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to come to, for I slept so soundly that the house might have been
carried off bodily. The mob has been here."

"O papa!" cried Marian, clasping her arms about his neck, "thank
God you are back safe! Oh, it was all so sudden and terrible!"

"But how, how, Merwyn? What has happened?"

"Well, sir, Miss Vosburgh was a better sentinel than I, and heard
the first approach of the ruffians. I was sleeping like old Rip
himself. She wakened me. A shot or two appeared to create a panic,
and they disappeared like a dream, as suddenly as they had come."

"Just listen to him, papa!" cried the girl, now reassured by her
father's presence, and recovering from her nervous shock. "Why
shouldn't he sleep after such a day as he has seen? It was his duty
to sleep, wasn't it? The idea of two sentinels in a small garrison
keeping awake, watching the same points!"

"I'm very glad you obtained some sleep, Merwyn, and surely you had
earned it; but as yet I have a very vague impression of this mob
and of the fight. I looked down the street but a few moments ago,
and it seemed deserted. It is quiet now. Have you not both slept
and dreamed?"

"No, papa," said the girl, shudderingly; "there's a dead man at
the foot of our steps even now."

"You are mistaken, Miss Vosburgh. As usual, his friends lost no
time in carrying him off."

"Well, well," cried Mr. Vosburgh, "this is a longer story than I can
listen to without something to sustain the inner man. Riten," - to
the servant, - "some fresh coffee please. Now for the lighted
dining-room, - that's hidden from the street, - where we can look
into each other's faces. So much has happened the last two days
that here in the dark I begin to feel as if it all were a nightmare.
Ah! how cosey and home-like this room seems after prowling in the
dangerous streets with my hand on the butt of a revolver! Come now,
Marian, sit down quietly and tell the whole story. I can't trust
Merwyn at all when he is the hero of the tale."

"You may well say that. I hope, sir," with a look of mock severity
at the young fellow, "that your other reports to papa are more
accurate than the one I have heard. Can you believe it, papa? he
actually threw open the front door and faced the entire mob alone."

"I beg your pardon, Miss Vosburgh, as I emptied my revolver and
looked around, a lady stood beside me. I've seen men do heroic
things to-day, but nothing braver than that."

"But I didn't think!" cried the girl; "I didn't realize - " and then
she paused, while her face crimsoned. Her heart had since told her
why she had stepped to his side.

"But you would have thought twice, yes, a hundred times," said
Merwyn, laughing, "if you hadn't been a soldier. Jove! how Strahan
will stare when he hears of it!"

"Please, never tell him," exclaimed the girl.

Her father now stood encircling her with his arm, and looking
fondly down upon her. "Well, thank God we're all safe yet! and,
threatening as is the aspect of affairs, I believe we shall see
happy days of peace and security before very long."

"I am so glad that mamma is not in the city!" said Marian, earnestly.

"Oh that you were with her, my child!"

"I'm better contented where I am," said the girl, with a decided
little nod.

"Yes, but great God! think of what might have happened if Merwyn
had not been here, - what might still have happened had he not had
the nerve to take, probably, the only course which could have saved
you! There, there, I can't think of it, or I shall be utterly
unnerved."

"Don't think of it, papa. See, I'm over the shock of it already.
Now don't you be hysterical as I was yesterday."

He made a great effort to rally, but it was evident that the
strong man was deeply agitated. They all, however, soon regained
self-control and composure, and spent a genial half-hour together,
Merwyn often going to the parlor, that he might scan the street.
After a brief discussion of plans for the morrow they separated
for the night, Merwyn resuming his bivouac in the parlor. After
listening for a time he was satisfied that even mobs must rest,
and, as the soldiers slept on their arms, he slumbered, his rifle
in hand.

When Marian bade her father good-night he took her face in his
hands and gazed earnestly down upon it. The girl understood his
expression, and the color came into her fair countenance like a
June dawn.

"Do you remember, darling, my words when I said, 'I do not know
how much it might cost you in the end to dismiss Mr. Merwyn finally'?"

"Yes, papa."

"Are you not learning how much it might have cost you?"

"Yes, papa," with drooping eyes.

He kissed her, and nothing more was said.






CHAPTER L.

ZEB.





MERWYN awoke early, and, as soon as he heard the German servant
coming down-stairs, wrote a line to Mr. Vosburgh saying that he
would call on his way to headquarters, and then hastened through the
almost deserted streets to his own home. To his great satisfaction
he found everything unchanged there. After luxuriating in a bath
and a bountiful breakfast he again instructed his man to be on the
watch, and to keep up a fire throughout the coming night, so that
a hot meal might be had speedily at any time.

More than once the thought had crossed his mind: "Unless we make
greater headway with the riot, that attack on Mr. Vosburgh's house
will be repeated. Vengeance alone would now prompt the act, and
besides he is undoubtedly a marked man. There's no telling what may
happen. Our best course is to fight, fight, knock the wretches on
the head. With the quelling of the mob comes safety;" and, remembering
the danger that threatened Marian, he was in a savage mood.

On this occasion, he went directly to Mr. Vosburgh's residence,
resolving to take no risks out of the line of duty. His first thought
now was the securing of Marian's safety. He had learned that there
was no longer any special need for personal effort on his part to
gain information, since the police authorities had wires stretching
to almost every part of the city. An account of the risks taken
to keep up this telegraphic communication would make a strange,
thrilling chapter in itself. Moreover, police detectives were busy
everywhere, and Mr. Vosburgh at headquarters and with the aid of his
own agents could now obtain all the knowledge essential. Therefore
the young fellow's plan was simple, and he indicated his course at
once after a cordial greeting from Mr. Vosburgh and Marian.

"Hard fighting appears to me to be the way to safety," said he. "I
can scarcely believe that the rioters will endure more than another
day of such punishment as they received yesterday. Indeed, I should
not be surprised if to-day was comparatively quiet."

"I agree with you," said Mr. Vosburgh, "unless the signals I saw
last night indicate a more general uprising than has yet taken
place. The best elements of the city are arming and organizing.
There is a deep and terrible anger rising against the mob and all
its abettors and sympathizers."

"I know it," cried Merwyn; "I feel it myself. When I think of the
danger which threatened your home and especially Miss Vosburgh, I
feel an almost ungovernable desire to be at the wretches."

"But that means greater peril for you," faltered the young girl.

"No, it means the shortest road to safety for us all. A mob is like
fire: it must be stamped out of existence as soon as possible."

"I think Merwyn is right," resumed Mr. Vosburgh. "Another day
of successful fighting will carry us to safety, for the general
government is moving rapidly in our behalf, and our militia regiments
are on their way home. I'll be ready to go to headquarters with
you in a minute."

"Oh, please do not be rash to-day. If you had fallen yesterday
think what might have happened," said Marian.

"Every blow I strike to-day, Miss Vosburgh, will be nerved by the
thought that you have one enemy, one danger, the less; and I shall
esteem it the greatest of privileges if I can remain here to-night
again as one of your protectors."

"I cannot tell you what a sense of security your presence gives
me," she replied. "You seem to know just what to do and how to do
it."

"Well," he answered, with a grim laugh, "one learns fast in these
times. A very stern necessity is the mother of invention."

"Yes," sighed the girl, "one learns fast. Now that I have seen war,
it is no longer a glorious thing, but full of unspeakable horrors."

"This is not war," said Merwyn, a little bitterly. "I pity, while
I detest, the poor wretches we knock on the head. Your friends,
who have fought the elite of the South will raise their eyebrows
if they hear us call this war."

"I have but one friend who has faced a mob alone," she replied,
with a swift, shy glance.

"A friend whom that privilege made the most fortunate of men," he
replied. "Had the rioters been Southern soldiers, they would have
shot me instantly, instead of running away."

"All my friends soon learn that I am stubborn in my opinions," was
her laughing reply, as her father joined them.

Mr. Erkmann on the next street north was a sturdy, loyal man, and
he permitted Mr. Vosburgh and Merwyn to pass out through his house,
so that to any one who was watching the impression would be given
that at least two men were in the house. Burdened with a sense of
danger, Mr. Vosburgh had resolved on brief absences, believing that
at headquarters and through his agents he could learn the general
drift of events.

Broadway wore the aspect of an early Sunday morning in quiet times.
Pedestrians were few, and the stages had ceased running. The iron
shutters of the great Fifth Avenue and other hotels were securely
fastened. No street cars jingled along the side avenues; shops
were closed; and the paralysis of business was almost complete in
its greatest centres. At police headquarters, however, the most
intense activity prevailed. Here were gathered the greater part
of the police force and of the military co-operating with it The
neighboring African church was turned into a barrack. Acton occupied
other buildings, with or without the consent of the owners.

The top floor of the police building was thronged with colored
refugees, thankful indeed to have found a place of safety, but many
were consumed with anxiety on account of absent ones.

The sanguine hopes for a more quiet day were not fulfilled, but the
severest fighting was done by the military, and cavalry now began
to take part in the conflict. On the west side, Seventh Avenue was
swept again and again with grape and canister before the mob gave
way. On the east side there were several battles, and in one of
them, fought just before night, the troops were compelled to retreat,
leaving some of their dead and wounded in the streets. General
Brown sent Captain Putnam with one hundred and fifty regulars
to the scene of disaster and continued violence, and a sanguinary
conflict ensued between ten and eleven o'clock at night. Putnam
swept the dimly lighted streets with his cannon, and when the
rioters fled into the houses he opened such a terrible fire upon
them as to subdue all resistance. The mob was at last learning that
the authorities would neither yield nor scruple to make use of any
means in the conflict.

In the great centres down town, things were comparatively quiet.
The New York Times took matters into its own hands. A glare of
light from the windows of its building was shed after night-fall
over Printing-House Square, and editors and reporters had their
rifles as readily within reach as their pens.

We shall not follow Merwyn's adventures, for that would involve
something like a repetition of scenes already described. As the
day was closing, however, he took part in an affair which explained
the mystery of Mammy Borden's disappearance.

During the first day of the riot the colored woman had seen enough
to realize her own danger and that of her son, and she was determined
to reach him and share his fate, whatever it might be. She had
no scruple in stealing away from Mr. Vosburgh's house, for by her
departure she removed a great peril from her employers and friends.
She was sufficiently composed, however, to put on a heavy veil and
gloves, and so reached her son in safety. Until the evening of the
third day of the riot, the dwelling in which they cowered escaped
the fury of the mob, although occupied by several colored families.
At last the hydra-headed monster fixed one of its baleful eyes
upon the spot. Just as the occupants of the house were beginning
to hope, the remorseless wretches came, and the spirit of Tophet
broke loose. The door was broken in with axes, and savage men streamed
into the dwelling. The poor victims tried to barricade themselves
in the basement, but their assailants cut the water-pipes and would
have drowned them. Driven out by this danger, the hunted creatures
sought to escape through the yard. As Zeb was lifting his mother
over the fence the rioters came upon her and dragged her back.

"Kill me, kill me," cried Zeb, "but spare my mother."

They seemed to take him at his word. Two of the fiends held his
arms, while another struck him senseless and apparently dead with
a crowbar. Then, not accepting this heroic self-sacrifice, they
began to beat the grief-frenzied mother. But retribution was at
hand. The cries of the victims and the absorption of the rioters
in their brutal work prevented them from hearing the swift, heavy
tread of the police. A moment later Merwyn and others rushed through
the hallway, and the ruffians received blows similar to the one
which had apparently bereft poor Zeb of life. The rioters were
either dispersed or left where they fell, a wagon was impressed,
and Zeb and his mother were brought to headquarters. Merwyn had soon
recognized Mrs. Borden, but she could not be comforted. Obtaining
leave of absence, the young man waited until the evening grew
dusky; then securing a hack from a stable near headquarters, the
proprietor of which was disposed to loyalty by reason of his numerous
blue-coated neighbors, he took the poor woman and the scarcely
breathing man to a hospital, and left money for their needs. The
curtains of the carriage had been closely drawn; but if the crowds
through which they sometimes passed had guessed its occupants,
they would have instantly met a tragic fate, while Merwyn's and
the driver's chances would have been scarcely better.






CHAPTER LI.

A TRAGEDY.





MR. VOSBURGH and his daughter had passed a very anxious day, the
former going out but seldom. The information obtained from the
city had not been reassuring, for while the authorities had under
their direction larger bodies of men, and lawlessness was not
so general, the mob was still unquelled and fought with greater
desperation in the disaffected centres. In the after-part of the day
Mr. Vosburgh received the cheering intelligence that the Seventh
Regiment would arrive that night, and that other militia organizations
were on their way home. Therefore he believed that if they escaped
injury until the following morning all cause for deep anxiety would
pass away. As the hours elapsed and no further demonstration was
made against his home, his hopes grew apace, and now, as he and
his daughter waited for Merwyn before dining, he said, "I fancy
that the reception given to the mob last night has curbed their
disposition to molest us."

"O papa, what keeps Mr. Merwyn?"

"Well, my dear, I know he was safe at noon."

"Oh, oh, I do hope that this will be the last day of this fearful
suspense! Isn't it wonderful what Mr. Merwyn has done in the past
few days?"

"Not so wonderful as it seems. Periods like these always develop
master-spirits, or rather they give such spirits scope. How little
we knew of Acton before this week! yet at the beginning he seized
the mob by the throat and has not once relaxed his grasp. He has
been the one sleepless man in the city, and how he endures the
strain is almost beyond mortal comprehension. The man and the hour
came together. The same is true of Merwyn in his sphere. He had been
preparing for this, hoping that it would give him an opportunity
to right himself. Fearless as the best of your friends, he combines
with courage the singularly cool, resolute nature inherited from
his father. He is not in the least ambitious for distinction, but
is only bent on carrying out his own aims and purposes."

"And what are they, papa?"

"Sly fox! as if you did not know. Who first came to your protection?"

"And to think how I treated him!"

"Quite naturally, under the circumstances. The mystery of his former
restraint is still unexplained, but I now think it due to family
reasons. Yet why he should be so reluctant to speak of them is still
another mystery. He has no sympathy with the South or his mother's
views, yet why should he not say, frankly, 'I cannot fight against
my mother's people'? When we think, however, that the sons of the
same mother are often arrayed against each other in this war, such
a reason as I have suggested appears entirely inadequate. All his
interests are at the North, and he is thoroughly loyal; but when I
intimated, last evening, that he might wish to spend the night in
his own home to insure its protection, it seemed less than nothing
to him compared with your safety. He has long had this powerful
motive to win your regard, and yet there has been some restraint
more potent."

"But you trust him now, papa?"

"Yes."

Thus they talked until the clock struck eight, and Marian, growing
pallid with anxiety and fear, went to the darkened parlor window
to watch for Merwyn, then returned and looked at her father with
something like dismay on her face.

Before he could speak, she exclaimed, "Ah! there is his ring;" and
she rushed toward the door, paused, came back, and said, blushingly,
"Papa, you had better admit him."

Mr. Vosburgh smilingly complied.

The young fellow appeared in almost as bad a plight as when he
had come in on Monday night and gone away with bitter words on his
lips. He was gaunt from fatigue and long mental strain. His first
words were: "Thank God you we still all safe! I had hoped to be
here long before this, but so much has happened!"

"What!" exclained Marian, "anything worse than took place yesterday?"

"No, and yes." Then, with an appealing look; "Miss Marian, a cup
of your good coffee. I feel as if a rioter could knock me down with
a feather."

She ran to the kitchen herself to see that it was of the best possible
quality, and Merwyn, sinking into a chair, looked gloomily at his
host and said: "We have made little if any progress. The mob grows
more reckless and devilish."

"My dear fellow," cried Mr. Vosburgh, "the Seventh Regiment will
be here to-night, and others are on the way;" and he told of the
reassuring tidings he had received.

"Thank Heaven for your news! I have been growing despondent during
the last few hours."

"Take this and cheer up," cried Marian. "The idea of your being
despondent! You are only tired to death, and will have a larger
appetite for fighting to-morrow, I fear, than ever."

"No; I witnessed a scene this evening that made me sick of it all.
Of course I shall do my duty to the end, but I wish that others
could finish it up. More than ever I envy your friends who can fight
soldiers;" and then he told them briefly of the scene witnessed in
the rescue of Mammy Borden and her son.

"Oh, horrible! horrible!" exclaimed the girl. "Where are they now?"

"I took them from headquarters to a hospital. They both need the
best surgical attention, though poor Zeb, I fear, is past help."

"Merwyn," said Mr. Vosburgh, gravely, "you incurred a fearful risk
in taking those people through the streets."

"I suppose so," replied the young fellow, quietly; "but in a sense
they were a part of your household, and the poor creatures were in
such a desperate plight that - "

"Mr. Merwyn," cried Marian, a warm flush mantling her face, "you
are a true knight. You have perilled your life for the poor and
humble."

He looked at her intently a moment, and then said, quietly, "I
would peril it again a thousand times for such words from YOU."

To hide a sudden confusion she exclaimed: "Great Heavens! what
differences there are in men! Those who would torture and kill
these inoffensive people have human forms."

"Men are much what women make them; and it would almost seem that
women are the chief inspiration of this mob. The draft may have
been its inciting cause, but it has degenerated into an insatiable
thirst for violence, blood, and plunder. I saw an Irishwoman to-day
who fought like a wild-cat before she would give up her stolen
goods."

The German servant Riten now began to place dinner on the table,
Mr. Vosburgh remarking, "We had determined to wait for you on this
occasion."

"What am I thinking of?" cried Merwyn. "If this thing goes on I
shall become uncivilized. Mr. Vosburgh, do take me somewhere that
I may bathe my hands and face, and please let me exchange this horrid
blouse, redolent of the riot, for almost any kind of garment. I
could not sit at the table with Miss Vosburgh in my present guise."

"Yes, papa, give him your white silk waistcoat and dress-coat,"
added Marian, laughing.

"Come with me," said Mr. Vosburgh, "and I'll find you an outfit
for the sake of your own comfort."

"I meant to trespass on your kindness when I first came in, but mind
and body seemed almost paralyzed. I feel better already, however.
While we are absent may I ask if you have your weapons ready?"

"Yes, I have a revolver on my person, and my rifle is in the
dining-room."

A few moments later the gentlemen descended, Merwyn in a sack-coat
that hung rather loosely on his person. Before sitting down he
scanned the street, which was quiet.

"My former advice, Merwyn," said his host; "you must make a light
meal and wait until you are more rested."

"O papa, what counsel to give a guest!"

"Counsel easily followed," said Merwyn. "I crave little else than
coffee. Indeed, your kindness, Miss Vosburgh, has so heartened me,
that I am rallying fast."

"Since everything is to be in such great moderation, perhaps I have
been too prodigal of that," was the arch reply.

"I shall be grateful for much or little."

"Oh, no, don't put anything on the basis of gratitude. I have too
much of that to be chary of it."

"A happy state of affairs," said Merwyn, "since what you regard
as services on my part are priceless favors to me. I can scarcely
realize it, and have thought of it all day, that I only, of all
your friends, can be with you now. Strahan will be green with envy,
and so I suppose will the others."

"I do not think any the less of them because it is impossible for
them to be here," said the young girl, blushing.

"Of course not. It's only my immense good fortune. They would give
their right eyes to stand in my shoes."

"I hope I may soon hear that they are all recovering. I fear that
Mr. Lane's and Mr. Strahan's wounds are serious; and, although Mr.
Blauvelt made light of his hurt, he may find that it is no trifle."

"It would seem that I am doomed to have no honorable scars."

"Through no fault of yours, Mr. Merwyn. I've thought so much of
poor mamma to-day! She must be wild with anxiety about us."

"I think not," said Mr. Vosburgh. "I telegraphed to her yesterday
and to-day. I admit they were rather misleading messages."

From time to time Mr. Vosburgh went to the outlook on the street,
but all remained apparently quiet in their vicinity. Yet an hour of
fearful peril was drawing near. A spirit of vengeance, and a desire
to get rid of a most dangerous enemy, prompted another attack on
Mr. Vosburgh's home that night; and, taught by former experience,
the assailants had determined to approach quietly and fight till
they should accomplish their purpose. They meant to strike suddenly,
swiftly, and remorselessly.

The little group in the dining-room, however, grew confident with
every moment of immunity; yet they could not wholly banish their
fears, and Mr. Vosburgh explained to Merwyn how he had put bars on
the outside of the doors opening into the back yard, a bolt also
on the door leading down-stairs to the basement.

But they dined very leisurely, undisturbed; then at Marian's request
the gentlemen lighted their cigars. Mr. Vosburgh strolled away to
see that all was quiet and secure.

"I shouldn't have believed that I could rally so greatly in so
short a time," said Merwyn, leaning back luxuriously in his chair.
"Last night I was overcome with drowsiness soon after I lay down.



Online LibraryEdward Payson RoeAn Original Belle → online text (page 35 of 37)