Well, heah I is. In de nick o’ time, too...

The Emperor Jones

Brutus Jones

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Well, heah I is. In de nick o’ time, too! Little mo' an' it'd be blacker'n de ace of spades heahabouts. [He pulls a bandana handkerchief from his hip pocket and mops off his perspiring face.] Sho'! Gimme air! I'se tuckered out sho' 'nuff. Dat soft Emperor job ain't no trainin' fo' a long hike ovah dat plain in de brilin' sun. [Then with a chuckle.] Cheah up, n****r, de worst is yet to come. [He lifts his head and stares at the forest. His chuckle peters out abruptly. In a tone of awe.] My goodness, look at dem woods, will you? Dat no−count Smithers said dey'd be black an' he sho' called de turn. [Turning away from them quickly and looking down at his feet, he snatches at a chance to change the subject−solicitously.] Feet, you is holdin' up yo' end fine an' I sutinly hopes you ain't blisterin' none. It's time you git a rest. [He takes off his shoes, his eyes studiously avoiding the forest. He feels of the soles of his feet gingerly.] You is still in de pink−−on'y a little mite feverish. Cool yo'selfs. Remember you done got a long journey yit befo' you. [He sits in a weary attitude, listening to the rhythmic beating of the tom−tom. He grumbles in a loud tone to cover up a growing uneasiness. ] Bush niggers! Wonder dey wouldn' git sick o’ beatin' dat drum. Sound louder, seem like. I wonder if dey's startin' after me? [He scrambles to his feet−, looking back across the plain.] Couldn't see dem now, nohow, if dey was hundred feet away. [Then shaking himself like a wet dog to get rid of these depressing thoughts.] Sho', dey's miles an miles behind. What you gittin’ fidgety about? [But he sits down and begins to lace up his shoes in great haste, all the time muttering reassuringly.] You know what? Yo' belly is empty, dat's what's de matter wid you. Come time to eat! Wid nothin' but wind on yo' stumach, o’ course you feels jiggedy. Well, we eats right heah an' now soon's I gits dese pesky shoes laced up! [He finishes lacing up his shoes.] Dere! Now le's see. [Gets on his hands and knees and searches the ground around him with his eyes.] White stone, white stone, where is you? [He sees the first white stone and crawls to it−with satisfaction.] Heah you is! I knowed dis was de right place. Box of grub, come to me. [He turns over the stone and feels in under it−in a tone of dismay.] Ain't heah! Gorry, is I in de right place or isn't I? Dere's 'nother stone. Guess dat's it. [He scrambles to the next stone and turns il over.] Ain't heah, neither! Grub, whar is yqu? Ain't heah. Gorry, has I got to go hungry into dem woods−all de night? [While he is talking he scrambles from one stone to another, turning them over in frantic haste. Finally, he jumps to his feet excitedly.] Is I lost de place? Must have! But how dat happen when I was followin' de trail across de plain in broad daylight? [Almost plaintively.] I'se hungry, I is! I gotta git my feed. Whar's my strength gonna come from if I doesn't? Gorry, I gotta find dat grub high an' low somehow! Why it come dark so quick like dat? Can't see nothin'. [He scratches a match on his trousers and peers about him. The rate of the beat of the far−off t0m−tom increases perceptibly as he does so. He mutters in a bewildered voice.] How come all dese white stones come heah when I only remembers one? [Suddenly, with a frightened gasp, he flings the match on the ground and stamps on it.] Nigger, is you gone crazy mad? Is you lightin' matches to show dem whar you is? Fo' Lawd's sake, use yo' haid. Gorry, I'se got to be careful! [He stares at the plain behind him apprehensively, his hand on his revolver.] But how come all dese white stones? And whar's dat tin box o’ grub I had all wrapped up in oil cloth?

O’Neill, Eugene. “The Emperor Jones”, Three Great Plays: The Emperor Jones, Anna Christie, and The Hairy Ape, Dover Publications Inc., 2005, pp.15-6.

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