"belle sauvage"

By

Rebecca Dale

Street Address

City, ST ZIP Code

Phone

Email

FAde In:

scene 1: on a skyscraper

(A big leather-bound book opens, revealing a hand-painted illustration of a red alien desert, under a purple sky, strewn with boulders.)

voice over

The universe is infinite, the stars numberless.

(The page turns, another fairy-tale illustration, this of a dense jungle filled with multi-coloured plants and exotic alien creatures.)

voice over

Who knows what strange landscapes, what creatures,

(The page turns, a vast alien ocean, teeming with alien fish, with creatures which look very like mer-people, with great forests of seaweed.)

voice over

What great civilisations,

(The page turns to a beautiful picture of huge alien mountains, their peaks snowy, forests clinging to their lower slopes, a city of shining marble domes perched halfway up a steep mountainside, suspended over the void.)

voice over

Thrive beyond the stars, for those brave enough to seek it?

(Final page turn, the birth of a star, the motes of golden light float up out of the painting on the page as the camera pulls back to Isobel, sitting on the edge of a skyscraper roof. Isobel is eleven, with muddy bare feet, a floral print dress and a short sword at her side.

The camera pulls further back, revealing a futuristic city, with glass towers and whitewashed Renaissance villas set in rolling park land. The whole city is covered with a huge glass dome. Between the buildings are green spaces with little brightly-coloured tropical birds. Foliage cascades down the side of the towers. There are of course bridges in the sky. There are pools and streams winding between and beneath the buildings, and the bridges over them are made of marble with carved peafowl on the hand-rails, or of wholly transparent glass. A waterfall cascades down the side of a skyscraper. In the streets are people, the women in long, elegant dresses, the men with swords. There are metal, articulated whales floating just above street level, with passengers and cargo. Carriages are drawn by various creatures, some alien. One carriage doesn't have any wheels, it floats above the ground as it's drawn by two horses.

Isobel, perched on top of her tower with her legs dangling over the void, has a beautiful view over the buildings and trees. She stares off dreamily. The camera floats off over the buildings to…)

scene 2: local fountain

A little stream full of plump carp winds gently down the side of another building, weaving in and out of the wall like a slide at a water-park, and trickles into the pool below. The pool has a white marble tiled floor and is surrounded by grass and shaded with trees, where plump lovebirds hop back and forth. In the middle of the pool is a fountain.

A group of eleven-year-old children is playing here.

Violetta, barefoot in a blue dress and ringlets, is splashing in the pool. Robin, also barefoot, in a fraying shirt and shorts, with a short sword in his belt, glances at her admiringly as he chases Billy, Sarah, Harry and Elizabeth round and round the pool. Sarah slips and she and Billy collapse in a giggling heap.

elizabeth

I'm coming to catch you! (Grabs Sarah.)

(Sarah squeals and splashes her. Violetta catches Robin and they land in a heap. Harry scowls.)

Sarah

Robin, don't drown!

(Robin emerges from the pool dripping like a drowned rat but grinning. Bells start ringing from the top of one of the towers.)

billy

Tea time!

sarah

(Noticing for the first time) God, they won't like us being so wet, will they?

robin

I'll walk back with you, Vi.

(Harry scowls again.)

violetta

But you live in the opposite direction from me!

robin

It doesn't matter. My folks never mind if I'm a bit late. And I've something to show you.

elizabeth

Can I come?

robin

No.

violetta

All right, you can come home with me.

(Billy mooches off with Elizabeth. Sarah goes the other way, and Harry sits on the edge of the fountain, scowling.)

scene 3: artificial jungle

(Here, the ground slopes down towards the edge of the dome, and a jungle has been planted between the buildings. The walkways and viewing platforms are built of bamboo. A sheer waterfall descends a cliff into a sequence of artistically arranged pools at the bottom. Robin and Elizabeth approach the top of the waterfall, holding hands. Robin begins to scramble down behind it. Elizabeth hesitates.)

robin

Come on!

violetta

It's too high.

(Robin puts him arm round her waist.)

robin

I won't let you fall down.

(He leaps down like a mountain goat. She clambers down after him, holding his arm. They land on a ledge, behind a sheet of water. Here is a little bunch of forget-me-nots growing out of the cliff.)

violetta

Wild flowers! How did they get in here?

robin

Sometimes wild seeds get in through cracks in the dome. (Hesitates and blushes.) They're for you.

violetta

Thank you.

(He picks them and threads them round her neck. The Monkees' "Daydream Believer" begins.)

robin

(Satisfied.) You look really nice in them. (Puzzled, thoughtful) You always look nice.

violetta

Thank you.

robin

(Anxiously) You don't like Harry, do you?

violetta

No. I like you. I've liked you ever since you gave me that pink sugar mouse.

harry

All right. I… I like you for always.

(Violetta solemnly kisses him on the cheek. Harry drops onto the ledge behind the waterfall.)

violetta

(Horrified) Harry!

(Music stops.)

harry

Hello Robin, Vi.

violetta

Don't call me that.

harry

I see. Only he calls you that.

robin

What are you doing here?

harry

Nothing, just walking about a public park. But don't forget your mother told you not to play behind the waterfall, Violetta. (Nods in an adult kind of way.)

violetta

(Flushes, bites her lip.) Mother isn't here.

harry

(Thoughtfully) No, she isn't, is she?

robin

(Losing his temper) Go away!

harry

Don't I have as much right to be here as you do? I haven't done any harm. I was just telling Violetta to remember that she's not supposed to be here. (Eyes wide in mock innocence) I'm trying to be helpful…

robin

I'm bloody well fed up of you.

(Robin springs on Harry and they begin fighting. Violetta is horrified. Harry shoves Robin backwards over the edge.)

violetta

Robin!

(Violetta lies flat on the edge, grabs Robin's hands and hauls him, wet and spluttering, over the ledge. By the time they both collapse panting on the wet ledge, Harry has vanished.)

scene 4: lee family house

(A big whitewashed villa standing on a rolling lawn. A flight of marble steps leads to the front door. Here Mr Johnathan and Mrs Martha Lee reside. They are now standing on the front steps. Mr Johnathan Lee is tall, strong, middle-aged, with greying hair. Mrs Martha Lee, also middle-aged, is wearing a black dress and a tight bun. Violetta, dripping and sorrowful, is standing in front of them, her flower chain still hanging round her neck. A clockwork maid is dragging Isobel along by the arm. Isobel looks sulky and is still clutching her book.)

martha

(To Violetta) You're late.

violetta

Sorry, Aunt Martha.

martha

(To Isobel) From you it no longer surprises me, but I expected better (to Violetta) from you. Where were you?

violetta

Playing in the fountain, Aunt Martha. With Billy and Sarah-

martha

You're grounded until you learn how to listen to a bell. (To Isobel) And where were— No, actually, I don't want to know.

(Martha turns and sweeps into the house. Johnathan and Violetta follow her. The clockwork maid drags Isobel. They cross a high-ceilinged hall with a flag-stone floor.)

johnathan

(To Martha) Violetta needs a shower and some new clothes before tea, dear.

martha

Quite right. Violetta, go and take a shower and put some clean clothes on.

VIOLETTA

Yes, Aunt Martha.

scene 5: the dining room

(A big dining room with a long mahogany table and huge, overdone silverware. Johnathan is sitting at the head of the table. Martha, Violetta (in a fresh dress) and Isobel (who has removed her sword) are sitting around the table. A clockwork maid stands in the corner.

The family eat in awkward silence for a while. Isobel keeps glancing down to her lap.)

martha

Do you have a book there, Isobel?

(Isobel silently takes the book out of her lap, puts a book-mark in it and hands it to the clockwork maid. More silent eating.)

johnathan

Hanly has a new mare in.

martha

Well, I hope she's better than the last one.

johnathan

That won't be difficult. If they have four feet and a tail, she's doing better than the last one.

martha

Well, I hope this year's clutch fetches a higher price than last year's.

johnathan

(Sighing and shaking his head) I don't know. I just don't know. The bottom's really fallen out of the hippogriff market these past few years.

isobel

You should race them, father. Lionel won thirteen credits on the griffs last week, but he says the real winners are the owners.

johnathan

Race them? The day I stoop to gambling, my girl, will be the day Hell freezes over.

isobel

When will that be, and can we go skating?

martha

Who's this Lionel anyway? One of Robin Jackson's disreputable friends?

isobel

Yes.

(Martha snorts and returns to her meal. Conversation has been killed. The scene shifts to everyone's plates being slightly emptier, implying that several minutes have passed, and the family is still just as silent.)

isobel

(Remembering) Father, may I go to the theatre tomorrow?

johnathan

(To Martha) May she, dear?

martha

No.

johnathan

(In his best "head of the family" manner) No, you certainly may not.

(Silence falls around the table again.)

scene 6: The flat roof

(Night time. Isobel is sitting on a flat roof at the back of the villa, with a lamp which is in fact a little sponge soaked in nectar, with bioluminescent insects floating round it. She's wearing a night gown. A shadowy figure balances easily along the edge of the roof of the villa opposite, jumps into a tree overhanging the street, shuffles along the branch and jumps off again on the flat roof near Isobel, all with practised skill. The lamplight falls on the figure's face. It's Robin.)

robin

I saw your kite. I came at once.

isobel

Where were you today?

robin

I was playing with Violetta and some-

isobel

Violetta? Why would you want to play with her? She's stupid and boring.

robin

She is not!

isobel

She can't climb or fight.

robin

That's true, but she… she sort of looks nice…

isobel

Does she?

robin

Yeah. She's a bit soppy, but she's soppy in a nice why.

isobel

But you didn't play with her because you thought I'd gone soft or anything, right?

robin

Oh no.

isobel

I'm your blood sister, right?

robin

Yes, you're my best friend. (Isobel looks reassured) Did Vi get into trouble for being late?

isobel

A bit. She's grounded. I told her to use the porch roof, but she's afraid to. Did you make her late?

robin

Yes. Will you give her this, to say I'm sorry? (Pushes a note into Isobel's hand.)

isobel

Yes. Oh, Father says I can't go to the theatre tomorrow, so I'll climb over the roofs and meet you in the usual place on top of the lobby.

robin

I'll see you tomorrow, then.

(Robin slips away and Isobel pads back along the roof, up the slant of the tiles and in though a window where a light burns dimly.)

scene 7: Identical opening

(The lamp still burns in the window. Violetta, now a pretty young woman in a pale blue dress, goes to the window and looks out.

Caption: Eight years later.

Zooms in on the window.)

violetta

(Laughing) There's Billy in the road again.

(Isobel is in the room behind her, fixing her make-up in the dressing-table mirror. She's also grown into a pretty young woman, with a few scars on her face and arms, in a bright pink dress with ringlets of hair falling out of her elaborate bun around her face. In the room are two beds, a large wardrobe, a dressing table and two bedside tables, both with nectar-lamps, one with half-finished embroidery and one with a stack of books and half-dismembered flintlock pistol.)

isobel

Is our door knocker really that terrifying?

(Grown-up Billy is standing in the road, wearing a jacket and carrying a lantern. Violetta laughs and waves. Billy waves back. Violetta jabs her finger towards the front door.)

violetta

It is a pretty hideous pot cherub.

isobel

Where are you going?

violetta

Nowhere, I wasn't expecting him. Bloody idiot probably got the date wrong, he's lucky not to find me in my night dress. I'll go and let him in… (Over her shoulder as she walks out the door) Where are you going dolled up to the nines?

(Isobel picks up her sword and follows Violetta out onto the corridor which runs along the back of the hall. A great marble staircase leads down into the hall.)

isobel

Where aren't I going?

(Violetta hurries down the stairs and wrenches the front door open. A clockwork maid jangles forward out the shadows.)

violetta

(Calling to Billy) Come in before you freeze. (To the maid) I'll look after him.

(Maid retreats. Billy comes in. Violetta shuts the door.)

martha

(From upstairs) Who is it?

violetta

Only Billy— Mr Ashly, you know.

billy

(Looking shifty) Can I talk you? (Looks at Isobel) Alone.

violetta

(Looking bewildered) Of course…

isobel

(Knowing smile) He probably wants you to help bury a body.

(Violetta frowns at Isobel. Billy looks terrified. Violetta shows him into the parlour. Isobel sits on the bottom step of the staircase, still smiling knowingly.)

scene 8: the parlour

(A lot of stiff brocade furniture. Some glass flowers on a sideboard, a case of ugly stuffed animals on top of the book case. A fireplace with a delicate little ormolu clock on the mantlepiece. Violetta gestures for Billy to take a seat. They sit down opposite each other.

Silence.)

violetta

Pleasant evening.

billy

(Looking more and more terrified) Yes.

violetta

How's the estate?

billy

Estate?

violetta

(Impatiently) The cattle?

billy

Cattle?

violetta

(Amused) Yes, your father's settled half the cattle ranch on you.

billy

Oh, yes, the cattle… excellent… cattle-like…

violetta

Did you hear about Sarah?

billy

(Looking terrified) No. Yes. Who?

violetta

Is something wrong, Billy?

billy

No. It's my lucky day.

violetta

Is it?

billy

Yes. Periscope said so. Otherwise I wouldn't have dared.

violetta

Wouldn't have dared to do what? The word is horoscope… by the way…

billy

To come and see you. We have two butter-dishes, you see, and even though we only have three saucepans, when we sell this year's stock, we'll have more money. And I bought a new ladle. Look! (He produces a ladle)

violetta

It's very nice.

billy

I'm glad you like it, because mother says you can never have too many kitchen utensils when setting up house with a young lady.

violetta

Are you planning on setting up house with a young lady, Billy?

billy

Goodness! I clean forgot to ask you, didn't I?

violetta

Ask me what?

billy

(Going on his knees, blurting) Will you marry me? I mean… will you please marry me?

(The third chorus (sixth verse) of Three Dog Night's "An Old-Fashioned Love Song" starts.)

violetta

(Flinging herself into his arms, crying) Yes! Yes, yes, yes!

billy

Good-ho (Begins fumbling in his trouser pockets, pulls out a piece of string, a fish hook, a tin of pilchards, a rubber band bouncy ball, and, eventually, an engagement ring)

(Violetta gasps with joy at the sight of the ring. Billy puts it on her finger. He stands up, picks her up, and bridal carries her out of the door. Isobel jumps up, squeals, snatches her out of his arms and nearly suffocates her.)

isobel

Congratulations!

violetta

(As soon as she can breathe again) I haven't said anything yet…

isobel

He doesn't normally look that terrified. And why else would he want to talk to you alone in the parlour? (Hugs Billy) You did that heroically, Billy.

billy

(Looking exhausted) Thank you.

(Martha and Johnathan enter. Billy looks even more terrified.)

billy

(To Johnathan) Sir, I've come… I've come… sir… I've come…

isobel

To ask for the honour of your beautiful and accomplished niece's hand in marriage.

johnathan

I'm (looks at Martha, who nods quickly) I'm honoured… to be asked for the honour… erm… she couldn't go to a better one…

isobel

I have not lost a niece, but gained a nephew.

johnathan

(To Isobel) Ah, thank you.

(Johnathan and Billy shake hands. Billy kisses Martha's hand, who formally kisses him on both cheeks. Isobel hugs everybody again, Billy and Violetta can't tear themselves apart.)

violetta

(To Isobel) Don't you have somewhere to be?

isobel

Nowhere that couldn't wait. Once Robin enters that bar it's pretty hard to dislodge him. I won't be back until after civilised people have gone to bed, so see you tomorrow.

(Isobel crushes the happy couple again, and dashes out the door. Music fades.)

scene 9: the bar

(The shores of a lake, surrounded by trees, illuminated by the lights of the nearby cafes and bars. Near the trees is a stump. Isobel, wearing her pink dress, with a sword and a velvet purse hanging from her little silver belt, strides across the lawn to the tree stump and kicks it. It slides back, revealing a near-vertical stair case leading straight down into the Earth. Isobel descends the stairs, which spiral tightly.

At the bottom of the stairs is a tunnel. The tunnel leads underground at first, then under the lake, and is completely glass, so the colourful fish are clearly visible. The bar at the end of the tunnel, on the lake bed, is a giant glass dome, with a dance floor, several elegant little wrought iron tables and chairs, and a bar with high stools.

Young people are pair-dancing to energetic fiddle music, the men with the swords brandishing bouquets at the fan-waving ladies. At the tables, several groups of people are playing cards. A few people in the back corner are watching a sword fight, but most people are entirely uninterested. The bar-man is wearing an expensive velvet jacket and has done well out of life— prosperous, ex rogue, good business head.

Robin is perched on a bar stool, with a tiny triceratops, Trixie, at his feet, the lead looped round his wrist, and a shot glass in his hand.)

robin

I was starting to think you'd joined total abstinence.

(Isobel plops onto the stool next to him. Trixie stands up on her hind legs, so she scoops her up onto her lap.)

isobel

Guess.

robin

You got into a fight?

isobel

See any blood? (To the barman) Whiskey, please.

robin

You're that good a fighter? You were approached by a mysterious stranger offering you a bottle of champagne for stealing a cursed skull from subaqueous cave?

isobel

(Downing her shot) And would I have refused?

robin

I'm still waiting for you to produce the skull. All right, you were delayed by an urgent need to kill someone?

isobel

Don't be daft.

robin

I give in.

isobel

Vi said I do.

robin

To Billy?

isobel

Who else?

robin

Tell her congratulations. What a smashing excuse for a drink. (To the bar man) Two more please.

(The bar man pushes two shots across the bar.)

isobel

To the happy couple.

robin

The happy couple.

(They down the shots.)

robin

(To the bar man) Pint please.

isobel

And me.

robin

(To a passing girl) Hello, angel. Where have you been all my life?

(She rolls her eyes at him. He doesn't care, he's already looking at the next girl walking past. Isobel is openly smirking.)

isobel

You're going to have to try harder than that.

robin

(To Isobel) Effort? What does that mean? You know me, idle to the bone. (To a passing girl) Hello, lady…

(She ignores him. Robin continues eying up girls. Isobel looks increasingly amused. A blonde girl flops onto the bar stool next to Robin.)

blonde

(To the bar man) Lager please.

robin

I'll get it, Miss.

blonde

(Looks him over critically) Nah.

(Robin looks at Isobel and shrugs. She gives him a "hard luck" expression. The blonde takes her drink and moves away.)

robin

(Gaping towards the tunnel mouth) I've found her!

isobel

(As if she already knows the answer) Who?

robin

The love of my life.

(Audrey approaches the bar. Isobel snorts.)

robin

Fancy meeting you here!

audrey

We don't know each other.

robin

We don't? Then how do I…? Of course, you must be that famous… er… singer…

audrey

My name's Audrey and I sing like a donkey.

robin

My mistake. But who needs to sing when they have such beautiful eyes, like mountain lakes?

(Isobel is snorting into her drink. Robin frowns at her.)

isobel

(Mouths) They're just eyes…!

robin

Robin Jackson, at your service. (Kisses her hand.)

(Isobel rolls her eyes.)

audrey

Charmed. Well, it'll do, as my young man's in disgrace for practising sword fighting with my third-best parasol.

(Cut to later in the evening. The fiddle music is wilder, the couples on the dance floor lost in each other's eyes. Robin, surrounded by a small group of girls, including Audrey, is holding court, while Isobel sits behind him shaking her head. Trixie has slipped her leash and is bopping away on the dance floor.)

robin

(Slightly drunkenly, to one of the girls) You know, I think I spent my whole life searching for you.

(Isobel raises her eyebrows and jabs her finger at the ceiling— more!)

robin

I think… I spent the whole of my previous lives searching for you as well…

(The girl makes doe eyes, Isobel gives him the thumbs up.)

one of the other girls

I devote my entire future life to you, Robin!

robin

Madam, I have no deeper wish (Isobel recognises the speech as one he's made before, rolls her eyes and starts lip-syncing along) than to cherish, honour and serve such a beautiful and noble woman for the rest of my days.

(Cut to later in the evening. Robin, with a girl on each side, Isobel and two other young men are playing cards round a table. Trixie is rolling around on Robin's lap, chewing at his shirt front.)

robin

Four. (Throws down a card.)

isobel

(Teasing) Careful, careful… Six, half moons. (Throws down two cards. The other players look at her admiringly.)

young man one

Two of daggers. (Throws down a card. Everyone pushes money towards Isobel.)

young man two

Ace. (The remaining money in the pot is pushed towards him. To Robin) I've cleared you out.

(Robin thinks for a moment, takes off his shirt and throws it onto the table. Isobel rolls her eyes.)

robin

No, you haven't. Two demons and a king of daggers.

isobel

All four remaining kings.

young man one

(Smirking) I've got an ace.

isobel

(Smirking) Oh wait… so have I… (Sweeps all the money and Robin's shirt off the table.)

(Cut to Robin and Isobel staggering drunkenly along the lake shore, laughing, Trixie skipping at their heels.)

robin

It was not a failure, it was… differently successful.

isobel

You can have your shirt back if you like.

robin

Not at all madam. Tis a debt of honour.

scene 10: the girls' bedroom

(Morning light shines through the window. Violetta wakes up, wearing a white night dress. Isobel is standing in front of the dressing table, wearing a blue cotton dress, putting on make-up.)

violetta

Have you only just got back?

isobel

No, I've got back, been to bed and got up again.

violetta

And what have you been up to? Just the bits I want to know…

isobel

Wingwomaning the ongoing soap opera of Robin Jackson trying to pick up girls.

violetta

Did he get very far?

isobel

Does he ever? No, the real question, does he really want to?

violetta

Where are you off to?

isobel

My stabbing people club. You know mother doesn't let me sword fight in the bed-room since…

violetta

(Giggling) Quite. I think I'll trim a table cloth.

isobel

(Excited) For your bottom drawer?

(Violetta just nods speechlessly, grinning all over her face. Isobel grabs her, hugs her and walks out.)

isobel

See you.

scene 11: LEE family house

(The front door bell rings. The clockwork maid answers. Harry is there. He has grown into a handsome young man, with expensive but sober clothes.)

harry

Miss Isobel has gone out?

(The clockwork maid nods.)

harry

Is Mr Lee in?

(The clockwork maid shakes her head.)

harry

Is Mrs Lee in?

(The maid shakes her head.)

harry

(Smiling) Then I'll talk to Miss Violetta.

(The maid shows him into the hall and waves him into the parlour. He sits quite at ease, looking around and smiling to himself. After a moment, Violetta enters. She looks surprised to see him there.)

harry

(Stands up) Good afternoon.

violetta

Good afternoon, Mr Edmundson. (They both sit down.)

harry

Call me Harry.

violetta

(Surprised and a little doubtful) If you insist. Can I offer you a drink?

harry

Oh, no thank you. This won't take long.

violetta

What won't?

harry

(Innocently) Simply to offer my congratulations.

violetta

Thank you.

harry

I trust you have many happy years ahead of you.

violetta

Thank you.

harry

Though who knows? The heart is fickle, is it not?

violetta

I hope you are not implying that I'd leave Bi— Mr Ashly for another.

harry

(Smiling) Not at all. Mr Ashly is the other, as I recall.

violetta

(Sharply) What do you mean?

harry

Does the name Robin Jackson mean anything to you?

violetta

He's Isobel's friend.

harry

At one time he was yours.

violetta

We were children together.

harry

But you like him for always, don't you?

violetta

(Scornful but anxious) Don't be absurd.

harry

Do you think Mr Ashly will find it absurd?

violetta

(Doubtfully) I'm sure he would.

harry

Suppose I tell him and find out?

violetta

(Horrified) You wouldn't!

harry

(Laughing) Not so sure, now, are you?

violetta

It would look very petty and intrusive of you.

harry

And what would you look like? (Silence) Loose? A player?

violetta

What is it to you if I do?

harry

I just think that Mr Ashly ought to know the truth about his wife.

violetta

So you're acting solely as a pillar of morality?

harry

You sound sceptical.

violetta

I'm not the only one in my position. Are you in the habit of raking up young ladies' pasts? Why me?

harry

You may be aware that I have a good position, and a few savings set by. I have long considered taking a wife, whom I could amply support. However, in recent months, the estate has been in difficulties. I won't bother you with the details. Suffice to say, in a month I could go entirely bust.

violetta

I haven't heard any of this.

harry

It's not information a careful businessman should spread around.

violetta

A careful businessman wouldn't get his estates into such straits in the first place.

harry

What do you know about business, Miss Lee?

(Violetta says nothing.)

harry

As I was saying, in a month, I could go entirely bust. Fortunately, however, it's customary for the bride's father to settle a lump sum on her at her wedding.

violetta

Ah.

harry

Ah, indeed. I see you're as intelligent as you are beautiful and charming. And that you quite understand the position.

violetta

I quite understand. Blackmail! My body for your silence.

harry

Not blackmail. A business proposition.

violetta

You talk as if I were a street walker.

harry

Well… when you act like it.

(Violetta jumps up and slaps Harry in the face. Harry hardly seems to notice. He just sighs and rolls his eyes.)

harry

There's no call for hysterics, woman. If lifelong security in an elegant four-story mansion-

violetta

Stop talking like an estate agent, please.

harry

(Ignoring her) Doesn't suit, you'll simply have to acquire the thousand pounds some other way.

violetta

(The tears begin to come) How?

harry

Not my problem, Miss Lee. Your aunt and uncle are fairly well-to-do, I believe.

violetta

Are you suggesting I steal from my aunt and uncle, now?

harry

You of all people really shouldn't sound so morally righteous, should you?

violetta

(Tears brimming up, fighting them down.) I don't believe you would really tell him.

harry

Why not?

violetta

Because it wouldn't be kind… it wouldn't be decent… (Unable to control the tears) Please leave, or I'll ring the maid.

harry

My pleasure. I expect a thousand credits at the end of the week. Simply deliver it through the post. Good day, madam.

violetta

I won't give you any beastly money! (Successfully controls the tears and looks quite dignified)

(Harry bows politely, smiles and leaves. Violetta sinks down fainting into the chair.)

scene 12: later

(The hands on the clock have moved, the sun is setting and streaming through the window. Violetta is sitting in the chair. The tablecloth is on her lap, but she is staring down at her hands, chewing on her lip. Enter Martha.)

martha

Are you all right, there, Violetta?

violetta

(Jumps in her chair.) Yes, thank you.

(Martha leaves. Violetta returns to her thoughts.)

scene 13: dining room

Caption: Five days later.

The four Lees are sitting in the same positions as they were eight years ago. Isobel, Martha and Johnathan are heartily eating dinner, but Violetta has no appetite.

martha

Are you all right?

violetta

(Without looking up) Yes. Thank you.

martha

You haven't quarrelled with Mr Ashly, have you?

violetta

God, no!

martha

Because if you have any doubts, well, I did quite fancy a match between you and Mr Edmundson when you were younger. He's a skilled and prosperous landowner and a thoroughly decent young man.

violetta

(Horrified) No! I won't!

martha

All right, calm down, it was only a suggestion.

scene 14: The girls' bedroom

(Evening. The nectar lamps are crawling with little glowers. The girls are in their nightgowns. Isobel is sitting up in bed, reading a book. Violetta has embroidery on her lap, but she isn't doing it, she's staring into the lamp light, gnawing her lip.)

isobel

Are you all right?

(Violetta shrugs.)

isobel

Are you tired?

violetta

I can't sleep.

isobel

Why not?

(Silence)

isobel

Are you unwell?

(Violetta shakes her head.)

isobel

You hardly ate anything at dinner.

(Silence)

isobel

Are you upset about something?

(Silence. Violetta visibly distressed.)

isobel

You can tell me.

violetta

Anything?

isobel

Anything.

violetta

Do you promise not to tell anyone else?

isobel

Not even mother and father?

Violetta

Especially not aunt Martha and uncle Johnathan.

isobel

All right.

violetta

Promise?

isobel

I promise.

violetta

I'm gonna need a drink.

isobel

Here.

(Isobel pours whiskey into two glasses and passes one to Violetta. Violetta downs it. Isobel sits on the bed next to her and sips.)

violetta

You know years ago, when we were kids, I was sweet on Robin Jackson?

isobel

Sure. He gave you a pink sugar mouse.

violetta

Yes, and then the next day he went with me and we played together. And…

isobel

Was that the time he was nearly killed falling off a waterfall?

violetta

Yes. And… (bursts into tears) Oh, God, Harry Edmundson found us there!

isobel

I don't understand how any of this matters, now.

violetta

He wants money.

isobel

Ah.

violetta

You don't seem very surprised.

isobel

I knew he was a rotter, even when we were kids.

violetta

Really? He always seemed so… so… so proper…

isobel

How much money?

violetta

(Biting her lip bloody) A thousand credits.

isobel

By?

violetta

Monday. Oh, God, how do I find the money? Where? If I were to sell the clothes off my back I couldn't raise a thousand credits…

isobel

You're not going to raise the money. You're not going to give in to him.

violetta

But he'll go to Billy! He'll go to everyone! The wedding'll be off, and I want to marry Billy so bad, I do…

ISOBEL

And you shall marry him.

violetta

(Not listening) My name'll be mud, I'll be thrown out of the house…

isobel

You won't.

violetta

You know Uncle Johnathan! He will! And he and aunt have been so generous, I don't want to disappoint them… It's not fair, it's not fair… I'm not the only one, I only got caught… It didn't mean anything, it was a childhood fling…

isobel

A fling's not the end of the world. Look at Robin, he plays the field and gets away with it.

violetta

It's all right for him. He has no family.

isobel

I'm sure he's delighted to be an orphaned bastard. (Thinks) Actually, he probably is.

violetta

I just wanted to be married. In white. With confetti. I wanted a future like other girls.

isobel

Please don't cry. (Hugs her)

violetta

But I'm ruined! Ruined! If you had lost everything, wouldn't you cry?

isobel

You haven't lost everything. Not yet. (Unwraps her arms from Violetta and stands up. She picks up her leather belt (sword, flintlock, keyring, purse) from the back of the door, and fastens it round her waist.)

violetta

(Tear-blotched and panicky) Where are you going?

isobel

(Pulling on a pair of sandals.) To speak to Mr Edmundson and make him see sense.

violetta

In your night-dress?

isobel

In my night-dress. Night.

(She leaves, slamming the door.)

scene 15: the city

(The Shirelles' "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" starts to play. Isobel walks calmly and purposefully though the dark, night-time avenues, between the trees hung with nectar lamps. There are a few other pedestrians, most of the women in brightly coloured party dresses. A few couples are giggling and flirting between the trees. Some carriages roll home.

scene 16: Harry's house

(A manor in rolling park-land. It's night-time, but the moon is high above the glass dome and the nectar lamps illuminate the front of the mansion. Isobel strides up the drive and rings the door-bell. The music fades. A clockwork maid wearing a black dress opens it.)

isobel

Miss Isobel Lee to see Mr Edmundson.

(The maid rifles through a pile of stiff white cards with writing on them, until she finds the phrase "The master is engaged". Isobel pushes past the maid into the hall, and thence into the parlour, a large, sombrely-furnished room, with very upright chairs. Harry and a few other young men in evening dress are playing cards and drinking port. They look up as she comes in. Harry is briefly disconcerted, but quickly sneers.)

harry

To what do I owe the pleasure of your presence in my parlour in the small hours and your night-dress?

(A few of the other men laugh.)

isobel

I have urgent private business.

harry

I'm otherwise engaged.

isobel

It won't take a minute.

harry

(Sighing) Very well.

(Harry escorts Isobel out of the room, upstairs and into the study.)

scene 17: the study

(Leather chairs, a case of taxidermy. Dark wood furniture. Not many books or much sign of actual studying. Harry shuts the door. They both remain standing up.)

harry

To repeat, to what do I owe the pleasure of your presence in my parlour in the small hours and your night-dress?

isobel

(Viciously) You make me sick.

harry

(Not even trying to be convincing, smirking) I don't know what you're talking about.

isobel

I think you do.

harry

We'll suppose, for the purpose of the argument, that I don't.

isobel

(Coldly) You are revolting. You are a foul, pathetic vampire.

(Harry laughs)

isobel

You don't even have the decency to be properly ashamed of yourself.

harry

I think it's your little cousin who needs to be ashamed of herself.

isobel

So you do know what I'm talking about.

harry

Listening to your character assassinations became tedious.

isobel

(Calmly and clearly) Vi's a good girl. And Billy's a good man. They deserve a happy life.

harry

Did you come here to preach? Because that's futile.

isobel

No. I came here to kill you. (Pulls out her flintlock.)

(Harry looks outraged. "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?" begins playing again.)

isobel

I just wanted you to understand why I'm doing it. (Pulls the trigger.)

(The bullet lodges in Harry's chest. He stands looking outraged for a moment, then falls dead. Isobel reloads the flintlock and shoves it back in the holster. Music fades. Isobel steps over the corpse, holding the edge of her nightdress out of the blood. She climbs out onto the window ledge and thence into a tree. Slowly and carefully, she climbs down the tree to the ground. Then she begins to run. She runs across the rolling parkland in the moon light, then slows down and walks. The first few lines of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" play as she walks down an avenue, across a plaza and into a railway station.)

scene 18: The railway station

(Music fades. The station is very elegant, with lots of white marble and curving columns, but dark and almost deserted. The tracks run out of the station and up into the sky. Between two columns is a big mahogany desk where a sleepy clerk in an old-fashioned railway porter's uniform is sitting. Isobel approaches him.)

isobel

Am I too late for the asteroid belt?

clerk

The asteroid belt leaves in five minutes.

isobel

How much for a ticket?

clerk

Three and a half credits.

isobel

(Pulls three credits out of her purse) This is all I have, sir.

clerk

It's not enough. Sorry, miss.

isobel

(Thinks) I'll give you the purse. (She takes out some bits of string and a few buttons and pins from the purse and rams them into her holster.)

clerk

(Doubtfully) I'm not sure we can accept payments-in-kind.

isobel

(A touch of desperation) It's a good purse, sir, it's good leather.

clerk

I don't think-

isobel

Please sir, I need to get to get to the asteroid belt. It's very urgent. If you give me the ticket, I'll be eternally grateful.

clark

Very well. (He takes the money and the purse from her hand and gives her the ticket.)

isobel

Thank you very much.

(Isobel sits on a bench by the platform edge and tucks the ticket into her holster. The station is very quiet. A few people are standing on the platform on the other side of the tracks, but that's all. Presently, a dark red steam train with gleaming brass fittings pulls in, clattering noisily and puffing steam all over the station. Isobel climbs onboard.)

scene 19: The train

The train is furnished like the steam sleeper trains in the early twentieth century. Pile carpets on the floors, wooden fittings gleaming with polish. Isobel sits in an empty compartment with a folding seat/bed and a luggage rack. She pushes down the window blind and exhales quietly.

The train screeches and nosily lets off steam. Then it leaves the station and accelerates along the track into the night sky.

scene 20: Later

The train hurtles along the track, against a back drop of stars, meteors and supernovae. Cut to inside the compartment. Isobel has folded the bed out and is lying awake. She has opened the blind and stares out at the stars. She takes her keys from her belt, opens the window and throws them out into space. Then she shuts the window and closes her eyes, but soon opens them again and continues staring out into space.

scene 21: the asteroid belt

The other end of the track is a flat patch of dusty ground suspended in space. The railway clerk doesn't even have a desk, just a folding stool and a tin bucket. The sunlight is bright and harsh. A few space ships (eighteenth-century sailing ships which can somehow fly) are parked on the other side of the patch of ground.

At the other end of the patch of ground is a wooden hut with a weathered sign reading "Galactic Surveyors". Here is a bored and sleepy clerk. Behind the hut is a battered old wooden sailing ship, with her sails furled at the moment, and the name "Esperanza" written across her bows.

There are few people— some sailors packing boxes, a ragged woman with two small children sitting on a pile of crates, a few dead-eyed victims of fate.

Isobel approaches the hut.

isobel

Good morning.

clerk

Morning.

isobel

I'd like to join the Galactic Surveyors, please.

clerk

(Becoming more animate) Sign the form, please. (Pulls out a scroll and unrolls it on the desk.)

isobel

I don't have a pen, sir.

(Clerk pushes a pen across the desk. Isobel considers the form. It says, in beautiful calligraphic script, "Surname", "First name" and "Signature". That's all. The clerk sees her frowning and laughs.)

clerk

Take your time, miss, today's the first day of the rest of your life.

(Isobel grins and fills in "Sauvage", "Belle" and signs, sweepingly, "Belle Sauvage". She passes the form and the pen back to the clerk, who looks at what she's written, raises his eyebrows and nods approvingly.)

clerk

You're in luck, miss, Esperanza's just leaving for the unexplored Western Spiral Arm. Go and report to the captain.

isobel

Thank you.

scene 22: Espernza

(Isobel ascends the gang plank to Esperanza's deck. She's square-rigged, scrubbed and polished, but old and worn. About a dozen men are hanging around on the deck. They are all ages, they're clothes are clean but old and shabby, most of them are bare-foot, they have grim faces and dull eyes. A few of them are passing round a bottle of booze. Some smile vaguely at Isobel. The captain arrives on deck and glares at the men.)

captain

(Coldly) Put the bottle down! It's nine in the morning.

(The men quickly stow the bottle away.)

captain

Wayne, sails. Jefferson, anchor.

jefferson

Are we leaving, sir?

captain

Perceptive, aren't you? Yes, we're leaving. Now, get to it.

(The men begin scrambling over the deck to ready the ship for launch.)

captain

Smith- (He notices Isobel for the first time.) What are you doing here?

isobel

I'm the new recruit.

captain

Have you any luggage, new recruit?

isobel

No, sir.

captain

Then winch up the anchor.

(The sails billow out.)

isobel

How?

captain

Do you know nothing about sailing?

isobel

Nothing whatsoever, sir.

captain

Typical. Go to the stern and help Myers to winch up the anchor.

(Isobel goes to the stern, where Myers, a big, sturdy man, is at the anchor winch.)

isobel

Good morning.

myers

(Gruff but not unkind) Morning, miss.

ISOBEL

What do I do?

myers

Just grab that handle and turn it this way.

(Isobel sets to winching.)

captain

Smith, set course for the Western Spiral Arm!

three men

Which Smith?

captain

Whichever!

(The sails fill. Esperanza pulls away from the floating patch of land. A few of the men cheer, others look longingly back towards land, some look indifferently glum. Myers shrugs, wipes his hands on his trousers, nods to Isobel and walks away. Isobel is drawn to the ship's rail in the bows, the chorus of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop" begins to play as she stands there and looks out, at the multi-coloured stars ahead of them. Then she climbs up onto the bottom rung of the rail and leans over.)

captain

What are you doing? You're paid to work, not gawp at the scenery!

(Music cuts)

isobel

I didn't realise Galactic Surveyors are paid.

captain

Well, for the past three years you haven't been, because head office forgets, but who'd waste money on dead men walking? Come and learn about sails.

(Isobel grins.)

captain

Sails are not exciting! (To himself) Do some of these people think they're on holiday?

isobel

I try to make the best of things, sir.

captain

Any more optimism from you and I throw you over the rail.

(The captain leads Isobel along the deck. A few sailors bustle around shouting and pulling on ropes.)

Captain

This here is the mizzen-mast…

(The cabin boy appears from behind a barrel. He's about twelve years old, bare-foot, with patched breeches. He grins at Isobel and blushes deeply.)

isobel

Hello, plucky middy!

cabin boy

I'm the cabin boy, miss.

captain

Boy! To work!

Cabin boy

(Guiltily) Yes, sir.

captain

This is the main mast…

(Isobel and the captain come to the foremast, where Inkwell is rattling down. Inkwell is in his fifties, but strong still. He smiles at Isobel.)

captain

Isn't Smith supposed to be with you, Inkwell? You know, the drunk Smith. Well, they're all… you know which I mean.

inkwell

He's ill, sir.

captain

Ill! I know what it bloody well means when he's ill! (Starts to storm off, then wheels round.) New recruit! Rattle down! (Storms off.)

inkwell

Morning, missy. Desk Inkwell, pleased to meet you.

Isobel

Belle Sauvage, pleased to meet you.

(They shake hands.)

inkwell

You new?

isobel

Yes, sir.

inkwell

(Taking up the rattling stuff and returning to work) The only person you call "sir" on this ship is the dragon.

isobel

The captain?

inkwell

Aye. Don't know what his name is. Never told anyone.

isobel

Not one for gossip, then?

inkwell

No. Nor jollity, companionability nor sociability.

isobel

He sounds a charmer.

inkwell

I wouldn't give a damn about his charm if he were vaguely competent, but he ain't.

isobel

(Looks around) It all seems very efficient…

inkwell

Wait till we're out in the middle of bleeding nowhere, hungry and sprung a leak, attacked by aliens, blown up, on fire…

isobel

You can really advertise this job, can't you?

inkwell

I can't lie to a nice lass like you, you're in for a wild ride, but stay on the captain's good side, don't pick a fight with a drunk, and sleep with your pistol in your hand, and there's a chance you might live this through. Oh, (gravely) and never ask anyone why he joined the Galactic Surveyors.

isobel

Can I ask why you chose Desk Inkwell, sir- I mean, Mr Inkwell?

inkwell

(Laughs) Hard to think of a pseudonym on the spur of the moment. There was a queue behind me, too, chivvying me along. I just wrote what I could see.

(Captain reappears.)

captain

Get a move on! Next slacker gets irons.

inkwell

All right, missy, just splice an eye in one end of the rope…

(Isobel tries, fumbles, tries again, succeeds.)

inkwell

And hitch it onto this next piece of stuff…

(She hitches it, carefully, biting her lip.)

inkwell

And so one down the stuff…)

(Isobel goes on hitching, hesitantly at first, but faster and faster.)

inkwell

Good, you've nimble fingers, missy.

isobel

Thanks (Goes on rattling down)

scene 23: the forecastle

(Low ceiling, light only comes in through the portholes in one wall. Bare wooden planks. Long bare wooden tables where about thirty men sit and eat bread. Some are talking and laughing, some staring into space, some scowling sullenly at the table-top. Isobel follows Inkwell into the forecastle and he sits down opposite Smythe. Smythe is a young man about Isobel's age, who smiles when she sits down.)

smythe

How do you do?

isobel

Belle Sauvage. Pleased to meet you.

(They shake hands.)

smythe

Smythe.

isobel

Not the same Smith as was ill this morning?

(The men further down the table pass lumps of bread along. Isobel takes one and begins munching.)

smythe

No, not the loony.

(The men pass down tin mugs of rum. Everyone is happier to get this than they are to get the bread, and swigs deeply.)

isobel

There seem to be rather a lot of Smiths here.

inkwell

The average fugitive from justice doesn't seem to have much imagination.

smythe

You can hardly talk, Inkwell. Miss Sauvage, now, that's a proper nomme de guerre.

man next to smythe

Nah, too obvious. The main thing is to be subtle.

smythe

How is a boat-load of Smiths subtle?

isobel

It's sexy.

man next to smythe

Don't you think it's a bit… overdone?

isobel

Nah, you gotta do the thing properly.

(Cabin boy appears behind Isobel)

cabin boy

(Solemnly) I think it's sexy. (Blushes.)

isobel

(Trying not to laugh.) Thanks, kid.

(The cabin boy sits down.)

mysterio

(Other side of Isobel) I'm Mysterio.

isobel

Now that's too obvious, mate.

(Everyone laughs)

cabin boy

Do you want to see my paper ship, miss?

isobel

I'd love to.

(The cabin boy pulls a paper ship from his breeches pocket.)

cabin boy

She's a paper ship like this, but when you do this (flips the ship inside-out, making a bird) it's a swan. I can do rabbits and all sorts. I'm trying to make one that'll turn into a rose.

(Captain hurries through the door.)

captain

Boy!

(The cabin boy jumps up guiltily and shoves his paper boat in his pocket.)

captain

Boy! Get yourself to the galley and clean the mugs and knives.

CABIN BOY

(Breathlessly) Sorry-miss-I've-got-to-go-now. (Runs off)

isobel

Nice lad.

smythe

He is. He's Smith, too, but you don't have to remember that, everyone calls him the kid.

isobel

Is he an orphan?

inkwell

No idea. He turned up here about a year ago, covered in blood, didn't speak for a month.

isobel

(Quietly) Oh.

scene 24: below decks, night

(Dark, low-ceilinged, bare wooden boards. Isobel is lying on the floor behind a make-shift screen, shivering under a thin blanket. On the other side of the make-shift screen are the men, on the floor or in hammocks. Everyone is asleep, except for someone mumbling incoherently.

Isobel is awake, with her pistol and her knife in her hand. She doesn't move.

Someone on the other side of the screen begins to sob quietly.)

voice

Shut up! Some of us are trying to sleep!

oher voice

(Calm and polite) You don't happen to have an umbrella, do you, I need one for this aardvark?

(The sobber falls silent, but the quiet mumbler carries on.)

scene 25: the map room

(The map room has large port-holes, letting in the weird-coloured light of the stars outside the window. The walls, floor and ceiling are bare wood, but the walls can barely be seen for all the maps. The maps are all different sizes—some are ridiculously small and can only be read with a magnifying glass— and are varying degrees of aging and yellowing. All the writing is in elaborate calligraphy, and large spaces around the edges of the maps are blank, or full of "here be dragons" and "here be Eldritch Abomination" signs, and little hand-paintings of weird creatures. Some of the maps concertina out for the full 3D effect of space. There are little brass and silver instruments attached to the walls, some of which look like compasses, or a bit like compasses until one notices the weird symbols around the outside of the dial, some of them are clockwork, some of them have no clear function at all.

The captain is standing by the desk in the middle of the room, studying a map unrolled on the table in front of him.)

isobel

Excuse me, sir.

captain

Enter.

isobel

Do you have any spare clothes? I only have my night-gown.

captain

You should have thought of that before eloping with your two-timing bastard.

isobel

I did not elope with a two-timing bastard!

captain

Still can't see his true colours, eh?

(Sweeps past her out of the room. Isobel shrugs, then leaves the map room. Smith is in the corridor, he is middle-aged and ragged, carrying a bottle of whiskey and scowling. He catches Isobel's arm as she passes.)

smith

You look… like someone I knew once… or maybe I'm imagining things…

(Isobel, alarmed, doesn't reply.)

smith

I see her everywhere, now, you know. And… sometimes in the night… (pulls a blade) until I want to… to die… (Waves the knife between his and Isobel's throats, holds her by the arms and pushes her against the wall) And… (quiet and vicious) Damn you girl! (Quiet but deadly rage, pushing the blade against his fingers until they bleed.) She's gone. Gone. (Lets the blade drop, his manner becomes quiet, broken.) It's a pity when things like this happen to nice girls like you. (Lets go of Isobel abruptly and shuffles off mumbling to himself, leaving Isobel shaken.)

scene 26: on deck

(Isobel and Inkwell are swabbing the deck.)

inkwell

Never mind, miss, in a few days we stop at Nerthindibla for provisions and you can get hold of something to wear. And don't mind Smith. He's as harmless as a homicidal lunatic can be.

(Smythe walks past and smiles. One of the sailors produces a tin whistle and begins to play Supergrass' "Alright".)

scene 27: the forecastle

("Alright" digetically switches. A group of sailors, Smythe, Inkwell and Isobel are sitting in the forecastle, drinking and laughing.

Cut to below-decks at night, Isobel lying awake under her blanket and the men asleep on the other side of the make-shift screen.

Cut to Isobel in the crow's nest, hanging onto the rail and leaning out.

Cut to Isobel and the other crew admiring the purple squid-like creatures which float past Esperanza.

Cut to Smith sitting on his own in the hold in the dark, holding a whiskey bottle. Isobel pauses as she passes the door of the hold and bites her lip.

Cut to Isobel and the cabin boy at the very top of the rigging, laughing.

Cut to Isobel lying awake in the dark below-decks again.

Cut to Isobel, Inkwell and Smythe in the forecastle, eating their bread and laughing.

Cut to the cabin boy standing on deck, staring off starboard. When Mysterio and another crew-man arrive, he fixes an artificial smile on his face.

Cut to Isobel lying awake in the dark below decks. Music fades, she lies there and stares at the ceiling.

scene 28: Nerthindibla

The surface of Nerthindibla is churning violet liquid, with huge geysers which sometimes have solid ground on top. Near a geyser in the middle-distance is a teetering, spidery black construction like an oil rig, possibly balanced on some form of floating platform.

On top of the nearest geyser is a large, flat patch of ground, balanced on the upthrust of the water. Everything looks primitive, home-made and worn-out. A battered sign says "Welcome to Nerthindibla! Population, 2000!", with "2000" crossed out and replaced with "1999" in hand-writing, which in turn has been crossed out and replaced with "2000 if you count the mutant aardvark". Here Esperanza is docked. There are a few other space-craft tocked the patch of land on top of the geyser: some look exactly like ocean-going sailing-ships, some are clearly based on them, some look like fighter-planes, but with strange numbers of wings in strange places, some are circular with random, spiralling arms in all directions, one looks like a nautilus shell. Near the space-craft is a corrugated-iron shed, labelled "Community Assistance Shed". At the other end of the patch of land is a building like a petrol station, with a battered sign saying "ENERGY PELLETS: monolithium 2.50 Credits/L, drilithium 3.00 Credits/L, ∞lithium 4.00 Credits/L". Next to this is a long, low wooden bar with the sound of country music spilling out. The sign on the roof reads "Blue Bell" and in slightly smaller letters "You are reaching the end of the known universe. If you wish to continue, please ensure that your sails and anchor have been serviced and your insurance is up-to-date."

In the purple sky are distant space-craft and distant alien birds— multi-coloured, iridescent, with strange numbers of legs or mammalian tails.

Cut to the interior of the Blue Bell. A long, bare wooden room. The bar runs along the back wall, with lots of taps and shelves of bottles behind. At the end of the room, a door, labelled "Beer Garden(ish)" leads out to the edge of the ground. There are a few stools at the bar and some wooden tables in the middle of the room, covered with stains and knife gougings. The bar-man is a big, furry, six-armed bipedal honey-coloured badger, cleaning glasses. An old-fashioned radio on the bar is playing some old tune—probably Bonney Dundee or Home on the Range.

Esperanza's crew are sitting at the bar, playing cards at one of the tables, standing around with drinks talking, the usual behaviour of sailors in a bar. The captain is sitting in a corner by himself, knocking back whiskies with expressionless self-destructiveness. Smith is sitting alone at one of the tables, clutching his bottle, mumbling to the empty air.

Some are human, some look like geckoes, some like purple rhinos, some are small, gopher-like animals, and there are a couple of giant porcupines. They all look tough, even the gophers have eye-patches and full-sized cutlasses bigger than they are. A couple of customers are covered in blood.

purple porcupine

So I've bought a lino floor, it spoils less easily, but she still complains.

orange porcupine

Mate, you might have to accept that it's knifing people in principle that she objects to, not just the damage to the floor.

(Isobel, pint in hand, is talking to the bar-man.)

isobel

Anything at all…

bar man

I have a few tatty old rags. It's amazing what people leave in bars. They strip off drunk or keel over dead and have no use for them then. You don't mind having something someone died in?

isobel

I don't think so.

bar man

(Rummages around under the bar.) Here we are… (Begins piling up objects on the bar.) A woolly hat. A Beetelguisian jumper…

Isobel

That would only fit if I had four arms.

bar man

One glove, a baby's smock, a dress (This is a flimsy, pink, tasteless piece of flim-flam.) a ra-ra skirt, a corset, a broken fan…

isobel

How much is the dress?

bar man

Two credits.

isobel

Half a credit.

bar man

One and a half.

isobel

Half is all I own in the world. It's half or nowt.

bar man

If I take nowt?

Isobel

For a lady in distress?

bar man

Oh, all right, touch my soft heart…

Isoebl

Thanks.

(She pushes the coin across the bar, scoops the dress over her arm and strides away.

Cut to her emerging from the back door of the Blue Bell, into the Beer Garden(ish), wearing the dress, and actually looking quite smart, with a paper flower she found somewhere in her hair, drink in hand.

There is nothing resembling a garden, just the flat bare stone covered with dust, until the edge. A few feet from the door is a plant pot, full of broken bottles and blood-stained rags, with a statue of a rabbit holding a parasol on the side. There is a glass placed carefully upside-down over the rabbit's head.

A couple of sailors are standing out here, drinks in hands, talking and laughing.

Inkwell and the cabin boy are sitting on the edge of the edge of the patch of the land, drinking whiskey. Isobel joins them, the cabin boy smiles.)

Isobel

How do I look?

cabin boy

Beautiful, miss.

isobel

It's not exactly practical…

Inkwell

You look like a music hall actress. (This is clearly not a compliment.)

isobel

But I believe in style over substance.

inkwell

Well, you enjoy yourself with your pretty dress, because we'll soon be pretty dead.

isobel

Ship morale, man, ship morale. Look on the bright side. We're on a mission to uncharted space. That (waves an arm at the sky) has never been seen by human eyes. We could find anything.

inkwell

We could all be horribly killed.

isobel

Realistically. But realism's for wusses. Here's to the unknown!

(She raises her glass and the cabin boy enthusiastically and Inkwell grudgingly clink against it.)

cabin boy

To the unknown!

inkwell

The unknown, blast it!

(Smythe passes. He smiles at Isobel, she smiles back. The cabin boy nudges Inkwell and giggles. Inkwell glares at him.)

inkwell

What are the chances of our being paid again?

isobel

Slim. But what would we spend it on?

scene 29: Esperanza, the forecastle

(Isobel, Smythe, Inkwell and the cabin boy are sitting in the forecastle. Isobel, Smythe and the cabin boy have been playing cards. Everyone is slightly tipsy.

There are another four sailors in the corners, passed out with drink. Somewhere in the distance, someone is playing a sea shanty on a mouth organ badly.)

inkwell

What's the point of playing cards if you have no money to play for?

isobel

The principle of the thing. The skill, the luck, the thrills…

inkwell

Ain't thrills without profit.

(Sailor rushes through the door.)

sailor

Come and look at this! It's a miracle!

isobel

All-righty.

(Isobel, Inkwell, Smythe and the cabin boy follow the sailor onto the deck. The group of sailors keeps snoring. On deck, a group of sailors is gathered by the rail, watching a group of creatures which float through space. They are shaped like tailless otters and twist and turn the same way. They are pink and hairless and have long snouts like an aardvark's, ending in a flower like a star-nosed mole's.)

Isobel

They're beautiful!

(A few of the sailors stretch out their arms and stroke the pink creatures on their stomachs. The pink creatures are delighted and wriggle. Isobel rests one hand on the flank of one nearest her. The cabin boy rubs his hand along the back on a friendly one which bobs up to the rail.)

cabin boy

Hello! Hello, strange pink creature!

(Smith shuffles out of the shadows. He looks at the pink creatures and some the coiled-up anger in him loosens. The captain stands against the stern rail, alone.)

crewman

Where's the visionary?

crewman 2

Here.

(He produces a long stick with a large hoop on the end, shaped like a fishing net, but instead of netting, there's thin, iridescent film, like bubble mixture in a hoop before it's blown out to make bubbles. He tosses this over the pink creature nearest to him. The creature passes right through the bubble-mixture-sheet and keeps swimming happily, leaving an image of it printed on the sheet.)

crewman

Nice.

(A corner rips off the sheet, nearly tearing the image's bum off.)

crewman 2

Why is everything on this ship so shite?

smythe

Because they can't be arsed spending money on nice kit when they're only going to cart it off to the depths of uncharted space.

crewman

(Wistfully) But in all those books, space explorers get all the mod cons.

smythe

Life ain't a book, mate.

isobel

I mean, how would that even work? Have you ever noticed that in all those stories the ships keep being blown up or sucked into black holes, and they have to be repaired or replaced? Wouldn't someone just put their foot down on the hole being burned in their pocket?

smythe

Not to mention all the crew are genii? Don't they have something useful for them to so? Like doctors or architects or something?

crewman 2

Hence the rust-bucket mad-house.

(The pink creatures roll over waving their flippers, then soar off into space.)

omnes

Goodbye, pink creatures! Goodbye.

(Everyone laughs and waves, except Smith and a couple of other seriously disturbed people.)

cabin boy

We have to name them. I think we should name them after Miss Sauvage.

isobel

But they're not very savage.

(The captain approaches.)

cabin boy

Bella dama?

captain

Shut up. (Rolls his eyes)

isobel

(Kindly but firmly) Shut up, mate.

captain

Get back to work and shut that bastard's mouth, before I clap him in irons.

smythe

We have to call them something, sir.

captain

Call them res inusitatus.

cabin boy

But you call everything here res inusitatus.

captain

Because everything is. (Strides away.)

(The crowd disperses, talking and laughing. Smith remains by himself by the rail. Isobel, Smythe, Inkwell and the cabin boy clatter back down the ladder to the forecastle. Two of the drunks are dead and bleeding on the floor. A third drunk is clutching his bleeding head and moaning, and a fourth is clutching his blood-stained knife and sulking.)

isobel

(Exasperated) Oh, for fuck's sake…

cabin boy

I just scrubbed that floor. Have you no consideration for others?

sulky drunk

Shut up and mind your own business.

isobel

All right, mate, but he has to be looked at, his head's in a bad way.

sulky drunk

(Snarling) He can go to Hell for all I care. You can all go to Hell! Filthy bastard done me out of a fiver.

(Captain hears the noise and arrives.)

captain

What's all this, then?

cabin boy

Nothing, sir.

captain

Oh, shut up.

sulky drunk

He done me out of a fiver… Cheating louse… What business is it of yours anyway…? You bastard… Just die… (Stumbles about drunkenly, waving the knife)

(Quite a little crowd is assembling, now.)

captain

Smith! Smith! (Two men come forward out of the crowd.) Take the bodies up and throw them overboard. Mysterio! Smith! (Two other men step forward.) Throw that (gestures at the sulky drunk) in the brig until he sobers up. Or shoot him. Honestly, I don't care. You, girl.

isobel

Yes?

captain

Bandage the man's head and put him in the brig until he learns to behave himself.

isobel

Yes, sir.

(Isobel begins bandaging the man's head with strips from his shirt. The other men disarm the sulky drunk and drag him away and pick up the bodies and drag them up the ladder.)

Captain

Bunch of bloody animals!

(Cut to the deck, where the men unceremoniously haul the bodies over the rail and let go. Cut to the forecastle, one of the sailors arrives and takes the wounded man from Isobel. He pulls him off towards the brig. A young sailor stands enters, in tears.)

isobel

What's wrong?

young sailor

Smith.

isobel

I'll get you a drink. (She finds a bottle of whiskey and pours some into a glass.)

(The young sailor takes the glass, downs the shot, takes the bottle and gulps it down.)

young sailor

I'm sorry.

isobel

It's all right.

young sailor

I'm… I'm gonna go to bed. (Ambles off, still clutching the bottle.)

scene 30: the parlour at the lee family house

(Violetta is sitting on the sofa wearing a floral print dress, trying to do her needlework, distracted and anxious. Billy is reading a leaflet from the Dairy Farming Association about cow-chicken hybrids.)

billy

Do you think they're a good investment, darling?

violetta

Those stupid cow things? How would I know?

billy

Well, it's the reproductive rate, in part-

violetta

I don't care about the reproductive rate of mutant cows, Billy!

billy

I'm sorry if you don't find it interesting, darling. But I want us to have a nice secure footing when we're married.

violetta

If we're married.

billy

What does that mean?

violetta

Nothing, of course we're going to be married.

billy

If you're having second thoughts-

violetta

(Horrified) God, no. I'm not having second thoughts. I've wanted to marry you for three years. (Flings herself at him.)

billly

Good.

violetta

(Quietly, into his shoulder) You will always love me, won't you?

billy

Always.

violetta

Whatever happens?

billy

Whatever happens. Why? Is something likely to happen?

violetta

(Flushed, guilty) Some people wouldn't marry a murderess' cousin…

billy

Nothing's been proven against her in court.

violetta

But if it were?

billy

I'll always love you. (Chucks her under the chin and kisses her on the nose.) Clear?

(Clockwork maid enters. Holds up a card reading "Mr Jackson to see Miss Violetta".)

violetta

Show him in.

(Enter Robin.)

robin

Miss Violetta (Kisses her hand.)

violetta

Mr Jackson.

robin

Hello, Ashly.

billy

Mornin'.

robin

Are you well, Miss Violetta?

violetta

Well? (Chokes, begins to weep.) There's a bounty on my cousin, Mr Jackson. (Slightly hysterically) How well do you think I am?

robin

(Catches her arm and she collapses against him) I'm so sorry.

violetta

It's not your fault. But… but Isobel's going to be hanged, and I'm getting married in a month. I have to smile at all these people, and I'm so sick of them, I'm so sick of visitors, and whispers, and being pointed at…

robin

I can go if you like.

violetta

No, of course you're not a visitor. But what do I do? (Fully breaks down.) Robin, help…

robin

They might not catch her. You know how smart Isobel is.

violetta

They will. Mr Edmundson was an important man. They'll run her down or bust.

robin

Man-hunts don't last forever.

violetta

But she can never come home. I'll never see her again. I never said goodbye, I never…

robin

You're not in contact with her?

violetta

Are you mad? I haven't a clue where she is.

robin

Don't lose hope. Please don't lose hope.

violetta

When people say "don't lose hope", you know it's time to lose hope.

robin

No…

violetta

(Pulling herself together and sitting up, tear-blotched face) I'm sorry.

Robin

Not at all.

violetta

(Determinedly bright) I'll behave nicely and tell you about my bouquet. It's white roses-

scene 31: garden of tranquillity

Dense jungle, plants of all colours, weird pink and yellow mushroomy-puffball things. Little streams splash between the rocks into little pools. Some of the trees are truly enormous. Jagged, foliage-covered mountains loom on either side of the valley. The planet's pale pink moon hangs low in the sky. The sky, mostly blue, is touched with pink, orange and green. Weird bird calls echo between the trees. No sign of conscious life.

Esperanza approaches, far too fast, her entire crew is clustered on deck.

captain

Pull the bows up! Pull them up hard!

(A group of crew men are hauling on the ropes attached to the sails, trying to turn them round. Pseudo Nym is in the bows, clutching the steering wheel and spinning it frantically. No good. Esperanza lands on a promontory, the only patch of ground for miles clear of trees, rising out of the jungle to end with a sheer cliff over the gorge below. It's so high that the multi-coloured alien birds are flying beneath them. It's a bumpy landing, jolting to a stop only a few inches from the edge. A few crewmen are thrown over the ship's rail and bump to a stop on the ground.)

captain

I have never seen a worse landing in all my years at space! Double duty and short rations, Mr Nym! (Clouts Nym round the ear.)

mysterio

It wasn't Pseudo's fault, sir. We hit a bumpy patch of atmosphere.

captain

You'll hit a bumpy patch of marooning if I get one more word out of you. Anchor!

(Two crew-men lower the anchor.)

captain

Gang-plank!

(Some of the crew are already scrambling over the rail. The rest shove and scramble over the gang-plank. Isobel swings herself over the rail and drops to the ground. She wobbles trying to pull of a graceful landing and collapses on the floor.)

isobel

(Giggling) Meant to do that!

(Smythe, the cabin boy and Inkwell are scrambling after her.)

smythe

(Pulling her up and dusting her down, sarcastically) Totally…

isobel

(Wandering over to the edge, awe-struck) It's beautiful!

SMYTHE

(Coming up beside her.) Amazing.

(The ridge is very high. Waterfalls thread across the hill-side opposite. Their spray makes rainbows.)

ISOBEL

(Begins to laugh for joy) This—this is what I came to space for…

cabin boy

Not running away from your creditors, then?

(Isobel laughs and mock-slaps him. Inkwell sits down on the edge and looks out over the void. The other crew are milling around behind them.)

captain

Right, now we've found the bloody place we might as well claim it.

(Unceremoniously shoves a flag-pole in the ground. On the top is a flag. A white back-ground with a logo of a sailing ship and a bow compass. The text reads "Galactic Surveyors: quaeso eamus domo nunc?")

crewman

(To the world in general) Got any champers?

other crewman

You drank it!

cabin boy

What shall we call it?

captain

(Ignoring him) We will now conduct geographical and cartographical surveys and collect supplies, for further rations as our explorations continue.

third crewman

(To the cabin boy) Dunno.

captain

Cartographical party 1—that way! (Gestures west) Cartographical party 2—the other way. (Gestures east) Any questions? (Without waiting for an answer) Good!

fourth crewman

How about Ermyntrude?

isobel

That your young lady?

fourth crewman

It's my great aunt.

captain

I'm with party one. If party 2 is still alive, I'll see you at the ship at sun-down.

(Isobel, Smythe and Inkwell are in party 2. The cabin boy follows them.)

captain

You're in party—oh, forget it, do what you like.

scene 32: later, along the valley

(Dense forest. Weird shaped trees, multi-coloured leaves and flowers. The party contains Isobel, Inkwell, Smythe, the cabin boy trotting along jangling like a baggage donkey under the whole party's cartographical instruments, and three others.)

isobel

Does anyone know what we're actually doing?

inkwell

Fuck knows.

cabin boy

How does one actually cartograph anyway?

inkwell

Fuck knows.

isobel

Twirl the instruments round and look professional.

(Cabin boy begins twirling the bow compass. A howl rings from the trees.)

Inkwell

What was that?

isobel

(Raising her gun) Pleasant, friendly company, come to throw us a tea party.

(Another howl, nearer, from a different direction.)

smythe

Whatever it is, it pays social calls in groups.

(Another howl, on the right hand side of the party.)

inkwell

(Quietly) They're ahead, and on both sides.

(An eerie, triumphant howl on the other side, nearer, then another up ahead.)

isobel

I count at least four.

cabin boy

And they're closing in.

(The party stands in a circle, peering in every direction, everyone clutching a flintlock in one hand and a sword in the other.)

inkwell

We can go back—away from them—or we can go on.

first sailor

I say it's up to the lady.

isobel

Well, if it's up to me, I say forwards. Let's see what they are.

(The party proceeds slowly and carefully, weapons ready. Almost at once, a low, snarling roar immediately to the right of the party, and the first hyaenosaur scrambles into view from between the trees. The hyaenosaurs are about the size of a tiger and resemble a cat or dog, with shaggy fur, fangs, paws with claws, a horrible mammalian wail. But they also have scales along their backs and sides, and hard, scaly underbellies like snakes, and there's something lizard-like in the way they scuttle, and in their long, thin, scaly tails, strong and flexible as whips.)

isobel

How are you today, good sir?

(The hyaenosaur doesn't mess about. It bounds straight up to her, growling low in its throat. Isobel waits unmoving until it's at point-blank range and shoots it with a glowing orange energy pellet. Immediately she re-loads (the gun only able to hold one bullet at a time). Snarling from the trees, and then the whole pack towards them out of the jungle.)

smythe

(Tutting) Miss Sauvage! An unforgivable breach of hairy monster etiquette.

inkwell

Now, the first rule of any attack is to stand your ground, look confident, and not run. (A hyaenosaur bounds up to him, fangs bared, and leaps. He slashes though its stomach with his sword in mid-leap.) Run!

(They run back towards Esperanza. The hyaenosaurs follow, howling, barely kept at bay with the swords.)

second sailor

We could climb a tree.

third sailor

(Looks up at a hyaenosaur bouncing easily from branch to branch above them) Let's not climb a tree.

(The party is tiring, struggling to get shots in between running and reloading. The cabin boy is still laden with instruments, but fighting hard never the less. The hyaenosaurs are apparently tireless, and keep pace easily. A hyaenosaur bounds up to Isobel. She ducks, and Smythe shoots it as it springs. Another one scrambles towards him as he turns and she shoots it. They grin at each other. The party emerges onto the flat open ground near Esperanza, to see party one running towards Esperanza with their own gang of hyaenosaurs on their heels. Smith is humming to himself and waving his bottle carelessly in the air, accidently catching a hyaenosaur a devastating blow to the chin. The captain is swearing.)

captain

You bastards! You bloody bastards! This is a cartographical expedition, I'll have you know.

(A hyaenosaur jumps on top of Sailor Three, Isobel grabs him by the arm and drags him clear. The cabin boy runs the hyaenosaur through. Sailor Three is bleeding heavily. Isobel and Smythe drag him to Esperanza. Both parties converge on Esperanza at the same time and haul themselves over the rails onto the deck, the hyaenosaurs snapping at their heels.)

scene 33: immediate continuation

captain

Can those things get up here?

(A hyaenosaur hurls itself at the hull, digs in its claws and scrambles up towards the rail before falling off.)

isobel

(Cheerfully) Apparently.

captain

Smith and Smith, anchors. Crew, stand back to repel boarders!

(Two crew men frantically scramble with the anchor. The others gather round the rail, slashing and stabbing.)

captain

Cut it! Cut it!

(One of the two crew-men slashes through the anchor rope with his knife. Esperanza lurches forward, a gaping hole in her belly, and plunges off the edge of the ravine, tipping sideways. The cabin boy nearly falls over board. The mizzen-mast snaps off and falls overboard. Esperanza rights herself slightly and begins to rise, slowly and laboriously. She still has—and will have for the remainder of her space-faring life—and distinct port list. Everyone catches their breath.)

inkwell

Well, I vote we call that place the Garden of Tranquillity.

(Breathless laughter from everyone except the Captain, Smith and a couple of other seriously-out-of-it crewmen. Sailor Three begins bandaging himself up with his shirt, but then collapses, nearly fainting.)

captain

Mr Nym, what have you done to my hull? (To a nearby crew-man, gesturing vaguely at Sailor 3) Deal with that, will you?

nym

I'm sorry, sir, there was a stone…

captain

You steer this ship like a baboon! Now we're half sunk, we've no steering, we're a mess.

nym

If we hadn't had to leave in such a hurry…

mysterio

Is now a good time to mention that we never picked up any supplies?

one of the less with-it crew-men

Well, go back and get some. Never go short-rationed, my boy, never go short-rationed.

inkwell

We can't. We've no anchor and no steering. And whose fault is it that we've no anchor? (Glares at the Captain)

captain

If we hadn't cut the rope, we would have been torn to pieces. As it is, you get a week in the brig for questioning the captain. (Turns and stalks off, leaving a gloomy silence.)

scene 34: lee family house

(Night. Robin stands under the girls' bedroom window, bare-foot and fully armed, Trixie on his shoulder, and looks around. No one. He climbs up the ivy and scrambles onto the window-ledge. No one in the room.)

robin

(To Trixie) Sssh!

(Trixie blinks innocently. He picks the lock on the window and scrambles in. He opens the wardrobe. The girls' dresses are hanging there. He picks out a dress which is clearly Isobel's—flimsy violet material, plunging neck-line—and bundles it up. Trixie helps him with her mouth. He stuffs the dress down his coat and climbs back out of the window and down the ivy. He walks away across the dark park with Trixie on his shoulder.)

scene 35: ROBIN'S ROOM

(An upstairs room, with trees outside the window. The low camp-bed under the window is unmade. The desk is cluttered with knives, little portraits of different girls, a wilted rose, a half-empty bottle of vodka. Robin is sitting on the bed, Trixie beside him and a piece of string with a hook on the end in his lap. Bad Influence's "I am the One and Only" begins. He spreads the dress over the window ledge, and pulls his knife from his belt. He rams it into his arm and drags it along. The blood gushes everywhere, all over the dress. He throws the hook, it lodges in the tree-top and the string pulls tight. Trixie takes one end of the dress in her mouth and walks slowly and delicately along the string. She reaches the tree-top, carefully spreads the dress over the branches and walks back. Robin jerks the string so that it detaches from the hook and he can pull it in.)

robin

Thanks, sweetie. (Kisses Trixie on the head and she coos.)

scene 36: a sleazy bar

(The bar resembles something out of the Wild West, saw-dust on the floor, knife gauge-marks in the table. Groups of people are huddled round tables, most of them armed and misanthropic. One drunk group of men is playing cards. Robin strides into the bar, a bandage tight round his arm so that the wound doesn't bleed too much, Trixie on his shoulder. He strides straight over to the card-players' table and deliberately knocks over the nearest man's drink.

man

(Hazy with drink, standing up) You bashtard…

robin

(Smirking, a dangerous gleam in his eye) What are you gonna do about it?

(The man pulls a knife out of his belt and lunges. Robin's is already in his hand. Blood spurts from Robin's cheek. Cut to-)

scene 37: fort hope

(Caption: Fort Hope, the most feared dungeon and criminal court in the city.

A small, squat, stone castle in the middle of the city. A gallows in front of it, an open space with a rolling lawn. Two guards with muskets over their shoulders are guarding the door. Robin strides past them. He's bleeding from several cuts. Trixie is licking a particularly nasty one on his cheek.)

Guard

Hey!

(Robin ignores him and strides past through the door. Inside, in a big stone-walled, flagged-floor room, a group of guards with swords are playing cards. They look up as Robin enters, and scramble for their swords. Robin already has his hands up.)

robin

I'm giving myself up-

(The two guards from outside charge in, jump on him from behind and force him to his knees. They point their muskets at his head.)

captain of the guard

Well you know how to make an entrance.

robin

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, I'm giving myself up for the murders of Harry Edmundson and of Isobel Lee.

(Silence. The guards are speechless.)

captain of the guard

(Gulps) Why?

robin

Other than their general obnoxiousness? Well, I'm glad you asked me that, because-

C of G

No, I mean, why hand yourself in?

robin

Well, as my sainted Aunt Honoria always said, speak the truth 'cause you're too dim to tell a convincing lie.

c of g

How… how did you get… like that?

robin

My sartorial decisions? Blood is in this season. (Grins hugely) Kidding! Got into a knife fight!

c of g

Very well. You will go to court in the morning. Guards! (He shouts as loudly as if the guards weren't in the room)

guards holding robin

Yes, sir?

c of g

Throw this man in a dungeon!

(The guards drag Robin away. Song plays out.)

scene 38: Esperanza's forecastle, Deep space

(Most of Esperanza's crew are sitting in the forecastle, gloomily. Some of them are mending sails and plaiting ropes, silently and sullenly, others have let the sails and ropes drop from their hands and are curled up in silent despair. A few have bloody bandages tied round their arms.

Isobel, Inkwell and the cabin boy are sitting in the corner, plaiting rope. Isobel is gloomy, the cabin boy expressionless.)

Inkwell

(More kindly than he's sounded yet) Chin up, lass.

(Isobel manages a small smile.)

Inkwell

That's my girl.

isobel

(Sarcastically) I laugh in the face of death.

inkwell

(Encouragingly) You tell 'em.

(Both laugh.)

isobel

You could throw a party in your coffin, you could. How about a community sing-along?

(Inkwell begins "Blow the Man Town" and Isobel and the cabin boy join in.)

isobel

You're a bad influence on the poor mite! (To the cabin boy, mock-solemnly) Do not loiter round docks with strange young ladies.

cabin boy

(Laughing) I'll hardly get the chance to.

isobel

Well, look on the bright side.

mysterio

(Vaguely) 'Zactly. Always look on the bright side of life, that's what my aunt said.

cabin boy

(Grim humour) And the bright side of death?

isobel

You'll never have to go to Alpha Centuri again.

cabin boy

True, it is shit.

(The nearer, saner crewmen laugh, in a "you'll never have to go to go Wigan/Skegness/Hull" way. The others remain staring despairingly into space.)

inkwell

One horse planet with the horse on hashish.

(Another laugh. The captain enters, glaring like a bomb about to go off.)

captain

Look lively, for God's sake! (Pulls out a flintlock.)

sailor

Why?

other sailor

Yeah, why? We're all doomed, anyway.

isobel

What the Hell's the point of pointing that damn thing at us now?

captain

Because I have come to the end of my patience with you. You are an unutterable nuisance, knew you were trouble since you walked onto my ship. I had a respectable position once, on a respectable ship. I will not be argued with by a runaway. The only way any of us are going to survive is by getting to a hospitable planet, reloading with food and water and mending our ship. And that requires order, discipline and a little bit of target-shooting.

(Smythe walks in.)

smythe

Captain, there's no sign of land, and the wheel's frozen up- What the Hell are you doing?

(Pulls out a knife and sticks it in the captain's chest.)

captain

Mutiny! Knaves! Murder!

(Two men pull Smythe off the captain.)

smythe

Let me go! You hate him, too! How dare he- how dare…? (Wild, dangerous, alarming, slashes one of the men holding him through the shoulder before the other one snaps his wrist and he drops the knife.)

(The whole room stands breathless and staring.)

smith

(Jerked out of his drunken reverie and vaguely interested) Piracy! That's the spirit! Stand back to repel boarders! (Takes a long pull at the bottle in his hand and keels over unconscious.)

(The captain, bleeding out on the floor, glares at Smythe.)

scene 39: Later, up on deck

(Isobel, Inkwell, Smythe and the cabin boy are standing sulkily at the rail. The deck is still a mess, the mizzen-mast is still missing. A sailor approaches.)

smythe

How is the bastard?

sailor

He'll live.

smythe

Damn it! I should have wrung his neck myself. Never trust a knife. If you want something doing properly, do it yourself.

isobel

Guns are good, too.

cabin boy

What's for lunch?

sailor

Stale crusts? Hardtack?

cabin boy

(Rolls his eyes) Not bloody hardtack.

sailor

There's plenty of whiskey, though.

smythe

Thank God for small mercies.

isobel

People who say whiskey isn't the answer isn't the answer haven't answered the right question.

inkwell

(Grimly) When that runs out, we'll have real trouble. The lads'll boil over.

smythe

(Dangerous gleam in his eyes) I pretty nearly have. (Quietly, bitterly) I can't stand this any more. Hanging around this mouldering dump with that bastard.

(Isobel puts her arm round him and nudges him in the ribs and he looks at her and grins.)

smythe

(Mock formally) Do I have the pleasure of asking you to lunch?

isobel

(Imitating him) The hardtack awaits.

(He puts his arm though hers.)

Scene 40: Later, the forecastle

(Isobel, Smythe, Inkwell, the cabin boy and six or seven other sailors are sitting around a couple of tables in the forecastle in the dark. There isn't enough oil to light the lamps. The last pieces of hardtack are being munched up. No conversations, silence except for a couple of men staring into space muttering to themselves. The captain isn't there.)

isobel

Where's Smith?

smythe

Which Smith?

isobel

The drunk.

smythe

God knows. Who cares?

isobel

I'll go look for him.

smythe

Isn't it our shift? Knotting sails or rattling down or… something?

isobel

Oh, stuff that, the vampire isn't watching.

(They climb the deck. Smith is standing in the stern, clutching a bottle of whiskey.)

isobel

Mr Smith? Are you all right?

smith

Run along, missy. This isn't a sight for little girls.

isobel

You weren't at dinner. Aren't you hungry?

smith

Horribly. And tired.

isobel

If you had something to eat, you might cheer up.

smith

(Quietly) Good night, missy. Good night and goodbye.

isobel

What?

smith

(Drunk and bitter) Fuck this ship. Fuck this life. (Lucid, looking straight at her) I'm sorry, girl, but I can't carry on no more.

isobel

(Realises what he's doing, sharply) No!

(Smith throws himself over the rail. Isobel stands shaking with horror. Smythe wraps an arm round her and pulls her against his shoulder.)

scene 41: below decks, night

(Isobel and Smythe are sitting in the corner of the hold, in the dark. Isobel holds a guttering candle on her lap.)

smythe

He always was strange.

isobel

This place seems to attract strange people.

smythe

(More to himself) People who are broken on the inside. When your life's a mess and you've nothing to live for, anyway… (shrugs)

isobel

You sound as if you know.

smythe

I do.

(Isobel raises her eyebrows)

smythe

Oh, I've thought about it. Never went through with it, though.

isobel

(Anxiously) But not now?

smythe

(Thoughtfully) No. Not now. (Smiles slightly)

isobel

(Suddenly) What di-? No…

smythe

(Smiles gently) Gambling debts. Just gambling debts. Nothing dramatic.

isobel

(Nods slowly. After a moment) Goodnight.

smythe

Good night.

scene 42: The deck, roll-call

(The remains of the crew, weary, hungry, cold, miserable, are blowing on their fingers and chattering their teeth as the captain roll-calls them. He's propped up by two sailors, but as grim-faced and explosive as ever. Some of the sailors are distinctly ill, coughing. The cabin boy is thin and blue-lipped and leaning on Inkwell's arm.)

captain

Smith?

One of the sailors

Yes, sir.

captain

(Roll-call finished) We're approaching a star system. It was visible by telescope last night.

sailor

How long until we get there?

captain

Three-months.

sailor

(Horrified) We can't survive three months.

captain

Everybody on short rations!

sailor

(Blankly) We can't survive three months.

captain

Mr Mysterio, I want you to take the helm. Smith, Smith, you're on watch.

(The crew begins to disperse. Isobel, Smith, Inkwell and the cabin boy climb down the ladder to the forecastle.)

smythe

"Take the helm!" "You're on watch!" What's the point?

inkwell

Don't give up, lad. Strange things happen in space.

smythe

Three months? On short rations? And we're all on double duty, too, ever since Smith and (checking them off on his fingers) and Smith and poor old Pseudo Nym died.

isobel

A skeleton crew. Damn near literal.

smythe

Some of the men are half dead already. (Looks at the cabin boy and bites his lip)

cabin boy

Don't despair, Smythe. I hear this part of space is especially popular with miraculous pink flying unicorns.

isobel

(To Smythe) Look, don't despair. He needs a hot drink and a lie down.

cabin boy

I do not need a lie down.

inkwell

I'll cover your shift, lad.

cabin boy

That's not fair, you're tired, too.

isobel

(Imperiously maternal) You, my boy, will lie down and that's the last I'll hear about it. (She leads him to a corner of the forecastle and arranges him against a wall.)

smythe

I'll cadge my way onto rations duty and get a hot drink. (He leaves)

inkwell

Now, do exactly what Miss Sauvage tells you to.

isobel

Did I just hear you say that? 'Cause I'm saving that up for next time you call me an idiot.

(Smythe returns with a hot drink. Inkwell pours rum from his hip flask into it. Cabin boy takes the cup and sips slowly.)

isobel

Feel any better?

cabin boy

Oh, very well indeed, thank you, miss. (This is despite his lips being still blue and his cheek-bones standing out skeletally)

isobel

(Dryly) Excellent, they'll use you on post-cards for health resorts. (Laughs and pats him on the cheek) Bless you!

smythe

(Indignantly) He never lets me do that!

captain

(From the door-way) Smythe!

smythe

(To the captain) Coming! (To Isobel) Bless you and your practicality and optimism. (To the cabin boy) See you around, kid.

scene 43: forecastle, late at night

(Dark, the cabin boy as gone to sleep. Isobel is sitting next to him, darning a dress. Enter Smythe, holding a candle)

smythe

You'll strain your eyes.

isobel

Thanks.

smythe

How is he?

isobel

He's asleep. They need so much sleep at that age. I hope it does him good.

smythe

You're good with children. I never really saw him as one, it's not the sort of thing that matters much out here, but you've got the maternal touch.

isobel

(Looks away and bites her lip) Thanks.

smythe

I'm sorry… did I say something…?

isobel

It's just… I can never have children.

smythe

No?

isobel

(Sad)I… I'm on the run, there are people trying to kill me… What kind of life is that, for a child? Always looking over your shoulder, never staying anywhere for too long, never telling anyone your real name? (Looks at the cabin boy) I mean… I think we can see what kind of life it is. (Hopelessly) How would it be fair, to have a child knowing that any day they might lose their mother?

smythe

I'm so sorry…

isobel

No, it's not your fault, it's just the way things are out here.

smythe

It's just… (stammering, awkward) I always imagined… perhaps if we survive… Belle- Miss Sauvage, I…

isobel

Belle. We're pals.

smythe

That's it. We're… pals and…

isobel

You're in love with me, aren't you?

smythe

You know?

isobel

Yes, I've known for a while.

smythe

But it's not… it isn't… I don't… It doesn't matter out here… But a family… it…

isobel

I see. You don't want to marry me, and settle down in a nice little house with children and then look at me and wonder

smythe

Well, yes…

isobel

And that's why I've never said anything. Because it wouldn't work.

smythe

And it must be… To run… For the foreseeable future… I mean, some people are just poor, unemployed. They make a bit of money, and if they're still alive they get out and good luck to them.

isobel

I can't. I'll die a Galactic Surveyor. They'll hunt me for as long as I'm breathing, and if there's anything after, they'll hunt me there, too.

smythe

I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything. We were getting on so well, we didn't need.

isobel

(Simply) No, I'm glad you did. Because if I had to live the rest of my life without telling you how I felt, I would have died of a broken heart.

smythe

And you'd never… tell me how you feel?

isobel

No. That wouldn't have been fair.

smythe

I don't think it was fair of me to mention it, either.

isobel

(Calmly) I love you. I'll love you till I die. (Without real hope) Can't that be enough?

smythe

I wish it could.

isobel

I'm sorry.

smythe

Don't be.

isobel

You have a good life, Smythe. If we see land again, I mean. Because you deserve one.

smythe

Oh, no, don't do that. Don't do the amicable break-up thing. It's all very well me having a good life, what about you?

isobel

I'll live.

smythe

Not much of a deal.

isobel

I believe in honesty in a marriage. No secrets. No lies. (Thinks, then says firmly) At least, not in mine. I don't want a marriage like that. And I can't be honest. So I'm saying what people always say in these situations. "I'll live."

smythe

Is it that you think I'll look down on you? Because I love the woman you are now. Whatever you've done in the past, whoever you used to be.

isobel

(Smiles gently) Then why is it so important for you to know?

smythe

(Slowly) I guess… because… if you keep something secret about your past… you might keep something secret in the future…

isobel

Some things need keeping secret.

smythe

(Quietly surprised) Don't you trust me?

isobel

(Firmly) I trust you. If it were my secret, I'd tell you. But it's someone else's secret and I can't tell.

smythe

Seems unfair.

isobel

Life isn't fair.

smythe

True. (Pause) It isn't fair of me to force you to reveal someone else's confidence. I wish I could say "it doesn't matter".

isobel

(Quietly) But that would be lying.

smythe

But that would be lying. I just want you to know that… in the future… if I you get into a tight spot… you can trust me, as a pal, to get in it with you if I can't get you out.

isobel

(Pause) All right, I'll tell you the truth.

(Smythe raises his eyebrows)

isobel

And nothing but the truth. But not the whole truth, and you have to promise not to ask any questions.

smythe

(Hesitates, then nods) I promise.

isobel

I killed a man.

smythe

You're a murderess?

isobel

(Gestures to the sleeping cabin boy) Sssh!

smythe

But who-? Why…?

isobel

(Sharply) No questions! You promised!

smythe

True… (Nods a couple of times) All right. (Thinks) May I ask just one question?

isobel

You may ask. I can't promise to answer.

smythe

Did he, in your judgement, need killing?

isobel

(Without hesitation) Yes.

smythe

I trust your judgement. (He smiles slowly, leans forward and kisses her.)

cabin boy

(Waking up) For God's sake, don't be soppy! I have won tuppence off Inkwell, though.

Smythe

(Horrified) You had a bet on?! (Mock-cuffs the cabin boy round the head) You mercenary little bastard!

isobel

Don't clobber him when he's starved, Mr Smythe. (Joking) Wait until he's had something to eat, then as you please…

smythe

(Grins) I would tell you not to call me Mr Smythe, but honestly, I've forgotten what first name I gave to the shed.

isobel

Make one up.

cabin boy

How about "Stardust"?

smythe

Too naff.

isobel

(Thoughtfully) It kind of alliterates…

smythe

Do not call me Stardust.

isobel

Oh, I won't call you Stardust. I have some wifely nickname like "you idiot".

smythe

You say that already.

isobel

See? We must have been made for each other.

(They all laugh.)

scene 44: forecastle,daylight

(The cabin boy and a couple more ill sailors are sitting in the corner, the other sailors are standing around in a cold huddle, teeth chattering. One drunken sailor swigs from a bottle and takes no interest whatsoever in proceedings. The captain, leaning on a walking stick, glares at them.)

captain

We are running out of supplies, we are drifting more slowly than we have expected, we cannot reach our destination continuing as we are.

sailor

I could have told you that.

captain

(Ignoring him) To have any chance of survival, we are going to have to tighten our belts.

another sailor

I don't think mine can get any tighter.

Captain

Anyone too weak to work will be unceremoniously shot, and their remains eaten.

(Pause)

Isobel

(Brightly) Say again?

captain

Anyone too weak to work will be unceremoniously shot, and their remains eaten.

isobel

How about no?

captain

This ship is not a democracy, Miss Sauvage. (Pulls out his flintlock) Now, stop making a fuss.

isobel

You know, I've come to the end of my patience with you.

captain

Move out of the way of the boy, please.

isobel

The boy has a name. Admittedly none of know what it is, because that's rule 101 of a dark and mysterious past, but I'm sure he has one, and might even remember it.

captain

You're not just stubborn, you're a gobshite as well. Now, move.

cabin boy

(Calmly) It's all right, Miss Sauvage. I don't mind.

isobel

(Standing between the cabin boy and the flintlock) Miss Sauvage needs support right now, kid. If you could look endearingly pathetic, that would help enormously.

cabin boy

My aunt said, one should always face death stoically.

smythe

You have an aunt? I never knew you had an aunt. I never knew anything about you-

isobel

Shut it, kid, or you'll get a spanking.

(Cabin boy scowls and shuts up)

isobel

(To Smythe) You're right, I do have parenting skills.

captain

(Increasingly annoyed) Miss Sauvage, I am captain of this vessel-

isobel

And you're out of your fucking mind.

(The captain hisses and levels his gun. Smythe springs at him with a knife and slashes him in the throat. The gun goes off and the little orange pellet hits Isobel in the shoulder and sends her tumbling against the wall, bleeding heavily.)

smythe

Some people never learn from experience.

(General ruckus as people rush to the captain. The drunken sailor just stands there swigging. Someone smashes him in the face with a blackjack, making a sickening crunch. Everyone stares down at the body.)

isobel

Democracy in the work-place. The direct approach. Now, (to a sailor) why don't you break out some delicious hard-tack and we'll talk about this like civilised people?

the drunken sailor

(Looks up from his bottle for the first time and says calmly) I'm not mourning the bastard, but where does this leave us? Still starving to death in a mouldering wreck.

isobel

(Cheerfully) We're not gonna starve. (Looks at her blue finger-ends) We're gonna freeze to death.

scene 45: condemned cell, fort hope

(The cell is one of several leading off a corridor. It has a fairly traditional cell structure— high ceiling, no windows, three walls bare stone and the fourth iron bars facing onto the corridor. There is no furniture. Robin is sitting on the floor, a chain around his waist screwed to a peg high up the wall. His injuries are covered in bloody bandages. He's staring calmly into space, Trixie curled up on his knee. Violetta sweeps into the corridor, shaking with anger, her eyes gleaming. A guard follows, clutching a big bunch of keys.)

guard

Guest for the prisoner.

(The guard opens the door and Violetta sweeps in. Robin stands up politely, as if he were receiving a visitor at his home. Trixie sits on his hip like a monkey. The guard walks away.)

violetta

(Quiet, horrified, but vibrating with anger) How dare you?

robin

(Genuinely confused) What?

violetta

(Chokes) You monster!

robin

Miss Lee?

VIOLETTA

(Slumps against the wall and begins to sob quietly and despairingly) Why?

(Robin attempts to put an arm round her shoulder but she shrugs him off and continues to sob.)

robin

(Pause) Why what?

violetta

(Turns to him shaking with fury, quiet, vicious, hissing, deadly) Don't lie! Don't lie!

robin

Lie?

violetta

(Slaps him so hard round the face his head cracks against the wall) You murdered my cousin! (Another slap) You swine! (Utter hatred) You swine!

robin

I didn't.

(Violetta begins to cry again, hitting him harder and harder.)

robin

I didn't!

(Trixie jumps into Violetta's arms. She stops hitting Robin and holds her awkwardly. Trixie gulps appealingly.)

violetta

(To Trixie, confused) What?

(Trixie blinks.)

violetta

You mean…? (Looks blankly at Robin, whose face is bruised and whose nose and mouth are bleeding) Then why…?

robin

(Shocked and horrified) Did you really think that I had?

violetta

(Shrugs helplessly) Yes…

robin

(Astonished) I'd never… (pauses, grins wearily) I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

violetta

But why?

robin

(Removes a couple of broken teeth from his mouth with a thoughtful frown.) You said yourself. She can never come home. She'll live the rest of her life like a hunted dog.

violetta

(Astonished) You did this… for her?

robin

(Surprised) Well- (decisively) yes.

violetta

(Bewildered) What do you mean, "well"?

robin

(Smiling brightly) Well, of course.

violetta

(Thinking she understands) Because you're in love with her?

robin

(Recoils in horror) No!

violetta

(Surprised, then realisation) Oh, Robin- after all this time?

("Don't Cry" by Guns 'n' Roses begins to play.)

robin

For always.

violetta

I never knew…

robin

Good. I was hoping you'd never guess.

violetta

But all those girls?

robin

What girls? I'm glad you think there were girls. Everybody does. (Quietly) A flower, a poem, then they were gone.

violetta

(Tears in her eyes) I'm so sorry…

robin

Don't be. I wouldn't have been good for you. You deserve a better man than I am.

violetta

You're a good man and a brave man.

robin

I'm a card sharp and a drunk. I wouldn't have been a good husband. I would have been a terrible father. You left me for a kind, wise man.

vioeltta

(Sob-laughing) I love Billy to bits, but I wouldn't call him exactly wise…

robin

He's wise enough to appreciate what a wonderful wife he's going to have. He can give you the comfortable life you deserve.

violetta

(Sadly) But you…

robin

Never mind me.

vioeltta

I can't help minding.

robin

If I can serve you in the least, if I can help you and yours in any way, I can die happy.

violetta

I… I don't ask this of you, you know, I don't want…

robin

I ask it of me.

violetta

You could… (Hesitates)

robin

Exactly. Could what? (Grins) Accept the fait accompli.

(Pause)

violetta

Robin- Mr Jackson-

robin

I quite liked it when you called me Robin. We were children together, after all.

violetta

(Smiles and nods) Robin, I'm very grateful for this. I… I don't know how to thank you and… I'm sorry I beat you up.

robin

(Grins) You can look after Trixie.

violetta

(Looks down at Trixie, whom she's still cradling in her arms) Sure. A pleasure.

(Trixie looks at Robin in anguish and flails her little fore-legs.)

robin

(To Trixie) Now, Trixie, be good. Meet your new humble and adoring servant. Be a good girl for daddy.

(Trixie slumps miserably against Violetta's chest.)

robin

(To Trixie) Good girl! (To Violetta) Thanks.

(Guard walks past clanging a bell)

guard

Visiting hour over!

violetta

(Helping Trixie onto her shoulder) Goodbye.

robin

Goodbye and congratulations on your forthcoming nuptials.

violetta

(Smiles a bit) Thanks. Would you misunderstand if I were say I love you?

robin

(Laughing) Of course not. Pals 'til Hell freezes. Although, I must confess, that sugar mouse? I'd dropped it on the floor anyway.

(He hugs her and she kisses him on the cheek.)

robin

(Quietly) I think you should tell Ashly the truth.

violetta

(Springs back from him, shocked) How… how did you know?

robin

I was there, remember? I ain't stupid. And I've little else to do in here than mull things over.

(The guard peers sternly through the bars.)

guard

Come along now, madam.

(Violetta, shocked and trembling, nods goodbye to Robin and walks away. Trixie stares sadly back at Robin over her shoulder. The guard slams the door. "Don't Cry" fades. Robin slides down the wall and returns to peaceful contemplation of the air.)

scene 46: the forecastle

(Dimly-lit and cold. The cabin boy is curled up in the corner. Isobel is sitting next to him, the sail which she was trying to mend fallen from her cold fingers into her lap. Smythe and Inkwell are playing a card game half-heartedly. Of the other two surviving sailors, one is asleep and one is studying a miniature portrait in a locket, depicting two children and a rabbit.)

cabin boy

(Calmly) You should have let me die.

isobel

Don't say that.

cabin boy

It's true, though. I'm no use to anyone here.

isobel

Have some more hard-tack. (She unwraps a packet of hard-tack and hands him a piece)

cabin Boy

No, it's no use.

isobel

Chin up, kid.

cabin boy

You eat it. You need it. (Grins) You're trying to give me extra and you think I don't notice.

isobel

I'm not hungry.

cabin boy

It'll stop you getting cold.

isobel

I'm not cold.

cabin boy

(Laughs weakly) Right. We're in a tropical paradise where honey flows in waterfalls and the fruit grows sugar-candied on the tree.

isobel

Halfs?

cabin boy

All right.

(Isobel snaps the piece of hard-tack in half and they munch.)

cabin boy

Shall I finish your sail?

isobel

No, it's fine. You get some sleep. You'll feel better in the morning.

cabin boy

I'm not tired.

isobel

(Laughs) Get some sleep, that's an order.

cabin boy

You're not the captain, you can't give me orders.

isobel

You're the cabin boy, everyone can give you orders.

(The cabin boy grins and settles down against her shoulder. Long pause)

cabin boy

We'll never touch land again, will we?

isobel

(Quietly) I don't expect so, no.

scene 47: morning

(Isobel opens her eyes and blinks a couple of times. She turns to the cabin boy. He sits cold and stiff against the wall, a ragged blanket drawn round him. His lips are purple.)

isobel

(Gently) Hey, kid. (She shakes him. No response. Blearily) Hey, kid…

(Isobel gradually notices that something is very wrong.)

isobel

(Sadly) Oh, kid.

(Smythe is fuzzy with cold and exhaustion. He rubs the sleep out of his eyes and blinks a few times. He puts his ear next to the cabin boy's mouth and shakes his head. Isobel begins to cry quietly, not dramatically, the tears just drop from her eyes like a very little girl's. She sees something in the cabin boy's hand and prizes his cold, stiff fingers open. It's a little paper rose, and a note. The note is written in big, wobbly handwriting and trails of at the end. The note reads "Miss Sauvage. It was fun with you. Sorry for the inconvenience". Isobel tries to fasten the paper rose in her hair, but her fingers are too cold. She rubs them together and blows on them. Smythe helps her to fasten it above her ear. Then she leans her head on Smythe's shoulder and sobs. Inkwell and one of the other two sailors gather round, the other sailor is semi-conscious.)

scene 48: The gallows in front of fort hope

(The sun is rising over the eastern horizon. It's a cool, clear, crisp morning. The hangman is busying himself with weights and ropes. A few people are standing on the grass, and some of them look mildly interested when Robin is led by four armed guards to the gallows, but most of them continue with their conversations. Robin's arms are pinioned behind him. He's perfectly calm, thinking his own thoughts. He admires the rising sun with mild interest. The hangman helps Robin up the steep steps onto the gallows.

hangman

(Briskly) Morning, laddie.

robin

Morning. Forgive me if I don't shake hands.

hangman

(Reads to the world in general from a note of paper, with a bored air) Mr Robin Jackson is to die for his crime of double murder.

(A few people glance up)

robin

I've played to keener audiences.

hangman

Too early. They'd rather be watching breakfast stained glass. (Puts the noose round Robin's neck.) You have a right to make a speech.

robin

Oh, they've heard it all before.

hangman

Wish everyone had your sense. Someone talked for three hours the other day. I had to pull the door and have done with it. Now, if you don't mind… (Positions Robin on the scaffold)

robin

At your convenience.

(The hangman releases the trapdoor and Robin swings down, his neck breaks with an audible crack. The hangman climbs down from the gallows, checks for breathing and cuts the rope connecting Robin's body to the gallows. Two guards carry him away.)

scene 49: Lee family parlour

(Billy is reading a mail order catalogue. Violetta was embroidering, but now she's let in fall in her lap.)

billy

Do you think we ought to buy a cheese grater with a little bowl attached or one of those where every side has a different thickness of hole?

vioeltta

(Impatiently) Why don't we just leave it to the people who are buying us wedding presents to choose one?

billy

Are you all right, darling? You seem… distrait?

violetta

Yes, well, actually, no. I need to talk for you for a moment.

billy

(Puts the mail order catalogue down) Yes?

violetta

You know Mr Ashly?

billy

Who's hanged?

violetta

Yes, well he's done me a great favour.

billy

Bought us a cheese grater?

violetta

No, no, listen… He didn't kill Mr Edmundson or Isobel at all. Isobel killed Mr Edmundson and ran away.

billy

(Frowning) But isn't that what we thought already, darling?

violetta

Yes, of course

billy

That's wonderful! It means she might be still alive, and that's much better than being dead! But… (thinks for a bit) but that's a bit strange, because he said he did, didn't he? Do you know why?

violetta

Yes, that's what I'm trying to tell you. You see, he said that I ought to…

billy

Who said you ought to do what?

violetta

Robin said that I should tell you… well, everything. Why Isobel killed Mr Edmundson and why Robin said that he'd done it. You see, he's in love with me.

(Pause)

billy

(Helpfully) Well, I can see why.

violetta

(Realising that Billy has nothing more to say about this) You see, when I was a girl, I was quite fond of Robin Jackson.

(Pause)

billy

(Realising something is expected of him, vaguely) Really, darling? That must have been nice.

violetta

Mr Edmundson knew. He didn't say anything for years, let me think that he had forgotten, then when I announced my engagement to you, he tried to blackmail me.

billy

The dirty scoundrel! I'll- oh, wait, your cousin already has. Was that why?

violetta

Yes. (Hangs her head)

billy

Your poor cousin.

violetta

Yes. I didn't want her to! I didn't know that was what she was going to do!

billy

Of course not. But she did it anyway. Anyone would.

violetta

(Surprised) Would you?

billy

(Calmly) Oh, yes.

violetta

I should have told you.

billy

(Puts an arm around her shoulders) Yes, but… well, it's no use having regrets.

violetta

I'll think I'll regret this all the rest of my life.

(Billy silently hugs her and she buries her face in his shoulder. They sit like that for a long time.)

scene 50: The forecastle

(The five of them are cold and tired. They are dividing up a small amount of hard-tack. Isobel's lips are blue and her fingers are numb and fumbling. Everyone speaks with effort.)

inkwell

Have a little more, Miss Sauvage.

isobel

No, I'm all right.

inkwell

You're not. You're ill, you're dying.

isobel

So are you

inkwell

I'm an old man, missy. Not much left for me, anyway.

isobel

(With an effort) I don't want… you to die…

inkwell

I'm not thrilled by the idea… but… it doesn't matter.

isobel

It matters if you die… of course it matters…

inkwell

You're the lady. I have to do what I can for you.

isobel

Does it matter, that I'm a lady? Out here, in space? We're not at a dinner party, you don't have to pass me the salt.

inkwell

I think that out here in space is where it matters most of all.

isobel

Mr Inkwell, it's very kind of you, but I can't. I have my code of honour, too. I can't take advantage of someone else's kindness.

inkwell

Well, perhaps your code of honour would let you do a favour to an old friend who doesn't want to sit by and watch a little girl starve.

isobel

Oh, Mr Inkwell, if you only knew… I'm not the innocent little girl you think I am.

inkwell

Whatever you think you are, I only look at you and see the eyes of a girl I knew once, the best and bonniest girl I ever saw. No, you needn't look at me like that, Mr Smythe, she was my daughter.

(John Denver's "Take me Home, Country Roads" begins.)

isobel

Is she…?

inkwell

(Quietly) Long time since.

(Flashback: rolling wooded mountains, fading into a smoky blue distance. Close up on a stream, a girl aged about six is playing in the stream, barefoot and happy in a little cotton sun-dress. Inkwell's voice "She was all I had left." A younger, happier Inkwell walks down the grassy clearing in the woods to the stream and the girl runs to him.)

inkwell

Little girls grow up.

(Flashback: the girl is now about sixteen. She is standing in the meadow in front of a little log cabin, laughing in the arms of a handsome boy. Inkwell's voice: "I wish I'd killed him myself" Image of the boy canoodling with another girl in a tight red dress in the corner of a rough rural tavern. Inwell's voice: "But she did" Inkwell's daughter is sitting under a tree in the backyard of a ranch house at dusk, in shock, a musket in her blood-stained hands, looking down at the boy's corpse.)

isobel

Then why are you…?

inkwell

The hang-man wanted paying. So did the gaoler. Even the clerk in the county courts.

(Flashback: Inkwell holding up a rural warehouse, of the kind found in Westerns, with a musket, a dangerous look in his eyes. Inkwell's voice: "Have you any idea how a poor farmer gets hold of that kind of bribe? And then I had the whole country out after me, like a pack of dogs." A group of men on horses gallop across the ridge of a hill. A tree with a Wanted poster attached. Inkwell's daughter wakes up in her bed in the little log cabin, the sun rising outside the window. A note is lying on the bed-side table. She picks it up, her eyes widen with shock. She stares out of the window at the sun, her eyes shining with tears.)

isobel

Oh, Mr Inkwell, I'm so sorry.

inkwell

No, lassie, I saved my girl, and I'm not sorry for that. I just wish I could see her life now… with a better man… grandchildren… (Music fades. Holds out the hard-tack) Come on, lass, for a sentimental old man…

isobel

Thank you. (Takes the hard-tack and nibbles on it.)

scene 51: Later

(Dark. The five survivors are sitting by a porthole. Inkwell seems to be asleep. Smythe has his arm round Isobel's shoulders. It isn't clear whether the other two sailors are alive at all. Everyone is cold, hungry and tired. Very quiet. Long silence.)

inkwell

Any regrets?

isobel

No

smythe

(Thinks) I would say gambling debts but then (to Isobel) I would never have met you.

(Isobel smiles sleepily. She turns to look out of the porthole. Various wonders of outer space—a pink star, a spinning green orb, wonderful multi-coloured planets. She stares expressionlessly. Cut to Violetta and Billy's wedding in a garden, Violetta in a white dress, careworn but finally a blushing bride, Billy nervous. Johnathan and Martha are in their best clothes, glowing with pride. The registrar is reading from his little book.)

violetta

I do solemnly declare that I know not of any lawful impediment why I, Violetta Lee, may not be joined in matrimony to Billy Ashly.

(Back to the Esperanza. Outside the porthole, a distant star explodes, the lights of strange worlds glow far away. Isobel's eyes are glazing over. Back to the garden.)

registrar

You may kiss the bride. (Billy and Violetta kiss)

(Back to Esperanza. Quiet, inert heap huddled on the floor. Back to the garden. People throw confetti over Violetta and Billy, Violetta laughs. Back to Esperanza. Isobel stares silently out at the dark. Her breathing gets shallower and shallower and stops, and she lies in the cold, dark room.)

FAde Out:

Credits: Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" THE END