Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance
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“No, I cannot, mamma. Millions are a great deal of money.”
“I wish we had a quarter of only one million. We should be happy, and free from care.”
“Why does Antony want to be engaged when he is going away for a year? A girl would not wait that long for him, unless she were awfully in love – or had no other offer.”
“Well, Rose, it is funny, and presumptuous, and impatient, and thoroughly manlike, but this lover of yours wants to be married at once and take you to Europe with him. I suppose he thinks you will make a very lovely bride, and so add to his ?clat.”
“Nothing as selfish as that ever entered Antony’s head, I am sure. He is not mean or conceited; he is just troublesome and interfering. I suppose I would make a lovely bride!”
“An exquisite one.”
“Some people think brides ought not to wear diamonds.”
“Diamonds and white satin would be the proper thing for you. I dare say you could outshine any bride that ever knelt in Grace Church, if you wished to do so; but there are lots of things that go to a wedding besides white satin and diamonds. I must go and talk with Madame Celeste about her bill. It is shameful! It is simply outrageous! Will you drive with me? You were saying you wanted a new pair of dancing shoes. We can get them if they are really necessary; if not, Rose, I must ask you to do without them; our shoe bill is already frightening me.”
“I do need them, mamma; but I shall not go out this morning; I have a slight headache, and I want to think a little.”
Mrs. Filmer then rose in a hurried, preoccupied manner, but at the door she turned, and with her eyes still on her shopping list said, “Do not wait lunch for me. I may go into Cousin Martha’s for lunch. I shall be near her house; and, Rose, I would not read much; your eyes look like one of your bad headaches.”
“Mamma cares for nothing but the house and the bills!” thought Rose, as the parlor door closed upon her. “One would imagine such an offer as Antony’s was worth a little talking about. But she always did dislike Antony – from the first – and I am sure I do not know why, unless because he is Yanna’s brother. Well, Yanna is tiresome; that is the truth! No wonder mamma does not like her. And what Harry sees in such a cold, stately, pious girl, I cannot understand! I think I will go and make myself look a little pretty. One likes to leave a fine impression, even on a lover that is to be refused. But shall I say ‘No’ to Antony? To have millions of money! and diamonds to my heart’s content! and the finest wedding of the 166 season! and a year’s European travel! and how the Greyson, and the Helper, and the Manton girls will envy me! and lots of others – and Dick! I do not care a cent for Dick! he sneaked away like a dog when Antony spoke to me. I hate Dick! I shall never notice him again. He will doubtless get an invitation to my wedding from some one, and if he feels heart-sick, it will serve him right.”
To this soliloquy she slowly mounted the stairs to her room, and there she stood a few minutes, considering.The result of this reflection was the withdrawal from her drawers of an exquisite gown of pale gray cashmere, and a little tippet of Delhi mull and Valenciennes lace. The ineffable softness and repose of this combination pleased her. “I look my sweetest in this gown,” she thought, “and Antony has never seen it; but it will suit him, I know.”
Indeed, the dress affected Antony like a contrition and a confession. She looked, oh! she looked everything he could desire or imagine! And as Rose was always sensibly affected by the dress she wore, she naturally toned herself to her lovely and gentle appearance. The dress was in every way a fortunate one. It put Rose in the proper mood, and it gave Antony the proper courage. The one advantage reacted on the other; and Rose suffered her heart and her best instincts to lead her. For Antony brought to this question all the force of his character; he pleaded eloquently, with love in his eyes and on his tongue; nor did he neglect such material advantages as his wealth and his ability to grant her every one of her wishes gave him. He was perhaps disappointed that they had so much influence; but he was a patient, self-relying man, and he told himself that he must be grateful 167 for Rose as she was, and trust to the future for the Rose that he foresaw as possible.
So he took things on their present level, and talked so enthusiastically that Rose caught the mood from him, and their happy faces, leaning towards each other, shone with the thought of the joy before them. For Antony’s desire – like all strong hopes – had fulfilled itself by its own energy. His love found its way to his face and to his gestures, made him expressive and impressive, and gave him that quality few can resist, which we call “presence.”
So they knew not how time went, until Mrs. Filmer came home, weary and cold and heart-anxious from a round of profitless shopping and visits. The first glimpse of the lovers was joyfully reassuring. She gave a little gasp of relief, and had some difficulty to preserve her usual equanimity. Indeed, she could not do so, when Antony, holding Rose’s hand, came to her and begged a little love for himself and a blessing on her daughter’s love for him. She was compelled to sit down and cry a little, but she said her tears were tears of happiness; and she was very gentle, and lovable, and sympathetic.
Then they went together to Mr. Filmer’s study. But this day he was neither reading nor writing; he was simply waiting the logic of events. And oh, how welcome were the intruders! for when the load fell from his heart, he knew by the release how heavy it had been. He rose and met them half-way; he kissed his daughter and his wife, and shook hands with Antony; and then, while the tears were in his eyes, and the smile on his lips, he said, with a little dramatic gesture:
Rose’s happiness was now running at full tide, and she was carried with it, amid the sympathies of those who loved her and the congratulations of all her acquaintances. Mr. Filmer abandoned his great book until after the marriage. Harry took pride in introducing his future brother-in-law to his best club acquaintances, and then was agreeably surprised to find Antony’s financial standing well known to the magnates of the money world. Mrs. Filmer spoke with well controlled elation of their satisfaction in the intended marriage, of the bridegroom’s fine character and great wealth, and of the old Dutch ancestry which he shared with Miss Alida and the eminent Van Hoosen family.
On Antony’s side, the marriage gave equal satisfaction. Peter had a pleasant memory of the bright girl; and Adriana thought far more of Rose’s good points than of her evil ones. With Miss Alida, she planned all kinds of sweet surprises for the bride elect; and busied herself continually concerning the details of the ceremony and the preparations for it. And without a word to each other on the subject, there appeared to be a tacit agreement among all who loved Rose that she was not to be left to herself; and that all temptation must be kept out of her path. This was an easy thing to do under the circumstances; there was so much shopping to attend to; and there were the wonderful 169 wedding and travelling costumes to prepare, and the dresses of the eight maids to be decided on, and all the exact paraphernalia of a fashionable wedding to accomplish. Rose was wanted everywhere. She had suddenly become the most important person in her little world. Her tastes and inclinations settled all disputed points; and perpetual offerings, of many kinds, were made to her.
Indeed, each day brought her some token of remembrance or congratulation from relatives and acquaintances; and Antony’s gifts realized all of even Rose’s exacting ideas concerning the proper evidences of love. Certainly, if jewels could typify affection, Antony’s must have been very great; for when at length the bridal satin and lace were assumed, her favorite gems fastened its veil, and glittered in her ears, and sparkled round her throat, and clasped her snowy belt. There was a crowded church to witness the wedding, and the atmosphere was sensitive with interest and pleasure, with the odors of flowers, and the bright reverberations of joyful music. Antony, also, on this occasion, was singularly handsome – as a man ought to be on his wedding day; he walked as if he were all spirit, and too happy for words. And yet many remarked his emphatic speech in the bridal ceremony; his serious assumption of all it demanded; and the proud tenderness with which at its close he turned to Rose and said, “My wife!”
So the affair was handsomely and happily over, and Peter Van Hoosen – who stood by his son’s side – admitted that it was “a very pretty spectacle.” And yet, even while it was in progress, his memory had gone back with a graver pleasure to his own marriage with Antony’s mother. He remembered her as 170 young and as fair as Adriana, standing in her gown of white muslin, with no ornaments but the white roses in her hair and the pretty Bible in her hand. Loving and proud as Antony was that day, he had been equally so; and the bare kirk, and the solemn charge of the minister, and the kindly smiles of the friends who stood by them, seemed even at this hour just the kind of marriage he would prefer, if he were a young man again with Antony’s mother beside him.
There was a grand wedding breakfast, at which Miss Alida took a prominent part; and then the young couple went off to sea together; and the company sighed and departed; and when the sun set, the bridal day was quite over. Mr. and Mrs. Filmer sat talking, a little sad, and yet gratefully satisfied. Harry was with Miss Alida and Adriana, and disposed to talk of his own marriage. Nobody wanted dinner; they had a cup of tea by the parlor fire, and as they were drinking it and talking over the events of the day, Professor Snowdon came in.
“Well, well!” he cried, rubbing his hands gleefully, “the great performance is over; and it is evident the modern bride and bridegroom profit by the old stage direction: ‘Flourish of trumpets! Alarum! Exeunt!’” Then he looked at Peter, who was Miss Alida’s guest for the night, and Adriana said: “This is my father, Professor.”
“I am glad to see you, sir. What were you talking of? Do not let me interrupt the conversation.”
“I was talking, as old men will talk, of their youth, and of my own marriage in the old Dutch kirk at Woodsome.”
“I thought so. I meet many old men, and all of them, no matter how successful their later years have 171 been, like best of all to talk of their life in childhood and early youth upon some farm; to recall the
and when they do so, a different look comes into their faces, and their laugh grows young again – that is the strange thing. And I myself, I too, remember love in my sweet youth.”
“If any one has ever loved,” said Peter, “he cannot forget. Nothing goes to heaven but love.”
“Is it not heaven? We have a way of inferring that heaven is far off and walled in, but really all eternal things are so very near to us that a single step, a sudden ‘accident’ brings the disembodied spirit into an immediate recognition of them.”
“Then,” said Harry, clasping Adriana’s hand, “let us live now, for time is short.”
“No, sir,” answered the Professor, promptly, “man has forever.”
“If in spiritual things, we could only see with our eyes and hear with our ears!” said Miss Alida.
“And if so, madame, what grace would there be in believing?”
“Who does believe?” asked Harry. “The great German philosopher, Frederick Gotfield, says, all religions are alike dead, and there is no faith left in the heart of man; no, nor yet capacity for faith.”
“Well, Mr. Filmer, the disciple is not above his master. If you sit at the feet of Mr. Frederick 172 Gotfield, you cannot rise above his doubts and scoffing.”
“Harry does not sit at the feet of any such master, sir,” explained Adriana.
“I am glad of it; for Mr. Gotfield is not in search of salvation; his way leads – but we will not talk of him. Oh, for a generation perplexed with no vague fears, worn with no infinite yearnings, perfectly happy and healthy, and aiming at the noblest ends! How good it would be!”
“However,” said Harry, “whether we believe or not, we can love.”
“Then love wisely. I have read that St. Bernard thought that at the Last Day we shall not be asked what we have done, nor yet what we have believed, but what we have loved. That will indeed be a supreme test of character.”
Harry became very thoughtful, and clasped Adriana’s hand tighter; and just then Miss Alida’s lawyer called, and she was compelled to leave her company for a while. So the Professor and Peter began to talk of Free Will and Calvinism, and Harry and Adriana withdrew to the curtained window, where they sat in happy silence, listening to that speech which is heard with the heart, and yet dimly conscious of the argument in progress. This way and that way it veered, Peter holding grimly fast to his stern plan of sin and retribution; the Professor doubting, qualifying, extolling free grace, and averring he would “consider the burning of all Calvin’s books to be most justifiable Libricide” – making the statement, however, with such sweet, calm good nature, that it was impossible to be angry, even had Peter desired to be so. But Peter was far too firmly fixed on his foundation to feel anger; his opposition 173 took the form of a sublime confidence, and he closed the discussion with a sudden outburst of enthusiasm it was impossible not to respect.
“Say what you will about the deadness of our faith, Professor!” he cried, “there is life in the old kirk yet!”
He rose to his full stature with the words, his face kindling, and his head thrown back and upward with the aspiring assertion. Adriana felt the magnetism of his faith and stood up also, and the Professor answered, gently:
“Mr. Van Hoosen, I respect your sentiments with all my intellect and all my heart. One thing in your sturdy creed makes it omnipotent – the utter absence of such an enfeebling thought as that this life was meant to be a pleasure-house. How, indeed, could it fit into your creed? and yet, to make life happy, to have pleasure, is not this the question of existence to a majority?”
“Duty, not pleasure, was John Calvin’s central idea. We are to obey, not to grumble, or to desire. We are to receive all life’s ills as plain facts of discipline:
Then Miss Alida’s entrance broke up the conversation, and the Professor bade them “good-night.” And in some way he made them feel that he had received help and strength, and not merely pleasure, from the interview. The clasp of his hand went to the heart, and both in his eyes and in Peter’s eyes there was that singular 174 brilliance which is the result of seeing, as in a vision, things invisible.
Suddenly every one was weary. Harry went away with the Professor, promising to come early the following evening, which was to be the last of Adriana’s visit. The next day she would return to Woodsome with her father, and her trunks were already packed for the flitting. However, a week or two later Miss Alida was to follow her, and in the interval Adriana looked forward with some pleasure to a life of reflection and rest. She meant to cast up accounts with herself, and see whether she had been a loser, or a gainer, by the winter’s experience.
The next morning both the ladies were silent and weary, and not inclined to movement. They preferred to dawdle over their coffee, to wonder whether Rose was seasick, and to discuss the smaller details of the ceremony, that had been too insignificant for the first prime criticism. Then the newspaper accounts were to praise and to blame, and the morning passed in a languid after-taste of the previous day. In the afternoon the sun was bright and warm and New York in one of her most charming moods. “Let us have a last drive in the Park,” said Miss Alida, “for we shall have to content ourselves with woodland ways and dusty roads for the next few months. Put on your hat and your new suit. We may meet Harry, and if so, we can bring him back with us.”
Full of pleasant expectations, Adriana dressed herself in the sunshine, and came downstairs in an unusually merry mood. Miss Alida looked curiously at her. “How fond she is of Harry!” she thought, “and he is not worthy of her.” But worthy or unworthy, it was evident that Adriana was watching 175 for and expecting her lover. “It is so unreasonable of me,” she said to her cousin, “for I told Harry last night that I should not leave the house to-day. He wanted me to drive with him, and I said, ‘No.’ My last drive with him was so happy I feared to spoil its memory. One never knows what might occur to do so – a shower, a cold wind, a bit of temper, or a tight shoe, or something, anything, for which neither of us would be responsible.”
“To be sure!” answered Miss Alida, vaguely. She had a feeling that Adriana had a feeling, and that there was an unacknowledged presentiment between them. So they drove, and drove, and Adriana’s high spirits suddenly left her. Miss Alida also became quiet, and the hour grew monotonous and chilly and gray, and as the best carriages were leaving the drive she gave the order to return home.
They were nearing the Plaza when Miss Alida directed Adriana’s attention to an approaching carriage. It was in a glow of color, and as it drew nearer the colors became robes and wraps of gorgeous shades, and reclining among them was a certain well-known operatic divinity. Harry was with her. His eyes were looking into her eyes, and his whole being was absorbed in the intoxicating sensuous loveliness of his companion. He never saw Adriana. She looked directly at her recreant lover, and he never saw her. There was no need for words. The event was too positive and too flagrant to admit of doubt or palliation.
“To-morrow I shall go to Woodsome,” said Adriana, as they stood a moment in the hall; “to-night, dear cousin, make an excuse for me, if you please.”
But Miss Alida followed Adriana to her room and 176 answered: “Make an excuse for you! Nonsense! See Harry, and tell him what you saw. I hate those sulky quarrels where people ‘think it best to say nothing.’”
“How can I tell him?”
“The plainest way is the easiest way. Tell him you saw him driving in the Park, and ask him very sweetly whom he was driving with. If he tells a lie – ”
“I will not tempt him to lie. What could he do else?”
“I would humble him to my very feet.”
“Then I might as well say, ‘Farewell forever,’ for a man at my feet could never be my lover and husband. Oh, cousin, I must say ‘farewell’ in any case. I am so wretched! so wretched!”
“Poor girl! I have always told you not to put your trust in a broken reed – alias man. You did so, and you have got a wound for your pains. But, Yanna, my dear, what is now the good of crying for the moon; that is, for a man who is not a broken reed? I advise you to see Harry.”
“I cannot. See him for me. Please.”
“What am I to say? You know how apt I am to speak the uppermost thought.”
“You will say nothing wrong. Do not tell father anything.”
“There I think you are wrong. Cousin Peter has intuitive wisdom – woman’s wisdom, as well as man’s craft.”
“However, say nothing to-night. Make some excuse for me; for I must be alone.”
So Miss Alida left the sorrowful girl; but as she disrobed herself, she muttered: “What a miracle of ill-luck! I thought something unpleasant would come of Yanna’s high spirits – the girl was what the Scotch call 177 fey. Harry Filmer is a born fool, and a cultivated fool, and a reckless fool, and every other kind of a fool! Indeed, he is not a fool, he is the fool of the universe. Everything in his hand, and he could not hold it! I will give him a lecture to-night – if he comes to-night, which I doubt. That siren has him in a net, he will go to the opera to see her dance; he will forget Yanna, and then, to-morrow, he will talk of a headache – or an important engagement – and Yanna will despise him far more than if he told the whole truth. To-morrow, of course, for I am sure he will not come to-night; and it is Yanna’s last night in the city, too. Men take the heart out of you if you mind their goings-on.”
Miss Alida was right. Harry did not call, and Peter sat and talked with Miss Alida, worrying a little all the time about his daughter’s sickness. And he was glad when Yanna sent to ask him if he could be ready for the early train; for Peter felt that the end of the visit had come, and that no pleasure could be obtained by drawing out what was already finished. So, while it was yet very early in the morning, Peter and Yanna went away; and Yanna was unavoidably sad, and yet, in the midst of her sadness, she was conscious of that strange gratification which we may call a sense of completeness. Even to the painful events of her visit, it gave her that bitter-sweetness that all experience when they watch a lover out of sight or the last red spark die out of the gray ashes that were once love letters. One chapter of life was finished. Yes, she told herself, quite finished in some respects. She had watched Harry leave her in a way that she felt must be final. And Antony and Rose had gone to their own life. When they returned, Antony would be 178 changed, and Rose would be changed, and she also would be changed. Nothing could ever again be just as it had been.
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