Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Classical Novels > Stand By The union > CHAPTER I
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
"Who's there?" demanded Christy Passford, sitting up in his bed, in the middle of the night, in his room on the second floor of his father's palatial mansion on the Hudson, where the young lieutenant was waiting for a passage to the Gulf.
There was no answer to his inquiry.
"Who's there?" he repeated in a louder tone.
All was as still as it ought to be in the middle of the night, and no response came to his second inquiry. The brilliant young officer, who had just passed his eighteenth birthday, knew what it was even better than an older person to pass a whole night on difficult duty, without a wink of sleep, for he had been accustomed to spend a portion of every night in planking the deck on his watch; but at Bonnydale, his quiet home, far removed 16 from the scenes of actual conflict, he was an industrious sleeper, giving his whole attention to his slumbers, as a proper preparation for the stirring scenes in which he was again about to engage.
He slept soundly; but he had dreamed that some one opened the door of his room, or some one had actually done so. He was not a believer in dreams, and when an impression had fastened itself upon his mind, he was inclined to investigate it. It seemed to him that he had been awakened from his sleep by the opening of the door of his chamber. Some member of the family might be sick, and he might be needed to go for the doctor, or for some other service.
He leaped from his bed when no answer came to his second demand, lighted his lamp, and put on his trousers. With the light in his hand, he opened the door; but there was no one there, and not a sound of any kind could be heard. He walked about the hall in his bare feet, and listened attentively at the doors of several of the chambers, especially at that of Mr. Pembroke, the invalid gentleman whom, with his daughter, he had brought home as a passenger in the captured Vixen.
17 Christy heard nothing, and he silently descended the stairs to the lower hall. All was as quiet there as upon the floor above, and he had begun to think that the impression he had received had been given him in a dream, though he could not remember that he had been dreaming. But when he came to the front door, he found it was ajar. It was usually secured by a spring lock, and those who were liable to be out in the evening were provided with night-keys.
At the present time his father was in Washington, and he could not have neglected to close the door. He had been to the railroad station to meet the last train, thinking it possible that his father might return, and he was confident that he had been the last to enter the house. He was very sure that he had not left the door unfastened, and this assurance made him confident that some person had entered the house. The noise at the door of his chamber was not an illusion or a dream: though it had been made by closing rather than by opening it, or he would have been likely to find the intruder in his room when he lighted his lamp.
It seemed to him to be a matter of course that the midnight visitor had come into the mansion 18 for the purpose of plundering its occupants, or of securing the valuables it contained. Putting his lamp on the table, he went out upon the veranda, and looked all about him. The grounds were very extensive, and a broad avenue led to the street. It was very dark; but as he cast his eyes in the direction of the grand entrance to the estate, he discovered some dark object in motion; but he lost sight of it in a moment.
It was a living being, or it would not move, and he was certain that he had made a discovery. Then two regrets flashed through his mind as he stepped down from the veranda; the first, that he had not put on his shoes before he left his chamber, and the second, that he had not taken his pistols, for a bullet would travel a great deal faster than a barefooted officer, even of the United States Navy. But he ran with all his speed to the street, to the great detriment of his uncovered feet.
He reached the grand entrance in an exceedingly short space of time; but he might as well have been in his chamber, for no ruffian, robber, or Confederate spy could be seen. He had no means of knowing which way the intruder at the mansion 19 had turned, to the right or the left, or whether, like the timid colored gentleman in a trying situation, he had taken to the woods. Christy walked up the street, and then down the street; but the underbrush had recently been cut in the grove, and he did not venture to explore it without any protection for his feet.
He peered into the gloom of the night with all his eyes, and listened with all his ears for over an hour; and then, watchful and careful officer as he was, there were five hundred chances against him to one in his favor, of finding the intruder, and he reluctantly returned to the mansion.
Like the other male occupants of the house, the lieutenant was provided with a night-key. For one who had only just developed a tolerably thriving mustache, Christy was a prudent and methodical young gentleman. As a part of his method, he had a great many small drawers in his rooms, and a dozen or more keys; but he had never lost them, for the reason that he carried them chained to his nether garment. But he had two sets of keys, one for the house, and one for the ship. He had taken the night-key from the former, and put it in his vest pocket; and when he 20 reached the front door of the mansion, the key he wanted was in his chamber, and he had been careful to shut the door when he left the house.
He could not get in, and he walked around the building to find a window which had not been closed. His mother had a reasonable dread of robbers, and she always looked out for the windows before she retired. He did not wish to arouse the family by ringing the great gong bell, but it was too cold to spend the rest of the night out-doors in his half-clothed condition, for he was as liable to take a severe cold as any less brilliant individual, and he might have to spend a month in his chamber, instead of reporting to the flag-officer of the Eastern Gulf squadron, in command of the Bronx.
He rang the bell, and the sound from it reverberated through the entire mansion. It was some time before a servant came to open the door; but the man who let him in was astonished to see him partially dressed, and wondered if he had not been walking in his sleep. In the lower hall, he was satisfied that the whole house was astir, for the gong which had sounded was the "emergency 21 bell," used only when the ordinary one at the front door was not likely to be heard.
"Walsh!" called Mrs. Passford from the head of the stairs.
"Yes, ma'am," replied the man who had admitted Christy, and who was still wondering what fit, freak, or fancy had beset the young officer.
"Who is it? What is the matter?" demanded the lady of the mansion, in tones which indicated anxiety if not alarm.
"It is Mr. Christy, ma'am; nothing is the matter," replied Walsh; but then he appeared to think that he had replied without proper consideration, and he revised his speech. "I don't know that anything's the matter, ma'am," and still he gazed at the young gentleman, as though he deemed it possible that he had suddenly gone crazy.
"Nothing is the matter, mother," called Christy. "I am all right."
"But why are you out at this time of night, my son? It is nearly two o'clock in the morning," said Mrs. Passford, as she descended the stairs. "You are not half dressed, Christy."
"But I am all right, mother, and there is not the least reason to worry about anything, for the 22 ship is not going to the bottom just yet," replied Christy, indulging in a forced laugh to assist in quieting his mother's fears.
"But why are you out doors at this time of night?" Mrs. Passford insisted. "You will catch a cold that will lay you up, if you go out in that condition."
"I should not have rung that bell if I had not been afraid of taking cold," added the son.
"But, Christy, something has happened; and you must tell me about it, or I shall not sleep another wink to-night," persisted the lady, concluding that her son was trying to conceal something from her, as indeed he was, for he feared it would alarm her if he told her some one had come into the house.
"There is nothing to be frightened about, mother; and I will tell you all about it," added Christy, as he took his overcoat from the stand and put it on. "I waked an hour ago, or more, with the idea that some one had opened the door of my room," and he related the circumstances to his mother, including his search in the grounds and the road.
"Do you think any one came into the house?" 23 asked Mrs. Passford, though with but little of the woman's terror that such a statement might have caused.
"That is my decided opinion. A noise at my chamber door woke me; I found the front door ajar, though I know I closed it when I came in last night, and I saw something moving down the avenue, which could only have been a man. Of course, I conclude that it was a burglar; but none of us have been killed or harmed."
Christy went to his room and completed his toilet. The house was warm, and he was soon comfortable enough after the out-door chill. By this time Miss Florry Passford had put in an appearance in the upper hall, with Bertha Pembroke. The alarm was again briefly explained, and the invalid gentleman was assured that nothing alarming had occurred. Then the young lieutenant and his mother proceeded to ascertain what the burglar had accomplished in the house.
On the lower floor nothing appeared to have been disturbed. In the parlor a gold watch, adorned with diamonds, had been left on the table by Florry, who had forgotten it; but it had not been taken. The burglar could not have helped 24 seeing it if he had explored the house as such gentry do on such occasions. In the dining-room no attempt to open the steel safe set in the wall, which contained a vast amount of silver, jewelry, money, and other valuables, had been made. In a word, wherever they examined the rooms, no sign of any depredations could be discovered. The burglar did not appear to have lunched in the pantry where some choice viands had been placed. The robber had certainly been very considerate, and had done no mischief either for plunder or diversion. He had evidently, in the opinion of Mrs. Passford and her son, undertaken a profitless enterprise.
"But what could have been his object in coming into the house?" asked the bewildered lady.
"I shall have to give it up, mother."
"He might have taken Florry's watch, she was so careless as to leave on the table in the sitting-room," added she.
"But he did not."
"He could not have been disturbed until you spoke to him; and he might have ransacked the whole of the lower part of the house."
"But he did not."
25 They had given up the examination of the premises, and given up the conundrum, and Christy was leading the way up-stairs. He went into his room, followed by his mother.
"He must have come into your room, my son, or you would not have heard him at the door. Perhaps he has robbed you," suggested Mrs. Passford.
The young officer declared he had nothing there to steal. As he spoke, he took from his coat pocket on the bedpost an envelope containing his commission and other papers. It was safe; so were his purse and watch.
The mystery was not solved till Christy embarked for the Gulf.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved