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news of Katherine, that she believed he would die wanting it; and she
had therefore fallen, without one conscientious scruple, into the
reporter's temptation, - inventing the things which ought to have taken
place, and did not. "For, in faith, Nigel," she said to her husband, in
excuse, "those who have nothing to tell must tell lies."

[Illustration: Katherine was close to his side]

Her reports had been ingenious and diversified. "She had seen Katherine
at one of the windows, - the very picture of distraction." "She had been
told that Katherine was breaking her heart about him;" also, "that Elder
Semple and Councillor Van Heemskirk had quarrelled because Katharine
had refused to see Neil, and the elder blamed Van Heemskirk for not
compelling her obedience." Whenever Hyde had been unusually depressed or
unusually nervous, Mrs. Gordon had always had some such comforting
fiction ready. Now, here was the real Katherine. Her very presence, her
smiles, her tears, her words, would be a consolation so far beyond all
hope, that the girl by her side seemed a kind of miracle to her.

She was far more than a miracle to Hyde. As the door opened, he slowly
turned his head. When he saw _who_ was really there, he uttered a low
cry of joy, - a cry pitiful in its shrill weakness. In a moment Katherine
was close to his side. This was no time for coyness, and she was too
tender and true a woman to feel or to affect it. She kissed his hands
and face, and whispered on his lips the sweetest words of love and
fidelity. Hyde was in a rapture. His joyful soul made his pale face
luminous. He lay still, speechless, motionless, watching and listening
to her.

Mrs. Gordon had removed Katherine's veil and cloak, and considerately
withdrawn to a mirror at the extremity of the room, where she appeared
to be altogether occupied with her own ringlets. But, indeed, it was
with Katherine and Hyde one of those supreme hours when love conquers
every other feeling. Before the whole world they would have avowed their
affection, their pity, and their truth.

Hyde could speak little, but there was no need of speech. Had he not
nearly died for her? Was not his very helplessness a plea beyond the
power of words? She had only to look at the white shadow of humanity
holding her hand, and remember the gay, gallant, handsome soldier who
had wooed her under the water-beeches, to feel that all the love of her
life was too little to repay his devotion. And so quickly, so quickly,
went the happy moments! Ere Katherine had half said, "I love thee," Mrs.
Gordon reminded her that it was near the noon; "and I have an excellent
plan," she continued; "you can leave my veil and cloak in the coach, and
I will leave you at the first convenient place near your home. At the
turn of the road, one sees nobody but your excellent father or brother,
or perhaps Justice Van Gaasbeek, all of whom we may avoid, if you will
but consider the time."

"Then we must part, _my Katherine_, for a little. When will you come
again?"

This was a painful question, because Katherine felt, that, however she
might excuse herself for the unforeseen stress of pity that all unaware
had hurried her into this interview, she knew she could not find the
same apology for one deliberate and prearranged.

"Only once more," Hyde pleaded. "I had, my Katherine, so many things to
say to you. In my joy, I forgot all. Come but once more. Upon my honour,
I promise to ask Katherine Van Heemskirk only this once. To-morrow?
'No.' Two days hence, then?"

"Two days hence I will come again. Then no more."

He smiled at her, and put out his hands; and she knelt again by his
side, and kissed her "farewell" on his lips. And, as she put on again
her cloak and veil, he drew a small volume towards him, and with
trembling hands tore out of it a scrap of paper, and gave it to her.

Under the lilac hedge that night she read it, read it over and
over, - the bit of paper made almost warm and sentient by Phoedria's
tender petition to his beloved, -

"When you are in company with that other man, behave as if you were
absent; but continue to love me by day and by night; want me, dream of
me, expect me, think of me, wish for me, delight in me, be wholly with
me; in short, be my very soul, as I am yours."

[Illustration: Tail-piece]

[Illustration: Chapter heading]




VIII.

"_Let determined things to destiny
Hold unbewailed their way._"


If Katherine had lived at this day, she would probably have spent her
time between her promise and its fulfilment in self-analysis and
introspective reasoning with her own conscience. But the women of a
century ago were not tossed about with winds of various opinions, or
made foolishly subtile by arguments about principles which ought never
to be associated with dissent. A few strong, plain dictates had been set
before Katherine as the law of her daily life; and she knew, beyond all
controversy, when she disobeyed them.

In her own heart, she called the sin she had determined to commit by its
most unequivocal name. "I shall make happy Richard; but my father I
shall deceive and disobey, and against my own soul there will be the
lie." This was the position she admitted, but every woman is Eve in some
hours of her life. The law of truth and wisdom may be in her ears, but
the apple of delight hangs within her reach, and, with a full
understanding of the consequences of disobedience, she takes the
forbidden pleasure. And if the vocal, positive command of Divinity was
unheeded by the first woman, mere mortal parents surely ought not to
wonder that their commands, though dictated by truest love and clearest
wisdom, are often lightly held, or even impotent against the voice of
some charmer, pleading personal pleasure against duty, and self-will
against the law infinitely higher and purer.

In truth, Katherine had grown very weary of the perpetual eulogies which
Batavius delivered of everything respectable and conservative. A kind of
stubbornness in evil followed her acceptance of evil. This time, at
least, she was determined to do wrong, whatever the consequences might
be. Batavius and his inflexible propriety irritated her: she had a
rebellious desire to give him little moral shocks; and she deeply
resented his constant injunctions to "remember that Joanna's and his own
good name were, in a manner, in her keeping."

Very disagreeable she thought Batavius had grown, and she also jealously
noted the influence he was exercising over Joanna. There are women who
prefer secrecy to honesty, and sin to truthfulness; but Katherine was
not one of them. If it had been possible to see her lover honourably,
she would have much preferred it. She was totally destitute of that
contemptible sentimentality which would rather invent difficulties in a
love-affair than not have them, but she knew well the storm of reproach
and disapproval which would answer any such request; and her thoughts
were all bent toward devising some plan which would enable her to leave
home early on that morning which she had promised her lover.

But all her little arrangements failed; and it was almost at the last
hour of the evening previous, that circumstances offered her a
reasonable excuse. It came through Batavius, who returned home later
than usual, bringing with him a great many patterns of damask and
figured cloth and stamped leather. At once he announced his intention of
staying at home the next morning in order to have Joanna's aid in
selecting the coverings for their new chairs, and counting up their
cost. He had taken the strips out of his pocket with an air of
importance and complaisance; and Katherine, glancing from them to her
mother, thought she perceived a fleeting shadow of a feeling very much
akin to her own contempt of the man's pronounced self-satisfaction. So
when supper was over, and the house duties done, she determined to speak
to her. Joris was at a town meeting, and Lysbet did not interfere with
the lovers. Katherine found her standing at an open window, looking
thoughtfully into the autumn garden.

"_Mijn moeder_."

"_Mijn kind_."

"Let me go away with Bram in the morning. Batavius I cannot bear. About
every chair-cover he will call in the whole house. The only
chair-covers in the world they will be. Listen, how he will talk: 'See
here, Joanna. A fine piece is this; ten shillings and sixpence the yard,
and good enough for the governor's house. But I am a man of some
substance, - _Gode zij dank!_ - and people will expect that I, who give
every Sunday twice to the kirk, should have chairs in accordance.'
_Moeder_, you know how it will be. To-morrow I cannot bear him. Very
near quarrelling have we been for a week."

"I know, Katharine, I know. Leave, then, with Bram, and go first to
Margaret Pitt's, and ask her if the new winter fashions will arrive from
London this month. I heard also that Mary Blankaart has lost a silk
purse, and in it five gold jacobus, and some half and quarter johannes.
Ask kindly for her, and about the money; and so the morning could be
passed. And look now, Katherine, peace is the best thing; and to his own
house Batavius will go in a few weeks."

"That will make me glad."

"Whish, _mijn kind!_ Thy bad thoughts should be dumb thoughts."

"_Mijn moeder_, sad and troubled are thy looks. What is thy sorrow?"

"For thee my heart aches often, - mine and thy good father's, too. Dost
thou not suffer? Can thy mother be blind? Nothing hast thou eaten
lately. Joanna says thou art restless all the night long. Thou art so
changed then, that wert ever such a happy little one. Once thou did love
me, Katrijntje."

"_Ach, mijn moeder_, still I love thee!"

"But that English soldier?"

"Never can I cease to love him. See, now, the love I give him is his
love. It never was thine. For him I brought it into the world. None of
thy love have I given to him. _Mijn moeder_, thee I would not rob for
the whole world; not I!"

"For all that, _kleintje_, hard is the mother's lot. The dear children I
nursed on my breast, they go here and they go there, with this strange
one and that strange one. Last night, ere to our sleep we went, thy
father read to me some words of the loving, motherlike Jacob. They are
true words. Every good mother has said them, at the grave or at the
bridal, 'En mij aangaande, als ik van kinderen beroofd ben, zoo ben ik
beroofd!'"

There was a sad pathos in the homely old words as they dropped slowly
from Lysbet's lips, - a pathos that fitted perfectly the melancholy air
of the fading garden, the melancholy light of the fading day, and the
melancholy regret for a happy home gradually scattering far and wide.
Many a year afterward Katharine remembered the hour and the words,
especially in the gray glooms of late October evenings.

The next morning was one of perfect beauty, and Katharine awoke with a
feeling of joyful expectation. She dressed beautifully her pale brown
hair; and her intended visit to Mary Blankaart gave her an excuse for
wearing her India silk, - the pretty dress Richard had seen her first in,
the dress he had so often admired. Her appearance caused some remarks,
which Madam Van Heemskirk replied to; and with much of her old gayety
Katherine walked between her father and brother away from home.

She paid a very short visit to the mantua-maker, and then went to Mrs.
Gordon's. There was less effusion in that lady's manner than at her last
interview with Katherine. She had a little spasm of jealousy; she had
some doubts about Katherine's deserts; she wondered whether her nephew
really adored the girl with the fervour he affected, or whether he had
determined, at all sacrifices, to prevent her marriage with Neil Semple.
Katherine had never before seen her so quiet and so cool; and a feeling
of shame sprang up in the girl's heart. "Perhaps she was going to do
something not exactly proper in Mrs. Gordon's eyes, and in advance that
lady was making her sensible of her contempt."

With this thought, she rose, and with burning cheeks said, "I will go
home, madam. Now I feel that I am doing wrong. To write to Captain Hyde
will be the best way."

"Pray don't be foolish, Katherine. I am of a serious turn this morning,
that is all. How pretty you are! and how vastly becoming your gown! But,
indeed, I am going to ask you to change it. Yesterday, at the 'King's
Arms,' I said my sister would arrive this morning with me; and I bespoke
a little cotillon in Dick's rooms. In that dress you will be too
familiar, my dear. See here, is not this the prettiest fashion? It is
lately come over. So airy! so French! so all that!"

It was a light-blue gown and petticoat of rich satin, sprigged with
silver, and a manteau of dark-blue velvet trimmed with bands of delicate
fur. The bonnet was not one which the present generation would call
"lovely;" but, in its satin depths, Katharine's fresh, sweet face
looked like a rose. She hardly knew herself when the toilet was
completed; and, during its progress, Mrs. Gordon recovered all her
animation and interest.

[Illustration: In its satin depths]

Before they were ready, a coach was in waiting; and in a few minutes
they stood together at Hyde's door. There was a sound of voices within;
and, when they entered, Katherine saw, with a pang of disappointment, a
fine, soldierly looking man in full uniform sitting by Richard's side.
But Richard appeared to be in no way annoyed by his company. He was
looking much better, and wore a chamber gown of maroon satin, with deep
laces showing at the wrists and bosom. When Katherine entered, he was
amazed and charmed with her appearance. "Come near to me, my Katherine,"
he said; and as Mrs. Gordon drew from her shoulders the mantle, and from
her head the bonnet, and revealed more perfectly her beautiful person
and dress, his love and admiration were beyond words.

With an air that plainly said, "This is the maiden for whom I fought and
have suffered: is she not worthy of my devotion?" he introduced her to
his friend, Captain Earle. But, even as they spoke, Earle joined Mrs.
Gordon, at a call from her; and Katherine noticed that a door near which
they stood was open, and that they went into the room to which it led,
and that other voices then blended with theirs. But these things were
as nothing. She was with her lover, alone for a moment with him; and
Richard had never before seemed to her half so dear or half so
fascinating.

"My Katharine," he said, "I have one tormenting thought. Night and day
it consumes me like a fever. I hear that Neil Semple is well. Yesterday
Captain Earle met him; he was walking with your father. He will be
visiting at your house very soon. He will see you; he will speak to you.
You have such obliging manners, he may even clasp this hand, _my hand_.
Heavens! I am but a man, and I find myself unable to endure the
thought."

"In my heart, Richard, there is only room for you. Neil Semple I fear
and dislike."

"They will make you marry him, my darling."

"No; that they can never do."

"But I suffer in the fear. I suffer a thousand deaths. If you were only
my wife, Katherine!"

She blushed divinely. She was kneeling at his side; and she put her arms
around his neck, and laid her face against his. "Only your wife I will
be. That is what I desire also."

"_Now_, Katherine? This minute, darling? Make me sure of the felicity
you have promised. You have my word of honour, that as Katherine Van
Heemskirk I will not again ask you to come here. But it is past my
impatience to exist, and not see you. _Katherine Hyde_ would have the
right to come."

"Oh, my love, my love!"

"See how I tremble, Katherine. Life scarcely cares to inhabit a body so
weak. If you refuse me, I will let it go. If you refuse me, I shall know
that in your heart you expect to marry Neil Semple, - the savage who has
made me to suffer unspeakable agonies."

"Never will I marry him, Richard, - never, never. My word is true. You
only I will marry."

"Then _now, now_, Katharine. Here is the ring. Here is the special
license from the governor; my aunt has made him to understand all. The
clergyman and the witnesses are waiting. Some good fortune has dressed
you in bridal beauty. _Now_, Katherine? _Now, now_!"

[Illustration: Katherine knelt by Richard's side]

She rose, and stood white and trembling by his dear side, - speechless,
also. To her father and her mother her thoughts fled in a kind of
loving terror. But how could she resist the pleading of one whom she so
tenderly loved, and to whom, in her maiden simplicity, she imagined
herself to be so deeply bounden? That very self-abnegation which forms
so large a portion of a true affection urged her to compliance far more
than love itself. And when Richard ceased to speak, and only besought
her with the unanswerable pathos of his evident suffering for her sake,
she felt the argument to be irresistible.

"Well, my Katherine, will you pity me so far?"

"All you ask, my loved one, I will grant."

"Angel of goodness! _Now_?"

"At your wish, Richard."

He took her hand in a passion of joy and gratitude, and touched a small
bell. Immediately there was a sudden silence, and then a sudden
movement, in the adjoining room. The next moment a clergyman in
canonical dress came toward them. By his side was Colonel Gordon, and
Mrs. Gordon and Captain Earle followed. If Katherine had then been
sensible of any misgiving or repentant withdrawal, the influences
surrounding her were irresistible. But she had no distinct wish to
resist them. Indeed, Colonel Gordon said afterward to his wife, "he had
never seen a bride look at once so lovely and so happy." The ceremony
was full of solemnity, and of that deepest joy which dims the eyes with
tears, even while it wreathes the lips with smiles. During it, Katherine
knelt by Richard's side; and every eye was fixed upon him, for he was
almost fainting with the fatigue of his emotions; and it was with
fast-receding consciousness that he whispered rapturously at its close,
"My wife, my wife!"

Throughout the sleep of exhaustion which followed, she sat watching him.
The company in the next room were quietly making merry "over Dick's
triumph," but Katherine shook her head at all proposals to join them.
The band of gold around her finger fascinated her. She was now really
Richard's wife; and the first sensation of such a mighty change was, in
her pure soul, one of infinite and reverent love. When Richard awoke, he
was refreshed and supremely happy. Then Katherine brought him food and
wine, and ate her own morsel beside him. "Our first meal we must take
together," she said; and Hyde was already sensible of some exquisite
change, some new and rarer tenderness and solicitude in all her ways
toward him.

The noon hour was long past, but she made no mention of it. The wedding
guests also lingered, talking and laughing softly, and occasionally
visiting the happy bride and bridegroom in their blissful companionship.
In those few hours Richard made sure his dominion over his wife's heart;
and he had so much to tell her, and so many directions to give her,
that, ere they were aware, the afternoon was well spent. The clergyman
and the soldiers departed, Mrs. Gordon was a little weary, and Hyde was
fevered with the very excess of his joy. The moment for parting had
come; and, when it has, wise are those who delay it not. Hyde fixed his
eyes upon his wife until Mrs. Gordon had arranged again her bonnet and
manteau; then, with a smile, he shut in their white portals the
exquisite picture. He could let her go with a smile now, for he knew
that Katherine's absence was but a parted presence; knew that her better
part remained with him, that

"Her heart was never away,
But ever with his forever."

The coach was waiting; and, without delay, Katharine returned with Mrs.
Gordon to her lodgings. Both were silent on the journey. When a great
event has taken place, only the shallow and unfeeling chatter about it.
Katherine's heart was full, even to solemnity; and Mrs. Gordon, whose
affectation of fashionable levity was in a large measure pretence, had a
kind and sensible nature, and she watched the quiet girl by her side
with decided approval. "She may not be in the mode, but she is neither
silly nor heartless," she decided; "and as for loving foolishly my poor,
delightful Dick, why, any girl may be excused the folly."

Upon leaving the coach at Mrs. Gordon's, Katherine went to an inner room
to resume her own dress. The India silk lay across a chair; and she took
off, and folded with her accustomed neatness, the elegant suit she had
worn. As she did so, she became sensible of a singular liking for it;
and, when Mrs. Gordon entered the room, she said to her, "Madam, very
much I desire this suit: it is my wedding-gown. Will you save it for me?
Some day I may wear it again, when Richard is well."

"Indeed, Katherine, that is a womanly thought; it does you a vast deal
of credit; and, upon my word, you shall have the gown. I shall be put to
straits without it, to out-dress Miss Betty Lawson; but never mind, I
have a few decent gowns beside it."

"Richard, too, he will like it? You think so, madam?"

"My dear, don't begin to quote Richard to me. I shall be impatient if
you do. I assure you I have never considered him a prodigy." Then,
kissing her fondly, "Madam Katherine Hyde, my entire service to you.
Pray be sure I shall give your husband my best concern. And now I think
you can walk out of the door without much notice; there is a crowd on
the street, and every one is busy about their own appearance or
affairs."

"The time, madam? What is the hour?"

"Indeed, I think it is much after four o'clock. Half an hour hence, you
will have to bring out your excuses. I shall wish for a little devil at
your elbow to help them out. Indeed, I am vastly troubled for you."

"Her excuses" Katherine had not suffered herself to consider. She could
not bear to shadow the present with the future. She had, indeed, a happy
faculty of leaving her emergencies to take care of themselves; and
perhaps wiser people than Katherine might, with advantage, trust less to
their own planning and foresight, and more to that inscrutable power
which we call chance, but which so often arranges favourably the events
apparently very unfavourable. For, at the best, foresight has but
probabilities to work with; but chance, whose tools we know not, very
often contradicts all our bad prophecies, and untangles untoward events
far beyond our best prudence or wisdom. And Katharine was so happy. She
was really Richard's wife; and on that solid vantage-ground she felt
able to beat off trouble, and to defend her own and his rights.

"So much better you look, Katherine," said Madam Van Heemskirk. "Where
have you been all the day? And did you see Mary Blankaart? And the
money, is it found yet?"

The family were at the supper-table; and Joris looked kindly at his
truant daughter, and motioned to the vacant chair at his side. She
slipped into it, touching her father's cheek as she passed; and then she
answered, "At Mary Blankaart's I was not at all, mother."

"Where, then?"

"To Margaret Pitt's I went first, and with Mrs. Gordon I have been all
the day. She is lodging with Mrs. Lanier, on Pearl Street."

"Who sent you there, Katherine?"

"No one, mother. When I passed the house, my name I heard, and Mrs.
Gordon came out to me; and how could I refuse her? Much had we to talk
of."

Batavius saw the girl's placid face, and heard her open confession, with
the greatest amazement. He looked at Joanna, and was just going to
express his opinion, when Joris rose, pushed his chair a little angrily
aside, and said, "There is no blame to you, Katherine. Very kind was
Mrs. Gordon to you, and she is a pleasant woman. For others' faults she
must not answer. That, also, is what Elder Semple says; for when past
was her anger, with a heart full of sorrow she went to him and to Madam
Semple."

"The sorrow that is too late, of what use is it? A very pleasant woman!
Perhaps she is, but then, also, a very vain, foolish woman. Every person
of discretion says so; and if I had a daughter" -

"Well, then, Batavius, a daughter thou may have some day. To the man
with a tender heart, God gives his daughters. Wanting in some good thing
I had felt myself, if only sons I had been trusted with. A daughter is a
little white lamb in the household to teach men to be gentle men."

"I was going to say this, if I had a daughter" -

"Well, then, when thou hast, more wisdom will be given thee. Come with
thy father, _Katrijntje_, and down the garden we will walk, and see if


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe Bow of Orange Ribbon A Romance of New York → online text (page 9 of 20)