Sarah Plain and Tall Chapter 1
Characters: Anna, a girl of about 10
Caleb, Anna’s brother of about 5
Jacob, Anna and Caleb’s father
Sarah, a young woman from Maine
Narrators 1, 2 and 3
Narrator 1: The story takes place in the kitchen of a farmhouse in Kansas during the westward expansion. Anna is stirring stew and watching her younger brother, Caleb.
Caleb: Did Mama sing every day? Every single day?
Anna: (wearily) Every single day.
Caleb: And did Papa sing too?
Anna: Yes, Papa sang too. (with authority) Don’t get so close, Caleb. You’ll heat up.
Caleb: (softly and sadly) Well, Papa doesn’t sing anymore.
Caleb: What did I look like when I was born?
Anna: (giggling) You didn’t have any clothes on.
Caleb: I know that!
Anna: You looked like a round ball of dough.
Caleb: (disgusted) I had hair!
Anna: Not enough to talk about!
Caleb: (dramatically) And she named me Caleb.
Anna: (laughing) I would have named you troublesome!
Caleb: And Mama handed me to you in the yellow blanket and said?……(waiting)….And said…..?
Anna: (sighing) Isn’t he beautiful, Anna?
Caleb: AND I WAS!
Narrator 2: Caleb doesn’t know what Anna really thinks. Anna remembers that Mama died the morning after Caleb was born. She didn’t even say good night to Mama. She didn’t think Caleb was beautiful. She didn’t even love Caleb for three whole days after Mama died until she saw him smile for the first time. Anna misses Mama.
Caleb: Can you remember her songs? Mama’s songs?
Anna: (thoughtfully)No. Only that she sang about flowers and birds. Sometimes about the moon and nighttime.
Caleb: (softly) Maybe if you remember the songs, then I might remember her too.
Narrator 3: Anna has tears in her eyes.
Narrator 1: Papa comes in and hugs Anna.
Papa: Nice soapy smell, that stew.
Anna: (Laughing) That’s my hair!
Papa: Cold in town. And Jack was feisty……..(smiling) Rascal!
Caleb: (harshly) You don’t sing anymore. (gently) Why?
Papa: (quietly) I’ve forgotten the old songs. But maybe there’s a way to remember them.
Caleb: (eagerly) How?
Papa: I’ve place an advertisement in the newspaper. For Help.
Anna: (surprised)You mean a housekeeper?
Caleb and Anna: burst out laughing
Papa: No…not a housekeeper. A wife.
Caleb: A wife? You mean a mother?
Papa: That too…..like Maggie.
Narrator 2: Maggie had come to be a wife their neighbor, Matthew, and to be a mother for his children.
Papa: And I have received an answer.
Sarah: (in the background) Dear Mr. Jacob Witting, I am Sarah Wheaton from Maine as you will see from my letter. I am answering your advertisement. I have never been married, though I have been asked. I have lived with an older brother William, who is about to be married. His wife-to-be is young and energetic. I have always loved to live by the sea, but at this time I feel a move is necessary. And the truth is, the sea is as far east as I can go. My choice, as you can see, is limited. This should not be taken as an insult. I am strong and I work hard and I am willing to travel. But I am not mild-mannered. If you should care to write, I would be interested in your children and about where you live. And you.
Very truly yours, Sarah Elisabeth Wheaton. P.S. Do you have opinions on cats? I have one.
Narrator 3: Caleb and Anna smile.
Anna: One thing, Papa.
Papa: what’s that?
Anna: Ask her if she sings.