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The Faith Healer - A Play in Three Acts
by William Vaughn Moody
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THE FAITH HEALER

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY NEW YORK . BOSTON . CHICAGO ATLANTA . SAN FRANCISCO

MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED LONDON . BOMBAY . CALCUTTA MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD. TORONTO



THE FAITH HEALER

A Play in Three Acts



By

WILLIAM VAUGHN MOODY

AUTHOR OF "THE GREAT DIVIDE," ETC.



New York THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

1910

All rights reserved

COPYRIGHT, 1909, 1910, BY WILLIAM VAUGHN MOODY.

Set up and electrotyped. Published March, 1910.

Norwood Press J. S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co. Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



PERSONS OF THE PLAY

ULRICH MICHAELIS MATTHEW BEELER MARY BEELER, his wife MARTHA BEELER, his sister ANNIE BEELER, his daughter RHODA WILLIAMS, Mrs. Beeler's niece DR. GEORGE LITTLEFIELD REV. JOHN CULPEPPER UNCLE ABE, an old negro AN INDIAN BOY A YOUNG MOTHER WITH HER BABY VARIOUS SICK PEOPLE AND OTHERS ATTENDANT UPON THEM



ACT I

A large old-fashioned room in Matthew Beeler's farm-house, near a small town in the Middle West. The room is used for dining and for general living purposes. It suggests, in architecture and furnishings, a past of considerable prosperity, which has now given place to more humble living. The house is, in fact, the ancestral home of Mr. Beeler's wife, Mary, born Beardsley, a family of the local farming aristocracy, now decayed. At the rear is a large double window, set in a broad alcove. To the right of the window is the entrance door, which opens upon the side yard, showing bushes, trees, and farm buildings.

In the right wall of the room a door and covered stairway lead to the upper story. Farther forward is a wall cupboard, and a door leading into the kitchen. Opposite this cupboard, in the left-hand wall of the room, is a mantelpiece and grate; farther back a double door, leading to a hall. Off the hall open two bedrooms (not seen), one belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Beeler, the other to Rhoda Williams, a niece of Mrs. Beeler, child of her dead sister.

The room contains, among other articles of furniture, a dining table (with detachable leaves to reduce its bulk when not in use for eating purposes), an invalid's wheel-chair, a low sofa of generous size, and a book-shelf, upon which are arranged the scientific books which Mr. Beeler takes a somewhat untutored but genuine delight in. Tacked upon the wall near by are portraits of scientific men, Darwin and Spencer conspicuous among them, cut from periodicals. Other pictures, including family daguerreotypes and photographs, are variously distributed about the walls. Over the mantel shelf hangs a large map of the United States and Mexico, faded and fly-specked.

As the curtain rises, the room is dark, except for a dull fire in the grate. The ticking of the clock is heard; it strikes six. Martha Beeler, a woman of forty-five, enters from the kitchen, carrying a lighted lamp. She wears a shawl over her shoulders, a print dress, and a kitchen apron. She places the lamp on the table, which is set for breakfast, and puts coal on the grate, which soon flames more brightly.

She goes into the hall and is heard knocking and calling.

MARTHA.

Rhody! Rhody!

Matthew Beeler, a man of fifty, enters. He is not quite dressed, but finishes as he comes in. Martha follows him.

Where's that niece of yours got to now?

BEELER.

She's helping Mary dress.

MARTHA.

What in time's Mary gettin' up for? She's only in the way till the work's done.

BEELER.

She's restless.

MARTHA.

Significantly.

I shouldn't wonder. Pause. I hope you know why Mary didn't sleep.

BEELER.

Evasively.

She's always been a light sleeper, since she got her stroke.

MARTHA.

Look here, Mat Beeler! I'm your born sister. Don't try to fool me! You know why your wife didn't sleep last night.

BEELER.

Maybe I do, Sis.

Points to the ceiling.

Is he up yet?

MARTHA.

Up! I don't believe he's been abed.

They listen, as to the tread of some one on the floor above.

Back and forth, like a tiger in a cage!

BEELER.

Shrugs.

Queer customer.

MARTHA.

Yes.

Imitates him.

"Queer customer," that's you. But come to doin' anything about it!

BEELER.

Give me time, Sis, give me time!

MARTHA.

How much time do you want? He's been in this house since Wednesday night, and this is Saturday morning.

BEELER.

Well, he's payin' his board, ain't he?

At window, rolls up curtain.

Goin' to have just such another day as yesterday. Never seen such a fog.

MARTHA.

Never seen such a fog, eh?

Comes nearer and speaks mysteriously.

Did you happen to notice how long that fog has been hangin' over this house?

BEELER.

How long? Why, since Thursday.

MARTHA.

No, sir, since Wednesday night.

BEELER.

Looking at her, astonished.

Martha Beeler! You don't mean to say—he brought the fog?

She flounces out without answering. He lights lantern, with dubious head-shaking, and holds it up before the print portraits.

Mornin', Mr. Darwin. Same to you, Mr. Spencer. Still keepin' things straight?

Grunts as he turns down his lantern, which is smoking.

I guess not very.

The hall door again opens, and Rhoda Williams, a girl of twenty, enters, with Annie Beeler, a child of ten. Rhoda is running, with Annie in laughing pursuit.

RHODA.

Taking refuge behind the table.

King's X!

ANNIE.

Catching her.

You didn't have your fingers crossed.

RHODA.

Turning Annie about, and beginning to button the child's long slip.

And you didn't have your dress buttoned.

ANNIE.

That doesn't count.

RHODA.

Yes, it does, before breakfast!

BEELER.

At the outer door.

How does your aunt strike you this morning?

RHODA.

Sobered.

She seems wonderfully better.

BEELER.

Better!

RHODA.

I don't mean her poor body. She's got past caring for that.

BEELER.

With sarcasm.

You mean in her mind, eh?

RHODA.

Yes, I mean better in her mind.

BEELER.

Because of what this fellow has been sayin' to her, I suppose.

RHODA.

Yes, because of that.

BEELER.

As he puts on an old fur cap.

An out-and-out fakir!

RHODA.

You don't know him.

BEELER.

I suppose you do, after forty-eight hours. What in the name of nonsense is he, anyway? And this deaf and dumb Indian boy he drags around with him. What's his part in the show?

RHODA.

I know very little about either of them. But I know Mr. Michaelis is not—what you say.

BEELER.

Well, he's a crank at the best of it. He's worked your aunt up now so's she can't sleep. You brought him here, and you've got to get rid of him.

Exit by outer door, with inarticulate grumblings, among which can be distinguished.

Hump! Ulrich Michaelis! There's a name for you.

ANNIE.

What's a fakir?

Rhoda does not answer.

Cousin Rho, what's a fakir?

RHODA.

Humoring her.

A man, way off on the other side of the world, in India, who does strange things.

ANNIE.

What kind of things?

RHODA.

Well, for instance, he throws a rope up in the air, right up in the empty air, with nothing for it to catch on, and then—he—climbs— up—the—rope!

ANNIE.

Don't he fall?

Rhoda shakes her head in portentous negation.

Steps are heard descending the stairs. The child fidgets nervously.

ANNIE.

Listen! He's coming down!

RHODA.

Yes, he's coming down, right out of the blue sky.

ANNIE.

In a panic.

Let me go.

She breaks away and retreats to the hall door, watching the stair door open, and Ulrich Michaelis enter. Thereupon, with a glance of frightened curiosity, she flees. Michaelis is a man of twenty-eight or thirty, and his dark, emaciated face, wrinkled by sun and wind, looks older. His abundant hair is worn longer than common. His frame, though slight, is powerful, and his way of handling himself has the freedom and largeness which come from much open-air life. There is nevertheless something nervous and restless in his movements. He has a trick of handling things, putting them down only to take them up again immediately, before renouncing them for good. His face shows the effect of sleeplessness, and his gray flannel shirt and dark, coarse clothing are rumpled and neglected.

RHODA.

As he enters.

Good morning.

MICHAELIS.

Watching Annie's retreat.

Is—is that child afraid of me?

RHODA.

As she adds the finishing touches to the breakfast table.

Oh, Annie's a queer little body. She has her mother's nerves. And then she sees no one, living here on the back road. If this dreadful fog ever lifts, you'll see that, though we're quite near town, it's almost as if we were in the wilderness.

The stair door opens, and an Indian boy, about sixteen years old, enters. He is dressed in ordinary clothes; his dark skin, longish hair, and the noiseless tread of his moccasined feet, are the only suggestions of his race. He bows to Rhoda, who returns his salutation; then, with a glance at Michaelis, he goes out doors.

Rhoda nods toward the closing door.

It's really him Annie's afraid of. He's like a creature from another world, to her.

MICHAELIS.

Looks at her in an odd, startled way.

Another world?

RHODA.

Oh, you're used to his people. Your father was a missionary to the Indians, you told me.

MICHAELIS.

Yes.

RHODA.

Where?

MICHAELIS.

At Acoma.

RHODA.

Where is that?

MICHAELIS.

Standing near the wall map, touches it.

In New Mexico, by the map.

RHODA.

Comes nearer.

What is it like?

MICHAELIS.

It's—as you say—another world.

RHODA.

Describe it to me.

MICHAELIS.

I couldn't make you see it. It's—centuries and centuries from our time.—And since I came here, since I entered this house, it has seemed centuries away from my own life.

RHODA.

My life has seemed far off, too—my old life—

MICHAELIS.

What do you mean by your old life?

RHODA.

She breaks out impulsively.

I mean—I mean—. Three days ago I was like one dead! I walked and ate and did my daily tasks, but—I wondered sometimes why people didn't see that I was dead, and scream at me.

MICHAELIS.

It was three days ago that I first saw you.

RHODA.

Yes.

MICHAELIS.

Three nights ago, out there in the moonlit country.

RHODA.

Yes.

MICHAELIS.

You were unhappy, then?

RHODA.

The dead are not unhappy, and I was as one dead.

MICHAELIS.

Why was that?

RHODA.

I think we die more than once when things are too hard and too bitter.

MICHAELIS.

Have things here been hard and bitter?

RHODA.

No. All that was before I came here! But it had left me feeling—. The other night, as I walked through the streets of the town, the people seemed like ghosts to me, and I myself like a ghost.

MICHAELIS.

I cannot think of you as anything but glad and free.

RHODA.

When you met me on the road, and walked home with me, and said those few words, it was as if, all of a sudden, the dead dream was shattered, and I began once more to live.

Bell rings.

That is Aunt Mary's bell.

Rhoda goes out by the hall door, wheeling the invalid chair. Martha enters from the kitchen, carrying a steaming coffee-pot and a platter of smoking meat, which she places on the table. Michaelis bows to her.

MARTHA.

Snappishly.

Hope you slept well!

She goes to the outer door, rings the breakfast bell loudly, and exit to kitchen. Rhoda enters, wheeling Mrs. Beeler in an invalid chair. Mrs. Beeler is a woman of forty, slight of body, with hair just beginning to silver. Her face has the curious refinement which physical suffering sometimes brings. Annie lingers at the door, looking timidly at Michaelis, as he approaches Mrs. Beeler and takes her hand from the arm of the chair.

MICHAELIS.

You are better?

MRS. BEELER.

Speaks with low intensity.

Much, much better.

He puts her hand gently back on the chair arm. Martha enters with other dishes. She pours out coffee, putting a cup at each plate. Mr. Beeler has entered from the kitchen, and the boy from outside. Beeler, with a glance of annoyance at his wife and Michaelis, sits down at the head of the table. Rhoda pushes Mrs. Beeler's chair to the foot of the table and stands feeding her, eating her own breakfast meanwhile.

Michaelis sits at Mrs. Beeler's right, Martha opposite. At Mr. Beeler's right is the Indian boy, at his left Annie's vacant chair. Martha beckons to Annie to come to the table, but the child, eyeing the strangers, refuses, taking a chair behind her mother by the mantelpiece. Mrs. Beeler speaks after the meal has progressed for some time in silence.

MRS. BEELER.

Mat, you haven't said good morning to our guest.

BEELER.

Gruffly.

How are you?

He helps himself to meat and passes it to the others; the plate goes round the table. There is a constrained silence. Annie tugs at Rhoda's skirt, and asks in dumb show to have her breakfast given her. Rhoda fills the child's plate, with which she retreats to her place by the mantel.

MRS. BEELER.

Why doesn't Annie come to the table?

She tries to look around. Rhoda whispers to Mrs. Beeler, who looks at her, puzzled.

Why doesn't Annie come?

RHODA.

She's afraid.

MRS. BEELER.

Afraid! What is she afraid of?

RHODA.

You know how shy she is, before strangers.

MRS. BEELER.

Annie, please come here! Annie!

The child refuses, pouting, and gazing at Michaelis.

RHODA.

I wouldn't urge her. She doesn't want to come.

MARTHA.

Trenchantly.

Don't blame her!

MRS. BEELER.

Gently reproving.

Martha!

MICHAELIS.

Holding out his hand to Annie.

Won't you come here, my child?

Annie approaches slowly, as if hypnotized.

You're not afraid of me, are you?

ANNIE.

Shyly.

Not if you won't climb up the rope.

MICHAELIS.

Puzzled.

Climb up what rope?

RHODA.

It's a story I was foolish enough to tell her.—Do eat something, Auntie.

MRS. BEELER.

I'll drink a little more tea.

Rhoda raises the cup to Mrs. Beeler's lips.

BEELER.

You can't live on tea, Mary.

MARTHA.

I guess she can live on tea better than on some things!

With a resentful glance at Michaelis.

Some things that some folks seem to live on, and expect other folks to live on.

Michaelis looks up from Annie, who has been whispering in his ear. Beeler nods at Martha in covert approval, as she takes up dishes and goes into the kitchen.

MRS. BEELER.

Leans forward across the table to Michaelis.

Don't mind my sister-in-law, Mr. Michaelis. It's her way. She means nothing by it.

BEELER.

Between gulps of coffee, as he finishes his meal.

Don't know as you've got any call to speak for Martha. She generally means what she says, and I guess she means it now. And what's more, I guess I do, too!

MRS. BEELER.

Beseechingly.

Mat!

BEELER.

Throws down his napkin and rises.

Very well. It's none of my business, I reckon, as long as it keeps within reason.

He puts on his cap and goes out through the kitchen.

ANNIE.

To Michaelis, continuing the whispered conversation.

And if you do climb up the rope, do you promise to come down.

MICHAELIS.

Yes, I promise to come down.

MRS. BEELER.

Leans over her plate. The others bow their heads.

Bless this food to our use, and this day to our strength and our salvation.

RHODA.

As they lift their heads.

Perhaps it will be light enough now without the lamp.

Michaelis, holding Annie's hand, rises, goes to the window, and rolls up the shades, while Rhoda extinguishes the lamp. The fog is still thick, and the light which enters is dull. Rhoda unpins the napkin from her aunt's breast, and wheels her back from the table. The boy crouches down by the grate, Indian fashion. Annie looks at him with shy, half-frightened interest.

MRS. BEELER.

Gazing out, from where she sits reclining.

The blessed sun! I never thought to see it rise again so beautiful.

RHODA.

Looks at her aunt, puzzled and alarmed.

But, Auntie, there isn't any sun! It's—

She breaks off, seeing Michaelis place his finger on his lips as a signal for her to be silent. Mrs. Beeler turns to Rhoda, puzzled.

MRS. BEELER.

There isn't any sun? Why—

Rhoda pretends not to hear. Mrs. Beeler turns to Michaelis.

What does she mean by saying there is no sun?

MICHAELIS.

She means she doesn't see it.

MRS. BEELER.

Still puzzled.

But—you see it, don't you?

MICHAELIS.

I see the same sun that you see.

MRS. BEELER.

Looks again at Rhoda, then dismisses her wonderment, and looks out at the window dreamily.

Another day—and to-morrow the best of all the days of the year.

ANNIE.

What day is to-morrow?

She leaves Michaelis and comes to her mother's side.

What day is to-morrow?

MRS. BEELER.

With exultation in her voice.

My child, to-morrow is the most wonderful and the most beautiful day of all the year. The day when—all over the whole world—there is singing in the air, and everything rises into new life and happiness.

ANNIE.

Fretfully.

Mamma, I don't understand! What day is to-morrow?

MRS. BEELER.

To-morrow is Easter.

ANNIE.

With sudden interest.

Easter! Can I have some eggs to color?

MRS. BEELER.

Ask Aunt Martha.

ANNIE.

Singsong, as she skips out.

Eggs to color! Eggs to color!

Rhoda has meanwhile fetched a large tray from the cupboard and has been piling the dishes noiselessly upon it.

RHODA.

Shall I wheel you in, Aunt Mary?

MRS. BEELER.

Yes, please.

Rhoda wheels the chair toward the hall door, which Michaelis opens. Mrs. Beeler gazes at him as she passes.

Will you come in soon, and sit with me? There is so much that I want to hear.

MICHAELIS.

Whenever you are ready.

MRS. BEELER.

I will ring my bell.

As they go out, Martha bustles in, gathers up the dish tray and is about to depart, with a vindictive look. At the door she turns, and jerks her head toward the boy.

MARTHA.

Is it against the law to work where he comes from?

MICHAELIS.

Abstractedly.

What?—No.

MARTHA.

Then he might as well do me some chores. Not but right, payin' only half board.

MICHAELIS.

To the boy.

Do whatever she tells you.

The boy follows Martha out. Michaelis stands by the window in thought. As Rhoda reenters, he looks up. He speaks significantly, with suppressed excitement.

She saw the sun!

RHODA.

Poor dear Auntie!

MICHAELIS.

You pity her?

RHODA.

After an instant's silence, during which she ponders her reply.

I think I envy her.

She removes the cloth from the table, and begins deftly to put the room in order. Michaelis watches her with a kind of vague intentness.

MICHAELIS.

How long did you say she had been sick?

RHODA.

More than four years—nearly five.

MICHAELIS.

She has never walked in that time?

RHODA.

Shakes her head.

Nor used her right hand, either.

MICHAELIS.

With intensity.

Are you certain?

RHODA.

Surprised at his tone.

Yes—I haven't lived here long, but I am certain.

MICHAELIS.

She has tried medicine, doctors?

RHODA.

Uncle has spent everything he could earn on them. She has been three times to the mineral baths, once as far as Virginia.

MICHAELIS.

But never as far as Bethesda.

RHODA.

Bethesda? Where is that?

MICHAELIS.

The pool, which is called Bethesda, having five porches.

RHODA.

Oh, yes. The pool in the Bible, where once a year an angel troubled the waters, and the sick and the lame and the blind gathered, hoping to be healed.

MICHAELIS.

And whoever first, after the troubling of the waters, stepped in, he was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

RHODA.

If anybody could find the way there again, it would be Aunt Mary.

Pause.

And if anybody could show her the way it would be—you.

She goes on in a different tone, as if to escape from the embarrassment of her last speech.

Her saying just now she saw the sun. She often says things like that. Have you noticed?

MICHAELIS.

Yes.

RHODA.

With hesitation.

Her brother Seth—the one who died—has she told you about him?

MICHAELIS.

Yes.

RHODA.

What she thinks happens—since—he died?

Michaelis nods assent.

And yet in most other ways her mind is perfectly clear.

MICHAELIS.

Perhaps in this way it is clearer still.

RHODA.

Startled.

You mean—that maybe she really does—see her brother?

MICHAELIS.

It may be.

RHODA.

It would make the world a very different—a very strange place, if that were true.

MICHAELIS.

The world is a very strange place.

Pause.

RHODA.

Tell me a little about your life. That seems to have been very strange.

MICHAELIS.

Vaguely, as he seats himself by the table.

I don't know. I can hardly remember what my life was.

RHODA.

Why is that?

MICHAELIS.

Gazing at her.

Because, since I came into this house, I have seen the vision of another life.

RHODA.

With hesitation.

What—other life?

MICHAELIS.

Since my boyhood I have been—

He hesitates.

I have been a wanderer, almost a fugitive—. And I never knew it, till now—I never knew it till—I looked into your face!

RHODA.

Avoiding his gaze.

How should that make you know?

MICHAELIS.

Leans nearer.

All my life long I have walked in the light of something to come, some labor, some mission, I have scarcely known what—but I have risen with it and lain down with it, and nothing else has existed for me.—Nothing, until—I lifted my eyes and you stood there. The stars looked down from their places, the earth wheeled on among the stars. Everything was as it had been, and nothing was as it had been; nor ever, ever can it be the same again.

RHODA.

In a low and agitated voice.

You must not say these things to me. You are—I am not—. You must not think of me so.

MICHAELIS.

I must think of you as I must.

Pause. Rhoda speaks in a lighter tone, as if to relieve the tension of their last words.

RHODA.

Tell me a little of your boyhood.—What was it like—that place where you lived?

MICHAELIS.

Becomes absorbed in his own mental pictures as he speaks.

A great table of stone, rising five hundred feet out of the endless waste of sand. A little adobe house, halfway up the mesa, with the desert far below and the Indian village far above. A few peach trees, and a spring—a sacred spring, which the Indians worshipped in secret. A little chapel, which my father had built with his own hands. He often spent the night there, praying. And there, one night, he died. I found him in the morning, lying as if in quiet prayer before the altar.

RHODA.

After a moment's hush.

What did you do after your father died?

MICHAELIS.

I went away south, into the mountains, and got work on a sheep range. I was a shepherd for five years.

RHODA.

And since then?

MICHAELIS.

Hesitates.

Since then I have—wandered about, working here and there to earn enough to live on.

RHODA.

I understand well why men take up that life. I should love it myself.

MICHAELIS.

I didn't do it because I loved it.

RHODA.

Why, then?

MICHAELIS.

I was waiting my time.

RHODA.

In a low tone.

Your time—for what?

MICHAELIS.

To fulfil my life—my real life.

RHODA.

Your—real life?

He sits absorbed in thought without answering. Rhoda continues, after a long pause.

There in the mountains, when you were a shepherd—that was not your real life?

MICHAELIS.

It was the beginning of it.

RHODA.

With hesitation.

Won't you tell me a little about that time?

MICHAELIS.

In the fall I would drive the sheep south, through the great basin which sloped down into Mexico, and in the spring back again to the mountains.

RHODA.

Were you all alone?

MICHAELIS.

There were a few men on the ranges, but they were no more to me than the sheep—not so much.

RHODA.

Weren't you dreadfully lonely?

MICHAELIS.

No.

RHODA.

You hadn't even any books to read?

MICHAELIS.

Takes a took from his coat pocket.

I had this pocket Bible, that had been my father's. I read that sometimes. But always in a dream, without understanding, without remembering.

His excitement increases.

Yet there came a time when whole chapters started up in my mind, as plain as if the printed page were before me, and I understood it all, both the outer meaning and the inner.

RHODA.

And you didn't know what made the difference?

MICHAELIS.

Yes.

RHODA.

What was it?

MICHAELIS.

I can't tell you that.

RHODA.

Oh, yes!

MICHAELIS.

There are no words to tell of it.

RHODA.

Yet tell me. I need to know. Believe me, I need to know!

MICHAELIS.

Slowly, groping for his words.

It was one morning in the fourth spring. We were back in the mountains again. It was lambing time, and I had been up all night. Just before sunrise, I sat down on a rock to rest. Then—it came.

RHODA.

What came?

He does not answer.

You saw something?

He nods for yes.

What was it?

MICHAELIS.

Rises, lifting his arms, a prey to uncontrollable excitement.

The living Christ!—Standing before me on the mountain, amid the grazing sheep.—With these eyes and in this flesh, I saw Him.

Long pause.

RHODA.

In a low tone.

You had fallen asleep. It was a dream.

MICHAELIS.

Shakes his head in negation.

That wasn't all.

He turns away. She follows him, and speaks after a silence.

RHODA.

Tell me the rest. What happened to you, after—after what you saw—that morning in the mountains?

MICHAELIS.

Begins to talk slowly and reluctantly.

I lived straight ahead, with the sheep for two years.

RHODA.

Hesitating.

Did you ever see anything again?

MICHAELIS.

No.—But twice—I heard a voice.

RHODA.

What kind of a voice?

MICHAELIS.

The first time it came at night. I was walking on the top of the mountain, in a stony place. It—it was like a wind among the stones.

RHODA.

What did it say?

MICHAELIS.

It said, "Prepare! Prepare!"

RHODA.

And the second time?

MICHAELIS.

In the same place, at dawn. The voice said, "Go forth, it is finished!" I looked round me and saw nothing. Then it came again, like a wind among the stones, "Go forth, it is begun!"

RHODA.

And you obeyed?

MICHAELIS.

I found a man to take my place, and started north. Three days after, I climbed the mesa toward my old home. Above, in the pueblo, I heard the sound of tom-toms and wailing squaws. They told me that the young son of the chief lay dead in my father's chapel. I sat beside him all day and all night. Just before daylight—

He breaks off abruptly.

RHODA.

Go on!

MICHAELIS.

Just before daylight, when the other watchers were asleep, the power of the spirit came strong upon me. I bowed myself upon the boy's body, and prayed. My heart burned within me, for I felt his heart begin to beat! His eyes opened. I told him to arise, and he arose. He that was dead arose and was alive again!

Pause. Mrs. Beeler's bell rings. Michaelis starts, looks about him as if awakened from a dream, then slowly goes toward the hall door. Rhoda follows and detains him.

RHODA.

In a low tone.

How long had he lain—for dead?

MICHAELIS.

Three days.

RHODA.

With hesitation.

I have heard that people have lain as long as that in a trance, breathing so lightly that it could not be told, except by holding a glass before the face.

MICHAELIS.

Startled.

Is that true?

RHODA.

I have read so.

MICHAELIS.

I wonder—I wonder.

He stands in deep thought.

But I have had other signs.

RHODA.

What other signs?

MICHAELIS.

Many, many. Up and down the land!

Pause.

I wonder.—I—I almost wish it were so!

With bent head he goes out. Rhoda stands looking after him until the inner door closes, then sits before the fire in revery. Beeler comes in from the barn. He wears his old fur cap, and holds in one hand a bulky Sunday newspaper, in the other some battered harness, an awl, twine, and wax, which he deposits on the window seat. He lays the paper on the table, and unfolds from it a large colored print, which he holds up and looks at with relish.

BEELER.

These Sunday papers do get up fine supplements. I wouldn't take money for that picture.

RHODA.

Looks at it absently.

What does it mean?

BEELER.

Reads.

"Pan and the Pilgrim." Guess you never heard of Pan, did you?

RHODA.

Yes. One of the old heathen gods.

BEELER.

Call him heathen if you like! The folks that worshipped him thought he was orthodox, I guess.

He pins up the print, which represents a palmer of crusading times surprised in the midst of a forest by the god Pan.

RHODA.

What does the picture mean?

BEELER.

Well, Pan there, he was a kind of a nature god. The old Romans thought him out, to stand for a lot of things.

RHODA.

What kind of things?

BEELER.

Natural things, with plenty of sap and mischief in 'em. Growin' plants, and frisky animals, and young folks in love.

He points to the figure of Pan, then to the Pilgrim, as he talks.

There he sits playin' Jenny-come-kiss-me on his dod-gasted mouth-organ, when along comes one of them fellows out of a monastery, with religion on the brain. Pikin' for Jerusalem, to get a saint's toe-nail and a splinter of the true cross.

Martha enters from the kitchen and potters about the room "redding up."

Look at him! Do you think he'll ever get to Jerusalem? Not this trip! He hears the pipes o' Pan. He hears women callin' and fiddles squeakin' love-tunes in the woods. It'll take more than a monk's robe on his back and a shaved head on his shoulders to keep him straight, I reckon. He'll call to mind that young fellows had blood in their veins when Adam was a farmer, and whoop-la! he'll be off to the county fair, to dance ring-around-a-rosy with Matildy Jane!

Pause, as he takes off his cap and light his pipe.

Like to see our friend Michaelis meet up with Mr. Pan. Don't believe Michaelis ever looked cross-eyed at a girl.

He examines Rhoda quizzically.

You wouldn't make up bad as Matildy Jane yourself, Rho, but sufferin' Job, he can't tell the difference between crow's feet and dimples!

MARTHA.

Don't you be so sure!

BEELER.

Hello! Dan'el come to judgment! Never seen an old maid yet that couldn't squeeze a love story out of a flat-iron.

MARTHA.

I may be an old maid, and you may be an old wind-bag, but I've got eyes in my head.

To Rhoda.

Where did you meet up with him, anyway?

Rhoda, plunged in thought, does not answer.

BEELER.

Wake up, Rhody! Marthy asked you where you met up with our new boarder.

RHODA.

On the road, coming home from the village.

BEELER.

What made you bring him here?

RHODA.

He wanted a quiet place to stay, and this was the best I knew.

MARTHA.

Guess it was!—A snap for him.

She goes out by the hall door.

RHODA.

Rises, takes the lamp off the mantel, and during the following cleans and refills it.

BEELER.

As he takes off his coat, and hangs it up.

Rhody, ain't this religious business rather a new thing with you? Up there in St. Louis, didn't go in for it much up there, did you?

RHODA.

Looks at him quickly.

Why do you ask that?

BEELER.

Oh, I gathered, from things I heard, that you cared more about dancin' than about prayin', up there.

She turns away.

That young fellow that was so sweet on you in St. Louis year before last, he wa'n't much in the psalm-singin' line, was he?

RHODA.

Startled and pale.

Who told you about him?

BEELER.

Oh, Mary's friends, the Higginses, used to write us about your affairs. We thought it would be a hitch-up, sure as shootin'. Studyin' to be a doctor, wasn't he?

RHODA.

Uncle, please never speak to me about him again!

BEELER.

All right, all right, my girl. I've been young myself, and I know youth is touchy as a gumboil when it comes to love affairs. So it's all off, is it?

RHODA.

Yes.

BEELER.

Sits down to mend the harness.

If you're partial to the pill trade, we've got a brand new doctor in town now. Took old Doctor Martin's place. He'll be up here to see Mary in a day or two, and you can look him over.

RHODA.

What is his name?

BEELER.

Tries in vain to recall it.

Blamed if I can remember. Only seen him once. But I tell you, he's smart as tacks. Chuck full of Jamaica ginger. The very kind I'd have swore you'd take to, a while back, before you lost your fun and your spirit. When I first saw you on your father's farm out in Kansas, you was as wild a little gypsy as I ever set eyes on. I said then to your dad, "There's a filly that'll need a good breakin'." I never thought I'd see you takin' up with these Gospel pedlers.

Martha comes in from the hall and fusses about, dusting, etc. She points in the direction of Mrs. Beeler's room.

MARTHA.

They're prayer-meetin' it again. And Mary lyin' there as if she saw the pearly gates openin' before her eyes.

BEELER.

Half to himself as he works.

Poor Mary!—Mary's a strange woman.

MARTHA.

To Rhoda.

Your mother was the same way, Rhody. The whole Beardsley tribe, for that matter. But Mary was the worst. It begun with Mary as soon as her brother Seth got drowned.

BEELER.

Looks up, angry.

None of that, Sis!

MARTHA.

I guess my tongue's my own.

BEELER.

No, it ain't. I won't have any more of that talk around me, do you hear? I put my foot down a year ago.

MARTHA.

Points to his foot derisively.

It's big enough and ugly enough, Heaven knows, but you can put it down as hard as you like, it won't keep a man's sperrit in his grave—not when he's a mind to come out!

BEELER.

Astonished.

Martha Beeler!

MARTHA.

That's my name.

She flounces out into the kitchen, covering her retreat with her last speech.

BEELER.

Looking after her.

My kingdom! Martha! I thought she had some horse sense left.

RHODA.

Slowly, as the finishes with the lamp.

Uncle, it's hard to live side by side with Aunt Mary and not—

BEELER.

In angry challenge.

And not what?

RHODA.

And not believe there's something more in these matters than "horse sense" will account for.

BEELER.

Hotly, as if a sort point has been touched upon.

There's nothing more than science will account for.

He points to a shelf of books.

You can read it up any day you like. Read that book yonder, chapter called Hallucinations. Pathological, that's what it is, pathological.

RHODA.

What does that mean?

Beeler taps his forehead significantly.

Uncle, you know that's not true!

BEELER.

Growls to himself.

Pathological, up and down.

Rhoda replaces the lamp on the mantel.

Martha opens the kitchen door and calls in.

MARTHA.

Here's Uncle Abe!

BEELER.

Uncle Abe? Thought he was a goner.

Uncle Abe enters. He is an old negro, with gray hair and thin, gray beard. He is somewhat bowed, and carries a stick, but he is not decrepit. His clothes are spattered with mud. Martha enters with him; she is stirring something in a bowl, and during the following continues to do so, though more and more interruptedly and absent-mindedly.

BEELER.

Hello, Uncle Abe.

UNCLE ABE.

Good-mawnin', Mista Beeler.

BEELER.

Where've you been all winter? Thought you'd gone up Salt River.

UNCLE ABE.

Shakes his head reassuringly.

Ain' nevah goin' up no Salt River, yo' Uncle Abe ain't.

BEELER.

Indicating Rhoda.

Make you acquainted with my wife's niece, Miss Williams.

Uncle Abe bows.

RHODA.

Pushing forward a chair.

Sit down, Uncle. I don't see how you found your way in this dreadful fog.

UNCLE ABE.

Fawg don' matta' nothin' to me, honey. Don' mean nothin' 'tall.

He speaks with exaltation and restrained excitement.

Yo' ol' Uncle keeps on tellin' 'em, dis hyah fawg an' darkness don' mean nothin' 'tall!

Rhoda and Martha look at him puzzled.

Beeler, busy over his harness, has not been struck by the old negro's words.

BEELER.

How's the ginseng crop this year?

UNCLE ABE.

They ain' no mo' gimsing!

BEELER.

No more ginseng? What do you mean?

UNCLE ABE.

De good Lawd, he ain' goin' fool roun' no mo' wif no gimsing!

BEELER.

Amused.

Why, I thought your ginseng bitters was His main holt.

UNCLE ABE.

With a touch of regret.

Use to be, Mars' Beeler. It shore use to be.—Yes, sah. Bless de Lawd!

Shakes his head in reminiscence.

He sartinly did set sto' by them thah bitters.

BEELER.

With lazy amusement.

So the Lord's gone back on ginseng now, has He?

UNCLE ABE.

Yes, sah.

BEELER.

What makes you think so?

UNCLE ABE.

Solemnly.

Roots all kill by de fros'!

His manner grows more and more mysterious; he half closes his eyes, as he goes on in a strange, mounting singsong.

Knowed it more'n a monf ago, fo' dis hyah blin' worl' lef' de plough in de ploughshare an' de ungroun' wheat betwixen de millstones, and went a-follerin' aftah dis hyah new star outen de Eas', like a bride follerin' aftah de bridegroom!

Martha taps her forehead significantly, and goes back to her batter.

BEELER.

New star, Uncle? Tell us about it. Sounds interesting.

UNCLE ABE.

Stares at each of them in turn.

Ain' you-all heerd?

BEELER.

You've got the advantage of us.

UNCLE ABE.

Ain' you-all heerd 'bout de Healer?

BEELER.

Healer? What kind of a healer?

UNCLE ABE.

With mounting indignation at Beeler's tone.

De Bible kin', dat's what kin'! De kin' what makes de lame fer to walk, and de blin' fer to see, an' de daid fer to riz up outen their daid col' graves. That's what kin'! Mean to say you-all ain' heerd nothin' 'bout him, you po' chillun o' dawkness?

Martha and Beeler look at each other in amazement. Rhoda sits looking at the old negro, white and tense with excitement.

BEELER.

Nope.

Recollecting.

Hold on!

MARTHA.

To Beeler.

Don't you remember, in the papers, two or three weeks ago? Where was it? Somewheres out West.

BEELER.

Believe I did read some such goin's-on. Don't pay much attention to such nonsense.

UNCLE ABE.

Solemn and threatening.

Tek keer, Mistah Beeler! Tek keer what you say 'fore dese here cloudy witnesses. Don' you go cuttin' yo'self off from de Kingdom. Nor you, Mis' Martha, nor you, honey. Don' ye do it! It's a-comin'. Yo' ol' Uncle Abe he's seen and heerd.

RHODA.

Tell us quickly what you mean!

UNCLE ABE.

Mean jes' what I says, honey. Night fo' last, de Healer, he come, like's if he jes' plum' drop from de sky.

More mysteriously.

An' whar's he gone to? You listen to yo' ol' Uncle Abe a-tellin' you. He ain' gone no-whars! He's jes' meechin' roun' in de fawg, a-waitin' fer de Lawd to call folks. En He's a-callin' 'em! He's a-callin' 'em by tens an' by hundreds. Town's full a'ready, honey. Main Street look jes' lak a fiel' hospital, down Souf durin' de wah!

MARTHA.

Meeting Beeler's astonished look.

What did I tell you? Maybe you'll listen to me next time.

RHODA.

To Uncle Abe, in a low, agitated voice.

This man you call the Healer—is he alone?

UNCLE ABE.

No, honey; folks says he don' nevah go no-wheres by hisse'f. Always got that thah young man wif 'im what he raise from de daid.

BEELER.

Rises, with a shrug.

Good evening!

He crosses to the portraits of Darwin and Spencer.

You made quite a stir in your time, didn't you? Well, it's all up with you!

MARTHA.

In a voice strident with nervousness.

Raised from the dead?

UNCLE ABE.

That's what they says, Mis' Martha. Folks calls 'im Laz'rus in ref'ence to de Bible chil' what riz up jes' same way lak', outen de daid col' tomb.

The Indian boy enters from the kitchen, his shoes and trousers spattered with mud. Uncle Abe looks at him, then at the others, and whispers to Rhoda. Martha bustles forward, hiding her agitation in scolding speech.

MARTHA.

Well, did you get my coffee and my sal-soda?

Lazarus points, without speaking, to the kitchen.

BEELER.

To Martha.

Did you send him to the store?

MARTHA.

Yes, I did send him to the store. If I had my way, I'd send him—further.

The boy hesitates, then goes stolidly out by the stair door. Uncle Abe lifts his arm ecstatically.

UNCLE ABE.

That's him! I tell ye that's the chil' what's said "Howdy" to the daid folks down yonder. I'se seen 'im in my dreams, an' now I'se seen 'im wif dese hyah two eyes.—O Lawd, bless dis hyah house o' grace!

BEELER.

I guess it's about time that fellow come out and exploded some of this tomfoolery.

He starts towards his wife's room.

RHODA.

Stopping him.

Please don't.

BEELER.

Peevishly.

There's got to be an end to this hoodoo business in my house.

Annie enters from the kitchen, dabbled with dye. She holds two colored eggs in her hands.

ANNIE.

Look! I've colored two.

MARTHA.

Good gracious, child. What a mess!

ANNIE.

Pa! Play crack with me! Just once, to see how it goes.

BEELER.

Go in and ask your mother if she'll let you.

Annie, her eggs in her apron, opens the hall door. About to pass out, she stops, drops the eggs with a scream, and runs back, gazing towards the hall as she takes refuge behind Rhoda's skirts.

ANNIE.

Pa! Auntie! Ma's walking!

Mrs. Beeler enters, walking uncertainly, her face full of intense exaltation. Michaelis comes just behind her, transfigured by spiritual excitement.

BEELER AND MARTHA.

Starting forward.

Mary!

RHODA.

Aunt Mary!

Mrs. Beeler advances into the room, reaching out her hand to Annie, who takes it in speechless fright. She bends over and kisses the child's head, then stretches out her other hand to her husband.

MRS. BEELER.

Mat, I'm cured! The Lord has heard our prayers, for His saint's sake.

BEELER.

Why, Mary, I can't believe this—it's too—it's not possible!

MRS. BEELER.

Looking at Michaelis.

It is written that he who has faith, even as a grain of mustard seed—. I have had faith.

MARTHA.

Law, you've had faith enough any time these five years, Mary. There was something else wanting, 'pears to me.

MRS. BEELER.

There was wanting the word of true belief, saying, "Suffer no more! Stoop and drink of the waters of mercy and healing."

Outside, the shrill soprano of a woman is heard, taking up a hymn. At the sound Michaelis goes to the window. He stands rigid, listening to the hymn to the end of the verse, when other voices join in the chorus. The fog has partially cleared.

MICHAELIS.

Turning slowly to Rhoda.

Who are they?

RHODA.

Sick people.

MICHAELIS.

How did they find out I was here?

RHODA.

It was known you were somewhere near.—They have been gathering for days.—They saw the boy, just now, in the village.

MRS. BEELER.

Comes a step or two nearer Michaelis.

Your great hour is at hand!

He looks distractedly about. The light has faded from his face, giving place to strong nervous agitation, resembling fear. He speaks as if to himself.

MICHAELIS.

My hour!—My hour!—And I—and I—!

He puts his hand over his eyes, as if to shut out some vision of dread.

MRS. BEELER.

You will not fail them? You cannot fail them, now.

Michaelis looks at Mrs. Beeler, then for a long time at Rhoda. He gathers himself together, and gazes steadfastly before him, as at some unseen presence.

No.—I have waited so long. I have had such deep assurances.—I must not fail. I must not fail.

CURTAIN



ACT II

Late afternoon of the same day.

Mrs. Beeler sits in a low chair near the window. She has ceased reading the Testament, which lies open in her lap.

Uncle Abe sits on the floor with Annie. They are playing with building blocks, piling up and tearing down various ambitious structures. Rhoda enters from outside, with hat and cloak, carrying a large bunch of Easter lilies.

RHODA.

Kissing her aunt.

Still sitting up! You're not strong enough yet to do this. See, I've brought you some Easter lilies.

She hands one to Mrs. Beeler. As she takes off her things, she sees the old Negro gazing at her.

Well, Uncle Abe?

UNCLE ABE.

I's awake an' a-watchin', honey!

He turns again to the child, shaking his head as at some unspoken thought, while Rhoda arranges the flowers in a vase.

MRS. BEELER.

Rhoda!

RHODA.

Yes, Aunt Mary?

MRS. BEELER.

Come here.

Rhoda approaches. Mrs. Beeler speaks low, with suppressed excitement.

What is the news, outside?

RHODA.

You mustn't excite yourself. You must keep your strength.

MRS. BEELER.

I shall be strong enough.—Are the people still gathering from the town?

RHODA.

Yes, and they keep coming in from other places.

MRS. BEELER.

Are there many of them?

RHODA.

Many! Many! It's as if the whole world knew.

MRS. BEELER.

The more there are, the greater will be the witness.—Pause. When do you think he will go out to them?

RHODA.

They believe he is waiting for Easter morning.

Martha enters from kitchen, with bonnet and shawl on, and a large basket in her hand.

MARTHA.

Mary, you'd ought to be abed. You're tempting Providence.

She takes off her bonnet and shawl, and deposits the basket.

I saw your doctor down in the village, and he allowed he'd come up to see you this afternoon. He was all on end about your bein' able to walk.

RHODA.

I didn't know till to-day you had a doctor.

MRS. BEELER.

Yes. He's a young man who's just come here to build up a practice.

MARTHA.

To Rhoda.

You better finish packin' the basket. There's a lot o' hungry mouths to feed out yonder.

Exit by hall door. Rhoda continues the preparation of the basket, taking articles from the cupboard and packing them. Annie has climbed on a chair by the picture of Pan and the Pilgrim. She points at the figure of Pan.

ANNIE.

Uncle Abe, tell me who that is.

UNCLE ABE.

Glancing at Mrs. Beeler and Rhoda.

H'sh!

ANNIE.

What's he doing up there in the bushes, blowing on that funny whistle?

UNCLE ABE.

Look hyah, chil', you jus' wastin' my time. I got frough wif dis hyah fool pictuh long 'go!

He tries to draw her away; she resists.

ANNIE.

Petulantly.

Uncle Abe! Who is it?

UNCLE ABE.

Whispers, makes big eyes.

That thah's Ole Nick, that's who that thah is! That thah's de Black Man!

Annie, terror-stricken, jumps down and retreats to her mother's chair. Mrs. Beeler rouses from her revery and strokes her child's head.

MRS. BEELER.

Oh, my child, how happy you are to see this while you are so young! You will never forget, will you, dear?

ANNIE.

Fidgeting.

Forget what?

MRS. BEELER.

Tell me that whatever happens to you in the world, you won't forget that once, when you were a little girl, you saw the heavens standing open, and felt that God was very near, and full of pity for His children.

ANNIE.

I don't know what you're talking about! I can't hardly breathe the way people are in this house.

MRS. BEELER.

You will understand, some day, what wonderful things your childish eyes looked on.

Annie retreats to Uncle Abe, who bends over the child and whispers in her ear. She grows amused, and begins to sway as to a tune, then chants.

ANNIE.

"Mary an' a' Martha's jus' gone along, Mary an' a' Martha's jus' gone along, Mary an' a' Martha's jus' gone along, Ring dem charmin' bells."

As she finishes the rhyme she runs out into the hall. Mrs. Beeler begins again to read her Testament. The old negro approaches Mrs. Beeler and Rhoda, and speaks mysteriously.

UNCLE ABE.

That thah chil' she's talkin' sense. They's sumpin' ain't right about dis hyah house.

MRS. BEELER.

Not right? What do you mean?

UNCLE ABE.

Shakes his head dubiously.

Dunno, Mis' Beeler. I's jes' a ole fool colored pusson, been waitin' fer de great day what de 'Postle done promise. En hyah's de great day 'bout to dawn, an' de Lawd's Chosen 'bout to show Hisse'f in clouds o' glory 'fore de worl', an' lo 'n' behol'—

He leans closer and whispers.

de Lawd's Chosen One, he's done got a spell on 'im!

MRS. BEELER.

Shocked and startled.

Uncle Abe!

UNCLE ABE.

Pointing at the Pan and the Pilgrim.

Why do you keep that thah pictuh nail up thah fur?

MRS. BEELER.

My husband likes it.

UNCLE ABE.

Mighty funny kin' o' man, like to hev de Black Man lookin' pop-eyed at folks all day an' all night, puttin' de spell on folks!

MRS. BEELER.

That's not the Black Man.

UNCLE ABE.

That's him, shore's yo' born! Jes' what he looks like. I's seen 'im, more'n once.

RHODA.

Seen the Black Man, Uncle?

UNCLE ABE.

Yais, ma'am. I's spied 'im, sittin' in de paw-paw bushes in de springtime, when de snakes a-runnin', an' de jays a-hollerin', and de crick a-talkin' sassy to hisse'f.

He leans nearer, more mysteriously.

En what you s'pose I heerd him whis'lin', for all de worl' lak dem scan'lous bluejays?

Chants in a high, trilling voice.

"Chillun, chillun, they ain' no Gawd, they ain' no sin nor no jedgment, they's jes' springtime an' happy days, and folks carryin' on. Whar's yo' lil gal, Abe Johnson? Whar's yo' lil sweet-heart gal?" An' me on'y got religion wintah befo', peekin' roun' pie-eyed, skeered good. En fo' you could say "De Lawd's my Shepherd," kerchunk goes de Black Man in de mud-puddle, change' into a big green bullfrog!

MRS. BEELER.

You just imagined all that.

UNCLE ABE.

Indignant.

Jes' 'magine! Don' I know de Devil when I sees him, near 'nough to say "Howdy"?

MRS. BEELER.

There isn't any Devil.

UNCLE ABE.

Astounded.

Ain't no Devil?

MRS. BEELER.

No.

Uncle Abe goes, with puzzled headshakings, towards the kitchen door. He stops to smell the Easter lilies, then raises his head and looks at her again, with puzzled scrutiny.

UNCLE ABE.

Mis' Beelah, did I understan' you to say—they ain'—no Devil?

MRS. BEELER.

Touching her breast.

Only here, Uncle Abe.

The old negro stares at her and Rhoda, and goes into the kitchen, feeling his own breast and shaking his head dubiously. Mrs. Beeler looks at the picture.

Do you think your Uncle Mat would mind if we took that picture down?

Rhoda unpins the picture from the wall, rolls it up, and lays it on the bookshelf. Her aunt goes on, hesitatingly.

Do you know, Rhoda, I have sometimes thought—You won't be hurt?

RHODA.

No.

MRS. BEELER.

I—I know what that old negro says is all foolishness, but—there is something the matter with Mr. Michaelis. Have you noticed?

RHODA.

Avoiding her aunt's gaze.

Yes.

MRS. BEELER.

Just when his great work is about to begin!—What do you think it can be?

RHODA.

How should I know, Aunt Mary?

MRS. BEELER.

I thought maybe—Rhoda, I have seen him look at you so strangely! Like—like the Pilgrim in the picture, when he hears that heathen creature playing on the pipe.—You are such a wild creature, or you used to be.

Rhoda comes to her aunt and stands a moment in silence.

RHODA.

Auntie.

MRS. BEELER.

Yes?

RHODA.

I think I ought to go away.

MRS. BEELER.

Astonished.

Go away? Why?

RHODA.

So as not to—hinder him.

MRS. BEELER.

Caressing her.

There, you have taken what I said too seriously. It was only a sick woman's imagination.

RHODA.

No, it was the truth. You see it, though you try not to. Even Uncle Abe sees it. Just when Mr. Michaelis most needs his strength, weakness has come upon him.

MRS. BEELER.

You mean—?

She hesitates.

You mean—because of you?—Rhoda, look at me.

Rhoda avoids her aunt's gaze; Mrs. Beeler draws down the girl's face and gazes at it.

Is there anything—that I don't know—between you and him?

RHODA.

I—I must go away.—I ought to have gone before.

MRS. BEELER.

My child, this—this troubles me very much. He is different from other men, and you—and you—

RHODA.

With passion.

Say it, say it! What am I?

MRS. BEELER.

Don't be hurt, Rhoda, but—you have a wild nature. You are like your father. I remember when he used to drive over to see sister Jane, with his keen face and eagle eyes, behind his span of wild colts, I used to tremble for my gentle sister. You are just like him, or you used to be.

Rhoda breaks away from her aunt, and takes her hat and cloak. Mrs. Beeler rises with perturbation, and crosses to detain her.

What are you going to do?

RHODA.

I am going away—I must go away.

Martha enters from the hall.

MRS. BEELER.

Speaks lower.

Promise me you won't! Promise me!

MARTHA.

To look at that, now! Seein' you on your feet, Mary, gives me a new start every time.

MRS. BEELER.

To Rhoda.

You promise?

Rhoda bows her head as in assent.

MARTHA.

Doctor's in the parlor. Shall I bring him in here?

MRS. BEELER.

No. I think I will rest awhile. He can come to my room.

She walks unsteadily. The others try to help her, but she motions them back.

No. It's so good to feel that I can walk alone!

MARTHA.

It does beat all!

MRS. BEELER.

I'll just lie down on the couch. I want to go out, before dark, and speak to the people.

Mr. Beeler enters from the kitchen and crosses to help his wife. The others give place to him.

Oh Mat, our good days are coming back! I shall be strong and well for you again.

BEELER.

Yes, Mary. There will be nothing to separate us any more.

MRS. BEELER.

Points at his books.

Not even—them?

He goes to the alcove, takes the books from the shelf, raises the lid of the window-seat, and throws them in.

Mrs. Beeler points to the pictures of Darwin and Spencer.

Nor them?

He unpins the pictures, lays them upon the heap of books, and returns to her.

You don't know how happy that makes me!

They go out by the hall door, Martha, as she lowers the lid of the window-seat, points derisively at the heap.

MARTHA.

That's a good riddance of bad rubbish!

She comes to the table and continues packing the basket.

You'd better help me with this basket. Them folks will starve to death, if the neighborhood round don't give 'em a bite to eat.

Rhoda fetches other articles from the cupboard.

I'd like to know what they think we are made of, with butter at twenty-five cents a pound and flour worth its weight in diamonds!

RHODA.

All the neighbors are helping, and none of them with our cause for thankfulness.

MARTHA.

That's no sign you should go plasterin' on that butter like you was a bricklayer tryin' to bust the contractor!

She takes the bread from Rhoda and scrapes the butter thin.

RHODA.

As the clock strikes five.

It's time for Aunt Mary to have her tea. Shall I make it?

MARTHA.

You make it! Not unless you want to lay her flat on her back again!

As she flounces out, Annie enters from the hall. She points with one hand at the retreating Martha, with the other toward her mother's room.

ANNIE.

Sings with sly emphasis.

"Mary an' a' Martha's jus' gone along, Mary an' a' Martha's jus' gone along, Mary an' a' Martha's jus' gone along, Ring dem charmin' bells."

She climbs upon a chair by the table, and fingers the contents of basket as she sings.

RHODA.

What's got into you, little imp?

ANNIE.

Brazenly.

I've been peeping through mamma's keyhole.

RHODA.

That's not nice.

ANNIE.

I know it, but the minister's in there and Dr. Littlefield.

RHODA.

Startled.

Who?

ANNIE.

You know, mamma's doctor.—Oh, he's never come since you've been here.

RHODA.

In a changed voice, as she takes the child by the shoulders.

What does he look like?

ANNIE.

Don't, you're hurting me!—He's too red in the face, and looks kind of—insulting—and he wears the most beautiful neckties, and—

Exhausted by her efforts at description.

Oh, I don't know!

She sings as she climbs down, and goes out by the kitchen door.

"Free grace, undyin' love, Free grace, undyin' love, Free grace, undyin' love, Ring dem lovely bells."

Dr. Littlefield enters from Mrs. Beeler's room. He speaks back to Beeler on the threshold.

LITTLEFIELD.

Don't bother! I'll find it.

Looking for something, he approaches Rhoda, who has her back turned.

Beg pardon. Have you seen a pocket thermometer I left here?

She faces him. He starts back in surprise.

Bless my soul and body! Rhoda Williams!

He closes the hall door, returns to her, and stands somewhat disconcerted.

Here, of all places!

RHODA.

Mrs. Beeler is my aunt.

LITTLEFIELD.

Well, well! The world is small.—Been here long?

RHODA.

Only a month.

LITTLEFIELD.

And before that?

RHODA.

It's a long story. Besides, you wouldn't understand.

LITTLEFIELD.

You might let me try. What in the world have you been doing all this time?

RHODA.

I have been searching for something.

LITTLEFIELD.

What was it?

RHODA.

My own lost self. My own—lost soul.

LITTLEFIELD.

Amused at her solemnity.

You're a queer bundle of goods. Always were. Head full of solemn notions about life, and at the same time, when it came to a lark,—Oh, I'm no grandmother, but when you got on your high horse—well!

He waves his hands expressively.

RHODA.

Bursts out.

The great town, the people, the noise, and the lights—after seventeen years of life on a dead prairie, where I'd hardly heard a laugh or seen a happy face!—All the same, the prairie had me still.

LITTLEFIELD.

You don't mean you went back to the farm?

RHODA.

I mean that the years I'd spent out there in that endless stretch of earth and sky—.

She breaks off, with a weary gesture.

There's no use going into that. You wouldn't understand.

LITTLEFIELD.

No, I walk on simple shoe leather and eat mere victuals.—Just the same, it wasn't square of you to clear out that way—vanish into air without a word or a sign.

RHODA.

Looking at him steadily.

You know very well why I went.

LITTLEFIELD.

Returning her gaze, unabashed, chants with meaning and relish.

"Hey diddle, diddle, The cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon."

Rhoda takes up the basket and goes toward the outer door. He intercepts her.

RHODA.

Let me pass.

LITTLEFIELD.

You're not taking part in this camp-meeting enthusiasm, are you?

RHODA.

Yes.

As he stares at her, his astonishment changes to amusement; he chuckles to himself, then bursts out laughing, as in humorous reminiscence.

LITTLEFIELD.

Bless my soul! And to think that only a couple of little years ago—Oh, bless my soul!

The stair door opens. Michaelis appears. His face in flushed, his hair disordered, and his whole person expresses a feverish and precarious exaltation.

MICHAELIS.

Looks at Littlefield with vague query, then at Rhoda.

Excuse me, I am very thirsty. I came down for a glass of water.

Rhoda goes to the kitchen door, where she turns. The doctor puts on a pair of nose-glasses and scans Michaelis with interest. He holds out his hand, which Michaelis takes.

LITTLEFIELD.

We ought to know each other. We're colleagues, in a way.

MICHAELIS.

Colleagues?

LITTLEFIELD.

In a way, yes. I'm a practising physician.

Exit Rhoda.

You seem to have the call on us professionals, to judge by the number of your clients out yonder.

He points out of the window.

To say nothing of Exhibit One!

He points to the hall door.

MICHAELIS.

Vaguely.

I—I don't know that I—

Rhoda enters from the kitchen, with water, which he takes.

Thank you.

He drinks thirstily. Mr. Beeler appears in the hall door; he looks at the group, taken aback.

BEELER.

Oh—!

LITTLEFIELD.

I stopped to chat with your niece. She and I happen to be old acquaintances.

BEELER.

You don't say?—Would you mind coming in here for a minute?

LITTLEFIELD.

Following him out.

What's up?

BEELER.

My wife's got it in her head that she's called upon to—

Door closes. Michaelis, who has followed Littlefield with his eyes, sets down the glass, and turns slowly to Rhoda.

MICHAELIS.

Who is that?

RHODA.

My aunt's doctor.

MICHAELIS.

You know him well?

RHODA.

Yes.—No.

MICHAELIS.

What does that mean?

RHODA.

I haven't seen him for nearly two years.—I can't remember much about the person I was, two years ago.

MICHAELIS.

Yes! Yes! I understand.

He turns away, lifting his hands, speaking half to himself.

That these lives of ours should be poured like a jelly, from one mould into another, until God Himself cannot remember what they were two years ago, or two hours ago!

RHODA.

Why do you say that?

He does not answer, but walks nervously about. Rhoda, watching him, speaks, after a silence.

Last month—out West—were there many people there?

MICHAELIS.

No.—Two or three.

RHODA.

The papers said—

MICHAELIS.

When the crowd began to gather, I—went away.

RHODA.

Why?

MICHAELIS.

My time had not come.

He has stopped before the map and stands gazing at it.

RHODA.

Has it come now?

She comes closer.

—Has your time come now?

MICHAELIS.

Yes.

RHODA.

How do you know?

MICHAELIS.

Points at the map.

It is written there!

RHODA.

How do you mean, written there?

MICHAELIS.

Can't you see it?

RHODA.

I see the map, nothing more.

MICHAELIS.

Points again, gazing fixedly.

It seems to me to be written in fire.

RHODA.

What seems written?

MICHAELIS.

What I have been doing, all these five years.

RHODA.

Since your work began?

MICHAELIS.

It has never begun. Many times I have thought, "Now," and some man or woman has risen up healed, and looked at me with eyes of prophecy. But a Voice would cry, "On, on!" and I would go forward, driven by a force and a will not my own.—I didn't know what it all meant, but I know now.

He points at the map, his manner transformed with excitement and exaltation.

It is written there. It is written in letters of fire. My eyes are opened, and I see!

RHODA.

Following his gaze, then looking at him again, awed and bewildered.

What is it that you see?

MICHAELIS.

The cross!

RHODA.

I—I don't understand.

MICHAELIS.

All those places where the hand was lifted for a moment, and the power flowed into me—

He places his finger at various points on the map; these points lie in two transverse lines, between the Mississippi and the Pacific; one line runs roughly north and south, the other east and west.

Look! There was such a place, and there another, and there, and there. And there was one, and there, and there.—Do you see?

RHODA.

I see.—It makes a kind of cross.

MICHAELIS.

You see it too! And do you see what it means—this sign that my feet have marked across the length and breadth of a continent?

He begins again to pace the room.

—And that crowd of stricken souls out yonder, raised up as by miracle, their broken bodies crying to be healed,—do you see what they mean?

RHODA.

In a steady voice.

They mean what my aunt said this morning. They mean that your great hour has come.

MICHAELIS.

My hour! my hour!

He comes nearer, and speaks in a quieter tone.

I knew a young Indian once, a Hopi boy, who made songs and sang them to his people. One evening we sat on the roof of the chief's house and asked him to sing. He shook his head, and went away in the starlight. The next morning, I found him among the rocks under the mesa, with an empty bottle by his side.—He never sang again! Drunkenness had taken him. He never sang again, or made another verse.

RHODA.

What has that to do with you? It's not—? You don't mean that you—?

MICHAELIS.

No. There is a stronger drink for such as I am!

RHODA.

Forcing herself to go on.

What—"stronger drink"?

MICHAELIS.

Wildly.

The wine of this world! The wine-bowl that crowns the feasting table of the children of this world.

RHODA.

What do you mean by—the wine of this world?

MICHAELIS.

You know that! Every woman knows.

He points out of the window, at the sky flushed with sunset color.

Out there, at this moment, in city and country, souls, thousands upon thousands of souls, are dashing in pieces the cup that holds the wine of heaven, the wine of God's shed blood, and lifting the cups of passion and of love, that crown the feasting table of the children of this earth! Look! The very sky is blood-red with the lifted cups. And we two are in the midst of them. Listen what I sing there, on the hills of light in the sunset: "Oh, how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of my beloved!"

A song rises outside, loud and near at hand—Michaelis listens, his expression gradually changing from passionate excitement to brooding distress.

Vaguely, as the music grows fainter and dies away.

I—we were saying—.

He grasps her arm in nervous apprehension.

For God's sake, tell me.—Are there many people—waiting—out there?

RHODA.

Hundreds, if not thousands.

MICHAELIS.

Walks about.

Thousands.—Thousands of thousands!—

He stops beside her.

You won't leave me alone?

RHODA.

Hesitates, then speaks with decision.

No.

MICHAELIS.

Continuing his walk.

Thousands of thousands!

The hall door opens, Dr. Littlefield and a Clergyman, the Rev. John Culpepper, enter. The latter stares inquiringly from Michaelis to the Doctor, who nods affirmatively, and adjusts his glasses.

CULPEPPER.

Mutters to Littlefield.

Nonsense! Sacrilegious nonsense!

LITTLEFIELD.

Same tone.

I've done my best.

Behind them comes Mrs. Beeler, supported by her Husband. At the same moment Martha enters from the kitchen, with tea; Uncle Abe and Annie follow.

BEELER.

On the threshold.

Mary, take another minute to consider.

Mrs. Beeler, as if without hearing this protest, gazes at Michaelis, and advances into the room with a gesture of the arms which causes her supporter to loosen his hold, though he follows slightly behind, to render aid if necessary.

MRS. BEELER.

To Michaelis.

Tell me that I may go out, and stand before them for a testimony!

LITTLEFIELD.

As a physician, I must formally protest.

CULPEPPER.

And I as a minister of the Gospel.

MRS. BEELER.

To Michaelis, with a nervous, despairing gesture.

Speak to them! Explain to them! I am too weak.

There is a sound of excited voices outside, near at hand, then a sudden trample of footsteps at the entrance door. As Beeler goes hurriedly to the door it bursts open and a young woman with a baby in her arms crowds past him, and stands looking wildly about the room.

BEELER.

As he forces the others back.

You can't come in here, my friends! Stand back!

The woman gazes from one to another of the men. The old negro points at Michaelis. She advances to him, holding out the child.

MOTHER.

Don't let my baby die! For Christ's sake, don't let him die!

He examines the child's face, touches the mother's head tenderly, and signs to Rhoda to take them into the inner room.

MICHAELIS.

Take her with you, I will come.

RHODA.

With gentle urgency, to the woman.

Come with me.

She leads the woman out through the hall door.

MICHAELIS.

To Mrs. Beeler, as he points outside.

Tell them to wait until to-morrow at sunrise.

Mr. and Mrs. Beeler move toward the entrance door; some of the others start after, some linger, curious to know what will happen to the child. Michaelis turns upon them with a commanding gesture.

Go, all of you!

The room is cleared except for Littlefield, who goes last, stops in the doorway, closes the door, and approaches Michaelis. He speaks in a friendly and reasonable tone.

LITTLEFIELD.

You're on the wrong track, my friend.

MICHAELIS.

I asked you to go.

LITTLEFIELD.

I heard you. I want to say a word or two first. For your own sake and for that woman's sake, you'd better listen. You can't do anything for her baby.

MICHAELIS.

Is that for you to say?

LITTLEFIELD.

Yes, sir! It is most decidedly for me to say.

MICHAELIS.

By what authority?

LITTLEFIELD.

By the authority of medical knowledge.—You are a very remarkable man, with a very remarkable gift. In your own field, I take off my hat to you. If you knew yourself as science knows you, you might make the greatest doctor living. Your handling of Mrs. Beeler's case was masterly. But—come right down to it—you didn't work the cure.

MICHAELIS.

I know that.

LITTLEFIELD.

Who do you think did?

MICHAELIS.

Raising his hands.

He whom I serve, and whom you blaspheme!

LITTLEFIELD.

No, sir! He whom I serve, and whom you blaspheme—Nature. Or rather, Mrs. Beeler did it herself.

MICHAELIS.

Herself?

LITTLEFIELD.

You gave her a jog, so to speak, here, or here,

Touches his brain and heart.

and she did the rest. But you can't do the same to everybody. Above all, you can't do it to a baby in arms. There's nothing either here or here,

Touches brain and heart.

to get hold of. I'm a modest man, and as I say, in your own field you're a wonder. But in a case like this one—

He points to the hall door.

I'm worth a million of you.

MICHAELIS.

Moves as if to give place to him, with a challenging gesture toward the door.

Try!

LITTLEFIELD.

Shrugs.

Not much! The woman wouldn't listen to me. And if she did, and I failed—oh, I'm no miracle worker!—they'd make short work of me, out there.

He points out and adds significantly.

They're in no mood for failures, out there.

Michaelis's gaze, as if in spite of himself, goes to the window. He rests his hand on the table, to stop its trembling. Littlefield goes on, watching him with interest.

Nervously speaking, you are a high power machine. The dynamo that runs you is what is called "faith," "religious inspiration," or whatnot. It's a dynamo which nowadays easily gets out of order. Well, my friend, as a doctor, I warn you that your little dynamo is out of order.—In other words, you've lost your grip. You're in a funk.

Rhoda opens the hall door and looks anxiously at the two. Michaelis approaches her with averted eyes. As he is about to pass out, she speaks timidly.

RHODA.

Do you want me?

MICHAELIS.

In a toneless voice.

No.

She watches him until the inner door shuts. She and Littlefield confront each other in silence for a moment across the width of the room.

RHODA.

Forcing herself to speak calmly.

Please go.

LITTLEFIELD.

Drops his professional tone for one of cynical badinage.

You make up well as one of the Wise Virgins, whose lamps are trimmed and burning for the bridegroom to pass by. I hope that personage won't disappoint you, nor the several hundred others, out yonder, whose lamps are trimmed and burning.

The outer door opens. Mrs. Beeler enters, supported by her husband, and accompanied by Martha and the Rev. Culpepper, with Uncle Abe following in the rear. Rhoda hastens to her aunt's side.

MRS. BEELER.

Ah, Rhoda, I wish you had been out there with me. Such beautiful human faces! Such poor, suffering, believing human faces, lit up by such a wonderful new hope!

She turns to the minister.

Wasn't it a wonderful thing to see?

CULPEPPER.

It is wonderful to see human nature so credulous. And to me, very painful.

MRS. BEELER.

To-morrow you will see how right these poor souls are to lift their trust so high.—

To Rhoda.

Where is he now?

Rhoda points in the direction of her own room.

How happy that young mother's heart will be to-night!

UNCLE ABE.

Solemnly.

Amen!

CULPEPPER.

In a dry tone.

We will hope so.

They move to the hall door, where Beeler resigns his wife to Rhoda. The two pass out.

Culpepper, Littlefield, and Beeler remain. During the following conversation, Martha lights the lamp, after directing Uncle Abe, by a gesture, to take the provision basket into the kitchen. He does so.

LITTLEFIELD.

Pointing through the window.

They're just laying siege to you, ain't they? I guess they won't let your man give them the slip, this time—even though you do let him run loose.

BEELER.

With severity.

You have seen my wife walk alone to-day, the first time in five years.

LITTLEFIELD.

I beg your pardon. I understand how you feel about it.

Martha goes out into the kitchen.

And even if it proves to be only temporary—

BEELER.

Temporary!

LITTLEFIELD.

Permanent, let us hope. Anyway, it's a very remarkable case. Astonishing. I've only known one just like it—personally, I mean.

BEELER.

Astounded.

Just like it?

LITTLEFIELD.

Well, pretty much. Happened in Chicago when I was an interne at St. Luke's.

BEELER.

Then it's not—there's nothing—peculiar about it?

LITTLEFIELD.

Yes, sir-ree! Mighty peculiar!

BEELER.

I mean nothing, as you might say, outside nature?

LITTLEFIELD.

O, bless you, you can't get outside nature nowadays!

Moves his hands in a wide circle.

Tight as a drum, no air-holes.—Devilish queer, though—pardon me, Mr. Culpepper—really amazing, the power of the mind over the body.

CULPEPPER.

Would you be good enough to let us hear some of your professional experiences?

LITTLEFIELD.

Lights a cigarette, as he leans on the edge of the table.

Don't have to go to professional medicine for cases. They're lying around loose. Why, when I was at Ann Arbor—in a fraternity initiation—we bared a chap's shoulders, showed him a white-hot poker, blindfolded him, told him to stand steady, and—touched him with a piece of ice. A piece of ice, I tell you! What happened? Damned if it—pardon me, Mr. Culpepper—blessed if it didn't burn him—carries the scars to this day. Then there was that case in Denver. Ever hear about that? A young girl, nervous patient. Nails driven through the palms of her hands,—tenpenny nails,—under the hypnotic suggestion that she wasn't being hurt. Didn't leave a cicatrice as big as a bee sting! Fact!

BEELER.

You think my wife's case is like these?

LITTLEFIELD.

Precisely; with religious excitement to help out.

He points outside.

They're getting ready for Kingdom-come over it, out yonder, dear Dr. Culpepper.

BEELER.

They're worked up enough, if that's all that's needed.

LITTLEFIELD.

Worked up! Elijah in a chariot of fire, distributing cure-alls as he mounts to glory. They've got their ascension robes on, especially the niggers.

CULPEPPER.

With severity.

I take it you are the late Dr. Martin's successor.

LITTLEFIELD.

I have the honor.

CULPEPPER.

Old Dr. Martin would never have taken a flippant tone in such a crisis.

LITTLEFIELD.

Flippant? By no means! A little light-headed. My profession is attacked. At its very roots, sir.—

With relish.

As far as that goes, I'm afraid yours is, too.

CULPEPPER.

To Beeler, ignoring the gibe.

Am I to understand that you countenance these proceedings?

BEELER.

Pointing to the invalid chair.

If your wife had spent five years helpless in that chair, I guess you'd countenance any proceedings that set her on her feet.

CULPEPPER.

Towers threateningly.

If your wife is the woman she was, she would rather sit helpless forever beside the Rock of Ages, than dance and flaunt herself in the house of idols!

BEELER.

With depreciating humor.

O, I guess she ain't doin' much flauntin' of herself in any house of idols.—You've heard Doctor here say it's all natural enough. Maybe this kind of cure is the coming thing.

LITTLEFIELD.

The Brother would drive us doctors into the poorhouse, if he could keep up the pace. And you preachers, too, as far as that goes. If he could keep up the pace! Well—

Sucks at his cigarette deliberately.

lucky for us, he can't keep it up.

BEELER.

Why can't he keep it up?

LITTLEFIELD.

Can't stand the strain.—Oh, I haven't seen him operate, but I'm willing to bet his miracles take it out of him!

CULPEPPER.

Takes his hat and goes toward the outer door.

Miracles, indeed!

LITTLEFIELD.

Following.

Oh, wait for me, Doctor; we're both in the same boat!

BEELER.

Hope you gentlemen will come back again to-night, and soon too. Don't know what'll happen if things go wrong in there.

Points towards the hall.

LITTLEFIELD.

All right—you can count on me—

BEELER.

To Culpepper.

And you?

CULPEPPER.

I seldom shirk my duty.

Beeler closes the door after them.

Martha enters from the kitchen, with a pan of dough, which she sets before the fire to raise.

BEELER.

You keepin' an eye out, Marthy?

MARTHA.

Guess your barn'd 'a' been afire, if I hadn't been keepin' an eye out.

BEELER.

I warned 'em about fire!

MARTHA.

Haymow ketched. If I hadn't been there to put it out, we'd 'a' been without a roof by now.

BEELER.

Guess I better go keep an eye out myself.

MARTHA.

Guess you had!

Beeler goes out by the kitchen. Martha takes up mechanically her eternal task of setting things to rights—gathering up Annie's toys and arranging the furniture in more precise order. Meanwhile, Rhoda enters from the hall with the mother of the sick child, a frail young woman of nervous type. She clings to Rhoda feverishly.

MOTHER.

Don't leave me!

RHODA.

You mustn't worry. Your baby will get well.

Rhoda sinks in a low easy chair before the fire, and the woman kneels beside her, her face hidden on the chair arm.

You must keep up your courage and your trust. That will help more than anything.

MOTHER.

I'm afraid!

RHODA.

Think of those others out there, who are waiting too, without the glimpse of comfort you've had.

MOTHER.

Bursts out.

I ain't had no comfort! When I heard him pray for my child, I—I don't know—I kept sayin' to myself—"O God, it's me that's stretchin' out my hands to you, not him. Don't punish me for his cold words!"

Martha, who has been listening, shakes her head significantly.

RHODA.

Cold words!

MOTHER.

Yes, I know it's wrong. I'll try to feel different. It's because I ain't had nothin' to do with religion for so long.—If my baby gets well, I'll make up for it. I'll make up for everything.

The woman rises. Rhoda kisses her.

RHODA.

I shall be here if you want me. And I shall—pray for you.

The mother goes out. Distant singing is heard. Martha comes to the mantelpiece with matches, which she arranges in the match tray. She looks at Rhoda, who sits with closed eyes.

MARTHA.

Guess you're about dead beat.

RHODA.

I think I never was so tired in my life.

MARTHA.

Worry does it, more'n work. Better try and doze off, Rhody.

The hall door opens, and Annie enters. She comes to Martha, and clings nervously to her skirts.

ANNIE.

Aunt Martha! I want to stay with you. You're the only person in this house that ain't different. What's the matter with Mamma?

MARTHA.

She's cured, I reckon.

ANNIE.

How did she get cured?

MARTHA.

You can search me!

ANNIE.

Did that man cure her?

MARTHA.

That's what she says, and I don't hear him denyin' it.

ANNIE.

Whining.

I don't want her to be cured!

MARTHA.

Annie Beeler! Don't want your mother to be cured?

ANNIE.

No, I don't. I want her to be like she always has been. She don't seem like my Mamma at all this way. What's the matter with all those people out there? Why don't we have any supper?

She bursts out crying and clings feverishly to Martha.

Oh, what's going to happen to us?

MARTHA.

There, Annie, don't cry.

She looks at Rhoda, throws a cover over her knees, and draws Annie away, speaking low.

Come out in the kitchen, and I'll give you your supper.

Exeunt. The singing grows louder and nearer. Michaelis enters from the hall. His hair is dishevelled, his collar open, his manner feverish and distraught. He looks closely at Rhoda, sees she is sleeping, then paces the floor nervously, gazing out of the window in the direction of the singing. At length he comes to Rhoda again, and bends over her, studying her face. She starts up, confused and terror-stricken, from her doze.

RHODA.

What—what is the matter? Oh, you frightened me so!

Michaelis turns away without answering.

What has happened? Why are you here?

MICHAELIS.

You had dropped asleep. You are weary.

RHODA.

Collecting her thoughts with difficulty.

I was dreaming—such a strange dream.

MICHAELIS.

What did you dream?

RHODA.

I thought it was morning; the sun had risen, and—and you were out there, in the midst of the crowd.

MICHAELIS.

Excitedly.

Go on! What happened?

RHODA.

I—I can't remember the rest.

MICHAELIS.

Grasps her arm, speaks low.

You must remember! Did I—succeed?

RHODA.

Helplessly.

I—it's all a blur in my mind.

MICHAELIS.

Darkly.

You don't want me to know that, in your dream, I failed.

RHODA.

No, no. That is not so.

Pause. She speaks with hesitation.

Perhaps this is not the time. Perhaps you are not ready.

MICHAELIS.

What does that matter? He is ready.

He points at the map.

RHODA.

Gazing at the map, with mystic conviction.

You will succeed! You must succeed!

He paces the room. She stops him, pointing toward the hall door.

How is the child?

He hesitates. She repeats the words anxiously.

How is the child?

He shakes his head gloomily for answer.

It will get well, I am sure.

MICHAELIS.

If it does not, I am judged.

RHODA.

Oh, don't say that or think it!

MICHAELIS.

I am weighed in the balance and found wanting!

RHODA.

You cannot hang the whole issue and meaning of your life upon so slight a thread.

MICHAELIS.

The whole issue and meaning of the world hang on threads as slight. If this one is slight. To the mother it is not slight, nor to the God who put into her eyes, as she looked at me, all the doubt and question of the suffering earth.

RHODA.

You must remember that it is only a little child. Its mind is not open. You cannot influence it—can you?

MICHAELIS.

Once that little life in my hand would have been as clay in the hands of the potter. If I cannot help now, it is because my ministry has been taken from me and given to another, who will be strong where I am weak, and faithful where I am unfaithful.

Another song rises outside, distant.

RHODA.

Comes closer to him.

Tell me this. Speak plainly to me. Is it because of me that your weakness and unfaith have come upon you? Is it because of me?

MICHAELIS.

Looking at her steadily.

Yes.—

He comes nearer.

Before creation, beyond time, God not yet risen from His sleep, you stand and call to me, and I listen in a dream that I dreamed before Eden.

RHODA.

Shrinking from him.

You must not say such things to me.—You must not think of me so.—You must not!

He follows her, his passion mounting.

MICHAELIS.

All my life long I have known you, and fled from you, I have heard you singing on the hills of sleep and have fled from you into the waking day. I have seen you in the spring forest, dancing and throwing your webs of sunlight to snare me; on moonlit mountains, laughing and calling; in the streets of crowded cities, beckoning and disappearing in the crowd—and everywhere I have fled from you, holding above my head the sign of God's power in me, my gift and my mission.—What use? What use? It has crumbled, and I do not care!

RHODA.

Oh, don't speak such words, I beseech you. Let me go. This must not, shall not be!

She makes another attempt to escape. He presses upon her until she stands at bay.

MICHAELIS.

You are all that I have feared and shunned and missed on earth, and now I have you, the rest is as nothing.

He takes her, feebly resisting, into his arms.

I know a place out there, high in the great mountains. Heaven-piercing walls of stone, a valley of trees and sweet water in the midst—grass and flowers, such flowers as you have never dreamed could grow.—There we will take our happiness. A year—a month—a day—what matter? We will make a lifetime of each hour!

RHODA.

Yielding to his embrace, whispers.

Don't talk. Don't think. Only—love me. A little while. A little while.

The deep hush of their embrace is broken by a cry from within. The young mother opens the hall door, in a distraction of terror and grief.

MOTHER.

Come here! Come quick!

Michaelis and Rhoda draw apart. He stares at the woman, as if not remembering who she is.

I can't rouse him! My baby's gone. Oh, my God, he's dead!

She disappears. Rhoda follows, drawing Michaelis, dazed and half resisting, with her. The room remains vacant for a short time, the stage held by distant singing. Beeler enters from the kitchen. There is a knock at the outer door, which he opens. Littlefield, Culpepper, and Uncle Abe enter.

LITTLEFIELD.

Your man hasn't vamoosed, has he? Uncle Abe here says he saw the Indian boy slipping by in the fog.

BEELER.

Turns to the negro inquiringly.

Alone?

UNCLE ABE.

Mumbles half to himself.

'Lone. 'Spec' he was alone. Didn't even have his own flesh and bones wif 'im!

BEELER.

What's that?

UNCLE ABE.

Holds up his right hand, which he eyes with superstitious interest.

Put dis hyar han' right frough him!—Shore's you're bo'n. Right plum' frough 'im whar he lives.

CULPEPPER.

Mediaeval! Absolutely mediaeval!

LITTLEFIELD.

Not a bit of it. It's up to date, and a little more, too.

CULPEPPER.

I'm astonished that you take this situation flippantly.

LITTLEFIELD.

Not for a minute. My bread and butter are at stake.

Wickedly.

Yours too, you know.

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