The Columbia Workshop
The Lighthouse Keepers
Sep 29 1938
SOUND: A HEAVY WIND BLOWS RELENTLESSLY ... MUFFLED, AS IF HEARD FROM INSIDE ... THEN IN BG
ANNOUNCER: The Columbia Workshop presents "The Lighthouse Keepers." Six miles off the west coast of Brittany, on a cruel and barren crag in the North Sea, stands the Maudit Lighthouse. In a circular room, just below the lantern floor, live Brehan, the keeper, and Yvon, his son and assistant. It is a late afternoon in March. The sky is overcast, and the sea is roughening. In less than a half hour, it will be dark.
SOUND: DOOR OPENS, WIND UP ... DOOR SHUTS, WIND DOWN ... WIND CONTINUES IN BG ... YVON'S STEPS APPROACH, IN BG
BREHAN: Well, Yvon, you all finished down below?
YVON: (APPROACHES) Yes, all finished. I filled both the reservoirs and pumped five hundred gallons into the reserve tank.
BREHAN: You were quick. Must have hurried a bit.
YVON: Well, I wanted to get through.
BREHAN: Ohhh, you never get through work on a lighthouse.
YVON: I guess you're right.
BREHAN: Oh, nowadays keeping a light isn't so bad.
BREHAN: Electricity does most of our work for us.
YVON: Well, there's still plenty of work all the same.
BREHAN: There's enough. But it's easier. Ever stop to think how simple it is? Look. I've trimmed all the wicks and polished the reflectors, and all I have to do is push this electric switch so--
SOUND: CLICK! OF SWITCH
BREHAN: --and I'm all through.
SOUND: ELECTRIC MOTOR HUMS ... METALLIC GRIND OF TURNTABLE AS LIGHT REVOLVES ... THEN IN BG
BREHAN: She's on. One little click of a switch and the whole mechanism running easy as a clock.
YVON: Yes, it's simple enough. But still it takes a lot of tending. (BEAT) Say, isn't it too early to put the light on?
BREHAN: Yes, I was just giving it a test. That new bearing, you know. Always give her a test half hour before lighting time -- if there's been any change in the equipment.
YVON: That's a good idea.
BREHAN: I'll turn it off now.
SOUND: SWITCH CLICKS ... MOTOR OUT
BREHAN: Never take a chance with a light. Not when other people depend on you.
YVON: (DISTRACTED) Huh? Oh, yes, I suppose so.
SOUND: WIND ... UP BRIEFLY, TO FILL A PAUSE ... THEN IN BG
BREHAN: What a night it's turning into.
YVON: Probably be a long one. (YAWNS) And I'm tired. I'm awfully tired.
BREHAN: Already? Why, you haven't been out here more than six hours -- (LIGHTLY) But then a whole month ashore makes one a little soft, doesn't it?
YVON: (NOT HEARING) Er, what? What'd you say?
BREHAN: I say, life ashore-- Well, one has a good time there, and the hard thing about coming back to Maudit here is getting accustomed to seeing no one, being alone, climbing stairs and -- being alone. Absolutely alone.
YVON: Yes, that's it. We're so terribly alone. Cut off from civilization by six miles of open sea. If we only had a telephone even, or--
SOUND: WIND UP VIOLENTLY ... THEN DOWN, IN BG
BREHAN: Heh! Listen to that. Screaming like a woman.
YVON: Like a woman? I'd give it another name. I don't like it.
BREHAN: Well, one has to call it somethin'.
SOUND: WIND ... UP BRIEFLY, TO FILL A PAUSE ... THEN IN BG
YVON: Wind's getting worse. Seems to emphasize the loneliness.
BREHAN: Well, that's because you've just been ashore. Son, by and by, your philosophies will grow to accommodate these little, er-- These phases.
YVON: Yeah, I - I suppose they will. But it's so darn wild and ugly here. We're on a nasty crag all right.
BREHAN: Well, of course it's a nasty crag. That's why there's a light on it.
SOUND: WIND ... UP, TO FILL A PAUSE ... THEN IN BG
YVON: (TROUBLED) Father--?
YVON: Father, you once said it took about five years to be a good lighthouse keeper, and I suppose that in five years you see about everything that could possibly happen in a place like this.
BREHAN: Yes, I've seen it. I've seen it all.
BREHAN: Everything but the lighthouse topple into the sea. I've seen wrecks and drownings, and men swimming in the surf. Seen the lights fail. Seen a time when I had to burn blankets and mattresses soaked in oil. Yes, I've seen a good deal, my boy.
YVON: (CAN'T BRING HIMSELF TO ASK) Have you ever seen--? Have you ever seen a lighthouse, or been in one, when your partner -- when your assistant keeper -- when -- when he--?
BREHAN: When he what?
YVON: When he --- died?
BREHAN: (UPSET) Yvon! Don't say such a thing!
YVON: Well, I - I didn't mean anything by it. I just wondered if--
BREHAN: Why, that's a frightful thing to think! To die without a priest. It's unthinkable! It's not anything to be talking about either.
YVON: Well, it just seemed to - to sort of occur to me.
BREHAN: No. No, my son. Don't ever say such a thing. These things don't happen. God knows we're here to protect others. Surely we can expect that much protection in return.
YVON: Well, wouldn't it be a dreadful thing?
BREHAN: What's the matter with you anyhow?
YVON: Oh, nothing, I guess. Maybe it's just this being caged up in a stone tower.
BREHAN: Well, it's our duty to be caged up here. And after all, duty is the finest thing in the world. Don't ever forget that.
YVON: (ON EDGE) Well, all the same it's hard to be locked up this way. A man's nerves aren't supposed to stand anything like this.
BREHAN: Nonsense. For thirty days out here we can be proud of ourselves -- what we do for commerce, what we do for our country -- what we are making out of ourselves.
YVON: Yes, I - I've felt that sense of pride -- many times. But since our return to duty this time-- I - I just don't know what's happened to me.
BREHAN: Oh, that's nothing. It'll pass. It'll go away soon.
YVON: Yes, I suppose so. It'll pass. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week.
SOUND: DURING ABOVE, YVON STARTS PACING THE ROOM, HIS VOICE MOVING TO AND FROM MIKE ... SEAGULLS SQUAWK
YVON: Listen to those seagulls. They feel the bad weather coming. Certainly is mean outside.
BREHAN: Listen, don't worry about the weather. And do stop walking around so. Take it easy. Take it easy, will you?
YVON: I can't! I've to keep moving around like this!
BREHAN: Yes, it's from being ashore. You're used to having all those acres of open country around you. You got a little case of nerves, that's all. (LIGHTLY) Crazy sort of thing for a lighthouse keeper.
YVON: (SNAPS) But I can't help it, I tell you! I'm all on edge!
BREHAN: Oh, you're all right.
SOUND: SEAGULLS SQUAWK
BREHAN: (AMUSED) Heh! Listen to those gulls again. Probably so thick outside, they don't know where they're going. (MOVING OFF) Guess I'll take a little look around outside myself.
SOUND: BREHAN'S STEPS START FOR DOOR, THEN STOP WITH--
BREHAN: (OFF) What is it?
YVON: I wish you'd--
BREHAN: (OFF, BEAT) What'd you say?
YVON: Oh, nothing. Never mind.
BREHAN: (OFF) Yeah, I'll be back in a jiffy.
SOUND: BREHAN'S STEPS STEPS TO DOOR WHICH OPENS ... WIND UP ... DOOR CLOSES, WIND DOWN ... IN BG
YVON: (BEAT, NERVOUSLY) Father?! (NO ANSWER) Father?! (NO ANSWER) I don't want to be alone in here! Father?! (TO HIMSELF) Oh, my God, what's gone wrong with me? My head's whirling around like a wheel! (CALLS) Father?! (TO HIMSELF) Come out of this, Yvon. You've got to come out of this. Get a hold of yourself. He'll be coming back any minute.
SOUND: PAUSE ... THEN DOORKNOB RATTLES ... DOOR OPENS, WIND UP ... DOOR CLOSES, WIND DOWN, IN BG ... BREHAN'S STEPS IN
BREHAN: (APPROACHES) Oh, what horrible weather. I'm soaking wet. It's been four years since we had a blow like this. Good thing we're on a pile of rocks. Guess I'll get out of these oilskins. Maybe polish up a couple of lanterns.
SOUND: DURING ABOVE, BREHAN REMOVES RAINCOAT ... THEN STEPS TO LANTERN ... THEN NOISE OF LANTERN BEING HANDLED AND POLISHED, IN BG--
BREHAN: I'll begin with this lantern here I guess. Seems to need it most. (REASSURING) Oh, it's not so bad, really, Yvon. Makes me proud, too, in weather like this, to think that but for you and me, nobody'd be safe on the coast of Brittany. And the worse the night, the more important we are. Maudit will be there. Maudit'll always be there, shooting her long beam for fourteen miles into the darkness. Duty, my boy. Duty --- the first thing and the last thing in every man's life.
YVON: (NOT REALLY LISTENING) I suppose so. (LONG PAUSE, THEN SHARPLY) Father, what are you doing there?
BREHAN: What am I doing? Why, you can see for yourself. I'm just polishing these lanterns. A good sailor is always polishing something.
YVON: (AGITATED) I wish you'd leave it alone!
BREHAN: What do you mean? What for?
YVON: I don't want to see it. It shines so much it hurts my eyes! It's burning a hole through me!
BREHAN: What the devil are you talking about?
YVON: Give me that lantern, I tell you!
BREHAN: What are you trying to do? What's the matter with you?
YVON: Give it to me, I tell you!
SOUND: LANTERN SNATCHED AWAY AND HURLED TO FLOOR WITH A CRASH
YVON: There! Now leave the others alone, too!
BREHAN: (ANGRY) Fool! What's the matter with you? Have you gone out of your head?
YVON: (NO LONGER AGITATED, WEAKLY) I - I don't know. I don't know. I just couldn't stand it. Oh, I'm so terribly afraid of something. I can't tell what's eatin' me.
BREHAN: (SCORNFUL) Afraid!
YVON: (INCREASINGLY HYSTERICAL) Yes. I'm afraid. I am afraid. Something's stifling me. I can't stand being alone this way any more. I've had three years of it. I won't stand any more of it! I've got to get ashore, I tell you. I've just got to get ashore right away!
BREHAN: (SOOTHING) Son, please -- try to be sensible. You're tired. You're letting this thing excite you. It's nerves. We all get 'em now and then. Tell you what. I'll take the first watch tonight. A good sleep will set you up.
YVON: (HELPLESSLY) Sleep? Ah, if I could only sleep. If I could sleep and then wake up and see it was all just a dream I was having--
BREHAN: Don't talk that way. Of course you'll be able to sleep. You can't afford to carry on like this, Yvon. Yes, supposing we both went to pieces like this and a ship broke up on the rocks below.
YVON: (MORE REASONABLE) I know. I'm sorry. I just couldn't-- I should control myself no matter what. (MOVING OFF) I think I'll go out on the tower step. Maybe if I got a little air--
BREHAN: Good! That's more like it. Hang on to the rail now. Wind must be hurricane velocity by now.
YVON: (OFF, UNSTEADILY) Yes, I will. I'll - hang on.
SOUND: DOOR OPENS, WIND UP ... DOOR CLOSES, WIND DOWN, IN BG
BREHAN: (SADLY, TO HIMSELF) Heh. Poor boy. Now I'll have to get a broom and sweep up this mess.
SOUND: BREHAN'S STEPS TO BROOM ... SWEEPS BROKEN GLASS, IN BG
BREHAN: (TO HIMSELF, MUSES) Yeah. What a thing for him to do. Him three years with the light. Three for him. But twenty years for me. Twenty years. I'm almost an old man now. Old Brehan. (CHUCKLES) Just an old man who talks to himself when he's alone. Well, old folks can talk to themselves if they want to. It's better than not talking at all.
SOUND: SWEEPS BROKEN GLASS
YVON: (OFF, BARELY AUDIBLE SHOUT) Father?
BREHAN: Eh? What was that? (BEAT) I thought that was somebody calling. Well, I guess old Brehan is beginning to stoop a little in his mind as well as his back. (CHUCKLES) Hearing things that don't happen.
SOUND: SWEEPS BROKEN GLASS
YVON: (OFF, SHOUT, A LITTLE LOUDER) Father?
BREHAN: No! That was a shout. Am I getting the creeps like Yvon? What could that have been?
SOUND: DOOR OPENS ... WIND UP ... CONTINUES IN BG
BREHAN: (CALLS) Yvon?! Yvon?! Did you call, Yvon?! (PAUSE) Oh, here you are. Thought I heard you shoutin'. Come in out of the wet.
SOUND: DOOR CLOSES, WIND DOWN, IN BG
YVON: (APPROACHES) Yes, I shouted. I guess I did anyhow. I don't know why. I - I don't seem to be--
BREHAN: Well, never mind that now. Here, take off your oilskin.
SOUND: YVON REMOVES RAINCOAT
BREHAN: Why, you're trembling all over.
YVON: Am I? I feel so hot. I feel like I was going to fall down.
BREHAN: Maybe you've caught yourself a cold since we come out.
YVON: Perhaps. I feel burning up -- as if my lungs were on fire. Every breath. I need a drink of water, father; I'm terribly thirsty.
BREHAN: Here, let me feel your head. (BEAT) Ah hah, I thought so. Got a bit of fever. No, you'd better leave water alone -- just raise your temperature.
YVON: But I'm dying of thirst, I tell ya! Give me some water. Just a little water.
YVON: (DESPERATE) Father, I'm telling you, give me just some water--!
BREHAN: Don't be a fool!
YVON: (CHANGES TONE) I'm sorry. I'm afraid. I'm afraid there's something awful wrong with me. I'm not myself. I feel like I was someone else -- someone I didn't know. Some force seems to be moving my arms and legs, and I can hardly hear what I'm saying. Please let me have just a little bit of water. I feel faint.
BREHAN: (RELUCTANT) Well-- All right, then.
SOUND: BREHAN'S STEPS AWAY ... WATER POURED, OFF ... BREHAN'S STEPS RETURN
BREHAN: (A WARNING) Just a little. Drink it very slowly; just sip it. Here.
YVON: Thanks, I-- (SUDDENLY TENSE) Father? Father?!
BREHAN: What? What's the matter?
YVON: I'm so thirsty, and -- I can't drink! The sight of it, the sight of the water in this canister -- it horrifies me!
BREHAN: Well, better leave it alone then. It's fever. You'll be able to drink later on.
YVON: The sight of it makes me sick. Take it away.
BREHAN: That's your fever. That's all it is. Here, Yvon, come on over to the couch and lie down awhile. Come on, let me cover you up.
SOUND: THEIR STEPS TO COUCH ... WHERE YVON LIES DOWN, IN BG
YVON: No, no. No, no, I don't want to be covered. I'm too hot.
BREHAN: Now, you do what I say. There. There now. (BEAT) That's better. (SUDDENLY TENSE) Yvon? Why are you staring so at me so?
YVON: Listen, father. I have to tell you something. I can't keep it to myself any longer.
BREHAN: (UNDERSTANDINGLY) Well, you tell me. Tell your father, my boy. What is it?
YVON: It's about what we--
BREHAN: (BEAT) Go on. Don't be afraid to tell me.
YVON: Well, the other day, over at cousin Santec's--
BREHAN: Yes, cousin Santec's. I remember. What about it?
YVON: Santec's dog -- that big hunter--
BREHAN: Yes, I know. Fine animal. It was too bad they had to kill him.
YVON: (STARTLED) Kill--? So they did have to kill him! Had to kill him because he was mad!
BREHAN: But that was no fault of Santec's. He was always very kind to him.
YVON: (INCREASINGLY PANICKED) Father -- that dog -- that dog bit me. That's what's the matter. That's why I'm dying with thirst. That's why my head is whirling. I've got hydrophobia! I'm mad! I'm going mad! I'm turning into a mad dog like the hunter!
BREHAN: No, no, don't say that.
YVON: Yes, I am. It can't be anything else. It's been coming on for two days. I've been too terrified to say anything.
BREHAN: Yvon, Yvon, what are you saying?
YVON: Father, I - I can't die like this. Not alone. Not here. I've got to get ashore. (SAVAGELY) I tell you, I've got to get ashore!
BREHAN: Yes, yes, I - I'll save you. Oh, my poor boy. My poor boy.
YVON: Oh, I want to live! More than anything. I must live. I've got to live!
BREHAN: Yes, yes, Yvon! You're going to live. You'll be all right. This'll pass. It's - it's your fever climbing up.
YVON: (CALMER) Do - do you really think so?
BREHAN: Of course I think so.
YVON: Father, what would it be like? What would you do if I did die? Would you throw me into the sea?
BREHAN: Yvon, you mustn't say that. It isn't true. It isn't going to be true.
YVON: That's why I ran out on the tower step. That's why you heard me screaming! I - I wanted to throw myself into the sea. I wanted to, so you wouldn't have to.
BREHAN: Oh, Yvon, have pity. You - you don't know what you're saying.
YVON: I know what I'm saying.
BREHAN: Yvon, I'll take care of you. I promise. (SUDDEN IDEA) I'll launch the dory and row ashore and come back with a doctor!
YVON: Aw, you know you can't do that. You can't row six miles in this weather. You could never get the boat in the water.
BREHAN: Well, all the same I'm going. It's the the only thing.
YVON: No, no, no! Don't - don't do that! You'll never come back. Don't leave me alone!
BREHAN: All right, I - I'll stay with you then. Yvon, be quiet. You must be quiet now. I - I just want you to be calm for a little while while I--
SOUND: BREHAN'S STEPS TO PULLEY ... SQUEAK OF ROPE HAULED THROUGH PULLEY, CONTINUES IN BG
YVON: What are you doing?
BREHAN: (SLIGHTLY OFF) I'm hoisting the distress flag. They'll see it first thing in the morning; send out a boat.
YVON: In this weather? No sailor alive could reach us. No boat either.
BREHAN: (SLIGHTLY OFF, FORCED OPTIMISM) Well, perhaps the bad weather won't hold. Perhaps God'll perform some miracle.
YVON: (DISMISSIVE) Eh, God.
BREHAN: (SLIGHTLY OFF) Don't blaspheme that way, Yvon. God is a just God.
SOUND: PULLEY ROPE STOPS
BREHAN: (SLIGHTLY OFF) There. It's flying now. (BEAT, APPROACHES) No. No, Yvon -- God is good. He must be!
YVON: (DELIRIOUS) Oh, how my head swims. Oh, how hot I feel. Oh God, I'm sick -- I'm sick -- I'm sick -- I feel something terrible -- something coming -- coming soon. (MOANS IN PAIN)
BREHAN: Yvon, please. Lie still.
YVON: Keep away from me. Get away. I'm going out of my head! I'm going mad -- going mad! (HORRIFIC EXCLAMATION)
BREHAN: There's foam on your face!
YVON: Get away, I tell you! Get away! I can't bear you near me! If you don't get away, I'll kill ya! Keep away! Keep away from me!
BREHAN: Yvon! Yvon!
YVON: I tell you to get away! (SNARLS, CONTINUES IN BG)
SOUND: YVON ATTACKS BREHAN ... SCUFFLE, IN BG
BREHAN: (SCREAMS) Stop! What are you doing, Yvon?! Let go of me! Let me go! I'll have to choke you, Yvon!
YVON: (SNARLING CHANGES TO CHOKING AND GASPING)
BREHAN: (WITH EFFORT) I'll - choke ya. I-- (GASPS WITH EXERTION)
YVON: (DYING GASPS BEHIND--)
SOUND: SCUFFLE SLOWLY ENDS ... BREHAN'S HEAVY BREATHING ... THEN BODY THUD! AS YVON SLUMPS TO FLOOR
BREHAN: (PANTS, QUIET TEARFUL HORROR) Yvon-- My son-- I've killed him! I've killed him! (WEEPS EXTRAVAGANTLY)
SOUND: WIND ... UP BRIEFLY, TO FILL A PAUSE ... THEN IN BG
BREHAN: (INCREASINGLY HYSTERICAL) Curse this lighthouse. Curse this weather, this wind. Curse every black wave in the ocean. You've done this, all of ya. You've taken my son. Because I stand out here to snatch away your victims, that's why you've taken revenge! I curse the pitch-black spittle in your evil mouth! I hate you! I loathe you! I DESPISE YOU! (SOBS CONVULSIVELY)
SOUND: FROM OFF, WHISTLE OF ONCOMING SHIP
BREHAN: What's that?! A ship! (REALIZES) My light! I haven't put my light on! She'll break up! She'll strike and break up! (LAUGHS INSANELY) Let 'er smash! Let 'er rip her bottom out! (LAUGHS HYSTERICALLY)
SOUND: SHIP'S WHISTLE ... CLOSER, LOUDER
BREHAN: I'll never put the light on! Never! Never! Nobody ever came to help me! (LAUGHS HYSTERICALLY)
SOUND: SHIP'S WHISTLE ... STILL CLOSER, LOUDER
BREHAN: (QUIETLY) No. Nobody ever came. I'm going to stay with Yvon. My little Yvon. My poor little boy. Yes, Yvon, I - I'm going to stay with you. Old Brehan is going to stay with you.
SOUND: SHIP'S WHISTLE ... VERY CLOSE, VERY LOUD
BREHAN: (REALIZES) She's almost on us! I-- I can't do this! I-- (CALLS OUT) All right! All right! I'm coming! (QUIETLY) Come on now, light.
SOUND: CLICK! OF SWITCH ... ELECTRIC MOTOR HUMS ... METALLIC GRIND OF TURNTABLE AS LIGHT REVOLVES ... THEN IN BG
BREHAN: There it is. That did it. (RELIEVED) Yes, she's seen it already. She - she's veering away.
SOUND: THREE SHORT QUICK BLASTS OF SHIP'S WHISTLE AS IT MOVES AWAY
BREHAN: (WEARILY) So -- you salute me, huh? You say thank you. All right. All right. Old Brehan says you're welcome. I - I've done everything I could. (VERY SAD) Now -- I wonder what I should do about poor Yvon. Yvon-- (SUDDEN ALARM) What's this?! (BEAT) My arm! (BEAT) There's blood on it! -- (BEAT; HALTING, QUIET TERROR) I wonder - if Yvon - has bitten me.
SOUND: WIND ... UP, FOR CURTAIN ... THEN FADES OUT
ANNOUNCER: CBS has just brought you the first American radio performance of "The Lighthouse Keepers," translated from the French and adapted for radio by Max Wylie. Tonight marked the first time since the establishment of the Columbia Workshop as an experimental theater of the air that an entire performance was enacted by a cast of only two characters. The original play, "The Lighthouse Keepers," was written by Paul Cloquemin and was first produced in Nineteen Thirteen by the Théâtre des peurs of the Grand Guignol in Paris. In tonight's performance the role of Brehan was played by Ray Collins and that of his son Yvon by Luis van Rooten. The entire production was under the direction of Norman Corwin. Kenneth Roberts speaking. This is the Columbia Broadcasting System.
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