[With a swagger.
Give me a sword in my right hand again, I say! I’ll break open a few skulls yet, for all my sixty years. Eh? Mediation! Let those mediate, I say, who are afraid to fight!
We are not mediating yet. You may tell that to your friends if they become downhearted.
To command, your Excellency! It is good that some one looks out for the honor of the army.
Good night, gentlemen!
[The MINISTER OF WAR half rises and bows slightly. The CHIEF OF STAFF nods. Exit the GENERAL.
[With a flash in his old eyes.
Ha! Once more to have those fellows behind me. Think of it! Each man of them represents fifty thousand. And behind them another million and another! God! What a machine to handle.
[He slaps his forehead.
And the old brain working still!
[Rising and crossing to a window, right forward, then speaking thoughtfully.
I don’t know, Clement. I am growing old. I think sometimes that war is the most terrible matter in which we erring humans become engaged. I have always thought that—at times.
[Who has crossed to the Left and stands facing a map of the world, covering half the wall.
So you are a sentimentalist, after all?
[Looking out of the window.
No. Because there is something stronger in me, conquering the repulsion. My temperament, character, destiny. I am impelled to war. A dozen generations of soldiers in my blood press me on. My whole education presses me on. My sympathies and my religious sense make me tremble before the impending horror, but—I confess to you—I believe I want this war.
So do we all. War is the soldier’s work. And he does not want to play all his life. Look. We land here and here and here.
[He indicates places on the map with a paper-cutter, speaking with growing excitement.
No defenses, except at this place—a masonry fort built thirty years ago. Bad cement, moreover. Fraudulent contractor. Then—
[Returning to his desk, resolutely.
No, you old hawk, we’re not going to do it. We’ll be content to settle ourselves in peaceful graves, you and I and the old Chief. No war, no war!