The Orchard

A short playlet demonstrating the consequences of lying and the folly of learned men... “Magic terrors, spells of mighty power Witches who rove at the midnight hour.”

Dramatis Personae Spirit James Brisbane Christian Shaw John Lindsay The Minister Accused Demon Enter SPIRIT. SPIRIT (to audience) I am a Spirit and am charged to tell you the sorry tale of Christian Shaw and those her actions took from us. In the year of our lord sixteen hundred and ninety seven, the witchfinder James Brisbane travelled to Erskine parish, trailing murder in his wake. Enter BRISBANE. BRISBANE I am here as representative of a commission to His Majesty’s Privy Council. This commission has been informed of several flagrant grounds of suspicion of witches and witchcraft in the shire of Renfrew, most especially from the afflicted and extraordinary condition of one Christian Shaw, daughter of John Shaw of Bargarran. SPIRIT The girl, Christian Shaw has named a local farmer John Lindsay as the force behind the evils which are tormenting her. Enter LINDSAY with ACCUSED who stand stage left. SPIRIT And here is John Lindsay now. A good man, held by the commission without warrant. Those with him are accused as members of his coven. All are damned, and we can but bear witness to the misdeeds of those we charge to protect us. SPIRIT exits. BRISBANE You are John Lindsay? LINDSAY I am. BRISBANE And you are aware of the evils you are said to have engaged in? a narrator a witchhunter a young girl a farmer a doctor and friend to the Shaw family six poor souls a little devil

LINDSAY I am aware that there are those evil minded enough to think me capable of such things. BRISBANE It is said, and many here know it to be true, that you and your coven do meet in the orchard of John Shaw of Bargarran at twilight, there to consort with a black grim man. What say you John Lindsay? LINDSAY I am often in the fields at twilight if my days work there is not done. But God as my witness I am there alone BRISBANE You dare call on our Lord to defend you. LINDSAY If not he, then who? BRISBANE Perhaps the dark man you worship in the orchard! Does he not protect his own? Let us remind John Lindsay of the torments endured by Christian Shaw. Enter MINISTER who stands stage right. BRISBANE Minister, I would ask you to describe the ungodly afflictions suffered by the girl Christian Shaw. Those which she suffers even now. MINISTER The girl is under a very sore and unnatural distemper, frequently seized with strange fits, sometimes blind, sometimes deaf and dumb. BRISBANE She is possessed insensible. MINISTER The several parts of her body sometimes violently extended, and at other times, as violently contracted. MINISTER stops and is silent. BRISBANE What is wrong Minister? MINISTER Forgive me sir. For it is in the telling of these next events which I am tested. Oh! For such fates to befall a girl so young and sweet as she.

BRISBANE Go on man. God is with you. MINISTER Sir, these several weeks past the girl hath disgorged a considerable quantity of...unnatural items. BRISBANE She has brought them forth in a sickness? MINISTER She has sir. BRISBANE And what manner of items would these be Minister? MINISTER There has been a considerable quantity of hair, folded up straw, unclean hay, wild fowl feathers, the bones of some kind of fowl and all this together with a number of coal cinders, burning hot, candle grease and gravel stones. BRISBANE points at LINDSAY BRISBANE What horrors! What horrors to visit upon one so young. MINISTER Also her skin is reddened and sore from a nipping. BRISBANE Bring her in! Bring in poor Christian Shaw. Who has, these past twenty hours, been prayed over constantly by the presbytery to exorcise the spirit brought down upon her by the coven of John Lindsay. Enter SPIRIT SPIRIT And here she comes now. Does she know her lies will bear such bitter fruit? What is it that consumes her so, that prevents her from calling a halt to the tangled route of her ill intentions? But perhaps! Perhaps now she will, perhaps she will throw light on her lies and back upon the poor souls condemned. Enter CHRISTIAN, hunched over and wrapped in a blanket. She stands stage right. BRISBANE walks to her, placing a hand upon her shoulder. She looks at him and nods. SPIRIT The seeds of a dark madness have been sown. SPIRIT exits.

BRISBANE You know me Christian. We are all here today in the sight of our lord to help you. You are often tormented are you not? CHRISTIAN For my sins sir. BRISBANE No child! These sins are not yours! You are tortured by those in service of Satan. Do you know who it is who has brought this upon you? CHRISTIAN I do sir. BRISBANE Then speak it’s name. Tell us all. CHRISTIAN Sir I cannot. BRISBANE Who lass? Who is it that torments you? CHRISTIAN shakes her head CHRISTIAN I cannot. BRISBANE But you must. You must child. Else we shall never be rid of this demon. CHRISTIAN begins crying. BRISBANE Would I could take your pain as mine child. But you must say it. You must say the name of the one who torments you. CHRISTIAN (screaming) Sir it is John Lindsay who works upon me. He and those who stand with him. BRISBANE John Lindsay! Is it John Lindsay who offends you girl? CHRISTIAN is shuddering and howling CHRISTIAN It is! It is!

BRISBANE See my Lords, how even the name of the creature wrenches at her eternal soul! Enter SPIRIT SPIRIT Had she soul left to lose? Or had her lying already brought her low? How, how even now can she not to turn in the eyes of God and tell all of those gathered that it is she that has been wrong. Would she be forgiven if she did? Who can know, for time is now as short for Christian as it is for John Lindsay. The Lord forgives all, but does a soul as dark and twisted as Christian’s even seek forgiveness? A soul so filled with thorns? SPIRIT exits. BRISBANE We have already heard of the ungodly terrors sent to torture poor Christian, and we scarce need more proof than that. But the workings of Satan are well documented, and it is known that he will place a mark on those in his service. MINISTER lifts the sleeve of LINDSAYS shirt. BRISBANE See here! The devils own mark. Minister, have you a pin. A long pin sir! And sharp! MINISTER I do. BRISBANE Then bring it forth in full sight of the court. MINISTER hands BRISBANE a pin. BRISBANE attempts to stick the pin in the arm of LINDSAY. It breaks. He addresses court. BRISBANE See! See how the devils mark cannot be punctured. Pins cannot prick it! But I shall try again, that you might all see full well. Again BRISBANE takes a pin. This one sticks in. BRISBANE Ah! Worse still. This time we pierce the foul mark, only to find we cannot draw blood! There is no blood from this pin prick! Let us see if we can yet tease blood from this cursed scab. SPIRIT enters. SPIRIT For hours, poor John Lindsay endured the pricking of pins. Fire was held to his arm to see if the devils mark would burn, and knives drawn across his skin to see if it could be cut. And all the others suffered the same. How misguided the actions of self righteous men.

Behind SPIRIT, LINDSAY and ACCUSED are bound. And at the end of the day, battered, burned and bloody, the session sentenced them to be burned at the Gallow Green in Paisley. Seven souls in total, one of whom took his own life rather than face the flames at the stake. LINDSAY and ACCUSED scream and then exit. But the souls of those destroyed by wicked men, found peace in heaven, while those who dealt in lies and torture were themselves condemned to that in turn. DEMON enters and drags MINISTER, BRISBANE and CHRISTIAN off stage. For I am the damned soul of the liar Christian Shaw, charged to forever wander by the Orchard where poor John Lindsay spent his days. And in telling you my sorry tale, I ask only for your forgiveness and that you would hesitate to persecute, where I did not. Farewell. SPIRIT exits. CURTAIN

First produced and published by Magic Torch in “Tales of the Oak” (2000)

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