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THORNTON. I think you are entitled to my attention, sir.
KERCHIVAL. My time here is limited.
THORNTON. We need not delay. The Bayou La Forge is convenient to this place.
KERCHIVAL. I'll meet you there, with a friend, at once.
THORNTON. It will be light enough to see the sights of our weapons in about one hour. [_They bow to each other, and_ THORNTON _goes out._
KERCHIVAL. I've got ahead of Bob.
GERTRUDE. [_Without._] Whoa! Jack! Old boy! Steady, now--that's a good fellow.
KERCHIVAL. She has returned. I _must_ know whether Gertrude Ellingham loves me--before Thornton and I meet. He is a good shot.
GERTRUDE. [_Without, calling._] O-h! Pete! You may take Jack to the stable. Ha--ha--ha! [_Appears at window. To_ KERCHIVAL.] Old Pete, on the bay horse, has been doing his best to keep up with us; but Jack and I have led him such a race! Ha--ha--ha--ha! [_Disappearing beyond the window._
KERCHIVAL. Does she love me?
GERTRUDE. [_Entering and coming down._] I have the very latest news from the headquarters of the Confederate Army in South Carolina. At twenty minutes after three this morning General Beauregard sent this message to Major Anderson in Fort Sumter: "I shall open fire in one hour!" The time is up!--and he will keep his word! [_Turning and looking out of the window._ KERCHIVAL _moves across to her._
KERCHIVAL. Gertrude! I must speak to you; we may never meet again; but I must know the truth. I love you. [_Seizing her hand._] Do you love me? [_She looks around at him as if about to speak; hesitates._]
Answer me! [_She looks down with a coquettish smile, tapping her skirt with her riding whip._] Well? [_A distant report of a cannon, and low rumbling reverberations over the harbour._ GERTRUDE _turns suddenly, looking out._ KERCHIVAL _draws up, also looking off._
GERTRUDE. A low--bright--line of fire--in the sky! It is a shell. [_A second's pause; she starts slightly_.] It has burst upon the fort.
[_Looks over her shoulder at_ KERCHIVAL, _drawing up to her full height_.] Now!--do you believe that we Southerners are in deadly earnest?
KERCHIVAL. We Northerners are in deadly earnest, too. I have received my answer. We are--enemies! [_They look at each other for a moment_.
GERTRUDE. Kerchival! [_Moving quickly half across stage, looking after him eagerly; stops._] Enemies! [_She drops into chair, sobbing bitterly. Another distant report, and low, long reverberations as the curtain descends_.
SCENE. _The Ellingham Homestead in the Shenandoah Valley. Exterior.
Three Top Mountain in the distance. A corner of the house, with projecting end of veranda. Low wall extending up from veranda. A wide opening in the wall, with a low, heavy stone post, with flat top, on each side. Beyond the wall and opening, a road runs across stage.
At the back of this road, elevation of rock and turf. This slopes up behind wood wing. It is level on the top about twelve feet; slopes down to road, and also out behind wood wings. The level part in the centre rises to about four feet above the stage. Beyond this elevation the distance is a broad valley, with Three Top Mountain rising on the right. Foliage appropriate to northern Virginia--walnut, cottonwood, &c. Rustic seats and table. Seat near veranda. A low rock near the stone post. Sunset when curtain rises. As the act proceeds this fades into twilight and then bright moonlight. The number references for the trumpet signals, in this and the next act, are to the official book, entitled "Cavalry Tactics, United States Army," published by D.
Appleton & Co., N.Y., 1887. The number references for the Torch Signals, in this act, are to the General Service Code. This code may be found, with illustrations and instructions, in a book entitled "Signal Tactics," by Lieutenant Hugh T. Reed, U.S. Army, published by John Riley & Sons, N.Y., 1880. At rise of curtain, Trumpet Signal No. 34 or No. 35 is heard very distant._ GERTRUDE _and_ MADELINE _discovered on elevation up center._ GERTRUDE _is shading her eyes with her hand and looking off._ MADELINE _stands a little below her, on the incline, resting her arm about_ GERTRUDE'S _waist, also looking off._
GERTRUDE. It is a regiment of Union Cavalry. The Federal troops now have their lines three miles beyond us, and only a month ago the Confederate Army was north of Winchester. One army or the other has been marching up and down the Shenandoah Valley for three years. I wonder what the next change will be. We in Virginia have had more than our share of the war. [_Looking off._
MADELINE. You have, indeed, Gertrude. [_Walking down to seat._] And we at home in Washington have pitied you so much. But everybody says that there will be peace in the Valley after this. [_Dropping into seat._
GERTRUDE. Peace! [_Coming down._] That word means something very different to us poor Southerners from what it means to you.
MADELINE. I know, dear; and we in the North know how you have suffered, too. We were very glad when General Buckthorn was appointed to the command of the Nineteenth Army Corps, so that Jenny could get permission for herself and me to come and visit you.
GERTRUDE. The old General will do anything for Jenny, I suppose.
MADELINE. Yes. [_Laughing._] We say in Washington that Jenny is in command of the Nineteenth Army Corps herself.
GERTRUDE. I was never more astonished or delighted in my life than when you and Jenny Buckthorn rode up, this morning, with a guard from Winchester; and Madeline, dear, I--I only wish that my brother Robert could be here, too. Do you remember in Charleston, darling--that morning--when I told you that--that Robert loved you?
MADELINE. He--[_Looking down._]--he told me so himself only a little while afterwards, and while we were standing there, on the shore of the bay--the--the shot was fired which compelled him to enter this awful war--and me to return to my home in the North.
GERTRUDE. I was watching for that shot, too. [_Turning._
MADELINE. Yes--[_Rising_.]--you and brother Kerchival--
GERTRUDE. We won't talk about that, my dear. We were speaking of Robert. As I told you this morning, I have not heard from him since the battle of Winchester, a month ago. Oh, Madeline! the many, many long weeks, like these, we have suffered, after some terrible battle in which he has been engaged. I do not know, now, whether he is living or dead.
MADELINE. The whole war has been one long suspense to me. [_Dropping her face into her hands_.
GERTRUDE. My dear sister! [_Placing her arm about her waist and moving left_.] You are a Northern girl, and I am a Rebel--but we are sisters.
[_They go up veranda and out_. An OLD COUNTRYMAN _comes in on a cane.
He stops and glances back, raises a broken portion of the capstone of post, and places a letter under it_. GERTRUDE _has stepped back on veranda and is watching him. He raises his head sharply, looking at her and bringing his finger to his lips. He drops his head again, as with age, and goes out._
GERTRUDE _moves down to stage and up to road, looks right and left, raises the broken stone, glancing back as she does so; takes letter and moves down_.] Robert is alive! It is his handwriting! [_Tears open the wrapper_.] Only a line from him! and this--a despatch--and also a letter to me! Why, it is from Mrs. Haverill--from Washington--with a United States postmark. [_Reads from a scrap of paper_.]
"The enclosed despatch must be in the hands of Captain Edward Thornton before eight o'clock to-night. We have signaled to him from Three Top Mountain, and he is waiting for it at the bend in Oak Run. Our trusty scout at the Old Forge will carry it if you will put it in his hands."
The scout is not there, now; I will carry it to Captain Thornton myself. I--I haven't my own dear horse to depend on now; Jack knew every foot of the way through the woods about here; he could have carried a despatch himself. I can't bear to think of Jack; it's two years since he was captured by the enemy--and if he is still living--I--I suppose he is carrying one of their officers. No! Jack wouldn't fight on that side. He was a Rebel--as I am. He was one of the Black Horse Cavalry--his eyes always flashed towards the North.
Poor Jack! my pet. [_Brushing her eyes_.] But this is no time for tears. I must do the best I can with the gray horse. Captain Thornton shall have the despatch. [_Reads from note_.]
"I also enclose a letter for you. I found it in a United States mail-bag which we captured from the enemy."
Oh--that's the way Mrs. Haverill's letter came--ha--ha--ha--by way of the Rebel Army! [_Opens it; reads._]
"My Darling Gertrude: When Colonel Kerchival West was in Washington last week, on his way from Chattanooga, to serve under Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, he called upon me. It was the first time I had seen him since the opening of the war. I am certain that he still loves you, dear." [_She kisses the letter eagerly, then draws up._
It is quite immaterial to me whether Kerchival West still loves me or not. [_Reads._
"I have kept your secret, my darling."--Ah! my secret!--"but I was sorely tempted to betray the confidence you reposed in me at Charleston. If Kerchival West 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--"--Oh! I could bite my tongue out now for making that confession--[_Looks down at letter with a smile._] "I am certain that he still loves you." [_Trumpet Signal No. 41. Kisses the letter repeatedly. Trumpet Signal No. 41, louder than at first. She starts, listening._
JENNY BUCKTHORN _runs in on the veranda._
JENNY. Do you hear, Gertrude, they are going to pass this very house.
[_Military band. "John Brown" playing in the distance. Chorus of Soldiers._] I've been watching them through my glass; it is Colonel Kerchival West's regiment.
GERTRUDE. [_Eagerly, then coldly._] Colonel West's! It is perfectly indifferent to me whose regiment it is.
JENNY. Oh! Of course. [_Coming down._] It is equally indifferent to me; Captain Heartsease is in command of the first troop. [_Trumpet Signal No. 52._] Column right! [_She runs up to road. Looks._] They are coming up the hill.