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Edward Payson Roe.

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Reaching the hospital, Sally rushed into the office with the
breathless demand, "Where's Barney?"

Merwyn recognized the surgeon he had met before, and said: "You
know the man I brought a few hours since. This is his wife."

The surgeon looked grave and hesitated.

"What have ye done wid him?" Sally almost screamed. "Are ye no
better than the bloody villains in the strates?"

"My good woman," began the surgeon, "you must be more composed and
reasonable. We try to save life when there is life - "

"Where is he?" shrieked the woman.

The surgeon, accustomed to similar scenes, nodded to an attendant,
and said, gravely, "Show her."

Merwyn took the poor woman's hand to restrain as well as to reassure
her, saying, with sympathies deeply touched, "Mrs. Ghegan, remember
you are not friendless, whatever happens."

"Quick! quick!" she said to her guide. "Och! what's a wurld uv
frin's if I lose Barney? Poor man! poor man! He once said I blew
hot and could, but oi'd give him me loife's blood now."

To Merwyn's sorrow they were led to the dead-house, and there lay
the object of their quest, apparently lifeless, his battered face
almost past recognition. But Sally knew him instantly, and stared
for a moment as if turned to stone; then, with a wild cry, she threw
herself upon him, moaning, sobbing, and straining his unconscious
form to her breast.

Merwyn felt that it would be best to let her paroxysm of grief expend
itself unrestrained; but a bitter thought crossed his mind, - "I may
be in as bad a plight as poor Barney before the day closes, yet no
one would grieve for me like that."

Suddenly Mrs. Ghegan became still. In her embrace her hand had
rested over her husband's heart, and had felt a faint pulsation.
A moment later she sprung up and rushed back to the office. Merwyn
thought that she was partially demented, and could scarcely keep
pace with her.

Bursting in at the door, she cried: "Och! ye bloody spalpanes, to
put a loive man where ye did! Come wid me, an' oi'll tache ye that
I knows more than ye all."

"Please satisfy her," said Merwyn to the surgeon, who was inclined
to ignore what he regarded as the wild ravings of a grief-crazed
woman.

"Well, well, if it will do any good; but we have too much to do
to-day for those who have a chance - "

"Come on, or oi'll drag ye there," the wife broke in.

"When I've satisfied you, my good woman, you must become quiet and
civil. Other wives have lost their husbands - "

But Sally was already out of hearing. Reaching the supposed corpse,
the deeply excited woman said, with eyes blazing through her tears,
"Put yez hand on his heart."

The surgeon did so, and almost instantly the expression of his face
changed, and he said sharply to the attendant, "Bring a stretcher
with bearers at once." Then to Sally: "You are right; he is alive,
but there was no such pulsation as this when he was brought here.
Now be quiet and cheer up, and we may help you save his life. You
can stay and take care of him."

Merwyn again took the wife's trembling hand and said, earnestly:
"Mrs. Ghegan, obey the surgeon's orders exactly. Be quiet, gentle,
and self-controlled, and Barney may outlive us all."

"Faix, Mr. Merwyn, now that oi've hope I'll be whist as a baby
asleep. Ye knew me onst as a light, giddy gurl, but oi'll watch
over Barney wid such a slapeless eye as wud shame his own mither."

And she kept her word. For days and nights her husband remained
unconscious, wavering between life and death. The faithful woman,
as indifferent to the tumult and havoc in the city as if it were
in another land, sat beside him and furthered all efforts in a
winning fight.

Merwyn saw him in a hospital ward, surrounded by skilful hands,
before he took his leave.

"God bless ye!" Sally began. "If yez hadn't brought me - "

But, pressing her hand warmly, he did not wait to hear her grateful
words.






CHAPTER XLV.

THE DECISIVE BATTLE.





MERWYN was now very anxious to reach police headquarters in
Mulberry Street, for he felt that the safety of the city, as well
as all personal interests dear to him, depended upon adequate and
well-organized resistance.

The driver, having been promised a handsome reward to remain, still
waited. Indeed, he had gained the impression that Merwyn was in
sympathy with the ruthless forces then in the ascendant, and he
felt safer in his company than if returning alone.

Mounting the box again, Merwyn directed the driver to make his way
through the more open streets to Broadway and 14th Street.

They had not gone far through the disturbed districts when four
rough-looking men stopped them, took possession of the hack, and
insolently required that they should be driven to Union Square. The
last ugly-visaged personage to enter the vehicle paused a moment,
drew a revolver, and said, "An' ye don't 'bey orders, this little
bull-dog will spake to ye next."

The Jehu looked with a pallid face at Merwyn, who said, carelessly:
"It's all right. They are going in my direction."

The quartet within soon began to entertain suspicions of Merwyn,
and the one who had last spoken, apparently the leader, thrust his
head out of the window and shouted: "Shtop! Who the divil is that
chap on the box wid ye?"

"I'll answer for myself," said Merwyn, seeking to employ the
vernacular as well as the appearance of an American mechanic. "The
driver don't know anything about me. A cop knocked a friend of mine
on the head this morning, and I've been taking his wife to him."

The driver now took his cue, and added, "Faix, and a nice, dacent
little Irishwoman she was, bedad."

"Then ye're wan wid us?" cried the leader of the gang.

"It looks mighty like it," was the laughing reply. "This would be
a poor place for me to hang out, if I was afraid of you or your
friends."

"Yez may bet your loife on that. How coomes it ye're so hand-and-glove
wid an Irishman, when ye spake no brogue at all?"

"Thunder! man, do you think no one but Irishmen are going to have
a fist in this scrimmage? I'm as ready to fight as you are, and am
only going down town to join my own gang. Why shouldn't I have an
Irishman for a friend, if he's a good fellow, I'd like to know?"

"Beloikes they'll be yez best frin's. All roight. Dhrive on and
moind your eye, or the bull-dog will bark."

They ordered a halt several times, while one and another went to
a saloon for a drink. It was fast becoming evident that, should
there be any want of courage or recklessness, whiskey would supply
the lack.

Merwyn preserved nonchalant indifference, even when his disreputable
companions were approached by those with whom they were in league,
and information and orders were exchanged which he partially
overheard. Although much was said in a jargon that he scarcely
understood, he gathered that nothing less was on foot than an attack
on police headquarters, in the hope of crushing at the start the
power most feared. Therefore, while he maintained his mask, every
sense was on the alert.

At length they reached Union Square, and the occupants of the
hack alighted. Two went east and one west, while the leader said
to Merwyn, who had also jumped down: "Take me to your gang. We're
afther needing ivery divil's son of 'im widin the next hour or so.
It's a big game we're playin' now, me lad, an' see that ye play
square and thrue, or your swateheart'll miss ye the noight."

"You'll have to have a bigger crowd on Broadway before you'll get
our fellows out," Merwyn replied. "We're not going to face the cops
until there's enough on hand to give us a livin' chance."

"There'll be plenty on hand - more'n ye ever seed in yer loife - before
ye're an hour older. So lead on, and shtop your palaver. I'm not
quite sure on ye yet."

"You soon will be," replied Merwyn, with his reckless and misleading
laugh. "My course is down Broadway to Bleecker Street and then
west. I can show you as pretty a lot of fellows as you'll want to
see, and most of us are armed."

"All roight. Broadway suits me. I want to see if the coast is
clear."

"So do I, and what the cops are about in these diggin's. The right
thing to do is for all hands to pitch right on to them in Mulberry
Street, and then the game's in our own hands."

"If that's the lark we have on foot, can ye promise that yer gang'll
join us?"

"Yes, sir, for we'd know that meant business."

"How many could ye muster?"

"I hardly know. We were a-growin' fast when I left."

"Well, lead on loively. Ivery minute now should give me a dozen
men, an' we want to start the blaze down this way. I tell ye it's
a burning-up town."

"So I should guess from the smoke we see," said Merwyn, with his
old laugh. "Jupiter! there comes a squad of cops."

"Well, what do we care? We're two paceable, dacent citizens,
a-strollin' down Broadway."

"Oh, I'm not afraid," was the careless reply. "I'm going to see
this scrimmage out, and I like the fun. Let's watch the cops cross
the street, and see how they are armed."

As the little squad approached Broadway from a side-street, hastening
to headquarters, the Hibernian firebrand and his supposed ally stood
on the curbstone, A moment later Merwyn struck his companion such
a powerful blow on the temple that he fell in the street, almost
in front of the officers of the law. The young fellow then sprung
upon the stunned and helpless man, and took away his weapons, at
the same time, crying: "Secure him. He's a leader of the mob."

"Yes, and you too, my hard hitter," said the sergeant in command.

"I'll go quietly enough, so long as you take him with me. Be quick
about it, too, for I have news that should be known at headquarters
as soon as possible."

The police now supposed that they recognized one of a band
of detectives, everywhere busy about the city in all kinds of
disguises, - men of wonderful nerve, who rendered the authorities
very important services, and often captured the most dangerous of
the ruffianly leaders.

The fellow in question was hustled to his feet, having discovered
Merwyn's gang sooner than he desired. The squad pushed through the
fast-gathering and bewildered crowd, and soon reached headquarters.
The young fellow told his story in the presence of Mr. Vosburgh, who
evidently had credentials which secured for him absolute confidence
on the part of the authorities.

Merwyn soon learned to recognize in his interlocutor, the
superintendent of the metropolitan police, a man to whose active
brain, iron will, and indomitable courage, the city chiefly owed
its deliverance, - Thomas C. Acton.

Confirmation of the sinister tidings was already coming in fast. The
brutal mob that had sacked and burned the Colored Orphan Asylum was
moving southward, growing with accessions from different quarters,
like a turbulent torrent. Its destination was well understood,
and Acton knew that the crisis had come thus early. He frequently
conferred with Chief Clerk Seth C. Hawley, upon whom, next to
himself, rested the heaviest burdens of those terrific days.

Merwyn offered his services on the force, stipulating, however,
that he might be in a measure his own master, since he had other
duties to perform, at the same time promising to do his share of
the fighting.

Mr. Vosburgh drew Acton to one side, and made a few whispered
explanations. Merwyn's request was granted at once, Acton adding,
"There will be a general call in the morning papers for the enrolment
of citizens as policemen."

The moments were crowded with preparations, counsels, and decisions.
The telegraph wires, concentring there from all parts of the city,
were constantly ticking off direful intelligence; but the most
threatening fact was the movement down Broadway of unknown thousands,
maddened by liquor, and confident from their unchecked excesses
during the day. They knew that they had only to destroy the handful
of men at police headquarters and the city was theirs to plunder
and destroy with hyena-like savagery.

Acton, now cognizant of the worst, went to the police commissioners'
room and said: "Gentlemen, the crisis has come. A battle must be
fought now, and won, too, or all is lost."

None doubted the truth of his word; but who should lead the small
force at hand? Inspector Carpenter's name was suggested, for he was
known to be a man of great resolution and courage, and leadership
naturally fell to him as one of the oldest and most experienced
members of the force. Acton instructed him not only that a battle
must be fought immediately, but also that it MUST be successful.

Carpenter listened quietly, comprehending both the peril and the
necessity; then after a moment's hesitation he rose to his full
height, and with an impressive gesture and a terrible oath said,
"I will go, and I'll win that fight, or Daniel Carpenter will never
come back a live man."

He instantly summoned his insignificant force, and the order, "Fall
in, men," resounded through the street.

Merwyn, with a policeman's coat buttoned over his blouse, avowed
his purpose of going with them; and his exploit of the afternoon,
witnessed and bruited by members of the force, made his presence
welcome.

It was now between five and six in the evening. The air was hot
and sultry, and in the west lowered heavy clouds, from which the
thunder muttered. Emblematic they seemed to such as heeded them in
the intense excitement.

Few in the great city at that hour were so deeply stirred as Merwyn.
The tremendous excitements of the day, to which his experience at
Mr. Vosburgh's residence had chiefly contributed, were cumulative
in their effect. Now he had reached the goal of his hope, and had
obtained an opportunity, far beyond his wildest dreams, to redeem
his character from the imputation of cowardice. He was part of the
little force which might justly be regarded as a "forlorn hope."
The fate of the city depended upon its desperate valor, and no one
knew this better than he, who, from early morning, had witnessed the
tiger-spirit of the mob. If the thousands, every minute approaching
nearer, should annihilate the handful of men who alone were present
to cope with them, that very night the city would be at the mercy
of the infuriated rioters, and not a home would be secure from
outrage.

The column of police was formed scarcely two hundred strong.
Merwyn, as a new recruit, was placed in its rear, a position that
he did not mean to keep when the fight should begin. Like the
others, he was armed with a locust-club, but he had two revolvers
on his person, and these he knew how to use with fatal precision.
From an open window Superintendent Acton shouted, "Inspector
Carpenter, my orders are, Make no arrests, bring no prisoners, but
kill - kill every time."

It was to be a life-and-death struggle. The mob would have no mercy:
the officers of the law were commanded to show none.

As Carpenter went forward to the head of his column, his face as
dark with his sanguinary puipose as the lowering west, Merwyn saw
that Mr. Vosburgh, quiet and observant, was present.

The government officer, with his trained instincts, knew just where
to be, in order to obtain the most vital information. He now joined
Merwyn, and was struck by his extreme pallor, a characteristic of
the young fellow under extreme emotion.

"Mr. Merwyn," he said, hastily, "you have done enough for two
to-day, You need rest. This is going to be a desperate encounter."

"Forward!" shouted Carpenter.

A proud smile lighted up Merwyn's features, as he said: "Good-by.
Thank you for such faith as you have had in me;" and he moved off
with the others.

Mr. Vosburgh muttered, "I shall see this fight, and I shall solve
that embodied mystery whom we have thought a coward;" and he followed
so near as to keep Merwyn under his eye.

A black, sulphurous cloud was rising in the west. This little
dark blue column approaching from the east, marching down Bleecker
Street, was insignificant in comparison, yet it was infinitely the
more dangerous, and charged with forces that would scatter death
and wounds such as the city had never witnessed.

No words were spoken by the resolute men. The stony pavement
echoed their measured, heavy tread. Turning into Broadway they saw
the enemy but a block and a half away, a howling mob, stretching
northward as far as the eye could reach. It was sweeping the
thoroughfare, thousands in line. Pedestrians, stages, vehicles of
all kinds, were vanishing down side-streets. Pallid shopkeepers
were closing their stores as sailors take in sail before a cyclone.

Carpenter halted his command, and sent small detachments up parallel
side-streets, that they might come around and fall upon the flanks
of the mob.

As these men were moving off on the double-quick, Merwyn left his
squad and said to Carpenter: "I am a citizen, and I stipulated that
I should fight as I chose. I choose to fight with you."

"Well, well, so long as you fight," was the hasty answer. "You shall
have plenty of it, if you keep near me." Then he added, sternly:
"Mark you, young fellow, if you show the white feather I'll knock
you over myself. Those devils yonder must be taught that the one
thing this force can't do is run."

"Brain me if I do not do my whole duty," was the firm reply; and
he took his place at the right of the front rank.

A moment later he was startled by Mr. Vosburgh, who seized his hand
and said, earnestly: "Merwyn, no man ever did a braver thing than
you are doing now. I can't forgive myself that I wronged you in my
thoughts."

"You had reason. I'm doing no better than these other men, and I
have a thousand-fold their motive." Then he added, gravely, "I do
not think you ought to be here and your daughter alone."

"I know my duty," was the quiet reply; "and there are those who
must be informed of the issue of this fight as soon as it is over.
Once more, farewell, my brave friend;" and he disappeared.

Carpenter was holding his force until his flanking detachments should
reach their co-operative points. When the mob saw the police, it
advanced more slowly, as if it, too, instinctively recognized that
the supreme crisis was near. In the van of the dense mass a large
board was borne aloft, inscribed with the words, "No Draft!" and
beside it, in mocking irony, floated the stars and stripes.

The hesitation of the rioters was but brief. They mistook the
inaction of the few policemen opposed to them for timidity, and the
immense masses behind pushed them forward. Therefore, with a new
impetus, the howling, yelling throng approached, and Merwyn could
distinguish the features of the liquor-inflamed, maddened faces that
were already becoming familiar to him. In the sultry July evening
the greater part of the rioters were in their shirt-sleeves, and
they were armed with every description of weapon, iron bars, clubs,
pitchforks, barrel-staves, and not a few with guns and pistols.

Carpenter stood out before his men, watching the approach of his
victims with an expression which only the terrible excitement of
battle can produce. His men, behind him, were like statues. Suddenly
his stentorian command rang out, -

"BY THE RIGHT FLANK, COMPANY FRONT! DOUBLE-QUICK! CHARGE!"

As if the lever of a powerful engine had been pressed, all clubs
were raised aloft, and with swift, even tread the trained, powerful
men rushed after their leader, who kept several paces ahead.

When such a disciplined force, with such a leader, have resolved to
fight till they die, their power is not to be estimated by numbers.
They smote the astonished van of the mob like a thunderbolt, Carpenter
leading by several steps, his face aflame with his desperate resolve.
He dealt the first blow, sending down, bleeding and senseless, a
huge ruffian who was rushing upon him with a club. A second later
the impetuous officer was in the midst of the mob, giving deadly
blows right and left.

His men closed up with him instantly, Merwyn being among the first
to reach his side, and for a few moments the thud of clubs on human
skulls was heard above every other sound. Mr. Vosburgh, keeping a
little to the rear on the sidewalk, watched Merwyn, who held his
attention almost equally with the general issues of this decisive
battle. The youth was dealing blows like an athlete, and keeping
pace with the boldest. The windows of the buildings on Broadway
were now crowded by thousands witnessing the conflict, while Mr.
Vosburgh, following closely, heard the ominous "sing" of more than
one bullet. The man who had come that day to the protection of his
home and child should not be left to the mercy of strangers, should
he fall. To his surprise he soon saw that Merwyn had shifted his
club to his left hand, and that he was fighting with a revolver. He
watched the young fellow with renewed interest, and observed that
his aim was as deliberate as it was quick, and that often when he
fired some prominent figure in the mob dropped.

"By all the powers! if he is not coolly shooting the leaders, and
picking out his man every time!" ejaculated the astonished officer.

The police made a clean sweep of the street, and only prostrate
forms were left in their rear. Therefore Mr. Vosburgh could almost
keep pace with Merwyn.

The rioters soon became appalled at their punishment. Like a dark
blue wave, with bloody clubs forming a crimson crest, that unfaltering
rank of men steadily advanced and ingulfed them. All within reach
went down. Those of the police who were wounded still fought on,
or, if disabled, the ranks closed up, and there was no cessation
in the fatal hail of blows. The rioters in front would have given
way, had not the thousands in their rear pressed them forward to
their fate.

The judicious Carpenter had provided for this feature of the
strife, for now his detachments were smiting both flanks of the
human monster with the same terrific vengeance dealt upon its head.
The undisciplined herd fought desperately for a time, then gave
way to panic and the wild effort to escape. Long since a policeman
had seized the national flag, and bore it triumphantly with his
left hand while he fought with his right. The confusion and uproar
were beyond description. The rioters were yelling their conflicting
views as to what ought to be done, while others were shouting to
those in their rear to cease crowding forward. The pressure down
Broadway now came from a desire to escape the police. In brief,
a large section of the mob was hemmed in, and it surged backwards
and forwards and up against the stores, while hundreds, availing
themselves of the side-streets, ran for their lives. In a very
short time what had been a compact, threatening mass was flying in
fragments, as if disrupted by dynamite, but the pursuing clubs of
Carpenter's men never ceased their levelling blows while a rioter's
head was in reach. Far northward the direful tidings of defeat
spread through the ragged hosts as yet unharmed, and they melted
away, to come together again and again during the lurid days and
nights which followed.

The Gettysburg of the conflict had been fought and won. Unspeakable
outrages and heavy battles were yet to come; but this decisive
victory gave the authorities advantage which they never lost, and
time to organize more effective resistance with the aid of the
military. The police saved the city.

Broadway looked like a battle-field, prostrate forms strewing its
crimsoned pavement throughout the area of the conflict. The majority
were left where they fell, and were carried off by their friends.

As the melee was drawing to a close, Mr. Vosburgh saw Merwyn chasing
a man who apparently had had much influence with his associates,
and had been among the last to yield. After a brief pursuit the
young fellow stopped and fired. The man struggled on a few steps,
then fell. Merwyn, panting, sat down on the curbstone, and here Mr.
Vosburgh joined him with radiant face, exclaiming, as he wrung the
young man's hand: "I've seen it all, - seen how you smote them hip
and thigh. Never has my blood been so stirred. The city is saved.
When a mob is thus dealt with it soon gives up. Come, you have
done more than your part. Go with me, and as soon as I have sent
a despatch about this glorious victory, we'll have supper and a
little rest."

"Impossible, Mr. Vosburgh. The inspector has heard that the mob
is sacking the mayor's house, and we have orders to march there at
once. I'll get my wind in a moment."

"But you are not under obligations, in view of all you have done."

"I'm going to see this fight out. If the force were ordered back
to headquarters I'd go with you."

"But you will come soon?"



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeAn Original Belle → online text (page 31 of 37)