IAMG: Scenes 4-7


Scene 4: Edinburgh, Heriot Row

RLS is playing with his shadow

MY SHADOW

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow–
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes goes so little that there’s none of him at all.

He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close behind me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to mummy as that shadow sticks to me!

Margaret
{from upstairs}
She’s coming – Tom she’s here
{Margaret comes downstairs}
Lewey, what are you doing here, quickly, go to your playroom, I will call you to meet her if she seems suitable

RLS
But mummy

Margaret
No – go, we shouldn’t be long

Exit RLS, enter Tom

Tom
It is exactly one minute to two – she is punctual, I’ll give her that

Margaret
I do hope this one works out, I am close to despair with the whole saga

Tom
For heaven’s sake, Margaret, this is no time for melodrama, let’s just see, shall we

Margaret
But decent nannies are just so hard to find these days

Tom
You cannot quantify the quirks of fate. Let’s consider our search to have been like a bad run at cards. Our luck will turn for sure.

There is a knock on the door

Margaret
She’s here

Tom opens the door

Tom
Hello – are you Alison Cunningham?

Cummy
I am she sir

Tom
Do come in

Cummy
Thank-you

Tom
I am Thomas, Thomas Stevenson, & this is my wife Margaret

Cummy
Pleas’d to make your acquaintances… sir, ma’am

Tom
Please take a seat… would you like some tea

Cummy
O no, not for me sir, I don’t do tea, I’m just here about the position

Tom
Good, well, we are looking for a full-time nanny, live in of course, for our son, Robert

Margaret
Who is our only child, by the way – so, have you any experience in such employment

Cummy
Seven years ma’am, & I have plenty of excellent references

Tom
How old are you now

Cummy
Twenty-nine

Margaret
&, where are you from, if you don’t mind us asking

Cummy
Just across the water in Fife, a wee place call’d Torryborn

Tom
Been in Edinburgh long

Cummy
About three years now

Margaret
So, you mention’d references, do you have any from your employments in Edinburgh

Cummy
I do ma’am, one moment
{passing an envelope to Margaret}
Here you are
This is a fine house, may I say, & Heriot Row such an upstanding street

Tom
We do like the neighbourhood, yes… hmm… glowing reports, Alison

Cummy
Please, if it is not too impertinent, call me Cummy

Tom
Of course, so, Cummy, my lovely wife Margaret needs help raising our son, alas, she has certain persistent consumptive symptoms, & is prone to bouts of invalidity, rendering her incapable of rearing our boy

Cummy
Well, that is what you will hire me to do, sir

Tom
Unfortunately, Robert seems to have inherited from his mother a disposition to affections of the lungs

Margaret
He is quite a sickly child

Cummy
Well, this city is not the sweetest nursemaid to a weak chest – those cold & penetrating east winds burn me to my bones

Tom
Indeed

Cummy
May I ask a question myself

Margaret
Of course

Cummy
Is this a religious household

Margaret
I do hope so – my father is the minister at Colinton

Cummy
Colinton? Reverend Lewis Balfour is your father

Margaret
He is, yes

Cummy
Ahh – he is such a good preacher – well, for the Scottish kirk

Tom
You are Church of Scotland

Cummy
No, I am Calvinist, a member of the Free Church actually, but we are all God’s children Mrs Stevenson, except, perhaps, for the Catholics

Margaret
Quite !

Tom
Well, Cummy, would you like to meet the boy

Cummy
I would very much, yes

Tom
Lewey, Lewey, come & join us

Cummy
I thought you said his name was Robert

Margaret
It is… Robert Louis Stevenson is his name,

Cummy
Aahh, that has a fine ring to it

Margaret
We call him Lewey for short

Enter RLS

Tom
Lewey come here… this is Miss Cunninghame, but you can call her Cummy

Cummy
Hello young man

RLS
Cummy ! My Cummy Mummy!

Cummy
Then I shall call you little Lewey… why don’t you tell me something about yourself, little Lewey, like, what are you good at

RLS
I am the best player of hide-and-seek among all my cousins; & I can crawl thro leaves without making any noise at all

Cummy
Well, that is quite a feat, no noise whatsoever, very impressive

RLS
Do you want to see my toys

Cummy
I would love to, but its up to your mother & father of course

RLS
Mummy, Mummy, can I show Cummy my toys

Margaret
Would you like to see the nursery

Cummy
Of course

Margaret
It’s where you will be sleeping actually

Cummy
I will

Margaret
Well, if you obtain the position, that is

RLS takes hold of Cummy’s hand

RLS
This way Cummy

Tom
I’m thinking maybe Lewey has decided for us, darling… well, lead the way boy, let us show our guest where the playroom is

RLS
Do you like to play with building blocks, I’ve got so many, I have enough to make three castles

Cummy
Three whole castles – why, you really are a remarkable young man

Exit Tom, Cummy & RLS – Margaret looks happy & reliev’d



Scene 5: La Solitude, the edge of Hyeres

The house & its triangular grounds & gardens sit under a hill whose summit is crowned with the ruins of a Saracen castle. A carriage pulls up at the gate – RLS & Fanny exit the carriage – RLS pays the driver & is helped up the path by Fanny

Fanny
Gosh

RLS
C’est magnifique

Fanny
O, Lewey, its perfect

The owner – Monsieur Bernard – appears from the garden – he has been gardening.

Bernard
Bienvenue, bienvenue au Chalet de Solitude.

Fanny
Merci Monsieur Bernard. Permettez-moi de vous présenter mon mari, Robert Stevenson – Il est un auteur écossais

Bernard
Ah l’Ecosse, et vous êtes Américain, oui

Fanny
Oui

Bernard
Monsieur Stevenson, ce sera un bel endroit pour vous de penser et d’écrire, je suis sûr que vous serez tous les deux heureux ici

RLS
What did he say

Fanny
He said this is the perfect place in which you might write

RLS
It certainly feels that way, yes… eh, c’est une maison inhabituelle

Bernard
Oui, oui, c’est – c’est un chalet suisse miniature qui avait été logé dans l’exposition parisienne de dix-huit soixante-dix-huit – le bâtiment avait remporté le premier prix de sa catégorie, et chaque planche et brique ont été soigneusement démontées et remontées ici

Fanny
He says the house was originally in the Paris Expo, & he reconstructed it here

RLS
That explains the slightly ludicrous effect, but the situation is wonderful – those views of the sea, & the hills beyond Toulon – quite magnificent – & this garden, with its steep winding paths & trees of some maturity – we would make a fine home here, Fanny

Bernard
Voulez-vous voir la maison

Fanny
Nous serions ravis

Bernard
Eh bien, c’est le jardin – il est beau et frais en été – j’ai mis de nombreuses heures de travail dans sa création et son entretien – je suis sûr que vous continuerez mon bon travail si vous louez la maison

Fanny
Bien sûr que nous le ferons, Monsieur Bernard, nous aimons jardiner

Bernard
Vous pouvez aller à l’intérieur et explorer le chalet vous-mêmes

Fanny
Merci… he says we can go inside & have a look

RLS
Excellent… merci monsieur

RLS & Fanny set of for the house

Bernard
Quel est le problème

RLS
Je suis un peu malade, monsieur

Fanny
Il espère récupérer dans votre maison

Bernard acknowledges the situation / RLS & FAanny enter the house / Bernard resumes his gardening & begins to sing a song

LE BOUDIN

Tiens, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin, voilà du boudin
Pour les Alsaciens, les Suisses et les Lorrains,
Pour les Belges, y en a plus, Pour les Belges, y en a plus,
Ce sont des tireurs au cul,
Pour les Belges, y en a plus, Pour les Belges, y en a plus,
Ce sont des tireurs au cul.

Nous sommes des dégourdis,
Nous sommes des lascars
Des types pas ordinaires.
Nous avons souvent notre cafard,
Nous sommes des légionnaires.

Au Tonkin, la Légion immortelle
À Tuyen-Quang illustra notre drapeau,
Héros de Camerone et frères modèles
Dormez en paix dans vos tombeaux.

Nos anciens ont su mourir.
Pour la gloire de la Légion.
Nous saurons bien tous périr
Suivant la tradition.

Au cours de nos campagnes lointaines,
Affrontant la fièvre et le feu,
Oublions avec nos peines,
La mort qui nous oublie si peu.
Nous la Légion.

Exit Bernard – RLS & Fanny return from the house

Fanny
What do you think.

RLS
It is the smallest doll’s house that ever was seen, the rooms are tiny & too few

Fanny
Ah – but I like everything about the place – the house is suitable enough & the garden is lovely & will be cool in summer & feels superbly healthy – it is just so amenable to what we really need – the improvement of our health

RLS
I suppose it does possess its little perfections – how much does he want, again?

Fanny
200 francs a month or 2000 for the whole year

RLS
{sharp intake of breath}
That is very dear. I will have to write to mother again…

Fanny
Then you will make your own money darling – this is a perfect place to write

RLS
Well, I am making some progress on that front – I’ve heard Treasure Island might be publish’d as a book soon, & I have also penn’d this story call’d the Black Arrow – I could send that to the Young Folks magazine

Fanny
Excellent prospects darling, & you don’t know what marvellous magma will erupt from your pen in such a conducive environment – so, shall we confirm with Mister Bernard

RLS
Yes, yes, of course, let’s go for it

Fanny
Where is he

RLS
I don’t know… elsewhere in the garden perhaps

Fanny
Wait he’s coming

Enter Bernard

Fanny
Monseiur Bernard, nous serions heureux de prendre la maison à titre d’essai pendant deux mois. 400 francs couvriraient le loyer?

Bernard
Oui bien sûr. Pouvez-vous payer maintenant.

RlS
Pas tout à fait maintenant, mais bientôt. Je devrai effectuer une ou deux transactions à Nice

Bernard looks at RLS suspiciously.

Bernard
Très bien, mais s’il vous plaît, donnez-moi l’argent dès que possible, je déteste avoir à courir après l’argent – en particulier les invalides britanniques et tous leurs médicaments coûteux.

Fanny
Monseiur Bernard – nous payons toujours notre chemin, nous sommes incroyablement honnêtes. Mais merci beaucoup – c’était agréable de vous rencontrer et nous pouvons emménager demain

Bernard
Pourquoi pas

RLS
Excellent – merci encore pour tout, et au revoir

Bernard
Au revoir

Fanny
Au revoir monsieur Bernard

Bernard
et au revoir à vous aussi, madame Stevenson

Exit Fanny & RLS – Bernard continues gardening



Scene 6: Heriot Row

RLS is playing with his blocks / Margaret is reading by the fire

BLOCK CITY

What are you able to build with your blocks?
Castles and palaces, temples and docks.
Rain may keep raining, and others go roam,
But I can be happy and building at home.

Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,
There I’ll establish a city for me:
A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbour as well where my vessels may ride.

Great is the palace with pillar and wall,
A sort of a tower on the top of it all,
And steps coming down in an orderly way
To where my toy vessels lie safe in the bay.

This one is sailing and that one is moored:
Hark to the song of the sailors aboard!
And see, on the steps of my palace, the kings
Coming and going with presents and things!

Now I have done with it, down let it go!
All in a moment the town is laid low.
Block upon block lying scattered and free,
What is there left of my town by the sea?

Yet as I saw it, I see it again,
The kirk and the palace, the ships and the men,
And as long as I live and where’er I may be,
I’ll always remember my town by the sea.

He begins to rebuild something / enter Tom

RLS
Father

Tom
Ah, my little Smout, what are you building with your blocks

RLS
It’s the Tabernacle father

RLS
The what?

Tom
The Tabernacle – which the Jews built to house the Ark of Covenant in which Moses placed the ten commandments which had been written on stone of on the top of mount sinuses

Tom
Mount Sinai Lewey

RLS
Sorry father
{points to a block}… look this is the Holy of Holies

Tom
Ah, very good young man – I tell you this, I might have a sugary treat for you, but to win it from me your father would prefer it if you left the Old Testament for a while & came to the fireside with your parents & read a little with us – I have my evening paper, & you have your story books, yes

RLS
I have many father

Tom
Well then, let us read

PICTURE STORY BOOKS

At evening when the lamp is lit,
Around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home & nobody
Will never, ever play with me

But all the pretty things put by,
Wait upon the children’s eye,
Sheep and shepherds, trees and crooks,
In the picture story-books.

So, with my little gun, I crawl
All in the dark along the wall,
And follow round the forest track
Away behind the sofa back.

Where I can see how all things are
Seas and cities, near and far,
And the flying fairies’ looks,
In the picture story-books.

Hidden from sight, where none can spy,
All in my hunter’s camp I lie,
And play at books that I have read
Till it is time to go to bed.

So when my nurse comes in for me,
Home I return across the sea,
& leave this land of nursery nooks,
Reading picture story-books?

Farewell, O mother, father, fire!
O pleasant party I admire
The songs you sing, the tales you tell,
Until to-morrow, fare you well!

But must we go to bed? Indeed!
Well, let us rise and go speed,
On up the stairs with backward looks
At all my picture Story-books.

RLS
Good night mother, goodnight father

Margaret
Good night darling, see you in the morning

Tom
Sleep well son

RLS
Will you tell me a story Cummy

Cummy
I certainly shall, my laddie

RLS
Can you tell me another good one about the Covenantors

Cummy
Of course I can… goodnight Mrs Stevenson, Mr Stevenson

Margaret
Goodnight

Exit Cummy & RLS

Margaret
Are you alright darling

Tom
Hmm I’m not sure I am – a constant diet of such religious utterances as those Cummy bombards our boy with are truly poisonous to a child – bedtime stories about religious martyrs, making the tabernacle in your play time – I am beginning to fear for our boy – some of the nightmares he has been having recently – he’s frighten’d half the night – thinks he’s going to hell – it is all Cummy’s doing

Margaret
But he loves her, perhaps more than myself, I sense sometimes, & her work is excellent, faultless even – I trust her implicitly with our child, & the house

Tom
Well, she is a kindly soul, but her piety is so obsessive, is this really the right influence we want on our only child – her convictions and consequent teachings, believing as she does in a literal hell along with the other tenets of her church, are rather strong meat for the mental digestion of an already imaginative & nervous child

Margaret
I don’t want to lose her Tom

Tom
Ach – then let us at least ask her to tone things down on the religious indoctrination of our child – if he is to be a Calvinist in the end, let him not be one by the age of seven, I’d rather such a heavy social burden be applied after a happy childhood

Margaret
I shall darling

They return to their reading



Scene 7: La Solitude

Fanny is in the kitchen with Valentina / she is surrounded by boxes / enter RLS

RLS
Aha ! the boxes from Davos, they have come

Fanny
They certainly have – we really are becoming civilized – we even have a maid these days – Valentina

Valentina
Monsieur Stevenson

RLS
Nice to meet you, Valentina, what are your qualifications

Fanny
Well, first things first, her English is impeccable, after which she is charming girl, aren’t you Valentina – she possesses a sparkling sense of humour, who reviews the whole neighbourhood & nightly brings its annals up to date

I am also a very good cook & a maid of all work

Well, welcome to the household young lady

Fanny
How on earth did we manage to acquire so many things

RLS
But everything in them is absolutely essential, & this is only a small portion. There are trunk boxes & cases bestrewn across Europe & a considerable portion of the United States… & somewhere within them is the leathery remnants of my soul,

Fanny
It rather feels like Christmas morning, all this – shall we open our parcels & see what Santa has brought us this year

RLS
Splendid idea

Fanny
Is there any money in any of them?

RLS
If I recall only a few coins here & there

Fanny
I do wish your mother would write to us soon

RLS
I haven’t heard a single scratch of a pen. I do so wish I did not have to pester her for money. I am in my thirties now, for goodness sake. It is all my damn publisher’s fault – curse their greed – call them philistines who leave a man of genius to starve

Fanny
& his wife

RLS
& his step-son I’m afraid – we’ll have to withdraw Sam from Mr Storrs – it’ll far be cheaper to bring him to France & feed him here. We need that forty pounds a year, Fanny – here, with us, not lining the pockets of some academic dinosaur

Fanny
I agree – I would love to have him here with us

RLS
Even so – it is still going to be tight. Are you sure we can afford Valentina right now – mother still hasnt forwarded me any money, I have hardly paid a debt either here or in Nice, & there are people springing fresh bills on me at all times of the day – its infernal – the chemist, the baker, the doctor, the gardener – everything has gone extremely vague

Fanny
She’s staying darling, I’m here to focus on my painting & the recuperation of my health – you could do the cleaning if you wanted, instead of Valentina

RLS
Very well, she stays – I have done the maths – for just I alone to live, to dress, to buy paper, pens & inks it comes to £51 per annum. But for a married man, who is sick, with a step-son…

Fanny
Well, if paper is so expensive, you could write in a smaller font – aha my Parisian beachwear…

RLS
I had never thought of that – I could easily turn my five hundred words a page to seven hundred and fifty – talking of paper, what – are – these? Oh…

Fanny
Darling

RLS
It’s the Braemar box. Look, there is the Hokusai.

Fanny
{taking the painting}
Ah excellent, I shall hang that over here – Valentina, this is a gift my husband gave me on our wedding day – l’aimez vous

Valentina
C’est tres joli, madame

RLS
Superb – a decent bottle of Scotch for once – unopen’d too – a most magnificent sight
{sharp intake of breath}

Fanny
What is it

RLS
Among these papers are something I’d quite forgotten about

Fanny
Yes

RLS
They contain those trifling poems about my childhood I had scribbled down in Braemar

Fanny
Oh my word, they were the most delightful creations, please, please read me one.

RLS
{skimming through papers}
If you insist – this one…. no, this one…. ah yes, perfect….

Young Night-Thought
All night long and every night,
When my dear nurse puts out the light,
I see the people marching by,
As plain as day before my eye.
Armies and emperor and kings,
All carrying different kinds of things,
And marching in so grand a way,
You never saw the like by day.
So fine a show was never seen
At the great circus on the green;
For every kind of beast and man
Is marching in that caravan.
As first they move a little slow,
But still the faster on they go,
And still beside me close I keep
Until we reach the town of Sleep.

Fanny
That was so charming, so evocative of childhood at its most adorable

RLS
I don’t think I have ever actually properly grown up you know – writing these poems, they just gushed out of some timeless sunny spot of my soul’s eternity, & you know, by Jove, I believe I could make a little book out of those things if I was to write a few more

Fanny
The china – excellent – take this box to the kitchen, Valentina, be a saint for me & wipe them all down, will you, please

Valentina
Yes Mrs Stevenson

Fanny
There’s a good deal been broken in the passage, but there is enough left for an afternoon tea – Valentina, dear, make us some tea while you’re in the kitchen please, & use whatever you can find in here

Exit Marie with box

RLS
Wonderful – my portable library –
My books, my reading, & my company
Absorbingly voluptuous they are
& if the books are eloquent, the words
Are in our ears like the noise of breakers
Rapt clean out of the fabric of myself
Mind rising from perusals fairly fill’d
Kaleidoscopic dance of images
Sleep incapable, thought continuous
A thousand colour’d pictures in my eye
& all of these carpacious treasures
Liken to literary intimates
& each of them to me are little homes
A place to dwell within however rare
My visits are these days, but when I do
They sing & charm with perfect brilliance,
Rediscover’d, momentary delights
Then fade after a magic hour or two
Like Virgil, Wordsworth, Herrick, Horace, Burns
A couple of Scott’s novels – studied, thumb’d –
The Pilgrim’s Progress & the Stratford bard
Of whom I’ve read all but Richard the Third
& Titus Andronicus & All’s Well
& might not ever read them now, the rest
With faithfulness, I shall read ‘till I die
& here he is, beloved Moliere
The next greatest playwright in Christendom
& here’s Montaigne’s superb ‘the Egoist’
I have read that four or five times, you know,
& here is the Vicomte de Bragelonne,
I’ve read that five or six, this edition
Was pirated in Paris, I love it
From the execution of d’Eymeric
To rough & tumble in the Place de Greve
It think it is the best one by Dumas
So many silent, solitary nights
Spent under lamplight in my youth did spend
With D’Artagnan & the Three Musketeers
But silent, no, not really, for I heard,
Thro’ a mind enliven’d, shattering sounds
Of clattering horses & musketry,
Then when I went to bed all thro my head
Swarm’d memorable faces of new friends
Who threaded thro my slumbers until dawn
When I leapt out of bed to eager plunge
At breakfast, back into this sacred book
Since then I’ve not discover’d any part
Of this wide world that has seem’d as charming
As these sweet pages, not even my friends
Have ever been as dear as D’Artagnan
& to this day I know that he delights
To have me read him, & tho Aramis
Knows I do not love him, still he plays
To me with his best graces

RLS passes out

Fanny
Oh my lord
Robert, what is wrong, Robert, speak to me

RLS
I feel queer

Fanny
I’ll get the doctor, Valentina !
Valentina, come here quickly… what’s the matter

RLS
I’m not quite sure, but my vision is blurring

Fanny
Oh my god!

Valentina
Yes, Mrs Stevenson

Fanny
Go, fetch the doctor at once

Valentina
The doctor

Fanny
Yes, the doctor, tell him my husband is sick
& needs immediate attention

Exit Valentina

Fanny
Let me get you to your bed darling

Fanny helps a groaning staggering RLS to his bed

Fanny
This way you can do it

RLS
I’m sorry

Fanny
It’s perfectly fine – you should really be resting, not moving house – luckily I’ve already made up the bed – you’ll be quite comfortable

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