The Acorn-planter: A California Forest Play/Act I

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Act I[edit]

     (Ten thousand years have passed, and it is
     the time of the early voyaging from Europe
     to the waters of the Pacific, when the
     deserted hillside is again revealed as the
     moon rises. The stream no longer flows
     from the spring. Since the grove is used
     only as a camp for the night when the
     Nishinam are on their seasonal migration
     there are no signs of previous camps.)


     (Enter from right, at end of day's march,
     women, old men, and Shaman, the
     women bending under their burdens of
     camp gear and dunnage)


     (Enter from left youths carrying fish-spears
     and large fish)


     (Appear, coming down the hillside, Red
     Cloud and the hunters, many carrying
     meat.)


     (The various repeated characters, despite
     differences of skin garmenting and decoration,
     resemble their prototypes of the prologue.)


     {Red Cloud}
     Good hunting! Good hunting!

     {Hunters}
     Good hunting! Good hunting!

     {Youths}
     Good fishing! Good fishing!

     {Women}
     Good berries! Good acorns!

     (The women and youths and hunters, as they
     reach the campsite, begin throwing down
     their burdens)


     {Dew-Woman}
     (Discovering the dry spring.)
     The water no longer flows!

     {Shaman}
     (Stilling the excitement that is immediate
     on the discovery.)

     The word of old time that has come down to
     us from all the Shamans who have gone before!
     The Sun Man has come back from the Sun.

     {Dew-Woman}
     (Looking to Red Cloud.)
     Let Red Cloud speak. Since the morning of
     the world has Red Cloud ever been reborn with
     the ancient wisdom to guide us.

     {War Chief}
     Save in war. In war I command.

     (He picks out hunters by name.)
     Deer Foot... Elk Man... Antelope. Run
     through the forest, climb the hill-tops, seek down
     the valleys, for aught you may find of this Sun Man.

     (At a wave of the War Chief's hand the
     three hunters depart in different directions.)


     {Dew-Woman}
     Let Red Cloud speak his mind.

     {Red Cloud}
     (Quietly)
     Last night the earth shook and there was a
     roaring in the air. Often have I seen, when the
     earth shakes and there is a roaring, that springs
     in some places dry up, and that in other places
     where were no springs, springs burst forth.

     {Shaman}
     There is a sign.
     The Shamans told it of old.
     The Sun Man will bear the thunder in his hand.

     {People}
     There is a sign.
     The Sun Man will bear the thunder in his hand.

     {Shaman}
     The roaring in the air was the thunder of the
     Sun Man's return. Now will he destroy the
     Nishinam. Such is the word.

     {War Chief}
     Hoh! Hoh!

     (From right Deer Foot runs in.)

     {Deer Foot}
     (Breathless.)
     They come! He comes!

     {War Chief}
     Who comes?

     {Deer Foot}
     The Sun Men. The Sun Man. He is their
     chief. He marches before them. And he is
     white.

     {People}
     There is a sign.
     The Sun Man is white.

     {Red Cloud}
     Carries he the thunder in his hand?

     {Deer Foot}
     (Puzzled)
     He looks hungry.

     {War Chief}
     Hoh! Hoh! The Sun Man is hungry. It
     will be easy to kill a hungry Sun Man.

     {Red Cloud}
     It would be easy to be kind to a hungry Sun
     Man and give him food. We have much. The
     hunting has been good.

     {War Chief}
     Better to kill the Sun Man.

     (He turns upon People, indicating most
     commands in gestures as he prepares the
     ambush, making women and boys conceal
     all the camp outfit and game, and
     disposing the armed hunters among the
     ferns and behind trees till all are hidden.)


     {Elk Man and Antelope}
     (Running down hillside)
     The Sun Man comes.

     (War Chief sends them to hiding places)

     {War Chief}
     (Preparing himself to hide)
     You have not hidden, O Red Cloud.

     {Red Cloud}
     (Stepping into shadow of big tree where he
     remains inconspicuous though dimly
     visible)

     I would see this Sun Man and talk with him.

     (The sound of singing is heard, and War
     Chief conceals himself)


     (Sun Man, with handful of followers, singing
     to ease the tedium of the march, enter
     from right. They are patently survivors
     of a wrecked exploring skip, making their
     way inland)


     {Sun Men}
     We sailed three hundred strong
        For the far Barbaree;
     Our voyage has been most long
        For the far Barbaree;
           So--it's a long pull,
           Give a strong pull,
     For the far Barbaree.

     We sailed the oceans wide
        For the coast of Barbaree;
     And left our ship a sinking
        On the coast of Barbaree;
           So--it's a long pull,
           Give a strong pull,
        For the far Barbaree.

     Our ship went fast a-lee
        On the rocks of Barbaree;
     That's why we quit the sea
        On the rocks of Barbaree.
           So--it's a long pull,
           Give a strong pull,
        For the far Barbaree.

     We quit the bitter seas
        On the coast of Barbaree;
     To seek the savag-ees
        Of the far Barbaree.
           So--it's a long pull,
           Give a strong pull,
        For the far Barbaree.

     Our feet are lame and sore
        In the far Barbaree;
     From treading of the shore
        Of the far Barbaree.
           So--it's a long pull,
           Give a strong pull,
        For the far Barbaree.

     A weary brood are we
        In the far Barbaree;
     Sea cunies of the sea
        In the far Barbaree.
           So--it's a long pull,
           Give a strong pull,
        For the far Barbaree.

     {Sun Man}
     (Who alone carries a musket, and who is
     evidently captain of the wrecked company)

     No farther can we go this night. Mayhap
     to-morrow we may find the savages and food.

     (He glances about.)
     This far world grows noble trees. We shall sleep
     as in a temple.

     {First Sea Cuny}
     (Espying Red Cloud, and pointing.)
     Look, Captain!

     {Sun Man}
     (Making the universal peace-sign, arm
     raised and out, palm-outward.)

     Who are you? Speak. We come in peace.
     We kindness seek.

     {Red Cloud}
     (Advancing out of the shadow.)
     Whence do you come?

     {Sun Man}
     From the great sea.

     {Red Cloud}
     I do not understand. No one journeys
     on the great sea.

     {Sun Man}
     We have journeyed many moons.

     {Red Cloud}
     Have you come from the sun?

     {Sun Man}
     God wot! We have journeyed across the
     sun, high and low in the sky, and over the sun
     and under the sun the round world 'round.

     {Red Cloud}
     (With conviction.)
     You come from the Sun. Your hair is like
     the summer sunburnt grasses. Your eyes are
     blue. Your skin is white.

     (With absolute conviction.)
     You are the Sun Man.

     {Sun Man}
     (With a shrug of shoulders.)
     Have it so. I come from the Sun. I am the
     Sun Man.

     {Red Cloud}
     Do you carry the thunder in your hand?

     {Sun Man}
     (Nonplussed for the moment, glances at
     his musket, then smiles.)

     Yes, I carry the thunder in my hand.

     (War Chief and the Hunters leap
     suddenly from ambush. Sun Man
     warns Sea Cunies not to resist. War
     Chief captures and holds Sun Man,
     and Sea Cunies are similarly captured
     and held. Women and boys appear, and
     examine prisoners curiously.)


     {War Chief}
     Hoh! Hoh! Hoh! I have captured the
     Sun Man! Like the foxes, I have captured
     the Sun Man!--Deer Foot! Elk Man! The
     foxes held the Sun Man. I now hold the Sun
     Man. Then can you hold the Sun Man.

     (Deer Foot and Elk Man seize the Sun
     Man.)


     {Red Cloud}
     (To Shaman.)
     He said he came in kindness.

     {War Chief}
     (Sneering.)
     In kindness, with the thunder in his hand.

     {Shaman}
     (Deflected to partisanship of War Chief
     by War Chief's success.)

     By his own lips has he said it, with the thunder
     in his hand.

     {War Chief}
     You are the Sun Man.

     {Sun Man}
     (Shrugging shoulders.)
     My names are many as the stars. Call me
     White Man.

     {Red Cloud}
     I am Red Cloud, the first man.

     {Sun Man}
     Then am I Adam, the first man and your
     brother.

     (Glancing about.)
     And this is Eden, to look upon it.

     {Red Cloud}
     My father was the Coyote.

     {Sun Man}
     My father was Jehovah.

     {Red Cloud}
     I am the Fire-Bringer. I stole the fire from
     the ground squirrel and hid it in the heart of
     the wood.

     {Sun Man}
     Then am I Prometheus, your brother. I
     stole the fire from heaven and hid it in the heart
     of the wood.

     {Red Cloud}
     I am the Acorn-Planter. I am the Food-
     Bringer, the Life-Maker. I make food for
     more life, ever more life.

     {Sun Man}
     Then am I truly your brother. Life-Maker
     am I, tilling the soil in the sweat of my brow
     from the beginning of time, planting all manner
     of good seeds for the harvest.

     (Looking sharply at Red Cloud's skin
     garments.)

     Also am I the Weaver and Cloth-Maker.

     (Holding out arm so that Red Cloud may
     examine the cloth of the coat)

     From the hair of the goat and the wool of
     the sheep, and from beaten and spun grasses,
     do I make the cloth to keep man warm.

     {Shaman}
     (Breaking in boastfully.)
     I am the Shaman. I know all secret things.

     {Sun Man}
     I know my pathway under the sun over all
     the seas, and I know the secrets of the stars
     that show me my path where no path is. I
     know when the Wolf of Darkness shall eat the
     moon.

     (Pointing toward moon.)
     On this night shall the Wolf of Darkness eat
     the moon.

     (He turns suddenly to Red Cloud,
     drawing sheath-knife and passing it
     to him.)


     More, O First Man and Acorn-Planter. I am
     the Iron-Maker. Behold!

     (Red Cloud examines knife, understands
     immediately its virtue, cuts easily a strip
     of skin from his skin garment, and is
     overcome with the wonder of the knife.)


     {War Chief}
     (Exhibiting a long bow.)
     I am the War Chief. No man, save me, has
     strength to bend this bow. I can slay farther
     than any man.

     (A huge bear has come out among the
     bushes far up the hillside)


     {Sun Man}
     I, too, am War Chief over men, and I can
     slay farther than you.

     {War Chief}
     Hoh! Hoh!

     {Sun Man}
     (Pointing to bear)
     Can you slay that with your strong bow?

     {War Chief}
     (Dubiously)
     It is a far shot. Too far. No man can slay
     a great bear so far.

     (Sun Man, shaking off from his arms the
     hands of Deer Foot and Elk Man,
     aims musket and fires. The bear falls,
     and the Nishinam betray astonishment
     and awe)


     (At a quick signal from War Chief,
     Sun Man is again seized. War Chief
     takes away musket and examines it.)


     {Shaman}
     There is a sign.

     {People}
     There is a sign.
     He carries the thunder in his hand.
     He slays with the thunder in his hand.
     He is the enemy of the Nishinam.
     He will destroy the Nishinam.

     {Shaman}
     There is a sign.

     {People}
     There is a sign.
     In the day the Sun Man comes,
     The waters from the spring will no longer flow,
     And in that day will he destroy the Nishinam.

     {War Chief}
     (Exhibiting musket.)
     Hoh! Hoh! I have taken the Sun Man's
     thunder.

     {Shaman}
     Now shall the Sun Man die that the Nishinam
     may live.

     {Red Cloud}
     He is our brother. He, too, is an acorn-
     planter. He has spoken.

     {Shaman}
     He is the Sun Man, and he is our eternal
     enemy. He shall die.

     {War Chief}
     In war I command.

     (To Hunters.)
     Tie their feet with stout thongs that they
     may not run. And then make ready with bow
     and arrow to do the deed.

     (Hunters obey, urging and thrusting the
     Sea Cunies into a compact group behind
     the Sun Man.)


     {Red Cloud}
     Shaman I am not.
     I know not the secret things.
     I say the things I know.
     When you plant kindness you harvest kindness.
     When you plant blood you harvest blood.
     He who plants one acorn makes way for life.
     He who slays one man slays the planter of a
     thousand acorns.

     {Shaman}
     Shaman I am.
     I see the dark future.
     I see the Sun Man's death,
     The journey he must take
     Through thick and endless forest
     Where lost souls wander howling
     A thousand moons of moons.

     {People}
     Through thick and endless forest
     Where lost souls wander howling
     A thousand moons of moons.

     (War Chief arranges Hunters with their
     bows and arrows for the killing.)


     {Sun Man}
     (To Red Cloud.)
     You will slay us?

     {Red Cloud}
     (Indicating War Chief.)
     In war he commands.

     {Sun Man}
     (Addressing the Nishinam)
     Nor am I a Shaman. But I will tell you true
     things to be. Our brothers are acorn-planters,
     cloth-weavers, iron-workers. Our brothers are
     life-makers and masters of life. Many are our
     brothers and strong. They will come after us.
     Your First Man has spoken true words. When
     you plant blood you harvest blood. Our brothers
     will come to the harvest with the thunder
     in their hands. There is a sign. This night,
     and soon, will the Wolf of Darkness eat the
     moon. And by that sign will our brothers come
     on the trail we have broken.

     (As final preparation for the killing is
     completed, and as Hunters are arranged
     with their bows and arrows,
     Sun Man sings.)


     {Sun Man}
     Our brothers will come after,
        On our trail to farthest lands;
     Our brothers will come after
        With the thunder in their hands.

     {Sun Men}
           Loud will be the weeping,
           Red will be the reaping,
           High will be the heaping
        Of the slain their law commands.

     {Sun Man}
     Givers of law, our brothers,
        This is the law they say:
     Who takes the life of a brother
        Ten of the slayers shall pay.

     {Sun Men}
     Our brothers will come after,
        On our trail to farthest lands;
     Our brothers will come after
        With the thunder in their hands.
           Loud will be the weeping,
           Red will be the reaping,
           High will be the heaping
        Of the slain their law commands.

     {Sun Man}
     Our brothers will come after
        By the courses that we lay;
     Many and strong our brothers,
        Masters of life are they.

     {Sun Men}
     Our brothers will come after
        On our trail to farthest lands;
     Our brothers will come after
        With the thunder in their hands.
           Loud will be the weeping,
           Red will be the reaping,
           High will be the heaping
        Of the slain their law commands.

     {Sun Man}
     Plowers of land, our brothers,
        Of the hills and pleasant leas;
     Under the sun our brothers
        With their keels will plow the seas.

     {Sun Men}
     Our brothers will come after,
        On our trail to farthest lands;
     Our brothers will come after
        With the thunder in their hands.
           Loud will be the weeping,
           Red will be the reaping,
           High will be the heaping
        Of the slain their law commands.

     {Sun Man}
     Mighty men are our brothers,
        Quick to forgive and to wrath,
     Sailing the seas, our brothers
        Will follow us on our path.

     {Sun Men}
     Our brothers will come after,
        On our trail to farthest lands;
     Our brothers will come after
        With the thunder in their hands.
           Loud will be the weeping,
           Red will be the reaping,
           High will be the heaping
        Of the slain their law commands.

     (At signal from War Chief the arrows
     are discharged, and repeatedly
     discharged. The Sun Men fall. The War
     Chief himself kills the Sun Man.)


     (In what follows, Red Cloud and Dew-
     Woman stand aside, taking no part.
     Red Cloud is depressed, and at the
     same time is overcome with the wonder
     of the knife which he still holds.)


     {War Chief}
     (Brandishing musket and drifting stiff-
     legged, as he sings, into the beginning
     of a war dance of victory.)

     Hoh! Hoh! Hoh!
     I have slain the Sun Man!
     Hoh! Hoh! Hoh!
     I hold his thunder in my hand!
     Hoh! Hoh! Hoh!
     Greatest of War Chiefs am I!
     Hoh! Hoh! Hoh!
     I have slain the Sun Man!

     (The dance grows wilder.)

     (After a time the hillside begins to darken)

     {Dew-Woman}
     (Pointing to the moon entering eclipse)
     Lo! The Wolf of Darkness eats the Moon!

     (In consternation the dance is broken off
     for the moment)


     {Shaman}
     (Reassuringly)
     It is a sign.
     The Sun Man is dead.

     {War Chief}
     (Recovering courage and resuming dance.)
     Hoh! Hoh! Hoh!
     The Sun Man is dead!

     {People}
     (Resuming dance.)
     Hoh! Hoh! Hoh!
     The Sun Man is dead!

     (As darkness increases the dance grows
     into a saturnalia, until complete darkness
     settles down and hides the hillside.)