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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 3 - Scene 6. The Pyrenees. Near The River Nivelle
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 3 - Scene 6. The Pyrenees. Near The River Nivelle Post by :ispeculate Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :3147

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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 3 - Scene 6. The Pyrenees. Near The River Nivelle

PART THIRD. ACT THIRD. SCENE VI.

(Evening. The dining-room of WELLINGTON'S quarters. The table is laid for dinner. The battle of the Nivelle has just been fought.

Enter WELLINGTON, HILL, BERESFORD, STEWART, HOPE, CLINTON, COLBORNE, COLE, KEMPT (with a bound-up wound), and other officers.


WELLINGTON

It is strange that they did not hold their grand position more tenaciously against us to-day. By God, I don't quite see why we should have beaten them!


COLBORNE

My impression is that they had the stiffness taken out of them by something they had just heard of. Anyhow, startling news of some kind was received by those of the Eighty-eighth we took in the signal-redoubt after I summoned the Commandant.


WELLINGTON

Oh, what news?


COLBORNE

I cannot say, my lord, I only know that the latest number of the _Imperial Gazette was seen in the hands of some of them before the capture. They had been reading the contents, and were cast down.


WELLINGTON

That's interesting. I wonder what the news could have been?


HILL

Something about Boney's army in Saxony would be most probable. Though I question if there's time yet for much to have been decided there.


BERESFORD

Well, I wouldn't say that. A hell of a lot of things may have happened there by this time.


COLBORNE

It was tantalizing, but they were just able to destroy the paper before we could prevent them.


WELLINGTON

Did you question them?


COLBORNE

Oh yes. But they stayed sulking at being taken, and would tell us nothing, pretending that they knew nothing. Whether much were going on, they said, or little, between the army of the Emperor and the army of the Allies, it was none of their business to relate it; so they kept a gloomy silence for the most part.


WELLINGTON

They will cheer up a bit and be more communicative when they have had
some dinner.


COLE

They are dining here, my lord?


WELLINGTON

I sent them an invitation an hour ago, which they have accepted. I could do no less, poor devils. They'll be here in a few minutes. See that they have plenty of Madeira to whet their whistles with. It well screw them up into a better key, and they'll not be so reserved.

(The conversation on the day's battle becomes general. Enter as guests French officers of the Eighty-eighth regiment now prisoners on parole. They are welcomed by WELLINGTON and the staff, and all sit down to dinner.

For some time the meal proceeds almost in silence; but wine is passed freely, and both French and English officers become talkative and merry.


WELLINGTON (to the French Commandant)

More cozy this, sir, than--I'll warrant me--
You found it in that damned redoubt to-day?


COMMANDANT

The devil if 'tis not, monseigneur, sure!


WELLINGTON

So 'tis for us who were outside, by God!


COMMANDANT (gloomily)

No; we were not at ease! Alas, my lord,
'Twas more than flesh and blood could do, to fight
After such paralyzing tidings came.
More life may trickle out of men through thought
Than through a gaping wound.


WELLINGTON

Your reference
Bears on the news from Saxony, I infer?


SECOND FRENCH OFFICER

Yes: on the Emperor's ruinous defeat
At Leipzig city--brought to our startled heed
By one of the _Gazettes just now arrived.

(All the English officers stop speaking, and listen eagerly.)


WELLINGTON

Where are the Emperor's headquarters now?


COMMANDANT

My lord, there are no headquarters.


WELLINGTON

No headquarters?


COMMANDANT

There are no French headquarters now, my lord,
For there is no French army! France's fame
Is fouled. And how, then, could we fight to-day
With our hearts in our shoes!


WELLINGTON

Why, that bears out
What I but lately said; it was not like
The brave men who have faced and foiled me here
So many a long year past, to give away
A stubborn station quite so readily.


BERESFORD

And what, messieurs, ensued at Leipzig then?


SEVERAL FRENCH OFFICERS

Why, sirs, should we conceal it? Thereupon
Part of our army took the Lutzen road;
Behind a blown-up bridge. Those in advance
Arrived at Lutzen with the Emperor--
The scene of our once famous victory!
In such sad sort retreat was hurried on,
Erfurt was gained with Blucher hot at heel.
To cross the Rhine seemed then our only hope;
Alas, the Austrians and the Bavarians
Faced us in Hanau Forest, led by Wrede,
And dead-blocked our escape.


WELLINGTON

Ha. Did they though?


SECOND FRENCH OFFICER

But if brave hearts were ever desperate,
Sir, we were desperate then! We pierced them through,
Our loss unrecking. So by Frankfurt's walls
We fared to Mainz, and there recrossed the Rhine.
A funeral procession, so we seemed,
Upon the long bridge that had rung so oft
To our victorious feet! . . . What since has coursed
We know not, gentlemen. But this we know,
That Germany echoes no French footfall!


AN ENGLISH OFFICER

One sees not why it should.


SECOND FRENCH OFFICER

We'll leave it so.

(Conversation on the Leipzig disaster continues till the dinner ends The French prisoners courteously take their leave and go out.)


WELLINGTON

Very good set of fellows. I could wish
They all were mine! . . .Well, well; there was no crime
In trying to ascertain these fat events:
They would have sounded soon from other tongues.


HILL

It looks like the first scene of act the last
For our and all men's foe!


WELLINGTON

I count to meet
The Allies upon the cobble-stones of Paris
Before another half-year's suns have shone.
--But there's some work for us to do here yet:
The dawn must find us fording the Nivelle!

(Exeunt WELLINGTON and officers. The room darkens.)

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