Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The bow of orange ribbon; a romance of New York online

. (page 17 of 20)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe bow of orange ribbon; a romance of New York → online text (page 17 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

any alteration of charters, is to hear the parties at
the bar of the House. Now, the question is, are the
Americans to be heard, or not, before the charter
is broken for our convenience. . . . The Boston bill
is a diabolical bill.'"

He read aloud this bit of Mr. Burke's fiery elo-


quence, in a high, droning voice, and would, accord-
ing to his custom, have continued the entertain-
ment; but Katherine, preferring to use her own in-
telligence, borrowed the paper and was about to
leave the room with it, when he suddenly remembered
a scarf of great beauty which he had not shown.

" I bought it for my Lady Suffolk," he said ; " but
Lord Suffolk died sudden, and black my lady had to
wear. It's forrin, madam ; and here it is, the very
color of affradiles. But mayhap, as it is candle-
teening, you'd like to wait till the day comes again."

A singular look of speculation came into Kath-
erine's face. She examined the scarf without delay ;
and, as she fingered the delicate silk, she led the man
on to talk of Lady Suffolk, though, indeed, he
scarcely needed the stimulus of questioning. With-
out regard as to whether Katherine was taking any
interest or not in his information, he detailed with
hurried avidity the town talk that had clung to her
reputation for" so many years ; and he so fully de-
scribed the handsome cavalry officer that was her
devoted attendant, that Katherine could have had
no difficulty in recognizing her husband, even with-
out the clews which her own knowledge of the parties
gave her.

She stood in the gray light by the window, finger-
ing the delicate satin, and listening. The peddler
glanced from his goods to her face, and talked
rapidly, .interloping bits of news about the court and
the fashions ; but going always back to Lady Suffolk
and her lover, and what was likely to take place now
that Lord Suffolk was out of the way. "Though
there's them that do say the captain has a comely
wife hid up in the country."

Suddenly she turned and faced the stooping man :
" Your scarf take : I will not have it. No, and I will
not have any thing that I have bought from you.
All of the goods you shall receive back; and my
money, give it to me. You are no honest ha\vker :
you are a bad man, who have come here for a bad
woman. You know that of my husband you have
been talking I mean lying. You know that this is


his house, and that his true .wife am I. Not one
more word shall you speak. Lettice, bring here all
the goods I bought from this man ; poisoned may be
the unguents and scents and gloves. Of such things
I have heard."

She had spoken with an angry rapidity that for the
moment confounded the stranger; but at this point
he lifted himself with an insolent air, and said,
" The goods be bought and paid for, madam; and,
in faith, I will not buy them back again."

" In faith, then, I will send for Sir Thomas S waff-
ham. A magistrate is he, and Capt. Hyde's friend.
Not one penny of my money shall you have ; for, in-
deed, your goods I will not wear." *

She pointed then to the various articles which Let-
tice had brought back ; and, with the shrug of a man
who accepts the inevitable, he replaced them in his
pack, and then ostentatiously counted back the
money Katherine had given him. She examined
every coin, and returned a crown. " My piece this
is not. It may be false. I will have the one I gave
to you. Lettice, bring here water in a bowl ; let the
silver and gold lay in it until morning.'* And, turn-
ing to the peddler, " Your cap take from the floor, and

"Surely, madam, you be not so cruel as to turn
me on the fens, and it a dark night. There be bogs
all about j and how the road d lay for the next
house, I know not."

" The joad to my house you could find ; well, then,
you can find the road back to the woman who sent
you here. With my servants you shall not sit ; under
my roof you shall not stay."

" I have no mind to go." .

" See you the mastiff at my feet ? I advise you
stir him not up, for death is in his jaw. To the gate,
and with good haste ! In one half-hour the kennels
I will have opened. If then within my boundaries
you are, it is at your life's peril."

She spoke without passion and without hurry or
alarm ; but there was no mistaking the purpose in
her white, resolute face and fearless attitude. And


the peddler took in the situation very quickly ; for the
dog was already watching him with eyes of fiery
suspicion, and an occasional deep growl was either
a note of warning to his mistress, or of defiance to
the intruder. With an evil glance at the beautiful,
disdainful woman standing over him, the peddler rose
and left the house; Katherine and the dog so closely
following, that the man, stooping under his heavy
burden, heard her light footsteps and the mastiff's
heavy breathing close at his heels, until he passed
the large gates and found himself on the dark fen,
with just half an hour to get clear of a precinct he
had made so dangerous to himself.

For, when he remembered Katherine's face, he
muttered, "There isn't a mossel o' doubt but what
she'll hev the brutes turned loose. Dash it! women
do beat all. But I do hev one bit o' comfort, high-
to-instep as she js, she's heving a bad time of it now,
by herself. . I do think that, for sure." And the
reflection gave him some gratification, as he cau-
tiously felt his steps forward with his strong staff.



"Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments : love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds."

44 There's beggary in the love that can be reckoned."
"The end crowns all."

IN some respects, the peddler's anticipations were
correct. Katherine had ' a bad time by herself '
that night ; for evil has this woful prerogative, it
can wound the good and the innocent, it can make
wretched without provocation and without desert.
But, whatever her suffering, it was altogether her


own. She made no complaint, and she offered no
explanation of her singular conduct. Her house-
hold, however, had learned to trust her; and the
men and women servants, sitting round the kitchen-
fire that night, talked over the circumstance, and
found its very mystery a greater charm than any
possible certainty, however terrible, could have
given them.

"She be a stout-hearted one," said the ostler ad-
miringly. " Tony and I a-watched her and the dog
a-driying him through the gates. With his bundle
on his back, he was a-shuffling along, a-nigh on his
all-fours; and the madam at his heels, with her
head up in the air, and her eyes a-shining like

" It would be about the captain he spoke."

The- remark was ventured by Lettice in a low
voice, and the company looked at each other and
nodded confidentially. "For the captain was a per-
son of great and mysterious importance in the
house. All that was done was in obedience to some
order received from him. Katherine quoted him
continually, granted every favor in his name, made
him the authority for every change necessary. His
visits were times of holiday, when discipline was re-
laxed, and the methodical economy of life at the
manor house changed into festival. And Hyde had
precisely that dashing manner, that mixture of
frankness and authority, which dependents admire.
The one place in the whole world where nobody
would have believed wrong of Hyde was in Hyde's
own home.

And yet Katherine, in the secrecy of her chamber,
felt her heart quake. She had refused to think of
the circumstance until after she had made a pre-
tense of eating her supper, and had seen little Joris
asleep, and dismissed Lettice, with all her accus-
tomed deliberation and order. But, oh, how grate-
fully she turned the key of her room! How glad
she felt to be alone with the fear and the sorroxv that
had come to her! For she wanted to face it hon-
estly; and as she stood with eyes cast down, and


hands clasped behind her back, the calm, resolute
spirit of her fathers gathered in her heart, and gave
an air of sorrowful purpose to her face and attitude.
At that hour she was singularly like Jons Van
Heemskirk; and any one familiar with the councillor
would have known Katherine to be his daughter.

Most women are restless when they are in anxiety.
Katherine felt motion to be a mental disturbance.
She sat down, and remained still as a carven image,
thinking over what had been told her. There had
been a time when her husband's constant talk of
Lady Suffolk had pained her, and when she had
been a little jealous of the apparent familiarity
which existed in their relations with each other; but
Hyde had laughed at her fears, and she had taken a

ride in putting his word above all her suspicions,
he had seen him receive letters which she knew to
be from Lady Suffolk. She had seen him read and
destroy them without remark. She was aware that
many a love-billet from fine ladies followed him to
Hyde. But it was in accord with the integrity of
her own nature to believe in her husband's faithful-
ness. She had made one inquiry on the subject, and
his assurance at that time she accepted as a final
settlement of all doubts. And if she had needed
further evidence, she had found it in his affectionate
and constant regard for her, and in his love for his
child and his home.

It was also a part of Katherine's just and upright
disposition to make allowances for the life by which
her husband was surrounded. She understood that
he must often be placed in circumstances of great
temptation and suspicion. Hyde had told her that
there were necessarily events in his daily experience
of which it was better for her to be ignorant. " They
belong to it, as my uniform does," he said ; "they
are a part of its appearance : but they never touch
my feelings, and they never do you a moment's
wrong, Katherine." This explanation it had been
the duty both of love and of wisdom to accept; and
she had done so with a faith which asked for no
conviction beyond it.


And now she was told that for years he had been
the lover of another woman ; that her own existence
was doubted or denied; that, if it were admitted, it
was with a supposition which affected both her own
good name and the rights of her child. In those
days, America was at the ends of the earth. A war
with it was imminent. The Colonies might be con-
quered. She knew nothing of international rights,
nor what changes such a condition might render
possible. Hyde was the probable representative of
an ancient noble English family, and its influence
was great : if he really wished to annul their mar-
riage, perhaps it was in his power to do so. She
knew well how greedy rank was of rank and riches,
and she could understand that there might be pow-
erful family reasons for an alliance which would add
Lady Suffolk's wealth to the Hyde earldom.

She was no craven, and she faced the position in
all its cruel bearings. She asked herself, if, even for
the sake of her little Joris, she would remain a wife
on sufferance, or by the tie of rights which she would
have to legally enforce; and then she lifted the
candle, ana passed softly into his room to look at
him. Though physically like the large, fair, hand-
some Yan Heemskirks, little Joris had certain tricks
of expression, certain movements and attitudes,
which were the very reflection of his father's, the
same smile, the same droop of the hair on the fore-
head, the same careless toss of the arm upward in
sleep. It was the father in the son that answered
her at that hour. She slipped down upon her knees
by the sleeping boy, and out of the terror and sorrow
of her soul spoke to the Fatherhood in heaven. Nay,
but she knelt speechless and motionless, and waited
until He spoke to her; spoke to her by the sweet,
trustful little lips whose lightest touch was dear to
her. For the boy suddenly awoke; he flung his
arms around her neck, he laid his face close to hers,
and said,

" O mother, beautiful mother, I thought my father
was here ! "

" You have been dreaming, darling Joris."


" Yes ; I am sorry I have been dreaming. I
thought my father was here, my good father, that
loves us so much."

Then, with a happy face, Katherine rose and gave
the child cool water, and turned his hot pillow, and
with kisses sent him smiling into dreamland again.
In those few tender moments all her fears slipped
away from her heart. " I will not believe what a
bad man says against my husband, against my
dear one who is not here to defend himself. Lies,
lies ! I will make the denial for him."

And she kept within the comfort of this spirit,
even though Hyde's usual letter was three days be-
hind its usual time. Certainly they were hard days.
She kept busy ; but she could not swallow a mouth-
ful of food, and the sickness and despair that
crouched at the threshold of her life made her light-
est duties so heavy that it required a constant effort
and a constant watchfulness to fulfil them. And
yet she kept saying to herself, " All is right. I shall
hear in a day or two. There is some change in the
service. There is no change in Eichard, none."

On the fourth day, her trust had its reward. She
found then that the delay had been caused by the
necessary charge and care of ceremonies which
Lady Capel's death forced upon her husband. She
had almost a sentiment of gratitude to her, although
she was yet ignorant of her bequest of eight thou-
sand pounds. For Hyde had resolved to wait until
the reading of the will made it certain, and then to
resign his commission, and carry the double good
news to Katherine himself. Henceforward, they
were to be together. He would buy more land, and
improve his estate, and live happily, away from the
turmoil of the town, and the disagreeable duties of
active service in a detestable quarrel. So this pur-
pose, though unexpressed, gave a joyous ring to his
letter; it was lover-like in its fondness and hopeful-
ness, and Katherine thought of Lady Suffolk and
her emissary with a contemptuous indifference.

" My dear one, she intended that I should make
miserable with reproaches, and from his own home


drive him to her home for some consolations ; " and
Katherine smiled as she reflected how hopeless such
a plan of separation would be.

Never, perhaps, are we so happy, as when we have
just escaped some feared calamity. That letter
lifted the last fear from Katherine's heart, and it
gave her also the expectation of an early visit. " I
am very impatient to see you, my Kate," he wrote ;
" and, as early as possible after the funeral, you may
expect me." The words rang like music in her
heart. She read them aloud to little Joris, and then
the whole household warmed to the intelligence.
For there was always much pleasant preparation for
Hyde's visits, clean rooms to make still cleaner,
silver to polish, dainties to cook; every weed to
take from the garden, every unnecessary straw from
the yards. For the master's eye, every thing must
be beautiful. To the master's comfort, every hand
was delighted to minister.

So these last days of May were wonderfully happy
ones to -Katherine. The house was in its summer
draperies, all its windows open to the garden,
which had now not only the freshness of spring, but
the richer promise of summer. Katherine was al-
ways dressed with extraordinary care and taste.
Little Joris was always lingering about the gates
which commanded the longest stretch of observa-
tion. A joyful " looking forward." was upon every

Alas, these are the unguarded hours which sor-
row surprises! But no thought of trouble, and no
fear of it, had Katherine, as she stood before her
mirror one afternoon. She was watching Lettice
arrange the double folds of her gray taffeta gown, so
as to display a trifle the high scarlet heels of her
morocco slippers, with their scarlet rosettes and
small diamond buckles.

" Too cold a color is gray for me, Lettice: give me
those scarlet ribbons for a breast knot;" and as
Lettice stood with her head a little on one side,
watching her mistress arrange the bright bows at her
stomacher, there came a knock at the chamber door.


" Here be a strange gentleman, madam, to see
you ; from London, he do say."

A startled look came into Katherine's face: she
' dropped the ribbon from her hand, and turned to the
servant, who stood twisting a corner of her apron
at the front-door.

" Well, then, Jane, like what is the stranger ? "

" He be in soldier's dress, madam "


She asked no further question, but went down-
stairs ; and, as the tapping of her heels was heard
upon them, Jane lifted her apron to her eyes and
whimpered, "I think there be trouble; I do that,

" About the master ? "

" It be like it. And the man rides a gray horse
too. Drat the man, to come with news on a gray
horse ! It be that unlucky, as no one in their seven
senses would do it."

"For sure it be! When I was a young wench at
school " And then, as she folded up the loose
ribbons, Letty told a gruesome story of a farmer
robbed and murdered ; but, as she came to the part
the gray horse played in it, Katherine slowly walked
into the room, with a letter in her hand. She was
white, even to her lips ; and, with a mournful shake
of her head, she motioned to the girls to leave her
alone. She put the paper out of her hand, and
stood regarding it. Fully ten minutes elapsed ere
she gathered strength sufficient to break its well-
known seal, and take in the full meaning of words
so full of agony to her.

" It is midnight, beloved Katherine, and in six
hours I may be dead. Lord Paget spoke of my
cousin to me in such terms as leaves but one way
out of the affront. I pray you, if you can, to pardon
me. The world will condemn me, my own actions
will condemn me ; and yet I vow that you, and you
only, have ever had my love. You I shall adore
with my last breath. Kate, my Kate, forgive me.
If this comes to you by strange hands, I shall be
dead or dying. My will and papers of importance


are in the drawer marked " B " in my escritoire.
Kiss my son for me, and take my last hope and

These words she read, then wrung her hands, and
moaned like a creature that had been wounded to
death. Oh the shame! Oh the wrong and sorrow!
How could she bear it ? What should she do ? Capt.
Lennox, who had brought the letter, was waiting
for her dicision. If she would go to her husband,
then he could rest and return to London at his
leisure. If not, Hyde wanted his will, to add a
codicil regarding the eight thousand pounds left
him by Lady Capel. For he had been wounded in his
side; and, a dangerous inflammation having set in,
he had been warned of a possible fatal result.

Katherine was not a rapid thinker. She had little,
either, of that instinct which serves some women in-
stead of all other prudences. Her actions generally
arose from motives clear to her own mind, and of
whose wisdom or kindness she had a conviction.
But in this hour so many things appealed to her,
that she felt helpless and uncertain. The one
thought that dominated all others was that her hus-
band had fought and fallen for Lady Suffolk. He
had risked her happiness and welfare,' he had forgot-
ten her and his child, for this woman. It was the
sequel to the impertinence of the peddler's visit. She
believed at that moment that had told her
the truth. All these years she had been a slighted
and deceived woman.

This idea once admitted, jealousy of the cruellest
and most unreasonable kind assailed her. Incidents,
words, looks, long forgotten, rushed back upon her
memory, and fed the flame. Very likely, if she left
her child and went to London, she might find Lady
Suffold in attendance on her husband, or at least be
compelled for his life's sake to submit to her visits.
She pondered this supposition until it brought forth
one still more shameful. Perhaps the whole story
was a scheme to get her up to London. Perhaps she
might disappear there. What, then, would be done
to her child ? If Eichard Hyde was so" infatuated


with Lady Suffolk, what might he not do to win her
and her large fortune ? Even the news of Lady
Capel's death was now food for her suspicions. Was
she dead, or was the assertion only a part of the con-
spiracy ? If she had been dead, Sir Thomas Swaff-
ham would have heard of the death; yet she had
seen him that morning, and he had made no mention
of the circumstance.

" To London I will not go," she decided. " There
is some wicked plan for me. The will and the papers
are wanted, that they may be altered to suit it. I
will stay here with my child. Even sorrow great as
mine is best borne in one's own home."

She went to the escritoire to get the papers. When
she opened the senseless chamber of wood, she
found herself in the presence of many a torturing,
tender memory. In one compartment there were a
number of trout-flies. She remembered the day her
husband had made them, a long, rainy, happy day
during his last visit. Every time she passed' him,
he drew her face down to kiss it. And she could
hear little Joris talking about the work, and his
father's gay laughter at the child's remarks. In an
open slide, "there was a rude picture of a horse. It
was the boy's first attempt to draw Mephisto, and it
had been carefully put away. The place was full of
such appeals. Katherine rarely wept ; but, standing
before these mementos, her eyes filled, and with a
sob she clasped her hands across them, as if the
sight of such tokens from a happy past was intoler-

Drawer B was a large compartment full of papers
and of Hyde's personal treasures. Among them
was a ring that his father had given him, his
mother's last letter, a lock of his son s hair, her own
first letter," the shy, anxious note that she wrote
to Mrs. Gordon. She looked sadly at these things,
and thought how valueless all had become to him at
that hour. Then she began to arrange the papers
according to their size, and a small sealed parcel
slipped from among them. She lifted it, and saw a
rhyme in her husband's writing on the outside,


"Oh, ray love, ray love ! This thy gift I hold
More than fame or treasure, more than life or gold."

It had evidently been sealed within a few months,
for it was in a kind of bluish-tinted paper which
Hycle bought in Lynn one day during the past
winter. She turned it over and over in her hand,
and the temptation to see the love-token inside be-
came greater every moment. This was a thing her
husband had never designed any human eye but his
own to see. Whatever revelation there was in it,
much or little, would be true. Tortured by doubt
and despair, she felt that impulse to rely on' chance
for a decision which all have experienced in matters
of grave moment, apparently beyond natural eluci-

"If in this parcel there is some love-pledge from
Lady Suffolk, then I go not ; nothing shall make me
go. If in it there is no word of her, no message to
her or from her; if her name is not there, nor the
letters of her name, then I will go to my own. A
new love, one not a year old, I can put aside. I will
forgive every one but my Lady Suffolk."

S'o Katherine decided as she broke the seal with
firmness and rapidty. The first paper within the
cover made her tremble. It was a half sh^et which
she had taken one day from Brain's hand, and it
had Bram's name across it. On it she had written
the first few lines which she had had the right to
sign "Katherine Hyde." It was","' indeed, her first
"wife" letter; and within it was the precious love-
token, her own love-token, the bow of orange ribbon.

She gave a sharp cry as it fell upon the desk ; and
then she lifted and 'kissed it, and held it to her
breast, as she rocked herself to and fro in a passion-
ate transport of triumphant love. Again and again
she fed her eyes upon it. She recalled the night she
wore it first, and the touch of her mother's fingers
as she fastened it at her throat. She recalled her
father's happy smile of proud admiration for her ; the
afternoon, next, when she had stood with Joanna at
the foot of the garden and seen her lover wearing it
on his breast. She remembered what she had heard


about the challenge, and the desperate fight, and

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17 19 20

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe bow of orange ribbon; a romance of New York → online text (page 17 of 20)