MITCH. Can I ask you a question?
BLANCHE. Yes. What?
MITCH. How old are you?
[She makes a nervous gesture]
BLANCHE. Why do you want to know?
MITCH. I talked to my mother about you and she said, "How old is Blanche?" And I wasn't able to tell her. [There is another pause]
BLANCHE. You talked to your mother about me?
MITCH. I told my mother how nice you were, and I liked you.
BLANCHE. Were you sincere about that?
MITCH. You know I was.
BLANCHE. Why did your mother want to know my age?
MITCH. Mother is sick.
BLANCHE. I'm sorry to hear it. Really?
MITCH. She won't live long. Maybe just a few months.
MITCH. She worries because I'm not settled.
MITCH. She wants me to be settled down before the -- [His voice is hoarse and he clears his throat twice, shuffling nervously around with his hands in and out of his pockets]
BLANCHE. You love her very much, don't you?
BLANCHE. I think you have a great capacity for devotion. You will be lonely when she passes on, won't you? [Mitch clears his throat and nods] I understand what that is.
MITCH. To be lonely?
BLANCHE. I loved someone, too, and the person I loved I lost.
MITCH. Dead? [She crosses to the window and sits on the sill, looking out. She pours herself another drink] A man?
BLANCHE. He was a boy, just a boy, when I was a very young girl. When I was sixteen, I made the discovery -- love. All at once and much, much too completely. It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow, that's how it struck the world for me. But I was unlucky. Deluded. There was something different about the boy, a nervousness, a softness and tenderness which wasn't like a man's, although he wasn't the least bit effeminate looking -- still -- that thing was there ... He came to me for help. I didn't know that. I didn't find out anything till after our marriage when we'd run away and come back and all I knew was I'd failed him in some mysterious way and wasn't able to give the help he needed but couldn't speak of! He was in the quicksands and clutching at me -- but I wasn't holding him out, I was slipping in with him! I didn't know that. I didn't know anything except I loved him unendurably but without being able to help him or help myself. Then I found out. In the worst of all possible ways. By coming suddenly into a room that I thought was empty -- which wasn't empty, but had two people in it ... the boy I had married and an older man who had been his friend for years ...
[A locomotive is heard approaching outside. She claps her hands to her ears and crouches over. The headlight of the locomotive glares into the room as it thunders past. As the noise recedes she straightens slowly and continues speaking.]
Afterward we pretended that nothing had been discovered. Yes, the three of us drove out to Moon Lake Casino, very drunk and laughing all the way.
[Polka music sounds, in a minor key faint with distance]
We danced the Varsouviana! Suddenly, in the middle of the dance the boy I had married broke away from me and ran out of the casino. A few moments later -- a shot!
[The polka stops abruptly. Blanche rises stiffly. Then, the polka resumes in a major key]
I ran out -- all did! -- all ran and gathered about the terrible thing at the edge of the lake! I couldn't get near for the crowding. Then somebody caught my arm. "Don't go any closer! Come back! You don't want to see!" See? See what! Then I heard voices say -- Allan! Allan! The Grey boy! He'd stuck the revolver into his mouth, and fired -- so that the back of his head had been -- blown away!
[She sways and covers her face]
It was because -- on the dance floor -- unable to stop myself -- I'd suddenly said -- "I saw! I know! You disgust me ..." And then the searchlight which had been turned on the world was turned off again and never for one moment since has there been any light that's stronger than this -- kitchen -- candle ...
[Mitch gets up awkwardly and moves toward her a little. The polka music increases. Mitch stands beside her]
MITCH. [drawing her slowly into his arms] You need somebody. And I need somebody, too. Could it be -- you and me, Blanche?
[She stares at him vacantly for a moment. Then with a soft cry huddles in his embrace. She makes a sobbing effort to speak but the words won't come. He kisses her forehead and her eyes and finally her lips. The polka tune fades out. Her breath is drawn and released in long, grateful sobs]
BLANCHE. Sometimes -- there's God -- so quickly!