[Transcribers note: A title has been created for an unlisted illustration on p102 of the original text and inserted into the list of illustrations.]
THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON
A ROMANCE OF NEW YORK
BY AMELIA E. BARR AUTHOR OF "JAN VEDDER'S WIFE" "A DAUGHTER OF FIFE" ETC.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY THEO. HAMPE
NEW YORK DODD, MEAD & COMPANY PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1886, 1893 BY DODD, MEAD & COMPANY
All rights reserved
BY ROCKWELL AND CHURCHILL, BY JOHN WILSON AND SON,
This Book is Dedicated
HOLLAND SOCIETY OF NEW YORK
She was going down the steps with him May in New York one hundred and twenty-one years ago Joris Van Heemskirk Locking-up the cupboards She was tying on her white apron "Come awa', my bonnie lassie" Knitting Neil and Bram Tail-piece Chapter heading With her spelling-book and Heidelberg The amber necklace In one of those tall-backed Dutch chairs Tail-piece Chapter heading He heard her calling him to breakfast The quill pens must be mended A Guelderland flagon "A very proper love-knot" Tail-piece Chapter heading Hyde flung off the touch with a passionate oath Batavius stood at the mainmast He took her in his arms A little black boy entered Tail-piece Chapter heading "Sir, you are very uncivil" "Listen to me, thy father!" He took his solitary tea On the steps of the houses Tail-piece Chapter heading "Katherine, I am in great earnest" "In the interim, at your service" "Why do you wait?" The swords of both men sprung from their hands Tail-piece Chapter heading Oh, how she wept! "O Bram! is he dead?" The streets were noisy with hawkers Katherine was close to his side Tail-piece Chapter heading In its satin depths Katherine knelt by Richard's side "I am faint" "Don't trouble yourself to come down" "Listen to me!" Tail-piece Chapter heading They stood together over the budding snowdrops His whole air and attitude had expressed delight "I am going to take the air this afternoon" "I will go with you, Richard" Tail-piece Chapter heading "Madam, I come not on courtesy" "O mother, my sister Katherine!" "Oh, my cheeny, my cheeny!" Plain and dark were her garments Tail-piece Chapter heading Katherine stood with her child in her arms The garden next fell under Katherine's care "Thou has a grandson of thy own name" Plate old and new "Make me not to remember the past" With a great sob Bram laid his head against her breast Chapter heading She spread out all her finery All kinds of frivolity and amusement "Dick, I am angry at you" She was softly singing to the drowsy child Chapter heading She was stretched upon a sofa She stood in the gray light by the window Chapter heading She knelt speechless and motionless Jane lifted her apron to her eyes "O Richard, my lover, my husband!" Chapter heading "One night in Rome, in a moment, the thing was altered," "I must draw my sword again" "We have closed his Majesty's custom-house forever" "I am reading the Word" He was standing on the step of his high counting-desk. Chapter heading Lysbet and Catherine were unpacking He marshalled the six children in front of him The City Hall He swung a great axe Lysbet's hands gave it to them Tail-piece
THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON
"Love, that old song, of which the world is never weary."
It was one of those beautiful, lengthening days, when May was pressing back with both hands the shades of the morning and the evening; May in New York one hundred and twenty-one years ago, and yet the May of A.D. 1886,—the same clear air and wind, the same rarefied freshness, full of faint, passing aromas from the wet earth and the salt sea and the blossoming gardens. For on the shore of the East River the gardens still sloped down, even to below Peck Slip; and behind old Trinity the apple-trees blossomed like bridal nosegays, the pear-trees rose in immaculate pyramids, and here and there cows were coming up heavily to the scattered houses; the lazy, intermitting tinkle of their bells giving a pleasant notice of their approach to the waiting milking-women.
In the city the business of the day was over; but at the open doors of many of the shops, little groups of apprentices in leather aprons were talking, and on the broad steps of the City Hall a number of grave-looking men were slowly separating after a very satisfactory civic session. They had been discussing the marvellous increase of the export trade of New York; and some vision of their city's future greatness may have appeared to them, for they held themselves with the lofty and confident air of wealthy merchants and "members of his Majesty's Council for the Province of New York."
They were all noticeable men, but Joris Van Heemskirk specially so. His bulk was so great that it seemed as if he must have been built up: it was too much to expect that he had ever been a baby. He had a fair, ruddy face, and large, firm eyes, and a mouth that was at once strong and sweet. And he was also very handsomely dressed. The long, stiff skirts of his dark-blue coat were lined with satin, his breeches were black velvet, his ruffles edged with Flemish lace, his shoes clasped with silver buckles, his cocked hat made of the finest beaver.
With his head a little forward, and his right arm across his back, he walked slowly up Wall Street into Broadway, and then took a north-westerly direction toward the river-bank. His home was on the outskirts of the city, but not far away; and his face lightened as he approached it. It was a handsome house, built of yellow bricks, two stories high, with windows in the roof, and gables sending up sharp points skyward. There were weather-cocks on the gables, and little round holes below the weather-cocks, and small iron cranes below the holes, and little windows below the cranes,—all perfectly useless, but also perfectly picturesque and perfectly Dutch. The rooms were large and airy, and the garden sloped down to the river-side. It had paths bordered by clipped box, and shaded by holly and yew trees cut in fantastic shapes.
In the spring this garden was a wonder of tulips and hyacinths and lilacs, of sweet daffodils and white lilies. In the summer it was ruddy with roses, and blazing with verbenas, and gay with the laburnum's gold cascade. Then the musk carnations and the pale slashed pinks exhaled a fragrance that made the heart dream idyls. In the autumn there was the warm, sweet smell of peaches and pears and apples. There were morning-glories in riotous profusion, tall hollyhocks, and wonderful dahlias. In winter it still had charms,—the white snow, and the green box and cedar and holly, and the sharp descent of its frozen paths to the frozen river. Councillor Van Heemskirk's father had built the house and planted the garden, and he had the Dutch reverence for a good ancestry. Often he sent his thoughts backward to remember how he walked by his father's side, or leaned against his mother's chair, as they told him the tragic tales of the old Barneveldt and the hapless De Witts; or how his young heart glowed to their memories of the dear fatherland, and the proud march of the Batavian republic.
But this night the mournful glamour of the past caught a fresh glory from the dawn of a grander day forespoken. "More than three hundred vessels may leave the port of New York this same year," he thought. "It is the truth; every man of standing says so. Good-evening, Mr. Justice. Good-evening, neighbours;" and he stood a minute, with his hands on his garden-gate, to bow to Justice Van Gaasbeeck and to Peter Sluyter, who, with their wives, were going to spend an hour or two at Christopher Laer's garden. There the women would have chocolate and hot waffles, and discuss the new camblets and shoes just arrived from England, and to be bought at Jacob Kip's store; and the men would have a pipe of Virginia and a glass of hot Hollands, and fight over again the quarrel pending between the governor and the Assembly.
"Men can bear all things but good days," said Peter Sluyter, when they had gone a dozen yards in silence; "since Van Heemskirk has a seat in the council-room, it is a long way to his hat."
"Come, now, he was very civil, Sluyter. He bows like a man not used to make a low bow, that is all."
"Well, well! with time, every one gets into his right place. In the City Hall, I may yet put my chair beside his, Van Gaasbeeck."
"So say I, Sluyter; and, for the present, it is all well as it is."
This little envious fret of his neighbour lost itself outside Joris Van Heemskirk's home. Within it, all was love and content. He quickly divested himself of his fine coat and ruffles, and in a long scarlet vest, and a little skull-cap made of orange silk, sat down to smoke. He had talked a good deal in the City Hall, and he was now chewing deliberately the cud of his wisdom over again. Madam Van Heemskirk understood that, and she let the good man reconsider himself in peace. Besides, this was her busy hour. She was giving out the food for the morning's breakfast, and locking up the cupboards, and listening to complaints from the kitchen, and making a plaster for black Tom's bealing finger. In some measure, she prepared all day for this hour, and yet there was always something unforeseen to be done in it.
She was a little woman, with clear-cut features, and brown hair drawn backward under a cap of lace very stiffly starched. Her tight fitting dress of blue taffeta was open in front, and looped up behind in order to show an elaborately quilted petticoat of light-blue camblet. Her white wool stockings were clocked with blue, her high-heeled shoes cut very low, and clasped with small silver buckles. From her trim cap to her trig shoes, she was a pleasant and comfortable picture of a happy, domestic woman; smiling, peaceful, and easy to live with.
When the last duty was finished, she let her bunch of keys fall with a satisfactory "all done" jingle, that made her Joris look at her with a smile. "That is so," she said in answer to it. "A woman is glad when she gets all under lock and key for a few hours. Servants are not made without fingers; and, I can tell thee, all the thieves are not yet hung."
"That needs no proving, Lysbet. But where, then, is Joanna and the little one? And Bram should be home ere this. He has stayed out late more than once lately, and it vexes me. Thou art his mother, speak to him."
"Bram is good; do not make his bridle too short. Katherine troubles me more than Bram. She is quiet and thinks much; and when I say, 'What art thou thinking of?' she answers always, 'Nothing, mother.' That is not right. When a girl says, 'Nothing, mother,' there is something—perhaps, indeed, somebody—on her mind."
"Katherine is nothing but a child. Who would talk love to a girl who has not yet taken her first communion? What you think is nonsense, Lysbet;" but he looked annoyed, and the comfort of his pipe was gone. He put it down, and walked to a side-door, where he stood a little while, watching the road with a fretful anxiety.
"Why don't the children come, then? It is nearly dark, and the dew falls; and the river mist I like not for them."
"For my part, I am not uneasy, Joris. They were to drink a dish of tea with Madam Semple, and Bram promised to go for them. And, see, they are coming; but Bram is not with them, only the elder. Now, what can be the matter?"
"For every thing, there are more reasons than one; if there is a bad reason, Elder Semple will be sure to croak about it. I could wish that just now he had not come."
"But then he is here, and the welcome must be given to a caller on the threshold. You know that, Joris."
"I will not break a good custom."
Elder Alexander Semple was a great man in his sphere. He had a reputation for both riches and godliness, and was scarcely more respected in the market-place than he was in the Middle Kirk. And there was an old tie between the Semples and the Van Heemskirks,—a tie going back to the days when the Scotch Covenanters and the Netherland Confessors clasped hands as brothers in their "churches under the cross." Then one of the Semples had fled for life from Scotland to Holland, and been sheltered in the house of a Van Heemskirk; and from generation to generation the friendship had been continued. So there was much real kindness and very little ceremony between the families; and the elder met his friend Joris with a grumble about having to act as "convoy" for two lasses, when the river mist made the duty so unpleasant.
"Not to say dangerous," he added, with a forced cough. "I hae my plaid and my bonnet on; but a coat o' mail couldna stand mists, that are a vera shadow o' death to an auld man, wi' a sair shortness o' the breath."
"Sit down, Elder, near the fire. A glass of hot Hollands will take the chill from you."
"You are mair than kind, gudewife; and I'll no say but what a sma' glass is needfu', what wi' the late hour, and the thick mist"—
"Come, come, Elder. Mists in every country you will find, until you reach the New Jerusalem."
"Vera true, but there's a difference in mists. Noo, a Scotch mist isna at all unhealthy. When I was a laddie, I hae been out in them for a week thegither, ay, and felt the better o' them." He had taken off his plaid and bonnet as he spoke; and he drew the chair set for him in front of the blazing logs, and stretched out his thin legs to the comforting heat.
In the mean time, the girls had gone upstairs together; and their footsteps and voices, and Katherine's rippling laugh, could be heard distinctly through the open doors. Then Madam called, "Joanna!" and the girl came down at once. She was tying on her white apron as she entered the room; and, at a word from her mother, she began to take from the cupboards various Dutch dainties, and East Indian jars of fruits and sweetmeats, and a case of crystal bottles, and some fine lemons. She was a fair, rosy girl, with a kind, cheerful face, a pleasant voice, and a smile that was at once innocent and bright. Her fine light hair was rolled high and backward; and no one could have imagined a dress more suitable to her than the trig dark bodice, the quilted skirt, and the white apron she wore.
Her father and mother watched her with a loving satisfaction; and though Elder Semple was discoursing on that memorable dispute between the Caetus and Conferentie parties, which had resulted in the establishment of a new independent Dutch church in America, he was quite sensible of Joanna's presence, and of what she was doing.
"I was aye for the ordaining o' American ministers in America," he said, as he touched the finger tips of his left hand with those of his right; and then in an aside full of deep personal interest, "Joanna, my dearie, I'll hae a Holland bloater and nae other thing. And I was a proud man when I got the invite to be secretary to the first meeting o' the new Caetus. Maybe it is praising green barley to say just yet that it was a wise departure; but I think sae, I think sae."
At this point, Katherine Van Heemskirk came into the room; and the elder slightly moved his chair, and said, "Come awa', my bonnie lassie, and let us hae a look at you." And Katherine laughingly pushed a stool toward the fire, and sat down between the two men on the hearthstone. She was the daintiest little Dutch maiden that ever latched a shoe,—very diminutive, with a complexion like a sea-shell, great blue eyes, and such a quantity of pale yellow hair, that it made light of its ribbon snood, and rippled over her brow and slender white neck in bewildering curls. She dearly loved fine clothes; and she had not removed her visiting dress of Indian silk, nor her necklace of amber beads. And in her hands she held a great mass of lilies of the valley, which she caressed almost as if they were living things.
"Father," she said, nestling close to his side, "look at the lilies. How straight they are! How strong! Oh, the white bells full of sweet scent! In them put your face, father. They smell of the spring." Her fingers could scarcely hold the bunch she had gathered; and she buried her lovely face in them, and then lifted it, with a charming look of delight, and the cries of "Oh, oh, how delicious!"
Long before supper was over, Madam Van Heemskirk had discovered that this night Elder Semple had a special reason for his call. His talk of Mennon and the Anabaptists and the objectionable Lutherans, she perceived, was all surface talk; and when the meal was finished, and the girls gone to their room, she was not astonished to hear him say, "Joris, let us light another pipe. I hae something to speak anent. Sit still, gudewife, we shall want your word on the matter."
"On what matter, Elder?"
"Anent a marriage between my son Neil and your daughter Katherine."
The words fell with a sharp distinctness, not unkindly, but as if they were more than common words. They were followed by a marked silence, a silence which in no way disturbed Semple. He knew his friends well, and therefore he expected it. He puffed his pipe slowly, and glanced at Joris and Lysbet Van Heemskirk. The father's face had not moved a muscle; the mother's was like a handsome closed book. She went on with her knitting, and only showed that she had heard the proposal by a small pretence of finding it necessary to count the stitches in the heel she was turning. Still, there had been some faint, evanescent flicker on her face, some droop or lift of the eyelids, which Joris understood; for, after a glance at her, he said slowly, "For Katherine the marriage would be good, and Lysbet and I would like it. However, we will think a little about it; there is time, and to spare. One should not run on a new road. The first step is what I like to be sure of; as you know, Elder, to the second step it often binds you.—Say what you think, Lysbet."
"Neil is to my mind, when the time comes. But yet the child knows not perfectly her Heidelberg. And there is more: she must learn to help her mother about the house before she can manage a house of her own. So in time, I say, it would be a good thing. We have been long good friends."
"We hae been friends for four generations, and we may safely tie the knot tighter now. There are wise folk that say the Dutch and the Lowland Scotch are of the same stock, and a vera gude stock it is,—the women o' baith being fair as lilies and thrifty as bees, and the men just a wonder o' every thing wise and weel-spoken o'. For-bye, baith o' us—Scotch and Dutch—are strict Protestors. The Lady o' Rome never threw dust in our een, and neither o' us would put our noses to the ground for either powers spiritual or powers temporal. When I think o' our John Knox"—
"First came Erasmus, Elder."
"Surely. Well, well, it was about wedding and housekeeping I came to speak, and we'll hae it oot. The land between this place and my place, on the river-side, is your land, Joris. Give it to Katherine, and I will build the young things a house; and the furnishing and plenishing we'll share between us."
"There is more to a wedding than house and land, Elder."
"Vera true, madam. There's the income to meet the outgo. Neil has a good practice now, and is like to have better. They'll be comfortable and respectable, madam; but I think well o' you for speering after the daily bread."
"Well, look now, it was not the bread-making I was thinking about. It was the love-making. A young girl should be wooed before she is married. You know how it is; and Katherine, the little one, she thinks not of such a thing as love and marriage."
"Wha kens what thoughts are under curly locks at seventeen? You'll hae noticed, madam, that Katherine has come mair often than ordinar' to Semple House lately?"
"That is so. It was because of Colonel Gordon's wife, who likes Katherine. She is teaching her a new stitch in her crewel-work."
"Hum-m-m! Mistress Gordon has likewise a nephew, a vera handsome lad. I hae seen that he takes a deal o' interest in the crewel-stitch likewise. And Neil has seen it too,—for Neil has set his heart on Katherine,—and this afternoon there was a look passed between the young men I dinna like. We'll be haeing a challenge, and twa fools playing at murder, next."
"I am glad you spoke, Elder. Thank you. I'll turn your words over in my heart." But Van Heemskirk was under a certain constraint: he was beginning to understand the situation, to see in what danger his darling might be. He was apparently calm; but an angry fire was gathering in his eyes, and stern lines settling about the lower part of his face.
"You ken," answered Semple, who felt a trifle uneasy in the sudden constraint, "I hae little skill in the ordering o' girl bairns. The Almighty thought them beyond my guiding, and I must say they are a great charge, a great charge; and, wi' all my infirmities and simplicity,—anent women,—one that would hae been mair than I could hae kept. But I hae brought up my lads in a vera creditable way. They know how to manage their business, and they hae the true religion. I am sure Neil would make a good husband, and I would be glad to hae him settled near by. My three eldest lads hae gone far off, Joris, as you ken."
"I remember. Two went to the Virginia Colony"—
"To Norfolk,—tobacco brokers, and making money. My son Alexander—a wise lad—went to Boston, and is in the African trade. I may say that they are all honest, pious men, without wishing to be martyrs for honesty and piety, which, indeed, in these days is mercifully not called for. As for Neil, he's our last bairn; and his mother and I would fain keep him near us. Katherine would be a welcome daughter to our auld age, and weel loved, and much made o'; and I hope baith Madam Van Heemskirk and yoursel' will think with us."
"We have said we would like the marriage. It is the truth. But, look now, Katherine shall not come any more to your house at this time, not while English soldiers come and go there; for I will not have her speak to one: they are no good for us."
"That is right for you, but not for me. My wife was a Gordon, and we couldn't but offer our house to a cousin in a strange country. And you'll find few better men than Col. Nigel Gordon; as for his wife, she's a fine English leddy, and I hae little knowledge anent such women. But a Scot canna kithe a kindness; if I gie Colonel Gordon a share o' my house, I must e'en show a sort o' hospitality to his friends and visitors. And the colonel's wife is much thought o', in the regiment and oot o' it. She has a sight o' vera good company,—young officers and bonnie leddies, and some o' the vera best o' our ain people."
"There it is. I want not my daughters to learn new ways. There are the Van Voorts: they began to dine and dance at the governor's house, and then they went to the English Church."
"They were Lutherans to begin wi', Joris."
"My Lysbet is the finest lady in the whole land: let her daughters walk in her steps. That is what I want. But Neil can come here; I will make him welcome, and a good girl is to be courted on her father's hearth. Now, there is enough said, and also there is some one coming."
"It will be Neil and Bram;" and, as the words were spoken, the young men entered.
"Again you are late, Bram;" and the father looked curiously in his son's face. It was like looking back upon his own youth; for Bram Van Heemskirk had all the physical traits of his father, his great size, his commanding presence and winning address, his large eyes, his deep, sonorous voice and slow speech. He was well dressed in light-coloured broadcloth; but Neil Semple wore a coat and breeches of black velvet, with a long satin vest, and fine small ruffles. He was tall and swarthy, and had a pointed, rather sombre face. Without speaking much in the way of conversation, he left an impression always of intellectual adroitness,—a young man of whom people expected a successful career.
With the advent of Bram and Neil, the consultation ended. The elder, grumbling at the chill and mist, wrapped himself in his plaid, and leaning on his son's arm, cautiously picked his way home by the light of a lantern. Bram drew his chair to the hearth, and sat silently waiting for any question his father might wish to ask. But Van Heemskirk was not inclined to talk. He put aside his pipe, nodded gravely to his son, and went thoughtfully upstairs. At the closed door of his daughters' room, he stood still a moment. There was a murmur of conversation within it, and a ripple of quickly smothered laughter. How well his soul could see the child, with her white, small hands over her mouth, and her bright hair scattered upon the white pillow!
"Ach, mijn kind, mijn kind! Mijn liefste kind!" he whispered. "God Almighty keep thee from sin and sorrow!"
"To be a sweetness more desired than spring,— This is the flower of life."
Joris Van Heemskirk had not thought of prayer; but, in his vague fear and apprehension, his soul beat at his lips, and its natural language had been that appeal at his daughter's closed door. For Semple's words had been like a hand lifting the curtain in a dark room: only a clouded and uncertain light had been thrown, but in it even familiar objects looked portentous. In these days, the tendency is to tone down and to assimilate, to deprecate every thing positive and demonstrative. But Joris lived when the great motives of humanity stood out sharp and bold, and surrounded by a religious halo.
Many of his people had begun to associate with the governing race, to sit at their banquets, and even to worship in their church; but Joris, in his heart, looked upon such "indifferents" as renegades to their God and their fatherland. He was a Dutchman, soul and body; and no English duke was prouder of his line, or his royal quarterings, than was Joris Van Heemskirk of the race of sailors and patriots from whom he had sprung.
Through his father, he clasped hands with men who had swept the narrow seas with De Ruyter, and sailed into Arctic darkness and icefields with Van Heemskirk. Farther back, among that mysterious, legendary army of patriots called "The Beggars of the Sea," he could proudly name his fore-goers,—rough, austere men, covered with scars, who followed Willemsen to the succour of Leyden. The likeness of one of them, Adrian Van Heemskirk, was in his best bedroom,—the big, square form wrapped in a pea-jacket; a crescent in his hat, with the device, "Rather Turk than Papist;" and upon his breast one of those medals, still hoarded in the Low Countries, which bore the significant words, "In defiance of the Mass."
He knew all the stories of these men,—how, fortified by their natural bravery, and by their Calvinistic acquiescence in the purposes of Providence, they put out to sea in any weather, braved any danger, fought their enemies wherever they found them, worked like beavers behind their dams, and yet defiantly flung open their sluice-gates, and let in the ocean, to drown out their enemies.
Through his mother, a beautiful Zealand woman, he was related to the Evertsens, the victorious admirals of Zealand, and also to the great mercantile family of Doversteghe; and he thought the enterprise of the one as honourable as the valour of the other. Beside the sailor pictures of Cornelius and Jan Evertsen, and the famous "Keesje the Devil," he hung sundry likenesses of men with grave, calm faces, proud and lofty of aspect, dressed in rich black velvet and large wide collars,—merchants who were every inch princes of commerce and industry.
These lines of thought, almost tedious to indicate, flashed hotly and vividly through his mind. The likes and dislikes, the faiths and aspirations, of past centuries, coloured the present moments, as light flung through richly stained glass has its white radiance tinged by it. The feeling of race—that strong and mysterious tie which no time nor circumstances can eradicate—was so living a motive in Joris Van Heemskirk's heart, that he had been quite conscious of its appeal when Semple spoke of a marriage between Katherine and his own son. And Semple had understood this, when he so cunningly insinuated a common stock and a common form of faith. For he had felt, instinctively, that even the long tie of friendship between them was hardly sufficient to bridge over the gulf of different nationalities.
Then, Katherine was Van Heemskirk's darling, the very apple of his eye. He felt angry that already there should be plans laid to separate her in any way from him. His eldest daughters, Cornelia and Anna, had married men of substance in Esopus and Albany: he knew they had done well for themselves, and had become contented in that knowledge; but he also felt that they were far away from his love and home. Joanna was already betrothed to Capt. Batavius de Vries; Bram would doubtless find himself a wife very soon; for a little while, he had certainly hoped to keep Katherine by his own side. Semple, in speaking of her as already marriageable, had given him a shock. It seemed such a few years since he had walked her to sleep at nights, cradled in his strong arms, close to his great, loving heart; such a little while ago when she toddled about the garden at his side, her plump white hands holding his big forefinger; only yesterday that she had been going to the school, with her spelling-book and Heidelberg in her hand. When Lysbet had spoken to him of the English lady staying with Madam Semple, who was teaching Katherine the new crewel-stitch, it had appeared to him quite proper that such a child should be busy learning something in the way of needlework. "Needlework" had been given as the reason of those visits, which he now remembered had been very frequent; and he was so absolutely truthful, that he never imagined the word to be in any measure a false definition.
Therefore, Elder Semple's implication had stunned him like a buffet. In his own room, he sat down on a big oak chest; and, as he thought, his wrath slowly gathered. Semple knew that gay young English officers were coming and going about his house, and he had not told him until he feared they would interfere with his own plans for keeping Neil near to him. The beautiful little Dutch maiden had been an attraction which he was proud to exhibit, just as he was proud of his imported furniture, his pictures, and his library. He remembered that Semple had spoken with touching emphasis of his longing to keep his last son near home; but must he give up his darling Katherine to further this plan?
"I like not it," he muttered. "God for the Dutchman made the Dutchwoman. That is the right way; but I will not make angry myself for so much of passion, so much of nothing at all to the purpose. That is the truth. Always I have found it so."
Then Lysbet, having finished her second locking up, entered the room. She came in as one wearied and troubled, and said with a sigh, as she untied her apron, "By the girls' bedside I stopped one minute. Dear me! when one is young, the sleep is sound."
"Well, then, they were awake when I passed,—that is not so much as one quarter of the hour,—talking and laughing; I heard them."
"And now they are fast in sleep; their heads are on one pillow, and Katherine's hand is fast clasped in Joanna's hand. The dear ones! Joris, the elder's words have made trouble in my heart. What did the man mean?"
"Who can tell? What a man says, we know; but only God understands what he means. But I will say this, Lysbet, and it is what I mean: if Semple has led my daughter into the way of temptation, then, for all that is past and gone, we shall be unfriends."
"Give yourself no kommer on that matter, Joris. Why should not our girls see what kind of people the world is made of? Have not some of our best maidens married into the English set? And none of them were as beautiful as Katherine. There is no harm, I think, in a girl taking a few steps up when she puts on the wedding ring."
"Mean you that our little daughter should marry some English good-for-nothing? Look, then, I would rather see her white and cold in the dead-chamber. In a word, I will have no Englishman among the Van Heemskirks. There, let us sleep. To-night I will speak no more."
But madam could not sleep. She was quite sensible that she had tacitly encouraged Katherine's visits to Semple House, even after she understood that Captain Hyde and other fashionable and notable persons were frequent visitors there. In her heart she had dreamed such dreams of social advancement for her daughters as most mothers encourage. Her prejudices were less deep than those of her husband; or, perhaps, they were more powerfully combated by her greater respect for the pomps and vanities of life. She thought rather well than ill of those people of her own race and class who had made themselves a place in the most exclusive ranks. During the past ten years, there had been great changes in New York's social life: many families had become very wealthy, and there was a rapidly growing tendency to luxurious and splendid living. Lysbet Van Heemskirk saw no reason why her younger children should not move with this current, when it might set them among the growing aristocracy of the New World.
She tried to recall Katharine's demeanour and words during the past day, and she could find no cause for alarm in them. True, the child had spent a long time in arranging her beautiful hair, and she had also begged from her the bright amber necklace that had been her own girlish pride; but what then? It was so natural, especially when there was likely to be fine young gentlemen to see them. She could not remember having noticed anything at all which ought to make her uneasy; and what Lysbet did not see or hear, she could not imagine.
Yet the past ten hours had really been full of danger to the young girl. Early in the afternoon, some hours before Joanna was ready to go, Katherine was dressed for her visit to Semple House. It was the next dwelling to the Van Heemskirks' on the river-bank, about a quarter of a mile distant, but plainly in sight; and this very proximity gave the mother a sense of security for her children. It was a different house from the Dutchman's, one of those great square plain buildings, so common in the Georgian era,—not at all picturesque, but finished inside with handsomely carved wood-work, and with mirrors and wall-papering brought specially for it from England.
It stood, like Van Heemskirk's, at the head of a garden sloping to the river; and there was a good deal of pleasant rivalry about these gardens, both proprietors having impressed their own individuality upon their pleasure-grounds. Semple's had nothing of the Dutchman's glowing prettiness and quaintness,—no clipped yews and hollies, no fanciful flower-beds and little Gothic summer-house. Its slope was divided into three fine terraces, the descent from one to the other being by broad, low steps; the last flight ending on a small pier, to which the pleasure and fishing boats were fastened. These terraced walks were finely shaded and adorned with shrubs; and on the main one there was a stone sun-dial, with a stone seat around it. Van Heemskirk did not think highly of Semple's garden; and Semple was sure, "that, in the matter o' flowers and fancy clippings, Van Heemskirk had o'er much o' a gude thing." But still the rivalry had always been a good-natured one, and, in the interchange of bulbs and seeds, productive of much friendly feeling.
The space between the two houses was an enclosed meadow; and this afternoon, the grass being warm and dry, and full of wild flowers, Katherine followed the narrow foot-path through it, and entered the Semple garden by the small side gate. Near this gate was a stone dairy, sunk below the level of the ground,—a deliciously cool, clean spot, even in the hottest weather. Passing it, she saw that the door was open, and Madam Semple was busy among its large, shallow, pewter cream-dishes. Lifting her dainty silk skirts, she went down the few steps, and stood smiling and nodding in the doorway. Madam was beating some rich curd with eggs and currants and spices; and Katherine, with a sympathetic smile, asked delightedly,—
"Just cheesecakes, dearie."
"Oh, I am glad! Joanna is coming, too, only she had first some flax to unplait. Wait for her I could not. Let me fill some of these pretty little patty pans."
"I'll do naething o' the kind, Katherine. You'd be spoiling the bonnie silk dress you hae put on. Go to the house and sit wi' Mistress Gordon. She was asking for you no' an hour ago. And, Katherine, my bonnie lassie, dinna gie a thought to one word that black-eyed nephew o' her's may say to you. He's here the day and gane to-morrow, and the lasses that heed him will get sair hearts to themsel's."
The bright young face shadowed, and a sudden fear came into Madam Semple's heart as she watched the girl turn thoughtfully and slowly away. The blinds of the house were closed against the afternoon sun; but the door stood open, and the wide, dim stairway was before her. All was as silent as if she had entered an enchanted castle. And on the upper hall the closed doors, and the soft lights falling through stained glass upon the dark, rich carpets, made an element of mystery, vague and charmful, to which Katherine's sensitive, childlike nature was fully responsive.
Slowly she pushed back a heavy mahogany door, and entered a large room, whose richly wainscoted walls, heavy friezes, and beautifully painted ceiling were but the most obvious points in its general magnificence. On a lounge covered with a design done in red and blue tent stitch, an elegantly dressed woman was sitting, reading a novel. "The Girl of Spirit," "The Fair Maid of the Inn," "The Curious Impertinent," and other favourite tales of the day, were lying upon an oval table at her side.
"La, child!" she cried, "come here and give me a kiss. So you wear that sweet-fancied suit again. You are the most agreeable creature in it; though Dick vows upon his sword-hilt that you look a hundred times more bewitching in the dress you wore this morning."
"How? This morning, madam? This morning Captain Hyde did not see me at all."
"Pray don't blush so, child; though, indeed, it is vastly becoming. I do assure you he saw you this morning. He had gone out early to take the air, and he had a most transporting piece of good fortune: for he bethought himself to walk under the great trees nearly opposite your house; and when you came to the door, with your excellent father, he noted all, from the ribbon on your head to the buckles on your shoes. His talk now is of nothing but your short quilted petticoat, and your tight bodice, and beautiful bare arms. Is that the Dutch style, then, child? It must be extremely charming."
"If my mother you could see in it! She is beautiful. And we have a picture of my grandmother in the true Zealand dress. Like a princess she looks, my father says; but, indeed, I have never seen a princess."
"My dear, you must allow me to laugh a little. Will you believe it, princesses are sometimes very vulgar creatures? I am sure, however, that your grandmother was very genteel and agreeable. I must tell you that I have just received my new scarf from London. You shall see it, and give me your opinion."
"O madam, you are very kind! What is it like?"
"It is all extravagance in mode and fancy. I believe, my dear, there are two hundred yards of edging on it; and it has the most enchanting slope to the shoulders. I am wonderfully pleased with it, and hope it will prove becoming."
"Indeed, I think all your suits are becoming."
"Faith, child, I think they are. I have always dressed with the most perfect intelligence. I follow all the fashions, and they must be French. La, here comes Richard. He is going to ask you to take a sail on the river; and I shall lend you my new green parasol. I do believe it is the only one in the country."
"I came to sit with you, and work with my worsteds. Perhaps my mother—might not like me to go on the river with—any one."
"Pray, child, don't be affected. 'My mother—might not like me to go on the river with—any one;'" and she mimicked Katherine so cleverly that the girl's face burned with shame and annoyance.
But she had no time to defend herself; for, with his cavalry cap in his hand, and a low bow, Captain Hyde entered the room; and Katharine's heart throbbed in her cheeks, and she trembled, and yet withal dimpled into smiles, like clear water in the sunshine. A few minutes afterward she was going down the terrace steps with him; and he was looking into her face with shining eyes, and whispering the commonest words in such an enchanting manner that it seemed to her as if her feet scarcely touched the low, white steps, and she was some sort of glorified Katherine Van Heemskirk, who never, never, never could be unhappy again.
They did not go on the river. Captain Hyde hated exertion. His splendid uniform was too tight to row in. He did not want a third party near, in any capacity. The lower steps were shaded by great water beeches, and the turf under them was green and warm. There was the scent of lilies around, the song of birds above, the ripple of water among pebbles at their feet. A sweeter hour, a lovelier maid, man could never hope to find; and Captain Hyde was not one to neglect his opportunity.
"Let us stay here, my beloved," he whispered. "I have something sweet to tell you. Upon mine honour, I can keep my secret no longer."
The innocent child! Who could blame her for listening to it?—at first with a little fear and a little reluctance, but gradually resigning her whole heart to the charm of his soft syllables and his fervent manner, until she gave him the promise he begged for,—love that was to be for him alone, love for him alone among all the sons of men.
What an enchanted afternoon it was! how all too quickly it fled away, one golden moment after another! and what a pang it gave her to find at the end that there must be lying and deception! For, somehow, she had been persuaded to acquiesce in her lover's desire for secrecy. As for the lie, he told it with the utmost air of candour.
"Yes, we had a beautiful sail; and how enchanting the banks above here are! Aunt, I am at your service to-morrow, if you wish to see them."
"Oh, your servant, Captain, but I am an indifferent sailor; and I trust I have too much respect for myself and my new frocks, to crowd them into a river cockboat!"
In a few minutes Joanna and the elder came in. He had called for her on his way home; for he liked the society of the young and beautiful, and there were many hours in which he thought Joanna fairer than her sister. Then tea was served in a pretty parlour with Turkish walls and coloured windows, which, being open into the garden, framed lovely living pictures of blossoming trees. Every one was eating and drinking, laughing and talking; so Katherine's unusual silence was unnoticed, except by the elder, who indeed saw and heard everything, and who knew what he did not see and hear by that kind of prescience to which wise and observant years attain. He saw that the cakes Katherine dearly loved remained upon her plate untasted, and that she was unusually, suspiciously quiet.
After tea he walked down the garden with Colonel Gordon. The lily bed was near the river; and he made the gathering of some lilies for Katherine an excuse for going close enough to the pier to see how the boat lay, and whether the oars had been moved from the exact position in which he had placed them. And he found the boat rocking at its moorings, tied with his own peculiar knot. It told him everything, and he was sincerely troubled at the discovery.
"Love and lying," he mused. "I wonder why they are ever such thick friends. As for Dick Hyde, lying is his native tongue; but if Katharine Van Heemskirk has been aye one thing above another, it was to tell the truth. It ought to come easy to her likewise, for I'll say the same o' the hale nation o' Dutchmen. I dinna think Joris would tell a lie to save baith life and fortune."
He looked at Katherine almost sternly when he went back to the house; though he gave her the lilies, and bid her keep her soul sweet and pure as their white bells. She was sitting by Mistress Gordon's side, in one of those tall-backed Dutch chairs, whose very blackness and straightness threw into high relief her own undulating roundness and mobility, the glowing colours of her Indian silk gown, the shining amber against her white throat, and the picturesque curl and flow of her fair hair. Captain Hyde sat opposite, bending toward her; and his aunt reclined upon the couch, and watched them with a singular look of speculation in her half-shut eyes.
Joanna was talking to Neil Semple in the recess of a window; but Neil's face was white with suppressed anger, and, though he seemed to be listening to her, his eyes—full of passion—were fixed upon Hyde. Perhaps the young soldier was conscious of it; for he occasionally addressed some trivial remark to him, as if to prevent Neil from losing sight of the advantages he had over him.
"The vera air o' this room is gunpowdery," thought the elder; "and ane or the other will be flinging a spark o' passion into it, and then the de'il will be to pay. O'er many women here! O'er many women here! One is enough in any house. I'll e'en tak' the lasses hame mysel'; and I'll speak to Joris for his daughter,—as good now as any other time."
Then he said in his blandest tones, "Joanna, my dearie, you'll hae to tell Neil the rest o' your tale the morn; and, Katherine, put awa' now that bit o' busy idleness, and don your hoods and mantles, baith o' you. I'm going to tak' you hame, and I dinna want to get my deathe wi' the river mist."
"Pray, sir," said Hyde, "consider me at your service. I have occasion to go into town at once, and will do your duty to the young ladies with infinite pleasure."
"Much obliged, Captain, vera much obliged; but it tak's an auld wise-headed, wise-hearted man like mysel' to walk safely atween twa bonnie lasses;" then turning to his son, he added, "Neil, my lad, put your beaver on, and go and find Bram. You can tell him, as he didna come to look after his sisters afore this hour, he needna come at a'."
"Do you know, father, where Bram is likely to be found?"
"Hum-m-m! As if you didna know yoursel'! He will dootless be among that crowd o' young wiseacres wha are certain the safety o' the Provinces is in their keeping. It's the young who ken a' things, ken mair than councils and assemblies, and king and parliament, thegither."
Colonel Gordon laughed. "Never mind, sir," he said, "they let the army alone, and the church; so you and I need hardly alarm ourselves"—
"I'm no sure o' that, Colonel. When it comes to the army, it's a mere question o' wha can strike the hardest blows; and as to kirk matters, I'm thinking men had better meddle wi' the things o' God, which they canna change, than wi' those o' the king wi' which they can wark a deal o' mischief."
While he was speaking, Neil left the room. The little argument struck him as a pretext and a cover, and he was glad to escape from a position which he felt to be both painful and humiliating. He was in a measure Captain Hyde's host, and subject to traditions regarding the duties of that character; any display of anger would be derogatory to him, and yet how difficult was restraint! So his father's interference was a welcome one; and he was reconciled to his own disappointment, when, looking back, he saw the old gentleman slowly taking the road to Van Heemskirk's with the pretty girls in their quilted red hoods, one on each side of him.
The elder was very polite to his charges; he never once regretted to them the loss of his pipe, and chat with Colonel Gordon. But he noticed that Katherine was silent and disappointed, and that she lingered in her own room after her arrival at home. Her subsequent pretty cheerfulness, her delight in her lilies, her confiding claims upon her father's love,—nothing in these things deceived him. He saw beneath all the fluttering young heart, trembling, and yet happy in the new, sweet feeling, never felt before, which had come to it that afternoon.
But he thought that most girls had to have this initiative: it prepared the way for a soberer and more lasting affection. In the end, Katherine would perceive how imprudent, how impossible, a marriage with Captain Hyde must be; and her heart would turn back to Neil, who had been her lover from boyhood. Yet he reflected, it would be well to have the matter understood, and to give it that "possibility" which is best attained on a money basis.
So while he and the Van Heemskirks discussed the matter,—a little reluctantly, he thought, on their part,—Katherine talked with Joanna of the Gordons. Her heart was so full of her lover, that it was a relief to discuss the people and things nearest to him. And her very repression excited her. She toyed with her cambric kerchief before the small looking-glass, and imitated the fashionable English lady with a piquant cleverness that provoked low peals of laughter, and a retrospective discussion of the evening, which was merry enough, without being in the least ill-natured.
But, oh, in what strange solitudes every separate soul dwells! When Katherine kissed her sister, and said simperingly, with the highest English accent, "La, child, I protest it has been the most agreeable evening," Joanna had not a suspicion of the joy and danger that had come to the dear little one at her side. She was laughing softly with her, even while the fearful father stood at the closed door, and lifted up his tender soul in that pathetic petition, "Ach, mijn kind! mijn kind! mijn liefste kind! Almighty God preserve thee from all sin and sorrow!"
"The proverb holds, that to be wise and love Is hardly granted to the gods above."
"Well, well, to-day goes to its forefathers, like all the rest; and, as for what comes after it, every thing is in the love and counsel of the Almighty One."
This was Joris Van Heemskirk's last thought ere he fell asleep that night, after Elder Semple's cautious disclosure and proposition. In his calm, methodical, domestic life, it had been an "eventful day." We say the words often and unreflectingly, seldom pausing to consider that such days are the results which months, years, perchance centuries, have made possible. Thus, a long course of reckless living and reckless gambling, and the consequent urgent need of ready money, had first made Captain Hyde turn his thoughts to the pretty daughter of the rich Dutch merchant.
Madam Semple, in her desire to enhance the importance of the Van Heemskirks, had mentioned more than once the handsome sums of ready money given to each of Katharine's sisters on their wedding-day; and both Colonel Gordon and his wife had thought of this sum so often, as a relief to their nephew's embarrassments, that it seemed almost as much Hyde's property as if he had been born to inherit it. At first Katherine, as its encumbrance, had been discussed very heartlessly,—she could be left in New York when his regiment received marching orders, if it were thought desirable; or she could be taken to England, and settled as mistress of Hyde Manor House, a lonely mansion on the Norfolk fens, which was so rarely tenanted by the family that Hyde had never been there since his boyhood.
"She is a homespun little thing," laughed the colonel's fashionable wife, "and quite unfit to go among people of our condition. But she adores you, Dick; and she will be passably happy with a house to manage, and a visit from you when you can spare the time."
"Oh, your servant, aunt! Then I am a very indifferent judge; for indeed she has much spirit below her gentle manner; and, upon my word, I think her as fine a creature as you can find in the best London society. The task, I assure you, is not easy. When Katherine is won, then, in faith, her father may be in no hurry of approval. And the child is a fair, innocent child: I am very uneasy to do her wrong. The ninety-nine plagues of an empty purse are to blame for all my ill deeds."
"Upon my word, Dick, nothing can be more commendable than your temper. You make vastly proper reflection, sir; but you are in troubled waters,—admit it,—and this little Dutch-craft may bring you respectably into harbour.
It was in this mood that Katherine and her probable fortune had been discussed; and thus she was but one of the events, springing from lives anterior to her own, and very different from it. And causes nearly as remote had prepared the way for her ready reception of Hyde's homage, and the relaxation of domestic discipline which had trusted her so often and so readily in his society—causes which had been forgotten, but which had left behind them a positive and ever-growing result. When a babe, she was remarkably frail and delicate; and this circumstance, united to the fact of her being the youngest child, had made the whole household very tender to her, and she had been permitted a much larger portion of her own way than was usually given to any daughter in a Dutch family.
Also, in her father's case, the motives influencing his decision stretched backward through many generations. None the less was their influence potent to move him. In fact, he forgot entirely to reflect how a marriage between his child and Captain Hyde would be regarded at that day; his first thoughts had been precisely such thoughts as would have occurred to a Van Heemskirk living two hundred years before him. And thus, though we hardly remember the fact, it is this awful solidarity of the human family which makes the third and fourth generations heirs of their forefathers, and brings into every life those critical hours we call "eventful days."
Joris, however, made no such reflections. His age was not an age inclined to analysis, and he was still less inclined to it from a personal standpoint. For he was a man of few, but positive ideas; yet these ideas, having once commended themselves to his faith or his intelligence, were embraced with all his soul. It was this spirit which made him deprecate even religious discussions, so dear to the heart of his neighbour.
"I like them not, Elder," he would say; "of what use are they, then? The Calvinistic faith is the true faith. That is certain. Very well, then; what is true does not require to be examined, to see if it be true."
Semple's communication regarding Captain Hyde and his daughter had aroused in him certain feelings, and led him to certain decisions. He went to sleep, satisfied with their propriety and justice. He awoke in precisely the same mood. Then he dressed, and went into his garden. It was customary for Katherine to join him there; and he frequently turned, as he went down the path, to see if she were coming. He watched eagerly for the small figure in its short quilted petticoat and buckled shoes, and the fair, pink face shaded by the large Zealand hat, with its long blue ribbons crossed over the back. But this morning she did not come. He walked alone to his lily bed, and stooped a little forlornly to admire the tulips and crocus-cups and little purple pansies; but his face brightened when he heard her calling him to breakfast, and very soon he saw her leaning over the half door, shading her eyes with both her hands, the better to watch his approach.
Lysbet was already in her place; so was Joanna, and also Bram; and a slim black girl called Dinorah was handing around fricasseed chicken and venison steaks, hot fritters and johnny-cake; while the rich Java berry filled the room with an aroma of tropical life, and suggestions of the spice-breathing coasts of Sunda. Joris and Bram discussed the business of the day; Katherine was full of her visit to Semple House the preceding evening. Dinorah was no restraint. The slaves Joris owned, like those of Abraham, were born or brought up in his own household; they held to all the family feelings with a faithful, often an unreasonable, tenacity.
And yet, this morning, Joris waited until Lysbet dismissed her handmaid, before he said the words he had determined to speak ere he began the work of the day. Then he put down his cup with an emphasis which made all eyes turn to him, and said,—
"Katrijntje, my daughter, call not to-day, nor call not any day, until I tell you different, at Madam Semple's. The people who go and come there, I like them not. They will be no good to you. Lysbet, what say you in this matter?"
"What you say, I say, Joris. The father is to be obeyed. When he will not, the children can not."
"Joanna, what say you?"
"I like best of all things to do your pleasure, father."
"And you, Bram?"
"As for me, I think you are very right. I like not those English officers,—insolent and proud men, all of them. It would have been a great pleasure to me to strike down the one who yesterday spurned with his spurred boot our good neighbour Jacob Cohen, for no reason but that he was a Jew"—
"Heigho! go softly, Bram. That which burns thee not, cool not."
"As he passed our store door where I stood, he said 'devil,' but he meant me."
"Only God knows what men mean. Now, then, little one, thy will is my will, is it not?"
She had drawn her chair close to her father's, and taken his big hand between her own, and was stroking and petting it as he spoke; and, ere she answered, she leaned her head upon his breast.
"Father, I like to see the English lady; and she is teaching me the new stitch."
"Schoone Lammetje! There are many other things far better for thee to learn; for instance, to darn the fine Flemish lace, and to work the beautiful 'clocks' on thy stockings, and to make perfect thy Heidelberg and thy Confession of Faith. In these things, the best of all good teachers is thy mother."
"I can do these things also, father. The lady loves me, and will be unhappy not to see me."
"Then, let her come here and see thee. That will be the proper thing. Why not? She is not better than thou art. Once thy mother has called on her; thou and Joanna, a few times too often. Now, then, let her call on thee. Always honour thyself, as well as others. That is the Dutch way; that is the right way. Mind what I tell thee."
His voice had gradually grown sterner; and he gently withdrew his hand from her clasp, and rose as a man in a hurry, and pressed with affairs: "Come, Bram, there is need now of some haste. The 'Sea Hound' has her cargo, and should sail at the noon-tide; and, as for the 'Crowned Bears,' thou knowest there is much to be said and done. I hear she left most of her cargo at Perth Amboy. Well, well, I have told Jerome Brakel what I think of that. It is his own affair."
Thus talking, he left the room; and Lysbet instantly began to order the wants of the house with the same air of settled preoccupation. "Joanna," she said, "the linen web in the loom, go and see how it is getting on; and the fine napkins must be sent to the lawn for the bleaching, and to-day the chambers must be aired and swept. The best parlour Katherine will attend to."
Katherine still sat at the table; her eyes were cast down, and she was arranging—without a consciousness of doing so—her bread-crumbs upon her Delft plate. The directions roused her from her revery, and she comprehended in a moment how decisive her father's orders were intended to be. Yet in this matter she was so deeply interested that she instinctively made an appeal against them.
"Mother, my mother, shall I not go once more to see Madam Gordon? So kind she has been to me! She will say I am ungrateful, that I am rude, and know not good manners. And I left there the cushion I am making, and the worsteds. I may go at once, and bring them home? Yes, mother, I may go at once. A young girl does not like to be thought ungrateful and rude."
"More than that, Katherine; a young girl should not like to disobey a good father. You make me feel astonished and sorry. Here is the key of the best parlour; go now, and wash carefully the fine china-ware. As to the rose-leaves in the big jars, you must not let a drop of water touch them."
"My cushion and my worsteds, mother!"
"Well, then, I will send Dinorah for them with a civil message. That will be right."
So Lysbet turned and left the room. She did not notice the rebellious look on her daughter's face, the lowering brows, the resentment in the glance that followed her, the lips firmly set to the mental purpose. "To see her lover at all risks"—that was the purpose; but how best to accomplish it, was not clear to her. The ways of the household were so orderly, so many things brought the family together during the day, Lysbet and Joanna kept such a loving watch over her, the road between their own house and the Semples' was so straight and unscreened, and she was, beside, such a novice in deception,—all these circumstances flashing at once across her mind made her, for a moment or two, almost despair.
But she lifted the key given her and went to the parlour. It was a large, low room, with wainscoted walls, and a big tiled fireplace nearly filling one end of it. The blinds were closed, but there was enough light to reveal its quaint and almost foreign character. Great jars with dragons at the handles stood in the recesses made by large oak cabinets, black with age, and elaborately carved with a marvellous nicety and skill. The oval tables were full of curious bits of china, dainty Oriental wicker work, exquisite shells on lacquered trays, wonderfully wrought workboxes and fans and amulets. The odours of calamus and myrrh and camphor from strange continents mingled with the faint perfume of the dried rose leaves and the scent-bags of English lavender. Many of these rare and beautiful things were the spoils brought from India and Java by the sea-going Van Heemskirks of past generations. Others had come at long intervals as gifts from the captains of ships with whom the house did business. Katherine had often seen such visitors—men with long hair and fierce looks, and the pallor of hot, moist lands below the tan of wind and sunshine. It had always been her delight to dust and care for these various treasures; and the room itself, with its suggestive aromas, was her favourite hiding-place. Here she had made her own fairy tales, and built the enchanted castles which the less fortunate children of this day have clever writers build for them.
And at length the prince of her imagination had come! As she moved about among the strange carven toys and beautiful ornaments, she could think only of him,—of his stately manner and dark, handsome face. Simple, even rustic, she might be; but she understood that he had treated her with as much deference and homage as if she had been a princess. She recalled every word he said to her as they sat under the water beeches. More vividly still she recalled the tender light in his eyes, the lingering clasp of his hand, his low, persuasive voice, and that nameless charm of fashion and culture which perhaps impressed her more than any other thing.
Among the articles she had to dust was a square Indian box with drawers. It had always been called "the writing-box," and it was partly filled with paper and other materials for letter-writing. She stood before the open lid thoughtfully, and a sudden overwhelming desire to send some message of apology to Mrs. Gordon came into her heart. She could write pretty well, and she had seen her mother and Joanna fold and seal letters; and, although she was totally inexperienced in the matter, she determined to make the effort.
There was nothing in the materials then to help her. The letter paper was coarse; envelopes were unknown. She would have to bring a candle into the room in order to seal it; and a candle could only be lit by striking a spark from the flint upon the tinder, and then igniting a brimstone match from it,—unless she lit it at the kindled fire, which would subject her to questions and remonstrances. Also, the quill pens must be mended, and the ink renewed. But all these difficulties were overcome, one by one; and the following note was intrusted to the care of Diedrich Becker, the old man who worked in the garden and milked the cows:
To MISTRESS COLONEL GORDON: HONOURED MADAM: My father forbids that I come to see you. He thinks you should upon my mother call. That you will judge me to be rude and ungrateful I fear very much. But that is not true. I am unhappy, indeed. I think all the day of you.
Your obedient servant, KATHERINE VAN HEEMSKIRK.
"'The poor child," said Mrs. Gordon, when she had read the few anxious sentences. "Look here, Dick;" and Dick, who was beating a tattoo upon the window-pane, turned listlessly and asked, "Pray, madam, what is it?"
"Of all earthly things, a letter from that poor child, Katherine Van Heemskirk. She has more wit than I expected. So her father won't let her come to me. Why, then, upon my word, I will go to her."
Captain Hyde was interested at once. He took the letter his aunt offered, and read it with a feeling of love and pity and resentment. "You will go to-morrow?" he asked; "and would it be beyond good breeding for me to accompany you?"
"Indeed, nephew, I think it would. But I will give your service, and say everything that is agreeable. Be patient; to-morrow morning I will call upon our fair neighbour."
The next morning was damp, for there had been heavy rain during the night; but Captain Hyde would not let his aunt forget or forego her promise. She had determined to make an unceremonious visit; and early in the day she put on her bonnet and pelisse, and walked over to the Van Heemskirks. A negro woman was polishing the brass ornaments of the door, and over its spotless threshold she passed without question or delay.
A few minutes she waited alone in the best parlour, charmed with its far off air and Eastern scents, and then Madam Van Heemskirk welcomed her. In her heart she was pleased at the visit. She thought privately that her Joris had been a little too strict. She did not really see why her beautiful daughters should not have the society and admiration of the very best people in the Province. And Mrs. Gordon's praise of Katharine, and her declaration that "she was inconsolable without the dear creature's society," seemed to the fond mother the most proper and natural of feelings.
"Do but let me see her an hour, madam," she said. "You know my sincere admiration. Is not that her voice? I vow, she sings to perfection And what a singular melody! Please to set wide the door, madam."
"It is the brave song of the brave men of Zealand, when from the walls of Leyden they drove away the Spaniards;" and madam stood in the open door, and called to her daughter, "Well, then, Katharine, begin again the song of 'The Beggars of the Sea.'"
"We are the Beggars of the Sea,— Strong, gray Beggars from Zealand we; We are fighting for liberty: Heave ho! rip the brown sails free!
"Hardy sons of old Zierikzee, Fed on the breath of the wild North Sea. Beggars are kings if free they be: Heave ho! rip the brown sails free!
"'True to the Wallet,' whatever betide; 'Long live the Gueux,'—the sea will provide Graves for the enemy, deep and wide: Heave ho! rip the brown sails free!
"Beggars, but not from the Spaniard's hand; Beggars, 'under the Cross' we stand; Beggars, for love of the fatherland: Heave ho! rip the brown sails free!
"Now, if the Spaniard comes our way, What shall we give him, Beggars gray? Give him a moment to kneel and pray: Heave ho! rip the brown sails free!"
At the second verse, Mrs. Gordon rose and said, "Indeed, madam, I find my good-breeding no match against such singing. And the tune is wonderful; it has the ring of trumpets, and the roar of the waves, in it. Pray let us go at once to your daughters."
"At work are they; but, if you mind not that, you are welcome indeed." Then she led the way to the large living, or dining, room, where Katherine stood at the table cleaning the silver flagons and cups and plates that adorned the great oak sideboard.
Joanna, who was darning some fine linen, rose and made her respects with perfect composure. She had very little liking, either for Mrs. Gordon or her nephew; and many of their ways appeared to her utterly foolish, and not devoid of sin. But Katherine trembled and blushed with pleasure and excitement, and Mrs. Gordon watched her with a certain kind of curious delight. Her hair was combed backward, plaited, and tied with a ribbon; her arms bare to the shoulders, her black bodice and crimson petticoat neatly shielded with a linen apron: and poised in one hand she held a beautiful silver flagon covered with raised figures, which with patient labour she had brought into shining relief.
"Oh," cried the visitor, "that is indeed a piece of plate worth looking at! Surely, child, it has a history,—a romance perhaps. La, there are words also upon it! Pray, madam, be so obliging as to read the inscription;" and madam, blushing with pride and pleasure, read it aloud,—
"'Hoog van Moed, Klein van Goed, Een zwaard in de hand: Is 't wapen van Gelderland.'"
"Dutch, I vow! Surely, madam, it is very sonorous and emphatic; vastly different, I do assure you, from the vowelled idioms of Italy and Spain. Pray, madam, be so civil as to translate the words for me."
"'Of spirit great, Of small estate, A sword in the hand: Such are the arms of Guelderland.'
"You must know," continued Madam Van Heemskirk, "that my husband's father had a brother, who, in a great famine in Guelderland, filled one hundred flat boats with wheat of Zealand,—in all the world it is the finest wheat, that is the truth,—and help he sent to those who were ready to perish. And when came better days, then, because their hearts were good, they gave to their preserver this flagon. Joris Van Heemskirk, my husband, sets on it great store, that is so."
Conversation in this channel was easily maintained. Madame Van Heemskirk knew the pedigree or the history of every tray or cup, and in reminiscence and story an hour passed away very pleasantly indeed. Joanna did not linger to listen. The visitor did not touch her liking or her interest; and besides, as every one knows, the work of a house must go on, no matter what guest opens the door. But Katherine longed and watched and feared. Surely her friend would not go away without some private token or message for her. She turned sick at heart when she rose as if to depart. But Mrs. Gordon proved herself equal to the emergency; for, after bidding madam an effusive good-by, she turned suddenly and said, "Pray allow your daughter to show me the many ornaments in your parlour. The glimpse I had has made me very impatient to see them more particularly."
The request was one entirely in sympathy with the mood and the previous conversation, and madam was pleased to gratify it; also pleased, that, having fully satisfied the claims of social life, she could with courtesy leave her visitor's further entertainment with Katherine, and return to her regular domestic cares. To her the visit had appeared to be one of such general interest, that she never suspected any motive beneath or beyond the friendliness it implied. Yet the moment the parlour-door had been shut, Mrs. Gordon lifted Katharine's face between her palms, and said,—
"Faith, child, I am almost run off my head with all the fine things I have listened to for your sake. Do you know who sent me here?"
"I think, madam, Captain Hyde."
"Psha! Why don't you blush, and stammer, and lie about it? 'I think, madam, Captain Hyde,'" mimicking Katherine's slight Dutch accent. "'Tis to be seen, miss, that you understand a thing or two. Now, Captain Hyde wishes to see you; when can you oblige him so much?"
"I know not. To come to Madam Semple's is forbidden me by my father."
"It is on my account. I protest your father is very uncivil."
"Madam, no; but it is the officers; many come and go, and he thinks it is not good for me to meet them."
"Oh, indeed, miss, it is very hard on Captain Hyde, who is more in love than is reasonable Has your father forbidden you to walk down your garden to the river-bank?"
"Then, if Captain Hyde pass about two o'clock, he might see you there?"
"At two I am busy with Joanna."
"La, child! At three then?"
The word was a question more than an assent; but Mrs. Gordon assumed the assent, and did not allow Katharine to contradict it. "And I promised to bring him a token from you,—he was exceedingly anxious about that matter; give me the ribbon from your hair."
"Only last week Joanna bought it for me. She would surely ask me, 'Where is your new ribbon?'"
"Tell her that you lost it."
"How could I say that? It would not be true."
The girl's face was so sincere, that Mrs. Gordon found herself unable to ridicule the position. "My dear," she answered, "you are a miracle. But, among all these pretty things, is there nothing you can send?"
Katherine looked thoughtfully around. There was a small Chinese cabinet on a table: she went to it, and took from a drawer a bow of orange ribbon. Holding it doubtfully in her hand, she said, "My St. Nicholas ribbon."
"La, miss, I thought you were a Calvinist! What are you talking of the saints for?"
"St. Nicholas is our saint, our own saint; and on his day we wear orange. Yes, even my father then, on his silk cap, puts an orange bow. Orange is the Dutch colour, you know, madam."
"Indeed, child, I do not know; but, if so, then it is the best colour to send to your true love."
"For the Dutch, orange always. On the great days of the kirk, my father puts blue with it. Blue is the colour of the Dutch Calvinists."
"Make me thankful to learn so much. Then when Councillor Van Heemskirk wears his blue and orange, he says to the world, 'I am a Dutchman and a Calvinist'?"
"That is the truth. For the Vaderland the Moeder-Kerk he wears their colours. The English, too, they will have their own colour!"
"La, my dear, England claims every colour! But, indeed, even an English officer may now wear an orange favour; for I remember well when our Princess Anne married the young Prince of Orange. Oh, I assure you the House of Nassau is close kin to the House of Hanover! And when English princesses marry Dutch princes, then surely English officers may marry Dutch maidens. Your bow of orange ribbon is a very proper love-knot."
"Indeed, madam, I never"—
"There, there! I can really wait no longer. Some one is already in a fever of impatience. 'Tis a quaintly pretty room; I am happy to have seen its curious treasures. Good-by again, child; my service once more to your mother and sister;" and so, with many compliments, she passed chatting and laughing out of the house.
Katherine closed the best parlour, and lingered a moment in the act. She felt that she had permitted Mrs. Gordon to make an appointment for her lover, and a guilty sense of disobedience made bitter the joy of expectation. For absolute truthfulness is the foundation of the Dutch character; and an act of deception was not only a sin according to Katherine's nature, but one in direct antagonism to it. As she turned away from the closed parlour, she felt quite inclined to confide everything to her sister Joanna; but Joanna, who had to finish the cleaning of the silver, was not in that kind of a temper which invites confidence; and indeed, Katherine, looking into her calm, preoccupied face, felt her manner to be a reproof and a restraint.
So she kept her own counsel, and doubted and debated the matter in her heart until the hands of the great clock were rising quickly to the hour of fate. Then she laid down her fine sewing, and said, "Mother, I want to walk in the garden. When I come back my task I will finish."
"That is well. Joanna, too, has let her work fall down to her lap. Go, both of you, and get the fine air from the river."
This was not what Katherine wished; but nothing but assent was possible, and the girls strolled slowly down the box-bordered walks together. Madam Van Heemskirk watched them from the window for a few minutes. A smile of love and pleasure was on her fine, placid face; but she said with a sigh, as she turned away,—
"Well, well, if it is the will of God they should not rise in the world, one must be content. To the spider the web is as large as to the whale the whole wide sea; that is the truth."
Joanna was silent; she was thinking of her own love-affairs; but Katherine, doubtful of herself, thought also that her sister suspected her. When they reached the river-bank, Joanna perceived that the lilacs were in bloom, and at their root the beautiful auriculas; and she stooped low to inhale their strange, nameless, earthy perfume. At that moment a boat rowed by with two English soldiers, stopped just below them, and lay rocking on her oars. Then an officer in the stern rose and looked towards Katherine, who stood in the full sunlight with her large hat in her hand. Before she could make any sign of recognition, Joanna raised herself from the auriculas and stood beside her sister; yet in the slight interval Katherine had seen Captain Hyde fling back from his left shoulder his cloak, in order to display the bow of orange ribbon on his breast.
The presence of Joanna baffled and annoyed him; but he raised his beaver with a gallant grace, and Joanna dropped a courtesy, and then, taking Katherine's hand, turned toward home with her, saying, "That is the boat of Captain Hyde. What comes he this way for?"
"The river way is free to all, Joanna." And Joanna looked sharply at her sister and remained silent.
But Katherine was merry as a bird. She chattered of this and of that, and sang snatches of songs, old and new. And all the time her heart beat out its own glad refrain, "My bow of orange ribbon, my bow of orange ribbon!" Her needle went to her thoughts, and her thoughts went to melody; for, as she worked, she sang,—
"Will you have a pink knot? Is it blue you prize? One is like a fresh rose, One is like your eyes. No, the maid of Holland, For her own true love, Ties the splendid orange, Orange still above! O oranje boven! Orange still above.
"Will you have the white knot? No, it is too cold. Give me splendid orange, Tint of flame and gold; Rich and glowing orange, For the heart I love; Under, white and pink and blue; Orange still above! O oranje boven! Orange still above!"
"How merry you sing, mijn Katrijntje! Like a little bird you sing. What, then, is it?"
"A pretty song made by the schoolmaster, mijn moeder. 'Oranje Boven' the name is."
"That is a good name. Your father I will remind to have it painted over the door of the summer-house."
"There already are two mottoes painted,—Peaceful is my garden,' and 'Contentment is my lot.'"
"Well, then, there is always room for two more good words, is there not?" And Katherine gayly sung her answer,—
"Tie the splendid orange, Orange still above! O oranje boven! Orange still above."
"The trifles of our daily lives, The common things scarce worth recall, Whereof no visible trace survives,— These are the mainsprings, after all."
"Honoured gentleman, when will you pay me my money?"
The speaker was an old man, dressed in a black coat buttoned to the ankles, and a cap of silk and fur, from beneath which fell a fringe of gray hair. His long beard was also gray, and he leaned upon an ivory staff carved with many strange signs. The inquiry was addressed to Captain Hyde. He paid no attention whatever to it, but, gayly humming a stave of "Marlbrook," watched the crush of wagons and pedestrians, in order to find a suitable moment to cross the narrow street.
"Honoured gentleman, when will you pay me my moneys?"
The second inquiry elicited still less attention for, just as it was made, Neil Semple came out of the City Hall, and his appearance gave the captain a good excuse for ignoring the unpleasant speaker.
"Faith, Mr. Semple," he cried, "you came in an excellent time. I am for Fraunce's Tavern, and a chop and a bottle of Madeira. I shall be vastly glad of your company."
The grave young lawyer, with his hands full of troublesome-looking papers, had little of the air of a boon companion; and, indeed, the invitation was at once courteously declined.
"I have a case on in the Admiralty Court, Captain," he answered, "and so my time is not my own. It belongs, I may say, to the man who has paid me good money for it."
"Mr. Cohen, at your service, sir."
"Captain Hyde owes me one hundred guineas, with the interests, since the fifteenth day of last December. He will not hear me when I say to him, 'Pay me my moneys;' perhaps he will listen, if you speak for me."
"If you are asking my advice in the way of business, you know my office-door, Cohen; if in the way of friendship, I may as well say at once, that I never name friendship and money in the same breath. Good-day, gentlemen. I am in something of a hurry, as you may understand." Cohen bowed low in response to the civil greeting; Captain Hyde stared indignantly at the man who had presumed to couple one of his Majesty's officers with a money-lender and a Jew.
"I do not wish to make you more expenses, Captain;" and Cohen, following the impulse of his anxiety, laid his hand upon his debtor's arm. Hyde turned in a rage, and flung off the touch with a passionate oath. Then the Jew left him. There was neither anger nor impatience visible in his face or movements. He cast a glance up at the City Hall,—an involuntary appeal, perhaps, to the justice supposed to inhabit its chambers,—and then he walked slowly toward his store and home.
Both were under one roof,—a two-storied building in the lower part of Pearl Street, dingy and unattractive in outward appearance, but crowded in its interior with articles of beauty and worth,—Flemish paintings and rich metal work, Venetian glasses and velvets, Spanish and Moorish leather goods, silverware, watches, jewellery, etc. The window of the large room in which all was stored was dim with cobwebs, and there was no arrangement of the treasures. They were laid in the drawers of the great Dutch presses and in cabinets, or packed in boxes, or hung against the walls.
At the back of the store, there was a small sitting-room, and behind it a kitchen, built in a yard which was carefully boarded up. A narrow stairway near the front of the store led to the apartments above. They were three in number. One was a kind of lumber-room; a second, Cohen's sleeping-room; and the largest, at the back of the house, belonged to the Jew's grandchild Miriam. There was one servant in the family, an old woman who had come to America with Jacob. She spoke little English, and she lived in complete seclusion in her kitchen and yard. As far as Jacob Cohen was concerned, he preserved an Oriental reticence about the women of his household; he never spoke of them, and he was never seen in their company. It was seldom they went abroad; when they did so, it was early in the morning, and usually to the small synagogue in Mill Street.
He soon recovered the calmness which had been lost during his unsatisfactory interview with Captain Hyde. "A wise man frets not himself for the folly of a fool;" and, having come to this decision, he entered his house with the invocation for its peace and prosperity on his lips. A party of three gentlemen were examining his stock: they were Governor Clinton and his friends Colden and Belcher.
"Cohen," said Clinton, "you have many fine things here; in particular, this Dutch cabinet, with heavy brass mountings. Send it to my residence. And that Venetian mirror with the silver frame will match the silver sconces you sold me at the New Year. I do not pretend to be a judge, but these things are surely extremely handsome. Pray, sir, let us see the Moorish leather that William Walton has reserved for his new house. I hear you are to have the ordering of the carpets and tapestries. You will make money, Jacob Cohen."
"Your Excellency knows best. I shall make my just profits,—no more, no more."
"Yes, yes; you have many ways to make profits, I hear. All do well, too."
"When God pleases, it rains with every wind, your Excellency."
Then there was a little stir in the street,—that peculiar sense of something more than usual, which can make itself felt in the busiest thoroughfare,—and Golden went to the door and looked out. Joris Van Heemskirk was just passing, and his walk was something quicker than usual.
"Good-day to you, Councillor. Pray, sir, what is to do at the wharf? I perceive a great bustle comes thence."