Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance
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But no one spoke of Adriana, and people generally seemed inclined to avoid Peter; even his intimates only gave him a passing “good-night” as they went rapidly onward. At length, Peter began to understand. “I believe they are dumb with envy,” he thought, and his thoughts had a touch of anger. “Of course, it is better to be envied than pitied; but I wish they did not feel in that way. It is disappointing. Bless my little Yanna! There are many who would not mind her being behindhand with God; who cannot bear her to be beforehand with the world. It is queer, and it is mean; but I’ll say nothing about it; a man can’t wrangle with his neighbors, and be at peace with his God at the same time – and it is only a little cloud – it will soon blow over.”
He had scarcely come to this conclusion when he was accosted by an impertinent busybody, who said some sharp things about Mr. Harry Filmer’s reputation, 29 and the imprudence of Adriana Van Hoosen being seen driving with the young man.
“Go up to the Filmers’ house, and say to them what you have said to me,” answered Peter, and his face was black with anger.
“I was not thinking of the Filmers, Peter. I was thinking of your daughter.”
“You have daughters of your own, William Bogart. Look after them. I will take care of my Adriana. She was driving with Miss Filmer, and not with Mr. Filmer; but that does not make a mite of difference. Miss or Mister, I can trust Adriana Van Hoosen. She is a good girl, thank God!”
Then still sharper words passed; for the accuser was a peevish, ill-natured man; and his shrugs, and sneering mouth, as well as his suspicious words, roused the Old Adam in Peter, and he felt him firing his tongue and twitching his fingers. Bogart was a younger man than himself; but Peter knew that he could throttle him like a cur; or fling him, with one movement of his arm, into the dust of the highway. Fortunately, however, Bogart’s prolixity of evil words gave Peter pause enough for reflection; and when he spoke again, he had himself well in hand, though his eyes were flashing and his voice was stern.
“Bogart,” he said, “you are a member of the Dutch Reformed Church; and you have doubtless a Bible somewhere in your house. Go home and read, ‘With the froward, Thou wilt show Thyself forward.’ That is a dreadful Scripture for an ill-tongued man, Bogart. As for me, I will not answer you. He shall speak for me, and mine.” And with this sense of an omnipotent advocate on his side, Peter walked majestically away.
At first he thought he would go to Filmer Hall in the morning, and bring home his child. But a little reflection showed him how unnecessary and unwise such a movement would be. “I will leave God to order events, which are his work, not mine,” he thought, “and if Yanna pleases God, and pleases herself, she will not displease me.”
Adriana, knowing nothing of this petty tumult of envy, was very happy. Harry did not go to New York the following day.He only talked of the city, and wondered why he wanted to stay away from it. “It is my native air,” he said, as he struck a match swiftly and lit his cigar, “and usually I am homesick, the moment I leave it. I wonder what there is in Filmer Hall to make me forget Broadway; I do not understand!” – but he understood before he began to speak.
“The place itself is enchanting,” said Adriana.
“We are living in Paradise,” added Rose.
“Paradise!” cried Mrs. Filmer. “And we have to keep ten servants! Paradise! Impossible! This morning the laundress was also homesick for New York; and she has gone back there. I could have better spared any two other servants; for she was clever enough to deserve the laundress’s vision of St. Joseph – ‘with a lovely shining hat, and a shirt buzzom that was never starched in this world.’ Harry, why do people like to go to New York, even in the summer time?”
“Well, mother, if people have to work for their living, New York gives them a money-making impression. I always catch an itching palm as soon as I touch its pavements.”
“I did not think you were so mercenary, Harry.”
“We are nothing, if we are not mercenary. What a 31 gulf of yawns there is between us and the age that listened to the ‘large utterance of the early gods’!”
“I do not complain of the ‘gulf,’ Harry; au contraire; – here comes the mail! and the commonplaces of our acquaintances may be quite as agreeable as the ‘what?’ of the early gods!” Mrs. Filmer was unlocking the bag as she spoke, and distributing the letters. Rose had several, and she went to her room to read and answer them, leaving Adriana and Harry to amuse themselves. They went first to the piano, and, when tired of singing, strolled into the woods to talk; and as the day grew warm, they came back with hands full of mountain laurel and wild-flowers. Then Harry began to teach Adriana to play chess; and she learned something more than the ways of kings and queens, knights and bishops. Unconsciously, also, she taught as well as learned; for a young lovable woman, be she coquette or ing?nue, can teach a man all the romances; this is indeed her nature, her genius, the song flowing from her and returning never again.
After lunch Rose took Adriana away, with an air of mystery. “I have had a most important letter,” she said, with a sigh, “from poor Dick – Dick Duval! He is simply broken-hearted. And Dick has quite a temper, he does not like suffering so much. I feel that I really ought to see him.”
“When is he coming, Rose?”
“He can never come here. All my family are against Dick. Harry quarrelled openly with him at the club; and papa – who hardly ever interferes in anything – met him in the hall one night, and opened the front door for him.”
“What does Mrs. Filmer say?”
“Mamma says Dick is a physical gentleman and a 32 moral scamp; and she forbids me to speak or write to him. That is the whole situation, Yanna.”
“It is a very plain one, Rose. There is nothing to discuss in it. You ought not to answer his letter at all.”
“Dick says he will blow his brains out, if I do not see him.”
“You do not know what love is, Yanna.”
“Do you, Rose?”
“Not unless I am in love with Dick.”
“I am sure you are not in love with Dick. You are far too conscientious, far too morally beautiful yourself, to be in love with a moral scamp. I know that you would not do anything deliberately wrong, Rose.”
“Do not swear by me, Yanna. I cannot swear by myself. I have actually told Dick that I will meet him next Monday – at your house.”
“Indeed, Rose, you must destroy that letter.”
“It is a beautiful letter. I spent two hours over it.”
“Tear it into fifty pieces.”
“But Dick can call at your house, and I will just ‘happen in.’ There is no harm in that. You can be present all the time, if you wish.”
“I will ask father. Of course, I must tell him the circumstances.”
“And of course, he will go into a passion about his honor, and his honor to Mr. Filmer, and all the other moralities. You are real mean, Yanna.”
“I am real kind, Rose. Please give me the letter. You know that you are going to do a wicked and foolish thing. Rose, I have always thought you a very angel of purity and propriety. I cannot imagine a man like this touching the hem of your garment. 33 Give me the letter, Rose. Positively, it must not go to him.”
“I want to do right, Yanna.”
“I know you do.”
“But Dick is suffering; and I am sorry for him.”
“We have no right to be sorry for the wicked. The wicked ought to suffer; sympathy for them, or with them, is not blessed. I am so glad to see you crying, Rose. If you sent that letter, it would trouble your soul, as a mote in your eye would torture your sight. In both cases, the trouble would be to wash out with tears. Give me the letter, and I will destroy it.”
Then Rose laid it upon the table, and buried her face in her pillow, sobbing bitterly, “I do like Dick! Right or wrong, I want to see him.”
“I may tear up the letter, Rose? It must be done. Shall I do it?”
“Could you not let Dick call at your house once? Only once?”
“It is not my house. I should have to ask father.”
“Only once, Yanna!”
“Things that are permissible ‘only once’ ought never to be done at all. Do you remember how often Miss Mitchell told us that?”
“Miss Mitchell never had a lover in her life. People always do see lovers ‘once more.’”
“Then ask Mrs. Filmer if you cannot do so.”
“Certainly, she could not be more cruel than you are. Oh, Yanna! I am so disappointed in you!”
Then Yanna began to cry, and the girls mingled their tears; and when they had swept away their disappointment in each other, the letter was torn into little shreds as a peace offering; and they bathed their faces, and lay down for an hour. Yanna was sure she 34 had conquered; but it was but a temporary victory; for as soon as she was alone, Rose began to blame herself.
“I always was under that girl,” she thought, “and I quite forgot about her father being only a stone mason. Poor Dick! I must send him half-a-dozen lines; and suppose I tell him that I walk in the mornings, by the little lake in the woods called ‘Laurel Water’? If he finds me out there, he will deserve to see me; and if not – there is no harm done.”
Yet this second letter, though written and sent, was not conceived with any satisfaction. Rose was conscience-hurt all the time she penned it; and very restless and unhappy after it had passed beyond her control. For she was in general obedient to the voice within her; expediency and propriety had both told her at the first, “You had better not write,” and she had not heeded them in the least; but she did find it very difficult to silence the imperative, “Thou shalt not!” of conscience. Still, it was done. Then she reflected that Dick would get her letter on Saturday morning, and might possibly come to Woodsome on Sunday. It would, therefore, be expedient to let Yanna return to her own home the next day; and also to find some excuse for remaining from church on Sabbath morning.
“One little fault breeds another little fault,” she thought, “but it is only for once.” And she did not perceive that she had called disobedience to parents, and premeditated absence from the service of God, “a little fault”; far less did she calculate what great faults might obtain tolerance if measured from such a false standard.
However, the hours went by, as apparently happy and innocent as if there were no contemplated sin 35 beneath them; conversation and music made interchanging melodies; and again the beautiful moonshine brought silence, and beaming eyes, and all the sweet and indefinable interpreters of love. And this night Harry, also, felt some of that strange sadness which is far more enthralling than laughter, song and dance, to those who can understand its speech. Rose did not. “How stupid we all are!” she exclaimed; and Harry glanced down into Yanna’s eyes, and pressed her arm closer to his side, and knew that words were unnecessary.
In the morning, Mr. Filmer came from town. He was a small, slender man, with an imperturbable manner, and that mystical type of face often seen in old portraits: a man whom Adriana rightly judged to be made up of opposite qualities, his most obvious side being that of suave, indifferent complaisance. He was exceedingly kind to Adriana, and spoke with real warmth of feeling about her father. “I count it a good thing to have come in contact with him,” he said, “for I think better of all men for his sake. It is his religion,” he added. “What a Calvinist he is! We had some talks I never shall forget.”
He appeared to take no interest in the household affairs, and Mrs. Filmer did not trouble him about its details. He was, in fact, bookishly selfish; his only enquiry being one concerning the library and some boxes of books which he had sent. If the garden, the stables, the horses or servants were alluded to, he was miles away; for he had long ago explained to Mrs. Filmer that these things were not necessary to his happiness; and that, therefore, if she insisted upon being troubled with them, she must bear the worries and annoyances they were sure to bring.
He really lost little by this arrangement; for Mr. Filmer’s cleverness and deep learning was the family superstition. Rose said she “felt as if a clergyman were present all the time papa was at home,” and Mrs. Filmer and Harry spoke with mysterious respect of the great work which occupied Mr. Filmer’s thoughts and time. Harry told Adriana that “it was a ‘History of Civilization’ rather on Mr. Buckle’s lines, but much more philosophical.” And it was evident Harry firmly believed in his father; which might not have been the case if the two men had been busy together, looking after other people’s money, or telling smart, scandalous stories in the club windows.
In fact, if Mr. Filmer had deliberately selected a r?le which would bring him the least trouble and the most honor, he could not have done better unto himself. As it was, whenever he came out of his retirement, and condescendingly put himself on a level with the family dinner-table, he was the guest of honor; for usually his little delicacies were carried with elaborate nicety into the small private room adjoining the library. Every one tried to make him understand how great was the favor of his presence; and Adriana, though she knew nothing of his peculiarities, was able to perceive even in the passing conversation of the hour, a different influence. Harry generally set the key at that light tone which touches society in those moods when it chases gaiety till out of breath. There was always a deeper meaning in his father’s opinions and reflections; and the family were apt to look admiringly at one another when their profundity was greater than usual.
In the middle of the meal, there fell upon the company one of those infectious silences which the “folk” 37 explain by saying “an angel passes”; but which Harry broke by a question:
“Why this silence?” he asked.
“Why this recollection?” Mr. Filmer immediately substituted. “What are you all remembering? Speak, my dear,” he said to Mrs. Filmer.
“I was recalling the fact that I had not written a line in my diary for a month.”
“I congratulate you, Emma! People who are happy do not write down their happiness. And you, Miss Van Hoosen?”
“I was remembering some boys that Mr. Filmer and I met in the wood this morning. They were rifling a thrush’s nest. I begged them not to do it; but then, boys will be boys.”
“That is the trouble. If they could only be dogs, or any other reasonable, useful, or inoffensive creature! But alas! a good boy is an unnatural boy. Now, Rose, where did your memory stray?”
“To Letitia Landon’s wedding. She married Mr. Landon because he was rich, and I was remembering her old lover, Horace Key, standing in the aisle, watching the wedding. There were three at that wedding, I think.”
“And in such cases, two is matrimony, and three divorce. As to your memories, Harry? Are they repeatable?”
“I was thinking of the insane pace and frivolities of the past season; and if I had not spoken, I should have got as far as a reflection on the bliss of a quiet country life, like the present.”
“You must remember, Harry, that the ‘frivolity’ of the multitude is never frivolous – it portends too much.”
“And pray, sir, in what direction went your memory?”
“No further than the ferry boat. It gave me, this morning, an opportunity of studying human nature, in its betting aspect.”
“What did you think of it, sir?”
“I thought instantly of Disraeli’s definition of the Turf: – ‘this institution for national demoralization.’”
“Is it worse than politics?”
“Yes. Loyalty to one’s country is fed upon sentiment, or self-interest. Americans are a sentimental race – whether they know it or not – and Americans do not, as a general rule, want their country to pay them for loving her. Do you, Harry?”
“No, indeed, sir!”
“There are tens of thousands just as loyal as you are.”
“When women get the suffrage,” said Rose, “politics will be better and purer.”
“Oh, Rosie! are there not politicians enough in America, without women increasing the awful sum?”
“We feel compelled to increase it, papa. Noblesse oblige, if you will read sex for rank. I intend to be a Socialist.”
“Then you must become very rich, or very poor. Socialism is only permitted to the very great, or the very small.”
“What of Republicanism, sir?”
“It is highly respectable, Harry. Men who would be gentlemen cannot afford to be anything else; and I have noticed they are more Republican than Harrison himself.”
“Are you a Democrat now, sir?”
“I love Democracy, Harry; but I do not love Democrats.”
“Do let us change the subject,” said Mrs. Filmer, fretfully. “In a month or two, the election influenza will be raging. Let us forget politics among the June roses.”
“Suppose we talk of love, then. Love is quite at the other end of the pole of feeling. What do you think of love in these days, father?”
Harry spoke in his lightest manner, but Mr. Filmer’s serious face reproved it. “Love is a kind of religion, Harry,” he answered. “We will not joke about it, as fools do. And it is the same divine thing to-day as it was in its exquisite beginnings in Paradise. Love is either the greatest bliss or the profoundest misery the soul of man can know.” And quite inadvertently, his eyes fell upon Rose, and she trembled and resolved to take her letter to Dick Duval out of the mail bag.
But when she went for it the bag had been sent to the post-office, and she whispered to herself dramatically, “The die is cast!” and then she sat down and played a “Romanza,” and wove into it her memories of poor Horace Key, watching his old love plight her broken faith to a rich husband. Swiftly Horace Key became Dick Duval, and she played herself into tears, thinking of his black, velvety eyes, and his love-darting glances.
Early in the morning Adriana’s little visit was over. She had made no preparations for a longer one, and after all, the old rule with regard to visits is one that fits most occasions – a day to come, a day to stay, and a day to go away. She had also a singular feeling of necessity in her return home, as if she were needed there; and she was glad that Harry had to go to New 40 York, and that their adieu was public and conventional. “We shall meet again very soon,” he said, as he touched Yanna’s hand; and then he lifted the reins, and the dog-cart went spinning down the avenue, as if he had only one desire – that of escaping from her.
In another hour Adriana was at home, going through her own sweet, spotless rooms, with that new, delightful sense of possession that makes home-coming worth going from home to experience. There was only one servant in Peter’s house – a middle-aged woman, whose husband had been killed in Peter’s quarry; but she had the Dutch passion for cleanliness, and the very atmosphere of the house was fresh as a rose – the windows all open to the sunshine, the white draperies blowing gently in the south breeze, and every article of furniture polished to its highest point. Yanna ran up and down stairs with a sweet satisfaction. This dwelling, so simple, so spotless, so void of pretenses, was the proper home for a man like Peter Van Hoosen; she could not imagine him in a gilded saloon, with painted flowers and heathen goddesses around him.
They talked a little while, and then Peter went into his garden; and Yanna took out a white muslin dress which required some re-trimming, and sat down with her ribbons and laces, to make it pretty. She was tying bows of blue ribbons into coquettish shapes, singing as she did so, when she heard a quick footstep on the gravel. She drew aside the fluttering curtain and looked out. A stranger was at the doorstep – was coming through the hall – was actually opening the parlor door as she rose from her chair with the ribbons in her hand. He did not wait for her to speak. He took her in his arms, and said:
“Oh, Yanna! Yanna! Where is father?”
Then she knew him. “Antony! My brother Antony!” she cried. “Oh, how glad I am to see you! Oh, how glad father will be to see you! Come, let us go to him. He is in the garden.”
This unexpected visit threw the Van Hoosen household into a state of the most joyful excitement; for around this youngest of his sons, Peter had woven all the poetry that is sure to be somewhere hidden in a truly pious heart. He was very proud of Antony, for he had accomplished the precise thing which would have been impossible to Peter. Antony’s life had been one of constant peril, and his father was accustomed to think of him as heavily armed, and fleetly mounted, and riding for his life. The glamour of western skies, the romance and mystery of the Great Plains, the hand to hand bravery of defending forts from Indians – these, and many other daring elements, had woven themselves about the young man’s struggle for wealth, and invested him with an unusual interest.
So unusual that Peter thought it no sin, on this “eve of the Sabbath,” to break his general custom of private meditation, and listen to the tale of life his son had to tell him. For it was full of strange providences, and Peter was not slow to point them out. And though Antony was reticent on spiritual experiences that were purely personal, his father understood that in those vast lonely places he had heard a Voice, that never again leaves the heart that hears it.
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