The nation has been rocked by the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. For the boarders in the house on H Street, their nightmare is just beginning. It all begins with the ring of a doorbell, and a lot of questions, but it ends with them all being arrested and taken into custody until they can determine what each person knows. While Mrs. Surratt is worried about the fate of her son, and of course the plans that she knew but never told, the rest of the boarders are concerned with what will happen to them. Initially in their imprisonment, the ladies are kept together while the men are separated. Nora is finally released and returned to her original boarding house with the Misses Donovan, who fuss over her. Mary and Anna however, are not released. As time goes on, Nora is once again taken into custody, but this time she is separated from the others, and not allowed any contact.
Her father is beside himself, trying to get her released. Nora is not sure what they want from her. She doesn’t really know anything. Mary is moved from one prison to another, where she is informed that she will stand trial. It’s not just any trial. but a military tribunal. where the other defendants are some of the acquaintances of her son and John Wilkes Booth. The police are sure that her son has had a hand in the assassination, but since he cannot be located, he is unable to be questioned, and Mary is not about to give up any more information than she had to on the fate of her son. If she can keep one of them safe, than that is what she will do.
Mr. Weichmann has no issues at all working for the prosecution and he gladly tells everything that he knows. He recounts information that Mary is surprised that he has remembered and is sure that he must have been keeping some sort of journal, as his information and memory are remarkable. With the information that Mr. Booth has been killed trying to escape, Anna, Mary and Nora all grieve for him in their own way, although Anna takes his death harder than anyone else. With his death, anything that he might have been able to say in defense of Mrs. Surratt is lost, and her life hangs in the balance. Nora testifies for both the prosecution and the defense. She has come to love her landlady as a mother figure, and while she does not have all the answers that the courts are searching for, she might be able to help Mrs. Surratt out in some way.
While the trial lingers on, the fate of the outcomes still looms over one who should have told the authorities what she knew, but remained silent…
This week we are reading Chapters 28-40
- With the entire boarding house under arrest, do you think that Nora should have revealed everything she knew?
- Mr Weichmann claims that he told a friend in the War Department about some of the incidents at the boarding house. Should he have gone to the authorities on his own?
- Mary knows that keeping silent is wrong, but she cannot bring herself to bear witness against her son. If you were in her position, what would you have done?
- Which character do you find yourself liking or disliking?