THE SHADOWED STAR

By Mary MacMillan


Copyright, 1913, by Stewart & Kidd Company.
All rights reserved.

 

CAST
A Woman, the mother.
An Old Woman, the grandmother.
Two Girls, the daughters.
A Messenger Boy.
A Neighbor.
Another Neighbor.

 

The Shadowed Star is reprinted from "Short Plays" by Mary MacMillan by permission of Messrs. Stewart & Kidd Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. The acting rights of this play are reserved by the author. Address all correspondence to the author in regard to production.


THE SHADOWED STAR

By Mary MacMillan

 

[A very bare room in a tenement house, uncarpeted, the boards being much worn, and from the walls the bluish whitewash has scaled away; in the front on one side is a cooking-stove, and farther back on the same side a window; on the opposite side is a door opening into a hallway; in the middle of the room there is a round, worn dining-room table, on which stands a stunted, scraggly bit of an evergreen-tree; at the back of the room, near the window, stands an old-fashioned safe with perforated tin front; next it a door opening into an inner room, and next it in the corner a bed, on which lies a pallid woman; another woman, very old, sits in a rocking-chair in front of the stove and rocks. There is silence for a long space, the old woman rocking and the woman on the bed giving an occasional low sigh or groan. At last the old woman speaks.]

 

The Old Woman. David an' Michael might be kapin' the Christmas wid us to-morrow night if we hadn't left the ould counthry. They'd never be crossin' the sea—all the many weary miles o' wetness an' fog an' cold to be kapin' it wid us here in this great house o' brick walls in a place full o' strange souls. They would never be for crossin' all that weary, cold, green wather, groanin' an' tossin' like it was the grave o' sivin thousan' divils. Ah, but it would be a black night at sea! [She remains silent for a few minutes, staring at the stove and rocking slowly.] If they hadn't to cross that wet, cold sea they'd maybe come. But wouldn't they be afeard o' this great city, an' would they iver find us here? Six floors up, an' they niver off the ground in their lives. What would ye be thinkin'? [The other woman does not answer her. She then speaks petulantly.] What would ye be thinkin'? Mary, have ye gone clane to slape? [Turns her chair and peers around the back of it at the pallid woman on the bed, who sighs and answers.]

The Woman. No, I on'y wisht I could. Maybe they'll come—I don't know, but father an' Michael wasn't much for thravel. [After a pause and very wearily.] Maybe they'll not come, yet [slowly], maybe I'll be kapin' the Christmas wid them there. [The Old Woman seems not to notice this, wandering from her question back to her memories.]

The Old Woman. No, they'll niver be lavin' the ould land, the green land, the home land. I'm wishing I was there wid thim. [Another pause, while she stares at the stove.] Maybe we'd have a duck an' potatoes, an' maybe something to drink to kape us warm against the cold. An' the boys would all be dancin' an' the girls have rosy cheeks. [There is another pause, and then a knock at the door. "Come in," the two women call, in reedy, weak voices, and a thin, slatternly Irish woman enters.]

The Neighbor. God avnin' to ye; I came in to ask if I might borrow the loan o' a bit o' tay, not havin' a leaf of it left.

The Woman. We have a little left, just enough we was savin' for ourselves to-night, but you're welcome to it—maybe the girls will bring some. Will ye get it for her, mother? Or she can help herself—it's in the safe. It's on the lower shelf among the cups an' saucers an' plates. [The Old Woman and Neighbor go to the safe and hunt for the tea, and do not find it readily. The safe has little in it but a few cracked and broken dishes.]

The Neighbor [holding up a tiny paper bag with an ounce perhaps of tea in it.] It's just a scrap!

The Old Woman. To be sure! We use so much tay! We're that exthravagant!

The Neighbor. It hurts me to take it from ye—maybe I'd better not.

The Old Woman. The girls will bring more. We always have a cupboard full o' things. We're always able to lend to our neighbors.

The Neighbor. It's in great luck, ye are. For some of us be so poor we don't know where the next bite's comin' from. An' this winter whin iverything's so high an' wages not raised, a woman can't find enough to cook for her man's dinner. It isn't that ye don't see things—oh, they're in the markets an' the shops, an' it makes yer mouth wather as ye walk along the sthrates this day before the Christmas to see the turkeys an' the ducks ye'll niver ate, an' the little pigs an' the or'nges an' bananies an' cranberries an' the cakes an' nuts an'—it's worse, I'm thinkin', to see thim whin there's no money to buy than it was in the ould counthry, where there was nothing to buy wid the money ye didn't have.

The Woman. It's all one to us poor folk whether there be things to buy or not. [She speaks gaspingly, as one who is short of breath.] I'm on'y thinkin' o' the clane air at home—if I could have a mornin' o' fresh sunshine—these fogs an' smoke choke me so. The girls would take me out to the counthry if they had time an' I'd get well. But they haven't time. [She falls into a fit of coughing.]

The Old Woman. But it's like to be bright on Christmas Day. It wouldn't iver be cloudy on Christmas Day, an' maybe even now the stars would be crapin' out an' the air all clear an' cold an' the moon a-shinin' an' iverything so sthill an' quiet an' bleamin' an' breathless [her voice falls almost to a whisper], awaitin' on the Blessed Virgin. [She goes to the window, lifts the blind, and peers out, then throws up the sash and leans far out. After a moment she pulls the sash down again and the blind and turns to those in the room with the look of pathetic disappointment in little things, of the aged.] No, there's not a sthar, not one little twinklin' sthar, an' how'll the shepherds find their way? Iverything's dull an' black an' the clouds are hangin' down heavy an' sthill. How'll the shepherds find their way without the sthar to guide thim? [Then almost whimpering.] An' David an' Michael will niver be crossin' that wet, black sea! An' the girls—how'll they find their way home? They'll be lost somewhere along by the hedges. Ohone, ohone!

The Neighbor. Now, grannie, what would ye be sayin'? There's niver a hedge anywhere but granite blocks an' electric light poles an' plenty o' light in the city for thim to see all their way home. [Then to the woman.] Ain't they late?

The Woman. They're always late, an' they kape gettin' lather an' lather.

The Neighbor. Yis, av coorse, the sthores is all open in the avnin's before Christmas.

The Woman. They go so early in the mornin' an' get home so late at night, an' they're so tired.

The Neighbor [whiningly]. They're lucky to be young enough to work an' not be married. I've got to go home to the childer an' give thim their tay. Pat's gone to the saloon again, an' to-morrow bein' Christmas I misdoubt he'll be terrible dhrunk again, an' me on'y jist well from the blow in the shoulder the last time. [She wipes her eyes and moves towards the door.]

The Old Woman. Sthay an' kape Christmas wid us. We're goin' to have our celebratin' to-night on Christmas Eve, the way folks do here. I like it best on Christmas Day, the way 'tis in the ould counthry, but here 'tis Christmas Eve they kape. We're waitin' for the girls to come home to start things—they knowin' how—Mary an' me on'y know how to kape Christmas Day as 'tis at home. But the girls'll soon be here, an' they'll have the three an' do the cookin' an' all, an' we'll kape up the jollity way into the night.

The Neighbor [looks questioningly and surprised at the Woman, whose eyes are on the mother.] Nay, if Pat came home dhrunk an' didn't find me, he'd kill me. We have all to be movin' on to our own throubles. [She goes out, and the old woman leaves the Christmas-tree which she has been fingering and admiring, and sits down in the rocking-chair again. After a while she croons to herself in a high, broken voice. This lasts some time, when there is the noise of a slamming door and then of footsteps approaching.]

The Woman. If I could on'y be in the counthry!

The Old Woman. Maybe that would be the girls! [She starts tremblingly to her feet, but the steps come up to the door and go by.] If David and Michael was to come now an' go by—there bein' no sthar to guide thim!

The Woman. Nay, mother, 'twas the shepherds that was guided by the sthar an' to the bed o' the Blessed Babe.

The Old Woman. Aye, so 'twas. What be I thinkin' of? The little Blessed Babe! [She smiles and sits staring at the stove again for a little.] But they could not find Him to-night. 'Tis so dark an' no sthars shinin.' [After another pause.] An' what would shepherds do in a ghreat city? 'Twould be lost they'd be, quicker than in any bog. Think ye, Mary, that the boys would be hootin' thim an' the p'lice, maybe, would want to be aristin' thim for loitherin'. They'd niver find the Blessed Babe, an' they'd have to be movin' on. [Another pause, and then there is the sound of approaching footsteps again. The Old Woman grasps the arms of her chair and leans forward, intently listening.]—That would sure be the girls this time! [But again the footsteps go by. The Old Woman sighs.] Ah, but 'tis weary waitin'! [There is another long pause.] 'Twas on that day that David an' me was plighted—a brave Christmas Day wid a shinin' sun an' a sky o' blue wid fair, white clouds. An' David an' me met at the early mass in the dark o' the frosty mornin' afore the sun rose—an' there was all day good times an' a duck for dinner and puddin's an' a party at the O'Brady's in the evenin', whin David an' me danced. Ah, but he was a beautiful dancer, an' me, too—I was as light on my feet as a fairy. [She begins to croon an old dance tune and hobbles to her feet, and, keeping time with her head, tries a grotesque and feeble sort of dancing. Her eyes brighten and she smiles proudly.] Aye, but I danced like a fairy, an' there was not another couple so sprightly an' handsome in all the country. [She tires, and, looking pitiful and disappointed, hobbles back to her chair, and drops into it again.] Ah, but I be old now, and the strength fails me. [She falls into silence for a few minutes.] 'Twas the day before the little man, the little white dove, my next Christmas that Michael was born—little son! [There is a moment's pause, and then the pallid woman on the bed has a violent fit of coughing.]

The Woman. Mother, could ye get me a cup o' wather? If the girls was here to get me a bite to ate, maybe it would kape the breath in me the night.

The Old Woman [starts and stares at her daughter, as if she hardly comprehended the present reality. She gets up and goes over to the window under which there is a pail full of water. She dips some out in a tin cup and carries it to her bed.] Ye should thry to get up an' move about some, so ye can enjoy the Christmas threat. 'Tis bad bein' sick on Christmas. Thry, now, Mary, to sit up a bit. The girls'll be wantin' ye to be merry wid the rest av us.

The Woman [looking at her mother with a sad wistfulness]. I wouldn't spoil things for the girls if I could help. Maybe, mother, if ye'd lift me a little I could sit up. [The Old Woman tugs at her, and she herself tries hard to get into a sitting posture, but after some effort and panting for breath, she falls back again. After a pause for rest, she speaks gaspingly.] Maybe I'll feel sthronger lather whin the girls come home—they could help me—[with the plaint of longing in her voice] they be so late! [After another pause.] Maybe I'll be sthrong again in the mornin'—if I'd had a cup of coffee.—Maybe I could get up—an' walk about—an' do the cookin'. [There is a knock at the door, and again they call, "Come in," in reedy, weak voices. There enters a little messenger boy in a ragged overcoat that reaches almost to his heels. His eyes are large and bright, his face pale and dirty, and he is fearfully tired and worn.]

The Woman. Why, Tim, boy, come in. Sit ye down an' rest, ye're lookin' weary.

The Old Woman. Come to the stove, Timmie, man, an' warm yourself. We always kape a warm room an' a bright fire for visitors.

The Boy. I was awful cold an' hungry an' I come home to get somethin' to eat before. I started out on another trip, but my sisters ain't home from the store yit, an' the fire's gone out in the stove, an' the room's cold as outside. I thought maybe ye'd let me come in here an' git warm.

The Old Woman. Poor orphan! Poor lamb! To be shure ye shall get warm by our sthove.

The Boy. The cars are so beastly col' an' so crowded a feller mostly has to stand on the back platform. [The Old Woman takes him by the shoulder and pushes him toward the stove, but he resists.]

The Boy. No, thank ye—I don't want to go so near yet; my feet's all numb an' they allays hurt so when they warms up fast.

The Old Woman. Thin sit ye down off from the sthove. [Moves the rocking-chair farther away from the stove for him.]

The Boy. If ye don't mind I'd rather stand on 'em 'til they gets a little used to it. They been numb off an' on mos' all day.

The Woman. Soon as yer sisters come, Timmie, ye'd betther go to bed—'tis the best place to get warm.

The Boy. I can't—I got most a three-hour trip yet. I won't get home any 'fore midnight if I don't get lost, and maybe I'll get lost—I did once out there. I've got to take a box o' 'Merican Beauty roses to a place eight mile out, an' the house ain't on the car track, but nearly a mile off, the boss said. I wisht they could wait till mornin', but the orders was they just got to get the roses to-night. You see, out there they don' have no gas goin' nights when there's a moon, an' there'd ought to be a moon to-night, on'y the clouds is so thick there ain't no light gets through.

The Old Woman. There's no sthar shinin' to-night, Tim. [She shakes her head ominously. She goes to the window for the second time, opens it as before, and looks out. Shutting the window, she comes back and speaks slowly and sadly.] Niver a sthar. An' the shepherds will be havin' a hard time, Tim, like you, findin' their way.

The Boy. Shepherds? In town? What shepherds?

The Woman. She means the shepherds on Christmas Eve that wint to find the Blessed Babe, Jesus.

The Old Woman. 'Tis Christmas Eve, Timmie; ye haven't forgot that, have ye?

The Boy. You bet I ain't. I know pretty well when Christmas is comin', by the way I got to hustle, an' the size of the boxes I got to carry. Seems as if my legs an' me would like to break up pardnership. I got to work till midnight every night, an' I'm so sleepy I drop off in the cars whenever I get a seat. An' the girls is at the store so early an' late they don't get time to cook me nothin' to eat.

The Woman. Be ye hungry, Timmie?

The Boy [diffidently and looking at the floor]. No, I ain't hungry now.

The Woman. Be ye shure, Timmie?

The Boy. Oh, I kin go till I git home.

The Woman. Mother, can't you find something for him to eat?

The Old Woman. To be shure, to be shure. [Bustling about.] We always kapes a full cupboard to thrate our neighbors wid whin they comes in. [She goes to the empty safe and fusses in it to find something. She pretends to be very busy, and then glances around at the boy with a sly look and a smile.] Ah, Timmie, lad, what would ye like to be havin', now? If you had the wish o' yer heart for yer Christmas dinner an' a good fairy to set it all afore ye? Ye'd be wishin' maybe, for a fine roast duck, to begin wid, in its own gravies an' some apple sauce to go wid it; an' ye'd be thinkin' o' a little bit o' pig nicely browned an' a plate of potaties; an' the little fairy woman would be bringin' yer puddin's an' nuts an' apples an' a dish o' the swatest tay. [The Boy smiles rather ruefully.]

The Woman. But, mother, you're not gettin' Tim something to ate.

The Boy. She's makin' me mouth water all right. [The Old Woman goes back to her search, but again turns about with a cunning look, and says to the boy:]

The Old Woman. Maybe ye'll meet that little fairy woman out there in the counthry road where ye're takin' the roses! [Nods her head knowingly, turning to the safe again.] Here's salt an' here's pepper an' here's mustard an' a crock full o' sugar, an', oh! Tim, here's some fine cold bacon—fine, fat, cold bacon—an' here's half a loaf o' white wheat bread! Why, Timmie, lad, that's just the food to make boys fat! Ye'll grow famously on it. 'Tis a supper, whin ye add to it a dhrop o' iligant milk, that's fit for a king. [She bustles about with great show of being busy and having much to prepare. Puts the plate of cold bacon upon the table where stands the stunted bit of an evergreen-tree, then brings the half-loaf of bread and cuts it into slices, laying pieces of bacon on the slices of bread. Then she pours out a glass of milk from a dilapidated and broken pitcher in the safe and brings it to the table, the Boy all the while watching her hungrily. At last he says rather apologetically to the woman.]

The Boy. I ain't had nothin' since a wienerwurst at eleven o'clock.

The Old Woman. Now, dhraw up, Timmie, boy, an' ate yer fill; ye're more thin welcome. [The boy does not sit down, but stands by the table and eats a slice of bread and bacon, drinking from the glass of milk occasionally.]

The Woman. Don't they niver give ye nothin' to ate at the gran' houses when ye'd be takin' the roses?

The Boy. Not them. They'd as soon think o' feedin' a telephone or an automobile as me.

The Woman. But don't they ask ye in to get warm whin ye've maybe come so far?

The Boy. No, they don't seem to look at me 'zacly like a caller. They generally steps out long enough to sign the receipt-book an' shut the front door behin' 'em so as not to let the house get col' the length o' time I'm standin' there. Well, I'm awful much obleeged to ye. Now, I got to be movin' on.

The Old Woman. Sthop an' cilibrate the Christmas wid us. We ain't started to do nothin' yet because the girls haven't come—they know how [nodding her head]—an' they're goin' to bring things—all kinds o' good things to ate an' a branch of rowan berries—ah, boy, a great branch o' rowan wid scarlet berries shinin' [gesticulating and with gleaming eyes], an' we'll all be merry an' kape it up late into the night.

The Boy [in a little fear of her]. I guess it's pretty late now. I got to make that trip an' I guess when I get home I'll be so sleepy I'll jus' tumble in. Ye've been awful good to me, an' it's the first time I been warm to-day. Good-by. [He starts toward the door, but the Old Woman follows him and speaks to him coaxingly.]

The Old Woman. Ah, don't ye go, Michael, lad! Now, bide wid us a bit. [The Boy, surprised at the name, looks queerly at the Old Woman, who then stretches out her arms to him, and says beseechingly:] Ah, boy, ah, Mike, bide wid us, now ye've come! We've been that lonesome widout ye!

The Boy [frightened and shaking his head]. I've got to be movin'.

The Old Woman. No, Michael, little lamb, no!

The Boy [almost terrified, watching her with staring eyes, and backing out]. I got to go! [The Boy goes out, and the Old Woman breaks into weeping, totters over to her old rocking-chair and drops into it, rocks to and fro, wailing to herself.]

The Old Woman. Oh, to have him come an' go again, my little Michael, my own little lad!

The Woman. Don't ye, dearie; now, then, don't ye! 'Twas not Michael, but just our little neighbor boy, Tim. Ye know, poor lamb, now if ye'll thry to remember, that father an' Michael is gone to the betther land an' us is left.

The Old Woman. Nay, nay, 'tis the fairies that took thim an' have thim now, kapin' thim an' will not ever give thim back.

The Woman. Whisht, mother! Spake not of the little folk on the Holy Night! [Crosses herself.] Have ye forgot the time o' all the year it is? Now, dhry yer eyes, dearie, an' thry to be cheerful like 'fore the girls be comin' home. [A noise is heard, the banging of a door and footsteps.] Thim be the girls now, shure they be comin' at last. [But the sound of footsteps dies away.] But they'll be comin' soon. [Wearily, but with the inveterate hope.]

[The two women relapse into silence again, which is undisturbed for a few minutes. Then there is a knock at the door, and together in quavering, reedy voices, they call, "Come in," as before. There enters a tall, big, broad-shouldered woman with a cold, discontented, hard look upon the face that might have been handsome some years back; still, in her eyes, as she looks at the pallid woman on the bed, there is something that denotes a softness underneath it all.]

The Old Woman. Good avnin' to ye! We're that pleased to see our neighbors!

The Neighbor [without paying any attention to the Old Woman, but entirely addressing the woman on the bed.] How's yer cough?

The Woman. Oh, it's jist the same—maybe a little betther. If I could on'y get to the counthry! But the girls must be workin'—they haven't time to take me. Sit down, won't ye? [The Neighbor goes to the bed and sits down on the foot of it.]

The Neighbor. I'm most dead, I'm so tired. I did two washin's to-day—went out and did one this mornin' and then my own after I come home this afternoon. I jus' got through sprinklin' it an' I'll iron to-morrow.

The Woman. Not on Christmas Day!

The Neighbor [with a sneer]. Christmas Day! Did ye hear 'bout the Beckers? Well, they was all put out on the sidewalk this afternoon. Becker's been sick, ye know, an' ain't paid his rent an' his wife's got a two weeks' old baby. It sort o' stunned Mis' Becker, an' she sat on one of the mattresses out there an' wouldn't move, an' nobody couldn't do nothin' with her. But they ain't the only ones has bad luck—Smith, the painter, fell off a ladder an' got killed. They took him to the hospital, but it wasn't no use—his head was all mashed in. His wife's got them five boys an' Smith never saved a cent, though he warn't a drinkin' man. It's a good thing Smith's children is boys—they can make their livin' easier!

The Woman [smiling faintly]. Ain't ye got no cheerful news to tell? It's Christmas Eve, ye know.

The Neighbor. Christmas Eve don't seem to prevent people from dyin' an' bein' turned out o' house an' home. Did ye hear how bad the dipthery is? They say as how if it gits much worse they'll have to close the school in our ward. Two o' the Homan children's dead with it. The first one wasn't sick but two days, an' they say his face all turned black 'fore he died. But it's a good thing they're gone, for the Homans ain't got enough to feed the other six. Did ye hear 'bout Jim Kelly drinkin' again? Swore off for two months, an' then took to it harder'n ever—perty near killed the baby one night.

The Woman [with a wan, beseeching smile]. Won't you please not tell me any more? It just breaks me heart.

The Neighbor [grimly]. I ain't got no other kind o' news to tell. I s'pose I might's well go home.

The Woman. No, don't ye go. I like to have ye here when ye're kinder.

The Neighbor [fingering the bed clothes and smoothing them over the woman]. Well, it's gettin' late, an' I guess ye ought to go to sleep.

The Woman. Oh, no, I won't go to slape till the girls come. They'll bring me somethin' to give me strength. If they'd on'y come soon.

The Neighbor. Ye ain't goin' to set up 'til they git home?

The Old Woman. That we are. We're kapin' the cilebratin' till they come.

The Neighbor. What celebratin'?

The Old Woman. Why, the Christmas, to be shure. We're goin' to have high jinks to-night. In the ould counthry 'tis always Christmas Day, but here 'tis begun on Christmas Eve, an' we're on'y waitin' for the girls, because they know how to fix things betther nor Mary an' me.

The Neighbor [staring]. But ain't they workin' in the store?

The Old Woman. Yes, but they're comin' home early to-night.

The Neighbor [laughing ironically]. Don't ye fool yerselves. Why, they've got to work harder to-night than any in the whole year.

The Woman [wistfully]. But they did say they'd thry to come home early.

The Neighbor. The store's all crowded to-night. Folks 'at's got money to spend never remembers it till the last minute. If they didn't have none they'd be thinkin' 'bout it long ahead. Well, I got to be movin'. I wouldn't stay awake, if I was you.

The Old Woman. Sthay and kape the Christmas wid us! We'll be havin' high jinks by an' by. Sthay, now, an' help us wid our jollity!

The Neighbor. Nay, I left my children in bed, an' I got to go back to 'em. An' I got to get some rest myself—I got that ironin' ahead o' me in the mornin'. You folks better get yer own rest. [She rises and walks to the door.]

The Old Woman [beamingly]. David an' Michael's comin'. [The Neighbor stands with her back against the door and her hand on the knob, staring at the Old Woman.]

The Old Woman [smiling rapturously]. Yis, we're goin' to have a gran' time. [The Neighbor looks puzzled and fearful and troubled, first at the Woman and then at the Old Woman. Finally, without a word, she opens the door and goes out.]

The Old Woman [going about in a tottering sort of dance]. David an' Michael's comin' an' the shepherds for the fairies will show thim the way.

The Woman. If the girls would on'y come! If they'd give me somethin' so as I wouldn't be so tired!

The Old Woman. There's niver a sthar an' there's nobody to give thim a kind word an' the counthry roads are dark an' foul, but they've got the little folk to guide thim! An' whin they reach the city—the poor, lonesome shepherds from the hills!—they'll find naught but coldness an' hardness an' hurry. [Questioningly.] Will the fairies show thim the way? Fairies' eyes be used to darkness, but can they see where it is black night in one corner an' a blaze o' light in another? [She goes to the window for the third time, opens it and leans far out for a long time, then turns about and goes on in her monotone, closing the window.—She seems by this time quite to have forgotten the presence of the pallid woman on the bed, who has closed her eyes, and lies like one dead.]

The Old Woman. Nay, there's niver a sthar, an' the clouds are hangin' heavier an' lower an' the flakes o' snow are fallin'. Poor little folk guidin' thim poor lost shepherds, leadin' thim by the hand so gently because there's no others to be kind to thim, an' bringin' thim to the manger o' the Blessed Babe. [She comes over to her rocking-chair and again sits down in it, rocks slowly to and fro, nodding her head in time to the motion.] Poor little mite of a babe, so cold an' unwelcome an' forgotten save by the silly ould shepherds from the hills! The silly ould shepherds from the strength o' the hills, who are comin' through the darkness in the lead o' the little folk! [She speaks slower and lower, and finally drops into a quiet crooning—it stops and the Old Woman has fallen asleep.]

[Curtain.]

[While the curtain is down the pallid, sick woman upon the bed dies, the Old Woman being asleep does not notice the slight struggle with death. The fire has gone out in the stove, and the light in the lamp, and the stage is in complete darkness when the two girls come stumbling in. They are too tired to speak, too weary to show surprise that the occupants of the room are not awake. They fumble about, trying to find matches in the darkness, and finally discover them and a candle in the safe. They light the candle and place it upon the table by the scraggy little evergreen-tree. They turn about and discern their grandmother asleep in the rocking-chair. Hurriedly they turn to the bed and discover their mother lying there dead. For a full minute they stand gazing at her, the surprise, wonder, awe, misery increasing in their faces; then with screams they run to the bed, throw themselves on their knees and bury their faces, sobbing, in the bedclothes at the Woman's feet.]

 

[Curtain.]