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Paul Revere

The Columbia Workshop

Paul Revere

May 16 1937



OLD MAN, the storyteller; rural New Englander

GIRL, his granddaughter


WILLIAM, a boy


MOTHER, chatty

1ST MAN (2 lines)

2ND MAN (3 lines)

LIGE BUTTERWICK, rural New Englander


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the Columbia Workshop, under the direction of Irving Reis, presents as its fortieth program, "Paul Revere," an original play for radio by Stephen Vincent Benét. One of America's outstanding poets and writers, Stephen Vincent Benét is especially remembered for his epic poem, "John Brown's Body," which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Nineteen Twenty-Eight. Students of radio believe that it is giving rebirth to the lost art of the storyteller, and it is significant that, in writing his first work for the medium, Mr. Benét uses this device to tell us in prose a charming legend of the American Revolution. The Columbia Workshop is proud to present Stephen Vincent Benét's first original play for radio, "Paul Revere," featuring Parker Fennelly in the leading role.



OLD MAN: Well! This is what I call solid comfort: settin' in front of a fire with your family when your work's done for the day. How are you, granddaughter?

GIRL: Oh, fine, grandfather. I've got about a million questions to ask you.

OLD MAN: Well, we'll take up the first hundred thousand or so.

GIRL: Well, first, there's an arithmetic problem. But I don't think we'll do that.

OLD MAN: Why not?

GIRL: Well, of course, you're awfully clever, grandfather. But this is about those three people digging a ditch -- A, B, and C. 

OLD MAN: Oh, yeah; I know them.

GIRL: And A digs twice as fast as B.

OLD MAN: Yeah, he always did -- to the best of my recollection. I wish I could hire that feller A to work on our place. He'd have the Panama Canal dug in less time than it takes me to grab a shovel.

GIRL: But C digs only a quarter as fast as B.

OLD MAN: Yeah, I know C, too. Any time I get a man to chop wood, it always turns out to be C. Well, now, I'd love to do that problem for you; I'd just love it. But ain't you studying anything else at that school of yours?

GIRL: Oh, of course, grandfather -- chemistry and French and choral and group coordination-- 

OLD MAN: Oh, dear.

GIRL: --and American history!

OLD MAN: Hm? That - that's-- That's good.

GIRL: Why, do you know about American history, grandfather?

OLD MAN: Well, I can't say I know so much about the dates and such. But there's some stories I used to know. Oh, shucks, I guess you wouldn't call 'em history, though.

GIRL: What kind of stories, grandfather?

OLD MAN: Well, you see, there was an old feller in town -- when I was a boy –- used to set out in front of the store in the cool of the evening, tell stories. And we'd all gather 'round and listen. Hm! We used to call him the Oldest Inhabitant -- and I collect he was, too. I tell you, there warn't a character that you could mention that he couldn't tell you something about -- something that wasn't in the books, mind you. Of course, it was legends and tall stories.

GIRL: They weren't true?

OLD MAN: Well, they warn't -- and yet again they was. Now, you take the story he'd tell about Paul Revere, for instance--

GIRL: Oh, I know all about Paul Revere. He rode to Lexington and Concord and said, "The British are coming!" And Longfellow wrote a poem about him. And they hung out lanterns in the Old North Church and said, "One if by land and two if by sea." And he was a silversmith, too.

OLD MAN: Hmm. Yeah, that's all right. 'Cept that Paul Revere never got to Concord, though he did warn the folks in Lexington. And the lanterns warn't lit for him; he started from the Boston side. But the way my old feller told it, the whole thing was mixed up with a feller called Lige Butterwick and his tooth.

GIRL: His tooth?

OLD MAN: (YES) Mm hm.

GIRL: But what did somebody else's tooth have to do with Paul Revere's ride?

OLD MAN: Well, Paul Revere, you know, was a kind of a Jack-of-all trades, and silversmithing, that warn't all that he done. Oh, shucks, I don't know if there's any truth in this story. But there's this much truth. There's this much. Any time you have something stirring happen, like a revolution, there's a lot of just ordinary folks around that don't know just what's happenin', till after it's happened. You remember that, when you read history. 

GIRL: I will.

OLD MAN: Yeah. There's the heroes and the clever folks; then there's a million Lige Butterwicks that can't make head nor tail of things. They just go around living and dying through all the cataclysms and the earthquakes. Now, this is the way I used to hear the story about him told. There was a feller called Lige Butterwick -- lived about five miles from Lexington, Massachusetts. That was just before the American Revolution broke loose -- and, what with one thing and another, times was boiling and seething. But Lige Butterwick, he worked his farm and he didn't pay much attention. Well, everything went along for him the way that it does for most folk till one April morning in Seventeen Seventy-Five, he waked up with a toothache. Being New England, he didn't pay much attention to it at first; he'd never had no trouble with his teeth before. But he mentioned it that evening at suppertime and his wife, she got a bag of hot salt for him.

GIRL: Hot salt?

OLD MAN: Hot salt. He held it up to his face and it seemed to ease him, but he couldn't hold it there all night, of course, and next morning the tooth hurt worse than ever. So finally he took the horse; he rode into Lexington town to have it seen to. Well, when he got to Lexington, he noticed that the people there seemed kind of excited. There was a lot of talk about muskets and powder, and about a couple of men called Hancock and Adams that were staying at Parson Clarke's. But he didn't pay much attention; he set right out for the horse doctor's, as being the likeliest man he knew to pull a tooth. Well, the horse doctor, he took one look at it and he shook his head. 

"I can pull her, Lige," he says, "I can pull her, all right. But she's got deep roots and she's got strong roots, and she's going to leave an awful hole when she's gone. Now, what you really need -- though it's taking away my business, of course," he said -– "is one of these here artificial teeth to go in that hole." 

"Artificial teeth?" says Lige, "Where in tunket am I gonna get one of them in a town like Lexington?" 

"Well, you'll have to go to Boston for it," says the horse doctor -- and he sighed, for he was kind of a gloomy man, you know. He says, "There's a feller called Revere that fixes 'em there and they say he's a boss workman." 

"Well, gracious, it's something I hadn't thought of," says Lige, "But that tooth's got to come out before I go stark, staring crazy -- and if Revere's the man, he's the man. So I'll just take that prospectus of his you got there and I'll go to him. I've wasted the morning already; might just as well waste the rest of the day." 

So he gets on his horse again; starts out for Boston. And, going by Parson Clarke's, he sees two men talking in the parson's front room. Now, one is a tallish, handsomish man in pretty fine clothes and the other one's shorter and untidy, with a-- Well, kind of a bulldog face. But he don't pay much attention to them; he just rides ahead to Boston. He'd come to get his tooth fixed and being New England, he meant to do it. Well, when he got there, he stopped in a tavern for a bite and a sup. 'Course, it was long past his dinnertime. And it seemed to him that things there got even more curious. 

"Nice weather we're having these days," he says, in kind of a friendly way to the barkeep. 

"It's bitter weather for Boston," says the barkeep in an unfriendly voice, and a low kind of a growl goes up at that from the boys in the back room. 

Well, of course, that doesn't help Lige's toothache none, but, being a sociable feller, he keeps on. He says, "Maybe for Boston," he says, "But out in the country, we'd call it good planting weather." 

The barkeep, he just stares at him hard. "I guess I was mistaken in you," he says, "It is good planting weather -- for some kinds of trees." 

"And what kind of trees was you thinking of?" says a sharp-faced man [at Lige's left and squeezes his shoulder. 

"There's trees and trees, you know," says a red-faced man] at Lige's right, and gives him a dig in the ribs.

"Well, now that you ask me--" says Lige, but he can't even finish, before that red-faced man, he digs him in the ribs again.

"The liberty tree!" says the red-faced man, "And may it soon be watered in the blood of tyrants!"

"True blue Britons and hearts of oak!" says the sharp-faced man, "And God save King George and loyalty!"

And, with that, it seemed to Lige Butterwick that the whole tavern kind of riz up at him. 


OLD MAN: Yeah. He was kicked and pummeled and mauled and throwed into a corner, then yanked out of it again with that red-faced man and the sharp-faced man square-dancing over his prostrate form. Finally, he finds himself right out in the street with half of his coat gone galley-west.

"Well," says Lige to himself, "I always heard city folks was crazy; now I know it. And to think of a fight like that starting over trees!"

Then, ya know, he noticed that sharp-faced man was alongside of him, trying to shake his hand. And the sharp-faced man had the beginnings of a beautiful black eye.

"Nobly done, friend," says the sharp-faced man, "And I'm glad to find another true-hearted loyalist in this pestilent, rebellious city."

"Well, I take them expressions very kind," says Lige Butterwick, "But I'd take it even kinder if you'd tell me what this is all about."

The sharp-faced man, he looked at him. "Brother," he says, kind of mournfully, "Brother, you can't be as stupid as you look. It ain't in nature. Tell me, where do you hail from?"

"Why, out Lexington way," says Lige; perfectly truthful, ya know. And he says, "I'm looking for a fellow called Paul Revere."

"Paul Revere?" says the sharp-faced man, just as if that name had bit him. And then he begun to smile. 'Twasn't a pleasant smile. "Oh, it's Paul Revere you want," says he. "Well, I'll tell you how to find him. You go up to the first British soldier you see and ya ask the way. He'll tell ya. But--" he says, "You better give the password first."

"Password?" says Lige.

"Yeah," says the sharp-faced man. "You just say to that British soldier, 'Any lobsters for sale today?'" 

GIRL: Lobsters?

OLD MAN: Lobsters. "And then you ask for Mr. Revere." 

"But why do I ask about lobsters?" says Lige Butterwick.

"Well, you see," the sharp-faced man says, "The British soldiers, they wear red coats, so they like being asked about lobsters. You try it and see." Then he went away with his shoulders shaking. Hm! Well, that seemed awful queer to Lige Butterwick, but no queerer than the other things that had happened so fer. So he looked for a British patrol, and he found it, and he stepped up to them just as bold as brass.

"I beg your pardon," he says, "but could you tell me--?" And then he remembered the password. "Oh!" he says, "Er, any lobsters for sale today?" 

Well, sir, no sooner was the words out of his mouth than them soldiers took after him and they chased him clear down to the wharves before he could get away. 

GIRL: Gee.

OLD MAN: Yep. At that, he only managed it by hiding in an empty tar-barrel. When he got out of that -- hee hee! -- he was certainly a sight for sore eyes.

"Well, I guess that couldn't have been the right password," he says to himself, as he tried to rub off some of the tar with his handkerchief. Says, "These city people can't make a fool out of me, though. I come here to get my tooth fixed and get it fixed I will!"

And just then, mind ye, he see a sign on a shop at the end of the wharf. The sign says, er, "P. REVERE, SILVERSMITH" and under it, in small letters, it says, "Large and small bells cast to order. Engraving and printing done in job lots. Artificial teeth sculptured and copper boilers mended. All branches of goldsmith and silversmith work, and revolutions put up to take out. Express Service, Tuesdays and Fridays, to Lexington, Concord, and Points West."

"Well, sir," says Lige Butterwick to himself, "Now maybe I can get my tooth fixed." And he marched right up to the door.

Paul Revere, he was settin' behind the counter, putting the final polish on a silver bowl. A man of, oh, forty-odd he was, with a quick, keen face, you know, and snapping eyes. He was wearing American clothes, all right, but there was a French look about him. Well, of course, his father was Apollos Rivoire, you know, from the island of Guernsey, and from French Huguenot stock, but they changed the name to Revere when they come to Boston. 

Now, it wasn't such a terrible big shop, but it had silver pieces in it that people has paid thousands for since. Well, there was quite a few customers when Lige Butterwick first come in, so he hung back for a while. And the talk he heard went something like this.


FLORABELLE: Mr. Revere, I'm so disappointed! So terribly disappointed!

REVERE: Disappointed, madam?

FLORABELLE: Yes, in my new silver service. You sent it back yesterday, and when I took it out of the box, I could have cried!

REVERE: Oh, it is I who am disappointed, madam. But what is the matter? It must have been carelessly packed. I will speak to my boy. Was it badly dented?

FLORABELLE: Oh, no, no, it wasn't dented. But I wanted a really impressive silver service. I certainly paid for the best. 

REVERE: For the best? I have given you the best work of which Paul Revere is capable, madam. It was in my hands for six months, and I think they are skillful hands.

FLORABELLE: Oh, I know you're a competent artisan, Mr. Revere--

REVERE: Artisan, madam? Artisan?! I am a silversmith and the son of a silversmith. To be that is to be an artist.

FLORABELLE: Well, I don't know about artists. But I know I wanted a real silver service -- something I could show to my friends. And what have you given me? Oh, I don't say that it isn't good silver, but it's as plain and simple as a -- as a picket fence!

REVERE: I hope so, madam.

FLORABELLE: You hope so? Hoity-toity! You hope so?

1ST MAN: (APPROACHES, URGENT) Just one minute, madam. I must speak to Mr. Revere. 


1ST MAN: Mr. Revere, these last engravings of the Boston Massacre are selling like hot cakes. Can you give me twenty-five for my New York correspondents? I've had at least a dozen inquiries.

REVERE: My boy will find them for you. (CALLS) William?! 

WILLIAM: (OFF) Yes, master?

REVERE: See if we have twenty-five "Massacres" for this gentleman. If we haven't, I must run off a new batch tonight. You better look at the plate, too, William.

WILLIAM: (OFF) Yes, master.

REVERE: (TO FLORABELLE) Now, madam? You were saying?

FLORABELLE: Saying? I was saying I was never so insulted in my life! Why, there isn't even as much as a lion and a unicorn on the cream jug! And I told you I wanted the sugar bowl covered with silver grapes!

REVERE: There will be no lions or unicorns on any of my silver, madam. And as for those pot-bellied sugar bowls, crawling with fruit and ribbons -- Grand Dieu des dieux! -- I am a silversmith, not a milliner!




REVERE: Excuse me, madam. (TO 2ND MAN) Yes?

2ND MAN: (LOW, CRYPTIC) Sons of Liberty - powder - all ready - keeping watch. 

REVERE: (LOW) Tell them to wait for the signal -- and the sexton of North Church.

2ND MAN: (LOW) Right! Adams and Liberty!

REVERE: (LOW) Adams and liberty! 



REVERE: (BACK TO FLORABELLE) Now, madam, you were saying?

FLORABELLE: (STILL INDIGNANT) I was saying that I am completely--!

MOTHER: (INTERRUPTS) Oh, Mr. Revere? What's the price of this silver rattle?


REVERE: Twenty-five shillings, madam. Genuine coral.

MOTHER: Twenty-five shillings?! Twenty-five shill--? Oh, well, it's rather sweet. But twenty-five shillings? Tell me, is it guaranteed, Mr. Revere?

REVERE: (DRY) Ah, against the normal efforts of normal infants, madam, yes. But I have heard tales of your boy, madam. An infant Hercules! I don't know if I really could venture to guess-- 

MOTHER: (PLEASED) Yes, Jack is really very strong for his age. Do you know what he did the other day? He-–

REVERE: (QUICKLY, TO GET RID OF HER) As a special concession, twenty-three shillings, madam. And a guarantee for - for three months?

MOTHER: Yes, all right. I'll take it.

REVERE: Wrap it up for the lady, William. 


WILLIAM: (MOVING OFF) Yes, master.

REVERE: (BACK TO FLORABELLE) And now, madam? What can I do for you today?

FLORABELLE: (FURIOUS) What can you do for me today? You have done it, Mr. Revere! It has been done, I tell you. I am sending your hideous silver back tomorrow! Not an ornament on it! Not so much as a vine leaf! All as plain and simple and bare as the hills and rocks of New England! And I'm to set that before my friends?! Not while my name is Florabelle Carpenter and I'm an Englishwoman!



WILLIAM: (OFF, TO MOTHER) Good day, madam.

MOTHER: (OFF) Good day, William.


FLORABELLE: (SURPRISED AT REVERE'S REACTION, TO HERSELF) What? The fellow's bowing to me as if I'd paid him a compliment!

REVERE: (DREAMILY) You have. Plain -- simple -- bare as the hills and rocks of New England -- graceful as the boughs of her elm trees! Ah! If my silver were only like that, indeed. That is what I wish to make it. 


REVERE: (SHARPLY) As for you, madam-–! 



REVERE: -- with your lions and unicorns and grapevines and all your nonsense of bad ornaments done by bad silversmiths -– 

FLORABELLE: (OVERLAPS WITH ABOVE, NERVOUSLY) Why, Mr. Revere-- Don't you dare! Take your hands off me! Mercy!

REVERE: --and your imported bad taste and your imported British manners--! 


FLORABELLE: (DISBELIEF, TO HERSELF) Why, he's actually putting me out of the door!


REVERE: (BURSTS INTO HEARTY LAUGHTER) She - she's scuttling away like an angry turkey! (LAUGHS A BIT MORE, THEN STOPS, SADLY) Oh, alack. And I worked four months on her service. And who's to pay for it now? But she shouldn't have insulted my silver! (CALLS) William?

WILLIAM: (OFF) Yes, master?


REVERE: Never lose your temper, William, never. It's a very bad practice.

WILLIAM: Yes, master.

REVERE: Mine's French, you see. That - that makes a difference. And William--?

WILLIAM: Yes, master?

REVERE: Never argue with a customer. How often have I told you that, William?

WILLIAM: Almost every day, master.

REVERE: And, uh, how often do I argue with a customer?

WILLIAM: Almost every day, master.

REVERE: I was afraid so. And yet-- Yet can't they see that silver ought to be beautiful in the shape itself, not the ornament? Can't they see we're making new things in this country? New silver, new ideas, perhaps-- Perhaps a new nation, a new design. Ah, well, be off with you, William, and put up the shutters. We're closed for the day. Is there any message from Dr. Warren?

WILLIAM: No, master.

REVERE: Not yet. And Hancock and Adams still at Lexington! And the redcoat regulars disembarking from the ship! I wish I had surer news. We must wait till we're sure to warn them. Ah, but waiting's a weary business.

WILLIAM: Please, master--?

REVERE: Yes, William?

WILLIAM: Will - will - will they hang Mr. Hancock and Mr. Adams, if they catch them?

REVERE: (LIGHTLY) They might, William. They might. But let's hope some good friend will warn Hancock and Adams first.

WILLIAM: Yes, master, but-- Master--?

REVERE: Yes, William?

WILLIAM: Suppose you warned them, master. Would they hang you, then?

REVERE: They'd have to catch me first, William. By the way, are my riding boots clean?

WILLIAM: Yes, master. And Mrs. Revere says the next time you ride to Lexington, will you take a box of liniment along and be sure to rub yourself with it when you get there? She says it's a muddy road and she doesn't want to have you around the house with sciatica if she can help it.

REVERE: (AMUSED) Thank you, William. But I'll take something more important than liniment with me if I ride to Lexington. Well, we'll lock up now.

WILLIAM: Yes, sir.

LIGE: But I - I'm still here.

REVERE: Great Adams and Liberty! Where - where did you come from, my friend? Did you spring up out of the ground?

LIGE: No, Mr. Revere. It is Mr. Revere, ain't it? 

REVERE: I think it is.

LIGE: Yeh. I just set down for a rest while you was busy with your customers--


LIGE: --and my tooth stopped hurting, so I guess I must have dozed off. Anyhow, now-– 

REVERE: Well, my friend, I'm very sorry, but it's after hours. I'll have to ask you to come back in the morning.

LIGE: Oh, no. Can't wait till the morning. Horse doctor told me so.

REVERE: Well, what won't wait till the morning?

LIGE: My tooth.

REVERE: Your tooth?

LIGE: Yep.

REVERE: What in Heaven's name--? You don't talk like a Boston man. Where do you come from?

LIGE: (THROUGH WIDE OPEN MOUTH) 'Round Lexington way. See this tooth?

REVERE: (EXCITED) Where? Where?!

LIGE: (PLAINLY) Lexington, I said. Can't you hear me? This here tooth of mine-–

REVERE: Lexington! Were you there this morning?

LIGE: 'Course I was. That's when I met the horse doctor.

REVERE: Never mind the horse doctor! Were Mr. Hancock and Mr. Adams still at Parson Clarke's?

LIGE: Who?

REVERE: Who? Great Heavens! Is there a man in the American colonies who doesn't know Mr. Hancock and Mr. Adams?! Were there two men -- two men, I tell you; strangers -- staying at Parson Clarke's?

LIGE: (SLOW) Well, as I rode past the parsonage--


LIGE: Seems to me there was two strangers there. 


LIGE: A - a handsomish kind of a man in pretty good clothes. 

REVERE: Uh huh?

LIGE: And another fellow, looked -- heh! -- kind of like a bulldog.

REVERE: Hancock and Adams! Though Adams won't thank you for the description. So they're still there! Now listen, as you came to my shop, did you pass any redcoats?

LIGE: No, I didn't pass 'em -- four of 'em chased me into a tar barrel.

REVERE: Yes. Yes, that's just the ordinary patrol. Any more?

LIGE: Uhhh-- Why, seemed to me as I went by, there was a whole passel of 'em going toward the end of the Common. They had flags and swords.

REVERE: As I thought! They must be getting ready to march. Thank you, my friend. You've done me, and the colonies, an invaluable service! And now, if you'll excuse me--


LIGE: Hey, wait, wait! You can't run off like that! What about my tooth here? I come all the way from Lexington to have you fix it. Here's your prospectus; it says just plain as print. See?

REVERE: Yes, yes, but can't you understand? I do fix artificial teeth, but as for drawing real ones-- Well, I have done it once or twice, but it's hardly my trade. (RELENTS) Oh, well. Open your mouth and I'll have a look.

LIGE: Ah--

REVERE: Wider.

LIGE: Ah--

REVERE: Still wider. Man, you've a jaw like an alligator! (BEAT) Do you feel -- that?

LIGE: (STARTLED EXCLAMATION) Do I feel it? Who wouldn't feel it? Ow!

REVERE: Hmmmmm. You may shut your mouth again. 

LIGE: Is it very bad, Mr. Revere?

REVERE: It's a compound, agglutinated mesotropic infraction of the upper molar.

LIGE: Oh, my glory.

REVERE: There's no use at all in my trying to pull it tonight. Now, the thing for you to do is, er-- You go to a tavern, get a good night's rest, and come back to me in the morning. And meanwhile, I'll give you-- I'll give you-– William?

WILLIAM: Yes, master?

REVERE: Where is that liniment of Mrs. Revere's?

WILLIAM: In the black chest, master.

REVERE: Good. (TO LIGE) I'll give you some liniment, and if the tooth hurts, you use it. Now - now, let's see--


LIGE: That certainly is a handsome chest, Mr. Revere.

REVERE: Yes. I keep some queer things in that chest. You see, silversmithing isn't my only trade.

LIGE: What's this little bottle here?

REVERE: Oh, that's a little experiment of mine. I call it Essence of Boston. There's a good deal of East Wind in it.

LIGE: East wind? Shut up in a bott--? Say, are you a magician?

REVERE: Ooh, no. Not exactly. But what with one thing and another-– Well, I like to keep my hand in. Here's some charms against love. Not very durable; I got them from a sailor. And here, in this little box--

LIGE: My, that's a pretty one!

REVERE: I'm glad you like it. It's my own design. Can you make out the figures on it?

LIGE: (SQUINTS) Mmmm, seems like there's a tree.

REVERE: Yes, a liberty tree.

LIGE: And an eagle -- fighting a lion.

REVERE: The British lion!

LIGE: Yeah? What's all these stars 'round the edge? Ten, 'leven, twelve -- thirteen of 'em?

REVERE: Oh, that was just my fancy. You - you could make a very pretty design with stars for a new country, if you wanted to. I've sometimes thought of it--

LIGE: (READS) "The Am-er-i-can Rev-o-lu-tion: Hand-le with Care and Keep in a Cool Place."


LIGE: Say, it feels kind of warm when you touch it.

REVERE: Eh, it might well. You see, there's - there's something inside that box.

LIGE: Gunpowder?

REVERE: Gunpowder, and war, and the making of a new nation. And, if it ever got loose--


LIGE: (NERVOUSLY) Here! Here! Take it back; I don't want it.

REVERE: A lot of people don't want it. But it's coming. Only it isn't quite time yet. No, not quite yet.

LIGE: You know, I - I feel-- I feel kind of faint. I guess I'll set down here.

REVERE: All right now. I'll give you the liniment.



WILLIAM: A message from Dr. Warren.

REVERE: At last!


REVERE: (BEAT) Oh, I must go! Get my riding boots!

WILLIAM: Yes, master!

LIGE: What about me?!


REVERE: (QUICKLY) Here, take the box. Take the box and be off with you. There, in your pocket. Hurry! (CALLS) William, let him out!

WILLIAM: Yes, master.

LIGE: (WORRIED) Well, Mr. Revere, I don't know how I'll go without having my tooth pulled.

REVERE: Hurry, man. Hurry. Come back in the morning and I'll attend to you then.


REVERE: Now, William, tell Mrs. Revere I may be away all night, but she's not to worry, I'll return as soon as I can.

WILLIAM: Yes, master.

REVERE: (HORRIFIED) William! William!

WILLIAM: (WORRIED) Yes, master?

REVERE: (UPSET, HALF TO HIMSELF) The liniment, you fool, the liniment! Oh, I gave him the wrong box! Great Adams and Liberty, he's got the American Revolution with him.


OLD MAN: And so, according to the tale, Lige Butterwick went back to his tavern with the American Revolution in his pocket. Seems that Revere and William run after him and called after him, but it was dark by the wharves and they missed him somehow. 

GIRL: Oh, what did he do with the revolution, grandfather?

OLD MAN: (CHUCKLES) Well, now it's a considerable job, being custodian of a revolution, even when it's shut up in a silver box.

GIRL: Sure.

OLD MAN: And it wasn't no time at all after Lige Butterwick had gone to bed before he begun to feel creepy. He tossed and he turned, and he turned to where his clothes lay on the chair. His tooth had kind of settled down to a dull ache by now and he didn't mind that much no more, but he minded this new feeling, oh, something extraordinary. Till finally, he got up in the moonlight and he went over to his coat, and shook it. Then he reached his hand in his pocket and he pulled out that silver box.


OLD MAN: Well, sir, at first, he was so frustrated he didn't know what to do. But, being human, he was curious. He shook the box, and he handled it; that just seemed to make it warmer, so he soon give that up. Then he looked all over it for a keyhole. But there warn't no keyhole. And, of course, if there had been, he didn't have no key. Then he put his ear to the box and he listened hard. 


OLD MAN: And it seemed to him that he heard, very tiny and far away, inside that box, the rolling fire of thousands of tiny muskets and the tiny, faraway cheers of many men. 



OLD MAN: "Hold your fire!" he heard a voice say, "Don't fire till you're fired on! But if they want a war, let it begin here!" 


OLD MAN: Then there was a rolling of drums and a squeal of fifes. It was small, still, and far away, but it made him shake all over, for he knew that he was listening to something in the future, and something that he didn't have no right to hear. He sat down on the edge of the bed, with that box in his hands. "What am I going to do with this?" he says to himself, "It's too big a job for one man."



OLD MAN: Well, he thought, kind of scared like, of going down to the river and throwing the box in there. But when he thought of doing it, he knew he couldn't. Then he thought of his farm, out near Lexington, and the peaceful days. Once the Revolution was out of that box, there'd be an end to that, and that made him want to get rid of that box more than ever. Then he remembered what Revere had said when he was talking with the woman about the silver -- that thing about building a new country and building it clean and plain. "Why, I ain't a Britisher," he thought. "I'm a New Englander. And maybe there's something beyond that -- something people like Hancock and Adams know about. And if it has to come with a revolution-- Well, I guess it has to come. We can't stay Britishers forever, here in this country." He listened to the box again--


OLD MAN: Now there wasn't any shooting in it. Just a queer tune played on a fife. He didn't know the name of that tune, but it lifted his heart. 


OLD MAN: He got up, sort of slow and heavy. "I guess I'll have to take this back to Paul Revere," he said. Well, first place he went was Dr. Warren's, having heard Revere mention it, but he didn't get much satisfaction there. Took him quite a while to convince them that he warn't a spy. And when he finally did, all they'd tell him was Revere had gone over the river to Charlestown. So he went down to the waterfront, looking for a boat. And the first person he met was a very angry woman.

GIRL: An angry woman?

OLD MAN: "No," she says, "You don't get no boats from me. There was a crazy man along here a' hour or so ago and he wanted a boat, too, and my husband was crazy enough to take him. And then do you know what he done?" she says.

"No, ma'am, I don't know," says Lige Butterwick.

"Why, he made my husband take my best petticoat to muffle the oars with, so they wouldn't make a splash when they went past the Britisher ship," she says, pointing out to where the man-of-war Somerset lay at anchor. "My best petticoat, I tell you!" she says. "And when my husband comes back here, he's going to get a piece of my mind!"

"Was his name Revere?" says Lige Butterwick. "And was he a man of forty-odd, keen-looking and kind of Frenchy?"

"I don't know what his right name is," she says, "but his name is just mud with me. My best petticoat swimming in that nasty river!" And that's all he could get out of her.

All the same, he managed to get a boat at last -- the story don't say how -- and row across the river. Well, the tide was a young flood and the moonlight bright on the water, and he passed right under the shadow of the Somerset, right where Revere had passed. And when he got to the Charlestown side, he could see the lanterns in North Church, though, of course, he didn't know what they was. Then he told the folks at Charlestown he was after Revere. They got him a horse and so he started to ride. And, all the while, that silver box was just a-burning in his pocket.

GIRL: Ooooh.

OLD MAN: Yep. Well, he lost his way more or less, I guess, as he well might in the darkness, and it was dawn when he come into Lexington, by a side road. Now, the dawn in that country's pretty -- with the dew still on the grass, you know. But he warn't looking at the dawn. He was feeling that box burn his pocket, and thinking hard. Then all of a sudden, he reins up his tired horse. For there, on the side of the road, was two men carrying a trunk -- and one of them men was Paul Revere.

GIRL: Ohhh!

OLD MAN: Yep, Paul Revere. They looked at each other and Lige began to grin, for Revere was just as dirty and mud-splashed as he was himself. He'd warned Hancock, mind ye, and he'd warned Adams, all right, but then, on his way to Concord, he'd got catched by the British and turned loose again. So he'd gone back to Lexington to see how things was there -- and now he and this other fella were saving a trunk of papers that Hancock had left behind, so they wouldn't fall into the hands of the British.

"Well, Mr. Revere," says Lige, "You see? I'm on time for that little appointment 'bout my tooth. And, by the way," he says, "I've got something for you." And he takes that silver box out of his pocket. And then he looks over toward Lexington Green and he catches his breath. For on the Green, there's a little line of Minute Men -- neighbors of his, as he knows -- and in front of them, the British regulars. 

GIRL: (WORRIED) British regulars?

OLD MAN: British regulars! And, even as he looks, there's the sound of a gunshot and suddenly smoke wraps the front of the British line and he hears them shout as they run forward.

GIRL: Oooh.

OLD MAN: Well, sir, Lige Butterwick, he takes that silver box and stamps on it with his heel. And with that, the box breaks open -- and there's a dazzle in his eyes for a moment, and a noise of men shouting -- and then it's gone. "Do you know what you've done?" says Revere, breathing deep, "You've let out the American Revolution!"

GIRL: Gee.

OLD MAN: "Well," says Lige Butterwick, "I guess 'twas about time. And I guess I'd better be going home now. I've got a gun on the wall there. And I'll need it."

"But what about your tooth?" says Paul Revere.

"Ohhh, a tooth? A tooth is a tooth," says Lige Butterwick, "But a country - is a country. And, anyhow, it's stopped aching."


All the same, they say that Paul Revere made a silver tooth for him after the war. At least, that's the way they tell it. But, of course, I wouldn't vouch for it.


ANNOUNCER: You have heard, as the fortieth program in the Columbia Workshop series, "Paul Revere," an original play written especially for radio by Stephen Vincent Benét. Parker Fennelly was featured in the role of the storyteller. Edgar Stehli played Paul Revere. The Workshop programs are arranged and directed by Irving Reis. 

This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.