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- The Maid of Maiden Lane - 10/44 -
keep away from his mother in his present unreason."
His mother was, however, George's first desire. He did not believe she would sanction his sacrifice to Annie Hyde. Justice, honour, gratitude! these were fine names of his father's invention to adorn a ceremony which would celebrate his life-long misery, and he rebelled against such an immolation of his youth and happiness. When he reached the house, he found that his mother had gone to the pond to feed her swans; and he decided to ride a little out of his way in order to see her there. Presently he came to a spot where tall, shadowing pines surrounded a large sheet of water, dipping their lowest branches into it. Mrs. Hyde stood among them, and the white, stately birds were crowding to her very feet. He reined in his horse to watch her, and though accustomed to her beauty, he marvelled again at it. Like a sylvan goddess she stood, divinely tall, and divinely fair; her whole presence suffused with a heavenly serenity and happiness! Upon the soft earth the hoofs of his horse had not been audible, but when he came within her sight, it was wonderful to watch the transformation on her countenance. A great love, a great joy, swept away like a gust of wind, the peace on its surface; and a glowing, loving intelligence made her instantly restless. She called him with sweet imperiousness, "George! Joris! Joris! My dear one!" and he answered her with the one word ever near, and ever dear, to a woman's heart--"MOTHER!"
"I thought you were with your father. Where have you left him?"
"In the wilderness. There is need for me to go to the city. My father will tell you WHY. I come only to see you--to kiss you--"
"Joris, I see that you are angry. Well then, my dear one, what is it? What has your father been saying to you?"
"He will tell you."
"SO! Whatever it is, your part I shall take. Right or wrong, your part I shall take."
"There is nothing wrong, dear mother."
"Money, is it?"
"It is not money. My father is generous to me."
"Then, some woman it is?"
"Kiss me, mother. After all, there is no woman like unto you."
She drew close to him, and he stooped his handsome face to hers, and kissed her many times. Her smile comforted him, for it was full of confidence, as she said--
"Trouble not yourself, Joris. At the last, your father sees through my eyes. Must you go? Well then, the Best of Beings go with you!"
"When are you coming to town, mother?"
"Next week. There is a dinner party at the President's, and your father will not be absent--nor I--nor you?"
"If I am invited, I shall go, just that I may see you enter the room. Let me tell you, that sight always fills my heart with a tumultuous pride and love."
"A great flatterer are you, Joris!" but she lifted her face again, and George kissed it, and then rode rapidly away.
He hardly drew rein until he reached his grandfather's house, a handsome Dutch residence, built of yellow brick, and standing in a garden that was, at this season, a glory of tulips and daffodils, hyacinths and narcissus--the splendid colouring of the beds being wonderfully increased by their borderings of clipped box. An air of sunshiny peace was over the place, and as the upper-half of the side-door stood open he tied his horse and went in. The ticking of the tall house-clock was the only sound he heard at first, but as he stood irresolute, a sweet, thin voice in an adjoining room began to sing a hymn.
"Grandmother! Grandmother!! Grandmother!!!" he called, and before the last appeal was echoed the old lady appeared. She came forward rapidly, her knitting in her hand. She was singularly bright and alert, with rosy cheeks, and snow-white hair under a snow-white cap of clear-starched lace. A snow-white kerchief of lawn was crossed over her breast, and the rest of her dress was so perfectly Dutch that she might have stepped out of one of Tenier's pictures.
"Oh, my Joris!" she cried, "Joris! Joris! I am so happy to see thee. But what, then, is the matter? Thy eyes are full of trouble."
"I will tell you, grandmother." And he sat down by her side and went over the conversation he had had with his father. She never interrupted him, but he knew by the rapid clicking of her knitting needles that she was moved far beyond her usual quietude. When he ceased speaking, she answered--
"To sell thee, Joris, is a great shame, and for nothing to sell thee is still worse. This is what I think: Let half of the income from the earldom go to the poor young lady, but THYSELF into the bargain, is beyond all reason. And if with Cornelia Moran thou art in love, a good thing it is;--so I say."
"Do you know Cornelia, grandmother?"
"Well, then, I have seen her; more than once. A great beauty I think her; and Doctor John has Money--plenty of money--and a very good family are the Morans. I remember his father--a very fine gentleman."
"But my father hates Doctor Moran."
"Very wicked is he to hate any one. Why, then?"
"He gave me only one reason--that his family is French."
"SO! Thy mother was Dutch. Every one cannot be English--a God's mercy they cannot! Now, then, thy grandfather is coming; thy trouble tell to him. Good advice he will give thee."
Senator Van Heemskirk however went first into his garden and gathering great handfuls of white narcissus and golden daffodils, he called a slave woman and bade her carry them to the Semple house, and lay them in, and around, his friend's coffin. One white lily he kept in his hand as he came towards his wife and grandson, with eyes fixed on its beauty.
"Lysbet," he said,--but he clasped George's hand as he spoke--"My Lysbet, if in the Dead Valley of this earth grow such heavenly flowers as this, we will not fear the grave. It is only to sleep on the breast that gives us the lily and the rose, and the wheat, and the corn. Oh, how sweet is this flower! It has the scent of Paradise."
He laid it gently down while he put off his fine broadcloth coat and lace ruffles and assumed the long vest and silk skull cap, which was his home dress; then he put it in a buttonhole of his vest, and seemed to joy himself in its delicate fragrance. With these preliminaries neither Joris nor Lysbet interfered; but when he had lit his long pipe and seated himself comfortably in his chair, Lysbet said--
"Where hast thou been all this afternoon?"
"I have been sealing up my friend's desk and drawers until his sons arrive. Very happy he looks. He is now ONE OF THOSE THAT KNOW."
"Well, then, after the long strife, 'He Rests.'"
"Men have written it. What know they about it? Rest would not be heaven to my friend Alexander Semple. To work, to be up and doing His Will, that would be his delight."
"I wonder, Joris, if in the next life we shall know each other?"
"My Lysbet, in this life do we know each other?"
"I think not. Here has come our dear Joris full of trouble to thee, for his father has said such things as I could not have believed. Joris, tell thy grandfather what they are."
And this time George, being very sure of hearty sympathy, told his tale with great feeling--perhaps even with a little anger. His grandfather listened patiently to the youth's impatience, but he did not answer exactly to his expectations.
"My Joris," he said, "so hard it is to accept what goes against our wishes. If Cornelia Moran you had not met, would your father's desires be so impossible to you? Noble and generous would they not seem--"
"But I have seen Cornelia, and I love her."
"Two or three times you have seen her. How can you be sure that you love her?"
"In the first hour I was sure."
"Of nothing are we quite sure. In too great a hurry are you. Miss Moran may not love you. She may refuse ever to love you. Her mind you have not asked. Beside this, in his family her father may not wish you. A very proud man is Doctor John."
"Grandfather, I may be an earl some day."
"An English earl. Doctor John may not endure to think of his only child living in that far-off country. I, myself, know how this thought can work a father to madness. And, again, your Cousin Annie may not wish to marry you."
"Faith, sir, I had not thought of myself as so very disagreeable."
"No. Vain and self-confident is a young man. See, then, how many things may work this way, that way, and if wise you are you will be quiet and wait for events. One thing, move not in your anger; it is like putting to sea in a tempest. Now I shall just say a word or two on the other side. If your father is so set in his mind about the Hydes, let him do the justice to them he wishes to do; but it is not right that he should make YOU do it for him."
"He says that only I can give Annie justice."
"But that is not good sense. When the present Earl dies, and she is left an orphan, who shall prevent your father from adopting her as his own daughter, and leaving her a daughter's portion of the estate? In such case, she would be in exactly the same position as if her brother had lived and become earl. Is not that so?"
"My dear, dear grandfather, you carry wisdom with you! Now I shall have
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