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Eugene O’Neill (1888–1953). Three Plays. 1922.

Scene IV I. The Hairy Ape

Same as Scene I. Half an hour later

SCENEThe firemen’s forecastle. YANK’S watch has just come off duty and had dinner. Their faces and bodies shine from a soap and water scrubbing but around their eyes, where a hasty dousing does not touch, the coal dust sticks like black make-up, giving them a queer, sinister expression. YANK has not washed either face or body. He stands out in contrast to them, a blackened, brooding figure. He is seated forward on a bench in the exact attitude of Rodin’s “The Thinker.” The others, most of them smoking pipes, are staring at YANK half-apprehensively, as if fearing an outburst; half-amusedly, as if they saw a joke somewhere that tickled them.

  • VOICES—He ain’t ate nothin’.
  • Py golly, a fallar gat gat grub in him.
  • Divil a lie.
  • Yank feeda da fire, no feeda da face.
  • Ha-ha.
  • He ain’t even washed hisself.
  • He’s forgot.
  • Hey, Yank, you forgot to wash.
  • YANK—[Sullenly.] Forgot nothin’! To hell wit washin’.

  • VOICES—It’ll stick to you.
  • It’ll get under your skin.
  • Give yer the bleedin’ itch, that’s wot.
  • It makes spots on you—like a leopard.
  • Like a piebald nigger, you mean.
  • Better wash up, Yank.
  • You sleep better.
  • Wash up, Yank.
  • Wash up! Wash up!
  • YANK—[Resentfully.] Aw say, youse guys. Lemme alone. Can’t youse see I’m tryin’ to tink?

    ALL—[Repeating the word after him as one with cynical mockery.] Think! [The word has a brazen, metallic quality as if their throats were phonograph horns. It is followed by a chorus of hard, barking laughter.]

    YANK—[Springing to his feet and glaring at them belligerently.] Yes, tink! Tink, dat’s what I said! What about it? [They are silent, puzzled by his sudden resentment at what used to be one of his jokes.

    YANKsits down again in the same attitude of “The Thinker.”]

  • VOICES—Leave him alone.
  • He’s got a grouch on.
  • Why wouldn’t he?
  • PADDY—[With a wink at the others.] Sure I know what’s the matther. ’Tis aisy to see. He’s fallen in love, I’m telling you.

    ALL—[Repeating the word after him as one with cynical mockery.] Love! [The word has a brazen, metallic quality as if their throats were phonograph horns. It is followed by a chorus of hard, barking laughter.]

    YANK—[With a contemptuous snort.] Love, hell! Hate, dat’s what. I’ve fallen in hate, get me?

    PADDY—[Philosophically.] ’Twould take a wise man to tell one from the other. [With a bitter, ironical scorn, increasing as he goes on.] But I’m telling you it’s love that’s in it. Sure what else but love for us poor bastes in the stokehole would be bringing a fine lady, dressed like a white quane, down a mile of ladders and steps to be havin’ a look at us? [A growl of anger goes up from all sides.]

    LONG—[Jumping on a bench—hecticly.] Hinsultin’ us! Hinsultin’ us, the bloody cow! And them bloody engineers! What right ’as they got to be exhibitin’ us ’s if we was bleedin’ monkeys in a menagerie? Did we sign for hinsults to our dignity as ’onest workers? Is that in the ship’s articles? You kin bloody well bet it ain’t! But I knows why they done it. I arsked a deck steward ’o she was and ’e told me. ’Er old man’s a bleedin’ millionaire, a bloody Capitalist! ’E’s got enuf bloody gold to sink this bleedin’ ship! ’E makes arf the bloody steel in the world! ’E owns this bloody boat! And you and me, comrades, we’re ’is slaves! And the skipper and mates and engineers, they’re ’is slaves! And she’s ’is bloody daughter and we’re all ’er slaves, too! And she gives ’er orders as ’ow she wants to see the bloody animals below decks and down they takes ’er! [There is a roar of rage from all sides.]

    YANK—[Blinking at him bewilderedly.] Say! Wait a moment! Is all dat straight goods?

    LONG—Straight as string! The bleedin’ steward as waits on ’em, ’e told me about ’er. And what’re we goin’ ter do, I arsks yer? ’Ave we got ter swaller ’er hinsults like dogs? It ain’t in the ship’s articles. I tell yer we got a case. We kin go ter law——

    YANK—[With abysmal contempt.] Hell! Law!

    ALL—[Repeating the word after him as one with cynical mockery.] Law! [The word has a brazen metallic quality as if their throats were phonograph horns. It is followed by a chorus of hard, barking laughter.]

    LONG—[Feeling the ground slipping from under his feet—desperately.] As voters and citizens we kin force the bloody governments——

    YANK—[With abysmal contempt.] Hell! Governments!

    ALL—[Repeating the word after him as one with cynical mockery.] Governments! [The word has a brazen metallic quality as if their throats were phonograph horns. It is followed by a chorus of hard, barking laughter.]

    LONG—[Hysterically.] We’re free and equal in the sight of God——

    YANK—[With abysmal contempt.] Hell! God!

    ALL—[Repeating the word after him as one with cynical mockery.] God! [The word has a brazen metallic quality as if their throats were phonograph horns. It is followed by a chorus of hard, barking laughter.]

    YANK—[Witheringly.] Aw, join de Salvation Army!

    ALL—Sit down! Shut up! Damn fool! Sea-lawyer! [Long slinks back out of sight.]

    PADDY—[Continuing the trend of his thoughts as if he had never been interrupted—bitterly.] And there she was standing behind us, and the Second pointing at us like a man you’d hear in a circus would be saying: In this cage is a queerer kind of baboon than ever you’d find in darkest Africy. We roast them in their own sweat—and be damned if you won’t hear some of thim saying they like it! [He glances scornfully at YANK.]

    YANK—[With a bewildered uncertain growl.] Aw!

    PADDY—And there was Yank roarin’ curses and turning round wid his shovel to brain her—and she looked at him, and him at her——

    YANK—[Slowly.] She was all white. I tought she was a ghost. Sure.

    PADDY—[With heavy, biting sarcasm.] ’Twas love at first sight, divil a doubt of it! If you’d seen the endearin’ look on her pale mug when she shrivelled away with her hands over her eyes to shut out the sight of him! Sure, ’twas as if she’d seen a great hairy ape escaped from the Zoo!

    YANK—[Stung—with a growl of rage.] Aw!

    PADDY—And the loving way Yank heaved his shovel at the skull of her, only she was out the door! [A grin breaking over his face.] ’Twas touching, I’m telling you! It put the touch of home, swate home in the stokehole. [There is a roar of laughter from all.]

    YANK—[Glaring at PADDY menacingly.] Aw, choke dat off, see!

    PADDY—[Not heeding him—to the others.] And her grabbin’ at the Second’s arm for protection. [With a grotesque imitation of a woman’s voice.] Kiss me, Engineer dear, for it’s dark down here and me old man’s in Wall Street making money! Hug me tight, darlin’, for I’m afeerd in the dark and me mother’s on deck makin’ eyes at the skipper! [Another roar of laughter.]

    YANK—[Threateningly.] Say! What yuh tryin’ to do, kid me, yuh old Harp?

    PADDY—Divil a bit! Ain’t I wishin’ myself you’d brained her?

    YANK—[Fiercely.] I’ll brain her! I’ll brain her yet, wait ’n’ see! [Coming over to PADDYslowly.] Say, is dat what she called me—a hairy ape?

    PADDY—She looked it at you if she didn’t say the word itself.

    YANK—[Grinning horribly.] Hairy ape, huh? Sure! Dat’s de way she looked at me, aw right. Hairy ape! So dat’s me, huh? [Bursting into rage—as if she were still in front of him.] Yuh skinny tart! Yuh white-faced bum, yuh! I’ll show yuh who’s a ape! [Turning to the others, bewilderment seizing him again.] Say, youse guys. I was bawlin’ him out for pullin’ de whistle on us. You heard me. And den I seen youse lookin’ at somep’n and I tought he’d sneaked down to come up in back of me, and I hopped round to knock him dead wit de shovel. And dere she was wit de light on her! Christ, yuh coulda pushed me over with a finger! I was scared, get me? Sure! I tought she was a ghost, see? She was all in white like dey wrap around stiffs. You seen her. Kin yuh blame me? She didn’t belong, dat’s what. And den when I come to and seen it was a real skoit and seen de way she was lookin’ at me—like Paddy said—Christ, I was sore, get me? I don’t stand for dat stuff from nobody. And I flung de shovel—on’y she’d beat it. [Furiously.] I wished it’d banged her! I wished it’d knocked her block off!

    LONG—And be ’anged for murder or ’lectrocuted? She ain’t bleedin’ well worth it.

    YANK—I don’t give a damn what! I’d be square wit her, wouldn’t I? Tink I wanter let her put somep’n over on me? Tink I’m goin’ to let her git away wit dat stuff? Yuh don’t know me! Noone ain’t never put nothin’ over on me and got away wit it, see!—not dat kind of stuff—no guy and no skoit neither! I’ll fix her! Maybe she’ll come down again——

    VOICE—No chance, Yank. You scared her out of a year’s growth.

    YANK—I scared her? Why de hell should I scare her? Who de hell is she? Ain’t she de same as me? Hairy ape, huh? [With his old confident bravado.] I’ll show her I’m better’n her, if she on’y knew it. I belong and she don’t, see! I move and she’s dead! Twenty-five knots a hour, dats me! Dat carries her but I make dat. She’s on’y baggage. Sure! [Again bewilderedly.] But, Christ, she was funny lookin’! Did yuh pipe her hands? White and skinny. Yuh could see de bones trough ’em. And her mush, dat was dead white, too. And her eyes, dey was like dey’d seen a ghost. Me, dat was! Sure! Hairy ape! Ghost, huh? Look at dat arm! [He extends his right arm, swelling out the great muscles.] I coulda took her wit dat, wit’ just my little finger even, and broke her in two. [Again bewilderedly.] Say, who is dat skoit, huh? What is she? What’s she come from? Who made her? Who give her de noive to look at me like dat? Dis ting’s got my goat right. I don’t get her. She’s new to me. What does a skoit like her mean, huh? She don’t belong, get me! I can’t see her. [With growing anger.] But one ting I’m wise to, aw right, aw right! Youse all kin bet your shoits I’ll git even wit her. I’ll show her if she tinks she—She grinds de organ and I’m on de string, huh? I’ll fix her! Let her come down again and I’ll fling her in de furnace! She’ll move den! She won’t shiver at nothin’, den! Speed, dat’ll be her! She’ll belong den! [He grins horribly.]

    PADDY—She’ll never come. She’s had her belly-full, I’m telling you. She’ll be in bed now, I’m thinking, wid ten doctors and nurses feedin’ her salts to clean the fear out of her.

    YANK—[Enraged.] Yuh tink I made her sick, too, do yuh? Just lookin’ at me, huh? Hairy ape, huh? [In a frenzy of rage.] I’ll fix her! I’ll tell her where to git off! She’ll git down on her knees and take it back or I’ll bust de face offen her! [Shaking one fist upward and beating on his chest with the other.] I’ll find yuh! I’m comin’, d’yuh hear? I’ll fix yuh, God damn yuh! [He makes a rush for the door.]

  • VOICES—Stop him!
  • He’ll get shot!
  • He’ll murder her!
  • Trip him up!
  • Hold him!
  • He’s gone crazy!
  • Gott, he’s strong!
  • Hold him down!
  • Look out for a kick!
  • Pin his arms!
  • [They have all piled on him and, after a fierce struggle, by sheer weight of numbers have borne him to the floor just inside the door.]
  • PADDY—[Who has remained detached.] Kape him down till he’s cooled off. [Scornfully.] Yerra, Yank, you’re a great fool. Is it payin’ attention at all you are to the like of that skinny sow widout one drop of rale blood in her?

    YANK—[Frenziedly, from the bottom of the heap.] She done me doit! She done me doit, didn’t she? I’ll git square with her! I’ll get her some way! Git offen me, youse guys! Lemme up! I’ll show her who’s a ape!