The Visioning by Susan Glaspell
Before she had finished her writing Wayne and Worth came up on the porch. The little boy had been over at the shops with his father.
"Father," he was saying, imagination under the stimulus of things he had been seeing, "I suppose our gun will kill 'bout forty thousand million folks--won't it, father?"
"Why no, son, I hope it's not going to be such a beastly gun as that," laughed Captain Jones.
"Yes, but, father, isn't a good gun a gun that kills folks? What's the use making a gun at all if it isn't going to kill folks?"
His father looked at him strangely. "Sonny," he said, "you're hitting home rather hard."
"Your reasoning is poor, Worth," said Katie; "fact is we make guns to keep folks from getting killed. If we didn't have the guns everybody would get killed. Now don't say 'why.'"
"'Cause you don't know why," calmly remarked Worth, adding: "I'll ask Watts, and if he don't know I'll ask the man that mends the boats."
"Do," said Katie.
Having, to his own satisfaction, exterminated some forty thousand million members of the human family, Worth opened attack on the puppies. He was an Indian and they were poor white settlers and he was going to kill them. No poor white settlers had ever received an Indian so joyously.
But he seemed to have left those forty thousand million souls on his father's hands. Wayne was looking very serious. He did not respond to--did not appear to have heard--Katie's remark about Worth needing some new clothes.
Katie wondered what he was thinking about; she supposed some new kind of barrel steel. She took it for granted that nothing short of steel could produce that look.
She was proud of the things that look had done, proud of the distinction her brother had already won in the army, proud, in advance, of the things she was confident he would do.
Captain Jones was at the Arsenal on special detail. An invention of his pertaining to the rifle was being manufactured for tests. There was keen interest in it and its final adoption seemed assured. It was of sufficient importance to make his name one of those conspicuous in army affairs. He had already several lesser things--devices pertaining to equipment--to his credit and was looked upon as one of the most promising of the army's men of invention.
And aside from her pride in him, Katie's affection for her brother was deep, intensified because of their being alone. Their father had died when Katie was sixteen, died as a result of wounds received long before in frontier skirmishes, where he had been one of those many brave men to serve fearlessly and faithfully, men who gave more to their country than their country perhaps understood. Their mother survived him only two years. Katie sometimes said that her mother, too, gave her life to her country. Her health had been undermined by hard living on the frontier--she who had been so tenderly reared in her southern home--and in the end she also died from a wound, that wound dealt the heart in the death of her husband. Katie revered her father's memory and adored her mother's, and while youth and Katie's indomitable spirit made it hard for one to think of her as sad, the memory of those two was the deepest, biggest thing in the girl's life.
"Oh Katie," Wayne suddenly roused himself to say, "your cousin Fred Wayneworth is in town. I had luncheon with him over the river. He sent all sorts of messages to you."
"Well--really! Messages! Why this haughty aloofness? Doesn't he mean to come over?"
"Oh yes, of course; to-morrow--perhaps to-night. He's fearfully busy--stopped off on his way East. There's a row on in the forest service about some of Osborne's timber claims--mining claims, too, I believe--in Colorado. Those years in the West have developed Fred splendidly. He's gone from boy to man, and a fine specimen of man, at that."
"He likes his work?"
"Full of it." Wayne was silent for a moment, then added: "I envied him."
It startled Katie. "Envied him? Why--why, Wayne? Surely you're lucky."
He laughed: not the laugh of a man too pleased with his luck. "Oh, am I? Perhaps I am, but just the same I envy a fellow who can look that way when talking about his work."
"But you have a work, Wayne."
"No, I have a place."
She grew more and more puzzled. "Why, Wayne, you've been all wrapped up in this thing you were doing."
He threw his cigarette away impatiently. "Oh yes, just for the sake of doing it. I get a certain satisfaction in scheming things out. I must say, however, I'd like to scheme out something I'd get some satisfaction in having schemed out. A morsel of truth dropped from the mouth of a babe a minute ago. You may have observed, Katie, that his inquiry was more direct and reasonable than your reply. An improvement on a rifle. Not such a satisfying thing to leave to a rifle eliminating future."
"But I didn't know the army admitted it was to be a rifle eliminating future."
"I'm not saying that the army does," he laughed.
He passed again to that look of almost passionate concentration which Katie had always supposed meant metallic fouling or some--to her--equally incomprehensible thing. He emerged from it to exclaim tensely: "Oh I get so sick of the spirit of the army!"
Instinctively Katie looked around. He saw it, and laughed.
"There you go! We've made a perfect fetich of loyalty. It's a different sort of loyalty those forestry fellows have--a more live, more constructive loyalty. The loyalty that comes, not through form, but through devotion to the work--a common interest in a common cause. Ours is built on dead things. Custom, and the caste--I know no other word--just the bull-headed, asinine, undemocratic caste that custom has built up."
"And yet--there must be discipline," Katie murmured: it seemed dreadful Wayne should be tearing down their house in that rude fashion, house in which they had dwelt so long, and so comfortably.
"Discipline is one thing. Bullying's another. I've never been satisfied discipline couldn't be enforced without snobbery. To-day Solesby--one year out of West Point!--walked through a shop I was in. He passed men working at their machines--skilled mechanics, many of them men of intelligence, ideas, character--as though he were passing so much cattle. I wanted to take him by the neck and throw him out!"
"Oh well," protested Katie, "one year out of the Point! He's yet to learn men are not cattle."
"Well, Leonard never learned it. His back gets some black looks, let me tell you."
"Wayne dear," she laughed, "I'm afraid you're not talking like an officer and a gentleman."
"I get tired talking like an officer and a gentleman. Sometimes I feel like talking like a man."
"But couldn't you be court-martialed for doing that?" she laughed.
"I think Leonard thinks I should be."
"Because I talk to the men. There's a young mechanic who has been detailed to me, and he and I get on famously. All too famously, I take it Leonard thinks. He came in to-day when this young Ferguson was telling me some things about his union. He treated Ferguson like a dog and me like a suspicious character."
"Dear me, Wayne," she murmured, "don't get in trouble."
"Trouble!" he scoffed. "Well if I can get in trouble for talking with an intelligent man I'm working with about the things that man knows--then let me get in trouble! I'd rather talk to Ferguson than Solesby--we've more in common. Oh I'll get in no trouble," he added grimly. "Leonard knows it wouldn't sound well to say it. But he feels it, just the same. Right there's the difference between our service and this forest service. That's where they're democrats and we're fossils. Look at the difference in the spirit of the ranger and the spirit of the soldier! And it's not because they're whipped into line and bullied and snarled at. It's because they're treated like men--and made to feel they're a needed part of a big whole. You should hear Fred tell of the way men meet in this forest service--superintendent meeting ranger on a common ground. And why? Because they're doing something constructive. Because the work's the thing that counts. You'll see what it's done for Fred. The boy has a real dignity; not the stiff-necked kind he'd acquire around an army post, but the dignity that comes with the consciousness of being, not in the service, but of service."
He fell silent there, and Katie watched him. He had never spoken to her that way before--she had not dreamed he felt like that; heretofore it had been only through laughing little jibes at the army she had had any inkling of his feeling toward it. That she had not taken seriously; half the people she knew in the service jibed at it to others in the service. This depth of feeling disturbed her, moved her to defense. After a moment's consideration she emerged triumphant with the Panama canal.
He shook his head. "When you consider the percentage of the army so engaged, you can't feel as happy about it as you'd like to. We ought all to be digging Panama canals!"
"Heavens, Wayne--we don't need them."
"Plenty of things we do need."
"Well I don't think you're fair to the army, Wayne. You're not looking into it--deeply enough. You're doing just as much as Fred, for in safeguarding the country you permit this constructive work to go on. As to our formalities--they have run off into absurdity at some points, but it was a real spirit created those very forms."
"True. And now the spirit's dead and the form's left--and what's so absurd as a form that rattles dead bones?"
"Father didn't feel as you do, Wayne."
"He had no cause to. He was needed. But we don't need the army on the frontier now. That's done. And we do need the forest service--the thing to build up. There's no use harking back to traditions. The world moves on too fast for that. Question is--not what did you do yesterday--but what good are you to-day--what are you worth to-morrow? Oh, I'm not condemning the army half so much as I'm sympathizing with it," he laughed. "It's full of live men who want to be doing something--instead of being compelled to argue that they're some good. They get very tired saying they're useful. They'd like to make it self-evident."
"Well, perhaps we'll have a war with Japan," said Katie consolingly.
"Perhaps we will. Having an army that's spoiling for it, I don't see how we can very well miss it."
"But if we had no army we certainly should have a war."
His silence led Katie to gasp: "Wayne, are you becoming--anti-militarist?"
He laughed. "Oh, I don't know what I'm becoming. But as to myself--I do know this. There would be more satisfaction in constructive work than in work that constructs only that it may be ready to destroy. I would find it more satisfying to help give my country itself--through natural and legitimate means--than stand ready to give it some corner of some other country."
"But to keep the other country from getting a corner of it?"
"Doesn't it occur to you, Katie, that as a matter of fact the other country might like a chance to develop its resources? We're like a crowd of boys with rocks in their hands and all afraid to throw down the rocks. If one did, the others might be immensely relieved. It seems rather absurd, standing there with rocks nobody wants to throw--especially when there are so many other things to be doing--and everybody saying, 'I've got to keep mine because he's got his.' Would you call that a very intelligent gang of kids? Ferguson says it's the workingmen of the world will bring about disarmament. That they're coming to feel their common cause as workers too keenly to be forced into war with each other."
"That's what the man that mends the boats says," piped up Worth. "He says that when they're all socialists there won't be any wars--'cause nobody'll go. But Watts says that day'll never come, thank God."
"Are you thanking God for yourself or for Watts, sonny?" laughed his father. "And who, pray, is the man that mends the boats?"
"The man that mends the boats, father, is a man that's 'most as smart as you are."
"It has been a long time," gravely remarked Wayne, "since any man has been brought to my attention so highly commended as that."
But their talk had been sobering to them both, for they spoke seriously then of various things. It was probable that before long Wayne would be ordered to Washington. He wanted to know what Katie would do then. Why not spend next season in Washington with him? Just what were her plans?
But Katie had no plans. And suddenly she realized how completely all things had been changed by the coming of Ann.
She had spent much of her life in Washington. She loved it; loved its official life, in particular its army and diplomatic life; and loved, too, that rigidly guarded old Washington to which, as her mother's daughter, the door stood open to her. Her uncle, the Bishop, lived in a city close by. His home was the fixed spot which Katie called home. In Washington--and near it--she would find friends on all sides. Just thirty days before she would have gloated over that prospect of next season there.
But she was not prepared to bombard Washington with Ann. The mere suggestion carried realization of how propitious things had been, how simple she had found it.
The little game they were playing seemed to cut Katie off from her life, too, and without leaving the luxury of feeling sorry for herself. With it all, Washington did not greatly allure. Washington, as she knew it, was distinctly things as they were; just now nothing allured half so much as those long dim paths of wondering leading off into the unknown.
Suddenly she had an odd sense of Washington--all that it represented to her--being the play, the game, the thing made to order and seeming very tame to her because she was dwelling with real things. It was as if her craft of make-believe was the thing which had been able to carry her toward the shore of reality.
And so she told Wayne that she had no plans. Perhaps she would go back to Europe with Ann.
He turned quickly at that. "She goes back?"
"Oh yes--I suppose so."
"But why? Where? To whom?"
"Why? Why, why not? Why does one go anywhere? Florence is to Ann what Washington is to me--a sort of center."
"Katie," he asked abruptly, "has she no people? No ties? Isn't she--moored any place?"
"Am I 'moored' any place?" returned Kate.
"Why, yes; to the things that have made you--to the things you're part of. By moored I don't mean necessarily a fixed spot. But I have a feeling--"
He seemed either unable or unwilling to express it, and instead laughed: "I'd like to know how much her father made a month, and whether her mother was a good cook--a few little things like that to make her less a shadow. Do you really get at her, Katie?"
"Why--why, yes," stammered Katie; "though I told you, Wayne, that Ann was different. Quiet--and just now, sad."
"I don't think of her as particularly quiet," he replied; "and sad isn't it, either. I think of her"--he paused and concluded uncertainly--"as a girl in a dream."
"Her dream or your dream, Wayne?" laughed Katie, just to turn it.
She was throwing sticks for the puppies and missed his startled look.
But it was Katie who was startled when he said, still uncertainly, and more to himself than to Katie: "Though she's so real."
Ann and Captain Prescott were coming toward them. She had never looked less like a girl in a dream. Laughing and jesting with her companion, she looked simply like an exceedingly pretty girl having a very good time.
"But you like Ann, don't you, Wayne?" Katie asked anxiously.
"Yes," said Wayne, "I like her."
She came running up the steps to them, flushed, happy, as free from self-consciousness as Worth would have been. "Katie," she cried, "I played the last one in four. Didn't I?" turning proudly to the Captain for endorsement.
Both men were looking at her with pleasure: cheeks flushed, eyes glowing, hair a little disheveled and a little damp about the forehead, panting a little, her lithe, beautiful body swaying gently, hands outstretched to show Wayne how she had hardened her palms, Ann had never seemed so lovely and so live. In that moment it mattered not whether one knew anything about the earning capacity of her father or the culinary abilities of her mother. She was real. Real as sunshine and breezes and birds are real, as Worth and the puppies tumbling over each other on the grass were real, as all that is life-loving is real. And not detached, not mistily floating, but moored to that very love of life, capacity for life, to that look she had awakened in the faces of the men to whom she was talking. It seemed a paltry thing just then to wonder whether Ann was child of farmer, or clothing merchant, or great artist. She was Life's child. Love's child. Love's child--only she had not dwelt all her days in her father's house. But it was her father's house; that was why, once warmed and comforted, she could radiantly take her place. Watching her as she was going over her game for Wayne, demonstrating some of her strokes, and her slim, beautiful body made even the poor strokes wonderful things, Katie was not speculating on whether Ann had come from Chicago, or Florence, or Big Creek. She was thinking that Ann was product, expression, of the love of the world, that love which had brought the laughter and the tears, brought the hope and the radiance and the tragedy of life.
And then, suddenly and inexplicably, Katie was afraid. Of just what, she did not know; of things--big, tempestuous things--which Katie did not very well understand, and which Ann--perhaps not understanding either--seemed to embody. "Come, Ann," she said, "we must make ready for dinner."
Captain Prescott called after them that next he was going to teach Ann to ride. "Oh, we'll make an army girl of her yet," he laughed.
Ann turned back. "Do you know," she said, "I don't understand the army very well. Just what is it the army does?"
They laughed. "Ask the peace society in Boston," suggested Prescott.
But Wayne said: "Some day soon you and I'll take a ride on the river and I'll deliver a little lecture on the army."
"Oh, that will be nice," said Ann radiantly.