The park of Castle Malcolm in Scotland. To the left a pavilion in Anglo-Saxon architecture. A round table with chairs in the garden near the pavilion. A bench to the right.
At Rise, Arabella, Wilson and Glenorvan are seated around the table on which are a bottle surrounded by petrified materials. Mulray is standing near the table.
Arabella: Since this morning I am a bit more calm, a bit less nervous, than usual, tell us, gentlemen, the story of this mysterious bottle.
Glenorvan: Indeed, this story is very strange and I am going to tell you, auntie.
Arabella: Yes, do so, my dear Glenorvan, with all the care possible. You know my temperament is so frail, so sensitive and so delicate.
Glenorvan: Don’t worry, dear aunt, you must know then that this bottle, completely deformed with saline incrustations was found by a crewman of my yacht, the Duncan.
Wilson: By Mulray, here present.
Mulray: Yes, your honor, by me.
Arabella: Found. Where was it?
Glenorvan: In the stomach of a shark, dear aunt.
Arabella: Shark! (with terror) Edward! I beg you never to utter the name of that horrible animal before me! They told me the story of an unfortunate man whose head these ferocious fish had eaten.
Mulray: Head and hat—the story is true, milady.
Arabella: And ever since I heard that tale I shudder at only the name of
Mulray: Of shark!
Arabella: (uttering a scream) Ah!
Glenorvan: (severely) Mulray!
Mulray: Pardon! It escaped me, your lordship.
Arabella: And you say that this bottle contained an account concerning shipwrecks?
Glenorvan: Yes, dear auntie, of shipwrecks who are, evidently, lost on some isle in the South Seas. If the bottle had been delivered only to the winds and currents it would never have reached the shores of La Manche! But this shar—
Glenorvan: But this terrible animal, having swallowed the bottle in distant seas, and having been caught and brought aboard the Duncan, we have in this way had news of the unfortunate castaways.
Arabella: But how to imagine that the bottle can be found in the stomach of a fish?
Glenorvan: Sailors are not generally animated by benevolent intentions with regard to the formidable shocks in question. When they catch one, it’s customary aboard ship to carefully inspect it’s stomach. It’s done wit a few blows of the axe—and it’s thus that they found this bottle solidly embedded in the viscera of the one we had caught.
Arabella: What a terrifying story. Pass me my flask, my handkerchief, and my fan, Captain Wilson.
Wilson: Here they are, milady.
Arabella: (breathing the salts) Continue, my nephew.
Glenorvan: I was saying that the bottle was examined after it was removed. The incrustations that covered it, these mineral substances under the action of the water proved that it had had a long sojourn in the ocean! Isn’t that true, Mulray?
Mulray: Around ten or twelve months. Your Lordship, having gone to be swallowed in the belly of the shar—
Arabella: (terrified) Mulray.
Mulray: In the belly of—the herring, if Miss prefers this name to the other.
Arabella: That doesn’t perhaps, exactly render the thought, but it’s less terrifying. I prefer it.
Glenorvan: In short, it was necessary to use a knife to break the stony envelope of the bottle, in the interior of which we found a paper, unfortunately half eaten up by humidity, and which bore no more than a few—almost indecipherable words.
Arabella: But, still—this document?
Wilson: By examining it with care, we came to decipher the name Britannia. Lord Glenorvan then researched in the collection of the Maritime Gazette, and was soon certain that this writing concerned the three master Britannia, Captain Harry Grant, out of Glasgow and which had not been heard of for more than a year.
Arabella: A year! How long that must seem to the poor castaways! As for me, if I were living for a year in such conditions, I would be dead at the end of a week! Continue, my nephew!
Glenorvan: If one knew the name of the ship, unfortunately one didn’t know at what point in the South Seas it had shipwrecked. It was indeed from the latitude a question of the Australian areas—but as for the longitude—
Arabella: Oh, don’t mention those scientific words! Longitude! Latitude! That makes my head spin and gets on my nerves! And then, my nephew, you left for London?
Glenorvan: Dear aunt, yes, but before doing I sent a telegram to the newspapers thus conceived: “For information as to the fate of the three master Britannia out of Glasgow, address Lord Glenorvan, Castle Malcolm, Dumbarton County, Scotland.” Let’s hope that this note will be read by some member of the family of Captain Grant. (returns the bottle to Mulray)
Arabella: Let’s hope, rather, that this poor Captain has neither wife nor children that his disappearance will have reduced to despair!
Mulray: (aside) The little Miss is very nervous—but she has a good heart.
Arabella: Finally, my nephew, what are you going to do?
Glenorvan: I am going to attempt to interest the Admiralty in the fate of the castaways. England will not hesitate to come to the aid of some of its children lost on a desert island!
Arabella: This story moved me, exhausted me! I am not accustomed to submit to such emotions. Replace this bottle on the table, Mulray. I cannot see it any longer. It seems to me that these poor castaways are going to emerge from it living—to implore us! Your arm, nephew, I am going to walk a little.
Glenorvan: Take Wilson’s arm, dear auntie; as for me, I am going to Glasgow. I must have a reply, it must be favorable, or if not the Admiralty had best watch out. (coming back) In an hour I’ll be back. Till later, Wilson.
Arabella: (moving away leaning on Wilson’s arm) Gentle, quite gently, Captain Wilson. (stopping) Ah! Mulray—
Arabella: You will wait here for news I requested of the chamber maid.
Mulray: Yes, Milady.
Arabella: Gently, Captain Wilson.
Mulray: (watching Wilson and Arabella leave) Yes, yes, a brave and worthy Miss—but who was right not to get married. What a comical wife and mother she would make.
(Bob rushes in from the right like a man fleeing and who wishes to avoid being seen. He taps Mulray on the shoulder.)
Mulray: (turning) Huh? Who goes there?
Bob: Me, cousin!
Bob: Yes, it is I, but in a few moments it will no longer be I if they find me—because if they find me, they’ll catch me—and if they catch me—they’ll hang me!
Mulray: They’ll hang you?
Bob: And I didn’t steal it, cousin.
Mulray: What have you done?
Bob: What have I done? I? I had a violent quarrel with my spouse—and (sorrowfully) I made the poor creature drink.
Mulray: Well, but there’s no great harm in that.
Bob: It’s that—I made her drink—sea water.
Bob: Lots of sea water.
Mulray: And she’s very ill?
Bob: Very ill! So ill, cousin, that the unfortunate woman is resting at the bottom of the cup.
Mulray: The cup! What cup?
Bob: The big one! The ocean.
Mulray: Wretch! You drowned your wife!
Bob: It was in self defense, cousin. Here’s the story. We were taking a boat ride in a canoe, my wife and I. You know how jealous she is of my erstwhile charms. I am young, attractive, witty, and it’s not my fault if the ladies notice all that. Today, there were several who noticed it, and my spouse, as we navigated, was quarreling with me on that subject. I was seeking to calm her, when suddenly she stood up, she got carried away, seized me by the throat and started choking me, to the point of making the canoe capsize. She pushed me, I pushed her back! She clung to me, I clung to her and we rolled in the waves together. Some moments later I found myself on the shore but I found I was there alone. I looked on all sides, I searched, I called. Elmira didn’t reappear! Filled with shock and drenched to the bone, I then set myself to flee, thinking I heard a terrible voice shouting at me: What have you done with your wife?
Mulray: And what brings you here is remorse?
Bob: Yes, remorse, horrifying remorse! And fear of the constables. Ah, my friend, widowhood is perhaps very nice, but to enjoy it at your ease you must not have brought it about yourself!
Mulray: Finally, what are you coming here to do, wretch?
Bob: I thought you wouldn’t want to be the cousin of a hanged man—and that you would have me admitted aboard the Duncan which belongs to Lord Glenorvan and must soon depart.
Mulray: The crew is complete, my poor Bob!
Bob: In that case, since no one knows me in this house, try to have them take me as—a servant—to do everything—even stuff I don’t know.
Mulray: All they need here is a chamber maid, and it’s our cousin Rebecca who is going to occupy the place.
Bob: Cousin Rebecca? Why, no! She won’t come! She’s at Malcolm where she’s getting married—but not a chamber maid. She’s marrying!
Mulray: Well! Lady Arabella is going to be happy. What a crisis.
Bob: You are worrying about Lady Arabella instead of me? What’s going to become of me?
Mulray: Go to Glasgow! You will find some ship ready to leave! Ah! If you need money, here’s some. (giving him money)
Bob: (pocketing the money) Money! That’s not what’s going to console me. (holding out his hand) Have you got any more?
Mulray: Yes, but that I need for myself, and I’m keeping it.
Bob: (aside) Egoist! (aloud) No, decidedly, I won’t go to Glasgow. I must find a way— Ah! I think I’ve got one! Listen, here’s what I am going to do. (ringing is heard) I—someone’s coming.
Mulray: Escape, cousin.
Bob: I am escaping, but I have an idea we will see each other again soon. (leaves by the right)
Mulray: Poor Bob! What’s he expect? Who’s this coming to us?
(Robert and Mary dressed in mourning present themselves at the gate of the park. Mulray opens it for them.)
Robert: Lord Glenorvan, if you please.
Mulray: His Lordship isn’t here, but we are expecting his return at any minute.
Robert: There sis, let’s stay and wait. (goes to camp himself on a chair, arms folded)
Mulray: Well, this little fella isn’t embarrassed or lacking resolve.
Mary: No, Robert. We will come back in an hour, sir.
Mulray: You can stay here, Miss. Besides, here’s Lady Arabella, Lord Glenorvan’s aunt.
Robert: A woman is not the same thing.
(Enter Arabella on the arm of Wilson.)
Arabella: I can’t stand it any more! Strolling is very tiring! This obligation of always placing one foot in front of the other.
Mary: Pardon us, madame, but having read a notice inserted into a newspaper relative to the ship Britannia.
Arabella: Heavens! Would you be part of the unlucky family?
Robert: (going to her) We are the children of Captain Grant, madame.
Arabella: Ah! my God! The—the children of Cap—yet again a source of violent emotions! Mulray, quick, a seat. (falls half-seated in an arm chair) The children of poor—Cap—We’ve—we’ve found him.
Mary and Robert: Found!!!
Arabella: In the belly of a shark!
Arabella: The bottle—ah! Emotion disturbs my ideas.
Mary: Madame, explain yourself, I entreat you.
Arabella: Eh! Can I do it, agitated the way I am? That horrible beast whose name I just pronounced? Wilson, explain, I beg you. Explain.
Wilson: Right away, milady. (to Robert) You say that you are—
Robert: (in a determined tone) My sister Mary and I, Robert Grant, son of the brave Captain of that name. And here it is, eight months that we are without news of our father and our brother James, embarked on the Britannia! Now, in your turn, sir, tell us quickly what you know.
Mary: Please excuse the excitability of my brother. He’s only 14.
Robert: Well! Fourteen! Is that nothing? Three quarters of a man!
Wilson: Know then that 3 days ago we fished out of the straits a bottle I which was a document concerning the fate of the Britannia.
Robert: Written by my father?
Robert: I wish to see it, sir. (to Arabella) Madame! (pressing her hands) Give it to me, Madame, so that I can at least kiss his script.
Wilson: His Lordship took this document with him to communicate it to the Lords of the Admiralty.
Mary: And what does this paper say, sir?
Wilson: It says that the Britannia shipwrecked and that—
Robert: But, my father—my brother James?
Wilson: The few words that remained legible allow us to affirm that Captain Grant and his son escaped death! Cast on an island in the South Seas. They demand help.
Robert: And where is this island?
Wilson: It’s location is unfortunately undetermined. But some indications will allow us to attempt rescue.
Robert: Then, they must leave, leave as fast as possible. Right, madame?
Arabella: He’s charming, this dear little devil! I adore him already!
Mary: And what can be hoped, sir?
Wilson: That the Admiralty will not refuse to send a ship into the parts indicated.
Mary: (going to Wilson) But, if my father—if my brother have been abandoned already in this desert isle without provisions, without clothes. Ah! pardon me, madame. But it’s more than I can stand! Tears are choking me.
Robert: Mary! My sister!
Arabella: Ah! my God! There’s what—I’m bursting into tears myself. Yes, I’m bursting, I’m bursting.
Wilson: Have good hope, Miss and you, too, my young friend. Lord Glenorvan is influential. The Admiralty will not allow brave subjects of the Queen who demand assistance to perish.
(For a few moments Glenorvan has appeared at the back of the stage and listened to Wilson’s last words.)
Glenorvan: The Admiralty has refused.
Robert and Mary: Refused!
Arabella: Ah! Great God!
Glenorvan: They spoke of the millions vainly spent in the search for Franklin! It declared the document obscure, unintelligible! It said that the ruin of these unfortunates was from a date so distant already, that there was no longer any chance of saving them.
Robert: No more hope!
Mary: My father! My poor father!
Glenorvan: Your father! Miss
Wilson: Yes, Milord. Mary and Robert Grant, the two children of the castaway captain.
Glenorvan: Miss! If I had known who you were—I would have—
Mary: We thank you, Milord, for what you really tried to do. But as for me, I will not renounce saving my father and my brother. If the folks of the Admiralty are without heart and guts, the Queen is good, she’s a mother, and she will understand me. I will of find the Queen!
Glenorvan: You won’t be allowed to go to Her Majesty.
Robert: Well, I will go wait for her in the highways. I will throw myself under the feet of her horses, and, dying though I may be when they pick me up, God will give me enough strength to shout to the Queen! Save my father and my brother.
Arabella: (weeping) Why, he’s an angel, this little devil.
Mary: Come, Robert, let’s go.
Robert: Milord, allow me to see, before we go away, this document fallen into your hands, this writing—
Glenorvan: (giving him the paper) Here it is.
Robert: Sis! Look at these lines that are almost effaced! Yes, it’s really our father’s writing! See! See! His hand did not tremble in writing.
Mary: Yes, yes, I recognize it! Oh dear and last letter of a castaway, let me cover you with my kisses and my tears!
Robert: (weeping) Be careful, sis, not to efface anything! Alas, some words are hardly legible as it is.
Arabella: (bursting into tears) Ah, my breaking heart! I can no longer stand it. I cannot. (to Glenorvan) Do you know, nephew, that this Lord of the Admiralty is a heartless man? Yes, heartless, and I am going to write him what I think of his inhuman proceedings! These poor children, what’s going to become of them?
Mary: If Her Majesty refuses to listen to us, Madame—well, we—we— Ah! I don’t know. I don’t know. (suffocated by tears)
Glenorvan: Have you family in Glasgow, Miss?
Mary: Our mother has been no more for a long while, alas! In departing on this expedition which ought to crown and adorn his life as a sailor, our father confided us to the care of his sister who just died, and for whom we are still in mourning! We are alone in the world, Milord!
Arabella: Poor children! Glenorvan (aside) And this young girl is so beautiful—so charming—with no support, without defenders! (aloud) Miss, and you, my lad, hear what I am going to tell you. By writing this document and throwing it into the sea, Captain Grant confided it to God himself. And if God caused it to fall into our hands, it was because he wanted to charge us with the salvation of these unfortunate castaways.
Mary: Milord, what do you mean?
Glenorvan: My ship is a steam yacht of 800 hundred tons. Christopher Columbus and Magellan didn’t have such fine ships when they crossed the seas! With the Duncan I can tour the world. Well, I will go in search of Captain Grant!
Mary: (falling at Glenorvan’s feet) Ah! Milord!
Glenorvan: Rise, Miss! I am only fulfilling a duty with which heaven has charged me.
Robert: Thanks, you are a brave and worthy man.
Arabella: Fine, very fine, Glenorvan!
Robert: But, where will you search for my father and my brother?
Glenorvan: This document says the shipwreck took place on the 37th parallel. Well, if necessary we will trace this parallel until we locate your father! Right, Wilson?
Wilson: Yes! Your Lordship is right.
Robert: Milord, take me!
Robert: Yes, sister! Yes! Let Milord take me on his ship if he likes, but let him take me! I feel that I will find our dear castaways!
Mary: Robert—you mean to leave me alone—alone and possibly more desperate than before? Think that I have only you in the world.
Robert: Mary! Mary! My sister!
Glenorvan: Miss, the Duncan is a fine ship! It offers all the comforts necessary even for a long crossing. And if you think that a young girl would be able to travel in our midst without being accompanied by some other woman—I would say to you: Miss, come with your brother.
Mary: Milord, your generosity. I don’t know what to reply to you, alas!
Arabella: (forcefully) Reply yes, Mary—and because a young girl cannot travel alone on board a ship, well—well, I will be there as well—on the trip.
Mary: You, Madame!
Robert: That’s well! That’s very well, that, Madame! Ah, hold on—I have to hug you. (rushes on Arabella)
Arabella: Hug, little one, hug! How much emotion, Lord, how much emotion! But they are good and do not cause harm. Yes, Mary, we will depart together! After all, a good ship is still better than a good carriage. That slides! You don’t feel yourself moving! By the way! And Louisa, my adored prophet! Bah! She, too, will be on the voyage.
Mary: Ah! Madame! My whole life will not suffice to prove to you my gratitude.
Arabella: That’s all right! That’s all right! Let’s not get softened up any further.
Glenorvan: (to Wilson) The Duncan is equipped, its crew is complete! Have it provisioned for a long campaign, and in a week we will be at sea.
Wilson: It shall be done, Milord.
(Bob, dressed in woman’s clothes and disguised in a manner to complete the illusion, appears at the back.)
Servant: (to Arabella) Milady, Mistress Rebecca.
Arabella: Show her in. The new chamber-maid I was expecting.
(Bob advances and passes near Mulray.)
Mulray: (low) Bob!
Bob: (low) There was no other way! Cousin Rebecca gave me her cloths, and—
Arabella: (considering her) Come closer. She has a very good figure! A little large—but a good figure! Nephew, will you allow me to question her?
Glenorvan: At your ease, auntie dear, at your ease. (to Wilson) Are you coming, Wilson? (goes upstage and chats with the other characters)
Arabella: Come closer, Mistress Rebecca. I know that you are a devoted, zealous girl—of exemplary morals.
Bob: And cousins with Mulray, who will answer for me, Milady.
Mulray: (aside) The beast is compromising me.
Arabella: If you can deal with the habitual state of my nerves—if your service is attentive and kind—I think we will get along perfectly.
Bob: (in a feminine voice) I will do all that I can to please, Milady.
Arabella: Your face is completely sympathetic.
Bob: (coyly) Yes, yes. They often say that of me, (aside) the ladies.
Arabella: Your service with me will be more that of a female companion than that of a maid.
Bob: (to Mulray) I prefer that.
Arabella: You know how to knit and sew, I suppose?
Bob: (simpering) Certainly, Madame, I know how to sew, iron, splice, make rice. (aside) Yikes!
Arabella: Make a splice—take rice—?
Mulray: He means—no—she means—
Bob: (troubled) I mean to say—to offer—to offer a rice—fat or thin or any other object of consumption. (aside) I’m screwing myself up!
Arabella: I must warn you I am porting on a long voyage! You aren’t afraid of being seasick?
Bob: Me? No more than a reguin!
Arabella: (uttering a scream) Oh, never use that word—never!
Bob: (to Mulray) Once I am aboard, I’ll make myself scarce.
Glenorvan: Call everybody!
Mulray: Right away, milord. (leaves)
Arabella: And as for me, I am going to place my luggage under the surveillance of Mistress Rebecca! Soon, children! Follow me, Rebecca. Come, daughter. (leaves)
Glenorvan: Miss, they’re taking you to Glasgow where you really intend to make your preparations for departure?
Mary: Yes, milord.
(Servants and Sailors enter.)
Glenorvan: My friends, in a week, we will again take to see.
All: Ah! Ah!
Glenorvan: This time we are going to fulfill a noble passion. It will be, perhaps, rough work, a perilous voyage. But in achieving it, we will have returned a brave father with his two children, and a brave sailor to his country. Are you ready to follow me?
All: Yes, yes!
Robert: (to Glenorvan) Ah! Milord, how I love you.
Glenorvan: No more than I love you already, my lad! May God come to our aid, and we will find Harry Grant and his son.
All: Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Long live Lord Glenorvan!