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etc., etc.?

"The right of about a million men who are taking part in the
struggle," he replied, laughing at her good-naturedly.

"But I can't permit or endure it any longer," said his wife, and
there was irritation in her protest.

"Well, my dear," he replied, with a shrug, "I must remain among
the eccentric millions who continue to act according to their own
judgment."

"Mamma!" cried Marian, who proved that she was getting well by a
tendency to speak sharply, "do you wish papa to be poorer-spirited
than any of the million? What kind of a man would he be should he
reply, 'Just as you say, my dear; I've no conscience, or will of my
own'? I do not believe that any girl in the land will suffer more
than I when those I love are in danger, but I'd rather die than
blockade the path of duty with my love."


"Yes, and some day when you are fatherless you may repent those
words," sobbed Mrs. Vosburgh.

"This will not answer," said Mr. Vosburgh, in a tone that quieted
both mother and daughter, who at this stage were inclined to be a
little hysterical. "A moment's rational thought will convince you
that words cannot influence me. I know exactly what I owe to you and
to my country, and no earthly power can change my course a hair's
breadth. If I should be brought home dead to-morrow, Marian would
not have the shadow of a reason for self-reproach. She would have
no more to do with it than with the sunrise. Your feelings, in
both instances, are natural enough, and no doubt similar scenes are
taking place all over the land; but men go just the same, as they
should do and always have done in like emergencies. So wipe away
your tears, little women. You have nothing to cry about yet, while
many have."

The master mind controlled and quieted them. Mrs. Vosburgh looked
at her husband a little curiously, and it dawned upon her more
clearly than ever before that the man whom she managed, as she
fancied, was taking his quiet, resolute way through life with his
own will at the helm.

Marian thought, "Ah, why does not mamma idolize such a man and find
her best life in making the most of his life?"

She had, as yet, scarcely grasped the truth that, as disease
enfeebles the body, so selfishness disables the mind, robbing it of
the power to care for others, or to understand them. In a sense
Mr. Vosburgh would always be a stranger to his wife. He had
philosophically and patiently accepted the fact, and was making
the best of the relation as it existed.

It was now decided that the family should return at once to their
city home. Mr. Vosburgh had a few days of leisure to superintend
the removal, and then his duties would become engrossing.

The evening before their departure was one of mild, charming
beauty, and as the dining-room was partially dismantled, it was Mr.
Vosburgh's fancy to have the supper-table spread on the veranda.
The meal was scarcely finished when a tall, broad-shouldered man
appeared at the foot of the steps, and Sally, the pretty waitress,
manifested a blushing consciousness of his presence.

"Wud Mr. Vosburgh let me spake to him a moment?" began the stranger.

Marian recognized the voice that, from the shrubbery, had
given utterance to the indignant protest against traits which had
once characterized her own life and motives. Thinking it possible
that her memory was at fault, she glanced at Sally's face and the
impression was confirmed. "What ages have passed since that June
evening!" she thought.

"Is it anything private, my man?" asked Mr. Vosburgh, pushing back
his chair and lighting a cigar.

"Faix, zur, it's nothin' oi'm ashamed on. I wish to lave the country
and get a place on the perlace force," repeated the man, with an
alacrity which showed that he wished Sally to hear his request.

"You look big and strong enough to handle most men."

"Ye may well say that, zur; oi've not sane the man yit that oi was
afeared on."

Sally chuckled over her knowledge that this was not true in respect
to women, while Marian whispered to her father: "Secure him the
place if you can, papa. You owe a great deal to him and so do I,
although he does not know it. This is the man whose words, spoken
to Sally, disgusted me with my old life. Don't you remember?"

Mr. Vosburgh's eyes twinkled, as he shot a swift glance at Sally,
whose face was redder than the sunset. The man's chief attraction
to the city was apparent.

"What's your name?" the gentleman asked.

"Barney Ghegan, zur."

"Are you perfectly loyal to the North? Will you help carry out the
laws, even against your own flesh and blood, if necessary?"

"Oi'll 'bey orders, zur," replied the man, emphatically. "Oi've
come to Amarekay to stay, and oi'll stan' by the goovernment."

"Can you bring me a certificate of your character?"

"Oi can, zur, for foive years aback."

"Bring it then, Barney, and you shall go on the force; for you're
a fine, strong-looking man, - the kind needed in these days," said
Mr. Vosburgh, glad to do a good turn for one who unwittingly had
rendered him so great a service, and also amused at this later
aspect of the affair.

This amusement was greatly enhanced by observing Barney's proud,
triumphant glance at Sally. Turning quickly to note its effect on
the girl, Mr. Vosburgh caught the coquettish maid in the act of
making a grimace at her much-tormented suitor.

Sally's face again became scarlet, and in embarrassed haste she
began to clear the table.

Barney was retiring slowly, evidently wishing for an interview
with his elusive charmer before he should return to his present
employers, and Mr. Vosburgh good-naturedly put in a word in his
favor.

"Stay, Barney, and have some supper before you go home. In behalf
of Mrs. Vosburgh I give you a cordial invitation."

"Yes," added the lady, who had been quietly laughing. "Now that you
are to be so greatly promoted we shall be proud to have you stay."

Barney doffed his hat and exclaimed, "Long loife to yez all,
espacially to the swate-faced young leddy that first spoke a good
wourd for me, oi'm a-thinkin';" and he stepped lightly around to
the rear of the house.

"Sally," said Mr. Vosburgh, with preternatural gravity.

The girl courtesied and nearly dropped a dish.

"Mr. Barney Ghegan will soon be receiving a large salary."

Sally courtesied again, but her black eyes sparkled as she whisked
the rest of the things from the table and disappeared. She maintained
her old tactics during supper and before the other servants, exulting
in the fact that the big, strong man was on pins and needles, devoid
of appetite and peace.

"'Afeared o' no mon,' he says," she thought, smilingly. "He's so
afeared o' me that he's jist a tremblin'."

After her duties were over, Barney said, mopping his brow: "Faix,
but the noight is warm. A stroll in the air wudn't be bad, oi'm
a-thinkin'."

"Oi'm cool as a cowcumber," remarked Sally. "We'll wait for ye till
ye goes out and gits cooled off;" and she sat down complacently,
while the cook and the laundress tittered.

An angry sparkle began to assert itself in Barney's blue eyes, and
he remarked drily, as he took his hat, "Yez moight wait longer than
yez bargained for."

The shrewd girl saw that she was at the length of her chain, and
sprung up, saying: "Oh, well, since the mistress invited ye so
politely, ye's company, and it's me duty to thry to entertain ye.
Where shall we go?" she added, as she passed out with him.

"To the rustic sate, sure. Where else shud we go?"

"A rustic sate is a quare place for a stroll."

"Oi shall have so much walkin' on me bate in New York, that it's
well to begin settin' down aready, oi'm a-thinkin'."

"Why, Barney, ye're going to be a reg'lar tramp. Who'd 'a thought
that ye'd come down to that."

"Ah! arrah, wid ye nonsense! Sit ye down here, for oi'm a-goin' to
spake plain the noight. Noo, by the Holy Vargin, oi'm in arenest.
Are ye goin' to blow hot, or are ye goin' to blow could?"

"Considerin' the hot night, Barney, wouldn't it be better for me
to blow could?"

Barney scratched his head in perplexity. "Ye know what I mane," he
ejaculated.

"Where will ye foind the girl that tells all she knows?"

"O Sally, me darlint, what's the use of batin' around the bush?
Ye know that a cat niver looked at crame as oi look on ye," said
Barney, in a wheedling tone, and trying the tactics of coaxing once
more.

He sat down beside her and essayed with his insinuating arm to
further his cause as his words had not done.

"Arrah, noo, Barney Ghegan, what liberties wud ye be takin' wid a
respectable girl?" and she drew away decidedly.

He sprung to his feet and exploded in the words: "Sally Maguire,
will ye be me woife? By the holy poker! Answer, yis or no."

Sally rose, also, and in equally pronounced tones replied: "Yes,
Barney Ghegan, I will, and I'll be a good and faithful one, too.
It's yeself that's been batin' round the bush. Did ye think a woman
was a-goin' to chase ye over hill and down dale and catch ye by
the scruff of the neck? What do ye take me for?"

"Oi takes ye for better, Sally, me darlint;" and then followed
sounds suggesting the popping of a dozen champagne corks.

Mr. Vosburgh, his wife, and Marian had been chatting quietly
on the piazza, unaware of the scene taking place in the screening
shrubbery until Barney's final question had startled the night like
a command to "stand and deliver."

Repressing laughter with difficulty they tiptoed into the house
and closed the door.






CHAPTER XVIII.

A GIRL'S STANDARD.





THE month of September, 1862, was a period of strong excitement
and profound anxiety on both sides of the vague and shifting line
which divided the loyal North from the misguided but courageous
South. During the latter part of August Gen. Pope had been
overwhelmed with disaster, and what was left of his heroic army
was driven within the fortifications erected for the defence of
Washington. Apparently the South had unbounded cause for exultation.
But a few weeks before their capital had been besieged by an immense
army, while a little to the north, upon the Rappahannock, rested
another Union army which, under a leader like Stonewall Jackson,
would have been formidable enough in itself to tax Lee's skill and
strength to the utmost. Except in the immediate vicinity of the
capital and Fortress Monroe scarcely a National soldier had been
left in Virginia. The Confederates might proudly claim that the
generalship of Lee and the audacity of Jackson had swept the Northern
invaders from the State.

Even more important than the prestige and glory won was the fact
that the Virginian farmers were permitted to gather their crops
unmolested. The rich harvests of the Shenandoah Valley and other
regions, that had been and should have been occupied by National
troops, were allowed to replenish the Confederate granaries. There
were rejoicings and renewed confidence in Southern homes, and smiles
of triumph on the faces of sympathizers abroad and throughout the
North.

But the astute leaders of the Rebellion were well aware that the
end had not yet come, and that, unless some bold, paralyzing blow
was struck, the struggle was but fairly begun. In response to the
request for more men new armies were springing up at the North. The
continent shook under the tread of hosts mustering with the stern
purpose that the old flag should cover every inch of the heritage
left by our fathers.

Therefore, Lee was not permitted to remain on the defensive a moment,
but was ordered to cross the Potomac in the rear of Washington,
threatening that city and Baltimore. It was supposed that the advent
of a Southern army into Maryland would create such an enthusiastic
uprising that thinned ranks would be recruited, and the State
brought into close relation with the Confederate Government. These
expectations were not realized. The majority sympathized with
Barbara Frietchie,

"Bravest of all in Frederick town,"

rather than with their self-styled deliverers; and Lee lost more
by desertion from his own ranks than he gained in volunteers. In
this same town of Frederick, by strange carelessness on the part
of the rebels, was left an order which revealed to McClellan Lee's
plans and the positions which his divided army were to occupy during
the next few days. Rarely has history recorded such opportunities
as were thus accidentally given to the Union commander.

The ensuing events proved that McClellan's great need was not the
reinforcements for which he so constantly clamored, but decision
and energy of character. Had he possessed these qualities he could
have won for himself, from the fortuitous order which fell into his
hands, a wreath of unfading laurel, and perhaps have saved almost
countless lives of his fellow-countrymen. As it was, if he had
only advanced his army a little faster, the twelve thousand Union
soldiers, surrendered by the incompetent and pusillanimous Gen.
Miles, would have been saved from the horrors of captivity and
secured as a valuable reinforcement. To the very last, fortune
appeared bent on giving him opportunity. The partial success won
on the 17th of September, at the battle of Antietam, might easily
have been made a glorious victory if McClellan had had the vigor
to put in enough troops, especially including Burnside's corps,
earlier in the day. Again, on the morning of the 18th, he had only
to take the initiative, as did Grant after the first day's fighting
at Shiloh, and Lee could scarcely have crossed the Potomac with a
corporal's guard. But, as usual, he hesitated, and the enemy that
robbed him of one of the highest places in history was not the
Confederate general or his army, but a personal trait, - indecision.
In the dawn of the 19th he sent out his cavalry to reconnoitre, and
learned that his antagonist was safe in Virginia. Fortune, wearied
at last, finally turned her back upon her favorite. The desperate
and bloody battle resulted in little else than the ebb of the
tide of war southward. Northern people, it is true, breathed more
freely. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington were safe for the
present, but this seemed a meagre reward for millions of treasure
and tens of thousands of lives, especially when the capture of Richmond
and the end of the Rebellion had been so confidently promised.

If every village and hamlet in the land was profoundly stirred by
these events, it can well be understood that the commercial centre
of New York throbbed like an irritated nerve under the telegraph
wires concentring there from the scenes of action. Every possible
interest, every variety of feeling, was touched in its vast and
heterogeneous population, and the social atmosphere was electrical
with excitement.

From her very constitution, now that she had begun to comprehend
the nature of the times, Marian Vosburgh could not breathe this air
in tranquillity. She was, by birthright, a spirited, warm-hearted
girl, possessing all a woman's disposition towards partisanship.
Everything during the past few months had tended to awaken a deep
interest in the struggle, and passing events intensified it. Not
only in the daily press did she eagerly follow the campaign, but
from her father she learned much that was unknown to the general
public. To a girl of mind the great drama in itself could not fail
to become absorbing, but when it is remembered that those who had
the strongest hold upon her heart were imperilled actors in the
tragedy, the feeling with which she watched the shifting scenes
may in some degree be appreciated. She often saw her father's brow
clouded with deep anxiety, and dreaded that each new day might
bring orders which would again take him into danger.

While the letters of her loyal friend, Lane, veiled all that was
hard and repulsive in his service, she knew that the days of drill
and equipment would soon be over, and that the new regiment must
participate in the dangers of active duty. This was equally true of
Strahan and Blauvelt. She laughed heartily over their illustrated
journal, which, in the main, gave the comic side of their life. But
she never laid it aside without a sigh, for she read much between
the lines, and knew that the hour of battle was rapidly approaching.
Thus far they had been within the fortifications at Washington,
for the authorities had learned the folly of sending undisciplined
recruits to the front.

At last, when the beautiful month of October was ended, and Lee's
shattered army was rested and reorganized, McClellan once more
crossed the Potomac. Among the reinforcements sent to him were the
regiments of which Lane and Strahan were members. The letters of
her friends proved that they welcomed the change and with all the
ardor of brave, loyal men looked forward to meeting the enemy. In
heart and thought she went with them, but a sense of their danger
fell, like a shadow, across her spirit. She appeared years older
than the thoughtless girl for whom passing pleasure and excitement
had been the chief motives of life; but in the strengthening lines
of her face a womanly beauty was developing which caused even
strangers to turn and glance after her.

If Merwyn still retained some hold upon her thoughts and curiosity,
so much could scarcely be said of her sympathy. He had disappeared
from the moment when she had harshly dismissed him, and she was
beginning to feel that she had been none too severe, and to believe
that his final words had been spoken merely from impulse. If he
were amusing himself abroad, Marian, in her intense loyalty, would
despise him; if he were permitting himself to be identified with
his mother's circle of Southern sympathizers, the young girl's
contempt would be tinged with detestation. He had approached her
too nearly, and humiliated her too deeply, to be readily forgotten
or forgiven. His passionate outbreak at last had been so intense
as to awaken strong echoes in her woman's soul. If return to a
commonplace fashionable life was to be the only result of the past,
she would scarcely ever think of him without an angry sparkle in
her eyes.

After she had learned that her friends were in the field and
therefore exposed to the dangers of battle at any time, she had
soliloquized, bitterly: "He promised to 'measure everything by the
breadth of my woman's soul.' What does he know about a true woman's
soul? He has undoubtedly found his selfish nature and his purse
more convenient gauges of the world. Well, he knows of one girl
who cannot be bought."

Her unfavorable impression was confirmed one cold November morning.
Passing down Madison Avenue, her casual attention was attracted by
the opening of a door on the opposite side of the street. She only
permitted her swift glance to take in the fact that it was Merwyn
who descended the steps and entered an elegant coupe driven by
a man in a plain livery. After the vehicle had been whirled away,
curiosity prompted her to retrace her steps that she might look
more closely at the residence of the man who had asked her to be
his wife. It was evidently one of the finest and most substantial
houses on the avenue.

A frown contracted the young girl's brow as she muttered: "He
aspired to my hand, - he, who fares sumptuously in that brown-stone
palace while such men as Mr. Lane are fortunate to have a canvas
roof over their heads. He had the narrowness of mind to half-despise
Arthur Strahan, who left equal luxury to face every danger and
hardship. Thank Heaven I planted some memories in his snobbish
soul!"

Thereafter she avoided that locality.

In the evening, with words scarcely less bitter, she mentioned to
her father the fact that she had seen Merwyn and his home.

Mr. Vosburgh smiled and said, "You have evidently lost all compunctions
in regard to your treatment of the young fellow."

"I have, indeed. The battle of Antietam alone would place a Red
Sea between me and any young American who can now live a life of
selfish luxury. Think how thousands of our brave men will sleep
this stormy night on the cold, rain-soaked ground, and then think
of his cold-blooded indifference to it all!"

"Why think of him at all, Marian?" her father asked, with a quizzical
smile.

The color deepened slightly in her face as she replied: "Why
shouldn't I think of him to some extent? He has crossed my path in
no ordinary way. His attentions at first were humiliating, and he
awakened an antipathy such as I never felt towards any one before.
He tried to belittle you, my friends, and the cause to which you
are devoted. Then, when I told him the truth about himself, he
appeared to have manhood enough to comprehend it. His words made me
think of a man desperately wounded, and my sympathies were touched,
and I felt that I had been unduly severe and all that. In fact, I
was overwrought, ill, morbid, conscience-stricken as I remembered
my own past life, and he appeared to feel what I said so awfully
that I couldn't forget it. I had silly dreams and hopes that he
would assert his manhood and take a loyal part in the struggle.
But what has been his course? So far as I can judge, it has been
in keeping with his past. Settling down to a life of ease and
money-making here would be little better, in my estimation, than
amusing himself abroad. It would be simply another phase of following
his own mood and inclinations; and I shall look upon his outburst
and appeal as hysterical rather than passionate and sincere."

Mr. Vosburgh listened, with a half-amused expression, to his daughter's
indignant and impetuous words, but only remarked, quietly, "Suppose
you find that you have judged Mr. Merwyn unjustly?"

"I don't think I have done so. At any rate, one can only judge from
what one knows."

"Stick to that. Your present impressions and feelings do you credit,
and I am glad that your friends' loyal devotion counts for more
in your esteem than Merwyn's wealth. Still, in view of your scheme
of life to make the most and best of men of brains and force, I do
not think you have given the young nabob time and opportunity to
reveal himself fully. He may have recently returned from England,
and, since his mother was determined to reside abroad, it was his
duty to establish her well before returning. You evidently have
not dismissed him from your thoughts. Since that is true, do not
condemn him utterly until you see what he does. What if he again
seeks your society?"

"Well, I don't know, papa. As I feel to-night I never wish to see
him again."

"I'm not sure of that, little girl. You are angry and vindictive.
If he were a nonentity you would be indifferent."

"Astute papa! That very fact perplexes me. But haven't I explained
why I cannot help thinking of him to some extent?"

"No, not even to yourself."

Marian bit her lip with something like vexation, then said,
reproachfully, "Papa, you can't think that I care for him?"

"Oh, no, - not in the sense indicated by your tone. But your silly
dreams and hopes, as you characterize them, have taken a stronger
hold upon you than you realize. You are disappointed as well as
angry. You have entertained the thought that he might do something,
or become more in harmony with the last words he spoke to you."

"Well, he hasn't."

"You have not yet given him sufficient time, perhaps. I shall not
seek to influence you in the matter, but the question still presents
itself: What if he again seeks your society and shows a disposition
to make good his words?"

"I shall not show him," replied Marian, proudly, "greater favor
than such friends as Mr. Lane and Mr. Strahan required. Without
being influenced by me, they decided to take part in the war. After
they had taken the step which did so much credit to their manly
courage and loyalty, they came and told me of it. If Mr. Merwyn
should show equal spirit and patriotism and be very humble in view
of the past, I should, of course, feel differently towards him. If
he don't - " and the girl shook her head ominously.

Her father laughed heartily. "Why!" he exclaimed; "I doubt whether
in all the sunny South there is such a little fire-eater as we have
here."

"No, papa, no," cried Marian, with suddenly moistening eyes. "I
regret the war beyond all power of expression. I could not ask,
much less urge, any one to go, and my heart trembles and shrinks
when I think of danger threatening those I love. But I honor - I
almost worship - courage, loyalty, patriotism. Do you think I can
ever love any one as I do you? Yet I believe you would go to Richmond
to-morrow if you were so ordered. I ask nothing of this Merwyn, or
of any one; but he who asks my friendship must at least be brave



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeAn Original Belle → online text (page 13 of 37)