READ FOR FREE
SCARLETT WAS BACK in her seat when the second act opened. The date now projected onto the back of the set was ‘12th April 1812’.
The actors playing Simeon Perkins and Elizabeth sat very still, waiting until the date disappeared. The actor playing Perkins had been made to lose weight by shedding a heavy undershirt, since act one, and he looked even paler and sicklier. Elizabeth was rubbing his leg, once again using the rum.
Perkins complained, “One of my front teeth has been loose for some time, I took it out this morning.” He opened his mouth for her to see.
Elizabeth got up, took a look and poked at another tooth. It was obviously blackened, even to the audience. “It looks like you’ve got another making its way to the same end. If it’s giving you pain I can give you a shot in your coffee?” she said, offering him some rum.
“Tempting as it is, I’ll pass.”
She moved back to rub his leg. “You know Fredrick Jones has raised his house at Mersey Point.”
“One would hope that it’s another sign of spring. I suppose we could open up the summer kitchen since the weather’s turned,” said Perkins.
“Might be a bit soon. Juba said a storm is moving is. Don’t know if you heard, but word on the dock is that several articles have washed up; butter, soap and candles at different places from here to Mahone Bay. Some ship must have broken up on the coast,” she told him. “I wouldn’t have minded getting my hands on some of that soap.”
“Likely an American vessel or we’d have heard,” Perkins grumbled.
“Speaking of things washing ashore, they found the body of Abby Cleaves. Remember it was thought that she drowned in the river last January. Seems they were right. It worked out to be true for she was taken out near the same place as she probably fell in. She was found floating with all her clothes on and wasn’t much disfigured.”
“Death and dying,” Perkins said, coughing and rubbing his rheumy eyes.
“Maybe those bastard births are the good Lord’s way of balancing out the dying population,” she said and laughter came from the audience.
“How many more will die if we’re facing a war? I dearly wish there was a way to re-establish the Kings Orange Rangers. I knew it was a mistake to disband them after the War. Some fool must have had the notion that it was the war to end all wars.”
At that moment a theatre attendant entered with two late-comers. Her flashlight shone down the aisle and sounds could he heard as the audience turned in their seats to see who would dare to enter during the play.
When all was quiet Elizabeth continued, “Two of the Horton children drowned today in the mill pond. They were playing on a log with one end resting on the shore. Ella heard that the boy fell into the water first, and the girl walked on the log to save him and fell in too. The children are to be buried tomorrow, both in one coffin.”
“More burying,” Perkins said. The actor’s voice, perhaps a little over the top, filled with grief. “Since you hear so much, have you heard anything about any Americans setting ashore? I feel it in my bones that they’re up to something.”
Elizabeth added quickly. “It’s probably your rheumatics again.”
Two children chased each other across the stage, from the counting room and out through the sitting room. Perkins jumped as they slammed the door.
He waved her comment away and said, “They got us all nervous.”
“If it’ll make you feel better I’ll listen up for any news.”
“What does John Shirreffs say about it all? Have you seen him lately?” She had to lean forward to hear what he said as his throat was so hoarse.
“It seems he doesn’t like it any more than the rest of us,” Elizabeth said before leaving the stage.
Perkins coughed blood into his handkerchief. He looked at it curiously, as if it had once belonged to someone else. After the coughing passed he moved to his desk. He was writing in his journals when his son Simeon Perkins Jr. arrived. They looked so much alike that it was uncanny. Scarlett’s heart missed a beat for she could not have cast them better. Plus, in all fairness, Heather had done a fabulous job on David’s hair and make-up.
“Have you sent out for Doc Winters? Your cough has worsened,” young Simeon asked.
“He was here yesterday and he left me a crutch,” Perkins pointed to the unused crutch that was lying against the wall. “As if that will cure me?” he said. After a pause he added, “Christian Fodder finally settled his account. I gave him a receipt in full. His rent was twenty one pounds. He made complaints and pleaded poverty, and because I hate litigation I was persuaded to settle for a small part of what he owed.”
“I’ve got the auction planned for next week, for the goods that had to be seized at Mr. Fraser’s store,” said Simeon Junior.
“We could use some salt if he’s got it. We’re short on cash but Roger is preparing to go down to Halifax. He’ll carry rye flour along with most of the tobacco that I bought at auction. Hopefully he can unload it all. He was to Shelburne last week, meeting some fellow and mentioned the other day that he ought to go back to Connecticut to see family. He’s always out and one never knows who’s minding the store.”
“Mr. Holmes loaned me his copy of the Halifax Journal.” Simeon Jr. said. “There are reports that a war with France is expected.”
“It’s not the French that worry me. It’s those Americans. Mighty strange how I don’t feel as though I’m one of them anymore.”
“Yes, that’s what it’s come to.” Both paused gazing out of the window as if the enemy would arrive at any minute. Sound effects of artillery noise could be heard. Both men squirmed in their seats.
“It makes me restless, their blasting away,” Perkins said.
Young Perkins nodded in reply, “I understand an American sloop from Boston has put in here, in distress. Word is that she has much damage to the sails, and has lost her best anchor. She set down at the mouth of the river. I saw her when I came up to see you and she’s certainly flying an American flag.”
“It must be the one that came in on Monday night. Spies, they’re all spies. Last week a schooner arrived in Shelburne, from Newbury. It was said to be in distress. Roger told me he was talking to the captain though he didn’t say what they had discussed. The brigantine, Betsey of Boston, was in distress too and anchored in Lunenberg Harbour.”
“Did you hear…there’s a gentleman, a Mr. Clopper, arrived by way of the Desire and has put himself up at Mrs. Crane’s Boarding House.
“What’s he about?”
“Seems he set in here after a spell of misfortunes.”
“They’re all crying…if not distress then it’s misfortunes, but I suspect that they’re all spies. Keep an eye. Distress and misfortunes indeed.”
“He must be known around here for he had five or six men up to his room yesterday. Not sure who they were but I heard that our Roger was one of them.”
“I might ask him about that,” Perkins said.
“The military was firing off shots as I walked over. The men are still on parade, even in this wet. Must be bloody disagreeable to the men. I wonder if they know something that we don’t know?” young Simeon asked.
“Probably so,” Perkins said. “I’ll check it out. I got my own spies.”
“Well I’ll be on my way,” Simeon said as Juba entered the room. Juba shuffled his feet back and forth, clearly anxious for young Simeon to leave.
The moment that Simeon Jr. closed the door Perkins ordered with a growl, “Don’t just bounce around. Spit it out.”
“You was right, Master Perkins. They put a man ashore last week in Shelburne. A fancy man. Heard he hitched up with our Roger for a ride down from Shelburne. I seen him and Roger going up and visitin’ with that Mr. Clopper over at Mrs. Crane’s boarding house.”
“I suspected it would come to this. It’s not the first I heard that Roger has been spending time with that Clopper.”
“I heard the same. If you like I can get Miss Daisy to hang her ear at his door over at Mrs. Crane’s.”
“Miss Daisy?” Perkins asked.
“She’s my wife. She works there. We jumped the rope last month,” Juba said, making a little hop. The audience liked that and they giggled.
“Wouldn’t hurt,” Perkins said with worry in his voice.
“I’ll get on over there now.” Juba said then rushed off the stage.
Perkins sat back in his chair and nodded off. Young Roger Perkins entered the stage and seeing that his father was asleep he moved directly to his desk and began reading through Perkins’ personal journals, turning a number of pages. When he heard Perkins beginning to wake, he quickly moved away from the desk and sat without speaking. He waited for his father to fall asleep again before slinking out the door unnoticed.
A moment later Elizabeth entered the stage, carrying a baby. At the sound of her footsteps Perkins appeared to have woken, startled. “I’ll stoke the fire. The warmth will do you good,” she said, tossing a log on the fire continuing to talk while rocking the baby. She looked down at the child that she held and said, “I heard Marjorie Yewel has delivered a still born son.” When he remained silent she continued, “And our young cow is missing. Sampson fears she’s wandered off and got in the mire.”
“More dying.” Perkins said followed by a fit of coughing, leaving blood stains on his handkerchief. “Who’s young one you got there now?” he asked, indicating the child in her arms with a wave of his hand.
“Roger’s little Sarah,” she said. “And speaking of children, Doc Winters examined little Pauline French’s stomach the other day and put on a strengthening plaster.”
“I wish that was all I had to face,” Perkins admitted as Samson entered to stoke up the fire.
Perkins asked him, “Juba back?” He was clearly anxious for Juba’s return.
“No Master, he should be back soon,” Samson said. After tossing a few logs on the fire he turned and left the stage.
Three other children came back onto the stage and sat at the game. They played quietly.
Elizabeth said, “Sunday school goes on very well. Last month there were twenty, now we have twenty six scholars registered.”
“Hallelujah. That makes a change from all the dying.” Captain Scovell’s knock at the door disturbed their conversation. Elizabeth crossed the stage to open it.
“Good morning Captain Scovell. Come on in.”
Scovell said to Perkins, “They’re fixing the Raven for the mackerel voyage. They’ve packed up twenty one holds. One bushel of salt to twenty quintal. Now we’re running short on salt.”
Perkins shook his head disappointedly. “Seems we’re always short on salt.”
“Fiddick also took sick.”
“Will it slow up the repairs?”
He shook his head and said, “Nope. We got the sails repaired and they’re just fixing the batten pockets. I heard that the Headley’s must be planning something. They were in Harlow’s General Store and were stocking up on flour, sugar, molasses, beans and coffee. A full wagon load.”
“I thought they were pleading poverty,” Perkins commented. “That sounds suspicious to me. It’s not like they entertain. They still have an outstanding debt with us that Roger says he’s been trying to collect. If that’s true then I’ll take a loss there as well.”
“Don’t they all plead poverty? I could do the same. Have you heard they had a special session to try Jason Howe for that theft? Fool that he is thought no one would know he took Mrs. Dixon’s best milk cow. He was convicted and received thirty stripes.”
“I would have liked to have attended that,” Perkins said and added, “The trial not the whipping.” The audience laughed. Perkins tried to stand when Scovell departed. Unable to get up he dropped heavily into the chair. His face was wet with sweat and he was shaking when Elizabeth entered the stage. Perkins turned and looked towards his journals clearly wondering if he had the energy to bother writing down the latest news. His cough had worsened. Further traces of blood were left on his handkerchief.
“Sit a while Elizabeth,” he said in a weak voice.
She wrapped the blanket closer around him, saying “Captain Pollard departed his life this morning.”
“Won’t be any folks left in Liverpool at this rate.”
At this point a totally anachronistic police siren wailed outside, slightly spoiling the mood in the theatre. Elizabeth paused, waiting for it to die away.
“Mr. Hoover has sent over his copy of the Halifax Journal for you,” Elizabeth tried to cheer him.
“I’m too tired even to care. Last year I completed my seventy seventh year and I wonder sometimes if I’ll enter my seventy eighth.”
“Don’t you be talking that foolish talk now…just lie back. It always beats me how one who sweats like you can be so cold. The Scotsman, Vernon Campbell, was drowned in his Mill Pond Saturday night.”
“Give me some good news.” Perkins said, crankily. “Or better yet, have you heard word of the Americans?”
“I knew you’d be asking. Miss Girdley was by today for tea and said that a young man, connected with the Dingle family, who knows Mr. Clopper and the Headleys, was drunk and bragging about how they were setting to take the town.”
Perkins sat up quickly. “Take the town?” he asked Elizabeth.
“She got the notion that he meant his family was settling in. Buying up land…building houses.”
“One would hope so. I wonder who’s putting up the cash for that lot, poor as they are,” He leaned back in his chair exhausted.
“Tell me again about those ships they saw in the sky,” Elizabeth asked him, in an effort to take his thoughts from his sore leg.
“Ah yes, I remember the story well. They were up on the Bay of Fundy, at sunrise. The sky was as blue as can be and it was clear as the day. As many as fifteen ships filled the air…,”Perkins smiled and waved his arm as if he was reliving the event. “And a man stood on the foredeck of the lead ship with his hand stretched out. They had some discourse with him, though none of the witnesses could recall the words when later asked. I guess it was quite moving, a sight to behold. I would have liked to have been there, though there’s still no proof of it being real.”
“True or not it’s a good story to be told. A boat arrived from Shelburne at daybreak. Two officers came in and said to be after deserters.”
“I suspect they’re looking for spies. I just know them to be here. Sure wished we had the Kings Orange Rangers back here in town. If not for this leg I’d be out scouting for traitors myself. I’d winkle them out. Try as I might I can’t persuade the men of Liverpool to give support to the British side. They stand up and swear allegiance, then behind my back they don’t want to enroll in the militia.” Perkins shook his head and got up to sit at his desk. “There is just too much happening to get it all recorded,” Perkins said, frustrated. “Sometimes I wonder why I even bother. It’s more likely that all my years of noting things down will just end up in the fire anyway. ” Perkins shook his head sadly and whispers could be heard throughout the audience, for they all knew that Perkins’ Diaries were the most notable written documents in the history of Liverpool.
Elizabeth said, “Come and sit back by the fire,” and he sat back down. She wrapped the wool blanket around him again and stoked the fire.
Simeon Perkins Jr. entered the stage and said, “I just got word that the Sergeant Major reported three deserters from the 16th Regiment.”
“I wonder if there’s a way of increasing our light infantry. I’m worried about the Americans laying a surprise attack and we won’t be prepared.”
“We could get ahold of the light infantry platoon down in Halifax and see if they can spare anyone. But I suppose it would take them more than a month to get up here.”
“I’m afraid we don’t have that kind of time. Did you hear that the Headleys were buying up goods from Harlow’s General? I thought that they always bought from us.”
“They still have an outstanding debt of fourteen pounds with us. Roger wanted to extend their credit but I didn’t think that we should.”
“That’s the way, isn’t it? I might have a word with young Roger about his generosity. We’ll likely never see a penny of that money.”
Young Simeon got up to leave as Perkins nodded off. Simeon left the stage and Elizabeth moved to sit next to her husband by the fire and took up her knitting.
Perkins woke with a start. Elizabeth began talking of local news as if he hadn’t nodded off. “That lightning last evening caused John Powell some problems.”
“It’s too early for lightning but who can dispute the providence of God in all this?” Perkins surprised her by saying. “Weather’s changing; last winter was the coldest on record. Likely the cause of my illness. I can hardly bear it any longer. I think I might get Doc Winters to come by and do a bleeding,” Perkins said, deciding it was time.
“I’ll send Juba.” Elizabeth stood.
“I’ve been waiting for Juba to return. Send him to me when he’s in. Get Samson to get the Doc.”
Elizabeth left the stage and Perkins nodded off. Juba entered immediately, shuffling his feet nervously as if trying out a new jig, afraid to disturb Perkins.
“Got news?” Perkins asked when he woke and saw Juba bouncing around.
At that moment a cell phone rang in the fourth row of the audience, tinkling out gaily ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’. There were ‘shushs’ and ‘be quiets’ coming from all around the theatre. The actor playing Juba looked pained and waited for the disturbance to stop before continuing.
“Master Perkins, they are movin’ in. Seven ships are to anchor at the Ovens. Two at LaHave Islands, four gone tucked into St Margaret’s Bay and five at Port Joli Harbour.”
“I knew in my bones that the Americans were coming and the doc said it was rheumatism! All we can hope for is a quick peace. Every one of us has family in New England and there’s hardly a Nova Scotian who doesn’t feel the same way as I do,” Perkins said. At that moment the Doc knocked at the door.
Doc Winters entered the stage to perform the treatment as Juba left. He lay out the scalpel blade on the table, preparing to do the bleeding. He then lit a candle and held the blade over it. The light glinted ominously.
The lights on stage dimmed and went out as Act II ended to brisk applause.
END OF CHAPTER FIVE
“Linda has published fifteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish.”