Part 3 out of 10
"To satisfy you, I swear never to put on the Northern uniform or
to enter the South with a hostile purpose."
She stepped forward and touched his forehead with her lips, as she
said: "The compact is sealed. Your oath is registered on earth and
in heaven. Your simple word as a man of honor will satisfy me as
to one other request. I wish you never to speak to any one of this
solemn covenant between us."
"I'm not in the habit of gossiping over family affairs," he replied,
"I know that, and also that your delicacy of feeling would keep
you from speaking of a matter so sacred to me. But I am older and
more experienced than you, and I shall feel safer if you promise.
You would not gossip about it, of course. You might refer to it
to some friend or to the woman who became your wife. I can foresee
complications which might make it better that it should be utterly
unknown. You little know how I dream and plan for you, and I only
ask you never to speak of this interview and its character to a
"Certainly, mother, I can promise this. I should feel it small
business to babble about anything which you take so to heart. These
visions of empire occupy your mind and do no harm. I only hope you
will meet your disappointment philosophically. Good-by now till
"Poor mamma!" thought the young man, as he started out for a walk;
"she rails against Northern fanatics, forgetting tnat it is just
possible to be a little fanatical on the Southern side of the line."
As he strode along in the sunshine his oath weighed upon him no
more than if he had promised not to go out in his sail-boat that
At last, after surmounting a rather steep hill, he threw himself
on the grass under the shade of a tree. "It's going to be awfully
slow and stupid here," he muttered, "and it will be a month or
two before we can return. I hoped to be back in time to join the
Montagues in climbing Mont Blanc, and here I am tied up between
these mole-hill mountains and city law-offices. How shall I ever
get through with the time?"
A pony-phaeton, containing two ladies, appeared at the foot of
the hill and slowly approached. His eyes rested on it in languid
indifference, but, as it drew nearer, the younger of the two ladies
fixed his attention. Her charming summer costume at first satisfied
his taste, and, as her features became distinct, he was surprised
at their beauty, as he thought at first; but he soon felt that
animation redeemed the face from mere prettiness. The young girl
was talking earnestly, but a sudden movement of the horse caused
her to glance toward the road-side, and she encountered the dark
eyes of a stranger. Her words ceased instantly. A slight frown
contracted her brow, and, touching her horse with her whip, she
passed on rapidly.
"By Jove! Strahan is right. If I have many such countrywomen in
the neighborhood, I ought to find amusement."
He rose and sauntered after the phaeton, and saw that it turned in
at a pretty little cottage, embowered in vines and trees. Making a
mental note of the locality, he bent his steps in another direction,
laughing as he thought: "From that one glance I am sure that those
blue eyes will kindle more than one fellow before they are quenched.
I wonder if Strahan knows her. Well, here, perhaps, is a chance
for a summer lark. If Strahan is enamored I'd like to cut him out,
for by all the fiends of dulness I must find something to do."
Strahan had accepted an invitation to lunch at the Vosburghs' that
day, and arrived, hot and flushed, from his second morning's drill.
"Well!" he exclaimed, "I've seen the great Mogul."
"I believe I have also," replied Marian. "Has he not short and
slightly curly hair, dark eyes, and an impudent stare?"
"I don't recognize the 'stare' exactly. Merwyn is polite enough
in his way, and confound his way! But the rest of your description
tallies. Where did you see him?"
"That was he, accomplishing his usual day's work. O ye dogs of war!
how I would like to have him in my squad one of these July days!
Miss Marian, I'd wear your shoe-tie in my cap the rest of my life,
if you would humble that fellow and make him feel that he never
spoke to a titled lady abroad who had not her equal in some American
girl. It just enrages me to see a New-York man, no better born than
myself, putting on such superior and indifferent airs. If he'd come
to me and say, 'Strahan, I'm a rebel, I'm going to fight and kill
you if I can,' I'd shake hands with him as I did not to-day. I'd
treat him like a jolly, square fellow, until we came face to face
in a fair fight, and then--the fortune of war. As it was, I felt
like taking him by the collar and shaking him out of his languid
grace. He told me to mind my own business so politely that I
couldn't take offence, although he gave scarcely any other reason
than that he proposed to mind his. When I met his Southern mother
on the piazza, she looked at me in my uniform at first as if I had
been a toad. They are rebels at heart, and yet they stand aloof and
sneer at the North, from which they derive protection and revenue.
I made his eyes flash once though," chuckled the young fellow in
Marian laughed heartily as she said: "Mr. Strahan, if you fight
as well as you talk, I foresee Southern reverses. You have no idea
how your indignation becomes you. 'As well-born,' did you say? Why,
my good friend, you are worth a wilderness of such lackadaisical
fellows. Ciphers don't count unless they stand after a significant
figure; neither do such men, unless stronger men use them."
"Your arithmetic is at fault, Miss Marian. Ciphers do have the
power of pushing a significant figure way back to the right of
the decimal point, and, as a practical fact, these elegant human
ciphers usually stand before good men and true in society. I don't
believe it would be so with you, but few of us would stand a chance
with most girls should this rich American, with his foreign airs
and graces, enter the lists against us."
In her sincerity and earnestness, she took his hand and said: "I
thank you for your tribute. You are right. Though this person had
the wealth of the Indies, and every external grace, he could not be
my friend unless he were a MAN. I've talked with papa a good deal,
and believe there are men in the Southern army just as honest and
patriotic as you are; but no cold-blooded, selfish betwixt-and-betweens
shall ever take my hand."
"Make me a promise," cried Strahan, giving the hand he held a hearty
and an approving shake.
"If opportunity offers, make this fellow bite the dust."
"We'll see about that. I may not think it worth the while, and I
certainly shall not compromise myself in the slightest degree."
"But if I bring him here you will be polite to him?"
"Just about as polite as he was to you, I imagine."
"Miss Marian, I wouldn't have any harm come to you for the wide
world. If--if anything should turn out amiss I'd shoot him, I
The girl's only answer was a merry peal of laughter.
BENT, as was Strahan, upon his scheme of disturbing Merwyn's pride
and indifference, he resolved to permit several days to pass before
repeating his call. He also, as well as Marian, was unwilling
to compromise himself beyond a certain point, and it was his hope
that he might receive a speedy visit. He was not disappointed, for
on the ensuing day Merwyn sauntered up the Strahan avenue, and,
learning that the young officer had gone to camp, followed him
thither. The cold glance from the fair stranger in the phaeton dwelt
in his memory, and he was pleased to find that it formed sufficient
incentive to action.
Strahan saw him coming with a grim smile, but greeted him with
off-hand cordiality. "Sorry, Merwyn," he said, "I can give you only
a few moments before I go on duty."
"You are not on duty evenings?"
"Yes, every other evening."
"How about to-night?"
"At your service."
"Are you acquainted with the people who reside at a cottage--" and
he described Marian's abode.
"Who are they?"
"Mr. Vosburgh has rented the place as a summer residence for his
family. His wife and daughter are there usually, and he comes when
"And the daughter's name?"
"Miss Marian Vosburgh."
"Will you introduce me to her?"
"I sha'n't be poaching on your grounds, shall I?"
"Miss Vosburgh honors me with her friendship,--nothing more."
"Is it so great an honor?"
"I esteem it as such."
"Who are they, anyway?"
"Well, as a family I regard them as my equals, and Miss Marian as
"Oh come, Strahan, gossip about them a little."
The officer burst out laughing. "Well," he said, "for a man of your
phenomenal reticence you are asking a good many questions."
Merwyn colored slightly and blundered: "You know my motive, Strahan;
one does not care to make acquaintances that are not quite--" and
then the expression of his host's eyes checked him.
"I assure you the Vosburghs are 'QUITE,'" Strahan said, coldly. "Did
I not say they were my equals? You may esteem yourself fortunate
if Miss Vosburgh ever permits you to feel yourself to be her equal."
"Why, how so?" a little irritably.
"Because if a man has brains and discernment the more he sees of
her the more will he be inclined to doubt his equality."
Merwyn smiled in a rather superior way, and, with a light laugh,
said: "I understand, Strahan. A man in your plight ought to feel
in that way; at least, it is natural that he should. Now see here,
old fellow, I'll keep aloof if you say so."
"Why should you? You have seen few society queens abroad who
received so much and so varied homage as Miss Vosburgh. There are
half a dozen fellows there, more or less, every evening, and you
can take your chances among them."
"Oh, she's a bit of a coquette, then?"
"You must discover for yourself what she is," said the young man,
buckling on his sword. "She has my entire respect."
"You quite pique my curiosity. I'll drive in for you this evening."
At the hour appointed, Strahan, in civilian's dress, stepped into
Merwyn's carriage and was driven rapidly to the cottage. Throwing
the reins to a footman, the young fellow followed the officer with a
confidence not altogether well founded, as he soon learned. Many
guests were present, and Lane was among them. When Merwyn was
presented Marian was observed to bow merely and not give her hand,
as was her custom when a friend of hers introduced a friend. Some
of the residents in the vicinity exchanged significant smiles
when they saw that the fastidious and exclusive Willard Merwyn had
joined their circle. Mrs. Vosburgh, who was helping to entertain
the guests, recognized nothing in his presence beyond a new social
triumph for her daughter, and was very gracious. To her offices,
as hostess, he found himself chiefly relegated for a time.
This suited him exactly, since it gave him a chance for observation;
and certainly the little drawing-room, with its refined freedom,
was a revelation to him. Conversation, repartee, and jest were
unrestrained. While Lane was as gay as any present, Merwyn was
made to feel that he was no ordinary man, and it soon came out in
the natural flow of talk that he, too, was in the service. Merwyn
was introduced also to a captain of the regular army, and, whatever
be might think of these people, he instinctively felt that they
would no more permit themselves to be patronized than would the sons
of noble houses abroad. Indeed, he was much too adroit to attempt
anything of the kind, and, with well-bred ease, made himself at
home among them in general conversation.
Meanwhile, he watched Marian with increasing curiosity. To him she
was a new and very interesting type. He had seen no such vivacity
and freedom abroad, and his experience led him to misunderstand
her. "She is of the genus American girl, middle class," he thought,
"who, by her beauty and the unconventionality of her drawing-room,
has become a quasi-belle. None of these men would think of marrying
her, unless it is little Strahan, and he wouldn't five years hence.
Yet she is piquant and fascinating after her style, a word and a
jest for each and all, and spoken with a sort of good-comradeship,
rather than with an if-you-please-sir air. I must admit, however,
that there is nothing loud in tone, word, or manner. She is as
delicate and refined as her own beauty, and, although this rather
florid mamma is present as chaperon, the scene and the actors are
peculiarly American. Well, I owe Strahan a good turn. I can amuse
myself with this girl without scruple."
At last he found an opportunity to say, "We have met once before,
I believe, Miss Vosburgh."
"Where I was inclined to go to sleep, and you gave me such a charming
frown that I awakened immediately and took a long ramble."
"I saw a person stretched at lazy length under the trees yesterday.
You know the horror ladies have of intoxicated men on the road-side."
"Was that the impression I made? Thanks."
"The impression made was that we had better pass as quickly as
"You made a very different impression. Thanks to Strahan I am here
this evening in consequence, and am delighted that I came."
"'Delighted' is a strong word, Mr. Merwyn. Now that we are speaking
of impressions, mine is that years have elapsed since you were
greatly delighted at anything."
"What gives you such an impression?"
"Women can never account for their intuitions."
"Women? Do not use such an elderly word in regard to one appearing
as if just entering girlhood."
"O Mr. Merwyn! have you not learned abroad that girls of my age
are elderly indeed compared with men of yours?"
He bit his lip. "English girls are not so--"
"I didn't say that. They certainly have not the vivacity and
fascination that I am discovering in your drawing-room."
"Why, Mr. Merwyn! one would think you had come to America on a voyage
of discovery, and were surprised at the first thing you saw."
"I think I could show you things abroad that would interest you."
"All Europe could not tempt me to go abroad at this time. In your
estimation I am not even a woman,--only a girl, and yet I have enough
girlhood to wish to take my little part in the events of the day."
He colored, but asked, quietly, "What part are you taking?"
"Such questions," she replied, with a merry, half-mocking flash of
her eyes, "I answer by deeds. There are those who know;" and then,
being addressed by Mr. Lane, she turned away, leaving him with
confused, but more decided sensations than he had known for a long
His first impulse was to leave the house, but this course would
only subject him to ridicule on the part of those who remained.
After a moment or two of reflection he remembered that she had not
invited him, and that she had said nothing essentially rude. He had
merely chosen to occupy a position in regard to his country that
differed radically from hers, and she had done little more than
define her position.
"She is a Northern, as mamma is a Southern fanatic, with the
difference that she is a young, effervescing creature, bubbling
over with the excitement of the times," he thought. "That fellow in
uniform, and the society of men like Strahan and Lane, haye turned
her head, and she has not seen enough of life to comprehend a man
of the world. What do I care for her, or any here? Her briery talk
should only amuse me. When she learns more about who I am and what
I possess she will be inclined to imitate her discreet mamma and
think of the main chance; meanwhile I escape a summer's dulness
and ennui;" and so he philosophically continued his observations
and chatted with Mrs. Vosburgh and others until, with Strahan, he
took his departure, receiving from Marian a bow merely, while to
Strahan she gave her hand cordially.
"You seem to be decidedly in Miss Vosburgh's good graces," said
Merwyn, as they drove away.
"I told you she was my friend."
"Is it very difficult to become her friend?"
"Well, that depends. You should not find it difficult, since you
are so greatly my superior."
"Oh, come, Strahan."
"Pardon me, I forgot I was to express only my own thoughts, not
"You don't know my thoughts or circumstances. Come now, let us be
good comrades. I will begin by thanking you cordially for introducing me
to a charming young girl. I am sure I put on no airs this evening."
"They would not have been politic, Merwyn, and, for the life of
me, I can see no reason for them."
"Very well. Therefore you didn't see any. How like old times we
are! We were always together, yet always sparring a little."
"You must take us as we are in these times," said Strahan, with a
light laugh, for he felt it would jeopardize his scheme, or hope
rather, if he were too brusque with his companion. "You see it is
hard for us to understand your cosmopolitan indifference. American
feeling just now is rather tense on both sides of the line, and if
you will recognize the fact you will understand us better."
"I think I am already aware of the fact. If Miss Vosburgh were of
our sex you would soon have another recruit."
"I'd soon have a superior officer, you mean."
"I fancy you are rather under her thumb already."
"It's a difficult position to attain, I assure you."
"I have observed that, towards a good many, Miss Vosburgh is quite
your equal in indifference."
"I like her all the better for that fact."
"So do I."
"How is it that you are so favored?"
"No doubt it seems strange to you. Mere caprice on her part,
"You misunderstand me. I would like to learn your tactics."
"Jove! I'd like to teach you. Come down to-morrow and I'll give
you a musket."
"You are incorrigible, Strahan. Do you mean that her good-will can
be won only at the point of the bayonet?"
"No one coached me. Surely you have not so neglected your education
abroad that you do not know how to win a lady's favor."
"You are a neutral, indeed."
"I wouldn't aid my own brother in a case of this kind."
"You are right; in matters of this kind it is every one for himself.
You offered to show me, a stranger, some attention, you know."
"Yes, Merwyn, and I'll keep my word. I will give you just as good
courtesy as I receive. The formalities have been complied with and
you are acquainted with Miss Vosburgh. You have exactly the same
vantage that I had at the start, and you certainly cannot wish for
more. If you wish for further introductions, count on me."
Merwyn parted from his plain-spoken companion, well content.
Strahan's promise to return all the courtesy he received left a
variable standard in Merwyn's hands that he could employ according
to circumstances or inclination. He was satisfied that his neighbor,
in accordance with a trait very common to young men, cherished for
Miss Vosburgh a chivalric and sentimental regard at which he would
smile when he became older. Merwyn, however, had a certain sense
of honor, and would not have attempted deliberately to supplant one
to whom he felt that he owed loyalty. His mind having been relieved
of all scruples of this character, he looked forward complacently
to the prospect of winning--what? He did not trouble himself to define
the kind of regard he hoped to inspire. The immediate purpose to
kill time, that must intervene before he could return to England,
was sufficient. There was promise of occupation, mild excitement,
and an amusing triumph, in becoming the foremost figure in Marian's
There is scarcely need to dwell upon the events of a few subsequent
weeks and the gradual changes that were taking place. Life with
its small vicissitudes rarely results from deliberate action.
Circumstances, from day to day, color and shape it; yet beneath
the rippling, changing surface a great tide may be rising. Strahan
was succeeding fairly well in his recruiting service, and, making
allowances for his previous history, was proving an efficient
officer. Marian was a loyal, steadfast friend, reprimanding with
mirthful seriousness at times, and speaking earnest and encouraging
words at others. After all, the mercurial young fellow daily won her
increased respect and esteem. He had been promoted to a captaincy,
and such was the response of the loyal North, during that dreary
summer of disaster and confused counsels, that his company was nearly
full, and he was daily expecting orders for departure. His drill
ground had become the occasional morning resort of his friends, and
each day gave evidence of improved soldierly bearing in his men.
Merwyn thus far had characteristically carried out his plans to
"kill time." Thoroughly convinced of his comparative superiority,
he had been good-naturedly tolerant of the slow recognition accorded
to it by Marian. Yet he believed he was making progress, and the
fact that her favor was hard to win was only the more incitement.
If she had shown early and decided preference his occupation would
have been gone; for what could he have done in those initiatory
weeks of their acquaintance if her eyes and tones had said, "I am
ready to take you and your wealth"? The attitude she maintained,
although little understood, awakened a kind of respect, while the
barriers she quietly interposed aroused a keener desire to surmount
them. By hauteur and reserve at times he had made those with whom
he associated feel that his position in regard to the civil conflict
was his own affair. Even Marian avoided the subject when talking
with him, and her mother never thought of mentioning it. Indeed,
that thrifty lady would have been rather too encouraging had not
her daughter taken pains to check such a spirit. At the same time
the young girl made it emphatically understood that discussion of
the events of the war should be just as free when he was present
as when he was absent.
Yet in a certain sense he was making progress, in that he awakened
anger on her part, rather than indifference. If she was a new type
to him so was he to her, and she found her thoughts reverting to him
in hostile analysis of his motives and character. She had received
too much sincere homage and devotion not to detect something cynical
and hollow in his earlier attentions. She had seen glances toward
her mother, and had caught in his tones an estimate which, however
true, incensed her greatly. Her old traits began to assert themselves,
and gradually her will accorded with Strahan's hope. If, without
compromising herself, she could humble this man, bringing him to
her feet and dismissing him with a rather scornful refusal, such an
exertion of power would give her much satisfaction. Yet her pride,
as well as her principle, led her to determine that he should sue
without having received any misleading favor on her part.
Merwyn had never proposed to sue at all, except in the way of
conventional gallantry. For his own amusement he had resolved to
become her most intimate and familiar friend, and then it would
be time to go abroad. If false hopes were raised it would not much
matter; Strahan or some one else would console her. He admitted
that his progress was slow, and her reserve hard to combat. She
would neither drive nor sail with him unless she formed one of a
party. Still in this respect he was on the same footing with her
best friends. One thing did trouble him, however; she had never
given him her hand, either in greeting or in parting.
At last he brought about an explanation that disturbed his equanimity
not a little. He had called in the morning, and she had chatted
charmingly with him on impersonal matters, pleasing him by her
intelligent and gracefully spoken ideas on the topics broached.
As a society girl she met him on this neutral ground without the
slightest restraint or embarrassment. As he also talked well she had
no scruple in enjoying a pleasure unsought by herself, especially
as it might lead to the punishment which she felt that he deserved.
Smilingly she had assured herself, when he was announced, "If he's
a rebel at heart, as I've been told, I've met the enemy before
either Mr. Lane or Mr. Strahan."
When Merwyn rose to take his leave he held out his hand and said:
"I shall be absent two or three days. In saying good-by won't you
She laughingly put her hands behind her back and said, "I can't."
"Will not, you mean?"
"No, I cannot. I've made a vow to give my hand only to my own
friends and those of my country."
"Do you look upon me as an enemy?"
"Oh, no, indeed."
"Then not as a friend?"
"Why, certainly not, Mr. Merwyn. You know that you are not my
friend. What does the word mean?"
"Well," said he, flushing, "what does it mean?"
"Nothing more to me than to any other sincere person. One uses
downright sincerity with a friend, and would rather harm himself
than that friend."
"Why is not this my attitude towards you?"
"You, naturally, should know better than I."
"Indeed, Miss Vosburgh, you little know the admiration you have
excited," he said, gallantly.
An inscrutable smile was her only response.
"That, however, has become like the air you breathe, no doubt."
"Not at all. I prize admiration. What woman does not? But there
are as many kinds of admiration as there are donors."
"Am I to infer that mine is of a valueless nature?"
"Ask yourself, Mr. Merwyn, just what it is worth."
"It is greater than I have ever bestowed upon any one else," he
said, hastily; for this tilt was disturbing his self-possession.
Again she smiled, and her thought was, "Except yourself."
He, thinking her smile incredulous, resumed: "You doubt this?"
"I cannot help thinking that you are mistaken."
"How can I assure you that I am not?"
"I do not know. Why is it essential that I should be so assured?"
He felt that he was being worsted, and feared that she had detected
the absence of unselfish good-will and honest purpose toward her. He
was angry with himself and her because of the dilemma in which he
was placed. Yet what could he say to the serene, smiling girl before
him, whose unflinching blue eyes looked into his with a keenness
of insight that troubled him? His one thought now was to achieve
a retreat in which he could maintain the semblance of dignity and
With a light and deferential laugh he said: "I am taught, unmistakably,
Miss Vosburgh, that my regard, whatever it may be, is of little
consequence to you, and that it would be folly for me to try to
prove a thing that would not interest you if demonstrated. I feel,
however, that one question is due to us both,--Is my society a
"If it had been, Mr. Merwyn, you would have been aware of the fact
before this. I have enjoyed your conversation this morning."
"I hope, then, that in the future I can make a more favorable
impression, and that in time you will give me your hand."
Her blue eyes never left his face as he spoke, and they grew dark
with a meaning that perplexed and troubled him. She merely bowed
gravely and turned away.
Never had his complacency been so disturbed. He walked homeward with
steps that grew more and more rapid, keeping pace with his swift,
perturbed thoughts. As he approached his residence he yielded to
an impulse; leaped a wall, and struck out for the mountains.
A SIEGE BEGUN.
"EITHER she is seeking to enhance her value, or else she is not the
girl I imagined her to be at all," was Willard Merwyn's conclusion
as he sat on a crag high upon the mountain's side. "Whichever
supposition is true, I might as well admit at once that she is the
most fascinating woman I ever met. She IS a woman, as she claims to
be. I've seen too many mere girls not to detect their transparent
deceits and motives at once. I don't understand Marian Vosburgh;
I only half believe in her, but I intend to learn whether there is
a girl in her station who would unhesitatingly decline the wealth
and position that I can offer. Not that I have decided to offer
these as yet, by any means, for I am in a position to marry wealth
and rank abroad; but this girl piques my curiosity, stirs my blood,
and is giving wings to time. At this rate the hour of our departure
may come before I am ready for it. I was mistaken in one respect
the first evening I met her. Lane, as well as Strahan and others,
would marry her if they could. She might make her choice from almost
any of those who seek her society, and she is not the pretty little
Bohemian that I imagined. Either none of them has ever touched her
heart, or else she knows her value and vantage, and she means to
make the most of them. If she knew the wealth and position I could
give her immediately, would not these certainties bring a different
expression into her eyes? I am not an ogre, that she should shrink
from me as the only incumbrance."
Could he have seen the girl's passion after he left her he would
have understood her dark look at their parting. Hastily seeking
her own room she locked the door to hide the tears of anger and
humiliation that would come.
"Well," she cried, "I AM punished for trifling with others. Here
is a man who seeks me in my home for no other purpose than his own
amusement and the gratification of his curiosity. He could not deny
it when brought squarely to the issue. He could not look me in the
eyes and say that he was my honest friend. He would flirt with me,
if he could, to beguile his burdensome leisure; but when I defined
what some are to me, and more would be, if permitted, he found no
better refuge than gallantry and evasion. What can he mean? what
can he hope except to see me in his power, and ready to accept any
terms he may choose to offer? O Arthur Strahan! your wish now is
wholly mine. May I have the chance of rejecting this man as I never
dismissed one before!"
It must not be supposed that Willard's frequent visits to the
Vosburgh cottage had escaped Mrs. Merwyn's vigilant solicitude, but
her son spoke of them in such a way that she obtained the correct
impression that he was only amusing himself. Her chief hope was
that her son would remain free until the South had obtained the
power it sought. Then an alliance with one of the leading families
in the Confederacy would accomplish as much as might have resulted
from active service during the struggle. She had not hesitated to
express this hope to him.
He had smiled, and said: "One of the leading theories of the day is
the survival of the fittest. I am content to limit my theory to a
survival. If I am alive and well when your great Southern empire takes
the lead among nations there will be a chance for the fulfilment
of your dream. If I have disappeared beneath Southern mud there
won't be any chance. In my opinion, however, I should have tenfold
greater power with our Southern friends if I introduced to them an
His mother had sighed and thought: "It is strange that this
calculating boy should be my son. His father was self-controlled
and resolute, but he never manifested such cold-blooded thought of
self, first and always."
She did not remember that the one lesson taught him from his
very cradle had been that of self-pleasing. She had carried out
her imperious will where it had clashed with his, and had weakly
compensated him by indulgence in the trifles that make up a child's
life. SHE had never been controlled or made to yield to others in
thoughtful consideration of their rights and feelings, and did not
know how to instil the lesson; therefore--so inconsistent is human
nature--when she saw him developing her own traits, she was troubled
because his ambitions differed from her own. Had his hopes and
desires coincided with hers he would have been a model youth in
her eyes, although never entertaining a thought beyond personal and
family advantage. Apparently there was a wider distinction between
them, for she was capable of suffering and sacrifice for the South.
The possibilities of his nature were as yet unrevealed.
His course and spirit, however, set her at rest in regard to his
visits to Marian Vosburgh, and she felt that there was scarcely
the slightest danger that he would compromise himself by serious
attentions to the daughter of an obscure American official.
Willard returned from his brief absence, and was surprised at his
eager anticipation of another interview with Marian. He called
the morning after his arrival, and learning that she had just gone
to witness a drill of Strahan's company, he followed, and arrived
almost as soon as she did at the ground set apart for military
He was greeted by Marian in her old manner, and by Strahan in
his off-hand way. The young officer was at her side, and a number
of ladies and gentlemen were present as spectators. Merwyn took a
camp-stool, sat a little apart, and nonchalantly lighted a cigar.
Suddenly there was a loud commotion in the guard-house, accompanied
by oaths and the sound of a struggle. Then a wild figure, armed with
a knife, rushed toward Strahan, followed by a sergeant and two or
three privates. At a glance it was seen to be the form of a tall,
powerful soldier, half-crazed with liquor.
"--you!" exclaimed the man; "you ordered me to be tied up. I'll
larn you that we ain't down in Virginny yet!" and there was reckless
murder in his bloodshot eyes.
Although at that moment unarmed, Strahan, without a second's hesitation,
sprung at the man's throat and sought to catch his uplifted hand,
but could not reach it. The probabilities are that the young
officer's military career would have been ended in another second,
had not Merwyn, without removing his cigar from his mouth, caught
the uplifted arm and held it as in a vise.
"Stand back, Strahan," he said, quietly; but the young fellow would
not loosen his hold. Therefore Merwyn, with his left hand upon the
collar of the soldier, jerked him a yard away, and tripped him up
so that he fell upon his face. Twisting the fellow's hands across
his back, Merwyn said to the sergeant, "Now tie him at your leisure."
This was done almost instantly, and the foul mouth was also stopped
by a gag.
Merwyn returned to his camp-stool, and coolly removed the cigar
from his mouth as he glanced towards Marian. Although white and
agitated, she was speaking eager, complimentary, and at the same
time soothing words to Strahan, who, in accordance with his excitable
nature, was in a violent passion. She did not once glance towards
the man who had probably saved her friend's life, but Strahan came
and shook hands with him cordially, saying: "It was handsomely and
bravely done, Merwyn. I appreciate the service. You ought to be an
officer, for you could make a good one,--a better one than I am,
for you are as cool as a cucumber."
Others, also, would have congratulated Merwyn had not his manner
repelled them, and in a few moments the drill began. Long before
it was over Marian rose and went towards her phaeton. In a moment
Merwyn was by her side.
"You are not very well, Miss Vosburgh," he said. "Let me drive you
She bowed her acquiescence, and he saw that she was pale and a
little faint; but by a visible effort she soon rallied, and talked
on indifferent subjects.
At last she said, abruptly: "I am learning what war means. It would
seem that there is almost as much danger in enforcing discipline
on such horrible men as in facing the enemy."
"Of course," said Merwyn, carelessly. "That is part of the risk."
"Well," she continued, emphatically, "I never saw a braver act than
that of Mr. Strahan. He was unarmed."
"I was also!" was the somewhat bitter reply, "and you did not even
thank me by a look for saving your friend from a bad wound to say
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Merwyn, you were armed with a strength
which made your act perfectly safe. Mr. Strahan risked everything."
"How could he help risking everything? The infuriated beast was
coming towards you as well as him. Could he have run away? You are
not just to me, or at least you are very partial"
"One can scarcely help being partial towards one's friends. I
agree with you, however; Mr. Strahan could not have taken any other
course. Could you, with a friend in such peril?"
"Certainly not, with any one in such peril. Let us say no more
about the trifle."
She was silent a moment, and then said, impetuously: "You shall
not misunderstand me. I don't know whether I am unjust or not. I do
know that I was angered, and cannot help it. You may as well know
my thoughts. Why should Mr. Strahan and others expose themselves
to such risks and hardships while you look idly on, when you so
easily prove yourself able to take a man's part in the struggle?
You may think, if you do not say it, that it is no affair of mine;
but with my father, whom I love better than life, ready at any
moment to give his life for a cause, I cannot patiently see utter
indifference to that cause in one who seeks my society."
"I think your feelings are very natural, Miss Vosburgh, nor do
I resent your censure. You are surrounded by influences that lead
you to think as you do. You can scarcely judge for me, however.
Be fair and just. I yield to you fully--I may add, patiently--the
right to think, feel, and act as you think best. Grant equal rights
"Oh, certainly," she said, a little coldly; "each one must choose
his own course for life."
"That must ever be true," he replied, "and it is well to remember
that it is for life. The present condition of affairs is temporary.
It is the hour of excited impulses rather than of cool judgment.
Ambitious men on both sides are furthering their own purposes at
the cost of others."
"Is that your idea of the war, Mr. Merwyn?" she asked, looking
searchingly into his face.
"It is indeed, and time will prove me right, you will discover."
"Since this is your view, I can scarcely wonder at your course,"
she said, so quietly that he misunderstood her, and felt that she
half conceded its reasonableness. Then she changed the subject,
nor did she revert to it in his society.
As August drew to its close, Marian's circle shared the feverish
solicitude felt in General Pope's Virginia campaign. Throughout
the North there was a loyal response to the appeal for men, and
Strahan's company was nearly full. He expected at any hour the
orders which would unite the regiment at Washington.
One morning Mr. Lane came to say good-by. It was an impressive
hour which he spent with Marian when bidding her perhaps a final
farewell. She was pale, and her attempts at mirthfulness were forced
and feeble. When he rose to take his leave she suddenly covered
her face with her hand, and burst into tears.
"Marian!" he exclaimed, eagerly, for the deep affection in his
heart would assert itself at times, and now her emotion seemed to
"Wait," she faltered. "Do not go just yet."
He took her unresisting hand and kissed it, while she stifled her
"Miss Marian," he began, "you know how wholly I am yours--"
"Please do not misunderstand me," she interrupted. "I scarcely
know how I could feel differently if I were parting with my twin
brother. You have been such a true, generous friend! Oh, I am all
unstrung. Papa has been sent for from Washington, and we don't know
when he'll return or what service may be required of him. I only
know that he is like you, and will take any risk that duty seems
to demand. I have so learned to lean upon you and trust you that if
anything happened--well, I felt that I could go to you as a brother.
You are too generous to blame me that I cannot feel in any other
way. See, I am frank with you. Why should I not be when the future
is so uncertain? Is it a little thing that I should think of you
first and feel that I shall miss you most when I am so distraught
"No, Miss Marian. To me it is a sacred thing. I want you to know
that you have a brother's hand and heart at your disposal."
"I believe you. Come," she added, rising and dashing away her
tears, "I must be brave, as you are. Promise me that you will take
no risks beyond those required by duty, and that you will write to
"Marian," he said, in a low, deep voice, "I shall ever try to do
what, in your heart, you would wish. You must also promise that if
you are ever in trouble you will let me know."
He again kissed her hand, like a knight of the olden time.
At the last turn of the road from which he was visible she waved
her handkerchief, then sought her room and burst into a passion of
"Oh," she sobbed, "as I now feel I could not refuse him anything.
I may never see him again, and he has been so kind and generous!"
The poor girl was indeed morbid from excitement and anxiety. Her
pale face began to give evidence of the strain which the times
imposed on her in common with all those whose hearts had much at
stake in the conflict.
In vain her mother remonstrated with her, and told her that she was
"meeting trouble half-way." Once the sagacious lady had ventured
to suggest that much uncertainty might be taken out of the future
by giving more encouragement to Mr. Merwyn. "I am told that he is
almost a millionnaire in his own right," she said.
"What is he in his own heart and soul?" had been the girl's indignant
answer. "Don't speak to me in that way again, mamma."
Meanwhile Merwyn was a close observer of all that was taking place,
and was coming to what he regarded as an heroic resolution. Except
as circumstances evoked an outburst of passion, he yielded to habit,
and coolly kept his eye on the main chances of his life, and these
meant what he craved most.
Two influences had been at work upon his mind during the summer.
One resulted from his independent possession of large property. He
had readily comprehended the hints thrown out by his lawyer that,
if he remained in New York, the times gave opportunity for a
rapid increase in his property, and the thought of achieving large
wealth for himself, as his father had done before him, was growing
in attractiveness. His indolent nature began to respond to vital
American life, and he asked himself whether fortune-making in his
own land did not promise more than fortune-seeking among English
heiresses; moreover, he saw that his mother's devotion to the South
increased daily, and that feeling at the North was running higher
and becoming more and more sharply defined. As a business man in
New York his property would be safe beyond a doubt, but if he were
absent and affiliating with those known to be hostile to the North,
dangerous complications might arise.
Almost unconsciously to himself at first the second influence was
gaining daily in power. As he became convinced that Marian was
not an ordinary girl, ready for a summer flirtation with a wealthy
stranger, he began to give her more serious thought, to study her
character, and acknowledge to himself her superiority. With every
interview the spell of her fascination grew stronger, until at last
he reached the conclusion which he regarded as magnanimous indeed.
Waiving all questions of rank and wealth on his part he would become
a downright suitor to this fair countrywoman. It did not occur to
him that he had arrived at his benign mood by asking himself the
question, "Why should I not please myself?" and by the oft-recurring
thought: "If I marry rank and wealth abroad the lady may eventually
remind me of her condescension. If I win great wealth here and lift
this girl to my position she will ever be devoted and subservient
and I be my own master. I prefer to marry a girl that pleases me
in her own personality, one who has brains as well as beauty. When
these military enthusiasts have disappeared below the Southern
horizon, and time hangs more heavily on her hands, she will find
leisure and thought for me. What is more, the very uncertainties
of her position, with the advice of her prudent mamma, will incline
her to the ample provision for the future which I can furnish."
Thus did Willard Merwyn misunderstand the girl he sought, so strong
are inherited and perverted traits and lifelong mental habits.
He knew how easily, with his birth and wealth, he could arrange a
match abroad with the high contracting powers. Mrs. Vosburgh had
impressed him as the chief potentate of her family, and not at all
averse to his purpose. He had seen Mr. Vosburgh but once, and the
quiet, reticent man had appeared to be a second-rate power. He had
also learned that the property of the family was chiefly vested in
the wife. Of course, if Mr. Vosburgh had been in the city, Merwyn
would have addressed him first, but he was absent and the time of
his return unknown.
The son knew his mother would be furious, but he had already
discounted that opposition. He regarded this Southern-born lady as
a very unsafe guide in these troublous times. Indeed, he cherished
a practical kind of loyalty to her and his sisters.
"Only as I keep my head level," he said to himself, "are they safe.
Mamma would identify herself with the South to-day if she could,
and with a woman's lack of foresight be helpless on the morrow.
Let her dream her dreams and nurse her prejudices. I am my father's
son, and the responsible head of the family; and I part with no
solid advantage until I receive a better one. I shall establish
mamma and the girls comfortably in England, and then return to a
city where I can soon double my wealth and live a life independent
of every one."
This prospect grew to be so attractive that he indulged, like Mr.
Lanniere, in King Cophetua's mood, and felt that one American girl
was about to become distinguished indeed.
Watching his opportunity he called upon Mrs. Vosburgh while Marian
was out of the way, formally asking her, in her husband's absence,
for permission to pay his addresses; and he made known his financial
resources and prospects with not a little complacent detail.
Mrs. Vosburgh was dignified and gracious, enlarged on her daughter's
worth, hinted that she might be a little difficult to win by
reason of the attentions she had received and her peculiar views,
yet left, finally, the impression that so flattering proposals
could not be slighted.
Merwyn went home with a sigh of relief. He would no longer approach
Marian with doubtful and ill-defined intentions, which he believed
chiefly accounted for the clever girl's coldness towards him.
SUBORDINATE only to her father and two chief friends, in Marian's
thoughts, was her enemy, for as such she now regarded Willard Merwyn.
She had felt his attentions to be humiliating from the first. They
had presented her former life, in which her own amusement and pleasure
had been her chief thought, in another and a very disagreeable
light. These facts alone would have been sufficient to awaken a
vindictive feeling, for she was no saint. In addition, she bitterly
resented his indifference to a cause made so dear by her father's
devotion and her friends' brave self-sacrifice. Whatever his
motive might be, she felt that he was cold-blooded, cowardly, or
disloyal, and such courtesy as she showed him was due to little else
than the hope of inflicting upon him some degree of humiliation.
She had seen too many manifestations of honest interest and ardent
love to credit him with any such emotion, and she had no scruples
in wounding his pride to the utmost.
Meanwhile events in the bloody drama of the war were culminating.
The Union officers were thought to have neither the wisdom to fight
at the right time nor the discretion to retreat when fighting was
worse than useless. In consequence thousands of brave men were
believed by many to have died in vain once more on the ill-fated
field of Bull Run.
One morning, the last of August, Strahan galloped to the Vosburgh
cottage and said to Marian, who met him at the door: "Orders have
come. I have but a few minutes in which to say good-by. Things
have gone wrong in Virginia, and every available man is wanted in
His flushed face was almost as fair as her own, and gave him a boyish
aspect in spite of his military dress, but unhesitating resolution
and courage beamed from his eyes.
"Oh, that I were a man!" Marian cried, "and you would have company.
All those who are most to me will soon be perilling their lives."
"Guess who has decided to go with me almost at the last moment."
"Yes; I told him that he was too high-toned to carry a musket,
but he said he would rather go as a private than as an officer. He
wishes no responsibility, he says, and, beyond mere routine duty,
intends to give all his time and thoughts to art. I am satisfied
that I have you to thank for this recruit."
"Indeed, I have never asked him to take part in the war."
"No need of your asking any one in set terms. A man would have to
be either a coward, or else a rebel at heart, like Merwyn, to resist
your influence. Indeed, I think it is all the stronger because
you do not use it openly and carelessly. Every one who comes here
knows that your heart is in the cause, and that you would have been
almost a veteran by this time were you of our sex. Others, besides
Blauvelt, obtained the impulse in your presence which decided them.
Indeed, your drawing-room has been greatly thinned, and it almost
looks as if few would be left to haunt it except Merwyn."
"I do not think he will haunt it much longer, and I should prefer
solitude to his society."
"Well," laughed Strahan, "I think you will have a chance to put
one rebel to rout before I do. I don't blame you, remembering your
feeling, but Merwyn probably saved my life, and I gave him my
hand in a final truce. Friends we cannot be while he maintains his
present cold reserve. As you told me, he said he would have done
as much for any one, and his manner since has chilled any grateful
regard on my part. Yet I am under deep obligations, and hereafter
will never do or say anything to his injury."
"Don't trouble yourself about Mr. Merwyn, Arthur. I have my own
personal score to settle with him. He has made a good foil for
you and my other friends, and I have learned to appreciate you the
more. YOU have won my entire esteem and respect, and have taught me
how quickly a noble, self-sacrificing purpose can develop manhood.
O Arthur, Heaven grant that we may all meet again! How proud I
shall then be of my veteran friends! and of you most of all. You
are triumphing over yourself, and you have won the respect of every
one in this community."
"If I ever become anything, or do anything, just enter half the
credit in your little note-book," he said, flushing with pleasure.
"I shall not need a note-book to keep in mind anything that relates
to you. Your courage has made me a braver, truer girl. Arthur,
please, you won't get reckless in camp? I want to think of you
always as I think of you now. When time hangs heavy on your hands,
would it give you any satisfaction to write to me?"
"Indeed it will," cried the young officer. "Let me make a suggestion.
I will keep a rough journal of what occurs and of the scenes we
pass through, and Blauvelt will illustrate it. How should you like
that? It will do us both good, and will be the next best thing to
running in of an evening as we have done here."
Marian was more than pleased with the idea. When at last Strahan
said farewell, he went away with every manly impulse strengthened,
and his heart warmed by the evidences of her genuine regard.
In the afternoon Blauvelt called, and, with Marian and her mother,
drove to the station to take part in an ovation to Captain Strahan
and his company. The artist had affairs to arrange in the city
before enlisting, and proposed to enter the service at Washington.
The young officer bore up bravely, but when he left his mother and
sisters in tears, his face was stern with effort. Marian observed,
however, that his last glance from the platform of the cars rested
upon herself. She returned home depressed and nervously excited,
and there found additional cause for solicitude in a letter from
her father informing her of the great disaster to Union arms which
poor generalship had invited. This, as she then felt, would have
been bad enough, but in a few tender, closing words, he told her that
they might not hear from him in some time, as he had been ordered
on a service that required secrecy and involved some danger. Mrs.
Vosburgh was profuse in her lamentations and protests against her
husband's course, but Marian went to her room and sobbed until
Her nature, however, was too strong, positive, and unchastened to
find relief in tears, or to submit resignedly. Her heart was full
of bitterness and revolt, and her partisanship was becoming almost
as intense as that of Mrs. Merwyn.
The afternoon closed with a dismal rain-storm, which added to her
depression, while relieving her from the fear of callers. "O dear!"
she exclaimed, as she rose from the mere form of supper, "I have
both head-ache and heart-ache. I am going to try to get through
the rest of this dismal day in sleep."
"Marian, do, at least, sit an hour or two with me. Some one may
come and divert your thoughts."
"No one can divert me to-night. It seems as if an age had passed
since we came here in June."
"Your father knows how alone we are in the world, with no near
relatives to call upon. I think he owes his first duty to us."
"The men of the North, who are right, should be as ready to
sacrifice everything as the men of the South, who are wrong; and so
also should Northern women. I am proud of the fact that my father
is employed and trusted by his government. The wrong rests with
those who caused the war."
"Every man can't go and should not go. The business of the country
must be carried on just the same, and rich business men are
as important as soldiers. I only wish that, in our loneliness and
with the future so full of uncertainty, you would give sensible
encouragement to one abundantly able to give you wealth and the
"Yes, Mr. Merwyn," continued her mother, with an emphasis somewhat
irritable. "He is not an old, worn-out millionnaire, like Mr.
Lanniere. He is young, exceedingly handsome, so high-born that he
is received as an equal in the houses of the titled abroad. He has
come to me like an honorable man, and asked for the privilege of
paying his addresses. He would have asked your father had he been
in town. He was frank about his affairs, and has just received,
in his own name, a very large property, which he proposes to double
by entering upon business in New York."
"What does his mother think of his intentions toward me?" the young
girl asked, so quietly, that Mrs. Vosburgh was really encouraged.
"He says that he and his mother differ on many points, and will
differ on this one, and that is all he seemed inclined to say,
except to remark significantly that he had attained his majority."
"It was he whom you meant, when you said that some one might come
who would divert my thoughts?"
"I think he would have come, had it not been for the storm."
"Mamma, you have not given him any encouragement? You have not
compromised yourself, or me?"
Mrs. Vosburgh bridled with the beginnings of resentment, and said,
"Marian, you should know me too well--"
"There, there, mamma, I was wrong to think of such a thing; I ask
"I may have my sensible wishes and preferences," resumed the lady,
complacently, "but I have never yet acted the role of the anxious,
angling mamma. I cannot help wishing, however, that you would
consider favorably an offer like this one, and I certainly could
not treat Mr. Merwyn otherwise than with courtesy."
"That was right and natural of you, mamma. You have no controversy
with Mr. Merwyn; I have. I hate and detest him. Well, since he may
come, I shall dress and be prepared."
"O Marian! you are so quixotic!"
"Dear mamma, you are mistaken. Do not think me inconsiderate of
you. Some day I will prove I am not by my marriage, if I marry;"
and she went to her mother and kissed her tenderly.
Then by a sudden transition she drew herself up with the dark,
inscrutable expression that was becoming characteristic since deeper
experiences had entered into her life, and said, firmly:--
"Should I do as you suggest, I should be false to those true friends
who have gone to fight, perhaps to die; false to my father; false
to all that's good and true in my own soul. As to my heart," she
concluded, with a contemptuous shrug, "that has nothing to do with
the affair. Mamma, you must promise me one thing. I do not wish
you to meet Mr. Merwyn to-night. Please excuse yourself if he asks
for you. I will see him."
"Mark my words, Marian, you will marry a poor man."
"Oh, I have no objection to millionnaires," replied the girl,
with a short, unmirthful laugh, "but they must begin their suit in
a manner differing from that of two who have favored me;" and she
went to her room.
As Merwyn resembled his deceased parent, so Marian had inherited
not a little of her father's spirit and character. Until within
the last few months her mother's influence had been predominant,
and the young girl had reflected the social conventionalities to
which she was accustomed. No new traits had since been created. Her
increasing maturity had rendered her capable of revealing qualities
inherent in her nature, should circumstances evoke them. The flower,
as it expands, the plant as it grows, is apparently very different,
yet the same. The stern, beautiful woman who is arraying herself
before her mirror, as a soldier assumes his arms and equipments, is
the same with the thoughtless, pleasure-loving girl whom we first
met in her drawing-room in June; but months of deep and almost
tragic experience have called into activity latent forces received
from her father's soul,--his power of sustained action, of resolute
purpose, of cherishing high ideals, and of white, quiet anger.
Her toilet was scarcely completed when Willard Merwyn was announced.
IT is essential that we should go back several hours in our story.
On the morning of the day that witnessed the departure of Strahan
and his company Merwyn's legal adviser had arrived and had been
closeted for several hours with his client. Mr. Bodoin was extremely
conservative. Even in youth he had scarcely known any leanings
toward passion of any kind or what the world regards as folly. His
training had developed and intensified natural characteristics,
and now to preserve in security the property intrusted to his
care through a stormy, unsettled period had become his controlling
motive. He looked upon the ups and downs of political men and measures
with what seemed to him a superior and philosophical indifference,
and he was more than pleased to find in Merwyn, the son of his old
client, a spirit so in accord with his own ideas.
They had not been very long together on this fateful day before he
remarked: "My dear young friend, it is exceedingly gratifying to
find that you are level-headed, like your father. He was a man,
Willard, whom you do well to imitate. He secured what he wanted
and had his own way, yet there was no nonsense about him. I was
his intimate friend as well as legal adviser, and I know, perhaps,
more of his life than any one else. Your mother, to-day, is the
handsomest woman of her years I ever saw, but when she was of your
age her beauty was startling, and she had almost as many slaves
among the first young men of the South as there were darkies on the
plantation, yet your father quietly bore her away from them all.
What is more, he so managed as to retain her respect and affection
to the last, at the same time never yielding an inch in his just
rights or dignity, and he ever made Mrs. Merwyn feel that her just
rights and dignity were equally sacred. Proud as your mother was,
she had the sense to see that his course was the only proper one.
Their marriage, my boy, always reminded me of an alliance between
two sovereign and alien powers. It was like a court love-match
abroad. Your father, a Northern man, saw the beautiful Southern
heiress, and he sued as if he were a potentate from a foreign realm.
Well-born and accustomed to wealth all his life, he matched her
pride with a pride as great, and made his offer on his feet as if
he were conferring as much as he should receive. That, in fact,
was the only way to win a woman who had been bowed down to all
her life. After marriage they lived together like two independent
sovereigns, sometimes here, then in the city house, and, when
Mrs. Merwyn so desired it, on the Southern plantation, or abroad.
He always treated her as if she were a countess or a queen in her
own right and paid the utmost deference to her Southern ideas, but
never for a moment permitted her to forget that he was her equal and
had the same right to his Northern views. In regard to financial
matters he looked after her interests as if he were her prime minister,
instead of a husband wishing to avail himself of anything. In his
own affairs he consulted me constantly and together we planted his
investments on the bed-rock. These reminiscences will enable you
to understand the pleasure with which I recognize in you the same
traits. Of course you know that the law gives you great power over
your property. If you were inclined to dissipation, or, what would
be little better in these times, were hot-headed and bent on taking
part in this losing fight of the South, I should have no end of
"You, also, are satisfied, then, that it will be a losing fight?"
Merwyn had remarked.
"Yes, even though the South achieves its independence. I am off at
one side of all the turmoil, and my only aim is to keep my trusts
safe, no matter who wins. I see things as they are up to date and
not as I might wish them to be if under the influence of passion
or prejudice. The South may be recognized by foreign powers and
become a separate state, although I regard this as very doubtful.
In any event the great North and West, with the immense tides of
immigration pouring in, will so preponderate as to be overshadowing.
The Southern empire, of which Mrs. Merwyn dreams, would dwindle
rather than grow. Human slavery, right or wrong, is contrary to the
spirit of the age. But enough of this political discussion. I only
touch upon it to influence your action. By the course you are
pursuing you not only preserve all your Northern property, but
you will also enable me to retain for your mother and sisters the
Southern plantation. This would be impossible if you were seeking
'the bubble, reputation, at the cannon's mouth' on either side.
Whatever happens, there must still be law and government. Both
sides will soon get tired of this exhausting struggle, and then
those who survive and have been wise will reap the advantage. Now,
as to your own affairs, the legal formalities are nearly completed.
If you return and spend the winter in New York I can put you in
the way of vastly increasing your property, and by such presence
and business activity you will disarm all criticism which your
mother's Southern relations may occasion."
"Mamma will bitterly oppose my return."
"I can only say that what I advise will greatly tend to conserve
Mrs. Merwyn's interests. If you prefer, we can manage it in this
way: after you have safely established your mother and sisters
abroad I can write you a letter saying that your interests require
And so it had been arranged, and the old lawyer sat down to dinner
with Mrs. Merwyn, paying her the courtly deference which, while it
gratified her pride, was accepted as a matter of course--as a part
of her husband's legacy. He had soon afterwards taken his departure,
leaving his young client in a most complacent and satisfactory
It may thus be seen that Merwyn was not an unnatural product of
the influences which had until now guided his life and formed his
character. The reminiscences of his father's friend had greatly
increased his sense of magnanimity in his intentions towards
Marian. In the overweening pride of youth he felt as if he were
almost regally born and royally endowed, and that a career was
opening before him in which he should prove his lofty superiority
to those whose heads were turned by the hurly-burly of the hour.
Young as he was, he had the sense to be in accord with wise old age,
that looked beyond the clouds and storm in which so many would be
wrecked. Nay, even more, from those very wrecks he would gather
"The time and opportunity for cool heads," he smilingly assured
himself, "is when men are parting with judgment and reason."
Such was his spirit when he sought the presence of the girl whose
soul was keyed up to almost a passion of self-sacrifice. His mind
belittled the cause for which her idolized father was, at that
moment, perilling his life, and to which her dearest friends had
consecrated themselves. He was serene in congratulating himself
that "little Strahan" had gone, and that the storm would prevent
the presence of other interlopers.
Although the room was lighted as usual, he had not waited many
moments before a slight chill fell upon his sanguine mood. The house
was so still, and the rain dripped and the wind sighed so dismally
without, that a vague presentiment of evil began to assert itself.
Heretofore he had found the apartment full of life and mirth, and
he could not help remembering that some who had been its guests
might now be out in the storm. Would she think of this also?
The parlor was scarcely in its usual pretty order, and no flowers
graced the table. Evidently no one was expected. "All the better,"
he assured himself; "and her desolation will probably incline her
the more to listen to one who can bring golden gleams on such a
A daily paper, with heavy headlines, lay on a chair near him. The
burden of these lines was DEFEAT, CARNAGE, DEATH.
They increased the slight chill that was growing upon him, and made
him feel that possibly the story of his birth and greatness which
he had hoped to tell might be swallowed up by this other story
which fascinated him with its horror.
A slight rustle caused him to look up, and Marian stood before him.
Throwing aside the paper as if it were an evil spell, he rose,
would have offered his hand had there been encouragement, but the
girl merely bowed and seated herself as she said: "Good-evening,
Mr. Merwyn. You are brave to venture out in such a storm."
Was there irony in the slight accent on the word "brave"? How
singularly severe was her costume, also!--simple black, without an
ornament. Yet he admitted that he had never seen her in so effective
a dress, revealing, as it did, the ivory whiteness of her arms and
"There is only one reason why I should not come this evening,--you
may have hoped to escape all callers."
"It matters little what one hopes in these times," she said, "for
events are taking place which set aside all hopes and expectations."
In her bitter mood she was impatient to have the interview over, so
that she accomplished her purpose. Therefore she proposed, contrary
to her custom with him, to employ the national tragedy, to which
he was so indifferent, as one of her keenest weapons.
"It is quite natural that you should feel so, Miss Vosburgh, in
regard to such hopes as you have thus far entertained--"
"Since they are the only hopes I know anything about, Mr. Merwyn,
I am not indifferent to them. I suppose you were at the depot to
see your friend, Mr. Strahan, depart?" and the question was asked
with a steady, searching scrutiny that was a little embarrassing.
Indeed, her whole aspect produced a perplexed, wondering admiration, for
she seemed breathing marble in her cold self-possession. He felt,
however, that the explanation which he must give of his absence
when so many were evincing patriotic good-will would enable him to
impress her with the fact that he had superior interests at stake
in which she might have a share.
Therefore he said, gravely, as if the reason were ample: "I should
have been at the depot, of course, had not my legal adviser come
up from town to-day and occupied me with very important business.
Mr. Bodoin's time is valuable to him, and he presented, for my
consideration, questions of vital interest. I have reached that
age now when I must not only act for myself, but I also have very
delicate duties to perform towards my mother and sisters."
"Mr. Strahan had a sad duty to perform towards his mother and
sisters,--he said good-by to them."
"A duty which I shall soon have to perform, also," Merwyn said.
She looked at him inquiringly. Had he at last found his manhood,
and did he intend to assert it? Had he abandoned his calculating
policy, and was he cherishing some loyal purpose? If this were
true and she had any part in his decision, it would be a triumph
indeed; and, while she felt that she could never respond to any
such proposition as he had made through her mother, she could forget
the past and give him her hand in friendly encouragement towards
such a career as Lane and Strahan had chosen. She felt that it would
be well not to be over-hasty in showing resentment, but if possible
to let him reveal his plans and character fully. She listened
quietly, therefore, without show of approval or disapproval, as he
began in reply to her questioning glance.
"I am going to be frank with you this evening, Miss Vosburgh. The
time has come when I should be so. Has not Mrs. Vosburgh told you
something of the nature of my interview with her?"
The young girl merely bowed.
"Then you know how sincere and earnest I am in what--in what I
shall have to say."
To his surprise he felt a nervous trepidation that he would not
have imagined possible in making his magnanimous offer. He found
this humble American girl more difficult to approach than any other
woman he had ever met.
"Miss Vosburgh," he continued, hesitatingly, "when I first entered
this room I did not understand your true worth and superiority,
but a sense of these has been growing on me from that hour to this.
Perhaps I was not as sincere as I--I--should have been, and you
were too clever not to know it. Will you listen to me patiently?"
Again she bowed, and lower this time to conceal a slight smile of
Encouraged, he proceeded: "Now that I have learned to know you well,
I wish you to know me better,--to know all about me. My father was
a Northern man with strong Northern traits; my mother, a Southern
woman with equally strong Southern traits. I have been educated
chiefly abroad. Is it strange, then, that I cannot feel exactly as
you do, or as some of your friends do?"
"As we once agreed, Mr. Merwyn, each must choose his own course
"I am glad you have reminded me of that, for I am choosing for life
and not for the next ten months or ten years. As I said, then, all
this present hurly-burly will soon pass away." Her face darkened,
but in his embarrassment and preoccupation he did not perceive it.
"I have inherited a very large property, and my mother's affairs
are such that I must act wisely, if not always as she would wish."
"May I ask what Mrs. Merwyn would prefer?"
"I am prepared to be perfectly frank about myself," he replied,
"Pardon me. It is immaterial."
"I have a perfect right to judge and act for myself," resumed
Merwyn, with some emphasis.
"Thank you. I should remember that."
The words were spoken in a low tone and almost as if in soliloquy,
and her face seemed to grow colder and more impassive if possible.
With something approaching dismay Merwyn had observed that the
announcement of his large fortune had had no softening influence on
the girl's manner, and he thought, "Truly, this is the most dreary
and business-like wooing that I ever imagined!"
But he had gone too far to recede, and his embarrassment was
beginning to pass into something like indignation that he and all
he could offer were so little appreciated.
Restraining this feeling, he went on, gravely and gently: "You once
intimated that I was young, Miss Vosburgh, yet the circumstances
and responsibilities of my lot have led me to think more, perhaps,
than others of my age, and to look beyond the present hour. I regard
the property left me by my father as a trust, and I have learned
to-day that I can greatly increase and probably double it. It is
my intention, after taking my mother and sisters abroad, to return
to New York and to enter cautiously into business under the guidance
of my legal adviser, who is a man of great sagacity. Now, as you
know, I have said from the first that it is natural for you to
feel deeply in regard to the events of the day; but I look beyond
all this turmoil, distraction, and passion, which will be as
temporary as it is violent. I am thinking for you as truly as for
myself. Pardon me for saying it; I am sure I am in a better condition
of mind to think for you than you are to judge for yourself.
I can give you the highest social position, and make your future
a certainty. From causes I can well understand the passion of the
hour has been swaying you--"
She rose, and by an emphatic gesture stopped him, and there was a
fire in the blue eyes that had been so cold before. She appeared
to have grown inches as she stood before him and said, in tones
of concentrated scorn: "You are indeed young, yet you speak the
calculating words of one so old as to have lost every impulse of
youth. Do you know where my father is at this moment?"
"No," he faltered.
"He is taking part, at the risk of his life, in this temporary
hurly-burly, as you caricature it. It is he who is swaying me, and
the memory of the brave men whom you have met here and to whom you
fancied yourself superior. Did not that honored father exist, or
those brave friends, I feel within my soul that I have womanhood
enough to recognize and feel my country's need in this supreme hour
of her peril. You thoughtful beyond your years?--you think for me?
What did you think of me the first evening you spent here? What were
your thoughts as you came again and again? To what am I indebted
for this honor, but the fact that you could only beguile a summer's
ennui by a passing flirtation which would leave me you little cared
where, after you had joined your aristocratic friends abroad? Now
your plans have changed, and, after much deliberation, you have
come to lift me to the highest position! Never dream that I can
descend to your position!"
He was fairly trembling with anger and mortification, and she was
about to leave the apartment.
"Stay!" he said, passing his hand across his brow as if to brush
away confusion of mind; "I have not given you reason for such
contempt, and it is most unreasonable."
"Why is it unreasonable?" she asked, her scornful self-control
passing into something like passion. "I will speak no more of the
insult of your earlier motives towards me, now that you think you
can afford to marry me. In your young egotism you may think a girl
forgets and forgives such a thing easily if bribed by a fortune. I
will let all that be as if it were not, and meet you on the ground
of what is, at this present hour. I despise you because you have
no more mind or manhood--take it as you will--than to think that
this struggle for national life and liberty is a mere passing fracas
of politicians. Do you think I will tamely permit you to call my
noble father little better than a fool? He has explained to me what
this war means--he, of twice your age, and with a mind as large
as his manhood and courage. You have assumed to be his superior,
also, as well as that of Mr. Lane and Mr. Strahan, who are about
to peril life in the 'hurly-burly.' What are your paltry thousands
to me? Should I ever love, I will love a MAN; and had I your sex
and half your inches, I should this hour be in Virginia, instead of
defending those I love and honor against your implied aspersions.
Had you your mother's sentiments I should at least respect you,
although she has no right to be here enjoying the protection of a
government that she would destroy."
He was as pale as she had become flushed, and again he passed his
hand over his brow confusedly and almost helplessly. "It is all
like a horrid dream," he muttered.
"Mr. Merwyn, you have brought this on yourself," she said, more
calmly. "You have sought to wrong me in my own home. Your words and
manner have ever been an insult to the cause for which my father
may die--O God!" she exclaimed, with a cry of agony--"for which
he may now be dead! Go, go," she added, with a strong repellent
gesture. "We have nothing in common: you measure everything with
the inch-rule of self."
As if pierced to the very soul he sprung forward and seized her hand
with almost crushing force, as he cried: "No, I measure everything
hereafter by the breadth of your woman's soul. You shall not cast
me off in contempt. If you do you are not a woman,--you are a
fanatic, worse than my mother;" and he rushed from the house like
Panting, trembling, frightened by a volcanic outburst such as she
had never dreamed of, Marian sunk on a lounge, sobbing like a child.
AWAKENED AT LAST.
IT may well be imagined that Mrs. Vosburgh was not far distant
during the momentous interview described in the last chapter, and,
as Merwyn rushed from the house as if pursued by the furies, she
appeared at once on the scene, full of curiosity and dismay.
Exclamations, questionings, elicited little from Marian. The strain
of the long, eventful day had been too great, and the young girl,
who might have been taken as a type of incensed womanhood a few
moments before, now had scarcely better resources than such remedies
as Mrs. Vosburgh's matronly experience knew how to apply. Few remain
long on mountain-tops, physical or metaphorical, and deep valleys
lie all around them. Little else could be done for the poor girl
than to bring the oblivion of sleep, and let kindly Nature nurse
her child back to a more healthful condition of body and mind.
But it would be long before Willard Merwyn would be amenable to the
gentle offices of nature. Simpson, the footman, flirting desperately
with the pretty waitress in the kitchen below, heard his master's
swift, heavy step on the veranda, and hastened out only in time to
clamber into his seat as Merwyn drove furiously away in the rain
and darkness. Every moment the trembling lackey expected they would
all go to-wreck and ruin, but the sagacious animals were given
their heads, and speedily made their way home.
The man took the reeking steeds to the stable, and Merwyn disappeared.
He did not enter the house, for he felt that he would stifle there,
and the thought of meeting his mother was intolerable. Therefore,
he stole away to a secluded avenue, and strode back and forth
under the dripping trees, oblivious, in his fierce perturbation,
of outward discomfort.
Mrs. Merwyn waited in vain for him to enter, then questioned the
"Faix, mum, I know nothin' at all. Mr. Willard druv home loike one
possessed, and got out at the door, and that's the last oi've seen
The lady received the significant tidings with mingled anxiety and
satisfaction. Two things were evident. He had become more interested
in Miss Vosburgh than he had admitted, and she, by strange good
fortune, had refused him.
"It was a piece of folly that had to come in some form, I suppose,"
she soliloquized, "although I did not think Willard anything like
so sure to perpetrate it as most young men. Well, the girl has
saved me not a little trouble, for, of course, I should have been
compelled to break the thing up;" and she sat down to watch and
wait. She waited so long that anxiety decidedly got the better of
Meanwhile the object of her thoughts was passing through an experience
of which he had never dreamed. In one brief hour his complacency,
pride, and philosophy of life had been torn to tatters. He saw
himself as Marian saw him, and he groaned aloud in his loathing and
humiliation. He looked back upon his superior airs as ridiculous,
and now felt that he would rather be a private in Strahan's company
than the scorned and rejected wretch that he was. The passionate
nature inherited from his mother was stirred to its depths. Even
the traits which he believed to be derived from his father, and
which the calculating lawyer had commended, had secured the young
girl's most withering contempt; and he saw how she contrasted him
with her father and Mr. Lane,--yes, even with little Strahan. In
her bitter words he heard the verdict of the young men with whom
he had associated, and of the community. Throughout the summer he
had dwelt apart, wrapped in his own self-sufficiency and fancied
superiority. His views had been of gradual growth, and he had come
to regard them as infallible, especially when stamped with the
approval of his father's old friend; but the scathing words, yet
ringing in his ears, showed him that brave, conscientious manhood
was infinitely more than his wealth and birth. As if by a revelation
from heaven he saw that he had been measuring everything with the
little rule of self, and in consequence he had become so mean and
small that a generous-hearted girl had shrunk from him in loathing.
Then in bitter anger and resentment he remembered how he was
trammelled by his oath to his mother. It seemed to him that his
life was blighted by this pledge and a false education. There was
no path to her side who would love and honor only a MAN.
At last the mere physical manifestations of passion and excitement
began to pass away, and he felt that he was acting almost like one
insane as he entered the house.
Mrs. Merwyn met him, but he said, hoarsely, "I cannot talk with
"Willard, be rational. You are wet through. You will catch your
death in these clothes."
"Nothing would suit me better, as I feel now;" and he broke away.
He was so haggard when he came down late the next morning that his
mother could not have believed such a change possible in so short
a time. "It is going to be more serious than I thought," was her
mental comment as she poured him out a cup of coffee.
It was indeed; for after drinking the coffee in silence, he looked
frowningly out of the window for a time; then said abruptly to the
waiter, "Leave the room."
The tone was so stern that the man stole out with a scared look.
"Willard," began Mrs. Merwyn, with great dignity, "you are acting
in a manner unbecoming your birth and breeding."
Turning from the window, he fixed his eyes on his mother with a
look that made her shiver.
At last he asked, in a low, stern voice, "Why did you bind me with
"Because I foresaw some unutterable folly such as you are now
"No," he said, in the same cold, hard tone. "It was because
your cursed Confederacy was more to you than my freedom, than my
manhood,--more to you than I am myself."
"O Willard! What ravings!"
"Was my father insane when he quietly insisted on his rights,
yielding you yours? What right had you to cripple my life?"
"I took the only effective means to prevent you from doing just
that for yourself."
"How have you succeeded?"
"I have prevented you, as a man of honor, from doing, under a gust
of passion, what would spoil all my plans and hopes."
"I am not a man. You have done your best to prevent me from being
one. You have bound me with a chain, and made me like one of the
slaves on your plantation. Your plans and hopes? Have I no right
to plans and hopes?"
"You know my first thought has been of you and for you."
"No, I do not know this. I now remember that, when you bound me,
a thoughtless, selfish, indolent boy, you said that you would have
torn your heart out rather than marry my father had you foreseen
what was coming. This miserable egotist, Jeff Davis, and his scheme
of empire, cost what it may, are more to you than husband or child.
A mother would have said: 'You have reached manhood and have the
rights of a man. I will advise you and seek to guide you. You know
my feelings and views, and in their behalf I will even entreat
you; but you have reached that age when the law makes you free,
and holds you accountable to your own conscience.' Of what value
is my life if it is not mine? I should have the right to make my
own life, like others."
"You have the right to make it, but not to mar it."
"In other words, your prejudices, your fanaticism, are to take the
place of my conscience and reason. You expect me to carry a sham of
manhood out into the world. I wish you to release me from my oath."
"Never," cried Mrs. Merwyn, with a passion now equal to his own.
"You have fallen into the hands of a Delilah, and she has shorn
you of your manhood. Infatuated with a nameless Northern girl, you
would blight your life and mine. When you come to your senses you
will thank me on your knees that I interposed an oath that cannot
be broken between you and suicidal folly;" and she was about to
leave the room.
"Stop," he said, huskily. "When I bound myself I did so without
realizing what I did. I was but a boy, knowing not the future. I
did it out of mere good-will to you, little dreaming of the fetters
you were forging. Since you will not release me and treat me as a
man I shall keep the oath. I swore never to put on the uniform of
a Union soldier, or to step on Southern soil with a hostile purpose,
but you have taught me to detest your Confederacy with implacable
hate; and I shall use my means, my influence, all that I am, to
aid others to destroy it."
"What! are you not going back to England with us?"
"Before you have been there a week this insane mood will pass away."
"Did my father's moods pass away?"
"Your father--" began the lady, impetuously, and then hesitated.
"My father always yielded you your just rights and maintained his
own. I shall imitate his example as far as I now may. The oath is
a thing that stands by itself. It will probably spoil my life, but
I cannot release myself from it."
"You leave me only one course, Willard,--to bear with you as if you
were a passionate child. You never need hope for my consent to an
alliance with the under-bred creature who has been the cause of
"Thank you. You now give me your complete idea of my manhood. I
request that these subjects be dismissed finally between us. I make
another pledge,--I shall be silent whenever you broach them;" and
with a bow he left the apartment.
Half an hour later he was climbing the nearest mountain, resolved
on a few hours of solitude. From a lofty height he could see
the little Vosburgh cottage, and, by the aid of a powerful glass,
observed that the pony phaeton did not go out as usual, although
the day was warm and beautiful after the storm.
The mists of passion were passing from his mind, and in strong
reaction from his violent excitement he sunk, at first, into deep
depression. So morbid was he that he cried aloud: "O my father!
Would to God that you had lived! Where are you that you can give
no counsel, no help?"
But he was too young to give way to utter despondency, and at last
his mind rallied around the words he had spoken to Marian. "I shall,
hereafter, measure everything by the breadth of your woman's soul."
As he reviewed the events of the summer in the light of recent
experience, he saw how strong, unique, and noble her character was.
Faults she might have in plenty, but she was above meannesses and
mercenary calculation. The men who had sought her society had been
incited to manly action, and beneath all the light talk and badinage
earnest and heroic purposes had been formed; he meanwhile, poor
fool! had been too blinded by conceited arrogance to understand
what was taking place. He had so misunderstood her as to imagine
that after she had spent a summer in giving heroic impulses she
would be ready to form an alliance that would stultify all her
action, and lose her the esteem of men who were proving their regard
in the most costly way. He wondered at himself, but thought:--
"I had heard so much about financial marriages abroad that I had
gained the impression that no girl in these days would slight an
offer like mine. Even her own mother was ready enough to meet my
views. I wonder if she will ever forgive me, ever receive me again
as a guest, so that I can make a different impression. I fear she
will always think me a coward, hampered as I am by a restraint
that I cannot break. Well, my only chance is to take up life from
her point of view, and to do the best I can. There is something in
my nature which forbids my ever yielding or giving up. So far as
it is now possible I shall keep my word to her, and if she has a
woman's heart she may, in time, so far relent as to give me a place
among her friends. This is now my ambition, for, if I achieve this,
I shall know I am winning such manhood as I can attain."
When Merwyn appeared at dinner he was as quiet and courteous as
if nothing had happened; but his mother was compelled to note that
the boyishness had departed out of his face, and in its strong
lines she recognized his growing resemblance to his father.
Two weeks later he accompanied his mother and sisters to England.
Before his departure he learned that Marian had been seriously ill,
but was convalescent, and that her father had returned.
Meantime and during the voyage, with the differences natural to
the relation of mother and son, his manner was so like that of his
father towards her that she was continually reminded of the past,
and was almost led to fear that she had made a grave error in the
act she had deemed so essential. But her pride and her hopes for
the future prevented all concession.
"When he is once more in society abroad this freak will pass away,"
she thought, "and some English beauty will console him."
But after they were well established in a pretty villa near
congenial acquaintances, Merwyn said one morning, "I shall return
to New York next week."
"Willard! how can you think of such a thing? I was planning to
spend the latter part of the winter in Rome."
"That you may easily do with your knowledge of the city and your
wide circle of friends."
"But we need you. We want you to be with us, and I think it most
unnatural in you to leave us alone."
"I have taken no oath to dawdle around Europe indefinitely. I
propose to return to New York and go into business."
"You have enough and more than enough already."
"I certainly have had enough of idleness."
"But I protest against it. I cannot consent."
"Mamma," he said, in the tone she so well remembered, "is not my
life even partially my own? What is your idea of a man whom both
law and custom make his own master? Even as a woman you chose for
yourself at the proper age. What strange infatuation do you cherish
that you can imagine that a son of Willard Merwyn has no life of
his own to live? It is now just as impossible for me to idle away
my best years in a foreign land as it would be for me to return
to my cradle. I shall look after your interests and comfort to the
best of my ability, and, if you decide to return to New York, you
shall be received with every courtesy."
"I shall never return to New York. I would much prefer to go to my
plantation and share the fortunes of my own people."
"I supposed you would feel in that way, and I will do all in
my power to further your wishes, whatever they may be. My wishes,
in personal matters, are now equally entitled to respect. I shall
carry them out;" and with a bow that precluded all further remonstrance
he left the room.
A day or two later she asked, abruptly, "Will you use your means
and influence against the South?"
Mrs. Merwyn's face became rigid, but nothing more was said. When
he bade her good-by there was an evident struggle in her heart,
but she repressed all manifestations of feeling, and mother and
COMING TO THE POINT.
WHEN the tide has long been rising the time comes for it to recede.
From the moment of Marian's awakening to a desire for a better
womanhood, she had been under a certain degree of mental excitement
and exaltation. This condition had culminated with the events
that wrought up the loyal North into suspense, anguish, and stern,
While these events had a national and world-wide significance, they