The Third Man's Story

Episode #64
Aired 1948-09-06
Length: 21:53
Size: 5.01 MB
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Episode #63
Date: 06 September 1948

CHAPPELL: Quiet, please ... Quiet, please.


ANNOUNCER: 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 "The Third Man's Story."



CHAPPELL: I have had a long time to meditate upon folly. And I think if I could live my life over again, this would be a better world today, dwelt in by happier people.

For I think I would not have committed the folly of my youth, the folly that has drawn the lines for conflict and suffering that you are heir to now.

My father and my mother, I know, committed a greater folly, but the punishment that was laid upon them was the sentence of an all-wise judge, and, in the end, a demonstrable blessing -- a blessing that might have descended unsullied to you of this present world had it not been for my folly, which, among other things, led to my death. And to the death of countless other men, and women and children, and the laying waste to many a fair countryside through the years.


CHAPPELL: I never saw the country where my father and mother first lived, but I've heard them speak of it so many times. At first with an aching homesickness that was almost a madness between them -- and then as the years went on in my early manhood, with a kind of hopeless uncertainty, as of a dream once vivid and now dim and tattered in the years, never to be recalled and therefore a thing to be put away forever.

My father-- I recall him well. A tall heavy man, a little stooped with toil, smiling slowly and saying little, his hair long and black; I did not live to see the gray creep in. A man of prodigious strength and temper. In short, the quiet-spoken, home-loving working man, father of all ages.

My mother? The most beautiful woman I've ever seen. I agree I had little opportunity then for comparison with other women, but there have been many women since in this world -- and none to rival her. Discontented a little, impatient a little -- but a wise, loving mother to her two sons, and a dutiful wife to their father.

And my brother. (INSISTENT) It is a good thing that my brother lived -- that he was born, and existed, and strove with his hands, delving in the valleys and tilling the broad fields, learning the secrets of the earth and the ways of seeds and plants and green things. I think he was the salt of the earth -- although I procured for him a bad name, to my cost, and the world's.

He was a little older than I; the firstborn and, naturally, the first beloved. Until I was born. I think he was more my father's son than I. He had my father's ways: his slow speech; his long silences; his giant strength; my father's slow-kindling, deep-seated, terrible anger that smoldered far below the placid eyes and the peaceful countenance. Only twice have I seen my brother's temper flare. And the second time was my undoing. ... And yours.

I - I think I was my mother's son. Perhaps I made it that way. I did make it that way. I--

But I shall tell you. Bear with me.


CHAPPELL: We dwelt at the head of a valley, far from the place where my father and mother'd first lived. It was a humble place, but tall trees shadowed the house. A sparkling hillside brook ran gurgling down the hill not a hundred paces from our door. In the summer's heat, the hills grew brown and barren under the sun, save for the plots below, the slopes where my brother cunningly led the waters of the little stream -- where the corn and the millet and the barley prospered. And the fruit trees on the hill above the house were my brother's, too. He tended them daily against the harvest of the fall -- while I frolicked in the stream or lazed away the long afternoons in the shade of the plane trees.

I well remember.

I well remember the rains. My brother and my father toiling in the steamy downpour at some homely task, while I sat dry and comfortable under the thatched shelter and laughed at their dripping, mud-spattered labors.

It was a good life we led. We, the pioneers. We, the happy family in the olden good days, in the summers and the long slow winters, in the cheerful spring and the golden harvest days of the fall. Pioneers in a smiling land unpeopled by enemies, unmarred by discontent and hatred.

So it was in the early days of my youth.

So it could have been today, were it not for my folly -- and my death, the first in all this peaceful land.


CHAPPELL: My father was a profoundly religious man, God-fearing and devout, remembering his obligations to his Creator with an intense personal fervor, laying aside a tithe of everything he possessed for the Lord, thereby engendering in me a mighty impious curiosity. I remember an evening when my brother and I sat alone in the twilight, resting -- he from the toil of the day, and I from the day's pleasures. "Brother," I said, "Brother, tell me something."

BROTHER: What do you want to know now, youngster?

CHAPPELL: (YOUTHFUL) What did you and father do with the fruit and grain and things you carried away this morning?

BROTHER: We took 'em down to the grove. Same as we always do.

CHAPPELL: But what did you do with them there?

BROTHER: We left them there.

CHAPPELL: Just - left them there?

BROTHER: Yep. Just left 'em there.

CHAPPELL: Well, why did you do that?

BROTHER: Well, you know how father feels. You know how religious he is.

CHAPPELL: I know. But I don't understand why he does this. It seems like - like wasting things.

BROTHER: Those things aren't wasted.

CHAPPELL: Well, what happens to them?

BROTHER: They're a sacrifice.

CHAPPELL: I don't understand that.

BROTHER: (SLOWLY) Well, it - it's like this. I--

CHAPPELL: (BEAT) Well, go ahead.

BROTHER: It's hard to explain. Your father gives you things -- food, things to play with. What do you do?

CHAPPELL: I don't do anything.

BROTHER: You say "thank you," don't ya?

CHAPPELL: Oh, yes.

BROTHER: Well, this sacrifice is a kind of way of saying "thank you" for all the wonderful things we have. For the fields, and the sunshine, and the-- Well, for everything. For just living.


BROTHER: We have plenty, ya see. It's only fair for us to give up some of it for a "thank offering." (BEAT) You understand?

CHAPPELL: What would happen if you didn't do it?

BROTHER: I don't know.

CHAPPELL: Would something terrible happen? Would we have bad luck maybe? Would we die?

BROTHER: I don't know.

CHAPPELL: Well, do we just sacrifice what we want to?

BROTHER: We sacrifice the best we have, sonny.

CHAPPELL: Has it got to be the best?

BROTHER: That's what your father and I think, and your mother.

CHAPPELL: What if it isn't good enough?

BROTHER: It has to be the best things you have.

CHAPPELL: Can I sacrifice something?

BROTHER: When you're old enough.

CHAPPELL: I'll sacrifice some wonderful things.

BROTHER: (CHUCKLES) Of course you will.

CHAPPELL: (GETTING A LITTLE CARRIED AWAY) And they won't be just old ears of corns and bundles of millet and stuff like that!


CHAPPELL: (OLDER AGAIN) I wonder if I thought, in my youthful folly, that the greater the sacrifice, the greater would be my reward. I wonder if I thought I could buy prosperity and happiness and the pleasures of the flesh -- outstrip my father and my brother by the magnificence of my own burnt offerings. I wonder if this was the burgeoning of a thought that I might supplant my brother in the regard of my father and mother -- for he was the principal provider. True, my father labored mightily, but it was my brother's strong arms that tilled the soil, my brother's active mind that planned the year's crops, my brother's sweat that procured the harvest that nourished us all.

And, as time went on, my father became more and more submerged in religion, and on his firstborn fell a heavier and heavier burden.

And at the time of sacrifice, I stood sullenly aside, for I was empty-handed with nothing of my own to place upon the altar, with nothing to gain grace and prosperity for myself.

I was young. Forgive me for that, if you can.

True, my elder brother had not many years over me, but I had been brought up in the indulgence of my parents. And since he was a prodigious worker, I found idleness more to my liking. I was awkward with the plow and the harrow; I bruised the precious fruit I was sent to gather. I dulled the scythe in reaping time; was sent away lest I bring further harm to the harvest, and to myself.

(UNHAPPY) And the praise my father gave to my brother.

FATHER: It's been a good year, son.

BROTHER: We've done very well, haven't we?

FATHER: You've done very well, you mean.

BROTHER: (GENUINELY MODEST) What's the difference? It's all in the family.

FATHER: Yes, but what we'd have done without you, I don't know. Why, we've got that lower field now that was all trees last year. That brings us a good crop. I wish there was something special I could do for you, son.

BROTHER: (AMUSED) It's all right, father. I like to work in the fields.

FATHER: And those fruit trees! I never saw them bear so much.

BROTHER: 'Twas hard work, but-- (EXHALES CONTENTEDLY) --we'll have a pleasant winter.

FATHER: Thanks to you.

BROTHER: We've got so much. I wish there was somebody we could give some of our plenty to. Don't you, father?

FATHER: We can give it to the Lord, son.

BROTHER: It'll be a mighty sacrifice this year.

FATHER: All the better we have it to give.

BROTHER: But I wish sometimes there were some other people we could see, be neighbors with.

FATHER: A day will come, son. A day will come. We may not live to see this world teeming with people, but we're the pioneers and they'll live to be grateful to us. I'm thankful I have a son like you.

BROTHER: You've got two sons, father.

FATHER: (WITH DISAPPROVAL) Oh, yes. But your brother--


CHAPPELL: And I went away and sat brooding for a long time. Mind you, I love my father, and up to that moment I love my brother. But I must find some way to outdo him, to win a greater place than he in my father's affections. But what was I to do? What tasks were there left that I could perform to please my father and to supplant my brother? I could not think.

And then the other thought -- how would I ever prosper in life if I had nothing to give, nothing to sacrifice as my father and my brother did?

My mother found me in the dark as I sat there sniveling at my unlucky situation, as I sat there dissolved in unworthy tears of self-pity.

MOTHER: Is that you, son?


MOTHER: I've been looking all over for you. What's the matter, dear?

CHAPPELL: I - don't feel good.

MOTHER: Are you sick, child?

CHAPPELL: I just-- I'm just good for nothing.

MOTHER: Oh, now, son. What happened?

CHAPPELL: Well, I can't do anything.

MOTHER: You can't do anything? What do you mean?

CHAPPELL: Well, brother does everything and father tells him how wonderful he is and I'm - I'm just useless.

MOTHER: (WITH A CHUCKLE) Oh, come now, son. There's plenty for you to do. You always help mother around the house and you-- Well, you-- Well, you're young.

CHAPPELL: I'm not, either. I'm - I'm just no good.

MOTHER: That's a silly attitude for you to take. Now what put all this in your mind so suddenly?

CHAPPELL: Mother, I want to be useful.

MOTHER: Well, you are useful.

CHAPPELL: I haven't got anything to sacrifice.

MOTHER: Oh. That's it, eh?

CHAPPELL: Yes. Father--

MOTHER: I know, dear. I - I didn't know you were so serious about [?]

CHAPPELL: Mother, how can I ever get things if I don't have anything to sacrifice?

MOTHER: "Get things"?

CHAPPELL: Well, I mean, I won't prosper.

MOTHER: (CHUCKLES) You poor child! You come in now and have your supper and you'll feel better. And then in the morning--


CHAPPELL: (OLDER AGAIN) But in the morning I wandered away, still downcast, before my parents and my brother had arisen. I do not remember what dark thoughts occupied my mind as I climbed the dew-drenched hillsides, wrestling with my problem. I do not know how far I walked through the morning in the hot sun of noon, nor where I wandered. I tired with the afternoon, I remember, and under a tall oak tree on the top of a hill I lay my head and slept. Dreams haunted me. Dreams of my tall laughing brother, rich and happy, surrounded by a cheerful and happy family in some far land. Dreams of myself, begging bread from a stranger, unblessed and unhappy. Dreams of poverty and want in a world I never knew. I saw myself dependent at long last upon the bounty of my brother -- the farmer, the tiller of the soil -- a laborer who had enough to sacrifice to ensure a good life for himself, while I suffered the pangs of hunger.


CHAPPELL: And I awoke to the curious stare of a pair of tiny grave little lambs--


CHAPPELL: --two little lambkins who stood and made bleating noises at the strange figure on the grass, who tottered to me and seized my fingers in their black little mouths and tugged at them valiantly.

And so, when at sunset I made my weary way into the clearing around our house, I had found my vocation. The lambs objected mightily to being dragged up for inspection by my father and brother and my weeping mother. But there was a hot supper for me and barley meal for the lambs, and I talked bravely of the prosperity my new acquisition would bring to us all.

I suppose I was meant to be a shepherd.

My two little lambs grew. Presently there were more lambs. My father taught me to shear them as they grew bigger. I found out the lore of the sheep herder for myself. It was pleasant on the hillsides with the tinkle of the weather's bell, and the flock grew apace.

Ah, how I remember those long afternoons, with the clouds drifting lazily above me, the pleasant drowsy sound of the sheep as they grazed peacefully around me.

It was a lazy life, but a good one. I could laze away the afternoons securely, laughing to think of my burly brother toiling away in the sun-baked fields, fighting his eternal battle with the earth for his sustenance.

I built my own hut down the hillside above the homeplace. I lived a pleasant, solitary life. Sometimes my mother and my father would toil up the hill to visit me, bring me cakes of millet or deep jars of sweet wine from my brother's grapes.

There was an afternoon--

FATHER: Well, son, you're doing fine with the sheep.


CHAPPELL: (YOUTHFUL) I'm glad, father. This is what I like to do.

FATHER: How many have you now?

CHAPPELL: Sixteen. But there'll be lambs in the spring.

MOTHER: I'm making you a nice wool coat, son, from the first shearing.

CHAPPELL: Oh, thank you, mother.

MOTHER: I wish you could come home oftener, though.

CHAPPELL: You - miss me?

FATHER: Of course we do, son. That's why we come up to see you here.

CHAPPELL: Well, what about--? Well, you've got a son around the house all the time.

FATHER: He's pretty busy.

CHAPPELL: How's he - doing with the crops?

FATHER: Well, not very well this year.

CHAPPELL: Oh? What's the matter?

MOTHER: It's just a bad year, son.

CHAPPELL: What's the matter? Didn't he sacrifice?

FATHER: (BEAT, STERN) I don't think I like the way you said that, son.

CHAPPELL: Why, I didn't mean anything, father.

FATHER: I hope you didn't. Yes, your brother sacrificed; you know he did.

CHAPPELL: Maybe he didn't sacrifice enough.

MOTHER: Yes, he did, dear.

CHAPPELL: Or maybe it wasn't good enough.

FATHER: (UPSET) Son, it's not your place to decide what's good and what's bad!

CHAPPELL: I wasn't, father. I - I was only asking.

FATHER: (CONCEDES) The crops are going to be very small this year.

MOTHER: (EXHALES) It looks as if you're the support of the family this time, son.

CHAPPELL: Me? (LAUGHS) That's fine. I'm - some use after all, then.


FATHER: Why, of course you're some use. You're a great deal of use.

CHAPPELL: More than my brother?

FATHER: This year, anyway.



CHAPPELL: I can't help it, mother. I - I'm happy.

FATHER: Son, have you made your sacrifice yet?

CHAPPELL: Not yet, father, but I'm going to do it right away. I'm gonna make a - a wonderful sacrifice!


CHAPPELL: (OLDER AGAIN) And when the lambs were born, I made my sacrifice. I made a magnificent sacrifice. The lovely little lambs bleated piteously and my heart bled for them, but it was what I had wanted to do. I chanted the old words of the ceremony loudly and joyfully. The black smoke rose to Heaven. We all rejoiced -- greatly.

We all rejoiced -- except my brother.

Now it was his turn to stand empty-handed and glum, although he did try to smile at me when I turned triumphantly away to look at him. The poor withered ears of corn he put on his own altar looked very meager compared with the lavishness of my gift. And when, in an excess of good feeling, I gave him one of the lambs to offer up on his own altar, he couldn't even make the fire stay lit; I had to help! I was very happy.

And I rue the day now.

Yes, of course it was selfishness. It wasn't devotion.

I was very happy.

And when in the morning I left again to return to the hillside pastures -- for my flock had grown and there would be much for me to do -- my brother humbly came to me and laid a hand on my shoulder.


BROTHER: (DEJECTED) Is it all right if I walk back with ya to see the flock?

CHAPPELL: (YOUTHFUL, CONDESCENDING) Why? Haven't you got anything to do here?

BROTHER: There's not a thing to do here. Crops are in -- what there is of 'em.

CHAPPELL: Well, isn't that too bad?

BROTHER: Yeah, it is that.

CHAPPELL: Well, come on along.

BROTHER: Thank you. (BEAT) I don't know what happened this year.

CHAPPELL: It is strange, isn't it?

BROTHER: You've done well. I'm proud of ya.

CHAPPELL: (IMMODEST, INCREASINGLY SMUG) Oh, well. You know, I told you I'd sacrifice something wonderful.

BROTHER: Yes, I remember.

CHAPPELL: I sacrificed the first lambs this family ever sacrificed.

BROTHER: It was wonderful.

CHAPPELL: (RUBBING IT IN) Too bad your sacrifice was so cheap and bad.

BROTHER: (INCREASINGLY ANGRY) I did the best I could. That's all anybody could do.

CHAPPELL: Oh, well, but you should have been like me. It's all very well to dig up the ground, but it takes something more to do what I've done.

BROTHER: I've done pretty well in the past, boy.

CHAPPELL: I don't see how you can expect to do very much when all you've got to offer is some old corn and stuff like that.

BROTHER: It was good enough for you for a long time!

CHAPPELL: Oh, of course. But now--

BROTHER: I've worked hard! All my life!

CHAPPELL: You don't have to work hard if you don't want to. I don't work hard -- and look at me.


CHAPPELL: I think father and mother are a little disappointed in ya, you know.

BROTHER: They are not!

CHAPPELL: I think they are. I could see the way they looked at ya. And -- at me.

BROTHER: I don't believe you!

CHAPPELL: And you didn't do very well with your sacrifice.


CHAPPELL: Not even when I had to give you something to sacrifice.

BROTHER: You stop that!

CHAPPELL: I think your day's over, brother. I think--

BROTHER: I told ya to stop talking that way!

CHAPPELL: Yes, you're done! You were all right till I got started and made a good sacrifice--


CHAPPELL: Oh, go on back and dig holes in the ground, you farmer!

BROTHER: You-- I'll--

CHAPPELL: You'll do what?

BROTHER: If you don't stop talking that way, I'll kill ya.



CHAPPELL: Digger in the dirt!

BROTHER: I told you--!

CHAPPELL: Can't even make a good sacrifice!



CHAPPELL: No! No! Help!


CHAPPELL: (OLDER AGAIN) And I lay there on the ground. The sky had turned to blood-red and the hills danced crazily about me.

I struggled to rise again, but it was too late.

I had loosed murder and strife into the good world.

I had taunted my brother to the final act of death.

And it was too late to say, "I'm sorry."

Distantly, I heard my brother run away and his cries filled my ears with sound. "It is more than I can bear," he said.

And those were the last words of his I heard.

My good, kindly brother. And through him, I brought strife and terror and hopelessness into the best of all worlds.

And you are heir to the evil that I set free.

I was my brother's keeper -- and I failed my trust.


ANNOUNCER: The title of tonight's "Quiet, Please!" was "The Third Man's Story." It was written and directed by Wyllis Cooper and the man who spoke to you was Ernest Chappell.

CHAPPELL: And Lon Clark played the brother. The father was Arthur Kohl and the mother was Alice Reinheart. As usual, music for "Quiet, Please!" is by Albert Buhrmann. Now for a word about next week, our writer-director, Wyllis Cooper.

COOPER: It's of course obvious that the characters in tonight's story were based upon people who did live. Next week's "Quiet, Please!" story is called, with a bow to the composer of our theme, "Symphony in D Minor." It'll be the last of the Mutual network series of "Quiet, Please!" broadcasts.

CHAPPELL: Both Mr. Cooper and I would be grateful for your reactions.

Until next week at this same time, I am quietly yours ... Ernest Chappell.

ANNOUNCER: This program was heard in Canada through the facilities of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This is the Mutual Broadcasting System.