Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Columbia Workshop
Show: The Terrible Meek
Date: Apr 16 1938

ANNOUNCER:

The Columbia Workshop, under the direction of William N. Robson!

MUSIC:

BRIEF ORGAN SOLO

ANNOUNCER:

Tonight, the Workshop presents "The Terrible Meek" by Charles Rann Kennedy. For a quarter of a century, this play has been presented at Easter time by little theaters, schools, colleges and churches the world over. The Workshop believes that it is peculiarly adaptable to radio for it is described as "A one-act play, written for three voices, to be played in darkness." The Columbia Workshop presents "The Terrible Meek"!

MUSIC:

CHURCH BELLS .... BRIEF TRANSITION, THEN IN BG

NARRATOR:

The persons in the play are a peasant woman, an army captain, a soldier. The time - is one of darkness. The place, a wind-swept hill.

MUSIC:

OUT

SOUND:

WIND AND THUNDER, UP ... WIND CONTINUES IN BG

WOMAN:

(WEEPS BITTERLY) Oh! ... (CONTINUES TO WEEP IN BG)

CAPTAIN:

Come, my good woman, it's all over now. There's no earthly help for it. You can't remain here, you know.

WOMAN:

Leave me be. Leave me be. (WEEPS IN BG)

CAPTAIN:

All the others left long ago. They hurried off home the moment - the moment the storm came. Come, it's bleak and quite too dreadful for you up on this hill. Let me send you back to the town with one of the soldiers.

WOMAN:

(STOPS WEEPING) One of the - soldiers?

CAPTAIN:

Yes. Come, come now.

WOMAN:

Leave me be! Don't touch me! There's the smell of - death on you. (WEEPS IN BG)

CAPTAIN:

Oh. (PAUSE) The smell of death. My God, it's true.

SOUND:

WIND, UP BRIEFLY ... SOLDIER STUMBLES BLINDLY UP HILL, HIS APPROACHING FOOTSTEPS CRUNCH ON STONES ... SOLDIER BUMPS INTO CAPTAIN

SOLDIER:

Gawd blimey, wot the 'ell--?! Oh, uh, beg ya pawdon, sir. Didn't know as 'ow it was you, Captain.

CAPTAIN:

That's all right, sentry.

SOLDIER:

'Pon me word, sir, you did give me a start, fust go orf. Wot with the storm an' the darkness, an' this 'ere little job we been a-doin' of, I tek me oath I thought for a moment as you was-- Well, er (CHUCKLES), summat else. Wasn't quite a nice thing wot 'appened up 'ere just nah, sir, was it?

CAPTAIN:

It wasn't.

SOLDIER:

I'm on guard meself, sir; or I don't know as how I'd 'a 'come up, not for choice. You bin 'ere all the time, Captain?

CAPTAIN:

Yes, I suppose I have. I've been here - ever since.

SOLDIER:

Tain't exackly the place ter spend a pleasant arternoon, is it, sir?

CAPTAIN:

No, I suppose not.

SOLDIER:

O' course, there's company, as you might say; but not quite congenial company, wot?

CAPTAIN:

That depends entirely upon the point of view.

SOLDIER:

Dam' creepy, I calls it! Well, we done for 'im good an' proper, any'ah.

CAPTAIN:

Oh, yes. We builders of empire know how to do our business.

SOLDIER:

Pretty bloody business, too, ain't it, sir?

CAPTAIN:

Yes, that's the word.

SOLDIER:

Well, it's ill wind wot blows nobody no good. I got summat aht o' this, arter orl said an' done.

CAPTAIN:

What's that?

SOLDIER:

Oh, I got some of 'is togs.

CAPTAIN:

His togs? How do you mean?

SOLDIER:

I'll tell yer. 'E didn't want no more togs, not where 'e was a-goin' (CHUCKLES), nah did 'e?

CAPTAIN:

Oh.

SOLDIER:

So me an' the boys, we got our 'eds together, and arter we'd undressed 'im an', uh, put 'im to bed, so to speak, we pitched an' tossed for the 'ole bag lot, one by one, till they was orl bloomin' well divided aht. I got 'is boots.

CAPTAIN:

You got his boots, did you?

SOLDIER:

Yes, pore devil. 'E don't want 'em no more. Well, they ain't quite my fit, you know, but they'll do to tek 'ome for a keepsake -- that is, if we ever gets 'ome aht of this 'ere stinkin' 'ole. My little missis 'll think a lot of them boots.

WOMAN:

(HAS BEGUN TO WEEP LOUDLY AGAIN)

SOLDIER:

Good Gawd, wot's that?

CAPTAIN:

What?

SOLDIER:

Be'ind us. That noise.

CAPTAIN:

Oh. It's a woman.

SOLDIER:

A woman? Up 'ere?

CAPTAIN:

She has every right to be here. This is her place.

SOLDIER:

But does she know--? Does she know wot's a-danglin' up yonder, over 'er 'ed?

CAPTAIN:

She knows more than we do. She belongs to him. She is his mother.

SOLDIER:

'Is mother?

CAPTAIN:

Yes. He was her baby once.

SOLDIER:

(GENUINELY) Pore bleeder! (OFFHAND) Wot was it 'e done, Captain?

CAPTAIN:

Don't you know?

SOLDIER:

Not exackly. I got enough to do to look arter with me drills an' vittles withaht messin' abaht with politics an' these 'ere funny foreign religions.

CAPTAIN:

And yet you, if I mistake not, were one of the four men told off to do the job.

SOLDIER:

Well, I 'opes as how I knows me duty, sir. I on'y obeyed orders. Come to that, sir, arskin' your pawdon, it was you as give 'em orders. I s'pose you knew orl right wot it was 'e done?

CAPTAIN:

No, I don't know, either. I'm only just beginning to find out. We both did our duty, as you call it, in blindness.

SOLDIER:

That's strange langwidge to be comin' from your lips, Captain.

CAPTAIN:

Strange thoughts have been coming to me during the last six hours.

SOLDIER:

Aye, it's 'ard to know wot's wot in these outlandish places. Tain't like at 'ome, sir, where there's Law an' Order an' Patriotism an' Gawd's Own True Religion. These blarsted 'eathens ain't got no gratitude! 'Ere's the Empire a-sweatin' 'er guts aht, a-tryin' ter knock some sense inter their dam' silly 'eds; an' wot do you get aht of it, arter orl's said an' done? Nuthin'! Nuthin' but a lot of ingratitude, 'ard words, insurrections, an' every nah an' then a bloody example like this 'ere to-day! Ahhh, these foreigners makes me sick, they does reely!

CAPTAIN:

Yes, perhaps that has been the real mistake all along.

SOLDIER:

Wot 'as, Captain ?

CAPTAIN:

Taking these people -- men like this one, for instance -- for foreigners.

SOLDIER:

Well, you'll excuse me, sir, but wot the 'ell else are they?

CAPTAIN:

I'm not quite sure; but supposing they were more nearly related. Supposing, after all, they happened to be made of the same flesh and blood as you and I. Supposing they were men? Supposing, even, they were - brothers.

SOLDIER:

Brothers! Why, that's exackly wot 'e used ter say -- 'im up there. Did you ever 'ear 'im, sir ?

CAPTAIN:

Once. Did you?

SOLDIER:

Once. 'Twas politics when I 'eard 'im. On'y it sahnded more like some rummy religion.

CAPTAIN:

When I heard him it was religion sounding curiously like politics.

SOLDIER:

Them two things don't 'ardly seem to go together, do they, sir?

CAPTAIN:

Perhaps they ought to.

SOLDIER:

Oh, I don't know. Seems to 'ave led 'im into a pretty mess. Oh, it's a queer world! Wonder wot it was 'e reely done.

CAPTAIN:

It's rather late in the day for us to be considering that, seeing what WE have done, isn't it?

SOLDIER:

Well, tain't none o' our business. We seen our duty - and we done it.

CAPTAIN:

I don't think I know what duty is.

SOLDIER:

Why, it's perfectly plain, sir. Arter all, duty's duty, ain't it?

CAPTAIN:

Yes, it doesn't seem to be very much else.

SOLDIER:

'Ow do you mean, sir?

CAPTAIN:

Well, for instance, it doesn't seem to be love - or neighborliness - or pity - or understanding - or anything that comes out hot and fierce from the heart of a man. Duty. We talk of duty. What sort of devil's duties are there in the world, do you think, when they lead blindly, wantonly, wickedly, to the murder of such a man as this?

SOLDIER:

Well, so far as I'm concerned, I on'y obeyed me orders.

CAPTAIN:

Orders! Obeyed orders!

SOLDIER:

Well, sir, it was you as give 'em to me.

CAPTAIN:

Good God, man, why didn't you strike me in my blasphemous teeth, the hour I gave them?!

SOLDIER:

Me, sir? Strike me superior orficer?

CAPTAIN:

You struck this defenceless man. You had no scruples about HIS superiority. You struck him to the death.

SOLDIER:

I on'y done me duty!

CAPTAIN:

We have murdered our brother. We have destroyed a woman's child.

SOLDIER:

I on'y obeyed me orders. When me superior orficer says, "Kill a man," why, I just kills 'im, that's orl. O' course I kills 'im. Wot's a soldier for? That's duty! (SAVAGE) Blood an' 'ell! I'd kill 'im as soon as look at 'im, yes, I would, even if 'e was Gawd aht of 'Eaven, 'Imself! ... Not as I 'as anythin' personal agen this pore devil.

CAPTAIN:

Ah.

SOLDIER:

On'y I does know me duty! (CALMER) There's one thing certain: tain't no use a-cryin' over spilt milk. 'E's dead an' done for nah, wotever comes. Dead as a door-nail, pore bloke. 'E ain't the fust man I done for, neither; an' I bet 'e won't be the last. Not by a long shot.

CAPTAIN:

So you think he is dead, do you?

SOLDIER:

Well, wot do you think? A man don't live forever, 'ung up as 'igh as we got 'im yonder. Besides, we done a little bit of business with 'is innards, arter we'd got 'im up there.

CAPTAIN:

And all that, you think, means death?

SOLDIER:

Well, don't it?

CAPTAIN:

That's what I'm wondering.

SOLDIER:

Six hours, mind you. It's a long time.

CAPTAIN:

There is something mightier than time.

SOLDIER:

Well, they don't supply little boys' play things from our War Office. One of these 'ere beauties ...

SOUND:

RATTLES HIS WEAPON

SOLDIER:

... when they does start business, generally touches a spot.

CAPTAIN:

It would have to reach very far to touch this man's life.

SOLDIER:

Wotever do you mean, Captain?

CAPTAIN:

I mean that life is a terrible, a wonderful thing. You can't kill it. All the soldiers in the world, with all their hate, can't kill it. It comes back, it can't die, it rises again.

SOLDIER:

Gawd A'mighty, Captain, don't you talk like that.

CAPTAIN:

Why? What are you afraid of? We have shown great courage today, you and I. Soldiers should be brave, you know.

SOLDIER:

Well, that's orl very well when it's a matter of plain flesh and blood. But, Lord--! Ghosts! Do you believe in 'em, sir?

CAPTAIN:

What?

SOLDIER:

Ghosts.

CAPTAIN:

Yes. It came to me today.

SOLDIER:

Why, if I believed there was reely ghosts abaht--

CAPTAIN:

They are the only realities. Two of them ought to be especially important to you and me just now.

SOLDIER:

Two? Blimey! 'Oose?

CAPTAIN:

Why, yours, man, and mine. Our ghosts. Our immortal ghosts. This deed of ours today should make us think of them forever.

SOLDIER:

Yours an' mine? I didn't know as 'ow we 'ad ghosts, you an' me.

CAPTAIN:

It makes a difference, doesn't it? There have been millions of our sort in the long history of the world. I wonder how many more millions there will be in the years to come. Blind, dutiful, bloody-handed. Murderers, all of us. A soldier's ghost must be a pitiable thing to see. Tell me, brother murderer, have you ever prayed?

SOLDIER:

'Oo? Me, sir? Well, sir, nah you arsks me, yes, I - I 'ave once.

CAPTAIN:

When was that?

SOLDIER:

Why, sir, abaht a couple of months arter I set sail for this blarsted little 'ole. Me wife was in the family way when I left home an', er--

CAPTAIN:

I understand. You prayed, then, for the birth of an innocent child?

SOLDIER:

Yes, sir.

CAPTAIN:

You will have need to pray again tonight. Both of us will have need. This time for the death of an innocent man.

SOLDIER:

(STAMMERS) Well, it's time I was dahn yonder, lookin' arter the boys. Any orders, sir?

CAPTAIN:

Orders? No, no more orders.

SOLDIER:

Orl right, sir.

SOUND:

SOLDIER SNAPS TO ATTENTION, SALUTES, STUMBLES AWAY, STONES CRUNCHING BENEATH HIS FEET ... FOOTSTEPS FADEs

CAPTAIN:

God forgive me. I did not know what I was doing.

SOUND:

WIND, UP ... DOG BARKS IN DISTANCE ... WIND IN BG

WOMAN:

Thirty-three year ago he was my baby. I bore him. Warmed him; washed, dressed him; fended for him. Fed his little mouth with milk. Thirty-three year ago. And now - he's dead.

Hung up in the air like a thief... broken, bleeding like a slaughtered beast. That's what they done to my son. Killed him like a beast. Respectable people, they was. Priests, judges, soldiers, gentlemen. Even common folk like me. They done it. And now - he's dead.

He didn't hold with their kind, my son. He was always tellin' them about it. He'd stand up open in the market-place, at the street corners, even in the House of God itself, and tell them about it. That's why they killed him.

He had a strange way with him, my son... always had, from the day he first come. His eyes -- they was wonderful. They held folk. That and his tongue and his tender, pitiful heart.

They didn't understand it down here. None of us understood it. We was blind -- even me. Many's the time I got in his way and tried to hinder him... I was afraid for him, ashamed. And then he'd look at me. They was always wonderful, his eyes.

He wasn't particular, my son. He'd go with anybody. He loved people so. There wasn't a drunken bibber in the place, not a lozel, not a thief, not a loose woman on the streets, but called him brother. He'd eat with them, drink with them, go to their parties. He'd go with grand folk, too-- gentlemen. He wasn't particular-- he'd go with anybody.

And I tried to hinder him... I got in his way, because I was ashamed. I kept pushing in. I was afraid of what people might think. Like I was blind. Like I didn't understand. I never told him that I understood. And now it's too late. He's dead.

Is it cold you are, my lad? I cannot reach you yonder. Only your feet, your poor broken feet, the ankles hanging limp toward me.

That was a cold night, too, the night you was born, way out in the country, in the barn with them animals. My man, he was sore about it. Covered us over with his great wool coat, and went and sat out in the yard, under the stars, till them three gentlemen come.

Them three gentlemen. They talked wonderful. I have it all - here in my heart.

Ay, it was rare and cold that night. Like now. Like it is now.

They was not common folk. They was like lords, they spoke so fine. About my little lad. About you.

And then, that other night, before you come. It was a kind of light-- it was a kind of glory. Like sunshine. I remember every word he said. About you. About my little lad.

It was all promise in them days, all promise and hope. Like you was to be somebody. Like you was to be a great man. I kept it inside of me; I fed on it; day by day, as you sprung up, I learned you about it. You was to be no common man, you wasn't. You was to lord it over everybody. You was to be master of men, you was. And now you're dead. (WEEPS)

SOUND:

WIND UP ... CAPTAIN'S FOOTSTEPS APPROACH, CRUNCHING ON STONES

CAPTAIN:

Woman, will you let me speak to you?

WOMAN:

Who are you?

CAPTAIN:

I am the captain who spoke to you just a moment ago. I am in charge here. I am the man who gave the order that killed your son.

WOMAN:

(WEEPS)

CAPTAIN:

Won't you hear me? I must speak to you.

WOMAN:

What do you want to say? What IS there for you to say?

CAPTAIN:

It is about myself. I--

WOMAN:

Go on. I'm listening.

CAPTAIN:

I am a murderer. I want you to forgive me. I did it. I did it with a word. It was like magic. One little word, and I was a murderer. There is nothing more terrible in the world than to be a murderer. And now I want you to forgive me. I suppose it's impossible. But for God's sake, speak to me!

WOMAN:

I want to. I'm trying to. But you say you killed my son.

CAPTAIN:

Oh!

WOMAN:

Why did you do it?

CAPTAIN:

I did not know. Killing is my trade. It was the only thing they brought me up to do. I have been mixed up with it ever since I can remember. My father did it before me. All my people did it. It is considered the thing. The sort of thing a gentleman ought to do. They call it glory: they call it honor; courage; patriotism. Great kings hold their thrones by it. Great merchants get their beastly riches by it. Great empires are built that way.

WOMAN:

By murder?

CAPTAIN:

By murder. By the blood of just men. Women and little children too.

WOMAN:

What makes them do it?

CAPTAIN:

They want money. They want power. They want kingdom. They want to possess the earth.

WOMAN:

And they have won! They have it.

CAPTAIN:

Have they? Not while your son hangs there.

WOMAN:

What do you mean, my son? My son is dead.

CAPTAIN:

Is he? Not while God is in Heaven.

WOMAN:

I don't understand you. Only a little while ago I heard his blood dripping down here in the darkness. The stones are dank with it. He's dead.

CAPTAIN:

He's alive.

WOMAN:

Why do you mock me? You're mad. Are you God, as you can kill and make alive, all in one breath?

CAPTAIN:

He's alive. I can't kill him. All the empires can't kill him. How shall hate destroy the power that possesses and rules the earth?

WOMAN:

The power that--? Who?

CAPTAIN:

This broken thing up here. Your son.

WOMAN:

My son, the power that--?

CAPTAIN:

I tell you, woman, this dead son of yours, disfigured, shamed, spat upon, has built a kingdom this day that can never die. The living glory of him rules it. The earth is his and he made it. He and his brothers have been moulding and making it through the long ages. They are the only ones who ever really did possess it: not the proud, not the idle, not the wealthy, not the vaunting empires of the world. Something has happened up here on this hill today to shake all our kingdoms of blood and fear to the dust. The earth is his, the earth is theirs, and they made it. The meek, the terrible meek, the fierce agonizing meek, are about to enter into their inheritance.

WOMAN:

Then it was not all wasted. It was the truth, that night. I have borne a king.

CAPTAIN:

You have borne the Son of God. It will take a new kind of soldier to serve in his kingdom. A new kind of duty.

WOMAN:

A newer courage. More like woman's. Dealing with life, not death.

CAPTAIN:

It changes everything!

WOMAN:

Puts them back again. What he did, puts all things back again, where they belong.

CAPTAIN:

I can see the end of war in this.

WOMAN:

I can see the joy of women and little children.

CAPTAIN:

I can see cities and great spaces of land full of happiness.

WOMAN:

I can see love shining in every face.

CAPTAIN:

There shall be no more sin, no pain.

WOMAN:

No loss, no death!

CAPTAIN:

Only life, only God!

WOMAN:

And the kingdom of my Son!

CAPTAIN:

Mother! I am a murderer!

WOMAN:

I have been with Child. I forgive you.

SOUND:

SOLDIERS FOOTSTEPS APPROACH

SOLDIER:

'Ello?! You there, Captain?!

CAPTAIN:

Uh ... yes. I'm here.

SOLDIER:

Fog's liftin' dahn below there, liftin' fast. Soon be up orf this 'ill, thank Gawd! General wants ter see you, sir.

CAPTAIN:

What does he want with me? Do you know?

SOLDIER:

Another of these 'ere bleedin' jobs, I think, sir. Been a bit of disturbance dahn in tahn. Boys 'aves their orders, sir. General wants you ter take command.

CAPTAIN:

Tell him I refuse to come.

SOLDIER:

Beg pawdon, sir?

CAPTAIN:

I refuse to come. I disobey.

SOLDIER:

I - don't think I quite 'eard, sir.

CAPTAIN:

I disobey. I have sworn duty to another General. I serve the Empire no longer.

SOLDIER:

Beg pawdon, sir, but tain't for the likes of me; but, er-- Well, you know wot that means.

CAPTAIN:

Perfectly. It means what you call death. Tell the General.

SOLDIER:

Tell 'im what 'as 'ow you refuses to obey orders, sir?

CAPTAIN:

His; yes! (HALF TO HIMSELF) How simple it all is, after all.

SOLDIER:

I'm - sorry, Captain.

CAPTAIN:

Thank you, brother.

SOLDIER:

Look, sir! Wot did I tell yer? It's comin' light again.

CAPTAIN:

Eternally.

MUSIC:

IN BG

NARRATOR:

Unearthly splendour fills the place. It appears to be the top of a bleak stony hill with little grass to it. The woman is dressed in Eastern garments; the captain is a Roman centurion; the soldier, a Roman legionary. Above them rise three gaunt crosses bearing three dead men gibbeted like thieves.

MUSIC:

UP, FOR A FINISH

ANNOUNCER:

You have just heard the Columbia Workshop's presentation of "The Terrible Meek" by Charles Rann Kennedy. The peasant woman was played by Ann Boley, the captain by House Jameson, the soldier by Eustace Wyatt. William N. Robson directed the broadcast.

MUSIC:

A FANFARE, THEN IN BG

ANNOUNCER:

Next week the Workshop will present "Never Come Monday," a Yorkshire comedy by Eric Knight with an all-star British cast headed by Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Lady Hardwicke and Whitford Kane. Don't miss "Never Come Monday" next Saturday evening at seven-thirty, Eastern Standard Time.

This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.

MUSIC:

FADES OUT