She Would Be a Soldier/Act I
A Valley with a neat Cottage on the right, an Arbour on the left, and picturesque Mountains at a distance.
Enter from the cottage, JASPER and JENKINS.
JENKINS. And so, neighbour, you are not then a native of this village?
JASPER. I am not, my friend; my story is short, and you shall hear it. It was my luck, call it bad or good, to be born in France, in the town of Castlenaudary, where my parents, good honest peasants, cultivated a small farm on the borders of the canal of Midi. I was useful, though young; we were well enough to live, and I received from the parish school a good education, was taught to love my country, my parents, and my friends; a happy temper, a common advantage in my country, made all things easy to me; I never looked for to-morrow to bring me more joy than I experienced to-day.
JENKINS. Pardon my curiosity, friend Jasper: how came you to leave your country, when neither want nor misfortune visited your humble dwelling?
JASPER. Novelty, a desire for change, an ardent disposition to visit foreign countries. Passing through the streets of Toulouse one bright morning in spring, the lively drum and fife broke on my ear, as I was counting my gains from a day's marketing. A company of soldiers neatly dressed, with white cockades, passed me with a brisk step; I followed them through instinct—the sergeant informed me that they were on their way to Bordeaux, from thence to embark for America, to aid the cause of liberty in the new world, and were commanded by the Marquis de la Fayette. That name was familiar to me; La Fayette was a patriot—I felt like a patriot, and joined the ranks immediately.
JENKINS. Well, you enlisted and left your country?
JASPER. I did. We had a boisterous passage to America, and endured many hardships during the revolution. I was wounded at Yorktown, which long disabled me, but what then? I served under great men, and for a great cause; I saw the independence of the thirteen states acknowledged, I was promoted to a sergeancy by the great Washington, and I sheathed my sword, with the honest pride of knowing, that I had aided in establishing a powerful and happy republic.
JENKINS. You did well, honest Jasper, you did well; and now you have the satisfaction of seeing your country still free and happy.
JASPER. I have, indeed. When the army was disbanded, I travelled on foot to explore the uncultivated territory which I had assisted in liberating. I purchased a piece of land near the great lakes, and with my axe levelled the mighty oaks, cleared my meadows, burnt out the wolves and bears, and then built that cottage there.
JENKINS. And thus became a settler and my neighbour; thanks to the drum and fife and the white cockade, that lured you from your home.
JASPER. In a short time, Jenkins, everything flourished; my cottage was neat, my cattle thriving, still I wanted something—it was a wife. I was tired of a solitary life, and married Kate, the miller's daughter; you knew her.
JENKINS. Ay, that I did; she was a pretty lass.
JASPER. She was a good wife—ever cheerful and industrious, and made me happy: poor Kate! I was without children for several years; at length my Christine was born, and I have endeavoured, in cultivating her mind, and advancing her happiness, to console myself for the loss of her mother.
JENKINS. Where is Christine? where is your daughter, neighbour Jasper?
JASPER. She left the cottage early this morning with Lenox, to climb the mountains and see the sun rise; it is time for them to return to breakfast.
JENKINS. Who is this Mr. Lenox?
JASPER. An honest lieutenant of infantry, with a gallant spirit and a warm heart. He was wounded at Niagara, and one stormy night, he presented himself at our cottage door, pale and haggard. His arm had been shattered by a ball, and he had received a flesh wound from a bayonet: we took him in—for an old soldier never closes his door on a wounded comrade—Christine nursed him, and he soon recovered. But I wish they were here—it is growing late: besides, this is a busy day, friend Jenkins.
JENKINS. Ah, how so?
JASPER. You know Jerry Mayflower, the wealthy farmer; he has offered to marry my Christine. Girls must not remain single if they can get husbands, and I have consented to the match, and he will be here to-day to claim her hand.
JENKINS. But will Christine marry Jerry? She has been too well educated for the honest farmer.
JASPER. Oh, she may make a few wry faces, as she does when swallowing magnesia, but the dose will go down. There is some credit due to a wife who improves the intellect of her husband; aye, and there is some pride in it also. Girls should marry. Matrimony is like an old oak; age gives durability to the trunk, skill trims the branches, and affection keeps the foliage ever green. But come, let us in.
[JASPER and JENKINS enter the cottage.
Pastoral Music.—LENOX and CHRISTINE are seen winding down the mountains—his left arm is in a sling.
CHRISTINE. At last we are at home.—O my breath is nearly gone. You soldiers are so accustomed to marching and countermarching, that you drag me over hedge and briar, like an empty baggage-wagon. Look at my arm, young Mars, you've made it as red as pink, and as rough as—then my hand—don't attempt to kiss it, you—wild man of the woods.
LENOX. Nay, dear Christine, be not offended; if I have passed rapidly over rocks and mountains, it is because you were with me. My heart ever feels light and happy when I am permitted to walk with you; even the air seems newly perfumed, and the birds chaunt more melodiously; and see, I can take my arm out of confinement—your care has done this; your voice administered comfort, and your eyes affection. What do I not owe you?
CHRISTINE. Owe me? Nothing, only one of your best bows, and your prettiest compliments. But I do suspect, my serious cavalier, that your wounds were never as bad as you would have me think. Of late you have taken your recipes with so much grace, have swallowed so many bitter tinctures with a playful smile, that I believe you've been playing the invalid, and would make me your nurse for life—O sinner as you are, what have you to say for yourself?
LENOX. Why, I confess, dear Christine, that my time has passed with so much delight, that even the call of duty will find me reluctant to quit these scenes, so dear to memory, hospitality, and, let me add, to love. Be serious, then, dear Christine, and tell me what I have to hope; even now I expect orders from my commanding officer, requiring my immediate presence at the camp; we are on the eve of a battle—Speak!
CHRISTINE. Why, you soldiers are such fickle game, that if we once entangle you in the net, 'tis ten to one but the sight of a new face will be sufficiently tempting to break the mesh—you're just as true as the smoke of your cannon, and you fly off at the sight of novelty in petticoats, like one of your Congreve rockets—No, I won't love a soldier—that's certain.
LENOX. Nay, where is our reward then for deserving well of our country? Gratitude may wreath a chaplet of laurel, but trust me, Christine, it withers unless consecrated by beauty.
CHRISTINE. Well, that's a very pretty speech, and deserves one of my best courtesies. Now suppose I should marry you, my "dear ally Croaker," I shall expect to see myself placed on the summit of a baggage-wagon, with soldiers' wives and a few dear squalling brats, whose musical tones drown e'en the "squeaking of the wry-neck'd fife;" and if I should escape from the enemy at the close of a battle, I should be compelled to be ever ready, and "pack up my tatters and follow the drum."—No, no, I can't think of it.
LENOX. Prithee, be serious, dear Christine, your gaiety alarms me. Can you permit me to leave you without a sigh? Can I depart from that dear cottage and rush to battle without having the assurance that there is a heart within which beats in unison with mine? a heart which can participate in my glory, and sympathize in my misfortunes?
CHRISTINE. No—not so, Lenox; your glory is dear to me, your happiness my anxious wish. I have seen you bear pain like a soldier, and misfortune like a man. I am myself a soldier's daughter, and believe me, when I tell you, that under the appearance of gaiety, my spirits are deeply depressed at your approaching departure. I have been taught, by a brave father, to love glory when combined with virtue. There is my hand;—be constant, and I am ever your friend; be true, and you shall find me ever faithful.
LENOX. Thanks—a thousand thanks, beloved Christine; you have removed a mountain of doubts and anxious wishes from my heart: I did hope for this reward, though it was a daring one. Love and honour must now inspire me, and should we again be triumphant in battle, I shall return to claim the reward of constancy—a reward dearer than thrones—the heart of a lovely and virtuous woman.
CHRISTINE. Enough, dear Lenox; I shall never doubt your faith. But come, let us in to breakfast—stay—my knight of the rueful countenance, where is the portrait which you have been sketching of me? Let me look at your progress.
LENOX. 'Tis here.
[Gives a small drawing book.
CHRISTINE. [Opening it.] Heavens, how unlike! Why Lenox, you were dreaming of the Venus de Medici when you drew this—Oh, you flatterer!
LENOX. Nay,'tis not finished; now stand there, while I sketch the drapery.—[Places her at a distance, takes out a pencil, and works at the drawing.]
CHRISTINE. Why, what a statue you are making of me. Pray, why not make a picture of it at once? Place me in that bower, with a lute and a lap dog, sighing for your return; then draw a soldier disguised as a pilgrim, leaning on his staff, and his cowl thrown back; let that pilgrim resemble thee, and then let the little dog bark, and I fainting, and there's a subject for the pencil and pallet.
LENOX. Sing, dear Christine, while I finish the drawing—it may be the last time I shall ever hear you.
CHRISTINE. Oh, do not say so, my gloomy cavalier; a soldier, and despair?
THE KNIGHT ERRANT.
Written by the late Queen of Holland.
It was Dunois, the young and brave, was bound to Palestine,
But first he made his orisons before St. Mary's shrine:
And grant, immortal Queen of Heav'n, was still the soldier's prayer,
That I may prove the bravest knight, and love the fairest fair.
His oath of honour on the shrine he grav'd it with his sword,
And follow'd to the Holy Land the banner of his Lord;
Where, faithful to his noble vow, his war-cry fill'd the air—
Be honour'd, aye, the bravest knight, beloved the fairest fair.
They ow'd the conquest to his arm, and then his liege lord said,
The heart that has for honour beat must be by bliss repaid:
My daughter Isabel and thou shall be a wedded pair,
For thou art bravest of the brave, she fairest of the fair.
And then they bound the holy knot before St. Mary's shrine,
Which makes a paradise on earth when hearts and hands combine;
And every lord and lady bright that was in chapel there,
Cry'd, Honour'd be the bravest knight, belov'd the fairest fair.
LENOX. There, 'tis finished—how do you like it?
CHRISTINE. Why, so, so—if you wish something to remind you of me, it will do.
LENOX. No, not so; your image is too forcibly impressed here to need so dull a monitor. But I ask it to reciprocate—wear this for my sake [Gives a miniature.], and think of him who, even in the battle's rage, will not forget thee. [Bugle sounds at a distance.] Hark! 'tis a bugle of our army. [Enter a SOLDIER, who delivers a letter to LENOX and retires—LENOX opens and reads it.]
"The enemy, in force, has thrown up entrenchments near Chippewa; if your wounds will permit, join your corps without delay—a battle is unavoidable, and I wish you to share the glory of a victory. You have been promoted as an aid to the general for your gallantry in the last affair. It gives me pleasure to be the first who announces this grateful reward—lose not a moment.
I must be gone immediately.
Enter JASPER and JENKINS from the cottage.
JASPER. Ah! Lenox, my boy, good morning to you. Why Christine, you have had a long ramble with the invalid.
CHRISTINE. Lenox leaves us immediately, dear father; the army is on the march.
JASPER. Well, he goes in good time, and may success attend him. Ods my life, when I was young, the sound of the drum and fife was like the music of the spheres, and the noise and bustle of a battle was more cheering to me, than "the hunter's horn in the morning." You will not forget us, Lenox, will you?
LENOX. Forget ye? Never—I should be the most ungrateful of men, could I forget that endearing attention which poured oil into my wounds, and comforted the heart of a desponding and mutilated soldier. No, Jasper, no; while life remains, yourself and daughter shall never cease to live in my grateful remembrance.
[CHRISTINE and LENOX enter the cottage.
Pastoral Music.—Peasants are seen winding down the mountains, headed by JERRY, dressed for a festive occasion, with white favours, nosegays, &c.
JERRY. Here I am, farmer Jasper—come to claim Miss Crissy as my wife, according to your promise, and have brought all my neighbours. How do you do?
JASPER. Well—quite well—and these are all your neighbours?
JERRY. Yes—there's Bob Short, the tanner; Nick Anvil, the blacksmith; Patty, the weaver's daughter—and the rest of 'em; come here, Patty, make a curtchey to the old soger—[PATTY comes forward.]—a pretty girl! I could have had her, but she wanted edication—she wanted the airs and graces, as our schoolmaster says.
JASPER. Well, farmer, you are an honest man, but I fear my Christine will not approve this match, commenced without her advice, and concluded without her consent. Then her education has been so different from—
JERRY. O, fiddle-de-dee, I don't mind how larned she is, so much the better—she can teach me to parlyvoo, and dance solos and duets, and such elegant things, when I've done ploughing.
JASPER. But I'm not sure that she will like you.
JERRY. Not like me? Come, that's a good one; only look at my movements—why she can't resist me. I'm the boy for a race, for an apple-paring or quilting frolic—fight a cock, hunt an opossum, or snare a partridge with any one.—Then I'm a squire, and a county judge, and a brevet ossifer in the militia besides; and a devil of a fellow at an election to boot. Not have me? damme, that's an insult. Besides, sergeant Jasper, I've been to the wars since I've seen ye—got experience, laurels and lilies, and all them there things.
JERRY. Yes—sarved a campaign, and was at the battle of Queenstown. What do you think of that?
JASPER. And did you share in the glory of that spirited battle?
JERRY. O yes, I shared in all the glory—that is—I didn't fight. I'll tell you how it was: I marched at the head of my village sogers, straight as the peacock in my farm yard, and I had some of the finest lads in our county, with rifles—well, we march'd and camp'd, and camp'd and march'd, and were as merry as grigs until we arrived at the river: half the troops had cross'd and were fighting away like young devils: ods life, what a smoke! what a popping of small arms, and roaring of big ones! and what a power of red coats!
JASPER. Well, and you panted to be at them? clubb'd your rifles, and dashed over?
JERRY. Oh no, I didn't—I was afear'd that in such a crowd, nobody would see how I fought, so I didn't cross at all. Besides, some one said, it were contrary to law and the constitution, to go into the enemy's country, but if they com'd into our country, it were perfectly lawful to flog 'em.
JASPER. And you did not cross?
JERRY. Oh no, I stood still and look'd on; it were contrary to the constitution of my country, and my own constitution to boot—so I took my post out of good gun shot, and felt no more fear nor you do now.
JASPER. No doubt. Admirable sophistry, that can shield cowards and traitors, under a mistaken principle of civil government! I've heard of those scruples, which your division felt when in sight of the enemy. Was that a time to talk of constitutions—when part of our gallant army was engaged with unequal numbers? Could you calmly behold your fellow citizens falling on all sides, and not avenge their death? Could you, with arms in your hands, the enemy in view, with the roar of cannon thundering on your ear, and the flag of your country waving amidst fire and smoke—could you find a moment to think of constitutions? Was that a time to pause and suffer coward scruples to unnerve the arm of freemen?
JERRY. Bravo! bravo! sergeant Jasper; that's a very fine speech—I'll vote for you for our assemblyman; now just go that over again, that I may get it by heart for our next town meeting—blazing flags—fiery cannon—smoking constitutions—
JASPER. I pray you pardon me. I am an old soldier, and fought for the liberty which you enjoy, and, therefore, claim some privilege in expressing my opinion. But come, your friends are idle, let us have breakfast before our cottage door.—Ah, Jerry, my Crissy would make a fine soldier's wife: do you know that I have given her a military education?
JERRY. No, surely—
JASPER. Aye, she can crack a bottle at twelve paces with a pistol.
JERRY. Crack a bottle! Come, that's a good one; I can crack a bottle too, but not so far off.
JASPER. And then she can bring down a buck, at any distance.
JERRY. Bring down a buck? I don't like that—can't say as how I like my wife to meddle with bucks. Can she milk—knit garters—make apple butter and maple sugar—dance a reel after midnight, and ride behind her husband on a pony, to see the trainings of our sogers—that's the wife for my money. Oh, here she comes.
Enter CHRISTINE and LENOX from the cottage.
JASPER. Christine, here is farmer Mayflower and his friends, who have come to visit our cottage, and you in particular.
CHRISTINE. They are all welcome. Good morning, Jerry—how is it with you?
JERRY. Purely, Miss Crissy, I'm stout and hearty, and you look as pretty and as rosy as a field of pinks on a sunshiny morning.
JASPER. Come here, farmer—give me your hand—Christine, yours—[Joins them.]—there; may you live long and happy, and my blessings ever go with you.
CHRISTINE. [Aside in amazement.] Heavens! what can this mean? [LENOX is agitated—pause—JASPER and group retire—LENOX remains at a distance.]
JERRY. Why, Miss Crissy, your father has consented that I shall marry you, and I've come with my neighbours to have a little frolic, and carry you home with me.
CHRISTINE. And am I of so little moment as not to be consulted? Am I thus to be given away by my father without one anxious question? [With decision.] Farmer, pardon my frankness; on this occasion, sincerity alone is required—I do not like you, I will not marry you—nay, do not look surprised. I am a stranger to falsehood and dissimulation, and thus end at once all hopes of ever becoming my husband.
JERRY. Why, now, Miss Crissy, that's very cruel of you—I always had a sneaking kindness for you, and when your father gave his consent, I didn't dream as how you could refuse me.
CHRISTINE. My father has ever found me dutiful and obedient, but when he bestows my hand, without knowing whether my heart or inclinations accompany it, I feel myself bound to consult my own happiness. I cannot marry you, farmer.
LENOX. [Advancing.] All things are prepared, and I am now about to depart. Christine, farewell! Friends, good fortune await you! [Aside.] Dear Christine, remember me.
JERRY. Lack-a-daisy! What a disappointment to me, when I had put my house in such nice order—painted my walls—got a new chest upon chest—two new bed quilts, and a pair of pumps, and had the pig-sty and dairy whitewashed.—Hang me, after all, I believe, she is only a little shy. Oh, I see it now, she only wants a little coaxing—a little sparking or so—I've a great mind to kiss her. I will, too.
[Approaches CHRISTINE, who stands at a distance, buried in deep thought.
CHRISTINE. Begone—dare not touch me! Heavens, am I reserved for this humiliation? Could my father be so cruel?
JERRY. Now, Crissy, don't be so shy—you know you like me— you know you said t' other day, when I were out training, that I held up my head more like a soger than anybody in the ranks; come now, let's make up; you'll always find me a dutiful husband, and if I ever flog you, then my name's not Jerry.
Enter JASPER from the cottage, with a basket; PEASANTS following with fruit.
JASPER. Come, let us have breakfast in the open air—help me to arrange the table.
JERRY. Breakfast! Oh, true, I've a powerful appetite.
CHRISTINE. [Aside.] What is to be done? I have not a moment to lose; my father is stern and unyielding—I know his temper too well, to hope that my entreaties will prevail with him—the farmer is rich, and gold is a powerful tempter. I must be gone—follow Lenox, and in disguise, to avoid this hateful match. I'll in, whilst unobserved.
[Enters the collage.
JASPER. Come, sit down, farmer and neighbours; and you, my pretty lads and lasses, let's have a dance. Ah, here is a foraging party.
Party dance—several pastoral and fancy dances—and as the whole company retires, CHRISTINE comes from the cottage with cautious steps—she is dressed in a frock coat, pantaloons and hat.
CHRISTINE. They are gone—now to escape. Scenes of my infancy—of many a happy hour, farewell! Oh, farewell, forever!
JASPER and JERRY return.
JERRY. She refused me plumply.
JERRY. No, it's quite possible. Farmer, said she, I will not marry you—and hang me if there's any joke in that.
JASPER. Refuse an honest man? A wealthy one, too? And one whom her father gives to her? Trifling girl! Insensible to her happiness and interest. What objections had she to you, farmer?
JERRY. Objections! Oh, none in the world, only she wouldn't marry me; she didn't seem struck at all with my person.
JASPER. Mere coyness—maiden bashfulness.
JERRY. So I thought, sergeant Jasper, and was going to give her a little kiss, when she gave me such a look, and such a push, as quite astounded me.
JASPER. I will seek and expostulate with the stubborn girl. Ah, Jerry, times have strangely altered, when young women choose husbands for themselves, with as much ease and indifference, as a ribbon for their bonnet.
[Enters the cottage.
JERRY. So they do—the little independent creatures as they are—but what Miss Crissy could see in me to refuse, hang me if I can tell. I'm call'd as sprightly a fellow as any in our county, and up to everything—always ready for fun, and perfectly good- natured.
[Enter JASPER from the cottage, agitated.
JASPER. She is nowhere to be found—she has gone off and left her poor old father. In her room, I found these lines scrawled with a pencil: "You have driven your daughter from you, by urging a match that was hateful to her. Was her happiness not worth consulting?" What's to be done? Where has she gone? Ah, a light breaks in upon me—to the camp—to the camp!
JERRY. Oho! I smell a rat too—she's gone after Mr. Lenox, the infantry ossifer. Oh, the young jade! But come along, old soger— get your hat and cane, and we'll go arter her—I'm a magistrate, and will bring her back by a habes corpus.
[They enter the cottage.
- Allusion to the Irish song "Ally Croaker", which was included in Samuel Foote's An Englishman in Paris
- Allusion to Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Act 2, Scene 5.
- Allusion to the British song "How Happy the Soldier".
- Romance of Dunois, a French song as translated by Walter Scott
- Allusion to the bugle song "The Hunter's Horn in the Morning", by Richard Willis