Dramatic Texts >> William Saroyan>> Love’s Old Sweet Song

Love’s Old Sweet Song by William Saroyan

 

THE PEOPLE

ANN HAMILTON, 44, a beautiful unmarried small-town woman

GEORGIE AMERICANOS, a Postal Telegraph messenger

BARNABY GAUL, 51, a pitchman

TOM FIORA, another messenger

DEMETRIOS AMERICANOS, an American citizen

CABOT YEARLING, a family man

LEONA YEARLING, 44, his wife

NEWTON YEARLING, 19, their half-wit son

Twins:

[VELMA YEARLING

SELMA YEARLING]

Their Children:

[AL YEARLING

ELLA YEARLING

HENRY YEARLING

JESSE YEARLING

SUSAN YEARLING

MAUD YEARLING

LEMMIE YEARLING

MAE YEARLING

HARRY YEARLING

WILBUR YEARLING

LUCY YEARLING]

RICHARD OLIVER, an unpublished writer

ELSA WAX, a photographer for Life Magazine

DAVID F. WINDMORE, a college man

DANIEL HOUGH, a farmer

MR. SMITH, a representative of the West Coast Novelty Amusement Company

MR. Harris, his associate

PASS LE NOIR, a sheriff

STYLIANOS AMERICANOS, 41, Georgie’s father, a wrestler

PERICLES AMERICANOS, 71, Stylianos’ father


THE PLACE

Outside Ann Hamilton’s House at 333 Orchard Avenue, Bakersfield, California
The parlour of the Americanos’ home.

THE TIME

Late morning and afternoon of Friday, 15th September 1939.

 

 

ACT ONE

An Old-fashioned house with a front porch, at 333 Orchard Avenue in Bakersfield, California.  A large front yard, with rose-bushes in bloom near the house.  An orange and lemon tree.  A palm.  Two eucalyptus.  A cement statue of a lion on the lawn.

   A homeless family goes by in the street; MAN, WOMAN, THREE CHILDREN.

   ANN HAMILTON, a beautiful and rather elegant woman in her early forties, comes out of the house, looks around, walks about in the yard, to the gate, smells and cuts several roses, singing ‘the years, the years, they come and go’, and so on; goes up on the porch, sits down in the rocking-chair with a love-story magazine, waiting for nothing, least of all a telegram.

   GEORGIE AMERICANOS, a Greek-American Postal Telegraph messenger, arrives, skidding, on a bicycle.

GEORGIE

You Miss Ann Hamilton?

ANN

I am.

GEORGIE

Well, a fellow by the same name of Barnaby Gaul is coming out from Boston to visit you.  He sent you this telegram.  Know him?

ANN

Barnaby Gaul?  May I read the telegram?

GEORGIE

It’s collect.  A dollar eighty cents.  It’s a long night-letter.  Lots of people can’t pay for collect telegrams nowadays, but they always want to know what’s in them just the same, so I memorize everything and let them know.  Free.  That’s my little gift to society.  People are poor.  A dollar and eighty cents is a lot of money.  Know him? 

ANN

I’m afraid there must be some mistake.

GEORGIE

Oh, no, there isn’t.

ANN

I don’t know anybody in Boston.  Are you sure the telegram’s for me?

GEORGIE

If you’re Ann Hamilton, it’s for you.  Otherwise it ain’t.  Mistakes sometimes happen.

ANN

What’s the name again?

GEORGIE

Barnaby Gaul.  B-a-r-n-a-b-y, Barnaby.  G-a-u-l, Gaul.  We get a lot of different kinds of telegrams, but this is the best I’ve ever seen.  This telegram is about love.

ANN

Love?

GEORGIE

That’s right.  L-O-V-E, love.  I’ll recite the message to you.  It’s against the rules of the company, but to the hell with the company.  My sympathies are with the poor, not the rich.  To tell the truth, I’m a radical. 

ANN

Are you?

GEORGIE

Of course I’m an American too.  My father’s Greek.  He used to be a wrestler.  My father’s father used to be a tobacco-grower in Smyrna in the old country.  We read philosophy.  My name’s Georgie Americanos. 

ANN

How do you do?

GEORGIE

How do you do?

ANN

Won’t you sit down, Georgie?

GEORGIE

That’s all right.  You lived in this house twenty-seven years?

ANN

I’ve lived in this house all my life.  My goodness, I’m forty-four years old.

GEORGIE

You’re the lady, all right.  My father’s been reading Greek philosophy to me for three years.  Consequently, I’m intelligent.  If he comes out here from Boston, like he says he’s going to, will you let me come out and look at him?

ANN

If somebody’s coming here.

GEORGIE

He’ll be here.

ANN

All right, Georgie, you can come out.  What does the telegram say?

GEORGIE

Can I bring my father?  He likes to meet people who’ve traveled.

ANN

All right, your father too.

GEORGIE

The telegram goes like this.  [Reciting the telegram.] 

Boston, Massachusetts.  7th September 1939.

ANN

September 7th?  To-day’s September 15th.

GEORGIE

Well, to tell you the truth, I lost the telegram.  It was in my pocket.  I don’t know how it got there.  I always put telegrams in my hat.

ANN

Good gracious, Georgie, tell me what’s in the telegram, even if it is eight days old.

 

GEORGIE

Has anybody walked by in front of this house whistling ‘Love’s Old Sweet Song’ lately?

ANN

No, Georgie.  Please recite the telegram.

GEORGIE

Well, let me think a minute.  Get everything straight.  He sure is a nut. 

O.K.  Here it is.  ‘If you remember me, I am the young man with the red hair who walked in front of your house twenty-seven years ago whistling “Love’s Old Sweet Song”.’  Do you remember him?

ANN

No, I don’t.  Please recite the whole telegram.

GEORGIE

How could you forget a guy like that?  He goes on to say:  ‘You were sixteen years old at the time.  You had half a dozen roses in your hand.  Four red and two white.  I hardly noticed you when I went by, and then I came back and said hello.  I said what is your name and you said Ann Hamilton.  You didn’t ask mine.  We talked a minute or so and that was all.  I made a note of the number of your house and the name of the street and went away.  I am now fifty-one years old and want you to know I love you’.  Now, do you remember him?

ANN

No, Georgie.  Is there anything more?

GEORGIE

Plenty!  There’s plenty more.  He says: “I am coming back to you, even if you’re married and have five children.’  How about it?  Are you?  Have you?

ANN

I’m not married.

GEORGIE

Aren’t you married?

ANN

No.  Please finish the telegram, Georgie.

GEORGIE

Well, he says: ‘Get rid of everybody.  Love is everything.  I know, now.  Nothing else matters.  I will walk in front of your house again very soon and I will be whistling the same old sweet song of love.’  They don’t usually send telegrams this way, even when they’re collect.  They usually try to say everything in ten words.  He says: ‘If you remember me, speak to me.  If you do not speak, I shall know you have forgotten.  Please remember and please speak to me.  I love you.  BARNABY GAUL.’  That’s the whole message, word for word.  A dollar and eighty cents.  Know him?

ANN

No, I don’t.

GEORGIE

Are you Ann Hamilton?

 

ANN

My name is Ann Hamilton. 

GEORGIE

Well, he knows you.  He sent you this message all the way from Boston.  You’re going to speak to him, aren’t you?

ANN

No, I’m not.

GEORGIE

Doesn’t love mean anything to you?

ANN

No, it doesn’t.  Besides, the man’s crazy.

GEORGIE

Why?  Just because he hasn’t forgotten?

ANN

A sixteen year old girl is liable to be polite and say a few words to any man who speaks to her.

GEORGIE

This is different.  You must have been very pretty at the time.  You’re not bad now.  Don’t you remember holding half a dozen roses in your hand?  Four red and two white?

ANN

I’ve cut roses from these bushes hundreds of times.  I don’t remember any particular time.

GEORGIE

Don’t you remember a guy with red hair, whistling?

ANN

No, I don’t.  I’m not sixteen.  Georgie.  I’m forty-four.

GEORGIE

Well, all I know is you mean everything in the world to this nut.  This Barnaby Gaul.  And by all rights he ought to mean everything in the world to you, too.

ANN

Well, he doesn’t mean anything to me.

GEORGIE

I wouldn’t be so sure about that.  He may come by here and sweep you right off your feet.

ANN

No, he won’t.

GEORGIE

Why not?

ANN

I’m perfectly happy.

GEORGIE

Oh, no, you’re not.  You can’t fool me.  You may be satisfied but you’re not happy.  You’ve got to be a little unhappy to be perfectly happy.  Satisfied’s one thing and happy’s another.  [Pause.]  Socrates.  [PEOPLE go by.]  Poor people.  Homeless.  No place to go.

ANN

What’s he say in that telegram?

GEORGIE

That’s more like it.  Listen carefully.  [Reciting.]  ‘If you remember me, I am the young man with the red hair who walked in front of your house-----‘ [Whistling.]  Listen.  [At the gate.]  It’s him.  Barnaby Gaul.  He’s come back to you, just like he said he would.  This is the greatest love story that’s ever taken place in the streets of Bakersfield, Califormia.  Speak to him.

ANN

I don’t remember anybody like that.

GEORGIE

Speak to him.  The man’s come all the way from Boston to see you again.  He’s moved everything back twenty-seven years where it belongs.  Say a kind word. 

ANN

I don’t know what to say.

GEORGIE

Say anything.  He’ll understand.

ANN

[at the gate].  Here he comes.  Don’t go away, Georgie. 

GEORGIE

Go away?  I wouldn’t miss this for anything in the world.

The PERSON who appears is a handsome man of fifty whose years are instantly irrelevant.  He is, in fact, youth constant and unending.  His hair is reddish, if not exactly red.  His face is still the face of a young man.  His figure is still that.  His clothes are the casual clothes of a young man who has better things to think about.  He is wearing an old straw hat, and he is carrying a straw suitcase.  He is walking jauntily, and he is whistling. He notices ANN, stops whistling and stands.

ANN. 

Good morning.

GAUL

How do you do?  [ANN and GAUL stare at one another a moment.]

GEORGIE

Wow!

GAUL

Your son?

ANN. 

Yes. No.

GAUL

A handsome boy.

ANN. 

He’s Greek.

GAUL

A classic and noble people.  You have others?

ANN. 

No.  He’s a messenger.  He brought your telegram. 

GAUL

Telegram?

GEORGIE

Sure.  From Boston.

GAUL

Boston?  [ANN turns and rushes into the house.]

GEORGIE

Weren’t you just whistling ‘Love’s Old Sweet Song’?

GAUL

I was whistling.  I don’t know what it was.  It’s a beautiful morning.  The least a man can do is whistle.

GEORGIE

Didn’t you walk down this street twenty-seven years ago?

GAUL

My boy, I’ve never been in this town before.

GEORGIE

Ah, for the love of Mike.  [ANN comes out of the house, holding a half a dozen roses.  Four red and two white.]

GAUL

Roses!  I have never seen roses more beautiful to behold.  Nor have I seen anyone hold roses more beautifully.  Nor have I seen them held any way at all by anyone more beautiful. 

GEORGIE

It’s him, all right.

GAUL

Him?  Who?

GEORGIE

Who?  You.  Don’t you recognize her?

ANN. 

Four red and two white.

GEORGIE

She remembers you.  Don’t you remember her?  [GAUL stares at ANN.]  All right.  [He tears open the telegram.]  Let me read the telegram for you, too.

GAUL

Telegram?  What telegram?

GEORGIE

What telegram!  The collect telegram from Boston.  [Reading.]  Boston, Massachusetts.  7th September 1939.

GAUL takes the telegram and reads it silently, glancing at ANN every once in a while.

GAUL

‘I love you.  BARNABY GAUL.’

GEORGIE

Now don’t try to tell me you’re not Barnaby Gaul. 

GAUL

Is this Bakersfield, California?

ANN. 

Yes, it is.

GAUL

Is this Orchard Avenue?

ANN. 

Yes.  333.

GAUL

How can I ever ask you to forgive me? 

GEORGIE

You are Barnaby Gaul, aren’t you?

GAUL

Words fail me.

ANN. 

Oh, that’s all right.

GEORGIE

Were you ever in Bakersfield before?

GAUL

Please try to understand.

GEORGIE

Were you ever in Boston eight days ago?

GAUL

Forgive me.  Both of you.  I thought I was in Fresno.  Let’s start all over again. 

From the beginning.  [He takes his suitcase and hurries away.]

GEORGIE

Do you remember anybody like that?

ANN. 

I don’t know how I could have ever forgotten.

GEORGIE

Are you sure this is the nut?

ANN. 

As sure as I’m breathing.

GEORGIE

Well, get ready then.  Whoever he is, here he comes again, and this time he means it.  This time he knows where he is and who he is, and who you are.  Don’t forget to speak to him or else he’ll just walk away and maybe not send a telegram again for another twenty-seven years. 

GAUL appearsagain, whistling ‘Love’s Old Sweet Song’

ANN. 

Good morning.

GAUL stops, turns, looks at ANN, sets down his suitcase, hurries to ANN and kisses her.  She drops the roses one by one. 

GAUL

Ann.  I knew you’d remember.  I knew you’d never forget.

ANN. 

I thoughtI had forgotten, Barnaby.  I even believed there was no one in the world like you.

GAUL

There is, however.  There is.

ANN

And then when I saw you, I knew how foolish I had been to think you would never come back.  I couldn’t help it, Barnaby.  The years moved away, slowly and then swiftly, and always I stayed here alone, living in this house, rocking back and forth in this chair on this porch.  The roses bloomed and faded.

GAUL

The poor roses.

ANN

The song died.

GAUL

The poor song.

ANN

The children I wanted were never born.

GAUL

The poor children.

ANN

Barnaby, why have you stayed away so long?

GAUL

Ann, you may remember there were wars.

ANN

Oh!

GAUL

And you may remember, Ann, there were great troubles.  There were panics in which a man rushed with the crowd to no place.  No place at all.  And I, with the million others, ran, forgetting love, forgetting everything but the need for escape.  Protection from police and disease.  Hide-aways in fifty-cent rooms in large cities, in small villages.  There were famines, Ann. 

ANN

Oh, Barnaby, you were hungry?

GAUL

Hungry?  Days, weeks, months, years of hunger.  Hunger for bread, not love.  Hunger for ease and comfort, not glory.  [He embraces her.]  There were disasters at sea.  Shipwreck and storm.  Floods and hurricanes, and a man off-balance falling in the street.  Fear and shouting.  No songs, Ann.  There were distances, and barking dogs.  Mountains to cross, and rivers and prairies and deserts.  And wherever a man stood, his heart was far way, and wherever he went , his heart was not there.  There was cold and few coats.  There was ice and no fire.  There was fury and stupor in the heart.  As you dreamed here through the years, there was pain and forsakenness.  There were accidents, Ann, with a man’s body embarrassed by helpless and ugly posture, the arm twisted, the leg out of joint, and the heart in fever of disgust, raging against the mice. 

GEORGIE

What mice?

GAUL

Mice?  Go away, boy.  And the foolish people asking, Are you hurt?  Hurt?  My God, I have been attacked by an army of termites as big as Japanese, and marching in the same military formation.  There was snow and quiet, with the eyes of men staring out from secrecy and crime.  There was hate, with the rain drenching the streets and the wind roaring around the buildings.

ANN

Oh, Barnaby.

GAUL

There were many things, Ann, to keep away from you, as you dreamed here through the years.  I remember the thirst I knew in Kansas City, and the bar-flies driving me mad.  There were small things, Ann, insects and little words.  Frowns and sneers.  And big things.  The stairway of the hotel on fire, and a man in his bare feet.  There were moments, repeated a million times, that were useless to the years.  And years that were meaningless to any moment.  But I knew—always, I knew, Ann—that you would not forget.  I’ve come a long way, through many things, and still your face is bright.  Your eyes still young.  Your hand warm.  Your lips soft and full.  The errors that have been, I dismiss.  Here, in your presence, I deny all I have known but good, since you are still by sweetness moulded sweet.  I here cease movement and begin dream, because here dream is real.  Ann, I’ve traveled across half the world.  [Solemnly.]  I’m tired, Ann.  Now I must lie down in the sweet shade of love, and dream into the years of youth.  The years of our youth, Ann.  The years we have lost and shall now regain in the embrace of love.  [BARNABY embraces ANN.  They go into the house.  BARNABY turns and throws GEORGIE a coin.]

GAUL

My luggage, boy.

GEORGIE picks up the suitcase and puts it just inside the house.  TOM FIORA, another Postal Messenger, arrives and settles his bike next to GEORGIE’S.

TOM

Telegram for you, Georgie.

GEORGIE

Telegram for me?

TOM

Yes, you.  Here.  Read it.

GEORGIE

[reading telegram].  ‘I told you I’d get even with you some day, so how do you like that?  The telegram to Miss Ann Hamilton is not real.  Ha, ha, ha.  Your pal, Tom Fiora.’  Ha ha ha?  What’s the big idea?

TOM

I told you I’d get even on you.

GEORGIE

You put that telegram in my coat pocket?

TOM

That’s right.  That’ll teach you to play tricks on me. 

GEORGIE

You wrote that telegram?

TOM

I didn’t write it.  My brother Mike did.

GEORGIE

That’s what I call a low-down dirty trick, and a guy in the house there getting ready to sleep in the sweet shade of love.

TOM

Serves you right. I told you I’d get even.

GEORGIE

Well, what about that lady?  What about that wonderful lady who told him I was her son?

TOM

Tell her the truth.

GEORGIE

The truth?  Ah, Tom, I never did like Italians.  Greeks never did like Italians.  How did your brother Mike ever happen to write a telegram like that?

TOM

Mike gets all kinds of funny ideas.  He cuts this lady’s lawn one day.  She told him a story of her life.  He knew she was lonely.

GEORGIE

Well, who the hell is this guy, then?  He’s not just anybody.  Giving me a Canadian dime.  Tom, I’m going to tell the Manager.

TOM

Go ahead.  He’ll fire you, too.  Then he’ll come out here and make a personal call and explain everything.

GEORGIE

No, he can’t do that.  It’s too late to do that

TOM

Come on.  Let’s go back to work.

GEORGIE

O.K., you rat.  [TOM goes.]  If that guy breaks her heart I’m going to tell my father to get a half-nelson on him and teach him some manners.  Good-bye, Miss Hamilton.

ANN’S VOICE

Good-bye, Georgie.

GEORGIE

Is he sleeping?

ANN’S VOICE

No, he wants to shave first.

GEORGIE

Aaah.  I’ll be back to see how you’re getting along first chance I get.

ANN’S VOICE

All right, Georgie.  And thanks ever so much. 

GEORGIE

Any time at all.  [He rides away.]

GAUL, with lather on his face, comes out on the porch, followed by ANN.  GAUL sings to ANN. 

GAUL [singing].  

     I love to see the sun come smiling to the world;

     I love to hear the wind go singing through a field;

     I love to hear a love-bird singing in a tree,

     And I love to see a lovely face light up with love for me. 

CHORUS

     Of all the things I love,

     I love the most

     Sleeping in the shade of love.

     Sleeping in the shade of love,

     I love the most, my love.

     Of all the things I love to taste,

     Sweetest is the kiss of love.

     Dreaming in the shade of love,

     The kiss of love

     I love the most, my love.

     My love, of all the lovely things,

     Loveliest of all is you,

     Dreaming in the shade of love.

     Sleeping in the shade of love, my love.

     I love the most, my love.

I love to breathe the scent of earth and new-mown hay;

I love to taste the perch and berry ripe in May;

I love to feel the spray as I walk beside the sea,

And I love to see a lovely face light up with love for me.

CHORUS.

GAUL glides into the house.  DEMETRIOS, a small middle-aged Greek with a big black moustache, pushes a lawn-mower into the yard, begins to cut the lawn, suddenly notices the roaring lion, roars back at it.  GAUL opens an upstairs window.

GAUL. 

Hey.  You.  That grass does not need cutting.

DEMETRIOS

I am American citizen.

GAUL

Even so, the grass does not need cutting.  Have you got your first or second papers?

DEMETRIOS. 

Second papers next month.

GAUL

All right, come back and cut the grass next month.

DEMETRIOS. 

Is this official?

GAUL

Official.  Now get your lawn-mower and get the hell out of here.

DEMETRIOS hurries away with his lawn-mower.  There is a moment of peaceful silence.  Then CABOT YEARLING and his family arrive, one by one.  CABOT thoughtfully smells a rose and surveys the terrain.  CABOT’S family consists of LEONA, his wife; NEWTOW, nineteen; AL, seventeen; the TWINS, SELMA and VELMA, sixteen; ELLA, thirteen; HENRY, twelve; JESSE, eleven; SUSAN, ten; MAUDE, nine; LEMMIE, eight; MAE, seven; HARRY, six; WILBUR, five; and LUCY, four.  LEONA is pregnant.  The family is accompanied by RICHARD OLIVER, a newspaper man who is collecting material for a book.  He is an oldish, partially bald man who is very troubled.  Also ELSA WAX, a large, plain young woman wearing spectacles, who is a photographer for Life Magazine.

CABOT

Leonie, here we rest.

OLIVER

But, Mr. Yearling, this is somebody’s front yard.

CABOT

Don’t aim to do no harm.  Just aim to rest a spell.  Leonie’s going to have a baby soon, you know.  [Spreads his old blanket on the lawn and lies down.]

OLIVER

Another baby?  When?

CABOT

Leonie, when?

LEONA

Two or three months, most likely.  He’ll be my fifteenth.

ELSA

You’re aiming to stay here till the little fellow comes, of course?

CABOT

Don’t know why not.  [To AL].  Here, you.  What are you always reading books for?  Shakespeare and things like that?

ELSA takes a picture.

LEONA

When do you folks aim to leave us?

ELSA

I can’t answer for Mr. Richard Oliver here.  He’s aiming to write a novel about you folks, I believe.  He’ll be with you for the next two or three years, most likely.  I won’t be half that long.

LEONA

I don’t reckon we could undertake to feed another mouth, what with the children growing up and needing things all the time, and another coming.

ELSA

Mr. Oliver won’t be no trouble, hardly.

CABOT

Well, it ain’t so much the extra mouth to feed.  It’s always having somebody around asking questions.  [Knocks notebook out of OLIVER’S hand.]  It’s more like never being able to lie down and sleep in the afternoon, without somebody waking up a body to ask if we know how to read or not, or if we want better working conditions.  [ELSA takes a picture of CABOT.]  Or somebody else taking pictures of us all the time.  We ain’t publicity mad.  We know we ain’t society folk.  If it’s pictures you want, there’s a world full of people who’re always fussing with soap and water, keeping themselves clean and nice-look-ing all the time.

OLIVER

I have no intention of getting in the way.  Miss Wax!  If you please.  The pitiable plight of these unfortunate people is not the concern of one man alone, but of the whole nation.

CABOT

Unfortunate?  I’ve got my driver’s license. 

OLIVER

Something’s got to be done for them.

ELSA

All right, do something.  What can you do?

CABOT

We ain’t asking much.

LEONA

That’s so.  We don’t want nothing from nobody—hardly.  Food.  A place to sleep.  A roof over our heads.  Clothes.  A little land to walk around in.  Cows.  Chickens.  A radio.  A car.  Something like that.  We aim to shift for ourselves, the same as ever.

CABOT

A handful of vines to pick grapes off to eat.  A small melon patch.  Good climate.  Working conditions.  We aim to hire our help fair and square.

ELSA

I don’t hardly guess this family’s typical.

LEONA

Oklahomans.  That’s what we are.  Don’t belong to no religious sect.  Mind our own business.

CABOT

Live and let live.  When do you folks aim to let us rest?

LEONA

We like to be neighborly and all, but this following us around and spying on us don’t seem just right.

ELSA

I won’t be much longer.  We’re going to call these pictures ‘Life Goes to a Garden Party’.

OLIVER

You’re making fun of these people.

ELSA

Don’t be silly.  I’m not making fun of anybody, except you.  Because you think these people are pathetic.  Well, they’re not.  You are.  Look at these people.  Nothing can stop them.  They’ve got the stubbornness and fertility of weeds.  And they’re not common, either.  I’m, a photographer and I’ve learned to see into things.  Your vision is so bad, the only thing you ever see is the surface, and I don’t think you see that very clearly.  For all we know one of these kids is a genius.  [Looking at AL.]  This fellow looks like a genius: he reads Shakespeare.  [Looking at NEWTON.]  On the other hand they may all be idiots.  But how do we know the world isn’t supposed to be inhabited by idiots, instead of silly people who want to get everything organized—like you?

OLIVER

You’re a Fascist.

CABOT

Talk!  Talk!  Talk!  That’s all I hear, ever since you intellectuals started following us around.

OLIVER

I’m trying to help you people.  With my novel, I hope to improve migratory agricultural labour conditions. 

CABOT

Conditions are all right.  I’m a little tired, that’s all.  I brought this family all the way from Muskogee, Oklahoma, in seven weeks, in a broken-down old Ford that cost sixty-seven dollars and fifty cents.

OLIVER

It’s not a question of a broken-down old Ford----

HENRY hits OLIVER with a stick.  OLIVER falls, and three boys leaps on him.

CABOT

No kicking, now.  Fair and square!  No gouging!  No biting!

BARNABY GAUL opens an upstairs window.

GAUL

What’s going on around here?  Ann.  Are these people relatives of yours?

ANN

I’ve never seen them before.

GAUL

Don’t worry.  I’ll get them out of here in two minutes.

HENRY.

 Oh, yeah!

Three boys run into the house.  GAUL appears with the boys hanging on him.

GAUL

Ann, come out here.  For the love of God, save me.  [He falls to his knees.]

ANN

[appearing].  Barnaby!  What the matter?

CABOT

Here, you kids.  Henry.  Jesse.  Get off that boy.  Get off him before I come over there and break your arms.

HENRY and JESSE release their hold on GAUL.  He rises to his feet

GAUL

What’re all you people doing in this front yard?

CABOT

We aim to rest a while and catch our breath.

HENRY leaps on GAUL’S leg.

GAUL

You aim to rest a while and catch your breath?  [To HENRY.]  Get away from me, you bashi-bazouk!  [To CABOT.]  Call off your children.

CABOT

Henry.  Leave the boy alone.

GAUL

My God!  You’re not all one family, are you?

CABOT

All excepting him and her.  He’s a writer, and she’s a photographer.

GAUL

All the others yours?

CABOT

More than half of them are.  Every one of them’s my wife’s, though.

GAUL

Well, it’s been pleasant chatting with you.  Now clear out of here.  Go on up the street somewhere a couple of blocks.

He starts to enter house, singing ‘Of All the Things I Love.’

CABOT

We ain’t aiming to go no further just now.

GAUL

When are you aiming to?

CABOT.

After Leona has the baby.

GAUL

After Leona has the baby.  When will that be?

CABOT

That won’t be for a couple of months. 

GAUL

A couple of months?  My God!

He moves to go.

ANN

Barnaby!

GAUL

I can’t stand noise and confusion and crowds of people in my private life.

ANN

Barnaby!  You’re not going?

GAUL

I’m not staying.

ANN

I’ve already waited for you twenty-seven years.  You just arrived. 

GAUL

Ann, you’ve got the most beautiful spirit in the world, but I can’t hang around a house that’s surrounded by Indians. 

LEONA

Oklahomans.

GAUL

Same thing.  [To ANN.]  I can tell you now, and truthfully, that I shall never forget you. 

ANN

You’re angry and excited, Barnaby.  You don’t know what you’re saying.  [GAUL goes.]  Barnaby!  Don’t go!  Wait for me!  Let me get my hat and coat.  I’m coming with you.  Barnaby!  [She runs after him.]

HENRY

[at the upstairs window].  The whole house is ours.

Everybody rushes into the house.

OLIVER

But, Mr. Yearling, you’ll get in trouble.  This is still private property.  Of course after the revolution-----

CABOT

Ah, to hell with the revolution.

AL

[alone on the steps].  What am I doing here?  I don’t belong to this man and this woman.  I’ll go away.  I’ll be truly alone, as every man must be.  Good-bye, my father.  Good-bye, my mother.  Good-bye, my sisters and my brothers.

JESSE, in one of ANN’S hats, comes out and sees his brother going away.

JESSE

Al!  [AL stops, turns.]  Where you going?

AL. 

Nowhere.  Jesse, go on back! 

JESSE

No.  I know you’re going away.  I’m going with you.  I don’t want to be alone.

AL

Jesse, go on back!  You can’t go with me. 

JESSE

[grabs his brother around the waist].  No.  I won’t go back.  I am going with you.

AL

Jesse!  Listen!  I can’t take care of you.  I don’t even know if I’ll be able to take care of myself.  Now go on back. 

JESSE

Al, please take me with you.  Please. 

AL. 

I can’t, Jesse.  Now go on back!  [He pushes JESSE, turns and runs.]

JESSE

You’re a hell of a brother!

JESSE sits down in front of the cement lion.  Suddenly he stretches out on the lawn, face downward.  ELSA comes out of the house.  OLIVER’S hat and portable typewriter follow.  Then OLIVER, who stumbles out and falls on the ground, pushed by CABOT and NEWTON.

CABOT

You stay away from us with your God-damn propaganda.  We vote for Roosevelt.

CABOT and NEWTON go back into the house.

OLIVER

I don’t know how I’m going to be able to write this and give it social significance.  [Gets to his feet.]

ELSA

Don’t be foolish.  You just write what you wanted to write in the first place, and forget all these little complications.

OLIVER

I’m disappointed.

ELSA

You’ve been betrayed.  How dare they have personalities of their own?  It would be a little cruel if one of the brighter children wrote a novel about you.  One of them might, you know.

OLIVER.

 Sometimes it seems impossible to be of help.

ELSA

Be of help to who?  No one wants to help anybody but himself.

OLIVER

I can’t figure you out.

ELSA

You can’t even figure out those simple people in the house.  How do you expect to figure me out?---A Vassar girl!

OLIVER

The trouble with you Vassar girls is, you’ve got no faith.

ELSA

And the trouble with you unpublished writers is, you have.  Faith belongs to the great only.  Foolish people aren’t entitled to faith.  They make trouble with it, for themselves and for everybody else.  They gather their feebleness into crazy mobs that don’t understand anything except to insist.  If you want the world to be better, be better yourself.

OLIVER

Shut up!

ELSA

What?

OLIVER

Shut up!  That’s what!  I don’t want to hear any more of your chit-chat.

ELSA

You know it’s the truth.

OLIVER

Shut up, I said!  I love you!

JESSE

Ha-ha-ha!

OLIVER studies JESSE.  JESSE studies OLIVER.  OLIVER takes some money out of his pocket.

OLIVER

Here!  Here’s half a dollar.  [JESSE takes the coin.]

JESSE.

What for?

OLIVER

Get yourself an education and belike me.

JESSE

You two going along?

OLIVER

Yes.  And to help you with your novel, I’m going to marry her.  [To ELSA]  That’s right.

JESSE

Are you coming back?

OLIVER

No, I’m not.

JESSE

Why?

OLIVER

Because I don’t like you.

JESSE

Couldn’t you make it seventy-five cents?

OLIVER

[starts to bring out more money.  Changes his mind].  No!  Why should I?

JESSE

Ah, come on.  Just two bits more.

OLIVER.  

No!

JESSE

[picks up a rock and gets set to throw it].  Two bits.

OLIVER

You throw that rock, and I’ll break your neck.

ELSA

Richard, be careful!

OLIVER

Shut up, I said.  I can take care of myself.

JESSE

[making a line with his foot].  Cross this line and see what happens.

OLIVER

It so happens, I’m going the other way.

JESSE.

Well you better if you know what is good for you.

OLIVER

[turns to ELSA].  What’s more, we’ll have kids too.  The God-damnedest punk in the world.  Don’t talk.  You’ve said everything.  To hell with people in the house!  Let God take care of them, the same as ever.  To hell with art!  To hell with propaganda!  To hell with you!  I love you, so shut up and let’s try to live.

JESSE watches them go, then rushes into the house.  Inside the house there is a great commotion.  The children are singing “My Country Tis of Thee’.  GEORGIE arrives on his bike, listens, and runs to the lower window.

 

GEORGIE

Hey.  Cut out that racket.  [HENRY comes out on the porch in one of ANN’S dresses.]  Who are you?  What are you doing in that dress?

HENRY

I’m a society lady!  [He does a bump.]

GEORGIE

Society lady?  Where’s Miss Ann Hamilton?

HENRY

Who?

GEORGIE

Miss Ann Hamilton.

HENRY

Annie doesn’t live here any more.

GEORGIE

[to CABOT in upper window].  What are you people doing in this house?

CABOT

We aim to rest a while and catch our breath.

GEORGIE.

Where’s Barnaby Gaul?

HENRY

You mean that fellow with the straw hat?  He went away.

SELMA, one of the twins, comes out and studies GEORGIE.

SELMA

Hello!

GEORGIE

Where’s Miss Hamilton?

SELMA

She went with the man.  We’re living here now.

GEORGIE

[to HENRY].  Get away from that wheel!

SELMA

You aiming to come back and pay us another visit some time?

GEORGIE

This house don’t belong to you people.

SELMA

I hope you’re aiming to come back.

VELMA

[the other twin, comes out and studies GEORGIE].  Hello!

GEORGIE

Hello, nothing!

VELMA

What’s your name?

GEORGIE

Never mind what my name is.  You people get out of this house!

VELMA

My name’s Velma.

GEORGIE

What do I care what your name is?  You people are house-wreckers.

WILBUR

No, we’re not.

VELMA

I’m sixteen.  How old are you?

GEORGIE

What do I care how old you are?  You people are mice.

WILBUR

No, we’re not.

GEORGIE

You folks get out of this house.  It belongs to Miss Ann Hamilton and Mr. Barnaby Gaul.  It belongs to true love.

VELMA and SELMA come toward GEORGIE.  He pushes down on the pedal of his bike and rides off.  The big boy, NEWTON, breaks out of the house, holding half a loaf of French bread, a piece of cheese and other miscellaneous items of food.

NEWTON. 

The whole house is full of things to eat.  I got mine. 

The TWINS hurry back into the house.  HENRY follows them.  There is great noise inthe house, then silence.

GAUL returns to the house, gets his suitcase, and tries to escape.  ANN catches up with him at the gate.

ANN

Barnaby!  You’ve come back.

GAUL

Dear lady, you shame me.  Your poetic words pierce me like arrows.  I am sweetly wounded by your devotion!  I would be the lowest of the low to leave you here in this garden of disorder, except—except, I repeat—that there are things stronger even than love, if one can only discover them.  I am not your man, except when I am.  That is the truth, and the truth is hard.  Forgive me, dear lady.  The lies I tell are never for the purpose of hurting others.  There is murder in such lies.  In mine there is birth.  I say only what others wish me to say.  I have said what you have wished to hear.  Gentle deceit is best for the moment, but for the year, truth is best.  Stay, I beg of you.  Do not leave yourself.  To be vagrant, dear lady, you must be swift.  Stay.  I shall remember you.  I promise.  Good-bye, dear lady.


GAUL goes.  LEONA comes out on the porch.  There is noise and confusion in the house.  ANN walks slowly after GAUL. 

 

END OF ACT 1

 

Song Lyrics:

 

Love's Old Sweet Song

Music by James .L. Molloy; words by G. Clifton Bingham

Once in the dear dead days beyond recall,

When on the world the mists began to fall,

Out of the dreams that rose in happy thong

Low to our hearts Love sang an old sweet song;

And in the dusk where fell the firelight gleam,

Softly it wove itself into our dream.

Chorus:

Just a song a twilight, when the lights are low,

And the flick'ring shadows softly come and go,ames

Tho' the heart be weary, sad the day and long,

Still to us at twilight comes Love's old song,

comes Love's old sweet song.

 

Even today we hear Love's song of yore,

Deep in our hearts it dwells forevermore.

Footsteps may falter, weary grow the way,

Still we can hear it at the close of day.

So till the end, when life's dim shadows fall,

Love will be found the sweetest song of all.

Chorus:

Just a song a twilight, when the lights are low,

And the flick'ring shadows softly come and go,

Tho' the heart be weary, sad the day and long,

Still to us at twilight comes Love's old song,

comes Love's old sweet song.

 

 

 

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