The Widow's Tea Act II, Scene 5
EXT: THE ARMSTEAD HOME
SUSAN: My trouble, honestly. Mr. Armstead's signed a deed of manumission.
INT: SIMPLE LOWER MIDDLE CLASS PARLOR. MARY ELLEN BELL STANDS WITH TEA TRAY AS WOMEN TALK. SHE IS LISTENING.
SUSAN: Gave away the only valuable property we have. For some moral notion, (dismissively) anti-slavery business.
SUSAN: I cannot believe it...
WOMAN #1: There there, Susan. "The Lord hast been our refuge from one generation to another." Mr. Armstead's death leaves you in a particular standing in your household.
SUSAN: Yes yes, I am well aware... but...
WOMAN #2: Surely you know, Susan, as his widow you have protections under the law.
CUT TO MARY ELLEN WHO LISTENS.
WOMAN #2: You have sole legal authority over your property, and that authority is absolute.
WOMAN #3: In the light of the law, Susan, I am inclined to inquire of you, "wherein does your grievance reside?"
SUSAN: (trying to stay composed) The deed of manumission for the female. The deed... it has been duly filed in the court.
SUSAN: All signatories are valid.
SUSAN: I'm afraid there is no way around it.
WOMAN #2: Susan, if I may, what were the circumstances under which Mr. Armstead signed the deed?
SUSAN: (a bit embarrassed) The execution of it was made while he was recuperating in the Almshouse.
SUSAN: He signed it in the morning. I learned from the clerk that afternoon the deed had been filed in the courthouse.
WOMAN #2: (cautiously) Then, Susan, I daresay Mr. Armstead may have signed the deed, under duress...
WOMAN #2: ...extreme duress. I would hazard, even, if convalescence here from his illness could avail him of no health benefits, then surely...
WOMAN #2: ...his illness and care away from your home may have affected his (pause) mind?
WOMAN #3: (boldly) Your claim could be, then, Susan that Mr. Armstead was NOT of sound mind and, therefore, forced under duress when he executed the deed.
WOMAN #3: Might I suggest that you apprehend the full value of your property? Without further delay, call for an appraisal of your personal estate.
WOMAN #3: The future increase of the female negro belongs to you, Susan. It is your due right as sole Mistress of your estate.
WOMEN NOD IN AGREEMENT.