Amelia Barr.

Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance





CHAPTER I

Peter Van Hoosen was a result of Dutch Calvinism, and Dutch industry and thrift; also, of a belief in the Day of Judgment. The first motives were inherited tendencies, carefully educated; the last one, a conscious principle, going down to the depths of his nature and sharply dividing whatever was just and right from whatever was false and wrong. People whose religion was merely religiosity thought he took himself too seriously; but if they had a house to build, they wanted this man who worked in the great Task-masters eye to lay its foundation and raise its walls. So that, as a builder in stone, Peter Van Hoosen had a wide local celebrity.

He was a strong, loose-limbed man, with a swarthy face and straight black hair, a man of sturdy beliefs and strong prepossessions, yet not devoid of those good manners which spring naturally from a good heart. Among his fellows he was grave and silent, and his entire personality had something of the coldness and strength of the stony material with which he worked. In his home there was a difference; there his black eyes glowed with affection, and even when a 2 young man, his wife and his little children could lead him. As he grew older, and years and experience sweetened his nature, he became large-hearted and large-minded enough to feel that beyond certain limits there was a possibly lawful freedom.

These hours of expansion were usually those spent with his daughter Adriana. He had two other daughters, and three sons, each of whom had done virtuously in their own way; but in Peters estimation, Adriana excelled them all. She was the child after his own heart. In her presence, he felt it good to be hopeful and kind. She led him to talk of everything that was interesting humanity; she asked his opinion on all subjects. She constantly told him how wise he was! how clear-sighted! how far-seeing! She believed he ought to have been at the head of great affairs, and sometimes Peter could not help a little vague regret over the blindness of destiny. In short, Adriana always brought to the front the very best Peter Van Hoosen; she made him enjoy himself; she made him think nobly of himself; and is there any more satisfactory frame of mind? After an hour in Adrianas company, Peter was always inclined to say:

Well, well, Yanna! In the Great Day of sifting and sorting, I know that I shall be justified. My well-limed mortar, my walls plumb and strong, my days work of faithful service full rendered, will be accepted of my Master. And you too think so, Yanna.

I am sure of it, father. It is not the kind of work we do; it is the way in which the work is done. I will risk my word, that you took as much pains with John Finanes little dairy as with Mr. MacArthurs fine mansion.

I did, Yanna. There is not a poor stone in either, 3 and when he said the words, Adriana looked straight at him, with eyes full of admiration.

It must be explained, however, that if Adriana Van Hoosen was a remarkable girl for her position, she had had remarkable advantages.

Her birth was fortunate in its time. She did not come to her parents until their struggle with poverty was long over; and before she was ten years old, four of her brothers and sisters had married and made homes for themselves. George and Theodore had gone to Florida, to plant pineapples, and were making the venture pay them. Her sister Augusta was the wife of John Van Nostrand, a man growing rich in New York, by the way of groceries and politics. Her sister Gertrude had married a cousin who was a florist; and in watching the rose houses and bunching violets, they also were doing well and putting money away. Her youngest brother, Antony, was yet unmarried, but he had been long in California, and there was no reason to suppose he would ever return to the East.

It happened thus, that Peter and his wife found themselves alone with their youngest child, and the great tide of parental love turned actively towards her. They did not cease to love the absent, but the best love delights in service, and there was now none to serve but the charming child who stood in the place of the dear ones scattered so far apart. They began early to notice her beauty, to repeat her bright sayings, to assure themselves that they had been trusted with an extraordinary charge. The child also had the courage which accompanies a strongly affectionate nature; she did not fear to ask for all her desires; and as love gives gladly to those who trust it, she always won what she asked for. To his elder daughters, Peter had 4 not been generous in the matter of dress, but Adriana had not only plenty of gowns, she had also all the little accessories which are so dear to a girls heart. But whatever style or whatever color was prominent, Peter enjoyed every change. Sometimes he was tempted to tell her how pretty she was, and how proud he was of her, but he always thought better of it; and yet, Adriana knew right well that her father considered her the most beautiful girl in America, and that he was delighted if he met an acquaintance, rich or poor, to whom he could say, My daughter Adriana, sir.

However, though Peter was proud enough of his girls beauty, he was far more elated over her mental aptitudes. She excelled all others easily; she carried off every prize in her classes; she came home to him one day with the diploma of her accomplishments in her hand. He was too proud to find the words suitable for his satisfaction; for, in a certain sense, it was his own diploma also. He had studied with Adriana constantly. He had heard her lessons, and talked them over with her, until they were as familiar to him as to her. As he walked about his room that night, so happily sleepless, he examined himself in history, geography, science and mathematics; and he gave Peter Van Hoosen the credit he honestly deserved:

Even I have not done badly, he said. I am a great deal more of a man than I was four years ago. Now, Yanna and I are going to have good times. She wants to learn music. Very well, she shall learn it. And we will read and study books that are something above the general run of school books. He sat down to the thought, let his hand fall upon his knee, and peered into the future with the proud glance 5 of one who knows his strength, and foretells his own victory.

In the morning he had a disappointment. Adriana wanted to go to college. To learn music was not all she desired. There were other things just as important repose and dignity of manner, a knowledge of dress and address and of the ways and laws of society; and these things could be learned only by personal contact with the initiated. So she said, Father, I wish to go to college. And after a short struggle with his own hopes and longings, Peter answered, Well, then, Yanna, you must go to college.

She had been there but little more than two years when she received the following letter from her father: Dear Yanna. I took your mother into New York yesterday. We went to see a famous doctor, and he told her that she must die; not perhaps for weeks, or even months, but sentence of death has been passed. Peter did not add a word to this information. He would not tell Adriana to come home; he wished her to have the honor of giving herself a command ennobled by so much self-denial. And as he expected, Adriana answered his letter in person. Thenceforward, father and daughter walked with the mother to the outermost shoal of life yes, till her wide-open eyes, looking into their eyes at the moment of parting, suddenly became soulless; and they knew she was no longer with them.

After a few days Peter said, Yanna, you must go back to college. But she shook her head resolutely, and answered, I am all you have. I will not leave you, father. We can read and study together.

That would make me very happy, Yanna. And you can have a good music teacher.

I do not want a music teacher, father. I used to think I was an unrecognized Patti; now I know that I have only an ordinary parlor voice. I measured myself at college by a great many girls; and I found out I had been thinking too highly of Adriana Van Hoosen. My friend Rose Filmer and twenty others beside her can sing pieces I have not even the notes for. Rose plays much better than I do. She is cleverer with her pencil. She always does everything just properly, and I scarcely ever miss making a blunder. If I were only like Rose Filmer!

Come, come! that is a girl out of a book.

No; Rose is a girl out of New York. I am a girl out of Woodsome village. There have always been a city and a country mouse, father. And they are both good in their own way. But I could not be Rose Filmer unless I had been rocked in Roses cradle.

The name Filmer was a familiar one to Peter; for the Filmers were Van Hoosens on one side of their house; and he wondered if this clever Rose Filmer was not the descendant of the old Dominie Filmer who had preached in Woodsome when he was a boy. Certainly his father had built a stone wall and a dairy for a Dominie Filmer who was connected with the Van Hoosens on the mothers side. He thought of this coincidence in names for a few moments, and then dismissed the subject. In the morning, however, it was revived in a double manner. Adriana had a long letter from Rose Filmer, and Peter one from Mr. Filmer, asking an estimate for building a stone house from enclosed plans. Thus the conversation of the preceding day set the door open for the Filmers to enter the Van Hoosen home.

Roses letter was full of their intention to build a 7 summer residence so delightfully near to Adriana. She professed to think it a special providence in her behalf, and to care only for the movement because it brought her back to her dear Adriana. I who adore the ocean, she continued, who feel my soul throb to its immensity, am content to dwell on the placid river bank, if, by so doing, I may have the joy of my dear Adrianas presence.

It was a charming thing that Adriana believed fully in this feminine affection, and that even Rose deceived herself as completely. Girls adore one another until they find lovers to adore; and there is a certain sincerity in their affection. All the following year, as the great stone house progressed to its completion, Rose wrote just such letters to her beloved Yanna as she might easily have written to the most exacting and devoted lover; and neither of the girls imagined that they were in a great measure the overflow of a life restrained on every other side. To the world, Rose made every effort to be the very flower and perfume of serenity and self-poise, and thus to set herself free to her friend was like drawing a good full breath after some restraint had been taken away.

There had been a possibility of a break in this union of souls, just when Peter accepted the contract to build the Filmer mansion. Adriana thought it best to speak of her fathers work on the new house; and she did this with the simplicity of one who states a fact that may or may not have been understood. Rose was at first a little indignant. She went to her mother with Adrianas letter in her hand.

She is the daughter of a builder, of a common stone-mason, she cried, and she never told me until she was obliged to. Mamma, I am disillusioned. I 8 can never trust any one again. In her place, I should have felt it a point of honor not to hide my low birth. Really, mamma, you must excuse me if I weep a little. I am so disappointed so wronged so humiliated in Yannas treachery.

Nonsense, Rose! answered Mrs. Filmer. The girl behaved in the most natural manner. Society would be very disagreeable if people were required to go up and down telling who and what their fathers and grandfathers were. Did you ever ask her the question?

It was not my place to do so, mamma. I told her all about you, and Harry, and even papa. She was always talking about her father. She said he was such a noble old man that he studied with her and so on. Could I imagine a man laying stones all day, and reading Faraday and Parkman with his daughter at night? Could I, mamma?

I should not trouble myself about the girls father, if I liked the girl. You see, Rose, it is always foolish to make acquaintances upon unknown ground. The Hamilton and Lawson girls were in your classes, and you knew all about them. Friendship with their families would have been prudent, and I advised you to make it.

I could not, mamma. The Hamiltons declined to be at all familiar with me. As for the Lawsons, they are purse-proud and dangerous. Jemima Lawson has a tongue like a stiletto. She is slangy, too. She called her allowance her working expenses; and she had dreadful private names for the girls she disliked. Miss Lawson you simply could not be civil to; if you were, she immediately began to wonder what you wanted from her?

What dreadful creatures!

Now, Adriana Van Hoosen had a good name, she dressed well enough, and she really loved me. How could I imagine she was lowly born?

Does it matter, Rose?

Yes, for she lives quite near to our new house. In fact, her father is building it; and I have asked her so often to come and stay with me in New York, that I cannot, without a quarrel, ignore her in the country.

In the country, one does not need to be particular. It is rather nice to have a friend in the village who can bring the news. The long summer days would be insupportable without the follies and misfortunes of our neighbors to discuss. Then, if she is pretty and presentable, she will be useful in lawn and tennis parties. I would not mind about Miss Van Hoosens father. Fathers are not much, anyway; and fortunately she has no mother to annoy us. That makes a great difference. A vulgar mother would be an insurmountable objection. Is Miss Van Hoosen pretty?

Yanna is lovely. And she has a fine manner. Our art professor once said to me, Your friend Miss Van Hoosen is a gentlewoman with a great deal of background. I do not know what he meant, but I am sure he intended a great compliment.

Oh! he meant intellect, emotions, and such things. I am not so sure of Miss Van Hoosen now. There is Harry to be considered. He might fall in love with her. That would be inexpedient in fact, ruinous.

Harry fall in love! How absurd! Have not the prettiest girls in our set swung incense before him for five years? Harry glories in his ability to resist temptation. He knows that Eve never could have got round him.

She ruined Adam in about twenty-four hours. It would have taken Eve about one minute to get round Harry. The boy is really very impressionable.

Mamma! What a huge joke! Harry impressionable!

He is, I assure you, Rose. I presume I know my own son.

Well, at any rate, he is not worse than the rest. Young men nowadays neither love nor hate. Their love is iced on prudence, and their hatreds have not a particle of courage. I wish I had been born one hundred years ago. I have the heart for a real man.

You flatter yourself, Rose. You are the very triumph of respectable commonplace. And as for one hundred years ago, the follies of that date were just as innumerable as our own.

You think I am respectably commonplace, mamma. Then let me tell you, I must be a consummate actress. I do not think you know Rose Filmer. I do not think I know her myself. I hope I have some individuality.

Individuality! There is nothing more vulgar. I hear Parry with the carriage; will you drive with me?

No; I shall answer Adrianas letter, and get the subject off my mind. It is so much easier to know what you dislike to do than to be sure of what you like. Where are you going?

To McCreerys. I want some lace.

Do buy the real article then. It is the chic thing now, to wear real lace, and it does look supreme, among the miles of imitation that are used.

Then Rose went to the library to answer Adrianas letter. It pleased her to think it an important decision, and she sat some time with the pen in her hand, and a judicial air on her beautiful countenance. For 11 she was undeniably a very attractive girl, as she sat in the sunshine that morning, deliberating on Adrianas deception; there being to a practiced observer many alluring contradictions in her face and manner. Her hair was the color of ripe wheat, her eyes almond-shaped, blue and limpid; her cheeks and chin dimpled; her mouth rosy and full; her figure supple; her feet small, finely dressed, and quite in view; her whole appearance that of a lovely innocent girl, on the threshold of life. But this exquisite seeming contained possibilities of evil, as well as good. Her dress was full of studied effects, her manners of attitudes and languors; and her charming way of dropping her blue eyes, and then suddenly flashing them open, was a conscious, and not a natural, grace. Even her sweet credulousness had in it an equal capacity for seductive wilfulness and petulance. Nor was she unconscious of this double nature within her; for she had often said to Adriana, I feel as if there were twenty different girls in me and the majority of them bad.

Social life, however, so far, had had a salutary effect on her. She had become more equable, more dependent on the approval of others, and less liable to unconventional self-assertions. Nothing, indeed, could have been better for Rose Filmer than the tight social rein of a set which conscientiously tried to be both religious and fashionable. She was compelled to honor les convenances, and to obey them; compelled to suppress her spontaneity which was seldom a pleasant one and to consider the feelings of others, as well as the wishes of her own heart. At college she had been remarkable for her self-willed personality; one season in society had taught her a decent self-restraint. 12 Consequently, she deliberated well the answer to her friends letter.

If I want to break with her, I have now an excellent excuse, she thought. I could tell her that, though I have a soul above noticing the accident of birth, my whole nature declares against deception. There are a dozen moralities in the position, and I could retire wounded and innocent, and leave her altogether in the wrong. But do I want to break with Yanna? Would it be to my advantage? I think not. The girls in our set do not like me. Julia Mills the other day called me a little hypocrite to my face. She did it with a laugh, but all the other girls laughed too, and it was not pleasant. Yanna believes in me. Then next summer we shall be at Woodsome, and mamma is right about the long, tiresome summer days. Yanna was born in the village; she knows every one, gentle and simple, and what is the use of neighbors if you cannot gossip about them?

Besides, she continued, I have now three lovers, and I have not one girl friend with whom I can talk them over all the girls in our set are so jealous of me and Yanna would like to see my love letters, I have no doubt. I wonder if she has a lover yet! I suppose not, poor girl! Then there will be fun in watching Harry. Whether he be utterly heartless, or, as mamma thinks, very impressionable, he cannot meet Yanna day after day without some consequences. I think, upon the whole, it will be best to keep friends with Yanna. And having come to this decision, she raised herself from the reflective attitude into which she had fallen, and going to a table wrote as follows:

My Beloved Yanna: Did you really think that your lowly birth could change my love for you? No, no! 13 Whether my Yanna be princess or pauper, is no matter to me. I only long for our new house to be finished, that I may have you more constantly near me. Then she hesitated. She was on the point of saying she had long known of Adrianas low birth; but she felt sure Adriana would ask her the how and when of her information; and there was absolutely no good to accrue from the falsity. But though she wrote eight pages of gushing affection, she was not satisfied; she had not been able to choose her words with precision, and far less able to prevent an aura of patronage which Adriana was as quick to feel as a barometer to answer the atmospheric changes.

I will not take any patronage from Rose Filmer, she muttered; and then she flung Roses letter into the fire; I want nothing from her. Oh! I must answer this letter at once; I could not eat my dinner if I were so much in debt to my self-respect. So Adriana laid away her sewing, and wrote:

Dear Rose: Thank you for your overflowing letter. It is very kind of you to overlook what you call the accident of my birth. But I cannot let you entertain the idea that I think it an accident. On the contrary, I regard my birth as the well-considered ordination of Almighty God. I was not an accident to my good father and mother. I was placed in their care, because the All-Wise considered the Van Hoosen home the best possible place for my highest development. I think it is time people stopped talking about the accident of birth; and I am sure, as soon as you regard birth in its proper light, you will do so. Your love for me has led you likewise into a very stupid assertion about loving Yanna the same whether she was princess 14 or pauper. My dear, there is no question of either. I am as far removed from pauperism as we both are from royalty. Our mutual liking has stood a number of little shocks, and I have no fear it will go to pieces on my fathers trade. He is building you a handsome house in the most honorable manner. He was pleased to have the contract to do so, and Mr. Filmer was equally pleased to secure his work. That is the position, as I understand it. Suppose we say no more on the subject; it will be so much nicer to write about your balls, and fairs, and parties. From what you say, I think charity must be the gayest of all the virtues; certainly it cuts the most considerable figure of any during the New York season. I am sure you enjoyed the private theatricals; for we all like occasionally to play a part not our own. And so you are going to the seaside this summer? Will you bathe? That is one of the things vanity would forbid me to do, except in private. It is true, Venus rose beautiful from the sea; but no mere mortal woman can do so. Do you not think, that for a distinctly levelling process, sea bathing is supreme? Life is very even and quiet here; when Woodsome Hall is finished, we all hope it will make a difference. Is it to be Woodsome or Filmer Hall? Mr. Filmer had not decided when he was here last. Dear Rose, do not let us have any more misunderstandings, and send me a real nice letter soon.

Yours lovingly,
Adriana Van Hoosen.

This letter did not please Rose any better than her own effusion had pleased Adriana; and for a little while there was a coolness between the girls. They wrote to each other with accustomed regularity, but 15 their letters were set to a wrong key, Adrianas being specially independent in tone, as if her self-esteem was perpetually on the defensive. But life is not an exact science, something is always happening to change its circumstances, and feelings change with them. The following spring the new Filmer house was finished and ready for occupancy; and the village newspaper was busily blowing little fanfaronades of congratulation to Woodsome; and of welcome to the coming Filmers; and by that time Adriana and Rose were also eager to see each other again.





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