His pulses, too, were rapping out a message to his intelligence: “You had better not go in,” it ran. “You are not fit to go in. You had better keep away from her. You know what will happen if you don’t.”
As they entered the house her sister-in-law rose from the piano in the front parlour and came forward.
“Were you worried, dearest?” cried Ailsa gaily. “I really couldn’t help it. And Mr. Berkley lost his hat, and I’ve brought him back to dinner.”
To Berkley the times were surcharged with agreeable agitation. A hullabaloo diverted him. He himself was never noisy; but agitated and noisy people always amused him.
Day after day the city’s multi-coloured militia regiments passed through its echoing streets; day after day Broadway resounded with the racket of their drums. Rifles, chasseurs, zouaves, foot artillery, pioneers, engineers, rocket batteries, the 79th Highlanders, dismounted lancers of the 69th and dragoons of the 8th—every heard-of and unheard-of unnecessary auxiliary to a respectable regiment of state infantry, mustered for inspection and marched away in polychromatic magnificence. Park, avenue, and square shrilled with their windy fifes; the towering sides of the transports struck back the wild music of their bands; Castle William and Fort Hamilton saluted them from the ferries to the Narrows; and, hoarse with cheering, the people stared through dim eyes till the last stain of smoke off Sandy Hook vanished seaward. All of which immensely diverted Berkley.
The city, too, had become a thoroughfare for New England and Western troops hurrying pell-mell toward the capital and that unknown bourne so vaguely defined as the “seat of war.” Also all avenues were now dotted with barracks and recruiting stations, around which crowds clamoured. Fire Zouaves, Imperial Zouaves, National Zouaves, Billy Wilson’s Zouaves appropriated without ceremony the streets and squares as drill grounds. All day long they manoeuvred and double-quicked; all day and all night herds of surprised farm horses destined for cavalry, light artillery, and glory, clattered toward the docks; files of brand-new army waggons, gun-carriages, smelling of fresh paint, caissons, forges, ambulances bound South checked the city traffic and added to the city’s tumult as they jolted in hundreds and hundreds toward the wharves—materially contributing to Berkley’s entertainment.
Beginning with the uproarious war meeting in Union Square, every day saw its crowds listening to the harangue of a somebody or a nobody. Sometimes short, ugly demonstrations were made against an unpopular newspaper office or the residence of an unpopular citizen; the police were rough and excitable, the nerves of the populace on edge, the city was now nearly denuded of its militia, and everybody was very grateful for the temporary presence of volunteer regiments in process of formation.