Legends of the Fall

Some people hear their own inner voices with great cleanness. And they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends ... Tristan Ludlow was bom in the moon of the falling leaves. lt was a terrible winter. His mother almost died bringing him into this world. His father, the Colonel, brought him to me. l wrapped him in a bear skin and held him all that night. As he grew into a man, l taught him the joy of the kill. When the hunter cuts out its warm heart. - - setting its spirit free. Colonel Ludlow had three sons, but Tristan was his favourite. l'd had sons, too ... But they were gone now ... Forever. lt was a very bad time. The Colonel had tried to help the people. But it was no use. So he decided to go his own way. He wanted to lose the madness over the mountains, he said. Begin again. Lose the madness, he said ... And so we lived for many years, and the boys grew strong. Alfred was the older brother, old even for his years. Samuel was the youngest. There was nothing these brothers would not do for him. They watched over him like a treasure. One year ... l am an old man, l cannot remember the year. lt was the moon of the red grass. lsabel Ludlow, their mother, went away for the winter. She said the winters were too cruel for her. She said she was afraid of the bears. She was a strange woman, anyway. That spring, though, she did not retum. And after that. she did not come much to see us. Alfred wrote her many letters, but Tristan refused to speak of her. His world was here ... with me. Every warrior hopes a good death will find him. But Tristan couldn 't wait. He went looking for his. Tristan! Tristan! - Was it a bear? - Yes, sir Can you breathe? Take your hand away You're a stupid, half-bred jackass Did One Stab put you up to this? You deserve to be dead God knows how you've lived so long l have these letters. Read them. They are from all of them. Ludlow ... lsabel ... Samuel. The whole family. The whole story. lt is all written here. April th, . Dear lsabel, l am not fool enough to try to alter a life already lived. But l feel l have not done well raising our sons in this wild place. What did l know of children? l was trained to lead men. This is infinitely harder. Dear William, you take too much responsibility on yourself. Our sons can find their own paths. They are willful, certainly, - - but who are we to complain of willfulness. l have news of Samuel. At a Harvard tea - - he met Miss Susannah Finncannon. l know it will surprise you greatly, but they are engaged. This summer he will bring her to Montana to meet you all. So behave yourself and be as charming as only you can be. There he is - How the hell are you? - Good, and you? Samuel Good to see you, boy Father, this is my fiancee Susannah - Miss Finncannon - l'm pleased to meet you And this is Alfred - Here's your dog - lt's a horse - That's a strange-looking animal - Finn is a champion - An exotic dog, Miss Finncannon - Yes, Mr Ludlow Call me Susannah - He's just plain old Alfred - Shut up - Where's Tristan? - He's off somewhere He'll be here tonight, or I'll know the reason why Miss Finncannon, please Did you have a good journey? She is a lovely creature, William, - - but she has a certain fragility after the loss of herparents. At times l think she feels very alone in the world. But she has found a new family now. The German military is ready The entire civilized world could be plunged into The word ''civilized'' has no place in the affairs of this world Our mother has told us of your sympathy for the social reformers - You make it sound like a disease - No, l'm in agreement Your mother told me of One Stab She said he was a great warrior He has a bag of scalps somewhere to prove it, but don't worry, - - he and father are devoted to each other now - Can he speak English? - Stab? Speak English? He wouldn't lower himself to speak English Would you, Stab? But watch out, he understands it perfectly well Hey, there's Tristan - Don't they feed you up there? - Not much - You smell - Miss me, did you? - Still hungover? - Still drunk lsn't she amazing? So this is Tristan And does he speak English? Miss Finncannon, it's a pleasure to meet you l hope you and ugly here find every happiness together Don't mind my brother Your dog has more breeding than he has - This is Mother's room - lt's lovely lt's a pleasure to meet you, Pet Argemonia albeflora, Langifolia ... - Angelica arguta - Which one's that? lt's this one Angelica Susannah Hello You must be lsabel Two l've already met your mother and father - How old are you? - When l was l was sent away to boarding school l hated it May l help you? - You're going to marry Samuel - That's right l'm going to marry Tristan Then we'll be sisters - l see you two have met - lsabel Two is letting me help - Rest now You must be exhausted - No, not at all This is so refreshing All this grandeur This unexpected gift from God lt doesn't seem Like much of a gift four months into a hard winter - Where's Samuel? - He's inside with your father - You're very generous - No just happy Alfred! Stop mooning over Miss Finncannon Tell Samuel about the new calves Come on Excuse my father lt makes him feel young and powerful to treat us like idiot children For this and all his other blessings, may God's name be praised Amen Tell Father what you were saying about Vienna The Kaiser He won't stop them from annihilating Serbia - No talk of war at the table - All England is mobilizing - We're stuck out here - Thank God for that - We're evading our duty - Are you? Excuse me for being late l packed so carefully l couldn't find things Thank you Dear lsabel, how strange to have a cultivated woman in the house again. lntoxicating. l have all my sons with me again. lt fills me with such deep, quiet satisfaction that l thank God. Hey, Stab! There's a friend of yours l've got a dollar that says he brings her back Nice work! You guys look like a bunch of ice cream cones Go easy on him, Susannah - Alfred, you take over - You've disgraced our name - Nice shiner - Yeah l hit her back She's got me spinning She's got these ideas and theories - She's - What? Nothing - How did you break the mare? - Oh no She's what? She's sort of passionate - Is she a virgin? - Good Lord! Of course she is Are you? - Yes - Gonna wait till you get married? She says Susannah thinks that No We're not gonna wait And you're afraid you won't meet her expectations l guess l am Sort of l don't know - Should l be? - God bless you You are good at everything you try to do Fuck her - We're talking about my fiancee - Why not fuck her? l'm planning to be with her - l recommend fucking - You're impossible - Tristan's gone hunting - We're not here for Tristan This is John T and James O'Banion, they own the new mercantile store Good morning, Alfred We're looking for a man who might be around here Name of Tom Cullen l have a likeness here - What did this fella do? - Do you recognize him? - Yes - We've got him, James This fella passed by here four years ago He did some work He was on his way to San Francisco He hoped to sail for Australia - Or was it Hong Kong? - l think it was Hong Kong - What is he wanted for, Sheriff? - That would be of a private nature A private nature? That's a public office you hold, isn't it, Sheriff? ''There came a low hiss, and Rikki Tikki Tavi jumped back'' ''Then out of the grass rose the head and spread hood '' ''lt was Nag the big black cobra '' Don't you like this story? The Germans broke through The British are trapped in Belgium And this paper's a week old - l speak German l'd be an officer - And lead boys to the slaughter - Your men worshipped you - And they were damn fools! This is a turning point in history - Father, you taught us - l taught you to think clearly - And to defend what's ours - Yes, what is ours ! Don't talk at me, boys, as if l've never seen a war! Not a war like this, you haven't They said that about the lndian wars - That's how they sell newspapers - We're fighting naked aggression There will be no more talk of wars in this house, damn it! l'm sorry, Susannah l'm going to Canada to enlist l'm going with him l'm sorry, my love l know you'll understand lt's the only honourable thing to do - What's that? - lt's a book my father wrote He tried to alter the government's policies towards lndians - Samuel won't change his mind - Change it for him What happened between them? Father says she never liked it here l think they loved mostly the idea of each other Please, don't let him go l'll take care of him October th, . My dear lsabel, today our sons are leaving home - - to defend an England they have never seen. l am unable to stop them. l have tried to shelter our sons from all the madness. And now they go to seek it. Be careful You don't have to go Alfred Goodbye Don't worry, Father Take care, now Samuel . - l'll get you the Kaiser's helmet - Just get yourself back Tristan - Take care of Samuel - l will Colonel Ludlow told me: ''Ride with them to Calgary. Bring back the horses. '' ''Damn fools, '' he called them. ''Damn fools. '' The Colonel would not have his sons ride off to war on old nags. Damn fools or not. Come on, let's join them Bring your plate May we join you? Sit down We're feeling lonely in there - What's her name? - Lady Tristan's Lady - Tristan's lady was lsolde - You know the story, don't you? You're in need of education She can read and write School might be awkward for her - l'll teach her myself - May l help? Literature, history, mathematics With your permission, Decker, and yours, Pet What do you think? - What good is her education? - She'll live a richer, fuller life - She's a half-breed - Not in this house - Tristan calls me a half-breed - Does he? He says l'm half gopher and half hawk After her chores, then - To us all - To you, sir and miss And to the boys And the boys - Get back to your unit - Those boys are boring I'd rather have you watch my back Here you are, mate February rd, . Dear Susannah, the horror of this place is indescribable. Nothing is as l thought. Tonight. as l prayed for the souls of those who 've died so terribly, - - l also prayed forpersonal glory. ls it wrong to want to distinguish myself in combat. as my father did? Tristan and Alfred watch over me, so l may never get the opportunity. - Are you hit? - lt's just a scratch l see now not that my father was right. but that l was naive. - Let me get up! - Stay down! Our bodies are in God's keeping. We go into battle honourably. Confident. His name on our lips. - We're pinned here - We'll wait Susannah, l try to guard against depair, - - but at moments it seems all human decency has gone. Alfred will recover from his wounds. He and Tristan have drifted apart. l cannot understand it. l miss you more than you can imagine. You're all that's clean and cool and pure. l close my eyes and fix my thoughts on you. l now regret that we agreed to wait to marry. l regret that we were never together as we planned to be. Please stay on at the ranch and wait for me. Don 't let Father worry. God will protect me, aided considerably by Tristan. He seems to have come to France purely to nursemaid me. Be well, my love. Your own Samuel. - l have to translate this - Alfred will want to see you l'll be there Go on and go - Alfred - Where's Samuel? He's translating He'll be here - Vino? - Put that away - You'll be getting a medal - Yes, they're sending me home - l'm glad for you - An officer belongs with his men - Horseshit! - Or what's left of them MacKenzie's here His leg's turned bad He said - What? - What is it? Your brother volunteered to take his place on the reconnaissance l told you to stay with him! l told you to stay with him! Samuel! Samuel! Samuel! Tristan! - Tristan! Tristan! - l'm here! l can't see! I can't move! Samuel, l'm coming! l've got you You're doing good We're going home God damn you, God! Tristan Tristan! Tristan, it's me March th, . Dear Father and Susannah. l have been discharged, but l cannot come home yet. l'lljoin Grandfather Ludlow in Comwall and go to sea. As for our beloved Samuel, all l can send home is his heart. Alfred will bring it back. You know where he should be buried. Up in the box canyon. Your son, Tristan. Well He certainly was the best of all of us, wasn't he? Goodnight Goodnight, Father Alfred What you saw that night before Samuel left - Please, don't - No, l want to - lt was Samuel l loved. - All right Tristan will be back someday Your father will be pleased Susannah was to retum to Boston on the moming train. But a norther blew for three days, and snow drifted over the tracks. The Colonel insisted she stay on until spring. The house was too empty, he said. This was still her home, he told her. He should have let her go. But how could he have known what would happen? She was not to blame. She was like the water that freezes in the rock and splits it apart. lt was no more her fault than it is of the water - - when the rock shatters. Susannah You know how much l loved Samuel And l think you know Out of respect for him, l wanted to say it here l think you know l'm in love with you From the first moment l saw you Like in a novel That's my mother's romantic imagination coming out in me - You're not making this easy - Sorry ls there any hope that you could learn to love me? Not the way you loved Samuel, of course, but . We could make a life together A happy life l don't think so, Alfred lt seems like you're not sure Maybe there's a chance l think l can only cause you pain Why don't you let me be the judge of that? l didn't break it, but l can fix the wheel myself Go take a nap Colonel! Look! l'm going into town, if Welcome home, son. - l couldn't save him - Of course you couldn't - l couldn't save him - lt's all right Did you have a nice ride today? Excuse me, Father Tristan When are you planning to be married? Morning Damn you, Tristan You will marry her - Make an honest woman of her? - Yes! God damn you to hell - l'll marry her, if she'll have me - lf she'll have you? Do you love her? Or did you seduce her just to spite me? - What about Samuel? - Samuel? - You tell me - We all loved him, but he's dead How convenient that is for you Because you love her, l will forgive you for that Once! You say that again and we're not brothers Once! - You know you can't make her happy - l'm gonna try You will fail l'm going to be leaving today l do wish you both all the best Goodbye, son Good luck September th, . Dear Mother, l think l may have found my place in this world. Helena is a city tumed modem ovemight. lt's bursting with the energy and vitality of our times. l feel alive here. There is much opportunity for anyone willing to work. Already l have a reputation for honesty and fair dealing. And some of Helena's most influential citizens are my friends. They are determined to see this city grow, as am l. Mother, thank you foryour letter. You knew my hopes. You understand my disappointment. That is a great comfort to me. Every night l pray for the grace to forgive Tristan. l know you understand. Your loving son Alfred. Quit it! Goddamn it! Goddamn it! lf we have a boy, l'd like to call him Samuel And if it's a girl, lsabel l'll still love you And you'll tolerate me because of how much l love you Tristan Nothing l heard from your mother Alfred has hooked up with the O'Banion brothers He's doing well - Alfred will always do well - Except when he's here with us That's my fault l couldn't bring Samuel home alive, either. Don't you dare say that! That was in God's hands Was it? Colonel, we found a dead calf lt might be a grizzly My grizzly? - You take him, Tristan - You're damn right l will l don 't know why Tristan didn 't kill that damn old bear. They say when a man and an animal have spilled each other's blood, - - they become one. - l said four beers, Mr Sachtleben - And l said no lndians He's quite civilized, l assure you Give him a beer My father said four, didn't he? - We'd reached an understanding - Give him a beer! Stay out of it! You're a fool spoiling for a fight with a man that outweighs you He's sure to have weapon at hand Right, Mr Sachtleben? He'd split your stupid skull and kill you stone-dead! l want four beers Now! The owner doesn't want to serve any lndians Get back! You see this man? Do you? His name is One Stab He's an elder of the Cree nation and a warrior He's our friend and he's thirsty l think it was the bear's voice he heard deep inside him. Growling low of dark, secret places. Were you going to say goodbye? Tristan? How long will you be gone? Not long A few months - l can make it better for you - No lf we'd had a child or if l were pregnant, would you still be going? Yes - Just give me a chance - Don't do that Look at me Please, look at me l'll wait for you However long it takes l'll wait for you forever - Will he come back? - l don't know Stab says yes April th, . Dear Tristan ... lt has been months now and still no word. l know you're alive. We had a tattered parcel from New Guinea. lt was covered with strange writing. lnside was a native bracelet. Meant for me, l presume ... Perhaps not. Do you still care to know what is happening here? Cattle prices continue to fall. The winter seems never - ending. Why don 't you write? Are you never coming back, and afraid to tell me? Alfred continues to do well. His business has expanded to Chicago and Washington. He wants to send lsabel Two to school, but she won 't leave. l think she, too, is waiting foryou. l have nowhere to send this letter. And l have no reason to believe you wish to receive it. l write it only for myself. l'll hide it away with all the other things left undone between us. December th, . Dear Susannah. l have become a hunter. Tell Stab there are creatures here that cannot even be found in books. And l have killed them all. Susannah, all we had is dead ... ... as l am dead. Marry another. Colonel, it looks like we've got compnay Father, l have come to ask for your blessing - You see, these gentlemen - And a great many others - They want me to run for office - What sort of office? - The United States Congress - We hold your son in high regard Well Alfred And what do you gentlemen hope to get out of this? What do you want for yourselves, should my son be elected? l don't think these gentlemen Do you think these men back you out of patriotism and admiration? Father, l am no longer a child - Congress - l worked for the government once - The issues that we - lndians! lndians were the issue in those days There is nothing so grotesque as the meeting of a child with a bullet We slaughtered entire villages That was the government's resolution on that issue And l doubt, since then, that they have gained in wisdom or humanity My father, for whom l have the greatest respect, - - says that the government has neither wisdom nor humanity l therefore consider it my duty, as my father's son, - - to bring both wisdom and humanity to the United States Congress l thank you for your blessing, Father Gentlemen, would you mind waiting for me in the cars? Are you all right? What's wrong? All we had is dead Marry another l don't know what to say Tristan's always been wild - You love him for that - Do l? Yeah, l suppose l do He does Iove you Alfred! She's to be your brother's wife - You better remind him of that - He's not here to defend himself No, but l see you are here to defend him Even though he's abandoned her and you! And you know who else he abandoned Don't you blame my son for Samuel's death! Samuel was a soldier He was sent to his death by men in government Parasites like you! Damn and blast you! - And damn you, too! - Leave her out of this! - Get out of my house - Because l aim to serve my country? Or because, like you, l love a woman who doesn't love me? - He used her and he deserted her - Alfred, don't l loved her l love her still He stole her from me He stole her from Samuel before the war! God help me, l'll kill you Here, read your darling Tristan's letter Susannah you deserve to be happy Late that night we found the Colonel on the floor. He could not move. His hair tumed white ovemight. He became an old man. After that. Tristan sent no more letters. After that. Tristan sent no more letters. As the years passed by, we'd hear someone had seen him on a ship. Sailing for some place that no white man had been before. Stories came to us. Strange stories. And then foryears there was nothing. He was lost to us. That was all we knew. But every year in the moon of the falling leaves - - l would dream that the bear's voice inside him had grown silent And that Tristan might again come to live in the world. But then the winter would come ... and then another spring. And still he stayed away. What the hell is he doing now? Tristan! She's a mean old bitch, but she's yours Welcome home Hey, old man! Where's Father? Stab? He had a stroke some years ago He can't talk now He wants to celebrate AM HAPPY l'm happy, too Father, this is for you ''Colonel William Ludlow, from his son Tristan'' l didn't know Stab, these are boar's tusks, made by a Javanese warrior He, too, was a great man Decker . Pet l have other things, too, for Mother and little lzzy and Susannah What is it? Tell him Alfred and Miss Susannah were married several years ago Your brother's a congressman now They have a big new place over in Helena lt's as it should be Cattle prices dropped after the war ended The Colonel didn't care much He lost everything he had We'll make it back On horses, or something else We'll make it back He says your brother voted for the Volstead Act - Should we try bootlegging? - There's good money in it - Screw the government! - Screw the government! Forever turned out to be too long, Tristan l know Here l don't want it They told me that this was magic That whoever wore it would be protected Keep it Don't you want to see Alfred? lt's probably better that l don't Tell him hello and congratulations He likes you Welcome home lsabel? l want you to have him l have something for you, too l brought it back - lt's from lerapetra in - Crete l know where it is Your father taught me European history A little girl That's me, right? Thank you, Tristan lt was then that Tristan came into the quiet heart of his life. The bear inside him was sleeping. lt is hard to tell of happiness. Time goes by and we feel safe too soon. l heard the oddest news Tristan is back Yes, l know You know? How do you know? l saw him You mean he came here just to see you? No He wanted to see you, but he thought you'd get upset l think he might be right What did he What did he say? He said to say hello and congratulations Silly me He told you the news, did he? Well, what do you think? Come on, it's perfectly absurd Marrying lsabel Two She's practically our sister - She can't be more than - What the hell is Decker thinking of to allow this? Perhaps he's thinking of his daughter's happiness Happiness? With Tristan? You of all people should know that's impossible l'm not lsabel Two June nd, . Dear Tristan. l was so pleased to hear ofyour coming marriage. Your father must be very happy. lsabel Two is a daughter to him. Being named afteryour mother, - - it seems as though it was always meant to be. Damnation! Samuel Decker Ludlow Dearest Tristan ... We were delighted to hear ofyour son 's birth. We had hoped for a child of our own, but of that l despair. Alfred thinks ofyou often. l hope we shall all meet one day. Your son bears a proud name. l know he will live up to it. Give my love to lsabel Two and to your father. Yours always, Susannah. Yours always, Susannah. Evening, gentlemen - We have to talk about things - By all means As you know, we handle the liquor around here You've been what we call a small-time operator But lately, your shipments have been getting a little fat And my patience is getting thin The next time you get in our way will be the last time Perhaps you're wondering why you're not dead already Your brother is Congressman Ludlow, and that's it Kenneth . Thomas Hello, Alfred Hello, Tristan - Who's this young man? - Samuel Hello, Samuel She's beautiful Hello, lzzy Let me see - Samuel? - Hello Who is this lady? l'm your Aunt Susannah l used to know your Uncle Samuel, who died in the war - l think you look like him - That's what Grandpa says - He was very brave and very good - Grandpa says that, too Soon l can have Uncle Samuel's gun Will you can come and see it? l'd love to sometime - He's a fine boy, Tristan - He is How's Father? ls he well? As well as can be expected l wish Pardon the intrusion - We're ready for your speech - l'll be there in a minute - We'll meet again soon - l'd like that Kenneth Watch this Go and get Tynert l think you missed a bump, Stab We have information that you might be transporting illegal goods - l have some whiskey for my father - You have to give it up He'll be disappointed. Hold him down - Let's get out of here - We may as well open his pocket My brother told you to stay out of our way Pick him up and put him in the car l don't want to see him l'm sorry l'm so very sorry Father won't see me, even now? He blames the government for lsabel's There's something we have to talk about The officer you beat, he almost died Everyone understands but they say that you're gonna have to serve days And the one who shot off his gun? He was reprimanded - And the O'Banions? - Nothing You have to let it go, Tristan lt was a terrible, tragic accident Listen to me You let this go now You got in over your head I'll need a minute I'm so sorry We all loved her How are you? We never get to see you - l gave a speech the other day - You did? My first public engagement lt was lt was on It was on the responsibilities of women in lt's good to see you l'm sorry l still sometimes dream that l'm the mother of your children l wanted her to die Maybe l even wanted Samuel to die You had nothing to do with Samuel's death And you had nothing to do with lsabel's death Didn't l? Go home Go home to Alfred Where were you? Out for a walk l needed a walk - What are you doing home? - You had a doctor's appointment l called to remind you, but you weren't here l feel very tired l'm going to bed You have won her. l'm bringing her home. Alfred. l foIlowed all the rules Man's and God's And you You followed none of them And they all loved you more Samuel, Father Even my own wife l'd like a moment alone with her, Tristan When Samuel died When Samuel died, l cursed God Did l damn everybody around me, as well as myself? No You are not damned, Tristan l won't allow that You are not damned! This is a gentleman's gun lt's smaller, but just as powerful You can have one when you grow up Samuel! Samuel, come here! Run along Go to Pet Get him in the house He's a fine boy You know we're not here to arrest you Take me to the woods l don't want my boy to see Let's get on with it - Colonel Ludlow! - What's going on here? What's going on here? You know they're gonna come after you for this Alfred l want you to watch over my children Watch over Samuel Brother, it will be an honor How much l wanted to take scalps, but it was not my kill. That night we buried the bodies. We dumped the car in a deep pool in the upper Missouri. l remember when he was a boy. l thought Tristan would never live to be an old man. l was wrong about that. l was wrong about many things. lt was those who loved him most who died young. He was a rock they broke themselves against. - - however much he tried to protect them. But he had his honour and a long life, - - and he saw his children grow and raise their own families. Tristan died in in the moon of the popping trees. He was last seen in the north country, hunting. His grave is unmarked, but it does not matter. He had always lived in the borderland, anyway. Somewhere between this world and the other. lt was a good death.

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