A mother wonders -- (Sarah):
What Clark did wasn't nice --
leaving during the service
like that. Can you imagine?
Of course, I hid my chagrin
and went out to look for him,
but the search proved fruitless
and I had to wait outside
until John Ross, our ride,
was ready to leave with his kin.
He's such a gentleman --
told me not to worry,
that Clark had probably
just gotten antsy and gone home,
and his wife Sally said their Pete
is as troublesome -- an only child
has the energy of three, she said --
and that I should be
to their home soon for tea
and to discuss it further.
Why Eben so dislikes
that clan I can't say.
A husband frets -- (Eben):
The brazen way he stares
as she steps off his rig --
it isn't decent! Mrs. Ross,
being present, ought to stop it.
Well, that bigot can act
as chivalrous as he wants --
I know the real John Ross: snake-in-the-grass
waiting to spring and bite. "Sarah Ross":
Why, even saying' it burns my tongue.
Lucky I had the chance
to be Sarah Clark's first romance
when the three of us were young, yes-sir!
Well, I'd best meet her at the gate
now, counter the weight
of my old rival's act her views,
keep her stumb'lin onto Clark too --
that hole'd upset her so
-- help her pack her valises,
'n see her off to see the Dents
in Metropolis. Ha! Distant
relations! Thank Heaven for 'em!
A neighbor's ruminations -- (John Ross):
Eben, you've got horses, but no sense.
Ya' slave away, worse for the wear
of every harvest,
while bankers milk ya' with their interest
and mortgages -- like all those in the West
whose dollars feed
the damn New Yorkers' war machine.
We had our rage once
but you've given in to age
and comfort. Horses!
Who ya' think ya' are, com'portin
yourself like an ole massa: plantation,
couple a' houses, 'n forgetting' the cause?
My friend, I'm gonna give you pause,
setcha t'pasture --
'taint no man moves faster
than the Secret Nation...
"Whas' that, Sally? We missed our turn?
Tarnation! Why don't this mule learn?!"
A narrator resumes his observations --
Eben's father, Hiram Kent, kept up
a machine shop in a shack he set up
behind the barn. Equipment like his lathe
was more than anyone dreamed of in those days,
but Hiram, Small County's craftsman, loved
to work with his hands; and it meant money
while the land rested in winter, and food
for Eben and Sam. He early pressed
his sons into service. Eben's first
work as machinist (he'll soon throw that hasp,
open that gate) was with a brand of brass
that flakes when cut. This made the project
most difficult. Metallic dust hung
in the air, in his nostrils, in his lungs.
The hinge stunk as much -- O, how it stung! --
but the gate has held. Though the crossbeams
have begun to splinter and the posts lean,
the fence still makes for good neighbors.
Seeing this early product of his life's labors,
Eben's ill feelings recede.
He pulls back the dead bolt and admits his wife.
A couple, long wed, converse --
Sarah speaking first):
-- Thank you, dear;
You're so good about doors.
-- You're welcome.
(And Eben holds her shoulders,
halts her too quick progress
with his big hands and face.
He keeps her near the fence
just to ask...)
-- Why you looking' so riled?
-- Seen your son?
-- He came by, stayed a bit,
had some problem
with another "power," but
he'll work it out.
-- Guess I'm relieved at that.
Eben, it was... disturbing,
you not there and him disappearing.
-- Suppose I'll have to start
church goin' again
just to keep 'yer heart steady.
-- When I get back?
-- Reckon by then I'll be ready.
-- Come with me?
-- Now, Sarah, I can't go
to the city with you,
not when there's work to do.
-- Clark can handle it. You know that
(and she gives him a loving slap
and calls him a stubborn fool).
Don't you want to go, get an eyeful
of all the sights you've never seen?
-- Tall buildings ain't my cup o' tea,
honey; things a man can't see
the top of, let alone climb.
And the crime! Why bother?
Your brother-in-law's not
my favorite fellow, either.
No ma'am, I've got no inclination
to visit your Metropolis.
Farm's for a man, for me;
though I surely will miss
my girl, if she insists on going.
-- I do. Haven't seen my sis' fer years.
I'm not mad any more.
-- I can tell. It's the smile.
[And, as he leads her the half mile
down the path to the house
(seems the coast is clear),
he cannot help but ask]:
How were the Rosses, dear?
-- John was concerned
and Sally helpful.
Pete was behaved, and the talk,
dear? Why, Ellis was simply artful.
They reach the house, find Clark out front
chopping wood, no shovel in sight,
his ship laid to rest and no blight
of a wound on the earth showing.
Eben is in awe of his son,
but Clark is his son, and his son
wants his wife to read him a story
before she goes. She does (Idylls
of the King, a tale of glory
in the best troubadour tradition)
and promises a first sewing lesson
when she gets home. Of the dressing
Clark salved onto their lot? "Likely --"
Pa savors the secret, putting
Ma's bags on cart, "-- she'll never know"
what transpired here today.
Before she goes away, the boy
is sent out to play ("Have to report
that missing dog," Pa notes, "on Monday"),
A couple, long wed, consort --
(Sarah and Eben):