Read ACT IV of The Naturewoman, free online book, by Upton Sinclair, on

[The scene shows the living-room of a bungalow.  Large stone fireplace centre; windows and window seats on each side; French windows leading to piazza right; piano between them; door left to another room; large mirror beside it.  Centre table, rustic chairs, deer-heads and skins, Indian blankets, etc.]

[At rise:  The stage is empty.]

Oceana. [Laughs off.] Oh, say, but that was an adventure!

[Enters; glowing and exultant from a long mountain walk.  She wears a “Rosalind” costume, brown, with soft boots, gauntlet gloves and light fur about the neck; carries a pair of snow-shoes, which she has taken off and from which she knocks the snow.]

Henry. [Follows.] You like the mountains!

Oceana.  Oh, my dear!  They are marvellous!  I’ve never imagined anything like it... to be able to see so much of the world at once.  It’s the way you think of heaven.

Henry.  You don’t mind the cold?

Oceana.  I find I prefer it.  I think I shall stay here forever.  It tunes you up so!  It makes you quite drunk! [Looks at herself in the mirror.] I look cute in this, don’t I?

Henry.  You look like a fairy-story!

Oceana.  I ought to have had sense enough to think of a theatrical costumer in the beginning. [Stretches her arms.] Oh, I feel so wonderful!  Ha, ha, ha!  I don’t know whether it’s the mountain air.. . or whether it’s because I’m in love!

Henry. [Seizes her hand.] Sweetheart!

Oceana. [Stares at him.] How wonderful it is!  Beyond all believing!  I’m stunned by it... afraid of it.  Tell me, Hal, were you ever drunk?

Henry. [Laughs.] Once or twice.

Oceana. [Seriously.] I never was.  But I’ve watched my people sometimes and tried to understand it.  And it’s just that.  Nature has made us drunk!

Henry.  And that is what frightens you?

Oceana.  She has her purposes, Hal; and I don’t want to be her blind victim.  But then, I look at you again, and wonder leaps up in me... love, such as I never conceived of before; power... vision without end.  I seem to be a hundred times myself!  It is as if barriers were broken down within me...  I see into new vistas of life.  I understand...  I exult!  Oh, Hal, I shall never be the same again!

Henry.  Nor I; I look back at myself as I was a week ago, and I can’t believe it.

Oceana.  With me it is like a great fountain inside.  It surges up, and I cannot be still!  I want to laugh... to sing!  I have to dance it out of me!  Do you know Anitra’s Dance, Hal?

Henry.  Yes, of course.

Oceana. [Begins to sing the music to herself and playfully to dance.  The enthusiasm of it takes hold of her, and she dances more quickly.] Play it, Hal!  Play!

[Henry sits at piano and plays Anitra’s Dance; she dances tumultuously, ending in a whirlwind of excitement.] Oh!

[As Henry rises, she flies to him and he clasps her passionately.]

Henry.  Sweetheart!

Oceana. [Panting.] Oh, Hal, I’m so happy!  So happy! [She sobs upon his shoulder, then looks at him through her tears.] Oh, if I only dared let myself go!

Henry.  Why not, dearest?

Oceana.  It sweeps me off my feet!  And I have to hold myself in.

Henry.  Why?  Don’t I love you?

Oceana.  Yes, I know.  But I’m terrified at myself; I’m losing my self-control.  And I promised father.

Henry.  What?

Oceana.  That I would never do it.  “Never feel an emotion,” he would say, “that you could not stop feeling if you wished to.”

Henry.  But, sweetheart... why so much distrust?  Why should we wait, when everything in us cries out against it?

Oceana.  Don’t say that to me now, Hal!

Henry.  But why not?

Oceana.  This is not the time for such a thought.  You know it!

Henry.  Dearest...

Oceana. [Passionately.] Ah, don’t put it all on me!  Don’t make it too hard for me!

Henry.  But if I only knew...

Oceana.  You will know before long.  Ah, Hal, see how I’m situated.  I’ve broken all the laws.  I’ve no precedent to help me...  I have to work it all out for myself.  I shall have to bear the scorn of the world; and oh, think if I had to bear the scorn of my own conscience!  Don’t you see?

Henry.  Yes, I see.  But...

Oceana.  I have chosen a certain course.  I have forced myself to be calm, to think it out in the cold light of reason, to decide what is right for me to do.  And now I must keep to my resolution.  You would not want our love to lead me into shame!

Henry.  No!

Oceana.  Do you read Nietzsche, Henry?

Henry.  He is a mere name to me.

Oceana.  I will give you some lines of Nietzsche’s.  “Canst thou give thyself thy good and thine evil, and hang thy will above thee as thy law?  Canst thou be thine own judge, and avenger of thy law?  Fearful is it to be alone with the judge and the avenger of thy law.  So is a stone flung out into empty space and into the icy breath of isolation.”

Henry.  That’s all right... but if you expect Letitia to face this problem in any such way, you will be sadly disappointed.

Oceana.  That’s none of my affair.  All I have to do is to give her a chance.  If she cannot face the facts, she has passed sentence upon herself.

Henry. [Laughs.] All right, my dear.  It will certainly be a scene to watch!

Oceana.  You think she will come?

Henry.  Oh, she’ll certainly come.

Oceana.  And she won’t bring her mother?

Henry.  I can’t tell about that.

Oceana.  If she does, we’ll simply have to send her down to the village ...  I won’t talk in Aunt Sophronia’s presence.

Henry.  I was perfectly explicit on that point. [Takes paper from table.] Here’s the telegram:  “Come to the bungalow immediately, upon a matter of extreme urgency.  Do not bring your mother.”

Oceana.  Certainly that is clear enough.

Henry.  And bewildering enough.  But I suppose they are prepared for anything by now.

Oceana.  It’s past the time. [Looking from window.] We should be able to see a sleigh.

Henry.  No, the road turns behind that hillock there.

Oceana.  But look!

Henry.  What?

Oceana.  There’s some one coming afoot.

Henry.  Where?

Oceana.  Round that side!  By the path!  Why, it’s Ethel!

Henry.  Good Lord!  Ethel!

Oceana.  She’s come up from the village afoot.

Henry.  Well, of all the apparitions!

Oceana.  Run help her, Henry.  She’s running. [Opens window and calls.] Ethel! [Henry exit hurriedly.] Why, the poor, dear child!  I wonder if she came in Letitia’s stead!  But then... why wouldn’t she get a sleigh? [Calls.] Ethel!  What’s the matter?

Henry. [Off.] She says Letitia is coming!

Oceana.  Oh!

Henry.  She’s just behind!

Oceana.  But, Ethel, what are you doing here?

Ethel. [Off, breathless.] Wait!

Oceana.  Why, you poor child, you’re exhausted.  What in the world...

Ethel.  Wait.

[Enters, breathless, half carried by Henry.]

Oceana. [Pounces upon her.] Ethel!  Of all the surprises!  You dear thing! [Embraces her, shakes snow from her.] What in the world has happened?

Ethel.  Oceana, I ran away!

Oceana.  You ran away?

Ethel.  To you!  I couldn’t stand it!  I must be with you, Oceana ­no matter how wicked it is, I must be with you!

Oceana. [Breathlessly.] Ethel!

Ethel.  Yes, I’m desperate...  I’ll die if I have to stay at home.

Oceana.  My dear, dear girl! [Clasps her.]

Ethel.  You won’t send me back?

Oceana.  Never!

Ethel. [Wildly.] But, Oceana, Letitia is coming!

Oceana.  Yes?

Ethel.  I took a train from Boston.  And when I saw her come aboard, imagine how I felt!  I hid... she didn’t see me.  And I got off the train first and dodged out of sight.  I ran all the way.  I suppose she stopped to get a sleigh.

Henry.  It’s all right, Ethel... we knew she was coming.

Ethel.  You knew it?

Oceana.  Yes, Henry sent for her.  You see, Letitia and I have to talk things out.

Ethel.  Well, of all the...

[Stops, dazed.]

Oceana. [Laughs.] That’s all right, dear.  We know what we’re doing.  But it was good of you to try to save us!

Henry.  Listen!

Oceana.  Ah!

Henry.  The sleigh-bells!

Oceana.  She’s here!

Ethel. [Clasping her.] Oceana!

Oceana.  What is it, dear?

Ethel.  Don’t let her take me back home?

Oceana.  But how can she take you, dear, if you won’t go?

Ethel.  She might persuade you.

Oceana.  Never fear, Ethel... we’ll stand by you, won’t we, Hal?

Henry.  Yes.

Ethel.  She’ll threaten to make me go.

Oceana.  Her mind will be taken up with other things, Ethel.

Ethel.  But mother will come!  And she’ll command me to return.  I’m not of age, you know.

Oceana.  But then, if you won’t obey?  Will she send for the police?

Ethel.  No... hardly that.

Oceana.  All right, then, dear.  I’ll save you... trust me.  I mean to give you a chance for life.

Ethel.  And, oh, Oceana... what do you think?  Freddy’s run away, too!

Oceana.  What?

Henry.  Where to?

Ethel.  He’s gone out West!

Oceana.  You don’t mean it!

Henry.  What for?

Ethel.  He says he’s going to be a cowboy.  He’s going to make a man of himself.  He left a letter to father.

Oceana.  Why, the dear boy!

Ethel. [Mysteriously.] Oceana, do you know what was the matter?

Oceana.  No... what?

Ethel.  I think I know.  He was in love with you!

Oceana.  I shouldn’t wonder, my dear. [Laughs.] But don’t tell Henry. .. he’ll be jealous!

[Sound of sleigh-bells louder.]

Ethel.  Here she is!

Oceana.  You go into the next room now.  It wouldn’t be considered proper for you to hear what we’re going to say.

Ethel.  Of all the adventures!


Oceana. [Smiles at Henry.] Now then!

Henry.  You wanted it, my dear!

[They turn, gazing right.  The sleigh-bells have come nearer, then stopped.  Some one is heard to step upon the piazza and stamp the snow from the feet.]

Letitia. [Enters right, stares at Oceana and screams.] Oceana!

Oceana.  Letitia...

Letitia. [Gasps for breath.] Henry!  How dared you bring me here to meet that woman?

Oceana.  Letitia...

Letitia.  Don’t speak to me!  Don’t you dare to speak to me! [She sinks down by table and bursts into tears.] Oh, how horrible!  How horrible!  As if I had not humiliations enough already!

Henry. [Taking step toward her.] Letitia...

Oceana. [With a swift gesture.] Wait!

Letitia.  Oh, who would have thought it possible!  To bring me ’way up here...

Oceana.  You might as well understand at the outset... the thing cannot be done that way.

Letitia. [With concentrated hatred.] You dare!

Oceana.  We have sent for you...

LetitiaWe have sent for you!

Oceana.  Because we wished to talk things out with you in a sensible way. 
And you’ll have to make up your mind to control yourself.

Letitia. [Sobbing.] Henry, you permit this shameful humiliation!

Oceana.  Henry has nothing to do with this affair, Letitia.  It is I who have to talk to you.

Letitia. [Bursts into hysterical weeping again.] Oh, that I should have lived to see this!

Oceana.  You will find out before you get through that I mean to deal with you fairly.  But you cannot accomplish anything by hysterics.

Letitia.  Oh, oh, oh!

Oceana.  And you had best believe me; you injure your case by refusing to act rationally.

Letitia. [Looks up, frightened.] What do you want with me?

Oceana. [Quietly.] In the first place, Letitia, I want to convey to you the information that your husband’s relationship and mine has so far been what you would call innocent.

Letitia.  What?

Oceana.  I was a virgin when I came to Boston, and I am a virgin still.

Letitia, And you expect me to believe that?

Oceana.  My dear, I don’t care in the least whether you believe it or not.

Letitia. [Faintly.] But...

Oceana.  What reason would I have to fear you?  He is mine, if I want him.

Letitia. [Dazed.] Then what... why are you here?  Why...

Oceana.  I came here because I wished to get acquainted with him.  And what chance have a man and woman to get acquainted with each other in the conventional world?

Letitia. [Stares at her; then, faintly.] But what...

Oceana.  I wished to try him out... in body, mind and soul.  I wished to know if he was the man for me.

Letitia. [Rushes to Henry.] Oh!  Have you no decency left?  Have you no mercy on me?  What has come over you?

Henry.  Letitia...

Oceana.  Let me attend to this, Hal.

Letitia.  Hal!

Oceana.  That a woman could be married to a man for six years and continue to call him Henry, speaks volumes for the romance of their relationship!

Letitia. [To Henry.] Where’s your sense of shame?

Oceana.  You are taking the wrong line, Letitia.  No such consideration has a moment’s weight with us.

Letitia. [Catches her breath.] Since it seems that I am here at your mercy, I ask to know your pleasure?

Oceana.  The reason that we have sent for you is that I might assure myself upon two points... first, as to whether your husband still loves you, and second, as to whether you still love him.

Letitia.  You doubt that I love him?

Oceana.  So far, Letitia, your actions have proceeded, not from love of him, but from hatred of me.

Letitia.  Oh!  And if I fail to measure up to your tests of love...

Oceana. [Triumphantly.] Then he is mine!

Letitia.  And the fact that he is my husband...

Oceana.  Is nothing!

Letitia.  The fact that he vowed to keep faith with me...

Oceana.  Is nothing!

Letitia.  That I am dependent upon him for support...

Oceana.  You have money of your own, Letitia.

Letitia.  Do you suppose I am thinking about money!  I mean his protection.

Oceana.  A person who confesses to the need of protection has written himself down an inferior. [A pause.] You see, Letitia, times have changed; our ideas of marriage have charged.  In the beginning a woman was a man’s economic dependent; now that the man has become ashamed of that, he is made the woman’s spiritual dependent.  You play upon his sense of chivalry, his sympathy, his pity; and you prey upon him, you devour him alive.  But the time has come when that must cease, Letitia ... man will not always be a domestic appendage!  And you will simply have to face this new situation.  Do you still possess your husband’s love?  Do you really love him?  Nothing else will count... none of your “rights"... we are not afraid of man or devil.

Letitia. [Gasps.] Oh! [Turns to Henry.] Henry, will you tell me what all this means?  Can it be that you assent to these outrageous ideas?

Henry.  I assent to them, Letitia.  It may be that you still love me, but you have given me few signs of it.  You have been... you are.. . a selfish woman.

Letitia.  Henry!

Henry.  How often do you give a thought to me... to the needs of my nature?  You think of your whims and your prejudices; you think of your social position... of your “world” and its conventions.  You think of what your mother approves, of what your father approves, of what this person will say and what that person will say.  And I follow you about...  I play my part in the hollow show that you call life; but all the time my heart is crying out in me...  I am starving... starving!

Letitia. [Startled.] Henry!

Oceana.  Ah!  She is beginning to see it!

Letitia. [Stretches out her arms and totters towards him, weeping.] Henry!  I love you! [Wildly.] Believe me!  Believe me!  I love you!  Don’t you remember when you were ill three years ago... how I nursed you and watched over you?  You knew that I loved you then.  Why, you said I’d worn myself to a shadow!  You kissed me, and told me I’d saved your life!  And when I was ill myself, and you thought I was dying... didn’t you realize that you loved me?  And the children?  Have you never given a thought to them?  Are they nothing to you?  And you to them?  You know that you love them, Henry... you dare not deny it.  Are they to be without a father all their lives? [Falls into his arms.] My husband!

Henry. [Catches her, deeply moved.] Letitia!

Oceana. [Has been watching them intently; now, startled and pained.] Ah I thought so! [She turns away; supports herself by the table; whispers.] That settles it!

Letitia.  Henry, if I have been selfish, I am sorry!  I humble myself before you...  I beg you for forgiveness!  Henry, I do love you!  Don’t you believe me?

Henry. [Faintly.] I believe you.

Oceana. [Clenches her hands and turns resolutely.] You see, Hal, I knew it! [He bows his head.] You can’t get away from her. [She pauses.] You understand it all now... what my instinct told me.  You still love her, you still belong to her.  You would have gone away with me, and you would still have been thinking about her ­worrying about her.  It would have been tearing your soul in half. [She waits; he does not look at her; she goes on, half to convince herself.] She is not big enough to give you up.  She could not say, “Oceana is young and needs you; you love Oceana, and she will make you happy.  Go with her.”  No, she would think of the world and its conventions... she would be jealous and bitter.  She would eat her heart out... she would tear herself to pieces!  And that would tear you to pieces... you could never forget it.  And there are the children, Hal.  It’s true that you love them; you think about them all the time...  I know, for you speak of them.  And she could take them away from you, legally... how much chance would they ever have in life, if she and her mother had the bringing up of them?  Don’t you see, Hal?  What can we do?

Letitia. [Clinging to Henry’s bosom.] Henry, I love you!

Oceana.  I want to play the game generously, Letitia; but it is all I can do not to despise you... because he loves you, and it has meant so little to you, you have done so little in return.  That is the curse of this thing you call marriage.  You say to yourself that you’ve got him... the law and the conventions will keep him for you... and so you can treat him as you please.  You’ll take him off with you now, and you’ll set to work to get right back where you were before... yes, she will, Hal.  She’ll try to wheedle you into backing down from this position.  She will weep and she will scold.  But you stand firm... stand firm!  What we did was right... it was noble and true, and if more married people did such things, it would be better for them.

Letitia. [Clinging to Henry.] Henry, come home with me!

Henry.  All right, I’ll come.

[He does not lift his head.]

Oceana.  Look at me.  It’s all right, Hal... it’s all right.

[She speaks with intensity; they gaze into each other’s eyes.]

Henry. [Stretches out his hand to her.] Oceana...  I’m sorry...

Oceana. [With sudden emotion.] No, Hal!  Go... go quickly!  Please!

[He goes out, right, with Letitia; Oceana stands gazing straight ahead.  Sound of sleigh-bells heard.  Suddenly she sinks into a chair, bows her head upon the table, and bursts into tears.]

Ethel. [Opens door, left, and stands gazing at Oceana in alarm, then runs to her and sinks upon her knees before her.] Oceana!

Oceana. [Sobbing.] He’s gone!  Gone!

Ethel.  He left you?

Oceana.  I gave him up!  I sent him away.  Oh, Ethel, Ethel... what am I going to do?

Ethel.  Oceana!

Oceana.  Oh, how I loved him!  I didn’t realize how I loved him!  The whole face of the world was changed... and now, now... how shall I bear it? [She stares ahead of her.] Oh, Ethel, tell me I did right to give him up.

Ethel.  Why did you do it?

Oceana.  I saw he loved her, and I had to give him up.  It would have been to tear his soul in half!  But now that he’s gone, I don’t see how I can bear it! [A pause; she is lost in thought; she whispers with great intensity.] There is a vision... it haunts me... it cries out in me in a voice of agony!

Ethel.  What?

Oceana.  A little child!  You have no idea... how real it was to me!  It fell out of the skies upon me!  The thought never left me.  I heard its voice... its laughter; I saw its smile.  It called to me all day, and it played with me in my dreams; I felt its little hands upon me... its lips upon my breast.  And it’s gone!

Ethel.  Your child!

Oceana.  And his!  And think... think of the awfulness of it... it was hovering at the gates of life!  It wanted to be!  And I trembled.. .  I suffered; at any moment I might have said the word, and it would have come.  But I did not say the word... and it is gone.  And now it will never come!  Never... never!  I have murdered the child!  My child!

Ethel.  No, no, Oceana!

Oceana.  God!  I can’t understand it!  What does it mean?  Did it exist when
I thought of it?  Does it exist now?  Who can tell me?

Ethel.  I don’t know, Oceana.

Oceana.  The strangeness of it!  Sometimes my whole being rises up in revolt...  I could tear the skies apart, to wrest the secret from them!  You see, we don’t know anything.  We don’t know what’s right, we don’t know what’s wrong.  We’re in a trap! [She rises suddenly.] No, no, I mustn’t talk that way.  I’ve lost my self-control.  I let myself go, and I had no right to.  Now, what shall I do?  Wait, dear... let me think, let me think calmly. [Stares about her.] I want to remember what father said to me; what I promised to do.  See, Ethel... the sun is setting.  Look at the sky!  And it’s the last day of the month, isn’t it?

Ethel.  Yes.

Oceana.  If father had been here we should have sat us down to one of our services!  Look here. [She goes to trunk, and takes out a human skull.] Ah, old friend!

Ethel. [Shocked.] Oceana!

Oceana.  He came from the Marquesas, I think.  And here’s where he was hit with the spear.  You see?  Sit down. [She places the skull before her.] See, Ethel ­he used to smile.  And now and then he had the toothache... see that?  He took himself very seriously; he was all wrapped up in the things that went on in this little cracked skull.  But he lacked imagination.  He never foresaw that somebody would carry him off to the New Hampshire mountains, and make him the text for a Hamlet soliloquy.  Alas, poor Yorick!  He did not know that he was immortal, you see; that life proceeded from him... unrolling itself for generation after generation without end; that all that he did would be perpetuated... that where he sinned we would suffer, and where he fought we would be strong.  He did not know that he was the creator, the mystic fountain of an unexplored stream... the maker of an endless future... [She stops; a spasm of pain crosses her face.] Oh, Ethel! [Clasps her hand.] It is terrible to die young, is it not?

Ethel.  Yes.

Oceana.  Then how much worse is it to die before you are born!  To be strangled in the idea... to be stifled by a cowardly thought!

Ethel.  What do you mean?

Oceana.  Oh, Ethel, stay by me, will you?  Promise me you will stay by me.

Ethel.  I will!

Oceana.  I’m frightened, Ethel... frightened at myself.  I’ve done wrong...  I’ve committed a crime!  I ought not to have let him go!  I ought not to have let him go!

Ethel.  Henry?

Oceana.  No, we mustn’t speak of him again.  I can’t bear to hear his name.  I have failed...  I have failed.  I’ve been crushed by civilization! [Starts up.] But there’s my island!  There’s the white beach, shining in the moonlight, and the great breakers rolling in, and the palm trees rustling in the wind.  Let us go together... to my island!  Let us go back and get healed, before we try to face this world again!