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- The Maid of Maiden Lane - 44/44 -
temptation. I have not heard an oath from him for six months."
"I suppose you would never forgive Jacobus, if you did hear one?"
"That is another matter. I hope I have a heart to forgive whatever Jacobus does, or says--he is my husband."
"It is then less wicked to blaspheme Almighty God, than to keep one of Lord Hyde's love letters. One fault may be forgiven, the other is unpardonable. Dear me! how religiously ignorant I am. As for my uncle swearing--and the passions that thus express themselves--everybody knows that anything that distantly resembles good temper, will suit Captain Jacobus."
"You look extremely handsome when you are scornful, Arenta; but it is not worthwhile wasting your charms on me. I am doing what I can to help Jacobus to keep his tongue clean, and I will not have Rem lead him into temptation. As for Rem, he is guilty of a great wrong; and he must now do what his father told him to do--work day and night, as men work, when a bridge is broken down. The ruin must be got out of the way, and the bridge rebuilt, then it will be possible to open some pleasant and profitable traffic with human beings again--not to speak of heaven."
"You are right--not to speak of heaven, I think heaven would be more charitable. Rem will not trouble Captain Jacobus. For my part I think a man that cannot bear temptation is very poorly reformed. If my uncle could see Rem, and yet keep his big and little oaths under bonds, I should believe in his clean tongue."
"Arenta, you are tormenting yourself with anger and ill-will, and above all with jealousy. In this way you are going to miss a deal of pleasure. I advise you not to quarrel with Cornelia. She will be a great resource. I myself am looking forward to the delightful change Jacobus may have at Hyde Manor. It will make a new life for him, and also for me. This afternoon something is vexing you. I shall take no offence. You will regret your bad temper to-morrow."
To-morrow Arenta did regret; but people do not always say they are sorry, when they feel so. She sat in the shadow of her window curtains and watched the almost constant stream of visitors, and messengers, and tradespeople at Doctor Moran's house; and she longed to have her hands among the lovely things, and to give her opinion about the delightful events sure to make the next few weeks full of interest and pleasure. And after she had received a letter from Rem, she resolved to humble herself that she might be exalted.
"Rem is already fortunate, and I can't help him by fighting his battle. Forgetfulness, is the word. For this wrong can have no victory, and to be forgotten, is the only hope for it. Beside, Cornelia had her full share in my happiness, and I will not let myself be defrauded of my share in her happiness--not for a few words--no! certainly not."
This reflection a few times reiterated resulted in the following note--
MY DEAR CORNELIA: I want to say so much, that I cannot say anything but--forgive me. I am shaken to pieces by my dreadful sufferings, and sometimes, I do not know what I say, even to those I love. Blame my sad fortune for my bad words, and tell me you long to forgive me, as I long to be forgiven. Your ARENTA.
"That will be sufficient," she reflected; "and after all, Cornelia is a sweet girl. I am her first and dearest friend, and I am determined to keep my place. It has made me very angry to see those Van Dien girls, and those Sherman girls, running in and out of the Moran house as if they owned Cornelia. Well then, if I have had to eat humble pie, I have had my say, and that takes the bitter taste out of my mouth--and a sensible woman must look to her future. I dare warrant, Cornelia is now answering my letter. I dare warrant, she will forgive me very sweetly."
She spent half-an-hour in such reflections, and then Cornelia entered with a smiling face. She would not permit Arenta to say another word of regret; she stifled all her self-reproaches in an embrace, and she took her back with her to her own home. And no further repentance embarrassed Arenta. She put her ready wit, and her clever hands to a score of belated things; and snubbed and contradicted the Van Dien and Sherman girls into a respectful obedience to her earlier friendship, and wider experience. Everything that she directed, or took charge of, went with an unmistakable vigour to completion; and even Madame Van Heemskirk was delighted with her ability, and grateful for her assistance.
"The poor Arenta!" she said to Mrs. Moran; "very helpful she is to us, and for her brother's fault she is not to blame. Wrong it would be to visit it on her."
And Arenta not only felt this gracious justice for herself, she looked much further forward, for she said to her father, "It is really for Rem's sake I am so obliging. By and by people will say 'there is no truth in that letter story. The Marquise is the friend of Lady Hyde; they are like clasped hands, and that could not be so, if Rem Van Ariens had done such a dreadful thing. It is all nonsense.' And if I hear a word about it, I shall know how to smile, and lift my shoulders, and kill suspicion with contempt. Yes, for Rem's sake, I have done the best thing."
So happily the time went on, that it appeared wonderful when Christmas was close at hand. Every preparation was then complete. The Manor House was a very picture of splendid comfort and day by day Cornelia's exquisite wardrobe came nearer to perfection. It was a very joy to go into the Moran house. The mother, with a happy light upon her face, went to-and-fro with that habitual sweet serenity, which kept the temperature of expectant pleasure at a degree not too exhausting for continuance. The doctor was so satisfied with affairs, that he was often heard timing his firm, strong steps to snatches of long forgotten military songs; and Cornelia, knowing her lover was every day coming nearer and nearer, was just as happy as a girl loving and well beloved, ought to be. Sorrow was all behind her, and a great joy was coming to meet her. Until mortal love should become immortal, she could hope for no sweeter interlude in life.
Her beauty had increased wonderfully; hope had more than renewed her youth, and confident love had given to her face and form, a splendour of colour and expression, that captivated everybody; though why, or how, they never asked--she charmed, because she charmed. She was the love, the honey, the milk of sweetest human nature.
One day the little bevy of feminine councillors looked at their work, and pronounced all beautiful, and all finished; and then there was a lull in the busy household, and then every one was conscious of being a little weary; and every one also felt, that it would be well to let heart, and brain, and fingers, and feet rest. In a few days there would likely be another English letter, and they could then form some idea as to when Lord Hyde would arrive. The last letter received from him had been written in London, and the ship in which he was to sail, was taking on her cargo, while he impatiently waited at his hotel for notice of her being ready to lift her anchor. The doctor thought it highly probable Hyde would follow this letter in a week, or perhaps less.
During this restful interval, Doctor and Mrs. Moran drove out one afternoon to Hyde Manor House. A message from Madame Van Heemskirk asked this favour from them; she wished naturally that they should see how exquisitely beautiful and comfortable was the home, which her Joris had trusted her to prepare for his bride. But she did not wish Cornelia to see it, until the bride-groom himself took her across its threshold. "An old woman's fancy it is," she said to Mrs. Moran; "but no harm is there in it, and not much do I like women who bustle about their houses, and have no fancies at all."
"Nor I," answered Mrs. Moran with a merry little laugh. "Do you know, that I told John to buy my wedding ring too wide, because I often heard my mother say that a tight wedding ring was unlucky." Then both women smiled, and began delightedly to look over together the stores of fine linen and damask, which the mother of Joris had laid up for her son's use.
It was a charming visit, and the sweet pause in the vivid life of the past few weeks, was equally charming to Cornelia. She rested in her room till the short daylight ended; then she went to the parlour and drank a cup of tea, and closed the curtains, and sat down by the hearth to wait for her father and mother. It was likely they would be a little late, but the moon was full and the sleighing perfect, and then she was sure they would have so much to tell her, when they did reach home.
So still was the house, so still was the little street, that she easily went to the land of reverie, and lost herself there. She thought over again all her life with her lover; recalled his sweet spirit, his loyal affection, his handsome face, and enchanting manner. "Heaven has made me so fortunate," she thought, "and now my fortune has arrived at my wishes. Even his delay is sweet. I desire to think of him, until all other thoughts are forgotten! Oh, what lover could be loved as I love him!"
Then with a soft but quick movement the door flew open, she lifted her eyes, to fill them with love's very image and vesture; and with a cry of joy flew to meet the bliss so long afar, but now so near. "O lovely and beloved! O my love!" Hyde cried, and then there was a twofold silence; the very ecstasy that no mortal words can utter. The sacred hour for which all their lives had longed, was at last dropt down to them from heaven. Between their kisses they spoke of things remembered, and of things to be, leaning to each other in visible sweetness, while
"Love breathed in sighs and silences Through two blent souls, one rapturous undersong."
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