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BARKET. You wanted me to help ye, Gineral.
MADELINE. Robert is alive--and here? [_Rising from his arms, she moves to the portieres, holds them aside, peeping in; gives a joyful start, tosses aside the portieres and runs through._
BUCKTHORN. Barket! There's nothing but that curtain between us and Heaven.
BARKET. I don't like stayin' out o' Hivin, myself, sur. Gineral! I'll kiss Ould Margery--if I die for it! [_Exit._
BUCKTHORN. Kiss Old Margery! I'll give him a soldier's funeral.
[_Enter_ JENNY _from hall, demurely._] Ah! Jenny, my dear! I have news for you. Colonel Robert Ellingham is in the drawing-room.
JENNY. Oh! I am delighted. [_Starting._
JENNY. Oh!--exactly. I see. I have some news for _you,_ papa. Captain Heartsease has arrived in Washington.
BUCKTHORN. Oh! My dear! I have often confessed to you how utterly mistaken I was about that young man. He is a soldier--as good a soldier as you are. I'll ask him to the house.
JENNY. [_Demurely._] He is here now.
JENNY. He's been here an hour; in the library.
BUCKTHORN. Why! Barket and I were in the library fifteen minutes ago.
JENNY. Yes, sir. We were in the bay-window; the curtains were closed.
BUCKTHORN. Oh! exactly; I see. You may tell him he has my full consent.
JENNY. He hasn't asked for it.
BUCKTHORN. Hasn't he? And you've been in the bay-window an hour? Well, my darling--I was considered one of the best Indian fighters in the old army, but it took me four years to propose to your mother. I'll go and see the Captain. [_Exit to hall._
JENNY. I wonder if it will take Captain Heartsease four years to propose to me. Before he left Washington, nearly two years ago, he told everybody in the circle of my acquaintance, except me, that he was in love with me. I'll be an old lady in caps before our engagement commences. Poor, dear mother! The idea of a girl's waiting four years for a chance to say "Yes." It's been on the tip of my tongue so often, I'm afraid it'll pop out, at last, before he pops the question.
_Enter_ BUCKTHORN _and_ HEARTSEASE _from hall._
BUCKTHORN. Walk right in, Captain; this is the family room. You must make yourself quite at home here.
HEARTSEASE. Thank you. [_Walking down._
BUCKTHORN. My dear! [_Apart to_ JENNY.] The very first thing he said to me, after our greeting, was that he loved my daughter.
JENNY. Now he's told my father!
BUCKTHORN. He's on fire!
JENNY. Is he? [_Looking at_ HEARTSEASE, _who stands quietly stroking his mustache._] Why doesn't he tell _me?_
BUCKTHORN. You may have to help him a little; your mother a.s.sisted me. [_Turning up stage._] When you and Jenny finish your chat, Captain--[_Lighting a cigar at the mantel._]--you must join me in the smoking-room.
HEARTSEASE. I shall be delighted. By the way, General--I have been in such a fever of excitement since I arrived at this house--
JENNY. [_Aside._] Fever? Chills!
HEARTSEASE. That I forgot it entirely. I have omitted a very important and a very sad commission. I have brought with me the note-book of Lieutenant Frank Bedloe--otherwise Haverill--in which Miss Gertrude Ellingham wrote down his last message to his young wife.
JENNY. Have you seen Gertrude?
BUCKTHORN. [_Taking book._] How did this note-book come into your possession?
HEARTSEASE. Miss Ellingham visited the prison in North Carolina where I was detained. She was going from hospital to hospital, from prison to prison, and from burial-place to burial-place, to find Colonel Kerchival West, if living--or some record of his death.
BUCKTHORN. Another Evangeline! Searching for her lover through the wilderness of this great war!
HEARTSEASE. I was about to be exchanged at the time, and she requested me to bring this to her friends in Washington. She had not intended to carry it away with her. I was not exchanged, as we then expected, but I afterwards escaped from prison to General Sherman's army.
BUCKTHORN. I will carry this long-delayed message to the widowed young mother. [_Exit._
JENNY. I remember so well, when poor Lieutenant Haverill took out the note-book and asked Gertrude to write for him. He--he brought me a message at the same time. [_Their eyes meet. He puts up his gla.s.ses.
She turns away, touching her eyes._
HEARTSEASE. I--I remember the circ.u.mstances you probably allude to; that is--when he left my side--I--I gave him my--I mean your--lace handkerchief.
JENNY. It is sacred to me!
HEARTSEASE. Y-e-s--I would say--is it?
JENNY. [_Wiping her eyes._] It was stained with the life-blood of a hero!
HEARTSEASE. I must apologize to you for its condition. I hadn't any chance to have it washed and ironed.
JENNY. [_Looking around at him, suddenly; then, aside._] What could any girl do with a lover like that? [_Turning up stage._
HEARTSEASE. [_Aside._] She seems to remember that incident so tenderly! My blood boils!
JENNY. Didn't you long to see your--your friends at home--when you were in prison, Captain?
HEARTSEASE. Yes--especially--I longed especially, Miss Buckthorn, to see--
JENNY. _Yes!--to see--_
HEARTSEASE. But there were lots of jolly fellows in the prison. [JENNY _turns away._] We had a dramatic society, and a glee club, and an orchestra. I was one of the orchestra. I had a banjo, with one string; I played one tune on it, that I used to play on the piano with one finger. But, Miss Buckthorn, I am a prisoner again, to-night--your prisoner.
JENNY. [_Aside._] At last!
HEARTSEASE. I'll show you how that tune went. [_Turns to piano; sits._