The Gulls’ Lament

a gothic romance in one act

by

B. H. Triber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This script is the sole property of the playwright. As such, it may not be produced, performed, reproduced, recorded, transmitted, retransmitted, in any form, format, or media in part or in whole without the express written permission of the playwright. Additional copies of this script must be obtained through the playwright. All United States Copyright Laws and International Copyright Laws apply.


Cast of Characters

Ghost - A likeness of Victoria, aged 17
Victoria Waite - A young lady, aged 17
Mrs. Elizabeth Waite - Victoria’s Mother, aged 37
Captain Henry Waite - Victoria’s Father, aged 28

  

Time: Late 1860's
Place: A lighthouse and surrounding beach on the New England coast.

Important notes:
The Ghost’s clothing should be an exact duplicate of Victoria’s except for color. The Ghost’s dress should appear washed out.


[The sound of gulls and the sea fades in. After a few moments in darkness, cool lights up DR on the Ghost, standing on a promontory.]

Ghost
‘Twas on the beach
The tide was low.
I walked alone.
The wind did blow
Off the sea.
It blew off the sea;
A bitter wind to chill the bone,
A misty wind that wet the skin,
A whistling wind set mind to roam
On warmer times and briny foam.

[Warm lights up DC on Victoria’s bedroom, an old room in the lighthouse. Victoria sits on her bed and writes in a diary, as though she is composing the following.]

Ghost
(cont.)
‘Twas on the coast,
The moon was high.
The shadowed bay brush
Fingered the sky
Over the sea.
It grew by the sea
In dense clutches of twigs and brambles,
In dense clumps of withered leaf.
In dense clusters the seagulls nested

Elizabeth
(voice offstage)
Victoria!

Ghost
And shook me into bitter grief.

Elizabeth
Victoria, where are you?

[Victoria looks up from her book. She quickly shuts it. Lights out on the Ghost, sounds of seagulls and the sea cease. She hides the diary under her mattress.]

Victoria
I’m up in my room, Mother!

[There is the sound of footsteps on stairs.]

Elizabeth
What are you doing up there? We have to polish the light.

[Victoria grabs a book off her desk and flips it open. She sits on the bed, on top of the spot where the diary is.]

Victoria
I’ve been reading!

[Elizabeth enters.]

Elizabeth
What have you been reading, Dear?

Victoria
Wuthering Heights, Mother.

[Elizabeth smiles fondly at her daughter and joins her on the bed.]

Elizabeth
I’ve read that. It’s one of my favorites. Where did you find it?

Victoria
I found it in the drawing room. It was hidden under some old ledgers.

[Elizabeth stares at the book in surprise.]

Victoria
Is something wrong, Mother?

Elizabeth
(Takes the book, examines it.)
No. Nothing is wrong. I’m… I’m just surprised. I haven’t seen this book in ages. This very volume was a gift from your father.

Victoria
I know. You've told me all about it, that it was the last copy in all of Boston…

Elizabeth
No, Dear, it wasn’t. He brought it back from London. I’ll tell you the story once more.

Victoria
Perhaps we should get the light shined up first. We might have a wreck on our hands.

Elizabeth
That can wait a few moments. Let me tell the story first. It is important that you know the full details to pass on to your children as part of our family heritage.

Well, it was just after your father and I were married.

[A dim yellow light comes on UL behind the Ladies. Standing there in full captain’s regalia is Captain Waite. He smiles fondly at his wife and child although they don’t see him.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
Your father is the most handsome man in all of Boston Harbor. In his Captain’s hat, and brass buttons, his chiseled smile, he swept me off my feet. But his bristly mustache, the way it tingles my skin when his cheek touches mine, that’s what I like most. He always keeps it trimmed neat and proper. He knows that I like his mustache trimmed. He is always trying to please me.

Whenever he returns, he always brings wonderful gifts…

[Captain Waite places a white carnation in his lapel.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
…rare flowers from Africa to intoxicate my senses…

[He takes a bit of snuff.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
…exotic spices from Arabia to appease my palate…

[He adjusts his handkerchief in his sleeve.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
…the finest silks and laces from the Orient to pamper my skin.

He is usually gone for months on end, but this is the longest he’s ever been on a voyage. When news comes that he’s returning, I'll cook a feast fit for a king.

[Pause.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
Well, once we were walking through Boston, and I happened to spy a copy of Wuthering Heights in a shop window. Now, I had heard from my friends about the book, but that was the first time I had actually seen it. Right then, your father insisted he purchase a copy for me. We had hardly stepped in the door of the shop when the keeper sold that last copy out of the window. There wasn’t a single copy left in all of Boston. Well, your father wouldn’t hear of it.

[Victoria notices Captain Waite out of the corner of her eye.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)

During the next voyage your father went on, his ship stopped over at London. He was gone for just over two months. I remember that trip well. During that time your grandmother, my mother, was still alive. And she was living in the light house with us and tending the light.

That was right before you were born. I couldn’t make it up the stairs to the light anymore. I would hate to imagine what it would have been like for me if your grandmother hadn’t been here to help.

[Captain Waite produces a copy of Wuthering Heights from under his arm. He smiles and stretches his arm forward, as if to hand it to Elizabeth. Victoria gets up and turns toward him.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
And then you decided it was time to meet the world. When your father finally returned, he had a beautiful daughter to greet him.

[Victoria reaches out for the volume. Captain Waite’s light fades to black before she can reach him.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
And when he returned, it was with this very book straight from the publishing house.

[Elizabeth hugs the book to her chest, then notices Victoria staring at the wall.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
Victoria? (Pause.) Is something wrong dear?

Victoria
I saw… That is I thought I saw…

Elizabeth
What dear?

Victoria
(Pause.) It was nothing. Perhaps I need a bit of fresh air to clear my mind.

Elizabeth
Perhaps you should take a spoonful of Dr. Penopolusí Pancreatic Potion. As a preventative.

Victoria
No. Iíll be fine.

Elizabeth
Well, then we can go up to the tower now and clean the lenses. And the reflectors need to be polished and the wicks trimmed for tonight.

Victoria
I had been considering a walk on the beach.

Elizabeth
That can wait. The light must be on tonight. In case your father returns.

[There is a dead moment of silence.]

Victoria
Mother, I don’t think he'll be home tonight.

Elizabeth
Of course he will. Captains sometimes find themselves on long voyages, very long voyages indeed. One can never tell what fortune will extend a voyage, but all journeys come to an end.

Victoria
Mother…

Elizabeth
He must be on his way home by now.

Victoria
But mother, heís been gone for so long…

Elizabeth
I said he'll be here! Don’t argue with me!

[Another moment of silence. Now Elizabeth realizes what she has done and puts her hands to her mouth in shock. Victoria runs out of the room. Cool light fades up DR on the Ghost on the promontory. She looks on.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
Victoria! I’m sorry! Victoria, my sweet Victory…

[She slumps on the bed and hugs the copy of Wuthering Heights as the lights DC fade out. The sound of waves and gulls can be heard.]

Ghost
(to the audience)
‘Twas on an eve
Akin to this
I strolled along
In mind-numbed bliss
Along the sea.
I wandered by the sea
Heedless of the screeching calls,
Ignorant of the gulls' lament,
Oblivious to the chilling wind,
And decrees these signs portend.

[Lights, cool but warmer than that on the Ghost, fade up DL. Victoria runs on and drops to the ground, facing the audience. She has her diary with her.]

Ghost
(cont.)
‘Twas on a night just like this eve
I ventured from the tower,
To skip along the empty beach
And pick the night bloom flower.

[Victoria begins humming a haunting melody to the beat of the waves.]

Ghost
(cont.)
The mournful sea, she sang to me,
And so I sang along
That sad sweet lovely melody,
The Lady’s evensong.

[The ghost joins in the humming. After a few bars, Victoria stops and listens. She is upset, and a little frightened of what might be out there. Lights on the Ghost fade, but not completely. Victoria sits on the sand, opens her diary, and begins writing.]

Victoria
How beautifully the Sea sings. She has no cares. She has no sorrows. She has no lost loves, as Mother does. She has only the fish, and the cargo ships, and the sea gulls to sing with her. And every so often she claims a sailor, or a good Captain. Why did you pick Mother's? (She scribbles something out in her diary.)

But I am wrong to lay blame on you. Mother still refuses to admit that my father is gone. She goes on all the time now about how she is expecting him any night, and any night never comes. It has not for the last fifteen years and I do not think it ever will. I find her increasingly in the light tower searching for approaching ships, and when she sees one she runs down from the tower to meet it in the hope that my father is on it. Just yesterday she thought she saw him in Mr. Putnam’s trawler. Poor Mr. Putnam. When he told Mother that he was never on the boat, she burst into hysterics.

She has been so persistent about it that I have on occasion found myself actually watching the front door expecting my father to walk through at any moment. And now I am seeing apparitions of my father.

At least I believe they are my father. I can not be sure what he looked like. Mother hid or burned all his pictures long ago, and I was only three when he left us. I can not remember a thing about him. I only wish that I had had the chance to know him better.

[The lights on the Ghost become brighter.]

Ghost
(in a haunting whisper)
Victoria…

Victoria
(closes her diary and stands, startled)
Who… Who’s there?

Ghost
Victoria…

Victoria
And soon she called in voice so soft
And whispering as the wave.
Startled, was I, when Lady Sea.
Uttered out my name.

Ghost
Victoria, sweet Victory,

Victoria
She called amid the tide,

Ghost
Behold the cavern you stand near
And venture forth inside.

[Victoria turns and notices a cave behind her.]

Victoria
Hello? Who is there?

Ghost
It is Lady Destiny.

Victoria
Hello?

[Victoria exits US as her light fades out.]

Ghost
As gentle wave did bid I did.
Into the cave I stepped.
Its darkness seeped around my frame,
So slowly on I crept.

[Yellow lights SL slowly rise to reveal Captain Waite, extremely pale sitting on a rock. Victoria enters groping.]

Ghost
(cont.)
I felt my way into that place,
O’er rock and dusty sand,
And waiting in that secret cove
Found I a Gentleman.

[Captain Waite bows to Victoria, motions her to sit, and takes her hand to guide her. He begins miming a narration to which Victoria delights.]

Ghost
(cont.)
In fine top hat and waxed mustache,
Gray linen gloves and vest,
Brass buttoned jacket with corsage.
So elegantly dressed,

[Captain Waite continues his animated narrative as a montage of projected images appears behind them: a ship, a pirate flag, a storm, a treasure chest, deck canon, and a sea serpent.]

Ghost
(cont.)
He bade me come and sit awhile
To listen to his stories,
Of arcane trips on pirate ships,
And other deep sea glories.
He spun his tales with mirth and charm.
He demonstrated combat.
His eyes twinkled with each new breath,
And dreary time I forgat.

[The gong of a clock is heard as it begins to chime twelve. Captain Waite looks up disconcerted. He stands, removes his hat and bows to Victoria. He kisses her hand and moves behind her. While out of her sight, he steps into the shadows and disappears. The SL lights fade to warm.]

Ghost
(cont.)
‘Twas nearly twelve when up he stood
And bade me fond Adieu.
I fear I blinked for in a trice
He was not in my view.

I searched the cave and all its cracks,
‘Tween rock and sand bank probed.
But not a sign of Man nor beast
Did I find in that cove.

[Victoria looks around the area for her missing friend. She is suddenly interrupted by a bright cool light from over the audience. The other lights SL dim, leaving her lit only by the ‘moon’.]

Ghost
(cont.)
As I queried for my friend
A sudden spark of light
Did catch my eye from out the sky
And moved me then to fright.
There shone the moon with crescent smile
Now hov'ring o’er the sea
Through misty night reflecting waves
The ocean swam at me.
The tide was closer to the cave
Than ever had I seen.
So without a further care
I quit that haunted scene.

[Victoria runs off frightened. She leaves her diary. The lights fade to black as we hear waves and gulls' cries. The sound fades to a quiet murmur. We can now hear humming, the same haunting melody heard earlier. The lights come up DL on the lighthouse kitchen, where Elizabeth is humming.]

[Elizabeth places breakfast on the table as Victoria enters.]

Elizabeth
Good morning, Victoria. You're just in time for your supper.

Victoria
I could smell the kipper up in my room. It looks scrumptious.

Elizabeth
I haven’t made kippers in ages.

Victoria
Well you haven’t forgotten how. They're delicious.

Elizabeth
They're your father’s favorite.

[An uncomfortable pause.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
I'll need help polishing the windows in the tower today. The lighthouse inspector is up at Newburyport. He could stop in at a moment’s notice.

Victoria
All right, Mother.

Elizabeth
I understand that there’s talk of installing some newfangled lenses or some such in all the light towers. It’s supposed to make the lights brighter.

[Pause.]

Victoria
Mother?

Elizabeth
Yes, dear?

Victoria
Have you by any chance seen my… A book. I seem to have misplaced it.

Elizabeth
Well, what did it look like?

Victoria
It was… never mind. I think I know where I left it. (Pause.) Mother, do you know that old cave along the beach?

Elizabeth
Which one? There are so many.

Victoria
The one just past Mr. Putnam’s dock.

Elizabeth
What about it?

Victoria
Last night I was walking by there and I thought I heard a voice…

Elizabeth
I don’t want you going near there.

Victoria
Why? What's…

Elizabeth
It’s an old cave. No one goes near it.

Victoria
Why?

Elizabeth
It is said to be haunted.

Victoria
Haunted!

Elizabeth
Yes. And I don’t want you going near it.

Victoria
But surely, during the day…

Elizabeth
Victoria, I’ve heard tell that the restless spirits of lonely sailors tend to inhabit caves like that one. And I’ve also heard tell that strange things happen around that one in particular.

Victoria
Strange things?

Elizabeth
Mr. Putnam named it Corpse’s Cavern. Did he ever tell you why?

Victoria
No.

Elizabeth
Well, a few years back, Old Mr. Putnam, that was Mr. Putnam’s father, was sailing his trawler in during a full moon. It was on a Sunday, if I remember correctly. Well, despite the fact that his sail was hoisted full up, and he was headed straight for his dock, the current pushed him into the cavern, or so he claimed. We could never be too sure about what Old Mr. Putnam said. When he wasn’t out fishing, he was out at the tavern getting pickled. And sometimes he was out fishing getting pickled.

[Victoria smiles at this.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
Well, that evening he landed his boat inside the cave and tied it where it was for the night. The next morning when he came back to the boat it was left high in the middle of the cave. The tide had pushed it in and gone back out. So Old Mr. Putnam started pulling the boat back down to the shore, when he heard a scraping under the bow. He went round the stern to see what was scraping, and what did he find but a skeleton, bleached white by the sea, with it’s bony fingers latched round the rudder. Old Mr. Putnam had quite a scare that day. He ran straight for Reverend Macon, which was quite unusual for him.

Victoria
Why is that?

Elizabeth
Because he was always pickled. He was always pickled. And the Good Reverend Macon, he was always trying to save Old Mr. Putnam from his sauce. At any rate, that’s why I don’t want you going near that cave.

[Victoria seems distant.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
Victoria? Did you hear me?

Victoria
Yes, Mother.

[Victoria is distracted and playing with her food.]

Elizabeth
Victoria, are you finished with your kippers?

Victoria
Yes, Mother.

Elizabeth
Well, then, go wash up. We have much work to do today.

[Elizabeth resumes humming the haunting melody as she clears the dishes. Yellow lights UL fade up on Captain Waite. He watches in silence as Victoria approaches her Mother, starts to say something, but exits instead. The lights in the kitchen fade to yellow, to match those UL. Captain Waite approaches Elizabeth.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
I fear she will go to the cave anyway.

Captain Waite
She is just as headstrong as her Mother. And just as lovely, I dare say.

Elizabeth
Yes. She is.

Captain Waite
Don’t fret, Lizzie. She'll be fine. If there’s one thing that runs strong in the Waite blood, it’s common sense.

Elizabeth
Still…

Captain Waite
Come on, Lizzie. Let’s dance.

[Captain Waite stands and extends his arm to her.]

Elizabeth
You always were gallant.

[She rises. They embrace. Elizabeth begins humming the same haunting melody from earlier, and they slowly dance. A cool light fades up DR on the Ghost. The humming is taken up by the Ghost in the darkness. The lights SL begin to fade.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
I love you, my handsome Captain.

[The lights SL fade to black. Sounds of the sea and the gulls increase. Cool moonlight fades up DC on Victoria, walking the beach. The Ghost’s humming fades out as the lights DR dim, but not out.]

Victoria
Oh, Lady Sea! You are so beautiful, and you are so calm as is Mother. But calmness, both yours and hers, hides violent currents. (Pause.) Mother has finally and completely lost her sanity. Yesterday evening after we finished polishing the light, I was in the kitchen when she called down to me.

Elizabeth
(voice offstage)
Victoria! Quickly! Heavens thanks, he’s here! Your father is home at last!

Victoria
Where?

Elizabeth
He’s coming up the path from the beach! Put the tea on! I’ll be right down!

Victoria
Are you sure it’s him?

Elizabeth
What a foolish question. Of course it’s him!

Victoria
And there was a knock on the door. I answered, being the only one downstairs.

Elizabeth
Let him in! Let your father into his home. I’ll be right there! Tell him!

Victoria
I am, Mother.

[Victoria approaches the Ghost’s rock and mimes opening a door.]

Victoria
(cont.)
I opened the door, and there stood a gentleman I had never beheld before.

[Lights brighten on the Ghost. Victoria looks up at the Ghost, as though it is a taller man.]

Victoria
(cont.)
Father?

Ghost
(in a masculine attitude)
I beg your pardon?

Victoria
You aren’t my father.

Ghost
No. I am Benjamin Donavan. Who might you be?

Victoria
I'm sorry. You must think me rude. I am Victoria Waite. For a moment I thought you were my father, Captain Henry Waite. I was mistaken.

Ghost
Yes. You were. (Pause.) I have come to inspect this lighthouse.

Victoria
Please come in.

[The ghost doesn’t move. Light up DL on Elizabeth. She has gone through the extra trouble of primping herself. All dialog for the remainder of the scene is performed in place.]

Elizabeth
Henry?

Ghost
No Madam.

Elizabeth
Why Henry, it is you! What a wonderful surprise!

Ghost
My name is not Henry, Madam.

Victoria
Mother, this is the lighthouse inspector, Mr. Benjamin Donavan.

Elizabeth
You're the new lighthouse inspector! Oh, Henry that’s wonderful!

Ghost
Child, does your Mother have difficulty with her hearing?

Victoria
No, Sir.

Ghost
Madam, I have never been, nor do I ever intend to be married to you. I am the lighthouse inspector. I was sent straight from the Department of the Treasury in Washington, D.C., by Secretary Cobb himself.

Elizabeth
Henry, is everything all right? You don’t sound yourself.

Ghost
Madam, Iíve come to investigate why Inspector Harris was driven off last April by a madwoman brandishing a harpoon.

Victoria
Mother! You didnít!

Elizabeth
Oh, him? I thought he was a snake-oil salesman. But enough talk. You must be tired after your long trip, my dearest Henry.

Victoria
Mother, this is not Father.

Elizabeth
Of course it is.

Victoria
Mother, what color eyes did Father have?

Elizabeth
Your father has brown eyes, of course.

Victoria
And his hair?

Elizabeth
Brown also. But you know that. I’ve told you many times.

Victoria
Mother, this is Inspector Donavan. He is not Father. He has blond hair.

[Pause while Elizabeth deliberates about this. She finally makes up her mind.]

Elizabeth
No. That is a disguise. He wears a wig. This is your father.

Victoria
It is not a wig. And his eyes are blue.

Ghost
I must insist that this foolishness stop this instant.

Elizabeth
Henry, stop this cruel masquerade.

Ghost
I assure you Madame, I am not the perpetrator of this deception. There is more at stake here than you realize. Driving off a Federal inspector is a serious offense.

Victoria
Mother, why don’t you sit for a while.

Elizabeth
Oh, hush Victoria. I’m fine.

Ghost
Apparently not. I donít wish to be the harbinger of ill news. However, based on what I have seen here today, you may expect a notice by post tomorrow. You have one month to leave the premises. Good day.

[Ghost turns away from the audience. Lights fade on the Ghost and Elizabeth, leaving Victoria still lit, by herself.]

Victoria
Evicted! And mother ripped up the letter. I suggested that we might live with Aunt Anna. I wrote her, but we wonít receive a reply until the end of the week. And Mister Donavan intends to stay at least that long in order to inspect the light and audit the books. I hope that Mother doesnít take a harpoon to him as well.

[Lights fade up on the Ghost.]

Ghost
(in a haunted whisper)
Victoria…

Victoria
(startled)
Hello?

Ghost
Hello Victoria.

Victoria
It… It’s you again.

Ghost
Yes, Victoria. It is I again.

Victoria
Wh… What shall I call you?

Ghost
Some call me Moon, others Lady Sea. Still others like to call me Lady Destiny. You may call me what you will.

Victoria
Very well, My Lady. What is it that you want from me?

Ghost
You have lost something. It has been left inside the cavern.

[Victoria turns and looks behind her. She finds herself mysteriously drawn into the cave. She exits UC. Lights fade out DC.)

[Lights fade up SL on Captain Waite sitting on a rock. He holds Victoria’s diary. Victoria enters. They smile at each other.]

Ghost
(to audience, cont.)
A later eve did I return
to that enchanted place,
And found again that handsome Man
who doted on my face.,

[Victoria sits with him. He hands her the diary.]

Ghost
(cont.)
He smiled and brushed my silken cheek
and said they likened flowers.
I blushed at his bold complement,
But yielded to his powers.

For his humor charmed me so,
By him I was enraptured.
And as that gentle night wore on
My heart had quite been captured.

[Lights fade out SL, leaving only the ghost illuminated.]

Ghost
(cont.)
We sat that evening in the dark
As he read old love poems,
And when again he bid farewell
I departed for home.

'Twas dozen eves I spent that way
Inside that misty rock.
But on that tenth and third night there
'Twas when I had my shock.

[Lights fade up on Captain Waite and Victoria once more. Their positions have changed to suggest passage of time. The clock chime strikes. Captain Waite attempts to stand, but he is held there by Victoria as she grasps his hand.]

Ghost
(cont.)
For on that night I held his hand
And would not say good-bye
When as habit he decreed
'Twas time for him to fly.

[The clock chimes a second time. Captain Waite looks mildly concerned. He tries to leave again, but is held by Victoria. He begins to shake.]

Ghost
(cont.)
A look of fright did haunt his face
And seizure shook his frame.
And then his eyes, those deep brown orbs,
Lit up with hellish flame.

[The clock chimes a third time. Captain Waite rises and forcefully removes Victoria’s hand from his.)

Captain Waite
I go!

Ghost
…He cried and flung my hand.
He scattered to a nook.
I followed him despite my fear ó
I had to simply look.

[Captain Waite retreats from her, but Victoria follows, frightened but compelled. The clock chimes a fourth time.]

Ghost
(cont.)
Woe was I for what I saw
Then did I regret it.

[The clock chimes a fifth time as Captain Waite begins convulsing.]

Ghost
(cont.)
For there he rolled upon the ground
Possessed in angry fit.

[The clock chimes.]

Ghost
(cont.)
I cried to him,…

Victoria
…My gentle sir!
What ill has thus befallen?

[The clock chimes. Captain Waite crawls to the rock for support.]

Ghost
But answered he not my rash pleas
And fell into a crawling.

[The clock chimes. A sea gull’s cries are heard. Victoria looks around, bewildered.]

Ghost
(cont.)
The sound of seagulls' ghastly cries
Then filled up the chamber.

[The clock chimes.]

Ghost
(cont.)
So my fine handsome Gentleman
Looked to see the clamor.

[The clock chimes.]

Ghost
(cont.)
‘Twas then the seagull swooped inside
and landed on a rock.

[The clock chimes an eleventh time. Captain Waite and Victoria react to an invisible gull roosting on the rock. Captain Waite pushes himself away from it in fear.]

Ghost
(cont.)
It stretched its wings, the hateful thing,
And uttered a great squawk.

[A gull squawk accompanied by the clock chiming twelve.]

Ghost
(cont.)
The vile creature turned to Him
He met the gull with awe.
It left its perch and flung itself
Extending deadly claw.

[The chime strikes thirteen.]

Ghost
(cont.)
Ungodly sounds did issue forthó
A great unholy screech.

[Gulls cries are heard along with the sounds of beating wings and Captain Waite shouting from stage left as the lights there fade quickly to black. Victoria screams in the darkness.]

Ghost
(cont.)
I cried in fear and quit from there
To run along the beach.

[The sounds of gulls wings continue and metamorphoses into the sound of waves breaking during the following stanza.]

Ghost
(cont.)
Along the beach
The moon did glow
It’s blood red light
Reflected low
From the sea.
Along the ruddy sea
I ran to home in deathly fright.
My slippered feet scraped through the sand.
My mind did reel in giddy flight
On that upsetting haunted night.

[Slightly red lights slowly fade up DC. Victoria runs on, her diary clutched tightly to her stomach. She looks back in fright.]

Ghost
(cont.)
And on the sand
My stomach churned
For as I ran
A fire did burn
Within me.
Across the bloated sea
I saw at distance bloodied cloud.
I fled as fast as foot could race.
I swore upon all Heaven’s grace

Victoria
I’ll ne’er again approach that place!

[The lights on Victoria fade to black as she exits. The sound of waves breaking increases.]

Ghost
(increasingly softer)
A month thence passed and I forgot
That handsome Gentleman

[The sound of waves now drown out the Ghost’s lines, but she speaks on, to give the feeling of continuance.]

Ghost
(cont.)
Until one night when on the light
A haunting voice began…

[The lights fade to black. The gulls now occasionally cry in the waves. A projection of the moon traveling through her phases floats across the back curtain. A fog horn is heard and lights fade up DC on the lighthouse kitchen.]

Elizabeth
Victoria!

Victoria
(from offstage)
Yes, Mother!

Elizabeth
(Places two plates of food on the table.) Come in and get a bite to eat…

[Again the sound of the fog horn is heard. Elizabeth wipes her hands on her apron and removes it. Victoria enters.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
I love the sound of the fog horn, the way it drifts off over the sea.

I can still remember the first time I ever heard the fog horn. I was a child, about ten. We had just moved into Boston from Buffalo.

Victoria
Yes, Mother. I know. You and Auntie…

[Elizabeth sits and begins poking at her food.]

Elizabeth
Your Auntie Anna and I were walking along the beach in the fog one day, it was in September. The fog was so thick you couldn’t see a yard in front of you. There was just a grayness, cool and humid, that muffled everything.
Well, your Auntie and I had never seen a fog like that before, so, being foolish children, we started trying to scare each other. We took turns telling ghost stories. Anna was in the middle of one so convincing, I fancy she was starting to frighten herself as well. It was about the rats in the graveyard dragging children into the tombs, and another creature, a demon that claimed their souls with a loud howl. It was just as she was telling about the demon when the harbor horn wailed. I’ll tell you, Victoria, you've never seen two girls more frightened than we were that day. We ran home screaming through the streets as though that very demon were chasing us. For all we knew it was.

[Elizabeth smiles to herself, then realizes that the horn has not been blown in the last few minutes. She stands.)

Elizabeth
(cont.)
You finish your dinner. I had better go man the fog horn.

Victoria
There’s no need Mother. The fog is lifting. The sun broke through a few minutes ago.

Elizabeth
(looking off SR)
So it has. Well, that means we'll be able to polish the light early.

[Pause. Elizabeth sits again and watches Victoria as she eats.]

Victoria
How is Auntie Anna?

Elizabeth
She is fine. Last I heard was that letter a couple of days ago. She wrote to say that she'll be visiting very soon. She also wrote that she misses you.

Victoria
I miss her too. She is my favorite aunt.

Elizabeth
And I am sure that you're her favorite niece. Now finish your food. It will get cold.

[Pause while they eat.]

Victoria
Mother…

Elizabeth
Yes, dear?

Victoria
(hesitantly)
Mother, I’ve been thinking.

Elizabeth
That is a good sign. When I was your age I used to think quite often.

[Victoria looks at her oddly.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
I was joking. What were you thinking about?

Victoria
I was thinking about Mr. Putnam’s cave.

Elizabeth
Oh, no, not that again. I thought I told you to forget about it. You haven’t gone in there, have you?

Victoria
Yes.

Elizabeth
Victoria!

Victoria
It was before you told me not to. I didn’t see any harm in it. I haven’t been there in almost a month.

Elizabeth
Well, it’s over with.

Victoria
I was just wondering. That corpse that Old Mr. Putnam found, does anyone know who it was?

Elizabeth
(hesitates, looks panic stricken)
No. What does it matter?

Victoria
Well, what happened to it?

[Elizabeth gets up from the table and begins tidying the kitchen.]

Elizabeth
No one knows. Perhaps it was dragged out to sea on the next high tide. Let’s drop the subject.

Victoria
Do you think the cave might be haunted by the corpse’s ghost?

Elizabeth
Haunted? What nonsense. You've been reading Wuthering Heights, haven’t you?

Victoria
It was just a thought. I thought I saw someone go in there.

Elizabeth
(to herself)
Was his mustache trimmed, neat and proper?

Victoria
Did you say something?

Elizabeth
(startled)
I… I said it was probably just Mr. Putnam.

Victoria
I'm fairly certain it wasn’t Mr. Putnam.

Elizabeth
I don’t want to discuss the matter any further. Let’s talk about something else.

[Pause.]

Victoria
What do you want to talk about?

Elizabeth
I don’t know. What would you like to talk about?

[Pause.]

Victoria
Father.

Elizabeth
All right. Let’s see. Have I told you about the time we first met? I must have.

Victoria
Why hasn’t he returned from his voyage yet?

Elizabeth
I'll tell you again. That way you'll remember it to tell your children.

Victoria
Mother…

Elizabeth
Once, back in 1850… It was spring. May…there was a big celebration in town. Several young men, your father included, had graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis. They were on leave after their ship anchored off Nahant. I was invited to the celebration by Captain Ross, the Harbor Master at Boston. He was a big burley man with a white beard and red hair. I think he was balding. It was hard to tell. He always wore his cap. He brought me over to the banquet table and introduced me to your father. The first words out of his mouth were…

[Yellow lights fade up DL on Captain Waite. Elizabeth turns to face him. Victoria watches the pair.)

Captain Waite
Your cheeks are lovely. They remind me of rose petals.

[Elizabeth turns back to Victoria.]

Elizabeth
Can you imagine? Of course I was offended. What lady wouldn’t be? I was taught that young ladies and gentlemen were not to act so… forward.

[Elizabeth turns back to Captain Waite.]

Captain Waite
Your hair is like golden silk.

Elizabeth
Your beard reminds me of a cat with mange.

Captain Waite
And your shining eyes are as mysterious as the ocean’s abyss.

Elizabeth
You haven’t heard what I said.

Captain Waite
And your lovely lips are the red of ripened cherries, and probably just as sweet.

Elizabeth
I said that your beard looks like a cat with mange.

Captain Waite
Yes. You should see my cat with a beard.

[Elizabeth laughs. The ice has been broken.]

Elizabeth
I should think you are very handsome beneath it.

Captain Waite
I am not attached to it. That is, I am attached to it, but that is a purely physical matter. It can be shaved.

[Elizabeth laughs again.]

Elizabeth
There is no need to shave it all off. I like a mustachioed man. I think it looks regal, and very elegant.

Captain Waite
And your voice is as lovely as the lilting spring breeze, Miss Winthrop. Miss Winthrop. That is so formal. May I call you Elizabeth?

Elizabeth
Only if I may call you Henry.

Captain Waite
That you may, my dear sweet maiden.

Elizabeth
You complement me too much.

Captain Waite
And your modesty… Ah… that is your masthead. You are virtuous beyond compare, my dear lady. What man would not commend a goddess' virtuousities in such a manner. Pardon me if I stare in wonder.

Victoria
Was he really that elegant?

Elizabeth
(to Victoria)
That is the way I remember it… (Turns back to Captain Waite.) …just like yesterday.

Captain Waite
Would you like to meet my fellow officers?

Elizabeth
That would be wonderful.

Captain Waite
I would much prefer to keep your lovely company to myself. That aside, I’m afraid their uncouthness might upset a lady’s sensibilities.

[Elizabeth turns back to Victoria. The light on Captain Waite fades out.]

Elizabeth
I was already giddy with excitement from his company alone.

[Elizabeth continues clearing the table. There is an uneasy silence.]

Victoria
Mother?

Elizabeth
Yes, Victoria?

Victoria
What are we going to do?

Elizabeth
About what?

Victoria
The lighthouse.

Elizabeth
Whatever do you mean?

Victoria
Mister Donavan said that a new keeper will be appointed shortly.

Elizabeth
You must have been mistaken. We are the keepers.

[Pause.]

Victoria
He said that you were no longer fit to serve as keeper.

Elizabeth
He said no such thing!

Victoria
He did, Mother!

Elizabeth
He was jesting! A jest in poor taste perhaps, but a jest all the same.

Victoria
He was not jesting, Mother. He meant what he said.

Elizabeth
It is a political thing. I will write a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury. He'll put a stop to it.

Victoria
No he won't. He is the one who sent the inspector. We are being evicted come the first.

Elizabeth
It’s a lie! We can’t be evicted! Who will blow the fog horn? Who will clean the light? Who will polish the fixtures, and fill the lamps with oil? Who will be here when your father arrives back?

Victoria
Mother, Father is not arriving back.

Elizabeth
(shocked and angered)
Victoria Angela Waite! How dare you say such an evil and hateful thing!

Victoria
Mother, it’s true! And you know, deep inside, that it’s true! You've been living a fantasy for as long as I can remember! Father is dead, and only the Sea knows where his body lies!

Elizabeth
It’s not true! I swear to you that it’s not true!

Victoria
It is.

Elizabeth
No. I cannot believe it. I will not believe it.

Victoria
Mother, I can not live like this any longer. I will not play at your charade.

Elizabeth
Charade? Victoria, why do you continue to go on about nonsense?

Victoria
It is not I who is playing at nonsense. Look at yourself. You've been playing at this game for so long, look how easily you've turned the game to my doing.

Elizabeth
Victoria…

Victoria
I will not play at your grotesque game any longer. Father is dead. He has been gone since I was a child. I will tell you this, Mother. If you do not stop masquerading behind your fantasy, if you do not admit to yourself for once and for all that Father was lost at sea, you will lose your daughter too.

[Victoria exits.]

Elizabeth
That’s foolishness. Your father is alive, Victoria! He has been all these years! I’ve kept him alive… In my memory…

[She sits.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
Ungrateful child. He is still alive. How can a love this strong survive death?

[A light comes up on Captain Waite. The light in the kitchen changes slightly to match the Captain’s light. Captain Waite approaches Elizabeth and sits with her.]

Captain Waite
Any love, if it is strong enough can escape the grasp of time.

[Elizabeth and Captain Waite embrace. The Ghost begins humming the haunting melody once more in the darkness. A cool light fades up on the ghost. The remaining lights fade to black.)

[Warm light fades up DL on the exterior of the lighthouse lantern, suggested by a railing bordering the edge of the stage. Victoria stares into the audience. The humming fades into the sound of waves and gulls. A harsh revolving light off Left illuminates the stage and cyclorama at intervals.)

[The Ghost’s voice is drowned out by the sound of waves.]

Ghost
A month thence passed and I forgot
That handsome Gentleman,

[The sound of waves has subsided to a low background noise. The Ghost can now be heard.]

Ghost
(cont.)
Until one night when on the Light
A haunting voice began,
Victoria…

[Lights on the Ghost dim, but not out. Victoria looks around, startled.]

Victoria
Where? (Pause.) Where are you? (Pause.) Where are you, Father?! Why don’t you answer?! I’ll tell you why! Because you can't. And Mother refuses to believe it! And I hate you for not answering! (Pause.) But I don’t want to. I desperately don’t want to hate you. I only hate that I never knew you. Mother doesn’t realize what she’s done… what has happened. Perhaps it’s best that she doesn't. I only wish you really were coming home, for her sake.

[Lights on the Ghost brighten.]

Ghost
(in a haunting voice)
Victoria…

Victoria
Hello?

Ghost
Victoria…

Victoria
Is it you?

Ghost
It is Lady Sea. (Pause.)

Victoria, my dear sweet lass,
It echoed on the sea,
Why have you, for the Moon’s cycle,
refused to speak to me?

Victoria
My Lady Night…

Ghost
…I thence replied,

Victoria
My true apologies,
But I have sworn I’ll not step near
The cavern by your Seas.

Ghost
Oh speak not thus, Victoria.
This cave you must not hate.
For within it’s dampened walls
Is where you'll find your fate.

Go this eve and seek that grotto
Whence you've been so long missed
Therein you'll find the Gentleman
Awaiting destined tryst.

[Victoria is visibly happier until she hears Elizabeth approach.]

Elizabeth
(from offstage)
Victoria!

Victoria
I am on the light deck.

[Elizabeth enters, holding a carnation.]

Elizabeth
Here you are.

Victoria
I'll be going for a walk on the beach now.

Elizabeth
(peers over the railing)
It is a long way down to the beach.

Victoria
Be careful, Mother. You don’t want to slip and fall.

Elizabeth
(mesmerized by the drop)
Yes. One could easily be killed by the fall.

Victoria
Soon we won’t have to worry about that any more.

Elizabeth
Yes. Very soon.

Victoria
We won’t have to clean the reflectors or trim the wicks.

Elizabeth
Will you do me a favor, love? On your way down.

Victoria
Of course, Mother.

Elizabeth
Would you blow the fog horn so that I can hear it once more.

Victoria
But there isn’t a drift of fog anywhere to be seen.

Elizabeth
I know. I just like to hear it from the lantern. I like the way the sound drifts off over the sea. It pleases me. (Pause.) Humor your crazy old mother.

Victoria
Mother…

Elizabeth
Please.

[Pause.]

Victoria
Alright.

[Elizabeth goes to Victoria and embraces her.]

Elizabeth
Victoria, I love you very much. I want you to know that, no matter what happens.

Victoria
I know that Mother. Everything will be alright.

Elizabeth
That it will.

[Elizabeth kisses Victoria on the forehead. They stand looking out to sea. Lights fade up on the Ghost.]

Ghost
Victoria…

[Victoria turns to her Mother and embraces her again.]

Ghost
(cont.)
So convincing were her whispers
So enamored my heart
Not stopping but to don my cloak
Lighthouse I did depart.

[Victoria exits, cloak and diary in hand. Light on the Ghost simultaneously fades to black.]

Elizabeth
(calling after her)
Don’t forget to blow the horn!

[Elizabeth looks expectantly after Victoria.]

Elizabeth
(cont.)
I love you, my sweet Victory. As much as I once loved your father.

[The sound of the sea increases. Elizabeth approaches the railing, climbs over, and waits. She clutches her shoulders as though a wind has just chilled her. The lights DL turn yellow, and a light comes on behind Elizabeth. Captain Waite stands there. He approaches her.)

Captain Waite
Lizzie.

Elizabeth
Henry. Come to me. Hold me in your arms.

[He does so. He stands behind the railing and she in front of it.]

Captain Waite
Dear, sweet Lizzie. Why do you do what you do? It still confounds me.

Elizabeth
And what would that be?

Captain Waite
Why on Earth did you chase off that Inspector? And donít tell me you thought he was a snake-oil salesman.

Elizabeth
No.

Captain Waite
Lizzie…

Elizabeth
Please don’t…

Captain Waite
He was only an inspector.

Elizabeth
No he wasn’t…

Captain Waite
What else could he have been?

Elizabeth
No…

Captain Waite
Why else would he have come?

Elizabeth
He came to tell me you were dead.

[A pause and a realization. Elizabeth knows what she must do.]

Captain Waite
My Dear Elizabeth. You love me far too much.

Elizabeth
No. Not nearly enough.

Captain Waite
Your love has kept me here. All these years. A spirit can never rest when love and longing demands its retention to this world. But your love keeps me alive. And it is both heaven and torture for me.

Elizabeth
Torture?

Captain Waite
It frustrates me that I can never be with you as I once was. In that way it is torture.

Elizabeth
I have never meant you any pain, Henry. If I had only known sooner…

Captain Waite
Don’t finish that thought Lizzie. It is also heaven. I watched Victoria grow through her mothers eyes. That is joy enough to alleviate the pain.

Elizabeth
I can not stop loving you.

Captain Waite
Nor do I want you to, but you must. I can not remain in this state indefinitely. It is time to move on, Lizzie. For both of us.

Elizabeth
I have decided where we are moving on to.

Captain Waite
You must go alone, Lizzie. Victoria can not go with you.

Elizabeth
But what is to come of her if she doesn’t?

Captain Waite
She will be fine. Anna is arriving tomorrow. She will care for the girl.

[Elizabeth considers this for a moment. She turns to Captain Waite.]

Elizabeth
I have no regrets, my handsome Captain.

Captain Waite
Nor I. (Pause.) All is as it should be.

[They embrace. Elizabeth turns toward the audience. Captain Waite holds her by the shoulders. The lights fade to black, as a fog horn is heard.)

[Elizabeth screams in the darkness. Her scream audibly transmutes into a gull screeching. Lights fade up DR on the Ghost.]

Ghost
And on the beach
The Moon was bright.

[Lights fade up DC on Victoria on the beach, holding her diary. She looks startled. She reacts to the gulls' cries.]

Ghost
(cont.)
I heard the gulls
Lament in flight
Over the sea.
They flew over the sea.
Wing to wing and side to side
Through blustery gale the sea birds flew.
On rising breeze the gulls did ride
And then alight upon the tide.

[Victoria turns upstage towards the cavern once more as the lights on her fade out.]

Ghost
(cont.)
I arrived there at the cavern,
Heart pounding in my chest.

[Lights fade up on Captain Waite inside the cavern DL.]

Ghost
(cont.)
My Gentleman bade me enter.
I honored his request.

[Victoria enters the DL area.]

Ghost
(cont.)
He sat in darkness as I found him
That first fantastic eve.
But now instead of gentle face
His form showed bitter grief.

Victoria
My handsome sir, where is the smile
That month ago you wore?

Ghost
Replied he not, but forced a grin
Though smile he did abhor.

Captain Waite
Victoria, listen my love
to what I must convey.
The time has come for my spirit
to now be on its way.

Do not mourn thus my anguished maid
or wish upon our tryst.
'Twas not to be, for Lady Sea
my soul has lately missed.

Victoria
I shall not leave…

Ghost
…I thence replied

Victoria
My heart to you I give.
And If my love is not returned
I do not wish to live.

Ghost
My anguished pleas, my agonies,
My forlorn vows of love:
All these I gave him willingly
That eve inside that cove.

Captain Waite
If you speak true…

Ghost
…He spake to me

Captain Waite
Then vow you'll spend the night
Inside this cave, here by my side,
And not give rise to fright.

What is to come can’t be undone.
If my love you shall be
Heed my command. Come hold my hand
And welcome Lady Sea.

Ghost and Victoria
(simultaneously)
I vowed to him eternal soul,
Forever his to keep.

Victoria
'Twas then I heard from out on shore
The seagulls start to weep.

They flocked away as tide approached
And Moon sank towards the sea.
Her waters blocked the cavern’s mouth
And rose up to my knee.

Victoria and Captain Waite
(simultaneously)
We looked upon each other then
As tide rose in the cave.

Victoria
(cont.)
He started out and I followed
Into the heaving wave.

[The lights DL begin turning blue. Victoria is struggling for breath.]

Ghost
He smiled at me as we submerged.
I breathed my final breath.
I did not fear. He held my hand
And lead me to my…

[Lights fade to black. The sound of the sea increases in the darkness, and then fades to silence.]


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