Trifles, Part 1

by Susan Glaspel

Adapted to chat-story format by Captivated Chat

(Three men enter the kitchen of the newly abandoned farmhouse of the late JOHN WRIGHT, a gloomy kitchen, vacated without having been put in order. They are followed by two women.)

Me
This feels good. Come up to the fire, ladies.
Mrs Peters
I’m not cold, Mr. Henderson.
Sheriff Peters
Now, Mr. Hale, before we move things about, you explain to Mr. Henderson just what you saw when you came here yesterday morning.
Me
By the way, has anything been moved? Are things just as you left them yesterday?
Sheriff Peters
It’s just the same. When it dropped below zero last night I thought I’d better send Frank out this morning to make a fire for us——no use getting pneumonia with a big case on. But I told him not to touch anything except the stove——and you know Frank.
Me
Somebody should have been left here yesterday.
Sheriff Peters
Oh——yesterday. When I had to send Frank to Morris Center for that man who went crazy——I want you to know I had my hands full yesterday——
Me
Well, Mr Hale, tell just what happened when you came here yesterday morning.
Lewis Hale
Harry and I had started to town with a load of potatoes. We came along the road from my place and as I got here I said, I’m going to see if I can’t get John Wright to go in with me on a party telephone.’ I spoke to Wright about it once before and he put me off, saying folks talked too much anyway, and all he asked was peace and quiet—
Lewis Hale
I guess you know about how much he talked himself; but I thought maybe if I went to the house and talked about it before his wife, though I said to Harry that I didn’t know as what his wife wanted made much difference to John—
Me
Let’s talk about that later, Mr Hale. I do want to talk about that, but tell now just what happened when you got to the house.
Lewis Hale
I didn’t hear or see anything; I knocked at the door, and still it was all quiet inside. I knew they must be up, it was past eight o’clock. So I knocked again, and I thought I heard somebody say, ‘Come in.’ I wasn’t sure, I’m not sure yet, but I opened the door——this door and there in that rocker there by the ladies sat Mrs Wright. (They all look at the rocker.)
Me
What—was she doing?
Lewis Hale
She was rockin’ back and forth. She had her apron in her hand and was kind of—pleating it.
Me
And how did she—look?
Lewis Hale
Well, she looked queer.
Me
How do you mean—queer?
Lewis Hale
Well, as if she didn’t know what she was going to do next. And kind of done up.
Me
How did she seem to feel about your coming?
Lewis Hale
 Why, I don’t think she minded—one way or other. She didn’t pay much attention. I said, ‘How do, Mrs Wright it’s cold, ain’t it?’ And she said, ‘Is it?’—and went on kind of pleating at her apron. Well, I was surprised; she didn’t ask me to come up to the stove, or to sit down, but just sat there, not even looking at me, so I said, ‘I want to see John.’
Lewis Hale
And then she—laughed. I guess you would call it a laugh. I thought of Harry and the team outside, so I said a little sharp: ‘Can’t I see John?’ ‘No’, she says, kind o’ dull like. ‘Ain’t he home?’ says I. ‘Yes’, says she, ‘he’s home’. ‘Then why can’t I see him?’ I asked her, out of patience. ”Cause he’s dead’, says she. ‘Dead?’ says I. She just nodded her head, not getting a bit excited, but rockin’ back and forth. ‘Why—where is he?’ says I, not knowing what to say.
Lewis Hale
She just pointed upstairs—like this. I got up, with the idea of going up there. I walked from there to here—then I says, ‘Why, what did he die of?’ ‘He died of a rope round his neck’, says she, and just went on pleatin’ at her apron. So, I went out and called Harry. I thought I might—need help. We went upstairs and there he was lyin’—
Me
I think I’d rather have you go into that upstairs, where you can point it all out. But just go on now with the rest of the story.
Lewis Hale
Well, my first thought was to get that rope off. It looked … er … but Harry, he went up to him, and he said, ‘No, he’s dead all right, and we’d better not touch anything.’ So we went back down stairs. She was still sitting that same way.
Lewis Hale
‘Has anybody been notified?’ I asked. ‘No’, says she unconcerned. ‘Who did this, Mrs Wright?’ said Harry. He said it business-like—and she stopped pleatin’ of her apron. ‘I don’t know’, she says. ‘You don’t know?’ says Harry. ‘No’, says she. ‘Weren’t you sleepin’ in the bed with him?’ says Harry. ‘Yes’, says she, ‘but I was on the inside’. ‘Somebody slipped a rope round his neck and strangled him and you didn’t wake up?’ says Harry. ‘I didn’t wake up’, she said after him. But we must ‘a looked as if we didn’t see how that could be, for after a minute she said, ‘I sleep sound’.
Me
Oh, really.
Lewis Hale
Harry was going to ask her more questions but I said maybe we ought to let her tell her story first to the coroner, or the sheriff, so Harry went fast as he could to the telephone.
Me
And what did Mrs Wright do when she knew that you had gone for the coroner?
Lewis Hale
She moved from that chair to this one over here, and just sat there with her hands held together and looking down. I got a feeling that I ought to make some conversation, so I said I had come in to see if John wanted anything, and at that she started to laugh, and then she stopped and looked at me—scared.
Me
Is that so?
Lewis Hale
I dunno, maybe it wasn’t scared. I wouldn’t like to say it was. Soon Harry got back, and then Dr Lloyd came, and you, Mr Peters, and so I guess that’s all I know that you don’t.
Me
I guess we’ll go upstairs first—and then out to the barn and around there. Then you’re convinced, Sheriff, that there was nothing important here—nothing that would point to any motive?
Sheriff Peters
Nothing here but kitchen things. (The COUNTY ATTORNEY, after again looking around the kitchen, opens the door of a cupboard closet. He gets up on a chair and looks on a shelf. Pulls his hand away, sticky.)
Me
Here’s a nice mess. (The women draw nearer.)
Mrs Peters
Oh, her fruit; it did freeze. She worried about that when it turned so cold. She said the fire’d go out and her jars would break.
Sheriff Peters
Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder and worryin’ about her preserves.
Me
I guess before we’re through she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about.
Lewis Hale
Well, women are used to worrying over trifles. (The two women move a little closer together.)
Me
And yet, for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies? I’m gonna wash my hands. Well, huh! Dirty towels! Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?
Mrs Hale
There is a great deal of work to be done on a farm, however.
Me
To be sure. And yet I know there are some Dickson county farmhouses which do not have such dirty roller towels.
Mrs Hale
But those towels get dirty awful quick. Men’s hands aren’t always as clean as they might be.
Me
Ah, loyal to your sex, I see. But you and Mrs Wright were neighbors. I suppose you were friends, too.
Mrs Hale
Unh-uh. I’ve not seen much of her of late years. I’ve not been in this house—it’s more than a year.
Me
And why was that? You didn’t like her?
Mrs Hale
I liked her all well enough. Farmers’ wives have their hands full, Mr. Henderson. But then—
Me
Yes—?
Mrs Hale
It never seemed a very cheerful place.
Me
No—it’s not cheerful. I shouldn’t say she had the homemaking instinct.
Mrs Hale
Well, I don’t know as Wright had, either.
Me
You mean that they didn’t get on very well?
Mrs Hale
No, I don’t mean anything. But I don’t think a place’d be any cheerfuller for John Wright’s being in it.
Me
I’d like to talk more of that a little later. I want to get the lay of things upstairs now. So…
Sheriff
I suppose anything Mrs Peters does’ll be all right. She was to take in some clothes for her, you know, and a few little things. We left in such a hurry yesterday.
Me
Yes, but I would like to see what you take, Mrs Peters, and keep an eye out for anything that might be of use to us.
Mrs Peters
Yes, Mr Henderson.