Peace and Then—? By Detlev Fredrik Tillisch
Suburb of London. Three months after declaration of peace.
Mrs. Claire Hamilton—about 35 years of age—portly—simply
Master Hal Hamilton—her son—about 10 years
of age—full of life—dressed in Boy Scout
Mr. John Hamilton—soldier—botanist—about 39
years of age—tall—well built.
Sergeant, soldiers and pedestrians.
Claire Hamilton is seen fixing her corner flower stand and endeavoring
to sell her plants to passers-by, but after three futile attempts she
becomes tired of standing and takes seat on wooden bench in front of
her stand. Takes letter from pocket—sighs and begins to read
Mrs. Hamilton (reading). "Dearest Love and Hal Boy—We are
still in the bowels of hell—but even this would be nothing if I but
knew my loved ones were well and happy. (She wipes away a tear and
continues reading.) Nothing but a miracle can end this terrible
war. Give my own dear Hallie boy a kiss from his longing papa."
(She lays letter on her lap and meditates.) Peace (shakes
her head—looks at date of letter.) February 16th—six months past
and now it's all over—three months ago—Oh, God, bring him back to me
and my boy. (She goes back of flower stand and brings out box of
mignonettes. Hal comes running in with bundle of newspapers and very
much excited—his sleeve is torn. He stands still and looks at mother
rather proudly and defiantly.)
Mrs. Hamilton. Hal Boy—what's the trouble?
Hal. I licked Fritz.
Mrs. Hamilton. What for?
Hal. He said it took the whole world to lick the Germans.
Mrs. Hamilton. But, Hal, my boy—the war is over—you mustn't
be hateful—be kind and forgiving.
Hal. Make them bring back my daddy then.
Mrs. Hamilton. You still have your mother—(Hal runs to
mother and embraces her tenderly.)
Mrs. Hamilton. Whose birthday is it to-day? (He
thinks—pause.) This is the 20th of August—now think hard.
(She awaits answer—silence—then takes box of mignonettes.)
Whose favorite flower is the mignonette?
Hal. Papa's! Papa's! (Claps his hands boyishly.)
Mrs. Hamilton. Yes, Hal—it's papa's birthday and mother is
remembering the day by decorating our little stand with the flowers
your papa has grown. (He caresses the mignonettes tenderly.)
Hal. Dear daddy—dear flowers—aren't they lovely, mother?
Mrs. Hamilton. Yes, Hal. (She wipes away a tear, trying to
conceal her emotions from her son.)
Hal. Maybe some day I'll be a famous botanist like papa and
then you'll have two boxes. (Mother is silent trying to keep back
the tears and Hal notices it.) Papa is coming home soon, isn't he,
mother? (She just shakes her head.)
Mrs. Hamilton. We must be brave.
Hal. When I get big I'm going to be a soldier and be brave like
Mrs. Hamilton. That won't be necessary any more—it isn't the
people who want to fight.
Hal. But daddy did and you bet if anybody makes me sore I'll
Mrs. Hamilton. No, my boy—daddy didn't want to fight——
Hal. Then why did he go?
Mrs. Hamilton. Hal, you're a little boy and wouldn't
understand—but just remember what your mother tells you: Don't be
selfish—be tolerant, honest and charitable to all the peoples of the
world, the big and the small alike. (Enter passer-by who stops to
look over plants. After Mrs. Hamilton has shown several and given him
prices, he picks up the box of mignonettes.)
Man. I'll take this box.
Mrs. Hamilton (confused, not knowing whether to tell stranger about
that particular box of flowers or sell it, as she sorely needs money.
Then she picks up another plant to show it.) Here's a very sturdy
Man. But I want this one. (Pointing to box of
mignonettes.) How much is it? I'm in a hurry.
Hal (goes to stranger and takes box from his hands). You can't
have them—they're daddy's.
Man (pushing him to one side). Get away from here, you little
Mrs. Hamilton. That's my son, sir—he's not a ruffian. His
father has not returned from the front and that——
Man (interrupting). Oh, yes—yes—we hear those stories every
day now on every corner—it's the beggar's capital. (He walks away
hurriedly, but Hal starts after with clenched fist.)
Mrs. Hamilton. Hal! Hal! What did mother tell you a few moments
Hal (coming back). But he made me sore.
Mrs. Hamilton. What's the news—(Hal hands her a paper,
kisses her and starts up street.)
Hal. Paper—extra—paper! (He disappears.)
Mrs. Hamilton (is attracted by headlines in paper and begins to
read aloud). "Fifty men return to-day from the front to be placed
in the asylum." (She buries her face in her hands.) Better that
he were dead. (Sound of footsteps is heard. Enter detachment of ten
men in uniform in charge of a sergeant. They swing corner of flower
stand and Mrs. Hamilton watches every man and there is a tense
silence. Suddenly Mrs. Hamilton rushes toward them.)
Mrs. Hamilton. John! John! My boy! (They halt. Mrs. Hamilton
swoons. Sergeant goes to her and assists her to bench in front of
stand. She becomes calm and goes toward husband with out-stretched
arms.) Don't you know me? Claire, your wife! (He stares at her,
but shows no signs of recognition.) You remember Hal—Hal, your
own boy—our little boy—John! (He just looks at her and smiles
foolishly. Sergeant takes her gently by the arm to lead her away,
thinking her hysterically mistaken as many others have been.)
Sergeant. Are you quite sure, madam, that he is your husband?
Mrs. Hamilton. Yes—John Hamilton—have you no record——
Sergeant. Not yet. But time will clear away any doubts——
Mrs. Hamilton. Time—time! I've waited long enough on time.
He's mine and I want him. (Turns toward husband.) You want to
stay here with me and our boy—don't you, John? (Pause.)
Sergeant, let me have him.
Sergeant (trying to hide his emotion). You're quite sure,
madam—(Mrs. Hamilton nods and sergeant takes John from ranks. John
just stares. Mrs. Hamilton leads him tenderly to seat. Sergeant starts
others to march.)
Sergeant. I'll return for him after delivering these men.
(Mrs. Hamilton takes no notice of his remarks and they march
Mrs. Hamilton (kissing his hands tenderly and giving him all signs
of love and affection). Doesn't it seem good to be with us again?
(He smiles foolishly.) And our boy Hal—He is so large
now—You'll see him soon. Think of it—he's ten years old. (Hal
enters and without noticing father rushes toward his mother, holding a
package in his hand. His father sees him and notices his
uniform—rises quickly and rushes toward him but mother grabs his arm
and holds him back. Hal remains standing.)
Mrs. Hamilton. That's Hal—your own boy. Hal—your son.
Mr. Hamilton (looks at Hal fiercely). Attention! (Hal looks
Mrs. Hamilton. This is your own papa—my boy. (Hal runs
toward him but stops.)
Mr. Hamilton. Attention! (His hands grab his pocket for
revolver but finds none.) You scullion—this is my girl! (Turns
and puts arms around Mrs. Hamilton.) Aren't you, Sissy? (Mrs.
Hamilton realizes situation and plays her part—leads him to
seat—strokes his hair and caresses him.)
Mrs. Hamilton. What have you, Hal?
Hal. I sold all my papers and brought you a little cake for
Mrs. Hamilton (smiles and shakes her head. She takes box of
mignonettes and shows them to Mr. Hamilton.). You surely remember
these—your own mignonettes—your prize? (She is silent. He smells
flowers—she anxiously awaits any signs of recognition—long pause—a
slight spark of intelligence comes over him as he fondles the
flowers—Mrs. Hamilton very tense but says nothing. Hal remains
standing as if rooted to the spot. Enter sergeant.)
Sergeant. I must deliver him with the others, madam. (No
reply.) It's my duty. (He goes to take Mr. Hamilton by the arm,
but Mrs. Hamilton interferes.)
Mrs. Hamilton. Duty! Duty! It has been my duty to slave and
starve—my husband has done his duty—he volunteered his services—I
willingly let him go—for what? For whom? (Pause.) Now it's all
over. This is the result to me—to thousands, but now—(stands
between Mr. Hamilton and sergeant)—God has brought him back to me
and God will keep him with me!
Mr. Hamilton (in a whisper). God—(rubs hands over
eyes)—God—— (Smells fragrance of the mignonettes. He takes Mrs.
Hamilton's hand and Hal runs to him and kneels beside him.) My
mignonette. (Smiles to Mrs. Hamilton and Hal.) My mignonettes.