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- The Maid of Maiden Lane - 2/44 -


"And it is my grandson who is at her side. The rascal! He ought now to be reading his law books in Mr. Hamilton's office. But what will you? The race of young men with old heads on their shoulders is not yet born-- a God's mercy it is not!"

"We also have been young, Van Heemskirk."

"I forget not, my friend. My Joris sees not me, and I will not see him." Then the two old men were silent, but their eyes were fixed on the youth and maiden, who were slowly advancing towards them; the sun's westering rays making a kind of glory for them to walk in.

She might have stepped out of the folded leaves of a rosebud, so lovely was her face, framed in its dark curls, and shaded by a gypsy bonnet of straw tied under her chin with primrose-coloured ribbons. Her dress was of some soft, green material; and she carried in her hand a bunch of daffodils. She was small, but exquisitely formed, and she walked with fearlessness and distinction Yet there was around her an angelic gravity, and that indefinable air of solitude, which she had brought from innocent studies and long seclusion from the tumult and follies of life.

Of all this charming womanhood the young man at her side was profoundly conscious. He was the gallant gentleman of his day, hardly touching the tips of her fingers, but quite ready to fall on his knees before her. A tall, sunbrowned, military-looking young man, as handsome as a Greek god, with eyes of heroic form; lustrous, and richly fringed; and a beautiful mouth, at once sensitive and seductive. He was also very finely dressed, in the best and highest mode; and he wore his sword as if it were a part of himself. It was no more in his way than if it were his right arm. Indeed, all his movements were full of confidence and ease; and yet it was the vivacity, vitality, and ready response of his face that was most attractive.

His wonderful eyes were bent upon the maid at his side; he saw no other earthly thing. With a respectful eagerness, full of admiration, he talked to her; and she answered his words--whatever they were--with a smile that might have moved mountains. They passed the two old men without any consciousness of their presence, and Van Heemskirk smiled, and then sighed, and then said softly--

"So much youth, and beauty, and happiness! It is a benediction to have seen it! I shall not reprove Joris at this time. But now I must go back to Federal Hall; the question of the Capital makes me very anxious. Every man of standing must feel so."

"And I must go to my tan pits, for it is the eye of the master that makes the good servant. You will vote for New York, Van Heemskirk?--that is a question I need not to ask?"

"Where else should the capital of our nation be? I think that Philadelphia has great presumptions to propose herself against New York:--this beautiful city between the two rivers, with the Atlantic Ocean at her feet!"

"You say what is true, Van Heemskirk. God has made New York the capital, and the capital she will be; and no man can prevent it. It was only yesterday that Senator Greyson from Virginia told me that the Southern States are against Philadelphia. She is very troublesome to the Southern States, day by day dogging them with her schemes for emancipation. It is the way to make us unfriends."

"I think this, Van Ariens: Philadelphia may win the vote at this time; she has the numbers, and she has 'persuasions'; but look you! NEW YORK HAS THE SHIPS AND THE COMMERCE, AND THE SEA WILL CROWN HER! 'The harvest of the rivers is her revenue; and she is the mart of nations.' That is what Domine Kunz said in the House this morning, and you may find the words in the prophecy of Isaiah, the twenty-third chapter."

During this conversation they had forgotten all else, and when their eyes turned to the Moran house the vision of youth and beauty had dissolved. Van Heemskirk's grandson, Lieutenant Hyde, was hastening towards Broadway; and the lovely Cornelia Moran was sauntering up the garden of her home, stooping occasionally to examine the pearl-powdered auriculas or to twine around its support some vine, straggling out of its proper place.

Then Van Ariens hurried down to his tanning pits in the swamp; and Van Heemskirk went thoughtfully to Broad Street; walking slowly, with his left arm laid across his back, and his broad, calm countenance beaming with that triumph which he foresaw for the city he loved. When he reached Federal Hall, he stood a minute in the doorway; and with inspired eyes looked at the splendid, moving picture; then he walked proudly toward the Hall of Representatives, saying to himself, with silent exultation as he went:

"The Seat of Government! Let who will, have it; New York is the Crowning City. Her merchants shall be princes, her traffickers the honourable of the earth; the harvest of her rivers shall be her royal revenue, and the marts of all nations shall be in her streets."

CHAPTER II

THIS IS THE WAY OF LOVE

Cornelia lingered in the garden, because she had suddenly, and as yet unconsciously, entered into that tender mystery, so common and so sovereign, which we call Love. In Hyde's presence she had been suffused with a bewildering, profound emotion, which had fallen on her as the gentle showers fall, to make the flowers of spring. A shy happiness, a trembling delightful feeling never known before, filled her heart. This handsome youth, whom she had only seen twice, and in the most formal manner, affected her as no other mortal had ever done. She was a little afraid; something, she knew not what, of mystery and danger and delight, was between them; and she did not feel that she could speak of it. It seemed, indeed, as if she would need a special language to do so.

"I have met him but twice," she thought; "and it is as if I had a new, strange, exquisite life. Ought I tell my mother? But how can I? I have no words to explain--I do not understand--I thought it would break my heart to leave the good Sisters and my studies, and the days so calm and holy; and now--I do not even wish to go back. Sister Langaard told me it would be so if I let the world come into my soul--Alas! if I should be growing wicked!"

The thought made her start; she hastened her steps towards the large entrance door, and as she approached it a negro in a fine livery of blue and white threw the door wide open for her. Answering his bow with a kind word, she turned quickly out of the hall, into a parlour full of sunshine. A lady sat there hemstitching a damask napkin; a lady of dainty plainness, with a face full of graven experiences and mellowed character. Purity was the first, and the last, impression she gave. And when her eyes were dropped this idea was emphasized by their beautiful lids; for nowhere is the flesh so divine as in the eyelids. And Ava Moran's eyelids were full of holy secrets; they gave the impression of a spiritual background which was not seen, but which could be felt. As Cornelia entered she looked up with a smile, and said, as she slightly raised her work, "it is the last of the dozen, Cornelia."

"You make me ashamed of my idleness, mother. Have I been a long time away?"

"Longer than was unnecessary, I think."

"I went to Embree's for the linen thread, and he had just opened some English gauzes and lute-strings. Mrs. Willets was choosing a piece for a new gown, for she is to dine with the President next week, and she was so polite as to ask my opinion about the goods. Afterwards, I walked to Wall Street with her; and coming back I met, on Broadway, Lieutenant Hyde--and he gave me these flowers--they came from Prince's nursery gardens--and, then, he walked home with me. Was it wrong? I mean was it polite--I mean the proper thing to permit? I knew not how to prevent it."

"How often have you met Lieutenant Hyde?"

"I met him for the first time last night. He was at the Sylvesters', and I danced three times with him."

"That was too often."

"He talked with father, and father did not oppose my dancing."

"Your father thinks of nothing, now, but the Capital question. I dare say, after he had asked Lieutenant Hyde how he felt on that subject he never thought of the young man again. And pray what did Lieutenant Hyde say to you this afternoon?"

"He gave me the flowers, and he told me about a beautiful opera, of which I have never before heard. It is called Figaro. He says, in Europe, nothing is played, or sung, or whistled, but--Figaro; that nobody goes to any opera but--Figaro; and that I do not know the most charming music in the world if I do not know--Figaro. He asked permission to bring me some of the airs to-night, and I said some civilities. I think they meant 'Yes.' Did I do wrong, mother?"

"I will say 'no,' my dear; as you have given the invitation. But to prevent an appearance of too exclusive intimacy, write to Arenta, and ask her and Rem to take tea with us. Balthazar will carry the note at once."

"Mother, Arenta has bought a blue lute string. Shall I not also have a new gown? The gauzes are very sweet and genteel, and I think Mrs. Jay will not forget to ask me to her dance next week. Mr. Jefferson is sure to be there, and I wish to walk a minuet with him."

"Your father does not approve of Mr. Jefferson. He has not spoken to him since his return from France. He goes too far--IN HIS WORDS."

"But all the ladies of distinction are proud to be seen in his company; and pray what is there against him?"

"Only his politics, Cornelia. I think New York has gone mad on that subject. Madame Barens will not speak to her son, because he is a Federalist; and Madame Lefferts will not speak to HER son, because he is NOT a Federalist. Mr. Jefferson, also, is thought to favour Philadelphia for the capital; and your father is as hot on this subject as he was on the Constitution. My dear, you will find that society is torn in two by politics."

"But women have nothing to do with politics."

"They have everything to do with politics. They always have had. You are not now in a Moravian school, Cornelia; and Bethlehem is not New York. The two places look at life from different standpoints."


The Maid of Maiden Lane - 2/44

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