- a play in one-act
by Percy MacKaye
The following one-act play is reprinted from The Atlantic Book of Modern Plays. Ed. Sterling Andrus Leonard. Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921. It is now in the public domain and may therefore be performed without royalties.
- LINK TADBOURNE
[A woodshed, in the ell of a farm-house. The shed is open on both sides, front and back, the apertures being slightly arched at the top. (In bad weather, these presumably may be closed by big double doors, which stand open now--swung back outward beyond sight.) Thus the nearer opening is the proscenium arch of the scene, under which the spectator looks through the shed to the background--a grassy yard, a road with great trunks of soaring elms, and the glimpse of a green hillside. The ceiling runs up into a gable with large beams.]
[On the right, at back, a door opens into the shed from the house kitchen. Opposite it, a door leads from the shed into the barn. In the foreground, against the right wall, is a work-bench. On this are tools, a long, narrow, wooden box, and a small oil-stove, with steaming kettle upon it.]
[Against the left wall, what remains of the year's wood supply is stacked, the uneven ridges sloping to a jumble of stovewood and kindlings mixed with small chips of the floor, which is piled deep with mounds of crumbling bark, chips and wood-dust.]
[Not far from this mounded pile, at right centre of the scene, stands a wooden armchair, in which LINK TADBOURNE, in his shirt-sleeves, sits drowsing. Silhouetted by the sunlight beyond, his sharp-drawn profile is that of an old man, with white hair cropped close, and gray moustache of a faded black hue at the outer edges. Between his knees is a stout thong of wood, whittled round by the drawshave which his sleeping hand still holds in his lap. Against the side of his chair rests a thick wooden yoke and collar. Near him is a chopping-block.]
[In the woodshed there is no sound or motion except the hum and floating steam from the tea-kettle. Presently the old man murmurs in his sleep, clenching his hand. Slowly the hand relaxes again.]
[From the door, right, comes POLLY--a sweet-faced girl of seventeen, quietly mature for her age. She is dressed simply. In one hand she carries a man's wide-brimmed felt hat, over the other arm a blue coat. These she brings toward LINK. Seeing him asleep, she begins to tiptoe, lays the coat and hat on the chopping-block, goes to the bench, and trims the wick of the oil-stove, under the kettle. Then she returns and stands near LINK, surveying the shed.]
[On closer scrutiny, the jumbled woodpile has evidently a certain order in its chaos; some of the splittings have been piled in irregular ridges; in places, the deep layer of wood-dust and chips has been scooped, and the little mounds slope and rise like miniature valleys and hills.]
[Taking up a hoe, POLLY--with careful steps--moves among the hollows, placing and arranging sticks of kindling, scraping and smoothing the little mounds with the hoe. As she does so, from far away, a bugle sounds.]
[NOTE: A suggestion for the appropriate arrangement of these mounds may be found in the map of the battle-field annexed to the volume by Captain R.K. Beecham, entitled Gettysburg (A.C. McClurg, 1911).]
- LINK: (snapping his eyes wide open, sits up) Hello! Cat-nappin' was I, Polly?
- POLLY: Just a kitten-nap, I guess.
- (Laying the hoe down, she approaches)
- The yoke done?
- LINK: (giving a final whittle to the yoke-collar thong)
- When he's ben steamed a spell, and bended snug,
- I guess this feller'll sarve t' say "Gee" to--
- (Lifting the other yoke-collar from beside his chair, he holds the whittled thong next to it, comparing the two with expert eye)
- and "Haw" to him. Beech every time, Sir; beech
- or walnut. Hang me if I'd shake a whip
- at birch, for ox-yokes.--Polly, are ye thar?
- POLLY: Yes, Uncle Link.
- LINK: What's that I used to sing ye?
- "Polly, put the kittle on,
- Polly, put the kittle on,
- Polly, put the kittle on--"
- We'll give this feller a dose of ox-yoke tea!
- POLLY: The kettle's boilin'.
- LINK: Wall, then, steep him good.
- [POLLY takes from LINK the collar-thong, carries it to the work-bench, shoves it into the narrow end of the box, which she then closes tight and connects--by a piece of hose--to the spout of the kettle. At the farther end of the box, steam then emerges through a small hole.]
- POLLY: You're feelin' smart to-day.
- LINK: Smart!--Wall, if I
- could git a hull man to swap legs with me,
- mebbe I'd arn my keep. But this here settin'
- dead an' alive, without no legs, day in,
- day out, don't make an old hoss wuth his oats.
- POLLY: (cheerfully)
- I guess you'll soon be walkin' round.
- LINK: Not if
- that doctor feller has his say: He says
- I can't never go agin this side o' Jordan;
- and looks like he's 'bout right.--Nine months to-morrer,
- Polly, gal, sence I had that stroke.
- POLLY: (pointing to the ox-yoke)
- You're fitter
- sittin' than most folks standin'.
- LINK: (briskly)
- Oh, they can't
- keep my two hands from makin' ox-yokes. That's
- my second natur' sence I was a boy.
- (Again in the distance a bugle sounds. LINK starts.)
- What's that?
- POLLY: Why, that's the army veterans
- down to the graveyard. This is Decoration
- mornin': you ain't forgot?
- LINK: So't is, so't is.
- Roger, your young man--ha! (chuckling) he come and axed me
- was I a-goin' to the cemetery.
- "Me? Don't I look it?" says I. Ha! "Don't I look it?"
- POLLY: He meant--to decorate the graves.
- LINK: O' course;
- but I must take my little laugh. I told him
- I guessed I wa'n't persent'ble anyhow,
- my mustache and my boots wa'n't blacked this mornin'.
- I don't jest like t' talk about my legs.--
- Be you a-goin' to take your young school folks,
- POLLY: Dear no! I told my boys and girls
- to march up this way with the band. I said
- I'd be a-stayin' home and learnin' how
- to keep school in the woodpile here with you.
- LINK: (looking up at her proudly)
- Schoolma'am at seventeen! Some smart, I tell ye!
- POLLY: (caressing him)
- Schoolmaster, you, past seventy; that's smarter!
- I tell 'em I learn from you, so's I can teach
- my young folks what the study-books leave out.
- LINK: Sure ye don't want to jine the celebratin'?
- POLLY: No, sir! We're goin' to celebrate right here,
- and you're to teach me to keep school some more.
- [She holds ready for him the blue coat and hat.]
- LINK: (looking up)
- What's thar?
- POLLY: Your teachin' rig.
- [She helps him on with it.]
- LINK: The old blue coat!--
- My, but I'd like to see the boys--(gazing at the hat) the Grand
- Old Army Boys! (dreamily) Yes, we was boys: jest boys!
- Polly, you tell your young folks, when they study
- the books, that we was nothin' else but boys
- jest fallin' in love, with best gals left t' home--
- the same as you; and when the shot was singin',
- we pulled their picters out, and prayed to them
- 'most morn'n the Almighty.
- (LINK looks up suddenly--a strange light in his face. Again, to a far strain of music, the bugle sounds.)
- Thar she blows
- POLLY: They're marchin' to the graves with flowers.
- LINK: My Godfrey!'t ain't so much thinkin' o' flowers
- and the young folks, their faces, and the blue
- line of old fellers marchin'--it's the music!
- that old brass voice a-callin'! Seems as though,
- legs or no legs, I'd have to up and foller
- to God-knows-whar, and holler--holler back
- to guns roarin' in the dark. No; durn it, no!
- I jest can't stan' the music.
- POLLY: (goes to the work-bench, where the box is steaming)
- Uncle Link,
- you want that I should steam this longer?
- LINK: (absently)
- A kittleful, a kittleful.
- POLLY: (coming over to him)
- Now, then,
- I'm ready for school.--I hope I've drawed the map
- all right.
- LINK: Map? Oh, the map!
- (Surveying the woodpile reminiscently, he nods.)
- Yes, thar she be:
- old Gettysburg!
- POLLY: I know the places--most.
- LINK: So, do ye? Good, now: whar's your marker?
- POLLY: (taking up the hoe)
- LINK: Willoughby Run: whar's that?
- POLLY: (pointing with the hoe toward the left of the woodpile)
- That's farthest over
- next the barn door.
- LINK: My, how we fit the Johnnies
- thar, the fust mornin'! Jest behind them willers,
- acrost the Run, that's whar we captur'd Archer.
- My, my!
- POLLY: Over there--that's Seminary Ridge.
- (She points to different heights and depressions, as LINK nods his approval.)
- Peach Orchard, Devil's Den, Round Top, the Wheatfield--
- LINK: Lord, Lord, the Wheatfield!
- POLLY: (continuing)
- Cemetery Hill,
- Little Round Top, Death Valley, and this here
- is Cemetery Ridge.
- LINK: (pointing to the little flag)
- And colors flyin'!
- We kep 'em flyin' thar, too, all three days,
- From start to finish.
- POLLY: Have I learned 'em right?
- LINK: A number One, chick! Wait a mite: Culp's Hill:
- I don't jest spy Culp's Hill.
- POLLY: There wa'n't enough
- kindlin's to spare for that. It ought to lay
- east there, towards the kitchen.
- LINK: Let it go!
- That's whar us Yanks left our back door ajar
- and Johnson stuck his foot in: kep' it thar,
- too, till he got it squoze off by old Slocum.
- Let Culp's Hill lay for now.--Lend me your marker.
- (POLLY hands him the hoe. From his chair, he reaches with it and digs in the chips.)
- Death Valley needs some scoopin' deeper. So:
- smooth off them chips.
- (POLLY does so with her foot.)
- You better guess't was deep
- As hell, that second day, come sundown.--Here,
- (He hands back the hoe to her.)
- flat down the Wheatfield yonder.
- (POLLY does so.)
- God a'mighty!
- That Wheatfield: wall, we flatted it down flatter
- than any pancake what you ever cooked,
- Polly; and't wa'n't no maple syrup neither
- was runnin', slipp'ry hot and slimy black,
- all over it, that nightfall.
- POLLY: Here's the road
- to Emmetsburg.
- LINK: No,'t 'ain't: this here's the pike
- to Taneytown, where Sykes's boys come sweatin',
- after an all-night march, jest in the nick
- to save our second day. The Emmetsburg
- road's thar.--Whar was I, 'fore I fell cat-nappin'?
- POLLY: At sunset, July second, sixty-three.
- LINK: (nodding, reminiscent)
- The Bloody Sundown! God, that crazy sun:
- she set a dozen times that afternoon,
- red-yeller as a punkin jack-o'-lantern,
- rairin' and pitchin' through the roarin' smoke
- till she clean busted, like the other bombs,
- behind the hills.
- POLLY: My! Wa'n't you never scart
- and wished you'd stayed t' home?
- LINK: Scart? Wall, I wonder!
- Chick, look a-thar: them little stripes and stars.
- I heerd a feller onct, down to the store,--
- a dressy mister, span-new from the city--
- layin' the law down: "All this stars and stripes,"
- says he, "and red and white and blue is rubbish,
- mere sentimental rot, spread-eagleism!"
- "I wan't' know!" says I. "In sixty-three,
- I knowed a lad, named Link. Onct, after sundown
- I met him stumblin'--with two dead men's muskets