Amelia Barr.

Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance





Come, come, Mrs. Filmer! If a womans weakness is an excuse, then the vigor, the strength, and the temptations of men are a much larger one. Their very excess of life makes them powerful to do, and impotent to resist. It is clearly unreasonable to expect men to be both as they are and as they are not. Simple justice demands that we should be more tolerant with men than with women on the score of those offences, which are the death-blow to a womans good name. You see, then, that each sex has a right to plead certain extenuations not permissible to the other sex.

I see that it is the privilege of the male sex to wound and to injure the female sex; and the privilege of the latter to bear and to forgive.

Well, then, Yanna, to forgive is a noble privilege, a safe and blessed generosity. And I can tell you, that I have known many pure, chaste wives who were just as bad wives as you could possibly find cruel, selfish, spiritually-proud, intolerant women, filling their husbands days with the bitterness of their tempers, or else giving way to an egotism of despair and weeping worse than all the wrongs they complain of.

My dear cousin, I do hope that you do not include me in that list.

I hope not, Yanna. I hope not. There are certain things that can only be got by renouncing them your own way, your own desire is usually one of these things.

What am I to do then? I cannot bear things as they are.

If you cannot bear your troubles, you may be able to bear their remedies. You ought to have for Harry such a love as masters Time, and the infelicities of Time. Have you this love?

Yes, I have.

You can bear to think of loving Harry and living with him eternally?

I should be miserable if I thought death would separate us.

Good gracious, child! And yet you have suffered the word divorce to pass your lips. Just remember that men do not marry women because they are very beautiful, or very clever, or very good, indeed; they generally marry them because there is something nice about them. Now, let Harry always find there is 220 something nice about you. You do not complain of Harry to any one, do you?

I have not, until this morning; nor have I listened to any report about him.

Quite right. To talk of matrimonial troubles is to burn the dirtiest chimney ever set on fire. But there are sins of omission as well as of commission. You have stayed at home too much. You ought to go out with Harry while his mood is to go out.

I cannot go with the set that Rose and he prefer.

You can go with my set. Harry must really be forgetting how you look in anything but tweed and China silk. Put away every appearance of being an injured wife. Be a happy wife. Let him always come into an atmosphere of good humor. No man can resist that.

Rose and Mrs. Filmer drop so many unkind words about me.

Drop kind ones about them. The incongruity will eventually strike him.

His family have always tried to make sorrow for me.

Of course.

A wifes foes are to be found in her husbands family. Let them plot and plan, and you be sincere. Whatever is sincere invariably conquers. A week to-day we are going to have a grand dinner-party. Wear your wedding dress, and I have brought you my sapphires and diamonds. Dress your hair high. Dress to the utmost of your conception of what is splendid. Then march on Harry, and take him anew by storm. One-half of mens passion for pretty actresses is grounded on their picturesque dressing. If they saw the same girls in a housemaids cotton gown and apron, they would not look at them.

Such a low side to touch Harry on!

Oh, dear me! Can you build a marble palace without the rough wood scaffolding? Do but be bright and cheerful and handsome and patient, and my word for it! you will see how swiftly Harry will tire of meaner women. For the rapid transformation whereby carnal love is turned into carnal hatred is one of the most wonderful things to consider. Now mind, you are to conquer all before you next Thursday night!

So the invitation was formally sent, and Adriana announced her intention of accepting it. Harry was a trifle annoyed. He had grown accustomed to going out alone, and feeling a kind of safe repose in the idea of the wife watching on his hearthstone.

Do you think you had better go, dear? he asked. Is little Harry well enough to leave? And there is your dress! I suppose it will be a very fine affair.

Cousin Alida made a point of my being present. I must go for dinner. I need not stay long after.

I have an engagement at the Union Club that very night rather an important one I wonder how I can manage?

You can take me to the Zabriski house, and make your apologies in person to Cousin Alida. After your dinner at the club, you can call for me. I dare say I shall be ready to go home.

Those Zabriski affairs are so very stupid.

Still, we like to have the invitations.

If you do go, Yanna, dress as Mrs. Harry Filmer ought to dress.

Certainly, Harry, I will. And then with renewed hope she made her preparations. They were so successful that her face was radiant with delight when she 222 pressed her cousins large, capable hand and whispered:

Harry said I was the most beautiful creature he had seen this season.

You are, answered Miss Alida, looking with pride at the stately woman robed in white satin and lace, and sparkling with jewels. Fortunately, she had Professor Snowdon for a companion; and he brought out the brightest and sweetest traits of her nature, so that she recaptured all that old charm of presence which had once made her irresistible. So swiftly grew her confidence in her own powers again that she was easily persuaded to take a share in the music that followed the dinner; and when Harry came to escort her home he found her standing by the piano, and singing to its wandering, penetrating melody, with a delightful voice:


Love in her sunny eyes doth basking play;
Love walks the pleasant mazes of her hair;
Love does on both her lips forever stray,
And sows and reaps a thousand kisses there.

And as she sang, she caught Harrys beaming glance; and so she sang to him, thrilling his heart with the passionate melody till a love like that of his first betrothal swayed it.

When she went away, Miss Alida put her face under the pretty pink hood, and whispered: Good night, Yanna! You have done everything I wished and hoped. Harry is saved!

But Miss Alida knew only the probable ways of men and women. This exquisite Adriana clothed in satin, and gemmed with sapphires, seemed to her the proper 223 angel of the recreant husband. But the wisdom of The All Wise had ordained a very different woman; even one of those poor souls expected by theologians to be damned, but intended by God to be an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

CHAPTER IX

One afternoon towards the end of March, Adriana was riding down Broadway. At Twenty-third Street there was some obstruction and delay, and she saw Duval and Rose together. They were coming up Fifth Avenue, and their walk was lingering and absorbed, Duvals attitude being specially earnest and lover-like. Rose was listening with a faint smile, and Adriana noticed that she was dressed with great care, and that she had flowers both at her breast and in her hands. Adrianas first thought was to alight and join the pair; but her second thought was a reproof of her suspicion Charity thinketh no evil, she mused, and Rose may have simply met the man and permitted him to walk at her side.

Then she reflected that she had never heard Rose name Duval since her marriage; and that the man had been conspicuously absent from the Van Hoosen entertainments. She knew also that Rose was vain and sentimental, and that one of her dear, dangerous pleasures was to make every man think it might have been. But she did not know that on the subject of Mr. Duval Rose and her husband had a passionate, intermitting quarrel, that Rose put Duvals name on every list of her guests, and that Antony always crossed it off, with peremptory positiveness, and that consequently there was in Roses heart a secret partisanship which had a dangerous romance about it. 225 For it was impossible for Antony to prevent Rose from meeting the man in the houses of friends, in the crowded foyers of the theatre or opera, on the street, on the drive in the park; and on all such occasions a glance, a word, a lingering hand clasp, conveyed to Rose a meaning she ought not to have understood, and won from her in return an interest or sympathy she ought not to have given.

For once that this secret understanding was established, she found it hard to escape from its influence; gradually, almost unconsciously, the intimacy grew; and Rose, feeling sure in her heart that she meant nothing wrong, was quite off her guard, and only sensible of the pleasure that the secret, silent romance gave her. Love, however, that believes itself favored, is not long satisfied with such results, and Duval had grown more bold, more exacting, more dangerous, with every meeting. For he was actuated by motives not to be easily dashed, and he was resolved to carry his point. First, he admired Rose; second, he was poor, and Rose had at least $10,000 a year entirely at her own disposal; third, he hated Antony; and for these reasons, to induce Rose to leave Antony had become the passion of his life a passion so eager, earnest, and pervading, that Rose was frightened at its strength. The man had gained a point at which he could both coax and threaten, and the poor weak woman really loving her husband and adoring her child was led, and ordered, and pleased, and tormented, by the whimsies of this sentimental affair, which she thought was driving Duval either to ruin or to death.

Of this condition Adriana, as well as all others who loved Rose, was entirely ignorant. Yet the sight of 226 the couple, and their absorbed manner, forced itself again and again on Adrianas consciousness; and she resolved to name the circumstance to Harry that night. Harry listened, and looked much annoyed, but he answered finally:

I do not believe there is anything wrong, Yanna. It is imprudent of Rose, and not right; and I wonder at her, for Antony told me an hour ago that little Emma was seriously ill. What a worry he does make over that baby of theirs!

It is such a frail, lovely little creature; and Antony has such a tender heart.

And Rose does not hover over her nursery, as you do, Yanna.

But you think there is nothing wrong, Harry?

In a legal sense, nothing. But, nevertheless, it is a shame for Rose to carry on such intrigues; and I will see her in the morning and give her some plain words. Antony is too careful of her feelings. I am glad she is not my wife.

Then the subject was dropped, and Adriana did not entertain it again. In her secret heart, she felt that she might forgive Rose if she were driven to deceive her husband by the force of a strong passion; but for this silly, weak drifting into sin and danger on little currents of vanity and sensual romance, she had no toleration. Refusing consciously to reason out the exact turpitude of Antonys wife, anger at the erring woman lay at the bottom of all her thoughts, as she moved about the household duties of the day. Such a good husband! Such a lovely little daughter! How can Rose wrong them both so shamefully? These unspoken words rang to and fro like a fretful complaining in her inner self.

While she was taking lunch, Rose came to see her. She entered the room with much of her old effusiveness; she kissed and petted her sister-in-law, and said: Give me a strong cup of tea, Yanna. I am worn out. Baby was ill all night, and Antony would neither sleep nor let any one else sleep.

But if Emma were sick you would not be able to sleep, I am sure. And she must be better, or you would not have left the little one at all.

Mamma is watching her. I just ran over to see you. It always rests me and makes me strong to see you, Yanna. I know what you are going to say that I might, then, come oftener so also I might go oftener to church. But I do not love you the less, Yanna; when I am good I always love you.

Dear Rose, I wish you were always what you call good.

I wish I were! I do long to be good! I am so weak and silly, but there is a good Rose somewhere in me. Do you think baby is really very sick?

Babies all suffer dreadfully, Rose, in teething. I often wonder how grown-up people would endure half-a-dozen teeth forcing their way through sore, inflamed gums. There would be swearing among the men, and hysteria among the women, and we should all do as Burns did when he had only one troublesome tooth kick the furniture about really, or figuratively.

Poor Emma! I do love her! I do love her! If there is anything on earth I love, it is Emma. But Antony is simply absurd. He insists on the whole house teething, too. He will have no company; and some one has to sit by Emmas cot all night because, he says, she must need cold water often, and when I told him this morning that we had all gone through the 228 same suffering once in our lives, he looked at me as if he thought I was a brute. I was only trying to aggravate him. He ought not to tempt me to aggravate him; for I cannot help doing it. And of course, I love Emma far better than he does. I nearly died for her. I was provoked with Antony this morning.

What does the doctor say?

He says baby is to go to the mountains, so we are to have the Woodsome house; and papa and mamma are going to Europe. Papa wants authorities. I should think the British Museum may perhaps satisfy him.

We are going to Woodsome also, this summer. How soon will you leave the city?

That is what we are disputing about. Antony wants to go at once. I want to give one, just one, farewell dance before shutting myself up for months. I wish you could have seen Antonys face when I proposed it. I just wish you could! It was awful! He said No, and he stood on No, and nothing short of an earthquake could have moved him. I simply hate Antony, when he is so ugly; and I told him I hated him.

But it is not right to dance and feast when your child is so ill, Rose.

My baby is no worse than other babies in the same condition. I am so weary of all the trouble. I feel like running away and hiding myself from every one. I wish I were in some place where Antony, and mamma, and Harry, and every one, could not be perpetually saying, You must not do this, or, You must do that. The other day I heard of a heavenly land, where the sun always shines, and the flowers always bloom, and loving and dancing and singing and feasting make up the whole of life.

Oh, Rose! Rose! That is a very earthly land, indeed.

A woman has no youth in this country. And I shall only be a very little time young now. I do grudge spending my young days in gloom, and sorrow, and scolding. It is too bad. If I should fly away to some wilderness, would you take care of my baby, Yanna?

What nonsense are you talking, Rose?

Of course, it is nonsense; and yet I might die or commit suicide or something. If anything happened to you, I would take little Harry and make him my very own. Would you take little Emma if anything happened to me? I might die.

My dear Rose, you are not likely to die.

I know I am not but things happen.

What things?

Accidents and such things. One never knows. It does seem a silly thing to ask, but I have a sudden feeling about it, Yanna. If I should die or anything should happen you are to take Emma and bring her up to be good I mean pious I mean not like her poor, silly mother. How absurd I am! Whatever is the matter with me? Am I going to be ill, I wonder? Am I going to have a fever?

I saw you yesterday on Broadway. What a pretty suit you had on! Mr. Duval was with you.

Mr. Duval! Yes. I had forgotten. Yes, I met Dick as I came out of a store, and we walked up a block to Twenty-third Street. Do you know that store under the Fifth Avenue Hotel, where they sell such lovely jewelry? I was going there.

I do not think Antony would like you to go anywhere with Mr. Duval.

Antony will just have to dislike it then. He has gone as far as I intend to let him. The past two weeks he has wanted me to sit by the cradle, day and night, and night and day. I love my child, but I do want a breath of fresh air sometimes.

I was speaking of Mr. Duval.

Harry has also been speaking of Mr. Duval this morning. I told Harry to mind his own affairs. I say the same to you, Yanna. It is too much, when a married woman cannot speak to an old friend, cannot walk three or four blocks with him, without having her whole family suspect her immediately of breaking or at least cracking the ten commandments.

You know how Antony feels about that Duval.

I know Antony is an idiot about him. I know his behavior has been shameful to that Duval. Poor Dick! What has the man done but dare admire me? A cat may look at a king. Many women would give Antony a lesson on that subject they would not be accused for nothing.

But not you, Rose! Not you, dear Rose! Do not be impatient. Baby will soon be well, and Antony does love you so

Do hush, Yanna! Antony loves nothing about me. But I must go now, or else I shall get another scolding for leaving baby so long; or a look worse than words; or silence, and Antony ostentatiously walking Emma up and down the floor; and mamma sighing; and the doctor solemnly standing by; and the nurse tip-toeing about the room; and the room so dark, and smelling of drugs, and full of suffering it is all so dreadful! For I want to be out in the fresh spring air, and wind, and sunshine. I want to dance and run in it. My blood goes racing through my veins like 231 quicksilver, and it is a kind of torture to sit still, and talk in whispers, and see babys white waxy face, and smell nothing but drugs. When I went to show myself to Antony yesterday in my new suit, and held the lovely roses to his face, he turned away as if I were a fright, and put the flowers from him, as if they hurt. Such ways I cannot understand!

This conversation rather quieted than increased Yannas misgivings. She thought she understood the restless woman. Beautiful, and longing to exhibit her beauty, full of the pulse and pride of youth, excited by dreams of all sensuous delights, romantic, sentimental, and vain, she was resentful at the circumstances which bound her to the stillness and shadow of the sick room, because she was incredulous of any necessity for such devotion. For the latter feeling Mrs. Filmer was much to blame. She had not the keen intuitions regarding life and death which Antony possessed; she had dim remembrances of her own childrens trials, she had the experiences of her friends on the same subject, and she did not honestly believe little Emma was in any special danger. Consequently, she had supported Rose in her claim to regard her own health, and go out a little every day. And if Antony had been asked for the reason of his great anxiety, he would not have cared to explain it to his wife or his mother-in-law. Both these women would have smiled at what he had learned through the second sight of dreams, in that mysterious travail of sleep, by which the man that feareth God is instructed and prepared for the sorrow that is approaching; because, if apprehension of the supernatural is not in the human soul, neither miracle nor revelation can authenticate it to them.

So Antony bore his fear in silence, and told no one the Word that had come to him; strengthening his heart with the brave resolve of the wise Esdras: Now, therefore, keep thy sorrow to thyself; and bear with a good courage that which hath befallen thee.

About ten days after this event, Rose left her home early one morning to complete the shopping necessary for their removal to Woodsome on the following day. Mrs. Filmer promised to remain with the sick child until her return; but she urged Rose to make all haste possible, as there were various matters in the Filmer household to attend to ere Mr. Filmer and herself could comfortably leave for Europe on the Saturdays steamer. With these considerations in view, she was annoyed at Rose for positively refusing the carriage. I want to walk, mamma, she said crossly; and if I get tired, I will take the street cars.

But you may be delayed by them, and time is precious now.

Then she kissed her mother affectionately, and stooped to little Emmas cot, and with a long, soft pressure of her lips to the lips of the fragile-looking child, she went away, promising to be home certainly before noon. But she was not home at one oclock; and Mrs. Filmer and Antony ate their lunch together, both of them with a hot, angry heart at Roses indifference. At two oclock Rose was still absent, and a singular feeling of alarm had taken the place of anger.

What keeps Rose so long, mother? asked Antony, in an anxious voice.

I do not know, Antony. She could have been back in an hour. It is four hours since she left.





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