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Our Vanguard: A Pioneer Play in Three Acts,
With Prologue and Epilogue
By Aileen Berger Buetow (Volume XV: Page 20)

PROLOGUE: A steamship line office, at the present time.
ACT 1: The Fox River Settlement, November, 1837.
ACT 2: Beaver Creek, April, 1838.
ACT 3: The same, September, 1838.
EPILOGUE: The steamship line office, at the present time.


A room in the Meland log house at the Beaver Creek settlement. The time is April, 1838. At left, front, a door leads to the outside. Along the left wall is a primitive fireplace, with a stove, and pots and pans. Near it is a flour bin and some blankets. Beyond it in the corner stands a large washtub with a crude washboard. At the back wall a rough table stands beneath a small window. Along the right wall are bunks for sleeping; farther back, a door leads to the bedroom. In the middle of the room stands a long rough-hewn table with benches. A few rustic chairs, a wooden washbowl and pitcher, a spinning wheel in a corner, and one cowhide-covered chair complete the furnishings. On the table, set for six, are large platters of food. As the curtain rises, OLE RYNNING and DR. BRANDT sit at the table, eating. ELISIF stands by the stove, and GURI by the window.

GURI. (Forlornly, looking out) Raining again!

ELISIF. (Cheerfully) In spring it rains everywhere. Not just in Beaver Creek.

She stirs something cooking on the stove.

GURI. But look at the ground! It's like a swamp!

DR. BRANDT. Don't you feel well, Guri?

GURI. (Sobbing softly) The swamp air chokes me.

RYNNING. (Displeased) Swamp air here, Guri?

ELISIF. Oh, no, she doesn't mean it!

DR. BRANDT. Out of new ground there always arise poisonous vapors, Guri.

GURI. Here the poisons come out of the ground, out of the sky, out of everywhere . . .

RYNNING. (Firmly) Don't you let yourself be downhearted, Guri!

DR. BRANDT. Instead, try to count our blessings!

ELISIF. Blessing one: Comfortable log houses have been built for all our settlers.

RYNNING. Blessing two: Spring's here, and summer will soon be coming.

ELISIF. Blessing three: Soon grain'll be sprouting in all our fields!

GURI. (Disconsolate, looking out) Look! The ground is like a bog. What can sprout there?

RYNNING. This rain won't keep on forever. A few days of sunshine, and the ground'll be dry.

DR. BRANDT. Aren't we building a dam above the bend? What more can we do to keep the water off our fields?

RYNNING. The dam will be a reservoir, to give us water for irrigation during the summer dry spells.

ELISIF. (Putting her arm around GURI) See, Ole Rynning has thought of everything to make us safe and comfortable. Smile a little! Show him your appreciation!

RYNNING. (Smiling) Don't mind me. But think of the other settlers, Guri. For their sake, and for the sake of Lars and your own boys, who work so hard, give me a little smile!

GURI. (Trying hard to smile) I'll try to be cheerful. Honestly, I will!

Enter NATTESTAD, dressed for the outdoors, with wet, muddy boots.

NATTESTAD. (Exitedly, to RYNNING) I ran to tell you that Haddon Crum came up to the dam! The croaking son of a mule wanted the next payments on the land!

RYNNING. (Quietly) They're due.

ELISIF. (Filling a plate) Isn't Crum going to marry Metta Trulsen?

NATTESTAD. Yes, but what does that have to do with the payments?

ELISIF. It should make him more lenient with us. Sit down and have a bite to eat, Nattestad.

RYNNING. Sit down, sit down! Don't worry, Nattestad. I'll take care of Crum.

NATTESTAD. (Sitting down and taking a plate from Elisif) Thank you! (To RYNNING.) Will you really pay? Look at the tract! What can we ever get out of this land?

RYNNING. It may be true that Crum misrepresented a few facts when he sold us this tract . . .

GURI. (Wailing) There! Now you say yourself that the land is no good!

RYNNING. I didn't say that. I meant to say we are going to pay.

NATTESTAD. That would be foolish!

GURI. (Still weeping, to RYNNING) You meant the land was no good!

RYNNING. (Starting toward her) You're ill, Guri.

ELISIF fills a cup.

ELISIF. Eat a little, Guri. You'll feel better!

GURI. I can't eat.

RYNNING. (Taking the cup) Prairie-chicken soup, Guri! (He holds his arm around her, making her taste it.) Your forehead is burning.

GURI. (Pushing soup away) I can't eat. I freeze and yet I burn.

DR. BRANDT. (Half rising from his chair) I'll take you into the bedroom, and try a blood letting.

GURI. (Protesting) Not those leeches! They sting worse than the mosquitoes here!

RYNNING. (Softly, setting down the cup) No. No blood letting, then! Don't worry, Guri. Heat a blanket, Elisif, and heat some bricks. I'll take care of Guri.

RYNNING leads GURI toward the door, right.
ELISIF pats a blanket and bricks beside the stove.

DR. BRANDT. (Eating, to RYNNING) Want me to come in and look at her?

RYNNING. I can manage alone.

Exit RYNNING, right, with GURI. ELISIF busies herself at the stove.

ELISIF. (To BRANDT) Ole Rynning is almost as much a doctor as you!

DR. BRANDT. (Sighing) There's room for more than one doctor at Beaver Creek. I never saw so much illness.

NATTESTAD. No wonder! Too much dampness.

He sings:

Yes, now we are here at Beaver Creek,
We fifty settlers together,
But I think the creek has sprung a great leak,
And we have the darnedest weather!

ELISIF. (Handing him a plate) Is that nice? Making fun of our misfortunes!

DR. BRANDT. (Angrily) Don't blame us for this steady rain!

NATTESTAD. (Lifting a spoon) I'll tell you one thing, Dr. Brandt. I'll wager a hundred to one, or my grandfather's watch if you want to (he holds up the watch) that this tract is under water every spring and fall! Want to take me up on it?

DR. BRANDT. (Falling back) I never bet.

ELISIF. (To NATTESTAD) You inspected the land with Ole Rynning last summer. You saw what it was like!

NATTESTAD. (With heat) Didn't I try to tell Ole Rynning and the others that a swamp may look very inviting when it's all dried out? They wouldn't listen!

DR. BRANDT. (Angry) Swamp! Don't let me hear that again!

NATTESTAD. (Eating) Then smell it around you instead!

Enter LARS, left, dressed for outdoors and wet.

LARS. (Rubbing his back) My lumbago! Oh, why did I come to Beaver Creek!

ELISIF. (At the stove) Don't work day and night on the dam! The cold water is too much for you.

LARS. (Taking off his coat) Have to, don't I? If the dam busts, we'll all drown.

NATTESTAD. (Eating) Yes, and the dam looks like it might bust any time.

LARS. We ain't got the right materials for a dam! It can't hold! (He looks around) Is that warm blanket for me? I'm wet . . .

ELISIF. (Feeling of it) No, for Guri. I'll warm another blanket and some bricks for you.

NATTESTAD. (Still eating) Is Haddon Crum up by the dam yet?

LARS. (Pulling off his boots No. We chased him away. Told him to go home to Metta.

ELISIF takes up the warm blanket and bricks.

ELISIF. You shouldn't have done that, Lars . . .

LARS. (Wringing out his socks) Ain't Crum going to be Metta's number four?

ELISIF. (At the door to right) Yes, Lars, but if our settlers aren't polite to Mr. Crum, we'll lose all we have worked for this winter.

Exit ELISIF, right, with blanket and bricks.
NATTESTAD fills a plate at the stove.

NATTESTAD. Hot soup, Lars!

LARS. (Walking to the table) I need it.

NATTESTAD. (To DR. BRANDT) Did you hear what Elisif said? Did she mean that Haddon Crum might chase us off the tract?

DR. BRANDT. (Eating) He might.

LARS. He ought to be glad we're here. Only fools like us would have bought a swamp!

DR. BRANDT. (Standing up indignantly) Don't let me hear that word again!

LARS. (Very innocently) Ain't this land a swamp? NATTESTAD. Sure.

DR. BRANDT. (At the window) A steady downpour makes any place wet.

LARS. (Dunking his bread) I'm mighty glad that my lumbago made me want to get away from the creek, so I built this house on top of a hill!

NATTESTAD. Mons Aadland's house lies higher!

LARS. Oh, we're safe here, even if the dam should bust. DR. BRANDT. The dam won't burst.

LARS. (Laughing) You should've seen Mother Ellingsen and Sina when I came past their place just now. The chickens and Sina were floating around in two foot of water, while Mother Ellingsen was praying and throwing boards and logs out to them!

He laughs.

NATTESTAD. (Also laughing) Good enough for them! They would have the land by the bend!

DR. BRANDT. (At the stove) They paid the most. We thought the land by the bend was the best. But I'm happy that Father Ellingsen stayed at Fox River, so he can't see them now.

LARS. (Wincing in pain) My lumbago! Maybe I should have another blood letting, Doctor?

DR. BRANDT. (Filling a cup) You've hardly a drop of blood left in your veins, man. Try this.

He hands LARS the filled cup.

LARS. (Tasting it) Barley coffee!

He spits it out.

DR. BRANDT. Drink it. It's warm.

NATTESTAD. (looking toward the stove) No real coffee left? Not much flour either, is there?

DR. BRANDT. (Putting on his coat and cap) I'm afraid not.

LARS. (Rubbing his legs) Someone'll have to make the trip to the mill.

NATTESTAD. Seventy miles, and not a path!

LARS. You can make it, Nattestad.

NATTESTAD. (Standing up) I guess so. A barrel of flour costs eight dollars. We need a few barrels. Have we got the money?

DR. BRANDT. (Almost ready to go out) We need other staples besides flour. We have the money if we don't pay Haddon Crum.

LARS. Pay Haddon Crum? Why should we? He'll be Metta's number four, and Metta ain't had a husband yet that I couldn't lick, even when my lumbago was at its worst!

DR. BRANDT. (With a laugh) I'll tell Rynning to let you settle the payments with Haddon Crum, then.

He is at the door when ELISIF enters, right.

DR. BRANDT. I'll be looking in on Sina and Mother Ellingsen on my way to the dam. Any message, Elisif? ELISIF. No.

LARS. (Laughing) Save their chickens, Brandt.

NATTESTAD. (With his coat and cap on) Thanks for the good meal, Elisif. (To BRANDT) Bring your medicines along.

DR. BRANDT. (Taking up his bag) Anyone ill? Or only mosquito bites?

NATTESTAD. (Ready to go) Some of the boys at the dam don't look so good.

DR. BRANDT. How was Guri?

ELISIF. Better.

LARS. (Worried) Is Guri ill?

ELISIF goes over to him.

ELISIF. Nothing to worry about. But look at you! Soaking wet and in your stocking feet. You'll be ill!

LARS. (Patting her hand) I'm always ill.

DR. BRANDT. (From the door) I'd be ill, too, Elisif, if you would make a fuss over me!

ELISIF goes to the stove, takes up bricks and blanket.

ELISIF. Keep your health! We need someone who is well at Beaver Creek.

DR. BRANDT. (Taking a rifle from the wall) We might shoot some ducks on the way, Nattestad. (He sends ELISIF a warm glance.) Goodbye, Elisif.

ELISIF. (Busy with Lars) Goodbye!


BRANDT and NATTESTAD go out, left. ELISIF is putting bricks, wrapped in towels, under LARS's feet, and is wrapping him in a blanket.

LARS. You're a good girl, Elisif. Dr. Brandt is kind of sweet on you, ain't he?

ELISIF. Nonsense!

LARS. You ain't figuring on Ole Rynning?

ELISIF. Silly old Lars!

She kisses his forehead lightly; LARS pats her hand.

LARS. I ain't so sure! You'd better not be, because Rynning's got a girl in the old country.

ELISIF withdraws her hand.

ELISIF. He hasn't! Ole Rynning would've told me if he was in love with someone else!

LARS. See how well you like him! (Accusingly) That's why you brought us to this Godforsaken swamp.

ELISIF. (Angry) You'll take those words back!

LARS. (Angry too) Take back what I know is the truth? Crum swindled Rynning, and . . .

ELISIF. You take that back too!

LARS. (Shouting) I'll take back nothing when I speak the truth. So help me God! You have your heart so set on that fellow, you can't see straight.

ELISIF. (Raising her voice) Take it back, or I'll never speak to you again, Lars Meland .... Sh! Here he comes!

RYNNING enters quietly from right.

RYNNING. What's this? Are you two quarreling?

ELISIF. (Embarrassed) No, of course not. We were . . . we were saying . . . that . . . that . . .

LARS. (Patting her hand) Quarrel? Elisif and me? Never. (He winces.) Oh, my lumbago!

ELISIF rearranges the blanket.

ELISIF. (To RYNNING) How's Guri?

RYNNING. She's resting comfortably. (He crosses over to LARS.) Lean over, Lars, and I'll rub your back.

LARS leans over, showing where the pain is located.

LARS. There! Here! No, there!

ELISIF hovers over them, showing plainly her fondness for RYNNING. RYNNING smiles at her.

ELISIF. (Confused) Do you want something?

RYNNING. (Rubbing LARS) You might take my brandy and fix Lars a hot drink!

ELISIF. Right away!

She goes hurriedly to the table.

LARS. (With enthusiasm) You're a mighty kind man, Ole Rynning!

RYNNING. I'd like to see everybody happy and well.

ELISIF. (Pouring the drink) Yes, you have a kind heart. You're the best man I know!

RYNNING. (With a deprecatory laugh) Hm! Good intentions don't count in this world. I thought it easy to play destiny to people. Well, it isn't.

ELISIF. (Bringing LARS the drink) It would be an easy world if everybody was like you!

LARS. (Drinking) Sure would! Skaal, Ole Rynning! You're a fine man, even if Beaver Creek is no good!

RYNNING. (Rubbing quietly) Don't expect results right away. Wait a few years before you judge Beaver Creek -- or me!

LARS. (Drinking) Won't be no different if we stay here till doomsday. Everybody agrees that Beaver Creek is no good.

RYNNING stops rubbing.

RYNNING. Is that true? Do they all say that?

LARS. So help me God!

ELISIF. (Coming forward) No. No!

LARS. This land can never be cultivated.

RYNNING. IS that what they all say?

LARS. Sure.

RYNNING. What else do they say?

He begins to rub again, slowly.

LARS. That the dam may help, but that the soil is poor and the tract is no good.

RYNNING. What do they say about me, Lars?

LARS. That you didn't know this country and you didn't know what you were buying. You were swindled; that's plain as the nose on your face.

RYNNING lets his hands fall.

RYNNING. Oh, God, is that true? Did I lead fifty settlers into a trap?

ELISIF. (Taking his hands) No, no, don't believe it! Beaver Creek will yet bloom like a garden. We'll build a paradise here for ourselves and for the immigrants who are yet to come . . .

RYNNING. (Bitterly) Our dreams are crashing, Elisif!


RYNNING. (Putting her hands gently away) It's the truth, and I must face it!

ELISIF. No, no! It mustn't be the truth!

LARS. (Rubbing his back) Truth is truth!

RYNNING paces back and forth.

RYNNING. For months I must have known the truth about Beaver Creek. I haven't dared admit it to myself!

ELISIF. Don't believe it now!

RYNNING. Yes, every morning as I stepped out of the house, I have stopped to sniff the morning breeze. Its dank foulness has chilled my heart. It reeks of corruption and decay.

ELISIF. Don't...

RYNNING. (Pacing as before) Yes, and often enough I have bent down and taken a handful of soil, and studied every grain of it, every particle! Always the same! No black loam! Wet sand. Wet sand and brownish mud. (He sits down, face hidden in hands.) My God! My God!

ELISIF. (Leaning over him) No one blames you!

RYNNING. Buying a swamp! Imperiling the lives of fifty settlers!

ELISIF. You didn't intend to do that . . .

RYNNING. No! I had planned a paradise that would make the poor people of Europe leave their homes and flock to this good country.

ELISIF. We might do it yet!

RYNNING. Too late! They'll stay where they are in misery and poverty while this blessed country lies waiting and could give them wealth and happiness, if they only knew . . .

A faint and distant rumble is heard, which keeps on intermittently during the entire scene.

LARS. (With a wry grin) Well, I'm right here, and I don't see much wealth or happiness!

RYNNING. That's my fault!

LARS. No, it ain't. You were swindled. The crooks got my farm in Fox River Valley in trade from me. Think I might get it back if I sued?

RYNNING. I don't know.

ELISIF. Surely we could do that. We could go to the law to get our money back, and then find some other tract.

RYNNING. (Rising) You might try. But it's too late for me. I'm finished. Who'd follow me after this?

ELISIF. Don't give up!

LARS. I have a mind to give that crook Crum a good thrashing! Metta'd better look around for another number four.

ELISIF. Yes; I hate these swindlers.

RYNNING. (Turning) No, don't blame them!

ELISIF. (Surprised) Not blame them?

LARS. Not blame those goldarned crooks?

RYNNING. No! (He paces again, stopping as he talks.) Don't you see, this country is new. New. Untested. Untried. Fever burns in the veins of every man, the fever of discovery, the fever of deeds to be done!

ELISIF. (Trying to interrupt) But . . .

RYNNING. No one sees the country as it is. No one sees reality.

ELISIF. But...

RYNNING. Every man sees a mirage! Wild promises are given. Wanton hopes are aroused! (In deep thought) That's why Europe distrusts the future of America! That's why the toiling masses fail to seek refuge here!

ELISIF. But...

RYNNING. (Almost elated) I see it now! If America could be described soberly as it is .... If a fair picture of conditions here could be presented to the people across the sea But how? how? how?

The rumble outside grows louder; now cries are heard.

LARS. (Listening) I hear something. Don't you?

ELISIF. (Listening) It sounds like . . .

RYNNING .... Like rushing waters . . .

RYNNING and ELISIF run to the window.
LARS takes the bottle and mixes himself a drink as the others talk.

ELISIF. I can't see much.

RYNNING. No. Only the infernal, constant mist over the swamp.

ELISIF. Yes, I see something. Look at the other hilltop!

RYNNING. People are climbing up the hill! To Mons Aadland's house!

ELISIF. The men have left the dam!

RYNNING. The path is like a river! There! Look, Elisif!

Voices are heard outside.

LARS. (By the door) I hear Metta Trulsen!

RYNNING. (At the window) Look this way, Elisif! Toward the bend!

ELISIF. The Ellingsens! Their chicken coop is gone!

RYNNING. Washed away. See it over there -- lodged by the tree? The Ellingsens need help. I'm going!

He rushes to take his coat and cap.

ELISIF. Dr. Brandt is there.

RYNNING. He should have brought them here by now. Have hot water ready, if we bring people in, Elisif.

ELISIF. I will.

Enter METTA TRULSEN and HADDON CRUM, panting and excited. They are bundled up, and wet. They carry bundles and piles of household goods. LARS has begun to put on coat and boots. He sees HADDON CRUM, and spits contemptuously.

LARS. You!

METTA. (Frightened) The dam's bursting! One wall has a crack this wide! (She spreads her hands.)

There is a louder rumble, and cries are heard.

ELISIF. The men at the dam?

LARS. My eight boys?

METTA. All making it for Mons Aadland's house. RYNNING. (By the door) Ready, Lars?

LARS. (Flinging his coat on) Wait for me!

RYNNING. (To CRUM) We want to make sure every settler is safe. Aren't you coming with us, Crum?

CRUM. Sorry, but I'm not dressed for rescue work.

METTA. (Arms akimbo) You won't go out to help the settlers? Well, then, I shall!

CRUM. (Holding her back) You'd be of small use out there. Who told them to build that fool dam, anyhow?

LARS. If we hadn't, we'd have been drowned long ago.

Louder cries are heard.

RYNNING. I hope you will hear those cries to your dying day, Haddon Crum. I know I shall!

Exit RYNNING, left.

LARS. Wait, Rynning! We'll make a raft. (He turns at the door, and strides to Crum.) Say, you land-cheating double-crosser, I'm going to show you the "easy sledding" you promised us!

LARS seizes CRUM and drags him out.

CRUM. (In the doorway) Metta, help!

METTA. Indeed, if Lars wasn't taking you, I'd drag you out myself!

LARS leaves with CRUM.

ELISIF. (At the window) Dr. Brandt is bringing in the Ellingsens.

METTA. (Unpacking a bundle) Here is dry wood. We'll have precious little of it after a while.

ELISIF. (Going to the stove) Did you bring any food?

METTA. A ham. (She holds it up.) And my two pigs and five of my chickens are in your barn now.

ELISIF. And as long as it rains, we'll have drinking water!

Enter DR. BRANDT, with SINA and MRS. ELLINGSEN. They carry household goods and bundles.

DR. BRANDT. (Excitedly) Take care of these two, Elisif. We had a hard time getting here. Sina wouldn't leave her house!

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (Sinking to the floor, sobbing) Father, Father, thou knewest best! If only thou wert here now!

DR. BRANDT. (Shouting from the doorway) Yes, Rynning, I'm coming.

Exit DR. BRANDT, left. MRS. ELLINGSEN wrings her hands.

MRS. ELLINGSEN. Father, Father, that we didn't listen to thy warnings! Come to us from Fox River Valley!

ELISIF. (Holding a cup before her) A drink, Mother Ellingsen!

SINA. (Crying) Mother, you're hurt!

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (Holding her ankle) A swelling in my foot.

METTA. (Unpacking) Put her to bed, Sina.

ELISIF. (Trying to lift MRS. ELLINGSEN) She can have the lower bunk.

SINA. (Helping) Can't you move your leg at all, Mother?

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (Hysterically) The Lord is punishing us for not listening to Father.

SINA. (Weeping) Father wouldn't speak to us before we left .... Did he ask God to punish me?

ELISIF. (Comforting her) Shame on you for thinking it! Your father is the kindest man alive--next to Ole Rynning.

METTA. (Consoling MRS. ELLINGSEN) He'll forgive in time. One can reason with any man.

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (To METTA) Dost thou believe Father will forgive Sina?

METTA. (Trying to help her toward the bunk) You can ask him to!

The rumble continues, and the cries are louder.

MRS. ELLINGSEN. Of our twelve children, Sina alone lived. How could I leave her as long as there was breath in my body? (To METTA) Can I ask Father's forgiveness?

METTA. (Patting her hand) Of course you can. He'll forgive her, now that his judgment has proved sound. Men gloat when they occasionally think straight!

SINA. (Leaning on ELISIF) My house is swept away. I loved it. The only thing I ever had that has been truly mine. Now -- it's gone.

ELISIF. Sina, my dear!

SINA. Can a new house be built before plowing starts?

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (Sharply) Who can plow a lake?

METTA. (Bustling about) Haddon Crum wants us to leave Beaver Creek when we get married. He says the mosquitoes are fierce here in the summer.

ELISIF. Mosquitoes are already out, and they don't bother me.

METTA. He says this tract isn't real farm land.

SINA. (Helplessly) Not . . . real . . . farm land?

The rumble and shouting continue.

ELISIF. (At the bunk) Crawl in here, Mother Ellingsen.

METTA. (Supporting her) Slowly, Mother Ellingsen. (They reach the bunk.) There! I'll bandage your foot.

SINA. (Deep in thought) Not . . . real . . . farm land, Elisif?

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (From the bunk) The Lord is punishing thee, Sina.

The rumble grows, and the cries are closer.

ELISIF. (To SINA) I hear shouts. Open the door. Someone's calling.

SINA moves slowly to the door; ELISIF goes to the window.

METTA. (At the bunk; to MRS. ELLINGSEN) Stick out your foot!

She begins to rub it.

SINA. (Frightened) I see water glimmering at the foot of the hill!

METTA. (To MRS. ELLINGSEN) Indeed, we're lucky. We're safe here.

ELISIF. (By the window) Now more people are climbing up the hill to Mons Aadland's place.

A call is heard.

ELISIF. Voices!

SINA. Yes, Dr. Brandt and Lars.

Enter LARS and DR. BRANDT.

ELISIF. Where are the boys?

LARS. Someone shouted they were safe at Mons Aadland's.

DR. BRANDT. Everyone but us is making for Aadland's place. Safest spot on the tract. Biggest, too.


CRUM. (Shivering, to METTA) I had no idea it was like this . . .

METTA talks sharply to him in an undertone.

RYNNING. (Heartbroken) The dam is giving way. CRUM. Are we safe here?

RYNNING. As safe as you and I deserve to be, Crum.

A deep crash is heard.

LARS. If that ain't the side wall of the dam busting, I'll eat my shirt!

The sound of roaring water begins.

SINA. (By the door, frightened) The path at the foot of the hill is a river now!

RYNNING closes the door abruptly.

RYNNING. There, there, Sina!

He comforts her. Another crashing noise, louder.

NATTESTAD'S voice is heard, far away.

LARS.... And there goes the whole dam a-busting!

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (Struggling up out of the bunk) Let's pray. Let us all pray. Sina, Sina, pray with me, my child.

RYNNING. (Leading SINA, to her mother) Comfort your mother, Sina.

MRS. ELLINGSEN kneels down and SINA kneels beside her.

MRS. ELLINGSEN. O Lord, forgive us our sin against Thee and Father . . .

SINA. (Repeating, heartbroken) O Lord, forgive us our sin against Thee and Father . . .

Meanwhile NATTESTAD'S voice has been heard intermittently. Now he enters, dripping wet.

NATTESTAD. (Panting) The dam's busted. Busted.

METTA seems to be scolding HADDON CRUM.

LARS. (Drily) We figured as much, Nattestad.

NATTESTAD. I made my way here from the Aadland place . . .

LARS. Why ain't my boys coming here where they belong?

NATTESTAD. They . . . they . . .

ELISIF. Aren't the boys safe?

RYNNING. Aren't all the settlers safe?

NATTESTAD. Everybody is there, but... (He hesitates.)

RYNNING. (Sharply) But? Who?

LARS. Anything the matter with my boys?

NATTESTAD. Ill. Most of the people are ill.

LARS. My boys?

NATTESTAD. (Nodding) Thor and Johan are ill. The other six not so good . . .


NATTESTAD. Ill, I say. Ill! You must get to them, Dr. Brandt.

ELISIF. Through the raging waters, and the treacherous swamp?

NATTESTAD. (Simply) I got through.

RYNNING. I'll go with you, Brandt.

LARS. (Taking his coat) I'll go to my boys.

DR. BRANDT. (Picking up his bag) What seems to be the matter?

NATTESTAD. They freeze and yet they burn.

ELISIF. Freeze--and burn? Like Guri!

She turns toward the bedroom door. An anxious silence falls.

LARS. Where's Guri?

RYNNING. In the bedroom. Has she slept through all this?

LARS. (Moving to the door at right) Guri! Guri!

DR. BRANDT. I'll see. Stand aside, Lars, stand aside.

Thrusting LARS aside, DR. BRANDT goes out, right.
ELISIF pours out a drink.


RYNNING. (With a wan smile, giving it to LARS) You need it, Lars.

LARS gulps down the drink.

LARS. He was right, the one-eyed man! Beware of Beaver Creek!

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (Praying loudly) . . . So that we again may go back to the smiling Fox River Valley, and dwell in the happy home Father provided for us . . .

SINA. (Rising, in horror) Back to Fox River Valley? Must I? Must I?

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (Sorrowfully) So long as thy heart rebels against thy father's wisdom and goodness, new misfortunes will befall thee, my child!

DR. BRANDT enters from the bedroom, right. He clutches a bunk post for support. ELISIF gives him a filled glass. He drains it, while they all watch him anxiously.

DR. BRANDT. Rynning!

RYNNING. (Going to him) Yes?

METTA. (Weeping) Guri!

LARS. Guri?

ELISIF puts her arm around him.

ELISIF. Steady, Lars, steady!

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (Praying) O Lord, forgive . . .

Her voice trails off.

CRUM. (Looking around, dazed) A bad dream -- a bad dream . . .

DR. BRANDT, is whispering to RYNNING.

LARS. (In despair) Don't hold me back, Elisif. Something has happened to Guri. Let me see her!

RYNNING. (Checking LARS) Courage, Lars! Courage, man! (To the others) My friends! All the strength we can muster, we need. An enemy, more dread than the rushing waters, is upon us!

ELISIF. Whatever comes, I am fighting at your side, Ole Rynning!

RYNNING. (After a pause) It's malaria.

NATTESTAD. Malarial fever!

LARS. My eight boys have malarial fever!

METTA. (Crossing to the stove) Heat water! Steam bricks! Smoke it out!

CRUM. A nightmare!

NATTESTAD. Maybe it's malarial fever they have at the Aadland place.

DR. BRANDT. (Nodding) Maybe.

He takes his bag.

MRS. ELLINGSEN. (Still kneeling) O Lord . . .

SINA. (Kneeling beside her) What'll become of us? What'll become of us?

ELISIF. (Crossing to the stove) Fight it! Fight it!

RYNNING. Courage, my friends! Courage!


----End of Part 2----

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