The Founding of Sullivan County

 

A collaboration of Derek Davis, Eileen Wiley, Connie Hatch, Linda White

the cast, and many, many others

Directed by Linda White

 

Cast  (in order of appearance)

 

GRANDMOTHER                       Carol Jacques

CHARLIE                                      Ben Hatch

    Men of Laporte (and friend)

WILLIAM MEYLERT                  John Klus

THOMAS INGHAM                     Mark Roinick

JOSEPH "MOOSE" LITTLE     Ben Olena

JOHN WILSON                           Scott Osborg

    Women and children of Laporte (and visitors)

MARY ANGELINE MASON      Melanie Norton

CAROLINE                                   Candace Chilson

MARGARET WILSON               Barbara K. Schaefer

ANN MEYLERT                           Florence Suarez

SAMMY                                         Glenn Hamilton

IDA                                                 Leona Hatch

    State commissioners

JOHN BROADHEAD                 Ferdie Marek

JEDEDIAH IRISH                       Darwin Hatch

    Tavern people (and others)

HANNAH FAIRCHILD                Gwen Klus

MICHAEL MEYLERT                 Paul Schaefer

WOMAN                                        Sue Hamilton

TEENAGER AT LEWIS LAKE            Kim Hamilton

TRAVELERS and REVELERS Scott Osborg                    David Shultz

MUSICIAN                                    Sue Hamilton

Musical direction                         Gwen Klus

Choreography                              Ferdie Marek

Lighting design                            Scott Osborg

Refreshments                              Mary Beth's Westside Deli

Historical Consultant                 Wilson Ferguson


                             

Everyone forms a square dance, then moves off stage. Grandma and child in spotlight.

 

Prologue: Present Time

 

GRANDM'R           I'm getting too old for this. My knees hurt, and this long skirt just gets in my way.

 

CHARLIE                You did good. Well, you did OK. I like this party. Why are we all dressed up, anyway?

 

G                   It's one of those off-the-wall things, you ask me. It's the 160th anniversary of the founding of Sullivan County, so we're dressed like they were back then. If they do this every ten years it'll kill me.

 

C                    What's a "founding"?

 

G                   It's when something starts up that didn't exist before. Sullivan County didn't exist until 1847.

 

C                    What made it start then?

 

G                   I can tell you about that – well, as much as anybody knows. But the funny part came two years later. It was a hoot. But the beginning was in 1847. Laporte wasn't even a place, then, just an idea in this fellah Michael Meylert's eye. The county had just been branched off from Lycoming County next door, and it needed a county seat – the place where you put the courthouse. So you see....


Scene 1: The Glass Road, Summer, 1847

 

WILLIAM and THOMAS  enter stage left carrying heavy planks on their shoulders

 

WILLIAM:    Watch out for that hole.

 

THOMAS:    This road is all hole. They oughta call it the Hole Road 'stead of the Glass Road. How far we have to carry this?

 

WILLIAM:    Six miles.

 

THOMAS     Six miles! You didn't tell me that.

 

WILLIAM     You didn't ask.

 

THOMAS [dropping his end]    I'm not gonna to do it. I'm goin' back.

 

WILLIAM     We've come about three miles, so we're half way there. Just about as far to go back.

 

THOMAS     But I won't have no pile of lumber on my shoulders.

 

WILLIAM     C'mon Thomas, it's not as bad as all that. There's no other way to get to the Center where Michael's building his new town, and you can't get a wagon through this mess.

 

THOMAS     I don't care, and who are you anyway tellin' me what to do?

 

WILLIAM     You know who I am, Thomas. I'm William Meylert and I'm running this crew and I'm paying you 25 cents hard cash a day. You turn back now and I'm docking you 25 cents for today and 12 cents off yesterday back at the sawmill in Mt. Lewis.

 

THOMAS     That ain't fair.

 

WILLIAM     Now, Thomas, I thought you were a man with some gumption, seeing as how you're all set to start some higher education this fall. It isn't enough to just have more schooling, you've got to develop some perseverence if you're going to do well in this world. Besides, is it fair to leave me here to drag this along the rest of the way to the Center?

 

THOMAS     No, Mr. Meylert.

 

WILLIAM     Those state commissioners'll be coming through and they'll need to see that we've been building the town like we said we would. It's part of the deal for naming the county seat in the Center. Besides, just think how handsome you'll be with all the new muscles you're growing. The girls will swoon.

 

THOMAS [reluctantlytying his shoelace]    Aaah, I don't care about no girls!

 

WILLIAM     Let's rest a spell. [setting his end of the boards down. They pull out some jerky and chew on it noisily]

 

THOMAS     And I don't like these woods. They're spooky.

WILLIAM     Scare you, do they?

 

THOMAS     I ain't scared. But I don't like 'em. You get hurt out here, ain't nobody can help you. An' you get ten feet offen the road you don't know where you are or which way to turn. The sun can't even get through the trees. I wish my pa hadn't sent me into this hell hole. Ain't I glad I'm going off to school soon.

 

WILLIAM     No need to swear and you need some better grammar, if you're going to stay in school once you get there.

 

THOMAS     That ain..... wasn't no swear, that's a description.

 

WILLIAM     Yeah, a pretty good one I guess. But we'll make it into a land of milk and honey. You'll come running back here after you graduate.

 

THOMAS     Not unless I get something better to eat than the porridge and jerky I get here now. What if there's Injuns hidin' in the trees?

 

WILLIAM     This place isn't worth anything to them, they just sidle around our edges and pass on through. Gives them the spooks too.

 

THOMAS     Really?

 

WILLIAM     Sure. They get lost like we do, just don't talk about it all the time. I heard, early on some were hired as guides and when they got up here they didn't know where the devil they were, so they just turned tail and run off, left whoever it was high and dry.

 

THOMAS     If this place is so almighty nowhere that even the Injuns want no truck with it, why are we walking ourselves six miles to bang planks onto the inside of a workhouse?

 

WILLIAM     Ask my brother Michael. It's mostly his idea.

 

THOMAS     But this land's your pa's, ain't it?

 

WILLIAM     His and Michael's, with Mr. Clymer putting up some money too. But father's declining, getting sicker all the time. Don't expect he'll make the year. Michael is taking care of all his business.

 

THOMAS     Aw, sorry.

 

WILLIAM     Everybody's got to go when their time hits. He's lived him a good life.

 

THOMAS     What are you gonna call the town? Can't just call it the Center.

 

WILLIAM     My father's naming it after his friend, John Laporte. He's surveyor general of the state.

 

THOMAS     I didn't know they had generals out doin' surveyin'. Laporte. What kind of name is that?

 

WILLIAM     It's French.

 

THOMAS     I never met no Frenchman.

 

WILLIAM     Well, he talks English. Some day you might even meet a Scandinavian.

 

THOMAS     Scan-da-who-da-lin?

 

WILLIAM     That's somebody from Sweden or Denmark.

 

THOMAS     C'mon. Nobody from over there's comin' here.

 

WILLIAM     You never know. Someday it'll be farms and mills and then anybody might come. Maybe even some Chinese.

 

THOMAS     Nah!?

 

(MOOSE and JOHN enter stage right]

 

MOOSE       Lookit the boss and his scamp settin' down on the job. I guess Tom is already counting on a leisurely job when he gets out of school.

 

THOMAS     Lay off, Moose! We walked five miles or more already. Plenty good reason to set down.

 

JOHN           Then yer almost there. Up and at 'em. They need more boards to hammer. They're all settin' around drinkin' ale.

 

WILLIAM     [Standing] Ale? On my time? I told them to fell more trees when they got caught up.

 

MOOSE       Now don't get yer britches heaved. John's just joshin' you. They're gnawin' at those trees like beavers.

 

THOMAS     You and Moose goin' to get more planks?

 

JOHN           Yup.

 

THOMAS     Sure hope this amounts to somethin' in the end. I just don't see how it all goes together.

 

WILLIAM     First, we get this workhouse built. Then we can get started on a sawmill so we don't have to haul everything in. Workers will want to bring their families, so we build a few houses. We start the courthouse next, then we'll need houses for more families. Workhouse, sawmill, houses, courthouse, more houses, families – everything moves right up the line. You'll see. Why when Thomas finishes school, he won't waste any time gettin' right back here. Lots of opportunities!

 

MOOSE       How many folks you got lined up besides us two and our wives?

 

WILLIAM     Well, looks like we'll have Bill Mason and the Fanchers, probably Alfred Bennett. And my brother. [stretching] Set down too long and you don't want to get up again. Need something to pep us up a little.

 

MOOSE       How about a song? How about you teach us that pine cuttin' song?

 

 [They all stand and sing "The Cutting of the Pine,"]

Cutting Down the Pines

Friends, if you will listen, I'll sing to you a song,
All about the pine woods and how they get along.
A jovial lot of fellows as ever you will find
Spent the winter pleasantly cutting down the pines.

"Noontime is coming!" loud the foreman screams,
"Lay down your saws and axes and haste to pork and beans
Time for your dinner!" you hear the foreman cry:
You ought to see them bound around, for they hate to lose their pie.

JOHN           Well, we better get to moving. That sun don't stop for nobody.

 

WILLIAM     See if you can get some of your wife's cornish pasties to bring back. I think we could use a little sustenance.

 

JOHN           Yes, sir.

 

[MOOSE and JOHN exit stage left.]

 

THOMAS     Oh, some of Mrs. Wilson's pasties would go down real good! You know, Mr. Meylert, it's a lot easier to sing about work than haul planks.

 

WILLIAM     Just think about that 25 cents waiting for you.

 

THOMAS     What am I supposed to spend it on up here?

 

WILLIAM     You can save it up for for when you're at Hartford Academy.

 

THOMAS     Yes, I look forward to being there, but I sure don't look forward to the rough trip to get there.

 

WILLIAM     When Michael gets the roads rebuilt and fixed up, everybody'll be able to get anywhere, like they could back when the glass works were running.

 

THOMAS     Where'd they sell that glass? Sure wasn't much call for it around here.

 

WILLIAM     All over. Whole wagonloads of glass would go along this road – it was passable then – and over the turnpike and down to Philadelphia to get sold – well, some did get smashed along the way – and then they'd bring supplies back up for the glass works.

 

THOMAS     I can't see how they could move glass through this! Sounds like a tall tale to me.

 

WILLIAM     There's stories and tales and there's the truth and sometimes they get mixed up so that you're not sure where one leaves off and the other starts up. You'll have your own stories soon enough.

 

THOMAS     I got one now. Story about goin' back and forth carryin' planks along on our shoulders for six miles. Bet people won't think that's the truth.

 

WILLIAM     You just tell them. They can think what they want. [Rest of cast enter stage right, take the planks and start setting up the scenery for Fairchild Tavern and the Laporte parlor. Call and response work song while they set up??]


Transition

 

C                    A road made out of glass? It'd get all broken! Roads can't be full of broken glass. It'd cut your tires.

 

G                   It wasn't made out of glass. It was called the Glass Road because it led from George Lewis's glass works in Mt. Lewis to the turnpike. Besides, folks didn't have rubber tires back then, or cars, either. They had horses and wagons

 

C                    The Pennsylvania Turnpike's pretty far to go in a horse and wagon.

 

G                   Oh, that turnpike didn't exist yet. They took the Tioga Turnpike, built around 1810, 1820, from Berwick on up to Elmira, eventually. Dirt road, but you paid to travel on it.

 

C                    C'mon, grandma. Nobody's dumb enough to pay to go on a dirt road.

 

G                   I'm trying to tell you what it was like back then, OK? So set your mind. Now we're moving on two years, to 1849, when they had the second state commission to decide where to put the county seat. (background voices start) Got the first houses built in Laporte by then, and the women are talking about what the menfolk are up to. Listen.
Scene 2: Laporte Parlor

 

Crowded sitting room of plank walls in Laporte, three women working on a quilt, one at a mirror, firewood for a pitch game, girl playing with a rag doll. Women softly singing "Amazing Grace."

 

Amazing Grace,

How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me,

I once was lost

But now am found,

Was blind but now I see.

 

MARY ANGELINE           It's nice to have your voice joined in our singing, Caroline.

 

CAROLINE             Thank you, Cousin. We sing that hymn quite often in our church.

 

ANN              How long will your visit be?

 

CAROLINE             I'm not sure as yet. I'll have to ask Cousin William. He will be taking me back to New York, but probably soon. We have to avoid the coming snows. Where is he, anyway? I haven't seen him since yesterday forenoon.

 

MARGARET          He went up to Cherry Hill with Bill Meylert, following those commissioners.

 

MARY ANGELINE           Now, I ask you, what do these commissioners think they're doing? The first ones made their decision to set the county seat right here in Laporte. Now this bunch wants to uproot it?!

 

CAROLINE             Oh, Mary Angeline, they dasn't change it! Being county seat is an answer to your prayers on this mountain. It's so desolate out here in the middle of nowhere. I was just thinking my visits could be more frequent when you became county seat – more traffic in and out and a much more interesting population, I'd think.

 

MARGARET          She means men – spelled T-O-M!

 

ANN              Margaret! Tsk, tsk, tsk.

 

MARY ANGELINE           Well, we should be county seat. Think how hard our parents worked to survive in the woods. Coming from a city, they didn't know anything about how to live in the wild. A lot of people who came up here just turned tail and ran. And  it sure hasn't been easy establishing this town. I'd say we've put in the sweat and tears to earn being the county seat!

 

MARGARET          ...not to mention our Meylerts putting so much money into these buildings and the land. I don't understand how the state could appoint another commission. Men! They're mad as hatters!

 

ANN              Indeed! It's a darned shame, is what it is. But I guess it'll all come right. It always does. Don't worry yourself so much, Mary Angeline.

 

MARGARET          Oh, Ann, you are such a dreamer. We should worry! It's that Cherry Hill crowd. They're just underhanded and conniving. And where are those commissioners? Right in the lair of that meddlesome Hannah Fairchild.

 

MARY ANGELINE and ANN               Margaret!!

 

MARGARET          She uses her wiles and the spirits she serves in that tavern to suit her purpose. The commissioners will be putty in her hands.

 

ANN              You utter the most dreadful things about that poor woman! And I'd wager you don't know them to be true!

 

MARGARET          Fiddle-dee-dee! I haven't gone deaf and blind, you know! Oh, rats, I can't get this French curl right! My hair is flying forty ways from Sunday!

 

ANN              Maybe Mrs. Fairchild and the Cherry Hill folk are just expressing their natural interest. They're settled down by the Turnpike, so they think it makes more sense to have the seat up there. I can see their reasoning, can't you?

 

MARGARET          Humph! They're you go again, Ann, you try to find the good in everything.

 

CAROLINE             You know, I respect Mrs. Fairchild. She's been running that tavern by herself ever since I can remember.

 

ANN              Her husband, Freeman, passed away about fifteen years ago.

 

CAROLINE             I can't imagine how she manages without the help of a man.

 

MARGARET          Caroline, you can't imagine anything without the help of a man. All I say is, it's dangerous for our men and those commissioners to be in her tavern while they're getting ready to make this big decision. She could sway them as easy as pie.

 

MARY ANGELINE           I wonder how many more years she'll be there. [sees Sammy setting up blocks] Sammy, what are you doing?

 

SAMMY       You'll see.

 

IDA                He's fixing our game, Mama.

 

MARY ANGELINE           Hmmm.

 

MARGARET          [looking in the mirror] Ah – finally! Now, that's a French curl!

 

IDA                You look pretty, Aunt Margaret!

 

MARGARET          Almost as pretty as you, little Miss Ida.

 

CAROLINE             Ooh, Margaret, can you fix my hair like that?

 

MARGARET          Sure, Caroline. I know why you want to look pretty! It's that Thomas, isn't it?

 

CAROLINE             Shhh! He's not even here this visit, he's at school.

 

MARGARET          Well, lah dee dah! Actually, I heard he's off on break.

 

SAMMY       Aunt Mary Angeline, what's "logical" mean?

 

MARY ANGELINE           Something that makes sense, Sammy. Why?

 

SAMMY       Papa said it's more "logical" to have the county seat here in Laporte. He called it "dead center of the county."

 

MARGARET          [fixing Caroline's hair] It's "dead" all right, just our six families huddled up inside six million trees.

 

ANN              Isn't it strange to think of it as a county even? Lord, it's only been so for two years.

 

MARY ANGELINE           Well, I was always telling William: "Bill," I said. "it's not fair for you to have to travel forty miles down to Williamsport every time you want to register a deed or ask for justice. We need something up here." That's what I said.

 

MARGARET          I said the same to John. You'd expect how the men would think of convenience, but they just stump along, carrying things around, not concentrating on how there might be easier ways. How's that, Caroline?

 

CAROLINE             Ooh, thanks.

 

IDA                You look pretty, Caroline.

 

CAROLINE             Aren't you a sweetie! Margaret, how did you do this?

 

IDA                Come on, Sammy, let's play!

 

SAMMY       Hold your horses, it ain't ready yet. [IDA picks up her rag doll.]

 

MARY ANGELINE           Sammy, you watch your grammar. We don't allow "ain'ts" in this house. Caroline and Margaret, will you two beauty queens get over here and work on this quilt?

 

MARGARET          You know, ladies, we're not the first to dream up that we need our own county. George Lewis, you know? – who had the Glass Works in Mount Lewis? They say he wanted to make a new county over 20 years ago – with Mount Lewis as the seat. I declare! He was forward-thinking.

 

CAROLINE             My father knew George Lewis and that Joshua Alder who run the glass works for him.

 

SAMMY       Mr. Alder run the Potash Factory too.

 

MARGARET          Why, you little whippersnapper, where do you learn these things?

 

SAMMY       I heard my Papa talking.

 

MARY ANGELINE           You're a good listener, Sammy.

 

SAMMY       Thank you, Auntie.

 

ANN              That glass works, it must have been something!

 

MARY ANGELINE           George Lewis started it up near 1808 and it only lasted ..oh.. six, seven years.

 

 [SAMMY snatches the doll. MARGARET laughs and raises her hands to catch it. SAMMY throws it to her.]

 

IDA [Crying]           Mama, they took my doll again!

 

MARY ANGELINE           My goodness, Margaret, who's the whippersnapper now?

 

MARGARET          Here, Ida.

 

MARY ANGELINE           You children play nice – or you'll go back to reciting your times tables.

 

SAMMY       Yes, Ma'am. C'mon, Ida, get the stones. I got her almost set up.

 

MARGARET          Schoolwork threats usually work.

 

MARY ANGELINE           Hmmm.

 

CAROLINE             George Lewis and his brother used to be real money men, up in New York. Maybe he should've headed west ta' California. There's a gold rush goin' on out there.

 

MARGARET          Yes, I read about that. Gold just lying around on the ground. Fortunes are being made.

 

ANN              While those pitiful people in Ireland with the potato famine, dying by the thousands or leaving the country. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away!

 

MARGARET          I just "hopeth" He don't taketh away our county seat!

 

[All laugh. There's a knock at the door. Sammy answers it. Enter THOMAS]

 

THOMAS     Good day, ladies. The sight of you is as welcome as the flowers in May.

 

MARGARET          Just like I said – Lah dee dah!

 

CAROLINE             Margaret, quiet yourself!  Hello, Thomas, I thought you were staying at school. It's good to see you.

 

THOMAS     Excuse me, ladies, may I have your indulgence as I take a private word with Caroline?

 

MARY ANGELINE and ANN    Surely.

 

ANN              He's become so well-spoken.

 

MARY ANGELINE           Two years away at school can work wonders.

 

[Thomas and Caroline walk outside. She puts on a shawl and shivers a bit.]

 

CAROLINE             It seems a month of Sundays since last we talked, Thomas. Have you been well?

 

THOMAS     Oh, busy as the d.... very busy with school, but I long to see you more frequently.

 

CAROLINE            I, also, would enjoy your company more often. How long are you here?

 

THOMAS     That's the most difficult part. I must leave tonight – now, actually. I'm going to try to meet Michael at Fairchild's Tavern to see if we can do something about this "commission" and then must leave at daybreak to get back to school in time. I just heard that you were here and I had to see you.

 

CAROLINE             Thank you for that, Thomas.

 

THOMAS     Caroline – may I call you dear, Caroline? My schooling will be over soon. I have high expectations. I hope we may both – to quote Hebrews – "...come boldly to the throne of grace." Will you think of me fondly in the meantime?

 

CAROLINE             Thomas. I grow ever fonder.   

 

THOMAS     Here is my address. [gets a note from his pocket and hands it to her. Somehow their hands become entwined and they stand holding hands] Will you write to me?

 

CAROLINE            I give my word.

 

[They look at each other a moment. THOMAS leaves. CAROLINE returns inside and glides to her seat, sighing.]

 

MARGARET          Your shawl, Caroline – it is warm in here, or hadn't you noticed? [Caroline removes shawl and places note in her bodice]

 

ANN              Perhaps you will see him again at Christmas time.

 

CAROLINE             Our time was so short; we didn't even discuss it.

 

MARY ANGELINE           I hope this county seat business gets us more settlers here on the mountain. And some better roads! Even an Indian couldn't find his way on these dirt tracks.

 

ANN              What do you think it'll be like here in 20-30 years, if we get to keep the seat?

 

CAROLINE             I think it'll be a big, booming, bustling town – maybe even a city like Philadelphia – a place with beautiful mountain scenery, where a couple could marry and settle down, and build a nice home, and bring up a nice family.

 

MARGARET          Could be, Caroline. Now, do you have someone particular in mind? Thomas, Thomas, Thomas.

 

CAROLINE, ANN, and MARY ANGELINE  Margaret!!!!


Transition

C                    I can't figure what's going on. What are these "commissioners"?

 

G                   They're people sent out by the state to figure out the best way of doing something. After the county was sheared off from Lycoming County in 1847, they had to choose a place for the courthouse. One place that wanted the county seat was Cherry Hill. That's where the Fairchild tavern was. It's called Bahr's Hill now, east of Dushore. Of course, Michael Meylert wanted the seat to stay in Laporte.

 

C                    But what –

 

G                   Not everything has to come clear all at once. Just listen. Up at the Fairchild Tavern, those two that just come in, they're two of the three commissioners for the second commission. Then later, Michael Meylert comes along from Laporte with his brother and a friend.


Scene 3: Fairchild Tavern

Commissioners enter.

 

BROADHEAD        "The Fairchild Tavern." Looks like a worthy place to talk over what we've got to do.

 

IRISH [checking out the beer buckets being passed] Yes, an excellent establishment, ex-cell-lent.

 

MS F             Gentlemen! Welcome to Fairchild's ever-welcoming tavern What's you pleasure? [she takes BROADHEAD by the arm to steer them to a table] You look thirsty. Have you been long on the road?

 

IRISH           Infernal ride up from nowhere. Would you have a room for the night?

 

MS F             For you, dear, anything. Just sit down and I'll be back with some soothing ale. [commissioners sit]

 

IRISH           I wish Jessup hadn't needed to go on ahead to Wilkes-Barre. It slows us in making our decision. D'you think Meylert will really follow after us from Laporte?

 

BROADHEAD        They've got logic behind them. The location was decided in their favor last time.

 

IRISH           Last time, past time. Laporte! The place doesn't even exist! How's it deserve to be a county seat?

 

MS F [bringing ale]          Here you are, dears. Did I hear "county seat?"

 

IRISH [taking a hefty gulp and patting the chair next to him]  Your seats are the finest we've come upon. The state's sent us to pin down where to place the county seat. It was decided once, but a petition came through to make a change.

 

MS F             For certain it did, I signed it! That last decision was not legitimate. Now, here, in Cherry Hill, we're right along the Turnpike, we have accommodations, as you can see, in a settled community – but oh dear, I shouldn't try to influence you boys when you've come to spend the night on ...neutral ground.

 

BROADHEAD        We'll decide on the merits only, rest assured.

 

MS F             I always rest ....assured. [exit]

 

[THOMAS INGHAM, WILLIAM and MICHAEL MEYLERT enter]

 

WILLIAM [quietly] There they are, Michael. Think we should sit with them?

 

MEYLERT   It can't hurt to ask. Mr. Broadhead, Mr. Irish. Mind if we pull up and sit?

 

IRISH [finishing his glass and refilling]        No harm in that, I suppose. [three Laporte men sit at table]

 

THOMAS     Sooo....you coming ANY closer to your decision? [MEYLERT tries to shush him]

 

BROADHEAD        We just NOW came in. You were right on our tail. Don't push us, that's not wise.

 

THOMAS     We just want to have a few rounds. This one's on us.

 

BROADHEAD        That could be construed as bribery.

 

THOMAS [jumping up]   An accusation like that –

 

MEYLERT   Sit down, Thomas, you're being unruly. Don't pay him any mind, he's just anxious. But it'd help if you could look at our problem straight on. We've followed you all these miles to try to get you to see what-all's involved here. We've put our hearts into this.

 

BROADHEAD        Mr. Meylert, we're here to do the job the legislature gave us. We've got no money down on this game.

 

MEYLERT   It's been no kind of game for us, getting all this together. My father has just died–

 

BROADHEAD        My condolences, sir.

 

MEYLERT   Thank you. It was a lingering illness and his taking was perhaps a blessing. But listen, I sold part of my property to get the money to do what I promised in Laporte, set up the courthouse and boarding house and the rest of the town. We've cleared land, built three roads –

 

THOMAS     And we walked that lumber in, six miles along the Glass Road from Lewis Lake, didn't we, William? Couldn't even get horses through there properly with a load on them.

 

IRISH [rapidly downing a third glass]           Why didn't you cut it locally, 'round Laporte? You've got trees. Whole lots of trees. I've seen 'em. Get in the way of everything.

 

WILLIAM     But no sawmill, man! You expect us to chew the planks out, like beavers?

 

IRISH [half sloshed]        Beavers. Got no horses. But got ...beavers.

 

BROADHEAD        We have made no promises to anyone – not to you in Laporte or to Forks or Hillsgrove or anybody else. We're to see if the county seat should stay where it was put, at Laporte, or moved somewhere more ...accessible.

 

MS F [arriving with ale for the new arrivals]          Like busy Cherry Hill.

 

THOMAS     You're trying to influence the commission!

 

MS F            Oooo, and you're not?

 

MEYLERT   You did everything to set up that petition to bring these men in and reverse a decision made in good faith.

 

MS F             Faith! It was more on your hope and their charity.

 

BROADHEAD        Another round for us also, Mrs. Fairchild, if you please.

 

MEYLERT   Where's your third man, Jessup?

 

BROADHEAD        Judge Jessup had cases to hear, so he went on ahead to Wilkes-Barre. We had planned to catch up to him and work the thing out together.

 

WILLIAM     You aren't maybe thinking of cutting corners, doing it here by yourselves?

 

IRISH           I want to zing a song. I heard a good song and I want to zing it.

 

THOMAS     He's going to decide a county seat? He's going to fall off his own seat after another tankard.

 

IRISH           Zing a song. Everybody zing a nize song. [he lurches into the first few words of "Jug of Punch". BROADHEAD picks it up and slowly the everyone gets into belting out the melody and waving their tankards around.]

 

One pleasant evening in the month of June

As I was sitting with my glass and spoon

A small bird sat on an ivy bunch

And the song he sang was the jug of punch.

 

To ra loo ra loo To ra loo ra lay

To ra loo ra loo To ra loo ra lay

A small bird sat on an ivy bunch

And the song he sang was the jug of  punch.

 

What more diversion can a man desire

Than to sit him down by an ale house fire

Upon his knee a pretty wench

And on the table a jug of punch.

 

To ra loo ra loo To ra loo ra lay

To ra loo ra loo To ra loo ra lay

Upon his knee a pretty wench

And on the table a jug of punch

 

MEYLERT   We don't mean to come down so heavy on you fellows. I know you'll do your best to make a decent choice. We have to put our trust in you as gentlemen. Shake on that?

 

[BROADHEAD reaches across to shake his hand. IRISH waves his tankard vaguely in MEYLERT's direction]

 

WILLIAM [half muttered]           No use talkin' to him. [points to IRISH]. He's all owl-eyed already. [they move to another table]

 

IRISH           Owl-eyed? I respent that. Why're we talkin' 'bout beavers and horses and owls? They're just animals. What kinda owls do eyes have anyway? Big round ones, round eyed ...owls. [starts to nod off]

 

MS F            How do you boys like friendly ol' Cherry Hill, right along the Turnpike that's easy to get to because it goes just everywhere?


INTERMISSION

 

Transition  D

[At opening of scene, Grandma is dozing in her chair, and Child is quietly drawing. There is a surge in the sound of the party, and a woman enters the scene, waking Grandma.]

 

WOMAN      There you are! We've been looking for you! What have you been doing?

 

G                   Just telling tales.

 

WOMAN      Well, we need you! We only have three women who know the old dance.

 

G                   Oh, come on, you can find someone!

 

WOMAN      Never! [Calling offstage] Come in here everyone! I've found her! [The dancers come onstage.] OK, Here we go! Let's have some music! [They dance. At the end of the dance, G sits down.}

 

G                   Go on! Go on! That's all I'm going to do!

 

WOMAN      Party Pooper! [Dancers exit.]

 

G                   You just wait 'til you're 85! See how much of a live wire you are!

 

C                    You said that Mr. Meylert wants it to stay in Laporte, this county seat, and Ms. Fairchild wants it to go in Cherry Hill?

 

G                   Right.

 

C                    So that's why all the ladies in Laporte were upset, in case it gets changed?

 

G                   Right.

 

C                    How far is it from Laporte to Cherry Hill?

 

G                   'Bout 10 miles. Remember, Cherry Hills's just by Dushore.

 

C                    So why would anybody care, one place or the other? They're just down the road.

 

G                   Because if you had only your shoes to walk with, or a horse, it would take hours on end to get from one place to the other. This was before cars, just dirt roads, holes and mud, no stores on the way. Think about it –

 

C                    I walked the Loyalsock Trail to the haystacks and all the way back.

 

G                   A lot, lot longer than that and the roads a lot worse condition than the Loyalsock Trail.

 

C                    What kind of game was Sammy setting up in Laporte?

 

G                   I can answer that much. Watch.

 


Scene 4: Laporte Parlor [same time frame]

Sammy and Ida have their game set up, but they are singing to the ladies.

 

SAMMY AND IDA [singing to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"]                                      "Sullivan County, new Laporte,

In the woods they hold their court,

It's well founded on a rock,

About four miles from Loyalsock."

 

ANN              That was lovely, children.

 

MARY ANGELINE           Now, Sammy, next time you should sing a little quieter, honey. We want to hear Ida's voice too.

 

IDA                Now can we play, Mama?

 

MARY ANGELINE           You've done all your schoolwork, Ida?

 

SAMMY       Yes, Ma'am, we both did. And Ida's getting right good with her letters.

 

MARY ANGELINE           Then, yes, you may play. Enjoy your game, but no fighting this time.

 

IDA                Yes, Mama. [They take turns throwing pebbles into the holes.]

 

ANN              So, when do you expect William home, Mary Angeline?

 

MARY ANGELINE           I have absolutely no expectation, Ann. I hope they can get this whole matter settled in a timely fashion, but I fear they are all engaged in argument and recriminations.

 

ANN              Maybe they shoulda' left it up to us women.

 

[MARGARET and CAROLINE enter hearing ANN's remark. They sit at the quilting hoop again.]

 

MARGARET          Well now, you have just uttered a mouthful, Ann. Good for you. I'm sure Mrs. Fairchild's not helping, her serving them ale 'til they're half-silly.

 

MARY ANGELINE           You'd best watch that tongue of yours, Margaret. That is no Christian outlook. Caroline, are you going to write to your fellah?

 

CAROLINE             Oh, he's not really my fellah, Mary Angeline. But I already started a letter.

 

IDA [whispers to Mary Angeline] May we sing our song for Aunt Margaret and Caroline?

 

MARY ANGELINE           Speak up, child.

 

IDA                I said: "May we sing our song for Aunt Margaret and Caroline?"

 

MARY ANGELINE        What a good idea! Sammy, come sing with Ida. Wait 'til you hear this, ladies. And remember, Sammy – [gestures to sing with a big voice.]

 

SAMMY       I know!

 

SAMMY AND IDA            Sullivan County, new Laporte,

In the woods they hold their court,

It's well founded on a rock,

About four miles from Loyalsock.

 

SAMMY       I made up a new verse. D'you all wanna' hear it?

 

ALL               Oh, please.

 

SAMMY AND IDA            Sullivan County needs a seat;

In Laporte would be so sweet.

Cherry Hill would not be right.

Leave it here, give up the fight.

 

[ALL laugh and applaud]

 

ANN              Out of the mouths of babes!

 

CAROLINE             And such beautiful singing! Oh, you two are special. I surely must get me some children like you some day.

 

MARGARET          "Thomas and Caroline, sittin' in a tree..."

 

MARY ANGELINE and ANN               Margaret!!

 

MARGARET          Sorry, Caroline, sometimes I just can't help myself. Well, children, I think if our Laporte men were singin' a song like that to the commissioners about now, it could help the goin's on up ta' Cherry Hill. Say now, what's that on your wrist, little Miss Ida?

 

SAMMY       That's her bracelet. She was weavin' and weavin' it yesterday –when she was supposed to be doing the dishes!

 

MARY ANGELINE           Sammy, you hush that kinda' talk. It's a lovely bracelet, Ida. You should make me one, dear. Now you two go on back to your game -- and play nice.[Sammy and Ida return to game.]

 

MARGARET          Make us all fancy bracelets, Sweetie, and we'll put 'em on and take us a little trip up to that Fairchild Tavern.

 

ANN              Oh, Margaret, NEVER --- not on those bumpity, rutty roads, and with all those nasty snakes and animals. My lands, the MEN got three panthers this year – and there's wolves and bobcats out there. No, NEVER, not me!

 

MARY ANGELINE           Doesn't it make you wonder what kind of a woman Hannah Fairchild is to run that tavern all these years? She must be quite brave, going it alone through these long, hard winter. I guess it gets better for her in the spring, though – more travelers and all.

 

CAROLINE             Oh, spring – I can't wait! I just love this mountain then! Everything is all fresh and new and warm.

 

MARGARET [to CAROLINE]   And Thomas will be finished with school! At least in winter we're mostly sewin' and cookin'. Come spring we'll be diggin and plantin' again with the best of them. Why, just this Saturday, my John was splittin' rail for fencin'. He says he wants an even bigger vegetable garden next year. Lordy, I'll be puttin' up food 'til doomsday. 'Course with this rocky soil, it's anybody's guess on how much will grow.

 

CAROLINE             Oh, and think what they put down in the fields to help them grow! Oh, the nasty smell of dung! Turns my stomach, it really does.

 

ANN              No place for ladies like us.

 

CAROLINE             No place for any ladies at all!

 

MARY ANGELINE           If you "ladies" want to continue to eat, I'd suggest you not object to putting dung on the fields.

 

MARGARET           Let me tell you about a poor lady who found herself in a mess worse than dung. You know Judge Jones, who bought the glass works in Mount Lewis four or five years ago? It had been abandoned for years.

 

MARY ANGELINE           It was a sorry sight by anyone's standards.

 

MARGARET          Only thing that looked half good was the stone barn. The dwellin' house was decayin'; the worker's cottages were almost a lost cause. Well, Judge Jones got my John to oversee the farmin' and lumberin' and other improvements. We moved into a half-decent cottage, our four little ones in tow. Later on, the Judge showed up to get the big house ready for his family. Now, bear in mind, the previous fall, the main dwellin' had been set up for hunters and the men who tend the hogs. The best room in the house was used for smoking meat. The place was hideous!

 

CAROLYN Get to the point, Margaret, you said this was a story about a lady.

 

MARGARET          Well, imagine, if you can, what the hunters and hog-keepers were doing to this place – they had the hogs in the front yard, for Law's sake. It was plain disgustin'! Now... think of yourself arrivin' at your new home-sweet-home on a nasty rainy day, and finding hog slime and animal carcasses to greet you.

 

CAROLYN AND ANN                Oh, no!

 

MARGARET          That poor dear left Philadelphia, along with a lady companion, and arrived – walkin', mind you – on a cold drizzly mornin' to her future home.

 

MARY ANGELINE           What happened to her carriage?

 

MARGARET          Wouldn't you know, it broke down within a mile of the place. Her husband saw who it was, and just about jumped out of his skin gettin' a plank out for her to walk safely over the muck – not exactly the proud provider!

 

CAROLINE           All the way up from Philadelphia – probably from a posh home – and to find hogs in her front yard and her best room turned into a butcher shop. Poor lady, indeed! You get expectations, you know. I'll bet she just wanted to turn around in her tracks and go back home.

 

MARGARET          Oh, yes, when Mrs. Jones tells anyone of her first home life up here, she says it was only the kindest and most painstaking exertions of her husband which reconciled her to this place.

 

ANN              Well good for him, he tried to make it easier for her.

 

MARGARET          But good for her, too, because she dug her heels in and pretty soon she became a leading force, beautifyin' her mountain home – it is now gorgeous, believe you me – and helpin' her neighbors, lightenin' their burdens. That makes for a good community feelin', I'll tell you.

 

CAROLINE            I would hope I could be that strong in the face of such adversity. I assure you that first and foremost I am attracted to Thomas's warmth and forthright personality, but if I'm perfectly honest, I know that a future with him will likely be one of advantage, what with him goin' to school and all.

 

MARGARET [to herself] It doesn't hurt that he is so handsome, I'd say.

 

MARY ANGELINE           Mrs. Jones has proved her worth. But think about poor Drucilla Lewis, George Lewis's wife.

 

CAROLINE             I know. I keep thinkin' about her. He was so well off in New York and then they marry and have a son and come here and have more babies and it all just vanishes. I must be very careful in my expectations. I wonder why he came way up here, anyway?

 

MARY ANGELINE           Well, as I heard it, the whole reason he built in Mount Lewis was because his friends in New York died of Yellow Fever during his first visit here. They say he credited our mountain land for keeping him safe from that plague. But, you know, if he had only stayed in New York, or even England, they would have ended up better off, financially. 'Course, his prospects for a glass business sure looked good when he started it.

 

ANN               I heard he tried everything.

 

MARGARET          After the War of 1812, when peace come, cheap materials started shipping from the Continent. He just couldn't make his glass and get it to the market at a competitive price. And in a few years his health collapsed. He went back to England and died eight years later.

 

CAROLINE             That is one sad story, Margaret. But, Lordy, I keep wondering about his Drucilla? How did she cope with all that? Drucilla Lewis, what were you like?

 

MARGARET          What was George Lewis like?

 

ANN              What was Mount Lewis like?

 

MARY ANGELINE           What was that Glass Works like? Was the glass pretty? Were there lots of windows? Piles of sand?

 

ALL               Hmm


Transition

C                    Grandma –

 

G                   For once, just stop asking and listen. This is a dramatic transition. Now, imagine walking through the ruined glassworks at night. You find a piece of glass. You know, people did that, they thought the glass found that way was lucky. Then, you decide to go down to Lewis Lake—that's what we call Eagles Mere Lake today. Have you been down there at night?

 

C                    No, Grandma, my folks won't let me go out by myself at night.

 

G                   Times change. Who's to say what's best? But I hope we're not losing  the magic and mystery of dark nights down by the lake.


Scene 5: Glass Works ruins

[Teenaged girl, between 14 and 17. Stone wall and scattered stone and miscellaneous objects on 'ground'. An apparent deserted building leaning toward ruin. The girl wanders out, hands in pockets, looking down at the ground, muttering to self. Muttering becomes louder as she talks aloud. She stops suddenly and stares out to one side of the audience, squinting.]

 

Christopher Columbus! [pause] Would you look at that mist rising from Lewis Lake! Looks like people rising and moving and twisting above it. I can hear the water lapping against the shore and it sure sounds like people whispering.

[looks down by her feet. Picks up a rock]

 

I hear tell people say the lake has its ghosts and demons and ain't safe for decent Christian folk to reside near. Why, just the other day, I heard Ellet say how the bottom can't be reached with the end of his rope that he lowered down. Mama said something that God abandoned lives in the deep part and when it gets hungry, it swims up to [lunges with hands out and shouts] GRAB SOMEBODY! [Drops hands, smiles to herself]

 

As if anyone would believe that demons infest the deep! [Leans over and picks up a big greenish piece of glass. Holds it up in the moonlight.]

 

Pa come over to this country on a ship and he said the ocean is about the same greenish tint as this lake and this here piece of glass. He also said that something in the sand is what gives the glass and the ocean that pertic'ler color green. The whole bottom of the lake is covered with sand, and the water's so clear that I swear I can reach down and pick up a handful. Mayhap, during Noah's time, there was an ocean here. Pa said that's why there's sand here.

 

That old trapper what lives by the edge of the swamp way over on the other side said when he was young he heard tell from passing Injuns that some big spirit was whopping mad and drowned a couple of lovers out there and pert near washed out the whole village. But that can't be true, Pa says, cause this place was too isolated and wild for anyone to stay here all year round. Which is why Ma wants to return to the city. [Pauses. Picks up a slender white object – a bone.]

 

Course now, who's to say? Maybe someone ... lost ... their ... lost their wife in the lake?

[Shades her eyes and looks out to the 'lake'.]

 

Now, I swear, that mist resembles the shape of a woman hovering above the surface.

[She peers to his right and squints and leans to see something in the distance better.]

 

And those rocks stick up high enough. [She drops her hand and stares at the bone in her other hand.]

 

Course now, me and the girls jump off that rock and swim out there. We surprised a young couple there once! They were closer than I could stick a piece of paper between! [Laughs.] We never seen two people jump apart so fast! [Laughs again but a thought dawns on her]

 

[Looks the bone over.]

 

Who's to say that back when old Mr. Lewis was in operation here that some young woman drownt out there? She fell in the water somehow ... maybe she was on a boat. Now these summer squalls that blow and race across the surface of the lake can take out a small sail boat. Say, she's on that sailboat, storm knocks it over, she slips below the surface? The young man sees it all, rows a boat to that spot where she went under and he jumps in the water. If there were other people in the sailboat, he'll help them to shore ... but he doesn't see his lover. Or his fianc. Make that his wife. He keeps diving below the surface until chills rack his body. Finally, he swims to shore and drags himself out. He's crying and pleading for someone to help but no one can. The rest of the storm blows itself out and waves are dashing and splashing all around him... The man returns later that night about the time the mist rises. And in the mist he sees his lover, that is, his wife. And she calls to him –

 

Maybe... maybe, if the young man worked for Mr. Lewis, he set his affairs in order the next day. So about the middle of that night, he returns to the rock. A full moon is shining down from a clear sky onto rising and twisting mist. Soon he sees his wife's figure. And in his head he hears her voice ...

[She cocks his head. She can hear the lapping of the water and what sounds like an early morning birdcall. Off in the darkness behind the girl, the audience should see white 'mist' moving in or at the edge of the darkness. Two or three people wearing black are whirling white veils around. If the veils are on poles, the veils can be manipulated to resemble rising mist]

 

That's how he hears her voice. [The noises meld into what sounds like the distant murmuring of a woman's light melodic voice.]

 

Yes, sir, just like that! [She looks at the bone, studies it for a few seconds, shrugs, then tosses it into the audience. Slides hands in pockets and wanders off stage searching the ground as she leaves. A couple, in shadow, move in the darkness behind the light, but NOT in the light. ]


Transition

 

C                    Ghosts don't scare me.

 

G                   No?

 

C                    Nah, they're just a silly idea. Dead people can't walk around and make mists.

 

G                   Not even THAT ONE, RIGHT BEHIND YOU?

 

C [jumps into GRANDPERSON's lap, then pounds him/her on the shoulder] That's not fair, scaring me like that.

 

G                   Fair has nothin' to do with it. It's just old codger-type fun with impressionable little kids.

 

C                    What happened  to Lewis Lake, grandma?

 

G                   Now it's Eagle's Mere Lake.

 

C                    Oh, right! But how did its name get changed?

 

G                   Judge Jones bought most of George Lewis's land in the 1840s, remember? "Mere" means lake, so Judge Jones or somebody started calling the lake a mere. And eagles are good, our national bird.

 

C                    What happened after that in Eagles Mere?

 

G                   First off, not much. Judge Jones tried getting the glass factory working again, but that didn't last. Later, people started coming up from around Muncy and then from farther away, like Philadelphia, to stay on the lake. About 1890 or so it turned into a tourist resort, a place for fancy vacations. They ended up with seven big hotels in Eagles Mere. A railroad would take people up from Sonestown. It was slow and unsteady, that line, but when you're on vacation, that can be a good thing.

 

Now pay attention, we're going back to the Fairchild Tavern in Cherry Hill. And that one commissioner is having trouble with drink. Don't you get into it like him.


Scene 6: Fairchild Tavern

A few hours after Scene 2. All but WILLIAM of the Laporte party have retired. He sits alone at a table to the rear. The two commissions are slouching at their original table.

 

IRISH           Wha' time ist?

 

BROADHEAD        I don't know. I have no watch.


IRISH           Why not?

 

BROADHEAD        Watch not, want not.

 

IRISH           Tha' don't make no sense.

 

BROADHEAD        What doesn't?

 

IRISH           Wha'ever you just ...said.

 

WILLIAM     Lord, look at those two. We'll be lucky they don't set the seat in Virginia.

 

BROADHEAD        Mrs. Fairchild! Could you refill our flagons, please?

 

MS F             Naught would give me greater pleasure, sir. Here, a full measure, and for your enjoyment, a bit on the side as our courtesy. [fills his glass and places the bucket between them]

 

IRISH           Think we should make our 'cison now, right here. Why wait for Wildes-Burrow?

 

BROADHEAD        We said we would all three meet there. But, I suppose, we could change our plans.

 

WILLIAM     You can't just decide here by yourselves without the third party. That's no way right.

 

IRISH           Can. Cuz here's where we are. Where you think we are? Somewheres else? That'ud be funny. "We're not here, we're somewheres else." [giggles into his ale, splashing it on the table]

 

WILLIAM [taking a seat and leaning close]

Listen, now. My brother Michael's put over $13,000 dollars into building and making the roads. If you go and change the country seat, somebody will have to pay that back. Most likely the county or the state. How will that look, the state owing money like that because you decide on some other place?

 

BROADHEAD

No, that would not look good. No.

 

WILLIAM

So then –

 

MS F [interrupting, talking to WILLIAM]      You, sir, are annoying my customers. These pleasant, lovely men have come such a long way to decide a question of mon-u-mental significance – entirely on its merits, didn't you say? [strokes BROADHEAD's hair]

 

IRISH           Indubidub...indiba...definitely.

 

WILLIAM     I'm as much a customer as them.

 

IRISH           So why ain't you drunk?

 

WILLIAM     Maybe my constitution is stiffer than yours.

 

IRISH           Constitution.... [starts giggling uncontrollably and slipping off his chair] Zis man made a declaration 'bout his constitution.

 

WILLIAM [fuming]            I'm going outside for some cool air. [exits]

 

MS F [pulls up chair and sits down with COMs]  Ah, I need to rest my feet. This business keeps me on the run. I've been doing it for 30 years now, 15 since my beloved husband passed away, God rest him. Day in, day out, without recognition beyond these walls. It's near time for me to get out of all this.

 

BROADHEAD        To retire?

 

MS F             That or ...pass over, as they say. [sighs] But it would be nice to leave something good for all the fine folks in Cherry Hill when I turn in my apron.

 

BROADHEAD        You provide a marvelous atmosphere for the weary traveler. That's a noble accomplishment in itself.

 

MS F             Thank you, sir. I do me best. Tell me, did I happen to overhear that you might make your decision here and now, rather than waiting on your travel to Wilkes-Barre?

 

IRISH           'smore approp, apprup, more right to make it here, don't you think, on the home ground, soda speak.

 

MS F             Very wise, exceeding wise, I'd say. [she makes a signal behind her chair toward the door and a group of "TRAVELERS" bursts in, laughing and jolly]

 

T3                  Hap-py New Year!

 

MS F [rising]          Ain't we a bit early?

 

T1

It's New Year's for us, a whole new beginning.

 

MS F             And how is that?

 

T2                  Because we hear the county seat will sit right here, on the grand turnpike, where we can most easily travel to enjoy the hospitality of your inn and the surrounding commercial inhabitations which will, no doubt, spring up in its near vicinity.

 

MS F [feigning horror]    Hush now, boys, no such thing has been decided. These two fine men are still in the process of ...contemplating.

 

T1                  While they contemplate, let us have ale.

 

T3 and T2    Ale, ale, ale!

 

MS F             What ale's you all? [general laughter as she brings out another bucket and mugs]

 

T2 [aside]    What ails me? Having that woman pull me out of my bed to do her bidding here, that's what.

 

BROADHEAD        We should wait to hook up with Jessup in Wilkes-Barre, as planned. Elsewise, we neglect our duty.

 

IRISH           Dooooody, doodly, doodly dooooody. [loudly] We need another zong!

 

 [the TRAVELERS begin "I'm a Rambler and a Gambler" and the COMs join in for a verse or two,]

 

I'm a rambler and a gambler

I'm a long ways from home

And if you don't like me why leave me alone

I'll eat when I'm hungry

I'll drink when I'm dry

If the moonshine don't kill me I'll live til I die.

 

Oh moonshine dear moonshine

Oh how I love thee

You killed me old father

And now you try me

Now bless all moonshiners

And bless all moonshine

Their breath smells as sweet

As the dew on the vine.

 

 

WILLIAM [Coming in to see what the noise is about] Sounds like everybody's having fun. Enough to wake the dead.

 

MS F             But not your friends upstairs, it seems.

 

WILLIAM     I'll see they awake, if it's necessary. [goes back to his table]

 

MS F             Oh, I do hope you can decide soon. I'm an aging woman and if I could but leave a legacy, something to pass on.... [weeps crocodile tears]

 

BROADHEAD [reaches across table to pat her hand] Now, now, my dear, don't be so down.

 

MS F            I sooo much want this little town to have recognition. You can't imagine, after all these years of labor, how it grieves me to see some upstart hole-in-the-woods named to supplant us.

 

WILLIAM     Listen to the blasted woman!

 

T2                  We're listening and we cheer her on. [with other TRAVELERS] Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah!

 

MS F [gestures to "travelers"] Look how this accommodation brings travelers from afar. [TRAVELERS snicker] See how hardy the life is alongside the turnpike? To place the county seat here would be a lasting monument to my humble efforts once I'm gone. [more weeping]

 

WILLIAM     I must wake Michael. This bodes disaster. [rushes for stairway]

 

BROADHEAD [to himself]        My duty and my emotions collide. I don't know what to do.

 

IRISH           I feel ill.

 

MS F             You should venture outside in the cool air, like that other gentleman did. Let us all go.

 

BROADHEAD                   My good woman, I ...I wish I knew how to make this work out for everyone.

 

MS F [to herself]   There are ways. [aloud] Come, join me for the salubrious effects of the night air.

 

[TRAVELERS follow with lantern or lamp, MS F picks up an ax and stake placed next to the door. They exit and MEYLERT, THOMAS and WILLIAM enter from the stairs]

 

WILLIAM     Where have they all gone? I don't like this.

 

MEYLERT   I'm groggy. What is going on?

 

WILLIAM     She's working on them to put the seat here in Cherry Hill.

 

MEYLERT   We've already told them it would cost the county dearly. How can they even consider such a thing? Let's sit here and work out what we must say when they return.

 

[ALL sit at a table, heads together. Sudden sound of hammering]

 

THOMAS     What's that racket?

 

WILLIAM     It's outside. What are they up to?

 

 [COMs, TRAVELERS and MS F burst in whooping]

 

T3                  It's settled. Grand, grand!

 

THOMAS [jumping up]   No!

 

BROADHEAD        Yes. The seat will be at Cherry Hill. We have concluded so and set the stake, and we will hear no more about it.

 

MEYLERT   The devil you won't. This decision is illegal.

 

IRISH           Ill eagles, 'nother animal. Jus' need more ale, then you'll see the light.

 

MEYLERT   You've not seen the last of this. We will carry on the fight as long as it takes.

 

MS F             Contentious lot, ain't they?


Scene 7: Present Time

 

Child and grandma hold discussion against low sounds of party in next room which gets louder toward the end

 

C [circling around stage, kicking at things] Wait, the second com...comm...

 

G                   Commission.

 

C                    The second one made it so Laporte wouldn't be the county seat. But the sign says it is.

 

G                   It is. You see, there was yet a third commission the state sent in – three more fellahs – who put it back at Laporte. And that settled it.

 

C                    Why did they put it back again?

 

G                   Because they said the second commission hadn't all decided together at one time, as we were hearing. But mostly it was that if they changed it to Cherry Hill, they'd have to pay all that money, that $13,000 that was spent on building Laporte, back to Mr. Meylert.

 

C                    Is $13,000 a lot of money?

 

G                   It is to me and you, still. And back then it was a heck of a lot of money. You see, a man could be earning maybe 50 cents a day at most for hard work. So you figure that $13,000, that's 26,000 days work. So if a man worked as a laborer his whole life he'd probably not make any $13,000.

 

C                    Gosh.

 

G                   Yup, things change, some for the better, some for the worse, but I guess it more or less evens out. Say, did you know that Laporte is the smallest county seat in the state, maybe in the whole country?

 

C                    Really?

 

G                   Um hm. Didn't quite become the metropolis like Philadelphia they were thinking of back then. And most folks, the adult folks that have stayed here, probably feel that's for the good. The young folks... Well, most of them want to move away.

 

C                    Why would they, grandma? I like it here.

 

G                   There's a lot more jobs in the cities, and then there's all the things they can do in cities, the stores and movies and theaters and nightclubs.

 

C                    I can do that on the Internet.

 

G                   Well, you've got a good head on your shoulders. But there are things you can't do on the Internet. You can't find the real history of Sullivan County. To know a place, you have to live in it, talk to the neighbors, find out all the little stories and details that make up real life.

 

C                    I like hearing those stories.

 

G                   I'm glad you do. You'll get plenty of chances if you stick around. We're planning a lot more of those stories. But that's enough for now.

 

C                   One more, grandma. What happened with Caroline and Thomas? Did they get married?

 

G                   I was waiting for that one. They sure did, had children, one of them was my grandfather. So... you're the great, great grandchild of Thomas and Caroline.

 

[music gets louder]

 

C                    Oh wow, I wish I could've met them. but c'mon, grandperson, it sounds like fun in there.

 

G                   OK. Guess that last dance limbered me up a little. Seems I can still do those old-time steps. Maybe I'm not as decrepit as I thought.

 

C                    You bet, grandma. Let's show them. C'mon.

 

[Whole cast enters and dances "The Virginia Reel."][curtain call]

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Copyright 2007, Sullivan County Council on the Arts