[A Porch in Gospel Flat]
HOST JOE COOK: ... And, as talent seems to run in families, I'm mighty glad to
have Otis Skinner's famous daughter drawing the crowds in here tonight. Miss
Cornelia Otis Skinner.
MUSIC: (FOR A GENTLE INTRO, THEN BRIEFLY IN BG, THEN OUT)
JOE COOK: Miss Skinner, I've always enjoyed your sketches, especially the
historical ones like the Empress Eugenie.
CORNELIA OTIS SKINNER: Thank you, Mr. Cook. The Empress Eugenie is one of my
favorite characters, too. I like everything about her except one thing.
JOE COOK: Uh, what's that?
CORNELIA OTIS SKINNER: Her hats.
(SOUND: AUDIENCE LAUGHS MILDLY)
JOE COOK: (CHUCKLES) Well, I don't blame you. They don't look very good on me,
(SOUND: AUDIENCE LAUGHS LOUDER)
CORNELIA OTIS SKINNER: But, tonight, I'd like to leave the the Empress Eugenie
and turn to American history in the days of the Forty-Niners.
It was about this time of year that gold was discovered in Sutter's Creek,
California. Our scene is the porch of a shack in one of the small mining
settlements. A New England woman, who has migrated out with her husband and
little son, is sitting talking with her husband's brother.
MUSIC: (A FEW BARS OF "MY DARLING CLEMENTINE" TO SET THE MOOD ... THEN IN BG)
WOMAN: (SLIGHT NEW ENGLAND ACCENT) Good evenin', Tom. Nice evenin', ain't it?
Didn't go up t' the gulch today?
Well, I don't know as I blame you.
Oh, I ain't been doin' much. Been lookin' after little Jonathan mostly. He
ain't been feelin' well.
WOMAN: I don't know. The water or somethin' don't agree with him. Any rate,
he's been runnin' a fever. Have to be so careful, there bein' no doctors
around. Aye, the problem with a child out here.
Nathan upped his claim.
Yes, 'tis pretty near played out, that stream. But we still got hope, Nathan
and me. Ain't seen you goin' out lately, Tom. Haven't been feelin' bad, have
(SERIOUS) You - ya haven't given up hopin', have you?
Oh, Tom, what makes ya give up hopin'?
Hope's 'bout the only thing we got left, any of us.
(INSISTENT, DEFENSIVE) Well, I do! I think there's plenty of gold right here
in Gospel Flat, only you got to persevere some'hat. Whatcha gonna do, Tom?
Nothin' much ya CAN do.
(STUNNED) Back home?! You, out for good?
Ohhh, Tom! How soon?
Sarah and Em are goin' on a train in a month?
Santa Barb'ra? You're goin' all the way by boat! My, that'll take a long time,
won't it? Be winter when you're around Cape Horn, hope it won't be as stormy
as they say it is. You'll land in Boston, I suppose. (ABRUPTLY GIGGLES) Just -
just think o' seein' Boston again! You'll take a sack of letters for us, won't
you, for the folks back home?
(GIGGLES) Oh, my. Oh, won't they be glad to see ya, though, your mother and
father? And soon as you settle a bit, you'll go out to Salem to see my people,
(NOT VERY CONVINCINGLY) Tell them - we're all right. Doin' as well as could
be. (STILL CAN'T BELIEVE HE'S LEAVING) Oh, my goodness. (WORRIED) Y' haven't
He'll take it hard -- you, his brother, givin' up. Well, it's your life, Tom.
A proposition? What is it?
Take little Jonathan with you?! What for?
Give him a proper education? Y'ain't told Nathan that? He'd think it a good
Yes, it IS a good idea. This is no place for a child, away from God-fearin'
people and the proper schoolin'.
Yes, he would be better off back home. But I don't think he'd be happy without
his mother and--
(ABRUPTLY EMOTIONAL) Tom, I'd die if he was to be taken away from me.
You're a man, Tom, and you don't understand the ways of womenfolk. You don't
know what it means to give up all ya love and come out to a wilderness where
you have to put up with bad water and hard tack. Back home, I was somebody.
Life was decent and sweet. There was neighbors and church meetings and tables
with fine silver. Out here, it's all quiet ...
MUSIC: (QUIETLY, IN BG)
WOMAN: ... solemn and quiet. Nights when Nathan has to stay out near a claim,
I lie awake listenin' to the wind in the timber. There's a coyote comes and
howls over in the hollow there.
What d'you think I'd do them nights, Tom, if little Jonathan weren't here? If
I couldn't go tuck him in? If I couldn't watch him sleepin'? Life's a pretty
lonely thing as it is, Tom. Without little Jonathan-- I just can't even think
I see the men, day after day, goin' out with their picks and shovels and,
night after night, comin' home empty-handed and heartsick. Then all but a few
like Nathan gets drunk and lawless. He needs little Jonathan, too. We've been
through too much, the three of us. The long trek out here, the Indian raids,
and the blizzards [caught?] in the Sierras. I couldn't let him go!
Me? Go, too?
No. I'm stayin' here. You know, I got a queer notion about this California.
You and me, we hate it because it's taken us away from all we love. But I
think someday it's going to be a great and fine place.
You and me won't see it. We're just the pioneers. But little Jonathan'll see
some of it and his children will see more.
(AS IF SHE'S JUST REALIZED IT) And it ain't goin' to come through findin'
gold. I think - it's goin' to come through tillin' of the soil. Things grow
better out here.
(WITH FINALITY) Don't think my heart don't ache for home but - I'll stick by
m' man and - I know he won't leave.
WOMAN: You goin', Tom?
(WORRIED) Tom, you won't say anything to Nathan about offerin' to take
(STARTLED) Ohh, Tom! Look at the sunset!
Looks like all California's bein' washed in that gold light. Nice day
Good night, Tom.
(AFTER TOM'S EXIT, QUIETLY, TO HERSELF) All California.
(GRIM) There's that coyote howlin' again.
(FLAT) Nathan's late.
Mm, guess he's stayin' the night in the gulch.
(SUDDENLY BREAKS DOWN AND CRIES FOR A LONG MOMENT)
(SAVAGELY) Oh, I wish the coyote would stop howlin'! (SOBS)
MUSIC: (IN GENTLY, IN BG)
WOMAN: (LOVING) Oh, yes, Jonathan! (STARTS TO FADE) Mother's comin'! All
right, honey! I'll be right there!
MUSIC: (TO A FINISH)
Originally broadcast: 16 January 1937
on The Shell Show
Written by Cornelia Otis Skinner