|War and History Script posted June 3, 2015||Chapters:||1 -2- 3...|
Hans Voss comes for a barter.
A chapter in the book The Kinsman
A visitor Helps.
Note: This is Part tow of Act One
The Kinsman is an historical play of the American Revolution. It is set in the village of Stillwater, New Jersey, in the Inn and home of a prosperous German miller, Casper Schaeffer. He is due back from the state legislature. His young granddaughter Anna has hidden a surprise for him in the storeroom.
The play is based on true events and real people with the author taking liberties with how events played out.
(Act One, Part One ended with a knock at the door as Catherine swept the floor.)
Catherine: Anna? Is that you again? (The response from outside is muffled.)
Catherine: (Opening the door, she speaks rather sternly) Who?
(Hans Voss stands in the doorway, his tri-corner hat in his hand. He is in his seventies, and in general, a rugged old man. His clothes are worn or ripped and he has neither boots nor a long coat, and his feet are wrapped in rags. He is very timid.)
Catherine: (Rather sullenly.) Oh. It's you, Hans. (She moves back to her room.) Come in, come in. Don't stand there letting my heat go out.
Hans: Mum? (He steps in quickly, closing the door, but does not enter further into the room. He continues to hold his hat.) 'Afternoon, Mum .
Catherine:(Busily sweeping.) A busy afternoon is what it is.
Hans: Yes, mum.
Catherine: (As she continues her sweeping) Well?
Hans: Well . . . Mum . . .
Catherine: Speak up, Hans. What is it?
Hans: Mr. Schaeffer, Mum. Mr. Casper Schaeffer . . . is . . . is he about?
Catherine: No. (She continues to sweep) He's down with the legislature, in New Brunswick.
Hans: Oh. (He pauses, waiting to see if she has anything to add.) I...I was looking for some chores, mum.
Catherine: He'll be back before sundown, I expect. (She crosses to pour more sand from the bucket, but it is empty.)
Hans: (Turning to go.) I'll try a little later, Mum. Thank ye, Mum.
Catherine: (Turning to look at him, she speaks quite sternly.) Hans Voss, have you eaten?
Hans: (With his back to her.) No, mum. But now-a-days I only eat a little, once or twice a day.
Catherine: (Resuming her sweeping .) Have some biscuits. They're on the bench.
Hans: (Opening the door.) Thank you, Mum, but no, Mum. Maybe Kunkle or Diebel down the road need some help . . .
Catherine: The bisquits only go stale anyway.
Hans: (Standing, with the door open.) Thank you, Mum, but I'd rather a barter.
Catherine: (With a sigh.) I need a bucket of sand, Hans. (She picks up the empty wooden bucket holding it out for him.)
Hans: (He turns, hurriedly, with the door still open, and takes it.) I'd be obliged to, mum. Yes, mum. That'd be a fair barter.
(He exits quickly with the bucket and she crosses to close the door after him.)
Catherine: Humph! Some barter. A bucket of sand for a cold room. (She crosses and adjusts the fire and gets the biscuits from the bench, placing them on the table.) Just what I need on my church cleaning day, a starving old man . . . who's still proud at that. And three days of spinning to do!
(She crosses to the wheel, begins to separate the wool and sits down by the machine. Hans returns, carrying the full bucket of sand, leaving the door open.)
Hans: If you show me where to dump it, Mum . . .
Catherine: (A little too loudly.) Shut the door! (He is startled and nearly drops the bucket rushing to close the door. Catherine rises and takes a cape from a peg, puts it on and returning to her spinning.) Just leave it, Hans. Just leave it.
(He sets the bucket down and remains in place.)
The biscuits are on the table. Go. Go.
Hans: Yes, Mum. Thank you, Mum. (He crosses to the table and bows his head.) Bless this food . . .
(The rest is mumbled and he quickly finishes the prayer and begins to eat, ravenously.)
After I finish, Mum, I'll be happy to spread the sand around. (He talks between bites.)
'Course you may have to show me, seeing as I'm not too familiar with German customs like that.
Catherine: (Busily spinning.) There's no mystery to it. We Germans keep a clean house by spreading sand, you Dutchmen by leaving your boots outside.
Hans: (Softly.) Yes, Mum.
Catherine: (Halts her spinning and scowls at him.) Hans, do you have boots?
Hans: No, Mum.
Catherine: Hans Vos, it's the first day of December! And I suppose you have no long coat as well.
Hans: I wrap up pretty well, Mum. And 'member, I was with Rogers during the last war, up in Quebec against those Indians . . .
Catherine: That was twenty years ago, or more. You're not a young man now . . . (She rises and crosses to the table.)
Men! You're worse than little boys taking care of yourselves!
Hans: (Straightening up.) I can still chop a cord of wood, Mum, in . . .
Catherine: You'll be chopping wood for your own pine box, if you catch a chill and get a fever. I'll get you some hot cider.
(She crosses to the bench where she gets a jug of cider and the cupboard for a mug. Heating the poker in the fireplace, she puts it in the mug to warm the liquid.)
Hans: (Rising) I'll get some wood, Mum.
Catherine: (A little harshly, as she works.) Oh, sit down Hans. (Pause.) You can get some later.
Hans: The cider's fine that way, Mum... No need to go to any trouble heating it.
(Catherine serves the hot cider to him, and then empties the bucket of sand and begins sweeping it around the floor.)
Catherine: (Vigorously sweeping.) I suppose we'll have to get you a long coat and boots.
Hans: Oh, no, Mum . . .
Catherine: Don't worry, I'll find a barter for you. Maybe my sister's husband. They have some apples to press.
Hans: But, Mum . . .
Catherine: Eat. Then we go to the Wintermutes. It's across the orchard,. . . as soon as Elizabeth gets here.
Hans: Well, Mum. If he needs a strong back and a good day's work . . .
Catherine: (Hand to her head.) Ach! My dinner! I haven't even started it. (She begins to prepare various foods, mixing them in the large kettle.)
Catherine: I was down at Elizabeth's this forenoon and little Anna was here earlier. She left something for Casper in the storeroom . . . Lord knows what. (She sighs.) I've a day's chores to do in half the time! (She drops a pan with a clatter.) . . . and ten thumbs to do them with.
Hans: (Still eating.) Any help I can give you, Mum, just say the word. I've hiked over the mountain from Wallpack since yesterday, and it didn't hardly wind me.
Catherine: (Glaring at him.) You slept on the ground?
Hans: In a barn, Mum. Cozy as a cat.
Hans: I've learned some war news too, Mum.
Catherine: (Stopping what she is doing.) What war news?
Hans: (Proudly.) They're marching an army of prisoners down the Mine Road, Mum. They come all the way from Boston and going to the Virginia Colony. They're mostly Burgoyne's men, captured from the battle of Saratoga last year. Lots passed by yesterday, with everyone hooting and hollering at 'em.
Catherine: (Pouring him more cider and emptying the jug.) There hasn't been any trouble, has there? My son Peter is up on the river, with the militia.
Hans: Some's escaping, they say, but no trouble. They's half starved. Now that the line is past New York and General Clinton, it doesn't seem likely they'll be any fuss with them British trying to free 'em.
Catherine: Thank the blessed Lord. Every day Peter's up there, I get another year older worrying about him.
Hans:(Taking a long sip on his cider.) Women's always like that, Mum. Why, when I was up north during the last war, some men worried more how their ma would be, then if some Indian was gonna take their hair. Why, I remember one time . . .
Catherine: (Cutting him off.) No more news?
Hans: There's a new general been sent up there . . .
Catherine: But no fighting?
Hans: No, Mum. Fighting's way south . . .
Catherine: I'll have to tell Elizabeth. She worries so about her husband. (She wipes her hands, finishing up.)
Catherine: Before the war, we'd get news about nothing, every day. Each night we'd have a traveler or a tinker, sometimes two or three, for dinner and a bed. But now that there is news, the roads are empty and we don't know what's happening.
Hans: It sure is lucky I came on by, Mum.
Catherine: (A little sarcastically.) Ya, Hans. I don't know what I'd have done. (She crosses to finish her sweeping.)
Casper's been gone near a fortnight now and you've been my only guest. If my son Isaac had his way and joined the army and if Elizabeth didn't live down the lane, I'd be talking to "pretend" friends like little Anna.
Hans: Glad I could be company for you, Mum. Is the girl Anna your son Peter's child, Mum?
Catherine: Ya. Peter and Elizabeth. And so is this little man. (She peers into the cradle.) This is Alexander, Anna's little brother.
Hans: (Rising to peer into the cradle.) A fine young man, Mum. Yes, Mum, a fine gentleman, and a good sleeper. Are you his "ma" for the day, Mum?
Catherine: Ya, Hans. A little barter of my own. Elizabeth is going to mind the house here in case any travelers stop by while I go down to the church. It's our turn for services this week.
(Still standing, he moves to the fireplace.)
Hans: Maybe when the war is past and the village grows some, Mum, you can have one church for the Germans and another for the Dutch, instead of having to share it every other week. (He tenderly picks up a long stem clay pipe from the mantle.)
Catherine: There's some fresh tobacco in a pouch there. (She crosses to peer out the window.) What's keeping Elizabeth?
Hans: (Quickly replacing the pipe, he returns to the table.) Oh, no, Mum. I couldn't smoke that. Not Casper Schaeffer's pipe. I wouldn't be here at his table, 'cepting for a fair barter. I couldn't smoke his pipe. Why, your husband, he's about as respected a man as there is in the county, Mum. I feel it's an honor, just knowing him, Mum. (Pause.) I just couldn't smoke his pipe.
Catherine: (Setting the broom aside, she returns to her spinning.) Suit yourself, Hans.
Hans: Oh, I couldn't, Mum. Much as I'd like to . . . (Pause, as he sniffs the tobacco.) Where'd you manage to get tobacco, Mum?
Catherine: Mr. Petit brought it by yesterday on his way into New Town. (She continues to spin.)
Hans: Haven't seen any for sale since the summer. (Pause.) Haven't had any myself since spring.
Catherine:(In exasperation she tosses down her spinning, rises and crosses to the fireplace, handing Hans the long stem pipe and pouch.) Smoke!
Hans: Oh, Mum . . . If you insist, Mum. (He begins to religiously pack it.)
Catherine: A smoke comes with the biscuits and cider.
Hans: (Rising, he takes a taper and lights the pipe from the fireplace.) Oh, that's good tobacco, Mum.
Hans: Now that Philadelphia is open again, maybe tobacco will be easier to get. (Pause.) We sure chased out those redcoats and them German pigs . . .
(Catherine raises her eyebrows.)
Oh, Mum! I mean Hessians, not just regular Germans, Mum. I'm sorry, Mum.
Catherine: It's no matter.
Hans: I mean . . . (He's still a little flustered.)
. . . well now that Philadelphia is free and the war is maybe moving south a little and the French are going to help out, maybe things is gonna be better all over. The last war kinda wound down like a busted clock, but this one keeps tic-tocking back and forth.
(The door to the outside bursts open and Isaac rushes in very excited. He crosses to the mantle and begins taking down the musket and horn.)
(Isaac is fifteen but looks much younger. He is dressed in white shirt with loose sleeves and tan trousers and long stockings. He wears no coat.)
Isaac: There's a wolf on the hill! Mr. Kirschenbach saw him, west of town!
Anna Schaeffer, Age eight and a half, Granddaughter of Catherine Schaeffer.Pays one point and 2 member cents.
Catherine Schaeffer, Age fifty-six, wife of Casper Schaeffer.
Hans Vas, An elderly Dutch villager.
Isaac Schaeffer, Age fifteen, Casper and Catherine's youngest son.
Elizabeth Schaeffer, Age thirty-one, Casper and Catherine's daughter-in- law and Anna's mother.
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