IN A MAN’S GARDEN: Titles-Scene 3


Dramatis Personae

Robert Louis Stevenson – child
Robert Louis Stevenson – man
Tom Stevenson
Margaret Stevenson
Alison ‘Cummy’ Cunningham
Monsieur Bernard
Polly
Fanny Stevenson
Valentina
Samuel Lloyd Osbourne
Reverend Balfour
Anne Balfour
Willie Traquair
Henrietta Traquair
Charles
Minnie
Sarah (play’d by Polly)
Francis

Revellers in the pub (played by Francis, Rev. Balfour, Bernard)
Waiter & waitress & in the hotel (played by Sarah, Francis & Bernard)
Revellers at the Carnival (played by everyone)

Postman

Songs

Overture
When I was Young & Drouthy
My Shadow
Le Boudin
Block City
Picture Story Books
Windy Night
The Land of Counterpane
The Good Child
Garden March
The Little Boats
The Charge of the Light Brigade
My Wife
La Carnival
From Her Boy


Scene 1: The Prologue

Enter RLS holding a copy of ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’

OVERTURE

{spoken}
As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of my book,

Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call

That child to hear, he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,

{sung from here}
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.

So, gather round ye children, here are songs for you;
Some are short and some are long, and all, all are new.
You must learn to sing them very small and clear,
Very true to time and tune and pleasing to the ear.
Mark the note that rises, mark the notes that fall,
Mark the time when broken, and the swing of it all.
So when night is come, and you have gone to bed,
All the songs you love to sing shall echo in your head.


Scene 2: An Edinburgh Pub

A drunken Polly is singing a song to the other drinkers – a baby RLS is wrapped up in a bundle & left in a basket on the bar

WHEN I WAS YOUNG & DROUTHY

When I was young and drouthy
I kent a public hoose
Whaut a’ was cosh an’ couthy,
It’s there that I cut loose
It’s there that me an’ Thamson
In days of drams & ales
Drank wullywuchts like Samson
An’ sang like nightingales

We cracked o’ serious matters
We quarrelt dug & cat,
Like kindly disputators
Our whustles weel we wat.
A farmer frae Langniddry,
Wha drank hissel asnooze,
Was great upoon sculdiddry
And bucketfulls of booze

For some are deid an’ buried
An’ dootless gane to grace;
And ither some are merried,
Or had to leave the place.
And some hae been convertit
An’ weirs the ribbon blue
And few, as it’s assertit,
Are gude for muckle noo!

Enter Margaret Stevenson

Margaret
{coughing to gain attention}
Polly, what are you doing

Polly
Mrs Stevenson!

Margaret
Where is my son?

Barman
I think you’ll find him sleeping on the bar, doll

Drinker 1
Aye, it’s a nice warm basket, there’s plenty of bedding in there

Margaret
Lewey – oh my darling, are you alright – you should be ashamed of yourselves – this is despicable behaviour – I have never seen or heard of anything quite as dreadful as placing a baby on a bar, while completely inebriating oneself – it is an absolute shambles

Drinker 2
Ah, dinna fash, lass, the bairn’s safe

Drinker 3
Aye, he was enjoying the music, sent him to sleep so it did

Margaret
Excuse me if I do not take advice from such word-stumbling, tumbler-fuddled specimens of stumbling humanity

Polly
Mrs Stevenson, I was only having a wee dram, or two while the wee snabbie had a snooze

Margaret
In Leith – no, I am sorry Polly, but, this is an absolute disgrace. Do not bother coming back for your things, we will have them sent on to the whatever work-place assents to such episodes of such gross negligence. Goodbye Polly

Polly
But what about my wages

Margaret
They shall be sent along with your things – I’ll pay you until the end of the week
{to RLS}
Come on my darling, let us flee this evil den of iniquity

Exit Margaret & RLS

Polly
I didnae want to work for her anyway, right uptight she is. Says she’s too ill for motherhood, needs a nanny to help out, but I think she’s just too damn lazy – give me another gin somebody, I’ve suddenly got a hell of a lot of time on my hands – might as well get drunk


Scene 3: A Room in the Grand Hotel, Nice

RLS is sat in his bed reading Pride & Prejudice – enter a fluster’d Fanny Stevenson

Fanny
Robert ! Robert ! My love, you’re alive

Robert
Of course I’m alive, why wouldn’t I be? Well, I do suppose I am very much clinging on to life at the moment

Fanny
I take it the Riveria climate has not enabl’d any improvement to your condition

Robert
Not as yet, but on seeing my beautiful wife, already I feel my health, spirits & limbs aflush with a new energy

Fanny
My darling, I have miss’d you so much, I have been out of my mind with worry

Robert
Whyever so

Fanny
Well, it’s a long story, but let us blow some air & light into this place first – there is no point traveling all this way to Nice & not be able to experience any of its sensory effects
{Fanny throws open the shutters & a living flood of sunshine pours in. She looks at the hustle & bustle of Nice for a moment}
It is a pretty city, yes, but it is not Paris

Robert
Of course not, nowhere is – you were there

Fanny
There, & many other places all thro this vast country, I’ve been searching for you for 3 weeks now, I thought you had collaps’d & died on the journey – I have stopp’d everywhere in France on your route talking to the police, visiting hotels, searching for your corpse

Robert
This is no corpse, my love, not yet anyway – but did you not get any of my letters

Fanny
No, not one

Robert
Damn French postal service, I must have sent a dozen – & a telegram or two

Fanny
Well I did not hear a single thing

Robert
In the spheres of love, my dear, these little absences are always a good influence, they keep things bright and delicate

Fanny
Well, this little absence was almost the ruin of my nerves – but enough of that – it is all in the past now, your moustache looks nice

Robert
There’s positively nothing else to do when you’re bed-ridden except eat, read & shave

Fanny
That reminds me, I’ve brought you these

Robert
My wood engraving tools – you are simply invaluable to me in every where, & I am sure more beautiful than ever – come here

They embrace

Fanny
So how are you finding things here, how is Nice

Robert
Nice is nice, I find I am slowly recovering my powers of self-possession – this complete change in the background of my life; the scenery, diet, conversation of strangers is helping to bring me somewhat out of myself, somewhat – however it is the season of the invalids here, & there are far too many English here swelling the city streets

Fanny
& the hotel

Robert
It is perfectly adequate, but I would rather not stay any longer than necessary – I’ve had my fill of hotels – I am oping to keep my death away at all costs, but not staring at a ceiling each night worrying about how much it is all costing – this place is a den of extortion – I want to somewhere cheaper, & more at harmony with nature, with a garden – &, this is the best part, I have actually seen such a place for rent

Fanny
You have

Robert
Yes – a house in a small town call’d Hyres, about ten miles east of Toulon & three from the sea – the rooms are small, but the gardens are wonderful – wild & winding paths through old grey olive trees where nightingales rest & sing. And the views! The verandah! We can dine outside in the twin bosom of the sky & sea, my love. You will love it!

Fanny
Sound wonderful – & what’s the town like

Robert
It is everything we will need shop-wise – as for the town itself it is a resort popular with consumptives clustering in spa hotels – I wouldn’t want to join that company of crocks, of course, but by staying in the area we would be experiencing the same atmosphere, the same healing

Fanny
How large is the house

RLS
Well, it is not so big, I’ve heard, but we can squeeze him in somewhere for sure

Fanny
Is it expensive

Robert
A little – but mother is helping, at least for the first couple of months – but I do hate to ask her – every letter home begs for money & smack of defeat, & the prospect of being fit enough to work again in to be able to afford just about anything is rapidly receding to a pipe dream

Fanny
Money is like oil for the axles darling, without it we will grind to a halt

RLS
Such a terrible shame for the artists

Fanny
But only the artist have the nous to live like this, wintering abroad with pen, papers & paints – how good does it feel to be finally out of Scotland – I mean, look, its only January here, but even the best days of summer in Edinburgh would struggle to match such a sun-fill’d day of heat as this

Robert
Tis delightful, to tell you the truth

Fanny
& a lot less dangerous for your weak chest

Robert
Indeed – to none but those who have themselves suffered the thing in their own bodies can the gloomy draggle-tail’d depression of the vile Edinburgh winter be brought home. The bleak ugliness of those grey, sickly skies; the boisterous east wind whistling dirges thro the chimney tops; the harsh aspect of the unrefulgent sun going down among perturbed and pallid mists, completely depresses the spirits, &, I believe, actually contributes to people falling ill

Fanny
Well, you are not in Edinburgh anymore, my love, you are in the south of France, it’s a purely wonderful slice of heaven – I had been wondering, has the change in scenery help’d with your writing

Robert
I am full of all manner of literary schemes, but am quite unaffectedly incapable of carrying out the least of them – with sickness comes a sloth-like lethargy

Fanny
I was thinking maybe we could invite Cummy to France

Robert
Cummy ! Heavens forbid, no – she is 61 now, she deserves a tranquil & restful retirement – God knows she’s earn’d her repose – besides, she thinks I am apostate

Fanny
What

Robert
My moving on from the dogmatic chains of Pauline Christianity did not settle well with her at all, not one iota – let’s just say my conversations would be more than tense

Fanny
But, darling, she has always had a magic effect upon you & your health

Robert
I do love her dearly, but I’m not a child anymore, I think me & you are perfectly capable of nursing my health back to its full vigour – I simply refuse to become an invalid – indeed, there is actually a doctor of the most significant reputation in Hyres – his name is Vidal, I think – very clever by all accounts, hmm, he does this kind of thermal cautery with red hot needles – its been having some fantastic results apparently among the locals

Fanny
Of course – we shall get the house, we shall make it very homelike & we shall make you better

Robert
& what about our finances – they are in dire straits which thus renders everything else a darker shade of vague

Fanny
An impoverishment of life’s more material things, & even their diet, did not do the Spartans any harm whatsoever – we shall survive & we shall be happy

Robert
I am happy – your loving me the greatest feeling I have ever known – you complete me

Fanny
To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life
{they kiss}
I love you

Robert
I love you too

Fanny
I love you three

{Scene ends with a hug}

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