A SOLITARY WITNESS
by D. M. Larson
BEDROOM. DAY. 1826.
This year is 1826. Adult Patsy Jefferson enters a bedroom.
The bed and furniture is covered and dusty. We hear Young Patsy's voice.
"He kept his room for three weeks and I was never a moment
from his side. He walked almost incessantly every night and day only
lying down occasionally... when at last he left his room he rode out and from
that time he was incessantly on horseback rambling about the mountain... in
those melancholy rambles I was his constant companion, a solitary witness to
many a violent burst of grief."
Adult Patsy sits on a bed sadly and looks at an end table
next to the bed. She opens the drawer. Inside she finds a piece of
paper and a lock of hair. She reads the paper silently and tries not to
cry. Then she reads aloud.
"Time wastes too fast: every
letter I trace tells me with what rapidity life follows my pen. The days
and hours are flying over our heads like clouds of windy day never to return -
Adult Patsy pauses and struggles to avoid crying.
Lights fade to black.
BEDROOM. DAY. APRIL 1782
The year is 1782. It is the same room but many years
earlier. The bed and furniture are uncovered. Martha Jefferson is
at the window watching something.
Patsy come here.
Young Patsy runs to the window.
What is it mother?
Look at your father showing off.
Look how the deer eat right of his hand.
If only he could get the House of Delegates in Richmond to do
Is Papa going to Richmond soon?
I... I don't know...
Martha gets up and is very pregnant. She struggles. Patsy
helps her to the bed.
Are you not feeling well?
I'm worried about the baby.
You should rest. Would you like me to bring you some
That would be lovely, Patsy. You are such a good
The baby will be fine, Mama. Don't worry.
Thomas Jefferson enters. Patsy hugs him.
You act like I've been gone forever.
You've not gone at all.
I can't, Martha. The baby...
You BOTH need to stop worrying.
Who was that outside with you?
That was a messenger from Richmond.
I thought as much.
The House of Delegates wishes their Governor to return.
Perhaps the Governor should do so.
But the Governor... nor the baby, wish it to be so.
Nor his daughter.
Nor his wife.
I believe the House of Delegates is over-ruled.
Martha is looking in pain. Thomas strokes her hair.
I will go get the flowers... and some raspberries... you love
I do crave them yes. Thank you, Patsy.
Patsy goes to the exit and pauses to look. Martha shows
even more pain and Thomas holds her.
It hurts so badly, Thomas. Worse than all the other children.
Shhh... rest now, Martha. I will stay here with you.
Lights fade to black as Patsy slowly turns to go.
BEDROOM. DAY. MAY 1782
In darkness, a baby crying is heard.
AUNT CARR (VOICE)
It's a girl.
Lights come up on Martha in bed with Thomas at her
side. Martha is very ill and Thomas looks like he hasn't slept or
bathed. Aunt Carr is near.
Thomas. You need to rest. I can watch Martha and the baby.
Go tend to the baby. I will stay with Martha.
Patsy enters with her little sister Polly.
Why can't mama play?!
She's sick, Polly. Quiet.
I wanna play now!
Go to your room!
Polly runs off crying. Aunt Carr goes to Patsy.
I'll talk to her.
Aunt Carr exits.
Shhh... she is asleep.
I can sit with her papa.
I can't... I can't leave her...
He buries his face in his hands. Patsy hugs him.
BEDROOM. DAY. JULY 1782.
Martha is awake but still in bed. Thomas is giving her
Patsy enters with a booklet.
Good morning, Papa. Good morning, Mama. Happy 4th
Aunt Carr enters with baby and Polly.
Is it the 4th?
Yes. Shall we read the Declaration of Independence over
I don't know...
But we always do, Papa. I can recite it I think... "When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary..."
Not this year, Patsy.
Patsy is much more subdued.
I will get the Bible.
She gets the Bible for Thomas. He opens it and pages
through until he finds the right Psalm (15).
"...who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart..."
Polly is at the window.
Someone is here.
Aunt Carr and Patsy go to the window.
It's the messenger from Richmond.
Thomas closes the Bible in frustration and goes. Patsy
goes to Martha.
What do they want mama?
I don't know.
No! No, you may not enter.
Messenger bursts in to the room. He stops when the
family is startled. Martha has a coughing fit. Baby starts crying.
Leave at once.
I'm sorry, Governor, but I was told to find proof of the
story of your wife's illness... or arrest you.
Richmond is in chaos without you, Governor Jefferson.
The delegates are divided on everything. Even your loyal followers are
doubting you. They are calling for your arrest. They want to force
you to serve.
In a quiet rage, Thomas grabs the messenger.
I will not leave my wife's side while she is so ill.
Messenger looks at Martha and softens.
Yes, Governor. I know.
Thomas lets go but his fists clench ready for a fight.
Messenger leaves. Martha
coughs. Thomas rushes to her.
Her medicine... hurry.
Patsy rushes from the room as the lights fade to black.
BEDROOM. DAY. AUGUST 1782
Martha weakly copies on to a piece of paper while Thomas
holds a book. Patsy enters but stops and watches.
"Time wastes too fast: every letter I trace tells me with what rapidity life follows my pen. The days and hours are flying over our heads like clouds of windy day never to return - more everything presses on -"
Martha drops the pen and coughs. Thomas gets her
medicine. She drinks some water and calms.
Finish for me.
Thomas takes the paper and book and copies.
"...and every time I kiss thy hand to bid adieu, every absence which follows it, are preludes to that eternal separation which we are shortly to make."
I want you to keep that, Thomas. With a lock of my hair... to
I will never forget, Martha.
Martha's eyes close.
I promise you, I will never forget... and I will never marry
Thomas starts to cry. He falls to his knees at the
bedside and falls in to a ball Patsy goes to him and holds him. Adult Patsy
enters watching as lights slowly fade to black during the following.
"He kept his room for three weeks and I was never a moment from his side... I was his constant companion, a solitary witness to many a violent burst of grief."
"Patsy Jefferson's Diary" by Miriam Anne Bourne
"Founding Mothers" by Cokie Roberts
"Thomas Jefferson" PBS HOME VIDEO
"Liberty! The American Revolution" PBS DVD VIDEO
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