Microphone Plays‎ > ‎

The Niche of Doom

The Weird Circle

The Niche of Doom

1943



CAST:

VOICE

JOSEPHINE MERRET

ROSALIE, Josephine's loyal maid

AUGUSTE, Josephine's cruel, crafty husband

WAITER, at the café

PIERRE, Josephine's lover

GORENFLOT, the mason




SOUND: TICK-TOCK OF CLOCK ... OUT BEHIND--


VOICE: (ECHO) I demand that time cease! The past will return and the stories of yesterday unfold! Listen to "The Weird Circle"!


SOUND: BRIEF OMINOUS CRASH OF WAVES ON SHORE


[COMMERCIAL BREAK]


SOUND: OMINOUS CRASH OF WAVES ON SHORE ... TOLLING BELL, IN BG


VOICE: (ECHO) Out of the past, phantoms of a world gone by speak again the immortal tale: "The Niche of Doom."


SOUND: UP AND OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE ... THEN IRREGULAR TAP-TAP-TAPPING, IN BG 


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES) Will it never stop, this constant tapping inside my mind? Yes, I've listened to that same hopeless tapping for days on end. I thought it would stop when I came to this rest home. Here in my room, my husband sits on the edge of my bed -- watching me, knowing my thoughts, feeding me horror, tearing at the fabric of my mind as a spider tears the wings off its prey! (BITTERLY HARSH) My husband, Auguste Merret. My husband -- my torturer, my captor, my murderer! 


SOUND: TAP-TAP-TAPPING OUT


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES, SOBS) A woman has a right to live, to laugh, to smile and be happy -- a right to love and be loved. And I was lonely. I remember the day I was in the patio attending to my tulip bulbs, talking to my maid Rosalie as I spaded the earth.


SOUND: BIRDS TWITTER, IN BG


ROSALIE: Oh, madame, the garden looks just beautiful!


JOSEPHINE: Yes, it does! I love this garden, Rosalie; it's the one thing in this entire dreary house I can call my own.


ROSALIE: If the tulip bulbs look as nicely as they did last year, perhaps Monsieur Merret will allow you to enter them in the garden contest.


JOSEPHINE: I meant to ask him--


AUGUSTE: (INTERRUPTS, APPROACHES) Good day, Josephine! How are you feeling today?


JOSEPHINE: Well, I feel fine, Auguste. I - I didn't expect you so early.


AUGUSTE: You may go, Rosalie.


ROSALIE: Yes, sir. Anything I can do for you, madame?


JOSEPHINE: No, nothing, my dear.


ROSALIE: Yes, madame. (EXITS)


AUGUSTE: You're looking very well, Josephine. Very well.


JOSEPHINE: (HOPEFUL) Auguste--?


AUGUSTE: You've something on your mind? What is it?


JOSEPHINE: Auguste, I was wondering if you'd mind frightfully if I entered my tulip bulbs in the annual country exhibition?


AUGUSTE: Mind? Naturally I mind. You know very well I don't like you making an exhibition of my name in public.


JOSEPHINE: Auguste, just entering the tulip contest--


AUGUSTE: (INTERRUPTS) I will not discuss it.


JOSEPHINE: But it's so lonely here all the time.


AUGUSTE: Lonely? Nonsense. You've the maid for company.


JOSEPHINE: Yes, I've Rosalie.


AUGUSTE: And I manage to spend one evening a week with you.


JOSEPHINE: Yes, I know you do.


AUGUSTE: My dear, you should be very grateful that you have the position in life which marrying me has given you.


JOSEPHINE: I have everything but happiness, Auguste.


AUGUSTE: Happiness is relative. A girl born in the circumstances in which you were born -- a poor unimportant family -- certainly cannot expect everything.


JOSEPHINE: But I ask so little, Auguste -- just to exhibit the bulbs in the flower show.


AUGUSTE: I thought we were not going to discuss this any more. You know very well the doctor told me at my age I'm not to allow myself to become excited.


JOSEPHINE: Yes, I remember what the doctor said.


AUGUSTE: I'm glad. Please remember it. And now, my dear, I really must go over to court.


JOSEPHINE: Will you be home this evening, Auguste?


AUGUSTE: I'm never home on Tuesdays, Josephine. Enjoy yourself, my dear. Don't wear yourself out in the patio. You country girls are always lovely while you're young, but you age so quickly.


SOUND: SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES, WITH DISTASTE) "Age so quickly." He frightened me. I saw all the years of my youth passing me by as I was caged up in the house on the Rue Montmartre. I was only fifteen when I married Auguste. Fifteen, and he was fifty-five then. Five years of marriage had taught me the meaning of loneliness and tears. A woman has the right to bask in the warmth of her youth. That's why I left the house that day. I wandered out into the garden patio outside my room and I walked down the boulevard to Grenault's café. 


SOUND: SIDEWALK CAFE BACKGROUND (CLIP-CLOP OF HORSES IN STREET, OCCASIONAL MURMUR OF DINERS, ET CETERA) 


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES) I sat down at a table on the sidewalk, intending only to watch the others, to watch life pass by. The waiter was very friendly.


WAITER: What will you have, madame?


JOSEPHINE: An ice. A raspberry ice.


WAITER: A raspberry ice? Excellent, madame. (MOVING OFF) Excellent for a warm afternoon.


JOSEPHINE: (INHALES, PLEASED, TO HERSELF) How angry this would make Auguste!


PIERRE: (CHARMING, LIGHTHEARTED) Sitting all alone, madame?


JOSEPHINE: (AWKWARD) I-- Yes, I-- Well, because I - I wish to be alone.


PIERRE: (CHUCKLES) Oh, no, you don't. Not when you've the opportunity to enjoy my company.


JOSEPHINE: (SLIGHTLY AFFRONTED) Please, sir, I shall call the waiter. I--


PIERRE: No, don't, please. You're lonely and I'm lonely. Certainly there can be no harm in two lonely people sharing a table for one short half hour -- now can there?


JOSEPHINE: But my husband--


PIERRE: (WINNINGLY) Even a jealous husband can't object!


JOSEPHINE: Really, sir, I--


PIERRE: And you are lonely. You really want me to sit down; you just won't admit it. (CHUCKLES) I can see the truth in your face.


JOSEPHINE: You see things that are not there.


PIERRE: May I, madame -- just for one half hour?


JOSEPHINE: (GIVES IN) Well, there really is no harm in it, is there?


PIERRE: None at all. Thank you. 


SOUND: CHAIR SCRAPES AS PIERRE SITS


PIERRE: Of course, madame, you know that I've lied to you.


JOSEPHINE: Lied to me, sir?


WAITER: Your ice, madame.


SOUND: DISH SET DOWN ON TABLE


WAITER: Er, something for you, monsieur?


PIERRE: Oh, er-- Same as the lady.


WAITER: (MOVING OFF) Oui, monsieur.


PIERRE: (LIGHTLY) Nothing like raspberry ice to start a lifelong friendship.


JOSEPHINE: (SERIOUS) What do you mean you've lied to me?


PIERRE: Well, I didn't just happen along just now. I didn't just happen to see you sitting here and come up. I've planned everything very carefully in advance.


JOSEPHINE: Oh?


PIERRE: You see, madame, I live across the way from you. I've watched you gardening in the patio of your home many times.


JOSEPHINE: You--? But why, monsieur?


PIERRE: Why? Why, because you're a beautiful woman. 


JOSEPHINE: (A TINY GASP)


PIERRE: Because I wanted to know you so very much. Because I've seen something in your eyes that I've felt inside myself. 


JOSEPHINE: (AFFRONTED AGAIN, FIRMLY) You shouldn't, monsieur. You really shouldn't say these things to me.


PIERRE: My name's Pierre Planton.


JOSEPHINE: Monsieur, for both our sakes, do leave me now. You've no idea how much trouble this innocent little adventure might cause us later on.


PIERRE: Oh, I've waited a long time to meet you, dear lady. Not just a day or a week -- or weeks! -- but a year.


JOSEPHINE: I'm very flattered, Monsieur Planton.


PIERRE: Pierre is the name.


JOSEPHINE: (BEAT, FRIENDLY) Pierre. (CHUCKLES)


PIERRE: (CHUCKLES) You know, the first day I saw you in the garden, I asked my servant who you were. (CHUCKLES) And when I found out you were married, I resolved never to try to see you again. But--


JOSEPHINE: Why did you change your mind?


PIERRE: (DRY) I saw your husband.


JOSEPHINE: (DEFENSIVE, WITH DIGNITY) Auguste is a very fine, upstanding man.


PIERRE: (TEASING) He told you so himself, eh?


JOSEPHINE: Why, no. I - I really think so.


PIERRE: (STILL TEASING) He's an old garrulous stupid bore who's overwhelmed with his own importance.


JOSEPHINE: (TAKEN ABACK) Oh--


PIERRE: Frankly, my curiosity's aroused. Why did a lovely young girl like yourself ever marry him?


JOSEPHINE: (MILDLY DEFENSIVE, WITH SADNESS) Well, I - I loved him. (SOBS)


PIERRE: (INSTANTLY CONTRITE) Ohhh, madame, please don't cry. Please. If there's one thing that turns my bone to water, it's a beautiful woman's tears. Here. 


JOSEPHINE: (WEEPY) I'm not crying.


PIERRE: (CHUCKLES, AMUSED, GENTLY) Here, use my handkerchief for these nonexistent tears then.


JOSEPHINE: Thank you. (COMPOSES HERSELF)


PIERRE: (CHUCKLES, GENTLY) Now, Josephine -- smile.


JOSEPHINE: Stop ordering me about. I won't have it.


PIERRE: Please smile at me and say I'm forgiven.


JOSEPHINE: (EXHALES) You're forgiven. (CHUCKLES)


PIERRE: (CHUCKLES WARMLY) Oh, that's better. I promise to be nice. You see, Josephine, believe it or not, I'm very fond of you -- against my better judgment. You'd better believe it, because I'll haunt you every day if you don't.


SOUND: SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES, WISTFUL) And that's the way it started -- just a talk in a sidewalk café. My first friend -- perhaps the only friend I had besides Rosalie. At first, Pierre and I thought we were just playing at love. But by the end of the second week, I knew the truth. I loved him. I loved him as deeply and as truly as any woman could. We met in the afternoons in the café, and in the evenings when Auguste was out, he stole into the patio and we talked -- talked of him and of me. And then of us. Of our future - together. (CHANGES TONE) It was Tuesday two weeks ago that he was supposed to arrive at nine o'clock. Rosalie was helping me dress.


SOUND: MUSICAL CLOCK STRIKES EIGHT-THIRTY, IN BG


ROSALIE: You better hurry, madame. He'll be here in half an hour.


JOSEPHINE: How do I look, Rosalie?


ROSALIE: Beautiful! I wish I were as beautiful as you.


JOSEPHINE: (A MODEST CHUCKLE)


ROSALIE: Oh, madame, put this brooch in the front of the dress. It sparkles so.


JOSEPHINE: Yes! Yes, I think I will. (BEAT) Rosalie, he's so handsome and so fine.


ROSALIE: And you really and truly love him?


JOSEPHINE: Really and truly.


ROSALIE: But what will you do, madame?


JOSEPHINE: I don't know. If I could only be honest with Auguste-- If I could only tell him and break away--


ROSALIE: No, madame, he'll kill Monsieur Pierre.


JOSEPHINE: Yes, I know, and he'd be well within his rights--


SOUND: FRONT DOOR OPENS, OFF ... AUGUSTE'S STEPS SLOWLY APPROACH, IN BG


JOSEPHINE: I'm so frightened sometimes -- so very frightened.


ROSALIE: (LOW) Oh, madame, listen.


JOSEPHINE: (WHISPERS) Footsteps! That's Auguste outside my room!


ROSALIE: What will you do?


JOSEPHINE: I don't know. Perhaps he'll leave before Pierre--


ROSALIE: But if he doesn't?! Then what--?


JOSEPHINE: Then you must pretend that Pierre is your friend.


ROSALIE: Oh!


SOUND: BEDROOM DOOR OPENS


AUGUSTE: Well! Look at my lovely wife tonight. Dressed up, aren't you, my dear?


JOSEPHINE: Good evening, Auguste. I always dress in the evenings; you know that.


AUGUSTE: No, I didn't. I shall hereafter take more advantage of your loveliness.


JOSEPHINE: You flatter me, my lord. I didn't expect you to drop in to see me this evening.


AUGUSTE: Were you expecting someone else?


JOSEPHINE: Why, how unfair you are, sir.


AUGUSTE: Unfair? No, I'm -- shall we say, more curious than unfair. You may leave, Madame Rosalie.


ROSALIE: (HESITANT TO LEAVE) Madame, I - I - I--


AUGUSTE: What's the matter with you, girl? Why do you stand there staring like that?


ROSALIE: Well, but--


JOSEPHINE: Rosalie's expecting a visitor in my patio shortly, Auguste.


AUGUSTE: A visitor?


JOSEPHINE: Yes.


AUGUSTE: Rosalie?


JOSEPHINE: Yes.


AUGUSTE: Well, that's different. A lover, eh? I suppose you'll be getting married soon, eh, girl?


ROSALIE: Well, yes-- (CHUCKLES NERVOUSLY) Yes, yes, I--


AUGUSTE: Ah, more's the pity. Mind if I sit down a little, Josephine?


JOSEPHINE: No, do, my lord.


AUGUSTE: (TO ROSALIE) I suppose you'll be leaving madame and myself shortly? You should have told me, girl.


ROSALIE: Well, I - I--


AUGUSTE: You what?


ROSALIE: I didn't think, monsieur.


AUGUSTE: If you'd told me, I'd have supplied you with a decent dowry. A girl in your position can scarcely afford a trousseau.


ROSALIE: It's very kind of you, monsieur, to offer me.


AUGUSTE: Well, my dear, no matter what, I shall be generous to you and offer your future husband a fair dowry anyway. What say you, Josephine? Is that not generous?


ROSALIE: Very generous, my lord.


AUGUSTE: Ahhhh, yes, it is. My girl Rosalie, you shall be married in the Merret chapel at noon Friday.


ROSALIE: Friday, monsieur? So soon? Three days!


AUGUSTE: Yes, Friday. A girl in love should be delighted at the prospect. Unless you've lied to me.


ROSALIE: Lied to you? Oh, never, monsieur -- never! (UNCONVINCING) I'm delighted. Delighted. I--


AUGUSTE: Yes, of course you are. Well, Josephine, you might help the young lady plan her wedding while I'm gone, and make a list of all the necessary items which you'll need.


JOSEPHINE: Yes, my lord.


AUGUSTE: I shall leave the entire proceedings in your hands. That ought to keep you well-occupied.


JOSEPHINE: Yes, my lord. Are you leaving me so soon?


AUGUSTE: I have to, my dear. You know these Tuesday nights. You know them very well. Good night, Josephine. (MOVING OFF) Give my best to your suitor, Rosalie, and tell him - I'll do my best by you.


SOUND: BEDROOM DOOR CLOSES AS AUGUSTE EXITS


ROSALIE: (WORRIED) Oh, madame--


JOSEPHINE: (LOW) Ssh! Careful. Auguste can be sly as a fox.


ROSALIE: Friday?


JOSEPHINE: Yes, Friday. Rosalie, he's very clever. I don't know how he found out, but he knows. At least, he suspects.


ROSALIE: What will we do, madame?


JOSEPHINE: I don't know.


PIERRE: (WHISTLES BRIEFLY -- A SIGNAL)


JOSEPHINE: There he is. Tell him to come up, Rosalie.


ROSALIE: Yes, madame.


SOUND: WINDOW OPENS


ROSALIE: (SLIGHTLY OFF) Come up, monsieur.


PIERRE: (LIGHTLY, OFF) Is Old Spider-Legs gone?


ROSALIE: Yes. But hurry, monsieur, hurry.


PIERRE: (CHUCKLES) I climb to my love's balcony. (CLOSER, LOVINGLY) Oh, darling, darling, darling--


JOSEPHINE: Dear! Auguste is clever; he knows!


PIERRE: What? He knows? He told you so himself?


JOSEPHINE: He came in this evening while I was dressing. I was afraid he might stay for the evening, so I told him about you.


PIERRE: (INCREDULOUS) You told him?


JOSEPHINE: I said that you and Rosalie were engaged to be married.


PIERRE: (RELIEVED) Ohhh, so.


ROSALIE: And, monsieur, he insists we get married Friday in the Merret chapel. He's going to provide my dowry.


PIERRE: You think he suspects you, Josephine?


JOSEPHINE: I know he does. Darling, you must leave at once and never return.


PIERRE: Leave you and Rosalie to the mercies of that--?


JOSEPHINE: We'll lie our way out of it.


ROSALIE: Yes! I'll tell him my lover did not like to be rushed and quit me.


PIERRE: And he'd believe it? Just like that?


ROSALIE: Of course.


PIERRE: Never! Never, Rosalie. No, no, that's not the answer. That's not even sensible. Darling, sooner or later, we'd have to take our chances and run away. Why not now?


JOSEPHINE: Run away? Where? How?


PIERRE: To Spain. He'd never find us in Spain.


JOSEPHINE: I've no passport, I couldn't even leave the country -- and, as long as I'm in France, he'd find me and drag me back.


PIERRE: We'd find a way to leave the country. Ah, Spain is lovely at this time of year -- beautiful; the trees are heavy with lilac bloom. And you'd like Madrid, Josephine; it's like another world.


JOSEPHINE: (TEMPTED) Madrid! If only--


PIERRE: If only what? (LAUGHS) If only you'd the courage? We'll leave at once -- pack a few things quickly and we'll hire a coach to take us to the border.


JOSEPHINE: (ECSTATIC DISBELIEF) Tonight? Tonight, Pierre? (BEAT, WHISPERS TOTAL AGREEMENT) Tonight.


SOUND: FIRST ACT CURTAIN ... OMINOUS CRASH OF WAVES ON SHORE AND DRIPPING OF WATER IN CAVERN ... THEN FADES OUT


[COMMERCIAL BREAK]


SOUND: SECOND ACT INTRODUCTION ... OMINOUS CRASH OF WAVES ON SHORE AND DRIPPING OF WATER IN CAVERN ... THEN FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


PIERRE: Now the suitcase is closed, my darling. Where's your coat?


JOSEPHINE: In this closet.


PIERRE: Oh, let's do hurry.


SOUND: CLOSET DOOR OPENS


JOSEPHINE: Lovely coat, isn't it?


PIERRE: Everything looks lovely on you.


JOSEPHINE: (BEAT, LOW) Listen!


PIERRE: What is it?


JOSEPHINE: My husband's footsteps in the hall!


ROSALIE: (OFF, TO AUGUSTE) Monsieur Merret, I waited for him and he never showed up.


AUGUSTE: (OFF) That's a pity, Rosalie. And I had such pleasant wedding plans for you.


JOSEPHINE: (LOW, URGENT) Here. Quickly! Hide in the closet! Take my coat and the suitcase with you.


PIERRE: Of course.


JOSEPHINE: Here, take it.


PIERRE: Don't be frightened, darling.


SOUND: CLOSET DOOR CLOSES


ROSALIE: (OFF, TO AUGUSTE) Madame, hasn't been feeling well and she lay down, monsieur.


AUGUSTE: (OFF) Well, she's probably lonely. I'll cheer her up.


SOUND: KNOCK ON BEDROOM DOOR, WHICH OPENS


AUGUSTE: (APPROACHES) Josephine! I'm glad to see you looking well. Rosalie told me you were ill.


JOSEPHINE: I had a bad headache.


SOUND: BRIEF SHARP CLACK! FROM INSIDE CLOSET


AUGUSTE: What's that?


JOSEPHINE: (SUPPRESSED NERVOUSNESS) Nothing, Auguste, I heard nothing.


AUGUSTE: In your closet. I heard something drop.


JOSEPHINE: Why, what could drop in a closet?


AUGUSTE: I don't know. You're better acquainted with your wardrobe than I am.


JOSEPHINE: Of course, my lord.


AUGUSTE: You've so many headaches lately. Come, my dear, you'd best lie down and rest.


JOSEPHINE: Of course, whatever you say, my lord.


AUGUSTE: You may go, Rosalie.


ROSALIE: (WITH DREAD) Yes, sir. Of course, sir.


SOUND: BEDROOM DOOR CLOSES AS ROSALIE EXITS


AUGUSTE: I hope I didn't disturb your plans for the evening. But the evening began to pall, so I returned home. Sometimes my friends can prove themselves quite dull. I was thinking of you and your beauty, and I was worried about you.


JOSEPHINE: Worried about me? In what way, Auguste?


AUGUSTE: Oh, in the last two weeks, two of my friends have told me that they've seen you walking down the street alone -- unchaperoned. 


JOSEPHINE: Have they?


AUGUSTE: Not that I listen to idle chatter, my dear; I don't, you know that.


JOSEPHINE: People talk; they have so little else to do.


AUGUSTE: Naturally, I understand that. But then a very close friend of mine was at the Café Grenault a few days ago. He, er, has told me something that rather puzzled me. (BEAT) You look a little pale, my dear.


JOSEPHINE: My headache--


AUGUSTE: (DRY) Naturally -- your headache. (RESUMES HIS STORY) He said he was sitting in the café and he noticed a woman -- who looks remarkably like you -- walk in and sit at a corner table.


JOSEPHINE: A woman who looked like me?


AUGUSTE: She sat for a while all alone. Later, a man -- a young man -- joined her. He sat by her side. Er, he called her Josephine -- your name. Remarkable that a woman who looks like you should have the same name as you. 


JOSEPHINE: Yes, it is remarkable. Quite coincidental.


AUGUSTE: That's what I thought -- coincidental. I might even have thought that woman was you -- if I didn't know better; know that you're a dutiful wife, my dear.


JOSEPHINE: Of course, Auguste.


AUGUSTE: For a little while, believe me, I was rather worried. I began to think about the habits and customs of country women, and putting that together with your temporary restlessness lately-- Well, for a while, my dear, I thought perhaps in your moments of weakness you had perhaps acquired an admirer.


JOSEPHINE: Please, Auguste! 


AUGUSTE: But, naturally, you haven't?


JOSEPHINE: No, I haven't.


AUGUSTE: Then when I walked in your room just now, and I saw you looking so nervous, flushed-- For a second I thought perhaps your, uh, shall we say, admirer was here in this room with you.


JOSEPHINE: Did you?


AUGUSTE: It was just a passing thought. Naturally, knowing you've a headache, I realize that the flushed expression comes from that.


JOSEPHINE: Yes, it - it does. I--


AUGUSTE: Then again, when I heard that peculiar clatter in the closet, a strange idea was born. I thought perhaps your friend -- the friend you met at the café -- might be hiding in the closet. (BEAT) You look pale, Josephine.


JOSEPHINE: Do I?


AUGUSTE: Is someone hiding in the closet?


JOSEPHINE: No.


AUGUSTE: I naturally will take your word. If someone is in that closet, my dear, I should be forced to protect your honor and do away with him.


JOSEPHINE: (INHALES SHARPLY)


AUGUSTE: Would you swear to me now on the Bible that there is no one hiding in the closet?


JOSEPHINE: (DISTRESSED) Please, Auguste, put away that dueling pistol.


AUGUSTE: Then you are prepared to swear before God on a Holy Bible that no one is hiding in that closet?


JOSEPHINE: Yes, Auguste!


AUGUSTE: Ring for your maid, my dear.


JOSEPHINE: Why?


AUGUSTE: I said, ring for her!


JOSEPHINE: Yes, my lord.


AUGUSTE: (BEAT) Now fetch me your Bible. You have your Bible in the room, my dear, haven't you?


JOSEPHINE: Yes, my lord. It's right here at my bedside.


AUGUSTE: Put your left hand on it. (BEAT) That's right. And swear on the Holy Bible there is no other man in this room besides myself.


JOSEPHINE: (WITH DIFFICULTY) I-- I swear there is no other man in this room besides yourself, my lord.


AUGUSTE: (SEEMINGLY SATISFIED) Ah! My mind is much relieved. Much relieved.


SOUND: BEDROOM DOOR OPENS


ROSALIE: (APPREHENSIVE) You rang for me, madame?


AUGUSTE: I did, Rosalie. Do you know where Monsieur de Gorenflot lives?


ROSALIE: The mason, monsieur? 


AUGUSTE: (MOCKINGLY) Yes, "the mason, monsieur"! (EVENLY) I want to write a little note to him and I want you to deliver it at once. Fetch me paper and a quill, Josephine.


JOSEPHINE: Yes, my lord. I have a quill right here. Here's paper.


AUGUSTE: Ah, that's just the thing. You've learned to sharpen quills quite well, my love. Hmm. (AS HE WRITES) "Dear Monsieur Gorenflot, I am writing to you because--"


SOUND: SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES) Yes -- that's what happened on that fatal Tuesday night. I perjured my soul, and I've paid for it. How little did I realize how much I had to pay. Rosalie left the room and delivered the note as she was bidden. My lord and I were left alone. He bade me retire to bed as I looked poorly, and said that he personally would remain with me until my headache left. I assured him my health was much improved. But he would not have it so. I retired to bed and he sat by my side until--


SOUND: KNOCK ON BEDROOM DOOR


ROSALIE: (BEHIND DOOR) Monsieur Merret? Monsieur Gorenflot is here.


AUGUSTE: Come in, come in, Gorenflot!


SOUND: BEDROOM DOOR OPENS


GORENFLOT: Ah, I have done as you bid me, monsieur. I've brought the cement and the paving tools.


AUGUSTE: Good work, Gorenflot. Come, bring them in here.


GORENFLOT: In here, monsieur? In madame's room?


AUGUSTE: (IMPATIENT) Yes! Yes, in here!


JOSEPHINE: Why, Auguste? Why?


AUGUSTE: Rosalie? Go to bed, girl, and get a good night's sleep. You don't have to linger around any longer.


ROSALIE: Yes, sir.


SOUND: BEDROOM DOOR CLOSES AS ROSALIE EXITS


AUGUSTE: Monsieur Gorenflot, do you see that closet in the corner?


GORENFLOT: (PUZZLED) Yes, milord?


AUGUSTE: I wish you to cement it up. The sight of it affects my wife quite strangely.


JOSEPHINE: (EXCLAIMS) Auguste!


AUGUSTE: Please, my dear!


JOSEPHINE: But, Auguste--!


AUGUSTE: You swore to me there was no one in it, my dear beloved wife, and I believe you. Surely there's no harm in sealing up such an offensive ugly closet. I'll have another one built for you.


JOSEPHINE: But my clothes--


AUGUSTE: I shall buy you new ones. (EXPLODES) What are you waiting for, Monsieur Gorenflot?!


JOSEPHINE: My lord, at this hour of the night--!


GORENFLOT: You - you are sure you want me to do this now, monsieur?


JOSEPHINE: Wait till morning, my lord!


AUGUSTE: (IGNORES HER) I am positive, absolutely positive, my poor Gorenflot. Go to work at once! I will not wait! I am a man of whims -- strange, interesting whims. 


SOUND: SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES) Whims! Auguste knew that my lover hid in there. I didn't think he'd have the heart to go through with what he had intended, so at first I just sat quietly by and watched. Gorenflot laid first one row of bricks, and then another, and then a third, and then a fourth. Pierre was afraid by now. He preferred quick certain death to slow starvation, and he began knocking on the door and calling out!


SOUND: POUNDING FROM BEHIND CLOSET DOOR, IN BG--


PIERRE: (BEHIND DOOR) Please! Let me out of here! Open up! (ET CETERA, IN BG)


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES) Gorenflot, petrified, stopped and he said--


GORENFLOT: (SHOCKED) Monsieur?! Monsieur Merret?!


AUGUSTE: Go on, Monsieur Gorenflot. There is no one in that closet. My wife has assured me there's no one there--


JOSEPHINE: (WORRIED) Auguste! Auguste--!


AUGUSTE: --and I'm within my rights, Monsieur Gorenflot! Proceed at once! Proceed!


GORENFLOT: (UNEASY) As you say, Monsieur Merret.


SOUND: SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES) Yes, as he says, he was within his rights to do exactly as he pleased. The fifth row slowly fell in place, and the sixth, and then I knew that Auguste meant to see that night's work finished. The seventh. I cried, I wept, I tore at his coat, I pleaded and pleaded; it was all no use at all. Small beads of perspiration shone on Gorenflot's forehead as he worked. And the rows kept going up, one by one, until morning -- when the entire job was done!


AUGUSTE: Thank you, Monsieur Gorenflot. Here is two thousand francs for your work -- and your silence. My wife's good name must not be bantered about in public.


GORENFLOT: (UNEASY) Thank you, monsieur. Thank you.


SOUND: BEDROOM DOOR OPENS AND SHUTS AS GORENFLOT EXITS


JOSEPHINE: (EXPLODES, TEARFUL) How could you be such a beast?!


AUGUSTE: Come, come, my dear, dry your eyes. The offending closet is sealed up.


JOSEPHINE: Auguste, there's a man inside! There is! There is! How can you deny it?! (WEEPS, IN BG)


AUGUSTE: (LAUGHS HEARTILY) You're lying to me, Josephine. You swore there wasn't. I must believe an oath taken on a Bible.


SOUND: MUFFLED POUNDING AND PIERRE'S CRIES ("Help! Let me out!" ET CETERA) FROM BEHIND DOOR ... THEN IN BG--


JOSEPHINE: Listen! Don't you hear him?!


AUGUSTE: (MERRILY) Yes, but my ears deceive me!


JOSEPHINE: He's calling out! Auguste, please take my life, but don't - don't let him die in there!


AUGUSTE: (LAUGHS HEARTILY) Ah, my dear, there's no one in that closet. Remember what you said? (CHANGES TONE) Ring for your maid, Josephine.


JOSEPHINE: (PUZZLED) My maid? But-- (CALLS HYSTERICALLY) Rosalie?! Rosalie?!


AUGUSTE: (ANNOYED) I said, ring for her, not cry out for her!


JOSEPHINE: Of course I'll ring for her. (BEAT, DESPERATELY) Auguste, be human. Please be human. (SOBS, IN BG)


AUGUSTE: I've been more than human, Josephine. I've been godly! I've accepted your word as absolute truth!


SOUND: ROSALIE'S KNOCK ON BEDROOM DOOR


AUGUSTE: (CALLS) Don't come in, Rosalie! I shall see you at the door!


SOUND: PIERRE'S POUNDING AND CRIES OF HELP FADE OUT ... BEDROOM DOOR OPENS


AUGUSTE: (FIRMLY) Stay right out here, my dear. That's right. (A CRISP ORDER) Instruct the butler and all the servants that madame and I will remain in her room for at least a month, and our meals are to be served by my private valet.


ROSALIE: (QUIETLY ASTONISHED) Yes, monsieur.


AUGUSTE: And otherwise we're not to be disturbed by anyone.


ROSALIE: Yes, monsieur.


SOUND: BEDROOM DOOR CLOSES


SOUND: SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES) For thirty days and thirty nights. For thirty days and thirty nights, I heard that tapping on the wall. His cries, his moans, his words, his pleas; I heard them there. Auguste was stone, completely stone. He didn't care. He just sat and watched me -- watched my face, enjoyed my terror, fed me horror -- waiting daily for the cries that issued out.


SOUND: A DESPERATE AND DYING PIERRE'S MUFFLED, ALMOST WORDLESS CRIES AND WEAK IRREGULAR TAPPING FROM BEHIND WALL ... THEN IN BG


JOSEPHINE: (DISTRAUGHT, TEARFUL) Auguste, how can you?! How can you be like this? He's there! Pierre is there! He's behind the wall!


AUGUSTE: (CALMLY) My dear, you must be ill.


JOSEPHINE: Listen to him. He's dying there. Each day his strength grows less. And as he dies, I must die, too. Auguste, please, in Heaven's name, be kind, be merciful. Forgive me; let him go! (WEEPS)


AUGUSTE: (FLATLY) There's no one there. (CHANGES TONE, MOVING OFF) I'll call the maid. You'll need her care.


JOSEPHINE: (QUIETLY, TO HERSELF) No one there. 


SOUND: PIERRE FALLS SILENT ... PAUSE


JOSEPHINE: (QUIETLY, SLOWLY) Listen. The tapping's stopped. It stopped. (BEAT, EXPLODES SAVAGELY) Murderer! You pig! You beast! You killed him! (WEEPS AND CHOKES HORRIBLY, IN BG)


AUGUSTE: (VERY CALM) You're ill, my dear. So ill, poor girl.


JOSEPHINE: (WEEPS AND BREATHES HEAVILY, THEN IN BG)


SOUND: KNOCK ON DOOR


AUGUSTE: (CALLS) Come in!


SOUND: BEDROOM DOOR OPENS


ROSALIE: You called me, my lord?


AUGUSTE: (MATTER-OF-FACT) Please call the doctor, Rosalie. My wife is ill. She's going away for a long rest. A very long rest.


SOUND: SCENE FADES OUT ... TRANSITIONAL PAUSE


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES, CALM AND GRIM) So I sit here in this rest home, listening to the feeble tapping inside my head--


SOUND: IRREGULAR TAP-TAP-TAPPING, IN BG 


JOSEPHINE: (NARRATES, SLOW AND MOURNFUL) --the same feeble tapping I heard on the closet wall of my bedroom at home. That same feeble tapping. Will it never stop? (SOBS)


SOUND: CURTAIN ... OMINOUS CRASH OF WAVES ON SHORE AND DRIPPING OF WATER IN CAVERN, IN BG ... UNTIL END


VOICE: (ECHO) From the timeworn pages of the past, we have brought to you the story of "The Niche of Doom." Bell Keeper, toll the bell!


SOUND: TOLLING BELL ... UNTIL END


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