Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Columbia Workshop
Show: A Comedy of Danger / The Finger of God
Date: Jul 18 1936

For the original 1924 British version of "A Comedy of Danger", visit http://emruf.webs.com/british/danger.htm

VOICE:

The Columbia Workshop, under the direction of Irving Reis.

MUSIC:

OMINOUS GONG

ANNOUNCER:

Ladies and gentlemen, Columbia takes pride in inaugurating tonight a new series of programs dedicated to you and to the magic of radio. The Columbia Workshop!

SOUND:

MORSE CODE BEEPS ... IN BG

ANNOUNCER:

The Columbia Workshop believes in radio -- in its past accomplishments and in its promise for the future. Radio has reduced the area of the world to a split-second of time for the transmission of human thought and feeling through man's literature, his music, his spoken words.

SOUND:

TELEGRAPH KEY ... FADES OUT

ANNOUNCER:

In the five centuries that bridge the years since Gutenberg invented movable type and gave the world the store of man's knowledge through the printed word, no discovery has promised greater potentialities for shaping the world's culture than the slim, swift path of the electric wave. With the speed of light, it cuts through the barriers of boundary, class, race and distance. While these words, electrically amplified one hundred trillion times from the microphone to the transmitters which hurl them on the air, are being sent to you on broadcast bands, a hundred other bands of the radio spectrum are busily engaged performing useful functions for man.

SOUND:

AIRPLANE ENGINES UP ... THEN IN BG ... SNEAK IN MORSE CODE BEEPS

ANNOUNCER:

At this second, somewhere, twenty-thousand feet above the Earth's surface, giant aerial transport planes are winging their way above clouds, through night and fog, following the straight invisible electric path of the radio beam signal which guides them unerringly to their destinations.

SOUND:

AIRPLANE ENGINES OUT ... OCEAN WAVES UP, THEN IN BG

ANNOUNCER:

On the high seas or near treacherous shoals and reef-strewn waters, the signal of the radio compass station points the way for mariners when the stars are hidden and the sextants useless.

SOUND:

MORSE CODE BEEPS OUT ... ELECTRICAL BUZZING IN

ANNOUNCER:

In hospitals throughout the world, electrical surgery and short wave artificial fever machines, radio's contribution to medicine, are helping scientists in their onslaught against disease and pain.

SOUND:

ELECTRICAL BUZZING OUT

ANNOUNCER:

The Columbia Workshop dedicates itself to the purposes of familiarizing you with the story behind radio, both in broadcasting, as well as in aviation, shipping, communication and pathology, and to experiment in new techniques with a hope of discovering or evolving new and better forms of radio presentation, with especial emphasis on radio drama; to encourage and present the work of new writers and artists who may have fresh and vital ideas to contribute. The Workshop earnestly asks your participation in these and future experiments. Your response alone will enable us to judge our progress and we shall appreciate your letters, your criticisms and your suggestions.

Now, tonight, we wish to try an unusual experiment in dramatic presentation. We're going to present two well-known short plays. One has been written for the microphone and one for Little Theater presentation. In the radio play, "A Comedy of Danger" by Richard Hughes, first produced by the British Broadcasting Company, the author created his setting for radio's dimensions alone. It would be almost impossible to present this play properly on a stage or on a screen. We shall attempt to produce the play, giving it every advantage of radio technique.

And after you hear "A Comedy of Danger," we shall present Percival Wilde's one-act play, "The Finger of God." This play will be presented with a technique never attempted in radio before. Mr. Marvin Statler, well-known director of the Little Theater, has been asked to stage this play in the studio exactly as if he were presenting it before a theater audience. The performers will pay no attention to the microphones. They'll move around as the stage business demands on a special set which we have erected in the studio. Through the cooperation of the Columbia engineering department, a parabolic microphone, which can be focused like a spotlight, will be trained on the actors from a distance of twenty feet and will follow their movements as they go through the business the play calls for.

But, first, the radio play, "A Comedy of Danger."

MUSIC:

OMINOUS GONG

VOICE:

A gallery in a Welsh coal mine, one thousand feet below the surface of the Earth.

SOUND:

A SLIGHT ECHO EFFECT THROUGHOUT, EXCEPT FOR THE LAST LINE OF THE PLAY

JACK:

The lights have gone out!

MARY:

(UNNERVED) What's happened? Where are you?

JACK:

Here.

SOUND:

STUMBLING STEPS

MARY:

Where? I can't find you.

JACK:

Here. I'm holding my hand out.

MARY:

I can't find you.

JACK:

Why, right here!

MARY:

(STARTLED) Oh! What's that?

JACK:

(CHUCKLES) It's all right: it's only me.

MARY:

Oh, you did frighten me, touching me suddenly like that. I'd no idea you were so close.

JACK:

Catch hold of my hand. Whatever happens, we mustn't lose each other.

MARY:

Hm, that's better. But the lights! Why have they gone out?

JACK:

I don't know. I suppose something's gone wrong with the dynamo. They'll turn up again in a minute.

MARY:

Oh, Jack, I hate the dark!

JACK:

Cheer up, darling! It'll be all right in a minute or two.

MARY:

So frightfully dark down here.

JACK:

No wonder! There must be nearly a thousand feet of rock between us and the daylight. It's not surprising it's a bit dusky!

MARY:

I didn't know there could be such utter blackness as this, ever. It's so dark, it's as if there was never such a thing as light anywhere. Oh, Jack, it's like being blind!

JACK:

They'll turn the lights up again soon.

MARY:

I wish we'd never come down to this beastly mine! I knew something would
go wrong.

JACK:

It'll be all right, dear; it's only the lights.

MARY:

Where are the others?

JACK:

Oh, they're just on ahead, not far.

MARY:

Suppose we get lost?

JACK:

We can't get lost, Mary darling. The others'll stand still, too, till the lights go up and then we can easily overtake them. We've only got to wait patiently.

MARY:

I wish you hadn't wanted to drop behind the others! Oh, Jack, I'm afraid
of the dark.

JACK:

My mistake. Buck up, Mary old girl; it'll soon be over.

SOUND:

APPROACHING FOOTSTEPS

JACK:

Listen!

MARY:

There's someone coming!

BAX:

(OFF, MUTTERING) Of all the incompetent idiots, turning the lights off just when a party of visitors were seeing the place!

MARY:

Oh, it's Mr. Bax. (CALLS) Hallo-o?!

BAX:

(OFF) Hallo? Who's there? Of all the stupid, meddlesome idiots that I ever--

MARY:

Oh, Mr. Bax, what's happened? Is it all right?

BAX:

(CLOSER) Is it all right, indeed! Leaving us suddenly in the dark like this!

MARY:

But there has been an accident?

BAX:

Goodness knows! I'd expect anything of a country like Wales! Wretched, incompetent -- their houses are full of cockroaches-- Ugh!

JACK:

Well, I suppose the only thing to do is to sit and wait for the lights to go up again.

MARY:

(RELIEVED) There's no danger, is there?

BAX:

No danger, young lady; but it's damned unpleasant!

MARY:

(LAUGHS) Oh, I don't know; I'm beginning to think it's rather fun.

BAX:

Well, if you can find any fun in breaking your shins in the dark--

MARY:

Why, don't you call it fun, being in a mine disaster?

JACK:

Oh, but, heh, this isn't a disaster, it's only the lights--

MARY:

No, of course, silly! You don't think it would be fun if it were a real disaster, do you? But the lights going out might have meant a disaster -- and think how thrilling it's going to be to talk about it afterwards! -- I say, Jack!

JACK:

Yes?

MARY:

(ENTHUSIASTIC) Let's pretend it's serious.

JACK:

What do you mean?

MARY:

Well, let's pretend it's a real disaster, and we're cooped up here forever and we'll never be able to get out.

JACK:

Don't joke about it.

MARY:

Why not? There's no real danger, is there? Let's get all the thrills we can.

BAX:

Well, of all the morbid ideas! Young people nowadays--

MARY:

I love thrills! - Let's pretend the roof's fallen in, and they can't get at us.

JACK:

All right; but - what a baby you are. (BAD ACTING) Here we are, my dear, buried alive!

MARY:

(MATCHES HIM) Oh, Jack!

JACK:

(ACTING) Alas, they will never find us!

MARY:

Oh, Jack!

JACK:

Well?

MARY:

I'm so frightened!

JACK:

What at?

MARY:

About the roof having fallen in.

JACK:

(CONFUSED) But it - hasn't; it's only pretence.

MARY:

Yes, but when I pretend, it seems so real.

JACK:

Well, then don't pretend.

MARY:

But I want to pretend! I want to be frightened! Only hold my hand tight, won't you? -- Go on.

JACK:

(MORE BAD ACTING) We shall suffocate, or starve, or both, my dear, in each others' arms!

MARY:

Oh, Jack!

JACK:

Even death shall not part us!

MARY:

Oh, Jack, don't! It's too awful.

JACK:

Our poor young lives, cut so short!

MARY:

Oh, don't.

JACK:

Oh! There'll be articles in all the newspapers! (CHUCKLES)

MARY:

(DELIGHTED) I wish I could read them!

BAX:

(DISAPPROVING) You can't have your funeral and watch it, young lady.

MARY:

(LAUGHS) This is fun! I wouldn't miss it for anything.

SOUND:

LOUD EXPLOSION, WITH A LONG ECHO, SWELLING IN VOLUME

MARY:

(SCREAMS) Jack! Jack! Jack!

JACK:

Quiet! Let go! You're throttling me! Leave go of me!

SOUND:

ANOTHER EXPLOSION, NEARER ... FOLLOWED BY HISS OF WATER, IN BG

MARY:

(SCREAMS) Jack!

JACK:

Stop screaming, you! Quiet!

MARY:

Oh, Jack!

JACK:

Pull yourself together. We're all right; we're not hurt.

BAX:

No, sir, we're - we're not hurt. But listen!

SOUND:

HISS OF WATER GROWS LOUDER

BAX:

Water!

JACK:

Oh, no. It's only an echo.

MARY:

Oh, Mr. Bax, can't we find the others?

BAX:

I don't think we could, young lady: it wouldn't be much use to us if we did.

MARY:

The echo's getting louder! - Jack, it isn't an echo. It is water! The mine's flooding! We'll be drowned!

JACK:

(UNCONVINCING) I tell you, it's an echo.

MARY:

Oh, Jack, I don't want to die! I won't, I won't, I won't!

BAX:

(CHUCKLES) It's got to come some time, young lady; isn't it better for it to happen now, in your lover's arms, with both of you together?

JACK:

(ANGRY) You old fool! It's all very well to be stoical about death at
your age, but we're young! We've got all life before us.

BAX:

(MATCHES HIM) Well, can't you keep quiet about it, then, you young jackanapes? Do you think I want to die, either? (CALMS DOWN) But it isn't good manners to talk about it. Where would we be if we all started screaming about it, eh? We can at least die like gentlemen.

JACK:

(SCOFFS) Die like gentlemen, indeed. I - I tell you, it's all very well for an old chap like you, who'll die anyhow in a year or two, but it's different for us -- we're young!

BAX:

(SAVAGE) Well, if you want to make a scene, you shall have one, sir! D'you think it's any easier for the old to die than the young? I tell you, it's harder, sir, harder! (CALMS DOWN) Life is like a trusted friend; grows more precious as the years go by.

JACK:

Ah, what's your life worth to the world? Who's dependent on you? What good are you to anyone?

BAX:

Well, what good are you, young man?

JACK:

One person is dependent on me, anyway.

BAX:

You mean that you're loved by this young lady. If you both die, what loss is that to the world? Opposite quantities cancelling out!

MARY:

Oh, you beast! You cruel beast!

BAX:

I must speak, madam, in common justice to my age, since that young cub has started the subject. The old are always being twitted with their unwillingness to die!

JACK:

Look here, instead of talking like this, let's do something; let's make some sort of an attempt to escape!

BAX:

What do you propose to do, young man?

JACK:

Why, look for some way out. We can't stay here and drown like rats in a cage.

MARY:

Oh, the dark. I do hate the dark. I think I could go more easily if I could see light just once before it happened.

JACK:

It's coming closer. Listen.

SOUND:

RUSH OF WATER HAS COME CLOSER

BAX:

Yes. It will be on us in another five minutes.

JACK:

Pray Heaven it finishes us off quickly.

MARY:

Oh, think of dying somewhere out in the open, in the sunlight! Me able to see you, and you able to see me! What bliss that would be!

JACK:

(REFLECTIVE) It's strange how little chaps wonder what will happen to them after death. One hardly thinks about it. Yet I don't know. How thrilled we should be if - if we met a chap who really knew! - In five minutes we're going to know ourselves, all three of us. (CHUCKLES UNEASILY) I've always wanted to travel. Now I'm going to!

MARY:

Oh, Jack, my poor dear!

JACK:

(CHUCKLES) You know I'm beginning to feel as excited about it as a child going to the seaside for the first time. Aren't you?

MARY:

Jack, how queer you are. I never looked at it like that.

JACK:

Well, I - I wasn't in any hurry to die; but now it's coming, I - I feel sort of proud of myself, as if it was a wonderful thing to manage to pull off.

MARY:

Oh! Jack darling!

JACK:

There's only one thing I'm sorry about.

MARY:

What is it?

JACK:

My work! If it wasn't for that, I'd go to death without caring a tuppenny damn! I'd die just for the fun of the thing, to see what it felt like.

BAX:

(SARCASTIC) I shouldn't worry about that if I were you: the world'll get on all right without you, never you fear! And what is your work?

JACK:

I write poetry.

BAX:

Bah! and you call that work!

SOUND:

SLOSHING FOOTSTEPS IN THE WATER

MARY:

Jack, the water's coming! It's over my feet! Oh!

JACK:

Courage, darling, courage.

MARY:

Oh, Jack, I don't want to die! I hate it, I loathe it! I want to live!

JACK:

Don't make it harder, dear: you don't think it's fun for me, do you, having to die?

MARY:

Oh, Jack, it's awful. Only for one more hour. Oh, I do want to live
another hour!

JACK:

(TO HIMSELF) Oh, God, can't I be allowed to finish my work?

BAX:

Blast your work, sir! Do you think you're the only one dying before his time? I tell you, every man dies before his time, even if he lives till he's as old as Methuselah!

MARY:

Oh, it's up to my knees.

JACK:

Don't clutch at me like that, Mary; it won't do any good.

MARY:

But the water-- the current's washing me away--!

JACK:

Hold tight, then! Got you tight!

MARY:

Oh, if I could only see you!

JACK:

Just - just think of all the things I meant to do.

BAX:

Oh, shut up about the things you'd meant to do, you young cub! Will you realize we're all in the same boat, and it's as hard for me to die as it is you -- or worse, by Gad! A thousand times worse!

JACK:

(LASHES OUT) You hoary old sinner, can't you prepare to get out of the world instead of cursing at me?!

MARY:

Oh, Jack, let's pray.

JACK:

Pray if you like, Mary. I can't.

MARY:

Oh! Jack, don't!

SOUND:

DISTANT TAPPING, FROM ABOVE, BEGINS QUIETLY IN BG ... SLOWLY GROWS LOUDER ... WATER CONTINUES RUSHING IN AS THE CHARACTERS SLOSH AROUND

BAX:

(PANICS, HOARSELY) Help! Help! I can't die! I'm an old man - I won't, I won't, I won't!

JACK:

Hold yourself in, you old coward!

MARY:

Poor Mr. Bax! I'm quite calm now; I don't mind dying a bit.

JACK:

Nor do I - now it's so close.

BAX:

(SCREAMING) Help me! Help me! Help! Help!

MARY:

It's no good, Mr. Bax; no one can possibly hear us. The only thing is to keep calm. It won't be long now.

BAX:

Oh, help! Help! Help!

SOUND:

TAPPING HAS GROWN VERY LOUD ... CONTINUES IN BG, LOUDER AND FASTER

JACK:

What's that? Listen!

BAX:

Help! Help!

JACK:

Shut up, Bax, shut up! We want to listen!

MARY:

It's up to my waist, Jack.

JACK:

My God, it's someone tapping. (SHOUTS) We're here! Farther along!

MARY:

(RESIGNED) They'll find our bodies, that's all.

JACK:

They'll find us if they're quick enough! (SHOUTS) Farther along still! - That's right!

MARY:

They can't be quick enough. Besides, I don't want them to find me.

BAX:

(SHOUTS) Help! Pick quicker, you fools, quicker! We're drowning!

SOUND:

TAPPING HAS BECOME POUNDING ... PICK-AXES ON ROCK ... IN BG

JACK:

(TO BAX) Stop. Why can't you behave sensibly?

MARY:

Jack darling, I'll never leave you.

BAX:

How do you know they'll let you stay with him, you little fool? What do you know of death? Death's being nothing -- not even a draught of the wind or a mere drop of the rain! Not even a dratted ghost clanking its chains on the staircase!

MARY:

(UNNERVED) Oh, Jack, it's up to my chin. Help me.

JACK:

Let me lift you in my arms, darling: then when it gets up to my chin, we'll die together.

MARY:

Tell me, it isn't true, what he's been saying.

JACK:

No, no, darling, of course it's not true.

BAX:

(SCREAMING) Hurry up, you dolts! You blockheads! Smash your way in! We're drowning, I tell you! Drowning! Quick, quick!

MARY:

Good-bye, Jack dear.

JACK:

They must be nearly through! Oh, this suspense! How much longer before we know whether we're going to live or die? I don't care which - but I do want to know!

BAX:

Look! There's a light! A hole in the roof! (SHOUTS) Quick, quick!

SOUND:

HOLE IN ROOF OPENS UP ... CHUNKS OF COAL DROP INTO WATER ... POUNDING STOPS ... RUSH OF WATER CONTINUES IN BG

JACK:

They're through!

MINER:

(OFF) Quick, below there! Catch on to the rope!

BAX:

(DESPERATE) Quick! I'm an old man!

JACK:

(INDIGNANT) There's a girl here!

BAX:

(SUDDENLY A NICE GUY) By Gad, Jack, a near shave! Come along, young lady: I've got the rope.

JACK:

She's fainted.

BAX:

Never mind; pass her up.

JACK:

Here, here.

SOUND:

MARY IS HAULED UP AND OUT OF THE WATER

BAX:

She'll be all right. Give you something to write about, too, my boy. - (CALLS) All right, above there? Have you got her?

MINER:

(OFF) Right! Now the next!

JACK:

(SUDDENLY A NICE GUY, TOO) Up you go, quick, Mr. Bax. The water's still rising.

BAX:

No, my boy, after you; you're more value in the world than I am.

JACK:

Nonsense, sir. After you. You're an older man than I am. Quick, now, there won't be time!

BAX:

You've got Mary to think of now, Jack. (CALLS) Haul away, above there!

SOUND:

JACK IS HAULED UP AND OUT OF THE WATER

JACK:

(MOVING OFF) No, no! Lower me! It's me you're hauling up! It ought to be Bax!

MINER:

(OFF) We'll have you up first; there's no time to waste!

SOUND:

ECHO EFFECT ... OUT

JACK:

I'm all right. Lower away again. Below there. (CALLS) Hey, Bax! Catch hold! Have you got it?! (NO ANSWER, SCREAMS) Hey! Bax! (PAUSE, QUIET AWE) Good God. He's gone.

SOUND:

ONLY THE RUSH OF THE WATER BELOW REMAINS

MUSIC:

OMINOUS GONG

ANNOUNCER:

And now we are about to present Percival Wilde's play "The Finger of God" with a technique heretofore untried in radio. An engineer stationed about twenty feet from the performers, focusing a parabolic microphone on them as they move around the especially set stage. This will allow them an unrestricted movement which ordinarily cannot be done in present radio production. Percival Wilde's "The Finger of God."

MUSIC:

OMINOUS GONG

VOICE:

The living room of Strickland's apartment. As the curtain rises, he is kneeling and burning some papers in a grate near the main door. Benson, his valet, is packing a suitcase which lies open on the writing desk.

STRICKLAND:

Benson!

BENSON:

Yes, sir?

STRICKLAND:

Close the window: it's cold.

BENSON:

Yes, sir.

SOUND:

BENSON'S FOOTSTEPS TO WINDOW

BENSON:

(OFF) Why, sir. The window is closed. It's been closed all evening.

STRICKLAND:

Benson?

BENSON:

(CLOSER) Yes, sir?

STRICKLAND:

Don't forget a heavy overcoat.

BENSON:

I've put it in already, sir.

STRICKLAND:

Plenty of fresh linen?

BENSON:

Yes, sir.

STRICKLAND:

Collars and ties?

BENSON:

I've looked out for everything, sir.

STRICKLAND:

You sent off the trunks this afternoon?

BENSON:

Yes, sir.

STRICKLAND:

You're sure they can't be traced?

BENSON:

I had one wagon take them to a vacant lot, and another wagon take them to the station.

STRICKLAND:

Good!

BENSON:

I checked them through to Chicago. Here are the checks. What train do we take, sir?

STRICKLAND:

I take the midnight. You follow me some time next week. We mustn't be seen leaving town together.

BENSON:

How will I find you in Chicago?

STRICKLAND:

You won't. You'll take rooms somewhere, and I'll take rooms somewhere else till it's all blown over. When I want you, I'll put an ad in the "Tribune."

BENSON:

You, uh, you don't know when that will be, sir?

STRICKLAND:

As soon as I think it's safe. May be two weeks. It may be a couple of months. But you'll stay in Chicago till you hear from me one way or the other, you understand?

BENSON:

Yes, sir.

STRICKLAND:

Have you plenty of money?

BENSON:

Not enough to last a couple of months.

STRICKLAND:

Well, how much do you want?

BENSON:

Five or six hundred.

STRICKLAND:

Wait a minute. I left that much in my bureau drawer.

SOUND:

STRICKLAND'S FOOTSTEPS TOWARD BEDROOM

BENSON:

Oh, uh, uh, Mr. Strickland?

STRICKLAND:

(OFF) Yes?

BENSON:

It's the midnight train for Chicago, isn't it?

STRICKLAND:

(OFF) Yes.

SOUND:

FROM OFF, WE HEAR: LIVING ROOM DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES ... BENSON'S FOOTSTEPS TO PHONE ... THEN, CLOSER, PHONE RECEIVER UP, DIALS

BENSON:

(QUIETLY) Hello? Hello, hello? This Finley? ... This is Benson. He's going to take the midnight train for Chicago. ... Pennsylvania. You'd better arrest him at the station. If he once gets to Chicago you'll never find him. And, uh, uh, Finley, you won't forget me, will you? ... I want five thousand dollars for it. ... Yes, yes, five thousand. ... Well, that's little enough. He's got almost three hundred thousand on him, and you won't turn in all of that to Headquarters, will you? ... Yes, yes, yes, it's cash. Large bills.

SOUND:

FROM OFF, STRICKLAND'S FOOTSTEPS

BENSON:

(QUICKLY) Midnight to Chicago.

SOUND:

PHONE RECEIVER DOWN ... LIVING DOOR OPENS

STRICKLAND:

Here's your money, Benson.

BENSON:

Thank you, sir. Uh, shall I go now?

STRICKLAND:

No. Wait a minute.

SOUND:

PHONE RECEIVER UP, DIALS

STRICKLAND:

Hello. Pennsylvania? ... I want a compartment for Chicago, midnight train. ... Yes, tonight.

BENSON:

(QUIETLY) Don't give your own name, sir.

STRICKLAND:

No. (INTO PHONE) The name is Stevens. ... Oh, you have one reserved in that name already? Well, this is Alfred Stevens. ... You have it reserved in that name? Then give me another compartment. ... What? You haven't any other? Never mind, then. Good-bye.

SOUND:

PHONE RECEIVER DOWN

STRICKLAND:

(URGENT) Benson, go right down to the Pennsylvania, and get the compartment reserved for Alfred Stevens. You've got to get there before he does. Wait for me at the train gate.

BENSON:

Yes, sir.

STRICKLAND:

Don't waste any time. I'll see you later.

BENSON:

Very well, sir.

SOUND:

BENSON'S FOOTSTEPS ... FRONT DOOR OPENS AND SHUTS AS BENSON EXITS ... STRICKLAND SHUFFLES PAPERS ... A KNOCK AT FRONT DOOR

STRICKLAND:

Who's there?

GIRL:

(OFF) I, sir.

SOUND:

STRICKLAND'S FOOTSTEPS TO FRONT DOOR ... DOOR OPENS

STRICKLAND:

Who are you?

GIRL:

Why, don't you remember me, sir?

STRICKLAND:

No.

SOUND:

DOOR CLOSES

GIRL:

I'm from the office, sir.

STRICKLAND:

The office?

GIRL:

Your office. I'm one of your personal stenographers, sir.

STRICKLAND:

Oh, I suppose I didn't recognize you on account of the hat. Well, what do you want?

GIRL:

There were some letters which came late this afternoon--

STRICKLAND:

You're bothering me with them now? I've got no time for that. You'd better go.

GIRL:

I thought you'd want to see these letters.

STRICKLAND:

Plenty of time tomorrow.

GIRL:

But you won't be here tomorrow, will you?

STRICKLAND:

Won't be here? What do you mean?

GIRL:

You're taking the train to Chicago tonight.

STRICKLAND:

How did you know--? (STOPS HIMSELF, WITH FORCED EASE) Taking a train to Chicago? Why, of course not! What put that into your head?

GIRL:

Why, you told me, sir.

STRICKLAND:

I told you?

GIRL:

You said so this afternoon.

STRICKLAND:

I didn't see you this afternoon.

GIRL:

No, sir? Then I found this time-table.

STRICKLAND:

Where did you find it?

GIRL:

On your desk, sir.

STRICKLAND:

On my desk?

GIRL:

Yes, sir.

STRICKLAND:

You're lying!

GIRL:

Mr. Strickland!

STRICKLAND:

That time-table never reached my desk! I lost it between the railroad station and my office.

GIRL:

Did you, sir? But it's the same time-table: you see, you checked the midnight train. I reserved a compartment for you.

STRICKLAND:

(ASTONISHED) You reserved a compartment?

GIRL:

I knew you'd forget it. You have your head so full of other things. So I telephoned as soon as you left the office.

STRICKLAND:

I suppose you made the reservation in my own name?

GIRL:

No, sir.

STRICKLAND:

What?

GIRL:

I thought you'd prefer some other name: you didn't want your trip to be known.

STRICKLAND:

No, I didn't. What name did you give?

GIRL:

Stevens, sir.

STRICKLAND:

Stevens?

GIRL:

Alfred Stevens.

STRICKLAND:

What made you choose that name?

GIRL:

I don't know, sir.

STRICKLAND:

You don't know?

GIRL:

No, sir. It was just the first name that popped into my head. I said "Stevens," and when the clerk asked for the first name, I said "Alfred."

STRICKLAND:

Have you ever known anybody of that name?

GIRL:

No, sir.

STRICKLAND:

You're sure you never knew anybody of that name?

GIRL:

How can I be sure? I may have: I don't remember it.

STRICKLAND:

How old are you? You're not twenty, are you?

GIRL:

Do you think so?

STRICKLAND:

And I'm forty-seven. It was more than twenty-five years ago. You couldn't have known.

GIRL:

No, sir.

STRICKLAND:

What is your name?

GIRL:

Does it matter? You didn't recognize my face a few minutes ago: my name can't mean much to you. I'm just one of the office force: I'm the girl who answers when you push the button three times. These are the letters I brought with me.

STRICKLAND:

(NOT INTERESTED) Well, what are they about?

GIRL:

Well, this one's from a woman who wants to invest some money.

STRICKLAND:

How much?

GIRL:

Only a thousand dollars.

STRICKLAND:

(EXASPERATED) Why didn't you turn it over to the clerk?

GIRL:

The savings of a lifetime, she says.

STRICKLAND:

Well, what of it?

GIRL:

Well, she wrote that she had confidence in you. She says she wants you to invest it for her yourself.

STRICKLAND:

You shouldn't have bothered me with that. Did she enclose the money?

GIRL:

Yes. A certified check.

STRICKLAND:

Well, write her that--oh, you know what to write: that I'll give the matter my own attention.

GIRL:

Yes, sir. She says she doesn't want a big return on her investment. She wants something that'll be perfectly safe, and she knows you'll take care of her.

STRICKLAND:

Yes. Of course. Well, what else have you?

GIRL:

A dozen other letters like it.

STRICKLAND:

All from old women?

GIRL:

Some of them.

STRICKLAND:

Why did you bring them here?

GIRL:

Every one of these letters asks you to do the investing yourself.

STRICKLAND:

Oh.

GIRL:

And you're leaving town tonight. Here are the checks. Every one of them's made out to you personally; not to the firm.

STRICKLAND:

You shouldn't have come here. I haven't time to bother with that sort of thing. Every man who has five dollars to invest asks the head of the firm to attend to it himself. It means nothing. I get hundreds of letters like those.

GIRL:

Still---

STRICKLAND:

Well, what?

GIRL:

You must do something to deserve such letters or they wouldn't keep on coming in. It's wonderful to inspire such confidence in people.

STRICKLAND:

Do you really think so?

GIRL:

Oh, it's more than wonderful! It's magnificent! These people don't know you from Adam. Not one in a hundred has seen you. But they've all heard of you. And what's even more real than you is your reputation! Something in which they rest their absolute confidence.

STRICKLAND:

Well, you think there are few honest men?

GIRL:

No: there are many of them. But there's something about you that's different: something in the tone of your voice and the way you shake hands: something in the look of your eye, that's reassuring. Oh, there's never a doubt, never a question about you. It's splendid! Simply splendid! What a satisfaction it must be to you to walk along the street and know that everyone you meet must say to himself, "There goes an honest man!" (QUIETLY) It's been an inspiration to me.

STRICKLAND:

To you?

GIRL:

Oh, I - I know you don't remember who I am. But you don't imagine that anyone can see you as I've seen you, work with you as I've worked with you, without there being some kind of an effect? You know, in my own troubles--

STRICKLAND:

So you have troubles?

GIRL:

You don't pay me a very big salary, and there are others whom I must help. But I'm not complaining. I used to be like the other girls. I used to watch the clock and count the hours and the minutes till the day's work was over. But it's different now.

STRICKLAND:

How - different?

GIRL:

I thought it over. Made up my mind that it wasn't right to count the minutes you worked for an honest man.

STRICKLAND:

Are you sure I'm an honest man?

GIRL:

Don't you know it yourself, Mr. Strickland?

STRICKLAND:

You remember a few minutes ago, you spoke the name of Alfred Stevens?

GIRL:

Yes.

STRICKLAND:

Suppose I told you there once was an Alfred Stevens? Suppose I told you that Stevens, whom I knew, stole money -- stole it when there was no excuse for it -- when he didn't need it. His people had plenty, and they gave him plenty. But the chance came, and he couldn't resist the temptation. He was eighteen years old then. He didn't even know what to do with the money when he had stolen it. They caught him in less than twenty-four hours. It was almost funny.

GIRL:

He was punished.

STRICKLAND:

He served a year in jail. And what a year! His folks wouldn't do a thing for him: they said such a thing had never happened in their family. He told his family that he never wanted to see them again. He changed his name so they couldn't find him. He left his home town. He came here.

GIRL:

And he's been honest ever since!

STRICKLAND:

Ever since! For twenty-eight years! It was hard at times, terribly hard. He managed to live. It wasn't pleasant living: it wasn't even decent living. But he stayed alive! I don't like to think of what he did to stay alive. He'd thought the year in jail was terrible. The first year he was free was worse. He'd never been hungry in jail.

GIRL:

Then his chance came.

STRICKLAND:

Yes, it was a chance. He found a purse in the gutter, and he returned it to the owner before he'd made up his mind whether to keep it or not. The man who owned the purse gave him a job. Then they said he was a hard worker, and they promoted him: they made him manager. They gave him more chances to steal, but there were so many men watching him, so many men anxious for him to make a slip so that they might climb over him, that he didn't dare.

GIRL:

And then?

STRICKLAND:

The rest was easy. Nothing succeeds like a good reputation, and he didn't steal because he knew they'd catch him. But he wasn't honest at bottom! The rotten streak was still there! After twenty-eight years things began to be bad. He speculated: lost all his money, and made up his mind to take other money that wasn't his. It was wrong. It was the work of a lifetime -- gone! But it was the rottenness in him coming to the surface! It was the thief he thought dead coming to life again!

GIRL:

What a pity!

STRICKLAND:

He'd been honest so long, he'd made other people think he was honest.

GIRL:

Was he wrong, Mr. Strickland?

STRICKLAND:

(QUIETLY) Stevens, please. (PAUSE) Look, I don't know what sent you: who sent you: but you've come here tonight as I'm running away. Well, you're too late. You can't stop me. Not even the finger of God Himself could stop me! I've gone too far. Look, here's money! Hundreds of thousands of it, not a cent of it mine! And I'm stealing it, do you understand me? Stealing it! Tomorrow the firm will be bankrupt, and there'll be a reward out for me. Here, if you please, is your honest man! What have you to say to him now?

GIRL:

The man who's been honest so long that he's made himself think he's honest can't steal!

STRICKLAND:

You believe that?

GIRL:

I was left a little money this week: only a few hundred dollars, hardly enough to bother you with. Will you take care of it for me -- Alfred Stevens?

STRICKLAND:

Good God!

SOUND:

GIRL'S FOOTSTEPS TO WINDOW ... WINDOW SLIDES OPENS

GIRL:

What a beautiful night! Thousands of sleeping houses! Millions of shining stars! And the lights beneath! And in the distance, how the stars and the lights meet! So that one cannot say: "Here Gods ends; Here Man begins."

SOUND:

PHONE RINGS ... STRICKLAND'S FOOTSTEPS TO PHONE ... RECEIVER UP

STRICKLAND:

Yes? ... You're afraid I'm going to miss the train? ... Well, I am going to miss it! I'm going to stay here and face the music! (HYSTERICAL) I'm an honest man, d'ye hear me?! I'm an honest man!

SOUND:

BANGS RECEIVER DOWN

STRICKLAND:

There! Did you hear what I told him? Did you hear what I--? Why, where are you? Where are you?! (PAUSE) Why, she's gone. (REALIZES) She was never here at all.

MUSIC:

OMINOUS GONG

ANNOUNCER:

The Columbia Workshop has presented as its first program a demonstration of radio and stage technique. Will you write and tell us how you liked the demonstrations? And whether or not the illusion in the stage play had any advantages or disadvantages over the radio presentation?

VOICE:

The Columbia Workshop's presentation was conceived and directed by Irving Reis. This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.

SOUND:

MORSE CODE BEEPS ... FADE OUT