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A City Not Forsaken
By Lynn Morris
Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLCCopyright © 1995 Lynn Morris and Gilbert Morris
All rights reserved.
"Hevin' a Riot, Ain't They?"
The normal early-morning crowd on the little ferry huddled up at the bow, close to the wheelhouse. Dirty fog tendrils rose from the Hudson River and enveloped the newcomers in obscurity. Except for the horses, that is. They could be seen—and heard—quite plainly as they whinnied and stamped their way onto the vessel, led by a tall man in a long coat and black hat.
"Shiloh!" a woman's voice called impatiently from the fog blanket. "The horses! They're nervous!"
"I know, I know!" the man called Shiloh answered. "You better give your stuff to Rissy and c'mere and help me!"
Jeremy Blue stood in front of the dozen or so passengers who had already boarded. At his side was a small brown and white dog, nondescript except for his bright, intelligent dark eyes. Jeremy muttered, "Stay, Spike!" and bravely slid forward two steps to see better. It was quite a spectacle. The tall man—very tall—called Shiloh held the bridles of two nervous, prancing, white-eyed horses. They were good-looking geldings of fifteen hands or more, Jeremy judged, and were both chocolate brown and glossy. Each had white markings on one hind leg. The man's features were hidden by a black wide-brimmed western hat, and he wore a shapeless, colorless long canvas overcoat like those Jeremy had seen drawn on cowboys in pictures of the West.
"Jeremy Blue!" a high-pitched female voice hissed behind him. "You better get back here! Those horses look like they're going to take off and stomp all over everything!"
"I'm not scared," Jeremy muttered, but he did back up a step to talk to his friend Mary. She rode the ferry over regularly to deliver her piecework to one of the sewing factories in Manhattan. At sixteen she was petite, red-cheeked, and sassy. Today she had on a new black bonnet with cherries adorning it; when she spoke, the cherries bobbed with emphasis. Jeremy grinned at her. "Think I'll go ask that Mr. Shiloh if I can help him with his horses."
"Surely you will," Mary sniffed. "For two bits, he'll likely let them stomp you instead of him." Her brown eyes widened. "Golly Molly, Jeremy! Look! Ain't they grand ladies!"
Jeremy turned back to see. A woman—a quite exotic-looking woman, tall and imperious—stepped out of the swirling mist and grabbed the bridle of one of the horses. Behind her glided a stately, dignified black woman, also tall. The black woman held two reticules—a small carpetbag and a black bag that looked like a doctor's bag.
"Look at their clothes!" Mary breathed. "Even the colored lady's! They must be really rich!"
"Yes, must be," Jeremy agreed thoughtfully. The women were dressed in dark traveling clothes which were stained and dusty but of obviously fine quality. On this muggy spring morning of April 1866, they wore no mantles or capes, but fine tailored jackets with tiny tucked-in waists that matched their voluminous skirts. Jeremy opened his mouth to say something else, but in the next moment several things happened that drove his comment out of his mind.
The woman who held the horse's bridle was trying to calm the horse, but the nervous creature seemed to be even more frightened by the feather plumes waving on her bonnet. Also, the woman's wide skirts kept hitting his forelegs, and he began rearing in earnest, trying to get away from this new irritation.
At the same time, two dockworkers tossed two very large trunks onto the deck of the ferry. Loud bangs split the fog-muffled sounds of the busy docks.
The ferryman, safely ensconced in his little wheelhouse at the fore, sounded the blare of the foghorn to alert all unseen vessels of his position in the soupy fog. The side wheels began to turn, the ferry groaned and wheezed and lurched away from New Jersey.
The horses protested all this unwelcome activity by vehemently rearing and kicking the air.
Skillfully Shiloh ducked the dangerous hooves and managed to grab the bridle of the horse the woman was attempting to hold. "Get away, Doc! You're just spooking him more!"
The woman had lost control of the horse, and knew it, but she obviously didn't like it. Stalking back over to the black woman, she grabbed her reticule and the doctor's bag and called, "I told you we should have put blinders on them!"
"Yeah, Doc," Shiloh shot back between gritted teeth, "and earmuffs, too!" The horse on his left surged forward, yanking Shiloh a step backward. The tendons in his neck stood out from the strain of trying to hold each of the bridles with one hand.
Jeremy shot forward and grabbed the bridle of the horse on the man's left. The horse reared again, almost lifting Jeremy off his feet, but gamely he held on. The tall man glanced down at him grimly but said nothing. Together they fought and struggled to hold the horses. Finally the geldings gentled down, though they shivered and showed the whites of their eyes.
"Shiloh Irons," the man gasped.
"I'm Jeremy Blue," the boy answered, equally breathless.
"You must be stronger than you look, Jeremy Blue."
"You better hope so, mister."
Cheerily the ferryman blared the foghorn again, and Shiloh and Jeremy fought to keep control of the frightened horses. They seemed to quiet down a bit sooner this time, however.
"Seems like they're getting used to it, huh, Mr. Shiloh?" Jeremy remarked when he caught his breath again.
"Oh, sure, they're real smart," Shiloh grunted. "Prob'ly only take ten, twelve more blows on that horn for them to quit getting spooked. By the way, this is Sock I'm holding—sort of—and that's Stocking you've got. Call 'em by name. Calms 'em down."
"Yeah, I can see that it helps a lot." Jeremy grinned.
Shiloh's head swiveled sharply to look down at the impudent young man. Jeremy Blue was sixteen years old, thin and angular. He had tousled brown hair, thick and curly, and brown eyes too big for his face. His wrists stuck out of the too-short sleeves of his worn black coat, and his shapeless gray pants had a neat black patch on one knee. The pants were tucked into sturdy leather boots, however, which were painstakingly polished and shined. Shiloh saw an odd-looking wand of some sort that swung from a loop on Jeremy's belt. About two feet long, it seemed to be a hollow metal rod with a loop at the end. Shiloh also noted the hilt of a knife sticking out of the top of Jeremy's right boot.
Unexpectedly Shiloh grinned down at him, and Jeremy thought it was rather like a sudden crack in a granite rock. Shiloh Iron's face was hard, with a two- or three-day growth of beard, and his blue eyes were remote and icy.
Shiloh's gaze shifted up to a point behind Jeremy's shoulder. "Doc, why don't you stay back over there? You're just gonna spook Stocking again!"
Jeremy turned slightly. The tall, stylishly dressed woman was regarding him and ignoring Shiloh. Her cool gaze made Jeremy more nervous than the fitful horse he held. "M-ma'am," he stammered, nodding awkwardly, "I'm Jeremy Blue. I'm ... I'm ..."
"I'm Dr. Cheney Duvall, Jeremy," she replied, and stuck out one hand. It was clad in a delicate black lace mitt. "Thank you for helping with the horses."
"For heaven's sake, Doc, he can't let go and shake your hand!" Shiloh said with exasperation.
As if she were stung, Cheney dropped her hand back to her side. "Oh! No, of course not. Just—" A delicate pink blush colored her cheeks, highlighting her sea-green eyes and the beauty mark high on her left cheekbone.
Jeremy was immediately smitten and so was, of course, struck dumb. Fortunately the foghorn sounded, the horses began acting up again, and Cheney Duvall hastily stepped back to the black woman's side.
To Jeremy, the ferry ride across the Hudson to the Battery seemed to take much longer than the usual thirty minutes. He managed only one time to glance back over his shoulder at Spike, and saw with satisfaction Mary's admiring gaze. But each time the foghorn sounded, the horses threatened to bolt, and he and Shiloh strained to keep them in check. Even though it was early morning, the air was warm and leaden, and rivulets of sweat ran down Jeremy's and Shiloh's faces and dampened their shirts.
With immense relief Jeremy heard the final blare on the foghorn—three short, raucous blasts—that announced they were nearing the docks. Sock and Stocking still stamped and snorted with ill-temper at the sound, but they were a little more subdued than when they had first boarded the boat. The watery chub-chub of the side wheels slowed as the ferry nosed into a water-level slip.
The tiny island of Manhattan was shrouded in the same persistent fog billowing up in the warm air from the winter-cooled rivers surrounding it. As the noise from the steam engine and the side paddles of the ferry subsided, the passengers' ears were assailed by another din: many voices, coarse, male and female, raised in anger. The words were indistinguishable, but the hostility was unmistakable.
The ferryman appeared at the rear of the little ferry to loosen the single rope that served as the stern of the boat. A cheery Irishman, he tipped his navy blue flat cap to Cheney and her companion, Rissy, as they prepared to go up the narrow plank to the wharf above.
"Whatever is going on up there?" Cheney asked anxiously.
"It's lookin' like a proper riot, mum," the ferryman gallantly replied, motioning to Shiloh to unload the horses first. "You'll be wantin' to be keerful, won't ye?"
Shiloh and Jeremy brought the prancing horses to the gangplank that led up to the level of the ship wharves and the city streets. "Just follow us, Doc," Shiloh ordered. "Whatever or whoever it is, they'll get out of the way of the horses."
Rissy, a strong woman, clasped Cheney's arm firmly in hers. "I niver thought I'd be sayin' this, Miss Cheney," she said, narrowing her eyes at the teeming crush on the quay above them, "but you an' me is gonna stay close behind them hosses."
Men and women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and classes seemed to have gone mad. Crushing against each other, shouting, cursing, pushing, they surged down the docks toward a midsized steamer. People ran, some toward the ship, some down the docks, shouting and calling, some brandishing sticks and clubs. The crowd, as one, parted to let the rearing horses pass, but closed in thickly around and behind Cheney and Rissy.
Faces jerked in and out of Cheney's view as she and Rissy clung to each other and fought their way through the crowd. Some people wore bandannas or handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths. In the tumult she still couldn't make out exactly what they were shouting; all she heard was "No! No!" and "Not here! We won't have 'em here!" Many of them were throwing rotten fruit and vegetables, and some rocks and bricks, at the steamer. Cheney dropped her eyes to concentrate on the horses' hooves dancing a few feet in front of her. Her heart beat faster and her palms grew sweaty. A furious, unruly crowd is a dangerous animal to try to keep at bay.
Rissy yanked on her arm. "They's Mistuh Jack," she bawled in Cheney's ear. "G'wan! Go git in the carridge! Hurry up!"
Cheney's head jerked up. Sure enough, there was the Duvalls' stableman, Mr. Jack, with the Duvalls' carriage pulled up into a narrow alleyway alongside one of the buildings lining the wharves. The crowd surged around him and the grand carriage, and he was having a hard time holding the carriage horses' heads. A matched pair of splendid Arabian stallions, they were outraged at the noise and confusion surrounding them. Mr. Jack, a diminutive man of about sixty, held on to the harness crosspiece with his left hand and with his right appeared to be popping anyone who got too close to his beloved horses and carriage with the riding whip.
"Horrors!" Cheney gasped as they fought their way toward the carriage. "I never would've wired for Mr. Jack to meet us if I'd known about all this!"
Ahead of them, Shiloh and Jeremy led Sock and Stocking down the muddy alley as far on the other side as they could manage. The carriage horses, Romulus and Remus, looked as though they were in no mood to greet unfamiliar geldings at the moment.
"I'll have to go get the trunks," Shiloh told Jeremy doubtfully. "Do you think you can hold both of them?"
"Yes, sir," Jeremy replied. "They're better now, since they got off the ferry."
Shiloh stroked his horse's nose and murmured soothing noises to him, then did the same with Jeremy's horse. The two geldings tossed their heads and nosed him affectionately, though they still stamped and snorted nervously. "All right," Shiloh said finally. "I'm goin'." He turned and stepped into the crush, noting the small dog that sat patiently in the shadows of the alley, watching Jeremy Blue.
Cheney and Rissy reached Mr. Jack, who nodded and said amicably—though loudly, over the din of the crowd—"Mornin', Miss Cheney. Mornin', Miss Rissy. Hevin' a riot, ain't they?"
"Goodness!" Cheney cried. "What shall we do, Mr. Jack? The horses—and my trunks—and ... Where's Shiloh going? Shiloh! Come back here!" She turned and took a step after Shiloh's retreating back.
"Miss Cheney, you don't be a-prancin' after Mr. Shiloh! You go and get in this here carriage right now!" Mr. Jack ordered sharply as he cracked his whip toward a man who stepped a little too close to Cheney. "He's prob'ly a-goin' to fetch your trunks, and he don't need to be a-carryin' them and you too, when you get knocked right down!"
"But—" Cheney began.
"It's lookin' to me that I might be of some help here," boomed a deep voice with a thick Irish accent, "if you'll not whip me no more, old geezer."
Cheney turned to see the young man—the same whom Mr. Jack had so nearly cracked with his whip a moment ago—take off his brown derby hat and bow smartly. He was tall and muscular, with thick wavy black hair and dark eyes. His face was handsome, though it had a cruel look because of a terrible scar that ran under his cheekbone from the left corner of his mouth all the way to his ear. He was dressed nattily in a plaid suit; the cut of the coat was loose, and his pants were tucked into muddy leather boots.
One o' them rowdy Bowery Boys, Mr. Jack thought warily.
Knife scar, Cheney thought. "Oh—well—" she stammered to the young man who was watching her closely. "We are having some difficulties here, Mr.—"
"The lady's fine," Mr. Jack grunted with a menacing wave of his whip, "and I'm fine. These here horses is fine. So you can be moving right along, boy."
The man's brooding dark eyes narrowed as he looked down at Mr. Jack. "And didn't I hear the lady say she's needin' her trunks fetched, old geezer? It's not lookin' to me as if you're in a position to be wavin' that whip at a man with a strong back who's willin' to be of some help to the lady!"
Mr. Jack straightened to his full height of five feet eight inches, and his faded blue eyes flashed as he opened his mouth to retort. Down the alleyway Jeremy Blue held the bridles of the two horses and watched with dread. He'd seen this tall, brash Irishman on the docks before, and he was usually in the middle of some kind of trouble: a fight, or a row with the police, or a scene with some loud, crass woman.
"Elliott!" One of Cheney's trunks crashed to the ground behind the Irishman, who towered darkly over Mr. Jack, and Shiloh shoved his way between Mr. Jack and the man. "James Elliott!" he muttered darkly. "I thought you were in prison!"
Excerpted from A City Not Forsaken by Lynn Morris. Copyright © 1995 Lynn Morris and Gilbert Morris. Excerpted by permission of Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC.
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