Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance
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A few hours later she was in Woodsome, talking to Peter Van Hoosen. Memories and fears that she could not endure were pressing her so sorely that she must needs tell them, and there seemed to be no one at once so strong and so sympathetic as Antony’s father. He was listening to her story with an almost incredulous silence, as with tears and shame-dyed cheeks, she confessed her many sins and contradictions against her husband. Peter sat with eyes cast down, but ever and anon he lifted his searching gaze to the penitent’s face; and anger and pity strove for the mastery.
“I think I was possessed of a devil,” she said, and she looked hopelessly at Peter, with the self-accusation.
“You were possessed of yourself, Rose Van Hoosen; and there is no greater mystery than to be possessed of self.”
“I know. I never cared for Antony’s happiness. It was always what I wanted, and what I thought. That is the reason I must go and tell him how sorry I am.”
“You must go further and higher than Antony. You must feel as David felt when he cried out to God, ‘Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned; and done this evil in Thy sight.’ It is not Antony, but God, you will have to answer. You have lived as the fool lives. You have not remembered that every day is bringing you closer to that Great Day when this heaven and earth shall pass away like a burning scroll. Then Rose, you yourself will have to tell what you have done with the love and the time and the money that have been loaned you. If God sent you away from His presence forever, how could you bear it?”
An awful fear came into her eyes; she was white as death, and she trembled visibly.
“I have been where God is not,” she said, in a whisper full of horror. “I was there this morning. I was not dreaming. I was there. I was in the Land of Evil Spirits.”
Peter bent forward, and took her hand between his hands, and said:
“Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”
“There was no God in that Land of the Shadow of Hell. It was desolation unutterable, and the light of it was darkness. I saw nothing but bare black mountains, and dead pits of black water, and wretched huts, wherein the evil ones crouched and crawled. There was a dreadful smell everywhere, I could not escape from it; and it was worse than all the other horrors. And I knew that it came from dead and dying souls and putrid sins and I tried to hide in caves, or climb 289 the dark mountains, but I could not get beyond its sickening influence. I can not understand. Can you?”
“I think so, Rose. No sense we have is more closely connected with the sphere of the soul than the sense of smell. If it is a direct avenue for the soul’s approach to God, may it not lead also the other way? It is certain that because of its far-reaching power over the deep things, and the hidden things of the heart, the Bible is full of images appealing to this very sense. I can understand why the Land of the Evil Ones has the odor of death unto death.”
“I tried in vain to flee from it, for I could not move fast.Some Power seemed to be dragging me slowly down; a Power like a huge loadstone, patient, because it was sure of me, and therefore able to wait. I knew prayer could help me; but I could not pray. Suddenly I saw an angel, very tired, and scarce moving her wings in the black air. I knew it was my Guardian Angel. Her eyes were full of pity, and she seemed so loth to leave me. Then in an awful terror I stretched out my hands, and called to her; and so calling, I came back to myself. And I flew to my window and looked out, and I touched all the things in my room, for I wanted to be sure that I was still alive; and as I dressed I said continually, ‘Thank God! thank God!’ I must go to Antony and tell him how sorry I am; then perhaps God will forgive me. Will you go with me to Antony?”
“Can you start to-morrow?”
“To-day, if you wish. We can reach New York by three o’clock, and leave by to-night’s train for the west. I will see your father and mother, and do all 290 that is necessary about your property, while you pack such clothing as you require. Now shall Betta bring you a cup of tea, for you look weary to death?”
“I have had nothing to eat to-day.”
“Do you know where Antony is?”
“My lawyer knows – somewhere in Arizona, I think.”
“No, he is nearer Denver. He went to Denver a month ago, about the sale of some mining property, and in his last letter he told me he had bought a shooting lodge south of Denver, from an English gentleman who was returning to England, and that he intended to spend the summer there. Through his agent in Denver we can find out the precise location.” Then he spoke hopefully to her of God’s love, and of her husband’s love, but she was exceedingly depressed and sorrowful; and though she drank her tea, she made it bitter with tears. For she could not rid herself of that vision of her angel, hovering so tired and hopeless, on the verge of a limit beyond her holy care.
“Oh, father!” she cried, “if I could only once more know that my head was covered with her white wings! If the dear and great angel would only let me feel her guarding me – me, out of all the world! I used to know something about my Guardian Angel, but I had forgotten it for many years, until this very moment. Just as I spoke to you, the last lines flashed into my mind, as if all their letters were made of light. Listen:
So, with many tears and sad reflections, she drank a little tea; and then Peter induced her to sleep an hour, because the journey would be long and hard for 291 her. But every mile of it was a tonic, and when she reached the high tableland of Colorado, the color came back to her cheeks, and she was able to eat and sleep, and in some ways enjoy the travel. Peter watched over her with a father’s care; nay, it was more like a mother’s never-wearying anxiety for her welfare and happiness; and when Denver was reached, both were full of hope, and cheerful in their hope. Here Peter would have delayed a few days; but Rose was eager to go forward, and the next morning they were on the Southern Line, and feeling that a few hours more would bring them face to face with Antony.
It was mid-afternoon when they reached the small station at which they were to alight, and Antony’s lodge was about half a mile up the mountain. Trees hid it from view, but the mailman walked with them to the timber, and showed Peter the trail through it, which would lead them directly to Mr. Van Hoosen’s door. During this walk Rose became very silent, and one not in sympathy with her would have thought her cross. But Peter knew that all the issues of her life had come to this one point; and he felt keenly for her. Rose looked frequently into his face, and she held his hand tightly; but she was really incapable of speech. Indeed, she was incapable of thought. All her nature was absorbed by feeling.
The walk was not a long one, for in about ten minutes they came in sight of a pretty log house, gabled and fancifully roofed, and of quite pretentious dimensions. Wide piazzas ran around its one story; and there were a few low, broad steps opposite the door. A man sat on them sewing a buckle on a leather strap, and he did not cease his employment or stand up as Peter and Rose reached him.
“Is Mr. Van Hoosen in?” asked Peter.
“Well, he is, and he isn’t, sir. He was here an hour ago; but he’s gone to ask a few trout to take supper with him. I’m Jim Laker. Sit down, both of you. Perhaps the lady would like to go inside.”
But Rose positively declined this offer, and the man brought her a rocking-chair and a glass of milk. Then Peter began to talk to Jim about the wild-flowers of the district, and Rose sat watching and waiting, and heart-sick with anxiety.
“Mr. Van Hoosen is longer than usual.” “I thought he’d be back an hour ago!” “’Pears like there must be something out of the ordinary!” Such were the explanations made every now and then, for the satisfaction of the visitors; and Rose had just begun to think Antony must have seen her, and slipped back to the woods, when a long, clear whistle was heard.
“That’s him! He’s coming down the mountain. I reckon he’ll find the door at the other side.” With these words the man lifted his mended strap, and walked through the house to its opposite door. Peter followed him.
“I am Mr. Van Hoosen’s father, Jim,” he said, and Jim answered with prompt good-nature, “I might have known. Your talk is just as likely.”
They met Antony as he entered the house, and their exclamations embraced each other:
“Antony, my son! God bless you.”
“Father! Why, father! This is a happy surprise!” and the young man put his hands on his father’s shoulders and kissed him.
“Is anything wrong, father?”
“Why not ask, is everything right? Right is as 293 likely as wrong, is it not? There is some one on the front gallery, waiting to see you. I am going to the stable to look at your stock.”
“Do. The horses are pretty good. I’ll come to you in a few minutes. Jim! Jim Laker! Here are the trout. Get us a good supper, as soon as you can.”
He was putting his rod and line in place, and hanging up his hat, as he spoke. Peter lingered, and looked at him wistfully; until Antony – running his fingers through his hair – turned to the front door; then he said:
“As I told you, Antony, there is some one waiting to see you. I would not forget that ‘His compassions fail not,’ and that ‘His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting.’”
The strange charge made Antony start, struck the blood into his face, and set his heart beating wildly. He walked quickly to the front of the house; and his eyes immediately fell on the slight, black-robed figure of his wife. Rose had heard his approaching footsteps, and had stood up to meet her fate. Her head was bare, her hands dropped, but her eyes gazed straight at him. And there was a look in them, and in the thin, pathetic face, that melted Antony’s heart to tears. He went towards her with open arms; but she lifted her hands, palms outward, and cried:
“Oh, Antony! Let me say I am sorry, before you forgive me. So sorry! so ashamed of the past! I have been nearly dead with shame and grief! Can you forgive me? Will it be right to forgive me?”
“My dear one, I have forgot it all.”
“No, no! You must first think of it all – think of everything I did wrong – of every scornful word and act, of every unkindness, of every time I made you 294 ashamed of me. Is it right to forgive me? For I am not good, I am only trying to be good; and perhaps I shall fail very often. But God has spoken to me; and men and women have punished me on every hand; and I love you. Yes, I love you so much, Antony, that if you send me away I shall die of love and grief.”
“You love me?”
“Yes, I love you.”
“Then, my dear Rose, that is enough for all. We will bury every sad memory in love. Forgive all for love. Trust all to love.” So he gathered her to his heart, and kissed the tears off her eyes, and the love off her lips; and said to her with sweet solemnity:
“My darling Rose, this is our real marriage. Oh, my wife! My dear wife! My dear, dear, dear wife!”
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