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- TWO MEN OF SANDY BAR - 10/23 -
idle, dissipated, bashful blockhead--nonsense! [Exit, brandishing pail.
SCENE 3.--The Same.
(A pause. SANDY'S voice, without.) This way, miss: the trail is easier.
(MISS MARY'S voice, without.) Never mind me; look after the bucket.
Enter SANDY, carrying bucket with water, followed by MISS MARY. SANDY sets bucket down.
Miss Mary. There, you've spilt half of it. If it had been whiskey, you'd have been more careful.
Sandy (submissively). Yes, miss.
Miss Mary (aside). "Yes, miss! "The man will drive me crazy with his saccharine imbecility. (Aloud.) I believe you would assent to anything, even if I said you were--an impostor!
Sandy (amazedly). An impostor, Miss Mary?
Miss Mary. Well, I don't know what other term you use in Red Gulch to express a man who conceals his real name under another.
Sandy (embarrassed, but facing MISS MARY). Has anybody been tellin' ye I was an impostor, miss? Has thet derned old fool that I saw ye with--
Miss Mary. "That old fool," as you call him, was too honorable a gentleman to disclose your secret, and too loyal a friend to traduce you by an epithet. Fear nothing, Mr. "Sandy": if you have limited your confidence to ONE friend, it has not been misplaced. But, dear me, don't think I wish to penetrate your secret. No. The little I learned was accidental. Besides, his business was with me: perhaps, as his friend, you already know it.
Sandy (meekly). Perhaps, miss, he was too honorable a gentleman to disclose YOUR secret. His business was with me.
Miss Mary (aside). He has taken a leaf out of my book! He is not so stupid, after all. (Aloud.) I have no secret. Col. Starbottle came here to make me an offer.
Sandy (recoiling). An offer!
Miss Mary. Of a home and independence. (Aside.) Poor fellow! how pale he looks! (Aloud.) Well, you see, I am more trustful than you. I will tell you MY secret; and you shall aid me with your counsel. (They sit on ledge of rocks.) Listen! My mother had a cousin once,--a cousin cruel, cowardly, selfish, and dissolute. She loved him, as women are apt to love such men,--loved him so that she beguiled her own husband to trust his fortunes in the hands of this wretched profligate. The husband was ruined, disgraced. The wife sought her cousin for help for her necessities. He met her with insult, and proposed that she should fly with him.
Sandy. One moment, miss: it wasn't his pardner--his pardner's wife--eh?
Miss Mary (impatiently). It was the helpless wife of his own blood, I tell you. The husband died broken-hearted. The wife, my mother, struggled in poverty, under the shadow of a proud name, to give me an education, and died while I was still a girl. To-day this cousin,--this more than murderer of my parents,--old, rich, self-satisfied, REFORMED, invites me, by virtue of that kinship he violated and despised, to his home, his wealth, his--his family roof-tree! The man you saw was his agent.
Sandy. And you--
Miss Mary. Refused.
Sandy (passing his hand over his forehead). You did wrong, Miss Mary.
Miss Mary. Wrong, sir? (Rising.)
Sandy (humbly but firmly). Sit ye down, Miss Mary. It ain't for ye to throw your bright young life away yer in this place. It ain't for such as ye to soil your fair young hands by raking in the ashes to stir up the dead embers of a family wrong. It ain't for ye--ye'll pardon me, Miss Mary, for sayin' it--it ain't for ye to allow when it's TOO LATE fur a man to reform, or to go back of his reformation. Don't ye do it, miss, fur God's sake,--don't ye do it! Harkin, Miss Mary. If ye'll take my advice--a fool's advice, maybe--ye'll go. And when I tell ye that that advice, if ye take it, will take the sunshine out of these hills, the color off them trees, the freshness outer them flowers, the heart's-blood outer me,--ye'll know that I ain't thinkin' o' myself, but of ye. And I wouldn't say this much to ye, Miss Mary; but you're goin' away. There's a flower, miss, you're wearin' in your bosom,--a flower I picked at daybreak this morning, five miles away in the snow. The wind was blowing chill around it, so that my hands that dug for it were stiff and cold; but the roots were warm, Miss Mary, as they are now in your bosom. Ye'll keep that flower, Miss Mary, in remembrance of my love for ye, that kept warm and blossomed through the snow. And, don't start, Miss Mary,--for ye'll leave behind ye, as I did, the snow and rocks through which it bloomed. I axes your parding, miss: I'm hurtin' yer feelin's, sure.
Miss Mary (rising with agitation). Nothing,--nothing; but climbing these stupid rocks has made me giddy: that's all. Your arm. (To SANDY impatiently). Can't you give me your arm? (SANDY supports MISS MARY awkwardly toward schoolhouse. At door MISS MARY pauses.) But if reformation is so easy, so acceptable, why have you not profited by it? Why have you not reformed? Why have I found you here, a disgraced, dissipated, anonymous outcast, whom an honest girl dare not know? Why do you presume to preach to me? Have you a father?
Sandy. Hush, Miss Mary, hush! I had a father. Harkin. All that you have suffered from a kinship even so far removed, I have known from the hands of one who should have protected me. MY father was-- but no matter. You, Miss Mary, came out of your trials like gold from the washing. I was only the dirt and gravel to be thrown away. It is too late, Miss Mary, too late. My father has never sought me, would turn me from his doors had I sought him. Perhaps he is only right.
Miss Mary. But why should he be so different from others? Listen. This very cousin whose offer I refused had a son,--wild, wayward, by all report the most degraded of men. It was part of my cousin's reformation to save this son, and, if it were possible, snatch him from that terrible fate which seemed to be his only inheritance.
Sandy (eagerly). Yes, miss.
Miss Mary. To restore him to a regenerated home. With this idea he followed his prodigal to California. I, you understand, was only an after-thought consequent upon his success. He came to California upon this pilgrimage two years ago. He had no recollection, so they tell me, by which he could recognize this erring son; and at first his search was wild, profitless, and almost hopeless. But by degrees, and with a persistency that seemed to increase with his hopelessness, he was rewarded by finding some clew to him at--at--at--
Sandy (excitedly). At Poker Flat?
Miss Mary. Ah, perhaps you know the story,--at Poker Flat. He traced him to the Mission of San Carmel.
Sandy. Yes, miss: go on.
Miss Mary. He was more successful than he deserved, perhaps. He found him. I see you know the story.
Sandy. Found him! Found him! Miss, did you say found him?
Miss Mary. Yes, found him. And today Alexander Morton, the reclaimed prodigal, is part of the household I am invited to join. So you see, Mr. Sandy, there is still hope. What has happened to him is only a promise to you. Eh! Mr. Sandy--what is the matter? Are you ill? Your exertion this morning, perhaps. Speak to me! Gracious heavens, he is going mad! No! No! Yes--it cannot be--it is--he HAS broken his promise: he is drunk again.
Sandy (rising, excited and confused). Excuse me, miss, I am a little onsartain HERE (pointing to his head). I can't--I disremember--what you said jus' now: ye mentioned the name o' that prodigal that was found.
Miss Mary. Certainly: compose yourself,--my cousin's son, Alexander Morton. Listen, Sandy, you promised ME, you know, you said for MY sake you would not touch a drop. (Enter cautiously toward schoolhouse the DUCHESS, stops on observing SANDY, and hides behind rock.)
Sandy (still bewildered and incoherent). I reckon. Harkin, miss, is that thar thing (pointing towards rock where DUCHESS is concealed)--is that a tree, or--or--a woman? Is it sorter movin' this way?
Miss Mary (laying her hand on SANDY'S). Recover your senses, for Heaven's sake, Sandy,--for MY sake! It is only a tree.
Sandy (rising). Then, miss, I've broke my word with ye: I'm drunk. P'r'aps I'd better be a-goin' (looking round confusedly) till I'm sober. (Going toward L.)
Miss Mary (seizing his hand). But you'll see me again, Sandy: you'll come here--before--before--I go?
Sandy. Yes, miss,--before ye go. (Staggers stupidly toward L. Aside.) Found him! found Alexander Morton! It's a third time, Sandy, the third time: it means--it means--you're mad! (Laughs wildly, and exit L.)
Miss Mary (springing to her feet). There is a mystery behind all this, Mary Morris, that you--you--must discover. That man was NOT drunk: he HAD NOT broken his promise to me. What does it all mean? I have it. I will accept the offer of this Alexander Morton. I will tell him the story of this helpless man, this poor, poor, reckless Sandy. With the story of his own son before his eyes, he cannot but interest himself in his fate. He is rich: he will aid
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