Generic Radio Workshop Script Library (BACK)

Series: Escape
Show: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
Date: Dec 10 1947

CAST:
NARRATOR
ANNOUNCER
1ST NARRATOR, third person
PEYTON FARQUHAR, a southern gentleman
2ND NARRATOR, second person
CAPTAIN, tired but tough
SERGEANT, enthusiastic
SOLDIER (2 lines)
SALTONSTALL, a southern corporal and a northern lieutenant
MRS. FARQUHAR, Peyton's loving wife; warm and affectionate
JETHRO, a former slave; thoughtful and cheerful

NOTE: Other versions of this play aired on SUSPENSE in the late 1950s. This transcript includes some material from those broadcasts in brackets.

MUSIC:

EERIE ACCENT

NARRATOR:

You are standing on a bridge over Owl Creek, a noose around your neck. You have but a few seconds left to live, a few seconds left to plan your escape.

MUSIC:

THEME ... "NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN"

ANNOUNCER:

ESCAPE! -- produced and directed by William N. Robson -- and carefully contrived to free you from the four walls of today for a half-hour of high adventure.

MUSIC:

EERIE ACCENT

NARRATOR:

Tonight, we escape to the War Between the States and a muddy stream in Alabama as we recall one of the great short stories in American literature, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce.

MUSIC:

A BRIEF INTRO ... OUT BEHIND--

1ST NARR:

A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down through the ties at the swift water twenty feet below. The man's hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head, and the slack fell to the level of his knees. He watched a piece of dancing driftwood racing down the current beneath his feet. He thought--

MUSIC:

PENSIVE, IN BG

FARQUHAR:

(THINKS TO HIMSELF) If I could just free my hands, I might throw off this noose and dive into the creek. If I swam underwater, I'd be safe from their bullets. If my wind held out, I could make the southern bank, take to the woods and get away home.

MUSIC:

A DRUM ROLL ... THEN DRUMS BEAT COOLLY IN BG

1ST NARR:

Peyton Farquhar, Alabama planter, stood at the end of a plank. A captain of the Union army and a sergeant stood at the other end. When they stepped aside, the plank would tip upward, and Peyton Farquhar, Confederate spy, would slip between the ties -- to hang above the muddy water of Owl Creek until dead.

MUSIC:

JOINS DRUMS TO FILL A PAUSE ... THEN IN BG

1ST NARR:

Even in this far outpost of Sherman's March to the Sea, the formalities of Death are observed by these men who are most familiar with him. The captain's company is drawn stiffly at attention along the tracks on the northern side of the bridge. The lieutenant stands erect on the bank of the stream, the point of his bared saber scraping the gravel on the roadbed. Peyton Farquhar is being ushered into the Confederate beyond with every Union amenity.

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

1ST NARR:

The captain stands aside. Now only the weight of the bulky sergeant counterbalances Peyton Farquhar at the end of his thin board.

FARQUHAR:

(THINKS TO HIMSELF) They say that this is the moment when all the past events of your life tumble into your memory. But how could anyone know? Who has come back from the dead to tell what dying is like? I don't recall any childhood memories now. The past does not engulf me in this naked moment. I'm only aware of what's here, now: those [damn] Yankees lined up on the bank; this captain's tired eyes; that turkey buzzard circlin' up there, waitin' for me.

MUSIC:

CHANGES TO A FAST HEARTBEAT RHYTHM

FARQUHAR:

(THINKS TO HIMSELF) And that noise -- that beatin', drivin' sound, -- like a distant engine, a pump, the roll of thunder on a summer evening -- comin' closer, gettin' louder, chokin' me.

2ND NARR:

It's your heart, of course, that you hear, stepping up its cadence, pounding under the forced draft of fear. Now you see nothing, remember nothing, sense nothing, but this strangling, suffocating beat of your own heart, throbbing its final protest. You stand there, erect.

MUSIC:

HEARTBEAT RHYTHM SHARPLY OUT

1ST NARR:

The work is nearly at an end now. The captain draws his sword, flourishes it to a carry, sings out a command--

CAPTAIN:

Company -- Parade -- Rest!

MUSIC:

DRUMS ... THEN IN BG

1ST NARR:

The men on the bank smartly spread their legs, thrust hands forward over their rifle barrels. The sergeant on the end of the plank takes one step to the left.

MUSIC:

OUT

1ST NARR:

The plank tips forward--

SFX:

THE WOODEN PLANK GIVES WAY

1ST NARR:

And Peyton Farquhar drops between the timbers of Owl Creek bridge.

MUSIC:

DESCENDING, FOR A FALL ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

(QUICKLY) It takes longer to tell it. As you drop downward, you lose consciousness. You are as one already dead. Then, you awaken sharply in pain to feel -- not to think -- just to feel the cutting pressure on your throat, the agonies of pulsating fire shooting from your neck downward, to feel the fullness, the congestion, the head bursting with suffocation. Distantly, beyond, outside of yourself, you hear a splash. Remotely, you sense cool, wet, green darkness. The rope has broken. You have fallen into the stream.

MUSIC:

UNDERWATER ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

Now thinking returns, slowly. You know for the moment you are safe from drowning because the rope around your neck tightly keeps the water from your lungs.

MUSIC:

OUT BEHIND--

FARQUHAR:

(THINKS TO HIMSELF) Then I shall die [of] hangin' at the bottom of a river! And that's absurd. If I could get my hands free-- I must get my hands free. Come, Peyton -- they can't lick ya. Try again. (WITH EFFORT) Once more. Good boy, the rope's givin'. Again. (MORE EFFORT) Try once more. That does it, my boy. Now -- the rope around your neck. You must breathe when you come to the surface, you must breathe quickly -- for if they haven't hanged ya, and they failed to drown ya, you can't let 'em shoot ya! (MORE EFFORT) Loosen that rope around your neck. You must get it loose. Now--!

SFX:

SPLASH! AS FARQUHAR BREAKS THE SURFACE OF THE WATER

FARQUHAR:

(INHALES SHARPLY, QUICK SIGH OF RELIEF)

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN BEAUTIFUL, ETHEREAL, IN BG

2ND NARR:

It takes so much longer to tell. You are now in the fullest possession of your senses and, again, time stops. You feel the ripples of the water upon your face and hear their separate sounds as they strike. You see the trees on the bank, and the leaves, and the veining of each leaf, and the very insects on them -- the locusts, the brilliant-bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig -- the prismatic colors of the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. You hear the humming of the gnats, the beating of the dragonflies' wings, the strokes of the water spiders' legs. A fish slides beneath your eyes and you hear the rush of its body parting the water.

MUSIC:

OUT

2ND NARR:

All this you see and hear in an incalculably infinite instant of time. Then you hear something else--

SFX:

SLOSH OF WATER ... IN BG

SERGEANT:

(OFF) There he is!

SOLDIER:

(OFF) Down there at the bend!

CAPTAIN:

(OFF, QUICKLY) Company, attention! Shoulder arms! Ready! Aim!

FARQUHAR:

(INHALES SHARPLY)

SFX:

SPLASH! AS FARQUHAR DIVES BENEATH SURFACE

2ND NARR:

You dive deeply, but above the ringing in your ears, you hear the volley of the rifles.

SFX:

DISTANT, MUFFLED RIFLE FIRE

2ND NARR:

And, as you rise toward the surface, you meet shining bits of metal, singularly flattened -- the distorted and spent bullets oscillating slowly downward past you. One catches in your collar and it feels uncomfortably warm; you snatch it out. And this gray piece of Yankee lead reminds you of the gray uniform of the soldier who was responsible for you being here.

You recall that it was only night before last when the soldier had ridden up the driveway as you and your wife sat under the magnolia trees in the cool twilight.

SFX:

HORSE'S HOOFBEATS APPROACH DURING ABOVE, THEN STOP ... SALTONSTALL DISMOUNTS ... HIS FOOTSTEPS APPROACH AND STOP DURING FOLLOWING--

SALTONSTALL:

(SOUTHERN ACCENT) Good evenin', sir.

FARQUHAR:

Good evenin', Corporal.

SALTONSTALL:

I wonder if I might trouble you for a glass of water, sir.

FARQUHAR:

Why, of course. I'll--

MRS. FARQUHAR:

(LOVINGLY) Don't disturb yourself, Peyton. I'll go fetch it.

SALTONSTALL:

You're most kind, ma'am. If you'll just indicate the well--

MRS. FARQUHAR:

Nonsense. You just sit a spell with my husband. You look as if you could do with some rest.

SALTONSTALL:

Yes, ma'am. (EXHALES WEARILY) Reckon I could.

MRS. FARQUHAR:

(MOVING OFF) I'll be back in a jiffy.

SFX:

HER FOOTSTEPS AWAY

SALTONSTALL:

Thank you, ma'am.

FARQUHAR:

Uh, whose command are you with, Corporal?

SALTONSTALL:

Colonel Tolliver, sir. Thirteenth North Carolina.

FARQUHAR:

We get so little news down here. How are things goin' at the front?

SALTONSTALL:

Not good, sir. The [damn] Yankees are gettin' ready for another advance. They're repairin' the railroad. Got it in shape almost to Owl Creek bridge. And they got an outpost there. Once they can run the trains beyond the bridge, there's nothin' to stop 'em between here and Atlanta.

FARQUHAR:

Then why hasn't the bridge been destroyed?

SALTONSTALL:

The military couldn't get near it. A civilian might.

FARQUHAR:

Owl Creek bridge. That's not far from here, is it?

SALTONSTALL:

Less than twenty miles.

FARQUHAR:

You say they have an outpost there. On which side?

SALTONSTALL:

T' other side. Nothin' on this side but a couple o' pickets half mile out on the railroad -- and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge.

FARQUHAR:

And that bridge is important?

SALTONSTALL:

Sure is.

FARQUHAR:

What if it were destroyed?

SALTONSTALL:

Hold up the Yankees for several weeks.

FARQUHAR:

Suppose a man -- a civilian like myself -- should elude the picket post and get the better of the sentinel. What could he accomplish?

SALTONSTALL:

Well, I was there a week ago just before we had to pull out. There's a heap o' driftwood come down in last winter's flood and caught on the trestle at this end. Looked mighty dry and tindery to me.

FARQUHAR:

I see.

SALTONSTALL:

A fella with enough gumption might get through and set fire to it. It ought to burn like tow.

FARQUHAR:

Yes, it should.

SALTONSTALL:

'Course, a fella'd have to have plenty of gumption. The Union commander's promised to hang any civilian caught foolin' around the railroad.

SFX:

MRS. FARQUHAR FOOTSTEPS RETURN, BEHIND--

MRS. FARQUHAR:

Here's your water, Corporal. Right out of the spring house.

SALTONSTALL:

Thank you kindly, ma'am. (DRINKS, EXHALES) My, it's cool and nice.

MRS. FARQUHAR:

And here's a smidgen of cornbread. I thought you might be hungry.

SALTONSTALL:

I'm mighty grateful, ma'am. It's ladies like you that keeps the South together and fightin' these days.

MRS. FARQUHAR:

My, what a nice compliment.

FARQUHAR:

It certainly is.

SFX:

SALTONSTALL WALKS TO HORSE AND MOUNTS IT DURING FOLLOWING--

SALTONSTALL:

Well, I reckon I better hit the leather. I got a lot of ridin' ahead o' me tonight.

FARQUHAR:

Good luck to you, Corporal, and, uh, thank you for the information.

SFX:

HORSE SNUFFLES AND STARTS TO WALK OFF

SALTONSTALL:

(SLIGHTLY OFF) You'd be takin' a chance, sir, but you couldn't do a greater service for your country.

FARQUHAR:

I'll remember that, Corporal.

SALTONSTALL:

(SLIGHTLY OFF) Goodbye, ma'am.

MRS. FARQUHAR:

Goodbye, Corporal.

SALTONSTALL:

(SLIGHTLY OFF) Goodbye, sir. Many thanks.

FARQUHAR:

Goodbye.

SFX:

HORSE GALLOPS OFF

MRS. FARQUHAR:

(WORRIED) Peyton? What was he talkin' about?

FARQUHAR:

(INNOCENTLY) What, my dear?

MRS. FARQUHAR:

The corporal. What did he mean by "service to your country" and - and takin' a chance?

FARQUHAR:

Oh, nothin'.

MRS. FARQUHAR:

Peyton, tell me.

FARQUHAR:

It was nothin'. Really, my dear.

MRS. FARQUHAR:

Peyton Farquhar, if you're fixin' to take any chances for our country, I want to know about it. Now you just speak your piece.

FARQUHAR:

There's nothing to say, exceptin' I'd be goin' away for a day or two on a little trip.

MRS. FARQUHAR:

Is it dangerous, Peyton?

FARQUHAR:

Not very.

MRS. FARQUHAR:

You'll be - back?

FARQUHAR:

(WARMLY) Yes, my dear. I promise ya, I'll be back.

MUSIC:

BRIDGE ... THEN OUT WITH--

SFX:

SPLASH! OF WATER AS FARQUHAR BREAKS THE SURFACE AGAIN ... SLOSH OF WATER CONTINUES IN BG, IN AGREEMENT WITH FOLLOWING--

FARQUHAR:

(INHALES SHARPLY)

2ND NARR:

You break the surface of Owl Creek for a second time, and now you're much further downstream, further away from the Union soldiers on the bridge reloading their guns, the ramrods flashing in the morning sun.

FARQUHAR:

(THINKS TO HIMSELF) That captain won't make the same mistake again. He'll order them to fire at will. Heaven help me, I cannot dodge 'em all.

SFX:

DISTANT CANNON FIRE

2ND NARR:

Another, more terrible sound -- cannon! They've trained a cannon on you.

FARQUHAR:

(THINKS TO HIMSELF) And close! Next time they'll use a charge of grape. Rifles and grape coverin' the water from bank to bank. I'm done for then!

SFX:

WATER CHURNS FURIOUSLY

2ND NARR:

(QUICKLY) Then something seems to grab you and you're whirled 'round and 'round, spinning like a water-logged top. You're caught in a vortex, a whirlpool. The water, the banks, the distant bridge, the soldiers become indistinct blurs. And, again, you're helpless. You feel dizzy and sick to your stomach--

SFX:

IN BG, CHURNING WATER CHANGES TO NOCTURNAL CHIRPING OF CRICKETS

2ND NARR:

(SLOWER) --just as you felt last night when you crept up the bank toward the lone sentinel on the south end of the bridge and discovered that the sentinel was not alone.

SERGEANT:

There he is, boys! Grab him!

SFX:

BRIEF STRUGGLE AS UNION SOLDIERS GRAB FARQUHAR

SOLDIER:

Got him, Sergeant!

SERGEANT:

Well, well, Mr. Peyton Farquhar, we've been expectin' you.

FARQUHAR:

How did you know my name was--?

SERGEANT:

We got ways.

FARQUHAR:

But, look here, I'm a civilian! I was just--

SERGEANT:

Save your breath, and thank your Maker we didn't shoot you in the back. Well, we don't do things that way up north. You'll get a trial; everything fair and square. Bring him along, men.

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN FURIOUSLY IN BG

2ND NARR:

(QUICKLY) The whirlpool spins faster and faster; a sharp piece of driftwood tears at your coat; the churning brown water chokes you. You know there is nothing you can do -- as you had known it last night when they shoved you into a tent near the bridge to face the infantry captain with the tired eyes.

MUSIC:

OUT

SERGEANT:

Here he is, sir. Right on schedule.

CAPTAIN:

Good work, Sergeant. (TO SALTONSTALL) Is this the man, lieutenant?

SALTONSTALL:

(NO SOUTHERN ACCENT NOW) That's him.

FARQUHAR:

(SURPRISED) Why-- You're the corporal who stopped at my plantation last night.

SALTONSTALL:

That's right, Mr. Farquhar, but I'm not with the Thirteenth North Carolina Volunteers.

CAPTAIN:

Mr. Farquhar, this is Lieutenant Saltonstall, intelligence officer, Fifth Massachusetts Regulars.

FARQUHAR:

(REALIZES) You've trapped me. You deliberately led me into a trap. I'm a civilian and a planter--!

CAPTAIN:

(SIGHS) Yes, and also a Southern patriot caught in the act of espionage. [sabotage.]

FARQUHAR:

You can't prove it.

CAPTAIN:

We don't have to.

FARQUHAR:

This is the most _des_picable, the most-- This proves once more that honor is a stranger in the North!

CAPTAIN:

I'm too tired to listen to a recital of the code of a Southern gentleman, Mr. Farquhar. I'm afraid the distinction between your ethics and my lack of them would escape me this evening.

FARQUHAR:

But why have you done this? Why have you deliberately trapped me?

CAPTAIN:

The best way to eliminate civilian resistance is to lure it into the open. You fell for the bait. Too bad.

FARQUHAR:

Now, look here, it's my constitutional right--!

CAPTAIN:

Which - which Constitution? The Constitution of the United States [of America] or Jeff Davis's?

FARQUHAR:

You insultin' Yankee--!

CAPTAIN:

Remember your manners, sir!

FARQUHAR:

I demand a trial!

CAPTAIN:

You've just had it! (BEAT) Post a guard over him, Sergeant.

SERGEANT:

Yes, sir.

CAPTAIN:

We'll hang him in the morning.

MUSIC:

QUICK BRIDGE ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

[But they didn't hang you. The rope broke and the whirlpool carried you away.] Something tears at your face, scratching, and you realize that the whirling has stopped. You open your eyes. You're lying on the southern bank of the stream, out of sight of your enemies -- safe. The gravel which has scratched your cheek now seems soft as new-picked cotton. The forest around you is a garden of luscious beauty reeking with the heavy perfume of freedom. Even the whiz and rattle of the final charge of grape screaming through the treetops seems a benediction from the baffled cannoneer. You leap to your feet and run into the woods -- south, towards home.

MUSIC:

FAST ACCENT, FOR RUNNING THROUGH THE WOODS ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

Your neck is swollen and throbbing with pain. You carry it cocked toward your left shoulder as you push through the matted brush. All morning, you tear your way through the undergrowth. Your jacket is tattered and your face crisscrossed with bloody scratches from the brambles. Every few moments, you stop.

MUSIC:

OUT

SFX:

INSECTS BUZZ, BIRDS CHIRP, ET CETERA

2ND NARR:

You stop to listen for the sound of dogs. But all you hear is the sleepy buzz of the forest. And the blood throbbing through your heated brain brings another thought, which is an insult -- no dogs. You are not even important enough to the [damn] Yankees for dogs.

MUSIC:

FAST ACCENT, FOR RUNNING THROUGH THE WOODS ... THEN OUT BEHIND--

SFX:

FARQUHAR'S RUNNING FOOTSTEPS THROUGH THE SWAMP ... FADES OUT BEHIND--

2ND NARR:

It's nearly noon now and for half an hour, you've been plunging through a swamp, waist-deep in green ooze. Your neck hurts constantly. Your head throbs and your tongue is thick. It tastes like brown cotton. [linsey-woolsey.]

SFX:

BUZZ OF GNATS. MOSQUITOES, ET CETERA

2ND NARR:

Gnats swarm before your eyes, catching in your eyelids. Mosquitoes buzz in your ears, drill deep in your hands and swollen neck.

SFX:

FARQUHAR'S FOOTSTEPS SLOW AND STOP BEHIND--

2ND NARR:

You cannot go [on] any longer. You slow down. You stop. You reach toward a palmetto root for support and it slithers from your grasp and slides softly into the water.

SFX:

GENTLE SPLASH OF SNAKE INTO WATER

2ND NARR:

Water moccasin. Fear finds you at last. Terror, which stood aloof when you fled the executioners' bullets, now embraces you with clammy unction. A water moccasin, the deadly cottonmouth. Now each branch and root seems to writhe under your glance. The swamp is undulating with certain death.

SFX:

FARQUHAR'S RUNNING FOOTSTEPS THROUGH THE SWAMP ... IN BG

2ND NARR:

(QUICKLY) You plunge on through the dark, stinking ooze, on and on, tripping, stumbling, never stopping -- for terror rides your back, flogging you with a whiplash of fear!

MUSIC:

BRIDGE ... FAST, AT FIRST, THEN SLOW ... THEN OUT

SFX:

STREAM WATER, RUNS IN BG

JETHRO:

Ol' Jethro gonna have Massa Peyton fit as a fiddle in jig time. You just drink this here yarb tea, Massa Peyton.

FARQUHAR:

(DELIRIOUS) Thank you, thank you-- (AWAKE NOW, STARTLED) Jethro?

JETHRO:

Yes, sir, Massa Peyton.

FARQUHAR:

(PUZZLED) What are you doin' here?

JETHRO:

I live here.

FARQUHAR:

You live--? Where am I? What happened?

JETHRO:

I was paddlin' my dugout home through the swamp with a mess o' catfish. I sees you lyin' out there on the bank in front of my cabin.

FARQUHAR:

Jethro, I heard-- I - I - I thought you were dead.

JETHRO:

[Who, me? Dead? (LAUGHS)]

2ND NARR:

Of course you thought Jethro was dead. You knew he had consumption when you sold him. You knew he couldn't last long and he wasn't earning his keep. His wife and his daughter had carried on some at first, but after a while they calmed down and, the last you'd heard, Jethro was dead.

JETHRO:

(LAUGHS) You thought I was dead, Massa Peyton? Why, sir, don't you know what's [done] happened to me? I'm free. I'm free at last.

2ND NARR:

(WITH CONTEMPT) So -- news travels fast, even in the middle of this backwoods swamp. This lonely black has heard of Abe Lincoln's traitorous Emancipation Proclamation -- and they believe it, with the faith of children.

JETHRO: Yes, sir, I'm free. I 'spect pretty soon my woman and my little gal'll come along and join me.

FARQUHAR:

(HUMORS HIM) Yes. Yes, of course they will, Jethro.

JETHRO:

How is they, Massa Peyton? Is they well?

FARQUHAR:

Yes, yes, indeed, they're both fine. Your - your daughter's growin' into a young beauty. Miz Farquhar's brought her into the kitchen; beginnin' to train her for the house.

JETHRO:

(PLEASED) Well, well! What do you think of that? Mm hmm! And my woman? She still sing as pretty?

FARQUHAR:

Yes, Jethro. Sundays at meetin' time, we can hear her all the way up to the big house.

JETHRO:

That woman's voice is prettier than all the angels.

FARQUHAR:

Jethro, I - I don't know how to say this, but-- I really was sorry about having to sell ya, but there wasn't anything else--

JETHRO:

I understand, Massa Peyton. Don't pay it no mind. I done forgive you long ago.

FARQUHAR:

You have?

JETHRO:

Sure. Don't the Lord tell us to forgive those who trespass agin us? Don't the Lord promise us we shall be free? Ah, don't you worry none about it, Massa Peyton. (CHUCKLES)

SFX:

TWO DOGS START BARKING ... THEN OUT BEHIND--

JETHRO:

(YELLS AT DOGS) Here now! Quiet there, Spot! Quiet, Chigger! Quiet, you! (CHUCKLES) Musta heard a razorback in the brush. (BEAT) [No, tain't no hog at all.] No, sirree. Look, Massa Peyton. There's a horse comin' down the road.

FARQUHAR:

(NERVOUS) A horse?

JETHRO:

Look there. [Why, I swear it's a] Soldier. One o' our soldiers. Corporal look like.

FARQUHAR:

(DESPERATE) Jethro, you got to hide me!

JETHRO:

Why's I got to hide you, Massa Peyton?

FARQUHAR:

Don't ask so many questions, you insolent [black]--!

JETHRO:

Massa Peyton, you forgets. I - I'm free now.

FARQUHAR:

(INGRATIATING) Well, then, as an old friend of mine, please don't ask any questions. Just hide me. Don't tell that soldier anything.

JETHRO:

Well, sure. I reckon I can do that for an old friend, Massa Peyton. Here, here. You get down under this here bed. That's it; [I'll] put the covers over the side. There ya are. Snug as a tick in a rabbit's ear.

FARQUHAR:

(SLIGHTLY MUFFLED) Remember, don't tell him anything.

SFX:

DURING ABOVE, HORSE APPROACHES AT A TROT AND STOPS ... SALTONSTALL AND JETHRO CONVERSE INDISTINCTLY OFF BEHIND--

2ND NARR:

Have you come this far just to be turned in by a woolgathering black who talks crazy? If Jethro knew this gray-clad corporal was really a Union lieutenant, he'd guarantee his freedom by turning you in. Even so, he bears you a big enough grudge to turn you in anyway. Unless, of course, he's planning to dispose of you himself. Yes, that's it. That's why he talked so silly about the Lord and forgiveness. He's gonna do you in himself.

SALTONSTALL:

(THIS DIALOGUE OVERLAPS WITH ABOVE, UNTIL [X]) Hey, there, uncle! Seen any strangers around here today?

JETHRO:

Hmm? No, sir. Nary a one. You lookin' for someone [in particular]?

SALTONSTALL:

No, I guess not. You know a planter by the name of Farquhar?

JETHRO:

Hmmmm, Farquhar? No, sir. Never heard of him. [X]

SALTONSTALL:

Well, if you run into him, don't tell him I was lookin' for him.

JETHRO:

Yes, sir. I'll remember not to tell him.

SALTONSTALL:

Just keep mindin' your own business, uncle. You'll live longer. (CLICKS TONGUE, TO HORSE) Giddyup there.

SFX:

HORSE GALLOPS AWAY

JETHRO:

(CALLS AFTER HIM) Yes, sir, I sure will! (CLOSER, CHUCKLES, QUIETLY) You can come out now, Massa Peyton.

SFX: FARQUHAR EMERGES FROM UNDER THE BED

JETHRO:

I declare, I don't understand none o' this. You says not to tell him you're here; he says not to tell ya he's been here. What's this all about, Massa Peyton?

FARQUHAR:

Oh, it's nothin', Jethro, nothin'. I - I owe the man some money; I'm not ready to pay it yet.

JETHRO:

Oh, I see. I wouldn't know about that. Money's something never bothered me like it bothers some. Money and me's always been strangers.

2ND NARR:

What's he mean by that? "Money's never bothered me like it's bothered some"?

SFX:

JETHRO WALKS OFF, PICKS UP A KNIFE [AND SHARPENS IT NOISILY]

2ND NARR:

What's he picking up that knife for?

FARQUHAR:

(NERVOUS) Jethro? What are you gonna do with that knife?

JETHRO:

Hmmm? Oh, I was just fixin' to slit up some of them catfish I got in the dugout. Look like you could do with a little food, Massa Peyton.

FARQUHAR:

Oh, no. No, thank you, Jethro. I - I really gotta be on my way. I want to get home by sundown if I can.

JETHRO:

Sure wouldn't be no bother to cut up a couple o' cats.

FARQUHAR:

No, thank you, old friend. If - if you'll just tell me which way I should go to get home--

JETHRO:

Huh? Well, I don't rightly know, Massa Peyton. I reckon, from the way the sun's _re_clining, it'd be down the road that-a-way, quite a tol'able piece [down].

FARQUHAR:

(AGREES, RELIEVED) Yeah, that should be about right.

JETHRO:

I - I never been back, you know. I never tried to go back since I been - free.

FARQUHAR:

(IMPATIENT) Yes, I know.

JETHRO:

But I reckon it won't be long till my woman and my little gal comes here to me.

FARQUHAR:

Of course.

JETHRO:

Uh, if you get back, Massa Peyton-- If'n ya see 'em, you tell 'em - I'm here waitin' for 'em, ya hear?

FARQUHAR:

Yeah, I'll do that, Jethro, I'll do that.

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN TENSE IN BG

2ND NARR:

You get away from there fast -- the shells of the [back] road crunching under your muddy boots; that grinning savage, standing in the doorway of the shack, the knife in his hands -- and each moment until the road bends and cuts off the cabin from [your] view, you fear he'll come after you, the knife poised to plunge in your back, to pay you for the thrust you gave him when you sent him away to die. But he's still standing, grinning foolishly, and waving as you turn the bend. Now you feel safe, but only for a moment. Then you hear a sound--

MUSIC:

DRUM ROLL ACCENT ... THEN OMINOUS IN BG

2ND NARR:

The sound of a horse. It must be the corporal in gray from the Fifth Massachusetts Regulars. He's coming back down the road, searching for you, hounding you, coming to take you back to Owl Creek bridge, back to a rope that won't break under your weight. You walk faster and faster and always the sound is there, growing louder and louder. And you run as fast as you can down the shell road which stretches clear to the horizon between the green walls of scrubby pines.

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN DESPAIRING IN BG

2ND NARR:

How long have you been running down this endless road? It's dark now. Is it night? Or has the blood trapped in your head by the suffocating rope at last burst into your congested eyeballs and blinded you? Will it next pour from your swollen and bruised neck into your brain, stopping all sensation, instantly bringing to a welcome end this day of agony and flight?

SFX:

[CLAP OF THUNDER]

MUSIC:

TYMPANI ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

Ridiculous fantasies of fatigue and fear. You can see the darkness is the black of a sudden summer storm.

MUSIC:

QUICK, HIGH-PITCHED ACCENT ... INDICATES LIGHTNING FLASH

2ND NARR:

That lightning flash clearly shows the white road ahead and the black silhouettes of trees along the sides. And since you're sure that you can see, the other senses return. You hear the rumble of the thunder, you feel the insupportable ache of your straining lungs, the leaden weight of your tired feet.

SFX:

RAIN POURS DOWN

2ND NARR:

And now the patter of rain, first washing the stinging sweat from your scratched and bitten face; now pounding harder, flowing down across your hatless head, matting your hair, slowing your headlong gait to a dog trot.

SFX:

[CLAP OF THUNDER]

MUSIC:

TYMPANI AND A QUICK, HIGH-PITCHED ACCENT ... INDICATES LIGHTNING FLASH ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

Another flash of lightning, directly overhead. For an instant, you [seem to] see the soldiers of Owl Creek bridge standing at the side of the road, rifles leveled, their eyes boring down the sights, aiming at your heart.

MUSIC:

ACCENT ... THEN IN BG

SFX:

RAIN OUT

2ND NARR:

Again you're running, and the rain has turned to hail. Pellets as big as hominy beat down on you, pound your swollen, bruised neck, hammer at your countless cuts.

SFX: [CLAP OF THUNDER]

MUSIC:

TYMPANI AND A QUICK, HIGH-PITCHED ACCENT ... INDICATES LIGHTNING FLASH ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

Again the lightning. And, on the other side of the road, the gray-clad corporal sits astride his horse, waiting for you.

FARQUHAR:

(IN TERROR) No! No, ya can't get me now! No!

SFX:

[CLAP OF THUNDER]

MUSIC:

TYMPANI AND A QUICK, HIGH-PITCHED ACCENT ... INDICATES LIGHTNING FLASH ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

This bolt of lightning strikes a tree ahead of you, and in the white blinding light stands Jethro, black and grinning, knife raised in the air.

FARQUHAR:

(IN TERROR) No! No, Jethro! Forgive me! Forgive me!

SFX:

[CLAP OF THUNDER]

MUSIC:

TYMPANI AND A QUICK, HIGH-PITCHED ACCENT ... INDICATES LIGHTNING FLASH ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

He's gone. And now you see, dangling from each tree along the road, a noose, swinging in the wind. Wherever you turn, wherever you look, a noose waiting for you -- a noose which wriggles like a water moccasin.

FARQUHAR:

(BLOODCURDLING SCREAM) Noooooooooooooooo!

MUSIC:

AN ACCENT TO CONCLUDE THE NIGHTMARE STORM ... CHANGES TO A SOOTHING, IDYLLIC PASTORALE ... THEN IN BG

2ND NARR:

You are standing on the green lawn of your plantation before the high-columned entrance. The storm is over. The clouds are black and menacing all around the horizon, but, through a break in the sky overhead, glorious sunlight streams down, bathing your garden and your house in heavenly light. You are home. And now you hear a rustle of crinoline, and down, from the wide portico, steps your beloved wife. She walks across the wide lawn, arms outstretched.

MUSIC:

GENTLY OUT

MRS. FARQUHAR:

(LOVINGLY) Peyton, my dear. You're back. Just as you promised you'd be.

2ND NARR:

For this moment you have endured the agonies of this day. And were those agonies multiplied a thousand times, they would be small price for the benison of this breast, the sanctuary of these arms, the security of these lips. You step forward to fold your wife in your embrace.

SFX:

[CLAP OF THUNDER]

MUSIC:

SHARP ACCENT ... THEN OUT BEHIND--

1ST NARR:

(SLOWLY, SAVAGELY) The rope, stretched tight, sang like a bowstring. Peyton Farquhar was dead.

SFX:

[ROPE SLOWLY CREAKS, IN BG]

1ST NARR:

His body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of Owl Creek bridge.

MUSIC:

CURTAIN

ANNOUNCER:

ESCAPE is produced and directed by William N. Robson and tonight brought you "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce in a radio adaptation written by Mr. Robson. The part of Peyton Farquhar was played by Harry Bartell. The narrators were Bill Conrad and Bill Johnstone. Jethro was played by Luis Van Rooten. The special musical score was conceived and conducted by Cy Feuer.

MUSIC:

EERIE ACCENT

ANNOUNCER:

Next week--

NARRATOR:

You are trapped in the pitch darkness of a ruined mansion -- and groping for you, stalking you, is a homicidal maniac armed with a knife from whom you must escape.

MUSIC:

THEME ... "NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN" ... OUT BEHIND--

ANNOUNCER:

Next week, we escape with Joseph Hergesheimer's gripping story "Wild Oranges."

Good night then, until this same time next week when we again offer you -- ESCAPE!

This CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.

MUSIC:

CLOSING THEME