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- The Maid of Maiden Lane - 6/44 -
"None of them. The two eldest have been long away. Neil was obliged to leave New York when the Act forbidding Tory lawyers to practice was passed. But he was not quite alone, his old friend Joris Van Heemskirk was with him to the last moment. The love of these old men for each other was a very beautiful thing."
"He was once rich. Did he lose everything in the war?"
"Very near all. His home was saved by Van Heemskirk, and he had a little money 'enough to die wi'' he said one day to me; and then he continued, 'there's compensations, Doctor, in having naething to leave. My lads will find no bone to quarrel over.' I met a messenger coming for me this morning, and when I went to his bedside, he said, with a pleasant smile, 'I'll be awa' in an hour or twa now, Doctor; and then I'll hae no mair worrying anent rebellion and democrats; I'll be under the dominion o' the King o' kings and His throned Powers and Principalities; and after a' this weary voting, and confiscations, and guillotining, it will be Peace--Peace--Peace:'--and with that word on his lips, the 'flitting' as he called it was accomplished."
"There is nothing to mourn in such a death, John."
"Indeed, no. It was just as he said 'a flitting.' And it was strange that, standing watching what he so fitly called the 'flitting,' I thought of some lines I have not consciously remembered for many years. They reflect only the old Greek spirit, with its calm acceptance of death and its untroubled resignation, but they seemed to me very applicable to the elder's departure:
Not otherwise to the hall of Hades dim He fares, than if some summer eventide A Message, not unlooked for, came to him; Bidding him rise up presently, and ride Some few hours' journey, to a friendly home."
"There is nothing to fear in such a death."
"Nothing at all. Last week when Cornelia and I passed his house, he was leaning on the garden gate, and he spoke pleasantly to her and told her she was a 'bonnie lassie.' Where is Cornelia?"
"In her room. John, she went to Duyckinck's this morning for me, and George Hyde met her again, and they took a walk together on the Battery. It was near the noon hour when she returned."
"She told you about it?"
"Oh yes, and without inquiry."
"Very good. I must look after that young fellow." But he said the words without much care, and Mrs. Moran was not satisfied.
"Then you do not disapprove the meeting, John?" she asked.
"Yes, I do. I disapprove of any young man meeting my daughter every time she goes out. Cornelia is too young for lovers, and it is not desirable that she should have attentions from young men who have no intentions. I do not want her to be what is called a belle. Certainly not."
"But the young men do not think her too young to be loved. I can see that Rem Van Ariens is very fond of her."
"Rem is a very fine young man. If Cornelia was old enough to marry, I should make no objections to Rem. He has some money. He promises to be a good lawyer. I like the family. It is as pure Dutch as any in the country. There is no objection to Rem Van Ariens."
"And George Hyde?"
"Has too many objectionable qualities to be worth considering."
"Well, Ava, I will only name one, and one for which he is not responsible; but yet it would be insuperable, as far as I am concerned. His father is an Englishman of the most pronounced type, and this young man is quite like him. I want no Englishman in my family."
"My family are of English descent."
"Thoroughly Americanized. They are longer in this country than the Washingtons."
"There have been many Dutch marriages among the Morans."
"That is a different thing. The Dutch, as a race, have every desirable quality. The English are natural despots. Rem was quite right last night. I saw and felt, as much as he did, the quiet but sovereign arrogance of young Hyde. His calm assumption of superiority was in reality insufferable. The young man's faults are racial; they are in the blood. Cornelia shall not have anything to do with him. Why do you speak of such disagreeable things, Ava?"
"It is well to look forward, John."
"No. It is time enough to meet annoyances when they arrive. But this is one not even to be thought of--to tell the last truth, Ava, I dislike his father, General Hyde, very much indeed."
"I cannot tell you 'why.' Yes, I will be honest and acknowledge that he always gives me a sense of hostility. He arrogates himself too much. When I was in the army, a good many were angry at General Washington, for making so close a friend of him--but Washington has much of the same exclusive air. I hope it is no treason to say that much, for a good deal of dignity is permissible, even peremptory, when a man fills great positions. As for the Hydes, father and son, I would prefer to hear no more about them. When the youth was my guest, I was civil to him; but Arenta. You know that I have never seen her."
"That is the truth. I had forgotten. Well, then, I went to her with the news; and she rubbed her chin, and called to her man Govert, to get a bow of crape and put it on the front door. 'It is moral, and proper, and respectable, Arenta,' she said, 'and I advise you to do the same.' But then she laughed and added, 'Shall I tell you, niece, what I think of the great men I have met? They are disagreeable, conceited creatures; and ought, all of them, to have died before they were born; and for my part, I am satisfied not to have had the fate to marry one of them. As for Benjamin Franklin,' she continued, 'he was a particularly great man, and I am particularly grateful that I never saw him but once. I formed my opinion of him then; for I only need to see a person once, to form an opinion--and he is dead! Well, then, every one dies at their own time.'"
"My father says Congress goes into mourning for him."
"Does it?" asked Arenta, with indifference. "Aunt was beginning to tell me something about him when he was in France, but I just put a stop to talk like that, and said, 'Now, aunt, for a little of my own affairs.' So I told her about George Berckel, and asked her if she thought I might marry George; and she answered, 'If you are tired of easy days, Arenta, go, and take a husband,' After a while I spoke to her about Lieutenant Hyde, and she said, 'she had seen the little cockrel strutting about Pearl Street.'"
"That was not a proper thing to say. Lieutenant Hyde carries himself in the most distinguished manner."
"Well, then, that is exactly so; but Aunt Angelica has her own way of saying things. She intended nothing unkind or disrespectful. She told me that she had frequently danced with his father when she was a girl and a beauty; and she added with a laugh, 'I can assure you, Arenta, that in those days he was no saint; although he is now, I hear, the very pink of propriety.'"
"Is not that as it should be, Arenta? We ought surely to grow better as we grow older."
"That is not to be denied, Cornelia. Now I can tell you something worth hearing about General Hyde."
"If it is anything wrong, or unkind, I will not listen to it, Arenta. Have you forgotten that the good Sisters always forbid us to listen to an evil report?"
"Then one must shut one's ears if one lives in New York. But, indeed, it is nothing wrong--only something romantic and delightful, and quite as good as a story book. Shall I tell you?"
"As you wish."
"As you wish."
"Then I would like to hear it."
"Listen! When Madame Hyde was Katherine Van Heemskirk, and younger than you are, she had two lovers; one, Captain Dick Hyde, and the other a young man called Neil Semple; and they fought a duel about her, and nearly cut each other to pieces."
"Oh, it is the truth! It is the very truth, I assure you! And while Hyde still lay between life and death, Miss Van Heemskirk married him; and as soon as he was able, he carried her off at midnight to England; and there they lived in a fine old house until the war. Then they came back to New York, and Hyde went into the Continental army and did great things, I suppose, for as we all knew, he was made a general. You should have heard Aunt Angelica tell the story. She remembered the whole affair. It was a delightful story to listen to, as we drank our chocolate. And will you please only try to imagine it of Mrs. General Hyde! A woman so lofty! So calm! So afar off from every impropriety that you always feel it impossible in her presence to commit the least bit of innocent folly. Will you imagine her as Katherine Van Heemskirk in a short, quilted petticoat, with her hair hanging in two braids down her back, running away at midnight with General Hyde!"
"He was her husband. She committed no fault."
"I was thinking of the quilted petticoat, and the two braids; for who now dresses so extravagantly and so magnificently as Madame Hyde? She has an Indian shawl that cost two hundred pounds. Aunt Angelica says John Embree told her 'THAT much at the very least'--and as for the General! is there any man in New York so proud, and so full of dignity-- and morality? He is in St. Paul's Chapel every Sunday, and when you see him there, how could you imagine that he had fought half-a-dozen duels, for half-a-dozen beauties?"
"Half-a-dozen duels! Oh, Arenta!"
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