One for the Money, Two for the Show (Act I, Scene 2)

Scene 2 

(Sitting room. Dresses are strewn around.  LEA sits in dressing gown idly throwing dice and scooping them up.  DIANA and ELISABETH, in fine dresses, enter stage left.)

DIANA: I have never seen so many people! 

ELISABETH: Eligible male people, at that. 

DIANA: I can’t believe Markus planned all this. I was beginning to suspect he liked being in mourning. 

ELISABETH:  He would like seeing Lea engaged even better. 

DIANA:  Lea engaged?  (Turns to Lea.)  Lea, you’re not keeping secrets? 

LEA:  (Rises, stretches.)  As Elisabeth said, Markus wants to see me engaged.  And when have I ever given my brother what he wanted? 

DIANA:  (Starts to speak.  Stops.  Hesitates.  Starts again.) Why should Markus want you engaged. 

ELISABETH:  It’s Katrina’s idea. 

DIANA:  Why should Katrina want Lea engaged. 

LEA:  It might have something to do with me saying she belched like a sick hunting dog. 

(DIANA giggles. 

ELISABETH:  (Frowns.)  Lea, you didn’t? 

LEA:  But I did.  And I can’t wait to tell her that she is getting so slender that she reminds me of a starving walrus.

ELISABETH:  (Laughs in spite of herself).  Don’t.  She’s going to be lady of Ritter House.  .  

LEA:  Well, I’m sick of hearing Barbara Allen.  I don’t care if it’s her favorite song.  You think Markus would have some mercy  for the rest of us. 

ELISABETH:  Katrina is really very sweet and… 

LEA:  Do not start.  It’s always how sweet Katrina is. How lovely she is.  How considerate she is.  Well, if you look like a starving walrus and want to marry a rich man, you had better be sweet and considerate—even if you’re willing to settle for a stingy dullard like Markus. 

DIANA:  But Markus spent a fortune on this ball.  Such food!  I don’t know the names of half of it. 

LEA:  (Walks back to chair. Sits down.)  I (pause) am not going. 

ELISABETH: But you must go! 

DIANA: But everyone important is here! 

LEA:  (Plays with dice.)  I’m far too busy tonight. 

DIANA: But we can’t go without you! 

ELISABETH: (Serious.)  But we must…if only so Markus can’t blame us. 

(DIANA and ELISABETH exit stage left.  LEA rises and paces nervously, biting her lip and glancing toward the door. There’s a rap at the door and she sits hurriedly sits and picks up the dice.  MARKUS enters stage left.) 

MARKUS:  So it is true.  You have not dressed for the ball. 

LEA:  And I’m not going to.  Not unless you promise a decent dowry. 

MARKUS: I’m offering an immense dowry.  Ulrich is just playing for more.  It is time you considered marrying someone else. 

LEA:  (Stands) One of your friends.  (Waves toward ballroom.)  That perpetually smirking Gerold?  Or that antique—what is his name?—Randulf? 

MARKUS: Karl of Grunwald is… 

LEA: A prattling popinjay!  And it is always, “Momma this” and “Momma that.”  

MARKUS: (Tense).  Odo of Brandt is… 

LEA:  A spindly miser.  Dear brother, I don’t plan to go through life eating beans and cabbage every night. 

MARKUS:  And Bertram of Adler? 

LEA:  Is a solemn ass.  Have you ever seen him smile?  He disapproves of music, jewelry and laughter.  I suspect he disapproves of women entirely. 

MARKUS:  So no one is worthy of your great beauty and wit?  You—the most spoiled, the most inconsiderate—sling insults at the world.  Well, I’m sorry that Father spoiled you.  I’m sorry that he died.  But insulting everyone we know won’t make things better. 

LEA: I don’t insult them.  I describe them. 

MARKUS:  All but your precious Ulrich?  You must have the unreachable toy or none? 

LEA: He wouldn’t be unreachable if you’d offer a decent dowry. 

MARKUS:  And I suppose you have insults ready for Stefan? 

LEA:  Stefan? 

MARKUS:  The son of the Duke of Trommler. 

LEA:  And he’s here? 

MARKUS: He’s come all this way to meet you.  I guess I’ll tell him you are too busy. 

LEA:  Is he taller than Ulrich?  Does he dress as fine? 

MARKUS:  You’ll have to come to the ball to find out.  (Starts toward door stage left.  Turns back.)  I’ll have you announced after two more songs.  (Exits.) 

(LEA is thoughtful.  Hums.  Begans gathering her things. Lights dim.)


Teaching Vocabulary 101

Harpy is a very old term based on legend.

A little advice on teaching vocabulary:  Don’t interrupt a story to do it.  

               Introduce words before or after the reading—maybe both—but while reading the story, enjoy!  Don’t make a story into some vocabulary medicine unless you want your students to dread it.

               I have had seventh graders listen to a recording of Call of the Wild by Jack London. Some kids didn’t know 10-20% of the words.  Yet, they loved the story.  They took away what the author intended—a tale of adventure and hardship and devotion and nature.  

               Imagine how different that would be if we’d stopped and analyzed the meaning of each sentence—or even each paragraph or page.

               But learning vocabulary gives one confidence and useful knowledge.  So introduce some words before—particularly those that the reader may think they know, but get wrong.  Make it clear that a character’s “bowl cut” has nothing to do with football and a person riding a “charger” is not in danger of electrical shock. (I went for years myself thinking “as was his wont” referred to what someone wanted to do.)  

               Have students look up words afterward when they know how the word was used—give a page number and the phrase that was used.   Without context, kids will report on the shortest of the available definitions—which is preferrable to picking the first five words of the first definition.  You don’t want them reporting that incubation as “the act or process of incubating.”

               Remember that few people can remember more than seven new items at one time.   If you can group words together, you can add more.  For example, you could count stallion, charger, and steed as one item.  But, generally, plan on learning a few new words each session. 

               Encourage use of the words.   Providing sentences with blanks is OK, but then all the creative fun is yours.  You save your time—and challenge your learners—by listing three or four words and asking students to use them all in one or two sentences.  See what they can do with permeated, premonition and premeditation or harpy, contorted, and turmoil.    

               And, enjoy the sound of long and strange-sounding words.  Kids love knowing them!

Why Charlemagne?

     Many prospective readers ask  “Why Charlemagne?”   I find it puzzling myself.  I studied 20th Centurty American History in college–social, political, economic, international.  I wanted to understand the world I lived in. 

    I read a lot of other history–American, English, Roman, Egyptian–but somewhere along the way, I got interested in Charlemagne.  A friend loaned me a 1930 book by Charles Edward Russell and I knew I would someday write about this man.

     He is simply the greatest king that ever lived. He governed much of Europe for 47 years at a time when even cities were apt to have their own laws and languages.  He needed the laws in writing–but few could read and write.   So he recruited teachers in Italy and England and established schools.  He established scriptoria in Europe where even pagan books were copied.  He refused to appoint priests who didn’t know the mass.

     A champion of education.  But that wasn’t all.  When a teacher was available, Charlemagne insisted that everyone who could be spared from work attend classes.  Everyone included girls.  Legend says that even the cook’s daughter attended classes with his own children.  We’re talking the 8th century here–800 years before the Renaissance.  

      The scholar who acted as Charlemagne’s minister of education–Alcuin–is the second best-known name of the century.  He had real power in the administration for it was the men he trained that represented Charlemagne through much of his territory.