Arenta's Marriage
The Maid of Maiden Lane
Author:Amelia E. Barr

For a few weeks, Hyde's belief that the very stars would connive with a true lover seemed a reliable one. Madame Jacobus, attracted at their first meeting to the youth, soon gave him an astonishing affection. And yet this warm love of an old woman for youth and beauty was a very natural one--a late development of the maternal instinct leading her even to what seemed an abnormal preference. For she put aside her nephew's claims with hardly a thought, and pleased herself day by day in so managing and arranging events that Hyde and Cornelia met, as a matter of course. Arenta was not, however, deceived; she understood every maneuvre, but the success of her own affairs depended very much on her aunt's cooperation and generosity, and so she could not afford, at this time, to interfere for her brother.

"But I shall alter things a little as soon as I am married," she told herself. "I will take care of that. At this time I must see, and hear, and say nothing. I must act politely--for I am always polite--and Athanase also is in favour of politeness--but I take leave to say that Joris Hyde shall not carry so much sail when a few weeks are gone by. So happy he looks! So pleased with himself! So sure of all he says and does! I am angry at him all the time. Well, then, it will be a satisfaction to abate a little the confidence of this co**ck-sure young man."

Arenta's feelings were in kind and measure shared by several other people; Doctor Moran held them in a far bitterer mood; but he, also,-- environed by circumstances he could neither alter nor command,--was compelled to satisfy his disapproval with promises of a future change. For the wedding of Arenta Van Ariens had as**sumed a great social importance. Arenta herself had talked about the affair until all classes were on the tiptoe of expectation. The wealthy Dutch families, the exclusive American set, the home and foreign diplomatic circles, were alike looking forward to the splendid ceremony, and to the great breakfast at Peter Van Ariens' house, and to the ball which Madame Jacobus was to give in the evening. None of the younger people had ever been in madame's fantastic ballroom, and they were eager for this entry into her wonderful house. For their mothers--seeing things through the mists of Time--had, innocently enough, exaggerated the marvels of the Chinese lanterns, the feather flowers and gorgeously plumed birds, the cases of tropical butterflies and beetles, and the fascination of the pagan deities, until they were ready to listen to any tale about Madame Jacobus and to swallow it like cream.

So Doctor Moran, being physician and family friend to most of the invited guests, had to listen to such reminiscences and anticipations wherever he went. He knew that he could not talk against the great public current, and that in the excited state of social feeling it would be a kind of treason even to hint disapproval of Arenta, or of any of her friends or doings. But he suffered. He was questioned by some, he was enlightened by others; his opinion was asked about dresses and ceremonies, he was constantly congratulated on his daughter's prominence as bridesmaid, and he was sent for professionally, that he might be talked to socially. Yet if he ventured to hint dissatisfaction, or to express himself by a scornful "Pooh! Pooh!" he was answered by looks of such astonishment, of such quick-springing womanly suspicions, that he could not doubt the kind of conversation which followed his exit: "Do you think Doctor Moran VERY clever?"

"Most people think so."

"He is so unsympathetic. Doctor Moore knows everything Madame Jacobus is going to have, and to do. I think doctors ought to be chatty. It is so good for their patients to be cheered up a little."

Doctor Moran divined perfectly this taste for gossip and MEDICINAL sympathy combined, and to administer it was, to him, more nauseous than his own bitterest drugs. So in these days he was not a cheerful man to live with, and Cornelia's beauty and radiant happiness affected him very much as Hyde's pronounced satisfaction affected Arenta. One morning, as he was returning home after a round of disagreeable visits, he saw Cornelia and Hyde coming up Broadway together. They were sauntering side by side in all the lazy happiness of perfect love; and as he looked at them the sorrow of an immense disillusion filled him to the lips. He had believed himself, as yet, to be the first and the dearest in his child's love; but in that moment his eyes were opened, and he felt as if he had been suddenly thrust out from it and the door closed upon him.

He did the wisest thing possible: he went home to his wife. She heard him ride with clattering haste into the stone court, and soon after enter the house from the back, banging every door after him. She knew then that something had angered him--that he was in that temper which makes a woman cry, but which a man can only relieve by noisy or emphatic movement of some kind. A resolute look came into her face and she said to herself, "John has always had his own way--and my way also; but Cornelia's way--the child must surely have something to say about that."

"Where is Cornelia, Ava?" He asked the question with a quick glance round the room, as if he expected to find her present.

"Cornelia is not at home to-day."

"Is she ever at home now?"

"You know that Arenta's wedding--"

"Arenta's wedding! I am tired to death of it: I have heard nothing this morning but Arenta's wedding. Why the deuce! should my house be turned upside down and inside out for Arenta's wedding? Women have been married before Arenta Van Ariens, and women will be married after her. What is all this fuss about?"

"You know--"

"Bless my soul! of course I know. I know one thing at least, that I have just met Cornelia and that young fop George Hyde coming up the street together, as if they two alone were in the world. They never saw me, they could see nothing but themselves."

"Men and women have done such a thing before, John, and they will do it again. Cornelia is a beautiful girl; it is natural that she should have a lover."

"It is very unnatural that she should choose for her lover the son of my worst enemy."

"I am sure you wrong General Hyde. When was he your enemy? How could he be your enemy?"

"When was he my enemy? Ever since the first hour we met. Often he tried to injure me with General Washington; often he accused me of showing partiality to certain officers in the army; only last year he prevented my election to the Senate by using all his influence in favour of Joris Van Heemskirk. If he has not done me more injury and more injustice, 'tis because he has not had the opportunity. And you want me to give Cornelia to his son! Yes, you do, Ava! I see it on your face. You stretch my patience too far. Can I not see--"

"Can an angry man ever see? No, he cannot. You feed your own suspicions, John. You might just as well link Cornelia's name with Rem Van Ariens as with Joris Hyde. She is continually in Rem's company. He is devoted to her. She cannot possibly misunderstand his looks and words, she must perceive that he is her ardent lover. You might have seen them the last three evenings sitting together at that table preparing the invitations for the wedding breakfast and ball; arranging the cards and favours.--So happy! So pleasantly familiar! So confidential! I think Rem Van Ariens has as much of Cornelia's liking as George Hyde; and perhaps neither of them have enough of it to win her hand. All lovers do not grow to husbands."

"Thank God, they do not! But what you say about Rem is only cobweb stuff. She is too friendly, too pleasantly familiar, I would like to see her more shy and silent with him. Every one has already given my daughter to Hyde, and, say what you will, common fame is seldom to blame."

"Dinner is waiting, John, and whether you eat it or not Destiny will go straight to her mark. Love is destiny; and the heart is its own fate. There are those to whom we are spiritually related, and the tie is kinder than flesh and blood. Can you, or I, count such kindred? No; but souls see each other at a glance. Did I not know thee, John, the very moment that we met?"

She spoke softly, with a voice sweeter than music, and her husband was touched and calmed. He took the hand she stretched out to him and kissed it, and she added-"Let us be patient. Love has reasons that reason does not understand; and if Cornelia is Hyde's by predestination, as well as by choice, vainly we shall worry and fret; all our opposition will come to nothing. Give Cornelia this interval, and tithe it not; in a few days Arenta will have gone away; and as for Hyde, any hour may summon him to join his father in England; and this summons, as it will include his mother, he can neither evade nor put off. Then Rem will have his opportunity."

"To be patient--to wait--to say nothing--it is to give opportunity too much scope. I must tell that young fellow a little of my mind--"

"You must not make yourself a town's talk, John. Just now New York is all for lovers. If you interfere between Hyde and Cornelia while it is in this temper, every one will cry out, 'Oh, the pity of it!' and you will be bayed into doing some mad thing or other. Do I not know you, dear one?"

"God's precious!" and he took her in his arms, saying, "the man who learns nothing from his wife will never learn anything from anybody. Come, then, and we will eat our meal. I had forgotten Rem, and as you say, Hyde may have to go to England to-morrow; putting-off has broken up many an ill marriage."

"Time and absence against any love affair that is not destiny! And if it be destiny, there is only submission, nothing else. But life has a 'maybe' in everything dear; a maybe that is just as likely to please us as not."

Then Doctor John looked up with a smile. "You are right, Ava," he said cheerfully. "I will take the maybe. Maybes have a deal to do with life. When you come to think of it, there is not a victory of any kind gained, nor a good deed done except on a maybe. So maybe all I fear may pass like a summer cloud. Yet, take my word for it, there is, I think, no maybe in Rem's chances with Cornelia."

"We shall see. I think there is."

Certainly Rem was of this opinion. The past few weeks had been very favourable to him. In them he had been continually as**sociated with Cornelia, and her manner towards him had been so frankly kind and familiar, so confidential and sympathetic, that he could not help but contrast it with their previous intercourse, when she had appeared to withdraw herself from all his approaches and to forbid by her retiring manner even the courtesies to which his long acquaintance with her entitled him.

If he had known more of women he would not have given himself any hope on this change of attitude. It simply meant that Cornelia had arrived at that certainty with regard to her own affections which permitted her a more general latitude. She knew that she loved Hyde, and she knew that Hyde loved her. They had a most complete confidence in each other; and she was not afraid, either for his sake or her own, to give to Rem that friendship which the circumstances warranted. That this friendship could ever grow to love on her part was an impossible thing; and if she thought of Rem's feelings, it was to suppose that he must understand this position as well as she did herself.

Rem, however, was quite aware of his rival, and with the blunt directness of his nature watched with jealous dislike, and often with rude impatience, the familiar intercourse which his aunt's partiality permitted Hyde. He was, indeed, often so rude that a less sweet- tempered, a less just youth than George Hyde would have pointedly resented many offences that he passed by with that "noble not caring" which is often the truest courage.

Still the situation was one of great tension, and it required not only the wise forbearance of Hyde and Cornelia, but the domineering selfishness of Arenta and the suave clever diplomacies of Madame Jacobus to preserve at times the merely decent conventionalities of polite life. To keep the peace until the wedding was over--that was all that Rem promised himself; THEN! He often gave voice to this last word, though he had no distinct idea as to what measures he included in those four letters.

He told himself, however, that it would be well for George Hyde to be in England, and that if he were there, the General might be trusted to look after the marriage of his son. For he knew that an English noble would be of necessity bound by his caste and his connections, and that Hyde would have to face obligations he would not be able to shirk. "Then, then, his opportunity to win Cornelia would come!" And it was at this point the hopeful "maybe" entered into Rem's desires and anticipations.

But wrath covered carries fate. Every one was in some measure conscious of this danger and glad when the wedding day approached. Even Arenta had grown a little weary of the prolonged excitement she had provoked, for everything had gone so well with her that she had taken the public very much into her confidence. There had been frequent little notices in the Gazette and Journal of the approaching day--of the wedding presents, the wedding favours, the wedding guests, and the wedding garments. And, as if to add the last touch of glory to the event, just a week before Arenta's nuptials a French armed frigate came to New York bearing despatches for the Count de Moustier; and the Marquis de Tounnerre was selected to bear back to France the Minister's Message. So the marriage was put forward a few days for this end, and Arenta in the most unexpected way obtained the bridal journey which she desired; and also with it the advantage of entering France in a semi-public and stately manner.

"I am the luckiest girl in the world," she said to Cornelia and her brother when this point had been decided. They were tying up "dream- cake" for the wedding guests in madame's queer, uncanny drawing-room as she spoke, and the words were yet on her lips when madame entered with a sandal wood box in her hands.

"Rem," she said, "go with Cornelia into the dining-room a few minutes. I have something to say to Arenta that concerns no one else."

As soon as they were alone madame opened the box and upon a white velvet cushion lay the string of oriental pearls which Arenta on certain occasions had been permitted to wear. Arenta's eyes flashed with delight. She had longed for them to complete her wedding costume, but having a very strong hope that her aunt would offer her this favour, she had resolved to wait for her generosity until the last hour. Now she was going; to receive the reward of her prudent patience, and she said to herself, "How good it is to be discreet!" With an intense desire and interest she looked at the beautiful beads, but madame's face was troubled and sombre, and she said almost reluctantly-"Arenta, I am going to make you an offer. This necklace will be yours when I die, at any rate; but I think there is in your heart a wish to have it now. Is this so?"

"Aunt, I should like--oh, indeed I long to wear the beads at my marriage. I shall only be half-dressed without them."

"You shall wear the necklace. And as you are going to what is left of the French Court, I will give it to you now, if the gift will be to your mind."

"There is nothing that could be more to my mind, dear aunt. I would rather have the necklace, than twice its money's worth. Thank you, aunt. You always know what is in a young girl's heart."

"First, listen to what I say. No woman of our family has escaped calamity of some kind, if they owned these beads. My mother lost her husband the year she received them. My Aunt Hildegarde lost her fortune as soon as they were hers. As for myself, on the very day they became mine your Uncle Jacobus sailed away, and he has never come back. Are you not afraid of such fatality?"

"No, I am not. Things just happen that way. What power can a few beads have over human life or happiness? To say so, to think so, is foolishness."

"I know not. Yet I have heard that both pearls and opals have the power to attract to themselves the ill fortune of their wearers. If they happen to be maiden pearls or gems that would be good; but would you wish to inherit the evil fortune of all the women who have possessed before you?"

"Poor pearls! It is they who are the unfortunates."

"Yes, but a time comes when they have taken all of misfortune they can take; then the pearls grow black and die, really die. Yes, indeed! I have seen dead pearls. And if the necklace were of opals, when that time came for them the gems would lose their fire and colour, grow ashy grey, fall apart and become dust, nothing but dust."

"Do you believe such tales, aunt? I do not. And your pearls are yet as white as moonlight. I do not fear them. Give them to me, aunt. I snap my fingers at such fables."

"Give them to you, I will not, Arenta; but you may take them from the box with your own hands."

"I am delighted to take them. I have always longed for them."

"Perhaps then they longed for you, for what is another's yearns for its owner."

Then madame left the room and Arenta lifted the box and carried it nearer to the light. And a little shiver crept through her heart and she closed the lid quickly and said irritably-"It is my aunt's words. She is always speaking dark and doubtful things. However, the pearls are mine at last!" and she carried them with her downstairs, throwing back her head as if they were round her white throat and--as was her way--spreading herself as she went.

All fine weddings are much alike. It was only in such accidentals as costume that Arenta's differed from the fine weddings of to-day. There was the same crush of gayly attired women, of men in full dress, or military dress, or distinguished by diplomatic insignia:--the same low flutter of silk, and stir of whispered words, and suppressed excitement-- the same eager crowd along the streets and around the church to watch the advent of the bride and bridegroom. All of the guests had seen them very often before, yet they too looked at the dazzling girl in white as if they expected an entirely different person. The murmur of pleasure, the indefinable stir of human emotion, the solemn mystical words at the altar that were making two one, the triumphant peal of music when they ceased, and the quick crescendo of rising congratulation--all these things were present then, as now. And then, as now, all these things failed to conceal from sensitive minds that odour of human sacrifice, not to be disguised with the scent of bridal flowers--that immolation of youth and beauty and charming girlhood upon the altar of an unknown and an untried love.

New York was not then too busy making money to take an interest in such a wedding, and Arenta's drive through its pleasant streets was a kind of public invitation. For Jacob Van Ariens was one of a guild of wealthy merchants, and they were at their shop doors to express their sympathy by lifted hats and smiling faces; while the women looked from every window, and the little children followed, their treble voices heralding and acclaiming the beautiful bride. Then came the breakfast and the health-drinking and the speech-making and the rather sadder drive to the wharf at which lay La Belle France. And even Arenta was by this time weary of the excitement, so that it was almost with a sense of relief she stepped across the little carpeted gangway to her deck. Then the anchor was lifted, the cable loosened, and with every sail set La Belle France went dancing down the river on the tide-top to the open sea.

Van Ariens and his son Rem turned silently away. A great and evident depression had suddenly taken the place of their as**sumed satisfaction. "I am going to the Swamp office," said Rem after a few moments' silence, "there is something to be done there."

"That is well," answered Peter. "To my Cousin Deborah I will give some charges about the silver, and then I will follow you."

Both men were glad to be alone. They had outworn emotion and knew instinctively that some common duty was the best restorer. The same feeling affected, in one way or another, all the watchers of this destiny. Women whose household work was belated, whose children were strayed, who had used up their nervous strength in waiting and feeling, were now cross and inclined to belittle the affair and to be angry at Arenta and themselves for their lost day. And men, young and old, all went back to their ledgers and counters and manufacturing with a sense of lassitude and dejection.

Peter had nearly reached his own house when he met Doctor Moran. The doctor was more irritable than depressed. He looked at his friend and said sharply, "You have a fever, Van Ariens. Go to bed and sleep."

"To work I will go. That is the best thing to do. My house has no comfort in it. Like a milliner's or a mercer's store it has been for many weeks. Well, then, my Cousin Deborah is at work there, and in a little while--a little while--" He suddenly stopped and looked at the doctor with brimming eyes. In that moment he understood that no putting to rights could ever make his home the same. His little saucy, selfish, but dearly loved Arenta would come there no more; and he found not one word that could express the tide of sorrow rising in his heart. Doctor John understood. He remained quiet, silent, clasping Van Ariens' hand until the desolate father with a great effort blurted out-"She is gone!--and smiling, also, she went."

"It is the curse of Adam," answered Doctor Moran bitterly--"to bring up daughters, to love them, to toil and save and deny ourselves for them, and then to see some strange man, of whom we have no certain knowledge, carry them off captive to his destiny and his desires. 'Tis a thankless portion to be a father--a bitter pleasure."

"Well, then, to be a mother is worse."

"Who can tell that? Women take for compensations things that do not deceive a father. And, also, they have one grand promise to help them bear loss and disappointment--the as**surance of the Holy Scripture that they shall have salvation through child-bearing. And I, who have seen so much of family love and life, can tell you that this promise is all many a mother has for her travail and sorrowful love."

"It is enough. Pray God that we miss not of that reward some share," and with a motion of adieu he turned into his house. Very thoughtfully the Doctor went on to William Street where he had a patient,--a young girl of about Arenta's age--very ill. A woman opened the door--a woman weeping bitterly.

"She is gone, Doctor."

"At what hour?"

"The clock was striking three--she went smiling."

Then he bowed his head and turned away.

There was nothing more that he could do; but he remembered that Arenta had stepped on board the La Belle France as the clock struck three, and that she also had gone smiling to her unknown destiny.

"Two emigrants," he thought, "pilgrims of Love and Death, and both went smiling!" An unwonted tenderness came into his heart; he thought of the bright, lovely bride clinging so trustfully to her husband's arm, and he voiced this gentle feeling to his wife in very sincere wishes for the safety and happiness of the little emigrant for Love. He had a singular reluctance to name her--he knew not why--with the other little maid who also had left smiling at three o'clock, an emigrant for whom Death had opened eternal vistas of delight.

"I do not know," said Mrs. Moran, "how Van Ariens could suffer his daughter to go to a country full of turmoil and bloodshed."

"He was very unhappy to do so, Ava. But when things have gone a certain length they have fatality. The Marquis had promised to become eventually a citizen of this Republic, and Van Ariens had no idea in sanctioning the marriage that his daughter would leave New York. It was even supposed the Marquis would remain here in the Count de Moustier's place, and the sudden turn of events which sent de Tounnerre to France was a severe blow to Van Ariens. But what could he do?"

"He might have delayed the marriage until the return of de Tounnerre."

"Ah, Ava! you are counting without consideration. He could not have detained Arenta against her will, and if he had, a miserable life would have been before both of them--domestic discomfort, public queries and suspicions, questions, doubts, offending sympathies--all the griefs and vexations that are sure to follow a Fate that is crossed. He did the best thing possible when he let the wilful girl go as pleasantly as he could. Arenta needs a wide horizon."

"Is she in any danger from the state of affairs in Paris?"

"Mr. Jefferson says in no danger whatever. Our Minister is living there in safety. Arenta will have his friendship and protection; and her husband has many friends in the most powerful party. She will have a brilliant visit and be very happy."

"How can she be very happy with the guillotine daily enacting such murders?"

"She need not be present at such murders. And Mr. Jefferson may be right, and we outsiders may make too much of circumstances that France, and France alone, can properly estimate. He says that the God that made iron wished not slaves to exist, and thinks there is a profound and eternal justice in this desolation and retribution of aristocrats who have committed unmentionable oppressions. I know not; good and evil are so interwoven in life that every good, traced up far enough, is found to involve evil. This is the great mystery of life. However, Ava, I am a great believer in sequences; there are few events that break off absolutely. In Arenta's life there will be sequences; let us hope that they will be happy ones. Where is Cornelia?"

"I know not. She is asleep. The ball to-night is to be fairy-land and love-land, an Arabian night's dream and a midsummer night's dream all in one. I told her to rest, for she was weary and nervous with expectation."

"I dare say. But what is the good of being young if it is not to expect miracles?"

"George Hyde calls for her at eight o'clock. I shall let her sleep until seven, give her some refreshment, and then as**sist her to dress."

"George Hyde! So you still believe in trusting the cat with the cream?"

"I still believe in Cornelia. Come, now, and drink a cup of tea. To- morrow the Van Ariens' excitement will be over, and we shall have rest."

"I think not. The town is now ready to move to Philadelphia. I hear that Mrs. Adams is preparing to leave Richmond Hill. Washington has already gone, and Congress is to meet in December. Even the Quakers are intending all sorts of social festivities."

"But this will not concern us."

"It may. If George Hyde does not go very soon to England, we shall go to Philadelphia. I wish to rid myself and Cornelia of his airs and graces and wearisome good temper, his singing and reciting and tringham- trangham poetry. This story has been long enough; we will turn over and end it."

"It will be a great trial to Cornelia."

"It may, or it may not--there is Rem--Rem is your own suggestion. However, we have all to sing the hymn of Renunciation at some time; it is well to sing it in youth."

Mrs. Moran did not answer. When answering was likely to provoke anger, she kept silence and talked the matter over with herself. A very wise plan. For where shall we find a friend so intimate, so discreet, so conciliating as self? Who can speak to us so well?--without obscurity, without words, without passion. Yes, indeed: "I will talk to myself" is a very significant phrase.