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of plunder began stripping his body.

"Stop!" thundered Merwyn, the second he reached the scene, and,
standing over the prostrate form, he levelled a pistol at the throng.
"Now, listen to me," he added. "I don't wish to hurt anybody.
You've killed this man, so let his body alone. I know his wife,
an Irishwoman, and she ought at least to have his body for decent
burial."

"Faix, an he's roight," cried one, who seemed a leader. "We've
killed the man. Let his woife have what's left uv 'im;" and the
crowd broke away, following the speaker.

This was one of the early indications of what was proved
afterwards, - that the mob was hydra-headed, following either its
own impulses or leaders that sprung up everywhere.

An abandoned express-wagon stood near, and into this Merwyn, with
the help of a bystander, lifted the insensible man. The young fellow
then drove, as rapidly as the condition of the streets permitted,
to the nearest hospital. A few yards carried him beyond those who
had knowledge of the affair, and after that he was unmolested. It
was the policy of the rioters to have the bodies of their friends
disappear as soon as possible. Poor Ghegan had been stripped to
his shirt and drawers, and so was not recognized as a "cop."

Leaving him at the hospital, with brief explanations, Merwyn was
about to hasten away, when the surgeon remarked, "The man is dead,
apparently."

"I can't help it," cried Merwyn. "I'll bring his wife as soon as
possible. Of course you will do all in your power;" and he started
away on a run.

A few moments later Barney Ghegan was taken to the dead-house.






CHAPTER XLIII.

THE "COWARD."





MERWYN now felt that he had carried out the first part of his plan.
He had looked into the murderous eyes of the mob, and learned
its spirit and purpose. Already he reproached himself for leaving
Marian alone so long, especially as columns of smoke were rising
throughout the northern part of the city. It seemed an age since
he had seen that first cloud of the storm, as he emerged from the
park after his quiet ride, but it was not yet noon.

As he sped through the streets, running where he dared, and fortunately
having enough of the general aspect of a rioter to be unmolested,
he noticed a new feature in the outbreak, one that soon became
a chief characteristic, - the hatred of negroes and the sanguinary
pursuit of them everywhere.

"Another danger for the Vosburghs," he groaned. "They have a colored
servant, who must be spirited off somewhere instantly."

Avoiding crowds, he soon reached the quiet side-street on which
Marian lived, and was overjoyed to find it almost deserted. Mammy
Borden herself answered his impatient ring, and was about to shut
the door on so disreputable a person as he now appeared to be, when
he shouldered it open, turned, locked and chained it with haste.

"What do you mean, sir? and who are you?" Marian demanded, running
from the parlor on hearing the expostulations of her servant.

"Have patience, Miss Vosburgh."

"Oh, it is you, Mr. Merwyn. Indeed I have need of patience. An
hour ago papa sent a message from down town, saying: 'Don't leave
the house to-day. Serious trouble on foot.' Since then not a word,
only wild-looking people running through the street, the ringing of
fire-bells, and the sounds of some kind of disturbance. What does
it all mean? and why do you bar and bolt everything so timidly?"
and the excited girl poured out her words in a torrent.

Merwyn's first words were exasperating, and the girl had already
passed almost beyond self-control. "Has any one seen your colored
servant to-day?"

"What if they have? What does your unseemly guise mean? Oh that my
brave friends were here to go out and meet the rabble like soldiers!
There's an outbreak, of course; we've been expecting it; but
certainly MEN should not fear the canaille of the slums. It gives
me a sickening impression, Mr. Merwyn, to see you rush in, almost
force your way in, and disguised too, as if you sought safety by
identifying yourself with those who would quail before a brave,
armed man. Pardon me if I'm severe, but I feel that my father is
in danger, and if I don't hear from him soon I shall take Mammy
Borden as escort and go to his office. Whoever is abroad, they
won't molest women, and I'M NOT AFRAID."

"By so doing you would disobey your father, who has told you not
to leave the house to-day."

"But I can't bear inaction and suspense at such a time."

"You must bear it, Miss Vosburgh. Seeing the mood you are in,
I shall not permit that door to be opened to any one except your
father or some one that you recognize."

"You cannot help yourself," she replied, scornfully, approaching
the door.

He was there before her, and, taking out the key, put it in his
pocket.

"Oh, this is shameful!" she cried, blushing scarlet "Can your fears
carry you so far?"

"Yes, and much farther, if needful," he replied, with a grim laugh.
"When you are calm enough to listen to me, to be sane and just,
I'll explain. Until you are I shall remain master here and protect
you and your home." Then, in a tone of stern authority, he added:
"Mrs. Borden, sit yonder in that darkened parlor, and don't move
unless I tell you to hide. Then hide in earnest, as you value your
life."

"Would you not also like a hiding-place provided, Mr. Merwyn?"
Marian asked, almost beside herself with anger and anxiety.

His reply was to go to the window and look up and down the still
quiet street.

"A respite," he remarked, then turned to the colored woman, and in
a tone which she instantly obeyed, said, "Go to that parlor, where
you cannot be seen from the street." Then to Marian, "I have no
authority over you."

"No, I should hope not. Is there no escape from this intrusion?"

"None for the present," he replied, coldly. "You settled it long
since that I was a coward, and now that I am not a gentleman.
I shall make no self-defence except to your father, whom I expect
momentarily. He cannot leave you alone to-day an instant longer
than is unavoidable. I wish to remind you of one thing, however:
your soldier friends have long been your pride."

"Oh that these friends were here to day!"

"They would be surprised at your lack of quiet fortitude."

"Must I be humiliated in my own home?"

"You are humiliating yourself. Had you treated me with even your
old cool toleration and civility, I would have told you all that
has happened since morning; but you have left me no chance for
anything except to take the precautions heedful to save your home
and yourself. You think I fled here as a disguised fugitive. When
shall I forget this crowning proof of your estimate and esteem?
You see I did not come unarmed," partially drawing a revolver. "I
repeat, you are proud of your soldier friends. You have not learned
that the first duty of a soldier is to obey orders; and you have your
father's orders. Obey them quietly, and you are under no necessity
to speak to me again. When your father comes I will relieve you of
my hated presence. If he wishes it, I will still serve you both for
his sake, for he always kept a little faith and fairness for me.
Now, regard me as a sentinel, a common soldier, to whom you need
not speak until your father comes;" and he turned to the windows
and began fastening them.

He, too, was terribly incensed. He had come to interpose his life
between her and danger, and her words and manner had probed a deep
wound that had long been bleeding. The scenes he had witnessed had
wrought him up to a mood as stern and uncompromising as the death
he soon expected to meet. When utterly off her guard she had shown
him, as he believed, her utter contempt and detestation, and at
that moment there was not a more reckless man in the city.

But his bitter words and indomitable will had quieted her As he
stood motionless upon guard by the window, his was not the attitude
of a cowering fugitive. She now admitted that her wild excitement
and her disposition to rush to her father, contrary to his injunction,
were unworthy of her friends and of herself.

There had been panic that morning in the city, and she had caught
the contagion in a characteristic way. She had had no thought of
hiding and cowering, but she had been on the eve of carrying out
rash impulses. She had given way to uncontrollable excitement; and
if her father should learn all she feared he would send her from
the city as one not to be trusted. What should she think of that
silent, motionless sentinel at the window? Suppose, after all,
she had misunderstood and misjudged him, - suppose he HAD come for
her protection. In view of this possibility which she had now to
entertain, how grossly she had insulted him! If her father came and
approved of his course, how could she ever look one so wronged in
the face again? She must try to soften her words a little. Woman-like,
she believed that she could certainly soothe a man as far as she
deemed it judicious, and then leave the future for further diplomacy.
Coward, or not, he had now made her afraid of him.

"Mr. Merwyn," she began.

He made no response whatever.

Again, in a lower and more timid voice, she repeated his name.

Without turning, he said: "Miss Vosburgh, I'm on guard. You
interfere with my duty. There is no reason for further courtesies
between us. If you are sufficiently calm, aid Mrs. Borden in packing
such belongings as she actually needs. She must leave this house
as soon as possible."

"What!" cried the girl, hotly, "send this faithful old woman out
into the streets? Never."

"I did not say, 'out into the streets.' When your father comes one
of his first efforts will be to send her to a place of safety. No
doubt he has already warned her son to find a hiding-place."

"Great heavens! why don't you explain?"

"What chance have I had to explain? Ah! come here, and all will be
plain enough."

She stood at his side and saw a gang of men and boys' chasing
a colored man, with the spirit of bloodhounds in their tones and
faces.

"Now I'se understan', too, Mass'r Merwyn," said the trembling
colored woman, looking over their shoulders.

"Go back," he said, sternly. "If you were seen, that yelling pack
of fiends would break into this house as if it were paste-board.
Obey orders, both of you, and keep out of sight."

Awed, overwhelmed, they stole to the back parlor; but Marian soon
faltered, "O Mr. Merwyn, won't you forgive me?"

He made no reply, and a moment later he stepped to the door. Mr.
Vosburgh hastily entered, and Marian rushed into his arms.

"What, Merwyn! you here? Thank God my darling was not alone! Well,
Merwyn, you've got to play the soldier now, and so have we all."

"I shall not 'play the soldier';" was the reply, in quick, firm
utterance. "But no matter about me, except that my time is limited.
I wish to report to you certain things which I have seen, and leave
it to your decision whether I can serve you somewhat, and whether
Miss Vosburgh should remain in the city. I would also respectfully
suggest that your colored servant be sent out of town at once.
I offer my services to convey her to New Jersey, if you know of a
near refuge there, or else to my place in the country."

"Good God, Merwyn! don't you know that by such an act you take your
life in your hand?"

"I have already taken it in my hand, an open hand at that. It has
become of little value to me. But we have not a second to lose. I
have a very sad duty to perform at once, and only stayed till you
came. If you have learned the spirit abroad to-day, you know that
your household was and is in danger."

"Alas! I know it only too well. The trouble had scarcely begun
before I was using agents and telegraph wires. I have also been
to police headquarters. Only the sternest sense of duty to the
government kept me so long from my child; but a man at Washington
is depending on me for information."

"So I supposed. I may be able to serve you, if you can bring
yourself to employ a coward. I shall be at police headquarters,
and can bring you intelligence. When not on duty you should be in
the streets as little as possible. But, first, I would respectfully
suggest that Miss Vosburgh retire, for I have things to say to you
which she should not hear."

"This to me, who listened to the story of Gettysburg?"

"All was totally different then."

"And I, apparently, was totally different. I deserve your reproach;
I should be sent to the nursery."

"I think you should go and help Mrs. Borden," said Merwyn, quietly.

"It's impossible to send Mammy Borden away just yet, - not till
darkness comes to aid our effort," said Mr. Vosburgh, decisively.
"You can serve me greatly, Merwyn, and your country also, if you
have the nerve. It will require great risks. I tell you so frankly.
This is going to prove worse than open battle. O Marian, would to
God you were with your mother!"

"In that case I would come to you if I had to walk. I have wronged
and insulted you, Mr. Merwyn; I beg your pardon. Now don't waste
another moment on me, for I declare before God I shall remain with
my father unless taken away by force; and you would soon find that
the most fatal course possible."

"Well, these are lurid times. I dreaded the thing enough, but now
that it has come so unexpectedly, it is far worse - But enough of
this. Mr. Merwyn, are you willing to take the risks that I shall?"

"Yes, on condition that I save you unnecessary risks."

"Oh what a fool I've been!" Marian exclaimed, with one of her
expressive gestures.

"Mr. Vosburgh," said Merwyn, "there is one duty which I feel I ought
to perform first of all. Mrs. Ghegan, your old waitress, should be
taken to her husband."

"What! Barney? What has happened to him?"

"I fear he is dead. I disguised myself as you see - "

"Yes, sensibly. No well-dressed man is safe on some streets."

"Certainly not where I've been. I determined to learn the character
of the mob, and I have mingled among them all the morning. I saw
the invalid corps put to flight instantly, and the fight with a
handful of police that followed. I looked on, for to take part was
to risk life and means of knowledge uselessly. The savage, murderous
spirit shown on every side also proved that your household might
be in danger while you were absent. The police fought bravely
and vainly. They were overpowered as a matter of course, and yet
the police will prove the city's chief defence. When I saw Barney
running and fighting heroically for his life, I couldn't remain
spectator any longer, but before I could reach him he was prostrate,
senseless, and nearly stripped. With my revolver and a little
persuasion I secured his body, and took it to a hospital. A surgeon
thought he was dead. I don't know, but that his wife should be
informed and go to him seems only common humanity."

"Well, Merwyn, I don't know," said Mr. Vosburgh, dubiously; "we
are in the midst of a great battle, and when one is down - Well,
the cause must be first, you know. Whether this is a part of
the rebellion or not, it will soon be utilized by the Confederate
leaders. What I say of Barney I would say of myself and mine, - all
private considerations must give - "

"I understand," interrupted Merwyn, impatiently. "But in taking Mrs.
Ghegan across town I could see and learn as much as if alone, and
she would even be a protection to me. In getting information one
will have to use every subterfuge. I think nothing will be lost by
this act. From the hospital I will go direct to police headquarters,
and stipulate as to my service, - for I shall serve in my own way, - and
then, if there is no pressing duty, I will report to you again."

Mr. Vosburgh sprung up and wrung the young fellow's hand as he
said: "We have done you great wrong. I, too, beg your pardon. But
more than all the city to me is my duty to the general government.
To a certain extent I must keep aloof from the actual scenes
of violence, or I fail my employers and risk vast interests. If
consistently with your ideas of duty you can aid me now, I shall
be more grateful than if you saved my life. Information now may be
vital to the nation's safety. You may find me at police headquarters
an hour or two hence."

"It is settled then, and events will shape future action;" and he
was turning hastily away.

A hand fell upon his arm, and never had he looked upon a face in
which shame and contrition were so blended.

"What will be your future action towards me?" Marian asked, as she
detained him. "Will you have no mercy on the girl who was so weak
as to be almost hysterical?"

"You have redeemed your weakness," he replied, coldly. "You are
your old high-bred, courageous self, and you will probably cease
to think of me as a coward before the day is over. Good-afternoon;"
and in a moment he was gone.

"I have offended him beyond hope," she said, as she turned, drooping,
to her father.

"Never imagine it, darling," her father replied, with a smile. "His
lip quivered as you spoke, and I have learned to read the faintest
signs in a man. You have both been overwrought and in no condition
for calm, natural action. Mervvyn will relent. You lost your poise
through excitement, not cowardice, and he, young and all undisciplined,
has witnessed scenes that might appall a veteran. But now all must
be courage and action. Since you will remain with me you must be a
soldier, and be armed like one. Come with me to my room, and I will
give you a small revolver. I am glad that you have amused yourself
with the dangerous toy, and know how to use it. Then you must help
me plan a disguise which will almost deceive your eyes. Keeping
busy, my dear, will prove the best tonic for your nerves. Mammy
Borden, you must go to your room and stay there till we find a way
of sending you to a place of safety. After you have disappeared
for a time I'll tell the other servant that you have gone away. I
sent your son home before I left the office, and he, no doubt, is
keeping out of harm's way."

The old woman courtesied, but there was a dogged, hunted look in
her eyes as she crept away, muttering, "Dis is what Zeb call de
'lan' ob de free!'"






CHAPTER XLIV.

A WIFE'S EMBRACE.





"O PAPA," cried Marian, after reaching the library, "we let Mr.
Merwyn go without a lunch, and it's nearly two o'clock. Nor do I
believe you have had a mouthful since breakfast, and I've forgotten
all about providing anything. Oh, how signally I have failed on
the first day of battle!"

"You are not the first soldier, by untold millions, who has done
so; but you have not shown the white feather yet."

"When I do that I shall expire from shame. You rummage for a
disguise, and I'll be back soon."

She hastened to the kitchen, and at a glance saw that the Irish
cook had fled, taking not a little with her. The range fire was
out, and the refrigerator and the store-closet had been ravaged.
She first barred and bolted all the doors, and then the best she
could bring her father was crackers and milk and some old Sherry
wine; but she nearly dropped these when she saw a strange man, as
she supposed, emerge from his bedroom.

Mr. Vosburgh's laugh reassured her, and he said: "I fancy I shall
pass among strangers, since you don't know me. Nothing could be
better than the milk and crackers. No wine. My head must be clearer
to-day than it ever was before. So the Irish Biddy has gone with
her plunder? Good riddance to her. She would have been a spy in the
camp. I'll bring home food that won't require cooking, and you'll
have to learn to make coffee, for Merwyn and others will, no doubt,
often come half dead from fatigue. All we can do is to forage
in such shops as are open, and you'll have to take the office of
commissary at once. You must also be my private secretary. As fast
as I write these despatches and letters copy them. I can eat and
write at the same time. In an hour I must go out."

"I won't play the fool again," said the girl, doggedly.

"Drink this glass of milk first, while I run down for more, and
satisfy my mind as to the fastenings, etc."

"But, papa - "

"Marian," he said, gravely, "you can stay with me only on one
condition: you must obey orders."

"That is what Mr. Merwyn said. Oh what a credit I've been to my
military friends!" and with difficulty she drank the milk.

"You are a promising young recruit," was the smiling reply. "We'll
promote you before the week's out."

In five minutes he was back, cool, yet almost as quick as light in
every movement.

The despatches she copied were unintelligible to Marian, but the
one to whom they were addressed had the key. The copies of the
letters were placed in a secret drawer.

When their tasks were finished, Mr. Vosburgh looked up and down
the street and was glad to find it comparatively empty. The storm
of passion was raging elsewhere.

He closed all the shutters of the house, giving it a deserted aspect,
then said to his daughter. "You must admit no one in my absence,
and parley with no one who does not give the password, 'Gettysburg
and Little Round Top.' If men should come who say these words, tell
them to linger near without attracting attention, and come again
after I return. Admit Merwyn, of course, for you know his voice.
It is a terrible trial to leave you alone, but there seems to be
no prospect of trouble in this locality. At all events, I must do
my duty, cost what it may. Be vigilant, and do not worry unnecessarily
if I am detained."

"I am bent on retrieving myself, papa; and I'd rather die than be
so weak again."

"That's my brave girl. You won't die. After this venture, which I
must make at once, I shall be able to take greater precautions;"
and with a fond look and kiss, he hastened away through the basement
entrance, Marian fastening it securely after him.

We must now follow Merwyn's fortunes for a time. Rapidly, yet
vigilantly he made his way up town and crossed Third Avenue. He soon
observed that the spirit of lawlessness was increasing. Columns of
smoke were rising from various points, indicating burning buildings,
and in Lexington Avenue he witnessed the unblushing sack of beautiful
homes, from which the inmates had been driven in terror for their
lives.

"It will be strange if Mr. Vosburgh's home escapes," he thought.
"Some one must know enough of his calling to bring upon him and
his the vengeance of the mob. I shall do the best I can for him and
his daughter, but to-day has slain the last vestige of hope beyond
that of compelling her respect. Wholly off her guard, she showed
her deep-rooted detestation, and she can never disguise it again.
Regret and mortification at her conduct, a wish to make amends
and to show gratitude for such aid as I may give her father, will
probably lead her to be very gracious; at the same time I shall ever
know that in her heart is a repugnance which she cannot overcome.
A woman can never love a man towards whom she has entertained
thoughts like hers;" and with much bitter musings, added to his
reckless impulses, he made his way to the region in which Mrs.
Ghegan had her rooms.

Finding a livery stable near he hired a hack, securing it by
threats as well as money, and was soon at the door of the tenement
he sought.

Mrs. Ghegan showed her scared, yet pretty face in response to his
knock.

"Ye's brought me bad news," she said, instantly, beginning to sob.

"Yes, Mrs. Ghegan; but if you love your husband you will show it
now. I have come to take you to him. He has been wounded."

"Is it Mr. Merwyn?"

"Yes; I've just come from Mr. Vosburgh, and he will do what he can
for you when he has a chance. They know about your trouble. Now
make haste, for we've not a moment to lose in reaching the hospital."

"The Lord knows I love Barney as me loife, an' that I'd go to him
through fire and blood. Oi'll kape ye no longer than to tie me
bonnet on;" and this she was already doing with trembling fingers.

Locking the door, she took the key with her, and was soon in the
hack. Merwyn mounted the box with the driver, knowing that openness
was the best safeguard against suspicions that might soon prove
fatal. At one point they were surrounded and stopped by the rioters,
who demanded explanations.

"Clear out, ye bloody divils!" cried Sally, who did not count
timidity among her foibles; "wud ye kape a woman from goin' to her
husband, a-dyin' beloikes?"

"Oh, let us pass," said Merwyn, in a loud tone. "A cop knocked her
husband on the head, and we are taking her to him."

"Och! ye are roight, me mon. We'll let onybody pass who spakes in
her swate brogue;" and the crowd parted.



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeAn Original Belle → online text (page 30 of 37)