Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance
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So the days danced away with down upon their feet, and there was no talk of anything between Harry and Adriana than their own great love and happiness – not at least for many weeks. But, as the dusty summer waned, they began to think of the future, and to plan for its necessities. In the winter they would certainly have to live in New York, and it seemed, therefore, best to make their home there. Harry was busy looking at houses for sale, and Adriana constantly going into the city to examine their advertised perfections. An element of unrest came into the beautiful summer nest, and something of that melancholy which haunts the birds just before their migration. The May of their lives was past. The time of labor and care was at hand. Even financially, Harry began to be aware that the love that had made him dream must now make him work.
So they watched eagerly for Miss Alida’s letters. Hitherto they had been full of traveller’s gossip and 192 complaints; but there had been no mention of her return, and so far they had not been sorry for the delay. But September brought a different feeling. Harry wanted to go to the city. His visits to it made him long for the financial fray, for society, for his old duties and amusements. He began to fret at his inaction, to be a trifle irritable with Miss Alida for her long visit, and at last to stop in the city for two and three days at a time.
“I wish Miss Alida would come home,” said Adriana to her father one morning. She had driven herself to the post-office, and called at Peter’s on her way back. “I wish she would come. We have had no letter from her for two weeks. I am uneasy about her – and about Harry.”
“Why are you uneasy about Harry?” asked Peter.
“He stays in the city too often. He says ‘business’ demands his presence. Father, I do not like it. I want to be in the city with him. I am sure I ought to be. Why does he stay there? He could come home if he wished to do so.”
Peter looked gravely into his daughter’s anxious face. He could see the unshed tears in her eyes. He had himself suffered from her mother’s over-love and jealous care, and he said earnestly:
“Yanna, my best loved one! Before all other advice about your husband, consider some words I am going to give you. I gave them to Gertrude and Augusta; when they first began to worry about this thing —a wife should have eyelids as well as eyes. Do not see too much. Do not hear too much. Do not feel too much. And be sure not to imagine too much. God made both men and women, and they are not alike. Remember that, dear girl —they are not alike.” He 193 clasped her hand, and she smiled through her tears, and with a brave little nod turned her horse’s head and drove slowly home.
When she reached the Van Hoosen place, she found that Miss Alida had returned. The old lady came to the door with a “Good morning, Mrs. Harry Filmer! Why was not Harry at the dock to meet me?”
“We did not know you were coming.Oh, I wish we had! We would have both been there.”
“I thought so, and as I hate a fuss, I just dropped home without a word. Do I look ten years older? I feel twenty. No place like home! your own home! I hope we shall all have our own homes in heaven – country ones, too. I should tire awfully of that great multitude on the golden streets. Oh, Yanna, how good it is to see you! Where is Harry?”
“In New York. He has to go there very often now. He says it is business.”
“It is business, undoubtedly. Here is the cup of chocolate I ordered. Sit down and talk to me, while I drink it. Then I will go to sleep, and you can take off your driving gear.”
But she found it impossible to sleep; she had so much to tell, and so much to show. And suddenly she raised herself from an open trunk, and holding out a case of Apostle spoons, said, “These are a present from Rose. When did you hear from her?”
“She has written very seldom to me lately. But I thought perhaps she had been influenced by her mother. That would be quite natural. Did you see her?”
The reply had in it a touch of anger. Adriana looked up, but was silent.
“I saw her – in Edinburgh.”
“Is she happy?”
“I suppose she is happy in her way; for she indulges her every mood and temper to her heart’s desire.”
“How is Antony?”
“God alone knows. To speak plainly, Rose is enough to drive him to destruction of some kind or other. Her vagaries, her depressions, her frivolities, her adoration of him one day and her hatred of him the next day, are beyond my comprehension. She prides herself on doing outrageous, unconventional things, and poor Antony feels that he must stand by her in them. My heart ached for the man.”
“There is nothing really wrong, though?”
“Well, Yanna, there is always a dreadful debasement of nature, following violations of popular morality. Antony’s face of calm endurance made my heart ache. Its patience, and its unspoken misery, reminded me constantly of a picture by Carlo Dolci, called The Eternal Father.”
“How could any one dare to paint the face of God?”
“In this case the painter has been penetrated with an awful reverence. And, Yanna, what do you think his idea of the Divine Father was? A grand human face, full of human grief and loneliness and patience, the eyes sad beyond tears, as if there were an unutterable sorrow in the Eternal Heart.”
“No. If God is Love, how can He be ineffably happy and glorious while his sons and daughters are wandering away from Him and the whole world is broken-hearted? It did me good, it comforted me, to think of a God who could suffer; and I am sure it had done Antony good, for it was he who told me, when I 195 was in Florence, to be sure and go to the Gallery and see the picture.”
“I hope Rose is not taking wine.”
“I saw nothing of the kind. But I suspect much from her variable temper – and other things.”
Then they were both silent. Miss Alida lifted some lace and went with it to a certain drawer; and Adriana looked at the silver Rose had sent her, and as she thoughtfully closed the case, she said to herself:
“I am glad Antony comprehended that picture; glad that he understands an Eternal Father who pities His children, because ‘He knows their frame, and remembers that they are dust.’”
No life is the same to-day as it was yesterday; and the passage of a year necessarily makes many changes, though they may not be noticed by the careless observer. Thus to all her friends Adriana Filmer’s life appeared to be precisely what it had been when Harry first brought her to their pretty home near Central Park. But there were many vital differences, though they were not readily detected. Adriana herself had become still more grave and tender. She had been down into the Valley of the Shadow of Death for her first-born son; and such a passage cannot be made without leaving traces of its danger and suffering. Physically, it had perfected her beauty; her face had some new charm, her attitudes and manner were informed with a superb dignity; and spiritually and mentally, it had added to the serious strength of her fine character.
Harry was also changed. He yet loved with a sincere devotion his beautiful wife and child, and he loved none other with the same noble affection. But Adriana knew that there were lesser loves – flirtations with reputable ladies who liked to drive with him – who enjoyed his society on a pleasure yacht or a race course – who thought it quite respectable to send him little messages, to accept from him small services or such transitory gifts as flowers or sweetmeats. And Harry liked this kind of popularity. Without consciously 197 wronging Adriana, he loved to sun himself in some beauty’s smile, to be seen with some young married siren, or to escort a party of gay girls to a merry-making.
Usually he told Adriana of these affairs, and she was too wise to show the pain the confidence gave her. Her state of health, as well as her principles, kept her from many social functions, and if Harry did not feel compelled to respect her condition and scruples, she knew that it would be impossible to fret or scold or even reason him into sympathy. She had been aware of the diversity of their tastes when she married him; how, then, could she justly complain of circumstances which she foresaw and accepted by the very act of marriage? Only once had she spoken, and it was to her wise father. She could have gone to no more loving and prudent guide; and Peter’s answer was but the echo of her own feelings.
“In marriage, Yanna,” he said, “there is a tie besides love – it is patience. There is a veil for faults better than blind admiration – it is forgiveness. There is a time for everything, so if you have patience and forgiveness, your hour will come.”
Thus the first eighteen months of her married life had passed not unhappily away; and she lived, and loved, and hoped for the time when Harry would put from him entirely the gay, dancing, playing, flirting, immature existence, which was so unbecoming to his domestic and civil honor as a husband and a father. Indeed, he was himself beginning to be aware of the incongruity; for he said to Adriana one evening at the close of October:
“I saw Cousin Alida to-day. She is in town for the winter.”
“What did she say, Harry? When is she coming here?”
“She will call to-morrow. She hoped I would not compel her to go into the gay places of the world this year. I do believe the old lady went out so much last season just to watch me, just to make me wait upon her, and so keep me out of temptation. Fancy Miss Alida as my chaperon! It was very good of her – but fruitless.”
Adriana smilingly asked: “What did you say about the gay places, Harry?”
“I told her I was going to have my fling this year, and after this year you and I would settle down to a sensible career. I told her, indeed, that I intended to go into politics.”
“You have a great ability for politics, Harry. Professor Snowdon says you are a natural orator. How I should like to hear you make a great political speech!”
“Well, pet, some day perhaps you may have your desire. I think of taking lessons in elocution this winter.”
“Do not, Harry. Your own speech and gestures are better than acquired ones. I am sure you will make a great debater.”
Harry was much pleased. He cleared his throat, and straightened himself, and quite unconsciously struck an attitude. Then he kissed his wife tenderly, and said: “If I am a little late to-night, do not mind, dear. I have to preside at a supper given to our new opera stars. I will come home as soon as I possibly can.” And she smiled him out of sight, and was ready to give him the last smile when he turned at the door of the lighted hall for it. But he did not see her fly to her boy’s cradle and lift the child to her breast, and 199 with tears welling into her eyes, comfort herself with its smiles and caresses.
The season thus inaugurated proved to be one of great temptation to Harry, and of much sorrow to Adriana. Vague rumors reached her through many sources, some friendly, and others unfriendly. Miss Alida’s visits were suspiciously frequent; and her manner was too protective and sympathetic, and Adriana could not help wondering after every visit what fresh wrong her cousin had come to comfort her for. But hitherto the comfort had been inferred; Miss Alida had never said one definite word against Harry, and Adriana would have disdained under any ordinary circumstances to complain of her husband.
One morning in December, however, she was compelled to listen to a positive accusation. Mrs. Henry Filmer called at a very early hour with it. There had been an apparent reconciliation between the two households; but neither on Mrs. Filmer’s nor yet on Adriana’s side was it very real, for Adriana had in truth some honest grievances against her mother-in-law. She made constant demands on Harry’s purse, and she was still more unreasonable about his time. Often when Adriana’s state of health particularly demanded a husband’s sympathy and society, Harry had been compelled to leave her in order to escort his mother to some dinner or opera party. “Your father is so busy, and inefficient in company, so, dearest Harry, you must give mother just one hour to-night.” Such messages were very frequent, and if Adriana thought Harry only too ready to answer them, there are many desponding women who will be able to pity her. Indeed, his mother’s influence over Harry was great and never used for a kindly end. Every occasion 200 when Harry was with her was also an occasion to drop an evil thought against Harry’s wife; and such a conversation as the following, varied slightly with varying circumstances, was the usual trend of their discourse:
“I suppose Adriana made a fuss about your coming to me for an hour, Harry?”
“Indeed, she did not! She is quite alone, and she let me off very cheerfully.”
“Ah! she does not appreciate you as she ought to do! I grudge every minute you are not with me. I only live the few-and-far-between moments we are together.”
“My dear mother!”
“I dare say that old maid has managed to put all kinds of ideas into her head about your sinfulness – and you are your old mother’s dear naughty boy after all. What is this that I heard concerning pretty Cora Mitchin and Harry Filmer?”
“Hush, mother! I hope you put a stop to any such rumors. I would not have Yanna hear about Cora for the world. Yanna is not very strong lately.”
“She will nurse her child, and she goes on about it as if it were the only child in the universe. People say all kinds of things about her secluding herself because she has a baby. Her behavior is a tacit reproach on every mother who condescends to do her duty to society.”
“She is as foolish about little Harry as you are about me.”
“She is quite incapable of feeling as I feel. She is a mere marble woman. I wish she could feel, for then she might understand what I suffer in your desertion. Oh, dear! If in anything she would act like other 201 women! Every one pities you! – you, that have always been the very flower of courtesy and of all that is socially charming!”
“No one need pity me, mother. I consider myself the most fortunate husband in New York. And you ought not to permit people to talk in that way. It is a great wrong to me.”
“I do not, Harry. You may be sure I stand up for you.”
And such conversations, even if Harry did not repeat them, were divined, either from his manner or from some unguarded remark he let fall. It required all the strength of Adriana’s broad character to prevent her divinations from finding a voice – to bear patiently wrongs she could not permit herself to right – and to wait with unabated love for that justification sure to come to those who leave it to the wisdom of their angels behind them.
On this December morning Mrs. Filmer’s visit was unexpectedly early. She met Adriana with a worried face, and barely touching the fingers of her outstretched hand, said, “I have a letter this morning, and I think you ought to know about it, Adriana. It concerns your brother. I am sure it has been the most wretched thing for my poor Rose that she ever met the man.”
“That statement would be hard to prove,” answered Adriana.
“You need not draw yourself up like a tragedy queen because I feel so bitterly the mistake my daughter has made. Rose has been a miserable wife from the first day of her marriage, and there is no use in denying the fact. And if her misery has led her to unwise ways of seeking relief, she is hardly to be 202 blamed. She says, too, that she has never had a day’s health since the birth of her baby. And you know what a stern, unsympathetic man her husband is.”
“I know that Antony has a heart of infinite love and forbearance. Few men would have endured what he has borne without a complaint. Rose is unreasonable, petulant, and, in fact, unmanageable. Several people who saw her last summer have told me about her caprices. They can only be accounted for on the supposition that she had been ‘seeking relief.’”
“I have no doubt Antony is as bad as she is.”
“Antony is absolutely temperate in all things.”
“Antony is, of course, an angel.”
“I think he is. Certainly he has had more than mortal patience with and love for a most ungrateful woman.”
“All the Van Hoosens are angels; nevertheless, no one can live with them.”
“Mr. Filmer is a Van Hoosen, and you have managed to live with him. Harry is a Van Hoosen, and I find it very delightful to live with Harry.”
“Oh, I can tell you that Harry is no saint. I wish you could hear society laughing at the way he deceives you.”
“There is nothing for society to laugh at; consequently you are mistaken.”
“You blind woman! You poor blind woman! Everybody knows that Harry never stops with you one hour that he can help. He is devoted to that lovely Cora Mitchin.”
“Madam! if you came here to insult my husband, I will not listen to you.”
“I came here to enlighten the stupidest woman in New York.”
“I know all I want to know; and I know nothing wrong of my husband. There is no happier wife in America than I am. I believe in Harry Filmer. It is beyond your power to shake my faith in him. Good morning, madam.”
“Stop one moment. Rose is coming back. We must all, every one connected with Rose, do our best to surround her with proper influences. Miss Alida helped to make the unfortunate marriage, and I shall expect her to countenance and stand by Rose.”
“You must tell her so. I am sure she will do all that she conceives to be right for her to do.”
“I want you to tell her that she ought, that she must, give a party to welcome Rose back. Indeed, she could get Madame Zabriski to be the hostess if she likes, and she should do so.”
“Why should she do so?”
“Madame Zabriski’s favor would silence all the false and ugly reports people have brought from the other side. I look to you, Adriana, to carry this point.”
“I prefer not to interfere with Madame Zabriski’s entertainments.”
“You owe Rose something.”
“I owe Rose nothing but anger for the way she has treated my good brother. Poor Antony! My heart bleeds for him.”
“Poor Rose! It is Rose that is to be pitied. But you are an immensely cruel, selfish woman! It used to be Rose here, and Rose there, until you had stolen Rose’s brother. Now you will not even say a word for Rose; though a few words from you might get her into the best society.”
“I do not think society is the best thing for Rose, at 204 this time. Will you kindly excuse me? I hear the nursery bell. My son wants me.”
“My son! Yes! One day some woman will take him from you.”
“When that day comes, I pray God that I may have wisdom, and love, and justice enough, not to treat that woman as you have treated me.”
“Harry is my son yet.”
“Harry is my husband. And a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife. That is the Word of God.”
“I shall tell Harry of your temper! I shall!” – but she found herself talking to an empty room, and she picked up her fallen gloves and went away.
It was evident, however, when Harry returned to his home in the evening, that she had told Harry many things that had annoyed him. He was silent, unresponsive, and had an air of injury or offence. Adriana was only too familiar with this particular mood. Her first thought was to defend herself; her second reminded her of the hopelessness of the effort, or at least of its imprudence. Mrs. Filmer was not above the common tactics of talebearers; and she had before accused Adriana of being the informant, when, on the contrary, she had been mercilessly subjugated to information she had no desire either to hear or to discuss.
Therefore, if she told Harry that his mother had come to her with the tale of Cora Mitchin, and Mrs. Filmer had already told him that Adriana had been complaining to her on the same subject, whom was Harry to believe? The presumption was in his mother’s favor; but any rate, it put him in the miserable position of deciding between his mother and his wife. And she remembered that on one occasion when 205 she had proved her innocence beyond a doubt, Harry did not appreciate the removal of the doubt; he had worn an air of annoyance and depression for some days afterwards, and had been specially attentive to his mother, as if her conviction required his extra sympathy to atone for it.
So they had a wretched dinner, the only subject on which Harry was inclined to talk being the illness and the return home of his sister. He had caught the tone of Mrs. Filmer, and her commiseration for Rose; and he spoke of her only as “the poor dear girl” and “the sad little girl,” while his silence with regard to Antony was one instinct with disapproval and almost anger.
“Mother thinks I had better look for a house,” he said. “Rose asked mother to attend to the matter, but she seems to be worn out, and unfit for the work.”
“Is it to be furnished or unfurnished?” asked Adriana.
“Furnished, if possible. And it must be very large and handsome. They are going to build, but in the meantime they must rent. Can you not look for what is required, Yanna? Mother came to ask you to help her this morning, but she appears to have had but scant welcome in my house.”
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