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The White Château

BBC

The White Château

Nov 11 1925




CAST:


THE CHRONICLER, who introduces all six scenes


First Scene 

Breakfast in the White Château 

Charles VAN EYSEN, father 

MADAME VAN EYSEN, mother 

JACQUES, son, returned from Cambridge 

VIOLET, engaged to Jacques 

DIANE, daughter 

JULIE, the maid

OFFICER, of the B troop of the Black Skull Hussars 

ORDERLY


Second Scene

Army Headquarters in the White Château 

SENTRY 

SECRETARY 

THE A.D.C. 

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF

COMMANDER-OF-STAFF 

MINISTER, for War

VOICE, of soldier 

ORDERLY


Third Scene

Dug-out and trenches near the White Château 

COURTENAY, officer

BRAITHWAITE, Company Commander 

MATHESON, officer

WATERS, orderly

BADGER 

A SIGNALLER 

COLONEL

WILLIAMS, Artillery Liaison Officer 

STRETCHER-BEARER 


Fourth Scene

Ruins of the White Château 

LUTTRELL, Company Commander

SERGEANT-MAJOR 

GUIDE

PHIL, Luttrell's younger brother

SERGEANT HARVEY 

VOICES, of soldiers 

REBEL SOLDIER 


Fifth Scene

Hospital near the White Château; two years later 

DOCTOR, American 

SISTER, in charge of the ward

PHILIP LUTTRELL, from fourth scene, now a patient

DIANE VAN EYSEN, from first scene, now a nurse 

GENERAL 


Sixth Scene

Rebuilding the White Château; a year after the War 

DIANE, now married to Philip 

PHILIP 

VOICE, of the White Château




FOREWORD


The White Château is to this extent a play with a purpose, that, on an occasion when the thoughts of whole nations turn to the subject of war, it sets out, however ineffectively, to reinforce the determination to abolish war. 


Seven years ago to-day the Fourth British Army was preparing to force the Sambre-and-Oise Canal. Two days later was fought the battle that finally broke the enemy's defences. Seven years ago, all but a few days, ended the war that was to end war; since when the history of Europe has been one continued roll of guns. 


In November 1918 the whole world drew breath . . . and vowed to remember; to disarm; never more to appeal to force. NEVER AGAIN! we swore. Yet the memory of the war has faded swiftlier than the most outworn catchwords of politics. Armaments are greater than ever. The Pact of Locano (like the Protocol of Geneva and its predecessors, the Treaty of Mutual Assistance and the Treaty of Mutual Guarantee) has taken the negotiations between statesmen a step further. In so far as it affords a solution of the problem of armaments may it have the goodwill of all people. But of "moral disarmament," in the French phrase, the signs are still uncertain; and the labour to remove the fears and mistrusts created by the War must be unremitting if it is to have success. 


* * * * * *


The White Château of my play is imaginary, chosen for the central figure as typifying the destruction that overtook so many thousands of buildings, and also commemorating the indomitable spirit of those who have rebuilt their homes. It is not the White Château of Hollebeke, nor that of Ypres, nor any, in particular, of the other white châteaux in the plains of Flanders, but a kind of composite of them all; just as the Van Eysen family is representative of the civilian victims of war in all ages. The incidents of the play, moreover, are invented. All could have happened; none, so far as I know, actually took place. Similarly the casus belli is imaginary; and the very countries involved are not precisely indicated. The play is inspired by the Great War, but does not pretend to be historical.


If this should seem a strange qualification, the reason for it is simple enough. Nothing is to be gained by labouring the causes of the Great War, and reviving the animosities that it bred. It is at least possible that future generations, apportioning the blame for 1914, will fasten the ultimate responsibility upon the defects of the whole European system of civilization, rather than any individual power. Be that so or not, however, the story that I try to tell is such as might be true in any war between any civilized peoples; for the subject of the play is not the war between A and B, but War, the hideous Giant Despair of our times. 


* * * * * *


I take this opportunity of thanking Mr. Norman O'Neill most warmly for the beautiful music he has composed to accompany the play. 


REGINALD BERKELEY. 

November 2nd, 1925. 




THE CAST ON ARMISTICE NIGHT, 1925 

_______________


Cathleen Nesbit 

Phyllis Panting 

Mary Rorke 


Donald Calthrop 

Reginald Denham 

Michael Hogan 

Fewlass Llewellyn 

Henry Oscar 

Milton Rosmer 

Edmund Willard 


Producer: R. E. Jeffrey 


Musical Director: Norman O'Neill




FIRST SCENE


(Music.)


THE CHRONICLER.

This story of the White Château 

That, in the thriving Flanders plain, 

Was builded centuries ago. 

And ever, through succeeding years, 

Destroyed, and builded up once more, 

Shall come familiarly to ears 

Attuned to the din of war.

____________________________


(The cheerful sounds of the breakfast-table. A bell is struck.)


[JULIE] A MAID'S VOICE. Madame rang?


MADAME VAN EYSEN. Bring in a fresh pot of coffee.


[JULIE] THE MAID. Yes, Madame.


MADAME VAN EYSEN. Jacques, I like this English breakfast you've brought back from Oxford.


JACQUES. Of course. Everybody pretends to despise breakfast and everyone eats it if they get a chance. (Footsteps entering the room.) Hullo, Violet!


VIOLET. Hullo! What a topping day! Good-morning, Madame Van Eysen. . . . Good-morning.


MADAME VAN EYSEN. Good-morning. . . . Charles, Violet is saying good-morning to you.


VAN EYSEN. I beg pardon. I was so engrossed in my letter. Good-morning my dear.


VIOLET. Where's Diane?


JACQUES. Not down yet. What's everyone doing to-day? 


MADAME VAN EYSEN. I'm going to the town--if your father can spare the car.


VAN EYSEN. Eh? Of course, of course. (Returns to his letter.


MADAME VAN EYSEN. Are you two coming with me? 


JACQUES. Violet, shall we go in with mother? It's rather a lovely old town. Something like Bruges, only older. The Cathedral is simply too exquisite. 


VIOLET. I'd love to--yes. 


MADAME VAN EYSEN. You ought to see the Cathedral, Violet. It's where you'll be married to Jacques--if we can persuade your father and mother to come over from England. 


VIOLET. I'm sure they'd love to. (Footsteps.) Oh, here's Diane! 


DIANE. Hello, everybody! Well, father, what's in the paper? 


JACQUES. Ssh! Don't disturb him. He's struggling with his letters. 


DIANE. Reads very slowly, poor man. He's not quite sure of the alphabet, you know.


MADAME VAN EYSEN. Diane, that's cheeky! 


DIANE. But it's true. Because I remember he used to tell me that, when I asked him to read me stories. 


VAN EYSEN. What's this about my reading? 


DIANE. Daddy, when I was small and used to follow you about with a story-book and ask you to read to me, didn't you tell me you weren't quite sure of the alphabet? 


VAN EYSEN (chuckling). Yes, I believe I did. 


DIANE (triumphantly). There! Give me the marmalade, somebody.


JACQUES. Meanwhile the master of the house, being the only one of us to whom anybody's had the decency to write, guards the newspaper by his plate like Caxton's Chained Bible and----


VAN EYSEN. Eh? Who said I wanted the paper? Take it, for goodness' sake, if it'll keep you quiet while I finish my letters. (A little testily.) All I stipulate is that it shall be returned to me, uncrumpled and with the pages as nearly as possible in their proper order, when I ask for it. 


JACQUES. Snubbed! 


DIANE. Go on. Take it, Jacques. He said you might. (The rustle of its unfolding.) Impression of country gentleman reading a newspaper. Very dignified! 


JACQUES. Shut up! 


DIANE. Impression of similar gentleman enraged with younger sister. Not quite so dignified. All right, Jacques. Pax. What's the news?


JACQUES. Diabolo's scratched for the Grand Prix.


DIANE. Hooray! I win my bet with the gardener. What else? 


JACQUES (turning the sheets). The oldest man in the world has been discovered. . . He says he's a hundred and seventy-three. . . . 


DIANE. I bet that's in America. 


JACQUES. Yes. Dayton, Ohio. . . . An earthquake in Sicily. (Turns the pages again.) Good Lord! What's this? . . . I'll give you all three guesses!


DIANE. There's going to be a state ball this winter.


MADAME VAN EYSEN. Prices are coming down


VIOLET. England's gone dry.


JACQUES. (soberly) No. . . And it's too serious for playing the fool. There's a war.


DIANE. Oh yes, between Greenland and Patagonia. You don't catch me, Jacques.


JACQUES. Seriously. There's a war.


VAN EYSEN. What? This country isn't involved, surely? . . . Here, give me the paper.


JACQUES. No. But we're between them. . . . Here you are!


VAN EYSEN. (A little relieved) Oh, well, it's only an ultimatum. This won't come to anything, you know. The financial world won't permit wars nowadays. Can't afford it. Civilisation's far too complex and interlocked. Countries have to do this kind of thing from time to time to blow off steam. But there's always a way out. They leave a loop-hole. Statesmen aren't fools.


JACQUES. Where do you suggest the loop-hole is, in this instance? 


VAN EYSEN (irritably). Oh, well, without knowing all the details, how can I possibly tell you that?


MADAME VAN EYSEN. Yes, but what is the news? What's happened? If there's going to be a war, oughtn't we all to go over to England or America until it's over? It's not very comfortable to feel that one's in between two people at war. 


VAN EYSEN. There's not going to be a war at all. That's only Jacques' youthful exuberance. Both countries are much too sensible to fight. There's an ultimatum, and there'll be an adjustment. It's the old quarrel about the Mediterranean ports. Goes back to the Vienna Congress. 


JACQUES. Curious thing about wars. The Peace Settlements always seem to have the seed of a future war carefully planted in them. 


VAN EYSEN. Nonsense, boy. The statesmen know what they're about. 


JACQUES. That's just it. They do know what they're about. 


"War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, 

The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade" -- 


VAN EYSEN. Who wrote that nonsense?


JACQUES. The English poet, Shelley. 


MADAME VAN EYSEN (chillingly). Shelley was an atheist. 


VAN EYSEN. Well, a great many quite sensible people in France--and here too, for that matter — don't see eye to eye with the Pope, shall we say ? But we can't have----


MADAME VAN EYSEN. My husband, our children and I are good Catholics. Please don't say things it will be our duty to tell Father Lawrence; and make yourself look silly when the good father comes to dinner next Sunday.


VAN EYSEN. Well, well, as you please about that. It's unimportant. It doesn't matter. But this rubbish about war is quite another thing. A hired assassin's trade! Why, confound it, I was in the Reserve Corps of Officers for years. Am I a hired assassin? 


JACQUES. You never went to war. 


VAN EYSEN. Was that my fault? We did our training. I remember some of the drill now. (Intoning) Shoulder arms! Right turn! The company will advance. . . . That sort of thing. We were ready to go to war at any moment. In the regimental mess we used to toast the glorious day, when---


DIANE. I say, excuse my interrupting . . . there's something funny in the garden. 


MADAME VAN EYSEN. You oughtn't to interrupt your father, dear. What do you mean--funny?


DIANE. On the far side of the park palings there are the most extraordinary flashes of sunlight. Jacques, come here.


VAN EYSEN. Reaping-machine going down to the fields. 


JACQUES. It's not. By George! Father, I suppose it's impossible for an invasion to have taken place. 


VAN EYSEN. Good heavens, boy, your historical knowledge is lamentable. Don't you know this country has been under a guaranteed treaty of permanent neutrality for a hundred years? And why should an invasion have taken place? 


JACQUES. Well, Diane's flashes look to me like the glitter of cavalry lance-heads.


VAN EYSEN. Those confounded militia people. They're manoevering in my property without leave. I won't have it. Ring the bell and send out and tell them. No, I'll go myself. Marie, get my hat and stick. 


DIANE. But they're coming in at the gate. Look, Jacques! 


JACQUES. Those aren't our uniforms. We wear khaki, not field grey.


VAN EYSEN. (grimly) It's a practical joke. Those infernal students at the University. They're always up to this sort of thing. I'll give them something they don't expect. Get my hat and stick, Marie. 


MADAME VAN EYSEN. But if they're University students you surely won't be angry, Charles. Let's send them out some wine and fruit.


VAN EYSEN. You don't understand, Marie. Property is property. People mustn't trespass without leave; and then, of course, it isn't trespass. I insist---- (The clatter of the opening door and the scurry of two MAIDSERVANTS entering.) What the devil's this? 


[JULIE] A MAID. Oh, sir! Oh, madam! There's foreign soldiers in the kitchen taking the eggs and butter and carrying on terrible!


MADAME VAN EYSEN. But they can't be foreigners, Julie.


JULIE (tearfully). But they are, madam. You can't understand a word they say----


VAN EYSEN. (furiously) This is too much of a good thing altogether.


(Tramp of feet.


JULIE. Oh, there's one of them coming in! 


[OFFICER] A VOICE (stern, quiet). Is this the White Château?


(A stranger in uniform has entered the room.)


VAN EYSEN. It is. Well? 


[OFFICER] THE STRANGER. Which is the master of the house? 


VAN EYSEN (spluttering). The master of the---- What the devil's this mummery? Who are you, pray?


[OFFICER] STRANGER. I am the officer in charge of B troop of the Black Skull Hussars. What is your name?


VAN EYSEN. Black fiddlesticks! Some ridiculous prank! What?--Black stuff and nonsense!


THE OFFICER (hotly). If you insult my uniform I'll have you thrashed with the flat of a sabre. (A gasp of astonishment from VAN EYSEN.) I advise you to be civil and answer my questions. What is your name?


VAN EYSEN. Charles Van Eysen.


OFFICER. Is this house your property? 


VAN EYSEN (exploding). Of course it's my property. Do you think I stole it, or picked it up in the street? 


OFFICER. It is better to avoid flippancy and sarcasm. The others will leave the room. They may go into the garden; but if they go beyond the garden without permission, my men will bring them back--not always gently. Now go! 


MADAME VAN EYSEN. But---- 


OFFICER (firmly). Madam. This is war. You must obey me. Go! 


VAN EYSEN. Do as he says, Marie. Go, all of you. (The sound of their footsteps.) Now, sir . . . what does this mean? 


OFFICER. I have said. It is war. We are on our way across your territory to surprise the enemy. 


VAN EYSEN. But you can't do that. Our territory is guaranteed. It isn't fair. 


OFFICER. You know the proverb about the things that are fair in Love and War? . . . However--that's quite enough. How many rooms are there in this house? 


VAN EYSEN. What's that to do with you ? 


OFFICER (grimly). Do you want me to send a file of men to count? I warn you they might not be very careful of your property. 


VAN EYSEN (contriving to speak quietly). There are twenty-four bedrooms. 


OFFICER. And living-rooms--how many? 


VAN EYSEN. Six. 


OFFICER. And of course servants' quarters in addition. 


VAN EYSEN. Naturally. 


OFFICER. Very good. You will keep two bedrooms and one sitting-room for yourself and your family. The remainder is requisitioned for the use of the army. Of course you will receive the usual billeting rate of one crown a day for the use of each room. Now about stables---- 


VAN EYSEN (endeavouring to argue). But, Captain--this is most high-handed. It isn't reasonable. 


OFFICER. Take my advice. Don't give trouble; or I'll pack the lot of you out of the house, at the point of a lance. Now about stables. 


VAN EYSEN (firmly). I can't spare you any stable room. 


OFFICER (with a nasty laugh). I think you'll find it possible. . . . My information is that you've stabling for fifty or sixty horses. I don't mind you keeping a couple of stalls for your own beasts, but I need the rest. 


VAN EYSEN (scandalised). But, Captain, I can't turn out my valuable blood stock to make room for your troopers' horses---- 


OFFICER. Blood stock? Oho! Those are needed, my friend. Requisitioned. How many? (A sudden uproar from the back of the house. The sound of a shot; and a yell.) What the devil's this? If your servants are giving trouble, sir, they'll pay for it. 


(The uproar continues. Someone is shouting, "Let me go! Let me go, I say!")


VAN EYSEN. If your men are misbehaving I shall complain--I shall complain----


OFFICER (contemptuously). Complain and welcome! (The noise has continued and is now just outside the room.) What's all this? 


JACQUES' VOICE. He kissed her, I tell you. Don't do that, you---- 


(Choking and gurgling as he is forcibly silenced.


VAN EYSEN. Good God! That's my son they've got hold of! Let him go at once! 


OFFICER (brutally). Be quiet, sir! Sergeant, what's all this? 


SERGEANT. Sir . . . the prisoner has shot Trooper Muller. 


OFFICER. Is he badly wounded? 


SERGEANT. He's killed, sir. 


(A little pause.


OFFICER (sternly). What have you to say, prisoner? 


JACQUES (controlling his feelings and speaking quietly). Your trooper saw my sister and my fiancée in the garden. He went up behind them (anger getting hold of him at the recollection), took hold of my fiancée round the waist and kissed her. (He pauses.


OFFICER (chillingly). Well? Go on! 


JACQUES. I ran up and pulled him off. He struggled. I knocked him down. He drew a revolver on me. I got it away from him. . . . He rushed at me again . . . and I shot him. 


OFFICER (grimly). You know that firing on the troops is the most serious offence a civilian can commit! 


JACQUES. You don't seem to understand. . . . He kissed her. 


OFFICER (bitterly scornful). What the devil does a kiss matter? You should have complained to me. I'm responsible for the discipline of my men. . . . You admit firing the shot? 


JACQUES. Of course I did. So would anyone. 


OFFICER. . . . Very good. I commit you to be tried by Court Martial. You can explain all that the Court. . . . Take him away.


(Click of heels from the escort, and the sound of marching out.


MADAME VAN EYSEN (weeping). Oh, my son, my son! 


VAN EYSEN (apprehensively). I suppose it's all right, Captain. . . . . They'll understand the boy didn't mean anything----? 


OFFICER (coldly). He'll get a fair trial and the sentence he deserves. . . . (An irrepressible groan from VAN EYSEN, and a muffled sob from his wife.) Well--you know the phrase: C'est la guerre! I'm sorry personally; but there it is. 


VAN EYSEN (unable to resist the question). But what sentence, Captain?--what sentence? 


OFFICER (curtly). The punishment for the offence is death. Of course they may take a more lenient view. 


VAN EYSEN (choking) . . . The hired assassin's trade! Oh, my God! . . . (pleadingly) No, no, Captain, I didn't mean that. I'm sure they'll be fair. (His voice tails away into incoherence.


AN ORDERLY (coming to the door). Message from the Adjutant to resume the march in two hours, sir. 


OFFICER. Right. Send for the Sergeant-major; and warn the prisoner's escort. 


(Footsteps retreating.


MADAME VAN EYSEN. . . .  He'll be brave. I know he'll be brave.


(A few bars of a Dead March.)




SECOND SCENE


(A great slow theme, given out by the basses and taken up by the rest of the strings, suggests the steady forward march of a mighty army. A few bars indicate the cantering of the cavalry patrols, broken in upon by the chatter of machine-guns and the sharp bark of field artillery. Always the army moves onward like some relentless piece of machinery. This theme dies away and is replaced by one suggesting the distant boom of the sea breaking on a reef. The voice of the CHRONICLER is heard speaking through the music.)


THE CHRONICLER.

Roll onward like an angry sea, 

Wave upon wave and host on host, 

Hurling your strength at the enemy 

As the hurricane batters a rock-bound coast! 

Though the seas sweep on, yet the rocks remain, 

And the sea is thrown back where the cliff stands fast; 

For the sea and your legions, that storm in vain, 

Failing alike shall fall at last.


(The music stops.)


Behind the tide of marching men 

The High Command keeps sleepless ward, 

Serenely proving that the pen 

Is ever mightier than the sword.


The Grand Headquarters Over All 

In some great mansion--once alight 

With children's voices, loud and small-- 

Now bare and bleak, directs the fight. . . .


(A thread of music.)


Clipped grey hair for a baby's curls, 

Gleam of weapons for gleam of pearls, 

And in my lady's deserted bed 

A grim old General in gold and red.


(A bar of martial music fading away.

____________________________


(The quick step of a SENTRY on a gravel path outside. The click of a typewriter. The undertones of a man dictating a military report.--Far off the hoot and purr of a powerful car. 


The rattle of the SENTRY'S equipment outside as he prepares to turn the Guard out.


THE SENTRY'S VOICE (outside). Stand by, the Guard! (The purring of the motor as it turns up the drive.) Guard--turn out! (Hurrying footsteps as the Guard obeys.) . . . Present--Arms! (Distant trumpets. The typewriter and the dictation cease abruptly.


THE SECRETARY. That's the Commander-in-Chief. You'd better go and tell the Chief of Staff. 


THE A.D.C. Right. Will you fetch the Minister for War when he's ready?


THE SECRETARY: Yes.


(Footsteps receding. The typing is resumed. Short pause. The door is opened. The COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF enters with heavy tread. The SECRETARY abandons his typing and springs to attention.


C.-IN-C. (gruffly). Good-morning. . . . Where's the Chief of Staff? 


SECRETARY. He's coming now, sir. I've a lot of papers for you to see.


C.-IN-C. (sitting heavily) They must wait. When is the War Minister arriving?


SECRETARY. He's already arrived. 


C.-IN-C. (growling). He must learn to wait too. (A knock.) Is that the Chief of Staff? . . . (Steps approaching.) Good-morning, General. 


C.-OF-S. Good-morning, sir.


C.-IN-C. Have you got the situation report? 


C.-OF-S. Yes. The advance is slowing down, I'm afraid. The Right Group of Armies have been attacked from the north. They've beaten it off, of course; but the Seventh Army has had too many casualties. 


C.-IN-C. Who's commanding it? Lanahan?


C.-OF-S. Yes, sir.


C.-IN-C. Recall him and send a new man. Send that fellow who's been handling the Thirty-sixth Corps so well. 


C.-OF-S. Very good, sir. 


C.-IN-C. And send up the Fifth Reserve Corps to reinforce the Seventh Army, and take out the Divisions that have been cut up. Bring them back to refit. . . . Are the Base reinforcements coming up in any strength? 


C.-OF-S. Yes, sir. 


C.-IN-C. Rail them forward as quickly as possible; I shall want those Divisions very soon. . . . Well, what else? 


C.-OF-S. The Left Group of Armies are up against very difficult country. 


C.-IN-C. (interrupting). Of course. They've reached the Roda River by now. They must force it at once, and turn the enemy's position. . . . What's the news from the centre?


C.-OF-S. They're pushing ahead toward the enemy's capital--overcoming all resistance easily. . . . I'm not sure they aren't going too fast for the flanks. 


C.-IN-C. No harm in that, so long as they don't outrun their communications. Is that all? . . . Then I'll see the War Minister. You'd better give me those situation reports for reference. 


C.-OF-S. Shall I go, sir, while you see him? 


C.-IN-C. No, stay here. All politicians are the very devil; and this fellow is king of all the devils. 


SECRETARY (at the door). The Minister for War. 


MINISTER. Well, Marshal, how is your great offensive? 


C.-IN-C. (grumbling). Well enough. I wish you'd keep your Parliament in order. How do you expect soldiers to fight when the papers print nothing but reports of debates criticizing the High Command and making a fuss about the casualties? 


MINISTER. Let them talk. It doesn't affect the Government. 


C.-IN-C. Bother the Government. It affects my men. Undermines their confidence in their leaders and makes them think about their own skins. If irresponsible Deputies can't have the patriotism to hold their tongues they ought to be imprisoned till the war's over.


MINISTER. (drily) That sort of thing's very easy for a soldier to say and impossible for a democratic government to do. Besides, the casualties are heavy. It's unsettling the nation.


C.-IN-C. They'll be far heavier before long. They're nothing to worry about yet.


MINISTER (surprised). Nothing to worry about? The last week's return showed ten thousand killed and wounded. 


C.-IN-C. (gruffly). What's that in an army of two millions? About a hundred per division. About seven per battalion. A bagatelle! 


MINISTER. Well, you must manage somehow to soften the effect. To the public it reads as though whole regiments had been wiped out. . . . And you talk of even greater loss of life. 


C.-IN-C. When the enemy stands his ground, as he will before long--the Seventh Army was fairly heavily engaged this morning, for instance--when that happens the casualties will be multiplied by five or even ten. 


MINISTER (firmly, but in a conciliatory tone). The Government wish you to understand their position, Marshal. That is why I am here. The people expected that with so mighty an instrument as our army, led by so renowned a Commander as yourself, the campaign would be short, swift and triumphant. They--we all--expected a decisive battle almost immediately. Instead you are, as you say, pursuing the enemy without bringing him to battle. The casualties are mounting at this alarming rate. And there's a general opinion that--well----


C.-IN-C. (interrupting). There's a general opinion that it's my fault. Well, put someone else in my place. 


MINISTER (relenting). No, no, no. The Government, of course, have the most implicit confidence in their Commander-in-Chief. But the people are really becoming uneasy for want of a victory to take their minds off the casualty lists.


C.-IN-C. (ironically). You want me to win a great battle and you want me to do it bloodlessly. Civilians always ask a soldier to work miracles; and they're always put out when the soldier tells them that miracles are the work of God, not man. You can't fight battles without killing soldiers; and the bigger the battle the more you must be prepared to sacrifice. . . . (A knock on the door.) Who the devil's that? 


C.-OF-S. I'll see. (Sound of the door being unlatched.) What? Give it to me. . . . Good Heavens! 


C.-IN-C. Well--what is it? 


C.-OF-S. The Seventh Army's broken, sir. The Tenth Corps is cut off. General Varin's whole Army Group is set back in disorder. 


C.-IN-C. (growling). That fellow Varin doesn't know how to command a Group of Armies.


MINISTER (his voice, a little shaken at the tidings). Is this a disaster, Marshal? 


C.-IN-C. (curtly). No. It's the battle you wanted so badly. (He strikes a bell.) (Footsteps and a click of heels.) Orderly, send for my car and my A.D.C. At once. (Footsteps hurrying away.) Now, General (to the C.-OF-S.), while I am away, tell the Camp Commandant to be in readiness to move Headquarters back in case this situation gets worse. Can't direct a battle from the middle of it. . . . And tell the Centre Group to halt on their left and centre and counter-attack the right with every available Division. (Footsteps.) Who's that outside? 


[SOLDIER] A VOICE. Signal Orderly, sir. 


C.-OF-S. Message? Bring it here. 


[SOLDIER] VOICE. Sign on the form, sir, please. 


C.-IN-C. Damn the form! Here, I'll do it. (To C.-OF-S.) Well, what's it say? 


C.-OF-S. (reading). "Our passage of Roda River met by strong counter-attack." It's from the Left Group. 


C.-IN-C. That flank's safe, at all events. Tell him to dig in along the river and destroy the bridges. Detach two Corps from his right and rail them to the Right Army group. Now then, is my car ready? 


[SOLDIER] A VOICE. Yes, sir. 


C.-IN-C. Right. I must go. Tell the Government not to worry. The situation is excellent, and I shall attack at once. 


MINISTER (nervously). Yes. You'll keep the casualties down, won't you? 


C.-IN-C. (as he goes). Not by refusing battle! That's the best way to increase them. (He stumps out.


C.-OF-S. Will you wait here, sir? or---- 


MINISTER. I shan't stay for lunch. The Cabinet will want to discuss the situation. . . . Would you send for my car? 


C.-OF-S. (over his shoulder). Orderly. 


MINISTER. Thank you. . . . There's something familiar to me about this house. I wonder why. What is the name of the village in the hollow?


C.-OF-S. Bilteringhem. This place is known as the White Château.


MINISTER: Of course. Why, I spent the Christmas holidays in this very house, oh, years and years ago. It belonged to a family called--there! I've forgotten the name. They were friends of my mother.


C.-OF-S. Van Eysen.


MINISTER: Of course. How did you know?


C.-OF-S. We took it over from them. They're under observation. Dangerous people. One of them fired on our troops after the occupation; and was very properly shot for it.


MINISTER: (perfunctorily) Dear me! how shocking! War's full of tragedies. Ah, is that my car?


ORDERLY. All ready, sir. 


MINISTER. I'll go at once. (To the C.-of-S.) Good-bye. . . . (Gravely.) Impress upon the Marshal the importance of avoiding casualties--not for sentimental reasons, for of course we can't allow sentiment to come into the question; but simply as a matter of practical policy. You soldiers must be guided by us. We have our fingers on the public pulse. A quick decision. That's what's wanted. Good-bye. Good-bye. 


C.-OF-S. (curtly). Good-bye, Sir. (The door shuts.) Windbag! (He strikes the bell.) Orderly, bring all messages in here and put me through to the Centre Group Commander on the telephone. And ask the Director of Operations----


(The music swells up and his voice is lost.)




THIRD SCENE


(Music.)


THE CHRONICLER.

An army in prolonged retreat, 

Trudge, trudge of tired feet, 

Trudge, trudge through rain and sludge, 

Trudge--trudge--trudge--trudge . . . 

Heavy heart and drooping head, 

Scanty rations, scantier bed, 

Failing strength and dizzy brain, 

Trudge, trudge . . . on again.


Long since departed G.H.Q. 

From the Château (with its whiteness faded!), 

Corps, Division, Brigade passed through 

And left it, when they each withdrew, 

A little more degraded. . . . 

Next the pursuing enemy appears; 

Drives in the rearguard, posted in the gardens; 

Rifles the house for souvenirs; 

And, as resistance hardens, 

Throws up trenches, blows up, out of hand, 

Whatever might impede the field of fire, 

Runs out entanglements of steel and wire--

And leaves the Château stark 

In No-Man's-Land. 

____________________________


(The nondescript sounds of a quiet day in the trenches.) 


[BRAITHWAITE] A VOICE (dolefully humming). 

If you want ter find the Sergeant, 

I know where 'e is, 

I know where 'e is, I know where 'e is.

If you want ter find the Sergeant, 

I know where 'e is. 

'E's sittin' in the wet canteen. 

I sore 'im, I sore 'im, 

Sittin' in the wet canteen.


(The muffled thump of a shell overhead.


[COURTENAY] A VOICE (plaintively). I wish they wouldn't. It puts the candle out every time. 


[BRAITHWAITE] ANOTHER. To say nothing of waking up weary Company Commanders. (A prodigious yawn.) It's no good trying to sleep. Courtenay, I'll help you and Matheson censor the letters, if you like.


COURTENAY. Thanks awfully, old thing. (Thump overhead.) There! It's out again and I've no more matches.


MATHESON. Waters--War-ters!


[WATERS] A FAR-AWAY VOICE. Sir!


MATHESON. Bring some matches, and a couple more candles.


WATERS. (far off) Very good, sir.


(The scramble of someone descending the dug-out stairs.)


[BRAITHWAITE] COMPANY COMMANDER. Hello, Badger! What's the news?


[BADGER] NEW-COMER (who speaks with a stutter). They've occupied the Château with a machine-gun post. It fires right down our front trench. 


[BRAITHWAITE] C.-C. Always said it was idiotic not to run the trenches out in front of the Château. 


COURTENAY. But of course it's a nasty artillery target to have in your front line. 


[BRAITHWAITE] C.-C. (indignantly). Just as bad having it in No-Man's-Land. Then you get socks from both sides. Our fellows put ten six-inch just over B post, last night. 


BADGER. Well, what are we goin' to do about this machine gun? Any breakfast left? 


WATERS. Yes, sir--yours 'as bin kept 'ot. 


BADGER. Kept hot! Lord, we do live in luxury these days! Any mail up? (Clatter of enamel plates.) Thanks, Waters. 


MATHESON. Yes, there are some letters for you somewhere, Badger. Waters has got 'em. War-ters! Bring Mr. Barrington's letters. 


WATERS (reprovingly). I was jest fetchin' 'em, sir. . . . (To BARRINGTON) There's only two and a paper, sir. 


BADGER. Right. Thanks, Waters. (He takes them. The sound of rending envelopes.) (as he reads) Good Lord! Oh, I say. . . .


(Da-da da-da on the buzzer-'phone.


A SIGNALLER: Battalion Headquarters, Adjutant on the line, sir. Wants to speak to Captain Braithwaite.


[BRAITHWAITE] C.-C. Right, I'll come. . . . Hello! Yes. What? On his way. All right, old thing. Good-bye.--Colonel's on his way here, you fellows. Buck up with your breakfast, Badger. 


BADGER. Eh? Half a minute. . . . Good Lord! . . . Really. . . . 


COURTENAY. Why, what's the matter with the old Badger?


MATHESON. The King's made him a Duke. The Duke of Badger, Earl Stoat and Viscount Guinea-pig. 


COURTENAY. Rot! He's been given command of a New Army Division--General Badger, C.B. 


BRAITHWAITE. Companion of the Bath. Jolly appropriate for a Badger. (Boong above.) Damn! the candle's gone out again .... (Striking a match.) What is it, Badger? Nothing serious, I hope. 


BADGER. Oh, serious? Well, I don't know--er---- (Sheepishly) As a matter of fact--my wife's got twins! . . . 


COURTENAY. Hooray for the Badger and the little Badgers!


BRAITHWAITE (firmly). Shut up, you fellows. (Silence.) Badger, you'd like to go on leave, wouldn't you? 


BADGER. Be rather fun, wouldn't it? 


BRAITHWAITE. Times are pretty quiet. I think it might be wangled. . . . Have you finished your breakfast already? You do gobble! 


BADGER (aggrieved). Hang it, you told me to hurry on account of the Colonel. . . .  Look here, what are we goin' to do about this machine-gun post? I've asked you three times. 


BRAITHWAITE. Get the heavies to shoot if I can. 


MATHESON. Oh, do, Braithwaite. A place that size has got no business in No-Man's-Land. One of these days some fat old General will come up the line for the first time in his life, and insist on sending a patrol over to count the rooms or something equally futile, and---- 


(A voice above.)


[THE COLONEL] VOICE. (from above). Hullo! Are you down there, Braithwaite?


BRAITHWAITE. The Colonel! (Calling) Shall I come up, sir--or are you coming down?


THE COLONEL. I think you'd better come up. It looks rather narrow for me. (The scrambling of BRAITHWAITE up the dug-out stairs.) Morning, Braithwaite. Company O.K.?


BRAITHWAITE. Morning, sir. Yes. Everything's all right. They've put a machine-gun post in the Château.


COLONEL. By George! that's lucky. And here's the Artillery Liaison Officer come up with me to look for targets. Do you two know each other? Williams--Braithwaite.


BOTH. Morning!


COLONEL. Where's this machine gun? Are you through to your battery, Williams?


WILLIAMS. Shall be in a couple of minutes, sir. My linesman's just fixing the telephone. But you'll want the heavies for this. I'll get the battery to put me through.


COLONEL. Right. Fix it up your own way. Who reported this, Braithwaite?


BRAITHWAITE. The Badger, sir--Barrington.


COLONEL. Better have him up if he's in the dug-out.


BRAITHWAITE. Yes, sir, I'll call him. . . . Just before I bring him up, sir, may I----


COLONEL. Well?


BRAITHWAITE. Do you think the old Badger could have a spot of leave, sir? His wife's just had twins.


COLONEL. Barrington's wife. Yes . . . things are pretty quiet. I think perhaps he might. . . . Call him up.


BRAITHWAITE. (calling down) Badger!


[BADGER] FAINT VOICE. Ye-es?


BRAITHWAITE. The Colonel wants you. Come up. (A faint scrambling becomes louder as he nears the surface.) Awfully decent of you, Colonel.


COLONEL. Oh, rot! . . . Hullo, Barrington. What's this you've been up to?


BADGER. Oh, you mean the machine gun, sir.


COLONEL. Machine gun! No. I mean your family.


BADGER (sheepishly). I know, sir. Isn't it awful?


COLONEL. Well, I suppose you'd like to go and see them.


BADGER. Be rather fun, sir, wouldn't it? 


COLONEL. All right. Come down this afternoon. I'll give you a cup of tea and the Adjutant'll give you a leave warrant. . . . (Hurriedly) Now about this machine gun.


BADGER. Thanks most awfully, sir.


COLONEL. About this machine gun, Barrington--you located it, didn't you?


BADGER. Yes, sir. (Tut-tut-tut-tut.) There! It's firing now.


COLONEL. Know where it is?


BADGER. Yes, sir. I spotted the flash. It's in the basement of the Château, firing through the window.


COLONEL. You hear that, Williams. Can you deal with that?


WILLIAMS (cheerfully). Oh, Lord, yes, sir. We'll give Granny some exercise--the fifteen-inch, sir. And there are some nine-twos that'd be the better for a bit of shooting.


COLONEL. Can you see from here--or must we go into the front line?


BADGER. Not here, you can't, sir; but just a few yards on. This way, sir. (Tramp of feet along the trench.) Just here you can, sir.


COLONEL. Let me have a squint.


BRAITHWAITE. Don't show yourself, Colonel. Their snipers are pretty hot. (Crack of rifle fire nearby.) I told you so.


COLONEL. I don't call that hot. Didn't go near me. . . . I see the place you mean, Barrington. Did you see it, Williams?


BADGER. It fires right down our trench, sir. (Tut-tut-tut-tut.) There! They're at it again. Those poor devils in the front line simply daren't move.


COLONEL. We'll soon put that right. Now, Williams, are you through on your telephone?


WILLIAMS. Yes, sir. Got it here with me.


COLONEL. Can you turn the heavies on?


WILLIAMS. Yes, I'll get through now. (Buzz buzz buzz buzz.) Hullo! D Battery? I want Heavies. Hello! Is that you, Reynolds? Williams here. The infantry want some hate on the White Château. Anything doing? Machine gun just moved into the basement. What? Splendid fellow.--He's going to turn on the fifteen-inch, sir.


COLONEL. That ought to brighten the basement a bit. When will he shoot?


WILLIAMS. Hullo, Reynolds! They want to know when. . . . Oh, the earlier the better, the machine gun's enfilading one of their trenches. . . . Right away. Splendid. . . . No. There are no troops in the danger area. Yes, I'll observe for you. . . . He's going to turn 'em on now, sir.


COLONEL. Good work. Well, I must get on to "C" Company. Leave you fellows to enjoy the fun. See you to tea, Barrington. 


BADGER. Yes, sir. Many thanks. 


COLONEL. Good-bye. Come along, orderly. 


(They are heard walking off down the trench.


BRAITHWAITE. Badger, you'd better send your servant down to get your kit ready. Or why not go down yourself? There's nothing for you to do here. 


BADGER. Oh, do you think I might? Well, I'll just see them do in this emma-gee. 


BRAITHWAITE. Don't be an ass. You hop it to the transport lines. You don't know when you're lucky. 


BADGER. I must just see the first shot. . . . Are they ready, Williams? 


WILLIAMS. In a minute. 


(Tut-tut-tut-tut-tut on the machine gun.


BADGER. I'm just going to have a squint at that emplacement. (He clambers on the fire-step.


BRAITHWAITE. Don't be a goat, Badger. There's nothing to see.


BADGER (obstinately). Yes, there is. I believe there's a second gun in the angle of the low wall at the back. (Tut-tut-tut-tut-tut.) (Triumphantly) Yes, there is. I can spot the flash. Williams, there's a----


(Crack. The sound of a shambling fall.)


BRAITHWAITE. (shouting) Stretcher-bearer! ... (groaning) Oh, Badger--why did you? . . . (incoherently) Turn him over--field dressing. My God, in the head . . . it's that wretched sniper.


(The telephone buzz buzz buzz buzz.


WILLIAMS. [INTO PHONE] Hello!--yes? . . .


STRETCHER-BEARER. He's done in, sir.


BRAITHWAITE. (softly) Poor old Badger and his twins . . . Oh, damn this filthy war!


WILLIAMS. Bad luck, Braithwaite. Well--we'll send up a few of the other side to keep him company. We're just going to begin shooting. Hullo! . . . Are you there? Ready. Yes. We're looking out.


(Far-away BOOM . . . a noise like a runaway train. . . . CRRANG, and the thud of falling debris.)


BRAITHWAITE. (excitedly) Sergeant Andrews, get your Lewis gun on those fellows running out of the Château. Quick, man, quick!


(Tut-tut-tut-tut-tut-tutter-tutter-tutter-tut.


WILLIAMS. (delighted) Direct hit first shot, by Jove! Who says the heavies can't shoot? (into the telephone) Hullo!--Reynolds!--By Gad, old man, you got a direct hit. Plumb in the bull. . . . And listen, the machine-gun's crew ran out of the Château and the infantry 've bagged the lot with a Lewis gun. . . . Yes, I'll report on each shell. (BOOM . . .RooooooooOOO-oooooo. . . .CRRANG. The falling of masonry.) Marvellous. The whole west wall's caved in. . . . Go on. There won't be a stone standing to-night. . . . Are the nine-twos going to shoot as well? Yes, I'll observe for them too. Carry on. . . .


(BOOM. . . . BOOM. . . . BOOM. . . .)




FOURTH SCENE


(Music.


THE CHRONICLER.

God gave the day for labour and delight; 

For love and slumber, God gave the night, 

Kisses, sleep, laughter; song and sun and flowers-- 

Were not these enough to fill the Twenty-four Hours? 


Must there be also poison-gas and shell 

And mud; and blood; and death; and devastation-- 

The night--a nightmare from the Deeps of Hell, 

The day--a worse damnation? 

____________________________


(The sound of cautious footsteps advancing along a muddy track.)


[LUTTRELL] A VOICE. (subdued) Sergeant-Major.


[SERGEANT-MAJOR] ANOTHER. Sir.


[LUTTRELL] THE OFFICER: I suppose this is the White Château?


SERGEANT-M. (stolidly). Suppose so, sir. 


[LUTTRELL] OFFICER. Ask that fool of a guide.


SERGEANT-M. Guide's just told me 'e's missed 'is way, sir. 


[LUTTRELL] OFFICER (bitterly). I thought so! Never knew a guide yet that didn't! . . . So like the ruddy Staff to send a battalion over the top without a chance of reconnoitring the ground. I don't know where the hell we are. . . . 


(The whistle and thud of a shell.)


SERGEANT-M. (respectfully chuckling). That is just about where we are, sir, ain't it? (Whizz-bang.


[LUTTRELL] OFFICER (irritably). Never mind the shells. Come under here where I can use my torch. Just have a squint at this map. . . . 


SERGEANT-M. Yes, sir.


[LUTTRELL] OFFICER. Our assembly trench is supposed to be between the Château and the stables. Do you suppose that mound of mud we passed over there is the stables? 


SERGEANT-M. If this 'eap of stones we're on 'ere is the Chattoh, I reckon it would be, sir. 


[LUTTRELL] OFFICER (disgusted). Then where the devil is the trench? (Whoo-Bong some distance off.) I hope that won't catch the Company--we'd better look for it, I suppose. . . . Call that guide here. 


GUIDE. Sir. 


[LUTTRELL] OFFICER. Look here, where is this infernal trench? You're supposed to have reconnoitred the way. 


GUIDE. Is this the White Chattoo, sir?


[LUTTRELL] OFFICER. Hang it. You ought to tell me that. 


GUIDE. I know the way all right, sir, when I get to the White Chattoo. 


[LUTTRELL] OFFICER: Well, you'd better assume this is the White Château. Where we are now, I mean. You go on with my orderly and find the trench. Sergeant-major, you stay with me. (Footsteps receding through the mud.) Lucky we came up in advance of the Company.


SERGEANT-M. It is, sir. Very lucky indeed. 


[LUTTRELL] OFFICER. They ought to be up soon. . . . (A little pause.) Sergeant-major--if I should happen to stop one---- 


SERGEANT-M. (gruffly). Beg pardon, Captain Luttrell, sir. Mustn't talk about stopping one, sir.


LUTTRELL. Well, just in case--look after that young brother of mine. 


SERGEANT-M. 'E'd be in command of the Company, sir, if anything was to 'appen to you. 


LUTTRELL. Of course. Well, see he makes a good show of it. 


SERGEANT-M. (stolidly). Very good, sir. 'E'd do that without any 'elp from me, sir.


LUTTRELL. Yes, I think he would. He's a good youngster, though perhaps I oughtn't to say so.


SERGEANT-M. Very popular with 'is platoon, sir. Men 'd go anywhere with 'im.


LUTTRELL. Then that's all right.


(Noise of tools and equipment clinking, and footsteps in mud.)


SERGEANT-M. Beg pardon, sir. 'Ere's the Company coming up.


LUTTRELL. Now where the deuce is that guide?


GUIDE. 'Ere I am, sir. I found it all right. Quite close, sir.


LUTTRELL (crisply). That's better. . . . Right, Sergeant-major. Lead in by platoons, No. 7 on the right; and I'll come along and inspect 'em as soon as they're all up.


SERGEANT-M. Very good, sir. (He moves away down the trench. His voice is heard a moment later rebuking some unfortunate.) Not so much row with them picks and shovels.


THE REBEL (sotto-voce to his neighbour). And what about 'is bloomin' voice for row?


SERGEANT-M. (sharply). That's quite enough from you, me lad.


LUTTRELL (intervening). Has Mr. Luttrell come up yet? . . .


A SERGEANT. Just behind, sir. . . . Pass the word down for Mr. Luttrell--the Captain wants 'im.


[PHIL] A NEW VOICE. All right. Here I am. . . . Company all up, sir!


LUTTRELL. All right, Phil. I've told the Sergeant-major to see them into position; and we'll go along and inspect them when he reports O. K.


PHIL. Oh. Righty-O! Lord, I'm thirsty. (He drinks.) Have a drink?


LUTTRELL. Thanks, old boy. What is it?


PHIL. Whisky-and-water, half and half. That's the stuff to give the troops. There was a rum ration for the men. We gave it to them at the last halt.


LUTTRELL. Just come up here on the fire-step, Phil. Take care. It's getting light, and, if we're seen, it would give the whole show away. Sergeant Harvey, pass it along that the men are to keep down--and listen--when they get the order to fix bayonets they must not let the tips show above the trench.


SERGEANT. Very good, sir.


LUTTRELL. Go yourself and tell every man in the company personally.


SERGEANT. Yes, sir. (Goes.)


LUTTRELL. Now, Phil, look here. Do you see that spinney? That's Chasseurs Wood, where the right battalion boundary is. We must send a Lewis gun section in there, as soon as we get to the first objective, so as to find touch with the Fifth Scottish.


PHIL. Yes.


LUTTRELL. You see there's the enemy line. Look! There's a patrol just going in. 


PHIL. Shall I turn a Lewis gun on them? 


LUTTRELL. No. Only draw fire. They'll get it good and proper in the next half-hour. . . . When you get the Company into that first line, for Heaven's sake look out for the strong point there on the left. That one--do you see it? The Mound. 


PHIL (echoing). When I get the Company--Tom, aren't you coming over? 


LUTTRELL. I hope so, old boy. But just in case---- 


PHIL. Don't talk rot, old boy. And don't go through this wretched scheme of attack all over again. I've been through it till I know every word in the order by heart, and I'm sick of the very name. . . . This place is a proper Château, isn't it? Not one stone left standing. I bet there are some cushy cellars, though. 


LUTTRELL. How extraordinary it looks in the early morning light. Almost pretty in this red glow.


PHIL. . . . Sunrise! What a gorgeous morning. . . . Do you remember when you were on leave before I came out, that early morning ride out to Melbury, cubbing? We started by candlelight; and saw the sun rise, on the way. Did you get any letters from home last night?


LUTTRELL. Had a line from the governor; and I heard from Sheila. . . . (With a suspicion of a gulp.) Look here, young feller, if anything does happen to me---- 


PHIL. I say, have you been seeing a palmist or reading morbid novels or what? 


LUTTRELL. Shut up and listen. If anything should happen, there's a letter for Sheila in my writing-case--in my valise. . . . And when you see the governor, tell him---- 


PHIL (seriously). But, old boy, why on earth should it be you? It might just as well be me. 


LUTTRELL. Well, I can't explain that, Phil. But it won't be you anyhow. You're all right. I may be too. I don't know. 


PHIL. Old man, you're making me feel absolutely eerie. Don't be an idiot, Tom. I say, old man--let me take the Company over, and you go sick. I swear you don't look a bit well. 


LUTTRELL (sternly). Shut up, Phil, and don't talk like an ass. Shut up, I tell you. Here's the Sergeant-major. 


SERGEANT-M. (reporting). Company all in, sir. 


LUTTRELL (becoming the crisp O.C. again). Right. Pass down the order: Fix bayonets! . . . Phil, if you'll inspect the left half-company I'll do the right. Take Sergeant Harvey with you. See they've got their two hundred rounds, three bombs, and rations; and pick or shovel every third man. . . . And respirators in the alert position. 


PHIL. Righty-O. Come on, Sergeant Harvey. 


LUTTRELL (voice receding). Sergeant-major, you come with me. 


SERGEANT (respectfully). Captain's lookin' a bit queer this mornin', sir. Not ill, I 'ope, sir? 


PHIL. Good Lord, no. And I don't think he looks in the least queer. Of course not. 


SERGEANT (drily). My mistake, sir. . . . 


(Whoo-bong, whoo-bong, whoo-bong--a salvo of shells.


PHIL (anxiously). Lord! I hope those weren't in the trench. (Whoo-bong, whoo-bong, whoo-bong--another salvo.) That's pretty close. (WHOOO-BOUNG--near by) Anybody hurt? 


VOICES. No, sir, it fell clear of the trench. 


PHIL (fervently). Thank the Lord! Now, Sergeant Harvey, come on. . . . Here, that man, keep that confounded rifle of yours down. . . . If you show a bayonet over the top we'll get strafed to blazes! . . . By the way, Sergeant Harvey, how many stretchers are we taking?


SERGEANT. Four, sir--two stretcher-bearers per platoon. Corporal Mathews is in charge of them, sir.


(They still pass down the trench.


PHIL. Righty-O. . . . Here, this fellow's all wrong, surely. Look here----


(Whoooooooo-BONG down the trench; and immediately after CRR-ANG in the trench beside them. Groans.)


SERGEANT (anxiously). You hit, sir? You hit?


PHIL (shakily). No, I'm all right. Help me up . . . This poor devil is, though. Good Lord!


(Groans from the wounded man.


SERGEANT. . . . All right, chum--easy does it. . . . (A gasp of pain and the end.) 'Ere. Lay 'im out in that cubby-'ole there. Corporal Andrews, you see to it. . . . We'd better 'urry on, sir. Time's gettin' on.


PHIL (mechanically). Yes, Sergeant Harvey. . . . What's that?


(A noise of someone hurrying down the trench demanding as he comes)


SERGEANT-M. Is Mr. Luttrell down 'ere? Is Mr. Luttrell down 'ere?


PHIL. It's the Sergeant-major (his voice breaking with anxiety). What is it, Sergeant-major? My brother?


SERGEANT-M. (crisply). Mr. Luttrell, sir. The Captain's killed, sir, and you're in command of the Company. . . . Bear up, sir, we go over in a few minutes. 


PHIL (mechanically). I'm--quite--all right, Sergeant-major. How did it----? Is he----?


SERGEANT-M. Them shells, sir. . . . Better not look at 'im, sir. . . . 'E 'ad no pain, sir, I swear to God. 


PHIL. No . . . (mastering himself). I'm quite all right . . . quite. . . . Sergeant Harvey, carry on with the inspection of the left half-company. Look alive. Don't bother to report to me. There isn't time. Go straight to your platoon. . . . Sergeant-major, did you finish the right half-company?


SERGEANT-M. No, sir. Only No. 6 platoon. 


PHIL. Send Sergeant Daniell. 


SERGEANT-M. Yes, sir. Carry on, Sergeant Daniell. 


PHIL. Sergeant-major, you'll go over in command of the rear waves of the attack. 


SERGEANT-M. That's the Company Commander's place, sir. 


PHIL (through his teeth). I'm going with the first wave. Now, Sergeant-major. You know our job on the first objective and you know where the strong points are to be made? 


SERGEANT-M. Yes, sir, of course. 


PHIL. Have we got that ground sheet for signalling to the aeroplanes? 


SERGEANT-M. Yes, sir--Letter K, sir. 


PHIL. Don't use any flares, for Heaven's sake. They only draw fire. 


SERGEANT-M. (good-naturedly). No, sir. . . . Only two minutes to go now, sir.


PHIL. I know that. . . . Platoon Sergeants to get their men on the fire-step ready to go over directly the barrage starts. . . . Pass it down.


VOICES (discreetly modulated). Right, sir. (The sound of the message being passed from mouth to mouth.


PHIL. . . . Well, Sergeant-major, I'll look for you on the first objective. See the rear waves keep well up with the attack. I expect we'll need 'em. . . . Half a minute to go. 


SERGEANT-M. (confidently). That's right, sir. The Company 'll do you credit, sir.


PHIL. Good Lord, I know that. Only hope I'll do the same. (To his neighbours.) Get ready, men. 


SERGEANT-M. (quietly). Ten seconds, sir. . . . 


(A pause of that time. Then an inferno of sound. The stunning detonations of the counter barrage; and the chatter of machine-gun fire.)


(Music succeeds the din.)




FIFTH SCENE


(Music.


THE CHRONICLER.

You know about the Grand Attack, 

And how we drove our enemies back, 

And how they threw their arms away 

And fled--and fought another day. 

And how they rallied and how we fled, 

Throwing our arms away instead; 

And turned at bay and fought amain, 

And put them on the run again, 

And kept them running till the end. . . . 


You know the cost . . . a bagatelle, 

A mere ten million souls or so, 

The land a holocaust of shell 

On which no blade of grass could grow--

And every trace of man's abode 

Smashed like a harrow-stricken toad. 

____________________________


(The busy sounds of a Casualty Clearing Station, out of which emerges a conversation between an American doctor and the Sister in charge of one of the wards.


THE AMERICAN DOCTOR . . . . quite satisfactory, Sister? 


SISTER. Yes. 


THE DOCTOR. I don't know what we're to do if the casualties continue so high. . . . We're filled here beyond our capacity. 


SISTER. We could run up some huts and tents to take off the less serious cases. 


DOCTOR. Yes. But the staff? I'm short-handed for what we have to do already. . . . Well, we must do the best we can. Do you realize, Sister, that in the battle of last week alone, there were fifty thousand casualties on this front only. And the Director of Medical Services warns me to expect what he calls "a rapid succession of hammer blows." Gee, I do wish they'd get away from flowery language. 


SISTER. And get on with the job. 


DOCTOR. Sure. Well, it's no good meeting trouble half-way. I'd better go round your ward, Sister.


SISTER. Yes. (They begin walking.) Shall we begin with Major Luttrell? 


DOCTOR. Sure. He's nearly fit to travel down to the Base. . . . (To the patient as they reach the bed.) Well, Major, how are things? 


PHILIP (rather weakly). I'm all right. 


DOCTOR. No, sir. You are not all right. But you soon will be. Just let me see the chart, Nurse. Thank you. . . . Yes, you're doing fine. Well--Nurse looking after you all right? 


PHILIP. Much too kind. 


DOCTOR. I don't mind telling you you're in luck's way. Nurse Van Eysen is the finest nurse on the whole Front. We wouldn't lose her for anything you could name. Would we, Sister? 


SISTER. No, indeed. 


DOCTOR. She tried to give us the slip when we moved here; but we weren't taking any. And you're sharing her with General Simcox. 


PHILIP. The old boy behind the screen--at the other end of the room?


DOCTOR. That's it. 


PHILIP. Poor Nurse. . . . I say, Doctor, could I be moved over to the window? I'd like to be able to look out. 


DOCTOR. Sure. Nurse will wheel you over. 


NURSE (her voice is somehow familiar). Yes, Doctor. 


DOCTOR. Just do it right away now, Nurse. Sister and I will manage the General. He's still asleep, isn't he? 


NURSE (it is DIANE). Yes, Doctor. 


DOCTOR. Right. Carry on.


(The sound of their steps moving down the ward to the GENERAL'S bed; and the noise of Phil's bed being wheeled over to the window. Indistinct voices as the DOCTOR greets the GENERAL.) 


PHILIP. Thanks so much. Can you raise me a bit?


DIANE. Yes, certainly. (The clanking of the handle as she raises the bed.) Can you see now?


PHILIP. Splendid. . . . (A little pause.) Nurse, tell me something. Where is this place? All the time I've been here I've had a sort of subconscious sense of familiarity. And now--I seem to know the shape of the country; that scarred gaunt bit of woodland over there; and that heap of broken masonry. There's something about it all that haunts me. . . . Where am I? 


DIANE. (sadly) It is what remains of the White Château. 


PHILIP. The White Château! . . . My God! I thought I knew the place. This is where my brother was killed two years ago! . . . Isn't it ghastly, Nurse? 


DIANE. Yes, it is ghastly . . . and it is all that survives of my home.  . . .


PHILIP. Your home! My dear girl.


DIANE. The White Château is my father's house--Charles Van Eysen. I am Diane Van Eysen.


PHILIP. How can you bear to be here? . . . I'm so very sorry I said it was ghastly.


DIANE. It is worse than ghastly. . . . They shot my brother here on the day the war began. . . . When the hospital moved forward to this spot I nearly asked to be exchanged to another--and then I thought there must be some purpose of the good God; and I stayed. 


PHILIP (very gently). My name's Philip Luttrell. May I call you Diane, as we have both lost our brothers here?


DIANE. Yes, Philip. We will have a compact of friendship. . . . (A little pause.)


PHILIP. Diane, will this war go on for ever? It's spoiling the world and every one in it. . . . (Timidly) But perhaps you want revenge for your brother?


DIANE. No. . . . I did. For a year I prayed . . . oh, terrible things! Remember, I had seen my mother die of grief and my father go out of his mind. But when I became part of the war machine myself, as a Nurse--I found I couldn't hate any more.


PHILIP. I worked it off too. The day my brother was killed I hated the enemy as I didn't know it was possible to hate anything. But----


DIANE. But the old men behind the line on both sides. They hate. And they'll make others hate in the future.


PHILIP. Civilians. Yes. They don't know what war means. Don't realise that it's a huge machine, and that the people who happen to kill are just puppets--like the people that happen to be killed.


DIANE. It is a vast and very dreadful machine; and it sets its mark indelibly, even on those that escape----


PHILIP. Which reminds me that I owe my escape to you.


DIANE. To the hospital--not to me.


PHILIP. I know more than you suppose. I've been delirious but not often unconscious. Shall I tell you the one thing that kept me alive?


DIANE. You had the will to live.


PHILIP. But why? Because--I swear this is true--because I felt I must know who it was, so miraculously gentle, that always hovered over me with great sad wistful eyes and----


DIANE (pleading). Philip, you spoil our compact of friendship if you talk nonsense.


PHILIP. It's the truth. . . . Diane, I'm in love with you. Will you marry me before I go up the line again?


DIANE. If I said I would, it would mean nothing. 


PHILIP. Why? 


DIANE. I don't know if I ought to tell you. 


PHILIP. Please. 


DIANE. Because--you'll never go up the line again. 


PHILIP (quietly). Am I--given up? Do you mean that? 


DIANE. No, no--my dear! But you'll have a stiff knee for years--perhaps for good. 


PHILIP (in dismay). Lord! A cripple! Then I can't ask you to marry me, I suppose? 


DIANE. I didn't say a stiff tongue, you know, Philip. You could try! 


PHILIP (inarticulately). What? . . . But would you? I mean . . . would there be a chance for me, what? 


DIANE (gently). Philip, I'll tell you something. When I saw you brought in . . . I knew why the good God had sent me back here . . . (Alarmed) Philip, you mustn't get up! Lie back at once. 


PHILIP. . . . Darling! (An eloquent pause.


(The tinkle of a hand-bell. Another pause. The tinkle again, rather more emphatic.


DIANE (breathless). Philip darling, you must let me go. It's the General. My other patient. I----


PHILIP. Not unless you kiss me again. . . . Please. 


DIANE. Dear Philip. . . .


(The tinkle again, and an irascible voice.)


GENERAL SIMCOX. Damn these V.A.D.'s. Here, Nurse, Nurse!


DIANE. Oh, Philip, he's furious. I must go.


(The sound of her feet tripping across the room.


GENERAL (aggrieved). Here at last, are you?


DIANE (professionally). You really must wait your turn, General. There's nothing the matter with you but a broken arm; and that poor young officer----


GENERAL {gruffly). Broken heart, I suppose. 


DIANE (coldly). Not at all. But he's been in a terrible fever; and his temperature has to be taken every three hours; and---- 


GENERAL. My dear girl, I'm now fifty-three years of age--and I daresay very dull. But if you think I don't know the difference between a kiss and a thermometer----


DIANE (hurriedly). General--General--please! I'm awfully sorry I neglected you. . . . As a matter of fact--we're engaged--just this moment. 


GENERAL. Oh, well, that's another matter. . . . Here, just tighten this bandage and give me a drink of that barley-water; and then you can go and take his temperature again. (Steps along the ward.


DIANE. S'sh! Here's Doctor. . . . 


DOCTOR. Well, Nurse. Is Major Luttrell quite happy? 


DIANE (demurely). I hope so, Doctor. 


GENERAL (mischievously). Every reason to be!


DOCTOR (gravely). So have you. So have we all. . . . The Army of the South has broken right through . . . and the enemy's asked for an Armistice---- 


DIANE. . . . Philip! Oh, Philip! . . . 


(A burst of cheering in the distance confirms the announcement.


(Music.)




SIXTH SCENE


THE CHRONICLER. 

The air, the sunshine and the trees, 

The song that whispers in the breeze 

Love's mystery, the mating choice, 

The stars, the thrilling human voice--

Life's infinitely varied span, 

These are the heritage of man. 

From which (alas!) he turns away 

To snarl and haggle and dispute, 

Out-tigering the jungle brute 

In schemes to slay and slay and slay-- 

God, in whose name such things are done, 

To whom each side makes anxious prayer, 

How finely is Thy mercy spun, 

Who knowest all, and still canst spare.

____________________________


(The bustle of large building operations. The clang of the works bell. The tread of many feet leaving work for the night. Silence.


DIANE'S VOICE. They're getting on well, Philip.


PHILIP'S VOICE. Magnificently.


DIANE. I'm so glad we had the courage to rebuild, Philip. Without you, I should never have brought myself to do it.


PHILIP. We've got to forget about the war and reconstruct.


DIANE. Not forget, dear. Remember in the right spirit.


PHILIP. Have you realized that where we are standing is just about the site of the Hospital Hut, where you nursed me? 


DIANE. Is it? . . . Did you ever find the spot where your brother was killed? 


PHILIP. We'll go and look for it. It was somewhere between the old Château and the stables. Over this way. (Their footsteps through the grass and weeds.) There ought to be the remains of a trench. Yes. Here it begins. How trivial it looks to-day; and three years ago it meant everything--safety, comfort even, of a kind; and men worked day after day to make it permanent; dug tunnels below it; furnished them rudely and grew to regard them almost as home. And one came back to it, having ventured a few yards out at night, as one might return to a walled city. 


DIANE (suddenly smitten by the surrounding ruin). Oh, Philip, how unspeakably desolate it all is, in the twilight. Shall we ever have the strength to live here? Can trees be made to grow again in this wilderness, and flower-gardens and lawns and shrubberies? Philip, are we trying to do an impossible thing? Look! Look at it in the fading light. Mile after mile after mile of desert! And it used to be all hop-gardens, and wheat-fields, and cosy farms, and woods full of bluebells and violets and little sparkling streams; and, away down there in the hollow, a grave mediaeval town clustered round a great Cathedral and an old, old Gothic Hall.


PHILIP. You're looking back, darling. You must look forward. Turn and look at the New Château. It's going to be a beautiful place. Our children will feel for it just as you feel for the old one. For the rest, it's deserted; but we're only the first of many. In five years the farms and the hop-fields will be there. In ten, the woods. In twenty years, there'll be a new town with a new Cathedral, and perhaps a new Spirit inspiring it. 


DIANE. It will never be the same. . . . Philip, I'm tired.


PHILIP. Stay and rest on that pile of timber. . . . I think I'll go on. I want to find the old front line.


DIANE (repeating herself). It will never be the same.


A VOICE (of infinite sadness). No. It will never be the same.


DIANE. I beg your pardon? . . . I thought I was alone.


VOICE. It will never be the same. It never has been the same and never will be.


DIANE (timidly). You mean the house.


VOICE. I mean the world. . . . Tell me, child, you are rebuilding your house. No stone remained of it. You must begin anew. The vanished associations--the corridor where the children romped at night--the corner under the big leaded windows where you used to steal away with a book--the quaint old wooden seat under the elm tree, where your grandfather always sat at evening. Can you replace these in your building scheme? . . . The world needs rebuilding too. And the old associations have all gone.


DIANE. How sadly you speak of it! 


VOICE. Because I am afraid. I do not know what is coming. The old world is dead. This is a new era. Oh, yes, you think you will begin again where you left off, when the war came; but you will not. New ideas, new methods, new peoples even. Does it make for Peace or War? 


DIANE (fervently). For peace, surely!


VOICE. I hope. But who can say?


DIANE (expostulating). But after so terrible a convulsion--the agony, the loss of life, the ruin, to speak of war again is incredible.


VOICE. The war has dethroned many kings to set up a worse tyrant in their places--Fear! All Europe is afraid. The new ideas may spread in one direction or another--towards a wider comity or towards a harder nationalism. Or, even more dangerous, they may develop in one manner here, and in another there. There is no more pregnant cause of enmity than conflict of ideals. And the new methods! Science ruthlessly applied to destruction! Do you suppose research for war stopped when the Armistice came? It is a powder magazine surrounded by torches of revenge, envy and fear. . . . Are you wise to rebuild?


DIANE. We think so, my husband and I.


VOICE. This House of yours typifies the whole history of Europe. Is it a history to encourage a prudent builder? It stands on this hillock, dominating the plain--see how cunningly the site was chosen; put there as a rude fortification, just a ditch and a palisade fence and a few huts enclosed, in the long, long-forgotten Bronze Age. The tribe that worked these fields came in here with their cattle at night. . . . It was sacked and destroyed. Again it grew up. All through the centuries down to the coming of the Romans this House stood here. The Romans fortified it to guard the road that even then ran along the valley from the sea into the heart of the land. The Germanni sacked it, yet again. It became the stronghold of a chieftain. A great castle grew up--the home of indescribable cruelties. Then the Emperor Charlemagne came here to the christening feast of the son of his niece; and they built an exquisite stone chapel. The tower with the conical roof--you remember that? 


DIANE. Yes! Yes, of course.


VOICE. . . . That was here when the English King Edward went past with his great army to meet the French at Cambrai. For centuries there were wars hereabouts; but wars that seemed to matter less than the bestial destructiveness of the early peoples and the relentless weapons of later times. They stole, of course--all armies steal. But they left the beautiful buildings; they left the trees. Not so much because they had less will to do mischief as that they lacked the means to do it. Then in the wars of Alva, the Old Château that had stood since Charlemagne was almost burnt to the ground. It was a war for God, you understand. Catholic and Protestant. They burnt the Châtelaine at the stake; and set fire to the poor stones because they had been home of a heretic. And then the New Château, as they called it, was destroyed when the great Marlbrouck fought at Malplaquet. And when again it had been restored, it was destroyed afresh in the campaigns of Napoleon. And after Napoleon, people said, "There can be no more war. It is too wasteful, too uncivilized." But the White Château saw the German army pass in 1870. And now, for all the prophecies, it has been destroyed again; and no single stone remains on another. And once more you build it up. Are you wise?


DIANE. You seem to be strangely familiar with the history of my Château. I suppose you're a student from the University. . . . I can't see you at all in this darkness.


VOICE. I know it because it is my own history. The White Château. I am the White Château.


DIANE. (puzzled) You mean the builder--the contractor.


VOICE. I mean what dwells among the stones and gives the building its own individual character.


DIANE. You mean--a spirit?


VOICE. If you prefer--a spirit. What? You thought it was only bricks and mortar--a few stones piled one above another! Do you imagine when something is made that the good God sees to be beautiful, He does not put a soul in it? Can you suppose there is no soul in the Abbey of Beauvais, or of Westminster, or of Notre Dame de Paris? Do you think there is nothing but stones in the poor mutilated Cathedral of Ypres?


DIANE (timidly). And--are you coming back to live in the new building?


VOICE. I am here in any case as long as the memory of the Château survives. . . . I only ask if you are wise, because I have watched you grow, Diane. And I would have you make your home with your new husband, where it will not be rooted up like your poor Château and your children taken away to fight and perish. Are you well advised to return?


DIANE. I wish I knew. Over there in England, where my husband married me, it seemed clear enough. One learnt to forget a little of the horror--in England they have never seen the whole face of their country torn up and wasted. But here it seems as though the terrible passions of the war were still hovering over one. . . . And yet--I believe the world has learnt its lesson. 


VOICE. Everywhere, despite famine, despite misery, everywhere people are forgetting why they fought, and even the horror of the fighting. . . . Why did you fight, Diane? 


DIANE. We had to fight. War was forced on us. 


VOICE. Your late enemies say the same; but put that aside. You fought. You have won. What have you settled? . . . In all history there has been no war, except perhaps of extermination, that did not pave the way for another. Is your war the exception? 


DIANE. Ours was a war to end war. 


VOICE. That is a charming aspiration. But what have you done to ensure its fulfilment? 


DIANE. We have made the League of Nations. 


VOICE. That is a picturesque phrase. If it becomes a fact your victory is secure. If it remains a phrase your destruction will be accomplished through it, and will be the swifter. . . . For make no mistake, Diane. The next time is the last time. The civilization of Europe will vanish. You and the White Château will go with it, beyond possibility of redemption. . . . There is America--the British Empire--the Far East. The world is wide, Diane. . . . Do you still rebuild? . . .


DIANE. Yes. Because I believe. 


VOICE (mockingly). In the League of Nations?


DIANE. In God.


VOICE. Ah! In God. Yes. But why should He be for ever pulling his naughty children out of the fires they light themselves? . . . The patience of God may be wearing thin, Diane.


DIANE. We who have passed through the bitterness of war--surely we should make our lives where our knowledge can guard against another. . . . I'll stay here, and teach young people.


VOICE. . . . If the young will be taught. You won't find it easy; but it's brave. And with faith and courage all things are possible. . . .


A little silence.


PHILIP'S VOICE. Diane . . . Diane . . . Wake up, old thing!


DIANE (stupidly). Hullo!--what? Have I been asleep?


PHILIP. Dead asleep. I found my old trench; it runs down into that little hollow. . . . Brr! Isn't it cold? Come on, we've a forty-mile drive before dinner. . . . Look out, it's pitch dark. Don't stumble!


DIANE. . . . I have heard a voice and seen a light . . . (she laughs confidently). Don't worry, Philip. We're not going to stumble. 


PHILIP (softly, as he takes her meaning). . . . Please God! (their footsteps receding).


THE VOICE OF THE CHÂTEAU. (almost a whisper) Youth and Faith, hand in hand, the heralds of Peace. . . . Hate cleansed by suffering. (A note of triumph creeping in) Ambition thwarted by calamity. Only Fear now to be overcome ... (crescendo).


Courage, O Peoples of the World!

It is so small a step into the Dawn. . . .




THE END


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