THE TRIAL OF MRS. REBECCA PEAKE

 

A full length drama  based on the document, "The Trial of Mrs. Rebecca Peake published by E.F. Walton, Montpelier, VT, 1836

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maura Campbell

233 Crescent Road, Burlington, VT  05401

802/660-7906; ibsen3000@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAST

 

REBECCA PEAKE, sixty year old woman, accused of murder

 

LUCIUS PECK, Rebecca’s defense attorney

 

FIONA PECK, wife of Lucius Peck

 

JUDGE WILLIAMS, trial judge

 

ADELAIDE WILLIAMS, his wife, acquaintance of FIONA

 

CHARITY STOKES, acquaintance of FIONA

 

JESSICA UPHAM, acquaintance of FIONA

 

WILLIAM HEBARD, prosecuting attorney

 

SUSAN BANNISTER, Rebecca’s daughter

 

DOCTOR EMERSON, Rebecca’s doctor in jail

 

DR. PEMBER, expert witness

 

REV. WASHBURN, Rebecca’s minister

 

LUCRETIA MURCH, witness for the prosecution

 

LAURA PERRIN, witness for the prosecution

 

SARAH PERRIN, REBECCA’S daughter-in-law, witness for the prosecution

 

DANIEL PERRIN, Rebecca’s son-in-law, married to Sarah Perrin

 

JOSEPH HUTCHING(Head Juror)

 

WILDER DEARBORN(Juror)

 

LAZARUS RIFORD(Juror)

 

NINE OTHER JURORS

 

 

 

The stage is set in three sections.  Center stage is a jail cell with a cot, a small table with a water jug and cup, another small table and a two small wooden chairs.

 

Stage right is reserved for the ladies of Montpelier.  A braided rug on the floor and three chairs will suffice.

 

Stage left is LUCIUS and FIONA PECK'S living room.  Two comfortable chairs, a small bookcase, a table for tea. A big basket with woman's work on the floor.  Various legal papers next to LUCIUS' chair and on the floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ACT ONE

 

SCENE 1

 

A spotlight on JOSEPH HUTCHINS, seated in a wooden chair downstage center.  WILLIAM HEBARD, prosecuting attorney, stands beside him.

 

HEBARD 

State your name, occupation and town of residence, please.

 

HUTCHINS 

Joseph Hutchins, I'm a farmer living in Williamstown.

 

HEBARD 

Are you acquainted with the case, Mr. Hutchins?

 

HUTCHINS 

Well, I know about it, if that's what you mean.

 

HEBARD 

And how did you become aware of the case?

 

HUTCHINS 

Tom Brownell read it to us from the newspaper after church one Sunday.

HEBARD 

And have you discussed this case so to have formed an opinion, Mr. Hutchins?

HUTCHINS 

What kind of an opinion?

 

HEBARD 

As to the guilt or innocence of Mrs. Peake?

 

HUTCHINS 

Well, I dunno.

 

HEBARD 

You don't know whether you've formed an opinion?

 

HUTCHINS 

I guess not.

 

HEBARD 

The prosecution accepts the juror, your honor.

 

The lights go down and come up on the jail cell, center stage.  REBECCA PEAKE is hidden behind the bed on the floor.  LUCIUS PECK enters.

 

SCENE 2

 

LUCIUS 

What the- (He turns to leave and spots REBECCA.) Oh, I... didn't see you.  Mrs. Peake?  How do you do, Mrs. Peake.  I'm Lucius Peck  from Montpelier.  I'm going to defend you.

 

REBECCA 

Listen!

 

LUCIUS 

What-

 

REBECCA 

Can you hear it? 

 

LUCIUS 

Hear what?

 

REBECCA 

Sh! (She runs forward, lays down and puts her ear to the floor.)

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake, I don't know-

 

REBECCA(Getting up on her knees) 

He likes to put the devil in me. Can you hear it? He's out there. Banging on the house with a stick.  Outside my window so I can't sleep. 

 

LUCIUS 

Who's outside?

 

REBECCA

I'll set fire to this place if he don't stop!  A woman's got to have some peace! I'll fix him! (She tries to open the door; when it doesn't open, she bangs on it.) Stop it!  Do you hear me?  Stop it!  If I could just see a doctor...

 

LUCIUS 

Maybe I should come back another time.

 

REBECCA(Eyeing LUCIUS suspiciously):

You keep your hands off my things!

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake, I have no intention of-

 

REBECCA 

I've seen your kind before.  Thinking you own what you see.  You don't own me!

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake-

 

REBECCA(Abruptly) 

What do you want from me?

 

LUCIUS 

'Scuse me?

 

REBECCA 

You must want something.  What is it?

 

LUCIUS

I...  I've been hired by the state to defend you.

 

REBECCA 

I'm not going to hang.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake, let's not think of that now.

 

REBECCA 

You hear me on this.  I won't hang.  No matter what.

 

LUCIUS 

You're in God's hands, Mrs. Peake.

 

REBECCA(Laughs)

He's washed His hands of me, mister. 

 

LUCIUS 

You mustn't lose hope, Mrs. Peake.

 

REBECCA 

How long have I been in here? Do you know?

 

LUCIUS 

Um, six weeks, I believe.

 

REBECCA

You're the first one to see me.  I asked Mr. Hebard to come before the sheriff arrested me. 

 

LUCIUS 

Mr. Hebard?

REBECCA 

Lawyer from Randolph.

 

 

LUCIUS 

I know Mr. Hebard.

 

REBECCA 

I talked to him last winter about my troubles.  When Ephraim come home to take the farm away.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake, I'm afraid Mr. Hebard won't be able to help you.  You see, he's the prosecuting attorney.  (She looks at him blankly.)  The state of Vermont has hired him to present evidence to prove your guilt.  I've been hired by the state to try and prove your innocence.

 

REBECCA 

Why would... Mr. Hebard do that?

 

LUCIUS

He's the State's Attorney. It's his first case.  (Pause.) He's going to want to win.

 

REBECCA 

Oh.

 

LUCIUS 

I want to build a case for you, Mrs. Peake.  I want to help you.  You've had a hard life, I can see that.  We can use that to help you in court.  The judge will understand some of these things.  He's a Christian man, Mrs. Peake.  Now, I can't make any promises.  But it will help me to see the whole picture, so to speak.  That is, it will help you.  Help me to help you.

 

REBECCA 

You want to know about Ephraim?

 

LUCIUS 

Let's go back to the beginning, Mrs. Peake.  Let's go back to the very beginning, if you can.

REBECCA 

I can't.

 

LUCIUS 

You can't or you won't?

 

REBECCA 

I don't know where it begins.

 

LUCIUS 

It begins at the beginning.  At the first point.  First light, so to speak.  Before anything else has happened.  When the slate is clean.

 

REBECCA 

In the beginning...

 

LUCIUS 

Yes?

 

REBECCA 

I think it had something to do with sheep.

 

LUCIUS 

Sheep?

 

REBECCA 

Did you ever shear a sheep, Mr. Peck?

 

LUCIUS 

I never did.

 

REBECCA 

You see, they don't like it any.  The sheep.  It's against their nature.  You have to hold them down and do it quick.  Ephraim learned how to do that when he was a boy.

 

LUCIUS 

How to shear a sheep?

 

REBECCA 

How to hold them down.

 

LUCIUS 

Did you love him, Mrs. Peak? (Pause.) Did you feel a mother's love for Ephraim?

 

REBECCA 

I feel...

 

LUCIUS 

Because we'll have to convince a jury that you loved him.  And therefore could not have killed him.  A woman is made to nurture and protect.  God made you that way, Mrs. Peake.  He made you what you are.

 

REBECCA 

He did that?

 

LUCIUS 

Eve said to Adam, "What thou biddest, unargued I obey; so God ordains: God is thy law, thou mine; to know no more is woman's happiest knowledge and her praise." (REBECCA looks at him blankly.)  That's, um, a poem.

         

REBECCA 

What's a poem?

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake, can you give me the names of some friends?  People who would speak in your behalf?

 

REBECCA 

There's... Lucretia Murch.  She helped me through the crisis.  Dr. Pember and his wife, Essie.  I've called on Dr. Pember for years.  I have a sick head.

 

LUCIUS(Writing) 

Lucretia Murch, Dr. Pember...

 

REBECCA notices LUCIUS write the names.  She kneels on her chair and peers closely.

 

REBECCA 

Can you write my name?

 

LUCIUS 

What?

 

REBECCA looks at him hopefully. He writes her name and shows it to her.

 

LUCIUS 

Anyone else?

 

REBECCA(Reluctantly looking away) 

Lucy Paine helps me when I have to stay in bed.  Sarah Blodgett. I brought her Gracie into the world one Christmas when they couldn't get the doctor.

 

LUCIUS 

You think they'll speak for you?

 

REBECCA 

There's my daughter, Susan.  She's expecting her first child, my... grandchild.  (Pause.) I have sisters in Roxbury and Middlesex.  My brother is in the asylum.  That's all.

 

LUCIUS(Walks toward her) 

Parents dead?

 

REBECCA 

Pa hanged himself.  I didn't know my ma.

 

LUCIUS 

I see.  What about your stepchildren?

 

REBECCA'S face turns hard.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake?

 

REBECCA 

Only ones around are Dan and Sarah Perrin. 

 

LUCIUS 

Sarah is your husband's daughter?

 

REBECCA 

I run the rest out of South Randolph.  Ran Ephraim out, too,

ten years ago but he come back.  He took a bullwhip to me last winter when I tried to go with him to Mr. Hebard's. 

 

LUCIUS 

Ephraim whipped you?

 

REBECCA 

Not bad.  I outrun him.  I wanted my thirds, is all, my widow's thirds!

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake, you're not a widow.

 

REBECCA 

I worked that land for twenty-five years!  Do you think I raised those Peake's just so they could throw me off?

 

LUCIUS 

What about Ephraim, Mrs. Peake? 

 

REBECCA 

Ask Dan Perrin about Ephraim. 

 

LUCIUS 

Dan-

 

REBECCA 

Sarah's Dan.  He was brother-in-law to Ephraim.  Ask Dan Perrin.

(She wraps herself tighter in her shawl.)  It's cold in here cold as a...

 

LUCIUS 

Cold as a what, Mrs. Peake?

 

REBECCA 

Can you see about a doctor?  I get these headaches.

 

LUCIUS 

Doctor will cost money, Mrs. Peake.  Normally the family takes care of expenses like food and medicine.  Since your husband has released his claim on you, we'll have to appeal to the state for funds. 

 

REBECCA 

If I could just have my things.

 

LUCIUS 

I'm wondering why someone would think you'd want to kill your family, Mrs. Peake.

 

REBECCA 

I didn't kill nobody!

 

LUCIUS 

But Ephraim's dead.

REBECCA 

So are Abraham and Moses but I didn't kill them neither!

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake, I don't see how I can help you if-

 

REBECCA

(Meaningfully)

My head's going funny again.

 

LUCIUS

(Alarmed)

Oh! We don't want that!

 

Lights go down on them and up stage right.  FIONA PECK, early twenties and very pretty, enters stage right with ADELINE WILLIAMS, a judge's wife.  Seated are CHARITY STOKES and JESSICA UPHAM, a married and unmarried sister, respectively, in their mid-thirties.

 

SCENE 3

 

ADELINE  

Fiona, you've met Charity Stokes and Jessica Upham at church, haven't you?

 

FIONA 

Yes.  How do you do today, ladies?

 

CHARITY

We're so glad to have you as a member, Fiona.  I told Adeline we should invite you the moment you moved to town.

 

ADELINE 

We didn't want to overwhelm you, dear.  After all, you're still barely a bride, aren't you?

 

CHARITY

(To JESSICA) 

Sister, won't you get us some tea while you're resting?  I'm sure Fiona must be dry.

 

JESSICA hurries offstage. 

 

ADELINE 

Fiona, that's an... unusual name, isn't it?

 

FIONA 

I'm named for my grandmother.

 

ADELINE 

Oh, yes, so nice to have a namesake, don't I always say that, Charity?  I'm named after my great-grandmother, Adeline Washington.  She was cousin to our first president.  I don't usually mention it, of course.

 

 

CHARITY 

My mother named me for the Christian virtue, not much to boast about, I suppose, but I try and wear the name humbly.

 

ADELINE 

You do an outstanding job of it, Charity.

 

CHARITY 

Thank you.

ADELINE 

Fiona, my dear, as President of the Women's Christian Aid Society, I try and get an idea of the talents of our new members so they are best able to serve the community.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

 

FIONA 

Well, I... I'm not sure what to say.

 

JESSICA enters with a tea tray.

 

CHARITY 

For example, Jessica here is known for her button holes, aren't you, dear?  Can't knit a decent stitch, but wait until you see what she does with a shirt.

 

ADELINE 

Her tea is superior, too, Charity.

 

FIONA 

I'm afraid I don't have much to recommend myself.  I do have two years of college.

 

CHARITY 

How about the piano-forte, do you play?

 

FIONA 

Yes, I do, but I was two years at Oberlin.

 

ADELINE 

How interesting.  And what did you do there?

 

FIONA 

I planned to be a doctor but we... well... my father died and there wasn't enough money to continue.  I returned to Boston and there I met Lucius. 

 

JESSICA 

How terrible about your father. 

 

FIONA 

I miss my family in Boston, but I'm happy here with Lucius. 

 

ADELINE 

An educated woman, how refreshing!  Charity, the children could use another teacher in their Bible classes, don't you think?

 

FIONA

I brought my medical books with me.

 

CHARITY 

Grace would certainly appreciate the help.

 

FIONA 

I was thinking of teaching anatomy.  It was my favorite subject.

 

CHARITY 

Anatomy? 

 

FIONA 

It's a branch of biology that deals with structure of living organisms.  Parts of the body, for example, and their relationships to each other.

 

JESSICA 

Oh, I'd be interested in that!

 

FIONA

And then there's the digestive system-

 

ADELINE 

Fiona!  The city of Montpelier pays several teachers to educate our children.

 

FIONA 

Of course, I was just thinking that since-

 

ADELINE

(Cutting her off)

Our business in the Women's Christian Aid Society is the moral and spiritual salvation of our congregation.  I don't see how biology, as you call it, can possibly be of any use to anyone.

 

FIONA 

You asked me what my talents were.

 

ADELINE 

And I am still eager to find out what they are.

 

There is an awkward pause.

 

FIONA 

I would be delighted to help with the children's Bible classes.

 

CHARITY 

Oh, wonderful, Fiona, and you said you played the piano-forte?

 

FIONA 

Yes.

 

CHARITY 

Not too vigorously, I pray?

 

FIONA 

No.

 

CHARITY 

The children enjoy singing hymns after classes and it's nice to have an accompanist.

 

ADELINE 

I'm glad we have this all settled.  Some more tea, Fiona?

 

FIONA 

No, I've barely-

 

ADELINE 

Charity, these cakes are a bit dry, don't you think?

 

CHARITY 

Jessica made them this morning, didn't you dear?

 

ADELINE 

The tea washes them down nicely. Then what does it matter if they are a little hard to swallow?

 

Lights go down on them and up center stage.  WILDER DEARBORN enters quickly and sits in a chair.  WILLIAM HEBARD enters with him.

 

SCENE 4

 

HEBARD 

State your name, occupation and town of residence.

 

DEARBORN 

Wilder Dearborn, I'm a farmer from Orange.

 

HEBARD 

Are you acquainted with the case, Mr. Dearborn?

 

DEARBORN 

Everybody is, I guess.

 

HEBARD 

And how did you first become aware of the charges against Mrs. Peake?

 

DEARBORN 

My sister heard about it from her brother-in-law what lives in Randolph.  But she didn't have the facts straight.  I thought the whole family had been done in.

 

HEBARD 

And have you formed an opinion as to the innocence or guilt of the prisoner?

 

DEARBORN 

Do I think she done it?

 

HEBARD 

Yes, Mr. Dearborn.

 

DEARBORN 

Well, that's what the trial is for, ain't it? 

 

HEBARD 

You haven't answered my question, Mr. Dearborn.

 

DEARBORN 

The newspaper said it was vile what she done.

 

HEBARD 

Mr. Dearborn...

 

 

DEARBORN 

I was wondering... do we get paid by the day or after the trial?

 

HEBARD 

The prosecution does not accept this juror, your Honor.

 

Lights go down on them and up stage left.  LUCIUS PECK, a lawyer in his early thirties, is sitting in his living room going over some briefs.  He sips brandy, his wife FIONA sits and knits.

 

SCENE 5

 

FIONA

(Struggling with her knitting) 

Oh, blast it!

 

LUCIUS looks up, shocked.

 

FIONA 

Oh, I'm sorry, Lucius.  I'm not very talented, I'm afraid.

 

LUCIUS 

Not talented, whatever do you mean?  It's just practice, my dear.  Every evening if you sit a few hours and work on it, why, you could be famous for you knitting!

 

FIONA 

I don't want to be famous, I just want to be useful.

 

LUCIUS 

You are useful.  To me.  (He comes over to her.)  Every night when I come home and see your face I realize I'm the happiest man in the world. 

FIONA

(Smiling) 

Mother says after five years of marriage, you'll hardly know I'm in the room.

 

LUCIUS 

I suppose she's right.

 

FIONA 

Lucius!

 

 

 

LUCIUS 

I may not be able to see you for the abundance of children in the room.

FIONA

(More shocked) 

Lucius!

 

A knock is heard at the door.  FIONA goes to answer the door.  As she runs out, LUCIUS grabs at her waist, playfully.

 

FIONA

(Over her shoulder) 

I'll tell whoever's at the door what you're about!

 

A moment later, FIONA enters with JUDGE WILLIAMS, a formidable looking gentleman, husband of ADELINE.

 

FIONA 

Lucius, Judge Williams has called to see you.

 

LUCIUS

(Hastily getting to his feet)

Evening, Judge.  (They shake hands.) I didn't expect to see you this evening.

WILLIAMS 

I know it's late, I hope you'll forgive me.

 

LUCIUS 

Please, sit down. Brandy?

 

WILLIAMS 

I never imbibe, you know that.

LUCIUS 

Tea, perhaps?

WILLIAMS

Thank you.

 

FIONA remains standing in the room; she looks at them with interest.

 

LUCIUS 

Fiona?  Dear?  Would you mind bringing the Judge some tea?

 

FIONA 

Oh, shall I get that?

 

LUCIUS gives her a look.

 

FIONA 

I'll just be a moment.

 

FIONA exits.  WILLIAMS looks after her a moment.

 

WILLIAMS 

Beautiful girl, Lucius.  How long have you been married?  She can't be more than twenty.

 

LUCIUS 

Two years.

 

WILLIAMS 

What's that?

LUCIUS 

We've been married two years.

 

WILLIAMS 

Ah, that explains it.  Take a little advice from an old goat.  Discipline her now and you'll both be happier later. 

 

LUCIUS 

Discipline her, Judge?

 

WILLIAMS 

You've spoiled her.  You may not know it yet, but you've spoiled her.  How do you expect her to bring up your children when she doesn't respect you?

 

LUCIUS 

We don't have any children, Judge.

 

WILLIAMS 

Ah, but you will.  God provides, Lucius.  I've got ten at home, only lost three in their infancies.  I assemble them every morning, Adeline included, and read from the Old Testament.  Last thing before bedtime I read from the New.  Sets the right tone in the family.  You might try that with Mrs. Peck. 

 

FIONA has entered with a tea tray on his last words.  The men get to their feet.

 

FIONA 

Try what, Lucius? 

 

 

LUCIUS 

Oh, nothing, dear, we were just having a little...

 

WILLIAMS 

Man to man, Mrs. Peck.  A little man to man.

 

FIONA 

That's odd, I thought I heard my name mentioned.  Seems like I ought to have a part in a conversation of which I am the topic. (She sets the tray down.)

 

LUCIUS

(Hastily)

Do you take cream, Judge?

 

WILLIAMS 

Black, Lucius.

 

A tense pause.

 

LUCIUS 

Thank you, Fiona.

 

She withdraws without a word. LUCIUS hands the JUDGE his tea.

 

LUCIUS 

May I ask how I may be of service to you, Judge?

 

WILLIAMS 

Very well.  I've just come from a meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society. 

LUCIUS 

I know of it.

WILLIAMS 

You should know of it, I sent you an invitation.

 

LUCIUS 

I was unable to attend.

 

WILLIAMS 

More pressing business?

 

LUCIUS 

Sounds like a sort of exercise room for politicians.  I'm afraid I don't have any aspirations of that nature.

 

WILLIAMS 

See here, Lucius, are you an abolitionist or not?

 

LUCIUS 

Every Vermonter is an abolitionist, Judge.  What I am not is a politician. 

WILLIAMS 

You're a good speaker, Lucius.  People like you.  I'm planning to run for Governor in a few years.  This anti-slavery platform is just what I need to stir things up.  And I need every good man in Montpelier on my side.

 

LUCIUS 

My law practice keeps me as busy as I want to be, Judge.

 

WILLIAMS 

All I'm asking is for you to sign the charter.  Attend a few meetings.    It's not as if I'm asking you to take an oath.  But blast it, Lucius, we're going to get some attention with this thing.  And I need you behind me.

 

FIONA reenters.

 

FIONA 

More tea, gentlemen?

 

WILLIAMS 

Not for me.  I was just leaving.  Promise me you'll think about it, Lucius.  I'd like to work with you.

 

FIONA 

Oh, please, Judge, my husband has enough work already!

 

WILLIAMS

(Condescendingly) 

Perhaps you can persuade your husband, Mrs. Peck,  to address the causes of slavery and oppression in this country.

 

FIONA 

Are you for it yourself, Judge, or against it?

 

WILLIAMS

(With a snort)

I'll see you at church, Lucius, Mrs. Peck.  (To LUCIUS.) Remember what we talked about.  (Nodding toward FIONA.)  All of it.

 

WILLIAMS exits. FIONA smiles at LUCIUS.

 

LUCIUS 

You were almost rude.

 

FIONA 

Almost?  Then I'm not trying hard enough.

 

LUCIUS 

The Judge says I spoil you.

 

FIONA

(Gives him a hard look) 

And what do you say?

 

LUCIUS 

I'd say he's right.  And I'd say I'm stuck. (He puts his arms around her waist.) It's late. (He kisses her lightly.) I've got to go to Chelsea tomorrow.

 

FIONA 

Chelsea?

 

LUCIUS 

I have a client from there.  In the county jail. 

 

FIONA 

Is this the woman that murdered her whole family?

 

LUCIUS 

Just her stepson.

 

FIONA 

Oh, Lucius, do you have to represent her?  I can't bear the thought of it!

 

LUCIUS 

You're too pretty to think of such things.

 

FIONA 

Stop that!  I don't mean that!  What must have driven her to such a deed?  For a woman to kill...

 

LUCIUS 

It's rare.  Thank God.

 

FIONA 

It's just not natural!

 

LUCIUS 

Sh.  No more.

 

FIONA

(Pause)

Are you going to join the abolition society?

 

LUCIUS 

Like I told Judge Williams, it's an exercise room for politicians, Fiona.  A way to get their names in the paper and stir up some interest for elections. 

 

FIONA 

But surely their society must do some good?

 

LUCIUS 

Some, I suppose.  But you're talking about change, Fiona.  Real change only happens in people's hearts.  It's got to start in the churches.  In homes.

 

FIONA 

How does that happen?

 

LUCIUS 

Slowly.  But I'd say our best chance for moral change is with the women in our country.  Look at the Temperance Movement.  That was practically started by women.  Women are in the best position to effect change because they are bringing up sons.

 

FIONA 

I never thought of it like that.  So are you going to join ?

 

LUCIUS 

Like I said.  (Exiting.)  I'll leave the real work to the women.

 

The lights come up on REBECCA, sitting miserably in her chair. DR. EMERSON enters.

 

SCENE 6

 

EMERSON 

Mrs. Peake, how do?  Doctor Emerson.  Your lawyer sent for me. 

(She doesn't answer.)  Mrs. Peake?  Understand you've been poorly. (He begins to open up his case.)

 

She looks at him a moment and then suddenly realizes who he is and why he is there.

 

REBECCA 

Doctor?  You're a doctor?

 

EMERSON 

Doctor Emerson, Mrs. Peake.  Mr. Peck asked me to look in on you.

 

REBECCA

(Frantically)

It's my head, Doctor.  I get these headaches.

 

EMERSON

Uh, huh.

 

REBECCA 

For days sometimes!  You can't know the pain, Doctor!  I can't sleep, I can't eat... And I can feel it coming right now.  I see a little patch of light next to my right eye.  I turn my head to catch it and it moves away!  If I could just look at it straight on! 

 

EMERSON 

We might try a mustard plaster.  Course I could always bleed you.

 

REBECCA 

And the pounding!  Sometimes I think there's a devil inside my head with a hatchet!  Always in the same spot... it's like this (REBECCA slams her palm with her fist, getting more and more agitated.) 

 

EMERSON 

Mrs. Peake, Mrs. Peake, calm yourself...

 

REBECCA 

Doctor, please, you've got to help me!  (She puts her arms around him and sobs.  He is clearly uncomfortable and immediately attempts to extricate himself.)

 

EMERSON 

See here, you can't go on like this.

 

 

 

REBECCA

(She is all over him)

You don't know what they've done to me, Doctor!  I've been down here for weeks now.  They won't let my family come!  They've all turned against me!  Nobody will listen!  You've got to help me, can you help me, Doctor, can you?

 

EMERSON 

See here, I only came because your lawyer asked me.  I've nothing to do with any of your problems.

 

REBECCA

(Pulling at his sleeve)

  I've got to get home!  Jonathan's there!  He can't manage! 

 

EMERSON throws her down and turns to pack up his things.

 

EMERSON 

If you can't control yourself, Mrs. Peake, I'm leaving.

 

REBECCA(On her knees)

Please, don't do that.  Please.

 

EMERSON 

Unhand me.

 

REBECCA 

Please, Doctor.

 

EMERSON 

I said let me go.

 

There is a tense moment where REBECCA makes a superhuman effort to let go of the doctor; she succeeds.

 

EMERSON 

I don't care to be touched, Mrs. Peake.  Now, I told Mr. Peck I would look in on you.  But no nonsense.  Is your head giving you trouble right now?

REBECCA 

It's just... I can feel it starting. 

 

EMERSON 

Might as well bleed you.  See how that works.  (He takes out instruments and starts to roll up her sleeve.) 

 

REBECCA 

Doctor Pember used to bleed me. (Pause.) It never helped.

 

EMERSON 

Well, now, he probably didn't let it drain long enough.  I'll give you a powder of opium to help you sleep after.  My guess is that you'll miss this bout all together. 

 

REBECCA 

I would like that... to sleep.

 

EMERSON looks at her arm

 

EMERSON 

Hm, you've been bled before, all right.

 

He cuts her arm and holds a small container under her arm to hold the blood.  She cries out softly.

 

EMERSON 

You should start feeling better in a minute.  Poisons build up in the blood, especially in women.  Sin is the cause, I reckon.  Nothing you can do about it.  The Lord's work is mysterious.  All goes back to the Garden of Eden.  If Eve hadn't picked that fruit, women would have less trouble today, that's for sure.  The wages of sin is death, I guess we all have to pay that sooner or later.

 

The lights go down on them and up on FIONA.  She walks to center stage and a spot light is on her.  She addresses the audience. She has a few sheets of paper in her hands which she fumbles and drops when she starts.  She is uncertain and somewhat embarrassed but gains in confidence as she goes along.

 

SCENE 7

 

FIONA 

Good afternoon, ladies.  I want to thank Mrs. Williams for allowing me to take a few minutes of your time and talk about something which I consider to be of vital importance.  When I joined the Women's Christian Aid Society, I was told that our mission was to relieve suffering and offer a helping hand whenever and wherever we found need.  I do know that charity starts at home, but at the same time God calls us all differently.

 

I understand that Judge Williams has recently formed a new chapter of the American Anti-Slavery Society and I want to propose that we join.  In the words of my husband, Lucius Peck, it is not enough to influence the politicians in Washington, but that the cry of outrage against slavery must come from the homes where women are the moral guardians  Can we not better serve this cause by raising our voices with our husbands? 

 

She pauses to see what effect her words have had.  She perceives that her audience is cold and unfriendly to her.  She begins again.

 

Ladies...  I'm suggesting that it is not enough to consider and care only for the neighbors in our villages.  But  we must extend our hands to places where our eyes and ears may not reach.  This knowledge leaves us in a condition which cannot be ignored.  It leaves us in a condition of responsibility.  I ask that we consider this responsibility to be a cause and the cause to be a crusade. Thank you.

 

She looks at the audience hopefully but realizes that her words are unwelcome.  She looks frightened for a moment and then resolute.  She marches offstage.  Lights go down. 

 

LAZARUS RIFORD enters with a chair and sits center stage.  WILLIAM HEBARD enters with him.

 

SCENE 8

 

HEBARD 

State you name, occupation and town of residence.

 

RIFORD 

Lazarus Riford, I'm a farmer from Vershire.

 

HEBARD 

And are you acquainted with the facts of this case, Mr. Riford?

 

RIFORD 

I heard about it.  Guess there's not a soul in Vermont that hasn't.

 

HEBARD 

And have you formed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of Mrs. Peake?

 

RIFORD 

Formed an opinion?

 

HEBARD 

Have you thought about it, Mr. Riford?

 

RIFORD 

Well, when I hear something I usually think something.

 

HEBARD 

And in this case, what have you thought of?

 

RIFORD 

Well, I expect I thought of lots of things.

 

HEBARD 

Such as?

 

RIFORD 

I can't rightly recall, sir.

 

HEBARD 

Well, what are you thinking right now?

 

RIFORD 

I'm thinking how hot it is in here.

 

HEBARD 

I mean, what are you thinking about the case?

 

RIFORD 

Oh, I think I'd like to sit on the jury.

 

HEBARD 

And why is that?

 

RIFORD 

Well, snow on the ground, not much to do in the fields.  Warmer in here than it is in the cow barn!  I reckon I could do as good a job as anybody.

 

HEBARD(Pause)

I reckon you're right.

 

The lights go down on them and up stage left on FIONA and LUCIUS.

 

SCENE 9

 

FIONA 

I'm sorry I'm late.  I was giving Jessica Stokes an anatomy lesson.

 

LUCIUS

(Pause)

I spoke to Judge Williams this afternoon.

 

FIONA 

Oh?

 

LUCIUS 

Seems his wife told him about a speech you made today.

 

FIONA 

I was planning to surprise you.

 

LUCIUS 

Whatever possessed you to get up in front of those women and say those things!

 

FIONA 

I am trying to be helpful!  It was your idea, anyway.

 

LUCIUS 

My idea?

 

FIONA 

You said that the abolition movement was the work of women, that any real changes have to start in the church and at home, you said the Temperance Movement-

 

LUCIUS 

I did not suggest that my wife go out and make a horse's ass out of herself!

 

FIONA 

How dare you say that to me!

 

LUCIUS 

And how dare you get up in front of our friends and propose such a scheme!  What are you planning next, a tent meeting?

 

FIONA                  

As a matter of fact, I am!  I read in the paper that  Mr. William Lloyd Garrison is coming to Braintree and I plan to meet him.

 

LUCIUS 

You'll do no such thing!

 

FIONA 

I will if I want!

 

LUCIUS 

I won't let you have the carriage!

 

FIONA 

I'll walk. 

 

LUCIUS 

If you want to be of some service, then you may try and provide a harmonious home, a haven for me at the end of my day!

 

FIONA 

And have I failed in this?

 

LUCIUS 

You have better things to think about that the condition of people thousands of miles away!  Have you made enough food baskets for the poor? Does every widow in Montpelier have a wood supply and every orphan a warm scarf? 

 

FIONA 

I cannot help everybody in Vermont!

 

LUCIUS 

Perhaps you'd like to extend some of your charity to a prisoner in the dungeon of Chelsea Jail.  A friendless, pathetic old woman who hasn't had a visitor since the day she was tied and hauled off in the sheriff's wagon!  Perhaps your Woman's Christian Aid Society would like to take on her case! (He chokes up and cannot speak any further.)

 

FIONA  

Why, Lucius!

 

LUCIUS 

She doesn't even have a warm coat, for God's sake, and you're worrying about the Negroes!

 

FIONA 

But my dear, I had no idea you were so troubled about this! Why haven't you said anything before?

 

 

 

LUCIUS 

I'm trying to build a case for Mrs. Peake and I don't have one. Public opinion is out of control, I'm surprised she wasn't lynched before she even got to Chelsea.

 

FIONA 

Oh, no! 

 

LUCIUS 

I need to be able to come home and forget my day sometimes. That's all.

 

FIONA 

And you shall.  You'll never have another moment to worry about me. I'll help you all I can.  I've been selfish.

 

LUCIUS 

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to go on like this.

 

FIONA 

And that woman.  Mrs. Peake?  I'll go to see her and take her a coat.

 

LUCIUS 

You mustn't think of going there, Fiona, it's no place for a woman.

 

FIONA

Please!  Lucius, let me make this up to you! You said she was friendless, has she no supporters?

 

LUCIUS 

None.

 

FIONA 

But surely she has some family-?

 

LUCIUS 

I called on her husband and he refused to see me.  I sat in his dooryard four hours one day until he gave in!  And do you know what he said?

 

FIONA

What?

 

LUCIUS 

What's done is done.  I can't call Ephraim back from the grave.  That's all.

 

FIONA 

But you can't make him talk to you?

 

LUCIUS 

A husband is not compelled to take the stand. If it's any consolation, he won't talk to the prosecutor either.

 

FIONA 

Does she have any children?

 

LUCIUS 

A daughter so terrified she can hardly speak.  Eight stepchildren  who'd like to put the rope around her neck.

 

FIONA 

But what does she say?  Does she admit it?

 

LUCIUS 

Some days she's sensible and some days she's not.  I shouldn't burden you with this, it's not fair.

 

FIONA 

I'm your wife!  Who else should share your trials?  Lucius, what is the evidence against her?

 

LUCIUS 

Apparently she bought arsenic two months before he died.  Several neighbors have said she confessed to putting it in the family meal.

 

FIONA 

How horrid!

 

LUCIUS

I don't think she's in her right mind!  And yet there's something sweet about her.  She's like a child, somehow.

 

FIONA

You say nobody visits her? Nobody?

 

LUCIUS 

I've appealed to a local women's group in Chelsea.  So far...

 

FIONA 

I'll apologize to Mrs. Williams.  And ask the Society if they would endorse my visit to Mrs. Peake.

 

LUCIUS 

You may just shock them again!

 

FIONA 

I'll take that chance.  Now, let me fix your supper.

 

LUCIUS 

I'm not sure I can eat anything.

 

FIONA 

I'll bring you some soup and hot tea.  You must take something in your stomach. (She gets up and kisses him on the forehead.) 

 

FIONA exits and comes back after a moment.  She touches LUCIUS softly.

 

FIONA 

I've got a better idea.

 

LUCIUS looks at her dumbly a moment and jumps to his feet.

 

The lights go down and come up stage right.  The women are making little dolls for orphan girls.

 

SCENE 10

 

CHARITY 

I think this pattern was just the right thing, don't you Adeline?

 

ADELINE  

The Judge personally approved it.  Don't the little darlings look just like Christians?

 

CHARITY 

I'm sure these dolls will be an inspiration to the little dears.  Of course, some would say that dolls are frivolous.  After all, one must be practical when dealing with orphans. 

 

JESSICA 

Couldn't we put smiles on their little faces?  I know I like my dolls to smile.

 

CHARITY 

Now, Jessica, a smiling face would be shameful.  Why, you don't know what it is to be wanting.  What might look like a smile of joy to you would be construed as a look of scorn to another.

 

JESSICA

Oh.

 

ADELINE 

I must say I appreciate you ladies giving up your Saturday afternoon to get these finished.  How many members of the Women's Christian Aid Society do we have Charity?

 

CHARITY 

Thirty-five.

 

ADELINE 

And only two showed up.

 

CHARITY 

Well, three counting Jessica.

 

ADELINE 

Thank you for helping today, Jessica.  Charity, we'll have to find her a husband.  Isn't there a nice widower or two at church?

 

CHARITY 

Jessica is devoted to caring for our father.

 

ADELINE

Oh well, than.

 

CHARITY 

I'm surprised Fiona Peck hasn't appeared.  She's usually so faithful.

 

ADELINE 

You haven't heard?

 

CHARITY 

I've been in Boston for the last month.  For heaven's sake, what's the problem?

 

ADELINE 

She approached the executive committee with a request. I thought poor old Mrs. Jennings was going to suffer a shock right then and there.  You know there was a great fuss over Fiona after that speech she made.

 

CHARITY 

You mean the one about abolition--

 

ADELINE 

This time it's even worse.  She wanted us to sponsor donations to some woman in Chelsea jail that killed her whole family! Wanted us to take up a collection of money and clothes!  Can you imagine?  Of course, I went to the Judge and told him.  He's going to sit on the case.  They wanted to get someone who wouldn't be tempted by the devil.

 

CHARITY 

Heaven's Adeline, is she a witch?

 

ADELINE 

It was the devil made her do it,  I'm afraid that's what she said.  The Judge asked me not to repeat any of this, but some things have to be made known.

 

JESSICA 

Well, what about Fiona? 

 

ADELINE 

We've asked for her resignation.  To think that she could harbor such ideas!  To help a murderess! 

 

JESSICA 

But surely, Fiona meant well!  This... this woman in the jail... she must be in such need!  And are we Christians?

 

CHARITY 

Jessica, didn't you understand your own ears? This woman is a consort of the devil!  She may have Fiona under a spell! 

 

ADELINE 

I was never in favor of her membership in the first place.  Fiona, that's an Irish name, after all. 

 

JESSICA 

We're Irish, aren't we Sister?  On our mother's side.

 

CHARITY 

All the Irish blood went to you, Jessica.  Besides, it's one thing to be Irish.  Another thing to act it.

 

ADELINE 

There's nothing Irish about the Women's Christian Aid Society. 

 

Lights go down, then up on the jail cell.  REBECCA sits in her chair.  LUCIUS and FIONA enter.

 

SCENE 11

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake?  (She turns and looks at them.) I want you to meet someone, Mrs. Peake.  This is my wife, Mrs. Peake.  Peck, Peake, isn't that something?  How are you Mrs. Peck?  I mean, Mrs. Peake?

 

FIONA 

I've brought you some things you might need, Mrs. Peake. 

 

REBECCA turns her head away from them and studies some unknown spot in front of her.

 

LUCIUS

(To FIONA) 

Some days she's like this.  Mrs. Peake, I thought you'd like some company.  Mrs. Peck brought you some things you need.  (To FIONA.) Show her the music box, dear, that might bring her around.  Have you been outside today, Mrs. Peake?  Warm for December.  Here, Mrs. Peake, listen to this. 

 

He winds up the music box and it plays; LUCIUS and FIONA look at REBECCA expectantly.

 

LUCIUS

Give her a scone, I'll bet she'd love to eat one of those.

 

FIONA

(Helplessly)

Lucius?

 

LUCIUS

(To Fiona)

I've got to be upstairs in court. (Squeezes her hand.) I'll have someone bring you up in about twenty minutes.

 

FIONA

(Desperately)

Lucius!

 

LUCIUS

(Kissing her on the head)

You'll be all right, dear. 

 

He gets up and goes to the door and knocks; it is unlocked from the outside; LUCIUS leaves and the door is once again locked.

 

FIONA(Motioning to the music box)

I bought this in Boston last time I was there.  It's from London.  England, that is.  (Pause.) Do you like... music?  I... I brought a dress, I think it will fit you.  And a warm coat.  I supposed you have a Bible here but I brought one just in case. (Pause.)  Mrs. Peake?  Would you like me to read to you? (She gets the Bible out of the case.) Do you have a favorite passage? No?  Then I'll just read one of mine.  (She opens up the Bible.)  I'm especially partial to John.  Of course, he wrote Revelation, and who can understand that?  Something of comfort today.  "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  All things were made through him. Nothing was made without him  In him there was life and that life was light for the people of the world.(REBECCA begins to rock back and forth.) I like that part.  About the light, don't you?

 

REBECCA looks frightened as soon as FIONA starts reading.  Finally, REBECCA, moaning, runs and hides behind the bed.

 

FIONA 

Mrs. Peake?  What's the matter, Mrs. Peake?  Please, stop this!  Please! (REBECCA gets hysterical.) What can I do for you?  Please, talk to me!  (She runs to the door and begins to pound on it; REBECCA'S wails get louder.) Open the door!  Please, open the door!  Is there anybody there?  Lucius? Somebody, help me!  For God's sake! 

 

FIONA gives up on the door and turns back to REBECCA.  The wailing continues. 

 

FIONA 

All right, I won't read any more!  But, stop it.  Stop it right now.  Please!  What's the matter with you?  Can't you talk?   Please!  Stop it!  What can I do for you?  Mrs. Peake, you mustn't keep on, you'll hurt yourself!  For heaven's sake, Mrs. Peake, control yourself! What in the world is wrong with you?  (Back at the door.)  Lucius?  Lucius? Lucius, help me, for God's sake won't anybody help me!

 

The lights go down.  When the lights come up again, REBECCA is asleep on her cot; FIONA is sitting in a chair with her head down on a table.  The sound can be heard of the door being unlocked.  DOCTOR EMERSON enters.  FIONA wakes after a moment.  EMERSON is drunk. He walks up to FIONA.

 

EMERSON 

Afternoon, Mrs. Peake.  Say, you're not Mrs. Peake.  (He looks around and sees REBECCA.) You're awful pretty to be in here.

 

FIONA 

I have been calling for over an hour for someone to come!  Where have you been?

 

EMERSON 

Say, honey, I just got here.  Come to see  the old lady.  Now, if I'd have known you was locked in here too, why,...

 

REBECCA rouses and sits up in bed.

 

FIONA 

I am not a prisoner!

 

EMERSON 

You're on the wrong side of the door, little lady.

 

FIONA 

I'll thank you to call my husband, Mr. Peck.  He's a lawyer.  Upstairs in the court.  I was only supposed to be down here for twenty minutes. 

 

REBECCA is on her feet, interested.  She picks up the music box.

 

EMERSON

(Grabs her wrist)

Lookie here, Miss.  I don't know who you are or what you done.  But I sure would like to get to know you.

 

FIONA slaps EMERSON across the face.  There is a stunned silence and then EMERSON hits FIONA in the face, as well.  REBECCA brings the music box down on EMERSON'S head.

 

EMERSON

(Howling with pain) 

Why, you...

 

He grabs REBECCA and begins to shake her.  FIONA gets up and jumps on his back, wrapping her feet around his lets.  They all fall to the floor, yelling, cursing and crying.  REBECCA and then FIONA are on their feet, kicking EMERSON.  He crawls under REBECCA'S bed.  The two women, exhausted, look at each other.  FIONA breaks down.  REBECCA looks away, vague and uninterested again.

 

FIONA 

Who is that terrible man?

 

REBECCA 

My doctor.

 

FIONA 

That... that monster is a doctor? 

 

REBECCA 

He's not so bad.  I've seen worse.

 

FIONA

I want to go home!  Why doesn't someone come?  (She runs to the door again and begins banging on it.)  Please!  Help me!  There's a man in here!  Please!  (Turns to REBECCA.) How could my husband leave me with you! (REBECCA stars at her impassively.) You're crazy!  You're not right in the head! (She moves as far left as she can go.)  Stay away from me! Don't come near me!  Do you understand?  Just keep to your side!

 

REBECCA 

I'm not hankering to sit on you.

 

FIONA 

And don't speak to me! Don't say a word until my husband comes! And don't start that terrible noise you were making either!

 

REBECCA 

You're making all the noise.

 

FIONA 

I should never have come here!

 

REBECCA  

I reckon you're right about that.

 

REBECCA sits down at the small table.  FIONA sits miserably on the floor, facing away from REBECCA.  After a moment, REBECCA picks up the music box and winds it up.  It plays a lullaby.  REBECCA hums along a little.  Then REBECCA opens the doctor's case and removes a vial. 

 

FIONA 

That's Bach.

 

REBECCA continues to hum.

 

FIONA 

Still works.  (Pause.) I... thank you... Mrs. Peake. For stopping that... Doctor... from accosting me.  I don't know what I would have done.  I'm sorry for speaking to you the way I did.  Are you... all right now?

 

REBECCA continues to hum.  FIONA walks over to the table and sits down.

 

FIONA 

I wanted to come and offer some comfort to you.  My husband tells me... you don't have many visitors.  (She looks behind them at the bed.) Do you suppose that man will come out?

 

REBECCA 

Hm?  He'll sleep a few hours, anyway.

 

FIONA 

Has be ever hurt you before?

 

REBECCA 

Only doctors me.

 

FIONA 

Mrs. Peake, you can't be treated this way.  A man like that... I don't know what to say.  I must talk to my husband.  He can't be let in here again.

 

REBECCA 

But he's my doctor!

 

FIONA 

There must be somebody else who can attend you.

 

REBECCA 

Mr. Peck brought him to me!  No one else would come!

 

FIONA 

My husband will see to it that another doctor attends you. 

 

REBECCA 

Please, Missus, don't say nothing about the doctor-

 

FIONA 

I just want to help you, that's all.  You must trust me, Mrs. Peake.  These things can be arranged. 

 

REBECCA

(Softly, but grows frantic)

No, no, no, no, no, no, no...

 

FIONA 

Mrs. Peake...

 

REBECCA

(Hysterical)

No, no, no, no, no, no, no...

 

FIONA 

All right. (FIONA wraps her arms around REBECCA.  Both are stunned and silent.  REBECCA'S arms almost embrace FIONA, but not quite.)   I said all right.  I won't say anything.  Please, don't worry.  Calm yourself.  (Pulls away, still  holding REBECCA'S hands.)  Shall I read to you some more?

 

REBECCA 

You won't say nothing?

 

FIONA 

I won't.

REBECCA 

I get these headaches from time to time.  (FIONA helps REBECCA sit down.) The doctor brings me medicine.

 

FIONA 

What kind of medicine?

 

REBECCA 

Sleep.  I want to sleep.

 

DR. EMERSON crawls out from under the bed and lays down on top of it.

 

FIONA

(Carefully)

Mrs. Peake, is there anything I can do for you?

 

REBECCA 

Kill me.

 

Suddenly, the door is unlocked and LUCIUS comes bouncing in.  FIONA looks up at him.

 

 

LUCIUS 

I see you ladies have gotten on all right.  Sorry about the time, Fiona. I meant to have Jacob come for you and I was in such a hurry I forgot.  (Notices  EMERSON on the bed.)  What the...?  Who in the world...?  Fiona!

 

The women continue to look at each other.  Black out.

 

ACT 2

 

The stage is set for the trial.  The lights are down except for a low light downstage center where REBECCA sits in her chair. LUCIUS and FIONA stand over her.

 

FIONA 

Mrs. Peake?  (She touches her gently.  REBECCA rouses and looks at her, but then hangs her head again. FIONA looks at JACOB.)  Is she sick?

 

LUCIUS 

The doctor was here this morning.  He bled her.  Thought that would keep her from getting too excited at the trial.

 

FIONA 

Mrs. Peake?  (Looks at her husband helplessly.)

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake, we have to be in court this morning.  That is, we're going to the church instead.  It's a bit of a walk.

 

REBECCA 

I'm going to church?

 

LUCIUS 

The trial is to be held there.  Do you think you can walk or should I order a wagon?

 

REBECCA 

I can't go to church.

 

LUCIUS 

There isn't room enough in the court for everyone.

 

REBECCA(To Fiona)

Will you... come with me?

 

 

FIONA 

That's why I'm here. 

 

REBECCA 

You won't go?

 

FIONA 

I promise.  I'll be right next to you the whole time.

 

LUCIUS 

Can you stand, Mrs. Peake?  Try to stand.

 

REBECCA stands with difficulty, but dignity. The lights fade out as they exit. 

 

The trial set consists of an alter chair for the judge, stage left.  Witnesses are seated, one by one, center stage in another chair.  REBECCA, LUCIUS and FIONA sit stage right in a church pew.  WILLIAM HEBARD  is seated in another pew, also stage right.  A clerk enters, stage right and addresses the audience.  The witnesses, if possible, are seated in the audience and enter the stage from there.

 

The light on the screen comes up and remains up for the duration of the trial.  It reveals a shining Christian cross.  The CLERK enters.

 

SCENE 1

 

CLERK 

All rise. (Pause.) This court is called to order on the 23rd day of December, 1835, in the county of Orange in the First Congregational Church in Chelsea, Vermont, the Honorable Charles K. Williams presiding.

 

JUDGE enters and sits in his chair. 

 

WILLIAMS 

This court will now come to order.  Are the counsel for the defense and the prosecution ready?

 

HEBARD AND LUCIUS 

We are, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

Has the clerk sworn in the witnesses?

 

CLERK 

Yes, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

Mrs. Rebecca Peake, you are charged on this 23rd day of December 1835, with the murder of Ephraim Peake of South Randolph, Vermont.  How does the prisoner plead?

 

LUCIUS

Not guilty, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

This court will hear the testimony for the prosecution.

 

HEBARD 

Thank you, your honor.  Gentlemen of the jury, I shall prove to you by witnesses on the part of the Government,  that the prisoner did willfully and with malice aforethought murder the deceased, Ephraim Peake who, through his own industry, amassed the sum of fifteen hundred dollars to buy the family farm and in exchange agreed to care for his father and stepmother for the remainder of their lives.  You will hear testimony that proves the prisoner was greatly displeased that Ephraim had come home, that she made many threatening observations to the neighbors; that she said, that if the deceased came home to live they would not live long together; that the house would be too hot for him. It will be proved that the prisoner mingled arsenic with the hash at dinner on August the twelfth. Witnesses will testify that furthermore she gave poisoned drinks to Ephraim while he lay sick in his chamber and that he continued worse until he died on Thursday, August 20.  Only a criminal of the vilest and most reprehensible character would attack and murder a member of her own family, a man she was entrusted to care for and nurture after the death of his own mother.  Gentlemen of the jury, you see before you a woman who has violated the most sacred trust that God bestows; that of the care and protection of her own family.  The prosecution calls as its first witness Doctor Jacob Pember.

 

DOCTOR PEMBER enters and sits. 

 

HEBARD 

State your name, occupation and town of residence.

 

PEMBER 

I'm Doctor Jacob Pember from South Randolph.

 

HEBARD 

And do you recognize the prisoner, Dr. Pember?

 

PEMBER 

That's Mrs. Peake.  We're neighbors.

 

HEBARD 

And how long have you been practicing as a physician, Dr. Pember?

 

PEMBER 

Well, I brought you into the world, Mr. Hebard.

 

HEBARD             

Thirty years then?  Forty?

 

PEMBER 

Closer to forty, Mr. Hebard.

 

HEBARD 

There's probably not much you haven't seen in the way of sickness and tragedy, is there, Doctor?

 

PEMBER

I've seen my share.

 

HEBARD 

Tell the court, if you would, Doctor, the facts surrounding the sickness which overcame Ephraim on August 12, 1835.

 

PEMBER 

Well, it was Rebecca that came and got me.  The symptoms were such that usually attend the commencement of a fever.  That was on Wednesday.  By Friday he was feeling better, but come Monday Ephraim was down with it again.  His symptoms were similar to those he first had, but much aggravated.  He complained of pain and burning in his stomach and bowels.  During his sickness there was a restlessness and prostration of strength.  His skin was very dry and hot, afterwards it became moist.  His tongue was unusually coated and swollen; his eyes were red and in the last of his sickness his limbs were somewhat swollen and he complained of numbness.  Ephraim was troubled to breathe and his pulse was frequent and somewhat hard.  All these symptoms suggest a great derangement of the system. 

 

HEBARD 

And was a post-mortem conducted?

 

 

PEMBER 

Yes, on the day after his death.  Appearances indicated a high state of inflammation in the stomach and bowels; color of the stomach was a dark red, approaching gangrene; the heart was somewhat enlarged and the pericardium contained a fluid of several ounces.  The liver and lungs were inflamed.  The appearances of the stomach and so forth were such as denoted a high state of inflammation which might be occasioned by poison.

 

HEBARD 

How did the prisoner appear to you during these visits to the home?  Was she attending Ephraim?

 

PEMBER 

She seemed to be doing everything she could to make him comfortable the first time I went.  I didn't see much of her when he took his bad turn, to be quite honest.  I understood she remained in her room.

 

HEBARD 

Are you of the opinion, Doctor, that Ephraim Peake died as a result of arsenic poisoning?

 

LUCIUS 

Objection, your honor.  The prosecution is leading the witness.

 

WILLIAMS 

Sustained.

 

HEBARD 

I'll rephrase the question, your honor.  Doctor Pember, do the symptoms of arsenic poisoning resemble the symptoms from which Ephraim Peake suffered?

 

PEMBER 

Well, it could of been arsenic, there's no doubt of that.  Arsenic would produce all the symptoms.   And it did come on after a meal where the poison could have been administered. 

 

HEBARD 

No further questions at this time, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

Defense may cross examine.

 

 

LUCIUS 

Thank you, your honor.  Doctor Pember, can one detect the taste of arsenic in food?

 

PEMBER 

No, it has no flavor.

 

LUCIUS 

I see.  And have you ever attended a case of arsenic poisoning before?

 

PEMBER 

No, I have not.

 

LUCIUS 

May I ask, then, how you came to the opinion that arsenic may have been administered to Ephraim Peake?

 

PEMBER 

Well, at first I thought it might have been cholera. 

 

LUCIUS 

And what is the difference between cholera and arsenic poisoning, Doctor?

 

PEMBER 

Classically, there is almost no difference.  All of the symptoms suffered by Ephraim could have been brought on by cholera.

 

LUCIUS 

How, then, does one prove arsenic poisoning?

 

PEMBER

The only way to conclusively prove it is by reducing the contents of the stomach to its metallic state after death.

 

LUCIUS 

And was such a test administered?

 

PEMBER 

No.

 

LUCIUS 

Did anyone suggest that such a test might clear up the question?

 

 

PEMBER 

Mrs. Perrin did give me a vial of powder on Sunday to take to a laboratory.  She said it came from a cup she found in Ephraim's room.

 

LUCIUS 

Did a laboratory analyze the contents of the vial?

 

PEMBER 

I took it with me; I intended to have it analyzed. (Pause.)  But my horse threw me on the way home and I lost it.

 

LUCIUS 

And Mrs. Perrin couldn't produce any more of this powder?

 

HEBARD 

Objection!

 

WILLIAMS 

Sustained.

 

LUCIUS 

Doctor Pember, based on the medical evidence available, can you state with confidence that Ephraim Peake died as a result of arsenic poisoning?

 

PEMBER 

No, I cannot.

 

LUCIUS 

Does arsenic have any medicinal uses?

 

PEMBER 

It is sometimes prescribed for migraine headaches.

 

LUCIUS 

And did you ever prescribe arsenic for Mrs. Peake?

PEMBER 

Um, yes, I did.  She suffers something terrible.

 

LUCIUS 

No further questions, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

The witness may step down.  The prosecution may call his next witness.

 

HEBARD 

The prosecution calls Sarah Perrin.

 

SARAH enters. 

 

HEBARD 

Please state your name and place of residence.

 

SARAH

I'm Mrs. Sarah Perrin and I live in South Randolph. I'm married to Daniel Perrin; we have a farm adjoining my father and stepmother's place.

 

HEBARD 

Mrs. Perrin, how did you first learn of the sickness that assailed your family in August of this year?

 

SARAH 

Mrs. Wakefield came for me.  She had been to Father's for some eggs because hers weren't laying.  She told me they were all sick and that I'd better get down there.

 

HEBARD 

And what day was this?

 

SARAH 

Sunday!  Four days my brother had been suffering!

 

HEBARD 

Did you feel you should have been sent for sooner?

 

SARAH 

Of course!  They were all to bed, Father and Ephraim.  My stepmother was in bed too, of course, with one of her headaches.  The poor doctor had done what he could but they were still in distress.

 

HEBARD 

And what did you do upon arriving, Mrs. Perrin?

 

SARAH 

I could see that Ephraim was by far the worst.  I stayed right with him until- (she breaks off and sobs in her throat).

 

 

HEBARD 

Tell us, if you can, what your impressions were about his illness?

SARAH 

I thought it was strange, that's what!  Ephraim had never been sick a day in his life.  It was obvious he had been struck by a powerful force! It was unnatural!  If you could have seen his color!  Why, he was positively green !

 

HEBARD 

The doctor testified that Ephraim's symptoms could have been brought on by an attack of cholera.  Did you share in this opinion?

 

LUCIUS

Objection.  The witness is not a physician.

 

HEBARD 

I'm only trying to ascertain her state of mind while viewing her sick brother.

 

WILLIAMS 

Overruled.  You may answer the question, Mrs. Perrin.

 

SARAH 

It wasn't no cholera.  My stepmother brought a drink to Ephraim which he refused to touch. He told me she had brought him other such drinks that had the flavor of the hash.  He suspected poison himself!

 

HEBARD 

And did you confront your stepmother with your suspicions?

 

SARAH 

Dan cautioned against it.

 

HEBARD 

And who is Dan?

 

SARAH 

Why, you know Dan, Will!

 

HEBARD 

Just answer the question, please.

 

SARAH 

My husband, Dan Perrin.  He said it would alert her.  But she confessed anyway!  The day Ephraim died I asked her if she realized she was the means of Ephraim's death and she said she was!

 

HEBARD 

Did anyone else hear the prisoner make this confession?

 

SARAH 

I think Lucretia Murch was there and Mrs. Bebe.  The next day she confessed to Reverend Washburn and-

 

LUCIUS 

Objection!

 

WILLIAMS 

Sustained.

 

HEBARD 

Mrs. Perrin, just tell us what you personally heard.

 

HEBARD 

She said it was the devil in her made her do it!  She's got a devil all right!  She's been a devil ever since she came to us-

 

LUCIUS 

Objection!

 

HEBARD 

No more questions.

 

WILLIAMS 

You may cross-examine, Mr. Peck.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Perrin, you say that when you first arrived during the family sickness, that your stepmother was in bed with a headache.

 

SARAH 

She was always having them.

 

LUCIUS  

Can you tell us what the headaches were like?

 

SARAH 

She'd stay in bed moaning for a few days.  The doctor would come and bleed her.  Least before Ephraim came home.  He put a stop to that.  Didn't help anyway, he said, no sense in spending the money.

 

 

 

LUCIUS 

Did these headaches prevent Mrs. Peake from adding to the industry of the farm?

 

SARAH 

She wasn't any use at all.  Just a mouth to feed.

 

LUCIUS 

What were the circumstances of the defendant's confession?                 

 

SARAH 

What do you mean?

 

LUCIUS 

It only stands to reason that a murderer would deny his or her crime.

 

SARAH 

We told her we knew she had done it-

 

LUCIUS 

Who is "we"?

 

SARAH 

Daniel - my husband - and me.  Ephraim had accused her to her face before he died!  All the neighbors were in the house - Solomon Burnham, Jesse Robinson, Lucretia Murch, the Paines, Rev. Washburn and his wife.  Why, there was scarce room to breathe under that roof and we all knew she was guilty!  How could she deny it?

 

LUCIUS 

I'd like to ask the jury to disregard that last statement.

 

WILLIAMS 

The jury is so ordered.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Perrin, how did the defendant appear to you during the alleged confession?  Was she agitated?  Confused?

 

SARAH 

Just usual.

 

LUCIUS 

What's usual, Mrs. Perrin?

SARAH 

She had a fit of the hysterics about every day.  Brought on by guilt, I expect.

 

LUCIUS 

No further questions.

 

WILLIAMS 

The witness may step down.

 

SARAH exits.

 

WILLIAMS 

Mr. Hebard, you may call your next witness.

 

HEBARD

The state calls Mrs. Lucretia Murch.

 

LUCRETIA MURCH enters.

 

HEBARD 

Please tell the court your name and place of residence.

 

LUCRETIA 

My name's Mrs. Lucretia Murch and I live in South Randolph not a mile from the Peake place.

 

HEBARD 

And are you acquainted with the prisoner?

 

LUCRETIA  I've known that woman for twenty-five years.  Ever since she come here from Massachusetts.  I first met her at her own wedding when she married Jonathan.

 

HEBARD 

When did you first hear about some kind of illness striking the Peake's this summer?

 

 

LUCRETIA 

I'm a friend to Essie Pember, that's Doctor Pember's wife, and she told me her William was over there and thought it was cholera.  Well, it was my duty to go and see what I could do for them, poor things.  That was, let's see, on a Friday.

 

HEBARD 

And what did you find when you got there?

 

LUCRETIA 

Ephraim was to bed, Jonathan, too.  Only Rebecca was on her feet.

 

HEBARD 

Did Mrs. Peake have any signs of illness?

 

LUCRETIA 

Not that I could see.  Course she's peculiar so it's hard to tell. She has headaches and spells from time to time.  (Confiding.)  She's not really sensible, you know. But she's cunning and artful, everybody knows that.

 

LUCIUS 

Objection!  The witness is not a medical doctor!

 

LUCRETIA 

I don't have to be a doctor to know when someone's off their head...

 

WILLIAMS 

Mrs. Murch, you will not speak out of turn.

 

LUCRETIA 

I'm only saying what I think, Judge, I came all the way here to do that today-

 

WILLIAMS

(Roaring at her)

You will hold your tongue unless asked a direct question!  And confine your remarks to what is specifically asked!  Is that clear?

 

LUCRETIA

(Confused and frightened)

Why, I was only-

 

WILLIAMS 

Is that clear?

 

LUCRETIA bursts into tears.

 

WILLIAMS 

Mr. Hebard, will you excuse the witness.

 

HEBARD

But, your honor...

WILLIAMS 

You may recall her when she pulls herself together. The witness will step down.

 

LUCRETIA

is still bewildered.  The CLERK comes over and assists her.  HEBARD regains his composure.

 

HEBARD 

The state calls Reverend Washburn.

 

WASHBURN enters.

 

HEBARD 

Please tell the court your name and place of residence.

 

WASHBURN 

I'm Reverend Washburn.  I'm the pastor of the Freewill Baptist Church in East Bethel.

 

HEBARD 

And what is your relationship with the prisoner?

 

WASHBURN 

She is a parishioner in my church.  Though she was never what you would call regular.

 

HEBARD 

Rev. Washburn, did you see the prisoner during the week her stepson, Ephraim, was dying?

 

WASHBURN 

I was in the house the day we buried Ephraim. Rebecca was in her room and wouldn't come out.  I went up to see her.

 

HEBARD 

And did you engage her in a conversation?

 

 

WASHBURN 

I asked her how she did and she said, "Oh dear, I am distressed in body and mind."  I asked what distressed her and she soon remarked that if she did it, she could not have been in her right mind.

 

HEBARD 

Did what, Reverend?

 

WASHBURN 

Well, she didn't rightly say.  Poisoned Ephraim, I guess.

 

LUCIUS 

Objection!  The witness is drawing conclusions.

 

WILLIAMS 

Sustained.

 

HEBARD 

What else did she say, Reverend?

 

WASHBURN

Lucretia Murch was with me and held up a cup to Rebecca.  "Tell the Reverend what you told me about the cup,"  Lucretia said.  Then Rebecca told that she didn't know how any poison could have got in there, it must have been the devil behind it.  "I didn't bring home any poison," Rebecca said.  "You told me you did," said Lucretia.  Then Rebecca said if she put the poison in the hash it was on Tuesday.  "No, no, no," said Lucretia, "it had to be on Thursday."  "We don't have hash on Thursdays," said Rebecca.  "It had to be Thursday," said Lucretia, "because Ephraim was almost done in by Sunday and he didn't linger that long."

 

HEBARD 

Rev. Washburn-

 

WASHBURN 

Then Lucretia wanted Rebecca to tell about her great temptation, how she had thought and thought about doing something to Ephraim.  "Did I tell that?" Rebecca wanted to know.  "Oh, yes," said Lucretia, "I heard it when you were talking to Daniel Perrin."  I think that was the time Lucretia was hiding under Rebecca's bed.

 

HEBARD 

Thank you, Reverend.  No further-

 

 

WASHBURN 

There must have been forty of us in the house after the funeral, you see, and there were quite a number of confessions that day.

 

HEBARD 

No further questions, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

Defense may cross examine.

LUCIUS 

Thank you, your honor.  Reverend Washburn,  would you say that on the day of Ephraim's funeral, that Mrs. Peake appeared confused?

 

WASHBURN 

Now that you mention it, I suppose she was, but maybe not as confused as Lucretia.

 

LUCIUS 

While you were in Mrs. Peake's presence, did anyone other than you or Mrs. Murch question her about Ephraim?

 

WASHBURN 

Oh, yes. Everyone was excited, you see.  Dan Perrin most of all.  Course he was the one that entered the complaint.

 

LUCIUS 

Dan Perrin is married to Ephraim's sister, Sarah.

 

WASHBURN 

That's right.

 

LUCIUS 

Rev. Washburn, as pastor in the community, I imagine you are privy to many confidences.  About family problems and the like.

 

WASHBURN 

Oh yes, I hear all of it.

 

LUCIUS 

Would you say the Peake's were a harmonious family?

 

HEBARD 

Objection!

 

 

 

LUCIUS

Your honor, the defense intends to prove that the bad feelings in the family were not only between the defendant and the deceased and that other family members may have had a motive in accusing Mrs. Peake.

 

WILLIAMS 

We'll follow this for awhile, Mr. Peck.

 

LUCIUS 

Thank you.  Rev. Washburn, please answer the question.

WASHBURN 

You want to know if the Peake's were harmonious?

 

LUCIUS 

That's right.

 

WASHBURN 

Well, let's see, there were nine children before Rebecca came there.  Five girls and four boys.  I think it was hard on all of them when they lost their mother.  Stepmothers, well, tends to create a lot of conflict.

 

LUCIUS 

Any bad feelings between the offspring?

 

WASHBURN 

Not really, no.  Well, there was one thing. 

 

LUCIUS 

Yes, Reverend?

 

WASHBURN 

Not exactly between the Peakes, you understand.  Between Ephraim and Dan Perrin.  Sarah's husband.  Dan wanted to buy the farm from Jonathan, you see.  Counted on it.  He likes land, that Dan Perrin.  Started with fifty acres Jonathan sold him when he married Sarah and he's been adding to it bit by bit ever since.

 

LUCIUS 

Was there bad feeling between the men over it?

 

WASHBURN 

I wouldn't want to call it bad feeling.

 

LUCIUS 

What would you call it, Reverend?

 

WASHBURN 

Dan was disappointed mostly.  You see, he can't expand his farm anymore.  Burnham's own the land to the west, the Paine's to the north.  Peake land is to the south and east.  Wraps around it.

 

LUCIUS 

Why didn't Jonathan sell to Dan Perrin instead of Ephraim?

 

WASHBURN 

He would've if it hadn't been for Rebecca.  (Chuckles a little.) Ephraim and Rebecca, that was nothing compared to Dan and Rebecca.  I guess you'd say they hated each other.

 

LUCIUS 

Thank you Reverend.  No more questions.

 

WILLIAMS 

The witness may step down. Mr. Hebard?

 

HEBARD 

The state calls as it's last witness, Mr. Dan Perrin.

 

PERRIN enters. 

 

HEBARD 

Please state your name and place of residence.

 

PERRIN

I'm Daniel Perrin, I live in South Randolph.

 

 

HEBARD 

And what is your relationship to the prisoner?

 

PERRIN 

I'm husband to Sarah, her stepdaughter.

 

HEBARD 

Mr. Perrin, I have a copy of a complaint you gave to the sheriff on August 19, 1835 stating that you suspected Rebecca Peake of poisoning her stepson, Ephraim, with arsenic.  Can you tell the court, please, what convinced you that such a step was necessary?

 

 

 

PERRIN 

We got there, Sarah and me, on Sunday.  Ephraim had already been sick three days then.  It wasn't natural.

 

HEBARD 

What wasn't natural, Mr. Perrin?

 

PERRIN 

Ephraim was strong as an ox.  Never been sick a day in his life.  Never. 

 

HEBARD 

What was Ephraim's condition when you found him?

 

PERRIN 

Why, he was like a baby.  Laying there helpless.  Fanny was nursing him and Rebecca, God forbid.  It was no illness like I ever saw.

 

HEBARD 

Did Ephraim tell you he suspected his stepmother of poisoning him?

 

LUCIUS 

Objection!  Leading the witness.

 

WILLIAMS 

Sustained.

 

HEBARD 

I'll rephrase the question.  What did Ephraim suppose was the matter with him?

 

PERRIN 

He couldn't account for it.  Said he was as healthy as ever the morning before he ate the hash.  He did say he had taken drinks from Rebecca and Susan Bannister that had the same taste as the hash.

 

HEBARD 

And who is Susan Bannister?

 

PERRIN 

She's Rebecca's daughter, Ephraim's half-sister.

 

HEBARD 

When did you enter the complaint, Mr. Perrin?

 

PERRIN 

The day before he died.  I asked him if he wanted me to and he said yes.

 

HEBARD 

What happened after that?

 

PERRIN 

I brought the complaint to the sheriff and he said for me and ten other neighbors to investigate and bring him what we found. 

 

HEBARD 

You were appointed to a petit jury, then, Mr. Perrin.

 

PERRIN 

We were all there, Solomon Burnham and Jesse Robinson and Edward Eastman and Reverend Washburn.

 

HEBARD 

And how did you begin your investigation?

 

PERRIN 

We gathered everybody together at the church and had a meeting. 

 

HEBARD 

Who was present, Mr. Perrin?

 

PERRIN 

Everybody in the community. 

 

HEBARD 

And when did this take place?

 

PERRIN 

Day after the funeral.

 

HEBARD 

Did you discover anything during this meeting that gave you reason to believe that Mrs. Peake was responsible for Ephraim's death?

 

PERRIN 

That's when we found out about Rebecca buying the arsenic.  When we confronted her at first she lied and said she never bought it.  Then she made up the story about a niece.  Solomon and Jesse rode up to Roxbury and questioned the girl.  She was never in Royalton that day or any day this summer.

 

HEBARD 

Thank you, Mr. Perrin.  No further questions.

 

WILLIAMS 

Your witness, Mr. Peck.

 

LUCIUS 

Mr. Hebard, what day did you first come to see Ephraim?  After he got sick, I mean.

 

PERRIN 

On Monday, I think. 

 

LUCIUS 

And he's been sick about five days at that point?

 

PERRIN 

I reckon.

 

LUCIUS 

What day did you enter the complaint against Mrs. Peake?

 

PERRIN 

Thursday, it was.

 

LUCIUS 

Three days later?

 

PERRIN 

I guess.

 

LUCIUS 

When did you first suspect Mrs. Peake?

 

PERRIN 

I suspected her as soon as I got there.  So did everyone else.

 

LUCIUS 

Everyone?

 

PERRIN 

My wife.  Jonathan, Ephraim, the doctor...

 

LUCIUS 

What took you so long to enter the complaint?

 

PERRIN 

What?

 

LUCIUS 

Why didn't you enter the complaint on Monday or Tuesday?  Why wait until Thursday?

 

PERRIN

We didn't know for sure he was going to die until Thursday.

 

LUCIUS 

So if Ephraim had gotten better you wouldn't have entered a complaint?

 

PERRIN 

Ephraim could have done it himself, then.

 

LUCIUS 

What was Ephraim's condition on Thursday?  Was he able to talk?

 

PERRIN 

Not much,  the sickness was consuming him.

 

LUCIUS 

Did he ask you to enter the complaint, Mr. Perrin?  What was the conversation, exactly?

 

PERRIN 

I asked him if he wanted me to enter it and he said yes.

 

LUCIUS 

So the complaint was your idea?

 

PERRIN 

Ephraim was dying!

 

LUCIUS 

Mr. Perrin, who first suggested that a complaint should be entered? 

Was it you or Ephraim?

 

PERRIN 

You can't expect a dying man to have all his senses-

 

LUCIUS 

Please answer the question, Mr. Perrin.  Was it you or Ephraim?

 

PERRIN 

It was me.

 

LUCIUS 

Mr. Perrin, you were brother-in-law to Ephraim.

 

PERRIN 

That's right.

 

LUCIUS 

Would you say you were friends? 

 

PERRIN 

We were family.

 

LUCIUS 

That's not what I asked.

 

PERRIN 

We had our differences from time to time.  Same as anybody.

 

LUCIUS 

But overall, would you say that your relationship was amiable?

 

PERRIN 

Yes,  I would.

 

LUCIUS 

Mr. Perrin, you testified that Ephraim accused Mrs. Peake giving him poisoned drinks.    Did you ever see Mrs. Peake put poison in a drink?

 

PERRIN 

No.

 

LUCIUS 

So you have no way of knowing who, if anybody, may have administered poison? 

 

PERRIN 

Well, no.

 

LUCIUS 

So you're just drawing conclusions, Mr. Perrin, without any evidence.

 

PERRIN 

It was Ephraim that suspected it!

 

LUCIUS 

Ephraim was bedridden?

 

PERRIN 

Yes, he was abed.

 

LUCIUS 

Then he had no way of knowing or seeing if poison was put in a drink.

 

PERRIN 

He said that some drinks had the same taste as the hash!

 

LUCIUS 

Dr. Pember testified that arsenic is tasteless.

 

PERRIN 

I can't help it if that's what Ephraim said!

 

LUCIUS 

Just pointing out for the jury, Mr. Perrin, the difference between supposition and fact.  No further questions, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

The witness may step down.  Mr. Hebard?

 

HEBARD 

Your honor, the prosecution rests.

 

WILLIAMS 

This court will adjourn until nine o'clock tomorrow morning.

 

LUCIUS walks back over to FIONA and REBECCA.   WILLIAMS and HEBARD exit. 

 

LUCIUS 

We'll go back to the jailhouse now, Mrs. Peake.

 

REBECCA

(Looking out at audience) 

They're all looking at me.

 

 

LUCIUS 

They'll go along home when we leave. 

 

REBECCA

(Stands and points at audience)

Take warning!  All of you!  Take warning!  The devil's afoot!   He's standing there!  Do you see him?  Behind

 

LUCRETIA MURCH 

Oh, God, save us!  Help us! 

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Peake, please...

 

The CLERK enters.

 

CLERK 

Come on, old woman, that's enough for today.

 

LUCIUS and FIONA practically drag her away.

 

REBECCA 

Please!  Don't let them take me!  Please, I beg you!

 

CLERK 

She's out of her head-

 

LUCIUS and FIONA get REBECCA offstage. 

 

CLERK

(To audience)

Go on, clear out.  Court is closed for the day.  I said, clear out! All of you!  Or you won't be admitted tomorrow! Do you hear me?  Out!  Out with you!

 

BLACK OUT

 

SCENE 2

 

FIONA is seated with REBECCA in the court.  HEBARD is seated, also.  FIONA looks around anxiously.  LUCIUS enters in a hurry.

 

FIONA 

Lucius!

 

 

LUCIUS 

I'm sorry, darling.  I couldn't get back last night.  The storm made traveling impossible so I stayed at an inn.  I'm so sorry.  Did you pass the night all right? (Before she can answer.)  Fiona, I discovered something last night about Dan Perrin.  I brought a witness back with me this morning.

 

CLERK  All rise.

 

WILLIAMS enters and takes his seat.

 

CLERK 

This court is called to order on the 24th day of December, 1835, in the county of Orange, in the First Congregational Church in Chelsea, Vermont, the Honorable Charles K. Williams presiding.

 

WILLIAMS 

The court heard the testimony for the state yesterday. Mr. Peck, is the defense ready?

 

LUCIUS 

We are.

 

WILLIAMS 

You may call your next witness, Mr. Peck.

 

LUCIUS 

The defense calls Sarah Perrin.

 

SARAH enters and sits down.

 

WILLIAMS 

I will remind the witness you are still under oath.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Perrin, Dr. Pember testified yesterday that it was you that first suggested that Ephraim had been poisoned by arsenic.  Is that right?

 

SARAH 

I'm not sure that I was the first one to think so.

 

LUCIUS 

Can you tell the court who else had suspicions besides you?

 

SARAH  Lucretia Murch and Rev. Washburn-

 

LUCIUS 

I mean on Sunday.  That was the day you first arrived.  Did anybody advance the theory before you did?

 

SARAH 

Doctor Pember agreed with me.

 

LUCIUS

Dr. Pember testified that he thought Ephraim had cholera.

 

SARAH 

I may have been the first one then.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Perrin, have you ever seen a case of arsenic poisoning?  Excepting your suspicions about your brother?

 

SARAH 

Not exactly.

 

LUCIUS 

What does, "not exactly" mean?

 

SARAH 

No, I have not.

 

LUCIUS 

Had anyone you know ever died of arsenic poisoning?  In the community? 

 

SARAH 

No.

 

LUCIUS 

Did anyone in the community ever tell you about someone they knew who had died of arsenic poisoning?

 

SARAH 

No, but I know enough to know it's a poison that can kill!

 

LUCIUS 

I wonder, then, how you were able to deduce that your brother suffered from arsenic poisoning.  Since you had never seen a case and no one you ever knew had arsenic poisoning.

 

 

SARAH 

It just seemed likely, that's all.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Perrin, I'm going to ask you another question and I want to remind you that you have sworn an oath on the Bible to tell the truth.  Did you have knowledge that your stepmother, Rebecca Peake, purchased arsenic from Fowler's Store two months before Ephraim died? 

 

SARAH does not speak.

 

WILLIAMS 

The witness will answer the question.

 

SARAH 

Yes.

 

LUCIUS 

Were you with her when she bought it?

 

SARAH 

Dan's brother Jared was in the store.  He come by later and told us.

 

LUCIUS 

Are you in the habit of keeping track of your stepmother's purchases?

 

SARAH 

She don't make purchases.

 

LUCIUS 

What do you mean?

 

SARAH 

Pa posted her for trading too much.  The clerk at Fowler's Store had no business selling her anything!  But that has nothing to do with-

 

LUCIUS 

The defense would like to offer that the witness had no information with which to accuse the defendant other than the knowledge that Mrs. Peake had purchased arsenic as a medicine from Fowler's Store.  Mrs. Perrin, you testified yesterday that Ephraim accused Mrs. Peake to her face before she died.  But Rev. Washburn testified that Mrs. Peake remained in her room after you came there.  Which was it?

 

SARAH 

He... I thought he... it was... It seems to me the prisoner was in the room when he said it one time.

 

LUCIUS 

But you're not sure anymore?

 

SARAH 

My memory is a little strained on that point.

 

LUCIUS 

No further questions, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

Mr. Hebard, your witness.

 

HEBARD 

Mrs. Perrin, remind the court, if you will, of the conversation you had with Dr. Pember when you arrived on Sunday.  When you suggested to him that Ephraim may have been poisoned with arsenic, what did he say?

 

SARAH 

He agreed that it was a strange sickness and couldn't account for it other than being cholera.  When I reminded him it came on sudden-like after eating a meal, he agreed it could have been from poison.

 

HEBARD 

Was he of the opinion that cholera comes on more slowly?

 

SARAH 

Yes! 

 

HEBARD  

So in that important respect, arsenic poisoning is unlike cholera.

 

LUCIUS 

Objection, your honor, neither the prosecution or the witness-

 

HEBARD 

No further questions, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

You may call your next witness, Mr. Peck.

 

 

LUCIUS 

The defense asks the court's permission to call a surprise witness to the stand, a Miss Laura Perrin.

 

WILLIAMS 

You have not entered her name before this moment, Mr. Peck?

 

LUCIUS 

I beg the court's pardon, your honor.  I only became aware of certain facts after court yesterday while I was in Randolph looking up some land records.

 

WILLIAMS 

The court will allow the testimony.

 

LAURA enters.  The CLERK swears her in.

 

CLERK 

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

 

LAURA

I do.

 

LUCIUS 

Please state your name and place of residence.

 

LAURA 

My name's Laura Perrin and I live in South Randolph.

 

LUCIUS 

And what is your relationship with the defendant, Miss Perrin?

 

LAURA 

My brother Daniel is married to Mrs. Peake's stepdaughter, Sarah.

 

LUCIUS 

Were you in the Peake house during the week that Ephraim took sick and later died?

 

LAURA

No, I was not. 

 

LUCIUS 

How do you occupy your time, Miss Perrin?

 

LAURA 

I care for my father.  My mother died some years ago.

 

LUCIUS 

What is the size of your father's farm, Miss Perrin?

 

HEBARD 

Objection!  I don't see the relevance of this witness' testimony.

 

LUCIUS 

I intend to make that clear, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

Get to it, Mr. Peck.

 

LUCIUS 

Miss Perrin, what is the size of your father's farm?

 

LAURA 

About a hundred acres, more or less.

 

LUCIUS 

When your brother Daniel married Sarah Peake ten years ago, did your father deed or sell him any land?

 

LAURA 

No.  Mr. Peake sold Daniel fifty acres to get him started.  (Proudly.) He's been adding to it ever since.

 

LUCIUS 

Miss Perrin, it was entered in testimony yesterday that at the time of Ephraim's death, Dan Perrin owed the deceased over three hundred dollars.  Can you shed any light on this for the court?

 

LAURA 

Oh, yes.  That was for the watering rights. 

 

LUCIUS 

Excuse me?

 

LAURA 

For the sheep.  Dan needed to water his sheep on Ephraim's property.

 

LUCIUS 

Three hundred a year?

 

LAURA 

There abouts.  Ephraim and Dan had powerful fights about the money.  Weren't speaking.

 

HEBARD 

Your honor, the prosecution objects to this line of questioning.  Dan Perrin isn't on trial here.

 

LUCIUS 

Your honor,  Dan Perrin testified that he was on amiable terms with the deceased.  I am trying to prove that certain witnesses are hostile to the defendant and may have lied under oath.

 

WILLIAMS 

That's a serious charge, Mr. Peck.

 

LUCIUS 

Nevertheless, Dan Perrin owed money to the deceased at the time of his death.  The two men were not on speaking terms yet  supposedly Dan was at Ephraim Peake's bedside.  Just as circumstances, not proof, have brought Mrs. Peake to this trial, other circumstances exist to explain much or all of the accusations.

 

WILLIAMS 

Are you finished with the witness, Mr. Peck?

 

LUCIUS 

Yes, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

Mr. Hebard, you may cross examine.

 

HEBARD 

Miss Perrin, you testified that Dan Perrin and Ephraim Peake were not on speaking terms.  How much time did you spend around the two men?

 

LAURA 

Not very much.  You see, I care for my father who has been sick-

 

HEBARD 

So, as far as you knew they weren't speaking to each other.  When was the last time you were in both their companies?

 

 

LAURA 

Why, I don't know.

 

HEBARD 

A month before Ephraim died?  Three months?

 

LAURA 

I can't recall exactly-

 

HEBARD 

Six months?  A year?

 

LAURA 

I think there was a barn raising at Solomon Burnham's this summer.

 

HEBARD 

And did you notice that they were not speaking to each other that day?

 

LAURA 

I wouldn't say I noticed anything.  I just think they were both there. I've heard it said that they bore each other ill will since the farm sale.

 

HEBARD 

In other words, Miss Perrin, your information comes from gossip.

 

LAURA 

I wouldn't call it gossip!

 

HEBARD 

What would you call it?

 

LAURA 

Why... talk!

 

HEBARD 

No further questions.

 

WILLIAMS 

The witness may step down.  Mr. Peck, you may call your next witness.

 

LUCIUS 

The defense calls Susan Bannister.

 

SUSAN enters.  REBECCA starts to rise when she first sees her daughter.  FIONA gently restrains her.  SUSAN does not look at her mother. 

 

SUSAN

I do.

 

LUCIUS 

Please state your name and place of residence.

 

SUSAN 

My name is Susan Bannister and I live in South Randolph.

 

LUCIUS

And what is your relationship with the defendant?

 

SUSAN

She's my mother, that's no sin, is it?

 

LUCIUS 

I beg your pardon?

 

SUSAN

(A little louder)

She's my mother.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Bannister, will you please tell the court what happened on August 14, 1835?

 

SUSAN 

August 14?

 

LUCIUS 

The day that Ephraim, Fanny and your father first got sick.

 

SUSAN 

Oh.  I was working in the field with my husband that day.  Mother came in a wagon and said everybody was sick from dinner and could I come.

 

LUCIUS 

And did you?

 

SUSAN 

I went on Saturday.  Mother was tuckered out from caring for everybody.  I stayed until Sunday when Sarah and Daniel come.

 

LUCIUS 

How were Ephraim and your father feeling on Saturday?

 

SUSAN  

Still poorly, but much improved.  Ephraim was still abed, but sitting up.  Sunday he was up and around but by Sunday night he was poorly again.

 

LUCIUS 

And the next day your half-sister Sarah and husband Daniel came to the house?

 

SUSAN 

That's right.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Bannister, your brother-in-law testified yesterday that Ephraim suspected you of giving him poisoned drinks.

 

SUSAN 

That's a lie!

 

LUCIUS  

You are not accused of anything.  But you are under oath.  Do you have any knowledge that your mother, the defendant, gave Ephraim poison?

 

SUSAN 

I didn't give him nothing.

 

LUCIUS 

Did your mother express care and concern for the deceased while he was suffering?

 

SUSAN 

I was only there three days. But yes!  She was up most of the night, especially Sunday night when Ephraim got worse.  He would vomit and soil himself.  He was like a baby!

 

LUCIUS 

And you went home Sunday night?

 

SUSAN

(Quietly)

Yes.

 

LUCIUS 

Were you no longer needed?

 

SUSAN 

Sarah was there.  And Dan.  They sent me home.

 

LUCIUS 

Why was that?

 

SUSAN doesn't answer.

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Bannister?

 

SUSAN 

Sarah said it was because I was expecting.  And it looked like Ephraim was suffering from cholera.

 

LUCIUS 

Were you aware that Ephraim suspected you of giving him poisoned drinks?

 

SUSAN

No!  There was no talk of that!

 

LUCIUS 

When did you realize that Ephraim had spoken against you?

 

SUSAN 

After my mother... after... when the sheriff...

 

LUCIUS 

Mrs. Bannister?

 

SUSAN 

I was going to come to Chelsea... to see Mother.  Dan told me... it would look bad for me.  Like I was in it, too.  What would I want in harming Ephraim?  I didn't have no need to bother him.

 

LUCIUS 

No further questions.

 

WILLIAMS 

Your witness, Mr. Hebard.

 

HEBARD 

Mrs. Bannister, you stated that the Perrin's came on Sunday night and sent you home.  Was that before or after the doctor arrived?

 

SUSAN 

Before.  I didn't see the doctor.

 

HEBARD 

At that point the family believed Ephraim was suffering from cholera, isn't that so?

 

SUSAN 

Not Sarah.

 

HEBARD 

But there was the idea that the family might be contagious.

 

SUSAN 

Maybe.

 

HEBARD 

Did you feel that they sent you home out of concern for your unborn child's well-being?

 

SUSAN 

Sarah don't have any concern for me, as you call it.

 

HEBARD 

Why would Ephraim accuse you of poisoning him, Mrs. Bannister?

 

LUCIUS 

Objection!

 

WILLIAMS 

Sustained.

 

HEBARD 

What were relations like between you and Ephraim.  Did you get along?

 

SUSAN

(Suspiciously)

Tolerably.

 

HEBARD 

Would you have any reason to kill him?

 

LUCIUS 

Objection!

 

WILLIAMS 

Sustained.

 

HEBARD 

Mrs. Bannister, I want to remind you that you are under oath.  Did you mother ever make threats against Ephraim to you?  Did she ever say she wanted him dead or out of the way?

 

SUSAN doesn't speak.

 

HEBARD 

Mrs. Bannister?

 

She remains silent.

 

WILLIAMS 

The witness will answer the question. 

 

SUSAN

(Softly, but through her teeth)

Yes.

 

HEBARD 

Mrs. Bannister, I don't think the jury heard you.

 

SUSAN 

I said yes! 

 

HEBARD 

What were her words?  What were her exact words?

 

SUSAN 

She said... she would burn the house down and him in it.

 

HEBARD 

Thank you, no further questions.

 

SUSAN 

I want no part in this!

 

WILLIAMS 

The witness may step down.

 

SUSAN begins to exit.  As she walks by her mother, REBECCA almost rises from her seat.

 

REBECCA 

The baby?

 

SUSAN 

A boy.

 

SUSAN exits. 

 

                                                          LUCIUS               

The defense calls Mr. Daniel Perrin.

 

PERRIN takes the stand.

 

WILLIAMS 

Mr. Perrin, you are still under oath.

 

LUCIUS 

Mr. Perrin, yesterday you testified that you and Ephraim Peake were on amiable terms.  What is your description of "amiable"?

 

PERRIN 

We were family.  And we did speak to each other.

 

LUCIUS 

What about, Mr. Perrin?

 

HEBARD 

Objection!  Counsel is goading the witness.

 

WILLIAMS 

Sustained.

 

LUCIUS 

Tell the court, please, about your hope to buy the Peake farm before January of this year.  Before Ephraim came home.

 

PERRIN 

There's no crime in wanting to buy more land, Mr. Perrin.

 

LUCIUS 

According to the land records in Randolph, Mr. Perrin, you have bought land six times since your marriage to Sarah Peake in 1825. 

 

PERRIN 

I intend to prosper, Mr. Peck, I don't see why I have to explain-

 

LUCIUS 

Your farm has almost doubled in size.  You started with fifty acres and have added thirty more.  The only way, looking at a land map, to increase it any more would be to buy from either Solomon Burnham, Ezra Paine or Jonathan Peake.  Mr. Burnham has three sons and Mr. Paine has four.  That would mean that unless Jonathan was disposed toward-

 

HEBARD 

That's enough.  Your honor, I cannot listen to an innocent, hardworking farmer being maligned like this.  Dan Perrin has not been called to this courtroom in order to-

 

LUCIUS 

He is land hungry, Mr. Hebard, and he had to pay the deceased three hundred dollars a year just to water his sheep-

 

PERRIN 

I will not stand for that from you!  I'm here because that old woman killed Ephraim and there's not a man in Orange County that will side with you no matter what you say!

 

WILLIAMS 

Mr. Perrin, you will not speak out of turn. 

 

LUCIUS

I intend to call every man and woman from Randolph, if necessary, to prove that there was no love between Ephraim and Daniel Perrin!  But that his only motive was to get Mrs. Peake out of the way so he could get his hands on that farm-

 

PERRIN

(Outraged)

You're lying! 

 

LUCIUS 

Because as Rev. Washburn pointed out, relations between Mrs. Peake and the Perrins were even worse than between her and Ephraim!

 

 

 

PERRIN 

Call them up here!  Call them up!  Make them swear I'm what you say!  I'll be damned before I listen to anymore of this!

 

WILLIAMS 

There will be order in this court!

 

PERRIN 

That old woman is a murdering witch! (Points at REBECCA.) Any bad blood comes from her veins!

 

LUCIUS 

You will not intimidate my client, Mr. Perrin!

 

WILLIAMS 

Mr. Peck-! (Banging his gavel.)

 

PERRIN 

We'll see her hanged for what she done!  Hanged before the snow is off the ground!

 

WILLIAMS 

Mr. Perrin! (Banging his gavel, standing up.)

 

LUCIUS 

Not before you stand trial for perjury!

 

WILLIAMS 

Mr. Peck!!!

 

LUCIUS 

Your honor, the defense rests!

 

A moment then,

 

BLACK OUT FAST

 

When the lights come back up, after a half minute or so, everybody is in their places.  The CLERK comes in. 

 

CLERK 

All rise.  This court is to order on the 25th day of December, 1835, in the county of Orange in the First Congregational Church in Chelsea, Vermont, the honorable Charles K. Williams presiding.

 

 

WILLIAMS

(Comes in and sits down)

Gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?

 

JUROR 

We have, your honor.

 

WILLIAMS 

What is your verdict?

 

JUROR 

Guilty, your honor.

 

LUCIUS 

Your honor!

 

WILLIAMS

(Barely tolerant)

Yes, Mr. Peck.

 

LUCIUS 

May I... poll the jury, your honor?

 

WILLIAMS 

The jury is so ordered.

 

JURY

(Stands and says twelve times)

Guilty, guilty, guilty, etc.

 

LUCIUS sits back down, defeated.

 

WILLIAMS

Mrs. Peake, is there anything you'd like to say before this court passes judgment? (Pause.) The Grand Jury of this county finds you guilty of the murder of Ephraim Peake. He was entrusted to your care when you married his father but instead you became his ruthless murderer. The law adjudges that such persons who evince so malignant a disposition and purpose must not continue on the earth or be any longer the scourge and terror of their fellow beings. Guilty and criminal as you are, you may yet find mercy at the throne of Grace, but unless you repent and are deeply penetrated with a sense of your crime, the Savior of the world, as to you, will have been born in vain. You will be taken from this bar to the prison from which you came and there remain until Friday the ninth day of February next, and on that day at some place of execution, to be selected by the Sheriff, between the hours of ten o'clock in the forenoon and three o'clock you will be hanged by the neck until you are dead. And may Almighty God have mercy on your soul.

 

FIONA

(Getting to her feet)

You can't do this.  Lucius!  They can't do this!  Tell them they're wrong!  Tell them!

 

LUCIUS 

Fiona, dear, please get a hold of yourself-

 

FIONA

(Louder)

You can't let them do this to her!  (Hysterical.) Lucius, don't let them take her!  She's a human being, for God's sake!  You can't do this!

 

LUCIUS starts to take FIONA by the arm.

 

CLERK 

All right, everybody, clear the room  Go on home.  Go on.  That's all for today.

 

The lights go down, except for the Christian cross.  The light slowly fades completely. 

 

The lights come up on FIONA, ADELINE WILLIAMS,  CHARITY STOKES AND JESSICA STOKES are seated.  FIONA is the furthest left.  Her hair is badly arranged; she has a vacant look, dark circles under her eyes.  The women are knitting socks. 

 

SCENE 3

 

CHARITY  

As if I didn't have enough to do today.  My Aunt Violet took a bad turn yesterday and I had to spend the night with her.  Jessica, you'll have to work faster than that or we'll be here until morning.

 

ADELINE 

That'll never do.  The Judge and I have to leave for Chelsea in two hours.

 

JESSICA  

I was thinking, is all.

 

 

CHARITY 

This is no time to think. 

 

ADELINE 

Well, I was thinking.  I wonder if anyone's thought to take a meal over to the church this noon. 

 

CHARITY 

They were fed this morning.  I don't think they're used to eating more than once a day.

 

ADELINE 

The Judge said Mr. Aiken at the hotel was in charge of feeding them.  Lord sake, we can't be expected to do everything and a storm coming besides.

 

JESSICA 

They're sweet looking, aren't they Sister?  I looked in the window at them.  It looked like they were praying!

 

ADELINE 

You can thank the Judge for that; he wouldn't have brought them to Montpelier if they were savages.

 

JESSICA 

Fiona, you saw some coloreds when you lived in Boston, didn't you?  Were they sweet looking, too?

 

ADELINE 

We're glad to have your help today, Fiona.  You're looking better.  (To the others.) You know what a slave auction is like?  They stand the poor things up on a platform like animals.  My cousin Alma read all about it.

 

FIONA listens.

 

ADELINE 

As if they could help the color of their skin.  Those southerners have no right to persecute them just because of the way they were born.  All men were created equal, that what the Judge says. Even blacks.

 

JESSICA 

They're not all black.

 

CHARITY 

Whatever are you talking about, Jessica?

 

JESSICA 

I saw the little girl's feet.  Her mama was warming them in front of the fire.  The bottoms are white.  Just like yours, Charity!

 

CHARITY 

Really, Jessica!

 

ADELINE 

I should think we'd better concentrate on finishing these socks so those poor feet can be covered up.

 

JESSICA 

Almost pink, really.  Sweet looking.

 

CHARITY 

That's enough!  We promised Lucius we'd talk about gay things and put some color back in Fiona's cheeks. 

 

ADELINE 

It's the storm, Charity.  I hardly know I'm alive.  Makes me want to stay in bed and pull the covers up over my head.

 

FIONA 

I was thinking about the storm.

 

She resumes knitting, still distracted.

 

CHARITY

Let's see, they'll have two pair each, that's more than the folks at the poor house have. And quality, too.  I haven't seen wool this white in years. 

 

ADELINE 

These people won't appreciate quality, for heaven's sake, Charity.  They can't read or write or figure.  They'd be happy with burlap.  For that matter, what are we hurrying for.  We could give them our old socks and finish these for ourselves.

 

JESSICA 

I'm not knitting socks for your feet, Adeline.

 

The light comes up very dimly on REBECCA in her jail cell.  She listens to the music box.  FIONA looks in her direction.

 

 

ADELINE 

I just mean they wouldn't know the difference!  They'll be grateful for whatever they get.  And we can go home.

 

FIONA 

There has to be some agreement-

 

CHARITY 

I agree with Adeline.

 

ADELINE 

If the Judge and I don't set out soon, we'll never make it to Chelsea before the storm hits.

 

CHARITY

(Eyeing FIONA)

Why don't you leave, Adeline?  We'll finish all right.

 

ADELINE 

It's not as if I want to see a woman hang. I had hoped to be spared the sight, but it's my duty and I shall go.

 

JESSICA 

Adeline-

 

ADELINE 

The Judge tells me thousands of people usually attend.

 

JESSICA 

Adeline, you will not speak about this!

 

CHARITY

(Concerned, to FIONA)

How are you coming, dear?  My, those rows are straight.  Look, Jessica, Fiona's doing a fine job here.

 

FIONA 

Don't talk about me that way! 

 

CHARITY 

What way is that, dear?

 

FIONA 

As if I'm not here!  As if I'm a child or some kind of an... idiot!

 

 

ADELINE 

It's just that you were peculiar since the trial, Fiona.  We've been worried about you.

 

CHARITY 

Have you had your medicine?  Lucius said to be sure you took it while he was away.

 

FIONA 

I'm not taking any medicine! It makes me... drunk, that's all!  Drunk and stupid!

 

ADELINE 

It helps you sleep, Lucius said.  You've had trouble sleeping since-

 

On this last line, FIONA gets up .

 

CHARITY 

What are you doing?

 

FIONA 

I'm leaving.

 

CHARITY 

You're entrusted to my care until tomorrow.  Adeline, speak to her.

 

ADELINE 

Where are you going, Fiona?

 

FIONA 

Chelsea. Lucius is there.  I'm needed.

 

CHARITY 

Oh, God!

 

ADELINE 

Be sensible, Fiona.  How are you going to get to Chelsea?  It's thirty miles.

 

FIONA 

I'll walk.

 

ADELINE 

We've got to stop her, for heaven's sake.  She'll kill herself.

 

CHARITY and ADELINE  grab her and make her sit.

 

ADELINE(CONT.)

Jessica, go down the street and get the doctor. Tell him we need a powder.

 

JESSICA 

No!  Let her go.

 

ADELINE 

Have you no sense?  She's going to hurt herself.

 

JESSICA 

I SAID LET HER GO!

 

ADELINE 

Why, Jessica Upham!

 

JESSICA

(To FIONA)

I'll take you to Chelsea.  (She gets up and gets their coats.)

 

CHARITY 

Jessica Stokes, have you lost your mind?  How are you going to get to Chelsea?

 

JESSICA 

I'll take Pa's carriage.

 

CHARITY 

Without permission?  That's stealing!

 

JESSICA 

Get the sheriff, then.

 

JESSICA STOKES takes FIONA offstage. The other two women look after them in astonishment. 

 

ADELINE 

What will the Judge say?

 

CHARITY

(Looking at the abandoned knitting)

Looks like we've got our work cut out for us now, doesn't it?

 

The light fades out and comes up on FIONA and REBECCA, in the cell. The door unlocks; DR. EMERSON enters, quite drunk. 

 

SCENE 4

 

EMERSON 

Evening, Mrs. Peake, Mrs. Peck.  Peake and Peck, still can't get over it.

 

FIONA 

Evening, Doctor. 

 

EMERSON 

Terrible storm out, whew-wee!  Thought I wouldn't make it over the hill.  But here I am.  Cold out! Wind's blowing, we'll have three feet by morning, don't you doubt it.  Trees are down all over the place. You're not traveling back to Montpelier tonight, are you?

 

FIONA 

No, I'm staying with Mrs. Peake.  Did you bring the medicine, Doctor?

 

EMERSON 

Oh, yeah. (Takes it out of his pocket.) More than she needs, Mrs. Peck.

 

FIONA 

How much do I owe you?

 

EMERSON 

Three dollars. 

 

FIONA 

Thank you, Doctor. I hope your trip home is safe.

 

EMERSON

(Gesturing to FIONA)

My advice is to give her a little extra tonight.  Maybe a little more in the morning before they come for her.  She won't be entirely sensible that way.

 

FIONA 

I'll follow your advice, Doctor.

 

EMERSON 

Now don't get taking this yourself.  Habit forming.

 

 

FIONA 

I'll bear that in mind.

 

EMERSON

You know the medical school is coming for her tomorrow.  I heard about it.  Heard they paid high for her, too.

 

FIONA 

Highest bidder takes her, Doctor.

 

EMERSON 

Huh?

 

FIONA 

If you don't mind, Mrs. Peake needs her rest.

 

EMERSON 

Good night, Mrs. Peake. (To himself as he turns away.) Terrible thing. (Turns back to REBECCA.) You got something to keep your hands busy, Mrs. Peake?  Maybe some knitting?

 

REBECCA

(Finally looking up)

I'm through with women's work, Doctor Emerson.

 

EMERSON exits, staggering.  FIONA and REBECCA watch him until the door closes behind him. 

 

REBECCA moves to her bed.

 

FIONA gets the pitcher of water and brings it over while REBECCA empties the contents of a small bag into her cup.  FIONA gives her the opium she purchased from EMERSON.  REBECCA adds that, as well. 

 

Carefully, FIONA pours water into the cup.  REBECCA puts the cup to her lips to drink.  FIONA grabs REBECCA'S wrist.

 

FIONA 

Mrs. Peake!  (A pause.)  Are you sure?

 

REBECCA looks at FIONA a long moment.

 

REBECCA 

Killing's good medicine too, sometimes.

 

REBECCA drinks as FIONA slowly sits back down.  The lights go down on them.   The women lie down together.

 

When they come back up, REBECCA.  FIONA is asleep in the bed next to REBECCA.  LUCIUS enters. 

 

LUCIUS 

Fiona? 

 

FIONA 

What...?  Lucius!

 

LUCIUS 

Fiona!  What in the world are you doing here?

 

FIONA 

Lucius-

 

LUCIUS 

I left you with Adeline!

 

FIONA 

I had to come.

 

LUCIUS

(Holding her by the arms)

You can't have come here!

 

FIONA 

But I did!

 

LUCIUS

(Speechless)

How?

 

FIONA 

In a wagon.

 

LUCIUS

(Still stupid)

You can't have come here!

 

FIONA 

I did. I made a promise.

 

 

LUCIUS

(Stupider)

There's two thousand people outside!

 

FIONA 

That's fine.

 

LUCIUS 

You can't have come here!

 

FIONA 

Calm yourself.

 

LUCIUS 

But there's two thousand people outside.

 

FIONA 

She's dead, Lucius.

 

LUCIUS 

Dead?

 

FIONA 

Yes.

 

LUCIUS

(Going over to REBECCA)

But... what happened?

 

FIONA 

I'm not sure.

 

LUCIUS 

Did she cry out?  Was it her heart?

 

FIONA 

No, she didn't cry out.

 

LUCIUS 

Fiona, for God's sake, people don't just die! There must have been some warning!

 

FIONA 

Listen!

 

 

LUCIUS 

What?

 

FIONA 

Do you hear it?

 

LUCIUS 

Hear... what?

 

FIONA 

Sh!

 

LUCIUS, spooked, moves away from FIONA who has moved downstage, far left.  The sound of the music box plays as the lights go down.

 

FADE OUT

THE END