Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A maid of old New York : a romance of Peter Stuyvesant's time online

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA maid of old New York : a romance of Peter Stuyvesant's time → online text (page 16 of 20)
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when he bent his head to her and said tenderly:

" Oh, my dear one ! What can Gael do for
you ? " she answered :

" For one ten minutes walk with me, Gael.
There is something I wish to say to you."

Then Gael folded the little tartan shawl
closer about her throat, and drew her arm
through his own, and as he did so said:

" Whatever you wish, Agratha, if mortal man
can compass it, you shall have. What do you
desire? Let us sit down. It will be easier for
you to talk."

" Gael, when we reach Gilbraltar will you land
there? "

" For an hour or two. I have a friend in the
garrison to whom my letters are sent. I hope
to receive from him a letter from Lady Mclvar,
my dear mother."

" Gael, could you not write a few lines there,
to my dear fader and moeder, and say something
to comfort them ? "

This request Gael pondered a few moments,
then he answered : " Your father and mother are
certainly in Europe, looking for you. Do you
not think so? "


" Yes, but I know not where they may be. My
brother Wim would send on the letter. Yes, Wim
would surely do that."

" Listen, dear one. It will be better to write
to Lady Moody. She will know the quickest and
surest way to reach them."

" Oh yes ! Oh yes ! that is the truth. Tell me
what you will write."

" I will ask my friend to write for me, for my
writing is well known to Lady Moody, and I will
see that he says these words, and none else.

' To Councillor and Madame Van Ruyven.
Your daughter is well and not very unhappy.
She is treated with all honour and tender
care, and if you come to the Black Bull Inn,
Covent Garden, London, one week after her
twenty-first birthday, you will receive her
pure and sweet and lovely, as when she was
taken from you.'
Will that please you ? "

" It is just right, Gael. Now then, I trust
you to see it is written."

" Upon my honour, I will see it written just as

I have promised, as soon as we reach Gibraltar."

" I wonder me, that I did not think of this plan

before. Very much I thank you. Oh Gael!

Gael! Can I do anything for you in return?"

" Yes, dearest, you can do everything for me,

that makes life worth living ; " he pleaded for her

forgiveness with such tender excess of feeling,
that ere long his tears dropped hot upon her
hands, and she was weeping with him.

After this explanation there was no possible
return to the austere coldness and silence of her
anger. Before she knew what she was saying she
was pardoning all. She was satisfying the long
ing hunger of her heart with his passionate pro
testations of love for her. She crept closer to
him, and within his encircling arm felt a peace
and joy that suffused her whole being with a
sense of unspeakable and infinite content and re

It had taken nearly two hours to come to this
satisfactory understanding, and Ladarine had
frequently been at the head of the companion way.
She knew what was transpiring, and she said to
herself as she saw they were going to part:
*' Now, Ladarine, you can go to bed and dream a
good dream. For the rest of our imprisonment,
we shall be as happy as the circumstances per

So that night Ladarine pretended to be asleep,
and Agratha was glad, and took care not to dis
turb her slumbers. To think over every sweet
word that Gael had said to her would be far
pleasanter than to talk with Ladarine. Yet
in the morning she called her as soon as she

" Ladarine, if you are awake, come to me."


" I am very seldom asleep, Miss, and thanks be,
I am awake now if you want me."

" Come here, Lada. Now stoop. I have some
thing to tell you."

" No, thou hast not. I know what thou has to
tell me. I am neither blind nor deaf, unless I
want to be."

" Lada, I have made all up with Gael."

" Everybody on The Nautilus knew that last
night. Why a! the captain gave all hands a
silver crown apiece last night, and a bit of supper
and extra grog at eleven o'clock. My wordl
They were set up, and though they pretended not
to know the why, and the wherefore, every man
Jack of them was thanking you in his heart.
You have made a lot of misery these last few
weeks, Miss, and 'tis to be hoped for, and looked
for, that you will now redeem every bad hour
with a double good one; but Lord! what queer,
fickle, not-know-their-own-mind creatures, women

" He is going to write to Lady Moody a letter
which she can send to fader and moeder. He will
write it when we are at Gibraltar."

" Oh h! That's the price thou asked, was

" He was glad to do it."

" I'll warrant. But I have nothing to say, for
it was mysen that set thee up to doing something
of that kind."


" Oh no, Lada. It was my own idea. I have
been thinking of it for a long time."

" Bless my soul ! Well, I'm glad thou hast
stopped thinking, and taken to doing. Thinking
is shiftless work, doing turns out something,
either good or bad. And now I hope thou
art going to be a bit cheerful. I would like
to get some good from the rest of my travel-

The promised letter was faithfully written at
Gibraltar, and committed to the care of Gael's
friend, and two mornings afterwards they awoke
to the rain, and cold, and grey skies, they had
longed for. It had been a weary night with a
heavy sea, and the ship hammering through it,
every few minutes a big wave breaking over her
with a thrash like thunder. But towards morn
ing the waves were cowed by the steady flogging
of the heavy rain, and the damp, fresh air, with
its flavour of brine, seemed delightful to Agratha
and Ladarine.

They were nearly two weeks on the coast of
England, ere they reached Scotland and the outer
Hebrides. Then they came to a sea whose ever
lasting threat never slumbered, a wilderness of
waves, fear haunted and fear peopled. The grey
headlands of the rock-bound coasts smote all
hearts with some eerie sense of trouble, vague as
the background of dreams, and though Ladarine
pretended to be pleased with the change, she could


not help pitying in her heart all the wayfarers on
these lonely waters.

When they reached really the Great Minch it
was blowing in savage gusts, and a black sea
tumbling wild and high, sent smothering clouds of
spindrift over The Nautilus. Towards evening
the mountainous land of Ross was beginning to
shape itself on the horizon, and Agratha's heart
failed her, for land and sea alike appeared to be
only a vast desolation.

Past the Alps of Torridon, and past the Gair-
loch, northward to Loch Ewe, they went, feeling a
constant wondering awe in the wild wreck of
colossal masonry, piled along the coast by that
primeval deep which first began the fashioning
of the hills. Mile after mile the ruddy gneiss
was wrought into towers and turrets, spires and
minarets, whose vaporing outlines looked as if
they might be the sepulchre of some long forgot
ten hierarchy or empire.

At length it was evident they were near their
journey's end. The Nautilus was in spick and
span beauty, Gael in full Highland dress, and
every man on board had the light of home on his
face. At about three o'clock in the afternoon,
someone on deck blew a blast on a trumpet that
was taken up by a thousand echoes and sent far
and wide inland, and in an astonishingly short
time it was answered by a rattling peal from the
mountainous wilderness above them. There was


an anxious wait of an hour, and then there ap
peared half a dozen stout little ponies, each led
by a man. From these Gael selected two, and
on their primitive saddles he placed Agratha and
Ladarine, but he himself refused to ride, for he
knew that he looked much handsomer walking at
Agratha's side.

It was not long before they reached Castle
Ivar. It stood on a wide rocky plateau, one thou
sand feet above the sea. It was a large, well-pre
served building of grey stone, wearing undis-
guisedly that strange past look, that the pre
historic castles of Scotland never want. The
piper was strutting down the mountain side play
ing a noisy " Welcome To the Chief " ; the bare-
armed henchmen were loitering about the court
and doorways, the maids were at the open win
dows of the great tower, and at the main entrance
stood a happy-looking, handsome woman who
stretched out her arms in loving welcome to her
son and his guests.


THROUGHOUT her girlhood Agratha had been
fond of imagining herself in all kinds of romantic
situations, in which however there was always the
Prince who had to solve the mystery, or the diffi
culty of the condition. But never had her
dreams of a wonderful futurity been half so full
of romance, or half so improbably wild and
quixotic, as the reality of her present position.
The castle in which she found herself claimed to
have been a royal residence for some long for
gotten race of kings, and indeed it had a royal
air of spaciousness, remarkable in buildings of
the early date to which tradition, and its own
appearance, assigned it.

It was entirely built of grey stone, though the
interior walls in the modernised rooms were cur
tained and arrassed with the tapestry of Bruges,
and the floors covered with carpets from the
Scottish looms of Kidderminster. The furniture,
though black with age, was heavy and elaborately
carved, and of large, though primitive shapes. A
suite of six rooms had been prepared for Gael
and his bride, and these rooms were now assigned


to Agratha and Ladarine. Many attempts had
been made in them to reproduce the comfort and
elegance of the furnishings of that day, but noth
ing could alter the atmosphere of the ancient place.
They were vibrant with a life that was not this
life, they were haunted by unhappy wraiths wait
ing for the hour of restitution or forgiveness,
there were soft touches from no visible presence,
and the shadow of sound from no earthly foot
falls; in short it was a great, ghostly, feudal
castle with the sea roaring below it through the
long winter nights, and the sobbing winds flap
ping the tapistry and rattling the arms in the
armory. Nothing could be more unlike the or
derly Dutch home, from which she had been so
ruthlessly taken away.

But the place fascinated her. She looked like
a little child in its big beds and chairs, but she
had all a woman's sensitiveness and adaptation.
Never having been taught to fear what was not
flesh and blood, she said with perfect truth to
Ladarine :

" Well then, if some poor wraiths are in these
rooms, very welcome are they. I hope that my
ways may not trouble them, but I think, Lada,
they may yet have likes and dislikes."

The provision made for her which pleased her
most of all came entirely from Lady Mclvar's
thoughtfulness. " My dear," she said early the
next day, " Gael's letter from Jamaica happened


to name the perplexity you were in for clothing
and toilet articles, such as combs, brushes, per
fumes, pins, powder, etc., so I sent at once to
Edinburgh for all things necessary, and we have
a good mantua-maker in the clan. Come now,
and select the materials and we will set her to
work without delay.

" Oh, Lady Mclvar," cried Agratha, " that will
be to me a very great pleasure. Lada has done
her best, but I feel like a like a "

" A queen uncrowned. Ugly, shabby dresses
make any woman unhappy. Come and I will
show you many fine things."

Then she unlocked a large chest and showed
Agratha a great store of silks and muslins, of
cloths, laces, and ribbons, of gloves, belts, and
silk stockings, of fine linen and embroideries, and
to her uttermost wonder fashionable shoes and
sandals of many makes and colours. The latter
she touched with a look of wonder and asked

" May I try on a pair ? "

A smile and a nod answered her request, and
she found her small feet slip into the pretty
Morocco and satin coverings, very comfortably.

" They are exactly right. But how did you
get the proper size?"

" Gael and Ladarine together cut a paper sole
exactly the size and the shape of the slippers you
were wearing, and I sent the pattern to the best


shoemaker in Edinburgh. You see what he did
with it."

" You have been so thoughtful for me, yet you
had never seen me, how can I thank you enough? "

" You will be Gael's wife some day, so then
you are as a daughter to me. I was happy to
do anything for you, and I hope we shall love
ach other dearly, both for Gael's sake and our

In a short time Agratha and Ladarine ceased
to be guests in Ivar Castle, they became a part
of the household, fitting admirably into their sur
roundings. Agratha was much interested in the
renewal of her wardrobe, and quite contented to
sit and sew as she discussed the prettiest and most
becoming styles. Till she had a plentiful change
of new frocks, she was likely to find the needle and
the dressmaker the most satisfactory of compan

She had also in a large degree the Dutch love
of gardening. It hurt her to see bulbs and plants
in the ground, when they should be in the green
house, and in her own mind and perhaps also to
Lady Mclvar, and Gael she laid out such a gar
den for the next spring and summer, as had never
yet been seen in West Ross. In her room also
she found many volumes of poetry and history,
and a standing embroidery frame with silks and
wools of every shade and colour. Upon the
whole, she finally came to the conclusion that


Ladarine's advice was wise and good, and that it
would be well to grow happy and beautiful,
and enjoy such pleasures as were within her

Very soon the winter shut them in, absolutely
shut them in. On the landward side, black dan
gerous bogs made every road impossible; deep
snows strangled the mountain paths, and the
cheerless stormy Minch little travelled even in
summer was in winter lashed by constant storms,
and quite deserted save by solitary fishers, who,
now and then, found a day in which it might be
possible for a boat to live on its gloomy water.
For at the end of the seventeenth century the
Highlands of Scotland were unknown to the rest
of the world. Their attachment to the Stuarts
and their ferocity and courage in battle, was just
beginning to interest southern Scotland and Eng
land in their kilted warriors ; but of their temper,
culture, civil and domestic life, there was a dense
and universal ignorance. They were waiting
for the splendid introduction which Sir Walter
Scott was to give them a century and a half

So Agratha lived in Mclvar castle a life nearly
as primitive as the patriarchs. This was especi
ally true of those clans which still clung to the
Roman Catholic faith, but wherever the preaching
of John Knox had penetrated there was a ten
dency to assimilate the modern spirit. The Me-


Ivar was one of these latter clans, for its present
Border mistress was of Covenanting descent, and
gave freely to all missionary preachers a welcome
to the Mclvar territory.

But in no way whatever had the broader creed
lessened the feudal adoration of the Mclvars for
their Chief, and Agratha was ever freshly inter
ested in Gael's absolute power, and the generous,
almost affectionate, way in which he expressed it.
Often she smiled pleasantly as she remembered
Governor Stuyvesant's love for unchecked power,
and pictured to herself the wilful, passionate man
in the midst of a clan, whose greatest joy would
be to do his will, no matter what that will might
be. But always she came to the same conclu

" He would be kind to them, yes indeed, he
would be kind to them. Of course there would
be clans that would not obey him, and how he
would enjoy fighting them until they did. Then
he would conquer all and make a Scotch Hep-
tarch, and call himself King Peter. Oh, indeed!
I think he would wake up the English, if he lived
in Ross. Why was he not born here, where he
could fight with his sword for his way instead of
being harried and worried with quarrelling
schepens for nothing at all? Dear Governor
Stuy vesant ! I wish that I could see him ! Shall
I ever see him again? "

Her windows overlooked the hills and folds to


which Gael's steps usually turned, and she could
watch him without anyone suspecting her in
terest. She saw him often among some little
brown huts nestling in the cliffs of the rock, mov
ing about with human beings and collie dogs and
great flocks of sheep. And the women kissed his
hands, and the men were ready to fall at his feet,
and the little lads followed him up and down,
perfectly happy to be wherever he was. Amid
all this adoration he carried himself like a young
prince, full of an affectionate courtesy, naturally
crowned with an unconscious dignity.

One day she watched him going up to the moun
tains with three or four men. They meant to
drive in some cattle, and their wicked long-horned
bulls into sheds, before an approaching storm;
and she saw him meet an enraged bull with a quick,
powerful lash across his eyes from the big whip
he carried in his hands. A little later, on the
same day, she stood with Lady Mclvar at his
side, holding ointments and bandages, while he
dressed an ugly gore the same animal had given
a youth of the clan. He soothed him with kind
words, and when he saw that he was like to faint,
he kissed him, and called him his " dear brother
Colin," and fed him with teaspoonfuls of brandy
and water. Every day there were such scenes
homely, sad, angry, suffering, but Gael was al
ways sent for, and generally he brought peace
and good-will out of racking pain, or passionate


disputing. Yes, indeed! Young and old made
their hearts over to him.

It was such incidents that caused Agratha to
forget her own wrongs, in the admiration she
could not but give to his character and position.
Certainly his beauty, strength, grace and pic
turesque surroundings were all factors in this
admiration; but its foundation rested on qualities
beyond the evanescent charm of physical, or even
social advantages.

Not all at once, but day by day, this attraction
went on and grew stronger and sweeter; so that
before winter was over she had reconciled herself
to her new life. " Many young people went from
New Amsterdam to Holland for their education,
Ladarine," she would frequently say ; " they al
ways stayed away three or four years. I am in
no worse case. If I was at school I could not be
as well treated, and I should not have as many

" And don't thee forget the love that is so
freely given thee. It is worth counting, I can
tell thee that. There's lots of people worse off
than we are."

For Ladarine was well enough pleased with her
position. She had not been a month at Ivar
before she had become as necessary to Lady Mc-
Ivar as she had been to Lady Moody. First the
weaving room had attracted her. Ladarine was
Yorkshire, and what she did not know about the


carding and spinning of wool was not worth
knowing. She taught the women at the antique
looms much, and she directed the carpenter in
certain small alterations that made the work
lighter, and more surely correct. She was clever
in the still room, and a notable friend of the cook,
to whom she imparted the secrets of Yorkshire
pudding, Christ Church tarts, and other famous
local delicacies. In fact Ladarine was wanted
on every occasion, and she was always happy to

So in spite of storm and snow and the high
winds, on which the devil joyed to travel, the
two prisoners were not unhappy. Sometimes
Agratha had hours of deep depression, and of
acute longing for her parents and her home, but
the evening was sure to bring Gael back to the
castle, and the light in his eyes, the smile on his
lips, and the clasp of his hand, quickly changed
all trouble into joy. Then for the next few
hours, Ivar Castle stood nigh to the gates of

i At last Spring was over all the land, and there
is no land like interior Ross for beauty and sub
limity in the Spring. Then the great precipices
which guard the lovely valleys, are gleaming all
over with purple and green, and covered with a
fantastic network of the loveliest rose colour.
And the walls and the roofs of the little huts which
made the clachan in the valley, are coloured gold


of lichen, rose of granite, and green of moss,
while their near-by peatstacks are full of intense
depths of purples and browns.

Lonely P Oh no! Out of these huts came
grand women robust of typical Highland beauty
brown eyed and red cheeked, with arms strong
to labour, and full bosoms to nourish their children
noble groups of whom clustered round the
cottages; healthy and happy, and clothed in all
kinds of picturesque rags. One boy it was im
possible to see and ever forget. His face was
wildly beautiful, and of the richest colour carna
tion glowing through brown; his ragged tartan
clothed him in vivid shades ; his legs were bare,
but he was lithe and graceful and shy as a young
stag, as he leaned against the rude walls of his
father's hut, gazing at a highland bull black as
coal, majestic as a king, marching heavily down
the valley with his harem of cream, tawny, and
red-brown cows around him. As for the boy,
he was soon persuaded to go with them to catch
some of the small delicious trout little half
pounders that in May are such dainty eating.

One afternoon, Gael and Agratha had been up
to the wilder hills, looking for ilex and arbutus.
It had been such a happy afternoon, but trouble
was waiting for them, sitting in Ivar Castle drink
ing wine and talking affectionately of Gael.
Suddenly both seemed to catch some sense of it.
" So cold it has become. Where is the sunshine,


Gael? " asked Agratha, and Gael answered wist
fully: " My dear one, I wonder what it is. Some
thing has gone wrong somewhere, perhaps it is
going to storm." Then after a moment's ex
amination of the horizon : " Here comes Rona, and
he is running like a wild stag. What news, I
Bonder? "

Rona brought a scrap of paper on which Lady
Mclvar had very hastily written, " Angus is here.
Do not let Agratha be seen. For your life men
tion her not. Mother." After reading these
words, Gael stood a moment in deep thought,
then he said:

" Rona, go back to Ivar very slowly, and say
I am coming. Remember you found me at the
upper trout stream, fishing. If you are asked,
you will say I was alone, save for Ian to carry
the flies and the creel alone Do you under
stand, Rona?

Gael watched the boy for a few moments as he
liesurely returned to the castle, then he turned
to Agratha and read her his mother's message.
"What think you, dear," he asked.

" Do what Lady Mclvar tells you to do. She
is always wise, always right. At the cascade we
will separate. I will go down to Mary's shelling,
and wait there, until you or Ladarine come for

" I wonder what is the matter ! " and he looked
at Agratha with passionate longing and sorrow.


"Are we to be separated? llhat would kill

" Perhaps there is no great trouble. Do you
trust Angus? I do not. But he says he is your
friend ; well then, he may be he ought to be. At
a great cost you bought his freedom."

" He has never liked me since. He owes me
twelve hundred pounds. He promised as soon
as he reached his home to sell the wood off his
wild land and pay me. He sold the wood, bui;
went to Paris with the money. It was not an
honourable thing to do."

" What honour means, is unknown to Angus.
It is not of others, but always of himself he thinks.
Never did I like him, never did I trust him."

The rest of the walk they took silently. Gael
was full of apprehended sorrow, Agratha caught
the anxious fever from him. At the cascade she
smiled, unclasped her hand from his, and took the
right hand declivity, and then Gael, after watch
ing her out of sight, walked rapidly to the castle.
As soon as he entered the courtyard, Angus came
to meet him, and Gael said cheerfully : " I am glad
to see you Angus, when did you get home? "

"Yesterday, Gael."

" Straight from Paris? "

" No, we were a few weeks in London."

"How is Rose?"

" I am done with Rose. She has behaved badly
to us."


"Faith, that is hard to believe," answered
Gael, with a darkening face."

" I will tell you. She had a fine position in the
most aristocratic convent in Paris ; she had a lovely
little home, and was making a good deal of money,
and then, can you believe it, she breaks up every

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