We rode back in another chariot of revolution—a death-cart.
THE SECOND DAY
It was a dreadful night. Crowds of farmers from the surrounding country kept pouring into the city. They were no longer the honest yeomanry who had filled, in the old time, the armies of Washington, and Jackson, and Grant, and Sherman, with brave patriotic soldiers; but their brutalized descendants—fierce serfs—cruel and bloodthirsty peasants. Every man who owned anything was their enemy and their victim. They invaded the houses of friend and foe alike, and murdered men, women and children. Plunder! plunder! They had no other thought.
One of our men came to me at midnight, and said:
“Do you hear those shrieks?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“They are murdering the family next door.”
These were pleasant, kindly people, who had never harmed any one. But this maelstrom swallows good and bad alike.
Another came running to me, and cried:
“They are attacking the house!”
“Where?” I asked.
“At the front door.”
“Throw over a hand-grenade,” I said.
There was a loud crash, and a scurrying of flying feet. The cowardly miscreants had fled. They were murderers, not warriors.
All night long the awful Bedlam raged. The dark streets swarmed. Three times we had to have recourse to the hand-grenades. Fires sprang up all over the city, licking the darkness with their hideous tongues of flame, and revealing by their crimson glare the awful sights of that unparalleled time. The dread came upon me: What if some wretch should fire a house in our block? How should we choose between the conflagration and those terrible streets? Would it not be better to be ashes and cinders, than to fall into the hands of that demoniacal mob?
No one slept. Max sat apart and thought. Was he considering—too late!—whether it was right to have helped produce this terrible catastrophe? Early in the morning, accompanied by three of his men, he went out.
We ate breakfast in silence. It seemed to me we had no right to eat in the midst of so much death and destruction.
There was an alarm, and the firing of guns above us. Some miscreants had tried to reach the roof of our house from the adjoining buildings. We rushed up. A lively fusillade followed. Our magazine rifles and hand-grenades were too much for them; some fell dead and the rest beat a hasty retreat. They were peasants, searching for plunder.
After awhile there came a loud rapping at the front door. I leaned over the parapet and asked who was there. A Tough-looking man replied:
“I have a letter for you.”
Fearing some trick, to break into the house, I lowered a long cord and told him to tie the letter to it. He did so. I pulled up a large sheet of dirty wrapping-paper. There were some lines scrawled upon it, in lead-pencil, in the large hand of a schoolboy—almost undecipherable. With some study I made out these words: