Read Home is the Hunter Online

Authors: Helen Macinnes

Home is the Hunter (3 page)

BOOK: Home is the Hunter
9.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

ULYSSES

(Takes two steps, hesitates, halts)

And yet, I’ll be damned if I’ll let other men dictate the shape of my life.

(Instead of leaving, he paces around.)

So, they thought they could challenge me, did they? We’ll see about that... We’ll see...

(He laughs, briefly, grimly.)

ATHENA

(To the audience)

That wasn’t much of a laugh, but he will improve. Yes, our patient is coming out of shock. Emotions under control, heart strong, brain working. Now we’ll prescribe a little rest, some concentrated thought, and purge the self-pity right out of him. Really—

(She begins to leave, passing
ULYSSES
with a light touch of farewell on his shoulder, which he can’t notice, of course.)

if anyone had any complaints in this world, it should be me. I haven’t had one free hour to myself, since that frontal lobe was invented.

(Calls gently back to
ULYSSES
,
who has been staring thoughtfully into the middle distance ever since her touch on the shoulder)

The gods gave you a brain. Use it. Stupidity never did produce a happy ending. Think well, my friend. Don’t disappoint me, now. I
hate
tragedy—it’s such a waste!

(She laughs and goes out.)

ULYSSES

(Drops back onto the ground at the door of the shack. He resumes the position he had adopted when
EUMAEUS
left him, but now his rage has gone. He speaks quietly.)

Penelope, Penelope... And I was so sure of you.

(He shakes his head sadly, then falls into deep thought. His face is hard and cold. The curtain closes slowly.)

SCENE 2

We are in
PENELOPE
’s
private sitting room, a kind of anteroom to her bedroom, whose massive bronze door lies in the centre of the back wall. Upstage to the left is the window; downstage to the right is the door to the sitting room. On either side of the bronze door stand three low-backed chairs, covered with embroidery in bright wools. Opposite the window, placed dramatically against the right upstage corner of the room, is a large and impressive leather chair. Beside it rest an equally large and impressive shield and spear. The only other furnishings in this room consist of an embroidery frame, a stool, and a small side table (with wools and cutting knife)—all grouped on the left, downstage, as if
PENELOPE
liked to face the leather chair as she worked.

It is early morning.
CLIA
,
a white-haired elderly woman, dressed in a dark wool robe, is tidying the room. She is picking up skeins of gaily coloured wool from the floor, laying them on the little side table. She pauses for a moment to look at the embroidery, and shakes her head with a sigh.
AMARYLLIS
enters, a pretty young girl with a saucy air. She is dressed in a yellow robe, and she is carrying a small tray with fruit, wheat cakes, and honey, and a flask of wine.

AMARYLLIS

(As she enters)

Well, here’s breakfast... Is she up yet?

(She nods toward the bronze door, and starts in that direction.)

CLIA

(Dropping everything to intercept
AMARYLLIS
)

Give me the tray.

AMARYLLIS

Oh, let me take it in. Just once!

CLIA

No one enters that room except me.

AMARYLLIS

(Slyly)

Afraid I’ll tell the men downstairs what her bedroom looks like?

CLIA

They’d give a lot to know.

(She carries the tray toward the bedroom door, and
AMARYLLIS
moves quietly over to the embroidery frame.)

And another thing—When you are talking of the mistress, don’t call her “she.” Call her Penelope. If you can’t keep your own self-respect with those men downstairs, then at least give respect to women who’ve earned it.

AMARYLLIS

(Examining the embroidery curiously)

It isn’t
my
fault that the house is filled with men. I didn’t bring them here.

CLIA

You certainly don’t object to them living here!

(She looks round as she speaks, and sees
AMARYLLIS
touching the embroidery stretched on the frame. She puts down the tray on a chair beside the bronze door, and rushes at the girl.)

What are you doing now? Out you go! Get on with your work!

AMARYLLIS

All right, all right... Stop pushing! I’m going!

(She moves toward the entrance door.)

You know why you are so bad-tempered in the morning? You never get kissed at night. You’re too old to be kissed, that’s
your
trouble.

(
PENELOPE
has entered, closing the bedroom door quietly behind her. She stands there, watching the two maids. She is an extremely beautiful woman in her early thirties. Her dress is a simple grey wool robe.)

AMARYLLIS

(Frightened now, and very subdued)

Good morning, Penelope.

PENELOPE

Good morning, Amaryllis.

(She doesn’t move from the bronze door.
AMARYLLIS
goes out quickly. Then
PENELOPE
comes forward, slowly. Her voice is calm, almost lifeless.)

Good morning, Clia.

CLIA

Morning.

(She watches
PENELOPE
worriedly as she wanders around the room.)

That Amaryllis—she’s getting too brash.

PENELOPE

So I heard.

(She is now standing at the embroidery frame, looking at it gloomily.)

CLIA

You heard everything?

PENELOPE

It wasn’t difficult.

(She gives a short, bitter laugh.)

So we are too old, are we?
That’s
our trouble?

CLIA

Now, now... Here’s your breakfast. Where will you have it? At the window?

(She lays the tray, as she speaks, on the side table, and pulls it nearer to the window.)

Look, it’s a fine bright morning. Good sailing weather, Penelope.

PENELOPE

Except, there isn’t any ship.

CLIA

Why, there are a lot of ships down in the harbour this morning. I saw three fishing boats headed straight for this island, even before the sun came rising out of the sea.

PENELOPE

(Turning her back on the window)

But not the ship bringing my husband.

CLIA

Ulysses could have been on one of those boats!

PENELOPE

(Suddenly coming to life as she faces
CLIA
)

You’ve told me that too often. This is the last morning you are to talk of ships. The
last
morning, d’you hear?

CLIA

Penelope! You aren’t giving up hope?

PENELOPE

(Dejected)

I—I don’t know...

(She sits down on the stool in front of the embroidery frame. Her body droops.)

CLIA

But you
can’t
give up hope!

PENELOPE

It’s hope that has given me up.

CLIA

But hope is life...

PENELOPE

And what kind of life do I have?

CLIA

You’re young—

PENELOPE

Too old to be kissed, according to Amaryllis.

CLIA

You’re still beautiful—

PENELOPE

(Wryly)

Still?
Thank you...

CLIA

My, you’ve had a bad night, haven’t you? Come on. Eat something and you’ll feel much better. Look, here’s clover honey—you always liked that—and wheat cakes.

(She fusses with the tray.)

I can remember the first morning I ever served you breakfast in this room... Your hair was as gold as the sun streaming in that window.

PENELOPE

(Sitting in front of the breakfast tray, but still not touching it)

At least, the sun hasn’t changed.

CLIA

(Quickly)

Just fifteen you were, then. Slender as a willow branch. Eyes as blue as a bed of iris.

PENELOPE

(Almost smiling)

That was the morning I awoke saying, “Why, I’m a grown-up woman! I’m
old,
at last!”

(She shakes her head in amusement.)

CLIA

That was the morning you got honey all over your fingers, and you licked them when you thought Ulysses wasn’t looking. But he was noticing everything you did—sitting over in that chair, he was—

(She points to the large chair, upstage right.)

and he let out a roar of laughter. Remember how he used to laugh?

PENELOPE

Don’t... Don’t!

CLIA

And you looked up at him, and the colour spread over your cheeks, and you began to laugh, too. Then I knew you were the right wife for Ulysses.

PENELOPE

(Rising abruptly)

Stop it, Clia, stop it!

(She begins to pace around the room.)

So you knew I was the right wife for Ulysses! How can I be
any
kind of wife if I have no husband?

CLIA

Now, now—

PENELOPE

Seventeen years of waiting... Seventeen years since he went off to fight.

CLIA

I know, I know... It was a long war.

PENELOPE

Ten years long. Where’s your arithmetic, Clia? Ten from seventeen leaves a lot of waiting.

(Her anger changes to fear.)

Doesn’t Ulysses ever want to see our island again? Or his son? Or me?

(She begins to weep.)

CLIA

(Comforting
PENELOPE
)

Ulysses
will
come home. Put that fear out of your mind. He will come back—just wait and see.

PENELOPE

I’ve waited and waited, and what have I seen? Ship after ship sailing into harbour, and still no Ulysses. He doesn’t want to come back, Clia.

CLIA

Now, you aren’t being fair. Troy is a far journey from Ithaca.

PENELOPE

Not seven years far!

CLIA

But we live on an island. We’ve been stormbound for the worst seven winters, one right after another, that I’ve ever seen.

PENELOPE

Seven winters had seven summers.

CLIA

(Her voice sharpening)

Will you listen to me?

PENELOPE

I’ve always listened to you. That’s been part of my trouble.

CLIA

Your trouble is that you’ve been thinking too much about yourself and too little about Ulysses.

PENELOPE

(Too hurt to be angry)

Oh, Clia!

CLIA

(More gently)

Well, in this last week you certainly have. I’ve been watching you—sitting here, boiling up like a volcano. Ulysses has had his share of problems, don’t forget.

PENELOPE

(Miserable, in a low voice)

What colour of hair did they have?

CLIA

(Angry again)

Shipping was scarce after the war. It still is. All the veterans had trouble finding transportation.

PENELOPE

But they came home, didn’t they? They’re home now.

CLIA

(Quietly)

Not all of them.

PENELOPE

(Chastened)

Some will never come back... But at least, their women know that. They know the worst. I don’t. I know
nothing.
You can’t go on living with nothing, Clia.

BOOK: Home is the Hunter
9.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Merlin Conspiracy by Diana Wynne Jones
Kaya Stormchild by Lael Whitehead
Royal 02 - Royal Passion by Jennifer Blake
The Visitor by Sheri S. Tepper
Evil That Men Do by Hugh Pentecost