A Song of a Single Note, by Amelia Edith
A Song of a Single Note, by Amelia Edith
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Title: A Song of a Single Note A Love Story
Author: Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr
Release Date: February 22, 2011 [eBook #35358]
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A Song of a Single Note, by Amelia Edith
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[Illustration: THE SONG OF A SINGLE NOTE.]
A SONG OF A SINGLE NOTE
A Love Story
AMELIA E. BARR
Author of "The Bow of Orange Ribbon," "The Maid of Maiden Lane," etc.
New York Dodd, Mead & Company 1902
Copyright, 1902, By Dodd, Mead & Company.
First Edition published October, 1902.
The Burr Printing House, New York.
TO MY FRIEND,
DR. STEPHEN DECATUR HARRISON:
An American who loves his country "Right or Wrong," And who always believes she is "Right,"
THIS NOVEL IS WITH MUCH ESTEEM DEDICATED.
I. RED OR BLUE RIBBONS . . . . . . . . 1
II. THE FAIR AND THE BRAVE . . . . . . . 21
III. LIFE IN THE CAPTIVE CITY . . . . . . . 50
IV. A SONG OF A SINGLE NOTE . . . . . . . 75
V. LOVE'S SWEET DREAM . . . . . . . . 103
VI. THE INTERCEPTED MESSAGE . . . . . . . 134
VII. THE PRICE OF HARRY'S LIFE . . . . . . 160
VIII. THE HELP OF JACOB COHEN . . . . . . . 185
IX. THE TURN OF THE TIDE . . . . . . . . 211
X. MARIA GOES TO LONDON . . . . . . . . 253
XI. THE QUESTION OF MARRIAGE . . . . . . . 283
XII. LOVE AND VICTORY . . . . . . . . . 306
List of Illustrations
THE SONG OF A SINGLE NOTE-- Frontispiece.
MARIA LAY DRESSED UPON HER BED facing 100
THE DRUMMERS AND FIFERS IN FRONT DID NOT SEE HIM facing 208
HE CAUSED THE SMALL BOAT TO PUT HIM ON SHORE facing 320
"Love, its flutes will still be stringing, Lovers still will sigh and kneel; Freedom sets her trumpets ringing To the clash of smiting steel." So I weave of love and glory, Homely toil, and martial show, Fair romance from the grand story Lived a century ago.
A Song of a Single Note
RED OR BLUE RIBBONS.
It was the fourth year of the captivity of New York, and the beleaguered city, in spite of military pomp and display, could not hide the desolations incident to her warlike occupation. The beautiful trees and groves which once shaded her streets and adorned her suburbs had been cut down by the army sappers; her gardens and lawns upturned for entrenchments and indented by artillery wheels; and some of the best parts of the city blackened and mutilated by fire. Her churches had been turned into prisons and hospitals, and were centres of indescribable suffering and poisonous infection; while over the burnt district there had sprung up a town of tents inhabited by criminals and by miserable wretches whom starvation and despair had turned into highwaymen.
But these conditions were the work of man. Nature still lavished upon the captive city a glory of sunshine and blue skies, and winds, full of the freshness and sparkle of the great sea, blew through all her sickly streets.
Wherever the gardens had not been destroyed, there was the scent of mays and laburnums, and the indescribable beauty of apple blossoms on the first day of their birth.
In front of one of these fortunate enclosures, belonging to a little house on Queen Street, an old gentleman was standing, looking wistfully in at a trellis of small red roses. He turned away with a sigh as a man dressed like a sailor touched him on the arm, saying, as he did so:
"Well, then, Elder, a good afternoon to you? I am just from Boston, and I have brought you a letter from your son."
"You, De Vries! I didna look for you just yet."
"You know how it is. I am a man of experience, and I had a good voyage both ways."
"And Robertson and Elliot and Ludlow will have a good percentage on your cargoes?"
"That is the way of business. It is as it ought to be. I do not defraud or condemn the Government. It is the young--who have no knowledge or experience--who do such things."
"What do you bring in, Captain?"
"Some provisions of all kinds; and I shall take back some merchandise of all kinds--for them who can not get it in any other way."
"To Boston again?"
"This time only to the Connecticut coast. The goods will easily go further. The trade is great. What then? I must waste no time; I have to live by my business."
"And I have nae doubt you think the 'business' on the King's service."
"Every respectable man is of that way of thinking. We carry no military stores. I am very precise about that. It is one of my principles. And what, then, would the merchants of New York do without this opening for trade?
They would be ruined; and there would also be starvation. They who say different are fools; we give help and comfort to the royalists, and we distress the rebels, for we take from them all their ready money. If the trade was not 'on the King's service,' the Governor would not be in it."
"Even so! That circumstance shows it is not far out o' the way."
"'Out of the way!' What the deuce, Elder! I am a deacon in the Middle Kirk. My respectability and honesty cannot be concealed: any one can see them. Batavius de Vries would not steal a groschen; no, nor half of one!"
"Easy, easy, Captain! Why should you steal? It is far mair lucrative to cheat than to steal; and the first is in the way o' business--as you were remarking. But this or that, my good thanks for the letter you have brought me; and is there anything I can do in return for your civility?"
"If you will kindly call at my dwelling and tell Madame I am arrived here safe and sound; that would be a great satisfaction for us both."
"I pass your door, Captain, and I will tell Madame the good news. Nae doubt she will gie me a smile for it."
Then De Vries turned away with some remark about business, and Elder Semple stood still a moment, fingering the bulky letter which had been given him; and, as he did so, wondering what he should do, for "ill news comes natural these days," he thought, "and maybe I had better read it through, before I speak a word to Janet anent it. I'll step into the King's Arms and see what Alexander has to say."
When he entered the coffee-room he saw his son, Mr. Neil Semple, and Governor Robertson sitting at a table with some papers between them. Neil smiled gravely, and moved a chair into place for his father, and the Governor said pleasantly:
"How are you, Elder? It is a long time since I saw you."
"I am as well as can be expected, considering a' things, Governor; but what for will I be 'Elder,' when I have nae kirk to serve?"
"Is that my fault, Elder?"
"You might have spoke a word for the reopening of the kirk, and the return o' Dr. Rogers. Your affirmative would have gone a long way toward it. And the loyal Calvinists o' New York hae been too long kirkless. What for didn't you speak the word, Governor? What for?"
"Indeed, Elder, you know yourself that Dr. Rogers is a proved traitor. As a fundamental rule, a Calvinist is a democrat--exceptions, of course--like yourself and your worthy sons, but as a fundamental, natural democrats.
There is the Church of England open for all services."
"Aye; and there is the Kirk o' Scotland closed for all services. What has the Kirk done against King George?"
"Must I remind you, Elder, that her ministers, almost without exception, are against the King? Did not this very Dr. Rogers pray in the pulpit for the success of the rebels? As for the Church of Scotland, she has been troubling kings, and encouraging rebellion ever since there was a Church of Scotland. What for? No reason at all, that I can see."
"Yes, she had reason enough. Scotsmen read their Bibles, and they thought it worth while to fight for the right to do so. There's your colleague, Judge Ludlow; his great-grandfather fought with Oliver Cromwell in England in a quarrel of the same kind. He should have said a word for us."
"Elder, it is undeniable that Dissent and Calvinism are opposed to royalty."
"The Kirk is not subject to Caesar; she is a law unto hersel'; and the Methodists are dissenters, yet their chapel is open."
"The loyalty of John Wesley is beyond impeachment. He is a friend of the King."
"Yet his brother Charles was imprisoned for praying for the Pretender, and nae doubt at all, he himsel' would gladly have followed Prince Charlie."
"As the Semples and Gordons did do."
"To their everlasting glory and honor! God bless them!"
"Will your Excellency please to sign these papers?" interrupted Neil; and his calm ignoring of the brewing quarrel put a stop to it. The papers were signed, and the Governor rising, said, as he offered his hand to the Elder:
"Our sufferings and deprivations are unavoidable, sir. Is there any use in quarreling with the wheel that splashes us?"
"There is nane; yet, if men have grievances----"
"Grievances! That is a word that always pleases, and always cheats. There are no grievances between you and me, I hope."
"None to breed ill-will. Human nature is fallible, but as a rule, Tory doesna eat Tory."
"And as for the Whigs, Elder, you know the old fable of the wolf and the lamb. Judging from that past event, Tory and Whig may soon make an eternal peace."
He went out well pleased at the implication, and Neil, after a few moments' silence, said, "I am going to register these documents, sir, or I would walk home with you."
"Much obligated to you, Neil, but I can tak' very good care o' mysel'. And I have a letter from your brother Alexander. I must see what news he sends, before I tell your mother."
He was opening his letter as he spoke, carefully cutting round the large red seal, which bore the arms of the Semples, and which, therefore, he would have thought it a kind of sacrilege to mutilate. A cup of coffee had been brought to him, and he took one drink of it, and then no more; for everything was quickly forgotten or ignored in the intelligence he was receiving. That it was unexpected and astonishing was evident from his air of perplexity and from the emotion which quite unconsciously found relief in his constant ejaculation, "Most extraordinary! Most extraordinary!"
Finally, he folded up the epistle, threw a shilling on the table for his entertainment, and with more speed than was usual, took the road to the west of Broadway. He had been remarkable in days past for his erect carriage, but he walked now with his head bent and his eyes fixed on the ground. There was so much that he did not want to see, though he was naturally the most curious and observant of mortals. Fifteen minutes' walk brought him to the river side, and anon to a large house separated from his own by a meadow. There were horses tied to the fence and horses tethered in the garden; and in a summer-house under a huge linden tree, a party of soldiers drinking and playing dominoes. The front door was partly open, and a piece of faded red ribbon was nailed on its lintel. Semple knocked loudly with his walking-stick, and immediately a stout, rosy woman came toward him, wiping her hands on a clean towel as she did so.
"Well, then, Elder!" she cried, "you are a good sight! What is the matter, that you never come once to see us, this long time?"
"I come now to bring you good news Joanna--Madame, I should say."
"No, no! I make not so much ceremony. When you say 'Joanna' I think of the good days, before everybody was unfriends with each other."
"Well, then, Joanna, your husband is back again; as he says, safe and sound, and I promised him to let you know as I passed."
"But come in once, Elder--come in!"
"Some day--some day soon. I am in haste at this time--and you have much company, I see." He spoke with evident disapproval, and Joanna was at once on the defensive.
"I know not how to alter that. A good wife must do some little thing these hard times; for what is to come after them, who knows--and there are many boys and girls--but I am not discontented; I like to look at the bright side, and that is right, is it not?"
Semple had already turned away, and he only struck his cane on the flagged walk in answer. For while Joanna was speaking he had casually noticed the fluttering red ribbon above her head; and it had brought from the past a memory, unbidden and unexpected, which filled his eyes with the thin, cold tears of age, and made his heart tremble with a fear he would not allow himself to entertain.
He was so troubled that he had to consciously gather his forces together before he entered his own dwelling.
It, at least, kept visible state and order; the garden, perhaps, showed less variety and wealth of flowers; but the quiet dignity of its handsomely furnished rooms was intact. In their usual parlor, which was at the back of the house, he found his wife. "You are late to-day, Alexander," she said pleasantly; "I was just waiting till I heard your footstep. Now I can make the tea."
"I'll be glad o' a cup, Janet. I'm fairly tired, my dearie."
"What kept you so far ahint your ordinar time? I thought it long waiting for you."
"Twa or three things kept me, that I am not accountable for. I was on the way hame, when Batavius De Vries spoke to me."
"He's back again, is he? Few words would do between you and him."
"He brought me a letter from our lad in Boston; and I thought I would go into the King's Arms and read it."
"You might have come hame."
"I might; but I thought if there was any bad news folded in the paper, I would just leave it outside our hame."
"There is naething wrang, then?"
"It is an astonishment--the lad has sold all he had and gone to Scotland. When he can find a small estate that suits him, he thinks o' buying it, and becoming 'Semple o' that Ilk.' Alexander aye had a hankering after land."
"He has the siller, I suppose; there is no land given awa in Scotland."
"Alexander wasn't born yesterday. He has been sending siller to England ever since the first whisper o' these troubles. Ten years ago, he told me the Stamp Act riots spelt Revolution and maybe Independence; and that in such case the best we could hope for would be a dozen or mair states, each with its ain rights and privileges and government; and a constant war between them. He is a far-seeing lad, is Alexander."
"I think little o' his far sight. There are others who see further and clearer: petty states and constant war! Na, na! It's not so written."
"Perhaps he is right, Janet."
"Perhaps is a wide word, Alexander. Perhaps he is wrang. Has he sailed yet? And pray, what is to become of the little Maria?"
"He sailed a week since--and Maria is coming to us."
"Coming to us! And what will we do wi' the lassie?"
"We'll just hae to love and comfort her. In a way she has neither father nor mother--the one being in the grave and the other beyond seas. She may be a pleasure to our auld age; when she was here last she was a bonnie, lovesome little creature."
"That is mair than eight years ago, and she was eight years old then; she'll be sixteen and a half, or, perhaps, nearer seventeen now--you ken weel what to expect from lassies o' that indiscreet age; or, if you don't, you ought to."
"I know she is our ain grandbairn and that we be to give her love and all that love calls for. She was the very image o' yoursel' Janet, and her father was much set up o'er the extraordinar likeness."
"I thought she favored you, Alexander."
"A little--a little, perhaps--but not enough to spoil her. If she has kept the Gordon beauty, she will be a' the mair welcome to me. I have aye had a strong prejudice in its favor;" and he leaned forward and took Madame's small brown hand, and then there was a look and a smile between the old lovers that made all words impotent and unnecessary.
Such pauses are embarrassing; the lealest hearts must come back quickly to ordinary life, and as the Elder passed his cup for more tea, Madame asked: "What way is the lassie coming? By land or water?"
"She is coming by land, with John Bradley and his daughter."
"Madame Charlton's school had to be closed, and Agnes Bradley was one of the scholars. Her father has gone to Boston to bring her hame, and Maria being her friend and schoolmate, Bradley promised Alexander to see her safe in our home and care. Doubtless, he is well able to keep his word. If the Governor and the Commander-in-Chief can do ought to mak' travel safe, John Bradley will hae their assistance; but I'm vexed to be put under an obligation to him. I would rather have sent Neil, or even gane mysel'."
"What ails you at John Bradley? He wears the red ribbon on his breast, and it blaws o'er his shop door, and he is thick as thack with a' the dignities--civil and military."
"I don't like him, and I don't like his daughter being friends with my granddaughter."
"He serves our turn now, and once is nae custom."
"Let alone the fact that girls' friendships are naething but fine words and sugar candy. I shall put a stop to this one at the very outset."
"You'll do what, gudeman?"
"Put my commands on Maria. I shall tell her that beyond yea and nay, and a fine day, or the like o' that, she is to have no intercourse wi' John Bradley's daughter."
"You'll have revolution inside the house, as weel as outside. Let the girls alane. Some young men will come between them and do your business for you. You have managed your lads pretty well--wi' my help--but two schoolgirls in love wi' one anither! they will be aboon your thumb--ane o' them may keep you busy."
"I shall lay my commands on Maria."
"And if Maria tak's after the Gordons, she'll be far mair ready to give commands than to tak' them. Let be till she gets here. When did she leave Boston?"
"Mair than a week ago, but Sunday intromits, and Bradley, being what they call a local preacher would hae to exploit his new sermon and hold a class meeting or a love feast; forbye, he wouldna neglect ony bit o'
business that came his way on the road. I shouldn't wonder if they were at Stamford last Sunday, and if so, they would be maist likely at East Chester to-night. They might be here to-morrow. I'll ask Neil to ride as far as the Halfway House; he will either find, or hear tell o' them there."
"What for should Neil tak' that trouble? You ken, as weel as I do, that if Bradley promised Maria's father to deliver her into your hand, at your ain house, he would do no other way. Say you were from hame, he would just keep the lassie till he could keep his promise. He is a very Pharisee anent such sma' matters. If you have finished your tea, gudeman, I will get the dishes put by."
They both rose at these words, Madame pulled a bell rope made of a band of embroidery, and a girl brought her a basin of hot water and two clean towels. Semple lit his long, clay pipe and went into the garden to see how the early peas were coming on, and to meditate on the events the day had brought to him. Madame also had her meditations, as she carefully washed the beautiful Derby china, and the two or three Apostle teaspoons, and put them away in the glass cupboard that was raised in one corner of the room. Her thoughts were complex, woven of love and hope and fear and regret. The advent of her granddaughter was not an unmixed delight; she was past sixty, not in perfect health, and she feared the care and guiding of a girl of scarce seventeen years old.
"Just the maist unreasonable time of any woman's life," she sighed. "At that age, they are sure they know a'
things, and can judge a' things; and to doubt it is rank tyranny, and they are in a blaze at a word, for they have every feeling at fever heat. A body might as well try to reason wi' a baby or a bull, for they'll either cry or rage, till you give in to them. However, Maria has a deal o' Gordon in her, and they are sensible bodies--in the main. I'll even do as the auld song advises:
"Bide me yet, and bide me yet, For I know not what will betide me yet."
When the room was in order, she threw a shawl round her and went to her husband. "I hae come to bring you inside, Elder," she said, "the night air is chilly and damp yet, and you arena growing younger."
"I walked down as far as the river bank, Janet," he answered, "and I see the boat is rocking at her pier. Neil should look after her."
"Neil is looking after another kind of a boat at present. I hope he will have as much sense as the rats, and leave a sinking ship in good time to save himsel'."
"Janet, you should be feared to say such like words! They are fairly wicked--and they gie me a sair heart."
"Oh, forgive me, Alexander! My thoughts will fly to my lips. I forget! I forget! I hae a sair heart, too"--and they went silently into the house with this shadow between them until Janet said:
"Let me help you off wi' your coat, dearie. Your soft, warm wrap is here waiting for you," and against her gentle words and touch he had no armor. His offense melted away, he let her help him to remove his heavy satin-lined coat, with its long stiffened skirts, and fold round his spare form the damasse wrap with its warm lining of flannel. Then, with a sigh of relief he sat down, loosened his neckband, handed Madame his laces, and called for a fresh pipe.
In the meantime Madame hung the coat carefully over a chair, and in flecking off a little dust from its richly trimmed lapel, she tossed aside with an unconscious contempt, the bit of scarlet ribbon at the buttonhole.
"You are requiring a new ribbon, Alexander," she said. "If you must wear your colors on your auld breast, I would, at least, hae them fresh."
He either ignored, or did not choose to notice the spirit of her words; he took them at their face value, and answered: "You are right, Janet. I'll buy a half yard in the morning. I tell you, that one bit o' rusty, draggled red ribbon gave me a heart-ache this afternoon."
Madame did not make the expected inquiry, and after a glance into her face he continued: "It was at the Van Heemskirk's house. I was talking to Joanna, and I saw it o'er the door, and remembered the night my friend Joris nailed up the blue ribbon which Batavius has taken down. I could see him standing there, with his large face smiling and shining, and his great arms reaching upward, and I could hear the stroke o' the hammer that seemed to keep time to his words: ' Alexander myn jougen! ' he said, 'for Freedom the color is always blue.
Over my house door let it blow; yes, then, over my grave also, if God's will it be.' And I answered him, 'you are a fool, Joris, and you know not what you are saying or doing, and God help you when you do come to your senses.' Then he turned round with the hammer in his hand and looked at me--I shall never forget that look--and said 'a little piece of blue ribbon, Alexander, but for a man's life and liberty it stands, for dead already is that man who is not free.' Then he took me into the garden, and as we walked he could talk of naething else, 'men do not need in their coffins to lie stark,' he said, 'they may without that, be dead; walking about this city are many dead men.'"
"Joris Van Heemskirk is a good man. Wherever he is, I ken well, he is God's man," said Janet, "doing his duty simply and cheerfully."
"As he sees duty, Janet; I am sure o' that. And as he talked he kept touching the ribbon in his waistcoat, as if it was a sacred thing, and when I said something o' the kind, he answered me out o' the Holy Book, and bid me notice God himself had chosen blue and told Israel to wear it on the fringes o' their garments as a reminder o'
their deliverance by Him. Then I couldna help speaking o' the Scotch Covenanters wearing the blue ribbon, and he followed wi' the Dutch Protestors, and I was able to cap the noble army wi' the English Puritans fighting under Cromwell for civil and religious liberty."
"And gudeman!" cried Janet, all in a tremble of enthusiasm, "General Washington is at this very time wearing a broad blue ribbon across his breast;" and there was such a light in her eyes, and such pride in her voice, the Elder could not say the words that were on his tongue; he magnanimously passed by her remark and returned to his friend, Joris Van Heemskirk. "Blue or red," he continued, "we had a wonderfu' hour, and when we came to part that night we had no need to take each other's hands; we had been walking hand-in-hand together like twa laddies, and we did not know it."
"You'll have many a happy day with your friend yet, gudeman; Joris Van Heemskirk will come hame again."
"He will hae a sair heart when he sees his hame, specially his garden."
"He will hae something in his heart to salve all losses and all wrongs; but I wonder Joanna doesna take better care o' her father's place."
"She canna work miracles. I thought when I got her there as tenant o' the King, she would keep a' things as they were left; but Batavius has six or eight soldiers boarding there--low fellows, non-commissioned officers and the like o' them--and the beautiful house is naething but barricks in their sight; and as for the garden, what do they care for boxwood and roses? They dinna see a thing beyond their victuals, and liquor, and the cards and dominoes in their hands. Joanna has mair than she can manage."
"Didn't Batavius sell his house on the East river?"
"Of course he did--to the Government--made a good thing of it; then he got into his father-in-law's house as a tenant of the Government. I don't think he ever intends to move out of it. When the war is over he will buy it for a trifle, as confiscated property."
"He'll do naething o' the kind! He'll never, never, never buy it. You may tak' my solemn word for that, Alexander Semple."
"How do you ken so much, Janet?"
"The things we ken best, are the things we were never told. I will not die till I have seen Joris Van Heemskirk smoking his pipe with you on his ain hearth, and in his ain summer-house. He can paint some new mottoes o'er it then."
She was on the verge of crying, but she spoke with an irresistible faith, and in spite of his stubborn loyalty to King George, Semple could not put away the conviction that his wife's words were true. They had all the force of an intuition. He felt that the conversation could not be continued with Joris Van Heemskirk as its subject, and he said, "I wonder what is keeping Neil? He told me he would be hame early to-night."
"Then you saw