Though not exactly an avid theater-goer, it soon became apparent to him when the pageant started that the acting was more good-hearted and earnest than professional. Sometimes adult actors as well as children missed cues, and ran in with flustered movements when they found out they should be on stage. The story itself, modeled on the Charles Dickens’ Yuletide classic, A CHRISTMAS TALE, though set in King Arthur’s father’s kingdom of Lyonnesse off the coast of Land’s End, was familiar, fortunately, so that the audience could identify with the characters, though their clothes and speech were supposedly Arthurian.
In Lyonnesse Falls, the local Scrooge was the Honorable Mordred Trask, the town’s wealthy but miserly banker. He owned most of the town, in fact, and was about to foreclose, in the dead of winter, just when the Lyonnessians were needing every bit of cash to buy presents. It was a terrible crisis. They were being foreclosed on, about to lose their homes and businesses and jobs, all facing being turned out into icy, cold streets. What to do? This was the opening scene.
Mothers and fathers, facing the grim facts, stood with their children in the snowy streets, bemoaning their fates.
The fathers stood on one side, while the mothers hugged their children, singing manfully.
We’ve down to “Insufficient Funds.”
No loan, extended loan will save
your fathers from an early grave!
Cry, dear children, for us now,
we’ll go serve rich folk, learn to bow!”
Bereft of fathers and husbands, the women and children stand shivering together, arms around each other, and sing:
of Father dear, though lost to sight...”
“Even with the name changes and rustic canal boats, it’s a frightful bore! A tear-jerking melodrama!” he confided to her in his normal volume, but she gave him a cautionary look that made him regret the truth, and he straightened up in his pagoda chair, which was the architect Eberson’s idea of a gorgeous Manchu throne with carved dragons clutching beautiful maidens but felt to him like he was sitting on a hard stone bench.
“You’re quite wrong, dear!” his wife whispered to him. She pointed to the list of cast, and the king was startled to see Wotoo’s name entered among the leading characters.
“But how can that be?” the king protested, forgetting to whisper. “Except for Owens, perhaps, I gather they all detested him! I fully expected a riot when he insisted on joining the project.”
The queen shook her head and put a finger to her lips, and the king subsided, shaking his head over the miscasting of Wotoo, who should have been the villain by rights, or at least made a janitor or a propman, in order to preserve the peace.
With the king trying to identify Wotoo among the players, the next scene shifted to the bank’s interior. Mordred Trask had an employee whom he particularly hated and mistreated--Gawain Cogwell. He serviced the files on foreclosures, which kept him busy after hours due to the enormous increase of late. Normally, the bank provided the tree that was erected every year in the town square, in the bit of park located in front of the bank. But, announcing that the bank had reconsidered its policy, citing the critical need to conserve the forests, the tree donation was scratched from the bank’s list of charitable contributions, which was a very brief affair at best.
Having penned the announcement that Banker Trask ordered, poor Cogwell, with a shaking of his head, went to the front window and taped it to the window. By this time the king had decided that the banker could not be Wotoo, he was too tall and not squat enough.
Meanwhile, people noticed the sign, and ran to look. The expressions were woeful, and some were angry, shaking their fist at the bank. It created such a commotion, that the banker himself came out from his office to see the cause of the commotion
The crowd assembled at the bank window began to sing, with the banker joining in.
Took back his tree, no please, no ask!
What will we say, there’ll be no tree
to cheer and shine so merrily?”
As long as I can have my cake!
Why waste good pine on such as you,
when stocks are up, and chips are blue?
Come spring, when grass is growing back,
I’ll have your houses in my sack!”
We might as well all go and pack!”
But where was Wotoo? Had the cast done him in behind the stage set, and put someone else out in the part he had taken? That seemed most likely.
The king was satisfied with his explanation until the queen leaned over. “Wotoo has a marvelous voice, doesn’t he? Sings with such heartfelt feeling, it’s really touching, isn’t it?”
The king nearly lost his royal bearing. “What?” he cried. He grabbed the queen’s opera glasses and trained them on the stage. “Tell me, which one is he! Which one is he!”
The queen hushed him. “No! You’re making too much of a fuss. People are looking our way. Find him yourself!” Then she remembered something. “Don’t forget your little speech at the end, after you thank them all for the splendid performance. The constitutional monarchy, dear! Now don’t you dare forget, or I shall have to announce it!”
An hour later the king, tortured beyond endurance by so much musical comedy and still not being able to identify the elusive but omnipresent Wotoo, forgot about the speech he had promised his wife to give and accidentally pressed the green button, and the main quark engines ignited, sending up huge flaring jets like bluish sails at two points directly across from each on the outer rim.
Fortunately, most everyone In “The Rose” was seated, having been warned of the imminent departure. King Arthur amidst his pagoda-dragons and maiden victims, and his queen nearby on her divan-like, Moorish harem-chair, felt the entire station shudder, then a curious weightlessness that raised the king off his seat so that he had to grab the chair’s arms. This stage lasted only a moment before the gyros for the interior of Excalibur II stabilized things. After a brief confusion on stage, with some rather anxious, instinctive looks up at the electric stars and the moving clouds, the musical plowed bravely on.
Heathbridge’s calculations and jerry-rigged quark engines worked perfectly. Excalibur II sped into the depths of the Great Void, but then a most strange thing happened. A glowing Hand reached out of the vast pool of darkness, the dread Dozemary beyond the Oort Cloud of comets and Heliosphere, and took hold of the blue-flaring starship. Together they vanished into the Cygnusian Black Hole.