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His delicate, patrician features emphasized the mystery of his
personality and action.

When all resistance in the street was overcome, there still remained
the factory, thronged with armed and defiant rioters. Dilkes
ordered the building to be cleared, and Merwyn took his place in
the storming party. We shall not describe the scenes that followed.
It was a strife that differed widely from Lane's cavalry charge
on the lawn of a Southern plantation, with the eyes of fair women
watching his deeds. Merwyn was not taking part with thousands in a
battle that would be historic as Strahan and Blauvelt had done at
Gettysburg. Every element of romance and martial inspiration was
wanting. It was merely a life-and-death encounter between a handful
of policemen and a grimy, desperate band of ruffians, cornered like
rats, and resolved to sell their lives dearly.

The building was cleared, and at last Merwyn, exhausted and panting,
came back with his comrades and took his place in the ranks. His
club was bloody, and his revolver empty. The force marched away in
triumph escorting wagons loaded with all the arms they could find,
and were cheered by the better-disposed spectators that remained
on the scene of action.

The desperate tenacity of the mob is shown by the fact that it
returned to the wire factory, found some boxes of arms that had been
overlooked, filled the great five-story building and the street
about it, and became so defiant that the same battle had to be
fought again in the afternoon with the aid of the military.


For the sake of making a definite impression we have touched upon
the conflicts taking place in one locality. But throughout this awful
day there were mobs all over the city, with fighting, plundering,
burning, the chasing and murdering of negroes occurring at the same
time in many and widely separated sections. Telegrams for aid were
pouring into headquarters from all parts of the city, large tracts
of which were utterly unprotected. The police and military could be
employed only in bodies sufficiently large to cope with gatherings
of hundreds or thousands. Individual outrages and isolated instances
of violence and plunder could not be prevented.

But law-abiding citizens were realizing their danger and awakening
to a sense of their duty. Over four hundred special policemen were
sworn in. Merchants and bankers in Wall Street met and resolved to
close business. Millionnaires vied with their clerks and porters
in patriotic readiness to face danger. Volunteer companies were
formed, and men like Hon. William E. Dodge, always foremost in every
good effort in behalf of the city, left their offices for military
duty. While thousands of citizens escaped from the city, with their
families, not knowing where they would find a refuge, and obeying
only the impulse to get away from a place apparently doomed, other
thousands remained, determined to protect their hearths and homes
and to preserve their fair metropolis from destruction. Terrible
as was the mob, and tenfold more terrible as it would have been if
it had used its strength in an organized effort and with definite
purpose, forces were now awakening and concentrating against it
which would eventually destroy every vestige of lawlessness. With
the fight on Broadway, during Monday evening, the supreme crisis
had passed. After that the mob fought desperate but losing battles.
Acton, with Napoleonic nerve and skill, had time to plan and
organize. General Brown with his brave troops reached him on Monday
night, and thereafter the two men, providentially brought and kept
together, met and overcame, in cordial co-operation, every danger
as it arose. Their names should never be forgotten by the citizens
of New York. Acton, as chief of police, was soon feared more than
any other man in the city, and he began to receive anonymous letters
assuring him that he had "but one more day to live." He tossed
them contemptuously aside, and turned to the telegrams imploring
assistance. In every blow struck his iron will and heavy hand were
felt. For a hundred hours, through the storm, he kept his hand on
the helm and never closed his eyes. He inspired confidence in the
men who obeyed him, and the humblest of them became heroes.

The city was smitten with an awful paralysis. Stages and street
cars had very generally ceased running; shops were closed; Broadway
and other thoroughfares and centres usually so crowded were at times
almost deserted; now and then a hack would whirl by with occupants
that could not be classified. They might be leaders of the mob,
detectives, or citizens in disguise bent on public or private
business. On one occasion a millionnaire whose name is known and
honored throughout the land, dressed in the mean habiliments of a
laborer, drove a wagon up Broadway in which was concealed a load
of arms and ammunition. In hundreds of homes fathers and sons kept
watch with rifles and revolvers, while city and State authorities
issued proclamations.

It was a time of strange and infinite vicissitude, yet apparently
the mob steadily attained vaster and more terrible proportions,
and everywhere lawlessness was on the increase, especially in the
upper portions of the city.

Mr. Vosburgh, with stern and clouded brow, obtained information from
all available sources, and flashed the vital points to Washington.
He did not leave Marian alone very long, and as the day advanced
kept one of his agents in the house during his absences. He failed
to meet Merwyn at headquarters, but learned of the young man's
brave action from one of his wounded comrades.

When Mr. Vosburgh told Marian of the risks which her new friend was
incurring, and the nature of the fighting in which he was engaged,
she grew so pale and agitated that he saw that she was becoming
conscious of herself, of the new and controlling element entering
into her life.

This self-knowledge was made tenfold clearer by a brief visit from
Mrs. Ghegan.

"Oh! how dared you come?" cried Marian.

"The strates are safe enough for the loikes o' me, so oi kape out
o' the crowds," was the reply, "but they're no place fer ye, Miss
Marian. Me brogue is a password iverywhere, an' even the crowds is
civil and dacent enough onless something wakes the divil in 'em;"
and then followed a vivid account of her experiences and of the
timely help Merwyn had given her.

"The docthers think me Barney'll live, but oi thank Misther Merwyn
that took him out o' the very claws uv the bloody divils, and not
their bat's eyes. Faix, but he tops all yez frin's, Miss Marian, tho'
ye're so could to 'im. All the spalpanes in the strates couldn't
make 'im wink, yet while I was a-wailin' over Barney he was as
tender-feelin' as a baby."

The girl's heart fluttered strangely at the words of her former
maid, but she tried to disguise her emotion. When again left alone
she strained her ears for every sound from the city, and was untiring
in her watch. From noon till evening she kept a dainty lunch ready
for Merwyn, but he did not come.

After the young man's return from his second fight he was given some
rest. In the afternoon, he, with others, was sent on duty to the
west side, the force being carried thither in stages which Acton
had impressed into the service. One driver refused to stir, saying,
insolently, that he had "not been hired to carry policemen."

"Lock that man in cell No. 4," was Acton's answer, while, in the
same breath, he ordered a policeman to drive.

That was the superintendent's style of arguing and despatching
business.

Merwyn again saw plenty of service, for the spirit of pandemonium
was present in the west side. Towards evening, however, the rioters
ceased their aimless and capricious violence, and adopted in their
madness the dangerous method of Parisian mobs. They began throwing
up a series of barricades in Eighth Avenue. Vehicles of all
kinds within reach, telegraph poles, boxes, - anything that would
obstruct, - were wired together. Barricades were also erected on
cross-streets, to prevent flank movements. Captain Walling, of the
police, who was on duty in the precinct, appreciated the importance
of abolishing this feature from street fighting as speedily
as possible, and telegraphed to headquarters for a co-operating
military force. He also sent to General Sanford, at the arsenal,
for troops. They were promised, but never sent. General Brown,
fortunately, was a man of a very different stamp from Sanford, and
he promptly sent a body of regulars.

Captain Slott took command of the police detailed to co-operate
with the soldiers, and, with their officers, waited impatiently
and vainly for the company promised by Sanford. Meanwhile the mob
was strengthening its defences with breathless energy, and the sun
was sinking in the west. As the difficult and dangerous work to be
done required daylight it was at last resolved to wait no longer.

As the assailants drew near the barricade, they received a volley,
accompanied by stones and other missiles. The police fell back a
little to the left, and the troops, advancing, returned the fire.
But the rioters did not yield, and for a time the crash of musketry
resounded through the avenue, giving the impression of a regular
pitched battle. The accurate aim of the soldiers, however, at last
decided the contest, and the rioters fled to the second barricade,
followed by the troops, while the police tore away the captured
obstruction.

Obtaining a musket and cartridges from a wounded soldier, Merwyn,
by explaining that he was a good marksman, obtained the privilege
of fighting on the left flank of the military.


The mob could not endure the steady, well-directed fire of the
regulars, and one barricade after another was carried, until the
rioters were left uncovered when they fled, shrieking, yelling,
cursing in their impotent rage, - the police with their clubs and
the soldiers with their rifles following and punishing them until
the streets were clear.

Merwyn, having been on duty all day, obtained a leave of absence till
the following morning, and, availing himself of his old device to
save time and strength, went to a livery stable near the station-house
and obtained a hack by payment of double the usual fare. Mounting
the box with the driver, and avoiding crowds, he was borne rapidly
towards Mr. Vosburgh's residence. He was not only terribly exhausted,
but also consumed with anxiety as to the safety of the girl who
had never been absent long from his thoughts, even in moments of
the fiercest conflict.






CHAPTER XLIX.

ONE FACING HUNDREDS.





THE evening was growing dusky when Merwyn dismissed his carriage
and hastened to Mr. Vosburgh's residence. Marian and her father
had waited for him until their faces were clouded with anxiety by
reason of his long delay. The young girl's attempt to dine with
her father was but a formal pretence.

At last she exclaimed, "Something must have happened to Mr. Merwyn!"

"Do not entertain gloomy thoughts, my dear. A hundred things besides
an injury might have detained him. Keep a good dinner ready, and
I think he'll do justice to it before the evening is over."

Even then the German servant announced his presence at the basement
door, which, in view of the disguises worn, was still used as the
place of ingress and egress.

Mr. Vosburgh hastened to welcome him, while Marian bustled around to
complete her preparations. When he entered the dining-room he did
indeed appear weary and haggard, a fair counterpart of the rioters
whom he had been fighting.

"Only necessity, Miss Vosburgh, compels me to present myself in this
scarecrow aspect," he said. "I've had no time or chance for anything
better. I can soon report to your father all that is essential,
and then can go home and return later."

"I shall be much hurt if you do so," said Marian, reproachfully.
"I kept a lunch prepared for you during the afternoon, and now have
a warm dinner all ready. It will be very ungracious in you to go
away and leave it."

"But I look like a coal-heaver."

"Oh, I've seen well-dressed men before. They are no novelty; but a
man direct from a field of battle is quite interesting. Will you
please take this chair? You are not in the least like my other
friends. They obey me without questionings."

"You must remember," he replied, "that the relation is to me as new
and strange as it is welcome. I shall need a great deal of discipline."

"When you learn what a martinet I can be you may repent, like many
another who has obtained his wish. Here we shall reverse matters.
Everything is topsy-turvy now, you know, so take this coffee at
the beginning of your dinner."

"I admit that your orders differ widely from those of police captains."
Then he added, with quiet significance, "No; I shall not repent."

"Mr. Merwyn, will you take an older man's advice?"

"Certainly. Indeed, I am under your orders, also, for the night."

"I'm glad to hear it, for it will be a night of deep anxiety to
me. Make a very light dinner, and take more refreshment later. You
are too much exhausted to dine now. You need not tell me of your
morning adventures. I learned about those at headquarters."

"I have heard about them too," Marian added, with a look that
warmed the young fellow's soul. "I have also had a visit from Mrs.
Ghegan, and her story was not so brief as yours."

"From what section have you just come?" Mr. Vosburgh asked.

Merwyn gave a brief description of the condition of affairs on the
west side, ending with an account of the fight at the barricades.

"In one respect you are like my other friends, only more so,"
Marian said. "You are inclined to give me Hamlet with Hamlet left
out. What part did you take at the barricades?"

He told her in a matter-of-fact way.

"Ah, yes, I understand. I am learning to read between the lines of
your stories."

"Well, Heaven be thanked," ejaculated Mr. Vosburgh, "that you demolished
the barricades! If the rioters adopt that mode of fighting us, we
shall have far greater difficulty in coping with them."

At last Mr. Vosburgh said, "Will you please come with me to my
library for a few minutes?"

On reaching the apartment he closed the door, and continued, gravely:
"Mr. Merwyn, I am in sore straits. You have offered to aid me. I
will tell you my situation, and then you must do as you think best.
I know that you have done all a man's duty to-day and have earned
the right to complete rest. You will also naturally wish to look
after your own home. Nevertheless my need and your own words lead
me to suggest that you stay here to-night, or at least through
the greater portion of it. I fear that I have been recognized and
followed, - that I have enemies on my track. I suspect the man whom
I discharged from the care of my office. Yet I must go out, for I
have important despatches to send, and - what is of more consequence - I
must make some careful observations. The mob seems to be a mere
lawless, floundering monster, bent chiefly on plunder; but the
danger is that leaders are organizing its strength as a part of the
rebellion. You can understand that, while I look upon the outbreak
with the solicitude of a citizen whose dearest interests are at
stake, I also, from habit of mind and duty, must study it as a part
of the great campaign of the year. If there are organizers at work
there will be signals to-night, and I can see them from a tall
neighboring church-spire. Yet how can I leave my child alone? How - "

"Mr. Vosburgh," cried Merwyn, "what honor or privilege could I ask
greater than that of being your daughter's protector during your
absence? I understand you perfectly. You feel that you must do your
duty at any cost to yourself. After what you have said, nothing
could induce me to go away. Indeed, I would stand guard without
your door, were there no place for me within."

"There, I won't thank you in words," said the elder man, wringing
Merwyn's hand. "Will you do as I wish?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then lie down on the sofa in the front parlor and sleep while you
can. The least disturbance in the street would waken you there.
Marian will watch from an upper window and give you warning if
anything occurs. It is possible that I may be set upon when returning
home, but I think not, for I shall enter the house from the rear;"
and he told the young man of the means of exit which he had secured
in case the house was attacked. "Rather than permit my child to
take any risks," concluded the father, solemnly, "fly with her and
the woman who will be her companion till I return. Beyond the fact
of general danger to all homes, she does not suspect anything, nor
shall I increase her anxieties by telling her of my fears. She will
be vigilant on general principles. Have you arms?"

"I have fired most of my cartridges to-day."

"Well here is a revolver and a repeating rifle that you can depend
upon. Do you understand the latter weapon?"

"Yes, I have one like it."

"I will now tell Marian of my plans, so far as it is wise for her
to know them, and then, God help and protect us all! Come, I wish
you to lie down at once, for every moment of rest may be needed."

When they descended, Mr. Vosburgh said to his daughter, laughingly,
"Mr. Merwyn is under orders, and can have nothing more to say to
you to-night."

The young fellow, in like vein, brought the rifle to his shoulder,
presented arms to her, wheeled, and marched to his station in the
darkened front parlor. Before lying down, however, he opened one
blind for an outlook.

"Do you fear any special danger to-night, papa?" Marian asked,
quickly.

"I have been expecting special dangers from the first," replied her
father, gently. "While I must do my duty I shall also take such
precautions as I can. Merwyn will be your protector during my
absence. Now take your station at your upper window and do your
part." He explained briefly what he expected of her. "In case of
an attack," he concluded, almost sternly, "you must fly before it
is too late. I shall now go and prepare Mr. Erkmann for the possible
emergency, and then go out through the basement door as usual,
after giving our loyal German her directions."

A few moments later he had departed, all were at their posts, and
the house was quiet.

Merwyn felt the necessity of rest, for every bone in his body ached
from fatigue; but he did not dream of the possibility of sleep.
His heart was swelling with pride and joy that he had become, not
only the friend of the girl he loved, but also her trusted protector.

But at last Nature claimed her dues, and he succumbed and slept.

Mr. Vosburgh, unmolested, climbed to his lofty height of observation.
The great city lay beneath him with its myriad lights, but on Third
Avenue, from 40th Street northward for a mile, there was a hiatus
of darkness. There the mob had begun, and there still dwelt its
evil spirit uncurbed. The rioters in that district had cut off
the supply of gas, feeling, as did the French revolutionists, that
"Light was not in order."

Mr. Vosburgh watched that long stretch of gloom with the greatest
anxiety. Suddenly from its mystery a rocket flamed into the sky.
Three minutes elapsed and another threw far and wide its ominous
light. Again there was an interval of three minutes, when a third
rocket confirmed the watcher's fears that these were signals. Four
minutes passed, and then, from the vicinity of Union Square, what
appeared to be a great globe of fire rose to an immense height.
A few seconds later there was an answering rocket far off in the
eastern districts of Brooklyn.

These were indeed portents in the sky, and Mr. Vosburgh was perplexed
as to their significance. Were they orders or at least invitations,
for a general uprising against all authority? Was the rebellion
against the government about to become general in the great centres
of population? With the gloomiest of forebodings he watched for
two hours longer, but only heard the hoarse murmur of the unquiet
city, which occasionally, off to the west, became so loud as to
suggest the continuance of the strife of the day. At last he went
to the nearest available point and sent his despatches, then stole
by a circuitous route to the dwelling of Mr. Erkmann, who was
watching for him.

Marian's vigilance was sleepless. While she had been burdened
throughout the day with the deepest anxieties, she had been engaged
in no exhausting efforts, and the novelty of her present position
and her new emotions banished the possibility of drowsiness. She
felt as if she had lived years during the past two days. The city
was full of dangers nameless and horrible, yet she was conscious
of an exaltation of spirit and of a happiness such as she had never
known.

The man whom she had despised as a coward was her protector, and
she wondered at her sense of security. She almost longed for an
opportunity to prove that her courage could now be equal to his,
and her eyes flashed in the darkness as they glanced up and down
the dusky street; again they became gentle in her commiseration
of the weary man in the room below, and gratefully she thanked God
that he had been spared through the awful perils of the day.

Suddenly her attention was caught by the distant tramp of many
feet. She threw open a blind and listened with a beating heart.
Yes, a mob was coming, nearer, nearer; they are at the corner. With
a sudden outburst of discordant cries they are turning into this
very street.

A moment later her hand was upon Merwyn's shoulder. "Wake, wake,"
she cried; "the mob is coming - is here."

He was on his feet instantly with rifle in hand. Through the window
he saw the dusky forms gathering about the door. The German woman
stood behind Marian, crying and wringing her hands.

"Miss Vosburgh, you and the woman do as I bid," Merwyn said, sternly.
"Go to the rear of the hall, open the door, and if I say, 'Fly,'
or if I fall, escape for your lives."

"But what will you - "

"Obey!" he cried, with a stamp of his foot.

They were already in the hall, and did as directed.

Imagine Marian's wonder as she saw him throw open the front door,
step without, and fire instantly. Then, dropping his rifle on his
arm, he began to use his revolver. She rushed to his side and saw
the mob, at least three hundred strong, scattering as if swept away
by a whirlwind.

Merwyn's plan of operations had been bold, but it proved the best
one. In the streets he had learned the effect of fearless, decisive
action, and he had calculated correctly on the panic which so often
seized the undisciplined hordes. They probably believed that his
boldness was due to the fact that he had plenty of aid at hand.
So long as there was a man within range he continued to fire, then
became aware of Marian's presence.

"O Miss Vosburgh," he said, earnestly, "you should not look on
sights like these;" for a leader of the mob lay motionless on the
pavement beneath them.

He took her hand, which trembled, led her within, and refastened
the door. Her emotion was so strong that she dared not speak.

"Why did you take such a risk?" he asked, gravely. "What would
your father have said to me if one of those wretches had fired and
wounded you?"

"I - I only realized one thing - that you were facing hundreds all
alone," she faltered.

"Why, Miss Marian, I was only doing my duty, and I took the safest
way to perform it. I had learned from experience that the bluff game
is generally the best. No doubt I gave those fellows the impression
that there were a dozen armed men in the house."

But her emotion was too strong for control, and she sobbed: "It was
the bravest thing I ever heard of. Oh! I have done you SUCH wrong!
Forgive me. I - I - can't - " and she hastened up the dusky stairway,
followed by her servant, who was profuse in German interjections.

"I am repaid a thousand-fold," was Merwyn's quiet comment. "My oath
cannot blight my life now."

Sleep had been most effectually banished from his eyes, and as he
stood in the unlighted apartment, motionless and silent, looking
out upon the dusky street, but a few moments passed before a man
and a woman approached cautiously, lifted the slain rioter, and
bore him away.

In less than half an hour Mr. Vosburgh entered his house from the
rear so silently that he was almost beside Merwyn before his approach
was recognized.

"What, Merwyn!" he exclaimed, with a little chiding in his tone;
"is this the way you rest? You certainly haven't stood here, 'like
Patience on a monument,' since I left?"

"No, indeed. You are indebted to Miss Vosburgh that you have a home



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeAn Original Belle → online text (page 34 of 37)