Amelia Barr.

Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance





Oh, nonsense, Yanna! It fell out of the book, and she looked at it; after that, any woman would have gone on looking at it.

Very few women would have gone on looking at it.

Mothers, I mean. Mothers feel they have a right, you know. I ought not to have left it there. It was my fault; but the whole house has been in such a miserable confusion, with the packing and the ball; and it has been Harry here, and Harry there, and the truth is, mother called me while I was writing, and she was in a great hurry, and I slipped the letter into the book, and when I got back I had forgotten where I put it. I looked everywhere, and as there was a fire burning on the hearth, I concluded that I had burnt it.

Which you ought to have done.

Yes; but then, Yanna, mother had to know.

I wish I had known first. What did she say?

She thought we ought, for Roses sake, to put off our marriage and keep our engagement secret.

Yes. Why for Roses sake?

It sounds egotistical to tell you, Yanna; but mother says that Rose is asked out a great deal more for my sake than for her own, and as she has made expensive preparations for the season, she wants Rose to have the full benefit of them; that is only natural. However, she thinks it impossible, if it is known that I am engaged.

The whole affair is humiliating, Harry; but I hear father coming, and you had better speak to him. He will know what I ought to do under the circumstances.

I would rather see him to-morrow. I want to talk to my mother again to collect my thoughts to explain myself better to you, dearest.

But Peter entered as he was speaking, and Yanna for a moment made no attempt to alter the significant position of Harry towards herself; for he was holding her hand, while his whole attitude was that of an imploring lover.

Yanna rose and left the room, as her father came forward. Well, sir? said Peter, not unkindly, but with an interrogative emphasis Harry could not pretend to ignore. He rose and offered his hand to Peter. I have been telling Yanna that I love her, he said, and she has promised to be my wife. The young mans hand lay in Peters hand as he made this confession, and Peter led him to the fireside.

Sit down, sir. I have something to say to you; and as you see, I am very wet. The storm was driving in my face. Then Harry looked outward, and saw the empty lawn blinded with rain, and the gray hills and the gray clouds meeting.

Peter removed his coat and shoes silently, but as soon as this act was done, he drew his chair near to Harrys and said:

You must have known, Mr. Filmer, that I was not blind to the love you have acknowledged to-day. Nothing that affects Yanna escapes me.

Then you do not disapprove of my love, sir?

I am glad that you love Yanna. I am glad that she loves you. I have not, either by look, or word, or deed, tried to influence Yanna this way or that way.

I was resolved that Destiny undirected, and undisturbed, should work out her own ends. But now I may tell you, that a marriage between you and Yanna will bring back all the Van Hoosen lands into the Van Hoosen succession; and Yanna will only be going to her natural home.

I do not understand you, sir.

I will make what I say plain enough. All the land the Filmers own in this locality came from the Van Hoosens. The first white owner of it was a Peter Van Hoosen, in the year 1750. He owned nearly every acre between the two rivers, and when he died he left it equally between his son John and his daughter Cornelia. Cornelia married Abram Deitrich, and their only surviving child, Anna, married a man called Maas. They had many children, but the eldest bought from his brothers and sisters their shares of the land, and at his death left it to his only child, Martin. And it came to pass that Martins daughter, called Mary, married your grandfather, Dominie Filmer, bringing him as her portion all the land which you possess near Woodsome.

I remember well that my grandmothers name was Mary Maas.

I am descended from the son of the original Peter Van Hoosen; and the sons descendants have been far less fortunate than those of the daughter Cornelia. All of them had many children, and their half of the land was continually subdivided, and turned into cash. I was born poor and landless, being the fifth in descent from my namesake, the first owner. Cousin Alida, however, has re-acquired much of the original tract, left to her ancestor John Van Hoosen, and this land, I know, will come to Yanna; so that your marriage with Yanna will, in a great measure, bring old Peters estate intact into the family of his descendant.

Knowing these things, I have watched the growth of love between Yanna and yourself with much interest; yet quite determined to leave affairs beyond my guiding, without my meddling. Your father knows the whole of our generations; we have talked it over often; and I think he is rather proud of the Dutch element in his nature. He told me it gave him the patient industry, and the love of detail, without which his great book would be a great failure. But this is aside from the question that fills your heart, I know. Speak to me, then, as freely as you wish, about Yanna.

I love Yanna; I feel as if I had always loved her! I have no hope that does not drift to her.

That is well, and as it should be. I also love her. I have no words to say how nor yet how much. But I do not wish to part with her just yet. Wait a little while.

I must perforce wait, sir. I cannot marry for some time; my income is necessary to my family.

For how long must you wait?

I know not precisely but my sisters marriage will make a great difference.

When does your sister marry?

As yet there is no prospect of her marriage. Doubtless this winter will make a change.

Well, I do not complain of a circumstance that leaves my daughter to bless my own life. But there has been talk a great deal of talk people do not believe that it is Antony you come to see day after day, and week in, and week out. Adrianas name has been named with your name, and if her father and brother had not been at her side it would have been shadowed in the contact. Now to-morrow night you have a great entertainment; there could be no better time to announce your engagement. It will please your father to explain to the Woodsome people all that I have told you; and Antony can say in response all that is pleasant and necessary. To turn your ball into a betrothal feast would give Woodsome people a winters conversation, and set Yanna where she ought to stand.

Harry was silent, and Peter looked at him with a changing face. At length the young man said: I do not think that would do, sir. Father cares nothing at all for society, and he would most likely be delighted to take the romantic part you assign him. But mother would feel the situation cruelly. It would get into the papers, and we should never hear the last of it. I could not bear it for Yannas sake. I do not like people discussing her antecedents and prospects. I do not like them to speak of her at all. Mother is indeed very anxious that we should keep our engagement secret for a short time. She thinks it will help Rose to a settlement, and so hasten her own marriage.

Mr. Filmer, do you know what you are doing? You are asking my daughter to marry you, and then 73 you are asking her to tell no one you have done so. Your proposal is an insult; take back your offer. No honorable man would make it. No honorable girl could accept it.

Yanna has given me her word. She has promised to be my wife.

Peter did not answer him; but throwing open the door, he called, Yanna! Yanna! Come here to me!

Something in his voice frightened Yanna. She came hastily downstairs, the tears she had been shedding still upon her cheeks. Yanna, said her father, as he drew her close to his side, Mr. Filmer wants to marry you sometime. In the meantime, he does not want you to tell any one that he wants to marry you. Do you think that an honorable offer?

No! but, father, Harry has reasons we cannot properly appreciate. Society is cruel to those who have to live in it.

Right is right, and wrong is wrong, wherever and however men and women live! It is wrong to ask a woman to marry, and then say, Do not tell any one I have asked you.

Sir! cried Harry, approaching Yanna, Sir! you state the situation most cruelly. It is not fair to me. I am in a great strait. Yanna, dearest Yanna! cannot you say a word for me?

There is nothing to be said, answered Peter. Under no circumstances will I recognize a secret engagement. To do so is to engage my daughter to sorrow, and hope deferred, and miserable backbiting! Any engagement between Yanna and yourself, Mr. Filmer, must be openly acknowledged on both sides. I make no point of it being acknowledged at the ball to-morrow; that was perhaps an old mans romancing but 74 if you will have no publicity, I will have no secrecy.

May I speak alone with Yanna, sir?

You may. I put no bond on Yannas words or actions, in any way. Honor will constrain her to treat herself, and her father also, with honor! Then he went out of the room, and left Harry standing by Yannas side. He took her in his arms, and she did not immediately, or with anger, withdraw herself. She was more able than Peter to understand the great strait in which the young man found himself. She suffered Harry to kiss the tears off her eyelids and to whisper anew his adoring affection for her.

Cannot you trust me, Yanna? he asked. Cannot you trust me a little while, dearest one?

I will trust you, Harry; and you must trust me; for there can be no engagement between us until father is satisfied. Perhaps Antony will explain things in some better way to him.

No, he will not! Antony is perfectly ferocious on a question relating to any womans honor. I know that he loves my sister Rose to distraction, and I know equally well that if he ever dares to ask her to be his wife he will do so in the most straightforward, conventional manner. Once when I complained of the strictness of societys rules about women, he said, Considering the usual man, society could not make rules too strict. Antony will not help us by a syllable.

Then speak to your mother again. Our marriage may be delayed; but our engagement ought to be a recognized one.

But privately. Cannot we understand each other privately? Look in my eyes, darling, and see my promise there! Give me yours in a kiss.

Harry, why do you ask me to deceive my father?

You love your father better than you love me, Yanna.

She did not answer this accusation in words, though he saw the answer fly into her face; and he was so ashamed of his unreasonableness that he went into the hall and put on his overcoat, and she stood silent, watching him the while. In a few minutes he turned to her with his hat in his hand. Well, then, Yanna, I am to go away without a promise from you? When may I come again?

When you love me with all your heart when you can put me before every other human being. Please, Harry, say nothing of this event to Rose. Why should we trouble her? And as I have promised to be at Filmer to-morrow morning, it will be best, dear, if you can avoid meeting me. I shall not remain more than an hour or two.

Very well. I will keep myself out of your way.

You know what I mean, Harry. Why do you make my meaning worse than it is?

Good-bye, Yanna! I am too miserable to split hairs over a meaning.

He was really petted and humiliated, and even a lover in this mood finds it hard to be just and kind. Without another word, he went to the stable for his horse and buggy; and Yanna, watching at the window, saw him drive furiously down the avenue, without giving her any further recognition. For the young man little accustomed to disappointment of any kind, and still less to a want of personal appreciation had become angry at his failure. Though he had not permitted himself consciously to make any account of his superior social position, it had influenced his 76 estimate of his probable success; and yet he was forced to acknowledge that his wealth or social position had never been taken into account at all. His acceptance or refusal had hung entirely upon a moral question the expediency or inexpediency of a secret engagement. Altogether, he felt the situation to have been most unpleasant.

Nothing has come of it, he thought, but an assurance of Yannas love; and what is the use of love that will not sacrifice anything for me? And as he looked at this question only in its relation to Yannas sacrificing for him, he did not arrive at any just conception of his own duty in the circumstances.

Mrs. Filmer had been covertly watching for his return; and she was annoyed to find that he went directly to his own apartments, and did not reappear that night. Rose grumbled at his carelessness, and once she went to his door and asked him to come down and look at some of the arrangements; but he refused in the most positive manner. It was altogether a cross, unpleasant evening; the servants were quarreling in every part of the house; Rose was worrying over Harrys indifference; and Mrs. Filmer had a slight sick headache, and said more unkind things than she permitted herself when in good health. Mr. Filmer did not improve the general tone, for he sat quiet, in a provoking mood, watching the burning hickory logs, and listening to the fretful remarks flying between the mistress and her servants, and the mother and her daughter. Their plain speech and honest opinions amused him; and he complacently remarked: My dear Emma, this little household discussion is very interesting to me. I always have said, Let us be 77 sincere and truthful with each other, no matter how unpleasant we may make ourselves.

In the morning the storm was over, and there was a clearer atmosphere in the house. But Harry did not appear at the breakfast table. It is a shame! said Rose, with great sincerity. If Harry was against the ball, he ought to have said so at the beginning. I wonder what is the matter with him!

Mrs. Filmer knew what was the matter, and she privately gave Yanna the blame of all her worries. But for Yanna, Harry would have been enthusiastically busy about all the necessary details which were so annoying to her. She did not love Yanna for her interference; but she was a modern lady, and she was able to keep her dislike to herself. About ten oclock Yanna arrived at Filmer Hall, and Rose, who had seen her approach, went to the door to meet her.

Come upstairs, Yanna, she cried. Come to my room, and I will show you something. She was all impatience and excitement, and Yannas white face and serious manner did not impress her. With a little flourish, she flung wide the door of her sitting-room, and pointing to a garment lying upon the couch, cried:

Is not that a dress worth living for, Yanna? It quite expresses me! Look at the opal tints in the silk, and the soft lace, and the pearl trimming! And in the greenhouse, there is the one flower possible to wear with it a large, soft, feathery, white chrysanthemum! I love chrysanthemums! they give you an impression of poetic melancholy; they have the sadness of an autumn sunset! What do you think of the dress, Yanna?

It is beautiful.

I hope Antony will like me in it.

He admires you in everything you wear.

He was not near Filmer yesterday.

He was in New York.

Do you know that Harry has become quite ugly about the ball? every one is talking about the depression in trade; I am sure there is more need to complain about the depression in pleasure he was eager enough at first about it, but now he thinks the whole subject a bore. Last night he would not even speak to us about it; and this morning he had breakfast in his room, and poor mamma has everything to look after.

Perhaps he is saving himself for to-night.

But that is so mean. Men ought to have a few domestic amenities. Miss Polly Barnard says the reformation of men will be the mission of the coming woman. I wish some woman would begin her mission with Harry!

Did Miss Polly stay long with you?

Only three days. She talked to the servants about saving their money, and improving their minds, and they said she was a perfect lady! A perfect lady is the highest praise servants have for any one they approve. We did not find her perfect. She scolded me about my worldliness, and called me a thoughtless little sinneress. Then suddenly Roses face fell, and she covered it with her hands, and began to cry.

Why, Rose, what is the matter?

I had such a sad dream last night. I cannot tell it; and I cannot forget it. I wish I could be good, and I cannot be good. We used to have such noble plans for our lives. We meant to be so useful and busy, and I have frittered this summer away in pure idleness. But after this ball is over, I am determined I will do 79 something better with my life than dress and dance, and eat and sleep, and listen to lovers.

I also have come far short of what I intended, Rose. The summer has gone like a dream, but I feel this morning as if I had awakened from it.

Well, I have made some good resolutions; and when the time comes, I intend to keep them. To-day, however, is predestined to folly, and I may as well have my share in it. When my conscience pricks me a little I always enjoy my pleasures the most. You know what is said about stolen fruit; it is that kind of a feeling. Why did Antony go to New York? Did he tell you that I had snubbed him the other day?

He never talks of you, Rose. Did you go to Mrs. Van Praaghs tea?

Unfortunately, I did.

Was it not pleasant?

Do you know the kind of tea, where everybody calls every one else dear?

Yanna laughed.

That explains the function. We were all women, and we were all dear. No men were present but Grandfather Praagh and the young Adolphus.

She spoke scornfully, and Yanna said: I thought you rather admired Adolphus Van Praagh.

I did, until I met him at various tennis parties. Then I saw that he always wore dingy flannels. Is there anything more levelling in a mans dress than dingy flannels? Now, Harrys tennis suits are fresh, if he puts two suits on every day, to achieve the result. I think Harry is handsome in white flannels. Dont you?

Very handsome. Were the Bleeker Van Praaghs there?

Of course they were. Van Praaghs always flock together, and have done so, generation after generation.

I think that is a fine family trait.

I think so, too for the family. Personally, I could have wished more of the Milton and Kent and Bannerman element, and less of the Van Praaghs. But I did not remain long. Nelly Milton wore a fetching costume. She said it was a Redfern marvel. I noticed nothing else, but that every one had feather boas round their necks, and that in consequence the doorsteps were strewn with feathers. I hope Antony will come to the ball. Do you think he will dance with me?

No.

But with me? And in that dress!

I am sure he will not dance. He would rather lead a forlorn hope or ride a hundred miles after hostile Indians, than go through a dance. It seems, even to me, so absurd to think of men mincing and capering about a room. I could sooner fancy Antony playing How Far to Babylon? with the little children in the street.

Nevertheless, I shall make him dance.

I am sure you will not, Rose. Do not try. You will only wound and pain him, and disappoint yourself.

We shall see.

After some more conversation, they went downstairs to look at the decorations; and greatly to Yannas surprise, the lunch bell rang; and Mrs. Filmer came through the corridor towards the two girls. She kissed Yanna in her usual manner, and said: We are going to have a very early lunch, Yanna; stay, and eat it with us.

I promised father to be home at noon I did not know it was so late I must go home at once I do hope you will have a lovely time to-night I am sure you ought to have. She was talking with nervous haste, and only desirous to reach the door before any unpleasant remark could be made. Mrs. Filmer looked at her white face and embarrassed manner curiously; and turning to Rose, she said:

Rose, go to Harrys room, and insist upon his seeing you. Tell him Yanna is here; and he must come down to lunch. He has just refused to do so, she added, and I cannot imagine what is the matter. When Rose had disappeared, she turned to Yanna and said: Perhaps you can tell me, Yanna?

Indeed, I cannot! Yanna replied, making a motion as if to proceed to the door; which motion Mrs. Filmer prevented by placing her hand lightly upon the girls shoulder.

Yanna, my dear, there is no need for deception. I know that Harry and you are engaged. Why, then, pretend that you do not wish to see each other? All I ask is, that you wait for a suitable time, and keep the engagement secret. Under the circumstances, that is as little as you can do.





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