Blithedale - A Screenplay by Paul Kuritz


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This Screenplay is the copyright of the Author


    EXT. - EVENING, APRIL, 1852

      On the street is a placard announcing an exhibition by
      “The Veiled Lady”, a medium practicing mesmerism and
      communication with spirits. The “Lady” is shown as totally
      covered in a white veil.

      THE AUDIENCE is leaving one of her performances. Among those exiting
      the show is the thirty year old MILES COVERDALE. He is heading home.
      MR. MOODIE, an elderly, shabbily dressed man with a patch
      over one eye, and hair perfectly silver, approaches COVERDALE from the
      darkness of an obscure part of the street

      MR. MOODIE Mr. Coverdale, may I speak with you a moment?

      COVERDALE continues on.

      MR. MOODIE(pursuing) Mr. Coverdale! Mr. Coverdale!
      Excuse me, but I hear you are going to Blithedale tomorrow?

      COVERDALE recognizes MR. MOODIE as they come under a light.

      COVERDALE Yes, Mr. Moodie, I am. Can I help you?

      MR. MOODIE Yes, you can.

      COVERDALE I don’t have much time, Mr. Moodie. What do you want?

      MR. MOODIE Oh, well, sir, perhaps I ought to ask an older gentleman or
      some lady….

      MR. MOODIE starts to leave.

      COVERDALE If you want an older man, try Mr.Hollingsworth. He’s the
      philanthropist; I’m just a poor poet.

      MR. MOODIE starts to leave again.

      COVERDALE But wait! I’m curious. How might a lady be able to help you?

      MR. MOODIE Do you know a lady who goes by the name “Zenobia”?

      COVERDALE Not yet, but I expect to after tomorrow. What’s your
      interest in her, Mr. Moodie - literary, women’s rights? Or something
      else? You know, “Zenobia” is just her public front, like the white
      curtain covering “The Veiled Lady”. It’s getting late. Come to the point.

      MR. MOODIE Yes. Excuse me, Mr. Coverdale. I’ve troubled you enough.
      Maybe I’ll stop by your room tomorrow morning before you leave. Again, excuse me.

      MR. MOODIE takes off and COVERDALE continues on home.

      INT. COVERDALE’S ROOM - MOMENTS LATER

      The room has a bed, and a table strewn with books, periodicals, and
      writing instruments COVERDALE throws some coal on the grate, lights a
      cigar, and muses late into the night. After finishing a glass of
      sherry, COVERDALE goes to bed, as the clock sounds midnight.

      EXT. STREET - NOON

      Balmy. COVERDALE and THREE OTHERS are seen in a wagon heading out of
      town. As the wagon leaves the city’s cobblestone street and moves onto a country road, a
      February-like nor’easter whips up and accompanies the quartet on the rest of the journey.

      COVERDALE (as snowflakes fly into his mouth) How nice! The mild and
      balmy country air!

      PASSENGER 2 Don’t laugh, Coverdale. Nitrous atmosphere is actually
      exhilarating. We won’t be truly New Men and Women until we can welcome
      a February nor’easter as gladly as a soft June breeze.

      They pass stone fences half-buried in snow drifts, scattered
      dwellings with chimneys puffing smoke, and an occasional
      foot traveler.

      INT. THE PARLOR OF AN OLD FARMHOUSE - EVENING

      A wood-fire roars in the chimney. MRS. FOSTER, the wife of the farm
      manager SILAS FOSTER, welcomes the FOUR TRAVELERS as they arrive. They
      are frozen. Icicles hang on their hair and beards. Behind them, YOUNG
      WOMAN 1 and YOUNG WOMAN 2 awkwardly smile, unsure of their
      position in this new arrangement of their life. Everyone shakes hands,
      congratulating one another, noting that their new life will be marked
      as beginning at this moment.

      Suddenly a door opens, the room hushes, and ZENOBIA
      enters the parlor.

      She is dressed as simply as possible, in an American
      print, but with a silken kerchief, between which and her
      gown there is a glimpse of white shoulder. Her hair is
      dark, glossy, and abundant. It is put up, without curls,
      or other ornament, except for a single flower.

      ZENOBIA circles the room, greeting each person, taking each hand. She
      comes to COVERDALE, greets him cheerily and hopefully, with a full
      sisterly grasp of the hand, conveying as much kindness in it as other
      women could by throwing their arms around his neck, or by offering her
      cheek for a kiss.

      ZENOBIA I have long wished to know you, Mr. Coverdale, and to thank
      you for your beautiful poetry, some of which I have learned by heart.
      Of course, you must not consider relinquishing your verse to become a
      communitarian. I would almost rather give you up as a roommate than
      that the world should lose one of its true bards!

      COVERDALE No. No danger of that, especiallyafter this praise from the
      great Zenobia! On the contrary, I’ve come here to produce something that
      really deserves to be called poetry—as true, strong, natural, and sweet, as
      the new world which we are going to create!

      ZENOBIA (smiling) Is it annoying to hear your verses sung? If so, I
      apologize now; for you will certainly hear me singing them in our summer
      evenings together.

      COVERDALE I will like that very much.

      ZENOBIA (smiling) I arrived first, so I get to play hostess, and
      welcome you as if to my own fireside. You shall be my personal guest
      at supper, as well. At daybreak we begin our new lives as intimates.

      GUEST Have we been assigned our various jobs?

      ZENOBIA (laughing) We, the softer sex, we women will take the domestic
      and indoor part of the business: baking, boiling, roasting, frying, stewing,
      washing and ironing, scrubbing, and sweeping, and, during our rest times,
      knitting and sewing. We must have feminine occupations until our
      individual adaptations begin to develop themselves. Then some of us
      who wear the petticoat, will go afield, and leave you weaker brothers
      to our kitchen chores!

      COVERDALE What a pity that the kitchen, and house-work generally,
      cannot be left out of our new world altogether! Isn’t it odd that it
      is the labor of women that distinguishes the life of sinful mortals
      from the life of Paradise? Eve had no pot to scrub, and no clothes to
      mend or wash.

      ZENOBIA (eyes gleaming mirth) I am afraid we will not be able to adopt
      the Paradisiacal system for at least a month. Look at that. (points to
      a snow-drift sweeping past the window) Any apples ripe yet, do you
      think? Were the pineapples gathered today? Or would you prefer a
      breadfruit or a coconut? Should I run out and pluck you some roses?
      No, no, Mr. Coverdale, the only flower hereabouts is the one in my
      hair, which I got from a florist this morning. (playfully)
      As for Eve’s clothing, you may not see me in them till May-day! And
      now I must go and help get supper. Do you think you can be content
      with tea and toast, and a certain modest supply of ham and tongue? And
      instead of all the delicacies of Adam’s supper-table, there shall be
      bread and milk, too, if your innocent taste demands it. All the women go off to attend to
      supper preparation. The men get more wood for the fire and return to
      the sittingroom, drawing their chairs close to the fire.

      A tremendous stamping is heard in the entry. SILAS FOSTER, lank,
      stalwart, uncouth, and grisly-bearded, has entered from foddering the
      cattle. He takes a quid from his iron tobacco-box, pulls off his wet
      cow-hide boots, and sits down before the fire in his stocking-feet.

      SILAS (in pretty much the same tone as if he were speaking to his oxen)
      Well, folks, you’ll be wishing yourselves back in town if this weather
      holds!

      At these words gloom descends on the group as they note the worsening weather.

      SILAS Who among you knows his swine? Some of us need to go to the
      Brighton fair to buy half-a-dozen pigs!

      GUEST Pigs!

      GUEST 2 Good heavens, have we escaped the proletariat for this?

      GUEST I was planning on raising early vegetables for the market-

      SILAS We’ll only garden if the women do all the weeding. We haven’t
      manpower enough for that and the regular farm-work. No, no, we’d have
      to get up too early in the morning to compete with the gardeners
      around Boston!

      ZENOBIA enters, looks at herself in the glass, and
      perceiving that her one magnificent flower has grown rather
      languid, she flings it on the floor, as unconcernedly as a
      village-girl throwing away a faded violet.

      The men rise and start leaving the room. ZENOBIA leaves
      with COVERDALE.

      ZENOBIA It vexes me that Mr. Hollingsworth should be so late. I
      shouldn’t have thought him the sort who could be turned back by
      a little puff of contrary wind, or a few snow-flakes drifting into his face.

      COVERDALE Do you know Hollingsworth?

      ZENOBIA No; only his lectures. What a voice! And what a man! Not so
      much an intellectual as a great humanitarian. He moved me more deeply
      than I thought myself capable of being moved. Charismatic! It’s a pity
      that he has devoted his glorious powers to such a hopeless cause as
      the reform of criminals. To tell you a secret, I never could abide businessmen
      before I met Hollingsworth. Can you?

      COVERDALE No, and neither can I now!

      ZENOBIA They are awful. I’d like Mr. Hollingsworth better without the
      talk of money. In any event, I would prefer if he would let the bad
      people alone, and try to help those who can still be helped. Do you
      think he can stand to spend his life— or even a few months of it—
      with virtuous individuals like you and me?

      COVERDALE I doubt it. If we wish to stay, we must commit at least one
      crime each! And mere sins won’t do.

      ZENOBIA turns, sidelong, a strange kind of a glance at COVERDALE.

      But, before COVERDALE can make out what it means, they have
      entered the kitchen, where the suppertable is spread.

      ZENOBIA Take your places, friends. Seat yourselves without ceremony.
      Soon you’ll have such tea as few of the world’s working class will find in
      their cups tonight. After tonight, it’s buttermilk. But tonight we will quaff
      this nectar, which, I assure you, could not be bought with gold.

      SILAS, his HELPER, WOMAN 1 and WOMAN ,COVERDALE, and ZENOBIA
      sit down at the table. Awkward silence, as each just looks from one to another.

      The silence grows oppressive, as each person waits for the tea.

      COVERDALE (at last breaking the silence) I hope that our blazing
      windows will be visible from the road. There is nothing better for a
      lonesome traveler on a stormy night than to see a flood of firelight
      across the gloom.

      SILAS The blaze of that brush wood will only last a minute or more.

      ZENOBIA Meantime may it serve to guide a certain wayfarer to our
      shelter.

      Suddenly a knock is heard at the door.

      COVERDALE There’s our wayfarer now!

      SILAS Aye, aye, just so! Our firelight will draw stragglers like a
      candle draws beetles on a summer night.

      Another knock, much harder than the first.

      Still no one has gone to the door.

      ZENOBIA (laughing) He knocks as if this were his own house. What am I
      thinking of? It must be Mr. Hollingsworth!

      COVERDALE goes to the door, unbolts it, and flings it wide open.

      HOLLINGSWORTH, his shaggy great-coat all covered with snow, stands
      there. He is about thirty years old, but looks several years older, with a great
      shaggy head, a heavy brow, dark complexion, abundant beard, and features
      which seem to have been hammered out of iron. He is massive, rather than tall; brawny as
      suiting his former occupation of blacksmith.

      HOLLINGSWORTH (in deep tones which seem to come out of a barrel) What
      kind of hospitality is this! t would have served you right if I passed
      out and spent the night on the door-step, just to shame you. I have a
      guest needing a warm and soft bed.

      HOLLINGSWORTH steps back to the wagon and takes into his arms A SMALL
      SIXTEEN YEAR OLD GIRL enveloped in a cloak. He deposits her on the
      door-step. SHE hesitates about entering the door. HOLLINGSWORTH urges
      her forward into the warm and brightly lit kitchen. He takes off his
      great coat.

      COVERDALE (whispering, remaining behind with HOLLINGSWORTH) Who’s
      this?
      HOLLINGSWORTH (looking at COVERDALE with surprise.)
      Who? I don’t know. A young person who belongs here. I believe she has
      been expected. Zenobia, or some of the women, can tell you all about
      it.
      COVERDALE (glancing towards the new-comer with the others in the
      kitchen) I don’t think so. Nobody seems to know her. I doubt she was expected.

      HOLLINGSWORTH (quietly) Well, we’ll make it right.

      THE GIRL remains standing precisely on the same spot of the kitchen
      floor. Her cloak falls partly off, revealing a poor gown, made without any
      regard to fashion or smartness. Her brown hair falls down from beneath
      a hood, not in curls, but with only a slight wave. Her face is of a wan, almost
      sickly hue.

      She shivers, her large brown, melancholy eyes fixed on ZENOBIA

      She sees nothing else in the room.

      All but SILAS are rapt by the entrance of the woman.

      He stays seated and grimly pours himself more tea.
      The GIRL’s stare takes on a strange and mysterious aura.
      She starts to move forward to greet ZENOBIA, but instead
      she falls to her knees, clasps her hands, and gazes into
      ZENOBIA’s face.

      ZENOBIA does not react

      The GIRL’s head falls to her chest.

      ZENOBIA (sharply) What is the girl doing? Is she…

[End of Extract]


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