The Flight of the White Eagles: Act 5, Scenes 4-6

SCENE 4: Eve, a small town

Inside a small hut there is a fire – Foucart is there in some distress – Madame Dubois is sitting quietly on soldier’s napsacks under a great coat, head in hands, elbows resting on knees, silk dress in tatters & wearing a sheepskin cap – Graingier is attending the fire & boiling tea & cooking food – enter Bourgogne & Rossi – Rossi collapses at the door – Bourgogne staggers to the fire

Graingier
Adrien! Adrien! You are alive!
{preparing straw}
So many times your death-sonmg have I heard
But know now they were the pipes of phantoms
Lie down upon this straw, I have some broth
With seasalt season’d, not gunpowder dull’d

Bourgogne
Rossi

Graingier
What!

Bourgogne
Rossi

Graingier
Our quartermaster?

Bourgogne points towards the door – Graingier goes to Rossi

Graingier
Wake-up quartermaster, you have made it
To safety with your brothers once again

Graingier moves Rossi to the fire

Graingier
Feel, my friend, the thermodryad warmth
There’s wood enough to burn the hole night through
& roast away your rheumatismal woes
{to Bourgogne}
I’m glad to see your famous appetite
Is still as legendary as Ceres
& see, I have some tea in a kettle
Its leaves left Moscow seven weeks ago
I had forgotten I had pack’d them deep
Drink, it will do you a great deal of good

Bourgogne drinks

Bourgogne
Ah, what nectar! Comrade, you have saved me

An awful noise erupts from Foucart

Bourgogne
Who is that

Graingier
Foucart

Bourgogne
Foucart! How is he!

Foucart sits up with a face full of blood

Graingier
Not so good
{Foucart begins eating his hand}
No – you mustn’t eat your hand
A Barrack-master of the Chevaliers
Of the Legion of Honour does not eat
His hand, you must stop this madness at once

Graingier pulls Foucart’s hand from his mouth / Foucart then takes bunches of mud & straw & shoves them in his mouth

Graingier
Foucart, my friend, stop this, that is not food
You must spit it, spit it out

Graingier tries to pull the straw & mud from Foucart’s mouth – Foucart bites Graingier

Graingier
Ah! my hand
Graingier strikes Foucart, who whimpers & curls up into a ball

Dubois
He cannot swallow, his throat seizes small

Bourgogne
Who is that soldier

Graingier
That is no solider

Dubois sits up to reveal herself

Bourgogne
Madame Dubois, my darling

Dubois
Be quiet
I am nobody’s darling

Bourgogne
Have mercy
Can you find me a droplet of Royome

Dubois
Royome – you know very well I have none

Bourgogne
This is a moment of no cautious smile
Well before the Berezhinan passage
I met myself imagining the crows
Made fristouille a la neige of your carcass

Dubois
Wretch! They will eat you before they do me
Three months withour spirits for ye drunkards
Used to wassailing lasciviously
Must feel a lifetimes tragedy of want

Bourgogne
That is not so, I’ve had my share of booze
But every sip’s a momentary bliss
Of warm escape from this dejective freeze

Dubois
The thing that astonishes me, Sergeant
Is you’re not dead of drink, so many brave
Fellows left down yonder, while good for naughts
Live life still,

Bourgogne
Stop there, madame, I object
You might slay & slate my reputation
But stop short of bad soldier, halte la!

Dubois frowns & bends her head – she raises it again & smiles a sad smile

Bourgogne
What dwells within a tireless mind, madame
To form a smile as sad & strain’d as this

Dubois
Can you guess

Bourgogne
Food

Dubois
Yes

Bourgogne
I faint for eating

Dubois
& now there is only drink to be had

Bourgogne
So you do have some

Dubois
Infuriate child
Be silent as I dream of suppers past

Bourgogne
Since yestereen all I’ve really eaten
Was half a dead raven found by the road
& a few spoons of powder-salted gruel
Anything is edible no matter
How disgusting, all devour’d like beef steaks
Sizzling savoury in onions & wine

Dubois
Stop that talk, or I’ll soon be eating you

Rossi
Madame Dubois!

Dubois
I am still here Rossi
Tho we have reach’d the lowermost limits
Of human sufferance

Bourgogne
My legs, my legs

Graingier
What is it sergeant

Bourgogne
Hot knives in my thighs
Incredible pains of burning needles
Rip through my flesh, relieve me, please no more!

Dubois
I think you shan’t be leaving tomorrow
Incapable of moving a muscle
You seem

Rossi
& me

Bourgogne
I agree… Graingier
Please do me the noblest of services
Once more tonight, I wish to make my will.

Graingier
Your will

Bourgogne
Yes

Graingier
That is the will of death
Where is the will which surges on the hope
Once more you’ll see fair France, if there’s a chance

Bourgogne
I’m cool enough to bargain with reason
So ask you, no I BEG you, undertake
The charge of some delicate articles
Transport them to my family in Conde

Graingier
Of course, my friend, what are they

Bourgogne
Where’s your hand
Tell them these came from Moscow

Grainigier
I shall that

Bourgogne
This is a gold & silver crucifix
& this little blue vase of porcelain
Was made in China by a finer hand
& wait- my money – when tomorrow comes
Bringing Russians, I’d rather it were gone
Take it please

Graingier
Hold back a few gold pieces
Secrete them in the sheepskins round your feet
No soldier will search among footfilth
I am sure of that… but, sergeant, listen
Is this all not but fever-taking talk

Bourgogne
I am in fever, but quite clear-headed

Graingier
Then let me remonstrate against your will
Have you not demonstrated great courage
In torried situations worse than this

Bourgogne
I may have done, but I was stronger then

Graingier
We are so close to Kownow, two days march
Fatigue is never fatal, try & rest,
Place these things once more about your person
I shalll take them in the morning if you wish

Bourgogne
I love you Graingier

Graingier
I love you too

Bourgogne goes to sleep – Graingier goes to check on Rossi

Graingier
Madame Dubois, please sing a lullaby

Dubois
Au clair de la lune,
Mon ami Pierrot,
Prête-moi ta plume
Pour écrire un mot.
Ma chandelle est morte,
Je n’ai plus de feu.
Ouvre-moi ta porte
Pour l’amour de Dieu.”

Going quieter as the men go to sleep

Au clair de la lune,
Pierrot répondit :
“Je n’ai pas de plume,
Je suis dans mon lit.
Va chez la voisine,
Je crois qu’elle y est,
Car dans sa cuisine
On bat le briquet.”

Foucart suddenly sits up with a start & a groan, then slumps down dead


SCENE 5: The Tuileries – the quarters of the ladies-in-waiting to the Empress

It is night – enter Caulaincourt – a few moments later enter two ladies-in-waiting – Celeste & Giselle – they are taken aback by the sight of Caulaincourt

Celeste
What are you doing here, rough brute, begone

Giselle
How on earth did you gain access

Caulaincourt
Be calm
I am Caulaincourt

Celeste
No

Giselle
You are not he

Celeste
He has no beard

Giselle
Nor would he ever wear
Such ruffian rags as these

Caulaincourt
Ladies please
Be assur’d I am monseiur Caulaincourt
Outside that door the Emperor awaits
As is the custom, so I can announce
His presence to the Empress

Giselle
Did you say
The Emperor’s here

Celeste
Return’d from Russia?

Giselle
Does he seem in appearance as yourself

Celeste
Is he an apparition ghoulish hewn

Enter Napoleon

Napoleon
See for yourself

Giselle
Your majesty?

Celeste
Let me
Examine your features for some moments
{Celeste checking with a lamp}
You are the Emperor

Napoleon
Yes, I am he
& am impatient to see the Empress
Good night, Caulaincourt, you too will need some rest

Exit Caulanicourt – Napoleon enters the Empress’s room

The Empress
{from her room}
Napoleon, Napoleon , my love!

Celeste
We’d better pour the Emperor a bath

Giselle
Yes, & send out for the strongest perfume
In Paris

Celeste
But he is back among us

Giselle
The Emperor is home & all is well

Exit Ladies-In-Waiting


SCENE 6: A small hut in Eve

Dawn breaks – a trumpet blares – Graingier wakes up, leaves the hut – Dubois wakes up, stands with difficulty & brushes herself down

Dubois
I’d best be off, in these day’s of long night
Each minute’s precious illumination
Inches me to safety – goodbye old friends

Dubois leans on a stick & exits the hut – Graingier returns

Graingier
Allez, allez, the company musters
Foucart, Rossi, Bourgogne, awake, arise
We take ourselves parading in the square

Bourgogne
Foucart is dead, I heard him in te enight
Stilling the crude death rattle of his breath

Graingier
Pour soul, but so, his fate shall not be yours
Get up, stand up,

Rossi
I cannot move my legs
They are uselessly numb, & look at this
{unwrapping his sheepskin}
More than half of my toes are now missing
The remainder are readying to fall
Do you not see my feet, how they are blue
As if lain on some mortuary slab

Graingier
You must try, Rossi, the Russians are near

Rossi
I will take my chances, there’s always Ney
He’ll arrive before the Russians, if I
Rest a few hours longer, gain back strength,
I might do well to join with the Rear gaurd

Bourgogne
I am also utterly unable
To leave, or even take a paltry step
I am as bad as Rossi

Graingier
But then what
If you cannot keep up with the marshall?

Bourgogne
We shall find the first house or village
& put ourselves under the protection
Of baron or master, praying he will
Take pity on us ’til healthier made

Rossi
Could you do me a great service Graingier
If you gain happiness in seeing France
Here is a little packet of papers
To send to my mother, there is a sheet
Of paper which sports her name & address
Could you add in the space my condition
As you leave me, but not to let her lose
Her hopes for the thought of me returning

Bourgogne
Take mine back also, my friend

Graingier
Of course I shall,
But beg you both never abandon hope
& summon every strength that yet remains
To haul yourslves to safety by nightfall
You are a couple of mad bedlamites
To think you are to end your days today

Bourgogne
We shall see how strong Death’s urge, how loud his knell
Soon enough my friend, Goodbye Graingier

Graingier
Goodbye Bourgogne, goodbye Rossi, good luck

Exit Graingier

Rossi
If you have tears prepare to shed them now!
Farewell my mother, farewell to my dear
& Bonnie sophie, farewell to fair Nantes
Where I have lived a happy life, farewell
Beautiful France, my patriotic pearl
Farewell old world, I quit this life, farewell,

Rossi collapses

Bourgogne
Rossi, Rossi, are you dead

Bourgogne
I’m sleeping
Or trying to

Bourgogne
Of course, it might be hours
Before the rearguard comes, are you hungry

Rossi
I am sleeping sergeant, please

Bourgogne
Ah, sorry

Bourgogne begins to scrape out a bowl of horse broth for scraps – enter Picart

Picart
Jour di Dieu, it is my friend, my sergeant
Why do you not depart with King Murat

Bourgogne
Picart, no, I must be delirious

Picart
You are not, my friend, listen to my voice
Relish living life in its cognizance
I must iterate & reiterate
You cannot stay here, it is dangerous

Bourgogne
Outwith your twingle-twangle sentiment
This is the end for me, unless I rest

Picart
As your colonel I order you to stand

Bourgogne
My what – where did you get that uniform

Picart
A deliciously simple ruse de guerre
Since Vilnius the key to good lodgings
& best of all this morning I procured
A sledge! the jew who owns it waits outside

Bourgogne
A sledge you mean…

Picart
He’ll take us to Prussia

Bourgogne
Is there room for Rossi

Picart
Rossi

Bourgogne
He’s there
But very badly off

Rossi
I am alive Picart, but cannot walk

Rossi
We can squeeze you in, yes, but are the last
Friends step outside, your chariot awaits

Rossi
You are the miracle of this campaign

Picart
Yes, yes… don’t forget to call me colonel

Bourgogne
Yes colonel

Picart
He also thinks I’m Jewish

Exit Picart – Rossi & Bourgogne stand with some difficulty & leave the hut


THE CONCHORDIA FOLIO

“Its worth a pop, right, to try & knock that Shakespeare
Off his feffin’ perch!”

Interview: Damian Beeson Bullen

The world’s leading exponent of Dramatic Blank Verse

***

Articles:

Composing Conchordia, Provence

Posted on May 27, 2020, in Charlie!, White Eagles. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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