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BOTH. O--O-h! [_Bursting into tears and rushing into each other's arms, sobbing, then suddenly kissing each other vigorously._
KERCHIVAL. I say, Bob, if the North and South do fight, that will be the end of it.
GERTRUDE. I've got something to say to you, Madeline, dear.
[_Confidentially and turning with her arms about her waist. The girls sit, talking earnestly._
ELLINGHAM. Kerchival, old boy! There's--there's something I'd like to say to you before we part to-day.
KERCHIVAL. I'd like a word with you, also!
MADELINE. You don't really mean that, Gertrude--with me?
ELLINGHAM. I'm in love with your sister Madeline.
KERCHIVAL. The devil you are!
ELLINGHAM. I never suspected such a thing until last night.
GERTRUDE. Robert was in love with you six weeks ago.
[MADELINE _kisses her._
KERCHIVAL. _I've_ made a discovery, too, Bob.
MADELINE. _I've_ got something to say to _you_, Gertrude.
KERCHIVAL. I'm in love with _your_ sister.
ELLINGHAM. [_Astonished._] You are?
MADELINE. Kerchival has been in love with you for the last three months. [GERTRUDE _offers her lips--they kiss._
KERCHIVAL. I fell in love with her the day before yesterday. [_The two gentlemen grasp each other's hand warmly._
ELLINGHAM. We understand each other, Kerchival. [_He turns up centre, and stops at door._] Miss Madeline, you said just now that you wished to watch the forts. Would you like to walk down to the sh.o.r.e?
MADELINE. Yes! [_Rising and going up to him. He takes one of her hands in his own and looks at her earnestly._
ELLINGHAM. This will be the last day that we shall be together for the present. But we shall meet again--sometime--if we both live.
MADELINE. If we both live! You mean--if _you_ live: You must go into this dreadful war, if it comes.
ELLINGHAM. Yes, Madeline, I must. Come, let us watch for our fate.
[_Exeunt on veranda._
KERCHIVAL. [_Aside._] I must leave Charleston to-day. [_Sighs._] Does she love me?
GERTRUDE. I am ready to start, Mr. West, when you are.
KERCHIVAL. Oh! Of course, I forgot. [_Rising._] I shall be delighted to ride at your side.
GERTRUDE. At my side! [_Rising._] There isn't a horse in America that can keep by the side of my Jack, when I give him his head, and I'm sure to do it. You may follow us. But you can hardly ride in that costume; while you are changing it, I'll give Jack his bonbons.
[_Turning to window._] There he is, bless him! Pawing the ground, and impatient for me to be on his back. Let him come, Pete. [_Holding up bonbons at window_]. I love you.
KERCHIVAL. Eh? [_Turning suddenly._
GERTRUDE. [_Looking at him._] What?
KERCHIVAL. You were saying--
GERTRUDE. Jack! [_looking out. The head of a large black horse appears through the window._] You dear old fellow! [_Feeds with bonbons._]
Jack has been my boy ever since he was a little colt. I brought you up, didn't I, Jack? He's the truest, and kindest, and best of friends; I wouldn't be parted from him for the world, and I'm the only woman he'll allow to be near him.
KERCHIVAL. [_Earnestly._] You are the only woman, Miss Gertrude, that I--
GERTRUDE. Dear Jack!
KERCHIVAL. [_Aside._] Jack embarra.s.ses me. He's a third party.
GERTRUDE. There! That will do for the present, Jack. Now go along with Pete! If you are a very good boy, and don't let Lieutenant Kerchival West come within a quarter of a mile of me, after the first three minutes, you shall have some more sugar-plums when we get to Mrs.
Pinckney's. [_An old negro leads the horse away._ GERTRUDE _looks around at_ KERCHIVAL.] You haven't gone to dress yet; we shall be late. Mrs. Pinckney asked a party of friends to witness the bombardment this morning, and breakfast together on the piazza while they are looking at it. We can remain and join them, if you like.
KERCHIVAL. I hope they won't wait for breakfast until the bombardment begins.
GERTRUDE. I'll bet you an embroidered cigar-case, Lieutenant, against a box of gloves, that it will begin in less than an hour.
KERCHIVAL. Done! You will lose the bet. But you shall have the gloves; and one of the hands that go inside them shall be--[_Taking one of her hands; she withdraws it._
GERTRUDE. My own--until some one wins it. You don't believe that General Beauregard will open fire on Fort Sumter this morning?
KERCHIVAL. No; I don't.
GERTRUDE. Everything is ready.
KERCHIVAL. It's so much easier to get everything ready to do a thing than it is to do it. I have been ready a dozen times, this very night, to say to you, Miss Gertrude, that I--that I--[_Pauses._
GERTRUDE. [_Looking down and tapping skirt with her whip._] Well?
KERCHIVAL. But I didn't.
GERTRUDE. [_Glancing up at him suddenly._] I dare say, General Beauregard has more nerve than you have.
KERCHIVAL. It is easy enough to set the batteries around Charleston Harbour, but the man who fires the first shot at a woman--