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About the Author
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and four Pulitzer Prizes, Eugene O'Neill (1888–1953) is widely acknowledged as America's greatest playwright. Dover Thrift Editions of his works include Beyond the Horizon and Three Great Plays: The Emperor Jones, Anna Christie, and The Hairy Ape.
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By Eugene O'Neill, GLENN MOTT
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1998 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Scene: "Johnny-the-Priest's" saloon near South Street, New York City. The stage is divided into two sections, showing a small back room on the right. On the left, forward, of the barroom, a large window looking out on the street. Beyond it, the main entrance — a double swinging door. Farther back, another window. The bar runs from left to right nearly the whole length of the rear wall. In back of the bar, a small show-case displaying a few bottles of case goods, for which there is evidently little call. The remainder of the rear space in front of the large mirrors is occupied by half-barrels of cheap whisky of the "nickel-a-shot" variety, from which the liquor is drawn by means of spigots. On the right is an open doorway leading to the back room. In the back room are four round wooden tables with five chairs grouped about each. In the rear, a family entrance opening on a side street.
It is late afternoon of a day in fall.
As the curtain rises Johnny is discovered. "Johnny-the-Priest" deserves his nickname. With his pale, thin, clean-shaven face, mild blue eyes and white hair, a cassock would seem more suited to him than the apron he wears. Neither his voice nor his general manner dispel this illusion which has made him a personage of the waterfront. They are soft and bland. But beneath all his mildness one senses the man behind the mask — cynical, callous, hard as nails. He is lounging at ease behind the bar, a pair of spectacles on his nose, reading an evening paper.
Two longshoremen enter from the street, wearing their working aprons, the button of the union pinned conspicuously on the caps pulled sideways on their heads at an aggressive angle.
First longshoreman: [As they range themselves at the bar] Gimme a shock. Number Two.
[He tosses a coin on the bar]
Second longshoreman: Same here.
[Johnny sets two glasses of barrel whisky before them]
First longshoreman: Here's luck!
[The other nods. They gulp down their whisky]
Second longshoreman: [Putting money on the bar] Give us another.
First longshoreman: Gimme a scoop this time — lager and porter. I'm dry.
Second longshoreman: Same here.
[Johnny draws the lager and porter and sets the big, foaming schooners before them. They drink down half the contents and start to talk together hurriedly in low tones. The door on the left is swung open and Larry enters. He is a boyish, red-cheeked, rather good-looking young fellow of twenty or so]
Larry: [Nodding to Johnny — cheerily] Hello, boss.
Johnny: Hello, Larry. [With a glance at his watch] Just on time.
[Larry goes to the right behind the bar, takes off his coat, and puts on an apron]
First Longshoreman: [Abruptly] Let's drink up and get back to it.
[They finish their drinks and go out left. The Postman enters as they leave. He exchanges nods with Johnny and throws a letter on the bar]
The Postman: Addressed care of you, Johnny. Know him?
Johnny: [Picks up the letter, adjusting his spectacles. Larry comes and peers over his shoulders. Johnny reads very slowly] Christopher Christopherson.
The Postman: [Helpfully] Square-head name.
Larry: Old Chris — that's who.
Johnny: Oh, sure. I was forgetting Chris carried a hell of a name like that. Letters come here for him sometimes before, I remember now. Long time ago, though.
The Postman: It'll get him all right then?
Johnny: Sure thing. He comes here whenever he's in port.
The Postman: [Turning to go] Sailor, eh?
Johnny: [With a grin] Captain of a coal barge.
The Postman: [Laughing] Some job! Well, s'long.
Johnny: S'long. I'll see he gets it.
[The Postman goes out. Johnny scrutinizes the letter] You got good eyes, Larry. Where's it from?
Larry: [After a glance] St. Paul. That'll be in Minnesota, I'm thinkin'. Looks like a woman's writing, too, the old divil!
Johnny: He's got a daughter somewhere's out West, I think he told me once. [He puts the letter on the cash register] Come to think of it, I ain't seen old Chris in a dogs age. [Putting his overcoat on, he comes around the end of the bar] Guess I'll be gettin' home. See you tomorrow.
Larry: Good night to ye, boss.
[As Johnny goes toward the street door, it is pushed open and Christopher Christopherson enters. He is a short, squat, broad-shouldered man of about fifty, with a round, weather-beaten, red face from which his light blue eyes peer short-sightedly, twinkling with a simple good humor. His large mouth, overhung by a thick, drooping, yellow mustache, is childishly self-willed and weak, of an obstinate kindliness. A thick neck is jammed like a post into the heavy trunk of his body. His arms with their big, hairy, freckled hands, and his stumpy legs terminating in large flat feet, are awkwardly short and muscular. He walks with a clumsy, rolling gait. His voice, when not raised in a hollow boom, is toned down to a sly, confidential half-whisper with something vaguely plaintive in its quality. He is dressed in a wrinkled, ill-fitting dark suit of shore clothes, and wears a faded cap of gray cloth over his mop of grizzled, blond hair. Just now his face beams with a too-blissful happiness, and he has evidently been drinking. He reaches his hand out to Johnny]
Chris: Hello, Johnny! Have drink on me. Come on, Larry. Give us drink. Have one yourself. [Putting his hand in his pocket] Ay gat money — plenty money.
Johnny: [Shakes Chris by the hand] Speak of the devil. We was just talkin' about you.
Larry: [Coming to the end of the bar] Hello, Chris. Put it there.
[They shake hands]
Chris: [Beaming] Give us drink.
Johnny: [With a grin] You got a half-snootful now. Where'd you get it?
Chris: [Grinning] Oder fallar on oder barge — Irish fallar — he gat bottle vhisky and we drank it, yust us two. Dot vhisky gat kick, by yingo! Ay yust come ashore. Give us drink, Larry. Ay vas little drunk, not much. Yust feel good. [He laughs and commences to sing in a nasal, high-pitched quaver]
"My Yosephine, come board de ship. Long time Ay vait for you.
De moon, she shi-i-i-ine. She looka yust like you.
Tchee-tchee, tchee-tchee, tchee-tchee, tchee-tchee."
[To the accompaniment of this last he waves his hand as if he were conducting an orchestra]
Johnny: [With a laugh] Same old Yosie, eh, Chris?
Chris: You don't know good song when you hear him. Italian fallar on oder barge, he learn me dat. Give us drink.
[He throws change on the bar]
Larry: [With a professional air] What's your pleasure, gentlemen?
Johnny: Small beer, Larry.
Chris: Vhisky — Number Two.
Larry: [As he gets their drinks] I'll take a cigar on you.
Chris: [Lifting his glass] Skoal!
Johnny: Drink hearty.
Chris: [Immediately] Have oder drink.
Johnny: No. Some other time. Got to go home now. So you've just landed? Where are you in from this time?
Chris: Norfolk. Ve make slow voyage — dirty vedder — yust fog, fog, fog, all bloody time! [There is an insistent ring from the doorbell at the family entrance in the back room. Chris gives a start — hurriedly] Ay go open, Larry. Ay forgat. It vas Marthy. She come with me.
[He goes into the back room]
Larry: [With a chuckle] He's still got that same cow livin' with him, the old fool!
Johnny: [With a grin] A sport, Chris is. Well, I'll beat it home. S'long.
[He goes to the street door]
Larry: So long, boss.
Johnny: Oh — don't forget to give him his letter.
Larry: I won't.
[Johnny goes out In the meantime, Chris has opened the family entrance door, admitting Marthy. She might be forty or fifty. Her jowly, mottled face, with its thick red nose, is streaked with interlacing purple veins. Her thick, gray hair is piled anyhow in a greasy mop on top of her round head. Her figure is flabby and fat; her breath comes in wheezy gasps; she speaks in a loud, mannish voice, punctuated by explosions of hoarse laughter. But there still twinkles in her blood-shot blue eyes a youthful lust for life which hard usage has failed to stifle, a sense of humor mocking, but good-tempered. She wears a man's cap, double-breasted man's jacket, and a grimy, calico skirt. Her bare feet are encased in a mans brogans several sizes too large for her, which gives her a shuffling gait]
Marthy: [Grumblingly] What yuh tryin' to do, Dutchy — keep me standin' out there all day?
[She comes forward and sits at the table in the right corner, front]
Chris: [Mollifyingly] Ay'm sorry, Marthy. Ay talk to Yohnny. Ay forgat. What you goin' take for drink?
Marthy: [Appeased] Gimme a scoop of lager an' ale.
Chris: Ay go bring him back. [He returns to the bar] Lager and ale for Marthy, Larry. Vhisky for me.
[He throws change on the bar]
Larry: Right you are. [Then remembering, he takes the letter from in back of the bar] Here's a letter for you — from St. Paul, Minnesota — and a lady's writin'.
Chris: [Quickly — taking it] Oh, den it come from my daughter, Anna. She live dere. [He turns the letter over in his hands uncertainly] Ay don't gat letter from Anna — must be a year.
Larry: [Jokingly] That's a fine fairy tale to be tellin' — your daughter! Sure I'll bet it's some bum.
Chris: [Soberly] No. Dis come from Anna. [Engrossed by the letter in his hand — uncertainly] By golly, Ay tank Ay'm too drunk for read dis letter from Anna. Ay tank Ay sat down for a minute. You bring drinks in back room, Larry.
[He goes into the room on right]
Marthy: [Angrily] Where's my lager an' ale, yuh big stiff?
Chris: [Preoccupied] Larry bring him.
[He sits down opposite her. Larry brings in the drinks and sets them on the table. He and Marthy exchange nods of recognition. Larry stands looking at Chris curiously. Marthy takes a long draught of her schooner and heaves a huge sigh of satisfaction, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Chris stares at the letter for a moment — slowly opens it, and, squinting his eyes, commences to read laboriously, his lips moving as he spells out the words. As he reads his face lights up with an expression of mingled joy and bewilderment]
Larry: Good news?
Marthy: [Her curiosity also aroused] What's that yuh got — a letter, fur Gawd's sake?
Chris: [Pauses for a moment, after finishing the letter, as if to let the news sink in — then suddenly pounds his fist on the table with happy excitement] Py yiminy! Yust tank, Anna say she's cornin' here right avay! She gat sick on yob in St. Paul, she say. It's short letter, don't tal me much more'n dat. [Beaming] Py golly, dat's good news all at one time for ole fallar! [Then turning to Marthy, rather shamefacedly] You know, Marthy, Ay've tole you Ay don't see my Anna since she vas little gel in Sveden five year ole.
Marthy: How old'll she be now?
Chris: She must be — lat me see — she must be twenty year ole, py Yo!
Larry: [Surprised] You've not seen her in fifteen years?
Chris: [Suddenly growing somber — in a low tone] No. Ven she vas little gel, Ay vas bo'sun on vindjammer. Ay never gat home only few time dem year. Ay'm fool sailor fallar. My voman — Anna's mo'der — she gat tired vait all time Sveden for me ven Ay don't never come. She come dis country, bring Anna, dey go out Minnesota, live with her cousins on farm. Den ven her mo'der died ven Ay vas on voyage, Ay tank it's better dem cousins keep Anna. Ay tank it's better Anna live on farm, den she don't know dat ole davil, sea, she don't know fa'der like me.
Larry: [With a wink at Marthy]This girl, now, 'll be marryin' a sailor herself, likely. It's in the blood.
Chris: [Suddenly springing to his feet and smashing his fist on the table in a rage] No, py God! She don't do dat!
Marthy: [Grasping her schooner hastily — angrily] Hey, look out, yuh nut! Wanta spill my suds for me?
Larry: [Amazed] Oho, what's up with you? Ain't you a sailor yourself now, and always been?
Chris: [Slowly] Dat's yust vhy Ay say it. [Forcing a smile] Sailor vas all right fallar, but not for marry gel. No. Ay know dat. Anna's mo'der, she know it, too.
Larry: [As Chris remains sunk in gloomy reflection] When is your daughter cornin'? Soon?
Chris: [Roused] Py yiminy, Ay forgat.[Reads through the letter hurriedly] She say she come right avay, dat's all.
Larry: She'll maybe be cornin' here to look for you, I s'pose.
[He returns to the bar, whistling. Left alone with Marthy, who stares at him with a twinkle of malicious humor in her eyes, Chris suddenly becomes desperately ill-at-ease. He fidgets, then gets up hurriedly]
Chris: Ay gat speak with Larry. Ay be right back. [Mollifyingly] Ay bring you oder drink.
Marthy: [Emptying her glass] Sure. That's me.
[As he retreats with the glass she guffaws after him derisively]
Chris: [To Larry in an alarmed whisper] Py yingo, Ay gat gat Marthy shore off barge before Anna come! Anna raise hell if she find dat out. Marthy raise hell, too, for go, py golly!
Larry: [With a chuckle] Serve ye right, ye old divil — havin' a woman at your age!
Chris: [Scratching his head in a quandary] You tal me lie for tal Marthy, Larry, so's she gat off barge quick.
Larry: She knows your daughter's cornin'. Tell her to get the hell out of it.
Chris: No. Aydon't like make her feel bad.
Larry: You're an old mush! Keep your girl away from the barge, then. She'll likely want to stay ashore anyway. [Curiously] What does she work at, your Anna?
Chris: She stay on dem cousins' farm till two year ago. Dan she gat yob nurse gel in St. Paul. [Then shaking his head resolutely] But Ay don't vant for her gat yob now. Ay vant for her stay with me.
Larry: [Scornfully] On a coal barge! She'll not like that, I'm thinkin'.
Marthy: [Shouts from the next room] Don't I get that bucket o' suds, Dutchy?
Chris: [Startled — in apprehensive confusion] Yes, Ay come, Marthy.
Larry: [Drawing the lager and ale, hands it to Chris — laughing] Now you're in for it! You'd better tell her straight to get out!
Chris: [Shaking in his boots] Py golly. [He takes her drink in to Marthy and sits down at the table. She sips it in silence. Larry moves quietly close to the partition to listen, grinning with expectation. Chris seems on the verge of speaking, hesitates, gulps down his whisky desperately as if seeking for courage. He attempts to whistle a few bars of "Yosephine" with careless bravado, but the whistle peters out futilely. Marthy stares at him keenly, taking in his embarrassment with a malicious twinkle of amusement in her eye. Chris clears his throat] Marthy —
Marthy: [Aggressively] Wha's that? [Then, pretending to fly into a rage, her eyes enjoying Chris' misery] I'm wise to what's in back of your nut, Dutchy. Yuh want to git rid o' me, huh? — now she's cornin'. Gimme the bum's rush ashore, huh? Lemme tell yuh, Dutchy, there ain't a square-head workin' on a boat man enough to git away with that. Don't start nothin' yuh can't finish!
Chris: [Miserably] Ay don't start nutting, Marthy.
Marthy: [Glares at him for a second — then cannot control a burst of laughter] Ho-ho! Yuh're a scream, Square-head — an honest-ter-Gawd knock-out! Ho-ho!
[She wheezes, panting for breath]
Excerpted from Anna Christie by Eugene O'Neill, GLENN MOTT. Copyright © 1998 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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