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July 01, 2021
Edith!
Au Revoir, Sword

In This Episode

“Yeah, you’re right. Ghosts don’t exist. And you can’t be in love with them.”

A decades-old sex scandal finally bubbles back to the surface, and Edith is left with no choice but to meet Woodrow’s former lover face to face.

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Transcript

 

[loc. White House Rose Garden]

 

Trudie, voice over: When she told me she’d never been to the White House, I was like, what? Edith, you were born for the White House? And so I said, Hey, you should come with the ladies luncheon in the Rose Garden next week and of course, she was like, oh, yeah, I’d go anywhere with you, Trudie, because we’re like this. If the people in the back can’t see, I’m crossing my fingers to indicate that we would die for each other. Anyway, it was all really nice until . . .

 

Woman: Rain? Rain! It’s raining! Everyone inside. Go!

 

Woman #2: I can’t be seen with the damp hat again. It would end me! Ah, oh.

 

Edith: Thanks for the invite, Trudie.

 

Trudie: Oh, no problem. I’m glad you’re here.

 

Edith: That was sarcastic.

 

[thunder]

 

Woman #2: Well, the luncheon is ruined.

 

Woodrow: Why not move the party inside?

 

Trudie, voice over: We all turned and there was the president holding a golf clubs, totally soaked, his whole cute little outfit covered in mud. And we were all speechless, except for Edith, who was just like:

 

Edith: Oh, Mr. President. Well, it’s an honor to meet a politician who’s so dedicated to his country he’s literally covered in it.

 

Woodrow: [laughs]

 

Trudie, voice over: A joke, which I totally got.

 

Trudie: Wait, I don’t get it.

 

[loc. White House, East Room dance floor]

 

Trudie: So to answer your question, Mr. King Albert of Belgium, that is how Edith and Woodrow met.

 

King Albert: Thank you, Trudie. But once again, you don’t have to call me Mr. King.

 

Trudie: Sorry, Albert.

 

King Albert: No, King Albert is correct.

 

Trudie: Sorry. Of course, Mr. King Albert.

 

Edith, voice over: The world doesn’t revolve around the president. It revolves because of the president. Dr. Grayson had ordered bedrest for Woodrow, but the world still needed to spin. And the Belgian state dinner was one of those little things that kept it spinning.

 

Nel: Endless “thank you”s for inviting me here. I love helping you and Daddy.

 

Edith: No, thank you. Having you here distracts people from the fact that Woodrow still needs to rest.

 

Edith, voice over: This is Woodrow’s youngest daughter, Nel.

 

Nel: I do have something to tell you.

 

Edith: Please Nel, tell me anything.

 

Edith, voice over: I don’t know what Nel was like before her mother died, but if having a dead mother makes people say things like this:

 

Nel: You have the bluest eyes ever. Not just aqua blue, true blue, so beautiful.

 

Edith, voice over: I hope the entire world turns half orphan.

 

Edith: Thank you, Nel! That’s nice. You know, your eyes are also blue.

 

Nel: Not like yours. When Daddy told me he was going to marry someone he just met, I, I was a little worried. But then I saw you and who can blame him?

 

Edith: What you just did there? That thing where you make me feel like the prettiest girl in the world—if you could just go around the room and do that to everyone, no one will even care that Woodrow isn’t here.

 

Nel: Well, of course I’ll tell complete strangers they’re beautiful.

 

Trudie: Edith, it’s going well, it’s actually going well.

 

Edith: I know. Even Marshall is being fun drunk instead of Marshall drunk.

 

Marshall: Oh, King Albert! Your majesty, of the Belgish Isles. Put it there, pal.

 

King Albert: Mr. Vice President, put what where?

 

Marshall: Oh, wherever you like, as long as you ask me first. [laughs] Oh, there’s so much to love about that Belgium. Yeah. The waffles. The Beer. Oh. And the woman.

 

King Albert: You mean the women?

 

Marshall: Nah, I really only know one. [laughs] Hey, for a king, you’re alright. Here’s to no one overthrowing you or beheading you—yikes—any time soon.

 

Edith: OK, he’s bordering on Marshall drunk but still, it’s not bad.

 

Trudie: And the best part hasn’t even happened yet. [bell tinkles] Dinner time! Everyone is going to sit down and use my seating chart.

 

Edith, voice over: Trudie spend weeks on it. She was so proud. Hell, I was proud of her ability to save me from doing it.

 

Trudie: Look! The French ambassador just sat down and just on his way to making the young bride to the Baron of Austria blush. I can already smell the gunpowder from the duel.

 

Edith: Trudie, you know, this seating chart isn’t actually supposed to get people killed, right?

 

Trudie: I know. And they probably won’t. But if it’s in the papers, just remember, it was all me. Wait, what is that!? Did Lansing just ignore the seating chart and sit next to the King of Belgium?

 

Edith: Why did we invite that viper?

 

Edith, voice over: In reality, I had no choice. He’s Secretary of State. Not having the president here already raised enough eyebrows. A compromise was Trudie sat him as close to the bathrooms as possible. So, of course, this seat swap was infuriating.

 

Trudie: I am going to put that man in his place. Literally.

 

Edith: Give him hell for me.

 

Trudie: Oh, I will give him hell. Screw it, I’ll say it loud and proud: hell.

 

[loc. White House, President’s bedroom]

 

Edith, voice over: It had been a few weeks, but Woodrow was still recovering. Dr. Grayson told me the best thing I could do was keep the fire roaring beside his bedside.

 

Edith: Hey, Woodrow, how are you?

 

Edith, voice over: I’ve been so used to seeing Woodrow asleep that even the smallest change, an envelope lying on top of his chest could make me make a noise like this:.

 

Edith: [gasp]

 

Edith, voice over: That’s the sound of me realizing someone had snuck into the president’s bedroom. And this is the sound of me realizing it was some kind of threat.

 

Edith: Ooooh! This must be some kind of threat.

 

[loc. White House Dining Room]

 

Edith: Trudie, someone just broke into the president’s bedroom.

 

Trudie: Oh, my God, they kidnaped him?

 

Edith: No, they just left a letter.

 

Trudie: A ransom letter? How much do they want to get Woodrow back?

 

Edith: No, no. It’s not a ransom letter. It’s a threat. Someone in this room, attending this banquet knows all about Woodrow’s . . . condition.

 

Trudie: [gasps] I don’t understand, but I’m shocked.

 

Edith: Woodrow wrote this letter years ago, back when he was married to his first wife, Ellen. He wrote it to a woman named Mary Peck.

 

Trudie: Mary Peck? Is it a love letter to a rich socialite telling her that even if their love must remain a secret, he holds her in his heart?

 

Edith: Trudie, stop guessing. Wait. That one’s actually right. How’d you know?

 

Trudie: Broken clock, that sort of thing. Edith, you got to tell me everything. I know I’m not sitting, but I am on the edge of my seat.

 

[loc. White House North Portico]

 

Edith: It’s a sex scandal, Trudie. This is how presidencies end. Well, it’s how they used to end.

 

Trudie: Wait, I don’t understand. Did he cheat on his first wife before or after she died?

 

Edith: Before. How can you cheat on someone after they die?

 

Trudie: Oh, yeah, you’re right. That doesn’t make sense. Ghosts don’t exist and you can’t be in love with them.

 

Edith, voice over: Trudy and I found a quiet spot away from the King of Belgium in the serfs of Washington. I told her as much of the story as I knew.

 

[loc. Bermuda]

 

Mary Peck, voice over: I must know more about this Mary Beck woman! Over my life, so many men have uttered those lines, ushering me center stage into their lives. Oh, let’s see. There was Admiral John Abruthnot.

 

Adm. Abruthnot: Mary. You are beautiful.

 

Mary Peck, voice over: Famed author Sam, Sam Clemens. You know him as Mark Twain.

 

Mark Twain: Why, hello beautiful.

 

Mary Peck, voice over: American Vice-Counsel W.H. Allen.

 

W.H. Allen: My God, you are a beauty.

 

Mary Peck, voice over: And believe me, so many more.

 

[overlapping voices] So beautiful . . .  What a beauty . . . Beauty . . . Beautiful . . . How’d you get so beautiful? . . . . Beauty!

 

Mary Peck, voice over: But Woodrow! President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.

 

Woodrow: Dear Mary, my precious honeysuckle, if I ever have to be with you for half an hour with only two stolen half glances to express my irresistible desire to take you in my arms and kiss your entire body, I swear I will crack an artery.

 

Mary Peck, reading a letter: Dear Woodrow, I could tell, and I know exactly where in your body the artery will crack. Yours, Mary.

 

Mary Peck, voice over: Woodrow was memorable. He was also pretty racist, but I try my best to focus on the poetry memories. I met him in Bermuda, which is where I summered, wintered, occasionally sprung. He traveled to the island to work on his new book and was dining in the Hamilton Hotel when he saw me. I was hard to miss.

 

Mary Peck: Oh, thank you. Thank you. But I couldn’t. I can’t. It’s like I said to Sam, you know him as Mark Twain, I call him Sam. I said, Sam, I can’t perform. I don’t have my castanets. Oh, wait. Here they are.  [castanets play]

 

Woodrow: Waiter. Waiter. Tell me, who is that? Mary Peck woman on stage?

 

[loc. White House North Portico]

 

Edith, voice over: Woodrow had an affair with this Mary woman. People have tried to use it against him in the past, but every time we somehow got lucky.

 

Edith: As far as the list of suspects go, Lansing’s right at the top. We can’t rule out Marshall

 

Trudie: Or Mr. King Albert. He might be in cahoots with Lansing, Lansing violated the seating chart and Mr. King was extremely lax about it.

 

Marshall: Yeah. [laughs] Hey, can I trouble you find ladies for an ashtray? I’ve been ashing into Tumulty’s martini, which, well, I mean, a martini? Come on, Tummy. You ain’t better than me.

 

Edith: Marshal, how drunk are you

 

Marshall: Uhhhh. Drunk enough that people tell me things they think I’ll forget.

 

Edith: Oh yeah. What do people tell you?

 

Marshall: Whispers. Whispers on the winds. Where’s Woodrow? Where’s Woodrow? Everyone asks, what’s up with Woodrow? You know, no one ever asks, what’s up with Marshall?

 

Trudie: Um, what is up with Marshall?

 

Marshall: No, not much. I got a boat.

 

Edith, voice over: I didn’t think I cared enough about Marshall to worry about him, but it’s hard not to worry about someone when they tell you:

 

Marshall: Oh, don’t you worry. I don’t want people to ask about me. No, unless they’re asking when will that baby boy kiss me on the kisser? [whispers] Wheeeere’s Woodrow?

 

Trudie: Maybe we should put him at the top of the list.

 

Edith: No, let’s do what Woodrow did when he was picking a VP and put him at the bottom of our list. And before we worry about him, let me interrogate our prime suspect.

 

[loc. White House, Dining Room]

 

King Albert: [speaking French]

 

Edith: Playing with letters again, Lansing?

 

Lansing: Pardon?

 

Edith: Pardon you? No. If you’re ever convicted, I’ll just let you rot. I’m talking about this:.

 

Lansing: An envelope.

 

Edith: Don’t be coy. I know what you did.

 

Lansing: I can see I’ve upset you, but I’m asking as a friend, are you handling this all OK? Are you getting enough sleep? You’re just coming across a little paranoid.

 

Edith: Paranoid?! How can I be paranoid when you are the one sneaking into my husband’s room and leaving secret letters?

 

Edith, voice over: I see how that sounds paranoid, but I want you to know it’s not.

 

Lansing: Edith, I’ve been here with King Albert all night. Your Majesty? I was just telling the first lady, I’ve been enjoying your company all night.

 

King Albert: Me too. Secretary Lansing, I’ve enjoyed discussing the Leagues of Nations and a postwar—

 

Edith: Thank you, Your Majesty. Please enjoy the festivities. Lansing, this isn’t your seat. Good night.

 

Trudie: Edith. Edith.

 

Edith: What, what is it, Trudie?

 

Trudie: It’s not Lansing. While you talked to him, I put my purse down for a second and someone dropped another love letter from Woodrow in there. I only read it three or four times before running over to tell you. Listen to this, “Mary, last night I dreamt that your beautiful form was beside me. I only need to stretch out my hand and fell your body, fill my reach.” I didn’t know Woodrow had it him. I mean, if he was forty years younger, and I was forty years older, I—

 

Edith: Wait. How, how old do you think Woodrow is? Look, I still don’t understand. How does this prove it’s not Lansing?

 

Trudie: Lansing and the King were both in front of us the whole time. It can’t be them.

 

Edith: Shit. I didn’t want it to come to this, but it has to.

 

Trudie: Edith, where are you going?

 

Edith: There’s too many people here to narrow it down. But this letter didn’t fall from the sky.

 

Trudie: Right. It clearly came from the depth of his soul, traveled the byways of his heart from pen to the page because he, he really wanted to have sex with this lady.

 

Edith: Well, the letters must have been in Mary’s possession, which means she gave it to someone here, right?

 

Trudie: Oh, you’re going to see Mary? How long is the flight to Bermuda?

 

Edith: Oh no, that’s just where she vacations. She lives in Foggy Bottom.

 

Trudie: You know her address?

 

Edith: She’s a threat to my husband’s presidency. I tend to learn shit like that.

 

Trudie: Wow. What a dramatic way to say, you know, someone’s address. I love it?

 

[loc. Edith’s home]

 

Edith, voice over: People always take too long to say what they mean, so usually, I love telegrams. Charging by the word forces them to get right to it. I wish we had to pay by the word in everyday conversation, but some telegrams are just trash.

 

Woodrow, reading: “If engagement to Edith announced, Mrs. Peck sends love letters to press. Stop. Will kill reelection campaign. Stop. Signed a friend. Stop.” I was a different per—

 

Edith: Wait, this Mrs. Peck—

 

Woodrow: You go first.

 

Edith: No, you go.

 

Woodrow: The person I was when I did this to Ellen, when I had this relationship with Mary, when Ellen died, it forced me to finally reflect on what I did to her, who I was, and I want you to know I’m not this person anymore. I won’t do this to you?

 

Edith: OK. Oh, wow. This is a lot.

 

Woodrow, reading: I know.

 

Edith: But, uh . . . OK, one thing at a time, there is a problem in front of us.

 

Woodrow: I know, I betrayed your trust by keeping this secret, but I thought it was behind me.

 

Edith: No, no, no, no. Not that. We can deal with that. This telegram is a Damocles sword dangling on a frayed rope over our necks.

 

Woodrow: Our necks?

 

Edith: Our necks. Whoever this friend is wants to stop our marriage. So, yes, the sword is over both our necks, and it will snap sooner or later. So we need to cut it while we’re ready for it to fall.

 

Woodrow: I don’t understand,

 

Edith: we announce our engagement.

 

Woodrow: You still want to get married?

 

Edith: Yes. Don’t you?

 

Woodrow: Of course. I absolutely still want to marry you, but you realize what you’re signing up for, right? The press will try to destroy us. The Republicans will drag this scandal out for the rest of my presidency and they’ll hound you too, maybe worse. It won’t be easy.

 

Edith: Marriage never is. But you’re right. Once these letters are out, we have to fight. We throw every lawyer, every detective, every, everything at this Mary woman until she retracts. We destroy what little reputation that woman has left.

 

Woodrow: I just remembered why I first fell in love with you. Back when we first met.

 

Edith: Oh yeah. Why is that?

 

Woodrow: You don’t scare easy.

 

Edith, voice over: The day of our wedding came, but the letters were never leaked. But that didn’t get it off my mind, even on what should have been the happiest day of my adult life.

 

Woodrow: Mrs. Wilson, I just realized how lucky I am

 

Edith: that the story never broke?

 

Woodrow: No. To spend the rest of my life with you.

 

Edith: I’m sorry, I, I, I woke up thinking I, their waiting for today to do it. It’s going to leak on our wedding and ruin what should be a beautiful day and, but it never broke and—.

 

Woodrow, reading: And that’s good, right.

 

Edith: Yes, of course. Of course. But it means that it’s still could. It still could.

 

Edith, voice over: At first it’s hard, but the thing about swords dangling over your head is after a while, you get used to him. You wake up and you go, hello sword, or good morning sword or sweet dreams sword. And so after a while you forget it’s there until you look up one day and remember, oh shit, there’s a sword.

 

[loc. Mary’s apartment]

 

Edith: Thank you, Ike. Please keep the car here. I shouldn’t be long.

 

Edith, voice over: I knew Foggy Bottom wasn’t elegant, but Mary’s house wasn’t a house at all. It was an apartment, on the third floor, out of three floors.

 

Mary Peck: Yes, this letter’s definitely in Woodsy’s handwriting, which is much nicer than someone like Sam’s—That Samuel Clemens, you know Mark Twain? We’re friends.

 

Edith: Yeah. Yes, I know. I’ve met him.

 

Mary Peck: Oh! So you call him Sam, too?

 

Edith: Yes.

 

Mary Peck: Well, sorry to disappoint, but I’ve never seen this letter before.

 

Edith: Wait, that doesn’t—well, what about the threatening telegram you sent before our marriage?

 

Mary Peck: What telegram?

 

Edith: You never sent a telegram?

 

Mary Peck: No! I don’t do things like that. Not to Woodsy—that’s Woodrow, President of the United States of—

 

Edith: I know who he is. He’s my husband.

 

Mary Peck: Oh, right. Sorry. But this letter is dated after he stopped writing to me. Yeah. One day he just stopped. I thought he wanted it to be over, and I respected his wishes. But I guess he, he did keep writing after all. And someone—

 

Edith: intercepted them? Is that what you’re saying?

 

Mary Peck: His wife, I imagine. That means she must have known.

 

Edith: Well, there’s no way to ask her now. Hmm.

 

Edith, voice over: As I stood up, Mary grabbed my hand, tighter than she needed to. It felt like if she let go, she’d plummet to her death. I can still feel her rings. She wore so many rings and like, an audible amount of bracelets.

 

Mary Peck: I tell you this, woman to woman, because I see some of me in you.

 

Edith, voice over: First of all, that’s ridiculous. We have nothing in common.

 

Mary Peck: Woodrow’s world is full of vipers.

 

Edith, voice over: OK, ignore the fact that that does sound a lot like me.

 

Mary Peck: Never cede control. Hang on tight to it. Look at this apartment! I lived in a mansion with servants and a piano that we bought just to pretend we were piano people.

 

Edith: Oh yeah, you have to have a piano if you want to be piano people.

 

Mary Peck: My ex-husband was an awful man and when he found out about . . . after the divorce, he took everything from me. I know our circumstances are different, but there’s people out there who want to do that to you too, remove you from your home.

 

Edith: Who? How do you know that?

 

Mary Peck: I don’t. But people don’t threaten you with mysterious love letters if they don’t want what’s yours.

 

Edith: Thank you for that. Um, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to a dinner for the King of Belgium.

 

Mary Peck: Oh! Al. I love Al. I call him Al. Tell Al I say hello. Actually, can I come?

 

Edith: Absolutely not.

 

Mary Peck: Yeah. OK, no. I did not think so.

 

[White House East Room]

 

Trudie: Edith, did you find her? What happened? You were gone a while.

 

Edith: I had to make a quick stop. Where’s Nel. I have to tell her something.

 

Trudie: What, what do you have to tell her?

 

Edith: Something she has a right to know.

 

[loc. White House Parlor]

 

Edith: Nel, this isn’t easy, but there’s going to be news tomorrow, in the paper.

 

Nel: News, what news?

 

Edith: Someone is threatening your father with letters that prove that while your mother was alive, he had an affair. I couldn’t allow them to do that to Woodrow, to blackmail and manipulate us, not while he’s sick, so I went to a journalist friend.

 

Nel: Edith, please, you didn’t.

 

Edith: I had to.

 

Nel: No.

 

Edith: I leaked the letters. They’ll be in tomorrow’s papers.

 

Nel: Oh, OK. [gasping]

 

Edith: Nel, you’re OK?

 

Nel: I didn’t. I didn’t want this.

 

Edith: What, what didn’t you want?

 

Nel: I, I just. I wanted you, for you to ask the family what we wanted for our father. Please call it off. Call it off. Oh.

 

Edith: There we go. Thought so.

 

Nel:  Edith. Please try to understand—

 

Edith:  And the telegram?

 

Nel: Mommy had just died, and you come in, controlling everything, and I was worried and scared . . . and look at you now, was I wrong?

 

Edith: What did you think would happen?

 

Nel: I wanted you to take a moment to reconsider what you’re doing with Daddy. Maybe just ask us, am I doing something bad?

 

Edith: Hmm. Well, it’s out there now, just like you wanted.

 

Nel: Oh, my God. Oh, God. You didn’t have to do this. You didn’t have to.

 

Edith, voice over: My initial plan was to tell her the truth, admit that I never gave any letters to any members of the press. I mean, I’m not crazy. I just wanted her to tell the truth. But I don’t know. This woman ruined my wedding day. I’ve lived in fear ever since, so I’m not proud of it. Or maybe I am. Depends on the day. But I’ve decided to let her wait too, day after day, just like I did, for those letters to arrive in the morning paper.

 

Nel: Edith, how could you be so—

 

Edith: Heartless, ruthless, cruel? I have a mirror right there if you want to finish that sentence.

 

Nel: None of that changes that what you’re doing to Daddy, to the country, it just isn’t right.

 

Edith: You know what? Right now, looking into your eyes, you’re right. My eyes are better than yours.

 

Edith, voice over: I went back, talk to my guests, enjoyed the food, congratulated Trudie on a job well done, and then it was over. The dinner was a success, after all.

 

[loc. White House President’s bedroom].

 

Edith, voice over: That night, I was too restless to get into bed. I sat by Woodrow’s side and eventually fell asleep until . . . Woodrow woke me up.

 

Woodrow, reading: [groans]

 

Edith, voice over: Woodrow was standing.

 

Edith: Woodrow?! Woodrow, what are you doing?

 

Edith, voice over: For the first time since his fall. But he wasn’t just standing, he was trying to open a locked desk drawer, as if, even in his condition, in the early dawn, he had business to take care of.

 

Edith: Woodrow. Can you hear me?

 

Edith, voice over: When I tried to help him, he fell into my arms and I sat him in a chair. I called Dr. Grayson and he said it was a miracle. Woodrow standing meant he was finally on a path to recovery. I asked if there was anything I could do to help and Dr. Grayson said:

 

Dr. Grayson: Keep the fire going. Woodrow needs the warmth.

 

Edith, voice over: Sometime later, I opened that desk drawer, and there wasn’t anything inside. Just a looked box. I opened it and I found some old receipts, some postage, some paperwork. People ask me what happened to those love letters? I’m not sure. [fire crackles] I must have lost them at some point. Some have asked where there any more? But I never found anything like that. I mean, if I did if they still existed, where are they now? Did they just disappear? [fire gets louder] Disappear like that sword dangling over my head.

[end