ROSA BONHEUR

By

Mitchel Wicking

EXT. PYRENEES MOUNTAINS, 1850 – DAY

Two YOUNG WOMEN on donkeys, travelling alone uphill across rocky terrain.

Leading the trek is ROSA BONHEUR, late twenties, boyishly attractive, dressed in a plain blouse and skirt over cotton trousers, straw hat on, a ribbon round her neck.

Despite the heat and the tough going, Rosa is enjoying the journey with a smile and a song – unlike her companion who lags behind grumpily.

She is NATHALIE MICAS, loyal, devoted, but fiercely jealous and ridiculously overdressed in a red and black outfit, and matching red hat with large plume of black feathers. The colours clash horribly with her pale, waxen complexion.

NATHALIE

I’m going to have to spend a whole month in these so-called therapeutic baths by the time we get there. I feel worse than when we first set out!

ROSA

Never mind my dear friend, just look at these mountains.

NATHALIE

I don’t know how you persuaded me along, I just knew it would be awful.

ROSA

Come on old girl, shed that misery. What an adventure we are having!

NATHALIE

Penniless, starving, and an aching posterior. And you snore. What more could a girl want?

Nathalie grumbles under her breath. Rosa starts singing again, only louder to drown out the griping.

EXT. DILAPIDATED MOUNTAIN CAFÉ – DAY

Rosa and Nathalie are sitting outside in the shade under the canopy. They are the only customers. Still moody, Nathalie struggles to get comfortable on a rickety wooden chair. Rosa hums to herself happily as she sketches a view of the cafe in coloured pastels on a large pad of paper.

NATHALIE

It’s a good job you can draw.

The eager-to-please CAFÉ OWNER appears with a tray of food and wine. Nathalie tucks in hungrily while Rosa gives him the sketch of his café. He is overjoyed, starts gesturing wildly with appreciation and rushes off to show his family. Rosa smiles to herself, pleased with her work.

Suddenly in the distance, a MAN comes running. He is all beard and roguish eyes on a weather-beaten but handsome face. His name is MARIANO.

Rosa and Nathalie turn to watch as the stranger runs past the café. He glances across and catches Rosa’s eye and starts to slow. Then he stops completely and crosses over to them. He is panting heavily as he sits down uninvited next to Nathalie, but soon gathers his breath.

NATHALIE (CONT’D)

(sarcastically)

Make yourself at home why don’t you?

MARIANO

Thank you mademoiselle, you are most kind.

ROSA

Lost your sheep?

Mariano has a caddish smile.

MARIANO

No mademoiselle. In my trade it has more to do with finding and concealing, than losing.

Rosa is intrigued.

MARIANO (CONT’D)

(proudly)

I am Mariano. The smuggler. Perhaps you have heard of me?

NATHALIE

Not likely.

MARIANO

Hmmn, that is queer. My fame has spread far and wide all over the continent.

ROSA

Ignore her. You are something of a legend…apparently.

Mariano feigns modesty, but in a smug way.

MARIANO

It is true, I must confess.

He reaches across and takes Rosa’s hand, and kisses it. Rosa is pleasantly surprised. Nathalie looks contemptuously at him and keeps her hand to herself.

NATHALIE From Spain?

(Mariano bows)

I might have guessed.

ROSA

Would you care for some refreshment?

NATHALIE

Rosa! You’ll have to do another drawing to pay for it.

MARIANO

(to Rosa)

Thank you mademoiselle.

ROSA

Outwitting the authorities must be a very tiring part of your occupation.

MARIANO

It is a necessary facet, but I am used to it. Besides, tough boots are my speciality.

(Rosa laughs)

And what might your name be mademoiselle?

ROSA

I am Rosa Bonheur. This is my good friend Nathalie Micas.

NATHALIE

(mutters)

Not for much longer.

Mariano rises dramatically and bows with a flourish.

MARIANO

Mon Dieu! Mademoiselle, it is a pleasure and honour to make your acquaintance. I have heard your name mentioned in nothing but the highest favour everywhere I go. You are the painter of animals and the finest one by all accounts. I have even had requests from certain quarters should a Rosa Bonheur ever cross my path.

ROSA

On a smuggler’s wish list? The honour is all mine then.

(Mariano bows again)

It occurs to me we are somewhat alike monsieur Mariano. You smuggle goods, I smuggle images.

MARIANO

Only when I do it, it is illegal.

ROSA

Maybe, but we both profit from our contraband, although I suppose you spend your life avoiding capture, whereas capture is the essence of what I do.

Mariano smiles, is equally intrigued by Rosa. He pulls out his tobacco pouch and rolls himself a cigarette. Rosa watches intently.

MARIANO

You like?

ROSA

Why not?

NATHALIE

Rosa!

ROSA

We are on holiday, are we not my dear Agnes, here to savour new experiences and enjoy some adventure. One puff won’t hurt anyone.

Mariano rolls another cigarette and hands it to Rosa. He offers Nathalie one, but she turns her nose up and looks away.

Mariano lights a match. Rosa takes his hand and guides him to the cigarette between her lips. Nathalie looks on jealously.

The cigarette is lit and under Mariano’s gaze, Rosa inhales and exhales without choking and enjoys the experience.

MARIANO

Ah! A natural! Bravo mademoiselle!

NATHALIE

Disgusting!

DISSOLVE TO

NIGHTFALL –

Lanterns have been lit at the café table. Mariano is posing for Rosa, but keeps looking over his shoulder. Nathalie sulks in the shadows, a book in her lap.

ROSA

Keep still monsieur.

MARIANO

I’m sorry. But they should have been here by now.

ROSA

You sound like you want to be caught?

MARIANO

On the contrary. I am not yet ready for the firing squad. I just get a little fidgety if they are more than three hours behind.

ROSA

Ah! Cunning, like a fox…and just as bushy.

Mariano laughs, quite fancies Rosa. He leans forward.

MARIANO

Why don’t you ditch the sourpuss and come with me? Together we would make a glorious team.

ROSA

The artist and the smuggler?

It is an enticing proposition.

Quietly seething, Nathalie pretends to read in the dark.

Then, in the distance, the sound of men calling. Mariano ceases laughing instantly. He straightens, turns and listens.

MARIANO

Customs men. I must depart.

(He rises and bends to kiss Rosa’s hand)

Au revoir mademoiselle.

(Mariano turns to Nathalie)

I hope your malady goes away soon mademoiselle.

NATHALIE

It goes, when you go.

But Mariano has already gone before Nathalie has even begun her sentence and he vanishes into the night.

A DOZEN CUSTOMS MEN rush by, some on donkeys.

CUSTOMS MAN

That’s him!

The pursuit begins. Rosa looks on concerned – but out of nowhere Mariano re-appears, making both women jump. He thrusts a handful of large Cuban cigars at Rosa.

MARIANO

For you. For special occasions.

She takes them quickly, smiling excitedly, and hides them in her paint box. In return, Rosa gives Mariano the sketch. Mariano glances at it and blows Rosa a kiss. He rolls the portrait up quickly, skillfully, tucks it under his arm, and then winks and is away.

MARIANO (CONT’D)

Until we meet again mademoiselle! Adieu!

This time Mariano disappears in the opposite direction – just as the customs men return and come to a halt in front of Rosa and Nathalie.

CUSTOMS OFFICER

Have you seen this man?

He shows them a rough Wanted Poster of Mariano. The likeness is terrible, not nearly as good as Rosa’s sketch.

ROSA

I’ve seen no one who looks like that.

NATHALIE

I have. He went that way.

Nathalie points the men in Mariano’s direction.

ROSA

Traitor!

The customs men bow to Nathalie, but stare angrily at Rosa as they whip their donkeys into stride and give chase.

CUSTOMS OFFICER

Aiding and abetting criminals is a serious matter mademoiselle. It could cost you your life.

ROSA

You showed me a picture of a man I did not recognise. He looked more like this…

Rosa hands the customs man another sketch of Mariano. The customs man compares hers with the wanted poster.

CUSTOMS OFFICER

You are right mademoiselle. My apologies.

He screws the Wanted Poster up and throws it over his shoulder.

CUSTOMS MAN

May I?

ROSA

That all depends. Given my reputation it would be worth around three hundred francs on the open market.

Without hesitation the customs man starts rummaging in a saddle bag, Nathalie looks on astounded by Rosa’s cheek.

INT. HOTEL BEDROOM – NIGHT

Rosa and Nathalie putting their nightdresses on in a tiny room. One single bed takes up all the space.

NATHALIE

You were right. You are just as bad as that ruffian we met. You’re nothing but a profiteer!

Rosa laughs and forces Nathalie into her arms for an embrace.

ROSA

I do love you so my dear friend!

NATHALIE

Three hundred francs! Extortionate! And we end up in this dung heap!

ROSA

What do you expect on a mountain?

Rosa laughs again, releases Nathalie and rushes to the bed.

NATHALIE

Hey!

(Rosa throws herself in and pulls the covers over her head, wedging herself tight against the wall)

Mademoiselle Bonheur! If I end up on the floor again, I will not be amused.

(Rosa starts giggling. Nathalie crawls in to join her)

Arrgghh. Your feet are so cold!

(beat)

And so are mine.

Rosa slides down under the covers towards Nathalie’s feet and starts rubbing them warm and for once Nathalie starts to look happy. She closes her eyes, a contented smile on her face.

Still under the covers, Rosa works her way up Nathalie’s body, the warming sensation increasing for Nathalie.

NATHALIE (CONT’D)

Has anyone ever told you, you have very talented hands.

ROSA

(under the covers)

Who needs therapeutic baths?

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