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KERCHIVAL. He is not in your possession?
GERTRUDE. He was captured at the battle of Fair Oaks, but I recognized him the moment I saw him; and I am sure he knew me, too, when I went up to him. He whinnied and looked so happy. You are in command here--[_Running down._]--you will compel them to give him up to me?
KERCHIVAL. If he is in my command, your pet shall be returned to you.
I'll give one of my own horses to the Government as a subst.i.tute, if necessary.
GERTRUDE. Oh, thank you, my dear Kerchival! [_Going to him; he takes her hand, looking into her eyes._] I--I could almost--
KERCHIVAL. Can you almost confess, at last, Gertrude, that you--love me? [_Tenderly; she draws back, hanging her head, but leaving her hand in his._] Have I been wrong? I felt that that confession was hovering on your tongue when we were separated in Charleston. Have I seen that confession in your eyes since we met again to-day--even among the angry flashes which they have shot out at me? During all this terrible war--in the camp and the trench--in the battle--I have dreamed of a meeting like this. You are still silent? [_Her hand is still in his.
She is looking down. A smile steals over her face, and she raises her eyes to his, taking his hand in both her own._
GERTRUDE. Kerchival! I--[_Enter_ BENSON. _She looks around over her shoulder._ KERCHIVAL _looks up stage. A_ TROOPER, _leading the large black horse of Act I, now caparisoned in military saddle, bridle, &c., follows_ BENSON _across; another_ TROOPER _follows._] Jack! [_She runs up stage, meeting horse._ KERCHIVAL _turns._
KERCHIVAL. Confound Jack! That infernal horse was always in my way!
GERTRUDE. [_With her arm about her horse's neck._] My darling old fellow! Is he not beautiful, Kerchival? They have taken good care of him. How soft his coat is!
KERCHIVAL. Benson, explain this!
BENSON. I was instructed to show this horse and his leader through the lines, sir.
KERCHIVAL. What are your orders, my man? [_Moving up, the_ TROOPER _hands him a paper. He moves a few steps down, reading it._
GERTRUDE. You are to be mine again, Jack, mine! [_Resting her cheek against the horse's head and patting it._] The Colonel has promised it to me.
KERCHIVAL. Ah! [_With a start, as he reads the paper._ GERTRUDE _raises her head and looks at him._] This is General Sheridan's horse, on his way to Winchester, for the use of the General when he returns from Washington.
GERTRUDE. General Sheridan's horse? He is mine!
KERCHIVAL. I have no authority to detain him. He must go on.
GERTRUDE. I have hold of Jack's bridle, and you may order your men to take out their sabres and cut my hand off.
KERCHIVAL. [_Approaches her and gently takes her hand as it holds the bridle._] I would rather have my own hand cut off, Gertrude, than bring tears to your eyes, but there is no alternative! [GERTRUDE _releases the bridle and turns front, brushing her eyes, her hand still held in his, his back to the audience. He returns order, and motions_ TROOPERS _out; they move out with horse._ GERTRUDE _starts after the horse;_ KERCHIVAL _turns quickly to check her._] You forget--that--you are my prisoner.
GERTRUDE. I _will_ go!
KERCHIVAL. General Buckthorn left me special instructions--[_Taking out wallet and letter._]--in case you declined to obey my orders--
GERTRUDE. Oh, Colonel! Please don't read that letter. [_She stands near him, dropping her head. He glances up at her from the letter. She glances up at him and drops her eyes again._] I will obey you.
KERCHIVAL. [_Aside._] What the deuce can there be in that letter?
GERTRUDE. Colonel West! Your men made me a prisoner this afternoon; to-night you have robbed me, by your own orders, of--of--Jack is only a pet, but I love him; and my brother is also a captive in your hands.
When we separated in Charleston you said that we were enemies. What is there lacking to make those words true to-day? You _are_ my enemy!
A few moments ago you asked me to make a confession to you. You can judge for yourself whether it is likely to be a confession of--love--or of hatred!
GERTRUDE. [_Facing him._] Listen to my confession, sir! From the bottom of my heart--
GERTRUDE. I will not stop!
KERCHIVAL. I command you.
GERTRUDE. Indeed! [_He throws open the wallet in his hand and raises the letter._] Ah! [_She turns away; turns again, as if to speak. He half opens the letter. She stamps her foot and walks up steps of the veranda. Here she turns again._] I tell you, I--[_He opens the letter.
She turns, and exits with spiteful step._
KERCHIVAL. I wonder if that doc.u.ment orders me to cut her head off!
[_Returning it to wallet and pocket._] Was ever lover in such a position? I am obliged to cross the woman I love at every step.
_Enter_ CORPORAL DUNN, _very hurriedly._
CORPORAL DUNN. A message from Adjutant Rollins, sir! The prisoner, Captain Thornton, dashed away from the special guard which was placed over him, and he has escaped. He had a knife concealed, and two of the guard are badly wounded. Adjutant Rollins thinks the prisoner is still within the lines of the camp--in one of the houses or the stables.
KERCHIVAL. Tell Major Wilson to place the remainder of the guard under arrest, and to take every possible means to recapture the prisoner.
[CORPORAL DUNN _salutes, and exits._] So! Thornton has jumped his guard, and he is armed. I wonder if he is trying to get away, or to find me. From what I know of the man, he doesn't much care which he succeeds in doing. That scar which I gave him in Charleston is deeper in his heart than it is in his face. [_A signal light suddenly appears on Three Top Mountain. The "Call."_] Ah!--the enemy's signal! [_Enter_ CAPTAIN LOCKWOOD, _followed by_ LIEUTENANT OF SIGNAL CORPS.] Captain Lockwood! You are here! Are your Signalmen with you?
LOCKWOOD. Yes, Colonel; and one of my Lieutenants.
[_The_ LIEUTENANT _is looking up at signal with gla.s.s._ CAPTAIN LOCKWOOD _does the same._ HAVERILL _enters, followed by two_ STAFF OFFICERS.
HAVERILL. [_As he enters._] Can you make anything of it, Captain?
LOCKWOOD. Nothing, General! Our services are quite useless unless Lieutenant Bedloe returns with the key to their signals.
HAVERILL. A--h! [_Coming down stage._] We shall fail. It is time he had returned, if successful.
SENTINEL. [_Without._] Halt! Who goes there? [KERCHIVAL _runs up stage, and half way up incline, looking off._] Halt! [_A shot without._
BARKET. [_Without._] Och!--Ye murtherin spalpeen!
KERCHIVAL. Sentinel! Let him pa.s.s; it is Sergeant Barket.
SENTINEL. [_Without._] Pa.s.s on.
KERCHIVAL. He didn't give the countersign. News from Lieutenant Bedloe, General!
BARKET. [_Hurrying in, up slope._] Colonel Wist, our brave byes wiped out the enemy, and here's the papers.
KERCHIVAL. [_Taking papers.--Then to_ LOCKWOOD.] Is that the key?
LOCKWOOD. Yes. Lieutenant! [LIEUTENANT _hurries up to elevation, looking through his gla.s.s._ LOCKWOOD _opens book._
HAVERILL. What of Lieutenant Bedloe, Sergeant?
BARKET. Sayreously wounded, and in the hands of the inimy!