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image for The Warwoman of Wauhatchee Creek The Warwoman of Wauhatchee Creek
by Kenneth Robbins


A Play for All Ages
Based on the Legend of Nancy Hart, Revolutionary War Hero

CAST:
NANCY HART.........................................................Revolutionary War Hero
THOMAS HART.........................................................................Her Husband
SUKEY HART.......................................................................15, Her Daughter
PANSY HART....................................................................... 8, Her Daughter
SAM HEARD.....................................16, A Messenger from the Swamp Fox
A BRITISH DESERTER and FIVE BRITISH TORIES

SCENE:
The Hart Farm in Wilks County, Georgia, and a wood near the Camp of the Swamp Fox


TIME:
Spring during the American Revolutionary War


The Warwoman of Wauhatchee Creek


AT RISE: The lights rise on SUKEY HART who is inside the Hart cabin, preparing the evening meal. She is humming softly. She spreads a table cloth over the table and is busy setting it for dinner when SAM HEARD enters. He stops at the door, starts to knock, stops again, removes his cap, then knocks loudly.

SUKEY
I’m busy, Pansy, you can let your old self in, all right?
(SAM knocks again.)
Pansy, stop playing games and come on in. It’s not locked.
(SAM knocks again.)
Oh for pity’s sake, Pan--stop fooling around and. . .
(She has opened the door.)
Oh!

SAM
Hello. . . Sukey. . .

SUKEY
For pity’s sake, I thought you was somebody else--Come in.
(He enters the house.)

SAM
Thank you.
(Awkward pause.)
Misterharthere?

SUKEY
Huh?

SAM
Misterhartroundabout!

SUKEY
Well, I suppose he is if he is. Last I heard from him, he was to the barn, shoeing the mare.

SAM
Uh huh.

SUKEY
She threw a shoe you know.

SAM
Uh huh.

SUKEY
The mare.

SAM
Uh huh.
(Awkward pause.)
Reckon I’ll get myself on out to the barn then. ByeIreckon.

SUKEY
Bye yourself.

SAM
You get my letter?

SUKEY
Which one?

SAM
You got more than one?

SUKEY
No.

SAM
Somebody else writing you letters?

SUKEY
No. Only person I know around here what can write is you.

SAM
Then you got my letter.

SUKEY
Which one?

SAM
What do you mean, which one? I only wrote you once.


SUKEY
Yeah, I got that one.

SAM
Well?

SUKEY
Well what?

SAM
I asked you a question in it.

SUKEY
I know.

SAM
And you ain’t answered me yet.

SUKEY
I been thinking about it.

SAM
Well. . . Will you go with me?
(Pansy enters the house. When she sees SAM, she stops, looks at both, then giggles.)

SUKEY
You be quiet, Pansy.
(The girl giggles louder.)
Sam wants to see Pa. Go to the barn and fetch him.

PANSY
You go. I wanna talk to Sam.

SUKEY
Pansy--

PANSY
Sam’s come courting, ain’t he.

SAM
Oh, no, ma’m. I’m here from the Swamp Fox.

PANSY
The Swamp Fox!
SAM
The Swamp Fox. I got a message for your daddy.

PANSY
Wow.

SUKEY
So if you don’t get out of here, I’m gonna tell Mama.

PANSY
Okay.
(She leaves immediately, passing NANCY HART on her way to the barn.)
Papa! Papa!!

NANCY
Pansy, you’ll wake the dead.

PANSY
I gotta get Papa, for the Swamp Fox.

SAM
I still ain’t heard no answer from you. Are you going to the church social with me or not, Sukey?

SUKEY
Maybe I am, maybe I ain’t. You’re so important, you reckon the Swamp Fox is gonna let you off long enough to escort a girl to any old social?

SAM
Just let him try and stop me.
(NANCY enters the house.)

NANCY
Why, Sam Heard, how you doing!

SAM
Just fine, Missus Hart.

NANCY
(Giving pail of milk to SUKEY)
Here, chile, strain this into the churn. It’s a blessing that old Melba’s about to freshen. Poor Old Betsy’s petering out on us.

SAM
Well, I reckon--

NANCY
Set yourself down, son. Pa’ll be in in a jiffy. We’ll be eating soon, so set down.

SAM
Thankye kindly, ma’m, but--

NANCY
Sukey! You ain’t finished supper yet!

SUKEY
Well, I only got me two hands.

NANCY
And Sam here’s not a bit o’ help, is he. I think I understand.
(THOMAS HART enters the house.)

THOMAS
(As he enters, to PANSY who trails behind.)
Swamp Fox this, Swamp Fox that. You’d think we was slaves of Colonel Marion.
(Sees SAM.)
Samuel Heard, good to see you. Pansy says its me you’ve come visiting, not you know who.

SAM
How you been, Mr. Hart?

THOMAS
Got a crick in my neck won’t give a minute’s peace. And Nancy’s cooking’s finally paying its toll on my innards. Had me a tooth pulled last Wednesday. Wanta see?

NANCY
That’s enough of you, Thomas Hart.

THOMAS
Well, he asked, didn’t he?

NANCY
Pansy, wash up for supper. Sukey, set another place. Sam’s joining us. Thomas, you got horse hair all over you. Go brush off before you set down to my table. You and your innards. I declare.
(PANSY goes to the well and washes her hands. SAM is uncomfortable. THOMAS brushes at the horse hair on his clothes.)

THOMAS
So, Samuel, what you got on your feeble. Besides my eldest daughter’s hand?

SUKEY
Papa!
(She exits.)

THOMAS
What did I say?

NANCY
Thomas.

THOMAS
I was just teasing. You know as well as me that old Sam’s getting on in years. He’s bound to want to settle down one of these days.

SAM
I’m only seventeen, Mr. Hart.

THOMAS
See what I mean? Be over the hill before you know it.
(PANSY returns, shows NANCY her hands for approval.)
I was only sixteen when I first started courting Nancy here. And I was a late starter, too. Shoot, boy, you’re wasting good time!

NANCY
That’s enough of that, Thomas Hart.

THOMAS
All right, all right, all right. Set yourself down, Sam. What can I do for you?

SAM
I’m here on business, Mr. Hart, not courting.

THOMAS
Well, you can’t blame me for hoping.

NANCY
Business it is. We’ll just leave the menfolk alone. Come on, Pansy.

PANSY
Papa!


NANCY
None of your backsass.
(She and PANSY leave.)

THOMAS
Let’s get to it then, son. What’s this about the Swamp Fox.

SAM
He sent me, sir. He needs you.

THOMAS
Well, I’ve offered my services before.

SAM
There’s a big battle brewing, sir, and Colonel Marion needs a good blacksmith right now. He says you’re the best smithy in five counties.

THOMAS
Seven counties, Sam. All right then. I got all my tools out in the barn. I’ll get started tonight. What does the good Colonel need? Ammunition? Firearms repaired? Horses shod?

SAM
He needs you in camp, sir.

THOMAS
In camp? But all my tools are here--my forge, my scrap iron--

SAM
Everything you’ll need’s in camp. Not only do we need blacksmithing, but soldiers, too. He needs somebody who can fix a musket and shoot it ,too. He needs you for fighting this time, sir.

THOMAS
But I have responsibilities here. I got me a wife and two children. The Colonel knows that. I can’t leave them alone here, unprotected. There are enough Tories in these parts to do all sorts of mischief, Sam.

SAM
Mr. Hart, I don’t mean any disrespect, but if the Swamp Fox ain’t victorious in the coming battle, you won’t have a family to protect. The Brits are determined to enslave us all. Anyway, I don’t see as you’ve got much choice, sir. You’ve been drafted, so to speak. Same as just about every able-bodied man this side of Charleston. If you refuse, you’ll be branded a traitor to the cause.

THOMAS
You know that’d be a lie.

SAM
All I know, Mr. Hart, is we’ve got to stop the British. Anyway we can. If we don’t, the entire country’ll be overrun by Tories and you know what that’ll be like. We can’t risk that, sir. You’ve got to help. Besides, Nancy can take care of things around here. She’s the best shot in five counties.

THOMAS
Seven.
(He sits.)

NANCY
(Entering, going to the fireplace.)
You menfolk can finish your business after supper. This rabbit stew’s gonna ruin if we don’t eat it right now.
(Pushes SAM into a chair.)
For the last time, Sam Heard, set yourself down! You’re taking supper with us whether you like it or not. Cone on, girls, it’s all right.
(SUKEY and PANSY enter.)

SAM
I thank you kindly, Mrs. Hart. But I’ve gotta be going.

NANCY
Nonsense. I know how you like rabbit stew and cornbread. Fresh rabbit, too. Shot it myself this afternoon. Three rabbits with just one load.

SAM
(Taking envelope from his pocket, handing it to THOMAS.)
Here’re your orders, Mr. Hart. I’ll wait for you at the well.
(He goes to the door.)
Thank you for your hospitality, Mrs. Hart. Maybe I can enjoy some of your rabbit stew once this war’s over. Good-bye. Good-bye, Sukey.

SUKEY
Good-bye, Sam.
(He waits at the well.)

PANSY
Sukey’s got a boyfriend. Sukey’s got a boyfriend. Sukey’s got--

SUKEY
Pansy, be quiet.
(THOMAS has risen and gone to the door.)

NANCY
Thomas, what is it?

THOMAS
I’ve been ordered to war.
(Pause.)

PANSY
Papa!
(She throws her arms around his waist, crying.)
Oh, no, Papa! No!

THOMAS
All right, Pansy. It’s all right.

SUKEY
Papa. . . I’ll get your things.
(She goes quickly.)

THOMAS
Thanks, daughter. Nancy, will you--
(NANCY takes PANSY and comforts her. She gets the gun from its rack above the fireplace and hands it to THOMAS.)

NANCY
Here, husband, you’ll need this.

THOMAS
Oh, no, Nancy, you’ve got to keep the gun here. You may need it, too.

NANCY
This fuss with the British needs both men and weapons, Thomas. Take it. We have no need for a gun here.

THOMAS
What if the British should show up here?

NANCY
Now, what cause would they have to do a silly thing like that? Go with God’s speed.

THOMAS
Pray God I won’t have to use this thing. I’m a blacksmith, not a soldier.

NANCY
Seems to me you’re both now.
(SUKEY returns with a small bundle.)

SUKEY
Here’s your things, Papa. I’ll take care of things while you’re gone.

THOMAS
I know you will, honey.
(He hugs her.)

NANCY
Kiss your Papa good-bye, Pansy.

PANSY
Good-bye, Papa.
(She weeps.)

NANCY
Sukey, will you take care of your sister?
(SUKEY and PANSY move out of the way.)
Well, husband. . . You take care of yourself.

(NANCY and THOMAS shake hands.)

THOMAS
You, too.

NANCY
Come home soon.

THOMAS
Just as soon as I can.
(He exits into the yard. NANCY and the girls sit at the table, saying a silent prayer. In the yard, THOMAS turns back to his home.)
Good-bye, house.
(To SAM at the well.)
I’m ready.

SAM
This way, sir.

(They leave with SAM leading the way.)

THOMAS
Good-bye well. Good-bye trees. Good-bye berry bush. Good-bye old stump. Good-bye chipmunks.
(They are gone. Lights fade.

When the lights return, it is two weeks later. Inside the house, NANCY, SUKEY, and PANSY are finishing lunch.)

NANCY
Right tasty vittles, Sukey. You’re coming right along, soon be a better cook than me.

PANSY
Already is.

NANCY
What’s that you say, Pansy?

PANSY
Nothing, Mama.

NANCY
Didn’t you like your sister’s lunch making?

PANSY
Guess so.

NANCY
You don’t watch out, you’re gonna make that Sam Heard a fancy wife after all!

SUKEY
Ah, Ma.

NANCY
Pansy, finish up, there’s work to be done.

PANSY
When’s Papa coming home, Mama?

NANCY
I don’t know, honey. Soon maybe. It’s only been two weeks. You can’t expect your Papa to whip all those British in just two weeks, do you? Give him time. Sukey, don’t be just sitting there. Give me a hand with these dishes. Pansy, get to that churn!

PANSY
Ah, I always have to do the churning.

NANCY
That’s because it always has to be done.

PANSY
Sukey never has to do the churning.

NANCY
That’s because I have you around to do it instead.

PANSY
You mean, if I weren’t around, Sukey’d have to do the churning?

NANCY
Probably.

PANSY
I’m running away from home, then.

NANCY
Fine. But until you’re out the door, do the churning.

SUKEY
Wood box’s empty again. I’ll go and chop some more.

NANCY
You’re not going to run away from home like your sister, are you, Sukey?

SUKEY
I don’t reckon I will, Mama, not till you ask me to do the churning.

PANSY
You see? It’s not fair.

NANCY
Now, Sukey, mind. No more daydreaming about Sam out there at the chop block. You nearly took off your big toe yesterday, and I ain’t got time to be nursemaid to a lovesick heifer. I declare, the way you mope, you’d think you ain’t seen Sam in a year.

SUKEY
Feels like a year.

PANSY
Sukey’s always mooning and crooning over Sam, just mooning and crooning--

SUKEY
Pansy, I’m gonna cut your tongue out of your head you don’t hush up.

NANCY
I don’t know. I think Pansy’s got it just about right. Now, to the churn, little one, and you--out to that chopping block lickety split. And I don’t mean big toes, either.
(SUKEY goes to the yard and begins chopping wood. PANSY works the churn. NANCY shakes the table cloth out the front door. PANSY struggles with the churn.)

PANSY
Mama, I think it’s ready.

NANCY
(Busy with her own chores.)
Couldn’t be.

PANSY
It is, Mama. See?
(She demonstrates how stiff the churn handle has become.)

NANCY
Let me see that thing.
(She works the handle with ease.)
Ah, baby, it’s no where near ready. You got to work that churn, treat it like it’s a churn. Else we won’t have any butter to sell to the Browns. Lordy, you are some handful, little one.
(PANSY works the churn as NANCY continues putting things away. THE DESERTER enters. He is dirty and ragged. He is armed with a rusty musket. He creeps into the yard. When SUKEY sees him, she freezes in mid-swing with the ax. She drops it and scampers into the cabin, screaming. THE DESERTER follows her and hides behind the cabin wall.)

SUKEY
Ma! Ma! There’s someone out side that I’ve never seen before. He’s big and ugly! He’s--he’s--

PANSY

Big and ugly!!

SUKEY
He’s--got a gun!

NANCY
I don’t see anybody out there.

SUKEY
I saw him, Ma, he looked mean and hungry.

NANCY
Sukey, get me the gun.

SUKEY
(Rushing to the fireplace but stopping suddenly.)
It’s not here. Pa took it with him. The ax!! I’ll get the ax!!
(She dashes to the door. NANCY tries to stop her. THE DESERTER grabs SUKEY from behind and places the musket up to her head. PANSY has raced to the door behind SUKEY and thrown the bolt. She stands with her back to the door, terrified.)

NANCY
Sukey, stay in the house. Don’t go back out there!
(SUKEY screams as the DESERTER grabs her.)

DESERTER
You in the house. Open that door or I’ll blow her brains out.

PANSY
No, Mama, no!

NANCY
Out of the way, Pansy.
(She unlocks the door and opens it.)
All right. All right, just don’t hurt my girl.

(He enters the cabin, shoving SUKEY in ahead of him. She and PANSY huddle together as far from him as possible.)

DESERTER
Where’s the man of the house!

NANCY
He’s just down the road a piece, visiting neighbors. He’s shoeing a horse.

PANSY
Oh, Mama! I ain’t never heard you tell a lie before.

SUKEY
Pansy!

DESERTER
Good try, ma’m. Now listen to me, the three of you. One false move and I’ll put you six feet under. I’m a deserter from the British army, so I have nothing to lose. If the British catch me, I’ll be shot. If the Tories catch me, I’ll be hanged. If the rebels catch me, I’ll be shot, then hanged, then chopped up for chicken feed. So if I kill innocent women and children, it can’t be my concern.

SUKEY
Who says we’re innocent?

NANCY
Watch your mouth, youngun.

DESERTER
Might as well start with you, brat!
(He is pointing the musket at SUKEY.)

NANCY
All right, now, no need for that sort of thing. You go making a mess of my clean house. Whatever you want, just tell me and I’ll take care of it. Only put that thing down, will you?

DESERTER
I give the orders around here. Okay, now that we understand one another, I want a good meal and some clean clothes. I’m on my way West and nothing is going to stop me.

NANCY
Anything you say. Sukey, why don’t you run upstairs and fetch this gentleman one of your father’s finest Sunday shirts. And maybe a razor for his face. Could use a scrubbing, couldn’t you, mister? That okay if my daughter runs upstairs for them things?

DESERTER
Don’t dawdle.

NANCY
My daughters are well-mannered, mister, you’ll see. Never dawdled a day in their lives. Have you, hon.

SUKEY
No’m.
(She goes.)

NANCY
Now, you say you’re hungry, Mister?

DESERTER
I could eat a horse.

NANCY
We got any horse meat left, Pansy?

PANSY
No’m. Ate it all yesterday.

NANCY
Sorry, Mister. But we do got some fatback and cornbread. You like fatback?

DESERTER
How would I know? I grew up in Soho. Just hurry it, will you? I can’t wait around here all day.
(He sits at table.)
You, come over here and sit with me.
(He pulls PANSY to the table and places a dirty map in front of her.)
Can you read this?

PANSY
Uh huh.

DESERTER
Can you tell me where I am on this map?

PANSY
Uh huh.

DESERTER
You’re a smart kid.

PANSY
Uh huh.

NANCY
I have some water boiling. Would you like some tea?

DESERTER
With cream.

NANCY
We don’t got no--

DESERTER
All right! Just tea. Only snap to it!!

NANCY
Pansy, why don’t you fetch the gentleman a cup from the pantry?
(PANSY goes to the cabinet for a cup. NANCY takes the tea kettle from the fire, notices that the DESERTER is engrossed in the map.)
Hey!
(As the DESERTER looks up, NANCY dashes the boiling water in his face, scalding him. In his confusion, NANCY grabs the musket from the table and goes to the door where SUKEY enters with a coil of rope. The DESERTER rises.)

DESERTER
Hate to tell you this, ma’m, but that old gun isn’t worth a tinker’s dam. It won’t fire a shot. Never has.
(He approaches her. She levels the gun at him.)
Why don’t you be a nice lady and give the gun back to me.
(She pulls the trigger. The gun does nothing but click.)
Do you see? Now give me the thing before someone gets hurt.
(He approaches her.)

NANCY
If you want it back that bad.
(She lands the butt of the gun in his midsection. He doubles over. She clobbers him with a well placed blow to the back of his head. He is dazed.)

PANSY
Get him, Mama!!

NANCY
(Giving the gun to SUKEY.)
Here, child, hold this for a minute.
(She rolls her sleeves.)
Now I’ll show you how we treat deserters around here, you no good piece of cowardly British chicken feed.
(She grabs him by his lapels and floors him with a right upper cut. On all fours, he scampers away. PANSY jumps on his back, beating him about the head.)

PANSY
I got him, Mama, I got him, I got him.

NANCY
(Picking the man up by the seat of his pants.)
You had enough, Mister?
(She is ready to hit him again.)

DESERTER
Don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me, please.

NANCY
Good thing. Cause I was just getting warmed up. Sukey, tie him up.

PANSY
Tie him up, Sukey.

SUKEY
Yes, ma’m.
(She gives the gun to PANSY.)
Hold this. Put your hands behind you, mister.

PANSY
Put your hands behind you, mister.
(He does so.)

DESERTER
Please don’t hurt me.

NANCY
Well, we got him.

PANSY
(Standing exactly like her mother.)
Yep. we got him.
(Pause as SUKEY ties him.)
Now that we got him, what’re we gonna do with him? Shoot him?

DESERTER
Ohhhh....


NANCY
No, we ain’t got a gun that’ll shoot.

DESERTER
Ahhhh...

PANSY
Hang him then?

DESERTER
Ohhhh...

NANCY
Naw, we don’t need the mess.

DESERTER
Ahhhhh...

PANSY
What’re we gonna do with him, then!

NANCY
Why, I guess we’ll just have to take him to the Swamp Fox!

DESERTER
The Swamp Fox!

SUKEY
The Swamp Fox?

PANSY
The Swamp Fox!!

NANCY
Colonel Marion’ll know what to do with him. Pansy, get the front end of that rope. Sukey, you’ll have to stay around here and look after things while we’re gone. Can you do that?

SUKEY
Sure, Ma.
(NANCY shakes her hand.)
Sure. Don’t worry about a thing!


NANCY
Good. I don’t know how long we’ll be gone. If anything happens, you run down to the Brown’s and tell them what’s going on.

SUKEY
I’ll be fine. I’ll take care of everything.

NANCY
That’s my daughter. Okay, Pansy, lead him out!

PANSY
(Jerking the rope.)
Move it, Mister!
(She begins to sing “Yankee Doodle” as she and NANCY and the DESERTER leave through the yard and the woods toward the Swamp Fox. SUKEY stands in the doorway, waving as the lights fade. The three are gone. When lights return, we discover NANCY, PANSY, and the DESERTER who are obviously lost. They ask directions of members of the audience who are equally lost. The DESERTER pleads with people in the audience for help.)
Do you know where we are, Ma?

NANCY
Pretty close to Sutter’s Field.

PANSY
Could anybody tell us how to find the Swamp Fox!
(Who knows what response she will get. The lights on stage rises on a wooded area. THOMAS is asleep, sitting on a stump. SAM is curled up on the ground. It is night.)
Excuse me, sir, you look old enough to know your way around these woods. Do you know where we might find the Swamp Fox?

NANCY
Could you help us, ma’m. We’ve got to find the Swamp Fox.

PANSY
This way, Mama. This handsome gentleman here says it’s this way! Thank you, sir. You’re cute.
(She sings while tugging at the rope, dragging the DESERTER toward the stage.)

NANCY
Oh, will we never find him? I’m so tired.


PANSY
We’re almost there, Mama.

DESERTER
Can’t we rest a bit? I’m so exhausted I can’t move another step.
(PANSY spots THOMAS and SAM in the wooded area.)

PANSY
Mama! There’s somebody. I think I’ve found the Swamp Fox.
(THOMAS and SAM wake up when they hear PANSY. They scamper for cover, pointing muskets at NANCY and PANSY.)
Move it, Mister.

THOMAS
Halt! Who goes there?

NANCY
Thomas? Is it you?

THOMAS
Nancy? Pansy! What on earth!!

PANSY
Papa!!!

NANCY
Thomas, at last.

THOMAS
What’re you doing here, woman?

NANCY
Brought Colonel Marion a present.

PANSY
Yeah, a coward and a bully and Mama whipped him and you should of seen it!
Move it, Mister!!

DESERTER
Don’t hurt me.

NANCY
Is that you, Sam Heard? I didn’t see you.

SAM
How are you, Mrs. Hart?

NANCY
Tired. Relieved. Eager to get shed of this sniveling idjit.

THOMAS
What is all this, Nancy?

NANCY
Piece of British scum, come by our place looking for trouble.

PANSY
Yeah.

NANCY
And we obliged him, didn’t we, Pansy.

PANSY
Sure did.

THOMAS
Here, Sam, maybe you better take him into camp. The Swamp Fox’ll know what to do with him.

SAM
Come on, Mister.
(He starts away with the DESERTER.)
Mrs. Hart? How is. . .

NANCY
Fit as a fiddle. Doing an awful lot of moping--

PANSY
Moping.

NANCY
--and daydreaming--

PANSY
Daydreaming.

NANCY
But aside from that, she’s just fine.

PANSY
Fiddle fit.

SAM
Will you tell her that--that--

PANSY
That what?

SAM
Mrs. Hart?

NANCY
Sure, we’ll tell her.

SAM
Thank you, ma’m.
(He goes with the DESERTER.)
Move it, Mister.

NANCY
You look tired, Thomas.

THOMAS
I am.

NANCY
Have you been getting enough to eat?

THOMAS
Oh, sure.

NANCY
We miss you, husband. When will you be coming home?

THOMAS
Soon. There’s a big battle brewing. Once we fight the British and drive them into the sea, all of us will be coming home.

NANCY
Hope so. Well, guess me and Pansy best be heading home.

PANSY
Can I stay with you, Papa? I can fight. I know how. Why, I’m getting real good at fighting!

THOMAS
I think you’d better go back home with your mother. She may need you to protect her and Sukey.

PANSY
But I want to stay here with you!

NANCY
Pansy!

PANSY
Yes, Mama.

NANCY
Let’s head back. Don’t want to leave Sukey alone too long. Kiss your father good-bye so we can go.

PANSY
(Hugging his neck.)
Good-bye, Papa. Come home soon.

NANCY
(Giving him the DESERTER’s musket.)
You may have need of this.
(They shake hands.)
Good-bye, husband. Come home soon as you can.

THOMAS
You take care.

NANCY
You, too.
(She and PANSY turn to leave.)
Oh, Thomas, Melba had her calf last week. A new little heifer.
(She and PANSY exit, singing “Yankee Doodle.” THOMAS waves good- bye to them as lights fade. After a moment, the lights rise on the HART farm.)

SUKEY
(Entering, carrying a pail of milk. She goes into the cabin, crosses to the churn, and strains milk into it. She then sits and begins to churn. She sings softly to herself.)
My heart is sair for somebody. . .
(She stops churning and speaks dreamily.)
SUKEY (Continued)
Dearest Sam. . . My dear Sam. . . Sam, I’ve been meaning to write, but they’s so many chores that. . . No. Dear Sam, How have you been? I’m fine. . . Sure, real fine. My most precious Samuel. . . Dear Mr. Heard, I would be honored to go to the social with you. . . if you’ll have me. . .
(During the preceding, FIVE BRITISH TORIES have approached the cabin. The LEADER knocks at the door. SUKEY jumps up, startled. Then a smile crosses her face.)
Sam!
(She rushes to the door and opens it, seeing the TORIES. She slams the door, stands leaning against it. She is alone, terrified. The LEADER knocks persistently. SUKEY slowly turns and opens the door.)

GEORGE
Beg pardon, miss, I’m Colonel George Cummins of the First British Volunteers, service of His Majesty the King.

ALL
Long live the king.

SUKEY
I suppose.

GEORGE
My men and I--Privates Julius, Smitty, Frank, and Horace--are seeking a fellow about so tall with stringy hair and a nose like this--sort of pudgy, bug eyes. Well long story short, he’s a deserter and was said to be headed this way. Have you by chance seen any deserters in these parts?

SUKEY
No.

(Slams the door. GEORGE knocks again. She opens the door.)

GEORGE
Are you absolutely sure? About so tall, nose, belly--

SUKEY
Yes.
(She slams the door. GEORGE knocks again. She opens the door.)

GEORGE
Could you tell me, Miss, do you and your family support the Colonists or the British in the current state of misunderstanding?

SUKEY
Uh. . . British.
(She slams the door. He knocks. She opens the door.)

GEORGE
Since you are a loyal British subject, perhaps you wouldn’t mind if we took a meal with you?

ALL
Yeah!

GEORGE
We’ve been on the march for a full half-day now and we’re on the edge of feeling various pangs of hunger and thirst.

JULIUS
Yeah. I’m hungry.
(All agree.)

GEORGE
Let me handle this! I’m the Colonel, not you.

JULIUS
Well, I’m hungry, govner.

GEORGE
As are we all! Might you be able to help us, Miss? We’ll be obliged.

SUKEY
I guess it’ll be all right.
(The FIVE enter the cabin.)
Set yourselves down. I’ll stoke up the fire and get some water boiling.

GEORGE
Most appreciative, Miss. Most. Sit, sit, sit.

SUKEY
You’ll have to take what I’ve got. Some fresh milk, a few eggs.

JULIUS
Anything! Just so long as it’s food!!

GEORGE
Julius! Mind your manners.

JULIUS
Excuse me, Miss. I forget myself around food.

SUKEY
Would you like a cup of tea while I fix up something for you?

ALL
Oh, yes, that would be lovely, most lovely, thank you kindly, etc.

GEORGE
Will you all please!-- A cupatay would be quite the thing, Miss.

SUKEY
(She ponders the same trick her mother had used before she decides there are too many of them.)
It’ll be a minute.

GEORGE
Nice place, right. Eh, Julius?

JULIUS
I’m hungry!

GEORGE
Your father about, is he?

SUKEY
Oh, he’s off with the Swamp Fox--

ALL
The Swamp Fox!!!

(All scurry about.)

SUKEY
Oh, no.

GEORGE
Grab her. Tie her up. Gag her. No, don’t gag her. Put her in a chair.
(All of his orders are carried out quickly.)
All right, Miss, where is he!

SUKEY
I don’t know.

JULIUS
Where’s his camp!

GEORGE
Let me handle this, Julius. Where’s his camp!

SUKEY
I don’t know.

GEORGE
Oh, so you’re going to play it stubborn, are you? Well, we can get any information out of you we want, right, boys?

ALL
Right.

GEORGE
Frank, make her talk.
(FRANK, the largest, steps forward, points a finger in her face.)

FRANK
All right, you, talk!

SUKEY
My name is Sukey Hart and my sister’s name is Pansy and she’s a brat and my mother is Nancy Hart, the best shot in five counties--

GEORGE
Not about that, Frank, get her to talk about the Swamp Fox.
(Pointing to Smitty.)
You, go out into the yard and keep an eye open for anybody coming this way. You--
(Pointing to HORACE.)
go out back and stand guard.
(Both do as they are told.)

JULIUS
What can I do, George?

GEORGE
Fix us something to eat. I’m starved.

FRANK
(Pointing the finger in her face again.)
All right, you, I said talk!

JULIUS
Never learned to cook. Eating I’m good at. Cooking I’m not.

GEORGE
(As FRANK howls with pain.)
What’s wrong with you?

FRANK
She bit my finger!

GEORGE
Now, that wasn’t nice, Miss. Frank, can you cook?
(NANCY and PANSY are approaching the cabin, singing “Yankee Doodle” very tiredly.)

SMITTY
(Racing into the cabin followed by HORACE.)
George! There’s somebody coming!

GEORGE
Keep her quiet.
(JULIUS covers Sukey’s mouth.)
The rest of you, take position.

(They crouch behind the table and chairs, leveling their guns at the door. NANCY and PANSY come into the light.)

NANCY
Ah! It’s good to be home!

PANSY
Ah! Good home, good home.
(Into the well.)
We’re home!!

NANCY
Where is everybody? Sukey?

PANSY
Sukey?

NANCY
Sukey!

PANSY
Sukey!

NANCY
Hm. Maybe she’s gone over to the Brown’s with the butter. Come on, little one, I’ll fix us up a bite to eat.

PANSY
Hurrah!
(They enter the cabin.)

GEORGE
Hold it right where you are, lady.

NANCY
Oh, no, not again.

PANSY
Not again.

GEORGE
Hands up!
(They put their hands up. The TORIES come out of hiding.)
Search them, Horace.
(He searches PANSY who giggles.)

PANSY
That tickles.

NANCY
(As he approaches her.)
You’re not touching me, Mister.

HORACE
They’re all right.

GEORGE
Okay, tie them up.
(HORACE and SMITTY do so.)

SUKEY
Hello, Mama.

(NANCY is forced into a chair and tied.)

NANCY
Hello, daughter. How you been?

SUKEY
Fine.

GEORGE
Okay, lady, where have you been?

NANCY
We’ve just been down to the Browns with some milk and butter--

PANSY
Oh, no, Mama, you can’t tell a lie.

NANCY
Oh for heaven’s sake, Pansy--

GEORGE
Ahhh! I bet you’re a smart little kid--

JULIUS
She is?

GEORGE
Julius!

JULIUS
Oh, sure, she is, she is.

GEORGE
What’s your name, little girl?

PANSY
Panzalilla Prunella Ethelmae Hart. What’s yours?

NANCY
Not another word, Pansy.

GEORGE
Be quiet or we’ll do something you won’t like. Right, Frank?

FRANK
(Still nursing his hurt finger.)
Right. . .

GEORGE
(To PANSY)
So, Pansy. You’re a smart one, aren’t you.

PANSY
Uh huh.

GEORGE
And I bet you know where you’ve been.

PANSY
Uh huh. And I’m not going to tell you.

GEORGE
You’ve been to see the Swamp Fox, haven’t you.

PANSY
Uh huh.

GEORGE
Are you going to tell me where he is?

PANSY
Nope.

GEORGE
Why not? Don’t you like me?

PANSY
Nope. You’re ugly.
(Laughter among the men, squelched by a glare from GEORGE.)

JULIUS
Ah, George, she’s too little to know anything.

PANSY
No, I’m not.

GEORGE
Yeah, she’s too little and silly to know anything.

PANSY
I know, I know.

GEORGE
He’s over near the river, we know where he is.

JULIUS
Sure, he’s over by the river. Everybody knows that.

PANSY
Ha! You’re the ones that’s stupid. He’s sin Sutter’s Field.

GEORGE
Sutter’s Field?

JULIUS
Sutter’s Field!

GEORGE
Good. Let’s get back to camp and report this.

JULIUS
But I’m hungry.

GEORGE
You’re always hungry, Julius.

JULIUS
Well, I didn’t have time for lunch. Let her fix us something to eat before we leave.

GEORGE
What do you fellows say?

FRANK
Yeah, let’s eat. I’m starved.
(SMITTY and HORACE agree.)

GEORGE
Okay, lady, fix us up something.

NANCY
It’s gonna be pretty hard to do with my hands tied like this.

GEORGE
Smitty, untie her.
(He does so.)

NANCY
I’ve got a ham out in the smoke house. If you’ll let my girl loose, she’ll run fetch it for you.

GEORGE
Do it, Smitty.
(SMITTY unties SUKEY.)

NANCY
(Her eyes telling SUKEY what to do.)
You know where to find the ham, don’t you, daughter? It’s a Sutter’s Field special ham.

SUKEY
Yes, ma’m.
(She exits to the yard. As soon as she is out of the sight of the men, she runs toward the camp for the Swamp Fox.)

NANCY
(The men have settled around the table, having pulled out a large map and are busy trying to locate Sutter’s Field. They argue quietly among themselves over where they are at the moment.)
Would you fellers like some tea while supper’s cooking?

GEORGE
Well, yes, please. A good cupatay.

NANCY
I’ll need to step out to the well for some water.
(She moves quietly out the door into the yard without being noticed. PANSY comes forward to help the men discover their position on the map. NANCY is at the well.)
This is getting ridiculous.
(She pulls a jug of moonshine from the well.)
What am I gonna do with them this time?
(She sits on the chopping block and takes a pull from the jug.)
If Sukey is half as smart as I make her out to be, she’s found her Pa by now. But what’ll I do with them fellers until she gets back?
(As she takes another draw from the jug, she stops, looks at it, smiles.)
Tea. So they want some tea.
(She empties the jug into the tea kettle.)
I’ll make them tea like they’ve never had before!
(She whistles “Yankee Doodle” as she stirs the brew with her finger. She returns to the house where the argument over the map becomes audible.)

JULIUS
I tell you we’re right here!
(He points to the map.)

PANSY
Nope. You’re right here.
(She points to the map.)

GEORGE
You’re both crazy. I happen to know by the best authority known to man that we are right here.
(He points.)

FRANK
You’re certain of that, air ye?

GEORGE
Absolutely.

FRANK
Enjoy your swim, boys. According to the Colonel here, we’re right now sitting in the middle of the Savannah River.
(Laughter.)

NANCY
Tea’s ready, gentlemen. Pansy, sweetheart, would you get the gentlemen their cups?
(PANSY does so, preparing to dodge the scalding the men are about to receive. When it doesn’t happen, she shrugs and takes five cups to the table. NANCY serves them. The men drink. At first they are suspicious, then they want more and more and more. During the following, NANCY walks among the men, keeping their cups filled, occasionally tasting it herself.)

GEORGE
I say, what sort of tay is this, ma’m?

NANCY
Special blend. It contains a secret ingredient. You don’t like it?

GEORGE
Love it. Love it.

JULIUS
Never had tea this flavorful before.

FRANK
Tastes so good you hate to put it down.

SMITTY
More. I want me some more.

HORACE
Don’t hog it, Julius. Leave some for the rest of us.
(NANCY tastes the tea.)

NANCY
Not bad, even if I do say so myself.

GEORGE
This stuff is delish! This secret ingredient--what might it be?

NANCY
Tell you and it’s no longer the secret ingredient.

HORACE
More. Give me some more.

JULIUS
Here, too. Give me some more.

PANSY
I want some, Mama.

NANCY
No!
(She whistles “Yankee Doodle,” urging PANSY to join her.)

FRANK
Hey! Where’d the kettle go.

SMITTY
We should send King George the receep for this tea. He’d (hic) it.

GEORGE
This George (hic) it too. Keep it coming, lady, keep it coming.

NANCY
No need for rough housing. There’s plenty where this came from.
(The men are tipsy. PANSY sings. JULIUS climbs onto his chair and sings along though he doesn’t know the words. SMITTY and HORACE dance together. Soon, all are singing and dancing, and wanting more tea. NANCY, using the tea kettle like a pied piper lures the men out of the house and into the yard. They sing and dance around the well. THOMAS and SUKEY followed by SAM enter the yard.)

THOMAS
Nancy! What in heaven’s name--

GEORGE
(Intercepting him. He is drunk by now.)
Hi there. My name is George and this is me friend Julius.
(They are dancing together. The five play London Bridge and fall down in peals of laughter.)

JULIUS
Look it! You’re sitting on me tay!
(More laughter.)

THOMAS
What is so funny?

ALL
Him!
(Pointing at someone, it doesn’t matter who.)

THOMAS
Nancy?

NANCY
Good job, Sukey.

SUKEY
Pa and Sam were on their way home, Ma. I met him just down the road a piece.

THOMAS
The battle’s been fought and won, woman! It was the biggest victory of the war, and we fought it. The British are in complete rout.

NANCY
Same as my British.

THOMAS
What is all this, Nancy?

NANCY
Nothing me and Pansy can’t handle. Watch.
(She waves the kettle in front of the men. They scamper to their feet and again, ala pied piper, she leads them off. THOMAS follows.)

THOMAS
Nancy, who are these men!
(He turns to PANSY.)
What is going on around here?

PANSY
(Running to THOMAS and throwing her arms around his neck.)
Papa!!

THOMAS
(Following NANCY with PANSY clinging to him.)
Nancy, will you answer me?
(They are gone, leaving SAM and SUKEY alone in the yard. They are silent. SUKEY starts to say something but turns instead and goes into the house. SAM starts after her, stops, regains his courage and storms inside.)

SAM
Sukey Hart, will you marry me!

SUKEY
I’d be happy to, Sam.

SAM
I’m sick and tired of the way you’ve been leading me on and on by the nose. Now the war’s virtually over and everything is going to be normal again, I’m not taking “no” for an answer!

SUKEY
But Sam, I said “yes.”

SAM
Well, you don’t have to answer right away. You think it over for a month or two and I’ll come back in about a year.
(He turns to leave.)

SUKEY
Of course I’ll marry you, Samuel P. Heard. I love you.

SAM
You do?

SUKEY
Yes.

SAM
You will?

SUKEY
Uh huh.

SAM
(Sitting at the table.)
Well I’ll be jiggered.

THOMAS
(Following NANCY on from the yard with PANSY right behind.)
Nancy, why did you tie those five men up in our corn crib? Nancy, will you answer me!

NANCY
(Entering the house and putting the tea kettle away.)
Later, Thomas. Right now it’s supper time.

THOMAS
I demand to know! Now!!

NANCY
You demand?

THOMAS
Well, sure. I mean, why not? I can, can’t I? Hm?

SUKEY
Mama--Papa. Sam has something he wants to say to you.
(Pause as THOMAS and NANCY turn to him. SAM edges toward the door, hat in hand.)

SAM
Well, Mr. Hart. Mrs. Hart. Pansy. . . Sukey has something to tell you.

SUKEY
(Another pause as all turn to her.)
Mama. . . Papa. . . Pansy. . .

THOMAS
We know who we are. What is it?

SUKEY
Sam and I’re gonna be married.

NANCY
Married?

PANSY
Married!!

THOMAS
Married. . .
(All eyes turn to him as he slowly sits at the table. He shakes his head.)
Married?
(He sits back.)
Married.
(He sits forward and bangs his fist on the table.)
Married! Nancy, this calls for a celebration!!

NANCY
It calls for some of my special tea! Get a cup, everyone.
(She sings “Yankee Doodle.” Everyone talks at once as NANCY pours tea. Lights fade. End of play.)




Kenneth Robbins is the author of four published novels, nineteen published plays, and is the recipient of the Toni Morrison Prize for Fiction, the Associated Writing Programs Novel Award, the Charles Getchell New Play Award, and the Festival of Southern Theatre New Play Award, among many others. He currently resides in Louisiana.

Email: krobbins@latech.edu


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