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"Yes; when the fighting is over for the night I'll bring the latest
news. There, the men are falling in for their march up Broadway,
and I must go."

"Well, I congratulate you. No soldier ever won greener laurels in
so short a time. What's more, you were cool enough to be one of
the most effective of the force. I saw you picking off the leaders.
Good-by;" and he hastened away, while Merwyn followed Carpenter
and the captured flag to a new scene of battle.






CHAPTER XLVI.

"I HAVE SEEN THAT YOU DETEST ME."





After her father had left her on that eventful afternoon, Marian
felt as if alone in a beleaguered fortress. The familiar streets
in which she had trundled her hoop as a child, and until to-day
walked without fear, were now filled with nameless terrors. She who
had been so bent on going out in the morning would now as readily
stroll in a tiger-infested jungle as to venture from her door. When
men like her father used such language and took such precautions
as she had anxiously noted, she knew that dangers were manifold and
great, that she was in the midst of the most ruthless phase of war.

But her first excitement had passed, and it had brought her such
lessons that now her chief thought was to retrieve herself. The
one who had dwelt in her mind as so weak and unmanly as to be a
constant cause of irritation had shown himself to be her superior,
and might even equal the friends with whom she had been scornfully
contrasting him. That she should have spoken to him and treated
him as she had done produced boundless self-reproach, while her
egregious error in estimating his character was humiliating in the
last degree.

"Fool! fool!" she said, aloud, "where was your woman's intuition?"

Marian had much warm blood in her veins and fire in her spirit, and
on provocation could become deeply incensed at others, as we have
seen; but so devoid of petty vanity was she that she could be almost
equally angry at herself. She did not share her father's confidence
that Merwyn would relent under a few smiles, for she knew how deeply
she had wounded and wronged him, and she believed that he possessed a
will as steadfast as fate. The desire to test her father's theory,
the hope to atone for her wrong judgment, grew so strong and absorbing
as to make the awful fact of the riot secondary in her thoughts.

To get through the hours she felt that she must keep incessantly
busy. She first went to her own room, packed valuables and jewels
in a convenient form to carry if there should be cause for a hasty
exit, then concealed them. Going to her mother's and father's room,
she acted in view of the same possible necessity, all the while
carrying on the distinct process of thought in regard to Merwyn,
dwelling on their past relations, but above all questioning his
course when they should meet again.

Suddenly she reproached herself with forgetfulness of Mammy Borden.
True, not much time had passed; but the poor creature, after what
she had heard, should be reassured frequently. She went to the attic
room, but it was empty. On inspection it became evident that the
colored woman had made up her little bundle and departed. Calling
as she went down through the house, Marian reached the basement
and saw that its door had been unfastened.

"She has gone to join her son," said the girl, as she hastily
rebolted and barred the door. "Oh what awful imprudence! Perhaps
she also wished to relieve us of the danger of her presence. Well,
I am now alone in very truth. I could now give Mr. Merwyn a very
different reception. He and papa will be here soon perhaps. Oh, I
wish I knew how to make coffee, but I can't even kindle a fire in
the range. I have proved myself to-day a fine subject for a soldier.
My role is to listen, in elegant costume, to heroic deeds, and
to become almost hysterical in the first hour of battle. O 'Missy
S'wanee,' I make a sorry figure beside you, facing actual war and
cheering on your friends!"

Thus she passed the time in varied and bitter soliloquy while
putting the kitchen and closets in order, and in awkward attempts
to remove the debris of the last fire from the range. The gas gave
light for her efforts, for the closed shutters darkened the apartment.

She was startled by a tap at the door.

"Well?" she faltered, after a moment's hesitation.

"'Gettysburg and Little Round Top,'" was the response.

"Mr. Vosburgh is out, and left word that you should linger near
till he returned and then come again."

"I cannot do that. It would not be safe for either him or me. He
does not realize. Can you be trusted?"

"I am his daughter."

"Say, then, terrible work up town. The orphan asylum sacked and
burned. Many private residences also. The mob having its own way.
A crowd is coming, and I must not be seen here. Will be back to-night
if possible;" and the unseen communicator of dismal intelligence
went westward with hasty steps.

Marian trembled as she heard the confused, noisy tread of many feet.
Hastening to the second story, she peeped through the blinds, and
shuddered as she saw a fragment of the mob which had been defeated
on Broadway, returning to their haunts on the west side. Baffled
and infuriated, they made the street echo with their obscene words
and curses. Her heart almost stood still as they approached her
door, and with white, compressed lips she grasped her revolver;
but the rioters passed on like a flock of unclean birds, and the
street became quiet again.

She was now so anxious about her father that she maintained her
position of observation. The coming storm lowering in the west
oppressed her with its terrible symbolism. Already the street was
darkening, while from other parts of the city came strange sounds.

"Oh, if papa should never come back, - if the mob should have its
own way everywhere! To think of staying here alone to-night! Would
HE come again after my treatment this morning?"

She was aroused from her deep and painful revery by a knocking on
the basement door. Hastening down she was overjoyed to hear her
father's voice, and when he entered she clung to him, and kissed him
with such energy that his heavy beard came off, and his disguising
wig was all awry.

"O papa!" she cried, "I'm so glad you are back safe! A body of
rioters passed through the street, and the thought of your falling
into such hands sickened me with fear;" and then she breathlessly
told him of all that had occurred, and of Mammy Borden's disappearance.

He reassured her gently, yet strongly, and her quick ear caught
the ring of truth in his words.

"I, too, have much to tell you," he said, "and much to do; so we
must talk as we work. First help me to unpack and put away these
provisions. This evening I must get a stout German woman that I
know of to help you. You must not be left alone again, and I have
another plan in mind for our safety. I think the worst is over, but
it is best not to entertain a sense of false security for a moment
in these times. The mob has been thoroughly whipped on Broadway.
I'll tell you all about it after we have had a good cup of coffee
and a little supper. Now that there is a respite I find I'm almost
faint myself from reaction and fatigue."

"Have you seen - do you think Mr. Merwyn will be here again?"

"I've seen him, and so have others, to their sorrow. 'Coward,'
indeed!" He threw back his head and laughed. "I only wish I had a
regiment of such cowards, and I could abolish the mob in twenty-four
hours. But I'll tell you the whole story after supper is ready, and
will show how quickly a soldier can get up a meal in an emergency.
You must go into training as a commissary at once."

Her father seemed so genuinely hopeful and elated that Marian caught
his spirit and gave every faculty to the task of aiding him. Now
that he was with her, all fears and forebodings passed; the nearer
roll of the thunder was unheeded except as it called out the remark,
"It will be too bad if Mr. Merwyn is out in the storm."

Again her father laughed, as he said, "All the thunder gusts that
have raged over the city are nothing to the storm which Merwyn has
just faced."

"O papa, you make me half wild with curiosity and impatience. Must
I wait until the coffee boils?"

"No," was the still laughing reply. "What is more, you shall have
another surprising experience; you shall eat your supper - for the
first time, I imagine - in the kitchen. It will save time and trouble,
and some of my agents may appear soon. Well, well, all has turned
out, so far, better than I ever hoped. I have been able to keep
track of all the most important movements; I have seen a decisive
battle, and have sent intelligence of everything to Washington.
A certain man there cannot say that I have failed in my duty,
unexpected and terrible as has been the emergency. By morning the
military from the forts in the harbor will be on hand. One or two
more such victories, and this dragon of a mob will expire."

"Papa, should not something be done to find and protect Mammy
Borden?"

"Yes, as soon as possible; but we must make sure that the city's
safe, and our own lives secure before looking after one poor creature.
She has undoubtedly gone to her son, as you suggest. After such a
scare as she has had she will keep herself and him out of sight.
They are both shrewd and intelligent for their race, and will, no
doubt, either hide or escape from the city together. Rest assured
she went out heavily veiled and disguised. She would have said
good-by had she not feared you would detain her, and, as you say,
her motive was probably twofold. She saw how she endangered us,
and, mother-like, she was determined to be with her son."

"Come, papa, the coffee's boiled, and supper, such as it is, is on
the table. Hungry as I am, I cannot eat till you have told me all."

"All about the fight?"

"Yes, and - and - Well, what part did Mr. Merwyn take in it?"

"Ah, now I am to recite MY epic. How all is changed since Blauvelt
kindled your eyes and flushed your cheeks with the narration of
heroic deeds! Then we heard of armies whose tread shook the continent,
and whose guns have echoed around the world. Men, already historic
for all time, were the leaders, and your soldier friends were clad
in a uniform which distinguished them as the nation's defenders.
My humble hero had merely an ill-fitting policeman's coat buttoned
over his soiled, ragged blouse. Truly it is fit that I should recite
his deeds in a kitchen and not in a library. When was the heroic
policeman sung in homeric verse before? When - "

"O papa, papa! don't tantalize me. You cannot belittle this struggle
or its consequences. Our enemies are at our very doors, and they
are not soldiers. I would rather face scalping Indians than the
wretches that I saw an hour since. If Merwyn will do a man's part
to quell this mob I shall feel honored by his friendship. But he
never will forgive me, never, never."

"We'll see about that," was Mr. Vosburgh's smiling reply. Then his
face became grave, and he said: "You are right, Marian. The ruffians
who filled the streets to-day, and who even now are plundering and
burning in different parts of the city, are not soldiers. They are
as brutal as they are unscrupulous and merciless. I can only tell
you what has occurred in brief outline, for the moment I am a little
rested and have satisfied hunger I must be at work."

He then rapidly narrated how Merwyn had been brought in at police
headquarters with one of the leaders of the riot whom he had beguiled
and helped to capture. A graphic account of the battle followed,
closing with the fact that he had left the "coward" marching up
Broadway to engage in another fight.

The girl listened with pale cheeks and drooping head.

"He will never forgive me," she murmured; "I've wronged him too
deeply."

"Be ready to give him a generous cup of coffee and a good supper,"
her father replied. "Men are animals, even when heroes, and Merwyn
will be in a condition to bless the hand that feeds him to-night.
Now I must carry out my plans with despatch. Oh, there is the
rain. Good. Torrents, thunder, and lightning will keep away more
dangerous elements. Although I have but a slight acquaintance
with the Erkmanns, whose yard abuts upon ours, I hope, before the
evening is over, to have a door cut in the fence between us, and
a wire stretched from our rear windows to theirs. It will be for
our mutual safety. If attacked we can escape through their house
or they through ours. I'll put on my rubber suit and shall not be
gone long now at any one time. You can admit Merwyn or any of my
agents who give the password. Keep plenty of coffee and your own
courage at boiling-point. You will next hear from me at our back
door."

In less than half an hour she again admitted her father, who said:
"It's all arranged. I have removed a couple of boards so that they
can be replaced by any one who passes through the opening. I have
some fine wire which I will now stretch from my library to Mr.
Erkmann's sleeping-apartment."

When he again entered the house two of his agents whom Marian had
admitted were present, dripping wet, hungry, and weary. They had
come under cover of the storm and darkness. While they gave their
reports Mr. Vosburgh made them take a hearty supper, and Marian
waited on them with a grace that doubled their incentive to serve
their chief. But more than once she sighed, "Merwyn does not come."

Then the thought flashed upon her: "Perhaps he cannot come. He may
be battered and dying in the muddy streets."

The possibility of this made her so ill and faint that she hastily
left the apartment and went up to the darkened drawing-room, where
her father found her a moment later seeking to stifle her sobs.

"Why, Marian, darling, you who have kept up so bravely are not
going to give way now."

"I'm not afraid for myself," she faltered, "but Mr. Merwyn does not
come. You said he was marching to another fight. He may be wounded;
he may be - " her voice fell to a whisper - "he may be dead."

"No, Marian," replied her father, confidently, "that young fellow
has a future. He is one of those rare spirits which a period like
this develops, and he'll take no common part in it. He has probably
gone to see if his own home is safe. Now trust God and be a soldier,
as you promised."

"I couldn't bear to have anything happen to him and I have no chance
to make amends, to show I am not so weak and silly as I appeared
this morning."

"Then let him find you strong and self-controlled when he appears.
Come down now, for I must question my agents while they are yet at
supper; then I must go out, and I'll leave them for your protection
till I return."

He put his arm about her, and led her to the stairway, meanwhile
thinking, "A spell is working now which she soon will have to
recognize."

By the time his agents had finished their meal, Mr. Vosburgh had
completed his examination of them and made his notes. He then placed
a box of cigars on the table, instructed them about admitting Merwyn
should he come, and with his daughter went up to the library, where
he wrote another long despatch.

"After sending this," he said, "and getting the woman I spoke of,
I will not leave you again to-night, unless there should be very
urgent necessity. You can sit in the darkened front room, and watch
till either I or Merwyn returns."

This she did and listened breathlessly.

The rain continued to pour in torrents, and the lightning was
still so vivid as to blind her eyes at times, while the crashes of
thunder often drowned the roar of the unquiet city; but undaunted,
tearless, motionless, she watched the deserted street and listened
for the footfall of one whom she had long despised, as she had
assured herself.

An hour passed. The storm was dying away, and still he did not
come. "Alas!" she sighed, "he is wounded; if not by the rabble,
certainly by me. I know now what it has cost him to be thought a
coward for months, and must admit that I don't understand him at
all. How vividly come back the words he spoke last December, 'What
is the storm, and what the danger, to that which I am facing?'
What was he facing? What secret and terrible burden has he carried
patiently through all my coldness and scorn? Oh, why was I such an
idiot as to offend him mortally just as he was about to retrieve
himself and render papa valuable assistance, - worse still, when he
came to my protection!"

The gloomy musings were interrupted by the sound of a carriage
driven rapidly up town in a neighboring street. It stopped at the
corner to the east, and a man alighted and came towards the Vosburgh
residence. A moment later Marian whispered, excitedly, "It's Mr.
Merwyn."

He approached slowly and she thought warily, and began mounting
the steps.

"Is it Mr. Merwyn?" she called.

"Yes."

"I will admit you at the basement door;" and she hastened down.
She meant to give her hand, to speak in warm eulogy of his action,
but his pale face and cold glance as he entered chilled her. She
felt tongue-tied in the presence of the strangers who sat near the
table smoking.

Merwyn started slightly on seeing them, and then she explained,
hastily, "These gentlemen are assisting my father in a way you
understand."

He bowed to them, then sank into a chair, as if too weary to stand.

"Mr. Merwyn," she began, eagerly, "let me make you some fresh coffee.
That on the range is warm, but it has stood some little time."

"Please do not take the slightest trouble," he said, decidedly.
"That now ready will answer. Indeed, I would prefer it to waiting.
I regret exceedingly that Mr. Vosburgh is not at home, for I am
too exhausted to wait for him. Can I not help myself?" and he rose
and approached the range.

"Not with my permission," she replied, with a smile, but he did
not observe it. She stole shy glances at him as she prepared the
coffee. Truly, as he sat, drooping in his chair, wet, ragged, and
begrimed, he presented anything but the aspect of a hero. Yet as
such he appeared in her eyes beyond all other men whom she had ever
seen.

She said, gently: "Let me put the coffee on the table, and get you
some supper. You must need it sorely."

"No, I thank you. I could not eat anything to-night;" and he rose
and took the coffee from her hand, and drank it eagerly. He then
said, "I will thank you for a little more."

With sorrow she noted that he did not meet her eyes or relax his
distant manner.

"I wish you could wait until papa returns," she said, almost
entreatingly, as she handed him a second cup.

"I hope Mr. Vosburgh will pardon my seeming lack of courtesy, and
that you will also, gentlemen. It has been a rather long, hard day,
and I find that I have nearly reached the limit of my powers." With
a short, grim laugh, he added: "I certainly am not fit to remain
in the presence of a lady. I suppose, Miss Vosburgh, I may report
what little I have to say in the presence of these gentlemen? I
would write it out if I could, but I cannot to-night."

"I certainly think you may speak freely before these gentlemen,"
was her reply.

"Mr. Vosburgh trusts us implicitly, and I think we are deserving
of it," said one of the agents.

"Why need you go out again when you are so weary?" Marian asked.
"I am expecting papa every moment, and I know he would like you to
stay with him."

"That would be impossible. Besides, I have some curiosity to learn
whether I have a home left. My report in brief amounts to little
more than this. Soon after our return from the mayor's residence on
Broadway we were ordered down to Printing-House Square. Intelligence
that an immense mob was attacking the Tribune Office had been
received. Our hasty march thither, and the free use of the club on
our arrival, must account for my present plight. You see, gentlemen,
that I am not a veteran, only a raw recruit. In a day or two
I shall be more seasoned to the work. You may say to your father,
Miss Vosburgh, that the mob had been broken before we arrived. We
met them on their retreat across City-Hall Park, and nothing was
left for us but the heavy, stupid work of knocking a good many of
the poor wretches on the head. Such fighting makes me sick; yet it
is imperative, no doubt. Inspector Carpenter is at City Hall with
a large force, and the rioters are thoroughly dispersed. I think
the lower part of the city will be quiet for the night."

"You were wise, Mr. Merwyn, to ride up town," said Marian, gravely.
"I know well that you have been taxed to-day beyond the strength
of any veteran."


"How did you know that I rode up town?"

"I was watching for papa, and saw you leave your carriage."

"I could never have reached home had I not secured a cab, and that
reminds me that it is waiting around the corner; at least, the
driver promised to wait. I shall now say good-night. Oh, by the
way, in the press of other things I forgot to say that Mrs. Ghegan
reached her husband, and that her good nursing, with surgical help,
will probably save his life."

Bowing to the agents, who had been listening and watching him with
great curiosity, he turned to the door.

Marian opened it for him, and, stepping out into the dusky area,
said, "I see that you do not forgive me."

"And I have seen, to-day, Miss Vosburgh, that you detest me. You
showed the truth plainly when off your guard. Your own pride and
sense of justice may lead you to seek to make amends for an error
in your estimate of me. Having convinced you that I am not a coward,
I have accomplished all that I can hope for, and I'm in no mood for
hollow courtesies. I shall do everything in my power to aid your
father until the trouble is over or I am disabled, and then will
annoy you no more. Good-night;" and he strode away, with a firm,
rapid step, proving that his pride for a moment had mastered his
almost mortal weariness.

Marian returned to her post in the second story to watch for her
father, her ears tingling, and every faculty confused, while excited,
by the words Merwyn had spoken. He had revealed his attitude towards
her clearly, and, as she grew calmer, she saw it was not a mere
question of the offence she had given him that morning which she had
to face, but rather a deep-rooted conviction that he was personally
detested.

"If he knew how far this is from the truth NOW!" she thought, with
a smile.

Then the query presented itself: "How far is it from the truth? Why
am I thinking more of him than of the riot, our danger, yes, even
my father?"

In the light of that lurid day much had been revealed to her, and
before her revery ceased she understood her long months of irritation
and anger at Merwyn's course; she saw why she had not dismissed him
from her thoughts with contemptuous indifference and why she had
ingeniously wrought the MacIan theory of constitutional timidity.
When had she given so much thought to a man whom she had disliked?
Even in her disapproval of him, even when her soldier friends
appeared at their best and she was contrasting him with them to his
fatal disadvantage as she believed, thoughts of him would pursue
her constantly. Now that he had shown himself the peer of each and
all in manhood and courage, it seemed as if feelings, long held
in check, were released and were sweeping irresistibly towards one
conclusion. Merwyn was more to her than any other man in the world.
He had fulfilled her ideal, and was all the more attractive because
he was capable of such deep, strong passion, and yet could be so
resolute and cool.

"But how can I ever undeceive him?" was her most perplexing thought.
"I cannot make advances. Well, well, the future must disentangle
itself."

Now that she was beginning to understand herself, every instinct
of her being led towards reserve. In a misunderstanding with her
soldier friends she could easily and frankly effect a reconciliation,
but she must be dumb with Merwyn, and distant in manner, to the
degree that she was self-conscious.

Suddenly she became aware that it was growing late, and that her
father had not returned, and for the next hour she suffered terribly
from anxiety, as did many women in those days of strange vicissitudes.

At last, a little before midnight, he came, looking stern and
anxious. "I will soon explain," he said to her. "Take this woman
to her room." Then, to his aroused and sleepy agents: "You have had
some rest and respite. Go to the nearest hotel and take a little
more, but be up with the dawn and do your best, for to-morrow
promises to be worse than to-day."

With a few further instructions he dismissed them.



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeAn Original Belle → online text (page 32 of 37)