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'The Sad Tale of Richard Parker' by Cheryl Butler

(Four wooden chairs mark the boat, one at prow, one at stern, two starboard, port side open to audience who will be in open horse shoe layout. 4 crew lie in between chairs on floor. Hopefully sea effect lighting and waves)

 

(As effects fade and audience settle the Ballad of Richard Parker first six verses off stage, etheral)

 

Dudley : Brooks, your turn to take watch.

 

Brooks: Aye captain (sits on stern chair, gazes out to sea)

 

Dudley : Well boys, we have weathered the storm and kept afloat, Stephens is the leak still plugged?

 

Stephens: Aye captain, it’ll hold till...it’ll hold.

 

Parker: I’m so cold Captain, my clothes are soaked through.

 

Dudley : I know lad we’re all the same but now the storm has blown through we are going to need shelter from the sun or we’ll be frying next. I’m going to take some bearings, Stephens check what supplies were salvaged –

 

Stephens: most went into the drink when you fell

 

Brooks: - at the least the Captain thought to grab some supplies and the sextant

 

Dudley : Now lads, we all did what we could when the little Mignonette foundered but time was not with us

 

Stephens: Turnips!

 

Dudley : What’s that you say?

 

Stephens: 2 tins of turnips is what we have.

 

Brooks: damnation, I hate turnips

 

Dudley : Language Brooks, we need the Lord on our side

 

Stephens: The water, where’s the rest of the water, one cask?

 

(some consternation)

 

Parker: I threw a cask into the sea, like you told me captain, not into the dinghy, so as not to hole her, that was right Captain wasn’t it? I followed your orders right didn’t I Captain?

 

Dudley : Aye lad you followed my orders (looking around the sea) it looks like the storm has taken it.

 

Stephens: Not good Captain.

 

Dudley : No not good.

 

Parker: What is going to happen to us? Are we going to die?

 

Dudley : Not if it is in my power to prevent it. I won’t lie to you, a man can survive for many days without food, but without water....... we will have to go careful....................still we are all men of the sea, even you Dick and there is barely a mariner alive who has not been shipwrecked on at least one occasion! Brooks keep your eyes out for fish, birds, turtles anything that might provide us sustenance. Stephens we need to rig up a sail, we can use the oar as a steer.

 

Stephens: what are we to use as sails

 

Dudley : our shirts man, what else have we?

 

Brooks: we will be burnt and scalded by the sun!

 

Stephens: I’m not prepared to give up my shirt! Remember you are no longer Captain, you have no ship

 

Dudley : And who else will lead us, who else can navigate as well as I, who else has the experience? Keep your shirts for the time being then, and pray we are picked up before we need to give them up.

 

Parker: What shall I do Captain?

 

Dudley : take one of the tins and divide the turnips into rations.

 

Brooks: Captain, there’s something approaching in the water - Shark!, Shark!

 

Dudley : Hold tight lads hold tight!

 

(verse – Oh Thomas Dudley)

 

(Geoff comes on stage as John Henry Want owner of the Mignonette takes prow chair and brings forward, sets up by small table, sets down wine glass and papers which he is shuffling through. Knock at ‘door’ )

 

Want: (only half attending) Come

 

(Enter Dudley cap in hand, Want doesn’t look up, Dudley shuffles a little, small cough)

 

Want: And you are?

 

Dudley: Dudley, captain Thomas Dudley. I heard you was looking for a Sailing Master, that’s if you be John Want.

 

Want: I am indeed John Henry Want and you are correct in your assumption, I need an experienced Sailing Master. I have lately purchased a yacht, The Mignonette and need some one to sail it to my home in Australia.

 

Dudley : I believe I am the man for the job sir.

 

Want: Indeed Dudley? Well as a lawyer you will understand that I can not just go by your word –do you have testimonials?

 

Dudley : I do sir, I have them here, you will see I have made my way up from ordinary seaman to sailing master, yachts are what I know best sir – you will see I have been written up by my former Captains

 

Want: I see they say you are ‘sober, steady, respectable and God-fearing’ not something that can be said of all sailors I think. Are you a married man Dudley?

 

Dudley : yes sir, my dear wife Phillipa is a schoolmistress and we are now blessed with three children-

 

Want: Marriage and children always has a steadying influence on a man I believe. (still looking through papers.....pause) The Mignonette is a 33 ton yawl rig, 52 feet long, 12.4 in the beam and 7.4 in the draught. She has been berthed up this winter. I need the master to get her ready for sea, employ a crew and deliver her to Australia.

 

Dudley: Do you mean to race her in Australia sir?

 

Want: That I do, that I do, despite my treatment by the sailing snobs on these shores I have a great respect for English yachts.

 

Dudley : I am sorry you have found things not to your liking here.

 

Want: It is of no matter, I was successful in my racing enterprises what was the difference if the yachts I raced belong to other owners. England is too hidebound a society, no from now on I will do my racing in Australia.

 

Dudley: Mrs Dudley and myself have been considering a move to Australia, that is what attracted my attention to this commission, I said to Mrs Dudley that I could test the water, so to speak.

 

Want: I am sure any man with enterprise would succeed out there.

 

Dudley : may I enquire as to the terms sir?

 

Want: £100 for the contract and a further hundred on safe delivery-

 

Dudley : seems fair and generous-

 

Want: - I had not quite finished the terms sir, crew and provisions must come from this hundred pounds. Still a good offer I think?

 

Dudley : Yes sir, I would like to be considered for the position

 

Want: And I’ll tell you what Dudley, do a good job for me and if you decide to stay on in Australia you could find yourself as racing skipper of the Mignonette.

 

Dudley : Well I would have to discuss it with Mrs Dudley, but I can say sir, I am keen, very keen.

 

Want; Lets shake on it then – though of course I will still draw up a legal agreement!

 

(exit)

 

Dudley : See lads, the good lord has not forsaken us – a turtle, a gift from heaven

 

Brooks: Well I’m happier to see a turtle than that shark, I still can’t believe when its tail bumped the ship-

 

Stephens: -I believe it well enough didn’t it cause the last of our water to be washed overboard?

 

Brooks: I know, I know I was just saying – I thought the whole boat would go down

 

Stephen: And maybe it would have been best, a quick end

 

Dudley : Edwin, Edwin, keep your faith, we have had many tribulations but we have survived - this beast will give us meat to eat and its blood will help quench our thirst. We need something to keep the blood in –

 

Stephens:- here use the chronometer case

 

Dudley : good thinking. And let’s see if we can rig something to catch rainwater.

 

Parker: Are we to drink blood then Captain?

 

Dudley : Don’t turn your nose up boy – a man will not know what steps he will be prepared take when his life is in the balance.

 

Parker: In the balance?

 

Dudley : I think we should share a prayer, we have been kept safe, we have food, I know we are not forsaken

(verse – my gallant shipmates)

 

Brooks: Tom? Tom Dudley? Is that you?

 

Dudley : Ned! Ned Brooks well its good to see another Essex man here, how long have you been in Southampton?

 

(shake hands)

 

Brooks: About five years now I think, been working on the yachts in the season and for the Union Line in the off season. I thought I saw you earlier bringing in the Mignonette?

 

Dudley : Yes I have a commission and need to get her ready for a long voyage – she’s up at Fay’s for repairs – having her cutter rigged and I need to have some of the planking replaced.

 

Brooks: Its a good yard, I’ve been working as a rigger there myself – have you somewhere to stay I’m lodging in Millbank Street not far from the yard.

 

Dudley : I’m glad I ran into you Brooks, you may be able to help me out?

 

Brooks: How so?

 

Dudley : I need to get a new crew – the lads who came round with me from Tollesbury have signed off

 

Brooks: Didn’t want a long voyage

 

Dudley: well Australia is a long way off

 

Brooks: Was the pay not good?

 

Dudley : It’s a fair contract.

 

Brooks: Well there’s not that much work around that you would think a mariner would turn it down – better than fishing? Is there a story Tom?

 

Dudley: Frighted by a storm on the way here, I told them the vessel needed work and that was why we were for Southampton – need to find myself some seasoned men. What about you Ned fed up with life on land? Come on, you’re like me a sailor since a boy.

 

Brooks: Mmm well I need to know the offer, let’s go look at the Mignonette.

 

(Parker is on the chair at the stern on look out. Stephens comes to spell him)

 

Stephens: My turn on the lookout Dick (no response) Dick!)

 

Parker: What? Oh its you Ed, sorry I was thinking

 

Stephens: don’t want to do that lad, get you into trouble! What were you thinking of.

 

Parker: Home, home I was thinking of home. You’re from Southampton aren’t you Ed?

 

Stephens: Born and bred.

 

Parker: do you have a family Ed?

 

Stephens: Course I have a family, everyone has a family.

 

Parker: Not me. That is I don’t have a mother and dad anymore. (Silence) My ma died when I was seven.

 

Stephens: lots of people lose their parents young, that’s life – or death.

 

Parker: Yes I suppose your right and I still had my dad – till I was 14

 

Stephens: Well there you go – all grown up.

 

(Silence)

 

Parker: so you have children do you Ed?

 

Stephens (glares at Parker): Five I have five children and before you ask a wife, Ann.

 

Parker: They in Southampton?

 

Stephens: Course they’re in Southampton, Northumberland Road, number 73, call round for tea when you are in the area.

 

Parker: You’re funny Ed

 

Stephens: Regular comedian, now come on let me take your place and see if I can spot us a whale or better still another ship.

 

(enter Geoff as Capt Jack Matthews, verse ‘when we set sail’ pacing up and down)

 

Matthews: Dickey? Dickey? is that you lad?

 

Parker: Aye, aye Captain Jack!

 

Matthews: Aye aye Captain Jack? Have you been drinking lad?

 

Parker: No sir, sorry sir, I’m just excited.

 

Matthews: well calm yourself lad, I need to have a serious chat with you.

 

Parker: Serious?

 

Matthews: Mrs Matthews is concerned for you Dickey.

 

Parker: Why? what have I done?

 

Matthews: Its not what you have done Dickey but what you want to do.

 

Parker: I don’t understand

 

Matthews: I think perhaps you do. Lad you know Mrs Matthews and I have tried to look out for you since your poor father passed

 

Parker: yes sir you and Mrs Matthews have been very good to me sir, taking me in and all.

 

Matthews: And we were happy to do it, Daniel Parker was a fine man, a fine skipper and a fine cricketer.

 

Parker: yes sir, and I would like to be like him

 

Matthews: ~So I hear. Look at me Dickey. Mrs Matthews tells me you want to sign up on the Mignonette.

 

Parker: She’s a grand yacht sir, bound for Australia, I could be a made man sir, they are looking for a cabin boy and the skipper Capt Dudley has said he will take me on sir.

 

Matthews: That’s as maybe Dickey, but you know I’m an experienced skipper –

 

Parker: yes sir.

 

Matthews: I have looked over the yacht Dickey, she’s not sea worthy, especially not for a voyage half way round the world. If you want to go to sea why not join your brothers. Dan and Flop would take you on their hoy

 

Parker: I don’t want to be a fisherman, I want to be a yachtsman like you and my father.

 

Matthews: And how do you think we learnt our trade lad, out there on Southampton Water fishing, rowing the ferries working our way up on rich man’s yachts in the racing season.

 

Parker: I’m 17, I don’t have time to learn that way, if I take this voyage as cabin boy I will get to learn from the other men, I’ll learn more in six months than in six years in Itchen Ferry. And Captain Dudley has said he will teach me my letters and that I will be able to write my own name by the time we reach Australia.

 

Matthews: Dickey, I stand here on behalf of your father and I know what he would say, I have to forbid you to go, there will be other adventures to be had,

 

Parker: No, this is my time, this is my adventure, this is where I make my mark, you can’t stop me, you’re not my father. Anyway its too late, I’ve made my mark, we sail on the 19 th.

 

(Rushes out)

 

Matthews (shaking his head): Dickey, Dickey, headstrong boy.

 

Dudley : (taking a swig from container spits out) Lads, lads, we have had another set back

 

Stephens: Another, how much bad luck can there be on one voyage?

 

Brooks: Yes makes you think we might have a Jonah on board (looking at Stephens)

 

Stephesn: What do you mean by that?

 

Brooks: Nothing, just observing that some people have had more than one ship go down under them. What is it Captain?

 

Dudley : Salt water has got into the case, the turtle blood is useless

 

Parker: But surely sir, a little seawater won’t harm?

 

Dudley : send you mad boy, send you mad, Ned toss it overboard

 

Parker: what’s to be done sir, with not a drop of water, I don’t want to die out here sir, it’s my first voyage, its my first voyage.

 

Dudley : we’re not done yet lad, have I not promised to look after you?

 

Stephens: well it looks like we are down to our own piss then sir

 

Parker: what does he mean sir?

 

Brooks: we have to make our own drink

 

Stephens: Are you 8 or 18 Dick?

 

Parker: That’s disgusting

 

Dudley : Necessity Dick. We need to catch more wind, Ned let’s take the dinghy bottom boards up. We can fix them upright at the stern. Come on, come on lets go to it,

 

Brooks: Why did I let you persuade me?

 

Dudley : What? What are you saying?

 

Brooks: I wanted to withdraw from the voyage, my friends called me a fool for signing up, but you kept on and on, ‘think of the money Ned’, ’wouldn’t you like to see Australia Ned’, ‘You know me Ned, trust me Ned’ Mignonette was built as an inshore boat, I should have signed for O’Neill stuck to racing but no you said, make a new start in Australia, make yourself a new life

 

Dudley : Brooks! get a grip man what’s wrong with you! I gave you an order, now get on with it.

 

Brooks: Sir, yes sir.

 

Stephens: a man in need of a drink

 

Dudley : we all are men in need of water.

 

Stephens: Brooks is missing something stronger, why do you think he never rose above being an AB and cook.

 

Dudley : That’s enough, I always found him a first class hand, we were lucky to have him on the voyage.

 

(verse- the voyage pleasant. Dudley and Stephens take two end chairs and place by small table)

 

Dudley : I’m in need of someone with your deep water experience. You are unemployed at present?

 

Stephens: Lately I have been working on the Red Funnel line but previous to that I was Chief Officer with the Union Line.

 

Dudley : something of a come down?

 

Stephens: (Uncomfortable pause) There was an incident

 

Dudley : Incident?

 

Stephens: I was on the European when she struck at Ushant, the ship was lost – but no passengers or crew. There was an enquiry, the Captain was charged with the blame but the navigational error was mine.

 

Dudley : A bad mistake........but we are all entitled to one I think, I am a crew man short, someone has let me down and I am due to sail. I’ll offer you £8 a month if you sign as mate with the Mignonette,

 

Stephens: I don’t know, it’s a long voyage for such a vessel

 

Dudley: Look you could do with a new start, if you come to Australia with us I will recommend you as Captain, the owner wants to race her – you’re a family man – it’s a great opportunity-

 

Stephens: I’ll think about it

 

Dudley : I need to know now, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. A chance to redeem yourself

 

Stephens: May be, may be........alright, alright, I’ll sign

 

(return to boat)

 

Brooks: Seawater, he’s drunk the seawater!

 

Dudley : why didn’t you stop him?

 

Brooks: I didn’t realise

 

Dudley : Parker my boy, my stupid boy, you’ve done for yourself.

 

Parker: sorry Captain, sorry Captain, so thirsty, so much water everywhere water, so thirsty, have I done a bad thing, bad thing?

 

Stephens: a foolish thing, he shouldn’t have been here, he didn’t have enough experience for a voyage such as this. He lied about his age you know, he told me he’s only seventeen.

 

Brooks: none of us had experience for a voyage such as this.

 

Dudley : lie you down boy, lie you down.

 

Stephens: Fifteen days, fifteen days, no food left now.

 

Brooks: I’ve seen it before when men drink sea water, they go raving mad, delirious.

 

Stephens: That’s all we need cooped up with a raving lunatic as if the sun and the lack of water aren’t enough.

 

Brooks: well maybe he’s the lucky one being out of it whilst the rest of us die by inches in agony.

 

Stephens: Well thanks I feel a lot better now. How much longer can we hang on?

Dudley : But hang on we must, pray we must pray.

 

 

END OF ACT ONE

 

ACT TWO The Courtroom

 

(2 chairs on one side with Stephens and Dudley stood in front of them. Brooks is sat apart. Lawyer is stood by little table with papers. As audience come back last 5 verses sung)

 

Offstage ‘Order in the Court’

 

Lawyer: You are Captain Thomas Dudley late of the yacht Mignonette?

 

Dudley : (Speaks up firmly)Yes sir.

 

Lawyer: And you are Edmund Stephens, mate of that same Mignonette?

 

Stephens: (mumble) Yes sir.

 

Lawyer: Do you know why you are here?

 

Dudley : I know why we are here sir, but I do not understand why we are here.

 

Lawyer: And why is that?

 

Dudley : We have done nothing wrong sir, we have but followed the custom of the sea as followed by all mariners for centuries.

 

Lawyer: Well Mr... Capt Dudley I have never yet met a criminal who did not proclaim his innocence-

 

Dudley : I did not say I was innocent sir, I have indeed done all the things of which I stand accused, but it was no crime sir I was following my duty as a Captain to preserve my crew.

 

Lawyer: not all your crew

 

Dudley : All that could be saved sir

 

(verse ‘And we three men’) Back to boat

 

Dudley is praying quietly to himself, his mouth moves but scarcely a sound comes out

 

Stephens: What good is all that praying, when god torments us with this heat all day and freezes us at night?

 

Brooks: twenty

 

Stephens: what?

 

Brooks: twenty days now, five without, without

 

Stephens: I know what we are without, I have suffered it. (feeble laugh)

 

Brooks: what...what’s so funny?

 

Stephens: your face it looks all black

 

Brooks: no more than yours

 

Parker: (moans, odd word –sister Edie, Daniel, fishing, I’ll be home soon Mrs Matthews, the ship let me on the ship, let me on the ship gasps for breath)

Brooks: hush, hush Dick

 

Stephens: I don’t know what is worse when he moans or when he is quiet

 

Brooks: Who is Mrs Matthews?

 

Stephens: The family who took him in, after his family died, bought him his seaman’s chest for the voyage – though they tried to talk him out of it

Brooks: If we all had listened to the advice not to sail-

 

Dudley : Boys, boys I think the time has come?

 

Brooks: Time?

 

Dudley : we shall have to draw lots boys?

 

Dudley : have you nothing to say to me, you know it is the custom

 

Brooks: We had better die together, custom or no

 

Dudley : Stephens? (no reply, He looks away uncomfortable)

 

Dudley : So.........let it be..............but my judgement as your Captain.......as your Captain........is that it is hard for four to die when perhaps one.......might save the rest.

 

(Brooks gets up and goes to stern of ship)

Off stage – All Rise

 

Lawyer: My Lord, gentlemen of the jury, I would like to call as my next witness Edmund James Brooks. Mr Brooks you served as able seaman and cook on the yacht Mignonette.

 

Brooks: Yes sir

 

Stephens: why does he stand witness? why is he not in the dock with us?

 

(Off stage Order!)

 

Lawyer: Thank you your honour. I should perhaps inform the jury that Mr Brooks was found to have no charge to answer by the prosecution and therefore can be called as a witness for the Crown. Now Brooks tell us in your own words how the yacht Mignonette foundered.

 

Brooks: We were sailing for Australia sir we left Southampton on the 19 th May, and made a good crossing till we had passed the equator, but then the weather changed – it was coming up to the end of June – we tried to ride the storm but it pounded the ship and we sprang a leak – we tried to pump out the water but the pumps were not up to the job. On 5 th of July our stern was breached and the ship began to founder.

 

Lawyer: And Captain Dudley ordered you to abandon ship

 

Brooks: Aye he ordered us to launch the dinghy

 

Lawyer: And we have already heard from previous witnesses the unfortunate series of events that ensued. If I can take you forward to the 29 th July.

 

Brooks: The day we were picked up sir?

 

Lawyer: The day you were picked up after 24 days adrift is that correct?

 

Brooks: Yes sir, we had travelled a thousand miles, I was on lookout, I couldn’t believe it when I saw the sail of the german barque, I don’t know where we got the strength sir but we began to row sir, praying, not daring to hope, scared they would not see us, an hour and a half, even now I don’t know, I can’t believe we made it we were rescued after all hope had gone, we were rescued.

 

Lawyer: how many of you were rescued Brooks?

 

Brooks: three sir, three.

 

Lawyer: And how did Captain Dudley later describe this incident?

 

Brooks: He said, he said the sighting of the Moctezuma occurred as we was having our breakfast we will call it

 

(verse Those days of torment)

Dudley : (huddled) Its freezing tonight Ed

 

Stephens: I’ve lost all feeling, my skin’s so dry and cracked it feels if I move it will split from stem to stern but my insides are so shrivelled nothing will spill out.

 

Dudley : (looking at Parker’s still form) he’s stopped moaning, he’s scarcely breathing

 

Stephens: I’m thankful for that, it was driving me as insane as him

 

Dudley : What’s do be done Ed? I believe the boy is dying.

 

Stephens: we’re all dying

 

Dudley : At least he has no family

 

Stephens: He has brothers and a sister, he told me.

 

Dudley : His brothers are all sailing men, they will understand.

 

Stephens: understand?

 

Dudley : Ed, Ed you have a wife, as do I, you have five children, I have three, who will look to them Ed, they will end up on the parish, maybe even the poorhouse, have you thought of that Ed?

 

Stephens: Or course I have thought, it’s thinking of my family that has helped me to hang on though my brain tells me there is no hope.

 

Dudley : There is always hope if we can just hang on just a little longer, we must sight a ship soon

 

Stephens: how do you know that? It’s near on 3 weeks and we haven’t seen as much as a sail.

 

Dudley : But when it comes, we must have the strength to react Ed. Parker has no chance Ed, he is as good as dead, he’s in agony. We would not be the first nor the last Ed, the custom of the sea, it is understood.

 

Stephens: And if we see a sail tomorrow? And what of Brooks?

 

Dudley : Brooks is squeamish – I can understand that – but when it comes to it, he will take his share

 

Stephens: tomorrow, there will be a sail tomorrow-

 

Dudley : And if not Ed

 

(Stephens briefly nods)

 

Lawyer: Gentlemen of the jury, if I may summarise the facts of the case. When these men were picked up by the Moctezuma, all that remained of young Richard Parker was a single rib. I understand and sympathise with the condition these men found themselves in, adrift in terrible circumstances for 24 days in an open boat. But when the circumstances of their survival became known on their return to this country the Falmouth Water Police had no doubts and no compunction in ordering their immediate arrest. They were judged to have acted wilfully, of acting feloniously and having malice aforethought. You have heard from the defendants themselves, they never made any secret of their deed, in fact you might even say they boasted of what they had done. Their photos taken for postcards to publicise their actions! Gentlemen what you must ask yourself, what the real question in this case is, is whether killing under the circumstances set forth is, or is not murder. The contention that it could be anything else is both new and strange! To preserve one’s life is, generally speaking, a duty, but it may be the plainest duty, even the highest duty, to sacrifice it. By what measure is the comparative value of lives to be measured? Is it to be strength, or intellect, or what? It is plain that the principle leaves to him who is to profit by it to determine the necessity which will justify him in deliberately taking another’s life to save his own. In this case the weakest, the youngest, the most unresisting was chosen. Was it more necessary to kill him that one of the grown men? The answer must be no! It must not be supposed that in refusing to admit temptation to be an excuse for crime it is forgotten how terrible the temptation was; how awful the suffering; how hard in such trials to keep the judgement straight and the conduct pure. We are often compelled to set up standards we cannot reach ourselves, and to lay down rules which we could not ourselves satisfy. But a man has no right to declare temptation to be an excuse, though he might have yielded to it, nor allow compassion for the criminal to change or weaken in any manner the legal definition of the crime. Their sufferings seem to have been dreadful, but the doctrine of justifiable homicide has no foundation in english law, except in the different case of unavoidable self-defence.

 

Off stage – Thomas Riley Dudley and Edwin Stephens you have been found guilty of murder and are accordingly sentenced to death by hanging. Do you wish to address the court?

 

Dudley : thank you my lord. I would like to thank all those who have come forward to support us – the members of the Albion Lodge in Southampton for their generosity to their brother Stephens, the appeals that were held in the Southampton Times, the donations from fellow yachtsmen. It is true there have been postcards sold and we were grateful for the funds to assist our defence but we would like what monies that remain to be used to assist Edith Parker, Richard’s younger sister. Do not think that what was done was not repulsive and abhorrent to us but the custom of the sea I believe justified my actions because of over-riding necessity. As a result I have only lost one member of my crew in circumstances in which all would otherwise have perished. Thank you my Lord.

 

(verse ~ though we were guilty)

 

Stephens, Dudley, Brooks take their chairs and stand in a line

 

Brooks: Was I a Judas turning on my fellows? I drank, I ate the warm heart but I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it, so what if I exhibited myself at museums and freak shows, The Cannibal of the High Seas, they dressed me in rags and had me eat raw meat – what else could I do, who was going to give me a job at sea till it all died down? I married myself, had a family I even went to live in Richard’s old village at Itchen Ferry. They put a gravestone up for the boy – not that there was a body ‘Sacred to the memory of Richard Parker, aged seventeen years, who died at sea after nineteen days dreadful suffering in an open boat in the tropics, having been shipwrecked on the yacht Mignonette’

There was a quotation from the Book of Job, Dudley would have approved of that he was always a praying man

‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him’

And do you know Richard’s brother, Daniel, he added a second

‘Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’ ........’Lord, lay not this sin to their charge’ (– pulls a bottle from his coat takes a swig and slumps down on the chair)

 

Stephens: They wouldn’t renew my certificate of competence, I had to write and write again, 23 petitions, beg them before they let me have it back, I had a wife, a family, they depended on me I needed to work, after all my trials. Jack Want offered me free passage to Australia but I was ill, the doctor said my spirits were dragging me down, weakening my mind, I followed Ned, took to the drink, my wife left me, had too move away from Southampton – they all looked at me, talked about me, I could hear them whisper, whisper, custom of the sea, why didn’t they draw lots? Why didn’t they draw lots? they would have done the same, whisper, whisper (takes bottle proffered by Ned and drinks)

 

Dudley: Dudley prisoner 5331, we received an immediate reprieve but still served six months detention, six months for saving my crew, my wife hounded from her teaching position, if Parkers family held no grudge, gave no blame what right did those periwigged lawyers have to sit in judgement over me? Had they ever lived a life at sea? What jurisdiction do they have over the wide oceans? I left England, made Australia at last, am now a respectable business man, purveyor of sails and tarpaulins. I employ over 40 people, who now dares whisper ‘Cannibal Tom’ behind my back. A new century, a new beginning. Still cursed. There is plague in the town. I’m sick, I shiver like I did in the dinghy at night, my temperature is rising, my head aches, my back aches, my limbs ache and I feel sick, as sick as when I cut the liver and heart out of Richard Parker, I swear it beat in my hand. My glands are swelling, my skin blotches as if I am starved of water, my lungs fill as if I am drowning. A monstrous biblical death, a death fit for the crime?

 

(Verse – six months detention)

 

(Go back to Boat)

 

Dudley : No sail Ed?

 

Stephens: No sail.

 

Dudley : Dear Lord, forgive us for the act we are to commit,-

 

Brooks: I can not......(staggers to stern, turns away)

 

Dudley : Stephens, Stephens, take his legs man, his legs

 

(Dudley takes out a knife and moves to Parker’s prone form)

 

Dudley : Now, Dick my boy, your time has come

 

Parker: ‘What, me Sir?

 

(Dudley with back to audience takes knife and makes to cut the throat –or may be facing the audience, kill lights)

 

(verse - with heavy heart. Cast take to stage with bowed head for muted riotious applause and hysterical tears)