Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The Bow of Orange Ribbon A Romance of New York online

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the last it was the same, 'I cannot do wrong; for many right deeds will
not undo one wrong one.' So she gave me her hands, and I kissed
them, - my first and last kiss, - and I bade her farewell; for my hope is
over - I know that."

"She is a good girl. I wish that you had won her, Bram." And Lysbet put
down her work and went to her son's side; and with a great sob Bram laid
his head against her breast.

"As one whom his mother comforteth!" Oh, tender and wonderful
consolation! It is the mother that turns the bitter waters of life into
wine. Bram talked his sorrow over to his mother's love and pity and
sympathy; and when she parted with him, long after the midnight, she
said cheerfully, "Thou hast a brave soul, _mijn zoon, mijn Bram_; and
this trouble is not all for thy loss and grief. A sweet memory will this
beautiful Miriam be as long as thou livest; and to have loved well a
good woman will make thee always a better man for it."

[Illustration: Chapter heading]


"_The town's a golden, but a fatal, circle,
Upon whose magic skirts a thousand devils,
In crystal forms, sit tempting Innocence,
And beckoning Virtue from its centre._"

The trusting, generous letter which Joris had written to his son-in-law
arrived a few days before Hyde's departure for London. With every decent
show of pleasure and gratitude, he said, "It is an unexpected piece of
good fortune, Katherine, and the interest of five thousand pounds will
keep Hyde Manor up in a fine style. As for the principal, we will leave
it at Secor's until it can be invested in land. What say you?"

Katherine was quite satisfied; for, though naturally careful of all put
under her own hands, she was at heart very far from being either selfish
or mercenary. In fact, the silver cup was at that hour of more real
interest to her. It would be a part of her old home in her new home. It
was connected with her life memories, and it made a portion of her
future hopes and dreams. There was also something more tangible about it
than about the bit of paper certifying to five thousand pounds in her
name at Secor's Bank.

But Hyde knew well the importance of Katherine's fortune. It enabled him
to face his relatives and friends on a very much better footing than he
had anticipated. He was quite aware, too, that the simple fact was all
that society needed. He expected to hear in a few days that the five
thousand pounds had become fifty thousand pounds; for he knew that
rumour, when on the boast, would magnify any kind of gossip, favourable
or unfavourable. So he was no longer averse to meeting his former
companions: even to them, a rich wife would excuse matrimony. And,
besides, Hyde was one of those men who regard money in the bank as a
kind of good conscience: he really felt morally five thousand pounds the
better. Full of hope and happiness, he would have gone at a pace to suit
his mood; but English roads at that date were left very much to nature
and to weather, and the Norfolk clay in springtime was so deep and heavy
that it was not until the third day after leaving that he was able to
report for duty.

His first social visit was paid to his maternal grandmother, the dowager
Lady Capel. She was not a nice old woman; in fact, she was a very
spiteful, ill-hearted, ill-tempered old woman, and Hyde had always had a
certain fear of her. When he landed in London with his wife, Lady Capel
had fortunately been at Bath; and he had then escaped the duty of
presenting Katherine to her. But she was now at her mansion in Berkeley
Square, and her claims upon his attention could not be postponed; and,
as she had neither eyes nor ears in the evenings for any thing but loo
or whist, Hyde knew that a conciliatory visit would have to be made in
the early part of the day.

He found her in the most careless dishabille, wigless and unpainted, and
rolled up comfortably in an old wadded morning-gown that had seen years
of snuffy service. But she had out-lived her vanity. Hyde had chosen the
very hour in which she had nothing whatever to amuse her, and he was a
very welcome interruption. And, upon the whole, she liked her grandson.
She had paid his gambling-debts twice, she had taken the greatest
interest in his various duels, and sided passionately with him in one
abortive love-affair.

"Dick is no milksop," she would say approvingly, when told of any of his
escapades; "faith, he has my spirit exactly! I have a great deal more
temper than any one would believe me capable of" - which was not the
truth, for there were few people who really knew her ladyship who ever
felt inclined to doubt her capabilities in that direction.

So she heard the rattle of Hyde's sword, and the clatter of his feet on
the polished stairs, with a good deal of satisfaction. "I have him here,
and I shall do my best to keep him here," she thought. "Why should a
proper young fellow like Dick bury himself alive in the fens for a
Dutchwoman? In short, she has had enough, and too much, of him. His
grandmother has a prior claim, I hope, and then Arabella Suffolk will
help me. I foresee mischief and amusement. - Well, Dick, you rascal, so
you have had to leave America! I expected it. Oh, sir, I have heard all
about you from Adelaide! You are not to be trusted, either among men or
women. And pray where is the wife you made such a fracas about? Is she
in London with you?"

"No, madam: she preferred to remain at Hyde, and I have no happiness
beyond her desire."

"Here's flame! Here's constancy! And you have been married a whole year!
I am struck with admiration."

"A whole year - a year of divine happiness, I assure you."

"Lord, sir! You will be the laughing-stock of the town if you talk in
such fashion. They will have you in the play-houses. Pray let us forget
our domestic joys a little. I hear, however, that your divinity is

"She is not poor; though if" -

"Though if she had been a beggar-girl you would have married her, rags
and all. Swear to that, Dick, especially when she brings you fifty
thousand pounds. I'm very much obliged to her; you can hardly, for
shame, put your fingers in my poor purse now, sir. And you can make a
good figure in the world; and as your cousin Arabella Suffolk is staying
with me, you will be the properest gallant for her when Sir Thomas is at
the House."

"I am at yours and cousin Arabella's service, grandmother."

"Exactly so, Captain; only no more quarrelling and fighting. Learn your
catechism, or Dr. Watts, or somebody. Remember that we have now a bishop
in the family. And I am getting old, and want to be at peace with the
whole world, if you will let me."

Hyde laughed merrily. "Why, grandmother, such advice from you! I don't
trust it. There never was a more perfect hater than yourself."

"I know, Dick. I used to say, 'Lord, this person is so bad, and that
person is so bad, I hate them!' But at last I found out that every one
was bad: so I hate nobody. One cannot take a sword and run the whole
town through. I have seen some very religious people lately; and you
will find me very serious, and much improved. Come and go as you please,
Dick: Arabella and you can be perfectly happy, I dare say, without
minding me."

"What is the town doing now?"

"Oh, balls and dances and weddings and other follies! Thank the moon,
men and women never get weary of these things!"

"Then you have not ceased to enjoy them, I hope."

"I still take my share. Old fools will hobble after young ones. I ride a
little, and visit a little, and have small societies quite to my taste.
And I have my four kings and aces; that is saying everything. I want you
to go to all the diversions, Dick; and pray tell me what they say of me
behind my back. I like to know how much I annoy people."

"I shall not listen to anything unflattering, I assure you."

"La, Dick, you can't fight a rout of women and men about your
grandmother! I don't want you to fight, not even if they talk about
Arabella and you. It is none of their business; and as for Sir Thomas
Suffolk, he hears nothing outside the House, and he thinks every Whig in
England is watching him - a pompous old fool!"

"Oh, indeed! I had an idea that he was a very merry fellow."

"Merry, forsooth! He was never known to laugh. There is a report that he
once condescended to smile, but it was at chess. As for fighting, he
wouldn't fight a dog that bit him. He is too patriotic to deprive his
country of his own abilities. No, Dick; I really do not see any quarrel
ahead, unless you make it."

"I shall think of my Kate when I am passionate, and so keep the peace."

"'I shall think of my Kate.' Grant me patience with all young husbands.
They ought to remain in seclusion until the wedding-fever is over. By
the Lord Harry! If Jack Capel had spoken of me in such fashion, I would
have given him the best of reasons for running some pretty fellow
through the heart. Hush! Here comes Arabella, and I am anxious you
should make a figure in her eyes."

Arabella came in very quietly, but she seemed to take possession of the
room as she entered it. She had a bright, piquant face, a tall, graceful
form, and that air of high fashion which is perhaps quite as

She was "delighted to meet cousin Dick. Oh, indeed, you have been the
town talk!" she said, with an air of attention very flattering. "Such a
passionate encounter was never heard of. The clubs were engaged with it
for a week. I was told that Lord Paget and Sir Henry Dutton came near
fighting it over themselves. Was it really about a bow of orange ribbon?
And did you wear it over your heart? And did the Scotchman cut it off
with his sword? And did you run him through the next moment? There were
the most extraordinary accounts of the affair, and of the little girl
with the unpronounceable Dutch name who" -

"Who is now my wife, Lady Suffolk."

"Certainly, we heard of that also. How romantic! The secret marriage,
the midnight elopement, and the man-of-war waiting down the river with a
broadside ready for any boat that attempted to stop you."

"Oh, my lady, that is the completest nonsense!"

"Say 'cousin Arabella,' if you please. Has not grandmother told you that
I, not the Dutch girl, ought to have been your wife? It was all arranged
years ago, sir. You have disappointed grandmother; as for me, I have
consoled myself with Sir Thomas."

"Yes, indeed," said Lady Capel; "though Dick was entirely out of the
secret of the match, my son Will and I had agreed upon it. I don't know
what Will thinks of a younger son like Dick choosing for himself."

Then Arabella made Hyde a pretty, mocking courtesy, and he could not
help looking with some interest at the woman who might have been his
wife. The best of men, and the best of husbands, are liable to speculate
a little under such circumstances, and in fancy to put themselves into a
position they have probably no wish in reality to fill. She noticed his
air of consideration; and, with a toss of her handsome head, she spread
out all her finery. "You see," she said, "I am dressed so as to make a
tearing show." She wore a white poudesoy gown, embroidered with gold,
and the prettiest high-heeled satin slippers, and a head-dress of
wonderful workmanship. "For I have been at a concert of music, cousin
Dick, and heard two overtures of Mr. Handel's and a sonata by Corella,
done by the very best hands."

[Illustration: She spread out all her finery]

"And, pray, whom did you see there, my dear? and what were they talking

"Of all people, grandmother, I saw Lady Susan Rye and the rest of her
sort; and they talked of nothing else but the coming mask at Ranelagh's.
Cousin, I bespeak you for my service. I am going as a gypsy, for it will
give me the opportunity of telling the truth. In my own character, I
rarely do it: nothing is so impolite. But I have a prodigious regard for
truth; and at a mask I give myself the pleasure of saying all the
disagreeable things that I owe to my acquaintances."

Katherine was almost ignored; and Hyde did not feel any desire to bring
even her name into such a mocking, jeering, perfectly heartless
conversation. He was content to laugh, and let the hour go past in such
flim-flams of criticism and persiflage. He remembered when he had been
one of the units in such a life, and he wondered if it were possible
that he could ever drift back into it. For even as he sat there, with
the memory of his wife and child in his heart, he felt the light charm
of Lady Arabella's claim upon him, and all the fascination of that gay,
thoughtless animal life which appeals so strongly to the selfish
instincts and appetites of youth.

He had a plate of roast hare and a goblet of wine, and the ladies had
chocolate and rout cakes; and he ate and drank, and laughed, and enjoyed
their bright, ill-natured pleasantry, as men enjoy such piquant morsels.
Thus a couple of hours passed; and then it became evident, from the
pawing and snorting outside, that Mephisto's patience was quite
exhausted. Hyde went to the window, and looked into the square. His
orderly was vainly endeavoring to soothe the restless animal; and he
said, "Mephisto will take no excuse, cousin, and I find myself obliged
to leave you." But he went away in an excitement of hope and gay
anticipations; and, with a sharp rebuke to the unruly animal, he vaulted
into the saddle with soldierly grace and rapidity. A momentary glance
upward showed him Lady Capel and Lady Suffolk at the window, watching
him; the withered old woman in her soiled wrappings, the youthful beauty
in all the bravery of her white and gold poudesoy. In spite of
Mephisto's opposition, he made them a salute; and then, in a clamour of
clattering hoofs, he dashed through the square.

"That is the man you ought to have married Arabella," said Lady Capel,
as she watched the young face at her side, which had suddenly become
pensive and dreamy: "you would have been a couple for the world to look

"Oh, indeed, you are mistaken, grandmother! Sir Thomas is an admirable
husband - blind and deaf to all I do, as a good husband ought to be. And
as for Dick, look at him - bowing and smiling, and ready to do me any
service, while the girl he nearly died for is quite forgotten."

"Upon my word, you wrong Dick. His love for that woman is beyond
everything. I wish it wasn't. What right had she to come into our
family, and spoil plans and projects made before she was born. I should
clearly love to play her her own card back. And I must say, Arabella,
that you seem to care very little about your own wrongs."

"Oh, I am by no means certified that the woman has wronged me! I don't
think I should have loved Dick, in any case."

"_Ha!_" Lady Capel looked in her granddaughter's musing face, and then,
with a chuckle, hobbled to the bell and rang for her maid. "You are very
prudent, child, but I am not one that any woman can deceive. I know all
the tricks of the sex. Oh, heavens! what a grand thing to be two and
twenty, with a kind husband to manage, and lovers bowing and begging at
your shoe-ties! Well, well, I had my day; and, thank the fools, I did
some mischief in it! Yes, there were eight duels fought for me; and
while Somers and Scrope were wetting their swords in the quarrel, I was
dancing with Jack Capel. Jack told me that night he would make me marry
him; and when I slapped his cheek with my fan, he took my hands in a
rage, and swore I should do it that hour. And, faith, he mastered me!
Your grandfather Capel had a dreadful temper, Arabella."

"I have heard that Cousin Dick Hyde has a temper too."

"Dick is vain; and you can make a vain man stand on his head, or go down
on his knees, if you only vow that he performs the antics better than
any other human creature. The town will fling itself at Dick Hyde's
feet, and Dick will fling himself at yours. Mind what I say; my
prophecies always come true, Arabella, for I never expect sinners to be
saints, my dear."

And during the next six months Lady Capel found plenty of opportunities
for complimenting herself upon her own penetration. Society made an idol
of Capt. Hyde; and if he was not at Lady Arabella's feet, he was
certainly very constantly at her side. As to his marriage, it was a
topic of constant doubt and dispute. The clubs betted on the subject. In
the ball-rooms and the concert-rooms, the ladies positively denied it;
and Lady Arabella's smile and shrug were of all opinions the most
unsatisfactory and bewildering. Some, indeed, admitted the marriage, but
averred, with a meaning emphasis, that madam was on the proper side of
the Atlantic. Others were certain that Hyde had brought his wife to
England, but felt himself obliged, on account of her great beauty, to
keep her away from the conquering heroes of London society. It was a
significant index to Hyde's real character, that not one of his
associates ever dared to be familiar enough to ask him for the truth on
a question so delicately personal.

"Hyde is exactly the man to invite me to meet him in Marylebone Fields
for the answer," said a young officer, who had been urged to make
inquiries because he was on familiar terms with his comrade. "If it
comes to a matter of catechism, gentlemen, I'll bet ten to one that none
of you ask him two consecutive questions regarding the American lady."

And perhaps many husbands may be able to understand a fact which to the
general world seems beyond satisfactory explanation. Hyde loved his
wife, loved her tenderly and constantly; he felt himself to be a better
man whenever he thought of her and his little son, and he thought of
them very frequently; and yet his eyes, his actions, the tones of his
voice, daily led his cousin, Lady Suffolk, to imagine herself the
empress of his heart and life. Nor was it to her alone that he permitted
this affectation of love. He found beauty, wherever he met it,
provocative of the same apparent devotion. There were a dozen men in his
own circle who hated him with all the sincerity that jealousy gives to
dislike and envy; there were a score of women who believed themselves to
have private tokens of Hyde's special admiration for them.

Unfortunately, his military duties were only on very rare occasions any
restraint to him. His days were mainly spent in dangling after Lady
Suffolk and other fair dames. It was auctions at Christie's, and morning
concerts, and afternoon rides and plays, and dinners and balls and
masks at Ranelagh's. It was sails down the river to Richmond, and trips
to Sadler's Wells, and one perpetual round of flirting and folly, of
dressing and dancing and dining and gaming.

[Illustration: All kinds of frivolity and amusement]

And it must be remembered that the English women of that day were such
as England may well hope never to see again. They had little education:
many very great ladies could hardly read and spell properly. Their sole
accomplishments were dressing and embroidery; the ability to make a few
delicate dishes for the table, and scents and pomade for the toilet. In
the higher classes they married for money or position, and gave
themselves up to intrigue. They drank deeply; they played high; they
very seldom went to church, for Sunday was the fashionable day for all
kinds of frivolity and amusement. And as the men of any generation are
just what the women make them, England never had sons so profligate, so
profane and drunken. The clubs, especially Brooke's, were the nightly
scenes of indescribable orgies. Gambling alone was their serious
occupation; duels were of constant occurrence.

Such a life could not be lived except at frightful and generally ruinous
expense. Hyde was soon embarrassed. His pay was small and uncertain and
the allowance which his brother William added to it, in order that the
heir-apparent to the earldom might live in becoming style, had not been
calculated on the squandering basis of Hyde's expenditures. Toward
Christmas bills began to pour in, creditors became importunate, and, for
the first time in his life, creditors really troubled him. Lady Capel
was not likely to pay his debts any more. The earl, in settling Hyde's
American obligations, had warned him against incurring others, and had
frankly told him he would permit him to go to jail rather than pay such
wicked and foolish bills for him again. The income from Hyde Manor had
never been more than was required for the expenses of the place; and the
interest on Katherine's money had gone, though he could not tell how. He
was destitute of ready cash, and he foresaw that he would have to borrow
some from Lady Capel or some other accommodating friend.

He returned to barracks one Sunday afternoon, and was moodily thinking
over these things, when his orderly brought him a letter which had
arrived during his absence. It was from Katherine. His face flushed with
delight as he read it, so sweet and tender and pure was the neat
epistle. He compared it mentally with some of the shameless scented
billet-doux he was in the habit of receiving; and he felt as if his
hands were unworthy to touch the white wings of his Katherine's most
womanly, wifely message. "She wants to see me. Oh, the dear one! Not
more than I want to see her. Fool, villain, that I am! I will go to her.
Katherine! Kate! My dear little Kate!" So he ejaculated as he paced his
narrow quarters, and tried to arrange his plans for a Christmas visit
to his wife and child.

First he went to his colonel's lodging, and easily obtained two weeks'
absence; then he dressed carefully, and went to his club for dinner. He
had determined to ask Lady Capel for a hundred pounds; and he thought it
would be the best plan to make his request when she was surrounded by
company, and under the pleasurable excitement of a winning rubber. And
if the circumstances proved adverse, then he could try his fortune in
the hours of her morning retirement.

The mansion in Berkeley Square was brilliantly lighted when he
approached it. Chairs and coaches were waiting in lines of three deep;
coachmen and footmen quarrelling, shouting, talking; link-boys running
here and there in search of lost articles or missing servants. But the
hubbub did not at that time make his blood run quicker, or give any
light of expectation to his countenance; for his heart and thoughts were
near a hundred miles away.

Sunday night was Lady Capel's great card-night, and the rooms were full
of tables surrounded by powdered and painted beauties intent upon the
game and the gold. The odour of musk was everywhere, and the sound of
the tapping of gold snuff-boxes, and the fluttering of fans, and the
sharp, technical calls of the gamesters, and the hollow laughter of
hollow hearts. There was a hired singing-girl with a lute at one end of
the room, babbling of Cupid and Daphne, and green meadow and larks. But
she was poorly dressed and indifferent looking; and she sang with a
sad, mechanical air, as if her thoughts were far off. Hyde would have
passed her without a glance; but, as he approached, she broke her
love-ditty in two, and began to sing, with a meaning look at him, -

"They say there is a happy land,
Where husbands never prove untrue;
Where lovely maids may give their hearts,
And never need the gift to rue;
Where men can make and keep a vow,
And wives are never in despair.
I'm very fond of seeing sights -
Pray tell me, how can I get there?"

The question seemed so directly addressed to Hyde that he hesitated a
moment, and looked at the girl, who then with a mocking smile
continued, -

"They say there really is a land,
Where husbands never are untrue,
Where wives are always beautiful,
And the old love is always new.
I've asked the wise to tell me how
A loving woman could get there;
And this is what they say to me, -
'If you that happy land would see,
There's only one way to get there:
_Go straight along the crooked lane,
And all around the square_.'"

The scornful little song followed him, and conveyed a certain meaning to
his mind. The girl must have taken her cue from the gossip of those who
passed her to and fro. He burned with indignation, not for himself, but
for his sweet, pure Katherine. He was determined that the world should
in the future know that he held her peerless among women. In this
half-aggressive mood he approached Lady Capel. She had been unfortunate

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Bow of Orange Ribbon A Romance of New York → online text (page 15 of 20)