Armistice Day/Plays and a Pageantry
PLAYS AND A PAGEANTRY
At an improvised American hospital in Paris. A large room, with the traces of former magnificence, now serving as living-room to the surgeon in charge. At the rear, tall Gothic windows of leaded glass—heavily curtained. At the right, two doors, huge, ancient—that nearer the audience leading into an interior room; that farther off opening on the upper landing of a staircase. At the left, an enormous fireplace. What little furniture there is, is massive and ornate. The most conspicuous piece is a heavy table near the center of the room. On the table is a bronze desk lamp.
It is evening. In the room itself no lights are burning, and there is semi-darkness.
The first door opens, and a uniformed orderly enters quietly. He is a middle-aged man who lacks an arm; the medal on his breast may explain why. He deposits a sheaf of papers on the table; proceeds to the windows and closes the curtains.
Steps are heard ascending the stairs, the second door opens, and the surgeon, a white-clad, elderly American who holds himself very erect despite his years, stands at the threshold deferentially awaiting a compatriot some ten years his junior, the best type of the successful American man of affairs.
The Surgeon (holding the door open). This way.
The Visitor (appearing at the head of the flight of stairs). Is he in here?
The Surgeon. Who?
The Visitor. The boy who saw the angels?
The Surgeon (smiling). Oh, you haven't forgotten him, have you? He's in the next room. (The Visitor enters, obviously winded by his climb.) I'll show him to you afterwards. Get your breath first. You look a little exhausted.
The Visitor (grinning). A little? Quite a little.
The Surgeon. Sit down here. (The Orderly proffers a chair. The Visitor sits. The Surgeon turns on the desk lamp.) This house was built before the Grand Monarque taught them to have an eye for comfort. Magnificent—splendid—all that sort of thing, but mighty unpleasant if you have to live in it. Think of the stretcher bearers carrying men up those stairs!
The Visitor. There ought to be an elevator.
The Surgeon. Yes.
The Visitor. Put one in. Send me the bill.
The Surgeon (nodding). Thank you. We need it badly. (The Orderly leaves the room by the first door.) These old houses, very picturesque, very ornamental—
The Visitor. But no conveniences?
The Surgeon. The men who built them didn't know the meaning of the word. We felt that when we turned this into a hospital. Think of it: it used to be a show place! Not much left of it now. There was a bed here—right where you are sitting; one of those great, big, canopied affairs—
The Visitor. Unsanitary.
The Surgeon. Very. That's why I had it taken out. But Henry of Navarre had spent a night in it.
The Visitor. Even Henry of Navarre had to give way to modern efficiency!
The Surgeon (nodding). Yes. (He points to the door through which The Orderly has gone.) That was his anteroom the next morning. Can you picture it? The courtiers: the crowds of lords and ladies: the nobility of France waiting to greet His Majesty!
The Visitor (strolling over). Nothing like that to-day, is there?
The Surgeon (opening the door). I don't know. Look! the rows of beds, and the quiet men who are lying in them. The nobility of France? Those painted and befrilled lords and ladies were no whit more noble than are these! (He pauses.) The King's anteroom! It is more that now than it ever was!
The Visitor (understanding). Waiting to meet His Majesty.
The Surgeon (closing the door quietly). I didn't know you were a poet. But it doesn't need much of this atmosphere to change a man's view of life. It's intoxicating. (He turns.) From these windows you could have watched the Catholics murdering the Huguenots three hundred and fifty years ago. Twenty years later you would have seen a Huguenot king going to sleep in this room. Why, I could talk about the place for hours! What wonderful men and women have sat where we are sitting! What a glorious company has passed through these moldering doors! What ghosts hover about us while we speak! (The Visitor starts violently.)
The Suregeon. What is it?
The Visitor. I thought I heard something.
The Surgeon (smiling). They are friendly ghosts. (Shrewdly.) But you said before that you didn't believe in them.
The Visitor. Neither I do.
The Surgeon. Or angels?
The Visitor. Call them what you like.
The Surgeon. Well, then?
The Visitor. I thought I saw something. (Apologetically.) The light is so dim.
The Surgeon. The men in the next room don't like bright lights.
The Visitor. But you can keep the door closed.
The Surgeon. (shaking his head). It won't stay closed. It's rickety—like everything else in the building. (He crosses to the windows.) I'll open the curtains if you like.
The Visitor. (watching him). Aren't you afraid of the Zeppelins?
The Surgeon. Too much of a fatalist for that. They were here a week ago.
The Visitor. And didn't hurt you?
The Surgeon. Blew up yards and yards of pavement with the result that we had to lay wooden boards in the street. The hospital wasn't damaged.
The Visitor. (evidently referring to a previous conversation). Another miracle!
The Surgeon. What?
The Visitor. (mildly bantering). You seem to live in the midst of the supernatural!
The Surgeon. (nodding gravely). Yes.
The Visitor. And you were born in Bangor, Maine, and studied medicine at Johns Hopkins!
The Surgeon (after a pause). You are a Christian, I take it?
The Visitor. Why—naturally.
The Surgeon. You believe that miracle happened in Palestine. You deny that another might happen in Flanders.
The Visitor (uneasily). Well, if you put it that way—
The Surgeon. Now I'm going to read you the boy's statement. (He sits at the table, and goes through the contents of one of the drawers. The first door opens slowly. The Visitor watches it, fascinated. He draws his breath sharply. The Surgeon looks up; takes in the situation.)
The Visitor. The door's opening!
The Surgeon. I warned you; it has a habit of doing that. (The Orderly enters through the opened door, crosses to the other door, goes. The Visitor draws a breath of relief.)
The Surgeon (smiling). For a disbeliever you are easily startled. (The Visitor does not reply.) Now listen. (He reads.) "I saw them. I know I saw them. Whether they were angels, whether they were devils, whether they were living or dead, I do not know. But they were shining shapes, and nothing could withstand them. We were pressed—hard pressed. Another ten minutes, and it would have been all over with us. We would have been crushed by the advancing hordes, trodden under into the mire. And then I heard a tramping, a tramping gradually growing louder, a tramping first challenging the roar of the battle, and then overwhelming it, drowning it, so that all sound had become one huge rhythmic tramp, tramp, tramp! I thought my eardrums would burst. And then I looked up and beheld the light reflected on their armor, and the sky filled with a huge glitter, and the rays of the sun shining through showers of arrows! And the enemy melted away before us; melted by the hundreds; by the thousands; by the tens of thousands; and those celestial hosts tramped upwards, tramped up that invisible pathway into the heavens, tramped out of sight!" (He stops.)
The Visitor (after a pause). And then?
The Surgeon. Then a bullet struck him, and he was unconscious until they brought him here.
The Visitor (after another pause; emphasizing the inconsistency). Tramping ghosts!
The Surgeon. Why not?
The Visitor (positively). Ghosts are noiseless.
The Surgeon (shrewdly). If you speak from experience—
The Visitor (nettled). I didn't say I believed in them.
The Surgeon (innocently). No; you said quite the opposite.
The Visitor (dogmatically). Anyhow, ghosts don't tramp!
The Surgeon (gently bantering). Not even a ghostly tramp? They clank chains, I am told. Why shouldn't their steps have a sound? A sort of a hollow, ghostly sound?
The Visitor. Bah! Are you sure the bullet struck him after he saw the—the angels?
The Surgeon. So he says.
The Visitor. Hm! And you take his word for it! (He walks over to the door.} Dying, you say?
The Surgeon. Three quarters dead already.
The Visitor. And young?
The Surgeon. Nineteen—one of thousands. Oh, it's not romantic in the least. He's barely conscious; and he's waiting to go back to the front. He thinks he's going to get well.
The Visitor. They all think that, don't they? He won't?
The Surgeon. Never in this world. Queer, isn't it? Shot clean through the body; suffering like the devil, and all he's thinking of is when he's to go back—when he's to rejoin his regiment!
The Visitor. Like an animal trying to return to the slaughter pen.
The Surgeon (pointedly). Yes: if animals saw angels.
The Visitor. Hm! (He pauses.) Do you really believe he saw them?
The Surgeon. I read you his statement.
The Visitor. Which he wrote himself?
The Surgeon. Hardly; he knows no English.
The Visitor. Why didn't you take it down in the original?
The Surgeon. I did. (He produces a second sheet of paper.) Here it is. (He pauses; smiles.) I translated it, paraphrased it, for my own pleasure, if you like. The original is a mass of ejaculations; short phrases, repeated over and over again. I tried to make it coherent.
The Visitor. And repeated it back to him? (The Surgeon shakes his head.) Why not?
The Surgeon. He takes no notice of anything.
The Visitor. Oh! Not quite in his senses?
The Surgeon. No.
The Visitor. Raving? And you believe his ravings?
The Surgeon. I neither believe nor disbelieve.
The Visitor. But an insane man?
The Surgeon (with emphasis). Who has not had the education to invent what he told me! Imaginative? Not in the least. He was a farm hand before the war.
The Visitor (persistently). Still, in his delirium—
The Surgeon (interrupting). He wouldn't rave like a poet. You forget; I have listened to so many others. (He pauses.) You think I am credulous. Perhaps. I neither affirm nor deny. They tell me of these things they call miracles—
The Visitor (interrupting). And you ask no explanation?
The Surgeon. Why must there be one?
The Visitor. There always is.
The Surgeon. Yes; generally more miraculous than the miracle itself. (He pauses; then, with solemnity.) When, in the twentieth century, I myself have seen millions of men leaving their peaceful homes, their work, their occupations, to kill one another, I say that is such a dreadful, such an unbelievable miracle that next to it everything else becomes insignificant. If this paperweight were to turn into a roaring lion before my eyes I would say that too was a miracle—but that all of humanity had been witness to a greater! (The first door opens slowly.)
The Visitor (calling attention to it without alarm). The door is opening again. (The Surgeon goes to it without a word; closes it.)
The Visitor (as he does so). You would say that the soul of the dying soldier has come through that door on its way to rejoin its regiment!
The Surgeon (nodding gravely). If I were a poet. (As he speaks the second door opens deliberately. He watches it with a smile; The Visitor with curious fascination.)
The Visitor. Gad! (The door closes of its own accord.)
The Visitor (repeating as if hypnotized). To rejoin its regiment!
The Surgeon (after a pause). You didn't notice—
The Visitor (sharply). What?
The Surgeon (mildly). To me—the room seemed somewhat lighter for an instant.
The Visitor. Bah!
The Surgeon. A poetic conception of yours: the soul joins the regiment of souls! All around us—above us—within us—the unseen host gathers its forces! (There is the very, very faint sound of a bugle in the distance.)
The Visitor (under his breath). Did you hear?
The Surgeon. I heard.
The Visitor. A bugle!
The Surgeon. Yes. (They listen, and gradually there commences a curious, hollow, rhythmic tramp. Very subdued at first, it increases slowly in volume, without in the least accelerating its precise, martial rhythm. It grows louder, and louder, and louder; and nearer. The building seems to vibrate with the rhythmically recurrent footfall. The Visitor rushes to the windows. He peers out. Then, in a tone of awe:)
The Visitor. Fog! Nothing but fog! (Utterly bewildered, he turns. The tramping swells into a climax. Then, more quickly than it has grown, ebbs into silence.)
The Visitor (breathlessly). What was it?
The Surgeon. A regiment marching by.
The Visitor. But the tramp? The hollow tramp?
The Surgeon (very matter of fact). I told you—there is a board pavement.
The Visitor (breaking into a high-pitched, hysterical laugh). So there is! So there is! (The second door opens, and The Orderly, very much excited, stands on the threshold.)
The Orderly. Doctor!
The Surgeon. Yes?
The Ordely. The boy—the boy who saw the angels—where is he?
The Surgeon. In there.
The Orderly. You are sure? (The men look at each other silently.)
The Surgeon. Why do you ask?
The Orderly. I saw him!
The Visitor. What?
The Orderly. In the front ranks! With my own eyes! I saw him! (The Surgeon hurries out of the room.)
The Visitor (after a tense pause). He was dying. Did you know that?
The Orderly (gravely). I knew. (The Surgeon reënters.)
The Visitor. Well?
The Surgeon (nodding quietly). Dead.
The Orderly. I saw him! With my own eyes I saw him!
The Surgeon. Dead not five minutes.
The Visitor (staggered). But—but such things don't happen! There were thousands of boys like him!
The Suregon (slowly). Yes.
The Visitor (turning fiercely on The Orderly). You must have been mistaken!
The Orderly (changing the word pointedly). I might have been mistaken.
The Suregeon. Then again, you might not have been— (The Orderly nods quietly, understandingly. The Visitor gasps...)
The Curtain Falls Slowly
THEY JUST WON'T TALK!
A Play in One Act
The characters are: Joe Ellis, a business man of about 35; Mable, his wife, both of them plump, good-natured, homey people; Mrs. Cory, a neighbor, a woman somewhat past middle age; Miss Spangler, a school teacher; Bobbie, the little son of Joe and Mable; and George, Mable's brother, just home from the war.
The time is late fall, a few weeks after the Armistice.
At the opening of the play, the stage is empty. The telephone rings and Mable hurries in from a door at the left. She wears an apron, and appears to have been called away from some kitchen task. She takes down the receiver.
Mable. Yes?...Oh, yes, Miss Spangler.... No, he hasn't come yet, but we're expecting him in time for dinner.... What's that?...You'd like to see him? Of course you would. He always thought so much of you. You were his favorite teacher.... No, we haven't seen him yet ourselves. He only landed a week ago, you know, and he's been at mother's resting quietly. But we couldn't wait any longer, so he is coming over to-day to have dinner with us.... No, driving, with one of his pals.... Yes, we can scarcely wait. He'll have so much to tell us.... Yes, I know that, so many of the boys seem to be that way. They don't seem to want to talk about it. But George won't be like that. You know what a talker he always was. I guess you know that all right, in your classes in history especially. Why, when he was just a little chap, he knew all the story of the battle of Gettysburg, all the flank movements and everything, it was just wonderful.... Yes, we are proud of him, and I guess you as his teacher had a hand in it too. George always said you were a wonderful history teacher.... Yes, do run in...I know he'll want to see you, too.... Good-by. (As she is hanging up the receiver (Bobbie rushes in. He is wearing a soldier hat and carrying a wooden gun.)
Bobbie. Oh, mamma, mamma. See what Uncle Bill made for me (holds out gun).
Mable. Why, Bobbie, isn't that lovely.
Bobbie (putting gun to shoulder). Bang! Bang! Bang! That's the way it goes, mamma. That's the way to shoot the Heinies down.
Mable (indulgently). Heinies! Where did you pick that up?
Bobbie. In school. We played a game... (A tap at the door, left, and Mrs. Cory looks in.)
Mrs. Cory. May I come in? Has the hero arrived?
Mable. No, not yet. But we're expecting him, any minute.
Mrs. Cory. I just couldn't wait. I'm so anxious to see him and to hear all about it. (Catches sight of Bobbie), who stands at attention, his gun in place.) Well, who have we here? Another little soldier! (Draws herself up in a military manner and salutes. Bobbie gravely returns the salute. Both women laugh.) Isn't that too cute!
Bobbie (confidentially). It's just a play gun. But Daddy says when I'm bigger I'll have a real one.
Mrs. Cory (patting his shoulder). Of course, you will. You're going to grow up to be a big, brave boy, just like your Uncle George. (To Mable.) I declare, it doesn't seem any time, does it, since George was his size?
Mable. No time at all. They do grow up so fast. (To Bobbie.) Put the gun away now, dear, and run down to the store on an errand for mamma. Tell Mr. Smith to give you the order that mamma telephoned.
Bobbie. Mayn't I carry my gun?
Mable. No, dear. I'd save that to show Uncle George when he comes.
Bobbie. All right (Runs out, right.)
Mrs. Cory. The darling! Well, I'll be running along. I'll look in again. (They move toward the door, left, and meet Joe Ellis coming in.)
Joe. Well, well. Has our hero showed up yet? How'd do, Mrs. Cory. (Looking around.) Not here yet, eh?
Mrs. Cory. How'd do, Mr. Ellis.
Mable. No, not yet. But he'll be here in time for dinner.
Joe (as he goes through the business of removing hat and coat—stepping out of door to hang them in hallway—talking continuously). Yeh, you can trust a boy to come in time for dinner. And I guess our doughboys won't be any different from the others in that respect. Pies like mother used to make are going to taste pretty good to them.... Still (wistfully), it must be a great life—that camp life—toting your own cooking kit and all that...great experience they've all had!
Mrs. Cory. It's going to be so exciting to hear about it from some one who was actually there. You know the only returned soldier we've had in town is Mrs. Tolliver's Herbie. And he is a little bit queer, you know. He was gassed or shell-shocked or something, and he won't say a word. He runs away, they say, when callers come. He just won't talk!
Mable (thoughtfully). Miss Spangler was saying this morning that so many of the boys are like that. They just won't talk.
Mrs. Cory. Oh, but George won't be that way. (With concern.) He's all right, isn't he?
Joe. Sound as a nut. Came through without a scratch.
Mrs. Cory. You ought to be so thankful. Well, I'll run in again.
Mable. Yes, do. (As Mrs. Cory goes.) Joe, you don't think George will be queer—like Herbie Tolliver—do you?
Joe (with something like a snort). George! Well, I should say not. Oh, of course he won't brag. No really brave man does. I imagine it may take quite a little prodding to get the real stuff out of him—like the story of the night he went over the top and won the medal for unusual bravery in action. But it will come. Jinks! Makes a fellow like me feel old and out of it, to think of all those young chaps have seen and done! I guess, Mable, we're the fellows this war hit hardest—just too old to be in it!
Mable. Yes, I appreciate how you feel about it, Joe. But just the same...I know I oughtn't to say this...but just the same, I'm glad! Now come on, if you'll just give the freezer a few turns... (Starts for the door, right. At this moment Bobbie bursts in.)
Bobbie. Mamma, mamma, he's here. He's in town. I heard it at the store. They drove in a little bit ago and stopped at Tolliver's to see Herbie. He'll be here right away! (Joe and Mable hasten to the other door.)
Mable. And here he is. (Runs out, calling.) George, George.
Joe. Hail the conquering hero! (George enters, Mable clinging to him, her arms around his neck. Joe grabs his hand and pumps it up and down—both cry out in unison.)
Mable. George, you old dear, it's so good to see you.
Joe. Well, well, well, how's the boy.
George. Say, it's great to see you folks!
Joe. But where's the little old uniform?
George. Say, how long do you think it took me to get out of that? (Taking off overcoat.)
Joe. Civies looked pretty good to you, did they? (Taking G.'s coat.)
George (shortly). I'll say. (Catches sight of Bobbie.) Well, don't tell me this is Bobbie. Bobbie, you old skeezix, what you mean growing up like that? Trying to bump your head against the ceiling? (Grabs him and boosts him up.)
Bobbie (as he comes down). Where's your medal?
George (embarrassed). I only wear that on Sundays.
Bobbie. Aw! Why didn't you wear it today? (Eagerly.) Did they give it to you for killing a German, Uncle George?
George. Let's see, Bobbie, how far are you along in school now? Must be in second grade.
Bobbie. Second grade, nothing! I'm way past that. Say, Uncle George, was he a great big German?
Joe (slapping George on the back). Bobbie's got the right idea, old man. We want to hear all about it.
Mable (slipping her arm through George's). Of course we do, but let's give him time to catch his breath first. Come, sit down, George. (Pulls him over to a couch or chair, sits near him. Joe pulls up a chair half facing him, Bobbie stands near.)
George (rather hurriedly). Gee, there are more questions I want to ask you folks. How's...
Mable. Everybody in town is just crazy to see you, George. Miss Spangler called up.
George. That so? She was always a good old scout? How is she?
Mable. Just fine, and can hardly wait to hear your stories. She thinks you could give her such good material for her history classes.
George (rather cynically). Huh! Maybe I could! (More vivaciously.) And how's old Doc Spangler—spry as ever?
Joe. Gee, George, when I think of some of the experiences you young fellows have had...
George. Old Doc must be all of ninety seems to me. How is the old boy?
Joe. Doesn't look a day over 60. Just how does it feel, George, when the order comes to go over the top at daybreak? Say, that must be...
George (turning to Mable). I suppose Cousin Sue Bromley is getting to be quite a girl by now.
Mable. Yes, Sue's almost a young lady. George, did you ever feel afraid, or did the excitement just sort of carry you along?
George. Well, if all the youngsters have grown as fast as Skeezix here.... Skeezix, have you got a dog? Seems to me a boy your size ought to have.
Joe. I expect those Heinies were pretty ugly customers. Did you ever come face to face with one? (George looks from one to the other, harassed. Perhaps Mable has an inkling of his feeling.)
Mable (springing up). See here, you boys, I've got a dinner to tend to. I hardly expected you before one-thirty, George. And, Joe, if you start George on his stories while I'm away I'm going to be good and mad. So let's postpone the talk till after dinner. Anyway, Joe, it's time for you to look after that freezer.
Bobbie. We're going to have ice cream. It's maple, the kind you like.
George. Say, that's worth coming home for!
Mable. Bobbie! That was a secret. Maybe, you'd better come along with mother now, dear. I may want you to run another errand. (Bobbie puts his arm around his mother's neck and whispers. She nods and he runs out. Mable follows.)
Joe (lingering), I hear you stopped in to see Herbie Tolliver. He's in quite a bad way, I guess.
George (shortly). Yes.
Joe. Many of 'em in that state?
George. Yes, quite a few.
Joe. Just what is the cause, do you think? I know they call it shell shock, but you wouldn't think that just a noise—still, I suppose the steady firing of those big guns kind of gets on your nerves.
George (shortly). Yes.
Mable (entering). That freezer, dear, it needs attention. If you'll see to it while I run over to Mrs. Cory's a minute, we'll be all ready. (To George.) You won't mind being left alone, George dear. Dinner's going to be ready in a few minutes. You must be starved.
George. Sure, that's all right. Can I help you with the freezer or anything?
Joe. I should say not. We don't have a hero come home every day. (Exit Joe right, Mable left.)
Joe (as he goes). But don't think you are going to get out of telling all about it. We're just postponing the session. We're going to know how you won that medal! (George sits alone. Runs his hand through his hair and sits moodily, his head on his hand. The door opens, and Bobbie appears. He is carrying his soldier gun. Bobbie hesitates a minute, then dashes into the room, aiming here and there and crying: "Bang.")
Bobbie. Bang. Bang. Bang. (George starts, sits upright. Bobbie comes to a stop in front of him, stands at attention and salutes.)
Bobbie. That's the way to shoot Germans, isn't it, Uncle George?
George (rising sternly—not returning salute). Where did you get that?
Bobbie. Uncle Bill gave it to me. He cut it out of wood. See. (Hands him the gun.) It isn't real, of course, just pretend. (George takes it and holds it thoughtfully. After a pause, he looks at Bobbie.)
George. Kid, what is there you'd most like to have? Got a baseball outfit—bat—ball—mask—mit?
Bobbie. Dad's going to give me one next birthday. That's in May.
George. That's so. It's a little late in the season for baseball, isn't it? And football too, I suppose. How about a sled. Have you got a good coaster?
Bobbie. Yes, I got one last Christmas. She's a dandy too. Wish it would snow pretty soon.
George. It will, and freeze, too. Suppose you have skates?
Bobbie. Yes, but they buckle on with straps!
George. With straps! Why, a kid your size ought to have a pair of real skates.
Bobbie. That's what I say. Shoe skates. But Dad says not till my feet stop growing.
George (puts hand in pocket and brings out a bill). Do you know what that is?
Bobbie. Sure I know what that is.
George. Could we get a pair of skates for that?
Bobbie. I should say we could.
George. All right, Bobbie, I'll make a bargain with you. If you are willing to sell this gun—and you might throw in that hat, too—I'll give you this bill.
Bobbie. Sell my gun?
George. That's what I said.
Bobbie. Sure I will, but it's a lot of money to give for it.
George. That's all right. It's my bargain. Do you agree?
Bobbie. Yes, I agree.
George. All right, and I'll take the hat. (Bobbie hands it over, puzzled, and takes the bill George offers him.)
George (stuffing hat in his pocket). And now this gun is mine. You understand, you've sold it to me?
George. All right then! (With an intent gaze fixed on Bobbie, he snaps it across his knee—tosses the two pieces aside.)
Bobbie. Uncle George, my gun!
George. No, my gun. I bought it.
Bobbie (puzzled). Yes...
George (hands on Bobbie's shoulders). Listen here, kid. You wouldn't understand much of what I could say to you. But I want you to remember this day. The day your Uncle George came home from war. I want you to remember it when you are a big boy—a man—like me. When they begin to talk to you maybe about another war and glory and honor and all that, I want you to remember that there was a war back here when you were just a kid, and that your Uncle George was in it. And that they had told him it was going to be a war to end all wars. And that he was what they call a good soldier. They gave him a medal for being what they called a good soldier—and I'd hate to have to tell a youngster your age what that means— But, never mind that; what I want you to remember is this: On the day your Uncle George came home he did that (pointing to the broken gun). And he said—now listen—these are the only words I'm going to ask you to remember—he said: "That's what should be done to all of them." Can you remember that?
Bobbie. I can remember.
George. Sure? Cross your heart now and say "I'll remember."
Bobbie (solemnly). I'll remember. (Voices outside.)
Mable. I'll just let you have a glimpse of him. But, remember, I won't have him kept from his dinner.
George. Here, let's beat it, kid, after those skates. (They hurry out by the back door. Mable, Mrs. Cory and Miss Spangler enter.)
Miss Spangler. All we ask now is just a glimpse to be sure he is all right.
Mrs. Cory. Yes, just to see...
Mable. He's here with Bobbie. Why!
Mrs. Cory and Miss Spangler. Why!
Mable. Where have they gone? They were here...
Miss Spangler. Oh, how disappointing.
Mrs. Cory. You don't suppose he saw us coming and ran? You know Herbie...
Miss Spangler (in distress). But not George.
Mable (sees the broken gun and picks it up). What's this?
Mrs. Cory. Bobbie's gun.
Mable. What happened to it? It's broken.
Mrs. Cory. How strange.
Mable. He must have dropped it. Stepped on it.
Mrs. Cory. You don't suppose George—You know some of them are queer.
Miss Spangler. But not George!
Mable. George is perfectly normal.
Mrs. Cory. Herbie Tolliver looks perfectly normal. And you know he runs when visitors come. And when I tried to speak to him on the street, to tell him how proud I was of him, he spoke dreadfully to me, he used language!
Miss Spangler. I hope you aren't comparing Herbie Tolliver to George!
Mable. George is perfectly all right, in every way, and if you will run in again after dinner, you will find him here and glad to see you.
Miss Spangler. We'll come again, but I'm beginning to think he won't tell us much. You know it's the most curious thing, you would think they would love to tell their adventures.
Mrs. Cory. No, they just won't talk.
Miss Spangler. It's the strangest thing.
Mable (seeing them out the door). Isn't it the strangest thing? (She turns, walks back a step or two, faces the audience. Looks at the broken gun that she is still holding in her hands. Repeats:) The strangest thing! (Looks up with a puzzled frown.)
THE CROWNING OF PEACE
Characters and Costumes
Goddess of Liberty—Traditional costume: white flowing robe (cheesecloth or two large sheets), draped over shoulder with American flag; helmet, shield, and spear. (Helmets and shields may be made of tin or cardboard covered with silver paper.) Hair hanging loose over shoulders; sandaled feet.
She sits in richly carved or gilded chair at rear center of stage with Heralds on either side.
War—Lad dressed as Roman warrior, whose costume may be found in any Roman history.
Peace—Girl in classic, white drapery. (This may be made of cheesecloth and simply sewed on the wearer when the proper disposition of the folds has been made.) White stockings and sandals. Long waving or curling hair. She carries a dove on wrist or shoulder. (If a tame dove, whose behavior is certain, can be found and tethered by a light chain to the wrist of Peace, it will be most effective. Otherwise, a stuffed bird must suffice.)
Heralds—Two lads in short, white, belted robes, coming to knee. Silver helmets, shields, and spears, and legs encased in silver greaves. (All these may be fashioned of tin or cardboard, and it is a valuable exercise in ingenuity to design, make, and ornament them, and fit them to the wearers.)
They stand at either side of the throne of Liberty. Each lad is provided with a tablet (baked clay or painted wood) and a stylus (sharp-pointed wooden stick) concealed beneath dress.
Scene: Curtain rises to "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean," and the Goddess of Liberty is discovered at rear center of stage, the Heralds standing on either side of her throne.
Liberty (raising spear and leaning forward slightly). Hail, ye people! From my home in the blue vaults above I have heard ye questioning as to which bestows the better gifts on men, whether valorous War or gentle Peace, and I am come to summon both before ye that we may hear from their own lips their best defense and argument (Turning to Herald at right of throne.) Summon me War, Sir Herald! (Herald salutes Liberty and leaves stage, right, returning shortly, followed by War. They enter to any martial air; not, however, one associated with any modern nation. War steps proudly, with head high, salutes Liberty with spear and stands right of throne, but nearer audience. Herald resumes his former place.)
Liberty. Greeting, bold warrior! Knowest thou why thou hast been summoned to this place?
War. I do, fair goddess.
Liberty. And art thou well prepared with arguments in thy defense?
War (raising spear). War makes no argument and brooks none. The lightning strikes, but seeks not to defend its blow.
Liberty. That truth I know; I would not ask thee why thou dost battle, but to recount the benefits that come from thine exploits.
War. None should know better than thou, sweet Liberty, for oft have I been thy bulwark and thy shield.
Liberty. Granted, Sir Warrior. Didst thou never fight save in my defense, no one would condemn thee. But, alas! thou makest blood to flow for many another cause. Canst thou deny it, or forebear to blush that so it is?
War (hanging head). I do not deny it, but (raising head proudly) even an ignoble cause may be bravely fought.
Liberty (sternly). Thou knowest that we may not do evil that good may come. Cease thy vain reasoning and tell these people here assembled of the benefits that thou mayest confer upon them. Each item shall be set down by this herald at thy side. Boy (turning to first lad), prepare thy tablet and thy stylus. (Herald bows in obedience, lays spear and shield aside, and takes required articles from dress.)
War. I bring courage to mankind.
Liberty. (assenting with motion of head). Set down courage, Herald. (Herald writes.)
War. I bring forgetfulness of self.
Liberty. (assenting). Write it down, Herald.
War. I bring endurance and hardihood.
Liberty. A useful pair, in truth! Set them down, Herald!
War. I bring resource and inventive skill.
Liberty. 'Tis true. Note them well, boy.
War. I bring long-enduring patience.
Liberty. Set it down, Herald.
War. I bring obedience and faithfulness to duty.
Liberty. Note that well, ye people (raising spear and leaning toward audience), and let it not escape thee, boy! (Turning to Herlad.)
War (advancing a step nearer audience). I bring that power to work together, to sink individual desires in a common good, needed most of all (turning toward Liberty) by a free people, fair goddess.
Liberty (with grave nod and assenting wave of spear). Thou speakest well, Sir Warrior; note his words, Herald. Hast more to add, Son of Battle?
War (drawing himself up more proudly, shield on arm, spear in place, and advancing to commanding position). Last of all, yet first of all and best of all, I bring that love of country which would give whatever it hath on earth—e'en life itself—to strengthen and protect, to guard and keep the Motherland!
(Liberty and Heralds at this moment strike their shields with their spears with a clanging noise. If shields are of cardboard, strike spears on floor. Crashing chords accompany from the piano, or a roll of drums, if possible.)
Liberty. Aught that man can say thou hast said, bold warrior, and the people heard. All has been set down and cannot be erased. Stand thou back now (waving spear in command) and listen to what our daughter Peace shall say. Summon me Peace, Herald! (Turns to second Herald.)
(Second Herald salutes Liberty and leaves stage left, returning, followed by Peace. Music of Keller's "American Hymn" accompanies her. Peace bows her head to Liberty, who returns her greeting, and is about to take her position on left of Goddess when she catches sight of War, who has started forward as if to greet her. Peace turns from him, shading her face with her hand, and takes her proper stand.)
Liberty (with gentle voice). Knowest thou why thou hast been summoned to this place, sweet daughter?
Peace. I do, fair goddess.
Liberty. And art thou well prepared with arguments in thy defense?
Peace. Peace cannot deal with argument, which ever stirs up strife. A sunset needs no words to prove its beauty.
Liberty. Granted, but I would have thee tell this haughty warrior here somewhat of thy mind, and let the people listen. What dost thou for mankind, my daughter? (Turning to second Herald.) Prepare to write, boy.
(War moves forward eagerly and leans on spear to listen. Herald leans forward also.)
Peace (turning slightly toward Herald with a smile). Make ready many tablets, faithful lad, for be sure my words will fill them all. (Turning to audience.) As well might I attempt to prove that day would dawn without the sun as that mankind would flourish without Peace. War is the storm that snaps the oak, peace the sweet influence that garlands it with vines and flowers. Peace brings united families, a father's love and care and his strong arm to defend his household. (Here War starts, shrinks back somewhat, and partly turns away his face.) Peace brings prosperity; flocks and herds feed upon her smiling lands, shelters are built for man and beast, and shrines rise up where God is worshiped. (Herald writes rapidly upon his tablet and takes others from his dress as Peace proceeds, striving to keep up with the stream of her words.) Peace gives room for science to work her magic, for the useful arts to flourish, that man may be fed and warmed and clothed, and surround himself with comfort and beauty. Peace brings education, which extends to all men the wisdom of the past, the knowledge of the present, and the hopes of the future. Music, poetry, and the drama flourish under the beneficent rule of Peace. (Steps forward slightly.) Nor may War claim that he alone can teach obedience, faithfulness to duty, endurance, hardihood, patience, strength, and skill. (Here War begins gradually to move backward toward place of entrance on right, and first Herald, looking anxiously toward Liberty, to follow him slowly. Second Herald ceases to write and looks admiringly on Peace. Peace continues.) And where may the value of coöperation which War so boasts that he can teach, be shown as in the arts of Peace? Not a chain is welded, not a wheel turns, not a building rises, save all men work together for the common end! War vaunts that he brings us love of country! (Here Peace steps forward, raises voice, and speaks with greater enthusiasm.) Do we love that which we destroy? Of what value is a land whose men are falling on distant battlefields, in suffering unspeakable, alone and unattended (War falls to his knees and hides face in hands, his spear clanging down by his side, and so remains until Liberty speaks. First Herald stands beside him protectingly, his hand on War's shoulder. Peace continues); whose women in sorrow and despair are weeping among the ruins of their homes; whose children, ragged and wretched, are starving and begging on the roadsides? Is this a country? No, it is a desert, more dreadful far than any wild and sandy waste of the Sahara! Shame on thee, War (turning to the kneeling figure), that thou canst speak one word in thy defense, when thou destroyest sacred human life! (First Herald drops head.)
Liberty (motioning to Peace). Enough, my daughter! Thou hast abased thine adversary, but we may not forget that he is ofttimes needed to preserve thee in thy sweet content. Look up, Sir Warrior (War lifts head, but does not rise from knees), and know that thou servest not, save that thy cause be just. (Turning to audience.) Ye have harkened unto Peace, ye people, and plainly we see by your flushed cheeks and shining eyes that ye approve her words. It needs not that we hear again what has been set down upon the tablets, for well I believe that the substance of it is engraved upon your hearts. (Turning to second lad.) Bring me the wreath of olives!
(Herald leaves, left, and returns with wreath of olive leaves. Any small, gray-green, dusky, pointed leaf will do (see encyclopedia for shape), or leaves can be made of sage-green paper, mounted on wire and twined together.)
Liberty (rising from throne and waving spear majestically). Come to me, blest daughter, Peace. (Peace kneels at her feet.) I crown thee, with the accord of all these people present, Mistress of Science, Art and Education, Guardian of the Child, Preserver of the Fireside, and Handmaid of Prosperity and Sweet Content!
(As Liberty lays wreath on the head of Peace, both Heralds raise spears in salutation, and War lifts his clasped hands toward her in entreaty. "American Hymn" is heard again.)
- From "The Unseen Host and Other War Plays," Little, Brown and Company, Boston, publishers. Copyright, 1917, by Percival Wilde. All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages. No performance—professional or amateur—may be given without the written permission of the author's agents, Walter H. Baker Company, 41 Winter Street, Boston.