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GERTRUDE. At my very door! And Kerchival West in command! I will not stand here and see them pa.s.s. The despatch for Captain Thornton! I will carry it to him as soon as they are gone. [_Exit up veranda, the band and chorus increasing in volume._
JENNY. Cavalry! That's the branch of the service I was born in; I was in a fort at the time--on the Plains. Sergeant Barket always said that my first baby squall was a command to the garrison; if any officer or soldier, from my father down, failed to obey my orders, I court-martialed him on the spot. I'll make 'em pa.s.s in review.
[_Jumping up on the rustic seat._] Yes! [_Looking off._] There's Captain Heartsease himself, at the head of the first troop. Draw sabre! [_With parasol._] Present! [_Imitating the action. Music. The band and chorus now full and loud; she swings parasol in time. Trumpet Signal No. 40. Band and chorus suddenly cease._] Halt! Why, they are stopping here. [_Trumpet Signal No. 38._] Dismount! I--I wonder if they are going to--I do believe--[_Looking left eagerly. Trumpet Signal No. 17._] a.s.sembly of Guard Details! As sure as fate, they are going into camp here. We girls will have a jolly time. [_Jumping down._] Ha--ha--ha--ha! Let me see. How shall I receive Captain Heartsease? He deserves a court-martial, for he stole my lace handkerchief--at Mrs. Grayson's reception--in Washington. He was called away by orders to the West that very night, and we haven't met since. [_Sighs._] He's been in lots of battles since then; I suppose he's forgotten all about the handkerchief. We girls, at home, don't forget such things. We aren't in battles. All we do is to--to sc.r.a.pe lint and flirt with other officers.
_Enter_ CAPTAIN HEARTSEASE, _followed by_ COLONEL ROBERT ELLINGHAM; _stops at gate._
HEARTSEASE. This way, Colonel Ellingham. [_They enter. As they come down,_ HEARTSEASE _stops suddenly, looking at_ JENNY; _puts up his gla.s.ses._] Miss Buckthorn!
JENNY. Captain Heartsease!
HEARTSEASE. [_Very quietly and with perfect composure._] I am thunderstruck. The unexpected sight of you has thrown me into a fever of excitement.
JENNY. Has it? [_Aside._] If he gets so excited as that in battle, it must be awful. [_Aloud._] Colonel Ellingham! [_Crossing to him._
ELLINGHAM. Miss Buckthorn! You are visiting my sister? I am what may be called a visitor--by force--myself.
JENNY. Oh! You're a prisoner!
ELLINGHAM. I ventured too far within the Union lines to-night, and they have picked me up. But Major Wilson has kindly accepted my parole, and I shall make the best of it.
JENNY. Is Major Wilson in command of the regiment?
HEARTSEASE. Yes. Colonel West is to join us at this point, during the evening.
ELLINGHAM. I am very glad you are here, Miss Buckthorn, with Gertrude.
JENNY. Somebody here will be delighted to see you, Colonel.
ELLINGHAM. My sister can hardly be pleased to see me as a prisoner.
JENNY. Not your sister. [_Pa.s.sing him and crossing to veranda, turns and beckons to him. She motions with her thumb over her shoulder. He goes up the steps of the veranda and turns._
ELLINGHAM. What do you mean?
JENNY. I mean this--[_Reaching up her face, he leans down, placing his ear near her lips._]--somebody else's sister! When she first sees you, be near enough to catch her.
ELLINGHAM. I understand you! Madeline! [_Exit on veranda._ JENNY _runs up steps after him, stops and looks back at_ HEARTSEASE _over the railing._ HEARTSEASE _takes a lace handkerchief from his pocket._
JENNY. I do believe that's my handkerchief. [A GUARD OF SENTRIES _marches in and across stage in road. The_ CORPORAL _in command orders halt and a_ SENTRY _to post, then marches_ GUARD _out. The_ SENTRY _stands with his back to audience, afterwards moving out, appearing and disappearing during Act._
HEARTSEASE. Miss Buckthorn! I owe you an apology. After I left your side, the last time we met, I found your handkerchief in my possession. I a.s.sure you, it was an accident.
JENNY. [_Aside, pouting._] I thought he _intended_ to steal it.
[_Aloud._] That was more than a year ago. [_Then brightly._] Do you always carry it with you?
HEARTSEASE. Always; there. [_Indicating his left breast pocket._
JENNY. Next to his heart!
HEARTSEASE. Shall I return it to you?
JENNY. Oh, if a lace handkerchief can be of any use to you, Captain, during the hardships of a campaign--you--you may keep that one. You soldiers have so few comforts--and it's real lace.
HEARTSEASE. Thank you. [_Returning handkerchief to his pocket._] Miss Buckthorn, your papa is in command of the Nineteenth Army Corps. He doesn't like me.
JENNY. I know it.
HEARTSEASE. But you are in command of him,
JENNY. Yes; I always have been.
HEARTSEASE. If ever you decide to a.s.sume command of any other man, I--I trust you will give _me_ your orders.
JENNY. [_Aside, starting back._] If that was intended for a proposal, it's the queerest-shaped one I ever heard of. [_Aloud._] Do you mean, Captain, that--that you--I must command myself now. [_Shouldering her parasol._] 'Bout--face! March! [_Turning squarely around, marches up and out on veranda._
HEARTSEASE. I have been placed on waiting orders. [_Stepping up and looking after her; then very quietly and without emotion._] I am in an agony of suspense. The sight of that girl always arouses the strongest emotions of my nature.
[_Enter_ COLONEL KERCHIVAL WEST, _looking at paper in his hand. The_ SENTINEL, _in road, comes to a salute._]
HEARTSEASE. You have rejoined the regiment sooner than we expected.
KERCHIVAL. [_Looking at paper._] Yes; General Haverill is to meet me here at seven o'clock. Major Wilson tells me that some of your company captured Colonel Robert Ellingham, of the Tenth Virginia.
HEARTSEASE. He is here under parole.
KERCHIVAL. And this is the old Ellingham homestead. [_Aside._]
Gertrude herself is here, I suppose; almost a prisoner to me, like her brother; and my troops surround their home. She must, indeed, feel that I am her enemy now. Ah, well, war is war. [_Aloud._] By the bye, Heartsease, a young Lieutenant, Frank Bedloe, has joined our troop?
HEARTSEASE. Yes; an excellent young officer.
KERCHIVAL. I sent for him as I came through the camp. Lieutenant Frank "Bedloe" is the son of General Haverill.
HEARTSEASE. Indeed! Under an a.s.sumed name!
KERCHIVAL. He was supposed to have been killed in New Orleans more than a year ago; but he was taken prisoner instead. [_Looking left._
HEARTSEASE. He is here.
KERCHIVAL. I should never have known him--with his full beard and bronzed face. His face was as smooth as a boy's when I last met him in Charleston.
_Enter_ LIEUTENANT FRANK BEDLOE; _he stops, saluting._
FRANK. You wished me to report to you, Colonel?
KERCHIVAL. You have been a.s.signed to the regiment during my absence.