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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 1 - Scene 2. The Ford Of Santa Marta, Salamanca
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The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 1 - Scene 2. The Ford Of Santa Marta, Salamanca Post by :Shaune Category :Plays Author :Thomas Hardy Date :May 2012 Read :2349

Click below to download : The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 1 - Scene 2. The Ford Of Santa Marta, Salamanca (Format : PDF)

The Dynasts: An Epic Drama Of The War With Napoleon - Part 3 - Act 1 - Scene 2. The Ford Of Santa Marta, Salamanca

PART THIRD. ACT FIRST. SCENE II.

(We are in Spain, on a July night of the same summer, the air being hot and heavy. In the darkness the ripple of the river Tormes can be heard over the ford, which is near the foreground of the scene.

Against the gloomy north sky to the left, lightnings flash revealing rugged heights in that quarter. From the heights comes to the ear the tramp of soldiery, broke and irregular, as by obstacles in their descent; as yet they are some distance off. On heights to the right hand, on the other side of the river, glimmer the bivouac fires of the French under MARMONT. The lightning quickens, with rolls of thunder, and a few large drops of rain fall.

A sentinel stands close to the ford, and beyond him is the ford- house, a shed open towards the roadway and the spectator. It is lit by a single lantern, and occupied by some half-dozen English dragoons with a sergeant and corporal, who form part of a mounted patrol, their horses being picketed at the entrance. They are seated on a bench, and appear to be waiting with some deep intent, speaking in murmurs only.

The thunderstorm increases till it drowns the noise of the ford and of the descending battalions, making them seem further off than before. The sentinel is about to retreat to the shed when he discerns two female figures in the gloom. Enter MRS. DALBIAC and MRS. PRESCOTT, English officers wives.)


SENTINEL

Where there's war there's women, and where there's women there's trouble! (Aloud) Who goes there?


MRS. DALBIAC

We must reveal who we are, I fear (to her companion). Friends! (to sentinel).


SENTINEL

Advance and give the countersign.


MRS. DALBIAC

Oh, but we can't!


SENTINEL

Consequent which, you must retreat. By Lord Wellington's strict regulations, women of loose character are to be excluded from the lines for moral reasons, namely, that they are often employed by the enemy as spies.


MRS. PRESCOTT

Dear good soldier, we are English ladies benighted, having mistaken our way back to Salamanca, and we want shelter from the storm.


MRS. DALBIAC

If it is necessary I will say who we are.--I am Mrs. Dalbiac, wife of the Lieutenant-Colonel of the Fourth Light Dragoons, and this lady is the wife of Captain Prescott of the Seventh Fusileers. We went out to Christoval to look for our husbands, but found the army had moved.

SENTINEL (incredulously)

"Wives!" Oh, not to-day! I have heard such titles of courtesy afore; but they never shake me. "W" begins other female words than "wives!"--You'll have trouble, good dames, to get into Salamanca to-night. You'll be challenged all the way down, and shot without clergy if you can't give the countersign.


MRS. PRESCOTT

Then surely you'll tell us what it is, good kind man!


SENTINEL

Well--have ye earned enough to pay for knowing? Government wage is poor pickings for watching here in the rain. How much can ye stand?


MRS. DALBIAC

Half-a-dozen pesetas.


SENTINEL

Very well, my dear. I was always tender-hearted. Come along. (They advance and hand the money.) The pass to-night is "Melchester Steeple." That will take you into the town when the weather clears. You won't have to cross the ford. You can get temporary shelter in the shed there.

(As the ladies move towards the shed the tramp of the infantry draws near the ford, which the downfall has made to purl more boisterously. The twain enter the shed, and the dragoons look up inquiringly.)


MRS. DALBIAC (to dragoons)

The French are luckier than you are, men. You'll have a wet advance across this ford, but they have a dry retreat by the bridge at Alba.


SERGEANT OF PATROL (starting from a doze)

The moustachies a dry retreat? Not they, my dear. A Spanish garrison is in the castle that commands the bridge at Alba.


MRS. DALBIAC

A peasant told us, if we understood rightly, that he saw the Spanish withdraw, and the enemy place a garrison there themselves.

(The sergeant hastily calls up two troopers, who mount and ride off with the intelligence.)


SERGEANT

You've done us a good turn, it is true, darlin'. Not that Lord Wellington will believe it when he gets the news. . . . Why, if my eyes don't deceive me, ma'am, that's Colonel Dalbiac's lady!


MRS. DALBIAC

Yes, sergeant. I am over here with him, as you have heard, no doubt, and lodging in Salamanca. We lost our way, and got caught in the storm, and want shelter awhile.


SERGEANT

Certainly, ma'am. I'll give you an escort back as soon as the division has crossed and the weather clears.


MRS. PRESCOTT (anxiously)

Have you heard, sergeant, if there's to be a battle to-morrow?


SERGEANT

Yes, ma'am. Everything shows it.


MRS. DAlBIAC (to MRS. PRESCOTT)

Our news would have passed us in. We have wasted six pesetas.


MRS. PRESCOTT (mournfully)

I don't mind that so much as that I have brought the children from Ireland. This coming battle frightens me!


SPIRIT OF THE YEARS

This is her prescient pang of widowhood.
Ere Salamanca clang to-morrow's close
She'll find her consort stiff among the slain!

(The infantry regiments now reach the ford. The storm increases in strength, the stream flows more furiously; yet the columns of foot enter it and begin crossing. The lightning is continuous; the faint lantern in the ford-house is paled by the sheets of fire without, which flap round the bayonets of the crossing men and reflect upon the foaming torrent.)


CHORUS OF THE PITIES (aerial music)

The skies fling flame on this ancient land!
And drenched and drowned is the burnt blown sand
That spreads its mantle of yellow-grey
Round old Salmantica to-day;
While marching men come, band on band,
Who read not as a reprimand
To mortal moils that, as 'twere planned
In mockery of their mimic fray,
The skies fling flame.

Since sad Coruna's desperate stand
Horrors unsummed, with heavy hand,
Have smitten such as these! But they
Still headily pursue their way,
Though flood and foe confront them, and
The skies fling flame.

(The whole of the English division gets across by degrees, and their invisible tramp is heard ascending the opposite heights as the lightnings dwindle and the spectacle disappears.)

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