Peter Wilson's drama script collection

Danube Moon

Peter D. Wilson

Character notes

ANNE A tour escort, and a natural organiser; just old enough to regret that some things in life have passed her by; used to dealing with difficult people, and in need of all her patience on this trip.

BERYL Middle-aged, strong-willed, and tipsy; sometimes querulous, less often pathetically anxious for social contact, but underneath she has a heart of pure arsenic.

MARTIN The bar steward; about twenty, wearing lightly a superior education; his initial deference, never obsequious, relaxes into a degree of familiarity as the action progresses.

GERALD About Beryl's age, eminently hen-peckable; a normally capable businessman reduced to desperation by his predicament.


Set

A corner of the saloon on the M.V. "Danube Moon," heading upstream on that river from the Iron Gates. There is a window centre left, another (possibly just off stage) down right, and bench seats around the sides with low tables, at least one of which is close to the window left. A bar extends up centre from centre right, with a clock above the shelves and a telephone; another table is in front of it with a couple of chairs. There is one entrance, up left. Ideally, a pale blue spot is mounted behind the window left, but above the sight line, on a horizontal slide or pivoted arm so as to give when required an effect of moonlight from slowly changing directions as the ship follows a winding channel. Otherwise the lighting on this and the other peripheral tables is subdued; that on the bar and nearer table is brighter.

At first nothing but fog can be seen through the window, but later, when the moonlight breaks through, a vague pattern of trees on the river bank may be visible.


Time

June 1991.


Dress

Anne and Beryl, semi-formal; Martin, white shirt, black bow tie and dark trousers; Gerald, a once-smart casual shirt, tie, jacket and trousers, badly dishevelled.

Peter D. Wilson
Seascale, July 1991
Copyright © 2001, 2016


Late evening, after eleven. The curtain opens as Anne, with Beryl at the table in front of the bar, is trying to explain the need for a change in the planned itinerary. Beryl is uncooperative, hunched over a glass of brandy - evidently by no means her first. Martin is either out of sight or preoccupied with some task. Background music is playing softly - "The Blue Danube" or something of that sort.


ANNE (approaching the end of her considerable patience) Well, I'm very sorry, but there's not a thing we can do about the weather.

BERYL Huh!

ANNE Look, we'd all have preferred to follow the original plan, but the fact is that through nobody's fault we're running late, we can't go any faster just now, and even if we could we shouldn't make up all the lost time.

BERYL But there's no need to waste any more. We keep slowing down for no apparent reason.

ANNE There are very good reasons. Quite apart from the fog - and even if it clears as the forecast says - the channel's tricky here, the river's low, and the ship has to go slowly in shallow water.

BERYL Pull the other one. Go on, tell me why.

ANNE Well ... The engineer did explain, but I couldn't follow it. Something about a venturi effect, whatever that may be. Can't you just accept it as a fact?

BERYLNot on your nelly. When they blind you with science, you can be sure they're trying to hide something.

ANNE (abandoning the attempt to be reasonable) Oh, come off it. No one has anything to gain by making us later still. Whatever the reason, we can't cover the ground any faster. We can't postpone your flight home either, and to be tolerably sure of catching it, we have to sacrifice something.

BERYL And of course it has to be my interests that are sacrificed.

ANNE Now you know it isn't like that. We've already agreed to cut out the tour of Belgrade, that the Williamsons particularly wanted. It would be a crime to skip Budapest, though we're curtailing the programme and disappointing the Hendersons. That leaves just Vienna, and the ship can't wait for even half a day there, let alone the full day we'd intended. So we either cut out the tour of the city - which no one wants to miss - or we let the ship go on while we're sightseeing, then catch up with it by coach at Linz. The road follows the river for most of the way in any case, so you're hardly losing anything. We might be able to pull in a visit to a vineyard as an extra.

BERYL (aggressively but perceptibly slurred) Are you trying to hint at something? Because if you are, say it straight out.

ANNE No, no, I'm merely pointing out one possible compensation. We don't have to do it. Though everyone else is happy enough with the arrangement.

BERYL Maybe they don't mind travelling by coach. I booked this holiday especially to avoid it.

ANNE If it's a matter of travel sickness, I've some pills you can have. They're very good.

BERYL I'm not taking any medication my doctor doesn't know about.

ANNE Well, what else do you suggest?

BERYL I don't know. You're the one who's supposed to make all the arrangements.

ANNE(exasperated) But that's precisely - (getting a grip on herself) - what I'm trying to do. This is the best I can manage.

BERYL Oh, very well. If that's what everyone else wants I suppose I shall have to put up with it - under protest.

ANNE If it makes you any happier, I'll record your protest. Now, I must call the agent to arrange the details. Drat it, my watch has stopped. What's the time?

BERYL It's a quarter past eleven by the bar clock.

ANNE Heavens, I hadn't realised it was so late. I must rush. He's a bit of a night owl but I mustn't leave it any later. Good night, Mrs. Anstruther. You will excuse me, won't you?

BERYL Go ahead, don't mind me.


Anne is about to say something, thinks better of it, and goes. The background music, having come to the end of one piece, pauses and starts another, equally familiar.


BERYL Oh, for crying out loud! Not that again! Is it the only tape on the ship?

MARTIN (moving into view) I'm sorry, madam, I've only one other and it's jammed.

BERYLCan't you unjam it?

MARTIN I've tried, but I'm not very good at these things. I'll see if the purser has another in the morning; it's too late to disturb him now.

BERYL (muttering) Always the same - never there when you want them. Oh, what the hell. (Loudly) Give me another brandy.

MARTIN Are you sure you really ought to, madam?

BERYL (flaring up) None of your impertinence, young man! Of course I'm sure. What business is it of yours anyway?

MARTIN Captain's instructions - I have to be very careful with anyone who might have had - well - rather more than is good for them.

BERYL Blooming cheek. What does he think this is, a cruise ship or a kindergarten?

MARTIN A ship, madam. And that's why the captain's word is law.

BERYL I've known plenty of petty laws that say you can't do this or you have to do that - but I haven't noticed people taking them very seriously.

MARTIN It's a bit different on a ship.

BERYL How?

MARTIN Well, for a start, on land the village bobby isn't living on the premises. And he isn't held responsible for any accidents.

BERYL What accidents? I'm not driving. And you can't walk under a bus from here.

MARTIN No, but there are other nasty things that can happen.

BERYL I'm not going to fall down the stairs, if that's what you're thinking.

MARTIN There was something worse than that. It happened last year.

BERYL Go on. Don't just leave it hanging in mid-air.

MARTIN I wasn't here then. But apparently there was a twenty-first birthday party that turned rather sour.

BERYL Is that all?

MARTIN No, that was just the occasion of it. The trouble was that the birthday boy had a fair skinful at dinner, and the other lads wouldn't stop buying him drinks afterwards. By the end of the evening he was fairly pie-eyed - "couldn't have told the Mona Lisa from Groucho Marx," was how I heard it. Then for some reason he accused one of his pals of insulting him by not drinking enough, and challenged him - don't ask me the connection - to a race over a dozen lengths of the pool or be called chicken.

BERYL (disgustedly) Typical men.

MARTIN (ignoring the interruption) The friend said he might be a chicken, but at least he didn't imagine he was a duck - or a newt.

BERYL (amused despite herself) Very good.

MARTIN Maybe, though the first fellow didn't appreciate the joke. He squared up for a fight, but his friends kept them apart until he'd quietened down a bit. Then he insisted on going for a swim regardless. Might not have been a bad idea, but he went over the side instead of into the pool.

BERYL Served him damn well right.

MARTIN Maybe, up to a point.

BERYL And a drunken man can't drown, they say.

MARTIN Oh, he didn't drown.

BERYL So that's all right, then.

MARTIN Only there wasn't time to stop the engines before he hit the propeller.

BERYL Ugh!

MARTIN Luckily he only lost a few fingers. But there were all sorts of inquiries and investigations, the owners were sued for negligence - they won, mind you, but the skipper had to miss a cruise to give evidence - and afterwards he swore he wasn't going to take any more chances of bending a prop shaft so far from home.

BERYL Well, his wretched prop shafts are safe enough from me.

MARTIN I'm sure.

BERYL I don't go swimming. And I may have had a few, but I can take it. (Martin looks dubious.) And you needn't look at me like that. I'm perfectly in control of myself. "The Leith polithe dithmisseth uth." No, that's not quite right. But I can walk a straight line all right - watch me!

MARTINReally, madam, there's no need ...

BERYL No, watch. (During the following lines she walks with some difficulty a line straighter than might be expected.) This fellow who went overboard -

MARTIN Yes?

BERYL He must have been properly pickled to mistake the river for the swimming pool. Why, the pool's right up on the top deck - damn silly place for it, too. (She staggers, recovers herself and tries to disguise her momentary difficulty with a little dance step.) Look how it makes the ship roll.

MARTIN I see.

BERYL (Trying a few more dance steps, and ending up some lines later at the window table.) Do you dance?

MARTIN (firmly) No, madam.

BERYL Now, how about that other brandy, then?

MARTIN All right, I suppose you could have one more. (He pours and brings it to the table.)

BERYL (in a slightly better mood) You sound like my father with a box of chocolates.

MARTIN Perhaps I do. Sorry.

BERYL Have you got any children?

MARTIN I'm not married.

BERYL (bitterly) That didn't stop the parents of some people I know.

MARTIN I must remember that one - it's rather good.

BERYL Feel free. (She takes a seat at the window table and scrawls a signature on the proffered bar chit.) There - and put one for yourself on it.

MARTIN Thank you, madam. Very kind of you. I could do with a beer. (Going to the bar for it.)

BERYL And come and drink it with me.

MARTIN Sorry, not allowed. I'm not supposed to leave the bar.

BERYL Well, bring me a packet of peanuts or something. And you have to pick up the glasses.

MARTIN (bringing the peanuts) That's not quite the same thing.

BERYL What does it matter? You can sit here and see if anyone comes. Not that it's likely. But if anyone objects, I asked you to explain something to me. (Looking up at him awkwardly) And I object to craning my neck when I'm talking to someone.

MARTIN What did you want explained?

BERYL Well, for a start - oh, do stop hovering and sit down - is it always so blooming miserable on this ship?

MARTIN Miserable?

BERYL Come on, don't pretend it's anything else.

MARTIN (on the edge of a chair) Well ... the weather's been pretty awful, of course ...

BERYL You can say that again. On second thoughts, don't. I've heard practically nothing else all day. Not quite what you expect from the brochure. "See the beauty of the Wachau valley," it says. "The romance of Vienna - the splendour of Budapest. The scars of revolution in Bucharest. The mighty Kalemegdan fortress in Belgrade."

MARTIN Most of those are still to come.

BERYL (ignoring him) "The spectacular Kazan Gorges." And what do we see? Fog. Nothing but fog all day. And before that the scenery was as dull as ditchwater.

MARTIN Do you mean dishwater?

BERYL I mean what I say. (A gentle bump is heard off.) What was that?

MARTIN I don't know. A piece of driftwood, perhaps.

BERYL We won't have to take to the lifeboats, will we?

MARTIN I shouldn't think so.

BERYL Just as well, considering the crowd we've got on board. No "women and children first" about that lot. Unmannerly louts. Yes, you may well keep a discreet silence. I tried talking to some of them, but they weren't having any. And I asked one of the crew something, but all I got was "No understand." No more luck with German, either.

MARTIN Most of them are Romanian. You might have done better with French.

BERYL Your English is very good. Almost perfect. Where do you come from?

MARTIN Solihull.

BERYL It doesn't show. What are you doing here?

MARTIN Serving as bar steward.

BERYL Yes, obviously. But why? You seem well educated.

MARTIN Oh, this is just a vacation job.

BERYL You're a student?

MARTIN Yes. Slavonic languages. This seemed a good way of practising them, and earning a bit of cash at the same time. I need to raise the wind - I'm getting married at the end of next term.

BERYL  Lucky man!

MARTINI think so.

BERYL Well, I hope it turns out better than mine. But it's easier for the man.

MARTIN How?

BERYL (ignoring the question) Oh, mine started off all right - couldn't have been more charming - swept me right off my feet - presents, flowers, concerts, dinners. Even my mother liked him, and she wasn't easy to please. But it wasn't long before things changed. I didn't begrudge him the odd night out with the boys, but then it was a regular night, then two ... or four, or seven ... And he was so cruel - you wouldn't believe it.

MARTIN (embarrassed) I'm sorry.

BERYL I kept his home, I entertained his guests, I put up with his ways, I satisfied all his wants - and he was very demanding at times ... but eventually he went off. A younger woman, of course. Oh, life can be very hard on a devoted wife ...


She subsides into quiet sobs. A scraping sound is heard off; Beryl is briefly aroused.


BERYL What was that? (But she relapses into tears and eventual oblivion.)

MARTIN (going to the window and peering out intently.) Can't see a thing.


Gerald appears up left, backwards, on his hands and knees. He has been badly knocked about; clothes crumpled and minus several buttons, tie slack and askew, shoes muddy. He looks anxiously from whence he has come, taking no notice of what is behind him until Martin, returning to the bar, trips over his feet.


GERALD Aagh! (Rising, flustered) Oh, terribly sorry, old boy. I didn't see you.

MARTIN My fault, sir, I wasn't looking either. Not down there. Can I help you?

GERALD (lighting up at the sight of the bar) Heavens, I could do with a drink - what currency do you take? I've only got Yugoslav dinars.

MARTIN If you don't know the system ... You just sign a chit with your cabin number.

GERALD Oh. That's awkward ...

MARTIN I've a pen here, if you need it.

GERALD No, it's not that. You see, I don't have a cabin.

MARTIN (puzzled) Oh?

GERALD I'm not supposed to be here at all.

MARTIN Where should you be, then?

GERALD Good question. I'm not sure I can give a good answer.

MARTIN I'm sorry?

GERALD Well, I was crossing the river, when the fog rolled in. Then my engine cut out. Water in the fuel, or something. While I was concentrating on trying to get it started again, all of sudden the bows came out of the fog and ran me down. Stove in the boat. It only just stayed afloat long enough for me to scramble aboard.

MARTIN That's terrible! And have none of the officers seen to you?

GERALD No, I just crawled around the deck ...

MARTIN (lifting the phone) Are you hurt? I wondered why you were crawling.

GERALD No, nothing to mention, but ...

MARTIN I'd better get someone right away, though. An accident like this has to be reported -

GERALD No, for goodness' sake don't do anything of the sort. I don't want any fuss.

MARTIN But your boat - if we weren't keeping a proper lookout you could claim compensation. Though the skipper won't thank me for saying so.

GERALD No, no, no, you don't understand. I wasn't supposed to be on the river at all. Oh, for pity's sake let me buy a drink.

MARTIN (putting the phone down) Can't take dinars, I'm afraid, sir.

GERALD Oh, hell.

MARTIN I tell you what, though. Someone bought a bottle of the local hooch and didn't care for it - left it behind in case anyone else did. I put it somewhere under here ... (Searching behind the bar counter) Ah, here it is. Would that be any good?

GERALD A life-saver! Er - would you care to join me?

MARTIN Not quite my taste, sir. And I already have a beer.


He hands over the bottle and a glass. Gerald nods understanding, and absently sits at the table with Beryl, peering out of the window. Anne comes in looking agitated.


ANNE Have you seen ... (Sharply) Oh, there you are. I wondered where you'd got to.

GERALD Who, me?

ANNE Yes, you. What the devil do you think you're doing?

GERALD I beg your pardon, miss?

ANNE Don't come the innocent. What do you mean by skulking round the deck, barging into other people's cabins ...

GERALD Oh, I see. Was it your cabin? I'm terribly sorry, I certainly didn't mean any harm, but you see I had to hide and that was the only open door.

ANNE That dud catch again. I really must get something done about it.

GERALD Thank goodness you hadn't done.

ANNE But what do you mean, you had to hide? This is no time for children's games.

GERALD Oh, this isn't a game. (To himself) Though Kipling had the Great Game, of course - perhaps this could be the Little Game.

ANNE What on earth are you on about?

GERALD I'm sorry, I didn't realise I was speaking aloud. Good lord, what a state I'm in.

ANNE (melting a little) Are you going to tell me or aren't you?

GERALD I suppose I shall have to tell you something. But for goodness' sake don't let it go any further. Not that it can do all that much harm now, I suppose. The whole thing's falling apart.

ANNE You aren't really making very much sense.

GERALD I'm sorry - look, can I say "sorry" once and for all and let it do for everything?

ANNE All right - but get on with it!

GERALD Well, I represent an engineering firm back in England - I should have a card somewhere - oh, where did I put them? (searching pockets)

ANNE Never mind - just explain yourself!

GERALD Yes, of course - sorry - oh, I wasn't going to say that again, was I?

ANNE (exasperated) For goodness' sake, don't start apologising for apologising.

GERALD No. Sorry. Right. Well, we'd had business in Yugoslavia in the past, but someone in Belgrade had taken a dislike to us and it dried up a few years back. Then, with the new political situation - the various republics all trying to do their own thing and all that - we felt there could be some juicy contracts going in Croatia if we nipped in smartly, but not if the Serbs got wind of what we were up to. So I was sent more or less under cover to scout out the position.

ANNE How many chapters of this are there before we come to the point?

GERALD Well, to cut a long story short, I seemed to be doing quite well, but the contact I thought was a Croat turned out to be a Montenegrin, and for the present they're in cahoots with the Serbs against the Croats, so he spilled the beans to the Central Government - or what's left of it.

ANNE So what? Nothing illegal in touting for legitimate business.

GERALD No, and they don't worry too much about a lot that isn't particularly legitimate. But you know how touchy they are at the moment about relations between the republics. I was hauled up to Belgrade, and charged with conspiring to supply arms to the secessionists.

ANNE Oh, I see. Nasty.

GERALD Very. It looked as though I was in for a pretty rough time. But for some reason they decided to cart me off to Smederevo, then on the way the car was smashed up in an accident and I managed to get away in the confusion. I headed eastwards and was trying to cross over into Romania ...

ANNE Why Romania, of all places? I've known plenty of people try to get out of there; never in.

GERALD At the moment, anywhere would be healthier for me than Yugoslavia. And Romania's closest. Anyway, I was trying to cross the river when my boat was run down - and here I am. (Struck by a thought) I say, I lost my bearings while I was fiddling with the motor - are you going downstream, or up?

ANNE Up.

GERALD I was afraid so.

ANNE Why?

GERALD (gloomily) I thought my luck was too good to be true when I found that boat ready to go. If the captain finds out I'm on board before we're through Yugoslavia he's bound to hand me over to the authorities. I was trying to keep out of sight until I could find out how the land lay.

ANNE Well, it's the most original story I've heard yet from a man creeping into a woman's bedroom.

GERALD Oh, lord, you didn't think -

ANNE (drily) Hope springs eternal, you know.

GERALD I say, I didn't mean - no, I'd better shut up before I dig myself in any deeper.

ANNE Quite. But most would-be Romeos don't go around backwards on their hands and knees. It isn't the most dignified approach - and certainly not the most romantic.

GERALD Romance wasn't much on my mind. I simply didn't want to get caught.

ANNE Well, now, for some reason I'm inclined to believe you. I must be going soft in the head, but let's see what we can do. Steward!

MARTIN Yes, miss?

ANNE How much of all that did you hear?

MARTIN Nothing at all. And if the gentleman has his reasons for avoiding the authorities ashore, I don't really see that they have very much to do with me.

ANNE I won't insult you by offering a bribe ...

MARTIN A pity.

ANNE ... but I'm sure he'll have some way of expressing his gratitude.

GERALDOh, yes, of course. But why are you ...

ANNE Let's say I'm sick to death of simple uneventful tours, with nothing but disagreeable passengers and hotel mix-ups to break the monotony, and I fancied a bit of adventure for a change. As simple as that.

GERALD Whatever the reason, it's very good of you. And I appreciate it.

ANNE Good. By the way, it's usual for the ship's crew to be given a tip before we leave it. (Fishing an envelope out of her bag and stuffing some notes into it. To Martin) We look like being a bit rushed at the end, so here's yours now.

MARTIN Thank you very much.

ANNE And you haven't seen a thing.

MARTIN Exactly.

BERYL (beginning to revive) So cruel, he was. Haven't seen who? Or should it be whom? (Registering Gerald's presence with a start.) Good grief!

GERALD Eh?

BERYL I've never had hallucinations before. How much have I been drinking?

GERALD What? Oh, lord! Beryl, of all people! I knew my luck had run out, but I didn't know it was that bad.

BERYL (with an unsuccessful attempt to stand up) I'm not going to stand around - sit around - and let a figment of my imagination insult me. You can get back wherever you came from. Do you hear me?

GERALD That's one thing I most definitely can't do - more's the pity.

BERYL What the devil do you think you're doing anyway?

GERALD Oh, it's too long to explain again.

ANNE Am I to understand that you know this lady?

BERYL So you can see him too? That's a relief.

GERALD (with a hollow laugh) Know her? I should think I do. Considering I was married to her for eight years ...

ANNEWell, Mr. Anstruther ...

GERALD Eh? (looking around nervously) Don't tell me he's here as well!

ANNE (confused) Oh, I'm sorry - I thought - since you were married to Mrs. Anstruther -

GERALD No, my name's Lomax - Gerald Lomax, if you'll pardon a rather belated introduction.

ANNE (shaking hands and gripping a little too long) Anne Reynolds - how do you do?


Beryl dozes off, but occasionally rouses herself to make snide remarks that are ignored by the others.


GERALD Not too well, I'm afraid. The idea of bumping into Nigel Anstruther, after the things I said when he ran off with Beryl, didn't do me any good at all. Wish I hadn't said them now. After all, he probably did me a good turn. Though it looks as though she's had a pretty rough time of it, too.

ANNE Well, divorce can be a nasty business - I believe.

GERALD I made it as easy as I could for her. After all, I had loved her - still did, somehow, for all her tantrums and bullying - but she didn't thank me for it. Quite the opposite. I suppose it was still a pretty awful ordeal.


The bar telephone rings; Martin answers it.

MARTIN Saloon ... Yes, sir, she's here. Miss Reynolds!

ANNE Yes?

MARTIN The captain would like a word with you -

ANNE Oh, right. (She rises as though to take the phone.)

MARTIN - privately.

BERYL Aren't you the lucky one!

ANNE (surprised) Oh. Does he say what about?

MARTIN No, he just asks you to go and see him.

ANNE Very odd. (To Gerald) Excuse me - I must go. (Quietly) Look, you'd better keep out of sight as much as possible. My cabin doesn't lock - as you know - so hide in there when you've finished your drink.

BERYL (scandalised) How many do you want?

GERALD Very kind of you.

ANNE Don't mention it - (pointedly) to anyone. (Exit)

MARTIN (to the phone) She's on the way, sir. (Replacing it; to Gerald) Er - Mr. Lomax ...

GERALD Yes?

MARTIN I hope you won't take offence ...

GERALD I'm too tired to do anything of the sort. Why?

MARTIN (embarrassed) It's just that with your being short of currency - well, this tip that Miss Reynolds has just given me - it's really on your behalf - would it be any use to you?

GERALD Well ... I don't like to ... but it most certainly would. That's extraordinarily decent of you. Thank you very much indeed.

MARTIN There you are, then, and welcome.

GERALD But I must insist on paying you back when I get a chance; how should I do it?

MARTIN Hm - probably the best thing would be to send it to my brother. He's finishing his first year at college, and I know he's short of funds just now. I'll give you his address and claim it off him later. (He writes on a piece of paper and hands it over.)

GERALD Right. I'll do that as soon as I get back - if I get back.

MARTIN Oh, I dare say you will. (A patch of moonlight appears through the window, left; it slowly shifts about as the ship turns with the channel.) Hello, it looks as though we're out of the fog.

GERALD (crossing to look out of the window) Pity it didn't lift an hour earlier. Where are we?

MARTIN (joining him and peering out) Can't really tell. But we must be pretty close to the end of the Romanian stretch.

GERALD Do we touch anywhere on it?

MARTIN Only once, to drop the pilot.

GERALD Any chance of getting ashore without being noticed, do you think?

MARTIN Might be just possible, I suppose. Though they tend to keep a fairly close watch.

GERALD I'd rather not be found until the boat's clear. Too many complications all round. Perhaps I could swim for it ...

MARTIN I don't recommend it.

GERALD I'm quite a good swimmer - though I'd have to scrounge a plastic bag for my clothes. Perhaps a towel, too. I don't really fancy wandering around sopping wet.

MARTIN It isn't a matter of how well you swim. There's a three or four knot current, and some nasty reed beds on that side.

GERALD Oh. Could be tricky.

MARTIN And unnecessary when you have a hiding-place on board. If you stayed out of sight until we got into Hungary ...

GERALD How long does that take?

MARTIN About a day. We usually stop for a while in Belgrade, but we're running late and I gather we're cutting that short, or missing it altogether.

GERALD Still too long. I don't like imposing ... If I were found, it would look very bad for Miss Reynolds - or worse if it's Mrs. Reynolds.

MARTIN Even these days?

GERALD Even so. Maybe I'm a bit old-fashioned about these things. Particularly with Beryl here. (The patch of moonlight has now shifted to fall on her. Gerald moves as though to stroke her hair.) I must say, she looks pretty pathetic now. I can't help thinking of our honeymoon. We were on a train - couldn't afford sleepers - she dozed off in her seat, with the moon falling on her just like that ...


Anne returns briskly. Gerald jerks out of his reverie.


GERALD That was quick. What was it about? Oh, sorry, I'm forgetting my manners - I really shouldn't ask.

ANNE Actually, it does concern you. It's a message to pass on to my party in the morning. I think you should hear it.

GERALD Oh?

ANNE There's been a call from the local Yugoslav police chief.

GERALD Oh, lord!

ANNE No, don't get alarmed. If anything, it helps.

GERALDHow's that?

ANNE It's a bit complicated. It seems that on the one hand he's a cousin of the captain's wife, and on the other he owes a favour to someone in Zagreb who'd be embarrassed by what might come out if a certain escaped prisoner were caught.

GERALD Meaning me?

ANNE Presumably. But that's just background information to a rather odd request. The message is that if anyone catches a glimpse of what looks like a stranger on board, the captain would take it kindly if they didn't investigate too closely.

GERALD So he knows I'm here.

ANNE Officially, he doesn't know any such thing. And doesn't want to.

GERALD That's a relief.

ANNE Yes, but look, there's no need for any such message to my party. If they did happen to see someone unfamiliar, they'd simply take him for one of the crew.

GERALD So what's he getting at?

ANNE I take it the message is intended for me personally - and indirectly for you.

GERALD Why?

ANNE He's no fool, and the ship's crew aren't blind. He knows that you're on the run. Let's suppose - as is very likely - he knows that we bumped a boat in the fog, and that afterwards there were muddy footprints coming from nowhere on his nice clean lower deck. Not to mention a suspicious figure lurking around my cabin. He can put two and two together as well as the next man. But don't go yelling "four" as though you were on the fairway at St. Andrews.

GERALD Eh?

ANNE Keep out of the way as much as possible - don't force him to recognise that you're on board.

GERALD Oh, no, I see - of course not. I was hoping to slip ashore when we drop the pilot.

ANNE Risky. The quay's fairly well lit, and with bright moonlight as well ... The Romanians are particularly hot on entry formalities, too. Goodness knows why, but they are. You'd much better stay aboard till we get into Hungary.

GERALD That's what our friend here said. But I don't like it.

ANNE There's a spare bunk in my cabin that you can use at night. The chambermaid doesn't come round until about eight, and before then you can go on deck, mix with the passengers and look as though you belong.

GERALD (looking dubiously at his scruffy clothes) In this rig-out?

ANNE Well - I've a track-suit bottom you might get into - and a T-shirt ...


Gerald looks at her, and himself. There is no need for words.


MARTIN We're slowing down. (Peering out right) Must be coming in to Moldova Veche.

GERALD (suddenly animated) Moldova Veche? Is that where we drop the pilot?

MARTIN Yes.

GERALD I know the agricultural boss there - once wangled him half a dozen tractors he wouldn't have got otherwise.

ANNE Oh?

GERALD He swore he'd do anything in return. Now if I can get to him ...

MARTIN Yes, but how to do it?

GERALD It should be easy once I get ashore. That's the tricky part.

ANNE Obviously. What we need is a diversion. Any ideas?

GERALD No. (Pausing for thought, with a depressing lack of result) Anything I can think of would draw attention I don't want. Ah well, it was a good idea while it lasted.

ANNE (rather pleased) Tell you what, have a decent brandy instead of that rot-gut. A night-cap. Steward! Two cognacs, please.

MARTIN Very good, miss.

GERALD Very kind of you. Thanks. But you must let me make up to you for what you gave the steward. (Turning to him) What's your name, by the way?

MARTIN Martin, sir. Martin Cooper. But of course you've got the surname already. (He brings the cognacs.)

GERALD Of course. (To Anne) Will a cheque do?

ANNE Certainly - if you insist.

GERALD (writing it) Must pay my debts. As I certainly shall to you, Martin, when I get the chance.

MARTIN All contributions gratefully received. But make sure my brother knows what it's for!

GERALD I certainly shall. Cheers, Miss Reynolds.

ANNE Zhiveli! (giggling slightly) If we're going to share a cabin, you can't keep on being so formal. The name's Anne - remember?

BERYL (waking just in time to make out the last few lines) So you're at it again, are you?

GERALD Beryl! It isn't like that at all. Miss Reynolds was merely offering me a hiding place for the night.

BERYL Oh, yes, very convincing, I'm sure.

ANNE It's the truth. (Insincerely) I've no objection if you prefer to do the honours.

GERALD Spare me that!

BERYL You needn't worry. I've paid for my single cabin, and I mean to enjoy it. What you two get up to is no concern of mine.

GERALD No, indeed. Not now.

BERYL (rising) But don't expect me to stay here and watch your billing and cooing.

ANNE Can you manage?

BERYL (snapping) Yes, of course I can manage. I don't need a nursemaid. Especially one with the morals of an alley cat. So I wish you a thoroughly lousy night. (She staggers out.)

ANNE I really ought to see she gets back to her cabin all right. If she uses the outside steps they may be slippery from the fog. (She follows Beryl out.)

MARTIN I hope she doesn't get in the way when we're mooring.


There is a flurry of engine noise as the screws are reversed, and a few muffled orders; then a slight jolt.


MARTIN (staggering a little) He hit that a bit hard. Not up to his usual standard.


There is a splash and a sudden confusion of voices.


GERALD (making as though to go out) What's happening?

MARTIN You'd better not go out there just now, sir. I'll see what's up.

BERYL (off) Not like that, you fool! You'll ruin my dress. Not like that, I said!

ANNE (bumping into Martin at the entrance) Sorry. It's all right, Gerald. Beryl fell overboard, but they've got her. Or rather, they would have if she didn't keep objecting to the way they're trying to haul her back on board.

MARTIN (returning) Everyone's busy with Mrs. Anstruther. There's your diversion, sir.

GERALD You think there's a chance?

MARTIN Quite a good one, I'd say. It's now or never, anyway.

GERALD Right. Here goes. And thanks for everything - both of you.


He shakes hands with Martin, is about to do so with Anne but drops a kiss on her forehead instead, and exits warily. Anne sits, centre, and stares moodily into space.


ANNE (wistfully) Well, that's that bit of excitement over.

MARTIN (suddenly realising that Anne is not altogether glad of Gerald's escape) Did I do wrong, miss?

ANNE No ... No, you did exactly right.

She finishes her brandy. The background music reaches the same pause and re-start as at the beginning of the play.

ANNE Oh, for crying out loud! Not that again! Is it the only tape on the ship?

MARTIN I'm sorry, I've only one other at the moment and it's jammed.

ANNE Can't you unjam it?

MARTIN I've tried, but I'm not very good at these things. I'll see if the purser has another in the morning; it's too late to disturb him now.

ANNE (muttering) Oh, what the hell. (Loudly) Give me another brandy.

MARTIN Are you sure you really ought to, miss?

They look at each other during the slow -

CURTAIN