photograph of D.E. Stevenson from a dust wrapper
  D. E. Stevenson's "Found in the Attic"

Four excerpts from one of the newly discovered books by D.E. Stevenson [Dorothy Emily Peploe] Click ito order.

Marriage Bells - Or Murder

AN AUTHOR AND A CRITIC had the misfortune to be wrecked upon a desert island. The typhoon, which was the cause of the disaster, swept them onto the beach and left them high and dry. It then departed to continue its work of destruction elsewhere. The author was the first to regain his senses; he opened his eyes and discovered, somewhat to his surprise, that he was still alive. The sun was beating down upon him, and his clothes, though somewhat tattered, were almost dry. He sat up and looked round: before him was a lagoon, incredibly blue and calm, protected from the Pacific breakers by a coral reef; behind him were palm trees, tall and slim, their bright green foliage patterned boldly against the azure sky.

    The author at once realised the situation; he knew all about desert islands, for he had written a story about one in his extreme youth. He was aware that the first thing to do was to explore the island. He did so, and found the usual amenities: a sufficient supply of coconut palms laden with fruit, complete with monkeys to deliver them when required; edible parrots, so tame that they could easily be knocked down with a stone; a spring of fresh water that bubbled out from between two rocks; a large bread-fruit tree and a small plantation of bananas. He also found a hut containing the skeleton of a man.

    The author knew that all the best desert islands were provided with huts and skeletons, so he was neither surprised nor distressed at the discovery. He went into the hut and found a table and a chair and a cupboard, all rudely fashioned from the native wood. He knew, of course, what the cupboard would contain, namely needles and thread, fishing hooks and lines, knives and cooking pots, paper and ink, and perhaps a lamp, in fact everything that was necessary to support life in reasonable comfort. He looked into the cupboard to make sure that everything was there, and was not disappointed.

    By this time the critic had also recovered from his experiences. He found himself somewhat bruised, but otherwise unhurt. The sun was extremely hot, so he moved into the shade of a coconut palm and sat down. When the author returned to the beach he found the critic sitting there regarding the blue lagoon with a jaundiced eye.

    The author was quite glad to find that the cast consisted of two players. He had looked all over the island but had found no trace of human occupation—except of course the skeleton which could not be called companionable—there was not even a footprint to be found. Being of a philosophical mind he had reconciled himself to the inevitable and decided that the play was to be of the Robinson Crusoe type, i.e., solitary exile. He would have to catch a parrot—or perhaps a monkey —and tame it. The prospect was slightly dull, the more so because the author was a sociable kind of man, he liked an audience—so many authors do—even Robinson Crusoe had an audience in the faithful Friday.

    The author was, therefore, quite glad to see the critic sitting up and taking notice. It meant rearranging his ideas, of course, but he was used to rearranging his ideas to meet the requirements of editors and publishers, so that it was no trouble to him at all. He would have preferred almost any type of man rather than a critic to share his solitude—a butcher, a baker, a carpenter, or a doctor would have been more use to him in his present circumstances, and almost any other type of man would have made a better audience, but beggars cannot be choosers, and a typhoon is no respecter of persons. The author decided to make the best of it, and, since it was important to start well, he greeted the critic in a friendly manner and asked how he was feeling.

    The critic did not reply, he was still gazing malevolently at the blue lagoon. “I suppose it’s real,” he said at last. “It isn’t a nightmare by any chance.”
    “A nightmare!” exclaimed the author in surprise. “Why should you think it was a nightmare? We’re lucky to be alive after such a storm. Here we are, comfortably settled upon a desert island with all the usual—”
    He was interrupted by a groan from his companion. 
    “Don’t tell me there’s a spring of fresh water.”
    “Yes, of course there is, a beautiful, clear crystal—”
    “And coconuts? . . . and a bread fruit tree?  Oh my God!”

    The author was quite at sea as to why the critic should take exception o the island. Could the excitement of the shipwreck, and the shock of the sudden immersion have turned his brain?

    “Perhaps you will feel better presently,” he suggested sympathetically.
    “I shall probably feel worse,” declared the critic.
    “No, no—you will feel better. You need some food—”
    “Be quiet!” cried the critic. “You don’t understand—you don’t even begin to understand the horror of the situation. I’ve read thousands of desert island stories—thousands and thousands—”
    “But everybody likes them,” objected the author in amazement. “Why, I wrote one myself—”
    “I know, I know.”
    “And it was a best seller—”
    “I know.”
    “Well then!”
    “I’m sick of them,” declared the critic. “They are banal, they are overdone, they are hackneyed to the point of nausea.”

    “There’s a hut with a skeleton in it,” continued the author, trying to interest his companion in the discoveries he had made. “A hut with a skeleton—I shouldn’t wonder if there was buried treasure—”
    Silence fell—there was no more to say. They could hear the palm trees rustling in the evening breeze and the hollow boom of the Pacific rollers breaking upon the coral reef . . .

  ...

Two Wishes   D.E. Stevenson was an avid golfer.  She learned in North Berwick when she was just four years old. She made it through to the semi-finals at Muirfield when being considered for the Scottish Ladies' Team. :

    The new golf course at Greenfell was under the management of a very up-to-date syndicate who were determined to run it on new lines.  Its amenities were advertised on every hoarding by gaily coloured posters and persuasive letter-press.  Port Andrew looked on and smiled – it knew all there was to know about golf and did not approve of innovations.  Golf was golf, and like good wine, it required no bush.  What did Greenfell want with a course of its own when Port Andrew with its high traditions and deep bunkers was only two miles away?

    In spite of its scorn, however, Port Andrew found in the Greenfell Golf Course an inexhaustible subject of conversation.  They were talking about it in the Ladies’ Club one morning when Mary Douglas strolled in after her round.
    “What is the latest?” she asked, smiling down at the little group in the wicker chairs. 

    Half a dozen voices enlightened her.
    “They are going to have a woman professional!  Two hundred a year and a house – only championship players need apply – here’s the paper about it – did you ever hear of such a thing – ”

    Mary took the paper from her friend and read it carefully.  She was a fair-haired, blue-eyed girl, small but well-proportioned with a frank cheerful face.  At the moment, however, there was a frown of concentration between her straight brows.

    “May I keep this paper?” she said.  “I’m rather interested.”
    “Are you thinking of applying for the job, Mary?” asked Dora Inglis, laughing.

    “Yes, I am,” replied Mary seriously.  “I wouldn’t mind the job at all, and that little bungalow is very attractive.  The money would be a great help to mother and me. Things have gone rather badly lately, you see, and to tell you the truth I’ve been wondering what I could do.  An office life does not appeal to me, besides, I’m no use at figures - ”

    The other girls stopped laughing and murmured.   They all liked Mary; she played a good game of golf and was a thorough little sport.
    “Of course there will be lots of applications,” she continued thoughtfully, “but perhaps if I did well next week in the Championship—”

. . .

 The beginning of  Mister McGibbon's Daughter a very funny poem we were lucky enough to hear for the first time at DE Stevenson's daughter Rosemary's home. It was wonderfully read by DES's granddaughter Penny. :

Mister McGibbon was a railway porter;
He had a wifie and an only daughter.
Maud was a miracle of grace and beauty
But, with it all, was never never snooty.
She was the moon and stars to the McGibbons;
They bought her lovely clothes and coloured ribbons;
    Maudie was better far than television
    (At least this was her parents’ firm decision).

Unluckily the clothes that suited Maudie
Were the expensive, not the cheap and gaudy.
In flowing model gowns and real chinchilla
Maudie McGibbon was an absolute killer.
And so (it was not really very funny)
Garments for Maudie cost a lot of money.
    McGibbon gave up beer and fags and snuff
    But even so they hadn't got enough.

Things went from bad to worse, from hard to harder
Till there was literally nothing in the larder;
Then Mr. M. (to keep their tums from gurgling)
Decided he must do a spot of burgling.
And, studying the matter at his leisure,
Resolved to bag the Duke of Gantry's treasure
    And, since he did not want to take a stranger,
    Maud volunteered to help and share the danger…

  ...

  From The Author's Point of View a fascinating and delightful talk given by D.E. Stevenson. How we wish we could have been in the audience to hear it and to ask questions. At least we are fortunate now to be able to read it.:

WHEN Messrs Collins asked me to give this talk I felt greatly honoured.  I have a done a good deal of speaking (to the P.E.N. Club, and to various other literary societies, to several Burns Clubs, to the English Speaking Union, to Church Guilds and Women’s Institutes and to Robert Louis Stevenson Clubs) but I have never before spoken to a meeting of businessmen and women.  Mr. Shakeshaft said I was to tell you how an author works – and about the problems of an author – and about the taste of the public.   He said I was at liberty to criticise my publishers – so that sounds very nice!

    You will realise that, under the circumstances, this talk is going to be all about me (on reading over my notes I was quite horrified to discover it was so egotistical) but I can’t help that.  If it absolutely unbearable you must blame Mr. Shakeshaft, and not me.  I thought it would be a good plan to talk for about half an hour; then you can ask questions and offer any ideas that may occur to you.

    First; How does an author work?  This is difficult to answer because no two authors work in the same way.  I can only tell you about novels (I know nothing about other forms of literature) and I can only tell you about my own method of writing and not about other novelists.  I happen to know that some writers of fiction start at the beginning of their story and have no idea how it is going to finish – and sometimes they get all tied up and cannot find a way out of the tangle!  Some authors type their stories, others dictate them.  These methods would not suit me.  My method is to think about my story for months before I set pen to paper.  So, when I begin to write, I know exactly where I am going and I can set out upon my expedition with confidence . . . 

"Found in the Attic"
 

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