Read Home is the Hunter Online

Authors: Helen Macinnes

Home is the Hunter (5 page)

PENELOPE

(Snipping carefully)

Who isn’t?

CLIA

And he’s got hold of your son. Talking like conspirators, they are. Eumaeus!

(
PENELOPE
looks up, quickly.)

CLIA

(Shouting now)

Eumaeus! Get back to your work, do you hear me?

(To
PENELOPE
)

My, he looked up at me as if he were scared.

PENELOPE

(Rising)

Is something wrong?

CLIA

(Turning away from the window, as
PENELOPE
starts toward her and then stops)

They are out of sight now. He pulled Telemachus around the corner of the house. What are they hiding, I’d like to know?

(The two women stare at each other.)

I’ve warned you before about Eumaeus—

PENELOPE

Go down to them, Clia. And send Eumaeus here.

CLIA

Send that pig-keeper up here—into your room?

PENELOPE

I want to see him.

CLIA

Why?

PENELOPE

...Just a sudden fear... That’s all.

CLIA

Yes, I’ve warned you. Eumaeus has some very odd ideas. Why, the girls won’t even go near his hut. You’ve let Telemachus visit him too often.

PENELOPE

Eumaeus wouldn’t harm any son of Ulysses. And the boy has to have some man to talk to. We can’t hold on to him, Clia. If we do—we lose him forever.

CLIA

Is
that
what’s been troubling you this morning? No Ulysses, and soon, no Telemachus. Is that what’s worrying you?

(She comes forward and puts her arm around
PENELOPE
.)

PENELOPE

(Slowly)

I’m not worried... I’m frightened.

(She starts to pace around the room.)

If Ulysses
ever
does come home, will it be too late? Too late for Telemachus? Too late for me? And if he comes home, shall I know him? Will he know me? Or have I been waiting for a stranger, for someone so altered that he won’t be in love with me any more?

(She halts and faces a very silent
CLIA
.)

I’m frightened, Clia!

CLIA

(Gathering her words slowly)

Now that’s stupid... Of course you’ll know him. Ulysses is

Ulysses. He’s strong, clever, brave—

PENELOPE

Stop it! You aren’t Homer. Leave the adjectives to him. Now, go and find Eumaeus. And you can send Telemachus here, too. He hasn’t paid me a visit for three whole days.

CLIA

Don’t be hard on the boy. He’s only angry because the men have been behaving worse and worse. And he feels helpless—he knows he’s too young to fight even one of them. But that may not stop him from trying. One thing is certain, if the men don’t leave here soon, there will be trouble. There will be red blood flowing all over this house.

PENELOPE

Is
that
what he is plotting with old Eumaeus? Oh, no! In Heaven’s name, go and get them—

(As
CLIA
opens the door, there are sounds of men arguing; laughter; and a delighted squeal from a girl.
PENELOPE
covers her ears, and turns her back on the door.
A
boy of about seventeen passes
CLIA
as she is just about to leave. This is
TELEMACHUS
;
he is thin and gangling, white-faced, not very handsome as yet. He is dressed in a simple tunic and wears a large knife at his waist which he fingers proudly from time to time.
CLIA
whispers a quick warning to him and points to
PENELOPE
’s
back. Then she goes out.)

TELEMACHUS

Hello, Mother. I was just coming to see you.

(He tries to hide his cheerfulness, but there is repressed excitement in his voice as he rushes on.
PENELOPE
turns to look at him with surprise.)

It’s a grand day, isn’t it? I think I’ll go fishing down by the meadows. Eumaeus has made me a new rod. It’s waiting for me in his hut. I’ll go and get it, if you don’t mind.

(
PENELOPE
is now staring at him.)

Just didn’t want to worry you about where I was. Well—see you later!

(He hesitates nervously, grins, and turns to leave.)

PENELOPE

Telemachus! I want to see you
now.

TELEMACHUS

(Turning back to
PENELOPE
,
slowly, unwillingly)

But I’m going fishing—

PENELOPE

I want to talk to you.

TELEMACHUS

Couldn’t it wait? I mean, this is kind of important. If I don’t start before the sun is bright, then I’ll never catch
anything.

PENELOPE

The sun only rose three hours ago. It has a long way to travel before it’s too bright for fishing. What’s wrong, Telemachus?

TELEMACHUS

Wrong?

PENELOPE

You heard me.

TELEMACHUS

Nothing’s
wrong.

PENELOPE

Then stop hovering around that door. And sit down. No— that’s your father’s chair. You know the rule.

TELEMACHUS

Couldn’t I sit in it once, before he gets home?

PENELOPE

(Smiling as she shakes her head and gestures him away from
ULYSSES

chair)

You’re just like Clia, aren’t you?

TELEMACHUS

(Indignant)

Me? Like Clia?

PENELOPE

You are both so sure that Ulysses will come home.

TELEMACHUS

He will.

PENELOPE

(Watching him carefully)

Have you heard any news? Do you know something that I don’t know?

TELEMACHUS

Now, Mother, what gave you that idea?

PENELOPE

You’re looking so annoyingly cheerful, that’s why.

TELEMACHUS

Well—you see—I just thought you
wanted
me to be more cheerful. Last time I saw you, you tore into me because I was sulking. That’s the word you used.

PENELOPE

Perhaps it was. But I never “tore into you” in my whole life.

TELEMACHUS

(Appeasingly)

All right.

PENELOPE

It seems to me I’m getting my own way awfully easily, this morning.

TELEMACHUS

I’m just
trying
to
please
you. Oh, Jupiter!

PENELOPE

Now, careful! Don’t call on the gods unless you want their help. They don’t like it. Then when you really need them, you can call and call but they won’t answer. I’ve told you that before.

TELEMACHUS

(Patiently)

Yes, Mother.

PENELOPE

Oh darling, don’t make me sound as if I were a general or something. I don’t order you around: I’m just—I’m just trying to teach you the real facts of life. It’s so
hard
for a woman to be a father!

(She tries to laugh.)

Where’s Eumaeus, I wonder? I sent Clia to fetch him.

TELEMACHUS

I bet she’s giving him a bath, first. He smells a bit high.

(He becomes suddenly worried.)

His shack is awful. Not the kind of place
you’d
want to visit.

PENELOPE

(Surprised and amused)

I wasn’t thinking of paying old Eumaeus a visit in his shack.

(She watches
TELEMACHUS

relief.)

But what do you find so interesting there?

TELEMACHUS

Nothing. Nothing. Except Eumaeus. It’s good to have a man to talk to. There’s only women in this house—or Philetius over at the stable, and he’s dumb. It really is pretty lonely here.

PENELOPE

Yes, it’s lonely... But I hope all the travelling you did last year hasn’t unsettled you.

TELEMACHUS

But you said travelling abroad was good for my education.

PENELOPE

If it doesn’t make you discontented with home.

TELEMACHUS

When Father was here, it wasn’t lonely. Was it?

(
PENELOPE
shakes her head.)

TELEMACHUS

No, there were plenty of
real
men around then. All
his
men. They were good fighters and hunters, weren’t they?

PENELOPE

And good farmers, too. They could plough a straight furrow and raise a fine crop.

TELEMACHUS

Now, Mother, don’t start hinting again. You’re always giving double meanings to everything.

PENELOPE

Well, someone has got to teach you to keep a balance. You don’t want to grow up to be like those men downstairs, do you?

TELEMACHUS

Mother!

PENELOPE

Life isn’t all hunting or fighting, or trying to live at someone else’s expense. There are houses to be built, and people to be fed and clothed. There are children to be raised; and music to be made; and poetry to be sung.

TELEMACHUS

(Fingering the knife at his belt)

My father was a hunter. A hunter and a soldier.

PENELOPE

Ulysses was many things. He was the son of a prince, but he came here and settled this land and founded his own family. He was a good farmer, too. He could plough the straightest furrow—

(She pauses, looks slyly at
TELEMACHUS
,
adds softly)

Yes, he was ploughing, on the day the draft board came to get him.

TELEMACHUS

The draft board? Why, Mother, you
know
Father volunteered the day the Trojan War broke out. Why, he was the best fighter in the whole army!

PENELOPE

I
think so... But he was also a very clever man.

TELEMACHUS

That’s why the army put him in Intelligence. I
know
all that! Why, he invented the Trojan Horse. He
won
the war!

PENELOPE

Yes, once he was in the army, he fought; and he fought well.

TELEMACHUS

I don’t like the way you say that.

PENELOPE

It may be that your knowledge is just a little one-sided. It seems that Clia and I haven’t given you a very balanced picture of your father. It’s about time you admired him for the way he could plough a field as well as for the way he could capture a city with a wooden horse.

TELEMACHUS

(Disgusted)

Plough a field!

PENELOPE

(Sharply)

And build a house. Who built this house? Your father, working with his men. Who cleared the forests and made fields out of wilderness? Who sowed the crops and planted the vines?

TELEMACHUS

And
fought the brigands,
and
hunted. He killed a wild boar with
this
knife, all by himself, when he was my age. And he got wounded, too—the boar’s tusk slit his leg—

(He scores his own leg, from below to above his knee.)

just there, and left a scar to this day.

PENELOPE

Darling, might I remind you I’ve been listening to Clia’s stories about Ulysses longer than you have? And considering you were three months old when you last saw your father, it’s possible that some incidents may have escaped you.

TELEMACHUS

Oh, now, Mother! You don’t have to go all stiff-starched... I’m sorry... Look, I’ll even listen to what you were going to tell me about the draft board.

PENELOPE

I don’t think I shall tell you.

TELEMACHUS

I
said
I was sorry.

PENELOPE

Perhaps you aren’t old enough to understand. When you are a man, you can be told. But now, you only want to hear the things you wish to believe.

TELEMACHUS

But I
want
to hear this story.
Please...

PENELOPE

Well, if you must hear it... We’ll begin with Helen, who started all our troubles anyway. She left her husband and ran away with Paris—

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