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- The Maid of Maiden Lane - 4/44 -
that Rem did not better respect the position of guest; while Mrs. Moran was keenly sensitive to the false note in the evening's harmony, and anxious to atone for it by many little extra courtesies. So Hyde easily became the hero of the hour; he was permitted to teach the girls the charming old-world step of the Pas de Quatre, and afterwards to sing with them merry airs from Figaro, and sentimental airs from Lodoiska, and to make Rem's heart burn with anger at the expression he threw into the famous ballad "My Heart and Lute" which the trio sang twice over with great feeling.
Fortunately, some of Doctor Moran's neighbours called early in the evening. Then whist parties were formed; and while the tables were being arranged Cornelia found an opportunity to reason with Rem. "I never could have believed you would behave so unlike yourself," she said; and Rem answered bluntly--"That Englishman has insulted me ever since he came into the room."
"He is not an Englishman," said Cornelia.
"His father is an Englishman, and the man himself was born in England. The way he looks at me, the way he speaks to me, is insulting."
"I have seen nothing but courtesy to you, Rem."
"You have not the key to his impertinences. To-morrow, I will tell you something about Lieutenant Hyde."
"I shall not permit you to talk evil of him. I have no wish to hear ill reports about my acquaintances, Their behaviour is their own affair; at any rate, it is not mine. Be good-tempered, Rem; you are to be my partner, and we must win in every game."
But though Cornelia was all sweetness and graciousness; though Rem played well, and Lieutenant Hyde played badly; though Rem had the satisfaction of watching Hyde depart in his chair, while he stood with a confident friendship by Cornelia's side, he was not satisfied. There was an air of weariness and constraint in the room, and the little stir of departing visitors did not hide it. Doctor Moran had been at an unusual social tension; he was tired, and not pleased at Rem for keeping him on the watch. Cornelia was silent. Rem then approached his sister and said, "it is time to go home." Arenta looked at her friend; she expected to be asked to remain, and she was offended when Cornelia did not give her the invitation.
On the contrary, Cornelia went with her for her cloak and bonnet, and said not a word as they trod the long stairway but "Oh dear! How warm the evening is!"
"I expected you would ask me to stay with you, Cornelia." Arenta was tying her bonnet strings as she made this remark, and her fingers trembled, and her voice was full of hurt feeling.
"Rem behaved so badly, Arenta."
"I think that is not so. Did I also behave badly?"
"You were charming every moment of the evening; but Rem was on the point of quarrelling with Lieutenant Hyde. You must have seen it. In my father's house, this was not proper."
"I never saw Rem behave badly in my life. Suppose he does quarrel with that dandy Englishman, Rem would not get the worst of it. I have no fear for my brother Rem! No, indeed!"
"Bulk does not stand for much in a sword game."
"Do you mean they might fight a duel?"
"I think it is best for you to go home with Rem. Otherwise, he might, in his present temper, find himself near Becker's; and if a man is quarrelsome he may always get principals and seconds there. You have told me this yourself. In the morning Rem will, I hope, be reasonable."
"I thought you and I would talk things over to-night. I like to talk over a new pleasure."
"Dear Arenta, we shall have so much more time, to-morrow. Come to- morrow."
But Arenta was not pleased. She left her friend with an air of repressed injury, and afterwards made little remarks about Cornelia to her brother, which exactly fitted his sense of wounded pride. Indeed, they stood a few minutes in the Van Ariens' parlour to exchange their opinions still further--
"I think Cornelia was jealous of me, Rem. That, in plain Dutch, is what it all means. Does she imagine that I desire the attentions of a man who is neither an American nor a Dutchman? I do not. I speak the truth always, for I love the truth."
"Cornelia does desire them; I think that--and it makes me wretched."
"Oh, indeed, it is plain to see that she has fallen in love with that black-eyed man of many songs and dances. Well, then, we must admit that he danced to perfection. One may dislike the creature, and yet tell the truth."
"Do you truly believe that Cornelia is in love with him?"
"Rem, there are things a woman observes. Cornelia is changed to-night. She did not wish me to stay and talk about this man Hyde--she preferred thinking about him--such reveries are suspicious. I have felt the symptom. But, however, I may be wrong. Perhaps Cornelia was angry at Hyde, and anxious about you--Do you think that?"
Rem would not admit any such explanation; and, indeed, Arenta only made such suppositions to render more poignant those entirely contrary.
"Ever since she was a little girl, twelve, eleven years old, I have loved her," said Rem; "and she knows it."
"She knows it; that is so. When I was at Bethlehem, I read her all your letters; and many a time you spoke in them of her as your 'little wife.' To be sure, it was a joke; but she understood that you, at least, put your heart in it. Girls do not need to have such things explained. Come, come, we must go to our rooms; for that is our father I hear moving about. In a few minutes he will be angry, and then--"
She did not finish the sentence; there was no necessity; Rem knew what unpleasantness the threat implied, and he slipped off his shoes and stole quietly upstairs. Arenta was not disinclined to a few words if her father wished them; so she did not hurry, though the great Flemish clock on the stair-landing chimed eleven as she entered her room. It was an extraordinarily late hour, but she only smiled, as she struck her pretty fore-fingers together in time with it. She was not disposed to curtail the day; it was her method, always, to take the full flavour of every event that was not disagreeable.
"And, after all," she mused, "the evening was a possibility. It was a door on the latch--I may push it open and go in--who can tell? I saw how amazed he was at my beauty when I first entered the parlour--and he is but a man--and a young man who likes his own way--so much is evident." She was meanwhile unclasping her pearl necklace, and at this point she held it in her hands taking the fourth bead between her fingers, and smiled speculatively.
Then she heard her brother moving about the floor of the room above her, and a shadow darkened her face. She had strong family affections, and she was angry that Rem should be troubled by any man or woman, living:
"I have always thought Cornelia a very saint," she muttered; "but Love is the great revealer. I wonder if she is in love--to tell the truth, she was past finding out. I cannot say that I saw the least sign of it-- and between me and myself, Rem was unreasonable; however, I am not pleased that Rem felt himself to be badly used."
It was to this touch of resentment in her drifting thoughts that she performed her last duties. She did not hurry them. "Very soon there will be the noise of chairmen and carriages to disturb me," she thought; "and I may as well think a little, and put my things away."
So she folded each dainty blue morocco slipper in its separate piece of fine paper, and straightened out her ribbons, and wrapped her pale blue robe in its holland covering, and put every comb and pin in its proper place, all the time treading as softly as a mouse. And by and by the street was dark and still, and her room in the most perfect order. These things gave her the comfort of a good conscience; and she said her prayers, and fell calmly asleep, to the flattering thought, "I would not much wonder if, at this moment, Lieutenant Hyde is thinking about me."
In reality, Lieutenant Hyde was at that moment in the Belvedere Club, singing the Marseillaise, and listening to a very inflammatory speech from the French Minister. But a couple of hours later, Arenta's "wonder" would have touched the truth. He was then alone, and very ill satisfied; for, after some restless reflections, he said impatiently--
"I have again made a fool of myself. I have now all kinds of unpleasant feelings; and when I left that good Doctor's house I was well satisfied. His daughter is an angel. I praise myself for finding that out. She made me believe in all goodness; yes, even in patriotism! I, that have seen it sold a dozen times! Oh, how divinely shy and proud she is! I could not get her one step beyond the first civilities; even my eyes failed me to-night--her calm glances killed their fire--and she barely touched my hand, though I offered it with a respectful ardour, she must have understood:"--then he looked admiringly at the long, white hand and thoroughbred wrist which lay idly on the velvet cushion of his armchair; an exquisite ruffle of lace just touched it, and his eyes wandered from the ruffle to the velvet and silver embroidery of his coat; and the delicate laced lawn of his cravat.
"I have the reputation of beauty," he continued; "and I am perfectly dressed, and yet--yet--this little Beauty seemed unconscious of my advantages. But I cannot accept failure in this case. The girl is unparagoned. I am in love with her; sincerely in love. She fills my thoughts, and has done so, ever since I first saw her. It is a pure delight to think of her."
Then he rose, threw off his velvet and lace, and designedly let his thoughts turn to Arenta. "She is pretty beyond all prettiness," he said softly as he moved about, "She dances well, talks from hand to mouth, and she gave me one sweet glance; and I think if she has gone so far-- she might go further." At this reflection he smiled again, and lifting a decanter slowly poured into a goblet some amber-coloured sherry; saying--
"I dare not yet drink to the unapproachable Cornelia; but I may at least pour the wine to the blue-eyed goddess, with the pearl necklace, and the golden hair;" and as he lifted the glass, a memory from some past mirthful hour came into his remembrance; and he began to hum a strain of the song it brought to his mind--
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