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BUCKTHORN. Yes; and later in the evening we'll have something else, together. This is a great day for all of us. I'm not your commander to-day, but your old comrade in arms--[_Laying his arm over_ BARKET'S _shoulder._]--and I'm glad I don't have to pull myself up now every time I forget my dignity. Ah! you and I will be laid away before long, but we'll be together again in the next world, won't we, Barket?
BARKET. Wid yer honour's permission. [_Saluting._
BUCKTHORN. Ha--ha--ha! [_Laughing._] If we do meet there I'm certain you'll salute me as your superior officer. There's old Margery, now.
[_Looking to door. Calls._] Margery! Tea for two!
MARGERY. [_Without._] The tay be waiting for ye, sur; and it be boilin' over wid impatience.
BUCKTHORN. Bring up a chair, Barket. [_Sitting in arm-chair._
BARKET. [_Having placed table and drawing up a chair._] Do you know, Gineral, I don't fale quite aisy in my moind. I'm not quite sure that Margery will let us take our tay together. [_Sits down, doubtfully._
BUCKTHORN. I hadn't thought of that. I--[_Glancing right._]--I hope she will, Barket. But, of course, if she won't--she's been commander-in-chief of my household ever since Jenny was a baby.
BARKET. At Fort Duncan, in Texas.
BUCKTHORN. You and Old Margery never got along very well in those days; but I thought you had made it all up; she nursed you through your wound, last summer, and after the battle of Cedar Creek, also.
BARKET. Yis, sur, bliss her kind heart, she's been like a wife to me; and that's the trouble. A man's wife is such an angel when he's ill that he dreads to get well; good health is a misfortune to him. Auld Margery and I have had anither misunderstanding.
BUCKTHORN. I'll do the best I can for both of us, Barket. You were telling me about the battle of--
BARKET. Just afther the battle of Sayder Creek began, whin Colonel Wist rode to the front to mate his raytrating rigiment--
_Enter_ OLD MARGERY, _tray, tea, &c. She stops abruptly, looking at_ BARKET. _He squirms in his chair._ BUCKTHORN _rises and stands with his back to the mantel._ OLD MARGERY _moves to the table, arranges things on it, glances at_ BARKET, _then at_ BUCKTHORN, _who looks up at ceiling, rubbing his chin, &c._ OLD MARGERY _takes up one of the cups, with saucer._
OLD MARGERY. I misunderstood yer order, sur. I see there's no one here but yerself. [_Going right._
BUCKTHORN. Ah, Margery! [_She stops._] Barket tells me that there has been a slight misunderstanding between you and him.
OLD MARGERY. Day before yisterday, the ould Hibernian dhrone had the kitchen upside down, to show anither old milithary vagabone loike himself how the battle of Sayder Creek was fought. He knocked the crame pitcher into the basket of clane clothes, and overturned some raspberry jam and the flat-irons into a pan of fresh eggs. There _has_ been a misunderstanding betwane us.
BUCKTHORN. I see there has. I suppose Barket was showing his friend how Colonel Kerchival West rode forward to meet his regiment, when he was already wounded dangerously.
OLD MARGERY. Bliss the poor, dear young man! He and I was always good frinds, though he was somethin' of a devil in the kitchen himself, whin he got there. [_Wiping her eye with one corner of her ap.r.o.n._]
And bliss the young Southern lady that was in love wid him, too.
[_Changing the cup and wiping the other eye with the corner of her ap.r.o.n._] Nothing was iver heard of ayther of thim after that battle was over, to this very day.
BUCKTHORN. Barket was at Kerchival's side when he rode to the front.
[OLD MARGERY _hesitates a moment, then moves to the table, sets down the cup and marches out._ BUCKTHORN _sits in the arm-chair again, pouring tea._] I could always find some way to get Old Margery to do what I wanted her to do.
BARKET. You're a great man, Ginerel; we'd niver have conquered the South widout such men.
BUCKTHORN. Now go on, Barket; you were interrupted.
BARKET. Just afther the battle of Sayder Creek began, whin--
_Enter_ JANNETTE _with card, which she hands to_ BUCKTHORN.
BUCKTHORN. [_Reading card._] Robert Ellingham! [_Rises._] I will go to him. [_To_ JANNETTE.] Go upstairs and tell Madeline to come down.
JANNETTE. Yes, sir. [_Going._
BUCKTHORN. And, Jannette, simply say there is a caller; don't tell her who is here. [_Exit_ JANNETTE _upstairs._ BUCKTHORN _follows her out to hall._] Ellingham! My dear fellow! [_Extending his hand and disappearing._
BARKET. Colonel Ellingham and Miss Madeline--lovers! That's the kind o' volunteers the country nades now!
_Enter_ BUCKTHORN _and_ ELLINGHAM.
BUCKTHORN. [_As he enters._] We've been fighting four years to keep you out of Washington, Colonel, but we are delighted to see you within the lines, now.
ELLINGHAM. I am glad, indeed, General, to have so warm a welcome. But can you tell me anything about my sister, Gertrude?
BUCKTHORN. About your sister? Why, can't you tell us? And have you heard nothing of Kerchival West on your side of the line?
ELLINGHAM. All I can tell you is this: As soon as possible after our surrender at Appomattox, I made my way to the Shenandoah Valley. Our home there is utterly deserted. I have hurried down to Washington in the hopes that I might learn something of you. There is no human being about the old homestead; it is like a haunted house--empty, and dark, and solitary. You do not even know where Gertrude is?
BUCKTHORN. We only know that Kerchival was not found among the dead of his own regiment at Cedar Creek, though he fell among them during the fight. The three girls searched the field for him, but he was not there. As darkness came on, and they were returning to the house, Gertrude suddenly seized the bridle of a stray horse, sprang upon its back and rode away to the South, into the woods at the foot of Three Top Mountain. The other two girls watched for her in vain. She did not return, and we have heard nothing from her since.
ELLINGHAM. Poor girl! I understand what was in her thoughts, and she was right. We captured fourteen hundred prisoners that day, although we were defeated, and Kerchival must have been among them. Gertrude rode away, alone, in the darkness, to find him. I shall return to the South at once and learn where she now is.
JANNETTE _has re-entered, down the stairs._
JANNETTE. Miss Madeline will be down in a moment. [_Exit in hall._
BARKET. [_Aside._] That name wint through his chist like a rifle ball.
BUCKTHORN. Will you step into the drawing-room, Colonel? I will see Madeline myself, first. She does not even know that you are living.
ELLINGHAM. I hardly dared asked for her. [_Pa.s.sing; turns._] Is she well?
BUCKTHORN. Yes; and happy--or soon will be.
ELLINGHAM. Peace, at last! [_Exit to apartment._ BUCKTHORN _closes portieres._
BUCKTHORN. I ought to prepare Madeline a little, Barket; you must help me.
BARKET. Yis, sur, I will.
_Enter_ MADELINE _down the stairs._
MADELINE. Uncle! Jannette said you wished to see me; there is a visitor here. Who is it?
BARKET. Colonel Robert Ellingham.
MADELINE. Ah! [_Staggering._
BUCKTHORN. [_Supporting her._] You infernal idiot! I'll put you in the guard-house!