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THE SOLDIER'S RETURN.
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN.
A COLLOQUY-IN TWO SCENES.
F. B. WILSON.
DIRECTIONS.— R. means Right of Stage facing the audience ; L. Left ; C. Centre ; N C. Left of Centre ; R. C. Right of Centre.*
Scene I - Interior of a Kitchen in a New England Home-MR. and Mrs. HANSFORD seated near each other ; he with paper she with knitting.
MRS. HANFORD. Do you know, husband, that it is just three years ago to-day that our son, our dear boy, bade us "good-bye.” 'Tis just three years since he marched with many other patriot boys, to battle for freedom. Oh! how firm he looked as he stood forth in his suit of blue; how hopeful he seemed to be! “I will came back, mother," he said, “crowned with glory, in three years from to-day." Those words I can never forget; but where is our boy to-night?
MR. H. 'Tis strange, wife, that our minds should wander to the same subject; though I sit with paper in hand, glancing over its columns, my thoughts were far away. I thought of him, as he heroically charged against the
enemy, as wound
* As nearly every school has some sort of a stage and curtain, any directions on this subject would be superfluous. The stage should be deep enough to admit of a second curtain. This curtain should not extend over more than two-thirds of the stage. A gauze curtain behind the dark one will add to the effect.
ed he lay on the field of battle. His letters assure us that he is not a stranger to such scenes as these. But a year has elapsed since we have heard from him. His name has not appeared in the list of wounded or killed. I still hope that he may be alive. I would not think otherwise.
Mrs. H. Perhaps he now lives in some dismal prison cell. A worse fate than this may have befallen him. Sick ness, brought on by being forced to sleep in damp rebel prisons, and want of food, may have caused his death. MR. H. I feel positive that he is not now in the ranks of
One of your conjectures must be true. But God grant that he may yet live, and return to us.
MRS. H. This is war's harsh blow. Each bullet, each blade, that pierces a heart on a battle-field, pierces double the number at home. Many a home has a “vacant chair in it to-night. But the struggle is for liberty. Our son has fought and bled, perhaps died for his country. The thought is a fearful one; but God still lives.
MR. H. Let that thought still cheer us: “ God still lives.” May he grant victory to the cause of Union, freedom to the bond-man, and peace and consolation to every broken heart. Wife, let us spare our fears, let us be hopeful.
Silence for a few moments; a knock is heard at door.
MR. H. Come! (Enter soldier, wounded.)
SOLDIER. (R.) I am hungry and weary with my long journey. I am without money; taken very sick on my way, I was forced to spend all I had during my sickness. I am loath to beg, but am driven to it.
Mrs. H. We know how to feel for you; we gladly will do all in our power to aid you. Şit down and rest yourself, while I prepare some food for you. (Mrs. H. prepares food on table, L. C.)
MR. H. In what division of the army were you placed ? SOLDIER. The Potomac army.
I have been with Gen. McClellan during the whole campaign. At the battle of THE SOLDIER'S RETURN.
Gettysburg I received this severe wound in my arm, which prevented me from joining my company again.
MR. H. I had a son in the Potomac army; in the Connecticut infantry. He enlisted three years ago; was captain when last we heard from him. Several letters did we receive from him during the battles before Richmond; but since then not one word has reached us concerning his welfare.
SOLDIER. My regiment was quartered for some time near some troops from Connecticut. I was quite intimate with a captain, by name, Hansford; yet I do not know the number of his regiment.
MR. H. It must have been my son. Do you know where he now is ? When did you see him last?
SOLDIER. I saw him last just before those terrific battles that will ever be remembered in history. So fearful had been the conflict, so hasty our departure, that we thought of little besides ourselves and home. If he had fallen on the field you would certainly have been informed.
MRS. H. Come, your meal is ready. (SOLDIER takes seat.) Would that my boy were seated at your side.
SOLDEIR. It may be in my power to learn something definite concerning your son. I know of his great worth. Many a deed of kindness has he performed for me. Little did I ever think that I should meet his parents. But I pledge you a soldier's word, that I will endeavor to learn where he may now be, and will write you all I may hear concerning him. (rises to go.)
MR. H. (whispers something to wife, L.) I am not rich, I am obliged to work that I may comfortably live; yet I can spare you money so that you need walk no more. Here, take this, (hands him purse) and may God bless thee.
SOLDIER. I will return this money. You truly are a soldier's friend, and God will reward you for this noble act.
(Exits, leaves his bundle R. MR. H. I will now go to the office, tidings may reach us from him. (MR. H. passes out one dlour R., she another L.)
Enter JAY PERSINGS and RALPH FIELDING, R. PERSINGS. The old man has just gone to the office, I met him on my way here. Wonder where the old woman is ? I would really like to see how they will take the news contained in that letter. (laughs, SOLDIER re-enters, walks toward bundle, stops.)
FIELDING. You have forced me to do a dreadful thing, Jay. I am guilty of a most shameful deed.
PERSINGS. Why man, how you talk! Nothing wrong about it. I know his son must be dead ere this; when he reads that letter his fears will be confirmed. There will be a short season of mourning, and soon all excitement will pass away.
FIELDING. Supposing his son be not dead? What if he should return ?
PERSINGS. All the better, providing I marry Rosa Beaumond ere his return.
FIELDING. But will she marry you? Some girls never forget an absent lover. Their lives are se
PERSINGS. Well, I declare ; if I ever thought of hearing you say anything so foolish. Girls never marry because one lover dies. Pooh! pooh! I tell you, Ralph, as soon as one lover is lost to them, they put forth every exertion to get another. You look excited this morning. Here, take a drink. (produces flask.)
FIELDING. (turns partly around, raises flask lo his lips.) This room makes me think of my own home. How very
like it, oh, how happy was I there! What pleasant dreams I had, as I lay on my pillow. under the little cottage-roof. But now ugly dreams haunt me; last night snakes seemed to be twining around my body, and crawling about my arms; I tore my hair, I cried. (observes SOLDIER, who has advanced near him.) Who, sir, are you?
SOLDIER. A weary worn-out soldier. I stopped here a few moments ago, and was kindly treated by the good people here. I had forgotten my bundle and have just returned for it.
THE SOLDIER'S RETURN.
PERSINGS. Take it and leave immediately.
SOLDIER. (yoing R.) I know the designs of these wicked men. The cars are about to leave. (hell rings). I hear the bell, I shall write to my benefactor, and tell him all, as soon as I reach home.
(Erit. FIELDING. Come, Ralph, let us be on our way; 'tis nearly time for the old man to return
(Ereunt R. Enter Mrs. H. and RosA BEAUMOND, L MRS. H. A soldier called a few moments since, Rosa, who had known Theodore. He spoke very highly of him, and told me he would try and learn where he may now be.
ROSA. Would that I could have seen him. What anxiety is mine. But let us “lay all our cares on God; that anchor holds.”
Enter Mr. H., letter in hand, sad. MRS. H. and Rosa. What, have you heard
MR. H. (in a broken voice.) This letter is from an officer in Theodore's regiment; and informs me that he is dead died in a rebel prison. (Rosa utters a scream, is supported to arm-chair C., MR. and Mrs. H. sink down overpowered.)
Curtain at back of stages rises, three FAIRIES appear with wands.
FIRST FAIRY. The blow is a severe one, dear, good and honest people. But it is to test your love for him you mourn. He is not dead, you shall see him again. “God still lives ;” trust in him. (All speak.) May slumbers sweet surround you,
May your hopes in God remain;
And calm your troubled brain.
slowly falls. FAIRIES