Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance
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“It must have been something she learned at college,” said one speculative girl, in their future discussion of this subject. “No,” said another, “it is the Dutch in her. Mother says the Van Hoosens have always stuck together. There never was a poor one among them, or, if there was, they all helped him until he could stand on his feet and fight his own battle.”
And certainly Alida Van Hoosen’s interest in Antony and Adriana – only very distant relatives – seemed to warrant this explanation. For a good family tree has far-spreading branches and roots, and the crown of leaves on the topmost branch, and the tiniest fibre that offshoots from the trunk, are part and parcel of the same life. And no other tree is just like it. Now, Alida Van Hoosen was one of those women who ripen well and improve by keeping – a much sweeter woman at sixty than she had been at forty; for though age turns a frivolous nature into a hard one, it makes 124 a serious woman tender and tolerant and humanly sympathetic. And Miss Alida, having wearied her capacity for travel and change, was fortunately in need of a living object on which to bestow her time and her affections. So that the unlooked-for appearance of Antony, and the handsome appearance of Adriana, allied with circumstances so singularly fitting into her love of race and family, supplied her with an interest promising to be both sufficiently active and sufficiently lasting.
“Here am I,” she said to herself, “provided by my good fortune with two sons and two daughters, just at their most interesting age; all their childish tempers and troubles over, their education finished, and their love affairs pleasantly tangled up. I am grateful to Peter Van Hoosen and Henry Filmer for finding me a vocation so suitable for my age and my position as the good genius of the Van Hoosens.” And with this pleasant idea underlying all her other ideas, she awaited the arrival of Adriana.
Monday morning proved to be fine and frostily exhilarating; and Peter took his daughter to the train in a cheerful mood. He knew better than to offer her advice about a life of which he was entirely ignorant; besides, he had faith in Adriana’s religious nature and clear judgment; and he felt it to be sufficient as he held her hand at parting to say: “Be a good girl, Yanna, ‘unspotted from the world’ – you know what that means, my dear. And try to do something for Antony.”
She smiled assent to both commissions, and with this comfort at heart, Peter drove leisurely home, and began to settle his life to its new order. He was resolved to work more in his barn and his greenhouse, 125 and to begin writing a little book, which he had long contemplated, upon the culture of bulbs. On the whole, he was sure he could manage to enjoy his solitary life very well; for love destroys all egotisms; it can be happy in the happiness of others.
Antony was the first person Adriana saw when she reached New York. He had come with the carriage to meet his sister, and he was smiling a welcome to her, before he had any opportunity to speak it.“What do you think?” he said to Yanna, as soon as they were together. “Cousin Alida sent for me on Saturday, and when I answered her note, she entreated me to be her guest during this winter. She told me she expected you to-day, and that a gentleman in the house was necessary for comfort and safety – and respectability. She pretended to be afraid of burglars and servants, and made out such a hard condition for herself and you that I finally consented to accept her invitation. But I am afraid I have done a very foolish thing.”
“Indeed, you have not, Antony. You are looking pale and ill; certainly you want some one to care for you. What is the matter, dear brother?”
“Do you mean Rose Filmer, when you say ‘nothing’?”
“Far from it. Rose is everything.”
“You love Rose so much? Tell me about it, Antony. It will do you good.”
“I love Rose so much, Yanna, that I only live to love her.”
“Well, then, you will soon meet her often, and under very favorable conditions. She will be sure to visit me, and in the quiet of Cousin Alida’s house you may influence her when you could not do so in a crowd.”
“I have thought of that. And, oh, Yanna! you must help me to keep my Rose sweet and pure. She has so many temptations; she is so weak, and you are so strong. Surely you will help me to help Rose!”
“With all my heart. Miss Alida told me – ”
“Do not mind what you are told – the dear girl is in danger, and I love her all the more. Oh, Yanna, the love has got into my soul, and whatever Rose is, or whatever she does, cannot affect it. Deep down, below all the folly and cruelty she is sometimes guilty of, she loves me. Do I mind, then, the accidentals of her position? Not at all. Her heart is mine. Some day she will find that out. I am not to be discouraged by pouts or tempers – no, nor yet by graver faults.”
And Yanna felt at once that there was no reasoning with a love like this. Also, it had her most living sympathy. Just in this unreasonable way, she would fain have been loved herself. She looked with admiration on the man capable of it. As he talked of Rose, of her beauty, her sweetness, her facile temper responding to every breath of opinion, to every whim and wish, he talked with an astonishing eloquence; for the highest poetry is struck from the eternal strings of the human heart, and every word Antony said came thrilling from them. It was evident that he had learned this eloquence in the school of pain; Yanna could see through his shy, sensitive, uncomplaining manner that he had suffered, and was still suffering from the conditions he described so graphically.
“We are at home,” he said at length. “And, oh, Yanna! it has done me so much good to speak to you. I have never said a word to any one before. I felt this morning as if my heart must break.”
“Come to me with every fresh joy or sorrow, Antony. What is a sister for? See, there is cousin at the door!”
“Welcome, children!” was Miss Alida’s cheerful greeting. “Was the train late? I expected you an hour ago. In fact, I have been looking for you, Adriana, ever since last Friday. Come, I will show you your room. I am sure you have a headache, they heat those cars so ferociously. Did Antony attend to your trunks? Is it not a charming day? And after lunch we will go out and do some shopping. There is always shopping to do – that is the one interest never lacking. How is Cousin Peter? Did he fret at parting with you?” So she talked, as she stirred the fire, and pointed out the comforts of the apartment ere she left her guest to rest and refresh herself.
When the door closed, Adriana sat down with her hat in her hand, and looked around her. The house was large, lofty and furnished with all the splendid taste of the present era; and its atmosphere was singularly quiet and cheerful. It gave her that sense of contentment which comes from satisfied ideals; and she wondered vaguely at the chain of circumstances which had brought Antony and herself under Madame Zabriski’s roof. Antony in no way appeared out of his place; and yet culture, in its educational sense, had done nothing for him. But he possessed naturally that serene, self-contained, courteous manner which is the essence of good breeding; and in outward aspects he had been wise enough not to trust his own judgment, but to wear what his tailor decreed. Antony, therefore, was well-dressed, calm and leisurely; the latter excellent society trait having been acquired to perfection in the long, hot days of ranching life, when 128 lounging was the only thing possible, and a very little exertion went a very long way.
As for herself, Adriana had no fears. She anticipated no social contingency to which she would not be equal; and she found in her relationship to her hostess all the surety she needed for her position. But she did consider the propriety of rich costumes in rooms so magnificent, and admit that Miss Alida’s proposition concerning shopping was a necessary one. So the time went swiftly by, as she noted down her own ideas on the subject; for in spite of all her efforts, her mind would wander. She thought of Harry, she thought of Rose, and she wondered how and when they would meet. So before she had completed her list, the lunch bell rang; and she saw Antony at the foot of the stairs waiting for her. He looked at her with proud satisfaction, and slipping a piece of paper into her hand said: “You will want lots of fine things, Yanna; you must let me get some of them for you.”
When they entered the dining-room there was an old gentleman present – a fiery professor of some kind, who was sipping his bouillon, and contradicting Miss Alida with an apparently equal satisfaction. She seemed to be enjoying his unconventional manner. “Professor,” she was saying as they entered, “you seize every opportunity to lecture the universe. Will you regard my adopted children? They are Mr. Antony and Miss Adriana Van Hoosen – cousins, sir, and a little more than cousinly.” He bowed to the young people, smiled, nodded, and then said brusquely to Miss Alida:
“Dutch, too, I perceive.”
“Pure Dutch, Professor. Look at them. They may be descendants of John de Bakker, or of Madame 129 Wendelmost Klaas; or they may be of the same blood as the Cromelins, Laboucheres, and Van Overzees, for aught even your wisdom can tell. For the race is pure on their side.”
“And all is race. There is no other truth; because it includes all others. I admire the Dutch, madame; and I am lost in wonder when I consider Holland.”
“You may well be that, Professor,” cried Miss Alida, as she lifted daintily for him a Joseph-portion of the tempting salad, “for the sublime thing about Hollanders is that they have created a country for themselves. If you had ever stood on the town house of Leyden – ”
“I have stood there.”
“And what did you see?”
“I saw streets, where there was once the open sea. I saw cornfields, where fish had once been caught. I saw an orchard, where there had once been an oyster-bed. I saw a fair province, covered with a web of silvery waters.”
“And yet they say that Dutchmen are prosaic and phlegmatic! Holland is in itself a poem!”
“Yes,” said Adriana, “for some poet must have seen beneath the salt waves the land flowing with milk and bristling with barley.”
“And then,” added Miss Alida, all aglow with enthusiasm – “and then came the heroes! and they dived into the turbid waters and brought the vision to the light of day.”
“Very good!” said the Professor; “but what I like about the Hollanders is their religion. Holland was nothing till all of a sudden the Gospel made it sublime. The Hollanders knew the worth of their souls. In their politics, they thought of eternity – a thing 130 statesmen do not usually take into account; and seeking first the kingdom of heaven, they struck such bold strokes for freedom as would make common heroes falter.”
“Yes,” answered Miss Alida, “the Dutch are a religious people, but they have always hated religious rituals. You could not get Antony and Adriana Van Hoosen, after all their American generations, to take an interest in church millinery and such trivialities.”
“Race! race! my dear madam. The Dutch do not comprehend the truths hidden in symbols – that is all.”
“But why,” asked Antony, “should we have symbols when we may have realities?”
“Why? why? Always why! I think I will write a grand treatise on the Martyrs and Heroes of Holland.”
“Better, then, begin at once. Miss Witsus contemplates just such a book. She tells me that she is certain she can write it.”
“Let her cherish the simple faith to the latest day of her life. Do not encourage her in any audacious attempts to reduce it to practice. She will only lose a pleasant illusion. For my part, I spoke presumptuously, and I most humbly repent it.”
“Let us change the subject. How do you feel about the elections, Professor?” asked Antony.
“I take them as I take the weather, or any other matter beyond my control.”
“The principles of Democracy – ”
“Oh, sir!” interrupted the Professor, “the principles are all right; the trouble is in reducing them to practice, for Democracy degrades statesmen into politicians.”
“The trouble is,” said Miss Alida, laughing, “we want more Dutchmen in office. They have some fixed 131 ideas about religion and politics, and they stick to them like grim death.”
“Yes, sir. And I may tell you that I am thinking of founding a Woman’s Holland Society. Have you any idea of the wealth and intelligence united in the Men’s Holland Society of New York City? Do you know how they honor their noble fatherland? They eat, and drink, and make merry; or they interest themselves in preserving a few old relics. But if the Dutch women form a Holland Society, the Dutch men may prepare to give, and to do, or else to take a lower place. The Dutch Women’s Holland Society will found schools and orphanages, and look after the sick and the stranger within our gates. They will encourage Dutch talent and Dutch cleanliness; and stand up for the plain, primitive religion.”
“My dear madam! Has the millennium indeed arrived?”
“There is something in the idea, however, Professor?”
“Yes; but we must leave it for future discussion. I have a dear friend waiting for me in your outer vestibule.”
“A dear friend of yours! And waiting for you in the outer vestibule! Why did you not bring him in? You must have known that he would be welcome.”
“My friend is my dog Sultan; a noble mastiff, a thorough gentleman, a Republican and Protectionist of the proper sort. He allows no strange dogs to prowl about the place, and grub up his buried bones. Cats, in his eyes, are unfit to cumber the earth. Cows and other dogs he does not permit even to look over the fence. A dog of worth; and when I come again, I 132 will introduce him to you; but for the present – adieu!”
They sat still a little to praise the Professor, and then the ladies prepared for their afternoon shopping. They were full of anticipation, and Adriana was radiant with those pleasant hopes that only stir the heart of youth. Among the silks and laces, the gowns and cloaks and trimmings, they had some happy calculations; and when they left Arnold & Constable’s, it was already dusk and cold. They passed out of the store quickly, Yanna looking straight before her, and having her muff raised slightly towards her face. So neither of them saw the young man who bent eagerly forward from a passing hansom, and looked at them with amazement, and yet with an intense interest.
It was Harry Filmer on his way home; and if the driver had not known his home, he would certainly have passed it, so astonished was he at what he had seen, and so lost in speculation as to how such a thing could be.
“Whom do you think I met driving with Madame Zabriski this evening as I came home?” he said to his mother and Rose, as soon as an opportunity offered.
“Madame Zabriski’s friends are called legion,” answered Mrs. Filmer; “but I am sure we know no one who is on driving terms with the proud old woman.”
“Nevertheless, it was a great friend of yours, Rose – in fact, it was Yanna Van Hoosen.”
Mrs. Filmer turned round and looked at her son with scornful incredulity. “The thing is absurd!” she said. “You have been mistaken. Miss Van Hoosen has quite a common face.”
“It was Yanna,” persisted Harry, sulkily. “I 133 should think I know Yanna when I see her. I have good reason to do so. Her face was clear as light against the winter gloom. I can tell you, it gave me a shock.”
“In the Zabriski carriage? I cannot understand it. Was Madame Zabriski with her?”
“I have never seen Madame Zabriski except at the opera. Women look different in their carriage wraps.”
“I am almost certain that I heard, or I read, that she had gone with a party to Florida. You are sure it was Miss Van Hoosen?”
“Then,” said Rose, “I think Yanna is acting very strangely. Why has she not written to me? I sent her a long letter last week, and she has not answered it. However, I shall probably see her brother this evening, and he will tell me whatever there is to tell.”
Thus it happened that Antony received a smiling invitation that night into the Filmers’ opera box; and that he was translated into the seventh circle of delight by Rose’s amiability and preference. To other visitors she was delightfully cordial, but she kept Antony at her side, and treated him with a familiar confidence she gave to no one else. Even Mrs. Filmer was more polite. She had noticed between Antony and her daughter a very intimate and apparently interesting conversation, and she perceived that Rose was much impressed by its tenor; and that she treated her lover with an unusual consideration. It was therefore likely that something strange had occurred; and she wisely accommodated herself to the mood it had induced.
But there was no conversation on the subject until 134 they were at home. Then Mrs. Filmer, in her dressing-gown and slippers, went to Rose’s room to receive her confidence. The girl was sitting half-undressed before the fire, with a soft, happy expression on her face. She sighed and smiled when her mother entered, and then began to uncoil her hair, and to spread it loose over the back of the chair on which she sat.
“It is too long, Rose,” said Mrs. Filmer, passing the shining locks through her fingers. “You ought to have it cut a little.”
“So many things ought to be done that are neglected. You came to hear about Yanna, eh, mamma?”
“What did Mr. Van Hoosen say?”
“Yanna and he are both staying with their cousin, Miss Alida Van Hoosen – you know papa sold her some land in Woodsome last summer. Miss Van Hoosen has rented the Zabriski house, with all its belongings, servants, carriages, opera box, etc.”
“Now I begin to understand. This Miss Van Hoosen and Madame Zabriski have been friends since their school days. They are together every winter; and every one thinks it necessary to speak of their ‘lovely friendship,’ and so on. And so she is a relative of the girl you know? Why did you not tell me this before?”
“They are only cousins – distant cousins – and Yanna never said much about her. We often passed her house when we were driving; and if we saw her at the window, or in the garden, we bowed to her. She appeared to be a very good-tempered old lady, and she must be so, for she has invited Yanna and her brother to stay with her until Easter.”
“Well! Wonders never cease! It may, however, be a good thing for you, Rose. This lady must know 135 many of the Zabriski set; and she will doubtless give some entertainments to her cousins. And somehow you are not popular with our own acquaintances, so that it would be a little triumph for you to step up from among them. I should go and see your friend in the morning.”
“I intend to do so. I promised her brother I would be there early. He said he was sure that Yanna had written to me.”
Then she rose, laid down the hairpins she had been idly fingering, and going to a closet, took out of it a bottle and a small wine glass. Mrs. Filmer instantly arrested her hand. “What are you doing, Rose?” she asked, angrily. “You took enough wine before coming upstairs. Do you know that Harry said to me yesterday, ‘Rose takes too much wine for a young girl; she will spoil her complexion.’”
“Tell Harry to mind his own complexion. I really have a pain – an indigestion, mamma. I always suffer from it when I eat a lobster salad, and I foolishly ate one to-night. I am only going to take a teaspoonful as medicine.”
“Why, Rose! My God! Rose, it is brandy! Give the bottle to me at once! What do you mean? Are you mad?”
“Not at all. I am only tired to death, and not well.”
Mrs. Filmer had the bottle in her hand, and she sat down with it, and began to cry hysterically. The fear, the doubt, that had been for some time couchant, hushed, hidden, had suddenly sprung like a wild beast at her heart. She felt as if she must choke, but in the midst of her anguish, she clung to the bottle with the desperation of a mother who holds back death from her child.
For some minutes Rose stood watching her, not affected by the grief she witnessed; only conscious of an indifference she could not master, and whose foundation was anger and annoyance. But when her mother had sobbed her passion of grief away, and lay white, still and exhausted in her chair, Rose went to her side, and kissed the tears off her cheeks, and said with an accent of deep injury:
“Mamma, dear mamma! You are making your head ache for nothing at all. Every one of the girls I know take a teaspoonful of brandy now and then, when they are tired and sick. Harry does the same thing very often. Why should he blame me? And then for you to act as if I had committed some dreadful crime! It is too bad! You might have faith in your daughter. No wonder so many people treat me shyly, when you come to my room to insult me. Oh, mamma, it is too cruel! It is too cruel! It is, indeed!”
Then mother and daughter wept together, and things were said between them far too sacred to be put into words – confessions, that had no articulate form; promises, that were never to be broken; sympathy, alliance, love invincible, hoping all things, believing all things! And when at length “good-night” was kissed, not spoken, there was an air of solemnity on Mrs. Filmer’s face that the world had never seen there, not even in church; and Rose was white as a lily, and her fair head drooped, and her heart was heavy, though not quite uncomforted. Long after her mother had gone away, the girl sat quiet as a stone, half-undressed, with sleep far from her eyes and her conscience wide awake; and it was not until the clock of a neighboring church struck three that she roused herself and began to finish her preparations for sleep.
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