Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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

. (page 8 of 20)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe bow of orange ribbon; a romance of New York → online text (page 8 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


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.

It was near ten o'clock when Joris came home.
His face was troubled, his clothing disarranged and
blood-stained ; and Lysbet never remembered to
have seen him so completely exhausted. " Bram is
with Neil," he said : ".he will not be home."

"And thou?"

" I helped them carry the other. To the ' King's
Arms' we took him. A strong man was needed
until their work the surgeons had done. I staid ;
that is all."

" Live will he ? "

" His left lung is pierced through. A bad wound
in the throat he has. At death's door is he, from
loss of the blood. But then, youth he has, and a
great spirit, and hope. I wish not for his death, my
God knows."

" Neil, what of him ? "

"Unconscious he was when I left him at his
home. I staid not there. His father and his mother



THE BO W OF ORANGE RIBBON. 89

were by his side ; Bram also. Does Katherine
know ? "

"She knows."

" How then ? "

" O Joris, if in her room thou could have heard her
crying ! My heart for her aches, the sorrowful one ! "

" See, then, that this lesson she miss not. It is a
hard one, but learn it she must. If thy love would
pass it by, think this, for her good it is. Many bit-
ter things are in it. What unkind words will now
be said ! Also, my share in the matter I must tell in
the kirk session ; and Dominie de Ronde is not one
slack in giving the reproof. With our own people,
a disgrace it will be counted. Can I not hear
Van Vleck grumble, ' Well, now, I hope Joris Van
Heemskirk has had enough of his fine English com-
pany ; ' and Elder Brouwer will say, ' He must marry
his daughter to an Englishman ; and, see, what has
come of it;' and that evil old woman, Madam Van
Corlaer, will shake her head and whisper, ' Yes,
neighbors, and depend upon it, the girl is of a light
mind and bad morals, and it is her fault ; and I shall
take care my nieces to her speak no more.' So it
will be: Katherine herself will find it so."

" The poor child ! Sorry am I she ever went to
Madam Semple's to see Mrs. Gordon. If thy word
I had taken, Joris! "

" If my word the elder also had taken. When first
he told me that his house he would offer to the Gor-
dons, I said to him, 'So foolish art thou! In the
end, what does not fit will fight.' If to-night thou
could have seen Mistress Gordon when she heard of
her nephew's hurt. Without one word of regret,
without one word of thanks, and in a great passion,
she left the house. For Neil she cared not. ' He
had been 'ever an envious kill-joy. He had ever
hated her dear Dick. He had ever been jealous of
any one handsomer than himself. He was a black
dog in the manger; and she hoped, with all her
heart, that Dick had done for him.' Beside herself
with grief and passion she was, or the elder had not
borne so patiently her words."



90 THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON.

"As her own son, she loved him."

"Yea, Lysbet; but just one should be. Weary
and sad am I to-night."

The next morning was the sabbath, and many
painful questions suggested themselves 'to Jorisand
Lysbet Van Heemskirk. Joris felt that he must not
take his seat among the deacons until he had been
fully exonerated of all blame of blood-guiltiness by
the dominie and his elders and deacons in full kirk
session. Madam could hardly endure the thought
of the glances that would be thrown at her daughter,
and the probable slights she would receive. Bata-
vius plainly showed an aversion to being seen in
Katherine's company. But these things did not
seem to Joris a sufficient reason for neglecting
worship. He thought it best for people to face the
unpleasant consequences of wrong-doing; and he
added, " In trouble also, my dear ones, where should
we go but into the house of the good God ? "

Katherine had not spoken during the discussion ;
but, when it was over, she said, " Mljn vader, mijn
moeder, to-day I cannot go! For me have some
pity. The dominie I will speak to first ; and what
he says, I will do."

" Between me and thy moeder thou shalt be."

"Bear it I cannot, I shall fall down. I shall be
ill ; and there will be shame and fear, and the service
to make stop, and then more wonder and more talk,
and the dominie angry also! At home I am the
best."

" Well, then, so it shall be."

But Joris was stern to Katherine, and his auger
added the last bitterness to her grief. No one had
said a word of reproach to her ; but, equally, no one
had said a word of pity. Even Joanna was shy and
cold, for Batavius had'made her feel that one's own
sister may fall below moral par and sympathy. " If
either of the men die," he had said, "I shall always
consider Katherine guilty of murder ; and nowhere
in the Holy Scriptures are we told to forgive murder,
Joanna. And even while the matter is uncertain, is
it not right to be careful ? Are we not told to avoid



THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON. 91

even the appearance of evil?" So that, with this
charge before him, BataVius felt that countenancing
Katherine in any way was not keeping it.

And certainly the poor girl might well fear the
disapproval of the general public, when her own
family made her feel her fault so keenly. The kirk
that morning would have been the pillory to her.
She was unspeakably grateful for the solitude of the
house, for space and silence, in which she could have
the relief of unrestrained weeping. About the mid-
dle of the morning, she heard Bram's footsteps.
She divined why he had come home, and she shrank
from meeting him until he removed the clothing he
had worn during the night's bloody vigil.

Bram had not thought of Katherine's staying,
from kirk; and when she confronted him, so tear-
stained and woe-begone, his heart was full of pity
for her. " My poor little Katherine ! " he said ; and
she threw her arms around his neck, and sobbed
upon his breast as if her heart would break.

" Mijn Jcleintje, who has grieved thee ? "

" O Bram ! is he dead ? "

"Who? Neil? I think he will get well once
more."

" What care I for Neil ? The wicked one ! I wish
that he might die. Yes, that I do."

" Whish ! that is wrong."

" Bram ! Bram ! A little pity give me. It is the
other one. Hast thou heard ? "

" How can he live ? Look at that sorrow, dear
one, and ask God to forgive and help thee."

" No, I will not look at it. I will ask God every
moment that he may get well. Could I help that I
should love him ? So kind, so generous, is he ! Oh,
my dear one, my dear one, would I had died for
thee!"

Bram was much moved. Within the last twenty-
four hours he had begun to understand the tempta-
tion in which Katherine had been ; begun to under-
stand that love never asks, ' What is thy name ? Of
what country art thou ? Who is thy father ? ' He
felt that so long as he lived he must remember



92 THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON.

Miriam Cohen as she stood talking to him in the
shadowy store. Beauty like hers was strange an-d
wonderful to the young Dutchman. He could not
forget her large eyes, soft and brown as gazelles ;
the warm pallor and brilliant carnation of her com-
plexion ; her rosy, tender mouth ; her abundant
black hair, fastened with large golden pins, studded
with jewels. He could not forget the grace of her
figure, straight and slim as a young-palm tree, clad
in a plain dark garment, and a neckerchief of white
India silk falling away from her exquisite throat.
He did not yet know that he was in love; he only
felt how sweet it was to sit still and dream of the
dim place, and the splendidly beautiful girl standing
among its piled up furniture and its hanging drap-
eries. And this memory of Miriam made him very
pitiful to Katherine.

" Every one is angry at me, Bram, even my father ;
and Batavius will not sit on the chair at my side ;
and Joanna says a great disgrace I have made for
her. And thou ? Wilt thou also scold me ? I think
I shall die of grief."

" Scold thee, thou little one ? That I will not.
And those that are angry with thee may be angry
with me also. And if there is any comfort I can get
thee, tell thy brother Bram. He will count thee
first, before all others. How could they make thee
weep ? Cruel are they to do so. A-nd as for Bata-
vius, mind him not. Not much I think of Batavius !
If he says this or that to thee, I will answer him."

"Bram! my Bram! my brother! There is one
comfort for me, if I knew that he still lived ; if one
hope thou could give me! "

" What hope there is, I will go and see. Before
they are back from kirk, I will be back ; and, if there
is good news, I will be glad for thee."

Not half an hour was Bram away ; and yet, to the
miserable girl, how grief and fear lengthened out
the moments ! She tried to prepare herself for the
worst ; she tried to strengthen her soul even for the
message of death. But very rarely is any grief as
bad as our own terror of it. When Bram came back,
it was with a word of hope on his lips.



THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON. 93

"I have seen," he said, "who dost thou think ?
the Jew Cohen. He of all men, he has sat by Capt.
Hyde's side all night ; and he has dressed the wound
the English surgeon declared 'beyond mortal skill.'
And he said to me, ' Three times, in the Persian
desert, I have cured wounds still worse, and the
Holy One hath given me the power of healing; and,
if He wills, the young man shall recover.' That is
what he said, Katherine."

"Forever I will love the Jew. Though he fail, I
will love him. So kind he is, even to those who
have not spoken well, nor done well, to him."

"So kind, also, was the Son of David to all of us.
Now, then, go wash thy face, and take comfort and
courage."

"Bram, leave me not."

" There is Neil. We have been companions ; and
his father and his mother are old, and need me."

"Also, I need thee. All the time they will make
me to feel, how wicked is Katherine Van Heems-
kirk!"

At this moment the family returned from the
morning service, and Bram rather defiantly drew his
sister to his side. Joris was not with them. He had
stopped at the " King's Arms " to ask if Capt. Hyde
was still alive; for, in spite of every thing, the
young man's heroic cheerfulness in the agony of the
preceding night had deeply touched Joris. No one
spoke to Katherine ; even her mother was annoyed
and humiliated at the social ordeal through which
they had just passed, and she thought it only reason-
able that the erring girl should be made to share the
trial. Batavius, however, had much curiosity ; and
his first thought on seeing Bram at home was,
"Neil is of course dead, and Bram is of no further
use ; "and, in the tone of one personally injured by
such a fatality, he ejaculated,

" So it is the end, then. On the sabbath day Neil
has gone. If it should be the sabbath day in the
other world, which is likely, it will be the worse
for Neil."

" What mean you ? "



94 THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON.

" Is not Neil Semple dead ? "

" No. I think, also, that he will live."

" I ain glad. It is good for Katherine."

"I see it not."

"Well, then, if he dies, is it not Katheriners
fault ! " '

"Heaven and hell! No! Katherine is not to
blame."

" All respectable and moral people will say so."

" Better for them not to say so. If I hear of it,
then I will make them say it to my face."

"Then? Well?"

"I have my hands and my feet, for them to
punish their tongues."

"And the kirk session ? "

"Oh, I care not! What is the kirk session to my
little Katherine ? Batavius, if man or woman you
hear speak ill of her, tell them it is not Katherine,
but Bram Van Heemskirk, that will bring every
thing back to them. What words I say, them I
mean."

"Oh, yes! And mind this, Bram, the words I
think, them words I will say, whether you like them
or like them not."

"As the wind you bluster, on the sabbath day,
also. In your ship I sail not, Batavius. Good-by,
then, Katb^rine ; and if any are unkind to thee, tell
thy brother. For thou art right, and not wrong."

But, though Bram bravely championed his sister,
he could not protect her from those wicked inuendos
disseminated for the gratification of the virtuous;
nor from those malicious regrets of very good people
over rumors which they declare to "be incredible,"
and yet which, nevertheless, they "unfortunately
believe to be too true." The Scotch have a national
precept which says, "Never speak ill of the dead."
Would it not be much better to speak no ill of the
living? Little could it have mattered to Madam
Bogardus or Madam Stuyvesant what a lot of silly
people said of them in Pearl Street or Maiden Lane,
a century after their death ; but poor Katherine Van
Heemskirk shivered and sickened in the presence of



THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON. 95

averted eyes and uplifted shoulders, and in that
chill atmosphere of disapproval which separated her
from the sympathy and confidence of her old friends
and acquaintances.

"It is thy punishment," said her mother; "bear it
bravely and patiently. In a little while, it will be
forgot." But the weeks went on, and the wounded
men slowly fought death away from their pillows,
and Katherine did not recover the place in social
estimation which she had lost through the ungovern-
able tempers of her lovers. For, alas, there are few
social pleasures that have so much vital power as
that of exploring the faults of others, and comparing
them with pur own virtues!

But nothing ill lasts forever; and in three months
Neil Semple was in his office again, wan and worn
with fever and suffering, and wearing his sword arm
in a sling, but still decidedly world-like and life-
like. It was characteristic of Neil that few, even of '
his intimates, cared to talk of the duel to him, to
make any observations on his absence, or any in-
quiries about his health. But it was evident that
public opinion was in a large measure with him.
Every young Provincial, who resented the domineer-
ing spirit of the army, felt Hyde's punishment in the
light of a personal satisfaction. Beekman also had
talked highly of the unbending spirit and physical
bravery of his principal; and though in the Middle
Kirk the affair was sure to be the subject of a re-
proof, and of a suspension of its highest privileges,
yet it was not difficult to feel that sympathy often
given to deeds publicly censured, but privately
admired. Joris remarked tjiis spirit with a little
astonishment and dissent. He could not find in his
heart any excuse for either Neil or Hyde ; and, when
the elder enlarged with some acerbity upon the
requirements of honor among men, Joris offended
him by replying,

"Well, then, elder, little I think of that 'honor*
which runs not with the laws of God and country."

"Let me tell you, Joris, the 'voice of the people is
the voice of God,' in a measure; and you may see



96 THL- BOW OF ORAXCE HiniiOX.

with your ain e'en that it mair than acquits Neil o'
wrong-doing. Man, Joris ! would you punish a fair
sword-fight wi' the hangman ? "

"A better way there is. In the pillory I would
stand these men of honor, who of their own feelings
think more than of the law of God. A very quick
end that punishment would put to a custom wicked
and absurd."

" Weel, Joris, we'll hae no quarrel anent the ques-
tion. You are a Dutchman, and hae practical ideas
o' things in general. Honor is a virtue that canna
be put in the Decalogue, like idolatry and murder
and theft."

" Say you the Decalogue ? Its yea and nay are
enough. Harder than any of God's laws are the
laws we make for ourselves. Little I think of their
justice and wisdom. If right was Neil, if wrong was
Hyde, honor punished both. A very foolish law is
honor, I think."

" Here comes Neil, and we'll let the question fa' to
the ground. There are wiser men than either you or
I on baith sides."

Joris nodded gravely, and turned to welcome the
young man. More than ever he liked him ; for, apart
from moral and prudential reasons, it was easy for the
father to forgive an unreasonable love for his Kath-
arine. Also, he was now more anxious for a mar-
riage between Neil and his daughter. It was indeed
the best thing to fully restore her to the social es-
teem of her own people ; for by making her his wife,
Neil would most emphatically exonerate her from all
blame in the quarrel. Just this far, and no farther,
had Neil's three months' suffering aided his suit,
he had now the full approval of Joris, backed by the
weight of this social justification.

But, in spite of these advantages, he was really
much farther away from Katherine. The three
months had been full of mental suffering to her, and
she blamed Neil entirely for it. She had heard from
Bram the story of the challenge and the fight; heard
how patiently Hyde had parried Neil's attack rather
than return it, until Xeil had so passionately re-



THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON. 97

fused any satisfaction less than his life ; heard, also,
how even at the point of death, fainting and falling,
Hyde had tried to protect her ribbon at his breast.
She never wearied of talking with Bram on the sub-
ject; she thought of it all day, dreamed of it all
night.

And she knew much more about it than her parents
or Joanna supposed. Bram had easily fallen into
the habit of calling at Cohen's to ask after his pa-
tient. He would have gone for his sister's comfort
alone, but it was also a great pleasure to himself. At
first he saw Miriam often ; and, when he did, life be-
came a heavenly thing to Bram Van Heemskirk.
And though latterly it was always the Jew himself
who answered his questions, there was at least the
hope that Miriam would be in the store, and lift her
eyes to him, or give him a smile or a few words of
greeting. Katherine very soon suspected how mat-
ters stood with her brother, and gratitude led her to
talk with him about the lovely Jewess. Every day
she listened with apparent interest to his descrip-
tions of Miriam, as he had seen her at various times;
and every day she felt more desirous to know the
girl whom she was certain Bram deeply loved.

But for some weeks after the duel she could not
bear to leave the house. It was only after both men
were known to be recovering, that she ventured to
kirk; and her experience there was not one which
tempted her to try the streets and the stores. How-
ever, no interest is a living interest in a community
but politics ; and these probably retain their power
because change is their element. People eventually
got weary to death of Neil Semple and Capt. Hyde
and Katherine Van Heemskirk. The subject had
been discussed in every possible light; and, when it
was known that neither of the men was going to die,
gossipers felt as if they had been somewhat de-
frauded, and the topic lost every touch of specula-
tion.

Also, far more important events had now the pub-
lic attention. During the previous March, the Stamp
Act and the Quartering Act had passed both houses



98 THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON.

of Parliament; and Virginia and Massachusetts,
conscious of their dangerous character, had roused
the fears of the other Provinces ; and a convention
of their delegates was appointed to meet during Oc-
tober in New York. It was this important session
which drew NeilSemple, with scarcely healed wounds,
from his chamber. The streets were noisy with
hawkers crying the dectected Acts, and crowded with
groups of stern-looking men discussing them. And,
with the prospect of soldiers quartered in every
home, women had a real grievance to talk over ; and
Katherine Van Heemskirk's love-affair became an
intrusion and a bore, if any one was foolish enough
to name it.

It was during this time of excitement that Kath-
erine said one morning, at breakfast, " Bram, wait
one minute for me. I am going to Kip's store for
my mother."

"It is a bad time, Katherine, you have chosen,"
said Batavius. " Full of men are the streets, angry
men too, and of swaggering British soldiers, whom
it would be a great pleasure to tie up in a halter.
The British I nate, bullying curs, every one of
them ! "

" Well, I know that you hate the British, Batavius.
You say so every hour."

"Katherine! "

"That is so, Joanna."

Madam looked annoyed. Joris rose, and said,
"Come then, Katherine, thou shalt go with me and
with Bram both. Batavius need not then fear for
thee."

His voice was so tender that Katherine felt an un-
usual happiness and exaltation; and she was also
young enough to be glad to see the familiar streets
again, and to feel the pulse of their vivid life make
her heart beat quicker.

At Kip's store, Bram left her. She had felt so free
and unremarked, that she said, " Wait not for me,
Bram. By myself I will go home. Or perhaps I
might call upon Miriam Cohen. What dost thou
think ? " And Bram's large, handsome face flushed



THE BOW OF ORANGE RIBBON. 99

like a girl's with pleasure as he answered, " That I
would like, and there thou could rest until the din-
ner-hour. As I go home, I could call for thee."

So, after selecting the goods her mother needed
at Kip's, Katherine was going up Pearl Street, when
she heard herself called in a familiar and urgent
voice. At the same moment a door was flung open ;
and Mrs. Gordon, running down the few steps, put
her hand upon the girl's shoulder.

"Oh, my dear, this is a piece of good fortune past
belief! Come into my lodgings. Oh, indeed you shall!
I will have no excuse. Surely you owe Dick and me
some reward after the pangs we have suffered for
you."

She was leading Katherine into the house as she
spoke; and Katherine had not the will, and there-
fore not the power, to oppose her. She placed the
girl by her side on the sofa ; she took her hands,
and, with a genuine grief and love, told her all that
" poor Dick " had suffered and was still suffering for
her sake.

" It was the most unprovoked challenge, my dear;
and Neil Semple behaved like a savage, I assure you.
When Dick was bleeding from half a dozen wounds,
a gentleman would have been satisfied, and ac-
cepted the mediation of the seconds; but Neil, in his
blind passion, broke the code to pieces. A man who
can dp nothing but be in a rage is a ridiculous and
offensive animal. Have you seen him since his re-
covery ? For I hear that he has crawled out of his
bed again."

" Him I have not seen."

"Gracious powers, miss! Is that all you say,
* Him I have not seen ' ? Make me patient with so
insensible a creature ! Here am I almost distracted
with my three months' anxiety ; and poor Dick, so

fone as to be past knowledge, breaking his true
eart for a sight of you ; and you answer me as if I
had asked, ' Pray, have you seen the newspaper to-
day ? ' "

Then Katherine covered her face, and sobbed with
a hopelessness and abandon that equally fretted



100 THE BO W OF ORANGE RIBBON.

Mrs. Gordon. " I wish I knew one corner of this
world inaccessible to lovers," she cried. " Of all
creatures, they are the most ridiculous and unrea-
sonable. Now, what are you crying for, child ? "

"If I could only see Richard, only see him for
one moment! "

"That is exactly what I am going to propose.
He will get better when he has seen you. I will call
a coach, and we will go at once."

"Alas! Go I dare not. My father and my
mother! "

" And Dick, what of Dick, poor Dick, who is dy-
ing for you ? " She went to the door, and gave the
order for a coach. " Your lover, Katherine. Child,
have you no heart ? Shall I tell Dick you would
not come with me ? "

" Be not so cruel to me. That you have seen me
at all, why need you say ? "

"Oh! indeed, miss, do not imagine yourself the
only person who values the truth. Dick always
asks me, 'Have you seen her? ' 'Tis my humor to
be truthful, and I am always swayed by my inclina-
tion. I shall feel it to be my duty to inform him
how indifferent you are. Katherine, put on your
bonnet again. Here also are my veil and cloak. No
one will perceive that it is you. It is the part of
humanity, I assure you. Do so much for a poor
soul who is at the grave's mputh-.'^

" My father, I promised him "

"O child! have six pennyworth of common feel,
ing about you. The man is dying for your sake.
If he were your enemy, instead of your true lover,
you might pity him so much. Do you not wish to
see Dick?"

" My life for his life I would give."

" Words, words, my dear. It is not your life he
wants. He asks only ten minutes of your time.
And if you desire to see him, give yourself the
pleasure. There is nothing more silly than to be


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 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 8 of 20)