SCENE: Sitting-room of the Mortons' farmhouse in the Middle West. At rise of curtain there are on the stage an old woman and a young man. GRANDMOTHER MORTON is in her rocking-chair near the open door, facing left. She has a sewing basket and is patching a boy's pants. She is very old. Her hands tremble.
SMITH has just come in and, hat in hand, is standing by the table. This was lived in the year 1879, afternoon of Fourth of July.
GRANDMOTHER: Might as well set down. When them boys that fought together all get in one square—they have to swap stories all over again. Well, it was the same way with the war of 1832.
SMITH: (who is now seated at the table) The war of 1832?
GRANDMOTHER: News to you that we had a war with the Indians?
SMITH: That's right—the Blackhawk war. I've heard of it.
GRANDMOTHER: Heard of it!
SMITH: Were your men in that war?
GRANDMOTHER: I was in that war. We used to fight with anything we could lay hands on—dish water—whatever was handy. We roiled them up considerable. They was mostly friendly when let be. Didn't want to give up their land—but I've noticed something of the same nature in white folks.
SMITH: This town—You—you began it?
GRANDMOTHER: My husband and I began it—and our baby Silas. 1820, that was.
SMITH: And—you mean you were here all alone?
GRANDMOTHER: No, we weren't alone. We had the Owens ten miles down the river.
SMITH: But how did you get here?
GRANDMOTHER: Got here in a wagon, how do you s'pose? (gaily) Think we flew?
SMITH: But wasn't it unsafe?
GRANDMOTHER: Them set on safety stayed back in Ohio.
SMITH: But one family! I should think the Indians would have wiped you out.
GRANDMOTHER: The way they wiped us out was to bring fish and corn. We'd have starved to death that first winter hadn't been for the Indians.
SMITH: But they were such good neighbors—why did you throw dish water at them?
GRANDMOTHER: That was after other white folks had roiled them up—white folks that didn't know how to treat 'em. This very land—land you want to buy—was the land they loved—Blackhawk and his Indians. They came here for their games. This was where their fathers—as they called 'em—were buried. I've seen my husband and Blackhawk climb that hill together. (a backward point right) He used to love that hill—Blackhawk. He talked how the red man and the white man could live together. But poor old Blackhawk—what he didn't know was how many white man there was. After the war—when he was beaten but not conquered in his heart—they took him east—Washington, Philadelphia, New York—and when he saw the white man's cities—it was a different Indian came back. He just let his heart break without ever turning a hand.
SMITH: But we paid them for their lands. (she looks at him) Paid them something.
GRANDMOTHER: Something. For fifteen million acres of this Mississippi Valley land—best on this globe, we paid two thousand two hundred and thirty-four dollars and fifty cents, and promised to deliver annually goods to the value of one thousand dollars. Not a fancy price—even for them days, (children's voices are heard outside. She leans forward and looks through the door, left) Ira! Let that cat be!
SMITH: You must feel as if you pretty near owned this country.
GRANDMOTHER: We worked. A country don't make itself. When the sun was up we were up, and when the sun went down we didn't. (as if this renews the self of those days) Here—let me set out something for you to eat. (gets up with difficulty)
SMITH: Oh, no, please—never mind. I had something in town before I came out.
GRANDMOTHER: Dunno as that's any reason you shouldn't have something here. (She goes off, right; he stands at the door, looking toward the hill until she returns with a glass of milk, a plate of cookies.)
SMITH: Well, this looks good.
GRANDMOTHER: I've fed a lot of folks—take it by and large. I didn't care how many I had to feed in the daytime—what's ten or fifteen more when you're up and around. But to get up—after sixteen hours on your feet—I was willin', but my bones complained some.
SMITH: But did you—keep a tavern?
GRANDMOTHER: Keep a tavern? I guess we did. Every house is a tavern when houses are sparse. You think the way to settle a country is to go on ahead and build hotels? That's all you folks know. Why, I never went to bed without leaving something on the stove for the new ones that might be coming. And we never went away from home without seein' there was a-plenty for them that might stop.
Source: Excerpted and adapted from Inheritors
By Susan Glaspell
By Susan Glaspell, Gutenberg.org