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Her Father's Study


INT. STUDY - DUSK

Close on a MAN's stiff, dark suited back (dressed in the conservative fashions of 1880's France) as his hands order papers on a large, heavy desk before him.

His movements are precise and uncompromising, and although we do not see his face, the rigid order of the rest of his study with its dark walls, precise placement of too much furniture and valuable paintings and a glass case of Egyptian funerary artefacts completes our sense that this is a controlling, autocrat of a man.

The heavy wood door opens, and a MAID, early 20's, bursts in - but nearly faints when she sees him there.

MAID
Oh! Mister Rouart! I'm so sorry! I...didn't know you were back sir!

The MAID is evidently scared of him, but MR ROUART says nothing for moment, perfecting his crisp-edged tower of papers. And only when he's satisfied with it -

MR ROUART
Call my daughter down.

The MAID is barely audible as she acquiesces with a bobbed curtsey, and backs from the room. The fact that we never see his face only makes him seem the more forbidding.

INT. DRAWING ROOM - DUSK

Hélène ROUART, late teens, lolls in a chair, chewing her fingernail as she avidly reads a novel, the glow from a lamp beside her lighting her face.

OOV we hear sharp footsteps on the wooden floor, then the MAID calling in an urgent whisper to someone in the hallway-

MAID OOV
Master Theo? Your father has returned! He wishes to see Hélène.

Hélène's eyes go wide as she freezes - then suddenly bolts to the door, squeezing behind it just in time as -

THEO
Hélène?

The door opens and Hélène's brother THEO, 12, looks in - his POV of the abandoned book on the chair, but there's no Hélène. He moves off to look elsewhere.

THEO OOV
Hel-e-en...?

As his footsteps recede, Hélène glances round the door. He's gone. She takes a deep breath then -

INT. HALLWAY/STAIRS - DUSK
- pelts for the shadowy stairs, racing up as fast as she can -

INT. Hélène'S BEDROOM - DUSK

Inside her room, Hélène quickly shuts the door. She flings herself to the floor, rummages under her bed and wrenches out a leather trunk. But she stops suddenly realising something - it's too big.

Hélène frowns, then has a new idea. She rips the pillow case from her pillow and frantically starts to stuff it with clothes and personal possessions. But -

THEO OOV
Hélène?

The door opens and THEO is there, open-mouthed to relay their father's message but he stops as he sees what she's doing. Hélène frowns at his gawping realisation, but continues to pack her things -

Hélène
I'm not going.

THEO stands frozen as his sister still packs, now ripping a sheet from the bed and wrenching open her balcony doors, intent on constructing a way down.

THEO
(utterly confused)
But...? He wants you...

Hélène
Well he'll just have to want then won't he!
THEO recoils at her ferocity -

Hélène
I'm sick of it! Every single time he comes back!
(derides his voice)
'Where have I been, what have I done? What have I thought about'!

THEO looks panicky as the reality of what she's doing sinks in. Hélène is apologetic, but determined -

Hélène
Every time! Go to the study and stand behind that...ridiculous.. oversized chair! It's like... prison bars! Why doesn't he just lock me in his glass case and be done! Every private thought I've ever had, extracted by him as though with a scalpel! Well he's done it for the last time! I will not be owned, Theo! Not by him, or anyone.

Hélène has finished tying the sheet. THEO steps towards her in worry -

THEO
But! Where will you go?

Hélène
(making it up on the spot)
I shall run away to sea! Or perhaps...
(triumphant)
...join the circus and swing from a trapeze by my teeth every night, under shining coloured lights!

Hélène is over the ballustrade in a bound, the pillow case held tightly in her hands as she clutches the sheet rope.

THEO
But Hélène...

MAID (OOV APPROACHING)
Master Theo? Have you found her?

Hélène's face as she hears - it's now or never then. She smiles apology at her little brother -

Hélène
I'm sorry Theo. I have to go.

And with that she's gone.

THEO can only watch from the balcony as his sister runs through the garden, slips over the wall onto the street, and then she is gone into the darkness.

- ENDS -
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Detail of ‘Princess Rákóczi’ by Nicolas de Largillierre, probably 1720.Click here for About the Painting.
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