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An Original Belle by E. P. Roe

Part 5 out of 10

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voluntarily bestowed. She believed that her father looked upon her
course as an instance of feminine prejudice, of resentment prolonged
unnaturally and capriciously,--that he was saying to himself, "A
man would quarrel and have done with it after amends were made,
but a woman--"

"He regards this as my flaw, my weakness, wherein I differ from him
and his kind," she thought. "I can't help it. Circumstances have
rendered it impossible for me to feel toward Mr. Merwyn as toward
other men. I have thought the matter out and have taken my stand.
If he wishes more than I now give he must come up to my ground,
for I shall not go down to his."

She misunderstood her father. That sagacious gentleman said nothing,
and quietly awaited developments.

It was a glad day for Arthur Strahan when, wrapped and muffled
beyond all danger, he was driven, in a close carriage, to make an
afternoon visit to Marian. She greeted him with a kindness that
warmed his very soul, and even inspired hopes which he had, as yet,
scarcely dared to entertain. Time sped by with all the old easy
interchange of half-earnest nonsense. A deep chord of truth and
affection vibrated through even jest and merry repartee. Yet, so
profound are woman's intuitions in respect to some things, that,
now she was face to face with him again, she feared, before an hour
passed, that he could never be more to her than when she had given
him loyal friendship in the vine-covered cottage in the country.

"By the way," he remarked, abruptly, "I suppose you never punished
Merwyn as we both, at one time, felt that he deserved? He admits
that he calls upon you quite frequently, and speaks of you in terms
of strongest respect. You know I am his sincere, grateful friend
henceforth. I don't pretend to understand him, but I trust him,
and wish him well from the depths of my heart."

"I also wish him well," Marian remarked, quietly.

He looked at her doubtfully for a moment, then said, "Well, I
suppose you have reasons for resentment, but I assure you he has
changed very greatly."

"How do you know that, when you don't understand him?"

"I do know it," said the young fellow, earnestly. "Merwyn never
was like other people. He is marked by ancestry; strong-willed,
reticent on one side, proud and passionate on the other. My own
mother was not more untiring and gentle with me than he, yet if I
try to penetrate his reserve he becomes at once distant, and almost
cold. When I thought he was seeking to amuse himself with you I
felt like strangling him; now that I know he has a sincere respect
for you, if not more, I have nothing against him. I wish he would
join us in the field, and have said as much to him more than once.
He has the means to raise a regiment himself, and there are few
possessing more natural ability to transform raw recruits into
soldiers."

"Why does he not join you in the field?" she asked, quickly, and
there was a trace of indignation in her tones.

"I do not think he will ever speak of his reasons to any one. At
least, he will not to me."

"Very well," she said; and there was significance in her cold,
quiet tones.

"They result from no lack of loyalty," earnestly resumed Strahan,
who felt that for some reason he was not succeeding as his friend's
advocate. "He has generously increased my chances of promotion by
giving me a large sum towards recruiting my regiment."

"After your hard experience, are you fully determined to go back?"
she asked, with a brilliant smile. "Surely you have proved your
courage, and, with your impaired health, you have a good reason
not for leaving the task to stronger men."

"And take my place contentedly among the weaker ones in your
estimation?" he added, flushing. "How could you suggest or think
such a thing? Certainly I shall go back as soon as my physician
permits, and I shall go to stay till the end, unless I am knocked
over or disabled."

Her eyes flashed exultantly as she came swiftly to him. "Now you
can understand me," she said, giving him her hand. "My friendship
and honor are for men like you and Mr. Lane and Mr. Blauvelt, who
offer all, and not for those who offer--MONEY."

"By Jove, Miss Marian, you make me feel as if I could storm Richmond
single-handed."

"Don't think I say this in any callous disregard of what may happen.
God knows I do not; but in times like these my heart chooses friends
among knightly men who voluntarily go to meet other men as brave.
Don't let us talk any more about Mr. Merwyn. I shall always treat
him politely, and I have gratefully acknowledged my indebtedness for
his care of you. He understands me, and will give me no opportunity
to do as you suggested, were I so inclined. His conversation is
that of a cultivated man, and as such I enjoy it; but there it all
ends."

"But I don't feel that I have helped my friend in your good graces
at all," protested Strahan, ruefully.

"Has he commissioned you to help him?" she asked, quickly.

"No, no, indeed. You don't know Merwyn, or you never would have
asked that question."

"Well, I prefer as friends those whom I do know, who are not
inshrouded in mystery or incased in reticence. No, Arthur Strahan,
my friendship is mine to give, be it worth much or little. If he
does not care enough for it to take the necessary risks, when the
bare thought of shunning them makes you flush hotly, he cannot
have it. All his wealth could not buy one smile from me. Now let
all this end. I respect your loyalty to him, but I have my own
standard, and shall abide by it;" and she introduced another topic.

CHAPTER XXIV.

A FATHER'S FORETHOUGHT.

STRAHAN improved rapidly in health, and was soon able to divide his
time between his city and his country home. The recruiting station
near the latter place was successful in securing stalwart men,
who were tempted by the unusually large bounties offered through
Merwyn's gift. The young officer lost no opportunities of visiting
Marian's drawing-room, and, while his welcome continued as cordial
as ever, she, nevertheless, indicated by a frank and almost sisterly
manner the true state of her feelings toward him. The impulse
arising at the critical hour of his illness speedily died away. His
renewed society confirmed friendship, but awakened nothing more,
and quieter thoughts convinced her that the future must reveal what
her relations should be to him and to others.

As he recovered health her stronger sympathy went out to Mr. Lane,
who had not asked for leave of absence.

"I am rampantly well," he wrote, "and while my heart often travels
northward, I can find no plausible pretext to follow. I may receive
a wound before long which will give me a good excuse, since, for
our regiment, there is prospect of much active service while the
infantry remain in winter quarters. It is a sad truth that the
army is discouraged and depleted to a degree never known before.
Homesickness is epidemic. A man shot himself the other day because
refused a furlough. Desertions have been fearfully numerous among
enlisted men, and officers have urged every possible excuse for
leaves of absence. A man with my appetite stands no chance whatever,
and our regimental surgeon laughs when I assure him that I am
suffering from acute heart-disease. Therefore, my only hope is a
wound, and I welcome our prospective raid in exchange for dreary
picket duty."

Marian knew what picket duty and raiding meant in February weather,
and wrote words of kindly warmth that sustained her friend through
hard, prosaic service.

She also saw that her father was burdened with heavy cares and
responsibilities. Disloyal forces and counsels were increasing in
the great centres at the North, and especially in New York City.
Therefore he was intrusted with duties of the most delicate and
difficult nature. It was her constant effort to lead him to forget
his anxieties during such evenings as he spent at home, and when
she had congenial callers she sometimes prevailed upon him to take
part in the general conversation. It so happened, one evening, that
Strahan and Merwyn were both present. Seeing that the latter felt
a little de trop, Mr. Vosburgh invited him to light a cigar in the
dining-room, and the two men were soon engaged in animated talk,
the younger being able to speak intelligently of the feeling in
England at the time. By thoughtful questions he also drew out his
host in regard to affairs at home.

The two guests departed together, and Marian, observing the pleased
expression on her father's face, remarked, "You have evidently
found a congenial spirit."

"I found a young fellow who had ideas and who was not averse to
receiving more."

"You can relieve my conscience wholly, papa," said the young girl,
laughing. "When Mr. Merwyn comes hereafter I shall turn him over
to you. He will then receive ideas and good influence at their
fountain-head. You and mamma are inclined to give him so much
encouragement that I must be more on the defensive than ever."

"That policy would suit me exactly," replied her father, with
a significant little nod. "I don't wish to lose you, and I'm more
afraid of Merwyn than of all the rest together."

"More afraid of HIM!" exclaimed the girl, with widening eyes.

"Of him."

"Why?"

"Because you don't understand him."

"That's an excellent reason for keeping him at a distance."

"Reason, reason. What has reason to do with affairs of this kind?"

"Much, in my case, I assure you. Thank you for forewarning me so
plainly."

"I've no dark designs against your peace."

Nevertheless, these half-jesting words foreshadowed the future,
so far as Mr. Vosburgh and Mr. Merwyn were concerned. Others were
usually present when the latter called, and he always seemed to
enjoy a quiet talk with the elder man. Mrs. Vosburgh never failed
in her cordiality, or lost hope that his visits might yet lead to
a result in accordance with her wishes. Marian made much sport of
their protege, as she called him, and, since she now treated him with
the same courtesy that other mere calling acquaintances received,
the habit of often spending part of the evening at the modest home
grew upon him. Mr. Vosburgh soon discovered that the young man
was a student of American affairs and history. This fact led to
occasional visits by the young man to the host's library, which
was rich in literature on these subjects.

On one stormy evening, which gave immunity from other callers,
Marian joined them, and was soon deeply interested herself. Suddenly
becoming conscious of the fact, she bade them an abrupt good-night
and went to her room with a little frown on her brow.

"It's simply exasperating," she exclaimed, "to see a young fellow
of his inches absorbed in American antiquities when the honor and
liberty of America are at stake. Then, at times, he permits such
an expression of sadness to come into his big black eyes! He is
distant enough, but I can read his very thoughts, and he thinks
me obduracy itself. He will soon return to his elegant home and
proceed to be miserable in the most luxurious fashion. If he were
riding with Mr. Lane, to-night, on a raid, he would soon distinguish
between his cherished woe and a soldier's hardships."

Nevertheless, she could do little more than maintain a mental
protest at his course, in which he persevered unobtrusively, yet
unfalteringly. There was no trace of sentiment in his manner toward
her, nor the slightest conscious appeal for sympathy. His conversation
was so intelligent, and at times even brilliant, that she could not
help being interested, and she observed that he resolutely chose
subjects of an impersonal character, shunning everything relating
to himself. She could not maintain any feeling approaching contempt,
and the best intrenchment she could find was an irritated perplexity.
She could not deny that his face was growing strong in its manly
beauty. Although far paler and thinner than when she had first
seen it, a heavy mustache and large, dark, thoughtful eyes relieved
it from the charge of effeminacy. Every act, and even his tones,
indicated high breeding, and she keenly appreciated such things.
His reserve was a stimulus to thought, and his isolated life was
unique for one in his position, while the fact that he sought her
home and society with so little to encourage him was strong and
subtle homage. More than all, she thought she recognized a trait
in him which rarely fails to win respect,--an unfaltering will.
Whatever his plans or purposes were, the impression grew stronger
in her mind that he would not change them.

"But I have a pride and a will equal to his," she assured herself.
"He can come thus far and no farther. Papa thinks I will yield
eventually to his persistence and many fascinations. Were this
possible, no one should know it until he had proved himself the
peer of the bravest and best of my time."

Winter had passed, and spring brought not hope and gladness, but
deepening dread as the hour approached when the bloody struggle
would be renewed. Mr. Lane had participated in more than one cavalry
expedition, but had received no wounds. Strahan was almost ready
to return, and had sent much good material to the thinned ranks of
his regiment. His reward came promptly, for at that late day men
were most needed, and he who furnished them secured a leverage
beyond all political influence. The major in his regiment resigned
from ill-health, and Strahan was promoted to the vacancy at once.
He received his commission before he started for the front, and
he brought it to Marian with almost boyish pride and exultation.
He had called for Merwyn on his way, and insisted on having his
company. He found the young fellow nothing loath.

Merwyn scarcely entertained the shadow of a hope of anything more
than that time would soften Marian's feelings toward him. The war
could not last forever. Unexpected circumstances might arise, and
a steadfast course must win a certain kind of respect. At any rate
it was not in his nature to falter, especially when her tolerance
was parting with much of its old positiveness. His presence undoubtedly
had the sanction of her father and mother, and for the former he
was gaining an esteem and liking independent of his fortunes with
the daughter. Love is a hardy plant, and thrives on meagre sustenance.
It was evident that the relations between Marian and Strahan were
not such as he had supposed during the latter's illness. Her respect
and friendship he would have, if it took a lifetime to acquire
them. He would not be balked in the chief purpose of his life,
or retreat from the pledge, although it was given in the agony of
humiliation and defeat. As long as he had reason to believe that
her hand and heart were free, it was not in human nature to abandon
all hope.

On this particular evening Mr. Vosburgh admitted the young men,
and Marian, hearing Strahan's voice, called laughingly from the
parlor: "You are just in time for the wedding. I should have been
engaged to any one except you."

"Engaged to any one except me? How cruel is my fate!"

"Pardon me," began Merwyn quickly, and taking his hat again; "I
shall repeat my call at a time more opportune."

Marian, who had now appeared, said, in polite tones: "Mr. Merwyn,
stay by all means. I could not think of separating two such friends.
Our waitress has no relatives to whom she can go, therefore we are
giving her a wedding from our house."

"Then I am sure there is greater reason for my leave-taking
at present. I am an utter stranger to the bride, and feel that my
presence would seem an intrusion to her, at least. Nothing at this
time should detract from her happiness. Good-evening."

Marian felt the force of his words, and was also compelled to
recognize his delicate regard for the feelings of one in humble
station. She would have permitted him to depart, but Mr. Vosburgh
interposed quickly: "Wait a moment, Mr. Merwyn; I picked up a rare
book, down town, relating to the topic we were discussing the other
evening. Suppose you go up to my library. I'll join you there, for
the ceremony will soon be over. Indeed, we are now expecting the
groom, his best man, and the minister. It so happens that the happy
pair are Protestants, and so we can have an informal wedding."

"Oh, stay, Merwyn," said Strahan. "It was I who brought you here,
and I shouldn't feel that the evening was complete without you."

The former looked doubtfully at Marian, who added, quickly: "You
cannot refuse papa's invitation, Mr. Merwyn, since it removes the
only scruple you can have. It is, perhaps, natural that the bride
should wish to see only familiar faces at this time, and it was
thoughtful of you to remember this, but, as papa says, the affair
will soon be over."

"And then," resumed Strahan, "I have a little pie to show you, Miss
Marian, in which Merwyn had a big finger."

"I thought that was an affair between ourselves," said Merwyn,
throwing off his overcoat.

"Oh, do not for the world reveal any of Mr. Merwyn's secrets!"
cried the girl.

"It is no secret at all to you, Miss Marian, nor did I ever intend
that it should be one," Strahan explained.

"Mr. Merwyn, you labor under a disadvantage in your relations
with Mr. Strahan. He has friends, and friendship is not based on
reticence."

"Therefore I can have no friends, is the inference, I suppose."

"That cannot be said while I live," began the young officer, warmly;
but here a ring at the door produced instant dispersion. "I suppose
I can be present," Strahan whispered to Marian. "Barney Ghegan is
an older acquaintance of mine than of yours, and your pretty waitress
has condescended to smile graciously on me more than once, although
my frequent presence at your door must have taxed her patience."

"You have crossed her palm with too much silver, I fear, to make
frowns possible. Silver, indeed! when has any been seen? But money
in any form is said to buy woman's smiles."

"Thank Heaven it doesn't buy yours."

"Hush! Your gravity must now be portentous."

The aggressive Barney, now a burly policeman, had again brought
pretty Sally Maguire to terms, and on this evening received the
reward of his persistent wooing. After the ceremony and a substantial
supper, which Mrs. Vosburgh graced with her silver, the couple took
their brief wedding journey to their rooms, and Barney went on duty
in the morning, looking as if all the world were to his mind.

When Mr. Vosburgh went up to his library his step was at first
unnoted, and he saw his guest sitting before the fire, lost in a
gloomy revery. When observed, he asked, a little abruptly: "Is the
matter to which Mr. Strahan referred a secret which you wish kept?"

"Oh, no! Not as far as I am concerned. What I have done is a
bagatelle. I merely furnished a little money for recruiting purposes."

"It is not a little thing to send a good man to the front, Mr.
Merwyn."

"Nor is it a little thing not to go one's self," was the bitter
reply. Then he added, hastily, "I am eager to see the book to which
you refer."

"Pardon me, Mr. Merwyn, your words plainly reveal your inclination.
Would you not be happier if you followed it?"

"I cannot, Mr. Vosburgh, nor can I explain further. Therefore,
I must patiently submit to all adverse judgment." The words were
spoken quietly and almost wearily.

"I suppose that your reasons are good and satisfactory."

"They are neither good nor satisfactory," burst out the young man
with sudden and vindictive impetuosity. "They are the curse of my
life. Pardon me. I am forgetting myself. I believe you are friendly
at least. Please let all this be as if it were not." Then, as if
the possible import of his utterance had flashed upon him, he drew
himself up and said, coldly, "If, under the circumstances, you feel
I am unworthy of trust--"

"Mr. Merwyn," interrupted his host, "I am accustomed to deal with
men and to be vigilantly on my guard. My words led to what has
passed between us, and it ends here and now. I would not give you
my hand did I not trust you. Come, here is the book;" and he led
the way to a conversation relating to it.

Merwyn did his best to show a natural interest in the subject, but
it was evident that a tumult had been raised in his mind difficult
to control. At last he said: "May I take the book home? I will
return it after careful reading."

Mr. Vosburgh accompanied him to the drawing-room, and Marian
sportively introduced him to Major Strahan.

For a few minutes he was the gayest and most brilliant member of
the party, and then he took his leave, the young girl remarking,
"Since you have a book under your arm we cannot hope to detain you,
for I have observed that, with your true antiquarian, the longer
people have been dead the more interesting they become."

"That is perfectly natural," he replied, "for we can form all sorts
of opinions about them, and they can never prove that we are wrong."

"More's the pity, if we are wrong. Good-night."

"Order an extra chop, Merwyn, and I'll breakfast with you," cried
Strahan. "I've only two days more, you know."

"Well, papa," said Marian, joining him later in the library, "did
you and Mr. Merwyn settle the precise date when the Dutch took
Holland?"

"'More's the pity, if we ARE wrong!' I have been applying your
words to the living rather than to the dead."

"To Mr. Merwyn, you mean."

"Yes."

"Has he been unbosoming himself to you?"

"Oh, no, indeed!"

"Why then has he so awakened your sympathy?"

"I fear he is facing more than any of your friends."

"And, possibly, fear is the reason."

"I do not think so."

"It appears strange to me, papa, that you are more ready to trust
than I am. If there is nothing which will not bear the light, why
is he so reticent even to his friend?"

"I do not know the reasons for his course, nor am I sure that they
would seem good ones to me, but my knowledge of human nature is
at fault if he is not trustworthy. I wish we did know what burdens
his mind and trammels his action. Since we do not I will admit,
to-night, that I am glad you feel toward him just as you do."

"Papa, you entertain doubts at last."

"No, I admit that something of importance is unknown and bids fair
to remain so, but I cannot help feeling that it is something for
which he is not to blame. Nevertheless, I would have you take no
steps in the dark, were the whole city his."

"O papa! you regard this matter much too seriously. What steps had
I proposed taking? How much would it cost me to dispense with his
society altogether?"

"I do not know how much it might cost you in the end."

"Well, you can easily put the question to the test."

"That I do not propose to do. I shall not act as if what may be
a great misfortune was a fault. Events will make everything clear
some day, and if they clear him he will prove a friend whom I, at
least, shall value highly. He is an unusual character, one that
interests me greatly, whatever future developments may reveal. It
would be easy for me to be careless or arbitrary, as I fear many
fathers are in these matters. I take you into my confidence and
reveal to you my thoughts. You say that your reason has much to
do with this matter. I take you at your word. Suspend judgment in
regard to Merwyn. Let him come and go as he has done. He will not
presume on such courtesy, nor do you in any wise commit yourself,
even to the friendly regard that you have for others. For your
sake, Marian, for the chances which the future may bring, I should
be glad if your heart and hand were free when I learn the whole
truth about this young fellow. I am no match-maker in the vulgar
acceptation of the word, but I, as well as you, have a deep interest
at stake. I have informed myself in regard to Mr. Merwyn, senior.
The son appears to have many of the former's traits. If he can never
meet your standard or win your love that ends the matter. But, in
spite of everything, he interests you deeply, as well as myself;
and were he taking the same course as your friend who has just
left, he would stand a better chance than that friend. You see how
frank I am, and how true to my promise to help you."

Marian came and leaned her arm on his shoulder as she looked
thoughtfully into the glowing grate.

At last she said: "I am grateful for your frankness, papa, and
understand your motives. Many girls would not make the sad blunders
they do had they such a counsellor as you, one who can be frank
without being blunt and unskilful. In respect to these subjects,
even with a daughter, there must be delicacy as well as precision
of touch."

"There should also be downright common-sense, Marian, a recognition
of tacts and tendencies, of what is and what may be. On one side
a false delicacy often seals the lips of those most interested,
until it is too late to speak; on the other, rank, wealth, and
like advantages are urged without any delicacy at all. These have
their important place, but the qualities which would make your
happiness sure are intrinsic to the man. You know it is in my line
to disentangle many a snarl in human conduct. Look back on the
past without prejudice, if you can. Merwyn virtually said that he
would make your standard of right and wrong his,--that he would
measure things as you estimate them, with that difference, of course,
inherent in sex. Is he not trying to do so? Is he not acting, with
one exception, as you would wish? Here comes in the one thing we
don't understand. As you suggest, it may be a fatal flaw in the
marble, but we don't know this. The weight of evidence, in my mind,
is against it. His course toward Strahan--one whom he might easily
regard as a rival--is significant. He gave him far more than
money; he drained his own vitality in seeking to restore his friend
to health. A coarse, selfish man always cuts a sorry figure in a
sick-room, and shuns its trying duties even in spite of the strongest
obligations. You remember Mrs. Strahan's tribute to Merwyn. Yet
there was no parade of his vigils, nor did he seek to make capital
out of them with you. Now I can view all these things dispassionately,
as a man, and, as I said before, they give evidence of an unusual
character. Apparently he has chosen a certain course, and he has
the will-power to carry it out. Your heart, your life, are still
your own. All I wish is that you should not bestow them so hastily
as not to secure the best possible guaranties of happiness. This
young man has crossed your path in a peculiar way. You have immense
influence over him. So far as he appears free to act you influence
his action. Wait and see what it all means before you come to any
decision about him. Now," he concluded, smiling, "is my common-sense
applied to these affairs unnatural or unreasonable?"

"I certainly can wait with great equanimity," she replied, laughing,
"and I admit the reasonableness of what you say as you put it. Nor
can I any longer affect any disguises with you. Mr. Merwyn DOES
interest me, and has retained a hold upon my thoughts which has
annoyed me. He has angered and perplexed me. It has seemed as if
he said, 'I will give you so much for your regard; I will not give,
however, what you ask.' As you put it to-night, it is the same as
if he said, 'I cannot.' Why can he not? The question opens unpleasant
vistas to my mind. It will cost me little, however, to do as you
wish, and my curiosity will be on the qui vive, if nothing more."

CHAPTER XXV.

A CHAINED WILL.

IN due time Strahan departed, hopeful and eager to enter on the
duties pertaining to his higher rank. He felt that Marian's farewell
had been more than she had ever given him any right to expect.
Her manner had ever been too frank and friendly to awaken delusive
hopes, and, after all, his regard for her was characterized more
by boyish adoration than by the deep passion of manhood. To his
sanguine spirit the excitement of camp and the responsibilities of
his new position formed attractions which took all poignant regret
from his leave-taking, and she was glad to recognize this truth.
She had failed signally to carry out her self-sacrificing impulse,
when he was so ill, to reward his heroism and supplement his life
with her own; and she was much relieved to find that he appeared
satisfied with the friendship she gave, and that there was no
need of giving more. Indeed, he made it very clear that he was not
a patriotic martyr in returning to the front, and his accounts of
army life had shown that the semi-humorous journal, kept by himself
and Blauvelt, was not altogether a generous effort to conceal from
her a condition of dreary duty, hardship, and danger. Life in the
field has ever had its fascinations to the masculine nature, and
her friends were apparently finding an average enjoyment equal
to her own. She liked them all the better for this, since, to her
mind, it proved that that the knightly impulses of the past were
unspent,--that, latent in the breasts of those who had seemed mere
society fellows, dwelt the old virile forces.

"I shall prove," she assured herself, proudly, "that since true men
are the same now as when they almost lived in armor, so ladies in
their bowers have favors only for those to whom heroic action is
second nature."

Blauvelt had maintained the journal during Strahan's absence, doing
more with pencil than pen, and she had rewarded him abundantly
by spicy little notes, full of cheer and appreciation. She had
no scruples in maintaining this correspondence, for in it she had
her father's sanction, and the letters were open to her parents'
inspection when they cared to see them. Indeed, Mr. and Mrs.
Vosburgh enjoyed the journal almost as much as Marian herself.

After Strahan's departure, life was unusually quiet in the young
girl's home. Her father was busy, as usual, and at times anxious,
for he was surrounded by elements hostile to the government. Aware,
however, that the army of the Potomac was being largely reinforced,
that General Hooker was reorganizing it with great success, and
that he was infusing into it his own sanguine spirit, Mr. Vosburgh
grew hopeful that, with more genial skies and firmer roads, a blow
would be struck which would intimidate disloyalty at the North as
well as in the South.

Marian shared in this hopefulness, although she dreaded to think
how much this blow might cost her, as well as tens of thousands of
other anxious hearts.

At present her mind was at rest in regard to Mr. Lane, for he had
written that his regiment had returned from an expedition on which
they had encountered little else than mud, sleet, and rain. The
prospects now were that some monotonous picket-duty in a region
little exposed to danger would be their chief service, and that
they would be given time to rest and recruit.

This lull in the storm of war was Merwyn's opportunity. The inclement
evenings often left Marian unoccupied, and she divided her time
between her mother's sitting-room and her father's library, where
she often found her quondam suitor, and not infrequently he spent
an hour or two with her in the parlor. In a certain sense she had
accepted her father's suggestions. She was studying the enigma with
a lively curiosity, as she believed, and had to admit to herself
that the puzzle daily became more interesting. Merwyn pleased her
fastidious taste and interested her mind, and the possibilities
suggested by her own and her father's words made him an object
of peculiar and personal interest. The very uniqueness of their
relations increased her disposition to think about him. It might
be impossible that he should ever become even her friend; he might
become her husband. Her father's remark, "I don't know how much it
might cost you to dismiss him finally," had led to many questionings.
Other young men she substantially understood. She could gauge their
value, influence, and attractiveness almost at once; but what
possibilities lurked in this reticent man who came so near her ideal,
yet failed at a vital point? The wish, the effort to understand
him, gave an increasing zest to their interviews. He had asked her
to be his wife. She had understood him then, and had replied as she
would again if he should approach her in a similar spirit. Again,
at any hour he would ask her hand if she gave him sufficient
encouragement, and she knew it. He would be humility itself in suing
for the boon, and she knew this also, yet she did not understand
him at all. His secret fascinated her, yet she feared it. It must
be either some fatal flaw in his character, or else a powerful
restraint imposed from without. If it was the former she would shrink
from him at once; if the latter, it would indeed be a triumph, a
proof of her power, to so influence him that he would make her the
first consideration in the world.

Every day, however, increased her determination to exert this
influence only by firmly maintaining her position. If he wished
her friendship and an equal chance with others for more, he must
prove himself the equal of others in all respects. By no words
would she ever now hint that he should take their course; but she
allowed herself to enhance his motives by permitting him to see
her often, and by an alluring yet elusive courtesy, of which she
was a perfect mistress.

This period was one of mingled pain and pleasure to Merwyn.
Remembering his interview with Mr. Vosburgh, he felt that he had
been treated with a degree of confidence that was even generous. But
he knew that from Mr. Vosburgh he did not receive full trust,--that
there were certain topics which each touched upon with restraint.
Even with the father he was made to feel that he had reached the
limit of their friendly relations. They could advance no farther
unless the barrier of his reserve was broken down.

He believed that he was dissipating the prejudices of the daughter;
that she was ceasing to dislike him personally. He exerted every
faculty of his mind to interest her; he studied her tastes and views
with careful analysis, that he might speak to her intelligently
and acceptably. The kindling light in her eyes, and her animated
tones, often proved that he succeeded. Was it the theme wholly that
interested her? or was the speaker also gaining some place in her
thoughts? He never could be quite certain as to these points, and
yet the impression was growing stronger that if he came some day
and said, quietly, "Good-by, Miss Vosburgh, I am going to face every
danger which any man dare meet," she would give him both hands in
friendly warmth, and that there would be an expression on her face
which had never been turned towards him.

A stormy day, not far from the middle of April, ended in a stormier
evening. Marian had not been able to go out, and had suffered
a little from ennui. Her mother had a headache, Mr. Vosburgh had
gone to keep an appointment, and the evening promised to be an
interminable one to the young girl. She unconsciously wished that
Merwyn would come, and half-smilingly wondered whether he would
brave the storm to see her.

She was not kept long in suspense, for he soon appeared with a book
which he wished to return, he said.

"Papa is out," Marian began, affably, "and you will have to be
content with seeing me. You have a morbidly acute conscience, Mr.
Merwyn, to return a book on a night like this."

"My conscience certainly is very troublesome."

Almost before she was aware of it the trite saying slipped out,
"Honest confession is good for the soul."

"To some souls it is denied, Miss Vosburgh;" and there was a trace
of bitterness in his tones. Then, with resolute promptness, he
resumed their usual impersonal conversation.

While they talked, the desire to penetrate his secret grew strong
upon the young girl. It was almost certain that they would not be
interrupted, and this knowledge led her to yield to her mood. She
felt a strange relenting towards him. A woman to her finger-tips,
she could not constantly face this embodied mystery without an
increasing desire to solve it. Cold curiosity, however, was not the
chief inspiration of her impulse. The youth who sat on the opposite
side of the glowing grate had grown old by months as if they were
years. His secret was evidently not only a restraint, but a wearing
burden. By leading her companion to reveal so much of his trouble
as would give opportunity for her womanly ministry, might she not,
in a degree yet unequalled, carry out her scheme of life to make
the "most and best of those over whom she had influence"?

"Many brood over an infirmity, a fault, or an obligation till they
grow morbid," she thought. "I might not be able to show him what
was best and right, but papa could if we only knew."

Therefore her words and tones were kinder than usual, and she made
slight and delicate references to herself, that he might be led to
speak of himself. At last she hit upon domestic affairs as a safe,
natural ground of approach, and gave a humorous account of some of
her recent efforts to learn the mysteries of housekeeping, and she
did not fail to observe his wistful and deeply-interested expression.

Suddenly, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, she
remarked: "I do not see how you manage to keep house in that great,
empty mansion of yours."

"You know, then, where I live?"

"Oh, yes. I saw you descend the steps of a house on Madison Avenue
one morning last fall, and supposed it was your home."

"You were undoubtedly right. I can tell you just how I manage, or
rather, how everything IS managed, for I have little to do with the
matter. An old family servant looks after everything and provides
me with my meals. She makes out my daily menu according to her 'own
will,' which is 'sweet' if not crossed."

"Indeed! Are you so indifferent? I thought men gave much attention
to their dinners."

"I do to mine, after it is provided. Were I fastidious, old Cynthy
would give me no cause for complaint. Then I have a man who looks
after the fires and the horses, etc. I am too good a republican to
keep a valet. So you see that my domestic arrangements are simple
in the extreme."

"And do those two people constitute your whole household?" she
asked, wondering at a frankness which seemed complete.

"Yes. The ghosts and I have the house practically to ourselves most
of the time."

"Are there ghosts?" she asked, laughing, but with cheeks that began
to burn in her kindling interest.

"There are ghosts in every house where people have lived and died;
that is, if you knew and cared for the people. My father is with
me very often!"

"Mr. Merwyn, I don't understand you!" she exclaimed, without trying
to disguise her astonishment. The conversation was so utterly unlike
anything that had occurred between them before that she wondered
whither it was leading. "I fear you are growing morbid," she added.

"I hope not. Nor will you think so when I explain. Of course nothing
like gross superstition is in my mind. I remember my father very
well, and have heard much about him since he died. Therefore he
has become to me a distinct presence which I can summon at will.
The same is true of others with whom the apartments are associated.
If I wish I can summon them."

"I am at a loss to know which is the greater, your will or your
imagination."

"My imagination is the greater."

"It must be great, indeed," she said, smiling alluringly, "for
I never knew of one who seemed more untrammelled in circumstances
than you are, or more under the dominion of his own will."

"Untrammelled!" he repeated, in a low, almost desperate tone.

"Yes," she replied, warmly,--"free to carry out every generous and
noble impulse of manhood. I tell you frankly that you have led me
to believe that you have such impulses."

His face became ashen in its hue, and he trembled visibly. He
seemed about to speak some words as if they were wrung from him,
then he became almost rigid in his self-control as he said, "There
are limitations of which you cannot dream;" and he introduced a
topic wholly remote from himself.

A chill benumbed her very heart, and she scarcely sought to prevent
it from tingeing her words and manner. A few moments later the
postman left a letter. She saw Lane's handwriting and said, "Will
you pardon me a moment, that I may learn that my FRIEND is well?"

Glancing at the opening words, her eyes flashed with excitement
as she exclaimed: "The campaign has opened! They are on the march
this stormy night."

"May I ask if your letter is from Strahan?" Merwyn faltered.

"It is not from Mr. Strahan," she replied, quietly.

He arose and stood before her as erect and cold as herself. "Will
you kindly give Mr. Vosburgh that book?" he said.

"Certainly."

"Will you also please say that I shall probably go to my country
place in a day or two, and therefore may not see him again very
soon."

She was both disappointed and angry, for she had meant kindly by
him. The very consciousness that she had unbent so greatly, and
had made what appeared to her pride an unwonted advance, incensed
her, and she replied, in cold irony: "I will give papa your message.
It will seem most natural to him, now that spring has come, that
you should vary your mercantile with agricultural pursuits."

He appeared stung to the very soul by her words, and his hands
clinched in his desperate effort to restrain himself. His white lips
moved as he looked at her from eyes full of the agony of a wounded
spirit. Suddenly his tense form became limp, and, with a slight
despairing gesture, he said, wearily: "It is of no use. Good-by."

CHAPTER XXVI.

MARIAN'S INTERPRETATION OF MERWYN.

Shallow natures, like shallow waters, are easily agitated, and outward
manifestations are in proportion to the shallowness. Superficial
observers are chiefly impressed by visible emotion and tumult.

With all her faults, Marian had inherited from her father a strong
nature. Her intuitions had become womanly and keen, and Merwyn's
dumb agony affected her more deeply than a torrent of impetuous
words or any outward evidence of distress. She went back to her chair
and shed bitter tears; she scarcely knew why, until her father's
voice aroused her by saying, "Why, Marian dear, what IS the matter?"

"Oh, I am glad you have come," she said. "I have caused so much
suffering that I feel as if I had committed a crime;" and she gave
an account of the recent interview.

"Let me reassure you," said her father, gravely. "You did mean
kindly by Merwyn, and you gave him, without being unwomanly, the
best chance he could possibly have to throw off the incubus that
is burdening his life. If, with the opportunity he had to-night,
and under the influence of his love, he did not speak, his secret
is one of which he cannot speak. At least, I fear it is one of
which he dares not speak to you, lest it should be fatal to him and
all his hopes. I cannot even guess what it is, but at all events
it is of a serious nature, too grave to be regarded any longer as
secondary in our estimate of Mr. Merwyn's character. The shadow of
this mystery must not fall on you, and I am glad he is going away.
I hoped that your greater kindness and mine might lead him to reveal
his trouble, that we could help him, and that a character in many
respects so unique and strong might be cleared of its shadows. In
this case we might not only have rendered a fellow-being a great
service, but also have secured a friend capable of adding much to
our happiness. This mystery, however, proves so deep-rooted and
inscrutable that I shall be glad to withdraw you from his influence
until time and circumstance make all plain, if they ever can.
These old families often have dark secrets, and this young man,
in attaining his majority and property, has evidently become the
possessor of one of them. In spite of all his efforts to do well
it is having a sinister influence over his life, and this influence
must not extend to yours. The mere fact that he does not take an
active part in the war is very subordinate in itself. Thousands
who might do this as well as he are very well content to stay at
home. The true aspect of the affair is this: A chain of circumstances,
unforeseen, and uncaused by any premeditated effort on our part, has
presented to his mind the most powerful motives to take a natural
part in the conflict. It has gradually become evident that the
secret of his restraint is a mystery that affects his whole being.
Therefore, whether it be infirmity, fault, or misfortune, he has no
right to impose it on others, since it seems to be beyond remedy.
Do you not agree with me?"

"I could not do otherwise, papa. Yet, remembering how he looked
to-night, I cannot help being sorry for him, even though my mind
inclines to the belief that constitutional timidity restrains him.
I never saw a man tremble so, and he turned white to his very lips.
Papa, have you read 'The Fair Maid of Perth'?"

"Yes."

"Don't you remember MacIan, the young chief of Clan Quhele? This
character always made a deep impression on me, awakening at the
same time pity and the strongest repulsion. I could never understand
him. He was high-born, and lived at an age when courage was the
commonest of traits, while its absence was worse than crime. For
the times he was endowed with every good quality except the power
to face danger. This from the very constitution of his being he
could not do, and he, beyond all others, understood his infirmity,
suffering often almost mortal agony in view of it. For some reason
I have been led to reread this story, and, in spite of myself, that
wretched young Scottish chieftain has become associated in my mind
with Willard Merwyn. He said to-night that his imagination was
stronger than his will. I can believe it from his words. His dead
father and others have become distinct presences to him. In the
same way he calls up before his fancy the horrors of a battle-field,
and he finds that he has not the power to face them, that he cannot
do it, no matter what the motives may be. He feels that he would
be simply overwhelmed with horror and faint-heartedness, and he is
too prudent to risk the shame of exposure."

"Well," said her father, sighing, as if he were giving up a pleasing
dream, "you have thought out an ingenious theory which, if true,
explains Merwyn's course, perhaps. A woman's intuitions are subtle,
and often true, but somehow it does not satisfy me, even though I
can recall some things which give color to your view. Still, whatever
be the explanation, all MUST be explained before we can give him
more than ordinary courtesy."

It soon became evident that Merwyn had gone to his country place,
for his visits ceased. The more Marian thought about him,--and she
did think a great deal,--the more she was inclined to believe that
her theory explained everything. His very words, "You think me a
coward," became a proof, in her mind, that he was morbidly sensitive
on this point, and ever conscious of his infirmity. He was too
ready to resent a fancied imputation on his courage.

She strove to dismiss him from her thoughts, but with only partial
success. He gave her the sense of being baffled, defeated. What
could be more natural than that a high-spirited young man should
enter the army of his own free will? He had not entered it even
with her favor, possibly her love, as a motive. Yet he sought her
favor as if it were the chief consideration of existence. With her
theory, and her ideal of manhood, he was but the mocking shadow of
a man, but so real, so nearly perfect, that she constantly chafed
at the defect. Even her father had been deeply impressed by the
rare promise of his young life,--a promise which she now believed
could never be kept, although few might ever know it.

"I must be right in my view," she said. "He proves his loyalty by
an unflagging interest in our arms, by the gift of thousands. He
is here, his own master. He would not shun danger for the sake of
his cold-hearted mother, from whom he seems almost estranged. His
sisters are well provided for, and do not need his care. He does not
live for the sake of pleasure, like many other young men. Merciful
Heaven! I blush even to think the words, much more to speak them.
Why does he not go, unless his fear is greater than his love for me?
why is he not with Lane and Strahan, unless he has a constitutional
dread that paralyzes him? He is the Scottish chieftain, MacIan,
over again. All I can do now is to pity him as one to whom Nature
has been exceedingly cruel, for every fibre in my being shrinks
from such a man."

And so he came to dwell in her mind as one crippled, from birth,
in his very soul.

Meanwhile events took place which soon absorbed her attention.
Lane's letter announcing the opening of the campaign proved a false
alarm, although, from a subsequent letter, she learned that he had
had experiences not trifling in their nature. On the rainy night,
early in April, that would ever be memorable to her, she had said
to Merwyn, "The army is on the march."

This was true of the cavalry corps, and part of it even crossed the
upper waters of the Rappahannock; but the same storm which dashed
the thick drops against her windows also filled the river to
overflowing, and the brave troopers, recalled, had to swim their
horses in returning. Lane was among these, and his humorous account
of the affair was signed, "Your loyal amphibian!"

A young girl of Marian's temperament is a natural hero-worshipper,
and he was becoming her hero. Circumstances soon occurred which
gave him a sure place in this character.

By the last of April, not only the cavalry, but the whole army, moved,
the infantry taking position on the fatal field of Chancellorsville.
Then came the bloody battle, with its unspeakable horrors and
defeat. The icy Rappahannock proved the river of death to thousands
and thousands of brave men.

Early in May the Union army, baffled, depleted, and discouraged, was
again in its old quarters where it had spent the winter. Apparently
the great forward movement had been a failure, but it was the cause
of a loss to the Confederate cause from which it never recovered,--that
of "Stonewall" Jackson. So transcendent were this man's boldness
and ability in leading men that his death was almost equivalent to
the annihilation of a rebel army. He was a typical character, the
embodiment of the genius, the dash, the earnest, pure, but mistaken
patriotism of the South. No man at the North more surely believed
he was right than General Jackson, no man more reverently asked God's
blessing on efforts heroic in the highest degree. He represented
the sincere but misguided spirit which made every sacrifice possible
to a brave people, and his class should ever be distinguished from
the early conspirators who were actuated chiefly by ambition and
selfishness.

His death also was typical, for he was wounded by a volley fired,
through misapprehension, by his own men. The time will come when
North and South will honor the memory of Thomas J. Jackson, while,
at the same time, recognizing that his stout heart, active brain,
and fiery zeal were among the chief obstructions to the united and
sublime destiny of America. The man's errors were due to causes
over which he had little control; his noble character was due to
himself and his faith in God.

Many days passed before Marian heard from Lane, and she then learned
that the raid in which he had participated had brought him within
two miles of Richmond, and that he had passed safely through great
dangers and hardships, but that the worst which he could say of
himself was that he was "prone to go to sleep, even while writing
to her."

The tidings from her other friends were equally reassuring. Their
regiment had lost heavily, and Blauvelt had been made a captain almost
in spite of himself, while Strahan was acting as lieutenant-colonel,
since the officer holding that rank had been wounded. There was a
dash of sadness and tragedy in the journal which the two young men
forwarded to her after they had been a few days in their old camp
at Falmouth, but Strahan's indomitable humor triumphed, and their
crude record ended in a droll sketch of a plucked cock trying
to crow. She wrote letters so full of sympathy and admiration of
their spirit that three soldiers of the army of the Potomac soon
recovered their morale.

The month of May was passing in mocking beauty to those whose hopes
and happiness were bound up in the success of the Union armies. Not
only had deadly war depleted Hooker's grand army, but the expiration
of enlistments would take away nearly thirty thousand more. Mr.
Vosburgh was aware of this, and he also found the disloyal elements
by which he was surrounded passing into every form of hostile
activity possible within the bounds of safety. Men were beginning to
talk of peace, at any cost, openly, and he knew that the Southern
leaders were hoping for the beginning at any time of a counter-revolution
at the North. The city was full of threatening rumors, intrigues,
and smouldering rebellion.

Marian saw her father overwhelmed with labors and anxieties, and
letters from her friends reflected the bitterness then felt by the
army because the North appeared so half-hearted.

"Mr. Merwyn, meanwhile," she thought, "is interesting himself in
landscape-gardening. If he has one spark of manhood or courage he
will show it now."

The object of this reproach was living almost the life of a hermit
at his country place, finding no better resource, in his desperate
unrest and trouble, than long mountain rambles, which brought
physical exhaustion and sleep.

He had not misunderstood Marian's final words and manner. Delicately,
yet clearly, she had indicated the steps he must take to vindicate
his character and win her friendship. He felt that he had become
pale, that he had trembled in her presence. What but cowardice
could explain his manner and account for his inability to confirm
the good impression he had made by following the example of her
other friends? From both his parents he had inherited a nature
sensitive to the last degree to any imputation of this kind. To
receive it from the girl he loved was a hundred-fold more bitter
than death, yet he was bound by fetters which, though unseen by
all, were eating into his very soul. The proud Mrs. Merwyn was a
slave-holder herself, and the daughter of a long line of slave-owners;
but never had a bondsman been so chained and crushed as was her
son. For weeks he felt that he could not mingle with other men,
much less meet the girl to whom manly courage was the corner-stone
of character.

One evening in the latter part of May, as Mr. Vosburgh and his
family were sitting down to dinner, Barney Ghegan, the policeman,
appeared at their door with a decent-looking, elderly colored
woman and her lame son. They were refugees, or "contrabands," as
they were then called, from the South, and they bore a letter from
Captain Lane.

It was a scrap of paper with the following lines pencilled upon
it:--

"MR. VOSBURGH, No. -- -- ST.: I have only time for a line. Mammy
Borden will tell you her story and that of her son. Their action
and other circumstances have enlisted my interest. Provide them
employment, if convenient. At any rate, please see that they want
nothing, and draw on me. Sincere regard to you all.--In haste,

"LANE, Captain.-- --U.S. Cav."

CHAPTER XXVII.

"DE HEAD LINKUM MAN WAS CAP'N LANE."

It can be well understood that the two dusky strangers, recommended
by words from Lane, were at once invested with peculiar interest
to Marian. Many months had elapsed since she had seen him, but
all that he had written tended to kindle her imagination. This had
been the more true because he was so modest in his accounts of the
service in which he had participated. She had learned what cavalry
campaigning meant, and read more meaning between the lines than
the lines themselves conveyed. He was becoming her ideal knight,
on whom no shadow rested. From first to last his course had been
as open as the day, nor had he, in any respect, failed to reach
the highest standard developed by those days of heroic action.

If this were true when "Mammy Borden" and her son appeared, the
reader can easily believe that, when they completed their story,
Captain Lane was her Bayard sans peur et sans reproche.

Barney explained that they had met him in the street and asked
for Mr. Vosburgh's residence; as it was nearly time for him to be
relieved of duty he told them that in a few moments he could guide
them to their destination. Marian's thanks rewarded him abundantly,
and Mrs. Vosburgh told him that if he would go to the kitchen he
should have a cup of coffee and something nice to take home to his
wife. They both remained proteges of the Vosburghs, and received
frequent tokens of good-will and friendly regard. While these were
in the main disinterested, Mr. Vosburgh felt that in the possibilities
of the future it might be to his advantage to have some men in the
police force wholly devoted to his interests.

The two colored refugees were evidently hungry and weary, and,
eager as Marian was to learn more of her friend when informed that
he had been wounded, she tried to content herself with the fact that
he was doing well, until the mother and son had rested a little
and had been refreshed by an abundant meal. Then they were summoned
to the sitting-room, for Mr. and Mrs. Vosburgh shared in Marian's
deep solicitude and interest.

It was evident that their humble guests, who took seats deferentially
near the door, had been house-servants and not coarse plantation
slaves, and in answer to Mr. Vosburgh's questions they spoke in a
better vernacular than many of their station could employ.

"Yes, mass'r," the woman began, "we seed Mass'r Lane,--may de Lord
bress 'im,--and he was a doin' well when we lef. He's a true Linkum
man, an' if all was like him de wah would soon be ended an' de
cullud people free. What's mo', de white people of de Souf wouldn't
be so bitter as dey now is."

"Tell us your story, mammy," said Marian, impatiently; "tell us
everything you know about Captain Lane."

A ray of intelligence lighted up the woman's sombre eyes, for she
believed she understood Marian's interest, and at once determined
that Lane's action should lose no embellishment which she could
honestly give.

"Well, missy, it was dis away," she said. "My mass'r and his sons
was away in de wah. He own a big plantation an' a great many slabes.
My son, Zeb dar, an' I was kep' in de house. I waited on de missus
an' de young ladies, an' Zeb was kep' in de house too, 'kase he
was lame and 'kase dey could trus' him wid eberyting an' dey knew
it.

"Well, up to de time Cap'n Lane come we hadn't seen any ob de
Linkum men, but we'd heared ob de prockermation an' know'd we was
free, far as Mass'r Linkum could do it, an' Zeb was jus' crazy to
git away so he could say, 'I'se my own mass'r.' I didn't feel dat
away, 'kase I was brought up wid my missus, an' de young ladies
was a'most like my own chillen, an' we didn't try to get away like
some ob de plantation han's do.

"Well, one ebenin', short time ago, a big lot ob our sogers come
marchin' to our house--dey was hoss sogers--an' de missus an' de
young ladies knew some of de ossifers, an' dey flew aroun' an' got
up a big supper fo' dem. We all turned in, an' dar was hurry-skurry
all ober de big house, fo' de ossifers sed dey would stay all night
if de sogers ob you-uns would let dem. Dey said de Linkum sogers
was comin' dat away, but dey wouldn't be 'long afore de mawnin',
an' dey was a-gwine to whip dem. All was light talk an' larfin' an'
jingle ob sabres. De house was nebber so waked up afo'. De young
ladies was high-strung an' beliebed dat one ob our sogers could whip
ten Linkum men. In de big yard betwixt de house an' de stables de
men was feedin' dere hosses, an' we had a great pot ob coffee bilin'
fo' dem, too, an' oder tings, fo' de missus sed dere sogers mus'
hab eberyting she had.

"Well, bimeby, as I was helpin' put de tings on de table, I heared
shots way off at de foot ob de lawn. Frontin' de house dar was a
lawn mos' half a mile long, dat slope down to de road, and de Linkum
sogers was 'spected to come dat away, an' dere was a lookout for
dem down dar. As soon as de ossifers heared de shots dey rush out
an' shout to dere men, an' dey saddle up in a hurry an' gallop out
in de lawn in front of de house an' form ranks."

"How many were there?" Marian asked, her cheeks already burning
with excitement.

"Law, missy, I doesn't know. Dere was a right smart lot--hundreds
I should tink."

"Dere was not quite two hundred, missy," said Zeb; "I counted dem;"
and then he looked towards his mother, who continued.

"De young ladies an' de missus went out on de verandy dat look down
de lawn, and Missy Roberta, de oldest one, said, 'Now, maumy, you
can see the difference between our sogers an' de Linkum men, as
you call dem.' Missy Roberta had great black eyes an' was allus
a-grievin' dat she wasn't a man so she could be a soger, but Missy
S'wanee had blue eyes like her moder, an' was as full ob frolic
as a kitten. She used ter say, 'I doesn't want ter be a man, fer I
kin make ten men fight fer me.' So she could, sho' 'nuff, fer all
de young men in our parts would fight de debil hisself for de sake
ob Missy S'wanee."

"Go on, go on," cried Marian; "the Northern soldiers were coming--"

"Deed, an' dey was, missy,--comin' right up de lawn 'fore our eyes,
an' dribin' in a few ob our sogers dat was a-watchin' fer dem by
de road; dey come right 'long too. I could see dere sabres flashin'
in de sunset long way off. One ossifer set dere men in ranks, and
den de oder head ossifer come ridin' up to de verandy, an' Missy
Roberta gave de ribbin from her ha'r to de one dey call cunnel,
an' de oder ossifer ask Missy S'wanee fer a ribbin, too. She larf
an' say, 'Win it, an' you shall hab it.' Den off dey gallop, Missy
Roberta cryin' arter dem, 'Don't fight too fa' away; I want to see
de Linkum hirelin's run.' Den de words rung out, 'For'ard, march,
trot,' an' down de lawn dey went. De Linkum men was now in plain
sight. Zeb, you tell how dey look an' what dey did. I was so afeard
fer my missus and de young ladies, I was 'mos' out ob my mind."

"Well, mass'r and ladies," said Zeb, rising and making a respectful
bow, "I was at an upper window an' could see eberyting. De Linkum
men was trottin' too, an' comin' in two ranks, one little way
'hind de toder. Right smart way afore dese two ranks was a line
of calvary-men a few feet apart from each oder, an' dis line reach
across de hull lawn to de woods on de oder side. I soon seed dat
dere was Linkum sogers in de woods, too. Dey seemed sort ob outside
sogers all aroun' de two ranks in de middle. Dey all come on fas',
not a bit afeard, an' de thin line in front was firin' at our
sogers dat had been a-watchin' down by de road, an' our sogers was
a-firin' back.

"Bimeby, soon, bofe sides come nigh each oder, den de thin line
ob Linkum men swept away to de lef at a gallop, an' our sogers an'
de fust rank ob Linkum men run dere hosses at each oder wid loud
yells. 'Clar to you, my heart jus' stood still. Neber heard such
horrid noises, but I neber took my eyes away, for I beliebed I saw
my freedom comin'. Fer a while I couldn't tell how it was gwine;
dere was nothin' but clash ob sabres, an' bofe sides was all mixed
up, fightin' hand ter hand.

"I was wonderin' why de second rank of Linkum men didn't do nothin',
for dey was standin' still wid a man on a hoss, out in front ob
dem. Suddenly I heard a bugle soun', an' de Linkum men dat was
fightin' gave way to right an' lef, an' de man on de hoss wave his
sword an' start for'ard at a gallop wid all his men arter him. Den
our sogers 'gan to give back, fightin' as dey came. Dey was brave,
dey was stubborn as mules, but back dey had to come. De head Linkum
ossifer was leadin' all de time. I neber seed such a man, eberyting
an' eberybody guv way afo' him. De oder Linkum sogers dat I thought
was whipped wasn't whipped at all, fer dey come crowdin' aroun'
arter de head ossifer, jes' as peart as eber.

"Front ob de house our ossifers an' sogers made a big stan', fer
de missus an' de young ladies stood right dar on de verandy, wabin'
dere hankerchiefs an' cryin' to dem to dribe de Yankee back. I knowed
my moder was on de verandy, an' I run to her, an' sho' 'nuff, dar
she was stan'in' right in front of Missy S'wanee an' 'treating de
missus an' de young ladies ter go in, fer de bullets was now flyin'
tick. But dey wouldn't go in, an' Missy Roberta was wringin' her
han's, an' cryin', 'Oh, dat I was a man!' De cunnel, de oder ossifer,
an' a lot ob our sogers wouldn't give back an inch. Dar dey was,
fightin' right afore our eyes. De rest ob dere sogers was givin'
way eb'rywhar. De Linkum sogers soon made a big rush togedder. De
cunnel's hoss went down. In a minute dey was surrounded; some was
killed, some wounded, an' de rest all taken, 'cept de young ossifer
dat Missy S'wanee tole to win her colors. He was on a po'ful big
hoss, an' he jes' break right through eb'ryting, an' was off wid
de rest. De Linkum sogers followed on, firin' at 'em.

"De missus fainted dead away, an' my moder held her in her arms.
De head Linkum ossifer now rode up to de verandy an' took off his
hat, an' he say: 'Ladies, I admire your co'age, but you should not
'spose yourselves so needlessly. Should de vict'ry still remain
wid our side, I promise you 'tection an 'munity from 'noyance!'

"Den he bow an' gallop arter his men dat was chasin' our sogers,
leabin' anoder ossifer in charge ob de pris'ners. De head Linkum
man was Cap'n Lane."

"I knew it, I knew it," cried Marian. "Ah! he's a friend to be
proud of."

Her father and mother looked at her glowing cheeks and flashing
eyes, and dismissed Merwyn from the possibilities of the future.

CHAPTER XXVIIL

The Signal Light.

The colored woman again took up the thread of the story which would
explain her presence and her possession of a note from Captain
Lane, recommending her and her son to Mr. Vosburgh's protection.

"Yes, missy," she said, "Cap'n Lane am a fren' ter be proud ob. I
tinks he mus' be like Mass'r Linkum hisself, fer dere nebber was a
man more braver and more kinder. Now I'se gwine ter tell yer what
happen all that drefful night, an' Zeb will put in his word 'bout
what he knows. While de cap'n was a-speakin' to de young ladies,
de missus jes' lay in my arms as ef she was dead. Missy Roberta,
as she listen, stand straight and haughty, an' give no sign she
hear, but Missy S'wanee, she bow and say, 'Tank you, sir!' Zeb
called some ob de house-servants, an' we carry de missus to her
room, an' de young ladies help me bring her to. Den I stayed wid
her, a-fannin' her an' a-cheerin' an' a-tellin' her dat I knew
Cap'n Lane wouldn't let no harm come ter dem. Now, Zeb, you seed
what happen downstars."

"Yes, mass'r an' ladies, I kep' my eyes out, fer I tinks my chance
is come now, if eber. Cap'n Lane soon come back an' said to de
ossifer in charge ob de pris'ners,--an' dere was more pris'ners
bein' brought in all de time,--sez Cap'n Lane, 'De en'my won't
stand agin. I'se sent Cap'n Walling in pursuit, an' now we mus'
make prep'rations fer de night.' Den a man dey call a sergeant,
who'd been a spyin' roun' de kitchen, an' lookin' in de dinin'-room
winders, come up an' say something to Cap'n Lane; an' he come up
to de doah an' say he like ter see one ob de ladies. I call Missy
S'wanee, an' she come, cool an' lady-like, an' not a bit afeard,
an' he take off his hat to her, an' say:--

"'Madam, I'se sorry all dis yer happen 'bout yer house, but I'se
could not help it. Dere's a good many woun'ed, an' our surgeon is
gwine ter treat all alike. I'se tole dat yer had coffee a-bilin'
an' supper was ready. Now all I ask is, dat de woun'ed on bofe
sides shall have 'freshments fust, an' den ef dere's anyting lef',
I'd like my ossifers to have some supper.' Den he kinder smile as
he say, 'I know you 'spected oder company dis ebenin', an' when de
woun'ed is provided fer, de ossifers on your side can hab supper
too. I hab ordered de hospital made in de out-buildin's, an' de
priv'cy ob your home shall not be 'truded on.'

"'Cunnel,' say Missy S'wanee. 'Plain Cap'n,' he say, interrupting--'Cap'n
Lane.'

"'Cap'n Lane, she goes on, 'I tanks you fer your courtesy,
an 'sideration. I did not 'spect it. Your wishes shall be carried
out.' Den she says, 'I'se'll hab more supper pervided, an' we'll
'spect you wid your ossifers;' for she wanted ter make fren's wid
him, seein' we was all in his po'er. He says, 'No, madam, I'se
take my supper wid my men. I could not be an unwelcome gues' in any
house, What I asks for my ossifers, I asks as a favor; I doesn't
deman' it.' Den he bows an' goes away. Missy S'wanee, she larf--she
was allus a-larfin' no matter what happen--an' she says, 'I'se'll
get eben wid him.' Well, de cap'n goes an' speaks to de cunnel,
an' de oder captured ossifers ob our sogers, an' dey bow to him,
an' den dey comes up an' sits on de verandy, an' Missy Roberta goes
out, and dey talk in low tones, an' I couldn't hear what dey say.
I was a-helpin' Missy S'wanee, an' she say to me, 'Zeb, could you
eber tink dat a Yankee cap'n could be such a gemlin?' I didn't say
nuffin', fer I didn't want anybody ter'spect what was in my min',
but eb'ry chance I git I keep my eye on Cap'n Lane, fer I believed
he could gib us our liberty. He was aroun' 'mong de woun'ed, an'
seein' ter buryin' de dead, an' postin' an' arrangin' his men;
deed, an' was all ober eberywhar.

"By dis time de ebenin' was growin' dark, de woun'ed and been cared
for, an' our ossifers an' de Linkum ossifers sat down to supper;
an' dey talk an' larf as if dey was good fren's. Yer'd tink it was
a supper-party, ef dere hadn't been a strappin' big soger walkin'
up an' down de verandy whar he could see in de winders. I help waits
on de table, an' Missy Roberta, she was rudder still an' glum-like,
but Missy S'wanee, she smiles on all alike, an' she say to de
Linkum ossifers, 'I 'predate de court'sy ob your cap'n, eben do'
he doesn't grace our board. I shall take de liberty, howsemeber,
ob sendin' him some supper;' an' she put a san'wich an' some cake
an' a cup ob coffee on a waiter an' sen' me out to him whar he
was sittin' by de fire in de edge ob de woods on de lawn. He smile
an' say, 'Tell de young lady dat I drink to her health an' happier
times.' Den I gits up my co'age an' says, 'Cap'n Lane, I wants ter
see yer when my work's done in de house.' He say, 'All right, come
ter me here.' Den he look at me sharp an' say, 'Can I trus' yer?'
An' I say, 'Yes, Mass'r Cap'n; I'se Linkum, troo an' troo.' Den he
whisper in my ear de password, 'White-rose.'"

Marian remembered that she had given him a white rose when he had
asked for her colors. He had made it his countersign on the evening
of his victory.

"Arter supper our ossifers were taken down ter de oder pris'ners,
an' guards walk aroun dem all night. I help clar up de tings, an'
watch my chance ter steal away. At las' de house seem quiet. I
tought de ladies had gone ter dere rooms, an' I put out de light
in de pantry, an' was watchin' an' waitin' an' listenin' to be sho'
dat no one was 'roun, when I heared a step in de hall. De pantry
doah was on a crack, an' I peeps out, an' my bref was nigh took
away when I sees a rebel ossifer, de one dat got away in de fight.
He give a long, low whistle, an' den dere was a rustle in de hall
above, an' Missy Roberta came flyin' down de starway. I know den
dat dere was mischief up, an' I listen wid all my ears. She say to
him, 'How awfully imprudent!' An' she put de light out in de hall,
les' somebody see in. Den she say, 'Shell we go in de parlor?' He
say, 'No, dere's two doahs here, each end de hall, an' a chance
ter go out de winders, too. I mus' keep open ebery line ob retreat.
Are dere any Yanks in de house?' She say, 'No,'--dat de Union cap'n
very 'sid'rate. 'Curse him!' sed de reb; 'he spoil my ebenin' wid
Miss S'wanee, but tell her I win her colors yet, an' pay dis Yankee
cap'n a bigger interest in blows dan he eber had afo.' Den he
'splain how he got his men togedder, an' he foun' anoder 'tachment ob
rebs, an' how dey would all come in de mawnin', as soon as light,
an' ride right ober eberyting, an' 'lease de cunnel an' all de
oder pris'ners. Den he says, 'We'se a-comin' on de creek-road. Put
a dim light in de winder facin' dat way, an' as long as we see it
burnin' we'll know dat all's quiet an' fav'able, an' tell Missy
S'wanee to hab her colors ready. Dey tought I was one oh de Yanks
in de dark, when I come in, but gettin' away'll be more tick'lish.'
Den she say, 'Don't go out ob de doah. Drap from de parlor winder
inter de shrub'ry, an' steal away troo de garden.' While dey was
gone ter de parlor, I step out an' up de starway mighty sudden.
Den I whip aroun' to de beginnin' ob de garret starway an' listen.
Soon Missy Roberta come out de parlor an' look in de pantry an' de
oder rooms, an' she sof'ly call me, 'kase she know I was las' up
'round de house; but I'se ain't sayin' nuffin'. Den she go in de
missus room, whar my moder was, an' soon she and Missy S'wanee came
out an' whisper, an' Missy S'wanee was a-larfin' how as ef she was
pleased. Den Missy S'wanee go back to de missus, an' Missy Roberta
go to her room.

"Now was my chance, an' I tuck off'n my shoes an' carried dem, an'
I tank de Lord I heared it all, fer I says, 'Cap'n Lane'll give me
my liberty now sho' 'nuff, when I tells him all.' I'se felt sho'
he'd win de fight in de mawnin', fer he seemed ob de winnin' kine.
I didn't open any ob de doahs on de fust floah, but stole down in
de cellar, 'kase I knowed ob a winder dat I could creep outen. I
got away from de house all right, an' went toward de fire where I
lef Cap'n Lane. Soon a gruff voice said, 'Halt!' I guv de password
mighty sudden, an' den said, 'I want to see Cap'n Lane.' De man call
anoder soger, an' he come an' question me, an' den took me ter de
cap'n. An' he was a-sleepin' as if his moder had rocked 'im! But
he was on his feet de moment he spoke to. He 'membered me, an' ask
ef de mawnin' wouldn't answer. I say, 'Mass'r Cap'n, I'se got big
news fer yer.' Den he wide awake sho' 'nuff, an' tuck me one side,
an' I tole him all. 'What's yer name?' he says. 'Zeb Borden,' I
answers. Den he say: 'Zeb, you've been a good fren'. Ef I win de
fight in de mawnin' you shell hab your liberty. It's yours now, ef
you can get away.' I says I'se lame an' couldn't get away unless
he took me, an' dat I wanted my moder ter go, too. Den he tought
a minute, an' went back ter de fire an' tore out a little book
de paper we brought, an' he says, 'What your moder's name?' An' I
says, 'Dey call her Maumy Borden.' Den he wrote de lines we bring,
an' he says: 'No tellin' what happen in de mawnin'. Here's some
money dat will help you 'long when you git in our lines. Dis my
fust inderpendent comman', an' ef yer hadn't tole me dis I might a'
los' all I gained. Be faithful, Zeb; keep yer eyes an' ears open,
an' I'll take care ob yer. Now slip back, fer yer might be missed.'"

"I got back to my lof' mighty sudden, an' I was jis' a-shakin'
wid fear, for I beliebe dat Missy Roberta would a' killed me wid
her own hands ef she'd knowed. She was like de ole mass'r, mighty
haughty an' despit-like, when she angry. I wasn't in de lof' none
too soon, fer Missy Roberta was 'spicious and uneasy-like, an'
she come to de head ob de gerret starway an' call my name. At fust
I ain't sayin' suffin', an' she call louder. Den I say, 'Dat you,
Missy Roberta?' Den she seem to tink dat I was all right. I slipped
arter her down de starway an' listen, an' I know she gwine ter put
de light in de winder. Den she go to her room again.

"A long time pass, an' I hear no soun'. De house was so still dat
I done got afeard, knowin' dere was mischief up. Dere was a little
winder in my lof lookin' toward de creek-road, an' on de leabes
ob some trees I could see a little glimmer ob de light dat Missy
Roberta had put dar as a signal. Dat glimmer was jes' awful, fer
I knowed it mean woun's and death to de sogers, an' liberty or no
liberty fer me. Bimeby I heared steps off toward de creek-road,
but dey soon die away. I watched an' waited ter'ble long time, an'
de house an' all was still, 'cept de tread ob de guards. Mus' a'
been about tree in de mawnin' when I heared a stir. It was very
quiet-like, an' I hear no words, but now an' den dere was a jingle
like a sabre make when a man walk. I stole down de starway an' look
outen a winder in de d'rection whar Cap'n Lane was, an' I see dat
de Linkum men had let all dere fires go out. It was bery dark. Den
I hear Missy Roberta open her doah, an' I whip back ter my lof.
She come soon an' had a mighty hard time wakin' me up. an' den she
say: 'Zeb, dere's sumpen goin' on 'mong de Yankee sogers. Listen.'
I says, 'I doesn't hear nuffin'.' She says: 'Dere is; dey's a-saddlin'
up, an' movin' roun'. I want you ter steal outen an' see what dey
is doin', an' tell me.' I says, 'Yes, missy.' I tought de bole
plan would be de bes' plan now, an' I put on my shoes an' went out.
Putty soon I comes back and says to her, 'I axed a man, an' he tole
me dey was changin' de guard.'--'Did de res' seem quiet?'--'Yes,
missy, dey is sleepin' 'round under de trees.' She seemed greatly
'lieved, an' says, 'You watch aroun' an' tell me ef dere's any
news.' I stole out again an' crep' up 'hind some bushes, an' den
I sho' dat de Linkum men was a-slippin' away toward de creek-road,
but de guards kep' walkin' 'roun de pris'ners, jes' de same. On a
sudden dere was a man right 'longside ob me, an' he say, 'Make a
noise or move, an' you are dead. What are you doin' here?' I gasp
out, 'White-rose, Cap'n Lane.'--'Oh, it's you,' he say, wid a low
larf. Fo' I could speak dere come a scream, sich as I neber heared,
den anoder an' anoder. 'Dey comes from de missus' room.' Den he
say, 'Run down dar an' ask de sergeant ob de guard to send tree
men wid you, an' come quick!' Now moder kin tell yer what happened.
I had lef de back hall doah unlocked, an' de cap'n went in like a
flash."

"De good Lor' bress Cap'n Lane," began the colored woman, "fer he
come just in time. De missus had been wakin' an' fearful-like mos'
ob de night, but at las' we was all a-dozin'. I was in a char by
her side, an' Missy S'wanee laid on a lounge. She hadn't undress,
an' fer a long time seemed as if listenin'. At las' dere come a
low knock, an' we all started up. I goes to de doah an' say, 'Who's
dar?'--'A message from Cap'n Lane,' says a low voice outside. 'Open
de doah,' says Missy S'wanee; 'I'se not afeard ob him.' De moment
I slip back de bolt, a big man, wid a black face, crowds in an'
say, 'Not a soun', as you valley your lives: I want yer jewelry
an' watches;' an' he held a pistol in his hand. At fust we tought
it was a plantation han', fer he tried ter talk like a cullud man,
an' Missy S'wanee 'gan ter talk ter him; but he drew a knife an'
says, 'Dis won't make no noise, an' it'll stop yer noise ef yer
make any. Not a word, but gib up eberyting.' De missus was so beat
out wid fear, dat she say, 'Gib him eberyting.' An' Missy S'wanee,
more'n half-dead, too, began to gib dere watches an' jewels. De man
put dem in his pocket, an' den he lay his hands on Missy S'wanee,
to take off her ring. Den she scream, an' I flew at 'im an' tried
to tear his eyes out. Missy Roberta 'gan screamin', so we knowed
she was 'tacked too. De man was strong an' rough, an' whedder he
would a' killed us or not de Lord only knows, fer jes' den de doah
flew wide open, an' Cap'n Lane stood dere wid his drawn sword. In
a secon' he seed what it all meant, an' sprung in an' grabbed de
robber by de neck an' jerked him outen inter de hall. Den de man
'gan ter beg fer mercy, an' tole his name. It was one of Cap'n
Lane's own sogers. At dis moment Missy Roberta rush outen her room,
cryin', 'Help! murder!' Den we heared heaby steps rushing up de
starway, an' tree ob Cap'n Lane's sogers dash for'ard. As soon as
Missy Roberta see de cap'n wid de light from de open doah shinin'
on his face, she comes an' ask, 'What does dis outrage mean?'--'It
mean dat dis man shell be shot in de mawnin', he say, in a chokin'
kind ob voice, fer he seem almost too angry to speak. Den he ask,
'Were you 'tacked also?'--' Yes,' she cried, 'dere's a man in my
room.'--'Which room?' An' she pointed to de doah. De fus' robber
den made a bolt ter get away, but de cap'n's men cotch 'im. 'Tie
his han's 'hind his back, an' shoot him if he tries to run agin,'
said de cap'n; den he say to Missy Roberta: 'Go in your moder's
room. Don't leave it without my permission. Ef dere is a man in
your room, he shall shar de fate ob dat villain dat I've 'spected
ob bein' a tief afore.' An' he went an' looken in Missy Roberta's
room. In a few moments he come back an' say, 'Dere was a man dar,
but he 'scape troo de winder on de verandy-roof. Ef I kin discober
'im he shall die too.' Den he say, grave an' sad-like: 'Ladies, dere
is bad men in eb'ry army. I'se deeply mort'fied dat dis should
happen. You'll bar me witness dat I tried to save you from all
'noyance. I know dis man,' pointin' to a soger dat stood near,
'an' I'll put him in dis hall on guard. His orders are--you hear
dem--not to let any one come in de hall, an' not to let any one
leabe dis room. As long as yer all stay in dis room, you are safe,
eben from a word.' Missy S'wanee rush for'ard an' take his han', an'
say, 'Eben ef you is my en'my you'se a gallant soger an' a gemlin,
an' I tanks you.' De cap'n smile an' bow, an' say, 'In overcomin'
your prej'dice I'se 'chieved my bes' vict'ry.' An' he gib her
back all de jewels an' watches, an' drew de doah to, an' lef us to
ourselves. Den we hear 'im go to a wes' room back ob de house wid
anoder soger, an' soon he come back alone, an' den de house all
still 'cept de eben tread ob de man outside. Missy Roberta clasp
her han's an' look wild. Den she whisper to Missy S'wanee, an' dey
seem in great trouble. Den she go an' open de doah an' say to de
soger dat she want ter go ter her room. 'You cannot, lady,' said
de soger. 'You heared my orders.'--'I'll only stay a minute,' she
say. 'You cannot pass dat doah,' said de soger. 'But I mus' an'
will,' cried Missy Roberta, an' she make a rush ter get out. De
soger held her still. 'Unhan' me!' she almost screamed. He turn
her 'roun' an' push her back in de room, an' den says: 'Lady, does
you tink a soger can disobey orders? Dere ain't no use ob your
takin' on 'bout dat light. We'se watch it all night as well as
your fren's, an' de cap'n has lef' a soger guardin' it, to keep it
burnin'. Ef I should let yer go, yer couldn't put it out, an' ef
it had been put out any time, we'd a' lighted it agin. So dere's
nuffin' fer yer to do but 'bey orders an' shut de doah. Den no one
will say a word to yer, as de cap'n said.' Den he pulled de doah
to hisself.

"Missy Roberta 'gan to wring her han's an' walk up an' down like
a caged tiger, an' Missy S'wanee larf and cry togedder as she
say, 'Cap'n Lane too bright fer us.'--'No,' cries Missy Roberta,
'somebody's 'trayed me, an' I could strike a knife inter dere
heart fer doin' it. O S'wanee, S'wanee, our fren's is walkin' right
inter a trap.' Den she run to de winder an' open it ter see ef she
couldn't git down, an' dere in de garden was a soger, a-walkin'
up an' down a-watchin'. 'We jes' can't do nuffin',' she said, an'
she 'gan to sob an' go 'sterical-like. Missy S'wanee tole de missus,
an' she wrung her han's an' cry, too; an' Missy S'wanee, she was
a-larfin' an' a-cryin', an' a-prayin' all ter once. Suddenly dere
was a shot off toward de creek-road, an' den we was bery still.
Now. Zeb, you know de res'!"

CHAPTER XXIX.

MARIAN CONTRASTS LANE AND MERWYN.

"Oh, come, this won't do at all," said Mr. Vosburgh, as Zeb was
about to continue the story. "It's nearly midnight now. Marian,
dear, your cheeks and eyes look as if you had a fever. Let us wait
and hear the rest of the story in the morning, or you'll be ill,
your mother will have a headache, and I shall be unfit for my work
to-morrow."

"Papa, papa, in pity don't stop them till we know all. If Captain
Lane could watch all night and fight in the morning, can't we listen
for an hour longer?"

"Oh, yes," cried Mrs. Vosburgh, "let them finish. It's like a story,
and I never could sleep well till I knew how a story was going to
turn out."

"Wait a moment and I'll bring everybody something nice from the
sideboard, and you, also, papa, a cigar from the library," cried
the young girl.

Her father smiled his acquiescence, and in a few moments they were
all ready to listen to the completion of a tragedy not without its
dash of comedy.

"Arter Cap'n Lane posted his guards in de house an' sent de
robber off," Zeb resumed, "he jump on a hoss an' gallop toward de
creek-road. De light in de winder kep' a-burnin'! I foun' arterwards
dat he an' his ossifers had been down on de creek-road and studied
it all out. At one place--whar it was narrer' wid tick woods on
bofe sides--dey had builded a high rail-fence. Den below dat he
had put sogers in de woods each side widout dere hosses, an' farder
down still he had hid a lot of men dat was mounted. Sho' 'nuff, wid
de fust light of de mawnin', de rebs come ridin' toward de light
in de winder. I'd run out to de hill, not far away, ter see what
would happen, an' it was so dark yet dat eb'ryting was mixed up wid
shadders. When de rebs was a-comin' by de Linkum men in de woods a
shot was fired. Den I s'pose de rebs tought it would gib de 'larm,
fer dey began ter run dere hosses for'ard. An' den de Linkum men
let dem hab it on bofe sides ob de road, but dey kep' on till dey
come to de fence 'cross de road, an' den dey git a volley in front.
Dis skeered 'em, for dey knowed dat de Linkum men was ready, an'
dey tried to git back. Den I heared a great tramplin' an' yellin',
an' dere was Cap'n Lane a-leadin' his men an' hosses right in ahind
dem. Dere was orful fightin' fer a while, an' de men widout dere
hosses leap outen de woods and shot like mad. It was flash! bang!
on eb'ry side. At las' de Linkum men won de day, an' some ob de
rebs burst troo de woods an' run, wid Cap'n Lane's men arter dem,
an' dey kep' a-chasin' till a bugle call dem back. Den I run to
de house, fer dey was bringin' in de pris'ners. Who should I see
'mong dese but de bery ossifer dat was wid Missy Roberta de night
afore, de one dat wanted de light in de winder, an' he look bery
mad, I can tell you.

"It was now gettin' broad day, an' de light at las' was outen de
winder. Dere was nuffin' mo' fer it to do. De Linkum soger dat had
been in de house was now helpin' guard de pris'ners, an' Missy Roberta
an' Missy S'wanee run up to de ossifer dat had been so fooled an'
say: 'We'se couldn't help it. Somebody 'trayed us. We was kep'
under guard, an' dere was a Yankee soger a-keepin' de light burnin'
arter we knew Cap'n Lane was aroun' an' ready.' Missy Roberta look
sharp at me, but I 'peared innercent as a sheep. Missy S'wanee say:
'No matter, Major Denham, you did all dat a brave man could do,
an' dar's my colors. You hab won dem.' An' den he cheer up 'mazin'ly.

"Den I hear somebody say Cap'n Lane woun'ed, an' I slip out toward
de creek-road, an' dar I see dem a-carryin Cap'n Lane, an' de surgeon
walkin' 'longside ob him. My heart jes' stood still wid fear. His
eyes was shut, an' he look bery pale-like. Dey was a-carryin' him
up de steps ob de verandy when Missy S'wanee came runnin' ter see
what was de matter. Den Cap'n Lane open his eyes an' he say: 'Not
in here. Put me wid de oder woun'ed men; 'but Missy S'wanee say,
'No; he protec' us an' act like a gemlin, an' he shall learn dat
de ladies ob de Souf will not be surpassed.' De missus say de same,
but Missy Roberta frown an' say nuffin'. She too much put out yet
'bout dat light in de winder an' de 'feat it brought her fren's.
De cap'n was too weak an' gone-like ter say anyting mo', an' dey
carry him up ter de bes' company room. I goes up wid dem ter wait
on de surgeon, an' he 'zamin' de woun' an' gib de cap'n brandy, an'
at las' say dat de cap'n get well ef he keep quiet a few weeks,--dat
he weak now from de shock an' loss ob blood.

"In de arternoon hundreds more Linkum men come, an' Cap'n Lane's
cunnel come wid dem, an' he praise de cap'n an' cheer him up, an'
de cap'n was bery peart an' say he feel better. Mos' ob de ossifers
take supper at de house. De missus an' Missy Roberta were perlite
but bery cold-like, but Missy S'wanee, while she show dat she was
a reb down to de bottom ob her good, kine heart, could smile an'
say sunshiny tings all de same. Dis night pass bery quiet, an'
in de mawnin' de Linkum cunnel say he hab orders ter 'tire toward
de Union lines. He feel bery bad 'bout leabin' Cap'n Lane, but de
surgeon say he mus' not be moved. He say, too, dat he stay wid de
cap'n an' de oder badly woun'ed men. De cap'n tell his cunnel 'bout
me an' my moder an' what he promise us, an' de cunnel say he take
us wid him an' send us to Washin'on. De missus an' de young ladies
take on drefful 'bout our gwine, but I say, 'I mus' hab my liberty,'
an' moder say she can't part wid her own flesh an' blood--"

"Yes, yes, but what did 'Cap'n' Lane say?" interrupted Marian.

"He tole me ter say ter you, missy, dat he was gwine ter git well,
an' dat you mus'n't worry 'kase you didn't hear from him, an' dat
he know you'd be kine to us, 'kase I'd help him win de vict'ry. De
surgeon wrote some letters, too, an' gib dem to de Linkum cunnel.
P'raps you git one ob dem. Dey put us in an army wagon, an' bimeby
we reach a railroad, an' dey gib us a pass ter Washin'on, an' we
come right on heah wid Cap'n Lane's money. I doesn't know what dey
did with de robber--"

"Oh, oh," cried Marian, "it may be weeks before I hear from my
friend again, if I 'ever do."

"Marian, dear," said her father, "do not look on the dark side;
it might have been a hundred-fold worse. 'Cap'n' Lane was in
circumstances of great comfort, with his own surgeon in care of
his wound. Think how many poor fellows were left on the field of
Chancellorsville to Heaven only knows what fate. In such desperate
fighting as has been described we have much reason to be thankful
that he was not killed outright. He has justly earned great credit
with his superiors, and I predict that he will get well and be
promoted. I think you will receive a letter in a day or two from
the surgeon. I prescribe that you and mamma sleep in the morning
till you are rested. I won't grumble at taking my coffee alone."
Then, to the colored woman and her son: "Don't you worry. We'll
see that you are taken care of."

Late as it was, hours still elapsed before Marian slept. Her hero
had become more heroic than ever. She dwelt on his achievements
with enthusiasm, and thought of his sufferings with a tenderness
never before evoked, while the possibility that "Missy S'wanee"
was his nurse produced twinges approaching jealousy.

As was expected, the morning post brought a letter from the surgeon
confirming the account that had been given by the refugees, and
full of hope-inspiring words. Then for weeks there were no further
tidings from Lane.

Meanwhile, events were culminating with terrible rapidity, and
their threatening significance electrified the North. The Southern
people and their sympathizers everywhere were jubilant over
the victory of Chancellorsville, and both demanded and expected
that this success should be followed by decisive victories. Lee's
army, General Longstreet said, was "in a condition of strength and
morale to undertake anything," and Southern public sentiment and
the needs of the Richmond government all pointed towards a second
and more extended invasion of the North. The army was indeed strong,
disciplined, a powerful instrument in the hands of a leader like
General Lee. Nevertheless, it had reached about the highest degree
of its strength. The merciless conscription in the South had swept
into its ranks nearly all the able-bodied men, and food and forage
were becoming so scarce in war-wasted Virginia and other regions
which would naturally sustain this force, that a bold, decisive
policy had become a necessity. It was believed that on Northern
soil the army could be fed, and terms of peace dictated.

The chief motive for this step was the hope of a counter-revolution
in the North where the peace faction had grown bold and aggressive
to a degree that only stopped short of open resistance. The draft
or general conscription which the President had ordered to take place
in July awakened intense hostility to the war and the government
on the part of a large and rapidly increasing class of citizens.
This class had its influential and outspoken leaders, who were
evidently in league with a secret and disloyal organization known
as the "Knights of the Golden Circle," the present object of which
was the destruction of the Union and the perpetuation of slavery.
In the city of New York the spirit of rebellion was as rampant in
the breasts of tens of thousands as in Richmond, and Mr. Vosburgh knew
it. His great sagacity and the means of information at his command
enabled him to penetrate much of the intrigue that was taking place,
and to guess at far more. He became haggard and almost sleepless
from his labors and anxieties, for he knew that the loyal people
of the North were living over a volcano.

Marian shared in this solicitude, and was his chief confidante. He
wished her, with her mother, to go to some safe and secluded place
in the country, and offered to lease again the cottage which they
had occupied the previous summer, but Marian said that she would
not leave him, and that he must not ask her to do so. Mrs. Vosburgh
was eventually induced to visit relatives in New England, and then
father and daughter watched events with a hundred-fold more anxiety
than that of the majority, because they were better informed and
more deeply involved in the issues at stake than many others. But
beyond all thought of worldly interests, their intense loyal feeling
burned with a pure, unwavering flame.

In addition to all that occupied her mind in connection with
her father's cares and duties, she had other grounds for anxiety.
Strahan wrote that his regiment was marching northward, and that
he soon expected to take part in the chief battle of the war. Every
day she hoped for some news from Lane, but none came. His wishes
in regard to Mammy Borden and her son had been well carried out.
Mr. Vosburgh had been led to suspect that the man in charge of his
offices was becoming rather too curious in regard to his affairs,
and too well informed about them. Therefore Zeb was installed
in his place; and when Mrs. Vosburgh departed on her visit Marian
dismissed the girl who had succeeded Sally Maguire, and employed
the colored woman in her stead. She felt that this action would
be pleasing to Lane, and that it was the very least that she could
do.

Moreover, Mammy Borden was what she termed a "character," one to
whom she could speak with something of the freedom natural to the
ladies of the Southern household. The former slave could describe
a phase of life and society that was full of novelty and romance
to Marian, and "de young ladies," especially "Missy S'wanee," were
types of the Southern girl of whom she never wearied of hearing.
From the quaint talk of her new servant she learned to understand
the domestic life of those whom she had regarded as enemies, and was
compelled to admit that in womanly spirit and dauntless patriotism
they were her equals, and had proved it by facing dangers and
hardships from which she had been shielded. More than all, the old
colored woman was a protegee of Captain Lane and was never weary
of chanting his praises.

Marian was sincerely perplexed by the attitude of her mind towards
this young officer. He kindled her enthusiasm and evoked admiration
without stint. He represented to her the highest type of manhood
in that period of doubt, danger, and strong excitement. Brave to
the last degree, his courage was devoid of recklessness. The simple,
untutored description of his action given by the refugees had only
made it all the more clear that his mind was as keen and bright as
his sword, while in chivalric impulses he had never been surpassed.
Unconsciously Mammy Borden and her son had revealed traits in him
which awakened Marian's deepest respect, suggesting thoughts of
which she would not have spoken to any one. She had been shown his
course towards beautiful women who were in his power, and who at
the same time were plotting his destruction and that of his command.
While he foiled their hostile purpose, no knight of olden times
could have shown them more thoughtful consideration and respect.
She felt that her heart ought to go out towards this ideal lover
in utter abandon. Why did it not? Why were her pride, exultation,
and deep solicitude too near akin to the emotions she would have
felt had he been her brother? Was this the only way in which she
could love? Would the sacred, mysterious, and irresistible impulses
of the heart, of which she had read, follow naturally in due time?

She was inclined to believe that this was true, yet, to her surprise,
the thought arose unbidden: "If Willard Merwyn were showing like
qualities and making the same record--What absurdity is this!"
she exclaimed aloud. "Why does this Mr. Merwyn so haunt me, when
I could not give him even respect and friendship, although he sent
an army into the field, yet was not brave enough to go himself?
Where is he? What is he doing in these supreme hours of his country's
history? Everything is at stake at the front, yes, and even here
at the North, for I can see that papa dreads unspeakably what each
day may bring forth, yet neither this terrible emergency nor the
hope of winning my love can brace his timid soul to manly action.
There is more manhood in one drop of the blood shed by Captain Lane
than in Merwyn's whole shrinking body."

CHAPTER XXX.

THE NORTH INVADED.

Merwyn could scarcely have believed that he had sunk so low
in Marian's estimation as her words at the close of the previous
chapter indicated, yet he guessed clearly the drift of her opinion
in regard to him, and he saw no way of righting himself. In the
solitude of his country home he considered and dismissed several
plans of action. He thought of offering his services to the Sanitary
Commission, but his pride prevented, for he knew that she and others
would ask why a man of his youth and strength sought a service in
which sisters of charity could be his equals in efficiency. He also
saw that joining a regiment of the city militia was but a half-way
measure that might soon lead to the violation of his oath, since
these regiments could be ordered to the South in case of an emergency.

The prospect before him was that of a thwarted, blighted life. He
might live till he was gray, but in every waking moment he would
remember that he had lost his chance for manly action, when such
action would have brought him self-respect, very possibly happiness,
and certainly the consciousness that he had served a cause which
now enlisted all his sympathies.

At last he wrote to his mother an impassioned appeal to be released
from his oath, assuring her that he would never have any part in
the Southern empire that was the dream of her life. He cherished
the hope that she, seeing how unalterable were his feelings and
purposes, would yield to him the right to follow his own convictions,
and with this kindling hope his mind grew calmer.

Then, as reason began to assert itself, he saw that he had been absent
from the city too long already. His pride counselled: "The world
has no concern with your affairs, disappointments, or sufferings.
Be your father's son, and maintain your position with dignity. In a
few short weeks you may be free. If not, your secret is your own,
and no living soul can gossip about your family affairs, or say
that you betrayed your word or your family interests. Meanwhile,
in following the example of thousands of other rich and patriotic
citizens, you can contribute more to the success of the Union cause
than if you were in the field."

He knew that this course might not secure him the favor of one for
whom he would face every danger in the world, but it might tend to
disarm criticism and give him the best chances for the future.

He at once carried out his new purposes, and early in June returned
to his city home. He now resolved no longer to shrink and hide, but
to keep his own counsel, and face the situation like one who had
a right to choose his own career. Mr. Bodoin, his legal adviser,
received the impression that he had been quietly looking after
his country property, and the lawyer rubbed his bloodless hands in
satisfaction over a youthful client so entirely to his mind.

Having learned more fully what his present resources were, Merwyn
next called on Mr. Vosburgh at his office. That gentleman greeted
the young man courteously, disguising his surprise and curiosity.

"I have just returned from my country place," Merwyn began, "and
shall not have to go there very soon again, Can I call upon you as
usual?"

"Certainly," replied Mr. Vosburgh; but there was no warmth in his
tone.

"I have also a favor to ask," resumed Merwyn, with a slight
deepening of color in his bronzed face. "I have not been able to
follow events very closely, but so far as I can judge there is a
prospect of severe battles and of sudden emergencies. If there is
need of money, such means as I have are at your disposal."

Even Mr. Vosburgh, at the moment, felt much of Marian's repulsion
as he looked at the tall youth, with his superb physique, who spoke
of severe battles and offered "money." "Truly," he thought, "she
must be right. This man will part with thousands rather than risk
one drop of blood."

But he was too good a patriot to reveal his impression, and said,
earnestly: "You are right, Mr. Merwyn. There will be heavy fighting
soon, and all the aid that you can give the Sanitary and Christian
Commissions will tend to save life and relieve suffering."

Under the circumstances he felt that he could not use any of the
young man's money, even as a temporary loan, although at times the
employment of a few extra hundreds might aid him greatly in his
work.

Merwyn went away chilled and saddened anew, yet feeling that his
reception had been all that he had a right to expect.

There had been no lack of politeness on Mr. Vosburgh's part, but
his manner had not been that of a friend.

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