(Evening, in the house of Ibe's father, when they have finished the evening meal, Ibe starts to talk to his father, his mother and Nwanyinkwo about Ugomma.)
Ibe: Father! What I want to tell you and Mother this evening is: there is a certain girl at our school, we have known each other since our first year in high school. Her name is Ugomma. I like her behavior very much. Which means I want to marry her. That is why I want to tell you, because the hawk does not start to fly without perching on the kolanut tree.
Ogbediya: Did you say ...
Obike: Wait (in a loud voice). Are you going to start now! Is it to you that he is telling this?
Ogbediya: O - o - o pardon me. Don't be angry.
Obike: Ibe! What did you say is the name of that young woman?
Ibe: Her name is Ugomma.
Obike: What did you say her work is?
Ibe: I did not say she worked at anything. I said that she is a student at our school.
Obike: What is she studying?
Ibe: She and I are in the same class and this year she will come out.
Ogbediya: The young woman, is she, is she pretty ...
Obike: (In a loud voice.) This woman -- wait now so I can hear! Use your ears and listen. After I finish asking him what is on my mind, you and he can then do as you please. (He questions Ibe.) Where did you say this young woman is from? Who are her parents?
Ibe: She is from Omukwu Agbaja. Her father is David, a road worker.
Obike: (Angrily.) Ibenegbu,
what you are saying, does it come from your own heart? Or did some person
tell you to say it? It seems to me that you must be drunk because these
words you are speaking are not the words of someone who is thinking straight.
What put this kind of thought into your head? Since I was a child and my
father died, my mother and I have stayed in this place struggling in every
way; then I married your mother who is right here now, until we gave birth
to you and Chinyere. Of these two children that God gave me, you are the
first. I then took an oath and promised God that rather than the education
that was denied me be denied to my children, it would be better for me
to go naked in order to see that you both were educated. Since that time,
we have tightened our belts, buying you food and drink, buying you clothing
as well as providing for your schooling. We suffered what we knew and what
we didn't know [endured all kinds of suffering], and had faith and hope
that when you grew up to adulthood, there would be a good future for us.
Some of my age group educated their children up to grade six; some did
not put them in school even for one day; but when you graduated from grade
six, for your sake I sold oil palms, sold raffia palms, sold breadfruit,
sold pears and also sold my forest lands and all my lands in order to send
you to high school. This is your fifth year in high school, you have not
come out from that high school, you have not started to work, you have
no means of support, and the first thing you can tell me is that you want
to marry the child of David. Go and marry David's child
Nwanyinkwo: Obike! Obike!
Obike: A a a a [angry sound].
Nwanyinkwo: Come, my son, come. (Soon he comes in.)
Obike: What is it?
Ogbediya: Ibe my son, you have heard what your mother and father asked. Go ahead and explain to us well so that we can know what to say. For a young man to grow up, get married and have children is something all parents want. But all things go accordingly.
Ibe: I have heard what you all said but I understand that my father's anger is not that I am not sufficiently mature to marry or that I have not matured enough to marry at all. Rather he is angry because I have had no work experience. It is true that I am still a student. I certainly know that very well. One does not tell a young child to carry his younger sibling. I will finish my studies, but what I am saying is that you should know that I have seen the one I want to marry when I am ready.
Obike: Mother, you and
Ogbediya my wife, listen. It is said that what a person says when he is
drunk is what he has in mind when he is clear-eyed. The words Ibe spoke
this evening have shown me what he is learning in high school. I had thought
I would tell him that when he came out of high school this year he would
enter another school, where teachers are trained. If he did one year of
that and came out he could then get a teaching job, but now see what he
is thinking. A person for whom one was thinking thoughts of life, but he
himself is thinking thoughts of death. From today forward, if I lay eyes
on Ibe's situation
Ogbediya: Master, my
husband, I don't know what to say now, you tell me that I have spoken.
Is it Ibe that you are swearing an oath about or is it someone else? Is
Ibe from another family? Is he a child of another village? Is he not your
Obike: (Loudly interrupts her.) Let it be! There is nothing the eyes can see that makes them bleed.
Nwanyinkwo: Ibe, come and go to bed. Ogbediya, come, it is getting late. Leave the matter as it is.
The lights go out and the curtain closes.
ACT TWO, Scene 2
(Morning of the next day. Ibe sets off early to go to see his friend, Onwukwe, and ask him to accompany him to his sister's marriage residence in Obizi. Onwukwe is washing clothes when Ibe enters.)
Ibe: (Knocks on the door.) Hey Onwukwe, are you there?
Onwukwe: Who is it?
Ibe: A person!
Onwukwe: Is that person Ibe?
Onwukwe: Please come in. I have work in my hands.
Ibe: Where are you?
Onwukwe: I am here in the back yard.
Ibe: Strong fellow! Are you washing clothes?
Onwukwe: Man, let me wash a bit the clothes I am going to wear to go to church tomorrow and to school on Monday. Have you washed your own?
Ibe: Who washed? Come and let's talk.
Onwukwe: The way you came out so early this morning, without first washing the clothes you are going to wear to school this week, is this good?
Ibe: It is good, man, but not completely good. I'm not really happy.
Onwukwe: I knew it, I said that something caused the cocoyam to cry "nwim." What happened? (He stays looking at Ibe.)
Ibe: Rinse your clothes and spread them out and let's go inside the house.
Onwukwe: All right. Please wait just a minute. (They enter the house and sit down.) Please, I have no kola.
Ibe: Don't worry about it. Please, my brother, I want you to accompany me to Obizi, my father's sister's home place.
Onwukwe: What happened? Is everything all right?
Ibe: Everything is fine. It concerns the matter of Ugomma and me.
Onwukwe: Ahaa! How is it going with you and that girl? I'm sure you did not abandon her completely, or is it that you haven't made up your mind?
Ibe: Strong fellow, can it be that you don't know who I am? All the time I was telling you about Ugomma, did you think I was joking? Things between the girl and myself have turned out to be real. That's why I came about this matter.
Onwukwe: When I was behind the house I heard your voice. I knew that something had caused the cocoyam to cry "nwim."
Ibe: What you say is true. The toad does not run out in daylight for nothing: if it is not chasing something, something is chasing it.
Onwukwe: What did you say happened in Obizi?
Ibe: Please, brother, I want you to go with me to Obeakpu Obizi, the home place into which my father's sister married, so that she can come and talk to my father concerning the marriage of Ugo and me. I told him and my mother last evening what I had in mind but my father did not want to listen to what I was saying.
Onwukwe: Why was your father angry about the matter? What did he say?
Ibe: The gist of it was that I had no employment, how could I as a student still talk about getting married, that if a woman was more important to me I should leave school and tell him so he could find a wife for me, or if I wanted to finish school first, I should forget about the woman, that he would not be paying my school fees and also getting me a wife.
Onwukwe: M m m! How did you reply? Don't you think that what he said was suitable? Isn't this how I too replied to you the first day you told me about it?
Ibe: It is what you replied to me. His words were good. There was nothing at all bad in what he said--indeed, his words showed that he had been thinking about my welfare and my future, but what I wanted him and my mother to understand was that Ugo will not prevent me from finishing my education. What she and I decided was that we should inform our parents of our thoughts, and do the few small traditional things and then leave the other things in that way. When the farmer sees the yam, that's when he cuts it. You know that time does not wait for people. I don't want them to take Ugomma away from me and that is why I say that I should start to look for the black goat in the daytime.
Onwukwe: That's good thinking. Now, you want your father's sister . . .
Ibe: I want you to accompany me to go and tell her everything because she is the only one to whom my father will listen. If it were left for my mother to decide, she and I feel the same way.
Onwukwe: I had better get ready so we can go. (He goes out to get dressed.) Come back quickly so I will be able to iron these clothes I have washed.
Ibe: We will not waste any time there because I myself must still soak my own clothes. The fear I have is that we will not find her at home now because today is their big market day.
Onwukwe: Which day will you ask her to come?
Ibe: I will want her to come this evening because tomorrow Ugo and I have agreed that we will meet to find out what our people's thoughts are. (They then go out.)
The curtain falls and the lights go out.
ACT TWO, Scene 3
(In the house of Okwuchi, Ibe's aunt. When they arrive, Okwuchi is inside, assembling in a basket the things she will use for going to market. Her two children, Ike and Nneka, are eating sliced cassava and bits of palm kernels near their mother inside the house. Ibe and his friend knock on the door and enter.)
Okwuchi: Ike, please, son, look after your sister. I want to go to market to buy things to make soup this evening. Don't go anywhere before I return. Take this slice and sustain yourselves until I return and cook supper.
(Ike goes and brings a stone, Nnenna fetches palm kernels, Ike starts to beat them. Their mother continues packing.)
Ike: Nneka! Don't let the chicken touch its mouth to that slice before I crack the palm kernels we will eat with it.
(Ibe and his friend then knock on the door three times.)
Ibe: Knock! Knock! Knock!
Okwuchi: Who is knocking?
Okwuchi: Ike, please, my child, go and see who is knocking.
Ike: Uncle! (He embraces him.)
Ibe: How are you?
Ike: Fine. Welcome!
Ibe: Ahaa. Is your mother at home?
Ike: Yes, she's in the house but she's getting ready to go to market.
(Ibe, Onwukwu and Ike go to see Okwuchi and Nneka inside the house.)
Ibe: Greetings, Auntie! Are you all right? (Onwukwe also greets her.)
Okwuchi: My nephew! Welcome. Who sent you here? Is everything all right? What happened? Is Obike alive?
Ibe: He is alive.
Okwuchi: Your mother and her children as well?
Ibe: They are all fine.
Okwuchi: (Brings two chairs for them.) Please sit down. (She calls Ikechukwu, who has already gone out to the compound, leaving Nneka, who stays nearby. Ikechukwu then comes, and his mother calls him to send him on an errand inside the house.)
Onwukwe: (Calls Nneka to question her.) Baby, come. (She comes.) How are you?
Onwukwe: What is your name?
Onwukwe: Nneka. You have a nice name. (Nnkea leaves him and goes out.)
Ibe: Auntie! Auntie!
Okwuchi: (In a somewhat high voice.) I'll be right there.
Ibe: Please come, Auntie. We are in a hurry.
Okwuchi: Really, you are always like that whenever you come here. What you want to tell me, is it such that you people will not eat before you leave?
Onwukwe: (To Ibe.) Let's forget about food and say why we came here. We can eat when we get home.
(Okwuchi is still off
to one side grinding pepper in a mortar. Ikechukwu then
Ibe: Auntie, please don't trouble yourself about food. We ate something this morning before we came. Weren't you getting ready to go to market before we came in? Is it that you don't want to go because we came?
Okwuchi: Since you say that you will not wait for me to cook a little something for you before you leave, never mind then. Have I even seen what my children will eat, let alone what I will beg people to eat? Take this as a snack.
(She goes out and leaves them and enters the house where she and Ike stay. After they have finished eating, Ike brings them two cups of water, a dish and a spoon and goes out again; Okwuchi then enters.)
Ibe: Thank you, Auntie!
Onwukwe: Auntie, thank you!
Okwuchi: (She brings a chair and sits down.) You are welcome, my children.
Ibe: Auntie, we have
come on a matter of great importance. Ever since I was a child, you yourself
know that I was not a person who was stubborn toward his parents. You also
know that I was not a person who started anything without first telling
his parents. You also know that I do not do shameful or embarrassing things.
I do not mine where there is no gold. It is true
Okwuchi: (She nods.) That's how things are.
Ibe: There is a certain young woman whom I have known since childhood, going to the same school together. Ever since I was in kindergarten she and I have known each other, up until now when she and I are in the same high school. When we still were in elementary school we agreed that we would get married when we grew up and finished our educations. Now the two of us will come out of high school this year. That's what I called my mother and father together and told them, but my father did not want to listen to what I was saying.
Okwuchi: What did your parents say they were angry about?
Ibe: There was no disagreement between myself and my mother. She was happy when she heard this. It was my father who gave me trouble about the matter.
Okwuchi: What did your father say he was angry about?
Ibe: He said he was angry because I was still a student, that he would not keep me in school and also marry a wife for me at the same time, but what I discovered on my own was that he wanted to take charge of finding a wife for me.
Okwuchi: Now what do you think about what your father said?
Ibe: What I think is that if you know what you can come and tell him, you should come and tell him, because only you can say things he will listen to, because nothing will keep me from marrying Ugo. Rather, if I do not marry her I will remain a bachelor until I die. (He frowns.)
Okwuchi: (Speaks to Onwukwe.) My son, have you seen how your friend has become very angry?
Onwukwe: It is what I told him that this type of thing is not something one scolds or become angry about. Hot soup must be sipped slowly. When he told me that there was a sister of his father who had married here, I told him that it was through her that we would get everything we want.
Okwuchi: (Smiles a little.) Sir, I have heard what you said. There was nothing wrong in it. All will be well. You should go home so I can start on my trip to market. (They rise to leave.) You did not tell me the thoughts of the one that you and she, who the young woman is.
Ibe: She and I have arranged everything. She says that everything is now in the hands of me and my people.
Okwuchi: What did you say her name was?
Ibe: Her name is Ugomma.
Okwuchi: From where?
Okwuchi: Who are her parents in Omukwu Agbaja?
Ibe: David Okeosisi, who is a road worker.
Okwuchi: David whose wife was born in Uturu?
Okwuchi: All right. If I return from the market early I will come before people start to eat their evening meal.
Ibe: Good. Auntie, try to come today, because tomorrow I will go there.
Onwukwe: Goodbye now.
Ibe: Goodbye. We will be expecting you.
Okwuchi: All right. Goodbye, my children. (Okwuchi takes her basket and starts off for the market.)
The lights go out.
ACT TWO, Scene 4
(In the house of Obike. Obike is not at home. He has gone to market when Okwuchi comes. Ogbediya is cooking when she comes. She knocks at the door before entering. In a little while, Ibe just walks in. Nwanyinkwo is in her room.)
Ogbediya: Mmaji! Mmaji!
Mmaji: Ooh! (She runs in.) You have returned, mother.
Ogbediya: Yes! Where have you and your sisters and brothers been?
Mmaji: We were at the front of the compound waiting for you to return. We did not even see when you came across.
Ogbediya: I came in by the path behind the house. Please, my child, take something and light the fire so we can start to cook supper before your father gets home. (They start to cook; after they finish, there is a knocking at the door.)
Okwuchi: Knock--Knock--Knock. Is anyone at home?
Ogbediya: Who is that?
Okwuchi: It is I, o.
Ogbediya: (To Mmaji.) Go find out who is knocking and open the door for her.
Mmaji: Auntie! Welcome.
Okwuchi: Yes, my child. Are you all well? (Mmaji replies, yes!) Is your mother at home?
Okwuchi: Ogbediya and children, I greet you all.
Ogbediya: O O O! Sister of my husband! Welcome.
Okwuchi: E e e. How are you all?
Ogbediya: We are fine. Who brought you here this evening?
Okwuchi: I brought myself.
Ogbediya: (Brings a chair.) Here is a chair.
Okwuchi: Thank you. Let me first greet mother. Is she at home?
Ogbediya: Yes, she is at home. I think she is in her room.
(She goes out another door to see her mother, the elderly woman, Nwanyinkwo. In a short time she re-enters.)
Okwuchi: Ogbediya! Is your husband at home?
Ogbediya: He is in such a mood (so stubborn). When I speak, you all tell me I have spoken. This is the market where he has been since this afternoon. That is why I hurried home to be sure that I cooked supper on time.
Okwuchi: Please, let him come quickly. It is getting dark and I must go home and cook supper for my children. They have not eaten since this afternoon, before I went to market.
Ogbediya: (Looking out toward the front.) Oho, your journey is going well. He has just returned.
(He enters wearing Igbo traditional dress, staff in hand, and a towel around his neck.)
Obike: (In surprise.) Ha! Who brought this person here?
Okwuchi: I brought myself. You have returned!
Obike: E-e-e! How are your children?
Okwuchi: They are very well.
Obike: Please come take a chair and sit down.
Okwuchi: You people and I have a little matter to discuss.
(He brings a chair, she sits down and his wife brings her own and comes close.)
I will also want Mother to be here and listen to what I have to say.
Obike: Ibe! Ibegbu!
Ogbediya: I have not seen him since I returned from the market. Mmaji! Mmaji!
Ogbediya: Go and call grandmother and tell her that we're waiting for her here.
(She runs out, and leaves from there. Nwanyinkwo comes by the door from which Mmaji left, takes her walking-stick and enters. Hand on waist, she takes a low chair.)
The others: Greetings! Greetings my child.
Okwuchi: The matter I
came to talk about is brief but it is a matter of very great importance.
Our ancestors said that an elder does not stay in the house while the goat
gives birth on a tether. What I want to talk about concerns your son Ibe.
Ibe has matured in all aspects of a man, this year he will finish school,
and these few months remaining do not stop anyone from doing anything.
His age-mates have already married, since last year. It is true that he
is still going to school, but man waits for time, time does not wait for
man. Now I have heard that there is someone he has selected on his own,
saying that she is the one he wants to marry. I heard it from a certain
woman friend of mine. I was very happy when I heard it because the young
woman is of fine character, and also has intelligence and ability. I know
her mother and father well. They are good people. They have
Ogbediya: Oh look at Ibe coming.
Obike: Ibegbu, come here and sit down. Onwukwe, go and wait for him inside the house.
Nwanyinkwo: My children, listen. All your words sound good. Since the day when my son Ibe called us together and told us about this, I have been thinking about it whenever I went to bed at night. This matter is not something you approach by scolding or in anger. It is something we need to put our heads together about, take it slowly and be unanimous in it. It is not a thing we should tear our clothes over, or agonize over. I am happy that God had mercy and Okwuchi is here in this place now. The place where the crying child points his finger, if his mother's people are not there, his father's people are there. Therefore, we should agree to what Ibe said because I have seen that his heart is with that girl. One does not know what breaks the firewood and throws it into the water; it is said that it is the monkey. [Proverb implying that Ibe's family might shoulder the blame if things do not turn out well.] Obike, do you hear what I have said?
Obike: (In a gentle voice.) I have heard what you said, mother. What you said will be agreed to because you are the one who said it. But in my own mind, I would still not agree that my son should stay in school and be married. As my mother, in order to give you honor and respect in the things you said, how do we follow up on this matter?
Okwuchi: I thank you all. But Obike, my mother's eldest son, to cut the matter short, let me leave because I have stayed too long. We will tell Ibe to find out if the girl and her people have made up their minds before we can arrange for us and them to meet face-to-face. Whatever the outcome, he should let us know. If his journey is successful, you all can meet and decide on the day you will go to Agbaja to see them. If I am invited I will go along as well. I am leaving. Goodbye. (She leaves.)
The Others: All right. Good night. Safe journey.
Obike: Hm m, Ibe, you've heard what we said, you will go first and inquire of the girl if she will agree that you come and do the wine-carrying on her behalf, because if she does not agree, all these things we have been running around doing will be a waste of time.
Ibe: I will go when I return from school tomorrow.
Obike: If they agree, we will see it through in one trip, then come back and do the next thing. Hurry and go now and find out what you will do. People are finishing their evening meal. (They go out one by one, and only Obike remains.) (Muttering.) I just want to fulfill all the promises. I know very well who David Okeosisi Nweke is. He will not agree to have someone talk about marrying his daughter while he is still maintaining her in high school.
The lights go out.
-- on to Act Three --