Scene 3 - 1796, Altes Christiansbrunn, Pennsylvania


Opening the cellar door, he stepped inside, shut the door and went to the far wall where the spring poured from a low stone arch. He knelt beside the stream that ran in a trough through the building and spoke: "So, this is the end, my Christel. It has come to this. All our hopes and dreams and labor ended today when the ever-so-beneficient bishop officially disbanded our order. Disbanded. Gone. Disbursed. Scattered. The few old brothers with me are being sent to other communities and the church will rent out the land.

"And so it's over, Christel. I am being sent to Salem, and know I'll never survive the trip. I have no wish to survive. My life is over. I am too old and I've seen too much.

"The church we tried so hard to keep at arms' length has ended by swallowing us whole. They never understood, did they? Or maybe they did, for a while. I remember those days so well. We were all on fire. We burned in the presence of the spirit. Our Bridegroom has come, we said. The long wait is over. Our holy marriage is consummated.

"And you were our Bridegroom. Christ lived within you. We knew that. There was no doubt. You entered us and filled us with the spirit. Even after that night at Herrnhaag, we knew the spirit would continue. Even your father only stopped us for a moment because we knew you'd survive.

"So we came here to Pennsylvania and built a house where you could come and live. I planted the peach trees myself. I knew they were your favorite fruit, and I wanted them bearing by the time you arrived.

"But you followed your father meekly to London. You recanted the very beliefs you gave us. We remained true, three-thousand miles away. You remained the obedient  son, true to your father, while we remained true to the spir- it. You could have come, but you were too weak. I see that now and I blame you for it. For we were a crew without a captain.

"We waited and waited, then you died and we simply fell apart. Something cracked. The foundation was never whole after that. The walls split, crumbled. We built an entire community for you, and then we watched it die.

"When passion leaves, what is left? What can sustain the center but faith and work? Work we did. We made the desert bloom. You would have been so proud of us, Christ- el. The largest barns, the most productive farm, the finest cattle in the colonies. Buildings so beautifully built with our own hands they still bring me joy each day. But the center was gone and the walls began to crack.

"This spring was all we had left, your blood pouring from the earth. Then we knew you were not dead but lived a- gain, that you had been true to your calling after all. You fulfilled your earthly duty to your father, then your spiritual duty to your self. But how could we make people understand? We told your story, sang your hymns, came here and drank your blood, but they didn't understand. They wanted something else. And they went away, searching for it.

"America is that way and we found we could not fight it. Over time, even our own brothers broke rank, especially the younger ones who never really knew you. They wanted to be on their own. They wanted legitimacy.

"Well, the church gave them that because it became very legitimate itself. The old beliefs we cherished were said to be false: no more blood, no more Holy Spirit as Mother, no more you. We didn't listen, of course, but it kept us apart from those who once supported us until we no longer had any support at all. And we simply couldn't keep going. We were getting too old.

"The church became modern, American. But we never did. People looked at us as relics of a distant age and so we are, the handful who are left. We remained true to you, drinking your blood at the spring. Singing your hymns. But the hopelessness of our position grew clearer and clearer. We had no future, barely a present and only a past.

"It was that knowledge that led us to the beer casks in the cellars. Deaden, deaden, feel no more. That was what we sought. No wonder the church looked at us with such contempt and disgust, as though we were untouchable, alien, and so we were.

"But now that is all over. We'll never be an embarrassment again because the good bishop has officially disbanded us. After fewer than fifty years, the community is gone. Oh, the buildings will remain, but for how long without us to maintain them?

"We were a family, a large, loving, caring family and now we are being torn from our hearth, our home, our soil and our spring. But I do not go willingly, Christel, know that. I do not go willingly. And though it be unchristian, I do curse the church for its weakness, its failure to be true to the spirit, to settle for less than it was because of ease and security. We worked so hard to retain your truth within us. But we live in a time when such truth is no longer desired.

"And so, my Christel, even I must leave you now. I remember clearly my first sight of you, coming through the village with your brothers, all in white linen. And I had my metal armor and sword still on from battle. But you stopped and looked at me.

"'Come,' you said. 'Come with me and we will live in the light together.' And I took off my armor and sword and followed you, never once looking back. And they think they can take you from me. They never understood us."

He bent over, touched his lips to the water, and drank deeply before speaking again.

"Come, Christel, come inside me. Stay with me until I die and we join again, forever."

Then he drank again and again, not noticing the man standing in the doorway, waiting to take him to Salem.