GENTLEMAN: I am sorry to have hurt you. The jest was so grotesque I could not keep it to myself. You ask how I happen to have it with me? I will tell you. It gives the joke an even bitterer flavor. You remember when the crash came? We were all in the salon. You were singing -- a Cockney song I think?
DANCER: Yes. It is one I first sang at the Palace in London.
GENTLEMAN: It was in the salon. You were singing. You were very beautiful. I remember a woman on my right saying: "How pretty she is! I wonder if she is married?" Strange how some idiotic remark like that will stick in one's brain when all else is vague and confused. A tragedy happens--we are in the midst of it--and one of our clearest remembrances afterwards is a remark that might have been overheard in a subway train.
DANCER: It is so with me. There was a fat, bald-headed, little man. It was on deck after the crash. Everywhere they were fighting to get into the boats. This poor little man stood by himself. His moon face was convulsed with rage. He kept repeating in loud angry tones: "I shall be late. I must cable! I can never make it!" He was still bewailing his broken appointment when a rush of the crowd swept him off his feet and into the sea. I can see him now. He is the only person besides the Captain I remember clearly.
GENTLEMAN: [Continuing his story in a dead voice] You were very beautiful. I was looking at you and wondering what kind of a woman you were. You know I had never met you personally--only seen you in my walks around the deck. Then came the crash--that horrible dull crash. We were all thrown forward on the floor of the salon; then screams, oaths, fainting women, the hollow boom of a bulkhead giving way. I vaguely remember rushing to my stateroom and picking up my wallet. It must have been that menu that I took instead. Then I was on deck fighting in the midst of the crowd. Somehow I got into a boat--but it was overloaded and was swamped immediately. I swam to another boat. They beat me off with the oars. That boat too was swamped a moment later. And then the gurgling, choking cries of the drowning! Something huge rushed by me in the water, leaving a gleaming trail of phosphorescence. A woman near me with a life belt around her gave a cry of agony and disappeared--then I realized--sharks! I became frenzied with terror. I swam. I beat the water with my hands. The ship had gone down. I swam and swam with but one idea--to put all that horror behind me. I saw something white on the water before me. I clutched it--climbed on it. It was this raft. You and he were on it. I fainted. The whole thing is a horrible nightmare in my brain--but I remember clearly that idiotic remark of the woman in the salon. What pitiful creatures we are!
DANCER: When the crash came I also rushed to my stateroom. I took this [Pointing to the diamond necklace], clasped it round my neck and ran on deck; the rest I have told you.
GENTLEMAN: Do you not remember how you came on this raft? It is strange that you and he should be on a raft alone when so many died for lack of a place. Were there ever any others on the raft with you?
DANCER: No, I am sure there were not. Everything in my memory is blurred. But I feel sure we were always the only ones--until you came. I was afraid of you--your face was livid with fear. You were moaning to yourself.
GENTLEMAN: It was the sharks. Until they came I kept a half-control over myself. But when I saw them even my soul quivered with terror.
DANCER: [Horror-stricken, looking at the circling fins] Sharks! Why they are all around us now. [Frenziedly.] You lied to me. You said they would not touch us. Oh, I am afraid, I am afraid.
[She covers her face with her hands.]
GENTLEMAN: If I lied to you it was because I wished to spare you. Be brave! We are safe from them as long as we stay on this raft. These things must be faced. [Then in tones of utter despondency.] Besides, what does it matter--sharks or no sharks--the end is the same.
DANCER: [Taking her hands away from her eyes and looking dully at the water] You are right. What does it matter?
GENTLEMAN: God! How still the sea is! How still the sky is! One would say the world was dead. I think the accursed humming of that sailor only makes one feel the silence more keenly. There is nothing--that seems to live.
DANCER: How the sun burns into me! [Piteously.] My poor skin that I was once so proud of!
GENTLEMAN: [Rousing himself with an effort] Come! Let us not think about it. It is madness to think about it so. How do you account for your being on the raft alone with this nigger? You have not yet told me.
DANCER: How can I tell? The last thing I remember was that harsh voice in my ear shouting something--what, I cannot recollect.
GENTLEMAN: There was nothing else?
DANCER: Nothing. [Pause.] Stop! Yes, there was something I had forgotten. I think that someone kissed me. Yes, I am sure that someone kissed me. But no, I am not sure. It may have all been a dream I dreamed. I have had so many dreams during these awful days and nights--so many mad, mad dreams. [Her eyes begin to glaze, her lips to twitch. She murmurs to herself.] Mad, mad dreams.
GENTLEMAN: [Reaching over and shaking her by the shoulder] Come! You said someone kissed you. You must be mistaken. I surely did not, and it could hardly have been that sailor.
DANCER: Yet I am sure someone did. It was not since I have been on this raft. It was on the deck of the ship just as I was fainting.
GENTLEMAN: Who could it have been, do you think?
DANCER: I hardly dare to say what I think. I might be wrong. You remember the Second Officer--the young Englishman with the great dark eyes who was so tall and handsome? All the women loved him. I, too, loved him--a little bit. He loved me--very much--so he said. Yes, I know he loved me very much. I think it was he who kissed me. I am almost sure it was he.
GENTLEMAN: Yes, he must have been the one. That would explain it all. He must have sent away the raft when only you and this sailor were on it. He probably did not let the others know of the existence of this raft. Indeed he must have loved you to disregard his duty so. I will ask the sailor about it. Maybe he can clear away our doubts. [To the Negro.] Sailor! [The Negro stops singing and looks at them with wide, bloodshot eyes.] Did the Second Officer order you to take this lady from the ship?
SAILOR: [Sullenly] I do not know.
GENTLEMAN: Did he tell you to take no one else with you but this lady--and perhaps himself afterwards?
SAILOR: [Angrily] I do not know.
[He turns away again and commences to sing.]
DANCER: Do not speak to him anymore. He is angry at something. He will not answer.
GENTLEMAN: He is going mad, I think. However, it seems certain that it was the Second Officer who kissed you and saved your life.
DANCER: He was kind and brave to me. He meant well. Yet I wish now he had let me die. I would have been way down in the cold green water. I would have been sleeping, coldly sleeping. While now my brain is scorched with sun-fire and dream-fire. And I am going mad. Your eyes shine with a wild flame at times--and that sailor's are horrible with strangeness--and mine see great drops of blood that dance upon the sea. Yes, we are all mad. [Pause.] God! Oh God! Must this be the end of all? I was coming home, home after years of struggling, home to success and fame and money. And I must die out here on a raft like a mad dog.
[She weeps despairingly.]