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Stanhope's last stand

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ACT 4 SCENE 1 Late evening after the attack. Two hospital beds sit side by side, a spotlight shining dimly on each one. The room is dingy and dark with boxes of equipment littered all around. Through the window the day's fading light shimmers down onto the beds in which the shadowy forms of two men can be seen. Candles on the table between them burn steadily in the stale and musty air. The two spotlights brighten slightly revealing Mason, sitting bolt upright staring at nothing, and Stanhope lying listless, eyes shut. Stanhope: [groans] Mason: [faintly] Sir - Stanhope: [groans louder] Mason: [loud and clear] Sir - Stanhope: [stammering with a hoarse voice] Ma- Ma-Mason? Mason: Yessir. It's me. Stanhope: Wh-where are we? Mason: Field 'ospital, sir. Stanhope: You mean - you mean it's all over? Mason: I think so sir. Stanhope: Oh. I, I ... Mason: I 'eard we did well, sir. Stanhope: I can't remember. I can't remember what happened ... Mason: I checked the fire, sir, like I said I would. Stanhope: [shocked] Oh, really? Mason: Yessir. I always keep my word. It's 'ow I ended up in 'ere. Going down those steps. Feeling the roar of a shell in my ear. The ground swallowing me up. Stanhope: I was at the top. Somewhere along the line, I... I'm not sure. It was so damn confusing. ...read more.


All of us in our trench were doing exactly the same! We all coped differently, but for the same reason- to get away from everything, to forget. Trotter 'ad his comfort food, Hibbert his illness, Osbourne his nonsense poems and, well, I 'ad my jobs. That's why I made such an effort to cook and clean, so it would be like 'ome, where I worked up at the big 'ouse. I didn't seem to get it right all the time, but it 'elped. Stanhope: [quietly] I...I'm sorry Mason. I didn't think- I was selfish. I'm so sorry. Mason: It's alright. I understand. Stanhope: I shouldn't have taken it all out on you. I'm so lucky to have anyone to talk to at all. I probably would have pulled the trigger if... if it wasn't for you. Mason: That's alright sir. That's what comradeship's all about. Stanhope: I - [He is interrupted by a Field Nurse in uniform coming bustling in. She is small with red cheeks and curly hair tied in neat bun. She is holding a piece of paper in her hand. She stops at the foot of Stanhope's bed.] Nurse: [politely] Good evening gentlemen. I have been told by the doctor to come and deliver this message to a Captain Stanhope? Stanhope: [nervously] Yes. That's me. Nurse: He wants me to tell you that you're heading for home tomorrow morning. ...read more.


Mason: [even fainter, spotlight fading] They want to be left sir. Stanhope: Rather then live to see England again? Mason: [almost to quiet to hear] They'd rather rest in peace sir. [The spotlight goes out finally leaving Mason in peaceful darkness. All is quiet for a minute. The faint whistle of a shell can be heard in the background, a few short bursts of rifle fire cutting through the silence. A few rays of moonlight shine through the window onto the end of Mason's bed.] Stanhope: [eventually speaking] It all seems so far away doesn't it Mason. Funny to think it was only this morning you were making tea for everyone, before the attack. How it tasted of onion as it always did - not that we minded you understand, it was still good and hot. [he pauses and sighs] You're a good man, Mason. I never said it enough. You are a good man. All these things we wish we had said to people. Like I should have said to Raleigh. But I'm saying it to you now Mason. You are a good man. In fact you are the real hero. [There is a pause. He yawns slowly] Thank God you are still with me. I'm not alone. You are such a comfort. I think I might actually sleep tonight Mason, for the first time in weeks! I've almost forgotten what it feels like. I apologise in advance if I wake you. [There is a pause]. Already asleep yourself, eh? Good man...such a good man... ...read more.

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