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Shenandoah Part 18

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FRANK. Ah! He is coming. [_Then suddenly._] Write! Write! [GERTRUDE _writes in the note-book as he dictates._] "To--my wife--Edith:--Tell our little son, when he is old enough to know--how his father died; not how he lived. And tell her who filled my own mother's place so lovingly--she is your mother, too--that my father's portrait of her, which she gave to me in Charleston, helped me to be a better man!"

And--oh! I must not forget this--"It was taken away from me while I was a prisoner in Richmond, and it is in the possession of Captain Henry Thornton, of the Confederate Secret Service. But her face is still beside your own in my heart. My best--warmest, last--love--to you, darling." I will sign it. [GERTRUDE _holds the book, and he signs it, then sinks back very quietly, supported by the_ SURGEON. GERTRUDE _rises and walks right._

MADELINE. General Haverill is here. [_The_ SURGEON _lays the fold of the blanket over_ FRANK'S _face and rises._

GERTRUDE. Doctor!

MAJOR. He is dead. [MADELINE, _on veranda, turns and looks left. The_ LIEUTENANT _orders the guard,_ "Present Arms". _Enter_ HAVERILL, _on veranda. He salutes the guard as he passes. The_ LIEUTENANT _orders,_ "Carry Arms." HAVERILL _comes down._



HAVERILL. I am too late?

MAJOR. I'm sorry, General. His one eager thought as we came was to reach here in time to see you. [HAVERILL _moves to the bier, looks down at it, then folds back the blanket from the face. He starts slightly as he first sees it._

HAVERILL. Brave boy! I hoped once to have a son like you. I shall be in your father's place, to-day, at your grave. [_He replaces the blanket and steps back._] We will carry him to his comrades in the front. He shall have a soldier's burial, in sight of the mountain-top beneath which he sacrificed his young life; that shall be his monument.

MAJOR. Pardon me, General. We Virginians are your enemies, but you cannot honour this young soldier more than we do. Will you allow my men the privilege of carrying him to his grave? [HAVERILL _inclines his head. The_ SURGEON _motions to the Confederate soldiers, who step to the bier and raise it gently._

HAVERILL. Lieutenant! [_The_ LIEUTENANT _orders the guard,_ "Left Face." _The Confederate bearers move through the gate, preceded by_ LIEUTENANT HARDWICK. HAVERILL _draws his sword, reverses it, and moves up behind the bier with bowed head. The_ LIEUTENANT _orders_ "Forward March," _and the cortege disappears. While the girls are still watching it, the heavy sound of distant artillery is heard, with booming reverberations among the hills and in the Valley._

MADELINE. What is that sound, Gertrude?

GERTRUDE. Listen! [_Another and more prolonged distant sound, with long reverberations._

MADELINE. Again! Gertrude! [GERTRUDE _raises her hand to command silence; listens. Distant cannon again._

GERTRUDE. It is the opening of a battle.

MADELINE. Ah! [_Running down stage. The sounds again. Prolonged rumble._

GERTRUDE. How often have I heard that sound. [_Coming down._] This is war, Madeline! You are face to face with it now.

MADELINE. And Robert is there! He may be in the thickest of the danger--at this very moment.

GERTRUDE. Yes. Let our prayers go up for him; mine do, with all a sister's heart. [KERCHIVAL _enters on veranda, without coat or vest, his sash about his waist, looking back as he comes in._] Kerchival!

KERCHIVAL. Go on! Go on! Keep the battle to yourselves. I'm out of it.

[_The distant cannon and reverberations rising in volume. Prolonged and distant rumble._

MADELINE. I pray for Robert Ellingham--and for the _cause_ in which he risks his life! [KERCHIVAL _looks at her, suddenly; also_ GERTRUDE.]

Heaven forgive me if I am wrong, but I am praying for the enemies of my country. His people are my people, his enemies are my enemies.

Heaven defend him and his, in this awful hour.

KERCHIVAL. Madeline! My sister!

MADELINE. Oh, Kerchival! [_Turning and dropping her face on his breast._] I cannot help it--I cannot help it!

KERCHIVAL. My poor girl! Every woman's heart, the world over, belongs not to any country or any flag, but to her husband--and her lover.

Pray for the man you love, sister--it would be treason not to.

[_Passes her before him to left. Looks across to_ GERTRUDE.] Am I right? [GERTRUDE _drops her head._ MADELINE _moves up veranda and out._] Is what I have said to Madeline true?

GERTRUDE. Yes! [_Looks up._] Kerchival!

KERCHIVAL. Gertrude! [_Hurries across to her, clasps her in his arms.

He suddenly staggers and brings his hand to his breast._

GERTRUDE. Your wound! [_Supporting him as he reels and sinks into seat._

KERCHIVAL. Wound! I have no wound! You do love me! [_Seizing her hand._

GERTRUDE. Let me call the Surgeon, Kerchival.

KERCHIVAL. You can be of more service to me than he can. [_Detaining her. Very heavy sounds of the battle; she starts, listening._] Never mind that! It's only a battle. You love me!

GERTRUDE. Be quiet, Kerchival, dear. I do love you. I told you so, when you lay bleeding here, last night. But you could not hear me.

[_At his side, resting her arm about him, stroking his head._] I said that same thing--to--to--another, more than three years ago. It is in that letter that General Buckthorn gave you. [KERCHIVAL _starts._]

No--no--you must be very quiet, or I will not say another word. If you obey me, I will repeat that part of the letter, every word; I know it by heart, for I read it a dozen times. The letter is from Mrs.

Haverill.

KERCHIVAL. [_Quietly._] Go on.

GERTRUDE. "I have kept your secret, my darling, but I was sorely tempted to betray the confidence you reposed in me at Charleston.

If Kerchival West--[_She retires backward from him as she proceeds._]--had heard you say, as I did, when your face was hidden in my bosom, that night, that you loved him with your whole heart--"

KERCHIVAL. Ah! [_Starting to his feet. He sinks back. She springs to support him._

GERTRUDE. I will go for help.

KERCHIVAL. Do not leave me at such a moment as this. You have brought me a new life. [_Bringing her to her knees before him and looking down at her._] Heaven is just opening before me. [_His hands drops suddenly and his head falls back. Battle._

GERTRUDE. Ah! Kerchival! You are dying! [_Musketry. A sudden sharp burst of musketry, mingled with the roar of artillery near by._ KERCHIVAL _starts, seizing_ GERTRUDE'S _arm and holding her away, still on her knees. He looks eagerly._

KERCHIVAL. The enemy is close upon us!

BARKET _runs in, up the slope._

BARKET. Colonel Wist! The devils have sprung out of the ground.

They're pouring over our lift flank like Noah's own flood. The Union Army has started back for Winchester, on its way to the North Pole; our own regiment, Colonel, is coming over the hill in full retrate.

KERCHIVAL. My own regiment! [_Starting up._] Get my horse, Barket.

[_Turns._] Gertrude, my life! [_Embraces_ GERTRUDE.

BARKET. Your horse, is it? I'm wid ye! There's a row at Finnegan's ball, and we're in it. [_Springs to road, and out._

KERCHIVAL. [_Turns away. Stops._] I am under arrest. [_Retreat.

Fugitives begin to straggle across stage._

GERTRUDE. You must not go, Kerchival; it will kill you.

KERCHIVAL. Arrest be damned! [_Starts up stage, raises his arms above his head with clenched fist, rising to full height._] Stand out of my way, you cowards! [_They cower away from him as he rushes out among them. The stream of fugitives passing across stage swells in volume._ GERTRUDE _runs through them and up to the elevation, turning._

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Shenandoah Part 18 summary

You're reading Shenandoah. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Bronson Howard. Already has 28 views.

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