Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance
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“Mrs. Filmer, there is no engagement between myself and Mr. Harry Filmer; and, under the circumstances, there never will be. As for ‘deception,’ I cannot conceive of any condition in which I should resort to it.”
“Do you mean that you have refused to marry my son?”
“Under the circumstances, I felt obliged to do so.”
“Well! I think it was very inconsiderate, I may say very impertinent in you, to refuse Mr. Filmer. You have caused me much annoyance, Miss Van Hoosen. I hope we shall be able to avoid each other in the future.”
“It will not be my fault if we do not. I am sorry to have grieved you, for you have been kind to me, and I shall only remember your kindness.”
Mrs. Filmer bowed haughtily, and said, “Good morning, Miss Van Hoosen,” and Yanna felt almost as if she had been civilly told to leave the house.
When Rose returned to the dining-room, Yanna had disappeared, and Mrs. Filmer was calmly sipping her bouillon. “Harry will not come down. He says he has a headache. Where is Yanna?” asked Rose.
“She was compelled to go home without delay,” answered Mrs. Filmer. “She seemed afraid of her father – perhaps she has his dinner to cook.”
“Oh, no! Betta does all that kind of work. I think Yanna was disappointed about the ball. It is too absurd of Mr. Van Hoosen!”
“I imagine the ball will proceed without Miss Van Hoosen. Indeed, I am rather glad we are going to the city soon, for life without the Van Hoosen flavor will be a pleasant change.”
“I am sure, mamma, the Van Hoosen flavor has been a great help to us all summer.”
“Well! The summer is now over.”
“And Yanna is – ”
“Oh, Yanna is everything charming! So is Antony! And even Mr. Peter Van Hoosen is picturesquely primitive. But the subject tires me to-day. Take your bouillon, Rose, and then try and secure a sleep.” Mrs. Filmer was turning the salad, with a face of great 83 annoyance, and Rose felt that the conversation was closed.
In the meantime, Yanna drove slowly homeward. Her life seemed to be crumbling inwardly. She lingered in the empty wood thinking of Harry, and of the trial which had tested and found him wanting; suffering over again his pettish anger in their parting, and feeling Mrs. Filmer’s polite scorn to be the last bitter drop in a cup full of bitterness. She was grateful for the quiet of nature, and not afraid to weep before her. She thought her sorrow to be as great as she could bear; for she was not old enough to know that there are griefs too great to find tears for.
Soon, however, she began to feel after that sure and perfect Love that never deceives and never disappoints, to utter those little prayers of two or three words which spring from the soul direct to God, and always come back with comfort and healing on their wings. She wept and prayed until her heart was like a holy well, running over with the waters of hope and consolation.Her love melted into her intelligence, and her intelligence became love; and this tempering influence and balancing power, gave her strength to keep the expression of her feelings shut up in a granite calm.
And when her father stepped out to meet her, when her eyes caught the pitying love in his eyes, and she went hand in hand with him into the pretty room, where the fire was blazing a welcome, and Betta, with smiles and excuses, was bringing in the dinner; she felt that her own home had plenty of those compensating joys of the present, which fill the heart with comforting thoughts, and the life with the sweet satisfactions and peace of possession.
“Home is a full cup, father!” she said. And Peter, standing at the head of his table, smiled at Yanna; and then lifted up his hands and asked God’s blessing on it!
Fortunately for Adriana, the Filmers were not named at the dinner table. Antony had a new subject to discuss; for on the previous day, while in New York, an acquaintance had taken him to a Socialist meeting. The topic had been treated on its most poetic and hopeful side, and Antony was all enthusiasm for its happy possibilities. Peter listened without any emotion. He did not believe that crime, nor even poverty, would be abolished by merely new social arrangements.
“It is the inner change in individuals that will do it, Antony,” he said. “I have heard, and I have read, all sides of the Socialism of the day; and I tell you, it is half brutal, and altogether insufficient to cure existing wrongs.”
“But, father, if the framework of society, which is all wrong, is put all right, would not individuals in the mass take the right form? As far as I can judge, they are ready to run into any mold prepared for them.”
“No. You may set all without right; and all within may remain wrong. It is the new heart and the new spirit that is required. Will Socialism touch the inner man and woman? If not, then Socialism is a failure.”
“I do not think it hopes to do this at once; but wider education, more time, more money, more individual liberty – ”
“Will only produce more license, more pride of intellect, 86 more self-will; and men and women will become as indomitable as the beasts of the desert; and a law unto themselves.”
“Then, father, what would you propose?”
“I see the answer in Yanna’s face. She knows, Antony, what I would say, if I could say the words as well as she can – ‘So much the rather’ – go on, Yanna.” And Yanna’s face lighted and lifted as she repeated with calm intensity:
“The Inward Light! That is what is needed. These reformers talk too much, and think, and do, too little. Were there many Americans present?”
“The majority were foreigners. They were not ill-natured; they were even cheerful and good-tempered. They had their wives and children with them. They had beer to drink, and tobacco to smoke, and a good band of music. I heard ‘La Marseillaise’ played with a wonderful spirit. It set me on fire. I began to feel for my musket and to think of fighting.”
“We don’t want ‘La Marseillaise’ here, Antony. We have our own national hymns. The ‘Star Spangled Banner’ can set my heart thrilling and burning, without making me think of blood and murder. If social reformers will talk to the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ and ‘The Red, White and Blue,’ they will do no harm, and perhaps they may even do some good.”
“However, father, most of the men I heard speak appeared to have a great deal of information and much practical wisdom.”
“They will need as much again to govern what they have.”
“You are prejudiced against anything new, father.”
“Perhaps I am, Antony. I am suspicious of new things, even of new planets. I have read of several lately, but I cannot say I believe in them. I find myself sticking to the old list I learned at school; it began with Mercury, and ended with Georgium Sidus. I believe they have given Georgium Sidus a new name; but I don’t know him by it.”
Antony – who rarely laughed – laughed heartily at his father’s solid conservatism; and then the conversation drifted to and fro about the ordinary events of their daily life – the potting of plants, the village taxes, the shoeing of horses, and so forth. And Yanna’s calm, serious face told Antony nothing of the suffering in her heart; nor did she desire he should know it. Culture teaches the average woman to suppress feeling; and Yanna had a great dislike to discuss matters so closely personal to her. She was not ignorant either of Antony’s love for Rose, and his friendship with Harry had been hitherto without a cloud; why, then, should her private affairs make trouble between lovers and friends?
“At any rate,” she thought, “circumstances alter cases; and Antony in his relationship with Rose and Harry must be permitted to act without any sense of obligation to my rights or wrongs.”
Peter scarcely looked at the matter in the same temperate way; his sense of the family tie was very strong, and he thought if one member suffered injury all the other members ought to suffer with it. Yet he comprehended Yanna’s sensitiveness, her dislike for any discussion of her feelings, her liberal admission that 88 Harry, brought up in a different sphere of life, and under social tenets of special obsequiousness, could not be fairly measured by the single directness of their line and plummet.
She understood from Harry’s awkward attitude in his own home that he was suffering, and that he was likely to make others suffer with him. She had no special resentment against Mrs. Filmer. “Her behavior was natural enough; I might have been just as rude under the same provocation,” she thought. So she said nothing whatever to her father of the little scene between Mrs. Filmer and herself; she was able to understand Mrs. Filmer’s position, and she was satisfied with the way in which she had defended her own. “There is nothing owing between us,” she reflected, “and, therefore, there will be no perpetual sense of injury. We shall forgive – and perhaps forget.”
She busied herself all afternoon about her simple household duties; affecting to Betta a sudden anxiety about the usual preparations for winter; and she compelled herself to sing as she went up and down, putting away, and taking out, or looking carefully for the ravages of the summer moth. Peter heard her voice in one bravura after another; and for a short time he sat still listening and wondering. For effects are chained to causes, and he asked himself what reason Yanna had for music of that particular kind. By-and-by, he smiled and nodded; he had fathomed the secret of Yanna’s mental medicine – though with her it had been a simple instinct accepted and obeyed – and he said softly:
“To be sure! The lifeboat is launched with a shout, and the forlorn hope goes cheering into the breach; so when the heart has a big fight to make, 89 anything that can help it into action is good. Artificial singing will bring the real song; anyway, it helps her to work, and work is the best gospel ever preached for a heartache.”
The evening was brightened by Antony’s metamorphosis into a man of fashion. His late frequent visits to New York were explained when he rather consciously came into the sitting-room. He was in full dress, and looked remarkably handsome; and Peter felt very proud of his son. It is a humbling thing to confess that he had never had such a quick, positive pride in him before. The potent and mysterious power of dress, and of a fine personal presence, jumped to his eyes, and appealed to his heart, with a promptitude Antony’s bravest and most unselfish deeds had never effected. He stood up and looked at his son with a kindling pleasure in his face; and when Yanna sent him off with prodigal compliments, he privately endorsed every one of them.
True, he afterwards took himself to task for his vanity; and with expansive bluntness, told Yanna that her brother was just as fine a fellow in homespun as in broadcloth; but the broadcloth image remained with him, and he could not help some very pertinent private reflections on the value of culture and good society, as exemplified in his own family.
Yanna did not sleep much. All night long she heard the voices and the carriages of the people going to or coming from the ball; and the solemn stillness of the early morning was offended by their vacant laughter, or noisy chattering. She was glad to be called from restless and unhappy slumber, to the positive comfort of daylight and day’s work. But she did not see Antony again until the dinner hour. He was 90 then in high spirits, and quite inclined to talk of the entertainment. “It was very like the Van Praaghs’ and the Gilberts’ affair,” he said. “The same people were there, and I think they wore the same dresses – white and fussy, and flary, flowery things, you know, Yanna. But Rose Filmer was unlike every other woman.”
“Was she handsome? Well dressed? In good spirits? Kind? and in all her other best moods?”
“Yanna, she was in every way perfection. Her dress was wonderful. And, oh! the lift of her head, and the curl of her lip, and her step like a queen’s! She was charming! She was sweet, oh, so sweet!”
Yanna smiled at his enthusiastic admiration of her friend, but Peter said nothing until they were alone. Then he turned to his son, and asked: “Antony, are you thinking of falling in love with Miss Filmer?”
“I have been in love with her ever since I first saw her.”
“You could not ask a girl like that to be your wife. She has been brought up to luxury; she could not bear poverty.”
“I shall not ask her to bear poverty, father. If I had been a poor man I should have gone back west, long ago.”
Peter looked inquisitively at his son, and Antony answered his query. “I have said nothing so far about money; because in your house it seemed mean to talk of my riches. I know that you have worked so hard for the competence you possess; and my good fortune has been simple luck. I had a few thousand dollars, and because the care of them troubled me, I made some investments without much consideration. Every one was flushed with success. Then I made 91 others, and again others, and I suppose my very ignorance induced fortune to bring in my ship for me. At any rate, she did steer it into a good harbor.”
“I am glad! I am very glad, Antony! But why do you say ‘fortune’?”
“Somehow – I did not like to say God – as if He looked after a man’s real estate speculations.”
“He looks after everything. The silver and the gold are His; the world and the fulness thereof. I have never read, nor yet ever heard tell, that He has grown weary of watching; or that His arm is shortened or weakened, or that He has delegated to fortune, or chance, or fate, or destiny, or any other power, His own work of shaping a man’s life. If I did not know this, I should feel as all disbelievers must feel – alone and abandoned in the vast universe.”
“In great things, father.”
“In everything. Can you tell what things are great, and what things are little? From the most apparently trifling affairs have come wars and revolutions, which have turned the earth upside down, and ‘glutted the throat of Hell with ghosts.’ God gave you every dollar you have; and to Him you will have to render an account of its usage. Now, as to Miss Filmer. If you have money, I see no reason to fear you will not be acceptable. You are both branches from the same root – though she may be a bit the highest up; and I do think you are as good a man, and as handsome a man, as I know anywhere.”
Praise so distinct and unqualified was a rare gift from Peter; and Antony looked into his father’s face with grateful pleasure. The old man nodded slightly, as if to reaffirm his opinions, and then continued, “Talk to Mr. Filmer at once. It is the best plan.”
“It is too early yet. I must have permission from Rose to go on that message. There is nothing definite between us.”
“It is a pity. She goes to the city – into the world – other young men will seek her.”
“Good! She must choose freely. I may only have been a country makeshift, and I do not care to be Hobson’s choice with any girl. I would rather be left altogether.”
“Right. Suppose you ride to Grey’s Gate with me? There is a horse for sale there that I would like to buy.”
So the two men went away together, and Yanna, sitting sewing at the window, lifted her head as they passed, and gave them a smile like sunshine. “She is a good, brave girl,” thought Peter, and for a moment he was tempted to tell Antony about Harry Filmer’s proposal. But he thought better of silence than of confidence, and he kept silence. In the end, Harry was sure to do all that was right to the woman he loved; and if the way to that end was shadowed and hard, it would not be mended by their discussing it. Besides, he felt that Yanna would be averse to such a discussion; and again Antony’s own confidence with regard to Rose bespoke a caution and reticence concerning affairs in which there were complications it might be unwise to trouble.
In about an hour the Filmer dog-cart came at a rattling speed up the avenue. Rose was driving, and her pace and air indicated to Yanna her reckless high spirits.
“I am so glad to get shelter here, Yanna,” she said. “At Filmer they are turning the house outside the windows; there is not a quiet corner to sit in, and think things over. Has Antony told you about the ball?”
“I think you were ‘the ball’ to Antony. He has named no one else.”
“Yanna, he looked splendid last night; just like a hero out of a book. I made up my mind to completely conquer him, and he was so masterful, so not-to-be-gainsaid, or contradicted, that I could not manage him. In fact, he managed me. He made me say that I loved him. I do not know ‘how’ he did it; but he made me speak; and, the truth is, I liked it.”
“Dear Rose, do not go back upon your word. That would be mean and cruel, for I am sure Antony has stayed in Woodsome all this summer only for your sake.”
“Suppose he has! That is nothing! If a man wants you to live with him all his life, or all your life, one summer is a very little trial.”
“Did you promise to be his wife?”
“Nothing so rapid, my dear. I do not give an inch and a mile in the same hour. I simply admitted that I might – could – would – or should – love him – perhaps. That was as much happiness as he was able to carry. It went to his heart like twenty bottles of champagne to the head. He is a delightful lover, Yanna! He will not take ‘No.’ You cannot say ‘No.’ His words are like flame, and you feel that he means every one of them. I have had lovers – oh, yes! – and their polite compliments and placid emotions were to Mr. Antony’s eager seeking as the moonshine is to the noonday sunshine.”
“Then be fair and true to him.”
“Certainly! I intend to be so – in the long run. So we shall be really sisters, Yanna! And we shall not have to learn to love one another. It must be pretty 94 hard on a girl to give up her brother, and learn to love another girl at the same time.”
“I never found it hard to love you, Rose. How soon will you give Antony – ”
“I have given Antony all I mean to give him for some time. Mamma has made great preparations for me this season, and I intend to take the full benefit of them. It would be an awful disappointment to her if she found out that my heart was not my own. There is a sea of pleasure before me, and I mean to be in the full tide of the swim.”
“And if in that ‘swim’ your foot tips the tangles, take care, dear Rose. You can never tell what depths there are beneath them.”
“What do you mean by ‘tangles’?”
“I mean unwise or unworthy lovers and companions – too much pleasure in any form – dancing, dressing, flirting, champagne drinking, and things of that kind. You know.”
“Champagne drinking! Yes, it is delightful. It makes me feel as if my blood were made of flame. I am half divine after a glass of champagne. But I never take more than one glass. I know better.”
“I would not take that one. If a thing is dangerous in large quantity, it is not safe in small quantity. I would not touch it at all.”
“I could not induce Antony to taste with me, though I drank from the glass myself.”
“Your drinking would only grieve him; it would not tempt him. Did you persuade him to dance?”
“He persuaded me to go into the conservatory with him, instead. I did not really care to dance. It was nicer to listen to Antony. Well, we are going away the day after to-morrow, and then, ‘When shall we 95 two meet again?’ How soon can you come to New York?”
“It will not be soon, Rose. There are so many things to look after that only I understand. Father is lost without me, especially in the winter. In the summer, he has his garden.”
“Where is Antony this afternoon? I expected to find him at home.”
“Just before you came, I saw father and Antony drive away in the buggy. Remove your bonnet and cloak, and take tea with us. They are sure to be back by tea-time.”
“Thank you for the invitation. I was just going to ask you to ask me. I will stay. It will be dark after tea; but then, Antony can drive me home.”
“Antony can drive you home. And you know there will be plenty of moonlight.”
“Do you remember that exquisite moonlight night last August, when we sent the carriage home, and you and Harry, and I and Antony, walked together through the woods? The air was full of the resinous odor of the pines, and it was sweeter than a rose garden. And the moonlight was like – I do not know what it was like, Yanna.”
“Like the moonlight of ‘The Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ If we had not unpeopled the fairy world, we could that night have believed in Peas-Blossom and Mustard Seed. Could we not, Rose?”
Rose sighed. “It was during that walk I began to love Antony. What heavenly murmurings there were in the pine tops! and we stood still to hear a little bird repeating its song in its dream. And the sound of the waterfall! And the brush of the owlet’s wing in the darksome path! Do you remember, Yanna?”
“And now, to think I am going into a world so different; a world where the milliner, and the modiste, and the tailor ‘are throned powers, and share the general state.’ Is that correctly quoted? Then, too, Harry will be in Wall Street; and you know what that means?”
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