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Shenandoah Part 19

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GERTRUDE. Men! Are you soldiers? Turn back! There is a leader for you!

Turn back! Fight for your flag--and mine!--the flag my father died for! Turn back! [_She looks out and turns front._] He has been marked for death already, and I--I can only pray. [_Dropping to her knees._

_The stream of fugitives continues, now over the elevation also. Rough and torn uniforms, bandaged arms and legs; some limping and supported by others, some dragging their muskets after them, others without muskets, others using them as crutches. Variety of uniforms, cavalry, infantry, etc.; flags draggled on the ground, the rattle of near musketry and roar of cannon continue; two or three wounded fugitives drop down beside the hedge._ BENSON _staggers in and drops upon rock or stump near post. Artillerists, rough, torn and wounded, drag and force a field-piece across._ CORPORAL DUNN, _wounded, staggers to the top of elevation. There is a lull in the sounds of the battle. Distant cheers are heard without._

CORPORAL DUNN. Listen, fellows! Stop! Listen! Sheridan! General Sheridan is coming! [_Cheers from those on stage._ GERTRUDE _rises quickly. The wounded soldiers rise, looking over hedge. All on stage stop, looking eagerly. The cheers without come nearer, with shouts of_ "Sheridan! Sheridan!"] The horse is down; he is worn out.

GERTRUDE. No! He is up again! He is on my Jack! Now, for your life, Jack, and for me! You've never failed me yet. [_The cheers without now swell to full volume and are taken up by those on the stage. The horse sweeps by with_ GENERAL SHERIDAN.] Jack! Jack!! Jack!!! [_Waving her arms as he pa.s.ses. She throws up her arms and falls backward, caught by_ DUNN. _The stream of men is reversed and surges across stage to road and on elevation, with shouts, throwing up hats, etc. The field-piece is forced up the slope with a few bold, rough movements; the artillerists are loading it, and the stream of returning fugitives is still surging by in the road as the curtain falls._



CURTAIN.

ACT IV.

SCENE. _Residence of_ GENERAL BUCKTHORN, _in Washington. Interior.

Fireplace slanting upward. Small alcove. Opening to hall, with staircase beyond, and also entrance from out left. Door up stage. A wide opening, with portieres to apartment. Upright piano down stage.

Armchair and low stool before fireplace. Small table for tea, etc.

Ottoman. Other chairs, ottomans, etc., to taste._

TIME. _Afternoon._

DISCOVERED. MRS. HAVERILL, _in armchair, resting her face upon her hand, and looking into the fire._ EDITH _is on a low stool at her side, sewing a child's garment._

EDITH. It seems hardly possible that the war is over, and that General Lee has really surrendered. [_Fife and drum, without._] There is music in the streets nearly all the time, now, and everybody looks so cheerful and bright. [_Distant fife and drums heard playing "Johnnie Comes Marching Home."_ EDITH _springs up and runs up to window, looking out._] More troops returning! The old tattered battle-flag is waving in the wind, and people are running after them so merrily.

[_Music stops._] Every day, now, seems like a holiday. [_Coming down._] The war is over. All the women ought to feel very happy, whose--whose husbands are--coming back to them.

MRS. HAVERILL. Yes, Edith; those women whose--husbands are coming back to them. [_Still looking into fire._

EDITH. Oh! [_Dropping upon the stool, her head upon the arm of the chair._

MRS. HAVERILL. [_Resting her arm over her._] My poor little darling!

_Your_ husband will not come back.

EDITH. Frank's last message has never reached me.

MRS. HAVERILL. No; but you have one sweet thought always with you.

Madeline West heard part of it, as Gertrude wrote it down. His last thought was a loving one, of you.

EDITH. Madeline says that he was thinking of you, too. He knew that you were taking such loving care of his little one, and of me. You have always done that, since you first came back from Charleston, and found me alone in New York.

MRS. HAVERILL. I found a dear, sweet little daughter. [_Stroking her head._] Heaven sent you, darling! You have been a blessing to me. I hardly know how I should have got through the past few months at all without you at my side.

EDITH. What is your own trouble, dear? I have found you in tears so often; and since last October, after the battle of Cedar Creek, you--you have never shown me a letter from--from my--Frank's father.

General Haverill arrived in Washington yesterday, but has not been here yet. Is it because I am here? He has never seen me, and I feel that he has never forgiven Frank for marrying me.

MRS. HAVERILL. Nonsense, my child; he did think the marriage was imprudent, but he told me to do everything I could for you. If General Haverill has not been to see either of us, since his arrival in Washington, it is nothing that you need to worry your dear little head about. How are you getting on with your son's wardrobe?

EDITH. Oh! Splendidly! Frankie isn't a baby any longer; he's a man, now, and he has to wear a man's clothes. [_Holding up a little pair of trousers, with maternal pride._] He's rather young to be dressed like a man, but I want Frank to grow up as soon as possible. I long to have him old enough to understand me when I repeat to him the words in which General Haverill told the whole world how his father died!

[_Rising._] And yet, even in his official report to the Government, he only honoured him as Lieutenant Bedloe. He has never forgiven his son for the disgrace he brought upon his name.

MRS. HAVERILL. I know him so well--[_Rising._]--the unyielding pride, that conquers even the deep tenderness of his nature. He can be silent, though his own heart is breaking. [_Aside._] He can be silent, too, though _my_ heart is breaking. [_Dropping her face in her hand._

EDITH. _Mother!_ [_Putting her arm about her._

_Enter_ JANNETTE.

JANNETTE. A letter for you, Madam.

MRS. HAVERILL. [_Taking note. Aside._] He has answered me. [_Opens and reads; inclines her head to_ JANNETTE, _who goes out to hall. Aloud._]

General Haverill will be here this afternoon, Edith. [_Exit up the stairs._

EDITH. There is something that she cannot confide to me, or to anyone.

General Haverill returned to Washington yesterday, and he has not been here yet. He will be here to-day. I always tremble when I think of meeting him.

GENERAL BUCKTHORN _appears in hall._

BUCKTHORN. Come right in; this way, Barket. Ah, Edith!

BARKET. [_Entering._] As I was saying, sur--just after the battle of Sayder Creek began--

BUCKTHORN. [_To_ EDITH.] More good news! The war is, indeed, over, now!

BARKET. Whin Colonel Wist rode to the front to mate his raytrating rigiment--

BUCKTHORN. General Johnson has surrendered his army, also; and that, of course, does end the war.

EDITH. I'm very glad that all the fighting is over.

BUCKTHORN. So am I; but my occupation, and old Barket's, too, is gone.

Always at work on new clothes for our little soldier?

EDITH. He's growing so, I can hardly make them fast enough for him.

But this is the time for his afternoon nap. I must go now, to see if he is sleeping soundly.

BUCKTHORN. Our dear little mother! [_Tapping her chin._] I always claim the privilege of my white hair, you know. [_She, puts up her lips; he kisses her. She goes out._] The sweetest young widow I ever saw! [BARKET _coughs._ BUCKTHORN _turns sharply;_ BARKET _salutes._]

Well! What the devil are you thinking about now?

BARKET. The ould time, sur. Yer honour used to claim the same privilege for brown hair.

BUCKTHORN. You old rascal! What a memory you have! You were telling me for the hundredth time about the battle of Cedar Creek; go on. I can never hear it often enough. Kerchival West was a favourite of mine, poor fellow!

BARKET. Just afther the battle of Sayder Creek began, when the Colonel rode to the front to mate his raytrating rigiment--

BUCKTHORN. I'll tell Old Margery to bring in tea for both of us, Barket.

BARKET. For both of us, sur?

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Shenandoah Part 19 summary

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