Haunted by Emily…

A Play

Scene 4 – a few weeks later

(AUSTIN in the Homestead parlor, nervously pacing, fire poking, wearing a mourning band. MABEL hurries in, attired in spring-like colors. Neither pays attention to EMILY, seated atop the bookcase)

You are a dazzling beacon of purity, my darling; so sick am I of mourning black!


My King!

(They embrace.)

(pretends to pray)

Of God we ask one favor
That we may be forgiven
For the crime from us is hidden
Within a magic prison.
Reprimand us for the happiness
That competes with heaven.

(AUSTIN attempts to undress MABEL but she pushes him back and slows him down by sitting on his lap.)


Now that I have my little strip of land, my darling, I must have a house to hold up my head against your three evil wishers.

(Pulling at his tie)

I will need a bank loan, dearest.


That can be arranged.

(He is not to be deterred. She is soon unclothed and he kisses her all over.)


And did you write that wee, wee note I asked you to put in my box?


Great hungers feed themselves, while little hungers ail in vain.


I know I promised you a written history of my marriage to be your shield, my darling, but surely things are better as they are? I do not wish to involve others unpleasantly or risk the slightest injustice. Believe me. Believe me.


I dodge heart-breaking discourtesies to come to you, but what of that? And what about your will, my darling? How protect my strip of meadow I have already planted?

(Mimes shooting MABEL)

Aim once, shoot once, kill once.

(MABEL has effectively shut him down)

Sweetest, I have writ my desire to leave my patrimony to you and placed it in Vinnie’s hands. She is pledged to surrender it to you. She has told me she will promise to your face if that’s what you require. Trust me, it is better so. You are my wife before God, and so I swear.


Tasting the honey and the sting should have ceased with Eden. Pang is the past of peace. It’s not dying hurts us so but living hurts us more.


Does God hear prayers, I wonder? He allows my enemies to flourish and so do you. You met Susan’s train, or so I heard.

(Puts up her dukes)

Fisticuffs at home create a climate of escape. Do men gather grapes of thorns? Sue’s a dream, dear lady. Losing her is sweeter than all other hearts to gain. Sue is – imagination.

(Her hands release an invisible dove)


Darling, it couldn’t be avoided. I had the carriage.


If one can’t have carriages, what’s patrimony for? This is a checkered life.

(Jumps down from the bookcase, waves her hands in front of their unseeing eyes; gives up her attempts to contact them. Discouraged.)

I didn’t bring my body so they don’t know that I’m here.

Oh, the carriage! And you shower those absurdly graceless children with favors.

(Rising angrily, dumps MABEL to the floor)

You’ve made a mistake.

It always seemed so strange to me that two such proud people, so stiff, so apt to be pert, could love so well.


It seemed strange to everybody. Sweet the secret swamp – until we meet a snake.


Could hate so well, you mean. She trapped you, don’t forget.



Ah, Susie! Sue! The wife cannot be forgotten! I suppose “Enough” is so vast a sweetness it never occurs.

(She pulls on AUSTIN’s jacket – he ignores her.)

Icebergs italicize the sea.

(Embracing AUSTIN)

I feel in myself divine possibilities that can only be realized through you. It is in the great foundation of things that we should be mated.


(Resumes his lovemaking)

We are mated!


Oh, the Earth was made for lovers!
The bride, the bridegroom, the two and then the one
Adam and Eve, his consort, the moon and then the sun!


Each expiring secret leaves an heir.

(Unplacatable till she says what’s on her mind)

But still your Great Black Moghul parades her bigoted spite throughout the town! As if she owns the place! Much pain was unnecessarily given to me by your reluctance to step in and relieve it in the one place that caused it all! I have never admitted a thought that could be disloyal to my master, but oh, how gladly I will see you do what you can in this line!

(To the audience)

I had thought how dull my life must seem to the bride and the plighted maiden, whose days are fed with gold and who gather pearls each evening. But to the forgotten wife that life must seem dearer than all the others in the world. You rend me, Susie, even now, even now that I am yielded up.


We have so much to be grateful for, my darling! With Susan gone to Boston we can meet without impediment.


You rule and compel things, which I cannot. That makes your outward life so much more bearable than mine. You won’t feel it necessary to write to her, I hope?


If there’s business to conduct. I don’t wish to offend or wound.

(Standing up angrily)

I am offended! I am wounded! I feel their hatred and persecution every moment, as well as the negative disgust. I feel it will ultimately be my death. Why doesn’t God punish her? I feel He has deserted me!

(Poses in her underwear. She feels her own irresistibility)

Gorgeous nothing! When I think of the hearts scuttled and sunk – is it safe to leave the Golden Rule out overnight? With burglary so frequent hereabouts?

(Embracing MABEL)

My angel wife! There’s nothing else. You transform, transmute, translate everything. You have made me yours. If you could only feel the overpowering, overmastering strength of my love.
(He attempts a kiss)


I feel her attacking me in Boston even now, right in the heart of the Ladies’ Clubs where I had hoped to speak.


Why make yourself conspicuous? I thought you’d have plenty to occupy yourself with the new property.


When a lover is an owner how different is he! Ah, the sweets of pillage! Love – thou art veiled – so few behold thee. Nicknamed by God; Eternity.


I need a fortress, a stronghold against my hurts but I so loathe housekeeping! I have capabilities that can grow into accomplishment. I mean to do something worthwhile.

(Extravagantly gesturing)

Shame need not crouch in such an earth as ours. Shame, stand erect – the universe is yours.

(Our eye is caught by a figure on the other side of the door who seems to be listening to the pair. It is DAVID TODD.)

Vinnie requires assistance arranging Emily’s poems in a book, and Sue’s too busy. Her letters could elucidate as well. You’ve published things-


I’ve been lucky.

Luck’s not chance – it’s toil. Fortune has an expensive smile. Austin used to be a believer but he mistook venoms for balms. We have all the witchcraft we need around us every day.

I should love to explicate Emily to others! Even though I saw your sister or the first time only in her casket I felt I understood her comets of thought.

Had I known the first was last I would have kept it longer
Had I known the last was first I would have drunk it stronger!

That’s settled, then. Ask Maggie for the trunk of scribbled papers.

(MABEL finally surrenders. They kiss with increasing intensity)


Would you like a witness? Just this once?

A witness?


(He steps silently into the room and stands, arms behind him, observing.)

You say that he’s your dearest friend.

A committee? Lifetime is for two, never for committee.

Of course I love David.

(MABEL undresses AUSTIN. They fall together while DAVID watches aloofly.)

(Nosing past the lovers, intrigued)

How invaluable is ignorance! Such economical ecstasy! Ignorance our cuirass is. I declare it would have starved a gnat to live so small as I!

(Addresses the audience as lights go down on parlor)

I could suffice for him
I knew
He could suffice for me.
We hesitating fractions
Surveyed infinity.
“Would I be whole” he sudden broached!
Face to face with nature forced is
Face to face with God.
The moon herself adjusts her tides
In answer to the sun.
Could I do else with mine?

(Directly accusing the audience)

You left me boundaries of pain capacious as the sea!

(Lights out.)

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