The World to Come (2021) Movie Script

[ominous music playing]
[Abigail] Tuesday, January 1st, 1856.
Fair and very cold.
This morning, ice in our bedroom
for the first time all winter.
- [man yelling indistinctly]
- [sheep bleating softly]
The water froze on the potatoes
as soon as they were washed.
With little pride and less hope,
we begin the new year.
[humming softly]
On the porch after sunup,
I could hear the low chirping
of sparrows in the hedgerows
that are now buried in the snow.
[chickens squawking softly]
Dyer has maintained that
with good health and a level head,
there is always an excellent chance
for a farmer willing to work.
[footsteps approaching]
He feels he can never fully
rid himself of his burdens.
And I'm certain that because
his mind is in such a bad state,
it affects his whole system.
He told me this morning that contentment
was like a friend he never gets to see.
- You're late with the milking.
- She wasn't suffering.
And you?
Since our acquisition of this farm,
my husband has kept a ledger
to help him see the year whole.
This way, he knows what each crop
and field pays from year to year.
And Dyer has asked me
to keep a list in a diary
of matters that might otherwise
go overlooked.
From tools lent out to bills outstanding.
That I have done.
But there would be no record
in these dull and simple pages
of the most passionate circumstances
of our seasons past.
No record of our emotions or fears,
our greatest joys
or most piercing sorrows.
[emotional music playing]
With our child,
it was as if I'd found my bearings.
But I too rarely told her
that she was our treasure.
Would you like to try?
Like this, Papa?
That's it.
She often seemed separate from us,
as if she was working
at just fitting in where she could.
"They saw his brothers and sister.
And it was the mouse's family."
[Abigail] There is something so affecting
about mute and motionless
grief and illness in a child so young.
[girl coughing]
She put her arms around me
and said nothing else.
But it felt like we were speaking.
- [humming softly]
- [breathing shallowly]
[Abigail crying quietly]
[melancholy music playing]
[Abigail] I have become my grief.
I have become my grief.
[church bell tolling]
[Abigail] "Welcome, sweet day of rest,"
says the hymn.
And Sunday is most welcome
for its few hours of quiet ease.
As for me,
I no longer attend.
After the calamity of Nellie's loss,
what calm I enjoy does not derive
from the notion of a better world to come.
[Finney] Whoa, whoa, whoa.
[Abigail] I want to purchase an atlas.
[Finney] Jacob, may I offer you a ride?
- [Jacob] It wouldn't be a bother?
- [Finney] No, no, no bother.
[pensive music playing]
Who is that?
[Dyer] His name is Finney.
His wife Tallie.
Met them at the feed store.
They seem to keep to themselves.
They're renting the Zebrun farm.
[Abigail] Monday, February 4th.
Why is ink like fire?
Because it is a good servant
and a hard master.
Did you say something?
I want to purchase an atlas.
I suppose there are
more frivolous purchases one could make.
I've saved 90 cents of my own.
I can't imagine a better way to spend it.
Could buy your husband a gift.
What better gift could I give him
than a wife who is no longer a dullard?
My self-education seems the only way
to keep my unhappiness
from overwhelming me.
[pensive music playing]
[pig squealing]
Easy, girl, easy.
Good afternoon.
I've been using a broom on my porch.
The snow is so dry.
I'm Tallie.
- I hope I'm not intruding.
- No.
I needed to get away for the day.
Our farm is a slaughterhouse right now.
My husband is killing his hogs.
Would you like to come in?
Yes, I'd love that.
Or we could just stay out
on the porch, shivering.
I know it's the dullest of all things
to have an ignorant neighbor come by
and spoil a Sunday afternoon.
Oh, no, you're most welcome here.
But I know the feeling.
Sometimes I imagine
during Widow Weldon's visits
that I've been plunged up to my eyes
in a vat of the prosaic.
Widow Weldon.
She got going on a county levy once...
[Abigail] She saw I had noticed her hair
and admitted she had been
vain about it as a girl.
She said that back then,
she'd worn it longer
and plaited in a bun
at the back of her head.
In the winter sun through the window,
her skin had an under-flush
of rose and violet
which so disconcerted me
that I had to look away.
As always,
when it came to speaking and attempting
to engage another's affections,
circumstances doomed me
to striving and anxiety.
From my earliest youth,
I was like a pot-bound root,
all curled in upon itself.
I hope I'm not keeping you from something.
I'm glad you've come.
Finney saw your husband at the cooperage.
He mentioned his new method
for farrowing his piglets.
With some asperity?
My husband mentions everything
with some asperity.
I told him that once,
and he observed in response
that it seemed to be quite a favor
to get a kind word from me.
And I told him
that if he was married to himself,
he'd soon find out what a favor it was.
My mother always said that having children
would resolve that dilemma.
My mother made the same claim.
And yet...
here we are...
both childless.
My daughter Nellie
would have been 5 today.
Oh, God.
How did she pass?
Diphtheria. Last September.
God, I'm so sorry.
[door opens]
- Hello.
- Oh.
Good afternoon.
I'm Dyer.
Well, it's late, isn't it?
I should be getting on.
- Don't go on my account.
- [Tallie] Oh, no.
- [Dyer] That's a nice wrap you have.
- Thank you.
I never receive compliments
for my clothes.
[Dyer coughs]
I'm so glad you've come.
Meeting you has made my day.
It has?
Well, how pleasant and uncommon it is
to make someone's day.
[Abigail] Thursday, February 14th.
Dyer's third night with a fever.
[Dyer coughing]
Drink this.
I plan on getting sick more often.
My wife smiles at me.
[Dyer coughing]
Promise me you're not gonna die.
That would be
the opposite of my intention.
[Abigail] I've restored him somewhat with
an enema of molasses, warm water and lard.
Also a drop of turpentine
next to his nose.
I spent the day reconsidering
my conversation with Tallie.
- We compared childhood beds,
- [Dyer coughing]
mine in which the straw was
always breaking up and thinning out,
and hers, which was as hard,
she claimed, as the pharaoh's heart.
I should be taking care of you.
I agree.
[pensive music playing]
[Abigail] Her manner is sweet,
and calm and gracious.
And yet her spirit seemed to quicken
at the prospect
of further conversation with me.
I find that everything I wish to tell her
loses its eloquence in her presence.
So how did you come to meet Dyer?
He was the oldest son of a neighbor.
He helped out on my father's farm.
And was he instantly smitten by you?
[Abigail scoffs]
He was, wasn't he?
He was instantly smitten by you.
He admired what he viewed
as my practical good sense.
You don't countenance words
like "smitten," do you?
I suspect I use all the same words you do.
I suspect you don't.
In speech, yes, because you're shy.
But I bet you're more accomplished
in your writing.
Thank you.
Your good sense,
that's all your husband was smitten with?
And my efficient habits.
That's all?
My handy ways.
Dyer likes mechanical things.
I have no doubt he would've been happier
had he been allowed to pursue
the natural scientific bent of his mind.
Circumstances forced him into farming.
And despite all of that,
his heart compelled him to you?
Well, you would
have to ask him about that.
And what would you say if I asked you?
I suppose that as a suitor, he was
not generous, but he was just.
And that he was affectionate,
if not constant.
I wasn't sure of his suitability.
But my family felt that more improving
might be in the offing.
After all, it is a long lane
that has no turning.
You both have much to be thankful for.
We do.
It's still too soon.
Tuesday, February 19th.
My reluctance seems
to have become his shame.
His nighttime pleasures,
which were never numerous,
have curtailed even more.
And I have so far refused
to engage his persistence
on the subject of another child.
[clearing throat]
[Finney] Evening.
[Tallie] This is my husband, Finney.
You already know Dyer?
Our paths have crossed.
- This is the Abigail I've been mentioning.
- Evening.
My wife talks about you
as if you're all about the house.
- Everything reminds her of you.
- Well, it's all I can do
but sit cross-legged and morose
whenever she's away.
- Come in.
- Thank you.
[Dyer] It's rained so heavy
that it broke down our mill.
Did you miss me?
You look different.
Finney seems agreeable.
[Tallie] Mm-hm.
Yes, he is when he chooses to be.
[Finney & Dyer speaking indistinctly]
I guess I'm supposed to offer a toast.
But when it comes to the social graces,
I'm about as smooth as coming down
a rocky hill in the dark.
What my husband means is
he's so happy to finally get together
and to see Dyer again.
[Finney] Mm.
Part of what I value about my wife
is how she's taught me to associate
with my fellow beings.
[Tallie chuckles]
Finney, that's a handsome necktie
you've chosen.
Thank you. But with my neck,
my head sticks out like a chicken
in a poultry wagon.
- Your tart was wonderful.
- Did you like it?
I'm so glad.
I was worried I wouldn't have enough eggs
because we had an accident.
- Oh.
- [Finney] Mm.
My hired hand pulled down a box of eggs
and broke two dozen.
And I announced
that he was unlucky to eggs
and no longer allowed to approach them.
[Abigail] "Unlucky to eggs." I like that.
I told him that his shirt had so many
holes, he can make a necklace of it.
Well, we often wish
we could afford a hired hand.
Mm. We've suffered
from the carelessness of hired hands.
Mr. Holt's hired hand is said
to have swum his horse
over the canal despite the cold.
[Dyer] Winter's been so hard.
Sometimes Mrs. Weldon's son
has had to deliver the mail on skis.
Now our letters can get lost
at breakneck speed.
Did you write letters to Tallie
when you were courting?
[Finney] I did.
And did Tallie keep them?
Only Tallie knows for sure.
- [Dyer yelling indistinctly]
- [sheep bleating softly]
[Abigail] Monday, February 25th.
Finney and Tallie's bond confounds me.
At times, when their eyes meet,
they seem yoked
in opposition to one another.
While at other times,
there seems a shared regard.
There is something going on
between us that I cannot unravel.
Hold this here.
Thank you.
Hello, Dyer.
Well, hello.
You off?
Yes, to town.
Have a good day.
She'll be pleased to see you.
[knocking on door]
Happy birthday.
- I brought you some things.
- What?
- I hoped you'd like them.
- I do.
An atlas...
of the United States of America.
And a little pot of applesauce
with an egg on top.
- My feet are freezing.
- Let me warm them?
How's Finney?
He's Finney.
Uh, it tickles.
My husband records trespassers
in his journals.
And this morning, when I asked him
what he intends to do about them,
his response was so unpleasant
that I resolved to visit you.
So that there would be something in my day
other than his meanness.
Dyer thinks
he has many estimable qualities.
He does, and he also uses a ledger
to keep accounting
of whom I visit and how long I stay.
I have no idea.
As he's gotten more like this,
I've given up trying to figure out
all the peculiarities
of his... odd little world.
I suppose he's especially
unhappy with me since...
I'm yet to give him a child.
What does it feel like?
Like nothing at first.
But then when she began to stir,
it's like butterflies
flapping their wings.
Later, like a rabbit
as she kicked her legs at night.
It frightens me.
The thought of having none of that.
And of giving birth.
Most of us feel that way.
when the time comes,
I will be there to guide you through it.
Dyer must want another child.
I understand.
Birthday gifts.
A box of raisins...
that needle case you've been needing
and a tin of sardines.
You spoil me.
You got gifts from your new friend.
She left hours ago.
I just saw her leave.
[wind howling]
[Abigail] The great storm began
with a faint groaning in the northeast.
It was like the noise of a locomotive.
[dramatic music playing]
[Dyer shouting]
[Tallie] Halt, mare, halt!
Stay there!
[man] Come closer, girl.
It's warmer over here.
[man] Mm.
[matchbook rustling]
[match striking]
Oh, I'm sorry. I'll be going.
[man] You should wait it out.
[dramatic music playing]
Come on, mare.
[Dyer speaking indistinctly]
[Abigail] How long would it be
before I received word of Tallie?
How long could I wait?
How long will the feed in the barn last?
Each cow eats 26 pounds
of forage every day.
You should know that.
They'll start to skinny down
after three days.
Heard the newspaper predicts
the storm will let up by then.
But that's probably based on
an expert's consultation of a goose bone.
In a real crisis of nature,
we're all at another's mercy.
My mother liked to say, "We tumbled
from one mortification to another."
When I was 7, an earthquake
knocked down our house and barn.
Did I tell you?
- An earthquake?
- Yes.
I remember something woke me
before dawn, I don't know what.
My father was calling out.
But I couldn't tear myself
away from the window.
I saw birds fluttering in the air,
afraid to set down.
And the river was roiling,
and I couldn't move.
And then...
finally, I jumped down
through our collapsed stairwell...
as all my brothers had done before me.
And we huddled together
in the dark on the porch.
Later, my mother said that the dread
never fully went away after that.
She said, "What was safe
if the solid earth could do that?"
My mother.
[both breathing heavily]
Tallie! You're frozen.
Tallie, stay awake. Stay awake.
Open your eyes. Open your eyes.
Keep your eyes open.
Keep your eyes open.
Look at me. Look.
I would die without you.
Then you're safe...
because I am here.
[Abigail] Monday, March 17th.
Half the chickens are lost.
I dug ice and snow
from their dead, open mouths
in an attempt to revive them.
for better traction.
[Abigail] The Widow Weldon's son,
on his rounds, reported
that Tallie had gotten home safely,
with, he thought, only a little frostbite.
We haven't seen your friend
down the lane for a while.
Mm. Finney took her to Oneonta.
And so everything is tedious and lonesome?
[Abigail] Thursday, April 10th.
[pensive music playing]
Biscuits and dried mackerel for breakfast.
Dyer has augmented
the padding in the cattle pens
with his hoardings
of maple leaves and old straw.
It always seems
that Tallie will never appear.
But I remind myself
that time and the needle
wear through the longest morning.
And I have noted
that when she does arrive,
my heart is like a leaf borne
over a rock by rapidly moving water.
[dog barking]
Hello. Oh!
Stay. Sit, sit.
[Abigail] Saturday, April 12th.
I spent the last two days...
[Abigail] Very damp, cloudy and cool.
Perhaps the forest is somewhere on fire.
Your nose is being gracious.
[Abigail] Monday, April 14th.
A terribly bad spring so far,
but the clover has come up through it
and is all right.
And how's Finney?
The soul of patience.
He's mentioning again
the idea of migrating west.
You're planning on moving west?
I had an uncle who moved to Ohio
and came to a desperate end.
Which is what one might expect from Ohio.
[Abigail] Mm.
[Abigail] Thursday, April 17th.
Rain in torrents nearly all night.
The lane is flooded
and the ditches brim full.
This morning, only a slight shower.
Tallie came later
than her usual time today.
She offered no explanation.
I'm sorry that your childhood
was anything less than joyous.
Joyous it was not.
But I made my own happinesses.
My husband says,
"God puts heavy stones in your path.
It's up to us to step over them."
Stones are what the fortunate receive.
My mother's mother was born in 1780
right here in Schoharie County.
I often wonder at the courage
and resourcefulness of those women.
Imagine faring forth into a wilderness,
hoping to build the foundations of a home.
Maybe they had a certain high hopefulness
that we don't have.
[horse whinnies]
When can you come?
- [Dyer] Hello, Tallie.
- Good day.
Your afternoon gladsome?
Yes, it was, very.
- Goodbye.
- Bye.
I felt, looking at her expression,
as if she were in full sail
on a flood tide
while I bobbed along down backwards.
And yet,
I never saw on her countenance
the indifference of the fortunate
towards the less fortunate.
- [Tallie] Good day.
- Good day.
Are you sick too?
Not at all.
I was hoping to compare colds.
I'll make you tea and honey.
Every morning, I wake up and I think
that I never want to be far from you.
And under your influence,
since you're so good with words,
I've composed a poem.
It's entitled:
"Oh, Sick and Miserable Heart, Be Still."
When I was a little girl,
I thought I could cultivate my intellect
and do something for the world.
But my life has surprised me
by being far more ordinary.
You're talking about that moment
that I have dreamed about,
when we're carried in triumph
for having done something wonderful
or received at home
with tears and shouts of joy.
Do you know what I wonder?
Is it possible that such a moment
hasn't yet come for either of us?
I think it has.
Or that it could.
You do?
So, what do you think?
What do you think about us?
- I don't know how to put it into words.
- Well, try.
- I have tried.
- Well, try again. What do you imagine?
I imagine that I love how our
encircling feelings leave nothing out...
for us to want or seek.
I've presumed too much.
[whispering] It's been my experience
that it's not always those who show
the least who actually feel... the least.
[dog scratches on deck]
[in normal voice]
It's my dog's toenails on the wood.
Why didn't you do
what you attempted to do?
[pensive music playing]
I worry you'll catch my cold.
You smell like a biscuit.
I have to go home.
[Abigail] Astonishment and joy.
Astonishment and joy.
Astonishment and joy.
You haven't accomplished
any of your responsibilities.
- Do you need assistance?
- No, I don't think so.
So it's a cold plate for supper tonight?
I'll milk the cows.
[pensive music playing]
[Abigail] Friday, May 30th.
The sunshine streaming
through the branches
makes a tremendous farrago
of light and shade.
We hold our friendship between us
and study it...
as if it were the incomplete map
of our escape.
When the day is done,
my mind turns to her
and I think, with a special heat:
"Why are we to be separated?"
[footsteps approaching]
Your smile stopped.
Is it meant for someone else?
Sorry, my mind was elsewhere.
We need calico, and buttons
and shoe thread.
Am I troubling you,
sitting here with you like this?
Not at all.
I may be late coming to it,
but I've learned consideration of others.
I've learned the need
for human sympathy...
by the unfulfilled want of it.
I feel I've provided you with sympathy.
I suppose that's so.
[knock on door]
Her smile returns.
[Tallie] Good day.
I believe that intimacy
increases goodwill.
And if that's the case,
then every minute we spend together
will make us more cheerful workers.
Won't our farms benefit from that?
Won't our husbands?
All our burdens will be lightened.
[softly humming]
[Abigail] When she left,
I was like a skiff at sea
with neither hand nor helm to guide it.
They're cleaning out the drain
under the street along the fork.
And several people are down with fever.
[Finney] Holt came by to hang the bacon.
He still hasn't recovered
from being beaten by two strangers.
He had to be hauled
to his home in his cart.
He said the men who did it
were gonna kill him,
but then realized
they were mistaken as to who he was.
Lately, it seems like all you talk about
are highwaymen and housebreakers.
On the contrary.
I often defer to your sensitivities.
I haven't even told you about
all the reports in the county
of men who have poisoned
and killed their wives
because I haven't found it
a fitting subject for supper.
[Abigail] "Killed their wives."
He used those words?
[Tallie] Mm-hm. Those words.
Have you had many disagreements?
Yes, about my wifely duties.
I told him that I was opposed to it,
that I was not willing.
And he accepted that?
Well, he hasn't touched me since, so...
[branch cracks]
But I made myself feel better
by composing a poem.
Can I read you the opening stanza?
You can read me the entire poem.
No, I'll start with the opening stanza.
I love flowering gardens
I love creeping plants
I love walking in the air
But I fear swarming ants
I don't think I can support the rhyme.
[both laughing]
You see why I didn't read the whole thing?
I'm sorry.
I've always been contrary and maladroit.
Earlier, I felt that...
whenever I would draw close to you,
you would retreat,
and that if I kept still, you would
return, but you'd stay at a distance,
like those sparrows
that stay in a farmyard
and won't come into the house.
- That's not how I feel.
- How do you feel, then?
When I was in school,
the teacher had me read Cordelia
to an older boy's King Lear.
Near the end of the play,
the king and his daughter are imprisoned,
but he views it in a positive way.
"Come, let's away to prison," he says.
"We two alone shall sing
like birds in a cage."
In a positive way?
Well, it may be that one
has to read the entire play.
Well, it may be only in plays where people
are imprisoned in a positive way.
You don't think there's a cage
that could work to our benefit?
[emotional music playing]
I just...
I only know that...
[sighs] I've never liked cages.
[door opens]
I hope you had a good afternoon
in Shangri-la or Timbuktu,
wherever it is you've been.
It's been a busy afternoon, yes.
I would think.
Five hours you've been gone.
I went to the drapers.
I couldn't find anything I liked.
I stopped by the tinker
for a sack of coffee,
but he's now asking 60 cents.
I only had 50.
And I thought I would buy you
a treat of some kind,
but Mr. Arnolds reminded me
that I still owed for my last transaction.
So I was forced to close up my purse.
Tell me everything about your day.
Don't hold anything back.
You're not interested in
how your wife spends her time?
I don't feel I have a wife.
I feel I have a selfish whore who...
Who'd rather wander off
to another man's house
than contribute any labor.
Well, Dyer was off in the fields,
and their house
is on the way back home, so...
So it's just Abigail and you tittering
and gossiping away the hours?
Enjoying each other's company.
I have certain expectations
and you have certain duties.
We have talked all night and day
about your expectations.
I will not stay with a woman
if it continually requires contention.
Well, then you shouldn't stay with me,
should you?
Don't ask for more than you can handle.
[Abigail] Sunday, June 8th.
All afternoon, a hawk has been using
a single cloud above us
as its own parasol.
To ward off others of its kind.
[Abigail] Our whole house now seems
both angry and repentant.
God help us.
[Abigail moans softly]
When three days went by
without any word from her,
I stole over to her house to look on her
from what I imagined to be
a vantage point of perfect safety.
[pensive music playing]
By turning the lens piece,
I could draw her face nearer
and hold it there until she turned away.
Her image provoked a sensation in me
like the violence
that sends a floating branch far out
over a waterfall's precipice
before it plummets.
[Finney & Tallie arguing and dog barking]
[Finney] For the wife does not have
the authority over her own body,
but the husband does.
Do not deprive one another,
so that Satan may not tempt you
because of your lack of self-control.
Ephesians 5:33.
Submit to your own husbands,
as to the Lord...
[Abigail] Monday, June 9th.
[thunder crashing]
[Abigail] Merciful Father...
turn the channel of events.
Wednesday, June 11th.
Dyer has been silent all day,
and I was happy to be left to my solitude.
We haven't seen you for days.
Have you been ill?
- Nothing serious, I hope.
- [Finley] Whoa.
She's been under the weather.
- [Dyer] Good afternoon.
- [Tallie] Good afternoon.
We want to invite you to dinner again,
this Saturday next.
But it's our turn.
We should be feasting you.
In the meantime, please be our guests.
[Dyer] We'd love to.
[Dyer] Six it is.
[pensive music playing]
[Abigail] My mother once told me,
in a fury, when I was a little girl,
that my father asked nothing of her
except that she work in the garden,
harvest the produce, preserve the fruit,
tend the poultry, milk the cows,
manage the household duties
and help out in the fields when needed.
She said she appeared in his ledger
only when she purchased a dress.
Am I anywhere in there?
I'm recording spring expenses.
[Abigail] And how have things changed?
Daughters are married off so young
that everywhere you look,
a slender and unwilling girl is being
forced to stem a sea of tribulations
before she is even full-grown in height.
That's its purpose!
Come on. Come on.
[Abigail] Morning.
Morning, Jim.
Morning, ma'am.
I've got a new book for you.
You know, I'd actually like to see
that blue dress you have there.
All right, lady.
It's two and a half.
I'll take it.
[baby crying]
My change?
Thank you.
The Mannings' eldest daughter tipped over
an oil lamp and it set the house ablaze.
- [woman] Fire!
- [Abigail] Ho, ho.
[man] Fire!
[Abigail] Before she was driven
from the house by the flames,
she heard calls from her sister
who was trapped in the upper loft.
[man] Come on!
[dramatic music playing]
[all clamoring]
[woman wailing] No!
[Abigail] Just another minute.
Just another...
[woman] Get her out!
Get her out!
Get her out of there!
Get her out!
Get her out!
Your wife's to be commended
on her hospitality and cooking.
I can recall the day...
No, thank you.
When every family
was fed, clothed, shod, sheltered
and warmed from the products a good wife
gathered within her own fence line.
[Dyer] I heard down by the loggers
Mrs. Manning's oldest
got fiercely burned in a house fire.
- Cassie.
- [Tallie] And died.
[Abigail] Yes, she did.
Well, as my father used to say:
"The supreme disposer of all events does
sometimes disappoint our earthly hopes."
What a marvelous hanging lamp.
Finney purchased it so that everyone could
read with equal ease all around the room.
I wasn't brought up to read over much.
But I do believe a father should give
his children every chance to improve.
Children being
a sore point in this household.
And yours, I'd expect.
You'll have to forgive my husband.
Even so... whatever misfortunes
arrive at my doorstep,
I seek to improve my lot
with my own industry.
I study my options closely,
and I just attend to everything
with more vehemence.
Well, then you should
be commended for that.
I'll give you an example.
When I first began farming,
I was so vexed at my own inability
to stop my dogs barking
that one January, during a storm,
I held the dog around
the corner of the barn in a gale
until it froze to death.
I nearly froze to death myself,
at least froze my hands,
even with my heavy work gloves.
That is reprehensible.
[Dyer] Did I see outside
that you use an old shovel plow?
Well, since you're interested
in my machinery...
I have a hinged harrow
that's been giving me trouble.
The spikes catch the rocks and roots,
and they break off.
Well, our harrow has upright discs.
Work better?
Yeah, it seems to.
Bring the desserts.
I think we're stuffed.
My husband insists on his pastries
and preserved fruits and creams.
Well, good.
What is happening? Are you in danger?
- What happened to your neck?
- Oh, I just took a fall over a fence.
I hadn't heard.
Well, there are many things
about which you haven't heard.
[Abigail] Back at the table,
Tallie kept strict custody of her eyes.
Her husband's mood
seemed to have darkened.
He served
the pastries and creams himself...
leaving only her plate empty.
Saturday, June 21st.
My heart a maelstrom.
My head a bedlam.
A whole week and no visit from Tallie.
No word.
My anxieties often force me
to stop my work
and pace the house like an inmate.
I have to see her.
[pensive music playing]
Ho, ho.
- [knock on door]
- [shrieks]
What has happened?
They're gone.
And no goodbye?
We need to call the sheriff.
And report what exactly?
That our neighbors moved?
It's the Zebrun farm. They were renting.
I'll go, then.
For what reason?
There's blood.
And you never had an accident?
So we'll just do nothing?
I'll make the rounds of the neighbors.
And if we're not satisfied,
we can take your fears to the sheriff.
Thank you.
[Abigail] Monday, June 23rd.
Dyer said Mrs. Nottoway recalled
spotting their caravan on the country road
in the late evening, heading northwest.
[Dyer] Mrs. Nottoway?
[Abigail] She believed she spied
Tallie's figure alongside her husband's
but was unsure.
A hired hand, she thought,
was driving the second wagon.
Sunday, June 29th.
I spotted the sheriff
on his way to church.
- Our neighbors, Tallie...
- I conveyed my accusations to no response.
Dyer said that
no one would investigate a crime
without evidence
that a crime had been committed.
Calm myself?
I refused to calm myself, so he tied me
to a chair and administered laudanum.
Monday, June 30th.
Bleary and short of breath
from the laudanum...
I wake weeping, retire weeping...
stand before my duties weeping.
Sunday, July 6th.
I am a library without books,
a sea of fear, agitation and want.
Dyer speaks of how much we have
for which to be grateful.
I sit violently conscious
of the ticking clock
while he weeps at what he imagines
to be his own poor, forgotten self.
Wednesday, July 9th.
Despite some hours without the laudanum,
I was so befogged and wild with grief
that Dyer left me for the afternoon,
unsettled and wary of my state.
Tuesday, July 22nd.
[horse neighing]
- Good day.
- The renters at Zebrun's farm are gone.
Did they leave a forwarding address?
No. You've got a letter.
Is it from her?
It is.
Onondaga County. Do you know it?
That's north of Syracuse.
You gonna read it?
To myself.
[Tallie] Abigail, Abigail, Abigail.
I'm sorry that all I have to send you
is this letter,
and I'm sorry
for all that a letter cannot be.
Even the best letter
is just a little bit of someone.
I'm sorry I never got to say goodbye.
And I'm sorry that we seem to have
traded one sort of misery for another.
It turns out that houses
deep in the backwoods
always seem to be awful and unnatural
in their loneliness.
If there were only a ruined abbey
around here with bats in it,
the view would be perfect.
Our roof is ramshackle
and sheds water nicely in dry weather,
but we have to spread milk pans
around the floor when it rains.
Still, outside the kitchen,
there are already anemones
and heartsease
and even prettier flowers
which my stupidity
keeps me from naming for you.
I believe I've enjoyed myself less
these last few weeks
than any other female who ever lived.
During what little time I have to myself,
Finney reads aloud instructions for wives
from the Old Testament.
But when it comes to the Bible,
I have to say that there are a lot
of passages he may know word for word,
but which haven't touched his heart.
I can't account for his state of mind
except to say
that my company must be
intensely disagreeable to him.
And if that's the case, I'm sorry for it.
[horse approaching]
[man] Good afternoon!
Whoa, whoa. Hey.
Got something for you.
There you go.
- Thank you.
- Good day.
- Is it for me?
- From Schoharie County.
- Your Abigail.
- Give that to me.
Give it. Finney, give...
- Finney.
- "What's to become
of the thousands of our sex
scattered out in the wilderness
and obliged to tax our strengths?
I feel as if, at that selfsame hour,
when our prospects were brightest,
that in the dim distance,
a black shadow approached.
And yet still, imagine the happiest
of unions for us of the sort
in which two families,
previously at daggers drawn,
are miraculously
brought together on love's account.
It is your face I bear through the night.
It is to you I devote a dreaming space
before I turn myself to sleep,
but there is no sleep.
It's as if within me
everything clamors for air,
and I think if it's like this now,
what will it be like later?
I send you what love and support I can.
I send you all my heart's hopes. Abigail."
[Tallie] Please know that force alone
couldn't have gotten me here
to a place like this.
I was told that I had to act
in support of interest, happiness
and the reputation
of someone I once loved.
As far as I can figure,
we're now still only about 85 miles apart.
But of course,
people like us don't go on long visits.
[dramatic music playing]
[Abigail] Dyer refused first to permit
my departure, and then to accompany me...
and only caught up to the cart at the end
of our property and climbed aboard.
We were the very picture of anguish,
rattling along side by side.
The night was fair and warm with
the appearance of a coming rain, a shower.
[Tallie] It's so hard to write about
how much I want to thank you,
but I have to start somewhere.
I want to tell you that being with you,
even alone,
has been like
being a part of the biggest
and most spacious community
I could ever imagine.
I feel closer to you
than I would to a sister
since everything amazing that I feel...
I chose to feel.
And do you know what memory
it is that I most cherish?
It's of your turning to me
with that smile you gave me
once you realized that you were loved.
I have no way of knowing what is to come.
But I do know that all of the trust,
and care and courage we shared,
that will all shine on us
and protect us.
You are my city of joy.
You are my city of joy.
[wagon approaching]
[Dyer] Whoa.
[Finney] Might I ask your business?
[Abigail] I've come to see Tallie.
Where is she?
I heard you on the road. You made such
a racket, I took you for the tin knocker.
We've ridden for three days.
We're not leaving without seeing her.
I'm not concerned with
what you will or will not leave without.
- [Dyer] Keep a civil tongue, friend.
- Where is she?
I treated her with tea of soot
and pine-tree root to good effect.
But sickness always tests our willingness
to bow before the greatest authority.
My guess is that it was diphtheria.
[Finney] There is some alienation
from marital...
[Abigail whimpers]
[emotional music playing]
What time is it?
I don't care.
- I have to go.
- You're gonna make a mark.
[Dyer] Come on.
Come on.
Come on.
[church bell tolling]
[Abigail] Sunday, August 31st.
Weather very hot and sunny.
I cleaned out the shed,
which was full of rusty and dusty rubbish,
washed the windows
and preserved apples for the winter.
Fourteen dollars from the sale
of our milk and butter.
I have cut my hand with a paring knife.
I console myself with the conviction
that someday in the future
when Dyer is forced to travel
to Syracuse for feed or supplies,
I will join him, and take his rifle
and go to Skaneateles
and kill Finney where he sits.
Dyer has been at work on the barn.
Each day, we enact our separation.
Sometimes after it gets dark,
we walk over the hills across
our upper fields for the wide, wide view.
And Dyer tries to imagine us as we were...
while I try to imagine Tallie
in that cordial and accepting home
that existed solely in our dreams.
I imagine Tallie and Nellie
somewhere together,
and Nellie running her brush
through Tallie's hair.
I imagine banishing forever
those sentiments of my own
that she chastened and refined.
I imagine resolving to do
what I can for Dyer.
And I imagine continuing
to write in this ledger,
here, as though this was my life.
As though my life was not elsewhere.
I've always feared that I would
bring misfortune to those I loved.
Are you really saying nothing to that?
I don't know where to start.
I can't imagine what more
we could do for one another...
with our constraints.
You can't?
I can't.
You can't?
Well, then...
it's a good thing we remember
that our imaginations
can always be cultivated.
[pensive music playing]
["The World to Come" playing]
And well beyond
The world to come
I'll section my heart
For my own sympathies
And I believe
We shall receive
Surrendering hope
For a true sovereignty
'Twas like a dream
You came to be
Then happenstance drew you
Next to me
Are you the one
To whom I belong?
'Cause this day
It's resembling
A lonely song
In my world to come
Fated to be as one
In some
Deep oblivion
Two sweet lovers
Will succumb
Will succumb
That view upon
Delights us more
Pale wings carry thee
Back to me
To begin it means
Unfathomless destiny
In my world to come
Fated to be as one
In some sweet oblivion
Two sweet lovers
Will succumb
And well beyond
The world to come
A deafening heart
Beats fast for thee