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Plays by Alan Richardson


Tusitala - Teller of Tales sample

(Note: M1 - M4 are male readers. F1 - F4 are female readers)

F3  That winter, temperatures plummeted to forty below zero. While Louis enjoyed good health, Fanny suffered from various ailments, eventually absenting herself to San Francisco.  Although far from home, he started another Scottish novel; The Master of Ballantrae. On arrival in America, he had received many tempting offers such as $10,000 a year from Joseph Pulitzer for a weekly contribution to World Magazine. More realistic, and much more tempting was an offer from Sam McClure, an expatriate Scottish editor.

M1  "If you get a yacht and take long sea voyages and write about them, stories of adventure and so forth, I'll pay all the expenses."

F2  By April, 1881, Louis, Margaret and Lloyd had left Saranac . By May, they were in New Jersey. One day a telegram arrived from Fanny in San Francisco.

F3  "Can secure splendid seagoing schooner-yacht Casco for seven hundred and fifty dollars a month. Can be ready for sea in ten days. Reply immediately. Fanny."

F2  He did. "Blessed girl, take the yacht and expect us in ten days." Before departing for the Pacific, he wrote to Baxter.

M3  "If I cannot get my health back (more or less) 'tis madness; but of course there is hope. If this business fails to set me up, well, two thousand pounds is gone, and I know I can't get better."

F2  The money came from Stevenson's inheritance from his father. Louis, his mother and Lloyd, journeyed to San Francisco. Preparations began for a seven month voyage. Most important of all was the choice of skipper.

M2 enters the "interview" area.

M1  Your name, sir?

M2  Otis.

M1  First name?

M2  Captain. My passengers struck me as an odd collection of rich landlubbers. To be candid, I was most reluctant. Bad enough having a woman on board, but to have two. The middle-aged one, the literary cove's chain-smoking wife, started interfering from the outset. And she would persist in talking to my helmsman. I had to tell her; "Please don't talk to him today Mrs. Stevenson. Today I want him to steer." Then there was the older one they called "Aunt Maggie." Dressed in black with this starched white cap on her head. It was like having Queen Victoria on board. She kept quoting from the scriptures and saying grace at meals. And she went on about her author son. One day, the author's wife asked me the wrong question.

F3  What would you do if Aunt Maggie fell overboard?

M2  "Put it in the log." I tell you something else I did not like; the way those women dressed. After a few days at sea, they started wearing the holoku. It's a long, loose gown, brought to the islands by the missionaries to cover heathen nakedness. And worn without a corset. Not proper dress for respectable white woman, in my opinion.

M1  You've said little about your famous passenger.

M2 To say that I was favourably impressed with the great author would be stretching the truth. I have read his Treasure Island and see no reason to read another.

M1  May one ask why?

M2  The seamanship. Not all square. As for the man himself, he was so painfully thin that his clothes seemed a burden to him. I did add to the ship's provisions, discreetly, the proper equipment for a burial at sea. But I must admit that Mr. Stevenson looked healthier day by day and I admired his courage in the face of the bad storms we encountered. His wife did improve the cooking on board and 'Aunt Maggie' turned out to be a first rate whist player. If you'll pardon me, I have a ship to sail.

F2  Thank you, Captain Otis. And yet, even in the midst of the Pacific, Stevenson's mind still drifted homeward.

M3  "There was nothing visible but the southern stars and the steersman out there by the binnacle lamp. The night was as warm as milk; and all of a sudden I had a vision of - Drummond Street. It came to me like a flash of lightning; I simply returned thither and into the past. And when I remembered all that I hoped and feared as I picked about Rutherford's in the rain and the east wind: how I feared I would make a mere shipwreck, and yet timidly hoped not. How I hoped (if I did not take to drink) I should possibly write one little book, etc, etc, etc. And then, wow - what a change!"