by Forbes Bramble
RICHARD, his son
JACOB DE VRIES
PETER DADE, local lad
SYLHAM, landowner and partner
TURNER, works manager
PARKER – sc.8 & ?
FRIEND – sc. 8
LAMBERT – sc. 9
FELIX, elderly villager
SIMON PATRICK, Bishop of Ely
SARAH, daughter of Warburton
RUTH, Warburton’s wife
CRISTEEN, Vries’ wife
KATJA, their daughter
CLARA, black smith
DELIA, wife of Felix
All enquiries to Eastern Angles, Sir John Mills Theatre, Gatacre Road, Ipswich IP1
Tel 01473 218202 www.easternangles.co.uk email@example.com
Dawn light. The luminescence increases but it is still well
before sun-up. A flat-bottomed boat appears. It is a fowling
punt as can be clearly seen by the long punt-gun projecting
from the bow. There are two occupants, one lying flat behind
the gun to aim it by sighting down the barrel, the other at the
stern paddling/ steering with concentrated care.
The paddling stops and they sit motionless, listening. The
only sounds are the rustling of reeds and the distant calling
of water birds, the rippling of water along the sides of the
boat. The men are Ecclesiastes Dunn and his son Ezra.
EZRA. Nothing...just nothing... we should move...
ECCLESIASTES He motions for Ezra to keep quiet.
EZRA. That’s just the eels in the bucket...
He swipes at mosquitoes around his head
ECCLESIASTES. Stop that! Listen.
Ecclesiastes produces a calling lure from his pocket. They
listen and hear responding noises
EZRA I told you we should move... We saw them coming down
over there. Hundreds...
Ecclesiastes fires the punt gun. The boat jerks violently. A
tremendous row of ducks follows.
EZRA Bloody Hell! What did you put in that!
ECCLESIASTES Paddle! Paddle!
They paddle sometimes pausing to pick up birds to throw
into the boat
EZRA There...over there.....left side...alongside...there's a dozen
over there.....we must have three dozen....twelve geese
ECCLESIASTES All cleaned up? Then lets get the hell out of here...
EZRA Nobody could get in here...'cept us.....
They paddle out of sight. Bird noises dwindle. Only the
sound of wind stirring the rushes
Sarah, a young woman in her twenties, sits at a desk and writes
by candlelight. She has nearly completed an entry. She reads
SARAH "Fifth of April, One Thousand, Six Hundred and Ninety. Father is
delighted today, almost jovial. The Partners have received
Parliamentary Approval for the drainage and now the Dutchman,
Mijnheer de Vries, who is to carry it out, has arrived with his wife
and daughter. They are changing for dinner after an exhausting
journey, having sailed from Holland only yesterday then travelled
by coach. Father says the cost will be enormous and that we
must treat Mijnheer de Vries with proper respect for these Dutch
engineers are the best at this work. He says we are set for great
changes for the better, and that this will change our swamps and
meres into the best tillage and grazing in the Eastern Counties.
Miss de Vries is very pretty, I think, but it is difficult to see for she
arrived wearing so much starched cloth she almost crackled. Mr
de Vries, (Mijnheer!) wears a huge hat so that he looks like a
mushroom, and Mrs de Vries has such a large stiff skirt she looks
like a dinner-bell! We are to have wine with water for dinner in
honour of our guests, and Mama is nervous about what they eat.
Richard must behave himself, for now that he is a Partner, I think
he gives himself airs and graces he does not deserve, and he
has his eye on Miss de Vries, already I think. There have been
many shots in the fen this evening.
The fowlers are out. Father will not be pleased.
So to dinner!"
A paneled room of the Jacobean period with a heavy table and
sideboard laid out with food, glasses, and decanters. By the table
are Warburton, his son Richard, wife Ruth, Jacob de Vries, his
wife Cristeen and daughter Katja. The Dutch trio are very
formally dressed, the Warburton family less so. Ruth is clearly
RUTH I haven't any order of seating.... Mr de Vries, you had better sit at
that end of the table, my husband at this…
Mrs De Vries, come and sit with me. Sarah you on the other
RICHARD I'll sit with Miss de Vries.....
They take up their places, the men helping with chairs except
Richard who conspicuously does nothing
WARBURTON. I hope you are rested. You've had a long journey...How was the
DE VRIES. In near-perfect English
It was fair enough. From Scheveningen in an English ship...a
Captain Burgess. Dealing in wool and herring. We could
perhaps have done without the herring! Cristeen and Katja
stayed in the cabin...there was only one cabin....but it was a fair
enough crossing. I have done it before. Once out of the islands,
the waves get up. Lowestoft is all fish and nets.
RUTH And were you all right? Here we are expecting you to sit and
have supper. Please say if you would rather just rest.
CRISTEEN Slight accent
You are kind, but no thanks...
DE VRIES This Captain Burgess...
Sarah is handing round food. Ruth passes things on.
... he asked me why I came to England.... Thank you. I told him I
had come for the Engelse Dyckage, and I think he thought I was
a spy! I had to explain to him I was a Drainer. A Dutch Drainer,
like Vermuyden...he asked me what I was going to do! I said we
were going to do battle with the enemy, water, who creeps up on
us, and drive him back. He left me alone after that!
WARBURTON. Good answer sir! Let us say grace. If you have no objection Mr
de Vries. This is a God-fearing house...
DE VRIES. Sir, we always say grace at home. It is good that we think alike.
A good sign.
WARBURTON. Good Lord thank you for delivering to us soundly these three
souls. We ask you to look on us all and our works with favour, as
we look on you as the divine provider of all things. Bless this our
meal that thou has seen fit to provide, for God said "I have given
you every herb bearing seed which is epon the face of the earth,
and every tree, in the which of the tree is the fruit of a tree
yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat" Amen.
DE VRIES et al Amen.
DE VRIES Thank you, I do not. Nor any of us. But we must not stop you...
Warburton fills the glasses. Richard, watched by Katja, sips
some and fills it to the brim again
DE VRIES As we came here, we passed through land much like my own.
Tiled roofs, waterways and few crossings. Sheep and oxen. So
much marsh we could have been at home in Zeeland. I see you
have a fine church, with a tower.
WARBURTON Oxay church.
DE VRIES I hope we shall worship there.
WARBURTON The vicar, a man called Emms, is one of the Drainage Partners.
He's a learned man.
DE VRIES. Oh?
RICHARD What father means, is awkward.
RUTH You mustn't say that!
WARBURTON What Richard means is that he can sometimes be difficult. You'll
meet him at the Partner's Meeting.
DE VRIES And you, Mr Richard, you must be very proud to be a Partner in
such an exciting enterprise.
RICHARD Such an expensive exercise.
DE VRIES These things are. They say in Holland that we build our sea-walls
with guilders, but it is worth it in the end.
RICHARD The whole wealth of this estate is tied up in this.
WARBURTON Not the whole wealth! You should pay more attention to the facts
RICHARD I've put my foot in it again. Tell me, Katja, what are the fashions
in Holland? What do you do for entertainment?
The sound of another shot. Warburton leaps to his feet and
stares out of the window. All stare after him, startled
RUTH I'm sorry...
WARBURTON It's those damned slodgers again, with their punt guns...
RUTH Do sit down.
WARBURTON You see Mr de Vries, we have these poachers, who live off our
wildfowl as if it's their own. They take them by the hundred. And
eels by the thousand. From my fen. And they say they have
every right to do so because they have always done it. They
have some sheep, they have some oxen, but it's the water they
want, like some breed of frogs. Two penny jacks, scales on their
backs. They live more in the water than they do on land.
DE VRIES. Can't they see the advantage of drainage? In Holland we grow
barley and what you call coleseed...the yellow flowers, the oil.
WARBURTON Rape. The fenmen call it the Dutch Disease! They want to keep
their sedge and reed. They sell the reed for thatch and for filling
up walls and floors to keep the cold out, and live in hovels of mud
stirred in with it. And use my fen as a free larder.
RUTH They are not all as bad as that! You saw, Mr de Vries, they have
sheep and oxen. And pigs.
DE VRIES. You see, with our work in Holland we make new land for farmers,
where there was none before. No ducks and eels, seagulls and
CRISTEEN Sand. And waves. And flood! We have the floods like the bible!
SARAH Doesn't it feel strange? Walking on the bottom of the sea...
DE VRIES. Then, Miss Warburton, when we have got the sea out we let the
rivers in. To flood the polders in winter and bring in dichts libben,
what you call silt. But I talk far too much about all that. Do we
have the labour, Mr Warburton? These slodgers, how do they
RICHARD They don't work! Have you seen anyone dig with webbed feet?
RICHARD They say it's true! Some of them are born like frogs, their toes
DE VRIES I think that is just a story!
RUTH Pay no attention to him! What will Katja think of us?
WARBURTON. For labour, Me de Vries, we will have an odd assortment.
DE VRIES Assortment?
WARBURTON Collection. Of men from the North of this country, and Scotchmen
who were taken prisoner by Cromwell, who have stayed, and I
regret to say, men of your own country. Prisoners of war taken by
Admiral Blake. They too have stayed. And Flemings...
DE VRIES. Ah, Blake. Van Tromp. Battle of Texel. But that is all over now. A
Dutchman is you king!
CRISTEEN And your Queen!
RUTH Do not forget the fair sex in this! You men are so quick to dismiss
us. Think of Elizabeth!
RICHARD. Think of Clara Hare.
RUTH. This is not the time or place. This is our dinner table!
RICHARD She will have to be brought up at some time.
DE VRIES Who is this Clara Hare?
WARBURTON Remember you are a Partner in this!
RICHARD It's because I am a Partner in this. Mr de Vries will find out. Better
we give him the whole picture.
WARBURTON. We have opposition. You would expect it. These poachers,
these fenmen, they believe they own the swamps, these meres
and acres of stinking mud. That it belongs to them, like fields
belong to us, that they have some sort of title, and will keep us
out from our own. My family has farmed and managed this land
for over three hundred years. My father fought for Cromwell to
keep it and we aren’t about to surrender it to some web-feet in
the ponds! Amphibians!
RUTH It's all talk! They'll come round.
DE VRIES. And this Clara Hare?
RICHARD The blacksmith. Our woman blacksmith. Her father was the
blacksmith, his father was the blacksmith. She's the blacksmith.
Black smith, black arts they say. The Hare family. The hare is a
magical animal, Mr de Vries, or so they say. They say witches
can change into hares, and you must never let one cross your
RUTH That, of course, is just so much country nonsense...Katja, pay no
KATJA. Of course not! It is all amusement. You have the same word, I
RUTH We shall have to see to your amusement, Katja. You mustn't be
lonely here. Sarah will look after you. We have a virginal- you
can play that together, and we have many books...
DE VRIES So this woman, is she some sort of Amazon? Some giant?
RUTH Not at all. She is just like any other woman. Strong of course.
RICHARD Once a good-looking woman.
WARBURTON. She's one of their leaders, but we can't prove it. They have had
meetings and are probably planning mischief. But she carries out
her trade, shoes my horses, mends my ploughs, what can I say?
SARAH Local people respect her. I think they are a little afraid of her.
WARBURTON It's all rubbish, but you should know about it. They make corn
dollies...you know, little figures made of straw, and twig men and
hang them up on branches, dead trees in the marsh in particular,
where our Cut is to go. Sometimes they leave one on the
doorstep. Supposed to scare us! Rubbish. But Turner my agent
had his cat shaved. Pink as a pig.
KATJA That is horrible!
WARBURTON. It all grew back.
RICHARD No fleas.
CRISTEEN. Why are these people not caught?
WARBURTON It would take an army to catch them. They know every inch of the
place. They can walk where no one else can, using stilts. We
can't use stilts. And we're not amphibians.
DE VRIES Stelt.
RUTH You mustn't make it all sound so difficult! My husband
exaggerates, Mr de Vries! Dinner table talk! This is a lovely part
of the country. Huge views, huge skies, you should see the
sunsets! Good people. And we must talk about your house. We'll
go there in the morning. Elm Farm. Quite a nice place, I think, but
it will need some attention. I'm sure you can make it a home
Cristeen. I'll send over my maid to help you and you must tell us
if there's anything you want.
WARBURTON And tomorrow we'll start setting out the route and planning.
A field beside reed beds. There is a pile of earth to one side and
a young man is wielding a spade, carefully, in an excavation.
Hovering over him is a man in part clerical garb, but booted for
the work. The young man digging is Peter Dade, a local lad. The
man watching and intervening is William Emms, the vicar.
EMMS Careful now. Just scrape away...here, take my trowel...you see
that patch...no, there, just slightly darker...greenish. Ease the
trowel under that. Don't stab it! Ease it under and lever...gently.
That's it! Let me see.
Emms blows on the object, fishes in his pocket for a clean
handkerchief and, laying that on the pile of earth, lays the object
Have a look.
Dade watches as Emms produces a small artist's brush from his
pocket and strokes at it
You see. There's some sort of clasp, and it must be made of
bronze. I'll turn it. Look! Look! There's a pattern and decoration.
How deep is that?
He hands Dade a weighted tape
DADE Thirty- seven inches, Mr Emms.
EMMS Thirty-seven inches! How did it get that deep. And look at the
work. What do you say to that?
DADE Roman. Farmer over Handney way found two Roman axes.
EMMS How do we know this is Roman? Or this?
He produces another object
DADE Happen what else can they be?
EMMS You have just asked the most important question in science.
What else can it be? The whole advancement of mankind is first
propped up, then founded on that.
DADE Have I?
EMMS Go down there again. You see the earth is a different colour.
Blacker. Avoid that area completely, and lift out that dark earth.
Put it to the side where I can see it. Why should there be dark
earth down there, Peter, when the rest has more sand?
Dade eases himself into the excavation again. As he is doing so,
the figure of John Sylham, landowner and partner, appears. He
whistles to his dogs
SYLHAM What are you doing, digging in my field, vicar? What have I
caught you at? Funny place to dig a grave. Anyhow, its too short!
Good earth though.
EMMS Good morning John. It's very exciting!
SYLHAM You must be able to see something I don't. I don't find a hole in
the ground exciting.
Back here you beggars! Damned animals, straight in the water!
Don't want 'em back now! Go! Go!
So what have you got then, on my land? Buried treasure?
EMMS Our greatest treasures. Look! Come out, Peter, let Mr Sylham
Dade climbs out. Sylham awkwardly crouches. Emms kneels
SYLHAM Looks like you've found yourself some burnt wood vicar. A big
hole for that. And look, there's a bit of broken flower pot.
SYLHAM There. Doesn't look much like treasure to me.
EMMS Aren't you interested in the past, John? You know what it says in
the Good Book. Proverbs, chapter sixteen. "How much better it is
to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding rather to be
chosen than silver"
SYLHAM You have the better of me, vicar. I'm not an educated man.
EMMS It has nothing to do with education, but to do with observation.
The Cut is going through here.
SYLHAM I suppose it is.
EMMS Observe this
SYLHAM To the dogs Go home! Go! They'll come and piss all over your
What are these?
EMMS This seems to be a brooch, and look, this is a spear-head.
There's the socket.
EMMS Not Roman.
Out of their sight the figure of Katja moves cautiously round,
watching the proceedings from a distance. She stands
SYLHAM You seem very sure, vicar.
EMMS Old people. British people. Before the Romans came.
SYLHAM How d'you make that out?
EMMS What do you use a spear for?
SYLHAM I've never used one.
EMMS. But if you did, you'd want it to be sharp
.SYLHAM So far so good.
EMMS What's this made of?
SYLHAM How should I know? It ain't rusted. And I've got ploughshares
sharper than that!
SYLHAM Is this some sort of riddle-me-rhyme? I've got dogs to walk.
EMMS Well what do you think it's made of?
SYLHAM I should say bronze. Something like that.
EMMS Why would you make a spear of bronze?
SYLHAM How the hell should I know, begging your pardon vicar.
EMMS Because you don't know how to make iron.
SYLHAM Come on vicar, everyone knows how you make iron.
EMMS Maybe not.
SYLHAM. What're you saying, Emms? That these were made by people
who couldn't make the stuff? Come on! How old do you think
EMMS I don't know. That's why I study. These were made by people,
long ago, I think before the Romans, our ancestors, John. Yours
and mine. British people. Look at this thing. Someone made that,
someone wore that.
SYLHAM Could be an old bit of harness.
EMMS Have you ever seen a bit of harness like that?
SYLHAM Look, Emms, what's the Dade boy doing here? He works for
Warburton, don't he? Warburton don't hold with any of this
nonsense. He told me so. He says it ain't right for a man of God
to fill people's heads with this sort of thing. He says you've got a
collection of things with dates on them. Let me be blunt. A vicar's
place is in the pulpit. His instruction is the Bible. His job is to
teach us. Don't you agree? The Cut goes straight through here,
and that's an end on it, ancestors look out.
EMMS Do you see down there. That bit of flower pot you call it...Peter,
you lift that with your trowel. Carefully.
Dade hands the pottery fragment to Emms.
EMMS So what's that? Look !
Sylham reluctantly moves to the edge, looks down.
That's bone! Don't you agree that's bone? Pick it out, Peter.
Dade does so
SYLHAM How do you know that's not a bit of some old cow?
EMMS Because that's a bit of a human skull.
SYLHAM to the dogs Here boy! Here!
Are you saying there's buried people down there? Don't like it
Emms. Keep it to yourself. And this is my land.
He strides off. Emms turns to Dade
EMMS And I say that whoever this was should have a Christian burial
DADE Don't ask me to do it, Mr Emms!
EMMS I'll do it. There may be more.
Who's that. By that willow. That must be the Dutchman's
daughter. Miss de Vries.
Katja, knowing she has been seen, makes a slight wave. Emms
stares. Dade behind him, unseen, waves back
Out and about
SCENE 5 Emms' study, book-lined, untidy. Emms sits at his desk where he
has a ledger in front of him in which he writes with a quill pen.
EMMS Today uncovered an urn, or a similar container made of reddish
brown pottery. It lies square in the path of the new cut and all the
indications point to it being one of several burials.
He picks up the piece and examines it. Resumes writing
The pot is impressed with curious designs which seem to have
been made by a rope or twisted leather before firing, round the
shoulder and lip. Most exciting of all is the impression of a thumb
and forefinger where the ancient manufacturer of this piece must
have picked it up and set it out to dry. It makes me feel instantly
familiar with the fellow, as though I have watched him make it,
although I lack the ability to flesh out the scene and
He tries his own thumb and forefinger in the indentations, nods,
replaces the piece
I venture that I have today seen into the ritual of their burials.
Within the urn were the remains of a person consumed by the
fire of cremation, but leaving such fragments as teeth and part of
the skull as identity the remains as human. The larger part of
these remains and the urn I have locked safely in the vestry of
St. Andrews against a proper re-burial, which will not please
some people hereabout. I ponder what shall be suitable for I am
sure this person is truly ancient and lived and died before the
Romans and most probably before the advent of our Lord. Even
to write this gives me disquiet. Can a Christian burial be given to
one who lived and died before His Coming? Is it enough that this
person was God's creature? I know of no one who has
encountered this before. But we are all God's creatures and must
be treated with respect. Insofar as I am equipped for any of this,
being a Partner in this enterprise for no other reason than my
standing, it would be better if the new river cut we propose were
diverted to avoid this spot and disturbance of these remains was
Emms lays down his pen, stands up and looks out of a window
Notwithstanding, or perhaps using my influence as a Partner, I
am convinced that it would be best for both archaeological and
Christian reasons to leave these sites alone.
The fen. Warburton, de Vries, Sylham and the foreman Turner
stand in a group. De vries is wearing his usual large hat, the
others are bareheaded. He holds a rolled up map in front of him.
They try to read it. To their right stand two chainmen, burly men
carryings the measuring chains of 100 links, slung over a
shoulder. They also carry red and white banded surveying rods.
To one side are two surveyors, carrying the notebooks and
pencils, leather pouch bags etc., and one of them clutching a
tripod instrument topped with a brass circular plate, markings, a
sight etc. A circumferentor. They are both dressed well with
boots, soft hats, leggings.
DE VRIES Pointing away from them.
Gentlemen, straight through there, left of that tree.
He turns to the surveyors. You have the bearing.
WARBURTON Agreed. Straight through there. First section, about quarter of a
mile. Sorry, you understand mile?
DE VRIES Of course. Mijl!
WARBURTON This is all my land. This stretch intersects two dykes...they won't
be on your map. These will have soon been dammed and
sluiced...quite free-running. Further on, about five miles...let me
see the map…
SYLHAM Beckons to the surveyors
...here, Yule Brook. You have it. A more substantial waterway. It
collects all the dykes and becks from my pastures. We shall have
to cut that off to carry out the main work.
DE VRIES I have allowed for that of course. I think you will find a description
and drawing on page two of my work plan. You know something
of this work, Mr Warburton.
WARBURTON I should hope so. I've studied it all long enough, having the
advantage I suppose of knowing practically all the land. And the
water, through the seasons. I can show you all the areas that
SYLHAM And so do I!
WARBURTON I'm sorry John, I had no intention of excluding you.
Sylham and De Vries both nod
SYLHAM The Yule Brook is on my land Mr De Vries. It's called Yule Brook
because at Yule, ...Noel...Christmas...
DE VRIES Kerst.
SYLHAM ...it floods. A veritable Thames, and overruns all these dykes and
ditches. We'll have to keep it working and sluice it into the new
DE VRIES. I understand, gentlemen. If you look at my map you will see it is a
matter of gradients. Sufficient fall to clear water but not so much
it scours, eats the banks and carries them to the sea.
SYLHAM Mud blocks the harbour. But you've seen all this before.
DE VRIES Still this is a big enterprise, and you gentlemen should all be
congratulated for your enterprise. Shall we get going? Surveyors.
You know where you're going. Get in these poles. And you have
this wonderful instrument! I have never seen one before.
WARBURTON. It's called a circumferentor. I had it made in London where there's
a specialist maker. You sight it down the line and can do offsets
at any angle.
DE VRIES It's very fine
SYLHAM It should be, it cost a small fortune!
DE VRIES. We start then.
He moves off with the four men following. Warburton and Sylham
are left together
SYLHAM I found Emms digging in one of my fields.
SYLHAM Him and that boy Dade that works for you. A deep hole. He
showed me what he'd found. A spear that wouldn't stab a
snowman and a bit of skull. And some sort of brooch.
WARBURTON. Damn the man!
SYLHAM You can't damn a vicar!
WARBURTON. I appointed him. Because of his father and my father. It was a
mistake. And I asked him to become a Partner. A bigger mistake.
I wanted someone the villagers would look up to. He has a
collection of that sort of rubbish. I never thought it mattered.
SYLHAM He was going on about ancestors and people long ago. I told him
it wasn't right to fill people's heads with this nonsense. And that
WARBURTON He's sacked. And was it a bit of skull?
SYLHAM. Could have been, I'm no expert.
SYLHAM He said so.
WARBURTON. We need a word with him. You and me.
Another part of the fen. In the rushes, on a piece of dry land sits
Peter Dade, fishing. He sits motionless for some time, rod in
hand, staring into the water. His rod is a simple straight branch,
there is no reel. To one side we can just see Katja approaching.
She is moving silently, and sits semi-concealed on a stump,
watching. A fish takes Peter's bait. He leaps to his feet and pulls
in a pike, which comes in like a log until it reaches dry land when
it thrashes wildly. Peter tries to control it but can't. He looks
around for something to stun it, catches a glimpse of Katja. He
stares, makes a little bow in her direction. Katja, not knowing
what to do, bows back
PETER I've caught a fish... I need a piece of wood.
KATJA Ja. I will get one…You hold the vis, I know what to do...
Peter stretches the fish out. Katya whacks it expertly on the
head. Peter, impressed takes stock of Katja. She is dressed for
walking with a long cloak, but her blonde hair is uncovered.
PETER Thank you very much, thank you very much ... how did you know
what to do?
KATJA My brother....he used to catch fish...I would help him.
PETER This is a pike...see...look at its jaw and teeth
KATJA Ja. We also have this fish...snoek… A pike. You have a good
PETER It's good to eat.
KATJA We eat it also.
PETER Are you Mr de Vries' daughter? Mr de Vries the engineer...the
drainer. The Dutchman.
KATJA Laughing I am the Dutchman's daughter. I am Katja.
PETER I am Peter. Peter Dade.
KATJA. That is what you do! Good afternoon Peter Dade.
PETER I should go now. It is dangerous in these fens...you could get
KATJA You are not supposed to be here! I have stopped your fishing, I'm
sorry. Please go on, I am a Dutch girl I won't fall in!
PETER Should you be here?
KATJA Oh yes. My mother sleeps in the afternoon. Snurken, snurken,
she makes snoring noises
after she has eaten. I go for a walk or else I become doof
Peter, without thinking throws the piece of wood in the water
Oh! Now you will catch nothing.
PETER I didn't mean to do that. Wouldn't you like to sit down? If I can
catch another you can have it.
KATJA My God no! Here you are mother, I have been fishing this
afternoon with a nice boy, here is a big pike for you! She would
PETER Aren't you allowed
KATJA Not in Harlingen! "Who was that man I saw you with? You stay
in this house for a week- a year. The pastor will visit you!" But I
like to walk. I saw you the other day when you were digging.
PETER It was you.
KATJA. So what do you dig for in the middle of a field? Is that what you
do when you are not fishing? And with a pastor, a priest. I
wondered if you were putting someone in, but that other man
came and you took things out. Strange
PETER Buried treasure.
We were digging up old things before the new cut comes
through. Bits and pieces...I could show you...
KATJA I think it must be another time. I had better get back before
mother wakes up. Perhaps I will see you again?
PETER I fish here often. It's a good spot.
KATJA. It is a good spot. Goodbye.
Peter stares after her for a moment
PETER Well, old dead friend, what do we make of that? Don't she look a
pretty girl, you lucky chap!
Another part of the fen. Parker and friend with the circumferentor.
And an armful of red-and-white surveying poles. Planted poles
are visible stretching away from them to one side. The chain-men
can be heard nearby, splashing and swearing as they struggle
about their work.
FRIEND Sounds as though they're having fun. Damned bog, damned
marsh, damned spot if you ask me!
Through the circumferentor
Can't even get a sound piece of land!
He readjusts the tripod
Too damned flat, no reference points. What we need is a church
PARKER You'll be lucky! They're all heathens. Try that dead tree....
Friend swings the sighting round
What do you make of this Dutchman? Reckon he knows his
FRIEND Warburton reckons he does. They're good at this drainage
business...what's that? Hear something?
PARKER. Nothing. Just the wind in the rushes.
FRIEND Thought I heard something... Locals don't like us being here.
PARKER I shouldn't think they like anything much.
More noise from the chainmen
All right if I tell them to take a break. Hell of a job through here.
Could do with a beer.
FRIEND Half an hour! Break! No more!
This is as dry a place as we'll get. A beer and a bite to eat. Under
He pats the instrument
PARKER Grass! Beautiful grass!
FRIEND I need a piss.
He goes over to relieve himself behind the tree
And all I can see from here is reeds, reeds and, would you
believe it, reeds.
PARKER Stop complaining. It's peaceful here. I quite like it.
FRIEND I ain't complaining, it's just an observation.
Both men produce bottles and food wrapped in cloth from their
PARKER This place is full of wildfowl. And fish. Eels. These people live off
them. I heard it makes them crazy.
FRIEND . How's that.
PARKER Salt. They pickle everything in salt. They say that makes you
Did you hear what they were saying about that fellow Emms, the
FRIEND Caught some of it.
PARKER. What do you think of it? Warburton I mean. I never heard a man
damn a vicar before. Digging they said. In a field, found a human
FRIEND So he said! What's that? I heard something.
PARKER Don't start that again!
They listen. A reed warbler breaks into song. Stops
Since when were you an ornithologist.
FRIEND A what?
PARKER A bird studier. And they was talking about this Yule Brook we've
to come to. I reckon this ground is wetter by the day.
There is the sound of a commotion of ducks from the reeds.
There is a faint tinkling of bells
What the hell's that?
FRIEND I told you I heard something.
Shouting from the chainmen, obvious panic. The ringing of small
bells seems to come from all sides now, getting louder, nearer.
The two jump up, fully alarmed
PARKER. Who's that? Who's there? There's someone there!
The bells tinkle insistently
Lord help us! What's that? That!
An apparition begins to rise slowly from the reeds.
At first they see a straw hat, then a startling white face with red
cheeks and holes for eyes. This is followed by a second, hatless
head to the right of it. They both come wobbling nearer in the
Hey you! Damn you! Show yourselves! We know who you are!
You don't scare us!
The figures continue to grow taller, showing shoulders and
waists, dangling arms. They tower over the reeds and men on
What do you want?
There is a concerted ringing of bells, loud now, then leaving three
bells, two bells, one. The figures begin to subside. There is the
forced laughter of men. Everything is gone. silence, except for
Friend who is still gabbling away at something. Parker pokes him
in the ribs with a boot
Get up you stupid bastard that was men. Not a ghost!
It's gone! The circumferentor. It's been stolen! There's footprints.
Get up, look!
Look at our poles.
We see them laid out in a pentacle
There'll be hell to pay. That thing is worth a fortune!
Shouts of alarm from the Chainmen
Let's get out of here...
He runs for it, kicking the arrangement of poles as he goes.
Friend follows, falling over himself in panic. From the fen there is
The reeds are parted stage left, to reveal Ezra and Ecclesiastes
in the punt with a third man, Lambert. They are disguised,
wearing women's clothes, too small, too short, with their faces
blackened. Ezra wears a woman's bonnet with straw stuffed in it
for hair. Ezra and Ecclesiastes each clutch one of the scarecrow
figures on poles. Lambert clutches the circumferentor.
ECCLESIASTES Move! Move!
He and Ezra turn the boat. Lambert is playing with the
LAMBERT. Look at this!
He rotates the gnomen, peers through the sights
EZRA Put it down! It shines.
LAMBERT What shall we do with it? Hide it?
ECCLESIASTES Getting caught with this is a job for Jack Ketch.
EZRA. Do we shouldn't take it back?
LAMBERT I bet its worth something, worth a small fortune...made in
London it says...on this plate.
ECCLESIASTES Worth a stretched neck! They'll follow that thing like the pig
followed St Anthony. I say we put it in that eel trap, tie it up
tight and put it over the side.
They do so. There is a muted splash. Ezra rings a hand bell
in farewell. Lambert joins in. the reeds close and they are
Warburton's dining room. Table set for dinner. At the table,
waiting for the men to join them, Cristeen, Katja, Sarah, Ruth. To
one side stand Warburton, Sylham, Richard, de Vries and Turner
the estate manager and works manager for Warburton. The men
have drinks in hand. De Vries smokes a pipe.
The interior is suffused with the light of a reddening sunset,
growing in intensity throughout the scene.
RUTH How are you finding things at Elm Farm? It's always difficult to
CRISTEEN Thank you, it is all coming along well....and thank you Sarah for
helping us with the linen and gor'dijn.
CRISTEEN Yes, thank you. It is an old house I think. So much wood, and a
RUTH But comfortable I hope!
CRISTEEN Of course, of course. I only say so much wood because in
Scheveningen there is so much brick.
What a sunset, no?
RUTH What a sunset. Tell me Katja, what do you like to do? It must be
boring for you while all this work is going on, and in a foreign
country. I hope we can find something to amuse you.
CRISTEEN. Katja likes to make lace. We both make lace. You cannot be
bored when you make lace.
Katja shoots a glance at Sarah
RUTH Katya is most welcome to come here. Do you play an instrument
Katya? We have a virginal, if that is of any interest. Sarah plays a
bit, don't you Sarah?
CRISTEEN No she does not play music.
KATJA I can answer for myself mama.
I would like to learn to play music.
SARAH We'll do that. And perhaps you would like to go horse-riding. We
have several horses...
KATJA I can ride only a bit. In Scheveningen, we all walk , clop clop clop
in our clogs, up and down, especially on Sunday when it is like
wooden beetles on the street.
CRISTEEN. Girls and nonsense! We have a very good library in
Scheveningen, and many friends! You give our hosts the wrong
KATJA Mama, Scheveningen is very nice, and it is very well paved but it
CRISTEEN. Young ladies!
SARAH Well we aren't well paved round here but we can sketch and talk
fashion and go to Lynn to the shops if father will take us, and go
clop clop there!
RUTH And you can make lace together with Sarah.
CRISTEEN They are still talking. I think it is very worrying about the works to
them? Jacob says that a very important instrument was stolen
and the men terrified by strange things. That is not good.
RUTH There are men who don't want the Cut. It's always the same -
some men are opposed to progress as a matter of principle, my
CRISTEEN Good drainage turns swamp into pasture. Jacob says that it is
like taking land to the doctor's.
RUTH That is a pretty way of putting it!
CRISTEEN Is it?
SARAH But it is their larder. They say the water is their water and
everything in it. And always has been. What do they eat if we
An awkward pause
RUTH The new land will become their larder.
SARAH But it will not be their new land. Not their larder. That's what they
think. Will it? Strange fish that live in a meadow! No reed for
thatch. No ducks, no eels. No eels by the thousands and
RUTH You sound like one of them
CRISTEEN And do these men have gills and webbed feet?
Light fades on the women and rises on the group of men.
WARBURTON How would you say the work's coming along? Given all this
damned nonsense. Men working well enough?
DE VRIES The men are working well enough, when they can lay their hands
on their tools. More spades and picks went last night. That is the
fifth night in a row. We shall need some more. And they wrecked
a crane and two barrows were pushed into the water.
SYLHAM What do you say Turner?
TURNER It's holding us up. Delay now means we won't get where we want
to be before winter. If that happens, we know what we'll need.
WARBURTON More sluices.
RICHARD More money. These water rats....
SYLHAM But this business with the circumferentor, that ain't petty thieving,
that's a serious business.
TURNER And last night all the surveyor's poles were pulled out. A whole
row, nearly a mile. Not just flung down, laid on the ground, some
snapped. Like we used to draw a gallows at school.
One after another. They must have come silent in the night. Lord
knows how. By boat I suppose.
SYLHAM A serious business.
TURNER And they scare the men with all their witch bits.....bundles of
twigs tied to the trees, dead rats,a scarecrow with a rope round
it's neck. They put that floating in the swamp.
RICHARD But that's all rubbish.
TURNER That's as may be, Mr Richard, but the men don't like it. They're
afraid of the silence and the reeds and don't need that.
DE VRIES And tell them Mr Turner...they dress as women and appear in the
marsh and laugh and disappear. I've seen them myself, in broad
WARBURTON We need guards. Even Troopers. I'll see the Sheriff...
SYLHAM And then there's Emms.
A pause. Warburton nodding
RICHARD The man's a fool.
SYLHAM No. He ain't a fool. Or if he is he's a dangerous damned learned
fool. Digging in my pasture, him and that Dade boy, like rabbits.
But you can shoot a rabbit. It ain't the same for a parson! And
why ain't he here?
WARBURTON I didn't ask him.
DE VRIES I don't understand. He is a vicar of the Church. Your vicar.
WARBURTON He has it in his head that our Cut is going through some sort of
ancient graveyard that he has been studying, and that we are
going to disturb the dead.
DE VRIES But the dead must be in the churchyard.
WARBURTON Yes Jacob, but that's the Christian dead, but according to Emms,
these are people before the Romans. Before our Lord.
SYLHAM He had a bit of flowerpot. And a bit of skull. And a bit of bronze,
he said, a sort of blunt spear. Talked about old people. I told him
his instruction is the Bible, and get off my land.
RICHARD I heard on the village he wants the work to stop and the Cut
WARBURTON Music to their ears.
DE VRIES Forgive me, but why is this vicar a partner? For that matter, why
is this vicar a vicar?
WARBURTON. I have to keep answering that. We had a Civil War, Jacob.
DE VRIES. A bloody war. You lost a king. We have sent you one.
WARBURTON His father and mine were on opposite sides. My father lived. You
understand? He made me promise. I found Emms a living here.
Thought a vicar would be just right for our enterprise.That was all
before he started this digging.
They all look at him in surprise
That's what its called ain't it? We have a vicar who don't believe
in the Bible, De Vries.
WARBURTON No, that's not true, John. He don't believe that God created the
world six thousand years ago,talks ten, twenty, a hundred
DE VRIES Then he cannot be a vicar of Christ.
WARBURTON We had better join the ladies.
Richard makes a bee-line for the chair beside Katja
RUTH About time! What an evening! Too good to be talking about the
They all bow their heads except Richard who stares at Katja.
Warburton gestures towards the sunlight
"And God made two great lights, the greater light to rule the day
and the lesser light to rule the night" Oh Lord we bless thee for
thy beneficence to man and for all that you put before us. We ask
you to bless our venture, as you bless our table , to look on our
works with favour. We thank you for the food that is before us.
A serving girl enters and busies herself with the food, moving
round the table, back and forth from a sideboard etc. Warburton
circulates with a bottle of wine. He pours some in Cristeen's
glass, then some in Katja's. Cristeen responds.
CRISTEEN No! She does not drink wine.
SARAH I do, with plenty of water.
DE VRIES No.
RICHARD I do. Noah tended his vines.
There is the distant sound of a punt gun, followed by another.
WARBURTON Damnation on them! Your pardon ladies...
TURNER I know who that will be. One day I'll get them. Devils.
RICHARD. You know we have witches here. We mustn't call them that, but
they can transform themselves into whatever they like. Into eels
and slide away on the grass, into hares and dodge through the
RUTH Don't be silly Richard, you'll frighten Katja.
RICHARD It's true. Clara Hare is a witch. Everyone knows that, but no one
must say it.
SYLHAM She's a damned good blacksmith. Can shoe a horse.
DE VRIES This Clara Hare! The Amazon.
SYLHAM But not a witch. Pay no attention to Master Richard here. She's a
clever one. The Hares are an old family...she's a good-looking
RUTH No one is eating their food! And after this there's cheeses and
nuts and sillabub...
SYLHAM And back to Emms. What do we do with him?
DE VRIES. From what you have said, it seems to me that he is a man
misguided. Shall I talk to him?
WARBURTON Can't see that you'd have much to say to each other, Jacob.
DE VRIES But I have the advantage as a foreigner. In Holland we have
much in common with your church, perhaps we can discuss his
theories, his studies.
WARBURTON Do you agree Jacob, the Lord created this earth and everything
on it, four thousand and four hundred years before he sent us his
DE VRIES Of course.
WARBURTON Do you agree that this exact time is written in the bible and can
be arrived at by scientific analysis of the Old Testament.
DE VRIES I do.
WARBURTON That the history of the world is contained within six periods,
Adam to Noah, Noah to Abraham.
DE VRIES Abraham to David, David to the Captivity in Babylon. The
Captivity to the coming of Christ and Christ until today.
Science. The best minds...
DE VRIES As scientific as my work. As the flow of water and gradients.
SYLHAM We have no manners. All this food and we just talk and talk.
RICHARD Talk and talk. We should eat and eat.
WARBURTON We all agree, all agree all these things. The Bible is not to be
bent, amended, adjusted to suit the whims of some one
individual. I thought all that was in the past.
DE VRIES And the best place for it.
WARBURTON I will contact the Bishop. Yes John?
Emms can't go on.
SYLHAM Poking about. Has to stop.
RUTH Please will you eat!
Centre stage are two barrels supporting a plank. Sacks form a
rough circle. A dim light is cast by a dark-lantern. Ecclesiastes
enters quietly. He sits down.
Ezra enters carrying another lantern. Behind him, quietly, comes
Felix an elderly villager with Delia his wife, then some distance
back, Peter Dade. They all sit.
ECCLESIASTES. Evening, friends.
FELIX. We shall have rain before morning.
EZRA Is all here that's going to be? Who's on guard?
ECCLESIASTES Fenton's boy, up the lane, and Clara is expected.
DELIA Clara Hare! You ever heard her talking to horses? She's a
witch. Murmuring that's what.
ECCLESIASTES What are we?
What are we? We are all human men - and women too.
FELIX We need so much rain that it washes Mynheer de Vries and
his hat all the way back to Holland. Floating on the sea , with
all his Hogen Mogens and attacked by seagulls!
ECCLESIASTES Well that's all fancy wishing, but what are we going to do?
They dug two hundred feet yesterday, cleaned right out,
barrowed away, trolleys and cranes. It don't take long to cut
out a mile at that rate. And there's hell to pay over the
circumferentor. I heard from Tom Ware there's talk of
Warburton bringing in troopers.
FELIX. Who says he can do that! We ain't afraid of troopers.
ECCLESIASTES. His friend the Sherriff can do it. And be serious Felix. These
men carry muskets and they shoot them for real. Killing. Not
shouting, shooting. Taking aim at you and me and folks and
after they've shot you, as like as not they'll hang you to make
FELIX We've got guns that would blast the arse off an elephant!
EZRA Wonderful ! Perhaps we shouldn't ha' taken it. We could
give it back.
ECCLESIASTES You think that'll make things all right? Thank you brothers
for returning our circumferentor. Most kind. Have a jar of ale!
That'll really stop them. In recognition of your kindness we're
going to bugger off and dig a cut somewhere else. Where do
There is movement behind them. Clara Hare comes into
view dressed in a leather apron over her clothes. She has
come from her work, unkempt but striking. They all turn
CLARA Well what are we going to do then? They're stopping off the
lodes to dry out Oxay fen and digging. That Cut is coming in
like a tide, a spade at a time, all the time, and we ain't going
to stop them by stealing their poles or their spades or trying
to frighten them to death. Or stealing their instrument, or
hanging things in trees. So what are we going to do then, if
we really mean to stop this thing. Do we really mean to stop
it, or are we going to be cleared out like Vermuyden cleared
Axeholme with his Cut and new river and dykes and graffs.
ECCLESIASTES. Warburton's got men from all over.
CLARA. I've seen them! I sat there this afternoon, out of sight, and
they just keep moving forwards. There was an alder tree in
Sylham's pasture, and they moved forward towards it, like
ants, and the tree came down while I watched, like they ate it
and they just moved on. Then another one, then through the
EZRA The what?
CLARA You don't know what Clara knows.
EZRA I shouldn't think I do, and should worry about it if I did!
CLARA Just you think back, right back, to your father and your
father's father and his father's father before him.
ECCLESIASTES. I'm thinking...go on then.
CLARA Where are they then?
ECCLESIASTES Under the ground in churchyard somewhere. Couldn't afford
stones, still can't afford stones. What's your drift?
CLARA And before there was a church and a graveyard, what then?
ECCLESIASTES Haven't given that much thought.
CLARA Because that old church might have been there a thousand
years but there's a whole corn stack of time before that and
people were living and dying just the same.
So what were they doing? Peter knows, don't you Peter,
and Emms knows, and he's a vicar. You tell them Peter.
DADE Vicar found a burial ground. Me and him been digging it...
FELIX Oh? Is that Peter Dade speaking? Tell me it is? I thought
you was Warburton's boy!
DADE He paid me Felix, he don't own me! And he had me sacked
anyway along of what we just been talking about.
CLARA. It was best for you all that you let him speak, and as for you
Felix when did you last work?
You tell them.
DADE Pastor asked me to help. After church it was and he said he
needed someone with a bit of muscle and would I? So I said
yes. Had to really. Went down by the fen, Sylham's meadow,
that line of old alders, by Carter's Graff in Sylham's meadow,
right on the water's edge. Pastor has studied these things.
Pastor said he Reckoned there was an old burial ground
there and we should have a look afore the new Cut comes
through. He showed me the lumps and dips and where old
rabbit had dug out earth. So I wasn't too happy about this
burial thing, but Pastor's saying come along then, so I dug.
And that digging cost me my job, because along comes
Sylham who weren't too happy about it, but you can't sack a
Pastor. Se we was digging and true enough about three feet
down we come on a strange thing, an old pot, like a salt pot,
with zig-zags round the rim, and it was broken. And Pastor
shows Sylham other things he's found but he ain't
impressed, so we lift the bit of pot and there's some bone
and Emms says "that's a bit of human skull", and it should
have a Christian burial. And he took it and I reckon he did.
DELIA. I wouldn't ha' done it! They say if you go up there at night,
the corpse candles will come out of the marsh. Hobby on his
CLARA So that could have been your grandfather's grandfather,
Ecclesiastes, a hundred times removed.
ECCLESIASTES Could be anyone.
CLARA Could be anyone, but a person and one as lived here. One
DADE That lived before there was ever Romans.
EZRA Pastor say that?
ECCLESIASTES So what are we to do?
CLARA. Talk don't stop machinery, nor carts and spades and cranes.
It don't stop those men with frills on their breeches and it
don't stop the Mynheer and his big hat. They have stupefied
us with their red-and-white poles. Made a kind of magic to
make us believe it will all happen. You be talking, I be acting!
Clara exits. The others stare after her
DELIA Said she was a witch...
Sarah with her diary, she reads
SARAH. "Seventh of July, One Thousand ,Six Hundred and Ninety.
Dinner last night. A difficult occasion, Mama beside herself
because the men would talk all the time and not sit down to eat.
The works are much interrupted by acts of the villagers who do
not want the drainage. Father may have troopers brought in to
protect them. I do not think that would be wise, for if you rub a
wasp sting it will inflame it greatly. I can confess it to this diary
that I can see that the villagers think the fen to be theirs and that
the drainage is taking it from them. It is their larder. Reverend
Emms is a scholarly man and has taken it into his head that the
works will cut through an ancient place of burial, destroying relics
of great age and interest. Mr Sylham says this is apostasy, a
vicar who does not believe in the words of the Bible, or the six
ages to this day from Adam. It is said that he intends to hold a
Parish meeting in the Church, an unusual event. And Richard
stares at Katja like a cow at its calf. She is a very pretty girl and I
fear she has turned his head. Meynheer and Mrs de Vries are
stern people, it appears. No wine for Katja. And Mrs de Vries was
sharp with me. I am sure she thinks me too free with my
She closes the book
Maybe I am.
Katja enters. Sarah pushes the book away
KATJA You are writing? I'm sorry...
SARAH No…I've finished...my diary.
KATJA I keep a diary.
SARAH Here? What do you write?
KATJA No, not here! In Holland! What is there to write about here?
SARAH The people, the works. Problems.
KATJA Oh that.
SARAH Dinner. Richard. The Reverend Emms.
KATJA You think I like your Richard? I don't. He thinks I'm a child. I
think he is.
SARAH That's blunt.
KATJA I'm sorry, that was so rude. Dutch rude. Rude! But don't you get
bored here? Do you have dances? Music? Your mama wants me
to learn to play the virginal. Who can dance to that? We must sit
in rows and drink tea! Or sing, tra-la!
SARAH This is the country, Katja. We do sing tra-la!
KATJA But these villagers, are they all frogs and toads? There must be
SARAH No princes, I'm afraid. Just what you see. And the works.
KATJA Works, works, works ,I am already tired of the works in Holland!
And all the same here...your papa is very fierce I think?
SARAH I wouldn't call him fierce...
KATJA Do you have someone special?
SARAH What do you mean?
KATJA A young man?
SARAH That's a very personal question.
KATJA I have a boyfriend in Scheveningen. You see, I tell you. A very
handsome boy. Tall. Yellow hair, so blond. Papa hates him. Says
he does nothing.
SARAH What does he do?
KATJA What does that matter! Who is here for you?
SARAH I'm happy. Does there have to be someone here for me?
KATJA I think so.
SARAH There's more to life than boys!
KATJA The virginal, tra la la! Making lace, tra la la. A new bonnet! Mama
says you cannot be bored when you make lace! Papa says,
“ No wine!” No anything. I can find things to do.
Sarah shakes her head in disapproval.
Rain rattling, heavily.
Clara at her forge. Fiery light from the pit. Clara herself, dressed
in her leather apron, is hammering at metal on an anvil,
concentrating, turning it, hammering again. Sylham appears. He
enters quietly and unseen and for some moments stands
watching her at work. Turning from what she is doing, she sees
him but continues.
SYLHAM Good evening to you Clara.
CLARA Good evening John Sylham.
She looks at him, waiting
SYLHAM Got a horse outside.
CLARA Working horse or riding horse?
SYLHAM Riding horse. Needs a new shoe.
CLARA Leave her, I'll see to her. Got her out of the rain? He nods
SYLHAM I should prefer to wait....
CLARA Got to finish these shoes ....
Worn right through. Only get visitors here when its rain or snow.
Dry out or heat up. Why are you here?
SYLHAM Horse like I said.
CLARA We both know that ain't so. Horse could wait for a fair day. Why
are you here?
SYLHAM Known you all these years Clara. You know how things stand at
my farm. You know I ain't a wealthy man. You know I ain't got
much of a wife.
CLARA Don't know what you mean.
SYLHAM Oh yes you do. We both belong to this place. I don't want you to
get hurt Clara.
CLARA That's very kind of you, but what makes you think Clara can't
look after herself.
SYLHAM They talk about you unkindly.
CLARA Oh I know that!
SYLHAM There was more trouble last night. Fires lit, huts burned
down....Warburton has his troopers out.
CLARA What's that to me-
SYLHAM You know very well Clara.
CLARA Is this because you kissed me once, John Sylham. Do I get a
SYLHAM This ain't a special warning and that was long ago. I just thought
you should know.
CLARA It may have been long ago to you. Long ago as yesterday to me.
Time was and time is. You know perfectly well what I mean.
She turns to attend the fire. They watch as the bellow make the
The world is a sad and wonderful place for some of us. You're
one of us, not one of them. You know we need the meat and
money out of old fen. Your grandfather, he got his meat and
money out of it, same as the rest of us.
A girl gets thirsty at this work! A beer, John Sylham. You know
Clara always has a drop and we both know you like it.
She pours some beer into two tankards
Your health, you're a good man! Oh don't look embarrassed! You
hadn't have married that skinny white thing of yours I'd still be
after you. Money, wasn't it?
Sylham says nothing. They drink
Had the Troopers here last night anyway. Looking for weapons
they said, and stolen things – spades, picks and the like, but I
reckon it was to frighten us. Turned it all over, through all my old
iron.(SHE LAUGHS) But you won't find anything in Clara's forge.
Clever Clara! New set of shoes John? Coulter for your plough!
SYLHAM You mean…
CLARA And they went through Ezra's thatch. Wicked damage. Stuck
their pikes in widow Baker's haystack and skewered a chicken.
Never offered to pay, and it won't be laying again!
SYLHAM We're losing money already Clara.
CLARA I am sorry to hear that.
SYLHAM You all slow us down, we shall have to raise rents for more
money. Everything I could raise is invested in this new river.
CLARA Our lives and livings are invested in Oxay Fen, and no one is
taking it from us. Another beer John?
He holds out his mug automatically. She fills it. Returns to the
bellows, pumps up the fire
SYLHAM It's all very well for you Clara, I'll bet you never owed money in
CLARA You only owe what you borrow. None of, you don't need more
land. Five thousand more acres is it? And whose five thousand?
Theft, I call it. You've found a way to steal water.
SYLHAM I had better go.
CLARA What about your horse?
SYLHAM Another time.
CLARA Ah, one of them. An "another time" horse! I'll begin to think you
only came to see me. Would you lend me your horses John
Sylham, should I need them?
SYLHAM Why should you need them?
CLARA Why, why, why. We should have got married John Sylham and
you knows it. Oh well. Tell me this, I am always hungry, I must
always be fed, the finger I lick, will soon turn red. What am I?
SYLHAM None of your nonsense!
CLARA A fire, John, a fire and I must see to mine, if you ain't got a
horse....but you're always welcome...
SYLHAM I'd best be going.
Clara calls after him
CLARA But would you lend me your horses? See you at the Parish
meeting tonight? Be thoughtful on this John, be thoughtful on
Lights rise to reveal Peter Dade sitting on tree stump by bank of
Oxay fen as before. Piece of dry land surrounded by rushes. He
sits fishing with the same rod, silent, watching, nothing is
happening. The rain has passed. A shaft of sunlight illumines
him. Katja cautiously emerges. Peter hears her, turns sharply.
KATJA Hello Peter.
DADE. It's you again!
KATJA That is not a welcome, that is a statement!
DADE I'm sorry, I'm just surprised to see you again.
KATJA Why? Do you think the Dutchman's daughter cannot find herself
the same way twice! Mother's has gone to Mrs Warburton to talk
lace and eat cakes! I am making lace! Can't you see?
PETER Yes. Sit down.
KATJA You have caught nothing?
DADE No. The water is so high. That shower this morning. You see that
drowned tree... the water was up to the underside of that branch,
now its over it. No fish.
KATJA I got my shoes wet coming here. Last time it was dry. I shall have
to wear clogs if we have to meet here.
PETER We don't have to meet...
KATJA I like it. Tell me, why is there more water? In Holland we always
worry about more water.
PETER It's the new river. They've damned up all the dykes and graffs
and Yule Brook to dig it. Otherwise the works would flood. Mister
de Vries can tell you all about it.
KATJA Pooh! We never discuss his work. He talks only to men. I hear
that Mr Sylham has dismissed you. He should not do that.
PETER More time for fishing.
KATJA No its not right. Just for digging. They are all digging! Where do
PETER I have an old mother. I look after her.
KATJA Is that good?
She takes three reeds and begins to plait them
PETER It has to do. She has her chickens and her friends but not much
health. I can read. I read to her. Pastor Emms, the man you saw,
he lends me books.
KATJA I read mostly the Bible, because father makes me! It is for
instruction he says. He says, "Hear ye children the instruction of
a father and attend to know understanding."
DADE He sounds stern.
KATJA We say streng. At home he walks down the street, poomf, poomf,
poomf, in big heeled boots and people lift their hats. Mijnheer
this and Mijnheer that, it is very formal. He says he is like Moses
because he makes dry land. Mother says he is like Moses
because Moses killed the frogs!
DADE But what do you do?
KATJA Nothing much. It is boring. In summer we drink tea and have
visitors that are on their way to the grave and in winter we make
lace, and put them there! And of course we go to church all
dressed up and say "hallo" to Mijnheer de Witt and me'vrouw de
Witt and juffrouw De Witt and go home. But when it freezes,
that is the thing! When it freezes we skate and skate and
skate!Father does not approve. There are fireworks and music
and racing and beer and boys!
DADE We do the same here when the fen freezes. We wait for a good
night - frost and stars, and we have a party on the ice, barrels
with fires in them, races, food, music. Magical. I can take you if
you can get away... are you a good skater?
To one side, and behind them, the figure of Richard appears,
cautiously, concealed, watching. He has followed her on her walk
KATJA. I am quite good. I had a boyfriend who was very good.
No that is a longtime ago! And he is in Holland. Here!
Katja puts the plait of reeds behind his ear
DADE I have something for you.
Hold out your hand.
He fishes in his pocket, puts his right arm around her while he
waves his left hand in front of her. He takes her hand and puts
something in it.
KATJA What is it?
DADE Take a look.
KATJA Is it gold?
DADE It might be.
KATJA What is it?
DADE It has markings, like an animal but not an animal. A coin I think
KATJA Where did you get it?
DADE Not saying. In the peat. Mr Emms ain't the only one as can dig.
I've got other things.
KATJA Should you have it?
DADE Mr Emms has drawers of things.
No, its for you, a present.
Katja look’s directly into his eyes
KATJA Do you want to kiss me?
He obliges, awkwardly
Do you want to kiss me here?
She unbuttons the top of her dress, pulling it down. Peter draws
back in alarm
DADE No I mustn't!
KATJA Why not? It is nice.
He scrambles to his feet. Katya buttons herself up. They are still
watched by Richard
KATJA So. I'm sorry.
DADE I should say I'm sorry.
KATJA Holding out the disk Yours......
DADE No, you must keep it.
I had better get back in case mother wakes. Thank you for the
present, thank you....
DADE I'll walk with you through the fen....
They exit. As does the unseen Richard
A pulpit. Emms is lit by a church candle, otherwise the interior is
dim. With their backs to us are the whole cast except Cristeen
and Katja - the congregation. To the rear and nearest the
audience are Warburton, Sylham, Turner, Richard de Vries. Late
afternoon sunlight shines through stained glass.
EMMS I welcome everyone. I welcome Mr Warburton and Mr Sylham
and Mr Turner and Mr de Vries and thank them for attending the
meeting. The work has begun as you all know to dig the new
river as part of the great enterprise. It is right that man should
better the land and that man should labour to celebrate the Lord.
The Lord said:- 'Let us make man in our image, after our
likeness : and let them have dominion over the fishof the sea and
over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle and over all the earth
and over every creeping thing that creepeth over the earth.' All
these things are husbandry, and we, in this congregation are
husbandmen and our parents and their parents and
grandparents before them were husbandmen. And the Lord
said:- 'Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and
subdue it.' Replenish and subdue. Both nurture and control, so it
is right to make what we can of our fen, our reed beds."
Pause. Warburton turns to Sylham, shrugs. Emms continues
But we have a duty to carry out man's works in a manner that
would please the Lord . To replenish. Many of you are opposed
to the work of the Oxay Fen Drainage Partners.
murmuring among the congregation.
EZRA That's true.
FELIX We don't want no drainage. It ain't just water. You Partners, you
drain away our rights.
ECCLESIASTES Drain away our lives
FELIX I reckon I must be the oldest man in Oxay, and Oxay don't
change and don't want to change, begging you pardons Mr
Warburton and Mr Sylham - and you too Mr Dutchman,-and now
we have fancy fellows with instruments drawing a line through
our living and your men stopping off our graffs and dykes and
flooding all other places so you can build this new river that we
don't want and ain't needed!
A chorus of ‘no’ etc
WARBURTON To Sylham Confound the man! A poacher. A thief!
DELIA And you got Troopers and they gone through our house accusing
us and they stuck Widow Baker's chicken....
EMMS I have called this meeting because I am stricken with a dilemma.
I have found burials where the cut is to go. I am not opposed to
progress. You must not be opposed to progress. But progress
must take account of what has gone before or it is become
destruction. What has gone before is ancient and human and has
a right to our respect as those buried in our graveyard. Would we
dig a river through that, saying they are old, they don't matter?
For this reason I have called you here to tell you that I say the
new river cut should not go where planned, and to apologise to
you for my part in it.
WARBURTON You are a Partner, Emms! This is the damnedest nonsense! Get
down from that pulpit! I can tell you, sir, in case you have any
doubts on the matter that the new river cut is going where it is
planned to go and I hope the whole parish knows it! What is
more, the strongest measures will be taken against anyone
opposing it or destroying our property or threatening our
workmen. Do I make myself clear?
He turns and walks out followed by Sylham, de Vries, turner and
Richard. The church door slams behind them. Further awkward
silence broken by Ezra.
EZRA. There ain't a lot more to say, is there vicar? You know where we
stand and we know where the Oxay Drainage Partners stand and
that's an end on it.
CLARA. But not an end on it.
When we have rain, it’s going to flood us out. Everything they've
done, they've turned into Yule Brook to keep the diggings dry.
Have you seen Yule Brook? I went to see it yesterday. Never
seen it higher. And Tom Clutton at the inn, he says the water is
rising between his flags in the beer cellar. And the dykes. There's
fish in ditches that wouldn't ha' supported a tadpole. There's not
an end on it. And I heard that money is tight even if Partners are
rich men because they've put everything into itand ain't got much
slack. And what vicar says is right. We are husbandmen, and
women, of what is and what was.
EMMS I'm sorry it was so short and ended like this. I do not like to see
the village divided.
ECCLESIASTES It has to be, lest you can stop them.
EMMS The Lord controls these matters. The Lord parted the waters for
Moses for he saw they had a just cause, and the Lord prepared
Noah for the Flood. His will be done.
EZRA Amen. That's as is.
CLARA You walk on the ice with slow steps but stamp your feet when its
They all exit leaving Emms alone
Sarah’s dairy. She reads
SARAH "Father has today written to his Solicitor in Ely, full of flowery
sentiments but really to pump him for advice. I had to listen to
this epistle and compliment him upon it and the tact with which
he sought, as he put it, “ to trespass on his experience in such
matters” The matters in question concern the acts of terror to
which the workforce have been exposed and father's request to
the Serjeant-at Arms to supply troopers for protection. The
“breedlings”, as he calls our local people have frightened the
workmen by placing signs and symbols on the ground or hanging
effigies from trees. They even steal tools and set fire to the huts.
I am afraid that the presence of troopers may give rise to real
violence and wish I could stop him, but he'll have none of it. If
this were not enough, he says that Reverend Emms has
abandoned the teachings of the Bible and in particular the
teachings of the Book of Genesis as regards the Creation for
some theory of his own because of certain things he has found in
the diggings for the new cut. Father says this is destructive
apostasy and asks Mr Bathurst the Solicitor to bring this to the
attention of the Bishop so that the necessary steps, as he calls
them, can be taken under Canon Law. I believe this may mean
the examination of Mr Emms and even the end of his
appointment, for this is father's living. This is no good for us all
or for the village. Pray God no more comes of it”
Elm farm. Kajta and Cristeen sit either side of the window. They
are making lace. The bobbins click as they work, the ladies
pause from time to time to insert pins for the pattern.
Conversation between the two is conducted slowly.
CRISTEEN. You see this is not so difficult! Sitting with me or making lace!
You must keep the tension in the threads... Watch that one, you
have let it slack.
Katja sighs and corrects her work
I can see you are not really interested in this, there's no need to
sigh. You're not really looking at what you're doing. Complete
attention is needed for good lace, and we all need lace. I can tell
everything by the tension. Look at your pillow. You see, the
pattern is all pulled one way.
KATJA. No. I. really...do....not....enjoy....making....lace.
CRISTEEN Then you should take up something else to amuse you. Sarah
Warburton has invited you to play the virginal with her.
KATJA You know I can't play the virginal.
CRISTEEN You can learn. I'm sure she will be willing to teach you. That is an
KATJA I can't play any sort of instrument. You know I've no music. Shall
I take up blowing the trumpet?
CRISTEEN That's no way to talk. I am serious. When someone invites you, it
is a kind act.
You should treat it that way, it is a matter of manners.
KATJA I'm sorry. I have no manners.
And you should go with her on this outing she suggested to this
She will organise a carriage and you can visit the shops... or go
horse riding. Miss Sarah said they have a number of horses, and
I'm sure she would be a good companion. It is a good way to
explore the countryside and keep your feet dry
And if all that is too active, Miss Sarah said you could sit and
sketch together. That would be nice.....
KATJA Mama, I am perfectly all right as I am....
CRISTEEN. Pull that bobbin, its caught up!
And what do you think of Master Richard?
KATJA. Nothing. He is spoiled. He stares at me. He thinks I will be
impressed that he is a Partner.
They click away making lace
CRISTEEN. I hear you like to go walking. Miss Sarah tells me so.
KATJA What's wrong with that? I always go walking, you always sleep in
the afternoon. How does she know, anyway!
CRISTEEN Apparently Master Richard has seen you and mentioned it to
KATJA Master Richard! Miss Sarah! They sound like, what, children, or
CRISTEEN You know what your father would say. Hear ye children the
instruction of a father and attend to know understandingly.
KATJA Mama! I am not a child.
CRISTEEN But you did not behave well in Scheveningen. He worries for you.
The site of the works in the fen. The men are in a clearing ringed
with reeds. Noise of work going on all around and nearby -
distant sounds of spades, digging, pumps, water, squeaking
barrows, cranes etc. De Vries and Warburton looking at a map of
the works held by de Vries and Turner. A bitterly cold day. Some
snow on the ground.
DE VRIES Pointing at the map
There. That's where we are now. Now there...That's where we
should be. Those devils, those vandals burned down two huts
last night, full of rope and timber. These troopers, they must have
been asleep. They turned up just in time to warm their behinds.
Mr Turner lost papers.
TURNER Records. Accounts. A wage ledger.
DE VRIES They swear there was a woman among them, but they all dress
as women, so how do we know? The troopers won't shoot! Well,
on we struggle.
Here, here and here, catchwater drains. We have cut them off so
they cannot flood us .But it needs a twelve foot bottom to drain
five thousand acres of polder and the catchwaters are
overflowing. Perhaps this cold weather will do it. If it freezes it will
steady everything, but we must have it done before the thaw.
TURNER To Warburton It's the nature of the ground.
DE VRIES We must have a fall of what you call six inches to one mile. Not
too fast, not too slow. We need more wind pumps to keep things
dry and stop the banks falling in. Here, here and here.
WARBURTON Those things cost money.
DE VRIES Ja! But so does delay. It is my experience that water rising up
from below does not freeze like water on top. Like the bottom of
a lake it stays wet. This ground is like a wet loaf. Veen, peat, and
bagger, what we call this mud from rivers, and shells. Only now
have we found a dry bed of gravel.The men are working up to
their knees sometimes and their shoes rot. They are starting to
mutter about more money. And we have your Mr Emms .He was
down here yesterday picking up bits and pieces off the gravel
bed, shouting at the men to stop, and they do because he is a
vicar and a Partner!
WARBURTON He's been back?
DE VRIES Yes
WARBURTON I'm dealing with him. What did he want?
DE VRIES. He wanted me to have these!
He rakes in his pocket and pulls out small objects he shows to
WARBURTON Bits of stone! He wanted you to have bits of stone? That's what
DE VRIES He wanted you to see them. He says that they've been made by
men, long ago.......
WARBURTON Confound, confound confound! He looks at the objects
DE VRIES He says that if you look at them they're arrow heads and have
been made. By chipping away he said , by men of long ago........
WARBURTON I'll keep them! I can use them! For the Bishop!
DE VRIES But if you see, they are shaped like the head of an arrow...
WARBURTON My fields are full of shattered stone. Here's John Sylham. He
won't be pleased.
Sylham is carrying a cross made of tree branches, from which
are suspended two dead crows and other indeterminate corpses.
he holds it up for them to see.
SYLHAM What's this? Hear they burned down two huts. Found this thing
stuck in the ground. A dead cattoo. Came to see the damage.
What've we lost-
TURNER My papers....
DE VRIES Rope store and sawn timber. Dressed as women.
SYLHAM Again! Wet down here. Frozen puddles on the road... What's that
WARBURTON That depends whether you're sane or William Emms.
DE VRIES Mr Emms gave then to me. He was here collecting them from the
gravel. He stopped the men working to do it. He follows them like
a chicken following a plough, then "stop"!
SYLHAM Been shaped.
WARBURTON Come on John! That's chipped flint from the ploughshare. Fields
are full of it.
SYLHAM They're still shaped.
WARBURTON Children, I don't know....nothing better to do....
SYLHAM Look like arrow heads.
WARBURTON. So what! We've got other problems. He takes the objects back.
These are for the Bishop. Jacob is getting worried about the
water level. Tell him.
DE VRIES It is rising and we need to pump the dykes. We have had to dam
off so many graffs. This is normal.
SYLHAM Was this allowed for?
WARBURTON We allowed for pumping.
SYLHAM But did we allow for this extra pumping?
SYLHAM And the ropes and rope store and cranes and barrows and
WARBURTON You know we didn't. Tell him Jacob, what you were telling me.
DE VRIES We need a bigger catchwater drain. We have cut off Yule Brook
and that water is building up. We have to relieve it. We need a
drain with a twelve foot bottom. And this ground is difficult.
SYLHAM What have we got?
TURNER And the wider the drain, the greater the fall to clean it...
Silence, interrupted by distant yells. The two surveyors, Friend
and Parker come rushing in, muddy, dishevilled from the works.
TURNER What's this? We're busy.
PARKER Sorry Mr Turner, Gentlemen, you've got to see this....
FRIEND You have to....
WARBURTON , DE VRIES AND SYLHAM What?
PARKER A dead man.
At least a bit of a dead man. So far.
FRIEND The men have run off. They say they ain't coming back, ain't
digging up corpses.
They tramp across stage en masse and stand to one side,
staring down.at something amongst abandoned shovels, a
WARBURTON What in the name of God!
PARKER The men thought it was some old boot or hide or something.
Then they saw the bones and the hand and they ran away. I took
a shovel and cleared a bit....
SYLHAM Good man. Clear some more.
PARKER I'd rather not, Mr Sylham...
SYLHAM Give it here.
Parker hands Sylham a spade. Sylham pokes at the ground
There's the rest of an arm. A shoulder...
WARBURTON All looks like leather...
DE VRIES That is a body.
WARBURTON. Damnation! Keep digging John.
SYLHAM And there is a neck, and that squashed thing is a head...colour of
WARBURTON Colour of the peat. That's all we need! Get the men back here,
clear this out.
SYLHAM To do what?
WARBURTON Lime pit. Get rid of it. I've a good one on the farm.
SYLHAM Can't do that Robert. Have to inform the Coroner. Establish
cause of death.
WARBURTON This thing's been dead for a long time. He won't want to know.
SYLHAM It could be a murder. Coroner must know.
DE VRIES This body has been here for hundreds of years.
WARBURTON How do you know that?
DE VRIES Look at the ground. I have spent most of my life looking at
excavations and there is no sign of a grave or of digging. When a
pit is dug, you can see the remains of it. A shadow in the ground
where the earth is disturbed.
WARBURTON Are you sure?
DE VRIES I am sure.
WARBURTON Have it out. I don't know anyone in this town that's gone missing
in my lifetime.
SYLHAM Tell the Coroner, let him see it. You must, it's a body and that's
WARBURTON What do you say?
TURNER I think we should dig it out and tell the Coroner.
WARBURTON after a pause
Very well. Get up a tent Jacob, or a hut, and we'll put this moon-
calf thing in it. And get back to work!
DE VRIES It will not be easy to get the men back to work. They are
superstitious. And who is to dig it out?
WARBURTON Parker, you seem a solid sort of man, will you dig it out?
PARKER If I have help. And a plank to put the bits on.
DE VRIES The men ran off shouting they wanted a Priest.
WARBURTON Holy Father what next! They'll have to do without that! Parker,
find anyone you can to help, we'll give them treble pay.
PARKER Yes Mr Warburton.
He leaves followed by Friend. Sylham turns toward burton)
SYLHAM You know this was once a man.
WARBURTON I'm not a fool.
SYLHAM Who lived here a long time ago? Whose ancestor is he, or she,
tell me that? We have always lived here. That could be my
ancestor you called a moon-calf, or yours.
WARBURTON I came here to talk pumping and money. Let's get on with it.
SYLHAM There are times when I think we should sit down and consider
what we are doing.
WARBURTON Don't you get infected by this damned nonsense. It's a plague. A
damned nonsense conjured out of the vapours of this cursed fen!
What do you say, Jacob?
DE VRIES We must get on.
SCENE 4 Blue moonlight backdrop, dark shadow. Open land. Scuffling
stage right, noises of exertion. Three male and a fourth female
figure, visible only as black silhouettes, move across stage. On
their shoulders they carry some sort of plank or stretcher. Upon it
is a dark shape. They cross without speaking and disappear.
Split scene. Sarah at her desk with her diary. Emms with his.
Both are visible but each is lit as they speak.
SARAH. "Eighth day of November, One Thousand Six Hundred and
Ninety. Father came back from the works in a great rage,
shouted at Richard, who deserved it and would not eat his
supper, which I have not seen before. The strange corpse or
remnants having been removed to a locked hut while a decision
could be made how to deal with them; the lock was forced in the
night and the reliquiae taken, almost certainly by the villagers.
And Mr Emms. Father says the remains look like nothing so
much as two old leather bottles and a bundle of faggots. The
workmen meanwhile have announced that they will not work on
that part of the Cut until a Blessing for the Dead has been said
over it. Father does not believe in their sudden ecumenical
conversion and believes that they are waiting for the fen to
freeze, thus becoming drier, and to ask for more money. I am
convinced by what I have seen that Richard has designs on Miss
de Vries and I DO NOT APPROVE. She must beware.”
Emms at his desk as before
EMMS “ There has been brought to me by my parishioners an ancient
man that has been found buried at great depth in the peat of the
excavations. I cannot condone their act of removal, nor my own
but the alternative (of convenience) may have been to consign
this individual to a lime pit. The body, for it is a complete body
through some manner of preservation, has now been buried by
me, assisted by those parishioners in the consecrated ground of
the graveyard and so concealed that it can come to no harm .I
have said the service for Burial over this man, for whoever he
was and whenever, he is still one of God's people and I pray for
him, although he may have lived before Christ our Lord trod this
earth. This may be confirmed by the presence of gravel at great
depth in the excavations and the presence in that gravel of arrow
heads and perhaps spears. My review of the Book of Genesis
refuses to assist me as the events recorded may only be those
events remembered there being older events forgotten.”
Emms stares at his ledger for a few moments. And then -
Peter's fishing lair amongst the rushes. This time it is freezing,
the spot is lit with blue/grey light, the rushes rustle, dry, dead.
Peter is waiting, he is wrapped in several layers of clothing,
hands in pockets. Katja appears. She is obviously in a hurry
DADE. You weren't seen?
KATJA. No. But I must be quick. Mama is asleep in front of the fire but it
is so cold, she may wake up, and she'll shout for me. Frozen. Ice.
Thick ice. This is exciting. Will it carry me?
You think so, don't you, or don't you care!
DADE It'll carry a horse! It's solid. I've tried it.
KATJA I don't have skates. They're in Holland. Have you got skates?
DADE Yes. I have a pair that should fit you, - mine when I was only
fourteen. Bone runners, a good pair. Where shall we meet?
There'll be torches and fire barrels and a hog roast... I'll leave the
skates in the hedge by your gate.
KATJA I'll meet you there, I'll have to escape by a window when they're
asleep. This is very exciting! I must go.
She gives him a quick kiss and exits
DADE I'll be waiting.
Warburton's paneled room. The heavy table has been turned
long ways, with chairs behind it, facing a solitary chair. Behind
the table sit Sylham, Turner, Warburton, Simon Patrick, Bishop of
Ely, de Vries and Richard Warburton. Patrick is a smallish round
man, red of face, and given to indigestion which makes him
tetchy and prone to clutch his stomach. Two priests sit at the end
as scribes, taking notes, saying nothing.
SYLHAM Your Grace, isn't this arrangement intimidating?
PATRICK A man of God is accustomed to tribulation. This Emms is late.
WARBURTON I don't think so...
PATRICK Your friend Bathurst is a persuasive man. This journey has been
my tribulation. I had no idea I was setting out into such bleak
conditions,- Ely is set in ice like marble.
WARBURTON I'm sorry about the conditions, but this had to be done.....
PATRICK I'm sure, I'm sure. It is my duty. The Church is driven by duty.
Emms enters. He is dressed in a long black cloak, hat in one
hand and a bible and leather bag in the other. He looks around
the room, indicates the table and chair. Sylham nods and Emms
goes to it, makes a short bow to the Bishop.
EMMS Good morning your Grace, gentlemen. A bitter morning. Ice.
WARBURTON Please sit down
PATRICK Before we begin, let us pray. Let us pray that in doing the works
of the Lord we shall at all times be led by His light, which goes
before us to show us the path of righteousness that is cleared
through the dark forest of man's sins.
PATRICK Mr Emms, I wish you good day. You are known to these
gentlemen. These two are my scribes who will record these
proceedings. Mr Emms, I believe you know why I am here, but I
shall put it in plain language. I am here as your Bishop to
examine the beliefs that you have expressed to these gentlemen
and to your pastoral flock. These, as conveyed to me, lead me to
serious concern over the propriety of your ministry. Namely, you
have permitted yourself to interpret the Holy Book according to
your own views and have I understand conceived a blasphemous
chronology for mankind, denying the six periods of God's
dealings with men. Going further, you have rejected the wisdom
of great scholars and the very facts of the Bible that establish the
creation of our earth in the year four thousand and four before
our Lord Christ.
It says in Isaiah "Woe unto him that striveth with his maker! Let
the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay
say to him that fashioneth it, what makest thou?" I am told you
have constructed a chronology from pieces of metal and stone
dug from the ground. That you prefer these things, without
lineage or record, to the word of the Holy Book. Is that not so, Mr
WARBURTON You produced bits of pot and stone. You preached about "old
people" in church. You told John Sylham all sorts of things and
gave Mister de Vries bits of stone and stopped the work.You tell
everyone that the earth is much older than the Bible says and
that there have been people and things for countless thousands
of years. This cannot go on, these are not the proper teachings
for a flock from its pastor. You are a Partner in this enterprise
and you want to divert the work away from this thing you call a
burial ground. A pastor must guide his flock in the way of the
Lord. Do you deny all this?
EMMS No. I have found things that must be many thousands of years
old. I have calculated as best I can according to their depth in the
ground. The pieces I gave to Mister de Vries are arrow heads by
their shape and spears, from the most ancient of times. They lie
amongst the rounded gravel in the diggings which must
themselves have been shaped by the action of water as pebbles
are shaped on the shore. I consider that these stone pieces were
made long before the bronze pieces I have also found, and may
be ten, twenty thousand years old, maybe more.
Silence. Only the sound of the scribes furiously making notes
I cannot deny what I have seen! Your Grace as you have
referred me to the Bible, I in turn refer you to Ecclesiastes,
Chapter 3, Verse 15. You will find there that it says "That which
hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been and
God requireth that which is past". Is it wrong to hold to that?
PATRICK Well, now I have heard it for myself.
EMMS I have never doubted God's Creation.
PATRICK You think fit to interpret it. What's the difference?
EMMS I interpret it to explain it.
PATRICK Have you lost your sanity Mr Emms?
Emms goes to the table. Patrick looks alarmed and draws slightly
back. Emms takes objects from the bag he carries, puts them on
the table in front of Patrick. Patrick stares at them.
What am I supposed to make of these...chippings?
EMMS I did not set out to have any conclusions, your Grace, I set out
only as a man with an enquiring mind. That befits a man who has
the time and inclination to study. It is the apparatus the Good
Lord has seen fit to give me. Consider this. I have shown these
things to Mr de Vries, and I have shown other things to Mr
Warburton and Mr Sylham. Mr de Vries in particular is a man
who has in the course of his work looked into the secrets of the
DE VRIES The earth has few secrets to me sir.
EMMS These are the facts which present themselves. At first, if you are
digging you come upon the commonplace and exhausted things
of our own time, a boot buckle, piece of chain, a nail, a billhook,
broken or lost, covered by the annual decay of reeds and weed.
Everyday things. Further down you may come upon a coin of the
age, say of Elizabeth, or of Henry, clearly marked that some
unfortunate has lost and so it continues until you, at a
considerable depth, find things that are I believe Roman, coins
with the heads of Emperors and Roman letters, and things of
rusted iron. And below that again, separated by depth of soil ,
which is a true measure of time, are things made of bronze .Such
He shows Patrick a spear head, an axe head, other
And below these, far below, where the solid gravel is struck that
underlies all our water and rush and sedge, there are these!
He picks up and holds out his pieces of flint to Patrick
PATRICK. A piece of stone! You build up this climax and give me a piece of
stone! Lord for sanity!
EMMS. Look at it. Look at the shaping. It has been worked and chipped
to a point. Think of the skill in making it. Could any of us make an
arrow head from a piece of flint?
No, that is a real question. Could any of us make an arrow head
from a piece of flint.
SYLHAM Let me see it.
Patrick passes it to Sylham, via Warburton and turner to his right,
without bothering to turn. Sylham examines it)
You have to admit it's a well-made thing.
SYLHAM It's made. That's where it slipped into a shaft. And its damned
sharp...beg pardon your Grace.
EMMS And it is from the very bottom of the cut. Among the gravel.
What we have in the ground is a great clock, or if you prefer, a
chronicle. You cannot deny the layers of material, the time it
takes to accumulate. You all see it in your ditches and on your
PATRICK That's claptrap dressed as science, Emms.
EMMS That arrow head was made by our ancestors.
WARBURTON It weren't made by mine! Are you saying that thing was made by
EMMS I am.
RICHARD Who ran about half naked like a Red Indian with his bow and
EMMS Long ago.
TURNER And they couldn't make metal.
WARBURTON And they were our ancestors. Englishmen.
RICHARD Arrows with a bit of sharpened stone
PATRICK Mr Emms, leaving aside this so-called science, it seems clear to
me that it is the undertaking of a parish priest whatever that man
may think ,to look after his parish and direct them and feed them
the word of the Lord .And to pursue this metaphor, that food is
prepared for us in the Good Book and he is to serve it up, not
add his own ingredients.
Richard sniggers. Patrick looks long and hard at Emms
EMMS 'Whatsoever thy hand findeth or do, do it with thy might; for there
is no work, no device, nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave
whither thou goest ''At Genesis Chapter Three, Verse 7 we learn
that Eve sewed fig leaves together, which she could not have
done without needles and at Chapter Four Verse 22 we learn
that Tubalcain, son of Zillah was “an instructor of every artificer in
brass and iron.” Those bronze spears and buckles I have were
made before men could make brass or iron. What, then, of the
stone weapons that precede them?
They are all baffled by this, in particular Bishop Patrick whose
knowledge of the scriptures is no match for Emms. Warburton
and turner look to him for a reply that never comes
WARBURTON And then there is the matter of the body, your Grace. That is not
the action to be expected of a vicar.
PATRICK What's your answer to that Emms? It requires a very exact
EMMS The remains of this ancient human were brought to me by night
by the villagers. No more thanskin and bones. The villagers, - my
flock - feared that these remains were about to be cast into a
lime pit. A course they told me that Mr Warburton intended to
WARBURTON That is impudent nonsense, dreamed up by these breedlings!
They live in a world of imaginings and hate for our work!
EMMS Be that as it may, they believed it. They saw this as some fellow
man who should be given decent burial. Only diseased animals
should be put in a lime pit.
DE VRIES They broke into one of my huts, Mr Emms. It was theft. They
have stolen everything from me that they can lay their hands on,
burned my rope and timber. This flock, as you describe them
seems more like the wolves than the sheep to me.
TURNER They smashed the lock. They nailed our nightwatchman's door
so he couldn't get out.
EMMS That was all wrong, but do you think they could ask for a key? It's
not how they see the works. If they approach it they are met by
troopers who raise their muskets on sight. I am not proud to be a
Partner in this thing, and want no more of it. I am their pastor as
you keep reminding me, so what would you have me do when
they are troubled? You weren't there to consult, your Grace. I did
what any man of God should do, I consulted my conscience. Are
you saying that was wrong? This digging, these works, are
cutting through ancient things that matter to my flock, that belong
WARBURTON Nothing belongs to them! It's the fen! Our fen!
RICHARD So they own this mud and water! Perhaps they should try to
WARBURTON In any case, what you say isn't true. The remains were in the hut
until we decided what to do. I had it in mind, Emms, to inform the
Coroner, but I can't do that now. Is that responsible?
EMMS The villagers put the remains neatly in a box. They can be
Warburton is not pleased with this answer
WARBURTON What do you say?
EMMS They have been properly buried and I have said over this
creature the Service of Burial.
PATRICK From the Book of Common Prayer?
PATRICK With no knowledge of who he was or the manner of his death,
you've administered the Sacraments! Suppose he was a
murderer, or heathen or some other proscribed sinner!
EMMS He was a man and he was dead, in the bog, and must have died
long ago, but he would have been known to the God in whom,
your Grace, we both believe.
PATRICK I think it would be better if we talked alone.
WARBURTON Will you leave us. And take your ...artifacts with you.
Emms collects his bits and pieces and puts them in his bag. As
he does so there is a silence broken only by the scratching of the
quills of the scribes.
EMMS I will remove myself. That is what you want. Nemesis. Think on
Deuteronomy Chapter19 Verse 14. "Thou shalt not remove they
neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine
inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord thy
God giveth thee to possess it". Nor should you deny the
evidence of your own eyes. There is no mention, you know, of
ice in the Book of Genesis. Good day.
Patrick waves at the scribes to stop writing.
WARBURTON That's that.
DE VRIES He is a deluded man.
RICHARD Bows and arrows! Red Englishmen!
SYLHAM That's enough. William Emms is a good man. Shouldn't we be
disturbed by what he believes he has found? Those arrow heads
were made by men. I can see it. Shouldn't any man using the
faculties the Good Lord has given us, ask what they are doing
deep in the earth? Ask if we should be digging if we have
uncovered some cemetery?
PATRICK Mr Sylham, these arrow heads if that is what they are were
created in the ground where they were found when the Lord
created the Earth and everything upon it and around it. Have we
finished? I think we all agree there is no place here for this man,
that he has slipped.
WARBURTON And fallen.
PATRICK I'll get out the necessary letters to Emms and the Parish. And to
the Coroner . He'll understand this corpse or whatever must not
get in the way. Do you agree?
They all nod except Sylham
SYLHAM It's frozen outside and the fen is solid. They'll be skating tonight.
This may be the last time they skate on it. When we drain it, it'll
all be gone.
WARBURTON Good thing! It's all an entertainment of the devil! Drinking and
dancing and fornication I shouldn't be surprised!
SYLHAM Have you ever been there?
SYLHAM I first skated on it when I was seven on skates I'd made myself.
WARBURTON I didn't mean...
SYLHAM Do you remember when you were seven? What it was like never
to be tired, to have no aches in your limbs and to have days as
long as centuries? You were just there, no idea how you got
there, with the tar barrels blazing and the smell of a roasting hog.
Staggering at first, then standing up, then you were off, fast as a
hare...that will all be gone!
WARBURTON What's this all about John?
SYLHAM I don't know....the passing of things, change, the village. For a bit
of pasture. Forgive us our trespasses. I meet my tenants there.
Always have, and I shall be sorry to see it go. There we are, I'll
be on my way.
There is uneasy silence
WARBURTON An old family, old thoughts. Been here hundreds of years. So
have the Emms'.
Well,back to business. We shall have to find someone to bless
the excavation or the men won't go back. Can you help us there?
PATRICK I'll see who I can find. You'll need a new pastor anyway. It's cold
in here Warburton! When the outside freezes ,the inner man
needs warmth!. A brandy perhaps?
The fen, a half moon and the flicker of flames in tar barrels create
a soft light. (Barrels full of sand with a container of pitchset inside
with a wick) The villagers moving to and fro. Simple music is
being played. A hog roasting etc. in the background. We see
Felix, Ecclesiastes, Ezra, Delia, Peter Dade, and Clara to one
side. There are straw sacks for seating, planks, an old chair etc.
FELIX Have you tested the ice?
EZRA What do you think? Me and Ecclesiastes been jumping on it.
Tapped it with a lump hammer, rings like a bell, play a tune on it.
FELIX Put out the lanterns?
EZRA All along the water line. That's half a mile away this year. Sea
can't get in no further.
FELIX Haven't had so much ice this ten years. Haven't seen so much
water aforehand. Wait 'till it thaws!
EZRA Shan't see it again if they drain it. Make the most of it.
FELIX The bastards don't seem like scaring.
There is laughter and the occasional scream from the skaters.
This is ours Ezra!
EZRA I knows that, don't I just know that! That old hog of Ted's ,that
smells all right! Smell him drip! Nothing like hog fat
FELIX We only got him because he can't get his cock up. Old meat and
EZRA You can talk!
FELIX There's Clara.
FELIX Over there. Keeping herself to herself. Reckon she can just
disappear you know, skate into the moon, gone. Delia says she
saw her with some sort of man-devil that turned into a tree. You
going to skate?
EZRA Well I brought them with me. I'm getting crook - old joints crackle
like faggots, but I'll have a go. Look, there's Peter Dade on his
own. Don't he go now? I was like that once. Like you skimmed a
Laughter and music
What're we going to do to stop 'em Felix?
FELIX You lot won't let me shoot them. We should burn them out, like
they burned out the King's men. Rushes is dry as tinder. A good
smart Easterly, set fires across a mile. We know how to do it.
EZRA Then they burn us out and hang a few, if we ain't been shot first.
I'm going skating...
Focus shifts to Clara. Sylham approaches
SYLHAM Good evening Clara Hare.
CLARA Are you here?
SYLHAM What sort of daft question is that? You know I always come.
Since I was a boy. My men are all here so I should be seen.
CLARA Allowed out. You mustn't be seen with me. There's ten miles of
SYLHAM Allowed out.
CLARA Want to skate, John Sylham? Got them with you, or is this all
SYLHAM I'll skate. Somewhere more discreet. Way over.
You putting skates on?
CLARA Got them.
Usually skate on my own.
CLARA You know why, - say I'm a witch. I don't mind, I like to skate
alone. You can skate as far as Wenham village with this ice. That
way you can skate into the moon, come back, skate into the
moon, do what you want, see what you want , scatter the swans.
They fall over you know, can't run on the ice. So Emms is to go,
just for asking questions about Creation. What's Christian in that?
I hope you didn't vote for it. You see all that wondeful ice, that's
God's creation and you'd take it from us. Let me do up that
Can you imagine all this as a field of yellow cole-seed. Stinking
when it rots. You can't let it go on John, not through here,
through the old people. Mustn't
SYLHAM Can't stop it now, Clara. All signed and bound and legal and
approved by Parliament. Articles of Agreement and things like
that. All my money too.
Going really badly . We need more money.
CLARA Taking his arm Only if you go on.
A skating sequence
CLARA You can still skate!
SYLHAM So can you! Remember when you were ten and crashed into a
branch, tore your clothes....
CLARA I remember when I was fifteen and you took me behind that tree
over there, that's what I remember.
SYLHAM Best forgot.
CLARA No. Don't forget good things John Sylham or where's your larder
when you're old and need a bitof something........you know we
should be here husband and wife.......
SYLHAM It was money, Clara, desperate money...
CLARA I know, I know.
They skate in silence for a moment
But that moon and those fires and the music and the ice...that
ain't desperate money and you don't need to take it away.
They skate on
Focus shifts to Peter Dade waiting at the edge of the ice. Katja
approaches, reaches out playfully to tug his sleeve.
DADE Katja! You made it!
KATJA I waited until they were both snoring and climbed out the
huiskamer window. The one on the ground floor. I can't be long,
but I said I'd come! I'll be in such trouble if they catch me!
KATJA Found them, got them on. Let's get on the ice, this is just like
home, the music and the firebarrels and half a moon.
They start out, arm in arm. As they go out of sight, Richard
emerges, he stands in light close to a barrel. He is motionless,
watching. Delia and Ezra in turn watch him
DELIA What's that Richard Warburton doing here? Bet his father don't
know about it. Brat!
EZRA He'll be watching Peter Dade. I've seen him following her when
she's out. She meets Dade and he'jealous I reckon. The girls a
jezebel, a.... a wanton.
DELIA That's a big word for you.
EZRA All right, but what's Dade doing with a Dutchie anyway?
DELIA What do you think you miserable git! You were young once. It's
not her fault. Would you like that miserable feather-hatted piece
of horse shit as your father? Oh, I forgot, you had one!
EZRA Eccesiastes will surely like that!
DELIA Tell him what you like, I don't care....
Back to Clara and Sylham
CLARA You ain't lost your feet.
SYLHAM Nor you. I ought to go.
CLARA So its 'thank you for the dance kind sir',is it?
SYLHAM Clara, you know I shouldn't be seen with you.........
CLARA So it’s just something else for Clara to put in her larder for when
she's old. I hope you has the same in yours as I has in mine.
Sylham turns to go but Clara grasps him and kisses him
passionately. Sylham, bemused, walks off backwards, tottering in
his skates. Clara calls after him.
You should know, John Sylham, I shall be round for your horses
when it thaws! Don't let me down! Horses...here's a riddle for
you. What walks all day on its head?
SYLHAM Your riddles! How should I know.
CLARA A horseshoe nail! Think on that and don't forget the horses.
SYLHAM What horses?
Back to Peter and Katja, slightly out of breath
KATJA I have to get back. I must!
DADE. It's like flying! Nothing faster on this earth, not even Helmsby's
Turk or a hare or a trout in a river!
KATJA Helmsby's Turk?
DADE The fastest racehorse in the land! Let's skate some more. I'll race
KATJA I must get back. If father finds out I'll never see you again!
DADE Just one turn.
He takes her by the waist and they go out, turn once on the ice
Perhaps I'll see you tomorrow? Bring your skates....
She throws her arms around peter, kisses him and is gone. Peter
stares after her. As she disappears the figure of Richard
emerges from the darkness. They stare at each other. A long
way off is the sound of music and laughter.
RICHARD Alone, ploughjack? Has she left you? Pretty girl, eh? Wouldn't
have thought she'd pay much attention to the likes of you.
DADE I ain't responding.
RICHARD You ain't responding! I should say a ploughjack don't know how
to respond when spoken to. Comes of talking too much to the
arse end of a horse, wouldn't you say? Sorry, you don't respond!
DADE Watch what you say.
RICHARD A response. Now we're having what you could call a
conversation. You know, I say something then you say
something...you got that? Not too difficult.
DADE Wouldn't be if you wasn't a Warburton.
RICHARD I shouldn't let that bother you. I ain't bothered you're a
ploughjack. Or was. I hear you're unemployed.
DADE What have you come to say? I'm going skating.
RICHARD I've seen you already skating. Now that girl needs a real partner,
not the likes of you. And I've seen you meeting. Shouldn't be.
What would her father say?
DADE What do you want?
RICHARD That little secret place you think you've got! In the rushes like
some moulting bog-hen. I've seen you tucked up nicely. What
you call "fishing" isn't it?
DADE I should knock your teeth down your throat!
RICHARD So you should. Catch me if you think you can skate!
He pushes off. Dade follows in pursuit
Come on ploughjack! Into the dark...afraid to come!
The lights of the barrels and the sound of the music are distant
now. Richard suddenly stops, Dade shoots past him and
Richard pushes him forward on his way past. Dade looses his
balance, falls forward and disappears. There is the sound of
cracking ice and a muted splash. Richard stops, waits and listens
Dade? Pause Dade?
The slight sound of clicking ice and very distant music.
You should have known the edge, I can smell the salt!
He moves cautiously backwards and skates off.
Sarah with diary as before.
SARAH "Tenth day of December, One Thousand Six Hundred and
Ninety. CATASTROPHE. There has been a terrible accident
such that I have not been able to keep up with my diary. Three
nights ago there was a skating on the fen, it being frozen solid
and we could hear the music and see the fire lights from the
house. Father pulled all the curtains and said it was the Devil at
play! I confess that I had a mind to attend with Richard, only to
find he had gone on his own without me.
However I am relieved I did not go, for the following morning it
was discovered that Peter Dade, a young ploughjack or labourer
of the village seen skating but gone missing ,had fallen through
the ice. The villagers got a skiff and ropes and ladders and found
him quite dead, trapped beneath it. It seems by accident he may
have strayed to that part of the ice where salt water from the tide
undercuts it making it thin and there had fallen in unheard and
unnoticed. A horrible way to die, There is much distress and in
particular Katja is in tears she cannot hide. It is become obvious
to me that she and Peter Dade somehow managed to have an
Now a thaw has set in and there is water in abundance and no
trace of ice. All as if it never was ...
Katja bursts in, she has been crying
KATJA Are you alone?
KATJA You have to help me. You have to! She stifles a sob
Sarah put her arm round Katja who rejects the gesture of
KATJA I don't know how, I must tell someone. You understand, I am on
SARAH Then tell me.
KATJA Can I tell you? You think I'm a silly Dutch girl.
SARAH I don't.
KATJA And it's my fault. I want to be home. This would never have
happened. I have to tell someone.
SARAH Slowly...what is it you have to tell someone?
KATJA Someone has to know. They must. I can't just keep it, just to
KATJA The other night. I was skating. I shouldn't have been but I was.
SARAH That's not so bad. I was tempted.
KATJA With Peter Dade. He asked me. He brought skates. We skated
very fast, very fast like flying, he was such a good skater...I had
to go early in case Papa found out, he is so strikt. I must do
everything life in my life in case Papa finds out…poomf, poomf,
poomf in Sceveningham in case Papa finds out. No boys, no fun,
in case Papa finds out. And Richard was there. Your Richard. He
saw me and stopped me!
SARAH I know. He went without me.
KATJA He asked if Papa knew, he tried to kiss me, he put his hands on
me. I think he had been drinking. He said he would tell Mamma
about us and where we met and he laughed and called Peter
names I don't understand so I ran away. Into the dark. I watched
him, and he went onto the ice, to Peter.
KATJA. They went off on the ice, together. Your Richard, he spoke to
Peter I left, I was frightened.
SARAH What are you saying?
KATJA I am saying they went off together. Across the ice. Maybe they
fought. I heard shouts.
SARAH I see.
KATJA You see. And I have told you and I should tell Mr Warburton and
my father and tell everyone, because they were together and
your Richard has followed me when I go on walks and spied when I
met Peter. And has said things to me about Peter. I must tell
SARAH Katja,you can't! What would you tell him?
KATJA. To ask Richard what happened on the ice. What happened to
She lets out a wail
SARAH You think Richard had something to do with that? You really think
KATJA. I think that Richard had much to do with that.
She sobs miserably. Sarah goes close to her, puts an arm
around her shoulders that is not rejected
SARAH Katja, if you say this, you'll destroy everything. My father, your
father, the project, your family, my family. If you say anything
when actually saw nothing...
KATJA I loved Peter Dade! You understand?
SARAH But you didn't see anything. Peter Dade fell through the ice.
KATYA Peter drowned! How did he fall through the ice? I think they
SARAH intently,holding katja’s face between her hands
Peter Dade fell through the ice. We will never know how he fell
through the ice. Will we? No one saw it
Will we? Never know.
Katja shakes her head, lets out a wail.
KATJA. I want to be back in Holland! I want to be away from here. All of
SARAH Don't do something that can’t be put right. Understand?
KATJA. Are you my friend Sarah? Can I trust you?
SARAH You've told me.
She shakes Katja's head gently
Told me. Now no more.
Katja nods, cries, digs in a pocket
KATJA. Look. He gave me this. It is a coin or something. I can't take it.
Will you put it on his grave. In the earth. Goodbye to Peter.
SARAH Of course.
The fen. Morning. The thunderous and increasing din of flooding
water, horses neighing, wild fowl.
First Warburton then de Vries, Turner, Richard and Sylham run
to centre stage, followed by the villagers, workmen until all stand
staring aghast at the source of the noise. General hubbub with
voices shouting over each other.
WARBURTON What in the name of God is it ? What's happened?
TURNER Yule Brook dam's gone! Washed everything away. Other graffs
WARBURTON How do you mean gone? De Vries, how's it gone? How's it
TURNER Not burst. It's been pulled down. The shores are ripped out.
DE VRIES How, God Verdomme, how?
TURNER Ropes put round the shores and shire horses, pull two out and
there's so much pressure...look there's two horses now with
ropes, still trailing logs.
WARBURTON Can we stop it? De Vries, can we stop it?
SYLHAM What's happened.
WARBURTON Damn it, look for yourself, man! The banks are collapsing, the
whole Cut's being washed away. It's these breedling
bastards...pulled down the dam......
SYLHAM My horses have gone! Those are my horses!
WARBURTON Didn't you hear anything? Hear them go?
EZRA Mr Warburton, Mr Sylham, Clara Hare's trapped in the river!
Come! Come! Look!
WARBURTON She did this!
SYLHAM She could talk to horses.
WARBURTON She can drown.
ECCLESIASTES The bank's going, she's on a sort of island, it won't last
long.... we've got ropes. If'n we go upstream a man might
swim down to her and we could pull 'un out.
EZRA Can't swim. Who can swim?
WARBURTON She can drown!
EZRA Can't do that sir, not to a human being, can't
FELIX There's more gone. She' just standing there. Delia tried
shouting but she just smiled. Reckon she's lost her senses.
SYLHAM We can't just leave her there, a Christian being can't leave
WARBURTON She did this, the Good Lord is playing out the
FELIX That ain't right, and you knows it. If I was younger I'd swim to
EZRA Clara! Can you hear ?
I can hear! Can you all hear what Clara done? You there
John Sylham? Hope so for I thank you for the horses!
SYLHAM I'll have a try. I can swim.
EZRA Here's the rope...we'll get other end round that trunk...
FELIX There's another bit of land gone...just slipped away.
WARBURTON You're crazy, John. That woman's a witch and will be hung if
you get her....
Sylham is busy tying the rope around himself
I'll make sure of it...
SYLHAM Can't let her drown.
Let me out Ezra. I'm coming Clara, with a rope. You catch
hold of me.
CLARA Don't you worry John. I waited all my life for you to catch
hold of me, but you ain't going to make it now, my love! You
left it a bit late, but I ain't afraid to drown! They shan't clear
this lot up in ahurry....
A hubbub of voices, offering advice, shouting…
Let him out, more rope! He can't get for'ard of her!
Pull you beggars, pull! I am bloody pulling!
He ain't going to get there No hope, no hope.
He'll drown. There goes another bit!
Pull him in ,pull him in! She's gone!
Pull him back! Get him out. You couldn't do anymore Mr
FELIX She's gone.
WARBURTON Get Mr Sylham home! Someone collect those damned horses
before they drown or kill someone!
TURNER Get on with that Ezra!
EZRA Aye aye! Life goes on as usual, don't it!
WARBURTON Swept away. All gone, de Vries. The locks, the dams. The banks
DE VRIES Woman's gone.
ECCLESIASTES Thought you'd want to know Mr Warburton that Mr Sylham is
all right sir. Coughing up water but Delia's got him turned arse
upwards and he's draining nicely...
WARBURTON Thank you.
Ecclesiastes shrugs and leaves
To de Vries
We'll look at this when its full light.
TURNER Shall I get a party, go down stream, find that woman.
WARBURTON If you like. She'll be under all this or in the sea.
Sylham appears, coughing and filthy
Well done John, but what the hell for I don't know. Works ruined.
Partners are ruined. How did she get your horses?
SYLHAM Always talked to them when shoeing, followed her like
WARBURTON Carried a lamp for you...
He says nothing
Don't know what to say. Look at all this. Out of mud, back to
One body out, one body in. Don't know what to say. You know
what to say De Vries?
DE VRIES "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit
shall return to god who gave it."
WARBURTON Damn it man, I meant the works.
DE VRIES The ground is so poor, so much peat, it has all gone. You can
see now what I said. There is no bottom to this damnable fen.
SYLHAM Who is looking for Clara Hare?
WARBURTON The Lord, John, only the Lord.
SYLHAM That's not good enough! I'll get the troopers......To Villagers
I want you all searching for Clara Hare. Now!
General muttering and agreement. The villagers move off.
Dade and now this. That's an end on it as far as I'm concerned!
Warburton stares at him long and hard
WARBURTON Then that's an end on it. An end on it Mr de Vries, your Engelske
They move off
Ezra and Eclesiastes return
EZRA She knowed what she was doing. Knowed it would bring it down
on top of her.
ECCLESIASTES You know what it says: 'All the rivers run into the sea; yet the
sea is not full; unto the place from where the rivers come, thither
they return again' Made sure of it.
EZRA Amen. We ain't going to find her, don't reckon she'd want to be
ECCLESIASTES Didn't reckon on John Sylham either....
EZRA That was ever a thing.....
ECCLESIASTES Reckon he knew about the horses....
EZRA You reckon Peter Dade fell in?
Warburton's main room. Trunks and boxes stacked on the floor,
coats etc. Flung over them. The four women sit at the table,
Cristeen and Katja muffled for travel. Warburton and de Vries
stand by the door. They are evidently waiting for the coach to
arrive. Every so often Warburton goes to the door, looks out.
Light falls first on the four women. There is an air of determined
optimism in the midst of gloom. Ruth, by her manner and efforts
is trying to be in charge, the separation of the men means they
cannot over hear the women.
RUTH The coach will be here soon. Cristeen nods
I truly hope you have a comfortable journey. The sea
It all seems set fair...
It has all been such a great...adventure...having you here. It has
been a pleasure, truly. But you'll be glad to be back in
CRISTEEN It has all been for you a great disaster. That is the truth.
RUTH Not at all! What an enterprise! What a great work!
CRISTEEN I mean, not just the work. This trouble. This boy. (What we hold
SARAH We had to tell you.
CRISTEEN Yes. But then it is best forgotten. Must be. That is what we all
say ja, it is all over.
RUTH Yes. Enough damage.
CRISTEEN And you have learned, my girl, I hope. By my faith in the Lord I
hope! You have learned how easy it is to make damage.
KATJA What am I to learn? It is all me is it? What have I done? Niets!
CRISTEEN You did not do as you were told, for a start. And that boy, that
boy! And keep your voice down! If your father ever found out,
...what would he do? I don't know, but he would do it, and you
KATJA. Exploding but trying to keep her voice down
Ho,ho! You blame me! This would never have happened if papa
was not like he is. Poomf, poomf, poomf, in Scheveningen and
what for me? Hide this, hide that, don't let him see, pretend I'm
not a girl, pretend there are no boys. His lectures! “Hear ye
children the instructions of a father and attend to know
understanding” Understand what? Him? Building drains?
CRISTEEN Quiet! Quiet, quiet, quiet!
KATJA Niet! Niet, niet, niet! Anyway it is your Richard that is to blame.
KATJA I'm sorry. I just want Papa to let me have a life, and when I have
one it all falls apart.
CRISTEEN But that boy. A ploughboy, Katja!
KATJA So where is the University here? Where is he going to
study...with the ducks and fishes?
RUTH He was liked by everyone Cristeen. Looked after his mother. Her
CRISTEEN And your Richard. What about him?
RUTH Gone. Off to London, looking for a passage to Virginia.
SARAH Start again. You understand. Cristeen nods, Sarah is insistent)
Yes? You understand?
CRISTEEN I'm sorry. For you.
KATJA And I get to start again? A life. In Scheveningen. That is my part
of the bargain. Mama?
SARAH. Where is that coach!
To the men in the doorway. Warburton is holding a bottle of
brandy and is trying to persuade de Vries to have a drink. De
Vries merely shakes his head.
WARBURTON Come on Jacob! Keep you warm for the journey....where is that
DE VRIES No thank you...I really don't...
WARBURTON This is all very awkward...you leaving. I'm sorry, so desperately
DE VRIES Don't be sorry for me. You have lost the money. To ignorance,
superstition. A stupid resistance to change. It is just the same
resistance you see in animals. Like some cow that must always
go round some tree to get to a gate. There is no reason to it but
you can't stop it. These villagers live in a different world.
WARBURTON You've lost all your work. Eight miles of excavation. That must
hurt. Will you come back to England?
DE VRIES How do I know? I'm not wanted here, the drainage is not wanted
here. I understand you know. In Holland we are winning back
from the sea what the sea has swallowed. Here we are taking
away what they already have. Their mud,their fishes and eels
and geese...that's not the same...at all. Well, perhaps you'll come
and see my work in Holland?
WARBURTON. I may. Sure you won't have a drink?
DE VRIES So we stand here and grieve about the works and we forget
WARBURTON How could one damned woman cause so much damage!
DE VRIES A human life, John. “The dust has returned to the earth, the spirit
to the god who gave it.”
WARBURTON All that.
DE VRIES And you nearly lost John Sylham.
WARBURTON Mmm. And she had his horses.
DE VRIES And this Emms. You have lost your pastor because of these
works. He was very vastbe'sloten...determined. Yet a man of
God whatever his beliefs.
WARBURTON I was nursing a heretic! Anyway I'm getting a new pastor.A young
man.That 'll be good for Sarah.
DE VRIES And that body. Who was that? And what were his bits and pieces
of flint and bronze and why so deep in the ground?
Ah well, I am happy I am just an engineer. Polders and pumps
and drainage! But what a story when I get back home.
WARBURTON I hear the coach.
DE VRIES. The coach is here!
The women stand, gather their smaller possessions.
So that is that.
A hand shake
That is what you do I think. Come on Cristeen
Katja. We must go.
CRISTEEN Yes, yes...
Two men enter, start to carry out the boxes and cases. Katja and
Sarah stand up. Sarah goes to Katja, puts her arms around her
and hugs her
SARAH This is what we do I think.
The fen. Grey evening light. A figure carrying a spade is poking
about, absorbed. It is Emms. Sylham also wanders in, sees
Emms and goes to him
SYLHAM What are you doing here?
EMMS Made me jump!
SYLHAM I thought you'd be long gone.
EMMS Came for a last look. At things, for things. Nothing's changed my
mind. Writing a letter to the Royal Society. What are you doing
SYLHAM Thinking. Walking. Like you I suppose.
EMMS For Clara.
SYLHAM She'll never be found. In all this.
EMMS I wondered, should I say a blessing. We're not alone.
There's Ezra and Ecclesiastes. Hello there!
Ezra and Ecclesiastes join them, uncomfortable. Nod to the
EZRA Evening, Mr Emms, Mr Sylham.
SYLHAM Out shooting?
EZRA Can't see no gun, can you bor?
EZRA Came to pay our respects Mr Sylham, all right. Just that. Didn’t
expect to see anyone. Just come to be peaceful with old Clara.
SYLHAM I’m sorry....
EZRA Don't you be sorry, Mr Sylham, you done all you could. She
carried a candle for you.
SYLHAM Couldn't reach her, Ezra...couldn't!
EZRA No one could. She weren't intending to be rescued.
ECCLESIASTES Nope. Gone to join her own.
EZRA Just came to wish her peace. She'll be found one day. Thousand
years from now.
ECCLESIASTES Or more. Like other chap......
EMMS I was thinking I should say a blessing....
EZRA Don't think she'd want it vicar. Don't need blessing. She got
what she wanted. For herself, all of us. You say thank you, that'll
be about right.