Amelia Barr.

Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance





I want to tell you about Rose, sir. You must put down your data and listen to me. It is the most important duty you have.

Then the attitude of the elder gentleman changed as quickly as a flash of light. He cast the slips of paper upon the table; his thoughtful countenance became alert; he turned round, faced his son, and asked, sharply: What do you want to say about your sister?

Then it was as if some seal had been taken off Harrys heart and lips. He spoke from the foundations of his being; he said: Sir, my dear sister is on the way to mortal and immortal ruin; and both you and mother shut your eyes to the fact. I also have refused to see what others see. I have said to myself, when mother speaks, when father speaks, it will be time enough for me to do my part. Sir, Rose takes too much wine; she takes it at improper times, and with improper people. This afternoon Mr. Van Hoosen found her with that nephew of Folletts you know the man.

Richard Duval?

Yes, sir.

Go on, Harry. Tell me all you know. What had Antony Van Hoosen to do with the matter?

He saw that she was taking too much. And he loves Rose better than his own life. So he invented an excuse to get her home.

Mr. Filmer bit his lips passionately, and Harry saw that he was disposed to settle his anger upon the innocent. Sir, he said, Antony did our family a great kindness. I met him on the avenue afterwards, 152 and we had a long conversation. He is coming to see you in the morning. He is anxious to have the right to watch over Rose to protect her

God in heaven! Has not Rose a father, and mother, and brother?

We have hitherto done nothing to help, or to save, the girl. We have each and all trusted to the power of social laws and judgments. Mother and I have certainly suspected, feared, divined something wrong for a long time; and we have both acted as if we thought by ignoring the danger we could destroy it. Antony loves her better than we do. He is ready to marry her at once. He will take her to Europe, and watch over her constantly, until the temptation is dead, and the memory forgotten by every one.

Harry, we do not want a stranger to do our duty, do we? If Rose is to be taken away, her father and mother are the proper persons to go with her.

Not in this case, father. When a man of Antonys spotless character, good lineage, and great wealth makes Rose his wife, every ones mouth will be shut by the honor done her. People will recall the old reports only to say, There must have been a mistake! Rose is so excitable! And no one will eventually, in the face of such a fact as her marriage, trust their own sight or memory about what they think they have seen or heard. If you are Roses friend, my dear father, listen to what Antony Van Hoosen says, and make Rose marry him.

Make? Who can make a woman do what she is resolved not to do?

Then, let us go back to Woodsome; there we may be better able to protect Rose from herself and others.

Yes.

We can go back to Woodsome.

But even that will not be sufficient, sir.

Do you think I am unaware of my duty, Harry? If Mr. Van Hoosen is willing to devote his life to watching and guarding Rose, what am I capable of? I, her father! I will leave my studies; I will put every thought out of mind but Rose. The Saviour who went out into the wilderness after the stray lamb shall be my example. All the other ninety-and-nine interests of life shall be forgotten, if so I may accomplish this one. He rose as he said the words, and stooping to the table, swept the slips of paper into an open drawer; and his face, though solemn, was full of light and purpose.

We should have spoken plainly to each other before this hour, Harry, he said, and you were wrong not to have come to me before. A matter of such vital importance ought not to have been trusted to the peradventures and influences of society. We ought to have looked the danger in the face; we ought to have acknowledged it to each other, and never suffered the possibility of such a sorrow and shame to have become even a probable event.

My dear father, it is not surely too late. I will help you in any way I can. And then Mr. Filmers eyes met his sons eyes, and, oh, how well they understood each other!

And the way being the way of duty, Harry, he answered, we shall not miss it; for duty is the commandment exceeding broad.

At this point Mrs. Filmer entered, and Harry, after placing her in a chair, left the room. For a few minutes she sat quiet, looking into the fire with that apathetic stare which follows exhausted feeling.

Then Mr. Filmer put his chair beside hers, and taking her hand, said:

My dear Emma, we must bear and fight this trouble together. Harry has told me all. And I do think, if Mr. Van Hoosen will marry Rose, it is the very best thing for the dear girl. He will take her to Europe, into entirely fresh scenes, and marriage buries so many imperfections and offences.

Pray, what has Mr. Van Hoosen to do with Rose?

He wishes to marry her. He wishes to have the right to watch over and protect her.

Mr. Van Hoosen marry Rose! What an idea! Rose is exceedingly angry at him. She says he interfered with her in the most unwarrantable manner, and frightened her until she has been quite sick from the shock.

He did well to frighten her. On that awful road leading down, and down, nothing but a fright will arrest attention. If Rose will not put herself in a loving husbands care, then we will shut this house and go to Woodsome to-morrow night.

Such nonsense!

I say, we will leave New York to-morrow night for Woodsome, or else we will take the next steamer for Europe. There are these two alternatives; these two, and no other.

And you will permit your daughter to marry the son of the mason who built our house?

The mason who built our house is of my own kindred. He is as fine a gentleman as ever I met. He is honorable and well cultured; and his son, Harry says and he knows him well is worthy of his father.

Nevertheless, Rose will not marry him. And as for breaking up the house now, it is not to be thought 155 of. People will say that we had been compelled to do so, either by Roses misconduct or else by our own poverty. It is simply ruinous to our social standing to leave the city now.

If Rose is not inclined to marry Mr. Van Hoosen, we shall leave the city to-morrow evening. For I do not believe I shall be able to afford the European alternative. At any rate, not for a few weeks; and those few weeks we must spend in Woodsome.

You are simply talking, Henry.

To-morrow, I shall simply act. I do not often go against your wishes, Emma, but in this affair, as surely as I live and love, I will take my own way! What did Rose say to you? What excuses did she make for herself?

I think there has been a great deal too much made of the affair. Rose says, Adriana Van Hoosen had partly promised to go to the matinee with her, and she went to ask her to redeem her promise this afternoon, as Irving was in a Shakespearean character. But Adriana had gone out gone to see her sister, who is married to a Dutchman keeping a little grocery on Second Avenue. So then Rose intended to come back home, but met Mr. Duval, and he persuaded her to go to the matinee with him. After they came out, they went into the restaurant for a cream and a glass of wine, and while they were taking it Antony Van Hoosen came to her in a hurried manner and told her she must return home at once. Rose was terrified about you. We are all terrified about you, when you are out of our sight studying so much as you do, we naturally think of apoplexy, or a fit of some kind, so the poor girl feared you had had a fit, and she was too terrified to ask questions.

But why did she not see you as soon as she came home? for Harry says you did not know she was home until he told you.

She says she ran upstairs to take off her bonnet, and that she felt suddenly so ill that she lay down a moment to collect her feelings before seeing any one; and that she fell asleep, or into a faint she does not know which. She had hardly come to herself when I spoke to her. The poor child has been crying her eyes out, and for a little while she could say nothing but, Oh, mamma, is not this dreadful, dreadful! And when I told her you were not sick at all, and none of us were sick, she was naturally very angry at Mr. Van Hoosen for frightening her in such a way; and I think myself it was a very great impertinence.

Emma! Emma! You know it was a kindness beyond the counting. If Mr. Van Hoosen had not brought her home, would Mr. Duval have done so? Dare you think of the possibilities of such a situation? As for me, I count Antony Van Hoosen to have been a friend beyond price. A man able to meet such an emergency, and brave enough to face the responsibility he assumed, is a noble fellow; I care not whose son he is. I hope, I pray, that Rose may not fling her salvation from her.

But, my dear Henry, if she does, it will not do; it really will not be prudent to leave New York till the proper time. I promise you to go with Rose wherever she goes.

I shall take her out of the way of temptation. When a poor, weak soul is in temptation, it is too late to reason or entreat; and Rose will not be frightened again. She must marry Mr. Van Hoosen, or else we shall return to Woodsome to-morrow. That is all about it.

I cannot be ready to-morrow. It is impossible to move at a moments notice.

I was at Woodsome last week, and the house is warm and comfortable. Every necessity can be procured in an hour. I will stay with Rose, and you can return and arrange for the transmission of your dresses and such other things as you wish to remove. You know how to manage well enough, Emma.

To overdo is always a mans way; and I tell you in this matter, to overdo is to underdo.

I am sure I am right, Emma. Ask your heart, and tell me honestly if you think Rose is in danger or not?

I will watch her carefully.

Then you think she is in danger?

Oh, Henry! Henry! What can I say? How can I tell? I love Rose so dearly! I love her so dearly!

So do I love her! I am sorry that I have not looked better after our little treasure.

But I cannot I cannot let her marry. I cannot give her up and to that man!

If we have been recreant to our duty, Emma, and he is willing to assume our arrears, and do it for us in the future, we deserve to endure loss and obligation because we did not honor our office as parents.

I am sure I have never had a single thought but for my children.

Well, well! In the morning we shall perhaps understand things better. Trouble, like a turbid river, runs itself clear in the night.

They talked thus for hours, but nothing further was reached. And Rose was just as wretched and restless. As they passed through the dining-room, which was under Roses room, they heard her slowly pacing up 158 and down the floor, though it was then long past midnight. For Roses conscience was still very quick, and she was quite capable of estimating the sin and folly of her afternoons escapade, so that the tide of self-reproach went on rising, until she could not struggle against it. A disgust of all things, but especially of herself, darkened both the past and the future; and she felt the wretchedness of a combat where defeat had followed defeat, until her thoughts were all remorse. Those few hours of the past afternoon dull enough while she possessed them returned to her memory only to make her feel how much more they might have given. She had disappointed and deceived her mother to obtain them, and what had they brought her? Nothing but an intolerable shame and remorse.

Spiritually, she felt a prostration worse than death. She told herself that she had prayed, that she had asked God to help her, and that he had not done so. If God had so willed, it need not have been thus with her. But alas! accusing God brought her no comfort; her conscience continually reminded her of what she had done, and what she had left undone of her selfishness her lost time her idle languors her hypocrisy her rebellion against God, all these sins she realized, and she hated herself for them.

Still, this very activity of despair was hopeful; for it is not despair, but the sombre inertia of despondency, that is fatal to improvement. It was the happiest thing in the world for Rose that she was capable of being unhappy. For when she met with herself thus, she felt the need of meeting with God. If she had suffered less, she might have been content to leave God in heaven; but this utter sense of misery and weakness made her at last fall humbly before the Father 159 which is in heaven, and murmur, Have mercy upon me! And with that prayer, she slept.

Very early in the morning Antony called on Mr. Filmer. But there was no need to apologize for the hour. Mr. Filmer was possessed by the necessity for rapid action, and he welcomed Antony the more warmly for his promptitude.

I am a lover, Mr. Filmer, said Antony, and you know lovers run ahead of the clock. I love Miss Filmer most sincerely, and I desire to make her my wife. Of course, this desire implies the means to support her in the position to which she has been accustomed, and I have therefore brought you this schedule of my income to examine.

Mr. Filmer lifted the paper and read its contents with the caution and respect the circumstances warranted. He laid it down with an air of pleasure and astonishment. This is an extraordinary record of property for so young a man as you are, Mr. Van Hoosen.

I have had extraordinary good fortune, sir. As you see, my share in the hotel, of itself, insures Miss Filmers adequate support; and I am desirous to make over to her absolutely, for her own use in any way she wishes, the income from the Aladdin Reef mine. It is now worth from eight to ten thousand dollars yearly. I only ask that our marriage may not be delayed, as I desire to go to Europe early in April; and if I could take Rose with me, I should count myself the most fortunate man in the world.

You have my full consent to all you desire, Mr. Van Hoosen. Perhaps I ought to say something about Rose. Do you know my daughter well enough to make her your wife? She is not without faults, sir.

Neither am I without faults, Mr. Filmer. I think perhaps those who have something to forgive may love the best. If Rose will take me with my faults, I shall be most favored and fortunate.

Then, Mr. Van Hoosen, go and ask her.

Sir, I will call this afternoon for her answer. It may be that in the interim you can say a word in my favor; and I must not lose a single aid to success. I had hoped to have won her without calling in the question of my wealth, but there are now reasons which seem to make delay inadvisable. Therefore, I must gain all I can from any circumstance.

I shall say everything in your favor that is possible, sir; but at the last, you know, it is Rose that must decide.

Still Mr. Filmer was well aware that Antony had acted with great discrimination. No one is insensible to the power of wealth and all that wealth can give, and Antonys fortune was sufficiently large to command respect. When Mrs. Filmer followed the suitor, she found her husband walking excitedly about the room.

Do you know, Emma, he said, that Rose has the opportunity to make a stupendously fortunate marriage? The man is worth a couple of millions, and his property is of that kind that grows while he sleeps and plays. He owns half of one of the largest hotels in this country, ranches and cattle, and a good deal of excellent mining stock. He has real estate in most of the growing towns on the Pacific coast, and a lot of property in San Francisco. Why, the man actually proposes to settle about ten thousand dollars yearly on Rose, to simply do as she likes with. I am amazed! I am grateful beyond measure!

The idea! Who could have imagined that man owning anything of consequence? And yet, he always had that air of sublime indifference which rests itself upon a good bank account. I do hope Rose will be reasonable.

He wishes to marry immediately, for he desires to take Rose to Europe early in April, for a years travel. The prospect for the dear girl is all we could desire and such a good, honorable, strong man, Emma! He will be Roses salvation. I am sure he is a lover that even her good angel would approve.

We shall see. Rose will need some management. She is often very cross in the morning, and disposed to dislike every one.

This morning, however, Rose was in her sweetest and most obliging mood. Something of the nights struggle yet lingered in her subdued and conciliating manner; and Mrs. Filmer fortunately chose the subject most suitable for the condition her daughters weary look, and the necessity for some rest. Your father was talking seriously about going back to Woodsome, she said. I never saw him more determined about anything.

That would be so ridiculous! You never would do such a thing, mamma, not for two or even three months?

He spoke of going in a day or two. He finds the citys noise and exigencies very trying. But you need not go, unless you desire.

And pray, who would chaperon me?

Perhaps Miss Alida Van Hoosen.

Oh, mamma! You know she has Yanna with her; and besides, their way of living is unutterably dull and stupid lectures and concerts, and such 162 things. I could not endure it, and they could not endure me.

Your father had an offer for your hand this morning; but, of course, you will refuse it.

Of course I shall if the offer came from Antony Van Hoosen, as I suspect it does.

The man really thought that his enormous wealth would count with you; for he must have known it could not affect your father.

His enormous wealth! Pray, when did Antony become enormously wealthy?

He must have been rich for some time. Your father says he brought him the evidences of millions fancy it, Rose, of millions! And he offered to settle a large yearly income on you, just to do as you please with.

He did?

Yes.

Hum m m!

Your father was quite firm with him. He said the decision was yours entirely, and that he would have to take your yes or no in the matter.

I should think so! The idea of going to father at all!

As for that, it was right to show your father his position. Money is such a wonderful thing! I am sure I wish I had some of his millions! For, do you know, Rose, Harrys rapid life lately has been a dreadful thing for us. I relied upon Harry doing as much as he always has done, but my hopes have all been vain. He talks about the depression of business; but, my dear, it is the expansion in his own life. Club after club, and all of them cost a living. And then he has other expenses, which I do not care to 163 name to you. I think Harry has been cruelly forgetful of us. Just look at that pile of bills on my table. They make me sick.

Why do you not carry them to papa?

They are bills for costumes and such things. Your father would take a fit over them. Harry has always helped me out of such dilemmas before. But he has been running an awful rig this winter.

It would have been better if he had married Yanna.

Do not name the girl. I wish I had never seen her. And now, her brother wanting to marry you! It is too absurd!

I do not know about that. You say millions!

Millions! That is what your father told me, and he saw the vouchers for them. People like the Van Hoosens, with all that money! and we on the verge of bankruptcy!

Most of the Van Hoosens are rich. Look at Miss Alida. Father says no one can keep an acre of land for her. Where is Antonys property?

It is in San Francisco, chiefly. My dear, he owns half an hotel, and has nothing to do but sit still in New York, or Paris, or anywhere, and get the results sent to him. And he has property in mines, and cattle, and land, and lots of real estate, all down the Pacific coast. The man is vulgarly rich.

Antony is not vulgar, mamma. One ought to give even the devil his due. I have often noticed him in a room, and he wears a dress suit as well as any one. Besides, you know, he really does belong to a very good old family.

Well, he is going to Paris, London, Vienna, St. Petersburg, Rome, and I know not where else; so he 164 will doubtless acquire some foreign polish. He is an old friend of the California grand dame who queens it over the American colony in Paris, so he is sure to be a great favorite at the French court. Oh, it takes Europeans to appreciate California millionaires.

Rose was silent for a long time, and Mrs. Filmer took out her accounts, and laid a file of bills at her side, and then began to add up her check book, and to look very grave and hopeless over it.

I do not wonder your father talks of Woodsome, she said, and I am sure we have had very few entertainments, and have been as economical as possible; yet I do believe my bank account is overdrawn. Can you remember the amount of your last check, Rose?





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