Bronson Howard

Part 3 out of 3

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

JENNY. [_Aside._] At last!

HEARTSEASE. I'll show you how that tune went. [_Turns to piano; sits._

JENNY. [_Aside._] Papa said I'd have to help him, but I don't see an
opening. [HEARTSEASE _plays part of an air with one finger; strikes
two or three wrong notes._

HEARTSEASE. There are two notes down there, somewhere, that I
never could get right. The fellows in prison used to dance while I
played--[_Playing._]--that is, the lame ones did; those that weren't
lame couldn't keep the time.

JENNY. You must have been in great danger, Captain, when you escaped
from prison.

HEARTSEASE. Y-e-s. I was badly frightened several times. One night
I came face to face, on the road, with a Confederate officer. It was
Captain Thornton.

JENNY. Oh! What did you do?

HEARTSEASE. I killed him. [_Very quietly, and trying the tune again
at once. Enter_ JANNETTE, _from in hall; she glances into the room
and goes up the stairs._] I used to skip those two notes on the banjo.
It's very nice for a soldier to come home from the war, and meet
those--I mean the one particular person--that he--you see, when a
soldier loves a woman, as--as--

JENNY. [_Aside._] As he loves me. [_Approaches him._

HEARTSEASE. As soldiers often do--[_Plays; she turns away, petulantly;
he plays the tune through correctly._] That's it!

JENNY. [_Aside._] I'm not going to be made love to by piece-meal,
like this, any longer. [_Aloud._] Captain Heartsease! Have you
anything in particular to say to me? [_He looks up._

HEARTSEASE. Y-e-s. [_Rising._

JENNY. Say it! You told my father, and all my friends, that you were
in love with me. Whom are you going to tell next?

HEARTSEASE. I _am_ in love with you.

JENNY. It was my turn.

HEARTSEASE. [_Going near to her._] Do you love me?

JENNY. [_Laying her head quietly on his breast._] I must take time to

HEARTSEASE. [_Quietly._] I assume that this means "Yes."

JENNY. It isn't the way a girl says "No."

HEARTSEASE. My darling!

JENNY. Why! His heart is beating as fast as mine is!

HEARTSEASE. [_Quietly._] I am frantic with joy. [_He kisses her. She
hides her face on his breast. Enter_ MRS. HAVERILL, _down-stairs,
followed by_ JANNETTE. MRS. HAVERILL _stops suddenly._ JANNETTE
_stands in the doorway._ HEARTSEASE _inclines his head to her, quietly
looking at her over_ JENNY.] I am delighted to see you, after so long
an absence; I trust that we shall meet more frequently hereafter.

JENNY. [_Looking at him._] Eh?

HEARTSEASE. [_Looking down at her._] I think, perhaps, it might be
as well for us to repair to another apartment, and continue our
interview, there!

JENNY. [_Dropping her head on his breast again._] This room is very

MRS. HAVERILL. Jenny, dear! [JENNY _starts up; looks from_ MRS.

JENNY. Constance! I--'Bout face! March! [_Turns and goes out._

MRS. HAVERILL. I am glad to see you again, Captain, and happy as well
as safe.

HEARTSEASE. Thank you, Madam. I am happy. If you will excuse me, I
will join--my father--in the smoking-room. [MRS. HAVERILL _inclines
her head, and_ HEARTSEASE _walks out._

MRS. HAVERILL. Jannette! You may ask General Haverill to come into
this room. [_Exit_ JANNETTE. MRS. HAVERILL _walks down, reading
a note._] "I have hesitated to come to you personally, as I have
hesitated to write to you. If I have been silent, it is because I
could not bring my hand to write what was in my mind and in my heart.
I do not know that I can trust my tongue to speak it, but I will

_Enter_ HAVERILL _from hall; he stops._

HAVERILL. Constance!

MRS. HAVERILL. My husband! May I call you husband? After all these
months of separation, with your life in almost daily peril, and my
life--what? Only a weary longing for one loving word--and you are

HAVERILL. May I call you wife? I do not wish to speak that word except
with reverence. You have asked me to come to you. I am here. I will
be plain, direct and brief. Where is the portrait of yourself, which I
gave you, in Charleston, for my son?

MRS. HAVERILL. Your son is dead, sir; and my portrait lies upon his
breast, in the grave. [HAVERILL _takes the miniature from his pocket
and holds it towards her in his extended hand. She starts back._] He
gave it to you? And you ask me where it is?

HAVERILL. It might have lain in the grave of Kerchival West!


HAVERILL. Not in my son's. I found it upon _his_ breast. [_She turns
front, dazed._] Well! I am listening! It was not I that sought this
interview, Madam; and if you prefer to remain silent, I will go. You
know, now, why I have been silent so long.

MRS. HAVERILL. My only witnesses to the truth are both dead. I shall
remain silent. [_Turning towards him._] We stand before each other,
living, but not so happy as they. We are parted, forever. Even if you
should accept my unsupported word--if I could so far forget my pride
as to give it to you--suspicion would still hang between us. I
remain silent. [HAVERILL _looks at her, earnestly, for a moment; then
approaches her._

HAVERILL. I cannot look into your eyes and not see truth and loyalty
there. Constance!

MRS. HAVERILL. No, John! [_Checking him._] I will not accept your
blind faith!

HAVERILL. [_Looking down at the picture in his hand._] My faith is
blind; blind as my love! I do not wish to see! [_Enter_ EDITH. _She
stops; looks at_ HAVERILL. _He raises his head and looks at her._

EDITH. This is General Haverill? [_Dropping her eyes._] I am Edith,

HAVERILL. [_Gently._] My son's wife. [_Kisses her forehead._] You
shall take the place he once filled in my heart. His crime and his
disgrace are buried in a distant grave.

EDITH. And you have not forgiven him, even yet?

MRS. HAVERILL. Is there no atonement for poor Frank's sin--not even
his death? Can you only bury the wrong and forget the good?

HAVERILL. The good?

MRS. HAVERILL. Your own words to the Government, as his commander!

HAVERILL. What do you mean?

MRS. HAVERILL. "The victory of Cedar Creek would have been impossible
without the sacrifice of this young officer."

HAVERILL. My own words, yes--but--

EDITH. "His name must take its place, forever, in the roll of names
which his countrymen honour."

HAVERILL. Lieutenant Bedloe!

MRS. HAVERILL. Haverill! You did not know?

HAVERILL. My--son.

EDITH. You did not receive mother's letter?--after his death?

HAVERILL. My son! [_Sinking upon chair or ottoman._] I left him alone
in his grave, unknown; but my tears fell for him then, as they do now.
He died before I reached him.

EDITH. Father! [_Laying her hand gently on his shoulder._] You shall
see Frank's face again. His little son is lying asleep upstairs; and
when he wakes up, Frank's own eyes will look into yours. I have
just received his last message. I will read it to you. [_Note-book.
Reads._] "Tell our little son how his father died, not how he lived.
And tell her who filled my own mother's place so lovingly." [_She
looks at_ MRS. HAVERILL, _moves to her and hides her face in her
bosom._] My mother!

MRS. HAVERILL. Edith--my child! Frank loved us both.

EDITH. [_Reading._] "Father's portrait of her, which she gave to me in
Charleston--[HAVERILL _starts._]--helped me to be a better man."

HAVERILL. [_Rising to his feet._] Constance!

EDITH. [_Reading._] "It was taken from me in Richmond, and it is in
the possession of Captain Edward Thornton."

HAVERILL. One moment! Stop! Let me think! [EDITH _looks at him;
retires up stage._] Thornton was a prisoner--and to Kerchival West. A
despatch had been found upon him--he was searched! [_He moves to her
and takes both her hands in his own, bowing his head over them._] My
head is bowed in shame.

MRS. HAVERILL. Speak to me, John, as you used to speak! Tell me you
still love me!

HAVERILL. The--the words will come--but they are--choking me--now.
[_Presses her hand to his lips._

MRS. HAVERILL. We will think no more of the past, except of what
was bright in it. Frank's memory, and our own love, will be with us

_Enter_ BUCKTHORN, _followed by_ HEARTSEASE.

BUCKTHORN. Haverill! You are back from the war, too. It begins to look
like peace in earnest.

HAVERILL. Yes. Peace and home. [_Shaking hands with him._ MRS.

_Enter_ BARKET.

BARKET. Gineral! [BUCKTHORN _moves to him._ HAVERILL _joins_ MRS.
HAVERILL _and_ EDITH. BARKET _speaks apart, twisting one side of his
face._] I kissed her!

BUCKTHORN. Have you sent for a surgeon?

BARKET. I felt as if the inimy had surprised us agin, and Sheridan was
sixty miles away.

HAVERILL. This is old Sergeant Barket. [BARKET _salutes._] You were
the last man of us all that saw Colonel West.

BARKET. Just afther the battle of Sayder Creek began--whin Colonel
Wist rode to the front to mate his retreating rigiment--the byes
formed in line, at sight of him, to raysist the victorious inimy. It
was just at the brow of a hill--about there, sur--[_Pointing with
his cane._] and--here! [_He takes tray from table and sets it on the
carpet. Lays the slices of bread in a row._] That be the rigiment.
[_All interested._ MADELINE _and_ ELLINGHAM _enter, and look on._
BARKET _arranges the two cups and saucers in a row._] That be the
inimy's batthery, sur. [_Enter_ MARGERY. _She goes to the table; then
looks around, sharply, at_ BARKET.

MARGERY. Ye ould Hibernian dhrone! What are yez doin' wid the china on
the floor? You'll break it all!

BUCKTHORN. Ah--Margery! Barket is telling us where he last saw Colonel
Kerchival West.

MARGERY. The young Colonel! The tay-cups and saucers be's the inimy's
batthery? Yez may smash 'em, if ye loike!

BUCKTHORN. Go on, Barket. [JENNY _and_ HEARTSEASE _have entered as_
BARKET _proceeds; the whole party lean forward, intensely interested._
GERTRUDE _enters in hall, looks in, beckons out left._ KERCHIVAL
_follows. They move up stage, back of the rest and unseen, listening._

BARKET. Just as the rigiment was rayformed in line, and Colonel Wist
was out in front--widout any coat or hat, and wid only a shtick in his
hand--we heard cheers in the rear. Gineral Sheridan was coming! One
word to the men--and we swept over the batthery like a whirlwind!
[_Slashing his cane through the cups and saucers._

MARGERY. Hoo-roo!

BARKET. The attack on the lift flank was checked. But when we shtopped
to take breath, Colonel Wist wasn't wid us. [GERTRUDE _turns lovingly
to_ KERCHIVAL. _He places his arm about her._] Heaven knows where he
is now. Afther the battle was over, poor Miss Gertrude wint off by
hersilf into the wilderness to find him.

KERCHIVAL. My wife! You saved my life, at last! [_Embracing her._

BARKET. They'll niver come together in this world. I saw Miss
Gertrude, myself, ride away into the woods and disappear behind a
school-house on the battle-field, over there.

GERTRUDE. No, Barket--[_All start and look._]--it was the little
church; we were married there this morning!



Back to Full Books