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Title: Rada - A Belgian Christmas Eve
Author: Noyes, Alfred, 1880-1958
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Rada - A Belgian Christmas Eve" ***

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[Illustration: THE BAYONETS]


                        A BELGIAN CHRISTMAS EVE


                             ALFRED NOYES


                          METHUEN & CO. LTD.
                         36 ESSEX STREET W.C.

_First Published in 1915_


    Thou whose deep ways are in the sea,
      Whose footsteps are not known,
    To-night a world that turned from Thee
      Is waiting--at Thy Throne.

    The towering Babels that we raised
      Where scoffing sophists brawl,
    The little Antichrists we praised--
      The night is on them all.

    The fool hath said ... The fool hath said ...
      And we, who deemed him wise,
    We, who believed that Thou wast dead,
      How should we seek Thine eyes?

    How should we seek to Thee for power,
      Who scorned Thee yesterday?
    How should we kneel in this dread hour?
      Lord, teach us how to pray.

    Grant us the single heart once more
      That mocks no sacred thing,
    The Sword of Truth our fathers wore
      When Thou wast Lord and King.

    Let darkness unto darkness tell
      Our deep unspoken prayer;
    For, while our souls in darkness dwell,
      We know that Thou art there.


 THE BAYONETS                    _Frontispiece_

                                    FACING PAGE

 OVER THE JAWS OF THE CROWD                  16


 THE VAMPIRE                                 56

_Reproduced from etchings by Goya_


    Under which banner? It was night
      Beyond all nights that ever were.
    The Cross was broken. Blood-stained Might
      Moved like a tiger from its lair,
    And all that heaven had died to quell
    Awoke, and mingled earth with hell.

    For Europe, if it held a creed,
      Held it thro' custom, not thro' faith.
    Chaos returned in dream and deed,
      Right was a legend--Love, a wraith;
    And That from which the world began
    Was less than even the best in man.

    God in the image of a snake
      Dethroned that dream, too fond, too blind,
    The man-shaped God whose heart could break,
      Live, die and triumph with mankind;
    A Super-snake, a Juggernaut,
    Dethroned the Highest of human thought.

    Choose, England! For the eternal foe
      Within thee, as without, grew strong,
    By many a super-subtle blow
      Blurring the lines of right and wrong
    In Art and Thought, till nought seemed true
    But that soul-slaughtering cry of _New!_

    New wreckage of the shrines we made
      Thro' centuries of forgotten tears....
    We knew not where their hands had laid
      Our Master. Twice a thousand years
    Had dulled the uncapricious sun.
    Manifold worlds obscured the One;

    Obscured the reign of Law, our stay,
      Our compass thro' the uncharted sea,
    The one sure light, the one sure way,
      The one firm base of Liberty;
    The one firm road that men have trod
    Thro' Chaos to the Throne of God.

    _Choose ye!_ A hundred legions cried
      Dishonour, or the instant sword!
    Ye chose. Ye met that blood-stained tide,
      A little kingdom kept its word;
    And, dying, cried across the night,
    _Hear us, O earth, we chose the Right._

    Whose is the victory? Though ye stood
      Alone against the unmeasured foe,
    By all the tears, by all the blood,
      That flowed, and have not ceased to flow,
    By all the legions that ye hurled
    Back thro' the thunder-shaken world;

    By the old that have not where to rest,
      By lands laid waste and hearths defiled,
    By every lacerated breast,
      And every mutilated child,
    Whose is the victory? Answer, ye
    Who, dying, smiled at tyranny:--

    _Under the sky's triumphal arch
      The glories of the dawn begin.
    Our dead, our shadowy armies, march
      E'en now, in silence, thro' Berlin--
    Dumb shadows, tattered blood-stained ghosts,
    But cast by what swift following hosts!_

    And answer, England! _At thy side,
      Thro' seas of blood, thro' mists of tears,
    Thou that for Liberty hast died
      And livest, to the end of years._
    And answer, earth! Far off, I hear
    The pæans of a happier sphere:--

    _The trumpet blown at Marathon
      Exulted over earth and sea;
    But burning angel lips have blown
      The trumpets of thy Liberty,
    For who, beside thy dead, could deem
    The faith, for which they died, a dream?_

    _Earth has not been the same, since then.
      Europe from thee received a soul,
    Whence nations moved in law, like men,
      As members of a mightier whole,
    Till wars were ended...._ In that day,
    So shall our children's children say.


 RADA, wife of the village doctor.

 BETTINE, her daughter, aged twelve.

 BRANDER  { German soldiers quartered in her house
 TARRASCH { during the occupation of the village.

 NANKO, an old, half-witted schoolmaster, living in the care of the
   doctor. He has a delusion that it is always Christmas Eve.

 German soldiers.



 _The action takes place in a Belgian village, during the War of 1914.
   The scene is a room in the doctor's house. On the right there is
   a door opening to the street, a window with red curtains, and a
   desk under the window. On the left there is a large cupboard with a
   door on either side of it, one leading to a bedroom and the other
   to the kitchen. At the back an open fire is burning brightly. Over
   the fireplace there is a reproduction in colours of the Dresden
   Madonna. The room is lit only by the firelight and two candles in
   brass candlesticks, on a black oak table, at which the two soldiers
   are seated, playing cards and drinking beer._

 _RADA, a dark handsome woman, sits on a couch to the left of the fire,
   with her head bowed in her hands, weeping._

 _NANKO sits cross-legged on a rug before the fire, rubbing his hands,
   snapping his fingers, and chuckling to himself._

TARRASCH (_throwing down the cards_).

Pish! You have all the luck. (_He turns to RADA_) Look here, my
girl, where is the use of snivelling? We've been killing pigs all
day and now we want to unbuckle a bit. You ought to think yourself
infernally lucky to be alive at all, and I'm not sure that you will be
so fortunate when the other boys come back. Wheedled them out of the
house finely, didn't you? On a fine wildgoose chase, too. Hidden money!
Refugees don't bury their money and leave the secret behind them.
You've been whimpering ever since we two refused to believe you. What's
your game, eh? I warn you there'll be hell to pay when they come back.

RADA (_sobbing and burying her face_).

God, be pitiful!


This is war, this is! And you can't expect war to be all swans and
shining armour. No--nor smart uniforms either. Look at the mud my
friend and I have already annexed from Belgium. Brander, you know it's
a most astonishing fact; but I have remarked it several times. Those
women whose eyes glitter at the sight of a spiked helmet are the first
to be astonished by the realities of war. They expect the dead to jump
up and kiss them and tell them it is all a game, as soon as the battle
is ended. No, no, my dear; it's only in war that one sees how small is
one's personal happiness in comparison with greater things. Isn't it?

 (_He fills a glass and drinks. BRANDER lights a cigar._)


Exactly. In times of peace we forget those eternal silences. We value
life too highly. We become domesticated. Why, I suppose in this
magnificent war there have been so many women and children killed
that they would fill the great Cloth Hall at Ypres; and, as for the
young men, there have been so many slaughtered that their dead bodies
would fill St. Peter's at Rome. Why, I suppose they would fill the
three hundred abbeys of Flanders and all the cathedrals in the world
chock-full from floor to belfry, wouldn't they? How Goya would have
loved to paint them! Can't you see it?

 (_He grows ecstatic over the idea._)

    Tournai with its five clock-towers, Ghent, and Bruges,
    Louvain and Antwerp, Rheims and Westminster,
    Under the round white moon, on Christmas Eve,
    With towers of frozen needlework, and spires
    That point to God; but all their painted panes
    Bursting with dreadful arms and gaping faces,
    Gargoyles of flesh; and round them, in the snow,
    The little cardinals, like gouts of blood,
    The little bishops, running like white mice,
    Hooded with violet spots, quite, quite dismayed
    To find there was no room for them within
    Upon that holy night when Christ was born.

But perhaps if Goya were living to-day he would prefer to pack them
into Chicago meat factories, with the intellectuals dancing outside
like marionettes, and the unconscious Hand of God pulling the strings.
You know one of their very latest theories is that He is a somnambulist.


You should read Schopenhauer, my dear, and learn to estimate these
emotions at their true value. You would then be able to laugh at these
feelings which seem to you now so important. It is the mark of _Kultur_
to be able to laugh at all sentiments. Isn't it?


The priests, I suppose, are still balancing themselves on the
tight-rope, over the jaws of the crowd. The poor old Pope did his best
for his Master, when the Emperor asked him for a blessing on the war.
"_I_ bless Peace," said the Pope; but nobody listened. I composed a
little poem about that. I called it St. Peter's Christmas. It went like

    And does the Cross of Christ still stand?
      Yes, though His friends may watch from far--
    And who is this at His right hand,
      This Rock in the red surf of war?

    This, this is he who once denied,
      And turned and wept and turned again.
    Last night before an Emperor's pride
      He stood and blotted out that stain.

    Last night an Emperor bared the sword
      And bade him bless. He stood alone.
    Alone in all the world, _his_ word
      Confessed--and blessed--a loftier throne.

    I hear, still travelling towards the Light,
      In widening waves till Time shall cease,
    The Power that breathed from Rome last night
      His infinite whisper--_I bless Peace._

 (_TARRASCH and BRANDER applaud ironically._)



Excellent! Excellent! (_To RADA_) You should have seen our brave
soldiers laughing--do you remember, Brander--at a little village near
Termonde. They made the old vicar and his cook dance naked round the
dead body of his wife, who had connived at the escape of her daughter
from a Prussian officer.


Ah, that was reality, wasn't it? None of your provincial respectability
about that, none of your shallow conventionality! That's what the age


It was brutal, I confess; but better than British hypocrisy, eh? There
was something great about it, like the neighing of the satyrs in the
Venusberg music.

RADA (_sinking on her knees by the couch and sobbing_).

God! God!


They were beginning to find out the provincialism of their creeds in
England. The pessimism of Schopenhauer had taught them much; and if it
had not been for this last treachery, this last ridiculous outburst of
the middle-class mind on behalf of what they call honour, we should
have continued to tolerate (if not to enjoy), in Berlin, those plays by
Irishmen which expose so wittily the inferior _Kultur_, the shrinking
from reality, of their (for the most part) not intellectual people. I
have the honour, madam, to request that you should no longer make this
unpleasant sound of weeping. You irritate my nerves. Have you not two
men quartered upon you instead of one? And are they not university
students? If your husband and the rest of the villagers had not
resisted our advance, they might have been alive, too. In any case,
your change is for the better. Isn't it?

 (_He lights a cigar._)


Exactly! Exactly! You remember, Rada, I used to be a schoolmaster
myself in the old days; and if _you_ knew what _I_ know, you wouldn't
cry, my dear. You'd understand that it's entirely a question of the
survival of the fittest. A biological necessity, that's what it is. And
Haeckel himself has told us that, though we may resign our hopes of
immortality, and the grave is the only future for our beloved ones, yet
there is infinite consolation to be found in examining a piece of moss
or looking at a beetle. That's what the Germans call the male intellect.


Is this man attempting to be insolent?

 (_He rises as if to strike_ NANKO.)

BRANDER (_tapping his forehead_).

Take no notice of him. He's only a resident patient. He was not calling
you a beetle. He has delusions. He thinks it is always Christmas Eve.
That's his little tree in the corner. As Goethe should have said--

    There was a little Christian.
    He had a little tree.
    Up came a Superman
    And cracked him, like a flea.

TARRASCH (_laughing_).

Very good! You should send that to the _Tageblatt_, Brander.

Well, Rada, or whatever your name is, you'd better find something for
us to eat. I'm sick of this whimpering.

Wouldn't your Belgian swine have massacred us all, if we'd given them
the chance? We've thousands of women and children at home snivelling
and saying, "Oh! my God! Oh! my God!" just like you.

RADA (_rising to her feet in a fury of contempt_).

    Then why are you in Belgium, gentlemen?
    Is it the husks and chaff that the swine eat,
    Or is it simply butchery?

 (_They stare at her in silence, over-mastered for a moment by her
   passion. Then, her grief welling up again, she casts herself down on
   the couch, and buries her face in her hands, sobbing._)

    God! God! God!



Don't you trouble about God. What can _He_ do when both sides go down
on their marrow-bones? He can't make both sides win, can He?


That's how the intellectuals prove He doesn't exist. Either He is not
almighty, they say, or else He is unjust enough not to make both sides
win. But all those anthropomorphic conceptions are out of date now,
even in England, as this gentleman very truly said. You see, it was so
degrading, Rada, to think that God had anything in common with mankind
(though love was once quite fashionable), and as we didn't know of
anything higher than ourselves we were simply compelled to say that
He resembled something lower, such as earthquakes, and tigers, and
puppet-shows, and ideas of that sort. Reality above all things! You
may see God in sunsets; but there was nothing _real_ about the _best_
qualities of mankind. It's curious. The more intellectual and original
you are, the lower you have to go, and the more likely you are to end
in the old dance of charlatans and beasts. I suppose that's an argument
for tradition and growth. If we call it Evolution, nobody will mind
very much.

RADA (_wringing her hands in an agony of grief_).

Oh, God, be pitiful, be pitiful!

BRANDER (_standing in front of her_).

Look here, we've had enough of this music. I've been watching you, and
there's more upon your mind than sorrow for the dead. Why were you so
anxious to wheedle us all out of the house? Tarrasch has warned you
there'll be hell to pay when the others come back. What was the game,
eh? You'd better tell me. You couldn't have thought you were going to
escape through our lines to-night.

 (_There is a sudden uproar outside, and a woman's scream, followed by
   the terrified cry of a child._)

Ah! Ah! Father!


Hear that. The men are mad with brandy and blood and--other things.
There's no holding them in, even from the children. You needn't wince.
Even from the children, I say. What chance would there be for a
fine-looking wench like yourself?

No, you were not going to try that. You've something to hide, here, in
the house, eh? Well, now you've got rid of the others, and we've had a
drink, we're going to look for it. What is there?

 (_He points to the bedroom door._)

RADA (_rising to her feet slowly, steadying herself with one hand on
the couch and fixing her eyes on his face_).

My bedroom. No. I've nothing here to hide. This is war, isn't it? If I
choose to revenge myself on those that have used me badly, people that
I hate, by telling you where you can find what everybody wants, money,
money--I suppose you want that--isn't that good enough?


Better come with us, then, and show us this treasure-trove.

RADA (_shrinking back_).

No, no, I dare not. All those dead out there would terrify me, terrify


A pack of lies! What were you up to, eh? Telephoning to the English?


It has been too much for her nerves. Don't worry her, or she'll go
mad. Then there'll be nobody left to get us our supper.

 (_TARRASCH wanders round the room, opening drawers and examining
   letters and other contents at the desk._)


That _would_ be selfish, Rada. You know it's Christmas Eve. Nobody
ought to think of unpleasant things on Christmas Eve. What have you
done with the Christmas-tree, Rada?


And who's to blame? That's what I want to know. You don't blame _us_,
do you? We didn't know where we were marching a month ago; and
possibly we shall be fighting on your side against somebody else, a
year hence.


Of course they didn't know! Poor soldiers don't.

TARRASCH (_who has been trying the bedroom door_).

In the meantime, what have you got behind that door? Give me the key.

RADA (_hurriedly, and as if misunderstanding him, opens the cupboard.
She speaks excitedly_).

Food! Food! Food for hungry men. Food enough for a wolf pack. Come on.
Help yourselves!


Look, Brander! What a larder! Here's a dinner for forty men. Isn't it?


Better take your pick before the others come.

 (_She thrusts dishes into BRANDER'S hands and loads TARRASCH with
   bottles. They lay the table with them, RADA seeming to share their

BRANDER (_looking at his hands_).

Here! Bring me a basin of warm water. There are times when you can't
touch food without washing your hands.

 (_RADA hesitates, then goes into the kitchen. BRANDER holds out a
   ring to TARRASCH._)

    Her husband's ring. I got it off his finger
    When he went down. He lay there, doubled up,
    With one of those hideous belly wounds. He begged,
    Horribly, for a bullet; so, poor devil,
    I put him out of his misery. I can't eat
    With hands like that. Ugh! Look!

NANKO (_rising and peering at them_).

                                    Ah, but they're red.
    Red, aren't they? And there's red on your coat, too.

 (_He fingers it curiously._)

    I suppose that's blood, eh? People are such cowards.
    Many of them never seem to understand
    That man's a fighting animal. They're afraid,
    Dreadfully afraid, of the sight of blood.
    I think it's a beautiful colour, beautiful!
    You know, in the Old Testament, they used
    To splash it on the door-posts.

BRANDER (_pushing him away_).

                                  Go and sit down,
    You crazy old devil!

 (_RADA enters with a bowl of water, sets it on a chair, and returns to
   the couch. BRANDER washes his hands._)


                        My hands want washing, too.
    My God, you've turned the water into wine.
    Get me some fresh.

 (_RADA approaches, stares at the bowl, and moves back, swaying a

BRANDER (_roughly_).

    I'll empty it. Give it to me.

 (_He goes out._)


    The Old Testament, you know, is full of it.
    _Who is this_, it says, _that cometh from Edom,
    In dyed garments from Bozrah?_ It was blood
    That dyed their garments. And in _Revelation_
    Blood came out of the wine-press, till it splashed
    The bridles of the horses; and the seas
    Were all turned into blood. Doesn't that show
    That man's a fighting animal?

TARRASCH (_again fumbling at the bedroom door_).

    Give me the key.

RADA (_thrusting herself between him and the door_).

    That is my bedroom. You must not go in.


    Are they so modest, then, in Belgium, madam?
    You're fooling us. What is it? Loot? More loot?
    The family stocking, eh?

 (_BRANDER enters. He goes to the table and begins eating._)


                            The stocking? No!
    The stocking is in the chimney-corner, see.

 (_He shakes an empty stocking that hangs in the fire-place._)

    Bettine and I, we always hang it up
    Ready for Santa Claus. It's a good custom.
    They do it in Germany. The children there
    Believe that Santa Claus comes down the chimney.


    If I know anything of women's eyes,
    It's either money, or a daughter, Rada.
    And so--the key! Or else I burst the door.

RADA (_looks at him for a moment before speaking_).

    I throw myself upon your mercy, then.
    It _is_ my little girl. She is twelve years old.
    Don't wake her. She has slept all through this night.
    I thought I might have hidden her. It's too late.
    It's of the other men that I'm afraid.
    Not you. But they are drunk. If they come back....
    Help me to save her! I'll do anything for you,
    Anything! Only help me to get her away!
    I'll pray for you every night of my life. I'll pray....

 (_She stretches out her hands pitifully and begins to weep. The men
   stand staring at her. The door opens behind her, and BETTINE, in
   her night-dress, steals into the room._)



 (_She stops at the sight of the strangers._)


    Don't be afraid. I'm Nanko's friend.
    What? Don't you know me? I came down the chimney.


    I don't see any soot upon your face.

 (_She goes nearer._)

    Nor on your clothes. That's red paint, isn't it?


    Can't help it. Santa Claus--that is my name.
    What's yours?




                        Ah! I've a little girl
    At home--about your age, too--called Bettine.

BETTINE (_who has been watching him curiously_).

    I know. You are the British. Mother said
    The British would be here before the Boches.
    I dreamed that you were coming, and I thought
    I heard the marching. Weren't you singing, too?
    It made me feel so happy in my sleep.
    What were you singing? "It's a long, long way
    To----" what d'you call it? _Tipperary_? eh?
    What does that mean?


    A place a long way off.


    As far as heaven?


    Almost as far as--home.


    Well, I suppose it means the Boches must march
    A long, long way before they reach it, eh?
    There's Canada. They'll have to march through that.
    Then India, and that's huge. Why, Nanko says
    There are three hundred million people there,
    And all their soldiers ride on elephants.
    Poor Boches! I'm sorry for them. Nanko says
    They're trying to ride across two thousand years
    In motor-cars. It's easy enough to ride
    Two thousand miles; but not two thousand years.

 (_She runs to the stocking and examines it. TARRASCH and BRANDER
   return to the table and eat and drink._)

    There's nothing in the stocking. Never mind,
    Nanko, when Christmas really comes, you'll see.

 (_With a sudden note of fear in her voice._)

    Mother, where's father?

RADA (_putting an arm round her_).

                          He will soon be with us.
    It's all right, darling.


                            Mother, mayn't we try
    The new tunes on the gramophone?


                                    Now, wait!
    I've an idea. It's Christmas Eve, you know.
    We'll celebrate it. Where's the Christmas-tree?
    We'll get that ready first.

 (_BETTINE pulls the little Christmas-tree out from the corner. RADA
   glances from the child to the men, as if hoping that her play will
   win them to help her._)


                              It's nearly a week,
    Isn't it, Nanko, since you had your tree?


    Here, put it on the table.

NANKO (_clapping his hands_).

                              Yes, that's best.
    I fear that we shall want a new tree, soon.
    This one is withered. See how the needles drop.
    There's no green left. It's growing old, Bettine.
    What shall we hang on it?


                            What d' you think
    Of that now? (_He hangs his revolver on the tree._)

BETTINE (_laughing merrily_).

                Oh! Oh! What a great big pistol!
    That'll be father's present! And now what else?

NANKO (_eagerly_).

    What else?


    Well, what do you say to a ring, Bettine?
    How prettily it hangs upon the bough!
    Isn't that fine? (_He hangs the ring upon the tree._)

BETTINE (_staring at it_).

    It's just like father's ring!


    Now light the candles. Isn't it?

NANKO (_clapping his hands and capering_).

                                    Yes, that's right!
    Light all the little candles on the tree!
    Oh, doesn't the pistol shine, doesn't the ring


            But oh, it _is_ like father's ring.
    He had a little piece of mother's hair
    Plaited inside it, just like that. It _is_
    My father's ring.


                    No; there are many others,
    Bettine, just like it, hundreds, hundreds of others.


    And now--what's in that package over there?


    Oh, that's the new tunes for the gramophone.
    That's father's Christmas present to us all.


    Now, what a wonderful man the doctor was!
    Nobody else, in these parts, would have thought
    Of buying a gramophone. Let's open it.


    Yes! Yes! And we'll give father a surprise!
    It shall be playing a tune when he comes in!
    He won't be angry, will he, mumsy dear?

 (_BRANDER opens the package. NANKO rubs his hands in delight. They get
   the gramophone ready._)


    Oh, this will be a merry Christmas Eve.
    There now--just see how this kind gentleman
    Has opened the package for us. Now you see
    The good of war. It benefits the health.
    Sets a man up. Look at old Peter's legs,
    He's a disgrace to the village, a disgrace!
    Nobody shoots him either, so he spoils
    Everything; for you know, you must admit,
    Bettine, that war means natural selection--
    Survival of the fittest, don't you see?
    For instance, _I_ survive, and _you_ survive:
    Don't we? So Peter shouldn't spoil it all.
    They say that all the tall young men in France
    Were killed in the Napoleonic wars,
    So that most Frenchmen at the present day
    Are short and fat. Isn't that funny, Bettine?

 (_She laughs._)

    Which shows us that tall men are not required
    To-day. So nobody knows. Perhaps thin legs
    Like Peter's _may_ be useful, after all,
    In aeroplanes, or something. Every ounce
    Makes a great difference there. Nobody knows.
    It's natural selection. See, Bettine?
    Ah, now the gramophone's ready. Make it play
    A Christmas tune. That's what the churches do
    On Christmas Eve: for all the churches now,
    And all the tall cathedrals with their choirs,
    What do you think they are, Bettine? I'll tell you.
    I'll whisper it. _They're great big gramophones!_

 (_She laughs._)

    Now for a Christmas tune!

TARRASCH (_adjusting a record_).

                            There's irony
    In your idea, my friend, that would delight
    The ghost of Nietzsche! Certainly, it shall play
    A Christmas tune. Here is the very thing.

 (_There is an uproar of drunken shouts in the distance._ BRANDER
   _locks the outer door._)


    The inn is full of drunken men to-night,
    Mother. D' you hear them? Mother, was it an inn
    Like that--the one that's in my Christmas piece?


    Don't do it, we've had irony enough.
    Don't start it playing, if you want to keep
    This Christmas party to ourselves, my boy.
    The men are mad with drink, and--other things.
    Look here, Tarrasch, what are we going to do
    About this youngster, eh?


                            Better keep quiet
    Till morning. When the men have slept it off
    They'll stand a better chance of slipping away.
    They're all drunk, officers and men as well.


    That's the most merciful thing that one can say.


    Oh, what a pity! I did think, Bettine,
    That we should have some music. Well--I know!
    Tell us the Christmas piece you learned in school.
    That's right. Stand there! No, stand up on this bench.
    Your mother tells me that you won the prize
    For learning it so beautifully, Bettine.
    That's right. Now, while you say it, I will stand
    Here, with a candle. See, that illustrates
    The scene.

 (_He lifts one of the candles to illuminate the picture of the
   Madonna and child. For a moment he speaks with a curious dignity._)

              You know it is not all delusion
    About this Christmas Eve. The wise men say
    That Time is a delusion. Now then, speak
    Your Christmas piece.

BETTINE (_with her hands behind her, as if in school, she obeys him_).

She laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night,

And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord
shone round about them, and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for behold I bring you good
tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

"For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour, which is
Christ the Lord.

"And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in
swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host,
praising God, and saying:--

"_Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace...._"

 (_There is silence for a moment, then a pistol-shot, a scream, and a
   roar of drunken laughter without, followed by a furious pounding on
   the door. BETTINE runs to her mother._)


    Here, Tarrasch, what the devil are we to do
    About this child?

 (_He calls through the door._)

                    Clear out of this! The house
    Is full. We want to sleep.

 (_The uproar grows outside, and the pounding is resumed. There is a
   crash of broken glass at the window._)


                              Mother, I'm frightened!
    It is the Boches! Mother, it is the Boches!
    Where are the British, mother? You said the British
    Were sure to be here first!


                              Bundle the child
    Into that room, woman, at once!

 (_RADA snatches the revolver from the Christmas-tree and hurries
   BETTINE into the bedroom just as the other door is burst open and a
   troop of soldiers appear on the threshold, shouting and furious with
   drink. They sing, with drunken gestures, in the doorway:_)

    "Zum Rhein, zum Rhein, zum deutscher Rhein...."


                                              Come on!
    They're in that room. I saw them! The only skirts
    Left in the village. Comrades, you've had your fun--
    It's time for ours.


                      Clear out of this. You're drunk.
    We want to sleep.


    Well, hand the women over.


    There are no women here.


                            You greedy wolf,
    I saw them.


    Come! Come! Come! It's Christmas Eve!

[Illustration: THE VAMPIRE]


    Well, if there are no petticoats, where's the harm
    In letting us poor soldiers take a squint
    Through yonder door? By God, we'll do it, too!
    Come on, my boys.

 (_They make a rush towards the room._)


                    Be careful, or you'll smash
    The Christmas-tree! You'll smash the gramophone!

 (_A soldier tries the bedroom door. It is opened from within, and RADA
   appears on the threshold with the revolver in her hand._)


    Liars! Liars!


                There is one woman here,
    One woman and a child....
    And war, they tell me, is a noble thing.
    It is the mother of heroic deeds,
    The nurse of honour, manhood.


    God, a speech!

NANKO (_who is hugging his Christmas-tree near the fire again_).

    Certainly, Rada! You will not deny
    That life's a battle.


                        You hear, drunk as you are,
    Up to your necks in blood, you hear this fool,
    This poor old fool, piping his dreary cry.
    And through his lips, and through his softening brain,
    The men that use you, cheat you, drive you out
    To slaughter and be slaughtered, teach the world
    That this black vampire, sucking at our breasts,
    Is good. Men! Men! The pestilence of your dead
    Is murdering you by legions. All the trains
    Of quicklime that your Emperor sends behind you
    Can never eat its way through all that flesh--
    Three hundred miles of dead! Your dead!


                                          Hoch! Hoch!
    A speech!

 (_They make a movement towards her, which she arrests by raising the


            I do not hate! I pity you all.
    I tell you, you are doing it in a dream.
    You are drugged. You are not awake.


                I have sometimes thought
    The very same.


                  But you will wake one day.
    Listen! If you have children of your own,
    Listen to me ... the child is twelve years old.
    She has never had one hard word spoken to her
    In all her life.


                    Nor shall she now, by God!
    Where is she? Bring her out!


                                Twelve years of age?
    Add two, because her mother loves her so!
    That's ripe enough for marriage to a soldier.

 (_They laugh uproariously, and sing again mockingly_:)

    "Zum Rhein, zum Rhein, zum deutscher Rhein!"

 (_They move forward again._)

RADA (_raising the revolver_).

    One word. If you are deaf to honour, blind
    To truth, and if compassion cannot reach you,
    Then I appeal to fear! Yes, you shall fear me.
    Listen! I heard, when I was in that room,
    A sound like gun-fire, coming from the south:
    What if it were the British?


                                Ah! The swine!
    The dogs!


    Bull-dogs; and slow. But they are coming,
    And, where they hold, they never will let go.
    Though they may come too late for me and mine,
    You are on your trial now before the world.
    You never can escape it. They are coming,
    With justice and the unconquerable law!
    I warn you, though their speech is not my own,
    And I shall be but one of all the dead,
    Dead, with that child, in a forgotten grave--
    I speak for them, and they will keep my word.
    Yes, if you harm that child ... the British.... Ah!

 (_They advance towards her._)

    I have one bullet for the child and five
    To share between you and myself.


                                    Come on!
    She can't shoot! Look at the way she's holding it!
    Duck down, and make a rush for it.


    Come on!

 (_They make a rush. RADA steps back into the bedroom and shuts the
   door in their faces._)


    Locked out in the cold. Come, break the damned thing down!

BETTINE (_crying within_).

    O British! British! Come! Come quickly, British!

BRANDER (_trying to interpose_).

    She'll keep her word. You'll never get 'em alive.


    Never. I know that kind. You'd better clear out.


    Down with the door!

 (_They put their shoulders to it. BRANDER makes a sign to TARRASCH.
   They try to pull the men back. There is a scuffle and BRANDER is
   knocked over. He rises with the blood running down his face, while
   TARRASCH still struggles. The door begins to give. A shot is heard
   within. The men pause and there is another shot._)


    By God, she's done it!

 (_There is a booming of distant artillery._)

    She was not lying. That came from the south-west.
    It is the British!

 (_A bugle-call sounds in the village street._)


    The British! A night-attack!

 (_They all rush out except NANKO, who peers after them from the door.
   Leaving it open to the night, he takes a _marron glacé_ from the
   table, crosses the room, and begins to examine the gramophone._

 _Confused sounds of men rushing to arms, thin bugle-calls in the
   distance, and the occasional clatter of a galloping horse blow in
   from the blackness framed in the open door. The deep pulsation of
   the British artillery is heard throughout, in a steady undertone._)

NANKO (_calling aloud as he munches_).

    Come, Rada, you're pretending. They're all gone.
    Rada, these _marrons glacés_ are delicious.
    It's over now! Come, I don't think it's right
    To spoil a person's pleasure on Christmas Eve.

 (_He tiptoes to the door and peers into the night._)

    Come quick, Bettine, rockets are going up!
    They are breaking into clusters of green stars!
    Oh, there's a red one! You could see for miles
    When that one broke. The willow-trees jumped out
    Like witches; and, between them, the canal
    Dwindled away to a little thread of blood.
    And there were lines of men running and falling,
    And guns and horses floundering in a ditch.
    Oh, Rada! there's a bonfire by the mill.
    They've burned the little cottage.
        There's a man
    Hanging above the bonfire by his hands,
    And heaps of dead all round him.
        Come and see!
    It's terrible, but it's magnificent,
    Like one of Goya's pictures. That's the way
    _He_ painted war. Well, everybody's gone....
    To think _I_ was the fittest, after all!

 (_He returns to the gramophone._)

    I wonder how this gramophone does work.
    He said the tune that he was putting in
    Was just the thing for Christmas Eve.
        I wonder,
    I wonder what it was. Listen to this!

 (_He reads the title._)

    It's a good omen, Rada--_A Christmas carol
    Sung by the Grand Imperial Choir_--d' you hear?--
    _At midnight in St. Petersburg_--_Adeste
    Fideles!_ Fancy that! A Christmas carol
    Upon the gramophone!
    So all the future ages will be sure
    To know exactly what religion was.
    To think we must not hear it! Rada, they say
    The Angel Gabriel composed that tune
    On the first Christmas Eve. So don't you think
    That we might hear it?
    Everybody is gone, except the dead.
    It will not wake them....
    Come, Rada, you're pretending! Do not make
    The war more dreadful than it really is.

 (_He accidentally sets the gramophone working and jumps back, a little
   alarmed. He runs to the bedroom door._)

    Rada! I've started it! Bettine, d' you hear?
    The gramophone's working.

 (_The artillery booms like a thunder-peal in the distance. Then the
   gramophone drowns it with the massed voices of the Imperial Choir


 (NANKO _touches the floor under the door of the bedroom and stares at
   his hand._)


    Something red again? Trickling under the door?
    Blood, I suppose....

 (_A look of horror comes into his face as he stands listening to the
   music. Then, as if slowly waking from a dream and almost as if
   sanity had returned for a moment, he cries_:)

    It's true! It's true! Rada, I am awake!
    I am awake! And, in the name of Christ,
    I accuse, I accuse ... O God, forgive us all!

 (_He falls on his knees by the bedroom door and calls, as if to the
   dead within_:)

    Awake, and after nineteen hundred years....
    Bettine, Bettine! the British, they are coming!
    Rada, you said it--they are coming quickly!
    They are coming, with the reign of right and law.
    But, O Bettine! Bettine! will they remember?
    Are they awake? I only hear their guns.
    What if they should grow used to it, Bettine,
    And fail to wipe this horror from the world?
    God, is there any hope for poor mankind?
    God, are Thy little nations and Thy weak,
    Thine innocent, condemned to hell for ever?
    God, will the strong deliverers break the sword
    And bring this world at last to Christmas Eve?




    Will Christ be born, oh, not in Bethlehem,
    But in the soul of man, the abode of God?
    There, in that deep, undying soul of man
    (I still believe it), that immortal soul,
    Will they lift up the cross with Christ upon it,
    The Fool of God, whom intellectual fools,
    The little fools of dust, in every land,
    Grinning their _What is Truth?_ still crucify.
    Could they not thrust their hands into His wounds?
    His wounds are these--these dead are all His wounds.
    Bettine! Bettine! the British, they are coming!
    But you are silent now, so silent now!
    Will they lift up God's poor old broken Fool,
    And sleep no more until His kingdom come,
    His infinite kingdom come?
                      Will they remember?

 (_He bows his head against the closed door, while the gramophone lifts
   the chorus of the Imperial Choir over the deepening thunder of the



    Now the muttering gun-fire dies,
      Now the night has cloaked the slain,
    Now the stars patrol the skies,
      Hear our sleepless prayer again!
    They who work their country's will,
    Fight and die for Britain still,
    Soldiers, but not haters, know
    _Thou_ must pity friend and foe.
            Therefore hear,
    Both for foe and friend, our prayer.

    Thou whose wounded Hands do reach
      Over every land and sea,
    Thoughts too deep for human speech
      Rise from all our souls to Thee;
    Deeper than the wrath that burns
    Round our hosts when day returns;
    Deeper than the peace that fills
    All these trenched and waiting hills.
            Hear, O hear!
    Both for foe and friend, our prayer.

    Pity deeper than the grave
      Sees, beyond the death we wield,
    Faces of the young and brave
      Hurled against us in the field.
    Cannon-fodder! They _must_ come,
    We must slay them, and be dumb,
    Slaughter, while we pity, these
    Most implacable enemies.
            Master, hear,
    Both for foe and friend, our prayer.

    They are blind, as we are blind,
      Urged by duties past reply.
    Ours is but the task assigned;
      Theirs to strike us ere they die.
    Who can see his country fall?
    Who but answers at her call?
    Who has power to pause and think
    When she reels upon the brink?
            Hear, O hear,
    Both for foe and friend, our prayer.

    Shield them from that bitterest lie
      Laughed by fools who quote their mirth,
    When the wings of death go by
      And their brother shrieks on earth.
    Though they clamp their hearts with steel,
    Conquering _every_ fear they feel.
    There are dreams they dare not tell.
    Shield, O shield, their eyes from hell.
            Father, hear,
    Both for foe and friend, our prayer.

    Where the naked bodies burn,
      Where the wounded toss at home,
    Weep and bleed and laugh in turn,
      Yes, the masking jest may come.
    Let him jest who daily dies.
    But O hide his haunted eyes.
    Pain alone he might control.
    Shield, O shield his wounded soul.
            Master, hear,
    Both for foe and friend, our prayer.

    Peace? We steel us to the end.
      Hope betrayed us, long ago.
    Duty binds both foe and friend.
      It is ours to break the foe.
    Then, O God! that we might break
    This red Moloch for Thy sake;
    Know that Truth indeed prevails,
    And that Justice holds the scales.
            Father, hear,
    Both for foe and friend, our prayer.

    England, could this awful hour,
      Dawning on thy long renown,
    Mark the purpose of thy power,
      Crown thee with that mightier crown!
    Broadening to that purpose climb
    All the blood-red wars of Time....
    Set the struggling peoples free,
    Crown with Law their Liberty!
            England, hear,
    Both for foe and friend, our prayer!

    Speed, O speed what every age
      Writes with a prophetic hand.
    Read the midnight's moving page,
      Read the stars and understand:
    _Out of Chaos ye shall draw
    Deepening harmonies of Law,
    Till around the Eternal Sun
    All your peoples move in one._
            Christ-God, hear,
    Both for foe and friend, our prayer.

                           The Gresham Press
                        UNWIN BROTHERS, LIMITED
                           WOKING AND LONDON

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