Norma Heller Plays

Elizabeth and Janie



 Elizabeth enters kitchen carrying school books which she sets on a chair.  She picks up rag doll. She has a surprised expression on her face. She bounces the rag doll as she sings.

Elizabeth:  “I like to dance.  I like to dance.  I like to sing and dance and dance.”

The closet door slowly opens a crack, but Elizabeth does not notice.

Elizabeth:  “So who have we here?” (speaking to the doll) “Where did thee come from,
little rag-a-muffin?”

Janie:  (speaking from the closet through the crack in the door) “Alabama, Miss.”

Elizabeth looks around the room, confused.

Elizabeth:  “All the way from Alabama?”

Elizabeth begins to follow the voice from the closet, slowly and silently crossing the floor to the closet door.

Janie:  “Yes, Miss.”

Elizabeth:  “And, how did thee get to Pennsylvania?”

Janie:  “She came with me.”

Elizabeth opens the closet door, sees Janie and slams the door shut.

Elizabeth:  “Mother! There’s a slave girl in our closet!”

Constance rushes into the roomJanie opens the door a crack again.

Constance:  “Elizabeth, keep thy voice down!”

Elizabeth:  “Why?”

Constance:  “We are hiding Janie from the authorities!”

Elizabeth:  “How curious!  Is she a criminal?”  (lowering voice)  “Did she murder

Janie covers her mouth to silence her laughter.



Constance:  “Elizabeth Carrington, do not be ridiculous!  Janie is not a criminal of any
sort.  She ran away from the cruelty of her master, and she is on her way to
Canada.  Come out, Janie, and stand here beside me where thee cannot be
seen from the window.”

Janie emerges from the closet.

Elizabeth:  “But, we’ve never hidden a runaway slave before.  I thought people like Mrs.
Higgins did that sort of thing.”

Constance:  “Martha Higgins has helped protect more than fifty slaves.  However, a
a militia from Maryland searched her barn yesterday and discovered the trap
door that leads to the slave cellar.  Those men have staked our her property,
so it’s no longer safe for runaways to hide there.  Now, please don’t be rude
to our guest.  Janie, this is my daughter, Elizabeth.”

Janie:  “Hello.”

Elizabeth:  “Hello, Janie.  I’m sorry to seem rude, but I don’t remember ever seeing a
slave in our house before, and definitely not one in the closet.”

Janie:  “It’s all right.  I’ve had to hide in much worse places.”

Elizabeth:  “But, Mother, I don’t understand.  Why wasn’t Mrs. Higgins’ barn searched
years ago?  Many people knew she hid slaves.”

Constance:  “That was before the Dred Scott Decision.”

Elizabeth:  “The what?”

Constance:  “The Supreme Court has decided slaves are not citizens of the United States. 
Slaves are property and have no rights.  Before the Dred Scott Decision, it  
was widely assumed that slaves who escaped to free states were in little
jeopardy.  Now, a pro-slave militia can hunt down slaves and return them
to their owners.  And it does not help that we live so close to the Maryland

Elizabeth:  “Isn’t Maryland a free state?”

Constance:  “Not really.  It’s still legal to own slaves in Maryland, and the people are
deeply divided. So, as long as we are dealing with this Dred Scott business,
we Pennsylvanians must step up and do what we can.”

Elizabeth:  “But, we don’t even have a slave cellar!”



Constance:  “I’m aware of that, Elizabeth.  And being situated in the center of Lewisville
makes us even more vulnerable.  But, good Quakers do their best. Now,
take Janie upstairs to thy room and find her a suitable dress.  Hers is badly
worn and soiled. Come, Janie, quickly follow Elizabeth.”

Elizabeth and Janie quickly exit.


Janie is trying to unfasten the back of her dress.

Janie:  “I always have trouble with this bottom button.”

Elizabeth searches through her closet.

Elizabeth:  “Give me a moment to find a dress to fit thee, and then I will help.  I outgrew  
this one some time ago.  It might be small enough.”

Elizabeth unbuttons Janie’s dress, looks horrified, and then dashes to the bedroom doorway.

Elizabeth:  “Mother! Mother!”

Constance:  “Elizabeth, keep thy voice down!”

Elizabeth:  “Janie has small pox!”

Constance rushes into the room.

Constance:  “What did thee say?”

Elizabeth:  “She has an unusual lump on her back!”

Constance examines Janie’s back.

Constance:  “Elizabeth Carrington, thy imagination will get the better of thee one of these
days.  That lump looks nothing like small pox.”

Elizabeth:  “Well, I’ve never seen small pox.”

Constance:  “Exactly.  So, immediately, thee imagines a condition that
thee has never even seen!  Janie, dear, how did this happen?”

Janie:  “It was the day before I left Alabama.  Master McMillan said I did not pick
enough cotton, and he whipped me.”



Constance:  “That’s outrageous.  I can’t have thee heading north with these open gashes,
but I have nothing to treat them with.  I will have to go to Doctor Sanders
for salve and a proper dressing.”

Elizabeth:  “Thee would leave us alone?”

Constance:  “What choice do I have? If that was thy back, wouldn’t thee want me to do
something about it?”

Elizabeth:  “Yes, but what if the militia comes while thee is gone?”

Constance:  “Do not open the door to anyone but Tom Watson.”

Elizabeth:  “Why Tom Watson?”

Constance:  “While thy father is away, Elizabeth, I have to depend on other members of
our meeting.  Tom has agreed to drive Janie to Kennett Square in his
buckboard.  Tom is a good man and a good Quaker.  I feel confident Janie
will be safe with him.”

Elizabeth:  “Mother, I’m scared!”

Constance:  “I’m scared too, child.  And, I can only imagine that poor Janie is more
terrified than both of us put together.  We simply have to do our best. 
It’s what God calls us to do.  Keep Janie out of sight here in thy bedroom.”

Constance exits.

Janie:  “I’m so sorry, Miss.”

Elizabeth:  “Thee has no reason to be sorry.”

Janie:  “I have upset you and your mother.”

Elizabeth:  “That’s not really true.”

Janie:  “It’s not?”

Elizabeth:  “Thee has not made us afraid.  The Supreme Court has.  Our neighbors more
or less look the other way when runaway slaves pass through town. 
Everybody knows that Mrs. Higgins hides slaves in her special cellar.  She
hides them, feeds them, gives them clothing and then sends them on their
way north.  It’s not thy fault that everything has changed.  We should blame
the Supreme Court and their stupid Dred Scott Decision.  I think I shall have
to rename it ‘Dreadful Scott’.”

Janie:  (smiling) “Won’t your mother scold you for using your imagination?”


Elizabeth:  “Oh, she will definitely.  ‘Elizabeth Carrington, thy imagination will get the
best of thee one of these days.’”

Janie:  (laughing) “I doubt that she would like to hear you mocking her.”

Elizabeth:  “I agree.  My mother is a dear soul, but she does not understand that my
imagination is my best friend.  I imagine away the dullness of our lives.”

Janie:  “I don’t think you life is dull.”

Elizabeth:  “Well, it’s not always easy being a Quaker.  Most of the girls in town get to
wear the latest fashion.  They sing and dance and seem so carefree.  Mother
is always reminding me what good Quakers do, and none of it is very fun.”

Janie:  “Okay, but your house is safe and warm.  You have your own room.  You go
to school and don’t have to work in the fields.  And, your closet is full of
nice dresses.”

Elizabeth:  “Nice boring dresses.  But that reminds me that thee needs to change.  Here,
thee can dress behind this screen.”

Janie takes the dress from Elizabeth, changes behind the screen and hands Elizabeth her old dress.  Janie comes out from behind the screen in the dress Elizabeth gave her.

Elizabeth:  (frowning) “Did thy mother make this frock for thee?”

Janie: “My mother?  No.  I haven’t seen my mother since I was about four years old. 
Master sold her to a man who wanted no part of little girls, so Mama and I were
separated.  The only thing I have that Mama made me is Hannah Button.”

Elizabeth:  “Who?”

Janie:  (sadly) “My dolly.”

Elizabeth:  “Thy doll.  Oh Janie, I’ve brought up painful memories, haven’t I!  Come
now.  We’ll play a marvelous game to make thee feel better.”

Janie:  “What sort of game?”

Elizabeth:  “An imagination game, of course.  Now, thee is a great actress standing alone
on a stage in New York City.  The audience is silent awaiting thy grand
debut pretending to be my mother scolding me.”

Janie:  “I can’t do that.  I would feel silly.”

Elizabeth:  “Just begin and the silly feeling will disappear.  I do it all the time.”

Janie:  “You pretend to be your mother?”

Elizabeth:  “Heavens, no.  I much prefer Zenobia, The Warrior Queen.  But, thee should
start small.  Go ahead.  It’s fun.”

Janie:  “Elizabeth Carrington, your imagination is out of control.”

Elizabeth:  “That’s quite good.  But, Mother would never say ‘your.’  Thee must say ‘thy
imagination’ instead and then add an eye roll like this.”  (rolls eyes)

Janie:  (with exaggerated eye roll) “Elizabeth Carrington, thy imagination is out of

Elizabeth:  “Bravo, bravo, truly inspiring!”

There is a loud knock at the front door.

Elizabeth:  “Oh no!  Hopefully that’s Tom Watson.  Stay here and keep very quiet.  If it’s
Tom, I will yell to thee right away.  If I do not yell, prepare to jump out the

Janie:  “Jump out the window?”

Elizabeth:  “Thee may have to.  It could be militiamen.  The bushes beneath should break
thy fall.  Oh, Janie, God bless thee!”  (Squeezes Janie’s hand and runs  


Elizabeth:  (yelling through the door) “Who’s there?”

Fred:  “Fred Gallagher of the Elkton Militia.  Open the door!”

Elizabeth:  “So sorry.  My mother has strictly forbidden me to open the door while she is

Fred:  “Open the door or my men and I will break it down!”

Elizabeth opens the door.

Fred:  “We are searching house to house for a runaway slave girl.  My instructions are to
search every room.  Please stand aside.”

Elizabeth:  “I believe thee should wait for my mother to return.  She should be back
any moment.  It is not proper for me to open the door to a stranger.”

Fred:  “You talk like a Quaker.”

Elizabeth:  “Because I am one.”

Fred:  “That’s all the more reason for me to search this house now.  I’m not about to
wait for your mother.”

Lloyd runs into the room through the open front door.

Lloyd:  “Fred, Jenkins and I saw the silhouette of a young girl in an upstairs window.
As soon as she spotted us, she ducked down out of sight.  She’s in the
northwest room.  Jenkins is guarding the window.”

Elizabeth:  “My young cousin is so easily frightened.”

Fred:  “Fetch her down here right now!”

Elizabeth:  “As thee wishes, Friend Gallagher.  But I feel I ought to ask.  Surely thee is
not afraid of small pox?”

Fred:  “Small pox!  Did you say small pox?”

Elizabeth:  “Yes.  Our guest has an unusual lump.  That’s why my mother is not home. 
She ran straight away to the doctor as soon as the lump was discovered. 
Mother would never leave us alone if it weren’t a dire emergency.”

Fred:  “Um.  What’s your cousin’s name?”

Elizabeth:  “Mary.  Mary Carrington.”

Fred:  (writing down information) “Where is she from?”

Elizabeth:  “Columbus, Ohio.”

Fred:  “”And, her age?”

Elizabeth:  “Ten.”

Fred:  “Well, I’m not messing with small pox.  Let’s get out of here, Lloyd.  If the
captain wants the girl to be examined,  he can do it himself.”

Fred and Lloyd exit through front door.


Janie is hiding in the closet as Elizabeth enters.

Elizabeth:  “They’re gone, Janie.”

Janie emerges.


Janie:  “I was so scared, Elizabeth.  I went to the window, but there were men in your        
back yard, and I think they saw me.  I was sure they would find me and send me
back to Alabama!’

Elizabeth:  “Thee is safe, now.”

Janie:  “I could hear your voice, and you sounded so calm.  I don’t know how you did it,
but you saved me.”

Elizabeth:  “I’m good at pretending, so I pretended that thee has small pox.”

Janie:  “Will your mother be angry that you lied?”

Elizabeth:  “I haven’t decided how much to tell my mother.  I never actually lied, but
I was deceitful, I suppose.  Oh there’s the back door.  I think she’s home.”

Constance enters the room.

Constance:  “I’ve brought the salve and dressing.  Elizabeth, unfasten Janie’s dress, so I
can treat her wounds.  Hopefully, Tom will be here soon.  Dr. Sanders said
those men from Maryland are searching house to house for Janie.”

Elizabeth unfastens Janie’s dress, and Constance dresses the wounds.  Janie winces and Elizabeth takes her hand with a worried expression.  There is a soft knock at the back door.

Constance:  “That will be Tom. I’ll get the door, Elizabeth, and thee can fasten Janie’s
dress.  Then lead her down to the back door.”

Constance exits.

Janie:  “You didn’t say anything about those men.”

Elizabeth:  “Don’t fret about it.  I’m just searching for the right words.  Now, a hug
before thee goes.”

The girls hug and then exit.


Constance enters and opens the back door.

Constance:  “Come in, Tom.”

Tom:  “Good evening, Constance.  Is my passenger ready?”

Elizabeth and Janie enter.

Constance:  “Yes, here she is.  Janie, this is our friend, Tom.”

Janie:  “Hello.”

Tom:  “Hello, Janie.  I will take thee to Kennett Square.  Now, there is a large trunk in the
back of my buckboard.  Until we are well out of town, thee will ride in the  
bottom of the trunk.  I will set shelves of eggs from my farm over top of thee. 
I will go now and get the trunk ready.  When I signal Constance, thee must climb
quickly up to the back of the buckboard and into the trunk.  Does thee

Janie:  “Yes, sir.”

Tom:  “And when I return from Kennett Square, Elizabeth, I will be anxious to learn how
thee got rid of those militiamen.”

Tom exits, and Constance peeks out the door.

Constance:  “Now, Janie.  Run quickly, and Godspeed!”

Janie exits. Constance turns to Elizabeth.

Constance:  “What was Tom talking about?”

Elizabeth:  “He must have been watching our house while thee was gone.”

Constance:  “That seems logical.  And, what exactly did he see?”

Elizabeth:  “A man named Fred Gallagher knocked loudly at the front door.  He
was with the Elkton Militia.”

Constance:  “Oh, my goodness, Elizabeth!  What did thee do?”

Elizabeth:  “I tried to tell him that I was forbidden to open the door while thee was not
home.  He said he and his men would knock it down.”

Constance:  “So, thee was forced to let him in.”

Elizabeth:  “Yes.  I had told Janie that if I did not yell to her immediately that Tom
Watson was here, then she might have to jump out the window. But, when
she went to the window, some of the militiamen saw her.  One of them ran
in here to tell Fred Gallagher that she was upstairs.”

Constance:  “Dear God, Elizabeth. What on earth did thee do then?”

Elizabeth:  “I never said she was here.”

Constance:  “What?”


Elizabeth:  “I only said my cousin is easily frightened.  I never said she was the girl in
the window.”

Constance:  “Did that satisfy them?”

Elizabeth:  “No.  Fred Gallagher said to fetch her at once.  So, I simply asked if he was
afraid of smallpox because of the unusual lump that caused you to run
to the doctor.”

Constance puts her hand to her face to suppress her laughter.

Elizabeth:  “Well, it seems the militiamen were happy to avoid small pox.  Fred
Gallagher asked some questions about Mary Carrington which I answered
truthfully.  He wrote down the information and then said that if his captain
wanted the girl to be examined, he could do it himself.  They promptly left.”

Constance:  “I suspect the captain will see through thy deception.  Bring me Janie’s dress,
and I will start a fire on the hearth.”

Elizabeth begins to exit and then spots the doll.  She picks it up.

Elizabeth:  “Oh, no!”

Constance:  “What is it?”

Elizabeth:  “Janie forgot her doll!”

Constance:  “We’d best burn it with the dress.”

Elizabeth:  “No mother!  I beg thee!  It’s all Janie has from her mother.  Her mother
made Hannah Button for Janie.  Then her mother was sold, and she and
Janie were separated.  Please, we must keep Hannah and try to return
her to Janie.”

Constance:  “I’m sorry, Elizabeth.  That doll could put us at risk.  Those men will search
every inch of this house.”

Elizabeth:  “Pin Hannah under my petticoat, and I shall wear her day and night as long
as necessary.  Please, Mother.  I cannot bear for thee to burn her!”

Constance:  “All right, Elizabeth.  As thee wishes.  Now hurry and fetch the dress.”

Constance starts a fire on the hearth.  Elizabeth exits and returns with the dress.
Constance places it on the hearth.  Then she picks up the doll and fastens it to
Elizabeth’s petticoat.

Elizabeth:  “Is thee angry with me, Mother?”

Constance:  “For what?’

Elizabeth:  “For deceiving the militiamen?”

Constance:  “I am not angry.  I am mostly relieved that we succeeded in sending Janie
safely on her way.”

Elizabeth:  “If those men see that big trunk in Tom’s buckboard, won’t they search it?”

Constance:  “I doubt they’ll have the chance.  Tom knows the area much better than they
do.  He’s probably deep in the woods by now and won’t emerge till he’s
miles from here.”

Elizabeth:  “What will we tell those men when they return?”

Constance:  “Thee will not say anything, please.  But, prepare to hear thy mother lie.
I think it best to continue thy story about Mary.”

Elizabeth:  “I’m sorry to make thee lie, Mother.  Thee never lies.”

Constance:  “It’s all right, Elizabeth.  Thy deception saved a young girl from certain
abuse by a misguided  master.  I am confident thee did what God required
of thee.  Thy wild imagination saved the day.  But, we must always use our
talents wisely and try not to get carried away.”

Elizabeth:  “Yes, Mother.”

Constance; “It is my hope to raise thee with integrity.”

Elizabeth:  “Integrity?”

Constance:  “Integrity is the commitment to doing what is right no matter what. 
Truthfulness has a lot to do with it.  Jesus said, ‘Let thy yea be yea and
thy nay be nay.’”

Elizabeth:    “I don’t understand.”

Constance:  “Jesus tells us to say what we mean and to mean what we say.  We should be
brief and to the point.”

Elizabeth:  “I see now.”

Constance:  “For well over one hundred years, Quakers have maintained a reputation for
honesty.  So, I do not take lying lightly even when the circumstances seem
to require it.  I know that pretending is fun, but when pretending becomes
deceit, that’s another matter.”

Elizabeth:  “Yes, Mother.”

Constance:  “Did thee intend to tell me about the militiamen, Elizabeth?”

Elizabeth:  “The truth is I’m not sure.”

Constance:  “I see.  I don’t mean to sound harsh.  Actually, I am amazed by your quick

Elizabeth:  “Thank thee.”

Constance:  “And I have learned something, too.”

Elizabeth:  “Really?”

Constance:  “Yes.  I realize now that thy creative mind is a gift that I should encourage
and not just dismiss it as a nuisance.”

Elizabeth:  “I’m glad.”

Constance:  “Quakers are not raised to be actresses.  However, I must admit, I would
have paid to see thy performance with those men.”

Elizabeth:  “It wasn’t nearly as good as Zenobia, The Warrior Queen.”

Constance:  “Warrior queen?  My Quaker daughter pretends to be a warrior?”

Elizabeth:  “Oh, I downplay the warrior business and stress the queen part.”

Constance:  “I don’t doubt that.”

Elizabeth:  “I could do it right now, if thee wishes.”

Constance:  Let’s save Zenobia for another time, Elizabeth.  I think we’ve had enough
excitement for one day.”



Norma Heller Plays