African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Langston Hughes, "The Gold Piece: A Play that Might be True" (1921)


A Peasant Boy.
A Peasant Girl, his wife.
An Old Woman.


THE interior of a hut by the roadside. It is twilight. A boy and a girl are lying before the firplace, a gold piece on the floor between them. There is a door at the right of the fire-place and a window at the left. During the play the twilight deepens into darkness.

The Girl (Looking at the coin)—Just to think that this bright gold piece is ours! All ours! Fifty whole loren!

The Boy (Smiling happily)—The ten old pigs were fat ones, Rosa, and brought us a fine price in the market.

The Girl —Now we can buy and buy and buy.

The Boy —Sure we can. Now we can buy all the things we've wanted ever since we've been married but haven't had the money to get.

The Girl —Oh! How good, Pablo! It seems we've been waiting an awfully long time.

The Boy —We have, But now we shan't wait any longer. Now we can get the wooden clock, Rosa. You know—the one that we've wanted since we first saw it in the old watch-maker's window. The one so nicely carved, that strikes the hours every day and runs for a whole week with a single winding. And I think there is a cuckoo in it, too. It will make our little house look quite elegant.

The Girl —And now you can buy the thick brown boots with hob nails in them to work in the fields.

The Boy —And you may have the woolen shawl with red and purple flowers on it and the fringe about the edges.

The Girl —O-o-o! Can I really, Pablo? I've dreamed of it for months.

The Boy —You surely can, Rosa. I've wanted to give it to you ever since I knew you. It will make you look so pretty. And we'll get two long white candles, too, to burn on Sundays and feast days.

The Girl —And we'll get a little granite kettle for stewing vegetables in.

The Boy —And we'll get a big spoon to stir with.

The Girl —And two little blue plates to eat from.

The Boy —And we'll have dried fish and a little cake for supper every night.

The Girl —And-but Oh! Pablo! It's wonderful!

The Boy —Oh! Rosa! It's fine!

The Girl and the Boy —(Rising and dancing joyously around and around the little gold piece which glistens and glitters gaily on the floor before the open fire as if it knew it were the cause of their joy)—Oh! How happy we are! Oh! How happy we are! Because we can buy! Because we can buy! Because we can buy and buy and buy!

Just then an old woman's figure passes the window and there is a timid knock at the door. The dancing stops. The Boy picks up his shining gold piece and clutches it tightly in his hand.)

The Girl (With a little frown of annoyance)—Who's there?

(The door opens slowly and a bent old woman leaning on a heavy stick enters.)

The Boy (Rudely)—Well, Grandmother, what do you want?

The Old Woman (Panting and weak)— I've come such a long way today and am very tired. I just wanted to rest a moment before going on.

(The Girl brings her a stool and she sits down near the fire-place.)

The Girl (Sympathetically)—But surely. Old Woman, you aren't going any further on foot tonight?

The Old Woman —Yes, I am, child, because I must.

The Girl —And why must you, Old Lady?

The Old Woman —Because my boy is in the house alone and he is blind.

The Girl —Your boy is blind?

The Old Woman —Yes, for eighteen years. He has not seen since he was a tiny baby.

The Boy —And where have you been that you are so late upon the road?

The Old Woman —I've been into the city and from sunrise I have not rested. People told me famous doctors were there who could make my blind boy see again and so I went to find them.

The Girl —And did you find them?

The Old Woman —Yes, I found them, but (her voice becomes sad) they would not come with me.

The Girl —Why would they not come?

The Old Woman —Because they were great and proud. They said, "when you get fifty loren, send for us and then perhaps we'll come. Now we have no time." One who was kinder than the rest told me that a simple operation might bring my boy's sigh back. But I am poor. I have no money and from where in all the world could a worn out old woman like me get fifty loren?

The Boy and the Girl(Quickly) —We don't know!

The Boy(Keeping his fist tightly closed over the gold piece) —Why, we never ever saw fifty loren!

The Girl —So much money we never will have.

The Boy —No, we never will have.

The Old Woman —If I were young I would not say that, but I am old and I know I shall never see fifty loren. Ah! I would sell all that I have if my boy could only see again! I would sell my keepsakes, my silken dress that I've had for many years, my memories, anything to bring my boy's sight back to him!

The Girl —But, Old Lady, would you sell your dream of a wooden clock, a clock that strikes the hours every day and need not be wound for a whole week?

The Old Woman —Yes, child, I would.

The Boy —And would you sell your wish for white candles to burn on feast days and Sundays?

The Old Woman —Oh! Boy, I would even sell my labor on feast days and Sundays were I not too weak to work.

The Girl —And would you give up your dream of a woolen shawl with red and purple flowers on it and fringe all around the four edges of it?

The Old Woman —I would give up all my dreams if my son were to see again.

(There is a pause. The Girl, forgetting for a moment her own desires, begins to speak slowly as if to herself.)

[illustration - But, Old Lady, would you sell your dream of a wooden clock?]

The Girl —It must be awful not to know the sunshine and the flowers and the beauty of the hills in springtime.

The Boy —It must be awful never to see the jolly crowds in the square on market days and never to play with the fellows at May games.

The Girl —And the doctor says that maybe this boy could be made well.

The Boy —And the Old Woman says that it would cost buy fifty loren.

The Girl(Suddenly) —I have no need of a gay shawl, Pablo.

The Boy —We have no shelf for a wooden clock, Rosa.

The Girl —Nor vegetables to cook in a granite kettle.

The Boy —And a big spoon would be such a useless thing.

The Old Woman(Rising) —Before the night becomes too dark I must go on. (She moves toward the door.)

The Boy —Wait a moment, Mother. Let us slip something into your pouch.

The Girl —Something bright and golden, Mother.

The Boy —Something that shines in the sunlight.

The Girl —Something from us to your boy. (They open The Old Woman's bag and The Boy slips the gold piece into it. The Old Woman does not see what they have given her.)

The Old Woman —Thank you, good children. I know my boy will be pleased with your toy. It will give him something to hold in his hands and make him forget his blindness for a moment. God bless you both for your gift and — Good-Bye.

The Boy and the Girl —Good-Bye, Old Woman.

(The door closes. It is dark and the room is lighted only by the fire in the grate.)

The Girl —Are you happy, Pablo?

The Boy —I'm very happy. And you, Rosa?

The Girl —I'm happy, too. I'm happier than any wooden clock could make me.

The Boy —Or hob-nailed shoes, me.

The Girl —Or me, a flowered shawl with crimson fringe.

(They sit down before the fire-place and watch the big logs glow. The wood crackles and flames and lights the whole room with its warm red light. Outside through the window a night star shines. The Boy and the Girl are quiet while The Curtain Falls.)

Published in The Brownies' Book, July 1921

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