Comments on La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin
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Posted Sep 06, 2006 - 3:57 PM:
"La Fille Aux Cheveux de Lin"
WOR: 10:00-10:25 PM EST Mon. Oct. 20, 1947
MBS: 8:30-8:55 PM EST Wed. Oct. 22, 1947
REH: 2:00-5:00 PM Mon. Oct. 20 - Studio 16
8:00-10:00 PM Mon. Oct. 20 - Studio 15
CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.
(SEVEN SECOND'S SILENCE)
CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.
(MUSIC ... THEME ... FADE FOR)
ANNCR: The Mutual Broadcasting System presents "Quiet, Please!" which is written and directed by Wyllis Cooper, and which features Ernest Chappell.
"Quiet, Please!" for tonight is called "La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin."
ANDREW: You would think that a man going home after more than half a year here in a little town in France would be happy. I came over here in February on one of those post-war jobs; I've been here in Vignacourt ever since. The house here was built in 1341, and the old cemetery out near the abandoned airfield can tell you how many generations of Rocheforts have lived and died here. It was, of course, the oddest kind of coincidence that I, Andrew Pierre Etienne Rochefort, whose family had been American since the days of Lafayette, should return to his ancestral home. I am the first Rochefort who has stepped inside this house since the first World War, when Colonel Paul-Marie Rocheforte died at Chemin des Dames. Madame Simon, who owns the house now, has been a most satisfactory doyenne to me and to Achmet Ali ibn Musa, my Algerian associate. Even if she does have difficulty in comprehending my French and I hers. I have succeeded in having the ancient piano tuned (there is an American cook here in town who was piano-tuner in civilian life).
And Achmet Ali and I have spent some pleasant evenings alternately at the piano and in long and complicated discussions of Christian and Mahometan theology. Achmet shares with me an inordinate admiration for the works of Debussy, and in particular the one called "The Girl with the Flaxen Hair" - "La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin." You remember -
(MUSIC ... ABOUT FOUR BARS OF LA FILLE ... PIANO)
ANDREW: I remember that this night we had been talking about the curious quality of fatalism that colours the whole life of the Mahometan.
ACHMET: You see, it's all prescribed for us, the Prophet said, before we are born.
ANDREW: But you do admit that individuals can alter the patterns of their own lives, and of others, don't you, Achmet?
ACHMET: We only <u>think</u> we alter them, Andrew. Whatever we may do is merely bringing to life the - ah - cosmic playscript that is already written for us. We are <u>bound</u> by the script as actors are; as a matter of fact, we are actors, playing parts in a drama -
ANDREW: Or a comedy -
ACHMET: Yes, or a comedy - that we have never rehearsed; that unfolds for us minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.
ANDREW: That's reducing life to a pretty uninteresting formula, Achmet.
ACHMET: Oh, no! By all means, no! On the contrary, I find it provides me, at least, with a consuming curiosity to see what is on the next page.
ANDREW: Well ... it certainly simplifies things, doesn't it?
ACHMET: And it occasionally provides a surprise.
ANDREW: Such as the fact that I'm not going to play The Girl with the Flaxen Hair again for you tonight?
ACHMET: What is written is written.
ANDREW: In that case I'll just cross up the Prophet, and play it for you, then.
(MUSIC ... LA FILLE ... PIANO ... AFTER ABOUT SIXTEEN BARS)
SOUND: (THERE IS A KNOCK AT THE DOOR)
ANDREW: (PLAYING) See who it is, will you, Achmet?
ACHMET: Of course.
(HE GOES TO THE DOOR AND OPENS IT; SPEAKS FROM A DISTANCE)
ACHMET: Oh, Hello. Yes, of course. Right away. Quite. (TO ANDREW) Sorry, Andrew.
ANDREW: (STOPS PLAYING) What's the matter?
ACHMET: It seems the old gentleman is in some kind of trouble and needs me again.
ANDREW: Ah, can't he get through one evening without calling for help?
ACHMET: I'm sorry; I'll really have to go, you know.
ANDREW: Well, all right. See you in the morning, then.
ACHMET: Right. Good night.
ANDREW: (GRINNING) Oh, Achmet ...
ACHMET: (STARTING TO GO) Eh?
ANDREW: Was that written, too?
ACHMET: (LAUGHS) Idiot.
ANDREW: Turn out the lights, will you? Thanks.
SOUND: (THE DOOR CLOSES AS ACHMET SAYS "GOODNIGHT AGAIN")
SOUND: (ANDREW STRUMS IDLY ON THE PIANO FOR A MOMENT, AND MOVES ON INTO "LA FILLE" AGAIN. HE PLAYS FOR A WHILE, AND THE DOOR OPENS AND CLOSES SOFTLY WITHOUT HIS NOTICING IT. HE CONTINUES TO PLAY, AND JOAN SPEAKS)
JOAN: I like that.
SOUND: (THE MUSIC STOPS WITH AN AWKWARD DISCORD)
ANDREW: Who's that? (JOAN LAUGHS)
JOAN: Moi, je suis la fille aux cheveux de lin.
JOAN: I am the girl with the flaxen hair.
ANDREW: (A PAUSE) Now wait a minute.
JOAN: I'm sorry; I heard you playing the song about me, and I wanted to see you. You play very nicely.
ANDREW: Well, thank you ... where are you? I can't see you.
JOAN: I'm right here. I can see you.
ANDREW: I'll turn on the light. (GETTING UP)
JOAN: Oh, no!
ANDREW: What? Why not?
JOAN: Well, if you turn on the light, I'd have to go away.
ANDREW: Go away? Go home, you mean?
JOAN: It isn't exactly home. It's where I'm staying.
ANDREW: Did you run away from your mother?
JOAN: No. I don't have any mother.
JOAN: Would you play some more, please?
ANDREW: Why ... (HE FINGERS THE KEYS) ... what would you like to hear?
JOAN: My song, please.
ANDREW: The one I was playing? (FIRST FOUR NOTES OF LA FILLE)
JOAN: Yes, please.
ANDREW: Why do you call it your song?
JOAN: Because I have flaxen hair, I think.
ANDREW: You have a name, though.
JOAN: Oh, yes. Joan. In French, it's Jeanne.
ANDREW: That's a very pretty name.
JOAN: Yes. Please play?
ANDREW: All right.
(MUSIC ... MORE OF "LA FILLE")
ANDREW: There, now.
JOAN: Oh, it was beautiful!
ANDREW: Well, thank you.
JOAN: (BACK) I must go now.
ANDREW: Wouldn't you like a chocolate bar to take with you?
JOAN: I don't know what that is.
ANDREW: It's nice to eat.
JOAN: No, thank you.
ANDREW: Maybe your folks would like it.
JOAN: I don't have any folks ... do you have?
ANDREW: Me? Oh, yes. I have a wife.
JOAN: You don't have a little girl?
ANDREW: No. Not yet.
JOAN: I could be your little girl if you wanted me to.
ANDREW: You could?
JOAN: Maybe you wouldn't want me, though?
ANDREW: I don't know, Joan. I haven't <u>seen</u> you yet.
JOAN: Well, some day you can see me. If you really want to.
ANDREW: I'd like to very much.
JOAN: (BACK) But now I have to go.
ANDREW: Would you like me to go with you? It's awfully dark out--and it's late.
JOAN: Oh, no, I'm not afraid of the dark. I will kiss you now.
ANDREW: In the dark I felt the touch of the child's lips on my forehead, and I was conscious of [a] sweetness and a sadness that was almost a physical blow. And she spoke again in the darkness:
ANDREW: I called to her - Joan, wait! Wait, child!
JOAN: (AT THE DOOR) Play my song some other night, and I'll come back.
ANDREW: And then the door closed ...
SOUND: (DOOR CLOSES)
ANDREW: and I was alone. I sat for a long time in the dark, thinking of what the war had done to so many thousands of children...nameless, homeless, hopeless...and it was a long time before I began suddenly to wonder: this little girl, this girl with the flaxen hair spoke English! Where did she learn <u>that</u>?
And where did she learn the name of the song? Why was she afraid of the light? And I smiled to myself as I thought vaguely of a little girl ghost ... but my dreams when I had gone to bed in the dark were of a little girl with long flaxen curls who skipped by my side and called me father, but who faded into nothing when I reached for her hand ...
(MUSIC ... FOR BG)
ANDREW: I questioned Achmet about her; he knew nearly all the unhappy, skinny children of Vignacourt.
ACHMET: None of that description, Andrew. I'm sure I'd remember her ...
ANDREW: I asked Miss Lewis, the Quaker girl at the little hospital.
MISS LEWIS: No, I'm certain I've never seen a child that answers to that - you say she has <u>flaxen</u> hair?
ANDREW: She said she has. I've never seen her ...
MISS LEWIS: Well, new children appear almost every day. I'll watch for her, Andrew.
ANDREW: <u>I</u> watched the children of the town from my office window; I found myself paying only half-hearted attention to the ponderous trivialities that town dignitaries brought to my desk; I found myself listening for a certain voice in the clamour of children playing sombrely in the street. You will pardon me, I am sure; I have always considered myself a practical, down-to-earth person, and I wish you to consider the effect such an occurrence has upon such a man.
You can understand, I am <u>sure</u>, that I was forced to two almost inescapable conclusions: the first that I had seen a ghost, I discarded at once. Almost at once. The second, that I had had an extraordinarily vivid dream. This conclusion I accepted. But Achmet:
ACHMET: I am not so sure you are right, Andrew. There is a way, you know, to make sure...
ANDREW: I had almost forgotten that.
JOAN: Play my song some other night, and I'll come back ...
(MUSIC ... FIRST FOUR NOTES OF "LA FILLE" ... ORGAN)
ANDREW: It wasn't merely curiosity. Something about this sweet childish voice had aroused sentiments in me that I didn't know I possessed. Margaret and I have been married seven years, and we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we should probably <u>always</u> be childless. But Joan, the homeless, fatherless, motherless, waif who had come to me in the darkness ... might she not be the child Margaret and I wished we could have? I determined to try to bring her back. Yes, I admit I felt foolish as I sat down in the dark at the piano. And I placed my flashlight beside the keyboard; I was to regret that. It was very dark, and very quiet, as I began.
(MUSIC ... LA FILLE AUX CHEVEUX DE LIN)
ANDREW: (ON CUE) This is silly.
(MUSIC ... HE STOPS PLAYING)
ANDREW: This nonsense won't bring her.
JOAN: Oh, but I'm here.
JOAN: It was so beautiful ...
ANDREW: Where did you come from?
JOAN: I ... just came in ...
ANDREW: Where have you been all this time, child?
JOAN: Oh, out there.
ANDREW: I've been looking everywhere for you!
JOAN: But you didn't play my song.
ANDREW: I was afraid it wouldn't bring you.
JOAN: Did you really want me?
ANDREW: I wanted you very much.
JOAN: I'm very glad. I was afraid nobody would want me.
ANDREW: Joan, where do you live?
JOAN: Well ... I'm not sure.
ANDREW: What do you mean by that?
JOAN: I'm just not sure. I don't remember very well.
ANDREW: Well, but - Joan, haven't you any parents?
JOAN: Parents? No.
ANDREW: Are they ...
JOAN: They're not dead. They're just ... not.
ANDREW: I don't understand you, dear.
JOAN: Why did you call me dear?
ANDREW: Well, I -
JOAN: Is it because you love me?
ANDREW: Why -
JOAN: Is it? Do you love me?
ANDREW: Yes, Joan.
JOAN: Do you have a little girl of your own?
JOAN: I wish I could be your little girl.
ANDREW: Well, perhaps you could.
JOAN: I could call you mon pere?
ANDREW: Why, yes.
JOAN: And I would have a mama, too?
ANDREW: Oh, yes.
JOAN: I would like that. Oh, I would like it very much.
ANDREW: Shall I turn on the lights now, so we can see each other?
JOAN: No, you couldn't see me if you turned on the lights. Are you afraid I'm not pretty?
ANDREW: I'm sure you're pretty.
JOAN: I don't know.
ANDREW: You'd have blue eyes, to go with your flaxen hair.
ANDREW: And you'd have a pretty little snub nose ...
JOAN: With freckles?
ANDREW: With freckles.
JOAN: (LAUGHS) Is that the way you want me?
JOAN: Would my mama love me, too?
ANDREW: As much as I do, darling.
JOAN: You might not love me if you knew all about me.
ANDREW: Oh, yes, I would.
JOAN: I would love you and mama very much. All my life I would love you.
ANDREW: Then it's settled. Now let's have a look at you, shall we?
(MUSIC ... A DISCORD ON THE PIANO)
ANDREW: I picked up my flashlight and pressed the switch. The beam flooded the room with light. I called "Joan! Joan!" but there was no answer. I sprang up and flicked the wall switch. The bare bulb hanging from the ceiling threw every object in the room into bright relief.
I was alone.
And as I stood there dazed in the sudden brightness, I heard a small sound.
JOAN: (SOBBING QUIETLY)
(MUSIC ... TOPS HER AND FADES)
ANDREW: I need not tell you of the bitterness in my heart when I realized what I had done. I need not tell you of the agony that sent me racing into the night outside, calling frantically for the child. I need not tell you of the doubt, the wonder, the wild thoughts that clutched at me.
Was it a dream? It couldn't have been a dream.
Was it a ghost I had seen? I could not bring myself to believe that, and yet...
I took leave of absence. Achmet and I, and Miss Lewis searched every corner of the town. We took long trips into the country, delved in ancient deserted houses, questioned hundreds of people.
MISS LEWIS: There isn't another single place to look, Andrew.
ACHMET: It was a dream, Andrew.
ANDREW: But I knew it couldn't have been a dream, and though my friends tried their best to dissuade me, I could not give up my search. Night after night, I sat at the piano, but never the sound of a softly opening door; never anything but silence, and solitude, and an overpowering sense of guilt....
And I fell ill.
Achmet and Miss Lewis were with me a great deal.
MISS LEWIS: (OFF) Can you drink this, Andrew.
ANDREW: Watching me, nursing me, stilling my delirium.
ACHMET: Take it easy, old boy.
ANDREW: Until at last the fever passed, and I opened my eyes to the same dingy ancient room in the house of my forefathers. Then, lying alone in my bed at night, I came to the final inescapable conclusion. Joan did not exist. Joan had lived in this house in some other time. Joan did not exist. This was a haunted house. And I remember how I wept alone in the dark one night, thinking how I had banished her from me forever. I whispered her name in the darkness.
(MUSIC ... "LA FILLE" AT THE PIANO, AS IF PLAYED BY A CHILD)
ANDREW: I am alone in this room.
There can be nobody at that piano.
I listen again.
(MUSIC ... THE PIANO CONTINUES)
ANDREW: That's the song.
It sounds as if a child is playing it...
(MUSIC ... STOPS)
JOAN: (COMING IN) I had to come back...
JOAN: I was afraid you didn't want me really.
ANDREW: You did come back.
JOAN: Do you want me?
ANDREW: I don't know how we can do without you, darling.
JOAN: I know. I heard you crying in the night.
ANDREW: I did cry, Joan.
JOAN: I know. I cried, too.
ANDREW: You know what I thought? You know why I cried?
JOAN: Yes. You thought I was a ghost.
ANDREW: But you're not!
JOAN: No. Father.
ANDREW: And you <u>are</u> going to be our little girl?
JOAN: You are sure you want me?
ANDREW: More than anything else in the world.
JOAN: Would you swear it?
JOAN: No matter what happens?
ANDREW: No matter what happens.
JOAN: And you'll always love me?
JOAN: And you won't mind [if] you can't see me for a little while?
ANDREW: Whatever you say, Joan. I can't lose you again!
JOAN: And if I'm different when you see me?
ANDREW: How old are you, Joan?
JOAN: Why, I'm - not old at all.
ANDREW: You're - I don't understand you. Of course you're not old!
JOAN: No, I don't mean that.
ANDREW: Darling, I don't understand.
JOAN: Well....you see, you have to take me the way I am if you really want me.
ANDREW: Of course. You - you sound like a grownup when you said that!
JOAN: I know what is written.
ANDREW: Joan -
JOAN: Then you take me for your very own, no matter what happens?
ANDREW: And I spoke with all the deep sincerity of a man entering into a solemn compact involving the lives of three people: I do, Joan.
JOAN: I will love you as long as I live.
ANDREW: Now turn on the lights and let me see my little girl.
ANDREW: Why not, darling?
JOAN: Because if you turn on the lights you can't see me.
ANDREW: But why can't I?
JOAN: Why, because I'm not born yet, you see.
ANDREW: (AFTER A PAUSE) Joan ...
JOAN: But I will be. I'll be your really, truly, own little girl.
ANDREW: But - is this true, child?
JOAN: Yes. It's true. Now I can tell you the rest of it.
ANDREW: The rest? What?
JOAN: You said I would be your little girl - no matter what happened.
ANDREW: Yes! I meant it!
JOAN: You have to mean it. You said it. I couldn't tell you before.
ANDREW: Tell me what? Darling, what?
JOAN: Oh, father, I loved you so much, and I deceived you! I wanted you to be my father -
ANDREW: What is it? Child, what is it?
JOAN: I'll be your little girl, but not for so very long ...
ANDREW: What do you mean by that?
JOAN: It is written, father. I have to die when I'm eight years old ...
(MUSIC: ... FOR A TRANSITION)
ANDREW: And it was the next morning that Achmet brought me the cablegram from Margaret. He read it to me:
ACHMET: OUR DAUGHTER BORN THIS MORNING SEVEN O'CLOCK. SEVEN POUNDS OF FLAXEN-HAIRED LOVELINESS. HOW DO YOU LIKE JOAN FOR A NAME. LOVE MARGARET.
(MUSIC: ... LA FILLE AUX CHEVEUX DE LIN DISCORDANTLY TOPS HIM)
ANDREW: You would think a man going home after eight months in a little town in France would be a happy man.
Going home to see his newborn daughter ...
You'd think so, wouldn't you?
(MUSIC ... THEME)
ANNOUNCER: You have listened to "Quiet, Please!" which is written and directed by Wyllis Cooper. The man who spoke to you was Ernest Chappell.
CHAPPELL: And Joan Lazer played Joan; Melville Ruick was Achmet Ali, and Mary Kay Simmons was Miss Lewis.
Gene Perrazzo, who composes and plays music for "Quiet, Please!" was heard at the piano.
And for a word about next week's "Quiet, Please!" here is our writer-director Wyllis Cooper
COOPER: Next week's story is, naturally, a seasonal one. It's called, with due respect for the time of year -- "Don't Tell Me about Halloween."
CHAPPELL: And so, until next week at this time, I am quietly yours, Ernest Chappell.
(MUSIC ... THEME ... FADE FOR)
ANNCR: "Quiet, Please!" comes to you from New York.
THIS IS THE MUTUAL BROADCASTING SYSTEM.