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The Small One

The Kate Smith Hour

The Small One 

Dec 22 1938


KATE SMITH, host (2 lines)

NARRATOR (1 line)





VOICE, of a man


and a CROWD in the market place

KATE: And now our Christmas play.

MUSIC: Mood music. Fade for

KATE: We are privileged in having with us to appear in this play one of the most famous names the theatre has ever known. A name made famous by the great dramatic talents of its bearer . . . Miss Ethel Barrymore.

MUSIC: Few bars of gay Spanish fiesta song. . . . "B." . . . . Fades for

NARRATOR: The very same late December sun that dances on the winter snows up north sprawls indolently at ease in the thick white dust of El Camino del Norte, Old Mexico. A lean and ancient woman has paused to rest in the cool dripping shade of a pepper tree. . . . She is suddenly awakened by the shrill voice of Pablo . . . aged ten . . . who stands with bare brown legs wide apart in the center of the road and bitterly addresses a small discouraged donkey. . . .

PABLO: (In high indignation) A donkey. A donkey, you call yourself, Estupido! A fine animal with four stout legs . . . a splendid tail to shoo off the flies . . . and a head stuck on the front to point the way you are going! Asi! And what use do you make of this most excellent equipment the good God has given you? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! You are a disgrace to all the donkeys of all Mexico! Of all the world . . . of all the . . .

WOMAN: (Just off) Pablo . . . !

PABLO: (Automatically) Si. . . . (Sees the woman) Oh . . . buenas dias, I did not know that . . .

WOMAN: (Coming in) Whatever is the trouble, my son? What has the poor beast done that you should be so angry?

PABLO: (Exasperated) But nothing . . . !

WOMAN: Then why?

PABLO: (Bitterly) And nothing is all he ever wants to do! Here it is . . . but two days until Christmas. . . when a load of wood could be sold in the village to buy gifts and a candle. But does that matter to him? No! He cares for nothing but nothing!

WOMAN: (Laughing) Well . . . a donkey's a donkey, Pablo. They're all the same.

PABLO: But why should it be so? Of all beasts, why must a donkey be so . . . so stubborn?

WOMAN: Stubborn? Oh, no, Pablo . . . that's wrong. . . .

PABLO: But. .

WOMAN: (Quickly) I know! Everyone says they are. They curse him and belabor his back with sticks and call him stupid. But that's only because they don't know the true facts.

PABLO: The true facts?

WOMAN: It's really not stubbornness but pride that makes all small donkeys so . . . well, so aloof. No sun, wind, storm, pain or adversity can touch them. Their pride is a shield against all the discomforts man or the elements can offer.

PABLO: But what has a donkey to be proud of?

WOMAN: Oh . . . a great deal, Pablo! Bring your beast over here in the shade . . . and perhaps I can explain it to you. . . .

PABLO: (Clicking his tongue) Tsch . . . tsch! Come along, Cupido. . . .

MUSIC: "C" cue xylophone . . . muted with hand so that the notes are dull and metallic. First four notes of "Silent Night" . . . the fourth note thrown up an octave so that the tune will not be recognized . . . these same four notes are repeated three times, representing the donkey's hoofbeats as he is led to the shade of the pepper tree.

WOMAN: (During second sequence of four notes) Listen! Do you hear that, Pablo? Only a small donkey can make that sound with his hooves as he walks on the stones. No other beast can do it. . . . Sit down. . . sit down, my son. . . .

PABLO: Gracias . . . Gracias.

WOMAN: Now . . . as I was saying . . . people are all wrong about donkeys, you see. . . . A very long time ago . . . a great honor came to one of them . . . an honor so great that it raised him and all his many descendants to an exalted place. A place that you or I or all the world might envy. Ever since then all small donkeys have been content to stand and drowse in the sun or shade . . . for they alone, of all other animals and men, have already fulfilled their destiny.

PABLO: I . . . I don't quite understand.

WOMAN: Well . . . once upon a time, as all stories must begin . . . there was a little donkey. He was fourteen unhappy years old . . . and he had worked for at least twice fourteen masters. . . .

MUSIC: "D" cue. Start xylophone very dim . . . first four notes of "Silent Night" . . . raising fourth note one octave. Put slight rest between third and fourth note to denote limp . . . continue until cued out.

WOMAN: (Continuing) He was battered and scarred . . . and presented a most disreputable appearance. His tail was naught but a piece of rope, unraveled at the end. One of his ears stood straight up like a cactus plant . . . while the other hung drooping like a wilted cabbage leaf. In his off hind leg was a decided limp.

PABLO: What was his name?

WOMAN: They called him Small One. His latest master was a woodcutter, who also owned four younger and therefore stronger donkeys. But Small One was the special charge and favorite of the woodcutter's son. It was the boy who saw that Small One always had dry straw for his bed . . . and that the load of wood to be carried to the town was not

too heavy for Small One's aging back. But . . . one day . . . the woodcutter called his son to him and said . . . 

MUSIC: "E" cue. Xylophone, with violins. 


BOY: (Coming in) Yes, father? 

FATHER: (Ponderously) I have a task for you to do in the town. 

BOY: A load of wood?

FATHER: No. I wish you to take the old donkey . . . the one you call Small One . . . to a shop just inside the town gates. I have already spoken to the man. He will give you one piece of silver in exchange for the beast.

BOY: (Horrified) You mean . . . you don't mean you're going to sell Small One?

FATHER: (Sternly) He can no longer do his share of the work. Even carrying half the load of the other donkeys, his worn-out legs tremble, and his sides work like a bellows. . . .

BOY: (Eagerly) But he'll be as strong as the others soon! You wait and see. Give him a few weeks and . . .

FATHER: (Breaking in) An old donkey is of no use! One day soon he might drop dead on us up in the hills . . . a total loss. Better to take the piece of silver and say good riddance to the animal. You will start at once.

BOY: (Trying to keep back the tears) Yes, father. . . .

FATHER: The shop is the second on the left as you enter the town gates. . . .

BOY: The second? But . . . but that's the tanner's!

FATHER: And what of that? The Small One's hide is old . . . but it will make good leather nevertheless.

BOY: But he's been faithful. . . . He's worked. . . . He's done his best! You can't sell him to the tanner to be killed.

FATHER: (Sternly) Come, now. . . . I'll have no tears!

MUSIC: Xylophone begins same sequence of four notes . . . dim.

FATHER: (Continuing) No crying over a miserable donkey. Hurry . . . be off with you. And take care not to lose that piece of silver on the way home. . . .

MUSIC: "F" cue. Orchestra comes in, improvising on theme of four notes played by xylophone . . . hold for a few seconds . . . then fade down and out, leaving xylophone muted, continuing. . . .

WOMAN: (Fading in) . . . And so, Pablo, the small boy and the small donkey began their sorrowful journey toward the town. The boy was heartbroken . . . and cried for a while. Then he tried desperately to think of some way to save the life of his friend. The sound of the Small One's hooves on the road seemed to repeat, over and over again, "Going to the tanner's . . . going to the tanner's."

Then . . . it suddenly came to the lad's mind that there was a horse market in the town . . . and if he could sell Small One to some new and kind master, the little donkey would still live and the father would also have his piece of silver! It was early afternoon when the boy and Small One passed through the town gates and neared the market place. . . . As the padre says, "It was early afternoon . . ."

SOUND: Voices, shouts, cries, rumble of wheels, stamp of hooves, barking of dogs, the tinkling bell of a blind beggar, and all the other sounds of a busy market place fade in. These sounds come up full as the padre finishes. Take out xylophone back of sound.

WOMAN: As he came closer, he could hear the booming voice of the auctioneer as he cried, "Who'll bid 51 for this fine Arabian steed . . . whose sire is so famous that naught but kings have sat [on] his back . . . going at 51 . . . 51 . . . sold!

MUSIC: Registers a second or two cue "G."

WOMAN: The small boy was stunned to think that such beautiful horses were selling for 50 and 60 pieces of silver. . . . If he could only get one piece of silver for his aged donkey . . . just one. . . . He approached the auctioneer, dragging Small One behind him. . . . He stopped a few feet from the stand. "Would you like to buy a fine donkey, sir?" he said. . . . "He is kind and gentle, and I know he can do twice as much work as those horses they're bidding 50 and 60. . . . "

SOUND: Loud laughter in the market place.

WOMAN: Time and again the boy went from person to person, trying to sell Small One. He could not face taking his wonderful donkey to the tanner's . . . but they laughed at him. . . . Finally . . . the boy and the donkey left the market place!

MUSIC: Comes in . . . improvising on four-note theme, played by xylophone. Music dies out, leaving xylophone.

WOMAN: The hours were slipping by . . . and the boy knew he must soon start for home . . . and that he must have the piece of silver to give his father. He stopped people on the street. . . . He inquired from door to door . . . But no one desired to buy a small, tired donkey. The sun was sinking fast when he came at last back to the town gates and stood before the tanner's door. The boy's face was tear-streaked, and the Small One's head drooped so low that his limp ear nearly touched the ground. The boy said good-by to the little beast . . . asked his forgiveness for what he was about to do . . . and there was understanding in the little donkey's eyes. Then . . . as the boy lifted the latch of the tanner's door . . . a voice spoke to him. . . .

MUSIC: Xylophone, which has been repeating sequence of four notes through above, stops . . . the fourth note of the last sequence timed to come just after woman stops speaking. The violins come in on this final note . . . sustaining it for a few seconds to mark change of scene. As this last sustained note ends. . .

VOICE: (Just off) My son . . .

BOY: Yes? . . . Yes, sir?

VOICE: (Coming in) I have a great favor to ask of you. Are you the owner of that small donkey?

BOY: Oh, yes, sir. . . .

VOICE: I have a journey to make . . . and my wife is not well. I have need of a strong animal to carry her safely. . . . .

BOY: Small One is very strong . . . and very trustworthy. . . . 

VOICE: Would you sell him to me? 

BOY: (Eagerly) Yes. Oh, yes, sir! For but one piece of silver.

VOICE: A very reasonable price for such a beautiful animal.

BOY: He's . . . he's not very beautiful . . . but . . . but he's good.

VOICE: I can see that. I'll be kind to him . . . I promise you that.

BOY: Then he'll work hard to please you. . . .

VOICE: Here is your piece of silver. Come, Small One . . . we've a long way to go. . . .

MUSIC: Xylophone starts repeating four notes. 

BOY: Do you mind . . . do you mind if I go as far as the town gate? You see, Small One and I . . .

VOICE: Of course. You want to say good-by to him. You can do that while I see my wife safely on his back. Here we are . . . easy, Small One!

MUSIC: Xylophone stops.

BOY: (Trying to hold back the tears) Good-by, Small One. . . . You must be very faithful. And . . . and it isn't forever, you know. . . . When I grow up . . . and earn many pieces of silver . . . I'll buy you back. . . . And you'll have a fine stable . . . and nothing to do at all but sleep and eat. Won't that be fine, Small One?

VOICE: All right, my boy . . . we're ready to go. . . .

GUARD: (Off . . . coming in) Wait, traveler! I must make out the record before you pass through the town gates! Who are you?

VOICE: My name is Joseph. 

GUARD: Your wife? 

VOICE: They call her Mary. 

GUARD: Your destination? 

VOICE: Is Bethlehem. 

GUARD: Pass!

VOICE: Come, Small One. (Xylophone begins the same four notes . . . the last note, as before, raised an octave) Good-by, son. . . .

BOY: (Crying) Good-by . . . good-by, Small One. . . . Carry . . . carry her safe to Bethlehem. . . .

MUSIC: The xylophone continues . . . but with each repeat of the four-note sequence, the fourth note drops one tone lower until it is a true repetition of the first four notes of "Silent Night." When this is established, full orchestra picks it up and continues on into the song with chorus of voices back of it . . . dims for

WOMAN: And so, Pablo . . . the Small One traveled the weary miles to Bethlehem . . . and there in a stable . . . which became a king's stable . . . he saw a king born . . . a king of men . . . of centuries . . . of life . . . of death. The Small One's old, tired eyes saw the Wise Men and shepherds who came to pay homage to his master . . . and he heard the voices of angels . . . rejoicing . . . singing the same notes his hooves had rung out on the stones of the road. And it came to pass that those who had laughed at his ragged coat, his limping gait, and his drooping ear . . . they envied the Small One . . . he was a part of a great miracle. . . . That was long, long ago, Pablo . . . but today, all little donkeys stand and dream . . . especially at Christmas time . . . dream of the Small One . . . the Small One of Bethlehem.

MUSIC: Orchestra and voices up full. Segue "Silent Night" (Orchestra, Kate, and Institute Chorus).