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lsT VOIcE. But they even suggest reconsidering the question of Lilliput.
ALL TOGETHER. Who dares to mention peace till they have restored Brobdingnag and given back Lilliput ; given me the seaboard of Bohemia . . .
ANOTHER VOIcE. Given me also the seaboard of Bo . . .
ONE VOIcE AFTER ANOTHER. We can’t talk of peace till they have been dismembered and for ever silenced. It wouldn’t really be peace unless we received our strategic frontiers. It wouldn’t really be peace unless we had restored our natural boundaries. It wouldn’t really be peace until we had realized our racial aspirations. It wouldn’t really be peace until we had reconstituted our historical Empire.
ONE VOIcE (deliberately). It wouldn’t be peace until we had the other bank of the Hydaspes. It wouldn’t be peace until we had got the mines of antimony. It would not be peace until we had realized the formula of the Carolingian Kings and of the Patriots of the year 4.. It wouldn’t be peace till we had reclaimed the Asiatic appanage of our Crusaders!
Someone in the council room hums “Partant pour le Syrie.”
ANOTHER VOIcE (enthusiastically). It wouldn’t be peace till we had fulfilled the aspirations of D’Annunzio. It wouldn’t be peace until we had re-established the Wedding of the Adriatic.
3RD VOIcE. It wouldn’t be peace until we had re-established the Kingdom of Mazeppa.
4TH VOIcE. It wouldn’t be peace until we had re-established the Empire of Ziska.
OTHER VOIcEs. It wouldn’t be peace until we had re-estab
lished the Kingdom of Ladislaus. It wouldn’t be peace until we’d re-established the Kingdom of Borislaus. It wouldn’t be peace until we had re-established the Kingdom of Wenceslaus. It wouldn’t be peace until we had re-established the Kingdom of Mithridates. It wouldn’t be peace until we had re-established the Kingdom of Tiridates. It wouldn’t be peace until we had re-established the Empire of Alexander. It wouldn’t be peace until we’d re-established the Empire of Solomon. It wouldn’t be peace until we had re-established the Empire of the Queen of Sheba.
IsT VoIcE. It won’t be peace till all my bondholders get paid up their interest.
Caorws. Peace traps! Peace traps! Peace traps!
A HUBBUB or VoIcEs. Peace? Then why did we go to war? You promised . . . we promised . . . they promised . . . We insist on your promise . . . We have made no promises . . . We always keep our promises.
AUTHORITATIVE VoIcE (serenely). I repeat that we are none of us out for aggrandisement, but for the future peace of the world. We must go on fighting to establish a really lasting peace, equally just towards friends and foes.
AHUBBUB or VOIcEs. You promised . . . We promised . . . They promised . . . We insist on your promises! It isn’t a matter of aggrandisement! It isn’t a matter of prestige! It is a question of principle! It is a question of guarantees! It is a question of permanent peace! This must never happen again! We can’t have such things happening again! This must be the last war! We must have guarantees of future peace! We will fight to the last man until we have guarantees of future peace! (A pause and wheeze.) Lasting peace! Last man! Last penny! Last drop of blood! Last war! Guarantees! Guarantees! Guarantees! Guarantees of lasting peace!
The gramophone gabbles all this out louder and faster, while the cinema figures move and gesticulate quicker, until
THE MUsE and AoEs-To-CoIvIE (holding their hands to their
ears). Oh! do stop that horrible row! Oh! what are they all talking about ?
SATAN suddenly switches off the current. The screen is again blank. The gramophone wheezes and stops.
SATAN. Rather a Babel, wasn’t it ? And what you have heard is comparatively plain sailing. Why, we haven’t come to Victory and its Fruits, nor to the conflicting Self-Determination of the New Nationalities ; we haven’t come to the Fourteen Points and the Secret Treaties ; we haven’t come to Famine and Revolution and Bolshevism. Excellent as is my magic apparatus, you couldn’t possibly make head or tail of that. It will take fifty years in fifty archives to clear up the muddle. Indeed, if you were to ask me, even I couldn’t tell you on the spur of the moment how in the world it all leads to the end. Well, that is the kind of stufl that you, dear Muse of History, will have to translate into clear and stately language for the benefit of our enlightened patrons here, the Ages-toCome. And now you have seen my Ballet of the Nations under all its aspects, you will, I trust, appreciate its tragic splendour onlythe more for having adequately realized the paltriness of the mysterious machinery which lies behind it. This contradiction between the visible effects and the hidden cause is, indeed, one of my finest bits of poetic irony.
Ladies and gentlemen of my indulgent audience, you will, I doubt not, also appreciate all that Stage-Manager Satan owes to his varied and accomplished personnel. It needs the strident and crashing, yet not inharmonious, music of the Orchestra of Patriotism, the silver trumpet of Idealism and woodland horn of Adventure, the harmonium of Self-Righteousness, the rustling wings of Pity and Indignation, the youthful voice of Heroism, even the whistles and fog-horns of poor old Widow Fear and her grotesque and cruel children Suspicion and Panic, to lend attraction and dignity to what my cinematograph films and gramophone records have revealed to you. It needs . . .
DEATH (cutting short SATAN’s speech). It needs Ballet Master Death.
DEATH, who has been lying dead drunk across the sleeping body of HEROIsM, has, with a sudden clatter of his bones, lurched up into a sitting posture, clasping his knees with skeleton hands. He nods and leers with drunken fatuity at the MUsE and the AoEs-To~CoME, and repeats in drunkard’s tones: “ It needs BALLET MAsTER DEATH ! That’s what it needs, my dears/ ” The MUsE and the AoEs-To-CoME fall a step back, gathering up their garments in well-bred disgust. For, with his change of posture, it has become apparent that DEATH, who has been hitherto lying unnoticed, is the worse not only for liquor, but for all his previous exertions: the natty BALLET MAsTER has turned into a tattered tramp ; his bones have worked his evening suit into rags, his wig has fallen off, and through the rents of his once smart white waistcoat and shirt there is a glimpse of something far worse than a mere skeleton.
SATAN (with a gesture of wrath). Silence ! you filthy carnagedrunken sot!
DEATH. Oho! “ Silence,” quotha ? Is it “ silence ” your Lordship condescends to say to your poor disowned bastard now that you have let himhave the honour of conducting for you your Ballet of the Nations, and he has made it into your greatest hit ? Well, let me tell you, my respected illegitimate parent, that all your fine performers, your virtuous Passions—oh, yes, Pity and Indignation, Madame Idealism and dear little Prince Adventure, and all your Orchestra of Patriotism, would not have got a single spectator to sit through your silly performance if it had not been for Ballet Master Death and his skull and rotten bones. Who cares a damn nowadays for Satan, or Hell, or Evil? Exploded myths, all of them! I am the great Reality, who bring with me Fear and Suspicion and Panic, and Cruelty, and Hatred and the harmonium of SelfRighteousness and all the popular performers. It is Ballet Master Death, let me tell your empty transcendental Archangelship, who draws an audience!
SATAN remains speechless with anger.
DEATH (sitting up and turning round). Hullo! you there, Heroism, my jolly blind boy! you, at all events, have never doubted the powers of your old crony Death! Come, my lad, lend me a hand and help me on to my legs that I may go and sit on the throne of that metaphysical Archangel of a father of mine, so that the world may see that it is Ballet Master Death who runs its great dramatic shows and sets its peoples adancing!
HEROIsM (getting up from the ground). Whose is that hideous braggart voice which calls upon me in the name of Death ? For that is not the voice, those cannot be the words, of him I have so loved. And what . . . what, for mercy’s sake, is this loathsome something I have grasped ?
HEROIsM, who has stretched out his arm to clasp DEATH, suddenly withdraws his hand and holds it up in astonishment and disgust.