Beauty and the Beast: the Untold Story ACT ONE Scene One

Setting:  GLORIA, finely gowned, is primping in a mirror set up at the dining room table, checking hair and makeup from every angle.  BELLE, plainly dressed, is in the window seat, quietly looking out, waiting.   It is twilight. SYBIL enters through door from right, elegantly dressed like her sister.

SYBIL [exuberantly, to GLORIA]  

I’m ready!  How do I look?  [Twirls.]

GLORIA [barely glancing]  

Wonderful!  But how do look?

SYBIL [fussing with hair ribbons]

 Wonderful!   Oh, but these ribbons are all wrong.   Yellow isn’t my color.  But the blue and red ones just don’t go with the dress.   Oh—it’s so dreadful being poor—always having to compromise.  I don’t know if Father appreciates how we make do.


Well I’m at wit’s end.  And tired of making do.  Look at this color in my hair—ugly, ugly!  [Studying in her mirror.]   Oh!  I should have left it as it was.   But I was so bored with that color. 

SYBIL [without looking]

 Well I liked it with the red in it.

GLORIA [turning abruptly]

Red!  It’s not been red for months!  It was auburn.  If you ever noticed.

SYBIL [looking]

Auburn?  Oh, yes—of course.  I remember.   Forgive me, dearest.  But I think the…blonde is very nice.


Not blonde.  Ash.  You’re looking but you’re not seeing.  And it’s not very nice—it’s ugly.  It’s what comes of having to depend on the druggist instead of Monsieur Boudreaux.  Oh—I hate being poor!


I too, dearest.  Pathetique.  [Glances at BELLE.  To GLORIA.]  Why isn’t she getting ready for the party?

GLORIA [amused]  

She probably is ready.  [Both giggle.  BELLE is unaware.]  Belle—aren’t you going to the party?

BELLE [faraway]  

The party?  Yes, I’m going.


You should be getting ready.  We’ll be leaving as soon as Father’s home.


But I am ready.  [GLORIA and SYBIL smirk.]

SYBIL [moves to BELLE]  

Deardeardear, listen to your sister—this is no dress to wear to this party.

BELLE [smiling]  

No—it’s fine.  It’s Father’s favorite.  Why don’t you like it?  Aren’t these neck ruffles nice?


Nice?  Yes, Belle, they are nice.  But nice is not the thing these days.  Decolleté, my dear.  

[She slides a finger into her cleavage.]

SYBIL [affectionately]  

Belle, you are far too naïve.  Poor young women, however beautiful—[Indicates GLORIA and herself.]—must struggle to catch a good husband.  We must use every art to excite and entice.  You cannot be blasé about this.


Unless you covet the blacksmith or the grocery clerk.   [She laughs.] 

 [SYBIL moves away from BELLE, adjusting hair ribbons again.  In good humor BELLE goes to her and from behind begins to help straighten SYBIL’s ribbons]  


Oh yes, thank you, dear.  I do hope the Franklin brothers will be there, Gloria.   Or do you think Mrs. Williams is only daydreaming?


They’ll be there.


Why are you so certain?


Because Father also told me.


He did?   Well.  And why are they still single if they have so much money?


Because they are both barely twenty.


[Startled; turns a quick, alarmed stare at BELLE; then re-ddresses GLORIA.]  

Mais non!  What if? [indicating BELLE.]

GLORIA [confidently amused]  

Dear sister, please!  Elegance, sophistication and allure will triumph, have no doubt.   If they are young, so much the easier they will be…ensnared.  [To BELLE.]  Are you reciting another one of your clever little stories at the party tonight?


Yes.  If the flute player can also be there.  I’m still too embarrassed to perform alone.

GLORIA [smiles to SYBIL]  

Of course.  How quaint.  Simple.   Sweet.  Like the child you always were.  And still are.


There.  Your ribbons are grand.          


Thank you, child.  [To GLORIA.]  What do you say?


Elegant.  Sophisticated.  You will be…irresistible.

BELLE [looking out the window] 

Oh—Father’s here!

GLORIA [back to her mirror]  



Yes, finally.  What was so urgent he had to run off to the lawyers this afternoon?   Not another debt collector, I hope.


I don’t think so.  I think they all understand by now that we’re the dead horse that can’t be beaten further.  Yet it can’t be good news either.


[He enters, an old man in poor but dignified clothes.  He stands in the doorway beaming.  BELLE goes to him; they embrace.]   

Hello, my wonderful daughters.

GLORIA [glancing at him]  

Father, we’re nearly late.  And you must at least change your shirt, like it or not.  We can’t offend Mrs. Williams on her night of nights.  

[FATHER continues beaming, BELLE still hanging on him.]

SYBIL [sensing something]  

Father—why are you grinning so?  [GLORIA looks up, goes to him.]  Something’s up.  Obviously.   What is it, Father?

FATHER [still beaming] 

Something wonderful has happened.  [All stare expectantly.]

GLORIA [dubious]  

Farmer Harris has given you a few days off from your awful drudgery?

FATHER [laughs] 

No—something much better.  And a goodbye to Farmer Harris.  No.  Girls…the Sand Dollar has been found.  She will be towed into port in four days.

[The DAUGHTERS are stunned to silence.]

SYBIL [barely able to speak]  

Ah…ah…ah…ah…and. mean…ow…ow…our wealth….

FATHER [triumphant]  

Yes—the wealth has been recovered!

[SYBIL’s knees weaken; she reaches for the sofa arm as she faints onto the sofa.  BELLE sits beside her, fanning her face maternally.]

GLORIA [joy rising]  

How do you know for certain?


Judkins received word this morning from a distant harbormaster.  The Sand Dollar had indeed been through a terrible storm but she was not destroyed—thank God—

GLORIA [dazed; softly]  



But she was blown far off course and grounded in a desolate cove a hundred miles from where anyone would have thought to look.   She was found altogether by accident, cargo intact.  A miracle no pirates found her in that ten months.  


Miracle?  Miracle?   [Suddenly coming to; spins joyously.]  YIHEE!  WOWEE!   [Begins shaking SYBIL.]  Wake up, you fool!  We’re rich again!  Do you head?   We’re rich!  Rich!

SYBIL [slowly coming to]  




[SYBIL’s head falls back, head lolling sideways, as if drugged.]


And no more Farmer Harris?


No more.  

BELLE [looks to GLORIA]  

We should help Gloria to her room, so she may rest a bit.  Or we will never make the party.

GLORIA [slowly remembering]  

The party?  [Laughs.]  Who cares about Mrs. Williams’ party?—we’re rich!

SYBIL [suddenly coming to]  

No, no!  [Speaks urgently.]  The Franklin brothers!


Oh God—yes!  The Franklin brothers!  How stupid of me.  Get up, Sybil.  Let’s get some cold water on your face—on both our faces.  

[GLORIA helps SYBIL struggle up and both go to door right; GLORIA laughing wildly.]



FATHER [sits beside BELLE]  

Belle…when we have our money again…I hope you’ll allow me to find a good husband for you.

BELLE [earnestly] 

 But my life is full.  I’m quite happy here, you know that. I don’t need a husband.


So you wish to go through life an old maid?


Rather than marry Will Turner of Harry Owen?


They’re wonderful boys.  And they would take care of you well.  [BELLE is obviously amused.]   What’s the laugh?


You called them boys.            


You know what I mean.  They are handsome and well-mannered young men.


No—they’re boys.  Cute, charming and well-mannered.  But boys.  Forever.

FATHER [frustrated]  

Dear, you can’t be so choosey—there are only so many eligible bachelors.

BELLE [smiling]  

I’m not being choosey.  I’m not choosing.  I’m content as I am.


But Belle—


Father, I have no desire to spend my life with any of these eligible bachelors.   [Hugs him.]  You have spoiled me.  None of them will ever have your sensitivity or wisdom or courage.


Belle, you miss the point.  I am old.  I won’t always be here.  And I can’t bear the thought of you…living alone...and at this hard world’s mercy.


Father—there are worse things than living alone.  It would be worse to live with someone who did not understand how the spirit can enter a person and give him a beautiful song to sing.  Or how the spirit can enter a person and make that person something…bigger… something wonderful…at least for a while.

FATHER [exasperated]  

Belle, if you are waiting till you find a man to share those things with you, you may wait forever!

BELLE [quietly]  

Father, I’m not waiting.  Long ago I realized I’d probably never find such a man.  [Pause.]   You are the only man I’ve ever known who understood such things.  As I said, you spoiled me.  And I’ll be forever grateful.


Oh precious child—

BELLE [smiling]  

Please understand—I am at peace.  Your love and wisdom have made me strong.  I know the world is hard.  And cruel.  But it’s also wonderful.  And, I believe, it takes care of its children.


FATHER [shaking his head]  

What would your mother say?


She’d say you have taught me well and you should have faith in that.   [Pause as FATHER looks away, hiding tears, unsuccessfully.]  Father—

FATHER [forcing a smile]  

It’s just that you look more like her every year.   Sometimes it’s shocking.


That’s the other thing, Father.  The love you and Mama had for each other is something I’ll never forget.  How could I marry someone I could not love as much as she loved you?  Now, Father, enough of that—I’ve finished my newest story.

FATHER [admiringly]  

Already!  And I’m sure it’s wonderful.  As always.


I hope so.  But I’ll only believe it’s wonderful if you say so.  I’m reciting it at the party tonight.


Fabulous.  But don’t tell me anymore—I want to be surprised.  


Oh, you will be surprised.  The mermaid and the wizard come to a shocking conclusion.

FATHER [laughs; stops his ears]  

No, no!  Enough!  I won’t listen!


Father, how soon will you be able to quit the work with Farmer Harris?


This week.  As soon as I return from the lawyer’s and have inventoried the cargo.   The creditors will be paid in full—at last, thank God—and the rest will be ours. 


Yes.  The creditors first.  You are the most heroic man I know, Papa.

FATHER [scoffing]  



Yes!  Moreso than any hero I ever read about.  At your age you could have gone bankrupt and let the creditors hound their other debtors.




Yes—I know.  Hardly.  That’s you.   Instead you indenture yourself to Mr. Harris—oh!—to pay off those hard-hearts.


Belle, please.  They weren’t hard-hearts when they lent us money to buy all this land, and to buy the Sand Dollar.  Life is not so simple.  I owed them.  And still do.

GLORIA [from offstage right]  

Father!  It’s time to leave.  Are you ready?

FATHER [rising]  

Yes, yes.  I’m ready.  Whenever you are.  

[GLORIA and SYBIL bustle in, preoccupied with dress trim and hair.  Both beam at him appreciatively.  FATHER goes to them, puts an arm around each one.]  

How beautiful you both look!  My dears, Saturday I‘m off to inspect the Sand Dollar.  I want to bring each of you something special.  It’s been such a long time since I’ve been able to come home with presents.

GLORIA and SYBIL [in unison]  



Oh, Father—I want a necklace.  An elegant pearl one.

GLORIA [on his arm]  

Father!  The gown!   You know, the gorgeous one I’ve admired so much.  Ah—but it’s so expensive—

FATHER [enjoying this]  

You’ll have it!  Nothing’s too expensive now.

SYBIL [squeals]  

And earrings to match, Father!  Please!

FATHER [delighted]  

Of course, of course.  Anything.


And a fur coat too, Father.  Please!


Of course, of course.


And one bracelet too.  Just one.


Of course.  But how will I remember so much?  Make a list, my darlings.  You shall have it all.  [Turns beaming on BELLE.]   And what for you, my unusual child?

BELLE [slightly uncomfortable]  

I don’t know, Father.  I can’t think of anything right now.


Come, come, child.  I want to buy you something.


Anything, Father.  You choose.

FATHER [stands back, sobering]  

You will make an old man sad, dear.  Come, we are celebrating.  Name a gift.


Alright.  A rose.   One beautiful rose.

      [GLORIA and SYBIL giggle.]

FATHER [dismayed]  

A rose?

BELLE [proudly]  

Yes.  A rose.   That’s what I want.  


Don’t deny her.  It’s what she wants.

SYBIL [laughing]  

Gold or roses, roses or gold—what’s the difference—eh, Belle?  Give it to her, Father. 


But enough.  We must be gone.  We’re already late.


Yes, the party!  Ah—life is wonderful!

[FATHER takes up his coat, takes BELLE’s arm, as GLORIA and SYBIL hurry ahead to the door left.]

Scene Two


Setting:  The BEAST’s grotto is dimly lit, vague shadows of rocks and trees only can be discerned.  On a central elevation there is in shadows, also barely discernible, a most angular structure, a dwelling.  A brief howling in the distance is heard.  Frustrated groans come from the left as FATHER struggles through the thick undergrowth.   Unseen by him, as he stumbles into the clearing, a fire among an altar-like arrangement of rock ignites, revealing a carefully constructed rock stairway leading to the upper level structure. 

FATHER [seeing fire]  

Oh thank God—a campfire.  [Calls out.]  Hello!   Who’s here?  

[Peers into the darkness around him; goes to the fire, sits exhausted beside it, calming himself.  Finally looks up again.]  

Hello!  Deserted?   Hah!  Good—then let me hide here.  And die in disgrace.  

[Bitter laughter turns to sobbing, head bowed.   Another distant howl.  He raises his head, looks around, sees nothing and becomes introspective.  He speaks as if his daughters were present.]  

I’m so sorry, Gloria…Sybil….You understand—don’t you?  Yes, I know, I thought it was all there too.  I’m sorry.  But the furs and the silks were ruined—every crate of them.  [Head bowing.]  Oh, God!   Kill me—crush the life from an old man—but don’t tear the hopes and dreams from my poor daughters!  Not again!  Not again.  [Looks up, as if to his daughter.]  Please, Sybil, don’t turn away—I didn’t know.   I’m as depressed as you are, darling.   Please don’t cry.  Please look at me.  And try to understand.  No—there’s nothing that can be done to save any of it.  Rotted…ruined…like the remains of my pathetic life.  [Pause.]   Please look at me.  

[Head bows again, silent for a moment.  Then with great effort, suddenly he stands and looks around.  He speaks with force.]  

No!  That’s not the end!  We may be without money—but so we were to begin with.  No—we still have each other…our love…our beautiful memories.  [Shakes his head again as the reality re-asserts itself.]  God—this agony has me close to losing my mind.  Yes, it’s like being lost in this infernal forest—lost in a thicket of darkness and despair, even though I’ve come this way so many times—yet suddenly here I am and I don’t recognize a thing, or a way out, or the way I entered.  Pull yourself together, old man!  You’re confused and probably half crazy with the guilt and shame—but you’re not giving up.   Steady, old man.  [Looks around, trying to get his bearings.]  It’s the darkness that’s got me.  And the exhaustion.  Get a little sleep, old man.  Yes, lie down here a bit until it’s light, then you’ll find your way out of here easy enough.  Yes, that’s good reasoning.  You haven’t lost it yet, old man.  [Settles down beside the fire to sleep.]  Yes, that’s better.  A little sleep.                

[The fire gradually extinguishes.  All is then black.  Gradually dawn’s light comes up on the grotto.  There are a few partially eaten rib bones near him.  He awakens.]


Oh—the blessed Sun.  [Looks around, slowly remembering, emits a mild groan.]  Ohhh…lost…lost…dreadful morning.  [Sees the bones.]  What?  [Looks around.]  Hello!  

[Notices the exotic dwelling nearby:  an other-worldly structure of several rooms, but all constructed of what appears to be large quartz crystals.  Calling out.]  

Who’s here?  I come in peace.  [Takes a few tentative steps up the stone stairs, then stops.]  How strange.   A house, but not like any other house I’ve ever seen.  Hello!   [Pause.]  Stranger than a dream.  What man would live in a place like this?  Hello!  [Begins to feel uneasy.]  No…no, far enough, old man.  Something tells me I don’t want to go a step further.  [Turns, looks back sees the bones again.]  But food. At least a little meat left on these bones.  

[Goes, kneels beside them.  Lifts a rib, sniffs it, tastes; then eats a mouthful.  Stops, looks up.  Eats more, hungrily; keeps looking around.  Finishes the last rib, sits back; remembering again his plight; settles head in hands, makes small moans as he rocks.  Then wearily rises and calls out.]  

Thanks you for the food!  Whoever you are!  And for the rest!  [To himself.]  And for a moment of forgetfulness.  An old man thanks you.  

[Looks around for a way out, a way forward.  He then notices a bush of roses.]  

Oh—Lord!—how beautiful!  Such roses!  [Goes to them; admiring.]  Yes, this one can be for you, my sweet Belle.  

[He picks one rose.  Instantaneously, a cry of agony is heard from deep within the BEAST’s palace.  FATHER is stunned and freezes; but slowly turns to look.  In another moment the enraged BEAST appears on the crystal palace’s front steps, significantly above the position of FATHER beside the roses.   Human-like, the BEAST stands erect.   His head of hair is black, thick and coarse, growing down the nape of his neck.  His arms and legs have the same coarse, black hair.  Hair on his face and throat is much finer, silvery-gray and sparse, allowing his nose, cheek-bones and jaw-line to be prominently visible; these facial features have human shape.  His hands also have human shape and on the backside of them a light covering of the silvery-gray hair that’s on his face.  He wears a short-sleeved leathery black tunic that hangs to mid-thigh.  A blue-gray, unadorned cloak is attached around his throat, drapes his shoulders and hangs down his back.  He wears dark leather boots with silver clasps. His eyes are emerald green and piercing.]



[Sees FATHER, bounds down stairs to him.  FATHER falls in terror to his knees.]

FATHER [feebly]  


[The BEAST yanks the rose from his hand, looks at it sorrowfully, then at FATHER, barely controlling his rage; he puts the rose inside his cloak.]  




Nothing…only a rose—



[Raises a menacing fist, trembling, as FATHER holds up an arm to ward off a blow.]  

HUMAN!  Old, weak, stupid human!  

[Turns in his rage and clubs the tree trunk, but quickly whirls to menace again the still-cowering FATHER.]  



Please don’t kill me.


HAH!  Fool!—you are already dead!  Answer me!   Who are you?


An old man.                                        


Why are you here?


By accident.  By mistake.  Lost.


You killed my rose!


It was so beautiful—


HAH!  So you killed it!  Brutal human—like all your kind!


I meant no harm….Please….  

[The BEAST pauses as he turns, paces away, returns, completely disgusted, still near exploding.  FATHER struggles to move away, can’t move.]  

I…I…can’t move.


No—you can’t move!  Your life is over, murderer!

[FATHER vainly struggling to move; deepening terror as he realizes he’s paralyzed.]


What is happening to me?

[The BEAST leans close, enjoying FATHER’s struggle.]  

Yes—struggle!  With all your might.  Struggle!   

[Turns his back, stomps right, considering further punishment.]        

How did you find your way here?


I…I don’t know.  My horse fell…crossing a stream.  He ran away.  I wandered in circles…an hour at least…near a huge white boulder.


A white boulder?


Yes.  I must have circled it many times.  Each time I thought I was on my path again…but I kept coming back to that white boulder every time.


Damn that rock!  And damn your luck!  [Sneers at him.]  Your foul luck!


Please…let me go.  Forgive me—


NEVER!  [Whirls away; enraged.]:  Murder roses…murder me…murder life.  Rrrrrr.  Forgive?   FORGIVE?  [Whirls back on him.]   NEVER!  [Paces again;  FATHER is bowed to earth.]  You pay for this.  I could kill you with a word.  But I want you to tremble and suffer in fear to your shallow core.  You’re not worth killing.  If you were man enough I might keep you and have a use for you.  But I see already you are not worthy of that.   STAND!  

FATHER [struggles to his feet]  

I didn’t mean….  I am sorry….


SORRY?  HAH!  A pathetic speech.

[FATHER is struggling to assert a fragment of his shattered dignity; he stands straight and speaks proudly to the BEAST.]


The rose was for my daughter.  A gift of love.


[He is prepared to be scornful; but he is stopped by this; engaged.] 


FATHER [gains dignity] 

 Yes.  My daughter.


Well….  One only!

FATHER [proudly]  



Three!  How virile.   Sons?



BEAST [smirking]  

No—of course not.  [Paces, thinking.]  Yes.  But daughters might do.

FATHER [leary]  

What do you mean?


I mean that you may yet have a way to save your life.


Not if it means you come near my daughters!

BEAST [arrogant laugh]  

Brave man!  Speak no more, but only to answer me.  First, do these daughters love fine things, beautiful clothes, jewelry?


Two of them, yes, the oldest two.  


And are these daughters pursued by young men?   


Yes.  The two oldest.  The youngest has no interest in men.  But why are you asking me these questions?


Quiet, old man!  I only ask questions.  So is this youngest one not attractive?   Has no talents?  Is disagreeable to everyone?


No, no.  She’s beautiful, she sings and makes stories.  Everyone loves her.  But why—


Stop your speech, old man!  I give you a chance.  And your family a chance.  If…old man…one—only one—of your daughters will come here in your place and prove herself to be more of a man than you are.   [FATHER starts to protest, but is stopped by a handsign.]   SILENCE!  Speak when I allow you!  When I am finished!  [Moderating.]  If, as I say, one of your daughters will come in your place—of her own free will—I will let you go. You will then be allowed to spend your remaining days with two daughters.  And I will give you this consolation—believe it or not as you wish:   no harm of any kind will come to your daughter.  In fact, I will likely find she is not worthy to remain here and I will send her back to you immediately.  Unharmed.   I will even then absolve you of your crime. 

[The BEAST pauses, makes a handsign to free FATHER‘s speech.]



[The BEAST jerks his hand violently, halting FATHER’s words; glowers at him; speaks slowly and quietly, but with passion.]  


No more words then from you, old man.  Hear this and remember it.  I give you ten days freedom.  It is more mercy than you deserve.  You may return home.  You will explain your dilemma to your daughters.  You will explain  the proposition I have offered you.  If one of them agrees to come, you will bring her to me.  You will remember about the white boulder and how you found your way here.   Then you will forget that secret forever.  If one daughter comes to me, you are unbound.  If not, in ten days you are to return here as commanded, exactly as you came last night, and I will make a slave of you until I decide you’ve paid in full for your transgression.  Now go.   You are free—but doubt it not—you are wholly in my power.  GO!  

[The BEAST whirls and bounds up the stairs and disappears.  FATHER slowly turns as if in a trance and exits left.]



They call me the Rimer, I’ve no other name,  

            and when it’s time I can rime:

But it’s only a clever hypnotist trick

 and I’ve vowed to stop using it,

Unless, perhaps, to make someone laugh,

            or to rime riddles for children, who love that.

Of course I’ve never lived in Nighttown—

            that’s only for the doomed and desperate.

My one-room cottage has an ocean view, 

            I live near the Bay.  But even so

I have a vast, primeval curiosity,

            and I return and return to Nighttown.

So that you may know me as I speak

            I leave these hints:  I’m still a young man,

Though I have witnessed many marvels;

            I love to laugh, to listen to a stranger’s story.

In the words I speak is the music I hear. 

            Everyone in Nighttown is my friend.

I am the Rimer, I can rime every time, 

            just like the best of the old ones,

But I would rather tell you a story

            of miracle, magic and mystery. 

I am the Rimer, far from home, strayed 

            alone late into Nighttown once again.

It is Dark Moon Carnival:  and I must

            forewarn all you of delicate dispositions:

Depraved souls and pagan rituals

            abound and flourish everywhere here,  

And this is not my story, but these others’.

            I enter this stage fully dressed:

I carry already the shining thorn

            given to me by my brothers of Nighttown.

I am crowned Emperor of Carnival,

            genii of transformation this one night.

And so my realm will come and go

            in fog, no breeze, a little damp.

The shining thorn, not I, will create all

the miracles you’ll witness tonight:  

The Sun-dried thistle-head spiked, purple-

tufted in the center, the shining long shaft

Finger-thin I carry in my hand.

            I am only a servant of the miraculous.

The Golden Eagle All-Night Cafeteria

            shines out in green neon in the fog, 

The citadel of Nighttown for this night.

            Here I am made Emperor, here 

I am given the spiked long-stemmed thistle,

            here the bright fool’s cap I wear,

Yellow, a long orange tassle 

            to mark me as a proper fool.

I have been celebrated here tonight, 

            to my surprise, the honor of Emperor

Thrust upon me, the fool’s cap,

            the long-stemmed shining thistle.

These friends have each blessed me, drunk to my joy,

            and have bid me on my way at last

To walk the midnight streets of my kingdom, 

            to listen to my hungry people.

But you remember Nighttown, you remember

            how even in that burned-out City 

Nighttown still smoldered hot like a red

            coal in ashes.  Yes, you remember—

In Nighttown only outcasts live, black and white 

            alike forgotten.  Here are the homeless, 

The City’s lost and forgotten, still living,

            in alleys and lonely rooms.  You remember.

But fog hides all this hopelessness tonight.   

            Tonight a different play is performed.

Garbage cans and parking meters are day-glo;

            brilliant neon blinks; loud horns and bells—

This one night only of a man’s life, an after-

life you might say.  Tonight anyone can have 

A second chance, even this man here, dead stopped 

in his prime, unsure why he’s suddenly here,

Looking both ways, then again behind him;

            Though he and I, in perpetual fog, are alone 

Just now.  Look—without my costume that man 

            and I could be brothers, by our looks.

It’s also that garish gold knapsack he carries

            that marks him twin to my gaudy costume.

And as I speak to him this play begins:

“Wait—I know you.  We lived together once 

in Haight-Ashbury.  Your name is Kidd,

Am I right?”  Drained of life he seems, 

            Kidd, at the corner, gaunt, pale, startled

By my voice, turns to me, looking hard,

            then accepting me.  “I like the get-up,” he says,

“But I’m not in a mood to remember.

            But I think I remember you.  The house 

On Haight had lots of people in and out.  

            It’s been twelve years.  And tonight’s just hell

For me.  No—I don’t remember your name.” 

And cares not I see, cares only what might be

Lurking deep within the fog settled everywhere

like night terrors along these Carnival streets. 

I say:  “Tonight you may call me the Rimer,

            but I see all those recollections are lost 

To you now.  What’s your story, Kidd, two A.M. 

            this minute, twelve years at least since I saw you last.

What’s happened that brought you to Carnival?

            Why so upset and restless?  Talk to me.”

Kidd, gold knapsack on his back, still stares 

            into fog and darkness: still seeing nothing

To comfort him.  “Don’t push.  Even you don’t impress me

            tonight.  Just say I had a little bad luck

Back there on Taylor Street.  I got away by a miracle, 

minutes ago, six blocks from here.  I don’t think 

The cops saw my face, but sure as hell

            they’re after me.  I can feel them coming.”

A dark painted woman walks by, smiles

            at Kidd.  Her blouse is low-cut, her skirt 

Mid-thigh and tight.  Kidd’s eyes follow her past, 

fixing on the gentle sway of her ass.

“Rimer, what is all this?  It’s after closing time.

            Nighttown should be quiet as a graveyard.

Not all this celebration, and not you

            all dressed up so fancy.  Though I dig the funny hat.”

As the Rimer I speak my truth: “I dress

            for the occasion.  Tonight I am Carnival

Emperor.  This joyless celebration comes 

once only in a man’s life.  Though this

Is not life, Kidd, it is Dark Moon Carnival. 

            You walk it like a dream tonight

If you walk with me.  Life, but another life.

            Only in Carnival, and only by this thorn

Can a man on such a night truly be

            transformed.  You are lucky to find me, 

Kidd.  I recognize you as a brother. 

            Are you ready for the miracle I offer?

Ask me anything, I am Emperor,

            I can transform you.  Ask me and I give it.”

Kidd hears me not however:  a dog howls,

            down an alley; Kidd whirls to confront it;

Yet nothing more is heard or revealed.

            The miracle that might have been will not be.

“I don’t need to be transformed, Rimer,

            That is not my kind of religion.

I need an escape, or a lady to hide me.

            I’m sure cops are still chasing me—

Transform me from that.  But no, I don’t believe

            in transforming.  Don’t waste that on me.

Still, let’s stay together, let’s you and I go

            inside the Golden Eagle for a break

From my intensity.  I’m going through hell

            tonight.  I feel like I’ve been shattered 

To a thousand pieces.  Death, but another death.

            What will happen to me, Rimer?”
 “Are you afraid?” I ask, hopeful as ever,

            always ready with my thorn.  But no—Kidd turns

Away again, staring into darkness and fog, 

            hearing distant sirens and whispering voices.

“No—I’ll never say I’m afraid to anyone.

            I never have.  But tonight’s all different.

I feel overwhelmed, like a stray dog too far

            from home, who can’t remember his way.”

With Kidd I go in fog down Eddy Street,

            the Golden Eagle our destination.

Kidd stops at a corner newspaper box,

            drops three quarters, but like a thief removes

A Berkeley Barb, folds it and taps his leg

            in quicktime, looking, and looking again

Into fog, hearing mysterious voices, as I do.

            I ask: “Kidd, what new thrills are you after?”
 “No—Rimer, I’m not after any thrills—

            Nighttown is life’s blood to me, mother’s milk,

A tonic that keeps me sane, always there

            for whatever extremes come my way.  But no—

                        I’m not ready to be hunted like a dog.”

Kidd turns, as I turn, as someone calls 

            out, someone limping forward slowly

Toward us, a broken shadow in the fog,

            by his cry an old black man.  We hear—

“The goddamn president has run away!—

            spread the word, pass the word.

The goddamn president is M.I.A.!—

            spread the word, pass the word—halleluiah!”

The jubilant black man grins as he limps past,

            hurrying on through the night with good news.

Police sirens scream out again suddenly

            and echo up and down these Carnival streets.

Kidd catches breath, says, “I told you they’re looking,”

and hurries inside the Golden Eagle, his shelter.

Many others in and out are there around us.

            To me alone Kidd pleads, “Stay near me, I need you.”

We enter:  bright lights inside orange lanterns 

become orange pumpkins shining from the ceiling.

We sit at a white linen-draped table.

            Kidd begins searching the pages of the Berkeley Barb.

“Rimer, you’re the only one who’ll understand me.   

I need to talk.  Those sirens could be for me.

I was in a dope raid.  I got away by luck

            only minutes ago, not far from here.

I’m still holding.  I need a place to hide, 

some whore to take me in would be ideal.

Who knew tonight was Carnival?  Not me.”

            “It’s not advertised,” I say.  “It just happens

When you least expect it.  Like it did to you.”

            I can see he hears nothing I say.

Instead he reads his newspaper and laughs:

            “Now this is something—ever read the Barb?

Listen:  Man forty seeks fat male lovers,

            nothing too much.  Body must be fully shaved.

Or, Intellectual couple wants young girl

for three way, films, dressup, light bondage.

Or this one—-Humiliated male slave begs master

            who’ll use spanking, bondage, enemas,

Watersports, petticoat discipline

            and public humiliation.  Write at once.

What freaks!  These make me feel like a regular guy.

So I am.  It’s something basic I need,

Rimer.  Like massage.   O—Relax in the nude 

with beautiful girls.  Please come when you please.

Yes, I know this place on Eddy Street, the Wayward.

            Walk with me that far.  I feel safer with you.”

So we rise and go, as he knows I would,

            folded Barb under arm:  Kidd first 

And I follow, a fool before and behind.

            Through fog and black night we go like blind men,

Though still I am ready with my thorn, still am I

Emperor this one night, worker of miracles.

An alley corner, under lamplight, reveals 

            the whore Kidd saw before.  Patiently she waits,

Watching us, smiling, then walks slowly away.

            “Damn!  If only there was time tonight,” says Kidd,

“I’d pay the price and have her.  But not tonight—

no, another time, when this nightmare ends.”
 So we go on, until I see another one I know, 

            blind pimp Bogart, who emerges from fog,

Clinking keys and coins in his pocket, pre-eminent

            citizen of Nighttown.  He’s dressed as always 

Elegantly, in silk, blue and black.  He needs no cane

to follow Nighttown streets, his domain for decades. 

Kidd too knows Bogart; Kidd bows to greet him, 

            knows his superior:  “Blood, you are the man.

I’m desperate tonight, you could take me in, 

            you could save me.  I need a little hideaway,

Friend.  I know you have a spare room somewhere.

            I’d make it ten times worth your while.”

Bogart knows the voice and knows his man.

            “Kidd, tonight is Carnival—don’t you know that?

This business bullshit means nothing to me

now.  Only one man out here tonight

Speaks the holy truth.  He’s right in front of you,

            even if you can’t see or hear him.”

Thus, blind pimp of Sutter Street, descending 

to the lower realm of Eddy Street to honor me.   

 “Knowing you hold the thorn, Rimer,

            I’m here confessing the fool I am.

Priscilla is the girl I love, she’s all I have.

            They say she’s old and ugly; but she does me

The best.  She feeds me and protects me.

            No backtalk, and I like that in a lady.

But I caught her with another man, Rimer,

            I heard them from behind the door

This morning, when I came back from walking,

            Priscilla and that nigger grocery boy.

I beat the boy, I beat Priscilla too.

            I couldn’t stop myself.  But what a fool

I was, thinking I deserve that angel.

            She ran away, she ain’t comin’ back.

All the money, all the girls mean nothin’

            to me now without my little baby girl.  

So my black ass is on fire now, Rimer,

something’s broken, twisted in my heart.

I’ve cursed myself for sure, forever,

cause Priscilla was the best—what is left

For me, a no-eyed jack of spades?”    

            Bogart stands close, his hand takes mine.

Within the fog that cloaks our Nighttown,

            the shining thorn vibrates warm in my hand:

Touches him:  unearthly power transmits:      

            his arms outstretch, uplift to the air;

And there we see, as seers are believers,

            Bogart’s black fingers become feathers,

Feathers, as we witness, in blue his silk shirt,

            his blue arms suddenly fluttering wings

That lift and feel the air.  His nose hardens

            black, a sharp beak; old, darkened eyes

Open, light flooding in, his cry piercing         

            the night with joy as he rises, strong wings

Climbing higher, great blue-winged and blue-           

            breasted blackbird rising and crying out

Again high over street lamps, disappearing

            into fog at last the black wingtips, he soars,

                        blind pimp of Sutter Street no more.

Kidd the unbeliever sees nothing of this miracle; 

sees only Bogart vanishing, a ghost into fog.

Nightwatch ACT ONE Scene 1


Setting:  At present all the crew are in the bunks below deck.  Out of the darkness there a pair of voices are heard in fitful moans and sighs.   From his bunk crew member HICKEY is startled awake by the moaning.


Captain!  Captain Kane!   [Pause.]  Where are you?  Oh, God—still dark!

[From a nearby bunk the captain responds, firmly, calmly.]  


I’m here, Tom.  Everything’s alright.  

[He strikes a match, then lights his small lamp, the glow extending barely beyond him, showing the room’s furnishings to a ten foot radius; it reveals also TOM HICKEY in his bunk, his eyes eager to locate the presence of his captain.]  


Oh, there you are.  [He sighs heavily.]  I had a terrible dream.  

[Captain KANE slowly, painfully climbs out of his bunk and goes to HICKEY, carrying the lamp, and sits at the bedside of his youngest crewman, putting a hand on HICKEY’s head, comforting him.  HICKEY is raised up on his elbow.  As KANE touches him he settles back onto his pillow.] 

 My God!  I dreamed I was blind.

                                                            KANE [an effort to speak]  

I’ve had dreams like that too.  But the light will come back.  And we’ll all still be here.

                                                            HICKEY [still unsettled] 

 And is everyone…still alive, Captain?  All of us?


Yes, everyone is still alive.  

[He moves the lamp to show others in their bunks.] 

See—sleeping.  As you should be.

                                                            HICKEY [anxiety dissipates]  

Yes.  Sleeping.   I feel so strange.  Sometimes in the dark I can’t tell if my eyes are open or closed.  Sometimes I start dreaming while I’m still awake.  That scares me.


But Hickey—think of it—when we’re home again.   And there’s light every day.   Sitting out in the backyard with no shirt on, Edith and Stevie running and yelling in and out of the house.   Won’t you have stories to tell!   How we made it through this long, cold blackness.  They’ll all look at us like we’re supermen—eh, Tom?  What stories.   They’ll be saying—my uncle went where no man had ever gone.  And returned to tell the story.  Remember—you’re a survivor, Tom.  We take it…a day at a time.

[HICKEY has been increasingly more attuned to his captain’s face and his voice.  His own voice is now free of anxiety.  He repeats the captain’s mantra.]       


 Yes…one day at a time.


And this will be our day today.  We’ll start with a four-course meal—beans boiled, beans baked, beans mashed and beans fried.  And a bit of our fresh baked bread.  Then a bracing walk to the observatory, record the week’s readings, roll call, morning rounds of the sick.  Cut some wood.  Make bread.   Play some checkers by the lamp’s light.   Hear a good story or two.  Yes, not a bad day.  And we’ll keep it up.  We’ll stay alive.  And we’ll get out of here.  A day at a time.


A day at a time.  And I ain’t complainin’, Captain.  Long as the beans keep comin’.  And more of that fine bread o’ yours.  It’s a meal for a king.


Well said, Tom.  But sleep now, my boy.  And dream of home.

                                                            HICKEY [lays back; mutters]  

Yes, home.

[KANE’s hand lifts away from HICKEY, but he remains seated there another moment; then rises with effort, the small lamp still in his hand.  As KANE slowly carries his light around the cabin, checking on the others asleep in their bunks, he continues talking to himself.]


Yes…sleep…all of you.  No need to be awake in this terrible blackness.

[From a nearby bunk MORTON stirs awake, hearing the captain’s words.  He remains in darkness, beyond the glow of KANE’s lamp.]   


Swing that light round here, Captain.  I’m ready for duty.

                                                            KANE [moves to MORTON]  

I very much doubt it.  Your scurvy’s nearly the worst.

                                                            MORTON [sitting erect]  

That was yesterday.  I’m a new man now.  [Begins putting on boots.]  There’s wood to be cut—ain’t that so?


I’ll be surprised if you have the strength to cut a stick of kindling.  Let me see your leg.  

[MORTON pulls his pants leg up to his knee.  KANE holds his lamp close to the leg.]  

Lord, my friend—not pretty.  And not better either.  Settle back and sleep.

[MORTON pulls his pants leg down and resumes the tying of his boots.]  


Feels better to me, doctor.  ‘Sides, I’m tired of layin’ here and lettin’ you have all the fun.  I say let’s make a little fire and boil up a bit o’ coffee.  

[Painfully he lowers his legs over the bedside and stands, steadying himself with his hand on the bunk.]  

There.  See?   Fit for duty.  Where’s the saw?

                                                            KANE [smiles]  

Alright.  Show me up.   

[He offers his arm for support.  MORTON ignores it and steps painfully, limping toward the hold.  KANE moves beside him, ready to assist.]


How’s Wilson bearing up?

                                                            KANE [frowns]  

Not well.  Not two days life left in him if Hans doesn’t get back soon with some meat.


And McGary?


Nearly as bad.

[They get to the hold.  KANE takes a crowbar and laboriously pries at an oak wall plank until it comes loose while MORTON steadies himself against the wall next to him.  KANE lays the plank across a wooden box, ready for cutting.]


I’ll give it the first cut, sir.

[KANE allows him to take the saw.  MORTON is unsteady as he begins to cut.  He makes a few slow, heavy strokes, then collapses onto the plank.  KANE is immediately upon him, lifting him until he can stand again.  MORTON is breathing heavily.]


This is my fault—the doctor disobeying his own orders.  

[He takes MORTON’s arm around his own shoulder and tries to lift him, but unsuccessfully.  Breathing now heavily himself, KANE sits down beside MORTON.]


Give me another minute, and I’ll be able to haul myself to.   We’ll get this wood cut yet.


You’ll be hauling yourself back to bed, nothing else.   When we get our wind.  You’re too ambitious.


I worry about you when I know you’re working alone.  I heard you talking to yourself, Captain.

                                                            KANE [amused] 

 I’ve made a bad habit of that.  In the dark and the silence and this numbing cold…I lose track of who I am.  I think I’m talking aloud to put something into this void.  So I know I’m still here.  And the world’s still here.  And maybe so the Lord will hear me and not forget us in this black hole.


I can’t see how He’d forget you, sir.


Enough of that.  [Rises with difficulty.]  Now back to the bunk with you.

[They both rise, MORTON leaning on KANE, and they shuffle back to Morton’s bunk, KANE holding the lamp.  MORTON settles heavily into bed.]


Sorry I’m no help.


No, Bill—I always feel your support.  I think after all we’ve been through together, not even my family knows me better than you do.  I always feel your strong spirit in this ship.  Especially when I’m alone.


Seems like you’ve always been alone—since I’ve known you—in a manner of speakin’.  Do you think you’ll ever marry?  Have a family?

                                                            KANE [laughs]  

That’s a nervous laugh.  I don’t usually put that question to myself so directly.  Let me think.   Will you every marry?


No—I think I’m a sailor forever.  I don’t think it would be right to leave a wife in port so much.  I’d be wastin’ her life.


You may have described me too, Morton.  I’m sure I’m a sailor at heart too.  It’s something I never talk about, except with my family.  From the day I collapsed for the first time with rheumatic fever, I vowed I’d never marry.   But that was before I met Maggie.   I’ve certainly thought about marriage since then.  But now…I’m not so sure.  Love and marriage seem so out of place in this cold, black world.  But there are moments when Maggie is very powerfully in my mind.


When you got so sick just before we sailed, I swear I saw her grow ten years before my eyes.  I always thought of her as a sweet innocent school girl, which she certainly is—but when you were delirious in bed those few days, she just took over, giving orders, stayin’ up through the night with you.  Then I said to myself—he‘s met his match.  If he does marry, this will be the one.


Yes….  In another world that was.  Warm breezes.   Sunshine.  [Brief reverie.]  But you sleep.  I’ll see you at breakfast.  

[He moves away with the lamp.  MORTON is now in total darkness.]  


Ay’, ay’, sir.

            [KANE returns to the wood and saw.  He sets down the lamp and begins sawing the oak panel he’s removed from the cabin wall, but quickly tires and must pause frequently.   After cutting one short piece, he weighs it on a scale and marks the weight in a book.  With this piece he starts a small fire in the cookstove, which lights the room much better than the lamp does.  He holds his hands to the fire a moment, a brief communion.  He then closes the cookstove lid, sets on a pot, picks up a chunk of ice from the sideboard and puts it in the pot.  He then picks up the lamp, goes into the hold and climbs the ladder to the upper deck, where the yardarm and the bow rail are visible.  He sets the lamp on the bow rail and looks off into the black distance far beyond the small glow of his lamp.  Abruptly he begins pacing a few steps each way and talking to himself.]


God!—I swear I’m going over the edge.  I can’t even sit down and rest.  I want to stop… can’t stop.  

[He does then stop, however, and takes a deep breath as he stands at the bow rail.  He holds a gloved hand in front of his face:  the hand is shaking visibly.]  

Look—I’m nearly a corpse too...can’t even hold it still.   That’s right, Captain—it’s called losing control.  Not as bad as losing more crew though—huh?  Two?  Three?   [Laughs sarcastically.]  Kane’s ship of fools!  A fool leading and fools following.  To be dying one by one.  Are we leaving a little trail, Captain, of dead bodies?  A trail leading to other dead bodies?  [He leans into the dark distance and yells.]  FRANKLIN!   

[Only silence answers.  His head droops dejectedly.  Then he makes a burst of sarcastic laughter, comes to life and begins re-pacing.  Then again speaks to himself.]  

So why am I so crazy?  I only have a few men to worry about.  And nobody here dead.  Not yet.  Franklin has a hundred twenty men.  And maybe they’re all dead.  [Bitter laughter.]  Or maybe they’ve already been found and rescued.   While we became lost.  Hah!   Perfect irony.  And the devil’s own symmetry.  [Yells again into the dark void.]   FRANKLIN!  [Of course hears nothing.]  So most everyone at home thinks they’re all lost.  But how can anyone know for sure?  Maybe they’re all still out here…somewhere…in the middle of this terrible darkness…darkness…darkness.  

[There is another brief silence until he resumes, energetically, this time as if he is addressing himself.]  

Good, Captain!  Good good!  Good try!   What was it?—almost found them?  No—would have found them….  No—meant to find them….  No, no…wanted to find them.  Something like that. [More bitter laughter.]  Yes—that’s good enough.  Good, Captain!  Good job!   [He pauses a moment, then jerks his head up, booms again.]  FRANKLIN!

[KANE slumps onto the seat, his head slowly comes to rest on his arms as he drowses off, the lamp gradually dimming.  Until suddenly he starts awake, hearing something in the distance.  He stands, turns the lamp up, holds it high, eagerly looking out.  He calls into the feeble light that shines only a little way onto the ice and snow beyond the ship.]  

Hans!  Hans!   This way!  Is it you?  

[He waits, listening.  Distantly a voice is heard.]


Cap’en Kayen!  Hoah!

                                                            KANE [full of energy, shouts]  

Here, Hans!  This way!  [To himself.]  Thank God you’re safe.  

[He swings the lamp overhead. Soon a figure comes limping into the outer light from Kane’s lamp.  It is HANS, hooded, heavily dressed in fur, a rifle over one shoulder, dragging a small game bag behind him.  KANE excitedly climbs over the shipside onto the ice ramp and stumbles out to meet HANS, embracing him.]              

                                                            KANE [childlike excitement]  

Hans, Hans—good boy, you got something, didn’t you?   You did, I knew it, I knew you would, O God, how lucky, I prayed you would.  And thank you, Lord, for saving us again.  And thank you, Hans, for saving us.  Again. 

                                                            HANS [unhappy]  

No, Cap’en.  Bad hunt.  Only leetle ray-bits.  No deer.   Saw tracks, but maybe old.  Seal gone.  Bad hunt.

                        [KANE looks in the bag, sees it’s not empty.]  


No!  It’s good!   These will save two men.  At least.  No!  The rabbits are superb!  And so good to see you!  

[KANE hugs him enthusiastically, and each pulls the other’s hair and beard.]              

I worried about you since yesterday.  And you’re exhausted, come inside, hurry, get warm.   How far did you go?

[HANS gives the rifle and bag to KANE as both go to the ship.]  

Past Anoatok.  Saw tracks.  But no deer.   I need sleep.

[KANE helps him up the ice ramp, onto the ship deck, down the ladder into the cabin.  KANE helps him off with his parka and into a bunk.  HANS is snoring almost immediately.  KANE has more energy now.  He lights another lamp and hangs it by the cookstove.  He cuts one skinned rabbit into pieces and puts it in a pot on the stove.  He sucks blood from his fingers afterward.  Then he lights another lamp and the cabin is bright.  He cuts a few pieces of raw meat from the second rabbit into a bowl and takes it to WILSON in his bunk, who still sleeps.  KANE sits beside him and gently shakes him.]  


Wilson.  Wake up, Wilson.  Here’s some fresh meat for you.  Raw meat, my man.  

Sit up and take a bite.  

[WILSON comes to but KANE must help him raise enough to eat the meat from Kane’s fingers.  WILSON accepts the small piece of meat but can only chew it slowly, with much difficulty.   KANE encourages him.]  

That’s it.  Easy though.   A little at a time.  I have enough for you to eat all day.  That’s it.  

[In only a few moments of this WILSON is exhausted and slumps back on his pillow.  KANE takes the rest to MCGARY in the next bunk and prods him awake.] 

Here, McGary.  Raw rabbit.   There’s plenty.  Suck the juice first.  Easy now

 [MCGARY takes a few small bites, then he too settles back on his pillow.  KANE takes the remainder and puts it in the pot.  Then he goes to OHLSEN’s bunk and shakes him gently.]  

Morning, Christian.  Time for your watch.  And I have good news—Hans is back with enough rabbit to keep Wilson and McGary alive.

                                                            OHLSEN [sits up]  

But he didn’t find the deer, Captain?


No.  But I’ll take our blessings a grain at a time.  If that’s how it’s to be.  We’ll find more meat.  I’ll go after the deer when I’m rested.  [Holds the lamp to Ohlsen’s eyes.]  Not getting worse.  That’s important for you, old bird.  You deserve this little stay in bed after all the help you gave me while the first ones were coming down with this damned scurvy.  I don’t know what I’d have done without you.  You’re stronger than you think.  You gonna make it.  We’re all gonna make it.  [OHLSEN makes no response.]  A day at a time, my friend.  After McGary and Wilson have eaten all they can, give two ounces of meat to everyone else.  Weigh every portion.  But save all the rest of the broth and meat for tomorrow.  Wake the men for breakfast in another hour.  Wake me in three hours.  Goodnight, Ohlsen.

[OHLSEN again he shows no emotion.  He begins slowly pulling on his boots.]  

Ay’, ay’, Captain.

Scene 2


Setting:  Several lamps illuminate the cabin where BROOKS, OHLSEN, MORTON and HICKEY are seated around the small table, eating from tin bowls.   Beyond this room all is utter darkness.

                                                            BROOKS [to Ohlsen]  

Did the captain say if Hans saw any signs of the deer?


He said Hans saw tracks.  Or imagined he saw tracks.  What’s the difference?  It’s still beans and rice for us.


I think the captain’ll find the deer.

                                                            OHLSEN [sneers] 

And you’ll die a dreamer too, Hickey.

                                                            BROOKS [harshly]  

Stop that kind of talk, Ohlsen.

                                                            OHLSEN [angrily]

 What we need is to get the hell away from this ship. But the time the Sun’s back, we’ll have chopped and burned the whole damned thing anyway—why’s he kidding us that we’re gonna sail outta this death trap?


Quiet, Ohlsen!  The captain saved your life by keeping you here.  But you’re too stupid to appreciate it!

                                                            OLHSEN [bolts to his feet] 

And you’re too stupid to know when to leave a doomed ship!  Well, I don’t want to die here!  I’d rather take my chance on the move with the others.

                                                            MORTON [struggles to rise]  

With the deserters, you mean.  Deserters!


Nobody deserted!  Even your precious captain doesn’t call them deserters.  They’re trying to save their lives just like you are, and I’d say they have a lot better chance of it than we do stuck on this damned ship.  [Becoming hysterical.]  They prob’ly got real food!  And they got Eskimos to help them!  And they are a hell of a lot nearer civilization than we are!  And they don’t have to do all the meaningless shit the captain puts us through!  Measuring!  Recording!   Doin’ this an’ that!  Always building something!  At least the others have a chance!

[This loud argument has wakened KANE, who’s been sleeping in his bunk in the next room.  He now emerges out of that darkness into the doorway.]  


Enough, Ohlsen!

                        [He is not intimidated.  He yells back at him.]  


Yes—enough!  That’s what I say too!  Enough!   I never asked to stay here!  I wanted to go with the others!  Everyone here’s going to die!

[KANE comes forward with energy and slaps OHLSEN across the face.  OHLSEN steps back, stunned.  The others are shocked and silent.  OHLSEN begins sobbing and collapses back into his seat, covering his face with his hands as he sobs.       KANE stands over him and addressing him with force.]  


Pull yourself together!  No one’s going to die.   Except maybe those foolish friends of yours.  Look around you, man.  Everyone on board is in worse shape than you are.  And they’re going to make it.  They’re not giving up.  Even though they’re on their backs, and barely alive—they’re not giving up.  [Pauses, now calmer.]  Stand up, Christian.

                                                            OHLSEN [stops crying]  

I’m sorry.  I’m scared.  It’s the damned darkness that wears me down.  I’m sorry.


No one blames you for breaking.  We all feel like it.  But we will get out of here.  Now finish your meal.  All of you.   [Hand on Ohlsen’s shoulder.]  I need you, Christian.  I need you.  You’re a good man.

[All sit down and resume eating, except KANE, who goes to the stove, checks the fire, adds ice to the pot, and begins mixing flour and water for bread.  The others eat silently, until they’re finished.  KANE returns to the table.]

Alright, able-bodied seamen and officers.  Another balmy day ahead of us.  The work will be shared as follows.  Ohlsen, you’ll strip forty pounds of wood from the bulwark and cut it into pieces.  Weigh it to the ounce.  Hickey, take a lamp and sled and follow the shoreline west and bring back as much moss as you can find.  By this afternoon you should have enough to finish lining the back wall of the sleeping quarters.  Brooks, do you think you’re strong enough to get about the deck?


I’m sure of it, Captain.


Good.  Then keep the day’s records.  Enter all the readings in the log.  If you need help to re-open the tide-hole, call me.  But I want the water levels marked every hour through the day.  And if the clouds don’t move in this afternoon, we’ll have an occultation of Saturn to mark from the observatory.  Morton, you help me change the bedding and take care of our sick mates.  We’ll finish the break this afternoon.  Then, men, when our jobs are through we’ll get back to the thrilling adventures of David Copperfield.  Any questions?  Good—then we’re ready for the day.  Now let’s have the morning prayer.  

[ALL all bow their heads in unison and make their prayer.]  


Lord, accept our gratitude and restore us to our homes.  

[Immediately thereafter, each man begins to attend to his assigned duties.  KANE climbs to the dark deck, lights his personal lamp and begins writing in his journal.  As he does so he speaks the words to himself as he writes them.]  


As the long night settles down upon us, I inevitably remember the beautiful sunrises and sunsets that I so easily took for granted each day at home.  And as I remember them I remember you too, Father, Mother, Tom, John, all of you.  I see you seated beside the fireplace.  But the memory is not a peaceful one for me, because you cannot know if I am alive or dead, if I have succeeded or failed.   I would be stronger if I could share my trials with you, draw from your wisdom and love.  But I search on.  And I make my decisions alone and I abide by them; and I will be honored or dishonored as time judges me.  Have I chosen right to stay with the ship?  I do not regret my choice.  Yet may the Lord spare me from having to face such a terrible moment as that again.  [Stops writing, recollecting.]  Such a terrible moment.  


[The memory comes back to him in all its vivid horror:  It is late summer.  ALL MEN are on deck without hoods or parkas, unfurling the sails, busy loading crates of supplies from ice to the deck.  Men are singing and laughing.  MCGARYy is on an ice-hill, watching into the distance.  BROOKS is on deck, hobbling about with one crutch because of an amputed foot that is heavily bandaged.  He is yelling to HICKEY and GODFREY, who are on the ice working with crates.]  


Make sure all that gear is dry before you nail down the lid.   The ice is breakin’ up so fast around the ship, we may be ready to cast off as soon as the captain and Hans get back.

                                                            GODFREY [in bitter agreement]  

And say goodbye to this cursed place.  Sooner the better.  Captain or no.

                                                            HICKEY [startled; upset]  

What’s that, Godfrey?  No one laughs at that joke.

                                                            GODFREY [ignoring him]  

Then make your own jokes, boy.


No fussin’ there, men.  We’ve no time to waste.

                                                            HICKEY [to GODFREY]  

What’s the matter—didn’t you like our little trip?

                                                            GODFREY [sneers]  

No, I didn’t, ya goddamned brat—but I didn’t whimper like you all winter.


 I said stop the beef.  Or when the captain gets back you’ll get whipped.


The captain ain’t got the spirit to whip a man.   He’s a little on the meeker side.


Enough, Godfrey!  There ain’t a captain in the U.S. Navy like him and never was, you fool.   It ain’t cuz he’s meek that he don’t flog his men—it’s cuz he watched sailors get flogged every day for years when he was ship’s doctor and had to watch.  He’s seen the evil of it.  But you prob’ly like to watch a man get whipped—don’t ya?  

[GODFREY shrugs contemptuously and moves away.  WILSON on deck is opening a crate and looks to BROOKS.]  


What about all these foxskins we been collecting Mr. Brooks?  I can’t see we’ll be needing them anymore where we’re going.  Three cheers for the southern climes—eh, men?  

[Many nearby cheer.   GODFREY has more to add and doesn’t care who hears.]  


And three damns for this frozen hell.  And never to be seen again.

[MCGARY is standing on one of the unopened crates and becomes excited, pointing to the distance.] 


I see ‘em!  It’s Hans and the captain.  I’m sure.   [He waves and calls out.]


[Those aboard the ship climb down to the ice, excited, except for BROOKS, who cranes at the rail.   Those gathered around MCGARY wave toward the unseen approaching pair. KANE and HANS trudge to the ship through the ankle deep snow, carrying parkas in backpacks.  Kane’s solemn look is sharp contrast with the crew’s elation, which they at first don’t notice.]


Captain!  The ship’s almost free of ice!  It’s been breaking up here in the cove for the last two days, since the southern winds finally got to us.  We’re gonna be able to sail outta here in no time!  Take a look for yourself!

[The jubilant crew gathers around him as he and HANS climb aboard.  KANE is conspicuously silent as he stands in the middle of them.  Slowly he looks at each man in turn.  HANS stands beside him, downcast.]


I have bad news, men.  Very bad news.  

[The faces of all the crew slowly show alarm, disbelief.  KANE speaks slowly.  For him it is like announcing a death sentence.]  

Hans and I have been all the way to Etah.  The ice is eight feet thick shore to shore.   The entire bay is clogged with ice.   We climbed to the lookout point and there was ice jammed in for at least sixty miles south between us and the North Sea.   There’s not even a crack of open water there.  And the temperature has already begun dropping.  The ice is getting thicker already.  We don’t have a chance to get out of here.  [Then the worst news.]  We‘ll have to toughen up and make it through another winter.  [Deadly silence.]

                                                            GODFREY [erupts frantically]  

NEVER!  NEVER!   There’s hardly any food left!  And no oil for heat!  You must be crazy!  We’d die before December!


Right—we’d die!  Can’t do it!  Anything but that!

[KANE waits for the outbursts to subside into a general, painful grumbling before he speaks again.]   


I’m as devastated as all of you.  I know it looks bad.  But we can make it.  [The crew are all horrified.]  This ship can’t sail through that!  Listen to me—I’m as shocked and horrified as any of you.   Last year, two months later than this, all that water was ice free—we sailed right through it.


Yea—and into this damned trap!  But I’m gonna make a run for it!  I’d rather walk all the way on ice, in the freezin’ cold, than stay here another hundred damned days of darkness!  [All yell their agreement.]


Impossible!  Listen!   It would take us a month or more to make sleds and blankets and get enough food for that kind of trip—and in a month it’ll be getting dark again!  And forty below!

[GODFREY stands at the outer edge of the gathering.   His energy is overflowing; he’s walking in little circles, going nowhere, talking to himself deliriously.]  


Nono.  Not me.   Not that damn blackness again.   Not that goddamned eternity again.   Nono.  

[He suddenly looks all around him, as if he’s even then looking for a door to make his escape.]  

No, I’m getting the hell out of here too.  

[He begins to stalk away across the ice.  KANE sees him and completely understands what’s about to happen with him.  He yells at him.]  


Godfrey!  Stop!

[He pauses a moment; possibly he is momentarily deterred, but then keeps going.]  


Not a chance stay here.  Black and goddamned crazy is all it is.  Black black black God-damned black.  Not a chance.

[KANE hurries to him, grabs his arm enough to slow and stop him for the moment.  KANE forces him to look at his captain.]  


I want you to live, Godfrey.  Live!  Or do you want to die?  We’re all caught in the blackness again—there’s no avoiding it.  We either wait it out and then make our move, or move now and die trying to hike through it.  A thousand miles of it.  We’ll find you in the spring inside a block of ice.  I’m saying we wait out the dark and the ice—and then we get out.  Sail if the ice thaws, hike out at the earliest good weather if it looks like it’s not going to thaw enough.

[GODFREY sags to the ice, sitting on his heels, holding his head in hands and rocking.  His lips move but make no sounds.  Others begin to fret and pace and talk to themselves; some groan and whine:   the lamentation of the doomed at hell’s gate.  In this lull of their collective grief, KANE begins speaking in a slow, steady monotone.]  

The ship can be stripped of more than a ton of wood to burn without making her unseaworthy.  And no one will die.  If we plan carefully, and use what we have carefully, we’ll make it to spring.   Then, as I said, if the ship can’t sail, we’ll make an early start with the sleds and the little boats and we’ll get out of here.  One way or the other.

[As a grim collective silence settles over all of them, they stare horrified at each other.]  


But the darkness….  I can’t stand to live through that long…long, awful darkness again.


[Later that morning KANE is on deck supervising the furling of the sail by MCGARY and WILSON.  A lamp is going in the cabin where several are abed.  GODFREY, OHLSEN and BLAKE are conferring quietly at the table.   Presently KANE descends to the living quarters and GODFREY quickly confronts him.]


Pardon, sir.  May I..uh…we…have a word with you?                                                           


Of course.

                                                            GODFREY [awkwardly]  

Begging your permission, sir…oh…some of us feel like we all have a better chance of surviving this next winter if we…uh…if we separate into two groups.

                                                            KANE [confused]  

What do you mean?


Two groups, sir.  One that wants to stay with the ship.  And…uh…one that wants to try their luck further south.  With their fair share of supplies.


What?  Are you crazy?

                                                            GODFREY [bolder now]  

Nossir.  Some of us think we’d have a better chance nearer the Eskimo settlement in Etah.  Or Netlik, if we can get that far.

                                                            KANE [incredulous]  

And desert the ship?  Fool!  This is the only shelter for a thousand miles!

                                                            GODFREY [confidence growing]  

Now we don’t see it as desertin’, Captain.   As Mister McGary will tell you, when the whalers get beset and beyond the time the crew signed on for, the captain gives every man the choice of how to save his skin.  It’s only fair.

                                                            OHLSEN and BLAKE 

Only fair.


But you’re not on a whaling ship and we’re not counting profits—we’re trying to keep ourselves alive—and if the Lord spares us, we’re trying to find another bunch of men who are lost and who’ve gone through a lot more of this hell than we have.  Our only chance to keep alive is to stay together.  

[He looks from one to the other as if he expects their agreement.  He sees they do not agree.]  

Leave the ship?  You are crazy.  You’d never make it.  The Eskimos would pick you apart.                                                            

GODFREY [determined]  

But we wanna try, Captain.  We can’t stand the thought of staying’ here on the ship another winter.


It’s only fair.