THIRST

A one-act play by: Eugene O'Neill

Page 4

GENTLEMAN: Be still! You must not despair so. I, too, might whine a prayer of protest: Oh God, God! After twenty years of incessant grind, day after weary day, I started on my first vacation. I was going home. And here I sit dying by slow degrees, desolate and forsaken. Is this the meaning of all my years of labor? Is this the end, oh God? So I might wail with equal justice. But the blind sky will not answer your appeals or mine. Nor will the cruel sea grow merciful for any prayer of ours.

DANCER: Have you no hope that one of the ship's boats may have reached land and reported the disaster? They would surely send steamers out to search for other survivors.

GENTLEMAN: We have drifted far, very far, in these long, weary days. I am afraid no steamer would find us.

DANCER: We are lost then!

[She falls face downward on the raft. A great sob shakes her thin bare shoulders.]

GENTLEMAN: I have not given up hope. These seas, I have heard, are full of coral islands and we surely ought to drift near one of them soon. It was probably an uncharted coral reef that our steamer hit. I heard someone say "derelict" but I saw no sign of one in the water. With us it is only a question of whether we can hold out until we sight land. [His voice quivers; he licks his blackened lips. His eyes have grown very mad and he is shaking spasmodically from head to foot.] Water would save us -- just a little water -- even a few drops would be enough. [Intensely.] God, if we only had a little water!

DANCER: Perhaps there will be water on the island. Look; look hard! An island or a ship may have come in sight while we were talking. [There is a pause. Suddenly she rises to her knees and pointing straight in front of her, shouts.] See! An island!

GENTLEMAN: [Shading his eyes with a trembling hand and peering wildly around him] I see nothing -- nothing but a red sea and a red sky.

DANCER: [Still looking at some point far out over the water, speaks in disappointed tones] It is gone. Yet I am quite sure I saw one. It was right out there quite near to us. It was all green and clean-looking with a clear stream that ran into the sea. I could hear the water running over the stones. You do not believe me. You, Sailor, you must have seen it too, did you not? [The Negro does not answer.] I cannot see it any more. Yet I must see it. I will see it!

GENTLEMAN: [Shaking her by the shoulder] What you say is nonsense. There is no island there, I tell you. There is nothing but sun and sky and sea around us. There are no green trees. There is no water.

[The SAILOR has stopped singing and turns and looks at them.]

DANCER: [Angrily] Do you mean to tell me I lie? Can I not believe my own eyes, then? I tell you I saw it--cool clear water. I heard it bubbling over the stones. But now I hear nothing, nothing at all. [Turning suddenly to the SAILOR.] Why have you stopped singing? Is not everything awful enough already that you shouldn't make it worse?

SAILOR: [Sticking out his swollen tongue and pointing to it with a long brown finger] Water! I want water! Give me some water and I will sing.

GENTLEMAN: [Furiously] We have no water, fool! It is your fault we have none. Why did you drink all that was left in the cask when you thought we were asleep? I would not give you any even if we had some. You deserve to suffer, you pig! If any one of the three of us has any water it is you who have hidden some of what you stole. [With a laugh of mad cunning.] But you will get no chance to drink it, I promise you that. I am watching you. [The Negro sullenly turns away from them.]

DANCER: [Taking hold of the GENTLEMAN'S arm and almost hissing into his ear. She is terribly excited and he is still chuckling crazily to himself] Do you really think he has some?

GENTLEMAN: [Chuckling] He may have. He may have.

DANCER: Why do you say that?

GENTLEMAN: He has been acting strangely. He has looked as if he wished to hide something. I was wondering what it could be. Then suddenly I thought to myself: "What if it should be some water?" Then I knew I had found him out. I will not let him get the best of me. I will watch him. He will not drink while I am watching him. I will watch him as long as I can see.

DANCER: What could he have put the water in? He has nothing that I can discover.

[She is rapidly falling in with this mad fixed idea of his.]

GENTLEMAN: Who knows? He may have a flask hidden in under his jersey. But he has something, that I am sure of. Why is it he is so much stronger than we are? He can stand up without effort and we can scarcely move. Why is that, I ask you?

DANCER: It is true. He stood up and looked for a ship as easily as if he had never known hunger and thirst. You are right. He must have something hidden--food or water.

GENTLEMAN: [With mad eagerness to prove his fixed idea] No, he has no food. There has never been any food. But there has been water. There was a whole small cask full of it on the raft when I came. On the second or third night, I do not remember which, I awoke and saw him draining the cask. When I reached it, it was empty. [Furiously shaking his fist at the Negro's back.] Oh, you pig! You rotten pig!

[The Negro does not seem to hear.]

DANCER: That water would have saved our lives. He is no better than a murderer.

GENTLEMAN: [With insane shrewdness] Listen. I think he must have poured some of the water into his flask. There was quite a little there. He could not have drunk it all. Oh, he is a cunning one! That song of his--it was only a blind. He drinks when we are not looking. But he will drink no more, for I will watch him. I will watch him!

DANCER: You will watch him? And what good will that do either of us? Will we die any the less soon for your watching? No! Let us get the water away from him in some way. That is the only thing to do.

GENTLEMAN: He will not give it to us.

DANCER: We will steal it while he sleeps.

GENTLEMAN: I do not think he sleeps. I have never seen him sleep. Besides, we should wake him.

DANCER: [Violently] We will kill him then. He deserves to be killed.

GENTLEMAN: He is stronger than we are--and he has a knife. No, we cannot do that. I would willingly kill him. As you say, he deserves it. But I cannot even stand. I have no strength left. I have no weapons. He would laugh at me.

DANCER: There must be some way. You would think even the most heartless savage would share at a time like this. We must get that water. It is horrible to by dying of thirst with water so near. Think! Think! Is there no way?

GENTLEMAN: You might buy it from him with that necklace of yours. I have heard his people are very fond of such things.

DANCER: This necklace? It is worth a thousand pounds. An English duke gave it to me. I will not part with it. Do you think I am a fool?

GENTLEMAN: Think of a drink of water! [They both lick their dry lips feverishly.] If we do not drink soon we will die. [Laughing harshly.] You will take your necklace to the sharks with you? Very well then, I will say no more. For my part, I would sell my soul for a drop of water.