|War and History Script posted June 25, 2015||Chapters:||...8 9 -10- 11...|
Casper and Catherine discover Peter Gruber
A chapter in the book The Kinsman
Casper Meets His Surprise Guest
Act Two, Part Four (Chapter Ten.)
The Kinsman is an historical stage play of the American Revolution, set in 1779, in the village of Stillwater, New Jersey. We are in the Inn and home of a prosperous German miller, Casper Schaeffer.
This historical drama is based on true events and actual people. The author has taken liberties with how events played out.
Young Anna has befriended and hidden an escaped Hessian soldier, thinking her German grandfather would consider him a kinsman. Others are aware of this and are trying to send him away before he is captured.
Casper: (Holding Catherine’s hand.) And where is she off to with not so much as a “good evening?”
Catherine: The world is in a hurry when you’re young. It will slow down a little when she reaches our age.
Casper: Ya. But even now it sometimes goes too fast.
(He sits at the table, right.)
Catherine: (Moving about her kitchen.) You’ve eaten?
It was good. Your cooking . . . it’s always good.
Catherine: Thank you, Casper.
Casper: (Having trouble with the words.) Catherine, I sometimes . . . ah . . . well, sometimes I maybe don’t look at all sides when I make up my mind . . . I . . .
Catherine: (Crossing, she gives him a hug.) No. That’s all right. I was foolish . . . very foolish.
(She moves about.)
I went to my sister’s and had my say to her, and was I mad at your stubbornness . . .
(She shakes a fist at him.)
. . . and then, I was coming back here to have my say to you . . . now that it was all practiced. But then, just as I reached the crest of the meadow, I saw . . . I saw myself, Casper, walking down the lane.
Catherine: Ya. The girl, the bound girl. She was in my dress, my green silk dress. The dress I wore the first day I came here.
Casper: Ya. I saw her too. And I too remember. It didn’t seem so many years ago. You looked so beautiful . . .
Catherine: Ya. And I remember how all alone I felt, in this wonderful new country. I was so afraid . . . I never dared to tell you.
Casper: Ya. Me too. Men are afraid too, Catherine.
Catherine: But we had each other, Casper. She has no one.
(He nods, in agreement. She sighs, looking over her kitchen.)
My kitchen, it’s big. I can learn to share a little.
Casper: Perhaps Elizabeth . . .
Catherine: Ya. She can use some help, with the little ones, maybe. At least until our Peter returns.
Catherine: We will make do, the Lord always finds a way for us.
Casper: (Rising to put an arm about her waist.) Ya, and no more stubbornness.
Catherine: (Chuckling.) Ya. For that I have already waited thirty-five years.
(She discovers James’ tri-corner.)
Oh! We have a guest too!
Casper: Ya. I forgot. Isaac is showing him the village. His name is James. I don’t like him.
Catherine: No? That’s not like you, Casper.
Casper: He’s not what he says he is, I think. There is a lie about his eyes.
Catherine: (Again moving about the kitchen.) What is his business here?
Casper: I don’t know. I don’t know. But I don’t trust him.
Catherine: (Putting a pot on to boil.) Some tea? I still have a little, for special times.
Casper: Ya. That would be good.
(Casper moves to the fireplace and lights a taper, holding it to a pipe he has filled. Catherine, who has moved near the storeroom door, suddenly remembering, yanks the door open.)
Catherine: I forgot Anna’s surprise for you!
(She is standing to the side and cannot see in, but Casper has a full view of Peter who is standing there. Casper is frozen until the taper burns his fingers.)
Peter: (After a brief pause.) Guten Abend!
Casper: (From force of habit, rather harshly.) Speak English!
Peter: My name is Peter Gruber.
(He steps into the room.)
I am an escaped prisoner of war.
Catherine: (Who by now can see him) Oh, my!
(Casper nearly trips over the table getting his musket down from above the fireplace. Catherine, although startled, is much less disturbed than Casper. Casper finally manages to get the weapon down and levels it at Peter.)
Casper: Move one muscle and I’ll spill your coward’s blood.
Peter: (Quietly and undisturbed.) I’m not going anywhere.
Casper: (Firmly.) What are you doing in Upper Hardwick?
Peter: Is that where I am? It’s very nice here.
Catherine: Thank you. We call our village Stillwater.
Casper: (Giving her an annoyed glance.) Who let you into my house?
Peter: I rather not say.
Catherine: Oh! I’ll bet he’s Anna’s surprise!
Catherine: Anna. She said she’d hidden surprise for you, in the storeroom.
Casper: (To Peter.) Is this so?
Casper: How long have you been hiding here?
Peter: All day.
Casper: (A little gasp.) All day? In my storeroom all day?
Peter: In your root cellar mostly.
Casper: Why did you just now come out?
Peter: I got tired of the smell of turnips and I got hungry.
Catherine: (Turning to the fireplace.) Oh, well we have some good stew and a little bread and cheese . . .
Casper: Catherine! No Hessian pig is going to eat in my house!
Peter: I’m not a Hessian. I’m a Brunswicker. The true Hessians are the Hess-Casal troops. Even if the Americans don’t know the difference, you should; you’re German.
Casper: (His temper rising.) Don’t talk of Germans to me! What do you know of true Germans? You and your kind are a disgrace to the fatherland! Blood soldiers are all you are.
(Catherine notices the blood-stained napkins on Peter’s feet)
Catherine: Your feet! They’re all cut and bleeding.
(She moves directly between the two men while Casper frantically tries to cover Peter.)
Casper: Catherine! The gun!
Catherine: Oh, Casper, it’s not even loaded.
(She kneels to administer to his feet and then, getting up, leads him to the rocker, sitting him down. Casper has scrambled to the fireplace knocking down a chair on the way. He frantically grabs the rod and horn and loads the musket.)
Catherine: Aren’t those my good napkins?
Peter: Not any more, I’m afraid.
Casper: (Brandishing the loaded musket.) Up! Up on your feet!
Peter: (Remains seated and speaks softly.) I’ve tramped all the way from Cambridge, Massachusetts, half the way barefoot after someone stole my boots, or what was left of them. So, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll sit a while.
Casper: I do mind!
(He pushes at him with the musket, Catherine gingerly takes the barrel and pushes it aside.)
Catherine: (Soothingly.) Casper, your temper. He’s no threat. At least we can let the young lad rest his feet.
(She walks him back a few paces, to the slight amusement of Peter. She then crosses hurriedly to the fireplace and dishes up a bowl of stew, before Casper has time to object.)
Catherine: . . . and put a little food in his belly.
Catherine: The good book says “Love thy enemies.”
(She returns, handing Peter the bowl. He begins to eat, ravenously.)
Casper: (Trying to regain the upper hand) I feel no pity for your empty belly or sore feet.
(Peter looks at him but doesn’t answer.)
Why did you choose my house? What did you think I’d do for you?
Peter: (Very softly.) I thought a German might have pity.
Casper: I feel no pity for your kind.
Peter: You feel pity for no one.
(He continues to chew and then adds.)
You’re just a fat country farmer.
Casper: (Boiling mad.) Fat? Fat am I? If I’m fat, it’s after years of tilling this good earth from nothing to all this . . .
(He gestures with his hand.)
And all of it with my own bare hands.
Catherine: Ya, he did.
Casper: And any fat I made came from the sweat of my brow, and not from another man’s blood! Not from killing men for hire!
Peter: (Showing some anger for the first time.) Old man, you know nothing. How long have you been away from the old country? Thirty -- Forty years? How long has it been since you missed a meal? Huh? You hire one man to run your mill and another to till your farm, and you buy a girl to tend your tavern . . .
(Casper begins to say something.)
. . . and you let someone else run your war!
Casper: (Shouting.) Are you through?
Peter: (Shouting back.) No!
(A little more calmly.)
What do you know? You and the one hundred and fifty thousand Germans like you who left the old country and came to America. What do you know of what you left behind? Huh? Poverty! Starvation! And a sovereign who treats his subjects like cattle.
No, Casper Schaeffer, you and the others who left, you were the lucky ones. You had this dream of yours to come to.
Casper: You could have come as easily as we did.
Peter: Huh! With a purse as empty as my belly? No, only the rich like you could afford passage.
Casper: You couldn’t leave, so you hired out to kill our dream!
Peter: I can’t even talk to you. Go get your sheriff or soldiers or whoever and get me out of here.
Casper: (Still leveling the musket.) Ha! And leave you alone with my wife?
Peter: Send her.
Casper: There may be others.
Peter: There probably are.
Casper: Then we’ll wait. Isaac will be back before long.
Peter: After walking two hundred miles in November, I suppose I needn’t be too anxious to start on the next three hundred.
Catherine: And it’s December now.
Casper: (Sternly.) Catherine. He is the enemy. It is as simple as that.
Catherine: But shouldn’t we at least listen to him?
Casper: (Stares coldly at Peter before speaking.) Talk.
Peter: Would it make any difference?
Peter: Then why? You don’t want to hear.
Casper: Because we have time and my wife wants to hear.
Peter: (Takes a deep breath before he begins, in a quiet monotone.)
Duke Charles the first, you wouldn’t know him, would you? Well, he’s our blessed sovereign. He started calling for volunteers, a sign here and there only. But then when so few came forward, he began to plead. “Defend the fatherland,” Save our country.” Hand bills, cryers, recruiters, everywhere. Only the fatherland didn’t need defending. No one knew it was the British who needed help. It was supposed to be Germany.
One night, a recruiter came to our village. He told of the glories that awaited those who followed him; money, travel, a future. Eleven signed but I would not sign, nor would my friend Heinrich. But before dawn we were with the others with cuts and bruises for our trouble. That’s how beloved Charles managed to sell fifty-seven hundred Brunswickers to fight the British uprising. Thirty crowns blanco, seven pounds English, for each man. And what riches did we get? Three pounds a year, while we serve. And . . .
(He rises and is shouting)
. . . six pounds a man to Duke Charles, if we die! There’s your blood money! On our heads! We’re worth more to our beloved sovereign dead than alive!
Casper: But you stayed with them. You could have escaped.
Peter: Yes, we came.
Continued to Act Two, Part Five
Anna Schaeffer, Age eight and a half, Granddaughter of Casper and 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, Son of Casper and Catherine.
Elizabeth Schaeffer, Age thirty-one, daughter-in-law of Casper and Catherine Schaeffer. She is the mother of Anna.
Pauline, Age about twenty, an indentured servant girl.
Casper Schaeffer, Age sixty-six. He is a miller, farmer, legislator and patriarch of the family.
Mr. James, A traveler.
Peter Gruber, an escaped Hessian prisoner of war
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