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The Enchanted Forest

The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour

The Enchanted Forest

Jun 27 1935


HOST, Rudy Vallee


MARGARET DEARTH, a witty, gifted ten-year-old girl

HOST: Presenting now Leslie Howard and his little daughter Miss Leslie Ruth Howard who is ten years old. Mr. Howard and his daughter were with us six weeks ago. I think it is safe to say that no single performance since our variety series began has occasioned the volume of letters and telegrams of appreciation that followed their appearance then. Tonight, for the benefit of those of you who may have missed the first time and those who've requested a second hearing, we repeat the same scene from Sir James M. Barrie's fantasy "Dear Brutus." Leslie Howard and Leslie Ruth Howard in "The Enchanted Forest" from "Dear Brutus." Mr. Howard will introduce the scene himself. Mr. Howard.



HOWARD: Three things, they say, come not back to men or women: the spoken word, the past life, and the neglected opportunity. There is no second chance. Each road we take, each choice we make, is done -- and done forever. But suppose you could turn back the clock. Suppose there were a Land of the Second Chance -- an Enchanted Forest of Might Have Been -- a timeless place where the things you should have done are real. A Land of the Second Chance -- can you imagine what that would be like? Go a step further, then, in imagination -- with Sir James Barrie, and with me.

Suppose I'm a man named Will Dearth, an artist -- a fashionable portrait painter. I'm in the middle years, and somewhere back in those years I took a wrong turning. I've become cynical in a rather shallow fashion -- dissolute, not quite a drunkard. My work has no sincerity in it and I know it. My wife hates me; I despise her. I have no children. Once back there, I - I did want a child. How different things might have been, I think, if I had had that child.

I'm standing now before a door that leads from my house to the garden.

I walk through the door.

Suddenly, I'm in a moonlit forest. A clearing drenched with moonlight. The house is gone. But I've forgotten there was a house. 

I'm sitting before an easel, painting. And standing beside me in the moonlight is a little girl. I don't know now, in the forest, that this is my daughter that might have been.

I only know this is my daughter.

MARGARET: (CRITICAL, AS AN ARTIST'S DAUGHTER SHOULD BE) The moon is rather pale tonight, isn't she?

DEARTH: (CHUCKLES) Comes of keeping late hours.

MARGARET: I can't sleep when the moon's at the full; she keeps calling to me to get up. Perhaps I'm her daughter, too.

DEARTH: Hmm, you look it tonight, you know.

MARGARET: Do I? Then can't you paint me into the picture as well as my mother? You could call it "A Mother and Daughter." Or - or simply "Two Ladies" -- if the moon thinks that calling me her daughter would make her seem too old.

DEARTH: O matre pulchra filia pulchrior. That means, "O Moon -- more beautiful than any twopenny-halfpenny daughter."

MARGARET: Daddy, do you really prefer her?

DEARTH: 'Sh! She's not a patch on you; it's just the sort of thing we say to our sitters to keep 'em in a good humor. (NOTICES SOMETHING) Margaret, what's this?

MARGARET: It's a tear.

DEARTH: I should think it is a tear.

MARGARET: That boy at the farm did it. He kept calling Snubs after me. But I got him down and kicked him in the stomach. He's rather a jolly boy.

DEARTH: Yeah, he sounds it. (CHANGES TONE, WITH WARM PLEASURE) Ye Gods, what a night!

MARGARET: And what a moon! (CRITICAL AGAIN) Dad, she's not quite so fine as you've painted her.

DEARTH: (MOCK CONFIDENTIALLY) 'Sh! I've touched her up.

MARGARET: It's too lovely, Daddy; I won't be able to keep hold of it.

DEARTH: What is?

MARGARET: The world -- everything -- and you, Daddy, most of all. Things that are too beautiful can't last.

DEARTH: Now, how on Earth did you find that out?

MARGARET: I don't know. (SUDDENLY) Daddy, am I sometimes stranger than other people's daughters?

DEARTH: Well-- (CHUCKLES) More of a madcap, perhaps.

MARGARET: (SERIOUS) Do you think I'm sometimes too full of gladness?

DEARTH: Well, my darling, you do sometimes run over with it.

MARGARET: (PERSISTING) To be very gay, dearest dear, is so near to being very sad.

DEARTH: (LIGHTLY) How did you find that out, child?

MARGARET: (SERIOUS) I don't know. From something in me that's afraid. (UNEXPECTEDLY) Daddy, what is a "might-have-been"?

DEARTH: A might-have-been? They're ghosts, Margaret. I daresay I "might have been" a great swell of a painter, instead of this - this uncommonly happy nobody. Or again, I might have been just a worthless idle waster of a fellow.


DEARTH: Well, who knows? Some little kink in me might have set me off on the wrong road. And that poor soul I might so easily have been might have had no Margaret. My word, I'm sorry for him.

MARGARET: So am I. Poor old Daddy, wandering about the world without me.

DEARTH: Yes. And there are other "might-have-beens" -- lovely ones, but intangible. Shades, Margaret, made of sad folk's thoughts.

MARGARET: Oh, I'm so glad I'm not a shade. How awful it would be, Daddy, to wake up and find one wasn't alive.

DEARTH: Yes, wouldn't it be, eh? (CHUCKLES)

MARGARET: Daddy, wouldn't it be awful? (BEAT) I think men need daughters.

DEARTH: (PLAYFUL) Yes. Oh, they do, yes.

MARGARET: Especially artists.

DEARTH: Oh, especially artists.

MARGARET: Especially artists.

DEARTH: Yeah, especially artists.

MARGARET: (MOCK GRAND) Fame is not everything!

DEARTH: Fame is rot. Daughters are the thing.

MARGARET: (MIMICS HIM) Daughters are the thing.

DEARTH: (AGREES) Daughters are the thing.

MARGARET: (BEAT) I wonder if sons would be even nicer.

DEARTH: No, no. Not a patch on daughters. You see, the awful thing about a son is that never, never -- at least, from the day he goes to school -- can you tell him that you rather like him. By the time he's ten you can't even take him on your knee. (MOCK DICTATION) No, sons are not worth having, Margaret. Signed W. Dearth.

MARGARET: But if you were a mother, Dad, I daresay he would let you do it.

DEARTH: You think so?

MARGARET: I mean when no one was looking. 


MARGARET: (MOCK DICTATION) Sons are not so bad. Signed, M. Dearth. 

DEARTH: Mm hm.

MARGARET: But I'm glad you prefer daughters. At what age are we nicest, Daddy?

DEARTH: Well, now, that's a poser. I think you were nicest when you were two and knew your alphabet up to G but fell over at H. No, no, no, no. I think you were best when you were half-past three; or just before you struck six; or possibly in the mumps year, when I asked you in the early morning how you were and you said solemnly, "I - I haven't tried yet."


DEARTH: Yes. Such was your answer. (RESUMES) But I'm not sure that chicken-pox doesn't beat the mumps. Oh, no, no, no, I'm all wrong. The nicest time in a father's life is the year before she puts up her hair.

MARGARET: I suppose that is a splendid time. 


MARGARET: But there's a nicer year coming to you. Daddy, there is a nicer year coming to you.

DEARTH: Is there, darling?

MARGARET: Daddy, the year she does put up her hair!

DEARTH: Puts it up for ever? You know, I'm afraid that when the day for that comes I shan't be able to stand it. My! It'll be too exciting. My poor heart, Margaret.

MARGARET: No, no, it will be lucky you, for it isn't to be a bit like that. I'm going to be a girl one day and a woman the next for the first year. You'll never know which I am till you look at my hair. And even then you won't know, for if it's down I shall put it up, and if it's up I shall put it down. And so my Daddy will gradually get used to the idea.

DEARTH: (WRY) I see. You've been thinking it out.

MARGARET: I've been doing more than that! 

DEARTH: Oh, yes?

MARGARET: Shut your eyes, Dad, and I shall give you a glimpse into the future.

DEARTH: No, I don't know that I want that: the present is so good.

MARGARET: Shut your eyes, please.

DEARTH: No, Margaret.

MARGARET: Please, Daddy.

DEARTH: No. (GIVES IN) All right, all right. They're shut.

MARGARET: Don't open 'em till I tell you. (TESTS HIM) What finger am I holding up?

DEARTH: (MOCK SERIOUS) The, uh-- The, uh-- The dirty one.

MARGARET: (MOCK INDIGNANT) Daddy! (BEAT, BUSY WITH HER HAIR) Now I'm putting up my hair. I've got such a darling of a mirror. It's such a darling mirror I've got, Dad. Dad, don't look! I shall tell you about it. It's a little pool of water. I wish we could take it home and hang it up. Of course the moment my hair is up there'll be other changes also; for instance, I shall talk quite differently.

DEARTH: (CHUCKLES) Well, where are my matches, dear?

MARGARET: Top pocket, waistcoat.

DEARTH: You were meaning to frighten me just now.

MARGARET: No. I'm just preparing you. You see, darling, I can't call you Dad when my hair is up. I think I shall call you Parent. 


MARGARET: (LIKE AN ADULT) Parent dear, do you remember the days when your Margaret was a slip of a girl, and sat on your knee? How foolish we were, Parent, in those distant days.


MARGARET: Now I must be more distant to you; more like a boy who could not sit on your knee any more.

DEARTH: (GENTLY IMPATIENT) Well, now - now look here, I want to go on painting. Can I look now?

MARGARET: (UNCERTAIN OF HER REFLECTION) I'm not quite sure that I want you to. It makes such a difference. Perhaps you won't know me. Even the pool is looking a little scared. (BEAT, DECISIVE) Now look! (BEAT) Well? What do you think? Will I do?

DEARTH: (SUDDENLY VERY SERIOUS) Stand still, dear, and let me look my fill. The Margaret that is to be.

MARGARET: (UNEASY) You'll see me often enough, Daddy, like this, so you don't need to look your fill. (BEAT, REALIZES, SLOWLY) You're looking as long as if this were to be the only time.

DEARTH: (CATCHES HIMSELF) Was I? Oh, surely it isn't to be that.

MARGARET: (LIGHTLY) Be gay, Dad. You'll be sick of Margaret with her hair up before you're done with her.

DEARTH: Yes. Yes, I expect so.

MARGARET: (GOOD-NATURED) Shut up, Daddy. Daddy, I know what you're thinking of. You're thinking of what a handful she's going to be.

DEARTH: Well, I guess she is.

MARGARET: You think I'm pretty, don't you, Dad, whatever other people say?

DEARTH: Not so bad.

MARGARET: I know I have nice ears.

DEARTH: They're all right now, but I had to work on 'em for months.

MARGARET: (CHUCKLES) You don't mean to say you did my ears?

DEARTH: Yes, rather.

MARGARET: Well, my dimple's my own.

DEARTH: I'm glad you think so. I wore out the point of my little finger over that dimple.

MARGARET: Even my dimple? Have I anything that is really mine? A bit of my nose or anything?

DEARTH: Well, when you were a babe you had a laugh that was all your own.

MARGARET: Haven't I it now?

DEARTH: No, it's gone. I'll tell you how it went. You see, we were fishing in a stream -- that's to say, I was wading and you were sitting on my shoulders holding the rod. We didn't catch anything. Somehow or other -- I can't think how I did it -- you - you irritated me, and I answered you sharply.

MARGARET: (MOCK GASP) I can't believe that.

DEARTH: No, it sounds extraordinary, but I did. It gave you a shock, and, for the moment, the world no longer seemed a safe place to you; your faith in me had always made it safe until then. You were suddenly - suddenly not even sure of your bread and butter, and a frightened tear came to your eyes. (CHUCKLES) Well, I - I was in a nice state about it, I can tell you. 



MARGARET: But what has that to do with my laugh, Daddy?

DEARTH: Well, you see, the laugh that children are born with lasts just so long as they have perfect faith. And to think that it was I who robbed you of yours!

MARGARET: Oh, how you do love me, Daddikins.

DEARTH: Yes, I do, rather. You know, I never, never intend to lose you.

MARGARET: It would be hard for me if you lost me, but it would be worse for you. I don't know how I know that, but I do know it. What would you do without me, Daddy?

DEARTH: (UNEASY) No, no, no. Don't - don't talk like that, dear. It's wicked -- stupid -- naughty. 


MARGARET: Daddy! Listen! It's going to rain!


DEARTH: Yes, I'm afraid it is.

MARGARET: It frightens me, Daddy. Let's get out of the wood.

DEARTH: Well, I'm afraid we won't have time, dear, before it begins to-- (SURPRISED) Hullo! I hadn't noticed there was a house over there. Look.

MARGARET: (TENSE) Daddy, I feel sure there wasn't a house over there!

DEARTH: (LIGHTLY) Oh, silly. It's just because we didn't look: our old way of letting the world go hang; so interested in ourselves. (BEAT, PUZZLED) You know, it's funny. There - there's something vaguely familiar about that house.


MARGARET: (NERVOUS) Let's get out of the wood.

DEARTH: (DISTRACTED) Yes, dear, yes. But there's - there's somebody I have to see in that house. (BEAT) I'll just go in for a moment.

MARGARET: I'll go with you, Daddy.

DEARTH: No, no. You'd better not, Margaret. They - they might not care for children.

MARGARET: (ON EDGE) Don't go into that house, Daddy! I don't know why it is, but I'm afraid of that house.

DEARTH: (REASSURING) No, nonsense, nonsense. There's a kiss for each moment until I come back. (KISSES HER, MOVING OFF) I'll be back before you can count a hundred.

MARGARET: (DUTIFULLY) One, two, three, four, five --- six--


MARGARET: --seven. (CALLS, SCARED) Daddy! Don't go into that house! Please, Daddy! Daddy, come back! I don't want to be -- a might-have-been.