with you! (buries her hands in the earth around the
Edge Vine. But suddenly steps back from it as she had from
ELIZABETH) And I will not stay with you! (grasps it as we grasp
what we would kill, is trying to pull it up. They all step forward
in horror. ANTHONY is drawn in by this harm to the plant)
ANTHONY: Miss Claire! Miss Claire! The work of years!
CLAIRE: May only make a prison! (struggling with HARRY,
who is trying to stop her) You think I too will die on the
edge? (she has thrown him away, is now struggling with the
vine) Why did I make you? To get past you! (as she twists
it) Oh yes, I know you have thorns! The Edge Vine should have
thorns, (with a long tremendous pull for deep roots, she has it
up. As she holds the torn roots) Oh, I have loved you so! You
took me where I hadn't been.
ELIZABETH: (who has been looking on with a certain practical
horror) Well, I'd say it would be better not to go there!
CLAIRE: Now I know what you are for! (flings her arm back to
strike ELIZABETH with the Edge Vine)
HARRY: (wresting it from her) Claire! Are you mad?
CLAIRE: No, I'm not mad. I'm—too sane! (pointing to
ELIZABETH—and the words come from mighty roots) To
think that object ever moved my belly and sucked my breast!
(ELIZABETH hides her face as if struck)
HARRY: (going to ELIZABETH, turning to CLAIRE)
This is atrocious! You're cruel.
(He leads ELIZABETH to the door and out.
After an irresolute moment in which he looks from CLAIRE
to TOM, DICK follows. ANTHONY cannot bear to go.
He stoops to take the Edge Vine from the floor. CLAIRE's
gesture stops him. He goes into the inner room.)
CLAIRE: (kicking the Edge Vine out of her way, drawing deep
breaths, smiling) O-h. How good I feel! Light! (a movement
as if she could fly) Read me something, Tom dear. Or say
something pleasant—about God. But be very careful what you
say about him! I have a feeling—he's not far off.
Late afternoon of the following day. CLAIRE
is alone in the tower—a tower which is thought to be round
but does not complete the circle. The back is curved, then jagged
lines break from that, and the front is a queer bulging
window—in a curve that leans. The whole structure is as if
given a twist by some terrific force—like something wrong. It
is lighted by an old-fashioned watchman's lantern hanging from the
ceiling; the innumerable pricks and slits in the metal throw a
marvellous pattern on the curved wall—like some masonry that
There are no windows at back, and there is no door
save an opening in the floor. The delicately distorted rail of a
spiral staircase winds up from below. CLAIRE is seen through the
huge ominous window as if shut into the tower. She is lying on a
seat at the back looking at a book of drawings. To do this she has
left the door of her lantern a little open—and her own face
is clearly seen.
A door is heard opening below; laughing voices,
CLAIRE listens, not pleased.
ADELAIDE: (voice coming up) Dear—dear, why do they
make such twisting steps.
HARRY: Take your time, most up now. (HARRY's head appears, he
looks back.) Making it all right?
ADELAIDE: I can't tell yet. (laughingly) No, I don't
HARRY: (reaching back a hand for her) The last
lap—is the bad lap. (ADELAIDE is up, and occupied with
getting her breath.)
HARRY: Since you wouldn't come down, Claire, we thought we'd
ADELAIDE: (as CLAIRE does not greet her) I'm sorry
to intrude, but I have to see you, Claire. There are things to be
arranged. (CLAIRE volunteering nothing about arrangements,
ADELAIDE surveys the tower. An unsympathetic eye goes from the
curves to the lines which diverge. Then she looks from the
window) Well, at least you have a view.
HARRY: This is the first time you've been up here?
ADELAIDE: Yes, in the five years you've had the house I was
never asked up here before.
CLAIRE: (amiably enough) You weren't asked up here
ADELAIDE: Harry asked me.
CLAIRE: It isn't Harry's tower. But never mind—since you
don't like it—it's all right.
ADELAIDE: (her eyes again rebuking the irregularities of the
tower) No, I confess I do not care for it. A round tower should
go on being round.
HARRY: Claire calls this the thwarted tower. She bought the
house because of it. (going over and sitting by her, his hand on
her ankle) Didn't you, old girl? She says she'd like to have
known the architect.
ADELAIDE: Probably a tiresome person too incompetent to make a
CLAIRE: Well, now he's disposed of, what next?
ADELAIDE: (sitting down in a manner of capably opening a
conference) Next, Elizabeth, and you, Claire. Just what is the
matter with Elizabeth?
CLAIRE: (whose voice is cool, even, as if herself is not
really engaged by this) Nothing is the matter with her. She is
a tower that is a tower.
ADELAIDE: Well, is that anything against her?
CLAIRE: She's just like one of her father's portraits. They
never interested me. Nor does she. (looks at the drawings which
do interest her)
ADELAIDE: A mother cannot cast off her own child simply because
she does not interest her!
CLAIRE: And why can't she be monstrous—if she has to
ADELAIDE: You don't have to be. That's where I'm out of patience
with you Claire. You are really a particularly intelligent,
competent person, and it's time for you to call a halt to this
nonsense and be the woman you were meant to be!
CLAIRE: (holding the book up to see another way) What
inside dope have you on what I was meant to be?
ADELAIDE: I know what you came from.
CLAIRE: Well, isn't it about time somebody got loose from that?
What I came from made you, so—
ADELAIDE: (stiffly) I see.
CLAIRE: So—you being such a tower of strength, why need I
too be imprisoned in what I came from?
ADELAIDE: It isn't being imprisoned. Right there is where you
make your mistake, Claire. Who's in a tower—in an
unsuccessful tower? Not I. I go about in the world—free,
busy, happy. Among people, I have no time to think of myself.
ADELAIDE: No. My family. The things that interest them; from
morning till night it's—
CLAIRE: Yes, I know you have a large family, Adelaide; five and
Elizabeth makes six.
ADELAIDE: We'll speak of Elizabeth later. But if you would just
get out of yourself and enter into other people's lives—
CLAIRE: Then I would become just like you. And we should all be
just alike in order to assure one another that we're all just
right. But since you and Harry and Elizabeth and ten million other
people bolster each other up, why do you especially need me?
ADELAIDE: (not unkindly) We don't need you as much as you
CLAIRE: (a wry face) I never liked what I needed.
HARRY: I am convinced I am the worst thing in the world for you,
CLAIRE: (with a smile for his tactics, but shaking her
head) I'm afraid you're not. I don't know—perhaps you
ADELAIDE: Well, what is it you want, Claire?
CLAIRE: (simply) You wouldn't know if I told you.
ADELAIDE: That's rather arrogant.
HARRY: Yes, take a chance, Claire. I have been known to get an
idea—and Adelaide quite frequently gets one.
CLAIRE: (the first resentment she has shown) You two feel
very superior, don't you?
ADELAIDE: I don't think we are the ones who are feeling
CLAIRE: Oh, yes, you are. Very superior to what you think is my
feeling of superiority, comparing my—isolation with your
'heart of humanity'. Soon we will speak of the beauty of common
experiences, of the—Oh, I could say it all before we come to
HARRY: Adelaide came up here to help you, Claire.
CLAIRE: Adelaide came up here to lock me in. Well, she can't do
ADELAIDE: (gently) But can't you see that one may do that
to one's self?
CLAIRE: (thinks of this, looks suddenly tired—then
smiles) Well, at least I've changed the keys.
HARRY: 'Locked in.' Bunkum. Get that our of your head, Claire.
Who's locked in? Nobody that I know of, we're all free Americans.
Free as air.
ADELAIDE: I wish you'd come and hear one of Mr Morley's sermons,
Claire. You're very old-fashioned if you think sermons are what
they used to be.
CLAIRE: (with interest) And do they still sing 'Nearer,
my God, to Thee'?
ADELAIDE: They do, and a noble old hymn it is. It would do you
no harm at all to sing it.
CLAIRE: (eagerly) Sing it to me, Adelaide. I'd like to
hear you sing it.
ADELAIDE: It would be sacrilege to sing it to you in this
CLAIRE: (falling back) Oh, I don't know. I'm not so sure
God would agree with you. That would be one on you, wouldn't
ADELAIDE: It's easy to feel one's self set apart!
CLAIRE: No, it isn't.
ADELAIDE: (beginning anew) It's a new age, Claire.
CLAIRE: Spiritual values! (in her brooding way) So you
have pulled that up. (with cunning) Don't think I don't know
what it is you do.
ADELAIDE: Well, what do I do? I'm sure I have no idea what
you're talking about.
HARRY: (affectionately, as CLAIRE is looking with
intentness at what he does not see) What does she do,
CLAIRE: It's rather clever, what she does. Snatching the
phrase—(a movement as if pulling something up)
standing it up between her and—the life that's there. And by
saying it enough—'We have life! We have life! We have life!'
Very good come-back at one who would really be—'Just so!
We are that. Right this way, please—'That, I suppose
is what we mean by needing each other. All join in the chorus,
'This is it! This is it! This is it!' And anyone who won't join is
to be—visited by relatives, (regarding ADELAIDE
with curiosity) Do you really think that anything is going
on in you?
ADELAIDE: (stiffly) I am not one to hold myself up as a
perfect example of what the human race may be.
CLAIRE: (brightly) Well, that's good.
CLAIRE: Humility's a real thing—not just a fine
name for laziness.
HARRY: Well, Lord A'mighty, you can't call Adelaide lazy.
CLAIRE: She stays in one place because she hasn't the energy to
go anywhere else.
ADELAIDE: (as if the last word in absurdity has been said)
I haven't energy?
CLAIRE: (mildly) You haven't any energy at all, Adelaide.
That's why you keep so busy.
ADELAIDE: Well—Claire's nerves are in a worse state
than I had realized.
CLAIRE: So perhaps we'd better look at Blake's drawings,
(takes up the book)
ADELAIDE: It would be all right for me to look at Blake's
drawings. You'd better look at the Sistine Madonna,
(affectionately, after she has watched CLAIRE's face a
moment) What is it, Claire? Why do you shut yourself out from
CLAIRE: I told you. Because I do not want to be shut in with
ADELAIDE: All of this is not very pleasant for Harry.
HARRY: I want Claire to be gay.
CLAIRE: Funny—you should want that, (speaks
unwillingly, a curious, wistful unwillingness) Did you ever say
a preposterous thing, then go trailing after the thing you've said
and find it wasn't so preposterous? Here is the circle we are
in.describes a big circle) Being gay. It shoots little darts
through the circle, and a minute later—gaiety all gone, and
you looking through that little hole the gaiety left.
ADELAIDE: (going to her, as she is still looking through that
little hole) Claire, dear, I wish I could make you feel how
much I care for you. (simply, with real feeling) You can
call me all the names you like—dull, commonplace,
lazy—that is a new idea, I confess, but the rest of our
family's gone now, and the love that used to be there between us
all—the only place for it now is between you and me. You were
so much loved, Claire. You oughtn't to try and get away from a
world in which you are so much loved, (to HARRY)
Mother—father—all of us, always loved Claire best. We
always loved Claire's queer gaiety. Now you've got to hand it to us
for that, as the children say.
CLAIRE: (moved, but eyes shining with a queer bright
loneliness) But never one of you—once—looked with
me through the little pricks the gaiety made—never one of
you—once, looked with me at the queer light that came in
through the pricks.
ADELAIDE: And can't you see, dear, that it's better for us we
didn't? And that it would be better for you now if you would just
resolutely look somewhere else? You must see yourself that you
haven't the poise of people who are held—well, within the
circle, if you choose to put it that way. There's something about
being in that main body, having one's roots in the big common
experiences, gives a calm which you have missed. That's why
I want you to take Elizabeth, forget yourself, and—
CLAIRE: I do want calm. But mine would have to be a calm
I—worked my way to. A calm all prepared for me—would
ADELAIDE: (less sympathetically) I know you have to be
yourself, Claire. But I don't admit you have a right to hurt other
HARRY: I think Claire and I had better take a nice long
ADELAIDE: Now why don't you?
CLAIRE: I am taking a trip.
ADELAIDE: Well, Harry isn't, and he'd like to go and wants you
to go with him. Go to Paris and get yourself some awfully
good-looking clothes—and have one grand fling at the gay
world. You really love that, Claire, and you've been awfully dull
lately. I think that's the whole trouble.
HARRY: I think so too.
ADELAIDE: This sober business of growing plants—
CLAIRE: Not sober—it's mad.
ADELAIDE: All the more reason for quitting it.
CLAIRE: But madness that is the only chance for sanity.
ADELAIDE: Come, come, now—let's not juggle words.
CLAIRE: (springing up) How dare you say that to me,
Adelaide. You who are such a liar and thief and whore with
ADELAIDE: (facing her, furious) How dare
HARRY: Of course not, Claire. You have the most preposterous way
of using words.
CLAIRE: I respect words.
ADELAIDE: Well, you'll please respect me enough not to dare use
certain words to me!
CLAIRE: Yes, I do dare. I'm tired of what you do—you and
all of you.
which raise their heads as indications. And you pull them
up—to decorate your stagnant little minds—and think
that makes you—And because you have pulled that word from the
life that grew it you won't let one who's honest, and aware, and
troubled, try to reach through to—to what she doesn't know is
there, (she is moved, excited, as if a cruel thing has been
done) Why did you come here?
ADELAIDE: To try and help you. But I begin to fear I can't do
it. It's pretty egotistical to claim that what so many people are,
(CLAIRE, after looking intently at ADELAIDE,
slowly, smiling a little, describes a circle. With deftly used
hands makes a quick vicious break in the circle which is there in
HARRY: (going to her, taking her hands) It's getting
close to dinner-time. You were thinking of something else, Claire,
when I told you Charlie Emmons was coming to dinner to-night,
(answering her look) Sure—he is a neurologist, and I
want him to see you. I'm perfectly honest with you—cards all
on the table, you know that. I'm hoping if you like him—and
he's the best scout in the world, that he can help you. (talking
hurriedly against the stillness which follows her look from him to
ADELAIDE, where she sees between them an 'understanding' about
her) Sure you need help, Claire. Your nerves are a little on
the blink—from all you've been doing. No use making a mystery
of it—or a tragedy. Emmons is a cracker-jack, and naturally I
want you to get a move on yourself and be happy again.
CLAIRE: (who has gone over to the window) And this
neurologist can make me happy?
HARRY: Can make you well—and then you'll be happy.
ADELAIDE: (in the voice of now fixing it all up) And I
had just an idea about Elizabeth. Instead of working with mere
plants, why not think of Elizabeth as a plant and—
(CLAIRE, who has been looking out of the window,
now throws open one of the panes that swings out—or seems to,
and calls down in great excitement.)
CLAIRE: Tom! Tom! Quick! Up here! I'm in trouble!
HARRY: (going to the window) That's a rotten thing to do,
Claire! You've frightened him.
CLAIRE: Yes, how fast he can run. He was deep in thought and I
stabbed right through.
HARRY: Well, he'll be none too pleased when he gets up here and
finds there was no reason for the stabbing!
(They wait for his footsteps, HARRY
annoyed, ADELAIDE offended, but stealing worried looks
at CLAIRE, who is looking fixedly at the place in the floor
where TOM will appear.—Running footsteps.)
TOM: (his voice getting there before he does) Yes,
Claire—yes—yes—(as his head appears) What
CLAIRE: (at once presenting him and answering his
question) My sister.
TOM: (gasping) Oh,—why—is that all? I
mean—how do you do? Pardon, I (panting) came
HARRY: If you want to slap Claire, Tom, I for one have no
CLAIRE: Adelaide has the most interesting idea, Tom. She
proposes that I take Elizabeth and roll her in the gutter. Just let
her lie there until she breaks up into—
ADELAIDE: Claire! I don't see how—even in
fun—pretty vulgar fun—you can speak in those terms of a
pure young girl. I'm beginning to think I had better take
CLAIRE: Oh, I've thought that all along.
ADELAIDE: And I'm also beginning to suspect that—oddity
may be just a way of shifting responsibility.
CLAIRE: (cordially interested in this possibility) Now
you know—that might be.
ADELAIDE: A mother who does not love her own child! You are an
unnatural woman, Claire.
CLAIRE: Well, at least it saves me from being a natural one.
ADELAIDE: Oh—I know, you think you have a great deal! But
let me tell you, you've missed a great deal! You've never known the
faintest stirring of a mother's love.
CLAIRE: That's not true.
HARRY: No. Claire loved our boy.
CLAIRE: I'm glad he didn't live.
HARRY: (low) Claire!
CLAIRE: I loved him. Why should I want him to live?
HARRY: Come, dear, I'm sorry I spoke of him—when you're
not feeling well.
CLAIRE: I'm feeling all right. Just because I'm seeing
something, it doesn't mean I'm sick.
HARRY: Well, let's go down now. About dinner-time. I shouldn't
wonder if Emmons were here. (as ADELAIDE is starting down
stairs) Coming, Claire?
HARRY: But it's time to go down for dinner.
CLAIRE: I'm not hungry.
HARRY: But we have a guest. Two guests—Adelaide's staying
CLAIRE: Then you're not alone.
HARRY: But I invited Dr Emmons to meet you.
CLAIRE: (her smile flashing) Tell him I am violent
HARRY: Dearest—how can you joke about such things!
CLAIRE: So you do think they're serious?
HARRY: (irritated) No, I do not! But I want you to come
down for dinner!
ADELAIDE: Come, come, Claire; you know quite well this is not
the sort of thing one does.
CLAIRE: Why go on saying one doesn't, when you are seeing one
does (to TOM) Will you stay with me a while? I want to
purify the tower.
(ADELAIDE begins to disappear)
HARRY: Fine time to choose for a
tête-à-tête. (as he is leaving) I'd think
more of you, Edgeworthy, if you refused to humour Claire in her
ADELAIDE: (her severe voice coming from below) It is not
what she was taught.
CLAIRE: No, it's not what I was taught, (laughing rather
timidly) And perhaps you'd rather have your dinner?
CLAIRE: We'll get something later. I want to talk to you.
(but she does not—laughs) Absurd that I should feel
bashful with you. Why am I so awkward with words when I go to talk
TOM: The words know they're not needed.
CLAIRE: No, they're not needed. There's something
underneath—an open way—down below the way that words
can go. (rather desperately) It is there, isn't it?
TOM: Oh, yes, it is there.
CLAIRE: Then why do we never—go it?
TOM: If we went it, it would not be there.
CLAIRE: Is that true? How terrible, if that is true.
TOM: Not terrible, wonderful—that it should—of
CLAIRE: (with the simplicity that can say anything) I
want to go it, Tom, I'm lonely up on top here. Is it that I have
more faith than you, or is it only that I'm greedier? You see, you
don't know (her reckless laugh) what you're missing. You
don't know how I could love you.
TOM: Don't, Claire; that isn't—how it is—between you
CLAIRE: But why can't it be—every way—between you
TOM: Because we'd lose—the open way. (the quality of
his denial shows how strong is his feeling for her) With anyone
else—not with you.
CLAIRE: But you are the only one I want. The only one—all
of me wants.
TOM: I know; but that's the way it is.
CLAIRE: You're cruel.
TOM: Oh, Claire, I'm trying so hard to—save it for us.
Isn't it our beauty and our safeguard that underneath our separate
lives, no matter where we may be, with what other, there is this
open way between us? That's so much more than anything we could
bring to being.
CLAIRE: Perhaps. But—it's different with me. I'm
TOM: (his hand on her) Dear!
CLAIRE: No, don't touch me—since (moving) you're
going away to-morrow? (he nods) For—always? (his
head just moves assent) India is just another country. But
there are undiscovered countries.
TOM: Yes, but we are so feeble we have to reach our country
through the actual country lying nearest. Don't you do that
yourself, Claire? Reach your country through the plants'
CLAIRE: My country? You mean—outside?
TOM: No, I don't think it that way.
CLAIRE: Oh, yes, you do.
TOM: Your country is the inside, Claire. The innermost. You are
disturbed because you lie too close upon the heart of life.
CLAIRE: (restlessly) I don't know; you can think it one
way—or another. No way says it, and that's good—at
least it's not shut up in saying. (she is looking at her
enclosing hand, as if something is shut up there)
TOM: But also, you know, things may be freed by expression. Come
from the unrealized into the fabric of life.
CLAIRE: Yes, but why does the fabric of life have
to—freeze into its pattern? It should (doing it with her
hands) flow, (then turning like an unsatisfied child to
him) But I wanted to talk to you.
TOM: You are talking to me. Tell me about your flower that never
was before—your Breath of Life.
CLAIRE: I'll know to-morrow. You'll not go until I know?
TOM: I'll try to stay.
CLAIRE: It seems to me, if it has—then I have, integrity
in—(smiles, it is as if the smile lets her say it)
otherness. I don't want to die on the edge!
TOM: Not you!
CLAIRE: Many do. It's what makes them too smug in
allness—those dead things on the edge, died,
distorted—trying to get through. Oh—don't think I don't
see—The Edge Vine! (a pause, then swiftly) Do you know
what I mean? Or do you think I'm just a fool, or crazy?
TOM: I think I know what you mean, and you know I don't think
you are a fool, or crazy.
CLAIRE: Stabbed to awareness—no matter where it takes you,
isn't that more than a safe place to stay? (telling him very
simply despite the pattern of pain in her voice) Anguish may be
a thread—making patterns that haven't been. A
thread—blue and burning.
TOM: (to take her from what even he fears for her) But
you were telling me about the flower you breathed to life. What is
your Breath of Life?
CLAIRE: (an instant playing) It's a secret. A
secret?—it's a trick. Distilled from the most fragile flowers
there are. It's only air—pausing—playing; except, far
in, one stab of red, its quivering heart—that asks a
question. But here's the trick—I bred the air-form to
strength. The strength shut up behind us I've sent—far out.
(troubled) I'll know tomorrow. And I have another gift for
Breath of Life; some day—though days of work lie in
between—some day I'll give it reminiscence. Fragrance that
is—no one thing in here but—reminiscent. (silence,
she raises wet eyes) We need the haunting beauty from the life
we've left. I need that, (he takes her hands and breathes her
name) Let me reach my country with you. I'm not a plant. After
all, they don't—accept me. Who does—accept me? Will
TOM: My dear—dear, dear, Claire—you move me so! You
stand alone in a clearness that breaks my heart, (her hands move
up his arms. He takes them to hold them from where they would
go—though he can hardly do it) But you've asked what you
yourself could answer best. We'd only stop in the country where
CLAIRE: We might come through—to radiance.
TOM: Radiance is an enclosing place.
CLAIRE: Perhaps radiance lighting forms undreamed, (her
reckless laugh) I'd be willing to—take a chance, I'd
rather lose than never know.
TOM: No, Claire. Knowing you from underneath, I know you
couldn't bear to lose.
CLAIRE: Wouldn't men say you were a fool!
TOM: They would.
CLAIRE: And perhaps you are. (he smiles a little) I feel
so desperate, because if only I could—show you what I am, you
might see I could have without losing. But I'm a stammering thing
TOM: You do show me what you are.
CLAIRE: I've known a few moments that were life. Why don't they
help me now? One was in the air. I was up with
Harry—flying—high. It was about four months before
David was born—the doctor was furious—pregnant women
are supposed to keep to earth. We were going fast—I
was flying—I had left the earth. And then—within
me, movement, for the first time—stirred to life far in
air—movement within. The man unborn, he too, would fly. And
so—I always loved him. He was movement—and wonder. In
his short life were many flights. I never told anyone about the
last one. His little bed was by the window—he wasn't four
years old. It was night, but him not asleep. He saw the morning
star—you know—the morning star.
Brighter—stranger—reminiscent—and a promise. He
pointed—'Mother', he asked me, 'what is there—beyond
the stars?' A baby, a sick baby—the morning star. Next
night—the finger that pointed was—(suddenly bites
her own finger) But, yes, I am glad. He would always have tried
to move and too much would hold him. Wonder would die—and
he'd laugh at soaring, (looking down, sidewise) Though I
liked his voice. So I wish you'd stay near me—for I like your
TOM: Claire! That's (choked) almost too much.
CLAIRE: (one of her swift glances—canny, almost
practical) Well, I'm glad if it is. How can I make it more?
(but what she sees brings its own change) I know what it is
you're afraid of. It's because I have so much—yes, why
shouldn't I say it?—passion. You feel that in me, don't you?
You think it would swamp everything. But that isn't all there is to
TOM: Oh, I know it! My dearest—why, it's because I know
it! You think I am—a fool?
CLAIRE: It's a thing that's—sometimes more than I am. And
yet I—I am more than it is.
TOM: I know. I know about you.
CLAIRE: I don't know that you do. Perhaps if you really knew
about me—you wouldn't go away.
TOM: You're making me suffer, Claire.
CLAIRE: I know I am. I want to. Why shouldn't you suffer?
(now seeing it more clearly than she has ever seen it) You
know what I think about you? You're afraid of suffering, and so you
stop this side—in what you persuade yourself is suffering,
(waits, then sends it straight) You know—how it
is—with me and Dick? (as she sees him suffer) Oh, no,
I don't want to hurt you! Let it be you! I'll teach you—you
needn't scorn it. It's rather wonderful.
TOM: Stop that, Claire! That isn't you.
CLAIRE: Why are you so afraid—of letting me be
low—if that is low? You see—(cannily) I believe
in beauty. I have the faith that can be bad as well as good. And
you know why I have the faith? Because sometimes—from my
lowest moments—beauty has opened as the sea. From a cave I
My love, you're going away—
Let me tell you how it is with me;
I want to touch you—somehow touch you once before I
Let me tell you how it is with me.
I do not want to work,
I want to be;
Do not want to make a rose or make a poem—
Want to lie upon the earth and know. (closes her
Stop doing that!—words going into patterns;
They do it sometimes when I let come what's there.
Thoughts take pattern—then the pattern is the thing.
But let me tell you how it is with me. (it flows
All that I do or say—it is to what it comes from,
A drop lifted from the sea.
I want to lie upon the earth and know.
But—scratch a little dirt and make a flower;
Scratch a bit of brain—something like a poem. (covering
Stop doing that. Help me stop doing that!
TOM: (and from the place where she had carried him)
Don't talk at all. Lie still and know—
And know that I am knowing.
Yes; but we are so weak we have to talk;
To talk—to touch.
Why can't I rest in knowing I would give my life to reach
That has—all there is.
But I must—put my timid hands upon you,
Do something about infinity.
Oh, let what will flow into us,
And fill us full—and leave us still.
Wring me dry,
And let me fill again with life more pure.
To know—to feel,
And do nothing with what I feel and know—
That's being good. That's nearer God.
(drenched in the feeling that has flowed through
her—but surprised—helpless) Why, I said your thing,
didn't I? Opened my life to bring you to me, and what came—is
what sends you away.
TOM: No! What came is what holds us together. What came is what
saves us from ever going apart. (brokenly) My beautiful one.
You—you brave flower of all our knowing.
CLAIRE: I am not a flower. I am too torn. If you have
anything—help me. Breathe, Breathe the healing oneness, and
let me know in calm. (with a sob his head rests upon
CLAIRE: (her hands on his head, but looking far)
Beauty—you pure one thing. Breathe—Let me know in calm.
Then—trouble me, trouble me, for other moments—in
farther calm. (slow, motionless, barely articulate)
TOM: (as she does not move he lifts his head. And even as he
looks at her, she does not move, nor look at him)
Claire—(his hand out to her, a little afraid) You went
away from me then. You are away from me now.
CLAIRE: Yes, and I could go on. But I will come back, (it is
hard to do. She brings much with her) That, too, I will give
you—my by-myself-ness. That's the uttermost I can give. I
never thought—to try to give it. But let us do it—the
great sacrilege! Yes! (excited, she rises; she has his hands,
and bring him up beside her) Let us take the mad chance!
Perhaps it's the only way to save—what's there. How do we
know? How can we know? Risk. Risk everything. From all that flows
into us, let it rise! All that we never thought to use to make a
moment—let it flow into what could be! Bring all into life
between us—or send all down to death! Oh, do you know what I
am doing? Risk, risk everything, why are you so afraid to lose?
What holds you from me? Test all. Let it live or let it die. It is
our chance—our chance to bear—what's there. My dear
one—I will love you so. With all of me. I am not afraid
now—of—all of me. Be generous. Be unafraid. Life is for
life—though it cuts us from the farthest life. How can
I make you know that's true? All that we're open
to—(hesitates, shudders) But yes—I will, I will
risk the life that waits. Perhaps only he who gives his
loneliness—shall find. You never keep by holding, (gesture
of giving) To the uttermost. And it is gone—or it is
there. You do not know and—that makes the
moment—(music has begun—a phonograph downstairs;
they do not heed it) Just as I would cut my
wrists—(holding them out) Yes, perhaps this lesser
thing will tell it—would cut my wrists and let the blood flow
out till all is gone if my last drop would make—would
make—(looking at them fascinated) I want to see it
doing that! Let me give my last chance for life to—
(He snatches her—they are on the brink of
their moment; now that there are no words the phonograph from
downstairs is louder. It is playing languorously the Barcarole;
they become conscious of this—they do not want to be touched
by the love song.)
CLAIRE: Don't listen. That's nothing. This isn't that,
(fearing) I tell you—it isn't that. Yes, I
know—that's amorous—enclosing. I know—a little
place. This isn't that, (her arms going around him—all the
lure of 'that' while she pleads against it as it comes up to
them) We will come out—to radiance—in far places
(admitting, using) Oh, then let it be that! Go with it. Give
up—the otherness. I will! And in the giving up—perhaps
a door—we'd never find by searching. And if it's no
more—than all have known, I only say it's worth the allness!
(her arms wrapped round him) My love—my love—let
go your pride in loneliness and let me give you joy!
TOM: (drenched in her passion, but fighting) It's
you. (in anguish) You rare thing
untouched—not—not into this—not back into
this—by me—lover of your apartness.
(She steps back. She sees he cannot. She stands
there, before what she wanted more than life, and almost had, and
lost. A long moment. Then she runs down the stairs.)
CLAIRE: (her voice coming up) Harry! Choke that
phonograph! If you want to be lewd—do it yourselves! You
tawdry things—you cheap little lewd cowards, (a door heard
opening below) Harry! If you don't stop that music, I'll kill
(far down, steps on stairs)
HARRY: Claire, what is this?
CLAIRE: Stop that phonograph or I'll—
HARRY: Why, of course I'll stop it. What—what is there to
get so excited about? Now—now just a minute, dear. It'll take
(CLAIRE comes back upstairs, dragging steps, face
ghastly. The amorous song still comes up, and louder now that doors
are open. She and TOM do not look at one another. Then, on a
languorous swell the music comes to a grating stop. They do not
speak or move. Quick footsteps—HARRY comes
HARRY: What in the world were you saying, Claire? Certainly you
could have asked me more quietly to turn off the Victrola. Though
what harm was it doing you—way up here? (a sharp little
sound from CLAIRE; she checks it, her hand over her
mouth. HARRY looks from her to TOM) Well, I think you
two would better have had your dinner. Won't you come down now and
CLAIRE: (only now taking her hand from her mouth) Harry,
tell him to come up here—that insanity man. I—want to
ask him something.
HARRY: 'Insanity man!' How absurd. He's a nerve specialist.
There's a vast difference.
CLAIRE: Is there? Anyway, ask him to come up here. Want
to—ask him something.
TOM: (speaking with difficulty) Wouldn't it be better for
us to go down there?
CLAIRE: No. So nice up here! Everybody—up here!
HARRY: (worried) You'll—be yourself, will you,
Claire? (She checks a laugh, nods.) I think he can help
CLAIRE: Want to ask him to—help me.
HARRY: (as he is starting down) He's here as a guest
to-night, you know, Claire.
CLAIRE: I suppose a guest can—help one.
TOM: (when the silence rejects it) Claire, you must know,
it's because it is so much, so—
CLAIRE: Be still. There isn't anything to say.
TOM: (torn—tortured) If it only weren't
CLAIRE: Yes,—so you said. If it weren't. I suppose I
wouldn't be so—interested! (hears them starting up
below—keeps looking at the place where they will
(HARRY is heard to call, 'Coming, Dick?'
and DICK's voice replies, 'In a moment or two.'
ADELAIDE comes first.)
ADELAIDE: (as her head appears) Well, these stairs should
keep down weight. You missed an awfully good dinner, Claire. And
kept Mr Edgeworth from a good dinner.
CLAIRE: Yes. We missed our dinner. (her eyes do not leave the
place where DR EMMONS will come up)
HARRY: (as he and EMMONS appear) Claire, this
CLAIRE: Yes, I know who he is. I want to ask you—
ADELAIDE: Let the poor man get his breath before you ask him
anything. (he nods, smiles, looks at CLAIRE with
interest. Careful not to look too long at her, surveys the
EMMONS: Curious place.
ADELAIDE: Yes; it lacks form, doesn't it?
CLAIRE: What do you mean? How dare you?
(It is impossible to ignore her agitation; she is
backed against the curved wall, as far as possible from them.
HARRY looks at her in alarm, then in resentment at TOM,
who takes a step nearer CLAIRE.)
HARRY: (trying to be light) Don't take it so hard,
CLAIRE: (to EMMONS) It must be very
interesting—helping people go insane.
ADELAIDE: Claire! How preposterous.
EMMONS: (easily) I hope that's not precisely what we
ADELAIDE: (with the smile of one who is going to 'cover
it'.) Trust Claire to put it in the unique and—amusing
CLAIRE: Amusing? You are amused? But it doesn't matter, (to
the doctor) I think it is very kind of you—helping people
go insane. I suppose they have all sorts of reasons for having to
do it—reasons why they can't stay sane any longer. But tell
me, how do they do it? It's not so easy to—get out. How do so
many manage it?
EMMONS: I'd like immensely to have a talk with you about all
this some day.
ADELAIDE: Certainly this is not the time, Claire.
CLAIRE: The time? When you—can't go any
farther—isn't that that—
ADELAIDE: (capably taking the whole thing into
matter-of-factness) What I think is, Claire has worked too long
with plants. There's something—not quite sound about making
one thing into another thing. What we need is unity. (from
CLAIRE something like a moan) Yes, dear, we do need it.
(to the doctor) I can't say that I believe in making life
over like this. I don't think the new species are worth it. At
least I don't believe in it for Claire. If one is an intense,
CLAIRE: Isn't there any way to stop her?
Always—always smothering it with the word for it?
EMMONS: (soothingly) But she can't smother it. Anything
that's really there—she can't hurt with words.
CLAIRE: (looking at him with eyes too bright) Then you
don't see it either, (angry) Yes, she can hurt it! Piling it
up—always piling it up—between us and—What there.
Clogging the way—always, (to EMMONS) I want to cease
to know! That's all I ask. Darken it. Darken it. If you came to
help me, strike me blind!
EMMONS: You're really all tired out, aren't you? Oh, we've got
to get you rested.
CLAIRE: They—deny it saying they have it; and he (half
looks at TOM—quickly looks away)—others,
deny it—afraid of losing it. We're in the way. Can't you see
the dead stuff piled in the path? (Pointing.)
DICK: (voice coming up) Me too?
CLAIRE: (staring at the path, hearing his voice a moment
after it has come) Yes, Dick—you too. Why not—you
too. (after he has come up) What is there any more than you
DICK: (embarrassed by the intensity, but laughing) A
question not at all displeasing to me. Who can answer it?
CLAIRE: (more and more excited) Yes! Who can answer it?
(going to him, in terror) Let me go with you—and be
with you—and know nothing else!
ADELAIDE: (gasping) Why—!
HARRY: Claire! This is going a little too—
CLAIRE: Far? But you have to go far to—(clinging to
DICK) Only a place to hide your head—what else is there to
hope for? I can't stay with them—piling it up!
Always—piling it up! I can't get through to—he won't
let me through to—what I don't know is there! (DICK would
help her regain herself) Don't push me away! Don't—don't
stand me up, I will go back—to the worst we ever were! Go
back—and remember—what we've tried to forget!
ADELAIDE: It's time to stop this by force—if there's no
other way. (the doctor shakes his head)
CLAIRE: All I ask is to die in the gutter with everyone spitting
on me. (changes to a curious weary smiling quiet) Still, why
should they bother to do that?
HARRY: (brokenly) You're sick, Claire. There's no denying
it. (looks at EMMONS, who nods)
ADELAIDE: Something to quiet her—to stop it.
CLAIRE: (throwing her arms around DICK) You, Dick. Not
them. Not—any of them.
DICK: Claire, you are overwrought. You must—
HARRY: (to DICK, as if only now realizing that phase
of it) I'll tell you one thing, you'll answer to me for this!
(he starts for DICK—is restrained by EMMONS,
chiefly by his grave shake of the head. With HARRY's move
to them, DICK has shielded CLAIRE)
CLAIRE: Yes—hold me. Keep me. You have mercy! You will
have mercy. Anything—everything—that will let me be
In the greenhouse, the same as Act I.
ANTHONY is bedding small plants where the Edge Vine grew. In the
inner room the plant like caught motion glows as from a light
within. HATTIE, the Maid, rushes in from outside.
ANTHONY: (turning angrily) You are not what this
HATTIE: Anthony, come in the house. I'm afraid. Mr Archer, I
never saw him like this. He's talking to Mr Demming—something
about Mrs Archer.
ANTHONY: (who in spite of himself is disturbed by her
agitation) And if it is, it's no business of yours.
HATTIE: You don't know how he is. I went in the room
ANTHONY: Well, he won't hurt you, will he?
HATTIE: How do I know who he'll hurt—a person's
whose—(seeing how to get him) Maybe he'll hurt Mrs
ANTHONY: (startled, then smiles) No; he won't hurt Miss
HATTIE: What do you know about it?—out here in the plant
ANTHONY: And I don't want to know about it. This is a very
important day for me. It's Breath of Life I'm thinking of
today—not you and Mr Archer.
HATTIE: Well, suppose he does something to Mr Demming?
ANTHONY: Mr Demming will have to look out for himself, I am at
HATTIE: Don't you think I ought to tell Mrs Archer
ANTHONY: You let her alone! This is no day for her to be
bothered by you. At eleven o'clock (looks at watch) she
comes out here—to Breath of Life.
HATTIE: (with greed for gossip) Did you see any of them
when they came downstairs last night?
ANTHONY: I was attending to my own affairs.
HATTIE: They was all excited. Mr Edgeworth—he went away.
He was gone all night, I guess. I saw him coming back just as the
milkman woke me up. Now he's packing his things. He wanted
to get to Mrs Archer too—just a little while ago. But she
won't open her door for none of them. I can't even get in to do her
ANTHONY: Then do some other room—and leave me alone in
HATTIE: (a little afraid of what she is asking) Is she
sick, Anthony—or what? (vindicating herself, as he gives
her a look) The doctor, he stayed here late. But she'd locked
herself in. I heard Mr Archer—
ANTHONY: You heard too much! (he starts for the door, to make
her leave, but DICK rushes in. Looks around wildly, goes to
the trap-door, finds it locked)
ANTHONY: What are you doing here?
DICK: Trying not to be shot—if you must know. This is the
only place I can think of—till he comes to his senses and I
can get away. Open that, will you?
Rather—ignominious—but better be absurd than be
HATTIE: Has he got the revolver?
DICK: Gone for it. Thought I wouldn't sit there till he got
back, (to ANTHONY) Look here—don't you get the idea?
Get me some place where he can't come.
DICK: That's right, Anthony. Miss Claire will be angry at you if
you get me shot. (he makes for the door of the inner
ANTHONY: You can't go in there. It's locked. (HARRY rushes in
HARRY: I thought so! (he has the revolver. HATTIE
ANTHONY: Now, Mr Archer, if you'll just stop and think, you'll
know Miss Claire wouldn't want Mr Demming shot.
HARRY: You think that can stop me? You think you can stop me?
(raising the revolver) A dog that—
ANTHONY: (keeping squarely between HARRY and DICK)
Well, you can't shoot him in here. It is not good for the plants.
(HARRY is arrested by this reason) And especially not today.
Why, Mr Archer, Breath of Life may flower today. It's years Miss
Claire's been working for this day.
HARRY: I never thought to see this day!
ANTHONY: No, did you? Oh, it will be a wonderful day. And how
she has worked for it. She has an eye that sees what isn't right in
what looks right. Many's the time I've thought—Here the form
is set—and then she'd say, 'We'll try this one', and it
had—what I hadn't known was there. She's like that.
HARRY: I've always been pleased, Anthony, at the way you've
worked with Miss Claire. This is hardly the time to stand there
eulogizing her. And she's (can hardly say it) things you
don't know she is.
ANTHONY: (proudly) Oh, I know that! You think I could
work with her and not know she's more than I know she is?
HARRY: Well, if you love her you've got to let me shoot the
dirty dog that drags her down!
ANTHONY: Not in here. Not today. More than like you'd break the
glass. And Breath of Life's in there.
HARRY: Anthony, this is pretty clever of
ANTHONY: I'm not clever. But I know how easy it is to turn life
back. No, I'm not clever at all (CLAIRE has appeared and is
looking in from outside), but I do know—there are things
you mustn't hurt, (he sees her) Yes, here's Miss Claire.
(She comes in. She is looking
CLAIRE: From the gutter I rise again, refreshed. One does, you
know. Nothing is fixed—not even the gutter, (smilingly
to HARRY and refusing to notice revolver or agitation)
How did you like the way I entertained the nerve specialist?
HARRY: Claire! You can joke about it?
CLAIRE: (taking the revolver from the hand she has shocked to
limpness) Whom are you trying to make hear?
HARRY: I'm trying to make the world hear that (pointing)
there stands a dirty dog who—
CLAIRE: Listen, Harry, (turning to HATTIE, who is over
by the tall plants at right, not wanting to be shot but not wanting
to miss the conversation) You can do my room now, Hattie.
(HATTIE goes) If you're thinking of shooting Dick, you can't
shoot him while he's backed up against that door.
ANTHONY: Just what I told them, Miss Claire. Just what I told
CLAIRE: And for that matter, it's quite dull of you to have any
idea of shooting him.
HARRY: I may be dull—I know you think I am—but I'll
show you that I've enough of the man in me to—
CLAIRE: To make yourself ridiculous? If I ran out and hid my
head in the mud, would you think you had to shoot the mud?
DICK: (stung out of fear) That's pretty cruel!
CLAIRE: Well, would you rather be shot?
HARRY: So you just said it to protect him!
CLAIRE: I change it to grass, (nodding to DICK) Grass. If
I hid my face in the grass, would you have to burn the grass?
HARRY: Oh, Claire, how can you? When you know how I love
you—and how I'm suffering?
CLAIRE: (with interest) Are you suffering?
HARRY: Haven't you eyes?
CLAIRE: I should think it would—do something to you.
HARRY: God! Have you no heart? (the door opens. TOM
CLAIRE: (scarcely saying it) Yes, I have a heart.
TOM: (after a pause) I came to say good-bye.
CLAIRE: God! Have you no heart? Can't you at least wait till
Dick is shot?
TOM: Claire! (now sees the revolver in her hand that is
turned from him. Going to her) Claire!
CLAIRE: And even you think this is so important? (carelessly
raises the revolver, and with her left hand out flat, tells TOM
not to touch her) Harry thinks it important he shoot Dick,
and Dick thinks it important not to be shot, and you think I
mustn't shoot anybody—even myself—and can't any of you
see that none of that is as important as—where revolvers
can't reach? (putting revolver where there is no Edge Vine)
I shall never shoot myself. I'm too interested in destruction to
cut it short by shooting. (after looking from one to the other,
laughs. Pointing) One—two—three. You-love-me. But
why do you bring it out here?
ANTHONY: (who has resumed work) It is not what this place
CLAIRE: No this place is for the destruction that can get
ANTHONY: Miss Claire, it is eleven. At eleven we are to go in
CLAIRE: Whether it has gone through. But how can we
go—with Dick against the door?
ANTHONY: He'll have to move.
CLAIRE: And be shot?
HARRY: (irritably) Oh, he'll not be shot. Claire can
(DICK steps away from the door; CLAIRE
takes a step nearer it.)
CLAIRE: (halting) Have I spoiled everything? I don't want
to go in there.
ANTHONY: We're going in together, Miss Claire. Don't you
remember? Oh (looking resentfully at the others) don't let
any little thing spoil it for you—the work of all those
days—the hope of so many days.
CLAIRE: Yes—that's it.
ANTHONY: You're afraid you haven't done it?
CLAIRE: Yes, but—afraid I have.
HARRY: (cross, but kindly) That's just nervousness,
Claire. I've had the same feeling myself about making a record in
CLAIRE: (curiously grateful) You have, Harry?
HARRY: (glad enough to be back in a more usual world)
Sure. I've been afraid to know, and almost as afraid of having done
it as of not having done it.
(CLAIRE nods, steps nearer, then again pulls
CLAIRE: I can't go in there. (she almost looks at TOM)
ANTHONY: But, Miss Claire, there'll be things to see today we
can't see tomorrow.
CLAIRE: You bring it in here!
ANTHONY: In—out from its own place? (she nods)
And—where they are? (again she nods. Reluctantly he goes
to the door) I will not look into the heart. No one must know
before you know.
(In the inner room, his head a little turned
away, he is seen very carefully to lift the plant which glows from
within. As he brings it in, no one looks at it. HARRY takes
a box of seedlings from a stand and puts them on the floor, that
the newcomer may have a place.)
ANTHONY: Breath of Life is here, Miss Claire.
(CLAIRE half turns, then stops.)
CLAIRE: Look—and see—what you see.
ANTHONY: No one should see what you've not seen.
CLAIRE: I can't see—until I know.
(ANTHONY looks into the flower.)
ANTHONY: (agitated) Miss Claire!
CLAIRE: It has come through?
ANTHONY: It has gone on.
ANTHONY: Stronger, surer.
CLAIRE: And more fragile?
ANTHONY: And more fragile.
CLAIRE: Look deep. No—turning back?
ANTHONY: (after a searching look) The form is set. (he
steps back from it)
CLAIRE: Then it is—out. (from where she stands she
turns slowly to the plant) You weren't. You are.
ANTHONY: But come and see, Miss Claire.
CLAIRE: It's so much more than—I'd see.
HARRY: Well, I'm going to see. (looking into it) I never
saw anything like that before! There seems something
alive—inside this outer shell.
DICK: (he too looking in and he has an artist's manner of a
hand up to make the light right) It's quite new in form.
It—says something about form.
HARRY: (cordially to CLAIRE, who stands apart) So
you've really put it over. Well, well,—congratulations. It's
a good deal of novelty, I should say, and I've no doubt you'll have
a considerable success with it—people always like something
new. I'm mighty glad—after all your work, and I hope it
will—set you up.
CLAIRE: (low—and like a machine) Will you
(ANTHONY goes—into the other room.)
HARRY: Why—why, yes. But—oh, Claire! Can't you take
some pleasure in your work? (as she stands there very still)
Emmons says you need a good long rest—and I think he's
TOM: Can't this help you, Claire? Let this be release.
This—breath of the uncaptured.
CLAIRE: (and though speaking, she remains just as
Breath of the uncaptured?
You are a novelty.
You have been brought in.
A thousand years from now, when you are but a form too long
Perhaps the madness that gave you birth will burst again,
And from the prison that is you will leap pent queernesses
To make a form that hasn't been—
To make a person new.
And this we call creation, (very low, her head not coming
(TOM goes; HARRY hesitates, looking in
anxiety at CLAIRE. He starts to go, stops, looks at
DICK, from him to CLAIRE. But goes. A moment later
DICK moves near CLAIRE; stands uncertainly, then puts a
hand upon her. She starts, only then knowing he is there.)
CLAIRE: (a slight shrinking away, but not really reached)
(He goes. CLAIRE steps nearer her
creation. She looks into what hasn't been. With her breath, and by
a gentle moving of her hands, she fans it to fuller openness. As
she does this TOM returns and from outside is looking in at
her. Softly he opens the door and comes in. She does not know that
he is there. In the way she looks at the flower he looks at
TOM: Claire, (she lifts her head) As you stood there,
looking into the womb you breathed to life, you were beautiful to
me beyond any other beauty. You were life and its reach and its
anguish. I can't go away from you. I will never go away from you.
It shall all be—as you wish. I can go with you where I could
not go alone. If this is delusion, I want that delusion. It's more
than any reality I could attain, (as she does not move)
Speak to me, Claire. You—are glad?
CLAIRE: (from far) Speak to you? (pause) Do I know
who you are?
TOM: I think you do.
CLAIRE: Oh, yes. I love you. That's who you are. (waits
again) But why are you something—very far away?
TOM: Come nearer.
CLAIRE: Nearer? (feeling it with her voice) Nearer. But I
think I am going—the other way.
TOM: No, Claire—come to me. Did you understand, dear? I am
not going away.
CLAIRE: You're not going away?
TOM: Not without you, Claire. And you and I will be together. Is
that—what you wanted?
CLAIRE: Wanted? (as if wanting is something that harks far
back. But the word calls to her passion) Wanted! (a sob,
hands out, she goes to him. But before his arms can take her, she
steps back) Are you trying to pull me down into what I wanted?
Are you here to make me stop?
TOM: How can you ask that? I love you because it is not in you
CLAIRE: And loving me for that—would stop me? Oh, help me
see it! It is so important that I see it.
TOM: It is important. It is our lives.
CLAIRE: And more than that. I cannot see it because it is so
much more than that.
TOM: Don't try to see all that it is. From peace you'll see a
CLAIRE: Peace? (troubled as we are when looking at what we
cannot see clearly) What is peace? Peace is what the struggle
knows in moments very far apart. Peace—that is not a place to
rest. Are you resting? What are you? You who'd take me from what I
am to something else?
TOM: I thought you knew, Claire.
CLAIRE: I know—what you pass for. But are you beauty?
Beauty is that only living pattern—the trying to take
pattern. Are you trying?
TOM: Within myself, Claire. I never thought you doubted
CLAIRE: Beauty is it. (she turns to Breath of Life, as if to
learn it there, but turns away with a sob) If I cannot go to
you now—I will always be alone.
(TOM takes her in his arms. She is shaken, then
comes to rest.)
TOM: Yes—rest. And then—come into joy. You have so
much life for joy.
CLAIRE: (raising her head, called by promised gladness)
We'll run around together. (lovingly he nods) Up hills. All
night on hills.
TOM: (tenderly) All night on hills.
CLAIRE: We'll go on the sea in a little boat.
TOM: On the sea in a little boat.
CLAIRE: But—there are other boats on other seas,
(drawing back from him, troubled) There are other boats on
TOM: (drawing her back to him) My dearest—not now,
CLAIRE: (her arms going round him) Oh, I would love those
hours with you. I want them. I want you! (they kiss—but
deep in her is sobbing) Reminiscence, (her hand feeling his
arm as we touch what we would remember) Reminiscence. (with
one of her swift changes steps back from him) How dare you pass
for what you're not? We are tired, and so we think it's you. Stop
with you. Don't get through—to what you're in the way of.
Beauty is not something you say about beauty.
TOM: I say little about beauty, Claire.
CLAIRE: Your life says it. By standing far off you pass for it.
Smother it with a life that passes for it. But
beauty—(getting it from the flower) Beauty is the
humility breathed from the shame of succeeding.
TOM: But it may all be within one's self, dear.
CLAIRE: (drawn by this, but held, and desperate because she
is held) When I have wanted you with all my wanting—why
must I distrust you now? When I love you—with all of me, why
do I know that only you are worth my hate?
TOM: It's the fear of easy satisfactions. I love you for it.
CLAIRE: (over the flower) Breath of Life—you here?
Are you lonely—Breath of Life?
TOM: Claire—hear me! Don't go where we can't go. As there
you made a shell for life within, make for yourself a life in which
to live. It must be so.
CLAIRE: As you made for yourself a shell called beauty?
TOM: What is there for you, if you'll have no touch with what we
CLAIRE: What is there? There are the dreams we haven't dreamed.
There is the long and flowing pattern, (she follows that, but
suddenly and as if blindly goes to him) I am tired. I am
lonely. I'm afraid, (he holds her, soothing. But she steps back
from him) And because we are tired—lonely—and
afraid, we stop with you. Don't get through—to what you're in
the way of.
TOM: Then you don't love me?
CLAIRE: I'm fighting for my chance. I don't know—which
(Is drawn to the other chance, to Breath of Life.
Looks into it as if to look through to the uncaptured. And through
this life just caught comes the truth she chants.)
I've wallowed at a coarse man's feet,
I'm sprayed with dreams we've not yet come to.
I've gone so low that words can't get there,
I've never pulled the mantle of my fears around me
And called it loneliness—And called it God.
Only with life that waits have I kept faith.
(with effort raising her eyes to the man)
And only you have ever threatened me.
TOM: (coming to her, and with strength now) And I will
threaten you. I'm here to hold you from where I know you cannot go.
You're trying what we can't do.
CLAIRE: What else is there worth trying?
TOM: I love you, and I will keep you—from
fartherness—from harm. You are mine, and you will stay with
me! (roughly) You hear me? You will stay with me!
CLAIRE: (her head on his breast, in ecstasy of rest.
Drowsily) You can keep me?
TOM: Darling! I can keep you. I will keep you—safe.
CLAIRE: (troubled by the word, but barely able to raise her
TOM: (bringing her to rest again) Trust me, Claire.
CLAIRE: (not lifting her head, but turning it so she sees
Breath of Life) Now can I trust—what is? (suddenly
pushing him roughly away) No! I will beat my life to pieces in
the struggle to—
TOM: To what, Claire?
CLAIRE: Not to stop it by seeming to have it. (with fury)
I will keep my life low—low—that I may never stop
myself—or anyone—with the thought it's what I
have. I'd rather be the steam rising from the manure than be a
thing called beautiful! (with sight too clear) Now I know
who you are. It is you puts out the breath of life. Image of
beauty—You fill the place—should be a gate.
(in agony) Oh, that it is you—fill the
place—should be a gate! My darling! That it should be you
who—(her hands moving on him) Let me tell you
something. Never was loving strong as my loving of you! Do you know
that? Oh, know that! Know it now! (her arms go around his
neck) Hours with you—I'd give my life to have! That it
should be you—(he would loosen her hands, for he cannot
breathe. But when she knows she is choking him, that knowledge is
fire burning its way into the last passion) It is you.
It is you.
TOM: (words coming from a throat not free) Claire! What
are you doing? (then she knows what she is doing)
CLAIRE: (to his resistance) No! You are too much!
You are not enough. (still wanting not to hurt her, he is
slow in getting free. He keeps stepping backward trying, in growing
earnest, to loosen her hands. But he does not loosen them before
she has found the place in his throat that cuts off breath. As he
Breath of Life—my gift—to you!
(She has pushed him against one of the plants at
right as he sways, strength she never had before pushes him over
backward, just as they have struggled from sight. Violent crash of
glass is heard.)
TOM: (faint smothered voice) No.
CLAIRE: (in the frenzy and agony of killing) Oh, gift!
Oh, gift! (there is no sound.
CLAIRE rises—steps back—is seen now; is looking
(Like one who does not know where she is, she
moves into the room—looks around. Takes a step toward Breath
of Life; turns and goes quickly to the door. Stops, as if stopped.
Sees the revolver where the Edge Vine was. Slowly goes to it. Holds
it as if she cannot think what it is for. Then raises it high and
fires above through the place in the glass left open for
ventilation. ANTHONY comes from the inner room. His eyes go
from her to the body beyond. HARRY rushes in from
HARRY: Who fired that?
CLAIRE: I did. Lonely.
(Seeing ANTHONY'S look, HARRY 's
eyes follow it.)
HARRY: Oh! What? What? (DICK comes running in) Who?
(DICK sees—goes to TOM)
CLAIRE: Yes. I did it. MY—Gift.
HARRY: Is he—? He isn't—? He isn't—?
(Tries to go in there. Cannot—there is the
sound of broken glass, of a position being changed—then
DICK: (his voice in jerks) It's—it's no use, but
I'll go for a doctor.
HARRY: No—no. Oh, I suppose—(falling down
beside CLAIRE—his face against her) My darling!
How can I save you now?
CLAIRE: (speaking each word very carefully)
ANTHONY: I did it. Don't you see? I didn't want so many around.
Not—what this place is for.
HARRY: (snatching at this but lets it go) She wouldn't
let—(looking up at CLAIRE—then quickly hiding
his face) And—don't you see?
CLAIRE: Out. (a little like a child's pleased surprise)
(DICK stands there, as if unable to get to the
door—his face distorted, biting his hand.)
ANTHONY: Miss Claire! You can do anything—won't you
CLAIRE: Reminiscence? (speaking the word as if she has left
even that, but smiles a little)
(ANTHONY takes Reminiscence, the flower she was
breeding for fragrance for Breath of Life—holds it out to
her. But she has taken a step forward, past them all.)
CLAIRE: Out. (as if feeling her way)
(Her voice now feeling the way to it.)
(Voice almost upon it.)
(Falling upon it with surprise.)
E'en though it be—
(A slight turn of the head toward the dead man
she loves—a mechanical turn just as far the other
(Her head going down.)
(Her head slowly coming up—singing
Still all my song shall be,
(Slowly the curtain begins to shut her out. The
last word heard is the final Nearer—a faint breath