Number One on the Docket
SOLOMON, the king
[NARRATOR] For many years the mighty KING DAVID ruled over the land of Israel.
Now the days of DAVID drew nigh that he should die; and he charged SOLOMON,
his son, saying: "I go the way of all the earth; be thou strong, therefore,
and show thyself a man."
And DAVID slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of DAVID.... And
SOLOMON sat upon the throne.
Now, our story begins immediately after the coronation of SOLOMON. It had been
a magnificent affair, lavish and splendid as the Orient itself. All of Israel
had come, to dance, to feast, to look upon the pageantry. They had seen the
young King; and many agreed that the complex affairs of a great nation would
prove to be too heavy a burden for such a young head. In fact, not only was
this the opinion of many people of the Kingdom: it was also shared by the
young king's counsellors: men who had served his father DAVID and who had
grown old in the service of Israel; and these counsellors now sat in the
counsel room, thoroughly satisfied that they would be able to manipulate the
young King to their own will. And as they sit in their comfortable chairs,
they hear music from afar off--
JEHOSHAPHAT: It seems to me, the people are making a great business of this
AZARIAH: Well, well, Jehoshaphat! It's all right. Let them enjoy themselves.
They don't get a chance very often. And, after all, that noise and ceremony
doesn't mean anything. Gentlemen, we know who's going to run this kingdom!
ZABUD: Azariah, King Solomon looks like a pretty stubborn young fellow to me.
He's got a square jaw--and I think we may have trouble with him.
AZARIAH: Well, gentlemen of the counsel, I hope we have sense enough, and
experience enough, to handle this young man! Personally, I am not worried on
that score. In the long run, gentlemen, it's experience that counts--I'm sure
we all have that.
JEHOSHAPHAT: My dear friend, you're quite right! Solomon will need something
more than a square jaw to get around three old-timers like us, eh? Ha! Ha!
Why, we'll let the boy think he's running the kingdom, and if he thinks so,
why, he'll be happy. Oh, by the way, Azariah--
AZARIAH: Speaking to me, Jehoshaphat?
JEHOSHAPHAT: I beg your pardon, my dear fellow, I didn't see you were busy.
AZARIAH: It's quite all right. What's on your mind?
JEHOSHAPHAT: M-m--let me see--what was it? What was it? Now, there! I can't
remember what I was going to say. T-t-t-t! Oh, yes! Ah--which one of us shall
help young Solomon when he sits in judgment for the first time today?
AZARIAH: I was just this moment getting out my papers--the laws, precedents,
and customs; and if it's quite agreeable to you gentlemen, I'll sit in
judgment with him.
JEHOSHAPHAT: Quite all right with me.
ZABUD: Yes, friends, but what's he going to say? Maybe he has ideas of his
AZARIAH: My dear Zabud, our business is to keep him from having ideas.
Nothing is so disturbing to a well regulated government. Things are going
smoothly, we have our precedents--and we don't want any young fellow to come
in here with a lot of revolutionary ideas--and make a lot of trouble for
JEHOSHAPHAT: Indeed we do not, Azariah! What was good enough for our fathers
is good enough for us. We know how David managed affairs, and I think we can
be relied on to carry out a firm, constructive, conservative policy.
AZARIAH: And if, gentlemen--and, mind you, I'm not expecting trouble--I say if
the king should try to take things into his own hands, we must all stand
ZABUD: I agree with both of you gentlemen; but that doesn't change the fact
that Solomon is a most determined looking young man.
[A trumpet blast.]
AZARIAH: He's coming. Now, don't forget. We are the power behind the throne.
A united front, please!
JEHOSHAPHAT: And don't forget, gentlemen--this is the first time we have met
him as king: he will expect great deference from us, and it's a good policy to
ZABUD: Gentlemen, I'm not looking forward to this meeting. I don't like it. I
think we're in for trouble.
AZARIAH: Come! Come! What's experience for except to get around trouble.
[Trumpet, nearer.] Gentlemen, if it's quite agreeable to you, I will give him
the salutation. Here comes the king. Rise, gentlemen. Your Majesty! I find
myself at a loss for words to express fully the many and varied emotions that
almost overcome me. On this, the first day of your kingship, when you are
about to enter into the arduous duties of your great office, let me, in my own
poor way, assure you of our undying devotion, and our full and hearty co-
operation. Your will, sire, shall be our first concern; and your happiness our
only thought. I'm sure the rest of the counsel agree with me.
ZABUD AND JEHOSHAPHAT: Indeed we do, sire.
SOLOMON: Thank you, very much, gentlemen.
AZARIAH: Won't you allow me to assist you to the throne, Your Majesty?
SOLOMON: It's quite all right, Azariah. I'd rather sit at the table with you.
We can get to work more quickly.
JEHOSHAPHAT: Work, Your Majesty? Did you say work?
AZARIAH: Why, sire, there's nothing you need worry about. We're glad enough to
attend to the few poor details that come up. I'm sure you need a rest after
the very trying day you've had.
SOLOMON: Yes, I found it very trying. But I suppose the people expected me to
parade round, and all that sort of thing; but that is over, gentlemen--and now
I propose that we discuss whatever matters are at hand.
AZARIAH: There's really nothing to discuss, Your Majesty. Everything is
running very smoothly.
JEHOSHAPHAT: Don't bother yourself with details, sire. You will have so many
important things to do--
SOLOMON: Details are important, gentlemen. There is nothing so vast that is
not a combination of details.
ZABUD: Very wise, indeed, Your Majesty. Something to be remembered--that! I
shall make a note of that!
SOLOMON: Gentlemen, I have no pretensions as to wisdom; perhaps my only wisdom
is that I realize how much I have to learn. And now! Has any one come here for
JEHOSHAPHAT: None, sire. It's wonderful how contented the kingdom is!
SOLOMON: Let us keep it that way; and I know of no better way than to map out
a policy for the future.
ZABUD: A policy, sire? Did you say a policy?
SOLOMON: Why, yes, gentlemen. It is barely possible that our forefathers may
have made some mistakes in the conduct of government; I think it would be well
AZARIAH: Sire, I'm sure you're very tired tonight, after all you've been
through, and if you'd allow us to draw up a policy, for your inspection and
SOLOMON: I'm very glad to have your advice, gentlemen; but since the
responsibility is mine, I cannot delegate it to you.
VOICE [outside]: My lord!
SOLOMON: Who is that calling?
AZARIAH: I don't know, Your Majesty.
SOLOMON: Go and see.
AZARIAH: Yes, sire. [A pause.] Two women, Your Majesty. I told the guard to
put them out, for there is a law against women coming for judgment on days of
SOLOMON: Never mind the law.
AZARIAH: Your Majesty!
SOLOMON: I wish to see them.
AZARIAH: Oh, very well, Your Majesty.
JEHOSHAPHAT: Yes, sire?
SOLOMON: That's a ridiculous law! Who made it?
JEHOSHAPHAT: It's just a law, sire!
SOLOMON: It's not a law any longer. Please make a note of that. We'll get rid
of some of this rubbish that's cluttering up our statute books.
AZARIAH: Here are the women, sire.
SOLOMON: Oh, yes. Come here where I can speak to you women. Now, what
grievance have you?
MEG: Your Majesty--
NATHA: Sire, let me--
AZARIAH [coming in]: Your Majesty!
AZARIAH [whispering]: Sire, the guard tells me that these women are--are very
low sort of people; they really have no right to come here for judgment.
SOLOMON: No? Where will they go, then?
AZARIAH: Your Majesty, we've never admitted this sort of person--They're
really notorious characters! Shall I have them put out quietly?
SOLOMON: No. I'll hear what they have to say.
AZARIAH: But there's a law, sire--regarding women of this--this profession--
SOLOMON: Another law? Please remind me of that afterward. Now, women, your
MEG AND NATHA: If it pleases Your Majesty--
SOLOMON: Now, if you're both going to speak at once I can't understand either
of you. You first--
MEG: Well, Your Majesty, it's this way: this woman and I both live in the same
NATHA: And she says I've stolen her child, which is a lie!
SOLOMON: Will you be good enough to let her finish her story? Thank you.
MEG: Well,--it was like this--
ZABUD: Don't forget your manners, woman, or where you are! "Your Majesty!"
MEG: Your Majesty, this woman and I live in the same house; and no one lives
there with us; and we both have little babies, sire--not three weeks old this
week. Now, last night this woman's child died--
NATHA: She speaks falsely--
SOLOMON: We will come to that later, woman. Continue--the child dies, you say?
MEG: Aye, sire, her child died, and she arose near midnight, and came to the
bed where I was sleeping with my babe, and she took my son from me, and laid
the dead child at my bosom--
NATHA: Sire! Will you let me speak the truth?
SOLOMON: You may speak--when she has finished.
MEG: When I arose in the morning, the child at my side was not the son which I
NATHA: No! The living is my son, and the dead is her son!
MEG: A judgment, oh, Solomon! A judgment!
SOLOMON: You women come on the morrow--and bring the child. Now, go. What one
affirms the other denies. There are no witnesses. We must believe one or the
other, gentlemen. Your opinion?
AZARIAH: You can believe neither one, Your Majesty; I'd wash my hands of such
a case--and let them settle it their own way.
SOLOMON: No. This is a case that calls for judgment--and we must not try to
JEHOSHAPHAT: Your Majesty, if I may have a word--
JEHOSHAPHAT: It's hardly worthy of the notice of a king!
SOLOMON: I disagree with you.
AZARIAH: Sire! I have an idea--
SOLOMON: Splendid. What is it?
AZARIAH: I will look for a similar case in the books of laws and customs. We
may be able to find a precedent.
SOLOMON: And we may not. What, then?
AZARIAH: Well, then we can do nothing.
JEHOSHAPHAT: No, if it's not in precedent, then there's nothing we can do.
SOLOMON: We might think, gentlemen. Has that ever occurred to you? Good
evening, gentlemen. I will see you here tomorrow at this time.
AZARIAH: What--what was that he said?
JEHOSHAPHAT: He--he said to think--imagine that!
ZABUD: There! Didn't I tell you he had a square jaw?
AZARIAH: Think! Fancy that. I--I wonder what he means?
[NARRATOR] Meanwhile young KING SOLOMON is pondering over this problem--and a
day and a night have brought him no light on the subject. His counsellors have
also turned the matter over and over, have searched scroll upon scroll--and
have arrived nowhere. Evening finds them waiting for the King--
ZABUD: Well, Azariah, have you found anything?
AZARIAH: No. Nothing. And I've hunted, I've ransacked every law and custom,
I've searched out every precedent--and I can't find anything.
ZABUD: Azariah! It's very important for us to have some kind of solution. If
we don't--it will be a complete victory for the young king--and who knows, he
might lose confidence in us!
AZARIAH: It's this--this confounded lack of precedent that worries me! If we
could only read something about it! But to make a decision out of thin air--
it's not law--it's not what I'm used to. It's terrible. I haven't slept all
night. Don't I show it? Here's Jehoshaphat! Well? Have you found anything?
JEHOSHAPHAT: Nothing. And I've got a piece of news for you.
JEHOSHAPHAT: This thing has gone round the city like wild fire! Everybody's
waiting for the king's decision. Why, there are crowds even now beginning to
gather round the palace gates! You see, it's a rather unusual case, eh?
ZABUD: And it's his first case, too; they want to see what he can do.
AZARIAH: The best thing he can do is to do nothing--let me tell you that! For
no man on earth can decide this case. I can't.
JEHOSHAPHAT: Nor I.
ZABUD: Nor I.
AZARIAH: You see, gentlemen? None of us can do it. How can he hope to solve
it? The best thing he can do is to side-step this thing somehow!
JEHOSHAPHAT: We can bribe the women.
ZABUD: That's a possibility.
AZARIAH: Or the king can go on a sudden journey--very urgent--something to do
with the army--or a banquet somewhere--; and he can give us the case--
ZABUD: And what will we do with it?
AZARIAH: We'll table it, gentlemen. We'll sort of--how shall I say it?--we'll
reserve decision, until people have forgotten the case; and then we can make
some arrangement. We'll have an investigation!
SOLOMON: Good evening, gentlemen.
ZABUD: Good evening, sire.
SOLOMON: Well, have you any light as to what we should do?
AZARIAH: Yes, Your Majesty. You can leave everything to us.
SOLOMON: What is your solution?
AZARIAH: Well--ah--we think this should--should be considered a little
longer--Now, if you would turn the whole thing over to us--
SOLOMON: Azariah, do you realize the people are waiting for my decision! Do
you realize we will have no more light on it tomorrow than today?
AZARIAH: Now, Solomon, I'm going to be perfectly frank with you.
SOLOMON: I wish you to be, Azariah.
AZARIAH: I was your father's friend, and I've been at this game a long, long
time. You're young. You're enthusiastic. You're full of zeal. You want to do
things right away. Of course, you do--but everything can't be done that way.
Now, you realize that a case like this can't be decided--
SOLOMON: It must be decided. If an injustice has been done, it shall be
AZARIAH: Of course--eventually. But the mills of the gods grind slow--
SOLOMON: And justice should be swift, or it is not justice!
AZARIAH: Now, just let me say what I have to say: This is a delicate problem,
and it's complicated, because you're just beginning, and naturally everything
you do will be watched closely. If you make a mistake--and there's always that
chance--people aren't going to think of you as wise, and--powerful. In this
business of government, if I may say so, it's just as well to avoid the
SOLOMON: A very brave policy!
AZARIAH: A very wise policy.
JEHOSHAPHAT: Sometimes it is wise not to be too brave, my lord.
SOLOMON: Gentlemen, you would have me dodge this thing? Is that your
conception of a king? Why, I could bribe these women--but would that be
justice? I could ferret out forgotten law, and show how this--and that--and
the other--put the case out of hands.... I could save my face by quibbling--I
could do a hundred things: But is that the way to justice? Is that the way to
truth? No! That is the way for cowards and knaves to seek safety--and
oblivion. I will meet this issue; I will search my heart, not mouldy laws; I
will think of justice rather than of my own glory; and if this be too
revolutionary for you, gentlemen, if this stands in the way of your sacred
precedent--then we will destroy your precedent!
AZARIAH: But, Solomon! There's no possible way of deciding this case. If there
are two women, and only one child, I say there is no way out but to tear the
child in two pieces!
SOLOMON: What was that you said?
AZARIAH: I was just joking, Your Majesty. I said tear the child in two! But,
of course, that was just my way of--
SOLOMON: Azariah, you have given me an idea. An idea.
AZARIAH: Your Majesty?
SOLOMON: Fetch me a sword.
AZARIAH: A what, sire?
SOLOMON: Fetch me a sword.
[NARRATOR] AZARIAH, grumbling and muttering to himself, fetches the sword.
When he returns, KING SOLOMON has left the room for a moment, and AZARIAH
finds his two fellow counsellors as dumbfounded as himself, and as he enters--
JEHOSHAPHAT: He's mad, I tell you! Cutting a baby in two! You've got the
AZARIAH: Yes, I--I had to obey him. But I can't believe he's going to do it.
I was only joking when I said it--and he took me up so quickly! Where is he?
What's he doing?
ZABUD: He's in that room--thinking.
AZARIAH: If this is a product of his thinking--this outright murder--
JEHOSHAPHAT: Azariah! Zabud! We must stop it somehow! We can't let him ruin
himself by such folly! We can't.
ZABUD: Jehoshaphat, we can't do anything but stand aside and let him carry out
his own ideas.
JEHOSHAPHAT: But, Zabud--if--
ZABUD: No ifs and buts about it. I told you he had a square jaw. You know as
well as I do, gentlemen, who is going to run this government.
AZARIAH: Run it into the ground, you mean!
ZABUD: I know nothing about that; but I know one thing: I know my master when
I meet him, and if Solomon says, do it--I do it!
AZARIAH: Oh, you're deserting us!
ZABUD: You'd better fall in line, gentlemen, or you'll find yourself outside
on the street. You'd better climb aboard the chariot, gentlemen, or you'll be
AZARIAH: Never! Never!
JEHOSHAPHAT: Azariah, I--I think he's right. We--we don't seem to be able to
handle the king as I hoped we would.
AZARIAH: If he cuts that child in two I will resign from the government! I
won't be mixed up in any such affair! I'll go back to my farm!
ZABUD: Just a moment--why not wait and see what he's going to do? Ever think
AZARIAH: We know what he's going to do!
ZABUD: You never know with a man like that. He doesn't tell everything.
AZARIAH: All right. I'll wait. I know what the result will be. The people will
turn him out! And I--I shall take charge of things; and we'll have a
government of laws, not men!
[From outside a subdued muttering, growing louder.]
ZABUD: What's that noise?
JEHOSHAPHAT: It comes from outside.
AZARIAH: Look from the window.
JEHOSHAPHAT: The streets are black with people! Look! They're making way! The
women are coming!
AZARIAH: Gentlemen, I tell you they'll storm the palace when they hear of such
JEHOSHAPHAT: Dear me, dear me! I wish I knew what to do! I want to run, I'm
quite frank to say I want to run--but if I run, where shall I go? And if I
stay, what will happen to me if the people storm the palace?
ZABUD: I'm staying right here. I'm throwing my lot in with Solomon.
VOICE [outside]: My lord!
AZARIAH: The women are at the door! They're calling for Solomon! Sire! The
women wait for judgment--
SOLOMON: Let them enter.
AZARIAH: Sire, look yonder! The streets are black with people!
SOLOMON: Did you get the sword as I commanded?
AZARIAH: Yes, Your Majesty, it's here; but I hope--
SOLOMON: Thank you, Azariah. Well, women--is that the babe you carry between
you? Let me see him--ah--a goodly child.
MEG: Sire, I come without fear, for I have every faith in your justice.
NATHA: Sire, I know you will give the child to me! All the--
SOLOMON: Women, lay the babe here on the table before me. There. Yes. Now, see
you this sword.
MEG: Y-yes, sire?
SOLOMON: Feel its edge. Is it sharp?
MEG: Y-yes, sire.
SOLOMON: You, too, woman, feel this sword.
NATHA: Terribly sharp, sire. Oh, Solomon, you're not going to punish us
because we have quarrelled--sire!
SOLOMON: Be still. You, woman--your name?
MEG: Meg, and it please you.
SOLOMON: Meg, do you love this babe?
MEG: I--I love him.
SOLOMON: And what is your name?
NATHA: Natha, Your Majesty.
SOLOMON: Do you love this babe, Natha?
NATHA [grandiloquent]: More than my life, sire--more than all the riches of
the world! Nay, I have not words to tell of my great love for this child!
SOLOMON: You will not need words. Meg, Natha, look this sword. You shall both
have the child!
NATHA: What do you mean?
SOLOMON: Women, I cannot find the truth from your words, neither can I call
other witnesses. Therefore, since each one has claimed the babe, I shall give
you each one half--
MEG: No! No!
SOLOMON: Stand back! I have decided.
MEG: No, no, do not kill the babe! Oh, Solomon, rather would I have it in her
arms than in the arms of death! Give Natha the child! I renounce it! I
SOLOMON: What say you, Natha?
NATHA: I would rather see it dead than in her arms!
SOLOMON: Zabud, give the first woman the child. She is the mother.
NATHA: But, sire!
SOLOMON: False woman! Rather would you see this child dead than in the arms of
her you hate. But she, loving it with a mother's heart, would make any
sacrifice rather than see the babe come to harm. Out, perjured woman! Come not
again within this city! Hence! And now, Meg, here is your child. Tender it
MEG: Sire, I--I cannot speak to thank you! Surely God has given you wisdom,
and you will be a great king!
SOLOMON: Come, woman, I will lead you before the people, that they may know my
judgment concerning this thing. Ah--gentlemen--
AZARIAH, JEHOSHAPHAT, ZABUD: Yes, sire?
SOLOMON: You may use this as a precedent in the future. Good evening.
Originally broadcast: November 20, 1927
Written by William Ford Manley for
NBC's weekly half-hour anthology series,