THE DYNASTS ACT m
FIRST DESERTER (a new plashing of feet being heard)
Here's something more in order, or I am much mistaken. (He cranes out.) Yes, a sergeant of the Forty-third, and what's left of their second battalion. And, by God, not far behind I see shining helmets, JTis a whole squadron of French dragoons! *
Enter the sergeant. He has a racking cough, but endeavours, by stiffening himself up, to hide how it is wasting away his life. He halts, and looks back, till the remains of the Forty-third are abreast, to the number of some three hundred, about half of whom are crippled invalids, the other half being presentable and armed soldiery.
Now show yer nerve, and be men. If you die to-day you won't have to die to-morrow. Fall in! (The miscellany falls in.) All invalids and men without arms march ahead as well as they can. Quick— maw-w-w-ch! (Exeunt invalids, etc.) Now! Tention! Shoulder-r-r-r—fawlocks ! (Order obeyed.)
The sergeant hastily forms these into platoons, who prime and load, and seem preternaturally changed from what they were into alert soldiers.
Enter French dragoons at the left-back of the scene. The rear platoon of the Forty-third turns, fires, and proceeds. The next platoon covering them does the same. This is repeated several times, staggering the pursuers. Exeunt. French dragoons, giving up the pursuit. The coughing sergeant and the remnant of the Forty-third march on.
FOURTH DESERTER (to a woman lying beside him)
What d'ye think o' that, my honey? It fairly makes me a man again. Come, wake up! We must be getting along somehow. (He regards the woman more closely.) Why—my little chick? Look here, friends. (They look, and the woman is found to be dead) If I didn't think that her poor knees felt cold! . . . And only an hour ago I swore I'd marry her!