A Full Length Play
BOSTON'S BROTHERS IN LIBERTY
By G. L. Horton
copyright © 2004
James MATThew Caldwell, 38, dock laborer
SARAH, 33, his wife
James MARK Caldwell, 16, his son
LUKE, 14, younger son
SERENA, 12, daughter
MARY Walters, 22, Sarah's niece
CALEB Knowlton, 45, tavern keeper
TINKER DAN, 35
PATrick Carr, 25
Granny GRANNY FEN, 60
SGT Packer, 50
REV. Dillon, 50
ACT I, SCENE 1
A painted curtain or scrim of Paul Revere's famous engraving
"The Boston Massacre".
At rise, in the loft above, a curtained bed for the parents,
rough planks with corncob mattresses for the young ones. MARY,
SARAH, and SERENA are sitting positioned so as to catch the last
light from the setting January sun as it streams through the small
window. SERENA is on the floor, MARY plaiting her hair, while
SARAH combs out the curly masses of MARY's.
In the tavern room below, a homemade instrument-- fiddle, guitar,
or banjo-- is heard, playing the "Ballad". The musician
walks to the center of the stage apron. His/her clothes, while
they don't look out of place in the 1770 setting, are also suitable
for a modern folk singer. S/He addresses the audience directly.
The stage action continues behind the song. CALEB, the tavern
keeper, is sweeping. JONNY sits by himself at a table, eating
the last of his supper. A drunken laborer is sleeping on the bench.
At the extreme downstage edge is the musician. SERENA's braids
are finished, wound and tucked under her cap. Her mother adjusts
the cap, kisses her, and then SERENA puts on her much-mended cloak
and climbs down the ladder to the tavern floor. She bobs to CALEB,
and exits. SARAH buries her face in MARY's hair, and then gathers
MARY into her arms in a long embrace.
SONG---- Ballad of the Boston Massacre
Unhappy Boston! See thy sons deplore
Thy hallowed Walks besmeared with guiltless gore
While faithless Preston and his savage bands
With murderous rancor stretch their bloody hands,
Like fierce barbarians grinning o're their prey,
Approve the carnage and enjoy the Day.
(Outside the tavern, running boys can be seen, including Mark
and Luke, hurling snowballs and stones. Laughter, curses, shouts,
shots, then boys running as in Revere's depiction of the Massacre.)
On March the fifth, 1700, out in front of the State House, a bunch
of rowdy schoolboys pelted a British sentry with snowballs. A
crowd of toughs collected to join their sport. Some one panicked,
there was a shout of "fire!" and five shot dead.
The Boston Massacre! (musical flourish)
Provoked by The People's Army, whose method of attack was to provoke.
(During this speech, TINKER DAN enters the tavern with MATT
and LUKE and a few others. CALEB calls for MARY, who comes down
the ladder followed by SARAH. SARAH puts on an apron and goes
out upstage to the kitchen. The men call in pantomime for beer.
MARY fetches the beer, but indicates to MATT that CALEB has forbidden
her to serve him. TINKER DAN has money: he treats. The customers
nod in time to the ballad as if they can hear the music, but don't
react to the singer's words.)
If this was a mini-massacre, it led to a big war. One third of
the colonists fought, and one third fled to Canada, and 25,000
soldiers died, during those six or eight years When it was over
the men who outlasted the British regulars voted to define themselves:
Founding Fathers. Brothers in Liberty. Patriots.
"If scalding drops from rage, from anguish wrung,
If speechless sorrow, laboring for a tongue
Or if a weeping world can aught appease
The plaintive ghosts of victims such as these:
The Patriot's copious tears for each are shed.
A glorious tribute which embalms the Dead."
(The MUSICIAN returns to the scene, begins another SONG)
MUSICIAN and DAN "IN GOOD OLD COLONY TIMES"
Where we live under the King.
Three roguish chaps fell into misshaps
Because they could not sing!"
(& etc. -- all but Jon join chorus)
TINKER DAN (to Jonny)
Tis a roaring good song, stranger. Have ye never heard it?
I've heard it.
Then sing! Unless there's something about our song that don't
I haven't drunk enough yet, man. Can't sing when I'm dry or frozen.
I can dance, though. Dance a sweet figure, to warm my heart and
yours, if you'll lend me this pretty wench and a chorus of that
(JON takes tankard from MARY, drains it, begins to dance to
the verses of the song, inviting MARY to join him. MARY looks
toward CALEB for permission.)
Go on, girl.
Dance him under the table, lass.
O the 1st he was a miller
& the 2nd he was a weaver,
& the 3rd, he was a little tailor,
Three rogueish chaps together, etc.
SARAH (entering from kitchen)
Mind yourself, Mary Walters!
O the miller, he stole corn,
and the weaver, he stole yarn,
and the little tailor ran right away
with the broadcloth under his arm.
(SERENA enters from outside, WILLOM and LUKE sweep her into
the dance, but her mother intervenes and scoots her toward the
ladder: above, SERENA crawls into bed.)
Get away, Mary, I warn you -
I said: Leave be! I warn YOU, James Matthew Caldwell. I'll have
none of your quarreling in this house.
DAN & CO. (song)
"The miller was drowned in his dam,
And the weaver got hung in his yarn,
And the devil clapped his claws on the little tailor
With the broadcloth under his arm!" (& etc. chorus)
(MARK enters, sees MARY dancing with JON. He looks at his
father, who grabs MARY by the arm and signals the MUSICIAN to
I won't have our Mary prancing with a filthy lobsterback-!
I'm master here!
Do you want your place to get a name for-?
The soldier's my customer. If the wench won't serve the custom,
let her find other work.
Peace, Matthew! There is no other work. The stranger's money is
as good as another's.
JON (a toast)
I'll drink to that, sir. And to the health and prosperity of us
LUKE (pause, then nods)
I'll drink to it.
(JON takes another tankard from MARY, smiles, and whispers
in her ear. MARK takes a tankard from his mother.)
CALEB (hand on tankard)
Not with my ale! Not till I see the color of your coin.
MARK (holds out coin)
I can pay.
Where'd you get that, boy?
At the docks, where'd you think?
When? Who's paying?
If there's more to be had--
There's no more, Ma. I just run an errand. But there's enough
here for a pint of the landlord's best for my father and me.
Save your coin, Mark, lad. The landlord keeps his best for the
Brits. He serves piss to his countrymen.
I am the landlord here! By God, I am! So you and your family can
pack up and get out, and take your trouble with you!
Don't roll your eyes at me, Mary Walters, pretty barmaids are
a penny a peck in these times!
You've no cause to complain of us.
I little reckoned when I let you the upper storey that there'd
be three idle louts in and out night and day, stealing my bread
and frightening off my trade.
It's the times, sir.
It's the army.
(JON finishes his ale, and exits, pressing MARY'S hand as
he passes her.)
They're on our backs like leeches, drawing blood--
I want a quiet house, and peace!
It's not my husband who's brought this faction, Caleb. Nor is
it his talk that drives down the trade here, but empty pockets.
There's no work.
The soldiers hire on for labor and take our pay, there's no dealing
Ten in a dollar says he's one of em! (They look where JON was
(TINKER DAN joins the musician, and they sing a verse of AUNT
"A gentleman came to our house,
He would not tell his name,
I knew he came a-courting'
Although he were ashamed." (repeat)
CALEB (Over music)
Are you satisfied, you lot?
MARY (shows money)
He paid his shot.
Good coin, and we've seen the last of him.
I think not.
(At the end of the song, the MUSICIAN goes outside the tavern
to stage apron.)
MATT (worried, ready to plead)
Shut your mouth, Matt Caldwell, and get up out of my sight. You
know I haven't the heart to throw your good wife out in the snow.
MATT (holding in his anger)
SARAH (her hand on MATT's shoulder.)
We thank you, Caleb Knowlton. (pushes Matt towards ladder,
which he resents)
MUSICIAN SONG: Blow the Candles Out.
"It was late last Saturday evening
I went to see my dear.
The candles all were burning
The moon shone bright and clear.
I rapped at her window
To ease her of her pain.
She rose and let me in
And then barred the door again."
(LUKE and MARK finish their drinks and follow their father.
MARY exits to join JON who is waiting for her outside. Above,
MARK and LUKE undress and climb into one of the plank beds. MATT
lies down in the curtained bed without taking his clothes off.
Below, SARAH is clearing up, WILLOM finishing his drink. DAN
and WILLOM stand up to go, CALEB gets his cloak and hat and turns
I'll walk along home with you, gentlemen. Sarah? Don't forget
to lock up.
"I like well your behavior
And this I often say
I cannot rest contented
When you are far away:
But the roads they are so muddy
I cannot roam about.
So roll me in your arms, love
And blow the candle out."
The men go out. SARAH works on, blowing out the candles in each
corner of the room as she finishes tidying. JON and MARY emerge
from the shadows outside, where they have been locked in silent
It's too cold for courting. Does spring never come to this wretched
Is it truly wretched? This country?
Not for me. Not now.
When I was a girl, it was lovely. So easy. Fruit dropped into
your hand, the fishes jumped out of the stream and onto your table.
Every day Matt took his gun out, he'd get ducks in dozens, he'd
get pheasants. Even in winter, the snow was laced with maple sugar,
it rained molasses...
(SARAH has come to their corner. She hears voices, begins
to listen through the wall, but then shakes her head and turns
What happened, then?
They put a tax on lead. Restricted molasses.
After that the fish swam away from you?
After that, the soldiers came.
JON (strokes her hair)
Don't be sorry, sweetheart.
I'm not, unless you make me so. (they kiss)
Do all the American girls kiss like that?
Those that do, do. But not for all the English.
As long as there's plenty for me--
(They kiss again. MATT, sure that the boys are asleep, comes
down the ladder to SARAH.)
MATT (pulls her to him)
You shamed me in front of Caleb and the men.
If it's shame to have no money--
MATT (slaps her)
You hear me, wife? You understand? I won't be shamed.
(SARAH falls to the floor. MATT turns slowly and climbs the
ladder. MARY has slipped back in. She goes to SARAH , who is sobbing
softly, and takes her in her arms and whispers comfort. JONNY
crosses downstage to meet the musician. MARY begins to lead SARAH
to the stairs, carrying a candle. SARAH shakes her head "no",
so MARY lays her on a bench instead, and covers her with her cloak.
MARY starts for the ladder herself but then changes her mind.)
"And if we prove successful, love
Please name it after me.
Hug it neat and kiss it sweet
And dap it on your knee.
When my three years are ended
And my time it is run out--
Then I will prove my indebtedness
By blowing the candle out."
SERENA is posting broadsides. JON watches her, then moves forward
to intercept her.
Are you not the sister of the barmaid at the Lion?
SERENA (Tries to push past him.)
Wait! I'll make it worth your while.
(He holds out a coin. SERENA looks at it suspiciously.)
What do I have to do for it?
Nothing so hard. Did I not see you in the company of pretty Mary?
Mary's a common name.
And barmaid's a common trade. But it may be the girl's not your
sister. Now that I notice, perhaps not so pretty...
Mary's not the pretty one. Martha was, but she got took by the
Mary's pretty enough for me to wish to lie where you lie nightly.
I'll not help you to that. (walks away)
Not even carry a favor?
A love letter?
Would she like one? Could she read it?
Any girl'ld like love words. Doesn't mean she has to like the
lad that wrote it.
JON (hands SERENA a twist of paper)
Give her this. Ask her if she'll walk on the common after church
next Sunday morning.
SERENA (opens the twist)
It's just a bit of ribbon.
Worth more'n words.
Not fine loving words.
I can't write them.
Then you're not worth her.
May be you could do the writing for me.
If the truth was in you, you'd find the writing easy.
Were you born with the A's and B's in your fingers, do you order
them to fall in and march? Or did you go to school, you and Mary?
You mean you cannot write? Nor read? Not even your Bible?
If I were a lettered man I'd never have come here! Nor do I see
that it's so wise, all this learning. Every drunken slander is
writ out and nailed to a tree, and the citizens all nod and say
"amen, how true". What does it say, your broadside?
(JON walks up to posting)
SERENA (frightened, hiding the sheets)
It's not mine, this! Nothing to do with me.
JON (finger to lips)
Shh! This figure here, who is he? Tom Citizen?
And this fat fellow with the long nose and mountain of wig?
Pressing the life out of poor Tom.
With these weighty taxes. See, there's sugar tax, and the heavy
God's life, child! Do you think there's no tax in England?! Who's
paid toll thus far for you? Americans are too independent to join
up. Militia's all the soldiering they'll stoop to. So it's "Send
us troops to battle the savages, King George, and the bill to
Parliament!" We poor sots may not be able to write, but we
know where our money goes-- sailing over the sea. And when a man's
belly begins to rattle against his ribs, what's he to do but take
the king's shilling and sail after it? .. shhh!
(The MUSICIAN plays a march.)
(A British Sergeant is coming up the street. JON pulls down
the broadside, takes the rest of them from Serena to hide under
his coat, and positions hinself with his back to the soldier,
pulling his hat down to hide his face. He pulls SERENA to him
so that they might be taken for a courting couple. When the sergeant
is past, he releases her, with a bow and a flourish of his hat.
He begins to walk away.)
I thought they were nothing to do with you?
I must have them all posted before morning.
Never fear. I'll hang them on every tree down Milk and Water Streets.
Unless they hang me first! (JON goes off, singing, with a little
jig-step, to the tune of CAPE ANN)
"We hunted and we hallooed
And the first thing we did find
Was the sun in the element
And the moon we left behind"- Look ye there!
SERENA (sings, going in at the tavern door)
"One said it was the moon,
But the other one said nay,
He said it was a Yankee cheese
With the one half cut away. " -- "Look ye there!
"Look ye there!
So we hunted and we halloed
And the last thing we did find
Was the owl in the olive bush
And that we left behind. --- Look ye there!
One said it was an owl
The other one said nay,
He said it was the Evil One
And we all three ran away." (they laugh together)
Serena, if you can't sing and wipe at the same time, you're doomed
to a lonesome house.
Or an untidy one.
I'll marry the governor's son, and have three kitchen maids and
a black boy in livery. And my own fiddler to play to me, any time
(SERENA gives MARY the ribbon from JON. MARY puts it in her
hair. SERENA smiles at the musician, who continues to play.)
More like you'll be of my mind, and never marry.
Never at all, Mary?
She'll marry when she's ready. When she sees one she wants.
An if I do, that'll be the last time I ever do get what I want.
SARAH (pulls at MARY's ribbon)
If what you want's fairings.
MARY (jerks her head away)
It's freedom I want.
Isn't that what the men all sing about, and shoot off their muskets
for? They won't be told by some lords across the sea where they
may go and what they mayn't do, without they have a say in it!
Well, I too am weary of "Mary, here!" and "Mary,
there!" Why can't I have my own sweet way?
You can, except where your stomach or another's calls you. Then
it's "Mother, here!" and "Wife, there!"
If you'd marry Jacob Poulter you'd have plenty. Father says that
even in the worst of times, a smith has work.
Not as much work as his wife has.
"A man toils from sun to sun.."
When he toils at all.
Sarah! (she looks frightened)
"I never will marry. I'll be no man's wife-"
"I expect to be single All the days of my life.." (MARY
flounces out the door)
Have you broached it to the girl? About Jacob Poulter?
I have, Poppa.
Hell and damnation! Twenty three years old, it's time she was
Mary's no trouble to us, she more than earns her way--
Don't I rule my own house! No more, not from today.
Matt, I beg you--
My luck has turned, Sarah! I have a job of work to do! (he
holds up the pail)
What's that? Lamp black?
What will you do with it?
Are you not promised to Mrs. Tibbet today, Serena?
Then don't be late. I'd not keep you at home to question me.
SERENA (puts on bonnet and cloak)
You will tell me when I come home?
This business, it's not to be laid out for gossips.
Like the broadsides.
Aye, like that. (SERENA exits)
You are hired for Patriot dealings?
With Mark and Luke, and we'll need one or two more who can be
Better to trust no one, but use me, Matthew.
Have you forgot so soon? T'was I brought the powder!
That was not so perilous. If we be caught--
If we be caught, I'll hang alongside my husband, and give thanks
I was not left behind in shame and starving.
How can you be out through the night and still serve for Caleb?
We must store here, too. (MARK and LUKE above stir, get up)
In the loft?
In the cellar, were it safe. But then Caleb must come in on it,
with us, and I mistrust that he will.
Serena will take my place here while I am on your business. I
can feign a womanish greensickness.
You'll lose the place if Caleb thinks you're ailing. (the boys
He grumbles, but he likes me well! I'll not lose the place. I
will sound him out somewhat on the cellar, but he'll not search
close, of that I'm sure. So long as Caleb can claim he doesn't
What sense is that, to be in on the risk but not on the profit?
He has no heart for treason, Caleb Knowlton.
'Tis no treason to resist an unlawful rule. We'll have our own
SARAH (hearing the boys approach)
Shh, Matt-- whatever it be, I have the heart for it.
(MARK and LUKE enter, down ladder)
Sluggards! We've been up these two hours.
I've met the fishing boats often enough to know they're not hiring.
I'm up in plenty of time to be turned away again by Sampson.
Never mind Sampson. Go to the docks as you would, but at sunset
seek out Josiah Hawkins. Tell him we are four, and we'll meet
in the cove at two of the clock. Look likely, for I told him you
were a man grown.
Father! Is it guns?
And lead shot, son. Or what good are guns?
Mother, I've nought for breakfast.
You heard Caleb last night. Your mother daren't.
SARAH (with two mugs and a loaf)
T'will not be missed.
MARK (they take mugs, drink.)
How are we four?
Your father's found one he can trust to make up your number.
One who knows which of the dockmen to trust?
This one will have no need to creep past the King's custom, as
we three must do.
Better we had a fifth, four to carry and one to keep watch.
The fewer to share, the less to fear.
SCENE 4 (Time lapse)
British soldiers were in Boston to maintain law and order, an
order so unpopular that it could be maintained only by threat
England was convulsed by riots herself. Ben Franklin reported
the demonstrations by the victims of an unsettled economy: The
Weaver's mob, the Seamen's Mob, the Tailor's Mob, the Coal Miner's
Mob. Mobs patrolling the streets at midday, some knocking all
that will not roar for John Wilkes and Liberty; courts of law
afraid to give judgment against them. Sam Adams was cheered by
this news: there was hope for Independency. Soldiers had been
used against mobs in England, and most cruelly in Ireland. But
never in Boston. Till now.
To thee the tuneful anthem soars
To thee our father's God, and Ours;
This wilderness we chose our seat
To rights secured by equal laws.
From persecution's iron claws
We here have sought our calm retreat.
Lord, guard thy favors, Lord extend
Where farther Western suns descend
Nor southern seas the blessings bound.
Till freedom lift her cheerful head
Til pure religion onward spread
And beaming, wrap the globe around.
MARK (knocks from outside)
We're all here, and ready.
SARAH (goes to tap)
I'll fetch us ale.
Lemmuel Camber wasn't there. His sister says he's gone to Braintree.
We thought of another fourth--
We have a fourth.
Who, then? Willom? (SARAH returns with tankards)
Hush. Not in front of Ma.
We'll drink to the family enterprise.
You've told her? You should not've told her!
She is our fourth.
Hell and damnation!
Shut your bonebox!
It's no work for a woman!
It's work for a Caldwell. I was a Caldwell before you were, and
I did such things before you were born!
I don't like it, Pa. What if she's caught?
Maybe Pa wants her caught. Maybe he thinks she'll trail behind,
and the officers will be satisfied with a woman. Let her lie in
jail for us, as you let her earn our keep! Let her be the man!
(MATT knocks MARK down)
I'm your father, Mark. I'm master here.
How? You've no more right to rule me than daft King George!
(MARK puts up his fists, ready to fight his father. LUKE and
SARAH come between them.)
Back down, Mark. Have you gone off your head?
He's your father. Your father.
Then let him act so!
Leave him be, Matthew. He's worried, is all, he's afraid for his
He needs a lesson.
What if the fishermen come for their breakfast and find this?
What if someone fetches Caleb? We must be quiet, you to sleep
and make ready, now.
And when will you sleep?
There's many a night I've sat up with one of you sick, and served
at the tap or in the fields the next morning.
It'll be all right, Mark.
You go up first, Luke. Take this up with you. (hands him pail)
What's in it?
Blacking. For our faces.
Let Mark go up with it and sleep off his anger, while I help you.
I think that's wise. (Mark, silent, takes the pail)
We'll need sacks, and a dark lantern. Think on it: a mule. For
what open purpose could we borrow a mule? Or hire one?
Best borrow without asking.
Use some wit. (MARK goes up the ladder)
We'll think on it.
TINKER DAN (outside)
Is the Lion open for trade, or no?
Like hell it is!
Come, come in. (opens door)
A fine welcome with the door on the latch.
T'was meant to keep out the cold, is all.
Not to keep in the Caldwells? How are you this morning, Master
Fire-eater? Chawed up any lobsters today?
You're wanting to break your fast?
Dulcie throw you out of bed? (gets food)
Got a bit of mending to do for the Britishers. Want me at dawn,
there's no telling why. The military mind.
(DAN takes out a tin whistle and begins to play Yankee Doodle.
LUKE grabs a broom and drills to the music, whistling. SARAH sets
down food and drink, takes away LUKE's broom. He laughs, takes
up a a stick and, singing, continues his drill out the door and
around the side of the tavern. Lights down on the interior set,
up on the apron, where LUKE marches up to a redcoat.)
Sir! Sargeant, sir?
That soldier over there, what's his name?
Why do you want to know? No trouble, is there?
No trouble. I think my cousin's sweet on him, is all.
Do you know any ill of him, sir?
No, no, he's a good lad, our Jon. That's Jonny Cleary. He's got
a light heart and an eye for the lasses; but there's no real mischief
in him. (calls) Jonny!
You've got a visitor.
Do I know you?
I think you know my family.
I don't know a Serena.
She carries notes to you from Mary.
My father would not like it.
Mary's three and twenty.
She lives with us. She has nowhere to go if Pa turns her away.
She'd find a place.
Most of the town is hard against redcoats.
Are you going to complain to them?
Perhaps.. Perhaps not. Do you mean to marry her?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Marriage is not made lightly.
Nor my cousin, I hope.
Well! Well, young master-
Caldwell. Luke Caldwell.
Mary Walters is a fortunate woman, to have such a champion. Come,
sit down, and we'll talk of this, man to man. Y'see I am a soldier.
A Britisher. Lobsterback.
Aye. Lobsterback. For all that they're hated in my own land.
I was born in Devonshire, but I'm Irish all right, and the English
will never let me forget it even if I had a mind to! Near half
of the men in my barracks are Irish-- boys straight off the farm,
and men near forty, meant to die on the king's duty, not ever
to take home a bride: no way but this to make a living.
You could settle here.
Could I, now? Desert, you mean.
There's many've done so. Three I know of just last week. And two
months gone, when the soldiers went to take some men back, the
farmers around put on masks and set them loose from their guards
and away again.
Did they so! (signals to the MUSICIAN to sing the HYMN)
See! how the flocks of Goodness rise!
See! how the face of Paradise
Blooms through the thickets of the wild.
Here Liberty erects her throne
Here plenty pours her treasures down;
Peace smiles as heavenly cherubs mild.
But you're not to say I told you! It's no matter to me what you
I have heard how your farmers defy the law, hundreds surrounding
the Springfield courthouse and destroying the deeds of title.
We won't let a lying piece of paper steal a man's farm, that a
hundred can swear was owned by his grandsire before him!
Aye, a hundred may swear: but have they any more regard for their
oath of witness than their oath of allegiance?
This is a free country.
Well said, my young friend. But it may be that I should know your
countrymen to be better than I think them, before I call myself
one of them. Because from where I'm camped, they seem to be a
pack of greedy cowards-
Who call out the King's men instead of their own militia to put
down the French and their Indians. But when the tax man comes
and asks where's to pay for it, then they're all for "liberty,
I'm no coward!
Are you not, now? Were you not in that rowdy crew that chased
Billy Mackenzie from the rope makers halfway down the docks and
We weren't cowards! Mackenzie had a gun!
You know he can't shoot it! It'd be a hanging were he to shoot
it! You think you're oppressed here, do you, by the King's law?
When a soldier can't even defend himself, without the civil magistrate
gives the word! Soldiers, privates, they're a shilling a head,
here. Amost as cheap as Irishmen, who're ten for a penny. Y' ought
to live in Ireland, boy, where they'd shoot you down like a dog
if you said "boo"!
Have you shot anyone?
Indians. Frenchies. Shot at them, anyway. Can't say for sure that
I hit one.
Aren't you a good marksman? I can hit a squirrel at a hundred
yards: my father's even better.
Is he now? Will he make me his target, if I go out walking with
Better stay clear more'n a hundred yards.
It's hard, Luke. It's very hard. This is a beautiful country you've
got here: though God knows he's welcome to take back nine-tenths
part of the snow he showers on it. The most beautiful thing in
this great wild beautiful country is the women. The maids. The
unmarried girls-- for I notice when they marry they grow sour
as any other. But the girls! They walk and talk and laugh so free,
you think each one of them was a princess. But the queen of them
all is your Mary Walters.
Is that what you tell her? Is that why she's thinking she's too
good for us, now?
So she is, so she is. Too good for the likes of me, also. Look'e
here. You ever seen a thing like this? (hands him Army insignia)
Naw. Where'd you get it? What's it for?
It's for you, now.
So I'll speak well of you? To Mary?
Spare me your pains: she'll do as she pleases.
Well, boy! Ready to join up? You'll need to grow. Think you'll
measure up to a soldier?
Not me! Less I can be an officer.
Are you a gentleman born?
We don't hold with the gentlemen, here. One man's as good as the
Who told you that? Sam Adams? Don't let him fool you. He knows
one man says "march" and the rest go marching! Where
and why is not a question for the ranks.
March. March. March.
(They march in place singing "Yankee Doodle",
one verse of American and one of British words.)
The conspirators, with their faces blackened and wearing dark
clothes and headpieces, are carefully, silently, handing the bundled
rifles up the ladder to the attic where Sarah has prepared a hiding
place. SERENA stirs in her sleep.
Hush, child. Go back to sleep.
(LUKE and MARK clean off their faces downstairs. Smoothing
the covers over SERENA, SARAH realizes that MARY is not asleep
in her side of the bed. The covers have been heaped into the shape
of a sleeping body, but MARY's gone. SARAH starts down the ladder
to tell the others, decides against that and returns to hide the
rest of the guns. LUKE and MARK come up the ladder, SARAH warns
them to be quiet, not wake the girls, and they quickly undress
and climb into their bed. SARAH goes down to where MATT is washing
What! Where could that trollop--?
Hush! The boys musn't know.
Why not? The whole town'll know when she tries to come back and
I whip her from here to Broad Street!
We can't trust her. Mark me, she's out with her British soldier-boy.
She must promise not to see him.
I told her! What good's her promise? She'll lie, she'll never
obey. Next she'll spy on us and turn us over. No, the time has
come to turn her off, let us soldier -man provide for her, if
Matt, we daren't do that.
I can and will!
She crawled out of her bed in the dark, after we did-
She knows we were out. She may even have followed us.
Mayhap she's called out the watch on us!
She's family! She wouldn't.
(There is a sound of footsteps outside, and then a fumbling
at the latch. Panicked, SARAH motions MATT to climb up the ladder.
She undoes some of the fastenings of her bodice.)
Sarah! Sarah, are you up?
SARAH (at foot of ladder)
SARAH (lights a candle)
What's the matter?
Did you hear anything? Was anyone prowling about here?
I though I heard something a while ago. I came down to see, and
found a shutter open. It might have been the wind.
Jemmy Graves, the fisherman's boy, woke me up to tell me he'd
seen men trying to break in here.
What is it, Sarah? Prowlers?
Matt took a look around outside after I heard the noise.
I didn't see anybody.
Could it be him that Jemmy saw?
Who knows what the young fool saw! Nothing worth getting me out
of my bed, by all that's holy.
You should know we're on guard, here. We'd be up to catch any
Everybody knows you and your sons sleep in the attic! So who'd
It'd have to be a stranger.
Or them that know they're welcome, though I myself have locked
What do you mean?
I mean rebels. I mean Sons of Liberty.
To use your tavern?
Aye, butter wouldn't melt in your mouth! I warn you, I'll have
nothing actionable here, not on my premises. I know you and your
sons and that brimstone-breathing Reverend Dillon get together
to pray and preach and sing rebellion--
Tis lawful to pray, surely!
Aye, it's lawful. So long as it is lawful, do it with my blessing
and wash it down with my beer. But nothing actionable! Nothing
that could cost me my trade!
But Caleb, some of these wrongful acts you've said you feel as
we do! The tariffs--
You'll not find my name backward in measures asking for redress!
But law is law. I've lived where law was of no account, and I've
no mind to do so again.
We have our own law, our representatives--
Save your breath, wife. He's a purse-patriot.
As you're not? You don't see a bit of a living coming to you from
He'd have all free, with such liberties as the English enjoy in
their own land.
Why, so would I! If the king were to hand over the government
tomorrow, I'd cheer as loud as anybody. But I've no mind to fight
them for it. Nor shall my property shelter treason. You hear this?
(MATT and SARAH nod)
Well. It's near to dawn. I hope my good wife's not up betimes
and let my bed get cold. Good night to you.
I'll see you at the slack time. Perhaps you can lie down then.
Since you broke your rest to deal with these prowlers.
I would thank you.
So you should. Both of you.
How much does he guess? Or is he guessing?
I don't know.
One of us must be here, always, so that he cannot search without
our knowing it.
Yes. One of us must be here always.
O heaven indulge my feeble muse
Teach her what numbers for to choose
And then my soul shall ne'er refuse
Triumphantly to sing.
Unto that great and heavenly power
Who saved us in a gloomy hour
When our dire foes meant to devour
Twas our eternal King.
There are always some that say that duties are the threads of
the social web that keeps us all in comfort and place. Custom
is necessary so that you need not wonder when you meet a stranger
on the street what he may do: he wears the neat and proper badge
of his tribe and caste, he approaches at the accustomed pace,
he averts his eyes or tips his hat. Even dogs have ritual, to
share one space in peace.
Oddly, the fine or tax that a citizen pays for bringing in the
goods of strangers is also called "custom" or "duty".
The traditionalists-- loyalists or Tories-- argue that as we owe
our parents obedience-- for it is to them that we owe our life
and place-- so do we owe the fatherland its tithes and deference.
Worse is the mob action that nullifies the law; making heroes
of smugglers and thugs, pasting up cartoons that bring dignity
into ridicule, threatening officers in the performance of their
duties. Where will it end, they say? This country, settled by
a covenented people strictly keeping each other to the jot and
tittle of the law, is now a finding it leans toward an individualism
that tests the law by material advantage-- Where are these people
Of old, when He was Israel's God
He clave the red Arabian flood
The watery walls like castles stood
Til Israel reached the land.
But fell with most tremendous force
On Pharoh's riders and his horse
Til theu were dashed, and drowned and lost,
And cast upon the sands.
He's still the same almighty God
He brought our fathers o're the flood
And scattered all their foes abroad.
His tender mercies we must own
Who heard us when we made our moan
O might we live to Him alone
And nevermore transgress.
(The cast has entered to sing the hymn. They stand in tableau,
unconnected, each in the act of setting out toward a particular
You, there! Where are you going?
Where I'm told! What choice have I?
Where I can!
Where it'll do me some good!
Where Pa says. But not for long. I'll be on my own soon, see if
Where I'm needed!
Where we can be together!
Where a soldier goes! I've got my orders, same as the last twenty-two
years. After that, I like to settle with m' pipe and a good mug
of ale, and sing a chorus or two. My favorite tavern's gone bad:
all roaring boys who think to make themselves men by baiting the
King's soldiers. Well, I would it were quiet here. But if they
become peaceable tomorrow, the troops"ll be shipped back
to Cork, or worse-- for a quiet life is none of a soldier's business,
and that's the God's truth.
Sarah. Have you thought of the end of this business? How many
men of substance here depend on the king's favor for their places?
How many more in England, who depend on the present order of this
land for their prosperity? You hope to drive out the soldiers:
but what if the crown sends thousands more?
What do I care for that? Except that my man does. We are together
in this, and joined to our neighbors, for once.
Not all of them. Near half are Tories.
No, not all. But the nearest. They daren't look down on us, now.
Twas never that Matt is lazy. The hand of the crown has come down
and pushed us into the gutter. How's an honest man to support
his family when the ports lie idle?
So you are against King George because his tariffs interfere with
your living? Were he to have them repealed, you'd be loyal subjects?
No. Subject is what Matt'll never be! That is-- oh, politics is
like the weather to me, it blows this way and that, and who's
to make sense of it? But seasons, there are good years and bad.
A decade back, Matt and I were doing well. We had a house of our
own, and the landlord was willing to sell it to us as soon as
we had a bit more saved. I kept a garden, and baked sweets for
Mark to sell. The children had plenty to eat. I never had to slap
hem. We were a good family then, when we were prosperous.
But suppose you're caught?
We're caught! Conway Mainwaring was accounted no better than a
beggerly rascal until the watch caught him beshitting the signs
outside the Custom House. Now he's a hero, for the cause of the
boycott! The Sons of Liberty went bail for him, and paid his fine,
and set him up in a soft berth where he can make speeches on how
the merchants must all sign the oath of Non-Importation, or be
lower than turds, as he deems them, he being a mighty expert at
shitcraft. I would not say so to the men, they are so hot to be
playing at danger: but I expect it to be a lucky day for us if
the officers don't take their bribe, but look our way.
Suppose the contraband's found in the tavern?
I hope not, for Caleb's sake. He's a man with a business, and
But you want this for yourself?
For me? For mine. I want them holding up their heads, and near
to me, not running off on some feckless adventure-
Won't your men all be gone off from you if there's war?
Gone to war? Why would there be war? We'll show them we mean to
rule ourselves here, and they'll back off and leave us alone.
I'll stay. I'll keep us together till Matt comes back.
But if he doesn't come back?
It's no such terrible thing to be a widow. It's better than being
wife to a man forever dissatisfied.
And your sons?
No, not my sons!
MUSICIAN (to Luke)
What do you say, boys?
There's a whole new day coming! Not for my Da, but for those who
How can I know what's out there, how big this country is. Once
it all belongs to us, then you'll see! Each man 'll be his own
master, and look out after hisself.
I hate it when they look at me and Pa as if we're not good enough.
I'd like to be right in the middle of a troop of soldiers, all
marching together. Not at the front or the back, but right in
the middle with maybe a hundred men in front and two hundred in
back, waving and marching, where everybody else has to get out
the way. The lobersterbacks are all in red. You can see em coming
a mile off. Maybe we could be white, or in solid gold! Shining
like God's angels! But I like it too when we're dressed all dark
with our faces black, like Indians. Or like black men, invisible.
Part of the night. You can't tell where the night stops and we
begin. You can't tell if maybe there isn't a whole army of us
out here together. But maybe best of all would be to be a pirate.
My name was Robert Kidd, as I sailed (rep)
My name was Robert Kidd, and God's laws I did forbid
And much wickedness I did as I sailed.
I spied three ships from Spain, as I sailed (rep)
I spied three ships from Spain, and I fired on them amain
Till all their crews were slain, as I sailed. (rep)
I had eighty bars of gold, as i sailed (rep)
And riches uncontrolled
And dollars in my hold, as I sailed (rep)
Sailing in the boat when the tide runs high (rep 2)
Waiting for the pretty girl to come bye'm bye
Here she comes, so fresh and fair,
Sky blue eyes and curly hair
Rosey in cheek, dimple in her chin
Say, young man, but you can't come in
Rose in the garden, for you, young man (rep)
Rose in the garden, get it if you can,
But take care, not a frost-bitten one.
I heard once there was a girl kidnapped by the savages. Her mother
and father ware scalped, and the Indian brave threw her up on
a horse and carried her off to live in a house made of sticks
and blankets. She had little red babies, and rubbed them all over
with bear grease so that they smelled just like wild animals.
When the white people found her, she wouldn't come home. She said
she wasn't a real Indian, just adopted, and the Indians treated
her more like a servant than like a daughter of the tribe: but
still, she 'd rather be with them than come back to town. Half
naked, she was. Worse than a squaw. There are spirits out in the
woods, but whether they are good or bad, I can't tell. Some people
think that as long as somebody's giving orders, all is well. You've
a place. I don't know what Mamma would do on her own. What would
become of me?
I'd go to sea.
I know where I'm going,
And I know who's going with me
I know who I love,
But the Devil knows who I'll marry.
I'll have gowns of silk
And shoes of bright green leather
Ribbons to tie my hair
And a ring of every finger
Feather beds are fine
And painted rooms are bonny
But I would trade them all
For my handsome winsome Jonny
I heard once that what freedom is, is a choice of masters.
And you agree?
It's the most liberty I'm like to have! But love is the cruelest
master. look what Sarah bears with, for my sake, and for her children.
She would never stoop so for herself. Is that why wives are so
meek? For the children?
The men parade and make speeches. How it hurts their pride, to
buy where they must instead of where they will. They curse and
say the king would put down freedom. Freedom! Compared to me!
I cannot alter my dress without rebuke, never once have I spoke
my whole mind, my movements are under order from dawn to dark--
and yet the parson and my lover and Sarah all call me too free!
I'm not free at all, that I can see, yet what was the crime for
which I am deprived of all liberty, unless it be the crime of
Eve, I cannot guess
Thrice welcome, best and first of days,
Unto my soul thy morning rays
Resplendent shines and warms my breast;
Oh. tis a day of holy rest.
Haste, my dear Lord, and come away
On eagles wings, make no delay
And fetch my longing soul on high,
That I may sing eternally.
END OF ACT I
Click here for ACT II