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Comments on Clarissa
Comments on Clarissa
Mar 14, 2003
Posted Apr 12, 2005 - 8:55 PM:
Here's an attempted transcript of "Clarissa" -- unfortunately my German and French are pretty terrible.
CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.
(SEVEN SECONDS' 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 "Clarissa."
(MUSIC ... THEME ... END)
JESSE: (DISTRAUGHT) No...
He was dead before the fire started. I've told you that a dozen times!
No, I can't prove it, of course not. It-- You'll just have to believe me, take my word for it! I can't prove he was dead - you can't prove he WASN'T.
And, anyway, what difference does it make ... now?
I'm sorry. I - I can't hear you very well.
Well ... all right.
It was an old, black shell of a house.
A house that had lived too long.
A house where the floors groaned in pain at night, where the windows shuddered at the gentlest touch of the wind.
Where door latches suddenly gave up their grip and let the night come sniffing into the house to paw at your eyes and wake you to the other silences that lay around ya.
It was never warm there.
In the winter, old Heinz kept a fire going in the fireplace in the old sitting room but the - the logs were scrawny and the draft was bad and, well, the flames seemed to grudge us their warmth - so that we shivered all through the day. We were glad when night came and we could escape to the meager comfort of the drafty bedrooms.
And, in the summer, there was a dampness about the place. An unhealthy clamminess drifted from the walls and stirred uneasily among the ancient smells of decay that clung to the place.
Well, I suppose you could call old Heinz a - a character.
You said you didn't know him?
An immigrant, from the Rhineland sometime in the early seventies. That would make him, er, let me see, how old?
HEINZ'S VOICE: (THICK GERMAN ACCENT) Ich war im Rheinland geboren. [?] achtzehn hundert zwei und sechzig.
JESSE: That's right, uh, eighteen hundred sixty-two.
He was an old man but he never appeared old. You might have taken him for a vigorous man of sixty. His hair and his scraggily moustache were jet black -- I suspect he dyed them regularly. And his blue eyes seemed as keen as those of a boy of eighteen.
And he'd never been away from the house for a single night, he used to say, from the day he bought it and moved into it in eighteen hundred and eighty-eight.
And it was an old house then.
Yes. I spent some very dreary days -- and nights -- in that house.
Oh, I couldn't afford a better place to live.
Well, no. People don't go to live in a haunted house if they can find another place, you know.
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT, IN AND OUT)
JESSE: Well, yes, of course I'd heard it was haunted before I went there to live.
Do you believe in haunted houses?
No. Neither did I, of course.
Oh, I agree it DID look like a haunted house. I told you about the sounds in the night. I mean, I told you about SOME of the sounds in the night.
Yes, of course there were - other sounds.
(UPSET) Well, please, let me tell it in my own way.
Well ... Clarissa, for instance.
Clarissa, in particular.
(EMOTIONAL) Clarissa, above everything else.
(NARRATES) I had lived there nearly a year. Heinz and I sat that first night alongside the fireplace. I remember he'd asked me to share a bottle of [Vin Cos Tradactour?] with him. We sat in front of the - stingy little fire. There was a kerosene lamp on the table and Heinz in his old black coat with the sleeves that were too short.
HEINZ: You like the wine then, Jessie?
JESSE: Yeah, very much. (EXHALES SATISFIED) Very much.
HEINZ: (CHUCKLES) I have not much left. This is from before the war when it was easier to get, you see, but, uh, now -- well, it is almost [the last.?]
JESSE: You shouldn't be so generous with it, Heinz.
HEINZ: Oh, no, no. Good wine always [spech?] besser when with a friend you drink it, nicht wahr? Eh, a little more?
JESSE: (CHUCKLES) Not for a moment, thanks.
HEINZ: Yes, to sit by the fire and look down into the coals and see images of the scenes past - and drink wine and see the images grow clearer. Ah, 'tis good in the old age.
JESSE: You've - lived here alone for a long time?
HEINZ: Ja, a long time. Long, long time. I'm used to it. Used to the lights. And the little fire. And the silences.
SOUND: (WINE POURED)
CLARISSA: (SINGS AN OLD FRENCH CHILDREN'S SONG, "SUR LE PONT D'AVIGNON")
Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse ...
HEINZ: It is cold for this time of the year.
Sur le pont d'Avignon
L'on y danse tous en rond ...
JESSE: Uh, listen!
HEINZ: [What is--?]
CLARISSA: (SINGING STOPS)
JESSE: Well, I thought I heard someone singing.
JESSE: Did you hear anything?
HEINZ: (RELUCTANT) It is - Clarissa.
JESSE: What did you say?
HEINZ: Clarissa. My daughter.
JESSE: Oh, I didn't know you had a daughter, Heinz.
HEINZ: Yes. (TRIES TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT) Er, maybe some more wine?
JESSE: Uh, no, thanks. I - I haven't seen her around.
HEINZ: (DOESN'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT) No.
JESSE: Well, is she--? (REALIZES HE'S BEING NOSY, APOLOGIZES) Excuse me, Heinz.
HEINZ: You will forgive me, Jesse. Uh, she's a child. I do not wish you to be bothered--
JESSE: Why, she wouldn't bother me, Heinz. I like children.
HEINZ: Eh, there's enough left here in the bottle for one more for each of us, eh?
SOUND: (WINE POURED)
JESSE: (EXHALES) Thank you, Heinz.
HEINZ: (A TOAST) My guest -- Schlaf Wohl!
JESSE: (NARRATES) And I drank the last of the wine with the old man.
And then I climbed the creaking stairs to the dreary little room, carrying a kerosene lamp in one hand and casting fabulous shadows on the peeling wallpaper.
Seeing the ancient, plush-covered rocking chair nodding away at me as I entered the room -- as if a startled occupant had suddenly deserted it at the sound of my footsteps on the stairs.
And a cold spring rain drenching the windowpanes.
And the murmured complaints of the beams and rafters of the old house.
(MUSIC ... FILLS A PAUSE, THEN UNDER)
JESSE: (NARRATES) The pleasant, musty fumes of the wine I had drunk kept sleep away for a while when I'd blown out the lamp.
And the melody of that children's song flowed again across my mind as I lay there. My thoughts wandered to the lonely child that dwelt in the haunted house with the old man and the new-come student.
I smiled to myself as I thought, "Well, that settles the question of the house being haunted, doesn't it? People have heard the little girl singing to herself in the night. They've not known that a little girl lived here, too. Well, THAT'S the ghost."
And I smiled again at superstitions.
And another idle thought struck me. And I wondered at the child's age.
Ten or twelve years old, by the sound of her voice.
And somewhere, in the back of my drowsy mind, I seemed to remember that Heinz had told me - Helena, his wife, had died -- when? Was it the year of the San Francisco earthquake?
Well, that would be nineteen hundred and six.
That would be forty-two years ago.
And this - was a child of ten or twelve.
I must have been mistaken.
(YAWNS) I was merely sleepy.
The wine. The rain.
(MUMBLES SLEEPILY AND DRIFTS OFF) Clarissa ...
(MUSIC ... HAS BUILT TO AN ACCENT, THEN OUT)
JESSE: (NARRATES) Well, you wanted the whole story. I'm telling it to ya.
In the morning, Heinz was working in his garden when the early sun made the old house seem a little more cheerful, a little more livable. There was a tinge of green through the gray of the fields that surround the house and - Heinz told me he'd seen a robin.
I stood and watched him a long time - and I don't think he noticed how my eyes wandered to the windows of the old house searching for a flash of color that might be a child's hair-ribbon.
Or how I listened for the sound of the young voice singing a little song that children who danced so long ago on the bridges of Avignon--
I didn't even notice that I was humming a song under my breath.
(QUIETLY MUMBLES THE FIRST LINE OF "SUR LE PONT D'AVIGNON")
HEINZ: (INTERRUPTS) ... Clarissa's song, nicht?
JESSE: What? Oh.
HEINZ: Oh, that's Clarissa's song.
JESSE: Ah, kids used to sing it when I was young.
HEINZ: Ja, my wife is French. She taught the song to Clarissa.
HEINZ: Ja, it is an old song.
JESSE: (CASUAL) How old is your daughter, Heinz?
JESSE: How old?
HEINZ: Oh -- she is young.
JESSE: Is she pretty?
HEINZ: Oh, ja. Er, your breakfast?
JESSE: Ah, coffee. I found it on the stove.
HEINZ: Clarissa made it.
JESSE: Oh, did she?
HEINZ: Mm, you'd better go to work now, eh?
JESSE: Yes. I suppose so. Uh, you don't need to keep the little girl out of sight on my account, Heinz. I like children.
HEINZ: Ach, she'd bother you.
JESSE: Oh, no -- I - I've got a little sister back home.
HEINZ: Oh, ja?
JESSE: Miriam. She's eleven.
HEINZ: Mm. Clarissa is older.
JESSE: Oh? Miriam's got bright yellow hair.
HEINZ: Clarissa has - dark hair.
JESSE: Yeah, I, uh, think I've a picture of her here.
HEINZ: Oh, is that so? (LOOKS AT PHOTO) Oh ... She's very pretty. (BEAT) I have no picture of Clarissa.
JESSE: Well, that's too bad.
HEINZ: Well, I'll see you tonight, huh?
JESSE: Yes. Yes, sure, Heinz.
(MUSIC ... A VERY BRIEF BRIDGE TO FILL A PAUSE, THEN OUT)
JESSE: (NARRATES) I should have let the thing drop then and there.
If the old man felt that children should be kept away from adults, that was his privilege, of course.
And, although I was often lonely for other company than the old man, I was a dweller in his house and, naturally, subject to his wishes.
My work? No, I never left the place.
Ah, my book.
Well, I was writing a book.
No, not very exciting. Mathematics. I have some theories--
No. The book is gone.
The fire, you remember?
I could understand Heinz, I thought. He obviously had a great respect for a man's work, especially a work of such apparent erudition. I must not be disturbed. I might stay in my room day and night with my slide rules and my profile paper and my broken flower pot full of sharpened pencils. And I was not to be disturbed.
But how many times I wished for the happy sound of my little sister Miriam's gay laughter.
Found myself listening for the lilt of the little girl's song that she used to sing.
And that Clarissa knew, too.
Heinz - mentioned Clarissa ... occasionally.
HEINZ: I sometimes wish that I could have sent Clarissa to school, Jesse.
JESSE: Why, it's too bad you didn't.
HEINZ: Mm, always there was never enough money or--
JESSE: Why, there are schools. Public schools, Heinz.
HEINZ: No. Not for Clarissa these free schools.
JESSE: You know, I wonder...
JESSE: Well, you know, uh, children are supposed to go to school. I'm surprised that the school authorities haven't been to see you about sending her.
HEINZ: (A LITTLE NERVOUS) The police?
JESSE: Oh, no. Not the police. But there are laws about schools. I mean, you might find yourself in trouble if they discover you have a daughter of school age.
HEINZ: (APPREHENSIVE) They will come here?
JESSE: Well, if they find out.
HEINZ: Jesse! You will not tell!
JESSE: Now, look here, Heinz, er-- You're not being fair to the child--
HEINZ: Jess. Jess.
JESSE: No, really, I mean it, uh-- Hasn't she EVER been to school?
HEINZ: Well, I - I teach her a little.
JESSE: Well, Heinz, er, it's none of my business - but you're doing her a very serious harm.
HEINZ: No, no. Listen, Jesse. You don't tell anybody about her?
JESSE: Well, I don't know, Heinz. If they come and ask me--
HEINZ: Jesse! Listen. I - I tell you something.
JESSE: (AFTER A PAUSE) Well?
HEINZ: Clarissa - can't go to school.
JESSE: Well, why not? I - I told ya, it doesn't cost anything.
HEINZ: It is not that.
JESSE: Well, then?
HEINZ: She - she's not well.
JESSE: Oh. Oh, I'm sorry, Heinz. Look, would you like it if I gave her a - a little of my time and - and taught her some of the elementary--
HEINZ: No, no, no, please! Don't--
JESSE: Well, I'd be glad to.
JESSE: Well ... Have it your way, Heinz. I don't mean to intrude on your affairs but, after all, a child--
HEINZ: (POLITE BUT FIRM) I'm sorry, Jesse. I thank you but-- No.
JESSE: All right. ... Forget it.
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT, THEN OUT)
JESSE: (NARRATES) But I couldn't forget it.
A kindly old man.
Yes, he WAS kindly.
And a sick child who had never seen the inside of a schoolroom, who was growing up to become, well -- what? In an ancient, mouldering house -- a house that had lived too long. Alone with a father born eighty-six years ago.
Alone at night in the darkness with the house grumbling and complaining around me, I thought about the plight of the child. Sometimes I could hear her song...
CLARISSA: (SINGS A FEW LINES OF HER SONG, IN BG, THEN OUT)
JESSE: ... far away somewhere in the dank recesses of that crumbling house.
And my thoughts revolved again about this mystery.
Heinz said she was not well.
Heinz would not allow her to appear.
Was Clarissa some misshapen monster-child that she must be pent up and never see the sun? Was she--?
(SIGHS) I detest mysteries of that kind.
I love the good clean mysteries of abscissa and ordinate, of logarithm and antilogarithm, of the calculus and the grand old theorems devised by the ancients.
But the Fescennine mysteries of the human mind and of human behavior are alien to me. Them I hate.
And my thoughts crept further and further away from the ten numbers - as doubt and speculation about the child laid hold of my mind.
JESSE: In the night, how often I heard her sobs, I thought, sometimes close outside my door. And yet when I opened the door...
CLARISSA: (WEEPING STOPS ABRUPTLY)
JESSE: ... there was nothing.
(MUSIC ... SORROWFUL ... IN AND UNDER)
JESSE: And old Heinz grew more and more taciturn. He never spoke of his daughter. He seemed to avoid me by day and to disappear by night.
But the summer came then. Then the fall. And winter.
My book was going badly.
Well, my thoughts wandered.
I must leave this place, I thought or -- or find out this mystery.
And again I asked the old man if there was not something I might do for this pathetic child -- this invisible, haunting voice.
(MUSIC ... OUT)
HEINZ: No, Jesse. There is nothing you could do.
JESSE: But Christmas is coming, Heinz. Er, uh-- What can I get her for a Christmas present?
HEINZ: No Weihnachten, Jesse!
HEINZ: My Helene. She died on the eve of Christmas.
JESSE: Well, uh, but, Heinz-- You owe it to the child--
HEINZ: No! Let us not speak of it again.
JESSE: (NARRATES) But, to me, the thought of Christmas passing by this child was unspeakable. I determined that if the old man would do nothing about it, I would.
He knew I had little money and there was so little I could do. But I did come into the town here and - I found a toy for her.
I - I found one I could afford.
A little woolen lamb.
A little woolly, white lamb with black buttons for eyes and a - a blue silk ribbon about its neck, and a gay little blue flower in its mouth.
I hung a little card about its neck that said, "Merry Christmas to Clarissa."
And, on Christmas Eve, Heinz and I shared the last bottle of [Vin Cos Tradactour?] before the miserly little fire. And I gave him one of the handkerchiefs my little sister Miriam had sent me and - he gave me an old stone kruege with a heavy pewter top that he said came from Heidelberg. And we regretted that there was no creamy Pilsner Urquell to drink from it. Wished each other a happy Christmas.
And then, in the night ... I was awakened by a tiny sound.
SOUND: (DOOR LATCH OPENS QUIETLY)
JESSE: And I lay awake, silently, for a moment.
And there was another sound.
SOUND: (DOOR SWINGS OPEN QUIETLY)
JESSE: A hesitant little footstep.
SOUND: (QUIET FOOTSTEPS)
JESSE: And a rustling ...
SOUND: (DRAWER SLIDES OPEN)
JESSE: ... at the dresser across the room from me.
And I lay quietly and listened.
CLARISSA: (GIGGLES BRIEFLY WITH GIRLISH DELIGHT)
JESSE: (GENTLY) Is that you, Clarissa?
SOUND: (QUIET FOOTSTEPS)
JESSE: Is that you, Clarissa? ... Do you like it?
CLARISSA: (GIGGLES HAPPILY IN REPLY)
JESSE: Good. Happy Christmas.
JESSE: I'm - I'm sorry that's all I could get ya. But I hope you like it.
JESSE: (NARRATES) And I felt the touch of a tiny hand on my shoulder.
And lips brushed my cheek.
And the door closed.
SOUND: (DOOR CLOSES QUIETLY)
JESSE: And the sound of her voice ...
CLARISSA: (SINGS HER SONG, HAPPILY, IN THE DISTANCE)
JESSE: ... and the little song, was happier now than I'd ever heard it.
(MUSIC ... PICKS UP THE MELODY, CHANGES TO "DECK THE HALLS" AND MOVES TO A CONCLUSION ... THEN BACK IN AND UNDER)
JESSE: (NARRATES) And so I knew at last that Clarissa was not a ghost but a living person. And I felt more at peace with myself as I realized that this is what had been plucking at the corners of my mind. For I was happy now that I knew she really lived, that I was not living in the midst of fantasy. I had wondered what Heinz would say. He was perfectly natural about it.
HEINZ: (GENUINELY MOVED) It was good of you, Jesse.
JESSE: Good? What?
HEINZ: To find a gift for Clarissa.
JESSE: Oh! (CHUCKLES WITH DELIGHT) Did she like it?
HEINZ: (AFFIRMATIVE) Ahh.
JESSE: Well, I'm glad.
HEINZ: Ah, she asked me to say "Danke schön" to you.
JESSE: Well, then I say "Bitte schön"?
HEINZ: Ah, it is good. You're a kind person, Jesse.
JESSE: I wish it could've been more.
HEINZ: Oh, it is a very rich gift. Never has she had such a thing.
JESSE: (CHUCKLES) Uh, is she going to have Christmas dinner with us, Heinz?
HEINZ: (SUDDENLY COOL, FIRMLY) No.
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT TO CONVEY JESSE'S DISAPPOINTMENT ... THEN OUT)
JESSE: (NARRATES) So.
I had won a little victory in this conflict with the darkness.
But I was to go no further.
I asked Heinz about her - Heinz answered shortly.
I suggested that a birthday gift might be in order, if I only knew her birthday.
I proposed writing my own sister and begging her for out-worn storybooks that Clarissa might read. Even if she must stay aloof from the rest of the house.
Heinz did not reply.
Everything - was as it had always been - so long as the name of Clarissa was not mentioned.
Then along came the late spring, when it was cold and windy again.
SOUND: (WIND HOWLS)
JESSE: And the raw snow pelted against the windows and the whole house shivered ... I heard her crying again in the night.
CLARISSA: (WEEPS HORRIBLY)
JESSE: And there was a quality in her voice this time that brought me out of the bed and into the hall.
I called in alarm ...
(CALLS OUT) Clarissa!
CLARISSA: (WEEPING STOPS)
SOUND: (NO WIND ... EERIE SILENCE)
JESSE: I stepped back into my room. And lit the kerosene lamp.
SOUND: (WIND AND WEEPING RESUME)
JESSE: And as I stepped out again toward the hallway, Heinz confronted me.
HEINZ: [?] Sie, Jesse!
JESSE: Why, can't you hear her, Heinz? Something's wrong, she's sick.
HEINZ: No! Go back to your room, Jesse!
JESSE: Oh, but, Heinz--!
HEINZ: No, bitte, Jesse! Go back!
JESSE: Now, Heinz, listen to me! Something's awfully wrong with that child and I--!
HEINZ: I will take care of her, Jesse! Please, now, in your room!
JESSE: (PUSHED BACK INTO HIS ROOM) Now, see here!
HEINZ: I'll take care of my own, mein herr!
SOUND: (DOOR SLAMS SHUT)
CLARISSA: (SINGS HER SONG, FEAR IN HER VOICE)
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT SMOTHERS HER VOICE ... THEN OUT)
JESSE: (NARRATES) I reached for the door at once.
But it was locked from the outside.
And I beat on it and stormed at it in the cold.
But, for once, it held.
I screamed at the father, threatening every kind of vengeance on him.
Till at last I suddenly realized that I was being hysterically silly.
(AFTER A PAUSE) In the silence, I could hear nothing but the moan of the wind around the rusty cornices of the house. And the hiss of snowflakes against the window.
And I sat down -- shaken, bitter at myself for giving way to such an outburst over a child's crying in the night.
And at - at last I lay down again.
And in the frosty silence of the early dawn, I fell asleep.
And, when I awoke, hours later, and found my door unlocked again --
Heinz - was not to be found.
(MUSIC ... AN ACCENT, THEN OUT)
JESSE: (NARRATES) Not that day, nor the next.
I tramped through the house, opening doors, calling him, calling Clarissa.
There was not a sound to answer me.
I found a little wood and made a miserable fire.
I suppose I ate. I don't remember any too well.
And at night I went to bed, to lie, shivering for hours, straining my ears for a sound.
The sound of a child's song.
The sound of a father's footstep in the cold darkness.
Then, it was morning. Nearly morning.
Gray fingers of morning plucking at the frost-rind windows.
And I awoke - to see Heinz standing beside my bed.
In the two days, he seemed to have aged twenty years.
He was an old, old man.
He spoke to me:
HEINZ: Jesse, my friend.
JESSE: What's the matter, Heinz?
HEINZ: [?], Jesse. I am - dying.
JESSE: Why, Heinz!
HEINZ: It is finished now, Jesse. [?]
JESSE: Well, here, uh, uh, sit down.
HEINZ: No, no. Hear me. See the key to Clarissa's room? You take it.
JESSE: Is she all right? Heinz!
SOUND: (HEINZ COLLAPSES TO THE FLOOR LOUDLY)
HEINZ: (WEAK) Too late for me, now. Go - Clarissa's room. Do what is to be done.
(MUSIC ... A SOMBER ACCENT, THEN OUT)
JESSE: (NARRATES) I lifted him to the bed.
I bent over him.
I listened for his heart.
There was no sound.
Heinz was dead.
Yes, just as I told you before. He died.
He died there in my room, yes.
What? Oh. Yes.
In the little half-light, I found the kerosene lamp and I lit it.
I took the key - from the floor where he dropped it.
No. I found the room very easily. It was at the far end of the hall.
(NARRATES) And there was no answer. So I unlocked the door.
And, holding the light above my head, I walked over to the bed.
And there -- lying on the bed, dressed in a pinafore that might have come out of a Tenniel drawing in Alice in Wonderland, clutching a little woolen lamb to her breast -- there lay a tiny, old, old woman with long white hair, braided into pig-tails.
And I knew why I hadn't heard that little song for two days.
And so when the lamp - dropped out of my hand and the flames started licking around the dry-as-dust draperies and - the fragile old oaken boards in the floor ... I turned and went out of the house.
Well, what else - was there to do?
The house - had lived too long.
And so - had the father and daughter - who dwelt there.
(MUSIC ... THEME ... FADE FOR)
ANNOUNCER: "Quiet, Please!" for tonight was called "Clarissa." And the man who spoke to you was Ernest Chappell.
CHAPPELL: And Heinz - was played by Bruno Wick. Clarissa - by Peggy Stanley. As usual, music for "Quiet, Please!" - is by Albert Buhrman. Now, a word from our writer-director, Wyllis Cooper.
COOPER: The characters in tonight's "Quiet, Please!" are neither living nor dead. They enjoy neither of these interesting conditions because they're solely the invention of my own imagination, intended to represent nobody at all. "Quiet, Please!" for next week is called "Thirteen and Eight."
CHAPPELL: And so until next week at this same time, I am quietly yours, Ernest Chappell.
ANNOUNCER: "Quiet, Please!" comes to you from New York. This is the world's largest network, serving more than four hundred and fifty radio stations, the Mutual Broadcasting System.
(MUSIC ... THEME ... END)
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