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- The Maid of Maiden Lane - 5/44 -
"Let the toast pass, Drink to the lass I'll warrant, she'll prove an excuse for the glass."
It was remarkable that he did not take Arenta's brother into his speculations at all, and yet Rem Van Ariens was at that very hour chafing restlessly and sleeplessly under insults he conceived himself to have received, in such fashion and under such circumstances as made reprisal impossible. In reality, however, Van Ariens had not been intentionally wounded by Hyde. The situation was the natural result of incipient jealousy and sensitive pride on Rem's part; and of that calm indifference and complaisance on Hyde's part, which appeared tacitly to assert its own superiority and expect its recognition as a matter of course. Indeed, at their introduction, Rem had affected Hyde rather pleasantly; and when the young Dutch gentleman's opposition became evident, Hyde had simply ignored it. For as yet the thought of Rem as a rival had not entered his mind.
But this is the way of Love; its filmiest threads easily spin themselves further; and a man once entangled is bound by that unseen chain which links the soul to its destiny.
HYDE AND ARENTA
Seldom is Love ushered into any life with any pomp of circumstance or ceremony; there is no overture to our opera, no prologue to our play, and the most momentous meetings occur as if by mere accident. A friend delayed Cornelia a while on the street; and turning, she met Hyde face to face; a moment more, or less, and the meeting had not been. Ah, but some Power had set that moment for their meeting, and the delay had been intended, and the consequences foreseen!
In a dim kind of way Hyde realized this fact as he sat the next day with an open book before him. He was not reading it; he was thinking of Cornelia--of her pure, fresh beauty; and of that adorable air of reserve, which enhanced, even while it veiled her charms. "For her love I could resign all adventures and prison myself in a law book," he said, "I could forget all other beauties; in a word, I could marry, and live in the country. Oh how exquisite she is! I lose my speech when I think of her!"
Then he closed his book with impatience, and went to Prince's and bought a little rush basket filled with sweet violets. Into their midst he slipped his visiting card, and saw the boy on his way with the flowers to Cornelia ere he was satisfied they would reach her quickly enough. This finished, he began to consider what he should do with his day. Study was impossible; and he could think of nothing that was possible. "It is the most miserable thing," he muttered, "to be in love, unless you can go to the adored one, every hour, and tell her so,"--then turning aimlessly into Pearl Street, he saw Cornelia.
She was dressed only in a little morning gown of Indian chintz, but in such simple toilet had still more distinctively that air of youthful modesty which he had found so charmingly tantalizing. He hasted to her side. He blessed his good angel for sending him such an enchanting surprise. He said the most extravagant things, in the most truthful manner, as he watched the blushes of pleasure come and go on her lovely face, and saw by glimpses, under the veiling eyelids, that tender light that never was on sea or land, but only on a woman's face when her soul is awakening to Love.
Cornelia was going to the "Universal Store" of Gerardus Duyckinck, and Hyde begged to go with her. He said he was used to shopping; that he always went with his mother, and with Lady Christina Griffin, and Mrs. White, and many others; that he had good taste, and could tell the value of laces, and knew how to choose a piece of silk, or match the crewels for her embroidery; and, indeed, pleaded his case so merrily, that there was no refusing his offer. And how it happened lovers can tell, but after the shopping was finished they found themselves walking towards the Battery with the fresh sea wind, and the bright sunshine and the joy of each other's presence all around them.
"Such a miraculous piece of happiness!" the young fellow ejaculated; and his joy was so evident that Cornelia could not bear to spoil it with any reluctances, or with half-way graciousness. She fell into his joyous mood, and as star to star vibrates light, so his soul touched her soul, through some finer element than ordinary life is conscious of. A delightsome gladness was between them, and their words had such heart gaiety, that they seemed to dance as they spoke; while the wind blowing Cornelia's curls, and scarf, and drapery, was like a merry playfellow.
Now Love has always something in it of the sea; and the murmur of the tide against the pier, the hoarse voices of the sailor men, the scent of the salt water, and all the occult unrecognized, but keenly felt life of the ocean, were ministers to their love, and forever and ever blended in the heart and memory of the youth and maid who had set their early dream of each other to its potent witchery. Time went swiftly, and suddenly Cornelia remembered that she was subject to hours and minutes, A little fear came into her heart, and closed it, and she said, with a troubled air, "My mother will be anxious. I had forgotten. I must go home." So they turned northward again, and Cornelia was silent, and the ardour of her lover was a little chilled; but yet never before had Cornelia heard simple conversation which seemed so eloquent, and so full of meanings-- only, now and then, a few brief words; but oh! what long, long thoughts, they carried with them!
At the gates of her home they stood a moment, and there Hyde touched her hand, and said, "I have never, in all my life, been so happy. It has been a walk beyond hope, and beyond expression!" And she lifted her face, and the smile on her lips and the light in her eyes answered him. Then the great white door shut her from his sight, and he walked rapidly away, saying to his impetuous steps--
"An enchanting creature! An adorable girl! I have given her my heart; and lost, is lost; and gone, is gone forever. That I am sure of. But, by St. George! every man has his fate, and I rejoice that mine is so sweet and fair! so sweet! so sweet! so fair!"
Cornelia trembled as she opened the parlour door, she feared to look into her mother's face, but it was as serene as usual, and she met her daughter's glance with one of infinite affection and some little expectancy. This was a critical moment, and Cornelia hesitated slightly. Some little false sprite put a ready excuse into her heart, but she banished it at once, and with the courage of one who fears lest they are not truthful enough, she said with a blunt directness which put all subterfuge out of the question--
"Mother, I have been a long time, but I met Lieutenant Hyde, and we walked down to the Battery; and I think I have stayed beyond the hour I ought to have stayed--but the weather was so delightful."
"The weather is very delightful, and Lieutenant Hyde is very polite. Did he speak of the violets he sent you?"
"I suppose he forgot them. Ah, there they are! How beautiful! How fragrant! I will give them to you, mother."
"They are your own, my dear. I would not give them away."
Then Cornelia lifted them, and shyly buried her face in their beauty and sweetness; and afterwards took the card in her hand and read "Lieutenant George Hyde." "But, mother," she said, "Arenta called him Joris."
"Joris is George, my dear."
"Certainly, I had forgotten. Joris is the Dutch, George is the English form. I think I like George better."
"As you have neither right nor occasion to call him by either name, it is of no consequence Take away your flowers and put them in water--the young man is very extravagant, I think. Do you know that it is quite noon, and your father will be home in a little while?"
And there was such kind intent, such a divining sympathy in the simple words, that Cornelia's heart grew warm with pleasure; and she felt that her mother understood, and did not much blame her. At the same time she was glad to escape all questioning, and with the violets pressed to her heart, and her shining eyes dropped to them, she went with some haste to her room. There she kissed the flowers, one by one, as she put them in the refreshing water; and then, forgetting all else, sat down and permitted herself to enter the delicious land of Reverie. She let the thought of Hyde repossess her; and present again and again to her imagination his form, his face, his voice, and those long caressing looks she had seen and felt, without seeming to be aware of them.
A short time after Cornelia came home, Doctor Moran returned from his professional visits. As he entered the room, his wife looked at him with a curious interest. In the first place, the tenor of her thoughts led her to this observation. She wished to assure herself again that the man for whom she had given up everything previously dear to her was worthy of such sacrifice. A momentary glance satisfied her. Nature had left the impress of her nobility on his finely-formed forehead; nothing but truth and kindness looked from his candid eyes; and his manner, if a little dogmatic, had also an unmistakable air of that distinction which comes from long and honourable ancestry and a recognized position. He had also this morning an air of unusual solemnity, and on entering the room, he drew his wife close to his heart and kissed her affectionately, a token of love he was not apt to give without thought, or under every circumstance.
"You are a little earlier to day," she said. "I am glad of it."
"I have had a morning full of feeling. There is no familiarity with Death, however often you meet him."
"And you have met Death this morning, I see that, John?"
"As soon as I went out, I heard of the death of Franklin. We have truly been expecting the news, but who can prepare for the final 'He is gone.' Congress will wear mourning for two months, I hear, and all good citizens who can possibly do so will follow their example. The flags are at half-mast, and there is sorrow everywhere."
"And yet, John, why?" asked Mrs. Moran. "Franklin has quite finished his work; and has also seen the fruit of all his labours. Not many men are so happy. I, for one, shall rejoice with him, and not weep for him."
"You are right, Ava. I must now tell you that Elder Semple died this morning. He has been long sick, but the end came suddenly at last."
"The dear old man! He has been sick and sorrowful, ever since his wife died. Were any of his sons present?"
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