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den made a bolt ter get away, but de cap'n's men cotch 'im. 'Tie
his han's 'hind his back, an' shoot him if he tries to run agin,'
said de cap'n; den he say to Missy Roberta: 'Go in your moder's
room. Don't leave it without my permission. Ef dere is a man in
your room, he shall shar de fate ob dat villain dat I've 'spected
ob bein' a tief afore.' An' he went an' looken in Missy Roberta's
room. In a few moments he come back an' say, 'Dere was a man dar,
but he 'scape troo de winder on de verandy-roof. Ef I kin discober
'im he shall die too.' Den he say, grave an' sad-like: 'Ladies, dere
is bad men in eb'ry army. I'se deeply mort'fied dat dis should
happen. You'll bar me witness dat I tried to save you from all
'noyance. I know dis man,' pointin' to a soger dat stood near,
'an' I'll put him in dis hall on guard. His orders are - you hear
dem - not to let any one come in de hall, an' not to let any one
leabe dis room. As long as yer all stay in dis room, you are safe,
eben from a word.' Missy S'wanee rush for'ard an' take his han', an'
say, 'Eben ef you is my en'my you'se a gallant soger an' a gemlin,
an' I tanks you.' De cap'n smile an' bow, an' say, 'In overcomin'
your prej'dice I'se 'chieved my bes' vict'ry.' An' he gib her
back all de jewels an' watches, an' drew de doah to, an' lef us to
ourselves. Den we hear 'im go to a wes' room back ob de house wid
anoder soger, an' soon he come back alone, an' den de house all
still 'cept de eben tread ob de man outside. Missy Roberta clasp
her han's an' look wild. Den she whisper to Missy S'wanee, an' dey
seem in great trouble. Den she go an' open de doah an' say to de
soger dat she want ter go ter her room. 'You cannot, lady,' said
de soger. 'You heared my orders.' - 'I'll only stay a minute,' she
say. 'You cannot pass dat doah,' said de soger. 'But I mus' an'
will,' cried Missy Roberta, an' she make a rush ter get out. De
soger held her still. 'Unhan' me!' she almost screamed. He turn
her 'roun' an' push her back in de room, an' den says: 'Lady, does
you tink a soger can disobey orders? Dere ain't no use ob your
takin' on 'bout dat light. We'se watch it all night as well as
your fren's, an' de cap'n has lef' a soger guardin' it, to keep it
burnin'. Ef I should let yer go, yer couldn't put it out, an' ef
it had been put out any time, we'd a' lighted it agin. So dere's
nuffin' fer yer to do but 'bey orders an' shut de doah. Den no one
will say a word to yer, as de cap'n said.' Den he pulled de doah
to hisself.

"Missy Roberta 'gan to wring her han's an' walk up an' down like
a caged tiger, an' Missy S'wanee larf and cry togedder as she
say, 'Cap'n Lane too bright fer us.' - 'No,' cries Missy Roberta,
'somebody's 'trayed me, an' I could strike a knife inter dere
heart fer doin' it. O S'wanee, S'wanee, our fren's is walkin' right
inter a trap.' Den she run to de winder an' open it ter see ef she
couldn't git down, an' dere in de garden was a soger, a-walkin'
up an' down a-watchin'. 'We jes' can't do nuffin',' she said, an'
she 'gan to sob an' go 'sterical-like. Missy S'wanee tole de missus,
an' she wrung her han's an' cry, too; an' Missy S'wanee, she was
a-larfin' an' a-cryin', an' a-prayin' all ter once. Suddenly dere
was a shot off toward de creek-road, an' den we was bery still.
Now. Zeb, you know de res'!"






CHAPTER XXIX.

MARIAN CONTRASTS LANE AND MERWYN.





"Oh, come, this won't do at all," said Mr. Vosburgh, as Zeb was
about to continue the story. "It's nearly midnight now. Marian,
dear, your cheeks and eyes look as if you had a fever. Let us wait
and hear the rest of the story in the morning, or you'll be ill,
your mother will have a headache, and I shall be unfit for my work
to-morrow."

"Papa, papa, in pity don't stop them till we know all. If Captain
Lane could watch all night and fight in the morning, can't we listen
for an hour longer?"

"Oh, yes," cried Mrs. Vosburgh, "let them finish. It's like a story,
and I never could sleep well till I knew how a story was going to
turn out."

"Wait a moment and I'll bring everybody something nice from the
sideboard, and you, also, papa, a cigar from the library," cried
the young girl.

Her father smiled his acquiescence, and in a few moments they were
all ready to listen to the completion of a tragedy not without its
dash of comedy.

"Arter Cap'n Lane posted his guards in de house an' sent de
robber off," Zeb resumed, "he jump on a hoss an' gallop toward de
creek-road. De light in de winder kep' a-burnin'! I foun' arterwards
dat he an' his ossifers had been down on de creek-road and studied
it all out. At one place - whar it was narrer' wid tick woods on
bofe sides - dey had builded a high rail-fence. Den below dat he
had put sogers in de woods each side widout dere hosses, an' farder
down still he had hid a lot of men dat was mounted. Sho' 'nuff, wid
de fust light of de mawnin', de rebs come ridin' toward de light
in de winder. I'd run out to de hill, not far away, ter see what
would happen, an' it was so dark yet dat eb'ryting was mixed up wid
shadders. When de rebs was a-comin' by de Linkum men in de woods a
shot was fired. Den I s'pose de rebs tought it would gib de 'larm,
fer dey began ter run dere hosses for'ard. An' den de Linkum men
let dem hab it on bofe sides ob de road, but dey kep' on till dey
come to de fence 'cross de road, an' den dey git a volley in front.
Dis skeered 'em, for dey knowed dat de Linkum men was ready, an'
dey tried to git back. Den I heared a great tramplin' an' yellin',
an' dere was Cap'n Lane a-leadin' his men an' hosses right in ahind
dem. Dere was orful fightin' fer a while, an' de men widout dere
hosses leap outen de woods and shot like mad. It was flash! bang!
on eb'ry side. At las' de Linkum men won de day, an' some ob de
rebs burst troo de woods an' run, wid Cap'n Lane's men arter dem,
an' dey kep' a-chasin' till a bugle call dem back. Den I run to
de house, fer dey was bringin' in de pris'ners. Who should I see
'mong dese but de bery ossifer dat was wid Missy Roberta de night
afore, de one dat wanted de light in de winder, an' he look bery
mad, I can tell you.

"It was now gettin' broad day, an' de light at las' was outen de
winder. Dere was nuffin' mo' fer it to do. De Linkum soger dat had
been in de house was now helpin' guard de pris'ners, an' Missy Roberta
an' Missy S'wanee run up to de ossifer dat had been so fooled an'
say: 'We'se couldn't help it. Somebody 'trayed us. We was kep'
under guard, an' dere was a Yankee soger a-keepin' de light burnin'
arter we knew Cap'n Lane was aroun' an' ready.' Missy Roberta look
sharp at me, but I 'peared innercent as a sheep. Missy S'wanee say:
'No matter, Major Denham, you did all dat a brave man could do,
an' dar's my colors. You hab won dem.' An' den he cheer up 'mazin'ly.

"Den I hear somebody say Cap'n Lane woun'ed, an' I slip out toward
de creek-road, an' dar I see dem a-carryin Cap'n Lane, an' de surgeon
walkin' 'longside ob him. My heart jes' stood still wid fear. His
eyes was shut, an' he look bery pale-like. Dey was a-carryin' him
up de steps ob de verandy when Missy S'wanee came runnin' ter see
what was de matter. Den Cap'n Lane open his eyes an' he say: 'Not
in here. Put me wid de oder woun'ed men; 'but Missy S'wanee say,
'No; he protec' us an' act like a gemlin, an' he shall learn dat
de ladies ob de Souf will not be surpassed.' De missus say de same,
but Missy Roberta frown an' say nuffin'. She too much put out yet
'bout dat light in de winder an' de 'feat it brought her fren's.
De cap'n was too weak an' gone-like ter say anyting mo', an' dey
carry him up ter de bes' company room. I goes up wid dem ter wait
on de surgeon, an' he 'zamin' de woun' an' gib de cap'n brandy, an'
at las' say dat de cap'n get well ef he keep quiet a few weeks, - dat
he weak now from de shock an' loss ob blood.

"In de arternoon hundreds more Linkum men come, an' Cap'n Lane's
cunnel come wid dem, an' he praise de cap'n an' cheer him up, an'
de cap'n was bery peart an' say he feel better. Mos' ob de ossifers
take supper at de house. De missus an' Missy Roberta were perlite
but bery cold-like, but Missy S'wanee, while she show dat she was
a reb down to de bottom ob her good, kine heart, could smile an'
say sunshiny tings all de same. Dis night pass bery quiet, an'
in de mawnin' de Linkum cunnel say he hab orders ter 'tire toward
de Union lines. He feel bery bad 'bout leabin' Cap'n Lane, but de
surgeon say he mus' not be moved. He say, too, dat he stay wid de
cap'n an' de oder badly woun'ed men. De cap'n tell his cunnel 'bout
me an' my moder an' what he promise us, an' de cunnel say he take
us wid him an' send us to Washin'on. De missus an' de young ladies
take on drefful 'bout our gwine, but I say, 'I mus' hab my liberty,'
an' moder say she can't part wid her own flesh an' blood - "

"Yes, yes, but what did 'Cap'n' Lane say?" interrupted Marian.

"He tole me ter say ter you, missy, dat he was gwine ter git well,
an' dat you mus'n't worry 'kase you didn't hear from him, an' dat
he know you'd be kine to us, 'kase I'd help him win de vict'ry. De
surgeon wrote some letters, too, an' gib dem to de Linkum cunnel.
P'raps you git one ob dem. Dey put us in an army wagon, an' bimeby
we reach a railroad, an' dey gib us a pass ter Washin'on, an' we
come right on heah wid Cap'n Lane's money. I doesn't know what dey
did with de robber - "

"Oh, oh," cried Marian, "it may be weeks before I hear from my
friend again, if I 'ever do."

"Marian, dear," said her father, "do not look on the dark side;
it might have been a hundred-fold worse. 'Cap'n' Lane was in
circumstances of great comfort, with his own surgeon in care of
his wound. Think how many poor fellows were left on the field of
Chancellorsville to Heaven only knows what fate. In such desperate
fighting as has been described we have much reason to be thankful
that he was not killed outright. He has justly earned great credit
with his superiors, and I predict that he will get well and be
promoted. I think you will receive a letter in a day or two from
the surgeon. I prescribe that you and mamma sleep in the morning
till you are rested. I won't grumble at taking my coffee alone."
Then, to the colored woman and her son: "Don't you worry. We'll
see that you are taken care of."

Late as it was, hours still elapsed before Marian slept. Her hero
had become more heroic than ever. She dwelt on his achievements
with enthusiasm, and thought of his sufferings with a tenderness
never before evoked, while the possibility that "Missy S'wanee"
was his nurse produced twinges approaching jealousy.

As was expected, the morning post brought a letter from the surgeon
confirming the account that had been given by the refugees, and
full of hope-inspiring words. Then for weeks there were no further
tidings from Lane.

Meanwhile, events were culminating with terrible rapidity, and
their threatening significance electrified the North. The Southern
people and their sympathizers everywhere were jubilant over
the victory of Chancellorsville, and both demanded and expected
that this success should be followed by decisive victories. Lee's
army, General Longstreet said, was "in a condition of strength and
morale to undertake anything," and Southern public sentiment and
the needs of the Richmond government all pointed towards a second
and more extended invasion of the North. The army was indeed strong,
disciplined, a powerful instrument in the hands of a leader like
General Lee. Nevertheless, it had reached about the highest degree
of its strength. The merciless conscription in the South had swept
into its ranks nearly all the able-bodied men, and food and forage
were becoming so scarce in war-wasted Virginia and other regions
which would naturally sustain this force, that a bold, decisive
policy had become a necessity. It was believed that on Northern
soil the army could be fed, and terms of peace dictated.

The chief motive for this step was the hope of a counter-revolution
in the North where the peace faction had grown bold and aggressive
to a degree that only stopped short of open resistance. The draft
or general conscription which the President had ordered to take place
in July awakened intense hostility to the war and the government
on the part of a large and rapidly increasing class of citizens.
This class had its influential and outspoken leaders, who were
evidently in league with a secret and disloyal organization known
as the "Knights of the Golden Circle," the present object of which
was the destruction of the Union and the perpetuation of slavery.
In the city of New York the spirit of rebellion was as rampant in
the breasts of tens of thousands as in Richmond, and Mr. Vosburgh knew
it. His great sagacity and the means of information at his command
enabled him to penetrate much of the intrigue that was taking place,
and to guess at far more. He became haggard and almost sleepless
from his labors and anxieties, for he knew that the loyal people
of the North were living over a volcano.

Marian shared in this solicitude, and was his chief confidante. He
wished her, with her mother, to go to some safe and secluded place
in the country, and offered to lease again the cottage which they
had occupied the previous summer, but Marian said that she would
not leave him, and that he must not ask her to do so. Mrs. Vosburgh
was eventually induced to visit relatives in New England, and then
father and daughter watched events with a hundred-fold more anxiety
than that of the majority, because they were better informed and
more deeply involved in the issues at stake than many others. But
beyond all thought of worldly interests, their intense loyal feeling
burned with a pure, unwavering flame.

In addition to all that occupied her mind in connection with
her father's cares and duties, she had other grounds for anxiety.
Strahan wrote that his regiment was marching northward, and that
he soon expected to take part in the chief battle of the war. Every
day she hoped for some news from Lane, but none came. His wishes
in regard to Mammy Borden and her son had been well carried out.
Mr. Vosburgh had been led to suspect that the man in charge of his
offices was becoming rather too curious in regard to his affairs,
and too well informed about them. Therefore Zeb was installed
in his place; and when Mrs. Vosburgh departed on her visit Marian
dismissed the girl who had succeeded Sally Maguire, and employed
the colored woman in her stead. She felt that this action would
be pleasing to Lane, and that it was the very least that she could
do.

Moreover, Mammy Borden was what she termed a "character," one to
whom she could speak with something of the freedom natural to the
ladies of the Southern household. The former slave could describe
a phase of life and society that was full of novelty and romance
to Marian, and "de young ladies," especially "Missy S'wanee," were
types of the Southern girl of whom she never wearied of hearing.
From the quaint talk of her new servant she learned to understand
the domestic life of those whom she had regarded as enemies, and was
compelled to admit that in womanly spirit and dauntless patriotism
they were her equals, and had proved it by facing dangers and
hardships from which she had been shielded. More than all, the old
colored woman was a protegee of Captain Lane and was never weary
of chanting his praises.

Marian was sincerely perplexed by the attitude of her mind towards
this young officer. He kindled her enthusiasm and evoked admiration
without stint. He represented to her the highest type of manhood
in that period of doubt, danger, and strong excitement. Brave to
the last degree, his courage was devoid of recklessness. The simple,
untutored description of his action given by the refugees had only
made it all the more clear that his mind was as keen and bright as
his sword, while in chivalric impulses he had never been surpassed.
Unconsciously Mammy Borden and her son had revealed traits in him
which awakened Marian's deepest respect, suggesting thoughts of
which she would not have spoken to any one. She had been shown his
course towards beautiful women who were in his power, and who at
the same time were plotting his destruction and that of his command.
While he foiled their hostile purpose, no knight of olden times
could have shown them more thoughtful consideration and respect.
She felt that her heart ought to go out towards this ideal lover
in utter abandon. Why did it not? Why were her pride, exultation,
and deep solicitude too near akin to the emotions she would have
felt had he been her brother? Was this the only way in which she
could love? Would the sacred, mysterious, and irresistible impulses
of the heart, of which she had read, follow naturally in due time?

She was inclined to believe that this was true, yet, to her surprise,
the thought arose unbidden: "If Willard Merwyn were showing like
qualities and making the same record - What absurdity is this!"
she exclaimed aloud. "Why does this Mr. Merwyn so haunt me, when
I could not give him even respect and friendship, although he sent
an army into the field, yet was not brave enough to go himself?
Where is he? What is he doing in these supreme hours of his country's
history? Everything is at stake at the front, yes, and even here
at the North, for I can see that papa dreads unspeakably what each
day may bring forth, yet neither this terrible emergency nor the
hope of winning my love can brace his timid soul to manly action.
There is more manhood in one drop of the blood shed by Captain Lane
than in Merwyn's whole shrinking body."






CHAPTER XXX.

THE NORTH INVADED.





Merwyn could scarcely have believed that he had sunk so low
in Marian's estimation as her words at the close of the previous
chapter indicated, yet he guessed clearly the drift of her opinion
in regard to him, and he saw no way of righting himself. In the
solitude of his country home he considered and dismissed several
plans of action. He thought of offering his services to the Sanitary
Commission, but his pride prevented, for he knew that she and others
would ask why a man of his youth and strength sought a service in
which sisters of charity could be his equals in efficiency. He also
saw that joining a regiment of the city militia was but a half-way
measure that might soon lead to the violation of his oath, since
these regiments could be ordered to the South in case of an emergency.

The prospect before him was that of a thwarted, blighted life. He
might live till he was gray, but in every waking moment he would
remember that he had lost his chance for manly action, when such
action would have brought him self-respect, very possibly happiness,
and certainly the consciousness that he had served a cause which
now enlisted all his sympathies.

At last he wrote to his mother an impassioned appeal to be released
from his oath, assuring her that he would never have any part in
the Southern empire that was the dream of her life. He cherished
the hope that she, seeing how unalterable were his feelings and
purposes, would yield to him the right to follow his own convictions,
and with this kindling hope his mind grew calmer.

Then, as reason began to assert itself, he saw that he had been absent
from the city too long already. His pride counselled: "The world
has no concern with your affairs, disappointments, or sufferings.
Be your father's son, and maintain your position with dignity. In a
few short weeks you may be free. If not, your secret is your own,
and no living soul can gossip about your family affairs, or say
that you betrayed your word or your family interests. Meanwhile,
in following the example of thousands of other rich and patriotic
citizens, you can contribute more to the success of the Union cause
than if you were in the field."

He knew that this course might not secure him the favor of one for
whom he would face every danger in the world, but it might tend to
disarm criticism and give him the best chances for the future.

He at once carried out his new purposes, and early in June returned
to his city home. He now resolved no longer to shrink and hide, but
to keep his own counsel, and face the situation like one who had
a right to choose his own career. Mr. Bodoin, his legal adviser,
received the impression that he had been quietly looking after
his country property, and the lawyer rubbed his bloodless hands in
satisfaction over a youthful client so entirely to his mind.

Having learned more fully what his present resources were, Merwyn
next called on Mr. Vosburgh at his office. That gentleman greeted
the young man courteously, disguising his surprise and curiosity.

"I have just returned from my country place," Merwyn began, "and
shall not have to go there very soon again, Can I call upon you as
usual?"

"Certainly," replied Mr. Vosburgh; but there was no warmth in his
tone.

"I have also a favor to ask," resumed Merwyn, with a slight
deepening of color in his bronzed face. "I have not been able to
follow events very closely, but so far as I can judge there is a
prospect of severe battles and of sudden emergencies. If there is
need of money, such means as I have are at your disposal."

Even Mr. Vosburgh, at the moment, felt much of Marian's repulsion
as he looked at the tall youth, with his superb physique, who spoke
of severe battles and offered "money." "Truly," he thought, "she
must be right. This man will part with thousands rather than risk
one drop of blood."

But he was too good a patriot to reveal his impression, and said,
earnestly: "You are right, Mr. Merwyn. There will be heavy fighting
soon, and all the aid that you can give the Sanitary and Christian
Commissions will tend to save life and relieve suffering."

Under the circumstances he felt that he could not use any of the
young man's money, even as a temporary loan, although at times the
employment of a few extra hundreds might aid him greatly in his
work.

Merwyn went away chilled and saddened anew, yet feeling that his
reception had been all that he had a right to expect.

There had been no lack of politeness on Mr. Vosburgh's part, but
his manner had not been that of a friend.

"He has recognized that I am under some secret restraint," Merwyn
thought, "and distrusts me at last. He probably thinks, with his
daughter, that I am afraid to go. Oh that I had a chance to prove
that I am, at least, not a coward! In some way I shall prove it
before many weeks pass."

At dinner, that evening, Mr. Vosburgh smiled significantly at
Marian, and said, "Who do you think called on me to-day?"

"Mr. Merwyn," she said, promptly.

"You are right. He came to offer - "

"Money," contemptuously completing her father's sentence.

"You evidently think you understand him. Perhaps you do; and I admit
that I felt much as you do, to-day, when he offered his purse to
the cause. I fear, however, that we are growing a little morbid on
this subject, and inclined to judgments too severe. You and I have
become like so many in the South. This conflict and its results
are everything to us, and we forget that we are surrounded by
hundreds of thousands who are loyal, but are not ready for very
great sacrifices."

"We are also surrounded by millions that are, and I cast in my lot
with these. If this is to be morbid, we have plenty of company."

"What I mean is, that we may be too hard upon those who do not
feel, and perhaps are not capable of feeling, as we do."

"O papa! you know the reason why Mr. Merwyn takes the course he
does."

"I know what you think to be the reason, and you may be right. Your
explanation struck me with more force than ever to-day; and yet,
looking into the young fellow's face, it seems impossible. He
impresses me strangely, and awakens much curiosity as to his future
course. He asked if he could call as usual, and I, with ordinary
politeness, said, 'Certainly.' Indeed, there was a dignity about
the fellow that almost compelled the word. I don't know that we
have any occasion to regret it. He has done nothing to forfeit mere
courtesy on our part."

"Oh, no," said Marian, discontentedly; "but he irritates me. I wish
I had never known him, and that I might never meet him again. I am
more and more convinced that my theory about him is correct, and
while I pity him sincerely, the ever-present consciousness of his
fatal defect is more distressing - perhaps I should say, annoying - than if
he presented some strong physical deformity. He is such a superb
and mocking semblance of a man that I cannot even think of him



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeAn Original Belle → online text (page 20 of 37)