THIRST

A one-act play by: Eugene O'Neill

Page 6

SAILOR: [Without even turning to look at her] I have no water.

DANCER: [Shaking with fury] Great God, have I abased myself for this? Have I humbled myself before this black animal only to be spurned like a wench of the streets? It is too much! You lie, you dirty slave! You have water. You have stolen my share of the water. [In a frenzy she clutches the SAILOR about the throat with both hands.] Give it to me! Give it to me!

SAILOR: [Takes her hands from his neck and pushes her roughly away. She falls face downward in the middle of the raft.] Let me alone! I have no water.

GENTLEMAN: [Aroused from the stupor he has been in] What is it? I was dreaming I was sitting before great tumblers of ice water. They were just beyond my reach. I tried and tried to get one of them. It was horrible. But what has happened here? What is the matter?

[No one answers him. The Negro is watching the sharks again. The DANCER is lying in a huddled heap, moaning to herself. Suddenly she jumps to her feet. All her former weakness seems quite gone. She stands swaying a little with the roll of the raft. Her eyes have a terrible glare in them. They seem bursting out of her head. She mutters incoherently to herself. The last string has snapped. She is mad.]

DANCER: [Smoothing her dress over her hips and looking before her as if in a mirror] Quick, Marie! You are so slow tonight. I will be late. Did you not hear the bell? I am the next on. Did he send any flowers tonight, Marie? Good, he will be in a stage box. I will smile at him, the poor old fool. He will marry me some day and I will be a duchess. Think of that, Marie--a real duchess! Yes, yes, I am coming! You need not hold the curtain.

[She drops her head on her breast and mutters to herself. The GENTLEMAN has been watching her, at first in astonishment, then in a sort of crazy appreciation. When she stops talking he claps his hands.]

GENTLEMAN: Go on! Go on! It is as good as a play.

[He bursts into cackling laughter.]

DANCER: They are laughing. It cannot be me. How hot it is! How the footlights glare! I shall be glad to get away tonight. I am very thirsty. [Passing her hand across her eyes.] There he is in the box--the poor old duke. I will wave to him. [She waves her hand in the air.] He is kind to me. It is a pity he is so old. What song is it I am to sing? Oh yes. [She sings the last few lines of some music hall ballad in a harsh cracked voice. The Negro turns and looks at her wonderingly. The GENTLEMAN claps his hands.] They are applauding. I must dance for them! [She commences to dance on the swaying surface of the raft, half-stumbling every now and then. He hair falls down. She is like some ghastly marionette jerked by invisible wires. She dances faster and faster. Her arms and legs fly grotesquely around as if beyond control.] Oh, how hot it is! [She grasps the front of her bodice in both hands and rips it over her shoulders. It hangs down in back. She is almost naked to the waist. Her breasts are withered and shrunken by starvation. She kicks first one foot and then the other frenziedly in the air.] Oh, it is hot! I am stifling. Bring me a drink of water! I am choking!

[She falls back on the raft. A shudder runs over her whole body. A little crimson foam appears on her lips. Her eyes glaze. The wild stare leaves them. She is dead.]

GENTLEMAN: [Laughing insanely and clapping his hands.] Bravo! Bravo! Give us some more! [There is no answer. A great stillness hangs over everything. The heat waves rising from the raft near the woman's body seem like her soul departing into the great unknown. A look of fear appears on the GENTLEMAN'S face. The Negro wears a strange expression. One might say he looks relieved, even glad, as if some perplexing problem has been solved for him.] She does not answer me. She must be sick. [He crawls over to her.] She has fainted. [He puts his hand on her left breast--then bends and rests his ear over her heart. His face grows livid in spite of the sunburn.] My God! She is dead! Poor girl! Poor girl!

[He whimpers weakly to himself, mechanically running her long golden hair through his fingers with a caressing gesture. He is startled when he hears the Negro's voice.]

SAILOR: Is she dead?

GENTLEMAN: Yes. She is dead, poor girl. Her heart no longer beats.

SAILOR: She is better off. She does not suffer now. One of us had to die. [After a pause.] It is lucky for us she is dead.

GENTLEMAN: What do you mean? What good can her death do us?

SAILOR: We will live now.

[He takes his SAILOR'S knife from its sheath and sharpens it on the sole of his shoe. While he is doing this he sings--a happy Negro melody that mocks the great silence.]

GENTLEMAN: [In hushed, frightened tones.] I do not understand.

SAILOR: [His swollen lips parting in a grin as he points with his knife to the body of the DANCER.] We shall eat. We shall drink.

GENTLEMAN: [For a moment struck dumb with loathing--then in tones of anguished horror.] No! No! No! Good God, not that!

[With a swift movement he grasp's the DANCER'S body with both hands and, making a tremendous effort, pushes it into the water. There is a swift rush of waiting fins. The sea near the raft is churned into foam. The DANCER'S body disappears in a swirling eddy; then all is quiet again. A black stain appears on the surface of the water.

The SAILOR, who has jumped forward to save the body, gives a harsh cry of disappointed rage and, knife in hand, springs on the GENTLEMAN and drives the knife in his breast. The GENTLEMAN rises to his feet with a shriek of agony. As he falls backward into the sea, one of his clutching hands fastens itself on the neck of the SAILOR'S jersey. The SAILOR tries to force the hand away, stumbles, loses his balance, and plunges headlong after him. There is a great splash. The waiting fins rush in. The water is lashed into foam. The SAILOR'S black head appears for a moment, his features distorted with terror, his lips torn with a howl of despair. Then he is drawn under.

The black stain on the water widens. The fins circle no longer. The raft floats in the midst of a vast silence. The sun glares down like a great angry eye of God. The eerie heat waves float upward in the still air like the souls of the drowned. On the raft a diamond necklace lies glittering in the blazing sunshine.]