The Magic Act Disappears and War Becomes a Reality
Blackpool, July 1914. There are warnings of war that Richard cannot ignore, but he is presently preoccupied by Inspector Crabb poking about and insinuating that all those fascinating "artistes" are high on his list of suspects and that "there are tigers loose."
Richard has a joyless liaison with one of the tenants of the boarding house: Peggy Canford. She invites him to go dancing, and at the spectacular dance hall, he is harassed by Crabb again, who announces that he is not going to be around much longer. That night after the performance, Crabb comes to arrest Barney the dwarf for the murder of Nonie Colmar. But he has been outsmarted by an equally sinister and formidable opponent: Uncle Nick has substituted the new dwarf, Philip Tewby, for Barney.
We find out later that Barney is in America. Quizzed on why he helped Barney escape, Uncle Nick replies: "He's not a killer. Just an excitable little man who had the bad luck to get entangled with a stupid, cruel teaser." So much for uncle Nick's misogyny.
August 1914: "People were swept up in a torrent of patriotic fervor which drowned the sound of the guns already booming in Belgium." Uncle Nick announces he is sailing to America because he does not believe in this war. He wants Richard to come with him to the New World. Calmly, Richard responds he is enlisting and joining Kitchener's New Army. Furious, Nick explodes: "You are asking to be put in a bloody mincing machine, lad!!" For the first time, Uncle's Nick's affection for Richard is apparent.
Nick leaves and Richard muses:" He had kept his promise. He had shown me the big wide world. He had let me enjoy it and make some bitter mistakes but the boy from the Dales had become a man . . ."
At this point the very first scenes of the series are shown again (recruitment drive on the stage, French woods, soldiers, canteen, Nancy singing, shells exploding). We have come full circle.
At the military hospital, Richard is going in
and out of consciousness, and he sees Nancy is at his bedside: "I kept
seeing Nancy. I couldn't believe she was there. She had gone off
in that car, hadn't she? Beyond my reach again like she always did." On
the day of his release, Richard knows for sure it was not a dream—as he
sees Nancy in person on the hospital grounds. The reunion of the two young
lovers is a highly emotional moment: "I clung to her for dear life because
that's what she was to me." They embrace and Richard's last words are ".
. . and I had my Nancy at last . . . and I intended to keep her."