Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance
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There was a fine sincerity, a sincerity like that of light, in Antony’s nature; his moral sense was definite, his words were truthful; he was another Peter Van Hoosen transplanted into larger atmospheres, and nourished in tropical warmth. Speaking physically, 42 he was not handsome; speaking morally, he was very attractive. His fine soul erected his long spare form, gave the head its confident poise, made the face luminous, and the step firm and elastic. It was like breathing in a high atmosphere to be with him; for he shared himself with his fellows, and poured his life freely into other lives. Was it, then, any wonder that Peter and Yanna gave themselves entirely, that first happy day of reunion, to a son and a brother, so lovable and so attracting?
There was no wonder, either, that in the cool of the evening, Yanna – with a conscious pride in her brother’s appearance – asked him to walk to the post-office with her. She wished to experience some of that pleasant surprise which his reappearance in his native village was likely to make. But the girls she hoped to meet thought Antony was “one of the Yorkers from Filmer’s place,” and they kept on the other side of the street. Not always do our ships go by in the night; sometimes we see them pass in the daytime, and are too proud, or too careless, to hail them. One of these girls had been a dream in Antony’s heart for years; he had really thought of wooing her for his wife. But she was envious of Yanna, and passed on the other side, and fortune did not follow, nor yet meet her, ever again.
Because the next day was the Sabbath, there was no visiting nor receiving of visits in Peter’s house; though the young man was recognized at church, and welcomed by many of his old acquaintances. And early Monday morning Yanna began to expect Rose. She looked forward to her visit, and kept Antony by her side on many pretenses, until the day became too warm to hope longer. Then she wrote to Rose a 43 letter, and, in the cool of the afternoon, Antony went with her to post it. They were walking slowly down the locust-shaded street, and talking of the girl whom Antony had thoughts of wooing, when Harry, driving Rose, turned into the street a hundred yards behind them. Instantly, both were aware of Yanna and her strange escort.
“Do you see that?” asked Rose, with a wondering intensity. “Now, who can he be?”
“How should I know?” answered Harry – and he drew the reins, and made the horses keep the distance. He had himself received a severe check; he did not know whether he wished to proceed or to turn back.
“Yanna never told me about him.”
“Girls never do tell all. Will you now call on Miss Van Hoosen?”
“You might be the one not necessary.”
“Indeed, I shall call. I told Yanna I would see her to-day. I shall not break my word, for any man. I dare say he is one of her father’s builders, or architects, or – some one of that kind. I do wonder if Yanna is deceitful!”
“All girls are deceitful.”
“They walk humbly after the men, in that r?le, Harry.Drive a mile up the road; then, as we return, we can pass Mr. Van Hoosen’s house. If Yanna is at home, I shall see it, or know it, or feel it; and that fellow will doubtless have been left outside somewhere.”
“That fellow,” however, with Yanna at his side, was on the doorstep to welcome Harry and Rose. He lifted Rose like a feather-weight from the dog-cart, 44 and he was ready with outstretched hand, when Yanna said, “This is my brother Antony.” The “brothership” was such a relief to Harry that it made him most unusually friendly and gay-tempered; and Rose readily adopted the same tone. They sat down on the piazza, behind the flowering honeysuckles, and amid broken little laughs and exclamations, grew sweetly, and yet a little proudly, familiar. After a short time, however, Rose said she “wanted to speak to Yanna very particularly.” Then the girls went into the parlor; and the two young men lit their cigars, and walked through the garden to smoke, and to find Peter; but both, moved by the same impulse, made the same involuntary pause before the open window at which Rose and Yanna sat. Their faces were eager and serious, their hands dropped, their attitudes had the perfect grace of nature; they were beautiful, and the more so because they were unconscious of it. Rose was just saying to Yanna, as Harry and Antony glanced at them:
“Dick has written again to me, Yanna. I had a letter from him this morning.”
“Is he not impertinent?”
“He is anxious and miserable. I fear I shall have to see him.”
“If you fear it, you certainly ought not to see him.”
“He says he is coming to Woodsome. Yanna, why did you never tell me about this wonderful brother of yours?”
“I have not seen him since I was a little girl. I did not expect ever to see him again. His coming was a perfect surprise.”
“He is strikingly handsome.”
“He is not handsome at all, Rose.”
“He is handsome. I have never seen any one more handsome. He is like an antique man.”
“Quite the contrary, he is the very incarnation of the New World. His loose garments, his easy swing, his air of liberty, all speak of the vast unplanted plains beyond civilization.”
“Pshaw! I look deeper than you do. He is a man that could love a woman unto death. Is that not antique? He has a heart that would never fail her in any hour. You might tell him a secret, and know that fire could not burn it out of him. If you were at death’s door, he would die for you. I have a great mind to fall in love with him.”
“Not so, Rose. He is not of your world; and you would be wretched in his world. He is thinking of a girl in the village. You have described an ideal Antony. How, indeed, could you find out so much in twenty or thirty minutes?”
“The soul sees straight and swift.”
“But you do not see with your soul, Rose.”
“Yes, I do. What I have said is true. I don’t know how I know it is true; but it is true. Father was saying last night that some people have a sixth sense, and that by it they see things invisible – he was referring to George Fox and Swedenborg – and then he began to wonder if we had not once possessed seven senses; he thought there was inborn assurance of it, because people quite unconsciously swear by their seven senses. But five, or six, or seven, I am inclined to fall in love with Antony Van Hoosen, with the whole of them.”
“I had forgotten. Would you see him if you were me? or even write to him?”
“Have you written to him?”
Rose became scarlet and nervous. She could not tell a lie with that bland innocence of aspect which some women acquire; she had even a feeling of moral degradation, when she uttered the little word, “No.”
“Then I would not write on any account. I feel sure your love for Dick is only sentiment.”
“Do you know anything about love or sentiment, Yanna? You did not care whether Harry admired you or not. Harry felt your coldness; he thinks nice women ought to be sentimental, and I can tell you, he is accustomed to being thoroughly appreciated.”
By this time it was growing dusk, and the three men were seen coming together towards the house. They were walking slowly and talking earnestly, and Yanna said:
“I wonder what subject interests them so much?”
“Politics or religion, I suppose; but whichever it is, they will utter nonsense as soon as we are within hearing. Here comes Harry with a laugh and a platitude!”
“Pardon us, Miss Van Hoosen; we quite forgot that time moved. Have you been very impatient, Rose?”
“We have both felt hurt. If you had been talking to Yanna and me, you would have been worrying about the horses, and about the steep roads, and the night miasma, and lots of other things; in fact, you would have had a bad, bad cough, by this time, Harry.”
“I know it, Rose; and I beg you a thousand pardons. You must blame my hosts. I never enjoyed talking so much before.” Then he gave his hand to Antony with a frankness that had something very confiding in it. “Shall I call for you to-morrow?” he asked. “We can get a good boat at the river side.”
“Thank you,” answered Antony, “I will go.”
“Cannot we go also?” enquired Rose.
Then Harry hesitated. He wanted Yanna to say something, and she said nothing. That decided the question. “It is quite impossible, Rose,” he answered. “We are going on the river to fish – a little dirty boat, and the blazing sun beating on the river – what pleasure could you have?”
“What pleasure can you have? I do not believe you are going a-fishing at all. You are going a-talking, and we could help you;” then, turning to Yanna, she asked: “When are you coming to Filmer again? Not for a week? That will never do. I shall go against your brother if he parts us for so long.”
The last words were lost in the clatter of the horse’s hoofs; and then there was a sudden silence. For the mere idea of departing stops the gayest conversation, makes the quietest person fidgety, the slowest, in a hurry; and introduces something of melancholy, whether we will or not. Perhaps, indeed, there is in every parting some dim foreshadowing of the Great Parting, and the involuntary sigh, with which we turn inward from a departing guest, is a sign from that language below the threshold we so seldom try to understand.
The acquaintance thus pleasantly begun grew rapidly to something more personal and familiar. Harry and Antony were constantly together; and the young man from the west exercised that peculiar influence over the city-bred man that a radical change in circumstances might have done. Antony was a new kind of experience. Out on the river, or wandering over the hills together, they had such confidences as drew them closer than brothers. And this intimacy 48 naturally strengthened those tenderer intimacies from which, indeed, their own friendship received its charm and crown.
For Harry soon fell into the habit of calling at Peter Van Hoosen’s house for Antony; and in such visits he saw Adriana constantly, under the most charming and variable household aspects. It was early morning, and she was training the vines, or dusting the room, or creaming butter for a cake; but he thought her in every occupation more beautiful than in the last one. Or the young men were returning at night-fall from a day’s outing, weary and hungry; and she made them tea, and cut their bread and butter and cold beef; and such occasions – no matter how frequently they occurred – were all separate and distinct in Harry’s memory.
This familiarity also on her father’s hearth invested Adriana with an atmosphere that a wrong or a trifling thought could not enter. Walking with her in the moonshine on the Filmer piazzas, he had ventured to say, and to look more love than was possible in the sanctity of her home and in the presence of her adoring father and brother. In fact, confidence in his own position left him; he began to have all the despondencies, and doubts, and sweet uncertainties, that lovers must endure, if they would not miss the complementary joys of dawning hopes, of looks and half-understood words, and of that happy “perhaps” that lifts a man from despairing into the seventh heaven of love’s possible blessedness. This, indeed, is the best heart education a man can possibly receive. In it, if he be a man, he gets that straightness of soul in which he loses “I” and then finds it again in that other one for whom his soul longs.
Unconsciously as a tree grows, Harry grew in the school of love; and Adriana was also much benefited by this change of base in Harry’s wooing. She had been learning too fast. It takes but a moment to drop the flower-seed into the ground; and it takes but a glance of the eye for love’s wondrous prepossession to be accomplished; but seed and passion alike, if they would reach a noble fruition, must germinate; must put forth the tender little leaves that lie asleep at the root and the heart; must spread upward to the sunshine, before they blossom like the rose in beauty and in perfume. And for these processes time is absolutely necessary.
An experience similar in kind was in progress between Antony and Rose, but the elements were more diverse. Rose had had many admirers; and she had permitted herself a sentimental affection for Dick Duval, the most unworthy of them all. She knew that she was morally weak, and that the only way to prevent herself from committing imprudences was to keep to the roadway of conventional proprieties; and in the main she was wise enough to follow this course. Her feelings about Antony were conflicting; she did not consider him a conventionally proper lover. He was the son of a working man; he lived a life beyond social restraints; she supposed him to be rather poor than rich; he did not dress as the men she knew dressed; his conversation was provocative of discussion, it compelled a person to think, or to answer like a fool – a startling vulgarity in itself – and he was so obtrusively truthful.
In a lover, as yet unaccepted, she felt this last quality to be embarrassing. It made him incapable of comprehending those fine shades of flirtation by which 50 a clever woman indicates “she will, and she will not,” by which she hesitates a liking, and provokes the admiration she can either refuse or accept. If she looked at Antony, with a sweet, long gaze, and then sighed, and cast her eyes down, Antony was moved to the depths of his soul, and he would frankly tell her so; which at that stage of proceedings was very inconvenient. If she permitted him to hold her hand, and walk with her in silent bliss under the stars, she was compelled at their next meeting to set him back with a cruel determination he could neither gainsay nor complain of. He was happy, and he was wretched. Often he determined to return westward forever, and then in some of the occult ways known to womanhood, Rose tied him to her side by another knot, more invisible and more invincible than the rest.
She loved him. She was resolved to marry him – sometime. “But I want one more season in society,” she said to herself, one day, as she reviewed the position in her luxurious solitude – “though for the matter of that, it is the young married women now who have all the beaux, and all the fun. And if I were married, I should be safe from Dick; and I am afraid of Dick. Dick isn’t good; on the contrary, he is very bad. I like good men. I like Antony Van Hoosen. I will let him propose to me. If I were engaged, or supposed to be engaged, all the young men would immediately fancy I was the only girl in the universe – but I never can find another lover like Antony Van Hoosen! The man would die for me.”
She talked of him continually to Adriana, and hoped that Adriana would say to Antony the things she did not herself wish to say. She gave Adriana hopes that Adriana might give them to Antony. And then 51 Adriana was so provokingly honorable as to regard the confidence as inviolable. And, indeed, Antony was that kind of a lover who thinks it a kind of sacrilege to babble about his mistress, or to speculate concerning her feelings, even with his sister. His love, with all of joy and sorrow it caused him, was a subject sacred as his own soul to him.
Of course, Mrs. Filmer was not blind to events so closely within her observation; she was far too shrewdly alive to all of life’s possibilities to ignore them. But she did not fear her own daughter. She made allowances for her youth, and therefore for her sentimentalities, which she thought were as much a part of it as her flexible figure or her fine complexion. “This primitive gentleman from the plains has had it all his own way,” she thought. “If we had more company, he would have been less remarkable. But company would have interfered with Henry’s great work, and it has been hard enough to keep the necessary quiet for his writing, as it is. However, we shall go to New York soon; and then adieu! Mr. Van Hoosen. He sings a song about the ‘Maids of California.’ I shall tell him it will be proper at his age to make a selection very soon from them.”
Under circumstances like these, the summer and the autumn passed away like a vivid dream. Adriana was much at Filmer Hall; and Rose very frequently spent the day with Adriana in her home. Mrs. Filmer was too wise to oppose the constant companionship. She regarded it merely as a contingent of country life; and she quieted any irritable thoughts by the reflection that her daughter would marry early, and have other interests, and then put away her girlish, immature predilections of every kind. And in the meantime, 52 she was rather glad that Rose should have an “interest,” for Rose could make herself very tiresome if she was without one.
At length the chrysanthemums were beginning to bloom, and Mrs. Filmer spoke decidedly of a return to the city. Mr. Filmer had written a whole chapter of his book, and felt the need of change and mental rest; and Mrs. Filmer reminded Rose that her costumes for the coming season were all to buy; and the house was not yet put in order for the winter’s entertaining. Harry said they were leaving the country just when it was most charming; but even Harry was not averse to an entire reconstruction of his life. He was still deeply in love with Adriana, and strongly attached to Antony, but he was a little tired of walking, and driving, and boating. The idea of his club, of the opera, and the theatres, of dinners and dances, came pleasantly into his imagination.
Then arrived the time of displaced furniture, and of days sad with the unrest of packing and the uncertainties of parting. Harry began to think; and Antony thought more positively than he had ever before done. Adriana was silent and full of vague regrets; she had dreamed such a happy dream all summer; would the winter days carry it away? Rose was also quiet and a little mournful; but her regrets were flashed with hopes. She was looking forward to new conquests; and yet she was strangely averse to resign the one great heart that had been her worshipper through the happy summer months.
All alike were waiting for an opportunity. And the days went by, and it did not come, because it was watched for. But suddenly Mrs. Filmer resolved to give a “Good-bye Ball,” and then, when everybody’s 53 thoughts were on the trivialities of flowers and ribbons, destiny, one morning, called them to account for the love she had given. She wanted to know what harvest of joy or sorrow had been grown upon the slopes of the sunny summer days, and whether the love that had brightened them was to be homed forever in faithful hearts; or cast out wounded and forlorn, to perish and be forgotten on the hard highways of selfish and mercenary life!
It was the morning before “the Ball,” and Mrs. Filmer was busy about the packing of some valuable bric-a-brac, which was to be taken with them to the city. She went into Harry’s room, to see if the pieces adorning it had been attended to properly; and, glancing carefully around, her eyes fell upon a book of expensive illustrations. She determined to lock it away, and lifted it for that purpose. A letter fell from its pages, and she read it. As she did so, her eyes flashed, and her face grew passionately sombre.
“The idea!” she muttered. “The very idea of such a thing!”
She did not replace the letter, but taking it in her hand, went in search of Harry; and as she could not find him, she proceeded to Mr. Filmer’s study. He looked up with fidgety annoyance, and she said crossly:
“Henry, I am sorry to disturb you; but I suppose your son is of more importance than your book.”
“Is there anything amiss with Harry?”
“Harry is on the point of making a dreadful m?salliance.”
“That Van Hoosen girl.”
“How do you know?”
“I found a letter in his room – a perfectly dreadful letter.”
“You know what I mean – a letter asking her to be his wife.”
“It might be worse than that. If Harry loves her, I am glad he loves her honorably.”
“Honorably! Such a marriage is impossible; and for once, you must take Harry in hand, and tell him so.”
“Harry is of age. He is independent of me, in so far that he makes his own living, and has his own income. I can advise, but if you have your usual wisdom, Emma, you will not attempt to coerce him. I am sure the furnace needs attending to. This room is cold, and you know, when I am writing, I always do have cold feet.” He was turning the leaves of his book with impatience, and a total withdrawal of interest from the subject of conversation. Mrs. Filmer left him with a look of contempt.
“The man has lost all natural feeling,” she sighed. “He gets his very passions out of a bookcase. There is no use in expecting help from him.”
She put the letter in her pocket, and tried to go on with the domestic affairs interesting her; but she found the effort impossible. A fierce jealousy of her son swallowed up every smaller feeling; she had a nausea when she thought he might at that very moment be “making an irredeemable fool of himself.” But she took into consideration what Mr. Filmer had said, and acknowledged that, careless as he seemed about the matter, he had touched its vital point at once. Harry would not bear coercion. Her tactics would have to be straightforward and persuasive.
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