Rede Me This Riddle

Episode #78
Aired 1948-12-12
Length: 31:59
Size: 14.6 MB
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“Quiet, Please!”

Wyllis Cooper


WJZ-ABC Sun Dec 12, 1948 – 5:30 – 6:00 PM EST

REH: Fri Dec 10 - 2:00 - 4:00 PM - Studio 2-D Sun Dec 12 - 2:00 - 5:30 PM - Studio 8-A

CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.


CHAPPELL: Quiet, please.


ANNCR: The American Broadcasting Company presents “Quiet, Please!” … which is written and directed by Wyllis Cooper, and which features Ernest Chappell.
“Quiet, Please!” for today is called “Rede me this riddle”.


GASPAR: I will tell you a singular thing: how it happens that I am come to this far place from my own country. Yet why I am come remains to me a deep and dark secret, yet unrevealed. Howbeit, I am young, and there are many marvels of the earth and the heavens yet unrevealed to me. Know that in my land I am ruler, I am king. Ney, smile not that I am a beardless youth, and that I am clad in garments most unkingly, nor smile not at the burthen I bear like to a wandering merchant or forsooth a beggar upon the highways. For I am truly king in my own country, and I shall be king again when that I return. Though, in these latter days I am become somewhat bony, and certes footsore. Now, mock me not, but be compassionate; for a day may come when you shall walk in the streets of my royal city, ragged even as I, and bearing only a staff such as I bear, and crying wellaway, and alms, of me and my people. And who will take you in and bestow upon you meat and bread, and pour out the deep cups of wine and say unto you fall to, for thou art a friend?

Aye, so: my people are a good people, and yet they are no more charitable than all the others of the earth that I have come upon in my far journeying. Well, then, be compassionate to a man, a wanderer, if not a king; for I have come a weary way, and the end of my journeying is not yet revealed to me. Therefore I say to you, be compassionate, and give alms to the king, and on another day, the king will requite thee an hundredfold. Ah, gramercy for thy wine. (HE DRINKS) This wine is less bitter than the wine my people draw from the purple grapes on the long, low hillsides of my own land. But is it not written that the wine of a stranger is even sweeter? Is it permitted that I sit, friend? For you are indeed a friend: I have not drunk, nor eaten, since yestermorn. Nay, I shall not tarry: I must go on - ah! now I thank thee for a true man. Believe me, when I return to mine own kingdom I will send bags of god at thy doorstep - yet however much I shall send thee, friend, will be but small payment for this thy bread and thy wine, thy bounty bestowed on me. Nay, laugh not, for I am truly a king, albeit a very hungry one. As thou shalt see one day. Ah, that is good. Is there a drop more wine for the poor king? Ah! May you never suffer hunger or thirst! I am a new man. Why, yes, if there is bread in plenty, I will eat more, for truth to tell, one loaf is short commons for one of my prodigious hunger. And cheese! And is that an onion I see on thy shelf? I give you my thanks...and a pinch of salt, perhaps? I have not dined so well, even in my palace of gold and dark marble where a thousand nobles sit at eventide. Eh? Well, I'll tell thee, friend, and perhaps thou'lt drink a cup of wine whilst I say my say. What? Well, now, I will drink another cup with thee, just to wet my whistle, as the captain of my palace guard says. Nay, not so much! Well...(HE DRINKS)...know that my land is a fair land, with long, peaceful hills under the summer's sun, and peaceful flowing rivers and distant mountains, a pleasant place. And my people are as good as...well, as good as any on this earth; no better, no worse. Eh? Oh, a long way beyond the Western Ocean. Yes, there are lands beyond. And beyond us to the west is another ocean, and perchance there are lands beyond it. Aye, the world is wide. As I have found, having trod so many wary leagues of it. Well, but... I have many who dwell in my palaces, but none so old, so wise, so versed in mysteries as my soothsayers. And of them there is one Cheiron.


GASPAR: And it was a twelvemonth ago that Cheiron began to speak to me of strange things.

CHEIRON: There be great portents, O King, in the skies above thy palace. Hear, O King, of the certain cloud that for thrice three nights has appeared low above the porches of thy dewlling place, and that remaineth there until dawn-time, in the shape of a great hand that pointeth in a certain direction.

GASPAR: And I was afeared upon my throne, and I said to Cheiron the soothsayer, say, Cheiron, what this may be? Is it a portent of death that I shall go soon to that country whence no man returns for, like every man, noble or common, I am feared of death? And Cheiron wagged his ancient head, and spoke again to me.

CHEIRON: Nay, O King, I am bound to interpret these marvels to thee, yet this is beyond my ken. I have cast spells, and I have fasted, and still this thing passeth my understanding.

GASPAR: And I was affrighted, and I said Cheiron; Cheiron, I said, rede me this riddle, or die. For in my land I have the power of the high justice, the middle, and the low, and all obey my commands, or die. Therefore Cheiron went from my presence and I frowned on my high throne that my face should not betray my fear. And a month went by, and I saw not Cheiron, and the fear passed from me, until a day came when my steward came bowing to say that a messenger from a far place waited without. And when this messenger came into my throne-room, he louted low before me, and he laid between my hands a strange thing. Then, when I had broken the seals, then did the messenger speak. There, O King, he said, there is thy burthen. And I looked, and behold, the thing he had given to me was this very pouch I bear, and look within. Never seen it before? Nay, I suppose not. It is gum from the torchwood tree, olibanum, and it comes from the eastern shore of the Dark Continent, and no king in all the earth possesses so much wealth as there is in this little pouch, verily. And I was joyed at the sight, and I spoke to the messenger, and asked him who had sent it. And he said it is not thine, O King; it is thy burthen to carry, and he louted low again, and went from me. Then I called Cheiron the soothsayer, and when he came I stretched out my hand and I said Cheiron.

CHEIRON: Live forever, O King.

GASPAR: Cherion, rede me this riddle. What means this pouch of precious olibanum that is to be my burthen?

CHEIRON: O King, now all is revealed.


CHEIRON: Now, O King, is thy riddle clear; the riddle of the cloud shaped like a great hand pointing, and the riddle of the gum and the torchwood tree, and all.

GASPAR: Well, speak.

CHEIRON: It is written that every man high and low must dree his own weird, O King.

GASPAR: So. My fate is mine. Dost thou know it?

CHEIRON: Aye, so.

GASPAR: Speak, man!

CHEIRON: I have dreamed a dream, O King. And this is what I dreamed; but I knew not it's meaning until ... this.

GASPAR: This gift?

CHEIRON: This burthen.


CHEIRON: In my dream, O King, I saw thee, clad in the poor robe of a common man, wneding thy way across the world. And thou didst walk, having no beast to ride upon, and only a staff to aid thy footsteps; and from thy shoulder, O King, did hang the leathern pouch, and in my dream I could smell.

GASPAR: Smell?

CHEIRON: Aye, king. Smell the fragrance of precious torchwood gum, precious olibanum. And thou didst leave thy kingdom and thy crown behind -

GASPAR: Thou fool!

CHEIRON: Nay, king.

GASPAR: Get thee gone, false magician! Am I to desert my kingdom and my throne and become a beggar at thy say-so? Begone!


GASPAR: (MUSINGLY) And yet, when I sought my couch at night, I dreamed a dream, and it the dream a man walked slowly down a strange road, and leant upon a staff such as this. And from his shoulder depended a pouch, and I smelt the smell of torchwood gum, of precious olibanum. And I looked on the man's face, and was mine own. And as I looked, a thunderous voice spoke in my ear, and it said, Go thou, Gaspar, and tarry not! (A PAUSE) And in a sennight, I laid away my kingly crown, and I took up this burthen, and in this poor raiment I set out on my far journeyings. Nigh unto a year have I wandered, and I know not the way, save that sometimes in my dreams, a voice says, go this way, Gaspar, and that is the way I have come, and that is my story. Now canst THOU rede me this riddle?

Where is the end of this far journeying?


GASPAR: Ho, old man, thou'rt weary.

MELCHIOR: Well, so I am.

GASPAR: Hungry, too.

MELCHIOR: Is it thy affair if I am?

GASPAR: Well, now, old one, I hold it is any man's affair if another hungers, and it has soon been proved to me.

MELCHIOR: Not to me, for I have not eaten since yesterday.

GASPAR: Well, I have, for one gave me meat and drink, and found me a place to sleep, for which I am grateful.

MELCHIOR: I slept by the wayside.

GASPAR: It is a sorry thing that a man of thy age and infirmities should suffer.

MELCHIOR: I have not cried out.

GASPAR: Nay, but the one who fed me gave me bread and cheese to speed me on my way, and since I was about to pause to refresh myself, why should I not share with thee?

MELCHIOR: Well ... if thou hast plenty.

GASPAR: It is not plenty, but I share it freely with thee, old man.

MELCHIOR: Thou'st my thanks, young one.

GASPAR: Here, father, eat. And if there is wine left in the little bottle, thou shalt drink, too.

MELCHIOR: I thank thee.

GASPAR: (AFTER A PAUSE) Hast thou come far, old man?

MELCHIOR: Aye, I have come far.

GASPAR: And wither goest thou?

MELCHIOR: That remains to be.

GASPAR: Ha! Knowest thou not thy destination?

MELCHIOR: I know it not.

GASPAR: That is very strange.

MELCHIOR: Is there another cup of wine? For I am old.

GASPAR: Drink the rest, father, and God bless thee.

MELCHIOR: His blessings on you, charitable youth.

GASPAR: It is all I have, but thou'rt welcome.

MELCHIOR: (DRINKING) Ah, good. (A PAUSE) It is a strange thing to find a King in rags, supping beside the highway.

GASPAR: (AFTER A PAUSE) And how didst thou know that I am a King?

MELCHIOR: What! THOU a king!

GASPAR: Didst thou not say it?

MELCHIOR: I said it, but I spoke not of thee.

GASPAR: OF whom, then?

MELCHIOR: Of myself.


MELCHIOR: It is sooth; I am a King. I am a mighty king in a far land, powerful and potent, ruling over many cities.

GASPAR: Why, king, so am I a king.

MELCHIOR: (WARNINGLY) Mock me not, young one!

GASPAR: Thou mockest me.

MELCHIOR: I give thee thanks for thy bread and they wine, but I will not have my grey hair and my present poverty mocked by a beardless youth.

GASPAR: (AFTER A PAUSE) I crave thy pardon, old man.

MELCHIOR: King, I say!

GASPAR: For thou speakest as a king is wont to speak.

MELCHIOR: And so I am!

GASPAR: Well, then, why dost thou walk in the dust of the road? Where are thy retainers, and thy horses and chariots, and thy sword and thy crown?

MELCHIOR: I say I am a king.

GASPAR: And I say I am a king.

MELCHIOR: Young fool, had I my captains here -

GASPAR: And had I mine, they would fight amongst themselves, but mine are in my kingdom half a world away, and thine are in thine own country. So shall we be friends?

MELCHIOR: Well ...

GASPAR: (AFTER A PAUSE) But I am a king.

MELCHIOR: (HOTLY) And so am I!

GASPAR: And what doest thou here, O King?

MELCHIOR: I am about my business!

GASPAR: Strange business.

MELCHIOR: Aye, my son, it is passing strange.

GASPAR: What has thou in yonder bag, O King?

MELCHIOR: I said I am about my business!

GASPAR: I think thou hast gold.

MELCHIOR: I had a golden crown.

GASPAR: Aye, so did I. But thou'st gold in thy bag.

MELCHIOR: Touch not the bag, for it is not mine.

GASPAR: Not thine, and thou a king!

MELCHIOR: Thou're a robber.

GASPAR: I am a king, I say.

MELCHIOR: King of robbers, beware my staff!

GASPAR: Nay, grandfather, I would not rob thee.

MELCHIOR: Best not try.

GASPAR: No, hearken to me.


GASPAR: I have a strange thought that thou art a king.

MELCHIOR: Sooth I am.

GASPAR: And thou hast gold there.

MELCHIOR: I will not tell thee.

GASPAR: And thou knowest not where thy journey endeth.

MELCHIOR: (AFTER A PAUSE) What sayest thou?

GASPAR: Thou didst have a visitation, a portent that set thee on this journeying.

MELCHIOR: Who art thou, boy?

GASPAR: I am king of a far country, even as thou art.

MELCHIOR: How shall I know thee to be king?

GASPAR: By my signet. Behold.

MELCHIOR: (EXAMINING IT) Ha. (A PAUSE) I too have a signet.

GASPAR: (EXAMINING IT) So thou hast. (A PAUSE) What meaneth all this, O King?

MELCHIOR: I know not, but ... I obey.

GASPAR: Was it written that we should meet in this place, we two?

MELCHIOR: I know not. In my dreams, an angel of the Lord commanded me to put away my crown and my kingly robes, and take up this staff and this bag of gold, and come away.

GASPAR: An angel of the Lord, O King?

MELCHIOR: Lo, I slept, and in my dream I heard a voice.

GASPAR: There was a voice in my dream.

MELCHIOR: Thou doest bear a burthen, also.

GASPAR: Aye. Of torchwood gum, that we call olibanum.

MELCHIOR: It is a princely treasure.

GASPAR: Yet it is not mine.

MELCHIOR: Nor is the gold mine.

GASPAR: I am Gaspar, King, Lord of the High Justice, the Middle and the Low. I rule the lands beyond the Western Ocean.

MELCHIOR: I am Melchior, descendant of princes, and I rule the forestland and the hills and the rivers of the land of Koln.

GASPAR: Hail to thee, O King Melchior.

MELCHIOR: And hail to thee, young King Gaspar in thy torn raiment.

GASPAR: And to thee, O King, with thy ragged staff and thy tattered sandals.

MELCHIOR: And thanks to thee for thy crust of bread and thy sour wine, young king from beyond the Western Ocean.

GASPAR: I shall return one day.

MELCHIOR: And I hope that I shall live to return to Koln, but I fear that I am old, and shall not see my forest palace again.

GASPAR: What is to be will be, O King. But has thou no thought of the place to which we journey?

MELCHIOR: I know not.

GASPAR: Or of what we shall find at the end?

MELCHIOR: I know not.

GASPAR: It is passing strange.

MELCHIOR: Look, King Gaspar. I know not why you travel this road, nor where you shall end your days, nor yet of the life you have left behind you -

GASPAR: It was a good life, King Melchior.

MELCHIOR: I have left a good life. I have fought my enemies, and overcome them, and forgiven them like a true man. I have had wealth, and happiness, and certain sorrows, but I have had a good life, albeit not blameless. And now I an nigh unto fourscore years, and it would be a strange thing if I did not obey the command the Lord hath put upon me, though I die in the undertaking.

GASPAR: (AFTER A PAUSE) I have not lived as long as thee, O King, nor have I thy ancient wisdom. But I obey the command of my Lord God, even as thou dost.

MELCHIOR: What is the name of thy God?

GASPAR: Is there more than one God, Lord King?


MELCHIOR: Come, help me rise, my son, for it is in my mind that the end of our journeying is not far off, and we must hasten.


GASPAR: And I took the old man's arm, and he rose, and we set our faces toward the east, for that way ran the highway, and through the dusty winter's day we travelled on together. And many were the tales we exchanged of our kingdoms, this old white-bearded patriarch of the forests and me. And though the scrip of gold grew heavier and heavier on his withered shoulders, he would never suffer me to take it from him, for this, he said, was his own burthen, and he would carry it till he died if need be. And we walked on and on, till the early dusk fell about us, and we debated where we should sleep, and what we should sup upon, for the crusts of bread were gone, and the cheese, and the wine, and we were weary, two wandering kings, a night fell and the clouds gathered, and the dark, dark rain fell upon us. And in the darkness and the weariness, suddenly, strong hands, seized us, and a great voice cried out at our shoulders.

BALTHASAR: Hold! Stand, I say!


BALTHASAR: Now, who are you two travellers in the night along my road?

GASPAR: Who are you?

BALTHASAR: Answer me, or I'll have your lives in an instant!

GASPAR: My name is Gaspar.

BALTHASAR: You, Old man?

MELCHIOR: I am Melchior, King of Koln, thief!


MELCHIOR: Stand away from me! Who are you?

BALTHASAR: Why, king, I am king, too. I am King of the Robbers. Come, away with them!


GASPAR: And they dragged us away, good King Melchior and me, in the darkness of the night; and this King of the Robbers was surely a might man, and his followers, it seemed. And presently there was the sound of more voices, and the high walls of an ancient ruined castle appeared on the top of a hill, and a great door opened, and we saw before us a huge smokey fire, and many men-at-arms crowded about the great pot that hung over the fire, and there was a smell of good thick broth and of wet leather and the stables, and the mighty King of the Robbers flung us to the stone floor, where we lay stunned for a time. And at last I dared look up at him as he stood over us and laughed to see two Kings at his feet. And a great hand seized me and drew me to my feet.

BALTHASAR: Whither goest thou, stripling?

GASPAR: I - I know not.

BALTHASAR: D'ye jest with me, boy? D'ye know who I am? (A PAUSE) Answer me!


BALTHASAR: I am Black King of the Robbers, mark ye well, and I have slain my thousands!

GASPAR: Y'll not slay me ...

BALTHASAR: Ha! A young cockerel! What d'ye have in that pouch?

GASPAR: It's not for thee!

BALTHASAR: (LAUGHS) D'ye dare to tell me in my own den - owww!

GASPAR: And my knife was at the robber King's throat in that little instant, and I said to him, move and thou diest. And the great black man looked me full in the eyes, for I had him by the beard, and I am strong enough in my own right, even if I am weary and an-hungered, and he knew death was very close. And I said bid thy men go away.

BALTHASAR: I will not, thou -

GASPAR: Bid them go away from us, or thou'lt die! And he waited a little moment, and his white eyes rolled in that black face, and he spoke low and gentle.

BALTHASAR: Go away. Go away for a little. There'll be time.

GASPAR: (CALLING OUT) If you'd see you king die, stay. If you'd have him live, go from here! Now!

And slowly, grumbling, they left the savoury pot by the fireside and slunk out of that place like the dogs there were. And I said to the black man Sit. And when he had sat himself on the floor, good King Melchior stood up, and I said tie his hands, majesty. And the King tied the Robber King's hands, and we left him there whilst we went to the fireside and supped enormously on savoury cooked meat. Then when we had eaten our fill, we returned again to the black man. Now King of the Robbers.

BALTHASAR: I'm hungry.

GASPAR: Well, we were hungered, too, King.

BALTHASAR: Come, now ...

MELCHIOR: Gramercy for thy food, black man. It was good. Albeit a pinch more salt would have helped it. But can a man have everything?

BALTHASAR: Cut me loose.


BALTHASAR: My men will return -

GASPAR: Well, then, perhaps we must kill thee.


GASPAR: My knife is sharp ...


GASPAR: And we have not come thus far to be halted by robbers.

BALTHASAR: Where dost thou go?

MELCHIOR: About our business, robber.

BALTHASAR: Hold you, old man. I am no mere thief. I am King of the Robbers.

GASPAR: In sooth. You are bedecked like a king. In others' finery.

BALTHASAR: I tell you I am no ordinary man. I am king in my own land! You cannot slay me!

GASPAR: Know you, Robber-King, that I myself am King beyond the Western Ocean.

MELCHIOR: And I am King of the Forests and the Valleys of Koln.

BALTHASAR: Ye look like kings in your rags.

BALTHASAR: And thou with thy pinioned hands.

BALTHASAR: Natheless, I am king!



GASPAR: What is the name of thy kingdom?

BALTHASAR: Erst was I king of Ethiop, in the Dark Continent.

MELCHIOR: Ethiop, where is that?

BALTHASAR: Hast never heard of my country, old man? Ah, it is a barren land, and a poor one, and the high sun burns the rock hills and the lions prey upon the poor villages of my people, and there is neither gold nor silver nor precious jewels within my land, only desolation.

MELCHIOR: And thou has forsworn thy kingdom to be king of the robbers, then?

BALTHASAR: Nay; nay, old man.

MELCHIOR: Call me King, for I am Melchior of Koln.

GASPAR: And call me King, for I am Gaspar of the lands beyond the Setting Sun.

BALTHASAR: (WITH DIGNITY) And I am Balthasar, King of Ethiop.

MELCHIOR: And thou'st said it is a poor land, and thou'st deserted it.

BALTHASAR: Nay, King Melchior, I have not deserted my people and my country. I have come into foreign parts that I may strip gold and jewels and wealth from the inhabitants to take back one day to my own land, and enrich it, and bring a measure of happiness to my people.

MELCHIOR: (AFTER A PAUSE) Sayest thou sooth, King Balthasar?

BALTHASAR: It is so.

GASPAR: Sayest thou sooth?

BALTHASAR: I have said it.

GASPAR: (AFTER A PAUSE) Reach me thy hands.

BALTHASAR: What wouldst thou?

GASPAR: Reach me thy hands. (A PAUSE) Thou art free, Balthasar.

BALTHASAR: (RISING) For my life I thank thee, O King. But how doest thou know I will spare thee, seeing I am free now?

GASPAR: Why, we are three Kings, Balthasar. How shall we fall upon one another like wights?

BALTHASAR: It is so. Give me thy hand. And thine, King Melchior. And now, it is not meet that kings should be clad in rags. Let me give -

GASPAR: No. [simultaneous]

MELCHIOR: No. [simultaneous]


MELCHIOR: We are dedicated to a far journey, we two, Balthasar, and me must on.

BALTHASAR: Whither goest thou?

MELCHIOR: That we know not, save that we must on.

BALTHASAR: What is this wonder?

GASPAR: Night unto a year ago, Balthasar, I was commanded to take up this pouch, and dress in this robe, and take up this staff, and go wheresoever the Lord would lead me, bearing this precious gift ...

MELCHIOR: And know, too, that I , Melchior of Koln, was so bidden to go, carrrying with me this bag of heavy gold.


MELCHIOR: Gold, aye.

BALTHASAR: And what hast thou, Gaspar?

GASPAR: Precious gum of the torchwood tree, even olibanum.

BALTHASAR: Precious, precious gifts.

GASPAR: Aye, precious. [simultaneous]

MELCHIOR: Aye, precious. [simultaneous]

BALTHASAR: And for whom?

MELCHIOR: That ... that we know not, Balthasar.

GASPAR: We have but followed the bidding.

BALTHASAR: And the portents? The signs to you?

GASPAR: A cloud in the sky, pointing. And a voice in my dreams.

MELCHIOR: The apparition of an angel, and a voice that said, go and tarry not.



GASPAR: No more.

BALTHASAR: Ye believe, then?

MELCHIOR: How else would we give up our thrones and come these many leagues?

BALTHASAR: Will ye come with me?

GASPAR: Where?

BALTHASAR: To the tower. I have something to show you.

(MUSIC: FOR B.G. ....)

GASPAR: And we went with the robber king, fearing naught of his followers, and we climbed many a musty stairway until at last we stood on the topmost pinnacle of the ancient ruined castle; and the dismal rain fell upon our bare heads. And in the darkness King Balthasar pointed away toward the east, and we followed his pointing dark hand.

BALTHASAR: What do you see? (NO ANSWER) What do you see, through the darkness and the rain, and the lowering clouds, O Brother Kings?

GASPAR: And we looked we three kings, through the murky blackness where all the stars of heaven should be hidden, and far, far away, rising over the sodden hills that stretched away to the land of Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee, a bright, glowing great star, brighter that the Star of Morning, and its rays transfigured the three who stood at the castle battlement. And we fell on our knees, we three.

(MUSIC: END ...)

GASPAR: Then spoke Balthasar, King of Ethiop to us.

BALTHASAR: You have brought olibanum of the torch tree, Gaspar, which is called frankincense; and you have brought massy gold, King Melchior, My burthen shall be the incense of my barren country, which is called labdanum, though in the tongue of my people it is called myrrh.

GASPAR: And bearing our gifts of frankincense and gold and myrrh, we three kings, Gaspar.

MELCHIOR: Melchior.

BALTHASAR: And Balthasar.

GASPAR: We three kings set out through the rain and the blackness to follow the rays of a star. And now rede me this riddle: what manner of King shall the most potent kings of earth bow down unto?


ANNCR: The title of today's “Quiet, Please” story was "Rede Me This Riddle." It was written and directed by Wyllis Cooper, and the man who spoke to you was Ernest Chappell.

CHAPPELL: And Ralph Schoolman played King Melchior. Balthasar was Craig McDonnell. The music for “Quiet Please” is played by Albert Buhrmann. Now for a word about next week's "Quiet, Please!", here is our writer-director Wyllis Cooper.

COOPER: Thank you for listening to "Quiet, Please!". And for next week, I have a story for you called "The Gothic Tale"

CHAPPELL: And until next week I am quietly yours, Ernest Chappell.

ANNCR: This is ABC, the American Broadcasting System.