Pictured:  Susan and Lizzie arrive and gaze at their husbands (rehearsal photo)

This scene takes place the day of Robert’s execution. It doesn’t exist in the Play4Keeps version. It was written during the developmental workshop at Theatre 33.

 

Scene 11

SETTING: June 3, 1892. Morning. BEN’s office, ROBERT’s

jail cell, unlocked, door open.

AT RISE: BEN is alone, at his desk, re-checking calculations.

ROBERT is sleeping.

 

BEN

Height five-foot-ten inches. Weight one hundred forty-five pounds.

(Writes it down. Consults notes.)

First trap test with sandbag: successful. Second test: successful.

(Writes. Continues re-checking calculations. He’s exhausted.)

SUSAN enters, watches him at work. At the same time, LIZZIE enters with Robert’s suit, gazes at her sleeping husband.

Length of drop six feet, three and one-half inches.

If the rope is too short, he’ll slowly strangle. Too long, he’ll be decapitated.

Just right, the neck is snapped, and he’ll be unconscious.

(Ben becomes aware of Susan, and Robert of Lizzie.)

Susan! I didn’t expect you to come into town for this.

SUSAN

Not for this. For you.

(Both couples embrace. Susan takes a good look at Ben. Lizzie begins dressing Robert.)

Oh, Ben, One week sleeping in the courthouse, and look at yourself.

BEN

Do I want to?

SUSAN

No. Oh, your poor eyes. You’ve been reading too much.

BEN

I have to get it right.

SUSAN

I know. Who’s with him?

BEN

We’re giving Day some private time with his wife.

SUSAN

Poor woman, I don’t know how she holds herself together. Come here. Let me tidy you up.

During the dialogue, she takes a clothes brush, brushes his shoulders, then his hat. With her handkerchief she polishes his star. She folds the hanky and tucks into his breast pocket.

BEN

No one cares what I look like.

SUSAN

I do.

BEN

What’s it like outside?

SUSAN

People are spreading quilts on the grass. I wouldn’t be surprised if they served strawberry shortcake and lemonade.

They look out the window.

BEN

They don’t know him at all.

(brief silence)

He was the same age as our Frank when he went to war.

SUSAN

Fifteen? … Oh darling.

BEN

Can you imagine if our Frankie had to kill two of his friends for desertion?

They imagine it.

SUSAN

Has he spoken with Father Kearns?

BEN

Yes.

SUSAN

What about you?

BEN

I’m a creature of the law. But I’m also a man of peace.

(returns to his calculations)

He won’t suffer. No pain. No torture. No cruelty.

SUSAN

Shhhh. Lay your head on my shoulder and rest your eyes.

He does so. They hold each other.

Lizzie emerges from cell, pulling Robert by the hand. He’s partially dressed in his suit.

LIZZIE

I need to see you in the light.

Robert stands in the light. During the dialogue, Lizzie helps him on with his suit coat and tie. She brushes the shoulders with her hands.

LIZZIE

Look at you. One would think you just come in out a’ the woods. Let me make you fit to be seen.

ROBERT

Good thing I’ve got you to slick me up proper.

LIZZIE

Oh Robert.

ROBERT

Shh. Be brave, now.

LIZZIE

You look just like you did on our wedding day.

ROBERT

When I said, “I take thee, Elizabeth Augusta Petty, to be my lawful wedded wife.”

LIZZIE

For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer …

ROBERT

To love, honor and cherish, till death us do part.

And I’d do it all over again.

They kiss.

LIZZIE

(She opens her handbag and takes out a drawing)

This is from Hattie. For you.

ROBERT

Our little girl drew this?

LIZZIE

She’s gotten real good.

ROBERT

This looks exactly like us. That’s me, and you, and Will, Dex, Walter, Hattie, and little Frisco. Oh, Lizzie. This means the world to me.

(They hold each other.)

I’d almost forgotten how good your hair smells.

LIZZIE

I’m scared. My heart’s breaking. I got so many things I want to say but I’m …

ROBERT

Shh. Don’t be scared. I ain’t. This is my time to go, and the Lord is waitin’ for me.

Lizzie takes two embroidered handkerchiefs out of her handbag. Dries his tears with one.

LIZZIE

This hanky’s from me, and this one’s from Hattie.

Robert takes them. Uses one to dry Lizzie’s tears.

ROBERT

They work real good. If there’s tears in heaven, I’m taken care of.

LIZZIE

(willing herself not to cry)

You had best save us a place up there.

ROBERT

Yes ma’am.

LIZZIE

Now sit down and hold me until they take you away.

They sit and hold each other.

(END OF SCENE)

 

One thought on “Act 2, sc. 11: The Harder Courage

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