[Three women. Three spotlights. MAGGIE is downstage right, JUNE downstage left, RUTH center stage. Each woman speaks directly to the audience, unaware of the others.]
MAGGIE: The lawyer, are you?
JUNE: I should have told you.
MAGGIE: Well, I ain’t got nothin’ to say.
JUNE: I should have said.
JUNE: How glad I was to have you come and camp here on our land.
MAGGIE: I told the police I had nothin’.
JUNE: I promised myself to get down some day and see the way you lived.
MAGGIE: They know real well ‘twas me.
JUNE: But I don’t know
MAGGIE: There warn’t no supposin’, ketchin’ me in the woods as they did.
JUNE: With a houseful of hungry men to feed …
MAGGIE: Folks don’t walk miles an’ miles in the drifted snow with no hat nor wrap on ‘em if everythin’s all right, I guess.
RUTH: You want to know what’s wrong with me?
MAGGIE: All right? Ha! Ha! Ha!
RUTH: Do you?
MAGGIE: Nothin’ warn’t right with me. Never was.
JUNE: I guess you’d find …
RUTH: My! Ain’t men blinder’n moles!
JUNE: I can’t express my feelings any more than I can raise my voice or want to lift my hand.
MAGGIE: Oh, Lord!
JUNE: Oh, I can lift it when I have to.
MAGGIE: Why did I do it?
RUTH: It ain’t nothin’ new, be sure o’ that.
JUNE: Did you ever feel so? I hope you never. It’s got so I don’t know for sure whether I’m glad, sorry, or what have you.
MAGGIE: Why ain’t it yesterday, and Ed here agin?
JUNE: There’s nothing but a voice inside that tells me how I ought to feel and would feel if it hadn’t all gone wrong.
RUTH: Why, if you’d had eyes you’d ha’ seen me changin’ under your very nose.
JUNE: Take the lake.
RUTH: Each day a little diff’rent.
JUNE: I look and look at it.
RUTH: But you never see nothin’. You don’t.
JUNE: I see it’s a fair, pretty sheet of water. I stand and make myself repeat out loud the advantages it has, so long and narrow, like a deep piece of some old running river cut short at both ends. It lies five miles straight away through the mountain notch from the sink window where I wash the plates, and all our storms come up toward the house, drawing the slow waves whiter and whiter and whiter.
RUTH: Don’t touch me, Jake!
JUNE: It took my mind off doughnuts and soda biscuits.
MAGGIE: Many’s the time I’ve set up with him nights
RUTH: Don’t you dare touch me!
MAGGIE: when he had cramps, or rheumatism, or somethin’.
RUTH: I ain’t in no humor.
MAGGIE: I used ter nurse him same’s ef he was a baby.
JUNE: I used to step outdoors and take the water dazzle in on a sunny morning, or take the rising wind about my face and body and through my wrapper when a storm threatened from the Dragon’s Den, and a cold shivered across the lake.
MAGGIE: I wouldn’t hurt him! I love him!
JUNE: I see it’s a fair, pretty sheet of water.
MAGGIE: Don’t you dare say I killed him! ‘Twarn’t me!
JUNE: Listen to that!
MAGGIE: Somethin’ got aholt o’ me.
JUNE: You let things more like feathers regulate your going and coming.
MAGGIE: I couldn’t help it.
RUTH: That’s what’s come over me
JUNE: And you like it here?
RUTH: Jest a change clear through.
JUNE: I can see how you might. But I don’t know … it would be different if more people came, then there would be business. As it is, the cottages Len built, sometimes we rent them, sometimes we don’t.
MAGGIE: What should I do?
JUNE: We’ve a good piece of shore that ought to be worth something, and may yet. But I don’t count on it as much as Len.
MAGGIE: What should I do?!
RUTH: You lay still, an I’ll tell you.
JUNE: He looks on the bright side of everything. Including me.
RUTH: I’ve had my mind to tell you fer some time.
JUNE: He thinks I’ll be all right with doctoring. But it’s not medicine
MAGGIE: Why warn’t I struck dead or paralyzed afore my hands done it?!
JUNE: Lowe is the only doctor’s dared to say soit’s rest I want.
MAGGIE: Oh my god!
JUNE: There. I’ve said itfrom cooking meals for hungry hired men and washing dishes after themfrom doing things over and over that just won’t stay done.
RUTH: It’s a strain livin’ a lie from mornin’ till night.
MAGGIE: What should I do?
RUTH: I’m goin’ to put an end to it right now.
JUNE: I ought not to have so much put on me, but there seems no other way.
MAGGIE: No, sir. There ain’t no extenuatin’ circumstances. An’ I don’t want none.
JUNE: Len says one steady pull more ought to do it. He says the best way out is always through.
MAGGIE: I want a bolt o’ lightnin’ to strike me dead right now!
JUNE: And I agree to that, in so far as I can’t see no other way out but throughleastways for me.
MAGGIE: Oh, I’ll tell you.
RUTH: When I married you I loved you.
MAGGIE: But it won’t make no difference. Nothin’ will.
RUTH: I did.
JUNE: It’s not that Len don’t want the best for me.
MAGGIE: Yes, I killed him.
JUNE: It was his plan our moving over in beside the laketen miles from anywhere.
MAGGIE: I killed him because o’ th’ silence.
JUNE: We didn’t change without some sacrifice
MAGGIE: The long, long silence. And he wouldn’t break it.
RUTH: Back then, your voice ‘ud make me go hot and cold all over.
MAGGIE: I tried to make him …
RUTH: An’ your kisses
MAGGIE: But he was terrible taciturn, Ed was.
RUTH: most stopped my heart from beatin’.
MAGGIE: He never spoke ‘cept when he had to. An’ then he’d only say “yes” and “no”.
RUTH: Lord, I was a silly fool!
MAGGIE: You can’t even guess what that silence was. I’d hear it whisperin’ in my ears, an’ I got frightened, ‘twas so thick, an always comin’ back.
JUNE: His work’s a man’s, of course, from sun to sun.
MAGGIE: If Ed would ha’ talked sometimes, it would ha’ driven it away.
MAGGIE: But he never would. JUNE: But work ain’t all.
RUTH: That’s the way ‘twas.
MAGGIE: He didn’t hear it same as I did.
JUNE: Len undertakes too much.
MAGGIE: You see, our farm was off the main road, and set away back under the mountain. And the village was seven mile off. We didn’t have no hired man, ‘cept in hayin’ time, an’ Dane’s place, that was the nearest, was clear way ‘tother side the mountain.
JUNE: He’s into everything in town. This year it’s highways.
MAGGIE: There was a cart-track took you to Dane’s in summer, an’ it warn’t above two mile that way, but it warn’t never broke out winters.
RUTH: Well, I married you.
MAGGIE: I used to dread the winters.
RUTH: An’ I thought Heav’n was comin’ to set on the door-step.
MAGGIE: You don’t know what snow’s like when yer with it day in an’ day out.
RUTH: Heav’n didn’t do no settin’.
MAGGIE: Ed would be out all day loggin’, an’ I set at home and look at the snow layin’ over everythin’.
JUNE: He’s got too many men around him to look after that make waste.
MAGGIE: It ‘ud dazzle me blind, till it warn’t white anymore, but black as ink.
JUNE: They take advantage of him something shameful.
MAGGIE: Then the quiet ‘ud commence rushin’ past my ears till I most went mad listenin’ to it.
JUNE: We have four here to board, great good-for-nothings, sprawling about the kitchen with their talk while I fry their bacon.
RUTH: The first year warn’t so bad.
JUNE: Much they care!
MAGGIE: Many’s the time I’ve dropped a pan on the floor jest to hear it clatter.
RUTH: The baby’s fever threw you off some, I guess.
JUNE: No more put out in what they do or say than if I wasn’t in the room at all. Coming and going all the time.
RUTH: An’ then I took her death real hard.
MAGGIE: I was most frantic when dinner-time come an’ Ed was back from the woods. I’d ha’ give my soul to hear him speak.
JUNE: I don’t learn their names, let alone their characters or whether they’re safe to have inside the house.
MAGGIE: But he’d never say a word till I asked him did he like the raised biscuits or whatever, an’ then sometimes he’d jest nod his answer.
RUTH: A mopey wife kind o’ disgusts a man.
MAGGIE: Then he’d go out agin, an’ I’d watch him from the kitchin’ winder. It seemed the woods come marchin’ out to meet him an’ the trees ‘ud press round him an’ hustle him in.
JUNE: I’m not afraid of them though, if they’re not afraid of me.
MAGGIE: I got so I was scared o’ the trees.
JUNE: There’s two can play at that.
MAGGIE: I thought they come nearer, every day a little nearer, closin’ up round the house.
JUNE: It runs in the family.
RUTH: I ain’t blamin’ you exactly.
JUNE: My father’s brother wasn’t right.
RUTH: But that’s how ‘twas.
JUNE: They kept him locked up for years back there at the old farm.
MAGGIE: I never went in t’ th’ woods winters, though in summer I liked ‘em well enough.
RUTH: Do lay quiet.
JUNE: I’ve been away onceyes, I’ve been away. The State Asylum.
RUTH: I know I’m slow, but …
JUNE: I wouldn’t have sent anyone of mine there.
MAGGIE: It warn’t so bad when my little boy was with us.
RUTH: It’s …
MAGGIE: He used to go sleddin’ and skatin’, an every day his father fetched him to school in the pung an’ brought him back again.
RUTH: It’s harder to say ‘n I thought.
JUNE: My father’s brother, he went mad quite young.
MAGGIE: We scraped an’ scraped for Neddy.
JUNE: Some thought he’d been bitten by a dog, but it’s more likely he was crossed in love, or so the story goes.
MAGGIE: We wanted him to have a’ education.
JUNE: It was some girl.
MAGGIE: We sent him to high school, an’ then he went up to Boston to Technology.
JUNE: Anyway all he talked about was love.
RUTH: There come a time when I got to be more wife agin than mother.
MAGGIE: He was a minin’ engineer, an’ doin’ real well. A credit to his bringin’ up.
JUNE: They soon saw he’d do someone mischief if he wa’n’t kept strict watch of.
MAGGIE: But his very first position there was an explosion in the mine.
RUTH: The mother part was sort of a waste.
MAGGIE: And I’m glad! I’m glad he ain’t here to see me now!
JUNE: It ended in father’s building him a sort of cage.
MAGGIE: Neddy! Neddy!
JUNE: A room within a room.
MAGGIE: I can’t bear it! I can’t!
RUTH: You’d got used to lots o’ things.
JUNE: Hickory poles, like stanchions in the barn, from floor to ceiling, and a narrow passage all around.
RUTH: You was all took up with the farm.
JUNE: Anything they put in for furniture he’d tear to pieces, even a bed, so they made the place comfortable with straw, like a beast’s stall.
RUTH: Many’s the time I’d foller yer around like a dog, an’ set in the chair you’d be’n settin’ in, jest to feel its arms around me, so long’s I didn’t have yours.
MAGGIE: No, sir. Not till after Neddy died. ‘Twas the next winter the silence come. I don’t remember noticin’ it afore.
JUNE: Of course they had to feed him without dishes.
MAGGIE: That was five year ago, an’ it’s been gittin’ worse an’ worse.
RUTH: It preyed on me, I guess.
MAGGIE: I asked Ed to put in a telephone.
JUNE: They tried to keep him clothed, but …
MAGGIE: I thought ef I felt the whisperin’ comin’ on, I could ring up some o’ th’ folks.
RUTH: Longin’ and longin’ while you was busy all day, and snorin’ all night.
MAGGIE: But Ed wouldn’t hear of it.
JUNE: I ‘spose they did the best they knew.
MAGGIE: He said we’d paid so much for Neddy we couldn’t hardly git along as ‘twas.
RUTH: Yes, I know you’re wide awake now, but now ain’t then, an’ I guess you’ll think diff’rent when I’m done.
MAGGIE: He never understood me wantin’ to talk.
JUNE: And just when he was at the height, father and mother married, and mother came, a bride, to help take care of such a creature.
RUTH: You’ll think diff’rent then.
MAGGIE: Well, this year was worse’n all the others.
JUNE: That was what marrying father meant to her.
MAGGIE: We had a terrible spell o’ stormy weather, an’ the snow lay so thick …
JUNE: She had to lie and hear love things made dreadful by his shouts in the night.
MAGGIE: You couldn’t see the fences even.
JUNE: He’d shout and scream …
MAGGIE: Ther warn’t a hump or a holler fer as you could see.
JUNE: He’d pull his bars apart like bow and string and let them go and make them twang until his hands wore them as smooth as any ox-bow.
MAGGIE: It was so quiet the snappin’ o’ the branches back in the wood-lot sounded like pistol shots.
JUNE: I’ve heard them say, though, they found a way to put a stop to it.
RUTH: Do you mind the day you went to Hadrock?
MAGGIE: Ed was out all day, same as usual.
RUTH: I didn’t want to stay home for reasons, but you said someone ‘d have to be here ‘cause Elmer was comin’ to see t’ th’ telephone.
MAGGIE: He didn’t even say “Good mornin’”jest nodded or shook his head when I asked him things.
RUTH: An’ you never see why I was so set on goin’ with yer.
MAGGIE: On Monday he said he’d got to go over to Benton fer some oats.
RUTH: Our married life hadn’t be’n any great shakes, still marriage is marriage, an’ I was raised God-fearin’.
MAGGIE: I’d oughter ha’ gone with him, but ‘twas washin’ day an’ I was afeared the fine weather’d break an’ I couldn’t do my dryin’.
RUTH: Lord, you didn’t notice nothin’, an’ Elmer hangin’ around all winter!
MAGGIE: I can’t tell you what that day was to me.
RUTH: ‘Twas a lovely mornin’.
MAGGIE: It dragged an’ dragged.
RUTH: The apple-trees was jest elegant with their blossoms all flared out, an’ there warn’t a cloud in the sky.
MAGGIE: Every time I stopped stirrin’ the water, I heard the whisperin’ all about me.
JUNE: He was before my timeI never saw him.
RUTH: You went, you wouldn’t pay no ‘tention to what I said.
JUNE: But the pen stayed exactly as it was.
MAGGIE: I stopped oftener’n I should to see ef ‘twas still there.
RUTH: I heard the Ford chuggin’ for most a mile.
MAGGIE: It always was.
RUTH: The air was so still.
MAGGIE: An’ gittin’ louder.
RUTH: Then Elmer come.
JUNE: I often think of the smooth hickory bars.
MAGGIE: Once I threw up the winder to feel the wind.
RUTH: It’s no use your frettin’, Jake.
MAGGIE: But the woods looked so kind of menacin’, I closed it quick.
JUNE: It got so I would sayyou know, half fooling“It’s time I took my turn upstairs in jail.”
RUTH: I’ll tell you all about it. I know what I’m doin’.
MAGGIE: Ed come home ‘bout four.
RUTH: An’ what’s worse, I know what I done.
MAGGIE: I seen him down the road.
JUNE: No wonder I was glad to get away.
RUTH: Elmer fixed th’ phone in about two minutes.
JUNE: Mind you, I waited till Len said the word.
RUTH: He didn’t seem in no hurry to go, an’ I don’t know as I wanted him to go either.
JUNE: I didn’t want the blame if things went wrong.
RUTH: I was awful mad at your not takin’ me with you.
JUNE: I was glad though, no end, when we moved out.
MAGGIE: I run out through the shed inter th’ barn to meet him quicker.
RUTH: I was tired o’ wishin’ and wishin’ an’ gittin’ no comfort.
JUNE: I looked to be happy, and I was … for a while, at least.
MAGGIE: I hollered out, “Hullo!” but he didn’t say nothin’jest drove right in an’ commenced unharnessin’.
RUTH: I guess it ain’t necessary to tell you all the things.
MAGGIE: I asked him a heap o’ questions.
RUTH: He stayed to dinner an’ helped me do the dishes.
MAGGIE: Who he’d seen an’ what he’d done.
JUNE: Somehow the change wore out like a prescription.
RUTH: He said a home was a fine thing, an’ I said dishes warn’t a home.
MAGGIE: Once in a while he’d nod or shake.
JUNE: There’s more to it than just window-views and living by a lake.
RUTH: He said a lot o’ things.
JUNE: I’m past such help.
RUTH: I fended him off at first, but he got to talkin’ all around me, close up to the things I’d be’n thinkin’.
MAGGIE: ‘Twas gittin’ dark then.
RUTH: What’s the use o’ me goin’ on? You know.
MAGGIE: I was in a state, with the loneliness an’ Ed payin’ no attention like somethin’ warn’t livin’.
RUTH: He got all he wanted, an’ I give it to him, an’ what’s more, I’m glad!
JUNE: Unless Len took the notion, which he won’t, and I won’t ask him … I ‘spose I’ve got to go the road I’m going.
RUTH: I ain’t dead, anyway, an’ somebody thinks I’m somethin’.
MAGGIE: All of a sudden it come
JUNE: Other folks have towhy shouldn’t I?
MAGGIE: I don’t know what, but I jest couldn’t stand no more!
RUTH: Keep away, Jake!
JUNE: I almost think if I could do like you, drop everything and live out on the ground
RUTH: You can kill me tomorrow if you like, but I’m goin’ to have my say!
JUNE: but it might be, come night, I shouldn’t like it.
MAGGIE: It didn’t seem ‘s though that was Ed
JUNE: Or a long rain.
MAGGIE: an’ it didn’t seem as though I was me.
JUNE: I should soon get enough, and be glad of a good roof overhead.
MAGGIE: I had to break a way out somehow!
JUNE: I’ve lain awake thinking of you, more than you have yourself, some of these nights.
MAGGIE: Somethin’ was closin’ in!
RUTH: Funny thing!
MAGGIE: Ed’s loggin’ axe was there, an’ I took it!
RUTH: Guess I ain’t made to hold a man.
MAGGIE: Oh my god!
RUTH: Elmer ain’t be’n here for mor’n two months.
JUNE: I haven’t courage for a risk like that.
MAGGIE: I can’t see nothin’ else afore me!
RUTH: Mebbe if he’d be’n lately, I shouldn’t have told you.
MAGGIE: I run out inter th’ woods!
RUTH: I’ll go away in the mornin’, o’ course.
MAGGIE: Seemed as ef they was pullin’ me!
JUNE: Bless you, of course you’re keeping me from work, but the thing is, I need to be kept.
MAGGIE: An’ all the time I was wadin’ through the snow!
RUTH: What you want the light fer?
MAGGIE: The snow!
RUTH: I don’t look no diff’rent.
MAGGIE: I seed Ed in front of me where I’d laid him!
RUTH: Ain’t the moon bright enough to look at a woman that’s deceived you by?
MAGGIE: I see him now!
RUTH: Don’t, Jake!
JUNE: There’s work enough to dothere’s always that.
MAGGIE: What you holdin’ me fer?
RUTH: You can’t love me now!
MAGGIE: I want ter go to Ed!
RUTH: It ain’t a question of forgiveness.
MAGGIE: He’s bleedin’!
JUNE: The worst you can do is set me back a little more behind.
MAGGIE: Stop holdin’ me!
RUTH: I’d be thinkin’ o’ Elmer ev’ry minute … it ain’t decent.
MAGGIE: I got to go!
JUNE: I can’t catch up in this world, anyway.
MAGGIE: I’m comin’, Ed!
RUTH: Oh my god! It ain’t decent any more either way!
MAGGIE: I’m comin’!
JUNE: I’d rather you’d not go … unless you must.