What Heroes! or What Heroes? by Roy Schreiber
This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent
Inside a London men's club, 1879.
BENJAMIN DISRAELI, cigar in hand, and COLONEL JAMES FAVERSHAM enter from opposite sides of the stage.
DISRAELI: Ah, Faversham, there you are. Please, join me.
(They sit in overstuffed chairs facing each other, at which point Disraeli breaks into a coughing fit.)
Sir, can I get you anything?
DISRAELI: Disraeli family heritage. Bad bronchial tubes. The doctors tell me I should give up smoking.
(Looks at the cigar he is holding and then carefully puts it down.)
FAVERSHAM: It's been a while since we've talked, sir. How is the view from the top?
DISRAELI: The view as prime minister, my dear colonel, is splendid. My problem is maintaining it. Elections later this year, you know.
FAVERSHAM: I have quite the opposite problem. In our age of little wars, a colonel may see the top, but he seldom occupies it.
DISRAELI: That is why I asked to meet with you. Perhaps between the two of us we can devise a mutually beneficial plan.
FAVERSHAM: Would I be wrong in thinking, you've already been thinking of one?
DISRAELI: And so I have. The anniversary of the battle of Waterloo is fast approaching. I'd like to find a way to call attention to our victory and hope everyone will ignore the long, slow decline as a nation we began right afterwards.
FAVERSHAM: I beg your pardon, sir, but didn't we win that battle and the war?
DISRAELI: We did.
FAVERSHAM: And haven't we performed splendidly since then in preserving the British empire?
DISRAELI: Ah, preserving, my dear colonel, preserving not advancing. Other nations have noticed.
FAVERSHAM: Have they, now?
DISRAELI: They have and they are increasingly unimpressed. Do you know what German Chancellor Bismark said to me about the British army?
FAVERSHAM: No, sir.
DISRAELI: He said if we sent it to interfere in European affairs, he would send the Hamburg police force to arrest it.
FAVERSHAM: We should make him pay for such a slanderous remark.
DISRAELI: Perhaps, but perception matters a great deal you know. Especially among voters.
FAVERSHAM: But what if you appointed me to lead an invasion of Belgium and reclaim the Waterloo battlefield for the nation?
DISRAELI: No, other countries might take a dim view of us picking on plucky little Belgium. I had something more ethereal in mind.
FAVERSHAM: And inexpensive?
DISRAELI: Precisely. Something that brings to mind the spirit of the duke of Wellington's victory.
(Faversham lights a cigar and blows smoke upwards.)
FAVERSHAM: Spirit is like smoke, sir; it is so very difficult to capture.
DISRAELI: But therein lies its charm. With the help of the press, I would like to remind everyone of our greatness by finding a dramatic way to celebrate Waterloo. A way to catch our voters imaginations.
FAVERSHAM: A difficult task, sir.
DISRAELI: We've done it before. We made Queen Victoria empress of India, and nearly everyone forget that the Indians came frightfully close to throwing us out of their country.
FAVERSHAM: Another title for the queen then?
DISRAELI: Not this time. My sources tell me that near the Woolwich barracks where you reside there lives a former corporal of the Grenadier Guards named Brewster.
FAVERSHAM: And how does this Brewster fit into your Waterloo plans?
DISRAELI: He appears to be last survivor the battle. After all these years, a Buckingham palace ceremony featuring the corporal would be the living proof the spirit of Waterloo still lives.
FAVERSHAM: Would you like me to arrange to bring the corporal to London, sir?
DISRAELI: Not quite yet. We must be cautious.
FAVERSHAM: How so, sir?
DISRAELI: Suppose an enterprising reporter decides to interview our Corporal Brewster, what would he find? A true hero? You need to quietly and quickly find a way to check on him.
FAVERSHAM: Given the corporal's age, prime minister, if the colonel of his former regiment dropped by unexpectedly, it might frighten him to death.
DISRAELI: Right. Best not to defeat the scheme even before it gets started. So do you have someone dependable to act on your behalf?
FAVERSHAM: I do. A young ambitious sergeant. Once he's focused on a goal, nothing distracts him until he reaches it. Just the ticket.
DISRAELI: You understand, time matters a great deal. Organizing an eye-catching ceremony will take some time. The anniversary of the battle of Waterloo is next month.
FAVERSHAM: And the election not many months after.
DISRAELI: And the election not long afterwards. Everyone must play his assigned role with all due speed and to perfection.
(Smiles at Faversham and then breaks into a coughing fit.)