Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The Bow of Orange Ribbon A Romance of New York online

. (page 7 of 20)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Bow of Orange Ribbon A Romance of New York → online text (page 7 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


insult _on view_, without waiting for his indictment or trial."

"There ought to be a law, Neil" -

"No law will administer itself, sir. The statute-book is a dead letter
when it conflicts with public opinion. There is not a week passes but
you may see that for yourself, father. If a man is insulted, he must
protect his honour; and he will do so until the law is able to protect
him better than his own strength."

"There is another way - a mair Christian way" -

"The world has not taken it yet; at any rate, I am very sure none of the
Semples have."

"You are, maybe, o'er sure, Neil. Deacon Van Vorst has said mair than my
natural man could thole, many a time, in the sessions and oot o' them;
but the dominie aye stood between us wi' his word, and we hae managed
so far to keep the peace, though a mair pig-headed, provoking,
pugnacious auld Dutchman never sat down on the dominie's left hand."

"Then, father, if Captain Hyde should quarrel with me, and if he should
challenge me, you advise me to refuse the challenge, and to send for the
dominie to settle the matter?"

"I didna say the like o' that, Neil. I am an auld man, and Van Vorst is
an aulder one. We'd be a bonnie picture wi' drawn swords in oor shaking
hands; though, for mysel', I may say that there wasna a better fencer in
Ayrshire, and _that_ the houses o' Lockerby and Lanark hae reason to
remember. And I wouldna hae the honour o' the Semples doubted; I'd fight
myself first. But I'm in a sair strait, Neil; and oh, my dear lad, what
will I say, when it's the Word o' the Lord on one hand, and the scaith
and scorn of a' men on the other? But I'll trust to your prudence, Neil,
and no begin to feel the weight o' a misery that may ne'er come my way.
All my life lang, when evils hae threatened me, I hae sought God's help;
and He has either averted them or turned them to my advantage."

"That is a good consolation, father."

"It is that; and I ken nae better plan for life than, when I rise up, to
gie mysel' to His direction, and, when I lay me down to sleep, to gie
mysel' to His care."

"In such comfortable assurance, sir, I think we may say good-night. I
have business early in the morning, and may not wait for your company,
if you will excuse me so far."

"Right; vera right, Neil. The dawn has gold in its hand. I used to be
an early worker mysel'; but I'm an auld man noo, and may claim some
privileges. Good-night, Neil, and a good-morning to follow it."

Neil then lit his candle; and, not forgetting that courteous salute
which the young then always rendered to honourable age, he went slowly
upstairs, feeling suddenly a great weariness and despair. If Katherine
had only been true to him! He was sure, then, that he could have fought
almost joyfully any pretender to her favour. But he was deserted by the
girl whom he had loved all her sweet life. He was betrayed by the man
who had shared the hospitality of his home, and in the cause of such
loss, compelled to hazard a life opening up with fair hopes of honour
and distinction.

In the calm of his own chamber, through the silent, solemn hours, when
the world was shut out of his life, Neil reviewed his position; but he
could find no honourable way out of his predicament. Physically, he was
as brave as brave could be; morally, he had none of that grander courage
which made Joris Van Heemskirk laugh to scorn the idea of yielding God's
gift of life at the demand of a passionate fool. He was quite sensible
that his first words to Captain Hyde that night had been intended to
provoke a quarrel, and he knew that he would be expected to redeem them
by a formal defiance. However, as the idea became familiar, it became
imperative; and at length it was with a fierce satisfaction that he
opened his desk and without hesitation wrote the decisive words:

[Illustration: "In the interim, at your service"]

To CAPTAIN RICHARD HYDE OF HIS MAJESTY'S SERVICE: SIR: A person of the
character I bear cannot allow the treachery and dishonourable conduct of
which you have been guilty to pass without punishment. Convince me that
you are more of a gentleman than I have reason to believe, by meeting me
to-night as the sun drops in the wood on the Kalchhook Hill. Our seconds
can locate the spot; and that you may have no pretence to delay, I send
by bearer two swords, of which I give you the privilege to make choice.

In the interim, at your service,
NEIL SEMPLE.

He had already selected Adrian Beekman as his second. He was a young
man of wealth and good family, exceedingly anxious for social
distinction, and, moreover, so fastidiously honourable that Neil felt
himself in his hands to be beyond reproach. As he anticipated, Beekman
accepted the duty with alacrity, and, indeed, so promptly carried out
his principal's instructions, that he found Captain Hyde still sleeping
when he waited upon him. But Hyde was neither astonished nor annoyed. He
laughed lightly at "Mr. Semple's impatience of offence," and directed
Mr. Beekman to Captain Earle as his second; leaving the choice of swords
and of the ground entirely to his direction.

"A more civil, agreeable, handsome gentleman, impossible it would be to
find; and I think the hot haughty temper of Neil is to blame in this
affair," was Beekman's private comment. But he stood watchfully by his
principal's interests, and affected a gentlemanly disapproval of Captain
Hyde's behaviour.

And lightly as Hyde had taken the challenge, he was really more
disinclined to fight than Neil was. In his heart he knew that Semple had
a just cause of anger; "but then," he argued, "Neil is a proud, pompous
fellow, for whom I never assumed a friendship. His father's hospitality
I regret in any way to have abused; but who the deuce could have
suspected that Neil Semple was in love with the adorable Katherine? In
faith, I did not at the first, and now 'tis too late. I would not resign
the girl for my life; for I am sensible that life, if she is another's,
will be a very tedious thing to me."

All day Neil was busy in making his will, and in disposing of his
affairs. He knew himself well enough to be certain, that, if he struck
the first blow, he would not hesitate to strike the death blow, and that
nothing less than such conclusion would satisfy him. Hyde also
anticipated a deathly persistence of animosity in his opponent, and felt
equally the necessity for some definite arrangement of his business.
Unfortunately, it was in a very confused state. He owed many debts of
honour, and Cohen's bill was yet unsettled. He drank a cup of coffee,
wrote several important letters, and then went to Fraunce's, and had a
steak and a bottle of wine. During his meal his thoughts wandered
between Katherine and the Jew Cohen. After it he went straight to
Cohen's store.

It happened to be Saturday; and the shutters were closed, though the
door was slightly open, and Cohen was sitting with his granddaughter in
the cool shadows of the crowded place. Hyde was not in a ceremonious
mood, and he took no thought of it being the Jew's sabbath. He pushed
wider the door, and went clattering into their presence; and with an air
of pride and annoyance the Jew rose to meet him. At the same time, by a
quick look of intelligence, he dismissed Miriam; but she did not retreat
farther than within the deeper shadows of some curtains of stamped
Moorish leather, for she anticipated the immediate departure of the
intruder.

She was therefore astonished when her grandfather, after listening to a
few sentences, sat down, and entered into a lengthy conversation. And
her curiosity was also aroused; for, though Hyde had often been in the
store, she had never hitherto seen him in such a sober mood, it was also
remarkable that on the sabbath her grandfather should receive papers,
and a ring which she watched Hyde take from his finger; and there was,
beside, a solemn, a final air about the transaction which gave her the
feeling of some anticipated tragedy.

When at last they rose, Hyde extended his hand. "Cohen," he said, "few
men would have been as generous and, at this hour, as considerate as
you. I have judged from tradition, and misjudged you. Whether we meet
again or not, we part as friends."

"You have settled all things as a gentleman, Captain. May my white hairs
say a word to your heart this hour?" Hyde bowed; and he continued, in a
voice of serious benignity: "The words of the Holy One are to be
regarded, and not the words of men. Men call that 'honour' which He will
call murder. What excuse is there in your lips if you go this night into
His presence?"

There was no excuse in Hyde's lips, even for his mortal interrogator. He
merely bowed again, and slipped through the partially opened door into
the busy street. Then Cohen put clean linen upon his head and arm, and
went and stood with his face to the east, and recited, in low,
rhythmical sentences, the prayer called the "Assault." Miriam sat quiet
during his devotion but, when he returned to his place, she asked him
plainly, "What murder is there to be, grandfather?"

"It is a duel between Captain Hyde and another. It shall be called
murder at the last."

"The other, who is he?"

"The young man Semple."

"I am sorry. He is a courteous young man. I have heard you say so. I
have heard you speak well of him."

"O Miriam, what sin and sorrow thy sex ever bring to those who love it!
There are two young lives to be put in death peril for the smile of a
woman, - a very girl she is."

"Do I know her, grandfather?"

"She passes here often. The daughter of Van Heemskirk, - the little fair
one, the child."

"Oh, but now I am twice sorry! She has smiled at me often. We have even
spoken. The good old man, her father, will die; and her brother, he was
always like a watch-dog at her side."

"But not the angels in heaven can watch a woman. For a lover, be he good
or bad, she will put heaven behind her back, and stand on the brink of
perdition. Miriam, if thou should deceive me, - as thy mother did, - God
of Israel, may I not know it!"

"Though I die, I will not deceive you, grandfather."

"The Holy One hears thee, Miriam. Let Him be between us."

Then Cohen, with his hands on his staff, and his head in them, sat
meditating, perhaps praying; and the hot, silent moments went slowly
away. In them, Miriam was coming to a decision which at first alarmed
her, but which, as it grew familiar, grew also lawful and kind. She was
quite certain that her grandfather would not interfere between the
young men, and probably he had given Hyde his promise not to do so; but
she neither had received a charge, nor entered into any obligation, of
silence. A word to Van Heemskirk or to the Elder Semple would be
sufficient. Should she not say it? Her heart answered "yes," although
she did not clearly perceive how the warning was to be given.

Perhaps Cohen divined her purpose, and was not unfavourable to it; for
he suddenly rose, and, putting on his cap, said, "I am going to see my
kinsman John Cohen. At sunset, set wide the door; an hour after sunset I
will return."

As soon as he had gone, Miriam wrote to Van Heemskirk these words: "Good
sir, - This is a matter of life and death: so then, come at once, and I
will tell you. MIRIAM COHEN."

With the slip of paper in her hand, she stood within the door, watching
for some messenger she could trust. It was not many minutes before Van
Heemskirk's driver passed, leading his loaded wagon; and to him she gave
the note.

That day Joris had gone home earlier than usual, and Bram only was in
the store. But it was part of his duty to open and attend to orders, and
he supposed the strip of paper to refer to a barrel of flour or some
other household necessity.

Its actual message was so unusual and unlooked for, that it took him a
moment or two to realize the words; then, fearing it might be some
practical joke, he recalled the driver, and heard with amazement that
the Jew's granddaughter had herself given him the message. Assured of
this fact, he answered the summons for his father promptly. Miriam was
waiting just within the door; and, scarcely heeding his explanation, she
proceeded at once to give him such information as she possessed. Bram
was slow of thought and slow of speech. He stood gazing at the
beautiful, earnest girl, and felt all the fear and force of her words;
but for some moments he could not speak, nor decide on his first step.

[Illustration: "Why do you wait?"]

"Why do you wait?" pleaded Miriam. "At sunset, I tell you. It is now
near it. Oh, no thanks! Do not stop for them, but hasten to them at
once."

He obeyed like one in a dream; but, before he had reached Semple's
store, he had fully realized the actual situation. Semple was just
leaving business. He put his hand on him, and said, "Elder, no time have
you to lose. At sunset, Neil and that d - - English soldier a duel are to
fight."

"Eh? Where? Who told you?"

"On the Kalchhook Hill. Stay not for a moment's talk."

"Run for your father, Bram. Run, my lad. Get Van Gaasbeeck's light
wagon as you go, and ask your mother for a mattress. Dinna stand
glowering at me, but awa' with you. I'll tak' twa o' my ain lads and my
ain wagon, and be there instanter. God help me! God spare the lad!"

At that moment Neil and Hyde were on their road to the fatal spot. Neil
had been gathering anger all day; Hyde, a vague regret. The folly of
what they were going to do was clear to both; but Neil was dominated by
a fury of passion, which made the folly a revengeful joy. If there had
been any thought of an apology in Hyde's heart, he must have seen its
hopelessness in the white wrath of Neil's face, and the calm
deliberation with which he assumed and prepared for a fatal termination
of the affair.

The sun dropped as the seconds measured off the space and offered the
lot for the standing ground. Then Neil flung off his coat and waistcoat,
and stood with bared breast on the spot his second indicated. This
action had been performed in such a passion of hurry, that he was
compelled to watch Hyde's more calm and leisurely movements. He removed
his fine scarlet coat and handed it to Captain Earle, and would then
have taken his sword; but Beekman advanced to remove also his waistcoat.
The suspicion implied by this act roused the soldier's indignation. "Do
you take me to be a person of so little honour?" he passionately asked;
and then with his own hands he tore off the richly embroidered satin
garment, and by so doing exposed what perhaps some delicate feeling had
made him wish to conceal, - a bow of orange ribbon which he wore above
his heart.

The sight of it to Neil was like oil flung upon flame. He could scarcely
restrain himself until the word "_go_" gave him license to charge Hyde,
which he did with such impetuous rage, that it was evident he cared less
to preserve his own life, than to slay his enemy.

Hyde was an excellent swordsman, and had fought several duels; but he
was quite disconcerted by the deadly reality of Neil's attack. In the
second thrust, his foot got entangled in a tuft of grass; and, in
evading a lunge aimed at his heart, he fell on his right side.
Supporting himself, however, on his sword hand, he sprang backwards with
great dexterity, and thus escaped the probable death-blow. But, as he
was bleeding from a wound in the throat, his second interfered, and
proposed a reconciliation. Neil angrily refused to listen. He declared
that he "had not come to enact a farce;" and then, happening to glance
at the ribbon on Hyde's breast, he swore furiously, "He would make his
way through the body of any man who stood between him and his just
anger."

[Illustration: The swords of both men sprung from their hands]

Up to this point, there had been in Hyde's mind a latent disinclination
to slay Neil. After it, he flung away every kind memory; and the fight
was renewed with an almost brutal impetuosity, until there ensued one of
those close locks which it was evident nothing but "the key of the body
could open." In the frightful wrench which followed, the swords of both
men sprang from their hands, flying some four or five yards upward with
the force. Both recovered their weapons at the same time, and both,
bleeding and exhausted, would have again renewed the fight; but at that
moment Van Heemskirk and Semple, with their attendants, reached the spot.

Without hesitation, they threw themselves between the young men, - Van
Heemskirk facing Hyde, and the elder his son. "Neil, you dear lad, you
born fool, gie me your weapon instanter, sir!" But there was no need to
say another word. Neil fell senseless upon his sword, making in his fall
a last desperate effort to reach the ribbon on Hyde's breast; for Hyde
had also dropped fainting to the ground, bleeding from at least half a
dozen wounds. Then one of Semple's young men, who had probably defined
the cause of quarrel, and who felt a sympathy for his young master, made
as if he would pick up the fatal bit of orange satin, now died crimson
in Hyde's blood.

But Joris pushed the rifling hand fiercely away. "To touch it would be
the vilest theft," he said. "His own it is. With his life he has bought
it."

[Illustration: Tail-piece]

[Illustration: Chapter heading]




VII.

"_I know I felt Love's face
Pressed on my neck, with moan of pity and grace,
Till both our heads were in his aureole_."


The news of the duel spread with the proverbial rapidity of evil news.
At the doors of all the public houses, in every open shop, on every
private stoop, and at the street-corners, people were soon discussing
the event, with such additions and comments as their imaginations and
prejudices suggested. One party insisted that lawyer Semple was dead;
another, that it was the English officer; a third, that both died as
they were being carried from the ground.

Batavius, who had lingered to the last moment at the house which he was
building, heard the story from many a lip as he went home. He was
bitterly indignant at Katherine. He felt, indeed, as if his own
character for morality of every kind had been smirched by his intended
connection with her. And his Joanna! How wicked Katherine had been not
to remember that she had a sister whose spotless name would be tarnished
by her kinship! He was hot with haste and anger when he reached Van
Heemskirk's house.

Madam stood with Joanna on the front-stoop, looking anxiously down the
road. She was aware that Bram had called for his father, and she had
heard them leave the house together in unexplained haste. At first, the
incident did not trouble her much. Perhaps one of the valuable Norman
horses was sick, or there was an unexpected ship in, or an unusually
large order. Bram was a young man who relied greatly on his father. She
only worried because supper must be delayed an hour, and that delay
would also keep back the completion of that exquisite order in which it
was her habit to leave the house for the sabbath rest.

After some time had elapsed, she went upstairs, and began to lay out the
clean linen and the kirk clothes. Suddenly she noticed that it was
nearly dark; and, with a feeling of hurry and anxiety, she remembered
the delayed meal. Joanna was on the front-stoop watching for Batavius,
who was also unusually late; and, like many other loving women, she
could think of nothing good which might have detained him, but her heart
was full only of evil apprehensions.

"Where is Katherine?" That was the mother's first question, and she
called her through the house. From the closed best parlour, Katherine
came, white and weeping.

"What is the matter, then, that you are crying? And why into the dark
room go you?"

"Full of sorrow I am, mother, and I went to the room to pray to God; but
I cannot pray."

"'Full of sorrow.' Yes, for that Englishman you are full of sorrow. And
how can you pray when you are disobeying your good father? God will not
hear you."

The mother was not pitiless; but she was anxious and troubled, and
Katherine's grief irritated her at the moment. "Go and tell Dinorah to
bring in the tea. The work of the house must go on," she muttered. "And
I think, that it was Saturday night Joris might have remembered."

Then she went back to Joanna, and stood with her, looking through the
gray mist down the road, and feeling even the croaking of the frogs and
the hum of the insects to be an unusual provocation. Just as Dinorah
said, "The tea is served, madam," the large figure of Batavius loomed
through the gathering grayness; and the women waited for him. He came up
the steps without his usual greeting; and his face was so injured and
portentous that Joanna, with a little cry, put her arms around his neck.
He gently removed them.

"No time is this, Joanna, for embracing. A great disgrace has come to
the family; and I, who have always stood up for morality, must bear it
too."

"Disgrace! The word goes not with our name, Batavius; and what mean you,
then? In one word, speak."

But Batavius loved too well any story that was to be wondered over, to
give it in a word; though madam's manner snubbed him a little, and he
said, with less of the air of a wronged man, -

"Well, then, Neil Semple and Captain Hyde have fought a duel. That is
what comes of giving way to passion. I never fought a duel. No one
should make me. It is a fixed principle with me."

"But what? And how?"

"With swords they fought. Like two devils they fought, as if to pieces
they would cut each other."

"Poor Neil! His fault I am sure it was not."

"Joanna! Neil is nearly dead. If he had been in the right, he would not
be nearly dead. The Lord does not forsake a person who is in the right
way."

In the hall behind them Katherine stood. The pallor of her face, the
hopeless droop of her white shoulders and arms, were visible in its
gloomy shadows. Softly as a spirit she walked as she drew nearer to
them.

"And the Englishman? Is he hurt?"

"Killed. He has at least twenty wounds. Till morning he will not live.
It was the councillor himself who separated the men."

"My good Joris, it was like him."

For a moment Katherine's consciousness reeled. The roar of the ocean
which girds our life round was in her ears, the feeling of chill and
collapse at her heart. But with a supreme will she took possession of
herself. "Weak I will not be. All I will know. All I will suffer." And
with these thoughts she went back to the room, and took her place at the
table. In a few minutes the rest followed. Batavius did not speak to
her. It was also something of a cross to him that madam would not talk
of the event. He did not think that Katherine deserved to have her
ill-regulated feelings so far considered, and he had almost a sense of
personal injury in the restraint of the whole household.

He had anticipated madam's amazement and shock. He had felt a just
satisfaction in the suffering he was bringing to Katherine. He had
determined to point out to Joanna the difference between herself and her
sister, and the blessedness of her own lot in loving so respectably and
prudently as she had done. But nothing had happened as he expected. The
meal, instead of being pleasantly lengthened over such dreadful
intelligence, was hurried and silent. Katherine, instead of making
herself an image of wailing or unconscious remorse, sat like other
people at the table, and pretended to drink her tea.

It was some comfort that after it Joanna and he could walk in the
garden, and talk the affair thoroughly over. Katherine watched them
away, and then she fled to her room. For a few minutes she could let her
sorrow have way, and it would help her to bear the rest. And oh, how she
wept! She took from their hiding-place the few letters her lover had
written her, and she mourned over them as women mourn in such
extremities. She kissed the words with passionate love; she vowed, amid
her broken ejaculations of tenderness, to be faithful to him if he
lived, to be faithful to his memory if he died. She never thought of
Neil; or, if she did, it was with an anger that frightened her. In the
full tide of her anguish, Lysbet stood at the door. She heard the
inarticulate words of woe, and her heart ached for her child. She had
followed her to give her comfort, to weep with her; but she felt that
hour that Katherine was no more a child to be soothed with her mother's
kiss. She had become a woman, and a woman's sorrow had found her.

[Illustration: Oh, how she wept!]

It was near ten o'clock when Joris came home. His face was troubled, his


1 2 3 4 5 7 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 7 of 20)