by Robert Lauer
D I G G E R, a play in seven scenes, deals with the lives of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale from their first meeting in October of 1825 until their elopement. The play explores the little-known events surrounding Joseph Smith's youthful involvement in money-digging and the circumstances which led to the controversial 1826 trial-events which took place a number of years before the translation of the golden plates and the founding of the LDS church.
The play takes place in the Hale home in Harmony, Pennsylvania, where Isaac Hale lives with his wife, Elizabeth, and his strong- willed daughter, Emma. As the play begins Isaac has agreed to house several treasure hunters for an old neighbor, Josiah Stowell, who is digging for a Spanish silver mine. The little band of treasure hunters is led by a twenty-year-old visionary, Joseph Smith, who is said to be endowed with the gifts of seership and prophecy. Arad Stowell, Josiah's son, and Emma try to convince the old man that he is wasting money on the venture and that Joseph is a fraud; but as Emma gets to know the young seer she finds that he is a sincere, passionate young man who longs to leave his questionable occupation and serve God. Arad, refusing to accept Joseph as anything but a charlatan, finally succeeds in bringing him to court for fraud, where he is found guilty but not sentenced. In the last scene of the play, Joseph returns to the Hale home—in spite of the bad feelings which have arisen due to the trial-to ask Isaac for Emma's hand in marriage. SCENE SEVEN: The Hale home later that afternoon.
AT RISE: ELIZABETH is sewing. ISAAC cleans his rifle while EMMA paces about the room nervously. ELIZABETH watches her daughter but as usual says nothing. EMMA (to ISAAC): Must you clean that thing now? (ISAAC looks up at her and continues cleaning the gun without a word.) ELIZABETH: It certainly is quiet today. Not a breeze to be found. Almost makes me uneasy . (Seconds pass slowly by. Suddenly there is a knock at the door.)
EMMA: I’ll get it! (She flies to the door but ISAAC reaches it
before her. He opens it and sees JOSEPH.)
JOSEPH: Good day, Mr. Hale Sir-
ISAAC: You! (He slams the door in JOSEPH’s face.)
ELIZABETH: Isaac, who was that?
ISAAC: No one! (EMMA looks out the window.)
EMMA: It’s Joseph!
ELIZABETH: Joseph? What in the world does he want?
EMMA: He probably wants to come in. (She goes for the door
ISAAC: Don’t you let him in this house! I swear I’ll shoot him!
EMMA: Oh Father, put down that damn rifle!
ISAAC (to ELIZABETH): Listen to your daughter curse her own
EMMA: I’m sorry, Father, but Joseph has come to talk to you as
an adult, man to man.
ISAAC: And just how do you know what Joseph has come here
for? (EMMA is suddenly silent. ISAAC starts to catch on.) Oh,
now I see. . . . (He flings open the door.) Get in here,
Boy! (JOSEPH enters.)
JOSEPH: Thank you, Sir. Hello, Mrs.—
ISAAC: When they didn’t put you in jail where you belong I
was told you might be coming back here, but frankly I didn’t
think you’d have guts enough to show your face after the
embarrassment you caused us. Folks around here have been shunning us for housing a known criminal.
EMMA: It hasn’t been that bad!
ISAAC: Did you tell him about your students?
EMMA: No, I did not
ISAAC: Some parents have taken their children out of my
daughter’s class. They’d rather have their children grow up
ignorant than be taught by a woman who sees charlatans!
EMMA: Ignore him, Joseph! He exaggerates!
ISAAC: Do I?
JOSEPH: Sir, I can explain why—
ISAAC: What I want you to explain is why you’ve been seeing my daughter when I forbade you to!
EMMA: He hasn’t been seeing me! Joseph just returned today!
ISAAC (to EMMA): And you! Leading him on! Him—a common criminal! It’s disgraceful!
JOSEPH: Sir, I’m no criminal!
ISAAC: Don’t you raise your voice at me, Boy! Have you no
respect for your elders?
JOSEPH: I won’t be called a criminal by anyone, regardless of
ISAAC: I suppose the fact that you were dragged into court and
found guilty proves nothing?
JOSEPH: Of course it proves nothing!
ELIZABETH: Isaac, shouldn’t we at least listen to what Joe has
come to say?
ISAAC: All right, Boy, talk! But you just be sure that you pick
your words real careful.
JOSEPH:(trying to explain): Mr. and Mrs. Hale, I wish you
would believe me when I tell you that I’ve never intentionally
deceived anyone. I’m not the rogue people make me out to
be. During these past few months I’ve done a lot of thinking
about the past and a lot of praying about my future. (ISAAC
smirks at this.) I realize now that I should never have gotten
involved in money digging and stone gazing. I’ve caused too
many people stress and worry.
ISAAC: Isn’t it wonderful that you’ve realized that—now!
JOSEPH: That’s past, and nothing I do or say can change it.
EMMA: Joseph has given up money digging forever.
JOSEPH: I know my decision has come late.
ISAAC: Too late!
JOSEPH: I realize that, Sir. When I first came here with Mr.
Stowell I asked myself why I was getting involved in his
fanatical scheme. I didn’t feel right about the digging itself.
But after I started boarding here I realized that I was led here
for a reason. That reason was your daughter.
JOSEPH: Sir, I’ve done a lot of thinking about her. I love
Emma and I want her for my wife.
ISAAC: What? Elizabeth, did you hear that? (He points his
gun at JOSEPH.) I should shoot you here and now! (EMMA
tears the gun from her father’s hands.)
ISAAC: You love her, you say? Hell! What do you know about
love? You think it’s talkin’ fancy about visions and dreams
and such? It’s work, Boy! Hard work! It’s blisters on your
hands and aching in your back from swinging an ax or a hoe!
Do you love my daughter enough to soil your precious hands? Do you love her enough to throw away your pretty little visions and work like a real man?
EMMA: Father, I love Joseph!
ELIZABETH: Emma, don’t say that!
EMMA: Why not? I do love him. I’m sure I do.
JOSEPH: Sir, I’ve prayed about it, and I feel it’s God’s will that
we be together.
ISAAC: God my foot! What does God have to do with any of
JOSEPH : He has to do with everything, Sir.
ISAAC: Don’t you dare preach at me, Boy! So . .. you’ve
taken up with the Almighty now, have you? I still say, no!
You think I’d let my girl marry a lollygag who squints at
JOSEPH: But I’ve repented! I’ve changed!
ISAAC: So now you’re a religious lollygag! I don’t give a damn
about your repentance! I still say no!
JOSEPH: Mr. Hale Sir, you’ re going against the will of the Lord.
ISAAC: Am I now? And do I have the pleasure of gazing upon
the Lord Himself?
JOSEPH: No. He has only called me to be his servant.
ISAAC: I don’t care if you’re all the prophets this side of Adam!
EMMA: Father, would you listen to what I have to say?
ELIZABETH: Shh, Emma. Let them talk this out.
EMMA: But it’s me they’re talking about! This is my life-my
ISAAC: Do you really love this scatterbrain, Daughter?
JOSEPH: Tell them the truth, Emma.
EMMA: I think—I think I do.
ELIZABETH: Oh, Emma …
EMMA: No! I know that I do! (There is silence. Then ISAAC
turns on JOSEPH with new fury.)
ISAAC: If you don’t stop fillin’ my daughter’s head with your
lies and your promises I’ 11 kill you! Why, I’d rather see her
dead and in her grave than tied down with the likes of you!
JOSEPH: The likes of me? What do you or anyone else know
about the likes of me? I try to change but you won’t let
me-no one will! You treat me as if I’m not able to do
anything good . . . as if God would never take notice of me
just because you don’t! Well, he has! He’s chosen me to do
his work—maybe because I was only a treasure digger,
because I believed in this dull world there was buried
something golden just waiting for someone to wake up and
claim it. Maybe he chose me because he knew I wasn’t afraid to look above and below things for something better, even if it was only a dream in an old hunk of rock! Yes, I’m nothing but a treasure digger, and once one, always one! But I have something to tell you, Sir . . . believe it or not, so is your daughter. When it comes to wanting something more of life, something that others just won’t look for because they’re so busy pushing their plows, cooking their meals and hunting in their woods, we’re both of the same blood!
ISAAC: How dare you talk to me that way about my own flesh and blood!
JOSEPH: We’re both of age, Sir. We don’t need your permission.
ISAAC: Get out of my house!
JOSEPH: I’ll go. But first I must have Emma’s answer.
ISAAC: Get out!
EMMA: Go on, Joseph. I’ll meet you later at the usual place. (JOSEPH turns to exit, but stops when he places his hand in his pocket and withdraws the stone.)
JOSEPH: I don’t know why I still carry this with me. I don’t need it anymore. (He places it on the table and exits. ISAAC turns to EMMA.)
ISAAC: The usual place, huh?
EMMA: The schoolhouse.
ISAAC: I tell you, Daughter, not to lay eyes on him again! EMMA: My eyes are my own, Sir! (ELIZABETH can no longer remain silent.)
ELIZABETH: Be still both of you! (ISAAC and EMMA are silent-stunned by ELIZABETH ‘s sudden outburst.) There are some things a woman cannot discuss with a man-even her father. Isaac, please let me speak with Emma … alone.
ISAAC: It’s a waste of time! She’ll listen to no one! ELIZABETH: But she is my daughter. (ISAAC gives a grunt and exits. ELIZABETH turns to EMMA.) Now Emma—
EMMA: Mother, even you can’t change my mind.
ELIZABETH: I know I can’t. You think that you’re in love with him .
EMMA: I know I am.
ELIZABETH: You know you are.
EMMA: Father can do nothing about it. He must accept the fact that I have a mind and a will of my own.
ELIZABETH: You’ll have to bear with him until he comes around, Daughter. We both know that your father sees little more than what he wants to see. I, on the other hand, see plenty. I saw your feelings toward Joe change only days after he arrived.
EMMA: Oh, Mother, how could you have? I didn’t realize how I felt until much later.
ELIZABETH: Do you think I’m stupid, Emma?
EMMA: Of course not. You put words in my mouth.
ELIZABETH: I thought perhaps you might, seeing as I don’t speak back to your father the way you do, because I don’t defend myself.
EMMA: I can’t let him tread all over me, Mother. You just don’t understand what I’m feeling.
ELIZABETH: Just because I don’t discuss certain subjects doesn’t mean I’m ignorant of them. I was once young like yourself.
EMMA: That was ages ago. It’s not the same nowadays. The world is changing.
ELIZABETH: Men and women and things remain the same throughout the “ages.” Emma, you are a very . . . very passionate young woman. I’ve watched you grow from childhood to womanhood in fear and in silence, hoping that if I never voiced my fears nothing would come of them.
EMMA: What does this have to do with Joseph and me?
ELIZABETH: I know that there is nothing more exciting to a passionate woman than a prophet. When I was a girl many so called preachers passed through, and while I listened to them rant on about the glories of heaven and the agonies of hell, my heart would come to my throat. I believe I would have left my family, home and friends to follow them if only they‘d asked me. Being a foolish young girl it never occurred to me that what I was feeling might have less to do with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost than with some magnificent male’s overwhelming masculinity. I’ve often marveled at that mysterious relationship between saintliness and passion, why sanctity is so irresistibly seductive, why we women respond to spirituality in a man so rapturously, so recklessly.
EMMA (at a loss for words): Mother, I …
ELIZABETH: You’re embarrassed, Daughter?
EMMA: I’ve never heard you speak this way before.
ELIZABETH: And so you assumed that I never thought of such things. If you only knew what passes through my head at times. Between the sweeping and the meals and the bed sheets we think of many things we’d never dare speak of, don’t we? Not only are Joseph’s ideas appealing, but above all, he is powerfully male. No woman, young or old, could remain entirely unresponsive. Tell me you haven’t noticed that. (EMMA is silent.) It seems your father was right. You truly are my daughter.
EMMA: Mother, you don’t know Joseph as I do. When we’re alone and he talks to me, all I can do is sit very still and listen to his every word. He paints pictures I never imagined any man could paint, and through the colors I always see his eyes. No artist could capture his face. It changes constantly with his every thought. His eyes do what eyes were meant to do. They see and they understand. And there’s something in his smile . . . right here in the corner of his mouth that puzzles me, that intrigues me, that scares me. I don’t think I could ever go back to living life as I did until I find out what it is in his smile.
ELIZABETH: Dear, try to see him as your father sees him, as Arad Stowell sees him, as Emma Hale once saw him. EMMA: But once Emma Hale didn’t know him. (The revelation comes.) Mother, I must marry him. I must find out what it is behind him.
ELIZABETH: I’m afraid for you, Daughter. Afraid you’ 11 be disappointed, afraid it won’t be worth the price you’ll have to pay for the privilege of bedding down with your “Saint Joseph.” (ISAAC has heard the last few lines while lingering outside the room. Now he bursts in.)
ISAAC: I tell you, all she wants to do is take on God! She’s too good for her own family! She’s tired of our way of life! It isn’t exciting enough for her taste!
EMMA: I’m sorry, but it’s not! There has to be more to this world-more to life than this kitchen and the schoolhouse. ISAAC: You’ll never see any of it with that lazy boy!
EMMA: I think I will.
ISAAC: I tell you, he’ 11 make you cry. You’ 11 live and die miserable!
EMMA: Father, I’m miserable now! There must be more!
ISAAC: You’re only miserable because you choose to be! I could be unhappy too if I let myself! You think I don’t long to get away from this every now and then? But I know I can’t. Life isn’t that way.
EMMA: Why can’t it be that way? A while back I would have laughed at anyone who would seriously ask such a question. Once it would have seemed so simple, so idiotic. But now. . . I will marry Joseph.
ISAAC: And as long as you are my daughter living in my house I say that you will not see that dreamer again!
EMMA: Why can’t you try to see things the way I see them? Why can’t you try to see things right? I’m sure about this! Do you know what I did the other day? I went to the woods, knelt down and prayed
ISAAC: —that Jesus would still love your father? That He would forgive him and help him see things right? (Their eyes make contact and they must pause. Suddenly EMMA is six years old, kneeling in the woods on a winter afternoon, and she suddenly realizes that she has been watched. ISAAC is moved that his child would pray for his salvation. Then it is the present once again. EMMA comes close to ISAAC, takes his face in her hands and quickly gives him a gentle kiss.)
EMMA: Father, I love you. I’m sorry that I haven’t always acted as though I do. I’m sorry for not being a good little daughter … for not staying in my place .. . really I am. I’ll always love you. But I’m not yours any longer. (ISAAC turns to speak but his voice cracks.)
ISAAC: I don’t want to hear you say that ever … ever again. (EMMA turns from him. She sees the rock on the table. Gently she picks it up and looks at it. She smiles to herself and places it in her pocket. ISAAC and ELIZABETH watch in silence knowing what is about to happen, but wishing they did not. EMMA takes one last look at each of them and then goes to the door.)
EMMA (calling): Joseph! Joseph! Wait for me! (She is gone. ISAAC is struck dumb for a moment. Then he runs to the door.)
ISAAC (desperately): Emma! I still have things to tell you! I still have things to say! You are my daughter! You’ll always be mine! Do you hear me? You’ 11 always be mine! (ELIZABETH walks over and touches him gently.) She’ll be back.
ELIZABETH (quietly, but with conviction): No, Isaac. ISAAC: She will! I know my daughter. She’ll see him for what he is and she’ll come back.
ELIZABETH: I’m sorry, Isaac, but she’s gone. This time I am right. (ISAAC breaks. He crumbles, hitting the “dry” pump. Clear water suddenly bursts from the spout. ELIZABETH kneels beside him, wets her hand and wipes the brow of the crying man.)
Robert Lauer is a senior majoring in motion picture and TV writing. “Digger” won second prize in the 1981-82 Mayhew playwriting competition.