Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The Bow of Orange Ribbon A Romance of New York online

. (page 2 of 20)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Bow of Orange Ribbon A Romance of New York → online text (page 2 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


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!"

[Illustration: Tail-piece]

[Illustration: Chapter heading]




II.

_"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.

[Illustration: With her spelling-book and Heidelberg]

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.

[Illustration: The amber necklace]

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, -

"Cheesecakes, madam?"

"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.

[Illustration: In one of those tall-backed Dutch chairs]

"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


2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Bow of Orange Ribbon A Romance of New York → online text (page 2 of 20)