Varmints

An tragi-comic opera of the Old West in two acts

 

Music by John D. Nugent

Libretto by Charles Deemer

 

Based on the play VARMINTS by Charles Deemer

 

 

THE CAST:

Patrick McGuinness, a detective, an Irishman

Ruby, proprietor of the Canyon City Room & Board, who wears a patch over one eye

Lester, her black cook

Stump, a miner, who has a wooden leg

Cincinnatus Hiner Miller, lawyer, miner, Indian fighter and poet, who wears buckskin

ROSE (Rose), a woman of mystery

Newsboy

Miners

Camp Followers

(Miners + Camp Followers = Chorus)

 

TIME AND PLACE:

Canyon City in Eastern Oregon, near the end of the gold rush in 1865

 

THE SET:

Interior of Canyon City Room & Board. Check-in counter upstage, with entrance into kitchen and access to basement. Tables for dining downstage. Left, a main entrance and exit. Also an outside area.. Entrance to rooms, right, with staircase leading to upper levels: upstairs is a hallway, a door, ROSE's Room.


 

ACT ONE

 

(MUSIC: tragic, epic. Darkness. Perhaps reddish lights, the aftermath of fire, a blaze. Into which the shadowy figures of the four ghosts appear.)

††††††††††††††††††

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

We are the dead

 

Our rotting flesh

The buzzardsí treat

Killed because

We dug for gold

And found instead

Ancestral bones

 

Our souls wander

Restlessly

Because our stories

Are untold

 

Listen then

To our grave tale

And give our souls

Their weary rest

 

We begin

In Oregon

In a desert

Filled with gold

Into which

Comes other news

Of a crime

Daring and bold

 

We are the dead

This is our tale

 

(A typical day in Canyon City. In Room & Board miners sit at tables, some eating, some drinking. A few camp followers, i.e. prostitutes, join them. Sitting alone is Miller, writing. Lester sweeps the room. Ruby works on her books behind the check-in counter. Outside, miners repair tools or just loiter about, drinking. A newsboy moves among them, passing out a broadside. Not present are Paddy, Stump and Rose.)

 

 

NEWSBOY

Extree! Extree!

Read all about it!

Crime of the century!

 

MINER #1 (reading the headline)

Gold heist!

 

NEWSBOY

Crime of the century!

 

MINER #2

Gold heist!

 

(Music continues. Newsboy moves inside, passing out the broadside.)

 

NEWSBOY

Extree! Extree!

 

RUBY

Gold heist!

 

LESTER

Gold heist!

 

NEWSBOY

Read all about it!

Millions missing!

Crime of the century!

 

CAMP FOLLOWER #1

Gold heist!

 

CAMP FOLLOWER #2

Gold heist!

 

NEWSBOY

Extree! Extree!

 

(Now everyone joins in, inside and out.)

 

CHORUS

Gold heist! Gold heist!

 

NEWSBOY

Extree, extree!

Read all about it!

 

CHORUS

Gold heist! Gold heist!

 

NEWSBOY

Gold ore hijacked!

Crime of the century!

Read all about it!

 

CHORUS

The crime of all crimes

When gold is stolen

For what is more precious

Than gold?

 

Banks rise and fall

Gold is eternal

Fame is fickle

Gold is eternal

Love comes and goes

Gold is eternal

 

MINER

A man sweats

And sweats and sweats

Works all his life

For gold

 

CAMP FOLLOWER

A lady suffers

Subjugation and pain

Then spreads her legs

For gold

 

 

CHORUS

Gold is the measure of all things

Gold is the meaning of life

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold

 

NEWSBOY

Gold heist! Gold heist!

 

CHORUS

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold

 

NEWSBOY

Gold ore disappears

From train shipment

In Chicago!

Crime of the century!

Gold heist!

 

CHORUS

And the light was shining gold

 

(MINERS step forward.)

 

GROUP OF MINERS

We dig all day

And break our backs

Allfor the lure of

Gold

 

We stake our claim

From greedy lust

Then rob our neighbor

For gold

 

Gold is the measure of all things

Gold is the meaning of life

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold

 

GROUP OF CAMP FOLLOWERS

When thereís a strike

Weíre right behind

To get our share of

Gold

 

We screw all night

Flat on our backs

All for the lure of

Gold

 

Gold is the measure of all things

Gold is the meaning of life

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold

 

CHORUS

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold!

 

NEWSBOY

Gold heist! Gold heist!

Crime of the century!

Read all about it!

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

Enter now

A wanderer

A man who never

Swung a pick

Here because

He thinks he knows

Something that

Will bring him fame

And with the fame

Of course much gold

 

(PADDY enters Canyon City Room & Board. Sitting at a table is MILLER, working on a poem. Paddy slowly approaches him.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

At this table

Sits a man

Later known

Around the world

As the poet

Of the west

Joaquin Miller

No one less

 

MILLER

I am the Byron

Of the West

I am a genius

I confess

 

My poems will bring me

Worldwide fame

Everyone

Will know my name

 

Cincinnatus

Hiner Miller

Poet, lawyer,

Indian fighter

 

PADDY

Excuse me

I am a weary

Traveler who

Needs a bed

And then a meal

 

MILLER

I have a new poem!

What do you think?

 

"I stood where thunderbolts were wont

To smite they Titan-fashioned front,

And heard dark mountains rock and roll;

I saw the lightning's gleaming rod

Reach forth and write on Heaven's scroll

The awful autograph of God!"

 

PADDY

Excuse me

Might a weary traveler

Get a room and meal?

 

MILLER

"By unnamed rivers of the Oregon north,

That roll dark-heaved into the turbulent hills,

I have made my home. The wild heart thrills

With memories fierce, and a world storms forth."

 

(He turns to Paddy.)

 

MILLER

Step forward, my man,

And offer praise

For my new poems

 

You shake the hand

Of the Byron

Of the West!

 

(Miller offers his hand.)

 

MILLER

Cincinnatus

Hiner Miller ó

Poet, lawyer,

Indian fighter

 

(They shake hands.)

 

PADDY

Paddy McGuinness

 

MILLER

Youíre too late, Paddy

 

PADDY

What do you mean?

 

MILLER

Arenít you here for gold?

 

PADDY

In a manner of speaking

 

MILLER

The gold is gone

Just trickles in

Compared to what

It once had been

 

Just Old Stump

Still brings in ore

And makes a living

Not much more

Greed is best

When greed is first

The early bird

Has greater thirst

 

If you had come

A year ago

A grand a day!

Was our credo

 

But now the pickings

Are so slim

You sweat and sweat

Reward is thin

 

They say Alaskaís

The next place

To stake your claim

And draw an ace

 

And so I say

Go North, today!

The West has seen

A better day

 

PADDY

But youíre still here

 

MILLER

I am the Byron

Of the West!

I am a genius

I confess

 

I have an epic

Poem in mind

About manís lust

And greed for gold

 

When I write it

Fame is mine

I am the Byron

Of the West!

 

Meanwhile here

I sit and write

Create my rhymes

And culture, too

 

Can you imagine

Shakespeare here?

A tragedy

Within these walls?

 

I plan to do

Exactly this

Perform the Bard

Right here and soon

 

Iíll play Othello

Can you see it?

Such tragedy

Iíll put on stage

Even miners

Shed a tear

 

(RUBY looks up from her books.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

This is Ruby

Tough as nails

Who follows miners

Where they go

Providing room

And board and more

 

RUBY

Hiner, you donít

Fool me at all

Youíre setting yourself

Up for a fall

 

Youíre still hustling

That poor woman

Hoping that she

Will soon return

 

MILLER

Ruby, this man

Needs a room

 

PADDY

That I do

 

RUBY

Then come check in

 

(Paddy moves to the check-in counter.)

 

MILLER

I am the Byron

Of the West

I am a genius

I confess

 

Cincinnatus

Hiner Miller

Poet, lawyer,

Indian fighter

 

(ROSE enters. She heads for the stairs.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

Here the strangest

One of all

A lady who

Came here to paint

Mining scenes

And nothing more

-- Or so she claims

 

MILLER

(to impress her)

Excuse me, madam!

I have a new poem

A work of genius

Written just for you!

 

"I am sitting alone in the moonlight,

In the moonlight soft and clear,

And a thousand thoughts steal o'er me,

While penciling, sitting here."

 

(Rose has reached the stairs.)

 

MILLER

Do you like it?

 

(She ignores him.)

 

MILLER

(after her, reciting)

"I move among the frowning firs;

Black bats wheel by in rippled whirs!"

 

(Paddy steps away from the counter.)

 

PADDY

So Iím listening to

The most godawful poem

In the western world

When Iím struck by lightning

 

For who should enter

But Rose OíReilly

The very wife

Of the very man

Iím looking for

Thomas OíReilly

 

Will he be surprised

To see Paddy McGuinness!

 

(He approaches Miller.)

 

PADDY

Excuse me

The woman who came in

I think I may know her

Her name, Rose OíReilly

 

MILLER

Her name is Miss Lee

 

PADDY

What does she do?

 

MILLER

She is an artist

She paints the West

Scenes from our

Own mining town

 

In this regard

Weíre artists both

And thus destined

To bond together

 

PADDY

Is she from Chicago?

I may know her

 

MILLER

San Francisco, I believe

You must be mistaken

 

(Paddy steps away.)

 

PADDY

My eyes do not lie

My hunch is not wrong

This is the Rose

Who married Thomas

Who stole the gold

Which means heís near

Hiding under a rock

Like the lizard he is

 

I cannot believe my luck

This is better than gold

I saw the photograph

When she and Thomas wed

Which was a week before

They both fled Chicago

The day of the gold heist

 

This has been

My lucky day!

 

(Paddy goes upstairs to his room.)

 

(STUMP, an old miner with a wooden leg, enters.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

Here is Stump

The oldest miner

Of them all

Named because

He lost a leg

Which he uses

As a club

If you dare

To cross his path

 

RUBY (from the counter)

Howís the digging

Today, Stump?

 

STUMP

Slow but sure

At least itís something

But certainly not

Like the good old days

 

RUBY

I miss the good old days

When gold was plentiful

 

(Miners come forward.)

 

GROUP OF MINERS

We miss the good old days

 

GROUP OF CAMP FOLLOWERS

We miss the good old days

 

CHORUS

We miss the good old days

When gold was everywhere

 

MINERS

Gold rush! Gold rush!

 

CAMP FOLLOWERS

Gold rush! Gold rush!

 

NEWSBOY

Extree, extree!

Read all about it!

 

 

CHORUS

Gold rush! Gold rush!

 

NEWSBOY

Gold discovered

In Canyon City!

 

RUBY

Theyíll be a hot time

In the old town tonight!

 

CHORUS

When gold is discovered,

A town comes to life

Thousands rush

To stake a claim

 

RUBY

To my delight!

 

CHORUS

Nothing helps business

Like gold

 

Banks rise and fall

Gold is eternal

Fame is fickle

Gold is eternal

Love comes and goes

Gold is eternal

 

MINER

A man sweats

And sweats and sweats

Works all his life

For gold

 

CAMP FOLLOWER

A lady suffers

Subjugation and pain

Then spreads her legs

For gold

 

CHORUS

Gold is the measure of all things

Gold is the meaning of life

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold

 

NEWSBOY

Gold rush! Gold rush!

 

CHORUS

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold

 

NEWSBOY

Gold discovered

In Canyon City!

Gold rush!

 

GROUP OF MINERS

We dig all day

And bust our backs

All in search of

Gold

 

We stake our claim

Driven by lust

Then rob our neighbor

For gold

 

Gold is the measure of all things

Gold is the meaning of life

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold

 

GROUP OF CAMP FOLLOWERS

When thereís a strike

Weíre right behind

To get our share of

Gold

 

We screw all night

Flat on our backs

All for the lure of

Gold

 

Gold is the measure of all things

Gold is the meaning of life

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold

 

CHORUS

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold!

 

STUMP & RUBY

But those days are gone

Those days are gone

And never to return

 

STUMP

All of my life Iíve chased a dream

Trying to strike it rich

To California in forty-nine

Staking out my claim

 

Iím sure Iíll find the mother lode

To set me up for life

I find a bit of ore at best

And bust my back for that

 

I lost three wives for chasing gold

I also lost a leg

And still I dig and dig and dig

Digging is my fate

 

Mother lode, o mother lode!

The bane of my weary life

Mother lode, sweet mother lode!

Will be the death of me

 

STUMP & RUBY

Mother lode, sweet mother lode!

Will be the death of me

 

(Stump wearily starts upstairs.)

 

RUBY

Cheer up, Stump!

Thereís still a trickle

Out of your claim

Youíre better off

Than most

 

STUMP

Yes, Iím better

Off than most

But still my back

Is killing me

And by the way

The Indians are

Sending smoke

Signals again

 

MILLER

Donít you fret

I gave the chief

Enough whiskey

For all his tribe

 

STUMP

Iím just saying

What I saw

Smoke signals

Make me nervous

 

Especially since

We dig up bones

Of ancestors

Instead of gold

MILLER

Whatever anger

This has caused

Is cured by whiskey

Trust me

 

(Music changes. LESTER, the black cook, approaches Miller.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

A free black man

In Oregon

Who came too late

To dig his gold

 

LESTER

Hiner

You wanted to see me?

 

MILLER

Lester

Indeed I did

We need to talk

About doing Shakespeare

 

LESTER

What you talking about?

Shakespeare?

 

MILLER

Scenes from Othello

You and me

Iíll read Othello

Youíll read Iago

 

LESTER

Wait a minute

You look in

The mirror lately?

I should be

Othello

 

MILLER

I am Othello

You are Iago

 

LESTER

Hiner

That makes no

Damn sense at all

Why should you

Read Othello?

 

MILLER

I am the Byron

Of the West!

I am a genius

I confess

 

LESTER

Christ, Hiner

Iíve heard all that

 

MILLER

Cincinnatus

Hiner Miller

Poet, lawyer,

Indian fighter

 

Shakespearean actor

Who plays Othello

We start rehearsals

Soon

 

LESTER

The miners donít

Give a hoot

For Shakespeare

 

MILLER

Of course they do

 

LESTER

The miners need

More trem in town

Not Shakespeare

 

MINER

They crave the Bard!

 

LESTER

The miners need

More booze to drink

Not Shakespeare

 

MILLER

They crave the Bard!

 

LESTER

You as Othello?

Me as Iago?

Incredible

 

The miners will

Hoot us off

The stage

 

MILLER

I am the Byron

Of the west

I am a genius

I confess

 

Shakespearean actor

Who plays Othello

We start rehearsals

Soon

 

(Duet begins)

 

MILLER

Even a mining

Town needs culture

And so Iíll bring

The Bard to life!

 

LESTER

What this town needs

Is more trem!

What this town needs

Is more booze!

 

MILLER & LESTER

So a miner can rest his weary back

So a miner can spit out all the dust

So a miner can tip a glass of booze

So a miner can forget all bad luck

So a miner can dream of better days

So a miner can plan a future scheme

So a miner can get what a man needs most

What a man needs most, what a man needs most

 

LESTER

What a man needs most:

A womanís flesh

 

MILLER

What a man needs most:

The poetís voice

 

MILLER & LESTER

So a miner can get what a man needs most

And rest his weary bones

 

(Music continues and changes. CROSS FADE upstairs, to Paddy in the hallway by Roseís door.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

All the players

Now in place

But still so much

Thatís not revealed

So in life

We move ahead

Without knowing

Where we go

 

PADDY

Canyon City

This godforsaken place

The end of my journey

From Chicago

Thomas O'Reilly

Surely is here

 

This is where

They must have come

Thomas and Rose

Thinking they pulled

The great crime off

 

Thomas and Rose

Must have thought

They outwitted the world

And almost they did

 

Save one

Save me

Save Paddy McGuinness!

 

I traveled through

Awilderness

Of dry desolation

Of lizards and worse

Of strange varmints

A blazing sun

Like Hell itself

 

Dry as death

Without my pint

Without my cigar

At last to arrive

In Canyon City

Room and Board

A place to rest

My weary head

Before the gold

This missing gold

Is found and all

Revealed

 

And then will I

Paddy McGuinness

Surely become

The most famous cop

In all the land

The most famous cop

In all the land!

 

(He stands at Roseís door.)

 

(Focus on Rose in her room.)

 

ROSE

Why am I so nervous?

The deed is almost done

In a week at most

Iíll be out of here

 

This godforsaken place

And yet the perfect spot

To pull off such charade

Patience is the key

 

Play along with each

Tell them what they want

Assure them all is well

The end is very near

 

Soon enough will I

Begin a better life

Putting far behind

My life before Thomas

My life as an artist

 

An artist cannot

Live alone

On press clippings

Chicago critics

Loved my work

But how I struggled

To make ends meet

 

And then Thomas

Wooed me so

With such ideas

To make us rich

 

Whatís a starving

Artist to do?

 

I said Yes

Poor Thomas

 

And we came here

Poor Thomas

 

I did what a starving

Artist must do

Poor Thomas

 

(A knock. She stops.)

 

ROSE

Who is it?

 

PADDY

A friend from Chicago

 

ROSE

Chicago?

 

PADDY

Chicago!

 

ROSE

Iíve never been

To Chicago

 

PADDY

And never married

Thomas OíReilly?

 

ROSE

Just a minute

 

(She approaches the door.)

 

ROSE

Someone from Chicago?

Who is looking for Thomas?

No one from Chicago

Should know we came here

 

 

PADDY

I need to talk

To you

 

ROSE

Just a minute!

 

Just a coincidence

Nothing to worry about

No one from Chicago

Can know we came here

Thomas and I Ė poor Thomas

 

(She opens the door.)

 

PADDY

Hello, Rose

We never met

But I know Thomas

Very well

 

We both worked

For Pinkerton

And often shared

A pint and smoke

 

ROSE

Iím sorry, Thomas

Is not in

 

PADDY

Are you expecting

Thomas soon?

 

ROSE

Actually he

Was called away

On business, you see

 

Heís in Chicago

As we speak

 

PADDY

Back to Chicago?

 

ROSE

Home to Chicago

 

PADDY

How strange

 

ROSE

How sad

I miss him so

 

PADDY

If heís not here

Then I should go

 

(He starts out.)

 

ROSE

Wait!

 

PADDY

Yes?

 

ROSE (aside, to audience)

What do I do?

How can he know?

I must keep him

Close at hand

 

PADDY

Madam?

 

ROSE (to Paddy)

I feel I can trust you

 

PADDY

Of course you can

 

ROSE

I donít know where to turn

 

PADDY

Iím not sure what you mean

 

 

ROSE

What I said

Is not true

I do not miss

Thomas at all

 

As we speak

Heís in the fields

Stealing all

My fatherís gold

 

PADDY

Stealing gold?

Thomas OíReilly?

 

ROSE

He married me

For my money

I feel like such

A fool

 

You see, I was so innocent

When Thomas courted me

This older man, urbane and suave

He made me feel so free

 

No wonder that I fell in love

Whoíd never fell before

How could I ever understand

What deeds he had in store?

 

He courted me only to get

His hands on fatherís gold

And now this once innocent girl

Is frightened, sad and old

 

Paddy, I so need your help

To get me out of here

 

PADDY

You are asking for my help?

 

ROSE

I live in constant fear

 

PADDY

This is a mighty thing to ask

 

ROSE

Yes, I understand

(to audience)

Something about him isnít right

 

PADDY (to audience)

She has a secret plan

 

ROSE & PADDY

When gold is on the table,

Always watch your back

Never trust a soul

The needs of gold surpass the needs of flesh

Protecting what is yours is always best

 

(Paddy moves away, back into the hallway.)

 

ROSE

What is he up to?

If anything at all?

Did he and Thomas

Make some kind of deal?

 

PADDY

What is she up to?

If anything at all?

Did she and Thomas

Have some kind of fight?

 

ROSE & PADDY

When gold is on the table,

Always watch your back

Never trust a soul

The needs of gold surpass the needs of flesh

Protecting what is yours is always best

 

(Returning to his room, Paddy passes Stump coming down the hallway. Paddy goes into his room. Stump knocks on Roseís door.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

Little does

Paddy know

The layers of

Roseís plan

What a piece

Of work she is

A femme fatale

Like few before

 

STUMP

Itís me

 

(Rose opens the door.)

 

ROSE

We may have trouble

 

STUMP

Trouble is my middle name

This damn leg is killing me

There must be a better way

To get the ore out of the field

 

(Heíll take off his wooden leg and empty crushed gold ore out of it, pouring it into a box that Rose has taken out from under the bed.)

 

ROSE

A manís here from Chicago

He says he knows Thomas

 

STUMP

Your husband wasnít very smart

I told you so from the start

 

ROSE

I told him Thomas

Was in the field

Stealing gold

From fatherís claim

 

STUMP

Are you crazy?

 

ROSE

I had to say something

I just donít know

How much he knows

 

STUMP

Coming here from Chicago

I donít like it

 

ROSE

Which is why

We have to get him

Into the fields

Where you can do

What must be done

 

STUMP

I killed your husband

Thatís enough

 

The Indians

Are sending smoke

It makes me nervous

 

 

ROSE

You have to do

Just as I say

(A knock on the door. Lester has come upstairs.)

 

ROSE

Who is it?

 

LESTER

Itís me

Ruby sent me

Up with tea

 

ROSE

Just a minute

 

(She helps Stump get his leg on. Then she opens the door. Stump leaves, and Lester enters.)

 

STUMP

I was just leaving

 

ROSE

Thank you for

The inspiration

(To Lester)

His mining stories

Inspire my art

 

(She shuts the door. In the hallwayÖ)

 

STUMP

Her husband is

The only man

Iíve ever killed

 

And now she wants

The deed repeated

 

And this with Indians

Sending smoke

 

Trouble is

My middle name

 

(Heíll go into his room.)

 

(In Roses roomÖ)

 

LESTER

Iíve been thinking about

The offer you made

To sneak you out

With all your paintings

 

And protecting you

Through Indian country

All the way

To San Francisco

 

ROSE

And what did you decide?

 

LESTER

I donít understand

The secrecy

But itís a gig

That I could do

Except I want

Double the fee

 

ROSE

Thatís outrageous!

 

LESTER

You think you can

Do it yourself

Sneak out of here

Ruby not knowing

Stump not knowing

With all your work

And travel across

Indian territory

All that danger

Without protection

You think you can

Do it alone

Then be my guest

 

ROSE

I canít afford

Twice as much

 

LESTER

Of course you can

A famous artist

Like yourself

With all these paintings

Of the west

All these scenes

Of mining life

Theyíll eat it up

In San Francisco

Donít pretend

They wonít

 

ROSE

You leave me little choice

 

LESTER

Itís up to you

 

ROSE

Iíve too much art

To take alone

You take advantage

Of my plight

 

LESTER

You get no sympathy

From me

Itís dog eat dog

Out in the fields

And everywhere

Out in the world

Itís dog eat dog

Donít think it isnít

 

ROSE & LESTER

Itís dog eat dog

Out in the world

You always have

To watch your back

 

You never know

Whoís next to cheat

Whoíll next betray

Whoís next to lie

Itís dog eat dog

 

Out in the world

And thatís the end

Of that

 

LESTER

So when do we start?

 

(FOCUS shifts to Paddy coming out of his room into the hallway.)

 

PADDY

I dozed off, waking with a start

And knowing what it was that I must do

If Thomas OíReilly was out in the fields,

Then into those same fields I must venture

And seek him out Ė despite ungodly creatures,

Varmints, lizards and worse, all hiding out

Throughout the godforsaken wilderness

I, Paddy McGuinness, without my pint,

And no cigar, must go into the desert

And catch my rat, for this is where he was

The matter settled did not rest my nerves

I was, in fact, more nervous than before

 

(LIGHTS fuller to include Lester heading for the stairs.)

 

PADDY

Lester!

 

LESTER

Mr. McGuinness, if I recall?

 

PADDY

Paddy to you, to everyone

Might we have a word?

 

LESTER

Of course

 

PADDY

Do you know

the lady's husband

and where he might

be found?

 

LESTER

He staked a claim

Out in the fields

And has been gone

For days and days

 

PADDY

I see. And you?

You have a claim

As well?

 

LESTER

When I came to Canyon City,

I had in hand a treasure map

To lead me to great fields of gold

 

Little did I know this map

Had been so often given out

That thousands rushed to stake their claims

 

Needless to say, I came too late,

The claims were filed, the gold was dug,

And I was lucky to find work

 

Washing plates at Room & Board

Do you see the moral here?

 

PADDY

The early bird will get the worm

 

LESTER

Thereís more to it than that

 

Goldís an aphrodisiac

It stirs the loins and drives the pulse,

And takes a man out of his head

As much as over any dame,

Goldís an aphrodisiac

I should have stayed right where I was

 

LESTER & PADDY

Goldís an aphrodisiac

Lust for wealth will grab a man

And take possession of his soul

And send him on a journey far

Beyond the borders of his life

 

When a man has lust for gold,

He has a ticket into Hell,

And though a few come back alive

With riches far beyond their dreams,

For most the journey is defeat,

Digging in the dirt for bones,

Which soon enough become their own

 

Goldís an aphrodisiac,

And Death waits in the bridal bed

Goldís an aphrodisiac,

And Death waits in the bridal bed

 

(CROSS FADE downstairs to MILLER reciting a poem.)

 

MILLER

"The day is dark and cloudy too

"And the mist is eddying round

"My toes they ache, you bet they do

"As I hear the chill wind sound."

 

(He is pleased with himself.)

 

MILLER

I am the Byron

Of the West

I am a genius

I confess

 

My poems will bring me

Worldwide fame

Everyone

Will know my name

 

Cincinnatus

Hiner Miller

Poet, lawyer,

Indian fighter

 

(Rose has arrived at his table.)

 

ROSE

Mister Miller

 

MILLER

Call me Hinter

 

ROSE

May I join you?

 

MILLER

The pleasure is mine

 

ROSE

Please forgive

My earlier rudeness

 

MILLER

Forgiven, madam

We share artistic

Temperaments

 

ROSE

Yes, there is

A bond between us

 

MILLER

One artist knows

Another

 

ROSE

Hiner, I feel

I can trust you

 

MILLER

Of course you can

 

ROSE

I'm so distraught

I need your help

 

MILLER

What is it, madam?

 

ROSE

I'm so ashamed

To tell you

 

MILLER

What you say

Remains our secret

 

ROSE

Thank you, Hiner

Your trust means

So much to me

 

MILLER

Artists must always

Stick together

In a world so filled

With mundane things

 

MILLER & ROSE

Artists must always

Stick together

For only they

Have special sight

To see the world

Just as it is

And gifts to share

Just what they see

With those who dare

To see the truth

Artists share

This special gift

 

MILLER

And what is wrong?

 

ROSE

The problem is Lester

 

MILLER

Lester, the cook?

 

ROSE

The very same

 

MILLER

What has he done?

An uncouth advance?

 

ROSE

In a manner of speaking

 

MILLER

I cannot believe it

 

ROSE

Not what you think

It really explains

My reasons for coming

To Canyon City

 

MILLER

Tell me the story

 

ROSE

What you must understand

Is I am more naive

Than you probably think

And this is why I used

A service in Chicago

To help me find a man

Suitable for marriage

 

And so I came to meet

Lester and to write

Him letters every week

We had so much in common

He seemed the perfect mate

 

When he finally asked

For my hand in marriage,

I wrote back at once

And said I'd be his bride

 

Imagine then my shock

After I arrived

I had no idea

That he is who he is

 

Obviously I can't

Marry such a man

But Lester still insists

And if I don't comply

He will write my parents

And tell them it is I

Who traveled all this way

To marry such a man

 

And such a family scandal,

Marrying a Nego,

I shudder to conceive

The damage this would do

My mother's health so poor

 

That's why I need your help

 

MILLER

I'll confront Lester at once

 

ROSE

No, that's not what I mean

I want to sneak away

To leave this awful place

And I need your brawn

To help me with my paintings

 

MILLER

Of course you have my help

 

ROSE

I am so relieved

We'll talk again soon

 

(She heads upstairs.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

What a piece

Of work she is

Who spins her web

Each time anew

A special lie

For each of them

And all get tangled

In her web

 

MILLER

Artists must always

Stick together

For only they

Have special sight

To see the world

Just as it is

And gifts to share

Just what they see

With those who dare

To see the truth

Artists share

This special gift

 

(CROSS FADE upstairs, to Paddy in the hallway.)

 

PADDY

As much as I dislike

This godforsaken place

I know what I must do

Go into the fields

And find Thomas myself

 

(Rose joins him.)

 

PADDY

Madam, I am on my way

Into the fields to find the groom

Who tries to steal your fatherís gold

Have no fear, the deed is done

 

ROSE

Already I feel peace of mind

How can I make this up to you?

 

PADDY

As my papa used to say,

First things first. Iím on my way

 

(Rose goes into her room.)

 

PADDY

She must take me for a fool

But thatís exactly what I want

She and Thomas are a team

And I donít buy her crazy tale

When I find him in the fields,

The truth will be revealed

 

(He goes into his room.)

 

(MUSIC, as Ruby comes up the stairs, knocks on Roseís door and enters her room.)

 

RUBY

Have you decided

When we go?

 

ROSE

I still have work

To do

 

RUBY

Iím not sleeping

Well at night

Iím a bundle

Of raw nerves

 

ROSE

I still have work

To do

 

RUBY

Iím as ready

As can be

To get the hell

Out of here

 

ROSE

I still have work

To do

 

RUBY

You give the word

And I am packed

 

ROSE

I still have work

To do

 

RUBY

Just thought Iíd check

 

ROSE

I understand

Youíd better go

 

RUBY

Just give the word

 

(Ruby leaves.)

 

ROSE

Everythingís

So complicated:

 

Stump took care

Of Thomas for me

And Ruby helps me

Blackmail Stump

 

Lester helps me

Blackmail Ruby

And Hiner helps me

Blackmail Lester

 

A lady can't have

Too many friends

To help her get

What's rightly hers

 

What's a starving

Artist to do

But try to get

What's rightly hers?

 

A lady can't have

Too many friends

Stump and Ruby

Lester and Hiner

And last but not least

Thomas, poor Thomas

 

A lady canít have

Too many friends

To help her get

Whatís rightly hers

What's a starving

Artist to do?

 

(CROSS FADE downstairs.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

We are the dead

 

Our rotting flesh

The buzzardsí treat

Killed because

We dug for gold

And found instead

Ancestral bones

 

Our souls wander

Restlessly

Because our stories

Are untold

 

Listen then

To our grave tale

And give our souls

Their weary rest

 

Thus we began

In Oregon

In a desert

Filled with gold

Into which

Came other news

Of a crime

Daring and bold

 

As our story

Thus unfolds

Betrayal is seen

Everywhere

Who will win?

Who will lose?

 

We are the dead

This is our tale

 

 

CHORUS

Gold rush! Gold rush!

Whatís a starving

Artist to do?

Gold heist! Gold heist!

Whatís a starving

Artist to do?

 

Banks rise and fall

Gold is eternal

Fame is fickle

Gold is eternal

Love comes and goes

Gold is eternal

 

MINER

A man sweats

And sweats and sweats

Works all his life

For gold

 

CAMP FOLLOWER

A lady suffers

Subjugation and pain

Then spreads her legs

For gold

 

NEWSBOY

Extree! Extree!

Read all about it!

 

CHORUS

A man will chase

The thing he needs

 

NEWSBOY

Extree! Extree!

Read all about it!

 

CHORUS

First the gold

And then the greed

 

Gold is the measure of all things

Gold is the meaning of life

God said, Let there be light!

And the light was shining gold

 

And the light was shining gold!

And the light was shining gold!

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

Who will win?

Who will lose?

We are the dead

This is our tale

 

(END OF ACT ONE)

 


 

ACT TWO

 

 

(AT RISE: MUSIC. Three days later. Camp followers and miners, bored, hanging around outside the boarding house.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

When gold is scarce

A mining camp

Is not a pleasant

Place to be

 

And of course

It gets far worse

If Roseís plan

Becomes revealed

 

CAMP FOLLOWER

Itís so boring

To be broke

Thereís no gold

Thereís no whiskey

Thereís no dancing

Thereís no screwing

Itís so boring

To be broke

 

MINER

Itís so boring

To be broke

A man must fight

To pass the time

And try to bargain

For free nooky

Itís so boring

To be broke

 

MINERS & CAMP FOLLOWERS

Gold is like

The air weíre breathing

Without gold

Why keep on living?

Thereís no whiskey

Thereís no nooky

Thereís no business

Thereís no gold

 

(A CAMP FOLLOWER comes forward.)

 

CAMP FOLLOWER

Whatís lady to do

If she wants to get

Ahead in this world?

 

Do you want to sit

All day at a machine

Stitching together cloth

 

CHORUS

Thatís not the job for me

CAMP FOLLOWER

Do you want to get

On your hands and knees

Scrubbing down a floor

 

CHORUS

Thatís not the job for me

 

CAMP FOLLOWER

Do you want to stand

Over a hot stove

Then clean the pots and pans

 

CHORUS

Thatís not the job for me

 

CAMP FOLLOWER

I stretch out on a bed

I picture cotton clouds

A spread apart my legs

I hear a symphony

And grunts like crashing waves

 

In no time I am done

With time to take a smoke

As much work as I want

Surely you see why

This is the job for me

 

CHORUS

Surely you see why

This is the job for me

 

(CROSS FADE to inside the boarding house, where Miller in black face and Lester in white face are rehearsing.)

 

MILLER (as Othello)

"Ay, let her rot and perish

Tis a thing I would cherish

My heart is turned to stone

As hard as any bone

Yet it hurts my hand

Do you understand?"

 

LESTER

Hiner ó

 

MILLER

"O the world hath no one sweeter

Even if she is a cheater

She might ó "

 

LESTER

Hiner!

 

MILLER

What is it?

 

LESTER

This is inane!

 

MILLER

This is Shakespeare

 

LESTER

This is insane!

 

MILLER

This is ďOthello.Ē

 

LESTER

It's not Shakespeare's "Othello."

The Bard didnít write doggerel

 

MILLER

This is the Bard

Adapted by me

To be understood

By uncouth miners

 

ďShe might lie by an emperorís side

And give him orders or skin his hideĒ

 

Itís your line,

My boy

 

LESTER

Donít call me boy, Hiner

I played Othello before

On a San Francisco stage

 

MILLER

Itís still your line

 

ďAnd give him orders or skin his hideĒ

 

LESTER

Jesus Ö

ďOthello, this is not your wayĒ

 

MILLER

ďIago, it is today

 

LESTER

ď"O beware, my lord, of jealousy:

It is much, much worse than leprosy.

It's a green-eyed monster that mocks

Everything within the ticks of clocks."

Jesus, Hiner!

 

MILLER

Continue, youíre doing

Very well

 

LESTER

"The cuckold may live in bliss

When the husband doesn't see the kiss."

 

MILLER

ďHark, Iago, I must see before I doubt

And with sober eyes devoid of stout.

I need very clear proof

Before going through the roof."

 

LESTER

"This I am most glad to hear,

Especially since you've drunk no beer.

For now I can warn you as a friend:

Never to Cassio your wife lend,

Permit no moment of the two alone,

Or Cassio would take her as his own."

 

This is babbling doggerel!

I canít take any more!

Hiner, I quit! Goodbye!

 

(Ruby enters from the kitchen.)

 

RUBY

Lester, you plan

To fix supper today?

 

LESTER

Right away.

 

RUBY

I wouldn't want

To interrupt

Your new career.

 

LESTER

Very funny.

 

(He starts off toward the kitchen.)

 

MILLER

Lines to memory,

My boy!

 

(Lester is gone.)

 

MILLER

Iím trying to keep him

Occupied.

 

RUBY

He can cook

Or he can quit

Itís a free

Country

 

MILLER

Not exactly

For a Negro

 

RUBY

If he can avoid

Getting lynched,

Heís as free

As any man

 

MILLER

Ruby, I have something

To reveal

Lesterís not the man

He seems to be

Miss Lee told me things

You wouldnít believe

To make it short, sheís here

Against her will

And she wants me to help

Her escape

 

RUBY

Youíre helping her escape?

 

MILLER

Of course! A gentleman

Can do no less

Iím helping her escape

And very soon

 

RUBY

Youíre helping her escape?

 

(Duet begins.)

 

MILLER

Things are not always

As they seem

All the worldís a stage

And we perform

The roles that are suited

To our needs

 

RUBY

Things are not always

As they seem

You trust someone and find

Yourself betrayed

What you took as true

Is just a lie

 

MILLER & RUBY

Things are not always

As they seem

What you see is only

What you see

All the worldís a stage

And we perform

The roles that are suited

To our needs

You trust someone and find

Yourself betrayed

Things are not always

As they seem

 

(Stump enters. He heads for the stairs.)

 

STUMP

The Indians are sending smoke signals

They worry me something fierce

 

(He continues up the stairs.)

 

MILLER & RUBY

Things are not always

As they seem

What you see is only

What you see

All the worldís a stage

And we perform

The roles that are suited

To our needs

You trust someone and find

Yourself betrayed

Things are not always

As they seem

 

(CROSS FADE upstairs to Roseís room.)

 

(Roseis painting as Stump knocks on her door.)

 

STUMP

It's me!

 

ROSE

Come in!

 

(Stump enters.)

 

STUMP

My leg's killing me ...

 

ROSE

Sit down and relax.

 

(He'll sit on the bed, his back to the audience: Miss Lee will remove his wooden leg and dump its contents into a bucket, which she puts back under the bed.)

 

STUMP

The Indians are sending

Smoke signals again

They make me nervous

Maybe we should quit

 

ROSE

Donít avoid the subject

Did you do the job?

 

STUMP

Of course.

 

ROSE

And McGuinness?

 

STUMP

A main course for buzzards

But Iím serious

The Indians donít like

Us digging up bones

I think they plan

To do something about it

How much more gold

Do you need to paint with?

 

ROSE

I canít leave now

With gold in the fields

 

STUMP

And gold on the paintings

Enough for both of us

To live like kings

Why be greedy?

 

ROSE

Why be greedy?

Greed is like a thirst

A God-given drive

As natural as breathing

 

STUMP

The Indians are restless

 

ROSE

Do you ask a man

To breathe less air?

Do you ask a man

To drink less water?

 

STUMP

The Indians make me nervous

 

ROSE

Greed is like the breath

Greed is like the thirst

We canít leave now

With gold in the fields

 

(CROSS FADE below, to where McGuinness stands in a spotlight, his head wrapped in bandages.)

 

MCGUINNESS

And so I took the map

And went into the fields

Expecting to find

Thomas out there

If lizards and varmints

Werenít frightening enough

The Indians were

Acting strange

 

Smoke was as thick

As fumes over Chicago

And I wondered what it all meant

 

I got reckless, I admit

Fearful of the Indians

Losing focus on the task at hand

 

I found an ore crusher

Old and out of use

Right where the map said itíd be

 

Thatís when Thomas

Crept behind me and swung

A board like a butcher at the rack

 

I fell to the ground

Could have died then and there

If two stray miners hadnít come

 

They put me on a mule

And dropped me off here

And Lester found me on the street

 

(Lester in white face, Miller in black face, stand next to McGuinness, comforting him.)

 

LESTER

Are you all right?

You look a mess.

 

MILLER

Sit down, my lad,

And rest your feet.

 

MCGUINNESS

I look worse

Than I feel

Or am I dead?

You look so pale

And you so black

 

MILLER

Dress rehearsals

Paddy, my lad

Practice before

History is made

 

MCGUINNESS

Is Rose still here?

Miss Lee, I mean?

 

MILLER

Of course.

 

MCGUINNESS

She set this up

With her husband

I walked straight

Into a trap

 

MILLER

Her husband?

 

MCGUINNESS

Thomas OíReilly

They are the two

Who hijacked the gold

Out of Chicago

 

MILLER

This canít be true

 

MCGUINNESS

My head shows it is

 

LESTER

The plot thickens

 

MILLER

This canít be true

Lester wants to marry

Miss Lee himself

 

LESTER

Are you crazy?

 

MILLER

The lady told me

So herself

 

MCGUINNESS

She says many things

But never the truth

†††††††††††††††††††††††

LESTER & MCGUINNESS

A ladyís voice

Can sound so sweet

As she twists

The knife in your gut

 

An angelic smile

A gentle kiss

As she takes you

By the throat

 

A promise of

A happy life

As she leaves you

Bare and broke

 

A ladyís beauty

Is a drug

That she uses

All too well

 

MILLER

I donít believe it

Iíll speak to her

Immediately

 

(He goes upstairs.)

 

MCGUINNESS & LESTER

A ladyís beauty

Is a drug

That she uses

All too well

 

And whereís the man

Who turns away

Who doesnít want

Her for himself?

 

A ladyís smile

A ladyís kiss

A ladyís sex

And man is done

 

(McGuinness heads for the stairs to follow Miller. CROSS FADE upstairs. Miller has burst into Roseís room.)

 

MILLER

Madam, I demand

An explanation!

 

(Rose screams. Miller realizes his face is black.)

 

ROSE

Are you dead?

A corpse whoís come

To haunt my soul?

 

MILLER

Madam, I rehearse

Shakespeareís role Othello

To entertain the miners

 

ROSE

Of course, I see!

How clever of you

Distract them as

We get away

 

(Miller, realizingthat McGuinness may be listening, makes a gesture for her to stop this direction of talk.)

 

MILLER (changing the subject)

What magnificent paintings!

 

(He will hold up a canvas: this is the first time we've seen one, and it's nothing but a gold-primed canvas.)

 

MILLER

How this captures

The very soul

Of a mining camp

Gold! Gold!

(He looks at the many other canvases in the room, all of them the same, nothing but solid gold primer.)

 

MILLER

And this one Ö and this

The same, the same

Lady, you are

A genius for sure!

Each reduced

To bare essentials!

Only gold

And gold alone!

(He clears his throat.)

Madam, Iíve

Been talking to Paddy

 

ROSE

Paddy McGuinness?

 

MILLER

The very one

Heís had a terrible

Accident

With an explanation

Quite bizarre

 

ROSE

He mustíve told you

About my husband

Poor Thomas

 

MILLER

You have a husband?

 

ROSE

He died last winter

Paddy knew him

In Chicago

I fear it was

A widowís grief

That made me ripe

For Mr. Brown

My lifeís become

A tragedy

 

MILLER

Your art will be

The stronger for it

Then Paddy must

Be mistaken

About who beaned him

With atwo-by-four

 

ROSE

He said as much?

Oh dear, I fear Ė

Could it be true?

 

MILLER

What, madam?

 

ROSE

It must be William

Thomasí twin

Who stole the map

To find the gold

Since Thomas died,

The mapís been gone

 

MILLER

The map, madam?

 

ROSE

Oh, Mr. Miller,

What shall I do?

 

MILLER

Madam, please,

Call me Joaquin

My new pen name

Youíre the first one

That Iíve told

 

ROSE

Dear Joaquin

I think itís time

To get away

From this horrid

Mining town

 

(McGuinness enters the room, his gun drawn. Lester will come up the stairs below and listen at the door. And Ruby will soon come up behind him, gun drawn on Lester, to listen in as well.)

 

MCGUINNESS

Horrid mining

Town, indeed!

 

MILLER

What an outrage!

 

MILLER

Rose, you do,

Thomas proud

A liar to match

His own deceit

 

MILLER

What your tongue!

She is in grief.

Put down the gun.

 

MCGUINNESS

She and Thomas

In cahoots

Stole the gold

From Chicago

Dumped it here

To bring it out

As if they struck

A fertile mine

 

ROSE (to Miller)

Donít you see?

He and William

Work together

 

MCGUINNESS

Thereís no William

Thereís no twin

Hiner, she is

Duping you

 

(Trio starts.)

 

MCGUINNESS

A ladyís voice

Can sound so sweet

As she twists

The knife in your gut

 

An angelic smile

A gentle kiss

As she takes you

By the throat

 

ROSE

Listen how

He tries to make me

Into someone

That Iím not

 

MILLER

A ladyís beauty

Comes from heaven

Is a gift

From God alone

 

Sacrilege

Does not convince me

That this lady

Does me wrong

 

MCGUINNESS

Then youíll learn

The hardest lesson

A womanís word

Is cold as Ice

 

A promise of

A happy life

As she leaves you

Bare and broke

 

A ladyís beauty

Is a drug

That she uses

All too well

 

ALL THREE

A ladyís beauty

Like a phantom

Now you see it

Now you donít

In the eye

Of the beholder

Comes the meaning

Of it all

 

MILLER

Madam, I

Defend you now

And to the end

 

MCGUINNESS

Where is Thomas?

Tell me, Rose.

 

ROSE

Joaquin, please

Leave us alone

I must settle

This myself

 

MILLER

Madam, I

Donít understand

 

ROSE

Trust me, please

 

TRIO

A ladyís beauty

Like a phantom

Now you see it

Now you donít

In the eye

Of the beholder

Comes the meaning

Of it all

 

(Lester and Ruby move up the hallway before Miller turns and exits, going down the stairs and out the main exit. When he passes, they take their places at the door again, eavesdropping, Ruby still with the gun drawn on Lester.)

 

MCGUINNESS

I'm waiting here

Till Thomas comes

 

ROSE

But if he never

Comes at all?

 

MCGUINNESS

I think he will.

 

ROSE

I think he won't.

 

(Duet begins, 3/4 time?)

 

ROSE

If you would just believe me

We'd reach a compromise

That would help us both

If you would just believe me

 

MCGUINNESS

The boy who's crying wolf

Finds himself dismissed

When the wolf appears

--Thomas is the wolf

 

ROSE

Thomas broke my heart

 

MCGUINNESS

Why don't I believe you?

 

ROSE

If you'd hear me out

I could make you rich

 

The paintings that I paint

Have primer full of gold

Help me get them out

And several go to you

 

MCGUINNESS

Why don't I believe you?

 

ROSE

Or if you would agree

There is another way

 

MCGUINNESS

And what way might that be?

 

(Rose moves close, flirtatious.)

 

ROSE

Oh, surely you can guess

Do you like what you see

When you look at me?

Imagine how we both

Could live with all this gold

 

MCGUINNESS

Youíre such a piece of work!

Treachery, thy name

Surely must be Rose!

 

ROSE

I see lust in your eyes

Is that the answer Yes?

 

MCGUINNESS

For all the gold you have

I would not bed you down

A bigger prize is mine

When I have Thomas here

 

ROSE

You stupid little man!

You ignorant buffoon!

Who do you think you are

To refuse me like that?

ROSE & MCGUINNESS

Youíre not worth the dirt I walk on

Youíre not worth the phlem I spit

You have nothing worth my trouble

Youíre as small as navel lent

[developed with repeat of lyrics]

 

(CROSS FADE as Ruby grabs Lester and hustles him downstairs.)

 

CHORUS OF THE DEAD

Witness how the plan unravels

Now the fun really begins

Witness how sparks fly off most

From those who realize theyíve been duped

 

RUBY

What a double-crossing scumbag!

What a lying whoring bitch!

 

LESTER

Sounds to me sheís double-crossing

Everyone whoís talked to her

 

RUBY

She will not pull this on Ruby

She is going to pay big time

 

LESTER

Sheís the one who does the dealing

Weíre the ones who get the dime

 

RUBY & LESTER

Sheís not worth the dirt I walk on

Sheís not worth the phlem I spit

She has nothing worth my trouble

Sheís as small as navel lent

[develop with same lyrics]

 

(CROSS FADE back upstairs. McGuinness and Rose remain in the room Ė and behind McGuinness comes Miller, holding a huge law book over his head. He brings it down on McGuinnessí head, and he crashes to the floor.)

 

MILLER

Madam, I have rescued you!

ROSE

My hero! But you must

Get out of here at once.

 

(She starts moving him to the door.)

 

MILLER

What is it, madam?

 

ROSE

Iíve no time to explain.

 

MILLER

Iíll wait for you downstairs!

 

(She hustles him out. Miller goes downstairs. Rose looks down at the body of McGuinness.)

 

ROSE

How small men look when they are down

Their power taken Ďway

Who believe the world works just for them

And they alone betray

Who believe a woman cannot think

And cannot make a deal

That everything is run by them

A truth with no appeal

Iíve put my brain against them all

And double-crossed each one

The paintings all belong to me

A womanís work is done

 

(CROSS FADE to downstairs as Miller joins Ruby and Lester.Ē

 

MILLER

Lester, shall we go

Outside and run some lines?

 

(Ruby draws a pistol on Miller.)

 

ROSE

Nobodyís going

Anywhere!

 

MILLER

Madam, I

Donít understand

 

(Stump enters.)

 

STUMP

I think those Indians

Are up to something.

 

(At the distraction of his entrance, Lester draws a pistol and points it at Ruby. Ruby still has a bead on Miller.)

 

LESTER

Hold it, Ruby!

 

RUBY

You double-crossing

Former slave!

 

LESTER

A free man if

I have a gun.

 

(Stump draws a pistol and points it at Lester.)

 

STUMP

What the hell

Is going on?

 

(A stalemate. Music. Stump is the only one not looking at the barrel of a gun: until Rose appears on the stairs and takes a bead on him.)

 

ROSE

Careful, Stump!

 

(Ruby quickly changes her aim from Miller to Rose. Now the stalemate is complete: Ruby has a bead on Rose, who has a bead on Stump, who has a bead on Lester, who has a bead on Ruby. Only Miller is free from threat now.)

 

MILLER

This seems to be a stalemate

 

RUBY

What Iíd like to do

Of course is shoot your first

But can I pull the trigger

Without being shot myself?

 

MILLER & RUBY

This seems to be a stalemate

 

LESTER

My first mistake

To trust you, Rose

To think that we

Had made a deal

 

STUMP

When all along

You schemed a double-

Crossing plan

To do me in

 

MILLER, RUBY, LESTER, STUMP

This seems to be a stalemate.

 

Thatís what happens

When you think

You know someone

Enough to trust

Them with your life

The moral clear

Trust no one

And play it safe

 

ROSE

This seems to be a stalemate

 

Trustworthiness a joke

Selfishness the rule

Blackmail is the game

Treachery the rules

 

Whatís a starving

Artist to do?

This seems to be a stalemate

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

And so greed drives men beyond shame

To acts so vile theyíre not yet named

And some men die and some men stay

And Filthy Lucre wins the day

 

(MUSIC. Miller has been watching this with a certain fascination.)

 

MILLER

I am the Byron

Of the West

I am a genius

I confess

 

My poems will bring me

Worldwide fame

Everyone

Will know my name

 

Cincinnatus

Hiner Miller

Poet, lawyer,

Indian fighter

 

This seems to be a stalemate.

Perhaps I can help.

The only problem is

Which one do I help?

 

CHORUS OF FIVE

Me, me, me, me, me!

Me, me, me, me, me!

 

MILLER

I think Iím quite confused.

 

(MUSIC change. Suddenly the door bursts open Ė and a miner comes in, an arrow in his body. )

 

MINER

The savages attack!

 

(He falls dead. A camp follower stumbles in, also shot by an arrow.)

 

CAMP FOLLOWER

To think my beautiful hair

Is going to be scalped!

 

(She falls dead. Now all the miners and camp followers come in, all with arrows in their bodies.)

 

CHORUS OF ARROWS

When savages attack

Itís like the end of days

No one will survive

None to tell the tale

All of this because

We dug up some old bones

And theyíre so primitive

Bones mean more than gold

 

Bones mean more than gold!

They know no more than this

Bones mean more than gold!

They know not what they do

 

(MUSIC. The scene is washed over in red light, heat and fire.)

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

Every lout deserves

A proper death

With oratory, song

Even a prayer

Though a life be full of lies

A corpse is nothing to despise

It doesnít hurt too much

To sing a hymn

 

CHORUS OF DEAD MINDERS

All I ever wanted

Was the best

Just like the tycoons living

On the hill

But pap worked for a small pittance

And I got no inheritance

Everything I got

I had to steal

 

CHORUS OF DEAD CAMP FOLLOWERS

I donít want your pity

Not a smidge

You can stick your pity

Up your arse

We navigated with our wits

Scratched out a living bit by bit

Your husbands always picking

Up the check

 

COMBINED CHORUSES

When youíre dead thereís nothing

To be done

It doesnít matter what you

Have to say

When the next wave comes around

Weíll be rotting in the ground

Quite without a memíry

Of all this

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD

All day blood flowed deep

Into the land

The very land that offered

All the gold

And only two of them survived

And managed to escape alive

A poet of the west,

A broken man.

 

(Red lights fade. SPOT up on McGuinness. At last he has his cigar.)

 

MCGUINNESS

Never have I seen such a massacre

Never have I seen so much blood

The Indians showed little mercy

They fought as if fighting for their Soul

 

I awoke to horrid cries and screaming

I was too afraid to wander down

Staying on the floor, I feigned death

Feigning death, I somehow stayed alive

 

For months I thought I was the sole survivor

Until I saw an item in the press

Hiner had obtained his fame and fortune

In London, called the Poet of the West

 

(CROSS FADE to Miller, fully buckskinned, in London as the Poet of the West.)

 

MILLER

I sing of the West and I sing of the greed that makes a man act outlandish

And all for the lure of Oregon gold ó that's Oro Oregono in Spanish.

Into the deserts and mountains they come, like hornets swarming to honey.

They sacrifice home and family and friends, and all for the greed for money.

They dig for days and weeks and months til blisters turn to stone.

As hard as ore their hands become, and muscles 'round their bones.

A nugget here! A nugget there! Nature lures them well,

And so they dig and dig again, how long we cannot tell.

They found his bones in a deep long hole across the desert sand.

His hand clutched 'round a sterile stone, a pick ax in his hand.

But here's the telling mark, my friend ó though the stench was strong and vile,

This miner felt no grief or pain ó his lips were in a smile!

And in the desert sand beside the grave wherein he sprawled,

In careful printed hand, this very message had been scrawled:

'Yes, a sinner rotted here, whose greedy smile has vanished,

Who lusted after Oregon gold!' ó that's Oro Oregono in Spanish!

 

(Off Miller, back to McGuinness.)

 

MCGUINNESS

But I had trouble sleeping every night

I could not share the truth of what I saw

The stench of burning flesh remained with me

The screams became the chorus of my life

 

For a while I thought I would recover

I would learn the meaning of all this

The meaning seemed to be a constant trembling

The meaning seemed to be the lack of sleep

 

The meaning seemed to be that gold is evil

When it consumes a manís very soul

But how can greed be evil when so common?

Who would have the will to deny gold?

 

The meaning seemed to say that sometimes living

And staying in this world is worse than death

 

(CLOSING MUSIC. McGuinness joins the quartet of the dead, as Ö)

 

NEWSBOY

Extree, extree!

Read all about it!

Massacre in Canyon City!

Indians on the warpath!

Extree, extree!

 

QUARTET OF THE DEAD PLUS ONE

We are the dead

 

Our rotting flesh

The buzzardsí treat

Killed because

We dug for gold

And found instead

Ancestral bones

 

Arrows from

The savage bow

Rained upon

Our weary flesh

And struck us down

Our scalps removed

An honored prize

 

Mourn for our

Disfigured souls

We are the dead

 

(All the other characters come out.)

 

FULL CHORUS

We only went

Where greed will go

We only sought

What greed will seek

Since greed is good

Weíve done no wrong

 

We are the dead

Who did no wrong

We are the dead

Who did no wrong.

 

END