Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance
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He sat down, covering his face with his hands, and he was still as a stone. But Rose felt that he was on guard, and that resistance or entreaty would be alike useless. So she threw herself on a sofa, shut her eyes, and began to sing.
The whole appearance and atmosphere of the woman were now repellant; and a great indignation burned in Antony’s heart. He said to himself that he had done wrong to tolerate so long the evil spirit in his wife and home. He had forgiven practically what he ought to refuse to forgive at all. He had encouraged sin by enduring it. And he had done so because he loved the sinner. “But I shall do what is right in the future!” he said.
Then he rose up, and Rose, who was watching him from beneath her nearly closed eyelids, was startled by the new man she saw. He looked taller, his countenance was stern, and he told the coachman to take away the carriage in a voice that was quite new to her. But she went on humming her song, and watching developments. So all the night the gas burned, and Antony sat guarding his wife, and his wife looked at him, and sang at him, and paraded herself about the room to irritate him. But about three o’clock she was very weary, and she fell into a deep sleep. Then Antony rose and looked at her. Her head was hanging off the pillow, and one of her feet nearly touched the floor. He lifted it gently, placed the dear poppy-crowned head comfortably on the pillow, threw an Afghan over the sleeping form, and with one long farewell look went quietly out of the room.
The dance was then over, and the bitterest night of 247 his life was over. He had watched against Indians; he had watched against death in mines, and camps, and lonely gorges in the mountains; he had watched the life-breaths of his little daughter pass away, night after night, in weary painfulness; but such a terrible watch as this one, beside his wilfully wicked wife, he had never conceived of as possible. He was weary to death, and her cruel words remained in his heart like arrows.
He went to his room, and after writing for some time he drank a cup of coffee and left the house. At the stables he got a horse and buggy, and drove over to Miss Alida’s. He met Harry just outside the gate, and he called him.
“I was trying to catch the early train,” explained Harry. “Is anything wrong? Why are you here before seven o’clock?”
“Come with me. I have something to say to you, Harry.”
Then Harry sent back his own buggy, and seated himself beside Antony. “Where are you going?” he asked; “there is no station up this road.”
“It is quiet. That is enough. Listen, Harry.” Then he gave his friend and brother a brief outline of the life he had led, and of Rose’s behavior on the previous night. He made few complaints, he merely stated facts; but Harry understood what was not told.
“She says she hates me. She never wants to see my face again. She never wants to hear me speak to her more. I think my presence irritates her and makes her cross and cruel.I am going to my place in the Harqua Hala Range. I ought to have been there long ago. They are finding gold there. When Rose is sorry, you will let me know?”
He was quietly weeping, and not at all conscious of the circumstance; and Harry was burning with anger at his wrongs. “It was a bad day for you, Antony, when the Filmers came into your life,” he said. “You have flung your love away on Rose, and your gold away on me. I do not know what I shall do without you. You are the greatest soul I ever met. Do not go away, Antony!”
“There is nothing else to be done. I have worn out her patience, and she has worn out mine. Be kind to her; and when you have an opportunity, say a kind word for me.”
Far into the morning they talked, and then Antony drove to the station, and went his lonely way, too miserable to think of adieus, too ashamed and heart-broken to bear more, either of advice or consolation. Harry watched his thin, sorrowful face out of sight; and at the last moment lifted his hat to so much departing love and worth. Then he drove as fast as his horse could take him to the Filmer place.
Rose had awakened from her sleep, and had had her breakfast. She was miserable in all her being. Her head ached; her heart ached. She was humiliated and chagrined, and the thought of Antony haunted her and would not let her rest. Also the house was miserable. Everything was waiting on Antony. Some of the things to be taken to the city were already packed; others were lying on the chairs and tables, and the servants were each and all taking their own ill way about affairs. Rose could think of nothing but an order to let the packing alone until Mr. Van Hoosen returned; but there was a most unsettled feeling through the house, and she was quite aware nothing was being done that ought to be done.
She was greatly relieved to see Harry coming. Harry was the one member of her family whom she regarded. He had not offended in the Duval matter, and so it was generally through Harry she was influenced to do what was required of her. But this morning Harry gave her back no smile; he did not answer her greeting, and when she offered her hand, he put it crossly away.
“Rose,” he said, “you have managed to behave abominably for a long time. But your conduct last night is unpardonable. If you were my wife I would shut you up in a madhouse until you put your senses above your temper.”
“Thanks! I am not your wife, I am happy to say. No one but the divine Adriana could – ”
“Stop your foolish chatter! You have driven your husband from you, at last. Now I hope you are satisfied.”
“So he has gone, has he? And pray, where has my lord gone?”
“I am glad he has gone so far.”
“Now, madam, you will have to fight the world without him. There is not a decent woman who will notice you.”
“What have I done wrong? And I do not believe Antony has gone. He will come trailing home to-night.”
“He will not. And as to what you have done wrong, if there were nothing against you but that Duval affair it shuts you out of society.”
Then she rose in a passion, and snapped her fingers in his face. “You!” she cried, “you dare to come here and reproach me with Duval! Pray, what about 25 °Cora Mitchin? It is the devil correcting sin for you to talk virtuously. And the divine Yanna is just as bad to live with you. I would not. I would have respected Antony if he had turned on his heel when he saw me with Duval on the steamer; if he had turned on his heel and left me forever, I would have respected him! As it is, I despise him. Arizona is the best place for him.”
“There is no use, and no sense, in putting your fault and mine on the same level, Rose. Society will teach you who is the worst next winter.”
“What do I care for society? Society is not Jehovah; and being a man will not help you, sir, at the Day of Judgment. You are a great deal worse than I am. You are not fit for any woman’s company; and the sooner you leave mine, the better I shall like it.”
And Harry went. He had nothing further to say. He was convicted by his own conscience, and by the swift passage through his mind of certain words that came from the Blameless One – “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
It was near Christmas, and New York had the sense of its festivity in all her streets and avenues. The store windows were green and gay, and the sidewalks crowded with buyers. The crisp, frosty air and bright sunshine – full of promise and exhilaration – touched even Rose Van Hoosen, and made her consciously subject to the pervading influence. She had been to see her father and mother, who had just returned from Europe, and she was going to the loneliness of her own handsome home. No letter had come to her from her husband; but his lawyer brought her every month the liberal income which had been left in his charge for the maintenance of the Van Hoosen household.
As yet she had lived in seclusion, but her mother had advised a different course. “You must give some small but extremely fine dinners and entertainments, Rose,” she said. “Nothing stops gossip like hospitality. People will want to come to your little parties, and they will pooh-pooh all ill-natured reports, for their own sake. To-morrow we will talk over this plan, and arrange the most suitable functions.”
“But they will wonder at Antony’s absence, mamma.”
“They will hardly take it into account. His indifference and his refusal to dance were always cold water on your social efforts. As far as they are concerned, he is better away. And what more promising excuse can you have than that gold has been found on 252 his place. It has a rich sound, and, of course, he has to look after it. No one will think further than that. How are Harry and his wife getting on?”
“I think Yanna has quite spoiled Harry. Will you believe that I used to meet him driving with the baby last summer; and he trotted to meeting every Sunday with Yanna. I can tell you, mother, that your day is over. Yanna has Harry quite under her thumb now, or I am much mistaken.”
“And the Cora Mitchin affair?”
“I should say it is dead and buried. I do not see the girl’s name at any theatre, and her picture is not staring you in the face from every window this season. She has been retired evidently.”
“We shall see. Now, Rose, throw aside this nonsensical air of seclusion and sorrow. Get some pretty costumes, and prepare gradually to open your house. A woman with your income aping the recluse is ridiculous.”
“You do me so much good, mamma.”
“Well, my dear, there is nothing for wrong but to try and put it right. I think you have been to blame, but there is no use going about the world to accuse yourself. You must try and make your peace with your husband. It is such bad form, this quarreling. Send for Yanna and Miss Alida, and ask their advice – just to flatter them. You must have the support of your family.”
“I do not speak to either of them. I have made a business of offending them. Yanna was the inventor of the Duval romance; and Alida Van Hoosen thinks her thoughts. They have been living together.”
“I am awfully sorry you have offended them. Can you not be friends with Yanna?”
“I don’t want to be friends with her. I have quarreled with Harry, too. The idea of Harry coming to tell me my sins! I suppose Yanna sent him. Well, he heard the truth about his own sins, for once in his life! Mamma, I have quarreled with every one but you.”
As she was speaking, Harry entered. He took his mother in his arms, and then turned to Rose. “Good morning, Rose,” he said pleasantly. But Rose looked past him, and without a word in reply, she left the house.
“I am sorry you have quarreled with your sister, Harry,” said Mrs. Filmer. “If ever she needed your countenance and aid, it is now.”
“It is not my fault. Has she told you about the last – ?”
“I have heard a dozen versions of the affair. Poor girl!”
“Mother, you ought not to condone her sins.”
“You made no objections to my condoning your sins, Harry – much more flagrant ones, too. And I do not think your wife need to put on so many airs about poor Rose.”
“Rose has wantonly wounded Yanna’s feelings very often.”
“Poor feelings! I wonder how they endured the pretty Cora’s extravagances of every kind.”
“Well, Harry, there is no use in our quarreling. Where is Antony?”
“It is a great shame. I shall make your father go and see him.”
“There is no necessity. A word of contrition from 254 Rose will bring him home. Without that word, nothing will bring him. You had better get Rose to write to him. A dozen words will do.”
“She will never write one.”
“Then she had better get a divorce.”
“And lose all Antony’s money!”
“She has behaved shamefully to Antony. I will not talk any more about her.”
“However, she is going to entertain quietly; and her own family must support her. You may tell your wife I said so.”
“Did you have a pleasant summer, mother?”
Then Mrs. Filmer began a long complaint of the weather, and the weary hours her husband spent in the libraries, and the exorbitant charges, and the dreadful laundry work, and finally she opened one of her trunks, and took out of it some presents for Yanna and the child. So the morning went rapidly away, and Harry stayed to lunch with his father and mother, and then went downtown and attended to some business for them; so that the day was all broken up and spoiled, and he resolved to go home and take Yanna her presents.
When he entered the parlor of his own home, he was astonished to see Yanna sitting at a little Dutch table, drinking tea with a woman in the regulation dress of the Salvation Army – astonished to see that she had been weeping; and still more lost in amazement when the guest stood up and faced him, for it was undoubtedly Cora Mitchin.
She looked with grave eyes straight at Harry, who had paused in the middle of the room, and said: “Mr. Filmer, I came here to-day to ask Mrs. Filmer’s pardon. You may see that she has forgiven me.”
“Miss Young,” said Adriana, rising, “it is my wish that you tell Mr. Filmer all that you have told me. He will be glad to hear it.” And then she went quietly out of the room, leaving the two alone. For a moment Harry was angry. He did not like standing face to face with his transgression; and he was quite inclined to escape from the position in some way or other, when Cora said:
“May I tell you what has happened?”
“Is there any use now? If I can do anything, Cora – ”
“No! no! Mrs. Filmer asked me to tell you. May I?”
Harry sat down, but not very graciously; and the young woman stood by the table, with her hand grasping the back of the chair from which Yanna had just risen. She was a very pretty young woman, and her peculiar dress was by no means unbecoming. If it had been, Harry perhaps might have been less willing to listen; though, as it was, he had a wandering idea that Cora was playing a trick – that she might have taken a wager she would enter his house and drink tea with his wife – that she might have wondered at him for not seeking her out, and contrived this plan to engage his attention. In fact, he did not at all believe in any confession Cora had made to his wife; and he was resentful of her presence under any guise on his hearthstone. So, though he sat down to listen, he did it ungraciously, and his voice was irritable as he said:
“I do not understand your little game, Cora; and I wish you would explain it as quickly as possible.”
“Do you remember Mary Brady, one of the ballet girls?”
“She is dead. She sent for me one night in July. She was dying without a friend, and without a cent. I did what I could. I did what there was no one else to do, I tried to pray with her, and to tell her about a pitiful God and Christ.”
“Me. For I am the child of parents who loved God, and I have two little sisters whom I have sinned for, lest they should become sinners. I know I ought to have trusted God, but I thought He was never coming to help me – and so I took the devil’s help. No one knows what the devil’s wages are until they have earned them. Mary has taken his last coin, which is – death.”
“Poor little girl! She was a merry sprite.”
“Mirth was part of her bargain. She was dying while she was laughing” – and the face of the speaker was so instinct with grief that Harry suddenly found that all his suspicions were vanishing, and an irrepressible interest was taking their place.
“My name is Hannah – Hannah Young. My father and mother gave me that name, in the old meeting-house at Newburyport. It was the name registered in God’s Book, and I would not see it on a play-bill; so I called myself – the other one. As I was telling you, I tried to talk to poor Mary, as I knew my mother would have talked to me. Alas! alas! it was too late!”
Harry looked up startled and uneasy.
“She had suffered so long and so cruelly, without anything to help or to relieve her pain. I brought her cold water and fruits and a doctor, and I told her that Christ saw all her trouble and pitied her, but she only said, ‘It is not true! If He loved me He would have 257 sent me help, when help might have saved me.’ Then I got the Gospel, and I read it to her, and she cried wearily, ‘I have heard it all before! I know He was loving and good, but that is all so long ago!’ I said, ‘Mary, if you could only pray!’ and she asked angrily, ‘To whom? To the fine ladies on Broadway, or to the men who preach now and then in the mostly closed churches?’ I told her, ‘Christ waits in this very room,’ and she began to wail and cry out, ‘It is not true! It is not true! Christ would have touched and healed me long ago!’ Yes, in her very last moments she whispered, ‘He does not know.’ I shall never forget her eyes; no, not as long as I live. She went quite hopeless down the hard road to the grave; but I do believe now that the moment she touched the other side Jesus met and comforted her.”
Harry did not answer. His eyes were cast down, and he was holding his right hand in his left, with a nervous, restless motion.
“After Mary’s death I could not be the same. I felt that I would rather hire myself out to wash dishes than earn another sinful penny. The day of her burial I went back to her room to pay the pittance due for its wretched shelter; and I sat and talked with the woman who owned the house a long time, so it was growing dark when I turned out of the court into the main street. It was a poor, quiet street, and the people were sitting on their doorsteps, or leaning out of their windows; and I saw a little crowd coming toward me, and they were singing. And as I met them, they ceased; and a woman a little in front, with an open Bible in her hand, cried out:
“‘Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ And her clear, sweet 258 call went down into my heart, and I began to weep and to pray as I walked through the streets; and after I got to my room, I locked the door and threw myself on my knees, on my face, and pleaded with Christ to forgive me and save me from my sins and myself. Oh! how I longed and wept for the purity I had lost and the faith I had cast aside! I was weary, fainting, but I would not rise. In a little while, I could not rise. I felt that the Savior was in the room. It seemed to me at first as if He would not be entreated, as if He would go away. But I had hands that clasped his feet, and caught his robe, and I would not let Him go until He forgave me.”
“You knew that you were forgiven? How?”
“I knew it by the joy that filled my heart. I did not feel my body at all. I walked up and down, clasping my hands and saying, ‘Christ, I thank Thee! Christ, I thank Thee!’ And when the dawn began to break, a great, a wonderful peace came all over me; and I lay down and slept such a happy sleep; and when I awakened, I knew that the old life had passed away, and that I was a different woman. Do you believe me, Mr. Filmer?”
“Yes,” answered Harry, very softly, “I believe you.”
“Then I went to the Salvation Army. Such gifts as God had given me, I gave back to Him. And I have been very happy ever since.”
“What made you come here to my wife?”
“I had wronged her. Against her my sin was great and particular. I came to her, and I told her what I have told you. She wept with me. She forgave me freely. She made me tea with her own hands; she did more than that – she ate and drank with me. It 259 was as if Christ again put His hand upon the leper, or went to be guest in the house of a man that was a sinner. I shall never forget her goodness. I wanted you to know – ”
“That there is mercy for sin – that there is joy and gladness in repenting – that God is ‘the lover of souls.’”
“It is a strange thing to hear you talk in this way to me.”
“I talk to you now because I shall not accuse you at the Day of Judgment. I have been forgiven, and I have forgiven you. But, oh! if you remain unforgiven, will you accuse me then?”
“No; I only am to blame.”
“Now I will go. It is not likely we shall meet again until the Day of Judgment. At that Day, I shall be glad that I have spoken; and I hope that you will be glad that you have listened.”
Harry tried to answer, but he knew not what to say. His soul was in a chaos of emotion. There seemed to be no words to interpret it; and before he could find words, the woman was gone, and the door was shut, and he was quite alone.
He did not wish to see Yanna just then; and she, being a wise wife, probably divined this feeling, for she did not intrude herself or her opinions on the event at that time. She knew what Hannah Young would say to him, and she understood that such words need neither commentary nor explanation. She was rather satisfied than otherwise, when she heard Harry go out; and as she had promised to dine with Miss Alida, she went there alone – there being already an understanding that Harry should come for her at eleven o’clock.
So their next meeting was in a company who were discussing Browning with an extraordinary animation. Miss Alida stopped in the middle of her declaration “that she would rather have her teeth drawn than be compelled to read Sordello,” to smile a welcome; and Yanna’s look of pleasure drew him to her side; where he stood leaning on her chair and watching Professor Snowdon, who was holding a book open at the likeness of the poet.
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