Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: The Witch's Tale
Show: The Altar
Date: Nov 08 1933

CAST:
ANNOUNCER
NANCY, the witch
SATAN, her cat
BRISSAC, a boisterous bully
CARRIER, the personification of cruelty
SERGEANT
COMTE, middle-aged aristocrat
MADAME, his wife
CHARLES, their son, at age 16
CHARLES, at age 49 and dying
CURE, the good-hearted priest
HENRI, age 18 or 20, Charles' son
GUINARD, faithful but creepy family servant
MARGUERITE, age 16
BLANCHE, her mother
MOB, of French citizens
SOLDIERS

(MUSICAL THEME.)

 

ANNOUNCER:

Again we bring you The Witch's Tale, written by Alonzo Deen Cole. And now let us join old Nancy and Satan her big black cat.

(MUSIC SWELLS...WIND WHISTLES...)

PROLOGUE



NANCY:

He he he ... (CAT) Hunner and twen'y one yeer ole, I be t'day--yes'r, hunner and twen'y one yeer ole I be even ef this iz Wensday 'stead o' m' regular Monday buthday! (CAT) Yer' right, Satan--we iz suttingly glad this heer 'lekshun bizness is over fer awhile, 'cause with them pollyticians cussin' one another over th' raddio all hours o' day an night yew an me never knowed when we'd git a chanct t' tell these folks their weekly bedtime stury. But here we be at last--an if ye'll jest douse that candle we'll be gittin down t' bizness. Tha's right--make hit nice an dark an cheery-like. Now draw up t' th' fire an gaze inter th' embers. We're takin' ye t' France t'night--th' France o' days gone by--th' France o' Revolootion.

(MUSIC... "MARSEILLAISE"...VERY SOFTLY UNDER DIALOGUE)

NANCY:

(CONTINUES) He he ... t' th' land o' Brittany we're goin', whar--In th' city o' Nantes, a man named Carrier iz the law--Jean Baptiste Carrier, who hist'ry calls "Th' Butcher." He he ... hit ain't a perty stury we're gonna tell ye--but hit weren't a perty time. Gaze inter th' embers deep w'ile we spins ye our yarn o' Th' Altar ... he he! TH' ALTAR! He he he he ... (CAT)

(MUSIC... "MARSEILLAISE" FULL VOLUME)

 

SCENE I



(AS NANCY FADES OUT AND THE MUSIC SWELLS, THE VOICE OF A MOB FADES IN AND CONTINUES AS BACKGROUND TO THE SCENE...CLOSE AT HAND WE HEAR A BATTERING RAM AT WORK UPON A DOOR, WHICH CREAKS AND GRADUALLY SPLINTERS UNDER THE IMPACT...MUSIC FADES OUT...)

 

MOB:

Break down that door! Break down that door! Death to the aristocrats who try to hide from us! To the guillotine with all Chouans!

BRISSAC:

The cursed door is giving on its hinges, Citizen Carrier--in a moment we shall be inside.

CARRIER:

(HE IS THE PERSONIFICATION OF CRUELTY...QUIET, SUAVE.) Drive this mob away, Citizen Brissac--when we gain entrance, their enthusiasm for the cause of brotherhood might bring death too quickly for those who hide within.

BRISSAC:

(HE IS A BOISTEROUS BULLY.) Aye, the people are stupid in their hatred--It is you who know how to serve the aristocrats properly! (BAWLS OUT.) Sergeant Pedron--drive back these good people---keep them at a distance!

SERG:

At once, Citizen Captain. (GOES AWAY, CALLING.) Back, citizen people--back! You heard Captain Brissac's order. Citizen Carrier wishes to enter this rat's nest alone!

MOB:

(BACKING AWAY, AD LIB.) Back! Back! The Citizen Carrier knows how to treat such vermin.

CARRIER:

(CHUCKLING) How these excellent citizens trust me, Brissac.

BRISSAC:

They have reason for their faith! (LAUGHS BRUTALLY.) Ha ha--no patriot in France has better served Madame la Guillotine than you! By your noble work, bodies of the dead so fill our River Loire it almost overflows its banks.

CARRIER:

Yes--I have taught these good citizens of Nantes the proper way to Freedom. The yonder door proves stubborn.

BRISSAC:

The dogs built it stoutly, but--

(THE DOOR CRASHES IN...WE HEAR SHOUTS OF TRIUMPH FROM NEARBY SOLDIERS AND THE DISTANT MOB, WHO NOW PUSH FORWARD.)

 

BRISSAC:

Ah--there it goes now!

SERG:

(CRIES) Stand back--stand back, good people! Citizen Carrier will go in alone!!

CARRIER:

Not quite alone, Sergeant--the rats within may still have teeth. You go first, Brissac--I will follow.

BRISSAC:

Yes, Citizen Carrier. (BAWLS) Citizen soldiers: come with me!

SERG:

Citizen soldiers--forward--in the name of Liberty!

SOLDIERS:

(GOING AWAY.) Aye--in the name of Liberty!

CARRIER:

(CALLING) I am right behind you, Citizen soldiers. Brissac--call me when you seize the traitors.

BRISSAC:

(DISTANT) There they are--three together!

SERG:

Take them, Citizen soldiers!! (DISTANT)

SOLDIERS:

(DISTANT...AD LIB.) We have them! The aristocrats are our prisoners!

BRISSAC:

They are ours, Citizen Carrier--the two old ones and their cub! Come quick--they make no show of fight!

CARRIER:

I'm coming! (PAUSE...HE PRONOUNCES THE FOLLOWING TITLES IRONICALLY.) Well, Monsieur le Comte and Comtesse des Lauriennes, and Monsieur le Chevalier des Lauriennes--You are run to bay at last.

COMTE:

(A MIDDLE AGED ARISTOCRAT...PROUDLY, QUIETLY.) We are your prisoners. There is no need to ask what you will do to us-- (OVER-BLEND.) Call your tumbrils, I expect no mercy from such an enemy as you.

CARRIER:

And you will not even ask for it--not even for your wife and son!

MADAME:

(PROUDLY) My husband will not plead for our lives, and neither will I.

CHARLES:

(A BOY OF SIXTEEN.) Nor I, Monsieur--I, like my parents am ready to die.

MADAME:

(SUDDENLY WEAKENS.) Oh, my son--my Charles--! (SOBS)

CARRIER:

Ah--she weakens!

COMTE:

(STERNLY) Helene!

CHARLES:

Mother--don't!

MADAME:

(SOBBING) I cannot help myself--I am a mother. Oh, Monsieur--I know I am speaking to a man without a heart, yet speak I must!! If bearing a noble name, if loving France, if hating the reign of blood such men as you have brought about are crimes--then Monsieur le Comte and I deserve the death you mean to bring us. But my son is but a boy--a child--! You can't kill him.

COMTE:

Helene, be still!

CHARLES:

Mother, I beg--!!

CARRIER:

(SUAVELY) Go on, Madame.

MADAME:

(HOPEFULLY) You bid me speak. Oh, perhaps you are not the butcher I have thought--perhaps you have a grain of pity in your, heart--!

COMTE:

Helene--do not lower thyself by pleading with this brute!

CHARLES:

Don't, Mother--I am not afraid to die--!

CARRIER:

Let her go on! Madame--I assure you of my deep attention to your plea, and you will find me a most sympathetic man.

MADAME:

Then spare my son! He is but sixteen--a child--even you cannot kill children--!!

CARRIER:

Madame, you have touched me deeply--I will grant your plea.

MADAME:

You--???!!!

BRISSAC:

(ANGRILY) Citizen Carrier--you do not mean to spare this--??

SOLDIERS:

No! They are aristocrats! Young as well as old! All three must die!

CARRIER:

Silence! I command here--I will spare your son.

BRISSAC:

No!

SOLDIERS:

No! You shall not!! (CONTINUE UNTIL SILENCED.)

CARRIER:

Quiet! Quiet--Your son will be spared, Madame--on one condition.

MADAME:

Anything!

COMTE:

Yes--anything to save our son!

CARRIER:

Ah--now the father is not too proud to beg!

CHARLES:

I will not let them! Father, Mother--I will die with thee!

MADAME:

No, no, Charles--thou are the last of our line. Thou shalt carry on our name! My son must live!

COMTE:

Your condition, Monsieur--

MADAME:

Name it--we will meet it!

CARRIER:

Your son will be spared, Madame, Monsieur, if he will be--your executioner.

COMTE:

(GASPS) What--??

MADAME:

(GASPS) Monsieur--??

CHARLES:

You--??

CARRIER:

Your son shall live--if he will operate the knife that drops your heads into the basket.

CHARLES:

NO!

MADAME:

You monster!!

COMTE:

You are worse than the butcher they call you--you are a fiend from hell!

BRISSAC:

(LAUGHS BOISTEROUSLY, IN WHICH HE IS JOINED BY SOLDIERS.) Ha ha...a stroke of genius, Citizen Carrier!

CARRIER:

(CHUCKLING) You thought I had forgotten my duty, Brissac.

BRISSAC:

Ha ha...only you could have thought of that! Let the puppy kill the dogs who sired it!

SOLDIERS:

What a jest! What a stroke of genius!

CARRIER:

Your answer, Citizens?

CHARLES:

(ENRAGED) The answer is NO--No. Do you think I would buy my life at such a cost? Send for your tumbrils--take us to your guillotine and see how aristocrats, both young and old, can die!!

COMTE:

(SOFTLY) My son, thou dost make me very proud--but I am head of my house, I answer for it. (DECISIVELY) Butcher Carrier--my son submits to your condition.

MADAME:

Henri--??

CHARLES:

Thou art not in earnest, Father! Thou dost only mean to test my love!

MADAME:

No, Charles--thy father is in earnest, and I know his reasons. I add my voice to his--thou art our son, thou wilt obey us.

CHARLES:

No--if God commanded, I would not obey!

COMTE:

Charles--thou, my only son, must live. Monsieur Carrier, we cannot escape. Will you withdraw your men outside this room a moment?

CARRIER:

That you may persuade the young man privately? With pleasure. You will withdraw, Citizen soldiers--out of hearing, but not out of sight.

CHARLES:

You are wasting time--we three die together!

CARRIER:

I am counting much on the persuasive powers of your parents, young man. I think they understand my motives as I understand theirs--and they know I will keep my promise that you be allowed to live.

COMTE:

Please leave us.

CARRIER:

(CHUCKLING) Come, citizens. (GOING AWAY.) We shall watch from just outside this open door.

CHARLES:

(LOW...HOPEFUL) Father--Mother, thou hast some plan for escape--that is why thou hast persuaded them to withdraw?

COMTE:

(SADLY) No--there is no escape except for thee, my Charles.

MADAME:

Thou must accept that fiend's condition.

CHARLES:

How canst thou even bid me think of such a crime against all nature?? Dost think I am a coward--that I love my life so much--

COMTE:

Thou dost not understand, my son. The name you bear has been an honored one in France since the days of Hugh Capet--

MADAME:

Thou are the last of thy line, and that name must not die.

CHARLES:

Dost think I would preserve it by depriving thee of life??

COMTE:

We are already doomed to die--by thy hand or another's.

MADAME:

A cause is more important than the individual.

CHARLES:

I will not live at such a cost!

COMTE:

Then thou art a coward, unfit to be our son!

CHARLES:

Father--?

MADAME:

He is right--for thou wouldst take the easy way!

CHARLES:

Mother--??

COMTE:

To die is not difficult, for death sometime must come to all--Thou art afraid to live!

CHARLES:

The executioner of my parents--yes!

COMTE:

There is no other choice. And that beast out there will keep his word to spare thee, for thou wilt be an aristocrat at whom all such scum as he may point and say: "There goes a coward, who bought his life by a crime against all nature!"

MADAME:

Thou wouldst be the bravest of the brave--my Charles--for thou wouldst bear men's scorn so thou couldst hate and punish!

CHARLES:

No, no--I cannot--will not! (CALLS) You, [who] wait at that door--take us to your guillotine, we three will die together!

MADAME:

No--for I have a final argument at my command!

CHARLES:

Mother--that knife--??

BRISSAC:

(DISTANT) The she-wolf has a dagger!

CARRIER:

(COMING UP.) Wrest it from her hand!!

COMTE:

Helene--!

MADAME:

(GASPS) Too late.

BRISSAC:

She's thrust it in her breast!

CHARLES:

Mother--Mother--!

CARRIER:

She's cheated me!

MADAME:

(GASPING...DYING.) No--I am granting your desire. It was too much to ask, my son, that thine should be the hand to bring thy mother's death--but now, that death accomplished, thou wilt fulfill her final wish--and live.

COMTE:

Yes--thou wilt fulfill this man's condition on thy father. Carrier, do you swear to keep your bargain?

CARRIER:

It will not make so good a show to see him drop but one head in the basket--still (CHUCKLING) the other will have died by his hand, indirectly. The terms yet stand, aristocrat.

MADAME:

(VERY WEAK.) Thou wilt fulfill them, Charles--it is my dying wish.

COMTE:

And thy father's last command.

MADAME:

(DYING) Promise, my son--to live--

COMTE:

Promise, Charles!

CHARLES:

(SOBBING) Mother--Father--Mother--

MADAME:

Prom-- (GASPS AND DIES.)

CHARLES:

Ahh--she's dead--my mother's dead! My mother!! And you who call yourselves the "Government of France" have killed her! You have killed her! Yes, I will keep my life. I promise, Mother, to fulfill thy dying wish--Thou art dead, but thou wilt hear my promise. I will be thy executioner, Father, that I may live to serve a holy hate--to punish and avenge a hundredfold! Do you hear me, murderers, beasts--you fiends of hell? I will live to serve a holy hate--to punish and avenge a hundredfold!!!

CARRIER:

(LAUGHS) Call the tumbril, Brissac. And inform the citizens outside that Madame la Guillotine will be well served tonight.

BRISSAC:

(LAUGHS) Ha ha...an aristocrat for victim, and one for executioner--Citizen Carrier, you are a genius!

CHARLES:

(SOBBING...LOW.) Dost hear me, Mother? I will punish and avenge a hundredfold.

(MUSIC CONTINUES SOFTLY UNDER DIALOGUE)

 

INTERLUDE



NANCY:

He he he...we warned ye hit warn't a perty stury--but, ef yo've read yer hist'ry, ye know hit wern't a perty time. Weel, Charles lived by fulfillin th' condition set upon him. Now, when we find him onct agin, thutty yeer haz passed--th' Revolootion's over--Butcher Carrier, hisself, has died upon th' guillotine--in France, a Bourbon king iz on th' throne onct more--an th' boy we left sobbin' b' th' body ov hiz mother is now a man near fifty; an ole man neer fifty, who's lyin' on hiz death bed. (FADING OUT.) Gaze inter th' embers deep an see him thar. He he he...

(MUSIC DIES AWAY AS SCENE BLENDS IN.)

 

SCENE II



CHARLES:

(A PREMATURELY AGED MAN...WEAK, IRRITABLE.) I know I have but a few moments left upon this earth, Monsieur le CurÉ--but, with no disrespect to your church, I long ago found a creed much better suited to my needs. I have no wish for your communion.

CURÉ:

I know the creed of which you speak, Monsieur le Comte--it is a religion of hate which you have set up in your heart.

CHARLES:

Yes--a hatred that is holy.

CURÉ:

No hatred is holy--none is justified in Heaven's eyes. Come back to the faith of forgiveness and of love--confess your sins and--

CHARLES:

(IMPATIENTLY) That which you priests call sin I regard as virtue. Bother me no more--go and call my son.

CURÉ:

(PLEADING) Monsieur le Comte--

CHARLES:

Call my son, I say! He will be my confessor--the only one I either wish or need!

CURÉ:

(SADLY) Very well.

CHARLES:

Call him quickly! I have very little time, the doctors said--and I must speak with him before I go.

CURÉ:

(GOING) I left him waiting in the hall outside.

(A DOOR IS OPENED)

CURÉ:

(DISTANT...CALLS SOFTLY.) Henri--thy father calls for thee.

HENRI:

(A YOUNG MAN OF TWENTY...COMING IN.) I am here, Monsieur le CurÉ. Father--

CHARLES:

Come in--come in, Henri! Come close to the bed, so I will not have to raise my voice.

HENRI:

Yes father.

CHARLES:

I have very little strength. Leave us alone, Monsieur le CurÉ.

CURÉ:

You will not change your mind?

CHARLES:

No, no! Leave us alone.

CURÉ:

(GOING AWAY...SADLY) Very well.

(THE DOOR IS CLOSED.)

HENRI:

Thou wouldst not accept his priestly rites?

CHARLES:

Priestly rites for me? Thou, like all of France, doth know I was my father's executioner.

HENRI:

But like all of France I know the reasons for thy deed.

CHARLES:

But one living man besides myself knows the true reason for my deed--but no living man besides myself knows how I have kept my promise.

HENRI:

Thy promise?

CHARLES:

To my dead mother--and the scum who killed her. Ring the bell--call old Guinard to my beside.

HENRI:

Yes, father.

(A VERY DISTANT CALL BELL TINKLES.)

CHARLES:

As thou knowest, Guinard served my parents and he has ever been my confidant and trusted friend.

HENRI:

I know--and I have envied him that privilege. I never knew my mother, so thou wert all I had to love--I had wished to be thy confidant, thy trusted friend.

CHARLES:

And so thou shalt be now, my son--for thou must carry on the work I have no time to finish.

HENRI:

I will not believe that thou wilt leave me!

CHARLES:

I shall be dead when I tell thee what I have to say--my will shall make me live till then.

HENRI:

Father--

(A KNOCK AT THE DOOR...SOFTLY.)

 

CHARLES:

Guinard is at the door--let him in.

HENRI:

Yes.

(DOOR OPENED.)

GUINARD:

(AN OLD SERVANT...COMING IN.) Monsieur le Comte--thou wishest something from thy servant?

CHARLES:

Yes, old friend: a last wish which thou wilt grant--a last command: that thou shalt serve my son as for over thirty years thou hast served me.

GUINARD:

He bears thy honored name--I was born a servant of des Lauriennes.

CHARLES:

I, too, have served that name. Close the door--and lock it, Guinard.

GUINARD:

Yes, Monsieur le Comte.

(DOOR CLOSED AND LOCKED.)

CHARLES:

Henri, I have said thou must carry on my work. Ah, did I not know thee for a faithful son, I even now would stay the hand of death that tightens on my burned out heart--but thou, I know, will fulfill my uncompleted promise.

HENRI:

I do not understand thee.

CHARLES:

No--thou hast believed I dropped the knife upon my father's head that I might live to perpetuate our line--that a noble name might not perish from the earth. But that was only half my reason--the greater half was that I punish and avenge, that I serve a new religion hate had fostered in my soul. Guinard--open the secret panel of our holy shrine.

GUINARD:

Yes, Monsieur le Comte.

(A PANEL SLIDES OPEN.)

HENRI:

(GASPS) Ahh!

CHARLES:

Look, my son--at the altar of my hate!

HENRI:

An altar built of human skulls!!

CHARLES:

Yes--the skulls of those who, in the name of Liberty, defiled the natural rights of all created men! The skulls of those who served Madame la Guillotine! The skulls of those who made my life a loathsome horror! An executioner they made me--I have persisted in that calling! Before that sacred shrine thou canst see a headman's block--and upon it leans a bloody axe.

HENRI:

Close that panel--I can look no more!!

CHARLES:

Thou must do more than look--thou shalt fulfill my uncompleted promise! I vowed to repay a hundredfold--two skulls are missing from that altar.

HENRI:

Thou meanest I--??

CHARLES:

Thou art my son. Ninety eight heads adorn that shrine--thou shalt make see a hundred rest there! And thine own hands must wield the axe.

HENRI:

I cannot--will not!

CHARLES:

Thou must--thou wilt!

HENRI:

No, no, NO!

CHARLES:

I am thy father--I command thee as mine commanded me! Thou shalt obey.

HENRI:

I beg thee--!

CHARLES:

Promise, or I curse thee with my dying breath!

HENRI:

Father--

CHARLES:

Promise!!

HENRI:

I--I--

CHARLES:

Promise!!!!

HENRI:

(MURMURS) I promise.

CHARLES:

Swear! Swear! Ah--now I know thou art my son, fit to bear our honored name--

HENRI:

Father--

CHARLES:

(DYING) I die content. I will have punished and avenged a hundredfold--(SIGHS)

HENRI:

No! Father, I cannot let thee die deceived! I lied to thee--I will not do thy awful bidding--I withdraw my promise! Father, answer me! Dost thou not hear me?? I tell thee I withdraw my promise!

GUINARD:

Thy father has ceased to breathe--and one cannot withdraw a promise from the dead.

(MUSIC)

SCENE III



HENRI:

I tell you I shall keep my promise, Guinard--but I must have more time--just a little more time.

GUINARD:

Six months have passed since your father breathed his last. Has not that been time enough?

HENRI:

Oh, will you never leave me alone? Every day it is the same--morning, noon and night, you speak of nothing but that awful promise!

GUINARD:

It is my duty. Your father rests uneasy in his grave because you make no move to keep your plighted word--the word of a des Lauriennes. His spirit comes to me at night and bids me tell you that he cannot rest.

HENRI:

(AWED, FEARFUL) You dream he comes to you.

GUINARD:

Nay, I do not dream. His spectre stalks these halls from dusk till dawn, bitter and accusing because of a broken faith.

HENRI:

(NERVOUSLY) Be still! Don't say such things--I will not believe you!

GUINARD:

Gaze upon his portrait hanging there--then tell me that you doubt.

HENRI:

(FEARFULLY) The--the eyes do look at me as though--(SLIGHT HYSTERIA.) But that's just imagination! It's only a painted figure standing in that frame! You have hounded me so much my mind is being weakened by your ghoulish chatter! Leave me alone! I shall keep my promise--but I must have more time!!

GUINARD:

How much more time?

HENRI:

How can I tell you that? A man does not set forth to do cold blooded murder as he takes an evening stroll!

GUINARD:

Just vengeance is not murder.

HENRI:

(VEHEMENTLY) Such vengeance is not just!! Oh, I know the awful cause my father had for hatred--but no cause on earth can make such hatred right or good! Or--or excuse the dreadful altar that lies behind that panel!

GUINARD:

That altar is a holy shrine to Heaven.

HENRI:

It's not--it's a monument of Hell! One man alone was responsible for all my father's misery--one man alone. Yet the head of Butcher Carrier did not fall by my father's hand--his head is not included in that edifice of skulls! No--the heads of innocents compose my father's holy shrine!!

GUINARD:

They were followers of Butcher Carrier--they were dogs who shared his guilt.

HENRI:

You've told me that altar has claimed victims who, like me, were not yet born when the Reign of Terror ended!

GUINARD:

They were of the blood of those who reveled in that Reign of Terror--of the vile blood of those who cry to you for hate!

HENRI:

But how can I hate beings whom I have never seen? For a thing that happened before I came upon this earth?? I won't hate!! I saw hatred burn my father's life away--I saw him die of old age at fifty, a time when other men are in the prime of life! I will not hate! I will not!

GUINARD:

Then you have been lying from the first--you never meant to fulfill your plighted word--the word of a des Lauriennes?

HENRI:

I--I-- Guinard, two heads are needed to complete that altar. Bring--bring me two of Butcher Carrier's blood and--and I will keep my promise.

GUINARD:

You renew your promise to the dead before that portrait of your father?

HENRI:

I-- Yes, I renew my promise to the dead--on the conditions I have said.

GUINARD:

Good! I am content--for within this hour your father's shade will be at peace.

HENRI:

Within this hour?

GUINARD:

Then our holy altar shall have its hundred skulls.

HENRI:

What do you mean??

GUINARD:

That I have foreseen your conditions. Last night I went upon the hunt--this morning I came back with game. It lies waiting behind that panel. Look!

(PANEL SLIDES BACK.)

HENRI:

Ahh--two bodies lie there by the headman's block!!

GUINARD:

Live bodies, bound and gagged--ready for the axe which you will wield!

HENRI:

Your prisoners are women!!!

GUINARD:

My prisoners are enemies--they are the sister and the niece of Butcher Carrier!

HENRI:

You devil! Cut these cords that bind them as I tear away these gags!

GUINARD:

Stop!

HENRI:

No!

MARG:

(GROANS)

HENRI:

Oh, you beast--this one is just a girl!

GUINARD:

(ENRAGED) You are setting them free--you mean to spare the breed of Butcher Carrier!

HENRI:

Yes! And I withdraw my promise now for evermore! I shall not kill--I shall not kill!

GUINARD:

You cannot withdraw a promise to the dead! Gaze upon your father's portrait--look into its eyes! They are telling you, Monsieur le Comte: BEWARE!

(MUSIC)

 

SCENE IV

HENRI:

Marguerite, you truly forgive me for Guinard's dreadful treatment of you?

MARG:

My mother and I remain here in your house as guests. Does that not prove forgiveness? And--and we know the wrong my uncle brought upon your name--it is for us to beg forgiveness, not for you.

HENRI:

"Forgiveness." What a blessed word that is to one who has only known of hate and vengeance. Even love must lack such wondrous meaning.

MARG:

I--I don't know. I have never been in love--that is, except the love I bear my mother.

HENRI:

Neither have I. I think I loved my father--but he never let me know him very well.

MARG:

How old are you, Monsieur le Comte?

HENRI:

On my next birthday I'll be 19.

MARG:

I'm 16.

HENRI:

That's a nice age.

MARG:

Nineteen is a nice age, too. I suppose we're really too young to know much about love.

HENRI:

I suppose so--we're just country people. But I've heard that, in the city, girls and men much younger than we know all about it--some are even married.

MARG:

I have never been in the city.

HENRI:

Neither have I.

MARG:

It must be nice.

HENRI:

To know about love?

MARG:

Yes--and to live in the city.

HENRI:

I--I suppose so. I wonder what it's like.

MARG:

To live in the city?

HENRI:

And to know about love.

MARG:

It must be wonderful.

HENRI:

Very wonderful.

MARG:

Yes, Monsieur le Comte.

HENRI:

I--I wish you wouldn't call me that any more--my name is Henri.

MARG:

But you are a noble--a des Lauriennes! And I am only--a niece of Butcher Carrier.

HENRI:

Oh, what difference does that make! We've known each other now for two whole weeks--two wonderful weeks--the most wonderful I've ever known! And--and I--

MARG:

(PAUSE) Why do you stop? What were you going to say?

HENRI:

I think I meant to say I love you.

MARG:

Henri?

HENRI:

Marguerite! That is what I meant to say! I've found what love is now--and I love thee!

MARG:

And I love thee!

HENRI:

I want thee for my wife!

MARG:

And I want thee for my husband!

HENRI:

Dear one!

(A HUGE PORTRAIT CRASHES TO THE FLOOR.)

MARG:

What was that??

HENRI:

My father's portrait!

MARG:

It has fallen to the floor!

HENRI:

Its eyes--they gleam at me with hate!

(MUSIC)

SCENE V

MARG:

Goodnight, Mother.

BLANCHE:

Goodnight, my little Marguerite--and bless thee.

HENRI:

May I also call thee Mother now, Madame, since thy daughter is my wife? I would like to--I never knew my mother.

BLANCHE:

Thou poor starved boy--I am thy mother now. Take my daughter with my blessing--she is thine--I know thou wilt be good to her.

MARG:

Of course he will--he loves me, Mamma. Goodnight, Monsieur le CurÉ.

CURÉ:

Goodnight, Madame la Comtesse--Goodnight Monsieur le Comte--and God's blessing on you both.

HENRI:

Thank you, Monsieur le CurÉ. (HESITANTLY) Guinard, old servant--I once knew you as my second father--won't you cease to look at me with loathing--won't you also bless our wedding?

GUINARD:

When you took this woman for your wife tonight, you lost all claim upon my service. You are no longer a des Lauriennes, but of the breed of Butcher Carrier.

CURÉ:

Guinard!

GUINARD:

Don't interfere, Monsieur le CurÉ! Upon this bridal pair I lay my curse--the dead has laid another, and a more weighty one upon them.

MARG:

(FRIGHTENED) Henri--!

HENRI:

Don't be afraid, Marguerite, my wife--we who love have naught to fear from hate. Come into the house.

MARG:

(GOING) Goodnight, Mama--Monsieur le CurÉ.

GUINARD:

Go--go to your wedding bed, cursed spawn of Butcher Carrier!

BLANCHE:

Marguerite--Henri! Come back--I am afraid!!

CURÉ:

Madame--!

GUINARD:

You cannot call them back! The dead has summoned them--the dead await their coming.

BLANCHE:

Don't let him say such things!!

CURÉ:

(ANGRILY) Guinard, cease your superstitious lies! The dead are dead, and harmless in their graves! And if they were not, the boy was right--love has naught to fear from hate!

GUINARD:

So says your religion--the dead and I hold another, different faith.

HEN & MAR:

(DISTANT SCREAMS OF TERROR.)

BLANCHE:

(GASPS) Ahh!!

CURÉ:

Those screams??

BLANCHE:

Open that door!

(DOOR THROWN OPEN.)

CURÉ:

Come!

BLANCHE:

(TERRIFIED) Marguerite--my baby Marguerite!!

CURÉ:

Monsieur le Comte--Monsieur le Comte!! Where are you?

BLANCHE:

They do not answer--

GUINARD:

You will find them in this room, I think.

CURÉ:

His father's room!

BLANCHE:

Marguerite, my baby--answer me--(A FRIGHTFUL SCREAM OF ANGUISH AND HORROR.) AHHH!!!

CURÉ:

That opening in the wall--that pile of grinning skulls!

GUINARD:

Look close--two freshly severed heads now lie upon it!

BLANCHE:

(SCREAMS) My baby's!

CURÉ:

Monsieur le Comte's!!

GUINARD:

Now the altar is complete! Not even the grave could keep my master from fulfillment of his vow--he has repaid a hundredfold! And hate has triumphed!

CURÉ:

No--for love lives on and hate, as ever, has defeated its own ends. Your master's hate was born that a name might not perish; with hate fulfilled, that name is ended on the earth.

(MUSIC)

 

EPILOGUE



NANCY:

He he he...We warned ye this warn't a perty story--but in hit mebee, ye'll find a leetle food for thought. Goodnight. He he he he he...