The Plays of Wilkie Collins: A Digital Archive



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Wilkie Collins, The Lighthouse, edited by Richard Pearson (c) 2011
Published with kind permission of
Ms Faith Clarke
and
The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection
of English and American Literature
The New York Public Library
Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

For the purposes of referencing, please use the following formula:
Wilkie Collins, The Lighthouse (Berg 1), ed. Richard Pearson, www.wilkiecollinsplays.net (date accessed)

The Lighthouse NOTE


A Drama, In Two Acts
By
Wilkie Collins
First Represented on the Public Stage At the Royal Olympic Theatre, August 1857

Persons of the Drama, With the Cast of Characters at the Olympic Theatre

Aaron Gurnock (The Head Light Keeper) Mr F. Robson
Martin Gurnock (His Son. The Second Light Keeper) Mr Walter Gordon
Jacob Dale (The Third Light Keeper) Mr Addison
Samuel Furley (A Pilot) – Mr G. Cooke
First Sailor –
First Fisherman –
Sailors, Lightkeepers, Fishermen
-----
The Shipwrecked Lady – Miss Swanborough
Phoebe Dale – Miss Wyndham

The Scene is the interior of the second Eddystone Lighthouse, built by John Rudyerd
Period, the Year 1748


Act I 1

2

Scene.3 The kitchen chamber of the Lighthouse. A sleeping berth in the flat, to the left, near the ground and covered by a curtain of old cloth. On the right, a window closed by a shutter. On the left, a fireplace with a fire burning, with a locker by the side and a sea chest in front. In the centre a table, with an hour-glass and a jug of water on it. By the table an arm chair. On the left, between the window and the flat, a door. The ceiling formed by heavy beams through which the lighthouse beacon shines 4 from above.

Jacob Dale is discovered seated in the chair with a slate on his knees and his hands crossed listlessly over it. Martin Gurnock is on the sea chest opposite, with his head and arms resting on the table. A pause, after the rising of the curtain. Nothing is heard but the whistling of the wind outside, and the crash of the waves against the lighthouse.

Jacob. Martin - Martin Gurnock - Look up a bit, lad.  I want to speak to you, Martin. 
(Thunder. Another pause.) How the Lighthouse shakes! I thought there was a lull in the storm an hour ago - no hope – no hope of rescue! Before it is calm enough for the provision boat from shore to put off we shall all have died of starvation on this lonesome rock – Martin – oh Martin! Look up and speak to me. (Martin raises his head slowly.) How is it with you, lad?  You’re young and strong – you ought to weather it out longer than your father and me – longer a good deal, Martin.

Martin. My head feels strange – light and dizzy somehow – I’ve been dreaming and yet I haven’t been asleep. I suppose
it’s hunger, Jacob – hunger and weakness. (raises himself to an upright position on the chest)

Jacob.  Aye, aye, lad, that’s the complaint with all three of us now. My head is as dazed as yours. Here’s
our log (shows the slate) – It’s as much as I can do to steady my hand and clear my eyesight to make the entry for today.

Martin. 5 Another day come then – How long is it past midnight.

Jacob. (turning the hour-glass)  One in the morning. Here’s yesterday’s entry – December 16th 1748.  I’m just going to make today’s entry now (writing) – December 17th – Wind still blowing a gale from the South West. No hope of relief from the shore – provisions all exhausted.

Martin.  How long is it, today, since the boat made her last trip to the Lighthouse from shore?

Jacob.  Eddystone Lighthouse – Monday 19th November – Boat came from the Ramhead and brought ten days provision for the three Light Keepers
(counting with the slate pencil) – Monday 19th to Monday 26th – one week – Monday 3rd December – two weeks – Monday 10th – three weeks – Monday 17th – four weeks – Four weeks today, Martin.  Four weeks of heavy gales on this lonesome rock – Four weeks of weather that no boat could put off in.  Four weeks alone here, and only ten days provisions to stand it out on.

Martin.  We ought to have saved more – we ought to have lived on quarter rations the first week.

Jacob. It will be all one, soon, Martin – Our life’s work in this world is pretty nigh over.  A few hours more or less will end it. 

Martin.  We have got a little brandy left, haven’t we?

Jacob.   A little better than a dram left – it’s in the bottle there
(points to the locker)

Martin.  A drop a piece will keep us alive for today – and who knows what may happen before tomorrow.
(looks towards the sleeping-berth) Has father moved or spoke at all since I have been dreaming here by the table?

Jacob.  Not that I have heard.

Martin.  Hush! I think I hear him moving.
(goes to the berth, draws a corner of the curtain aside and looks in).

Jacob.  How is he?

Martin.  Bad, Jacob.
(he turns to the table) Light in the head.  His eye is wandering and he moans a kind of gibberish to himself.

Jacob.  You said you were dreaming just now, lad – what of?

Martin.  Your daughter’s cottage ashore, Jacob.  I fell into a sort of doze, thinking of Phoebe.  When you startled me up I thought it was holiday time with me, and that I was taking my pipe in the chimney corner, and talking to her while she sat at work.

Jacob.  A bitter thought that for Phoebe’s old father away here in the lighthouse and for you her husband that was to become this next blessed Christmas time.

Martin.  They must have put up our bans in church yesterday for the last time of asking.  I dare say the congregation thought of us when they heard it.

Jacob.  And prayed for us, perhaps, lad.

Martin.  Prayed for us, likely enough – prayed for old Aaron Gurnock and Jacob Dale.  Prayed for Martin Gurnock when they heard him asked in church, and remembered that he was starving out here with ten miles of raging sea between him and his promised wife.

Jacob.  And only a year, Martin, since she gave you her promise.

Martin.  Less, by a good six weeks.  Have you forgotten my getting leave on shore and coming off when it was over with Phoebe in the boat.

Jacob.  Forgotten?  Not I – I can call it to mind as easy as you can.  I remember her taking me below into the store room, poor child.  Why, Phoebe, says I, your two cheeks are as red as my old fishing cap – what’s Martin been saying to you in the boat?  He’s been asking me says she – and then stops short – I know what he’s been asking of you, says I – and what’s more I know you have said yes – she looks up at me with the tears in her eyes and nods her head and puts her arm around my neck and begins kissing of me.  I know how to come over old father she whispers and kisses me again.  Ah, Martin, I can remember – I’m not past that yet!

Martin.  I’ve got a keepsake of hers – a lock of hair tied in a bit of ribbon that she used to wear round her neck on Sundays. (takes it out of his cravat) It isn’t much, but if the boat don’t get off to help us till too late I shouldn’t like it to fall into stranger’s hands.

Jacob.  Don’t put it back – tie it to your coat (he does so) – she’ll see it – and the sight of it will speak plain enough to her when we have done speaking forever.

Martin.  How?

Jacob.  How! You don’t know my girl, Martin, as well as I do.  The sea may run mountains high, the winds blow heavens hard, but when the first boat puts off from shore for the lighthouse, whether it’s day, or whether it’s night, safe or not safe, risk or no risk, my Phoebe will be one of the crew. (shakes hands)

Martin.  When was you up in the crow’s nest last?

Jacob.  Ten o’clock.

Martin.  Did you see anything?

Jacob.  Towards shore the drizzle was too thick.  Out at sea there was a break and a strip of moon.  I saw the waves running in from the Atlantic awful high.  And when I looked through the night glass, I thought I made out a ship.

Martin.  Was she heading out to sea?

Jacob.  That’s more than I can tell you.  If she wasn’t, with such a coast as ours under her lee – her chance in this gale is not worth that (snaps his fingers)6

Martin.  I wonder whether it keeps clear to windward still? (goes to the window shutter)

Jacob.  Mind what you’re at.  That window hasn’t been mended since the sea-gull broke it the other night.  Look out for the wash of the spray, Martin, look out.

Martin.  I won’t keep it open more than a moment. (Pulls back the shutter. The howling of the wind is heard with sudden violence. He closes the shutter again quickly and returns, wiping the spray from his face.)

Jacob.  Well?

Martin.  It looks worse than ever.  The fog has come down on us again.7 (Jacob rises) Where are you going to?

Jacob.  Up into the Crow’s nest – you know what our orders are – When the lighthouse is hid in fog, the Light Keepers are to warn ships off the Eddystone Rocks by sounding the gong.  You leave the door open here – so that if anything happens I can call down the stairs.  Good bye, Martin. (Exit)

Martin.  Good bye, Jacob.  Poor old fellow – I wish he had let me do that work for him.  He’s too weak for it – I know he’s too weak. (Looks towards the berth)  I don’t hear father moving, the gong will disturb him – I am afraid – but that can’t be helped – as long as the fog lasts we are bound to keep it going. (Sits down in the chair by the table; turning his back to the berth, but leaving the whole of it visible to the audience.)  Poor dear Phoebe – I dare say she was in church yesterday when the parson put up the bans. (The first stroke of the gong reverberates through the lighthouse) Brave old Jacob! He’s as good as his word.  He’s at work already.  I wonder if father was much startled by that first stroke? (turns again towards the berth)  Shall I look.  No – not unless he calls – He moans and murmers about his hunger whenever he sees me and I haven’t a morsel of food to give him. Oh, this storm – this storm – when will the wind shift and the sea go down.  (Second stroke of the gong – the curtain over the berth moves – a hand appears clutching at one side of it impatiently.)  I won’t give up hoping yet.  I won’t for Phoebe’s sake – there was a lull in the storm last night, there may be another before noon. (The curtain is moved aside from behind and Aaron Gurnock appears in a sitting position on his bed. He has an old boat cloak wrapped around him, which falls to his feet – his face is pale – his throat bare – his grey hair in disorder.)

Aaron.  (calling faintly from the bedside) Martin – Martin.

Martin. (not hearing or moving)  If they come off in the boat in time to save us, if Phoebe should really, as her father says, make one of the crew - what a meeting it will be.  My heart thumps again when I think of it.  (Third stroke of the gong. Aaron starts as he hears it, then slowly rises and advances with difficulty, to the back of his son’s chair.)  How we shall talk of the storm in the lighthouse in after years!  How much dearer this great danger and distress will make us to each other!

Aaron. (laying his hand on his son’s shoulder.) Martin!

Martin.  Father! How you startled me! Do you want to sit up?  (Aaron nods his head) Sit down on my seat. 8 (Places his father in the chair)  <It is nearest the fire.> 9  Are you cold?

Aaron.  No – not cold.

Martin.  I thought you could not be, lying down in your clothes with your stiff jerkin on and the great Boat Cloak over you.  Stop – let me get your shoes (fetches them from the bedside and puts Aaron’s feet into them) – There! that’s more comfortable now.  Are you still hungry?

Aaron.  No – not hungry.

Martin.  There was a lull in the storm last night, father.  There may be another before long – and then we may look out for the boat – do you hear – for the boat, 10 for rescue from the shore.

Aaron.  No rescue for me.

Martin.  Yes – yes –for you – and for me – and for Jacob.

Aaron.  Where is Jacob?

Martin.  Up in the Crow’s nest.  The sea fog has come down on us and he’s keeping the gong going. (Fourth stroke of the gong)  There! Do you hear! He’s as old as you and yet you see he’s strong enough for his work still.  Don’t be down hearted, father – Hope to the last like me.

Aaron.  I’ve done with hope, Martin, I’m dying.

Martin.  No – no – you’re only weak with long fasting.

Aaron.  I’m dying – dying hard – dying with the horrors on me to make death dreadful.

Martin. (aside) His mind wanders.

Aaron. (overhearing him) Yes, my mind, that’s it.  How did you know it was my mind?

Martin.  I did not know it.  I spoke at random – don’t be angry.

Aaron. (vacantly) That’s what comes of being a scholar – and he knows it’s my mind – Martin, don’t tell Jacob.  Jacob is an honest man in his way, 11 but he can’t keep a secret.  He’d tell upon me.  He’d get frightened and go ashore to the magistrate.  Him and me are friends, but he’d hang me for all that.  While I’m alive don’t tell Jacob.  (Fifth stroke of the gong. From this time the strokes grow fainter and succeed each other during the scene between Aaron and his son, at longer and longer intervals, so as to convey the impression of increasing weakness in the person making the strokes.)

Martin.  What is it I’m not to tell Jacob?

Aaron.  Haven’t I told you?

Martin.  No.

Aaron.  It’s a load on my soul.  I must rid myself of it before I die.  I – (lays his hand on the table and starts) what’s this? – Blood?

Martin.  No – no – no.  Jacob drank some water a little while ago – it’s only a drop spilt on the table.

Aaron.  Water! Ah! Water now – years ago – it was blood.

Martin. (aside) How strangely he returns to that.

Aaron.  Isn’t this my old table?

Martin.  Yes.

Aaron.  My old table that I had when I was a farmer ashore?

Martin.  Yes.

Aaron.  My old table that I bought when I got married and 12 that I’ve kept by me ever since?

Martin.  Yes – yes –

Aaron.  There’s the place where he put the knife – there was blood on the blade – and a drop dripped off it. (keeps pointing)

Martin. (aside) Again! (to Aaron who still steadfastly points to the wet place on the table). Father, don’t point like that.  He doesn’t hear!  His senses seem gone – what can I do for him – the brandy! My share of the brandy – Here, father, drink this – it will make you feel stronger – it will steady your head.

Aaron.  Will it? (drinks) Aha! Good! I shall last a little longer after that.

Martin.  It makes you feel steadier and clearer, doesn’t it?

Aaron.  Steadier and clearer – yes. Happier (clasps his hands) – no – What did I say last before you got the brandy?

Martin.  You said you had something on your mind – and you said that spot of wet on the table was blood.  But now you feel stronger and better.

Aaron.  Now I feel stronger and better I can go on and end it.  Sit near me – sit near me and let me speak.  Last evening when you wished me good night did you feel my hands trembling? (rises)

Martin.  Yes!

Aaron.  The secret lay very heavy on my soul last night - I couldn’t get to sleep for it.  I heard Jacob go to his bed place up above.  I heard you fall off to sleep.  I heard the old clock ticking over my head.  I heard the rush of the wind and the heavy wash of the sea – I wasn’t sleeping and dreaming – I was awake – and I saw her spirit. 13

Martin.  Whose spirit? 14

Aaron.  The woman with the black hood and the long white sleeves – and the red scar on her throat – She came close up to my bedside and spoke to me – “Tell it”, she says, “tell it Aaron Gurnock before you die.”

Martin. (rises – shrinking away from the table) Father, don’t look so – don’t talk so.  There’s a dread stealing over me – there’s a thought coming into my mind.  Ah, go back – go back to bed and say no more!

Aaron.  I must say on to the end.  Sit down. (Martin sits.) It was in your mother’s life time.  You remember seven or eight years ago when I had the Farm House on the Cornish shore.

Martin.  Yes!

Aaron.  You remember the autumn time when things went wrong with me – and I got into debt?  When you went away with your mother to stay along with her relations a little while?

Martin.  I remember. 15

Aaron.  When you two left the house, I was alone in it – true enough.  But not for long. You hadn’t been gone a day before I had someone come to keep me company. 16 An old mate of mine before I was married – by name Benjamin Tranter – your mother always hated him, and said he was fit company for no honest man.  So he skulked till her back was turned, and then he came and kept me company at the Farm House.  Did I tell you it was autumn time then?

Martin.  Yes! yes!

Aaron.  A heavy, hot, misty autumn time – Benjamin and me kept together in the Farm House low enough both of us – I had debts gathering behind me – and prison threatening before – and he hadn’t a shilling left in the world.  One night we sat by the kitchen hearth, grumbling about the hard times, and rummaging our brains for ways of raising money.  I remember the sea fog had been gathering over the moor all round us, ever since the afternoon.  All of a sudden my old sheep dog jumps up and growls – and then we hear a knock at the door – I go and open it – and under the porch I see a lady. (Sixth stroke of the gong.)

Martin.  A lady! a lady alone on the moor at night!

Aaron.  There she stood, holding a stout Devonshire Pony by the bridle – and no servant or anybody with her.  “I’ve lost my servant miles away in this white sea mist,” she says – “and I want shelter for myself and my pony tonight.”  There were saddle bags on the pony’s back – I asked her in – and Benjamin, he took off the saddle bags.  They weighed heavy and he gave me a look as he hefted them, that I didn’t like (Martin shudders) – what are you shivering about?

Martin.  (Turning away his head) I’m cold.

Aaron.  I took the saddle bags from Benjamin, and showed her into the kitchen – she wore a black hood lined next the face with white – and a black gown with long hanging white sleeves.  She was a pretty woman  - with bright eyes and a kind comely face.  We are poor, says I – my wife’s away and I haven’t much to eat in the house.  Never mind that, it’s rest I want, she says.  You don’t come from our parts, says I.  No, says she, I’m not from your South Cornish coast. I’m from North Devon.  Have you got a bed for me to lie down upon?  Yes - says I – and showed her the room and took her saddle bags up stairs for her.  We will talk more about you and your poverty tomorrow morning, says she.  Those were all the words we had together – all I said to her – all she said to me!

Martin.  All? you mean for that night?  Father! Father! I hope you mean all for that night? (rises)

Aaron.  All for ever! (Seventh stroke of the gong. Martin starts to his feet and draws back a step or two in horror.) Sit down again! and hear me out. 17 (Martin obeys.) When I got back to the kitchen, I had time to fill a pipe and smoke it out before Benjamin came in from the stable.  You’ve been a long time littering down the pony, says I.  He gave me no answer – he would not even look at me.  The strange lady is up in my wife’s room, says I.  And where are the saddle bags, says he, very quickly. 18 Up with her of course, says I.  He laughed after that.  Why do you laugh, says I?  He wouldn’t answer again.  He seemed to want to go to sleep.  I soon got drowsy myself with nothing to do and nobody to talk to, and dozed in my chair.  I wasn’t quite asleep – for I heard the dog restless, and I saw in a sort of half dreaming way Benjamin get up softly and take a turn or two backwards and forwards in the room and then go out suddenly.  After that, my head got heavier, and I fell off into a sleep. (Martin shudders.) What is there in me to frighten you?

Martin. (sternly) Everything!

Aaron.  I don’t know how long I slept, or why I woke: but I did wake all of a sudden.  The dog was crouched down at my feet, trembling and whining, and there was a smell of burning that I couldn’t account for.  The candle was guttering but there was light enough for me to see that Benjamin was in the kitchen.  He had a knife in one hand and a heavy leather bag in the other, and when I opened my eyes I met his, staring straight at me.  He stood by the side of this table (both rising) that we are standing by now, and when we looked at each other, he put the knife down here.  I got up and saw something drip off the blade – and there’s the place it dripped on.   There – Martin – there! (reaches across the table to enforce Martin’s attention by touching his arm.) There! There! 19

Martin. (shrinking away) Don’t touch me!

Aaron.  (angrily) Martin!

Martin. (hiding his face) Don’t touch me!

Aaron.  I didn’t kill her.

Martin.  Did you give up the guilty man?

Aaron.  No. (sinks into his chair)

Martin.  Did you? – I can’t say it! I can’t speak the words!

Aaron.  I helped him to hide her dead body.

Martin.  Oh! 20

Aaron.  We carried her, dressed as she was, all in black, with her hood and her long white sleeves, down the cliff path from the edge of the moor – down – down – to the Sea beach.  We never said one word to each other all the way.  The mist was gone, the tide was at the ebb, and the sand was shining under the Harvest moon.  Without a word passing between us, we took her into the Daw’s Cave.  The tide leaves it the ebb and fills it at the flow.  We left her against a heap of shells and seaweed high up in the Cave, and went back to the Farm House – and still we never said so much as one word to each other, all the way.  Benjamin –

Martin. (eagerly) Where is he now?

Aaron.  Where I am going to soon – he was killed in a fight at a Public House.  Benjamin, I say, went into the stable and took the pony out saddled to the cliff-side, and I followed him, 21 because I was afraid to be alone.  He drove the pony over the Cliffs onto the Rocks below.  Then he turns to me, and says – ‘It’s all safe now – I burnt the bed linen while you were asleep.  How much do you want?’ he says, and takes the leather bag out of his coat pocket.  Nothing, says I – it’s blood money, and I won’t touch it.  He didn’t speak another word and we parted company on the spot.  He went his way over the moor, and I went mine back to the Farm.  In two days the hue and cry came after the lady – but the flood tide was beforehand with the hue and cry, and the Daw’s cave was empty when the Constable and his men looked into it.  They only found the pony jammed in among the Rocks and the next day they traced her servant who had gone astray in the mist to the shaft of an old mine.  After that everybody believed she had fallen over the Cliff side in the fog. (Here the sound of the gong is heard faintly for the last time.)

Martin.  And you never dropped a word of the truth?

Aaron.  Never to any living soul from that day to this.  People came all the way, Martin, from where she lived, to know if her dead body had been found – poor people, who said she had fed, clothed and taught them, as if they had been her own children.  They cried when they talked about her.  They said since her husband died, she always kept to that black dress of hers, always lived alone, always spent her time in doing good.  They cursed the mists and the fogs 22 of Cornwall, and the day when 23 she heard that our poor were suffering, and set forth to help them with her money and her kind words.  The very children the strange people brought with them, fretted and cried too – and asked when Lady Grace was coming back.  That was the only name they gave her – Lady Grace! (Drops his head on the table with a long wailing cry of remorse.)

Martin.  Father! (Tries to raise him from the table – then shrinks away.) Oh! Phoebe, Phoebe! Can I look you in the face after all that I have heard?  Is the son of Aaron Gurnock worthy to wear your keepsake!  Hark!  I hear something – it sounded like a cheer from the sea!

Jacob (calling from above.) 24 Martin! Martin! (Aaron rises and rushes across to him.)

Aaron.  It’s Jacob! He’s heard us talking!  He’s heard the secret!

Jacob. (from above.) Martin!  The boat from shore!

                               (A distant hail is heard, “Lighthouse ahoy!”)

(Jacob answers faintly from above. A distant cheer follows.)

Aaron.  Oh, Martin!  Keep Jacob away from me!  I know he’s heard us – I know he’s heard the secret.

Martin. (not noticing.) The boat from shore! And Jacob said Phoebe would make one of the crew.  Dare I so much as look at her – after all that I have just heard?  She’ll see the horrid secret in my face.  She’ll hear it in my voice!

(Noise, and confused voices outside. Martin starts up and goes to the door.)
(Phoebe speaks outside, “oh father - father - thank Heaven we are in time”)
(Enter Jacob)

Jacob.  This way, Phoebe - Here they are!

(Enter Phoebe. She runs to Martin and throws her arms round his neck. Furley and the Fishermen and Lightkeepers who have manned the boat, follow her into the room. They carry hampers, baskets and jars with them, which they arrange in a corner at the back of the stage. Jacob goes to help them.)

Phoebe.  Martin, dear dear Martin. 25 (Drawing back a little and looking at him.) Oh! how pale you are!  how lost and sad you look! I have suffered too, dear, the last few weeks have almost broken my heart.  And your father, Martin.   I don’t see him. (turns round to where Aaron sits looking suspiciously from person to person.) – How awfully he is altered.  He seems as if he hardly knew me. (tries to go to Aaron.)

Martin. (Stopping her.) Your cloak, Phoebe – let me take it off – it is wet through with the salt water.

Phoebe.  Wet through, indeed, and my hood almost washed off my head.  Oh, we have had such a gale to pull through, such a sea to fight with. (tries to go down again. Martin catches her by the hand.) Why, Martin, won’t you let me shake hands with your father? (whispering, and casting down her eyes demurely) My father that is to be, one of these days!

Martin. (aside) Her father!  Benjamin Tranter’s accomplice her father!

Phoebe.  I don’t hear you, dear.

Martin. (Constrainedly.) My father is hardly fit to be spoken to just now.  He wanders in his mind a little.  It is only weakness from long want of food.

Phoebe.  Want of food!  How dreadful to think of at his age – and at poor old father’s! (turning towards the back of the stage.)  Oh! Master Furley how long you are unpacking the hampers. Shall I come and help you?

Furley.  No – no, my lass.  You had better a deal sit down and rest yourself – after the pull we have had in the teeth of the gale.

Martin. (fetches two stools. Fishermen set table. O.P.) Come and sit by me, Phoebe.

Phoebe.  Oh! 26 Martin! This time yesterday I was thinking of you in church – thinking whether I should ever sit by your side again. (They seat themselves on the stools.)

(Furley comes forward with a saucepan in his hand.)

Furley. (putting the saucepan on the fire) Now, my men, (addressing the boat’s crew) bustle about, and let’s have the table ready in no time.  Friend Aaron –

Aaron.  Martin! He’s going to take me ashore.  Stop him – Martin – stop him! (Martin rises from the stool)

Furley.  Leave him to me.  Jacob told me his poor storm beaten wits had been wool gathering.  I’ll bring him round, never fear. (to Aaron) Take you ashore?  And why not – it’s your turn to go ashore.

Aaron.  No!

Furley.  But I say, yes – your turn – and Jacob’s – and Martin’s.  Of course, we’ve brought the three extra light keepers off in the boat to relieve you; and we’re going to take you all ashore as soon as we have fattened you up again with something to eat. (goes to the fire)

Aaron.  Something to eat?

Furley.  Yes – good broth, with lots of taturs and barley in it.  The right sort of stuff, friend Aaron, for the stomachs of half starved men.

Phoebe.  Has your father been like that many days, Martin?

Martin. (confusedly) No – not many – one or two days – I hardly know how long.

Phoebe.  Well, as I was telling you just now, I bore it pretty well till our bans were put up.  Then, when I heard your name and mine, I burst out crying before all the people in church. (Martin looks away uneasily after his father) He doesn’t listen – ! Martin!

Martin.  Yes, Phoebe.

Phoebe.  You don’t seem to be listening to me.

Martin.  Oh, yes!  I was listening, indeed.  You were saying? –

Phoebe. (rather sadly) Oh, nothing!

Martin.  I was listening, Phoebe – I was indeed. 27

Phoebe.  It was only a word or two about what happened to me in church. 28 (taking his hand) You can fancy what I must have suffered, Martin, hearing the pitiful wind blow as if it would blow forever, 29 asking Furley and the fishermen every day when the boat could put off to rescue you; and always getting the same cruel answer – no boat, lass, that ever was built could live in such a sea as that! (Martin again looks uneasily after his father) Oh! I cried at night, Martin, and woke with the heart ache in the morning, till I thought I should die too – and wondered whether they would bury us together in the same grave. Not listening again!  What makes him look so anxiously that way? (Touching his hand)

Furley. (Calling form the fireplace) The broth’s ready! (Aaron rises – goes form the fire, and takes his seat at the table. Furley ladles out the broth into basins placed before Aaron, Martin and Jacob.) Now then, whatever you do, don’t be in a hurry!

Jacob.  Oh, Lord, it’s a pleasure only to smell it!

Furley.  A regular nosegay, isn’t it?  Steady there, friend Aaron – I’m not going to let you have too much or swallow too fast.  I was one of a starving boat’s crew once myself and I know the danger of letting a famished man overeat himself.  Slower, Jacob, or you’ll scald your throat.  Look at Martin, he’s the only one of the three who swallows his broth like a gentleman.

Aaron. (handing his basin to Furley) More!

Jacob. (doing the same) More!

Furley.  More! Do you call that manners?  Wait a bit and take breath.  Do you think I’m going to let men in your condition swallow a whole saucepan full of broth among you at once?

Phoebe.  Oh, give them a little more, Master Furley.  A little more can’t hurt them.  Look, here’s Martin’s basin empty.

Furley.  Ah, I dare say.  Let you alone, young woman, for looking after Martin.

Phoebe.  Do you feel better, Martin?

Martin.  Yes, Phoebe. Better already.

Phoebe.  I’ll make Master Furley give you some more. (aside) He looked at me in the old way then – perhaps I was wrong in thinking him altered towards me after all. (rises and crosses for broth)

Furley.  Now will you all promise to take a long time over it?

Jacob.  Yes!

Aaron.  Yes! yes!

Phoebe. Martin deserves a double share for eating so slowly the first time.

Furley.  Does he, Miss?  I believe if you had the feeding of him, he’d be a dead man in half an hour. (Ladling out the broth) Now there’s a second sup for you, and let it slip down gently, or you won’t get a drop more.  Stop!  I won’t trust you. (elevating the ladle) Steady! and take your time from me.

Aaron.  Let us alone!

Jacob.  Yes, do let us alone!

Furley.  Silence there, and stop directly, or I’ll pitch all the rest of the broth out of window! 30 (they drop their spoons in terror)  Aha! I thought I should get the upper hand of you.  I thought you’d give in at last to Pigheaded Sam!  Now (flourishing the ladle), take your time properly from me and you shall have a third half.  1 – 2 – 3 – take a spoonful – 4 – 5 – 6 – take another.  Stop! or by the Lord Harry the broth shall go into the sea!  7 – 8 – 9 – third spoonful – 10 – 11 – 12 – Hollo! Basins empty again!  I gave you four spoonfuls – where’s the fourth?

Jacob. (patting his stomach) Where it ought to be!

Furley.  Ha ha ha! 31 Now’s the time I think to throw in the Dutchman’s strong waters.  There, my lads, drink away and be happy.  Give me a toothful of liquor for myself.  Here’s all your good healths. 32

Phoebe. (aside) Something has altered Martin: he won’t notice me now! 33 Why does he look so anxiously after his father?

(The distant report of a gun is heard. They all start.)

Aaron.  What’s that?

Jacob. Hush!

(A second report)

Martin.  A ship’s gun!

(A third report)

Jacob.  A ship in danger! Stop! I know what ship it is!

Martin.  What do you mean?

Jacob.  Don’t you remember, Martin, my telling you I sighted a ship this morning from the Crow’s nest?

Martin.  True! a ship far off.

Jacob.  I’m afraid she’s nigh enough now – when I last looked out after sounding the gong I thought I saw that same ship under bare poles bearing straight down on us.  Penhall! (to one of the lightkeepers) Go up and see what you can make out.  Signal it down here by striking on the gong. (Exit lightkeeper)

Martin.  You are quite sure you made out a ship this morning?

Jacob.  Yes – though 34 there was a little fog still hanging to seaward.  (Loud strokes on gong.) I was right! the ship is in danger!

(Aaron turns aside, and crouches over the fire.)

Phoebe.  Father, can I be of any use?  Do make me of some use!

Jacob.  Stop a bit, Phoebe.

Martin. (Goes to the window shutter and draws it back. The increased sound of wind and sea, which is heard immediately, continues until the end of the Act.) The fog is lifting every moment – I can see the ship!

Jacob.  Near?

Martin.  Awfully near!

Phoebe.  Oh, what will become of the poor souls on board!

Jacob.  Do you make her out large?

Martin.  No – a brig, with her foretopmast carried away and her storm jib in ribbons.  She’s driving right down on us at the mercy of wind and sea.

(Enter Furley) 35

Furley.  Ropes! Ropes! In less than ten minutes she’ll be wreck’d on the Rocks below us.  The only chance of saving the crew is to have the ropes handy before the ship strikes. (Goes to door)  Get the ropes out of the store room.  Take some up into the gallery.  Bring some in here, and keep the rest below. (Exit lightkeepers)

Phoebe.  Make me of some use!  Do make me of some use!

Martin.  Lively, there! Lively with the ropes!

                                 (The Lightkeepers enter with a coil of rope)

Furley.  Now, my men, up to the gallery after me. (Exit followed by Lightkeepers)

(Phoebe opens the chest and gets out blankets. Martin goes to the window.)

Martin. (hailing the ship through the speaking trumpet) Brig, ahoy!

Phoebe.  What is it?

Martin.  They’re launching a boat over the Brig’s quarter.  It’s madness – it’s throwing away their lives! (Hailing)  Brig, ahoy!  Don’t trust to the boat!

Jacob.  They can’t hear you – the wind’s too high.

Martin.  The rope, Jacob, quick with the rope!

(Jacob carries the free end of the rope to Martin.)

Martin. (paying out the rope) Steady, Jacob!  That’s enough for the present. (hailing below) Below there! Send a man up in the gallery!

Phoebe.  The boat, Martin! what are they doing now with the boat?

Martin.  They have manned her, and got clear of the Brig.  Gallery ahoy!  We can spare you another man up there.

Jacob. (looking out) Look at that wave!  Oh – the boat – the boat’s capsized!

Phoebe. (screams) Father! Look out again.  Can you see how many are left alive on the ship?

Jacob.  Three or four only – huddled together on the deck.

Martin. (shouting at the door) Show your Blue Lights below there! The next sea will bring the Brig on the Rocks!

Jacob. (to Phoebe) The boat! The boat is washed up on the high Rock beneath us.  There’s the name of the ship painted in white on the stern.  Use your young eyes – read it.

Phoebe. (getting on a chair and looking out) I can read it, father! Oh! the ship! How awfully near us!

Jacob.  Quick! quick!

Phoebe.  I can read it easy, father.  The name painted on the boat’s stern is “The Lady Grace.”

Aaron. (starting forward) What?!

Phoebe. “The Lady Grace”

Aaron.  Martin!  “The Lady Grace”!!!

       (The crash of the striking vessel is heard on the rocks outside.
        Phoebe crouches on the ground and hides her face.  Martin springs forward to quiet his father.)

                 (The act drop falls)


Act 2
(Scene – The same as in the preceeding Act. Furley, the Fishermen and three sailors, are discovered in the middle of the stage coiling ropes. Jacob Dale is seated on the sea chest, and Phoebe sits on a stool at his feet. Martin stands at the window opposite and keeps his head turned from the place where Phoebe is sitting. Jacob is occupied in splicing a rope.)

Furley. Now, my lads, those ropes have had plenty of time to get dry since yesterday.

Sailor. Trust us to take care of them, Master Furley. These ropes saved our lives, and – after you and the fishermen here – I look on them as the best friends we have in the world.

Fisherman. Give all the credit brother, where the credit is due, to Martin Gurnock there, and to Master Furley. We should never have got the first rope aboard your Brig if it had not been for them.

Furley. And how much do you think we should have done if it hadn’t been for the man who got out on the Brig’s bowsprit and risked his life to catch the rope?

Sailor. Aye, aye! All very well – but who cast the rope so that I could catch it? No! No! I give the credit to the men at the lighthouse.  That’s what I do.

Furley. (pointing to a rope in a sailor’s hand) And I give it to that rope – the rope that held firm and saved you.

Fisherman. A regular good bit of stuff that rope.  Thoddy of Plymouth made it.

Sailor.  Did he now? (slaps the rope) Thoddy of Plymouth is the man for my money.

Furley. (taking up another rope) And mind you, here’s one that oughtn’t to be forgotten. If I was asked to name which rope saved the lady passenger on board the Brig, I should say this here.

Fisherman. And that’s even a better bit of stuff than the other.  Tinkler of Falmouth made that.

Sailor.  Tinkler of Falmouth may be the ladies’ friend – but Thoddy of Plymouth for my money.

Fisherman. (pointing to the rope in Furley’s hand) How do you make out that it was Tinkler of Falmouth saved the lady passenger on board the Brig?

Sailor. (holding up his rope) When Thoddy of Plymouth was made fast between the Lighthouse and the Wreck.

Furley. Stop a bit.  First you on board the Brig lashed this same lady passenger safe in the arm chair, didn’t you?

Sailor. Yes, but what did the arm chair run upon to the Lighthouse? – Thoddy of Plymouth!

Sailors and Fishermen.  Aye! Aye! Thoddy of Plymouth, sure enough!

Furley. Stop a bit.  Thoddy of Plymouth bore the weight, I grant you – but when we wanted to haul in the Chair from the Brig to the Lighthouse and when we wanted to steady it at the bottom while we were hauling – what did we lay our hands on? – Tinkler of Falmouth! 36

Fisherman. Right, Master Furley – quite right – Tinkler of Falmouth it was.

Sailors and Fishermen.  Aye! Aye! Tinkler of Falmouth!

Sailor. (Catching up his coil of rope doggedly) I don’t care – Thoddy of Plymouth for my money! (Exit with rope.)

Fisherman. (taking the rope from Furley) And I don’t care either.  This rope’s the best bit of work of the two – Tinkler of Falmouth for my money!
                           (Exit with other ropes. The sailors and fishermen follow.)

Furley. Well, well, whichever rope did it, you and the lady passenger are safe in the Lighthouse at any rate. And that’s something to say, now the Brig has gone to pieces on the Rocks. (turns to Phoebe)  Why, my lass, you look but down hearted this morning! Have you been up to see how the lady is getting on after her night’s rest?

Phoebe. (sadly) Yes – she has slept well, and talks of going on shore in the boat this morning.

Furley. That’s right – Have you found out anything about her yet?

Phoebe. Nothing: except that she is the kindest lady I ever met with.  We had such a long talk together and she seemed to be interested in everything that interested me – that we got to be like old friends directly. (innocently) I answered all her questions, and I’m afraid I told her all my secrets. 37

Furley. Nothing remarkable in that, my girl! You wouldn’t be half a woman if you could keep your secrets to yourself.

Jacob. (looking up for the first time from his work) What did you tell the lady, Phoebe?

Phoebe. (glancing at Martin) I would rather not say, father, just now.

Furley. Well, whoever the lady may be this I will say of her – she’s the bravest woman I ever clapped eyes on.  To see her yesterday with her life hanging on the strength of a rope – with the sea yawning for her below and the wind howling at her above – never screeching out, never fainting away – never saying so much as one useless word – was the bravest sight I ever saw.  You were with us, Jacob, when we saved her.  Did you ever see the like of it in a woman before?

Jacob. (shortly) No.

Furley. (to himself) No! that’s rather a short answer, friend Jacob. (turns to Martin) Martin, neither you nor your father have seen the lady yet? Am I right? 38

Martin. (shortly) Yes.

Furley. (to himself) Another short answer – no – on one side – yes – on the other. Something seems to have gone wrong among the three Light Keepers.

Phoebe. (rises) Do you know when the boat is going back to the shore, Master Furley?

Furley. In half an hour, if the lady is ready.  The sun’s shining and the sea’s smoothing. We shall have a regular holiday pull of it back to land.

Phoebe. (aside) A holiday pull back! There will be little of the holiday in it for me.

Furley. What did you say, my girl?

Phoebe. Nothing, Master Furley, nothing.

Furley. (to himself) “No” – “Yes” – “nothing”! 39 I’m in the way here, that’s plain enough.  Martin – I’m away to look after the boat.  Ecod! I can’t get an answer at all this time!
                                                 (Exit.)

Martin. (aside) Oh, that secret! That shameful, fearful secret! (looks round) Jacob, I want to ask you a question.

Jacob. (shortly) Well?

Martin. When one man commits a crime, and another helps him to escape answering for it, is it true that the Law thinks that other man a criminal, and punishes him as such whenever it can lay hands upon him?

Jacob. (ungraciously) I don’t know.

Phoebe. (timidly) What makes you ask such a strange question?

Jacob. (aside to Phoebe) Don’t speak to him! After the way he has behaved to you, I won’t have you speak to him!

Phoebe. Oh, father!

Martin. I was reading about it in a book and I don’t know – I mean – I wanted to know whether the book was right. (turns away again)

Jacob. (to Phoebe) I say again – don’t speak to him.  What did you tell the lady upstairs?  Furley’s gone now – What did you tell her?

Phoebe. (lowering her voice) She was so good to me, and so interested in what little I told her about myself – and oh, father - ! She has such a sweet smile when she speaks to you –

Jacob. But how came she to ask you about your secrets?

Phoebe. I don’t know how she came to see it – but she said I looked a little sad – and asked if I had any sorrows of my own – and if she could help me.

Jacob. Yes – yes – likely enough.  But what has this got to do with those secrets you told her.

Phoebe. I only mentioned it, because –

Jacob. Because what –

Phoebe. Because she told me afterward that she suspected I must have a sweetheart, and then –

Jacob. Well?

Phoebe. And then she asked if he was kind to me.

Jacob. Aye, aye – I begin to understand now –

Phoebe. (laying her head on Jacob’s shoulder) She looked at me so tenderly with her clear kind eyes – that I hardly know how it happened – I told her all.

Jacob. All I made you tell me this morning?

Phoebe. Yes – all about Martin and me, and how strangely he had altered towards me – without ever saying what I had done to change him.  She spoke to me about it as kindly as if she had been my own mother – and said, if I liked, she would speak to Martin before we left the Lighthouse.

Jacob. (throwing aside his work) She speak to him! 40 Well, well, she means kindly, I dare say.  But it’s your father’s business, Phoebe, to speak to him, and speak I will this very minute.  Martin Gurnock!

Phoebe. Oh, not now – pray – pray not now.

Jacob. Yes – now – Martin Gurnock turn this way and listen to me – I have something to say to you.

Martin. I am ready to hear it, Jacob.

Phoebe. (rising) Let me go, father – let me go first.

Jacob. (looking from her to Martin) Well, well, my child – go away.

Phoebe. Don’t speak harshly to him, father.

Jacob. Why not?  Has he behaved kindly to you? (Phoebe bursts into tears) Come, come, child, none of that – I’d rather see you scold him than cry about him.  There, dry your eyes, and leave us alone for a little while. (takes her to the door) Go, now, and whatever you do, don’t cry any more. (Exit
Phoebe. Jacob returns to Martin) Did you hear what my girl said to me just now?

Martin. No.

Jacob. She told me not to speak harshly to you.  Face me like a man, and tell me honestly, which you deserve – harshness or kindness? – You don’t answer.

Martin. I can’t answer!

Jacob. You must, if you mean to marry my girl.  What has altered you towards her? Don’t you fancy she has been telling tales to me! I noticed you last night after all the confusion of that shipwreck was over: I noticed you again this morning – and I wrang the confession out of her that she had noticed you too.  You don’t talk to her as you used – you don’t look at her as you used – you keep out of her company as if you were ashamed of her – you make her heart ache with silence and secrecy and sad looks.  You have behaved as if you were ashamed of her – as if you were ashamed of taking my Phoebe for your wife.

Martin. Ashamed! Say afraid and you may be nearer the truth.

Jacob. Afraid of taking her for your wife – why?

Martin. Because she might be afraid of taking me for her husband.

Jacob. On my word as an honest man. I begin to think she might too!  And since when, pray, has this fear got into your head?  Since you were talking to me about her yesterday!

Martin. Yes.

Jacob. Did any of Furley’s crew bring you news in the boat from shore?

Martin. No – not a word of news.

Jacob. Not a word, eh? Then again I say it – what has altered you since yesterday?  We are not on shore where visitors can come and go, and changes may happen with every hour.  We are shut up – three men alone in a Lighthouse – what has happened to change you? Speak out like an honest man!

Martin. I have another person to consult – another person whom I am obliged to be careful of – who might suffer, if I spoke out too hastily.

Jacob. What other person? (Martin hesitates) What other person? 41

Martin. Oh, Jacob, have some confidence in me! Show some pity for me – I have a fearful trouble to fight against.  I have been tried as man was never tried before – I have, indeed, Jacob! Whichever way I turn, what ever I do, the chance that I may commit some dreadful error, or be guilty of some unmanly deception terrifies me into silence.  Give me a little time longer to think what I ought to do and trust in me mercifully till that time arrives.

Jacob. I will give you half an hour – in half an hour Furley’s boat will be ready to go ashore.  I’m a plain man – and I don’t understand all these ins and outs – and ugly mysteries and strange necessities for silence.  I give you the half hour before the boat goes back.  If by that time you can’t speak a little plainer than you speak now – if you can’t make it right with Phoebe, and right with me – all is over, Martin Gurnock, between you and her! I – her father – tell you so – and you know me for a man who sticks to his word.  (Exit.)

Martin. Half and hour! Half an hour to decide on the future of my life and of Phoebe’s life as well!  Half an hour to choose between confession that would be ruin, and deceit that would degrade me in my own estimation for ever!
                                         (Enter Phoebe.)

Phoebe. Martin.  I have heard all!

Martin. (affrightedly) All?

Phoebe. All that passed between my father and you.  What is this dreadful secret that threatens to separate us?  Oh, Martin, are you really true to me still?

Martin. True in my heart of hearts – never truer, Phoebe, than at this moment.

Phoebe. Then trust me with the secret! Whatever it is, I will take all the risk of telling it to my father. (Martin turns away) You turn away – won’t you tell me? – Have you decided to tell my father?  Let me know that, at least – our time is short – in less than half an hour – the boat will put off for shore – Martin!  All that we two have to hope for in this world is at stake.  Have you decided?  “Yes” or “No”?

Martin. No!

Phoebe. And yet I heard you tell my father that you loved me more dearly than ever!

Martin. Oh, Phoebe! – do you, too, distrust me?

Phoebe. No! Martin! I trust in you with all my heart – and if the whole world doubted you – I would trust just the same.  I spoke hastily – don’t think of what I said – think of nothing but that our time is short – and that the half hour which is to decide everything is slipping fast away.

Martin. If I only knew where to turn for advice - ! I am not fit to decide for myself – and here, in this Lighthouse, there is no one to help me.

Phoebe. (aside) No one! The lady upstairs, who offered of her own accord to speak to Martin.  If she would only talk to him as she talked this morning to me - ! I’ll speak to her – I’ll go up and speak to her this very moment. (goes to the door – then st ops – looks at Martin and returns) Have you forgiven me those hasty words I spoke just now?  My heart trusts in you, Martin, whatever my lips may say. (offers him her hand)

Martin. My own Phoebe – my own, generous, true hearted girl! (turns from her)

Phoebe. Now to see the lady! My last hope of help is in her. (Exit.)

Martin. How can I decide?  How can I so much as think with such a prospect as lies before me, look which way I will?  Phoebe! – She is gone! Gone perhaps never to return again.  Father! Father! Better I had died in my cradle than have grown up to hear what you told me yesterday. (Enter Aaron Gurnock)

Aaron.  Son Martin, the boat is going back to shore.  Why are you stopping here alone?

Martin. Who am I fit company for?  What honest man’s face am I worthy to look at?

Aaron. That is a strange way of answering! Why do you speak those words to me?

Martin. There are more rooms than one in the Lighthouse.  Let us keep apart! (is going – Aaron stops him.)

Aaron. Wait! You have spoken to me as if I was the worst enemy you have on earth.  What have I done?

Martin. Done?  What should you say of a man who stood between me and my marriage with Phoebe Dale?  Should you say that man was my enemy?

Aaron. I am not that man.

Martin. Not! Remember what you said to me yesterday – Who told me the horrid secret of the murder of Lady Grace?  Who degraded me in my own eyes – and unfitted me for the eyes of others – by telling me that my father had been accomplice of an assassin and a Robber? Who?

Aaron. Who?

Martin. You echo my words!

Aaron. No! I ask who told you – your father had been the accomplice of an assassin and a robber?

Martin. You ask that?

Aaron. Yes – I ask it – who told you?
                                          (A pause. They look at each other.)

Martin. Have you forgotten getting out of bed, and sitting there? 42 (points to the place) Here is the very place where you sat – and where the table stood on which the drop of water was spilt – the drop of water that you took for a drop of blood. (Aaron immediately crosses and sits on the chest) – How suddenly he changed when I said that about the spot of blood!

Aaron. What are you muttering about? 43 I hate a spy! I curse a spy with all my heart and soul! What do you suspect? Out with it, spy! Out with it!

Martin. (aside) Is he in his right senses?

Aaron. What do you suspect?

Martin. I suspect nothing.  I know what your own lips told me yesterday – the infamous story of the murder of Lady Grace.

Aaron. The murder of Lady Grace? (looks away) 44 Lady Grace?  A pretty name! Who was Lady Grace? I never heard of her before.

Martin. Never?  I would give my right hand to know that you were innocent.

Aaron. Innocent of what?

Martin. Of all share in the crime which began in the Farm House, bed room, and ended in the Daw’s Cave.

Aaron. The Daw’s Cave? A famous place for smugglers! what about the Daw’s Cave?

Martin. Did you never stand in it, with Benjamin Tranter, one night when the body of a lady lay between you? One night when the tide was at the ebb and the sand was shining under the Harvest Moon?

Aaron. How dare you ask such questions? How dare you talk about yesterday? 45 How dare you stand there with your cursed suspicious Judas-face 46 and talk about yesterday? (seizes him by the arm)

Martin. Take your hand away! I can’t bear that hand – I see it pointing again to the drop of water on your old round table – the drop of water that you said was a drop of blood! (Aaron suddenly turns and draws back. Martin watches him anxiously. There us another pause.)

Aaron. (with a sudden change to gentleness in his voice and manner.) Martin, we are getting over hot and angry about this – I am a little too hasty with you – and you are a little too hard on me.  Let us talk about it quietly – I was nigh dead with hunger and weakness yesterday – and Jacob told me this morning I was wandering in my mind – is that true?

Martin. It is true.

Aaron. Wandering in my mind, as Jacob says – famished – and in fear of death – as you yourself said a minute ago.  Now, tell me, Martin, is it fair to expect a man in that state to speak sense and truth?  Is it fair to suspect a man on strength of what dropped from him when he was light headed?

Martin. I can’t tell – I know nothing for certain. (aside) Can that horrible confession have sprung only from the dream of a wandering mind?

Aaron. I have heard say, Martin, that starved men when the weakness gets to their heads, have dreams and visions – I dreamed – and all the night long I had dreadful visions.

Martin. (aside) The time of the year – the talk between himself and the murderer – the old sheepdog whining and trembling – the leather bag of money – the crying of the poor people and the children after their kind friend they had lost – the very dress that the lady had on – he mentioned all those things, and more!  Are men who wander in their minds ever so exact as that?

Aaron. Don’t keep on muttering to yourself, Martin – talk to me.

Martin. (aside) That cry, too, when Phoebe told him the name of the Brig! He must have spoken the truth!

Aaron. Somebody named “Lady Grace”! How came I to talk about Lady Grace!

          (Enter Lady Grace. She is dressed in the fashion of a century ago exactly in accordance with Aaron’s description of her in the first Act. She enters noiselessly and stands close against the wall of the room so that Martin and Aaron who stand with their backs to it cannot see her.)

Martin. You told me you had seen her spirit.  You told me her spirit called you by your name, and reminding you of a dreadful secret said: “Tell it Aaron Gurnock; tell it before you die.”

(Lady Grace starts and looks earnestly towards Aaron.)

Aaron. (in low tones) Dreams, son Martin – dreams of a wandering mind.

Martin. (also lowering his voice) You described the very dress she wore.  A black hood with white next the face – a black gown, and long hanging white sleeves.

Aaron. (faintly) Dreams! Dreams!

Martin. Oh! Would to Heaven they were!

Aaron. (in a whisper) Dreams!

Martin. Oh! If all this dreadful story is really a dream – 47 if you are innocent in all share in the guilt of blood – give me proof of it – and make my life happy again – give me proof of it, and let me marry Phoebe with a clear conscience.  Father! Father! Tell me in one honest word whether all you said yesterday about Lady Grace 48 is true or false?

(Lady Grace advances towards them down the middle of the stage.)

Aaron. False!

Lady Grace. (standing between them). True!

Aaron. (looking at her and sinking to his knees) Mercy! Mercy!

Martin. (starting up) Save us! 49 The figure my father saw – the very dress that he described as the dress of Lady Grace.

Aaron. (stretching out his hands towards Lady Grace.) You found me in the night time – you came stealing on me with your ghostly step – you said “Tell it,” and I told it! Oh! Why did I ever speak again? Why, why bring you back to surprise me, with the false thought in my heart and the false word on my lips? – 50 Spare me, for I have repented – Leave me, and let me die in peace!

Martin. Father! there was a lady saved from shipwreck last night.

Aaron. Martin! On your knees! On your knees before a spirit from the dead!

Martin. There was a lady saved from shipwreck, while you and I were down here alone – That Lady –

Lady Grace. (To Martin) Hush! Let me speak! (to Aaron) Aaron Gurnock.  Lady Grace lives.  She stands before you and speaks to you now.

Aaron. The spirit spoke to me in the night, but not in that voice.

Lady Grace. Rise from your knees, and touch me.

Aaron. The spirit looked at me in the night, but not with those eyes.

Lady Grace. (to Aaron) Touch me, and be sure that I am mortal as yourself.  Rise from your knees or if you kneel at all, kneel in thanksgiving.  The mercy of Heaven that saved me has saved you also – 51 from the commission of a deadly sin.  The chances of repentance and atonement are yet yours.  Touch my hand, touch it, and be assured that I am alive. (Aaron affrightedly obeys her; then reels back in a swoon. Martin catches him, and supports him towards the chest. He sinks to the ground there at Lady Grace’s feet.)

Lady Grace. (Signing to Martin to lay Aaron’s head on her lap.) He has only fainted.  Leave it to me to recover him.

Martin. To you!

Lady Grace. Yes. This is woman’s work. (Supports Aaron’s head on her lap)  How he has suffered! It is not time only that has traced these furrows on his face! (passes her handkerchief over his forehead – then begins to loosen his neckcloth.)

Martin. Oh, Madam, to see your kind hand stretched out to help him: and then to think –

Lady Grace. Hush! Martin! In the wrecking of the Brig on these rocks – and in the saving of my life from the walls of this Lighthouse, there is more than mere chance.  The mercy to which I owe my existence has saved me to succour and forgive! (loosens the collar of Aaron’s shirt) So, that is better. Is it not true that he confessed all to you yesterday?  I overheard your last words together on my entry into this room.

Martin. He confessed all, Madam, that he could know.

Lady Grace. And the rest it is fit that you should hear from my lips.  The last thing I remember at the Farm House, is seeing a man, shorter and darker than your father, 52 by my bedside, with a knife in his hand.  Does he still live?

Martin. He is dead.

Lady Grace. (Tending over Aaron) See! He is less pale already. (puts back his hair from his face; then fans him with her handkerchief while she goes on speaking.)  My next remembrance is of waking, as it seemed to me, on board a ship, and of being questioned by strangers in a foreign tongue.  In a few days more I knew that I had been found by smugglers in the Daw’s Cave – that they had taken me away in their vessel – and that we had been chased 52 and captured by a French Privateer.

Martin. You must be weary of supporting him, Madam.  Will you let me take your place?

Lady Grace. No – no – In a few minutes he will be well again. (touches Aaron’s wrist)  His pulse is beating more firmly every moment.  We were among the first prisoners whom the French took – it was then the beginning of the Seven Years War – my wound was long to heal – exile too was heavy to bear at first – but in making myself useful among my countrymen who were taken prisoners – in comforting the down hearted and sick – I learnt patience, and bore with my hard lot.  The Articles of Peace were signed only a few months back – I embarked for Plymouth in the vessel which was lost yesterday.

Martin. The Lady Grace?

Lady Grace. Called so after my name – my fellow prisoners had a grateful remembrance of what little I had done to help them – and they begged that the first English ship despatched from the foreign port after the war might be called “The Lady Grace” – (points to Aaron) He is breathing more audibly – his senses are coming back – Take him from me now, Martin: for it might be dangerous if he saw me on first opening his eyes again. (Martin takes Lady Grace’s place.) One word more before he recovers – There is a young girl here who has been very kind to me since my rescue from the wrecked ship.  Her name is Phoebe, is it not?

Martin. Yes, Madam, Phoebe Dale.

Lady Grace. Fan his face a little still (points to Aaron and gives her handkerchief to Martin) – She has been speaking to me of an obstacle to your marriage, and of a change in your conduct towards her. – I understand it now – I heard what you said when you spoke of your father’s confession and of your own marriage.  You have a true heart, Martin, and your honour and courage will meet with their reward.  I – who of all persons living have the most right to say it – I tell you that you may marry Phoebe with a clear conscience now: and I promise to make your happiness and her’s my care.

Martin. Oh, madam, how can I thank you? How show myself worthy - ?

Lady Grace. Your father is recovering – let us say no more – I will tell Phoebe that all her troubles are at an end. Be careful with him at first. (Exit)

Aaron. (recovering) Where am I? What has happened?

Martin. Nothing to hurt us, father – everything to make us grateful and hopeful for the rest of our lives.

Aaron. Am I right in my mind? Did I see her? – Was it long ago – or only lately? Did I really see her alive?

Martin. Alive - a living, breathing woman – an angel of mercy and forgiveness.

Aaron. Forgiveness? Let me be – my head whirls – let me be for a minute by myself. (Martin leaves him.)

(Enter Phoebe)

Phoebe. Martin! Martin! I said the lady would help us – I knew it would all end well if we only trusted to her.

Martin. Do you know how it has ended, Phoebe?

Phoebe. No. I could wait to ask nothing. I was so happy. 54 First, the lady came to me, and said all my anxieties might be at an end – then my father followed her and told me he had done you wrong, and then, I suppose I must have flushed up red in the face with joy: for they both smiled at me, and I ran away to you here.  Martin! Martin! did I not say that if all the whole world doubted you, 55 I would trust you still?

Martin. Dear Phoebe! 56

                                   (Enter Lady Grace and Jacob)

Lady Grace. (to Martin) Is your father composed enough yet to be spoken to?

Martin. I will prepare him, madam, to hear you.

(Lady Grace takes Phoebe aside and talks to her.)

Jacob. Martin, my lad, I ask your pardon for ever having doubted you.

Martin. Don’t name it, Jacob – Don’t let us ever name it again.(goes to Aaron.)

                           (Enter Furley and the Three Extra Lightkeepers)

Furley. (at the door) The boat for shore! Jacob, here are the three Lightkeepers of the relief all ready for duty.  Aaron! Martin! Look alive! The boat is manned for shore.

(Lady Grace leaves Phoebe and approaches Aaron and Martin)

Phoebe. (to Jacob) The boat for shore! How the sound of those words has altered for the better, father, since we heard them last! Oh dear lady! dear lady! (Kneels down, clinging to her.)

Aaron. (to Martin) Whose hand helped to lay her in the Daw’s Cave where the cruel sea might take her? What atonement can my bitterest repentance offer to her? Forgive me! How can she forgive me? (hides his face)

Martin. (by Aaron’s side) Father, can you rise? – The lady wishes to speak to you. (to Lady Grace) He is still weak, madam.  He wants an arm to lean on.

Lady Grace. Let it be mine, Martin. Your place is by Phoebe.  Remember, this is your first step on your way to Church – and in a Wedding Procession the Bride and Bridegroom walk together.  Phoebe, dear! That is not a face for a marriage – you must learn to look happier on the wedding day. (Raises Phoebe, and signs to Martin to join her. She touches Aaron on the shoulder, and offers her hand.) The boat is waiting for us 57 – the boat that takes me back to my poor Peasant neighbours, who love me: the boat that takes you to your son’s marriage. 58  Take my hand – I entreat, I command you, to take it. (He kneels and kisses it.) The privilege of forgiving, Aaron Gurnock, is a right that we may all insist upon.

                    Great attribute of Him in whom we live 59
                    And who forgives us as we do forgive!

(As she speaks, she raises her hands to Heaven; the curtain descends very slowly)


                                             THE END



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Richard Pearson and the Victorian Plays Project, 2011