By Winston Churchill
A Play in Three Acts
This play was written during the war. But owing to the fact that several managers politely declined to produce it, it has not appeared on any stage. Now, perhaps, its theme is more timely, more likely to receive the attention it deserves, when the smoke of battle has somewhat cleared. Even when the struggle with Germany and her allies was in progress it was quite apparent to the discerning that the true issue of the conflict was one quite familiar to American thought, of self-determination. On returning from abroad toward the end of 1917 I ventured into print with the statement that the great war had every aspect of a race with revolution. Subliminal desires, subliminal fears, when they break down the censor of law, are apt to inspire fanatical creeds, to wind about their victims the flaming flag of a false martyrdom. Today it is on the knees of the gods whether the insuppressible impulses for human freedom that come roaring up from the subliminal chaos, fanned by hunger and hate, are to thrash themselves out in anarchy and insanity, or to take an ordered, intelligent and conscious course. Of the Twentieth Century, industrial democracy is the watchword, even as political democracy was the watchword of the two centuries that preceded it. Economic power is at last realized to be political power. No man owns himself, no woman owns herself if the individual is not economically free. Perhaps the most encouraging omen of the day is the fact that many of our modern employers, and even our modern financiers and bankers seem to be recognizing this truth, to be growing aware of the danger to civilization of its continued suppression. Educators and sociologists may supply the theories; but by experiment, by trial and error,—yes, and by prayer, —the solution must be found in the practical domain of industry.
SCENE: The library of ASHER PINDAR'S house in Foxon Falls, a New England village of some three thousand souls, over the destinies of which the Pindars for three generations have presided. It is a large, dignified room, built early in the nineteenth century, with white doors and gloss woodwork. At the rear of the stage,—which is the front of the house,—are three high windows with small, square panes of glass, and embrasures into which are fitted white inside shutters. These windows reach to within a foot or so of the floor; a person walking on the lawn or the sidewalk just beyond it may be seen through them. The trees bordering the Common are also seen through these windows, and through a gap in the foliage a glimpse of the terraced steeple of the Pindar Church, the architecture of which is of the same period as the house. Upper right, at the end of the wall, is a glass door looking out on the lawn. There is another door, lower right, and a door, lower left, leading into ASHER PINDAR'S study. A marble mantel, which holds a clock and certain ornaments, is just beyond this door. The wall spaces on the right and left are occupied by high bookcases filled with respectable volumes in calf and dark cloth bindings. Over the mantel is an oil painting of the Bierstadt school, cherished by ASHER as an inheritance from his father, a huge landscape with a self-conscious sky, mountains, plains, rivers and waterfalls, and two small figures of Indians—who seem to have been talking to a missionary. In the spaces between the windows are two steel engravings, "The Death of Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham" and "Washington Crossing the Delaware!" The furniture, with the exception of a few heirlooms, such as the stiff sofa, is mostly of the Richardson period of the '80s and '90s. On a table, middle rear, are neatly spread out several conservative magazines and periodicals, including a religious publication.
TIME: A bright morning in October, 1917,
GEORGE PINDAR, in the uniform of a first lieutenant of the army, enters by the doorway, upper right. He is a well set up young man of about twenty-seven, bronzed from his life in a training camp, of an adventurous and social nature. He glances about the room, and then lights a cigarette.
ASHER PINDAR, his father, enters, lower right. He is a tall, strongly built man of about sixty, with iron grey hair and beard. His eyes are keen, shadowed by bushy brows, and his New England features bear the stamp of inflexible "character." He wears a black "cutaway" coat and dark striped trousers; his voice is strong and resonant. But he is evidently preoccupied and worried, though he smiles with affection as he perceives GEORGE. GEORGE'S fondness for him is equally apparent.
GEORGE. Hello, dad.
ASHER. Oh, you're here, George.
GEORGE (looking, at ASHER). Something troubling you?
ASHER (attempting dissimulation). Well, you're going off to France, they've only given you two days' leave, and I've scarcely seen anything of you. Isn't that enough?
GEORGE. I know how busy you've been with that government contract on your hands. I wish I could help.
ASHER. You're in the army now, my boy. You can help me again when you come back.
GEORGE. I want to get time to go down to the shops and say goodbye to some of the men.
ASHER. No, I shouldn't do that, George.
GEORGE (surprised). Why not? I used to be pretty chummy with them, you know,—smoke a pipe with them occasionally in the noon hour.
ASHER. I know. But it doesn't do for an employer to be too familiar with the hands in these days.
GEORGE. I guess I've got a vulgar streak in me somewhere, I get along with the common people. There'll be lots of them in the trenches, dad.
ASHER. Under military discipline.
GEORGE (laughing). We're supposed to be fighting a war for democracy. I was talking to old Bains yesterday,—he's still able to run a lathe, and he was in the Civil War, you know. He was telling me how the boys in his regiment stopped to pick blackberries on the way to the battle of Bull Run.
ASHER. That's democracy! It's what we're doing right now—stopping to pick blackberries. This country's been in the war six months, since April, and no guns, no munitions, a handful of men in France—while the world's burning!
GEORGE. Well, we won't sell Uncle Sam short yet. Something is bothering you, dad.
ASHER. No—no, but the people in Washington change my specifications every week, and Jonathan's arriving today, of all days.
GEORGE. Has Dr. Jonathan turned up?
ASHER. I haven't seen him yet. It seems he got here this morning. No telegram, nothing. And he had his house fixed up without consulting me. He must be queer, like his father, your great uncle, Henry Pindar.
GEORGE. Tell me about Dr. Jonathan. A scientist,—isn't he? Suddenly decided to come back to live in the old homestead.
ASHER. On account of his health. He was delicate as a boy. He must have been about eight or nine years old when Uncle Henry left Foxon Falls for the west,—that was before you were born. Uncle Henry died somewhere in Iowa. He and my father never got along. Uncle Henry had as much as your grandfather to begin with, and let it slip through his fingers. He managed to send Jonathan to a medical school, and it seems that he's had some sort of a position at Johns Hopkins's—research work. I don't know what he's got to live on.
GEORGE. Uncle Henry must have been a philanthropist.
ASHER. It's all very well to be a philanthropist when you make more than you give away. Otherwise you're a sentimentalist.
GEORGE. Or a Christian.
ASHER. We can't take Christianity too literally.
GEORGE (smiling). That's its great advantage, as a religion.
ASHER. George, I don't like to say anything just as you're going to fight for your country, my boy, but your attitude of religious skepticism has troubled me, as well as your habit of intimacy with the shop hands. I confess to you that I've been a little afraid at times that you'd take after Jonathan's father. He never went to church, he forgot that he owed something to his position as a Pindar. He used to have that house of his overrun with all sorts of people, and the yard full of dirty children eating his fruit and picking his flowers. There's such a thing as being too democratic. I hope I'm as good an American as anybody, I believe that any man with brains, who has thrift, ought to rise—but wait until they do rise. You're going to command men, and when you come back here into the business again you'll be in a position of authority. Remember what I say, if you give these working people an inch, they'll take all you have.
GEORGE (laying his hand on ASHER's shoulder). Something is worrying you, dad. We've always been pretty good pals, haven't we?
ASHER. Yes, ever since you were a little shaver. Well, George, I didn't want to bother you with it—today. It seems there's trouble in the shops,—in our shops, of all places,—it's been going on for some time, grumbling, dissatisfaction, and they're getting higher wages than ever before—ruinous wages. They want me to recognize the union.
GEORGE. Well, that beats me. I thought we were above the labour-trouble line, away up here in New England.
ASHER (grimly). Oh, I can handle them.
GEORGE. I'll bet you can. You're a regular old war horse when you get started. It's your capital, it's your business, you've put it all at the disposal of the government. What right have they to kick up a row now, with this war on? I must say I haven't any sympathy with that.
ASHER (proudly). I guess you're a real Pindar after all, George.
(Enter an elderly maid, lower right.)
MAID. Timothy Farrell, the foreman's here,
(Enter, lower right, TIMOTHY, a big Irishman of about sixty, in working clothes.)
TIMOTHY. Here I am, sir. They're after sending word you wanted me.
GEORGE (going up to TIMOTHY and shaking his hand warmly). Old Timothy! I'm glad to get sight of you before I go.
TIMOTHY. And it's glad I am to see you, Mr. George, before you leave. And he an officer now! Sure, I mind him as a baby being wheeled up and down under the trees out there. My boy Bert was saying only this morning how we'd missed the sight of him in the shops this summer. You have a way with the men, Mr. George, of getting into their hearts, like. I was thinking just now, if Mr. George had only been home, in the shops, maybe we wouldn't be having all this complaint and trouble.
GEORGE. Who's at the bottom of this, Timothy? Rench? Hillman? I thought so. Well, they're not bad chaps when you get under their skins.
(He glances at his wrist watch)
Let me go down and talk with them, dad,—I've got time, my train doesn't leave until one thirty.
ASHER (impatiently, almost savagely). No, I'll settle this, George, this is my job. I won't have any humoring. Come into my study, Timothy.
TIMOTHY, shaking his head, follows ASHER out of the door, left.
After a moment GEORGE goes over to the extreme left hand corner of the room, where several articles are piled. He drags out a kit bag, then some necessary wearing apparel, underclothes, socks, a sweater, etc., then a large and rather luxurious lunch kit, a pin cushion. with his monogram, a small travelling pillow with his monogram, a linen toilet case embroidered in blue, to hang on the wall—these last evidently presents from admiring lady friends. Finally he brings forth a large rubber life preserving suit. He makes a show of putting all these things in the bag, including the life- preserving suit; and reveals a certain sentiment, not too deep, for the pillow, the pincushion and the toilet case. At length he strews everything over the floor, and is surveying the litter with mock despair when a girl appears on the lawn outside, through one of the windows. She throws into the room a small parcel wrapped in tissue paper, and disappears. GEORGE picks up the parcel and looks surprised, and suddenly runs out of the door, upper right. He presently returns, dragging the girl by the wrists, she resisting.
MINNIE FARRELL is about twenty one, with black hair and an abundant vitality. Her costume is a not wholly ineffective imitation of those bought at a great price at certain metropolitan establishments. A string of imitation pearls gleams against her ruddy skin.
MINNIE. Cut it out, George! (Glancing around apprehensively.) Say, if your mother was to find me here she'd want to send me up to the reformatory (she frees herself).
GEORGE. Where the deuce did you blow in from? (Regarding her with admiration.) Is this the little Minnie Farrell who left Foxon Falls two years ago? Gee whiz! aren't we smart!
MINNIE. Do you like me? I'm making good money, since the war.
GEORGE. Do I like you? What are you doing here?
MINNIE. My brother Bert's out there—he ain't working today. Mr. Pindar sent for father, and we walked up here with him. Where is he?
GEORGE (nodding toward the study). In there. But what are you doing, back in Foxon Falls?
MINNIE. Oh, visiting the scenes of my childhood.
GEORGE (tearing open the tissue paper from the parcel). Did you make these for me? (He holds up a pair of grey woollen wristlets.)
MINNIE. Well, I wanted to do something for a soldier, and when I heard you was going to France I thought you might as well have 'em.
GEORGE. How did you hear I was going?
MINNIE. Bert told me when I came home yesterday. They say it's cold in the trenches, and nothing keeps the hands so warm as wristlets. I know, because I've had 'em on winter mornings, early, when I was going to work. Will you wear 'em, George?
GEORGE. Will I wear them! (He puts then on his wrists.) I'll never take them off till the war's over.
MINNIE (pleased). You always were a josher!
GEORGE. Tell me, Minnie, why did you run away from me two years ago?
MINNIE. Run away from you! I left because I couldn't stand this village any longer. It was too quiet for me.
GEORGE. You're a josher! You went off while I was away, without telling me you were going. And then, when I found out where you were and hustled over to Newcastle in my car, you turned me down hard.
MINNIE. You didn't have a mortgage on me. There were plenty of girls of your own kind at that house party you went to. I guess you made love to them, too.
GEORGE. They weren't in the same class with you. You've got the ginger.
MINNIE. I've still got the ginger, all right.
GEORGE. I thought you cared for me.
MINNIE. You always had the nerve, George.
GEORGE. You acted as if you did.
MINNIE. I'm a good actor. Say, what was there in it for me?—packing tools in the Pindar shops, and you the son of my boss? You didn't want nothing from me except what all men want, and you wouldn't have wanted that long.
GEORGE. I was crazy about you.
MINNIE (her eyes falling on the travelling pillow and the pincushion; picking theron: up in turn). I guess you told them that, too.
GEORGE (embarrassed). Oh, I'm popular enough when I'm going away. They don't care anything about me.
MINNIE (indicating the wristlets). You don't want them,—I'll give 'em to Bert.
GEORGE. No, you won't.
MINNIE. I was silly. But we had a good time while it lasted,—didn't we, George?
(She evades him deftly, and picks up the life-preserving suit.)
What's this?—a full dress uniform?
GEORGE. When a submarine gets you, all you've got to do is to jump overboard and blow this—
(He draws the siren from the pocket and starts to blow it, but she seizes his hand.)
—and float around until a destroyer picks you up.
(Takes from another pocket a metal lunch box.)
This is for pate de foie gras sandwiches, and there's room in here—
(Indicating another pocket.)
—for a bottle of fizz. Come along with me, Minnie, ship as a Red Cross nurse, and I'll buy you one. The Atlantic wouldn't be such a bad place, with you,—and we wouldn't be in a hurry to blow the siren. You'd look like a peach in a white costume, too.
MINNIE. Don't you like me in this?
GEORGE. Sure, but I'd like that better.
MINNIE. I'd make a good nurse, if I do say it myself. And I'd take good care of you, George,—as good as any of them.
(She nods toward the pillow and pincushion.)
(He seizes her hands and attempts to draw her toward him.)
You used to let me!
MINNIE. That ain't any reason.
GEORGE. Just once, Minnie,—I'm going away.
MINNIE. No. I didn't mean to come in here—I just wanted to see what you looked like in your uniform.
(She draws away from him, just as Dr. JONATHAN appears in the doorway, lower right.)
(She goes out through the doorway, upper right.)
(DR. JONATHAN may be almost any age,—in reality about thirty five. His head is that of the thinker, high above the eyes. His face bears evidence in its lines of years of labour and service, as well as of a triumphant struggle against ill health. In his eyes is a thoughtful yet illuminating smile, now directed toward GEORGE who, when he perceives him, is taken aback,)
DR. JONATHAN. Hello! I was told to come in here,—I hope I'm not intruding.
GEORGE. Not at all. How—how long have you been here?
DR. JONATHAN. Just long enough to get my bearings. I came this morning.
GEORGE. Oh! Are you—are you Dr. Jonathan?
DR. JONATHAN. I'm Jonathan. And you're George, I suppose.
GEORGE. Yes. (He goes to him and shakes hands.) I'm sorry to be leaving just as you come.
DR. JONATHAN. I'll be here when you return.
GEORGE. I hope so (a pause). You won't find Foxon Falls a bad old town.
DR. JONATHAN. And it will be a better one when you come back.
GEORGE. Why do you say that?
DR. JONATHAN (smiling). It seems a safe conjecture.
(Dr. JONATHAN is looking at the heap of articles on the floor.)
GEORGE (grinning, and not quite at ease). You might imagine I was embarking in the gent's furnishing business, instead of going to war. (He picks up the life-preserving suit.) Some friend of mother's told her about this, and she insisted upon sending for it. I don't want to hurt her feelings, but I can't take it, of course.
(He rolls it up and thrusts it under the sofa, upper left.)
You won't give me away?
DR. JONATHAN. Never!
GEORGE. Dad ought to be here in a minute, he's in there with old Timothy Farrell, the moulder foreman. It seems that things are in a mess at the shops. Rotten of the men to make trouble now—don't you think?—when the country's at war! Darned unpatriotic, I say.
DR. JONATHAN. I saw a good many stars in your service flag as I passed the office door this morning.
GEORGE. Yes. Over four hundred of our men have enlisted. I don't understand it.
DR. JONATHAN. Perhaps you will, George, when you come home.
GEORGE. You mean—
(GEORGE is interrupted by the entrance, lower right, of his mother, AUGUSTA PINDAR. She is now in the fifties, and her hair is turning grey. Her uneventful, provincial existence as ASHER'S wife has confirmed and crystallized her traditional New England views, her conviction that her mission is to direct for good the lives of the less fortunate by whom she is surrounded. She carries her knitting in her hand,—a pair of socks for GEORGE. And she goes at once to DR. JONATHAN.)
AUGUSTA. So you are Jonathan. They told me you'd arrived—why didn't you come to us? Do you think it's wise to live in that old house of your father's before it's been thoroughly heated for a few days?
DR. JONATHAN (taking her hand). Oh, I'm going to live with the doors and windows open.
AUGUSTA. Dear me! I understand you've been quite ill, and you were never very strong as a child. I made it my business to go through the house yesterday, and I must say it looks comfortable. But the carpenters and plumbers have ruined the parlour, with that bench, and the sink in the corner. What are you going to do there?
DR. JONATHAN. I'm having it made into a sort of laboratory.
AUGUSTA. You don't mean to say you intend to do any work!
DR. JONATHAN. Work ought to cure me, in this climate.
AUGUSTA. You mean to practise medicine? You ought to have consulted us. I'm afraid you won't find it remunerative, Jonathan,—but your father was impractical, too. Foxon Falls is still a small place, in spite of the fact that the shops have grown. Workmen's families can't afford to pay big fees, you know.
DR. JONATHAN (smiling). I know.
AUGUSTA. And we already have an excellent physician here, Dr. Senn.
DR. JONATHAN. I shan't interfere with Dr. Senn.
GEORGE (laying his hand on AUGUSTA's shoulder: apologetically). Mother feels personally responsible for every man, woman and child in Foxon Falls. I shouldn't worry about Dr. Jonathan if I were you, mother, I've got a notion he can take care of himself.
AUGUSTA (a little baffled by DR. JONATHAN's self-command, sits down and begins to knit). I must get these socks finished for you to take with you, my dear. (To DR. JONATHAN) I can't realize he's going! (To GEORGE) You haven't got all your things in your bag! Where's the life-preserving suit I sent for?
GEORGE (glancing at DR. JONATHAN). Oh that's gone, mother.
AUGUSTA. He always took cold so easily, and that will keep him warm and dry, if those terrible Germans sink his ship. But your presents, George! (To DR. JONATHAN:) Made for him by sisters of his college friends.
GEORGE (amused but embarrassed). I can't fit up a section of the trenches as a boudoir.
AUGUSTA. Such nice girls! I wish he'd marry one of them. Who made you the wristlets? I hadn't seen them.
GEORGE (taking of the wristlets and putting them in his bag). Oh, I can't give her away. I was—just trying them on, to see if they fitted.
AUGUSTA. When did they come?
GEORGE (glancing at DR. JONATHAN). Er—this morning.
(Enter ASHER and TIMOTHY from the study, left. ASHER is evidently wrought up from his talk with TIMOTHY.)
ASHER. Remember, Timothy, I rely on sensible men like you to put a stop to this nonsense.
AUGUSTA. Asher, here's Jonathan.
ASHER. Oh! (He goes up to DR. JONATHAN and takes his hand, though it is quite evident that his mind is still on the trouble in the shops). Glad to see you back in Foxon Falls, Jonathan. I heard you'd arrived, and would have dropped in on you, but things are in a muddle here just now.
DR. JONATHAN. Not only here, but everywhere.
ASHER. You're right. The country's going to the dogs. I don't know what will straighten it out.
DR. JONATHAN. Intelligence, open-mindedness, cooperation, Asher.
ASHER (arrested: looking at him). Hum!
DR. JONATHAN (leaving him and going up to TIMOTHY). You don't remember me, Timothy?
TIMOTHY. Sure and I do, sir,—though you were only a little lad. You mind me of your father,—your smile, like. He was the grand, simple man! It's happy I am to see you back in Foxon Falls.
DR. JONATHAN. Yes, I've been ordered to the rear.
TIMOTHY. The rear, is it? I'm thinking we'll be fighting this war in Foxon Falls, too.
DR. JONATHAN. Yes, much of it will be fought behind the battle lines.
AUGUSTA. You think the Germans will come over here?
DR. JONATHAN. No, but the issue is over here already.
(DR. JONATHAN picks up her ball of wool, which has fallen to the floor.)
AUGUSTA (looking at him apprehensively: puzzled). Thank you, Jonathan.
(She turns to TIMOTHY, who has started toward the door, lower right)
Wait a moment, Timothy, I want to ask you about your children. What do you hear from Minnie? I always took an interest in her, you know, —especially when she was in the tool packing department of the shops, and I had her in my Bible class. I appreciated your letting her come, —an Irishman and a Catholic as you are.
TIMOTHY. The Church has given me up as a heathen, ma'am, when I married your cook, and she a Protestant.
AUGUSTA. I've been worried about Minnie since she went to Newcastle. She has so much vitality, and I'm afraid she's pleasure loving though she seemed to take to religion with her whole soul. And where's Jamesy?
TIMOTHY. Jamesy, is it? It's gone to the bad entirely he is, with the drink. He left the shops when the twelve-hour shifts began—wherever he's at now. It's home Minnie came from Newcastle yesterday, ma'am, for a visit,—she's outside there now, with Bert,—they walked along with me.
AUGUSTA. Bring them in, I want to see them,—especially Minnie. I must say I'm surprised she should have come home without calling on me.
TIMOTHY. I'll get them, ma'am.
(He goes out of the door, upper right. GEORGE, who has been palpably ill at ease during this conversation, now makes for the door, lower right.)
AUGUSTA. Where are you going, my dear?
GEORGE (halting). I thought I'd look around and see if I'd forgotten anything, mother.
AUGUSTA. Stay with us,—there's plenty of time.
(TIMOTHY returns through the doorway, upper right, with BERT, but without MINNIE.)
TIMOTHY. It's disappeared entirely she is, ma'am,—here one minute and there the next, the way with young people nowadays. And she's going back to Newcastle this afternoon, to her job at the Wire Works.
AUGUSTA. I must see her before she goes. I feel in a measure responsible for her. You'll tell her?
TIMOTHY. I'll tell her.
AUGUSTA. How are you getting along, Bert?
BERT. Very well, thank you, Mrs. Pindar.
(The MAID enters, lower right.)
MAID. Miss Thorpe wishes to speak with you, ma'am.
AUGUSTA (gathering up her knitting). It's about the wool for the Red Cross.
(Exit, lower right.)
GEORGE (shaking hands with BERT). Hello, Bert,—how goes it?
BERT. All right, thank you, lieutenant.
GEORGE. Oh, cut out the title.
(BERT FARRELL is about twenty three. He wears a brown flannel shirt and a blue four-in-hand tie, and a good ready-made suit. He holds his hat in front of him. He is a self-respecting, able young Irish American of the blue-eyed type that have died by thousands on the battle fields of France, and whose pictures may be seen in our newspapers.)
ASHER. You're not working today, Bert?
BERT. I've left the shops, Mr. Pindar,—I got through last night.
ASHER. Left the shops! You didn't say anything about this, Timothy!
TIMOTHY. No, sir,—you have trouble enough today.
ASHER (to BERT). Why did you leave?
BERT. I'm going to enlist, Mr. Pindar,—with the Marines. From what I've heard of that corps, I think I'd like to join it.
ASHER (exasperated). But why do you do a thing like this when you must know I need every man here to help turn out these machines? And especially young men like you, good mechanics! If you wanted to serve your country, you were better off where you were. I got you exempted —(catching himself) I mean, you were exempted from the draft.
BERT. I didn't want to be exempted, sir. More than four hundred of the boys have gone from the shops, as well as Mr. George here, and I couldn't stand it no longer.
ASHER. What's Mr. George got to do with it? The cases are different.
BERT (stoutly). I don't see that, Mr. Pindar. Every man, no matter who he is, has to decide a thing like this for himself.
GEORGE. Bert's right, dad.
ASHER. You say he's right, when you know that I need every hand I can get to carry out this contract?
GEORGE. He's going to make a contract, too. He's giving up all he has.
ASHER. And you approve of this, Timothy?
TIMOTHY. Sure, I couldn't stop him, Mr. Pindar! And it's proud I am of him, the same as you are of Mr. George, that he'd be fighting for America and liberty.
ASHER. Liberty! License is what we're getting now! The workman thinks he can do as he pleases. And after all I've done for my workmen, —building them a club house with a piano in it, and a library and a billiard table, trying to do my best to make them comfortable and contented. I pay them enough to buy pianos and billiard tables for themselves, and you tell me they want still higher wages.
TIMOTHY. They're saying they can go down to the shipyards, where they'd be getting five dollars and thirty cents a day.
ASHER. Let them go to the shipyards, if they haven't any sense of gratitude! What else do they say?
TIMOTHY. That you have a contract, sir, and making millions out of it.
ASHER. What can they know about my profits?
TIMOTHY. It's just that, sir,—they know nothing at all. But they're saying they ought to know, since things is different now, and they're working for the war and the country, the same as yourself.
ASHER. Haven't I established a system of bonuses, to share my profits with the efficient and the industrious?
TIMOTHY. They don't understand the bonuses,—how you come by them. Autocracy is the word they use. And they say you put up a notice sudden like, without asking them, that there'd be two long shifts instead of three eight-hour ones. They're willing to work twelve hours on end, for the war, they say, but they'd want to be consulted.
ASHER. What business is it of theirs?
TIMOTHY. Well, it's them that has to do the hard work, sir. There was a meeting last night, I understand, with Rench and Hillman and a delegate come from Newcastle making speeches, the only way they'd get their rights would be for you to recognize the union.
ASHER. I'll never recognize a union! I won't have any outsiders, meddlers and crooks dictating my business to me.
TIMOTHY. I've been with you thirty years, come December, Mr. Pindar, and you've been a good employer to me. I don't hold with the unions—you know it well, sir, or you wouldn't be asking me advice. I'm telling you what they're saying.
ASHER. I didn't mean to accuse you,—you've been a good and loyal employee—that's why I sent for you. Find out what their game is, and let me know.
TIMOTHY. It's not a detective I am, Mr. Pindar. I'm a workman meself. That's another thing they're saying, that you'd pay detectives to go among them, like workingmen.
ASHER (impatiently). I'm not asking you to be a detective,—I only want you to give me warning if we are to have a strike.
TIMOTHY. I've warned you, sir,—if it's only for the sake of beating the Germans, the dirty devils.
GEORGE (turning to BERT). Well, here's wishing you luck, Bert, and hoping we'll meet over there. I know how you feel,—you want to be in it, just as I do.
ASHER (turning). Perhaps I said more than I meant to, Bert. I've got to turn out these machines in order that our soldiers may have shrapnel to fight with, and what with enlistments and the determination of unscrupulous workmen to take advantage of the situation, I'm pretty hard pressed. I can't very well spare steady young men like you, who have too much sense and too much patriotism to mix yourselves up with trouble makers. But I, too, can understand your feeling,—I'd like to be going myself. You might have consulted me, but your place will be ready for you when you come back.
BERT. Thank you, sir. (He turns his hat over in his hands.) Maybe it would be fair to tell you, Mr. Pindar, that I've got a union card in my pocket.
ASHER. You, Timothy Farrell's son!
TIMOTHY. What's that? And never a word to me!
BERT (to TIMOTHY). Why wouldn't I join the union? I took out the card this morning, when I see that that's the only way we'll get what's coming to us. We ain't got a chance against the, employers without the union.
TIMOTHY. God help me, to think my son would join the union,—and he going to be a soldier!
BERT (glancing at GEORGE). I guess there'll be other union men in the trenches besides me.
ASHER. Soldier or no soldier, I'll never employ any man again who's joined a union.
GEORGE (perturbed). Hold on, dad!
ASHER. I mean what I say, I don't care who he is.
BERT (who retains his self-possession). Excuse me, Mr. Pindar, but I'd like to ask you a question—I've heard the men talking about this in the shops. You don't like it if we go off to—fight, but if we join the union you fire us, no matter how short-handed you are.
ASHER. It's a principle with me,—I won't have any outside agency dictating to me.
BERT. But if it came to recognizing the union, or shutting down?
ASHER. I'd shut down tomorrow.
(GEORGE, who sees the point, makes a gesture as if about to interrupt.)
BERT. That's what I'm getting at, Mr. Pindar. You say you'd shut down for a principle, whether the government gets the machines or not. And the men say they'd join the union for a principle, whether the government gets the machines or not. It looks to me as if both was hindering the war for a principle, and the question is, which principle is it that agrees best with what we're fighting for?
ASHER. No man joins a union for a principle, but for extortion. I can't discuss it,—I won't!
BERT. I'm sorry, sir.
(He turns to go out, lower right.)
GEORGE (overtaking him and grasping his hand). So long, Bert. I'll look you up, over there!
BERT (gazing at him). All right, Mr. George.
GEORGE. Goodbye, Timothy. Don't worry about the boy.
TIMOTHY. It's proud I am to have him go. Mr. George,—but I can't think why he'd be joining the union, and never telling me.
(He stands for a moment troubled, glancing at ASHER, torn between loyalty to his employer and affection for his son. Then he goes out slowly, upper right. All the while DR. JONATHAN has stood in the rear of the room, occasionally glancing at GEORGE. He now comes forward, unobtrusively, yet withal impressively.)
ASHER. I never expected to hear such talk from a son of Timothy Farrell,—a boy I thought was level-headed. (To DR. JONATHAN) What do you think of that? You heard it.
DR. JONATHAN. Well, he stated the issue, Asher.
ASHER. The issue of what?
DR. JONATHAN. Of the new century.
GEORGE. The issue of the new century
ASHER. You're right, we've got to put these people down. After the war they'll come to heel,—we'll have a cheap labour market then.
DR. JONATHAN. Humanity has always been cheap, but we're spending it rather lavishly just now.
ASHER, You mean that there will be a scarcity of labour? And that they can continue to blackmail us into paying these outrageous wages?
DR. JONATHAN. When you pay a man wages, Asher, you own him,—until he is turned over to somebody else.
ASHER (puzzled, a little suspicious for the first time). I own his labour, of course.
DR. JONATHAN. Then you own his body, and his soul. Perhaps he resents being regarded as a commodity.
ASHER. What else is labour?
DR. JONATHAN. How would you like to be a commodity?
ASHER. I? I don't see what that has to do with it. These men have no consideration, no gratitude, after the way I've treated them.
DR. JONATHAN. Isn't that what they object to?
DR. JONATHAN. To being treated.
ASHER. Object to kindness?
DR. JONATHAN. To benevolence.
ASHER. Well, what's the difference?
DR. JONATHAN. The difference between self-respect and dependence.
ASHER. Are—are you a Socialist?
DR. JONATHAN. NO, I'm a scientist.
(ASHER is standing staring at him when the MAID enters, lower right.)
MAID. Your long distance call to Washington, sir.
ASHER. Very well.
(As he starts to go out he halts and looks at DR. JONATHAN again, and then abruptly leaves the room, lower right, following the MAID.)
GEORGE (who has been regarding DR. JONATHAN: after a moment's hesitation). You seem to think there's something to be said for the workman's attitude, Dr. Jonathan.
DR. JONATHAN. What is his attitude, George?
GEORGE. Well, you heard Bert just now. I thought he had poor old dad on the hip when he accused the employer of holding up the war, too. But after all, what labour is after is more money, isn't it? and they're taking advantage of a critical situation to get it. And when they get money, most of them blow it in on sprees.
DR. JONATHAN. George, what are you going to France to fight for?
GEORGE. Germany's insulted our flag, murdered our people on the high seas and wants to boss the world.
DR. JONATHAN (smiling). The issue, then, is human freedom.
GEORGE. Sure thing!
DR. JONATHAN. And you think every man and woman in this country is reasonably free?
GEORGE. Every man can rise if he has the ability.
DR. JONATHAN. What do you mean by rise?
GEORGE. He can make money, set up for himself and be his own boss.
DR. JONATHAN. In other words, he can become free.
GEORGE (grinning). I suppose that's one way of putting it.
DR. JONATHAN. Money gives him freedom, doesn't it? Money gave you yours,—to go to school and college until you were twenty four, and get an education,—such as it was.
GEORGE. Such as it was!
DR. JONATHAN. Money gave you the choice of engaging in an occupation in which you could take an interest and a pride, and enabled you occasionally to go on a spree, if you ever went on a spree, George.
GEORGE. Once in awhile.
DR. JONATHAN. But this craving for amusement, for excitement and adventure isn't peculiar to you and me. Workingmen have it too,—and working girls.
GEORGE. You're a wise guy, I guess.
DR. JONATHAN. Oh no,—not that! But I've found out that you and I are not so very different from Timothy Farrell and his children,—Bert and Jamesy and—Minnie.
GEORGE (startled, and looking around to follow DR. JONATHAN'S glance toward the windows). What do you know about them?
DR. JONATHAN. Oh, nothing at first hand. But I can see why Bert's going to the war, and why Jamesy took to drink, and why Minnie left Foxon Falls.
GEORGE. The deuce you can!
DR. JONATHAN. And so can you, George. When you get back from France you will know what you have been fighting for.
GEORGE. And what's that?
DR. JONATHAN. Economic freedom, without which political freedom is a farce. Industrial democracy.
GEORGE. Industrial democracy! Well, it wasn't included in my education at Harvard.
DR. JONATHAN. Our education begins, unfortunately, after we leave Harvard,—with Bert and Jamesy and Minnie. And here's Minnie, now!
GEORGE (hastily). I'll beat it! Mother wants to talk to her.
DR. JONATHAN (his hand on GEORGE'S arm). No,—wait.
(Enter, lower right, AUGUSTA, followed by MINNIE FARRELL. MINNIE, AUGUSTA'S back being turned toward her, gives GEORGE a wink, which he acknowledges, and then glances toward DR. JONATHAN. AUGUSTA, with her knitting, seats herself in an armchair. Her attitude is somewhat inquisitorial; her tone, as she addresses MINNIE, non- committal. She is clearly offended by MINNIE'S poise and good- natured self-assertion.)
AUGUSTA. You remember Mr. Pindar, Minnie.
MINNIE (demurely). Glad to meet you again, Mr. Pindar. I hear you're going off to the war. Well, that's great.
GEORGE (squeezing her hand; she winces a little). Oh, yes,-I remember Minnie.
AUGUSTA. And this is Dr. Jonathan Pindar.
MINNIE (who has been eyeing DR. JONATHAN as a possible enemy; with reserve). Glad to meet you, I'm sure.
DR. JONATHAN (smiling at her as he takes her hand). The pleasure is —mutual.
MINNIE (puzzled, but somewhat reassured). Glad to meet you.
DR. JONATHAN. I've come to live in Foxon Falls. I hope we'll be friends.
MINNIE. I hope so. I'm going back to Newcastle this afternoon, there's nothing doing here.
DR. JONATHAN. Would you stay, if there were something doing?
MINNIE. I—I don't know. What would I be doing here?
AUGUSTA (disapprovingly, surveying, MINNIE'S costume). I don't think I should have recognized you, Minnie.
MINNIE. City life agrees with me, Mrs. Pindar. But I needed a little rest cure, and I came to see what the village looked like.
DR. JONATHAN. A sort of sentimental journey, Minnie.
MINNIE (flashing a look at GEORGE, and another at DR. JONATHAN). Well, you might call it that. I get you.
AUGUSTA. Minnie, what church do you attend in Newcastle?
MINNIE. Well, I haven't got a seat in any particular church, Mrs. Pindar.
AUGUSTA. I didn't expect you to go to the expense of getting a seat. I hope you delivered the letter our minister gave you to the minister of the First Church in Newcastle.
MINNIE. No, I didn't, Mrs. Pindar, and that's the truth. I never went near a church.
AUGUSTA (drily). It's a pity you ever went to Newcastle, I think.
MINNIE. It's some town! Every time you ride into it you see a big sign, "Welcome to Newcastle, population one hundred and six thousand, and growing every day. Goodbye, and thank you!"
AUGUSTA (knitting). You drive about in automobiles!
MINNIE. Oh, sometimes I get a joy ride.
AUGUSTA. It grieves me to hear you talk in this way. I knew you were pleasure loving, I thought I saw certain tendencies in you, yet you seemed to realize the grace of religion when you were in my Bible class. Your brother Jamesy took to drink—
MINNIE. And I took to religion. You meant to be kind, Mrs. Pindar, and I thank you. But now I know why Jamesy took to drink—it was for the same reason I took to religion.
AUGUSTA (scandalized). Minnie!
MINNIE. We were both trying to be free, to escape.
AUGUSTA. To escape? From what?
MINNIE (with a gesture indicating futility). I guess it would be pretty hard to get it across to you, Mrs. Pindar. But I was working ten hours a day packing tools in your shops, and all you gave me when the whistle blew was—Jesus.
(A pause: GEORGE takes a step toward her.)
Jamesy took to drink, and I took to Jesus. I'm not saying anything against Him. He had His life, but I wanted mine. Maybe He would have understood.
(Turning impulsively toward DR. JONATHAN.)
I've got a hunch that you understand.
AUGUSTA. Minnie, I can't let you talk about religion in this way in my presence.
MINNIE. I'm sorry, Mrs. Pindar, I knew it wasn't no use to come and see you,—I told father so.
AUGUSTA. I suppose, if you're determined to continue this life of—(she catches herself) I can't stop you.
MINNIE (flaring up). What life? Don't worry about me, Mrs. Pindar,—I get twenty five dollars a week at the Shale Works making barb wire to trip up the Huns with,—enough to get nice clothes—(she glances down at her dress) and buy good food, and have a good time on the side.
AUGUSTA (whose conceptions of what she believes to be MINNIE's kind are completely upset). You still work?
MINNIE. Work! Sure I work. I wouldn't let any man get a strangle hold on me. And I don't kick at a little overtime, neither. I'm working for what he's going to fight for—(indicating GEORGE) it ain't for myself only, but for everybody that ain't been free, all over the world. (To DR. JONATHAN.) Ain't that right? (She does not wait for his nod of approval.) I was just saying this morning—(she looks toward GEORGE and catches herself)—I've been wishing all along I could do more—go as a nurse for some of the boys.
AUGUSTA. A nurse!
MINNIE (to DR. JONATHAN). If I was a man, I'd have been a doctor, like you. Sick people don't bother me, I give myself to 'em. Before mother died, when she was sick, she always said I'd ought to have been a nurse. (A pause.) Well, I guess I'll go along. The foreman only give me a couple of days off to see the old home town.
GEORGE. Hold on, Minnie.
MINNIE. What is it?
GEORGE (to AUGUSTA). Minnie and I are old friends, mother.
AUGUSTA. Old friends?
GEORGE. Yes. I knew her—very well before she went away from Foxon Falls, and I went to Newcastle and took her out for a drive in my car.
MINNIE (vehemently). No, you never.
GEORGE. Why do you deny it?
MINNIE. There's nothing to it.
AUGUSTA (aghast). George!
GEORGE. Well, it's true. I'm not ashamed of it, though Minnie appears to be.
MINNIE (on the verge of tears). If you wasn't ashamed, why didn't you tell, her before? I'm not ashamed of it, neither. It was natural.
AUGUSTA (after a pause, with a supreme effort to meet the situation). Well, I suppose men are different. But there's no excuse for you, after all I tried to do for you.
MINNIE. Thank God men are different!
(AUGUSTA rises. The ball of wool drops to the floor again, and DR. JONATHAN picks it up.)
GEORGE. Mother, I'd like to tell you about it. You don't understand.
AUGUSTA. I'm afraid I do understand, dear.
(As she leaves the room, with dignity, GEORGE glances appealingly at DR. JONATHAN.)
DR. JONATHAN (going up to MINNIE and taking her hand). Do you think you'd have time to drop in to see me, Minnie, before your train goes?
MINNIE (gazing at him; after a moment). Sure! I guess I'd like to talk to you.
DR. JONATHAN. It's the little white house across the Common.
MINNIE. Oh, I know, that's been shut up all these years.
DR. JONATHAN. And is open now again.
(He goes out, lower right, and there is a brief silence as the two look after him.)
MINNIE. Say, who is he?
GEORGE. Why, he's a cousin of mine—
MINNIE. I don't mean that. He's somebody, ain't he?
GEORGE. By jingo, I'm beginning to think he is!
(They stand gazing at one another.)
MINNIE (remembering her grievance: passionately). Now you've gone and done it—telling your mother we were friends.
GEORGE. But we are—aren't we? You couldn't expect me to keep quiet, under the circumstances.
MINNIE. She thinks I'm not fit to talk to you. Not that I care, except that I was fond of her, she's been good to me in her way, and I felt real bad when I went off to Newcastle with the letter to the minister I never laid eyes on. She'll believe—you know what she'll believe,—it'll trouble her. She's your mother, and you're going away. You might have kept still.
GEORGE. I couldn't keep still. What would you have thought of me?
MINNIE. It don't make any difference what I'd have thought of you.
GEORGE. It makes a difference to me, and it makes some difference what I think of myself. I seem to be learning a good many things this morning.
MINNIE. From him?
GEORGE: You mean Dr. Jonathan?
GEORGE (reflecting). I don't know. I'm learning them from you, from everybody.
MINNIE. Maybe he put you wise.
GEORGE. Well, I don't feel wise. And seeing you again this morning brought it all back to me.
MINNIE. You were only fooling.
GEORGE. I began that way,—I'll own up. But I told you I'd never met a girl like you, you're full of pep—courage—something I can't describe. I was crazy about you,—that's straight,—but I didn't realize it until you ran off, and then I went after you,—but it was no good! I don't claim to have been square with you, and I've been thinking—well, that I'm responsible.
MINNIE. Responsible for what?
GEORGE. Well-for your throwing yourself away down there at Newcastle. You're too good.
MINNIE (with heat). Throwing myself away?
GEORGE. Didn't you? Didn't you break loose?—have a good time?
MINNIE. Why wouldn't I have a good time? That's what you were having, —a good time with me,—wasn't it? And say, did you ever stop to think what one day of a working girl's life was like?
GEORGE. One day?
MINNIE. With an alarm clock scaring you out of sweet dreams in the winter, while it's dark, and you get up and dress in the cold and heat a little coffee over a lamp and beat it for the factory,—and stand on your feet all morning, in a noise that would deafen you, feeding a thing you ain't got no interest in? It don't never need no rest! By eleven o'clock you think you're all in, that the morning'll never end, but at noon you get a twenty five cent feed that lasts you until about five in the afternoon,—and then you don't know which way the machine's headed. I've often thought of one of them cutters at Shale's as a sort of monster, watching you all day, waiting to get you when you're too tired to care. (Dreamily.) When it looks all blurred, and you want to put your hand in it.
GEORGE. Good God, Minnie!
MINNIE. And when the whistle blows at night all you have is your little hall bedroom in a rooming house that smells of stale smoke and cabbage. There's no place to go except the streets—but you've just got to go somewhere, to break loose and have a little fun,—even though you're so tired you want to throw yourself on the bed and cry.
Maybe it's because you're tired. When you're tired that way is when you want a good time most. It's funny, but it's so.
You ain't got no friends except a few girls with hall bedrooms like yourself, and if a chance comes along for a little excitement, you don't turn it down, I guess.
GEORGE (after a pause). I never knew what your life was like.
MINNIE. Why would you?—with friends, and everything you want, only to buy it? But since the war come on, I tell you, I ain't kicking, I can go to a movie or the theatre once in a while, and buy nice clothes, and I don't get so tired as I used to. I don't want nothing from anybody, I can take care of myself. It's money that makes you free.
MINNIE. When I looked into this room this morning and saw you standing here in your uniform, I says to myself, "He's changed." Not that you wasn't kind and good natured and generous, George, but you didn't know. How could you? You'd never had a chance to learn anything!
GEORGE (bitterly, yet smiling in spite of himself). That's so!
MINNIE. I remember that first night I ran into you,—I was coming home from your shops, and you made love to me right off the bat! And after that we used to meet by the watering trough on the Lindon road. We were kids then. And it didn't make no difference how tired I was, I'd get over it as soon as I saw you. You were the live wire!
GEORGE. Minnie, tell me, what made you come back to Foxon Falls today?
(He seizes her hand.)
MINNIE (struggling). Don't, George,—don't go and be foolish again!
(The shop whistle blows. She pulls away from him and backs toward the doorway, upper right.)
There's the noon whistle! Goodbye, I'll be thinking of you, over there.
GEORGE. I'll write to you. Will you write to me, Minnie?
MINNIE (shaking her head). Don't lose any sleep about me. Good luck, George!
(She goes to the doorway, upper right, turns, kisses her hand to GEORGE and disappears. He goes to the doorway and gazes after her; presently he raises his hand and waves in answer to another signal, and smiles. He remains there until MINNIE is out of sight, and then is about to come back into the room when a man appears on the sidewalk, seen through the windows. The man is PRAG. He is a gaunt workman, with high cheek bones and a rather fanatical light in his blue eyes. He stands motionless, gazing at the house.)
GEORGE (calling). Do you want anything, Prag?
PRAG. I joost come to look at your house, where you live. It is no harm, is it?
GEORGE. None at all.
(PRAG continues to stare at the house, and GEORGE obeys a sudden impulse.)
Won't you come in, Prag?
PRAG (looking fixedly at the house). No, I stay here.
GEORGE. Come in a while,—don't be unsociable.
(PRAG crosses the lawn and enters, upper right. He surveys the room curiously, defiantly, and then GEORGE in uniform, as he cones down the stage.)
You're not working today?
PRAG (with bitter gloom). I lose my job, you don't hear? No, it is nothings to you, and you go away to fight for liberty,—ain't it?
GEORGE. How did you lose your job?
PRAG. The foreman come to me last night and says, "Prag I hear you belong to the union. You gets out."
GEORGE (after a moment's hesitation). But—there are plenty of other jobs these days. You can go down to the coast and get more than five dollars a day at a shipyard.
PRAG. It is easy, yes, when you have a little home bought already, and mortgaged, and childrens who go to school here, and a wife a long time sick.
GEORGE. I'm sorry. But weren't you getting along all right here, except your wife's illness? I don't want to be impertinent,—I recognize that it's your affair, but I'd like to know why you joined the union.
PRAG. Why is it you join the army? To fight for somethings you would give your life for—not so? Und you are a soldier,—would you run away from your comrades to live safe and happy? No! That is like me. I lose my job, I go away from my wife and childrens, but it is not for me, it is for all, to get better things for all,—freedoms for all.
GEORGE. Then—you think this isn't a free country.
PRAG. When. I sail up the harbour at New York twenty years ago and see that Liberty shining in the sun, I think so, yes. But now I know, for the workmens, she is like the Iron Woman of Nuremberg, with her spikes when she holds you in her arms. You call me a traitor, yes, when I say that.
GEORGE. No—I want to understand.
PRAG. I am born in Bavaria, but I am as good an American as any,—better than you, because I know what I fight for, what I suffer for. I am not afraid of the Junkers here,—I have spirits,—but the Germans at home have no spirits. You think you fight for freedoms, for democracy, but you fight for this! (He waves his hand to indicate the room.) If I had a million dollars, maybe I fight for it, too,—I don't know.
GEORGE. So you think I'm going to fight for this—for money?
PRAG. Are you going to fight for me, for the workmens and their childrens? No, you want to keep your money, to make more of it from your war contracts. It is for the capitalist system you fight.
GEORGE. Come, now, capital has some rights.
PRAG. I know this, that capital is power. What is the workmen's vote against it? against your newspapers and your system? America, she will not be free until your money power is broken. You don't like kings and emperors, no,—you say to us workmens, you are not patriots, you are traitors if you do not work and fight to win this war for democracy against kings. Are we fools that we should worry about kings? Kings will fall of themselves. Now you can put me in jail.
GEORGE. I don't want to put you in jail, God knows! How would you manage it?
PRAG. Why does not the employer say to his workmens, "This is our war, yours and mines. Here is my contract, here is my profits, we will have no secrets, we will work together and talk together and win the war together to make the world brighter for our childrens." Und then we workmens say, "Yes, we will work night and day so hard as we can, because we are free mens."
(A fanatical gleams comes into his eyes.)
But your employer, he don't say that,—no. He says, "This is my contract, this is my shop, and if you join the unions to get your freedoms you cannot work with me, you are traitors!"
(He rises to a frenzy of exaltation.)
After this there will be another war, and the capitalists will be swept away like the kings!
(He pauses; GEORGE is silent.)
Und now I go away, and maybe my wife she die before I get to the shipyard at Newcastle.
(He goes slowly out, upper right, and GEORGE does not attempt to stay him. Enter ASHER, lower right.)
ASHER. I've just called up the Department in Washington and given them a piece of my mind—told 'em they'd have to conscript labour. Damn these unions, making all this trouble, and especially today, when you're going off. I haven't had a chance to talk to you. Well, you know that I'm proud of you, my boy. Your grandfather went off to the Civil War when he was just about your age.
GEORGE. And he knew what he was going to fight for.
GEORGE. I thought I knew, this morning. Now I'm not so sure.
ASHER. You say that, when Germany intended to come over here and crush us, when she got through with the Allies.
GEORGE. No, it's not so simple as that, dad, it's bigger than that.
ASHER. Who's been talking to you? Jonathan Pindar? I wish to God he'd never come to Foxon Falls! I might have known what his opinions would be, with his inheritance. (Reproachfully.) I didn't suppose you could be so easily influenced by sentimentalism, George, I'd hoped you'd got over that.
GEORGE. Are you sure it's sentimentalism, dad? Dr. Jonathan didn't say much, but I'll admit he started me thinking. I've begun to realize a few things—
ASHER. What things?
GEORGE (glancing at the clock on the mantel). I haven't got time to tell you,—I'm afraid I couldn't make it clear, anyway,—it isn't clear in my own mind yet. But,—go slow with this labour business, dad, there's dynamite in it.
GEORGE. Human dynamite. They're full of it,—we're full of it, too, I guess. They're not so different from you and me, though I'll admit that many of them are ignorant, prejudiced and bitter. But this row isn't just the result of restlessness and discontent,—that's the smoke, but the fire's there, too. I've heard enough this morning to be convinced that they're struggling for something fundamental, that has to do with human progress,—the issue behind the war. It's obscured now, in the smoke. Now if that's so you can't ignore it, dad, you can't suppress it, the only thing to do is to sit down with them and try to understand it. If they've got a case, if the union has come to stay, recognize it and deal with it.
ASHER. You—you, my son, are not advising me to recognize the union! To give our employees a voice in our private affairs!
GEORGE (courageously). But is the war our private affair, dad? Hasn't it changed things already?
(ASHER makes a gesture of pain, of repudiation. GEORGE approaches him appealingly.)
Dad, you know how much we've always been to each other, I'd hate to have any misunderstanding between us,—especially today. I've always accepted your judgment. But I'm over twenty one, I'm going to fight this war, I've got to make up my own mind about it.
ASHER (extending his arms and putting his hands on GEORGE'S shoulders). Something's upset you today, my boy,—you don't know what you're saying. When you get over there and take command of your men you'll see things in a truer proportion.
GEORGE. No, I can't leave it this way, dad. I've come to feel this thing, it's got hold of me now, I shan't change. And I'll be thinking of it over there, all the time, if we don't talk it out.
ASHER. For God's sake, George, don't speak of it again,—don't think of it! There's no sacrifice I wouldn't make for you, in reason, but you're asking me to go against my life-long convictions. As your father, I forbid you to entertain such ideas—(he breaks off, choking). Don't speak of them, don't think of them!
(TIMOTHY FARRELL Steps inside the doorway, upper right, followed by BERT, and after a few moments by DR. JONATHAN.)
TIMOTHY. Excuse me sir, but you asked me to be letting you know if I heard anything. There's a meeting called for tonight, and they'll strike on Monday morning. It's certain I am, from the way the men are talking, —unless ye'd agree to meet the committee this afternoon and come to an understanding like.
ASHER. Let them strike. If they burned down the shops this afternoon, I wouldn't stop them! (He waves TIMOTHY Off.) My boy is leaving for France, and I'm going to New York with him.
TIMOTHY (with a sudden flaring up of sympathy). It's meself has a boy going, too, Mr. Pindar. And maybe it's almost the last I'll be seeing of him, this noon hour. Just a word with ye, before it's too late, sir.
ASHER (suppressing him). No, let them strike!
(He turns to hide his emotion and then rushes out of the door, lower right. GEORGE and BERT come forward and stand with TIMOTHY, silent after ASHER's dramatic exit; when TIMOTHY perceives DR. JONATHAN.)
TIMOTHY. Did you see my Minnie, doctor? She went to your house.
DR. JONATHAN. I met her on the street just now, and left her with Mrs. Prag.
GEORGE. Prag's wife! You've been to see her?
DR. JONATHAN. Yes. Her condition is serious. She needs a nurse, and Minnie volunteered.
TIMOTHY. My Minnie, is it? Then she won't be going back to Newcastle.
DR. JONATHAN (looking at GEORGE). She won't be going back to Newcastle.
TIMOTHY. That's Minnie! (he turns to GEORGE). Well, goodbye, Mr. George,—I'll say God bless you again. (He looks at BERT.) You'll be fighting over there, the pair of you, for freedom. Have an eye on him, Sir, if you can,—give him some good advice.
GEORGE (his hand on BERT'S shoulder). Bert can take care of himself, I guess. I'll be needing the advice!
(He shakes hands with TIMOTHY.)
SCENE: A fairly large room in DR. JONATHAN's house in Foxon Falls, which has been converted into a laboratory. The house antedates the PINDAR mansion, having been built in the first decade of the nineteenth century, and though not large, has a certain distinction and charm. The room has a panelled wainscoting and a carved wooden mantel, middle left, painted white, like the doors. Into the fireplace is set a Franklin stove. The windows at the rear have small panes; the lower sashes are raised; the tops of the hollyhocks and foxgloves in the garden bed may be seen above the window sills, and the apple trees beyond. Under the windows is a long table, on which are chemical apparatus. A white enamelled sink is in the rear right corner. The walls are whitewashed, the wooden floor bare. A door, left, in the rear, leads into DR. JONATHAN'S office; another, middle right, into a little front hall.
TIME: A July morning, 1918.
MINNIE FARRELL, in the white costume worn by nurses and laboratory workers, is at the bench, pouring liquid into a test tube and holding its up to the light, when DR. JONATHAN enters from the right.
DR. JONATHAN. Has anyone been in, Minnie?
MINNIE (turning, with the test tube in her hand). Now, what a question to ask, Dr. Jonathan! Was there ever a morning or afternoon that somebody didn't stray in here with their troubles? (Fiercely.) They don't think a scientist has a real job,—they don't understand, if you put this across—(she holds up the test tube)—you'll save the lives of thousands of soldiers, and a few ordinary folks, too, I guess. But you won't let me tell anyone.
DR. JONATHAN. It will be time enough to tell them when we do put it across.
MINNIE. But we're going to,—that is, you're going to.
DR. JONATHAN. You're too modest, Minnie.
MINNIE. Me modest! But what makes me sore is that they don't give you a chance to put this thing across. Dr. Senn's a back number, and if they're sick they come here and expect you to cure 'em for nothing.
DR. JONATHAN. But they can't complain if I don't cure them.
MINNIE. And half the time they ain't sick at all,—they only imagine it.
DR. JONATHAN. Well, that's interesting too,—part of a doctor's business. It's pretty hard to tell in these days where the body ends and the soul begins.
MINNIE. It looks like you're cutting out the minister, too. You'd ought to be getting his salary.
DR. JONATHAN. Then I'd have to do his job.
MINNIE. I get you—you'd be paid to give 'em all the same brand of dope. You wouldn't be free.
DR. JONATHAN. To experiment.
MINNIE. You couldn't be a scientist. Say, every time I meet the minister I want to cry, he says to himself, "She ran away from Jesus and went to the bad. What right has she got to be happy?" And Mrs. Pindar's just the same. If you leave the straight and narrow path you can't never get back—they keep pushing you off.
DR. JONATHAN (who has started to work at the bench). I've always had my doubts about your sins, Minnie.
MINNIE. Oh, I was a sinner, all right, they'll never get that out of their craniums. But being a sinner isn't a patch on being a scientist! It's nearly a year now since you took me in. The time's flown! When I was in the Pindar Shops, and in the Wire Works at Newcastle I could always beat the other girls to the Main Street when the whistle blew, but now I'm sorry when night comes. I can't hardly wait to get back here —honest to God! Say, Dr. Jonathan, I've found out one thing,—it's being in the right place that keeps a man or a woman straight. If you're in the wrong place, all the religion in the world won't help you. If you're doing work you like, that you've got an interest in, and that's some use, you don't need religion (she pauses). Why, that's religion,—it ain't preaching and praying and reciting creeds, it's doing—it's fun. There's no reason why religion oughtn't to be fun, is there?
DR. JONATHAN. None at all!
MINNIE. Now, if we could get everybody in the right job, we wouldn't have any more wars, I guess.
DR. JONATHAN. The millennium always keeps a lap ahead—we never catch up with it.
MINNIE. Well, I don't want to catch up with it. We wouldn't have anything more to do. Say, it's nearly eleven o'clock—would you believe it?—and I've been expecting Mr. Pindar to walk in here with the newspaper. I forgot he was in Washington.
DR. JONATHAN. He was expected home this morning.
MINNIE. What gets me is the way he hangs around here, too, like everybody else, and yet I've heard him call you a Socialist, and swear he hasn't any use for Socialists.
DR. JONATHAN. Perhaps he's trying to find out what a Socialist is. Nobody seems to know.
MINNIE. He don't know, anyway. If it hadn't been for you, his shops would have been closed down last winter.
DR. JONATHAN. It looks as if they'd be closed down now, anyway.
MINNIE (concerned, looking up). Is that so? Well, he won't recognize the union—he doesn't know what century he's living in. But he's human, all the same, and he's good to the people he's fond of, like my father, —and he sure loves George. He's got George's letters all wore out, reading them, to people. (A pause.) He don't know where George is, does he, Dr. Jonathan?
DR. JONATHAN. Somewhere in France.
MINNIE. We spotted Bert because he's with the Marines, at that place where they put a crimp in the Huns the other day when they were going to walk into Paris.
DR. JONATHAN. Chateau-Thierry.
MINNIE. I'll leave it to you. But say, Dr. Jonathan, things don't look good to me,—I'm scared we won't get enough of our boys over there before the deal's closed up. I've got so I don't want to look at a paper.
(A brief silence.)
I never told you George wrote me a couple of letters, did I?
DR. JONATHAN. No, I'm quite sure you didn't.
MINNIE. I never told nobody. His father and mother would be wild if they knew it. I didn't answer them—I just sent him two post cards with no writing on except the address—just pictures.
DR. JONATHAN. Pictures?
MINNIE. One of the Pindar Church and the Other of the Pindar Shops. I guess he'll understand they were from me, all right. You see, when I ran away from the Pindar Shops and the Pindar Church—I always connect them together—I was stuck on George. That's why I ran away.
DR. JONATHAN. I see.
MINNIE. Oh, I never let him know. I don't know why I told you—I had to tell somebody,—and you won't give me away.
DR. JONATHAN. You may count on me.
MINNIE. He didn't care nothing about me, really. But you can't help liking George. He's human, all right! If he was boss of the Pindar Shops there wouldn't be any strike.
(A knock at the door, right.)
I wonder who's butting in now!
(She goes to the door and jerks it open.)
(A man's voice, without.) Good morning, Miss Farrell. Is the doctor in?
MINNIE. This is his busy day.
DR. JONATHAN (going toward the door). Oh, it's you, Hillman. Come in.
MINNIE. I guess I'll go for the mail.
(With a resigned expression she goes oust right as HILLMAN comes in, followed by RENCH and FERSEN. They are the strike committee. HILLMAN is a little man, with red hair and a stiff, bristling red moustache. He holds himself erect, and walks on the balls of his feet, quietly. RENCH is tall and thin, with a black moustache, like a seal's. He has a loud, nasal voice, and an assertive manner. FERSEN is a blond Swede.)
(DR. JONATHAN puts one or two objects in place on the bench. His manner is casual but cordial, despite the portentous air of the Committee.)
(The men, their hats in their hands, go toward the bench and inspect the test tubes and apparatus.)
RENCH (New England twang). Always manage to have something on hand when you ain't busy with the folks, doctor. It must be interestin' to fool with these here chemicals.
DR. JONATHAN. It keeps me out of mischief.
HILLMAN. I guess you haven't much time to get into mischief.
FERSEN. We don't like to bother you.
DR. JONATHAN. No bother, Fersen,—sit down. (He draws forward some chairs, and they sit down.) How is the baby?
FERSEN. Oh, she is fine, now, since we keep her outside in the baby carriage, like you tell us.
(FERSEN grins, and immediately becomes serious again. A brief silence.)
HILLMAN (clearing his throat). The fact is, Dr. Jonathan, the boys have struck,—voted last night to walk out at noon today.
FERSEN. We thought we tell you now. You been such a good friend to us and our families.
DR. JONATHAN. But isn't this rather sudden, with Mr. Pindar in Washington?
RENCH. We couldn't wait no longer,—he's been standing us off for more than a year. When he comes back from Washington there'll be nothing doing. He's got to recognize the union or lose his contract.
DR. JONATHAN. He may prefer to lose his contract.
RENCH. Well, he can afford to. Then he can go to hell.
HILLMAN. Hold on, Sam, that ain't no way to talk to the doctor!
RENCH. I didn't mean no disrespect to him. He don't go 'round preachin', like some fellers I could mention, but actions is louder than words. Ain't that the reason we're here, because he sympathizes with us and thinks we're entitled to a little more of this freedom that's bein' handed 'round? We want you to help us, doctor.
DR. JONATHAN. It seems to me you've come a little late, Rench,—after the event.
HILLMAN. Maybe if you'd said a word, they'd never have voted to strike.
FERSEN. But you never said nothing, Doctor.
DR. JONATHAN. Well, when you get around to admitting doctors to your labour unions, perhaps they'll talk.
HILLMAN. If all the doctors was like you!
DR. JONATHAN. Give 'em a chance, Hillman.
HILLMAN. We don't have to explain to you why we want the union,—it's the only way we'll ever get a say about the conditions in which we work and live, now that the day of individual bargaining is gone by. You understand. Mr. Pindar raised our wages when we threatened to strike last fall, but he calculates to drop 'em again when the soldiers come home.
FERSEN (nodding). Sure thing!
HILLMAN. It's this way, doctor. We notice Mr. Pindar comin' in here to see you every day or so,—like the rest of Foxon Falls. And we thought you could make him see this thing straight, if any man could.
DR. JONATHAN. So the shops will be idle.
RENCH. Not a shaft'll turn over till he recognizes the union.
HILLMAN. We don't want to do nothin' to obstruct the war, but we've got to have our rights.
DR. JONATHAN. Can you get your rights now, without obstructing the war?
RENCH (aggressively). I get what you're driving at, doctor. You're going to say that we've just reached quantity production on these here machines, and if labour gets from under now, the Huns win. But tell me this,—where'll labour be if America wins and our Junkers (he pronounces the J) come out on top?—as they callate to.
DR. JONATHAN (smiling). When a building with dry rot catches fire, Rench, can you put limit to how much of it will burn?
RENCH (after a pause). Maybe not. I get you—but—
DR. JONATHAN. No nation, no set of men in any nation can quench that fire or make the world that is coming out of this war. They may think they can, but they can't.
HILLMAN. That's so!
DR. JONATHAN. Germany will be beaten, because it is the temper of the nation, the temper of the times—your temper. You don't want Germany to win, Rench?
RENCH. No, I guess not.
DR. JONATHAN. And if you don't work here, you'll go off to work somewhere else.
RENCH. Where they recognize the union.
DR. JONATHAN. A good many of your friends have enlisted, haven't they? (RENCH nods.) And what do you suppose they are fighting for?
RENCH. For the same thing as we want, a square deal.
DR. JONATHAN. And what do you think George Pindar is fighting for?
RENCH. I ain't got nothing to say against him.
DR. JONATHAN. If you close down the Pindar Shops, won't it mean that a few more of your friends will lose their lives? These men are fighting for something they don't yet understand, but when they come back they'll know more about it. Why not wait until George Pindar comes back?
RENCH. He mayn't never come back.
DR. JONATHAN. Give him the opportunity.
RENCH. I like George,—he's always been friendly—what we call a common man up here in New England—naturally democratic. But at bottom employers is all alike. What makes you think he won't take his ideas about labour from the old man?
DR. JONATHAN. Because he belongs to the generation that fights this war.
HILLMAN (shuffling). It ain't no use, doctor. Unless you can bring Mr. Pindar 'round, the shops'll close down.
DR. JONATHAN. I can't, but something else can.
DR. JONATHAN. Circumstances. No man can swim up stream very long in these days, Hillman. Wait a while, and see.
RENCH (rising). We've voted to put this strike through, and by God, we'll do it.
FERSEN (rising and shaking hands with DR. JONATHAN). It's fine weather, doctor.
RENCH (bursting into a laugh). He's like the man who said, when Congress declared war, "It's a fine day for it!" It's a fine day for a strike!
HILLMAN (who has risen, shaking hands with DR. JONATHAN). But you'll talk to Mr. Pindar, anyway?
DR. JONATHAN (smiling). Yes, I'll talk with him.
(Enter TIMOTHY FARRELL, right, in working clothes.)
TIMOTHY. Good morning, doctor. (Surveying the committee.) So it's here ye are, after voting to walk out of the shops just when we're beginning to turn out the machines for the soldiers!
RENCH. If we'd done right we'd have called the strike a year ago.
TIMOTHY. Fine patriots ye are—as I'm sure the doctor is after telling you—to let the boys that's gone over there be murdered because ye must have your union!
HILLMAN. If Mr. Pindar recognizes the union, Timothy, we'll go to work tomorrow.
TIMOTHY. He recognize the union! He'll recognize the devil first! Even Dr. Jonathan, with all the persuasion he has, couldn't get Mr. Pindar to recognize the union. He'll close down the shops, and it's hunting a job I'll be, and I here going on thirty years.
RENCH. If he closes the shops—what then? The blood of the soldiers'll be on his head, not ours. If there were fewer scabs in the country—
HILLMAN. Hold on, Sam.
TIMOTHY. A scab, is it? If I was the government do you know what I'd do with the likes of you—striking in war time? I'd send ye over there to fight the Huns with your bare fists. I'm a workman meself, but I don't hold with traitors.
RENCH. Who's a traitor? It's you who are a traitor to your class. If a union card makes a man a traitor, your own son had one in his pocket the day he enlisted.
TIMOTHY. A traitor, and he fighting for his country, while you'd be skulking here to make trouble for it!
(MINNIE appears on the threshold of the door, right. DR. JONATHAN, who is the first to perceive from her expression that there is something wrong, takes a step toward her. After a moment's silence she comes up to TIMOTHY and lays a hand on his arm.)
TIMOTHY (bewildered). What is it, Minnie?
MINNIE. Come home, father.
TIMOTHY. What is it? It's not a message ye have—it's not a message about Bert?
(MINNIE continues to gaze at him.)
The one I'd be looking for these many days! (He seizes her.) Can't ye speak, girl? Is the boy dead?
MINNIE. Yes, father.
TIMOTHY (puts his hand to his forehead and lets fall his hat. DR. JONATHAN picks it up). Me boy! The dirty devils have killed him!
MINNIE. Come, father, we'll go home.
TIMOTHY. Home, is it? It's back to the shops I'm going. (To the committee) Damn ye—we'll run the shops in spite of ye! Where's me hat?
(DR. JONATHAN hands it to him as the committee file out in silence.)
Come with me as far as the shops, Minnie. Thank you, doctor—(as DR. JONATHAN gives him the hat)—it's you I'll be wanting to see when I get me mind again.
(DR. JONATHAN goes with TIMOTHY and MINNIE as far as the door, right, and then comes back thoughtfully to the bench, takes up a test tube and holds it to the, light. Presently ASHER PINDAR appears in the doorway, right.)
ASHER. Good morning, Jonathan.
DR. JONATHAN. Good morning, Asher. I didn't know you'd got back from Washington.
ASHER. I came in on the mail train.
DR. JONATHAN. Have you been to the office?
ASHER. No. I stopped at the house to speak to Augusta, and then—(he speaks a trifle apologetically)—well, I went for a little walk.
DR. JONATHAN. A walk.
ASHER. I've been turning something over in my mind. And the country looked so fine and fresh I crossed the covered bridge to the other side of the river. When George was a child I used to go over there with him on summer afternoons. He was such a companionable little shaver—he'd drop his toys when he'd see me coming home from the office. I can see him now, running along that road over there, stopping to pick funny little bouquets—the kind a child makes, you know—ox-eyed daisies and red clover and buttercups all mixed up together, and he'd carry them home and put them in a glass on the desk in my study.
It seems like yesterday! It's hard to realize that he's a grown man, fighting over there in the trenches, and that any moment I may get a telegram, or be called to the telephone—Have you seen today's paper?
DR. JONATHAN. No.
ASHER. It looks like more bad news,—the Germans have started another one of those offensives. I was afraid they were getting ready for it. West of Verdun this time. And George may be in that sector, for all I know. How is this thing going to end, Jonathan? That damned military machine of theirs seems invincible—it keeps grinding on. Are we going to be able to stem the tide, or to help stem it with a lot of raw youths. They've only had a year's training.
DR. JONATHAN. Germany can't win, Asher.
ASHER. What makes you say that? We started several years too late.
Dr. JONATHAN. And Germany started several centuries too late.
ASHER. My God, I hope you're right. I don't know.
(He walks once or twice up and down the room..)
I've had another letter.
DR. JONATHAN. This morning?
ASHER. No—I got it before I left for Washington. But I didn't bring it in to you I wanted to think about it.
(He draws the letter, together with a folded paper, from his pocket, and lays the paper down on the bench. Then he adjusts his glasses and begins to read.)
"The sky is the colour of smeared charcoal. We haven't been in the trenches long enough to evolve web feet, so mine are resting on a duck board spread over a quagmire of pea soup. The Heinies are right here, soaking in another ditch beyond a barbed wire fence, about the distance of second base from the home plate. Such is modern war!
"But these aren't the things that trouble me. Last night, when I was wet to the skin and listening to the shells—each singing its own song in the darkness—I was able to think with astonishing ease better than if I were sitting at a mahogany desk in a sound proof room! I was thinking over the talk we had the day I left home,—do you remember it?—about the real issue of this war. I've thought of it time and again, but I've never written you about it. Since I have been in France I have had a liberal education gathered from all sorts and conditions of men. Right here in the trench near me are a street car conductor, a haberdasher, a Swedish farm hand, a grocery clerk, a college professor, a Pole from the Chicago Stock Yards, an Irish American janitor of a New York apartment house, and Grierson from Cleveland, whose father has an income of something like a million a year. We have all decided that this is a war for the under dog, whether he comes from Belgium or Armenia or that so-called land of Democracy, the United States of America. The hope that spurs us on and makes us willing to endure these swinish surroundings and die here in the mud, if need be, is that the world will now be reorganized on some intelligent basis; that Grierson and I, if we get back, won't have to rot on a large income and petrified ideas, but will have some interesting and creative work to do. Economic inequalities must be reduced, and those who toil must be given a chance to live, not merely to exist. Their lives must include a little leisure, comfortable homes, art and beauty and above all an education that none of us, especially those of us who went to universities, never got,—but which now should be available for all.
"The issue of this war is industrial democracy, without which political democracy is a farce. That sentence is Dr. Jonathan's. But when I was learning how to use the bayonet from a British sergeant in Picardy I met an English manufacturer from Northumberland. He is temporarily an officer. I know your opinion of theorists, but this man is working out the experiment with human chemicals. After all, the Constitution of the United States, now antiquated and revered, once existed only in the brains of French theorists! In the beginning was the Word, but the deed must follow. This Englishman, whose name is Wray, has given me the little pamphlet he wrote from his experience, and I shall send it to you.
"Though I am writing this letter in what to me is a solemn and undoubtedly exalted hour, I am sure that my mind was never clearer or saner. Dad, I have set my heart on inaugurating an experiment in industrial democracy in Foxon Falls! I'd like to be able to think—if anything happened to me—that the Pindar shops were among the first in America to recognize that we are living in a new era and a changed world."
(ASHER walks over to the bench and lays down the open letter on it.)
If anything should happen to that boy, Jonathan, there wouldn't be anything in life left for me! Industrial democracy! So you put that into his head! Socialism, I suppose.
DR. JONATHAN. No, experimental science.
ASHER. Call it what you like. What surprises me is, when I look back over the months you've been here, how well we've got along in spite of your views.
DR. JONATHAN. Why not say in spite of yours, Asher?
ASHER (smiling involuntarily). Well, it's been a comfort to drop in here and talk to you, in spite of what you believe. You've got the gift of sympathy, Jonathan. But I don't approve of you're spending your time in this sort of work—(he waves a hand toward the bench)—which may never come to anything, and in doctoring people for nothing and patching up their troubles. I daresay you enjoy it, but what worries me is how you are going to live?
DR. JONATHAN. By practising your cardinal virtue, thrift.
ASHER. I've got a proposal to make to you part of a scheme I've been turning over in my mind for the last six months—and when George's letter came I decided to put it through. I went to New York and had Sterry, a corporation lawyer, draw it up. I'm going to prove I'm not a mossback. It will reorganize the Pindar Shops.
DR. JONATHAN. Well, that's good news.
ASHER. First, with reference to your part in it, I shall establish a free hospital for my employees, and put you in charge of it, at a salary of five thousand a year. After all, you're the only Pindar left except George, and I'm satisfied that as a doctor you're up to the job, since you've driven Dr. Senn out of business.
DR. JONATHAN. Practical proof, Asher. Fortunately Dr. Senn has enough to live on.
ASHER. In offering you this position I have only one stipulation to make—(he clears his throat)—it's about Minnie Farrell. I think the world of Timothy, I wouldn't willingly hurt his feelings, but I can't have Minnie with you in the hospital, Jonathan. You deserve a great deal of credit for what you've done for the girl, you've kept her out of mischief, but considering her past, her life at Newcastle—well, even if I approved of having her in the hospital Augusta would never hear of it. And then she had some sort of an affair with George—I daresay there was nothing wrong—