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An Original Belle by E. P. Roe

Part 4 out of 10

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also pressed closely, in their consequences, on individual life.
It has been shown how true this was in the experience of Marian.
Her own personal struggle alone, in which she was combating the
habits and weakness of the past, would not have been a trivial
matter,--it never is when there is earnest endeavor,--but, in
addition to this, her whole soul had been kindling in sympathy with
the patriotic fire that was impelling her dearest friends towards
danger and possible death. Lane's, Strahan's, and Blauvelt's
departure, and her father's peril, had brought her to a point that
almost touched the limit of endurance. Then had come the man whose
attentions had been so humiliating to her personally, and who
represented to her the genius of the Rebellion that was bringing
her such cruel experience. She saw his spirit of condescension even
in his offer of marriage; worse still, she saw that he belittled
the conflict in which even her father was risking his life; and her
indignation and resentment had burst forth upon him with a power
that she could not restrain.

The result had been most unexpected. Instead of slinking away
overwhelmed with shame and confusion, or departing in haughty anger,
Merwyn had revealed to her that which is rarely witnessed by any
one,--the awakening of a strong, passionate nature. In the cynical,
polished, self-pleasing youth was something of which she had not
dreamed,--of which he was equally unaware. Her bitter words pierced
through the strata of self-sufficiency and pride that had been
accumulating for years. She stabbed with truth the outer man and
slew it, but the inner and possible manhood felt the sharp thrust
and sprung up wounded, bleeding, and half desperate with pain. That
which wise and kindly education might have developed was evoked in
sudden agony, strong yet helpless, overwhelmed with the humiliating
consciousness of what had been, and seeing not the way to what
she would honor. Yet in that supreme moment the instinct asserted
itself that she, who had slain his meaner self, had alone the power
to impart the impulse toward true manhood and to give the true
measure of it. Hence a declaration so passionate, and an appeal so
full of his immense desire and need, that she was frightened, and
faltered helplessly.

In the following weary days of suffering and weakness, she realized
that she was very human, and not at all the exalted heroine that
she had unconsciously come to regard herself. The suitor whom she
had thought to dismiss in contempt and anger, and to have done with,
could not be banished from her mind. The fact that he had proved
himself to be all that she had thought him did not satisfy her,
for the reason that he had apparently shown himself to be so much
more. She had judged him superficially, and punished him accordingly.
She had condemned him unsparingly for traits which, except for a few
short months, had been her own characteristics. While it was true
that they seemed more unworthy in a man, still they were essentially
the same.

"But he was not a man," she sighed. "He was scarcely more than the
selfish boy that wealth, indulgence, and fashionable life had made
him. Why was I so blind to this? Why could I not have seen that
nothing had ever touched him deeply enough to show what he was,
or, at least, of what he was capable? What was Strahan before his
manhood was awakened? A little gossiping exquisite. Even Mr. Lane,
who was always better than any of us, has changed wonderfully
since he has had exceptional motives for noble action. What was I,
myself, last June, when I was amusing myself at the expense of a
man whom I knew to be so good and true? In view of all this, instead
of having a little charity for Mr. Merwyn, who, no doubt, is only
the natural product of the influences of his life, I only tolerated
him in the vindictive hope of giving the worst blow that a woman can
inflict. I might have seen that he had a deeper nature; at least,
I might have hoped that he had, and given him a chance to reveal
it. Perhaps there has never been one who tried to help him toward
true manhood. He virtually said that his mother was a Southern
fanatic, and his associations have been with those abroad who
sympathized with her. Is it strange that a mere boy of twenty-one
should be greatly influenced by his mother and her aristocratic
friends? He said his father was a Northern man, and he may have
imbibed the notion that he could not fight on either side. Well,
if he will give up such a false idea, if he will show that he is
not cold-blooded and calculating, as his last outbreak seemed to
prove, and can become as brave and true a soldier as Strahan, I
will make amends by treating him as I do Strahan, and will try to
feel as friendly towards him. He shall not have the right to say
I'm 'not a woman but a fanatic.'"

She proved herself a woman by the effort to make excuses for one
towards whom she had been severe, by her tendency to relent after
she had punished to her heart's content.

"But," added the girl aloud, in the solitude of her room, "while I
may give him my hand in some degree of kindliness and friendship,
if he shows a different spirit, he shall never have my colors, never
my loyal and almost sisterly love, until he has shown the courage
and manhood of Mr. Lane and Mr. Strahan. They shall have the first
place until a better knight appears."

When, one September evening, her father quietly entered his home
he gave her an impulse towards convalescence beyond the power of
all remedies. There were in time mutual confidences, though his
were but partial, because relating to affairs foreign to her life,
and tending to create useless anxieties in respect to the future.
He was one of those sagacious, fearless agents whom the government,
at that period, employed in many and secret ways. For obvious reasons
the nature and value of their services will never be fully known.

Marian was unreserved in her relation of what had occurred, and
her father smiled and reassured her.

"In one sense you are right," he said. "We should have a broader,
kindlier charity for all sorts of people, and remember that, since
we do not know their antecedents and the influences leading to
their actions, we should not be hasty to judge. Your course might
have been more Christian-like towards young Merwyn, it is true.
Coming from you, however, in your present state of development,
it was very natural, and I'm not sure but he richly deserved your
words. If he has good mettle he will be all the better for them.
If he spoke from mere impulse and goes back to his old life and
associations, I'm glad my little girl was loyal and brave enough
to lodge in his memory truths that he won't forget. Take the good
old doctrine to your relenting heart and don't forgive him until
he 'brings forth fruits meet for repentance.' I'm proud of you that
you gave the young aristocrat such a wholesome lesson in regard to
genuine American manhood and womanhood."

Mrs. Vosburgh's reception of her husband was a blending of welcome
and reproaches. What right had he to overwhelm them with anxiety,
etc., etc.?

"The right of about a million men who are taking part in the
struggle," he replied, laughing at her good-naturedly.

"But I can't permit or endure it any longer," said his wife, and
there was irritation in her protest.

"Well, my dear," he replied, with a shrug, "I must remain among
the eccentric millions who continue to act according to their own
judgment."

"Mamma!" cried Marian, who proved that she was getting well by a
tendency to speak sharply, "do you wish papa to be poorer-spirited
than any of the million? What kind of a man would he be should he
reply, 'Just as you say, my dear; I've no conscience, or will of my
own'? I do not believe that any girl in the land will suffer more
than I when those I love are in danger, but I'd rather die than
blockade the path of duty with my love."

"Yes, and some day when you are fatherless you may repent those
words," sobbed Mrs. Vosburgh.

"This will not answer," said Mr. Vosburgh, in a tone that quieted
both mother and daughter, who at this stage were inclined to be a
little hysterical. "A moment's rational thought will convince you
that words cannot influence me. I know exactly what I owe to you and
to my country, and no earthly power can change my course a hair's
breadth. If I should be brought home dead to-morrow, Marian would
not have the shadow of a reason for self-reproach. She would have
no more to do with it than with the sunrise. Your feelings, in
both instances, are natural enough, and no doubt similar scenes are
taking place all over the land; but men go just the same, as they
should do and always have done in like emergencies. So wipe away
your tears, little women. You have nothing to cry about yet, while
many have."

The master mind controlled and quieted them. Mrs. Vosburgh looked
at her husband a little curiously, and it dawned upon her more
clearly than ever before that the man whom she managed, as she
fancied, was taking his quiet, resolute way through life with his
own will at the helm.

Marian thought, "Ah, why does not mamma idolize such a man and find
her best life in making the most of his life?"

She had, as yet, scarcely grasped the truth that, as disease
enfeebles the body, so selfishness disables the mind, robbing it of
the power to care for others, or to understand them. In a sense
Mr. Vosburgh would always be a stranger to his wife. He had
philosophically and patiently accepted the fact, and was making
the best of the relation as it existed.

It was now decided that the family should return at once to their
city home. Mr. Vosburgh had a few days of leisure to superintend
the removal, and then his duties would become engrossing.

The evening before their departure was one of mild, charming
beauty, and as the dining-room was partially dismantled, it was Mr.
Vosburgh's fancy to have the supper-table spread on the veranda.
The meal was scarcely finished when a tall, broad-shouldered man
appeared at the foot of the steps, and Sally, the pretty waitress,
manifested a blushing consciousness of his presence.

"Wud Mr. Vosburgh let me spake to him a moment?" began the stranger.

Marian recognized the voice that, from the shrubbery, had
given utterance to the indignant protest against traits which had
once characterized her own life and motives. Thinking it possible
that her memory was at fault, she glanced at Sally's face and the
impression was confirmed. "What ages have passed since that June
evening!" she thought.

"Is it anything private, my man?" asked Mr. Vosburgh, pushing back
his chair and lighting a cigar.

"Faix, zur, it's nothin' oi'm ashamed on. I wish to lave the country
and get a place on the perlace force," repeated the man, with an
alacrity which showed that he wished Sally to hear his request.

"You look big and strong enough to handle most men."

"Ye may well say that, zur; oi've not sane the man yit that oi was
afeared on."

Sally chuckled over her knowledge that this was not true in respect
to women, while Marian whispered to her father: "Secure him the
place if you can, papa. You owe a great deal to him and so do I,
although he does not know it. This is the man whose words, spoken
to Sally, disgusted me with my old life. Don't you remember?"

Mr. Vosburgh's eyes twinkled, as he shot a swift glance at Sally,
whose face was redder than the sunset. The man's chief attraction
to the city was apparent.

"What's your name?" the gentleman asked.

"Barney Ghegan, zur."

"Are you perfectly loyal to the North? Will you help carry out the
laws, even against your own flesh and blood, if necessary?"

"Oi'll 'bey orders, zur," replied the man, emphatically. "Oi've
come to Amarekay to stay, and oi'll stan' by the goovernment."

"Can you bring me a certificate of your character?"

"Oi can, zur, for foive years aback."

"Bring it then, Barney, and you shall go on the force; for you're
a fine, strong-looking man,--the kind needed in these days," said
Mr. Vosburgh, glad to do a good turn for one who unwittingly had
rendered him so great a service, and also amused at this later
aspect of the affair.

This amusement was greatly enhanced by observing Barney's proud,
triumphant glance at Sally. Turning quickly to note its effect on
the girl, Mr. Vosburgh caught the coquettish maid in the act of
making a grimace at her much-tormented suitor.

Sally's face again became scarlet, and in embarrassed haste she
began to clear the table.

Barney was retiring slowly, evidently wishing for an interview
with his elusive charmer before he should return to his present
employers, and Mr. Vosburgh good-naturedly put in a word in his
favor.

"Stay, Barney, and have some supper before you go home. In behalf
of Mrs. Vosburgh I give you a cordial invitation."

"Yes," added the lady, who had been quietly laughing. "Now that you
are to be so greatly promoted we shall be proud to have you stay."

Barney doffed his hat and exclaimed, "Long loife to yez all,
espacially to the swate-faced young leddy that first spoke a good
wourd for me, oi'm a-thinkin';" and he stepped lightly around to
the rear of the house.

"Sally," said Mr. Vosburgh, with preternatural gravity.

The girl courtesied and nearly dropped a dish.

"Mr. Barney Ghegan will soon be receiving a large salary."

Sally courtesied again, but her black eyes sparkled as she whisked
the rest of the things from the table and disappeared. She maintained
her old tactics during supper and before the other servants, exulting
in the fact that the big, strong man was on pins and needles, devoid
of appetite and peace.

"'Afeared o' no mon,' he says," she thought, smilingly. "He's so
afeared o' me that he's jist a tremblin'."

After her duties were over, Barney said, mopping his brow: "Faix,
but the noight is warm. A stroll in the air wudn't be bad, oi'm
a-thinkin'."

"Oi'm cool as a cowcumber," remarked Sally. "We'll wait for ye till
ye goes out and gits cooled off;" and she sat down complacently,
while the cook and the laundress tittered.

An angry sparkle began to assert itself in Barney's blue eyes, and
he remarked drily, as he took his hat, "Yez moight wait longer than
yez bargained for."

The shrewd girl saw that she was at the length of her chain, and
sprung up, saying: "Oh, well, since the mistress invited ye so
politely, ye's company, and it's me duty to thry to entertain ye.
Where shall we go?" she added, as she passed out with him.

"To the rustic sate, sure. Where else shud we go?"

"A rustic sate is a quare place for a stroll."

"Oi shall have so much walkin' on me bate in New York, that it's
well to begin settin' down aready, oi'm a-thinkin'."

"Why, Barney, ye're going to be a reg'lar tramp. Who'd 'a thought
that ye'd come down to that."

"Ah! arrah, wid ye nonsense! Sit ye down here, for oi'm a-goin' to
spake plain the noight. Noo, by the Holy Vargin, oi'm in arenest.
Are ye goin' to blow hot, or are ye goin' to blow could?"

"Considerin' the hot night, Barney, wouldn't it be better for me
to blow could?"

Barney scratched his head in perplexity. "Ye know what I mane," he
ejaculated.

"Where will ye foind the girl that tells all she knows?"

"O Sally, me darlint, what's the use of batin' around the bush?
Ye know that a cat niver looked at crame as oi look on ye," said
Barney, in a wheedling tone, and trying the tactics of coaxing once
more.

He sat down beside her and essayed with his insinuating arm to
further his cause as his words had not done.

"Arrah, noo, Barney Ghegan, what liberties wud ye be takin' wid a
respectable girl?" and she drew away decidedly.

He sprung to his feet and exploded in the words: "Sally Maguire,
will ye be me woife? By the holy poker! Answer, yis or no."

Sally rose, also, and in equally pronounced tones replied: "Yes,
Barney Ghegan, I will, and I'll be a good and faithful one, too.
It's yeself that's been batin' round the bush. Did ye think a woman
was a-goin' to chase ye over hill and down dale and catch ye by
the scruff of the neck? What do ye take me for?"

"Oi takes ye for better, Sally, me darlint;" and then followed
sounds suggesting the popping of a dozen champagne corks.

Mr. Vosburgh, his wife, and Marian had been chatting quietly
on the piazza, unaware of the scene taking place in the screening
shrubbery until Barney's final question had startled the night like
a command to "stand and deliver."

Repressing laughter with difficulty they tiptoed into the house
and closed the door.

CHAPTER XVIII.

A GIRL'S STANDARD.

THE month of September, 1862, was a period of strong excitement
and profound anxiety on both sides of the vague and shifting line
which divided the loyal North from the misguided but courageous
South. During the latter part of August Gen. Pope had been
overwhelmed with disaster, and what was left of his heroic army
was driven within the fortifications erected for the defence of
Washington. Apparently the South had unbounded cause for exultation.
But a few weeks before their capital had been besieged by an immense
army, while a little to the north, upon the Rappahannock, rested
another Union army which, under a leader like Stonewall Jackson,
would have been formidable enough in itself to tax Lee's skill and
strength to the utmost. Except in the immediate vicinity of the
capital and Fortress Monroe scarcely a National soldier had been
left in Virginia. The Confederates might proudly claim that the
generalship of Lee and the audacity of Jackson had swept the Northern
invaders from the State.

Even more important than the prestige and glory won was the fact
that the Virginian farmers were permitted to gather their crops
unmolested. The rich harvests of the Shenandoah Valley and other
regions, that had been and should have been occupied by National
troops, were allowed to replenish the Confederate granaries. There
were rejoicings and renewed confidence in Southern homes, and smiles
of triumph on the faces of sympathizers abroad and throughout the
North.

But the astute leaders of the Rebellion were well aware that the
end had not yet come, and that, unless some bold, paralyzing blow
was struck, the struggle was but fairly begun. In response to the
request for more men new armies were springing up at the North. The
continent shook under the tread of hosts mustering with the stern
purpose that the old flag should cover every inch of the heritage
left by our fathers.

Therefore, Lee was not permitted to remain on the defensive a moment,
but was ordered to cross the Potomac in the rear of Washington,
threatening that city and Baltimore. It was supposed that the advent
of a Southern army into Maryland would create such an enthusiastic
uprising that thinned ranks would be recruited, and the State
brought into close relation with the Confederate Government. These
expectations were not realized. The majority sympathized with
Barbara Frietchie,

"Bravest of all in Frederick town,"

rather than with their self-styled deliverers; and Lee lost more
by desertion from his own ranks than he gained in volunteers. In
this same town of Frederick, by strange carelessness on the part
of the rebels, was left an order which revealed to McClellan Lee's
plans and the positions which his divided army were to occupy during
the next few days. Rarely has history recorded such opportunities
as were thus accidentally given to the Union commander.

The ensuing events proved that McClellan's great need was not the
reinforcements for which he so constantly clamored, but decision
and energy of character. Had he possessed these qualities he could
have won for himself, from the fortuitous order which fell into his
hands, a wreath of unfading laurel, and perhaps have saved almost
countless lives of his fellow-countrymen. As it was, if he had
only advanced his army a little faster, the twelve thousand Union
soldiers, surrendered by the incompetent and pusillanimous Gen.
Miles, would have been saved from the horrors of captivity and
secured as a valuable reinforcement. To the very last, fortune
appeared bent on giving him opportunity. The partial success won
on the 17th of September, at the battle of Antietam, might easily
have been made a glorious victory if McClellan had had the vigor
to put in enough troops, especially including Burnside's corps,
earlier in the day. Again, on the morning of the 18th, he had only
to take the initiative, as did Grant after the first day's fighting
at Shiloh, and Lee could scarcely have crossed the Potomac with a
corporal's guard. But, as usual, he hesitated, and the enemy that
robbed him of one of the highest places in history was not the
Confederate general or his army, but a personal trait,--indecision.
In the dawn of the 19th he sent out his cavalry to reconnoitre, and
learned that his antagonist was safe in Virginia. Fortune, wearied
at last, finally turned her back upon her favorite. The desperate
and bloody battle resulted in little else than the ebb of the
tide of war southward. Northern people, it is true, breathed more
freely. Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington were safe for the
present, but this seemed a meagre reward for millions of treasure
and tens of thousands of lives, especially when the capture of Richmond
and the end of the Rebellion had been so confidently promised.

If every village and hamlet in the land was profoundly stirred by
these events, it can well be understood that the commercial centre
of New York throbbed like an irritated nerve under the telegraph
wires concentring there from the scenes of action. Every possible
interest, every variety of feeling, was touched in its vast and
heterogeneous population, and the social atmosphere was electrical
with excitement.

From her very constitution, now that she had begun to comprehend
the nature of the times, Marian Vosburgh could not breathe this air
in tranquillity. She was, by birthright, a spirited, warm-hearted
girl, possessing all a woman's disposition towards partisanship.
Everything during the past few months had tended to awaken a deep
interest in the struggle, and passing events intensified it. Not
only in the daily press did she eagerly follow the campaign, but
from her father she learned much that was unknown to the general
public. To a girl of mind the great drama in itself could not fail
to become absorbing, but when it is remembered that those who had
the strongest hold upon her heart were imperilled actors in the
tragedy, the feeling with which she watched the shifting scenes
may in some degree be appreciated. She often saw her father's brow
clouded with deep anxiety, and dreaded that each new day might
bring orders which would again take him into danger.

While the letters of her loyal friend, Lane, veiled all that was
hard and repulsive in his service, she knew that the days of drill
and equipment would soon be over, and that the new regiment must
participate in the dangers of active duty. This was equally true of
Strahan and Blauvelt. She laughed heartily over their illustrated
journal, which, in the main, gave the comic side of their life. But
she never laid it aside without a sigh, for she read much between
the lines, and knew that the hour of battle was rapidly approaching.
Thus far they had been within the fortifications at Washington,
for the authorities had learned the folly of sending undisciplined
recruits to the front.

At last, when the beautiful month of October was ended, and Lee's
shattered army was rested and reorganized, McClellan once more
crossed the Potomac. Among the reinforcements sent to him were the
regiments of which Lane and Strahan were members. The letters of
her friends proved that they welcomed the change and with all the
ardor of brave, loyal men looked forward to meeting the enemy. In
heart and thought she went with them, but a sense of their danger
fell, like a shadow, across her spirit. She appeared years older
than the thoughtless girl for whom passing pleasure and excitement
had been the chief motives of life; but in the strengthening lines
of her face a womanly beauty was developing which caused even
strangers to turn and glance after her.

If Merwyn still retained some hold upon her thoughts and curiosity,
so much could scarcely be said of her sympathy. He had disappeared
from the moment when she had harshly dismissed him, and she was
beginning to feel that she had been none too severe, and to believe
that his final words had been spoken merely from impulse. If he
were amusing himself abroad, Marian, in her intense loyalty, would
despise him; if he were permitting himself to be identified with
his mother's circle of Southern sympathizers, the young girl's
contempt would be tinged with detestation. He had approached her
too nearly, and humiliated her too deeply, to be readily forgotten
or forgiven. His passionate outbreak at last had been so intense
as to awaken strong echoes in her woman's soul. If return to a
commonplace fashionable life was to be the only result of the past,
she would scarcely ever think of him without an angry sparkle in
her eyes.

After she had learned that her friends were in the field and
therefore exposed to the dangers of battle at any time, she had
soliloquized, bitterly: "He promised to 'measure everything by the
breadth of my woman's soul.' What does he know about a true woman's
soul? He has undoubtedly found his selfish nature and his purse
more convenient gauges of the world. Well, he knows of one girl
who cannot be bought."

Her unfavorable impression was confirmed one cold November morning.
Passing down Madison Avenue, her casual attention was attracted by
the opening of a door on the opposite side of the street. She only
permitted her swift glance to take in the fact that it was Merwyn
who descended the steps and entered an elegant coupe driven by
a man in a plain livery. After the vehicle had been whirled away,
curiosity prompted her to retrace her steps that she might look
more closely at the residence of the man who had asked her to be
his wife. It was evidently one of the finest and most substantial
houses on the avenue.

A frown contracted. the young girl's brow as she muttered: "He
aspired to my hand,--he, who fares sumptuously in that brown-stone
palace while such men as Mr. Lane are fortunate to have a canvas
roof over their heads. He had the narrowness of mind to half-despise
Arthur Strahan, who left equal luxury to face every danger and
hardship. Thank Heaven I planted some memories in his snobbish
soul!"

Thereafter she avoided that locality.

In the evening, with words scarcely less bitter, she mentioned to
her father the fact that she had seen Merwyn and his home.

Mr. Vosburgh smiled and said, "You have evidently lost all compunctions
in regard to your treatment of the young fellow."

"I have, indeed. The battle of Antietam alone would place a Red
Sea between me and any young American who can now live a life of
selfish luxury. Think how thousands of our brave men will sleep
this stormy night on the cold, rain-soaked ground, and then think
of his cold-blooded indifference to it all!"

"Why think of him at all, Marian?" her father asked, with a quizzical
smile.

The color deepened slightly in her face as she replied: "Why
shouldn't I think of him to some extent? He has crossed my path in
no ordinary way. His attentions at first were humiliating, and he
awakened an antipathy such as I never felt towards any one before.
He tried to belittle you, my friends, and the cause to which you
are devoted. Then, when I told him the truth about himself, he
appeared to have manhood enough to comprehend it. His words made me
think of a man desperately wounded, and my sympathies were touched,
and I felt that I had been unduly severe and all that. In fact, I
was overwrought, ill, morbid, conscience-stricken as I remembered
my own past life, and he appeared to feel what I said so awfully
that I couldn't forget it. I had silly dreams and hopes that he
would assert his manhood and take a loyal part in the struggle.
But what has been his course? So far as I can judge, it has been
in keeping with his past. Settling down to a life of ease and
money-making here would be little better, in my estimation, than
amusing himself abroad. It would be simply another phase of following
his own mood and inclinations; and I shall look upon his outburst
and appeal as hysterical rather than passionate and sincere."

Mr. Vosburgh listened, with a half-amused expression, to his daughter's
indignant and impetuous words, but only remarked, quietly, "Suppose
you find that you have judged Mr. Merwyn unjustly?"

"I don't think I have done so. At any rate, one can only judge from
what one knows."

"Stick to that. Your present impressions and feelings do you credit,
and I am glad that your friends' loyal devotion counts for more
in your esteem than Merwyn's wealth. Still, in view of your scheme
of life to make the most and best of men of brains and force, I do
not think you have given the young nabob time and opportunity to
reveal himself fully. He may have recently returned from England,
and, since his mother was determined to reside abroad, it was his
duty to establish her well before returning. You evidently have
not dismissed him from your thoughts. Since that is true, do not
condemn him utterly until you see what he does. What if he again
seeks your society?"

"Well, I don't know, papa. As I feel to-night I never wish to see
him again."

"I'm not sure of that, little girl. You are angry and vindictive.
If he were a nonentity you would be indifferent."

"Astute papa! That very fact perplexes me. But haven't I explained
why I cannot help thinking of him to some extent?"

"No, not even to yourself."

Marian bit her lip with something like vexation, then said,
reproachfully, "Papa, you can't think that I care for him?"

"Oh, no,--not in the sense indicated by your tone. But your silly
dreams and hopes, as you characterize them, have taken a stronger
hold upon you than you realize. You are disappointed as well as
angry. You have entertained the thought that he might do something,
or become more in harmony with the last words he spoke to you."

"Well, he hasn't."

"You have not yet given him sufficient time, perhaps. I shall not
seek to influence you in the matter, but the question still presents
itself: What if he again seeks your society and shows a disposition
to make good his words?"

"I shall not show him," replied Marian, proudly, "greater favor
than such friends as Mr. Lane and Mr. Strahan required. Without
being influenced by me, they decided to take part in the war. After
they had taken the step which did so much credit to their manly
courage and loyalty, they came and told me of it. If Mr. Merwyn
should show equal spirit and patriotism and be very humble in view
of the past, I should, of course, feel differently towards him. If
he don't--"and the girl shook her head ominously.

Her father laughed heartily. "Why!" he exclaimed; "I doubt whether
in all the sunny South there is such a little fire-eater as we have
here."

"No, papa, no," cried Marian, with suddenly moistening eyes. "I
regret the war beyond all power of expression. I could not ask,
much less urge, any one to go, and my heart trembles and shrinks
when I think of danger threatening those I love. But I honor--I
almost worship--courage, loyalty, patriotism. Do you think I can
ever love any one as I do you? Yet I believe you would go to Richmond
to-morrow if you were so ordered. I ask nothing of this Merwyn, or
of any one; but he who asks my friendship must at least be brave
and loyal enough to go where my father would lead. Even if I loved a
man, even if I were married, I would rather that the one _I_ loved
did all a man's duty, though my heart was broken and my life blighted
in consequence, than to have him seeking safety and comfort in some
eminently prudent, temporizing course."

Mr. Vosburgh put his arm around his daughter, as he looked, for a
moment, into her tear-dimmed eyes, then kissed her good-night, and
said, quietly, "I understand you, Marian."

"But, papa!" she exclaimed, in sudden remorsefulness, "you won't
take any risks that you can honorably escape?"

"I promise you I won't go out to-night in search of the nearest
recruiting sergeant," replied her father, with a reassuring laugh.

CHAPTER XIX.

PROBATION PROMISED.

MERWYN had been in the city some little time when Marian, unknown
to him, learned of his presence. He, also, had seen her more than
once, and while her aspect had increased his admiration and a
feeling akin to reverence, it had also disheartened him. To a degree
unrecognized by the girl herself, her present motives and stronger
character had changed the expression of her face. He had seen her
when unconscious of observation and preoccupied by thoughts which
made her appear grave and almost stern, and he was again assured
that the advantages on which he had once prided himself were as
nothing to her compared with the loyalty of friends now in Virginia.
He could not go there, nor could he explain why he must apparently
shun danger and hardship. He felt that his oath to his mother would
be, in her eyes, no extenuation of his conduct. Indeed, he believed
that she would regard the fact that he could give such a pledge
as another proof of his unworthiness to be called an American. How
could it be otherwise when he himself could not look back upon the
event without a sense of deep personal humiliation?

"I was an idiotic fool when I gave away manhood and its rights,"
he groaned. "My mother took advantage of me."

In addition to the personal motive to conceal the fact of his oath,
he had even a stronger one. The revelation of his pledge would be
proof positive of his mother's disloyalty, and might jeopardize
the property on which she and his sisters depended for support.
Moreover, while he bitterly resented Mrs. Merwyn's course towards
him he felt that honor and family loyalty required that he should
never speak a word to her discredit. The reflection implied in
his final words to Marian had been wrung from him in the agony of
a wounded spirit, and he now regretted them. Henceforth he would
hide the fetters which in restraining him from taking the part in
the war now prompted by his feelings also kept him from the side of
the girl who had won the entire allegiance of his awakened heart.
He did not know how to approach her, and feared lest a false step
should render the gulf between them impassable. He saw that her
pride, while of a different character, was greater than his own
had ever been, and that the consideration of his birth and wealth,
which he had once dreamed must outweigh all things else, would not
influence her in the slightest degree. Men whom she regarded as his
equals in these respects were not only at her feet but also facing
the enemy as her loyal knights. How pitiable a figure in her eyes
he must ever make compared with them!

But there is no gravitation like that of the heart. He felt that
he must see her again, and was ready to sue for even the privilege
of being tolerated in her drawing-room on terms little better than
those formerly accorded him.

When he arrived in New York he had hesitated as to his course. His
first impulse had been to adopt a life of severe and inexpensive
simplicity. But he soon came to look upon this plan as an affectation.
There was his city home, and he had a perfect right to occupy it,
and abundant means to maintain it. After seeing Marian's resolute,
earnest face as she passed in the street unconscious of his
scrutiny, and after having learned more about her father from his
legal adviser, the impression grew upon him that he had lost his
chance, and he was inclined to take refuge in a cold, proud reticence
and a line of conduct that would cause no surmises and questionings
on the part of the world. He would take his natural position, and
live in such a way as to render curiosity impertinent.

He had inherited too much of his father's temperament to sit down
in morbid brooding, and even were he disposed toward such weakness
he felt that his words to Marian required that he should do all
that he was now free to perform in the advancement of the cause to
which she was devoted. She might look with something like contempt
on a phase of loyalty which gave only money when others were giving
themselves, but it was the best he could do. Whether she would ever
recognize the truth or not, his own self-respect required that he
should keep his word and try to look at things from her point of
view, and, as far as possible, act accordingly. For a time he was
fully occupied with Mr. Bodoin in obtaining a fuller knowledge of
his property and the nature of its investment. Having learned more
definitely about his resources he next followed the impulse to aid
the cause for which he could not fight.

A few mornings after the interview between Marian and her father
described in the previous chapter, Mr. Vosburgh, looking over his
paper at the breakfast-table, laughed and said: "What do you think
of this, Marian? Here is Merwyn's name down for a large donation
to the Sanitary and Christian Commissions."

His daughter smiled satirically as she remarked, "Such heroism
takes away my breath."

"You are losing the power, Marian," said her mother, irritably,
"of taking moderate, common-sense views of anything relating to
the war. If the cause is first in your thoughts why not recognize
the fact that Mr. Merwyn can do tenfold more with his money than
if he went to the front and 'stopped a bullet,' as your officer
friends express themselves? You are unfair, also. Instead of giving
Mr. Merwyn credit for a generous act you sneer at him."

The girl bit her lip, and looked perplexed for a moment. "Well,
then," she said, "I will give him credit. He has put himself to the
inconvenience of writing two checks for amounts that he will miss
no more than I would five cents."

"Ask your father," resumed Mrs. Vosburgh, indignantly, "if the
men who sustain these great charities and the government are not
just as useful as soldiers in the field. What would become of the
soldiers if business in the city should cease? Your ideas, carried
out fully, would lead your father to start to the front with a
musket, instead of remaining where he can accomplish the most good."

"You are mistaken, mamma. My only fear is that he will incur too
many risks as it is. I have never asked any one to go to the front,
and I certainly would not ask Mr. Merwyn. Indeed, when I think of
the cause, I would rather he should do as you suggest. I should be
glad to have him give thousands and increase the volume of business
by millions; but if he gave all he has, he could not stand in my
estimation with men who offer their lives and risk mutilation and
untold suffering from wounds. I know nothing of Mr. Merwyn's present
motives, and they may be anything but patriotic. He may think it to
his advantage to win some reputation for loyalty, when it is well
known that his mother has none at all. Those two gifts, paltry
for one of his means, count very little in these days of immense
self-sacrifice. I value, in times of danger, especially when great
principles are at stake, self-sacrifice and uncalculating heroism
above all things, and I prefer to choose my friends from among
those who voluntarily exhibit these qualities. No man living could
win my favor who took risks merely to please me. Mr. Merwyn is
nothing to me, and if I should ever meet him again socially, which
is not probable, I should be the last one to suggest that he should
go to the war; but if he, or any one, wishes my regard, there
must be a compliance with the conditions on which I give it. I am
content with the friends I have."

Mr. Vosburgh looked at his daughter for a moment as if she were
fulfilling his ideal, and soon after departed for his office.
A few days after, when the early shadows of the late autumn were
gathering, he was interrupted in his preparations to return up town
by the entrance of the subject of the recent discussion.

Merwyn was pale and evidently embarrassed as he asked, "Mr. Vosburgh,
have you a few moments of leisure?"

"Yes," replied the gentleman, briefly.

He led the way to a private office and gave his caller a chair.

The young man was at a loss to begin a conversation necessarily of
so delicate a nature, and hesitated.

Mr. Vosburgh offered no aid or encouragement, for his thought was,
"This young fellow must show his hand fully before I commit myself
or Marian in the slightest degree."

"Miss Vosburgh, no doubt, has told you of the character of our last
interview," Merwyn began at last, plunging in medias res.

"My daughter is in the habit of giving me her confidence," was the
quiet reply.

"Then, sir, you know how unworthy I am to make the request to which
I am nevertheless impelled. In justice I can hope for nothing. I
have forfeited the privilege of meeting Miss Vosburgh again, and I
do not feel that it would be right for me to see her without your
permission. The motives which first led me into her society were
utterly unworthy of a true man, and had she been the ordinary
society girl that I supposed she was, the results might have been
equally deserving of condemnation. I will not plead in extenuation
that I had been unfortunate in my previous associations, and in
the influences that had developed such character as I had. Can you
listen to me patiently?"

The gentleman bowed.

"I eventually learned to comprehend Miss Vosburgh's superiority in
some degree, and was so fascinated by her that I offered marriage
in perfect good faith; but the proposal was made in a complacent
and condescending spirit that was so perfectly absurd that now I
wonder at my folly. Her reply was severe, but not so severe as I
deserved, and she led me to see myself at last in a true light. It
is little I can now ask or hope. My questions narrow down to these:
Is Miss Vosburgh disposed to give me only justice? Have I offended
her so deeply that she cannot meet me again? Had my final words no
weight with her? She has inspired in me the earnest wish to achieve
such character as I am capable of,--such as circumstances permit.
During the summer I saw her influence over others. She was the
first one in the world who awakened in my own breast the desire
to be different. I cannot hope that she will soon, if ever, look
upon me as a friend; but if she can even tolerate me with some degree
of kindliness and good-will, I feel that I should be the better
and happier for meeting her occasionally. If this is impossible,
please say to her that the pledge implied among the last words
uttered on that evening, which I shall never forget, shall be kept.
I shall try to look at right and duty as she would."

As he concluded, Mr. Vosburgh's face softened somewhat. For a while
the young man's sentences had been a little formal and studied,
evidently the result of much consideration; they had nevertheless
the impress of truth. The gentleman's thought was: "If Mr. Merwyn
makes good his words by deeds this affair has not yet ended. My
little girl has been much too angry and severe not to be in danger
of a reaction."

After a moment of silence he said: "Mr. Merwyn, I can only speak for
myself in this matter. Of course, I naturally felt all a father's
resentment at your earlier attentions to my daughter. Since you
have condemned them unsparingly I need not refer to them again. I
respect your disposition to atone for the past and to enter on a
life of manly duty. You have my hearty sympathy, whatever may be the
result. I also thank you for your frank words to me. Nevertheless,
Miss Vosburgh must answer the questions you have asked. She is
supreme in her drawing-room, and alone can decide whom she will
receive there. I know she will not welcome any one whom she believes
to be unworthy to enter. I will tell her all that you have said."

"I do not hope to be welcomed, sir. I only ask to be received with
some degree of charity. May I call on you to-morrow and learn Miss
Vosburgh's decision?"

"Certainly, at any hour convenient to you."

Merwyn bowed and retired. When alone he said, with a deep sigh of
relief: "Well, I have done all in my power at present. If she has
a woman's heart she won't be implacable."

"What kept you so late?" Mrs. Vosburgh asked, as her husband came
down to dinner.

"A gentleman called and detained me."

"Give him my compliments when you see him again," said Marian,
"and tell him that I don't thank him for his unreasonable hours.
You need more recreation, papa. Come, take us out to hear some
music to-night."

A few hours later they were at the Academy, occupying balcony
seats. Marian was glancing over the house, between the acts, with
her glass, when she suddenly arrested its motion, and fixed it on
a lonely occupant of an expensive box. After a moment she handed
the lorgnette to her father, and directed him whither to look. He
smiled and said, "He appears rather pensive and preoccupied, doesn't
he?"

"I don't fancy pensive, preoccupied men in these times. Why didn't
he fill his box, instead of selfishly keeping it all to himself?"

"Perhaps he could not secure the company he wished."

"Who is it?" Mrs. Vosburgh asked.

She was told, and gave Merwyn a longer scrutiny than the others.

"Shall I go and give him your compliments and the message you spoke
of at dinner?" resumed Mr. Vosburgh, in a low tone.

"Was it Mr. Merwyn that called so late?" she asked, with a sudden
intelligence in her eyes.

Her father nodded, while the suggestion of a smile hovered about
his mouth.

"Just think of it, Marian!" said Mrs. Vosburgh. "We all might now
be in that box if you had been like other girls."

"I am well content where I am."

During the remainder of the evening Mr. Vosburgh observed some
evidences of suppressed excitement in Marian, and saw that she
managed to get a glimpse of that box more than once. Long before
the opera ended it was empty. He pointed out the fact, and said,
humorously, "Mr. Merwyn evidently has something on his mind."

"I should hope so; and so have you, papa. Has he formally demanded
my hand with the condition that you stop the war, and inform the
politicians that this is their quarrel, and that they must fight
it out with toothpicks?"

"No; his request was more modest than that."

"You think I am dying with curiosity, but I can wait until we get
home."

When they returned, Mr. Vosburgh went to his library, for he was
somewhat owlish in his habits.

Marian soon joined him, and said: "You must retire as soon as you
have finished that cigar. Even the momentous Mr. Merwyn shall not
keep us up a second longer. Indeed, I am so sleepy already that I may
ask you to begin your tale to-night, and end with 'to be continued.'"

He looked at her so keenly that her color rose a little, then said,
"I think, my dear, you will listen till I say 'concluded;'" and he
repeated the substance of Merwyn's words.

She heard him with a perplexed little frown. "What do you think I
ought to do, papa?"

"Do you remember the conversation we had here last June?"

"Yes; when shall I forget it?"

"Well, since you wish my opinion I will give it frankly. It then
became your ambition to make the most and best of men over whom
you had influence, if they were worth the effort. Merwyn has been
faulty and unmanly, as he fully admits himself, but he has proved
apparently that he is not commonplace. You must take your choice,
either to resent the past, or to help him carry out his better
purposes. He does not ask much, although no doubt he hopes for far
more. In granting his request you do not commit yourself to his
hopes in the least."

"Well, papa, he said that I couldn't possess a woman's heart and
cast him off in utter contempt, so I think I shall have to put him
on probation. But he must be careful not to presume again. I can
be friendly to many, but a friend to very few. Before he suggests
that relation he must prove himself the peer of other friends."

CHAPTER XX.

"YOU THINK ME A COWARD."

MERWYN had not been long in the city before he was waited upon
and asked to do his share towards sustaining the opera, and he had
carelessly taken a box which had seldom been occupied. On the evening
after his interview with Mr. Vosburgh, his feeling of suspense was
so great that he thought he could beguile a few hours with music.
He found, however, that the light throng, and even the harmonious
sounds, irritated, rather than diverted, his perturbed mind, and
he returned to his lonely home, and restlessly paced apartments
rendered all the more dreary by their magnificence.

He proved his solicitude in a way that led Mr. Vosburgh to smile
slightly, for when that gentleman entered his office, Merwyn was
awaiting him.

"I have only to tell you," he said, in response to the young man's
questioning eyes, "that Miss Vosburgh accedes to your request as
you presented it to me;" and in parting he gave his hand with some
semblance of friendliness.

Merwyn went away elated, feeling that he had gained all for which
he had a right to hope. Eager as he was for the coming interview
with Marian, he dreaded it and feared that he might be painfully
embarrassed. In this eagerness he started early for an evening
call; but when he reached his destination, he hesitated, passing
and repassing the dwelling before he could gather courage to enter.
The young girl would have smiled, could she have seen her former
suitor, once so complacent and condescending. She certainly could
not complain of lack of humility now.

At last he perceived that two other callers had passed in, and he
followed them, feeling that their presence would enable both him
and the object of his thoughts to take refuge in conventionalities.

He was right in this view, for with a scarcely perceptible increase
of color, and a polite bow, Marian received him as she would any
other mere calling acquaintance, introduced him to the two gentlemen
present, and conversation at once became general. Merwyn did not
remain long under constraint. Even Marian had to admit to herself
that he acquitted himself well and promised better for the future.
When topics relating to the war were broached, he not only talked
as loyally as the others, but also proved himself well informed.
Mrs. Vosburgh soon appeared and greeted him cordially, for the
lady was ready enough to entertain the hopes which his presence
again inspired. He felt that his first call, to be in good taste,
should be rather brief, and he took his departure before the others,
Marian bowing with the same distant politeness that had characterized
her greeting. She made it evident that she had granted just what he
had asked and nothing more. Whether he could ever inspire anything
like friendliness the future only would reveal. He had serious
doubts, knowing that he suffered in contrast with even the guests
of the present evening. One was an officer home on sick-leave; the
other exempted from military duty by reason of lameness, which did
not extend to his wit and conversational powers. Merwyn also knew
that he would ever be compared with those near friends now in
Virginia.

What did he hope? What could he hope? He scarcely knew, and would
not even entertain the questions. He was only too glad that the door
was not closed to him, and, with the innate hopefulness of youth,
he would leave the future to reveal its possibilities. He was so
thoroughly his father's son that he would not be disheartened, and
so thoroughly himself that the course he preferred would be the
one followed, so far as was now possible.

"Well?" said Mr. Vosburgh, when Marian came to the library to kiss
him good-night.

"What a big, long question that little word contains!" she cried,
laughing, and there was a little exhilaration in her manner which
did not escape him.

"You may tell me much, little, or nothing."

"I will tell you nothing, then, for there is nothing to tell.
I received and parted with Mr. Merwyn on his terms, and those you
know all about. Mamma was quite gracious, and my guests were polite
to him."

"Are you willing to tell me what impression he made in respect to
his loyalty?"

"Shrewd papa! You think this the key to the problem. Perhaps it
is, if there is any problem. Well, so far as WORDS went he proved
his loyalty in an incidental way, and is evidently informing himself
concerning events. If he has no better proof to offer than words,
his probation will end unfavorably, even though he may not be
immediately aware of the fact. Of course, now that I have granted
his request, I must be polite to him so long as he chooses to come."

"Was he as complacent and superior as ever?"

"Whither is your subtlety tending? Are you, as well as mamma, an
ally of Mr. Merwyn? You know he was not. Indeed, I must admit that,
in manner, he carried out the spirit of his request."

"Then, to use your own words, he was 'befittingly humble'? No, I am
not his ally. I am disposed to observe the results of your experiment."

"There shall be no experimenting, papa. Circumstances have enabled
him to understand me as well as he ever can, and he must act in
view of what he knows me to be. I shall not seek to influence him,
except by being myself, nor shall I lower my standard in his favor."

"Very well, I shall note his course with some interest. It is
evident, however, that the uncertainties of his future action will
not keep either of us awake."

When she left him, he fell into a long revery, and his concluding
thoughts were: "I doubt whether Marian understands herself in respect
to this young fellow. She is too resentful. She does not feel the
indifference which she seeks to maintain. The subtle, and, as yet,
unrecognized instinct of her womanhood leads her to stand aloof.
This would be the natural course of a girl like Marian towards a man
who, for any cause, had gained an unusual hold upon her thoughts.
I must inform myself thoroughly in regard to this Mr. Merwyn. Thus
far her friends have given me little solicitude; but here is one,
towards whom she is inclined to be hostile, that it may be well to
know all about. Even before she is aware of it herself, she is on
the defensive against him, and this, to a student of human nature,
is significant. She virtually said to-night that he must win his
way and make his own unaided advances toward manhood. Ah, my little
girl! if it was not in him ever to have greater power over you than
Mr. Strahan, you would take a kindlier interest in his efforts."

If Marian idolized her father as she had said, it can readily
be guessed how much she was to him, and that he was not forgetful
of his purpose to learn more about one who manifested so deep an
interest in his daughter, and who possibly had the power to create
a responsive interest. It so happened that he was acquainted with
Mr. Bodoin, and had employed the shrewd lawyer in some government
affairs. Another case had arisen in which legal counsel was required,
and on the following day advice was sought.

When this part of the interview was over, Mr. Vosburgh remarked,
casually, "By the way, I believe you are acquainted with Mr. Willard
Merwyn and his affairs."

"Yes," replied the lawyer, at once on the alert.

"Do your relations to Mr. Merwyn permit you to give me some
information concerning him?"

The attorney thought rapidly. His client had recently been inquiring
about Mr. Vosburgh, and, therefore, the interest was mutual.
On general principles it was important that the latter should be
friendly, for he was a secret and trusted agent of the government,
and Mrs. Merwyn's course might render a friend at court essential.
Although the son had not mentioned Marian's name, Mr. Bodoin
shrewdly guessed that she was exerting the influence that had so
greatly changed the young man's views and plans. The calculating
lawyer had never imagined that he would play the role of match-maker,
but he was at once convinced that, in the stormy and uncertain
times, Merwyn could scarcely make a better alliance than the one
he meditated. Therefore with much apparent frankness the astute
lawyer told Mr. Vosburgh all that was favorable to the young man.

"I think he will prove an unusual character," concluded the lawyer,
"for he is manifesting some of his father's most characteristic
traits," and these were mentioned. "When, after attaining his
majority, the son returned from England, he was in many respects
little better than a shrewd, self-indulgent boy, indifferent
to everything but his own pleasure, but, for some reason, he has
greatly changed. Responsibility has apparently sobered him and made
him thoughtful. I have also told him much about my old friend and
client, his father, and the young fellow is bent on imitating him.
While he is very considerate of his mother and sisters, he has
identified himself with his father's views, and has become a Northern
man to the backbone. Even to a degree contrary to my advice, he
insists on investing his means in government bonds."

This information was eminently satisfactory, and even sagacious
Mr. Vosburgh did not suspect the motives of the lawyer, whom he
knew to be eager to retain his good-will, since it was in his power
to give much business to those he trusted.

"I may become Merwyn's ally after all, if he makes good his own
and Mr. Bodoin's words," was his smiling thought, as he returned
to his office.

He was too wise, however, to use open influence with his daughter,
or to refer to the secret interview. Matters should take their own
course for the present, while he remained a vigilant observer, for
Marian's interest and happiness were dearer to him than his own
life.

Merwyn sought to use his privilege judiciously, and concentrated
all his faculties on the question of his standing in Marian's
estimation. During the first few weeks, it was evident that his
progress in her favor was slow, if any were made at all. She was
polite, she conversed with him naturally and vivaciously on topics
of general interest, but there appeared to be viewless and impassable
barriers between them. Not by word or sign did she seek to influence
his action.

She was extremely reticent about herself, and took pains to seem
indifferent in regard to his life and plans, but she was beginning
to chafe under what she characterized as his "inaction." Giving
to hospitals and military charities and buying United-States bonds
counted for little in her eyes.

"He parades his loyalty, and would have me think that he looks upon
the right to call on me as a great privilege, but he does not care
enough about either me or the country to incur any risk or hardship."

Thoughts like these were beginning not only to rekindle her old
resentment, but also to cause a vague sense of disappointment.
Merwyn had at least accomplished one thing,--he confirmed her
father's opinion that he was not commonplace. Travel, residence
abroad, association with well-bred people, and a taste for reading,
had given him a finish which a girl of Marian's culture could not
fail to appreciate. Because he satisfied her taste and eye, she
was only the more irritated by his failure in what she deemed the
essential elements of manhood. In spite of the passionate words
he had once spoken, she was beginning to believe that a cold,
calculating persistency was the corner-stone of his character, that
even if he were brave enough to fight, he had deliberately decided
to take no risks and enjoy his fortune. If this were true, she
assured herself, he might shoulder the national debt if he chose,
but he could never become her friend.

Then came the terrible and useless slaughter of Fredericksburg.
With the fatuity that characterized the earlier years of the war,
the heroic army of the Potomac, which might have annihilated Lee on
previous occasions, was hurled against heights and fortifications
that, from the beginning, rendered the attack hopeless.

Marian's friends were exposed to fearful perils, but passed through
the conflict unscathed. Her heart went out to them in a deeper and
stronger sympathy than ever, and Merwyn in contrast lost correspondingly.

During the remaining weeks of December, she saw that her father
was almost haggard from care and anxiety, and he was compelled to
make trips to Washington and even to the front.

"The end has not come yet," he had said to her, after one of these
flying visits. "Burnside has made an awful blunder, but he is
eager to retrieve himself, and now has plans on foot that promise
better. The disaffection among his commanding officers and troops
is what I am most afraid of--more, indeed, than of the rebel army.
Unlike his predecessor, he is determined to move, to act, and I
think we may soon hear of another great battle."

Letters from her friends confirmed this view, especially a brief
note from Lane, in which the writer, fearing that it might be his
last, had not wholly veiled his deep affection. "I am on the eve
of participating in an immense cavalry movement," it began, "and
it may be some time before I can write to you again, if ever."

The anxiety caused by this missive was somewhat relieved by
a humorous account of the recall of the cavalry force. She then
learned, through her father, that the entire army was again on the
move, and that another terrific battle would be fought in a day or
two.

"Burnside should cross the Rappahannock to-day or to-morrow, at
the latest," Mr. Vosburgh had remarked at breakfast, to which he
had come from the Washington owl-train.

It was the 20th of December, and when the shadows of the early
twilight were gathering, Burnside had, in fact, massed his army
at the fords of the river, and his troops, "little Strahan" among
them, were awaiting orders to enter the icy tide in the stealthy
effort to gain Lee's left flank. There are many veterans now living
who remember the terrific "storm of wind, rain, sleet, and snow"
that assailed the unsheltered army. It checked further advance more
effectually than if all the rebel forces had been drawn up on the
farther shore. After a frightful night, the Union army was discovered
in the dawn by Lee.

Even then Burnside would have crossed, and, in spite of his opponent's
preparations and every other obstacle, would have fought a battle,
had he not been paralyzed by a foe with which no general could
cope,--Virginia mud. The army mired helplessly, supply trains could
not reach it. With difficulty the troops were led back to their
old quarters, and so ended the disastrous campaigns of the year,
so far as the army of the Potomac was concerned.

The storm that drenched and benumbed the soldiers on the Rappahannock
was equally furious in the city of New York, and Mr. Vosburgh
sat down to dinner frowning and depressed. "It seems as if fate is
against us," he said. "This storm is general, I fear, and may prove
more of a defence to Lee than his fortifications at Fredericksburg.
It's bad enough to have to cope with treachery and disaffection."

"Treachery, papa?"

"Yes, treachery," replied her father, sternly. "Scoundrels in our
own army informed Washington disunionists of the cavalry movement
of which Captain Lane wrote you, and these unmolested enemies
at the capital are in constant communication with Lee. When will
our authorities and the North awake to the truth that this is a
life-and-death struggle, and that there must be no more nonsense?"

"Would to Heaven I were a man!" said the young girl. "At this very
moment, no doubt, Mr. Merwyn is enjoying his sumptuous dinner, while
my friends may be fording a dark, cold river to meet their death.
Oh! I can't eat anything to-night."

"Nonsense!" cried her mother, irritably.

"Come, little girl, you are taking things too much to heart. I am
very glad you are not a man. In justice, I must also add that Mr.
Merwyn is doing more for the cause than any of your friends. It so
happens that I have learned that he is doing a great deal of which
little is known."

"Pardon me," cried the girl, almost passionately. "Any man who
voluntarily faces this storm, and crosses that river to-night or
to-morrow, does infinitely more in my estimation."

Her father smiled, but evidently his appetite was flagging also,
and he soon went out to send and receive some cipher despatches.

Merwyn was growing hungry for some evidence of greater friendliness
than he had yet received. Hitherto, he had never seen Marian alone
when calling, and the thought had occurred that if he braved the
storm in paying her a visit, the effort might be appreciated. One
part of his hope was fulfilled, for he found her drawing-room empty.
While he waited, that other stormy and memorable evening when he
had sought to find her alone flashed on his memory, and he feared
that he had made a false step in coming.

This impression was confirmed by her pale face and distant greeting.
In vain he put forth his best efforts to interest her. She remained
coldly polite, took but a languid part in the conversation, and at
times even permitted him to see that her thoughts were preoccupied.
He had been humble and patient a long time, and now, in spite of
himself, his anger began to rise.

Feeling that he had better take his leave while still under
self-control, and proposing also to hint that she had failed somewhat
in courtesy, he arose abruptly and said: "You are not well this
evening, Miss Vosburgh? I should have perceived the fact earlier.
I wish you good-night."

She felt the slight sting of his words, and was in no mood to
endure it. Moreover, if she had failed in such courtesy as he had
a right to expect, he should know the reason, and she felt at the
moment willing that he should receive the implied reproach.

Therefore she said: "Pardon me, I am quite well. It is natural that
I should be a little distraite, for I have learned that my friends
are exposed to this storm, and will probably engage in another
terrible battle to-morrow, or soon."

Again the old desperate expression, that she remembered so well,
came into his eyes as he exclaimed, bitterly: "You think me a coward
because I remain in the city? What is this storm, or that battle,
compared with what I am facing! Good-night;" and, giving her no
chance for further words, he hastened away.

CHAPTER XXI.

FEARS AND PERPLEXITIES.

MERWYN found the storm so congenial to his mood that he breasted
it for hours before returning to his home. There, in weariness and
reaction, he sank into deep dejection.

"What is the use of anger?" he asked himself, as he renewed the
dying fire in his room. "In view of all the past, she has more
cause for resentment than I, while it is a matter of indifference
to her whether I am angry or not. I might as well be incensed at
ice because it is cold, and she is ice to me. She has her standard
and a circle of friends who come up to it. This I never have done
and never can do. Therefore she only tolerates me and is more than
willing that I should disappear below her horizon finally. I was a
fool to speak the words I did to-night. What can they mean to her
when nothing is left for me, apparently, but a safe, luxurious life?
Such outbreaks can only seem hysterical or mere affectations, and
there shall be no more of them, let the provocation be what it may.
Indeed, why should I inflict myself on her any more? I cannot say
that she has not a woman's heart, but I wronged and chilled it
from the first, and cannot now retrieve myself. If I should go to
her to-morrow, even in a private's uniform, she would give me her
hand cordially, but she compares me with hundreds of thousands who
seem braver men than I. It is useless for me to suggest that I am
doing more than those who go to fight. Her thought would be: 'I
have all the friends I need among more knightly spirits who are
not afraid to look brave enemies in the face, and without whom the
North would be disgraced. Let graybeards furnish the sinews of war;
let young men give their blood if need be. It is indeed strange
that a man's arm should be paralyzed, and his best hope in life
blighted, by a mother!'"

If he could have known Marian's thoughts and heard the conversation
that ensued with her father, he would not have been so despondent.

When he left her so abruptly she again experienced the compunctions
she had felt before. Whether he deserved it or not she could not
shut her eyes to the severity of the wound inflicted, or to his
suffering. In vain she tried to assure herself that he did deserve it.
Granting this, the thoughts asserted themselves: "Why am I called
upon to resent his course? Having granted his request to visit me,
I might, at least, be polite and affable on his own terms. Because
he wishes more, and perhaps hopes for more, this does not, as papa
says, commit me in the least. He may have some scruple in fighting
openly against the land of his mother's ancestry. If that scruple
has more weight with him than my friendly regard, that is his affair.
His words to-night indicated that he must be under some strong
restraint. O dear! I wish I had never known him; he perplexes and
worries me. The course of my other friends is simple and straightforward
as the light. Why do I say other friends? He's not a friend at all,
yet my thoughts return to him in a way that is annoying."

When her father came home she told him what had occurred, and
unconsciously permitted him to see that her mind was disturbed.
He did not smile quizzically, as some sagacious people would have
done, thus touching the young girl's pride and arraying it against
her own best interests, it might be. With the thought of her
happiness ever uppermost, he would discover the secret causes of her
unwonted perturbation. Not only Merwyn--about whom he had satisfied
himself--should have his chance, but also the girl herself. Mrs.
Vosburgh's conventional match-making would leave no chance for
either. The profounder man believed that nature, unless interfered
with by heavy, unskilful hands, would settle the question rightly.

He therefore listened without comment, and at first only remarked,
"Evidently, Marian, you are not trying to make the most and best
of this young fellow."

"But, papa, am I bound to do this for people who are disagreeable
to me and who don't meet my views at all?"

"Certainly not. Indeed, you may have frozen Merwyn out of the list
of your acquaintances already."

"Well," replied the girl, almost petulantly, "that, perhaps, will
be the best ending of the whole affair."

"That's for you to decide, my dear."

"But, papa, I FEEL that you don't approve of my course."

"Neither do I disapprove of it. I only say, according to our bond
to be frank, that you are unfair to Merwyn. Of course, if he is
essentially disagreeable to you, there is no occasion for you to
make a martyr of yourself."

"That's what irritates me so," said the girl, impetuously. "He
might have made himself very agreeable. But he undervalued and
misunderstood me so greatly from the first that it was hard to
forgive him."

"If he hadn't shown deep contrition and regret for that course I
shouldn't wish you to forgive him, even though his antecedents had
made anything better scarcely possible."

"Come down to the present hour, then. What he asked of you is one
thing. I see what he wishes. He desires, at least, the friendship
that I give to those who fulfil my ideal of manhood in these times.
He has no right to seek this without meeting the conditions which
remove all hesitation in regard to others. It angers me that he does
so. I feel as if he were seeking to buy my good-will by donations
to this, that, and the other thing. He still misunderstands me.
Why can't he realize that, to one of my nature, fording the icy
Rappahannock to-night would count for more than his writing checks
for millions?"

"Probably he does understand it, and that is what he meant by
his words to-night, when he said, 'What is this storm, or what a
battle?'"

She was overwrought, excited, and off her guard, and spoke from a
deep impulse. "A woman, in giving herself, gives everything. If he
can't give up a scruple--I mean if his loyalty is so slight that
his mother's wishes and dead ancestors--"

"My dear little girl, you are not under the slightest obligation
to give anything," resumed her father, discreetly oblivious to the
significance of her words. "If you care to give a little good-will
and kindness to one whom you have granted the right to visit you,
they will tend to confirm and develop the better and manly qualities
he is now manifesting. You know I have peculiar faculties of finding
out about people, and, incidentally and casually, I have informed
myself about this Mr. Merwyn. I think I can truly say that he is
doing all and more than could be expected of a young fellow in his
circumstances, with the one exception that he does not put on our
uniform and go to the front. He may have reasons--very possibly, as
you think, mistaken and inadequate ones--which, nevertheless, are
binding on his conscience. What else could his words mean to-night?
He is not living a life of pleasure-seeking and dissipation, like so
many other young nabobs in the city. Apparently he has not sought
much other society than yours. Pardon me for saying it, but you
have not given him much encouragement to avoid the temptations that
are likely to assail a lonely, irresponsible young fellow. In one
sense you are under no obligation to do this; in another, perhaps
you are, for you must face the fact that you have great influence
over him. This influence you must either use or throw away, as
you decide. You are not responsible for this influence; neither are
your friends responsible for the war. When it came, however, they
faced the disagreeable and dangerous duties that it brought."

"O papa! I have been a stupid, resentful fool."

"No, my dear; at the worst you have been misled by generous and
loyal impulses. Your deep sympathy with recent events has made you
morbid, and therefore unfair. To your mind Mr. Merwyn represented
the half-hearted element that shuns meeting what must be met at
every cost. If this were true of him I should share in your spirit,
but he appears to be trying to be loyal and to do what he can in
the face of obstacles greater than many overcome."

"I don't believe he will ever come near me again!" she exclaimed.

"Then you are absolved in the future. Of course we can make no
advances towards a man who has been your suitor."

Merwyn's course promised to fulfil her fear,--she now acknowledged
to herself that it was a fear,--for his visits ceased. She tried
to dismiss him from her thoughts, but a sense of her unfairness
and harshness haunted her. She did not see why she had not taken
her father's view, or why she had thrown away her influence that
accorded with the scheme of life to which she had pledged herself.
The very restraint indicated by his words was a mystery, and
mysteries are fascinating. She remembered, with compunction, that
not even his own mother had sought to develop a true, manly spirit
in him. "Now he is saying," she thought, bitterly, "that I, too,
am a fanatic,--worse than his mother."

Weeks passed and she heard nothing from him, nor did her father
mention his name. While her regret was distinct and positive,
it must not be supposed that it gave her serious trouble. Indeed,
the letters of Mr. Lane, and the semi-humorous journal of Strahan
and Blauvelt, together with the general claims of society and her
interest in her father's deep anxieties, were fast banishing it
from her mind, when, to her surprise, his card was handed to her
one stormy afternoon, late in January.

"I am sorry to intrude upon you, Miss Vosburgh," he began, as she
appeared, "but--"

"Why should you regard it as an intrusion, Mr. Merwyn?"

"I think a lady has a right to regard any unwelcome society as an
intrusion."

"Admitting even so much, it does not follow that this is an intrusion,"
she said, laughing. Then she added, with slightly heightened color:
"Mr. Merwyn, I must at least keep my own self-respect, and this
requires an acknowledgment. I was rude to you when you last called.
But I was morbid from anxiety and worry over what was happening.
I had no right to grant your request to call upon me and then fail
in courtesy."

"Will you, then, permit me to renew my old request?" he asked, with
an eagerness that he could not disguise.

"Certainly not. That would imply such utter failure on my part! You
should be able to forgive me one slip, remembering the circumstances."

"You have the most to forgive," he replied, humbly. "I asked for
little more than toleration, but I felt that I had not the right
to force even this upon you."

"I am glad you are inclined to be magnanimous," she replied,
laughing. "Women usually take advantage of that trait in men--when
they manifest it. We'll draw a line through the evening of the 20th
of December, and, as Jefferson says, in his superb impersonation
of poor old Rip, 'It don't count.' By the way, have you seen him?"
she asked, determined that the conversation should take a different
channel.

"No; I have been busy of late. But pardon me, Miss Vosburgh,
I'm forgetting my errand shamefully. Do not take the matter too
seriously. I think you have no reason to do so. Mr. Strahan is in
the city and is ill. I have just come from him."

Her face paled instantly, and she sank into a chair.

"I beg of you not to be so alarmed," he added, hastily. "I shall
not conceal anything from you. By the merest chance I saw him
coming up Broadway in a carriage, and, observing that he looked
ill, jumped into a hack and followed him to his residence. You had
reason for your anxiety on December 20th, for he took a severe cold
from exposure that night. For a time he made light of it, but at
last obtained sick-leave. He asked me to tell you--"

"He has scarcely mentioned the fact that he was not well;" and
there was an accent of reproach in the young girl's tones.

"I understand Strahan better than I once did, perhaps because better
able to understand him," was Merwyn's quiet reply. "He is a brave,
generous fellow, and, no doubt, wished to save you from anxiety.
There has been no chance for him to say very much to me."

"Was he expected by his family?"

"They were merely informed, by a telegram, that he was on his way.
He is not so well as when he started. Naturally he is worse for the
journey. Moreover, he used these words, 'I felt that I was going
to be ill and wished to get home.'"

"Has a physician seen him yet?"

"Yes, I brought their family physician in the hack, which I had kept
waiting. He fears that it will be some time before his patient is
out again. I have never been seriously ill myself, but I am sure--I
mean, I have heard--that a few words often have great influence in
aiding one in Strahan's condition to triumph over disease. It is
often a question of will and courage, you know. I will take a note
to him if you wish. Poor fellow! he may have his biggest fight on
hand while the others are resting in winter quarters."

"I shall be only too glad to avail myself of your offer. Please
excuse me a moment."

When she returned he saw traces of tears in her eyes. She asked,
eagerly, "Will you see him often?"

"I shall call daily."

"Would it be too much trouble for you to let me know how he is,
should he be very seriously ill?" Then, remembering that this might
lead to calls more frequent than she was ready to receive, or than
he would find it convenient to make, she added: "I suppose you
are often down town and might leave word with papa at his office.
I have merely a formal acquaintance with Mrs. Strahan and her
daughters, and, if Mr. Strahan should be very ill, I should have
to rely upon you for information."

"I shall make sure that you learn of his welfare daily until he
is able to write to you, and I esteem it a privilege to render you
this service."

He then bowed and turned away, and she did not detain him. Indeed,
her mind was so absorbed by her friend's danger that she could not
think of much else.

The next day a note, addressed to Mr. Vosburgh, was left at
his office, giving fuller particulars of Strahan's illness, which
threatened to be very serious indeed. High fever had been developed,
and the young soldier had lost all intelligent consciousness. Days
followed in which this fever was running its course, and Merwyn's
reports, ominous in spite of all effort to disguise the deep anxiety
felt by Strahan's friends, were made only through Mr. Vosburgh.
Marian began to regret her suggestion that the information should
come in this way, for she now felt that Merwyn had received the
impression that his presence would not be agreeable. She was eager
for more details and oppressed with the foreboding that she would
never see her light-hearted friend again. She was almost tempted
to ask Merwyn to call, but felt a strange reluctance to do so.

"I gave him sufficient encouragement to continue his visits," she
thought, "and he should distinguish between the necessity of coming
every day and the privilege of coming occasionally."

One evening her father looked very grave as he handed Marian the
note addressed to him.

"O papa!" exclaimed the girl, "he's worse!"

"Yes, I fear Strahan is in a very critical condition. I happened
to meet Merwyn when he left the note to-day, and the young fellow
himself looked haggard and ill. But he carelessly assured me that
he was perfectly well. He said that the crisis of Strahan's fever
was approaching, and that the indications were bad."

"Papa!" cried the girl, tearfully, "I can't endure this suspense
and inaction. Why would it be bad taste for us to call on Mrs.
Strahan this evening? She must know how dear a friend Arthur is to
me. I don't care for conventionality in a case like this. It seems
cold-blooded to show no apparent interest, and it might do Arthur
good if he should learn that we had been there because of our
anxiety and sympathy."

"Well, my dear, what you suggest is the natural and loyal course,
and therefore outweighs all conventionality in my mind. We'll go
after dinner."

Marian's doubt as to her reception by Mrs. Strahan was speedily
dispelled, for the sorrow-stricken mother was almost affectionate
in her welcome.

"Arthur, in his delirium, often mentions your name," she said, "and
then he is in camp or battle again, or else writing his journal.
I have thought of sending for you, but he wouldn't have known you.
He does not even recognize me, and has not for days. Our physician
commands absolute quiet and as little change in those about him as
possible. What we should have done without Mr. Merwyn I scarcely
know. He is with him now, and has watched every night since Arthur's
return. I never saw any one so changed, or else we didn't understand
him. He is tireless in his strength, and womanly in his patience.
His vigils are beginning to tell on him sadly, but he says that he
will not give up till the crisis is past. If Arthur lives he will
owe his life largely to one who, last summer, appeared too indolent
to think of anything but his own pleasure. How we often misjudge
people! They were boys and playmates together, and are both greatly
changed. O Miss Vosburgh, my heart just stands still with dread
when I think of what may soon happen. Arthur had become so manly,
and we were so proud of him! He has written me more than once of
your influence, and I had hoped that the way might open for our
better acquaintance."

"Do you think the crisis may come to-night?" Marian asked, with
quivering lips.

"Yes, it may come now at any hour. The physician will remain all
night."

"Oh, I wish I might know early in the morning. Believe me, I shall
not sleep."

"You shall know, Miss Vosburgh, and I hope you will come and see
me, whatever happens. You will please excuse me now, for I cannot
be away from Arthur at this time. I would not have seen any one
but you."

At one o'clock in the morning there was a ring at Mr. Vosburgh's
door. He opened it, and Merwyn stood there wrapped in his fur
cloak. "Will you please give this note to Miss Vosburgh?" he said.
"I think it contains words that will bring welcome relief and hope.
I would not have disturbed you at this hour had I not seen your
light burning;" and, before Mr. Vosburgh could reply, he lifted
his hat and strode away.

The note ran as follows:

"MY DEAR MISS VOSBURGH:--Arthur became conscious a little before
twelve. He was fearfully weak, and for a time his life appeared
to flicker. I alone was permitted to be with him. After a while I
whispered that you had been here. He smiled and soon fell into a
quiet sleep. Our physician now gives us strong hopes.

"Sincerely and gratefully yours,

"CHARLOTTE STRAHAN."

Marian, who had been sleepless from thoughts more evenly divided
between her friend and Merwyn than she would have admitted even
to herself, handed the note to her father. Her face indicated both
gladness and perplexity. He read and returned it with a smile.

"Papa," she said, "you have a man's straightforward common-sense.
I am only a little half-girl and half-woman. Do you know, I almost
fear that both Mrs. Strahan and Mr. Merwyn believe I am virtually
engaged to Arthur."

"Their belief can't engage you," said her father, laughing. "Young
Strahan will get well, thanks to you and Merwyn. Mrs. Strahan said
that both were greatly changed. Merwyn certainly must have a hardy
nature, for he improves under a steady frost."

"Papa!" cried Marian, with a vivid blush, "you are a deeper and more
dangerous ally of Mr. Menvyn than mamma. I am on my guard against
you both, and I shall retire at once before you begin a panegyric
that will cease only when you find I am asleep."

"Yes, my dear, go and sleep the sleep of the unjust!"

CHAPTER XXII.

A GIRL'S THOUGHTS AND IMPULSES.

SLEEP, which Marian said would cut short her father's threatened
panegyrics of Merwyn, did not come speedily. The young girl had
too much food for thought.

She knew that Mrs. Strahan had not, during the past summer,
misunderstood her son's faithful nurse. In spite of all prejudice
and resentment, in spite of the annoying fact that he would intrude
so often upon her thoughts, she had to admit the truth that he was
greatly changed, and that, while she might be the cause, she could
take to herself no credit for the transformation. To others she had
given sincere and cordial encouragement. Towards him she had been
harsh and frigid. He must indeed possess a hardy nature, or else
a cold persistence that almost made her shiver, it was so indomitable.

She felt that she did not understand him; and she both shrunk from
his character and was fascinated by it. She could not now charge
him with disregard of her feelings and lack of delicacy. His visits
had ceased when he believed them to be utterly repugnant; he had
not availed himself of the opportunity to see her often afforded
by Strahan's illness, and had been quick to take the hint that he
could send his reports to her father. There had been no effort to
make her aware of his self-sacrificing devotion to her friend. The
thing that was irritating her was that he could approach so nearly
to her standard and yet fail in a point that to her was vital. His
course indicated unknown characteristics or circumstances, and she
felt that she could never give him her confidence and unreserved
regard while he fell short of the test of manhood which she believed
that the times demanded. If underneath all his apparent changes
for the better there was an innate lack of courage to meet danger
and hardship, or else a cold, calculating purpose not to take these
risks, she would shrink from him in strong repulsion. She knew
that the war had developed not a few constitutional cowards,--men
to be pitied, it is true, but with a commiseration that, in her
case, would be mingled with contempt. On the other hand, if he
reasoned, "I will win her if I can; I will do all and more than
she can ask, but I will not risk the loss of a lifetime's enjoyment
of my wealth," she would quietly say to him by her manner: "Enjoy
your wealth. I can have no part in such a scheme of existence; I
will not give my hand, even in friendship, to a man who would do
less than I would, were I in his place."

If her father was right, and he had scruples of conscience, or some
other unknown restraint, she felt that she must know all before
she would give her trust and more. If he could not satisfy her on
these points, as others had done so freely and spontaneously, he
had no right to ask or expect more from her than ordinary courtesy.

Having thus resolutely considered antidotes for a tendency towards
relentings not at all to her mind, and met, as she believed, her
father's charge of unfairness, her thoughts, full of sympathy and
hope, dwelt upon the condition of her friend. Recalling the past
and the present, her heart grew very tender, and she found that he
occupied in it a foremost place. Indeed, it seemed to her a species
of disloyalty to permit any one to approach his place and that of
Mr. Lane, for both formed an inseparable part of her new and more
earnest life.

She, too, had changed, and was changing. As her nature deepened and
grew stronger it was susceptible of deeper and stronger influences.
Under the old regime pleasure, excitement, triumphs of power that
ministered to vanity, had been her superficial motives. To the degree
that she had now attained true womanhood, the influences that act
upon and control a woman were in the ascendant. Love ceased to dwell
in her mind as a mere fastidious preference, nor could marriage
ever be a calculating choice, made with the view of securing the
greatest advantages. She knew that earnest men loved her without a
thought of calculation,--loved her for herself alone. She called
them friends now, and to her they were no more as yet. But their
downright sincerity made her sincere and thoughtful. Her esteem and
affection for them were so great that she was not at all certain
that circumstances and fuller acquaintance might not develop her
regard towards one or the other of them into a far deeper feeling.
In their absence, their manly qualities appealed to her imagination.
She had reached a stage in spiritual development where her woman's
nature was ready for its supreme requirement. She could be more
than friend, and was conscious of the truth; and she believed that
her heart would make a positive and final choice in accord with
her intense and loyal sympathies. In the great drama of the war
centred all that ideal and knightly action that has ever been so
fascinating to her sex, and daily conversation with her father had
enabled her to understand what lofty principles and great destinies
were involved. She had been shown how President Lincoln's proclamation,
freeing the slaves, had aimed a fatal blow at the chief enemies
of liberty, not only in this land, but in all lands. Mr. Vosburgh
was a philosophical student of history, and, now that she had become
his companion, he made it clear to her how the present was linked
to the past. Instead of being imbued with vindictiveness towards
the South, she was made to see a brave, self-sacrificing, but misled
people, seeking to rivet their own chains and blight the future of
their fair land. Therefore, a man like Lane, capable of appreciating
and acting upon these truths, took heroic proportions in her fancy,
while Strahan, almost as delicate as a girl, yet brave as the best,
won, in his straightforward simplicity, her deepest sympathy. The
fact that the latter was near, that his heart had turned to her
even from under the shadow of death, gave him an ascendency for
the time.

"To some such man I shall eventually yield," she assured herself,
"and not to one who brings a chill of doubt, not to one unmastered
by loyal impulses to face every danger which our enemies dare meet."

Then she slept, and dreamt that she saw Strahan reaching out his
hands to her for help from dark, unknown depths.

She awoke sobbing, and, under the confused impulse of the moment,
exclaimed: "He shall have all the help I can give; he shall live.
While he is weaker, he is braver than Mr. Lane. He triumphed over
himself and everything. He most needs me. Mr. Lane is strong in
himself. Why should I be raising such lofty standards of self-sacrifice
when I cannot give love to one who most needs it, most deserves
it?"

CHAPTER XXIII.

"MY FRIENDSHIP IS MINE TO GIVE."

STRAHAN'S convalescence need not be dwelt upon, nor the subtle aid
given by Marian through flowers, fruit, and occasional calls upon
his mother.

These little kindnesses were tonics beyond the physician's skill,
and he grew stronger daily. Mrs. Strahan believed that things were
taking their natural course, and, with the delicacy of a lady,
was content to welcome the young girl in a quiet, cordial manner.
Merwyn tacitly accepted the mother's view, which she had not wholly
concealed in the sick-room, and which he thought had been confirmed
by Marian's manner and interest. With returning health Strahan's
old sense of humor revived, and he often smiled and sighed over
the misapprehension. Had he been fully aware of Marian's mood, he
might have given his physician cause to look grave over an apparent
return of fever.

In the reticence and delicacy natural to all the actors in this
little drama, thoughts were unspoken, and events drifted on in
accordance with the old relations. Merwyn's self-imposed duties of
nurse became lighter, and he took much-needed rest. Strahan felt
for him the strongest good-will and gratitude, but grew more and
more puzzled about him. Apparently the convalescent was absolutely
frank concerning himself. He spoke of his esteem and regard for
Marian as he always had done; his deeper affection he never breathed
to any one, although he believed the young girl was aware of it,
and he did not in the least blame her that she had no power to give
him more than friendship.

Of his military plans and hopes he spoke without reserve to Merwyn,
but in return received little confidence. He could not doubt the
faithful attendant who had virtually twice saved his life, but he
soon found a barrier of impenetrable reserve, which did not yield
to any manifestations of friendliness. Strahan at last came to
believe that it veiled a deep, yet hopeless regard for Marian. This
view, however, scarcely explained the situation, for he found his
friend even more reticent in respect to the motives which kept him
a civilian.

"I'd give six months' pay," said the young officer, on one occasion,
"if we had you in our regiment, and I am satisfied that I could
obtain a commission for you. You would be sure of rapid promotion.
Indeed, with your wealth and influence you could secure
a lieutenant-colonelcy in a new regiment by spring. Believe me,
Merwyn, the place for us young fellows is at the front in these
times. My blood's up,--what little I have left,--and I'm bound to
see the scrimmage out. You have just the qualities to make a good
officer. You could control and discipline men without bluster or
undue harshness. We need such officers, for an awful lot of cads
have obtained commissions."

Merwyn had walked to a window so that his friend could not see his
face, and at last he replied, quietly and almost coldly: "There
are some things, Strahan, in respect to which one cannot judge for
another. I am as loyal as you are now, but I must aid the cause in
my own way. I would prefer that you should not say anything more
on this subject, for it is of no use. I have taken my course, and
shall reveal it only by my action. There is one thing that I can
do, and shall be very glad to do. I trust we are such good friends
that you can accept of my offer. Your regiment has been depleted.
New men would render it more effective and add to your chances of
promotion. It will be some time before you are fit for active service.
I can put you in the way of doing more than your brother-officers
in the regiment, even though you are as pale as a ghost. Open
a recruiting office near your country home again,--you can act at
present through a sergeant,--and I will give you a check which will
enable you to add to the government bounty so largely that you can
soon get a lot of hardy country fellows. No one need know where
the money comes from except ourselves."

Strahan laughed, and said: "It is useless for me to affect
squeamishness in accepting favors from you at this late day. I
believed you saved my life last summer, and now you are almost as
haggard as I am from watching over me. I'll take your offer in good
faith, as I believe you mean it. I won't pose as a self-sacrificing
patriot only. I confess that I am ambitious. You fellows used
to call me 'little Strahan.' YOU are all right now, but there are
some who smile yet when my name is mentioned, and who regard my
shoulder-straps as a joke. I've no doubt they are already laughing
at the inglorious end of my military career. I propose to prove
that I can be a soldier as well as some bigger and more bewhiskered
men. I have other motives also;" and his thought was, "Marian may
feel differently if I can win a colonel's eagles."

Merwyn surmised as much, but he only said, quietly: "Your motives
are as good as most men's, and you have proved yourself a brave,
efficient officer. That would be enough for me, had I not other
motives also."

"Hang it all! I would tell you my motives if you would be equally
frank."

"Since I cannot be, you must permit me to give other proofs
of friendship. Nor do I expect, indeed I should be embarrassed by
receiving, what I cannot return."

"You're an odd fish, Merwyn. Well, I have ample reason to give you
my faith and loyalty, as I do. Your proposition has put new life
into me already. I needn't spend idle weeks--"

"Hold on. One stipulation. Your physician must regulate all your
actions. Remember that here, as at the front, the physician is, at
times, autocrat."

Mervvyn called twice on Marian during his friend's convalescence,
and could no longer complain of any lack of politeness. Indeed, her
courtesy was slightly tinged with cordiality, and she took occasion
to speak of her appreciation of his vigils at Strahan's side. Beyond
this she showed no disposition towards friendliness. At the same,
time, she could not even pretend to herself that she was indifferent.
He piqued both her pride and her curiosity, for he made no further
effort to reveal himself or to secure greater favor than she

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