St George and the Dragon

St George and the Dragon

I recently came across an old computer file on my PC, and realized it was the second draft of my first screen play.
The following is the first sequence that was dropped when I completely revised the next draft, switching the protagonist from George Whitefield to a young fatherless chimneysweep.
It is based upon a true incident in the life of the 18th Century Evangelist. Hope you enjoy it.

(Apologies in advance for the odd look to the formatting. I have not yet found a fix on WordPress).

FADE IN:

EXT.  A SCOTTISH MOOR – DAY   (1741)

Two figures on horseback crawl at a snail’s pace across the empty moor.

IAN

I dinna think you shoulda given money to that
there widow, Mr. Whitefield.

GEORGE

Come now, Ian, if the good Lord makes us aware of someone
in distress we should  relieve them.

GEORGE AND IAN

The young clergyman and his older companion slow their mounts as the road at this point steepens.

IAN

I be a-thinkin’ that four shilling would ha’ done for her.
Perhaps three e’en.

GEORGE

Her creditor was suing for a guinea and six. Less would
not gain back her furniture for her.

IAN

So she said.

They stop and dismount to lead their horses up the hill.

AT THE TOP OF THE HILL

A HIGHWAYMAN sits astride a horse keeping watch from behind an outcropping. He has a fine tricorn hat and lace at his throat, but his coat is faded and tattered. His hand rests on one of two pistols jammed in his belt.

HALFWAY UP THE HILL

George and Ian stop to rest.

IAN
(Panting)

Did ye ever stop and think of the debt you were
a-owing yerself?

GEORGE

The thought of that debt never leaves me.

IAN

And it never will if you persist in giving money away. Ye wit well,
the Lord commands us to be good stewards.

Ian picks up the reins of his steed and walks it onward. George remains at a standstill and casts his eyes up to heaven.

GEORGE
(In a low voice)

Vindicate me, O Lord.

TOP OF THE HILL

The highwayman backs his mount deeper into the cover of the outcropping. The horse snorts and paws the ground.

He puts a steadying hand to her muzzle.

He screws his face up in the effort to hear his approaching prey.

George and Ian crest the hill and draw near to his hiding place.

He takes the reins in his teeth and with his pistols at the ready, kicks his mount into action.

The highwayman at once blocks their path, drops the reins and shouts:

HIGHWAYMAN
(With larcenous relish)

Stand and deliver.

George and Ian stand beside their mounts stupid with surprise.

HIGHWAYMAN

Give me your purses.

George draws his purse out.

It falls with a TINKLE at the feet of the highwayman’s horse.

HIGHWAYMAN

Damn your eyes.  Pick that up and give it me proper.

George walks over, picks it up and hands it to the highwayman.

HIGHWAYMAN
(To Ian)

I’ll have yours, and be quick about it.

Ian grudgingly takes out his purse and hands it to George who passes it up to the highwayman.

GEORGE

Will you spare us the price of a meal?

HIGHWAYMAN
(Laughs coarsely)

No, but I’m much obliged for the price of mine.

The highwayman spurs his horse around and gallops away.

A LITTLE FURTHER DOWN THE ROAD

George’s face, wreathed in a smile, beams at his friend.

GEORGE

It’s much better that our widow has the money
than that outlaw, wouldn’t you say?

Ian GRUMBLES an assent.

At the SOUND OF HOOVES they both look round. It’s the highwayman again.

George and Ian huddle behind their horses. The highwayman charges to a stop.

HIGHWAYMAN

I’ve decided that you will oblige me by trading coats.

George takes off his coat and hands it up to the highwayman.

GEORGE

You have much more need of the coat of righteousness.

HIGHWAYMAN

Save your sermons, parson.

The highwayman puts on the fine coat and tosses down his tattered one, turns his horse and gallops off.

LATER

On the road now nearing a village, George pulls the tattered coat closer about him to ward off the cold. The pair rides on in silence.

Ian turns his head at the SOUND OF GALLOPING HOOVES.

IAN

It’s him, again!  Ride for your life!

George and Ian kick their horses into a gallop, and streak towards the village.  The highwayman BELLOWS in anger at them to stop.

George and Ian reach the village and the highwayman, reins in his horse and shakes his fist in rage. Then turns and flees back down the road.

THE VILLAGE

The village’s single street is empty, only by the curl of smoke from each of the chimneys do we know that the village is inhabited.

George and Ian stand beside their mounts to catch their breath.

IAN

I was sure he was a-meaning to kill us that time.

GEORGE

Aye. Thank the Lord we were so close to this village.

Ian eyes his companion with a wry smile.

IAN

You look a very scarecrow, Mr. Whitefield.

George lifts the hem of the coat, and feels the heft of a considerable weight.

He tears at the lining of the hem and takes out a small but heavy sack.

GEORGE

Bless my soul, Ian, will you look at this.

George pours the contents out into the palm of his hand.

IAN

Gold?

GEORGE

Aye!  It must have been what he came back for. With this I
can get some material to send to my orphans for winter clothes.

IAN

But…but..

GEORGE

I know..I know.. It could be used to pay the debt. But this
falls very short of what the orphanage owes and is
remarkably close to what the material will cost.

IAN

You’ll be returning to London without repaying that debt?

CUT TO:

The title sequence follows as the conversation continues against the backdrop of London.

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Weird New England and Old George

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A while ago I was preparing to write about two odd places that I remembered from my childhood in New England. More like landmarks really.  We had encountered them on those Sunday family drives.  I hesitated at that time because I wanted to check the details about them online.

The first was called the Witch’s Den. I think it was situated in a wooded area or park somewhere in the Saugus area. To reach it we had to park the car and follow a path that wound through the woods. The “den” itself was little more than a huge boulder behind which the path passed. There was an entrance on the side away from the path. Perhaps the word “entrance” is too generous. It was more of a cleft on the bottom of the boulder. The whole place had a creepy feel to it. Not for any supernatural type reason. Litter was scattered around and a pervasive smell hung over the vicinity. More than likely it was the night time haunt of teenagers.

But when I looked for the Witch’s Den online, I could find no trace of it.

The second landmark was called the Devil’s Footprint. When I went looking for it, my search returned a list of a dozen similarly named sites.  And none of them sounded like the one I remember. It was highly visible from the road. My father called our attention to it as we drove by.  We must have stopped or at least pulled over for a minute, for I got a good look at it. It was another immense boulder, the flat face of which was viewable from the direction from which we were coming. Near the top there was a foot-like impression, one with three toes.  (So much for cloven hooves.) I wondered if it were not a dinosaur footprint. The terrible lizard.

I was surprised, and pleased to discover that one of the links from my search query for the Devil’s Footprint had a reference to one of my favorite personages of the 18th Century – George Whitefield. He was a contemporary of the Wesleys and like them preached on both sides of the Atlantic, and was instrumental in what is known as the Great Awakening. The website points to a church in Ipswich, where a flat rock on its grounds bears a single, might I say, shoe print. According to the story, Old Scratch popped in when George was preaching there, and was forcefully evicted.

I included George as a pivotal character in my first screenplay. I set the action in the London of the 1740s at the time when George was preaching in the open air to fairgoers at Moorfields. It’s a backdrop to the story of a young chimneysweep, questing throughout the city for a father figure.

I dearly hope to see it filmed some day.