Read ACT III of Shenandoah Representative Plays by American Dramatists: 1856-1911, free online book, by Bronson Howard, on ReadCentral.com.

SCENE. Same. It is now bright daylight, with sunshine flecking the foreground and bathing the distant valley and mountains.

DISCOVERED. JENNY, on low stone post, looking left. As the curtain rises, she imitates Trumpet Signal No 19 on her closed fists.

JENNY. What a magnificent line! [Looking.] Guides-posts! Every man and every horse is eager for the next command. There comes the flag! [Trumpet Signal without, No 30.] To the standard! [As the signal begins.] The regiment is going to the front. Oh! I do wish I could go with it. I always do, the moment I hear the trumpets. Boots and saddles! [Imitates No 16.] Mount! [Imitates No 37.] I wish I was in command of the regiment. It was born in me. [Trumpet Signal No 48, without.] Fours right! There they go! Look at those horses’ ears! [Trumpet Signal No 39, without.] Forward. [Military band heard without “The Battle Cry of Freedom" JENNY takes attitude of holding bridle and trotting.] Rappity plap plap plap, etc. [She imitates the motions of a soldier on horseback, stepping down to rock at side of post; thence to ground and about stage, with the various curvettings of a spirited horse. Chorus of soldiers without, with the band. The music becomes more and more distant. JENNY gradually stops as the music is dying away, and stands, listening. As it dies entirely away, she suddenly starts to an enthusiastic attitude.] Ah! If I were only a man! The enemy! On Third Battalion, left, front, into line, march! Draw sabres! Charge! [Imitates Trumpet Signal No 44. As she finishes, she rises to her full height, with both arms raised, and trembling with enthusiasm.] Ah! [She suddenly drops her arms and changes to an attitude and expression of disappointment pouting.] And the first time Old Margery took me to papa, in her arms, she had to tell him I was a girl. Papa was as much disgusted as I was. But he’d never admit it; he says I’m as good a soldier as any of ’em just as I am.

Enter BARKET on veranda, his arm in a sling.

BARKET. [On veranda] Miss Jenny!

JENNY. Barket! The regiment has marched away to the front, and we girls are left here, with just you and a corporal’s guard to look after us.

BARKET. I’ve been watching the byes mesilf. [Coming down.] If a little milithary sugar-plum like you, Miss Jenny, objects to not goin’ wid’ ’em, what do you think of an ould piece of hard tack like me? I can’t join the regiment till I’ve taken you and Miss Madeline back to Winchester, by your father’s orders. But it isn’t the first time I’ve escorted you, Miss Jenny. Many a time, when you was a baby, on the Plains, I commanded a special guard to accompany ye’s from one fort to anither, and we gave the command in a whisper, so as not to wake ye’s up.

JENNY. I told you to tell papa that I’d let him know when Madeline and I were ready to go.

BARKET. I tould him that I’d as soon move a train of army mules.

JENNY. I suppose we must start for home again to-day?

BARKET. Yes, Miss Jenny, in charge of an ould Sargeant wid his arm in a sling and a couple of convalescent throopers. This department of the United States Army will move to the rear in half an hour.

JENNY. Madeline and I only came yesterday morning.

BARKET. Whin your father got ye’s a pass to the front, we all thought the fightin’ in the Shenandoey Valley was over. It looks now as if it was just beginning. This is no place for women, now. Miss Gertrude Ellingham ought to go wid us, but she won’t.

JENNY. Barket! Captain Heartsease left the regiment yesterday, and he hasn’t rejoined it; he isn’t with them, now, at the head of his company. Where is he?

BARKET. I can’t say where he is, Miss Jenny. [Aside.] Lyin’ unburied in the woods, where he was shot, I’m afraid.

JENNY. When Captain Heartsease does rejoin the regiment, Barket, please say to him for me, that that I I may have some orders for him, when we next meet. [Exit on veranda.

BARKET. Whin they nixt mate. They tell us there is no such thing as marriage in Hiven. If Miss Jenny and Captain Heartsease mate there, they’ll invint somethin’ that’s mighty like it. While I was lyin’ wounded in General Buckthorn’s house at Washington, last summer, and ould Margery was taking care of me, Margery tould me, confidentially, that they was in love wid aitch ither; and I think she was about right. I’ve often seen Captain Heartsease take a sly look at a little lace handkerchief, just before we wint into battle. [Looks off.] Here’s General Buckthorn himself. He and I must make it as aisy as we can for Miss Jenny’s poor heart.

Enter GENERAL BUCKTHORN.

BUCKTHORN. Sergeant Barket! You haven’t started with those girls yet?

BARKET. They’re to go in half an hour, sir.

BUCKTHORN. Be sure they do go. Is General Haverill here?

BARKET. Yes, sir; in the house with some of his staff, and the
Surgeon.

BUCKTHORN. Ah! The Surgeon. How is Colonel West, this morning, after the wound he received last night?

BARKET. He says, himself, that he’s as well as iver he was; but the Colonel and Surgeon don’t agray on that subject. The dochter says he mustn’t lave his room for a month. The knife wint dape; and there’s somethin’ wrong inside of him. But the Colonel, bein’ on the outside himsilf, can’t see it. He’s as cross as a bear, baycause they wouldn’t let him go to the front this morning, at the head of his regiment. I happened to raymark that the Chaplain was prayin’ for his raycovery. The Colonel said he’d court-martial him if he didn’t stop that quick; there’s more important things for the Chaplain to pray for in his official capacity. Just at that moment the trumpets sounded, “Boots and Saddles.” I had to dodge one of his boots, and the Surgeon had a narrow escape from the ither one. It was lucky for us both his saddle wasn’t in the room.

BUCKTHORN. That looks encouraging. I think Kerchival will get on.

BARKET. Might I say a word to you, sur, about Miss Jenny?

BUCKTHORN. Certainly, Barket. You and old Margery and myself have been a sort of triangular mother, so to speak, to the little girl since her own poor mother left her to our care, when she was only a baby, in the old fort on the Plains. [At his side and unconsciously resting his arm over BARKET’S shoulder, familiarly. Suddenly draws up.] Ahem! [Then gruffly.] What is it? Proceed.

BARKET. Her mother’s bosom would have been the softest place for her poor little head to rest upon, now, sur.

BUCKTHORN. [Touching his eyes.] Well!

BARKET. Ould Margery tould me in Washington that Miss Jenny and
Captain Heartsease were in love wid aitch ither.

BUCKTHORN. [Starting.] In love!

BARKET. I approved of the match.

BUCKTHORN. What the devil! [BARKET salutes quickly and starts up stage and out. BUCKTHORN moves up after him; stops at post. BARKET stops in road.

BARKET. So did ould Margery.

BUCKTHORN. March! [Angrily. BARKET salutes suddenly, and exits.] Heartsease! That young jackanapes! A mere fop; he’ll never make a soldier. My girl in love with bah! I don’t believe it; she’s too good a soldier, herself.

[Enter HAVERILL, on veranda.]

Ah, Haverill!

HAVERILL. General Buckthorn! Have you heard anything of General Sheridan since I sent that despatch to him last evening?

BUCKTHORN. He received it at midnight and sent back word that he considers it a ruse of the enemy. General Wright agrees with him. The reconnaissance yesterday showed no hostile force, on our right, and Crook reports that Early is retreating up the Valley. But General Sheridan may, perhaps, give up his journey to Washington, and he has ordered some changes in our line, to be executed this afternoon at four o’clock. I rode over to give you your instructions in person. You may order General McCuen to go into camp on the right of Meadow Brook, with the second division. [HAVERILL is writing in his note-book.

Enter JENNY, on veranda.

JENNY. Oh, papa! I’m so glad you’ve come. I’ve got something to say to you. [Running down and jumping into his arms, kissing him. He turns with her, and sets her down, squarely on her feet and straight before him.

BUCKTHORN. And I’ve got something to say to you about Captain Heartsease.

JENNY. Oh! That’s just what I wanted to talk about.

BUCKTHORN. Fall in! Front face! [She jumps into military position, turning towards him.] What’s this I hear from Sergeant Barket? He says you’ve been falling in love.

JENNY. I have. [Saluting.

BUCKTHORN. Young woman! Listen to my orders. Fallout! [Turns sharply and marches to HAVERILL.] Order the Third Brigade of Cavalry, under Colonel Lowell, to occupy the left of the pike.

JENNY. Papa! [Running to him and seizing the tail of his coat.] Papa, dear!

BUCKTHORN. Close in Colonel Powell on the extreme left [Slapping his coat-tails out of JENNY’S hands, without looking around.] and hold Custer on the second line, at Old Forge Road. That is all at present. [Turns to JENNY.] Good-bye, my darling! [Kisses her.] Remember your orders! You little pet! [Chuckling, as he taps her chin; draws up suddenly; turns to HAVERILL.] General! I bid you good-day.

HAVERILL. Good-day, General Buckthorn. [They salute with great dignity. BUCKTHORN starts up stage; JENNY springs after him, seizing his coat-tails.

JENNY. But I want to talk with you, papa; I can’t fall out. I I haven’t finished yet. [Etc., clinging to his coat, as BUCKTHORN marches out rapidly, in road, holding back with all her might.

HAVERILL. It may have been a ruse of the enemy, but I hope that General Sheridan has turned back from Washington. [Looking at his note-book.] We are to make changes in our line at four o’clock this afternoon. [Returns book to pocket and stands in thought.] The Surgeon tells me that Kerchival West will get on well enough if he remains quiet; otherwise not. He shall not die by the hand of a common assassin; he has no right to die like that. My wife gave my own picture of herself to him not to my son and she looked so like an angel when she took it from my hand! They were both false to me, and they have been true to each other. I will save his life for myself.

Enter GERTRUDE, on veranda.

GERTRUDE. General Haverill! [Anxiously, coming down.] Colonel West persists in disobeying the injunctions of the Surgeon. He is preparing to join his regiment at the front. Give him your orders to remain here. Compel him to be prudent!

HAVERILL. [Quickly.] The honour of death at the front is not in reserve for him.

GERTRUDE. Eh? What did you say, General?

HAVERILL. Gertrude! I wish to speak to you, as your father’s old friend; and I was once your guardian. Your father was my senior officer in the Mexican War. Without his care I should have been left dead in a foreign land. He, himself, afterwards fell fighting for the old flag.

GERTRUDE. The old flag. [Aside.] My father died for it, and he [Looking left.] is suffering for it the old flag!

HAVERILL. I can now return the kindness your father did to me, by protecting his daughter from something that may be worse than death.

GERTRUDE. What do you mean?

HAVERILL. Last night I saw you kneeling at the side of Kerchival West; you spoke to him with all the tender passion of a Southern woman. You said you loved him. But you spoke into ears that could not hear you. Has he ever heard those words from your lips? Have you ever confessed your love to him before?

GERTRUDE. Never. Why do you ask?

HAVERILL. Do not repeat those words. Keep your heart to yourself, my girl.

GERTRUDE. General! Why do you say this to me? And at such a moment when his life

HAVERILL. His life! [Turning sharply.] It belongs to me!

GERTRUDE. Oh!

KERCHIVAL. Sergeant! [Without. He steps in front road, looking back.] See that my horse is ready at once. General! [Saluting.] Are there any orders for my regiment, beyond those given to Major Wilson, in my absence, this morning? I am about to ride on after the troops and re-assume my command.

HAVERILL. [Quietly.] It is my wish, Colonel, that you remain here under the care of the Surgeon.

KERCHIVAL. My wound is a mere trifle. This may be a critical moment in the campaign, and I cannot rest here. I must be with my own men.

HAVERILL. [Quietly.] I beg to repeat the wish I have already expressed. [KERCHIVAL walks to him, and speaks apart, almost under his breath, but very earnest in tone.

KERCHIVAL. I have had no opportunity, yet, to explain certain matters, as you requested me to do yesterday; but whatever there may be between us, you are now interfering with my duty and my privilege as a soldier; and it is my right to be at the head of my regiment.

HAVERILL. [Quietly.] It is my positive order that you do not reassume your command.

KERCHIVAL. General Haverill, I protest against this

HAVERILL. [Quietly.] You are under arrest, sir.

KERCHIVAL. Arrest!

GERTRUDE. Ah! [KERCHIVAL unclasps his belt and offers his sword to HAVERILL.

HAVERILL. [Quietly.] Keep your sword; I have no desire to humiliate you; but hold yourself subject to further orders from me. [KERCHIVAL goes up veranda.

KERCHIVAL. My regiment at the front! and I under arrest! [Exit.

HAVERILL. Gertrude! If your heart refuses to be silent if you feel that you must confess your love to that man first tell him what I have said to you, and refer him to me for an explanation. [Exit into road.

GERTRUDE. What can he mean? He would save me from something worse than death, he said. “His life it belongs to me!” What can he mean? Kerchival told me that he loved me it seems many years since that morning in Charleston and when we met again, yesterday, he said that he had never ceased to love me. I will not believe that he has told me a falsehood. I have given him my love, my whole soul and my faith. [Drawing up to her full height.] My perfect faith!

JENNY runs in from road, and up the slope. She looks down the hill, then enters.

JENNY. A flag of truce, Gertrude. And a party of Confederate soldiers, with an escort, coming up the hill. They are carrying someone; he is wounded.

Enter up the slope, a LIEUTENANT OF INFANTRY with an escort of Union soldiers, their arms at right shoulder, and a party of Confederate soldiers bearing a rustic stretcher. LIEUTENANT FRANK BEDLOE lies on the stretcher. MAJOR HARDWICK, a Confederate Surgeon, walks at his side. MADELINE appears at veranda, watching them. GERTRUDE stands with her back to audience. The LIEUTENANT gives orders in a low tone, and the front escort moves to right, in road. The Confederate bearers and the SURGEON pass through the gate. The rear escort moves to left, in road, under LIEUTENANT’S orders. The bearers halt, front; on a sign from the SURGEON, they leave the stretcher on the ground, stepping back.

MAJOR HARDWICK. Is General Haverill here?

GERTRUDE. Yes; what can we do, sir?

MADELINE. The General is just about mounting with his staff, to ride away. Shall I go for him, sir?

MAJOR. Say to him, please, that Colonel Robert Ellingham, of the Tenth Virginia, sends his respects and sympathy. He instructed me to bring this young officer to this point, in exchange for himself, as agreed upon between them last evening. [Exit MADELINE.

JENNY. Is he unconscious or sleeping, sir?

MAJOR. Hovering between life and death. I thought he would bear the removal better. He is waking. Here, my lad! [Placing his canteen to the lips of FRANK, who moves, reviving.] We have reached the end of our journey.

FRANK. My father!

MAJOR. He is thinking of his home. [FRANK rises on one arm, assisted by the SURGEON.

FRANK. I have obeyed General Haverill’s orders, and I have a report to make.

GERTRUDE. We have already sent for him. [Stepping to him.] He will be here in a moment.

FRANK. [Looking into her face, brightly.] Is not this Miss Gertrude Ellingham?

GERTRUDE. You know me? You have seen me before?

FRANK. Long ago! Long ago! You know the wife of General Haverill?

GERTRUDE. I have no dearer friend in the world.

FRANK. She will give a message for me to the dearest friend I have in the world. My little wife! I must not waste even the moment we are waiting. Doctor! My note-book! [Trying to get it from his coat. The SURGEON takes it out. A torn and blood-stained lace handkerchief also falls out. GERTRUDE kneels at his side.] Ah! I I have a message from another [Holding up handkerchief.] from Captain Heartsease. [JENNY makes a quick start towards him.] He lay at my side in the hospital, when they brought me away; he had only strength enough to put this in my hand, and he spoke a woman’s name; but I I forgot what it is. The red spots upon it are the only message he sent. [GERTRUDE takes the handkerchief and looks back at JENNY, extending her hand. JENNY moves to her, takes the handkerchief and turns back, looking down on it. She drops her face into her hands and goes out sobbing.

Enter MADELINE on veranda.

MADELINE. General Haverill is coming. I was just in time. He was already on his horse.

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.

GERTRUDE. Men! Are you soldiers? Turn back! There is a leader for you! Turn back! Fight for your flag and mine! the flag my father died for! Turn back! [She looks out and turns front.] He has been marked for death already, and I I can only pray. [Dropping to her knees.

The stream of fugitives continues, now over the elevation also. Rough and torn uniforms, bandaged arms and legs; some limping and supported by others, some dragging their muskets after them, others without muskets, others using them as crutches. Variety of uniforms, cavalry, infantry, etc.; flags draggled on the ground, the rattle of near musketry and roar of cannon continue; two or three wounded fugitives drop down beside the hedge. BENSON staggers in and drops upon rock or stump near post. Artillerists, rough, torn and wounded, drag and force a field-piece across. CORPORAL DUNN, wounded, staggers to the top of elevation. There is a lull in the sounds of the battle. Distant cheers are heard without.

CORPORAL DUNN. Listen, fellows! Stop! Listen! Sheridan! General Sheridan is coming! [Cheers from those on stage. GERTRUDE rises quickly. The wounded soldiers rise, looking over hedge. All on stage stop, looking eagerly. The cheers without come nearer, with shouts of “Sheridan! Sheridan!”] The horse is down; he is worn out.

GERTRUDE. No! He is up again! He is on my Jack! Now, for your life, Jack, and for me! You’ve never failed me yet. [The cheers without now swell to full volume and are taken up by those on the stage. The horse sweeps by with GENERAL SHERIDAN.] Jack! Jack!! Jack!!! [Waving her arms as he passes. She throws up her arms and falls backward, caught by DUNN. The stream of men is reversed and surges across stage to road and on elevation, with shouts, throwing up hats, etc. The field-piece is forced up the slope with a few bold, rough movements; the artillerists are loading it, and the stream of returning fugitives is still surging by in the road as the curtain falls.

CURTAIN.