SCENE: At the MORTON place, the same room in which SILAS MORTON told his friend FELIX FEJEVARY of his plan for the hill. The room has not altogether changed since that day in 1879. The table around which they dreamed for the race is in its old place. One of the old chairs is there, the other two are modern chairs. In a corner is the rocker in which GRANDMOTHER MORTON sat. This is early afternoon, a week after the events of Act II.
MADELINE is sitting at the table, in her hand a torn, wrinkled piece of brown paper-peering at writing almost too fine to read. After a moment her hand goes out to a beautiful dish on the table—an old dish of coloured Hungarian glass. She is about to take something from this, but instead lets her hand rest an instant on the dish itself Then turns and through the open door looks out at the hill, sitting where her GRANDFATHER MORTON sat when he looked out at the hill.
Her father, IRA MORTON, appears outside, walking past the window, left. He enters, carrying a grain sack, partly filled. He seems hardly aware of MADELINE, but taking a chair near the door, turned from her, opens the sack and takes out a couple of ears of corn. As he is bent over them, examining in a shrewd, greedy way, MADELINE looks at that lean, tormented, rather desperate profile, the look of one confirming a thing she fears. Then takes up her piece of paper.
MADELINE: Do you remember Fred Jordan, father? Friend of our Fred—and of mine?
IRA: (not wanting to take his mind from the corn) No. I don't remember him. (his voice has that timbre of one not related to others)
MADELINE: He's in prison now.
IRA: Well I can't help that. (after taking out another ear) This is the best corn I ever had. (he says it gloatingly to himself)
MADELINE: He got this letter out to me—written on this scrap of paper. They don't give him paper. (peering) Written so fine I can hardly read it. He's in what they call 'the hold', father—a punishment cell. (with difficulty reading it) It's two and a half feet at one end, three feet at the other, and six feet long. He'd been there ten days when he wrote this. He gets two slices of bread a day; he gets water; that's all he gets. This because he balled the deputy warden out for chaining another prisoner up by the wrists.
IRA: Well, he'd better a-minded his own business. And you better mind yours. I've got no money to spend in the courts. (with excitement) I'll not mortgage this farm! It's been clear since the day my father's father got it from the government—and it stays clear—till I'm gone. It grows the best corn in the state—best corn in the Mississippi Valley. Not for anything—you hear me?—would I mortgage this farm my father handed down to me.
MADELINE: (hurt) Well, father, I'm not asking you to.
IRA: Then go and see your Uncle Felix. Make it up with him. He'll help you—if you say you're sorry.
MADELINE: I'll not go to Uncle Felix.
IRA: Who will you go to then? (pause) Who will help you then? (again he waits) You come before this United States Commissioner with no one behind you, he'll hold you for the grand jury. Judge Watkins told Felix there's not a doubt of it. You know what that means? It means you're on your way to a cell. Nice thing for a Morton, people who've had their own land since we got it from the Indians. What's the matter with your uncle? Ain't he always been good to you? I'd like to know what things would 'a' been for you without Felix and Isabel and all their friends. You want to think a little. You like good times too well to throw all that away.
MADELINE: I do like good times. So does Fred Jordan like good times. (smooths the wrinkled paper) I don't know anybody—unless it is myself—loves to be out, as he does. (she tries to look out, but cannot; sits very still, seeing what it is pain to see. Rises, goes to that corner closet, the same one from which SILAS MORTON took the deed to the hill. She gets a yard stick, looks in a box and finds a piece of chalk. On the floor she marks off FRED JORDAN'S cell. Slowly, at the end left unchalked, as for a door, she goes in. Her hand goes up as against a wall; looks at her other hand, sees it is out too far, brings it in, giving herself the width of the cell. Walks its length, halts, looks up.) And one window—too high up to see out.
(In the moment she stands there, she is in that cell; she is all the people who are in those cells. EMIL JOHNSON appears from outside; he is the young man brought up on a farm, a crudely Americanized Swede.)
MADELINE: (stepping out of the cell door, and around it) Hello, Emil.
EMIL: How are you, Madeline? How do, Mr Morton. (IRA barely nods and does not turn. In an excited manner he begins gathering up the corn he has taken from the sack. EMIL turns back to MADELINE) Well, I'm just from the courthouse. Looks like you and I might take a ride together, Madeline. You come before the Commissioner at four.
IRA: What have you got to do with it?
MADELINE: Oh, Emil has a courthouse job now, father. He's part of the law.
IRA: Well, he's not going to take you to the law! Anybody else—not Emil Johnson!
MADELINE: (astonished—and gently, to make up for his rudeness) Why—father, why not Emil? Since I'm going, I think it's nice to go in with someone I know—with a neighbour like Emil.
IRA: If this is what he lived for! If this is why—
(He twists the ear of corn until some of the kernels drip off. MADELINE and EMIL look at one another in bewilderment.)
EMIL: It's too bad anybody has to take Madeline in. I should think your uncle could fix it up. (low) And with your father taking it like this—(to help IRA) That's fine corn, Mr Morton. My corn's getting better all the time, but I'd like to get some of this for seed.
IRA: (rising and turning on him) You get my corn? I raise this corn for you? (not to them—his mind now going where it is shut off from any other mind) If I could make the wind stand still! I want to turn the wind around.
MADELINE: (going to him) Why—father. I don't understand at all.
IRA: Don't understand. Nobody understands. (a curse with a sob in it) God damn the wind!
(Sits down, his back to them.)
EMIL: (after a silence) Well, I'll go. (but he continues to look at IRA, who is holding the sack of com shut, as if someone may take it) Too bad—(stopped by a sign from MADELINE, not to speak of it) Well, I was saying, I have go on to Beard's Crossing. I'll stop for you on my way back. (confidentially) Couldn't you telephone your uncle? He could do something. You don't know what you're going up against. You heard what the Hindus got, I suppose.
MADELINE: No. I haven't seen anyone to-day.
EMIL: They're held for the grand jury. They're locked up now. No bail for them. I've got the inside dope about them. They're going to get what this country can hand 'em; then after we've given them a nice little taste of prison life in America, they're going to be sent back home—to see what India can treat them to.
MADELINE: Why are you so pleased about this, Emil?
EMIL: Pleased? It's nothin' to me—I'm just telling you. Guess you don't know much about the Espionage Act or you'd go and make a little friendly call on your uncle. When your case comes to trial—and Judge Lenon may be on the bench—(whistles) He's one fiend for Americanism. But if your uncle was to tell the right parties that you're just a girl, and didn't realize what you were saying—
MADELINE: I did realize what I was saying, and every word you've just said makes me know I meant what I said. I said if this was what our country has come to, then I'm not for our country. I said that—and a-plenty more—and I'll say it again!
EMIL: Well—gee, you don't know what it means.
MADELINE: I do know what it means, but it means not being a coward.
EMIL: Oh, well—Lord, you can't say everything you think. If everybody did that, things'd be worse off than they are now.
MADELINE: Once in a while you have to say what you think—or hate yourself.
EMIL: (with a grin) Then hate yourself.
MADELINE: (smiling too) No thank you; it spoils my fun.
EMIL: Well, look-a-here, Madeline, aren't you spoiling your fun now? You're a girl who liked to be out. Ain't I seen you from our place, with this one and that one, sometimes all by yourself, strikin' out over the country as if you was crazy about it? How'd you like to be where you couldn't even see out?
MADELINE: (a step nearer the cell) There oughtn't to be such places.
EMIL: Oh, well—Jesus, if you're going to talk about that—! You can't change the way things are.
MADELINE: (quietly) Why can't I?
EMIL: Well, say, who do you think you are?
MADELINE: I think I'm an American. And for that reason I think I have something to say about America.
EMIL: Huh! America'll lock you up for your pains.
MADELINE: All right. If it's come to that, maybe I'd rather be a locked-up American than a free American.
EMIL: I don't think you'd like the place, Madeline. There's not much tennis played there. Jesus—what's Hindus?
MADELINE: You aren't really asking Jesus, are you, Emil? (smiles) You mightn't like his answer.
EMIL: (from the door) Take a tip. Telephone your uncle.
IRA: (not looking at her) There might be a fine, and they'd come down on me and take my land.
MADELINE: Oh, no, father, I think not. Anyway, I have a little money of my own. Grandfather Morton left me something. Have you forgotten that?
IRA: No. No, I know he left you something. (the words seem to bother him) I know he left you something.
MADELINE: I get it to-day. (wistfully) This is my birthday, father. I'm twenty-one.
IRA: Your birthday? Twenty-one? (in pain) Was that twenty-one years ago? (it is not to his daughter this has turned him)
MADELINE: It's the first birthday I can remember that I haven't had a party.
IRA: It was your Aunt Isabel gave you your parties.
IRA: Well, you see now.
MADELINE: (stoutly) Oh, well, I don't need a party. I'm grown up now.
(She reaches out for the old Hungarian dish on the table; holding it, she looks to her father, whose back is still turned. Her face tender, she is about to speak when he speaks.)
IRA: Grown up now—and going off and leaving me alone. You too—the last one. And—what for? (turning, looking around the room as for those long gone) There used to be so many in this house. My grandmother. She sat there. (pointing to the place near the open door) Fine days like this—in that chair (points to the rocker) she'd sit there—tell me stories of the Indians. Father. It wasn't ever lonely where father was. Then Madeline Fejevary—my Madeline came to this house. Lived with me in this house. Then one day she—walked out of this house. Through that door—through the field—out of this house. (bitter silence) Then Fred—out of this house. Now you. With Emil Johnson! (insanely, and almost with relief at leaving things more sane) Don't let him touch my corn. If he touches one kernel of this corn! (with the suspicion of the tormented mind) I wonder where he went? How do I know he went where he said he was going? (getting up) I dunno as that south bin's locked.
IRA: I'll find out. How do I know what he's doing?
(He goes out, turning left. MADELINE goes to the window and looks after him. A moment later, hearing someone at the door, she turns and finds her AUNT ISABEL, who has appeared from right. Goes swiftly to her, hands out.)
MADELINE: Oh, auntie—I'm glad you came! It's my birthday, and I'm—lonely.
AUNT ISABEL: You dear little girl! (again giving her a hug, which MADELINE returns, lovingly) Don't I know it's your birthday? Don't think that day will ever get by while your Aunt Isabel's around. Just see what's here for your birthday. (hands her the package she is carrying)
MADELINE: (with a gasp—suspecting from its shape) Oh! (her face aglow) Why—is it?
AUNT ISABEL: (laughing affectionately) Foolish child, open it and see.
(MADELINE loosens the paper and pulls out a tennis racket.)
MADELINE: (excited, and moved) Oh, aunt Isabel! that was dear of you. I shouldn't have thought you'd—quite do that.
AUNT ISABEL: I couldn't imagine Madeline without a racket. (gathering up the paper, lightly reproachful) But be a little careful of it, Madeline. It's meant for tennis balls. (they laugh together)
MADELINE: (making a return with it) It's a peach. (changing) Wonder where I'll play now.
AUNT ISABEL: Why, you'll play on the courts at Morton College. Who has a better right?
MADELINE: Oh, I don't know. It's pretty much balled up, isn't it?
AUNT ISABEL: Yes; we'll have to get it straightened out. (gently) It was really dreadful of you, Madeline, to rush out a second time. It isn't as if they were people who were anything to you.
MADELINE: But, auntie, they are something to me.
AUNT ISABEL: Oh, dear, that's what Horace said.
MADELINE: What's what Horace said?
AUNT ISABEL: That you must have a case on one of them.
MADELINE: That's what Horace would say. That makes me sore!
AUNT ISABEL: I'm sorry I spoke of it. Horace is absurd in some ways.
MADELINE: He's a—
AUNT ISABEL: (stopping it with her hand) No, he isn't. He's a headstrong boy, but a very loving one. He's dear with me, Madeline.
MADELINE: Yes. You are good to each other. (her eyes are drawn to the cell)
AUNT ISABEL: Of course we are. We'd be a pretty poor sort if we weren't. And these are days when we have to stand together—all of us who are the same kind of people must stand together because the thing that makes us the same kind of people is threatened.
MADELINE: Don't you think we're rather threatening it ourselves, auntie?
AUNT ISABEL: Why, no, we're fighting for it.
MADELINE: Fighting for what?
AUNT ISABEL: For Americanism; for—democracy.
MADELINE: Horace is fighting for it?
AUNT ISABEL: Well, Horace does go at it as if it were a football game, but his heart's in the right place.
MADELINE: Somehow, I don't seem to see my heart in that place.
AUNT ISABEL: In what place?
MADELINE: Where Horace's heart is.
AUNT ISABEL: It's too bad you and Horace quarrel. But you and I don't quarrel, Madeline.
MADELINE: (again drawn to the cell) No. You and I don't quarrel. (she is troubled)
AUNT ISABEL: Funny child! Do you want us to?
(MADELINE turns, laughing a little, takes the dish from the table, holds it out to her aunt.)
MADELINE: Have some fudge, auntie.
AUNT ISABEL: (taking the dish) Do you use them?—the old Hungarian dishes? (laughingly) I'm not allowed to—your uncle is so choice of the few pieces we have. And here are you with fudge in one of them.
MADELINE: I made the fudge because—oh, I don't know, I had to do something to celebrate my birthday.
AUNT ISABEL: (under her breath) Dearie!
MADELINE: And then that didn't seem to—make a birthday, so I happened to see this, way up on a top shelf, and I remembered that it was my mother's. It was nice to get it down and use it—almost as if mother was giving me a birthday present.
AUNT ISABEL: And how she would love to give you a birthday present.
MADELINE: It was her mother's, I suppose, and they brought it from Hungary.
AUNT ISABEL: Yes. They brought only a very few things with them, and left—oh, so many beautiful ones behind.
MADELINE: (quietly) Rather nice of them, wasn't it? (her aunt waits inquiringly) To leave their own beautiful things—their own beautiful life behind—simply because they believed life should be more beautiful for more people.
AUNT ISABEL: (with constraint) Yes. (gayly turning it) Well, now, as to the birthday. What do you suppose Sarah is doing this instant? Putting red frosting on white frosting, (writing it with her finger) Madeline. And what do you suppose Horace is doing? (this a little reproachfully) Running around buying twenty-one red candles. Twenty-two—one to grow on. Big birthday cake. Party to-night.
MADELINE: But, auntie, I don't see how I can be there.
AUNT ISABEL: Listen, dear. Now, we've got to use our wits and all pull together. Of course we'd do anything in the world rather than see you—left to outsiders. I've never seen your uncle as worried, and—truly, Madeline, as sad. Oh, my dear, it's these human things that count! What would life be without the love we have for each other?
MADELINE: The love we have for each other?
AUNT ISABEL: Why, yes, dearest. Don't turn away from me Madeline. Don't—don't be strange. I wonder if you realize how your uncle has worked to have life a happy thing for all of us? Be a little generous to him. He's had this great burden of bringing something from another day on into this day. It is not as simple as it may seem. He's done it as best he could. It will hurt him as nothing has ever hurt him if you now undo that work of his life. Truly, dear, do you feel you know enough about it to do that? Another thing: people are a little absurd out of their own places. We need to be held in our relationships—against our background—or we are—I don't know—grotesque. Come now, Madeline, where's your sense of humour? Isn't it a little absurd for you to leave home over India's form of government?
MADELINE: It's not India. It's America. A sense of humour is nothing to hide behind!
AUNT ISABEL: (with a laugh) I knew I wouldn't be a success at world affairs—better leave that to Professor Holden. (a quick keen look from MADELINE) They've driven on to the river—they'll be back for me, and then he wants to stop in for a visit with you while I take Mrs Holden for a further ride. I'm worried about her. She doesn't gain strength at all since her operation. I'm going to try keeping her out in the air all I can.
MADELINE: It's dreadful about families!
AUNT ISABEL: Dreadful? Professor Holden's devotion to his wife is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.
MADELINE: And is that all you see it in?
AUNT ISABEL: You mean the—responsibility it brings? Oh, well—that's what life is. Doing for one another. Sacrificing for one another.
MADELINE: I hope I never have a family.
AUNT ISABEL: Well, I hope you do. You'll miss the best of life if you don't. Anyway, you have a family. Where is your father?
MADELINE: I don't know.
AUNT ISABEL: I'd like to see him.
MADELINE: There's no use seeing him today.
AUNT ISABEL: He's—?
MADELINE: Strange—shut in—afraid something's going to be taken from him.
AUNT ISABEL: Poor Ira. So much has been taken from him. And now you. Don't hurt him again, Madeline. He can't bear it. You see what it does to him.
MADELINE: He has—the wrong idea about things.
AUNT ISABEL: 'The wrong idea!' Oh, my child—that's awfully young and hard. It's so much deeper than that. Life has made him into something—something he can't escape.
MADELINE: (with what seems sullenness) Well, I don't want to be made into that thing.
AUNT ISABEL: Of course not. But you want to help him, don't you? Now, dear—about your birthday party—
MADELINE: The United States Commissioner is giving me my birthday party.
AUNT ISABEL: Well, he'll have to put his party off. Your uncle has been thinking it all out. We're to go to his office and you'll have a talk with him and with Judge Watkins. He's off the state supreme bench now—practising again, and as a favour to your uncle he will be your lawyer. You don't know how relieved we are at this, for Judge Watkins can do—anything he wants to do, practically. Then you and I will go on home and call up some of the crowd to come in and dance to-night. We have some beautiful new records. There's a Hungarian waltz—
MADELINE: And what's the price of all this, auntie?
AUNT ISABEL: The—Oh, you mean—Why, simply say you felt sorry for the Hindu students because they seemed rather alone; that you hadn't realized—what they were, hadn't thought out what you were saying—
MADELINE: And that I'm sorry and will never do it again.
AUNT ISABEL: I don't know that you need say that. It would be gracious, I think, to indicate it.
MADELINE: I'm sorry you—had the cake made. I suppose you can eat it, anyway. I (turning away)—can't eat it.
AUNT ISABEL: Why—Madeline.
(Seeing how she has hurt her, MADELINE goes out to her aunt.)
MADELINE: Auntie, dear! I'm sorry—if I hurt your feelings.
AUNT ISABEL: (quick to hold out a loving hand, laughing a little) They've been good birthday cakes, haven't they, Madeline?
MADELINE: (she now trying not to cry) I don't know—what I'd have done without them. Don't know—what I will do without them. I don't—see it.
AUNT ISABEL: Don't try to. Please don't see it! Just let me go on helping you. That's all I ask. (she draws MADELINE to her) Ah, dearie, I held you when you were a little baby without your mother. All those years count for something, Madeline. There's just nothing to life if years of love don't count for something. (listening) I think I hear them. And here are we, weeping like two idiots. (MADELINE brushes away tears, AUNT ISABEL arranges her veil, regaining her usual poise) Professor Holden was hoping you'd take a tramp with him. Wouldn't that do you good? Anyway, a talk with him will be nice. I know he admires you immensely, and really—perhaps I shouldn't let you know this—sympathizes with your feeling. So I think his maturer way of looking at things will show you just the adjustment you need to become a really big and useful person. There's so much to be done in the world, Madeline. Of course we ought to make it a better world. (in a manner of agreement with MADELINE) I feel very strongly about all that. Perhaps we can do some things together. I'd love that. Don't think I'm hopeless! Way down deep we have the same feeling. Yes, here's Professor Holden.
(HOLDEN comes in. He seems older.)
HOLDEN: And how are you, Madeline? (holding out his hand)
MADELINE: I'm—all right.
HOLDEN: Many happy returns of the day. (embarrassed by her half laugh) The birthday.
AUNT ISABEL: And did you have a nice look up the river?
HOLDEN: I never saw this country as lovely as it is to-day. Mary is just drinking it in.
AUNT ISABEL: You don't think the further ride will be too much?
HOLDEN: Oh, no—not in that car.
AUNT ISABEL: Then we'll go on—perhaps as far as Laughing Creek. If you two decide on a tramp—take that road and we'll pick you up. (smiling warmly, she goes out)
HOLDEN: How good she is.
MADELINE: Yes. That's just the trouble.
HOLDEN: (with difficulty getting past this) How about a little tramp? There'll never be another such day.
MADELINE: I used to tramp with Fred Jordan. This is where he is now. (stepping inside the cell) He doesn't even see out.
HOLDEN: It's all wrong that he should be where he is. But for you to stay indoors won't help him, Madeline.
MADELINE: It won't help him, but—today—I can't go out.
HOLDEN: I'm sorry, my child. When this sense of wrongs done first comes down upon one, it does crush.
MADELINE: And later you get used to it and don't care.
HOLDEN: You care. You try not to destroy yourself needlessly. (he turns from her look)
MADELINE: Play safe.
HOLDEN: If it's playing safe it's that one you love more than yourself be safe. It would be a luxury to—destroy one's self.
MADELINE: That sounds like Uncle Felix. (seeing she has hurt him, she goes over and sits across from him at the table) I'm sorry. I say the wrong things today.
HOLDEN: I don't know that you do.
MADELINE: But isn't uncle funny? His left mind doesn't know what his right mind is doing. He has to think of himself as a person of sentiment—idealism, and—quite a job, at times. Clever—how he gets away with it. The war must have been a godsend to people who were in danger of getting on to themselves. But I should think you could fool all of yourself all the time.
HOLDEN: You don't. (he is rubbing his hand on the table)
MADELINE: Grandfather Morton made this table. I suppose he and Grandfather Fejevary used to sit here and talk—they were great old pals. (slowly HOLDEN turns and looks out at the hill) Yes. How beautiful the hill must have been—before there was a college there. (he looks away from the hill) Did you know Grandfather Morton?
HOLDEN: Yes, I knew him. (speaking of it against his will) I had a wonderful talk with him once; about Greece—and the cornfields, and life.
MADELINE: I'd like to have been a pioneer! Some ways they had it fierce, but think of the fun they had! A whole big land to open up! A big new life to begin! (her hands closing in from wideness to a smaller thing) Why did so much get shut out? Just a little way back—anything might have been. What happened?
HOLDEN: (speaking with difficulty) It got—set too soon.
MADELINE: (all of her mind open, trying to know) And why did it? Prosperous, I suppose. That seems to set things—set them in fear. Silas Morton wasn't afraid of Felix Fejevary, the Hungarian revolutionist. He laid this country at that refugee's feet! That's what Uncle Felix says himself—with the left half of his mind. Now—the Hindu revolutionists—! (pause) I took a walk late yesterday afternoon. Night came, and for some reason I thought of how many nights have come—nights the earth has known long before we knew the earth. The moon came up and I thought of how moonlight made this country beautiful before any man knew that moonlight was beautiful. It gave me a feeling of coming from something a long way back. Moving toward—what will be here when I'm not here. Moving. We seem here, now, in America, to have forgotten we're moving. Think it's just us—just now. Of course, that would make us afraid, and—ridiculous.
(Her father comes in.)
IRA: Your Aunt Isabel—did she go away—and leave you?
MADELINE: She's coming back.
IRA: For you?
MADELINE: She—wants me to go with her. This is Professor Holden, father.
HOLDEN: How do you do, Mr Morton?
IRA: (nods, not noticing HOLDEN's offered hand) How'do. When is she coming back?
IRA: And then you're going with her?
MADELINE: I—don't know.
IRA: I say you go with her. You want them all to come down on us? (to HOLDEN) What are you here for?
MADELINE: Aunt Isabel brought Professor Holden, father.
IRA: Oh. Then you—you tell her what to do. You make her do it. (he goes into the room at left)
MADELINE: (sadly, after a silence) Father's like something touched by an early frost.
HOLDEN: Yes. (seeing his opening and forcing himself to take it) But do you know, Madeline, there are other ways of that happening—'touched by an early frost'. I've seen it happen to people I know—people of fine and daring mind. They do a thing that puts them apart—it may be the big, brave thing—but the apartness does something to them. I've seen it many times—so many times—so many times, I fear for you. You do this thing and you'll find yourself with people who in many ways you don't care for at all; find yourself apart from people who in most ways are your own people. You're many-sided, Madeline. (moves her tennis racket) I don't know about it's all going to one side. I hate to see you, so young, close a door on so much life. I'm being just as honest with you as I know how. I myself am making compromises to stay within. I don't like it, but there are—reasons for doing it. I can't see you leave that main body without telling you all it is you are leaving. It's not a clean-cut case—the side of the world or the side of the angels. I hate to see you lose the—fullness of life.
MADELINE: (a slight start, as she realizes the pause. As one recalled from far) I'm sorry. I was listening to what you were saying—but all the time—something else was happening. Grandfather Morton, big and—oh, terrible. He was here. And we went to that walled-up hole in the ground—(rising and pointing down at the chalked cell)—where they keep Fred Jordan on bread and water because he couldn't be a part of nations of men killing each other—and Silas Morton—only he was all that is back of us, tore open that cell—it was his voice tore it open—his voice as he cried, 'God damn you, this is America!' (sitting down, as if rallying from a tremendous experience) I'm sorry—it should have happened, while you were speaking. Won't you—go on?
HOLDEN: That's a pretty hard thing to go on against. (after a moment) I can't go on.
MADELINE: You were thinking of leaving the college, and then—decided to stay? (he nods) And you feel there's more—fullness of life for you inside the college than outside?
HOLDEN: No—not exactly. (again a pause) It's very hard for me to talk to you.
MADELINE: (gently) Perhaps we needn't do it.
HOLDEN: (something in him forcing him to say it) I'm staying for financial reasons.
MADELINE: (kind, but not going to let the truth get away) You don't think that—having to stay within—or deciding to, rather, makes you think these things of the—blight of being without?
HOLDEN: I think there is danger to you in—so young, becoming alien to society.
MADELINE: As great as the danger of staying within—and becoming like the thing I'm within?
HOLDEN: You wouldn't become like it.
MADELINE: Why wouldn't I? That's what it does to the rest of you. I don't see it—this fullness of life business. I don't see that Uncle Felix has got it—or even Aunt Isabel, and you—I think that in buying it you're losing it.
HOLDEN: I don't think you know what a cruel thing you are saying.
MADELINE: There must be something pretty rotten about Morton College if you have to sell your soul to stay in it!
HOLDEN: You don't 'sell your soul'. You persuade yourself to wait.
MADELINE: (unable to look at him, as if feeling shame) You have had a talk with Uncle Felix since that day in the library you stepped aside for me to pass.
HOLDEN: Yes; and with my wife's physician. If you sell your soul—it's to love you sell it.
MADELINE: (low) That's strange. It's love that—brings life along, and then it's love—holds life back.
HOLDEN: (and all the time with this effort against hopelessness) Leaving me out of it, I'd like to see you give yourself a little more chance for detachment. You need a better intellectual equipment if you're going to fight the world you find yourself in. I think you will count for more if you wait, and when you strike, strike more maturely.
MADELINE: Detachment. (pause) This is one thing they do at this place. (she moves to the open door) Chain them up to the bars—just like this. (in the doorway where her two grandfathers once pledged faith with the dreams of a million years, she raises clasped hands as high as they will go) Eight hours a day—day after day. Just hold your arms up like this one hour then sit down and think about—(as if tortured by all who have been so tortured, her body begins to give with sobs, arms drop, the last word is a sob) detachment.
HOLDEN is standing helplessly by when her father comes in.
IRA: (wildly) Don't cry. No! Not in this house! I can't—Your aunt and uncle will fix it up. The law won't take you this time—and you won't do it again.
MADELINE: Oh, what does that matter—what they do to me?
IRA: What are you crying about then?
MADELINE: It's—the world. It's—
IRA: The world? If that's all you've got to cry about! (to HOLDEN) Tell her that's nothing to cry about. What's the matter with you. Mad'line? That's crazy—cryin' about the world! What good has ever come to this house through carin' about the world? What good's that college? Better we had that hill. Why is there no one in this house to-day but me and you? Where's your mother? Where's your brother? The world.
HOLDEN: I think your father would like to talk to you. I'll go outside—walk a little, and come back for you with your aunt. You must let us see you through this, Madeline. You couldn't bear the things it would bring you to. I see that now. (as he passes her in the doorway his hand rests an instant on her bent head) You're worth too much to break.
IRA: (turning away) I don't want to talk to you. What good comes of talking? (In moving, he has stepped near the sack of corn. Takes hold of it.) But not with Emil Johnson! That's not—what your mother died for.
MADELINE: Father, you must talk to me. What did my mother die for? No one has ever told me about her—except that she was beautiful—not like other people here. I got a feeling of—something from far away. Something from long ago. Rare. Why can't Uncle Felix talk about her? Why can't you? Wouldn't she want me to know her? Tell me about her. It's my birthday and I need my mother.
IRA: (as if afraid he is going to do it) How can you touch—what you've not touched in nineteen years? Just once—in nineteen years—and that did no good.
MADELINE: Try. Even though it hurts. Didn't you use to talk to her? Well, I'm her daughter. Talk to me. What has she to do with Emil Johnson?
IRA: (the pent-up thing loosed) What has she to do with him? She died so he could live. He lives because she's dead, (in anguish) And what is he alongside her? Yes. Something from far away. Something from long ago. Rare. How'd you know that? Finding in me—what I didn't know was there. Then she came—that ignorant Swede—Emil Johnson's mother—running through the cornfield like a crazy woman—'Miss Morton! Miss Morton! Come help me! My children are choking!' Diphtheria they had—the whole of 'em—but out of this house she ran—my Madeline, leaving you—her own baby—running as fast as she could through the cornfield after that immigrant woman. She stumbled in the rough field—fell to her knees. That was the last I saw of her. She choked to death in that Swede's house. They lived.
MADELINE: (going to him) Oh—father, (voice rich) But how lovely of her.
IRA: Lovely? Lovely to leave you without a mother—leave me without her after I'd had her? Wasn't she worth more than them.
MADELINE: (proudly) Yes. She was worth so much that she never stopped to think how much she was worth.
IRA: Ah, if you'd known her you couldn't take it like that. And now you cry about the world! That's what the world is—all coming to nothing. My father used to sit there at the table and talk about the world—my father and her father. They thought 'twas all for something—that what you were went on into something more than you. That's the talk I always heard in this house. But it's just talk. The rare thing that came here was killed by the common thing that came here. Just happens—and happens cruel. Look at your brother! Gone—(snaps his fingers) like that. I told him not to go to war. He didn't have to go—they'd been glad enough to have him stay here on the farm. But no,—he must—make the world safe for democracy! Well, you see how safe he made it, don't you? Now I'm alone on the farm and he—buried on some Frenchman's farm. That is, I hope they buried him—I hope they didn't just—(tormented)
MADELINE: Oh, father—of course not. I know they did.
IRA: How do you know? What do you care—once they got him? He talked about the world—better world—end war. Now he's in his grave—I hope he is—and look at the front page of the paper! No such thing—war to end war!
MADELINE: But he thought there was, father. Fred believed that—so what else could he do?
IRA: He could 'a' minded his own business.
MADELINE: No—oh, no. It was fine of him to give his life to what he believed should be.
IRA: The light in his eyes as he talked of it, now—eyes gone—and the world he died for all hate and war. Waste. Waste. Nothin' but waste—the life of this house. Why, folks to-day'd laugh to hear my father talk. He gave his best land for ideas to live. Thought was going to make us a better people. What was his word? (waits) Aspiration. (says it as if it is a far-off thing) Well, look at your friend, young Jordan. Kicked from the college to prison for ideas of a better world. (laughs) His 'aspiration' puts him in a hole on bread and water! So—mind your own business, that's all that's so in this country. (constantly tormented anew) Oh, I told your brother all that—the night I tried to keep him. Told him about his mother—to show what come of running to other folks. And he said—standing right there—(pointing) eyes all bright, he said, 'Golly, I think that's great!' And then he—walked out of this house. (fear takes him) Madeline! (she stoops over him, her arm around him) Don't you leave me—all alone in this house—where so many was once. What's Hindus—alongside your own father—and him needing you? It won't be long. After a little I'll be dead—or crazy—or something. But not here alone where so many was once.
MADELINE: Oh—father. I don't know what to do.
IRA: Nothing stays at home. Not even the corn stays at home. If only the wind wouldn't blow! Why can't I have my field to myself? Why can't I keep what's mine? All these years I've worked to make it better. I wanted it to be—the most that it could be. My father used to talk about the Indians—how our land was their land, and how we must be more than them. He had his own ideas of bein' more—well, what's that come to? The Indians lived happier than we—wars, strikes, prisons. But I've made the corn more! This land that was once Indian maize now grows corn—I'd like to have the Indians see my corn! I'd like to see them side by side!—their Indian maize, my corn. And how'd I get it? Ah, by thinkin'—always tryin', changin', carin'. Plant this corn by that corn, and the pollen blows from corn to corn—the golden dust it blows, in the sunshine and of nights—blows from corn to corn like a—(the word hurts) gift. No, you don't understand it, but (proudly) corn don't stay what it is! You can make it anything—according to what you do, 'cording to the corn it's alongside. (changing) But that's it. I want it to stay in my field. It goes away. The prevailin' wind takes it on to the Johnsons—them Swedes that took my Madeline! I hear it! Oh, nights when I can't help myself—and in the sunshine I can see it—pollen—soft golden dust to make new life—goin' on to them,—and them too ignorant to know what's makin' their corn better! I want my field to myself. What'd I work all my life for? Work that's had to take the place o' what I lost—is that to go to Emil Johnson? No! The wind shall stand still! I'll make it. I'll find a way. Let me alone and I—I'll think it out. Let me alone, I say.
(A mind burned to one idea, with greedy haste he shuts himself in the room at left. MADELINE has been standing there as if mist is parting and letting her see. And as the vision grows power grows in her. She is thus flooded with richer life when her AUNT and Professor HOLDEN come back. Feeling something new, for a moment they do not speak.)
AUNT ISABEL: Ready, dear? It's time for us to go now.
MADELINE: (with the quiet of plentitude) I'm going in with Emil Johnson.
AUNT ISABEL: Why—Madeline. (falteringly) We thought you'd go with us.
MADELINE: No. I have to be—the most I can be. I want the wind to have something to carry.
AUNT ISABEL: (after a look at Professor HOLDEN, who is looking intensely at MADELINE) I don't understand.
MADELINE: The world is all a—moving field. (her hands move, voice too is of a moving field) Nothing is to itself. If America thinks so—America is like father. I don't feel alone any more. The wind has come through—wind rich from lives now gone. Grandfather Fejevary, gift from a field far off. Silas Morton. No, not alone any more. And afraid? I'm not even afraid of being absurd!
AUNT ISABEL: But Madeline—you're leaving your father?
MADELINE: (after thinking it out) I'm not leaving—what's greater in him than he knows.
AUNT ISABEL: You're leaving Morton College?
MADELINE: That runt on a high hill? Yes, I'm leaving grandfather's college—then maybe I can one day lie under the same sod with him, and not be ashamed. Though I must tell you (a little laugh) under the sod is my idea of no place to be. I want to be a long time—where the wind blows.
AUNT ISABEL: (who is trying not to cry) I'm afraid it won't blow in prison, dear.
MADELINE: I don't know. Might be the only place it would blow. (EMIL passes the window, hesitates at the door) I'll be ready in just a moment, Emil.
(He waits outside.)
AUNT ISABEL: Madeline, I didn't tell you—I hoped it wouldn't be necessary, but your uncle said—if you refused to do it his way, he could do absolutely nothing for you, not even—bail.
MADELINE: Of course not. I wouldn't expect him to.
AUNT ISABEL: He feels so deeply about these things—America—loyalty, he said if you didn't come with us it would be final, Madeline. Even—(breaks) between you and me.
MADELINE: I'm sorry, auntie. You know how I love you. (and her voice tells it) But father has been telling me about the corn. It gives itself away all the time—the best corn a gift to other corn. What you are—that doesn't stay with you. Then—(not with assurance, but feeling her way) be the most you can be, so life will be more because you were. (freed by the truth she has found) Oh—do that! Why do we three go apart? Professor Holden, his beautiful trained mind; Aunt Isabel—her beautiful love, love that could save the world if only you'd—throw it to the winds. (moving nearer HOLDEN, hands out to him) Why do—(seeing it is not to be, she turns away. Low, with sorrow for that great beauty lost) Oh, have we brought mind, have we brought heart, up to this place—only to turn them against mind and heart?
HOLDEN: (unable to bear more) I think we—must go. (going to MADELINE, holding out his hand and speaking from his sterile life to her fullness of life) Good-bye, Madeline. Good luck.
MADELINE: Good-bye, Professor Holden. (hesitates) Luck to you.
(Shaking his head, stooped, he hurries out.)
MADELINE: (after a moment when neither can speak) Good-bye—auntie dearest. Thank you—for the birthday present—the cake—everything. Everything—all the years.
(There is something AUNT ISABEL would say, but she can only hold tight to MADELINE's hands. At last, with a smile that speaks for love, a little nod, she goes. EMIL comes in.)
EMIL: You better go with them, Madeline. It'd make it better for you.
MADELINE: Oh no, it wouldn't. I'll be with you in an instant, Emil. I want to—say good-bye to my father.
(But she waits before that door, a door hard to go through. Alone, EMIL looks around the room. Sees the bag of corn, takes a couple of ears and is looking at them as MADELINE returns. She remains by the door, shaken with sobs, turns, as if pulled back to the pain she has left.)
EMIL: Gee. This is great corn.
MADELINE: (turning now to him) It is, isn't it, Emil?
EMIL: None like it.
MADELINE: And you say—your corn is getting better?
EMIL: Oh, yes—I raise better corn every year now.
MADELINE: (low) That's nice. I'll be right out, Emil.
(He puts the corn back, goes out. From the closet MADELINE takes her hat and wrap. Putting them on, she sees the tennis racket on the table. She goes to it, takes it up, holds it a moment, then takes it to the closet, puts it carefully away, closes the door behind it. A moment she stands there in the room, as if listening to something. Then she leaves that house.)