A demonstration of conviction, self-assurance and high love principles
| THE OLD MAID
Mrs. Shade Afe - A widow
Mary - Her only daughter
Babatunde - Mary’s immediate elder brother, a
Pa Oladele - Mrs. Afe’s father
Bunmi - Mary’s intimate female friend
Ayotunde - A mourned soldier
Elders and villagers - Friends, families, acquaintances, etc. of the foregoing.
ACT 1, SCENE 1
In the village. Dusk. After a two-hour meeting that has ended rather unsatisfactorily, Mrs.Afe, Babatunde, and Mary are returning home. The meeting has centered about Mary’s age-long refusal to oblige any of the marriage proposals of numerous admirers. The three people trail along in discontented silence finally broken by Mrs.Afe.
MRS.AFE [Turning to Mary]: Hope you will do your rethink quick enough.
MARY: I’ve begun.
BABATUNDE: Can we hope to hear your thoughts by tomorrow evening?
MARY: You know this is not like a housewife deciding which of meat or mushroom is more affordable.
BABATUNDE : Alright.
MRS. AFE: Mary needs time to think matters over, you know. But let’s hope she does it quick and realistically. You see, Mary, things need not have degenerated to this stage, if you’ve been just a little realistic. Realistic. You see Mary, you are an unprecedented blessing to our family! Hosts of riches, all crazing after you. Why! Shouldn’t you, my only daughter, be the one to break the jinx of want and penury that has settled over us for generations? Your thirtieth birthday is at hand - a dozen years after you became ripe for your husband’s home… [ Quavering
] These twelve years of gossip on all sides, ridicule, disdain from young and old, high and low, Sade, it has hassled me long enough.
MRS AFE:Your father’s persuasion has been in vain, ten years of persistent preaching-
BABATUNDE: Ten years of rigid, contumelious obduracy-
MRS. AFE: Two years after his departure, we are facing the dreadful music of his fruitless persuasion. All your peers are already confirmed mothers of four, six, eight sons and daughters…Mary, remember the sermon of the elders! Remember their threats-
BABATUNDE: They threatened that way thinking it was three days to her twenty-fifth birthday.
MRF. AFE: Twenty-fifth! What - who told them she was - Mary, you lied about your age?-
BABATUNDE: Probably not, perhaps a mere terminological slip of tongue.
MARY: You know I do not speak in terminologies.
BABATUNDE: But your entire reasoning is terminological, subjectively terminological, I have always affirmed that.
MARY [Brushes him aside - turns to her mother]: I had never in my life exchanged a word with any elder.
BABATUNDE [In a subdued, deliberate tone, restating from memory the last words of the elders
]: “If after the three days we are allowing you for your rethink, you do not come to the realisation of your folly and return to your senses, you shall be cut off from the land of your birth, the land of your ancestors, from all the elders thereof, from the privilege of partaking in any traditional festival, and from every benediction of our all-mighty gods. For five years afterwards, we shall keep a watch on you from a distance, awaiting the climax of your eccentricity - who knows, the gods might gracefully bring you to your senses. But your thirtieth birthday as a single woman shall see you banished from your this territory…”
MRS. AFE: I thought I heard “thirty-fifth birthday”?
BABATUNDE: Mary, “thirty-fifth”?
MARY: No. Thirtieth.
MRS.AFE [Stops short
]: E-e-e-e-h! Three days to my grave, Mary! [Frantically tears off her scarf, scratching, pulling at her hair
She is on the verge of tearing off her loincloth when Babatunde grips her hand; Mary hurriedly picks up her scarf and gazing intently into her eyes quickly reassures her
MARY: The gods forbid, mama. Your life shall not be endangered on my account. I will definitely consider the elders’ words - and reasonably, too, mama. I promise, mum.
Mrs. Afe is placated.
BABATUNDE: … Yes, till last year, it was thirty-five. Traditions have become more severe. By her thirtieth birthday, a woman is now expected to have yielded all her chicks, because these days, the life expectancy of an average woman is believed to be on the left side of forty-five.
MRS.AFE: But how unfair!
BABATUNDE: Unfair? Is it not reasonable to ensure that a woman sees to her last chick for more than a decade, so that when she joins her ancestors, perhaps some twenty-seven years after a timely marriage, her eldest child will have become old enough to fend for himself or herself and to assume quite competently a part of her mother’s responsibilities in support of younger siblings and the extended family. A thirty-year-old spinster is an absolutely rara avis, and our traditional codes judgmatic. Besides, is there a single spinster older than Mary on this land? The second oldest is twenty-seven. But she is unlike Mary, she’s attached-marriagewards. See, these beautiful ultimata of our elders! They lashed her out of her stupor. Previously, she had been labouring under those unrealistic, dreadful idealisms that had deluded her into thinking there existed somewhere in wait for her one All-Loving, All-Caring brother, the perfect embodiment of her romantic fancies. So intuitive a husband as would easily comprehend and readily empathise with the confused sentimental caprices of the female sex, even before these surreal wishes are worded. Before they are worded in the typically muddled-headed manner in which women talk about their confused, whimsical ethereal desires-
MRS.AFE: In which your mother talks about her desires?
BABATUNDE: You know, mum, you ceased to be a woman the day you gave birth to me. Now, you see, daydreaming, the twenty-seven-year-old had rejected all her admirers because none had matched her sweet, airy-fairy dreams. She had indeed to be whipped out of her otherworldliness with the ultimatum of the elders given at a similar meeting to today’s. To redeem her sheepish procrastinations, she in co-operation with her relatives lied about her age. That was three weeks before her actual twenty-fifth birthday when she claimed she was turning twenty-three. But consultations with the gods revealed her true age on her twenty-fifth birthday, the expiry day of a subsidiary ultimatum. Now she has only three years to fully comply: to either get matrimonially involved or acrimoniously rusticated.
MRS.AFE [Whimpering]: That means Mary’s true age will be discovered!
She collapses short on her knees crying, smacking her thighs, her chest, her face, quivering.
MRS.AFE [Quavering]: Mary, spare me this deadly shame! Stop dreaming, Mary-
Promptly Babatunde and Mary heave her back to her feet, arresting the emotional parade and reassuring her to prevent further displays. She seems appeased.
MARY [Darts an earnest look at him]: Now, Tunde, I hope you aren’t suggesting that I am such a wobbly-minded lady who does not where her bread is buttered?
BABATUNDE: Not really. Only your angering rejection of all men reminds me of the twenty-seven-year-old. You seem to await the glorious advent of your flawless, impeccably romantic partner.
MARY [Riled]: Then-
MRS.AFE: Then what, Mary [Yelling] Dre-e-eaming! Sto-o-o-o-p! Sto-o-op![About to resume her displays]
Mary Immediately comes in front of her, holds her hands, gazes earnestly into her eyes, and gently placing her hands on her shoulders, speaks soothing
MARY: I promise, mum, I will stop, I will.
Conversations cease for a few minutes of more animated walk, then glancing at Mary, Mrs.Afe remarks.
MRS.AFE: Mary, do not forget that grand-pa holds a deadly stake in this matter. Remember how he was trembling like an epileptic at the meeting.
MARY: ...A deadly stake indeed.
ACT 2, SCENE 1
Next morning. With inflexible resolution, Pa. Oladele trots away to her daughter’s residence two kilometers off; he is urgently bent on seeing his Mary. The inflexibility of the grave expression on his wrinkled face, only the agreement to his wishes can answer; and the absent-mindedness with which he looks about him, greets, and responds to the outside world, betrays his passionate contention against a burden of really distracting emotions. Perspiring, he arrives at his destination, knocks and enters, encountering his daughter who is sewing.
MRS. AFE: Daddy [kneeling. She is startled by the gravity of his countenance - after all, the ultimatum is yet to expire. She cheerily conceals her shock]: Good morning, dad. Sweating?…
PA OLADELE: Where is Mary?
MRS. AFE: Sit down, papa.
He sits in a chair facing Mrs. Afe. Babatunde hurries to the living room to inform them of Mary’s departure to Bunmi’s. He then returns to the courtyard.
PA.OLADELE [Raps out]: How far is Bunmi’s house [Sitting up as if to rise]?
BABATUNDE: Ah! Papa, ten kilometers!
PA. OLADELE: When will Mary be back?
BABATUNDE: Perhaps late in the afternoon, grand-pa.
PA. OLADELE [Switches to Mrs. Afe]: Has she done the rethink?
MRS. AFE: It’s most likely. Before you arrived, I imagined she was in bed; I hoped to ask her how far she had gone.
PA. OLADELE: Look, Shade, she had best gone far enough on my side! She must stop tugging at my heart, or she would be cursed on earth and in heaven! Enough of this public shame! Immediately the mischief turned eighteen, I brought her out to those of my friends whose sons had come of age. Countless of their sons took to her without ado. They were all begging me for her hand. Promising good lookers, dynamic gentlemen - stupendously moneyed! What else does your child want in a man? A paradisal earth of absolute carefreeness? Rebuffing such awesome blessings in her unspeakable spiritual illness!
MRS. AFE: The gods say she is sound in body and soul.
PA. OLADELE Vociferously, quaking]: DON’T BE SILLY!
MRS AFE: Papa!
PA OLADELE: YOU don’t be silly!
Sounder than bell she might be
In her body and soul
But in her ego she is absolutely ill
Stinking dead of conceit
Of Luciferian Conceit - hideously Monstrous
Just don’t be silly!!
MRS AFE: But papa--
PAPA OLADELE: What does she take herself for?
The prettiest of angels
Too dainty for the common man?
And which of her suitors is common
As was your ancestral lineage
Forgotten your ancestresses
All pauperized from cradle to grave!
Worlds of wealth run after Mary
Begging for her in earnest
And there she sticks refusing them all-
Don’t be silly!
"Prettier than a picture!"
"Daintier than Daisy!"
Foolish enough she forgets
That she owes it all to me
All her “wondrous” looks
Non-existent sure they would be
HadI not procreated you!
And there she lolls tantalising
Dreaming away her precious gifts
A mere morbiferous miranda!!!
Both riveted to the spot, Mrs. Afe and Babatunde are struck by these quaking outpourings. Babatunde is, however, uneasy with the word “tantalising”. He, consequently, hurries over to the living room to comment on it.
BABATUNDE: Grand-pa, Mary has been the ever greatest disappointment to our family, yes. But I am unaware of any courtship affair between her and any of those wealthy gentlemen. The closest has been a purely platonic relationship void of any amorous attachment; and these relationships hardly endured.
PA. OLADELE: Not beyond two weeks!
BABATUNDE: Those who claim to have courted her must be giving themselves airs.
PA. OLADELE: You see, uncourted for twelve odd years! [Pauses - then suddenly bashes the table]
Several second’s silence.
PA.OLADELE: No other grandfather of my years has seemed so incapable of talking his youngest child or granddaughter to sense! Every one of my friends looks down on me, thinking I have been too soft in bringing you up, Shade! Softer still in handling Mary! They all think me an impotent septuagenarian. And that is in their belief that she is twenty-five. I had to lie about her age lest I be held in the gravest of ridicules [Astounds both listeners]. Tomorrow is the zero hour! Her true age will surely come to light… May it come to the light of a blessed dawn!
MRS. AFE: It’s not tomorrow, it’s in two days, papa.
PA. OLADELE: It’s not tomorrow, it’s in two years, Shade.
Pa.Oladele rises impetuously and is about to burst out of the room when Mrs.Afe offers to serve him breakfast.
PA. OLADELE [Vehemently]: You first break the fastener of that girl’s rigid head!
He storms out, slamming the door behind himself.
ACT 2, SCENE 2
Several minutes later. In Bunmi’s room. Bunmi and Mary are seated up in chairs at a low table, looking at each other eye to eye. They are locked up in serious conversation. None other is present in the room.
BUNMI: Look, we are age mates - my last child is already seven, the youngest of my five children! You cannot go on this way eternally grieving for Tunde. Ayo is not the only pebble on the beach. It’s six years already since the cold hands of death snatched him away. Yes, a very unfortunate incident. But shouldn’t every woman be capable of lifting herself above such sad retrospections? See, you’ve always been practical. Let his ineffaceable memory be a source of pride and hope; it shouldn’t bog you down in everlasting despair and lamentation. His death was a military sacrifice, a sacrifice for his and your fatherland. Take pride in his memory, take pride, liven up - a thousand and one suitors are there knocking on the door.
A moment’s silence.
BUNMI [Looking into Mary's eyes]: So? [Mary regards her questioningly]: The three-day ultimatum; age is not on your side.
MARY: See I’ve told you, such traditional considerations weigh very little with me.
BUNMI: Plus the consideration of the ultimatum?
MARY: Plus many more.
BUNMI [Angered]: You see, books, books; you’ve gotten too many books into your skull! Corrupting, unedifying books. How can an old-age spinster, in the current circumstances, still have time and guts for this sort of offensive trifling? You who should bury head so shame-facedly. Your brother, ten times better read than you, is not half as frivolous.
MARY: See, that my life begun here does not mean it must forever look to the village for continuity.
BUNMI: I do not mean that; I mean the implications of breaking away under these circumstances, daring the rage of the whole community!
MARY [Facetiously]: What are the implications?
BUNMI: “What are the implications?” How light-headedly you talk, Mary! Have you lost your sight? You mean you do not see that your unprecedented daring is making heavy clouds of a rainstorm that has never been? That rains and hails of impassioned curses, curses of everlasting woes from friend, foes and relatives, both living and dead, are bound to descend mightily upon you! Upon you alone, Mary! And mind, the bitterly disappointed spirit of your father! Just think what this means - I fear for you, Mary! Unimaginable implications!
MARY: Yes, unimaginable implications, I assure you-
BUNMI: And what is the assurance of reaffirming my fears?
MARY [Cool earnestness]: The fact that the implications would certainly be unimaginable, but dead contrary to what you imagine. Those curses would leave me absolutely unscathed. I have wronged no one, I have simply indicated how my lifewould go; it is my life, not their life. You see, these connections and attachments, these age-long links that bind relatives and family, are very unfortunate; they saddle them with unnecessary concern and responsibilities in matters of the lives of others, which are really no business of theirs.
BUNMI: You say the lives of others, no business of theirs?
MARY: Yes, none of their business.
BUNMI : What!
MARY: Where, for instance, are my great grand parents who so much “cared” for my parents and grandparents as to influence how their lives would go? Passed away! [Gestures with an expressive motion of her left hand] Concerned about the lives of their children that they suddenly abandoned them, dying of brief illnesses, unforetold diseases, unforeseen accidents - unpredictableage. The times and manners of their deaths, all unpredictable!
BUNMI: They never deliberately abandon them; the deaths of our parents have always been against their wishes, contrary to their wishes.
MARY: Yes, always contrary to their wishes because the truth is contrary to their beliefs. Their belief in their kind of concern in the child’s life is contrary to fact, that is why they do in fact always die contrary to their wishes, which derived from their beliefs. Just observe facts and realities, they are the best proof.
BUNMI: But their spirits are believed to guide and protect their children?
MARY: Of what use are spiritual guides and protections to a man in material confusion? If these ancestors really wished to care about the lives of their children, they ought to remain material and physical, continuously offering their children lifelong physical support that spans these children’s entire existence. They should not just pass away so suddenly, giving neither warning nor notice. Their inability for a permanent and everlasting parenthood, however strongly they might be attached to their children, is positive proof that it is no business of theirs. The life of a grown-up is, after all, his or hers alone. Leave it to him. Let her manage it as she chooses.
BUNMI: So I should stop being concerned in your welfare?
MARY: In the direction of my life, not in my welfare.
BUNMI: Suppose your welfare is at stake in the direction of your life?
MARY: Then you advise on the danger to my welfare and leave the directing to my choice. You see, everyone has his own privacy which he can never share with another, however intimate the other might be to him or her. The world of my entire reflections, my anxieties, and dreams will always remain closed to you, Bunmi, even if I wished it otherwise. You cannot possibly follow each and every one of my thoughts and worries, however concerned in my welfare you might be, because that is simply none of your business. Yet it is these aspects of me, which you can never access in their entirety, that combine to determine the choice I make for my life. I alone have to manage and contend with them. That is the world of my individuality-that is my life ,which is not and can never become any of your business.
BUNMI [Reflects momentarily]: Well… your books aren’t bad, anyway.
MARY: Perhaps it is my attitude to them; you, too, have read all these books, you know.
BUNMI: OK. Now, either - or: another Tunde or none. That’s lofty [Pauses a little ]. Lofty, yes, but I still think you would fare better, engaged to one of these numerous gentlemen that pass you advances. A cross-section of them, I have interacted with and have found to be quite passable - characterwise. Highly civilized, respectable, and refined gentlemen: honour our deities, honour their parents and the elders. Loving, sensitive, responsible people. And if you marry these traits with the enormous wealth that is theirs, you find there is little more to wish for in a husband. An Ayotunde isn’t the type you find so easily. Look, Mary, half bread is better than none-
MARY: Yes, to one who loathes none! One who abhors none can feel the better for half bread. As for me, I do not mind - in fact, I am proud of none. What is the use of half bread to my whole life? Of course, half bread would be recommendable if it were a question of half of my life. But you speak of a matter that concerns my whole life. Half bread will definitely not suffice.
Bunmi is silent for a few minutes, at loss for another blackmail to win Mary over. In a distant stare, she fixes her eyes on Mary’s feet placed on the ground. She finally breaks the silence with a reminiscent smile that suggests sudden insight and discovery.
MARY: What’s that?
BUNMI [Retaining the smiling countenance still fixed upon Mary’s feet.]: … All these popular talks of irresistible queenly Mary - dreamy, disarming, dazzling! The beauty of the rainbows…the charm of the rose… all of them will cease terribly sooner than you imagine.
MARY: The sooner they cease, the better for Goodness, Bunmi. All the “respectable gentlemen” are fascinated about in me are my temporary looks. When they fade away, those who appreciate me beyond appearances can come to the fore without any fear of the deadly rivalry, which the “ gentlemen” would not shrink from starting off. Most of them can easily become wildly desperate with mad infatuation, I have seen and observed them all, I know what I’m talking about. Unfortunately for them, a woman of my type can make nothing of their parades: their gentility or megalomaniac senses of responsibility. They can excite her only momentarily before they fade into insignificance before her. You see, I prefer deeper character. A man of deeper character need not pose for admiration or play the fopling; good manners flow from him effortlessly as a matter of habitual self-discipline. He is not confined in his outlook on life, not constricted by tradition, education or a conscience adulterated by the rigidity of our moral judgements-
BUNMI: You call our moral judgments rigid?
MARY: You know ours is a received sense of propriety belonging to the archival mentality of our great ancestors - I mean archival, static. Bunmi, you see, I’m not a romantist, but I know what I want… I believe in an unlimited kind of love, a love unbounded by whomever or whatever, which is concentrated solely on the welfare of its object, the welfare not only of body, but also of soul. Of body and of soul: that is no empty phrase; it is not superhuman, and it is not asking too much. True love is too all-embracing to exclude anything appertaining to its object. And a man of such a virtue can hardly be made to act against his love for her, he is hardly torn between learned tradition and intrinsic conscience, because he scarcely confuses evil with good. And to more than reciprocate his loving sacrifices is the most joyful thing for her, because it cultivates within her the ability truly to love one and all, irrespective of their tradition, colour, and creed.
BUNMI: It seems, it seems you have Ayotunde in mind.
MARY: You know we shared the sentiments on this matter.
BUNMI: Perhaps he was already the embodiment of this virtue.
MARY: Oh! No, no, don’t get me wrong; when I said “he”, I was not referring to Tunde. I wasn’t glorifying him - his spirit sure will object to such glorification, and you know I still love him. I believe he meant to approximate to this ideal.
BUNMI: But aren’t you implying traditions are evil?
MARY: Far from that!
BUNMI: But they can be?
Bunmi sighs. Suddenly, she springs to her feet and stretches herself; then, she paces to the door, makes arms akimbo, and darts a sharp look at Mary.
BUNMI [Deliberately ]: Mary, suppose these curses ultimately work against you? They have worked the worst of mischief upon their victims.
MARY [Gentle certainty]: They will not, you can be sure.
Bunmi sighs again, but with helpless resignation; she stands glued to the spot, starring at Mary for all of a minute. During the while, the latter gazes pensively at the table.
BUNMI [Dolefully]: Where are you going from here?
MARY: To the market, then home.
Mary rises, ready to leave, and Bunmi unlocks the door. She walks her to a crossroads where they part.
ACT 3, SCENE 1
Two days later. At the heart of the village. It’s twilight. Against the passionate plea of friends and family, prior to the gathering, Mary announces to the assembly of elders and attendees, her wish to stay single for an indefinite time to come. These passionate pleas cannot appreciate Mary’s principles, so that her kindheartedness and her consideration for these pleading beloveds have had to exhaust her wealth of tact and discretion as she exerted herself over and over again to impart to them an at least appreciable inkling concerning the basis of her inflexibility. Her voice trembles and her bleary eyes testify to the streams of tears that have emerged from them, tears of an aggravating despondency: To the deaf ears of the clamoring people, painstaking, oversimplified explanations gushed in vain.
Pandemonium and wild babbles follow, but are quickly contained by the elders’ auxiliaries.
Into the bargain, the traditional consultations made on such occasions to verify the sanity of such defiant twenty-five-year-olds have revealed her true age. Insanity is not the matter with Mary, but a distinct and deliberate obstinacy, now unmitigatable by Pa. Oladele’s fib on her age. The inexorable tradition takes its course: instant banishment from the village and eternal prohibition from future visits, since a sane thirty-year-old single maid is considered not only a worthless social outcast, but also a forbidden sight. Therefore, her thirtieth birthday sees her packing her belongings for the departure - a departure, perhaps to some colleague’s residence, some kilometers away, perhaps to another’s in a remote village - destination undecided: she terribly doubts her welcome into the homes of these very traditionalistic colleagues.
In the dusk, it is quite chilly and contrary winds now and then raise and blow dust about. With astounded or frustrated heavy-heartedness, friends, relatives, and other village dwellers follow her in a ceremonious procession evocative of a cortege, only they are some two or three paces separated from her. She is attired entirely in black.
The bearing of her baggage is shared between her, Bunmi and a few of her relatives, who are wailing and weeping. Mrs. Afe is absent. From the rest of the band come foul-mouthed maledictions hurled at her with traditional vehemence; the bulk of them are made mechanically, in a rattling off fashion, but the rest fervidly and intently, Pa Oladele’s oaths being the most impassioned, mirroring such horribly aggrieved and infuriated emotionality. To Bunmi’s horrified hearing come these long-dreaded rounds of gruesome curses and expletives raining relentlessly upon her intimate one; from her bleary swollen eyes, pitiful tears of soulful distress flow forth, abundantly, uncontrollably, consonating with the those profusely coursing down Mary’s cheeks.
The procession trudges on through alternating wide and narrow paths that wind their long stretches - slopes of dishearteningly intermittent acclivities - through brushwood, thickets and forests -westwards - westwards must a social outcast be walked out of the village. By tradition, the multitude is forbidden to go with her beyond the boundary of the village. Therefore, on arriving at this boundary, the part-bearers of her luggage have to surrender them, gently lining them on the boundary line of demarcation. Thus, at this juncture, there comes from all sides the last words of rebuke, of chagrin, the last deliveries of acrimonious oaths, of the blackest curses, all invoking on her everlasting shame and perennial misfortune. Pa Oladele’s voice is prominent among the deliveries. Speeches of endeared tenderness, however, stream plaintively towards her hearing, struggling almost in futility to impact on it through the omnipresent commotion, part of which contain utterances made deliberately to drown the compliments (The emotionality of these compliments is evocative of a solemn communion with the dead body of a just departed loved one). They pray Destiny to land her favorably, and express desires to see her again as soon the chance comes. It is all Bunmi can do not to go with Mary beyond this boundary.
The last round of ill wishes from the swearers, the last waves of hands from the well-wishers, the last round of malevolently drowned benedictions, and Mary is alone, unaidedly bearing on her head and in her right hand the burden of her belongings, now arranged into two packages.
ACT3, SCENE 2
Same day. Dusk and night (Still moonlit). Beyond the village boundary. Some one hundred meters into her indeterminate journey, the burden begins to weigh upon Mary more and more, as she plods through the narrow path twisting through a glade into the road leading to the nearest city. The burden soon becomes unbearable for her that she unloads. Only after a few hundred meters’ walk can she hope to find vehicular transport at this time of the day. The looks of stark dejectedness on her face complimenting the tell-tale traces of tears and streams of perspiration on her face testify eloquently to her wretched agony. She now stands by the road to gain some strength. Lost in thought, she remains there gazing pensively at the ground.
Raising her gaze, prepared to resume the journey, she catches glimpse of a young man swinging towards her, apparently heading for the village (He is one of the few passers-by at this time of the day). The sight sharply raises her pulse! How closely can one resemble another! Steadily he draws nearer. The nearer approach of this man opens her eyes in sheer astonishment! Is this Ayotunde’s departed spirit heading for the village to see her? But his look stays expressionless, and, as would a stranger’s, quickly passes from her to the next object in sight. Ayotunde’s spirit would certainly not fail to recognise her. As the distance between her and the approaching one increases, her heart palpitates more heavily, and her gaze fixes more intently on this mysterious image of her fiancée, only looking several years older! This episode has evidently taken her out of herself. Powerfully, feelings and emotions well up within her, some vividly reliving her romantic seasons with Ayotunde, the others evoking in her, her habitual wild day and nocturnal dreams - dreams of a mysterious sort of hope, of subconscious optimism, intellectually subjective for all intents and purposes, that Ayotunde - in ghostly or bodily form - would one day again hold her in his priceless embrace. Fixed unto the spot, she lives in this world of fabulous mesmerism, passing hours within this brief moment of unprecedented wonder.
Five paces past Mary and the man stops short. He sharply turns round and darts a keen look at Mary still wrapped up in her mesmerized gaze upon him…
The look opens his eyes - recognises the face it has not seen for six odd years! The face of a female figure transfigured beyond his immediate recognition into comelier feminity - and the recollection of one of her wild dreams flashing right into her mind, Mary impulsively calls out:
“TUNDE!”-“MARY!” she hears .
They sail into each other and a fierce embrace heightens at once into a fiery wrestle, each calling out the others name in tearful tones expressive of a variegated range of lachrymatory emotions - from those of a rapture at last superseding a yearning in ceaseless anguish to those of a long-enslaved bondswoman celebrating the joy of liberation! And, until it subsided, passers-by had to stop now and again to ascertain the sanity of this fiery wrestle!
MARY [Tearfully, hands round his neck]: Tunde, you had to go with the battles!
AYOTUNDE [Dazzled]: Go with-I, I was only kept prisoner!
MARY: PRISONER!!! [Bursts into loud weeping]
Immediately Ayotunde draws her to himself and, holding her to his chest, consoles her. He explains the apparent justification of the mistaken rumor about his death by the fact that among the casualties of his battalion, there was a namesake of his. The news of this solder’s death, as were others, had been bandied around with cases of mistaken identity. How could it have escaped the hearing of his bosom partner? Devout apologies… impassioned reassurances… profuse consolation, follow. For a long while, the couple is glued to the spot of discovery, exchanging endless chains of reasonable endearments. Night has fully descended and everywhere is still. Finally, with the illumination of the moon, Ayotunde catches glimpse of the luggage on the ground. He is taken aback.
AYOTUNDE [Containing his surprise]: You are on a journey?
MARY: Yes. I have been pushed out of the village-I am thirty today. [Fresh tears]
Ayotunde bows his head a few minutes. Then, as far as possible, he diminishes the less weighty of the two packages and picks up the heavier. Mutedly, Mary picks the other.
AYOTUNDE [Calmly]: I have a home.
Hand in hand Tunde and Mary— soldier and teacher—stroll on to his abode. His abode, a house bestowed upon him by the country in tribute for his military valour. A home bedecked with every desirable convenience. Internal and external. Human and inanimate.