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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Sybrandt Receives Back his Estate—with an Incumbrance
By James Kirke Paulding (1778–1860)
 
        
From ‘The Dutchman’s Fireside’
  
  [Colonel Sybrandt Westbrook, who loves Catalina and is loved by her in return, has been thought to be dead, and reappears like a ghost upon the scene. He has been disinherited by his uncle in Catalina’s favor. There has been a misunderstanding between the lovers, due to a miscarriage of letters.]

WHILE the reader has been traveling backwards, the pale and gentle Catalina had been let into the secret of the ghost story by her mother. At first she became paler than ever, and could hardly support herself on her chair. Then she turned red, and a rosy blush of hope and love beamed on her cheek, where for many a day it had not beamed before. “I will bestow it all on him again,” thought she, and her full heart relieved itself in a shower of silent tears.  1
  That night a thousand floating dreams of the past and the future flitted before her troubled mind, and as they reigned in turn, gave birth to different purposes and determinations. But the prevailing thought was, that her cousin had treated her unjustly and unkindly, and that it became the dignity of her sex to maintain a defensive stateliness, a cold civility, until he had acknowledged his errors and begged forgiveness. She settled the matter by deciding that when Sybrandt came the next day to take his leave, she would deliver him a deed for the estate of his uncle, which her father was to have prepared for her, insist on his acceptance, and then bid him adieu for ever without a sigh or a tear. In the morning she begged that when Sybrandt came to call on her mother, she might be permitted to see him alone. Her request was acquiesced in, and she waited in trembling anxiety his promised visit. He came soon after breakfast, and Madam Vancour was struck with the improvement which a military uniform, in place of a suit of Master Ten Broeck’s snuff-colored cloth, produced. After a somewhat painful and awkward interview, Sybrandt forced himself to inquire after Catalina.  2
  “She has had a long illness,” said the mother, “and you will scarcely know her. But she wishes to see you.”  3
  “To see me?” cried Sybrandt, almost starting out of his skin.  4
  “Ay—you—her old playmate, and cousin. Is that so very extraordinary?” replied Madam, smiling. “She is in the next room: go to her.”  5
  “Go—go—to her,” stammered our hero: “surely you cannot mean—”  6
  “I mean just what I say. She is waiting to see you in the next room. I hope you don’t mean to keep her waiting much longer.” And Madam again smiled.  7
  “What can this mean?” thought Sybrandt, while he crept towards the door with about the eagerness that a man feels who is on the point of being hanged.  8
  “I shall tell Catalina how anxious you were to see her.”  9
  “They must think I have no feeling—or they have none themselves;” and the thought roused his native energies. He strutted into the next room as if he was leading his regiment to battle.  10
  “Don’t look so fierce, or you will frighten my daughter,” said Madam.  11
  But Catalina was frightened almost out of her wits already. She was too much taken up in rallying her own self-possession to observe how Sybrandt looked when he walked. He had indeed been some moments in the room before either could utter a single word. At length their eyes met, and the excessive paleness each observed in the countenance of the other went straight to the hearts of both.  12
  “Dear cousin,” said Sybrandt, “how ill you look.” This was rather what is called a left-handed compliment. But Catalina was even with him, for she answered in his very words:—  13
  “Dear cousin, how ill you look.”  14
  Pride and affection were now struggling in the bosoms of the two young people. Sybrandt found his courage, like that of Bob Acres, “oozing out at the palms of his hands,” in the shape of a cold perspiration; but the pride of woman supported Catalina, who rallied first, and spoke as follows, at first in a faltering tone, but by degrees with modest firmness:—  15
  “Colonel Westbrook,” said she, “I wished to see you on a subject which has occasioned me much pain—the bequest of my uncle. I cannot accept it. It was made when we all thought you were no more.”  16
  She uttered this last part of the sentence with a plaintiveness that affected him deeply. “She feels for me,” thought he; “but then she would not answer my letter.”  17
  Catalina proceeded:—“I should hate myself, could I think for a moment of robbing you of what is yours—what I am sure my uncle intended should be yours, until he thought you dead.” And the same plaintive tones again thrilled through Sybrandt. “But she would not answer my letter,” thought he again.  18
  “Sybrandt,” continued she, “I sent for you with the full approbation of my father and mother, to make over this property to you, to whom it belongs. I am of age; and here is the conveyance. I beseech you, as you value my peace of mind, to accept it with the frankness with which it is offered.”  19
  “What, rob my cousin? No, Catalina: never.”  20
  “I feared it,” said Catalina with a sigh: “you do not respect me enough to accept even justice at my hands.”  21
  “It would be meanness—it would be degradation; and since you charge me with a want of respect to you, I must be allowed to say that I am too proud to accept anything, much less so great a gift as this, from one who did not think the almost death-bed contrition of a man who had discovered his error, and was anxious to atone for it, worthy of her notice.”  22
  “What—what do you mean?” exclaimed Catalina.  23
  “The letter I sent you,” replied he proudly. “I never meant to complain or remonstrate; but you have forced me to justify myself.”  24
  “In the name of heaven, what letter?”  25
  “That which I wrote you the moment I was sufficiently recovered of my wounds—to say that I had had a full explanation with Colonel Gilfillan; to say that I had done you an injustice; to confess my folly; to ask forgiveness; and—and to offer you every atonement which love or honor could require.”  26
  “And you wrote me such an one?” asked Catalina, gasping for breath.  27
  “I did: the messenger returned; he had seen you gay and happy; and he brought a verbal message that my letter required no answer.”  28
  “And is this—is this the sole—the single cause of your subsequent conduct? Answer me, Sybrandt, as you are a man of honor—is it?”  29
  “It is. I cannot—you know I never could—bear contempt or scorn from man or woman.”  30
  “What would you say, what would you do, if I assured you solemnly I never saw that letter, or dreamed it was ever written?”  31
  “I would say that I believed you as I would the white-robed truth herself; and I would on my knees beg your forgiveness for twice doubting you.”  32
  “Then I do assure you, in the singleness of my heart, that I never saw or knew aught of it.”  33
  “And did—did Gilfillan speak the truth?” panted our hero.  34
  She turned her inspiring eye full upon the youth, and sighed forth in a whisper, “He did,” while the crimson current revisited her pale cheek, and made her snow-white bosom blush rosy red….  35
  “You are mine then, Catalina, at last,” faltered Sybrandt, as he released her yielding form from his arms.  36
  “You will accept my uncle’s bequest?” asked she, with one of her long-absent smiles.  37
  “Provided you add yourself, dearest girl.”  38
  “You must take it with that incumbrance,” said she; and he sealed the instrument of conveyance upon her warm, willing lips.  39
  “What can they have to talk about all this time, I wonder?” cogitated the old lady, while she fidgeted about from her chair towards the door, and from the door to her chair. As she could distinguish the increasing animation of their voices, she fidgeted still more; and there is no knowing what might have been the consequence, if the lovers had not entered the room, looking so happy that the old lady thought the very elixir of life was in them both. The moment Sybrandt departed, Catalina explained all to her mother. “Alas!” thought the good woman; “she will never be a titled lady: yet who knows but Sybrandt may one day go to England and be knighted?” This happy thought reconciled her at once to the whole catastrophe, and she embraced her daughter, sincerely wishing her joy at the removal of all her perplexities.  40
 
 
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