Basics

Show Type
Genders
  • : 1
  • : 1
Age Ranges
  • Young Adult
  • Adult
Style
Period
Time/Place
New York, 1920s
Act/Scene
Act 4

Scene Context

Anna has been abandoned by her prospective husband, Mat Burke, after she revealed that she has been

Scene Text

ANNA—[In a cold, hard tone.] What are you doing here?

BURKE—[Wheeling about with a terrified gasp] Glory be to God! [They remain motionless and silent for a moment, holding each other's eyes.]

ANNA—[In the same hard voice] Well, can't you talk?

BURKE—[Trying to fall into an easy, careless tone] You've a year's growth scared out of me, coming at me so sudden and me thinking I was alone.

ANNA—You've got your nerve butting in here without knocking or nothing. What d'you want?

BURKE—[Airily] Oh, nothing much. I was wanting to have a last word with you, that's all. [He moves a step toward her.]

ANNA—[Sharply—raising the revolver in her hand.] Careful now! Don't try getting too close. I heard what you said you'd do to me.

BURKE—[Noticing the revolver for the first time.] Is it murdering me you'd be now, God forgive you? [Then with a contemptuous laugh.] Or is it thinking I'd be frightened by that old tin whistle? [He walks straight for her.]

ANNA—[Wildly.] Look out, I tell you!

BURKE—[Who has come so close that the revolver is almost touching his chest.] Let you shoot, then! [Then with sudden wild grief.] Let you shoot, I'm saying, and be done with it! Let you end me with a shot and I'll be thanking you, for it's a rotten dog's life I've lived the past two days since I've known what you are, 'til I'm after wishing I was never born at all!

ANNA—[Overcome—letting the revolver drop to the floor, as if her fingers had no strength to hold it—hysterically.] What d'you want coming here? Why don't you beat it? Go on! [She passes him and sinks down in the rocking-chair.]

BURKE—[Following her—mournfully.] 'Tis right you'd be asking why did I come. [Then angrily.] 'Tis because 'tis a great weak fool of the world I am, and me tormented with the wickedness you'd told of yourself, and drinking oceans of booze that'd make me forget. Forget? Divil a word I'd forget, and your face grinning always in front of my eyes, awake or asleep, 'til I do be thinking a madhouse is the proper place for me.

ANNA—[Glancing at his hands and—face—scornfully] You look like you ought to be put away some place. Wonder you wasn't pulled in. You been scrapping, too, ain't you?

BURKE—I have—with every scut would take off his coat to me! [Fiercely.] And each time I'd be hitting one a clout in the mug, it wasn't his face I'd be seeing at all, but yours, and me wanting to drive you a blow would knock you out of this world where I wouldn't be seeing or thinking more of you.

ANNA—[Her lips trembling pitifully] Thanks!

BURKE—[Walking up and down—distractedly.] That's right, make game of me! Oh, I'm a great coward surely, to be coming back to speak with you at all. You've a right to laugh at me.

ANNA—I ain't laughing at you, Mat.

BURKE—[Unheeding.] You to be what you are, and me to be Mat Burke, and me to be drove back to look at you again! 'Tis black shame is on me!

ANNA—[Resentfully.] Then get out. No one's holding you!

BURKE—[Bewilderedly] And me to listen to that talk from a woman like you and be frightened to close her mouth with a slap! Oh, God help me, I'm a yellow coward for all men to spit at! [Then furiously] But I'll not be getting out of this 'till I've had me word. [Raising his fist threateningly] And let you look out how you'd drive me! [Letting his fist fall helplessly] Don't be angry now! I'm raving like a real lunatic, I'm thinking, and the sorrow you put on me has my brains drownded in grief. [Suddenly bending down to her and grasping her arm intensely] Tell me it's a lie, I'm saying! That's what I'm after coming to hear you say.

ANNA—[Dully] A lie? What?

BURKE—[With passionate entreaty] All the badness you told me two days back. Sure it must be a lie! You was only making game of me, wasn't you? Tell me 'twas a lie, Anna, and I'll be saying prayers of thanks on my two knees to the Almighty God!

ANNA—[Terribly shaken—faintly.] I can't. Mat. [As he turns away—imploringly.] Oh, Mat, won't you see that no matter what I was I ain't that any more? Why, listen! I packed up my bag this afternoon and went ashore. I'd been waiting here all alone for two days, thinking maybe you'd come back—thinking maybe you'd think over all I'd said—and maybe—oh, I don't know what I was hoping! But I was afraid to even go out of the cabin for a second, honest—afraid you might come and not find me here. Then I gave up hope when you didn't show up and I went to the railroad station. I was going to New York. I was going back—

BURKE—[Hoarsely.] God's curse on you!

ANNA—Listen, Mat! You hadn't come, and I'd gave up hope. But—in the station—I couldn't go. I'd bought my ticket and everything. [She takes the ticket from her dress and tries to hold it before his eyes.] But I got to thinking about you—and I couldn't take the train—I couldn't! So I come back here—to wait some more. Oh, Mat, don't you see I've changed? Can't you forgive what's dead and gone—and forget it?

BURKE—[Turning on her—overcome by rage again.] Forget, is it? I'll not forget 'til my dying day, I'm telling you, and me tormented with thoughts. [In a frenzy.] Oh, I'm wishing I had wan of them fornenst me this minute and I'd beat him with my fists 'till he'd be a bloody corpse! I'm wishing the whole lot of them will roast in hell 'til the Judgment Day—and yourself along with them, for you're as bad as they are.

ANNA—[Shuddering.] Mat! [Then after a pause—in a voice of dead, stony calm.] Well, you've had your say. Now you better beat it.

BURKE—[Starts slowly for the door—hesitates—then after a pause.] And what'll you be doing?

ANNA—What difference does it make to you?

BURKE—I'm asking you!

ANNA—[In the same tone.] My bag's packed and I got my ticket. I'll go to New York to-morrow.

BURKE—[Helplessly.] You mean—you'll be doing the same again?

ANNA—[Stonily.] Yes.

BURKE—[In anguish.] You'll not! Don't torment me with that talk! 'Tis a she-divil you are sent to drive me mad entirely!

ANNA—[Her voice breaking.] Oh, for Gawd's sake, Mat, leave me alone! Go away! Don't you see I'm licked? Why d'you want to keep on kicking me?

BURKE—[Indignantly.] And don't you deserve the worst I'd say, God forgive you?

ANNA—All right. Maybe I do. But don't rub it in. Why ain't you done what you said you was going to? Why ain't you got that ship was going to take you to the other side of the earth where you'd never see me again?

BURKE—I have.

ANNA—[Startled.] What—then you're going—honest?

BURKE—I signed on to-day at noon, drunk as I was—and she's sailing to-morrow.

ANNA—And where's she going to?

BURKE—Cape Town.

ANNA—[The memory of having heard that name a little while before coming to her—with a start, confusedly.] Cape Town? Where's that. Far away?

BURKE—'Tis at the end of Africa. That's far for you.

ANNA—[Forcing a laugh.] You're keeping your word all right, ain't you? [After a slight pause—curiously.] What's the boat's name?

BURKE—The Londonderry.

ANNA—[It suddenly comes to her that this is the same ship her father is sailing on.] The Londonderry! It's the same—Oh, this is too much! [With wild, ironical laughter.] Ha-ha-ha!

BURKE—What's up with you now?

ANNA—Ha-ha-ha! It's funny, funny! I'll die laughing!

BURKE—[Irritated.] Laughing at what?

ANNA—It's a secret. You'll know soon enough. It's funny. [Controlling herself—after a pause—cynically.] What kind of a place is this Cape Town? Plenty of dames there, I suppose?

BURKE—To hell with them! That I may never see another woman to my dying hour!

ANNA—That's what you say now, but I'll bet by the time you get there you'll have forgot all about me and start in talking the same old bull you talked to me to the first one you meet.

BURKE—[Offended.] I'll not, then! God mend you, is it making me out to be the like of yourself you are, and you taking up with this one and that all the years of your life?

ANNA—[Angrily assertive.] Yes, that's yust what I do mean! You been doing the same thing all your life, picking up a new girl in every port. How're you any better than I was?

BURKE—[Thoroughly exasperated.] Is it no shame you have at all? I'm a fool to be wasting talk on you and you hardened in badness. I'll go out of this and lave you alone forever. [He starts for the door—then stops to turn on her furiously] And I suppose 'tis the same lies you told them all before that you told to me?

ANNA—[Indignantly.] That's a lie! I never did!

BURKE—[Miserably.] You'd be saying that, anyway.

ANNA—[Forcibly, with growing intensity.] Are you trying to accuse me—of being in love—really in love—with them?

BURKE—I'm thinking you were, surely.

ANNA—[Furiously, as if this were the last insult—advancing on him threateningly] You mutt, you! I've stood enough from you. Don't you dare. [With scornful bitterness.] Love 'em! Oh, my Gawd! You damn thick-head! Love 'em? [Savagely.] I hated 'em, I tell you! Hated 'em, hated 'em, hated 'em! And may Gawd strike me dead this minute and my mother, too, if she was alive, if I ain't telling you the honest truth!

BURKE—[Immensely pleased by her vehemence—a light beginning to break over his face—but still uncertain, torn between doubt and the desire to believe—helplessly.] If I could only be believing you now!

ANNA—[Distractedly.] Oh, what's the use? What's the use of me talking? What's the use of anything? [Pleadingly.] Oh, Mat, you mustn't think that for a second! You mustn't! Think all the other bad about me you want to, and I won't kick, 'cause you've a right to. But don't think that! [On the point of tears.] I couldn't bear it! It'd be yust too much to know you was going away where I'd never see you again—thinking that about me!

BURKE—[After an inward struggle—tensely—forcing out the words with difficulty.] If I was believing—that you'd never had love for any other man in the world but me—I could be forgetting the rest, maybe.

ANNA—[With a cry of joy.] Mat!

BURKE—[Slowly.] If 'tis truth you're after telling, I'd have a right, maybe, to believe you'd changed—and that I'd changed you myself 'til the thing you'd been all your life wouldn't be you any more at all.

ANNA—[Hanging on his words—breathlessly.] Oh, Mat! That's what I been trying to tell you all along!

BURKE—[Simply.] For I've a power of strength in me to lead men the way I want, and women, too, maybe, and I'm thinking I'd change you to a new woman entirely, so I'd never know, or you either, what kind of woman you'd been in the past at all.

ANNA—Yes, you could, Mat! I know you could!

BURKE—And I'm thinking 'twasn't your fault, maybe, but having that old ape for a father that left you to grow up alone, made you what you was. And if I could be believing 'tis only me you—

ANNA—[Distractedly.] You got to believe it. Mat! What can I do? I'll do anything, anything you want to prove I'm not lying!

BURKE—[Suddenly seems to have a solution. He feels in the pocket of his coat and grasps something—solemnly.] Would you be willing to swear an oath, now—a terrible, fearful oath would send your soul to the divils in hell if you was lying?

ANNA—[Eagerly.] Sure, I'll swear, Mat—on anything!

BURKE—[Takes a small, cheap old crucifix from his pocket and holds it up for her to see.] Will you swear on this?

ANNA—[Reaching out for it.] Yes. Sure I will. Give it to me.

BURKE—[Holding it away.] 'Tis a cross was given me by my mother, God rest her soul. [He makes the sign of the cross mechanically.] I was a lad only, and she told me to keep it by me if I'd be waking or sleeping and never lose it, and it'd bring me luck. She died soon after. But I'm after keeping it with me from that day to this, and I'm telling you there's great power in it, and 'tis great bad luck it's saved me from and me roaming the seas, and I having it tied round my neck when my last ship sunk, and it bringing me safe to land when the others went to their death. [Very earnestly.] And I'm warning you now, if you'd swear an oath on this, 'tis my old woman herself will be looking down from Hivin above, and praying Almighty God and the Saints to put a great curse on you if she'd hear you swearing a lie!

ANNA—[Awed by his manner—superstitiously] I wouldn't have the nerve—honest—if it was a lie. But it's the truth and I ain't scared to swear. Give it to me.

BURKE—[Handing it to her—almost frightenedly, as if he feared for her safety.] Be careful what you'd swear, I'm saying.

ANNA—[Holding the cross gingerly.] Well—what do you want me to swear? You say it.

BURKE—Swear I'm the only man in the world ivir you felt love for.

ANNA—[Looking into his eyes steadily] I swear it.

BURKE—And that you'll be forgetting from this day all the badness you've done and never do the like of it again.

ANNA—[Forcibly.] I swear it! I swear it by God!

BURKE—And may the blackest curse of God strike you if you're lying. Say it now!

ANNA—And may the blackest curse of God strike me if I'm lying!

BURKE—[With a stupendous sigh.] Oh, glory be to God, I'm after believing you now! [He takes the cross from her hand, his face beaming with joy, and puts it back in his pocket. He puts his arm about her waist and is about to kiss her when he stops, appalled by some terrible doubt.]

ANNA—[Alarmed.] What's the matter with you?

BURKE—[With sudden fierce questioning.] Is it Catholic ye are?

ANNA—[Confused.] No. Why?

BURKE—[Filled with a sort of bewildered foreboding.] Oh, God, help me! [With a dark glance of suspicion at her.] There's some divil's trickery in it, to be swearing an oath on a Catholic cross and you wan of the others.

ANNA—[Distractedly.] Oh, Mat, don't you believe me?

BURKE—[Miserably.] If it isn't a Catholic you are—

ANNA—I ain't nothing. What's the difference? Didn't you hear me swear?

BURKE—[Passionately.] Oh, I'd a right to stay away from you—but I couldn't! I was loving you in spite of it all and wanting to be with you, God forgive me, no matter what you are. I'd go mad if I'd not have you! I'd be killing the world—[He seizes her in his arms and kisses her fiercely.]

ANNA—[With a gasp of joy.] Mat!

BURKE—[Suddenly holding her away from him and staring into her eyes as if to probe into her soul—slowly.] If your oath is no proper oath at all, I'll have to be taking your naked word for it and have you anyway, I'm thinking—I'm needing you that bad!

ANNA—[Hurt—reproachfully.] Mat! I swore, didn't I?

BURKE—[Defiantly, as if challenging fate.] Oath or no oath, 'tis no matter. We'll be wedded in the morning, with the help of God. [Still more defiantly.] We'll be happy now, the two of us, in spite of the divil!

O'Neill, Eugene. Anna Christie [http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4025/4025-h/4025-h.htm]