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Elementals

Authors' Playhouse

Elementals

Mar 05 1941



Dramatis Personae:

JOHN SLAKE

SHERRY LATIMER

CATHERINE VANE

MAN (Renaldo)

ALESSANDRO

ANTONIO

LUCETTA

MISS WARREN




MUSIC.--Up and under.


ANNOUNCER.--The Authors' Playhouse!


MUSIC.--Theme up and under.


ANNOUNCER.--Presenting Stephen Vincent Benét's brilliant short story "Elementals"! 


MUSIC.--Theme.


ANNOUNCER.--Tonight the National Broadcasting Company presents its new dramatic series, The Authors' Playhouse . . . radio adaptations of great modern short stories . . . tales written by acknowledged masters of their craft . . . stories by writers famous for their ability to excite, to amuse, to alarm, and, above all, to entertain!


We are privileged to open our series with a tale from one America's foremost writers, Stephen Vincent Benét, poet, critic, novelist, short story writer. His novel-length narrative poem "John Brown's Body" is perhaps the most popular poem of our time . . . and his short stories of America's past are without equal in their power to bring to life the shadowy and often legendary figures of our history. In "Elementals"--our story tonight--he departs from his widely known historical fiction and offers a picture of modern times . . . a vivid and dramatic study of conflicting personal philosophies. (Pause) The Authors' Playhouse presents "Elementals," by Stephen Vincent Benét!


MUSIC.--Full, dramatic . . . brought to abrupt conclusion.


SLAKE.--Would you, Mr. Latimer?


SHERRY.--I don't believe I understand what . . .


SLAKE.--(Interrupting) You have been contending that the two lovers described by Guiccardini . . . Antonio and Lucetta . . . that their love was of a lesser intensity. You say that some people in love could withstand Alessandro's test of elemental hunger.


SHERRY.--I'm certain of it.


SLAKE.--(Purring) I wonder . . . I very much wonder, Mr. Latimer, just what people you mean?


SHERRY:-(Vaguely) Ohhhhh . . . dozens . . . there are many who could . . . most people. Or half of them at any rate.


SLAKE.--More coffee, Mr. Latimer? It's still warm.


SHERRY.--Yes . . . thank you.


SOUND.--Pouring coffee.


SLAKE.--Ummmmm . . . you chose to avoid a question I put to you a moment ago . . . but I'll try again . . . Would you [venture to make the test]?


SHERRY.--Why--why, I don't know, Mr. Slake. The . . . the premise is preposterous, Of course . . . such a thing couldn't happen now--


SLAKE.--(Purring) But suppose it could, Mr. Latimer, suppose it could? Would you be willing to wager--oh, your future professorship, say . . . that seems important to you . . . would you be willing to wager that against--uhhhh . . . $10,000 on the ability of you and one woman to endure Alessandro's test?


SHERRY.--Y-yes.


SLAKE.--You are wholly certain of that?


SHERRY.--(Defiantly) Yes! 


(Pause)


SLAKE.--(Quietly) Very well, then . . . suppose we try it.


SHERRY.--What!


SLAKE.--No, really, I'm not suggesting anything so impossible as it seems.


SHERRY.--Your suggestion would be fantastic . . . if it weren't so insolent, Mr. Slake.


SLAKE.--A man of my means often may venture what others would consider . . . I believe you used the word "fantastic."


SHERRY.--(With amusement) I'll be frank, Mr. Slake. If you made your insane offer to myself alone I'd have jumped at it. Ten thousand dollars . . . I should say! But to ask [Miss--] . . .


SLAKE.--(Slyly) Of course. Miss . . . Miss . . .


SHERRY.--(Mechanically) Vane.


SLAKE.--Miss Vane is to be considered. She could not bear it of course. 


SHERRY.--Catherine would view your proposal as I do. It's absurd.


SLAKE.--Yes . . . Catherine . . . Then I may take it that you are turning down my offer.


SHERRY.--You may.


SLAKE.--(Elaborate thought) Catherine Vane. Not one of the Newport Vanes, I presume. There were Vanes in Philadelphia, but I really don't seem to . . .


SHERRY.--Oh, you wouldn't know. She's working in the secretary's office at Columbia. 


SLAKE.--(As he writes) Catherine Vane--secretary's office, Columbia University.


SHERRY.--(Angrily) Say! What are you doing!?


SLAKE.--Just a notation, Mr. Latimer. I should like very much to find out what Miss Vane would say to this trifling experiment of mine . . . Brandy, Mr. Latimer?


MUSIC.--In . . . fade briefly to


SOUND.--Telephone bell . . . receiver lifted.


SHERRY.--English department.


CATHERINE.--(Through filter) You, Sherry?


SHERRY.--Oh, hello, Cathy. I was just going to call you about . . .


CATHERINE.--(Interrupting) I know about it, Sherry. John Slake was just here--and, oh, Sherry, isn't it wonderful?!


SHERRY.--Wonderful? Cathy . . . you didn't say you'd be willing to . . . (break) Stay in your office . . . I'll be right over. 


MUSIC.--Up briefly . . . out behind.


CATHERINE.--Just think, Sherry. It's everything we want--everything now . . . and it's ours if we only have the little courage to take it.


SHERRY.--(A snort) A little courage!


CATHERINE.--Ten thousand dollars. It means we could marry at once. We could have a home and children safely, without fear, without having to spend every summer tutoring.


SHERRY.--But Cathy . . .


CATHERINE.--You may like the idea of "honorable" poverty--but you wouldn't like it as an actuality. (Pause)


SHERRY.--Just how did Slake describe the test to you?


CATHERINE.--(Recalling the details) Well . . . he said we would be in adjoining rooms on the third floor of his house. There would be a glass window between us, so that we could see each other but not talk together . . .


SHERRY.--I should imagine that touch would appeal to him.


CATHERINE.--(Going on) We would have three books . . . the Bible, the Koran, the Zend-Avesta . . . all the water we need . . . but no food.


SHERRY.--If I had only myself to consider I'd accept in a minute.


CATHERINE.--Just 7 days, Sherry.


SHERRY.--You don't know what 7 days of ceaseless hunger is. I don't. We can't even surmise.


CATHERINE.--A 7 days' fast . . . There are health cranks who undergo a fast of that length . . . voluntarily . . . seven times a year.


SHERRY.--We're not capable of self-hypnosis! I won't listen to you. Ten years in virtual bondage to Slake if either of us fails. Consider that.


CATHERINE.--My love for you is so great that the possibility of failure doesn't enter into my thinking. 


(Pause)


SHERRY.--Did . . . did Slake tell you of the climax of the 7-day fast?


CATHERINE.--(Tight-lipped) Yes . . . he did.


SHERRY.--After 7 days of starvation, 7 days of ceaseless hunger, we would be brought to the same room--and a piece of bread would be placed between us . . . Cathy! it's ridiculous . . . You didn't read the translation of the sixteenth century pamphlet by Guiccardini that I made for Slake . . .


CATHERINE.--Only part of it.


SHERRY.--You should read the chapter on the (irony) Merry Diversions of His Highness Prince Alessandro. 


CATHERINE.--I don't see . . .


SHERRY.--Let me finish. In his court there were two lovers--Antonio and Lucetta--and their love for each other was court legend, it was so intense. Prince Alessandro challenged them to make precisely the same test Slake is asking us try.


CATHERINE.--Were you discussing it with him . . . is that how he happened to make the proposal?


SHERRY.--Ummhmmm . . . but let me finish. (On slow fade) On the tenth day . . . theirs was a 10-day fast . . . Alessandro and two attendants went to one of the adjoining compartments . . . (Out)


(Fade in. Echo chamber)


MAN.--(off slightly) The girl is not sleeping, Your Highness. Her eyes opened when I touched her . . . but there was no recognition in them . . . and I knew her well.


ALESSANDRO.--They are not so weak that they cannot move, I trust. . .


MAN.--Of that I cannot say, Your Highness.


ALESSANDRO.--The sight of this bread is quite likely to result in strange behavior. Antonio . . . Antonio . . .


ANTONIO.--Food. Please . . . for the love of God . . . food.


ALESSANDRO.--(Unpleasantly) Are you not eager to hold your beloved Lucetta in your arms, Antonio?


ANTONIO.--Food . . . Please, please give me food.


ALESSANDRO.--(Smiling) Renaldo, could it be that this unsightly piece of bread can have more attraction than the beautiful Lucetta to this most faithful of all the suitors in my court?


MAN.--It would seem so, Your Highness.


ALESSANDRO.--Raise the partition . . . and we shall see.


MAN.--(off) Yes, Your Highness.


ALESSANDRO.--See, Antonio--see what I have in my hand? . . . Bread. You would like to have it, would you not?


ANTONIO.--Bread . . . bread . . . give it . . . I'm so hungry . . .


SOUND.--Gears and clanking of chains . . . partition raised . . .


ALESSANDRO.--Lucetta . . . there is bread on the floor for you.


LUCETTA.--(Off) Bread . . . bread for me . . . my bread . . . 


ANTONIO.--(Exertion) My bread . . . it is mine . . . food . . . I am hungry.


LUCETTA.--(Screams) Mine! Mine!


SOUND.--Grunts and screams of struggle.


ANTONIO.--It's mine! I'm hungry! My bread . . . my food!


LUCETTA.--(Screams) Mine--mine! (Her scream is cut off as Antonio closes his grip on her throat)


MAN.--Your Highness! Each will strangle the other if we do not separate them!


ALESSANDRO.--(Sardonically) Most faithful in love! Yes . . . tear them apart. (on fade) What an unbeautiful picture. Hmmp . . . most faithful in love.


(Out . . . fade in)


SHERRY.--It took the combined strength of the three to tear Antonio and Lucetta from their death grips.


CATHERINE.--Sherwood Latimer! Do you think we would be like that? Sherry . . . I'm disappointed in you.


MUSIC.--Appropriate transition . . . out.


SHERRY.--What the deuce! Three days of this boredom, and I'm biting my wrist . . . just to watch the little white dints appear and fade away. Boredom . . . there's another "elemental" for John Slake to add to his list. Boredom and nervousness. (Amused) Slake would think that my 3 days without food has caused me to consider the flesh on my wrist as a possible future source of nourishment . . . No more of that, brother Latimer . . . you had better count the bluebirds on the wallpaper again . . . Wonder how Cathy is? She wouldn't count bluebirds on the wallpaper to pass away the time. Not Cathy. She would lose herself in reading . . . the sensible thing . . . Why don't you read, Fra Latimer? Better than counting bluebirds . . . those idiotic bluebirds . . . no occupation for a sane man. (Suddenly quite serious . . . then, speaking aloud) Sane man? (His voice, reverberating in the bare room, startles him . . . causes him to sustain the sound of the last syllable in fascination . . . his thoughts continue)


Ohhhhh! Even if I should doubt my own sanity, there's Catherine. Catherine is sane . . . that's a verity . . . even if my sanity is slightly suspect for allowing her to undergo this ridiculous test. Yes, Catherine Vane is sane, sane . . . . Catherine Vane is sane, is sane. (He speaks the foolish rhyme, aloud . . . and again is startled by his voice) Catherine Vane is sane, is sa-- (He stops short . . . snorts ruefully) Three days and I'm doing that. I'd better count my wallpaper birds again . . . maybe there'll be 85 if I count again . . . 83 . . . Three days without food, and my head's rattling with silly jingles . . . and it isn't 3 days yet. It has been 2 1/2 days. Daylight fading. In a few minutes the lights will be turned on--and Slake will come in. Then it will be exactly 2 1/2 days . . . There! The lights. Two and a-half days. Cathy will be expecting to see me at the window (exertion) so I'll just . . . (he sinks back momentarily) I . . . I'm getting a little weak. (Exertion) There. 


SOUND.--Footfalls . . . slowly across bare wooden floor.


SHERRY.--Did too much pacing about these first days. From now on I'll conserve my strength.


SOUND.--Walking stops.


SHERRY.--Just as I thought . . . she's lost herself in reading. Maybe I shouldn't break her concentration . . . She closed her eyes!


SOUND.--Tapping . . . fingernail on glass pane. 


SHERRY.--(He forms words with his mouth . . . half utters them) Good . . . evening . . . darling. (To self) That smile. She's just the same . . . or is she just a little paler? Yes . . . she is . . . just a little paler . . . (Forms words, half speaks) I? I'm . . . fine . . . f-i-n-e. (Aloud) Don't get up! (Forming words) Don't get up. Save . . . your . . . strength. (To self) This is absurd . . . pantomiming with Catherine through a pane of glass. She would get up . . . just to show me she's all right. (Forming words) Yes . . . dear . . . I can . . . see . . . (To self) Pointing out words in the Bible! What a maddening way we have to converse, when we have so much to say to each other . . . Yes, yes, I see. Good evening . . . dear . . . Her smile is weak. I'll bet mine is weaker. I mustn't let it be . . . (Half aloud) Wait.


SOUND.--Footfalls on floor.


SHERRY.--(Continues to self, over sound) I marked the pages in my Bible . . . some things I want to show Cathy . . . Here . . .


SOUND.--Riffling book pages.


SHERRY.--I marked the places . . . I'm sure I did . . . Yes . . . yes . . . here. (Half aloud) Look, dearest . . . this . . . (He stops) Eyes closed . . . her eyes are closed again.


SOUND.--Tapping pane with finger.


SHERRY.--That smile. How like her. Oh, Lord, if only I could get to her . . . just for a kiss . . . a few words . . . (Forming words) Look, dearest . . . She's reading . . . (on fade) The . . . lions . . . do . . . lack . . . and . . . suffer . . . hunger . . .


(Out . . . fade in)


CATHERINE.--The lions do lack and suffer hunger. (Forming words) Yes, Sherry . . . we do . . . we lions. (To self, with vocal moue) We . . . lions. (Passionately, to self) Oh, Sherry, Sherry . . . it's not my hunger, it's your hunger that tortures me. If only I could tell you how much stronger my love is . . . than this gnawing hunger . . .


SOUND.--Riffling pages of book.


CATHERINE.--Where is that sentence I was going to point out to him? . . . He's waiting . . . he's relying on me to transmit just a hint of what's in my heart . . . through this glass barrier . . . Here. (Half aloud) This, Sherry . . . read this . . . (fading) Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee . . .


(Out . . . fade in)


SHERRY.--(Reading slowly) Happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee . . . Yes . . . I see . . . What's that she's underscoring with her thumbnail?


MUSIC.--Start Slake theme softly.


SHERRY.--She means that as a signature. (Reading) Thy wife.


SOUND.--Kissing finger tips lightly . . . blowing gently . . .


SOUND.--Dialogue and sound in following scene resounds as in bare room . . . key in look . . . away . . .


SHERRY.--(Forming words) Slake's coming, dearest . . . Slake . . . Yes . . . yes . . . after he's gone.


SOUND.--Door opened . . . away . . . . 


SLAKE.--(off) Good evening, Mr. Latimer.


SHERRY.--(Stiffly) Good evening, Mr. Slake.


SLAKE.--Everything perfectly all right, I suppose, Mr. Latimer?


SHERRY.--Everything entirely satisfactory, Mr. Slake.


SLAKE.--How charming! You are admirable guests indeed, Mr. Latimer . . . you and Miss Vane. You make so little demand on one's hospitality.


SHERRY.--I . . . I'm glad you find us so.


SLAKE.--Errrrr . . . aren't you concealing something behind your back, Mr. Latimer?


SHERRY.--Eh? Oh, yes . . . the Bible . . . (lamely) . . . I've been reading.


SLAKE.--Yes . . . reading. It must pass the time. You do find time heavy on your hands, do you not, Mr. Latimer?


SHERRY.--I have been . . .


SLAKE.--(Interrupting) May I have the book?


SHERRY.--As a matter of fact, Miss Vane and I have contrived a way to communicate . . . using the book to . . . 


SLAKE.--(Abruptly) The book, Mr. Latimer . . . may I have it? . . . Thank you . . . I didn't overlook the possibility that you might converse by pointing to words and phrases in the books I have given you. It's quite all right. I'm not Alessandro.


SHERRY.--No . . . you're not.


SLAKE.--I imagine you find that means of communication quite lacking in spontaneity and . . . uhhh . . . in warmth. (Pause) Ummmmm . . . Well! what is this, Mr. Latimer?


SHERRY.--It was just nervousness. It was done unconsciously . . . You do mean the . . .


SLAKE.--(Picking it up) Yes . . . I do mean the teeth marks on the leather binding. That is something I hadn't reckoned with.


SHERRY.--(Stiffly) I certainly hadn't considered . . . eating a leather bookbinding.


SLAKE.--(Purrs) Of course. I'm sure you didn't . . . but you wouldn't mind if I tear the leather cover from this volume. (Slight exertion)


SOUND.--Leather cover torn from book.


SLAKE.--A shame--but then you wouldn't want to eat dyed leather . . . no matter how hungry you get. It would be terribly unpalatable.


SHERRY.--As I said . . . I hadn't considered doing it.


SLAKE.--Then I have helped you--by removing the temptation.


SHERRY.--(Murmuring) Thoughtful of you.


SLAKE.--I'll bid you goodnight now, Mr. Latimer. Is there any message I may carry to Miss Vane for you?


SHERRY.--No . . . no message.


SLAKE.--It would be simpler than seeking out words and phrases in your books to point out to her. But just as you say. (Going away) I'll drop in on you tomorrow morning at the usual time, Mr. Latimer.


SOUND.--Door opens.


SLAKE.--(Off) Good night.


SHERRY.--Good night.


SOUND.--Door closes . . . echo out.


MUSIC.--Slow, weary, pulsating softly behind.


SHERRY.--Slake . . . John Slake--Oh! why did I listen to him . . . let him persuade me . . . to do this. Elementals . . . how sure he is of his elementals . . . Fear . . . hate hunger. Yes, he has all three on his side now . . . but we have something that can laugh at the three, Cathy. We'll beat him. We'll erase that smug smile of his. We'll win, Cathy. We'll win . . . (Then, a trifle desperately) We have to!


MUSIC.--Up . . . hold for transition . . . slow clock motif sustain behind.


SOUND.--Door opens . . . away.


SLAKE.--Good morning. Everything perfectly all right, I suppose, Mr. Latimer?


SHERRY.--Everything entirely satisfactory, Mr. Slake.


MUSIC.--Up briefly . . . fade briefly for


SLAKE.--Good evening, Miss Vane. Everything perfectly all right, I suppose?


CATHERINE.--Perfectly, Mr. Slake.


MUSIC.--Up briefly . . . sustain behind.


SLAKE.--Good morning, Mr. Latimer. Everything perfectly all right, I suppose?


SHERRY.--(Noticeably weakened) Everything . . . entirely satisfactory.


MUSIC.--Up and out.


SOUND.--Tapping on glass pane . . . repeated.


SHERRY.--Cathy . . . (Alarm) Cathy! (Aloud) Cathy! (Then, rapidly to self) She's asleep! It can't be anything else! She is asleep . . . I shouldn't waken her--but if she isn't asleep . . . She must be . . . she must be . . . What else could . . . (In sudden great fear he shouts as he pounds) Cathy! Cathy, darling!


SOUND.--Frantic pounding fists on glass . . . stops suddenly.


SHERRY.--(With great relief) Ohhhh . . . she was just asleep--and I've wakened her . . . That smile . . . brave, brave. (Forming words) Don't . . . get . . . up. I . . . just . . . wanted to . . . say . . . I . . . love . . . you. (To self) And I do . . . I do . . . so much. How could I let her go through this! (Forming words) I'm all right . . . fine. Don't worry about me. Don't worry . . . Yes--yes, good evening, dearest. (To self) I must get away from the panel, or she'll try to get up and come over to me. (Intensely, tearfully, to self) Oh, Cathy, Cathy . . . why did I let you go through this? Why! I never knew that hunger could be like this.


And I love her--I love her--and I let her do this crazy thing. I'm mud! I'm a thing made of mud who happens to be wearing clothes! No man with--with the will of a vertebrate animal would let the one he loves go through torture like this. Why did I? What happened to me? How did this come about?! I must have been mad! I can't even remember what led me to enter this wild, fantastic agreement. I can't remember. Five days without food. Five days with . . . (break) Is it 5 days? Oh, God--it could be 4! I don't remember! I can't remember. It could be 4 days. (Trying to get a grip on himself) No . . . I'm sure . . . it's 5 . . . 5 days. Yes, 5 days . . . (pitifully) . . . but I could be wrong. If it's 4 . . . I shall ask Slake when he comes in . . . and if it had been only 4 days . . . (rehearsing it) then I will tell him that, because I fear the effect this starvation will have on Cathy, that I am giving up the contest, that I am completely resigned to serving him for the 10 years . . . (Hollowly) Ten years. He couldn't compel me to keep that promise. It would have to be taken to court and he wouldn't dare do that--he would have to tell of this . . . this test. He wouldn't . . . (break) Those contracts . . . all the terrible meanings hidden away under the drift of ordinary legal phrases. Subtle, too . . . very binding. In consideration of a task to be performed, Sherwood Latimer and Catherine Vane are to receive a sum of $10,000. If the task is not performed . . . (Distraught) He would lie! And no one would believe us . . . it would seem fantastic! (Suddenly . . . frantically) But there's nothing else to do! I can't stand it . . . knowing how Cathy is suffering! I'll serve my 10 years! To the devil with my career! I'll have Cathy! (Pitifully) Oh, Cathy . . . Cathy!


MUSIC.--Short transition . . . out behind . . . echo.


SOUND.--Key in lock . . . door opened . . . off.


SLAKE.--(off) Good evening, Mr. Latimer.


SHERRY.--(Struggling to feet) Good evening.


SLAKE.--(Coming in) You needn't stand if you are weak, Mr. Latimer. (Pause) Everything perfectly all right, I suppose? (Pause) I wished for you at dinner this evening . . . I really wished for you. The bisque had a trifle too much whipped cream for my personal taste, but the fish was perfection . . . baked bluefish, you know. And the roast . . .


SHERRY.--Stop!


SLAKE.--(He's smiling) Dear, dear, I forgot. My apologies . . . So it has really begun to touch you--my elemental.


SHERRY.--(Trying to disguise his question) Not more than I had expected on the fifth day. (Pause) This is the fifth day isn't it?


SLAKE.--Don't you know, Mr. Latimer?


SHERRY.--Yes--I do. This is the fifth day. (Pause) I am right.


SLAKE.--Perhaps--though it may be only the fourth.


SHERRY.--(Losing control) Tell me, you devil! Tell me just that! (Pause . . . then, under control) I . . . I'm afraid we shall have to withdraw from the contest, Mr. Slake.


SLAKE.--Really? When only a few more hours would have brought us to the most interesting part?


SHERRY.--Yes.


SLAKE.--May I ask why?


SHERRY.--Catherine.


SLAKE.--I presume you have discussed this matter through the partition in your painfully slow way.


SHERRY.--Miss Vane doesn't know of my decision. She's brave . . . she'd never give up . . . but I can't allow her to be tortured this way.


SLAKE.--According to our contract, Mr. Latimer, both must agree to the withdrawal. One can't speak for the other.


SHERRY.--(In a rage) Damn our agreement! And you--and--and you--you devil from hell!


SOUND.--Scuffling of feet . . . a slap . . . man falling to floor . . . footfalls going away . . .


SLAKE.--(Going away) I will ask Miss Vane how she feels about your decision.


SOUND.--Door opens . . . away.


SLAKE.--(Off) What an exhibition of temper you gave, Mr. Latimer. (Fading) What a pitiful exhibition . . . 


(Out . . . fading in)


SLAKE.--Miss Vane. Miss Vane!


CATHERINE.--(Weakly) Yes? . . . I was not asleep. Everything is perfectly satisfactory . . . perfectly.


SLAKE.--A little matter, Miss Vane. Mr. Latimer is concerned over your condition and has asked me to inform you that he will agree to withdraw . . . if you insist.


CATHERINE.--(Slowly) Everything . . . is perfectly satisfactory.


MUSIC.--In with impact . . . fade slowly on weary, clock motif.


SHERRY.--(Weakly) One more day . . . or two at the very most . . . I wish I could be sure . . . if it's two . . . (He stops) Oh, Cathy . . . if you could be spared this . . . it's like the pressure of a dull knife against the pit of my stomach. It must be worse for Cathy . . . it must be. She's thinking of me . . . she thinks of what the 10 years might do to me. Oh, Cathy . . . don't think of that. It's all right. I'll have you. And she'd die before she would let me know that she suffered. I let her do this! I did! I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to her . . . But we'll win . . . we'll win and our future together will be assured. This is the sixth day . . . just one more . . . If I'm right . . . if this is the sixth day . . . I'm so weak . . . (Wryly) He who sleeps dines, the French say. I'll see. I'll see . . . and tomorrow when I wake . . . If I sleep . . . If I sleep . . .


MUSIC.--Soft, melodic, becoming gradually strange, unreal . . . The music reverberates in echo chamber . . . softly behind.


SHERRY.--I'm not asleep . . . but I feel . . . different . . . and it isn't a dream . . . because I'd not even think it might be a dream . . . if it were a dream. It isn't really a dream . . . because I know it's a dream . . .


CATHERINE.--Then it is a dream. 


SHERRY.--(Not too surprised) Cathy . . . You see, Cathy, it isn't a dream . . . because I can stop it whenever I want to . . . whenever I want to.


CATHERINE.--I'm so hungry, Sherry . . . sooooo hungry.


SHERRY.--You needn't be. This is my dream. And I can do in it whatever I choose. Only it isn't really a dream, because I can control everything . . . We will go to a restaurant.


CATHERINE.--Yes--let's.


SHERRY.--This is a restaurant. Here's the waiter. Tell him what you would like.


SLAKE.--(Coming in) Everything perfectly all right, I suppose, Mr. Latimer.


SHERRY.--Everything entirely satisfactory, waiter.


CATHERINE.--(Whisper) That isn't the waiter, Sherr--that's Mr. Slake.


SHERRY.--(Giggles fatuously) In my dream he is the waiter. I am not really asleep, so things are as I want them to be. (Chuckles) One of the wealthiest men in the world, Cathy--our waiter.


SLAKE.--Don't you know me, Mr. Latimer? 


SHERRY.--You were John Slake--but now you are our waiter.


ALESSANDRO.--Non sai' dove sei, Antonio?


SHERRY.--Certainly. We're in your restaurant . . . and my name is not Antonio. Tell His Highness my name, Catherine. (Alarm) Catherine!


SOUND.--Pounding on pane of glass.


SHERRY.--(Frantically) Catherine! Catherine!


ALESSANDRO.--Lei nonti sente, Antonio.


SHERRY.--She can hear me!


ALESSANDRO.--Non e possible!


SHERRY.--It's not impossible. She's right here. This is a dream. I know it's a dream . . . and I can do in it whatever I choose . . . and so can Lucetta.


ALESSANDRO.--A spetta un momento . . .


SHERRY.--(Translating quickly) In just a moment . . .


ALESSANDRO.--Cerchero muevere 1a finestra . . .


SHERRY.--(Translating) I will have the glass partition removed.


ALESSANDRO.--Allora vendremo quanto e grande questo tuo amore!


SHERRI-(Translating) Then we shall see how great is this love of yours.


ALESSANDRO.--Vendremo come si paragona un competizione con mie forze elementari!


SHERRY.--(Translating) We shall see how it fares in competition with my elementals. (Chuckles) Yes, we shall--we shall. Lucetta and I will prove you wrong, Your Highness.


SLAKE.--You translated the pamphlet for me . . . you know the ending of this tale.


SHERRY.--You are confused. Guiccardini wrote of your Merry Diversions. I am Antonio . . . No--I am confused also. I am Sherwood Latimer. You are . . .


SLAKE.--(Picking it up) Prince Alessandro.


SHERRY.--No--no . . . You're not going to muddle me again. You are John Slake.


ALESSANDRO.--Abasta . . .


SHERRY.--(Translating rapidly) Enough of this . . .


ALESSANDRO.--(Going away) C'ai fame!


SHERRY.--. . . You are hungry.


ALESSANDRO.--Guarde per la finestra.


SHERRY.--How can I look through the partition?


SLAKE.--(Interrupting) See Lucetta's hungry eyes.


SHERRY.--That is not Lucetta--that is Cathy. My Cathy . . . and her eyes are not hungry.


SLAKE.--She won't recognize you when I put the bread between you.


SHERRY.--Again you're wrong. This is my dream. Nothing happens unless I want it to happen.


SLAKE.--(Away) Raise the partition!


MUSIC.--Accelerates in tempo, heightened dramatically, with sound.


SOUND.--Gears and clanking of chains.


SHERRY.--Cathy! you do know me, don't you? Say you do.


CATHERINE.--Of course I do, my silly Sherry. Here comes the waiter again with our order. I'm so hungry, Sherry darling . . . so hungry . . .


SLAKE.--(Coming in) You ordered . . . uhhh . . . the bread, I believe.


SHERRY.--No, you fool--we ordered steaks! Steaks!


SLAKE.--Yes, sir--here's your bread.


SHERRY.--But I tell you . . .


CATHERINE.--(In monotone) I'll take the bread, I'll take bread. You may have the steak when it comes, all the steak--all the steak.


SHERRY.--(Fiercely) Give me the bread! I'll eat the bread!


SLAKE.--(Chuckles softly in background)


CATHERINE.--(Whining piteously) Sherry! Give me half . . . give me half . . . Sher-ry . . . I'm hun-gry . . . so hungry. (Her voice is now high-pitched, piercing)


SHERRY.--It's mine . . . the bread is mine!


CATHERINE.--(Whine mounts)


MUSIC.--Quick, dramatic progression of chords . . . the voices are stilled.


SHERRY.--It's mine! The bread is mine! The bread is . . . (Break . . . pause . . . he gasps as he sinks back on couch . . . long pause). 


What--what a horrible dream! I thought I was in control. I was sure I was in control . . . but when I saw the bread . . . Oh, Cathy! I took the bread from you . . . I took the bread from Cathy! (Tearfully) Oh, Cathy, Cathy . . . there won't be enough hours in a lifetime to make it up to you for all this torture I've let you endure.


(A sudden painful thought) It was a dream. It couldn't have been that . . . (Confusion) Oh, reality and thoughts are so tangled up together! . . . No--that wasn't the test. In the test my head will be clear . . . But what if I'm not in control of my behavior . . . what if I do as I did in that fantasm . . . that nightmarish terror! Oh, Cathy . . . give me strength!


MUSIC.--Transition with clock motif . . . out behind.


SOUND.--Door opened . . . closed . . . away.


SLAKE.--Well?


WARREN.--(Off) I'm going to get the broth.


SLAKE.--(Angrily) Don't walk away from me! 


(Pause


WARREN.--(In) Well?


SLAKE.--What is their condition?


WARREN.--The man's a little stronger . . . but neither of 'em can walk.


SLAKE.--Can they talk?


WARREN.--If you can call makin' sounds talkin', the man can.


SLAKE.--Very well . . . you needn't bother to bring them broth, however. I have this to give them.


WARREN.--Bread!? But they haven't eaten anything for a week--you don't want to give 'em solid food.


SLAKE.--(Unpleasantly) When the test is completed they will be in your tender care, Miss Warren.


SOUND.--Door opens.


SLAKE.--Would you like to watch this?


WARREN.--(Slightly off) No . . . Yes, yes, I would. I might be needed.


SLAKE.--Come in, then . . . Yes, you might be needed.


SOUND.--Door closes.


SHERRY.--(Off) Food.


SLAKE.--Yes . . . you might be needed. In a previous test of this order, which took place in the sixteenth century, it was necessary for three strong men to tear the two lovers apart when bread was placed between them. They were locked in a death struggle . . . over a piece of bread probably not as large as this.


WARREN.--I don't like this.


SLAKE.--I believe your salary is sufficiently large enough to compensate for that.


WARREN.--If word of this ever got to the ears of the authorities . . . 


SLAKE.--(Interrupting) It won't . . . will it, Warren?


WARREN.--No--no, sir. (Pause . . . off) No--no, sir.


SHERRY.--(To self) Food . . . Why am I so hungry?


SLAKE.--(Slightly away) Are you awake, Mr. Latimer?


SHERRY.--(Aloud) Food, please, food . . . (To self) That voice. I hate that voice.


SLAKE.--Yes, food--in just a moment, Mr. Latimer.


SHERRY.--(To self . . . slavering) I hate that voice? Who's voice is it?


SLAKE.--Don't you know me, Mr. Latimer?


SHERRY.--Who's he? He said Latimer--that's my name. (Aloud) Food.


SLAKE.--There's food on the floor. (Pause) There's food on floor.


SHERRY.--Food . . . Where? He said there's food on the . . . (Stops) I . . . I'm weak . . . so weak. If I can prop myself up on one arm . . . that voice said there's food on the floor . . .


WARREN.--(off) The girl hasn't moved. 


SHERRY.--Girl? (Exertion) I'll get the food before those voices take it . . . If I can slide off this--this bed . . . I see it . . . bread . . . on the floor . . . just like the voice said. It's my bread . . . I'll . . . (Stops . . . then fiercely) Who's she? Woman . . . She's looking at my bread--my bread.


SLAKE.--(off) Don't they remind you of starving animals, Warren?


SHERRY.--She's looking at me. Who is she? (Exertion) I'll get it before she can . . . slide down off this couch . . .


SOUND.--Inert body slumping easily to floor.


SHERRY.--I can get it--my bread . . . I . . . can . . . touch it . . . It's mine.


CATHERINE.--(Off slightly . . . in weak, sibillant whisper) Sher-wood. Sher-wood.


SHERRY.--That's my name--my name is Sherwood. She knows my name--but she won't get the bread.


CATHERINE.--Sherry! Oh, Sherry, dear!


SHERRY.--(Sucks in saliva wolfishly)


CATHERINE.--Sherry, dear . . . dear Sherry . . . I'm so hungry . . . I'm so hun-gry!


SHERRY.--(Suddenly rational, albeit weak) Catherine! Catherine! That's my Catherine! She's--she's hungry! I must feed her. She's hungry.


MUSIC.--Softly behind.


SOUND.--Man crawling over bare wooden floor.


CATHERINE.--(In . . . softly) Dear Sherry.


SHERRY.--Bread. Eat it. Bread--you eat.


CATHERINE.--No. You first--you're hungrier.


SLAKE.--(Coming in . . . enraged) Oh, pick the bread up, you babies--do you think I'm going to feed you? (Pause) Well, Warren, what's so funny?


WARREN.--Nothing, sir . . . It may take a bit of tuggin' to get them apart like you said, Mr. Slake--but that don't look like a death struggle to me . . . nothing like it.


MUSIC.--Triumphant . . . up to conclusion.


ANNOUNCER.--You have just heard the first presentation in the new NBC dramatic series, Authors' Playhouse. Tonight's story was Stephen Vincent Benét's "Elementals," especially dramatized for Authors' Playhouse by Charles Gussman. Fern Persons was heard as Catherine Vane, John Hodiak as Sherwood Latimer, Arthur Kohl as John Slake, Michael Romano as Prince Alessandro, Nelson Olmsted as Antonio. Laurette Fillbrandt as Lucetta, Katherine Card as Miss

Warren, and Bob Jellison as Renaldo.


The original musical score was written and directed by Rex Maupin.


Next week, a gripping story of the Southern swamplands by an American master of suspense and narrative power--"Snake Doctor"--by Irvin S. Cobb.


MUSIC.--Theme . . . up and out.


ANNOUNCER.--Authors' Playhouse has come to you from our Chicago studios. This is the National Broadcasting Company.


MUSIC.--Chimes.

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