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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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tavern on Water Street, shaded by a great horse-chestnut tree, and there
the patriots were always welcome. There, also, the news of all political
events was in some mysterious way sure to be first received. In company
with Willet, Sears, and McDougall, Hyde might be seen under the
chestnut-tree every day, enlisting men, or organizing the "Liberty
Regiment" then raising.

From the first, his valorous temper, his singleness of purpose, his
military skill in handling troops, and his fine appearance and manners,
had given him influence and authority. He soon, also, gained a wonderful
power over Bram; and even the temperate wisdom and fine patience of
Joris gradually kindled, until the man was at white heat all through.
Every day's events fanned the temper of the city, although it was soon
evident that the first fighting would be done in the vicinity of
Boston.

For, three weeks after that memorable April Sunday, Congress, in session
at Philadelphia, had recognized the men in camp there as a Continental
army, the nucleus of the troops that were to be raised for the defence
of the country, and had commissioned Colonel Washington as
commander-in-chief to direct their operations. Then every heart was in a
state of the greatest expectation and excitement. No one remembered at
that hour that the little army was without organization or discipline,
most of its officers incompetent to command, its troops altogether
unused to obey, and in the field without enlistment. Their few pieces of
cannon were old and of various sizes, and scarce any one understood
their service. There was no siege-train and no ordnance stores. There
was no military chest, and nothing worthy the name of a _commissariat_.
Yet every one was sure that some bold stroke would be struck, and the
war speedily terminated in victory and independence.

So New York was in the buoyant spirits of a young man rejoicing to run a
race. The armourers, the saddlers, and the smiths were busy day and
night; weapons were in every hand, the look of apprehended triumph on
every face. In June the Van Heemskirk troops were ready to leave for
Boston - nearly six hundred young men, full of pure purpose and brave
thoughts, and with all their illusions and enthusiasms undimmed.

The day before their departure, they escorted Van Heemskirk to his
house. Lysbet and Katherine saw them coming, and fell weeping on each
other's necks - tears that were both joyful and sorrowful, the expression
of mingled love and patriotism and grief. It would have been hard to
find a nobler-looking leader than Joris. Age had but added dignity to
his fine bulk. His large, fair face was serene and confident. And the
bright young lads who followed him looked like his sons, for most of
them strongly resembled him in person; and any one might have been sure,
even if the roll had not shown it, that they were Van Brunts and Van
Ripers and Van Rensselaers, Roosevelts, Westervelts, and Terhunes.

They had a very handsome uniform, and there had been no uncertainty or
dispute about it. Blue, with orange trimmings, carried the question
without one dissenting voice. Blue had been for centuries the colour of
opposition to tyranny. The Scotch Covenanters chose it because the Lord
ordered the children of Israel to wear a ribbon of blue that they might
"look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do
them; and seek not after their own heart and their own eyes, and be holy
unto their God." (Num. xv. 38.) Into their cities of refuge in Holland,
the Covenanters carried their sacred colour; and the Dutch Calvinists
soon blended the blue of their faith with the orange of their
patriotism. Very early in the American struggle, blue became the typical
colour of freedom; and when Van Heemskirk's men chose the blue and
orange for their uniform, they selected the colours which had already
been famous on many a battle-field of freedom.

Katherine and Lysbet had made the flag of the new regiment - an orange
flag, with a cluster of twelve blue stars above the word _liberty_. It
was Lysbet's hands that gave it to them. They stood in a body around the
open door of the Van Heemskirk house; and the pretty old lady kissed it,
and handed it with wet eyes to the colour-sergeant. Katherine stood by
Lysbet's side. They were both dressed as for a festival, and their faces
were full of tender love and lofty enthusiasm. To Joris and his men they
represented the womanhood dear to each individual heart. Lysbet's white
hair and white cap and pale-tinted face was "the mother's face;" and
Katherine, in her brilliant beauty, her smiles and tears, her shining
silks and glancing jewels, was the lovely substitute for many a precious
sister and many a darling lady-love. But few words were said. Lysbet and
Katherine could but stand and gaze as heads were bared, and the orange
folds flung to the wind, and the inspiring word _liberty_ saluted with
bright, upturned faces and a ringing shout of welcome.

Such a lovely day it was - a perfect June day; doors and windows were
wide open; a fresh wind blowing, a hundred blended scents from the
garden were in the air; and there was a sunshine that warmed everything
to the core. If there were tears in the hearts of the women, they put
them back with smiles and hopeful words, and praises of the gallant men
who were to fight a noble fight under the banner their fingers had
fashioned.

[Illustration: Lysbet's hands gave it to them]

It was to be the last evening at home for Joris and Bram and Hyde, and
Everything was done to make it a happy memory. The table was laid with the
best silver and china; all the dainties that the three men liked best were
prepared for them. The room was gay with flowers and blue and orange
ribbons, and bows of the same colours fluttered at Lysbet's breast and
on Katherine's shoulder. And as they went up and down the house, they
were both singing, - singing to keep love from weeping, and hope and
courage from failing; Lysbet's thin, sweet voice seeming like the shadow
of Katherine's clear, ringing tones, -

"Oh, for the blue and the orange,
Oh, for the orange and the blue!
Orange for men that are free men,
Blue for men that are true.
Over the red of the tyrant,
Bloody and cruel in hue,
Fling out the banner of orange,
With pennant and border of blue.
Orange for men that are free men,
Blue for men that are true."

So they were singing when Joris and his sons came home.

There had been some expectation of Joanna and Batavius, but at the last
moment an excuse was sent. "The child is sick, writes Batavius; but I
think, then, it is Batavius that is afraid, and not the child who is
sick," said Joris.

"To this side and to that side and to neither side, he will go; and he
will miss all the good, and get all the bad of every side," said Bram
contemptuously.

"I think not so, Bram. Batavius can sail with the wind. All but his
honour and his manhood he will save."

"That is exactly true," continued Hyde. "He will grow rich upon the
spoils of both parties. Upon my word, I expect to hear him say, 'Admire
my prudence. While you have been fighting for an idea, I have been
making myself some money. It is a principle of mine to attend only to my
own affairs.'"

After supper Bram went to bid a friend good-by; and as Joris and Lysbet
sat in the quiet parlour, Elder Semple and his wife walked in. The elder
was sad and still. He took the hands of Joris in his own, and looked him
steadily in the face. "Man Joris," he said, "what's sending you on sic a
daft-like errand?"

Joris smiled, and grasped tighter his friend's hand. "So glad am I to
see you at the last, Elder. As in you came, I was thinking about you.
Let us part good friends and brothers. If I come not back" -

"Tut, tut! You're sure and certain to come back; and sae I'll save the
quarrel I hae wi' you until then. We'll hae mair opportunities; and I'll
hae mair arguments against you, wi' every week that passes. Joris,
you'll no hae a single word to say for yoursel' then. Sae, I'll bide my
time. I came to speak anent things, in case o' the warst, to tell you
that if any one wants to touch your wife or your bairns, a brick in your
house, or a flower in your garden-plat, I'll stand by all that's yours,
to the last shilling I hae, and nane shall harm them. Neil and I will
baith do all men may do. Scotsmen hae lang memories for either friend or
foe. O Joris, man, if you had only had an ounce o' common wisdom!"

"I have a friend, then! I have you, Alexander. Never this hour shall I
regret. If all else I lose, I have saved _mijn jongen_."

The old men bent to each other; there were tears in their eyes. Without
speaking, they were aware of kindness and faithfulness and gratitude
beyond the power of words. They smoked a pipe together, and sometimes
changed glances and smiles, as they looked at, or listened to, Lysbet
and Janet Semple, who had renewed their long kindness in the sympathy of
their patriotic hopes and fears.

Hyde and Katherine were walking in the garden, lingering in the sweet
June twilight by the lilac hedge and the river-bank. All Hyde's business
was arranged: he was going into the fight without any anxiety beyond
such as was natural to the circumstances. While he was away, his wife
and son were to remain with Lysbet. He could desire no better home for
them; their lives would be so quiet and orderly that he could almost
tell what they would be doing at every hour. And while he was in the din
and danger of siege and battle, he felt that it would be restful to
think of Katherine in the still, fair rooms and the sweet garden of her
first home.

If he never came back, ample provision had been made for his wife and
son's welfare; but - and he suddenly turned to Katherine, as if she had
been conscious of his thoughts - "The war will not last very long, dear
heart; and when liberty is won, and the foundation for a great
commonwealth laid, why then we will buy a large estate somewhere upon
the banks of this beautiful river. It will be delightful, in the midst
of trees and parks, to build a grander Hyde Manor House. Most
completely we will furnish it, in all respects; and the gardens you
shall make at your own will and discretion. A hundred years after this,
your descendants shall wander among the treillages and cut hedges
and boxed walks, and say, 'What a sweet taste our dear
great-great-grandmother had!'"

And Katharine laughed at his merry talk and forecasting, and praised his
uniform, and told him how soldierly and handsome he looked in it. And
she touched his sword, and asked, "Is it the old sword, my Richard?"

"The old sword, Kate, my sweet. With it I won my wife. Oh, indeed, yes!
You know it was pity for my sufferings made you marry me that blessed
October day, when I could not stand up beside you. It has a fight twice
worthy of its keen edge now." He drew it partially from its sheath, and
mused a moment. Then he slowly untwisted the ribbon and tassel of
bullion at the hilt, and gave it into her hand. "I have a better
hilt-ribbon than that," he said; "and when we go into the house, I will
re-trim my sword."

She thought little of the remark at the time, though she carefully put
the tarnished tassel away among her dearest treasures; but it acquired a
new meaning in the morning. The troops were to leave very early; and
soon after dawn, she heard the clatter of galloping horses and the calls
of the men as they reined up at their commander's door. Bram, as his
father's lieutenant, was with them. The horses of Joris and Hyde were
waiting.

They rose from the breakfast-table and looked at their wives. Lysbet
gave a little sob, and laid her head a moment upon her husband's breast.
Katherine lifted her white face and whispered, with kisses, "Beloved
one, go. Night and day I will pray for you, and long for you. My love,
my dear one!"

There was hurry and tumult, and the stress of leave-taking was lightened
by it. Katherine held her husband's hand till they stood at the open
door. Then he looked into her face, and down at his sword, with a
meaning smile. And her eyes dilated, and a vivid blush spread over her
cheeks and throat, and she drew him back a moment, and passionately
kissed him again; and all her grief was lost in love and triumph. For,
wound tightly around his sword-hilt, she saw - though it was brown and
faded - her first, fateful love-token, - _The Bow of Orange Ribbon_.

[Illustration: Tail-piece]



POSTSCRIPT.

[QUOTATION FROM A LETTER DATED JULY 5, A.D. 1885.]


"Yesterday I went with my aunt to spend 'the Fourth' at the Hydes. They
have the most delightful place, - a great stone house in a wilderness of
foliage and beauty, and yet within convenient distance of the railroad
and the river-boats. Why don't we build such houses now? You could make
a ball-room out of the hall, and hold a grand reception on the
staircase. Kate Hyde said the house is more than a hundred years old,
and that the fifth generation is living in it. I am sure there are
pictures enough of the family to account for three hundred years; but
the two handsomest, after all, are those of the builders. They were very
great people at the court of Washington, I believe. I suppose it is
natural for those who have ancestors to brag about them, and to show off
the old buckles and fans and court-dresses they have hoarded up, not to
speak of the queer bits of plate and china; and, I must say, the Hydes
have a really delightful lot of such bric-a-brac. But the strangest
thing is the 'household talisman.' It is not like the luck of Eden Hall:
it is neither crystal cup, nor silver vase, nor magic bracelet, nor an
old slipper. But they have a tradition that the house will prosper as
long as it lasts, and so this precious palladium is carefully kept in a
locked box of carved sandal-wood; for it is only a bit of faded satin
that was a love-token, - a St. Nicholas _Bow of Orange Ribbon_."








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