THE GOLDEN ANIMAL:
FOR Steven Davis, “The Chief” (photo: James D. Gossage)
(The stage is covered, walls, floor, and ceiling, in a matte black fabric, quite lusterless, so that even a spotlight directly on it does not show until a character steps into its path.
(At curtain’s rise, the CHIEF, a magnificent youth of enormous presence, lies asleep on the floor, downstage right.. A spotlight is focused directly above him. He begins to toss and turn as if dreaming a troubling and exciting dream.
(Suddenly his WIFE rises from beside him in a kneeling position. It is as if she had sprung from his side. She gazes down at his now once again immobile form and brushes her hair away form her brooding face. He stirs again, mumbling.
(She rises, and exits right. The Chief has a last oneiric spasm, his arm reaching into the air as if hoisting a sword, and wakes, though he lies yet on his back, staring up into the light. His breathing is audible.
(His wife returns, her hair pulled back, an earthen bowl in her hands. She comes to his side.)
WIFE: Wake up, wake up. It’s time.
CHIEF: (Sits up into the light.) How do you know?
WIFE: It’s time for you to go and lead the hunt.
CHIEF: (Stretches, still sitting.) How do you know?
WIFE: (Turning away, setting the bowl down.) It’s morning.
CHIEF: It’s been morning for hours. I lie here half awake and feel the sun moving across me. You are asleep by my side. Then suddenly you awake and tell me, “It’s time.” How do you know?
WIFE: It’s morning. It’s time to start the hunt. The sun will be here soon. (His persistence irritates and puzzles her.)
CHIEF: There was a time when I decided when it was time to start the hunt. I woke and smelled the air and judged how high the sun had climbed into the trees. You would be asleep, and often I would leave you sleeping there and tiptoe out to meet the men. Then you began to waken with me. Now you wake before me and tell me, “It’s time.” I want to know how you know.
WIFE: (Trying to make a pleasantry of it.) How do you know what time of year to hunt the deer and when to hunt the lion?
CHIEF”: The old man who was Chief of the people before me taught me who to watch the sky and the winds and to judge the flights of birds. He watches with me and we decide from all these things what we should do each day. But you are alone here with me, and asleep. What tells you when to wake me?
WIFE: Have I ever wakened you early, or too late?
CHIEF: No, never. (This is said as farther reproach.)
WIFE: I wake you so that you may eat before the other men come to call you.
CHIEF: And how do the other men know when to come to me? I have asked them. Their wives tell them. (A long pause. Contemptuously.) Oh, it is because you move helplessly with the moon. You feel its movements even when it is hidden under the Earth.
(He rises, sensuously, lazily.)
WIFE: (In awe of his beauty.) You should be moving with the sun. The other men are waiting.
CHIEF: (Sharply.) How do you KNOW?
WIFE: (More miffed than triumphant.) I hear them calling you.
(And indeed we discern, beyond the light, the figures of three men, quietly calling, “Lord. My lord.”.)
CHIEF: (Gathering his dignity.) Be careful. Bring me my sword. (She goes off right and returns dragging a huge sword.) Be careful… (He takes the sword and swings it effortlessly.)…before you try to rule the people. You would have to fight me for the place of Chief as the second man fights me, and who do you think would win?.
WIFE: I have never fought you.
CHIEF: Stay at home with the children and tend the fields. (He starts out, strutting like a great bird.)
WIFE: (Her worship evident.) Where will you go?
CHIEF: Where the deer go.
WIFE: When will you be home?
CHIEF: When we have found them.
WIFE: How long will you be gone?
CHIEF: (With a vengeful smile.) How do I know? (He leaves the light.)
WIFE: (Starts off right, turns and speaks angrily after his vanished figure.) I feel you tossing beside me, restless at the touch of the sun. I hear you muttering, making the sounds of the hunt. I hear the rattling of arrows and of swords. I smell the fires as the women start their work. I hear the children crying for their fathers. And I know that you will go. (She exits right.)
(Stage left are three waiting men. They are a BOY of twelve or so, the OLD CHIEF, forty or fifty, and THE RIVAL, of an age with the Chief and almost as impressive, a sullen and dissatisfied male.
(They are squatting on their haunches, making sketches in the sand with an arrow. As the Chief approaches, they stand almost at attention.
(The Chief surveys them disdainfully and raises his face to the sky to calculate the weather.)
CHIEF: (To the boy.) Have you gone across the valley to the opposite ridge as I told you to? Have you seen signs of deer passing that way?
BOY: (With a nudge from the Old Chief, he steps forward.) I went across the valley to the opposite ridge. At the top of the far rise, I found their tracks. They come this way, across the valley to our ridge.
CHIEF: Then we will meet them in the valley between the ridges. (To the O.C.) What rain will there be? What winds must we consider?
O.C.: There will be rain soon, but only for a short time. The wind will blow from this ridge where our women’s fields are, across the valley to the far ridge.
CHIEF: Then we must come from behind them and take them in the valley. What are their numbers?
BOY: Fewer than yesterday. Every day they are fewer.
CHIEF: Some animal follows them, a wolf or lion. I will take care of him. While the rain lasts to confuse their sense of smell, we will track them this way from the far ridge. But with this thing following them, if it attacks, they may break too soon across the valley. One of us must remain here on our ridge to frighten them back if that should happen. You (to the Rival.) will wait here in the forest at the top of our ridge. While the rain lasts, you may shoot birds from the trees. You are very silent and very sure with the bow. When the rain ends, watch for us on the slope that faces you across the valley. If the deer catch scent of us and run, I will throw my sword into the air to catch the sun. When you see this sign, break from your cover with loud yelling to frighten them back our way.
RIVAL: And if they don’t’ break? If they catch no scent of you or if there is no frightening beast following them? Am I to remain on this ridge shooting birds until I see you bearing the kill home?
O.C.: Quiet. The Chief will tell you his plans.
CHIEF: (To the Rival.) You have keen eyes and great skill. I set you were you are needed for the hunt. Whether the deer break or not, when the time comes for the kill, I will fling my sword into the air to call you. There is a great stag leading these deer. When they run in fear to follow him he will stand and fight to keep his flock in order. I know your strength and your quickness from the times you have fought me for the place of Chief. When there is danger, I will always want you at my side.
(The Chief and the Rival stand facing one another for a moment. The Chief turns away and speaks to the Boy.)
CHIEF: You, run low now in the underbrush to where you saw deer sign. The old Chief and I will cut lower around the ridge in case the deer have strayed that way. Stay at the highest part of the ridge and we will meet you there to follow the tracks. Whistle three times like a redbird and wait for us. (He demonstrates the redbird’s distinctive cry.) When the rain halts, we will make for the deer. Go. (The Boy dashes off, right.) Go. (The Rival exits slowly, left.) Come. (The Chief and the Old Chief start off right.)
(The Rival lingers for a long look after the Chief. The wife emerges to watch the Chief leave. She sees the Rival, who then sees her. They hold one another’s eyes for a long moment. She looks after the Chief and back at the Rival. He turns and leaves quickly. She stares after him as the stage goes dark.)
(Up instantly on a rain effect center stage, which spreads to include the whole empty stage. The Boy enters from the right, tracking. He locates the trail of the deer, which leads off left, then starts to make the redbird’s cry toward the right. A reply comes from stage left, and he wheels in surprise. He looks quickly stage right, then makes a reply to the left. The reply is immediate, though some distance away. He laughs and calls again, thinking it a real bird. A reply comes from stage left, and then, quite suddenly and quite near, from stage right. He turns, frightened to face the Chief and the Old Chief as they enter from the right.)
(The Boy indicates the tracks, and the Chief and Old Chief discuss in sign language the direction the deer are going, the weather conditions, et cetera. During this, the call comes from the left and the Boy looks quickly in that direction, then back to the discussion.)
CHIEF: Very well. We will wait here for the rain to stop. (He and the Old Chief squat to wait.) We need full sunlight for the sign of my sword to call my Rival to us. The deer will seek shelter in the forest till the rain is over. (The call comes from the left.) Why does that one bird call in the rain?
BOY: It must be in answer to my call. Before you answered, I thought it must be you, coming from that way.
CHIEF: (Stands.) I heard you calling many times.
O.C.: (To Boy.) You must not play games with the birds and risk frightening the game. You should be left at home with the women.
(The call comes again from the left—and then an answer, from farther away.)
CHIEF: (As the Old Chief stands.) Something comes this way.
O.C.: No, the birds would make a different cry if there were danger.
CHIEF: What would you do?
O.C.: This is very strange. You must decide.
CHIEF: (To Boy.) You. Go very low and very quietly. Follow the track of the deer halfway down the ridge to see if there are tracks following them. Call back to us with this cry every hundred paces. (He demonstrates a different bird call.) When you can no longer hear my reply, come back. Go no farther and make no other sound. (The redbird cries are heard again.) Hurry. Quickly. Quietly.
(The boy exits left.)
O.C.: What do you think?
CHIEF: I wanted the boy away. I think he will be safe. We must talk.
O.C.: You think it is your Rival whom you set to watch, coming this way.
CHIEF: No bird calls and calls in the rain. Have you ever heard one?
O.C.: I have seen many things, but I have never seen this.
CHIEF: What do you mean?
O.C.: When I was Chief of the people, I fought many men many times for my place. There were many men whom I feared—I may say this now, though you may not—but I never feared a man who had challenged me before other men. Whenever you show your strength to your rival, you show also that you know his strength and his pride, and that you honor him. Do you think he would come hunting you in secret and in the rain, so that his strength would be in doubt and all would know he had no courage? Would the people follow him then?
CHIEF: Then what do you think? A bird is crying in the rain. How do you read the sign?
O.C.: I read it as something strange, and as something I do not know. When the boy returns, we will know something more.
CHIEF: He must come soon. When the rain ends, we will lose this thing in the cries of all the birds. When the boy calls, I will make no reply. (Boy calls.)
O.C.: I think you have forgotten that we came to hunt the deer.
CHIEF: We will hunt this instead.
O.C.: We are here to hunt fro food to feed the people.
CHIEF: There is a man hunting me in the forest. Without me, where will the people be?
O.C.: You do not know this.
HIEF: I do know it.
O.C.: How do you know? (The Boy returns.)
CHIEF: (Pulling rank.) I am the Chief and I will decide what will be done. Would you rule instead?
O.C.: (Helpless with the Boy present and listening.) The Chief is the head of the people. Like a man, the people cannot think with two heads. The Chief should listen to the thoughts of the people, but he may not be questioned nor his choice disputed.
CHIEF: And I have chosen to hunt this thing down. (To Boy.) What have you found?
BOY: I do not know who to say it.
O.C.: Tell the Chief what you have seen.
BOY: I found the track of a man.
CHIEF: I knew that he would hunt me. I knew that he would kill me, even though he could never lead the people. He has no thought of the people, but only thinks of me.
CHIEF: Did you see him? Did he see you? From which way does he come?
BOY: From the wrong way. From the way the deer came, but across their trail and then with it. And…I do not know what to say…
CHIEF: Tell me. Tell me or I will throw you off the ridge.
BOY: There were the tracks of more men, two men, three.
CHIEF: (After a pause.) Our own tracks from the hunt two days ago.
O.C.: No, we were nowhere hereabouts.
CHIEF: But what then? Has he brought the women with him? Or the old men?
BOY: No, they were light tracks, young men, and not of the people. I know the tracks of the people. Our people.
CHIEF: Then—other men.
BOY: Other men? Are there other men? Where are there other men?
CHIEF: (To O.C.) Where are there other men?
O.C.: There are other men following the deer.
(The cry comes, three times, from different directions.)
CHIEF: We must be silent, and we must be fast.
O.C.: What do you man to do?
CHIEF: They are near. They have heard the boy’s cries, and our. They come this way. They will be upon us soon.
O.C.: But—Do you think thy mean to fight?
CHIEF: Certainly they mean to fight. They will not bear our following the deer. (The cry comes again.) Three of them at least. We must not be caught here.
O.C.: But unless they are very many, there are deer enough for many people.
CHIEF: (Ignoring Old Chief.) Boy, quit hopping up and down and listen to me. You will go back, behind us. We will all run low and go separately, down through the forest to the valley, making the cry of the mallard – (Demonstrates it.) – so they will think we are many. Wait until we are past them before we begin to make the cry. They will turn and follow us and we will wait for them at the bottom of the ridge., where the sun will blind their eyes. The boy will run in the tall grass to the meadow, making the cry first here, then there, as if we had many men with us.
O.C. Why do you wish to fight them?
CHIEF: If they come upon us, they will kill us. They will take our hunting grounds. They will come to the village and take our women.
O.C: How do you know they will do this?
CHIEF: How? Because it is what I would do. Come.
(Exeunt in three directions. The redbird cries grow nearer and nearer. Then we hear the mallards’ cries. The stage goes dark.
(The sounds rise to a high pitch, then suddenly diminish and vanish. The lights come up on the Rival, a string of red birds over his shoulder.)
RIVAL: When will you throw the sword? I am tired of shooting birds asleep on the limbs. The rain has left this ridge now and the meadow is turning yellow in the sun. Are you already in the tall grass cutting the stag and taking his antlers for your son? Will you call me only to help you tote it into the village? I have heard you calling with the voice of the redbird, again and again, to let me know that you are deep in the forest without me. The redbirds. You told me to stay and shoot the sleeping redbirds. What if I were to track the cry of the redbird and let an arrow fly? What then? Who then would be Chief? Who then would meet the stag and hear the women sing his name into the old songs tonight around the fire while he gives the antlers to his son? Whose wife will sleep under the skin of the stag? No, I would not have my wife sleep under your skin with the mark of my arrow in your back. I will meet you again on the open field when the spring comes, and we will know if my strength has grown to match yours. Then we shall see who waits in the wet trees for the sign of the Chief’s sword thrown into the air. I shall show you mercy for your strength and courage when I have you down before all the men in the village. I shall plant my foot on your chest and hold my sword above you while they see that I am Chief, first and strongest of men among them all—then I shall smile in your face and throw my sword away into the air so that you remember this day. Oh, you swore that I would be in on the kill, that I should be at your side, that I should be the second one. I have obeyed you, I have followed you. At your word, I have stayed behind. I have sung the songs with your name woven into them. Do not make me nothing or I shall come at you, I who know your plans, I who know where you will be, I who am at your side when you tell your plans, I shall come upon you like the stag in a dream, and bear down upon you while I smile, while you smile, thinking I am safe and loyal. What? The cry! They all cry! Or is it birds? No, the clouds still rest on the far ridge, the birds still sleep or whimper in the wet woods. It must be them. But why do they make the dry again and again to one another? The mallard’s cry. Why do they make the mallard’s cry? So many. Are they all there? Has he called the women or the old men to hunt with him and left me here alone? What have I done? Throw your sword into the air, call me, my lord, I cannot move without your word. Oh, I shall see you slain! There are other men there. What is that? Ha1 The flash of your sword. I come, my lord, your death comes. Another. And another. Have they given the boy a sword? I hear metal on metal. What voices are those? No! No! No other man shall touch my Chief! (Exit with a cry. Darkness.)
(The bird-cries and the battle sounds crescendo. The sounds stop abruptly. The Chief’s wife enters downstage, calling.)
WIFE: Come back! Come back! Don’t fight! Don’t play over there.
(An OLD WOMAN enters. They set to work pulling weeds.)
WIFE: Oh, they won’t do anything they’re told. They’re his sons. All they want to do is run away into the forest.
O.W.: He goes to the forest to hunt. He returns to feed the people.
WIFE: He hunts only so that he can run away. But he loves the hunt.
O.W.: And where would the people be if he did not?
WIFE: We could raise enough here in the fields, if we had the men to help us, to feed the people. But no, he must take the men away to chase his deer and lions while I do the work.
O.W.: The men follow him gladly.
WIFE: They are as bad as he is. They are like the children, nothing but games and noise and trouble. The children and the men only come back to us to be loved and fed.
O.W.: Then they will always return.
WIFE: Do you think so? I wish I did. Someday—I have dreamed it—someday he will go into the forest. I have seen him in a dream, his back turned to me, his hair in the sun, golden as the sun, disappearing into the forest forever. There he finds some one great beast to follow, and follows it far away, and I never see him again.
O.W.: He would return.
WIFE: Only to flaunt the beast before you all, to hear you sing songs about him. He loves to hear you all call him the strongest, the best, the bravest, the loveliest, the savior of the people.
O.W.: Gladly we offer him our praise.
WIFE: Even that can never hold them away from the forest. Do you remember last year when they made the great killing of deer, when we had food for many days dried and strung in the huts? At first he laughed and played with the children all day, and at night we feasted and drank and danced around the fire. He and the other men built new huts and repaired the old ones, and even helped us to clean the skins of the deer, and came out into the fields with us. And every night we made love, and every morning. Then he began to be restless. He would rise early to sharpen his sword and make arrows. They would meet to practice with the bows and arrows, shooting first at trees and then at birds. I could hear them making battles with wooden swords all around the huts. They would sit in the sun in the hot part of the day, talking and singing about the great hunt., and about old hunts, and when they talked of them they laughed. He began to toss and turn all night, making noises and running in his sleep—like a dog. He taught the boys to hold spears
O.W.: So they must learn.
WIFE: Learn? They learn by themselves. Every twig is a sword and every bush a great deer. They beat the birds out of the bushes and throw stones at the birds. But it was not enough for him to make hunters out of the children, to make them unruly and troublesome for me. He began to quarrel with the other men. He began to stay in the house and quarrel with me, and to want to make love whenever there was work to do. The men stopped gathering together and stayed in, or wandered about alone among the huts. They began to hunt one another. He watched the other men through the window of the hut, and there would be no words between them as the men went by. I was glad to see him at last go back to the hunt, for he was of no use to the people.
O.W.: Yes, it is good to see them go.
WIFE: He goes for no reason but to show that he is strong, that he is bravest of men, as in your songs.
O.W.: Hs strength is the strength of the people. His courage is our protector and our provider. His eye watches over our safety, and his rule keeps the people one. You should be happy in his love.
WIFE: He does not love me. Only because the other men wanted me. Only because I was called the most beautiful, the fairest in the tribe. When he chose me, no other man would have come near me. It is not that he loves me. It is that I am his own. All things are most glorious that are his own. His sword, his bow, his sons. He would not come back to me if it were not for that. That and the glory you give him, and the comfort of his home.
O.W.: Without him there would be no comfort and no home.
WIFE: Then how long will they be gone? Why does he not stay here with the people instead, here in his home? Why must he fool around in the forest? Why does he not stay here with the elders and his sons? I have to stay here. Why must I stay with the old people and the brats? The meadow, he said he was going to the meadow. How far is that? Not far. Once when I first came to stay in his hut, we walked to the meadow. It isn’t far. He is gone long because he cares nothing for his people and his home. We are nothing to him.
O.W.: Many things can happen to make the hunting long.
WIFE: What things?
O.W.: The deer may hide, or they may be few and the finding hard.
WIFE: He said there was something following the deer, that their numbers grew few.
O.W.: Or at times they sit around a fire and sign after the hunt.
WIFE: No, he would not. He knows I would be furious if he did. He said there was something following the deer. He would follow it, he would, he would chase it into the mountains, however hard it was to follow, no matter if he caught it, no matter who long.
O.W.: You must have faith in him and be patient.
WIFE: No, he is gone too long, I know it, much too long.
O.W.: You must wait.
WIFE: Why should I be forced to wait for a fool like him?
O.W.: You must tend his sons.
WIFE: For what do I tend his sons if he is gone?
O.W.: What can a woman do? You must wait and be still.
WIFE: I will not wait! I know the way to the meadow. I will go to him. If there is nothing, if he stays to sit around a fire with them and boast, I will call him a fool before them all. If there is harm, if he is hurt, no one else must touch him. I must be there.
O.W.: Will you leave his sons alone?
WIFE: You will watch his sons—or you will be beaten out into the forest to starve. I am the wife of the chief. Do not leave his sons for a moment alone.
(Wife runs off.)
O.W.: Come back! Come back! Oh, children come here! Come back! Hide in your homes!
(Darkness. The cries of animals, the cries of men, cries that could be the cries of animals or the cries of men. The crashing and breaking of branches.
(The light come sup center on the Chief, revealing only his chest and head. He bears his sword and speaks in a rage as he swings his sword in the darkness. The sounds continue.)
CHIEF: I know this, I know this, this is not new. This has been in a dream. I have seen this while I slept, when all men would rise against me, when I would fly through the forest swinging my sword at the darkness, and hear the screams of men whose faces I could not see. Die, die—leave me alone, go away or I will kill you. Are you my men? Oh, my sword, I cannot see. Hear me, hear me, my men, leave the forest. I am your chief, and I tell you, if you obey me, leave the forest now, for I can see no faces and I will kill whatever stands in my way. All who do not obey me will die—will die—will die. Call back to me and go on. (We hear “Hallo’s.”) I cannot tell who I fall upon with my blade, I cannot tell what. I cannot tell if it is the limb of a man or the limb of a tree, the trunk of a tree or the trunk of a man, until I hear a cry. I cannot tell if the forest is empty or filled with men waiting, waiting to challenge me for the land and the deer and the women, until I have cleared the forest, until I have cut down every limb, and every man, and nothing stands between me and the huts of the village. I cannot return to the village. I cannot leave the forest and lead them to my home. My home, my village, my people, my wife—I hate them. I hate them. Them. The men who keep me in the forest where the leaves are wet with blood, My men! Hallo! Halloooo! (No reply.) I will kill. I will splinter the limbs of the trees where the birds cry. I will slash down the thickets where the deer hide. I will thrust my sword into the caves where the lions lie, and set a fire to the stubble until they are gone, till the forest burns like a bonfire to celebrate the hunt. (choral music comes on.) And the people, my people, will sing that I have saved them, that for them I killed, that for them I ravage the Earth, that for them I came through the forest killing men right and left, and laying the land to waste. It was for this that she wanted me to stay from the forest, she knew that this would happen, she knew that men would hunt me through the woods. I will go home, and she will tell me how she knew. I will show her no mercy until I am told. I will go home. I will go home. I will go home.
(The music comes to a peak. He brings the sword above his head. The light spreads suddenly to reveal that he is smeared with blood, and that his wife lies before him, fallen at his feet, staring up at him. Tableau.
(The Chief drops his sword behind him.)
CHIEF: You are here. Yu have come for me. Yu have come to lead me home.
(She takes his hand in one hand, and drags his sword with the other, leads him home as they talk.)
WIFE: I heard your cries. Your cries rang through the forest. The other men have come home. Come home. Come home.
CHIEF: The other men. The other men have come to our home?
WIFE: Yes. The other men of our people. Your men. Our men have come home.
CHIEF: There are other men. We have fought with them. I do not know how many I have killed. I do not know if they are gone.
WIFE: Other men?
CHIEF: They were like animals. They came out of the forest. There were so many of them.
WIFE: Forget them now. We have not seen them. Come home. You see we are near home. We are home.
CHIEF: And they are not here?
WIFE: No, we are here alone.
CHIEF: What are those cries?
WIFE: All the people know their leader has come home.
CHIEF: I cannot hear their song. Do they say my men have come home?
WIFE: They say—They say the young men have come home.
(The Rival and the Boy enter left, bearing the body of the Old Chief.)
CHIEF: (Takes his sword.) They are here.
WIFE: Rest, rest, you are wounded.
CHIEF: They have come to my door.
WIFE: It is your own men.
CHIF: I cannot trust them. They left me alone in the forest.
RIVAL: My lord!
(Wife goes to the door.)
RIVAL: Send the lord of the people to us.
BOY: Has he come home?
WIFE: The Chief is here. What do you want?
BOY: The Old Chief is dead.
RIVAL: He was slain by the other men. We have brought his body home.
WIFE: The Chief is weary. Talk to him tomorrow.
RIVAL: Tell him—Tell him that we are here. And that we will follow him forever against these other men. He shall know no challenges and no disputes. We are his people.
BOY: Listen to the song.
RIVAL: All things of any nature are his forever. We will obey him in all things—forevermore.
CHIEF: Who is it? Who is there?
WIFE: Your men. They have come home. They are gone now. (To Rival.) You must go.
O.W.: (Entering, running to the body of the Old Chief.) Oh, my lord! Oh, what will happen to the people now, with their chief dead?
WIFE: Hush! The Chief lives.
O.W.: Your foolish boy? Do you think he can lead the people on his own? With my old man dead, the people will be like the body of a snake without its head, lashing and flinging about without eyes. (To Rival and Boy.) Come, and bring him with you. This day have the people died.
(Old Woman, Rival, and Boy exit with the body of the Old Chief.)
CHIEF: Who is there? Are my men home?
WIFE: Yes. You are—all home. Now, rest. Rest. I will wash your body. I will clean your wounds.
CHIEF: No. Your touch makes me weak. I must be strong.
WIFE: …..You think that the other men will come here.
CHIEF: How do you know? Tell me how you know. I was thinking they will not rest. They will come after me in my own home. How did you know my thoughts? How did you know?
WIFE: I do not know how I know.
CHIEF: You know all. You knew that they would come. You came into the forest because you thought I would not come home. How did you know?
WIFE: If I had not come for you, would you have not come home? Would you have not come home to me?
CHIE: Why do you say that? How do you know?
WIFE: My chief is strong. He would not rest while there was danger to his home.
CHIEF: You try to hide from me. You fear my anger.
WIFE: My lord is strong. He would not fight with women. I am here to soothe his body and to make him strong.
CHIEF: You make me weak.
WIFE: No. No. I strengthen you. I give you rest. I pour cool water on your arms. I wash your brow. The body of my lord is hot and burning and golden as the sun. I wash him with cool water, cold as the moon. He must rest and once again grow strong. For in this strength is my strength and the protection of the people. I stroke new strength into his arms that it might flow into his sword. I press my lips upon his body that my breath might beat against his own. I give my body to him that he might fight for it, for my body is his body. I would have him know I am his body. My body is his own.
CHIEF: No. You want to bind me here that the other men may come upon me. They will come upon me and find me weak, with my strength in your body and not in my own.
WIFE: I would hold my lord’s strength that he might take it back more strong. That he might rest without his strength, to renew it in the deep well of my love.
CHIEF: No, this will not be done.
WIFE: You need not fear that you must fight the more for owning me. The men would come to fight you even if you were here alone.
CHIEF: How do you know? How do you know all things? Tell me how you know.
WIFE: I do not know all things.
CHIEF: You hide it from me when it could make me strong. You make me weak, claiming to make me strong. I will go now, I will go out and find them. You know nothing in truth, For you are foolish and weak and poor. I must go out and meet them while I am still strong.
(Enormously, weakly, pathetically, he stands, lifts his sword with difficulty, and starts out, limping horribly.)
WIFE: NO! You mustn’t go!
CHIEF: You are a woman and a liar and a weakling. I must go.
WIFE: You do not have to go. They will come here.
(He pauses, his back to her.)
CHIEF: How do you know?
WIFE: By—by the movement of the moon as it moves beneath the forest. Yu were right this morning. Women have—special ways of knowing things that no man may know. The other men will go to their homes and their women to rest. But then they will come after you.
CHIEF: You speak the truth. They will come.
WIFE: Yes, do not go. Let them come here. Your strength is here. Let them come frightened and weak and unaided far from their homes if they will. Wait for them here, here where you have weapons and food and men, here where you know the land. Wait for them. They will come before long.
CHIEF: Always tell me the truth. Do not hide from me and make me afraid , like the men in the forest.
WFE: They will come. But you will be here. You will be rested. You will be strong. You will be washed and cared for. And I will tell you. I will watch the sun as it grows more strong. I will watch its clouds and its disturbances—and I will tell you—by the sun—when they will come.
CHIEF: You know all things.
WIFE: I know all things.
CHIEF: Tell me of their leader. I must know of him.
WIFE: Their leader? Their leader is a bold and powerful man. His people love him, for he promises them nothing and gives them everything. He is a fool who believes that he can defeat all things. His dreams are fevers, he sleeps in terror, and in the day hunts down his fears in the forest. But he can be defeated, for he refuses to know himself. That will be his downfall.
CHIEF: Oh, you are right. He is a fool to come against me.
WIFE: But he will come. Be sure of that. When he is recovered from his terror in the forest—
CHIEF: Oh, I did, I terrified him!
WIFE: –then he will call his people and he will come. And always, always, the people will follow him.