Plot to Lighthouse
Lighthouse Island lies off the coast of New Albion, a small New England port. There a robust young woman named LEDA lives and works with her widower father, the lighthouse keeper (KEEPER JACK). One stormy autumn night in 1878 a shipwreck kills all on board, except a mysterious STRANGER -- or so LEDA believes, though no one else sees him alive. Genuine survivor or figment of her imagination, LEDA is rapturously in love with the STRANGER. But her tutor and confidant AMOS reports, just before moving to Boston, that the STRANGER is a murderer. The STRANGER must escape, but as a gesture of their devotion to each other, he throws his ring and hers, locked together, far out into the ocean, promising one day to return.
New Albion is a small town, whose major industry appears to be gossip -- the postmistress DAISY, the telegraph operator (and midwife) BETTINA, and the preacher’s wife EVANGELINE are the prime practitioners. Most of the other industries are run by the local factotum, BALTHAZAR (who literally wears a different hat for each position). His comfortable sinecure is thrown into turmoil with the sudden appearance in town of FLOSSIE FENSTER, his old flame from Philadelphia. Back then she threw him over for a con artist who deserted her, so she’s come to New Albion to fan the old flames (and she’s quite a fanner!) An enterprising business woman, with the help of the busybodies she manages to remodel half the town and bring color and spirit and heart to the initially suspicious locals, and with BALTHAZAR’s help brings the sleepy seacoast town of New Albion roaring into the 1880s.
The only other inhabitant of Lighthouse Island is THE WIDOW Lucinda Tobias, a mysterious woman who haunts the cliffs on the far side of the island, lighting the lamp on her widow's walk each night waiting for the return of her lover, a Spanish sailor who left long ago. An outcast to the respectable folk because of her open affair (they named her a "widow" to protect their children -- then blamed her for the lie), they nevertheless come to her for Tarot card readings. When "DOC" HENRY WAINWRIGHT, the local physician and a widower (with a teenage daughter, EMMA) come to seek LEDA's hand in marriage, the Widow encourages him. To everyone's surprise, LEDA accepts -- "no pretense, no great romance but an act of common sense." The wedding is officiated by REVEREND AUGUSTUS PRATT, the easygoing clergyman who concedes theology was never his strong suit, but is genuinely devoted to his unruly flock. But soon after the marriage celebration, it becomes clear that Henry’s daughter EMMA is resentful of her new stepmother, who is just a few years older than she is.
Half a year after Leda and Henry’s marriage, BALTHAZAR finds his life uprooted again by the arrival of LUCKY, his “nephew” from Canada, a consumptive, colorblind artist with an infectious optimism who believes that everything -- including a recent shipwreck he barely survived, is “Lucky for Me.” LUCKY dramatically recounts the shipwreck to LEDA -- now 7 months pregnant -- and tells of a crazed sailor who went down, cursing the woman who was unfaithful to him, a sailor who called himself "Swan" -- LEDA’s nickname for the Stranger. LEDA is certain it is the STRANGER who died cursing her, and as LUCKY chatters on, a monstrous apparition of the STRANGER strikes terror into her heart, and she collapses.
A month later, on a town moonlight picnic out to Lighthouse Island (arranged by FLOSSIE and BALTHAZAR), the STRANGER once again appears to LEDA, luring her to the edge of the cliff. She is saved from her apparent suicide attempt by the WIDOW. Her nerves shattered, LEDA’s baby is born prematurely and dies. HENRY is filled with guilt that his skills as a physician failed his own child, and LEDA’s spirit seems totally drained. To help her recuperate, her old friend AMOS comes for a visit, but even his quiet friendship serves to conjure up a vision of the STRANGER. Recalling the happy “Lighthouse Days,” and desperate to rescue herself from her despair, LEDA determines to leave her devastated husband and return to Lighthouse Island. But the prognosis for her recovery is not good when she has tea with the WIDOW -- hours after the WIDOW has died, struck by lightning in a boating accident
Henry’s daughter EMMA is desperate to escape the confines of New Albion and her disrupted family. When AMOS proposes, she eagerly accepts and they elope together to Boston, leaving HENRY truly alone. Winter sets in. The only bright spot is a town production of A Christmas Carol, produced of course by FLOSSIE. However, the performance is interrupted by an emergency telegraph from KEEPER JACK summoning LEDA back to the Lighthouse Island. In his dying moments the crusty old anachronism is finally able to express his love for LEDA.
Times are changing, the community is drifting apart. EMMA and AMOS return to Boston, FLOSSIE, BALTHAZAR and LUCKY move to New Orleans for Lucky’s health. HENRY makes his way back to Lighthouse Island. As he pleads with LEDA to come back to him, the STRANGER appears one last time, claiming her for himself. But LEDA has grown stronger and refuses to choose between the two men. Instead, she demands freedom from them both. With great sadness, HENRY yields to her wish, releasing her from their bond -- and with that simple act, the STRANGER's power is broken. Truly free now, LEDA is able to exorcize the STRANGER. She offers her husband the chance to start over. Though their lives as lighthouse keeper and physician will force them to live apart, LEDA is hopeful they can transform their marriage from a social convention to a genuine union. And if they can't -- well at least they will have tried.
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