The Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet/Play
A number of women are sitting working together in a big room not unlike an old English tithe barn in its timbered construction, but with windows high up next the roof. It is furnished as a courthouse, with the floor raised next the walls, and on this raised flooring a seat for the Sheriff, a rough jury box on his right, and a bar to put prisoners to on his left. In the well in the middle is a table with benches round it. A few other benches are in disorder round the room. The autumn sun is shining warmly through the windows and the open door. The women, whose dress and speech are those of pioneers of civilisation in a territory of the United States of America, are seated round the table and on the benches, shucking nuts. The conversation is at its height.
BABSY [a bumptious young slattern, with some good looks] I say that a man that would steal a horse would do anything.
LOTTIE [a sentimental girl, neat and clean] Well, I never should look at it in that way. I do think killing a man is worse any day than stealing a horse.
HANNAH [elderly and wise] I dont say it's right to kill a man. In a place like this, where every man has to have a revolver, and where theres so much to try people's tempers, the men get to be a deal too free with one another in the way of shooting. God knows it's hard enough to have to bring a boy into the world and nurse him up to be a man only to have him brought home to you on a shutter, perhaps for nothing, or only just to shew that the man that killed him wasn't afraid of him. But men are like children when they get a gun in their hands: theyre not content til theyve used it on somebody.
JESSIE [a good-natured but sharp-tongued, hoity-toity young woman; Babsy's rival in good looks and her superior in tidiness] They shoot for the love of it. Look at them at a lynching. Theyre not content to hang the man; but directly the poor creature is swung up they all shoot him full of holes, wasting their cartridges that cost solid money, and pretending they do it in horror of his wickedness, though half of them would have a rope round their own necks if all they did was known—let alone the mess it makes.
LOTTIE. I wish we could get more civilized. I don't like all this lynching and shooting. I don't believe any of us like it, if the truth were known.
BABSY. Our Sheriff is a real strong man. You want a strong man for a rough lot like our people here. He aint afraid to shoot and he aint afraid to hang. Lucky for us quiet ones, too.
JESSIE. Oh, don't talk to me. I know what men are. Of course he aint afraid to shoot and he aint afraid to hang. Wheres the risk in that with the law on his side and the whole crowd at his back longing for the lynching as if it was a spree? Would one of them own to it or let him own to it if they lynched the wrong man? Not them. What they call justice in this place is nothing but a breaking out of the devil thats in all of us. What I want to see is a Sheriff that aint afraid not to shoot and not to hang.
EMMA [a sneak who sides with Babsy or Jessie, according to the fortune of war] Well, I must say it does sicken me to see Sheriff Kemp putting down his foot, as he calls it. Why don't he put it down on his wife? She wants it worse than half the men he lynches. He and his Vigilance Committee, indeed!
BABSY [incensed] Oh, well! if people are going to take the part of horse-thieves against the Sheriff—
JESSIE. Who's taking the part of horse-thieves against the Sheriff?
BABSY. You are. Waitle your own horse is stolen, and youll know better. I had an uncle that died of thirst in the sage brush because a negro stole his horse. But they caught him and burned him; and serve him right, too.
EMMA. I have known that a child was born crooked because its mother had to do a horse's work that was stolen.
BABSY. There! You hear that? I say stealing a horse is ten times worse than killing a man. And if the Vigilance Committee ever gets hold of you, youd better have killed twenty men than as much as stole a saddle or bridle, much less a horse.
[Elder Daniels comes in.]
ELDER DANIELS. Sorry to disturb you, ladies; but the Vigilance Committee has taken a prisoner; and they want the room to try him in.
JESSIE. But they cant try him til Sheriff Kemp comes back from the wharf.
ELDER DANIELS. Yes; but we have to keep the prisoner here til he comes.
BABSY. What do you want to put him here for? Cant you tie him up in the Sheriff's stable?
ELDER DANIELS. He has a soul to be saved, almost like the rest of us. I am bound to try to put some religion into him before he goes into his Maker's presence after the trial.
HANNAH. What has he done, Mr Daniels?
ELDER DANIELS. Stole a horse.
BABSY. And are we to be turned out of the town hall for a horsethief? Aint a stable good enough for his religion?
ELDER DANIELS. It may be good enough for his, Babsy; but, by your leave, it is not good enough for mine. While I am Elder here, I shall umbly endeavour to keep up the dignity of Him I serve to the best of my small ability. So I must ask you to be good enough to clear out. Allow me. [He takes the sack of husks and put it out of the way against the panels of the jury box].
THE WOMEN [murmuring] Thats always the way. Just as we'd settled down to work. What harm are we doing? Well, it is tiresome. Let them finish the job themselves. Oh dear, oh dear! We cant have a minute to ourselves. Shoving us out like that!
HANNAH. Whose horse was it, Mr Daniels?
ELDER DANIELS [returning to move the other sack] I am sorry to say that it was the Sheriff's horse—the one he loaned to young Strapper. Strapper loaned it to me; and the thief stole it, thinking it was mine. If it had been mine, I'd have forgiven him cheerfully. I'm sure I hoped he would get away; for he had two hours start of the Vigilance Committee. But they caught him. [He disposes of the other sack also].
JESSIE. It cant have been much of a horse if they caught him with two hours start.
ELDER DANIELS [coming back to the centre of the group] The strange thing is that he wasn't on the horse when they took him. He was walking; and of course he denies that he ever had the horse. The Sheriff's brother wanted to tie him up and lash him till he confessed what he'd done with it; but I couldn't allow that: it's not the law.
BABSY. Law! What right has a horse-thief to any law? Law is thrown away on a brute like that.
ELDER DANIELS. Dont say that, Babsy. No man should be made to confess by cruelty until religion has been tried and failed. Please God I'll get the whereabouts of the horse from him if youll be so good as to clear out from this. [Disturbance outside]. They are bringing him in. Now ladies! please, please.
[They rise reluctantly. Hannah, Jessie, and Lottie retreat to the Sheriff's bench, shepherded by Daniels; but the other women crowd forward behind Babsy and Emma to see the prisoner.
Blanco Posnet is brought in by Strapper Kemp, the Sheriff's brother, and a cross-eyed man called Squinty. Others follow. Blanco is evidently a blackguard. It would be necessary to clean him to make a close guess at his age; but he is under forty, and an upturned, red moustache, and the arrangement of his hair in a crest on his brow, proclaim the dandy in spite of his intense disreputableness. He carries his head high, and has a fairly resolute mouth, though the fire of incipient delirium tremens is in his eye.
His arms are bound with a rope with a long end, which Squinty holds. They release him when he enters; and he stretches himself and lounges across the courthouse in front of the women. Strapper and the men remain between him and the door.]
BABSY [spitting at him as he passes her] Horse-thief! horsethief!
OTHERS. You will hang for it; do you hear? And serve you right. Serve you right. That will teach you. I wouldn't wait to try you. Lynch him straight off, the varmint. Yes, yes. Tell the boys. Lynch him.
BLANCO [mocking] "Angels ever bright and fair—"
BABSY. You call me an angel, and I'll smack your dirty face for you.
BLANCO. "Take, oh take me to your care."
EMMA. There wont be any angels where youre going to.
OTHERS. Aha! Devils, more likely. And too good company for a horse-thief.
ALL. Horse-thief! Horse-thief! Horse-thief!
BLANCO. Do women make the law here, or men? Drive these heifers out.
THE WOMEN. Oh! [They rush at him, vituperating, screaming passionately, tearing at him. Lottie puts her fingers in her ears and runs out. Hannah follows, shaking her head. Blanco is thrown down]. Oh, did you hear what he called us? You foul-mouthed brute! You liar! How dare you put such a name to a decent woman? Let me get at him. You coward! Oh, he struck me: did you see that? Lynch him! Pete, will you stand by and hear me called names by a skunk like that? Burn him: burn him! Thats what I'd do with him. Aye, burn him!
THE MEN [pulling the women away from Blanco, and getting them out partly by violence and partly by coaxing] Here! come out of this. Let him alone. Clear the courthouse. Come on now. Out with you. Now, Sally: out you go. Let go my hair, or I'll twist your arm out. Ah, would you? Now, then: get along. You know you must go. Whats the use of scratching like that? Now, ladies, ladies, ladies. How would you like it if you were going to be hanged?
[At last the women are pushed out, leaving Elder Daniels, the Sheriff's brother Strapper Kemp, and a few others with Blanco. Strapper is a lad just turning into a man: strong, selfish, sulky, and determined.]
BLANCO [sitting up and tidying himself]—
- Oh woman, in our hours of ease.::Uncertain, coy, and hard to please—
Is my face scratched? I can feel their damned claws all over me still. Am I bleeding? [He sits on the nearest bench].
ELDER DANIELS. Nothing to hurt. Theyve drawn a drop or two under your left eye.
STRAPPER. Lucky for you to have an eye left in your head.
BLANCO [wiping the blood off]—
- When pain and anguish wring the brow,::A ministering angel thou.
Go out to them, Strapper Kemp; and tell them about your big brother's little horse that some wicked man stole. Go and cry in your mammy's lap.
STRAPPER [furious] You jounce me any more about that horse, Blanco Posnet; and I'll—I'll—
BLANCO. Youll scratch my face, wont you? Yah! Your brother's the Sheriff, aint he?
STRAPPER. Yes, he is. He hangs horse-thieves.
BLANCO [with calm conviction] He's a rotten Sheriff. Oh, a rotten Sheriff. If he did his first duty he'd hang himself. This is a rotten town. Your fathers came here on a false alarm of golddigging; and when the gold didn't pan out, they lived by licking their young into habits of honest industry.
STRAPPER. If I hadnt promised Elder Daniels here to give him a chance to keep you out of Hell, I'd take the job of twisting your neck off the hands of the Vigilance Committee.
BLANCO [with infinite scorn] You and your rotten Elder, and your rotten Vigilance Committee!
STRAPPER. Theyre sound enough to hang a horse-thief, anyhow.
BLANCO. Any fool can hang the wisest man in the country. Nothing he likes better. But you cant hang me.
STRAPPER. Cant we?
BLANCO. No, you cant. I left the town this morning before sunrise, because it's a rotten town, and I couldn't bear to see it in the light. Your brother's horse did the same, as any sensible horse would. Instead of going to look for the horse, you went looking for me. That was a rotten thing to do, because the horse belonged to your brother—or to the man he stole it from— and I don't belong to him. Well, you found me; but you didn't find the horse. If I had took the horse, I'd have been on the horse. Would I have taken all that time to get to where I did if I'd a horse to carry me?
STRAPPER. I dont believe you started not for two hours after you say you did.
BLANCO. Who cares what you believe or dont believe? Is a man worth six of you to be hanged because youve lost your big brother's horse, and youll want to kill somebody to relieve your rotten feelings when he licks you for it? Not likely. Till you can find a witness that saw me with that horse you cant touch me; and you know it.
STRAPPER. Is that the law, Elder?
ELDER DANIELS. The Sheriff knows the law. I wouldnt say for sure; but I think it would be more seemly to have a witness. Go and round one up, Strapper; and leave me here alone to wrestle with his poor blinded soul.
STRAPPER. I'll get a witness all right enough. I know the road he took; and I'll ask at every house within sight of it for a mile out. Come boys.
[Strapper goes out with the others, leaving Blanco and Elder Daniels together. Blanco rises and strolls over to the Elder, surveying him with extreme disparagement.]
BLANCO. Well, brother? Well, Boozy Posnet, alias Elder Daniels? Well, thief? Well, drunkard?
ELDER DANIELS. It's no good, Blanco. Theyll never believe we're brothers.
BLANCO. Never fear. Do you suppose I want to claim you? Do you suppose I'm proud of you? Youre a rotten brother, Boozy Posnet. All you ever did when I owned you was to borrow money from me to get drunk with. Now you lend money and sell drink to other people. I was ashamed of you before; and I'm worse ashamed of you now, I wont have you for a brother. Heaven gave you to me; but I return the blessing without thanks. So be easy: I shant blab. [He turns his back on him and sits down].
ELDER DANIELS. I tell you they wouldn't believe you; so what does it matter to me whether you blab or not? Talk sense, Blanco: theres no time for your foolery now; for youll be a dead man an hour after the Sheriff comes back. What possessed you to steal that horse?
BLANCO. I didnt steal it. I distrained on it for what you owed me. I thought it was yours. I was a fool to think that you owned anything but other people's property. You laid your hands on everything father and mother had when they died. I never asked you for a fair share. I never asked you for all the money I'd lent you from time to time. I asked you for mother's old necklace with the hair locket in it. You wouldn't give me that: you wouldn't give me anything. So as you refused me my due I took it, just to give you a lesson.
ELDER DANIELS. Why didnt you take the necklace if you must steal something? They wouldnt have hanged you for that.
BLANCO. Perhaps I'd rather be hanged for stealing a horse than let off for a damned piece of sentimentality.
ELDER DANIELS. Oh, Blanco, Blanco: spiritual pride has been your ruin. If youd only done like me, youd be a free and respectable man this day instead of laying there with a rope round your neck.
BLANCO [turning on him] Done like you! What do you mean? Drink like you, eh? Well, Ive done some of that lately. I see things.
ELDER DANIELS. Too late, Blanco: too late. [Convulsively] Oh, why didnt you drink as I used to? Why didnt you drink as I was led to by the Lord for my god, until the time came for me to give it up? It was drink that saved my character when I was a young man; and it was the want of it that spoiled yours. Tell me this. Did I ever get drunk when I was working?
BLANCO. No; but then you never worked when you had money enough to get drunk.
ELDER DANIELS. That just shews the wisdom of Providence and the Lord's mercy. God fulfils himself in many ways: ways we little think of when we try to set up our own shortsighted laws against his Word. When does the Devil catch hold of a man? Not when he's working and not when he's drunk; but when he's idle and sober. Our own natures tell us to drink when we have nothing else to do. Look at you and me! When we'd both earned a pocketful of money, what did we do? Went on the spree, naturally. But I was humble minded. I did as the rest did. I gave my money in at the drinkshop; and I said, "Fire me out when I have drunk it all up." Did you ever see me sober while it lasted?
BLANCO. No; and you looked so disgusting that I wonder it didn't set me against drink for the rest of my life.
ELDER DANIELS. That was your spiritual pride, Blanco. You never reflected that when I was drunk I was in a state of innocence. Temptations and bad company and evil thoughts passed by me like the summer wind as you might say: I was too drunk to notice them. When the money was gone, and they fired me out, I was fired out like gold out of the furnace, with my character unspoiled and unspotted; and when I went back to work, the work kept me steady. Can you say as much, Blanco? Did your holidays leave your character unspoiled? Oh, no, no. It was theatres: it was gambling: it was evil company, it was reading in vain romances: it was women, Blanco, women: it was wrong thoughts and gnawing discontent. It ended in your becoming a rambler and a gambler: it is going to end this evening on the gallows tree. Oh, what a lesson against spiritual pride! Oh, what a—[Blanco throws his hat at him].
BLANCO. Stow it, Boozy. Sling it. Cut it. Cheese it. Shut up. "Shake not the dying sinner's hand."
ELDER DANIELS. Aye: there you go, with your scraps of lustful poetry. But you cant deny what I tell you. Why, do you think I would put my soul in peril by selling drink if I thought it did no good, as them silly temperance reformers make out, flying in the face of the natural tastes implanted in us all for a good purpose? Not if I was to starve for it to-morrow. But I know better. I tell you, Blanco, what keeps America to-day the purest of the nations is that when she's not working she's too drunk to hear the voice of the tempter.
BLANCO. Dont deceive yourself, Boozy. You sell drink because you make a bigger profit out of it than you can by selling tea. And you gave up drink yourself because when you got that fit at Edwardstown the doctor told you youd die the next time; and that frightened you off it.
ELDER DANIELS [fervently] Oh thank God selling drink pays me! And thank God he sent me that fit as a warning that my drinking time was past and gone, and that he needed me for another service!
BLANCO. Take care, Boozy. He hasnt finished with you yet. He always has a trick up His sleeve—
ELDER DANIELS. Oh, is that the way to speak of the ruler of the universe—the great and almighty God?
BLANCO. He's a sly one. He's a mean one. He lies low for you. He plays cat and mouse with you. He lets you run loose until you think youre shut of him; and then, when you least expect it, he's got you.
ELDER DANIELS. Speak more respectful, Blanco-more reverent.
BLANCO [springing up and coming at him] Reverent! Who taught you your reverent cant? Not your Bible. It says He cometh like a thief in the night—aye, like a thief, a horse-thief ELDER DANIELS [shocked] Oh!
BLANCO [overhearing him] And it's true. Thats how He caught me and put my neck into the halter. To spite me because I had no use for Him—because I lived my own life in my own way, and would have no truck with His "Dont do this," and "You mustnt do that," and "Youll go to Hell if you do the other." I gave Him the go-bye and did without Him all these years. But He caught me out at last. The laugh is with Him as far as hanging me goes. [He thrusts his hands into his pockets and lounges moodily away from Daniels, to the table, where he sits facing the jury box].
ELDER DANIELS. Dont dare to put your theft on Him, man. It was the Devil tempted you to steal the horse.
BLANCO. Not a bit of it. Neither God nor Devil tempted me to take the horse: I took it on my own. He had a cleverer trick than that ready for me. [He takes his hands out of his pockets and clenches his fists]. Gosh! When I think that I might have been safe and fifty miles away by now with that horse; and here I am waiting to be hung up and filled with lead! What came to me? What made me such a fool? Thats what I want to know. Thats the great secret.
ELDER DANIELS [at the opposite side of the table] Blanco: the great secret now is, what did you do with the horse?
BLANCO [striking the table with his fist] May my lips be blighted like my soul if ever I tell that to you or any mortal men! They may roast me alive or cut me to ribbons; but Strapper Kemp shall never have the laugh on me over that job. Let them hang me. Let them shoot. So long as they are shooting a man and not a sniveling skunk and softy, I can stand up to them and take all they can give me.
ELDER DANIELS. Dont be headstrong, Blanco. Whats the use? [Slyly] They might let up on you if you put Strapper in the way of getting his brother's horse back.
BLANCO. Not they. Hanging's too big a treat for them to give up a fair chance. Ive done it myself. Ive yelled with the dirtiest of them when a man no worse than myself was swung up. Ive emptied my revolver into him, and persuaded myself that he deserved it and that I was doing justice with strong stern men. Well, my turn's come now. Let the men I yelled at and shot at look up out of Hell and see the boys yelling and shooting at me as I swing up.
ELDER DANIELS. Well, even if you want to be hanged, is that any reason why Strapper shouldn't have his horse? I tell you I'm responsible to him for it. [Bending over the table and coaxing him]. Act like a brother, Blanco: tell me what you done with it.
BLANCO [shortly, getting up and leaving the table] Never you mind what I done with it. I was done out of it. Let that be enough for you.
ELDER DANIELS [following him] Then why don't you put us on to the man that done you out of it?
BLANCO. Because he'd be too clever for you, just as he was too clever for me.
ELDER DANIELS. Make your mind easy about that, Blanco. He wont be too clever for the boys and Sheriff Kemp if you put them on his trail.
BLANCO. Yes he will. It wasnt a man.
ELDER DANIELS. Then what was it?
BLANCO [pointing upward Him.
ELDER DANIELS. Oh what a way to utter His holy name!
BLANCO. He done me out of it. He meant to pay off old scores by bringing me here. He means to win the deal and you cant stop Him. Well, He's made a fool of me; but He cant frighten me. I'm not going to beg off. I'll fight off if I get a chance. I'll lie off if they cant get a witness against me. But back down I never will, not if all the hosts of heaven come to snivel at me in white surplices and offer me my life in exchange for an umble and a contrite heart.
ELDER DANIELS. Youre not in your right mind, Blanco. I'll tell em youre mad. I believe they 11 let you off on that. [He makes for the door],
BLANCO [seizing him, with horror in his eyes] Dont go: dont leave mc alone: do you hear?
ELDER DANIELS. Has your conscience brought you to this, that youre afraid to be left alone in broad daylight, like a child in the dark?
BLANCO. I'm afraid of Him and His tricks. When I have you to raise the devil in me—when I have people to shew off before and keep me game, I'm all right; but Ive lost my nerve for being alone since this morning. It's when youre alone that He takes His advantage. He might turn my head again. He might send people to me—not real people perhaps. [Shivering] By God, I dont believe that woman and the child were real. I dont. I never noticed them till they were at my elbow.
ELDER DANIELS. What woman and what child? What are you talking about? Have you been drinking too hard?
BLANCO. Never you mind. Youve got to stay with me: thats all; or else send someone else—someone rottener than yourself to keep the devil in me. Strapper Kemp will do. Or a few of those scratching devils of women.
[Strapper Kemp comes back]
ELDER DANIELS. [to Strapper] He's gone off his head.
STRAPPER. Foxing, more likely. [Going past Daniels and talking to Blanco nose to nose] It's no good: we hang madmen here; and a good job too!
BLANCO. I feel safe with you, Strapper. Youre one of the rottenest.
STRAPPER. You know youre done, and that you may as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb. So talk away. Ive got my witness; and I'll trouble you not to make a move towards her when she comes in to identify you.
BLANCO [retreating in terror] A woman? She aint real: neither is the child.
ELDER DANIELS. He's raving about a woman and a child. I tell you he's gone off his chump.
STRAPPER [calling to those without] Shew the lady in there.
Feemy Evans comes in. She is a young woman of 23 or 24, with impudent manners, battered good looks, and dirty-fine dress.
ELDER DANIELS. Morning, Feemy.
FEEMY. Morning, Elder. [She passes on and slips her arm familiarly through Strapper's],
STRAPPER. Ever see him before, Feemy?
FEEMY. Thats the little lot that was on your horse this morning, Strapper. Not a doubt of it.
BLANCO [implacably contemptuous] Go home and wash yourself, you slut.
FEEMY [reddening, and disengaging her arm from Strapper's] I'm clean enough to hang you, anyway. [Going over to him threateningly]. Youre no true American man, to insult a woman like that.
BLANCO. A woman! Oh Lord! You saw me on a horse, did you?
FEEMY. Yes I did.
BLANCO. Got up early on purpose to do it, didn't you?
FEEMY. No I didn't: I stayed up late on a spree.
BLANCO. I was on a horse, was I?
FEEMY. Yes you were; and if you deny it youre a liar.
BLANCO [to Strapper] She saw a man on a horse when she was too drunk to tell which was the man and which was the horse—
FEEMY [breaking in] You lie. I wasn't drunk—at least not as drunk as that.
BLANCO [ignoring the interruption]—and you found a man without a horse. Is a man on a horse the same as a man on foot? Yah! Take your witness away. Who's going to believe her? Shove her into the dustbin. Youve got to find that horse before you get a rope round my neck. [He turns away from her contemptuously, and sits at the table with his back to the jury box].
FEEMY [following him] I'll hang you, you dirty horse-thief; or not a man in this camp will ever get a word or a look from me again. Youre just trash: thats what you are. White trash.
BLANCO. And what are you, darling? What are you? Youre a worse danger to a town like this than ten horse-thieves.
FEEMY. Mr Kemp: will you stand by and hear me insulted in that low way? [To Blanco, spitefully] I'll see you swung up and I'll see you cut down: I'll see you high and I'll see you low, as dangerous as I am. [He laughs]. Oh you neednt try to brazen it out. Youll look white enough before the boys are done with you.
BLANCO. You do me good. Feemy. Stay by me to the end, wont you? Hold my hand to the last; and I'll die game. [He puts out his hand: she strikes savagely at it; but he withdraws it in time and laughs at her discomfiture].
ELDER DANIELS. Never mind him, Feemy: he's not right in his head to-day. [She receives the assurance with contemptuous credulity, and sits down on the step of the Sheriff's dais].
Sheriff Kemp comes in: a stout man, with large flat ears, and a neck thicker than his head.
ELDER DANIELS. Morning, Sheriff.
THE SHERIFF. Morning, Elder. [Passing on.] Morning, Strapper. [Passing on]. Morning, Miss Evans. [Stopping between Strapper and Blanco]. Is this the prisoner?
BLANCO [rising] Thats so. Morning, Sheriff.
THE SHERIFF. Morning. You know, I suppose, that if you've stole a horse and the jury find against you, you wont have any time to settle your affairs. Consequently, if you feel guilty, youd better settle em now.
BLANCO. Affairs be damned! Ive got none.
THE SHERIFF. Well, are you in a proper state of mind? Has the Elder talked to you?
BLANCO. He has. And I say it's against the law. It's torture: thats what it is.
ELDER DANIELS. He's not accountable. He's out of his mind, Sheriff. He's not fit to go into the presence of his Maker.
THE SHERIFF. You are a merciful man, Elder; but you wont take the boys with you there. [To Blanco]. If it comes to hanging you, youd better for your own sake be hanged in a proper state of mind than in an improper one. But it wont make any difference to us: make no mistake about that.
BLANCO. Lord keep me wicked till I die! Now Ive said my little prayer. I'm ready. Not that I'm guilty, mind you; but this is a rotten town, dead certain to do the wrong thing.
THE SHERIFF. You wont be asked to live long in it, I guess. [To Strapper] Got the witness all right, Strapper?
STRAPPER. Yes, got everything.
BLANCO. Except the horse.
THE SHERIFF. Whats that? Aint you got the horse?
STRAPPER. No. He traded it before we overtook him, I guess. But Feemy saw him on it.
FEEMY. She did.
STRAPPER. Shall I call in the boys?
BLANCO. Just a moment, Sheriff. A good appearance is everything in a low-class place like this. [He takes out a pocket comb and mirror, and retires towards the dais to arrange his hair].
ELDER DANIELS. Oh, think of your immortal soul, man, not of your foolish face.
BLANCO. I cant change my soul, Elder: it changes me—sometimes. Feemy: I'm too pale. Let me rub my cheek against yours, darling.
FEEMY. You lie: my color's my own, such as it is. And a pretty color youll be when youre hung white and shot red.
BLANCO. Aint she spiteful, Sheriff?
THE SHERIFF. Time's wasted on you. [To Strapper] Go and see if the boys are ready. Some of them were short of cartridges, and went down to the store to buy them. They may as well have their fun; and itll be shorter for him.
STRAPPER. Young Jack has brought a boxful up. Theyre all ready.
THE SHERIFF [going to the dais and addressing Blanco] Your place is at the bar there. Take it. [Blanco bows ironically and goes to the bar]. Miss Evans: youd best sit at the table. [She does so, at the corner nearest the bar. The Elder takes the opposite corner. The Sheriff takes his chair]. All ready, Strapper.
STRAPPER [at the door] All in to begin.
(The crowd comes in and fills the court. Babsy, Jessie, and Emma come to the Sheriff's right; Hannah and Lottie to his left.)
THE SHERIFF. Silence there. The jury will take their places as usual. [They do so].
BLANCO. I challenge this jury, Sheriff.
THE FOREMAN. Do you, by Gosh?
THE SHERIFF. On what ground?
BLANCO. On the general ground that it's a rotten jury. [Laughter].
THE SHERIFF. Thats not a lawful ground of challenge.
THE FOREMAN. It's a lawful ground for me to shoot yonder skunk at sight, first time I meet him, if he survives this trial.
BLANCO. I challenge the Foreman because he's prejudiced.
THE FOREMAN. I say you lie. We mean to hang you, Blanco Posnet; but you will be hanged fair.
THE JURY. Hear, hear!
STRAPPER [to the Sheriff] George: this is rot. How can you get an unprejudiced jury if the prisoner starts by telling them theyre all rotten? If theres any prejudice against him he has himself to thank for it.
THE BOYS. Thats so. Of course he has. Insulting the court! Challenge be jiggered! Gag him.
NESTOR [a juryman with a long white beard, drunk, the oldest man present] Besides, Sheriff, I go so far as to say that the man that is not prejudiced against a horse-thief is not fit to sit on a jury in this town.
THE BOYS. Right. Bully for you, Nestor! Thats the straight truth. Of course he aint. Hear, hear!
THE SHERIFF. That is no doubt true, old man. Still, you must get as unprejudiced as you can. The critter has a right to his chance, such as he is. So now go right ahead. If the prisoner don't like this jury, he should have stole a horse in another town; for this is all the jury he'll get here.
THE FOREMAN. Thats so, Blanco Posnet.
THE SHERIFF [to Blanco] Dont you be uneasy. You will get justice here. It may be rough justice; but it is justice.
BLANCO. What is justice?
THE SHERIFF. Hanging horse-thieves is justice; so now you know. Now then: weve wasted enough time. Hustle with your witness there, will you?
BLANCO [indignantly bringing down his fist on the bar] Swear the jury. A rotten Sheriff you are not to know that the jury's got to be sworn.
THE FOREMAN [galled] Be swore for you! Not likely. What do you say, old son?
NESTOR [deliberately and solemnly] I say: GUILTY!!!
THE BOYS [tumultuously rushing at Blanco] Thats it. Guilty, guilty. Take him out and hang him. He's found guilty. Fetch a rope. Up with him. [They are about to drag him from the bar].
THE SHERIFF [rising, pistol in hand] Hands off that man. Hands off him, I say, Squinty, or I drop you, and would if you were my own son. [Dead silence], I'm Sheriff here; and it's for me to say when he may lawfully be hanged. [They release him].
BLANCO. As the actor says in the play, "a Daniel come to judgment." Rotten actor he was, too.
THE SHERIFF. Elder Daniel is come to judgment all right, my lad. Elder: the floor is yours. [The Elder rises]. Give your evidence. The truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.
ELDER DANIELS. Sheriff: let me off this. I didn't ought to swear away this man's life. He and I are, in a manner of speaking, brothers.
THE SHERIFF. It does you credit, Elder: every man here will acknowledge it. But religion is one thing: law is another. In religion we're all brothers. In law we cut our brother off when he steals horses.
THE FOREMAN. Besides, you neednt hang him, you know. Theres plenty of willing hands to take that job off your conscience. So rip ahead, old son.
STRAPPER. Youre accountable to me for the horse until you clear yourself, Elder: remember that.
BLANCO. Out with it, you fool.
ELDER DANIELS. You might own up, Blanco, as far as my evidence goes. Everybody knows I borrowed one of the Sheriff's horses from Strapper because my own's gone lame. Everybody knows you arrived in the town yesterday and put up in my house. Everybody knows that in the morning the horse was gone and you were gone.
BLANCO [in a forensic manner] Sheriff: the Elder, though known to you and to all here as no brother of mine and the rottenest liar in this town, is speaking the truth for the first time in his life as far as what he says about me is concerned. As to the horse, I say nothing; except that it was the rottenest horse you ever tried to sell.
THE SHERIFF. How do you know it was a rotten horse if you didn't steal it?
BLANCO. I don't know of my own knowledge. I only argue that if the horse had been worth its keep, you wouldn't have lent it to Strapper, and Strapper wouldn't have lent it to this eloquent and venerable ram. [Suppressed laughter]. And now I ask him this. [To the Elder] Did we or did we not have a quarrel last evening about a certain article that was left by my mother, and that I considered I had a right to more than you? And did you say one word to me about the horse not belonging to you?
ELDER DANIELS. Why should I? We never said a word about the horse at all. How was I to know what it was in your mind to do?
BLANCO. Bear witness all that I had a right to take a horse from him without stealing to make up for what he denied me. I am no thief. But you havnt proved yet that I took the horse. Strapper Kemp: had I the horse when you took me, or had I not?
STRAPPER. No, nor you hadnt a railway train neither. But Feemy Evans saw you pass on the horse at four o'clock twenty-five miles from the spot where I took you at seven on the road to Pony Harbor. Did you walk twenty-five miles in three hours? That so, Feemy, eh?
FEEMY. Thats so. At four I saw him. [To Blanco] Thats done for you.
THE SHERIFF. You say you saw him on my horse?
FEEMY. I did.
BLANCO. And I ate it, I suppose, before Strapper fetched up with me. [Suddenly and dramatically] Sheriff: I accuse Feemy of immoral relations with Strapper.
FEEMY. Oh you liar!
BLANCO. I accuse the fair Euphemia of immoral relations with every man in this town, including yourself, Sheriff. I say this is a conspiracy to kill me between Feemy and Strapper because I wouldn't touch Feemy with a pair of tongs. I say you darent hang any white man on the word of a woman of bad character. I stand on the honor and virtue of my American manhood. I say that she's not had the oath, and that you darent for the honor of the town give her the oath because her lips would blaspheme the holy Bible if they touched it. I say thats the law; and if you are a proper United States Sheriff and not a low-down lyncher, youll hold up the law and not let it be dragged in the mud by your brother's kept woman.
[Great excitement among the women. The men much puzzled.]
JESSIE. Thats right. She didn't ought to be let kiss the Book.
EMMA. How could the like of her tell the truth?
BABSY. It would be an insult to every respectable woman here to believe her.
FEEMY. It's easy to be respectable with nobody ever offering you a chance to be anything else.
THE WOMEN [clamoring all together] Shut up, you hussy. Youre a disgrace. How dare you open your lips to answer your betters? Hold your tongue and learn your place, miss. You painted slut! Whip her out of the town!
THE SHERIFF. Silence. Do you hear? Silence. [The clamor ceases]. Did anyone else see the prisoner with the horse?
FEEMY [passionately] Aint I good enough?
BABSY. No. Youre dirt: thats what you are.
FEEMY. And you—
THE SHERIFF. Silence. This trial is a man's job; and if the women forget their sex they can go out or be put out. Strapper and Miss Evans: you cant have it two ways. You can run straight, or you can run gay, so to speak; but you cant run both ways together. There is also a strong feeling among the men of this town that a line should be drawn between those that are straight wives and mothers and those that are, in the words of the Book of Books, taking the primrose path. We don't wish to be hard on any woman; and most of us have a personal regard for Miss Evans for the sake of old times; but theres no getting out of the fact that she has private reasons for wishing to oblige Strapper, and that—if she will excuse my saying so—she is not what I might call morally particular as to what she does to oblige him. Therefore I ask the prisoner not to drive us to give Miss Evans the oath. I ask him to tell us fair and square, as a man who has but a few minutes between him and eternity, what he done with my horse.
THE BOYS. Hear, hear! Thats right. Thats fair. That does it. Now Blanco. Own up.
BLANCO. Sheriff: you touch me home. This is a rotten world; but there is still one thing in it that remains sacred even to the rottenest of us, and that is a horse.
THE BOYS. Good. Well said, Blanco. Thats straight.
BLANCO. You have a right to your horse, Sheriff; and if I could put you in the way of getting it back, I would. But if I had that horse I shouldn't be here. As I hope to be saved, Sheriff—or rather as I hope to be damned; for I have no taste for pious company and no talent for playing the harp—I know no more of that horse's whereabouts than you do yourself.
STRAPPER. Who did you trade him to?
BLANCO. I did not trade him. I got nothing for him or by him. I stand here with a rope round my neck for the want of him. When you took me, did I fight like a thief or run like a thief; and was there any sign of a horse on me or near me?
STRAPPER. You were looking at a rainbow, like a damned silly fool instead of keeping your wits about you; and we stole up on you and had you tight before you could draw a bead on us.
THE SHERIFF. That don't sound like good sense. What would he look at a rainbow for?
BLANCO. I'll tell you, Sheriff. I was looking at it because there was something written on it.
SHERIFF. How do you mean written on it?
BLANCO. The words were, "Ive got the cinch on you this time, Blanco Posnet." Yes, Sheriff, I saw those words in green on the red streak of the rainbow; and as I saw them I felt Strapper's grab on my arm and Squinty's on my pistol.
THE FOREMAN. He's shammin mad: thats what he is. Aint it about time to give a verdict and have a bit of fun, Sheriff?
THE BOYS. Yes, lets have a verdict. We're wasting the whole afternoon. Cut it short.
THE SHERIFF [making up his mind] Swear Feemy Evans, Elder. She don't need to touch the Book. Let her say the words.
FEEMY. Worse people than me has kissed that Book. What wrong Ive done, most of you went shares in. Ive to live, havnt I? same as the rest of you. However, it makes no odds to me. I guess the truth is the truth and a lie is a lie, on the Book or off it.
BABSY. Do as youre told. Who are you, to be let talk about it?
THE SHERIFF. Silence there, I tell you. Sail ahead, Elder.
ELDER DANIELS. Feemy Evans: do you swear to tell the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
FEEMY. I do, so help me—
SHERIFF. Thats enough. Now, on your oath, did you see the prisoner on my horse this morning on the road to Pony Harbor?
FEEMY. On my oath—[Disturbance and crowding at the door].
AT THE DOOR. Now then, now then! Where are you shovin to? Whats up? Order in court. Chuck him out. Silence. You cant come in here. Keep back.
(Strapper rushes to the door and forces his way out.)
SHERIFF [savagely] Whats this noise? Cant you keep quiet there? Is this a Sheriff's court or is it a saloon?
BLANCO. Dont interrupt a lady in the act of hanging a gentleman. Wheres your manners?
FEEMY. I'll hang you, Blanco Posnet. I will. I wouldn't for fifty dollars hadnt seen you this morning. I'll teach you to be civil to me next time, for all I'm not good enough to kiss the Book.
BLANCO. Lord keep me wicked till I die! I'm game for anything while youre spitting dirt at me, Feemy.
RENEWED TUMULT AT THE DOOR. Here, whats this? Fire them out. Not me. Who are you that I should get out of your way? Oh, stow it. Well, she cant come in. What woman? What horse? Whats the good of shoving like that? Who says? No! you don't say!
THE SHERIFF. Gentlemen of the Vigilance Committee: clear that doorway. Out with them in the name of the law.
STRAPPER [without] Hold hard, George. [At the door] Theyve got the horse. [He comes in, followed by Waggoner Jo, an elderly carter, who crosses the court to the jury side. Strapper pushes his way to the Sheriff and speaks privately to him].
THE BOYS. What! No! Got the horse! Sheriff's horse? Who took it, then? Where? Get out. Yes it is, sure. I tell you it is. It's the horse all right enough. Rot. Go and look. By Gum!
THE SHERIFF [to Strapper] You don't say!
STRAPPER. It's here, I tell you.
WAGGONER JO. It's here all right enough, Sheriff.
STRAPPER. And theyve got the thief too.
ELDER DANIELS. Then it aint Blanco.
STRAPPER. No: it's a woman. [Blanco yells and covers his eyes with his hands].
THE WHOLE CROWD. A woman!
THE SHERIFF. Well, fetch her in. [Strapper goes out. The Sheriff continues, to Feemy] And what do you mean, you lying jade, by putting up this story on us about Blanco?
FEEMY. I aint put up no story on you. This is a plant: you see if it isnt.
[Strapper returns with a woman. Her expression of intense grief silences them as they crane over one another's heads to see her. Strapper takes her to the corner of the table. The Elder moves up to make room for her.]
BLANCO [terrified]: that woman aint real. You take care. That woman will make you do what you never intended. Thats the rainbow woman. Thats the woman that brought me to this.
THE SHERIFF. Shut your mouth, will you. Youve got the horrors. [To the woman] Now you. Who are you? and what are you doing with a horse that doesn't belong to you?
THE WOMAN. I took it to save my child's life. I thought it would get me to a doctor in time. It was choking with croup.
BLANCO [strangling, and trying to laugh] A little choker: thats the word for him. His choking wasn't real: wait and see mine. [He feels his neck with a sob].
THE SHERIFF. Where's the child?
STRAPPER. On Pug Jackson's bench in his shed. He's makin a coffin for it.
BLANCO [with a horrible convulsion of the throat—frantically] Dead! The little Judas kid! The child I gave my life for! [He breaks into hideous laughter].
THE SHERIFF [jarred beyond endurance by the sound] Hold you noise! will you? Shove his neckerchief into his mouth if he don't stop. [To the woman] Dont you mind him, maam: he's mad with drink and devilment. I suppose theres no fake about this, Strapper. Who found her?
WAGGONER JO. I did, Sheriff. Theres no fake about it. I came on her on the track round by Red Mountain. She was settin on the ground with the dead body on her lap, stupid-like. The horse was grazin on the other side of the road.
THE SHERIFF [puzzled] Well, this is blamed queer. [To the woman] What call had you to take the horse from Elder Daniels' stable to find a doctor? Theres a doctor in the very next house.
BLANCO [mopping his dabbled red crest and trying to be ironically gay] Story simply wont wash, my angel. You got it from the man that stole the horse. He gave it to you because he was a softy and went to bits when you played off the sick kid on him. Well, I guess that clears me. I'm not that sort. Catch me putting my neck in a noose for anybody's kid!
THE FOREMAN. Dont you go putting her up to what to say. She said she took it.
THE WOMAN. Yes: I took it from a man that met me. I thought God sent him to me. I rode here joyfully thinking so all the time to myself. Then I noticed that the child was like lead in my arms. God would never have been so cruel as to send me the horse to disappoint me like that.
BLANCO. Just what He would do.
STRAPPER. We aint got nothin to do with that. This is the man, aint he? [pointing to Blanco].
THE WOMAN [pulling herself together after looking scaredly at Blanco, and then at the Sheriff and at the jury] No.
THE FOREMAN. You lie.
THE SHERIFF. Youve got to tell us the truth. Thats the law, you know.
THE WOMAN. The man looked a bad man. He cursed me; and he cursed the child: God forgive him! But something came over him. I was desperate, I put the child in his arms; and it got its little fingers down his neck and called him Daddy and tried to kiss him; for it was not right in its head with the fever. He said it was a little Judas kid, and that it was betraying him with a kiss, and that he'd swing for it. And then he gave me the horse, and went away crying and laughing and singing dreadful dirty wicked words to hymn tunes like as if he had seven devils in him.
STRAPPER. She's lying. Give her the oath, George.
THE SHERIFF. Go easy there. Youre a smart boy, Strapper; but youre not Sheriff yet. This is my job. You just wait. I submit that we're in a difficulty here. If Blanco was the man, the lady cant, as a white woman, give him away. She oughtnt to be put in the position of having either to give him away or commit perjury. On the other hand, we don't want a horse-thief to get off through a lady's delicacy.
THE FOREMAN. No we don't; and we don't intend he shall. Not while I am foreman of this jury.
BLANCO [with intense expression] A rotten foreman! Oh, what a rotten foreman!
THE SHERIFF. Shut up, will you. Providence shows us a way out here. Two women saw Blanco with a horse. One has a delicacy about saying so. The other will excuse me saying that delicacy is not her strongest holt. She can give the necessary witness. Feemy Evans: you've taken the oath. You saw the man that took the horse.
FEEMY. I did. And he was a low-down rotten drunken lying hound that would go further to hurt a woman any day than to help her. And if he ever did a good action it was because he was too drunk to know what he was doing. So it's no harm to hang him. She said he cursed her and went away blaspheming and singing things that were not fit for the child to hear.
BLANCO [troubled] I didn't mean them for the child to hear, you venomous devil.
THE SHERIFF. All thats got nothing to do with us. The question you have to answer is, was that man Blanco Posnet?
THE WOMAN. No. I say no. I swear it. Sheriff: don't hang that man: oh don't. You may hang me instead if you like: Ive nothing to live for now. You darent take her word against mine. She never had a child: I can see it in her face.
FEEMY [stung to the quick] I can hang him in spite of you, anyhow. Much good your child is to you now, lying there on Pug Jackson's bench!
BLANCO [rushing at her with a shriek] I'll twist your heart out of you for that. [They seize him before he can reach her].
FEEMY [mocking at him as he struggles to get at her] Ha, ha, Blanco Posnet. You cant touch me; and I can hang you. Ha, ha! Oh, I'll do for you. I'll twist your heart and I'll twist your neck. [He is dragged back to the bar and leans on it, gasping and exhausted.] Give me the oath again, Elder. I'll settle him. And do you [to the woman] take your sickly face away from in front of me.
STRAPPER. Just turn your back on her there, will you?
THE WOMAN. God knows I don't want to see her commit murder. [She folds her shawl over her head].
THE SHERIFF. Now, Miss Evans: cut it short. Was the prisoner the man you saw this morning or was he not? Yes or no?
FEEMY [a little hysterically] I'll tell you fast enough. Dont think I'm a softy.
THE SHERIFF [losing patience] Here: weve had enough of this. You tell the truth, Feemy Evans; and let us have no more of your lip. Was the prisoner the man or was he not? On your oath?
FEEMY. On my oath and as I'm a living woman—[flinching] Oh God! he felt the little child's hands on his neck—I cant [bursting into a flood of tears and scolding at the other woman] It's you with your snivelling face that has put me off it. [Desperately] No: it wasn't him. I only said it out of spite because he insulted me. May I be struck dead if I ever saw him with the horse!
[Everybody draws a long breath. Dead silence.]
BLANCO [whispering at her] Softy! Cry-baby! Landed like me! Doing what you never intended! [Taking up his hat and speaking in his ordinary tone] I presume I may go now, Sheriff.
STRAPPER. Here, hold hard.
THE FOREMAN. Not if we know it, you don't.
THE BOYS [barring the way to the door] You stay where you are. Stop a bit, stop a bit. Dont you be in such a hurry. Dont let him go. Not much.
[Blanco stands motionless, his eye fixed, thinking hard, and apparently deaf to what is going on.]
THE SHERIFF [rising solemnly] Silence there. Wait a bit. I take it that if the Sheriff is satisfied and the owner of the horse is satisfied, theres no more to be said. I have had to remark on former occasions that what is wrong with this court is that theres too many Sheriffs in it. To-day there is going to be one, and only one; and that one is your humble servant. I call that to the notice of the Foreman of the jury, and also to the notice of young Strapper. I am also the owner of the horse. Does any man say that I am not? [Silence]. Very well, then. In my opinion, to commandeer a horse for the purpose of getting a dying child to a doctor is not stealing, provided, as in the present case, that the horse is returned safe and sound. I rule that there has been no theft.
NESTOR. That aint the law.
THE SHERIFF. I fine you a dollar for contempt of court, and will collect it myself off you as you leave the building. And as the boys have been disappointed of their natural sport, I shall give them a little fun by standing outside the door and taking up a collection for the bereaved mother of the late kid that shewed up Blanco Posnet.
THE BOYS. A collection. Oh, I say! Calls that sport? Is this a mothers' meeting? Well, I'll be jiggered! Where does the sport come in?
THE SHERIFF [continuing] The sport comes in, my friends, not so much in contributing as in seeing others fork out. Thus each contributes to the general enjoyment; and all contribute to his. Blanco Posnet: you go free under the protection of the Vigilance Committee for just long enough to get you out of this town, which is not a healthy place for you. As you are in a hurry, I'll sell you the horse at a reasonable figure. Now, boys, let nobody go out till I get to the door. The court is adjourned. [He goes out].
STRAPPER [to Feemy, as he goes to the door] I'm done with you. Do you hear? I'm done with you. [He goes out sulkily].
FEEMY [calling after him] As if I cared about a stingy brat like you! Go back to the freckled maypole you left for me: you've been fretting for her long enough.
THE FOREMAN [To Blanco, on his way out] A man like you makes me sick. Just sick. [Blanco makes no sign. The Foreman spits disgustedly, and follows Strapper out. The Jurymen leave the box, except Nestor, who collapses in a drunken sleep].
BLANCO [Suddenly rushing from the bar to the table and jumping up on it] Boys, I'm going to preach you a sermon on the moral of this day's proceedings.
THE BOYS [crowding round him] Yes: lets have a sermon. Go ahead, Blanco. Silence for Elder Blanco. Tune the organ. Let us pray.
NESTOR [staggering out of his sleep] Never hold up your head in this town again. I'm done with you.
BLANCO [pointing inexorably to Nestor] Drunk in church. Disturbing the preacher. Hand him out.
THE BOYS [chivying Nestor out] Now, Nestor, outside. Outside, Nestor. Out you go. Get your subscription ready for the Sheriff. Skiddoo, Nestor.
NESTOR. Afraid to be hanged! Afraid to be hanged! [At the door] Coward! [He is thrown out].
BLANCO. Dearly beloved brethren—
A BOY. Same to you, Blanco. [Laughter].
BLANCO. And many of them. Boys: this is a rotten world.
ANOTHER BOY. Lord have mercy on us, miserable sinners. [More laughter].
BLANCO [Forcibly] No: thats where youre wrong. Dont flatter yourselves that youre miserable sinners. Am I a miserable sinner? No: I'm a fraud and a failure. I started in to be a bad man like the rest of you. You all started in to be bad men or you wouldn't be in this jumped-up, jerked-off, hospital-turned-out camp that calls itself a town. I took the broad path because I thought I was a man and not a snivelling canting turning-the-other-cheek apprentice angel serving his time in a vale of tears. They talked Christianity to us on Sundays; but when they really meant business they told us never to take a blow without giving it back, and to get dollars. When they talked the golden rule to me, I just looked at them as if they werent there, and spat. But when they told me to try to live my life so that I could always look my fellowman straight in the eye and tell him to go to hell, that fetched me.
THE BOYS. Quite right. Good. Bully for you, Blanco, old son. Right good sense too. Aha-a-ah!
BLANCO. Yes; but whats come of it all? Am I a real bad man? a man of game and grit? a man that does what he likes and goes over or through other people to his own gain? or am I a snivelling crybaby that let a horse his life depended on be took from him by a woman, and then sat on the grass looking at the rainbow and let himself be took like a hare in a trap by Strapper Kemp: a lad whose back I or any grown man here could break against his knee? I'm a rottener fraud and failure than the Elder here. And youre all as rotten as me, or youd have lynched me.
A BOY. Anything to oblige you, Blanco.
ANOTHER. We can do it yet if you feel really bad about it.
BLANCO. No: the devil's gone out of you. We're all frauds. Theres none of us real good and none of us real bad.
ELDER DANIELS. There is One above, Blanco.
BLANCO. What do you know about Him? you that always talk as if He never did anything without asking your rotten leave first? Why did the child die? Tell me that if you can. He cant have wanted to kill the child. Why did He make me go soft on the child if He was going hard on it Himself? Why should He go hard on the innocent kid and go soft on a rotten thing like me? Why did I go soft myself? Why did the Sheriff go soft? Why did Feemy go soft? Whats this game that upsets our game? For seems to me theres two games bein played. Our game is a rotten game that makes me feel I'm dirt and that youre all as rotten dirt as me. T'other game may be a silly game; but it aint rotten. When the Sheriff played it he stopped being rotten. When Feemy played it the paint nearly dropped off her face. When I played it I cursed myself for a fool; but I lost the rotten feel all the same.
ELDER DANIELS. It was the Lord speaking to your soul, Blanco.
BLANCO. Oh yes: you know all about the Lord, don't you? Youre in the Lord's confidence. He wouldn't for the world do anything to shock you, would He, Boozy dear? Yah! What about the croup? It was early days when He made the croup, I guess. It was the best He could think of then; but when it turned out wrong on His hands He made you and me to fight the croup for him. You bet He didn't make us for nothing; and He wouldn't have made us at all if He could have done His work without us. By Gum, that must be what we're for! He'd never have made us to be rotten drunken blackguards like me, and good-for-nothing rips like Feemy. He made me because He had a job for me. He let me run loose til the job was ready; and then I had to come along and do it, hanging or no hanging. And I tell you it didn't feel rotten: it felt bully, just bully. Anyhow, I got the rotten feel off me for a minute of my life; and I'll go through fire to get it off me again. Look here! which of you will marry Feemy Evans?
THE BOYS [uproariously] Who speaks first? Who'll marry Feemy? Come along, Jack. Nows your chance, Peter. Pass along a husband for Feemy. Oh my! Feemy!
FEEMY [shortly] Keep your tongue off me, will you?
BLANCO. Feemy was a rose of the broad path, wasn't she? You all thought her the champion bad woman of this district. Well, she's a failure as a bad woman; and I'm a failure as a bad man. So let Brother Daniels marry us to keep all the rottenness in the family. What do you say, Feemy?
FEEMY. Thank you; but when I marry I'll marry a man that could do a decent action without surprising himself out of his senses. Youre like a child with a new toy: you and your bit of human kindness!
THE WOMAN. How many would have done it with their life at stake?
FEEMY. Oh well, if youre so much taken with him, marry him yourself. Youd be what people call a good wife to him, wouldn't you?
THE WOMAN. I was a good wife to the child's father. I don't think any woman wants to be a good wife twice in her life. I want somebody to be a good husband to me now.
BLANCO. Any offer, gentlemen, on that understanding? [The boys shake their heads]. Oh, it's a rotten game, our game. Here's a real good woman; and she's had enough of it, finding that it only led to being put upon.
HANNAH. Well, if there was nothing wrong in the world there wouldn't be anything left for us to do, would there?
ELDER DANIELS. Be of good cheer, brothers. Fight on. Seek the path.
BLANCO. No. No more paths. No more broad and narrow. No more good and bad. Theres no good and bad; but by Jiminy, gents, theres a rotten game, and theres a great game. I played the rotten game; but the great game was played on me; and now I'm for the great game every time. Amen. Gentlemen: let us adjourn to the saloon. I stand the drinks. [He jumps down from the table].
THE BOYS. Right you are, Blanco. Drinks round. Come along, boys. Blanco's standing. Right along to the Elder's. Hurrah! [They rush out, dragging the Elder with them].
BLANCO [to Feemy, offering his hand] Shake, Feemy.
FEEMY. Get along, you blackguard.
BLANCO. It's come over me again, same as when the kid touched me. Shake, Feemy.
FEEMY. Oh well, here. [They shake hands].
- The End***