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Eugene O'Neill

The First Man

ACT I

SCENE-Living-room of CURTIS JAYSON'S house in Bridgetown, Conn. A large, comfortable room. On the left, an arm-chair, a big open fireplace, a writing desk with chair in far left corner. On this side there is also a door leading into CURTIS' study. In the rear, center, a double doorway opening on the hall and the entryway. Bookcases are built into the wall on both sides of this doorway. In the far right corner, a grand piano. Three large windows looking out on the lawn, and another arm-chair, front, are on this right side of the room. Opposite the fireplace is a couch, facing front. Opposite the windows on the right is a long table with magazines, reading lamp, etc. Four chairs are grouped about the table. The walls and ceiling are in a French gray color. A great rug covers most of the hardwood floor.

It is around four o'clock of a fine afternoon in early fall.

As the curtain rises, MARTHA, CURTIS and BIGELOW are discovered. MARTHA is a healthy, fine-looking woman of thirty-eight. She does not appear this age for her strenuous life in the open has kept her young and fresh. She possesses the frank, clear, direct quality of outdoors, outspoken and generous. Her wavy hair is a dark brown, her eyes blue-gray. CURTIS JAYSON is a tall, rangy, broad-shouldered man of thirty-seven. While spare, his figure has an appearance of rugged health, of great nervous strength held in reserve. His square-jawed, large-featured face retains an eager boyish enthusiasm in spite of its prevailing expression of thoughtful, preoccupied aloofness. His crisp dark hair is graying at the temples. EDWARD BIGELOW is a large, handsome man of thirty- nine. His face shows culture and tolerance, a sense of humor, a lazy unambitious contentment. CURTIS is reading an article in some scientific periodical, seated by the table. MARTHA and BIGELOW are sitting nearby, laughing and chatting.

BIGELOW-[Is talking with a comically worried but earnest air.] Do you know, I'm getting so I'm actually afraid to leave them alone with that governess. She's too romantic. I'll wager she's got a whole book full of ghost stories, superstitions, and yellow- journal horrors up her sleeve.

MARTHA-Oh, pooh! Don't go milling around for trouble. When I was a kid I used to get fun out of my horrors.

BIGELOW-But I imagine you were more courageous than most of us.

MARTHA-Why?

BIGELOW-Well, Nevada-the Far West at that time-I should think a child would have grown so accustomed to violent scenes-

MARTHA-[Smiling.]Oh, in the mining camps; but you don't suppose my father lugged me along on his prospecting trips, do you? Why, I never saw any rough scenes until I'd finished with school and went to live with father in Goldfield.

BIGELOW-[Smiling.]And then you met Curt.

MARTHA-Yes-but I didn't mean he was a rough scene. He was very mild even in those days. Do tell me what he was like at Cornell.

BIGELOW-A romanticist-and he still is!

MARTHA-[Pointing at CURTIS with gay mischief.]What! That sedate man! Never!

CURTIS-[Looking up and smiling at them both affectionately- lazily.] Don't mind him, Martha. He always was crazy.

BIGELOW-[To CURT-accusingly.]Why did you elect to take up mining engineering at Cornell instead of a classical degree at the Yale of your fathers and brothers? Because you had been reading Bret Harte in prep. school and mistaken him for a modern realist. You devoted four years to grooming yourself for another outcast of Poker Flat.[MARTHA laughs.]

CURTIS-[Grinning.]It was you who were hypnotized by Harte-so much so that his West of the past is still your blinded New England-movie idea of the West at present. But go on. What next?

BIGELOW-Next? You get a job as engineer in that Goldfield mine- but you are soon disillusioned by a laborious life where six- shooters are as rare as nuggets. You try prospecting. You find nothing but different varieties of pebbles. But it is necessary to your nature to project romance into these stones, so you go in strong for geology. As a geologist, you become a slave to the Romance of the Rocks. It is but a step from that to anthropology- the last romance of all. There you find yourself-because there is no further to go. You win fame as the most proficient of young skull-hunters-and wander over the face of the globe, digging up bones like an old dog.

CURTIS-[With a laugh.]The man is mad, Martha.

BIGELOW-Mad! What an accusation to come from one who is even now considering setting forth on a five-year excavating contest in search of the remains of our gibbering ancestor, the First Man!

CURTIS-[With sudden seriousness.]I'm not considering it any longer. I've decided to go.

MARTHA-[Starting-the hurt showing in her voice.]When did you decide?

CURTIS-I only really came to a decision this morning.[With a seriousness that forces BIGELOW'S interested attention.] It's a case of got to go. It's a tremendous opportunity that it would be a crime for me to neglect.

BIGELOW-And a big honor, too, isn't it, to be picked as a member of such a large affair?

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