Peace and Then—? By Detlev Fredrik Tillisch 

Suburb of London. Three months after declaration of peace. Time: Noon.

CAST

Mrs. Claire Hamilton—about 35 years of age—portly—simply dressed.

Master Hal Hamilton—her son—about 10 years of age—full of life—dressed in Boy Scout uniform.

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 letter aloud.

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 daddy.

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 fight too.

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 plant, sir.

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 ruffian.

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 ago?

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 off.)

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 perplexed.)

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 daddy's birthday.

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.