At the MacDowell Colony, where he had done much of his writing , THORNTON WILDER last summer became the first recipient of the Edward MacDowell Medal. After the award by the president of the association, James Johnson Sweeney, Mr. Wilder, to the delight of his audience, read this new play, taking each of the parts with inimitable enthusiasm. CHILDHOODis the second in a cycle of one-act plays devoted to the Seven Ages of Man.
A Play by THORNTON WILDER
(Some low chairs at the edges of the arena. These at first represent some bushes in the yard of the children’s home. At the back ,the door to the house; the aisle through the audience serves as a path to the street. Enter from the house Caroline, twelve; Dodie, ten; and, with a rush, Billee, eight.)
DODIE. Sh! Sh! Don’t let Mama hear you! Car’line, Car’line, play the game. Let’s play the game.
CAROLINE. There’s no time, silly. It takes time to play the game.
BILLEE. Play Goin’ to China.
CAROLINE. Don’t talk so loud; we don’t want Mama to hear us. Papa’ll be here soon, and we can’t play the game when Papa’s here.
DODIE. Well, let’s play a little. We can play Going to a Hotel.
BILLEE (clamorously). I want to be Room Service. I want to be Room Service.
CAROLINE. You know Going to a Hotel takes hours. It’s awful when you have to stop for something.
DODIE (quickly). Car’line, listen, I heard Mama telephoning Papa and the car’s got to be fixed and Papa’s got to come home by the bus, and maybe he’ll never get here and we can play for a long time.
CAROLINE. Did she say that? Well, come behind the bushes and think.
(They squat on their haunches behind the bushes.)
BILLEE. Let’s play Hospital and take everything out of Dodie.
CAROLINE. Let me think a minute.
MOTHER (at the door). Caroline! Dodie! (Silence.) Dodie, how often do I have to tell you to hang your coat up properly? Do you know what happened? It fell and got caught under the cupboard door and was dragged back and forth. I hope it’s warm Sunday, because you can’t wear that coat. Billee, stand out for a moment where I can see you. Are you ready for your father when he comes home? Come out of the bushes. Billee, come out. (Billee,a stoic already,comes to the center of the stage and stands for inspection. Mother shakes her head in silence; then) I simply despair. Look at you! What are you children doing anyway? Now, Caroline, you’re not playing one of those games of yours? I absolutely forbid you to play that the house is on fire. You have nightmares all night long. Or those awful games about hospitals. Really, Caroline, why can’t you play Shopping or Going to School? (Silence.) I declare. I give up, I really do. (False exit.) Now remember, it’s Friday night, the end of the week, and you give your father a good big kiss when he comes home.
(She goes out. Billee rejoins his sisters.)
DODIE (dramatic whisper). Car’line, let’s play Funeral! (Climax.) Car’line, let’s play ORPHANS!
CAROLINE. We haven’t time — that takes all day. Besides, I haven’t got the black gloves.
(Billee sees his father coming through the audience. Utter and final dismay.)
BILLEE. Look’t! Look!
ALL THREE. It’s Papa! It’s Papa!
(They fly into the house like frightened pigeons. Father enters jauntily through the audience. It’s warm, and he carries his coat over his shoulder. Arriving at the center oj the stage, he places his coat on the ground, whistles a signal call to his wife, and swinging an imaginary golf club, executes a mighty and very successful shot.)
FATHER. Two hundred and fifty yards!
MOTHER (enters, kisses him, and picks up the coat). Why, you’re early, after all.
FATHER. Jerry drove me to the corner. Picked up a little flask for the weekend.
MOTHER. Well, I wish you wouldn’t open your little flask when the children are around.
FATHER (preparing a difficult shot). Eleventh hole. . . . Where are the children?
MOTHER. They were here a minute ago. They’re out playing somewhere. . . . Your coat on the ground! Really, you’re as bad as Dodie.
FATHER. Well, you should teach the children — little trouble with the dandelions here — that it’s their first duty . . . when their father comes home on Friday nights . . . (Shouts) Fore, you bastards! ... to rush toward their father . . . to grovel . . . abject thanks to him who gave them life.
MOTHER (amused exasperation). Oh, stop that nonsense!
FATHER. On Friday nights . . . after a week of toil at the office ... a man wants to see . . . (he swings) . . . his wives and children clinging to his knees, tears pouring down their cheeks. (He stands up very straight, holding an enormous silver cup.) Gentlemen, I accept this championship cup, but I wish also to give credit to my wife and children, who drove me out of the house every Sunday morning. . . . Where are the children? Caroline! Dodie!
MOTHER. Oh, they’re hiding somewhere.
FATHER. Hiding? Hiding from their father?
MOTHER. They’re playing one of those awful games of theirs. Listen to me, Fred: those games are morbid; they’re dangerous.
FATHER. How do you mean, dangerous?
MOTHER. Really! No one told me when I was a bride that children are half crazy. I only hear fragments of the games, naturally, but do you realize that they like nothing better than to imagine us — away?
MOTHER. Yes — dead!
FATHER (his eye on the shot). One . . . two . . . three! Well, you know what you said.
MOTHER. What did I say?
FATHER. Your dream.
FATHER (softly, with the lowest insinuation). Your dream that . . . you and I ... on a Mediterranean cruise. . . .
MOTHER. It was Hawaii.
FATHER. And that we were — ahem! — somehow . . . alone.
MOTHER. Well, I didn’t imagine them dead! I imagined them with Mother ... or Paul . . . or their Aunt Henrietta.
FATHER (piously). I hope so.
MOTHER. You’re a brute, and everybody knows it. . . . It’s Caroline. She’s the one who starts it all. And afterwards she has those nightmares. Come in. You’ll see the children at supper.
FATHER (looking upward). What has the weatherman predicted for tomorrow?
MOTHER (starting for the house). Floods. Torrents. You’re going to stay home from the golf club and take care of the children. And I’m going to the Rocky Mountains . . . and to China.
FATHER. You’ll be back by noon. What does Caroline say in her nightmares?
MOTHER. Oh! When she’s awake, too. You and I are — away. Do you realize that that girl is mad about black gloves?
MOTHER. Caroline would be in constant mourning if she could manage it. Come in, come in. You’ll see them at supper.
(She goes out. Father strolls to the end of the
stage farthest from the house and calls.)
FATHER. Caroline! (Pause.) Dodie! (Pause.) Bill-eeee! (Silence. He broods aloud, his eyes on the distance.) No instrument has yet been discovered that can read what goes on in another’s mind, asleep or awake. And I hope there never will be. But once in a while, it would help a lot. Is it wrong of me to wish that . . . just once . . . I could be an invisible witness to one of my children’s dreams, to one of their games? (He calls again.) Caroline!
(We are in the game, which is a dream. The children enter as he calls them, but he does not see them and they do not see him. They come in and stand shoulder to shoulder as though they were about to sing a song before an audience. Caroline carries a child’s suitcase and one of her mother’s handbags; she is wearing black gloves. Dodie also has a suitcase and handbag, and no gloves.)
CAROLINE. Dodie ! Hurry before they see us.
DODIE. Where’s Billee gone?
FATHER (being bumped into by Billee as he joins his sisters). Billee!
(Father enters the house. Mother glides out of the house and takes her place at the further end of thestage and turns and faces the children. She is wearing a black hat, deep-black veil, and black gloves. Her air is one of mute acquiescent grief. Caroline glances frequently at her mother as though for prompting. A slight formal pause.)
CAROLINE. I guess, first, we have to say how sorry we are. (To Mother) Shall we begin? (Mother lowers her head slightly.) This first part is in church. Well, in a kind of church. And there’s been a perfectly terrible accydent, an airplane accydent.
DODIE (quickly). No, it was an automobile accydent.
CAROLINE (ditto). It was an airplane.
DODIE (ditto). I don’t want it to be an airplane.
BILLEE (fiercely). It was on a ship. It was a big shipwreck.
CAROLINE. Now, I’m not going to play this game unless you be quiet. It was an airplane accydent. And. . . . They were on it, and they’re not here any more.
BILLEE. They got dead.
CAROLINE (glaring at him). Don’t say that word. You promised you wouldn’t say that word. (Uncomfortable pause.) And we’re very sad. And. . . .
DODIE (brightly). We didn’t see it, though.
CAROLINE. And we’d have put on black dresses, only we haven’t got any. But we want to thank Miss Wilkerson for coming today and for wearing black like she’s wearing. (Mother again lowers her head.) Miss Wilkerson is the best teacher in Benjamin Franklin School, and she’s the grownup we like best.
BILLEE (suddenly getting excited). That’s not Miss Wilkerson. That’s — I mean — look!
CAROLINE. I can’t hear a word you’re saying, and anyway, don’t talk now!
BILLEE (too young to enter the dream; pulling at his sisters’ sleeves urgently). That’s not Miss Wilkerson. That’s Mama!
DODIE. What’s the matter with your eyes?
CAROLINE. Mama’s not here any more. She went away.
BILLEE (staring at Mother, and beginning to doubt). It’s . . . Mrs. Fenwick!
CAROLINE (low but strongly). No-o-o-o! (Resuming the ceremony.) It wasn’t so sad about Grandma, because she was more’n a hundred anyway.
DODIE. And she used to say all the time, “I won’t be with you always,” and things like that, and how she’d give Mama her pearl pin.
BILLEE. I guess she’s glad she isn’t any more.
CAROLINE (uncertainly). So. . . .
DODIE (to Mother, with happy excitement). Are we
orphans now — real orphans? (Mother, always with lowered eyes, nods slightly.) And we don’t have to do things any more?
CAROLINE (severely). Dodie! Don’t say everything. (She consults her mother.) What do I say now?
MOTHER (almost inaudibly). About your father. . . .
CAROLINE. Yes. Papa was a very fine man. And. . . .
DODIE (quickly). He used to swear bad words.
BILLEE (excitedly). All the time! He’d swear swearwords.
CAROLINE. Well, maybe a little.
DODIE. He did. I used to want to die.
CAROLINE. Well, nobody’s perfeck. (Slower.) He was all right, sometimes.
DODIE. He used to laugh too loud in front of people. And he didn’t give Mama enough money to buy clothes. She had to go to town in rags, in terrible old rags.
BILLEE (always excited). Papa’d go like this (pumping his arms up and down in desperation): “I haven’t got it! I haven’t got it! You can’t squeeze blood out of a stone.”
DODIE. Yes, he did.
BILLEE. And Mama’d say: “I’m ashamed to go out in the street.” It was awful. And then he’d say, “I’ll have to mortgage, that’s what I’ll have to do.”
CAROLINE. Billee! How can you say such an awful word? Don’t you ever say that again. Papa wasn’t perfeck, but he would never have done a mortgage.
BILLEE. Well, that’s what he said.
CAROLINE (emphatically). Most times Papa did his best. Everybody makes some mistakes.
DODIE (demurely). He used to drink some, too.
BILLEE (beside himself again). He used to drink oceans. And Mama’d say, “Don’t you think you’ve had enough?” and he’d say, “Down the hatch!”
DODIE. Yes, he did. And “Just a hair of the dog that bit him.” And Mama’d say, “Well, if you want to kill yourself before our eyes!” I used to want to die.
CAROLINE. Billee, don’t get so excited; and you too, Dodie. Papa was a very fine man, and he tried. Only . . . only (reluctantly) he didn’t ever say anything very inneresting.
DODIE. He was inneresting when he told about the automobile accydent he’d seen and all the blood.
BILLEE. Yes, he was. But he stopped in the middle when Mama said, “Not before the children.”
DODIE. Yes, he stopped then.
CAROLINE. Anyway, we’re very sad. And. . . . (She looks to her mother for prompting.)
MOTHER (almost inaudibly). Your mother. . . .
CAROLINE. Yes. About Mama.
BILLEE (hot indignation). Mama’s almost never home. She’s always shopping and having her hair made. And one time she was away years, to see Grandma in Boston.
DODIE. It was only five days, and Grandma was very sick.
BILLEE. No, it wasn’t. It was years and years.
DODIE. Well, when she was away she didn’t have to say Don’t - Don’t - Don’t ail the time, all day and night, Don’t — Don’t - Don’t.
BILLEE (tentatively defending her). Sometimes she makes good things to eat.
DODIE. Beans and mash potatoes, and I just hate them. “Now, you eat every mouthful, or you don’t leave the table.” Ugh!
CAROLINE (recalling them to the ceremony). It wasn’t her fault! Only she didn’t unnerstand children. I guess there’s not one in a hundred hundred that unnerstands children. (To Mother) Is that enough, Miss Wilkerson? I can’t think of anything else to say. And we’ve got to hurry, or Uncle Paul will come to get us, or Aunt Henrietta, or somebody even worse. So can we go now?
MOTHER (a whisper). I think it would be nice, you know, if you said how you loved them, and how they loved you.
CAROLINE. Yes — uh. . . .
DODIE. It was awful when they got huggy and kissy. And when we got back an hour late, from Mary Louise’s picnic, and Mama said, “I was frantic! I was frantic! I didn’t know what had become of you.”
CAROLINE (slowly). She liked us best when we were sick and when I broke my arm.
DODIE. Yes. (Exhausted pause.) Miss Wilkerson, orphans don’t have to be sad all the time, do they? (Mother shakes her head slightly.)
BILLEE. DO we get any money for being orphans?
CAROLINE. We won’t need it. Papa used to keep an envelope behind the clock with money in it, for accydents and times like that. I have it here. (She goes to Mother, like a hostess getting rid of a guest.) Thank you for coming, Miss Wilkerson. We have to go now. And thank you for wearing black.
DODIE (also shaking hands; conventionally). Thank you very much.
(Mother, with bowed head, glides into the house.)
CAROLINE. Now be quiet, and I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We’ve got to hurry, so don’t interrup me. We’re orphans and we don’t have anybody around us or near us and we’re going to take a bus. (Sensation.) All over the world. We’re going to be different persons and we’re going to change our names. (Gravely she opens her suitcase. She takes out and puts on a hat and fur neckpiece of her mother’s. She looks adorable.) I’m Mrs. Arizona. Miss Wilson, please get ready for the trip.
CAROLINE. Miss Wilson! Will you put your hat on, please.
DODIE. Oh! (She puts on a hat from her suitcase.)
I want to be married, too. I want to be Mrs. Wilson.
CAROLINE. You’re too young. People would laugh at you. We’ll be gone for years and years, and by and by, in China or somewhere, you can gradually be Mrs. Wilson.
BILLEE. I want to be somebody, too.
CAROLINE. You’re only eight! If you don’t cry all the time and say awful things, I’ll give you a real name. Now we can start.
BILLEE. But aren’t Papa and Mama coming?
(The girls turn and glare at him.) Oh ! They’re dead. (More glaring.)
CAROLINE. All right. S-s-stay at home and go to s-s-school, if you want to. Papa and Mama are happy. Papa’s playing golf and Mama’s shopping. Are you ready, Miss Wilson?
DODIE. Yes, Mrs. Arizona, thank you.
CAROLINE. Don’t run, but if we hurry we can each get a seat by the window.
(Father enters, wearing a bus conductor’s cap and big dark glasses. He casually arranges the chairs so as to indicate some of the seats of a long bus pointing toward the exit through the audience. The children form a line at the door of the bus, tickets in hand.)
FATHER. Take your places in line, please. The first stop, ladies and gentlemen, will be AshagorraKallapalla, where there will be twenty minutes for lunch. That’s the place where you get to cat the famous heaven-fruit sandwich. (He starts punching the tickets of some imaginary passengers who precede the children.) That cat won’t be happy, madam. That’s our experience. (Severely, palping a passenger) You haven’t got mumps, have you? Well, I’d appreciate it if you sat at a distance from the other passengers.
BILLEE (staggered). But that’s Papa!
DODIE. Don’t be silly. Papa’s away.
BILLEE. But it looks like Papa . . . and (losing assurance) it looks like Dr. Summers, too.
CAROLINE. Billy, I don’t know what’s the matter with you. Papa wouldn’t be working as a bus conductor. Papa’s a man that’s got more money than that.
FATHER (to Caroline). Your ticket, please, madam.
CAROLINE. We want to go to all the places you’re going to, please.
FATHER. But you mean this to be a round-trip ticket, don’t you? You’re coming back, aren’t you?
CAROLINE (none too sure; her eyes avoiding his). Well, maybe I won’t.
FATHER (lowering his voice, confidentially). I’ll punch it on the side here. That’ll mean you can use it, whenever you want, to come back here. (Caroline takes her place on the bus. Mother glides inand takes her place in the line behind Billee. She is now wearing a brown hat and a deep-brown veil. Father punches Dodie’s ticket.) Why, I think I’ve seen your face before, madam. Weren’t you in that terrible automobile accident — blood all over the road, and everything?
DODIE (embarrassed; low). No, no, I wasn’t.
FATHER. Well, I’m glad to hear that. (Dodie takes her seat behind Caroline. To Billee, punching his ticket) And what’s your name, sir, if I may ask?
CAROLINE (officiously). His name is Mr. Wentworth.
FATHER. Mr. Wentworth. Good morning. (Man to man, with a touch of severity) No smoking in the first six rows, watch that, and (significant whisper) there’ll be no liquor drinking on this bus. I hope that’s understood. (Billee, considerably intimidated, takes his place behind Dodie. During the following he sees Mother and stares at her in amazement. Father punches Mother’s ticket, saying in sad condolence) I hope you have a good trip, ma’am, I hope you have a good trip.
MOTHER(a whisper). Thank you. (She takes a place in the last row.)
CAROLINE (rummaging in her handbag). Would you like a candy bar, Miss Wilson . . . and Mr. Wentworth?
DODIE. Thank you, Mrs. Arizona, I would.
BILLEE. Look! LOOK! That’s Mama!
DODIE. Stop poking me. It’s not. It’s not.
FATHER. Well, now, all aboard that’s going to go. (He climbs on the bus, takes his seat, tries his gears, then rises and addresses the passengers weightily.) Before we start, there are some things I want to say bout this trip. Bus travel is not easy. I think you’ll know what I mean, Mrs. Arizona, when I say that it’s like family life: we’re all stuck in this vehicle together. We go through some pretty dangerous country, and I want you all to keep your heads. Like when we go through the Black Snake Indian territory, for instance. I’ve just heard they’re getting a little — restless. And along the Kappikappi River, where all those lions and tigers are, and other things. Now, I’m a pretty good driver, but nobody’s perfect and everybody can make a mistake once in a while. But I don’t want any complaints afterward that you weren’t warned. If anybody wants to get off this bus and go home, this is the moment to do it, and I’ll give you your money back. (Indicating Mother) There’s one passenger here I know can be counted on. She’s made the trip before and she’s a regular crackerjack. Excuse me praising you to your face, ma’am, but I mean every word of it. Now, how many of you have been trained in first aid — will you hold up your hands? (Billee and Mother raise their hands promptly. Caroline and Dodie look at one another uncer-
tainly but do not raise their hands.) Well, we may have to hold some classes later — go to school, so to speak. Accidents are always likely to happen when we get to the tops of the mountains. So! I guess we’re ready to start. When we start, we often have a word of prayer if there’s a minister of the gospel on board. (To Billee) May I ask if you’re a minister of the gospel, Mr. Wentworth?
FATHER. Then we’ll just have to think it. (Lowering his voice, to Billee) And, may I add, I hope that there won’t be any bad language used on this bus. There are ladies present — and some very fine ladies, too, if I may say so. Well, here we go! Forward march.
CAROLINE (to Dodie, confidentially). If it’s going to be so dangerous, I think we’d better move up a little nearer him.
(They slip across the aisle and slide, side by side,
into the second row behind Father. Billee has gone
to the back of the car and stands staring at Mother.)
BILLEE (indicating the veil). Do you ever take that off?
MOTHER(softly, lowered eyes). Sometimes I do.
CAROLINE. Billee! Don’t disturb the lady. Come and sit by us.
MOTHER. Oh, he’s not disturbing me at all. (Soon he takes the seat beside her, and she puts her arm around him.)
FATHER(as he drives, talking to the girls over his shoulder). It’s hard work driving a bus, ladies. Did you ever think of that?
CAROLINE. Oh, yes. It must be hard.
FATHER. Sometimes I wonder why I do it. Mornings . . . leave my house and family and get on this bus. And it’s no fun, believe me. (Jerk.) See that? Almost ran over that soldier. And — would you believe it? — I don’t get much money for it.
CAROLINE (breathless interest). Don’t they pay you a lot?
FATHER. Mrs. Arizona, I’m telling you the truth: sometimes I wonder if we’re going to have enough to eat.
DODIE. Why, I think that’s terrible!
FATHER. And if I can get enough clothes to wear. I see that’s a nice furpiece you have on, Mrs. Arizona.
CAROLINE. Oh, this is old.
DODIE (very earnestly). But at your house you do have breakfast and lunch and supper, don’t you?
FATHER. Miss Wilson, you’re awfully kind to ask. So far we have. Sometimes it’s just, you know, beans and things like that. Life’s not easy, Mrs. Arizona. You must have noticed that.
BILLEE (big alarm). Mr. Bus Conductor, look ‘t. Look over there!
FATHER (galvanized; all stare toward the left). Ladies and gentlemen, there are those goldarn Indians again! I want you to put your heads right down on the floor! Right down! (All except Father crouch on the floor.) I don’t want any of them arrows to come in the windows and hit you. (Father fires masterfully from the hip.) They’ll be sorry for this. BANG! BANG! That’ll teach them. BANG! (Billee rises and whirls, shooting splendidly in all directions.) There! The danger’s over, ladies and gentlemen. You can get in your seats now. I’ll report that to the Man up There in Washington, D. C., you see if I don’t. (To Mother) May I ask if you’re all right back there?
MOTHER. Yes, thank you, Mr. Bus Conductor. I want to say that Mr. Wentworth behaved splendidly. I don’t think that I’d be here except for him.
FATHER. Good ! Minute I saw him I knew he had the old stuff in him! Ladies, I think you did A-number-one, too.
CAROLINE. Does that happen often, Mr. Bus Conductor?
FATHER. Well, you know what a man’s life is like, Mrs. Arizona. Fight. Struggle. Survive. Struggle. Survive. Always was.
DODIE. What if— what if you didn’t come back?
FATHER. Do you mean, if I died? We don’t think of that, Miss Wilson. But when we come home Friday nights we like to see the look on the faces of our wives and children. Another week, and we’re still there. And do you know what I do on my free days, Miss Wilson, after sitting cooped up behind this wheel?
DODIE (sudden inspiration). Play golf.
FATHER. You’re bright, Miss Wilson, bright as a penny.
CAROLINE (who has been glancing at Mother). Mr. Bus Conductor, can I ask you why that lady — why she’s so sad?
FATHER. You don’t know?
FATHER (lowering his voice). She just got some bad news. Her children left the house.
CAROLINE. Did they?
FATHER. Don’t mention it to her, will you?
CAROLINE (insecurely). Why did they do that?
FATHER. Well, children are funny. Funny. Now I come to think of it, it’d be nice if, a little later, you went back and sort of comforted her. Like Mr. Wentworth’s doing.
DODIE. Wasn’t she good to them?
FATHER. What’s that?
DODIE. Wasn’t she a good mother?
FATHER. Well, let me ask you a question: is there any such thing as a good mother or a good father? Look at me: I do the best I can for my family — things to eat, you know, and dresses and shoes. I see you’ve got some real pretty shoes on, ladies. But, well, children don’t understand, and that’s all you can say about it. Do you know what one of my daughters said to me last week? She said she wished she was an orphan. Hard. Very hard.
CAROLINE (struggling). Lots of times parents don’t understand children, either.
FATHER (abruptly breaking the mood). But now, ladies and gentlemen, I have a treat for you. (Stops the bus and points dramatically to the front right. All gaze in awe.) Isn’t that a sight! The Mississippi River! Isn’t that a lot of water!
MOTHER (after a moment’s gaze, with increasing concern). But — but — Mr. Bus Conductor!
FATHER (looking back at her and sharing her anxiety). Madam, I think I know what you’re thinking, and it troubles me too. (Mother has come halfway down the aisle, her eyes on the river.) Ladies and gentlemen, the river’s in flood. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so high. The question is: would it be safe to cross it today? Look yourselves — would that bridge hold?
MOTHER (returning to her seat). Mr. Bus Conductor, may I make a suggestion?
FATHER. You certainly may.
MOTHER. I suggest that you ask the passengers to raise their hands if they think it’s best that we don’t cross the Mississippi today.
FATHER. Very good idea! That’ll mean we turn around and go back to where we came from. Now think it over, ladies and gentlemen. All who are ready to do that raise their hands. (Mother and Billee raise their hands at once. Then Dodie. Finally, unhappily, Caroline. Father earnestly counts the twenty hands in the bus.) All right! Everybody wants to go back. So, here we go. (He starts the bus.) Now, I’m going to go pretty fast, so sit square in your seats. (After a pause, confidentially over his shoulder to Caroline) I hope you really meant it when you put your hand up, Mrs. Arizona.
CAROLINE. Well. . . .
FATHER. You do have some folks waiting for you at home, don’t you?
DODIE (quickly). Yes, we do.
CAROLINE (slowly, near to tears). But we didn’t get to China or to that river where the lions and tigers are. It’s too soon to go back to where I come from, where everybody says silly things they don’t mean one bit, and where nobody treats you like a real person. And we didn’t get to eat the famous heaven-fruit sandwich at that place.
DODIE (embarrassed). Car’line, you can do it another time. (Caroline’s lowered head shows that she doesn’t believe this.)
FATHER (confidentially). Mrs. Arizona, I’ll honor that ticket at any time, and I’ll be looking for you.
CAROLINE (raises her eyes to him gravely; after a a minute she says, also in a low voice) Mr. Bus Conductor —
FATHER. Yes, Mrs. Arizona.
CAROLINE. Do you get paid just the same, even if you didn’t go the whole way?
FATHER. I? Oh, don’t you think of that, ma’am. We can tighten our belts. There’s always something.
CAROLINE(groping feverishly in her handbag, with a quick sob). No! I haven’t got a lot of money, but — here! Here’s more’n two dollars, and you can buy a lot of things to eat with that.
FATHER(quietly and slowly, his eyes on the road). That’s real thoughtful of you, Mrs. Arizona, and I thank you. But you put that away and keep it. I feel sure that this is going to be my good year. (After a pause.) Excuse me, may I put my hand on your hand a minute to show you how I appreciate what you did?
CAROLINE(shy). Yes, you may. (He does so, very respectfully; then returns to his wheel.)
DODIE. Car’line, what’re you crying about?
CAROLINE. When . . . you try to do something for somebody . . . and. . . .
FATHER(very cheerful and loud). Gee whillikers! My wife will be surprised to see me back home so soon. Poor old thing, she doesn’t have many pleasures. Just a little shopping now and then. (He tosses off a snatch of song) “The son of a, son of a, son of a gambolier. ...” I think this would be a good time to go back and say a nice word to that lady who’s had a little disappointment in her home, don’t you?
CAROLINE. Well, uh. . . . Come, Dodie. (Caroline goes back and sits in front of Mother, talking to her over the back of the seat; Dodie stands beside her.) The bus conductor says that everybody isn’t in your house any more.
MOTHER(lowered eyes). Did he? That’s true.
CAROLINE. They’ll come back. I know they will.
MOTHER. Oh, do you think so?
CAROLINE. Children don’t like being treated as children all the time. And I think it isn’t worth while being born into the world if you have to do the same things every day.
DODIE. The reason I don’t like grownups is that they don’t ever think any inneresting thoughts. I guess they’re so old that they just get tired of expecting anything to be different or exciting. So they just do the same old golfing and shopping.
CAROLINE(suddenly seeing a landmark through the window). Mr. Bus Conductor! Mr. Bus Conductor! Please, will you please stop at the next corner? This is where we have to get off. (Under her voice, commandingly) Come, Dodie, Billee. Come quick! (They start up the aisle toward the bus exit, then turn back to Mother. Their farewells are their best party manners.)
THE CHILDREN(shaking hands with both parents). I’m very glad to have met you. Thank you very much. I’m very glad to have met you.
FATHER Mother joins him at the bus exit). But you’ll come on my bus again? We’ll see you again?
CAROLINE(to Dodie and Billee, low). Now, run! (They run into the house like rabbits. She stands at the bus door, with lowered eyes.) Well . . . you see . . . you’re just people in our game. You’re not really alive. That’s why we could talk to you. (A quick glance at her father, then she looks down again.) Besides, we’ve found that it’s best not to make friends with grownups, because ... in the end . . . they don’t act fair to you. . . . But thank you; I’m very glad to have met you.
(She goes into the house. Father takes off his cap and glasses, Mother her hat and veil. They place them on chairs. Father prepares to make a difficult golf stroke.)
FATHER. Where are the children?
MOTHER. Oh, they’re hiding somewhere, as usual.
FATHER. Hiding! Hiding from their father!
MOTHER. Or they’re playing one of those awful games of theirs. Come in, come in. You’ll see them at supper.
(She goes into the house. Father stands at the end
of the stage farthest from the house and calls.)
FATHER. Caroline! Dodie! Billee-ee-ee!
(Silence, of course. He goes into the house.)